Friday, December 31, 2010

I Shall Again Praise Him


"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God." ~Psalms 42: 5-6

Yesterday was a very difficult day for me, as it marked the one week anniversary of Ginger's death.  Ginger's death - I hate seeing those words side by side.  My mood plummeted Wednesday evening & remained in a pit of black numbness that was shot through with piercing anguish all the way through last night.  I had a faint hope that things would be better this morning after a good night's rest, & truthfully I do feel better today.  I had to give myself a sobering pep talk when I woke up, though.  I told myself that it's okay to grieve; it's only been one week, after all.  I'm going to cry, I'm going to be sad, I'm going to miss her terribly.  But, knowing myself as I do, if I continue to wallow in my melancholy, I will fall into a depression & it will take a very long time to claw my way back out.  I can grieve, yes, but I have to fight against the temptation to bathe in it or I'll drown.

I've struggled with clinical depression off & on since my early teens.  Perhaps that's the reason that I have little patience for prolonged lamenting; I know what it can lead to.  It's been a few years since I've been plagued by this foe, & I'd like to keep it that way.  Thankfully, I now know how.  When Michael & I first met, I was on Prozac.  It kept my moods pretty level, & since anger is how depression expresses itself in me, my dad cautioned Michael in his desire to have me off of the medication.  "Trust me, you don't want her off of that!", he warned.  Mama & I echoed his admonition.  Michael heedlessly rejected this counsel & gently pushed for me to do away with the Prozac.  Against my better judgment - because I love him & want to honor him - I stopped taking it.  And do you know what I found?  Much to my amazement, I discovered that Michael was right, & I didn't need it.  Oh, my mood fluctuated & I felt anger more than I would have liked, but in my reading & instruction from Michael, I realized that my problem wasn't depression, my problem was sin.  I had come to view my anger as acceptable & justified; it was just a part of who I was &, furthermore, people shouldn't do things to make me angry!  Besides, "the experts" say that it's healthy to vent your anger.  But, in reading God's Word, I found that my anger was not normal, healthy, or acceptable.  It's sin, pure & simple, & no pill can cure me of that.  I had to acknowledge my sin for what it was, repent of it, & rely on God to rid me of it.

My sorrow is no different.  Sorrow is expected in my loss; I'm not denying that.  But to wallow in it & despair is sin.  I have no reason to despair in my grief because I have God.  If I do so, then I have shown that God has not been my highest love, & Ginger is an idol.  I don't want that.  I want to love God supremely, so I have to willingly let Ginger go if He bids me to.  He has, so I must.  And I proclaim with Job, "though He slay me, I will hope in Him"!

Don't Believe in a Small Gospel

“A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small.

A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small.

A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small.

A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small.

A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.”

~Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
Of First Importance

Monday, December 27, 2010

God's Grace & Mercy

Hope has dawned clear & bright today along with the sun that is streaming gloriously golden through our windows.  The whole house is awash in sparkling sunshine, & I feel a stirring of happiness & hope in my breast for the first time in several days.  Jake must feel it, too.  Since my last post, he has slipped into a sort of melancholy, which he's shown by not chasing squirrels, laying around pretty much constantly, & not chewing his beloved bones.  If you knew him, you'd know that's like Winnie the Pooh turning up his nose at honey.  But this morning, he ran out into the yard & promptly sprawled out in the grass to sun himself, & just this evening he finally indulged in a rawhide chew fest.  We're all going to be just fine.

I've wanted to share with y'all how God has been gracious & merciful to us in the midst of this trial.  Today, I finally feel as if I can.

Going back to the beginning, the first thing that comes to mind is finding our vet.  He's an absolute Godsend!  Our initial advice had been to take Ginger to Auburn, but their treatment was going to set us back several thousand dollars, a large chunk of which was due up front.  I was beside myself because our inability to afford this would mean no treatment & certain death for her in a matter of weeks.  Michael remembered reading an editorial about Dr. H, so we called him & he immediately set up a treatment protocol.  He consulted with oncology specialists the entire way & kept down his prices as much as possible so we could treat her.  Without treatment, Ginger would have died in 6 weeks.  The average life-span with treatment is 1 year.  She lived one day shy of 2 years from diagnosis.  How gracious God has been to give me so much more time with my darling!  Her passing has cut me to the heart, but I rejoice over how long God allowed me to keep her.  Especially without suffering.  Michael's previous experience with lymphoma sarcoma in his beloved dog, Vicky, was traumatic because of her intense suffering.  I begged God not to let Ginger suffer, & He didn't.  Until the last hour - where she struggled to live, something I have not the heart to recount - she did not suffer.  The grief is still too near for me to describe my last hours with Ginger; I don't know if I'll ever be able to put that in writing.  However, He answered another prayer of mine - as He did all along the way - an almost constant prayer that I not have to put her down.  I would have given anything for something to ease her pain at the end, but I did not want her to die by my hand on a cold table in a clinical setting.  I wanted her at home in my arms, with me whispering my love in her ear.  God graciously, mercifully, granted me this.  Even though it was almost unbearably difficult, I saw her through to the end, & I hope that she felt comfort from my presence & knew that I love her.  I believe she did.

For me personally, God has surrounded me with love.  Michael is . . . words fail me.  He's loving, godly, comforting, amazing, supportive, phenomenal.  He's staying right by my side, grieving with me & being my strong shoulder to cry on.  He's a rock of love, solace, & comfort.  He speaks of God & His sovereignty, love, & mercy.  He gives me ice cream (hehehe!).  My family (both LA & AL), my church family, my friends, even Jake - all are gifts from God to me.  They've given me love, comfort, & pointed me toward God.  If any of y'all are reading this, know that I am so very thankful for you & I love you beyond measure.

