Think On These Things

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in;

hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons,

for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.

So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
 for his wondrous works to the children of man!

For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters;

they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.

For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.

He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground,
a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants.
He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.

And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in;

they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.

When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow,

he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks.

The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Psalm 107

What You Ought To Remember

You know what’s embarrassing? Slamming the toilet lid down in a public restroom because you forget that all toilet lids are not self closing like the ones at home.

You know what’s painful? Forgetting that you chopped jalapeños a few hours ago and rubbing your eye.

You know what is not embarrassing or painful? God’s forgiveness. The teaching of Scripture is that when we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us. Not just forgive either but to cleanse us from the dirt and mess of our sin. And if that were not enough, we are told He throws our sin away as far as the east is from the west.

You know what God doesn’t forget?

Us.

Me.

You.

He remembers our frame. He remembers that we are His people and He is our God.

He remembers His promises.

So many promises! But this morning I woke up thinking about forgiveness and Psalm 139. Such thoughts are, indeed, too wonderful.

You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. (Verses 5 & 6)

I hope you begin your week thinking of the promises God gives to His children. And may you walk in them.

Happy Monday y’all.

It’s All Good

I was having a bit of a rough minute this morning.

Rob has been out of town all week and I am ready for him to be home. I have a few things weighing on my mind and the pups were/are being a bit of a handful. To top it off my emotions seem to be a bit, shall we say, emotional?

All in all, I was feeling a tad sorry for myself but trying to buck up and give myself a pep talk. In the course of said pep talk I was reminding myself of Psalm 139 and encouraging myself to remember that God knows my frame; I’m fine. Everything is fine.

I sit at the dining room table in the morning to read my Bible and go over my prayer cards. I refreshed my cup of coffee and sat down deciding to read Psalm 139 in full.

I literally laughed out loud as I read verses 11 & 12 because in that exact moment the sun rose just enough above the trees to flood my table with its glow.

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”

Such a funny and sweet reminder from Him not to let myself get overwhelmed. As if He wore glasses He’d be looking over the top of them saying, “You’re fine.”

And it’s true.

It’s all good.

Seeing Ourselves

For some reason April and May are busy season around our house. For the family in general and specifically for Rob. I think it has something to do with the end of the school year and the wrapping up of other things that follow a similar calendar.

Whatever the reason I know that there are times when what my husband needs from me is to not need anything from him. The way I can be his helpmeet is to not add much more demands on his time or room in his brain. And this is ok and not a bad thing at all because honestly it is just for a season. I don’t mind doing it for him because I know he needs it. Occasionally however, it happens that the season extends itself a little bit further and we fall into a pattern where I get lost in the tyranny of the urgent.

When I say occasionally what I am really saying is not often at all but it has happened this way a few times over the course of our marriage and recently we found ourselves in that place and my feelings got hurt. At no point did I feel as if my husband no longer loved me or wanted to be with me but I felt like it had become too easy for him to put me aside to deal with all the other stuff because he knew I would be there. It wasn’t malicious on his part rather it was presumptuous love. He realized it had crossed a line, gave me some room to share what I was thinking and feeling, and asked forgiveness so we’re good and all is well.

Later that evening I sat down to work on my Bible study and started reading over the questions.

What do your attitude and approach to your personal Bible study reveal about you and what you expect of Jesus?

I realized I was a few days behind in the reading and questions. Life has been busy and with one thing and another I had let that time slip knowing that it would be there when I got to it.

Can you see where this is going?

It was as if the Holy Spirit put a mirror in front of me. I had let the busy-ness of life take away the time I had been spending in prayer and study knowing that He would be faithful to be there when I got to it.

I was guilty of a presumptuous love all my own without even realizing it.  God isn’t standing around with a calendar and a stop watching recording the moments we do or don’t come to Him in prayer and Bible study but He does call us to pursue wisdom, to seek Him, every day. Not for His sake but our own because He knows we need that time with Him to function well and to do all the other things of life in a way that is pleasing to Him. It’s not just so we can check it off a list anymore than Rob needs to mark me off his list of responsibilities…prepare sermon, visit this parishioner, spend time with wife. A marriage is supposed to be a place where the husband and wife can take refuge from the world, to rest and restore each other. So is our time in prayer and study.

I had a moment where I could have just shrugged off what I was being convicted over. I could have looked past my reflection in that mirror and focused on the pile of laundry that needed folding or the drooping flowers in the vase on the mantle that needed watering. I could have looked past my own sin and continued to focus on what had been consuming my time in the first place. Or, like my husband, I could hear what was being said and seek forgiveness.

