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." 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...