Tuesday, November 13, 2007
1- Flylady kicked my butt on baby step 2. Apparently getting organized begins with getting dressed in the morning and washing your face and fixing your hair. Of course this happens only after you have shined your sink! I felt like a loser sitting there at my laptop, in my pj's with my greasy hair and dirty face, searching for an organizational tip I could begin on while the kids were doing their school work. I wasn't expected to be told the obvious: get dressed! In case you were wondering - I did close my laptop and take a shower. Off to step 3.
2- Matt and I watched the movie "Thr3e" last night. It's based on the book by Christian author Ted Dekker and it has sort of freaked me out.
3- Stephen and Abbie both have a Webkinz and they have entered the world of Webkinz to which I fear they will not return. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant and I have no doubt that they are rolling in the dough!
4- In my stack of coupons, I found what appears to be a great recipe for 1-Dish Caramel Pecan Coffee Cake. I'll post the directions later - but I'm about to eat the picture of the finished product - if that gives you any idea of how great this looks.
5- At what age does your son stop falling down on purpose?
6- On the last few car rides I've had with my kids, Abbie has asked me some good but very random questions: What is the importance of trees? What does it mean when Daddy says that my heart is deceived? What does it mean to repent? I can't leave out Abbie's great observation at yesterday's family date at Five Guys: "I love Cherry Coke Mom. Do you know why? (a slight pause for me to guess) "Because it tastes like cherry!"
7- I'm so thankful and happy that I am no longer addicted to any particular tv show or soap in light of the writer's strike. I was reading in a magazine yesterday how fans of "The Young and the Restless" are going to be very uptight b/c a main character was in a coma right before the strike took place. Without any new episodes being written, viewers are left with a huge, unwanted cliff-hanger. lol.
8- Eight is my favorite number. I like the way it looks and I like to write it. I do not write "8" in one smooth stroke. I choose to go the two circle way.
9- Matt and I went to NYC to see the off-Broadway production of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. In addition to seeing an amazing show, we also found ourselves walking around Queens and stumbling upon a movie set for the upcoming movie "Ghost Town". We also passed right by actor Ben Affleck. Well, Matt passed by. I stopped, looked, pointed, and then tripped on a curb.
10- Does anyone have a good apple pie recipe?
He has lost about 14 lbs. knocking sugar out of his life and the largest part of his gut is now 37.5". The best thing is that he feels better and by the grace of God, he did not get one headache from the sugar withdrawl.
It's hard to believe that my husband is eating wheat bread and putting splenda in his coffee!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Thirty-nine is the number of inches that measure the circumference of my husband's protuberant abdomen, i.e. potbelly. Protuberant: it's times like these that I love the dictionary. After months of experiencing some discomfort while trying to bend over to tie his shoes, Matt has decided to do something about these 39".
Anyone who knows Matt is aware that the main ingredient of just about everything he consumes is sugar. The first two weeks of South Beach eliminates all sugar from your diet, which means that my husband will be going through some serious withdrawl. Pray for me. Pray for anyone that comes in contact with Matt over these next two weeks.
This whole concept of eliminating sugar and eating healthy is a new way of life for the man who can survive on vanilla cream donuts from D&D and hot cinnamon rolls from Bob Evans. Matt was always a stick growing up. When I first met him and began spending time with him, I remember seeing his belt laying somewhere and stammering at how incredibly short it was. It was more like a necklace, seriously.
Those days are gone now and despite the fact that I think he gets better looking as he gets older, (I like him beefier and it's nice for once to weigh less than your husband) I want him to be healthy. His body is not his own. His body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. He has been bought with a price and as a result, he is called to glorify God with his body.
If you get a chance, read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. Paul's command to glorify God with our bodies flows from his strong exhortation to flee sexual immorality. He's not talking about food and the need to eliminate sugar but I think there is still application we can make in regards to our eating. In verse 12 and 13a Paul says:
"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food - and God will destroy both one and the other."
The key here is that we are not to be enslaved by anything. Why? The answer rests in the truth of the gospel found in verses 19 and 20:
"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
When I come face to face with such a clear gospel connection in the Word, I try to slowly walk myself through the truth, allowing each point to sink in. Here's how this one would go:
Because I am a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in me. He lives in me. I am not my own anymore. My life doesn't belong to me. I can't do whatever I feel like doing whenever I feel like doing it. I belong to Another. I belong to Jesus Christ, who shed his blood on the Cross to redeem me. He paid the full price for me by standing in my place and receiving the full wrath of God that I deserved. He bought me. All that I do in this body should aim to glorify Him - to make much of Him. Father God, thank you! Show me the things in my life that are not helpful and reveal to me the things that are enslaving me (v.12) so that I might adorn the gospel and bring glory to You.
Will Matt's 39" gut shrink?
I'm not sure, but what's most important is that he has chosen to respond to the reality that sugar has enslaved him. His heart is to please God and to bring Him glory, even in the area of his eating. :)
Friday, September 14, 2007
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:2
A place has been prepared for us! By our Savior! What could be better than that? Check out this great message on heaven from 1SingleDay by C.B. Eder: http://www.crosswaypa.org/pages/index.php?pID=207
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Yesterday, after weeks of daily wigglings, my Abbie-girl lost her first tooth.
