Friday, August 31, 2007

Shy as a Violet, Bold on the Vine

Never in my life have I been accused of being outgoing. Since I was little, everyone who knew me was aware that I was shy and reserved. Teachers would always tell my parents I needed to participate more in class and talk more in general. As I have gotten older, I have gotten a little bit better about talking with others, but I still am not comfortable at all when I am around a new group or person.

I was reminded of this at a recent Women's Bible Study training. It was a meet and greet, and I knew two of the women out of the whole forty or so in attendance. I could only say hello to the two women I knew for so long before my company became more leechish than amusing. Pretending to be busy sipping my water as if it were going out of syle, I could feel the panick begin. I quickly scoured the room and tried to find a corner in which to hide. It was a very uncomfortable situation until we all sat in a circle to talk to one another. If the time is set aside for organized speaking, I am fine talking. It is impromptu conversation that sends me running.

As I was growing up, my mother wisely told me that shyness is selfish. When you are shy, you care more about your own comfort in a situation than the politeness of putting others at ease by speaking to them. I heard this again recently in a child training discussion. The leader reminded us that overly sensitive/ shy children have a sin issue of pride/selfishness. They are more concerned with their own well-being and others' perception of them than the thoughtfulness of talking to others and being warm in conversation. In fact, I was told a few times growing up that people thought I was "stuck up" until they got to know me. They didn't realize I was shy and really did want to know them. Once they realized I was more than willing to be a friend, the lack of smiles and conversation they witnessed earlier were forgiven.

Truly, if you can sympathize with me in being shy, you must realize that God wants us to care more about others than ourselves. Shyness is not an excuse. It can be a sin if you let it get in the way of witnessing, bringing others to church, and just being loving to others. Philippians 2:3 is one of my favorite verses. It says,
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider
others better than yourselves."
I try to recite this verse when I am in a new situation. Walking up and introducing myself is painful for me, but it is something God requires that I do. When I truly care more about you than myself, I don't think twice about smiling and speaking.

Imagine if Christ had used shyness as an excuse during His ministry. How ridiculous and disobedient that would have been. Instead, he approached all kinds of people, regardless of the ridicule or reaction He might face. He loved others more than himself. John 13:34-35 tells us,
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved
you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you
are my disciples, if you love one another."

If you find yourself shy as a violet, and you are a follower of Christ, remember that you are the branches of the Vine. Cling to the vine of God Himself and know that branches are made to grow, reach and aggressively bear fruit. No wallflower, concerned with only himself, can do that.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him,
he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me you can do nothing."
John 15:5

Thursday, August 30, 2007

God that hath made and preserved us a nation

I love to read snippets from two hymn books I own. They are called Then Sings My Soul, books 1 and 2. I was intrigued as to why they included The Star Spangled Banner, but then I read the second stanza of Francis Scott Key's famous song:

"Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just.
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Imagine the meaning we'd get across if we sang the whole song at sporting events, and think of the words to the second stanza next time you hear our National Anthem.
2 Chronicles 7:14 "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why do we Limit God?

II Corinthians 9: 8 "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
I was talking to my sister, Christa, today, and she was telling me of a Bible study she had just finished on trusting God and knowing His attributes. Pairing this with Pastor Mike's series on Ambitious Faith, I have had this on my mind today--why do we limit God? We know intellectually what He is able to do, but we don't always apply it into our everyday, minute-by-minute lives.

This reminds me of last Saturday's car appointment. Though a silly example, here it goes. I was already in a not-so-fine-mood due to Ryan having to go into work on a Saturday. (Not a good attitude, as you can read in my "Saying thank you for those 'bad' days" post). I trudged off to get an ordered part installed into my car. Of course, though the technician said it would just take about 15 minutes, I had detailed visions of me spending hours in the dealer waiting room while Carter ripped pages out of germ ridden magazines. God graciously saved me from my own negativity, and I didn't even have to leave my car upon getting to the dealer. My part was installed in 5 minutes as I waited at my car. In addition, the service and part were free--under warranty, which I didn't expect either.

In a better example, my sister-in-law, Sarah Cox, sent me an e-mail about a divine appointment she had with a neighbor. TWICE, God miraculously had Sarah leave her normal routine, just by a prompting of the Holy Spirit, to find this woman she barely knew at the exact second she could help her. One meeting involved her getting the neighbors checks "mistakenly" delivered to her house. When Sarah went a couple of days later to return the checks, the neighbor needed to tearfully confide in this Christian stranger. The story is amazing, but much too detailed to explain here.

Why do we awake each morning with expectations for only the mediocre and a "normal" day? God is able to do abundantly more, and He wants us to expect His miraculous hand in our daily events. Why did I run into so and so today at Costco? (Expect God has given you a divine appointment and find out if they need to talk!) Why did I sign up to do outreach for the church today? I'm feeling so tired. (God can have you do more than hand out papers. You can lead someone to Christ TODAY! Your tiredness will demonstrate the fact that any fruit is of God and not of ourselves).

As your day goes along, don't limit God and try to fit him into the schedule and normalcy of your day. Don't just acknowledge Him in quiet time, prayer and church. Let Him take control and let Him show you His will in all the "mundane" and unexpected turns of your day. He can use you abundantly more when you expect Him to be your Master and Lord in everything!

Encourage Others: Sean and Kelly Smith

Well, it's that time again! Wednesdays are the day I try to put the spotlight on someone I know who is blessing others with their gifts and service. It is the call of I Thessalonians 5:11.

The couple I am highlighting today, Sean and Kelly Smith, is an absolute joy to witness in their work for the Lord. They always do service with a loving attitude, and I've never once seen it become about them. In fact, much of what they do has succeeded because of God's blessing on their work, and this success has never produced visible pride or conceit in either of them. It just produces more fruit and service from their thankful hearts. They represent well the faithful servant in Matthew 25: 21,
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been
faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."

Sean and Kelly came to the marriage ministry, Thrive, last year and dove in with activities, greeting and participating in small group. Right away, they offered their home for dinners and came early with their two boys to help pass out handouts and nametags. Their commitment was contagious, and I believe much of the passion that filled their small group last year was a result of their spirit and enthusiasm. Their example to so many reminds me of Hebrews 12:1,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of wintesses, let us
throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let
us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes
on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him
endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the
throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

At church, Sean and Kelly are always seen greeting with a smile and a warm welcome on Sunday mornings. In addition, they are leaders in the Bridge ministry. This is a perfect service for them, for God has clearly gifted them in reaching out to those who need to see a friendly face and a heart that is concerned they don't "get lost" in the crowd. Kelly handwrites cards to welcome people to our church, and she makes sure that new attendees get all the information about getting plugged into Bible studies and activities at Compass Bible Church.

