Wednesday, August 31, 2005
"How your heart must grieve, loving and faithful Father. We are Your own, and yet we are so insensitive in knowing You and so skillful in hurting You. If You did not love us, You would not care. But the immensity of Your love only fuels the fire of Your wrath."
I had never thought of it like that before. It may sound simple or obvious to you, but it was almost revolutionary for me to think about the idea: that the immensity of His love fuels the fire of His wrath.
I once heard that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. Oftentimes (though not always), hate grows from love in a twisted sort of way; regardless, if you hate someone, you still have passionate feelings about them. Apathy is the opposite of love because when you are indifferent, you don't even care whether or acknowledge that that person exists. So it follows that God's wrath isn't an indication that His love has ceased. If He didn't love us, why would He get so angry? He could simply write us off, never looking back.
"Holy God, I thank You for Your wrath, the severe side of Your mercy, that pursues me until my heart turns in repentance and I stand face to face with You--terrified by Your holiness, appalled by my sin, amazed by Your grace, captured at last by Your love at the foot of the cross." (NIV Worship Bible, p. 1008)
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
My exclamation of "I just love this book!" led to a conversation in which I tried to explain it to Steve. First I was trying to tell him about the genre of creative nonfiction, and that went nowhere fast. Then I was simply trying to articulate what it is about this book that I enjoy so much. Eventually I realized we just weren't on the same page. He laughed and said, "I'm starting to understand how you must feel when I try to talk to you about engineering stuff!"
And it was true. When he attempts to explain to me something that he's working on at the plant, or a highly technical scientific theory that he's reading about in one of his dismantling-evolution books (he's been on that kick since reading The Case for a Creator several months ago), my eyes just glaze over. Initially I try really hard to understand, but I end up feeling completely baffled because my brain just cannot wrap itself around the concepts he's describing. Tonight the roles were reversed: I couldn't understand why he didn't get it, and he said, "I know you're speaking English...but that was so far over my head I didn't even feel the breeze."
I guess it's true what they say about opposites attracting, because in a lot of ways we could not be more different!
Monday, August 29, 2005
You can tell from the big smile that Chris is pretty happy to be finally married (and to be done with the long distance relationship--he and Michelle have been more than 10 hours apart since May). And, I'm sorry, I just have to say it: Dang, my husband is hot! :)
Thursday, August 25, 2005
In college, I did a lot of writing because I was forced to. I was a writing major, after all, and always had prompts and deadlines of some sort thrust into my lap. I had no choice but to be productive. And I did come up with some stuff I liked, though it was often an agonizing night spent at the computer to pull something--anything--together. Since college, I've written almost nothing.
Then I started thinking about my desire to be an editor. Right now that's pretty much my "dream job," to work as an editor in a publishing house. But why would anyone want to be an editor? A few reasons:
-she is anal-retentive about grammar and spelling (true)
-she is a perfectionist and has a good eye for catching mistakes (also true)
-she enjoys reading and simply has a love for words (yes, that's me)
But could it also be:
-she can't write her own stuff; it's easier to work on the writing that others produce? Is she afraid of failing? or just too lazy to try? or none of the above?
I do love editing for more than just the above reasons. Through peer-editing my classmates' essays in college writing classes, and working with staff writers at our campus newspaper, I discovered the joy of enabling someone else to produce their best possible work. I love to take the seed of something great that someone else has come up with and bring it to full flower; so many people have great ideas but muffle them with average writing, struggling to turn them into something really wonderful. I like to uncover that seed of an idea, to scribble my comments all over the margins of a poem or an essay, and to watch the person really make it grow.
But perhaps part of that stems from the reality that I feel I have no good ideas, no talent for producing something from scratch. Perhaps I fall back on editing because it's easier, safer. Perhaps I like the title of "writer," but I'm really just an impostor.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
If you haven't read Blue Like Jazz or Searching for God Knows What, you should.
We had a great time--they were very sweet people and I appreciated all that he had to say about his philosophy of ministry and his ideas for a new church. One of the main things that's driving this vision to plant a new church is this couple's belief that 1) your choices for a church in Springfield are either Baptist, or Baptist...or Baptist (not that Baptists are bad--Steve and I have enjoyed a couple of Baptist churches we've visited--but they think non-denominational can be a great thing and there isn't really much of that around here); and 2) there aren't really any churches in the area that feature expositional preaching.
This church plant aims to be centered on in-depth Bible teaching. They'll study a book systematically, feeding the Body meat, not just milk. Rather than preaching on two verses from Nehemiah this week, and then a topical sermon next week jumping from Judges to Romans to 1 John, they'll examine Scripture in its context. They'll seek to apply what the Bible says, instead of coming up with a topic and finding "proof texts" to support your own point. Ever since I heard Mark Dever's teaching on this (check out his organization's website, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church), it's been something I believe in as well--but I've never been a part of a church that teaches this way.
Then, I love his thoughts about worship. Don't get me on my soapbox again; if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know my thoughts on modern worship. (If you don't, you can read them here.) Anyway, I think you lose a lot when you gravitate to either extreme--when you throw out the rich hymns with theology and substance because they're "old and stuffy," or when you refuse to adopt new praise choruses because "we've just never done it that way." This pastor recognizes that and wants to use a variety of music. (One of the great things about a church plant is that you don't have to deal with "but this is the way we've always done it here"!)
Anyway, all that to say I'm excited about what we learned. The idea is still in the very early stages; the pastor was careful to warn us that they're only just beginning and that he is by no means an expert in church planting. The first big step will be a Bible study that's starting in two weeks. Steve and I are still praying about where God would have us plug in and serve, whether in an established church or in this new plant. We'd appreciate your prayers as well. If you've never experienced it, the process of finding a church home can be discouraging and frustrating at times.
Meanwhile, I'm curious--do any of you have firsthand experience with church plants? What are your thoughts? What have you learned?
Monday, August 22, 2005
Three times God says: It's not about you! The message is loud and clear--He blesses not because we deserve it, but simply because of who He is: good, faithful, gracious, compassionate, merciful, loving, generous, forgiving. May I never presume that His blessing is because of my worthiness--like Israel, I have bene rebellious, stiff-necked, disobedient--I don't deserve it.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Steve, on the other hand, hated to read for years. It wasn't until our junior year of high school, when we had a fantastic English teacher, Mr. Robert Wilson, that Steve discovered he actually liked books. The difference was that unlike terrible English teachers we'd had in the past, Mr. Wilson didn't require us to read "classic" books that someone somewhere decided all tenth graders should write book reports on. (First of all, like most of the students actually read and write the reports themselves anyway. And second of all, who composed that list?? Animal Farm?? I really read some less-than-stellar books off of those required lists.) He wisely understood that such requirements usually stifle students' interest in books. Who wants to read when they associate reading primarily with boring books they're required to read?
Mr. Wilson did make us read some boring books in class; don't get me wrong. I hated The Great Gatsby. But he started every class period with fifteen minutes or so of free reading time. We were encouraged to read absolutely anything we were interested in. If I ever become an English teacher (which I won't), that's what I would do. It's the only way to resuscitate an interest in books that, sadly, most teachers manage to kill in most students by the time they reach high school.
Fast forward six or seven years, and now you have a marriage of two book-a-holics. I just finished painting a six-foot, five-shelf bookshelf that I've had for a while, and we have already filled that up and need more bookshelf space. Then, never mind that we haven't even read all the books we have; we go to Family Christian on Saturday and buy four more books (in our defense, we had a $50 gift certificate to spend). I can't help it; I'm absolutely addicted to books. Every time I go to Barnes & Noble or Borders or someplace, I find myself a little sad at the realization that I will never in a lifetime be able to read all the good books that are out there--not to mention the fact that more are produced every day. And I don't think I could have married a man who didn't enjoy reading, too. (So thank goodness for Mr. Wilson!)
Anyway, tonight we got on the topic of books we liked as kids, and I was explaining to Steve my obsession with The Baby-sitters Club. I'll admit it. I was hooked. I had all of them, from 1 to 70-something, until I grew out of the series. (I never did understand how I started them in third grade, but by the time I was in sixth grade, those baby-sitters were STILL in the eighth grade...but whatever.) Steve was, of course, skeptical about them. Our conversation went something like this:
Steve: Were there any mysteries? I liked The Boxcar Children because there was always a mystery to solve.
Amy: Well, there weren't really mysteries, but they did have spin-off series. There was a mystery series, and then they had Super Specials...
Steve: *snickering* Super Specials? Generally when I use the term 'super special,' I mean it in a sarcastic way. Like, 'Wow, Ame, that was super special.'
Amy: Stop! They were good!
Steve: So what were these books about? I mean, did anything happen in them besides baby-sitting?
Amy: Yeah, of course.
Steve: Was there any shooting?
Amy: *laughing* No...
Steve: Did anything get blown up?
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Are you even kidding me right now?
Well, I tried to add a slick little poll to this blog entry, with no success :( What I want to know is, do that many of you really not know what rhubarb is?? Steve and I love, love, love it...his parents have a big patch in their garden so we got some when we were home last weekend. It is so yummy: rhubarb crunch, rhubarb sauce, strawberry-rhubarb jam, rhubarb pie, rhubarb cake...are you noticing a pattern here?...
