Category Archives: Prayer

Oh What Peace We Often Forfeit (The Tragedy of the Beloved Hymn)

Joseph Scriven grew up on the Emerald Isle that is Ireland, having been born there in 1820. When he was 20 years of age, he was engaged to be married to a young lady. Sadly, the night before their wedding his fiancée drowned. Scriven was absolutely heart-broken and soon made plans to leave everything behind and set sail to Canada–Port Hope, Ontario. Such an appropriate name for one who lost much and gave everything up. While there, Scriven began to work among the poor and the widows–chopping wood and doing odd jobs that needed to be done. He even preached on occasion.

Some time later, he received word from back home. His mother was going through a very difficult time; a time of extreme heartache. Though he could not be with her, he knew One who was. In response to the letter he received, Joseph Scriven penned a poem to his mother. She was both comforted and impressed with the poem and handed it a friend of hers stating an anonymous authorship. Soon one thing led to another, and it became one of the most famous hymns in history.

Not too long after that, Scriven found love again. And once again, he was engaged to be married. However, this engagement would also end tragically; his soon-to-be wife came down with tuberculosis and died before they could marry. Heart-broken, the unknown poet threw himself into his work among the poor and needy and preaching of God’s Word. At the age of 66, Scriven became ill and in a delirium wandered outside, and having fallen into a creek, he drowned. A couple of years before his death, Joseph Scriven admitted to a friend that it was he who composed the poem that became a hymn.

My favorite line, but most indicting line for me as well, is that which say “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Tim Keller wrote in his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, “Prayer is the way to sense and appropriate this access and fatherly love, and to experience the calm and strength in one’s life that results from such assurance of being cared for,” (New York: Penguin Books, 2014; p. 70).  He is right; there is no other way on earth that we can experience such calm, strength, assurance, or as Scriven wrote: peace.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.

(Public Domain)

Tidying Up After Marie Kondo

I’m going to admit it right from the start: I’ve watched a few of the “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” episodes on Netflix, and I like it. I like the idea of decluttering and even “sparking joy.” I even fold my clothes her way now, and wow! I can fit so many clothes in my drawer now!! Here’s the thing though, I find it troublesome how many people on the show so readily bow to thank their houses or thank their clothes or pots and pans. Like Paul wrote so long ago: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things,” (Romans 1:21-23). One may say, “Chris, they aren’t worshiping man and birds and animals and creeping things. They are thanking their clothes and homes and stuff. What’s the big deal?”

JAPAN-KONDO
taken from thestar.com

The big deal is what lies behind the thanksgiving. Marie Kondo is Shinto as are 83% of Japanese.* Most tend to think that the Japanese are Buddhists, and they are, but more are Shinto. Only 72% of those in Japan are Buddhists.*  Being Shinto means by its definition that one is an animist. Animism comes from the Latin word for breath or life or soul. Thus the Shinto believe that everything has a soul or a spirit, and those spirits, known as Kami, are interconnected. “Kami are associated with various supernatural and sacred forms of life, including human ancestors, spirit figures, and the natural forces of mountains, rivers, trees, and rocks,”* and apparently houses and household objects. Thus to “thank” a house is not necessarily to thank an object in life, but to thank an object that is living.  It is easy to dismiss this and say that it is nothing, but I would not be so fast. I believe that Paul’s message to the Corinthians can be applied here. The Corinthians didn’t think that a syncretistic life harmed anyone. They thought that could believe in Jesus and still enjoy the food offered to idols. Paul told them to rethink, to think about the people of Israel. They ate the peace offering after part of it was offered to the Lord. In other words, they were, as Paul wrote, “participants in the altar,” (1 Corinthians 9:18). Such were the Corinthians, participants in the altar with the pagans if they sought to synchronize their religion with them. While Shinto allows for that sort of thing, Christianity is exclusive. We cannot synchronize our beliefs. “What do I imply then? That food offered to idols (or thanksgiving offered to a house) is anything, or that an idol (or clothing) is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice (offer thanks to) they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (1 Corinthians 10:19-20).

While the Shinto do not have sacred scriptures, no known founder, and no doctrine, the Shinto are devout in their beliefs and practices. There are about 80,000 shrines that serve as community centers as well as purification sites and religious activities. In fact, the Shinto are typically nationalistic and often militaristic.* As stated, they are fine with synchronizing their religion with others, but not so much with those that have fixed doctrines, like Christianity, which is only about 2% of the Japanese population* (and much of that from outsiders).  Even the Shinto understand that Christianity is exclusive and that Christianity, as a religion does, not fit with Shinto ideology. It is something we Christians should consider.

That being said. . .what do we do with Marie Kondo and her thoughts on “tidying up” with things that “spark joy”? I think we can accept the principles without the pagan Shinto influences. However, we need to be careful with the idea of sparking joy. What may spark joy for one moment may not spark joy for long. We are after all materialistic beings. We want more and more, always looking for the next thing that will spark joy. “When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven,” (Proverbs 23:5). At the same time, everything that does not spark joy at the moment of cleaning is not guaranteed to never again spark joy. Christians do not simply live in the moment, but live for eternity. Thus we need to meter out our joy-sparkers with eternity in mind.

If there is an article of clothing that you no longer like, get rid of it. I don’t mind. But rather than thanking that piece of cloth, thank God for the grace of letting it clothe you and keep you warm. If you have 5 too man spatulas and they don’t spark joy, toss them. But don’t thank them. Thank God for the tools and the food that they flipped. After all, we are called to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, italics mine).

As always, I would love your input.  Thoughts, questions, and comments are welcome here. If this blessed you, I am grateful for the opportunity. If not, I’m grateful you gave me a shot. If you think this would bless others, feel free to share it.

*All info about Shintoism came from:
Terry C. Muck, Harold A. Netland, and Gerald R. McDermott, eds., Handbook of Religion: A Christian Engagement with Traditions, Teachings, and Practices, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), pp. 269-272.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV, published by Crossway.