This gift has spilled over into their leadership in the Welcome Ministry for Thrive this upcoming year. This summer has been filled with hundreds of e-mails and calls from Sean and Kelly, all making sure they let potential Thrive attendees feel welcome, know information and get plugged in if they decide to join the group. I cannot stress enough how God has blessed the fruit of their labor. The Thrive ministry could double in size due to the amount of people they have been able to reach through their hard work and joyful service. Think of all the people who can find Biblical wisdom about marriage, friendships and their relationships with God, all because Sean and Kelly care to reach them for the Kingdom of Heaven. They have blessed my husband and me with their organization and commitment to their ministry. We never have to remind them of anything. They are always one step ahead of us--even my very organized husband!

What impresses me most about Sean and Kelly is that their "real selves" are always visible. They are the first to expose a weakness in themselves that might need prayer, they always are effusive in thanking others for any service or ministry, and they take any compliment and point it to God immediately.

I want Sean and Kelly to know that they are a tremendous witness to everyone around them, creating disciples in Christ through the very real labor they continuously do for so many ministries at church. I know they love God and give Him all the glory. Let us consider their example to us and always give God the credit!
"Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on
the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" Revelation 5:13

Monday, August 27, 2007

Clifford the Big Red Dog and James 1:14-15

For those of you with toddlers, you might have seen this episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS. The episode was called, "Clifford's Cookie Craving," and it was a rather truthful illustration at how temptation turns into sin in our very real lives. I'm sure the folks at PBS didn't consider the Biblical truths this cartoon was exposing, but they certainly were doing just that.

In the episode, Clifford sees a gigantic chocolate chip cookie that is being entered into the fair's baking contest. It looks very appealing. Though the cookie is quickly out of sight, he lets his thoughts dwell on the cookie until everything around him reminds him of the temptation and his craving. Finally, he puts his craving into action. He says he will go into the tent in which the cookie is displayed and merely look at the cookie. He looks at the cookie, which quickly turns into smelling the cookie. Before he knows it, Clifford has taken a huge bite out of the cookie. He regrets the sin immediately and tries to cover it up by eating around the edge to cover up his conspicuous bite. Of course, his sin is discovered, but he is forgiven by the nice lady who made the cookie.
James 1:14-15 tells us the following,
"but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and
enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin,
when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
Facing a temptation in itself is not a sin. The first step toward sin is when you allow the temptation to take residence in your thoughts. When you dwell on a temptation you will desire it. Then the desire you feel for the temptation will conceive sin--whether the sin be jealousy, anger, idolotry, lust, hate, etc..
So what are we to do when we face a temptation? We are to flee from it! To bring up my silly example, Clifford could have asked his doggy friends to keep him accountable to not go near that tent and not talk about cookies. He could have left the fair. He could have replaced his desire for a cookie with other thoughts that were godly--helping at the fair, serving his friends in their enjoyable day, etc. II Timothy 2:22 says,
"Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and
peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart."
We have examples both of desire conceiving sin and of fleeing temptation in the Bible. The oft quoted example of David and Bathsheba is a great example of facing temptation, dwelling on the desire and acting upon it in sin. David saw her bathing and didn't flee. He stayed to see, inquired about her, thought about his desire and had an adulterous affair because he allowed the flesh to give into the temptation. Joseph is the opposite example. He had the temptation of Potiphar's wife wanting to sleep with him. It would have been an easy way to serve himself and get her to quit pestering him to just have the affair. However, he didn't ponder the temptation. He ran away from her, even leaving his cloak in her grasping hand. James 4:7 tells us that if we resist Satan, he will flee from us!
Even Jesus faced temptation from Satan in the desert, but he fleed from his evil schemes with the righteous word of God. He pursued the will of His Father. He replaced any thoughts that could have entered His mind with what was noble, pure and lovely. Hebrews 4:15 tells us,
"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sypathize with our weaknesses, but
was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin."
Christ is the noble example to follow when temptations cross our path.
We will all face temptations every day. Be alert and realistic about the attacks of Satan and the realities that will come from this sinful world. Know the Word of God in order to replace temptation and the desirous thoughts that follow it with holy words, thoughts and deeds. Don't let "cookie cravings" lead you down that path to sin.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Saying Thank You for those "Bad" Days

Indeed, this week has not been my favorite. Ryan is in the midst of his month long busy season, and he has been working late a couple of nights a week. When I say late, I mean midnight. With impeccable timing, Carter has also come down with a very bad cold--coughing, sneezing, oozing mucous and generally whining in discontent. The hardest part of Carter being sick is that he doesn't sleep, and when he is awake, he is exceedingly fussy. He cries for a long time before he falls asleep, his once long naps have become an hour long at most, and he wakes up at the crack of dawn. This, of course, cuts into my sleep, which has whittled away my patience and left me crabby and, upon reflection, prone to more sin in my speech and attitude.

What I find most ironic about my sin in this trial is that I JUST finished a chapter about thankfulness in trials the day before Carter got sick. I finished Martha Peace's Damsels in Distress, which ended with a chapter entitled, Be Thankful? You Can't Be Serious!--Trials. It was easy to read that chapter with a good attitude and close it with an "Amen" when I wasn't facing too many challenges. God humbled me immediately. This trial has certainly exposed my need to repent and work on my attitude in trials--even small ones.

Martha Peace gives some wonderful, biblical perspective on trials. She gives three reasons as to why God might put a person through a trial:

1. As Pastor Mike discussed a few weeks ago, God may be pruning us so that we may bear more fruit for His glory. He cuts off "dead" areas in our life in order to harvest wonderful fruit for His purposes.

2. God may give a trial as discipline. Perhaps we have stubborn sin in our lives. God loves us and does not want us to continue in a sin with a hard heart. We know God disciplines us with a pure, holy motive and purpose. Hebrews 12:11 tells us that

"No chastening seems joyful for the moment, but painful. Nevertheless,
afterward, it produces the peacable fruit of righteousness to those who have
been trained by it."

3. Finally, God might use a trial to exposes whether or not our faith is proven genuine. As with myself in this particular trial, I was overly confident in my faith and endurance during trials. God had to show me how shallow my patience and confidence can potentially be. This is an opportunity to mature in my faith. James 2:1-4 explains,

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing
that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have
its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in

The chapter on trials ends with three ways we SHOULD respond when facing a trial. First, we should be grateful to God. Thankful for pain? Yes. As I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, we should give thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. I like how Mrs. Peace says that sometimes we might not FEEL thankful, but we need to act thankful. Just as loving someone is sometimes hard, it is a choice and action we show, even when we don't feel loving. Our feelings often follow close behind our choices and actions. We know the trial is for our good, God is sovereign and we are being made closer to His image. This should give us joy and hope--leading to thankfulness.

