Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back

I hesitate to say this is a 'best of' the past year in blogging around here given that blogging has gotten more and more sparse as the year has progressed and I'm not so sure how good any of it actually is, but here on the last day of 2011, I'm posting a look back at some of what I was thinking about during the past year......

In January, I was Pondering and Remembering and Approving What is Excellent as I began the Partnering to Remember project to memorize Phillippians.

In February, I was thinking about Standing Firm, also in response to the Partnering to Remember project. I also shared some of my thoughts about jury duty once it was over.

In March, I did a little thinking about how memorizing scripture is Not Just an Intellectual Exercise.

In April, I was pondering more on Philippians in The Lord is At Hand, and thinking about What I Want My Daughter to Know.

In May, I did some thinking about Confessing Faults, got a hair cut, went camping, and turned 40.

In June, I blogged about my dog.

In July, I shared some thoughts about how God is Not Silent, shared a Book Recommendation, and shared a few random Friday Frazzles.

In August, I shared a few thoughts about stepping out to start teaching second/third grade Sunday School.

In September, I did a little thinking about Learned Desperation, shared An Evening Prayer, and some thoughts about cultural idols in our country.

In October, I shared some thoughts from our recent visit to Disney World, celebrated my 5th blogiversary,
and sort of reviewed a book I'd finished reading.

In November, not much blogging occurred, but I did ponder kind speech and shared a few books I was reading.

In December, again, not a whole lot of blogging going on, but I recommended a book (which I still recommend now that I've finished it!), shared some Christmas season inspired thoughts, and celebrated my 18th anniversary of marriage to Drew.

Probably not my best blogging year, but a good year in general, I think. I do know that I am thankful for the Lord's mercies that are new every morning. He is so kind to us.

Oh, and if you're interested, I guess I'll finish this post by sharing some of my favorite books I read this year. You can check out the full list of what I read during 2011 on the page at the top of the blog. The list below doesn't include every book I enjoyed but they are a few of my favorites:

Jayber Crow - Wendell Berry (F)
Atheism Remix and The Disappearance of God - both by Albert Mohler (NF)
The 39 Clues series - various authors (F)....enjoyed reading these with the boys
Sutter's Cross - W. Dale Cramer (F)
Slave - John MacArthur (NF)
Counterfeit Gospels - Trevin Wax (NF)
Holiness - J.C. Ryle (NF)
King Raven Trilogy - Stephen Lawhead (F)
The Help - Kathryn Stockett (F)
The Eleventh Plague - Jeff Hirsch (F)
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay - Suzanne Collins (F)
The World-Tilting Gospel - Dan Phillips (NF)

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I'm enjoying a few quiet minutes as I get the traditional cinnamon rolls out of the oven and enjoy a cup of coffee and read my Bible by the Christmas tree before everyone gets up today. For all their big talk about today being the one day of the year they won't sleep in, all the kids are still snoozing quietly away this Christmas morning. We'll have to get them up soon to get ready for church, but for this moment, I'm enjoying the peace and quiet and reflecting on the beauty of Christmas and the fact that while we were yet sinners, alienated and enemies of God, Jesus came and lived a perfect and holy life and died to redeem a people to Himself. "The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth." (John 1:9-14) Amazing grace.

I thought I'd share my favorite Christmas hymn with you this morning. I love the Christmas hymns because so many of them are so full of wonderful teaching about who Jesus is and so very full of worship for Him.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild; 
God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies;
With angelic hosts proclaim, 
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King."
Christ, by highest heav'n adored, 
Christ, the everlasting Lord:
Late in time, behold him come, 
Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, 
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with men to dwell, 
Jesus our Immanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King."
Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Sun of righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, 
Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by, 
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth, 
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

18 Years

Eighteen years ago today Drew and I were married. I'm so thankful for the way God has blessed our marriage, and I'm so thankful to be married to my best friend, the person who probably understands me or at least accepts me better than pretty much anyone else I know. I'm so glad he gave this 'strange girl' from Florida a second glance when we met at Northwest Baptist Church in Gainesville, FL that day all those years ago. I just realized that if I'm doing my math right, I have known Drew for as many years as I'd been alive when we first met. So I guess that means I've now known him half my life. Amazing. I love you, Drew!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Random Thoughts Inspired by the Christmas Season

