Worship Seminar and Church in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Skyline

This summer I travelled to Cambodia with Joy International and visited some of the ministries that Joy works with. In the following weeks I’ll be posting the email updates that I sent out to my closest friends and the supporters who funded my trip. Some of the details will be edited to protect the girls and children we were ministering to, but I’ll try to leave as many vivid elements as possible, so you can “be” where I was and experience it as I did.

UPDATE: July 12, 2015

We made it to Cambodia safely the day before yesterday and are now enjoying a restful Sunday afternoon. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. I think of you often and wish that you could be here too, meeting and ministering to the sweet people here, as I am getting to do! But since you can’t, I’m taking every opportunity to make solid connections with the Cambodians I meet, to make the most of my time here!Killing Fields Monument Phnom Penh

I wanted to give you all an update on the past few days. I was going to say “brief” but that’s probably not going to happen! First, though, Psalm 147:1-4 is the passage I’ve been meditating on a lot recently, as the layout of the Psalm mirrors what we are doing here! It starts with worship (we had a worship seminar this weekend at a local church) then moves to rebuilding Jerusalem (we’ll be building into the lives of children in Svay Pak, a city formerly decimated by child trafficking) then the Psalm gets deeper and more intimate in healing the broken-hearted and binding up their wounds (we’ll be finishing up the week at the high-security safe house where sex trafficking victims are recovering).

Killing Fields Tree ChildrenAfter we arrived on Friday we used the little time left in the day to visit the “Killing Fields” which is now a memorial to those who were slaughtered during the Khmer Rouge takeover. Since the takeover only happened in the 70s, the physical wounds on the land can still be seen.

We stood at the edge of pits where four hundred people were killed and thrown in, and walked along dirt paths that had buried human bones and clothing starting to show, since frequent rain opens up the ground and uncovers things.

Bones still being uncovered by rain and wind in the killing fields.

Bones still being uncovered by rain and wind in the killing fields.

Communism is so evil and wicked, yet there were glimpses of the salvation of God even at these killing fields. The narrator for the audio tour at the monument is a former high-ranking Khmer soldier who became a Christian, publicly asked the people of Cambodia to forgive him, and then started some Christian ministries to help the people whose lives were damaged by the genocide.

Since many of the Khmer officials are still in power or are living normal lives, it seems difficult for Cambodia to really heal when there isn’t justice dealt. Psychologists say this country is the only place where they’ve seen the symptoms of PTSD carried into younger generations that didn’t experience the genocide themselves.

Many attendees at the worship seminar. All were attentive and grateful.

Many attendees at the worship seminar. All were attentive and grateful.

On Saturday, we had a very full and fun day at the worship seminar that we hosted at a local church. The pastor and his wife are good friends of Jeff Brodsky’s and have travelled around Cambodia with him a little, serving food to starving kids and fighting sex trafficking. At the worship seminar, a few of our team who are song leaders in their churches spoke to the congregation about good leadership being servant-hearted and genuine. Then we worked with some of their church musicians and, with a combined team, led the attendees in singing. Partway through, we asked anybody who wanted prayer to come to the front for us to pray for them, and we were all surprised by how many came and how many admitted they were struggling. Showing emotion is rare and uncomfortable for Cambodians, we had been told, but these people were completely inside out with us. They were openly weeping, and asking us to pray for repentance or for more love for God, or for other difficult situations.

That same openness continued today (Sunday) at the Sunday worship service we got to be a part of at their church. The church started with joyful, expressive, loud singing and clapping! Holding hands is a normal thing for men to do with men, or women with women, and all of a sudden an entire row of people would grab hands and jump up and down as they were singing because they were so genuinely happy! It was special to get to be a part of that. Most the songs were unfamiliar to me but had choruses that repeated enough that I could sing along with their Khmer (they put up English subtitles for us on the screen). They also sang How Great Thou Art, which is a hymn that has a special place in my heart— I performed it with my Aunt Carol before she died and I always think of her when we sing it.