In addition to responding with gratitude, we need to be convinced of God's goodness. If your doctor calls with worries about a test you just took, or you have a loved one pass away unexpectedly, you will feel grief. However, this grief can give way to hope and confidence because we know that God is loving and good. Focus on the positive--"I have been healthy for so and so years", or "I am so blessed to have known this person who just passed away for thus and thus time." As Pastor Mike has said in his sermons, do not ask why bad things happen to good people. No one is good but God. Ask why in the world God allows any good to happen to BAD people (that is all of us, by the way). God's goodness will never change, despite our circumstances.

Finally, we need to respond to a trial knowing that God loves us. If you are a believer, you know God loves you dearly. As I John 4:10 says,

"In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son
to be the propitiation for our sins."
We even know the discipline found in some trials comes from love (Hebrews 12:6). No matter what trial God allows, you can never doubt his love. This gives us comfort and a soft place to turn for peace when the tempest is billowing around us. God is gently keeping us close to Him, steering us away from our own sinfulness. He loves us profoundly.

Well, I probably would get a D- on this trial. I certainly whined in my heart and didn't seek God's comfort as soon as I could have done so. I sought an end to the trial, just as my toddler screams and kicks when I make him do something he doesn't like, but that is for his good. I pray that my next trial exposes more maturity and a more genuine faith. I am glad I at least recognized my failure and the fact that God is working in my life to accomplish His purpose.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Encourage One Another: Sarah Cox

Continuing in my weekly tradition of I Thessalonians 5:11, I have chosen another family member to encourage and build up this week. My precious sister-in-law, Sarah Cox, is another easy pick as a person to recognize.

From the moment I started dating her brother--my husband, Ryan--Sarah has always been there to share laughs, stories and Biblical discussion. She has been a role model for me in terms of her submission and gentle spirit toward her husband and also by her godly parenting to her lovely children, Ivy and Gabe. I'm glad she got married and had kids first, so I can see the wonderful examples that she sets!

Sarah has a heart for the unsaved, which has resulted in her continuous service in Navigating Motherhood--formerly known as MOPS. She co-leads a small group and pours her heart into outreach and activities in the community. Several times I have received an e-mail to pray for her as she meets with and shares the gospel with people such as an unsaved woman from her MOPS group or a JW who came to her door.

Sarah has a gift in reaching the community. When our young marrieds group had a photo scavenger hunt in the community, it was her idea to grab church business cards and pass them out to people with whom we conversed. Her thoughts are always centered around the question, "How can I introduce Jesus to others?" She clearly identifies with I Thessalonians 2:4:
"On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the
gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts."
Her biggest undertaking, at present, is heading, leading, coordinating and overseeing the Family Flick Night at the Laguna Hills Community Center Park on September 7th at 5:30 (like my plug?). She is busy day and night with flyers, game coordination, food service, volunteer oranization, decorations, and details you wouldn't even consider. She does so with a joyful heart and eyes set on the goal of serving and pleasing her Lord and Savior. I am so proud of the work she does for God and the body of Christ. If you see her, tell her thank you for all her efforts for the kindgdom and sign up to help at the event she has so graciously provided for our good work.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

I am on the last chapter of Martha Peace's Damsels in Distress: Biblical Solutions for Problems Women Face. I loved her book, The Excellent Wife, so I knew she wouldn't disappoint me in this second book. I have found gems of information and accountability in every chapter, but one that hit home for me was Who is the Fairest of them all?--Vanity.

The word "vanity" often conjures up images of 20 something girls applying lipstick in a rearview mirror of their car, only to emerge from their vehicle with a skimpy outfit, high heels and a "notice me" attitude. Movie stars, elective cosmetic surgery, fashion magazines and fashion models fit into our concept of vanity. Men with pumped up arms and fancy cars can symbolize vanity. However, though these extremes are agreeably vain in many instances, we are looking too far from home for our examples.

I believe almost every person, especially in Orange County, suffers from a struggle with vanity. You might not believe you are beautiful, but a preoccupation with wishing you were thinner or had a prettier face or owned more fashionable clothes certainly qualifies as vanity. Martha Peace defines vanity as "empty, vain, or worthless. Vanity (in the sense of the love of beauty) is an inflated pride in one's appearance." Pride in your appearance doesn't mean you have to love how you look, it just means you care too much about HOW you look.
Scripture has quite a bit to say on vanity. Proverbs 31:30 says,
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she
shall be praised."
I Peter 3:3-4 joins by stating,
"Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold
jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let the hidden person of the heart, with the
imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the
sight of God."
With an ugly metaphor in mind, Proverbs 11:22 quips,
"As a ring of gold in a swine's snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks
Surely there is no sin in putting yourself together, wearing some makeup and taking care of yourself. Where sin enters is in the motivation and the priority these activities take in your life. Are you going to the gym to lose fat so that you will be as skinny as you were or as so-and-so is, or are you going to the gym to lose fat so that you can please your husband and look your best for him? Perhaps you are dieting to gain self-control over food and overcome a sinful area of your life. Maybe you are merely dieting to lose 3 more pounds and be that "perfect" size 4. The first motivation might be right, but be careful it does not turn into the second motivation.
Martha gives signs of vanity in her book. Are you overly concerned with how you look--you wonder what people are thinking or saying about you? Do you find yourself critical of every spot and wrinkle? Are you unable to graciously receive compliments? Do you feel depressed or anxious because you feel or are "fat?" Do you have an unhealthy quest for thinness? Do you overspend on clothes, hair, makeup, and accessories? Do you compare yourself to others and how they look? You can say "I look so much better than so-and-so," or "I wish I looked like her. She has lost so much weight." Do you say things to elicit compliments from others? Do you refuse to have sex with your husband because you feel fat? Do you find yourself apologizing for how you look if you aren't totally put together? These are all signs of vanity that Mrs. Peace lists.
Why do we care so much about being perfect in our appearance? Our bodies are decomposing shells that will, inevitably, look less perfect each day. Our hope and glory should be in pleasing our Heavenly Father and demonstrating the quiet and gentle spirit that God adores. Do you spend more time on appearance than on Bible study, prayer and church activities? Are you grateful and content with what God has given you or are you unsatisfied and sinning in your attitude?
Finally, Martha Peace suggests replacing the vain actions in our life with serving others. Christ is our most wonderful and precious example of godly beauty. He served others and never himself. In fact, the Bible stresses he was not of any physical excellence. Isaiah 53:2 says, "no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." Yet, with his lack of physical beauty, David recognized the TRUE beauty the Lord claims. May we all join David in saying,
"One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell
in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the
Lord And to meditate in His temple." Psalm 27:4