So. Christmas is just a smidgen over a week away. Blogging is in a major lull. Think I’ll share a fairly stream-of-consciousness snapshot of some things I’ve been thinking about which could probably develop into blog posts, but most likely won’t this week. 
I don’t get too bent out of shape about people saying, “Happy Holidays.” What I mean is, sure, I’d rather we drop the political correctness, but it isn’t WRONG to say it, either.
I do think it’s sort of silly to call red and green tree-shaped cookies “Holiday Cookies” when everyone knows they are Christmas cookies. I mean, that’s the red and green tree holiday, right? It doesn’t really bother me, but I do find it silly.
Being outraged and insisting that “Happy Holidays” is some giant conspiracy and trying to completely eradicate it through Facebook ultimatums is silly, too. Sometimes we get upset about the wrong things.
I get really irritated by e-mails and Facebook status updates that say that if I don’t repost about how bad “Happy Holidays” is or if I don’t repost about what a faithful believer in Jesus I am then I must not be a real Christian or I must be ashamed of Jesus. Um. I think what I blog about and update about should reflect my faith in Christ all the time. If it takes a snotty e-mail forward or Facebook update to prove that my faith is genuine, then something is wrong. Just because I think those forwards are obnoxious and refuse to repost them or buy in to somebody’s misguided test of genuine faith does not mean I am ashamed of the gospel. And saying, "Merry Christmas," obnoxiously to make a point kind of defeats the real point, don't you think? Actually, the way we blog, Facebook, talk, and act on a daily basis has a lot more impact as a witness than a prideful-sounding forward that sounds like we have our noses all out of joint.
I think sometimes we Christians can be a bit obnoxious. See above.
I wonder how many people who post the snotty “I’m not ashamed, and I challenge everyone else to repost this” kind of updates and snotty anti-happy holidays stuff are complaining about how early the church service is on Sunday, Dec. 25 this year? Good article on that here. Peter Beck articulates the point quite well. Really, well said, and I quite agree with his article.
I am guilty of being an obnoxious Christian sometimes, too. I made a little pronouncement on my opinions vis a vis Santa the other day, and I realized I sounded pretty snotty. I didn’t mean to. I’m glad to share my thoughts, one was actually asking for them that day. I need to just go about the business of celebrating Christmas joyfully and enjoy the time watching my children’s joy and keep quiet when it isn’t necessary to speak.
I have decided that though most of the country celebrates Christmas, there are actually two different Christmases going on. There’s the purely secular one, and there’s the one where people who have come to know the Savior spend every year thinking more and more about the wonder of God With Us. It’s silly to expect people who don’t know Him to appreciate the fullness of what we are actually celebrating. So snarky, snotty, arrogant e-mails and Facebook posts only serve to make us look angry and prideful. And I don’t want that to be what people think about Christians, always getting bent out of shape over things that are symptoms and not the root cause, always trying to get pagans to act like Christians rather than spilling over with the joy and wonder and love of the Gospel in such a way that pagans might see the light.
Sometimes we try to overspiritualize things too. Like the Christmas tree. We don’t have to Christianize it and give it a bunch of symbolism we’ve devised so we can feel we are celebrating the reason for the season and not bowing to the pagan roots. We can celebrate the real meaning of Christmas without having to give everything a deeper meaning. It’s okay to enjoy things that aren’t overtly Christian. Sometimes a Christmas tree is just a pretty decoration.  And that’s okay, too.
I do find that every Christmas I am more aware of just how awesome the gospel really is. I do know that, for me and my house, the fact that the promise that God made in Genesis 3:15 and furthered and prophesied through the ages was fulfilled in Jesus and that while we were still sinners Christ died for us is where I want our focus to be during the Christmas season and throughout the whole year. Maybe instead of making pronouncements, I can just worship and celebrate and not get too bent out of shape about what other people are doing, and in so doing, bear more of the fragrance of Christ and His mercy rather than adding to the obnoxiousness. The gospel impacts every area of life, and I love that at Christmas I am brought to my knees once again as I ponder the immense wonder of it all. Immanuel, God With Us.
What do you know, I did have a blog post in there after all.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recommended Reading Just in Time for Christmas

I am in the midst of reading The World-Tilting Gospel: Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight by Dan Phillips. Though I have not finished reading yet, I wanted to pause and say, “Read this book.” Christmas being just two weeks away, and the truth of Christmas being all about the gospel, again I say, “Read this book.” I expected it to be good, and it is, and I have no reservations that I will continue to think so when I come to the end of reading it. However, the reason I paused is because today I read this passage and it reminded me of something and I wanted to share it: 
“I was about to write that Jesus’ life bore a supernatural mark from conception to death and beyond. That is true. But in a way, it began long before. To be the Messiah who fulfilled prophecy, Jesus would have to hail from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David - but not Jeconiah (Jer. 22;24-30). He would have had to be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem, under Gentile rule, before the fall of Jerusalem and 400-some-odd years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity.
All this for starters, was required to fulfill the pattern of OT Messianic prediciton. And Jesus did tick off every one of those items, simply by being born when and where and to whom He was born.
Nice trick, given that these are particulars over which no mortal has the slightest hint of control.
Thus, it couldn’t have been a trick.” (Phillips, Dan. The World-Tilting Gospel. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2011. p. 118)
So, when I read that I was immediately reminded of an encounter I had years ago as a young newly-wed, before we had children, when I was working outside the home. I had a friend at work who was a devout Jehovah’s Witness who made a special point to seek me out for a discussion one day. During the course of the discussion, for which I had prayed and searched the scriptures for several days beforehand, she made a comment along the lines of, “Why celebrate Christmas, anyway? He hadn’t done anything yet at that point.” I remember my reaction being something like, “He hadn’t done anything yet???? What about the hundreds of prophecies that He fulfilled just by being born when He was, where He was, to whom He was? What about creating everything? What about John 1:1?” Suffice to say, we had quite a conversation. I’m fairly certain I didn’t change my friend’s mind that day, but I truly hope she at least walked away with something to think about, and I continue to pray for her, though it has been years since I lost contact with her through changing life circumstances and many moves.
So, again, I recommend Mr. Phillips’ book to you. In a time when I am often torn between screaming and crying tears of grief when I open my children’s Sunday school curriculum to prepare my lesson and see how the writers seem to be on an extended exercise in missing the point and taking vital gospel truths and sanitizing them of blood and boiling them down to simplistic, moralistic teaching points, I was saddened when I read the lesson on the Passover and there was NO mention of the lambs, NO mention of the blood on the doorposts and I was instructed to tell the children that the people of Israel placed an unspecified ‘special mark’ on the door. I thought, “What, like their initials or something? Why would we leave out the sacrifice? Why would we leave out the blood? Why would we not take this, and EVERY, opportunity to point to the true Passover Lamb who is Jesus?” Needless to say, I put it all back in and taught the real lesson. So, you can see why I was ready to applaud when I read the section in The World-Tilting Gospel on Penal Substitionary Atonement by Blood (p. 102). 
So, Merry Christmas, and my Christmas gift to you, my readers, is to recommend The World-Tilting Gospel to you. You will be glad you read it. I know I am. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's On My Nightstand - November 2011

