All Saints–Christina Rossetti
Adoration-Of-The-Magi

All Saints

Christina Rossetti

They have brought gold and spices to my King,
Incense and precious stuffs and ivory;
O holy Mother mine, what can I bring
That so my Lord may deign to look on me?
They sing a sweeter song than I can sing,
All crowned and glorified exceedingly:
I, bound on earth, weep for my trespassing,–
They sing the song of love in heaven, set free.
Then answered me my Mother, and her voice
Spake to my heart, yea answered in my heart:
Sing, saith He to the heavens, to earth, Rejoice:
Thou also lift thy heart to Him above:
He seeks not thine, but thee such as thou art,
For lo His banner over thee is Love.’

*From The Complete Poems Of Christina Rossetti

Rick NauComment
Inspiring Your Kids To Read

by Rick Nau

As a writer of children’s literature I have a vested interest in encouraging kids to read. The more I can do to steer them to the world of books, the better. That’s a difficult task these days, given the competition that comes from movies, video games, social media, texting and what all.

This isn’t to say that anything’s really changed. When I was a kid I wasn’t interested in reading. It seemed that every book I encountered was dull and boring. Dogs were running about and children were combing their hair, but neither the dogs nor the children were going anywhere. 

Then we moved to an island in the tropics, thousands of miles from the nearest continent. Our house had no air conditioning, so everything electrical was a feast for the wet, salty air. After a month the television expired in a shower of sparks. A while later the record player went haywire. All that was left with speakers in it was a small battery-powered radio that only worked late at night, when it was able to pick up a Japanese station 2000 miles away.

And so I turned to books. At night, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I’d leave the closet door ajar (the closet had a burning lightbulb near the floor to dry out the air and keep the mold off my shoes), turn on a fan to drive off the mosquitos, and enter new worlds, magical worlds, romantic worlds far away from a tiny little island lost in the tropics . . . .

Which brings me back to the topic–how to inspire your kids to read? First off, you’ve got to get the magic yourself. You’ve got to pop open a few books, read them from cover to cover (aloha Pinterest, au revoir Facebook, auf Wiedersehen Twitter, hasta la vista Instagram–for a while, anyway), and let your imagination be swept away like it was when you were a kid. (In my case I’m rereading The Chronicles Of Narnia. Right now I'm up to The Silver Chair and having a blast.) Once you’ve regained that sense of excitement, that urge to venture into the boundless realm of the imagination, you’re ready to inspire your kids.

Now it’s time to find something you can all read together, something that will grab your kids’ attention. It may be a story about a ballerina or a baseball player or someone who can walk on air while wearing special stilts. It may be a book about cats or bugs or lonely kids without any friends. It may be overflowing with difficult words or simple words or no words at all (avoid this one, unless you want to make up the story yourself). It may be filled with pictures, or there may be no pictures at all. Whatever it may be, work with your kids until you find just the right book.

On to the last part, the magical part. Make reading together a fun event, like going to the movies or celebrating a special occasion. Whip up some popcorn or hot chocolate or lemonade, find a nice place in the house or on the porch or in the yard, and read the book aloud together. Take your time, enjoy it, just for the sake ofbeing with your kids. Be patient. If they massacre some of the words (which they will), help them to say and understand them. If they can’t visualize what the writer is saying, help bring the words to life for them. Whatever you do, make it fun, something they will look forward to the next time. Remember, what they want more than any book in the world is being with you. And later, once they have left the nest, once they are curled up with a good book, they will think of those happy times with you.

Rick Nau Comment
Before The Dawn Of Time
Glory Of The Heavens

In C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a young boy, Edmund, betrays his brother and sisters to a terrible witch who holds the kingdom of Narnia under her evil spell. When he is caught in his crime, the witch demands justice. Under the law, she says, Edmund must die:

. . . unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.

All seems lost until Aslan, the great lion, King of many kingdoms, reveals a far greater law, one set down before the beginning of time.