Talking with

Talking with “Leah”

There was a time before the service for our missions team to get to speak to the congregation if we wanted to, so I spoke on Psalm 138:8 and encouraged them to trust the Lord to complete the good work in their lives that He had already started. I was so glad for the opportunity to get to say something to all of them! It was something I’d been itching to do, and it was hard to narrow down what verse to speak on, except that many of the young women I had been talking to at the church were all waiting on something or someone, so I thought it would be at least relevant to them. It’s so fun to say “chumbreap-su” (Greetings) to the Cambodians, because they immediately smile or laugh. Probably because it sounds funny coming out of my mouth. The translator did a really good job with the rest of what I said, and I could see some nodding in agreement (and nodding off to sleep!) in the congregation as I talked. Praise God! It is hard to explain how wonderful and gratifying it is to be able to communicate with them and to share the bond of the family of God. There’s an ease of communication with these believers that I hadn’t experienced in Cambodia outside of this church. To others we are just foreigners to wave or wink at; to these Christians we are sisters and brothers.

Dr. Jeff gave the sermon today and spoke on being born again.  By the end of the service, Jeff was asking if anybody didn’t know if they were born again, and ten people said they were not born again or didn’t know what that meant, so our team got to pray with each of those people after the service ended if we wanted to. The girl I talked to and prayed for spoke very good English, Sister Leahand I had seen that she had raised her hand to ask for prayer. I prayed for her and gave her a hug, then was going to talk with her some more, but she didn’t let go and started crying into my shoulder instead, so I kept praying– thanking God for saving her, and praying that He would now teach her to walk in His ways, that the Bible would be her food, and that He would sanctify her and point out to her the areas of sin she needed to repent from. It was a precious gift from God to be a part of that and to get to love and pray for her in that way. After we finished I asked her if she had a Bible (she did) and I encouraged her to talk with the leadership in her church and to find someone who could disciple her. You can pray for her too! Her name is complicated to remember but it sounded like “Leah.”

Another young woman I spent a lot of time with is Jaylynn, who is somewhat crippled, and has some burn marks and a deformed finger (which I think was from being burned and not healing properly). She had seemed kind of needy or curious about me the day before so I had made a point to talk to her and pray with her, and from then on she was my constant little friend. She has “no money” she told me several times, and it also seemed like she had no family. JayleeToday I was able to get a translator in on our conversation and found out that she does have a family and a home, that she has been attending church for ten years, and that she is either working as a massage therapist or is going to get training to do that. I was mostly trying to find out if she was truly destitute and if the church needed to know about her needs. Our conversation was cut short today because church was starting, but I sat with her during the service and she sweetly clung to my arm or hand the whole service, every now and then looking at me and smiling like she was glad I was there. I wasn’t able to get another translator to come talk with us, but with the information I got from the translator, I think she is in good hands.

Tomorrow begins our busy week of ministry almost every hour! We travel an hour by tuk tuk (wagon pulled by a motor bike) to Svay Pak where the safe house is where we’ll be teaching kids club. It’s going to be a very full but very good week! I hope to update you as I get a chance during the week, but I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be able to do that.

Thank you all for praying for us and for the people we meet.


Dr Jeff Brodsky – Five Years Barefoot

Strangers stare at him as he walks through the airport, ambling along, feet slowly shuffling. People glower over their lattes and give him a once-over. It’s not that he’s wearing anything offensive. His casual button-down shirt and jeans should make him fit right in with his fellow travelers. His demeanor is pleasant, he’s not loud or displaying an ugly face. However, it’s what he’s not wearing that magnetizes the crowd.

He’s not wearing any shoes or socks. He’s completely barefoot.

Dr. Jeff Brodsky

Dr. Jeff Brodsky

His name is Dr. Jeff Brodsky. He took off his shoes and socks five years ago on July 19 and has been barefoot ever since. For years he had been on a search to find children that were truly “the least of these,” a phrase Jesus Christ used in the Gospels to describe needy children. As Jesus said, if you do something kind to “the least of these,” it is one and the same as doing it to Him. By 2010, Dr. Brodsky’s 30-year ministry to the poor of the world had already been vastly successful in feeding the hungry, but one day his search took him to the child sex slaves and exploited children of Phnom Penh. As he was giving out food to children living in a garbage dump, he noticed their feet. They were all barefoot. He had found what he saw as the “least of these.” That night, he sensed that God was calling him to go barefoot for a year in solidarity with, and to understand the plight of, these children.

