Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Prayer for Michael Today

O Lord God of heaven,
The great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, to hear the prayer of Your servant that I now pray before You day and night for my husband. Grant him continual patience and forbearance to live with me, a wicked wife.  For I have sinned against You; I have acted very corruptly against You by forsaking my duty to help my husband lead our home in righteousness and the fear of You; I have not kept Your commandments, Your statutes, or the rules that You commanded Your servant Moses.

Give him boldness and wisdom to rebuke and exhort me when I am unfaithful to Your Word, when I neglect prayer, fail to redeem the time, speak carelessly, walk foolishly, fail to hope in You, seek great things for myself, become anxious about tomorrow. Do not let him cease praying for me when I am beset with the fear of man, the cares of the world, or the love of money. May he never lose confidence that, in spite of my many iniquities and shortcomings, I am Your servant whom You have redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.

O Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayers of my husband who delights to fear Your name, and give success to him today, and grant him mercy (Nehemiah 1).

~excerpted from Prayers of an Excellent Wife, pg. 17

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trusting God in My Childlessness

The Christian life is full of struggles.  I'm in the midst of one right now.  The other night, Daddy told me a disturbing tale about a young woman in his community.  She's an abusive mother of 3 who prostitutes herself, apparently even in the presence of her children at times.  This morning, I read a story about a couple who locked their 3 unclothed daughters - all of whom are under 5 years of age - into a feces & urine soaked room.  A video came up after that detailing the tragic story of a young girl who was tied to her bed by her parents, & when her emaciated body was discovered, it was covered with bruises & abrasions.

I hear these things & everything in me screams out, "WHY?!"  Why do these people get to have kids?!  Why?!  Michael & I want children so badly!  We want to shower them with hugs & kisses.  We want to tell them, "I love you" all the time.  We want to play with them, read to them, pray with them, teach them about God.  Why are these reprobates allowed to have children that they then abuse & destroy instead of us?!  Why?!

I see people neglect their responsibilities to their children or even commit atrocities against them, & all I can think is, "I would love to have the children that they so carelessly disregard & throw away.  Why do they get to have them?!"  My emotions cause my insides to squirm & roll & my eyes to burn with tears.  I certainly wouldn't be a perfect mother, but surely I'd be better than these people.  So, why am I denied what they are so generously given?  I would cherish what they squander, so why are they blessed with children instead of me?

It gets so frustrating not knowing the answers to these painful questions!  Because the fact is, I don't know why.  The Spirit within me nudges me to trust God, to lean on Him, even - no, especially - when I don't know the answers.  I know this is all in His plan.  Sometimes, I don't like His plan.  But I know full well that's just because I don't have all knowledge & wisdom.  I'm sure if I did, if I was able to have just a glimpse of the overall picture, I would rest contentedly in His plan.  That helps me when I get a little emotionally crazy (like right now).  I remind myself, even at this very moment, that He is good, gracious, & loving.  He is merciful, & His plan is meant for my good.  There is peace in knowing that.  That doesn't mean the pain & longing magically disappears, but it helps me to make sense of a situation that seems to me to be completely senseless.  I ask Him to help me to bear this childlessness, to shore me up emotionally & spiritually, to make me love Him so much that if He never gives me the children that I long for so intensely, that He will be enough - that I will be contented & peaceful.

And even in this moment, He does.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring this year is beyond weird.  Trees & shrubs began budding & even putting out new leaves in February!  Some plants have already gone through their metamorphosis, while others haven't even begun.  It all feels very disjointed.  Some of our plants went through their change so quickly that we weren't even able to capture it on film.  Others, such as my hyacinths, are just about to bud.  Since we're sort of in between stages right now, I thought I would share our Spring pictures from last year.  Once we have some new pictures from this year, I'll share them, too.  Enjoy!  God's creation is lovely to behold!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sow, Reap, & Don't Grow Weary

Life is short.  Fleeting.  We forget that on a day-to-day basis.  We go about our busy lives, making seemingly trivial choices smattered with a few major decisions & forget that - in a flash - it will all be over.  Every now & then, we're confronted by this reality, & then we have to take stock of our lives, particularly how we're choosing to live them.

