Wednesday, April 29, 2009
But I would be remiss if I did not say that radio and book ministry in no way can ever take the place of the local church. When we lived in Florida, we were so blessed to be members at a church where we were learning and growing. It was the first church we visited when we moved to the Tampa Bay area, and we never discerned the need to go anywhere else. It was hard to leave there, but I can see, in looking back, that we needed to be pushed out of that nest and to have the next seven years’ growing experiences.
When we moved to Indiana, we really struggled to find a church. We visited quite a few, and when Drew got the call to go to Bosnia with the Army National Guard, we still had not joined a church. After he left, I and the boys, who were just little then, visited yet another church and found it to be the place where I was to spend the next year while he was away. The people were so warm and the preaching good, and I knew I needed that support network as I was dealing with all the struggles of being new to the community and missing my husband. I joined the church without Drew, and by the time he came home he had already accepted a new job in South Carolina and we were in the midst of planning to move there, so that local church was a haven for me and just loved on me and my boys during a true wilderness year, and I treasure the brothers and sisters who became friends that year. But Drew was never a part of that since we moved away a month after he came home from Bosnia. This was strange for us.
Once we moved to South Carolina, we really thought finding a church wouldn’t be all that hard. It’s in the deep south, Bible belt to the max, or so we thought. We were sadly mistaken. We visited tons of churches and finally joined a small church that we thought would be a place where we could plug in and serve. If you’ve been reading here for a long time, you know about our struggle there when we finally came to the realization that we could no longer stay at that church after four years because we just didn’t feel it was a safe place spiritually for our children, especially since we believed at the time that we were probably going to be living there for a long time. I’ve deleted most of the posts I wrote about our church struggle during that time, by the way. I just didn’t feel they should have been on the blog. The last year that we lived there we did find and join a good church where the preaching was good and the children were growing. That year was a time of healing for Drew and me and a time of much growth for our kids. We are thankful for the ministry of that local church and the year we got to join with them, and how it prepared us for where we are now.
One thing I’ve been meaning to share here is how I really believe the move here to St. Louis has been a very good thing, for us as a family and in the area of finding a local church. Drew and I were talking the other day, and we were agreeing that the reason I was miserable in our last place wasn’t that it was a small town. It was that we had such a hard time fitting into a good, solid church family. To me, what makes any place ‘home’ is finding that group of believers with whom we can fellowship and serve together, and we had four years of wilderness in that respect there. I’m not saying I didn’t grow and learn from the experience, however. God graciously uses all things for good to those who are called according to His purpose. I’m not saying otherwise. We did learn and grow and we needed the wilderness time, I believe.
But I can also say that God has richly blessed us here. The first church we visited was so obviously ‘home’ that we never went anywhere else. This place has been a true balm to our souls. And while I’m talking about great pastors, I have to say that we really, truly love our pastor here. He is a godly man who preaches the Word, and we are truly blessed to hear the teaching God leads him to bring each week. He and his wife are a true team, and the way his wife leads the women of the church is precious, and we love them and our church family here so much. Not since our Brandon days have we felt so truly at home with our church family, and we are grateful.
So, though I’m thankful for the great teaching of men like John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Al Mohler and others, they are not my pastor. I’m grateful for their willingness to share their teaching, and I truly appreciate hearing it as a supplement to what I get to hear each week, but I’m also very grateful for the pastor in my local church who knows my name and my husband’s name and my children’s names, and who opens God’s word faithfully to our local body of believers each week. I’m thankful for the people who make up this local body of believers, and I’m very thankful that God led us to Parkway Baptist Church that Sunday in December when we first began looking to move here. I’m only trying not to think too much about the fact that we know that our stay here in St. Louis is temporary – we know the Army will move us on before too long. But until then, we will be faithful here. May we be faithful to serve wherever He plants us and bloom with His grace as lights pointing others to Jesus.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The last time I participated in this carnival was in January, and I said then that I wanted to do it again, but in the midst of my on-going blog slump, I just haven’t done it. Then I saw that Leslie has a post up today, and I thought, “Hey, maybe this will help me get out of the never-ending blog slump!” Click on the picture for the original carnival post at 5 Minutes for Books. So, here’s my list for April, though it's so short this month, I apologize in advance to anyone who may have clicked over here to see it:
Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur. You know, for all the people who go around saying that John MacArthur is cold on mercy and grace and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…..read this book. His pastor’s heart and concern for believers to have a deep and abiding peace and assurance is so evident. The biblical teaching in this book has really helped me with a struggle I had been having. A big reason for my times when I struggle with assurance has to do with not knowing the actual date of my salvation. I was saved as a young child and I can point to several specific times when I committed myself to Jesus and when I experienced conviction over sin, but I struggled for a while as an adult with when was I actually saved. I have finally come to realize that the specific date is not as important as knowing that I am trusting in Christ alone, His finished work on the cross and His resurrection. The direction of my life must be toward His holiness and my desire is to be what He would have me be and to be obedient to His calling. So, I’m thankful to have read this book.
If you can stand a minor rabbit trail here before I go on with my list, I have been itching to say on this blog that I get so tired of hearing people knock Dr. MacArthur because he preaches the Word and doesn’t back down from the hard truth. I have been immensely blessed by his ministry, and I, for one, am glad God called him to pastor and has gifted him to do it so well, and I’m thankful for the way Grace to You makes so much available to those of us who are hungry for good teaching but do not live in Los Angeles.
Drew and I were having a discussion with a pastor friend once about the seeker-type approach to ministry and meeting people’s felt needs. Right there we were noticing a difference in how we thought and he thought. Anyway, in the course of that conversation, somehow we got to talking about John MacArthur, and he said something about how, sure MacArthur is a solid Bible teacher, but you just feel so beat up when you listen to him or read his books. Drew and I kind of looked at each other like, huh? Because we have been extremely edified by John MacArthur’s preaching and teaching, and that kind of took us off guard from this particular person who Drew has known for a very long time and would not have expected him to think that way.
Anyway, in the course of blogging, I’ve heard similar comments about Pastor MacArthur and about Dr. Albert Mohler and other men who are very serious about God’s word. I’ve seen some very derogatory comments about both those men at several blogs where the writers and commenters seem to pride themselves on their tolerance, kindness and niceness and spend lots of pixels taking other bloggers to task about their ‘tone’ and perceived lack of love and mercy and grace. What they said about these serious-minded men was childish and unkind, unloving and harsh. I guess tolerance and kindness and careful ‘tone’ are only to be applied to those who are squishy in their theology and who shy away from hard truths. If we don’t like what someone has to say or disagree with their certainty in biblical truths, then we can be ugly and harsh and derogatory, eh?
I happened across one of those ‘tolerance’ blogs, one which considers itself an anti-watchblog kind of site, and there I saw a comment, written in an offhand kind of way about Dr. Mohler. They said something about, “like anyone outside the SBC even cares what he says anyway.” How is that charitable? I’m really glad people like Mohler and MacArthur have enough gravitas to steer clear of the name-calling and stupidity that makes up much of “Christian” blogging today.
So, a few weeks ago, Drew and I spent most of the drive to Georgia for our vacation listening to some episodes of Grace to You on my iPod. Dr. MacArthur was preaching about the doctrine of the Perseverance of the saints. After one very encouraging session, Drew looked over at me and said, “You feel beat up yet?” And I just started laughing. “Not hardly.” As we discussed that, I told Drew that the only time I feel bad when listening to his preaching is when there is some sin in my life that I need to confess and repent and his opening of God’s word and explaining it helps me to recognize it. That is not Pastor John ‘beating me up’, though. That, my friends, is the gracious conviction of the Holy Spirit as He uses His word to pierce my heart, and I am grateful for it.
Anyway, leaving the rabbit trail and moving on back to the post. You didn’t come over here for that, I’m sure. But that is a good book, and I recommend it highly.
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. This is another of my oldest son’s books that I decided I wanted to read. You may remember me blogging about reading his Shadow Children books. Well, we took the boys to see the movie Inkheart, not realizing that it was a book first. After seeing the movie, which we loved, we all wanted to read the book. My mom and dad gave J this book for Christmas, and I’m just now getting around to reading it. I like it. It’s even better than the movie. As it would be. You know me, usually I want to read the book before seeing the movie. Anyway, so far, I’m liking it. And, for once, I only have one book going, if you don't count Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George, which we will be finishing next week in our women's group at church, and which I've mentioned on here several times.
Soon to be reading:
I don’t have anything yet. I need to go to the library once I finish Inkheart. I’m thinking I want to read the other two books in the Inkheart trilogy and then I want to read Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven trilogy. I read Hood a while back and want to read the rest. It’s been so long, I’ll probably have to read Hood again first and then the others. Those are what will probably be next, but we’ll see!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Please excuse M's "Calvin face" expression. He loves Calvin and Hobbes.....
We tried to get more pictures with the kids this morning, but everyone was a little wiggly.
