Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Respectable Sins

I am currently reading Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins we Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges. This is the same author who wrote The Pursuit of Holiness, another amazing read. After beginning with chapters on sin and ways to deal with sin, Mr. Bridges has tackled the error of ungodliness, anxiety and frustration, discontent, unthankfulness, pride and selfishness. I still have to read the upcoming chapters on lack of self-control, anger, impatience and irritability, judgmentalism, envy and jealousy, sin in speech, and worldliness.

The theme of this book is to have Christians take a deep look at all sin, especially those wrongs that society, and even a church body, can mistakenly tolerate. We harshly condemn an adulterer, but we tsk, tsk a person who is negative or prideful.

I am finding great motivation in this book. My only slight disappointment is that Mr. Bridges covers so many topics, he just grabs my attention and begins to peel layers in a particular area, only to move into another chapter on another sin. Each sin truly could have its own book in order to adequately cover the issues and Biblical truths surrounding it. I found The Pursuit of Holiness to be extremely inspiring, and, if you could read only one, I would recommend that book over this one. However, there are many excellent points to absorb in Respectable Sins, so I would still recommend reading it AFTER you read the other. To be fair, it is an amazing and Biblical overview of many tolerated sins.

The chapter on selfishness spoke to me, as Mr. Bridges pointed out that it is a flaw we readily see in others but rarely recognize in ourselves. He turns to four particular areas of selfishness: interests, time, money and inconsiderateness. I was able to take this chapter, learn some application and truly measure myself against what God expects. I love that the author challenges the reader to ask your spouse or family member in what area you are selfish and need to grow. Ouch! What a challenge, and, if lovingly conducted, what a productive time of repentance and sanctification.

We all have "respectable sins" we purposely overlook and sweep under the rug. This book reminds us that there is no sliding scale of morality, only the perfect holiness of our God. We must take the time and energy to expose all sin and change until we clearly reflect our Heavenly Father.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Encourage One Another: Diana Nichol

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
I have a few people I want to give a I Thessalonians 5:11 post, but I'll start today with a dear worker and member of Compass Bible Church, Diana Nichol. If you don't know Diana's name, you know her face. She is always in the church office, expertly dealing with hundreds of details in VARIOUS ministries, or you see her face when she is singing on the worship team, as she did this Sunday.

Thrive has been working with Diana Nichol for the past two years--going to her for notebooks, announcements in the bulletin, Xerox copies, facilities forms, all sorts of questions, and, most importantly to most of you, dinners for Thursday nights! Though Sean and Kelly Smith have stepped in to help Diana coordinate our meals and be our liason this semester, Diana ordered all the church Thursday dinners last semester, and she is still helping us currently. You can think of her next time you spoon Cosmo's salad and pasta on your plate.

What is special about Diana is her godly peacefulness and gentleness. She has one of those jobs where 99% of the population would stress and burn out quickly. She is a multi-tasker and an organizer extraordinaire. However, she is able to give all the difficulties and anxieties of her busy job to God. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7
If you call Diana with a question, she always answers you as if she doesn't have 20 people to call and hours of work to do before she leaves for the day. If you run into her in the hall, she greets you with a smile--even though she knows she is probably about to get asked to do something. She exemplifies the call to do all to the glory of God, never letting her circumstances change her witness to others and her effectiveness to serve the church body. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

I'm so thankful for her expertise, her kindness, her organization, her talents, her example and her willingness to be used for God's family. Thank you, Diana, for continually demonstrating godly patience toward Ryan and I. This is an area in which I struggle, and I deeply value those who can teach me this virtue with their example. You are greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Creative Outlets

Now that I'm not teaching elementary school anymore, with the artwork, music and creative planning that come with that job, I find I have to find other ways to have a creative outlet. So, I have found blogging and knitting to be fun addictions. Also, I recently borrowed my mom's sewing machine, and for the past few months, I get rare chances during naptime or nights when Ryan is planning a Thrive teaching to try my hand at sewing. I really enjoy the creative planning that goes into picking fabrics and projects, but I'm so new at it, I don't have tons of options. I will post a few pictures of my "projects." I have some placemat purses and burp cloths under my belt.

I have not taken any sewing classes beyond reading the sewing machine manual, so if anyone has an idea of where to take a great beginners' class, I'd appreciate any ideas. I looked into Tall Mouse and Joann's Fabrics as possibilities, and they might work. Also, if you have any fun, creative project ideas for a true beginner, I'd love direction. Thanks!


I thought I'd quickly post this cute (and a little gross) story on this rainy morning.

Carter is in love with his two Ga-ga's-rhymes with mamas--(blankets). He squeals with delight and hugs them when I hand them to him. He wants to bring them everywhere! Once, at Disneyland, a kid was wearing a camoflauged shirt that looked like ga-ga, and Carter grabbed this boy's sleeve, rubbed it like he does his silky ga-ga and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Luckily, the poor kid didn't see Carter pawing his outfit.