But if she (the witch) could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table (on which is written the law) would crack and Death itself would start working backward.

So it was in the fictional land of Narnia that Edmund was saved by the death and resurrection of a fictional lion. And so it is that in our world, we are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

This is the Good News we celebrate this Easter, that Christ is risen and that if we pledge our allegiance to Him, we will dwell with Him forever.

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

And with this Good News comes a warning, for it makes clear that if we die without Christ in our lives, we will be judged under the law and perish.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1:6

So let us remember the message of the angel to the women who came to visit the tomb of our Savior:

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:5-6

In celebration of Easter, let us spread the news that Christ has delivered us from our sins, that with His resurrection He has overcome the spell of death that enshrouds our dark and dying world. Let us answer the message of the angel in the presence of all who would hear:

Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen Indeed!

Rick Nau Comment
Surprised By Oxford–Carolyn Weber

Reviewed by Rick Nau

Surprised By Oxford-Carolyn Weber

Surprised By Oxford-Carolyn Weber

It was a summer ago that I read Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford. I was working on a novel, an attempt to resurrect a story that lingered in the distant past. I needed something to inspire me, to move me forward, to push me out of the rut I was stuck in.

I can’t remember how I found the book. Not at a bookstore. Almost all of them had long since closed their doors. The days of browsing the shelves were over. Instead, I was tapping around on my iPad, not really knowing what I would find, when I stumbled upon it. I read a few of the reader comments, then noticed that I could download the prologue for free.

It was a stunner, grabbed my attention immediately. A young college student (the author-Carolyn Weber) is walking with her professor, pitching him her idea for a feminist interpretation of a John Donne sonnet about God. His reaction? Twofold. There is a short version, which I’ll not give away, and a long, which is this:

Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most.

Her reaction? She’s blown away. Her brilliant analysis is so far off base she’s afraid she’s going to flunk the class.

So begins the memoir of an agnostic running the gauntlet of academia, one of the last places on earth you’d think you’d find God. But everywhere she turns, he’s there, surrounding her with his love, speaking to her through teachers, fellow students, books, paintings, etchings on paving stones, the Oxford crest (Dominus Illuminatio Mea-The Lord Is My Light), even a coffee mug.

This is an incredible story–required reading for anyone considering a life-major in agnosticism. Written in a snappy,  self-effacing (though not always), off-the-cuff, sometimes irreverent style (did I just think of Joan Rivers?), you never know what or who’s lurking around the next bend.

Though the subject–the nature of God and our relationship to him–is huge, Caro (the author’s nickname) tackles it head on, showering us along the way with her delightful humor, wit, and wisdom. One minute she’s talking about the pervasiveness of sin, the next minute a Buck’s Fizz is going up her nose. One day she’s enthralled by a painting of Christ, another day she’s lost on the streets of London, dragging a suitcase full of shoes behind her. She’s not intimidated by an eminent Oxford professor who puts her on the spot about the existence of absolute truth, yet she’s thrown into a tizzy by a gorgeous rival in stiletto heels (whom she calls Miss Georgia).

In spite of her agnosticism, Caro falls for a Christian, a handsome American she (a Canadian) names TDH (why do I keep thinking of him as Hugh Grant–he’s British), who bears a striking resemblance to the original James Bond. One stormy night he presents the gospel to her, plain and clear, patiently answering each of her questions.

“So what is faith?” she asks, not sure if she wants to know the answer. TDH replies:

Faith is simply belief in the gift of eternal life, made possible by Christ’s resurrection. This gift of grace is yours for the taking. We just have to accept it.

Wherever Caro goes, God is always there, answering her questions, spoken and unspoken. At a dinner she overhears a fascinating conversation between a waiter and a brilliant scientist.

I wondered if you could tell me what you consider to be the strongest force in the universe.

Love . . . Life without faith is death. For life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving and you’ll really start living. There is no other force comparable to that.

Which leads us to the heart of the memoir, one of light and of love. For above all this story is about Christ’s love for us, told from the heart of a wounded soul who discovers (with great surprise) Christ’s deep and and tender love for her.