I am grateful that God is kind to speak to us in our sin with gentleness. I am blessed with a husband who is willing to humbly show me how to respond.

Rarely do these things pop out at us unexpectedly from no where. God is gracious in drawing our attention to things early on if we will just listen and hear. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love He calls to us before we can wander too far.

May we stand ready, eager to hear from our King.

Not Enough

The deed is done and the die is cast. Donald Trump, of all people, will be the next president of the United States. For some there is great relief – not that he won necessarily, but that she didn’t. I’m glad she didn’t win, too. But I am angry this morning.

The abortion issue and it’s connection to the Supreme Court nominees was an incredibly important consideration during this election. For my friends that felt the weight of that during this election and voted accordingly, I commend your for your faithfulness to seek to protect unborn life, to be a voice for the voiceless.
So, how can I be angry this morning? How can I not see this as a victory? Because it is not enough. Because too many will think they have done their pro-life duty and, while they may keep a distracted eye on what follows as nominations are made, the urgency to be pro-life will ease. 
And really, it shows that mostly we are simply anti-abortion and not truly pro-life. We want abortion to be banned. We want Roe v. Wade overturned. But changing the law doesn’t change the heart. It doesn’t change the culture that sees death of the defenseless as an answer. Changing the law won’t invest in the lives of those who feel they have no other choice.
We absolutely should seek laws that reflect a high view of life. But to be pro-life means that we should, that we must, have a high view of all life. We can’t dismiss people as freaks and faggots. We can’t call them whores and junkies and just walk away.
We have to be a voice for those who can’t speak or are too afraid to speak…not just the unborn but the old and frail, the homeless, the orphan and yes, the immigrant, illegal or not. We should value nothing, absolutely nothing, more than the well being of those who bear the image of God, no matter how they act or live.
To be truly pro-life means that we afford everyone a common dignity no matter our differences. It means that soup kitchens should be over run with volunteers year round and not just during the holidays. It means that nursing homes and retirement centers are overflowing with people coming to sit and talk with residents. It means that we find out the needs that foster homes have and fill them. It means we find out how we can join ministries that help the countless kids that age out of the system get a strong start in the adult world. It means that we give our time, our money, our clothes, whatever we can to shelters and pregnancy resource centers. It means that we call and find out how we can help with the women and children’s shelter in our area. It means that we volunteer at prisons and halfway houses. It means meeting our neighbors down the street. It means saying please and thank you and letting people know we appreciate them. 
Now is not the time to rest, Christian, to think that we’ve dealt a body blow to death.  Now is the time to put our hand to plow like never before, to put action to our words and line up our behavior with our rhetoric. Now is when we become the hands and feet of Christ. Now is when we live the Gospel.

The Post That I Probably Shouldn’t Write But I Am Anyway

I am in a love hate relationship with my blog right now. I love blogging and in the past it has been one of my favorite things. There were the occasional dry spells but for the most part words and thoughts flowed easily. I enjoyed having a platform to share my thoughts and opinions and pictures. And I really enjoyed the interaction either here in the blog comments or on facebook.

But lately it has been so hit and miss and part of that is just the season we’re in. You know, the election season.

My own thoughts crowd out civility in my head sometimes so I am not surprised at how full of vitriol conversations become.

Vitriol: cruel and bitter criticism

It’s not just that we are critical of one candidate or another. The criticism of both is full of ugly fear and hatred and turns easily on to anyone who disagrees.  In my world if you aren’t on the Trump bandwagon then you must not really love Jesus and unborn babies. And I am so over it. You do not get to make that judgement. Just like I don’t get to call into question your love for God if you plan to vote for Trump. Or in some cases, Hillary.

I don’t know for sure exactly what I am going to do come election day but I know what I am not going to do.

I am not going to let fear guide my actions.

I am not going to let hate for one candidate push me into the ungodly arms of the other.

I know who she is and what she stands for and what she has done.

I know the man that he really is and what he truly stands for and what he has done.

There is no lesser of two evils here. Evil is evil and most of us are just deciding which evil is easier to swallow.

They are us.

I will go into the voting booth and I am going to mark a ballot in such a way that I can stand before God and give it to Him as an offering. If I can do that by voting for one candidate or the other or neither one then that is what I will do.

And you should do the same. Your vote is your offering before God.

In the meantime I will bow my head in the face of my own sin staring at me from a national level and seek repentance. I am going to ask God to dig a little deeper and probe a little further in my mind and in my heart to root out my own hypocrisy, evil, and wicked ways.

