Thursday, April 28, 2005

No Confidence in the Flesh

"...put no confidence in the flesh..." (Philippians 3:3).

If you've been reading my blog lately, you're probably catching the theme that this is one of the major lessons God has been drilling into my head and heart ever since Denver a few weeks ago. This morning I was reading Philippians 3:1-11...Paul's testimony here can and should be my life's theme.

In my lack of understanding grace, I know I've trusted "legalistic righteousness"--as my study note explains, "righteousness produced by using the law as an attempt to merit God's approval and blessing." But all that is rubbish. Garbage. The Message puts it well:

"The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash--along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant--dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ--God's righteousness" (v. 7-9)

Wow. Yeah.

Some interesting things that struck me in my study notes on verse 3: true believers must "glory in Christ as their Savior rather than trusting in their own human effort...Everyone is a 'boaster,' either in Christ or in himself." If everyone's a boaster, I'll admit that my boasts are not always--okay, not often--in Christ. But He's working on me, in me. As for the flesh? "It is not worthy of our confidence; it cannot save."

"I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith" (v. 9 NLT).

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Baby, Baby!

Dawson Joshua is finally here! Kaleb, who's the best man in our wedding and one of Steve's and my dearest friends, and his wife, Denise, just had their first baby yesterday...only(!) 11 days we are officially "Aunt" Amy and "Uncle" Steve. So exciting!

But poor Denise...this little guy is not so little: 9 lbs, 10 oz...22 inches long...and his head is 15 inches around! She ended up having to have a C-section because he was just not coming out. Poor girl! But worth it in the end...he's beautiful :) Posted by Hello

I'm an "aunt"! He is so absolutely precious...but heavy! My arms are tired :) Posted by Hello

The proud papa! It's still hard to believe Kaleb is a dad!! Posted by Hello

What's Eternal?

I spent nearly three hours sitting at Panera Bread with my old roommate Lindsay today...we hadn't seen each other since graduation a year ago, but had the chance to catch up over lunch. What a HUGE blessing it was to spend time with her! How I have missed this girl. We weren't "supposed" to be roommates our senior year--we sort of ended up together by default when both of our roommates decided at the last minute to live off campus. We weren't really even that close. But what a wonderful "unexpected change of plans" it turned out to be!

I so enjoyed catching up on her life, and sharing the fun and the tough stuff God's been doing in each of our lives. Lindsay is one of the women I most respect and admire...she has such a beautiful heart for God and for His children. I was so blessed by her thoughts today. Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera...but she snapped a picture of the two of us so hopefully I'll post it soon.

One thing she said stuck in my mind as a reminder I think I desperately need. She said, "Every day I have to ask myself, 'What's eternal?' What truly matters today--these wedding decorations [she's planning an August wedding] or my attitude toward that person? What's eternal?"

Good question to be asking myself. And to answer her question: Linds, the time and the love that you have invested in my life and in the lives of countless others are definitely eternal :)

Seek First to Understand

One of the seven habits of highly effective people is, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood." I remember hearing this for the first time in one of my college communication classes with Mark Vermilion...I read it again just recently in the marriage counseling book Steve and I are working through...but today God taught me some important stuff about that.

Let me give some background: The latest wedding-planning drama has been our custom-designed invitations. To make a very long story short, I picked them up last Saturday, and the girl I'm working with had screwed something up. She had written it correctly on the purchase order a month ago, so it was very clearly her mistake, and I just didn't at all like how she had changed it--nor did I understand how she got confused and did them differently than we'd agreed.

I emailed her asking her to fix it, and her response wasn't as favorable as I'd hoped--she was offering a sort of compromise which really didn't seem fair at all. I was very frustrated. So we agreed to meet this morning. I was prepared for a confrontation and really just dreading the meeting. My parents and Steve all agreed I was clearly in the right...but would she accept that and take responsibility for her mistake?

This morning as I got ready to go, I had a revelation of sorts; a change of heart. I realized I needed to go with a godly, humble, gracious attitude--not rude or demeaning. It occurred to me that instead of marching in with my defense and my demands, I needed to seek first to understand her point of view. Truly understand and listen--not keep quiet and think of comebacks while she talked :) And I was reminded of a verse in James I read just last weekend: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." OK, God, point taken. So I asked Him to help me be and do all of those things.

The meeting blew me away. Apparently God just wanted me to learn that lesson, and once I did, He would take care of it all...because when I got there, no discussion was even needed. She was already operating from the assumption that she was going to do everything I had asked for, and we were both very friendly and had a really nice meeting. I left feeling excited, relieved and thankful. Huh. Funny how God works. Before He changes circumstances, He changes US.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

God Who Works in You

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12-13).

There's work for me to do in response to the salvation God graciously gave me--not out of anxiety or doubt, but out of reverence and gratitude. No room for laziness and complacency.

Yet, nothing I desire that's in line with God's will, and nothing I do that's in line with His good and perfect purposes, is of myself. Any good I desire or act on is because of His working in me. It's only His Holy Spirit in me that enables me to love what He loves, to hate what He hates, and to act according to His good purpose. I have nothing to be prideful about, and everything to be thankful for.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

The other day, I was reflecting on the freedom that God gives us, and how completely counter-intuitive it is. For the last couple of months, I've been dealing with a specific issue, and was growing very frustrated and tired of rules. I didn't know exactly what the rules needed to be related to this issue, and I was sick of the whole thing.

