Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sanctity of Human Life

I was reading Tim Challies blog this morning, and came across this link to a podcast by Dr. Albert Mohler. It is a question and answer session about the sanctity of human life. He covers such issues as abortion, euthanasia, war and capital punishment, from a Biblical worldview. It is a fascinating Q&A, and I would encourage you to listen to it when you have a few quiet moments.

Edit: If you can't get the link to the podcast to work, click here and then scroll down to the last bullet to find another link.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Technology is Giving Me a Headache

Or maybe it's the fact that I'm home sick today. Whatever.

I posted recently about my venture into the world of Twitter, and I have really enjoyed connecting with my friends and family real-time throughout the day. It helps tremendously that I have an application on my iPhone that allows me to easily post and check my tweets frequently. I love getting emails informing me that I have a new follower (does that sound narcissistic? I hope not), because sometimes the new person is a complete stranger. In every case so far, I have opened their profile and discovered a new brother or sister in Christ.

This is such an interesting phenomenon...fellow Christians being able to encourage, entertain and exhort one another without ever meeting in person. I've been following Dr. Albert Mohler on his journey in Istanbul this week, as he updates where he is and what he is doing. It's not like a blog where I can go read entire posts on their life and learn the names of their children and where they went to school. It's just an abbreviated glimpse into someone else's life, and it's really fascinating.

I decided that I wanted to find a way to auto post my blog entries to my Twitter account (because most of my "followers" are fellow bloggers), but couldn't find any information for Blogger. All of the plug ins were for Wordpress, but my searching was finally rewarded with this site. So this is my first official post that should auto post to my Twitter account...I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I input everything correctly!

If you don't Twitter, you might want to consider taking a second look. You never know who you might meet!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Spectacular Sins (Chapter 1)

Well, we've started week number two in our online book club. I've been forcing myself to not read ahead, and when I have the desire to keep reading I just go back to the beginning of the chapter in which we are currently studying. This keeps me from just skimming and not really getting the point of what I'm reading. I want to soak in this book so I can glorify God in all ways, and so that I can speak intelligently to other believers about what God's sovereignty really means.

1. We'll start with an easy one. What are the four reasons that John Piper gives for writing the book? Which do you look most forward to hearing Piper answer?

Why does God want us to know His sovereignty over sin?
Why does God not restrain sin more often?
How can we have faith and joy during the severity of the last days?
How is Christ glorified in a world of sin?

I am most looking forward to reading about the third impulse. I think that times are changing and that we are in a position to be persecuted like never before. I have a sneaking suspicion that if we are NOT being persecuted, then we aren’t doing something right.

2. What is God's role in sin:
a. Does he allow you to sin? He allows me to sin insofar that he could stop me from sin if He willed it.
b. Does he cause you to sin?
No, God does not cause me to sin. My sinful nature causes me to sin, and although God may order events in such a way that I give in to my sinful desires, He does not MAKE me sin.
c. Does he allow temptation to come before you? Yes.
d. What resources does he give you to resist it? (quote scripture if possible.)

We pray:
And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matt 6:13
Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”Matt 26:41
We remain in the Word:
But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.Luke 8:3
He does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to handle.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Cor 10:13
We will be blessed for enduring the temptation set before us.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

3.Are God's purposes sometimes accomplished through the sinful actions of man? Aside from the Crucifixion, can you think of another biblical example?

Yes, God’s purposes are accomplished through the sinful actions of man. We see it very clearly in the stories of Jacob stealing Esau’s birthright, Joseph and his brothers, and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart so that the Egyptians would know He was God.

4. Piper states that his primary goal is to magnify Christ. What are some ways that a Christian might do that, even under intense suffering? What are some ways that we might do that, during our day-to-day frustrations and disappointments? Have you personally witnessed any examples of either?

When we are confronted with intense suffering, our first response should be intense prayer. We need to have that connection with our God so that we can be strengthened daily, and we need to reach out to other Christians so that we can bear one another’s burdens. In terms of day to day frustrations of disappointment, sometimes the best I can do is to take a big breath and acknowledge Him as Lord and that I don’t always understand why things happen to me. I think it glorifies Him when I say a quick prayer and hold my tongue in the heat of the moment instead of blurting out a hurtful barb. I think it glorifies Him when I praise Him out loud even when things are not going my way. I think it glorifies Him when I encourage others in their difficulties with a word and prayer.

5. On page 29 he writes, "We are pushing our way through a blood-spattered life that makes us feel connected to the world yet disconnected at the same time. We are here but not here. Love binds us to the tragic earth, and love binds us to the treasure in heaven." What thoughts does this provoke in you?