Haven’t done What’s On Your Nightstand in a while, but it’s that time again over at 5 Minutes for Books.....
Here’s what I’ve been reading in November:
The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer. (F) I liked this one okay. I usually like Brad Meltzer’s books. Fast-paced, action-packed conspiracy thriller kind of stuff. 
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer - John Grisham. (F) I liked this, too. I like John Grisham generally, and his new kid series is quite good. I read it because my grandmother gave it to my sons thinking they would like it, and I was interested, too, because I've found lots of books to like from things my son likes to read. Good intro to courtroom/detective fiction for kids, and the court procedure is explained really well for younger readers as part of the story without dragging the action down. Liked it!
Theodore Boone: The Abduction - John Grisham. (F) Second book in the series and I liked it as well as the first. 
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins. (F) I was hesitant to read this trilogy because the reviews I read said it’s pretty violent, but my oldest boy wanted to read it and I finally gave in to the book order and we’re reading it together. I finished this first book in the trilogy this afternoon, and, oh my. I like. Can’t wait until my boy gets done with Catching Fire since I’m totally hanging ready to keep going with the story. I mentioned not too long ago about my tastes in fiction, right? One of the cool things about having a kid old enough to read books I like, too, is the fun of discussing them together. We're really enjoying that. It's like having our own little book club right here at home. :-)
In process of reading:
God’s Wisdom in Proverbs - Dan Phillips. (NF) Very, very good so far. Non-fiction takes me a lot longer to read than fiction because I like to take the time to think about what I’m reading. 
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott. (F) This classic came free with my Nook, and I haven’t read it since I was a young girl, and I need something fun to read while waiting on Joshua to finish the next book in the Hunger Games trilogy, so this is it. 
Up Soon:
The World-Tilting Gospel - Dan Phillips. (NF)
Catching Fire and Mockingjay from the Hunger Games trilogy - Suzanne Collins. (F)
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo. (F). I have this on my Nook waiting until I feel ready to tackle it. I’ve meant to read it for a while now - even started it years ago, but got bogged down and never finished it. Soon......
Check out the lists over at 5 Minutes for Books.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Teaching of Kindness is on Her Tongue

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26
I ponder this often and share it often on Facebook because I so deperately need to be reminded of it. Shocking though this may be (ha), kindness is not usually my natural default response. Far more often than I really want to admit here, my default response is sarcasm and a prickly manner and an impatient tone of voice. I cannot tell you how many nights I review the day and realize, rather late, that I’ve said or done something that just plain wasn’t kind, or that I've been too quick to take offense when I ought not to have....and the horror is that I didn’t realize how unkind it was until much later. It’s usually not what I’ve said that’s’s how I’ve said it that makes all the difference. Being mom means I have to say things the kids don’t want to hear sometimes, but how I say them can make all the difference in whether I’m kind or snippy. 
I am thankful for the gospel. It is in remembering that it is in Christ, in His extreme kindness to me in saving me, that I have sure hope. It is in learning to rest in the fact that I am counted right before God because of what Christ has done on my behalf that my eyes are being opened to the times when I’m living in my natural default of unkindness, and I pray for wisdom to learn to surrender my natural default to Him so that I may learn to live in and by and through His grace. And I am thankful for the heart-work of the gospel that leads me to realize my sin and to confess it to God, yes, but also for the grace to learn to confess it to those I hurt with my unkindnesses. And when God has shown me much longsuffering and mercy in cleansing me of my filth, oughtn't I then to learn to be longsuffering toward others and point them to Jesus?

And I just have to add this here, I am finding that one way to guard my heart against that natural bent toward snarky, sarcastic, unkind responses is to limit my time on Facebook and blogs, something I've not been doing well lately. A too steady diet of that can lead me in that direction, because often the discourse, even among Christians, in those venues can be too sarcastic, and I know from personal experience that it is extremely contagious. Not saying a little well-placed sarcasm never has a place, but I am saying that it's a pitfall for me when I'm not careful with it, and it can easily move from innocent to biting unnecessarily and unhelpfully, and it easily becomes a habit to have a sarcastic or overly critical or impatient mindset. Just a thought on that.
Please, Lord God, guard my tongue and teach my heart to be kind. Teach me to surrender my selfishness and to remember what mercy and grace You have shown me, a sinner, and help me to model kindness - especially and first in my own home, especially and first when I don’t feel like it.....most especially then. Help me to model kindness and mercy to those You have entrusted to me here in this home, and help me to recognize it when my tone of voice is not as loving and kind as You would have it be.  Because my desire is, ultimately, to point them to Jesus. In Jesus alone they will find forgiveness for their own sin and the rest and kindness that He alone can truly offer.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Status Report, November 2011