Steve and I made some rhubarb cake so he could take it to work for a little potluck they were having. All the guys eyed it warily like it was some drug or a plant from outer space, and only about two and a half pieces were eaten (one of which I'm sure Steve himself ate). They had never heard of rhubarb! Apparently it doesn't grow well in the South. What a sad, deprived life. He tried to describe it to them, without much success ("well, it sort of looks like huge stalks of celery, but it's red on the ends...it's a vegetable but tastes like fruit...you'd never want to eat it raw; it's extremely sour-bitter...but I promise, it's sweet and tart and tastes so good in this cake!").
So I'm curious, how many of you have never heard of or tried rhubarb? Leave me comments! And you will have my sympathy.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
How often I want things taken care of RIGHT NOW. It doesn't help that I'm naturally a very impatient person. I want the problem solved immediately; I want the character refined instantly; I want the knowledge gained all at once.
But I can't handle it that way. The lessons are learned and the real growth happens along the way, little by little, in the midst of the journey. I heard somewhere once that the sturdiest, strongest trees are the ones in which the rings are impossibly narrow, where the growth is nearly imperceptible. I guess that old cliche is true: Slow and steady wins the race.
Though I want the immediate gratification that our fast-food, instant-winner world demands, God knows it'd be too much for me. So I press on, little by little, trusting Him to grow me at a rate that will last and run deep.
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
Many times in the past, I found myself elevating and admiring people who have a structured devotional time--specifically, families who do so. To me, it seemed like the true mark of a super-spiritual family to have family devotions each night, or for a couple to read a devotional book together regularly. It also made me feel guilty, or like a failure, even, when I looked at my own life and didn't see that.
While I think these can be great things, this passage from Deuteronomy suggests to me that what I used to think was the ultimate pinnacle of godliness is not, in fact, what God requires or desires most. He wants His commands written on our hearts and integrated into our lives. His Word isn't something we read for five minutes, then go on with our day. No, He says, the true mark of a "super-spiritual" family--a family that is obeying and honoring Him--is one who talks about His Word at home, on the road, in the morning and at night. They post reminders of God to themselves everywhere. It becomes a heart attitude, a lifestyle--not a task to be completed and checked off the list. They worship along the way, bringing God into all they do.
Realizing this is liberating, to know that God's approval doesn't hang on whether you and your spouse read some trite devotional book together each evening. But it's also a bigger challenge because it means He asks something far greater and more meaningful. He doesn't ask for five or fifteen or even sixty minutes of lip service. He asks for a lifestyle--one in which there are no barriers between sacred and secular; one in which His Word and His ways are so deeply entrenched in our hearts that we can't help thinking about Him and discussing Him wherever we are, whatever we're doing. One in which everything, even the mundane, is ultimately about Him.
Monday, August 15, 2005
If you are in the 100% of us who struggle with the upgrade bug, here are a few thoughts to consider. ...The car is running fine and the house will do. Your clothes are in good condition and your furniture is nicer than 90% of the worlds. ...Your car is simply to get you from point A to point B. It merely replaces public transportation and keeps you from walking or riding a horse. It was never intended for luxury. Your house is intended to be a roof over your head. Something to keep you dry and comfortable, though most sacrifice the latter. Your clothes keep you from being naked and your furniture keep you from experiencing unwanted back pain if you had to sleep and sit on the floor. Your stuff is just stuff. Most of it will be junkyard trash in 100 years. ...Just because you have already tithed 10% doesn’t mean you’re obligated to find a place to spend the rest. Remember, 10% is the minimum standard. Go beyond the minimum.
I love this girl so much! She is a beautiful woman of God, inside and out.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Back in April, I blogged about a lesson God was driving home in my heart about failing to remember His past faithfulness. Today as I was reading in Deuteronomy, He hit me with it again. More and more I'm realizing the truth that so much trouble and heartache could be avoided if we were diligent to remind ourselves of God's rich history of faithfulness--in the Israelites' journeys, in Christ's redemption of us, in the New Testament church, in the more recent church, in the lives of our loved ones and especially in our own life experiences.
Many of my own sinful attitudes come from a flawed perspective--the same one that plagued Eve in the Garden all those years ago. Satan won when he drew her attention away from all of God's blessings and toward the one thing she lacked. Similarly, I find myself feeling jealous, melancholy, bitter, angry or self-pitying when my focus is like hers. On the other hand, when I adopt a consistent perspective of gratitude--Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits (Psalm 103:2)--my heart is realigned and I am drawn to worship the God of unfailing love and faithfulness.
Take a few minutes right now--if you're sitting at your computer reading my blog, I know you have a few minutes to spare--to remember what He has done. Grab a scrap of paper, or open a Wordpad file, and jot down ten ways He's shown Himself faithful in your life. Don't find yourself in the same predicament as the Israelites, having forgotten the things you've seen and let them slip from your heart. Watch yourself closely so that you do not forget.