Today was one of those days for me.  It's been brewing for a little more than a week, ever since a dear old saint in our congregation died suddenly.  We haven't been there very long, so didn't know him terribly well, but we already loved him.  He was just that kind of man.  The unexpected nature of his passing has given me pause many times over the past week as I've reflected on my relationships.  "None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, or even the next 5 minutes" is a mantra that has taken on new meaning for me.  It can be wearying, living with this realization ever before me.  Last night, I lay in bed talking to God & acknowledging that - unless He takes me home first - I am going to live to see a lot of people that I love die.  There is comfort in knowing that, if they're Christians, they'll be with God.  But that doesn't take away the grief while I live without them.  Honestly, that scares me, knowing that I may have to feel that intense pain of loss again.  Ginger is awful enough; to think of losing my mother or husband . . . I shudder at the thought.

I pray that God will keep me faithful, & that as He strips away the things that I hold dear in order to bring me closer to Him, that I will count Him as more valuable, that I will love Him more.

Even so, being confronted with losing those we love is just one thing that can wear us down & make us lose heart.  Sometimes the pain of this life can be unrelenting, & we can wonder what it's all for.  But Paul admonishes us:

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."  (Galatians 6:9)

Do not give up, for we will reap!  Did you catch that?  We will reap.  Not maybe, or perhaps.  No, we will reap, of that we can be sure.  However, as our pastor pointed out, there is one condition.  We will reap what we sow.  We have a choice in this life as to what we sow, & - as we all know - whatever we sow is what we will reap when it's harvesting season.  We can sow to the flesh - & reap corruption (a.k.a., death) - or we can sow to the Spirit & reap eternal life.  You don't sow corn & reap watermelons.  Nor should we fool ourselves into thinking that we can sow to the flesh, living any way we want, & reap a godly harvest.  It just doesn't work that way.

You know how it is, how you can hear something a hundred times, & then all of a sudden something fresh occurs to you?  That's what this verse was like for me today.  It was like a light went off inside my brain & illuminated my life in an instant.  I looked at the ways that I spend my days & received a reality check.  As I go throughout my day, am I sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit?  Am I living to please myself or to please God?  Am I furthering my own kingdom of comfort & self-indulgence, or am I furthering His kingdom by sharing the good news of His Son & ministering to others, bearing their burdens in love?  For me, the question isn't so much a matter of "do I ever do these godly things?", but rather "which encompasses most of my time?".  I don't like the answer.

Now, I don't want to leave the impression that I can earn my salvation, or even earn God's favor.  Christ did that when He died for me on the cross.  I am God's child, & He loves me.  But, because I am His child, my life should bear His mark.  People should be able to look at me & see my Father.  My life should diverge from the world & its ways.  How that works out in your life will most likely be very different from how it works out in mine.  But we all must take that time to inspect our lives & see whether it matches up with what we claim.  And rely on Him to help us when it doesn't.

God, help us to be Your people, Your light in a dark world, & not grow weary in doing good.  Help us to sow to the Spirit & reap eternal life, all the while not banking on our "good deeds" to save us.  Help us rely on Your power & strength, ever confident in Your love for us through Your Son.  In Christ's holy name I pray, Amen. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Correcting Unbiblical Preaching

"Disturbed" would be an appropriate word; "disheartened", too.  You know that moment when you realize that what you thought was going to happen, what was going to come out of someone's mouth, simply didn't?  I've replayed the whole episode over in my head a few different times over this past week, even dialoguing with Michael & a couple of friends.  I truly don't understand what went wrong, or - more specifically - why it went so wrong.

Expositional preaching is vital to the health of the church.  Stay with me; you'll see where I'm going.  When a pastor preaches expositionally, he has to deal with a particular text; he can't just land on a topic "by the Spirit's guiding" & then pick out texts that fit his "sermon".  For example, our pastor is preaching through Galatians, verse by verse.  He brings out Scriptures from all over the Bible that shed light on the passage he's preaching, but he doesn't have the option of skipping around.  This keeps the pastor - who is a fallible man - from preaching only the "fun" parts of God's Word or from preaching out of context, & thus distorting the true meaning.  In short, it protects God's people because they're getting all of God's Word - even the uncomfortable parts.

