Sunday, December 18, 2011

Too Religious for My Taste

Source:  Microsoft Clipart
I love the Christmas carols.  Isn't it wonderful to have secular stations playing songs of praise to our Savior? 

This afternoon I took Abby to hear the local community orchestra and choir perform their Christmas concert.  Other than the challenge of keeping Abby quiet, it was a lovely time.  It opened and closed in prayer and the passages of Scripture were read.  For the most part it was traditional Christmas carols and pleasantly devoid of odes to Santa Claus.  The ministerial association sponsored the performance so this may have been the reason it was more Christ-centered.  Abby and I were the first ones to leave the building as we walked to the performance.  Right behind us walked a father and his son.  "That was just too religious for my taste," he grumbled.  Hmm.  I wonder what he thinks Christmas is about?  And the performance wasn't "religious," but it was Christian.  What I love this man despises.  If he knew my Savior, I'm certain he would have enjoyed this afternoon's performance. 

Christians Awake

Christians, awake, salute the happy morn
Whereon the Saviour of the world was born
Rise to adore the mystery of love
Which hosts of angels chanted from above
With them the joyful tidings first begun
Of God incarnate and the Virgin's Son

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

He Became Sin For Us

During this Christmas season I'm really trying to study more on what the full meaning of the birth of God Incarnate.  This is not a "Christmas" verse, but it's a verse that has been stuck in my head for the last several days. 
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:21

In a sermon on this text Spurgeon says regarding our Savior:
Jesus Christ also, is the son of Mary, a man like unto ourselves. A man subject to all the infirmities of human nature, except the infirmities of sin; a man of suffering and of woe; of pain and trouble; of anxiety and fear; of trouble and of doubt; of temptation and of trial; of weakness and death. He is a man just as we are, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. Now, the person we wish to introduce to you, is this complex being, God and man. Not God humanized, not man Deified; but God, purely, essentially God; man, purely man; man, not more than man; God, not less than God,—the two standing in a sacred union together, the God-Man. Of this God in Christ, our text says that he knew no sin. It does not say that he did not sin; that we know: but it says more than that; he did not know sin; he knew not what sin was. He saw it in others, but he did not know it by experience. He was a perfect stranger to it. It is not barely said, that he did not take sin into his heart; but, he did not know it. It was no acquaintance of his. He was the acquaintance of grief; but he was not the acquaintance of sin. He knew no sin of any kind,—no sin of thought, no sin of birth, no original, no actual transgression; no sin of lip, or of hand, did ever Christ commit. He was pure, perfect, spotless; like his own divinity, without spot or blemish, or any such thing.
 Beautiful words reminding me of the perfection of our Savior.  Spurgeon continues his sermon on the text and addresses the unimaginable transaction:
Christ marieth the sinner and putteth forth his hand, and taketh the Church to be his. She is in debt to God's justice immeasurably; she owes to God's vengeance an intolerable weight of wrath and punishment; Christ says, "Thou art my wife: I have chosen thee, and I will pay thy debts." And he has paid them, and got his full discharge. Now, whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus hath peace with God, because "he hath made Christ to be sin for us, though he knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
May our thoughts be Christ-focuses this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: A Good and Perfect Gift

Have you had a moment that altered the course of your life?  Amy Julia Becker did.  For her that moment came shortly after the birth of her first child, Penny.  She was informed her daughter had Downs Syndrome.  Amy documents the bumpy journey of the first two years of Penny's life in A Good and Perfect Gift.  There was the denial, the disbelief, the shock and the grief at losing the normal healthy baby she expected to receive.  While most parents celebrate the birth of a baby, their celebration was mixed with grief. 

For Amy Julia the birth of her daughter smashed some of the idols in her heart.  Intelligence and academic achievement had been so important to her and now she is blessed with a baby who may struggle to make it through high school and may never be able to live independently.  She struggled as she felt God calling her to follow Him where she never wanted to go.

She also shares the inner spiritual struggle she faced as she had difficulty talking to God in the months that ensued the birth of her daughter.  Amy Julia finally gets to the place where she can say:
Penny is neither a rebuke nor a reward.  She is a child, not a product of sin or of biological happenstance or of any lesson we needed to learn.  No.  This happened that the glory of God might be revealed. (pg.141)
She confronted the pride in her own heart as she feared what others might say about her handicapped daughter.  As any parent does, she found herself comparing Penny to other children with Downs Syndrome.   Yet as Penny grows and develops with the help of numerous therapies, Amy Julia and her husband become more accepting of the gift God has given them. The lostness is gone. Soon they are offering support to new parents of Downs Syndrome babies. 

If you or a friend you know have a special needs child, please read this book.  It helped me better understand how to approach my friends. It also gave me empathy for those who God has blessed with a special needs child. 

Please note that I do not agree with all the author shares in the book.  She comes from an Episcopalian background and mentions preaching a sermon and does have Penny baptized several months after her birth. 

Disclaimer: Bethany House provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Citizens of Heaven

Philippians 3:20 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Our pastor has been preaching through the book of Philippians.  Last Sunday he talked about being citizens of heaven.  I've been mulling that phrase over in my head.  Isn't it easy to forget that our home is heaven and that are just on a long camping trip here on earth?

As citizens of heaven:
  • Our allegiance must be to our Heavenly King.  Patriotism can be a good thing, but our ultimate love is for a country we have not yet seen.
  • Our dialect should differ from the "locals" here on earth.  Is there a difference in their language and our language?
  • Our customs should be perceived as strange by the unbelievers.  How can we commune with a Father we cannot see?  How can peace and joy fill our lives even in the midst of deepest grief?
  • We should have no attachment to the fleeting temporal possessions we "own."  In fact, we're only steward of all this stuff.  We should be eagerly awaiting our upgrade to our Heavenly Home.
John Wesley wrote a hymn entitled "How Happy is the Pilgrim's Lot." I just read it this evening and it seems to be a good fit. Here it is in it's entirety:

How happy is the pilgrim’s lot!
How free from every anxious thought,
From worldly hope and fear!
Confined to neither court nor cell,
His soul disdains on earth to dwell,
He only sojourns here.