With nods to my friend, Lisa, who successfully completed her 21 day blogging experiment, something I can’t even conceive of attempting at the moment, here’s my status report for November: my freshly organized and sort of paper-clutter-free desk. Spent the greater part of today making it so and then worked on my little girl’s desk area. My, but it was messy over there. She is nicely organized again, though, and it feels good. Now if I will just clean the floors, again, the house will be in decent shape. Floors, bathrooms, and laundry: the never-ending cycle of “to do” items.
Waiting....for the tea kettle to whistle, because then I will be able to be....
Drinking....tea from my blue tea pot. Lady Grey today. A whole pot of it. It is that kind of afternoon.
Thankful....that middle son’s football season is over, but....
Wondering...if it makes me a horrible mother that I was sort of hoping they’d lose on Saturday, and was not too sad when they did, because the loss of the playoff game meant no practice this week and the end of the season, which, frankly felt like it was two years long. I am, however, proud of how hard he worked and how much he improved, this being his first year playing little league football, and tackle at that. In fact, during the after game final talk from the coach, his coach singled him out to mention how proud he was of how far M had come this year. Apple keyboard had an "end" key that would take me to the end of a row.  That's pretty much the only thing I miss from my old PC now that we're using the Mac. Anyone know if I'm just missing something? interesting it is that when you read a whole passage of scripture like....say....Revelation in a sitting rather than a chapter here and a chapter there, that you gain a whole new perspective on the passage. And for the record, I didn’t read the Left Behind books, didn’t watch the movie, and don’t intend to. I get a little tired of hearing from people who get their understanding of Revelation from them, too. 
Pondering....Proverbs 11:22 “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without descretion.” How often do I read that and think, “Sure am glad that’s not me!” Thing is, I’m not always as discrete with my words as I should be. In fact, I’ve been pondering this in light of my use of social media, especially Facebook. For me, there is a huge temptation to spout thoughts there that sometimes don’t need to be out there. Just because I have a thought doesn’t mean I need to share it. And who really cares what we’re having for dinner, anyway? More seriously, sometimes in the midst of a discussion, due to the weird mix of anonymity and familiarity that is social media, I sometimes wish I’d taken a little time to mull over things I’ve written before posting them. So, upon closer examination, there’s more of the pig in me at times than I’d be happy to admit. 
Reading....The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer. Took a break from the Nook and went to the library and checked out some real, paper books. Not far enough into this book to know if I like it or not. Planning to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because oldest boy wants to read the trilogy. Not too sure about it since I’ve heard it’s pretty violent. Which is why I want to read and not just hand it over to him.
Enjoying...the fact that my Christmas shopping is almost, not completely but almost, done. Trying to keep it simple this year.
Taking....this moment to say that I believe I may take a formal break from blogging for a week or two. It’s not like I’ve been blogging regularly, but I think I need to go ahead and just rest from it and take care of the busyness that is my life at the moment, make sure my priorities are in order. I volunteer at the kids’ elementary school at least one morning a week, and November is our month to teach Sunday school again, and the house doesn’t clean itself, and I realize that if I don’t get serious about writing my children’s story soon it won’t ever get written. All that to say, I don’t know if breaking will refresh my blogger’s writing block or even how long a break I need. I hope a short one. 
On that note, time to go sweep and mop the floor and enjoy my pot of Lady Grey. 
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, October 31, 2011

In Honor of Reformation Day:

"My conscience is captive to the Word of God...." - Martin Luther

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not Really A Review of A Book I've Just Finished