His first barefoot year opened doors for his message of joy to the afflicted and hope to the perishing. He was able to “beg for the children who cannot beg for themselves,” he said. Many people embraced him and broke down in tears when they heard why he was barefoot. They had never heard of the child sex slaves whose shoes were taken by the brothel owners so they could not run away, or the children who lived barefoot and half-naked in city dumps and who were at high risk of being sold by desperate fathers and mothers to evil men. It was a challenging year for him. By the end of it, Dr. Jeff was longing for the snug feeling of a soft sock on his foot again. However, God had other plans.

I interviewed Dr. Jeff in his office one morning in May. He had a large map of the world behind him, filled with colored pins. His bare feet were out of sight, below his desk, and he looked into the air as he recalled, “On that morning of the first year anniversary, I was ready. I had the socks in my hand and I was ready to put them on my feet. But as I was trying to pull them on, I couldn’t get the socks past my toes. Then that still, small voice spoke these words to me, ‘Keep going. Those children are still out there.’”

Those socks never ended up on his feet. In many ways, the past five years have been miraculous. Even more opportunities have presented themselves, and the message has sprinted farther in bare feet than it could have walked in shoes. Dr. Brodsky’s ministry has now rescued hundreds of children from trafficking, and JOY’s restoration programs are experiencing a great success rate for keeping the rescued children from ending up in the sex trade again. 

“Why am I barefoot? Am I crazy?” Jeff asks himself. “There’s really just one word as to why I’m doing this. Obedience. I believe with all my heart that God has asked me to do this, to live in solidarity with these children and obedience to God’s calling. Those people who think I want to be barefoot, have no idea who I am. I hate being barefoot. It’s embarrassing, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s sometimes extremely painful. But I do it because I believe God wants me to. It’s a tool. Sometimes you have to do the foolish things, you know? First Corinthians 4:10 tells us to be fools for Christ. Someone walking around barefoot all day long is a foolish thing. So being a fool for Christ is a tool for Christ. That’s how I look at it, and it’s working.”

Dr. Jeff Bare FeeJeff shook his head slowly, “But it doesn’t mean I want to. I have to do this, or I would be miserable. I keep thinking He would hound me if I wasn’t obedient.”

Now, a new phenomenon called the “Barefoot Mile” is erupting all over the US, and schools, sports teams, youth groups, churches, and individuals are hosting walk-or-run fundraisers in which all the participants are—can you guess? Barefoot. This year alone, there have already been three Barefoot Miles hosted in the US, with several more scheduled.

The most significant Barefoot Mile happening this year is the one that Dr. Jeff will be personally walking on July 19, which is the five-year anniversary of the day he began his barefoot journey. A Global Barefoot Mile will take place in Phnom Penh at the Olympic Stadium on the evening of July 19. It will be an emotional time for him as he contemplates all that has happened since he took off his shoes. His goal, however, is much bigger than himself, which seems to be typical for Dr. Jeff. His desire is to create a worldwide network of barefoot walkers on July 19 to walk a mile in bare feet in their own communities at the same time as he is doing it in Phnom Penh. “Wherever you are in the world, you can join forces with me as we walk,” Jeff says.

Interested participants can join the Global Barefoot Mile event by going to facebook.com/Joy.org to sign up. Barefoot walkers can connect with other participants on social media during the race by using the hashtag #globalbfm. The mile begins at 6pm in South Pacific Time, which translates to 6 am Central Time in America.

The Olympic Stadium, the location for the barefoot mile.

The Olympic Stadium, the location for the barefoot mile.

Why the Olympic Stadium? Jeff wants to represent these children in “a place they’d never be able to come into,” either as an attendee, or as a competitor in a sport. The Olympic Stadium was built in the 60s but was never used for the Olympics. However, it is a fun community gathering place where Cambodian locals practice dance and exercise routines, or host picnics and play games. Recreational activities like these are unthinkable concepts to kids in captivity and held as slaves, so Dr. Jeff will be representing them as he “walks a mile in their feet.” 

Dr. Jeff told me that someone once interviewed him with his wife Gail standing next to him. They turned to Gail and asked her, “Why do you think God would ask your husband to do this, to rescue child sex slaves, to go undercover, to risk his life?”

She said, “God knew Jeff would say yes.”

With a huge grin, Jeff leaned back in his chair. “And she’s right! She’s right. I see each child as God’s child. How could I ever say no?”