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Teach Them Diligently Review

I just finished my newest read, a book entitled, Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training, by Lou Priolo. Overall, I encourage parents to read this book, especially the second half of it.
I was a bit discouraged in the first chapter of Mr. Priolo's book. We all know the power of scripture, but we also know that scripture is not an end in itself. I disagreed with Mr. Priolo on the ability to be saved and sanctified without scripture. He took the stance that you CANNOT reach salvation without reading the Bible and the Holy Spirit cannot work in you without scripture to be its tool. I completely agree that the Spirit uses the Word to train and convict us, but I do not think it is limited useless without the Bible. God uses people, situations, and prayer to sanctify us. Christians need to use scripture, but it is not the ONLY means. I also believe that people can be saved by hearing about their sin and need for a perfect Savior without reading about it. Think of all the missions that have happened before Bibles were translated to the language of the people in which missions were happening. Again, the perfect situation is to use scripture to talk about sin, repentance, faith and trust in the Lord. However, God is not limited to only the use of the Bible.
Once you get past these issues, however, the book is an effective tool to inspire more use of the scripture in your communication--both encouragement and discipline--with your child. I was pleasantly surprised that, after my wariness in chapter 1, he did not legalistically mandate the steps of discipline to follow by the letter. He gave great practical ideas, but he gave principles on how to do a family Bible study, how to apply scripture to you child's issues, how to memorize scripture with your son or daughter, and how to remove sinful behavior and replace it with godly behavior. The specifics of your practical application depend on your children, your family and what the Holy Spririt is teaching you.
I enjoyed the idea of making sure your child understands for what they will receive punishment before giving it. Also, I was intrigued with the notion that sinful habits that plague a child will need to have godly behavior substituted for them in order to stop the sin. I enjoyed his explanation of the differences between principles and commands in scripture.
However, the best part was the appendix. He lists character traits that are common sinful behavior in children (and adults) and gives scripture to reproof them. For example, if your child is responding in anger, you can use James 1:19-20 to speak to them. "Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."
He also advises to have Bible study with your whole family as often as possible. You can review your child's day and use scripture to encourage or admonish choices they are making. This is also a time to memorize scripture and have deeper conversations.
The book ends with the warning that digging into and using scripture requires work. Proverbs 2:4 talks of the wisdom of scripture. It says, "If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures . . ." Mr. Priolo says the difference between gold and silver is that silver has to be laboriously mined deep in the earth, while gold is more often on the surface or in water, etc. He equates the hard work of searching for silver as to the excavation and study of the Bible.
I walked away from this book with a motivation to use many more references to scripture when talking to Carter. I also want to start memorizing scripture with him, even though it will merely be singing or listening to mommy say the verse over and over at this point. Nevertheless, the Bible is sharper than any two edged sword, and I know how powerfully it can work in and shape Carter's life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Encourage One Another: Rebecca Millsap

For those of you just joining this blog, I have begun a weekly practice of acknowledging a person who has blessed me or others. I am relying on the command of scripture to encourage one another and build one another up. (I Thessalonians 5:11)

I have only known Rebecca Millsap well for the past year or so, but she is the kind of person with whom an impact is made upon you right away. Anyone reading this who knows Rebecca, will agree she deserves accolades. She has such a servant's heart!

To begin the list of things Rebecca does is quite an undertaking. I know I will leave something out, but here are things I have noticed. Rebecca is faithful and commited. She comes to every Women's Bible Study meeting and Thrive (marriage ministry) meeting on time and ready to help. At Women's Bible Study, she organizes all the prayer requests, sending out e-mail prompts every week. She then accumulates every prayer request, summarizes them and sends them to the group. In addition, she organized all the mom's Wednesday morning get togethers this summer--sending out directions, ideas and reminders.

Rebecca has, out of her own initiation, started the monthly tradition of organizing "moms' night out". She sends out e-vites, makes sure the invite list goes to any mom she can think of to include and attends the events with a smile. It is such a treat to get together with other moms from church and enjoy time without the kiddies. This would never happen without Rebecca.

At Thrive, she was always early to allow her husband to play on the worship team. This caused her to have to watch her 1 and a half year old while trying to help set up and eat dinner. She also worked in the Toddler room every other Thursday, a job that was thankless and hard. She and her husband are going to be group leaders at Thrive next year, AND she has commited to being in charge of the CARE ministry for Thrive--a job at which she will excel. She has already looked into sending flowers, buying cards and creating a meals ministry.

Rebecca helps out with the Navigating Motherhood ministry at church. Last year, when it was MOPS, she worked in childcare every Friday. She didn't say, " I already have a toddler. I need a ministry where I am not working with kids." Many women enjoyed MOPS because it was serving AND an opportunity to fellowship and take a breather from the kids. Rebecca sacrificially served without getting a break or allowing herself chat time with the other women. She is helping witness to others and bring them to Navigating Motherhood by handing out flyers at malls, the theaters or, even, swim lessons. She uses every opportunity to reach out to others.

Rebecca has served in children's ministries for over a year, helping out in the nursery and toddler room. She always did this with a good attitude and little complaining. She FINALLY allowed herself a break from this to allow rest before her second chld and new son, Christian, is born in 8 weeks.

Rebecca sang on the worship team at Women's Bible Study, getting there early and practicing while watching her one year old.

I know there are so many more little "unnoticed" tasks Rebecca does that I am forgetting. You can see from my list, however, she is amazing. In addition, she is a wonderful friend and sister-in-Christ. I know I can tell her anything, and she will Biblically admonish or encourage me with love. I have found a wonderful blessing in becoming her friend.

Truly Christ's love is found in her actions and attitude. I John 4:7-8 says,
"Beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God and everyone who
loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He who loveth not, knoweth not God
for God is love."

Blogging on Devotions

Many people might wonder why I write both family updates and Biblical lessons in my blog. The reason I add family updates is obvious. I enjoy sharing pictures of my wonderful family, and Carter stories are usually quite entertaining. However, why do I write about the Bible or devotional books?

Well, of course I want to share what I learn in my quiet times, but it is rather more self-serving at times. When I blog about scripture, sermons or Christian books, I am able to better digest the message and application of the lesson that I am learning. A quote from Henry Scudder's The Christian's Daily Walk in Holy Security and Peace states,
"Merely reading, hearing and having transient thoughts of biblical truths do not
leave half that impression of goodness upon the soul, which they would do, if
they might be recalled, and fixed there by serious thought. Without this
meditation, the good food of the soul passes through the understanding, and
therein is quite lost. It is like raw and undigested food, which does not
nourish those creatures that chew the cud until they have retrieved it back and
chewed it better . . . Meditation digests, engrafts, and turns the spiritual
knowledge gained from God's Word . . . into the very life and substance of the
soul, changing and transforming you according to it."
This sums up nicely what I am able to do by writing down thoughts and conclusions on Bible study. I pray that you find my musings Biblical and helpful in spurring your own thought.