This happiness in part is mine,
Already saved from self design,
From every creature love;
Blest with the scorn of finite good,
My soul is lightened of its load,
And seeks the things above.

The things eternal I pursue,
A happiness beyond the view
Of those that basely pant
For things by nature felt and seen;
Their honors, wealth, and pleasures mean
I neither have nor want.

I have no sharer of my heart,
To rob my Savior of a part,
And desecrate the whole;
Only betrothed to Christ am I,
And wait His coming from the sky,
To wed my happy soul.

I have no babes to hold me here;
But children more securely dear
For mine I humbly claim,
Better than daughters or than sons,
Temples divine of living stones,
Inscribed with Jesus’ Name.

No foot of land do I possess,
No cottage in this wilderness,
A poor wayfaring man,
I lodge awhile in tents below;
Or gladly wander to and fro,
Till I my Canaan gain.

Nothing on earth I call my own;
A stranger, to the world unknown,
I all their goods despise;
I trample on their whole delight,
And seek a country out of sight,
A country in the skies.

There is my house and portion fair,
My treasure and my heart are there.
And my abiding home;
For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,
And Jesus bids me come.

“I come,” Thy servant, Lord, replies,
“I come to meet Thee in the skies,
And claim my heavenly rest”;
Now let the pilgrim’s journey end,
Now, O my Savior, Brother, Friend.
Receive me to Thy breast!

Today I'm linking up with

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Hymn of Thanksgiving

As I continue to reflect on having a more thankful heart, I came across this work by Anne Steele. The last three verses were adapted into a hymn, "Father, Whate'er of Earthly Bliss," but I think all the verses deserve to be reread during this week of Thanksgiving.

Desiring Resignation and Thankfulness

When I survey life’s varied scene,
Amid the darkest hours,
Sweet rays of comfort shine between,
And thorns are mixed with flowers.
Lord, teach me to adore Thy hand,
From whence my comforts flow,
And let me in this desert land
A glimpse of Canaan know.
  
Is health and easy my happy share?
Oh may I bless my God;
Thy kindness let my songs declare;
And spread Thy praise abroad.
  
While such delightful gifts as these
Are kindly dealt to me,
Be all my hours of health and ease
Devoted, Lord, to Thee.
  
In griefs and pains Thy sacred Word
(Dear solace of my soul!)
Celestial comforts can afford,
And all their power control.
  
When present sufferings pain my heart,
Or future terrors rise,
And light and hope almost depart
From these dejected eyes.
Thy powerful Word supports my hope
Sweet cordial of the mind!
And bears my fainting spirit up,
And bids me wait resign’d.
  
And oh whate’er of earthly bliss
Thy sovereign hand denies,
Accepted at Thy throne of grace,
Let this petition rise:
“Give me a calm, a thankful heart,
From every murmur free;
The blessings of Thy grace impart,
And let me live to Thee.
  
“Let the sweet hope that Thou art mine,
My path of life attend;
Thy presence through my journey shine,
And bless its happy end.”

Source: Hymn-writers and their hymns 

For information on the heartaches and suffering Anne endured visit this Hymn Studies blog.  

Is it all really joy?

If you're like me there are times when caught up in God-ordained trial (yes, that would be every trial) that it was difficult to count it as a joy. 
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. James 1:2
But the testing is meant to purify.  And if our Savior learned obedience through suffering, how much more do we I need to endure a fair bit of suffering? (Ouch)

"Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." Hebrews 5:8

For if he had only known obedience, though never so perfectly, in the notion of it, what relief could have accrued unto us thereby? how could it have been a spring of pity or compassion towards us? But now, whereas he himself took in his own person a full experience of the nature of that especial obedience which is yielded to God in a suffering condition, what difficulty it is attended withal, what opposition is made unto it, how great an exercise of grace is required in it, he is constantly ready to give us relief, as the matter doth require. -John Owen

So if you are in the middle of a trial right now take heart and remember:

  • Christ suffered more than you will ever suffer
  • God is Sovereign over all things and He oversees and ordains all that occurs in our lives
  • A heart that can praise God in the "storm" pleases God
  • The punishment we truly deserve is much greater than we can even imagine
James 1:3-4 continues on to say:

Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

"We so often want to view our hardships as nothing but an obstacle toward growth and maturation.  However, the trials we experience are from the hand of God and are working to produce steadfastness leading to maturity." (Count it All Joy by Scott Devor in Tabletalk Magazine, October 2011)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Much Information Makes Me . . . Mad?

Do you remember the statement Festus made to Paul in Acts 26?

Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!" Acts 26:24

There have been times I've been convinced that too much access to information online can drive a person crazy.  A few days ago I was bitten by some sort of insect.  It must have happened in my sleep as I noticed it when I got up in the morning.  My arm had a large red bump on it.  I didn't really think anything of it and wore long sleeves all day long.  At the end of the day I took a shower and got ready for bed.  Upon closer inspection I saw the red bump now had a squiggly red line coming out of it.  I mentally panicked a bit, but decided I should try to google some info to see if my life was in danger.  I couldn't find a good picture that matched my description, but I was pretty sure I must have been bitten by a brown recluse spider and my arm was in the process of rotting away.  The funny thing is that I've only seen one tiny harmless spider in our months of living at this house.  It's odd how the one deadly spider decided to attack me while in bed.

Jeff was in bed sleeping soundly at this point.  Thankfully I had enough common sense not to head directly to the ER.  I took my flashlight into the dark bedroom and woke him up and made him look at my arm.  He thought the squiggly line appeared to be on the surface of my skin.  I thought he was just too tired to care and wanted to go back to sleep.  I decided I would wait until morning before heading to the hospital.  Of course it was nothing and all signs of "necrosis" were gone by the time morning arrived. 

