Saturday, December 30, 2006

Christmas Hiatus

Merry Christmas, everyone! Don't give up on me...I'm enjoying a restful Christmas hiatus from blogging, but I'll be back after the first of the year. Hope you all have had a blessed time celebrating our Savior's birth with family/friends. Have fun ringing in the new year!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Tag Party

Just for fun, a little Christmas meme from Kat...

Favorite Christmas movie:
You know, I've never gotten into Christmas movies. I don't dislike them...I've just never really made the effort to watch the classic old ones. I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life...I've seen parts of A Christmas Story, but not the whole that un-American? I remember loving Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman on TV every year when I was younger, but I haven't seen either in years.

Favorite Christmas song:
Several from this year's new CD have become fast favorites. Otherwise, I do love David Phelps' song "Joy, Joy"--his whole Christmas CD by that name is just stellar.

Favorite Christmas cookie:
Every year my family does the slice-n-bake Pillsbury sugar cookies, with lots of frosting and decorations. Completely fake--my husband rolls his eyes that all my cousins would rather have these than homemade sugar cookies--but I love them because they're a tradition with lots of memories. And they are addicting, especially the ones with lots of red hots.

Favorite Christmas gift ever received:
I have been blessed to receive many wonderful gifts over the years...the most memorable that stands out right away is the bathrobe and slippers I got from Steve and our best friend Kaleb several years ago (long before Steve and I were dating). The three of us were inseparable and decided to buy each other Christmas presents...they found out I wanted a robe and so ventured to the mall to find one. The image of my two best guy friends standing in the middle of the JCPenney sleepwear department, completely bewildered--that made it a precious gift.

Least favorite thing about Christmas:
Zooey traffic and shopping malls--all the commercialization.

Where would your perfect Christmas be:
With family (and snow falling outside).

Favorite part of Christmas:
Singing "Silent Night" by candlelight at a church Christmas Eve service--remembering WHY we're celebrating and reflecting on the miracle of the Incarnation, the God who became man to draw me to Himself.

Favorite Christmas decoration you own:
We don't really have a ton of decorations yet. I like ornaments with stories behind them. My favorite growing up was a December advent calendar with pockets for each day, and you moved a little mouse (eek! this was before my phobia began) to the next pocket each day. My brother and I always fought over who got to move it. We had to decide at the beginning that one would get even days and the other would get odd days.

When do you put up the tree?:
As soon as we get it in early December.

Do you wear "holiday" sweaters/sweatshirts/t shirts?:
You mean like with wreaths or appliques and stuff? Um, no. Yikes. Though in middle school I had a t-shirt with a Far Side cartoon on it (I just did a Google search but couldn't find it)--it had a picture of Rudolph standing in front of a wall with eight mounted reindeer heads and the caption said, "All of the other reindeer USED to laugh and call him names."

I won't tag anyone specifically, but feel free to join in and comment below if you did.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 15

This week I'm thanking the Lord for...
  • a husband who is an incredible servant
  • raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing
  • mocha truffle cookies
  • opportunities to talk with old friends
  • opportunities to help new friends & be a blessing to them
  • stooping to our level and becoming flesh so we could know Him
  • a Savior who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses
  • opening my eyes to the truth
  • finding Christmas gifts on sale
  • the people on my list who are easy to shop for
  • His divine power which gives me everything I NEED for life and godliness
  • all of His great and precious promises

You know what to do...

Found the Perfect Gift for You (Yes, YOU!)

I'm so getting all of you this for Christmas:

(HT: Amy's Humble Musings)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Glad Tidings Not for Good People

Bob Kauflin excerpts from Mark Dever's book Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testament today:
Christmas isn't about who's been "naughty or nice."

"The news we have to declare as Christians is not fundamentally about our law-keeping or our obedience. The glad tidings we bear are not for good people.' It is 'for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly, and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers, and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers' (1 Tim. 1:9b-10a NIV). I doubt you have received many Christmas cards like that. Yet have you realized this is who the Christmas message is for? The Christmas message is not for a bunch of well-dressed, respectable people who attend church to celebrate a cultural holiday. The Christmas message is a message that brings joy to people like father-killers and slave-traders!" (p. 345-346 [of Promises Kept])

To truly find joy in Christmas, I have to acknowledge that Jesus didn't become a baby because I'm so good. He came because I'm so evil and needed a Savior. He didn't come to reward us for what we've done, but to save us from what we've done.

More here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


As I mentioned in my 100 Things, I have long been fascinated with photography and would love to become a great amateur photographer--but a Kodak EasyShare point and shoot isn't exactly conducive to that kind of thing. Yes, the photographer's eye is as important as the camera--but the lag time on a cheap camera alone is plenty frustrating. After talking to some people whose work I admire, I found the universal recommendation to be a Nikon D70. Holy really nice but expensive camera, Batman. An amateur like me does not need a camera that fantastic, fun as it might be. Thankfully, Nikon also has a D50, which, although still pricey, is cheaper than the D70 and supposed to be nearly as good--only missing highly technical features that an amateur like me wouldn't understand anyway.

Steve and I decided to splurge this year for Christmas; it won't be a regular occurrence, but by combining Christmas and birthday and saving up discretionary money until, oh, 2008, we're buying each other items that will, we hope, end up being long-term family investments (producing lots more gifts down the road). He's getting a table saw from me and my parents, and I'm getting a Nikon D50 from him and his parents. And thus begins my foray into the expensive exciting hobby of photography. I am expecting this to be a lifetime camera (it will take me at least half that long to master using it).

I actually got the camera a few weeks ago, when Steve bought it on sale, and he gave it to me early (not because I begged--I was perfectly willing to wait--but so I could figure out how to use it before going home for Christmas). Ever since then, I have been spending my walks with Hank every afternoon imagining what pictures I want to take. I think our daily ventures through our neighborhood--which happens to be the town's historic district, packed full of gorgeous old homes of every shape and size--will be a perfect time for me to practice shooting and developing my eye. We don't have kids, and you can only take so many pictures of a calm and easygoing dog like Hank, cute though he may be--but in our neighborhood, I don't think I'll run out of things to photograph anytime soon.

As I walked yesterday, mentally framing fences and windows and trees and choosing perspectives and angles, it occurred to me that pretending to take the photos, rather than actually grabbing the camera and getting started, is a lot like my writing.

I can imagine myself to be a great photographer. I can pick out what I think will be striking shots, and tell myself that with my spiffy new camera, they really will turn out that way. I can fill my Flickr account with as-yet-nonexistent but beautiful photographs I've captured, even compose creative, artistic titles for them. But the camera still sits in the box. It's as though I'm afraid to actually put the strap around my neck and start clicking the shutter button--because once I do, my illusions of greatness will dissipate like the ghosts of poems in my head, ones I'm sure would be masterpieces if I wrote them down.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thank You, Thank You

Congratulations to me! I am the Time magazine "Person of the Year"!

And congratulations to you--if you're reading this, you are, too!
The annual honor for 2006 went to each and every one of us, as Time cited the shift from institutions to individuals — citizens of the new digital democracy, as the magazine put it. The winners this year were anyone using or creating content on the World Wide Web.
Wow, I've never felt so important and honored ;)

Friday, December 15, 2006


Hello my faithful readers.

I have not been feeling very inspired lately. Still burned out from NaBloPoMo? Just plain lazy? Whatever it is, I haven't felt like blogging--just not much to say, I guess. I'm glad you're still stopping by. Consider this post an open comment thread to let me know what types of posts of mine you most enjoy reading, or what sorts of topics you might be interested in hearing my thoughts on, or anything else you feel like saying today.

*let the chirping of crickets commence*

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 14

This week I'm thanking God for...

Your turn below...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Before and After::Living Room Fireplace

Four months after we moved in, I finally get to post my first "before and after" shots of an improvement we made! We've got lots of projects underway--but we tend to abandon a project as soon as the item is usable and move on to something else--so everything is half-finished. Such is no longer the case with the fireplace in our living room--I finally finished the last coat of paint last weekend!