Finally - or, rather, firstly in reality - God has given me Himself.  I've said before that I can't fathom how people endure this life without God.  Without Him, it's all pointless.  Losing Ginger would be pointless.  There'd be no reason behind it, & I would easily allow my grief to become anger & bitterness.  But, because I know Him - & I know that He is good - I know that He has allowed this suffering for a reason.  I don't know what that reason is, but I don't have to.  I know that He loves me, & I trust Him.  I know that He doesn't orchestrate events in order to harm me, for I know that "God works all things together for good for those who love Him & are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  I may not know His purpose behind this, but I can say that one thing that has been accomplished is that I long even more ardently for Home.  Michael read to me a chapter regarding pets in Randy Alcorn's book Heaven that was extremely comforting.  I believe that I will one day see Ginger again - whole, healthy, & happy.  I look forward to that day.  I look forward to the day when there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping, no more sin.  But even more so, I look forward to the day when I will see Jesus face to face, when I will never have to be parted from Him.  That will be a most glorious day!  So, my heart cries out, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Until that day, I will praise Him & worship Him, even in the midst of my pain & suffering.  For He is worthy.

Thank You, Lord God, for the gift that Ginger has been in my life.  Thank You for allowing me to be her mommy.  Thank You for Your grace & mercy throughout this trial, & especially now in my grief.  I know that You see my pain, that You grieve with me, that You keep all of my tears in a bottle, & that one day, all of my pain will find its end in unceasing joy.  Thank You for my loved ones' comfort, support, & love.  They are a blessing to me.  And thank You for You, for being my God, my Father, my Savior.  I love You; help me love You more.  In Christ's holy name I pray, Amen.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pain & Hope

I'm supposed to be sleeping right now, but not much of that is happening for me lately.  Honestly, it's odd; sleep is usually my escape during times like these.  Last night excluded, the sleep that I have been able to snatch has been plagued by dreams of Ginger, & thus far less than restful.

I attempted to write last night, but just one look at the pictures of Ginger & I was wracked with sobs.  I've likened my constantly fluctuating emotions to weather, & let me tell you, the weather over here is stranger than any I've ever experienced.  One moment, there's a fierce summer thunderstorm.  It usually begins slowly, then builds til it consumes all of me.  My tears are the rain, my audible cries are the thunder, & I suppose my searing pain is the lightning.  Next moment there's icy cold numbness, where I'm so emotionally spent that I can't feel a thing.  No emotions & nothing matters.  It's not that I'm hopeless, I'm just . . . nothing.  Finally, like a tiny shaft of sunlight that breaks through the clouds for a time, there's hope.  I can't begin to express what a comfort Reformed theology has been to me.  Not in & of itself, mind you, but in how it points me back to God's sovereignty & love.  And of course, Michael is constantly by my side.  I told him many months ago, when we knew this moment would come, that it would probably be better for me to be able to grieve alone.  I thought that I wouldn't be able to fully release my emotions in his presence, that I would hold back to protect him from my pain.  I was so wrong.  There's absolutely no way that I could make it through this without him.

Reading back through, it all sounds . . . poetic, almost.  Actually living through it is not.  The last time I felt pain this severe was when my grandfather died nearly 17 years ago.  You want the unvarnished truth?  My heart has been ripped out & dashed into millions upon millions of pieces on the floor.  Sometimes I can't breathe.  My eyes are often swollen, red, & oh so exhausted from the tears that keep welling up & overflowing of their own accord.  Sometimes I curl up into a fetal position while I wail out my longing for my baby to come back to me.  "Please, God, PLEASE let me wake up from this nightmare!  I don't want it to be like this!  I don't want her to be gone!"  I've almost vomited several times when I've given in to the need to cry long & violently from deep within my body, so I have to be careful to calm myself down when I feel like I'm reaching that threshhold.  Which is often.  I keep seeing things that remind me of her, that bring back memories of her, & I burst into tears all over.  You'd think I'd have run dry already.  I fled Beth & Chris' house yesterday when Michael received a phone call from the pet cemetery informing us that they had just finished burying her.  I have to protect others from seeing my pain; I know they love me & want to be there for me, but it's too raw & violent to expose them to.  Michael soon came out & held me while I poured out my grief.  Dear sweet man.  He's an exemplary husband.  Words fail to express how much comfort he brings me, how much I feel his love, & how much I love him.  Jake's always here, too.  He honestly hasn't seemed to grieve like I expected him to, but he's sticking by my side, often giving me sugar or looking at me with his big doe eyes seeming to convey his love to me.  I couldn't bear it if the house were completely empty.  Having him to love on & play with is another comfort.

It's ironic to me that Ginger died one day short of the two year anniversary of her diagnosis.  Time has become a funny animal, seeming to move as slow as molasses in winter while rushing along at the same time.  It seems like ages ago when Mama & Dad left, yet that was just hours before my baby's last breath.  However, could 54 hours really have already flown by since that awful hour?  It's hard to fathom.  We came home last night, & I dissolved into tears when I realized that she wasn't waiting by the door.  She's been there every single day for the past 8 years, expecting me to drop everything & lean over to envelop her in my love.  How do I go on without her?  How do I live without her sweet face, adorable personality, & unconditional love?  These are my feelings, but God's truth grounds me.  My life & faith are built upon Him, & He's the solid rock.  This storm that is now crashing against me will not fell me.  I will lean on Him, & He will see me through this.  How people get through the trials that inevitably plague us in this life without God is beyond me.

I've received several emails from people that I dearly love, & I know y'all want to know how I'm doing.  This is the truth:  I'm hurting.  I'm grieving.  I'm in fairly constant pain that overshadows even happy moments.  But I'm going to be okay.  God is with me, & He will carry me through.  I don't grieve as one without hope.  Thank you for your prayers, for your words of love to me, for your support & encouragement.  They mean - you mean - far more than words can ever express.  At some point in the future, I'd like to tell you of how God has shown us His love & mercy throughout this entire trial.  For now, know that I'm leaning on God & receiving comfort from Him through all of my loved ones.  He is good, He is merciful, He's the Love of my life.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

R.I.P. Ginger Louise Boyd

We lost my sweet baby girl this morning at 4:15.  She died at home in my arms, just like I had begged God to allow.  He's been gracious, merciful, & loving all through this.  My heart is shattered, & I'm too emotional right now to write, but I know y'all have been praying for us.  Thank you.  Please continue to do so.  He's upholding me & giving me grace, but this is more painful than almost anything I've ever had to endure.






Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm 33!