Behold! My servant whom I uphold,
My Elect one in whom my soul delights!
I have put my spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed He will not break,
And a smoking flax He will not quench.

Isaiah 42: 1-3

Toward the end of her story Caro puts several questions to a fellow Oxford student, hoping that he’ll follow her down the new path she has taken with Christ:

Don’t you ever wonder what it’s all for? Don’t you think you’ll get to the end of your life, look back on it, and regardless of what you’ve built for yourself–if you’re lucky enough to have even achieved that–it won’t seem quite enough? Haven’t you ever had a strange, ‘What is it all for?’ feeling as you flip through an obituary? What about when it’s yours?

She is, of course, asking us the same questions, hoping that we will look with her beyond the stark, material world into the eternal heart of God.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough (as I’ve said, I’ve read it twice). It’s not just a memoir, it’s a guide for living, overflowing with wonderful, wisdom-filled advice. Whether you’re a college student, a college-bound senior, or anyone else who who wants to be able to judge wisely between the truths and the lies you’ll be presented with in life, you’ve got to read Carolyn Weber’s Surprised By Oxford.

Rick NauComment
For Valentine's Day
Rose For Valentine's Day

CONSIDER

Georgina Rossetti

Consider 
The lilies of the field whose bloom is brief:— 
We are as they; 
Like them we fade away, 
As doth a leaf. 

Consider 
The sparrows of the air of small account: 
Our God doth view 
Whether they fall or mount,— 
He guards us too. 

Consider 
The lilies that do neither spin nor toil, 
Yet are most fair:— 
What profits all this care 
And all this coil? 

Consider 
The birds that have no barn nor harvest-weeks; 
God gives them food:— 
Much more our Father seeks 
To do us good.


“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

—MATTHEW 6: 28-30—

Rick NauComment
To Everything A Season

The New Year is upon us, a time of reflection, a time of resolutions and of hope, a time of fresh starts and of celebration. Let us use this time to fill our hearts with the love of Christ, to proclaim our devotion to Him with every fiber of our being, to lay at his feet all our hopes and dreams, to begin each day afresh with a celebration of His blessings.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,

So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1-5

Yes, let us remember His blessings and the depth of His love for us.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Let us praise Him with carols that extend to the ends of the earth.

Before the gods I will sing praises to You.
I will worship toward Your holy temple,
And praise Your name
For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.

Psalm 138:1-2

Let us proclaim to all the nations His glory and everlasting love.

All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD,
When they hear the words of Your mouth.
Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD,
For great is the glory of the LORD.

Psalm 138:4-5

Let us take His message into all the world and let it burn with the brightness of the sun.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

Happy New Year To All!

Rick NauComment
Teach Your Children Well

Written By Rick Nau

Had a conversation after church a few Sundays ago. Along the way, the subject of prayer came up–specifically, the importance of teaching our children to pray.

It’s easy to assume that our children know the meaning of prayer. After all, the pastor and worship leader each say a prayer at the beginning of church. Before meals, grace may be said. Before sleep, another prayer may be said. But are these all the lessons needed?

As parents, we might want to ask ourselves a question first. Do we know how to pray? Before we answer, let’s remember that even the disciples had to be taught how to pray:

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Jesus was the consummate teacher. He didn’t use the watch me approach, but gave His disciples an example of what to pray, which we now call The Lord’s Prayer.

During the Sermon On The Mount Jesus also taught us how to pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6.

Matthew’s account of Jesus in the Garden Of  Gethsemane lets us hear the words Jesus spoke to His Father on the most agonizing night of his life.

“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

These are models we can use to teach ourselves and our children how to pray. Our children need to know that prayer is a very personal conversation with God, that God loves them and wants them to come close and speak to him about everything that is weighing on their hearts: 

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

They need to understand that prayer builds faith. When they pray in secret and see their prayers answered, they learn of the immensity of God’s love for them.

