Monday, January 31, 2011

Contemplating the Godhead

"Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; & in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore.  Would you lose your sorrow?  Would you drown your cares?  Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; & you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed & invigorated.  I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow & grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead."

~C.H. Spurgeon, quoted in J.I. Packer's Knowing God

Who We Were, Who We Are

Oh, my goodness, this is excellent!!!!  Of course, it made me tear up.  In a good way!  ;-)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Make a Difference

If I were to ask you to think of ways that you can make a difference in this world, what would you say?  I tend to think of people with grand abilities & large-scale projects as those who make a difference.  And they do, but this week, I've rediscovered that sometimes, often even, it's the seemingly "little things" that count the most.

I've been reading through my new "Ten Girls" series.  They're books for young girls that are perfect to read when you just have a minute or two to kill.  I was particularly struck this past week by Ten Girls Who Made a Difference, as it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  I saw grand names like Katherine Luther, Bethan Lloyd-Jones, Edith Schaeffer, & Susannah Spurgeon.  These are women married to legendary men!  I expected an outline of grand & marvelous deeds that shaped the world.  I got them, too, but again in a wholly different way than I thought I would.

The book opened with Monica of Thagaste.  "Who???", I pondered.  I found out quickly that this was St. Augustine's mother.  She was a steadfast woman who prayed constantly throughout the years amid scoffs from her husband & licentious living by her son.  Her prayers availed & her son was finally brought to salvation.  This was her great contribution - prayer.  Each of the women profiled had similar stories:  Katherine Luther supported her husband emotionally & spiritually, Susanna Wesley poured her life into her children & brought them up in the ways of the Lord, Ann Judson prevented the destruction the Burmese Bible translation that she & her husband were working on by hiding it, Susannah Spurgeon began a book fund for poor pastors, Bethan Lloyd-Jones was always available to any person who had need, & the list goes on!

If you're anything like me, you might be tempted to think that only people in leadership positions who are involved in larger-than-life works make a difference.  Praying for someone's salvation, supporting & encouraging my husband, showing hospitality & love to everyone I meet - these seem like such little things.  This little, unpretentious book reminded me that those "little things" that we sometimes look down upon are often the most important.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Busy Bungalow

I had gotten into the habit of making sure to post something every day this past Fall.  When Ginger died, I just didn't care anymore.  I didn't have the energy to put my thoughts & feelings into coherent sentences anymore.  I'm feeling better now, but I'm still not sure if I'm able to piece together coherent sentences because there's been a lot going on over here at the Bungalow!

Now that we're attending a local church - & can fellowship with our brothers & sisters in Christ - we've become quite the social butterflies!  Okay, not really, but we have been forging intimate relationships, & it's so very wonderful!  In addition to Sunday services, we attend the Wednesday night prayer meeting & the bi-weekly Thursday night couples' Bible study.  As I've said before, one of my favorite parts of each week is the Thursday morning ladies' Bible study.  I also joined the choir this week, something I haven't been a part of in years.  Last week, the associate pastor came over for lunch & discussion, & this week dear sweet Angie spent time with us, too!  I also got to have another lunch date with Sommer & Josiah, & we had such a blessed time!  Things have progressed so well that we've made the decision to become members.  Our criteria for preaching the Word faithfully, a passion & plan for reaching the lost, & fellowship among members have been met here, & because it's local, we can take part.  We've already placed ourselves under the authority of the pastors of this church & hold ourselves accountable to them, so we now need to make it official!  Naturally, I'm concerned that it seems like we're church hoppers, but that truly isn't our desire.  We've learned from our past mistakes &, by the grace of God, have absolutely no intention of repeating them.