"Old . . . as . . . dirt!", my brother proclaimed as I answered his phone call.  After some bantering, I asked, "Have you & Michael been talking?  Because when we were in the grocery store earlier, he looked down an aisle & said 'You're getting pretty old.  Think you need those Depends?'"  Chris cracked up!  Which of course made me cackle, because he has the best laugh!  We are a very sarcastic family who loves to playfully pick on each other.  We laughed our way through the conversation.  Especially when - as we're standing on the porch, mind you - Mama & Dad's white truck cruises past our house not once, but twice.  Of course, Chris was more than happy to call her on my behalf & harass her!  ;-)

I wanted to get lots of pictures of them arriving (finally!) & our whole time together, but we were so involved in catching up & just being together that I only got a few.  And those are with the dogs!  We sat around talking for a while & then had my dad's famous steaks as my birthday dinner Monday night, followed by me opening my presents.  Even though I told him not to, Michael completely spoiled me!  It was really sweet!  Basically, when I gave him ideas for some things I'd like, he just got me all of it!

I made pancakes & sausage for breakfast Tuesday morning, which held us really well until that evening when we went to Olive Garden for supper.  I was supposed to make red beans & rice, but waited until too late to start.  Mama & I were also supposed to make Granny's Chocolate Sheath cake & fudge, but we renege on plans every time we get together because we spend practically all our time talking!

They left right before 9 this morning & are almost home now.  Tears flowed when they drove away, & we already miss them.  The time flew by far too quickly, but we promised not to let so much time go between visits again.

I wish we'd gotten more pictures, but here's a sampling of the ones we did take.

 Ginger loves her Papa!

 Jake got so much attention from Papa that he smells like Papa's cologne!

 She ate all this attention up!

 Jake was none too pleased with all of the "Ginger love", but was more gratified when he got lots of personal attention from his Mawmaw.

Inventory:  The Lord of the Rings trilogy (gorgeous hardcover illustrated books & the extended-cut movies) plus The Hobbit; both Narnia movies plus "Up", "How to Train Your Dragon", & "The Ultimate Gift"; all of Brian Crain's CDs; Bath & Body Works Cherry Blossom & Butterfly Flower shower gel, lotion, & body spray; a couple of children's books The Rag Doll & Over the Fence; Comforts from the Cross; The Hidden Life of Prayer; Through Gates of Splendor & The Shadow of the Almighty, both books about Jim Elliot.

Just as I was about to publish this post, Michael ran in with another box calling "Happy Birthday!" again.  Can we say, "overboard"?!

Light Keepers complete box sets of "Ten Girls" & "Ten Boys"; 4 books from a series new to me called Chosen Daughters:  Against the Tide, Wings like a Dove, Dr. Oma, & A Cup of Cold Water; & Living Faith

My parents coming for a visit, spending my 3rd birthday as Michael's wife, being spoiled rotten by my family (with love & gifts) - it's been a fabulous birthday!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!

Mama & Dad are arriving this afternoon!  I'll see y'all in a couple of days, hopefully with a bevy of pictures!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Angry Day

I hesitate to write this post mainly because it is obvious from our blog that we are Christians, & I don't want to do anything that brings shame on Christ. My hope is that this post will instead show that Christians aren't perfect, but we are forgiven & are constantly undergoing sanctification.

I am angry today. Actually, it started last night. But before I even tell you about last night, let me remind you that my parents are coming tomorrow for my birthday. I'm very excited! But, if you know me at all, you know that I obsess over my house being perfect when anyone comes over. And when something hinders that, my temper flares. Which leads me to last night. My beloved bought a new pair of jeans that needed alteration. Long story extremely short, I sat down to taper (yea, me!) & hem them & got up 2 hours later, completely frustrated. I had more than one little tearful melt-down because for some reason still altogether unknown to me, the bobbin thread was a tangled mess not once, not twice, but 4 times. Meaning that the seam had to be ripped out 4 times! It finally (thankfully!) started working right, but no one would have thought me godly when I was in the midst of this project. To make matters worse, all this sewing made me get into bed 2 hours later than I should have to be fully rested for church this morning. Me minus a full 8 hours' sleep is not a pretty picture. So began another day of frustration.

And how did my day start? Well, with the hot water turning to frigid well before the end of my shower. Cold shower in the middle of the winter is, shall we say, unpleasant. But the rest of the morning went well, & off to church we went. We left church & stopped at Sonic for lunch because the meal that I fixed last night & planned for lunch leftovers was ruined by tough meat. Again, long story very short (I promise, you want that) after sitting in the drive through - as the first car, mind you - for almost 15 minutes, we get home to find the order wrong & the fry cartons half full. Tired & hungry do not a good combination make in this situation! But things always look better after some rest, so I laid down for a nap with my sweet Michael.

I woke up much earlier than I expected because I was sick to my stomach - I know, I know, that's what I get. I decided to get busy meeting the ever-dimming goal of house-perfecting, beginning with the kitchen. Upon opening the dishwasher to unload the dishes, what do I find, but several still dirty dishes! Thanks to this little development, I now have 2 more loads to wash instead of just one. On top of it all, my babies were chewing rawhides when about 15 minutes ago, there was this huge "CRACK!" & I found that Ginger has broken not one, but 2 teeth! Like, seriously?! If I were on the outside looking in, this whole thing would be comical.

Now, I've been a Christian long enough to know that when I'm bombarded with the same sorts of situations or temptations, God's busy getting my attention. In all of these instances, God is sovereignly working to graciously show me my sin of anger. It is an area in which I need loads of work. As I've said before, one verse that really speaks to me is James 1:19-21:

"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls."

I've already proven that I can't do this on my own. I am an angry person by nature. It certainly helps me to recite these verses to myself when I'm tempted to anger, but sometimes it happens so quickly that my faculties leave me, & I forget to turn to God's Word. The beauty of these verses is that they display both man's responsibility & God's work. We work to "be slow to anger" (in this instance) & to "put away all filthiness & rampant wickedness". But God implants His Word in our hearts, & all we're to do is "receive [it] with meekness"!

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

I am responsible to follow God's commands & kill my own sin. But if I stop there, I become burdened by the knowledge that I can't do so. So, Paul reminds me that it is God who works in me. He gives me both the desire & the ability to obey Him. I can overcome my sin of anger - & every other sin - as long as I'm relying on God.