I was making chicken enchiladas for dinner, and Steve was in the kitchen helping me. I hadn't particularly had a bad day, so I don't know where my mood came from, but I found myself just snapping at him for no apparent reason, acting short with him and irritable. He hadn't done anything to deserve or provoke it. The thing is, I think in nine kitchens out of ten across America, the situation would have quickly devolved into a snapping match. I know that when someone is short with me, my reaction is usually to return the favor. But that's why Steve is so good for me: his patient, easygoing nature enabled him to remain calm and steady, which served even more effectively in holding up a mirror to my face. The stark contrast between his attitude and mine emphasized the ugliness of mine.
Suddenly I really did feel like I was staring at myself in a mirror--and I definitely didn't like what I saw. So I apologized and tried to snap out of it, and then while the enchiladas were in the oven, I had a chance to have some quiet time I'd put off all day (huh. think there's a connection there?). Not that things between the two of us were suddenly peachy (I think Steve was recovering from whiplash, wondering how I could be so awful one minute and fine the next). We had a good conversation later that helped us work through things and reminded us that we're dealing with sinful humans in this marriage and it's going to take hard work at times.
Not long ago, there was a time when I would have wallowed in that little mood indefinitely. I might have realized in a tiny part of the back of my mind how I was acting, but wouldn't have cared. So I think the huge fact that I was able to recognize it and apologize and seek to change it means two things: 1) God's grace is really at work in me, growing me, and 2) marriage, even when it's hard, is going to be a really amazing tool God uses for growing me.
"Christians are somehow prone to talking more about where they’ve been instead of where they are. Very few people want to speak up while they are in process… They’d rather wait until their junk is resolved, so they can give a 'testimony' about the happy ending. As it relates to your writing, please don’t feel the need to tie it up with a bow at the end."
Monday, August 08, 2005
- key lime pie from Longhorn
- old, rich hymns with much more theology and substance than three repeated lines about how I feel *end rant*
- churches which sing said hymns exuberantly
- Nichole Nordeman
- the sense of accomplishment and "hey, I can actually do this!" surprise that I feel when I've cooked a decent meal
- getting letters from my Compassion child
- the materialism and greed that creep up in me whenever I go shopping
- not having a home church
- reaching the end of the day and realizing I haven't accomplished much but instead have wasted a lot of time
- not knowing a soul besides my husband within a three-hour radius of my home
- Denise Austin's workout videos
- having unpacked boxes everywhere
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Amy: You need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Steve: I am gratitude...ful.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Odd--He gave it to them, so by definition, don't they already possess it? We use the term "possession" interchangeably with "belonging"; something I possess is simply my personal property. It belongs to me. It sits in my car or my closet, or on my bookshelf or desk. It doesn't make much sense for God to tell them to possess what He has already given them if we use this definition, so obviously there's something deeper at work here.
The land is theirs for the taking--God has given it to them. But they have to be active. They have to respond. They have to do something. They can't just say thanks and toss the gift in their junk drawer. They have to possess it. Deuteronomy 2:31 goes a bit further: "begin to conquer and possess [the] land."
What's my point? Just to get you asking with me: What has God given me that I've failed to possess? What gifts has He offered that I need to take ownership of, take responsibility for, cultivate and hone and conquer and seek to understand?
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"Writers don't make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don't work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck's book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man's stupid words. And for this, as I said before, we are paid a dollar. We are worth so much more."
My dear friend Maria got married this past weekend, so Steve and I took a road trip up to Wisconsin to be a part of the occasion. I was blessed to stand up with Maria, and Steve got roped into being the videographer! It was a beautiful day, even if it was hot as butt (94 degrees and no AC in the church--but the church was a beautiful cathedral), and the wedding and reception were wonderful. I'm so excited for these two as they begin their new life together. Somehow a wedding is more exciting after you've been through your own, I think--at least that was the case for me.
Maria and me just before she walked down the aisle...this girl has been such a tremendous blessing in my life and I am so grateful for her friendship!
The other bridesmaids were Jocelyn, Nate's sister; Catherine, Maria's sister; and Jamie, another friend of mine from chorale (all IWU girls--that doesn't happen often!). After we took pictures before the ceremony, we had a long time to wait--so we changed into our khaki shorts to keep cool and avoid wrinkling our skirts! It was also a lot of fun for me to spend some time with Jamie over the weekend since we stayed at the same hotel and carpooled. She is a sweet and beautiful woman of God!
Maria's sister surprised her with a little song ("Ode to Rapid City") that she and Maria had apparently written about Nate several months after Maria and Nate started dating. It was hilariously terrible (Catherine hadn't played guitar in about two and a half years and only knows five chords). Good times.
And, of course, me and my handsome husband :) Going to a wedding where your wife is a bridesmaid and you don't really know anyone can't be much fun, but he was so patient and easygoing, even encouraging me to have some girl time with Maria and Jamie the night before the wedding. Then, being the video guy kept him out of trouble :) It's so hard to believe we've been married a month already!