When we moved in, the fireplace looked like this. It had obviously been painted at one time, then stripped--traces of paint remained in a few nooks and crannies. The wood hadn't been refinished, and it wasn't particularly nice wood anyway; in fact, the grain obscured the woodwork details. Furthermore, there were some decorative wood pieces nailed on that can be described as "frou-frou."

Steve and I are not frou-frou.

Our first night in the house, I discovered the decorative pieces were removable, and ripped them off. Better already. Besides not being particularly stylish, they were disproportionately small. Anyway, one of the side pieces of trim was crooked and needed to be fixed, but besides that, I figured all the mantel needed was a couple of coats of white paint and we'd be good to go.

What was I thinking? Of course it wouldn't be that simple. When Steve removed the mantel to make painting easier and level the trim, he discovered that it was being held to the wall by only one nail in that piece of trim. And of course the more he looked, the more flaws he saw. So a little project for me turned into extra work for him--adding and moving pieces of wood, securing anchors to the brick so it could be re-attached more sturdily, and filling all the cracks where pieces were joined together, all the while mumbling about what a shoddy job someone had done originally putting it together.

Fast forward a couple of months, and we've got a much spiffier-looking mantel! The firebox is still pretty sad looking (water stains, thanks to a leaking chimney), and we won't mention the tile (thank goodness for the low lighting in this shot) or how fake the gas logs look--but the mantel itself changes the look of the room, I think.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Laughs for a Friday

YouTube is a brilliant thing. And I am amazed at the creativity and editing skills of some people!

Just ran across this crazy video that made me laugh out loud. Someone edited clips from Mary Poppins (I love that movie!) to make it into a horror-film trailer. Check it out!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 13

Thanking God this week for...
  • hot chocolate
  • crockpots
  • striped scarves
  • space heaters
  • hair dryers
  • fireplaces
  • soft glow of Christmas lights
  • slippers
  • thick fleece robe
  • vegetable soup
  • the Light of the world

Your turn...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Don't Waste Your Life

I've heard this story at least three times now. Decided that meant I needed to post it here...perhaps it will be a wake-up call, a challenge to someone who reads it--as it has been to me. From John Piper's book Don't Waste Your Life:
In April 2000, Ruby Eliason and Laura Edwards were killed in Cameroon, West Africa. Ruby was over eighty. Single all her life, she poured it out for one great thing: to make Jesus Christ known among the unreached, the poor, and the sick. Laura was a widow, a medical doctor, pushing eighty years old, and serving at Ruby's side in Cameroon. The brakes failed, the car went over a cliff, and they were both killed instantly. I asked my congregation: Was that a tragedy? Two lives, driven by one great passion, namely, to be spent in unheralded service to the perishing poor for the glory of Jesus Christ--even two decades after most of their American counterparts had retired to throw away their lives on trifles. No, that is not a tragedy. That is a glory. These lives were not wasted. And these lives were not lost. 'Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it' (Mark 8:35).

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader's Digest, which tells about a couple who 'took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.' At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn't. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life--your one and only precious, God-given life--and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: 'Look, Lord. See my shells.' That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don't buy it. Don't waste your life.

You don't even have to spend a cent to read this book--Desiring God Ministries has made it available for free, the message is that important. You can read every chapter online here. If you prefer to have an actual printed book, it's less than $10 here. There are also related audio messages here (Piper is even better to listen to than to read, and these too are free) and here.

Hank is Not Very Photogenic

He's a wonderful dog in just about every way (except for that whole carsickness thing). And he's really a handsome dog. But he did not want to have his picture taken today. We thought it might be fun to have him in a picture with us to put in our Christmas cards...several tries this afternoon looked something like this:

He tends to be a "worrywart," as the shelter told us, and he just didn't know what was going on. Even the offer of treats wasn't tempting enough to keep him in the living room--he just wanted the heck out of there. I did get one cute picture of him with Steve (except that his eyes glow eerily when you use the flash)...

...but he wouldn't look anywhere near the direction of the camera when I was using the self-timer.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Steve and I headed to Volunteer Tree Farm to pick out our tree this year--a huge step up from the podunk place we went last year. The firs weren't big enough yet and some of the other kinds had been picked over--but we were able to find something better than a white pine, which was the major goal. The difference between last year's tree and this year's is unbelievable! I tried to put the pictures side by side in one .jpg file, but can't figure out how (I'm sure it's brain just isn't geared up this morning). You'll just have to go back to last year's post to see what I mean. Notice how you can see the ribbon on the back side of the tree, right through the branches, because it is so scraggly. (It really was seven feet tall, though, same as this one--I'm not sure why it looks so tiny in the photo.) An added bonus is that this one is more fragrant. Still no star for the top--we're working on that.

I love how it looks when houses have a candle in every window--simple and elegant--so I was determined to do that when we got our own house. To my dismay, my plans were completely thwarted. Our house is squeezed in between two others so that the side windows wouldn't really be visible to passersby, which left two windows in the front. I put candles in those windows only to find that they were completely obscured by the unruly bushes out front. Alas. I bought a few other decorations on sale after the holidays last year and picked up a few more yesterday, but haven't put them up yet. I am procrastinating a bit because I'm afraid it will be like other artistic things I try--grand delusions of plans for stunning beauty, only to find that my actual skill doesn't match my imagined ability. We'll see.

Friday, December 01, 2006


NaBloPoMo is officially over--and I survived. Forty-one posts in 30 days.

I don't have anything profound to say about the experience at this point. Hoping to win one of the prizes. Think I'll take the weekend off.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 12

Holy moly, I almost forgot it was Thursday until I read Shauna's list just now. For some reason it doesn't feel like Thursday! Let the gratitude commence...thanking God for:
  • flip flops after Thanksgiving--it's a beautiful thing, living in Tennessee
  • the historic district in our town
  • our new dining room table, finally here!
  • fresh pineapple
  • productivity
  • pictures and updates from friends
  • music on the computer and the "shuffle" feature, to listen to all my Christmas CDs at random
  • a leaf-free patio and deck
  • calling me to Himself
  • becoming man so I could know Him
  • people who take the time to comment on my blog
  • grace

Quote of the Day

Read this a couple of days ago but didn't take the time to post it. Was reminded today and had to copy it here:
"of the things I would want to hear from Jesus, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' is probably number one; 'Hey, nice shoes' doesn’t really even make the list"

--From a commenter at Lean Left in the midst of a debate about the song "The Christmas Shoes" in a post about the worst Christmas songs ever.

(HT: Nashville is Talking)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why Duct Tape Does NOT Fix Everything

I've heard so many times that duct tape can be used to fix anything. Here's proof that's not always a good idea:

I apologize for the poor photo quality. But what you're seeing is the drain for our washing machine. The black hose on the right comes from our machine, and was apparently duct taped to the drain. I never noticed until now, because it worked fine.

This morning, I put a load of laundry in and went upstairs. Thankfully, I stayed in the kitchen, and I left the basement door open (yes, we finally have a basement door after three and a half months...but that's another long story), so when water started gushing a little while later, I heard it immediately. Who knows what might have happened if I'd been in another part of the house or closed the door.

I ran downstairs and discovered that the duct tape connection had come loose, shooting a geyser of soapy water all over the wall and floor. Clearly duct tape does NOT fix everything. Since our basement is unfinished, it's not a big deal--though Steve is obviously at work and I don't want to leave the clothes sitting in soapy water all day long. I took the photos to send to him so he can tell me over the phone what to do.