Finally God brought me to a point where I realized I needed to call a spade a spade, and admit that it was sin, not "pushing the limits" or "bending the rules" or "it's not that big of a deal" or "avoiding legalism" or whatever euphemism I might pridefully want to give it. I realized I needed to set new, much clearer and stricter guidelines that couldn't be so easily bent--ones that weren't fuzzy. Ones that were truly in line with God's Word. And though the idea of doing so was annoying and frustrating to me, I was reminded of Hebrews 12:11 - "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."

The verse applies to self-discipline, too. It's not always pleasant; in fact, it's often a pain. But you reap what you sow, and by sowing in self-discipline to honor God, you'll reap a harvest of righteousness and peace. I knew I had to trust God's promise in that verse. (Let me clarify that in setting these rules, I was not trying to produce or earn a righteousness of my own--but seeking to please God who bought me righteousness on the cross.)

Fast forward a few weeks, and I'm amazed at the freedom I feel. It sounds crazy--how can I feel freedom when I'm trying to live by stricter guidelines? But that's exactly what I'm experiencing. Freedom from guilt; freedom from wondering whether or not I've "crossed the line" and constantly trying to determine where the line should be. Freedom from the slavery of sin. Freedom to honor God; freedom in knowing my actions are pleasing to Him. And with this freedom comes a peace and a joy that can only come in walking with God. Crazy how that works.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).

News Flash Re: The Million Dollar Question

So for the last several months, the million dollar question has been, "Where are you and Steve going to live after you get married?"

No, we still don't know for sure, but I do have some exciting news to share on that front. Just yesterday he received an offer from Logan Aluminum, a plant southwest of Bowling Green, Kentucky! He is really impressed with the company and the people he's met there. So sometime in the next couple of weeks, we're hoping to go down there together to check out the area and make a decision!

We're looking at living across the border in Tennessee, because 1) they have no income tax, 2) I think the town the plant is actually in is really small, and 3) living in Tennessee could potentially put me within commuting distance of Nashville. If we head this way, I may look for work at a publishing house there.

Please pray for wisdom and direction as we seek to settle where God wants us to be!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Let My Life Be a Preview...

Currently playing: "Coming Attractions" from All Things New, Steven Curtis Chapman

A day is coming
When all will be fed
There won't be a single hungry mouth
Begging for bread
A day is coming
When every disease
Will be swept away
As mercy floods through every street
A day is coming
A day is coming
But until that day comes

Let Your kingdom come in me
Let Your will be done in me
Here on earth as it is and as it will be in Heaven
Show Your glory to the world
Tell Your story to the world
Let my life be a preview of coming attractions

A day is coming
That won't fade to night
There'll be no more hatred to endure
No wars to fight
There'll be no orphans
No prisoners or slaves
And all the tears of death and pain
Will be washed away
This day is coming
It's surely coming
Jesus, You're coming
But until that day comes...

Shine Your light through me
Live Your life through me
Let the world see Your kingdom come in me

Friday, April 15, 2005

Colorado Visit

Finally taking a minute to post pictures and blog about my AWESOME weekend in Denver. I can't even begin to explain what a tremendous blessing this little getaway was!!

It was so much fun to stay with my mentor and her wonderful family. On Friday, I got to go to the office at Kingdom Building Ministries and see several of my old co-workers. Then Diane and I headed up to Estes Park for a retreat. I had been praying and hoping for some sort of breakthrough, as the last several months have been difficult ones for me spiritually (and I wasn't even completely sure why). It was painful to talk through stuff and come face to face with where I was--I did a whole lot of crying on Friday and Saturday. But God was so faithful. He met me right where I was on Saturday afternoon, as I wrote about a couple of days ago. And then Saturday night, I had what I believe was the breakthrough I'd been praying for. God really broke me and tore down some walls of pride that had built up in my heart. Then I spent time on my face just praising Him...He was so present there!!

It's not that things are suddenly perfect, and it's going to take a daily surrender of pride and asking God to teach me how to walk in true humility before Him. But He has graciously restored to me a joy that I have not had in a long, long time. I am so thankful for my weekend with Him...and with so many other beloved people in my life. Here are the pictures...