Monday, April 20, 2009
A while back the boys and I started reading through the book of Genesis in the morning before school. We had been studying Exodus on Sunday nights at church, and it became clear to me through some questions they were asking that they weren’t clear on what led up to Exodus. I am a firm believer that the stories from the Bible should be understood in their greater context, not as stand-alone stories unconnected to the greater whole. I’ve blogged about this before. To properly understand the stories, you really need to know how it all fits together, and to truly understand Christianity, you need to understand the Old Testament and how all of it goes together as well.
So, we began reading through Genesis. Can I just tell you that we have had a really good time doing this. I don’t always get to it each morning if we are having a late day, but the boys ALWAYS ask if we get to read Genesis today. That thrills this mommy’s heart, let me just say. It has been a good exercise for me, too, as I attempt to explain as we read because I want them to understand and know it as well as I can teach it to them.
I was so excited the other day when the boys really seemed to be getting into the story as we read. We had started in on Genesis 30 and had gotten to verse 3 when Rachel decides that since she has not been able to conceive that she would give her maid to Jacob. J spoke up about then and said, “Oh, no! Don’t do it! Not again. She’s not going to, is she mom?” I told him, “Oh, yes! Just wait, it gets even worse.” J couldn’t believe it, after the whole Sarah, Hagar, Abram, Ishmael thing earlier that here we were again.
I love, love, love it that the boys are paying such close attention and getting this. I cannot wait until we get to read about Joseph. They are going to love it!
Who says reading the Bible is boring? Moms, make the Bible interesting for your kids! If you love it and read it like you love it, they will see it in you as you share it with them. Read with excitement and inflection and explain as you go along, and it will be precious time spent in the Word with your kids. This has been so good, and we have so much more still to go!
Sunday, April 12, 2009
May you rejoice today as you celebrate our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Saturday, April 11, 2009
So, though I’m not blogging much, I have been reading. One serendipitous perk that I had not expected that goes with parenting a 10-year-old who reads at an advanced level is being introduced to books I might never have encountered otherwise. It’s very nice to see J really enjoy reading. Even more fun is being in a race with him to finish a series we are both reading at the same time. Last night I finished Book 4, and J is on Chapter 9 of Book 5. He really wanted me to wait for him to finish first, but I convinced him to leave the book here while he and his dad and brother went to a Cardinals game last night, because I would be really bored with nothing to read and I really wanted to know what was going to happen next. He said okay reluctantly, realizing that I just read too fast for him to finish first. Then he pleaded with me to try to finish the book while he was gone so he could have it back when he got home. He was so sweet, “I don’t know, Mom, this is the longest one yet. It’s over 200 pages!” I finished it in a few hours and it was on his pillow when they got home last night. And now he is pumping me for information, and I’m not telling. That’s another reason I wanted to jump ahead. He just cannot keep himself from revealing interesting plot elements in the books I haven’t yet read. I would beg and plead with him to not tell me anything, and he’d say, “But Mom, just this one thing….” And I’d put my hands over my ears and loudly say, “I want to read it myself! Don’t tell me, don’t tell me!” And then he’d say, “But it’s not that important….” And proceed to drop some very significant plot twist. I'm also one of those people who likes to read the book before seeing the movie. So, I didn’t feel that I was being mean at all to speed on past him. We are a weird family. Go ahead and say it.
A few weeks ago, J came home telling us about a book he had read at school that he really enjoyed. Then he told us it is a whole series and he wanted to read the rest of the books. At first when he was describing them, I thought that the topic seemed awfully heavy for fourth graders, maybe I should look at the book, too. Then a book order form came home from school and, what do you know, all seven of the books were for sale in it at an affordable price (we got them for considerably less than the set I linked in the next paragraph, but it was the only full set I could find to show you in case you're interested in what the books are). We ordered them.
They are the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Set in a fictional totalitarian society where having more than two children is outlawed with strict penalties (death!) for violators, the series follows several ‘illegals’ or third children who have spent most of their short lives in hiding and the adults who try to help them. This series is loaded with intrigue and plot twists and food for interesting conversations with my son. Think 1984 for kids. I am enjoying interacting with J about this immensely.