“Grammar and Faith” by R.J. Rushdoony

I found the following article in Roots of Reconstruction by R. J. Rushdoony (1991) while I was hunting down information on something else. Being a writer and a teacher of writing, I always gravitate towards anything that smells like a Christian worldview of writing, language, words, and grammar, so this caught my attention. By the time you get to the end of this article you will have gotten a good strong whiff of the Christian-ness of grammar, but let that not convince you that it is thereby tedious, boring, dull, and colorless. Think in terms of Christ as the Word, the Speech. Think in terms of all things being created by His spoken words, and then find in this article the theory that “nature is not only matter and energy, but also information.” Then think in terms of the battle for meaning against the Darwinian goal of chance and purposelessness. Published first in Chalcedon Report No. 211, February, 1983. Found in Roots of Reconstruction, p. 1099-2000

R. J. Rushdoony

In an interesting report on Shammon’s theory of information, Jeremy Campbell: Grammatical Man: Information Entropy, Language, and Life, (1982)we have a return to a medieval definition of the word “Information.” In terms of this, information is the form, meaning, or instructive force or character within all things. In terms of this, “nature” is not only matter and energy but also information. One of the first points of attack this perspective takes is against Darwinian evolution (without abandoning evolution), because information is an anti-chance concept which recognizes a pattern in all things. It is not our concern here to dwell on the fact that there are very obvious connections between information theory and the ancient Greek doctrine of the idea or form. The theory re-establishes the place of meaning in the world in a particular form but is not thereby Christian. The theory is important to Christians, however, because of its clear recognition of the place of law and meaning in all things. Of particular importance are the implications of the theory for man and for speech. As Campbell says, “Grammar is an anti-chance device, keeping sentences regular and law-abiding. It is a systematic code applied at the message source” (p. 165). Underneath all languages lie universal abstract principles and rules, and these are “unconscious systems of rules” (p. 172). “Universal grammar is the innate, anti-chance device in the brain which restricts syntax in this way” (p. 177), and “Grammar can be thought of being like Kepler’s laws of planetary motion,” setting down the constraints which govern language (p. 179). Let us briefly examine some of the implications of this for Christian thought. In our day, the teaching of grammar is at a low ebb, and we have a nation of functionally illiterate youth. These are products of statist schools which are governed by a humanistic faith and the Darwinian world view. They are thus reared systematically into a religion of chance. There is, in the faith taught by the state schools, a denial of God and meaning, and an affirmation of chance. The validity of rules is denied, and grammar with it. In fact, the most recent dictionaries in many cases affirm this rejection of grammar and rules. The result has been a growing breakdown of language. The Christian Schools, on the other hand, begin with a Biblical faith, the triune God as Creator, and a universe of total meaning. They are thus by faith committed to a rejection of meaninglessness. It is natural and necessary for them to stress grammar, because by faith they are dedicated to a world of meaning. We should thus expect that, as their understanding of a faithfulness of the faith grows, Christian Schools will increasingly excel in grammar and all things else. It is the Christian who through Scripture is informed by the word of God, re-formed by Christ, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and daily formed by the knowledge that this is a universe of total meaning whose Creator and meaning is His Lord. His faith is anti-chance, whereas the faith of the state schools is in chance and meaninglessness.

And now there are Christians striving to teach languages using the best tool kit yet, the Christian world-and-life view.

Christmas Paradox

By John Chrysostom 

What shall I say? And how shall I describe this birth to you? For this wonder full me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He who sits upon the sublime and heavenly throne now lies in a manger. And he who cannot be touched, who is without complexity, incorporeal, now lies subject to human hands. He who has broken the bonds of sinners is now bound by an infant’s bands. But he has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and abject humiliation the measure of his goodness. For this he assumed my body, that I may become capable of his word; taking my flesh, he gives me his spirit; and so he bestowing and I receiving, he prepares for me the treasure of life. He takes my flesh to sanctify me; he gives me his Spirit, that he may save me.

Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken. For this day paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused and spread on every side—a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and we now hold speech with angels.

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being fully in heaven; and while complete in heaven, he is without diminution on earth. Though he was God, he became man, not denying himself to be God. Though being the unchanging Word, he became flesh that he might dwell amongst us.

What shall I say? What shall I utter? “Behold an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” …

To Him, then, who out of confusion has wrought a clear path; to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Spirit, we offer all praise, now and forever. Amen.