This incident reminded me how Abby once had a very high fever.  I googled her symptoms and was certain she had bacterial meningitis.  Ahh, the power of the internet.  It can diagnose our symptoms and convince us we are dying. 

In spite of my falters, I still want to keep my hope in my Savior, the Great Physician.  He is the one who controls our destiny and our health.  Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

In Paul's case, too much study of God's Word had not made him crazy.  The foolishness of the Gospel made him appear so to unbelieving Festus.  If I'm going to be called crazy I want it to be because of the God I serve and my faith in His Word.   The foolishness of the Gospel message appears crazy to those around us with blinded eyes.  Oh that someday they will see the truth clearly. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gossip-Free Zone?

Life has been full of a illness, work, and lots of homemaking catchup.  I've neglected to post anything lately as I've just been too tired after Abby's bedtime and I haven't been out taking photos as it's so dreary outside.  I love the crisp sunny days of autumn, but this transition time can be a bit lackluster.

I've been thinking about the issue of gossip.  I really try not to gossip.  Some of my previous jobs required me to be in the know of the dirty secrets hardly anyone knew about.  I would have been easier not to have known this information.

Anyway, I was listening to a preacher on the radio on my commute to Abby's daycare preach on gossip and he used the NICE acronym.  Have you heard of this?

  • N - Is it necessary?
  • I  - Is it important?
  • C - Is it compassionate?
  • E - Is it encouraging?   
I suppose this would reduce the amount of gossip to nearly nil if we filtered all of our conversations through this acronym.  My greatest challenge is knowing how to respond to someone who is gossiping.  I tend to be too nice.  I've usually tried to gently change the subject and this has often worked.  Perhaps I should be a bit more blunt. 

"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3

Next time I'm tempted to gossip I will pray that I would have the strength to just keep what I know to myself and not divulge unnecessary sordid details about broken lives.

Spurgeon said:  "Be deaf, be blind, be dead to gossip, and it will grow disgusted with you and select a more sensitive victim." 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy 1st Birthday!

Abby in her birthday hat celebrating a few days early!
Tomorrow we celebrate Abby's first birthday.   What an eventful year it has been.  My life drastically changed in the last year.   We are so blessed with our energetic explorer.  Both of us wonder how we managed to enjoy such a boring life before she arrived. It's also fascinating to look back and see how God prepared our steps before giving us the responsibility of raising our little daughter.
"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." Eccl. 3:1-8
 If you care to read the wordy birth story . . .

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Power of a Touch

I am reading the book  The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace by Gary Chapman and Paul White.  This is one of those books that cause Jeff to roll his eyes and ask "You really enjoy reading this"  I offered to let him take the book to his workplace, but he mentioned he thought the book would certainly suffer irreparable harm.

I just completed the chapter on the power of physical touch.  In this chapter a young single worker comments:  "It's funny that no one hesitates to touch a baby or pat a strange dog, but here I sit sometimes dying to have someone touch me and no one does.  I guess that we don't trust letting people know the fact that we all like to be touched because we are afraid that people will misinterpret it.  So we sit back in loneliness and physical isolation."  (pg.104)  I wonder how many single (and sadly married) individuals can relate?

I've been learning more about the power of touch in children and how touch can lower cortisol levels.  A lack of touch can impact a child for the rest of their lives. 
Death rates for touch deprived infants less than one year of age ranged from thirty to one hundred per cent. Those that survived had less than a fifty per cent chance of reaching
puberty. Evidence also showed that the brains of infants left in cots were
twenty per cent smaller than those who were picked up, cuddled and cradled,
despite adequate nutrition and hygiene. 
Source: http://www.babysensory.com/Downloads/TouchEN.pdf
As I prepared for a class I watched footage of infants who had been touch deprived and it brought tears to my eyes.  They were obviously developmentally challenged as they listlessly lay in their cribs.  How could anyone raise a child like this?  The footage was decades old, but this is still an ongoing problem.  Parents, take the time to carry and hug your child.  Husbands and wives, don't get so busy you only give your spouse a peck on the cheek each day.  Hug them, and more. . .   Hold the hands of the resident at the nursing home or the patient at the hospital. 

Touch is important.  Jesus thought so too. 
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16
For those believers feeling touch deprived don't give up hope; someday you too will feel the arms of Jesus wrapped around you. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Enough

Have you ever been caught up in the troubled waves of dissatisfaction? Perhaps you've attempted to treat your hungry soul with addictive sinful behaviors?  There is hope for you.  Jesus Christ is enough. 

Enough is authored by former missionary Helen Roseveare.  This small volume of six chapters addresses the sufficiency of Christ for salvation, assurance and emotional support.  That is, if we allow Him to be enough.  Or do we want "Jesus plus" the added benefits of success, wealth or adulation?  Can we thank God when He removes us from a place of ministry and gives us a thankless job that prevents us from using our gifts? 

She delves into issues she faced as a missionary in the Congo:  trusting Jesus, forgiving herself when she failed, and the sufficiency of grace.  Even as a missionary she was not immune to pride's ugly grasp.  I was convicted when I read this passage about her reaction to hearing "horrific items" on the news:
"Does what I have just heard lead me into prayer - for the individuals involved, for our degenerate society?  Or am I content to be correct myself and critical of the others?  Instead of rejoicing in God's goodness to me that has defended me from that particular sin, I take pride in my own ability to avoid the wrong (oh, the subtlety of pride, spiritual pride, pride in myself) rather than giving thanks to God for his amazing grace and for how he has delivered me from falling into that particular temptation."  (pg. 50)
This book made me reflect on the meaning of the "fellowship of his sufferings."  Our suffering can lead us to a deeper knowledge of who God is.  I marveled at the strength of her faith as she documents her response after being captured and abused by rebel soldiers.  She stated it seemed as if God asked, "Can you thank me for trusting you with this, even if I never tell you why?"  Here is an excellent blog post about Helen that continues to develop this thought.