I don’t exactly know how to describe my taste in fiction. I can tell you what I’m not a huge fan of, and that is typical ‘chick lit.’ I’m not real interested in romance fiction, though I do like a good fairy-tale now and then. For me, I like a sense of intrigue or interesting mystery or the sense of peeling away layers of understanding in the stories I read. I like multi-faceted, well-developed characters and stories where you find that things aren’t always what they seem at first glance. For me, the fun of reading a story is the journey of discovering where the story is going, especially as the layers peel and you go deeper into why people are doing what they do. I like mysteries and detective fiction and courtroom dramas, things that keep you guessing along the way. I like stories that draw you in and make you care about the characters and that have tightly woven plot lines that make you look back and realize that seemingly insignificant details were actually quite skillfully chosen and placed by the author who, like a chess master, has carefully thought out all the details and plotted his or her story. 
All of this is one reason I am afraid to get serious about the writing I very much want to do. I want to write something good and well-plotted and well-crafted, but when I sit down to brainstorm, I realize I’m not at all sure I have what it takes to write the kind of thing that a reader like me would want to read. 
Anyway, I was perusing a book order my middle school son brought home and finally, finally, he’s at the reading level where there are books in the book orders that I think are actually interesting. I was wondering what it says about me, though, that most of the books whose summaries made me take notice and want to read were categorized as ‘dystopian.’ I paged past the ‘paranormal romance’ with an upturned nose and bemusement at the sheer numbers of selections, but several of the ‘dystopian’ books caught my attention. I had to look up ‘dystopian’ to see what it meant. I kind of assumed that it was the opposite of ‘utopian,’ and basically I was right.
So, why do I like these settings rather than fluffy love and romance stuff? I haven’t completely figured that one out yet, but I suspect it’s because they tend to offer a more realistic view of human nature with its ups and downs and intricacies and foibles, in my opinion.  
So, I say all that to mention that I just finished reading a book called, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch. As I was reading, especially in the beginning, it reminded me very much of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, except with more hope. The Road was, quite possibly, the most depressing book I’ve ever read in my life, and I still find myself processing it to this day though it’s been over a year since I read it. I’m not going to write a true review of The Eleventh Plague because I have realized that isn’t my gift. When I was looking up The Road so I could remind myself of the author’s name for this post I stumbled across an article someone had written that explored some of the themes, and I read it and said, “Ah. So that’s what it was about.” I missed the point apparently. Which is why I find myself still processing it. I got hung up on the starkness and grossness and missed the deeper meanings, though as I read that article I do remember thinking along similar lines as the article’s author about the spiritual meanings of the book. But what stuck with me was one very graphic and disturbing scene, so over time that’s all I really remember when I think about that book, that and the tiny little glimmer of hope that was held out at the end. Even in its starkness, there was just a tiny little grain of hope left.  And now I’ve gone way off my topic on a tangent. Which is why I don’t write real reviews. 
Back to The Eleventh Plague. I liked this book. It’s a little scary to think just how close to barbarianism our civilized culture could actually be. It wouldn’t take much to knock us off the grid, and most of us, myself included, would not know how to live without the superstructure our electricity and civilized and interconnected society give us. Groups like the Amish could possibly go on as if nothing had changed, but the rest of us are completely dependent on our modern conveniences. Think about how lost you feel when the power goes out for an hour or two. Then imagine a world where a devastating war complete with a deadly biological weapon of mass destruction has killed 2/3 of America and where not enough people survived to keep the hospitals open or the power on and the cities are abandoned buildings crumbling to dust. That’s the world 15-year-old Stephen Quinn was born into in The Eleventh Plague
Without giving too many spoilers, after much personal tragedy and difficulty Stephen comes across a community known as Settler’s Landing, that, as the back of the book says, seems too good to be true. What happens there is the bulk of the story.
What I like is the exploration of human interactions and relationships and how easy it is for us to become barbarians when you take away any kind of governmental or societal structure. Anarchy is a frightening thing. It is scary and fascinating to think about the sheer immensity of the task of surviving, not to mention rebuilding after such a massive tragedy. When I read things like this, I can’t help but think of Revelation where instead of turning to God, people still defy Him and shake their fists at Him. 
One thing that disturbed me as I read was that the one character who publicly prayed and quoted the Bible was not a ‘good’ character. His quoting of the Bible was done to shore up his own selfish ends and to keep people out and be insular rather than reach out to help people in need with the resources he had. He saw needy outsiders and other settlers as a threat, while others in the community would extend kindness and sympathy and saw them as potential allies. 
Where that sent my thinking was, “Is that really how the world sees Christians?” When the onlooking world thinks of Bible-believing Christians, are we so self-focused that they see us as looking out for our own best-interests and not caring what happens to anyone else, or worse maybe that we have a bunker mentality that would shut out anyone who isn’t ‘one of us’? Then I look around at our mega church subculture with our self-contained bubble mentality that caters to ‘felt needs’ but doesn’t always get to the heart of the gospel and move our understanding of the gospel from being sort of the ticket into the club rather than understanding it for the life-changing, desperately needed answer to our deepest need to be rescued from the chains of sin, and I realize why we might be seen that way.
That wasn’t the point of the book. It wasn’t written by a Christian author, as far as I know, but I found it interesting, anyway. Interesting in the sense that I don’t want to live in such a way that my unsaved neighbors could think I don’t care about them. Interesting in the sense that I want to live in a way that points my friends and neighbors to the light of the gospel. 
Interesting book, one that got me thinking, and not necessarily along the lines the author intended, but that still made it a good read this week. Obviously there were lots more directions my thinking went as I read and am processing the book, but that’s all I’ll hit on here. This post is long enough. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Has It Really Been Five Years Already?

I just realized today is my “Blogoversary.” Five years of blogging as of today. Doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but when I remember that my little girl was just a little bitty baby, not even a year old when I started this blog, and here she is 5 and a half now, well....time does march on. If I were a truly motivated blogger, I could link to some of my favorites today to mark this momentous occasion. I do not feel so moved at the moment, however. I can tell you that back when I started this little hobby I probably wouldn’t have thought I’d still be blogging five years later. I still remember how petrified I was every time I hit the publish button in the beginning. I still am sometimes. 

Blogging helped me to fill a very lonely period in my life, the time I called my "Desert time." The time we lived "on the island" in South Carolina was a growing time for me, definitely, but it was a very lonely time, too. I was not terribly sad when the Lord allowed my husband to get the call to go active duty Army and move us to St. Louis after five years of what was a wilderness of sorts for me. God was so very faithful and kind during that time, and I don't regret our five years there at all. But I definitely am thankful for the blogging fellowship that grew out of that time, also. Blogging has really helped me to learn to think through my faith and to learn to even better search the Scriptures as I'm working through things. 
I am thankful for this hobby of blogging. Through it I’ve met some sweet sisters in Christ I never would have had the chance to meet this side of heaven otherwise. And though at times I clarify my friends by ‘real’ friends and ‘blog’ friends, I have to say that some of the friendships I’ve formed here aren’t really less real than other friendships, though by necessity they are less close. Thanks to those of you who read regularly and comment. As you know, a blogger’s love language is comments. I’ve enjoyed ‘meeting’ you, blog friends. Thanks, too, to those who read but don’t comment. I hope my ramblings have a few worthwhile posts among them to make your day brighter or encourage you to think once in a while. Whatever the case, I am thankful to have this little space to think out loud. 
I really do want to blog more regularly again. I miss it. You’d think after 5 years I would have found my voice here, but I still have shaking fingers before posting most of the time. Maybe those nerves never truly go away. 
Anyway, thanks for reading, to those of you who’ve stuck around or stumbled across my little Sweet Tea place along the way. I think I’ll keep going a little while longer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How Having Children Turned My Head Into a Barometer of Sorts