She was outside playing and suddenly realized it fell out. With a mouthful of blood and her grimy little fist closed, she ran to the front door with pure joy on her face! In her excitement, the tooth escaped from her little clutch. For the next 10 minutes, Stephen and I helped her search frantically for the missing tooth. Abbie cried because she concluded that if the tooth wasn't found then she wouldn't be able to leave it under her pillow for the great tooth wizard (aka: Dad) to take and replace with some loot. Matt (aka: tooth wizard) assured her that with a letter of explanation left under her pillow, she still may receive loot.
1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
3/4 cup of liquid egg substitute (I used Weis brand of egg beaters)
3/4 cup of shredded reduced-fat cheese (regular cheese would be fine too)
1/4 cup of diced green peppers
1/4 cup of diced onions (I left this out b/c cutting an onion hurts my eyes)
3 drops of hot-pepper sauce (optional but I went for it and loved it)
1. Microwave the spinach for 2 1/2 minutes on high and drain excess liquid.
2. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with foil baking cups and spray cups with cooking spray.
3. Combine all desired ingredients and mix well.
4. Divide evenly between cups and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
They look pretty pathetic when you take them out of the oven...at least for me they did. I guess I imagined them puffing up like a good blueberry muffin, but not so much with eggs and veggies. After I left them cool down, I put them in a freezer bag and shoved them in the fridge. Each day I have pulled out two for breakfast, removed the baking cup, and reheated them for about a minute. They have a great taste and they are packed with 9 grams of protein so they really fill you.
A few days ago during my quiet time I was reading through 1 Samuel 30. Here's the background: The Amalekites came to Ziklag and burned down the entire city and took captive all of the women and children. They didn't kill them, but when David and his men returned to the city to find it burned and their families gone, they were in despair. Who wouldn't be?
Verse 6 says, "And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God." Later in verse 8 we are told that David inquired of the Lord.
So here's my question: What does it mean to strengthen yourself in the Lord? Practically speaking, what do you do?
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I can remember the morning like it was yesterday morning. Matt was home and there was a nurse coming to our house to obtain some medical information from us for our life insurance policy. My Mom had just called me with an unexplainable voice of concern . She told me to turn on the television. The nurse arrived at our door just moments later and after a very brief greeting, I explained what was happening in New York and the three of us sat on the couch watching everything unfold. It was horrifying.
I don't know anyone personally who died in this tragedy. Not a single person. But that didn't seem to affect the way that the event gripped me. Just 7 months after the attacks, in early April, my husband I traveled to NYC for the day and actually spent some time at the site and the surrounding areas. I tear up even now as I remember the area where "missing people" photographs and memorabilia filled the block by an old church. There were photographs of kids, dads, moms, friends, fiances, grandparents....people just like me. There were stuffed animals set out, blankets, candles lit, and other special items. We walked through the area slowly, reading the notes posted and looking closely at the faces of those missing.
John Piper's words from "The Pleasures of God" helped me to apply sound theology to this event - not in a cold, distant manner and with trite unemotional answers, which I had already attempted to do myself. He helped me to grasp the bigger picture, with joy, peace, and a solid confidence in the character of God. In chapter 2, entitled "The Pleasure of God in All He Does", he shares about the death of his mother in 1974. She was in Israel on a tour bus with her husband when a van with lumber tied on the roof swerved out of its lane and hit the bus head on. The lumber came through the windows and killed his mother instantly. He shares that when they saw her body ten days later, after the funeral home did the best they could, his sister fainted and his father wept over the coffin for a long time.
p.68 "What was my comfort in those days? There were many...and underneath all these comforts, supporting all my unanswered questions, and calming my heart, there is the confidence that God is in control and God is good. I take no comfort from the prospect that God cannot control the flight of a four-by-four. For me there is no consolation in haphazardness. Nor in giving Satan the upper hand. As I knelt by my bed and wept, having received the dreaded phone call from my brother-in-law, I never doubted that God was sovereign over this accident and that God was good. I do not need to explain everything. That he reigns and that he loves is enough for now."
For another great John Piper nugget, check out "The Great Steel Cross."
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Stephen's fear of storms and his passion to build and create made for some very interesting and specific prayers. Before we prayed, he reminded Abbie and me that God is sovereign over the storms and that we could pray that He would not send them to this country, which would allow them to build stronger homes in case storms come later. He prayed that the people of Bangladesh would find strong materials for building strong homes since there probably wasn't cement available.
While I don't remember all the details of his prayer, what I did recognize is that when a situation touches a personal fear or passion/interest we have, our prayers are often different. My son's prayers are usually quick and to the point but this time around, when both a passion and fear met, he prayed for much longer and prayed specifically and with genuine emotion.
Made up primarily of Muslims, there is estimated only 0.72% Christians living in Bangladesh. Please take a moment to prayerfully travel to this country with us and ask God to move through the power of His gospel.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Something different about this time around is the way we officially began. We sat together and I read aloud from "You Can Change The World - Volume 2: Learning to Pray for People Around the World." Afghanistan is the first country we learned about and prayed for and if you look closely in the picture of the map below you may see a small photo of Abbie and Stephen in this war-torn country.
We went through Volume 1 of this book series two years ago and the kids loved it but I never continued with Volume 2. After spending a day at a friend's house I saw how she had a world map on her kitchen wall and picture of her daughter pinned on a particular country that they were praying for. I was inspired and knew that I had to pick this back up with my kids.
Bel Air, Maryland is a far cry from Kabul, Afghanistan but we were able to pray specifically for some of the needs of this country and for the furtherance of the gospel. What an amazing thought that while we sat at our dining room table and prayed, God heard our prayers and petitions for the people of this country, the people He created, and He will use our prayers to accomplish His sovereign work.