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13)

And joy of joys, when I do fail - which as a sinner, I'm still going to do - I am freely given forgiveness upon repentance. I rely on Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to cover over my sin. I'm assured that I stand accepted, loved, & clothed in Christ's righteousness before God.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:23-25)

"For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus Is . . .



Jesus doesn't need our acceptance.  He doesn't need you or me at all.  We need Him.  We desperately need Him.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gone Fishin' ~ Louis Armstrong & Bing Crosby



My 2 favorite singers.  I love the bantering back & forth!  The whole song just makes me smile.  Modern-day "singers" could learn a thing or two from these fellas!

Recipe of the "Week"

I love me a good chicken pot pie!  But this isn't one.  This is a twist on chicken pot pie, without the pot pie.  One day I had a hankerin' for chicken pot pie, but didn't have pie crusts.  And, at that point, making the pie crusts involved too much effort.  However, I did have biscuits!  And I thought, "Why not make the chicken part & pour it over the biscuits?"  I smashed together parts of recipes for chicken & dumplings, chicken & noodles, & - of course - chicken pot pie.  We love the end result, & hope you do, too!

Chicken & Biscuits

Ingredients:

-2 lbs. chicken breasts
-26 oz. cream of chicken soup (1 family size can)
-1/2 to 1 c. milk
-water or chicken broth (optional, if needed)**
-1 onion, minced
-2 celery stalks, minced
-1/2 tsp. ground sage
-1 tsp. ground thyme
-salt (to taste; just shake some in)
-pepper (to taste; just shake some in)
-poultry seasoning (to taste; just shake some in)
-1 lb. frozen mixed vegetables
-biscuits

Directions:

-Boil chicken breasts in a large pot until cooked through, then drain.

-Spray out the pot, return to stove, & combine the soup, milk, seasonings, & vegetables.

-Cook on medium, stirring often.

-While the soup is cooking, remove undesirable parts from the chicken breasts (I feed these to Ginger & Jake), & cut the breasts into pieces.  Add to the soup & stir well.

-Decrease the heat to low or simmer & cook for about 30 minutes, or until the frozen vegetables are done.

-Bake the biscuits.

-Place 2 biscuits in a deep bowl & liberally pour the chicken soup over them.

**Note:  As the soup mixture cooks, you may have to add some water or chicken broth if it thickens up too much.  Just add a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached.  Don't add the water/broth at the beginning, because the soup will become more liquidy as it heats up.  You don't want a solid mass, but neither do you want runny soup!  ;-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Joy & Peace Through Submission

Submission.  It's a word over which many women get their hackles raised.  A lot of women make it a point to exclude the word "obey" from their wedding vows, for they have absolutely no intention of submitting to any man - including their husband.  I believe our view should be contrary to this worldly stance, & that we should revel in including a vow to obey our husbands in our wedding vows because we want to honor God's Word in our marriages:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  (Eph. 5:22-24)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.  (Col. 3:18)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.  (Titus 2:3-5)

To personalize it, if you notice, the whole reason that I am to submit to Michael is because of Christ.  I submit to Michael (who also has commands about how he is to love me) as the church submits to Christ.  I submit to Michael so "that the Word of God may not be reviled".  I believe this, I treasure this, but I'm not always so good at actually living this.

Case in point:  Michael & I had a disagreement last night.  Each of us laid out our arguments.  Neither of us were budging.  Both of us were frustrated - me more so than him, as he is much more godly than I, although he'll blush & disagree when he reads this assertion.  Finally, he called me over to him, took my hand in his, & prayed.  He prayed that God would help us find a solution.  We said our "Amens", & then I made a confession.

"I didn't pray with you", said I.  He was surprised.  "I prayed over you."  Not in an "interceding for" way, but in a "talking over" way.  I wanted God to hear what I had to say.  And what I said to God was, "I don't want to change my mind; I don't want to do it his way" over & over.  When Michael asked God to help us find a solution, my thought was, "The solution is that he needs to bend to my will."  Immediately, in a burst of clarity, my very next thought was, "I'm supposed to submit to him, not the other way around."  Aw, man!  Durn it, you mean, I don't get my way?!  "Did God already answer our prayer?", Michael laughingly queried.

He had indeed.  In a marriage, there are many opportunities for disagreement.  Michael & I are so very much alike, but we're not identical.  Sometimes we have incredibly different ideas.  He always listens to my input - even when I'm pushy about it - but my input is not the last word.  He has directives from God's Word to be my head "even as Christ is the head of the church", while I am commanded to "submit in everything to [my] husband".

And even though I don't get my way in this instance, I've discovered that there's great joy & peace in our marriage when I do things God's way.  Imagine that.

Passive Righteousness

“This Christian righteousness is the greatest righteousness. It has nothing to do with what we do or how hard we work, but it is given to us and we do nothing for it. We receive and allow someone else to do all the work for us and in us, and it’s God that does it. That’s why we call it ‘passive righteousness.’”

~Martin Luther, quoted by Rose Marie Miller in From Fear to Freedom
Of First Importance

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Marvel of God's Mercy ~ David Platt



Okay, can I just say something?  This . . . is . . . amazing!!!  Seriously!  God's sovereignty in salvation is hotly debated among professional & lay theologians.  But, Scripture lays this out plainly, & you simply cannot read the Bible without seeing it everywhere, Old & New Testament alike.  Not the least of all is Romans 9.  My understanding is that some people rose up & walked out of last week's sermon.  You may be tempted to turn away from this one, as well.  However, I encourage you to be like the noble Bereans & search out the Scriptures to see if what David is saying is true.  And if it is, no matter what your previous beliefs or biases were, you should humbly accept it.  This is biblical Christianity.  And it truly does lead one to marvel in the mercy of God.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jesus Has Completed the Work

“If the Lord Jesus Christ had not literally risen physically from the grave, we could never be certain that He had ever really finished the work. If He has died for our sins, we must not only be certain that He has died, but that He has finished dying, and that there is no longer death. When God raised His Son from the dead, He was proclaiming to the whole world, 'I am satisfied in Him: I am satisfied in the work He has done. He has done everything. He has fulfilled every demand. Here He is risen—therefore I am satisfied with Him.'