Just so you know, there is very little point to this post except that it serves to keep me writing a little more regularly. 
I have always been prone to headaches, and bad ones at that.
However, they did not always correlate to weather patterns, as far as I can tell, until after the adventure of motherhood began for me. Let me explain.
When my middle son was about two, we lived in southern Indiana and my husband was deployed to Bosnia for a year. His being deployed has basically nothing to do with this story, but I like those interesting little details in a story, don’t you? Anyone who has lived in southern Indiana or northern Kentucky where we live now probably knows that the Ohio River Valley is notorious for allergy and sinus problems. I was already finding that I was one of those not unusual people who is susceptible to the ORV sinus affliction, and that was a new thing for this Florida girl who had grown up thinking I did not have seasonal allergies. Turns out I may not be allergic to Florida, but Kentuckiana (how I hate that silly phrase that our news people love to say) is another thing altogether.
But I digress. One day while I was in the midst of my Army-induced, year-long single motherhood, I was playing with my little boy and he proceeded to hit his head full force on my nose. Talk about blinding pain. I was sure he’d broken my nose and I was going to have two black eyes. I didn’t, but I do think something inside got rearranged and has forever after turned my head into a kind of barometer.
Now whenever there is a sudden change in weather, I will get a searing headache right down the middle of my forehead and in my nasal sinus passages and then the whole world starts spinning like I’m on a tilt-a-whirl. When this happens, I usually look at Drew and ask, “Is there a big weather front coming through our something?” Most of the time the answer is, “Yes.” I was once awakened out of a deep sleep by that searing sinus pain ripping through my head, while outside I heard the wind pick up and a violent storm just beginning. It is the strangest sensation.
Why am I writing about this now? As I was sitting here minding my own business this afternoon, my head started spinning. I couldn’t even walk straight with one foot in front of the other on the way up to the bus stop.  I hope I didn't look a little drunk as I wobbled up the hill. I promise you, I haven't had anything stronger than my pot of Earl Grey tea. While I agree with George Orwell that, "All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes," I am quite sure my Earl Grey has nothing to do with my wobbliness this afternoon. 

I knew it. 
I’m loving the cooler weather, though it’s a little disconcerting to go from hot to if it were only about 15 degrees colder the mist we’ve been having all day would probably be snow flurries. Today was the first day of the season that I had to use the heater in the car while I was out and about. Haven’t had to turn it on in the house yet, but I am enjoying the cooler weather, with a bit of wariness because I know how long wintry weather lasts once the cold sets in for good around here. 
Anyway, I am one of the only people I know who has to take motion sickness pills when I’m sitting still on dry, unmoving land. Thanks to a friend on Facebook for suggesting that, though, or I would never have thought of trying that to help with my weather-induced dizziness.
So, in case you’ve ever heard that having children just might make you a little loopy, I’m wobbling proof, sort of. 
Happy Wednesday. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just Another Afternoon in the Kitchen

I see that quite a few of my bloggy friends are attempting to get back to writing daily blog posts! This is something I would like to do, also, but I’m not ready to make promises on that front. My trepidatious relationship with my blog leads me to long dry spells and times when I’m somewhat reluctant to post my thoughts out here at all for just anybody to read, and times of swirling insecurity where I contemplate not posting another blog post ever again. Then I get to where every post ends up being long and, well, too much. Maybe I need to try the everyday blogging thing. Would it help to lighten up the feel of my blog if I didn’t save it all up for the big posts? Would that be a good thing or a bad thing?
I suppose I could share a snapshot of what this afternoon entailed and therefore a glimpse at what daily blogging might possibly look like, and let you, my few remaining friendly readers, decide:
I’ve mentioned before that I’m something of a disaster in the kitchen. I think my escapade today may just be my most spectacular mess yet. 
Trying to make the easy version of banana pudding for my banana-pudding loving kiddos, a feat I have completed successfully quite often in the past, I made a valiant start by placing the first layer of vanilla wafers in the dish, slicing the first banana and arranging it just so. So far so good, yes? 
Enter the chaos that intruded upon my moment of domestic homemaker bliss.  
I typically use my blender to mix the boxed pudding, so I measured the milk, put in the pudding mix, turned it on, and promptly turned my back to throw away the banana peel. Upon turning back around, I saw my blender spewing yellow pudding mess all over the kitchen. My response? “Ack, ah, what?????!!!!!” Coherence is not my strong point in a crisis moment. 
Apparently I had not sufficiently checked to make sure the bottom of the blender was securely attached to the jar. I had carefully checked to make sure the bottom was securely on the blender base, but the jar? Escaped my notice. The jar was slowly turning and pudding was pooling out the bottom and spewing forth in a fine yellow mist. It was quite exciting.
And sticky. Very sticky.
So. In a fit of optimism I started laughing and talking to myself about how I don’t think I’ve made quite such a marvelous mess in the kitchen before. I’ve come close but this one was the worst for today. So far. Laughing beats crying when the mess is that spectacular. 
In another fit of.....something, call it optimism if you will, I googled “Homemade banana pudding” to see if I could salvage the treat. Right. Like I’ve EVER made homemade, not from a box, pudding before in my life. Turns out you need eggs for that, and all that I have in the fridge are egg beaters at the moment. In a fit of waning optimism at this point, I googled “homemade pudding with egg beaters.” Suffice to say, unless I find a way to get to the grocery store in the next little bit, we aren’t going to be having banana pudding tonight. Possibly tomorrow....
Take home message: Though I may have lived a mere 45 minutes from Savannah for 5 years of my recent adult life, Paula Deen I am not. There are days my family is lucky to get something resembling a home-cooked meal absent some kind of kitchen incident. But that meal is made with love.....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Status Report October 2011 my car - well, while I was hand writing the original of this in my spiral notebook journal I was, anyway. Now I'm sitting at the computer desk in my kitchen, naturally. Well, when you all read this, I don't know anymore where I am, since you could be reading it anytime and I won't still be sitting at the computer desk then. :-)

Pondering....just how much we must love our sons to sit in our cars on a chilly, wet, gray, muddy, intermittently rainy Fall evening, eating Subway for dinner on the run in the car while we wait on our boys to become sufficiently muddy during two hours of football practice. This after 45 minutes of waiting for a certain little girl to have her gymnastics class earlier this afternoon. Just livin' the dream, baby. Or maybe we're just a little crazy. That too.