Some themes that this series is helping me explore with him are sanctity of life issues – from a perspective he can really get since all these ‘illegal’ kids are his age or a tad older. And many of the characters are behaving very nobly – when given a chance to just look out for themselves or put themselves at risk to save someone else, they are making very heroic choices and overcoming a lifetime of extreme fear to do very hard things. We’re also able to discuss some about why we tend to vote the way we do and why we don’t think government should be in the business of running people’s lives. This is a pretty timely series in that respect – we’ve even talked a little about why we don’t agree with our current president on A LOT of issues and why, and this series is helping him to understand it better. One interesting idea we’ve been talking about is how in the books there was a true crisis, and motives were to save lives, but the way the government chose to address the crisis was immoral, evil, and wrong. J has been asking how a government gets that way. Well, if enough people are in power who have a slippery slope idea of right and wrong and the value of each individual life and of personal freedom, it wouldn’t be hard to see how easily it could happen, especially if some dire crisis came along and people were willing to sacrifice some freedoms in the ‘short term’ with the promise that it was only short term. The difficulty there is once you’ve sacrificed freedoms, the more power over your personal life you put in the hands of government, how do you get them back once the crisis is over? Sound familiar? Problem is, in a fallen world, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It doesn’t matter if the reason for making a wrong choice was ‘good’ when that wrong choice is immoral and evil. In a fallen world, it is all too easy to see how this could happen. So these books are chilling. But encouraging, too, because they are written from the standpoint that the law was evil and that these children have a right to be ‘legal’ and heard and saved. Life is treated as precious in these books.
And the most chilling thing of all, I’ve been thinking as I read these books that it is only a short step from legalized abortion being euphemistically called choice, presented as a desirable option, and pregnancy being seen as a ‘punishment’ to one day being told you have to limit the number of children you have. That’s already how it is in China. You hear rumblings along those lines already over here from the people who are worried about ‘population overcrowding.’ We’re already considered unusual for having three kids, and my friends who have larger families are seen as weird, too, by some segments of society. On that note, Al Mohler had a good discussion a while ago about the real population threat, and I just read this today if you don't believe me about that short step slippery slope our culture is on.
We live in an increasingly child un-tolerant society. Read this article I noticed the other day that I started to write a blog post about but never finished because it just made me so sad and I just couldn’t address all the reasons why. We are becoming so self-centered in our culture that we just don’t want to be bothered with children or we are surprised when raising them inconveniences us and our ‘happiness’ in some way, and I find that sad, disturbing, and dangerous for the long term. I could have said soooo much more about my impressions after reading that article, but I won’t in this post. I don't know if I'll pull that other post out of the draft folder or not.
Anyway, I’m enjoying these books. Lots to think about and discuss with my son, and they are written on a level he can understand. I have about two and a half more to read before I’m finished. Hopefully I’ll like the ending, too.
Friday, April 10, 2009
So, M got a betta fish for his birthday. That was last Thursday. Friday night we had a babysitter come and Drew and I went to the mall and to a movie. When we got home, J told us the fish was acting funny. The babysitter explained that Boo had found the fish food jar and proceeded to empty half of it into the bowl. He's only supposed to have two pellets twice a day, and this was hundreds of pellets at once. "Feed Sid! Feed Sid!" She gleefully cried. She really likes animals. I was much impressed with our babysitter's quick thinking. She transferred Sid to a cup and rinsed out his bowl and washed the rocks and everything. We looked at Sid, and he seemed happy enough - I mean, he's a fish, for goodness sake. All he does is swim around in a bowl, it's kind of hard to tell what he's thinking. So we thanked her for her quick thinking and commisserated with her about the stress our two-year-old caused. Welcome to my world.
On Saturday we had choir practice because Sunday we presented our musical in both services (it was very nice, very worshipful, by the way). After practice, the babysitter's mother waved to me in the church lobby and told the person she was talking to, "You won't believe what her daughter did last night!" I really hope that won't become something I hear often, by the way. I told her how impressed I was that her daughter was able to handle the situation. I'm pretty sure at her age I would have been stumped about what to do. "I'm so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So, the children are fine but your fish is dead."
So, on Sunday I told the babysitter's mom to please tell her that Sid is doing just fine, and I am much impressed with her quick thinking. Her mom and I had a good laugh about the stress level of the babysitter that night.
I wonder if this means a pay raise next time.....
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Drinking….coffee, decaf with hazelnut creamer and Sweet N’ Low. Drew and I have decided Sweet N’ Low is probably the least toxic of the diet sweeteners. Who would’ve thought?
Noting….that I am not ready for my middle son to be eight-years-old. But, ready or not, as of today he is. Today is his birthday. At 12:01 PM today he was officially eight-years-old. Where is the time going? Want to see one of his birthday presents? This was the big surprise I had waiting for him when he came home in from school! He named it Sid.
Weighing….too much. Okay, I know Lisa doesn't mean literally when she says this, but weighing options. Still. The scale is not my friend. Actually, maybe it’s just a really good friend – the most honest one I know…..