This small book would be a wonderful read during a long drive, perhaps to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving.  I highly recommend it.

Disclaimer: Christian Focus Publications provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking Balance

On Sunday nights our church is going through the book of Acts.  I thoroughly enjoy the verse-by-verse study and the informal q&a.  Last Sunday evening we worked our way through most of Stephen's "defense" before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7.  This a wonderful overview of how God moved to accomplish His purposes from Abraham on.  That red thread of redemption is found woven throughout the history of Israel.

I was just reviewing some of what we discussed and what I personally gleaned from this passage:

  • The high priest here probably was still Caiaphas.  It's difficult to imagine a religious leader could be so hardened to the truth.
  • Abraham grew in his faith and obedience as he did not fully obey God's commands to him.  He was also close to God in spite of not having a temple to worship in.  
  • God's presence was with Joseph, but he did not have a temple to worship in. 
  • The ruler and leader Israel rejected was the man God had selected to lead them:  Moses.  This pattern continues when they reject God's Chosen One:  Jesus.
  • Stephen condemned them for the way they worshiped the temple instead of the God of the temple.  This became an idol to them just as their forefathers had worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness. 
  • God is not confined to a temple made with hands.  Yet is He absent from our lives other than when we step into a church building?  Are we seeking His presence at home, work, on the road? 
The greatness of Stephen’s sermon is not only in its content, but in its courage. “He takes the sharp knife of the Word and rips up the sins of the people, laying open the inward parts of their hearts, and the secrets of their souls . . . He could not have delivered that searching address with greater fearlessness had he been assured that they would thank him for the operation; the fact that his death was certain had no other effect upon him than to make him yet more zealous.” -Spurgeon
This sermon ends with Stephen pointedly telling the religious leaders they are betrayers and murderers.  Ouch.  This hurt so much that they again killed someone more righteous than themselves. 

I mentioned to pastor that Stephen's words are quite bold and I struggle with finding the balance between being too gentle or too confrontational.  Okay,  I admit I typically error on the side of gentleness as I want to be perceived as being "nice."  Pastor responded by pointing out that Jesus was harshest with the religious Pharisees and Sadducees and was most compassionate to sinners who recognized their need for a Savior.  I know this is a pattern I need to follow. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Love You More

I have several friends who have adopted children.  But I was not acquainted with my friends during their adoption process.  In Love You More I felt as if I were joining author Jennifer Grant on her adoption journey.  She candidly writes about God calling her and her husband to adopt a fourth child.  Yes, they already had three biological children when they made the decision to adopt. Mia is the Guatemalan-born daughter God seemed to choose for them. Their adoption of Mia bumped the plain-vanilla Grant family into a "conspicuous family" bracket.

If you have ever considered adoption or have friends who have adopted, then I would recommend reading this book.  Jennifer takes the reader through the steps that led to their adoption of Mia when she was 2 years old.  I can definitely relate to her stories about how parenthood drastically changed their lifestyle and priorities.  Children change us and transform our lives into something new.   And yes I agree that they  "almost certainly will strip you of your pride." (pg. 25)

There are funny moments in this book.  I can definitely relate to Jennifer's comment about moms using "our body more than our brain." (pg.13)  Jennifer opens up about their miscarriage and dealing with the loss of a life.  While she didn't deal with infertility she recounts how their very close friends struggled and eventually adopted three girls from China.   It was difficult to imagine going through the expense, paperwork and scrutiny required to adopt a baby.  Even their BMI was measured.  Ugh.  This made me appreciate how "easy" it was to birth a baby into the world and take her home after a few days in the hospital.

Everything from the lengthy wait, the unmet expectations, to racial issues to post-adoption blues are covered in this book.  I learned the best thing to say to friends or family who want to adopt is a simple "Congratulations."    I also liked the idea about creating a Lifebook scrapbook for the adopted child. 

There are reasons not to adopt too.  "When a person adopts a child out of pity, a desire to be nice, or to help the poor, it might be a very, very unfortunate choice for everyone involved."  (pg. 42)  But for those who have a growing interest in growing their family through adoption, Jennifer offers words of wisdom and resources are included in an appendix. 

By the end of the book Jennifer is beginning to understand God's grace and that God loves her as much on her worst day as He does on her best day.  That His love is not dependent on her actions or efforts.  She is an Episcopalian who loves God, but I certainly am not certain what her status is in God's eyes.  While she does refer to God directing her steps and uses a sprinkling of scripture verses throughout the book I don't believe those who aren't overly religious would be offended by this book.  I would consider this more of an inspirational book than a religious book.

Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Dead Mouse

I often use my laptop as a cookbook.  Not exactly a smart idea as I cannot get through the recipe without splattering a bit of batter or a dusting of flour on my machine.  Today I was scanning my favorite recipe sites when my mouse died.  I use a wireless one as I strongly dislike using my touchpad.

Now having dead batteries in my mouse is such a minor annoyance, but it was so irritating. I looked accusingly at Abby sitting next to me as she often borrows my mouse when I'm not watching her and attempts to chew on it.  The red light on the bottom is mesmerizing. I repeatedly slammed it into the couch thinking the batteries were only loose, but they weren't.  They were lifeless.  Abby looked a little puzzled to see her mother get so upset with the mouse.

Our days can be going along quite swimmingly when suddenly a minor irritation pops it's ugly head.  I remember reading a quote that said "I'm an angel as long as no one ruffles my feathers."  Isn't that the truth?  It's easy to be good when life is good.  But what about minor difficulties, like a car that won't start, a broken family heirloom, a child that makes you late to an appointment?  How do you react?  If you can't react with grace, peace and thankfulness in your heart during the minor stresses how will you react when God takes away a love one, or you are diagnosed with cancer, or a child rebels against your authority?