The rest of our week that hasn't been spent in coming, going, cooking, cleaning, & fellowshipping has mainly been spent in reading.  I've just finished A Steadfast Heart, which takes a look at Psalm 57.  Honestly, I was less than excited about reading this book at first.  Even though I knew that I needed it, I was still in escape mode.  I wanted something light, & this was going to make me think & feel.  Even though I knew that it would bring me to God, I resisted it; the relief it offered was fleeting, but it was easier to escape reality in movies & books than actually deal with my pain.  However, before the end of the introduction, God had drawn me in.  Thanks to the biblical truths in A Steadfast Heart, my grief isn't quite so raw, & I am more frequently moved to prayer.  I've been exhorted to remove my eyes from focusing on my loss to focusing on Him & everything He's done for me.  Isn't it funny how helpful it is to be reminded of things that you already know?  I love all of the chapters in this book, & every single truth is needed for the whole puzzle to fit together.  However, I have to say that my favorite chapter was chapter 2, "His Forsaken Son".  I positively gloried in this chapter, it was beyond incredible!  I highlighted, turned down pages, starred, & wrote notes throughout the entire book.  My personal opinion is that everyone who has ever been in a trial, is going through a trial now, or will one day go through a trial (in case you're not keeping up, that's everyone) needs to read this book.  Absolutely, positively, without a doubt - you need to read this book!  My prayer is that it will be a balm of healing to your weary heart as it has been to mine.

Our lives look to be a lot more busy now that we have others to share it with on a consistent basis, & I'm loving it!  Consummate homebody that I am, that's surprising, but I've found that fellowship with the body of Christ is invigorating & such an immense blessing!  And for those times that we aren't on the run, we're committed to reading more.  I haven't picked out my next book as of yet, but I do want to read The Hiding Place & Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman at some point.

Thanks for stopping by & keeping up with us.  May the Lord bless you & keep you.  May the Lord make His face shine upon you & be gracious unto you.  May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you & give you His peace.  ~Numbers 6:24-26

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

He Died Because of Us

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

~John Stott, The Message of Galatians
Of First Importance

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Favorite Veggie Tales Silly Songs

It always cracks me up when Bob translates:  "Oh, how smooth his motions, like butter on a . . . bald monkey."  HA!!!

A Poem for Suffering

I don't troll through my bookmarked blogs as religiously as I used to, but I'm so glad that I decided to just now, because I ran across a very sweet - though sad - post on GirlTalk that you simply must read.  The following poem will have an even greater impact if you do.

There's substance that's casting these shadows
There's reason behind all this pain
All gold is made pure by refining
And plants cannot grow without rain

He's promised to hold you and keep you
He's told you that He's always there
His Word says He'll never forsake you
Or test you past what you can bear

So trust in Him all through this darkness
Hold fast to the truth of His Word
Be certain of His gracious promise
And rest in Christ Jesus our Lord

For one day all pain shall be broken
Renewed shall be joy that was lost
All death, pain and fear have been conquered
Because of His death on the cross

~Amy Calderone

Sunday, January 23, 2011

O Great God ~ Sovereign Grace Music

"You are worthy to be praised with my every thought & deed.  O, great God of highest heaven, glorify Your name through me!"

Genuine Faith Renounces Sin

“Faith in Christ carries in itself a renunciation of that rival power that King Jesus conquered — sin. And where that renunciation of sin is not present, neither is genuine faith in the One who defeated it.”

~Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?
Of First Importance

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Completely Done ~ Sovereign Grace Music

An excellent song from the stellar Sons & Daughters CD that is a reminder that Christ left nothing incomplete in His life, death, & resurrection.  He will complete His work in us, just like He completed His work on the cross - all for the glory of the Father!  Praise be to God!

Saying What You Believe

Michael coaxed me into getting back on Facebook.  My account's been deactivated since the latter part of October, with me getting back on intermittently to retrieve different photos that for some reason or other aren't stored on our computer.  But the other day, he gives me these puppy dog eyes & pleads for me to reactivate my account because he wants others to see that he's married to me, he wants a little picture to show up next to "married".  Ugh!  Sneaky man.  He knew just where to hit me, knew I wouldn't be able to refuse his sweet face!  So, anyways, I visited his profile & found a super, short article that I just can't resist sharing a little of.  I think it's an excellent statement of belief.

     "-I believe I am so spiritually corrupt and prideful and rebellious that I would never have come to faith in Jesus without God’s merciful, sovereign victory over the last vestiges of my rebellion. (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 3:1–4; Romans 8:7).

