Monday, October 29, 2007

The Need for Grace

In the midst of an interesting two-part series on simplicity over at Amy’s Humble Musings, this helpful gospel reminder:
"Having been saved by grace, we try to live by works. But the purpose behind what we were given was not to make us feel good about ourselves because we are doing all the right things, it was given to help us realize our desperate condition and our continual need for the grace of God in everyday life. It was given to drive us to our knees and to deepen our relationship with our God as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 53

Thanking God this week for...
  • the fact that my parents are on their way here as I type!
  • card-stamping time with two friends this afternoon, and a houseful of their sweet, fun kids
  • breast pumps
  • new recipes that are a hit
  • kisses
  • the freedom to turn the heat on whenever I want to--a friend of mine is in China and they cannot use heat until the government turns it on, usually not until November 1! She was so excited today because they turned it on five days early...she's been freezing for a while now...boggles my mind. [/tangent]
  • fleece
  • emails from friends I haven't been in touch with in ages
  • Elijah's baby-soft skin
  • kids' Bibles that minister to me
  • knowing that my acceptance as God's child is not dependent on my performance
  • the hope of heaven and eternity with Jesus

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Storybook Bibles for Kids

In the mornings, during Elijah's "happy hour" (unlike his mama, my little guy seems to be a morning person; more often than not, he wakes up all smiles), we are reading through The Jesus Storybook Bible. He's not really into it yet--but I sure am!

While I was pregnant, I kept hearing about two kids' Bibles from several people whose recommendations I trust. Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds described these two books this way:
"...The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible. I think all families should own both of these books: the former gives a good framework for biblical theology (God's people in God's place under God's rule); the latter gives a good understanding of how all of Scripture testifies to Christ."
I was blessed to receive The Big Picture Story Bible as a shower gift and The Jesus Storybook Bible shortly after Elijah was born. Both are fantastic. The Big Picture Story Bible is more the type that a child would be able to read by himself sooner, with only one or two simple sentences on each page. As Taylor says, it provides a great bird's-eye-view of the whole Bible.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is for older readers, but fabulous for reading out loud. Its subtitle is "Every Story Whispers His Name"--and the author does a beautiful job of demonstrating exactly that. The book begins:

"Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn't do. ...Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. ...No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne--everything--to rescue the one he loves. ...There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

It is the perfect complement to the "gospel-centeredness" paradigm shift I've experienced these last few years. And it isn't just for kids--it's helping me see, sometimes for the first time, how the Old Testament stories I learned merely as moral stories about Noah, or David, or Jonah, are really about Jesus.

Besides being wonderfully Christ-centered, the stories are written at a kid's level without talking down to them. It's charmingly funny at times (the Pharisees are called "Extra Super Holy People--at least that's what they thought"). And the illustrations are uniquely beautiful.

Dr. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, says, "I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian." I absolutely second his recommendation! Buy it for your children for Christmas--and if you don't have kids, don't let that stop you from picking up this jewel of a book!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 52

A year of Thankful Thursdays! This week I'm thanking God for...
  • the awesome routine Elijah has fallen into this week--holding my breath that it will last :)
  • planning meals well so I could come in way under budget at the grocery store
  • monster cookies
  • a surprise package in the mail
  • box fans
  • laughter
  • instant messaging
  • being back at small group on Sunday night
  • an afternoon spent with a friend
  • adorable two-year-olds with great manners
  • Elijah making eye contact more, responding when I talk to him and even seeming to laugh
  • the versatility of Stove Top stuffing
  • my wedding ring
  • hair ties
  • the internet
  • paper and pens
  • sending His Son to absorb the wrath I deserve
  • loving me when I am unlovable
  • keeping His promises

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Competency and Motherhood

Thanks to a generous surprise gift from a friend, I'm reading through Anne Lamott's book Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. I read it years and years ago but can appreciate it a whole lot more these days. This quote I read this morning sums up exactly how I feel:
"All these people keep waxing sentimental about how fabulously well I am doing as a mother, how competent I am, but I feel inside like when you're first learning to put nail polish on your right hand with your left. You can do it, but it doesn't look all that great around the cuticles."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You Are Pleasing to God (If You Are In Christ)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about learning to look back and see how far I've come, rather than only looking forward and becoming discouraged at how far I have to go. In the middle of writing that post, I was so encouraged by this post from--who else?--Mark Lauterbach. He describes 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12 as "shocking" and "outrageous" because of Paul's statement, "how to walk and please God, as you are already doing."