Just one more thing to love about this old house...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"You're Weird"

I've been tagged by Kerry Woo to confess six weird things about myself. I already listed plenty of weird stuff in my 100 Things, so it was hard to come up with different ones. (Not that I don't think I have quirks--just that it's hard to think of them offhand.) I asked Steve for ideas but he thought that sounded like the kind of question designed to get a spouse in trouble. Anyway, here are half a dozen more:

1. My elbows are double jointed. Both of them, though the left is worse than the right. They bend out backwards, past 180 degrees, and I can twist my arms without moving my hand/wrist. I'll try to post a picture later today, or have Steve take one when he gets home or something. I have found that this body quirk elicits two reactions: "COOL!" or "GROSS!"

2. I make a lot of noise when I first wake up--sort of a mild protest against getting out of bed, I guess, complete with groaning and moaning. A lot of the time I don't even realize I'm doing it. I also make funny noises when I yawn--I get that from my mom. I think I used to do it to mock her and it sort of stuck--kind of like how your parents tell you not to cross your eyes because they'll stay that way.

3. I save everything school-related. I still have papers I wrote in sixth grade, four years of French vocabulary sheets, my entire anatomy notebook from my junior year of high school...and the sick thing is, I know exactly where it all is. I hate to throw it away--keep thinking, "you never know when that might come in handy." And in fact it does occasionally: While I was home last weekend we were talking about family tree stuff and I was able to produce, in under 60 seconds, a genealogy paper I wrote in 1998. So there.

4. I am picky about food textures. There are a lot of foods I don't care for solely because of how they feel. This includes beans (every kind but green) as well as yogurt/pudding and other creamy/substanceless stuff.

5. I have been known to talk in my sleep. Usually it's incoherent mumbling, but occasionally it's clear. One instance that comes to mind is from high school...a friend heard me and thought I was still awake. When she responded, "What?", I said loudly, "The diamonds! The diamonds are dripping!"

6. I can recite the 50 states in alphabetical order at an astounding rate. We learned a little song in third grade and I took great pride in being the first one to have them memorized. I used to be able to fly through them in under 20 seconds--not sure if I can still go that fast or not. Just one of my many useless talents.

Let's see, who to tag next? How about Julie, Jeff (I already know he's weird, can't wait to see what he would come up with ;), Amanda, Kate, Micah, and Josh/Jamie (whoever gets to it first over at their place). Of course, some of these will be party poopers--so join in even if I didn't tag you, and leave a comment to let me know you're sharing your oddities with the world.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cheater Post

This is one of those posts where I'm dropping in to say, I'm so close to finishing NaBloPoMo and don't want to drop the ball now, but I don't really have much to post.

Actually, that isn't true. I have plenty of post ideas...but have been too lazy to develop them today. Make of that what you will.

Really, though, I know my blog traffic was way down over the holiday weekend--so rather than inundate you with more posts, I'll just encourage you to go back and read some of the things I wrote over the last few days. And feel free to add your two cents in the comments!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wise in My Own Eyes

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil” (Proverbs 3:7).

Josh Harris blogged last week about what it means to be wise in your own eyes. A few personal suggestions he offered: "I am wise in my own eyes..."
  • "When I don’t pause to pray for God’s guidance on a decision."
  • "When I fail to depend on God’s word and approach it as a daily 'lamp to my feet and a light to my path' (Ps. 119:105)."
  • "When I am critical of another person’s practice or perspective without taking the time to understand it and ask questions."
  • "When I am lax in fleeing temptation, assuming that I’m adult enough to 'handle it.'"
  • "When I do something right and fail to acknowledge before God that it is only his grace that allowed me to do it right."
  • "When I pat myself on the back about knowledge I have that I learned from someone else."
  • "When I don’t draw out, or seek to understand, a person who is bringing criticism (whether or not it’s being brought constructively)."
  • "When I assume that the truth of a sermon is for someone else, not my own life."
He goes on to say:
Until I see God and fear him, I cannot see myself rightly. When my view of him is clouded, when I’m a functional atheist, I will trust and applaud my own wisdom. But when I rightly fear God—when I see him for who he is as the all-seeing, all-powerful Holy One to whom I will answer—I will see myself as weak, dependent, and in need of heavenly wisdom. When I fear God, I will shun the evil of pride and self-sufficiency.
As I study the fear of the LORD and continue to battle pride in my own heart, this verse, and this post, strike a nerve in me. It's that whole issue of what I say I believe versus what I live like I believe--too often, not the same. I would certainly affirm that God is omnipotent, sovereign, the only wise God. But how often the choices I make proclaim that I believe I am sovereign and all-knowing. How do I proclaim this?
  • When I rush to add my opinions or stories to a conversation instead of quietly listening to what others have to say
  • When I mentally deride people for the arrogant way they argue, as if they have God and the Bible all figured out perfectly
  • When I get irritated with Steve because he doesn't do something my way
  • When I open the Word without asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate it and increase my understanding

I pray that God will give me the grace to trust and applaud His wisdom, not my own--to humbly fear Him and shun self-exaltation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Last week, the Christian blogosphere was buzzing about an article in Relevant Magazine called "The Dreaded Church Table." Author Daniel Holland writes about the way restaurant servers argue about who has to wait on the Christians--who are notorious for terrible tipping. What a sad testimony to our lack of generosity.

And yet, it seems the servers shouldn't take it personally. Our stinginess extends to God as well:
"If Christians had given the traditional 10 percent tithe of their income to their churches in 2004, instead of the 2.56 percent that they actually gave, there would have been an additional $164 billion available, according to a report released in October called 'The State of Church Giving through 2004.' If the churches chose to funnel just $70-$80 billion of that additional income to missions and humanitarian works, the basic needs of every person on the globe would be provided." --"The Failure to Tithe," Boundless Line

You may have arguments about whether tithing is binding on Christians who are no longer under the law...fine, take them elsewhere. That's beside the point here, so don't leave comments about it. You're right, we're no longer bound by the law--but as we realize that God gave His only Son to redeem us from the law, shouldn't that motivate us to give MORE than the law requires, not less?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Response #1: Do Not Be Surprised

Eric Schumacher at An Infant in a Cradle preached a sermon on November 12 in honor of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. As a preface, he noted: "It is important that we hear these stories. However, hearing them is not enough. We are called to respond. So, I want to ask this question...: How do we respond to the persecuted church?"

Schumacher posts his sermons online, but I know you won't go over there and read the whole thing (it's long). So, in light of the fact that I'm now on the VOM blogroll and trying to blog regularly about the persecuted church, I think I'll break down his "ten responses to the persecuted church" over the next several weeks, listing his suggestions and adding my thoughts.

1. "Do not be surprised by them."
Are we shocked when we hear of Christians beheaded, wrongly imprisoned, raped, beaten and tortured for their faith? Generally, yes--the violence and injustice are appalling. But while they are appalling, they should not be surprising. If we are surprised by this persecution--it is because we do not really believe Jesus. We don't take Him at His Word--we don't believe He truly means what He says. For He warned of the persecution all along:

"Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. …Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:17-25).

"They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God" (John 16:2).

Schumacher offers several other references to remind us that suffering was what we were told to expect all along, including 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:12; and 1 John 3:13.

Should we grieve that our brothers and sisters face suffering and even death because they claim the name of Christ? Of course. But it shouldn't surprise us. These trials are ones Christ Himself assured us would come--and promised us would be used for His glory and our good.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition

Kelly got me started doing this last year--I think I will make it a tradition. In honor of Thanksgiving, a sort of mega-version of Thankful Thursday. I am thanking God this year for...

  1. an amazing husband to share life with
  2. contact lenses
  3. fall leaves in reds, oranges and yellows
  4. sparkly pens
  5. Hank
  6. phones
  7. email
  8. blogs
  9. the new friends I have made through blogs
  10. knowing that although I likely will never meet them on earth, we'll get together in Heaven someday!
  11. laughter--the kind where your cheeks hurt and your stomach aches
  12. traveling I have gotten to do around the U.S. and world
  13. Christmas music
  14. grace to be able to cook
  15. KitchenAid mixer
  16. tucking away savings for Christmas gifts gradually all year long = no December money crunch
  17. the ability to walk
  18. chocolate
  19. GEMS girls
  20. GEMS co-counselors
  21. freedom to worship Him without persecution
  22. free John Piper sermons online
  23. a CD burner on our computer
  24. Sovereign Grace Ministries
  25. Compassion International
  26. Samaritan's Purse
  27. Voice of the Martyrs
  28. Kingdom Building Ministries
  29. our house--being a homeowner instead of a renter
  30. the realtor and mortgage broker who helped us buy it
  31. the means to make a good down payment
  32. small mortgage payments
  33. my husband's handyman skills
  34. hardwood floors
  35. a fireplace
  36. red paint in the dining room
  37. plenty of kitchen counter & cupboard space
  38. a porch swing
  39. a bigger freezer than the one at our apartment
  40. lots of natural light
  41. loving and generous parents
  42. loving and generous in-laws
  43. both sets of parents still being married to each other
  44. new recipes
  45. contemporary music with rich, gospel-centered lyrics (see #24)
  46. beautiful photography
  47. heavy blankets
  48. scented candles
  49. friendliness of the kids next door
  50. Steve's job
  51. freelance opportunities to use my skills and make a little extra income
  52. extended times alone with God
  53. women who have mentored me
  54. low utility bill
  55. brown sugar & fig lotion
  56. ability to play the piano
  57. opportunity to go home for Thanksgiving
  58. yummy Thanksgiving feast
  59. beautiful neighborhood to take walks in
  60. gas prices lower than $3/gallon (it's all about perspective)
  61. church potlucks
  62. hugs from kids
  63. high speed internet access
  64. sense of smell
  65. His Word in my own language
  66. thick, soft hair
  67. digital photos
  68. ten-day vacation coming up at Christmas
  69. mental health
  70. memory
  71. prayer journals
  72. frozen cookie dough
  73. pillowtop mattress
  74. prayer service at church this week
  75. deepening my understanding of the gospel
  76. long-distance friends who keep in touch
  77. mercy without measure, new every morning
  78. turtleneck sweaters
  79. coffeehouses that aren't chains
  80. immediate family on both sides who love each other & get along peacefully
  81. flip flops
  82. ability to type quickly
  83. answered prayers
  84. opening my eyes and giving me the grace to come to Him
  85. Nashville is Talking--the fascinating people, the different perspectives...oh, and the extra blog traffic it brings :)
  86. raw spinach--it makes me feel good eating it, like I'm actually healthy
  87. lots of cute babies/toddlers at church to love on
  88. Steve's willingness to scratch my back or rub my shoulders frequently
  89. free fonts
  90. 70 mph speed limit in Indiana
  91. aluminum foil
  92. did I mention my amazing husband?
  93. indoor plumbing
  94. the Spirit who intercedes for me
  95. effective Scripture memory system
  96. His fatherly compassion
  97. the fact that He never changes
  98. His sovereignty
  99. His promises to provide for all my needs
  100. real hope for eternity, founded on the solid Rock of Christ and His perfect blood

Count your blessings this Thanksgiving--remember all the reasons you have to be grateful! (And comment below to add a few of your own--or a link to your own blog list of blessings!)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Faith and Gratitude

Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum urges us to give thanks even in the midst of disappointment and trials. He includes this gem of a quote:

"Faith is thankfulness for goodness put on hold."

Check out the whole post here.

Let His Blood Be On Us

As Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified, he washed his hands of the matter, wanting to remain innocent. The people's response, recorded in Scripture for all eternity, was damning: "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25)

As I read those words again recently, I was struck by the irony, the promise, the prayer that their evil cry contains. Christ's blood is on us--not just the Jews who called for His death, but each of us who sins, who chooses again and again to glorify himself instead of his Creator. The only reason Jesus had to die was because we were sinners. So His blood is on our hands--the cross renders a "GUILTY!" verdict for every one of us.

And those who believe, the words contain a promise: His blood be on us. Because Christ died, we can be reconciled to the Holy God. "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22)--but "by means of His own blood," shed on the cross for us, "he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. ...Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant" (Hebrews 9:12,15).

If we trust Him to save us--if we place our faith in His righteousness and not our own merit--His blood is on us. "It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that [we] were redeemed from the empty way of life...but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18-19). And so the angry cry of those who called for His crucifixion becomes our humble plea. We have no hope, no claim before God other than, "Let His blood be on us!" And when this is our plea, our shame and guilt are covered by His perfect obedience and sinless death. His righteousness is ours.

Because we are sinners, His blood is on us. Yet because we trust Him to save us, His blood is on us. What a merciful God we serve!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Singing the "WHY" of Christmas

I generally have a pretty firm "no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving" rule. But I broke it this year. Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man has been on continual repeat in my car since I received it a couple of weeks ago.

When I first downloaded the free single Sovereign Grace Ministries put out to promote their new Christmas CD, I immediately pre-ordered a copy of the whole CD. After my other two CDs, I'm hooked--so I couldn't wait to hear an entire album of gospel-centered, Christ-exalting Christmas music. As the website explains, "Each of the twelve new songs is a celebration of this amazing truth: The baby in a manger is God himself, the Savior who came to bear our sins and bring us close to the Father."

You won't find any reindeer games or sleigh rides or frightful weather and crackling fireplaces here. Not that those things are bad--they're blessings from God. But they aren't the main thing. They're fun traditions, but they aren't the reason we celebrate every December. This CD focuses on the wonder of the incarnation, the incredible miracle of God coming to earth--"Endless Ages wrapped in years," as one song puts it. Songwriter Mark Altrogge explains that the goal was to create "not just Christmas songs, but Christmas songs that could be used in worship"--Christmas songs with actual content, songs that magnify God.

Even better, this CD doesn't just celebrate the fact that Jesus came to earth as man. It joyfully proclaims WHY. And isn't that the question we're always asking? The fact is, Christmas doesn't mean much without the cross. So the songs on Savior take us again and again from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, infusing our Christmas joy with richer, deeper meaning. Lyrics like these answer the "Why?" of Christmas beautifully:

God is born a man today
To bring His children home
...The Lion comes to crush the serpent
...God has sent His greatest treasure
Shown His love in greatest measure
Sending Christ to bleed and suffer
Purchasing our joy forever
--"Christ the Lord is Born Today"

He has come to rescue sinners,
Come to meet our desperate need;
He was born to bring forgiveness,
Born for Calvary.
--"Hope Has Come"

How sweet the day when Hope appeared
The One who frees us from our fears
He came to break the power of sin
And give us power to follow Him
--"How Sweet the Day"

You’ll fulfill the Father’s plan
Reconciling God and man
--"Sleep, Jesus, Sleep"

Other favorites (though they're all great) include "Rejoice," a triumphant song which tells the story of God's goodness and majesty through three verses on creation, redemption and Christ's final return in glory; and "Wonderful Counselor," which puts beautiful music to one of my favorite Christmas passages, Isaiah 9.

Often when we think Christmas music," certain songs immediately come to mind: "Silent Night," "Joy to the World," etc. So with twelve brand-new songs on this CD, what makes it "Christmas-y"? Besides the lyrics, what makes Christmas music have that holiday feel? I can't pinpoint it, but these songs do have a warm "Christmas feel." I don't know if it's certain instrumentation or what, but they completely succeed in getting me excited about Christmas--and in this case, for all the right reasons. And yet, the rich gospel content makes it a year-round CD. I definitely won't be able to put it away in January!

Our Creator became a man like us! Can we ever fully comprehend that truth and what it means? No--but Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man is a great way to deepen our understanding and our joy as we exult in this truth. Go buy this CD!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Must Remember

Why not start off the week with some classic navel-gazing a meme? Here's my stream-of-consciousness to-do list--things I need to remember, and preferably do in the next three days before we go home for Thanksgiving. A glimpse into my exciting life...

take Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes to collection center...walk Hank...return movie...make cake (freeze other half?)...make card/buy one?...prayer service tonight...Hank needs a bath...clean oven--what was causing all that smoke? in kitchen...also desk in office...fold laundry...put load in ahead for this weekend at home...returns at Dollar General...Pam's birthday next week...pumpkin bread...Christmas more broccoli(?)...materials to Sandra...cell phone with me at all times tomorrow...early shower...take Hank for car this weekend? take warm coat...get Christmas ornament at home...use up rest of meat in fridge before we for sermons and burn CDs for Steve...rake on 1 Corinthians 15...get off computer and start crossing some of these things off!

(HT: BlondeMomBlog)

UPDATE: Hey, accountability to the entire internet maybe helps a little. I love the strikethrough is so satisfying to see items on a list crossed off :)

Prideful Thankful

Why I do Thankful Thursday, and try to thank God as much as possible in between.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This or That Thanksgiving

Holiday Grinch: What's Your Ideal Thanksgiving?

STUFFING: Cornbread or Oyster?
*I've never had cornbread stuffing. I guess that means I will never be a real Southerner :) TURKEY: Fresh or Frozen?
*either way, if it's smoked. I'm not a big fan of the regular roasted kind.
POTATOES: Sweet or Mashed?
*sweet, in my mom's casserole with lots of caramelized topping and pecans
BREAD: Biscuits or Rolls?
*mmm...bread...any kind, please and thank you
BEVERAGE: Sweet Tea or Champagne?
*yuck (again, will never be a real Southerner) and yuck. how about a glass of milk--or some apple cider?
CASSEROLE: Green Bean or Squash?
*definitely green bean
PIE: Pumpkin or Pecan?
*one sliver of pumpkin, only if barely visible under Cool Whip
AT TABLE: Friends or Family?
*friends would be fun, but not generally possible--everyone is with family, which is also fun
TABLETOP: Good China or Chinet?
*good china
ON TV: Macy's Parade or Football?
*football if it's college--Macy's Parade if it's pro
DINNERTIME: Noon or Later?
*noon AND later when you're married :)
JELLO SALAD: Tradition or Unforgiveable?
PRAYER: Blessing or Curse?
ATTIRE: Casual or Dressy?
AFTER DINNER: Pants Undone or Out for a Walk?
LEFTOVERS: Keep or Share?

Countdown: Three days until we're home giving thanks with family and friends!

(HT: Nashville is Talking)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Once a Buckeye, Always a Buckeye

I think I became a Buckeye fan out of sheer orneriness--to spite my dad, an avid Michigan fan. I grew up in Ohio, but only ten minutes from the Michigan border, and for whatever reason, my dad chose the U of M as the team to support. Being a daddy's girl, I blindly memorized the words to "Hail to the Victors" until sometime in middle school, when I obstinately decided I wanted to root for Ohio State instead. You can look at it as childish rebellion...or you can look at it as finally seeing the light :)

It's a good-natured family rivalry now (me versus my dad, mom and brother); maturity, plus years of losses to Michigan under Jim Cooper, taught me not to talk too much trash because I'd likely end up eating my words. Still, I won't be able to resist at least a little "Go Bucks!" when I talk to my parents tomorrow night.

I suppose I am a bit of an anomaly as a wife--the kind who doesn't just not resent it when her husband watches football, but actually looks forward to curling up on the couch with him to catch a game. This maybe started also because I am a daddy's girl; my dad used to be an assistant football coach (before I was born) and I loved asking him questions, learning all the lingo. I take pride now in being able to follow the plays, knowing who plays what position and what the calls mean.

So as you can imagine, all activities at the Kannel house stopped for Buckeye football this afternoon. The game was unprecedented in the history of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry as a #1 vs. #2 matchup--and our Buckeyes came out on top.

Steve heard a rumor recently that NFL teams are courting our beloved Jim Tressel. Who can blame them? He's a phenomenal coach--now 5-1 against Michigan, with one national championship under his belt and another on the way. Steve remarked the other day that he probably never buys his own dinner if he eats out anywhere in Columbus. The man is incredible. If he leaves OSU to go coach a bunch of overpaid whiners, we will cry.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Praying for the Persecuted Church

I posted earlier this week about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. I want to try to make posting about the persecuted church a more regular thing, because I know it's all too easy for me to move on and let the suffering of my brothers and sisters around the world drop off my radar screen. Out of sight, out of mind and all that. But God doesn't leave forgetting about them as an option open to me--so I'm writing to keep it at the forefront of my own mind, and perhaps yours, too.

We all know the first thing we can do for persecuted Christians is pray. We say it's important, but do we mean it? Do we do it? As said, "The most we can do is the least we can do — pray." We can make a difference in the lives of persecuted Christians around the world because we have the privilege of interceding for them before the throne of our sovereign and loving Father.

And we don't have to settle for praying generic prayers like, "Lord, please help them." Nor do we need to pray, "Lord, be with them" (it's an unnecessary prayer for Christians--He already is). In this Internet age, information about their struggles is at our fingertips. We have access to tons of stories and testimonies; we can receive free updates from organizations like The Voice of the Martyrs who can suggest helpful direction for our prayers.

Of course God hears our generic prayers, and of course He knows better than we do what the persecuted church really needs. But knowing specific things to pray about can be beneficial in so many ways, as Mark Lauterbach explains here. Don't you feel more motivated to pray--doesn't your prayer life seem more vibrant and meaningful--when you know what to pray for? Or to put it another way: Would you rather have someone pray, "Lord, please help her and bless her" or would it mean more if they prayed for specific help in ways applicable to your particular situation? I know which I'd rather have.

The needs of the persecuted church are vast and varied, so of course we can't pray that specifically for each one. But we can get a lot more detailed than "help them." Here are some ideas to get you started:
  • For our persecuted brothers and sisters who are willing to serve Christ in spite of arrest, torture and even death--pray for strength for them to remain faithful
  • That government officials in restricted and hostile nations will come to know Christ personally
  • That ministry efforts in restricted nations will succeed in presenting the gospel and strengthening the church
  • The successful delivery of Bibles, study Bibles, New Testaments, training materials and more to the persecuted church
  • That the church would continue to grow in spite of persecution
  • That persecuted believers would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ so that their lives will be a powerful testimony to everyone
  • That they would be open-handed and have a heart of love even toward their enemies—that they would share the love of Christ even with those who persecute them

To go deeper, check out these Critical Prayer Requests for Strategic Nations--which includes more specific requests for governments and churches in restricted/hostile nations from Afghanistan to Egypt to Vietnam. You can also check out VOM's Persecution Blog for regular updates and prayer needs.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 10

Thanking God this week for...

  • the fact that no one was hurt in the fire next door
  • the fact that the fire didn't destroy the whole house, or spread further
  • the demanding, risky work that firefighters do every day
  • a reminder to put my hope in what's eternal, not in things that fire can destroy
  • a chance to get to know someone from church better over lunch last Friday
  • our GEMS lock-in
  • opportunities to catch up on sleep after the GEMS lock-in
  • Mark Lauterbach's GospelDrivenLife blog
  • my husband hanging pictures on the walls for me
  • Operation Christmas Child
  • soft red fleece pants
  • backrubs and scalp massages
  • yummy, tender chicken on sale at Kroger
  • delicious marinades for said chicken
  • a grill to cook it on, and again, my husband's excellent grilling skills
  • a clean bathroom

How about you?

Closer Than I'd Ever Care to Be

It is an eerie thing to hear the sirens come to a screeching halt outside your front door; scarier still to look out your kitchen window and see flames erupting from the window of the house next door, to smell the acrid smoke with all doors closed and windows shut.

Fire trucks, other fire department vehicles, city utility and EMS vehicles are parked haphazardly all along the street out front. Several people were standing in the backyard a while ago, watching in disbelief. I went out to offer my help--a place to get out of the rain, a phone, whatever--but it wasn't needed, at least at this point. I didn't want to stand outside and gawk rudely; I had no other reason to be out there.

No one was hurt; the house is split up into three or four apartments and only one person was home at the time--the one who smelled smoke and called 911. The window where I saw someone inside remodeling yesterday is now blackened. The house was an eyesore before; I wonder if it will be salvaged. The danger is past; the owner/landlady is gone and the tenants standing in the backyard have dispersed. They likely are now homeless, at least temporarily. I hope they have family or friends to go to. I feel as though I want to help, but don't know how.

The house is close enough to string a tin-can telephone or a clothesline between that window and ours; I would have worried if ours weren't brick. If it had been a dry day, our fence might have burned.

The entire backyard is hazy now. I stand at the window, compelled to watch, thinking that the reflective stripes on the firefighters' uniforms really do work--all I can see through the black hole of the window are patches of muted fluorescent yellow. From my vantage point, it seems obvious this is where the fire started, where the flames were shooting out. The paint next to the window is discolored, bubbled up crispy; the screen hangs in shreds. The window frame is clearly charred; a few fragments of glass hanging at the top are all that's left.

Two firefighters use a long yellow pole to bang at the wall on the other side of the peeling exterior paint. From what my brother has explained to me, I'm guessing that they're looking for the weakest, most damaged spot, to pinpoint the fire's origin. Wiring in the wall, perhaps? Old houses are especially vulnerable to faulty wiring, and this gives me pause.

All flames are out now; after a breather in the backyard, the firefighters are back in that room at work. I watch one unscrew a bottle of orange Gatorade, settling in for a long morning. They put their helmets back on and begin cleanup, dragging charred pieces of plywood out the back door. As I watch them work, I can't stop thinking of my little brother. I feel intense pride (and a little trepidation) at the thought that this is Josh's line of work, his passion.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Writing, Just Not Here

Halfway through, and still going strong. I don't think a link to someone else's brilliance counts as a real post...but that's all you get for today because I spent my time thinking through and writing through two other posts on blogs that remain, at least for now, private. Wisdom in time management dictates that I not spend any more time blogging today...but I did write on a blog today, which is (I believe) the spirit of NaBloPoMo. Can I obey the spirit of the law and not the letter?

"Burying my resume in the presence of Christ"

Mark Lauterbach's latest post elicits another WOW from me today...
...there is in me a desire to receive some glory at the end of life --to have folks list my work and accomplishments, to remember my industry and achievements. I would not have disclaimed them as did Rutherford, I would have savored them.

...Isn't pride a hideous thing? I saw in my heart that I have an underlying restlessness of soul until I merit my own and others approval of my life -- that I review my works, and wonder if I have done enough to justify my existence. I compare my life with others who are seemingly
more fruitful, and wonder if I am significant or not. Are my works bringing me honor?

Go read the whole thing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

You Limp

“How do you know you’ve had an encounter with God? Here’s how you know you’ve really met God: You limp.

"...Unless something comes into your life that breaks you of your self-righteousness and pride, you may think you believe you’re a sinner saved by grace, but you’re not. You don’t really believe it. You may say you’re a sinner saved by grace, but you don’t really believe it in the depths of your being. And as a result, you are not a sign of the gospel. The gospel hasn’t really formed you deep down inside. You’re not a strength-out-of-weakness person. You just aren’t. He will bring you down if He’s going to use you. You will have to have the sign of Jonah in your life—life out of death, strength out of weakness.”

--Tim Keller, “The Supremacy of Christ and the Gospel in a Postmodern World,” Desiring God National Conference 2006

I listened to this message by Keller last week and was blown away. All of it is excellent--worth a listen--but this quote at the end made me get up and pause it so I could copy every word. I felt like God in His kindness was giving me one more puzzle piece, bringing more of the big picture into focus.

"WHY" is the obvious question we ask when we go through trials. We usually can't see at the time; we learn to trust that God is using them for our good and His glory. Sometimes He gives us answers later; other times, we never see (this side of heaven) what He was doing. As I heard these words from Keller, it seemed to me that God was graciously shedding light on the dark desert He took me through in late 2004-early 2005. Since coming out of that, I have been able to say that I can see He had purpose in it. But when I heard this quote, I actually felt praise welling up within me for that miserable time. I saw so clearly how I had to go through that in order to be able to understand the centrality of the cross--the gospel-centered perspective He has been driving deep into my heart over the last year.

God used that dark time to break me. He broke me so that He could expose the self-righteousness and pride in my heart. He broke me so that He could rebuild me deep within, centered on the glorious gospel of grace. How thankful I am that He brought me down so that He could use me. How I pray that He'll continue to drive those truths deep into my heart and use me to point others to the cross.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Follow the Box

For those of you who participated in Operation Christmas Child, Samaritan's Purse has a blog up called Follow the Box--a fun way to see the journey your shoebox takes to reach a child. Steve and I finished packing our boxes last night...the trunk of my car is full of boxes from our church, which I need to deliver to the collection site this week. We are close to meeting our goal of 50 boxes--a few more people are bringing boxes next Sunday so I think we will make it!

I love this ministry! If you missed it this year, mark your calendar so you can participate next fall--National Collection Week is always the week before Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Forgetting is Not an Option

More than 70 million Christians have been martyred for their faith since 33 AD. But that suffering isn’t just something that used to happen a long time ago. This year an estimated 160,000 believers will die at the hands of their oppressors. Over 200 million Christians around the world will be persecuted, arrested, tortured, beaten or jailed. In many nations today it is illegal to own a Bible, share your faith, change your faith or allow children under 18 to attend a religious service.

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church—a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith, as well as prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it. It’s an opportunity for us to join with Christians all over the world in praying for the suffering members of the body of Christ.
"We believe that prayer changes things. Exactly what happens is a mystery of faith. God invites us to present to Him our requests and to pray without ceasing. Persecuted Christians often plead for prayer to help them endure. The most we can do is the least we can do — pray." (
Many times in the past, I have read books or articles about the persecuted church or heard speakers that inspire me to care for my persecuted brothers and sisters, and I am challenged and motivated to pray for them, to do something. But unfortunately it’s all too easy for me to gradually slip back into my comfortable life and not give any thought to the trials that the persecuted church faces.

One reason I’m sharing with you today is because forgetting is not an option. God commands us in Hebrews 13:3—“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” So I’m taking this opportunity to remind myself of what Christians across the world face—and to challenge myself, and you, to care. To get involved. To obey God’s command to remember them because we also are in the body with them.

Through organizations like The Voice of the Martyrs, there are lots of ways you can get involved:
Most importantly, we need to pray for our brothers and sisters. By themselves, our efforts are small—but infused with God’s Spirit, they have the power to change lives for eternity! We can make a difference in the lives of persecuted Christians around the world because we have the privilege of interceding for them before the throne of our sovereign and loving Father.