Eating....Subway ham and cheese on wheat with lettuce, pickles, onion, red vinegar, tomato and oregano. Just the way I like it. And a diet Coke. Rachel's having Mickey D's. Yuck. Michael will get his Subway when practice is over. Like I said, sports crazy. (Actually, see point above. Now that I'm not in the car and everyone but me is going to bed, I'm just about to enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Chai latte here, in my Disney mug, because in spite of that rather long post I wrote, we did have fun family time there and the further out from the inundation that I am the more I can appreciate the parts I like about our fun together there. And Pumpkin Spice Chai latte is just......Ahhhhh. Just saying, "Pumpkin," makes me feel all cozy and snug.) husband and oldest son. Drew took Joshua on a Father-Son field trip to Washington D.C. and New York City. Even got the days officially excused from school as an educational enhancement opportunity. Drew has some really neat stuff planned for them to do. I know they're having fun, and I'm glad Drew wants to spend some one-on-one time with our newly teenaged boy.

Thinking....I have cake issues. There is about half a chocolate cake sitting in my fridge. It keeps loudly tempting me to issue it into my mouth. See? Cake issues. Anyone want to come eat this cake and get it away from me? Which leads me to the other big news. The cake is birthday cake from my son turning into a teenager yesterday. We have a teenager in the house now. Well, when he comes home from his trip we will. Did I mention it? in the world my baby boy is 13 as of yesterday. How grateful I am that God granted us the awesome privilege and responsibility of parenting him 13 years ago. How grateful I am that God allows us to be Michael's and Rachel's mom and dad, too.

Soaking....up the beauty of Fall leaves. Thankful for the beauty of God's creation as it is displayed in such abundance of eye-drenching colors.

Bummed....because new white tennis shoes and clumsy misstep into ankle deep, rich, red Kentucky mud are not a happy combination.

Relieved....that laundry soap and washing machine took care of my mud and white shoes conundrum. Mostly-ish.

Surprised....that "Mostly-ish" did not get a red or green squiggly line under it when I typed it.

Excited...that my baby, my Kindergartner is reading. She reads out street signs and store signs all the time now. And last night, she read a book to me before bed. Did you catch that? She read a book to me. Woot! Another reader in the Sweet Tea house! Woot! Woot! Addition and Subtraction rap CD. (This was back in the car). It's a little irritating after the first track or two, but daughter requested it, and how can I refuse? She actually likes learning math facts when they are rapped at her by a cat and mouse duet. Shrug.

Reading.....The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Yet another series that Joshua was reading that I find interesting, also. I've liked everything I've read by this author. One very cool thing about having kids who LOVE to read is that they have introduced me to some good books I probably never would have read otherwise. And we get to enjoy discussing them together, too. Coolness.

Thankful, humbled, and God's mercy, compassion, and awesome greatness. What a humbling and truly awesome thing it is when He allows you to see a glimpse of how He is working when you have been praying a gospel-centered prayer for someone. It's wonderful when you walk with the Lord and pay attention and see He is working in all things for His glory. Wondrous grace and matchless joy! church. Looking forward to exciting things I trust the Lord has for us to participate in during the near future. So thankful for this family of believers in the Lord Jesus who gather together at Northside Baptist Church.

Happy October!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Happiest Place On Earth