However, when you listen to a pastor who doesn't preach expositionally, as we did last week, you're likely to end up with erroneous "messages from God".  Messages such as:

     -"Don't ask your pastor to pray for you; God tells you to do the praying!";
     -"When Satan comes to your house, tell him to go away, he can't have your family!  In the OT God says that He will fight for His people, but in the NT, He tells us to do it.";
     -"God is waiting to give you what you want!  You just have to pray for it!"

Point by point,
     -James 5:16 exhorts us to pray for each other, which includes pastors;
     -Our sin - not Satan - destroys our families, & Romans 8:13 commands us to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, not our own willpower or driving away the devil.  Furthermore, when James tells believers to "resist the devil", it's in the context of submitting ourselves to God; &
     -The gifts that God bestows upon us are in His wisdom & will, as are any gifts that He chooses to withhold or take away.  My first thought (if the above assertion were true) was, "I prayed for Ginger not to die, & she did.  Does that mean that I didn't pray hard enough, wasn't faithful enough, or maybe that God isn't good after all & doesn't love me?"  Of course, none of these are true, but that's the rabbit hole we're in danger of falling down if we believe such nonsense.

Unbiblical teaching is damaging & damning, all the more so because texts that are chosen willy-nilly seem to "prove" the pastor's point.  Of note is the fact that these messages are generally altogether devoid of the mention of Christ & His atoning death, as is any allusion to our sin that required His death.  On the other hand, teaching that is true to Scripture is healing & leads to salvation (Rom. 10:17).  It is robust, proclaiming us to be sinners deserving of God's wrath, but graciously spared & counted righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ.  It's up to us to be discerning enough to tell the two apart.  Not all that claim to be from God actually are.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Heaven With God

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world. (Matt. 25:34)

What if instead of ‘You blessed ones, Come,’ He had said rather, ‘You blessed ones, Go, to a kingdom I have provided for you. Angels, conduct from My presence this ransomed people I have redeemed. Furnish them with crowns and thrones in that distant celestial city; and since I am to be no longer with them, be you to them a holy brotherhood — make them partakers of your joys!’

How would every face droop in sadness! Heaven would have a blight passed over it. Its ransomed worshipers would exclaim, ‘Our thrones are denuded of their glory — our crowns of their luster, O Savior, without You!’

But it is not so. His very opening declaration dispels their dread. ‘Come!’ Wherever your heaven is, it is to be a heaven with me: we are to share our crowns and thrones together. ‘Him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me on My throne’ (Rev. 3:21). ‘Enter you into the joy of your Lord’ (Matt. 25:23).”

~John MacDuff, "The Final Gathering of the Flock"
Of First Importance

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe of the "Week"

Y'all are gonna be so proud of me!  Fuddy-duddy stick-in-the-mud unspontaneous me tried something new!  And loved it, I might add.  "Bungee jumping or parachuting?", you might ask.  Not in this life!  Nope, I made Tamale Pie for supper this week!  Much more tame - though, to be fair, I've eaten it before (being a Tex-Mex connoisseur), but have never made it.  Sometimes cooking new-to-me meals can be intimidating.  However, let me assure you, this one isn't in the least!  Seasoned meat, corn, kidney beans, & cheese topped with cornbread - what could be better?

Tamale Pie


-1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef (I recommend 2 lbs.)
-taco seasoning
-whole kernel corn, drained (amount to suit taste; I boiled ~1 can's worth of frozen corn)
-dark red kidney beans, rinsed (amount to suit taste; I used 1 can)
-shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 recipe of favorite cornbread, minimally or non-sweetened variety*


-Cook ground beef in a large skillet until it's cooked through & crumbly.

-Season with taco seasoning according to the directions on the packet/bottle.

-Grease the bottom & sides of a 9"x13" glass baking dish.

-Layer the beef, corn, beans, & cheese.

-Top with the cornbread & bake according to the cornbread recipe.  You may have to cover it with foil to prevent burning.

