Monday, January 28, 2008

Blogging Break

I seem to be taking a blogging break. Let me rephrase that. I seem to be taking a blogging "Publish Post" break. I've written several posts, but haven't felt right about publishing them yet. They still need a little work, I think. And, I have realized that to keep my blog up to date, I end up spending too much time on the computer and not enough time keeping up with the things I need to do during the day.

Anyway, I'm still here, and the family is doing fine. I just haven't had the time, energy, or ideas for posts necessary to keep the blog going daily. I hope to be back soon. Meanwhile, I am in the midst of reading When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight For Joy among other readings.

And now I am off to clean the bathrooms and try to get the house back into order after the weekend. Hopefully back to blogging soon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Tune

We had our piano tuned a few weeks ago. When I called to make the appointment, I told the tuner sheepishly that I had been shamefully lax about having it tuned. He laughed and asked how long it had been. I told him about 5 years and three moves. He said that actually didn’t sound too bad. I suppose he has seen worse. And when all was said and done, he only charged me his base price and told me that the piano really wasn’t all that bad, but once a year maintenance would keep it in tune, which I already knew but had neglected. Now that we have met this tuner, we won’t be neglecting it any longer, I hope.

Anyway, I noticed during the time that it was out of tune that, first of all, it is a slow slipping from in tune to out of tune. Unless one of the strings slipped badly I didn’t necessarily notice it all at once, but all of a sudden I realized that things that used to sound nice were beginning to have a jangly sort of sound instead of the mellow and rich sound it should have, and I realized it was out of tune. Here I was playing a song technically correctly, but it sounded off because the notes were off. The tune would be recognizable, the fingering correct, but it wasn’t beautiful anymore, it was a little disconcerting. It was uncomfortable.

Then, when I kept on playing it out of tune and moved it to this house, the third move since its last tuning, causing it to slip a little more out of tune, I kind of got used to the sound. I still heard that it was out of tune, but it didn’t really bother me as much. Well, most of the time it didn’t. Though, pretty much every time I played it, I would say or think to myself that I really needed to find someone who could tune it and get it done, but I just didn’t want to spend the money and take the time to get it done so I procrastinated some more, and several more months would slip by. It didn’t really matter too awfully much because I was just playing around with the piano, using it merely for my enjoyment, not because I had anyone I needed to be playing it for, but I do want to take care of the instrument, so I knew it needed to be done soon.

Another reason it really needed to be done, and why I felt I had been shamefully lax was that my oldest son has been taking piano lessons for a little over a year. He needs to know what it is supposed to sound like, and his brother will be starting lessons soon, also. The thing that spurred me out of my piano tuning lethargy was when Monk was practicing for his first recital and we went to the church and he got to sit at the piano there and rehearse a few days before the recital. After he was finished, he said, “That sounded really different.” And we told him that this is what a piano that is in tune sounded like. I got on the phone that week and remedied the situation.

The piano sounded good enough as long as we had no other piano to which to compare it. Monk learned to play things technically correct with the right fingering and it sounded good enough to our jaded ears. Compared to itself, our piano did not sound all that terrible. Until we heard him play the same songs on the tuned piano and realized what they were supposed to sound like. Compared to the real thing, we realized how lacking our piano had become. It didn’t matter how correct his fingering on our piano at home, he could not make those pieces sound that nice there. No amount of effort on his part would change the fact that the piano itself was out of tune. We needed an expert to come in and fix the strings inside the piano.

I got to thinking the other day about how my longing for holiness is like piano tuning. If I am content to compare myself to myself or other people who are also sinners, I can fool myself into thinking I’m not really all that bad. I can always find someone who is more out of tune than I am. The slippage away from holiness and into worldliness is sometimes not all that noticeable at first to the one who is slipping. But if I do not thoughtfully and prayerfully read my Bible and spend time in real prayer, and if I am not really paying close attention to the things I have heard, I run the danger of drifting (Hebrews 2:1). When my life is measured by the standard of God’s word, when I look at the righteousness of my Lord Jesus, I realize how far out of tune my filthy rags of self-righteousness actually are, and I realize how little value I have been placing on being set apart as a light in this dark world. Compared to the standard, I fall very flat. This is why my hope is in His righteousness. This is why I long for His holiness. I cannot do it on my own, it is by grace that I am saved through faith, not of works so that I may not boast in my own righteousness (Eph.2:8-9). And it is by grace that I am sanctified and grow to maturity in Christ, because I am confident that He who began a good work in me will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6). As I study His word, the Holy Spirit tunes my heart and I begin to recognize those things in me which are not pure and holy and righteous. And by the precious blood of Jesus, I am clothed in His righteousness and He is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 24). Jesus is my great High Priest ever interceding for me at the right hand of God, as the Spirit works in my heart to grow me in sanctification.

