Monday, May 31, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 161

After ten days spent traveling (more posts on that to come), my cup is full, full, full of blessings--more gifts than I can count. Thanking God for all of them, including...

550. safe travels over 1500+ miles
551. time away with just my hubby
552. grandparents who adore my son and are willing to care for him while we're gone
553. Elijah's love for his grandparents and the fact that he wasn't sad while we were gone
554. the squeals and jumping up and down that greeted us when we returned after five days

555. beautiful lakes around every corner in northern Michigan
556. roads that wind along the shore
557. shifting sand dunes
558. being an unchanging Rock
559. orchards and vineyards

560. ice cream cones, a vacation staple
561. quiet early-morning kayaking
562. tandem bicycles
563. muscles to paddle and pedal and hike
564. fresh, local asparagus

565. fascinating knowledge gleaned about the processes of making cheese and wine
566. a camera to capture moments of beauty, hilarity, cuteness
567. sunscreen that protected me from getting fried
568. citronella candles
569. cherry vanilla Pepsi at a gas station in south central Michigan, oh happy discovery

570. a baby bump to camouflage all the vacation calories
571. a church I miss
572. home sweet home
573. the eternal Home that awaits me

holy experience

Monday, May 24, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 160

Thanking God this week for...

533. LeechBlock, an add-on for Firefox that is helping me manage my computer time better
534. progress in Ephesians memorization after a long time of laying it aside
535. helpful advice on handling Elijah's whining and on doing more scripting with him
536. the variety of animals God created, and the fact that we can see and enjoy many of them at the zoo
537. friends who met us at the zoo for an outing last week

538. getting to hear the baby's heartbeat again
539. the fact that Steve gets home early enough that I can take a late-afternoon nap before dinner on days when I really need it
540. prayer with other moms at my friend Lydia's house
541. the "play" button on the keyboard, so I don't have to go back and forth between keyboard and mouse
542. cool enough weather to wear long sleeves and long pants for mosquito protection

543. Jesus Came to Save Sinners, a FREE five-song children's worship album from The Village Church (Elijah and I are loving it!)
544. the reality that Jesus really did come to save sinners!
545. clean out the refrigerator night
546. getting a card in the mailbox just moments before the mailman arrived
547. the ability to research a vacation, get directions and maps, etc., so easily online

548. the joy of seeing Elijah learn new things
549. mercy and grace extended to me, over and over and over again

holy experience

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Gospel is the Umpire

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

My pastor preached a sermon a few weeks ago that included an analogy I'm still thinking about. He examined Colossians 3:15-17, and began by asking: What is the peace of Christ, and what does it mean for that peace to rule in your heart?

The first thing to note is that "the peace of Christ" isn't primarily a subjective feeling. It's not, "ahh, I feel calm" or "I have a peace about it." It's the peace that Christ bought--the objective fact that as Christians, we are reconciled to God because Christ "[made] peace by the blood of his cross" (Colossians 1:20). Jesus has purchased peace for us--once God's enemies, we are now His friends, servants, sons and daughters. Because of Christ's obedient life and sacrificial death, our sins are forgiven and God is well pleased with us!

So that's the peace that needs to rule in our hearts: the truth that we are at peace with God through the cross of Christ. The next question is, what does it mean for that peace to "rule" in our hearts?

My pastor suggested that the word "rule" in this context means "to act like an umpire." A strange thought. What does an umpire do? He declares what the ball is. When the pitch comes right across the plate, he calls it a strike. When it's outside the box, he calls it a ball. He makes a judgment about the ball, about the pitch--and in this way he rules over the game.

That's what we are to do with "the peace of Christ"--the reality of being reconciled to God (in other words, the gospel). We are to make the gospel the judge over our hearts: our thoughts, our emotions, our desires, our will. The peace that Christ has purchased should rule over every aspect of our lives.

A thought comes into your mind: Is it true, in line with God's Word? Judge it in light of the gospel, and keep it or throw it out.

An emotion starts to consume you: Does it reflect the reality of who God is and what He has done, especially in Christ? Or is it growing out of sinful, idolatrous desires? Let the gospel determine whether that emotion is appropriate or whether it needs to be replaced.

You want to speak certain words: Are they full of grace, reflective of the gospel? Or would they be best left unsaid? Evaluate them in light of the person and work of Jesus, and then determine whether to speak them or hold your tongue.