     -I believe that God chose me to be his child before the foundation of the world, on the basis of nothing in me, foreknown or otherwise. (Ephesians 1:4–6; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29–30; 11:5–7)

     -I believe Christ died as a substitute for sinners to provide a bona fide offer of salvation to all people, and that he had an invincible design in his death to obtain his chosen bride, namely, the assembly of all believers, whose names were eternally written in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain. (John 3:16; John 10:15; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 13:8)

     -When I was dead in my trespasses, and blind to the beauty of Christ, God made me alive, opened the eyes of my heart, granted me to believe, and united me to Jesus, with all the benefits of forgiveness and justification and eternal life. (Ephesians 2:4–5; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Philippians 2:29; Ephesians 2:8–9; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:7; Philippians 3:9)

     -I am eternally secure not mainly because of anything I did in the past, but decisively because God is faithful to complete the work he began—to sustain my faith, and to keep me from apostasy, and to hold me back from sin that leads to death. (1 Corinthians 1:8–9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:25; John 10:28–29; 1 John 5:16)"


Friday, January 21, 2011

Fellowship in the Spirit

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  ~Philippians 2:1-2

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  ~Romans 12:15

I'm not really certain why it is, but I don't form deep relationships easily.  Never have I felt this void so keenly as in my relationships with the body of Christ, & that only recently.  Growing up, I of course had loving relationships with people that I worshipped with, but they were all basically surface relationships.  I didn't live life with these people, even though there was a mutual love & affection between us.  Oddly though, I never felt as though something were missing from my life.  Don't ask me why; I don't really understand it myself.  Perhaps it was my age or my focus on my job or maybe I just didn't realize how important it is to foster & nurture those intimate relationships.  Whatever the reason, looking back I wish now that it had been different.

My first real taste of what fellowship among believers could be like was when Michael & I married & began attending church.  Just as before, I developed a deep love & affection for these brothers & sisters, but this time, to an extent, I lived life with them.  I say "to an extent" because we live an hour away from the rest of the congregation.  Even so, we were able to get together a few times, & even now we are able to encourage & exhort each other via email & phone calls.  Having a slight taste of fellowship with other believers whet my appetite for truly living out my life with them.  For 3 1/2 years, Michael & I have prayed that this could become a reality for us.  We both crave to be surrounded by godly men & women, & our desire for this has only grown with time & the absense of such fellowship.

As I've said before, we were floored from our very first visit to the local church that we've been attending.  The genuine welcome & acceptance took my breath away.  Truly, I can be tempted to leave it at passing greetings & hugs or even to just share fun stories like how Michael & I met or what my niece's reaction to me getting married was.  It feels safer that way.  It can be a scary thing to expose my heart, my past hurts, my struggles with sin with people that I see often.  But, I'm determined not to do that this time.  We truly believe that God has led us to this church, & I'm not going to waste this opportunity to form real-life relationships with my brothers & sisters in Christ.

From the very beginning, we've thrown ourselves into the body of this church.  One of my favorite events of each week is the Thursday morning ladies' Bible study.  I have absolutely loved studying the Bible with these women led by the pastor's wife, whom everyone calls "Sweet T".  And let me tell you, she's appropriately named!  Of course, as we study the Scriptures, life experiences are shared & tears are shed.  Last week we looked at finding our satisfaction in God alone; this week, peace.  Needless to say, my loss of Ginger came to mind repeatedly, & I cried more than a few tears.  And felt completely safe doing so.  I know that these women love me, & I feel perfectly safe sharing my heart even when it's not pretty.  It's incredibly comforting & freeing.  Not only that, but one of the women - Angie - cried with me.  I was talking about sobbing over a picture of Ginger, which of course made me cry then, too.  I have a hard time looking at people when I cry, but out of the corner of my eye I saw her brush away tears.  She mourned with me as I mourned.  The thankfulness & love that I feel toward her for that is immense.  These women aren't just people that I go to church with; they are my sisters, my family.  It's beautiful.

In mentioning my sisters in Christ, I would be remiss if I didn't mention again my sweet new friend, Sommer.  She called me yesterday just to tell me that she knew that it was one month since I lost Ginger & that she was thinking about me & praying for me.  She's the only person who did so, & I will never be able to say what her display of love towards me means, nor will I ever forget it.  A lot of people probably feel like Ginger was "just" a dog & it's time for me to get over it.  But not Sommer.  She demonstrated such compassion & sympathy for me & lifted my spirit.