Monday, August 13, 2007

How can comfort be uncomfortable?

We had a guest speaker at church yesterday. Pastor Kurt Gebhards, from Grace Community Church, spoke on the need to be serving the church community if you are a genuine believer. He had a great message, but two points resonated in my own heart.

The first point he made that struck me that morning was that service and ministry are gifts from God. God never had to allow us to supply for the needs of others. He could have done it all Himself. However, God knew that it would bless us and give us eternal rewards if we were able to work for His kindgdom.

Of course, we know that salvation cannot be earned or bought by our deeds. Only Christ's sacrifice is sufficient for our sin. The act of service is, as Pastor Kurt put it, a natural partner with salvation. It is the fruit we bear when God has redeemed us!

This was a wake-up call for me that morning. I serve in some areas that are easier or harder than others. One area in which I do minister that is not my particular FAVORITE is working in the nursery second service at church. It is always the most crowded, the babies all need naps at that time, and I am tired from dealing with Carter. However, I KNOW God wants me to still do this job with a joyful attitude. I am ALLOWED, by Him, to truly sacrifice my time and energy to do a thankless job that most people avoid. I certainly have NOT had a good attitude about it many weeks, so I had to change my attitude. Guess what? The nursery that morning was so much easier. Though I had a crying baby in my arms that needed to go down for a nap, the difference was my attitude. I saw the work as a privelege and a way to glorify God!

Pastor Kurt's second point was on comfort. He reminded us that comfort is a curse, not a blessing. What I found humorous was that I had just had a similar discussion with Ryan. We had been driving down Niguel Road to Salt Creek Beach to have a picnic dinner. After coasting past the St. Regis Resort and parking by the Ritz Carlton, we were laughing at how insanely out of focus all our ideas are when we think about the normal income and the normal material needs of the average family.

I remember saying to Ryan that one of the particular temptations that we have, as Christians in Orange County, is materialism and comfort that goes with riches. If we lived in the countryside of Oklahoma, for instance, our temptations would be different. God doesn't want us to idolize riches or comfort. He isn't concerned with whether or not we can look "put-together" walking in the mall or whether our television is HD compatible. As Christ told the disciples in Matthew 19:24,
"Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Why is this true? A rich man has to give up something he has--comfort and security--and replace it with the attitude of "whatever you want, Lord." A poor man doesn't have to make as many possible sacrifices in material idols.

Ryan and I don't want to love comfort. We want to seek God. Sometimes God blesses us with comforts, but many times He requires sacrifice. Ryan and I want to hear,
"Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:23)

Whether it comes to serving sacrificially in an area that is far from comfortable or having a lifestyle that is willing to give up comforts for God, we need, as Christians, to never seek comfort. Ask God for His provision, and He will fill you up. His grace is sufficient.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ideas for eating out. . .

I enjoy cooking. My opportunities are few and far between now that I have a one and a half year old playing "tunnel" between my knees and throwing balls at me while I try to chop veggies and open the oven faster than he can get to it. Someday in the near future, I know I will once again be cutting out recipes and experimenting with glazes, pies and homemade soups. For now, we eat in a rut--many of the same fast, easy and simple dishes each month, and we eat out a lot on the weekend. I LOVE to go out to eat, especially when I don't have to pacify a toddler on a date night. So, I thought I'd share some great restaurants I enjoy. I've lived in South Orange County my whole life, except for the six years I was in Los Angeles for school, so I have been to many of the places around this area. Lately, however, it seems like more and more new places are popping up that I haven't tried, so please add your thoughts and favorite restaurants in the comment section.

Kid friendly, casual options:

California Pizza Kitchen (Mission Viejo)--Literally five minutes from our house, this is a fun place with yummy salads and pizza for me. Carter enjoys eating the crayons, dining on black beans and avocado and looking at all the people. I like that I can order a half salad and still feel full. It is always crowded, so be prepared to wait.

Wingnuts (Aliso Viejo)--Very kid friendly! We get 3 tasters from the appetizer menu (baskets of wings) and then get a side of chips. This is enough for Ryan and I to share with Carter. After eating, we always go play by the fountain with Carter. Parking can be pesky, so we always just go straight to the parking garage and walk.

Daphne's (Aliso Viejo)--If you don't go on a Saturday at 6:30, you can usually find parking directly behind the restaurant. We love to eat there and Carter can make noise! He loves the Pita bread, and I enjoy thinking of our trip to Greece . . .

Pei Wei (Lake Forest)--Fairly new, this is a fun place if you like PF Changs without the wait and want to pay a little less money. Carter likes playing with the chopsticks, and I like the lettuce wraps and honey chicken.

Ruby's (any of them)--Okay, these are the easiest kid places EVER! Carter loves the trains going around the ceiling, and the kid's meals are great. I love the diet cherry Cokes, and, if I am splurging, a yummy milkshake. The Mission Viejo Mall Ruby's is closest to us, but I always enjoy going to the one in San Juan Capistrano and then walking to the Zoomar zoo afterward or looking at Los Rios street.

El Molino de Oro (San Juan Capistrano)--It's like being in Mexico. It is a little "order at the counter" Mexican food place, with an attached panaderia and pinata store. There is always Futbol on the TV (soccer) and spicy food on your plate. It's very affordable and right by USA Baby if you need to go shopping for your little one.

Rainforest Cafe (South Coast Plaza)--Well, it is really made for kids. The food is okay, but the ambiance is outstanding. Carter--who needs a lot of stimuli--can stare for hours at the fish, animatronic animals, waterfalls and foilage. He likes to watch the balloon lady make animals and gets a little scared when the thunder rolls and the apes make noise. Overall, a great place to take kids!

BJ's Pizzeria--Laguna Beach or Laguna Hills--Always crowded. Always yummy! The chopped barbeque chicken salad is sooooo good. The pizza is soooooo tasty. Very kid friendly and a lot of sports TV's to appease your sport loving hubby. Ryan loves to gnosh on a Pazookie (cookie with ice cream) for dessert.

Casual to Nice Datenight:

Mario's by the Sea (Dana Point)--This place doesn't have outstanding ambiance, but the food is out of this world. It is a small bistro type place with a small patio. The pasta a la vodka sauce is sooooo yummy! It is a little pricey, but date nights seem to be rare these days.

Cheesecake Factory (Spectrum or the Mission Viejo Mall or any of the millions of other locations)--Always insanely good food. It isn't new, but it is outstanding. The service can be slow and the wait is always long. However, you give me a bite of Spicy Cashew Chicken or a french fry dipped in their amazing Ranch dressing, and I've forgotten about holding a pager in my hand for 45 minutes.

China Moon (Laguna Niguel)--I have loved Chinese food since I was little. I love spicy food, and I love sweet food. Here you have the two combined. The sizzling rice soup is a favorite of mine, but you must try the cilantro chicken. Yum! There is a Tepan grill side and a restaurant side. Stick with the restaurant. It is in a strip mall and a local favorite.

Javier's (Spectrum)--I used to go to the Laguna Beach restaurant, which had a local flavor to it. The one at the Spectrum is fancier and always has a wait. Sit on the barside patio--which is sooo nice, and eat chips and guacamole while peoplewatching. I love the shrimp enchiladas!

Thai This (Dana Point)--I haven't been here in ages, but it used to have great Thai food with a fun environment. I loved the green curry chicken at the time, but the menu might have changed over the years.

Fisherman (San Clemente)--Go sit on the deck during happy hour and get a bread bowl of chowder while you watch the sun go down! It's cheap and romantic. Ditto on the Wind and Sea (Dana Point Harbor--happy hour snacks while watching the boats sail over the water).

Very Nice Datenight:

Ti Amo's (Laguna Beach)--This place can be casual/nice if you order pasta and don't go overboard on items. However, I prefer to dress up, go sit upstairs (you need reservations) and listen to Andrea Boccelli as I have several courses. It doesn't look like much on the outside, but the inside is dripping with romantic decor. Candlelight, etc. If you are looking to be extra romantic, reserve a table by the fireplace upstairs.

French 75 (Laguna Beach)--Choclate Souffle, need I say more? Romantic and pricey. I recommend inside dining. The outside "tent" is on the street and is really just a glorified patio. Inside you get live piano and candles. Once we sat in the bottom room next to the fireplace. It is quieter and quite cozy. I don't know if that room is always open. Make reservations!

Luciana's (Dana Point)--Tiny, cute Italian food place on PCH. I'd go to Ti Amo's first, but Luciana's is a close second. To really add spice to your romantic night, stay a night at the Blue Lantern Inn and walk over to eat at Luciana's. Fireplaces, piano music and waiters with Italian accents. It's all there. I recommend reservations.

Dizz's As Is--(Laguna Beach)--I haven't gone here in awhile, but it is a cute little shack turned into a restaurant. The environmnent is casual in a trendy, expensive kind of way. The menu is new each night, and you get several courses with your dinner. Come early to enjoy a beverage on the outdoor patio. Inside you have a small restaurant with piano music and quirky decorations. Reservations needed!

Charthouse (Dana Point)--I have so many memories here. My younger sister, Christa, got married here, and I came here all the time in high school for dessert. Six of us would split one dessert. I'm sure the waiter loved us! I still recommend dessert over the dinner (mud pie). If you love seafood, it is great for dinner, but I am not a fish lover. I'd rather have a nice dinner elsewhere and come to share a mudpie while looking at the twinkling harbor lights at night. Reservations recommended.

Jake's (Del Mar)--Right on the water in Del Mar, Jake's is worth the drive. Make reservations! The seafood is great (though I always get steak). The Kona ice cream pie is delicious, and a walk on the beach is always a perfect ending.

El Nito (Rosarito Beach, Mexico)--Okay, I know everyone goes to get Lobster in Puerto Nuevo, but this is an amazing restaurant. They have breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sit in the atrium area and listen to birds under the canopy of trees. Watch the women make homemade tortillas. Every meal comes with a salad (which is safe to eat), homemade bean soup, hot tortillas and salsa. Come to sit and relax for awhile. We go down for the day and always stop here. If you want to have a cheap, romantic one night stay, book a room at Las Rocas Resort and Spa (a few miles south) and be prepared to just relax. Ole!

Well, that sums up what is coming to my mind right now. Of course, I couldn't mention all the places we eat--Island's, Lucille's, PF Chang's, In-N-Out, Claim Jumper, etc. However, this is a good start. I'd love any input or ideas you have. As I said, eating out is a favorite hobby of mine, so I'd love new places to try! Let me know your favorites . . .

Friday, August 10, 2007

Psalm 101 is a lesson in Righteousness 101

I was reading Psalm 101 several days ago for our church's read through the Bible in a year program. (You can find the schedule for reading at It is a short Psalm, packed full of important examples and lessons for us.

David begins with praise for the Lord and a promise to study his own heart and behave wisely "within my house". David knows that God cares most about us examining our own hearts and behavior. We cannot deal with others' sin without "cleaning house" in our own hearts first. As it states in Matthew 7:5,
"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you
will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
David promises God to deal with his own behavior first. Verse 3 of Psalm 101 states,
"I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall
away; It shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from
me; I will not know wickedness."
These are strong promises. He says he will set nothing wicked before his eyes. How does this apply to us? We have to take notice of any wickedness in our TV shows, in magazines, books, computer sites, and hobbies. There should be no trace of wickedness before us. David doesn't say he'll be careful to not follow wickedness or not be tempted by it when it is in front of him. He says he will not even put wickedness in front of his eyes. Wow! That takes discernment, sacrifice, a setting apart and a commitment to God.

After dealing with his own habits and behavior, David turns to his kingdom. He states in verses 5-8,

"Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, Him I will destroy; The one who has a
haughty look and a proud heart, Him I will not endure.

My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land, That they may dwell with me; He who walks in a perfect way, He shall serve me.

He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.

Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land, That I may cut off all the evildoers
from the city of the Lord."

David certainly took sin seriously. Of course, we are all sinners and wicked in God's eyes without the salvation of Jesus Christ, so David was referring to those who rejected God's commands and continued in habitual sin. David was personally aquainted with the disgrace of sin and the need for atonement! David knew his kingdom needed to pursue righteousness in order to succeed and be blessed. I love that he states "early" as the point in when he deals with the stubborn sin around him. He doesn't hesitate to act and cut off the cancer of wickedness that is in the land.

Do we cringe when we see sin and wickedness? Do we deal with it immediately, or do we shake our head later and click our tongues from time to time without action? We need to abhor sin as if Satan himself were handing it to us from his hands. When we become complacent or allow subtle nuances of sin to permeate our lives, Satan gets a foothold.