(a selection from Watch for the Light, New York: Orbis Books, 2001)

Marie Dentiere on the Reformation Wall

Marie Dentiere—The Woman on the Reformation Wall

There is one woman’s name on the famous Reformation Wall in Geneva. She is Marie Dentiere, and she has become a somewhat controversial figure in the story of the reformation. Some have labeled her an early feminist and suggest she was a nuisance to Calvin. Others see a bold and passionate woman who used the means available to her to spread the gospel, and who ended up writing the preface to one of Calvin’s books as a result.

Marie was a French noblewoman who joined an Augustinian convent in her mid-twenties. In the convent she studied some of Luther’s writings, and as a result, left the convent within three years of her arrival. Soon after, Marie met and married another monastical escapee, Simon Robert, who was active in the reformation movement. Together they moved on a pastoral assignment to Valais, where William Farel was a missionary at the time. This was the first time a married couple, not just a solo pastor, had accepted a pastoral assignment for the French reformed church, and people began to take notice of Marie’s active involvement in many aspects of the ministry. She learned Hebrew and Latin, and helped her husband translate a Bible. She also accompanied her husband on many of his evangelistic trips. Eventually, her husband, Simon, died. She married her husband’s good friend, Antoine Froment, and together they moved to Geneva.

Marie Dentiere BookMarie’s personal mission was evangelism, particularly evangelism of women. She visited a convent early in Geneva’s reformation, where she tried to persuade the nuns to leave the Catholic faith, join the reformation, and start a family. Marie was acquainted with the sister of the King of France, Marguerite de Navarre, to whom she wrote a strong letter encouraging her and all women to study the Bible themselves, and to use what means were available to women for spreading the Word:

“For what God has given you and revealed to us women, no more than men should we hide it and bury it in the earth. And even though we are not permitted to preach in public in congregations and churches, we are not forbidden to write and admonish one another in all charity.”

Though her letter was addressed to Marguerite, her tone indicated that she wanted, and expected, her letter to be spread to many women all across Europe “and principally for the poor little women wanting to know and understand the truth, who do not know what path, what way to take, in order that from now on they be not internally tormented and afflicted, but rather that they be joyful, consoled, and led to follow the truth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Her letter was later published by a printer in Geneva.

Because Marie had left the convent and found new spiritual life in being able to study the Bible and apply its meaning to her own life, she desired that all women take up this master-tool available to them. In her letter Marie also mentioned her “little daughter” who is perhaps not so little because she had just authored a Hebrew grammar curriculum to instruct other “little” girls in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. Marie hoped that Marguerite’s daughter will find it useful, “For as you well know, the female sex is more shameful than the other, and not without cause. For until now, Scripture has been so hidden from them. No one dared say a word about it, and it seemed that women should not read or hear anything in the Holy Scriptures. That is the main reason, my Lady, that has moved me to write to you, hoping in God that henceforth women will not be so scorned as in the past.” Marie didn’t push against the Biblical restrictions on women teaching in reformed churches, but merely desired that women take up all the opportunities that the reformation made available to them.

“Therefore, if God has given grace to some good women, revealing to them by His Holy Scriptures something holy and good, should they hesitate to write, speak, and declare it to one another because of the defamers of truth? Ah, it would be too bold to try to stop them, and it would be too foolish for us to hide the talent that God has given us, God who will give us the grace to persevere to the end.”

She knew that her words would not be accepted by everyone.

“Some might be upset because this is said by a woman, believing that this is not appropriate for her, since woman is made for pleasure. But I pray you to be not offended; you must not think that I do this from hatred or from rancor. I do this only to edify my neighbor, seeing him in such great, horrible darkness… No man could be able to expose it enough. How, therefore, will a woman do it?”

She desired to dispel the myth that women were made only for sensual enjoyment, and didn’t have brains to think and study. She resisted those who said, “It is not up to women to know [Scripture]… but they should just believe without questioning anything.” She continued, “[the Catholics] just want us to give pleasure, as is our custom, to do our work, spin on the distaff, live as women before us did, like our neighbors.” She countered, “Do we have two gospels, one for men and another for women? One for the wise and another for fools? Are we not one in our Lord?”

Marie also authored one of the first eyewitness histories of the reformation in Geneva. She wrote under the guise of a masculine merchant. Her perspective was not exactly chronological, but she put great care into interpreting the various events from a spiritual point of view. She drew metaphorical parallels between the exodus of Israel from Egypt, and the exodus of Geneva from Catholicism. She wrote this history to encourage fellow protestants in their sufferings, much as the Israelites had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, and her message was to “hope against all hope.”

