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. 
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:

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