It means letting the gospel saturate our thoughts, our words, our actions. It means everything we do and say is informed by and flows out of the reality that in Christ, we have been reconciled to God. The peace of Christ rules--makes judgments over, determines the truth about--every aspect of our lives.

I've written before about the struggle of trusting my own limited perceptions of a situation rather than believing what God says. It's all too easy to judge God and His work in light of my emotions and circumstances, rather than judging my emotions and circumstances based on the truth of God's character and promises.

So that's the challenge of Colossians 3:15 - to let the peace that Christ has purchased, the reality of the gospel, rule as umpire over my mind and heart. By God's grace, I want the reality of the gospel--what Christ has done and who I am in Him--to be the dominant feature of my thinking and to govern my emotions, my words, and my actions.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

We Finally Meet

It's kind of crazy how God chooses to weave friendships together.

I think a lot of people think the idea of "friend I've never met in real life" or "friend I met online" is a little sketchy or weird. For sure it's becoming a lot more normal in our generation...but it seems like there's still something about it that makes people raise an eyebrow. Still, slightly sheepish as even I feel about it, I've met some amazing women through blogging and through a message board, and I'm thankful for the ways that our paths have crossed and the interactions I've had with them.

What's unique about this particular "internet-friendship" is that we easily could have known each other in real life. In fact, it's strange that we didn't.

Kristin and I were at Indiana Wesleyan University together from 2000-2003 (she graduated a year before I did). It's not a big school to begin with--about 2200 students on campus at the time. Still, reasonable to think we'd never met. Surprising, though, when you consider that we had several mutual friends. More surprising still when we realized we'd been in the Honors College together--a group of only 100 students, and we certainly sat just a few feet apart in meetings several times.

Yet for whatever reason, it wasn't until three years ago that our lives intersected. Somehow, probably through a mutual friend's blog, Kristin ran across my blog. She started reading, and realized how much we now had in common. And then she followed an impulse that she says was totally uncharacteristic for her, but for which I am endlessly grateful: she sent me a long email introducing herself and sharing some of our commonalities.

It was fun to hear from her, and that began the casual, occasional exchange of a few emails. Then we went through childbirth and the difficult adjustment to motherhood together (her son is just two weeks younger than Elijah). Our friendship deepened, and the emails increased in frequency. We developed the kind of closeness that often, strangely, only comes through a long-distance friendship, when you can do nothing together except talk a lot, and you feel safe sharing deep parts of your heart while you sit in front of a computer screen.

We said several times that we hoped we'd get to meet in person someday. And then this spring, Kristin's sweet husband gave us the gift of a plane ticket for her to come visit me!

It was so much fun to greet her and her adorable baby daughter at the airport, then spend the next two and a half days talking pretty much nonstop. We had so many unfinished email conversations (topics you don't feel like taking the time to type all your thoughts on) to get back to, so many background/history details to fill in. And we enjoyed laughing together, eating cookie dough ice cream, picking strawberries, exploring Nashville and watching our kids interact (when Elijah wasn't trying to take Sarah's toys away...).

I'm so glad Kristin wrote that email out of the blue three years ago! She is a beautiful woman of God, inside and out, and spending time with her in person was truly a gift. I have been so blessed by her challenging questions, her humble and honest example, and the gospel encouragement she provides. This is a friend who loves the Savior and who inspires me to follow hard after Him--the best kind of friend.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 159

Thanking God this week for...

512. McKay's bookstore in Nashville--tons of great deals on used books
513. the detour on the way home that took us past 25+ school buses, much to Elijah's delight
514. getting us safely to the gas station before the tank ran dry
515. roadside strawberries
516. pizza night out with my guys for a belated Mother's Day celebration

517. lunch with a friend, and her generosity in loaning me an extra carseat for the weekend
518. the satisfaction that comes with productivity
519. thyme on manager's special at the grocery when I needed it
520. first chicken, corn and tomato pitas of the summer
521. the fact that after Elijah's meltdown because there were no car carts at Kroger, we at least didn't *see* any other kids driving them in the store--and a snack kept him pacified the rest of the time

522. a friend's gentle reminder of what my priorities should be
523. encouragement from Elijah's new teachers and much progress made
524. more local strawberries, this time hand-picked by us
525. the fact that we finished picking just as the clouds opened up and a storm began
526. a wonderful weekend with my dear friend Kristin (which needs a whole post of its own)

527. Steve's hard work outside on Saturday, especially cutting down the bushes that had overtaken the front of our house
528. all the light that can now stream in our living room windows
529. news of *another* pregnancy at church (bringing the grand total to SEVEN in a church of less than 100 adult members!)
530. Elijah's eagerness to take naps
531. energy and motivation to start a Monday morning

532. the fact that Christ DESCENDED (Eph. 4:9-10)--He lowered Himself to our level because we could not raise ourselves to His!

holy experience

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 5.12.10

Just a little Simple Woman's Daybook for today...