And I am going to outright reject the bumper stick slogan I saw the other day because friends, it’s not that Jesus wins, it’s that Jesus has won.

We should live like it.

Learning To Cope

Getting old is hard. I mean, it beats the alternative so I don’t regret doing it, but as a woman who has reached a certain age I can say it is really really hard.

Hot flashes…the worst. Feeling perfectly fine one minute and the next it’s like I feel my insides coming to a rolling boil and heat just radiates from the inside out. Drinking the coldest glass of water I can get hold of is the only way I have found to effectively cool off. 
Mood swings. Oh.My.Goodness. I can barely keep up with myself so I know I must be driving my family crazy. One morning I was on my usual walk and I don’t remember what I was thinking about but I was literally so darn angry about something, just furious. And by the time I was starting my second mile I was just in tears and almost sobbing. No rhyme, no reason, and zero rhythm…just a staggering yoyo ride of emotion. I’ve talked before about teaching young girls about their emotions by likening them to a horse ride. As long as you are in control they can take you on amazing adventures, but let them get control and you will quickly find yourself in the thicket and thorns and dangerous places. I have days where I wake up and feel like I have a burr under my saddle. 
Depression is also a new companion some days. It’s not something I have ever felt in my life, even going through some very difficult times. But there are some days when I feel like I am fighting for my sanity. I just want to hide myself away…not think or feel or do anything. I realized how serious it was when I had weeks where I didn’t even want to pick up my camera. That’s when I knew I needed to finally say something to Rob.
I’ve been to the lady doctor and had the blood work done but haven’t heard anything back yet as far as how unbalanced hormones may be. (I told Rob it will be horrible to have them come back and say that everything looks fine. Because that means I am just going crazy.) I’m not in a rush to pop a pill to fix something but I would like to feel a little more settled and in control. And I am learning things that I can do that help.
Diet and exercise. They do help. It can be a pain to feel like I must always pay attention to what I do or don’t eat and making time to exercise on a regular basis while the kids are out of school is harder than it should be but there you have it. 
Being thankful. That is another big help. I can resent all day long what my body is going through but the truth of the matter is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am doing what my body was designed to do at this season of life. To give reign to frustration and anger seems akin to shaking my fist at God. Instead I want to navigate this path in way that is honoring to Him.
The other thing that I have found that really helps is to do something for someone else. To focus on someone else and not my crazy self. So I make myself invite someone over, do something with the kids, or whatever. Yesterday I woke up with that familiar heaviness and I started cooking at 6:30 in the morning. I had chosen some of Rob’s favorite things to cook for our Sabbath meal at the church and a couple of other things that I hoped my church family would enjoy.
And I found a measure of peace as I cooked and boiled and prepared a main dish, mixed and kneaded homemade biscuits. I found my mind settling as I baked a cake from scratch and the wonderful aroma of a zested lemon soothed. 
God is gracious in the giving of good gifts that come wrapped in the mundane activities we have to do each day. And when we focus on who we are doing them for, the Gift Giver and the people we are blessed to be in community with, it changes us. It allows our lives to become about so much more than what ever we are experiencing and dealing with at the moment.
For this I am grateful.  

Teach Them To Hate

Sometimes it is a sweet reminder…a quiet encouragement to be kind and to love each other as I am walking out the door.

Other times it is a desperate plea for them to stop fussing and needling each other and just for the love of all that is holy and little green apples just love each other and get along!

As Christians we talk about love a lot, as well we should, considering He is a God of love. Indeed He is love, and if we are His people we are to be characterized by His character.  He shows us and tells us how that love should look – patient, kind, not boastful or arrogant and rude, not seeking it’s own or irritable or resentful, it doesn’t take pleasure in wrong doing and finds joy in truth, bearing, hoping, believing. That is love.

After all, isn’t love the greatest command given to us? They asked Him and He answered what they had already learned, what they already knew.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Love Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. Oh, and the second command is like the first one: love your neighbor as yourself.

So we toil and strive and work to love Him and each other because this kind of love doesn’t come natural to us.

And neither does hate.

Oh, we can hate well enough, that comes pretty natural to us, don’t you think? But just as He gives us a right way to love He gives us a right way to hate.

We are just as called to hate rightly as we are to love rightly.

Oh, you who love the Lord, hate evil!

Hate the sin and love the sinner we’re told. And that sounds great and all, but it really says nothing because we don’t know how to hate what He hates and we don’t know how to teach our children to hate what He hates. But He even tells us what He hates.