Let’s remember those who are suffering for Christ and join with them in such a way that one day, the King will say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. …as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I Need, I Need

Discovered this interesting meme a while back. What I really need...according to Google:

  • Amy needs to either wake up or start getting some extra will-power.
  • psycho amy needs help so plz HEEELLPPP MMEE!!!!
  • Amy needs a job, and gets one picking up trash at an aquatic tourist trap (I am not desperate enough for a job to work as a trash-picker-upper at any tourist trap)
  • Amy Needs Rescue ASAP!
  • Amy needs a loving, stable, and safe home. (I've got one, thanks)
  • Amy needs attention from her family and for her parents to provide guidance and support. (got that too--but thanks)
  • Amy needs to mend her ways and be more of a team player. (ouch)
  • Amy Needs a Crash Pad. (what the heck is a crash pad? my husband would say I need one of these so I don't bruise myself cutting corners when walking around furniture...)
  • Amy Needs Rehab
  • Amy needs a flu shot - like really really needs a flu shot. (ironic, isn't it, in light of this post?)
  • Amy needs some training.
  • Amy needs to be kept safe and nurtured by a foster carer.
  • Amy needs a blueprint for her financial future.
  • Amy needs the. cooperation of the taxidermists for access to the animals (yikes)
  • Amy needs someone to talk to. (Steve is good for that...but yeah, I would like this)
  • Amy needs to get another facial expression for deep ponderance (haha...I'll work on that)
  • Amy needs advice on which brands of shower chairs are good. (yes, do tell)
  • Amy needs this info by June 1 (hurry!)
  • Amy needs to describe her ideas and research plan concisely and clearly. (good thing my thesis adviser didn't subscribe to this one)
  • What Amy needs is not to discard entire portions of her personality. (um...okay)
  • What Amy needs is to stop worrying about herself so much and working so hard to impress (ooh, hit the nail on the head there)
  • Amy needs her come-uppance. (ouch again)

Give it a try by typing "[your name] needs" into Google...leave a link in the comments if you post this at your own site.

Simple Math

5 girls ages 7-10
+ 47 kinds of junk food
+ 1 key to the church to stay all night
= 3 hours of sleep for the second consecutive Friday night
= 1 very tired (and gurgly-stomached) Amy.

Last night we had a GEMS lock-in, complete with great discussion and activities about our theme, games of Twister, makeovers and hairdos, movies and lots of laughs. I adore those girls and my two fellow counselors--they are amazing women I am privileged to work with. So we had a blast...but I am just not up on the "let's stay up til 4 a.m." like I used to be. Ay yi yi.

Friday, November 10, 2006

True Confessions

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ...For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:15-20)

My NaBloPoMo commitment was challenged today, just ten days in. Why? I'm selfish and lazy--at least, that's the short answer.

If you've talked to me at all in the last year, you've heard me say that my greatest challenge during this season of being a homemaker is time management--or lack thereof. Day after day, week after week, month after month...I come to the end of the day and feel discouraged, wondering where the hours went and knowing I didn't accomplish what needed to be done. Morning after morning (or unfortunately, afternoon after afternoon) I come to God again, asking for forgiveness for the same failures, asking Him to make this day different.

Often the end of the week brings unnecessary stress because it's crunch time--there are things that absolutely have to be accomplished by the weekend, and because I squandered so much time early in the week, I have much to do in a short amount of time. Such was the case this week. Today I found myself with an overly ambitious list of to-dos because of all the hours I have wasted so far. I almost didn't have time to post, and probably shouldn't even be taking the time now.

The fact is, I am selfish and lazy. There are plenty of hours in the day for me to accomplish what God sets before me, to minister to others and serve my husband. But I don't make choices that honor Him or Steve. Instead I make shortsighted, instant-gratification decisions. I worship idols of comfort and ease instead of magnifying my Savior. I hate this.

I have asked for grace to change, realizing that I continue to fail when left to my own strength. But for whatever reason, God has so far chosen not to enable me to have a good day. Or if He has given the grace, I have not been able to use it. Why? Jerry Bridges has some insight in his book The Discipline of Grace:
"Sometimes we don't sense that we are experiencing His strength. Instead we experience deep, agonizing failure. ...Why doesn't the Holy Spirit always strengthen us? The answer may be one or more of several reasons. He may be letting us see the sinfulness of our own hearts. or He may be causing us to realize how weak we are in ourselves and how dependent on Him we really are. Perhaps He is curbing a tendency toward spiritual pride and causing us to grow in humility. Whatever the reason, which we may never know, our responsibility is to utterly depend on Him. He sovereignly and with infinite wisdom determines how best to respond to our dependence."

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:21-24)

My only hope is the gospel. I dare not trust my own righteousness, my ability to obey. I do not want to claim cheap grace, but when I have failed yet again, all I can do is cling to His promises in Christ: there is no condemnation for me because I am united to Christ. My standing before Him does not depend on my own performance, but on Christ's perfect obedience and sinless, sacrificial death in my place. His mercies are new every morning. And one day I will be forever set free from this body of sin and will serve Him perfectly.

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Thankful Thursday, Take 9

Thanking God for...

  • my new Christmas CD that arrived this week--LOVING it! go buy one!
  • calzones
  • sour cream cookies (my grandma's recipe--always think of her when I bake them)
  • the incredible gift of marriage (to an incredible man)
  • 70 degrees in November! whoo hoo!
  • elections are over
  • narrowly avoiding a car accident Wednesday night
  • toffee nut latte with Rebekah
  • fellowship with women from church
  • forgiveness from my sin
  • His perfect sovereignty
  • His infinite wisdom

Your turn...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Fear from Forgiveness

"If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared" (Psalm 130:3-4).

Why fear God? He is holy--if He kept a record of sins, no one would be able to stand. We would all be condemned. Surely that is reason to fear, right? But according to this passage, that's not why we fear Him. We fear Him because He forgives.

How is this so? What does it mean to fear God because we find forgiveness with Him, and not because of His judgment? Perhaps part of it is that we stand in awe of such love and mercy. Fear based on His wrath and judgment would be a terrifying fear, not a comforting fear. But fear based on His forgiveness is a worshipful fear--amazed, speechless, humbled, grateful, adoring. It's a fear that hates the thought of dishonoring or displeasing One who loves me so recklessly, forgives me so completely. It's a fear that falls on its face at the foot of the cross, seeing that Christ knew wrath so that I could fear God because of forgiveness and not wrath. How could I reject Him? Perish the thought! That's the fear God desires from us.


I've accepted a challenge.

Some of you have maybe heard of NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month. The idea is for people who have always wanted to write a novel to spend the month of November doing so--focusing on quantity, not quality, and just making themselves write what's in their heads. I'm terrible at fiction--just ask Dr. Mary Brown--so NaNoWriMo is definitely NOT for me. That's when I heard that someone came up with the alternative NaBloPoMo--National Blog Posting Month (language warning for that link, fyi). It's simple--just write on your blog every day.

I tend to write in spurts. I find myself with lots to say one week, having to save posts for several days so as not to overwhelm you. Then the next week I have nothing interesting to write about and the blog is largely silent except for links to other people. For the month of November I'm trying to even things out--a post a day, all month long. Sorry I didn't get around to posting about it sooner--maybe some of y'all would have joined me!

Anyway, we'll see how this little experiment goes. Eight days in, so far, so good. If you have any topic ideas, feel free to send those my way :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Note to Self::Time Travel Version

Tony Myles asked an interesting question a couple of weeks ago:

imagine that you could send a note via time travel to yourself five years ago. If there was enough space to write five short sentences, what would it say?
One commenter had some good practical advice to his past self: "invest in Google." :) Reading through all the comments struck me as a kind of poetry. Five (or less) simple lines--vague and fascinating glimpses into others' lives. What would yours say? What would mine say? What wisdom would I love to impart to my college-sophomore self?

I've been pondering it for the last several days, and I think my answer is: I wouldn't.

Five years ago I was on-again, off-again in love with Steve (completely unbeknownst to him). Would I tell myself "be patient, he'll come around" or something to that effect? Certainly I begged God more than once to tell me--so that I could either "get over him and move on" or "relax in knowing it would happen eventually" (yeah right). But if I had known we would eventually be together, I am certain I would have screwed it up somehow, taking matters into my own hands in a Sarah-esque kind of way. Plus, as much as those months and years before Steve came around, and those early months when we first started dating, were awkward and confusing and scary (did I mention awkward?), they were wonderfully so. I wouldn't trade the exciting journey-into-the-unknown with Steve for anything. So no, I don't think I'd tell myself anything along those lines.

Then I thought, maybe I'd give myself a five-year head start on this cross centered life journey--direct myself to read a certain book or article that has helped me so much this last year, or listen to a sermon series, or tell myself to "run to the cross." But you know what? I think Tony is spot-on when he muses, "What's interesting is whether or not we would understand our notes to ourselves five years ago in the context of experience we write from today."