What a mysterious privilege prayer is!
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
His message was entitled "Bags Packed and Ready to Go." He began by asking us a few questions:
- am I living packed up and ready to go?....my answer, no. I'm not packed up and I don't want to go right now.
- is Jesus everything to me?....I want him to be but on most days I'm running after other things.
- am I so in love with Jesus that to die is gain?...I don't want to die, I want to see my kids grow up.
- am I more concerned with the trivial than I am with the eternal?....yep, the trivial often rules me.
C.B. referenced a message that really impacted him entitled, "Joys Eternal Increase" by Sam Storms. It is actually on the Desiring God website and I wanted to provide you with the link which will allow you to watch or listen to the sermon.
If you're anything like me, and I hope you're not, messages from retreats and conferences and even Sunday services can fade away rather quickly if I am not careful to go back over my notes and apply a bit of truth that I learned.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
To love you as I should, I must worship God as Savior.
Worshiping God as Savior means that I acknowledge that I am a sinner in relationship with other sinners. I remember that you are still in the middle of God's work of redemption - as I am. He is still convicting you, teaching you, and changing your heart. He is faithfully doing all these things at the best time and in the best way possible. None of us ever gets to be in relationship with a finished person. God's redemptive work of change is ongoing in all our lives. When I forget this, I become self-righteous, impatient, critical and judgmental. I give in to the temptation to play God and try to change you in ways only God can.
Talk about being motivated by grace and gospel-centered in our relationships! As I read things like this I am reminded how important the doctrine of sin is to my life and critical in my every interaction with others. Without a clear understanding and agreement that I am totally depraved, I won't see my need for the Savior. If I don't see my need for the Savior then I am going about life in a self-sufficient manner and expecting and demanding that others do things my way, because after all, it's the best way! Self-righteous? Impatient? Critical? Judgmental? Playing God and trying to change others? Yep...I do all those things very easily and it all begins with forgetting that I am the chief of sinners in need of God's grace - daily.
Once I acknowledge this truth, I can turn to Christ in humility and ask Him for help in viewing others through the eyes of grace. My hope is found in the gospel truth that because of what Christ has done for us on the Cross, that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
When I was a child, my family lived on a partially wooded property. Every evening at dusk, rabbits would come out of the woods and nibble on the clover growing in the backyard. Now, I always wanted to get close to these cute, cuddly little bunnies. But whenever I would appear in the backyard, the rabbits all responded the same way: they’d freeze, observe me with intense suspicion and, the moment I approached, they’d bolt for the woods. No matter how softly moved, no matter how deliberate my motions, I could never get closer than twenty yards before off they’d go. It was frustrating. I did not intend to hurt them. But, of course, they did not know that. They saw me as a threat. Therefore, they fled. Judging by their numbers, their instinct allowed most to live long lives. On the other hand, they never experienced the pleasure of having their ears scratched.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
One day left before we leave for Myrtle Beach.
Have my kids secretly downed a few bottles of Mountain Dew or Vault or is this just genuine good old fashion childlike excitement for the beach? They are non-stop energy, running from the inside of the house to the outside, playing with everything imaginable and leaving a trail behind wherever they go. They have made plans and promises about what they will play together when they arrive. Abbie's big goal, and prayer request, is that she'll be brave enough to put her head under the water. Stephen can't wait to give his out of shape mom a bike riding tour of the resort. Gotta love those over-sized padded bike seats!
With lots of last minute things to do to get ready - you know, little things like pack for four people - I have not even come close to their level of anticipation. But, if I close my eyes and imagine the van all packed up, the kids fast asleep, and some late night (middle of the night really) conversation with Matt during our long drive, my excitement begins to rise. :)
There are lots of things I enjoy about vacation: diving through waves with Stephen, collecting shells with Abbie, smiling (& laughing if I'm honest) at Matt as he "oils up" for the beach and munches on Pringles, strolling around Broadway at the Beach, and yes, even driving 8 hours through the night is something I enjoy. One of my pre-vacation highlights though is choosing which books to take. Let's face it, nothing beats reading on the beach with the crashing of the waves blocking out all other distractions.
Over the years, I have noticed that my tendency is to "vacation" from pursuing my joy and satisfaction in the Lord. Sure, I have a quiet time every morning, but my joy is far too easily derived from all the fun things to do and see. I can actually feel the spiritual dullness settling in. It's so easy to take joy in all of God's gifts instead of the Giver Himself. This is a daily temptation but it seems to be an even stronger temptation for me while I am on vacation. The last two years I have done things a bit differently and it has helped me tremendously.
Last year I read Noel Piper's book "Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God" which tells the stories of five Christian women who did very different, yet very great things for the kingdom of God. I found it challenging and inspiring and at several points, was brought to tears over the sacrifices they were willing to make to serve the Savior. Reading about others who pursued Christ in their day, often amidst severe trials and suffering, helped me to see and value what is most important, even in my little vacation world.
For this vacation, after some research, I have decided to read "The Hiding Place - The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom." It's a classic but one I have never read. On our drive-through-the-night down to MB, Matt and I will be listening to the Desiring God teaching series entitled "Suffering and Sovereignty."
So, whether I'm relaxing at the beach, playing with the kids, laughing with Matt, shopping for gifts, or sneaking away on the 21st to pick up my copy of the final Harry Potter book, I hope and pray that I will pursue Christ as my greatest joy so that He might be glorified during my Myrtle Beach vacation.