Each of these sweet women has such an overflowing love for Christ that - just like the water of a fountain bubbles over from tier to tier - it has spilled over & drenched me.  I'm so thankful for them, grateful to them, & I love them & praise God for bringing them into my life.  And I pray that I may follow their model as they follow Christ's.  Fellowship in the Spirit with my fellow believers is so beautiful - & is something I'll not take for granted again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Love is a Verb

"I love you!", she enthused.  How very easy it is to say those words.  But, as the song goes - & as life bears out - "love is a verb".  Likewise, "actions speak louder than words".  It's not enough to tell someone that you love them.  You have to back that up - or even precede the words - with actions that demonstrate love.  When someone you know is sick, bring them a meal or offer to clean the house or pick up prescriptions for them.  If someone's car breaks down, lend them your own or arrange to drive them around.  If someone they love has died, drop by to visit them or call them so they can cry on your shoulder or hug them when you see them out & about.  Give feet to your words, & when you say, "I love you!", it'll be believable.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Theology Deep Enough To Die For

I was just reading an article focusing on the experiences of an orthopedic surgeon from the Midwest who volunteered in Nigeria for VOMedical in our most recent edition of the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter.  I found his observations to be quite astute & wanted to share a piece of them with you:

"We live in a country that is very unique in the world today.  We read our Bibles, & we go to Sunday school class, & some of us are even involved in outreaches, & we give to missions, & we read stories about heroes of old.  When you are going home from work in Nigeria & you are a Christian, it is very possible that you might not come home at night.  But it is possible to come home at night even if you are caught, if you are willing to say, 'Allah is god & Mohammed is his prophet.'  Think about your family at home, & imagine that you are on your way home & you are stopped by a mob of vicious people saying, 'Repeat after me or die.'  Suddenly I realize our faith may be fairly broad theologically, but it is not all that deep sometimes.  These people, they don't know a lot of answers to Bible stories, & they probably can't give a good discussion on why Arminianism & Calvinism are right or wrong.  But I can tell you that when people step up to them with a gun or a knife, & they are asked, 'Will you repeat after me?' & they say, 'No, Jesus is Lord', their theology is very deep & we need that.  I need that."

We all need that, we need this perspective.  One day, persecution will come to us; we needn't think that we're immune to it, because God's Word promises this eventuality to all Christians.  I pray that our theology will be deep enough to die for when that time comes.  Our brothers & sisters all around the world who are experiencing this very trial even now need us.  They need our prayers, our support, our aid.  The body of Christ is one, so that when one part suffers, all suffer.  Even in our affluence & comfort - especially in our affluence & comfort - we must come alongside them in every way possible to show the love of Christ.  We need a theology that is deep, one that isn't purely head knowledge, one that doesn't just revel in debate or personal quiet times, but one that works itself out practically in love for our brethren & our enemies, one that is so deeply in love with & devoted to Christ alone that it is worth laying down our lives for.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jesus Now Defines Us

“One of the most important things to remember in the Christian life is that we must always live in light of who God is, what Jesus has done, and what has happened to us as a result. Usually we tend to define ourselves by our successes or failures, our reputation, our sin, our intelligence, beauty, and abilities (or lack of them). Moreover, we often define other people by their weaknesses, failures, and sins. Hence we are quick to gossip and condemn others. The good news calls us to view ourselves and other Christians very differently. Jesus now defines who we are. Through Jesus’ work on the cross we have been declared perfect, blameless, and without fault. We have been forgiven and made right with God. We have become the dearly loved children of the living God, and nothing can separate us from His love.

~Neil H. Williams, Living in Light of the Gospel Story
Of First Importance

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In You My Soul Takes Refuge

Thursday morning, I was drinking in the discussion at our ladies' Bible study when the topic turned to idols.  The actual question posed was something along the lines of, "Other than God, where do you turn for satisfaction?"  I inwardly gasped when Mrs. Becky replied, "Books.  I can get lost in a book & escape."  I didn't realize until that very moment that this is exactly what I've been doing!  I picked up The Hobbit on Christmas Eve, the day after Ginger died, & from that day til now, I've also read The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, Against the Tide, Wings Like a Dove, Dr. Oma, & A Cup of Cold Water.  8 books in 3 weeks.  (For perspective, it should be noted that I didn't read 8 books in all of last year!)  I've also watched the extended DVD edition of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, which took an entire weekend, & we've rented a few more movies.  So, even though it was unbeknownst to me, I've been a busy girl trying to escape my reality.  I'm not sure how I could be so intensely engaged in avoidance & not realize it, but apparently, I am really good at ignoring reality when need be!