Right now I'm going through a bit of a personal challenge.  I don't know what the outcome will be, but it almost seems as if it's easier to turn this situation over to God than to deal with the minor irritations.   I find that getting enough sleep, eating a healthier diet, keeping an ongoing dialogue with God and spending time feasting on His Word are all helpful steps when it comes to living a grace-filled life.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Corinthians 12:9-10
Are you content in the midst of your weaknesses (not sins, of course)?  Do you allow the peace that only God can give to fill your heart during trying moments?  This is what I desire for myself.  Every morning I need to be reprogrammed so that I will remember who I am living for and what His purpose is for me.

Today I'm linked up with:
Beholding Glory

Symbolism or Not?

I recently read a small book by Helen Roseveare, Enough.   She talks about her struggles pre-conversion with trying to grasp what the Lord's Supper is all about.  She grew up in the church of England where transubstantiation was taught.  As an adult she heard the Gospel and learned about grace instead of "the way of following rules and regulations." During this time of internal struggle when she is unsure whether she had been taught wrong she states:
I wanted their assurance, their knowledge of God as their Savior, their peace - but I dreaded the possibility of being wrong and forfeiting all the past.  There was an elderly lady at the house party, little Miss Candy. I went to see her to ask her help - how could I be sure? "What is your difficulty?" she asked me.  "In the Bible, when Jesus gave the bread and wine to his disciples at the Last Supper, he said, 'This is my body' and 'This is my blood' - but you people don't believe this!"  Miss Candy asked me to go to the locker by her bedside and bring her the photo that was there.  As I gave it to her she said, "This is my father."  I knew at once what she was saying.  Her father had been dead for many years.  The photo reminded her of her father.  Likewise the bread and wine were to be reminders to us of what Jesus had done for us on the cross."  (pg. 18)
What a simple way to demonstrate the elements of the Lord's Supper are symbols to remind us of what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.  I like simple object lessons that teach truth.  Not only can they be used with children, but also with adults who are seeking for answers.

Is there an object lesson you have used to teach a biblical principle?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Project 64: Brick Red

It has not been my intention to skip any colors, but I seem to have missed the deadlines for the last two colors.  Now that cooler temperatures are here to stay I must make it a priority to get out and shoot some pictures.

This afternoon Abby and I went out in the yard and I raked a big pile of leaves and plopped her down into them.  She wasn't too impressed with the prickly brown objects around her.  I tried shooting a few photos, but most didn't include a happy expression.  This one below was taken after all remnants of leaves were brushed off.



Visit Project 64 for additional red brick entries.

Baby Steps

Tonight Abby took her very first baby steps.  The neighbors probably heard us cheering and clapping through our opened windows.  Our reaction motivated her to continue trying to walk until she was totally exhausted. How exciting to reach this milestone.  I suppose I'll soon regret the fact that she can walk as that means more baby-proofing (I should sell baby-proofing gift baskets, it seems to be a fairly untapped market.)

These baby steps reminded me to be thankful we have a healthy child.  Don't we take this for granted too often?  There are parents who will never see their baby walk.  There are parents who never had a chance to meet their baby on this earth. There are parents who are see their child regress as disease destroys their little body. 

These baby steps also remind me that I should be constantly growing as a Christian.  I should be more disciplined and desire to be challenged spiritually through seeking out conversations with unbelievers, immersing myself in books of the Bible that seem to be difficult to grasp, and taking time to pray about all things.  It takes discipline to grow and I'm so easily distracted. 

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual [people] but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able [to receive it], and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where [there are] envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like [mere] men?I Corinthians 3:1-3  

As a Christian, in which category might you be found:  infant, child, adolescent, or mature adult?  Are you continuing to exhibit behavior found only in "babies?"












































       



Sunday, October 9, 2011

I Sing the Mighty Power of God

This morning in the worship service we sang this hymn:

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.


I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.


There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.


The line that talks about borrowing life from God really jumped out at me.   Of course I know this to be a fact, but I don't reflect on it much.  Too often I fail to be intentional about how I use these borrowed minutes, hours and days.   We are commanded to make each moment count by redeeming the time as we live in a very evil world.  (Ephesians 5:16)  Too many waste the gift of physical life on the pursuit of pleasure and self-fulfillment.  When I stand before my Savior I don't want to have him disappointed in me for having squandered my borrowed time on frivolous activities.  I want to use this borrowed time more wisely and ensure I am bringing glory to God. 

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return." Job 1:21 The thought of borrowed time also reminds me that I certainly don't own any temporal possessions.  I do have the blessing of using them for a season. I should be more grateful for all the blessings God has bestowed upon me. 
 
How does the knowledge that you're living on borrowed time impact your daily walk with God?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sunset in October



"He appointed the moon for seasons; The sun knows its going down. You make darkness, and it is night, In which all the beasts of the forest creep about." 
Psalm 104:20

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our New Home, Church That Is

I am very grateful for the new home church that God has led Jeff and I to.  We have been attending Bethany for just over two months and since we stepped inside the doors it has felt like home.  We live hundreds of miles away from our nearest biological family so we wanted a church that preached the Gospel and would become our spiritual family for a season, or maybe a lifetime. 

While the church doesn't have a website and can't be found on a GPS, God still used technology to lead us to the church.  An email to a pastor of a church over 100 miles from Beloit tipped me off to the Village Missions website, which is how I discovered our new church.  It was down on the bottom of our list of churches to try and yet somehow it was meant to be at the top of God's list.