“…haughty eyes…a lying tongue…hands that shed innocent blood…hearts that devise wicked plans…feet that make haste to run to evil…a false witness that breathes out lies…and one who sows discontent among brothers.”

You hate all evil doers…

We shuffle our children off to a special service geared just for them. One that they can “understand” and yet somehow we’re raising up a generation that is always learning but unable to know truth. A generation that not only doesn’t know what they are supposed to hate but they can’t really grasp why they need to hate. We’ve let a salad bar teach them about lying, coveting, and adultery and all manner of sin and in the process, or lack thereof, we’ve not shown them how hideous, how black, and evil sin is. A caricature of sin has produced a caricature of consequence that has produced a caricature of God.

We’re trying to show them how grand and big and bright and perfect His love is for us, for our world but we’re trying to do it divorced from just how ugly and fallen that world is. We’ve G rated sin and actually ended up dimming the light because we forget that light shines brightest when it is shone against real darkness.

I’m not saying that we need to be gratuitous in teaching our children about sin. We don’t have to use graphic or explicit language but I think we do need to remember that if we want them to see how big God really is, how huge Jesus’ victory really was we must also teach them the truth about sin and just how big the battle was and is. Because if we don’t balance big grace against a big need for grace then we are teaching our children that God is, as N.D. Wilson puts it, the great big over reactor in the sky. The sin we want them to recognize and run from as dangerous has to look dangerous…it must be in proportion to the grace we are pointing them too.

So we must teach them to love and love rightly. But we cannot forget that we must also teach them
to hate rightly as well.

Sam’s White Board Drawing

The oldest is about to turn twenty-one and the youngest is forever reminding me that she will soon be my last child to hit double digits for the first time. (We don’t do huge birthday celebrations every year but going double digits is a milestone we usually mark with some extra hoopla. Is anyone surprised that Claire is working her status as the baby and the “last one” to get a little extra something something for her celebration in November?)

What I am really coming to terms with is that my babies are babies no more. This year in particular seems to have been a tipping point when that reality is just so sharp. Because of the eleven years that stretch between the first and the last it’s not like we’re on the home stretch of parenting obviously. But we do seem to have moved into the late summer and early autumn season of child rearing. There’s weeding and pruning still to do as there always will be but it’s different than before when they were little.

It’s an interesting season of life. Having them home for the summer is putting their various stages of maturity into relief and it’s so easy to see how they’ve grown and matured. Oh, they still have moments where they are the best of friends or the worst of enemies but it’s just different somehow. They are growing up. They have grown up.

And oddly enough I feel like I have too. I was talking with a friend recently and we were sharing how humbling it is to be a parent of older children. When they’re little you have it all figured out…you’re the grown up and they are learning from you. At some point though they should be entering the battle with you, along side of you, fighting the same fight that you are as brothers and sisters in Christ. They begin more and more to join you in the labor rather than being so much a part of the labor.

Honestly, I didn’t mean to get all philosophical and meandering. I really just wanted to share one of Sam’s drawings with you and it just got me to thinking how much they’ve changed and that’s how we ended up on the stroll down that rabbit trail.

Anyway, this tickled me and I thought y’all might enjoy it as well.

The boy has insight, wouldn’t you say?

Oh, Hey There

Well, it has been a while hasn’t it? The end of the school year and beginning of summer came together for the perfect no-time-to-blog quietness that we’ve had here on the old blog.

I hope that is about to change. I want to blog. I enjoy blogging.

I have things I want to talk about.

Pictures I want to show you.

I have recipes to share like homemade pretzel bites, mango pudding and key lime pound cake.

I think maybe, just possibly, we are settling into some sort of routine so, maybe things will get a little more regular.

To get the ball rolling I will go ahead and share one of the sweetest moments I’ve had recently with Claire.

Last Sunday Rob, who is preaching through the book of Romans, was reading the first twelve verses of chapter seven.

I saw Claire write down Romans 7:18 and underline it three times in her bulletin. (She is a prolific note taker and is always jotting down questions or words that she wants to talk about later.) A little later Rob reached that verse specifically and Claire nudged me and ran her finger under the words as he read it aloud and she looked up at me with such a serious expression.

I leaned over and whispered if she understood what that verse was saying and she adamantly shook her head yes, relieved I think, that I understood her. It was humbling for me to meet her on equal ground.

It brought home to me how vital it is that our children be in church with us…so that side by side…sister to sister…we both know that we each struggle the same…face the same enemy…and turn to the same victorious Savior to strengthen us.

Scripture_lessons_in_Romans