However, this remarkable lady wasn’t without her vices. On several occasions, Marie Dentiere made herself a nuisance to the reformers of Geneva, possibly because of her public lectures on street corners and in taverns, where her audience was usually men. Her message was allegedly that of the reformation, and she seemed to support all that the the reformers were doing, but historians say that it was her manner of delivery and her chosen audience that called her message into question. On several occasions, Farel said she was corrupting her husband and indicated that she seemed to be the leader in their marriage. Calvin mentioned her in a letter to Farel (Marie is called “the wife of Froment” here).

“I am now going to give you a humorous story. The wife of Froment lately came to this place. She declaimed through all the shops, and at almost all the cross-roads, against long garments. When she knew that I was aware of it, she excused herself by alleging that she had said with a smile, that we were either unbecomingly clothed, to the great detriment of the Church, or that you taught what was erroneous, when you said that false prophets could be distinguished by their long vestments. When I was rebutting so stale a calumny, she began to ascribe even to the Holy Spirit what she had directed against us. What is the meaning, said she, of that passage of the Gospel, “They will come to you in long garments?” I replied, that I did not know where that sentence was to be found, unless, perhaps, it might occur in the gospel of the Manichaeans; for the passage of Luke 20:45, is as follows: “Beware of the Scribes, who desire to walk in long robes,” but not, “They will come to you,” etc., which she had interpolated from Matthew 7:15. Feeling that she was closely pressed, she complained of our tyranny, because there was not a general license of prating about everything. I dealt with the woman as I should have done. She immediately proceeded to the widow of Michael, who gave her a hospitable reception, sharing with her not only her table, but her bed, because she maligned the ministers. I leave these wounds untouched, because they appear to me incurable until the Lord apply His hand.”

It is hard to know exactly what Calvin though of her “ministry” on the street corners, but it is obvious that he disagreed with her interpretation of this specific passage of the Bible. It also seems that he didn’t think highly of her loud mannerisms. Perhaps it didn’t seem appropriate for a lady to give herself such a public platform, so open to derision or debate. The fact that she maligned the ministers and retorted when Calvin tried to correct her is also unfortunate. Others (men, mostly) who maligned the Genevan ministers were usually taken to the authorities and asked to publicly apologize, but Calvin seemed to think that nothing more was needed in her case. Perhaps he realized that God was working on her in other ways. This must have been true, because the most interesting aspect of their relationship occurred fifteen years later, when Calvin asked Marie Dentiere to write the preface of his sermon on women’s apparel. Marie agreed, and exhorted women to shun the womanly vices of covetousness and materialism, especially in elaborate dress and makeup.

“You will find that those who are the most concerned about adorning their bodies, are little concerned that their spirits be adorned with true, solid virtues. As for us, we should not seek the ornament of garments, but of good behavior. As for women, who are in that regard more covetous than men, may they understand that too much daring has always been associated with immodesty; likewise, on the contrary, simplicity in clothes has always been a mark of chastity and continence.”

At the very end of her preface, she introduced Calvin and the passage he preached on, with this:

“Let us listen to the Apostle speaking to Timothy and to the man who preached publicly about that passage, a man who because of the purity of his teachings deserves to be heard among all the ministers and faithful pastors in Europe today.” In both her “Epistle” to Marguerite and this “Preface” to Calvin’s sermon, Marie included a subtle mention of her husband by including the word “froment,” which meant “wheat” but was also her husband’s last name. Some believe this to be an acknowledgment that her husband helped in authoring each of these publications.

Throughout Marie’s years in Geneva, she often spoke in favor of the reformers. When Calvin and Farel were kicked out of Geneva after their initial unsuccessful attempt at establishing the reformation in that city, Marie was one of the prominent citizens who wrote and spoke in their defense. She mentioned Calvin and Farel several times in her letter to Marguerite, affectionately referring to them as “exiles” who “don’t care or worry about pleasing anyone but their Lord and master, serving, honoring, and valuing Him.”

