Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Katie Davis on Adoption

Catalyst Atlanta 2011 from Catalyst on Vimeo.

In a word, this is phenomenal!  The more I see & hear Katie Davis, the more I love her!

10 Weeks

Last December, I had just finished up my yearly GYN appointment when I heard the most beautiful sound through the wall.  It was a sound that, even though it had nothing to do with me, made me tear up.  It was the sound of a baby's heartbeat in utero.  As I usually do when I'm really touched, I put my hand to my nose & breathed out my longing to God to one day give Michael & me this gift.  Yesterday, less than a year later, He did.  As I lay on the table at our new OB's office, the ultrasound tech placed the machine to my abdomen, & all of a sudden, we heard our M&M's heartbeat!  Of course, I cried - as I'm doing now!  We got to see our little one, too, & he/she was very active!  M&M jumped, wiggled, & even waved!  I suppose I came across as a little dorky (not that I care) when I waved back & said - through tears, of course - "Hi, baby!"  I pray I never lose this wonder & joy over the miracle that God has wrought in our lives!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Urgent Mission

I wanted to write a post today, but my brain is more than a little sluggish, so I'm having a hard time coming up with something to actually say.  Then, I went to one of my favorite blogs - A Glimpse of Our Vapor - & read what my sweet friend, Katie, wrote.  And I just have to share it!  I'm going to share the video that she posted below, as well as another one of my favorite missionary videos, but make sure you read her post as well.  It's convicting.  And we need that.  Desperately.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Insight From the Smoky Mountains

The road was dark & curvy, with only the light from our car fleetingly illuminating our immediate surroundings in grey patches.  All we saw was the black road, bordered on both sides by black trees bedecked with shadowy leaves.  Our view of the path ahead was more often than not obscured by the bend in the road.  The black night enveloping us made what lay ahead & what lay beside impossible to discern.

Then, as the sun woke from her slumber, we began to behold the beauty that truly surrounded us.  What the night had hidden, the light revealed in magnificent detail.  The land rose up, up, up to our right while it rolled down in cascading hills to our left.  The ground was strewn deeply with amber leaves, while the myriad of trees marching up & down those hills were still stubbornly clinging to an array of their sunshiney gold, fiery red, & vibrant orange siblings.  Mingled amongst this riot of color were the evergreens with their springy & dark forest green leaves giving just the right backdrop.  We found ourselves suddenly surrounded by God's breathtaking creation!  Only, it wasn't so "sudden" after all.  God's beautiful masterpiece had been there all along in the darkness, we just couldn't see it.  We needed the light from the sun to reveal to us the reality that the black of night had blinded us to.

So it is with God.  God is breathtakingly beautiful, awesomely majestic, & infinitely worthy of our worship.  He is merciful, kind, loving, forgiving, just, & holy.  But the darkness hides Him from men.  Just as darkness is the essence of night, so it is with men's unregenerate hearts.  In the same way that the beauty of God's creation was hidden behind the darkness of the night, so is the beauty of God hidden behind the darkness of our sinful nature.  Only when the rays of light shine forth in our hearts by the Spirit of God are we no longer blind to reality.  Our eyes are opened & we can see God for who He really is . . . & who we really are - creatures in desperate need of a merciful Savior.  And we realize it's always been this way.  The light doesn't create God's infinite beauty, it simply illuminates it.

My prayer today is that the Spirit of God would shine His light in the hearts of men everywhere, revealing to them the splendor of God & their need for His mercy.  To God be the glory!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

9 Weeks

Our M&M is growing so fast!  I love looking at these pictures & being able to see the shape of our baby.  We even got to see the little heart beating today!  I'm so overwhelmed with thanksgiving to God & love for Him, Michael, & this little one!  This is a Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!  And aren't the little captions cute?  Our OB asked me, "Auburn or 'Bama?" & laughed when I said in a "duh" tone of voice, "'Bama."  It obviously said, "Do you even need to ask?"  Then I saw the above picture & laughed out loud!  Sooo cute!  Roll Tide!