God knew exactly what experiences I needed to go through, both wonderful and painful, and in which order, for me to learn what He's teaching me now. I can look back and see how He has orchestrated these lessons so beautifully--how He has arranged events and relationships and resources in the ways He knew would best drive His truth deep into my heart. And so the growth He has produced in me in the last five years could not have been jump-started. I wouldn't have been able to learn these lessons in 2001 because He hadn't perfectly prepared me for them at that point.

In the end, all this pondering leads me to praise God for His sovereignty and His infinite wisdom. It leads me, strangely enough, to thank Him for not revealing the future to me. And it prompts me to trust Him to direct my growth for the next five years (and beyond) because I can see how perfectly He has done so over the last five.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Giving What You Have Received

The main sessions of our retreat were on Philippians 2. I was struck by Kay Arthur's unpacking of verses 1 and 2--she explained that we are to take possession of and give to others what we have received from the Lord. She drew parallels I'd never thought of before. The first verse describes four blessings He has given us; the second verse identifies how we can live out those blessings and pass them on to others. The idea here is that God does not ask us to do anything which He has not already done Himself.

1 - If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ... (v. 1)
The Greek word for "encouragement" here is "paraklesis"--related to the Greek word for the Holy Spirit ("paraclete"). It is a comfort beyond mere soothing; it is an encouragement which makes you strong. It is the reassurance of Matthew 12:20--Christ will not break you when you are bruised or snuff out your smoldering flame.
...being of the same mind (v. 2)
He is gentle with us--so we should be gentle with others. We extend to others the patience and encouragement we have received from Christ.

2 - if there is any consolation of love... (v. 1)
The Greek for "consolation" is "paramuthion"--it has the sense here of coming alongside and speaking tender things to you. God speaks His love to us in His Word.
...maintaining the same love (v. 2)
In the same way, we are called to speak the truth in love to others--to come alongside them and exhort them with God's Word.

3 - if there is any fellowship of the Spirit... (v. 1)
The Greek here is "koinonia"--"to share in common." God has given us His Holy Spirit to make us one with Him. Through Christ's sacrifice, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, we have fellowship with God. And He has given that same Spirit to every one of His children.
...united in spirit (v. 2)
If all of us who are in Christ have the same Spirit, that unites us. We must not grieve or quench the Spirit--that has fellowship/unity implications. What does the Holy Spirit want to do? Among other things, He wants to love and minister to people--through me. If I resist that--if I do not rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn; if I do not come alongside my brothers and sisters and exhort and encourage them--I am grieving and quenching the Spirit in me.

4 - if any affection and compassion... (v. 1)
The Greek here is "bowels of mercy"--a sympathy and compassion felt deep in your gut. This is the kind of mercy God has shown us--the same Greek word is used of Jesus in Mark 1:41. He has deep compassion for our helplessness and brokenness--a compassion that took Him to the cross to rescue us. His mercy is new every morning--He never says, "that's it, you're done" to us.
...and of one mind (v. 2)
The Greek here has the sense of having the same sentiment, being similarly disposed, interesting yourself in, setting the affection on. We must extend to others the mercy we receive from God. How often we are like the unmerciful servant who was forgiven a great debt, but demanded payment from someone who owed him a paltry sum. Instead we are to show others the compassion and mercy that God shows us.

Through this study, I loved seeing yet again how God doesn't expect anything of us that He hasn't already modeled. He shows us, perfectly, how to do these things. He fills us with His encouragement, His mercy, His Spirit so that we can pour into others. And He died so that we would receive and understand and be able to live out this grace! How great is our God!

"I Want the Things You Just Can't Give Me"

Remember the free Derek Webb CD I blogged about a few weeks ago? Tony Myles created a video for one of the songs, "Rich Young Ruler." It speaks of Jesus wanting the things it would be hardest for us to give Him--as with the title character. The lyrics are challenging--and this video is compelling. Check it out.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Praise Him in Glad Adoration

[Thought I would write, for those of you who are interested, about what music I used for the women's retreat and why...]

Friday night, I started with "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"--the version on Passion: Hymns Ancient and Modern (LOVE that CD). First because all we ever sing at church is hymns straight out of the hymnal. Which are great, but I wanted to change it up a little for the retreat. This worked well because it was still a familiar hymn, so the ladies weren't given all new songs, yet it's a little more modern/updated and fun to sing. Plus, it gave me an easy way to start since it was just singing along with a CD :) I also chose this because of what several of you said about stress/problems fading when you focus on the mightiness of Christ. I agree!

To bring out the idea of combatting stress by trusting Christ instead of ourselves, we then sang "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"* a cappella, from the hymnal. As a side note, I have really lost my upper range since I don't sing daily anymore/don't sing soprano anymore. I hate singing anything above a B (as in, B below third-space C!)--and really, what average worshipper likes to sing high anyway, especially when it's a cappella and you feel really exposed? The nice thing about singing a cappella is that you can choose your key. I took each hymn down at least a step and a half from the hymnal--would have gone even lower except the altos would have been singing in the basement :)

I finished Friday night by teaching a simple song that was new to them. It's an old Brooklyn Tab song, I believe, which I learned in chorale when Todd Syswerda was our conductor. Those of you who were in chorale that year...remember how we would sometimes open rehearsal with Todd at the piano and us just singing our guts out? We sang three very simple choruses that year that I have rarely/never heard anywhere else: "More than Enough," "I Want to be Like Jesus" and "Jesus, We Crown You with Praise." How I LOVED those times of worship!

I used "More than Enough" for the retreat for several reasons. First, it's short and simple to learn (and I happened to have the sheet music--it pays to be a packrat). Second, many of the ladies (including me) are involved in a Bible study at church which is going through studying the names of God--and that's the focus of this song. And third, it went along with the theme of Christ's sufficiency. Whatever we are facing, whatever our circumstances, He is More Than Enough to meet our needs. Here are the lyrics:
Jehovah Jireh, my Provider
You are more than enough for me
Jehovah Rapha, You're my Healer
By Your stripes I am set free
Jehovah Shammah, You are with me
You supply all my needs
You're more than enough
More than enough
More than enough for me
In keeping with that theme about who God is, I finished with a solo--Nichole Nordeman's "I Am." It's a beautiful song that emphasizes God's sufficiency for every season of our lives. I didn't expect to make people cry, but several of the ladies had never heard the song before. It has long been one of my favorites!

On Saturday we sang "More Than Enough" again since it was new. Then we sang "Count Your Blessings" from the hymnal, because one way to battle stress is to focus on our blessings instead of our problems. Looking back at God's past faithfulness always helps give you perspective and faith for His future grace. And of course, the greatest blessing He has given us is the cross--paying the price for our sins so we could be reconciled to Him. That's the blessing we can place our trust in and rest in. So we sang "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" from the hymnal.

If I didn't choose one of your suggestions, it isn't because I didn't think it was a great one! I was limited by time, what I had access to, and what I thought the ladies would know. There are so many great songs I wanted to share with them--but I thought it was best not to teach more than one new song, and not to spend a lot of time teaching a harder song. I don't mind learning new songs if they're great, cross-centered songs--but I know a lot of people have a hard time worshipping if they don't know the songs, so I wanted to try and respect that.

Anyway, I enjoyed preparing and leading all this, and I loved hearing the voices of women lifting their praises to God, and I pray that He was glorified. Thanks again for your helpful suggestions!

*Can I just say how annoying I find it that every one of the major hymn archive websites starts playing obnoxious MIDI files of the song as soon as the page loads, and you can't stop the music? (*cough**cough*) I purposely chose websites that won't do that to you--some may play obnoxious music but all of the ones linked above at least have a stop button. Also, can I just say how annoying it is that most websites with song lyrics have four hundred popups that somehow make it through my popup blocker?