Anyways, with that one comment, God threw open my darkened eyes & illuminated my idolatry.  God is supposed to be my comfort, my very present help in time of need - not some fantasy world or even historical events.  I'm supposed to run to Him with my grief & sorrow, not run away & get lost in Middle Earth or 17th century Scotland.  It was quite fitting that our discussion in Bible study was regarding satisfaction in Christ alone.  I, of course, teared up pretty much the whole time, but delving deeply into God's Word to see that only He can fully satisfy was healing.  I knew that, but I certainly haven't been living as though I believe it.

Last night, I finally began A Steadfast Heart.  It was rather late when I started reading, so I only got through the introduction & a little into chapter one, but it is already a balm to my sorrowing heart.  Listen to this:

"The trials we endure are meant to get at the idolatry, self-love, & independent unbelief that God desires to purge from our life.  They're also meant to cause us to love Jesus Christ more & more, & sometimes they're not discipline at all, but rather part of God's mysterious plan to glorify Himself." (pg. 20)

Then, she quotes the following poem by Martha Snell Nicholson, & I was particularly touched by the last 4 lines:

I stood a mendicant of God
before His royal throne
And begged Him for a priceless gift,
which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand,
but as I would depart,
I cried "But Lord, this is a thorn
and it has pierced my heart.
"This is a strange, a hurtful gift
that Thou hast given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts
and give My best to thee."
I took it home and though at first,
the cruel thorn hurt sore;
As long years passed I learned at last
to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn
without this added grace.
He takes the thorn to pin aside . . .
the veil which hides His face.

So, I'm on the right track now & am looking to God for my comfort.  Rather than escaping to fictional worlds that provide no lasting relief, I'm leaning on God who will help me bear up under my load of grief.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in You my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge,
'til the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.
~Psalm 57:1-2

Speak, O Lord ~ Keith & Kristyn Getty

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Gospel Points & Calls

“Even as we slog through the trials, persecutions, irritations, temptations, distractions, apathy, and just plain weariness of this world, the Gospel points us to heaven where our King Jesus — the Lamb of God who was crucified in our place and raised gloriously from the dead — now sits interceding for us. Not only so, but it calls us forward to that final day when heaven will be filled with the roaring noise of millions upon millions of forgiven voices hailing Him as crucified Savior and risen King.”

~Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?
Of First Importance

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Puppy Musings

We never planned on being a two-dog household.  From the moment I first saw Ginger & then brought her home, I've been perfectly content with just her, never feeling as though anything was lacking pet-wise.  Then we received the cancer diagnosis.  I didn't know how long I would have her, but I knew that I had to get another dog before I lost her.  Not to replace her; that can never be done.  But I knew that if I waited until after God took her to get another dog, he or she would always be lacking.  Just as no dog could ever replace her, nor could another one ever compare with her.  If we adopted another dog while she yet lived, memories could be made & love could be forged that would be untainted by her death.  Thus, we got Jake.

I, in case you didn't know, am a dogaholic.  I will leave my home & cross the street & even stop people in public in order to pet a dog.  I squeal with delight when we're driving down the road & I see a dog's head hanging out the window of a passing car.  If ever I come upon a stray, I will bring it home - something that's only happened once, amazingly.  Pounds & shelters are difficult places for me because I just want to bring all of the dogs home with me.