I am so thankful for men of God who are willing to devote their time and energy to tiny rural churches.  Their goal cannot be to build big churches in terms of attendance, but to faithfully serve their Savior by preaching the Word and helping members to grow spiritually.  Thousands of times I have prayed for God to lead us to a home church and He has answered that prayer.  I just want to remind myself to thank God for our church as often as I prayed and requested Him to direct us to one.  That's difficult to do isn't it?  Too often God answers prayer and then we go on to begin begging Him to answer whatever pressing need we have.

Pastor is preaching through Philippians and on Sunday he expounded on these verses:
"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy." Philippians 1:4-5
I want this to be what I can say regarding my new church family.  We have felt the connection we have in Christ with them.  Don't you love that unexplainable connection?  It can be stronger than biological ties and that can often be a good thing.  No, I don't have just one sister,  I have hundreds of sisters who I love and pray for regularly.  Won't heaven be a wonderful place?

Today I'm linking up with:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What Motivates You?

What motivates you to perform a good deed? To place a check in the offering plate? To volunteer to teach a Sunday School class?

I know there have been times I've been motivated act a certain way merely to maintain a godly Christian persona. I've been more concerned about pleasing (yes, even impressing) those around me instead of honoring God. Self-righteousness is something I struggle with as I can barely remember the days before my conversion. "How can people live such wretched lives," I wonder to myself as I look at the chaos around me. But their sin is the same sin that affects me. I may not be controlled by it thanks to God's grace, but it still taints my life and my motives.

I read this today:
"If our human obedience or morality isn't motivated by gratitude for God's grace, it is very dangerous.  If not rooted in gratitude for God's love for us in Christ, morality is deadlier to the soul than immorality.  Why?  Remember that Jesus said it is those who are lost, who know they need a physician, that he came to save (Luke 19:10).  Those who excel at the sort of obedience listed above may not see their need for a Savior; their hearts may be hardened and unfazed by God's grace . . . A society riddled with immorality will not be a pleasant place to live, but a society riddled with self-congratulatory morality will be satanic and resistant to grace."  Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson (pg. 44)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lies on the Playground

“Truth is the agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God.” Jonathan Edwards
Abby and I volunteered at our local elementary school today.  The kindergarten class needed extra help during lunch and recess so I decided to give it a shot.  I was at a disadvantage as I didn't know much about the schedule and hadn't met any of the students or teachers before today.  I'm not sure I actually provided much assistance.  The lunch room was incredibly noisy.  So noisy it was difficult to focus.  I saw several little ones putting their hands over their ears as it was way more stimulation than they could handle.  Abby loved the noise and the children and let out a few shrieks in her little 11-month old voice.

It was a sunny warm day so the kids released their pent up energy on the playground after lunch.  I had worked with 5-17 year-olds in my mentoring program, but was never around this many kindergartners at one time.  They were so rambunctious.  I became exhausted watching them (perhaps carrying Abby in the hot sun was a factor also).  There was some pushing and tussling; the normal kids being kids.

I found it quite interesting that I was a lied to a few times.  Once by two little boys who told me they were allowed to play out on the soccer field, when I later learned this was not the case.  They obviously knew I wouldn't know the difference.  And another little boy didn't want to get into line so he told me he wasn't part of the class, which was a lie.  Isn't it amazing how little hearts are full of lies at such an early age?  They desire to manipulate and deceive without being taught to do so (although some do have negative role models).
The wicked are estranged from the womb; They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies. Psalm 58:3

We are all born depraved sinners going our own selfish way; living a life full of lies and hypocrisy.  For those of us who have since been converted, we still sometimes revert to our lying ways.   Our church is beginning a ladies' study on the book of 1 John.  I've been re-reading it numerous times so I can begin to dig deeper into the meaning of passages.  Tonight this verse popped out at me:



If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?I John 4:20


I'll admit I've been guilty of this.  I would never outwardly state I hate a brother or sister, but there have been times I've harbored hatred and unforgiveness toward them.  And there are times I've seen another Christian sin and felt hatred toward them, not because I was affected, but because they dared commit such a heinous act.  I realize we as Christians should hate sin, but I have hated the sinner when they happen to be a professing Christian.  With God's help I want to work on replacing the lies with forgiveness, prayer and genuine love. 

May I say with Solomon:

For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. [and my heart] Proverbs 8:7

Today I'm linked up with:

Botanica Garden

We took an overnight trip to Wichita over the weekend.  It happened to be Free Museum Day so we spent a very short time, unfortunately, at the Botanica Gardens in Wichita.  The New Children's Garden is lovely.  In a few years Abby will be able to enjoy it.  On this trip she had more fun watching the other children play. 

The gardens were meant to be a relaxing place.  There were many spots for people to sit down and enjoy the beauty surrounding them.  Instead, those who sat down seemed to have their smart phones in their hand and were glued to them. 








Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: The Runner's Devotional

Discipline is required of runners.  I am not a runner, but I thought this book, The Runner's Devotional:  Inspiration and Motivation for Life's Journey . . . On and Off the Road,  would encourage me to begin running.  I've since realized that I'm just too tired to run and I'll have to wait until little Abby is a bit older before I attempt to run.  In the meantime I will continue to walk, cycle and occasionally swim.

This devotional book ties together the spiritual analogy of preparing for life's race with the physical training required to become a disciplined runner.  It emphasizes setting goals and developing self-control to adhere to these goals.  Each weekly chapter offers a spiritual thought tied with the running theme followed by an experience shared by a runner.  The "Think it Through" section encourages the reader to reflect on some personal questions.  An "On Running" tip that offers practical physical advice on diet or training.  The week's journey ends with a journal section and a running log.  I personally prefer a devotional that divvies up a portion per day, but authors, Dana Niesluchowski and Dave Veerman, note that the chapters can be read in one setting or divided up over a week.  Also note the amount of space provided for the running log varies by chapter, but certain chapters seem a bit skimpy.

