Herr Jesu

Last week I introduced you to Hugo Grotius as well as Charles Butler's book devoted to a biographical account of the former's life.  In his account, Butler records the events leading up to Grotius' death.  As Grotius realized that the grip of death grew tighter around him, he requested the presence of a Christian minister.  John Quistorpius, a Lutheran minister and Professor of Divinity, responded to his request.  Quistorpius talked with the self-doubting Grotius and encouraged him to talk to the Savior.  According to the record, Grotius welcomed such an opportunity and proceeded by praying a well-known prayer of the German tongue.
Herr Jesu, dir leb'ich.  Herr Jesu, dir sterb' ich.
Herr Jesu, dein bin ich, tot und lebendig.

Thanks to my father and a high school class I eventually dropped, I can count from eins to zehn.  However, I could not recognize any word save "Jesu."  When in doubt, turn to Google!

My search proved productive and I share the results with you by translating the Herr Jesu prayer.

Lord Jesus, I live for you.
Lord Jesus, I die for you.
Lord Jesus, I am yours, in death and in life.

What a worthy prayer!  I am hard-pressed to think of a more aptly-stated confession for the one who seeks to live the Ordinary life to the glory of God.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday.  That annual event marks the beginning of Lent, a meaningful period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading to the celebration of the Lord's resurrection.  I have decided to pray the Herr Jesu each day of Lent.  I pray that my thoughts, words, and actions will match my prayer.  Will you join me?

Herr Jesu . . .

For further reading:
Butler, Charles. The Life of Hugo Grotius. London: John Murray, 1876.
Prayer quoted from page 206.


Hugo Grotius, a Dutch legal scholar, died on August 28, 1645.  Depending on what historical source one chooses to site, Gortius, in his last words said either:

"By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing."

"By undertaking many things, I have accomplished nothing."
No matter which wording is chosen, one gathers that the scholar's closing hours held much despair.  His despair was rooted in his own personal evaluation which concluded that all of his efforts had accomplished little - actually "nothing" by his account.  Was he correct?  Absolutely not.

Too often our own assessments turn an overly critical eye upon ourselves.  The refusal to see the ordinary as good, as in 1645, continues to lead to self-inflicted guilt and despair.  I suggest that the value of reflecting on the understanding / undertaking of many things trumps a focus on the "nothings" we accomplish.

While looking for details regarding Grotius, I discovered a writing by Charles Butler.  Butler, writing in 1826, did more than merely mention Grotius nearly 200 years after the Dutchman's death; Butler held him in high regard.  In the writing, The Life of Hugo Grotius, Butler informed his readers of his subject matter.  The introductory page reads as follows . . .

                     The Biographical Account
                   One of the Most Amiable And
             Respectable Defenders of the Noble
              Cause of Civil and Religious Liberty
Given that Butler's words were not in jest, we know with certainty that Grotius' self-assessment, even if fully believed by the assessor, found no supporters.  His impact was great.

As you assess yourself, do so gently.  As you evaluate your accomplishments, notice the successes you overlooked or downplayed.  As you reflect on your failed attempts, refuse the temptation to bully yourself.

Forgive yourself.
Acknowledge your strengths.
Accept, rather than downplay, the praise you are given.
Celebrate your victories.
Live the Ordinary!

For further reading:
Butler, Charles. The Life of Hugo Grotius. London: John Murray, 1876

Time's Effect

Mercy Otis Warren, in her poem "To A Young Lady," urged the lady to --
Come, and attend, my charming maid;
See how the gayest colours fade;
As beauteous paintings lose their dye,
Age sinks the luster of your eye.
With such words, Warren attends to the established fact that beauty, as with all things of life, fades.  As time ticks, fading occurs one second at a time. 

Near countless words of literature, works of poetry, and well-crafted lyrics decry the unstoppable force of time.  The cries remind me of the weary tone of Ecclesiastes. 

Yet an acknowledgement of the force of time need not be stated with negativity.  The psalmist said about human beings . . .

They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Psalm 144:4 (NIV)

Yet he introduced those words with . . .

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?

Psalm 144:3 (NIV)

Adding his voice to that of the psalmist, James wrote . . .

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4:13-17

Within his words we find a grand summary of the answer to the oft-asked question of purpose - "What should I do with my time?"

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
James 4:17 (NIV)

What should we do?  Do the good we know we ought to do. 

Mercy Warren agreed . . .

What then shall mortals of an hour,
But bend submissive to his power;
And learn at wisdom's happy love,
Nature's great author to adore.

What good ought you do?  What good do you know you should do?
Apologize to your spouse?
Generously share your finances?
Actually say "I love you"?
Actually love?
Flee your addiction?
Serve when asked to volunteer?
Leave that unholy relationship?
As God leads you to answer the question of "What?"
"bend submissive to his power;
and learn at wisdom's happy love."

Favorite Things

Words embossed in stone on my desk continually remind me to open my eyes to the works of God.  Works that "are so great, worth a lifetime of study - endless enjoyment!"  The words of the psalmist urge me in my everyday ordinary life to look, to notice, to study. 

In light of the nudge of the text and following the example of Maria from The Sound of Music, I am driven to attend to "a few of my favorite things."  While bright copper kettles and schnitzel with noodles don't do much for me, "wild geese that fly with the moon" and "snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes" do bring a smile to my face.

Here are a few more of my favorite things:

  • My wife's smile
  • My children's laughter
  • The gift of music
  • Alaskan mountains
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Watching an eagle fly
  • Preaching the Word
  • Baptizing and discipling new believers
  • Singing praises
  • Canoeing
  • Shrimp
  • Arctic Roadrunner Burgers 
  • Moose's Tooth Pizza
  • Tamales
  • Lake City, CO Malts (Vanilla, please)
  • Bacon
  • Cooking waffles
            (I must be hungry.  I keep listing food!)
  • Listening to my kids play their instruments.
  • Watching my daughter dance.
  • Watching my sons swim.
  • Swimming with them.
  • Reading God's Word
  • Reading children's books to classrooms
  • Riding my Honda Shadow
  • Camping
  • Cross-country skiing with my wife.

I could continue, but that's enough for now.  It's your turn.  Think about a few of your favorite things.  Send me your list; I would enjoy learning of your favorite things.

Endless enjoyment!