Tired….of potty training. She’ll get it, I know she’ll get it. But it’s just tiring these days. I bought one of these:
Wondering….if we will be dog owners again soon. We found an adorable little guy while web surfing local animal shelters. When we contacted them about him, they told us he currently has pneumonia, but we can meet him once the vet says okay. I think he’s seeing the vet today. I hope we get to meet him soon. I’ll let you know.
Reading….The Last Jihad by Joel C. Rosenberg. I like it so far. Also reading Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur. I really like it. I think I need to write a whole blog post about it soon.
Recently finished…Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin. Okay, that’s me being funny. Boo got this at the library, and has insisted on having it read to her more times than I can count already. She loves the ‘fox book’ (Ruthie is a little fox). It is due back at the library on the 7th. I have a sinking feeling there will be much wailing and gnashing of toddler teeth on that day. We may be making and outing to the bookstore soon. As for me, recently finished is Sons of Fortune by Jeffrey Archer. I liked it.
Also wondering….why the manufacturers of my new blender felt the need for this:
I had to use scissors to cut it off. Really, was that necessary?
Needing….some new clothes. I hate shopping. This, too, could be an entire blog post, and since I’ve been so lax about blogging, maybe it will be soon.
Not liking….how seldom I seem to be able to focus for long enough to write a decent blog post these days.
Really liking….this season of LOST. Some things are beginning to come together, and the story is moving along. Confusing, yes. But very interesting. I’m driving my husband crazy with my speculating and wondering. I still think if it were a book I’d have to stay up all night to finish it. I really want answers.
Thanks for allowing me to copy your status idea, Lisa!
This day I decided that before I tried to continue with my daily read through the Bible plan I would turn to Philippians 4:6-7 first and focus my thoughts on how God tells us in His word to be anxious for nothing. So, I opened my Bible, propped it up on the chair and knelt to read and pray. But I didn’t just read verses 6 and 7. As I read, I realized what the verses before and after 6 and 7 say. And I got to thinking, and it was like a light came on. Here’s what I read:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
I don’t know about you, but I tend to whip out the “Be anxious for nothing….” part of that passage, it’s one a lot of people memorize, when I’m feeling anxious and try to browbeat myself into not feeling anxious - focusing on the feelings while not addressing the thoughts and where they are to be focused. However, not only is the command to not be anxious given, but the antidote to being anxious is also given. How cool is that? This is why I love God’s word. This is why we say it is the Living Word. I’ve read through Philippians I don’t know how many times, but it only just the other day really clicked for me how three very popular and familiar passages to memorize actually work together. Novel thought, that, reading Bible verses in context, eh?
How many of us go around trying to gear ourselves up to rejoice in the Lord and be anxious for nothing in our own strength, and with no “finally brethren, whatever things….” to think upon we find ourselves spiraling right back into anxiety? Raising my hand. How many of us know those three sections separately and pull them out often, but very seldom put them together and see how it all fits?
We’ve been reading Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George in our women’s group on Sunday nights at church, as I’ve mentioned before, and in the first part of that book several chapters are spent discussing just what it means to think on what is true. For example, when I’m lying there at 4 dark thirty in the morning feeling anxious and out of sorts, I can ask myself, wait a minute – what is true here? Are the things I’m worrying about true or just potentialities? Am I anxious because I need to be doing something I haven’t done yet or have put off doing? Then what is true is that I can get my act together and do what needs to be done. Am I anxious about something out of my control? Focus on what is true and not what I fear might happen. Usually there is enough to focus on that is immediate and true that I only get into trouble by focusing on the 'what ifs.' My husband and I have a phrase we repeat often to each other: "There are no 'what ifs,' there's only 'what is.' Not that you don't ever prepare, but you get my meaning. You could write a whole book on this topic (in fact, it's covered nicely in Loving God With All Your Mind), this is just a blog post. Is my understanding of God lining up with His word in all that I’m thinking? If not, focus on what is true about Him. Am I purposefully remembering that God causes all things, even this whatever it is, to work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose to conform us into the image of His Son? Even if the whatever doesn’t seem so good at the moment, am I trusting His purpose?
So that morning while I was reading and praying the scripture, I began thinking about the command to rejoice in the Lord. It doesn’t say, ‘Feel good about everything right now.’ It says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ So I started thinking about why I can rejoice in the Lord always. Awesome. And I took my requests to God, and remembered that His word says that when I do so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard my heart in Christ Jesus. And part of that peace stems from thinking on those things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. Purposefully retraining my thinking from me, me, me, woe is me, to those things that lead to trusting in the God of peace who is with me.
It was a good morning.