Take a lesson in righteousness 101 and deal with sin in your life and in influences around you. Flee from sin and seek holiness.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Cockatoo

Well, my husband and I joke about it, but our son, Carter, is accident prone. He is an adventurous boy with a serious case of curiosity. Ryan was gone this weekend on a backpacking trip, and I spent each day with parents and in-laws, trying to pass the time more quickly.

On Saturday, we took Carter to the San Juan Capistrano Zoomar petting zoo with my parents, my younger sister, Christa, her hubby and her kids. It was delightful. The minute we got there, Carter yelled, "mow-ney! mow-ney!" (translated pony). He loves to take the pony rides and jumps up and down until it is his turn. Of course, the minute he gets on the horse, he becomes stoic and serious, to the point of no responses or smiles. You can see this in the picture.

He also adores the choo-choo train they have there. Again, he yells, "choo-choo," until I march him over to the line, but his face turns deadpan serious in concentration once he perches in one of the train cars. He gets to ride by himself, which I think is exciting for him. It's hard to tell by his expression.

Anyway, the story begins at the end. We were close to leaving, when I took Carter for a quick look at the birds. He loves birds. We got to the Cockatoo cage, where he quickly pointed at the bird, sticking the end of his left pointer finger a few centimeters into the mesh cage. Before I could react, the aforementioned Cockatoo had firmly grabbed Carter's finger in his beak and had no intention of letting go. I was helpless and could not get past the mesh cage to confront the bird. Carter just had shock on his face and didn't make a peep. As I watched the beak sink deeper into his nail and finger, I decided I had to intervene. I grabbed his finger and yanked it out of the bird's beak, taking the top half of his nail with it and much of the skin off the top of his finger. As soon as the finger was free, the screams began.

I was a mess--emotionally teary eyed and covered in blood from the finger he wouldn't let us touch. We were able to wash it and dab some Neosporin on the wound. It looked fairly bad. Carter was puffy faced from screaming and crying for about twenty minutes, and his shirt had blood from the finger he held in the air like an Olympic torch. It was not fun.

After much deliberation, we skipped the Urgent Care and watched the finger closely for infection. It healed very quickly, and he has a nice scab covering the wound now. The lessons I learned were never trust a petting zoo (we found out later the bird bites a lot, and there is no sign), be faster than a Cockatoo and always have a first aid kit on hand when Carter is your son. Oh, the stories I'll have to tell him when he is older . . .

Slave of All Part II

This is a quote I read today in Helper by Design, a book I am reading by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It speaks to the submission and humility that I discussed a few blogs ago in Slave of All. She poinantly said,
"Do you have Christ's attitude? He taught, 'A slave is not greater than
his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him' (John
13:16). At heart, do you believe that you ought to have rights that
the Son of God declined?"
That last sentence is a hard one to swallow. It made me think about all the entitlement I expect, and how silly and vain I appear in the light of Jesus. Try asking yourself that question if you dare.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Build One Another Up: Ryan Hawley

I know that much of what I have to say in blogs is introspective on what is wrong with society and how far I am from where I hope to be in my Christian walk, but I thought it might be nice to have a weekly post where I encourage a person in my life and let everyone know specifically how they are a blessing to myself and others. I Thessalonians 5:11 Tells us,

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you
are doing."

Of course, I must begin with a man who is the dearest person in my heart--my husband. Ryan was a blessing from the very moment we met. In my human plans, I had always thought I'd get married no later than 25 years old and have kids around 28. God had different plans. Every serious relationship I had in my 20's didn't work out, and I didn't see God's
plan. I was discouraged and stressed.
I understood why He wanted me to wait when I met Ryan Hawley. I was 26--almost 27--when we met at church. Ryan was a confident, funny and sweet-natured guy. What first impressed me was that, on our first group date at the Spectrum, he was so good-natured and friendly when talking to shop sales people He seemed to always get a smile out of everyone. Perhaps it is part of the midwestern charm he picked up from living in Ohio. People enjoyed talking to him because he was not pretentious and was always joyful.

Ryan also wanted to please God more than anything and was forthcoming on his areas of spiritual weakness. More than anyone before, Ryan also was truthful with me in a LOVING way, but he always stressed my strengths and minimized my shortcomings. It melts my heart when he tells me I'm perfect for him. I know we are "perfect" for each other, because God planned our marriage and brought us together.

We were married when I was 28, on December 28, 2002. Since then, I have seen Ryan grow in his spiritual walk as he continually seeks the Lord. He has always remained the thoughtful, giving person that everyone loves. I joke about his energy and his love for laughs, but those are important reasons why he is special to me. He is a terrific daddy to Carter, and he makes it easy to submit to and respect him. He is a role model to me in my spiritual disciplines and always meets weekly with me for an hour or more to talk about what we are learning in my quiet times, recite memorized scripture, pray together about answered prayer and requests.

Galatians 5:22 tells us,
"the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Ryan has a knack for all these areas, but claims particular strengths in love, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Looking at this list, my weaknesses are joy, patience and self-control. God knew I needed a husband strong in these areas to encourage me to be obedient. As you can probably tell, I love my husband exceedingly, and I don't think a blog could ever express what a wonderful man he is to me. Thank you, Ryan, for all you do for our family and for loving God so much. Carter and I think you are wonderful!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Slave of all

In the Monday, August 6th, edition of the Orange County Register, there was a column on parenting and grandparenting in the modern age. This particular columnist tries to get to the bottom of the problem with children and teens today. I believe she tries in this article, in a limited and mistaken, worldly way, to really grasp the problem with teaching kids they are entitled and special above others. The article is entitled "What to Do When Everyone is Special?"

First, she tongue-in-cheekly blames the Fred Rogers, of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, who told every listening child they were special. Next, she diatribes the media and birth of MySpaces, YouTubes and reality TV, which can make a nobody a superstar. Finally, she ends with a dig at education, which teaches too much autonomy and worries too much about building self-esteem and making kids feel unique and precious.

Though this columnist is long on theory and short on Biblical truth, she brings up an important problem with our society. We have taught people to shirk responsibility, look for an easy way to success, stomp on others to put yourself first, and, as the Revlon commercial states, to say, "I'm worth it."

So where does the problem lie? As with all imperfections, the root of the problem is sin. Our society has strayed from the commandments of our God, our Creator. The world has turned the example of Jesus Christ upside down. Christ told us in Mark 10:43-45,

"Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be
your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as
a ransom for many."

Because many adults and children are all about getting ahead and serving themselves, these verses might sound archaic or okay in "theory." However, as followers of Christ, we must not theorize on Christ's example. We must act upon it.