So, Michael warned me earlier this week that we were only looking as we pulled into the no-kill shelter's parking lot.  That was his only rule as he turned off the ignition & walked around to get me out of the car (as all gentlemen should) - don't get attached; we're just looking.  For once, he didn't really have to warn me.  My love for canines is firmly established, but I just wasn't all that excited about possibly getting another one.  Ginger's death hangs over me, casting a gloom over my heart when I consider the possibility of another dog.  And like I said, we never intended to have two dogs long-term.  So, why consider it now?  Well, because of Jake.  As we desired, memories were made & love has been forged, & not just between him & us, but also between him & Ginger.  Michael says that Jake loves me above all, but let me tell you, he thought Ginger hung the moon.  He loved her, & was very attached to her, so we worry that he needs a companion.  He also needs a playmate.  I can throw a ball & take him for walks, but I can't run around & play rough with him because I get skewered by his teeth & claws!  I'm very delicate, you know.  ;-)  I can't help him expend pent-up energy like another dog can.  Even so, I worry.

Right now, I can still enjoy dogs, but can I love another one?  Can I bring one into our home & allow him/her into my heart?  Jake is securely loved & brings me such joy.  But I worry that Ginger - memories of her, my love for her, my sorrow over losing her - will cast a shadow over a new dog right now.  Michael assures me that I will love another dog, & maybe he's right.  At least, I know that in time, I definitely could.  And yet again, I know myself well enough to know that all it would take is one puppy kiss to have me smitten, even now.  Whether or not we'll adopt a brother or sister for Jake right now remains to be seen, but I can promise that y'all will be some of the first to know if/as soon as this happens; pictures - lots of them - will assuredly follow any new addition!

In that spirit, here are a few of the pictures from when we first got Mr. Jakey-man.  He was just the cutest thing ever!  And still is, of course!

Be still my heart!  I love this dog!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sweet Wordless Comfort

Tears began rolling down my face.  The talk had briefly turned towards the topic of Ginger on this the two-week anniversary of her death.  My precious 12-year-old niece draped one arm around me & laid her head on my shoulder.  She didn't say a word.  She didn't have to.  Words aren't always necessary to give comfort.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Passion 2011

Michael & I watched a portion of Passion 2011 last evening, & I was quite impressed.  More than that, I was moved.  We tuned in to watch John Piper preach, but were obliged to wait through singing for what we considered the "main event".  The singing was followed by reports on money raised for various efforts & a video showing the impact of the global Passion tour.  At first, I was impatient to get on with Piper's sermon, but that quickly dissolved as my heart was drawn upwards in praise to God for what's being done through Passion.  I remember hearing about Passion years ago when I worked at Lifeway, but I haven't given much - if any - thought to it since.  I didn't really know much about it, but to my mind, I thought it was simply an entertainment for college-age kids.  Without any information, I formed the opinion that it was mostly fluff, lacking any true substance.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

Although we didn't hear much of it, what music we did hear was pretty solid.  I was particularly struck by an intentional lull in the singing so that people could go to God in prayer.  That was an awesome moment, to see heads bowed while music softly played; it was obvious that even the musicians themselves were taking advantage of this opportunity to worship God in prayer.  It was nothing short of beautiful.

When Louie Giglio stood on stage & reported the money that those in attendance have donated so far, I was taken aback.  In each & every instance, the goals that Passion set were met & then exceeded.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised - again, so far, because the event's not over yet - to sponsor Compassion children, to feed children in poor villages, to set girls free (I'm assuming from sexual slavery), to clothe the homeless, to send Bibles out, & a whole host of other things that I wish I'd written down.  I was in tears to see how these people who have just started out in their adult lives were worshipping God & proclaiming Christ as Lord by parting with material wealth.  Their selflessness led me to praise God as well!

Following this was a video showing the impact of the global Passion tour.  I'm not going to pretend to know anything about this, but the video was incredible.  It showed hundreds of thousands of students from all over the planet worshipping God, even in places where Christianity is illegal & persecuted!  What struck me most was how the students in one city prayed for & dontated to help the next city on the tour.  Their hearts were poured out in love & support for Christians they will most likely never meet.  To see students in Kampala, Uganda giving & praying for Paris, France was astounding.  At first, I felt like that should most definitely be reversed; students in rich Paris should be giving & praying for poor Kampala.  But, isn't that just what the hearts of regenerated believers should be like?!  Yes, Kampala has more need than Paris - monetarily speaking - but the heart of a believer rejoices at the opportunity to give, even out of their own need!  After all, Paul praised the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians 8 for giving out of their "extreme poverty", even pleading for the opportunity to do so!

