Titus 2:11-13

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Serving Others

My friend Marcia just wrote about Givers and Takers on her blog, and it kind of touched on something I was just thinking about the other day....

Abel, my 2 1/2-year old, is getting to the age where he is pretty handy to have around.  I can ask him to do the most menial of tasks--throw a dirty diaper in the trash, run outside and grab the paper, carry dirty dishes from the table to the sink--and nine out of ten times he will do it promptly and joyfully.  His willing obedience brings joy to my heart, and it also saves me a few steps.  The other day as he was happily fulfilling my request to get a tissue for Amariah's nose, I thought to myself, "How much longer until he realizes it isn't always 'fun' to help?"

Looking back on this, I realize that the fact that I even had such a thought doesn't say too much about me.  I think one can easily infer that I must not think it's always fun to help others.  Thanks to Abel's willingness to serve joyfully, I am now forced to reevaluate my own attitude towards serving others.  I pray that rather than Abel learning from my attitude that "serving isn't always fun," I will instead learn from Abel's attitude that serving others is a joy and a privilege.

Monday, October 27, 2008

And the Doorbell Rings

Saturday morning a nice young lady with two sweet little girls came ringing our doorbell.  One little girl handed me a flyer, and my ears closed as I turned it over in my hands quickly trying to discover who these people were.  Without any thought, I asked, "What church are you with?"  When the answer, "Kingdom Hall," came, I again spoke without thinking, "Oh, well, I'm a Christian" and handed the flyer back to the dutiful little girl.  When the woman then began to equate her beliefs with mine, I retorted that I was pretty sure Jehovah's Witnesses believe things about Jesus that don't agree with Christian doctrine.  Unable to articulate these differences off the top of my head, I sincerely told the woman and her daughters that I was sorry they were being deceived and that I would pray for them.  At that they left my doorstep and headed to the next house down the street.

Not exactly pleased with the way I had handled (or not handled) this opportunity, I quickly called a man from our church who just recently started a ministry to the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons.  I told him how I had turned this woman away before even thinking to invite her back for further discussion and asked him when he would be available to join such a discussion should she accept the invitation.  He told me anytime next Saturday would work for him, and I got off the phone hoping for an opportunity to catch the woman before she left the neighborhood.

I watched from my front door as neighbor after neighbor turned this woman away.  Finally, she made it back to the van which she and another family had apparently carpooled in, and they drove back down the street towards our house.  Heart racing, I walked to the end of our driveway and waved them down.  They pulled right over, she reluctantly accepted my invitation to return Saturday morning at 11:00, and they drove away.

A short while later, my doorbell rang again.  The two women from the van had returned to ask me what specifically I wanted to discuss with them and to give me some literature that would correspond to that topic.  I took the booklet entitled What Does the Bible Really Teach? and told the woman that I would like to discuss our differences of beliefs on Jesus.  They wanted to stay and talk right then, but since we were getting ready to head out to run some errands, I was able to again get her agreement to return (this) Saturday.

Travis and I are preparing spiritually and academically for this meeting and are praying fervently that our speech will be seasoned with salt and full of grace.  I am sincerely grieved that these people are being deceived and am praying that God will use this meeting to begin the process of this family finding the Truth.

We would appreciate your prayers in these upcoming days.  May God be glorified.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Thoughts from a Tired Woman

Can I just say... I feel terrible! Being pregnant is kicking my butt! I'm so tired I could hardly care less about anything but sleep (which poses a slight problem considering the fact that I have a husband, two toddlers, and a home to care for); and on top of that, I have a cold that has left me with a sore throat, headache, chronic cough, and no voice. Combine all this and you get an extremely tired pregnant woman who can't sleep and doesn't have enough time to try. Not a very good scenario.

There. Those are my complaints from my temporal perspective.

BUT... if I can get over myself for a moment and look at this with an eternal perspective, I would realize that the privilege and blessing of carrying a child whom God has given me is worth the short-lived (it will be short-lived, right?) misery. I would realize that I am called to put the needs of others before my own. I would realize that I have a God who provides for all my needs and who never slumbers nor sleeps. I would realize how blessed I am to have an understanding, helpful husband. I would realize that I am to praise God and give Him thanks in all things--even when I feel terrible.

So, as I search for the capacity to praise God in spite of myself, I'm off to bed for what I hope will not be another sleepless night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Second Line

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Last Monday morning, October 13th, I watched with complete surprise as once again two little pink lines appeared before my eyes.  Not wanting the disappointment of another negative pregnancy test (apparently my PMS symptoms are becoming more and more like pregnancy symptoms), I had been determined to wait for several more days before even considering that I might be pregnant.  But all it took was my husband's question, "Aren't you going to take a pregnancy test?" and my mind was changed.  Completely prepared for and expecting a negative result, I was quite shocked (but happy!) when that second line appeared.  I kind of think my husband somehow knew that I was pregnant--or that he was at least hoping so.  A few days before when I made a comment with the assumption that I was not pregnant, Travis said, "Why would you say that?  Don't you want to be pregnant?"  I'm so blessed to have a husband who, like me, trusts God's timing for children and welcomes them as a blessing.