When was the last time you sacrificed your free time to make a phone call to a friend in need? Have you recently allowed others to go ahead of you in a line? Are you willing to go see a movie your spouse prefers and not mention the movie you'd been waiting to see? Ladies, do you meet your spouse with a hug and encouraging words at the end of the day, waiting until a better time to complain about any defects to your day? As Pastor Bobby mentioned, do you serve to a point where you are sacrificing for God, or do you hold back and worry about burnout?

Start a habit of being a slave to others. You will be amazed at the benefits you receive in your new attitude and outlook. God knows what is best and what we should be doing to serve others around us. He was the ultimate slave of all.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Amazing Grace

I have always found that I love to discuss Biblical truths with other sisters-in-Christ. Sometimes I might be discipling, and sometimes I'm definitely the one getting discipled. It is so wonderful! God can speak to us through our sisters, and He gives us all different gifts and strengths.

A specific area which is near and dear to my heart is the Biblical role of a wife. Ryan and I co-lead a marriage ministry at our church, so I've felt extra-motivation to feed myself Biblical wisdom on being a godly wife. I finished reading The Excellent Wife, by Martha Peace, and, as I wrote in my second blog post, it was wonderful to find such a Biblically reliant book with unapologetic admonishment and encouragement. I am now reading Helper by Design, by Elyse Fitzpatrick. I am enjoying this book as well, though it has different strengths than The Excellent Wife. In Fitzpatrick's book, I appreciate the thoughtful application and summary questions at the end of each chapter. I am only into chapter 4, so I cannot speak to the whole book as of yet.

Fitzpatrick brought up a good point in chapter 3 of her book. She spoke of the amazing grace we have received from our Heavenly Father. We recognize our sinful states and the hopelessness we would face without the undeserved forgiveness and love from God. She went on to say that we recognize the grace we receive, yet we very often do not offer such forgiveness or grace to our husbands, our best friends and companions. She uses Matthew 18:32-33 to support the need for grace and mercy.
"You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with
me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same
way that I had mercy on you?"
She asks if we have mercy on our husbands, and if we still act unbecomingly in expecting perfection from our husbands. How do you treat your husband when he forgets to do the chore you mentioned earlier, when he accidentally wakes up the baby, or when he is running late in getting home from work? Do you outwardly show agitation with sighs, confrontation or a grumpy face? Do you grit your teeth, smile, and still sin in your thoughts and heart? Do you get upset, immediately repent and ask for forgiveness? I know I have a lot of work in this area. I am constantly repenting of my lack of patience. Thank goodness that God treats me better than I treat Ryan! God's love gives me a perfect model to emulate. His grace is my goal. It is amazing!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Got milk? Grow up in your salvation.

I Peter 2:2 "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it
you may grow up in your salvation."
Have you ever had a spiritual epiphany or lesson that you passionately shared with other women, only to have blank stares and blinking eyes as your response? Why is it that what the Holy Spirit is teaching me may have little or no meaning to another sister-in-Christ? Sometimes you may even find resistance to Biblical challenges you want to share with others. Beyond our human sinfulness, which keeps us from readily embracing change and discipline, why do we all respond differently to sermons, Christian books we read, scripture and conferences? The answer lies in our spiritual diet.
When I was teaching elementary school, a method in differentiating lessons for children of various levels in ONE classroom was "scaffolding". We don't teach long division before number sense and counting. It would have no meaning and the child would be hopelessly lost. We build skills into more difficult skills and so forth, constructing a network of knowledge that connects and builds upon itself--counting, adding, subtracting, multiplying, division, long division, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and whatever crazy math comes after that! It has order and sequence. We group the children and scaffold, or build, upon where they are developmentally in understanding.
God tells us that there are Biblical truths that are more elementary than others. Some of the truths are spiritual milk, easily digestible and more comfortable. There are more difficult truths that come along, and the lessons get more complex and challenging as we grow in our spiritual walk.
While you may be thrilled to finally understand the need to have joy in all situations, even difficult trials; your sister may be ready to delve into the depths of studying God's attributes or the topic of predestination. Another sister may be struggling with submission to her husband and obedience and repentance to God. Another sister might not understand her need to have quiet time each day and may just be sipping milk like a newborn infant.
In fact, the Bible tells us that elementary teachings are such things as "repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment." Hebrews 6:1-2. These are all basic instructions in the Bible, and Paul hopes that the Hebrews will leave these elementary teachings and move to maturity.

Hebrews 5:12-14 "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you
need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over
again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk,
being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about
righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have
trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

Are you still drinking milk from a spiritual bottle? How long have you been a Christian? If you realize you need to move forward, pray that God would give you the energy, desire and understanding to start eating solid food. If you are obediently growing in your spiritual maturity, remember there are still dear sisters drinking milk, and we need to urge them to "go on to maturity" (Hebrews 6:1). Realize also that the Holy Spirit is "scaffolding" our spiritual "education," and what you are learning may be way behind or ahead of what a sister is understanding. Be patient and loving, but Biblically admonish and encourage others to always be moving forward.

I Thessalonians 5: 14 "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle,
encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Heroes--Who is on your list?

All it took was a furry, red fuzzball with big, beady eyes to light up my 16 month old's face. The high pitched squeals of "mo-mo" (Elmo, for those not up to speed on Carterese)were followed by waiting in line for a chance to take a quick snapshot with the famous Sesame Street character. The attached picture speaks volumes as to my toddler's joy at meeting his television "hero" at the Discovery Science Center. We also recently spent time at the Aliso Viejo theater to view a free movie entitled "Elmo in Grouchland." Though we only lasted twenty minutes before we had to leave--when Carter started petting the nice lady's hair sitting in front of us, I took that as my sign to go--to Carter it was a wonderful twenty minutes of watching Elmo as large as life on a movie screen.

Though Elmo is a great character for kids to enjoy, it made me ponder the priority we place on other people, or red muppets in this case, over our God and King. Does it speak to an error in my parenting that I haven't spent as many hours praising our Heavenly Father and talking about Him to Carter as laughing at Elmo antics on TV? The other day, Carter pointed to his Bible and said "Jzus". I was thrilled! However, this came several months after learning to nickname his favorite furry monster. I so want Carter to adore God and have Him be his hero! The celebrities of this world are meaningless when compared to the majesty of our Lord. Imagine the stares I'd get if I replaced all the worldly heroes "stuff" with pictures of Jesus! Carter could have a Jesus lunchbox, a Jesus T-shirt, God videos, books, puzzles, etc. Okay, that might sound over the top, but you get the point. Early on, we need to teach our little ones that God is number one, and He deserves our adoration over anything else. I need to be his most powerful role-model of this practice. My life needs to clearly demonstrate that God is my hero. If I looked at your life, who would I say was yours?
Exodus 20:3-4 "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not
make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the
earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or
worship them: for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God."