Same goal, different place.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Pat has more than just a fancy, cool-sounding name though. He has a humble, teachable heart that desires to please God, even in the little things. When I first met Pat, he was asked to serve with Alpha as a group leader by one of the pastors. He was a bit unsure of stepping into this role and felt very unqualified - which was really the perfect place to be for the Savior to use him. He was aware of his weaknesses and lack of experience in leading and therefore very dependent upon God. I am so thankful that He chose the path of faith and trust and got involved in Alpha because God has used him mightily. Just ask the multitude of folks - of all ages - that have been the recipient of his compassion and care.
Over the years, I have joyfully watched Pat grow in both his leadership and service within our church family. In our care group, he is often one of the first to humbly confess his struggles and sin. He is also quick to encourage others and point out where he sees God at work. He prays for others with a childlike faith. He initiates meaningful conversation and can have a blast talking about "nothing".
Just a few weeks ago, a friend invited others to her home to pray for a team of people from our church that were in India on a short-term missions trip. I wasn't sure who would show up but it did not surprise me to see Pat walking through the door to join our little group of women to pray. There was pizza and a big salad so I should have known..... :-)
That night, Pat's humble leadership was on full display. Us girls were happily yapping away about all sorts of things and he gently guided our conversation to a place where specific prayer requests were shared for the team. Before any of us had the chance to experience an awkward moment wondering who would "start", Pat initiated and led the prayer time. After quite a while, when it seemed like the time was coming to a close, Ellie (the dog) did something that caused all of us to laugh and after that interruption, I felt for sure we were done. Someone asked, "Are we done praying?" Pat spoke up and kindly said, "no" and he continued in prayer. It was a small thing, but I greatly appreciate the direction he brought at that exact moment.
To God be the glory for the humble leadership of Patrick Santavenere!
*A special thank you to Carolyn McCulley for providing me with this photograph of Pat in Bolivia...with his sombrero!
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
There's just one small snafu. Daily, I am unhappily splatted.
Whenever i push the little ball-like lever to open the spout, I get splatted with cream! It happens every time and even with this knowledge, I still respond with surprise when the splat of cream gets me...over and over again. I've tried different tactics like pointing the spout away from me while opening it - but then everything else gets splatted like the counters, walls and cabinets. In an effort to outsmart the creamer, I've even pointed it in the sink which would make for easy clean-up, but nope, that doesn't work either. Still, the cream explodes in all directions hitting both the sink, counter, walls, and surrounding kitchen items. My only hope, my last and final hope, is to open the creamer with a napkin over the top. It's an easy solution although I'm not real crazy about wasting a napkin each day on a poorly designed product.
I think, at the heart level, I want to beat this International Delight creamer. I want the simplistic pleasure of pushing the spout open without the splat. Is this an unreasonable battle to expect to win? Can someone share their tactics with me? Help!
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Abbie (6), not wanting to be outdone by Stephen's expression of brilliance in regards to math facts, told me that she knew what iced coffee was: coffee over ice. Great Abs, but once again, let's aim a little higher! Having only just completed Kindergarten, school is lots of fun for her and sitting with Mommy to work through her math book is something she wants to do. Here's a shot of her working on place value.
Monday, July 2, 2007
This morning during my quiet time, I was reading through Psalm 119 and came across verse 162 which says:
"I rejoice at your word like one who finds a great spoil."
Immediately, I was faced with the question: Do I rejoice in the Word of God? Do I rejoice like one who has just found a great treasure or spoil?
When I unexpectedly find money in my pocket, it is a surprise because I am not looking for it. It's just there. When I find it, I rejoice and find a way to spend it rather quickly on some sort of treat for me and the kids. I think a key difference with this "find" and the "find" in Psalm 19:162 is that the Psalmist is searching for treasure. He is searching because he knows it's there for the finding!
Another question hit me: When I open God's Word is it with childlike faith and anticipation that I am going to find a glorious, eternal treasure or am I satisfied with lesser "finds" that are momentarily cherished and then forgotten?
If your answers to these questions are anything like mine, make verses 36 & 37 of Psalm 119 your prayer:
"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways."
Friday, June 22, 2007
I am stuck on the milkshake level (39) but have learned lots of things along the way. For instance, when your burger is burning, throw it in the trash can quickly! Also, when it's time to blend your shake, you need to grab the blender, not the whipped cream. And, if you want to add some pizazz to a burger, make it a Hawaiian burger. That's what we did for our friend Allyson, as we celebrated with her on the purchase of her first home!
Here's the recipe:
1. Take one cooked burger and put it on the bottom half of a nice roll.
2. Put a thin layer of mayo on the top part of the roll.
3. On top of the burger, place one large pineapple ring, then some barbecue sauce, then some lettuce.
4. Put it all together and there you have it....a Hawaiian burger!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
If you enjoy carbs, this will be a most delightful meal for you and you will struggle deciding between the cinnamon Danish pancakes with cream cheese icing and the variety of specialty waffles. However, if you are a low-carb eater like me, the breakfast is no less delightful as there is a wide assortment of omelets and eggs, of course accompanied by applewood bacon. Or, if you are like Eric Price, you can just eat on both sides of the fence and order pancakes and eggs!
Check it out - you won't be disappointed.