Not only that. The Resurrection proved that He has conquered every enemy that was opposed to Him, to God, and to us. He has not only satisfied the law and conquered death and the grave, He has vanquished the devil and all his forces, and hell and all the principalities and powers of evil. He has triumphed over them all, and He proves it in the Resurrection. The devil cannot hold Him; death and hell cannot hold Him. He has mastered them all; He has emerged on the other side. He is the Son of God, and He has completed the work which the Father had sent Him to do.”

~Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted by Adrian Warnock in Raised with Christ
Of First Importance

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Amazing Grace ~ Utsunomiya Girls Choir



Perfectly, achingly, goose-bump-inducing beautiful.  And the arrangement is so simple that you can focus on the words without being distracted by a show.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Very Heart of the Gospel

“The joyful news of the Gospel is that God the Father brings us to share in the loving communion that He forever enjoys with His eternal and natural Son through the work of His eternal and natural Son in our place and in our stead. Through adoption God graciously brings us to participate in the reciprocal love that ever flows between the Father and His Son. Not only is this the very heart of adoption; it is also the very heart of the Gospel.”

~Dan Cruver, Reclaiming Adoption
Of First Importance

Crybaby

A little birdie may have told you that I'm a crier.  I'm here today to confirm it.  I cry all the time.  Okay, not really all the time, but really quite often.  Never for a frivolous reason, though.  Michael is frequently amused to look up from something or other to see me crying.  Not that he laughs at me; he just doesn't expect that reaction from me.  Although, he's starting to wise up now.  "My tender-hearted little wife", he gently says as he sympathetically pats me.  I've always been this way.  Sometimes I've lamented that God made me so sensitive (although it's much better than the alternative), especially when the sympathy cry comes upon me.  You know the one:  you see someone else tear up or even just hear it in their voice, & your dam breaks.  Uh-huh.  That's totally me.  I'll also be attacked by the angry cry, especially if I'm tired & things aren't going smoothly.  Then there are the touching cry (when someone does or says something particularly sweet, even if it's not to me), the freaking-out-scared cry (I think I scared a friend who watched "The Book of Eli" with me thanks to the almost rape scene), the thankfulness cry (especially when I ponder the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the gift that Michael & our marriage is to me), & of course, the sad cry (which needs no explanation). So far this week, I've cried over:

     -An adoption fund being started at the church we're visiting.  I think it's a fabulous thing for them to do, so I cried for that reason, but it also reminded me of the adoption we had to stop because we didn't have funds to complete the homestudy.  And that stings a lot.  Unrealized dreams really hurt.

     -A song.  There are an awful lot of songs that make me cry.  Take "The God We Praise"; pretty much that whole CD will set me off.  But this week, it's my favorite song from my favorite Christmas CD.  "Hosanna!  Hosanna!  The Lamb of God has come!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!  He is the Promised One!"  Every single time I sing those lyrics & ponder that God kept His promise by sending Jesus Christ into our world, I dissolve into tears.  Every.  Single.  Time.

     -A friend's tears.  I have a new friend (whom I already adore) who cries just like I do!  We got together this past week & every time she teared up, I had to fight back the tears myself.  I wasn't completely successful, & I think our waiter was quite concerned over our cry fest.  He hovered a lot.  Good thing he's not a crier, too, or we'd have been done for!

     -An email from Mama.  Y'all know that I'm disappointed (although not dwelling) about not getting to go home for Christmas.  Well, I opened up my email yesterday morning to Mama asking "if it's okay" for her & Dad to come visit.  I burst into tears, this time completely uncontrollable, & obviously told her "yes!"  Actually, it was more like "YES!  YES!  YES!"  There were lots of exclamation marks, smiley faces, & capital letters.  See, tears can be happy, too!  They'll get here on my birthday & stay a couple of days.  I'm sure tears will be present then, too.

I can't really think of anything else that brought on the waterworks this week.  I guess it's really been a dry week, considering that we're talking about me!  ;-)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Disappointments & Blessings

I am an optimistic person by nature.  It's not that I see life & all of its happenings through rose-colored glasses or that I muster up some sort of false cheer that everything's going to end up "happily ever after".  It's more that I think that every situation contains a lesson to be learned or a blessing of some sort.  I believe what God says, that He "works all things together for good for those who love Him & are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).  It seems to me that this is the very sort of situation that we have right now over here at the Bungalow.

It started off I guess a little more than a week ago when Michael realized that this just might be the perfect year to make the trek back to LA for Christmas.  Being a cardiac surgical unit ICU nurse, he's slated to work either Christmas Eve or Day every year on a rotating schedule.  It's worked out so that this is the first year since we married where we could actually be in LA for Christmas!  That means we could be with my family on my birthday.  We could go to the Christmas Eve service, we could sneak over to my brother's house early Christmas morning to watch our nieces & nephew open their presents, & we could have the traditional Christmas morning breakfast with my parents followed by the even more traditional mid-day feast.

We could, but we won't.  Unless you're completely new to our humble little blog, you know that my sweet baby girl - Ginger - has end-stage cancer.  She's getting chemo treatments weekly now, which are becoming less & less effective.  Those weekly treatments coupled with the fact that we are somewhere close to the end sounded the death knoll for our LA Christmas dreams.  And so enters the disappointment.  Not that I begrudge my time here with her, not in the least.  But I am sorry to have to miss another Christmas with my family.

I try not to allow myself much time for wallowing in disappointments.  I find doing otherwise to be completely unhelpful & counterproductive.  So, I search for a lesson or a blessing, & I don't have to look far before I find quite a few here!  Of course, at the top of that list is time with Ginger.  I'm not sure how much longer we'll have her - God has already blessed us with so much more time than we ever expected possible - & I want to enjoy her for however long that will be.  It can be rather stressful to travel almost 7 hours with a dog that loves to bark at motorcycles, 18-wheelers, & bridges.  (Okay, in the name of honesty, I love that & even encourage it, but it stresses everyone else, which stresses me.)  We get to avoid that, as well as the stress of having to watch over said dog in someone else's home.  Another blessing is the ability to celebrate Christmas in our own home observing our own traditions, which are always fun for young families to develop.  In a similar vein, we can be quiet & peaceful rather than running to & fro as we always do when we go back to my hometown.  Of course, we'll get to be with Michael's family - his sister & her family are some of my favorite people - which is always wonderful.  Finally, it's our tradition that I go with Michael to work & sit in an out-of-the-way corner so that we're not apart on Christmas.  With us being here instead of traveling back from LA, we'll both be rested for that.