From these two interactions, we cannot guess very much about what Calvin thought of Marie, though many recent female writers hold that Calvin conspicuously ignored her throughout his ministry, because she was a woman behaving outside of her proper role. However, there is little evidence for this. Calvin disagreed with her teaching on long robes because she was quoting a verse improperly in order to prove her point. He took the time to stop and correct her. Her “maligning of the ministers” was certainly a serious offense in 16th century Geneva, but he treated her gently, and trusted that she would change, which seems to have been the case. When she was asked to write the preface to his sermon, she freely spoke her opinion, drawing what she believed to be Scriptural application. No doubt she had always retained great influence over the women of Geneva, and her preface to this sermon would probably increase the sermon’s readership among women. Historian McKinley suggests that the heat of the battle for the reformation had drawn Calvin’s and Marie’s goals into closer proximity. The persecution of their French brothers and sisters was increasing, and both Calvin and Marie desired to strengthen the reformation movement.

Calvin Quote on Fading Flowers vs. a Lifetime of Fruit

“It is not to be supposed that God takes a cruel pleasure in the trouble of his servants; but he thus tries all their affections, that He may not leave any lurking-places undiscovered in their hearts. We see many persons zealous for a short time, who afterwards become frozen; why is this, but because they build without a foundation?”

“Wherefore, if we desire to follow God with constancy, it behoves us carefully to meditate on all the inconveniences, all the difficulties, all the dangers which await us; that not only a hasty zeal may produce fading flowers, but that from a deep and well-fixed root of piety, we may bring forth fruit in our whole life.”

From Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis 12:1


Rain, expectations, and rising again

It’s raining: a deep and methodical drumbeat on the roof outside my window. It’s April: the rain is just as it should be. Finally, rain to green up this brown world. Something about the last few days had been unsettling and gloomy. Gray clouds without substance piled and drifted aimlessly over the foothills, holding a promise of rain but no rain. Then the sun would come out, glaring with anarchic terror, and any cloud that was thinking about existing puffed off without an apology.

But this rain tonight is a sigh of relief, both for me and the sky. The fulfillment of an expectation is always a relief.

It’s also the night before Easter. Two years ago, my aunt passed away the night before Easter, with just half and hour before resurrection day. But she wanted her reward sooner, and time couldn’t hold her, and she slipped away. There are memories of her that resurrect themselves every year. No, it’s more frequent than that—this month it’s been every day. Her apple-cheeks that became rounder and rosier when she smiled; her mischievous twinkle when she was about to say something funny, something shocking; her resplendent optimism in her future with her beloved Jesus, especially when cancer left her breathless; and the bits of advice and Scripture that she passed along to me through others, when I couldn’t visit her.

“Little things aren’t everything,” she said, “but they do add up. When choosing somebody to marry, make sure the good in them outweighs all the little not-so-good things.” She was right; those little things did add up, and, in accordance with advice I received from my parents and others, I did what I needed to do, sending a guy away to explore new pastures (he is now happily married).

She also passed along a verse to me. Psalm 138:8. “The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.” This, after my disappointment in being no closer to marriage than before, and feeling like the time spent in getting to know this person was a waste, and that perhaps, as I said in my muddier moments, all this preparing for marriage has been a waste too and maybe I should go find an orphanage to inhabit—ahem—to work in. But this verse spoke to me of the thriftiness of God. He does not abandon the works of His hands. There are no uncompleted projects in His basement. He will perfect, finish, complete, mature, that which concerneth me. Does something concern me? It concerns Him. Therefore, it need not concern me. I wish I could have thanked my aunt for her insight, even just said goodbye, but I did not get a chance to visit her before she passed away.

The rain is gentler now. The ground is receiving it with gratitude. Tomorrow is Easter morning, the Easter morning that brought Mary to her beloved Shepherd’s tomb. She, preparing herself to see, to bind, to anoint, the bloody wounds inflicted the day before. She, preparing herself to resist the three-day-old stench penetrating the dusty air of the cave. She, wracked raw by the sorrow of losing a good friend, and of having it be her fault.

He, unwrapping the dead-person clothes from his side and leaving them folded on the stone bench. He, stretching to feel the new life in his limbs.

He—gently, “Mary.”

Resurrection Sunday is about expectations met, promises fulfilled, longing hopes satisfied. Clouds promising rain, and clouds give rain. Beloved aunts that die, and beloved aunts that rise again. A Shepherd that was killed in place of His sheep, and a Shepherd that rises again, bringing His sheep behind Him.