He really connected with my heart and my head with this statement. I could not have described the relationship I have with the world any better than this. I can’t help but get bogged down in the day to day business of living. The carpooling kids to school, going to work, dealing with the traffic, cooking dinner, cleaning the toilets…it’s not going away. It’s part of being a human being. But even in the middle of the most mundane task, I have the overwhelming joy in my soul that sets me apart from the rest of the world. When I see things on the news that break my heart, I can look forward to a time when there will be no more pain or sorrow. I can look beyond my circumstances to a better place.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sweet Indulgences

Have you ever been sick with a head cold, and you feel like you'll never smell or taste anything again? You know you need to eat, but everything tastes bland, and your nose is so stuffy that you have to breath through your mouth. Then your head clears, and you take in that first deep breath through your nose and you feel like it's the first time you've ever smelled. The scents in the air are so vibrant and intense and it's a little heady.

Or have you ever had surgery and for the first few days you don't eat at all? When you start feeling better and are actually hungry, you can't wait to eat but all they will give you is clear broth and jello. You look at the tray of chicken broth, weak tea and green jello and wonder how you are going to choke it down. Then you take the first sip of broth and find yourself gulping it down and thinking that it's the best thing you've ever tasted. Before you know it, the green jello that you previously swore would never pass your lips is but a memory and you're wishing you had more.

Well, neither of those experiences even came close to what happened this morning. I have been faithfully following my diet for the last 3 weeks. I've exercised 3 times a week and consumed vast quantities of water, and I have reaped the reward of my labor. I've lost 8 lbs and a total of 13 inches. My clothes are fitting better and I am incredibly motivated to continue on with my new lifestyle.

But this morning I bought a bag of Dove dark chocolate Promises. Dark chocolate is my favorite, and I especially enjoy Dove, so I indulged. Each candy is 1 point, and is a wonderful way to satisfy my craving for chocolate. When I got back to the car, I ripped the bag open and popped a piece in my mouth.

I can't even begin to adequately describe the euphoria my taste buds experienced.

After 3 weeks of no chocolate, the creamy deliciousness would have brought me to my knees had I been standing. For those of you who think of chocolate as simply another kind of candy (silly people), this will seem a bit ridiculous. But for those of you who are fellow chocolate lovers, you understand the bliss that is chocolate after a long period of denial. It came in on the incredible experience scale somewhere just behind my wedding day and the births of my children.

It was that good.

So now I have the chocolates safely stored in a biscuit barrel on the counter, just waiting to be eaten at my leisure. I can't help but grin every time I pass by and see the pink foil winking at me from behind the cut crystal. They are beckoning, but my resolve is strong. I want to look back in three weeks and say that I've lost another 8 lbs and trimmed off another 13 inches. The chocolate is just a sweet indulgence that keeps me happy and on track.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now What?

As a Christian, I find it difficult to maintain the correct balance of respect for and submission to our government in light of many policies that do not line up with my beliefs. I came across this sermon that John Piper preached just before the inauguration of Bill Clinton, and it is incredibly edifying and encouraging.

If you struggle with supporting a President who is pro-choice, then this is a must read. It might just change your view on how we are expected to behave as Christian believers. One thing I know for certain is that we are not called to respond to every mention of our President's name with rude sarcasm and cynicism. And we are not called to withdraw from the public arena because the person we wanted to be taking the oath of office today was nowhere to be seen. Instead we are called to submit and respect our government, insomuch as it does not conflict with the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Can President Obama be an effective leader? Absolutely. Will things happen during his administration that we find to be at odds with Biblical truth? Yes. Are we still called to behave with love and strive to uphold the laws of the land. Without a doubt.

A Prayer for America

I am praying for our nation today, as well as rejoicing that we live in a country where the transfer of power within our government is peaceful. Dr. Albert Mohler very eloquently expresses my prayer for President Obama, his family and our nation on his blog. To read it, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spectacular Sins Book Club (Introduction)

Today is the first meeting of the Spectacular Sins Book Club. If you would like to join in, get a copy and head on over the The Preacher's Wife. I promise you will be blessed, and that this book will totally change the way that you see God.

Several years ago, my brother Patrick introduced me to the concept of God's sovereignty. Not just the bland version that most Christians hear about these days, but the real deal. I have to admit that the concept of a God who was truly in control of all things, good and evil, joy and pain was a little hard to swallow. I had been taught that God is love and that Satan caused all the rest. To learn that God intended my pain was difficult to swallow, and I struggled with it for a long time.