So!  Yes, there's a little disappointment, but there are lots of blessings to be found, too!  Blessings that I thank God for & am actually really looking forward to!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Excellent Opportunity

Remember when I told you about Drawn From Water?  Well, I'm here to tell you about an excellent opportunity available to them now where your help will be doubled!  If you sponsor a DFW child now, it will be matched for an entire year!  A child's entire sponsorship is $250 a month, which covers "child care, housing, medical care, food, schooling, books, cooks, cleaners, the occasional toy or game, transportation to and from school, and other various child care costs that may arise" (per their site).  One thing that I think is neat is that DFW has 10 "slots" of $25 each, so that if you can't cover a full $250, you can still have a part in sponsoring one of their children!  So, if you can swing $50 a month, then you can fill one slot for 2 children or 2 slots for one child.  Pretty cool, huh?!  Think about it, pray over it, talk it through with your beloved.  Doubling your money's effectiveness while changing a child's life is definitely a win-win, don't ya think?

***Update:  In just this one day, DFW has already had enough donors to meet their matching sponsorship goals!  It's really been amazing to see how God has worked through His people to support & encourage this wonderful ministry!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Cross-Centered Life ~ David Platt



"Your only hope for joy, & your only hope for peace, & your only hope for comfort, your only hope for love, & your only hope for strength in this life is found in the cross of Jesus Christ."

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Few Great Posts

I don't really have much energy to write tonight.  I've had a good day spending time with a new friend - 2 if you count her sweet baby boy!  I had the best time fellowshipping with this godly lady!  And there's nothing better than kisses from a baby!  I'm tired (in a good way), but want to make sure to leave y'all with something.  So, check out these 3 links for some really great posts.  You'll be happy you did.

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-story-of-a-friends-cab-ride-in-london

http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/2010/12/always-enough.html

http://www.drawnfromwater.org/archives/1489

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

Winter is here! Winter means finding any means possible to stay warm - coats & gloves, blazing fires, & warming meals. Coats & gloves - check. Blazing fires - our heater will have to do. Warming meals - this one's in our near future!

Chili

Ingredients:

-1 lb. ground beef
-1 package French's Chili-O
-1 can red beans
-1 can Bush's chili beans
-1 can dark kidney beans
-1 can light kidney beans
-15 oz. can tomato sauce
-onions (optional)
-shredded cheddar cheese
-rice or Frito's (to make it really hearty)

Directions:

-Cook beef until it's brown & crumbly.

-While beef is cooking, combine all other ingredients in a Crock-Pot, minus the cheese & rice/Frito's.

-Add the beef to the Crock-Pot, stir, & cook on low for 2-3 hours.

-Pour over rice or Frito's & top with cheese.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

God is the Standard

I was pointed in the direction of this article by Al Mohler yesterday.  One particular paragraph stood out to me, so I'm quoting it below.  It's a point that I'm constantly trying to make - that God, not we, is the barometer by which all things are measured.  I think it bears repeating, especially by a man whose gift of communication far exceeds my own!

"[T]o say that God is righteous is not to say that he passes muster when tested against our own understandings of righteousness. To the contrary, we gain any adequate understanding of righteousness only by coming to know the self-revealing God who is himself righteous. One of the central problems of modern thought is the attempt by human beings to judge God by our own categories of moral perfection. Our proper responsibility is to bring our categories into submission to the reality and revelation of God."

Friday, December 3, 2010

How To Kill Sin ~ John Piper

Even though I've been a Christian for decades, I've sometimes wondered if I'm truly saved because I still struggle with sin.  About a year & a half ago, I was overcome with sadness due to this heavy burden of uncertainty.  Michael & I were listening to a Paul Washer sermon & he began talking about this very thing.  I sobbed with relief into the linens I was putting away as he assured us that only someone who was truly a child of God would ever be concerned about their salvation.  An unbeliever couldn't care less.  Words fail to express the balm that this truth was to my chafed & weary soul.

But, I'm still left with my dilemma of sin.  Like Paul, "I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (Romans 7:18-19)  Can't you just hear the utter exasperation in his voice?  His cry of "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" reverberates through my soul.  This is just how I feel!  I can't get out of this!  I keep sinning & can't free myself from this death sentence!  Who will free me?!  Only Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Yet, while I stand before God cleansed of my sin & perfectly righteous through Christ's atonement (praise be to God!), I still sin.  I am a righteous sinner.  And I want to just be righteous.

As Christians, we hate sin because God does.  We love what He loves & hate what He hates.  So, we hate the sin in ourselves, even while we often feel powerless to overcome it.  And we are.  But God isn't.

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13)

There are certain sermons that stand out to me, & John Piper's series entitled "How to Kill Sin" tops my list.  In it, he deals with this verse & how we as believers are to "put to death the deeds of the body".  Just a hint - it's not by white-knuckled effort.  Each sermon in this series is positively, absolutely excellent!  Follow these links & download parts 1, 2, & 3.  We copied them to discs, & I've listened to them while driving & cleaning the house.  I . . . LOVE . . . THEM!!!  Seriously, I've listened to them enough to where I'm starting to be able to quote them!

Through these sermons, I'm encouraged to wield the sword of the Spirit to kill my sin.  I hope you are, too.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Movie Mania

Last night we made a mistake, an error in judgment. We went to see a movie with a friend that turned out to be so very bad. The previews looked funny & didn't show anything inappropriate. Man, are those editors talented! We had opportunities to turn back from it. We discovered its R-rating on the way over & should have bailed right then. Just before the movie started, I looked around at the few people walking in & thought, "We're Christians. We shouldn't be here." At a particularly disturbing portion, we most definitely should have walked out. As the movie ended (blessedly!), I said, "We should have gone to see 'Tangled'!" And when we were driving home, I was struck by the thought that watching this movie was not what I wanted to be doing if Jesus had come back right then! I honestly felt dirty & Michael apologized repeatedly (& unnecessarily) for allowing us to go see this movie. You'd think with 3 usually discerning Christians that we would have made a better decision! It's not that it wasn't a funny movie; the other people in the audience seemed to think it was. So, why did we find it crass, offensive, & wholly inappropriate? We have the Spirit in us reminding us to:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ~ Eph. 4:29

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. ~ Phil. 4:8

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. ~Eph. 5:3-4

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~Eph. 5:15-16

I really do believe these verses (& many more) speak to our entertainment choices as well as all of life. We apply them well so often, & I wish we could go back & redo last night. It shows me that we can't ever be lax in our discernment. We want "religion that is pure & undefiled before God", which means "keep[ing] [ourselves] unstained from the world" (James 1:27). Last night we felt stained by immersing ourselves in our debase culture, if not physically, then mentally. Thanks be to God that He has provided a way for all of our stains to be cleansed through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place on the cross. Because of His sacrifice for us on the cross, all of my sins are atoned for. (And, yes, because this movie defies the Scriptures' teachings, I do believe seeing it is sin.) Through Christ, I now stand before God clothed in His righteousness. I was His enemy, now I'm His beloved child. So, I am assured that my repentance is accepted & I am forgiven. God is gracious & good & can redeem even my bad movie choices.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lessons of a Housewife

At the start of what became my last year of teaching, I realized I wanted to be home. I didn't have any biblical theology regarding a woman's role within the home at that time. I had just had a wonderful summer caring for my home & I absolutely hated leaving once school came around. I was positively beside myself with desperation to stay home at one point & prayed feverishly many mornings that God would allow me to stay home the next year. Amazingly, he brought Michael into my life a few months later, & I began the next school year as a housewife. It's been simply wonderful & is the joy of my life to be able to care for Michael & our home.

Flashback to my single years. When I first moved out on my own & had to start paying bills, I got fed up with it pretty quickly. "I just paid these bills!", I would fuss to myself. In my naïveté (or, better yet, stupidity), I decided once that the gas/water/power companies had already gotten my money recently, & I was going to wait to pay them. Uh-huh. I did that. Classic cut-your-nose-off-to-spite-your-face syndrome. Needless to say, it backfired. And the thing about it was that it wasn't just the immediate spanking that I got. It took a while to crawl out of that. It was a painful lesson to learn. Now that I'm older & wiser, as soon as we get paid, I pay the bills. I don't get attached to the money in the bank account, because I realize that it belongs to others who have rendered services to us. We have obligations & responsibilities to fulfill. And we like running water, lights, & heat.

Even though being a housewife is my dream job, I have been overcome with that same "didn't I just do this?!" feeling many-a times. Didn't I just unload that dishwasher? Didn't I just vacuum? Didn't I just cook supper? Because the answer is "yes", I have gotten into a rut more than once of letting things slide. "I just did that, I'm going to wait a while before I do it again", goes my thinking. And then, I get slammed. The kitchen gets out of control, there's pet hair all over the floor, & the laundry pile reaches halfway to the ceiling in no time at all. Then, it takes hours - or even days - to climb out of that pit & set it all right.

So, here's the lesson I think I've finally learned (& am putting into practice with much success so far): Do it every day. Yes, I did just take care of everything already, but if it's not done every day, it becomes a monster that takes a lot longer to slay. Maintenance is the key. And - oh! - the burden that's lifted when our home is pleasantly clean & fresh! It feels so good to know that I'm caring for Michael in this way & honoring God in the call he's placed on my life to be a keeper of the home that He's entrusted to me!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Con te Partiro ~ Andrea Bocelli



Funny story.  This is one of my favorite songs.  But if you had to guess where I was the first time I heard it, would a puppet show ever enter your mind?  I was teaching in GA at the time, & we took our first-grade classes to a local puppet show.  The last skit he did was to this song; I believe his story line involved a prince saying good-bye to his princess.  I barely held it together!  Who cries at a puppet show?!  I didn't understand anything he said other than "time to say good-bye", but the music was so stirring.  I still cry every time I hear it.  Grab a tissue!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recipe of the "Week"

The first time my Papaw set this dish in front of me, I refused to eat it. To be fair, I was a child. And I was extremely picky. "One can't pick out everything they don't like", was a comment made by one of Mama's friends years ago. She replied that they hadn't met me. But for me, this dish was completely unsalvageable. Spaghetti - again, to my childish mind - was meant to be eaten with meat sauce. Then again, Papaw did trick me into eating spaghetti with deer meat sauce once. I was none too happy. So, I had reason to be wary. But my family rallied around assuring me this was perfectly normal - not deer bacon or something else weird. Once I sampled it, I was hooked! I hope you are, too.

Spaghetti Dish*
The whole pot

Ingredients:

-1/2 lb. spaghetti (any shape pasta works well)

-1/2 package bacon (not deer, but turkey is great & retains its crispiness the next day)

-2-3 onions (these are optional; Mama wisely added them in recent years)

-1 T butter**

-1/2 c. milk**

-3 eggs**

-1-2 T Italian seasoning

Close-up shot in all its yumminess!

Instructions:

-Cook the bacon & crumble it once it's cooled down, then sauté the onions in the same skillet. When the onions are almost ready, boil the spaghetti.

-While the spaghetti is boiling, beat together the eggs, milk, & Italian seasoning (I do this in my measuring cup, so as to cut down on dirty cookware).

-Drain the spaghetti, return it to the pot, & add the butter, stirring to thoroughly coat the pasta.

-Pour in the milk mixture, stir to coat the pasta, & replace the lid to cook the eggs. It might be necessary to turn the eye on low to speed up the process. If so, stir often to prevent sticking.

-Add the crumbled bacon & caramelized onions & stir together.

-Serve it up topped with Parmesan cheese. Of course, garlic bread & a salad go nicely.