Romans 5:6-8 says, "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Christ died for us weak, ungodly, sinful people at the right time. His timing was perfect for our greatest need: payment for our sin. This should increase our trust in Him as we prayerfully wait for marriage, children, a different job, a place to live, whatever. It should encourage us and build our faith as we remind ourselves that "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) I don't know what the "all things" will be in my life. Chances are they are not the exact things I want or think I need, but He is good and sovereign and I'd be crazy not to wait for His "all things" than settle for mine!
Monday, June 18, 2007
Matt was gracious enough to give me a few hours this morning to get out for an extended time with the Lord. After enjoying a quiet breakfast while reading a chapter from "Relationships: A Mess Worth Making", I headed over to the library in hopes of finding my favorite spot by the back windows. I made it through the chaos of kids signing up for the summer reading program and thankfully my nook was empty - waiting just for me! I began with a simple prayer asking God to speak to me through His Word, I opened my journal, took the cap off my precise V5 pilot pen (extra fine in case you were wondering), and flipped to Deuteronomy 23 to continue where I left off. Verse one, here we go.....
"No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD."
I wasn't expecting this to be the first thing I read on my special time alone. Still happy for the blog entry Amy? :) I didn't understand the verse, I was suddenly extra thankful that I was a woman, and I felt a bit sorry for men who may have had some terrible accident and were therefore not allowed to enter the assembly of the LORD.
This is just one example of why reading something in context and using good commentaries is so vital when it comes to understanding portions of Scripture. After doing a little research, this verse, according to John MacArthur, refers to eunuchs who willfully mutilated (literal in Hebrew, by crushing) themselves and therefore violated God's creation of man. This was associated with idolatrous practices and was done by pagan parents to their children.
Idolatry always seems to find me. Even amidst a random verse like this, once studied out, idolatry is staring me straight in the eyes. This should not surprise me because idolatry is the most frequently discussed and most seriously condemned sin in the Bible. I wouldn't have seen it in this verse on my own, but there it was.
C.J. Mahaney defines idolatry as a substitute for God that one loves, worships, and serves in the place of God. An idol is a false functional god. It may come from an over-attachment to something that is good; it could be a sinful craving for one of God's gifts more than God Himself. God warns the people of Israel over and over again to "take care, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them..." Dt.11:16 We are warned to "take care" because our hearts are so easily deceived when it comes to idolatry. Idolatry often disguises itself as something else; it likes to hide and stay in the dark. It makes grand promises of satisfaction but it never delivers. It deceives you and then it devestates you. How do you know if you are being deceived by idolatry? At Na, C.J. suggested that we can identify idolatry:
a. through Holy Scripture (Heb.4:12)
b. through the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:23-24)
c. through the Church. We need to invite the "eyes" of others because we are often blinded by our own sin and our way is right in our own eyes.
I am learning that this must be a daily practice. We can't assume because we prayed about it once and asked a few people and got some feedback and even repented, that we're safe from it's presence. Through the glorious gospel the power of idolatry has been broken in our lives, but the presence of sin remains; therefore, loving something or someone more than God will be a daily temptation for us. By the grace of God, once it is found, we can mortify it with the truth of God's word. As a result we will grow in both godliness and gratefulness to God for His rich mercy towards us.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. the bread or roll used in making a hero sandwich.
John Piper has this to say about heroes:
"Each of us needs a hero to admire. And it's legitimate for these heroes or role models to be human beings. It's appropriate for us to model ourselves after our parents or teacher or the expert in our line of work, but only insofar as that person models the character of Jesus. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ."
Just yesterday, a friend of mine had the unique opportunity to have lunch with Christian author Carolyn McCulley. It was a birthday surprise arranged for her by a close friend and they had a wonderful time sharing their lives with one another over Italian food. Nice combination, I must admit.
In the days preceding this lunch, there were questions thrown out like:
If you could sit and have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be? Why this person? What would you ask them? Generally speaking, I don't like to go down the line of "what if" scenarios, but this was fun stuff. It got me thinking about my heroes.
While God warns us of the seriousness of idolatry, I do believe there can be wonderful fruit in having godly heroes; individuals whose faith and passion for the Savior spurred them on to follow hard after Christ despite the trials and sufferings they may have endured. I must admit that I love reading autobiographies and learning about the struggles and temptations an individual endured. I like seeing the flaws and weaknesses exposed in their own words and in the stories others tell about their lives.
It is sinful to put anyone on a pedestal. God is on the throne and He is jealous for our hearts to be fixed on Him. Yet at the same time, in His kindness and mercy and as part of His plan to grow us up, He puts people in our lives that imitate Him in such a way that we are compelled to follow their example.
So...who would I have lunch with if given some unique opportunity? My answer came quickly: John and Noel Piper. Since this hasn't been arranged yet....lol....I am grateful for the following interview with Noel Piper that is featured on the girltalk blog right here!
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
When Stephen was just about three years old, we purchased these geometrical shapes for him. They're the kind of item that only a new parent picks up for their kid in hopes of making them smart! Although I pulled them out almost daily, Stephen was never interested in them. He always chose his matchbox cars and spent all of his playtime "driving" his cars across the sofa or the table or my leg. The geometrical shapes were put away and considered the rejected toy around the house.
I held onto them in case my daughter eventually showed interest in them. When Abigail turned 5, I pulled out the ol' geometrical shapes and to my surprise she took right to them. She spent long periods of time sitting at the table or playing on the floor, carefully taking her time to place each shape in the right pattern sequence provided. I was a happy mother!
Once Stephen saw how much fun his sister was having with them, he decided to get in on the action...in his own special way that is.