Funny Pet Videos

Okay, these are beyond hilarious!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Christmas Music

Lots of people are already getting in the Christmas spirit!  Just yesterday morning, I played my first Christmas songs.  I'm hoping that we can get our decorations up in the next week.  In that spirit of Christmas cheer, I want to recommend a couple of CDs to y'all filled with the absolute best Christmas music!  If this doesn't put you in the mood to worship our Savior & celebrate His birth, I don't know what will!  I can't praise these songs highly enough, & of course, you don't have to just play them at Christmas, because it's never the wrong season to celebrate Christ's birth!  Enjoy!

Oh, my goodness, what a wonderful CD this is!  I love each & every song, but I have to say that my absolute favorite song is "Glory Be To God".  Every single time I listen to it, without fail, I start crying at the same point.  When they sing, "Hosanna!  Hosanna!  The Lamb of God has come!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!  He is the Promised One!" over & over, I'm overcome with emotion at this stunning fact.  God promised the Messiah, & He kept that promise!!!  I'm transported back to the manger & am in awe that this Child is the fulfillment of God's promise to us.  He didn't forget us!  He sent His Lamb, just as He said He would!  I'm tearing up even now.  And let me tell you what SGM has done:  you can even download this very song for free on their site!  Get yourself a taste of this incredible CD & stand in awe at what God has done!
Seriously, there is not a bad song in this whole CD!  I have a hard time even picking out a favorite!  "Behold the Lamb of God" takes you through the redemptive history of man, beginning with a song of worship for "the brave little boy who was God, but He made Himself nothing", leads you through Moses & Israel's longing for the Messiah, all the way up to the birth of Jesus.  And Andrew Peterson takes his time singing about Jesus' birth; less than half of the CD is devoted to showing the need & longing for the Savior, while the rest focuses on His arrival.  It's a beautiful journey through the Scriptures in song.  If I have one suggestion, it's to buy the live version if you can.  I normally don't prefer live versions over studio versions, but in this one, I definitely do.  The "Begats", which is already so much fun, is even more so, & the way they do the very last song will give you chills.  And you know what will make you like Andrew even more (& definitely tempt you even greater than I already have to buy the CD)?  You can listen to the entire CD on his site!

Buy, listen, enjoy, praise God!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Platts' Adoption Journey

I've been following the Platt family's adoption journey through the Brook Hills blog, & it has been such a blessing!  They aren't just sharing about their adoption of their daughter, but also of how God brought their sons into their lives.  All of the stories are wonderful, filled with humor, warmth, & love.  And they've all left me with a renewed adoration of God's plan & timing, which He works out with absolute perfection.  May you be blessed & moved to praise God through their story as well!  Soli Deo Gloria!

For These Things, I'm Thankful

Dread.  That's what I felt going into this day.  And it turned out to be just as I feared.  I didn't want to experience this day, not in the least.  As a matter of fact, I vowed from the moment we knew it was coming that I wouldn't.  I put my foot down so often & so hard in opposition to it that I have blisters!  But, Michael insisted - insisted, even, that it would be good for us to experience it.  I didn't believe him, & I still wish that we hadn't gone through it.  But, you can't undo the past, even when it's as recent as this morning.  See, our beloved pastor is preaching in Uganda.  So, someone thought it would be nice to have a "Homecoming" for the former pastor.  One in which he preached.  Now, Michael used to be a member of our church during this former pastor's reign, so I've been regaled with stories of "the glory days", as some have called it (Michael not being one of them).  Thus, my trepidation over this morning's service.  What I haven't mentioned is that this former pastor is a revivalist, complete with all the trappings that word conjures up.  And we got to witness every gory detail, of which I could say a lot - a lot - but I truly don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  Instead, I'd like to focus on the one good thing that did come out of this morning's service:  a renewed sense of thankfulness over what we have at our precious church.  Fitting, as this is the week of Thanksgiving, don't you think?