Finally - although, by that time it didn't feel like "finally" - Piper stood up & preached an excellent sermon about God being our foundation rather than self.  His question was, "Do you feel more loved by God when He makes much of you or when He enables you to make much of Him?"  He went on to show that there is a foundation to our happiness:  either self or God.  God does make much of us, which Piper deftly illustrated using Scripture, & we rejoice in that, but He does so for His own glory.  Apart from his list of 7 ways that the Bible shows that God makes much of His children, my favorite part was Piper's assertion that we are far too precious to God for Him to allow us to be our own foundational happiness, to be our own god.  Because He loves us so - & because only He is worthy of that title - He alone will be our God.

All in all, I was rather impressed by what I saw last night of Passion & think that I'll be paying more attention to it from now on!  You might want to tune in, too!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

God Reigns in the Storm

There is nothing like sound music to soothe a sore heart, to convict of sin, to elicit grief & exultation over the cross of Christ, or to kindle praise that bubbles up from a believer's soul. The words of such music are strong. They are biblical, they are God-centered, they are meaty. They have power.

I searched this morning for our "Come Weary Saints" CD, because my heart felt a need for such powerful, healing words. I couldn't find it, so I played "A Steadfast Heart". This is the companion CD for the book by the same title. Hearing the music this morning made me realize my need right now for the book, so I will begin reading that very soon. The CD is a compilation of readings (including Scripture) & music that point to God & are a balm for grieving & troubled hearts. I wept as I proclaimed my faith in God's sovereignty in this painful trial. Tears poured as I was bidden to "be still & know that I am God". My countenance brightened as I was reminded to "glory in my Redeemer, whose priceless blood has ransomed me". If your heart is hurting, may you find the same comfort now that God gave me this morning through the following song.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Favorite Things 2010

I haven't had the heart to blog much this past week, so this didn't make it in before the new year, but I wanted to share it anyways.  I started this last year & figure you can't have too much of a good thing, so why not make it a tradition?!  They aren't raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but here are a few of my favorite things.

*Vitamix:  There are few appliances in my kitchen that I love more!  In fact, at the moment, I can't think of a single one.  This puppy does all sorts of things!  Of course, we've made tons of smoothies, recipes of which I will be sharing.  With the dry container, I've ground my own flour, garlic powder, & coffee (for my parents; we don't drink coffee).  You can make your own peanut butter & powdered sugar.  It pulverizes frozen fruits in seconds.  You can even make your own soup & heat it up in the container!  It's wonderful!

*Bed:  We adore the king size bed & mattress that we bought earlier this year!  Michael's arms will go to sleep in a queen bed because the edge of the mattress lays just perfectly across his ulnar nerve.  So, we bought a king mattress, & it is so fabulously roomy - although it is made less so now that Jake has decided that he wants to sleep with us at night!  I didn't think it would fit in our room once we moved it around, but I'm happy with the end result.  And you know I love that the bed looks like it was passed down from my Granny!  It's a dark metal bed with rounded edges & little rosettes at the junctions.  It's simple, old-fashioned, sturdy, & was bought on clearance.  We love it.

*Nature's Gate Toothpaste:  I wasn't so sure about this fluoride-free toothpaste made completely from natural ingredients, but it really works!  It took me a few days to get used to the flavor but the texture is smooth & my mouth feels really clean.  Even hours after brushing, I don't develop bad breath.  And, honestly, my mouth feels even cleaner after brushing with this than when I go to the dentist!

*Lord of the Rings:  If you caught my birthday post, you saw that Michael bought both the movies & the books for me.  I spent last weekend watching the movies & have just started reading The Two Towers.  I am exulting over these gifts!  Even though I've seen & read them before, they just get better with each perusal!

*Granny's visit:  Granny stayed with us about a week back in March, & we had a great time!  We went for a walk, I read to her, she played cards, we cleaned the kitchen together, she reminded me constantly that she was fine to stay by herself (hehe), & we celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday at the best Italian restaurant around.  She won't be able to come again because of her dementia, so I'm really glad that she got to visit us not once, but twice in the last couple of years.  I'll treasure those memories forever.