Ryan and I have tried to keep ga-ga's in the crib, but long ago he learned how to reach into the crib and pull them out. I am trying to be firm with Carter about not always having his ga-ga's, so yesterday, I put them out of sight in the morning.

As I was eating my breakfast and reading the paper, Carter was playing and running around the kitchen with his letter magnets and other toys. At one point, Carter gleefully squeaked, "Ga-ga!" I was reading a story, so I mumbled, "hmmm ..." and didn't look. Then it dawned on me that I had ga-ga hidden. I looked over to find that Carter adopted the kitchen sink floormat as his new ga-ga, laying himself down under the dirty, nasty, crumb ridden rug and tucking it on top of himself. I have the picture to prove it!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Purity: A Proactive Pursuit in Marriage

I Thessalonians 4:1-8
Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

We continue to study the book of I Thessalonians in Thrive, our marriage ministry at Compass Bible Church. Ryan is speaking to the group this week about the commands and instructions of I Thessalonians 4: 1-8. Much of the passage speaks about sexual purity and self control.

Many young couples do not entertain the idea that an affair or temptation could fall into the lap of their marriage. However, this is exactly what Satan hopes our attitude becomes--ignorant complacency. The Bible knew that everyone is capable of falling into sexual impurity, and it gives instructions on staying pure in many different scriptures. For example, all of Proverbs 5 gives warning to the folly of adultery.

Early on in our marriage, Ryan and I had a discussion about "red flag" situations. We made a contract with specific boundaries that are to keep us from entering into dangerous situations. Ryan communicated his promises to his accountability partners, and they hold him to his contract with me. For example, at work, Ryan will never close his office door when he has a female meeting with him. He also will never take a female co-worker out to lunch alone. There are more rules we have set, which are specific to our lives and work/home situations.

For me, being at home with Carter, I have very different guidelines I have set. For instance, I will watch my wardrobe attire, so as to never invite sin into another's thoughts. When I have a male workman in my home, I leave the door open and I always call Ryan while the worker is there--even if I just leave a message on his phone at work.

Together, we try to weed sexual impurity out of our home entertainment. We read about movies before viewing them and, as one guideline, we do not watch any movies with nudity or "adult situations." The books I read should never be graphic romance novels, and Ryan won't be found reading the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. Ryan also has given his accountability partners access to view what websites he visits on his computer. I also am in an accountability group, where I can honestly express any struggles and be held to the standard God commands.

Though none of these boundaries I have listed are earth shattering, it is surprising how few couples take the time to discuss this problem honestly and to set up guidelines to prevent those "red flag" situations.

How about you and your spouse? What safeguards have you set in order to obey God's command for purity? What items in your wardrobe might need to be tossed? What television shows have a pattern of sexual promiscuity and flippancy and shouldn't be watched? What guidelines will you choose in deciding on your next movie? What magazines in your periodical pile are maybe not honoring and glorifying to God and respectful to your spouse? I urge you to take the time to think about these possible impurities with your spouse. Make a contract to proactively and purposefully pursue purity in your marriage (Wow! That is a lot of 'p' words!). Reread verse 7 and 8 of I Thessalonians 4 and ponder whether or not God is very serious about this area of obedience.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dress Up

I may not have been blessed with a girl, but I love having a boy. Carter is all about balls, trucks, tractors, trains and cars. The weekly visit from the trash truck is the high and low of his week--ecstasy at hearing the approaching roar and tears as he turns around the corner to leave. We also have a tractor working near our home, which we drive by daily. He gives me a daily report about the dirt and whether the arm of the tractor is up or down.

However, Carter also has a funny side. He loves to dress up--he runs to Ryan's closet, slips on daddy's shoes and says, "I did it!" He also loves to try on sunglasses and giggle. Here are some pictures of Carter's recent dress up poses--mommy's sunglasses, glasses from "It's a Bug's Life" at Disneyland, and posing in Ryan's tennis shoes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Dinner

Well, many of you who read my blog were there, but a few of you couldn't make it or aren't in this group. Our Thrive Marriage Ministry at Compass Bible Church threw a fun Valentine's celebration. These past few days, I'd been baking 12 heart shaped cakes to be the centerpieces of our round tables. Poor Carter watched me bake chocolate cakes every day. I explained to him we were baking them for church. He kept saying, "Chocolate cake. Bring to church." He is so patient with all that comes with Ryan and I co-leading Thrive!