We spent Fall Break in Florida. First we spent Saturday night with my parents and had the privilege of attending church with them on Sunday, where, by the way, we were blessed to hear a wonderfully gospel-saturated sermon that I believe may be one of the clearest and most encouraging presentations of how the gospel, and how the gospel is not merely the starting or entry point but it is what we need for Kingdom living, that I have ever heard and which left me in tears and thanking God for His marvelous grace.  This thought, especially, hit home for me, that being a slave of Christ means knowing that the only Person who matters in the universe sees me and accepts me, not because of anything I have done or been or could do or be, but because of His sacrifice alone, and that eliminates the need for people-pleasing and seeking the approval of others. It frees me to live a life that honors Him in gratitude. It was a wonderful way to start our week. 
We spent the next couple of days at Walt Disney World. Let me just say, I liked WDW a whole lot better when I was younger. WDW today is, as I’m telling my kids, “Not your mother’s Disney World” anymore. As I’ve thought over our week, I think I’ve finally come to the bottom of what my problem was. I liked WDW better when we lived in Florida and had the FL Resident passes and could go for a day or an afternoon at a time and then go home. Several days staying in a resort hotel on Disney property, (actually we stayed at Shades of Green, which is the military resort there on Disney property but not a Disney-owned resort) surrounded by Disney follow-your-dream theology day in and day out for DAYS is too much for me. Yeah, I said, ‘theology.’ I’m probably about to make a bunch of people mad at me, because, well, you don’t diss The Mouse, right? 
Anywho....for the record, we had a good time overall. The kids had a blast, and Rachel, at 5-years-old, is probably just the right age to really enjoy the Disney experience the most of all of us. I think the best part of the week for me was watching the kids’ expressions and enjoyment. In all honesty, I think I actually enjoyed our day at Universal Studios more than the days at Disney. The boys really liked the Harry Potter stuff and the Hogwarts castle ride was really cool if you like the books. Universal isn’t as over-the-top as Disney, and therefore it is just more fun, in my opinion. Disney is just so intense nowadays it’s almost hard to enjoy it as much as you want to. Also, for the record, I am not saying it’s wrong to go to WDW and enjoy the Disney experience. What I’m exploring here is why I felt so much less thrilled with the Disney experience this time than in years past and trying to hash out the thoughts that have been bumping around in my brain since we came home. 
Part of what I don’t like as much about WDW these days is that it is not spontaneous like it used to be. I remember when you would wander the parks and run into the characters and say, “Hey, there’s Mickey, let’s get a picture!” and a line might spontaneously form there for a bit until Mickey or whoever had to move on to the next spot. Nowadays, there are set times and ‘character spots’ and the line to have pictures can take 30 minutes or more and there’s always a Disney employee ‘handler’ with the characters and professional photographer making sure you get just the perfect photos (for an exorbitant fee if you so choose to purchase them, too). And as for eating at the restaurants? Forget about it. Unless you make reservations months, nay, sometimes years in advance, be prepared to eat obscenely over-priced fast food at one of the non-reservation places. I told my husband one dinner time that it kind of made me sick to pay that much for food when none of the choices were even what any of us wanted. 
And you can’t even walk through the castle anymore. 
But all of that is just how it is and you pretty much know that going in to the Disney experience these days. Times change, you know, hard as that may be for those of us who cling to our nostalgia to accept.
What got me thinking, though, was the constant Disney indoctrination of the ‘Dreams Come True’ philosophy. That’s always been the Disney theme, no mistake, and on the surface it has some merit. It’s not a bad thing to find something you want to do, are good at doing, and to work hard to achieve it and to succeed. Innovation and creativity and perseverance are all admirable characteristics and desperately needed in our world. But as I watched the show on the castle stage that prevented us from walking through the castle, I was struck with the worldview it was espousing. Mickey and Minnie had the crowd worked up and chanting, “Dreams come true! Dreams come true! Dreams come true!” and just like that, the conflict resolved because we ‘believed’ so hard that dreams come true! The Disney philosophy is basically be nice and believe, really believe enough, in whatever you’re believing in and what you want will come true for you. It’s basically word-faith with the pseudo-Christian language stripped away. 
I was listening to Albert Mohler talking on his program a while ago about something called “Therapeutic Moralistic Deism” which a pretty good argument can be made is really the underlying faith system of most of America. Even people who think they are Christians, are really believing something much more shallow. Be nice, be ‘good’, live a ‘good’ life, follow your dreams, be all you can be, find your self-actualization, (it’s all about you!), rest in peace. But that is not all there is. That is not the gospel. It is, however, the very pervasive, subtle message that is in your face in our culture and which just about suffocated me at Disney this time around. 
And I think that’s what bothers me when I spend more than a day enclosed in the all-Disney, all the time way we were this past week. Disney sells an image. You should see all the little girls walking around whose parents have spent upwards of $200 dollars or more for a princess dress, nails, hair, makeup, shoes, tiara and who look like those monster baby beauty-pageant contestants. Rachel, of course, wanted to do that. We said, “That’s too much, too overdone.” And, that’s what it boils down to. Disney takes fun and imagination and pretend and goes WAY overboard.....all for a hefty price, too. I’m all for letting my little girl dress up and pretend and be girly and all that, but I will not let her walk around like a little diva thinking it’s all about her. We’re already having some issues there, no way am I going to intentionally feed her little sin nature, not even for a visit to Disney. We in our culture are so prone to take innocent little fun things and somehow make them an idol and go way overboard in the guise of loving our children, and Disney TOTALLY feeds that. Embarrassingly gluttonous spending orgies are all but expected. Materialistic consumerism to excess and beyond. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m kind of sickened by the whole ‘princess’ culture these days. I cannot stand the princess Bibles and stuff in the Christian bookstore. I fear we are raising a generation of girls who are so focused on outward beauty and so convinced they are little princesses that we will be sorry when we reap the narcissistic consequences as these girls grow up into self-centered girls with shallow ideas of beauty and womanhood. Just a little soapbox tangent for a moment there. Could probably write a whole blog post on that topic alone. Anyway, in the case of my own daughter I am constantly praying that we’ll be able to teach her that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised. 
A steady diet of fairy tales and Disney, as fun as they are, are counter to the truth. Like I said, I think a wise family can go to Disney and enjoy it, but my caution wise. You have to come home again. What Disney is selling is, ultimately, a lie. As long as you know that going in, you can enjoy the rides and leave the philosophy at the door. Problem is, I think an awful lot of people buy the philosophy hook-line-and-sinker. To be honest, I liked our day at Universal Studios Orlando better because it was less in-your-face and more just enjoying ourselves. You don’t so completely immerse in a worldview like you do at Disney, where the ‘cast-members’ are constantly preaching their message. Maybe I’ve just become jaded with the over-the-top feel at Disney, but it didn’t sit well with me this time around. 
Thing is, you can dream all you want and be wildly successful and achieve every single thing you’ve ever wanted to achieve and have the acclaim of millions, but if you neglect the one thing that really matters, if you miss the gospel, not one of those fulfilled dreams will ultimately matter. This life is not all there is. So, yes, work to achieve, but keep the Kingdom, the true Kingdom, in mind in all things and motivations. 
Lest anyone think I’m over-thinking again, which I am often told I do, Jesus addressed this when he said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)
Just something I’ve been thinking about.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Home is one of the best words ever. No matter how fun a vacation may be, it's still great to come home. We just finished one of those vacations where we had fun, but we need a few days to recuperate now that we're home. Blog post is brewing, thoughts are swirling, but until I can get to writing them here's a hint about what we were doing during Fall Break: