Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On Responding in Meekness with Thankful Hearts

I started writing a comment over at Susanne's post "A Matter of Perspective", but it was getting pretty long, so I thought it was more appropriate as a post of its own. Read her post first for the context of my thoughts.

Isn't it ironic how we often feel that as Christians we are "entitled" to material comforts, but we don't want to embrace the suffering and testing that the scriptures directly tell us to expect?

We are told "Do not be surprised if the world hates you." (1 Jn. 3:13, see also 1 Peter 4:12-19), yet we are surprised, and easily offended, and we get all bent out of shape when we are mistreated. We react strongly even when someone just cuts in front of us on the highway, or shortchanges us at the store, or overcharges us for services rendered.

These minor, random offenses are not even close to the kind of persecution for which the Bible tells us to be prepared. Regardless of whether we personally experience that kind of direct assault against us because of our faith, we are called to live lives of meekness, humility, and love even when faced with hatred. We should live our lives in such a way that we can look in the face of our accuser (even our exocutioner) and say in true love "Father, forgive them." If such an accuser never comes against us, Praise be to God. But if he does come, how can we be prepared to respond in the love of Christ?

Do I respond in bitterness and indignation at today's minor annoyance, but expect to be filled with humility, meekness, and longsuffering when it "Really Matters"? If so, I am deceived. I cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work in me by responding in obedience. If I have strengthened through practice the propensity of my flesh to respond in anger, then anger and resentment will fester and grow within me. The next time I am provoked, that is what will come out.

But if I seek to go low and let the Lord work humility within me now (by practicing walking in humility, meekness, forgiveness, thankfulness), then when greater offenses come, I will have the way of Christ established in my heart in preparation for that day.

Responding in meekness, with a thankful heart in the midst of all circumstances, is not only important to my present state of mind, but also for establishing a habit of obedience that will affect my future responses as well.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Say To You...Watch!

This morning the message at my church was titled "Understanding What Is Happening In The Middle East". The scripture was Zechariah 12-14, and it was an awesome message summing up some critical themes for understanding what God's Word says about Israel, the End Times, and the plan of God for the end of this Age and the transition to the Millenial Reign of Christ.

Much of the Western Church has long ignored this topic, but we can no longer afford to do so. If we desire to understand the heart of God toward humanity, we must receive a revelation from the Word about God's plan for the future. God's ultimate goal in the events which unfold on the earth is to fill the earth with voluntary lovers of Jesus. This seems like a very logical goal. But without an understanding of the scriptures, even believers who are passionately in love with Christ now may have a hard time understanding the events that God uses to lead the whole earth back to God when they begin to unfold.

You may ask - Why would this be confusing to a believer if they love Jesus? Hint: His plan involves A LOT of horrific things happening, and many, many people dying. (One-Half of the world population to be exact.) If we do not understand his purposes, we will easily be offended by His means.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics, I encourage you to watch the webcast of tonight's service. You can access it by clicking here. The web stream starts tonight at 6pm, and the message starts sometime between 6:30-7:00. Also, the notes are available by clicking here.

You may also want to check out one of these resources:

Your People Shall By My People (great book about Israel)

I will have more to say about Israel, the End Times, and the Lord's return in future posts, but I just wanted to put up a quick post to point you toward these resources.

Please prayerfully seek the Lord about this - ask the Lord to give you a revelation of His end-time plan through His Word, and then read the Word to see what he has to say. A great place to start is Matthew 24. The books of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah (chapters 12-14 are where we focused this morning), and Isaiah are also great places to dig deeper.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Skinny on Body Image

Speaking of teen conversations that proved my lack of coolness: A couple nights ago the girls were discussing the attack of American culture against their self-image, and they cited Hollister as an example. Being that I am completely out of touch with what is cool (hip? phat? What do teenagers say nowadays anyway?) I had to interrupt the conversation to ask "Who or what is this Hollister of whom you speak?"

Apparently Hollister is a clothing company whose sizes run extremely small, resulting in hordes of regularly-sized teenage girls feeling like they are being told: "You are too fat, and therefore uncool. We wouldn't let you wear our clothes even if you were willing to pay our exorbitant prices. We are for skinny, cool people only, so take your money and find somewhere else to shop, loser."

Maybe those aren't the exact words they used, but it's basically the sentiment they expressed. They felt like the standard to which they were being held in terms of body image was that of a waif. They said that they felt like the company doesn't want "bigger people" to be able to wear their clothes. Not being able to fit in the largest pair of jeans in the store made them feel unwanted, like they weren't good enough and something was wrong with them.

These girls are healthy and beautiful. They are not overweight (not that it would be ok to make them feel bad about it even if they were.) They should NOT be made to feel that they are somehow falling short, or not good enough, or that something is wrong with them, just because they are not a size 2.

Two of the girls specifically expressed a history of struggling with eating disorders directly precipitated by their low feeling of self-worth. One of the girls said that her dad used to chide her for eating too much, and warned her from an early age not to "get fat" because it would make life harder for her in the long run. Yeeeah, and you telling your daughter that "being skinny makes life easier" is really going to help things run smoothly for her in the body-image department? Not so much. (Sorry, I'm a little fired up.)

I am grieved by the pressure these girls are under, the images and messages they are surrounded by that say "You must be skinny, you must be pretty, you must strive to become attractive to guys." It's not just the issue of weight/thinness that is the problem - the whole realm of striving after physical beauty is just out of control. I'm not saying that we need to be walking around in burkhas so that we don't get caught up in our looks. It's not just about "accepting our bodies" or being comfortable in our own skin.

What grieves me the most about the situation is not just the expectations and attitudes that the culture is feeding to these beautiful girls. That alone is awful, but what do we expect from the unsanctified world, which has given itself over to the one who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy? We are fooling ourselves if we think that we can solve this problem by reasoning with its perpetuators (or its victims).

What weighs so heavily on my heart is that these girls were not just talking about not feeling pretty. They were talking about not feeling valuable.

This is a spiritual issue. It gets down to the very core of who we believe ourselves to be. I believe God has given us a desire for beauty - a longing to behold beauty, and to be beautiful. This is a godly desire, but one that is so often defined and 'fulfilled' unrighteously. We, as the church in America, are failing our youth if they are not anchored in the hope of their value and worth in Christ. Their hearts (and our hearts) need to be aligned rightly with the Word of God, and what He says about beauty. If they do not know that they are beautiful to God, and desired by Him, then we are abandoning them to the transient affections of this world.

It's not ultimately about whether my body looks the way I want. It's about whether I am someone who possesses beauty. It's not really about whether my skin is clear and smooth. It's about whether I am worth anything. It's not really about whether I can attract the attention of the opposite sex. It's about whether anyone who matters to me sees me as worthy of affection.

Lest any of you wonder: You are beautiful, you are desired, and you are worth it. God poured out the most extravagant display of affection in the world, when he poured out himself on our behalf on the cross. He did it all for love - because He loves you, and He desires your love in return. There is no greater consolation in life than knowing that the God of Creation is passionately in love with me. His heart is overwhelmed with love by even the slightest inclination of my heart towards Him.

If the truth of the love of God is alive in our hearts, only then an we understand the true beauty we possess.

You have ravished my heart with one look of your eye (Song of Solomon 4:9)

You are altogether beautiful, my darling. (Song of Solomon 4:7a)

The King greatly desires your beauty (Psalm 45:11)

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing; But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:30)

As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. (Proverbs 11:22)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tastes Like Jesus

One of the teens who is living with us for three weeks gave me the grandest compliment I've ever received about something I cooked. As she ate some of my peach cobbler, she said

"Mmmmm...this tastes like Jesus. If Jesus had a taste, I think he'd be just like this."
How can you get any better than tasting like Jesus!?

Since I know you're all dying for the recipe now, what with it being so divine and all... Here is the original recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, (with my alterations/substitutions).

Fresh Peach-Vanilla Cobbler
2 ¼ cups sugar, divided
½ vanilla bean, cut into 1-inch pieces (I substitute with vanilla extract to taste)
5 pounds peaches, peeled, cut into ½ to ¾ inch thick slices (I don't peel them)
2 Tbl. plus 1½ cups flour

2¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
3 Tbl. triple sec or orange juice (OJ for me)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp almond extract (I hate almond extract. I use a little orange extract, or sub. with more vanilla)
6 Tbl. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325*. Blend ¾ cup sugar and vanilla bean in processor until vanilla is finely ground. (If substituting with vanilla extract, process for a few seconds, until vanilla is well blended throughout the sugar). Sift vanilla sugar into large bowl. Add peaches and 2 Tbl. Flour; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Bake until bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk remaining 1 ½ cups sugar and 1 ½ cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Whisk eggs and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Fold in melted butter.

Pour batter over hot peach mixture. Continue baking until topping is brown and tester inserted into center of topping comes out clean, about 45 minutes longer. Cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

WFMW: Teething Pain Relief

As I have recently mentioned, Abigial is teething. If you have a baby/toddler like mine, you understand the daily trauma we endure - bite marks on everything (and everyone, but we're working on that), disrupted sleep, and sudden, intense crying followed by a swirl of activity in an attempt to remedy the situation. I used to find myself holding Abigail and attempting to console her while trying to encourage her to chew on a teething ring until the tylenol kicked in. I often felt that my attempts were futile, as nothing seemed to really kick the pain while it was peaking. But now, after some trial and error, I have found our "Holy Grail" of teething pain relief.


Oh, what joy I had the first time Abigail started gnawing on a chunk on frozen banana, and her face went from grimacing in pain to not-quite-smiling but really enjoying this yummy, soothing treat. The taste keeps her interested, and the cold helps soothe her gums. (Also a great thing if your child has trouble eating because of the pain - the coldness really helps.)
Now that Abigail has somewhat advanced eating skills, I just cut up the grapes or bananas into small pieces most of the time. But thanks to this awesome invention, I don't even have to do that. We always keep a "food feeder" in the freezer with a couple grapes or a chunk of nanner inside. (Click on the photo for more info. I usually buy mine at Baby Depot, but they can be found at many stored that sell baby supplies.) The mesh holder makes it safe for her to eat without fear of choking. She started using this as soon as she was able to hold it and chew solid foods. (The picture at the top is an old one, taken when she was about 6 months old.)

That works for me! Go see Shannon over at Rocks in my Dryer for the all-new and improved Works For Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Walmart With Toddler, in Pictures

I knew it was going to be a rough day when Abigail got ahold of my shopping list and immediately stuck it into her mouth, tore off a piece, chewed it up, and spit it onto the floor. All this happened in a matter of moments while I grabbed a bag of bagels for the four (yes, 4!) teenage girls that will be staying with us for the next three weeks.
Since when are her arms long enough to grab things out of the cart while she's strapped into her seat?

So, I'm walking by the candy aisle when I start thinking I'm smelling puke. No, wait, that's not quite it, but it's bringing up olfactory memories of having the flu. I literally stop and look all around me, trying to figure out what it is. I pinpoint the scent-reference: It's Pepto-Bismol. But there is none of the pink stuff in the candy aisle. It's really bugging me that I can't figure this out, so I literally walk slowly down the aisle smelling for the culprit. (If anyone was watching me leaning into the shelves to sniff the packages, I'm sure they thought I was nuts.)
Lo and behold, I found the impostor: Wint-o-green Life Savers. I will never be able to eat them again. (Not that I ever did in the first place, but NOW - ugh, queasy just thinking about it.) Don't believe me? Go get some and smell for yourself. I'm tellin' ya Pepto smell = Wint-o-green smell.

Obviously, the shopping list was not the only victim of Abigail's rampant teething tirade. Poor box-o-Eggos got snagged while I was reaching into the freezer for some juice concentrate.

When baby gets fussy, I start acting like the cart is some kind of carnival ride. Wheeeeee! We're driving like a race car! Wheeeeee! Mommy's standing on the bottom rack and rolling with you! Wheeeee! (Yeah, strangers are really starting to look at me now - but at least it keeps Abigail from screaming like a banshee because She. Wants. OUT. NOW! Notice that in this picture there are no hands on the handle of the cart. Abigail is rolling freely down the aisle, with physical control of the cart completely relinquished to the forces of gravity, momentum, and the crazy wheel that won't go straight. This is the height of fun, people. She could cruise like that for hours. Her big smile is so cute, it almost made me forget that shopping with a toddler is work. Almost... But alas, we must go check out. And just when we were having so much fun.

Checking out is pretty much always a nightmare, because Abigail despises being still for more than two seconds at a time. Sitting still is bad enough. But sitting still in a cart that's not moving - torture! Being the genius mother that I am, I decide to let her play with the first item that I scan - give her something to keep her busy while I scan and bag the week's rations, you know?

(Yes, I'm a self-checkout junkie. Nobody packs my groceries the way I like them except for ME. I pack those babies full. Why is it that every time a cashier bags my stuff I end up with, like, 6 bags for 5 products. C'mon people - A plastic bag can hold more than three cans of juice! Anyway, back to the saga...)

So I scan a 64 oz. bottle of juice and set it in the cart next to her. I'm thinking - it's plastic, she can chew on it but can't get it open, it's perfect. Silly Mommy obviously didn't think that one through. Plastic bottles don't break like glass when they hit the floor, but they still bust open. That's about 20-some ounces of Welch's White Grape Cherry juice all over the floor. Oh joy!

We survive the check-out, but Abigail hasn't had enough fun yet. We have to stop and say hello to Barney. I don't feed the monster quarters, I just let her climb up on the seat. She has no idea that this thing moves if you put money in it - she just likes to sit there and turn the steering wheel. If I have anything to say about it, she'll never see Barney in action, and therefore I will never have to hear her beg me for a quarter to ride.

We make it to the car and I'm putting groceries in the trunk when I realize that when the juice-incident took place, I never found the lid for the bottle. Now I have an opened, 2/3-full bottle of juice with a busted spout. But by golly, I bought the juice so I'm taking it home. Improvisation is a required skill for motherhood. I managed to get the juice home without spilling a drop or staining my pants (or should I say, without staining my pants more...there's that nice peanut butter spot on my thigh.) Back home in the driveway, I did manage to spill the juice onto the roof of the car when I set it there to get Abigail out of her carseat. But it was a little spill, and it only dripped onto the seat a couple times.

Tomorrow, we tackle Costco.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Christina, Part 1

Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

Meet Christina. She is my one of my bestestest friends in the whole wide world.

Lovely Miss Christina and I met 8 years ago. We got thrown together when we both joined a women's bible study on our college campus. I was newly saved, and highly un-sanctified. Christina had little patience for my tales of woe regarding the trivial, worldly concerns with which I was consumed at the time. Christina was bubbly and energetic in her faith. I found her to be infuriatingly cheerful and a little too eager to please.

Needless to say, it was not love at first sight.

Don't get me wrong, we never had any intent of malice toward one another. We saw each other as sisters in Christ and did our best to encourage and edify one another. But in the midst of that, it was also pretty clear that we often rubbed each other the wrong way. The. Wrong. Way.

I talked too much. About unimportant things. And cared too much about boys.

Christina was too loud. She sang to herself. And talked to herself. Loudly. In Public.

Despite our differences, we continued to try our hand at building a friendship. The road was bumpy, with the occasional head-on-collision.

Case in point: Christina was understandably frustrated by what appeared to be my utter disregard for the virtue of modesty during the early months of our accidental companionship friendship. Prior to encountering the Lord during the middle of my freshman year of college, I was rather preoccupied with garnering and keeping the attention and affections of the male gender. I was not promiscuous, but I liked to feel wanted. Despite my desire for subtlety, certain pieces in my wardrobe reflected that desire a leeeeeeetle too much. So, one day as we were leaving to go to dinner, Christina looked at my outfit and said “You look trashy – I’m not going to dinner with you dressed like that!”

Oh, no, wait. That’s not what she said.

She was genuinely appalled at my choice of attire, but showing appropriate restraint she probably said gently, “Are you sure that shirt isn’t too tight/too revealing/too (enter immodest adjective here)?” I tried not to be offended, but my worldly mind wanted to scream – “EXCUSE ME? You dare to question my judgment?” After a moment of internal debate, I knew that she was completely right. I acquiesced and changed my clothes before heading to dinner, and a short while later I threw away the offending shirt.

So began the next chapter of our friendship. For some reason, God made us vulnerable to one another. We were aware of each others’ weaknesses and needs, and we didn’t always like what we found in each other, or in ourselves. As I spoke, I could practically feel her picking up on what was happening under the surface my heart, and as we spent time together, I got pretty good at reading her heart too. The amazing part was this: Although we were uncomfortable when the capacity for sinfulness found lurking in our hearts was revealed, the Lord was teaching us to speak the Truth in Love, and receive godly correction in humility. We cared for one another deeply, even when we were annoyed up to our eyebrows.

Soon, we were unfolding the deep places of our hearts to each other, and finding not only weakness and need therein, but also beauty, joy, and love. Somehow, through the rocky beginnings of our friendship, we had each become lodged deep within the others’ heart. We were bound in a friendship like none other I had known.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov. 27:17

Christina is now serving our country as an officer in the U.S. Army. She is stationed in Iraq. Please see Part Two>>>> to join me in prayer for her.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

On Adoption

Kelsey Bohlender of Stuff I Think 2 gave a powerful teaching about the spirit of adoption. Please click here to listen to the audio verson online. This message is timely, powerful, moving, and convicting. Here are some of the points that stuck with me:

Abortion advocates argue that if abortion was not a legal choice in America, then thousands of babies would be unwanted and go into abusive situations… What would happen if a million families in the church in this nation adopted one child? The accusation would be stopped. They could no longer say that children would be born into unwanted situations.

The adoption service the Bohlenders are working with said there are many, many babies available for adoption in the US right now. They said “If you have a home study done, I can place you within two weeks if you’re open to race.” Are we ready to welcome all babies who need a home – including those who don't look like our biological families, or the crack babies, or the ones with health problems?

The system is sick – it costs a lot of money to save a baby. But one has to wonder if God is allowing that because he’s asking us: Will you put your money where your prayers are? Are you willing to do something that costs something?

Adoption is an active, tangible means of spiritual warfare.
Kelsey and her husband Randy (of stuff I think) are currently pursuing adoption of a baby. They have stood in the place of contending through intercession for the ending of abortion in America for years, and now they are "putting their money where their prayers are". They are raising funds to pay for the (expensive) adoption process. Please consider joining me in supporting them through their adoption benefit dinner.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Meme Me

My friend LammyAnn tagged me with my first meme ever. She asked three questions (kinda random, but I like 'em) so here's my answers:

1. Do you think anyone with a desire to create is an artist of sorts?
There is the desire within all of us to create. In some way, deep down inside, everyone wants to create something beautiful, meaningful, and significant. For some, that desire may be expressed through a tangible medium like paint, clay, music, or words. Others work to craft and mold their relationships into works of art, caring for the people around them with tenderness and wonder. There are as many expressions of this desire as there are people on the earth. I believe that this is for one reason - because we are made in the image of THE Create-or. As God has crafted and molded each one of us out of His desire, so we too have desire residing within each of us that longs to create something beautiful, something that will linger in our wake.
So, does this common desire make every one of us an artist? No. I believe that we all have the capacity for art if we dig deep enough into our soul, but this capacity is not always realized. According to Visual Thesaurus an artist is "a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination". When our desire is fleshed out in creative, sensitive, imaginative work - any type of work (physical, intellectual, relational, whatever) - that is when we become an artist.

2. What frightens you the most about getting older?
The capacity for sin within my heart. Wrinkles. Boys getting crushes on my little Abigail. Aaron dying before me. My parents dying. Seeing people that I know die without finding salvation in Christ, especially if I feel like I neglected to share the Truth in love with them at every opportunity. Not in that order! =)

3. When was the first time you travelled by air? Where did you go?
My uncle Tom (who has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer - please pray for him.) was a pilot who probably took us on a short flight in a little plane at some point in time. But I don't really remember that, so I'll tell you about my first real flight.

When I was a freshman in high school I qualified to compete at the National FBLA conference. The conference was in Anaheim, CA. The week before the conference I was on a mission trip in Tijuana, Mexico building houses for Habitat for Humanity with my church youth group. On our way back from Mexico, the church van dropped me off at the Anaheim Hilton and I spent the next week there for the conference. (Nothing like going from the slums of Tijuana to the lobby of the Hilton for a reality check about American affluence and apathy toward the poor. Unfortunately, I was too excited about the sweeeeet swimming pool to fully appreciate the lesson at the time.) So, anyway, to get back home after the conference, I took a commercial flight, by myself. From LA to Portland (Oregon). The next flight I remember taking was also by myself, from Oregon to Iowa. I got lost and almost missed my connection in the Minneapolis airport. Not that you asked or anything, I'm just reminiscing here...

**Edited to add: I forgot to tag anyone, so here goes...I'm tagging kpjara (who I met at the KC Bloggers luncheon and is sometimes mistaken for the Great Kazoo, I mean Gazoo) and her sister - do you use your real name online? - (who I also met at the lunch, and who has an awesome testimony of being healed of terminal cancer. Read about it here and here.) Play along if you want to! **

Monday, July 03, 2006

You Say It's Your Birthday?

Saturday can be summed up in just a few words: I slept. I puked. I slept more. Baby puke. In my bed. GROSS! Thank you Jesus for my wonderful husband. That's all I have to say about that.
Sunday we were all feeling much better. A little rough around the edges, but well enough to go feed the fish at the lake. (Read all about it over at Abigail's blog.)
Tonight, I got my best birthday present at the Sunday evening FCF service. Derek Loux was sharing about how we can be prepared to stand in the Day of the Lord's return. When turmoil breaks out upon the earth and the majority of humanity considers Christianity dangerous, a threat, an enemy of the state; when martyrdom is not just something that happens in China, or Indonesia, or Iran, or "somewhere else"; when saying "Yes" to Jesus may mean literally giving up our life; How will we stand as the great and terrible Day approaches? I was gripped by the Lord with renewed sobriety about the hour in which we live. I was humbled and brought to tears knowing that Abigail's preparation for the Lord's appearing will be determined in large part by how Aaron and I raise her now. Will she be rooted in the Word? Will she have a life of prayer? Will she be unoffended toward God and love Him through the worst this world has to offer? Nothing makes me more resolute in my determination to seek Him wholeheartedly than the knowledge that my diligence to pursue Him is vital for my children's future. I suppose some would see it as a weakness, that I need this external motivation to prod me to run after God. But I, I see it as a gift. He has given me the gift of renewed passion, a heart stirred with longing for my Beloved. I see my weakness, my utter frailty apart from Him. And I am once again set in place, with my eyes fixed upon Him, knowing that He is my hope and my salvation. He is the One for whom my heart yearns. And that, my friends, is a gift.