Carter and I got to church at 3:30 and decorated a bare, white room into a twinkle light, candle-lit dinner room-with roses, Frank Sinatra playing, and yummy food catered for the 75 or so guests. We had tons of help frosting cakes, hanging balloons and streamers, rolling scroll papers and tying them with ribbon, putting up twinkle lights and arranging hearts and tulle. It was beautiful!

When people arrived, Ryan and some others were dressed-up "ushers", handing roses to the ladies and seating couples at tables. We played three fun games after dinner, but my favorite was a "name that tune" game with cheesy/classic love songs. We also had a newlywed table game and a "name that Bible/TV couple game." (It was great to see that the group knew more about the Bible couples than the TV show couples.) It was so fun!

When Ryan and I got home, we both were excited that the night was a success for everyone. We wanted people to be glad they attended the night and to make it extra special. Though it required tons of willing hands to prepare, it didn't seem like work because we had such a fun time. It was a great example of how Valentine's Day, for Christians, isn't just about loving our spouse or kids. It is about pouring sacrifical love to everyone--friends, family, people at work, neighbors and even strangers. If you came, I hope you had a great time; and if you weren't there, I pray that you were able to demonstrate Christ's love to others on your special Valentine's day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I am going to steal an idea from my friend, Jessica, and list some of my favorite things in honor of Valentine's Day! I pray everyone is able to have a special day, no matter whether it involves flowers, cards, candy or a nice dinner. Being a believer, we have the most wonderful Valentine of all--God's love given in the gift of Christ! Happy Valentine's Day!

Some things I love and for which I am so thankful:

--Carter laughing a deep chuckle

--snuggling with my husband and watching television

--A hot cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate

--a hot bowl of steaming soup

--The sound of the breeze rustling leaves on a lazy, summer afternoon

--Friday nights

--twinkle lights (white Christmas type lights)

--Going to church

--rainy days/nights when you can curl up by a fire and read a book


--Walks with my husband and Carter, just chatting about life

--When Carter says, "Hold you" and snuggles his head in the nook of my shoulder

--ice cream

--Playing cards with Ryan on vacation

--putting on fancy dresses

--Costa Rica

--The smell of shampoo in Carter's clean hair

--Candles at a restaurant

--Ryan all dressed up in work clothes

--Reading the paper at Starbucks

--The excitement and planning of an upcoming vacation


--Doing creative projects--blogging, sewing, drawing, writing, cooking, knitting, etc.

--Looking at photo albums

--Singing worship songs

--Going to nice dinners in a fancy dress

--Chick Fillet shakes (oreo)

--The Filet Mignon with blue cheese at Outback

--A summer BBQ

--Relaxing with family

--Planning parties

--Church or building bells chiming


--The ocean just before a storm

--loud thunder

--the sounds of a nighttime football game


--hiking with Ryan

--Hearing our pastor give Bible sermons--always something to learn!

--The smell of sunscreen

--Christmas parties


--sushi with wasabi

--Chinese food with chopsticks and cups of hot tea

--Watching Carter dance

--Teaching children

--Walks behind the Montage right around sunset

--The special herb butter at Ti Amos

--Going to Disneyland ( I love the gardens and paths that all wind around the castle, but I love this little, quiet, secret tunnel by the Mexican food restaurant and the shooting range at night--it has colored bubble lights and is a nice, romantic place to enjoy the twilight.

--Chatting with friends at parks, Bible study, and nights out

--Friends who are truthful, loving sisters in Christ--spurring me on in growth with God

--When Carter would kick my tummy when I was pregnant, and I would poke his little foot, hand or bottom--whatever was sticking out-- to make him wiggle.

--Knowing something you just saw or experienced was clearly God intervened

--Reading the Bible when I am stressed or worried

--My supportive and loving parents

--My sweet and wonderful in-laws

--Our Thrive group on Thursdays

--Sleeping in the car

--Hearing the garage open when Ryan gets home.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

This is the Day That the Lord Has Made

"This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be
glad in it."

If you count layover time, Ryan and I arrived in the Bahamas after 7 hours of traveling on a red eye flight. We left LAX on a midnight flight, stayed two hours in Atlanta and arrived the next morning in Nassau. Needless to say, I was groggy, disoriented and excited for our vacation all at once. As we were going through Bahamian customs, the female officer checking our passports started singing "This is the Day that the Lord has Made" from beginning to end. She had a clear, beautiful voice, and she smiled the whole time she sang. Immediately, my sluggish walk and red eyes were renewed with the reminder that God made this day and everything we encounter in it.

I hadn't heard that sweet melody in quite awhile, but I am so thankful God had me hear it again. It has resonated in my mind for over a week, reminding me of God's sovereignty as I struggle through a cough, fever and cold this week; highlighting God's blessings as I play with my nearly two year old son; and giving me extra patience in a battle against life's daily inconveniences and mishaps.