This devotional is definitely inspiring, but is not an in-depth Bible study.  There is a heavy emphasis on increasing your physical stamina in addition to boosting your personal self-confidence.  I think you could probably give it to friends and family members who consider themselves to be a Christian without them being offended.   I found the personal stories shared by dozens of runners humorous, motivating, and at times sad.  The devotional ends with a scripture index and a then comprehensive training plans for runners wanting to tackle 5ks up to marathon.

While reading this devotional, I came across the Principle of Disuse (see page 320).  This states:  "If you stop training, your state of fitness will drop to a level that meets only the demands of daily use."  Amazing how this applies to our spiritual state of "fitness" also. If we stop exercising our faith and if we skip studying the Word, our spiritual fitness is affected.  When we're called to run God's race, we fall short because we weren't spending the necessary time training daily.  

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.  I Timothy 4:8

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book to me.  I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own.   I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:“Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday Facts

Fact:  It's difficult to sit through any type of sporting event with an 11 month old child, especially one who likes to poke and grab the poor young man sitting next to her.

Fact:  It's much easier when said child falls asleep in the middle of a noisy arena with thousands of screaming bull-riding fans.

Fact:  I tried to run with Abby in the stroller this evening, but it sounded as if the wheels would fall off so I stopped.  Maybe I'll try again next year.

Fact:  I wish humans had plugins that could be downloaded.  I seem to be lacking the Organization plugin.  Or does that come as a gene?

Fact:  The longer I'm a mom, the crunchier I get.

Fact:  I have a jar of homemade infused antibacterial cleaner stewing in my laundry room.

Fact:  I also have a maiden jar of sauerkraut stewing in my laundry room.

Fact:  Tomorrow I will be trudging through the woods searching for a deer my husband thinks he shot.  

Fact:  I had the opportunity to pound play the piano at church yesterday!  It was the first time in several years after moving away from my home church almost 3 years ago.

Fact:  I still miss Wisconsin and my church family there.  They continue to influence my life more than they will ever know.

Fact:  I spend too much time trying to prepare for and plan for my future. 

Fact:  My weaknesses make me rely on God even more.  


Today I'm linked up with:

Friday, September 23, 2011

Project 64: Sepia

I won't be near my laptop tomorrow so I suppose I have to post my sepia entry. This was actually taken last week, but I didn't seem to have anything else that was a better match.

Visit Project 64 for additional sepia entries.

Paralyzing Fear

Has fear ever gripped you and wrapped it's tight chains around your heart?  I've had a few instances where I've been fearful for my physical safety. Two instances stand out in my mind.  One was a time when I was in a shower and couldn't hear my potential attacker breaking into my house (he never showed up) and another time I was very fearful in a tent when I was certain a neighbor was going to shoot us (that obviously didn't happen either). More often I'm fearful about the future, about personal finances, about a collapse of our economy, about a career change, about raising a child, about what others think of me.  It seems I overcome one fear and another one pops up.  And, believe me, I'm not a fearful, worrying type.  But I do have my moments.

When I am fearful it's wonderful to reflect on the ways God has protected me in the past.  (I really should begin a journal where I note each specific fear as they arise and then note how God provided and protected me.  I forget too quickly.) God's Word and prayer are great weapons to use to combat fear.  I love Psalm 121, a beautiful psalm of encouragement reminding us of God's constant presence and oversight of our life.  Verse 7 says:  "The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul." The Hebrew word for "evil" seems to mean all physical evil, such as wild animals and unruly men (women too, I suppose).  And then the verse ends with the promise that God will preserve your soul.  How comforting is that?  This promise is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

Tabletalk Magazine had an article in the September issue entitled "What if or if God?" The author, J.R. Vassar, asks if we will let fear keep us from obeying God.  Here is an excerpt:
When it comes to the issue of fear, we all face the same question.  Will I choose to quench the Spirit by cowering under the tyranny of the what if:  What if I fail?  What if I suffer?  What if I go without?  If God is prompting you to cross the street and engage a neighbor or to cross the ocean and invest your life among an unreached people, will the what if paralyze you?  If God is stirring your heart toward radical, future-shaping generosity, will the what if have the final say?  Will you let an unsanctified imagination stir up potential scenarios that argue you out of obedience to the Scriptures and the Spirit's promptings?
 He ends with this sentence:

If God is holy, sovereign, wise, good, powerful, and abounding in love, let us resolve to no longer ascribe greater authority to our fears than we do to God. 
I don't want fear to rule my life, but rather to be filled with faith in my Sovereign God who knows what is best for me and will give me grace to face any future trials.   I want to eradicate the "what ifs" in my life as I learn to lean more and more upon Savior.  What about you?
  I'm linking up with:

Beholding Glory

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Weary Flesh, Brimming Brain

"Much study is wearisome to the flesh." Ecclesiastes 12:12
Today I attended an all-day conference on breastfeeding.  It was superb and may be the impetus I needed to assist new moms in their desire to learn about breastfeeding.  My brain is bursting with information.  Ever get that feeling?  I learned so much, but am afraid some of it is going to leak out (pardon the pun).

It was the first time I had been away from Abby for about eight hours.  She survived and actually did quite well with her little playmates.  By the time I arrived home to see her I was just itching to go for a walk.  My legs ached and my brain felt stretched beyond capacity.  A brisk walk pushing a 20+ lb. baby in a stroller did the trick. 

I thought of this verse in Ecclesiastes as I was walking.  Solomon must have known what it was like to spend hours studying all God created.  I can't imagine the wisdom he was gifted with, but yet he recognized that too much study is just plain wearisome.  My solution was to get outside and breathe some fresh air.  It rejuvenated my spirit and reminded me how good God is.  I won't begin to surmise how Solomon may have relaxed after too much studying.

Do you know of someone who is spending too much time indoors?  Do their eyes have a dull glazed look to them?  Is their skin pasty and pale?  Invite them to join you in walking, riding, or cycling through God's creation.  Fresh air and a break for tired brains can work wonders.  Enjoy the beauty of God's creation . . . before it's too cold for man or beast. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Downtown Car Show

Abby and I walked to a car show on Saturday.  I'm really not that interested in cars, but do enjoy looking at the classic ones from bygone days.  Abby enjoyed people-watching and attracting attention.








Monday, September 19, 2011

Living What I Believe

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:22-25

I learn, but do not retain what I learn because I fail to apply this new-found wisdom.  I'm distracted by life's busyness and the nothingness that wastes so much of my time.  I have a hunger to learn more about doctrine and God's ways, but little time to study.  I must be content in studying bits here and there and purposely seeking to understand God's ways and attributes through my daily walk with Him:  in nature, in the godly music playing in the background, in my relationships, in the mundane circumstances, and in the answered prayers.

Today I had a chance to read a few pages from Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology:

You are what you believe.  If your life does not adorn your biblical doctrine, it suggests not that the Bible's doctrine is untrue but that at some profound level, that truth has not taken hold of you yet.  It ought to be our aim to out-live, out-rejoice, and out-die the critics of theology and doctrine - to adorn our doctrine with our lives.  -J. Ligon Duncan III

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Project 64: Blue Violet

I really struggled to find this color. I think the tips of the flower are fairly close to blue violet. I didn't want to use a flower, but couldn't seem to find anything else.



To view additional entries visit Project 64.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Myth of Full-Time Ministry

Have you ever felt just a little disappointed that God failed to call you to serve Him as a missionary, pastor, or pastor's wife?  Have you ever felt like you were inferior to these "chosen" men and women of God.  I confess I have.  These spiritual giants have sometimes made me feel a bit insignificant in the kingdom of God.  Surely they must have special seats in Heaven right next to the throne.

But wait a minute, where is full-time ministry mentioned in the Bible?  Of course some are called to be pastors/elders and others are chosen to be deacons, but what about the rest of us?  Does God view as us as members of a lesser class, the "lay-people," since our salary doesn't come from a church or mission board?  Not at all.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
Unfortunately, too many Christians have tried to elevate the status of those who are pastors/elders and missionaries.  I certainly believe men who hold a spiritual leadership position should be respected and their physical needs met through the giving of tithes and offerings by the church body.  But keep in mind that the Bible clearly teaches that we are called to serve the Lord in all that we do.  Yes, Christian plumbers, cops, nurses, stay-at-home moms were all commissioned into full-time service the moment they were converted.   We are called to share the Gospel and to use the spiritual gifts God has blessed us with to benefit our local church body.  There is no secular or sacred in God's kingdom; all we do is service for our King.


I found this paragraph from a Christianity Today article fascinating:
Greek words meaning "layperson" existed at the time the New Testament was written. But the writers chose not to use them. "Laikos," meant of the common people. And "idiotes" meant non-expert. But the New Testament uses neither term to describe believers. Instead, it calls us "laos Theou," the people of God. Every true Christian belongs to the "laos." But as the first century ended, one of the church fathers, Clement of Rome, began dividing the church into classes, calling the non-ministering members "laikos" (laity). Now, some twenty centuries later, the "laity" terms, firmly embedded in our religious language, shape the way we think.

I may not receive a salary from a church or mission board, but I have a Boss who is keeping track of my time sheet.  Right now He is monitoring my activity to make sure I'm truly giving Him my best.  You see, I've been in full-time Christian ministry since I was seven years old.

What about you?  Has God called you to serve Him in some thankless mundane job?  He is not ignoring your service.  He knows your frustrations.  Do not be ashamed of your full-time calling. 
" For he that is least among you all, the same is great." Luke 9:48b

I'm linked up with:
Beholding Glory

No Excuse for Flabby Muscles

Jeff and I were talking recently about how much easier it was to be single.  I love being married, but it was easy to become selfish when I was single.  It didn't matter what my spouse wanted to do because I didn't have one.  Life was mostly about me and there were fewer responsibilities.  The money I earned was mine to do with as I pleased.  I could eat what and when I wanted. I could travel whenever I felt like it, budget permitting.

Marriage changed everything.  It was no longer about me, it was about "us."  Everything I did affected him and vice versa.  Gradually our habits changed to accommodate one another:  hobbies, sleep patterns, temperature of the house, decorating styles and so much more.  Along with change came challenges.   Sometimes I disagreed with his way of doing things.  Sometimes he thought he was right and he wasn't.  Okay, I've been wrong on numerous occasions also.

Adding a baby to the picture changed our lives even more.  We love being parents, but it's a daily challenge.  I always wonder if I'm parenting the right way.  Abby tests my patience and has quite the rebellious streak.   Parenting is frustrating.  There can be highs and lows within the span of 10 minutes.  I love being a parent, but it's sometimes it's like having a tiny stalker who will not leave you alone.  (lol) 

So we had this conversation about singleness because I told Jeff how much easier life would be if I were single and holed up in a monastery or convent.  The temptations would be fewer.  It would be so much easier to read my Bible, fast, and pray and be shut away from the din of today's technology and the dangers lurking around every corner.   It would be easy to appear saint-like when separated from stress and temptations. 

But this is not what God intended for Christians, at least not for the majority of us.   He wants us to exercise our spiritual muscles.  He pushes us through the spiritual boot-camp of life.  He wants us to achieve some powerful biceps and quadriceps.   There are no shortcuts; no magical muscle enhancing surgery. These muscles only develop through use.

Are you also suffering from some spiritual muscle soreness?  Have you faced some recent challenges that tested your faith and revealed your true heart condition?  It's for your own good.  God has a sovereign plan behind the tests you are currently enduring.

While we may be called to the desert for a period of time, God doesn't want us to live a spiritually lethargic life, separated from all non-believers. 
"I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one."  John 17:15
I thank God for blessing me with Jeff and little Abby to whip me into spiritual shape.  My muscles would be seriously atrophied without them.  
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