Father, thank You for:
     *Pastors - & pastors' wives - who focus on You & Your glory;
     *Pastors who are filled with humility & grace;
     *Pastors who feed us the meat of Your Word;
     *Pastors who rely on the Spirit working in the hearts of men to bring about conviction & salvation;
     *Pastors who study Your Word & bring us correct interpretations of it;
     *Genuine, loving believers who surround us each Sunday;
     *A praise team whose sole ambition is to glorify & worship You through song;
     *Pastors who trust You to bring forth fruit, even if they can't see it;
     *Pastors who are faithful both in the pulpit & in their daily lives;

And last, but not least, thank You, Father, for bringing us to this church.  May Your glory be done in & through us!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Trouble With Altar Calls

A friend & I had a brief discussion the other day regarding altar calls.  Coming from a Lutheran background, I simply don't understand them.  Calls to repentance & faith in Christ, I get, & I've been in churches that do just that with offers of someone to talk to after the service & assurances that leaving your seat isn't a requirement for salvation.  Having been surrounded in my youth by revivalistic Baptist churches as the only models for the practice of altar calls, I usually find them to be irksome, not the least of which is because they are often emotionally manipulative & lead to false professions of faith.  There are entire churches, rather than just an invitation here or there, where this manipulation is not the norm - mine being one - but this is nonetheless a common pitfall for altar calls.  And then I have the problem of not being able to find the precedence of altar calls anywhere in Scripture.  The fine people over at The Gospel Coalition were asked, in short, how to call people to Christ without relying on altar calls.  Jonathan Leeman - editorial director at 9Marks & a PhD candidate researching ecclesiology - gave quite an astute response, one that I agree with wholeheartedly.  Not everyone will agree with Jonathan's assessment, or my assent to it; however, I still ask that any readers of this post will not rely on their own feelings & opinions, but give careful thought to his words & check them - & the institution of altar calls - against the Word of God.  This, not the traditions of man, must be the final arbiter of truth & the guide for all our practices & beliefs.  So, without further ado, here's Jonathan's answer to this query.

Before I had arrived, the previous pastors had always given altar calls. I was now one month into an interim pastorate, and people were beginning to ask whether I would ever give them. I remember a long, meandering car ride with one sweet brother---a good friend to this day---devoted to the question.

I told this brother and the rest of the elders that I wouldn't do an altar call. Why not?

Because I think altar calls are wrong? No, I think a pastor is free to give one. It's not a sin.

Because I don't believe that people must make a decision for Christ? No, I think people must decide to repent and believe in order to be saved.

Because I don't think Jesus calls us to make a public profession? No, people must publicly profess their faith, which is why Jesus instituted baptism. (Emphasis mine)

Because I think inviting sinners to repent is inherently manipulative? No, I believe preachers should invite non-Christians to repent and believe throughout their sermons. I did this during the interim pastorate, and I did it just last Sunday when guest preaching at another church. I very clearly invited non-Christians to repent and believe in the middle of my sermon, and then told them to speak with me afterwards, or the pastor, or the Christian friend who brought them.

So why wouldn't I give an altar call? In short, I believe that this particular man-made practice, this 19th-century innovation, has produced more bad than good for Christian churches in the West. The altar call relies on the powers of emotion, rhetorical persuasion, and social pressure to induce people to make a hasty and premature decision. And producing professions is not the same thing as making disciples. Surely a number of factors are responsible for the many nominal Christians that typify Christianity in the West, but I believe that the altar call is one of them.

How many people in the last century walked an aisle, and spent the rest of their days convinced that they were a Christian, never considering how they lived!

The alternative to giving altar calls is sticking with the practices we see modeled in Scripture:

     *Invite people throughout your sermon to "repent and be baptized" like Peter did in Jerusalem (Acts 2:38). But when you do, don't just stand there waiting with emotionally charged music playing, staring them down until they relent. Rather, make several suggestions about how and where to discuss the matter further.

     *Ask people what they believe when they present themselves for baptism, just like Jesus made sure the disciples knew who he was (Matt. 16:13-17; also, 1 John 4:1-3).

     *Make sure they understand what following Jesus entails (Matt. 16:24f; John 6:53-60).

     *Explain that the fruit of their lives and persevering to the end will indicate whether or not they really believe (Matt. 7:24f; 10:22).

     *You might even explain that Jesus has commanded your church to remove them from its fellowship if their life moving forward does not match their profession (Matt. 18:15-17).

Yes, let's pray hard for conversions. But then let's do everything that Scripture requires of us in the long work of making disciples---a work that generally requires lots of teaching, lots of time, lots of invitations, lots of meals together, and finally the commitment of an entire church body.