Here is Abbie's creation. As you can see, all the shapes are flat on the ground in some specific order. This is how they were "meant" to be played with.
Here is a picture of Stephen's creation. Instead of laying the shapes flat on the ground, he opted to build upward. He also made sure his matchbox cars were a part of things...
ahhhh....the joys of boys and girls.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
About a week or two ago, during my morning commute to my classes at Towson, I found myself randomly blurting out the lyrics to what I believe to be a Rod Stewart song. Now, I can't tell you where exactly the urge to start singing this song came from or where I remember first hearing it. To be honest, I really didn't even know the words past the first line of the chorus and from that moment on began to make up my own words that were not even close to the original lyrics. The song goes, "Have I told you lately that I love you?"
As I was driving along on that brisk morning singing this completely random song, an interesting thought came to me. "How often has my Savior told me that He loved me?" As I began to contemplate this question, my mind immediately went to various verses in the Bible that convey Christ's love for us. Verses like John 3:16...
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Or a verse like John 15:9...
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love."
"I guess God has told us many times in the Bible how much He loves us," was my thought. I mean obviously, there are a lot of verses in the Bible assuring us that the God of heaven loves us dearly. Why He loves us? - Have no clue about that one, but it is clear that He has chosen to love us.
As I continued to ponder this question about God's love, another thought came to me. When the almighty, holy God turned His back on His only Son and poured out the entirety of His wrath, giving us Jesus' righteousness in the process, He demonstrated the greatest love ever known. Since this is the case, there is so much more evidence of God's love than just the individual verses that plainly state it in the Bible. The entire Bible is a love letter from God! This wonderful book, from its beginning to end, tells us of the amazing love of God put into action. How, before time even began, the all-knowing Lord devised a way to save the very people that would rebel against Him. How, throughout the Old Testament, He made promises to His people that one day He would send a Savior to redeem them. How we are told of the bleeding and bruised body of our Lord being nailed to a wooden cross. How He rose again on the third day, ascending into heaven to intercede for us. And how we are promised that one day He will return for us and take us to heaven with Him. Is this not the greatest love story you have ever read? Romans 5:8 says "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
This is His love letter to you. It is a love story that never loses its luster, one that will be continuously told for years to come. I exhort you not to let this incredible display of love in the gospel be swept to the side. Remember this love. Meditate on it. Keep it on your mind. Isn't it great? Can't you just see the smiling face of the Creator looking down at you and saying, "Look at my word, my child... haven't I told you so much lately that I love you?"
Thursday, February 8, 2007
In response to this, I have been asking him to not be so nosy. Well he hasn't stopped being nosy. His nose is everywhere! I never questioned if he understood what I was asking him. I just assumed he knew what nosy meant. Well, I was wrong.
This evening, as I began chatting some friends online, Stephen appeared by my side ready to read along. I asked him why he was being nosy again and he finally explained that he didn't know what nosy meant. I was happy to be able to explain to him the definition and then he just stared at me, perplexed. His next statement was priceless:
"Mom, shouldn't it be called 'eyesy' instead of 'nosy' since I'm looking at things with my eyes?"
Friday, February 2, 2007
I've made a decision. It's a real biggie. Are you ready? Fridays are now Piper days as far as this little blog goes. Piper, meaning Dr. John Piper.
Today I will share some of my favorite quotes on the subject of impatience from his book, "Future Grace."
Impatience is a form of unbelief. It's what we begin to feel when we start to doubt the wisdom of God's timing or the goodness of God's guidance. It springs up in our hearts when our plan is interrupted or shattered. It may be prompted by a long wait in a checkout line or a sudden blow that knocks out half our dreams. The opposite of impatience is not a glib denial of loss. It's a deepening, ripening, peaceful willingness to wait for God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience - to wait in his place, and go at his pace. And the key is faith in future grace.
The apostle Paul prayed for the church at Colossae, that they would be "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience" (Colossians 1:11). Patience is the evidence of an inner strength. Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependent on external supports - like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts. Their outbursts of oaths and threats and harsh criticisms of the culprits who crossed their plans do not sound weak. But that noise is all a camouflage of weakness. Patience demands tremendous inner strength.
If we believed that our hold-up at the long red light was God's keeping us back from an accident about to happen, then we would be patient and happy. If we believed that our broken leg was God's way of revealing early cancer in the x-ray so that we would survive, we would not murmur at the inconvenience. If we believed that the middle-of-the-night phone call was God's way of waking us to smell smoke in the basement, we would not grumble at the loss of sleep. The key to patience is faith in the future grace of God's "glorious might" to transform all of our interruptions into rewards.
In other words, the strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours. This requires great faith in future grace, because the evidence is seldom evident.
Please, buy this book!
Thursday, February 1, 2007
People are deceived.
You know how it goes. We see someone interviewed before their audition and they express with confidence to all of America that they have what it takes to win the competition. They boast of their years of voice training, they share how their friends think they have a great voice, and often there is a parent standing beside them smiling and agreeing with this assessment.
Then they sing.
Although Simon can lack graciousness in his criticism, he often says what most of us are thinking. I know he says what I'm thinking and despite the way in which he expresses himself, I think he is usually right. The other judges often agree but express their critique in a kind manner. So you have this person trying out that is really a dreadful singer, there are four judges all expressing the same thing to them, yet they vehemently disagree. They look utterly confused that these professionals sitting before them do not agree with their own assessment and the assessment of their friends and family.
Could it be that the people in their lives are just not being truthful with them?