But after much study in the Word and prayer, the revelation was like a light that came on in my life. Suddenly all the things in my life made sense. Even things that had happened years ago that I knew in some vague way had happened because God was leading me, seemed to pop in to focus and I was able to appreciate what a mighty God I serve. God is sovereign, and that is the one thing that gets me through whatever trial or temptation I might go through. It's all for my good and His glory. The secret of life is to glorify Him.

We are posting our answers to the study in the comments section of Lisa's blog, but I also wanted to put them here so I could look back in later years at my responses to this study. I am so excited, and I hope that you will join in.

1. Let's ease into this. I'm a huge quote girl so tell us, what is your favorite quote from the Introduction? What about it resonated with you? (Try to keep the quote to two sentences. I only say that because I find myself quoting entire paragraphs!)

“These spectacular sins do not just fail to nullify God’s purpose to glorify Christ, they succeed, by God’s unfathomable providence, in making His gracious purpose come to pass. This truth is the steel God offers to put in the spine of His people as they face the worst calamities.” These two sentences neatly wrap up what the sovereignty of God means. He is in control of all, and He gives us the grace to face whatever happens.

2. Piper opens the book by describing the most spectacular sin ever committed - that of the murder of Jesus Christ. What does he say the commission of this sin actually accomplished? (p.12, paragraph 2) How do you interpret the phrase, "He made evil commit suicide in doing its worse evil"?

"God did not just overcome evil at the cross. He made evil serve the overcoming of evil. He make evil commit suicide in doing it's worst evil." He banished evil forever by using it against itself. He used our greatest fear and enemy to glorify His son. It’s actually sort of ironic, but in a mind blowing kind of way.

3. How is evil defined? (p.12, paragraph 3) How does the understanding that "the apex of evil achieved the apex of the glory of Christ" impact your thinking? How will you allow this truth to shape your thinking when you are tempted to ask 'why' in the midst of calamity?

Evil is "anything and everything opposed to the fullest display of the glory of Christ. In the death of Christ, the powers of darkness did their best to destroy the glory of the Son of God. This is the apex of evil." No matter what my circumstance, I can take full comfort and hope in the fact that God is using all things, even evil and difficult circumstances for my good and His glory. I don’t have to see the big picture right now, because He does.

4. I was stopped cold when I read, "The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? And also, "Christians in the West are weakened by wimpy worldviews. And wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians." (p. 13 paragraph 4). Continuing along that line of thought, what false teachings do you recognize as being popular but unable to prepare us for catastrophe?

The first thing that comes to mind is prosperity gospel, but I think the fact that many of our pastors are feeding congregations milk from the pulpit. It’s not that what they are saying is not Biblical or true, it’s just watered down as to not offend any particular demographic. We need meat from our pulpits. We need men of God willing to put it out there with no thought to who they might offend if they preach on abortion, or adultery or dressing modestly. The full character of God is not preached, rather a watered down version is being presented. God is only love and forgiveness and the fact that He is also jealous, holy and just, seems to get lost in the translation.

5. Piper states that the purpose of Spectacular Sins is not "to meet felt needs, but to awaken needs that will soon be felt, and then to save your faith and strengthen your courage when evil prevails." (p. 16) If you feel compelled, share a time when evil prevailed in your own life. Refer back to Question Two and give God praise if He has revealed how that evil served His glory. Also feel free to note any relevant Scripture God used for your healing. I know this will be a difficult exercise for many. Please know we will be so tender with your responses and will pray with you if you are in a place of suffering.

I actually didn't answer this question, because nothing really came to mind. If it does, I'll be sure and post it here.

Just as an aside, Happy Birthday to me! I'm 37 today and I took the day off from work since it was a school holiday for the kids. My plans don't aspire to much more than a few loads of laundry and watching movies with the kids, but I am thrilled to be home!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I'm Going Through the Big D and Don't Mean Dallas

Or divorce. The big D in my life is diet. Yes, it's that time of year again, and I have resolved to lose weight and get in shape...again. My poor husband is so supportive and he treats every attempt I've made at dieting as though I'm really going to stick with it. Bless his heart, I love him dearly.

In my defense, I truly intend to be faithful to my healthy eating plans, and exercise program, but I always seem to go astray. This time (I keep promising myself) it will be different. I've been at it for 2 weeks now, and am actually feeling great! I've lost four pounds and I've been working out 3 times a week so I'm off to a great start.