The Most Terrifying Truth in the Scriptures ~ Paul Washer

Oh, so very good!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Gathering ~ Sovereign Grace Music

Are you ready for one of the best CDs you'll ever listen to?  Seriously, this one is incredible!  But don't take my word for it - scroll through & listen.  You won't regret it!  You can download it, buy it, & look at the lyrics simply by clicking on the link below.  Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Our Little Peanut . . . M&M

According to the measurements, we are 7 weeks along!  It's incredible to me that I had no idea that I was pregnant for 6 whole weeks!  We went in to the doctor for bloodwork & an ultrasound this past week, & so far, everything looks great!  My numbers were healthy, as was our little one's heartbeat & placement.  We're still in such awe over this whole surprise!  I'm trying to think of a cute little nickname for him/her, because it can sometimes become a bit of a tongue twister to say "him or her" everytime I want to talk about him or her.  (See what I mean?)  Come to think of it, Michael might have hit on a nickname this morning, quite by accident.  I was ravenous before breakfast, & I patted my belly & said, "It's okay, baby, I'm fixing to feed you."  Michael chuckled & said, "A peanut M&M is bigger than our baby right now!  I don't think he/she's eating that much!"  I've heard people say "peanut" a lot, but "M&M" is new to me!  I think it might work!  ;-)  What say you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!

I was 18 years old when the doctor diagnosed me with PCOS & laid down the news that it would be difficult if not impossible for me to one day conceive without medical intervention.  Being an 18-year-old with no prospects for marriage in the immediate future, I didn't shrug it off, but I wasn't overly concerned.

I married Michael when I was 29, & we were full of hope for our future.  We knew we had a hard road ahead of us in the children department.  And thus has been our experience.  In the course of our marriage, we've had grief over a disrupted adoption process & childlessness.  I'm ashamed to say that I even railed at God a few short months ago, momentarily questioning the most basic truths of His love & goodness like a child throwing a temper tantrum because she's denied something she wants.  I've had my medical diagnosis against me & neither Michael nor I are what you'd call slender, if you know what I mean!  ;-)  With PCOS, this is a definite strike against conception.  Almost 4 1/2 years have come & gone since our wedding, & we've done pretty good at beginning a healthy, active lifestyle . . . but not so great at maintaining it.

Almost 2 months ago, something just clicked, & Michael & I not only began eating healthy & exercising, we kept it up.  We trekked down to the bike trail that winds along the river 4 days a week, I worked out on the weekends while Michael went to his job, & we completely eschewed eating out, opting instead for home-cooked meals & homemade smoothies.  No more ice cream, fries, or deep-fried chicken for us!  Now we focused on farm-fresh eggs & dairy, coconut oil, fruits & veggies, & smaller portions.  When I was hungry, I would picture my stomach & try to eat enough to cover the bottom instead of filling the whole thing.  We ate just until we didn't feel hungry anymore; no more stuffing ourselves.  And we felt great!  Even on our camping trip, we strove not to undo all our hard work & maintain these principles.

Three days ago, Michael came home with a pregnancy test in hand.  I looked at him sideways & initally refused to take it.  Yes, I was late, but that had happened not so long ago as well, so I had decided that my body was simply rebelling against me.  Yes, I'd had a little nausea the last 4 evenings, but that was just the food I'd eaten.  Again, apparently, my body just hated me.  But, I can't look into those beautiful blue eyes & deny him anything for long.  So, I took the test, all the while lamenting that I didn't know why on earth we were doing this.  "I'm never going to get a positive!", said I.  He asked me to check to make sure the line in the test window showed up, indicating that we had done the test properly.  I picked it up.  "Ummmm . . . I think you need to come in here & turn on the light, because I think my eyes are playing tricks on me!"  There it was - a bold, blue plus sign.  But, that just can't be.  My brain shut down.  We snapped a picture on the cell phone & sent it to Beth, because I thought she would know what this meant.  I just couldn't accept what I was seeing.  She squealed with delight, "YOU'RE PREGNANT!!!"  Michael raced out to get a digital test while I peppered her with the same questions repeatedly:  "Can you get a false positive?"; "Can I trust this?";  "Is this for real?"  Three days later, I'm still stunned.  I keep looking at Michael & dreamily saying, "We're having a baby."

We're having a baby!!!