I know from personal experience that without the loving, truthful insight from others, I would miss all sorts of things. Like those dreadful singers who think they are great, I too am deceived. Although I may not be making a fool of myself on national television for all to see, my deception is much more serious than that. In my own little world and before a Sovereign God, I am often foolish and deceived by my own assessment of myself.
For instance, I often fail to hear my impatient tone when I speak to my husband about something. That is until my son or daughter says, "Mom - your voice wasn't very kind towards Daddy." Suddenly, I am busted by an 8 year old or better yet, a 5 year old. How did I, a mature adult, a parent, miss something that was so obvious to my children? Thankfully, the Bible answers that question and I just need to remind myself of the truth:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Agreeing with what God says about my heart is the first step in recognizing my need for the input of others. Asking for input does not come naturally though. It's one thing to ask a friend if your hair looks better this way or that way, but it's another thing to ask someone for their input about your speech toward others or how you responded in a particular situation or how your thought life has been in light of meeting that new guy or girl. Now we're getting personal...we're getting to the nitty-gritty...and this is where real change can begin to take place. If we can take the first step by agreeing with what God's word says about our deceitful hearts, then by faith we can take the next step by humbling ourselves before another and asking them specific questions about what they may see in our lives. Remember that the input of others is not always conclusive, meaning, it's possible that their observations are not entirely correct or accurate. The path of humility would call us to thankfully receive what they share and then we can go before the Lord and offer it up to Him, praying:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
So many things that we pray about often seem to go unanswered, at least for a time. Although God is at work in that particular situation that we're praying about, we just can't see with our eyes of flesh what He is doing so we need to simply wait and trust in His goodnesss. Most things I pray about seem to fall into this "wait and trust" category, so I find it curious that when I've prayed Psalm 139:23-24, God has faithfully shown me, rather quickly, areas of sin. This is nothing short of a demonstration of His mercy and love towards us. Our Savior is committed to our sanctification like none other and promises to complete the work that He has begun in us.
Asking for input may be difficult but giving input can be just as, if not more challenging. Will she be angry if I bring this to her attention? Will she get defensive? Will this just turn into a conflict? How can I bring this up in a gracious way? What will she think of me? Can't God just show them this without me? These are just some of the questions that plague my deceitful heart that is often ruled by what others think above and beyond what God thinks. Sharing input with others has been an especially difficult area for me but by the grace of God, my toes are pointed in the right direction and if you look close enough, there may even be slight trails of a shuffle. There is no magical formula to make this easy, but this is what I have sought to do and it's been very helpful:
1- Agree with what God's word says about my own heart. Agree with Paul's description of himself and apply it to myself: I am the chief of sinners. If I don't start here, I will be tempted to see their weakness or sin as worse than my own.
2- Thank God for that individual in specific ways, remembering and reminding myself afresh that He is at work in their lives.
3- Ask God for help in sharing my input in a humble and gracious manner. I specifically ask that He would help me to not draw conclusions in my statements but to have a heart to serve them by asking questions, trusting that only God can truly show a person his/her own heart.
4- Make a commitment to God to be a faithful friend to that individual by stepping out and sharing input. If I don't make that commitment to God, I can easily weasel out of it.
5- Remind myself that this is not about me. This is about God's glory and seeking to care for another individual in a way that would bring honor to His Name.
Receiving input from others and sharing input with others is not an easy thing to do. By the grace of God we can seek to grow in both areas by believing that we truly need one another and then making the choice to be a faithful friend to one another, for God's glory.
Just like those dreadful singers on AI that are deceived in thinking that they have a great voice, we are deceived.
Unlike those dreadful singers, we don't stand before a panel of human judges in hopes of hearing "You're going to Hollywood!" We stand before the One and Only perfect and righteous judge: Jesus Christ, who through His death on the cross has made payment for our every sin - past, present, and future. As R.C. Sproul puts it:
What every human being needs to be saved from is God. The last thing in the world the impenitent sinner ever wants to meet on the other side of the grave is God. But the glory of the gospel is that the One from whom we need to be saved is the very One who saves us. God, in saving us, saves us from Himself.
A must read for everyone:
"The Cross and Criticism" https://bookstore.peacemaker.net/html/artic10.htm
Friday, January 26, 2007
Seeing KC rolled in her tight little ball reminds me that sleep is a gift from God. Listen to these wise and practical words from C.J. Mahaney in his book "Humility - True Greatness"
The fact is, God could have created us without a need for sleep. But He chose to build this need within us, and there's a spiritual purpose for it. Each night, as I confront my need again for sleep, I am reminded that I'm a dependent creature. I am not self-sufficient. I am not the Creator. There is only One who "will neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4), and I am not that One.
When I first read that I was struck with how often, when it comes to sleep, I operate with a very self-sufficient attitude. I used to pride myself on how little sleep I could get and still function the next day. I never recognized my need for sleep as proof of my need to depend on God. Sleep was something I just assumed happened at the end of each day and I never made the connection between sleep and God. Once I made the connection, I have sought to apply the truth with the wise counsel suggested:
So don't just fall asleep tonight or any night. Seize this opportunity to mortify pride and cultivate humility by setting apart sleep as a holy gift from God, as a reminder of your full dependence on Him and as an occasion to examine your heart before Him. Let the Spirit give you a new perception and appreciation of sleep, so that this seemingly ordinary act might be transformed into an opportunity to cultivate humility and weaken pride.