*Crystal deodorant stick:  A little personal, I guess, & Mama thinks I'm crazy, but this stuff is amazing!  I recently heard about the health concerns arising because of the aluminum that is present in most antiperspirants.  That made me antsy, so I started looking into natural deodorants.  I tried a homemade version that works well for others & seemed promising, but it broke me out.  (I still recommend trying it, though, because it may work for you.)  I stumbled upon Crystal, & am so glad I did!  I was skeptical, but it works like a charm!  I put a couple of drops of water on the top of it right after my shower, rub it on & repeat for the other arm.  I haven't had any issues with sweating (even though it's not an antiperspirant), nor has there been any odor!  I . . . LOVE . . . IT!  An added bonus:  I got 4 sticks for less than $16 at Amazon.  If what they say is true, & each stick lasts one year, then I have enough deodorant to last 4 years for the scant price of $4 per year!  I've used it now for a little over a month & it still looks brand new.

*Dearfoams:  These slippers cradle my feet in warm softness.  Our floors get so cold in the winter, & sometimes my feet even get cold in socks & shoes!  But they become toasty warm within minutes of stepping into these slippers.  My feet are wide, so I have to get the sweater top slippers that are available at Sam's, but Costco also has some with smooth tops.  They're inexpensive, warm, & so far have lasted longer than their much more expensive L.L. Bean counterparts.  Don't worry, you don't have to have pink; they have a whole variety of colors!

*Joe's Italian Restaurant:  Outside of Italy, I've never enjoyed an Italian restaurant more!  Their lasagna is excellent, but their ravioli swimming in creamy tomato sauce can't be beat.  Their strawberry cake is simply to die for!  And did I mention that the proprietors are simply precious?  Seriously, I met dear old Mr. Bertolone & he was so adorable, I could have taken him home.  We're definitely gonna have to make a trip over there soon!

*Making new friends:  As you know if you keep up with our blog, we've been visiting a local church (instead of driving an hour away) for a couple of months now.  The people there are lovely, & we've begun to form a few friendships.  Also, as I've mentioned previously, I have a new friend that I met through Michael, & "lovely" is a good word to describe her as well.  I've enjoyed getting to know these people & am hoping that all of these friendships deepen into lasting bonds.

*Farm fresh eggs & dairy:  We get our eggs from Beth & Chris now, whose hens enjoy lots of sunshine, grass, & room to roam, not to mention their awesome hen house hand built by Chris & complete with egg boxes & perches.  Along with Beth & Chris, we are getting our milk & butter from a local dairy farm.  The milk has cream at the top, so you have to make sure to shake it up really well.  The butter is actually an Amish butter roll that comes in a 1 pound block wrapped up in butcher paper.  Oh!  Goodness gracious, the difference that these natural, non-processed ingredients make in our cooking!  Michael doesn't drink milk, not even with brownies & such.  At least, not until we bought this wonderful, fresh-from-the-farm milk.  Our first week, I practically had to stand guard over the refrigerator to keep him from drinking all of it!  Now that's a resounding recommendation!

*Brian Crain:  I was introduced to Brian Crain through 11 Acre Wood, one of my favorite blogs.  Dorothy walked down the aisle to meet Noah to "Butterfly Waltz".  My heart melted as the dulcet tones wafted through the air.  I've wanted the whole collection ever since, but didn't really expect to be able to get it anytime soon, because - as I'm sure you know - whole music collections are quite expensive.  Well, as we're working to prepare the table for my birthday supper, Michael suggests that we listen to some music.  Being right before Christmas, I expected something like "The Nutcracker".  He surreptitiously put in "Butterfly Waltz" & I dissolved into tears as soon as the first notes were struck.  He's a good man.

*A Praying Life:  This is such an excellent book!  I'd like to give a more in-depth review of it sometime, but for now, let me say that this book is so fabulous that I've read it through twice, once with a highlighter, which promptly threw up all throughout the pages.  My favorite prayer aid is the prayer cards that he details toward the end of the book.  You should definitely read this book; it'll revolutionize your prayer life!

As Long As You Are Glorified ~ Sovereign Grace Music

A worthy, well-timed reminder & the prayer of my heart.