We are praying fervently for this child whom God is forming in my womb.  I know of so many women who have conceived only months after suffering a miscarriage, and now it is me in those shoes.  I am humbled by the knowledge of God's sovereignty in this situation, and it is my hope and prayer that, like my first two pregnancies, all will go well this fourth time around.  I know that this baby will never "replace" Ande in our hearts but just like the first three will find a whole new place of its own there.  And so I will end as I began as my heart joyfully sings, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remembering Ande Lynn

I have learned through a couple of the blogs I read that today, October 15th, is the National Day of Remembrance for Pregnancy and Infant Loss.  I understand that people all over the world are invited to light a candle at 7:00 tonight in remembrance of babies lost to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, still birth, or early infant death.

We will be lighting a candle in remembrance of our baby Ande Lynn whom we lost to miscarriage on July 14, 2008.  Only three months have passed since we said goodbye to our hope of meeting our sweet baby on this side of Heaven, and the pain of loss is still very real to us.  Yet God, by His sovereignty and grace, has strengthened us (thus the name Ande, which means "strong, courageous") and taught us a great deal throughout this trial.  I praise God for the promise we have of meeting Ande one day in Heaven, and I am greatly comforted in knowing that Ande is already there.

To my many friends who have also lost a precious baby to miscarriage or early infant death, my thoughts and prayers are with you today.  May God grant you the same strength and courage that He has supplied to me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Forgive and Forget

If you haven't noticed, the issue of forgiveness has been on my mind lately. Specifically,  I've been reflecting on the nature of God's forgiveness, our call to forgive one another, and our responsibility to seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged.  I believe that these three forgiveness issues are related:  because we are forgiven by God, we must forgive those who wrong us and seek forgiveness from those whom we have wronged.

Speaking of those who will accept God's forgiveness, Psalm 103:12 states, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  And in Isaiah 43:25,  "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins." 

God forgives our sins, and then He forgets them.  I've been thinking about this for a while now and trying to figure out how it applies to our human-to-human relationships.  Is it really possible, humanly speaking, to forget a sin committed against you?  And if you haven't forgotten it, does that mean you haven't truly forgiven it?

After listening to a sermon yesterday, I think I've come closer to an answer for these questions.  I don't know yet if my partial conclusions hold true to Scripture (and if they don't, then throw them out!); but I do think they hold true to my life experience.

In his teaching on the Lord's prayer, this pastor spoke of forgiveness as a choice to "let it go"--not to pretend like it didn't happen or like it didn't hurt, but to decide to give up one's right to seek vengeance and justice.  He then clarified that just because forgiveness has then taken place does not necessarily mean that reconciliation has occurred.  Reconciliation, he said, only happens when both repentance and forgiveness are involved.

So then I started thinking about reconciliation and the role it seems to play in my finding the capacity to forget.  I realized that in the instances where I have been wronged and reconciliation has occurred, I seem to naturally forget the wrong committed against me.  But in the instances where I have had to choose to forgive in the absence of repentance--and thereby in the absence of reconciliation--I find it much more difficult to forget.

The danger in this remembering of sins is the tendency to develop bitterness towards the person whom you are forgiving.  I say "are forgiving" because, for me, this choice to forgive an unrepentant person is an ongoing action.  Each time I remember the wrong, I have to forgive again.  This makes me still wonder if my inability to forget stems from a possibly incomplete or insincere forgiveness.

May God search my heart and reveal to me any people or sins which I haven't truly and completely forgiven that I may be fully obedient to the Scripture: "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions"] (Mark 11:25-26).

If anyone has any thoughts or words of encouragement on this issue, please share!

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Practice of Prayer

I don't pray as much as I should.  There, I said it.  There are several things currently happening in my life that have driven me to pray and praise more; but as my heart becomes more aligned with God's through prayer, I am seeing how short I am falling when it comes to talking to my Father.

There are some things I've noticed about prayer in my life personally: 
  1. that the more I pray, the more I desire to pray;
  2. that prayer makes my heart soft towards God; 
  3. and that praying teaches me of my dependence upon God.  
So why don't I pray more?  Often times when I am examining myself, it is my prayerlessness that God shows me.  This isn't to say that I lead a prayer-less life.  But I'm not sure to what extent I'd call it a prayer-full life, either.  Regardless, God is calling me to pray more.

In Christian circles, prayer is often referred to as a discipline.  According to thefreedictionary.com, discipline is defined as "training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior."  In addition, common experience tells us that discipline involves time, energy, and commitment.  So, God is training me through various trials, conversations, sermons, and circumstances to become more prayerful.  But in order for that training to produce the desired character or behavior (i.e. prayerfulness), I must put forth the time, energy, and commitment to pray.

Undoubtedly, this is a hard thing to do.  This world (i.e. Satan) is in opposition to prayer and to God.  But God who calls us to pray can teach, motivate, and enable us to pray!  Praying, which is communicating with our Abba Father ("Daddy"), accomplishes at least a couple things:
  1. it deepens our relationship with God,
  2. and it aligns our hearts with God's.
So no wonder Satan doesn't want us to pray, right?!

Needless to say, I think I have the necessary knowledge of prayer; but it is the greater practice of prayer which God is calling me to.  May He grant me the desire and the discipline to pray, and may He continue to align my heart with His as I communicate with Him!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Heart Full of Praise

Tonight I am writing with a heart full of praise.  I don't know if I can even put into words all that is welling up within me, but for God's glory I would like to try....

As I think about God's forgiveness, I am driven to praise.  Nothing in us merits forgiveness, and yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)--the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

Praise You, God, for the free gift of forgiveness which You have given to all who will believe.  Thank You for the atoning death of Your Son that paid my ransom and erased my debt.  Thank You for remembering my sins no more.  You have removed them from me as far as the East is from the West.  I praise You and thank You, God, that You forgive and forget.

As I think about God's patience, I am driven to praise.  The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).  And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation (2 Peter 3:15)!

Praise You, God, for Your patience.  Because You are willing to suffer long, people come to repentance and are saved.  Thank You for waiting to bring about justice on the Earth, and thank You for the promise that one day You will.  Thank You for patiently working in the lives of the people whom You have created to draw them to Yourself.  Thank You for being patient with me as I learn, grow, fall down, and get back up again.  I praise You and thank You that, despite my failures, You who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

As I think about God's love, I am driven to praise.   For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16).

Praise You, God, for loving me so much that You sent Your holy and blameless Son to suffer and die in my place.  Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, I can have eternal life.  Thank You, Jesus, for laying down Your life for me.  Thank You for demonstrating Your love for me through Your death on the cross.  And thank You for Your people who demonstrate the love of Christ by laying down their lives for others.

Our God is great and greatly to be praised!  He has done great things!  Hallelujah!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dirty Consequences

Okay, so this morning I had one of those moments that every mom dad dreads.  I was out running errands with my children.  They each had a bag of Cheerios and things were going well--no crying, no whining, no fighting, not even much talking.  Suddenly Abel announced that he needed to go potty.  It was at that moment, as I surveyed our surroundings only to find us in the heart of a residential area with no public restrooms in sight, that I realized Abel had dressed himself this morning.  This wouldn't have been a problem if I had remembered to put a diaper--or at least training pants--on him before we left home.  Slightly worried about the possible consequences of my forgetfulness, I told Abel to hold it until we could get to a bathroom.  He agreed that he would do that, and I kept driving down the bathroom-less street.

Fast forward about sixty seconds.  "Mommy, me not need go potty more."  "What, did you potty in your pants?"  "Yeah, me not need go potty more."  "Are you serious?!"  "Yeah.  Me wet."

Upon confirming the truth of his confession, I pulled the car over to strip him in hopes of salvaging the car seat.  Too late.  So, reloading his bare butt into the soaked car seat, we headed home for a new pair of pants, some super absorbent cloths... oh, and training pants.  I just needed a quick fix so I could make my last stop with a fully clothed, dry child.

We pulled into our garage, and I sent half-naked Abel inside to finish pottying while I attempted to soak up the mess in his car seat.  Just then, from across the van, I heard a familiar grunting.  I looked up to see the blank stare on Amariah's face as she loaded her diaper.  (Yes, I had remembered to diaper her... thank goodness.)  I believe I uttered the words, "Oh.  Great."  About then Abel hollered for help with his new pants, so I stepped inside to finish dressing him.  Having remedied his situation (well, except for the telling stench filling the van), I reloaded him and headed out for my last errand:  the grocery store.

Has anybody noticed that I forgot something again?  I didn't until I started to unload Amariah in the Hy-Vee parking lot and was hit in the face with another stench.  All I can say is, I hope no one else in the store caught wind of my forgetfulness....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

An "Exercise" in Thanksgiving

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
~Psalm 95:1-7a

My friend Amber is leading a woman's prayer group (of which I am excited to be a part!); and at our first meeting Monday night she challenged us to make a list of all the things we are thankful for and then come before God with prayers of thanksgiving. I think this is a great application of the Biblical command to give thanks (see Ephesians 5:20) because, unfortunately, in our self-centeredness, we human beings tend to fill our prayers with a whole lot of requests and not much praise and thanksgiving.

Anyway, I thought this "exercise" in thanksgiving would make a good blog topic. So, here is my non-exhaustive list as it comes to my mind.

I am thankful for...
  • the Word of God. "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • prayer. "The Lord has heard my supplication, the Lord receives my prayer." (Psalm 6:9)
  • salvation. "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:4-8)
  • a godly husband. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" (Genesis 2:18)
  • my children. "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:3-5a)
  • my home. "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'... for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:31-33)
  • my parents. "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
  • godly friends. "Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

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