*I topped 1 1/2 lbs of meat with a full cornbread recipe, & it was too much bread.  My cornbread recipe also called for 3/4 c. sugar, & it was far too sweet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Prayers for Drawn From Water

**Update #2:  What we were all hoping & praying for did not come to pass.  God, in His wisdom & love, has a different plan.  We don't know what that is or what the end result will be, but we have to rest in His sovereignty & goodness.  He knows, & that's enough.

*Update:  There is a new post with details about the current struggle at DFW.  It's disturbing, & I ask that you pray even more fervently.

I just saw this & wanted to pass it on.  I've told y'all about Drawn From Water before, & I think that what they're doing to save children's lives in Ethiopia both presently & eternally is amazing.  They're asking for our prayers now, so I'm asking you to come alongside me & all of the other believers who are beseeching God on their behalf.  May God move in mighty ways for the good of His children & the glory of His name!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

In a Nutshell

Originally from Parchment & Pen Blog.  Well done!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Children of God ~ Third Day

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  ~1 John 3:1

Our Song

I've been in love with this song for half of my life, & when Michael & I fell in love, this became our song.  Now, when he's feeling romantic, he plays it & we dance to it.  *Sigh*  I love that man.  Life is indeed la vie en rose with him as my husband!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Recipe of the "Week"

Oooo-eee!  This is another family favorite from Granny's arsenal!  It's sort of like a big ol' brownie that overflows with fudge when you break into it.  And, man alive, this stuff is rich, so don't try to fill up a whole bowl.

Baked Chocolate Pudding

Batter Ingredients:

-1 c. flour
-1/2 tsp. salt
-3/4 c. sugar
-2 tsp. baking powder
-2 ½ T cocoa
-2 T melted butter
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 c. milk
-chopped pecans

Topping Ingredients:

-1/2 c. sugar
-1/2 c. brown sugar (firmly packed)
-4 T cocoa


-Sift together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

-Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl.

-Pour wet ingredients over dry & add chopped nuts.

-Pour batter into a greased 9"x5" loaf pan.

-In the now empty small bowl, combine the topping ingredients & sprinkle over the batter.

-Pour 1 c. water over all.

-Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, then serve warm topped with ice cream.

Before the Throne of God Above

Fewer things are more beautiful to me than the voices of thousands of men raised in song to God.  This song was originally done by Vicki Cook (& can be found on Songs for the Cross Centered Life), but this is the live worship from the Together for the Gospel 2008 conference.  May this song bring you to worship our marvelous God!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Preparing Our Hearts For Easter

Lent is a big part of my Lutheran heritage.  My usually renounced vice is desserts of all kinds.  I remember actually having nightmares that I accepted a chocolate chip cookie in the lunch line in the course of my first Lent.  I also remember feeling quite accomplished when I won a game & gave up my Snickers reward during another Lenten season.  The point of Lent - as I understood it - is to spend 40 days fasting from some earthly pleasure in recognition of Christ's sacrifice for us.  Somehow, the fact that it is a time to be spent in prayer, repentance, & giving along with that self-denial was lost on me.

Not this year!  While I am not participating in Lent in the sense that I'm not giving up desserts, I am finally preparing my heart through prayer, repentance, & giving.  Michael & I are reading our Bibles aloud together each day, as well as 2 other excellent books:  Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die by John Piper & Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross edited by Nancy Guthrie.  I already feel that my heart is softer as I'm being drawn closer to God.  These books are incredible, & I highly recommend them!  And because I like you, here's a little taste to whet your appetite:

     "Let us meditate a moment on the passion of Christ.  Some do so falsely in that they merely rail against Judas & the Jews.  Some carry crucifixes to protect themselves from water, fire, & sword, & turn the suffering of Christ into an amulet against suffering.  Some weep, & that is the end of it.  The true contemplation is that in which the heart is crushed & the conscience is smitten.  You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that He spared not His only begotten Son.  What can the sinner expect if the beloved Son was so afflicted?  It must be an inexpressible & unendurable yearning that causes God's Son Himself so to suffer.  Ponder this & you will tremble, & the more you ponder, the deeper you will tremble.
     Take this to heart & doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ.  Your sins certainly did, & when you see the nails driven through His hands, be sure that you are pounding, & when the thorns pierce His brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.  Consider that if one thorn pierced Christ you deserve one hundred thousand.
     The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself & sink & tremble.  If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble.  Pray to God that He may soften your heart & make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills it."  ~Martin Luther, from Martin Luther's Easter Book, quoted in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, pg. 11-12