When Mr. R. was working on our piano, he showed us how he would attach a special damping tool on the strings on either side of the one on which he was working. He explained to the boys and me that when a key is struck, not only will that string vibrate, but those on either side will also vibrate quietly in sympathy. He needed to keep those strings quiet so he could focus on the center string. I think in life sometimes we can easily allow so many distractions – even very good things – to keep us from focusing on the main thing, which is to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and run the race with endurance (Heb. 2:1-2), loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matt. 22:37), presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1). Those distracting things may be necessary, just as all the piano strings are necessary, but I want to learn to fix my eyes so soundly on Jesus, paying such close heed to the things I have heard, that those everyday things in my life will vibrate in sympathy as an offering of praise to the One who is worthy of all praise and honor and glory as I learn to offer my life a living sacrifice. I long to be holy as He is holy. I long to reflect His glory and recognize that the true beauty is in Christ, not in the cheap amusements of the world which so easily and too often capture my attention. I want to have as my chief desire to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, and to learn to love my neighbor as myself and to do all that I do as unto the Lord.

I am convicted even as I type this that I am better at writing this than practicing it. I don’t want to play around with my life and be lazy about the things that matter. O Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief! Help me to lay aside the weights which so easily entangle and to be serious about honoring You. I confess that I am not even able to love You as You deserve to be loved. Thank You for Your grace and mercy in redeeming me. Help me not to grow comfortable with worldiness and please help me to want to fix my eyes on Jesus, to read and respect and obey Your word, and to think on the things above, tuning my life to be a fruitful instrument in the everlasting Hallelujah chorus of worship to You alone.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Morning

Psalm 33:18-22
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.

Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
Because we have trusted in His holy name.
Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You.”

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You. Please prepare our hearts as we gather together with other believers today, to sing Your praise with clean hearts and to worship You by hearing Your Word preached, having ears to hear and hearts to listen and obey. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lovely Day for a Primary

Or: Tut, Tut, Looks Like Rain

Well, I voted today. Took part in the democratic process and cast my vote. I have had such a difficult time this year, not really loving any of the choices that it took me until this afternoon to make my final decision and go over to my polling place. In the rain. With kids in tow. One child in a stroller. Through the dirt parking lot which had turned to thick, deep, sticky mud after two days of solid rain. Stroller got stuck in the mud and oldest son had to help me pull it along. Didn’t have to wait in line at all. The person I voted for most likely won’t win the nomination, but he’s the one I felt I could stand the most, the one I thought would make the better president given the choices we had and the one who seemed to be the most consistently conservative, meaning smaller federal government and seeming to have a clue about what we are facing in foreign policy, etc., and also seemed the most consistent in his past record, meaning not as much flip-flopping on issues, and, important to me – tolerable record on abortion (anti), though not as stellar as I would have liked. And the kids and Drew got the chance to ‘meet’ him when he came through our little town and made a planned stop at a restaurant in town.

And, I’ll vote in the big election in November. I probably won’t be thrilled with the choices, but, again, I’ll vote for the one I think will make the better president. I don’t say ‘best’ because I am not sure anyone who is running from either party will be a ‘best’ president, but I’ll do my civic duty and vote for the one I think will be the better choice. And the next morning I will pray for the one who wins and go on about my business. Whoever the winner is.

You see, my hope is not in who wins this, or any other, election. I do think as a responsible citizen I should pray for the elections and vote thoughtfully and responsibly, but I won’t be in mourning or rejoicing whatever the outcome in November. Though there are definitely some I hope do not win. But, this is not a political blog. So, that’s all I’m saying about that.

I'm the Mom

I saw this when it was going around some blogs a while back, but my mother-in-law e-mailed it to me the other day, reminding me about it. Then Julie at Pragmatic Compendium also reminded me about it a few days ago. So, I'm sure everyone has already seen it, but it's FUNNY, and I am sharing it here just because it makes me laugh. Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Praying for Others

Colossians 1:3-13
“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Our pastor’s wife has begun a study through the book of Colossians with the women of the church. As I have been reading through Colossians over the past couple of weeks I have been reminded how I am often encouraged when reading the epistles by the many concrete examples we are given of how to pray for fellow believers. I am also convicted that far too often my prayers are very shallow. Somehow, when we are in prayer meetings, we often never seem to get past praying for physical needs. And that spills over in my private praying as well. Not that we shouldn’t pray about physical needs, I am not saying that, but when you read what Paul says he is praying for the believers at Colosse, it is tellingly devoid of any mention of Aunt So-and-so’s friend’s cousin’s husband’s minor ailment. Sorry, but I have been in some interesting prayer meetings where it almost seems more like we are really reaching for some small thing to bring up as a request, or even worse, they become very thinly veiled gossip sessions or vehicles for announcements. You know what I mean, way too many details are rehashed from someone's personal situation that many of us did not need to know in the guise of 'praying for them.' Or you might hear a prayer something like this, "Lord, we pray for the Women's meeting next Tuesday at 9 a.m. Childcare will be provided. All ladies are invited to come and encouraged to bring a friend. There will also be refreshments."

Of course when we know of someone who is facing a physical situation we should come together and pray for them and seek God’s face on their behalf, so don’t misunderstand what I am saying. What I am saying is that many times we get so wrapped up in our laundry list of physical things and our own agenda that we do not seem to get beyond that and begin praying for those deeper issues that are of even more importance. Very often we barge into prayer time with our list of wants and needs, real as they are and serious as they may be, but we somehow, in practice though not often in conscious thought, forget that He is not our cosmic genie sitting there waiting to grant our every wish and fulfill our every selfish desire. He is the sovereign Lord God, and when we pray we should be coming with that understanding, respect and reverence, praying for our will to be conformed to His even as we learn to be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known to God, knowing that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

What I have been thinking about recently is that when we pray for those physical needs, wouldn’t it be something if we went on and prayed for that person that they will grow in the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that they would walk worthy of the Lord – even in the midst of this current trial – and be fruitful in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light? When someone crosses my mind, wouldn’t it be a neat thing to pray for them in that kind of way - rather than getting stuck thinking only of the temporal, but to remember the eternal? When I am tempted to be frustrated with my children, rather than focusing on how they are not doing what I want or making my life easier at the moment, what about if I began to fervently pray that they would grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and bear fruit as He transforms their hearts. When I pray for my husband, I should be praying in this way for him, too.

These are things I am thinking through. I do not want to be shallow, I want to learn to rejoice in the Lord and to fix my thoughts on the things above. Not that I stop praying for the physical needs I am made aware of, but that I do so in a more effective, fervent, eternal way, focusing more on Christ and His glory. I want there to be more of Him and less of me in my prayers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The. Worst. Toy. Ever.

My husband’s brother gave our middle son a really cool toy for Christmas. It is a robot bank which electronically keeps track of the coins Tic-Tac puts in it. (I’m going back to using the kids’ nicknames on the blog, by the way. Using initials just feels weird and too much like Men in Black.) This robot bank also has a motion sensor so whenever someone comes near it, it will wave its arms, talk and blink its very bright blue light eye. Cute toy.

Until you come to realize that there seems to be no way to turn it off. This thing is the creepiest toy anyone has ever given one of our kids. After being creeped out one too many times by this little robot waving at us and talking, loudly, at us every time we walked into Tic-Tac’s room, we finally figured out how to turn the sound off at least. The arms still wave at us with a not so quiet, “Rrrrr, rrrr,” sound and the bright Cyclops light still blinks at us, but at least we can keep it from yelling at us now. We have tried and tried to figure out how to turn it off so we can at least have it silent at night and he can still play with it during the day, but, since I also have no idea what Tic-Tac has done with the instructions, up to now we have been convinced there is no on/off switch. That is just a stupid design for a kids’ toy, in my humble opinion.

This has been a nightly scenario for the past few weeks when we have gone into Tic-Tac’s room to tuck him in and say good night:

Drew and I walk into his room. Robot starts moving his arms and blinking bright blue at us.

“I hate that thing.” I say. “It is just creepy.”

Drew laughs and has started calling it “The Curse of Uncle Matt.”

Tic-Tac just grins.

This has been our tolerable co-existence with “The Curse” since Christmas. Until last night.

First of all, I must explain that my husband was away, and I really do not sleep well when he is not home. I had stayed up past 11PM finishing the novel I was reading and was very tired. I had just achieved that stage of sleep where I was not really awake but had not actually achieved the bliss of complete sleep when all of a sudden a very loud beeping jolted me back to consciousness. I sat there dazed, heart pounding, for a second wondering what in the world the insistent racket could be while all the possibilities flashed through my mind. Doesn’t sound like the smoke detector, it’s not the stove or anything in the kitchen, not the doorbell, not the phone, what in the world is it?????

I jumped out of bed and started across the house, realizing that the noise was getting louder as I crossed through the living room and kitchen and neared the hallway where Tic-Tac’s and Boo’s rooms are. As I neared Tic-Tac’s room I suddenly remembered that Monk had mentioned that when the evil robot thing had been in his room before we got Tic-Tac’s shelf put up in his new room, it had suddenly woken him up in the night making a frightening racket. I had forgotten all about that because it had just not computed with me at the time he had mentioned it. Entering Tic-Tac’s room, I saw on the bottom shelf his robot shrieking and waving and blinking, and I ran over to it and starting frantically punching all the buttons on its front until it finally stopped. Meanwhile, I was hoping without much hope that Tic-Tac and Boo would not wake up. Boo is the lightest sleeper I have ever known – a squeaking door three houses away could wake her up, but, thankfully, as I stood in the darkened bedroom next to hers I could hear her snoring away (she has a cold). Tic-Tac also was still sleeping peacefully. How, I do not know – that thing was LOUD and OBNOXIOUS.

Anyway, I took the evil robot to my room and began examining it, trying once again to find a way to turn it off. Apparently this thing also has an alarm, and the default time is 12AM if you are foolish enough to set it to “Alarm ON” but not set the time. I think Boo must have messed around with the buttons yesterday and accidentally programmed it to go off. I am fairly smart, even went to college, but I cannot figure this thing out. There is no way to turn it off. I turned it over and realized the battery cover is screwed on with the tiniest little screw you’ve ever seen. I tried laying the thing face down on my dresser, but this only resulted in putting pressure on one of the buttons, causing it to yell at me that I did not have a target amount, would I like to program one now? Did I mention there is also no volume control? There are two volumes: Yelling and “Sound Off.” I finally figured out how to engage “Sound Off” so at least it would quit yelling at me, but the blue Cyclops eye kept blinking and the arms kept waving so clearly putting it face down wasn’t going to work. Then I tried turning it toward the wall so I at least would not have to see the blinding blue light, but, apparently the wall was so close that it felt its personal space was threatened and must keep blinking and waving continuously.

Finally, I went in search of a Phillips screwdriver small enough to open the battery case. After some unsuccessful forays into the junk drawer in the kitchen, more unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the cover with a safety pin, a pencil and a pen, I finally found a screwdriver and got the battery case open and performed a radical batteryectomy. This is the only way I know of to turn the crazy thing off. And, yes, I was a little worried that it might still wave and blink at me once I gutted it of its life force, but it stayed silent, thankfully.

Moral of the story: I you have little people in your life and you see this robot bank monster and have the temptation to buy it for said little people, DON’T. Unless you hate their parents. Or maybe this is Uncle Matt’s way of getting back at Drew for some long ago childhood slight. I don’t know. All I know is that thing is sitting on my dresser mocking me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fun Food Friday - Soup

Since a couple of you asked for the soup recipe, I’m sharing it here today. Somewhere recently I was reading some tips for cutting fat and calories and eating healthier in order to drop a few pounds, and among other things on that list it was suggested to make one meal a day home made soup – home made because you can control the fat and salt better than with store bought and add more veggies. Anyway, I like soup and thought it would be an easy thing to make up a big pot and then have it for lunch for a few days. I am also drinking a lot of water and cutting way down on sweets – substituting strawberries for dessert! By the way, we live close enough to Florida that the first of the season’s strawberries are available in the stores. We have been devouring them around here. And, after a week of this, the scale is finally starting to think about edging in the right direction – I lost a pound and a half!

This Pasta e Fagioli recipe I found in a cookbook put together by the women of the church we were members of when we lived in Florida:

Paste e Fagioli

1 lb. ground beef (I used ½ pound very lean beef, so there wasn’t much fat at all to drain off)
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, julienned
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can red kidney beans (with liquid)
1 15 oz can Great Northern beans (with liquid)
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
12 oz V8 juice
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. basil
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. thyme
½ lb. ditali pasta

Brown ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic; sauté for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, both cans of beans, tomato sauce, V8 juice, vinegar, salt, and spices. Simmer about 50 minutes.

Cook pasta in 1 ½ to 2 quarts boiling water over high heat. Cook10 minutes just until pasta is al dente, or slightly tough. Drain. Add to the pot of soup. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes and serve. This soup is also good with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Serves 8.

I made a lentil stew last week that lasted me pretty much the whole week (just me eating it for lunch) that I thought was really good. I actually like it better than the pasta e fagioli, so I’ll share it in this post, too! I pretty much like every version of lentil stew or casserole I’ve ever tried. Lentils are just good. I always think about Jacob and Esau when I eat them, too, because the stew Esau wanted so badly he was willing to sell his birthright for it was made with lentils. (Look it up in Genesis 25:34).

The lentil stew recipe comes from my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, a book so much used that I have to hold it together with a rubber band because it is just falling apart:

Lentil Stew

1 cup dry lentils
1 cup sliced leeks or chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. cooking oil
4 cups beef broth
1 7 ½ oz can tomatoes, cut up (I used 15 oz can diced tomatoes – I like mine with lots of tomato)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp. dried thyme or oregano, crushed
¼ tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cumin
1 bay leaf
½ cup chopped carrot
½ cup chopped celery
½ pound fully cooked smoked sausage links, sliced (I left these out and I did not miss them, it was delicious without them – cuts out all the fat of the sausage)

Rinse lentils, set aside. In a large saucepan cook leeks or onion and garlic in hot oil till tender but not brown. Stir in lentils, beef broth, undrained tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, thyme or oregano, pepper, cumin, and bay leaf. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add carrot and celery. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes more or till lentils and vegetables are tender. Stir in sausage if desired, heat through. Discard bay leaf. If desired, garnish each serving with snipped parsley. Makes 4 main dish servings.

Maybe I could make "Fun Food Friday" a fun thing around here. Then again, I'm not sure I'll keep up with it. But it's a thought worth pondering....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Well, Alrighty Then

I made two more loaves of sourdough bread today. It is better this time. I also have a pot of pasta e fagioli soup simmering on the stove for tonight’s dinner. The house is smelling lovely, I must say.

My son asked me what I am making for dinner. I told him. Two boys exhibited less than enthusiastic stares. Soup is not a favorite of the Sweet Tea kids.

While supposed to be finishing homework, one son stole over to the stove and lifted the lid to investigate the delicious soup. This is his observation:

“Mom, when I lifted the lid on your soup, it looks like you made barf for dinner.”

Ya gotta have a thick skin, I’m thinking, stifling a giggle.

To the boy I said with a smile, “Thank you. Thank you very much. Just for that I’m giving you a double portion.”

And he said, “What? I just said what it would look like. I didn’t mean that’s what it would taste like!”

“It sounded kind of rude, that’s all,” I answered. “You know, for future reference, just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you automatically have to voice it.”

“Oh,” he said.

I decide not to come down too hard right now, but I sure hope we can teach him better manners in the next ten years or so. I have a feeling his future wife might not appreciate quite so much candor. :^)

“Yeah, well, you can have peanut butter and jelly if you really don’t like it,” I told him.

But trust me, they don’t know what they are missing. You should smell this house. Yum.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Be Holy, For He is Holy

1 Peter 1:13-2:3

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’

And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because

'All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.’

Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

I have written about this before, I know, but I am looking at 1 Peter over the next few weeks, and as I have been reading it the last several days, I find some thoughts that are inescapable to me.

I mentioned in an earlier post that it is devastating to come to the realization that I do not desire God nearly as much as He should be desired. Reading this passage in 1 Peter again, I am also devastated to think that I also do not pursue holiness nearly as strongly as I ought. Those fears of seeming too heavenly minded are a lie. Those of us who have tasted that the Lord is gracious know that there is so much more to life than what most of the world thinks about having our best life now. We know that there is so much more to the Christian walk than seeking only after our own comfort. In fact, we are called to lives of sacrifice. We are called to take up our cross daily and follow Christ. We are to be sober people. The Christian life, though joyful, is not a game we play at. It is a serious thing, a holy thing. We are told here to rest our hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. If we are truly resting our hope fully upon this grace, I do not think we can think too often about this. In fact, I know I fix my thoughts too often on many things that are not beneficial to walking in the light of His grace. There is far too much “self” in my thinking most of the time. Come to think of it, most of my outbursts of frustrated anger are rooted in selfish thinking. If I am painfully honest, the temptations to be snide, sarcastic, angry, too quick to speak and too slow to hear are based in being frustrated because I am not getting what I want in any given situation. Rather than seeing things through the eyes of someone else, I only see me. Too often, I care more about my own comfort than I do about stepping out and ministering to others or getting to know my neighbors. This means that I am not loving others, including my own family, fervently and with a pure heart. Too many times my love has strings attached. If Mamma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Why do I so often find myself saying and acting in ways I really do not want to? No matter what the other sinners around me do or don’t do (and we are all sinners), I want to reflect the love of Christ, not the frustrations and selfishness of Rebekah. More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!

I want to be holy. Because the One who has called me is holy, I long desperately to be holy as He is holy. I have been redeemed by the precious blood of the spotless Lamb of God. The last time we took Communion, I was impressed again by the words, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:20) His blood shed for us. To think too little about this is the shame, not to think too much. I long desperately to continue to desire the pure milk of the word, undiluted by “I think theology” that is too often not backed up with biblical theology. Because, to be holy is to love God. To love God is to obey God and know His word. “Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)

In the comments of my last post, Julie Stiles Mills asked if I would answer the question she has posed on her blog. She was discussing summarizing our resolutions in one word. So, I think my one word is “holiness,” though it is less a ‘resolution’ and more a fervent prayer, for holiness is something the Holy Spirit develops in me as I spend time in His word, obey what I know, and grow in my knowledge of Christ Jesus. This is what I am praying God would develop in my life, to grant me the faith that perseveres and matures. This is what I long for – to be holy as He is holy. To desire Him more and to give vent to my selfishness less. And not just for this year alone, but I want “Holiness to the LORD” to be stamped across my life. I want less of me and more of Him. And I want that to be more than just a good Sunday school answer. I want it to be more than just words I say. I pray for His mercy and grace to grow in my desire for God. I want to have a growing passion for Him and His righteousness that manifests in right action because I love Him and seek His glory. I want to be in His word, knowing Him, loving Him, obeying Him, pursuing holiness. And the only reason I even have that desire in the first place is His grace. He has put this hunger and thirst for righteousness in my soul. Fill me, Lord, and I shall be full indeed.

Psalm 27:4
“One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.”

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Back to Better Blogging Soon

I seem to be on a blogging lite schedule these days. With kids home from school until Monday when Christmas break is over and the kids' bedroom transition and reorganizing projects we have going on, blogging is low priority right now. I do have some posts I am ruminating, but they will have to wait until next week, it looks like. Until then, a few random things so I don't feel I am completely neglecting the blog:
  • I really enjoy reading to the kids. Boo loves to sit in my lap and read any of her books, but especially the series of Sesame Street books featuring Elmo looking for a little black puppy. And the boys really enjoy reading together in the evening. I started reading A Little Princess the other night after wondering if my two rowdy boys would care anything about the book, which is about a little girl, but was one of my very favorites growing up. Surprisingly, they do. In fact, I am feeling horrid at the moment because we got to the very, very sad part of the book tonight when tragedy strikes the main character, and both boys were wiping tears. Even though I couldn't read that part without choking up, that kind of surprised me to see them get so involved with the story. I keep assuring them that though we had to end on a very sad note tonight, the story ends very happy. Anyway, we like to read around here.
  • We have partially finished the bedroom transition, and M loves having his own room and bunk bed. We still have some furniture to move around and some shelves to take down in Boo's room and some reorganizing to do, but they are now sleeping in their new rooms. I am very excited about the ideas I am having for decorating the rooms, too.
  • We finally had our piano tuned yesterday. It sounds wonderful. I knew it was out of tune and needing tuning, but I didn't realize just how much better it would sound. Nice. I have a longer blog post churning about that, but I am too tired tonight to work it out just yet. For now it is nice that J can finally play on a tuned piano. Poor kid, I have been so lax. But, not any longer.
  • And finally, here is the passage the boys are working on memorizing for their Wednesday night children's choir at our church (I'm working on memorizing it, also):

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.


The dough:

The dough has risen:

The loaves:

The finished product:

The verdict: I didn't let the starter ferment long enough, so we ended up with a very tasty bread that was lots of fun to knead and bake, but not quite sour enough to be good sourdough. I replenished the starter and am letting it sit a few more days and we'll try again. In the meantime, however, the bread is quite good, and my husband and kids liked it!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Baking Bread

My husband really likes sourdough bread – a fact I had not fully appreciated until our trip to San Francisco where such bread is a signature bakery item. While at the grocery store the other day, I looked in the bakery section to try to bring some sourdough bread home for him, but they did not have any that day. So, I have found a recipe and am attempting to bake some myself. Though I don’t really like to bake sweets, there is something satisfying about baking bread and something very comforting about smelling it baking in my home.

I made up the starter yesterday, and now it will have to sit for 5 days or so to ferment. This is the part of sourdough baking I have had trouble with in the past. The last time I made it, I tried to make cracked wheat sourdough, and the smell of the starter as it fermented was so awful that I couldn’t enjoy the bread itself once I got it baked. This batch is already beginning its aroma this morning, but I am determined to carry on.

I am wondering how anyone ever discovered that you could take fermented (spoiled!) starter and make a wonderful, fragrant, tasty bread from it. Because it is a strange thing to me to take something I would probably have thrown out if it turned bubbly and stinky on it own, yet, here I am purposefully making it bubbly and stinky so I can add it to the bread recipe next Saturday. I’m sure there is a deep and profound lesson there somehow, but I am not drawing it today. Today I will just stir that starter once in a while and go on about my business. The good thing about this is that it won’t always take 5 whole days to get the starter going. After this, if we like the bread experiment, I can just refresh the starter whenever I use it and we’ll always have some on hand in the refrigerator when I want to bake up some sourdough bread.

I’ll try to remember to mention how the bread turns out in a few days. I hope, for my husband’s sake, that we like it! (You can file this under "You Know You Really Love Your Husband When.....")

The starter has started fermenting.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Day

I know there is nothing magical about January first and the turn of the calendar to a new year. But there is something about the idea of a new year that lends itself to thinking about new beginnings and evaluating our lives. I don’t usually make a formal list of resolutions at the first of the year, but I do find that I am often reflective at this time of the year.

Last year, our church had available a daily Bible reading program, and I eagerly took one. By reading the suggested daily passages, I was able to read through the Old Testament once (except for Psalms and Proverbs which I got to read twice), the Gospels, Acts and Revelation twice and the Epistles three times. I liked the accountability of having a daily assigned passage and the encouragement of being in the Word daily.

However, something I noticed about myself and my own lack of discipline was that, though I did keep up with the reading throughout the entire year of 2007, I found that there were some days when I was reading purposefully and paying close attention, but others it was a struggle just to get through it. I tend to be very task oriented, and I have to fight the temptation to treat daily Bible reading as a task to complete rather than to slow down and really let it soak in. It is important to read the Bible, but if I’m not really thinking about what I’m reading while I do it, it isn’t so helpful. There is nothing magical about making my eyes read over the words each day. What is significant is actually thinking about and learning what those words are saying, what they mean in context and in application to my life.

Something else I have noticed this past year is that, though I believe prayer is extremely important, I find that I do not devote nearly as much time to it as someone who believes it is important ought. I find that I am in a season of life where some days it can be challenging to find quantity time to be quiet and still and concentrate on prayer and Bible reading. I am not complaining because I know that this is just the season of motherhood that I am currently living at the moment. Young children are needy. They demand time and energy – even though I am not homeschooling, they still need my time and then all the other demands of a busy household like laundry and cooking and cleaning and so on are also many. But, as important as all of that is, I do not want to fall into the too easy trap of allowing those things to become an excuse to be lazy about my walk with Christ. I am just saying that because of the season of life I am in, if I do not actively decide to read my Bible and pray and make the time for this, it will not just happen. Something that has worked for me in the past year has been to get up when my husband does to leave for work and start my day in those early hours. Most days the children sleep later than that and I can get my Bible reading done. But the main thing is to purpose to do it. Children and busy household demands being what they are, I have found that I must decide to make the time to read and pray throughout the day. Sometimes I have to grab moments when I can rather than take a long, uninterrupted time, but I must decide to do it, even if it means finishing before I go to bed at night.

I do not want my reading of the Bible to be just a discipline that I legalistically follow to check off my list of ‘to do’s’ each day, but I do like the accountability of a daily reading plan. I would like to use the same reading plan this year, but I would like to add something. I am also going to take a book from the New Testament each month and spend that month looking at that book in depth, reading it, following cross-references, thinking about it, studying it. I want to hide God’s word in my heart and know Him better by better understanding what He has said in His word.

As for prayer, first of all, the main thing is to just do it. Take the time to fall on my knees and focus on my Savior. I have just started reading the book When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper. I have a feeling I will write more on my blog about it later. I read Desiring God a few months ago, and I found the teaching about Christian hedonism, finding our delight and joy in God, to be, as Piper has described it in this book I am reading now, both liberating and devastating. Liberating because it is such an incredible gift of grace that we can desire God and enjoy Him forever. But devastating because I find that I do not actually desire Him with all my being. And I want to.

I used to worry that I would come across as too spiritual if I wrote some of these things on my blog. I since have realized that what I was actually worried about was that I didn’t want to seem to be something I am not. I know my inmost thoughts and struggles. I am, in fact, most wretched at times. I am finding that it is impossible to be too spiritually minded if you consider that none of us consistently desire God as He ought to be desired. None of us truly, consistently seek Him as the deer pants for the water. I know that, though the things I write about the Lord are the most important things to me, they aren’t nearly important enough to me. I want to grow in my walk with Christ. I want what I know and read from His word to be evident in how I live. I am not perfected, yet, but sanctification is a process. I want to find my joy in Christ alone. I want to press on and keep walking, persevering in faith, having my life match my profession of faith. So, what I am praying for is that God would grow that desire in me. I know that I am not as consumed with adoring Christ as He deserves. But I believe that as the Holy Spirit uses His word to conform me to the image of Christ and transform my mind, the process of sanctification will move me closer and closer to having the mind of Christ and a mind less and less enthralled with the things of the world. I want to glorify Him by living in this world in a way that brings Him honor and growing daily in my love for Him. I want to be an ambassador for Christ and a light to people around me who are still groping in darkness.

I want to hide God’s word in my heart that I might not sin against Him. His word is a lamp to my feet and the light to my path. This means it is more than just reading it, but understanding it and searching it and knowing it.

I want to have this as my one thing I seek, to know Him. And to do so, I must spend time with Him and adore Him on my knees in prayer.

These are some things I would like to grow in as I think and evaluate on this first day of 2008.

Psalm 119:11
“Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.”

Psalm 119:105
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”

Psalm 42:1
“As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.”

Psalm 27:4
“One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek;
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.”