Outside my window...
overcast, but very, very green. I think every spring I forget how beautiful the color green is. Our neighborhood is so *alive*.

I am thinking...
about cutting all my hair off. I've been thinking about it for months now and that's as far as it gets, partly out of sheer laziness (in finding pictures of what I like and making an appointment) and partly out of dread that I will hate the new haircut. My hair is as long as it's been since college (rapidly nearing my waist, holy moly) and it doesn't have much style, but it's so *easy* and low-maintenance.

I am thankful for...
the opportunity to take another CCEF class! I just registered this week for a class that begins June 1. I can't wait.

From the kitchen...
fresh strawberries! I paid way too much money to a farmer who was selling them on the side of the road yesterday afternoon--but MMM, are they fantastic. So that means strawberry shortcake (made the RIGHT way...cup-shaped sponge cakes and strawberry goo need not apply) and my favorite summer salad.

I am wearing...
a white tank top under a green short-sleeved shirt and maternity denim capris. I've just about given up on the non-maternity pants...but still hanging on to a couple of pairs :) plus my favorite black flip-flops which pretty much don't leave my feet all spring/summer/fall.

I am creating...
a baby :) Well, sort of. God certainly *created* the baby...I guess I'm just helping him/her grow. That's as close as it gets to "creating" here lately.

I am going...
to get a bunch of video clips of Elijah edited and posted online very soon. Really, I am. I promise, Mom.

I am reading...
several different books at once, as usual. I put the Civil War book aside for a while and sped through a heartbreaking, compelling book on the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. I also finished Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church and Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community this week. I'm still in the middle of various other books, including Calm My Anxious Heart, Everyday Talk, and The Mission of Motherhood. Bible-wise, I'm in Judges on my own and Galatians with Steve (we'll probably be there for the rest of 2010, based on the speed at which we manage to get through studies :).

I am hoping...
to grow in choosing joy and laying down my life in service/worship. I have so, so far to go.

I am hearing...
blissful quiet. White noise machine, birds singing, cars whizzing by. And the occasional noise that signals Elijah is thinking about waking up soon.

Around the house...
the couch cushions are stacked high on a chair because their covers are hanging on the clothesline to dry. I don't normally get that ambitious, and the ballpoint pen scribbles all over two of them really weren't urgent. But last night there was a slug on my couch. A SLUG, y'all. On my COUCH. As in, leaves-a-slime-trail-everywhere-it-goes slug. *shiver* Yeah, the cushion covers suddenly had a very urgent need to be washed.

One of my favorite things...
the feeling of satisfaction from being productive. All too rare for my lazy self lately--but today has been a good day so far.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
SUPER DUPER exciting! Tomorrow evening I am driving to the airport and picking up a dear, dear friend...whom I've not actually met in real life (long story, probably coming next week)...and I get to spend the entire weekend with her and her baby daughter! The visit has been in the works since early February and I can't believe it's finally here.

A picture thought I am sharing...
Elijah, giggling about who knows what...and then helping Daddy mow the grass. His favorite thing lately is his "cool dude glasses"--the ones in the photo are actually a pair of Steve's, but he has two pairs of his own and wears them all the time, including indoors. In fact, just for fun I'll throw in a third picture, of him wearing his own glasses--one of the girls at church took it last Sunday. She posted it on Facebook but apparently my friends couldn't see it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 158

Thanking God this week for...

493. peonies in full bloom
494. tiny baby kicks and jabs
495. the archives of my blog, and being convicted/encouraged by old posts
496. hand-me-downs for Elijah
497. the super nice and helpful police officer who did a carseat check for us

498. a friend from church's willingness to watch Elijah on short notice
499. the nice woman who drew my blood quickly and skillfully
500. restaurant knock-off recipes available online
501. Elijah running around in nothing but a diaper
502. big-boy bare feet slap-slapping across the hardwood floor

503. an evening walk with my guys
504. the countless ways Elijah cracks me up, including appropriate use of the phrases, "Are you kidding me?" and "Oh, man!"
505. Scripture set to music
506. movie night with Steve
507. the privilege and blessing of officially joining our church yesterday

508. my mom
509. my mother-in-law
510. the gift of motherhood
511. the beautiful example set by women who are not physically mothers but who nurture, care for, teach and encourage others nonetheless

holy experience

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Why Christians Need the Gospel

I'm not going to stop beating the gospel drum around here anytime soon. The gospel is not just the story unbelievers need to is the fuel that empowers every moment of our lives as followers of Christ! I thought Justin Taylor's recent post on this was a clear and helpful illustration for those who struggle to understand the concept of "gospel-centeredness":

The dominant mode of evangelical preaching on sanctification, the main way to motivate for godly living, sounds something like this:

You are not _____;

You should be _________;

Therefore, do or be ________!

Fill in the blank with anything good and biblical (holy; salt and light; feed the poor; walk humbly; give generously; etc.).

This is not how Paul and the other New Testament writers motivated the church in light of the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit. They did give imperatives (=what you should do), but they do so only based on indicatives (=what God has done).

The problem with the typical evangelical motivation toward radical or sacrificial living is that “imperatives divorced from indicatives become impossibilities” (to quote Tullian Tchividjian). Or another way that Tullian puts it: “gospel obligations must be based on gospel declarations.”

Read the rest of the post "Imperatives - Indicatives = Impossibilities" for more thoughts on becoming what you are through the gospel.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Your Prayers Are Too Small

A couple of days ago, I read a short quote (via Justin Taylor, pulled from Twitter) that I found convicting and challenging:

If Jesus answered all your prayers from the last 30 days, would anything change in THE World or just YOUR world?

I have to confess that although I and the people around me might be significantly changed, the impact would not really be felt outside my sphere of influence. I sometimes pride myself on praying eternally significant things--not just "bless and be with" my loved ones or "heal so-and-so's physical ailment," but praying for changed hearts and transformed lives in the midst of circumstances; praying Scripture.

Yet I see that my vision needs to be bigger because my God is bigger. As He was keen to show Israel, He is not a small, local, tribal God; He is the one true God over every nation. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and He is calling people from EVERY tribe and language and nation and tongue to be saved by and know and worship Him. It's not just the people I know who He wants to transform into the likeness of Christ!

Enlarge my heart, Lord, and expand my vision. Cause me to love and care about, and thus to pray for, not only those with whom I have a relationship now, but my brothers and sisters around the world, and the poor and lost and suffering around the world as well as in my own backyard. Make me passionate to see Your kingdom come, Your will be done, to see You glorified--not merely in my own life or in my family or church, but in the whole world--to see Your name exalted, to see Jesus worshipped everywhere.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Multitude Monday, Take 157

As always, much to be thankful for this week--and last, though I didn't get a post up. Thanking God lately for...

462. diapers on sale when we needed them
463. prayer with other moms
464. evidence of God's grace at work in me
465. a friend letting me get rid of my junk in her garage sale
466. safe travels

467. humidifiers and eucalyptus oil
468. Elijah's generally sunny disposition and cooperativeness while Steve was working long hours and I was on my own parenting
469. the fact that Steve rarely ever has to work long hours
470. my favorite jersey knit maternity capri pants
471. yummy salads I didn't have to make

472. Elijah's love for his grandparents and uncle
473. our families' delight in Elijah
474. dimples in little elbows
475. stain remover that got spaghetti sauce out of a white shirt
476. families who are supportive and respectful of our decisions

477. opportunity to be at home with our families while Steve was out of town on business
478. my parents' and in-laws' serving me by caring for Elijah
479. feeling more baby movement!
480. the countless ways Elijah makes us laugh
481. huge stack of old magazines my aunt gave me (to cut out pictures for my visual journal)

482. visits with dear friends
483. pizza subs
484. beautiful full moon, orange and low in the sky
485. sermon podcasts
486. three shades of lilacs growing together along the road

487. grace to resume memorization work in Ephesians
488. the fact that my parents and in-laws live only five minutes apart
489. grace to get up early
490. a dry house
491. peonies beginning to bloom

492. His sovereignty over sunshine and rain

holy experience