May the Lord turn our thoughts from ourselves & from the things that so distract us so that we may gaze fully upon His beautiful life, death, & resurrection during this blessed Easter season.  Lord, prepare our hearts to worship & love You as You deserve to be worshipped & loved.  Break our hearts over our sin & bring us to wholehearted, life-changing repentance.  Fill us up so that our hearts & our very lives overflow with love & worship for You alone.  Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Are You Up For a Challenge?

Update:  I've also decided to pray through an exceptional book - Prayers of an Excellent Wife - that arranges Scripture into prayers.  You can see examples by following the link above.  I'm very excited about this whole adventure!

We've just begun studying through Becoming the Woman of His Dreams in our Thursday morning ladies' Bible study, & I can already tell that God's going to use this tool to change me.  I'm excited!  Of course, it got me thinking about other sources of encouragement, which reminded me of Revive Our Hearts.  I've gone through their 30 day True Woman Makeover twice now & loved it both times.  It's such an encouragement to live according to the biblical principles laid out in Proverbs 31, Titus 2, & 1 Timothy 2!  I've signed up for it again & am looking forward to it once more.  But I didn't stop there!  I also signed up for the Husband Encouragement Challenge*, of which I've also heard wonderful things.  I want to be, not just the best wife I can be, but the most godly wife I can be.  I want to be a blessing to Michael as well as glorifying to my Lord.  Will you join me?!  Let's take up the challenge to be godly women loving our husbands for the glory of God!

*You may have to sign up for them separately - as I did - if you want to take them both.

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

This is my newly christened favorite movie!  You simply must watch it; it's beautiful!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Faith in the Midst of Cancer

The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Media on Vimeo.

A Story from Adam Kring on Vimeo.

Tears of Hope
God is still God, & God is still good.  Some of the most beautiful words I think I've ever heard.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Our Oversexualized Culture

Sex is highly valued in our culture & has become increasingly graphic in the media, even in programs targeted at children.  For example, Michael & I once went out to eat with Beth, Chris, & the kids where a TV was playing a cartoon in which the female character flashed a male character that she wanted to win over.  Granted, they blacked out her exposed chest . . . but it was a cartoon, for goodness sake!  From cartoons (incredibly), to prime time TV, to talk shows, to commercials, to movies - the media that we view for hours each & every day is saturated with sex.  I find the trend - & the blind acceptance of it even by Christians - to be very troubling.  To give a bit of perspective, I'd like to share a couple of excellent articles from Girls Gone Wise, one on the oversexualization of young girls & the other taking on the graphic depiction of sex (& its corresponding message) in "Black Swan".  I found the media links in the first article & the comments to the second article to be thought-provoking as well.  Take a moment to think about the impact of our sexualized culture not only on ourselves, but also on those we love - especially our children.  We have a choice on whether or not to allow this influence in our homes, & it's our responsibility to make the godly choice.  May God help us to do so.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Play Day

We had such a good week!  Beth had an all-day class Tuesday & graciously allowed us to keep our nieces & nephew Monday evening through Wednesday afternoon!  We met Monday evening at Michael & Beth's dad's house (the halfway point) for supper & then brought the kids home.  We watched movies; ate doughnuts & pizza; had a Chick-fil-A picnic; played at a couple of different playgrounds; played Apples to Apples; & Michael even took 15-year-old Bradley driving.  Then Beth came down Wednesday to take them back home & we all went out for lunch.  We had a blast, & I hope we get to do it again soon!

 Waking up Michael

 Everyone loved Josie . . .

 & Josie was equally smitten!

 She's a lovely young lady.

 I love this picture!

 Kara's the only one who could go through easily; sometimes it helps to be short!

 Poor fella!

 Pre-bedtime game of Apples to Apples

Fun was had by all!