My incredible mentor Diane. Her husband, David, graciously agreed to watch the kids all weekend so she could take me on a retreat. We stayed at this cabin at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park (absolutely beautiful)...and God really did some amazing stuff there.  Posted by Hello

This is how much snow we got in just a few hours on Sunday! Insanity! What's even crazier is that the next day, I was out in a sweater with no coat on. Gotta love Colorado. Posted by Hello

Missing Steve...but I got to cuddle with eight-year-old Micah instead :) Diane and David's sweet and very fun son, also grown a lot since the last time I saw him! Posted by Hello

Their daughter XinXin has grown up so much since last summer (I love the pigtails!)...This is her princess outfit :) One of my favorite things she says is the fact that anytime you talk about China, she'll correct you--it's not just China, but "XinXin's China." So precious. Posted by Hello

Natalie took me to beloved Qdoba for lunch on Monday...we sat for three hours catching up :) She was my supervisor my first summer as an intern, but since then we've become good friends. What an awesome woman of God! Posted by Hello

Got to connect with Jim, Emily, Silas and Aynsley for appetizers at Chili's on Monday--Aynsley B has gotten so big since last summer! Posted by Hello

Silas and Jim--great picture of the guy who's been my supervisor at KBM :) Posted by Hello

An awesome blessing to cap off my visit--Kathryn, my roommate for the last two summers, arrived (she's going on staff with KBM) just in time to have breakfast with me on Tuesday morning! I adore this girl! Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Bottom Line

"...that you may be...filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:10-11).

There's no question that as Christians, we're expected to bear fruit. But that fruit comes through Jesus Christ. It's produced by Him, as I am united with Him, through the work of His Holy Spirit in me. He's the one who has to produce any real fruit I bear. Apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). And the ultimate point of that fruit--and of my life--is the glory and praise of God. That's the goal.

The point: It's not about me.

Endless Revisions

Some of you may recognize this blog entry as an old chorale testimony of mine...others have perhaps read it as a weekly devotional on Kingdom Building Ministries' website. I was reading the verse this morning and it was on my heart again, so I decided to post it here.

"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" --Philippians 1:6

As a writer, I spend a whole lot of my time revising. Once I finally get a first draft on paper, my job isn't even close to finished. No matter how long I work on an essay or an article or a poem, it seems like the piece is never complete--for every part I fix or improve, I can find a million more that need to be tweaked!

Many times, I've wondered if God feels that way with me. Ever since I received Him as my Lord and Savior, He has been molding and shaping me to be more like His Son. But sometimes I get discouraged as I realize how far I have to go. I've grown a lot since those early days in my journey with Him, but I am still not anywhere close to where I want to be--and where I know He longs for me to be.

I thought about how frustrated God might be as He realizes how much revision is still to come in my life. I can just imagine Him saying, "The revisions never end! Each time I teach her a new lesson, there are four hundred more for her to learn. And then she stubbornly insists on being taught the same ones over again!"

But in his letter to the Philippians, Paul encourages the believers by saying that as he prays for them, he is "...confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Paul knew that the Christian life is a marathon, not a short sprint, and that sometimes the road of growth ahead seems daunting. He reminded the Philippian church that God wouldn't give up on them!

I am so comforted as I realize that God doesn't get fed up with me and quit trying. I may be tempted to quit revising and call a writing project "good enough," but thankfully, God doesn't ever quit the work of refining and perfecting my character. That confidence is a great hope to me: His work in me didn't end with my salvation! That gift of grace was only the start of the countless ways in which He would be continually working in and through my life.

God doesn't start something without finishing it. He promises to work on perfecting us until the day Christ comes!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Forget Not

"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits..." Psalm 103:2

Over the weekend, my mentor Diane posed the question to me, "Can you trust God to be faithful now based on His faithfulness throughout your life?" She wanted me to recount all the times I could think of that God had shown Himself to be faithful and good in my life. To make a long story short, although I was really being a brat (I had hit a wall of tiredness, frustration and even anger), a conversation with her finally led to my opening my Bible and seeing, in my own handwriting in the margins of the Psalms, clear evidence of His faithfulness during a dry, lonely time five years ago. Granted, looking back--in Diane's words--"that was preschool, and you are going deeper now" :) Anyway, it blew me away as God met me there in His Word, with Psalms that had spoken to me so powerfully then, and spoke to me powerfully now--as well as with my own words of confidence in His faithfulness.

Later in the weekend, I was reading Psalm 78 and was again convinced of how crucial it is to remember and recount God's faithfulness. It was the Israelites' forgetfulness of God's character and deeds that caused them to stray from Him time and again. To put it simply: "They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them" (Psalm 78:11)..."They did not remember" (v.42).

It was that remembering what He had done that began the breakthrough in my heart this weekend, I think.

This morning as I was flipping through the Psalms again, I ran across a familiar favorite, and one line struck me in a new way: "...forget not all his benefits..." (Psalm 103:2). Do you see a theme here, something God is trying to drive deep into my heart? Forget not, O my soul.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?" Psalm 77:11-13

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Awesome Weekend

I can't even tell you how absolutely incredible my weekend in Denver was. But, I will try tomorrow, and add lots of pictures of the amazing people I connected with :) Thanks to any and all of you who prayed for me...God is so, so good!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Word of the Day


As in, "the pledge of eleedgens," according to one of my mom's second graders.

"Inventive spelling" provides many laughs at my house :)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

I ♥...

The fact that it's 8 p.m. and still light outside
The soundtrack to Thoroughly Modern Millie (and Sutton Foster's voice)
Homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream
Looking at baby pictures of Steve (they make me smile, and they give me hope that our kids might be cute even though I was an ugly child)
Written-out prayers
Sunday afternoon naps
Going to a church where I know a lot of people and feel more "at home" than I have in years (even though I'll be leaving in three months)