Today has been an interesting day. My kids and I met with a friend for several hours and my son ended up feeling sick. Homeschool was dropped for the day and the sofa was transformed into a sick bed. As my friend and I wrapped up our time of fellowship together, I realized that I had several things to do before I'd have to leave for my evening plans. It's going to be a late night for sure. When I get home and climb into my bed, before I fall asleep, I will take a few minutes to express my thankfulness to God and I will express my complete dependence on Him. Just as I drift off, I will feel the weight of KC resting on my legs, rolled up in a tight little ball.
this is the second time i've typed out this post and about the fifth time i've written it in my head. i tend to think i am fairly content in my singleness, but sunday's message and the focused thoughts that have followed are showing me a few things... turns out, just because i may not typically struggle with the pain of being single does not mean i am necessarily believing all the right things about it.
are there specific times that i am thankful to be single? sure. but that thankfulness doesn't usually strike me in the same way as the example trace shared below. it seems a lot easier to realize the way someone else blesses you than the way the absence of someone blesses you. i think it takes some intentional effort to see these things at work. when i am really struggling with something, i can escape to a coffee shop with my bible and some books to read for hours... no notice required, no coordinating plans. when there is an opportunity to serve a friend, a family, or the church, and i have a desire to do it, i can work my own schedule to make room for it. as pastor matt pointed out on sunday, singleness is arguably a better gift than marriage simply because of the freedom it provides to be more completely devoted to God.
sometimes, in being thankful for these types of things, i wonder if it implies that i see marriage as a burden. but i don't. believe me, the more i see of marriage, the more i desire to be married. yet i do understand that it would come with many adjustments. other times i worry that my contentment with being single is just a celebration of selfishness. and it can be, depending on how i use it. and i think that how i use it flows out of what i truly believe about it.
here is where i am most challenged - have i just gotten used to singleness, learned to enjoy the advantages it can bring, and resolved to be content with these things? or do i truly believe it is a gift? do i think God has overlooked my requests for a husband, or do i trust that He has lovingly chosen this for me? His Word clearly labels singleness as a gift that is given, not as a default category for those who are not married.
so it seems that perhaps He has given a gift i don't really want. well, it wouldn't be the first time. in His perfect wisdom, God knows what i need as well as what i want. and in His care for me, when the two are opposed, i think He loves me enough to give me what i truly need. thinking back to before i was a Christian, i can clearly remember not wanting God or anything to do with Him. i needed Him, but i didn't know that. but now - i cannot thank Him enough for giving the gift of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ. God's Word assures me that because i am now in Christ, His heart is to bless me and to work all things for my good. all things - including my singleness.
when i see things this way, i can embrace this gift and be excited about the ways i can use it for God's glory. my other concerns can fade away in the light of this truth. i just need to be reminded, and to choose to believe the promises of the bible. i don't want to just be okay with being single - i want to treasure it.
and so, even when it doesn't feel like it -- especially when it doesn't feel like it -- i will honor God by choosing the fight of faith and affirming that my singleness is a gift. period.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
He was scheduled to preach this past Sunday and I was especially excited because my 5 year old daughter asked if she could stay in the service to hear her daddy preach. How could I refuse?
He exposited an overview of 1 Corinthians 7 and from that text he made the following three points:
- singleness and marriage are both good gifts from God
- singleness has some unique advantages over the gift of marriage
- our marital status is not what defines us
This message was very stirring and provoking in a good way. I'll take the next few blog entries to express where I see God at work in our local church that reflects each of these points.
Singleness and marriage are both good gifts from God, point one.
Apparently I slept through the demonstration of this point this morning. My daughter Abigail woke up a little before 7:00 a.m. feeling sick in her stomach. She expressed it this way: "I might spit out" which translates, "I'm going to throw up!" Nice words to hear. Only I didn't hear them because I was fast asleep in my warm bed. My husband was up and getting ready to leave for work when he heard her little panicked voice. Instead of waking me, he set aside his own schedule and plans and chose to tenderly care for his daughter. In caring for Abbie he was also displaying and demonstrating his care for me in allowing me to sleep through the potential trauma of a S.O. (spit out).
When I finally woke up I was suprised to see Matt standing in our bedroom doorway. He explained what happened and immediately I was reminded of this gift called marriage. Matt was a gift to me this morning in how he cared for us. By the very nature of his sacrificial care he was a live demonstration of Christ's love for the church.
This may not seem like a very impressive demonstration of love but ask yourself this question if you are married: What would you have done in this situation?
Marriage is a gift. Although I believed that before Sunday's message, it was kind of God to give me a fresh reminder. And a fresh reminder at 7:00 a.m. was sweet!
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
"The evangelical orientation is inward and subjective. We are far better at looking inward than outward. We need to expend our energies admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.”
C.J. went onto comment that "life is a spiritual, relational, and emotional roller coaster not because that’s just how it goes, but because we so often look inward to ourselves rather than outward and upward to our Savior. We experience this roller coaster because we pour energy into our selfish desires and expectations rather than 'admiring, exploring, expositing, and extolling Jesus Christ.' In other words, we must stop thinking about ourselves and start praising Christ, learning about Christ, and talking about Christ."
This little phrase "upward and outward" has stuck with me. In any given situation if I stop and ask myself where my focus is, I am immediately faced with a decision. Will I make the choice to readjust my focus away from myself and upward to the Savior or will I continue looking inward at myself? This one little question has had a great impact on my daily life as wife, mother, and friend.
So there it is, my first post.