Lauterbach writes:

Now why would he say that? ...Was this church some paragon of godliness?
...No, they are no super-saints. How then are they pleasing God?

It is because of the work of Christ. ...He has lived the sinless life that please God. He has offered the atoning sacrifice that removes wrath. God sees them in Christ and they are his sons and daughters. They have been given the Spirit. ...In other words, God no longer sees them in themselves alone. He sees them in Christ.

...Wow, here is my question: ...Would I ever tell an individual I care for that they are pleasing to God? Do I ever go to bed at night with the thought that in that day God was pleased with me in Christ?
I started excerpting more here, but I can't copy and paste the whole article. Please, please do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing! It is a truly encouraging reflection on the amazing grace of God.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reference Point

Words I'm chewing on this weekend, thanks to Carolyn McCulley:

change your focus. Renew your mind by thinking on what's right and true about God — most specifically, the jaw-dropping mercy you've already received as a forgiven and adopted daughter.

Rejoicing begins when we look at our situation in view of God's mercy and with worship for his manifold perfections. Instead of holy wrath for our sins and disobedience, we've received mercy for our pride and rebellion. A mind conformed to this world always starts with a reference point of Me, Myself, and I. But a mind transformed is one whose reference point is the character of God.

The full article is here--yet another example of how her wisdom, though directed to singles, is usually applicable to those in every season of life.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Best Buds

Ten years ago? I was a freshman, she a senior. We were paired as co-Narrators for our high school musical. Neither of us was thrilled with the arrangement. But an unexpected friendship grew, and was cemented for life a few months later when we each surrendered to Christ's call on our lives at church camp.

Five years ago? We were both single--although maybe she had started dating her husband at that point. Plenty of talk about guys...this was the girl who would tell me, in all love and the best wisdom she had at the time, "As for Steve, it's a cute fairy tale, but it's not going to happen and you just need to move on." :)

One year ago (or a little less)? A phone conversation that went something like this: "Guess what, I'm pregnant!" "AAAAAAAHHHH!!! So am I!!!"

Two months ago, two little boys were born to two best friends, within two days of each other. Last week, we got to spend some precious and rare girl time together when Julie and Joel came down for a visit--though "girl time" is now no longer females-only, and our conversations sound a little different these days. One element is constant: the kindness and faithfulness of God.

Maybe someday these two will be best buds.

Thankful Thursday, Take 51

On time this week! Thanking God for...
  • cheesy biscuits like the ones at Red Lobster, fresh from my oven (OK, I used a mix)
  • ginger teriyaki ranch dressing (sounds weird, but really yummy)
  • the clothesline Steve built for me over the weekend
  • photography advice from patient people/beginning to understand some of the technical stuff more
  • unexpected emails from friends I haven't heard from in ages
  • 50% off coupons
  • the free chicken sandwich I enjoyed yesterday
  • sweet eBay deals
  • the vegetable soup that I can smell simmering in the crockpot right this minute
  • the crockpot
  • new recipes tried and enjoyed
  • a healthy, growing little boy
  • long phone conversations catching up with old friends
  • the sling Steve's cousin made for me to carry Elijah in
  • toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • a simple tip from someone that helps me make sure I'm drinking enough water each day
  • long-sleeved-shirt-jeans-and-flip-flops weather--my favorite
  • hearing from friends that they are growing/serving/right in the center of God's will
  • mercies new every morning

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thankful Thursday, Take 50

Thanking God this week for...
  • a visit from my best friend and her little guy (pics forthcoming!)
  • her generosity in watching Elijah for a couple of hours so Steve and I could have a date
  • Nature Valley Almond Crunch bars
  • air conditioning
  • a clean house
  • washer and dryer
  • indoor plumbing
  • the friends I've made through blogging
  • hobby night with friends last Friday
  • last Saturday's Qdoba-and-a-walk-in-the-park
  • Elijah's letting me eat spicy food
  • Steve's servant heart
  • the money to order pizza when dinner gets ruined
  • Steve's understanding and patience when I am an emotional mess
  • putting a check in the mailbox and getting stamps delivered to my house
  • unexpected packages
  • soft baby skin
  • gummy baby grins
  • tiny baby dimples
  • "checking to see if you're okay" phone calls
  • the fact that He provides for me what He requires of me