Each day is a wonderful gift from our loving Creator. Whether it is a day in the darkest valley or one of those days you feel like you could burst with joy, it is the day God made specifically for you. He wants us to rejoice in it, for He has allowed it for our good. The trials will mold us more closely into His perfect, holy image; and the blessings are reminders of His amazing love.

Whatever type of day you are facing, rejoice in it and be glad. God made this day for you!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Miss America Syndrome: Finding Contentment

Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Our pastor recently gave our congregation an amazing sermon on contentment in a materialistic society. He used the passage of Ecclesiastes 5:10-20. You are able to hear and see the sermon if you click here.
The last point of his sermon--aim for contentment--struck me. It certainly is hard to not covet and want more "stuff" in South Orange County, but I would have to say I, personally, have more sinful areas to which this point applies.
Ladies, you may find me being brutally honest (and it might hit home for you too), but I realized that my lack of contentment is in the area of beauty and body image. At whatever weight I am at, I find myself unhappy. I watch my diet, work out often and still have a nice ten pounds to lose. When I see my peers eating whatever they choose and dropping their baby weight quickly to get back to their skinny pre-pregnancy bodies, I want to scream! This is jealousy and covetousness. Just recently, I've started looking at my face in the mirror to see some droops and wrinkles that weren't there before. I pull back my skin a bit and see the glowing 20-something year old I knew several years back. This is just plain pride and vanity. When I read magazines, I see the trendy clothes and beautiful dresses on the pages and wish I could buy those items AND look like the 15 year old model wearing them. My thoughts can become, "If only I were taller, skinnier, prettier, etc."

Pastor Mike told us that "coveting is a rebellion against the sovereignty of God." Indeed, God gives us each what we need in life, and He desires us to have a holy and content joy in what He has given us. We are to be thankful for everything! I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." As an illustration to this point, Pastor Mike went on to explain that sometimes he craves a buttery, sizzling Ruth's Chris steak. However, on his thirty minute lunch break, he zips down to Taco Bell and gets a bean burrito. He has the choice to choke on every bite and bitterly wish he had the steak, or he can be grateful for the cheesy, beany, warm burrito in his hands. Though it isn't that steak, it is delicious and it feeds him. He can choose contentment.

That choice and fight resonates with me. I have found I have to actively fight my covetousness and choose contentment. I had to stop subscribing to my In Style magazine because I found myself dissatisfied with my wardrobe and self-image after reading it. When I find myself coveting another person's appearance, I have to count my blessings and remember that I have MANY things for which to be thankful--a thanks list is a great daily exercise. For example, I have my health, I certainly don't have a severe weight problem, and I have a husband who thinks I'm pretty. I have to stop wincing when I see old pictures of my face and body, when I wore a size 2 and the word "wrinkle" wasn't even in my vocabulary. Though I want to be clear that this is NOT an excuse to gain 20 pounds and quit taking care of myself. This also does not necessarily mean dieting, working out or trying to put myself together is wrong. It all comes back to my motives and my contentment. I want to be beautiful for my husband, and he tells me all the time that I am. Unfortunately, I tune out his affirmation and dismiss his compliments. When I care more about my own desires than the content attitude of my husband, I know I am in the realm of sin.

Pastor Mike ended his sermon with the point that we can aim for contentment by staying God-centered. When I focus on the beauty of a gentle spirit and an obedient heart, I won't worry about the decaying shell of flesh that holds me. When I am properly focused on Christ and His sacrifice that saved me from Hell, I won't ponder foolish desires found in the latest fashion magazine or the latest ideal weight that society dangles in front of me. I am being inwardly renewed each step of my Christian journey, and outwardly, though my flesh fights and hates it, I am wasting away. To read some excellent posts concerning beauty and body image, click here.

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4: 16-18

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Bahamas

Our trip to the Bahamas was wonderful. From the moment we stepped off the plane to smell the sweet, sticky air of the tropics, we felt relaxed. In retrospect, the weather was not spectacular. It poured one of our days there, it was clear and perfect one of our days there, and it was cloudy and muggy on two of our days there. However, we were not there to have perfect tans. Our objective to spend time together and take a break from our busy schedules was achieved. To see how God was able to use our trip, read my post below.

We spent many hours reading by the pool, playing tennis in the morning, playing pool in the billiards room after dinner, playing cards in the late afternoon, and eating meal after meal of delicious food. We tried to burn some of the calories with two morning gym workouts and three games of competitive tennis, but I still found I ate more than I burned off in exercise. Ah, but that is one of the delights of vacation! We also went on a snorkeling expedition one morning and took one afternoon bus trip into Nassau. Overall, it was a special trip, and I will have fond memories of our Bahamian retreat--standing still for five days, just to laugh with and remember the blessing of my husband.