*I discovered a few years ago that, although our family recipe is a little different, this is a legitimate Italian dish, called Spaghetti Carbonara.


**We've just begun using farm fresh eggs, whole milk & butter, & let me tell you, it puts this meal right over the top! We highly recommend it!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

We Are a New Creation

“Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.

Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are longer us; something brand new has been created!”

~Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God, pg. 124
~Of First Importance

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Give Thanks to the Lord

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples! ~1 Chron. 16:8

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever! ~1 Chron. 16:34

I will give to the LORD the thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. ~Ps. 7:17

The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him. ~Ps. 28:7

Sing praises to the LORD, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name. ~Ps. 30:4

I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. ~Ps. 57:9

Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! ~Ps. 95:2

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. ~Rom. 6:17-18

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. ~1 Cor. 15:57

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. ~2 Cor. 2:14

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. ~Col. 3:17

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~1 Thess. 5:16-18

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. ~1 Thess. 2:13

The LORD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him, my father's God, and I will exalt Him. ~Ex. 15:2

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Hole in Our Holiness ~ Kevin DeYoung

Michael just pointed me toward an excellent post by Kevin DeYoung regarding holiness.  In it, he discusses his "growing concern that younger evangelicals do not take seriously the Bible’s call to personal holiness."  He goes on to talk about why he thinks the pursuit of holiness is so neglected among evangelical Christians.  It's an excellent post, with gems such as the following:

"When is the last time we took a verse like Ephesians 5:4–“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving”–when is the last time we took a verse like this and even began to try to apply this to our conversation, our joking, our movies, our you tube clips, our t.v. and commercial intake? The fact of the matter is if you read through the New Testament epistles you will find very few explicit commands that tell us to evangelize and very few explicit commands that tell us to take care of the poor in our communities, but there are dozens and dozens of verses in the New Testament that enjoin us, in one way or another, to be holy as God is holy (e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16)."

You should definitely read the rest of it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't Waste Your Life ~ Lecrae



Okay, so this style of music is not typically my cup of tea.  However, I love this song!  Seriously!  I can listen to it over & over & over.  I do sometimes have to look at the lyrics to understand everything he's saying in the really fast parts.  What stuns me about this music is the rock-solid biblical lyrics.  When I think of rap (or is it hip-hop & what's the difference?), I think of very immoral things being "sung" about.  There is debate about whether this genre can be redeemed or not.  I don't know what the experts say, but to hear about Christ, Paul, & eschewing the world for Christ-centered living seems pretty redeemed to me.  Not at all what I expected.  And that's what makes it all the more pleasing.  I've heard more biblical truth in songs like these than in some pulpits.  And that's shocking indeed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Church Blessings

Back in October, I encouraged y'all to learn from our mistakes & love your church through thick & thin. I stressed the importance of community & lamented over the lack thereof in our own lives.

Later that same month, I hinted that we believed that a new spiritual season might be budding in our lives. This is what I'd like to share with you.

For close to 3 ½ years - ever since we married & I moved here - we've driven a 2-hour round trip to church on Sunday. This after Michael's worked all night. Because of the distance &, later, the size of our church, being part of the community of the church was rather difficult. Throughout our marriage, Michael & I have prayed for God to plant a church closer to us where we might worship Him in spirit & in truth & be part of a community of believers. Michael was even more specific; he didn't just want any pastor, he wanted a SBTS-trained pastor. "You have not because you ask not." ;-)

A little more than a month ago, we began visiting an area church. We were honestly nervous about going, not knowing what to expect. Michael had actually been a member of this church (& avid part of the youth group) during its fundamentalist/revivalist days, so we were unsure. But, we'd heard some really wonderful things, particularly about the sound preaching, as well as the pastor's family & the warm community of the body. So, we took the plunge, gussied ourselves up (okay, not really; "gussied" is just fun to say), & headed over. I had butterflies in my stomach. I am so uncomfortable being surrounded by strangers who all know each other. We took one step in the door, & the usher said, "Michael Boyd!" From him down to the literally dozen people who made their way to our pew to greet us that morning, we felt enveloped. And that's only grown! We've thrown ourselves headlong into this body. Right after our first Sunday, we went to the Wednesday night prayer meeting. That week it was a Bible study for the men & women. I won't lie, I felt so out of place being the "new girl" in the room. I wanted to latch on to Michael & not let him leave me. I think I even gave him the puppy eyes. But, the moment that the pastor's wife - Mrs. T - greeted me, I felt so welcomed. She came up to me glowing, took both of my hands in each of hers, & told me how glad she was for me to be there. I instantly loved her. Her husband is just as warm. We talked with the associate pastor at the dinner that night, & were very impressed with him & his wife. The next morning I went to another ladies' Bible study headed by Mrs. T & was delighted when she exclaimed my name with arms raised upon my entry. This still brings a smile to my face. And then, we've been shown such love & care through the trials of our loved one's possible illness & Ginger's cancer. People have sent emails, commented through this blog, & stopped by our pew to get updates, offer encouragement & praise, & let us know they're praying. As we've gotten to know the people, we've grown to love them more & more. You wouldn't think everyone could be so genuinely welcoming & loving, but they are. I think it's because of the Word that's preached here.

Of course, that's the most important thing. The Word must be preached. The Gospel must be proclaimed. And it is! Every Sunday we leave the Sunday School that's led by the associate pastor & are thrilled with the meat that's been served up. Each sermon features the Gospel front & center. Seriously, we leave exulting in God's truth! We're being fed God's Word & are being known & loved by the body. And if that weren't enough, there is a passion for the lost present here, too. We haven't been there long enough to have delved into this area, but they sponsor Compassion children, which immediately earned points in my book! ;-) I know they're involved in Teen Challenge, Operation Christmas Child, Lottie Moon, & there are some other opportunities that I believe are being explored. And, the associate pastor's going to lead a church plant in collaboration with another local church in an area of town that's basically devoid of Gospel-preaching churches.

We were so despondent regarding our church situation. We honestly pined for a community of God-fearing believers to live life with. We truly believe that God has led us to this church. And we feel - we are - so blessed! So thankful!

Oh! And did I mention that the associate pastor was trained at SBTS? ;-)