Let’s pray with our children as often as we can. Let’s pray when God blesses our families. Let’s pray when God lets hardships into our lives. Let’s pray for forgiveness whenever we’ve done wrong. Let’s encourage our children to have a continuous conversation with God–at home, at school, when they go to bed at night, when they get up in the morning, when they’re playing, when they’re happy, when they’re sad. Let’s tell them the importance of letting God into their lives, just as David did, the shepherd boy who became a great king, a man after God’s own heart.

He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ Acts 13:22


Recommended Reading

Rick NauComment
What, Me Hurry?

Written By Rick Nau

What Me Hurry

One Sunday our pastor (David Cuff-Calvary Chapel Mid-Valley) mentioned hurry in one of his messages. It went like this: “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.” (The words were spoken by Dallas Willard in answer to a question on how to improve our spiritual lives.)

This suggestion called for a little self-examination. Was I the hurrying type? Did Jesus ever hurry? What is the opposite of hurry? What does it mean to hurry, anyway?

A few scriptures came to mind. “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart (Ps 27:14).” “Come to Me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).” “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so the Lord gives sleep to his beloved (Ps. 127:2).”

Was I waiting on the Lord? If so, why did the second two verses immediately come to mind? Perhaps I wasn’t waiting on Him. Which led to a few more questions. When I thought I was waiting–such as in a time of prayer–was I in a hurry to be finished? Did I feel the urge to get on with my day? Did I need to “make” things happen? Was I centered on God, rather than on myself? Just counting the number of times I used “I” in this paragraph gave me the answer.

Time for a change. Time to realize that waiting doesn’t mean standing still, that it means walking with God at his pace–no running ahead of him, no falling behind, but walking beside him, as you would with a friend. It means being with a friend in a time of need. It means listening patiently when someone is talking to you. It means remembering a birthday or a graduation or an anniversary. It means going for walks with your children, telling them of the glory of God, going to see them in their school plays or sporting events or dance concerts. It means holding them when they’re afraid, encouraging them when they’re sad, listening to them when they tell you about their day. It means staying close to God, filling your mind with thoughts of him during every waking moment. It means showing his lovingkindness and tender mercies toward all who cross your path. It means loving your neighbor as yourself.

What does waiting on the Lord mean to you? Take your time. Think about it. There’s no hurry.

Rick NauComment
By The Waters

WRITTEN BY RICK NAU

Desert Oasis.jpg

Not long ago I read a message in our church bulletin that led to a great blessing in my life. It was a suggestion that we memorize a psalm, or two, or three . . .

Now, I’ve never been good at memorization. It ranks near the top of things I don’t like to do. But this time something was different. I remembered that God tells us to write his commandments on the tablet of our heart (Proverbs 7:3). (By this he means his word, Jesus Christ being both the Word and the Fulfillment of the Law.) When I checked my own tablet, I saw that it was almost blank.

I began my memorization odyssey with Psalm 23 (lazy me–I already knew most of it), then moved on to Psalm 1, which contains these wonderful words of promise for those who delight and meditate in the law of the Lord: “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” You’ve got to admit, this is a tremendous promise. But as you see, it comes with a condition.

So I’ve started to do my part. Since reading that message I’ve learned by heart Psalms 1, 23, 27, 42 & 103. At night, while I’m walking under the stars, I repeat the words of each of them. While I’m lying in bed, worrying about the coming day, I say them again, replacing my dreary thoughts with the sweet music of his word: “And in the night his song shall be with me–a prayer to the God of my life (Psalm 42:8).”

I can only say it’s worked a miracle in my life. Worry has been replaced with hope. The tablet of my heart is now filled with reminders of the great blessings of the Lord, of his tremendous beauty, of his strength and wisdom and infinite mercy toward his children, of his lovingkindness and tender mercies. And this after only five psalms.

How shall I end this post? With a verse from the Psalms, of course: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).” Maybe this will be the next psalm I memorize. How about you?


Rick NauComment