I'll be posting on and off about my progress as a way of recording all of this for myself. This blog is primarily a tool to help me remember things that happen to me and my family, and right now this diet is a huge part of my life. There is no intent to bore the blogosphere with all the mundane details of my journey, neither is an attempt to garner praise and/or pity from those who follow my blog. I just want to keep track for myself, so feel free to ignore all of my diet related ramblings.

That is all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Meme

I've seen this meme on several blogs recently, and thought it would be interesting to see exactly what picture I had in the magic folder. Here are the rules:

1) Choose the 4th folder where you store your pictures on your computer
2) Select the 4th picture in the folder
3) Explain the picture
4) Tag 4 people to do the same. NO CHEATING! (cropping, editing, etc!)

I held my breath as I scrolled through my pictures folder, looking for the 4th folder. Darn it! It's the one from the fish fry last year. Still hope. Maybe it's the good one of Trevor and me, or maybe it's the one of his 93 year old grandmother drinking her highball (she is such a hoot!).

But alas, this was the fourth picture in the 4th folder.

That's right...a picture of raw catfish covered in cornmeal. I was trying to get some good close-up shots of the cooking for scrapbooking purposes, but it was never intended to be a "stand-alone" kind of photo. But since I'm not a cheater (although I seriously considered posting the really cute one of Nathan from the 5th folder), the catfish picture will have to do.

I know I'm supposed to tag 4 people, but I really hate doing that. If this sounds interesting to you, please participate and drop me a line so I can be sure and check out your post. Otherwise, enjoy the southern sushi.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm Twittering

I keep finding new and inventive ways to waste time, and record the mundane events of my life. This week it's Twitter. Not only can I give the tens of people who read my blog a blow by blow commentary on what I'm doing, I can also do it from my iPhone.

That's right. Get ready.....

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I'm Feeling a Bit Random

I can't sleep. I went to bed with a good book about 2 hours ago, and after tossing and turning for what felt like an eternity I decided to cut my losses and get up. Mild insomnia is nothing new for me. I've had it for years now, but it seems to get worse as I get older. I take Lunesta if I have a particularly bad night, and it sort of resets my sleep patterns so that I get back on schedule.

Anyway, I was laying there feeling hungry (which made it harder to fall asleep), so now I'm comfortably ensconced on the sofa with a spoonful of peanut butter and a drink. I feel much better now, and am actually enjoying the quietness of the house. It's funny how every sound is amplified at night...the cars passing on the nearby highway are usually unnoticeable when blended with the cacophony of children's voices, music and the hum of the washer and drier. But at night I can hear each car as it passes and I wonder where the passenger(s) is/are going. Is someone in labor? Are they going to or coming from work? Maybe they are just unable to sleep like me and are out for a snack.

So far this post has absolutely no point at all, but that's okay. I put too much pressure on myself to always have a point when I write. This blog started out as a way to journal my random thoughts and feelings, and somehow morphed into something of a chore to check off my to-do list. I no longer felt free to just write for me...instead I felt compelled to write for others that might be reading my words. And while that is not a bad thing (for I love each of you dearly), sometimes I just want to randomly free-associate, with no particular writing goal in mind.

My 37 birthday is in six days. Our family has never really gone all out for birthdays...a card and a random present here and there usually suffice, and this year will be no different. My birthday falls on MLK day which is a school holiday, so I am taking the day off to be with the kids. Actually, not going to work will be an awesome present! My mom and dad bought Trevor and me a set of wireless speakers as a joint birthday gift, so we can listen to our stereo/iPhone dock outside on the deck. It's nice to plug the speaker in outside and have instant music without the hassle of trying to wire up the deck and then hide said wires.

As of last Monday, I started to work out and diet again. My hospital has a Wellness Center with all the amenities of a gym, but with the benefit of being very convenient and affordable. A friend of mine from work (Mary) and I are accountability partners and are going three times a week to the gym. I'm doing circuit training, since this has worked very well for me in the past. I know that in a few weeks time, I will be feeling the difference in the way my clothes fit even if the scale doesn't show the progress I'm making.

I received about 8 books for Christmas, and I am slowly making my way through each one. It's been so busy that the only time I really have to read is after I go to bed at night, so I'm only about halfway through them, but it gives me a comfortable thrill in my chest when I think of the other 4 books that I have yet to read.

I also received an enameled cast iron dutch oven from Amber. Oh. My. Goodness. What an awesome addition to my kitchen! If you are in any way handy in the kitchen and enjoy cooking, this is a must have. It heats evenly because it's cast iron, but it doesn't react with acidic foods (like tomatoes) the way traditional cast iron does, because it's coated in enamel. Mine is a beautiful chili pepper red color that I just adore, and I will be making many soups, stews and gumbos this winter. Did I mention that I LOVE it???

Our friends Ali and Chris had their third child this past Friday. His name is Elijah Owen (Eli), and he was 6lbs 6oz. Ali (who is a lawyer) was in court the morning he was born, thinking she had plenty of time before her contractions started coming close together. She finished her business, called Chris to take her to the hospital and they begin the trip at about 10:15am. They arrived at the hospital at 11:10 and Ali gave birth at 11:30am. Yeah. That's what I said.

OK. I think that I've had enough randomness to last me for a while. Maybe I'll play a quick game of Monopoly on my iPhone and then head back to bed. Good night.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Great is Thy Faithfulness

These first few weeks of January have been a time of reflection for me. A time reevaluate my spiritual walk and to pray for direction. A time to look back at my life and to try and figure out what to do with the rest of it. I guess my thoughts are not that much different than millions of other people this time of year. I feel like I have drifted so far away from the place of fellowship that I enjoyed just months ago. I have let my pride, my selfish desires and my sin prevent me from enjoying full communion and fellowship with God.

I heard this hymn on the radio yesterday while I was in the shower, and as I listened to the words I was broken. I was broken with the weight of my sin, and as I cried and prayed with earnest pleas for forgiveness, I felt it wash away like the water sloughing down my back. What remained was a glorious feeling of renewal and openness that I haven't felt in a long time. The barrier had been breached, and my heart was overflowing with praise to the Father.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
God does not change, but I do. I fail in my walk, my prayer life and in my delineation of time spent in the Word. But He is steadfast and compassionate. He is faithful to forgive my weakness when I confess it with a contrite heart. He cleanses away past sins and weaknesses, and creates in me a clean heart. He is my Rock. He is God.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
His holiness and glory are so great that all of nature must bear witness to His magnificence. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, Who was, and is and is to come! My tongue does not have the words I need to express my love and adoration for my God who never changes and I bask in the warmth of His faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Not only do I reap the benefit of forgiveness for my sin, rebellion and disobedience, but I serve a God who stays beside me all the time. His presence is like balm to my soul and He gives me strength to endure any situation. He gives me love that I cannot afford. He blesses me a thousand times over in spite of my ever changing heart and spirit. He gives me hope.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
My soul cries out in thanksgiving and I cannot contain the tears of joy. As the prophet Isaiah said, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips!" When I come undone in the presence of your holiness and power, you draw me closer and show me new mercies. You shelter me with your love and forgiveness and give me all I need. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for your never ending love and mercy. You have loved me with an everlasting love. I am your servant.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's Time

This has been such a strange couple of weeks for me. I had a really hard time getting into the spirit of things this Christmas, and was vaguely glad when it was all over with. I had to work both Christmas Eve and the day after, so it didn't seem like I ever really had time to enjoy things like I normally do. I usually take most of the week of Christmas off from work, but since I had taken vacation at Thanksgiving, I worked this year.

I guess I was in a bit of a funk to begin with, and I was hoping that things would return to normal after Christmas was over. I thought that once the decorations were down and the New Year had been celebrated, I would feel more like myself, and less like a Grinch.

I thought wrong.

For some inexplicable reason, I can't seem to shake this feeling of my life not being quite right. I can't even put my finger on it. It's like I go through my day doing all the things I normally do...go to work, joke with my friends, make dinner, play with the kids, kiss my husband...but my heart is not in it. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. I feel like I'm living my life on autopilot, and I don't know how to regain control. I'm just cruising at a steady altitude with no clue how to land.

I wanted to post about my Christmas along with pictures of the kids, but I just couldn't get up enough motivation to do it. I wanted to make a Smilebox of all the Christmas morning festivities to send to my family so they could see pictures of Nathan and Grace opening their gifts, but when I had time I just wanted to be lazy and not do anything at all. I wanted to get started on the thank you notes that need to be sent out, but again, no motivation.

There is no reason to feel this way. My husband loves me to distraction, my children are beautiful and healthy, I have a good job and my family would do anything for me. There is absolutely no reason to feel so ungrateful. So strange. So empty. What is wrong with me??

I think a big part of the problem is that I no longer have regular quiet times and my prayer life has been reduced to hasty mutterings throughout the week and a nice long one for the Sunday school class. It all seems so fake and inconsistent, and I want to make a change. I need to make a change. I am tired of grieving the Holy Spirit with my faint heart and inconsistent living.

It's time for obedience. It's time for the rebellion to stop. It's time.