Monday, March 28, 2011

Pressing On

I realized this weekend it’s been two full weeks since I last posted to my blog. I was quite surprised it had been so long, but here we are. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write or haven’t tried to write or haven’t been thinking about anything worth writing about in those two weeks, but nothing ever made it to the blog. Some did make it to my journal (the spiral bound paper and pen one), and some will just stay there in that private place of reflection and hashing out of thoughts. That is probably not a bad thing.

One kind of silly thing I’ve been doing is that I have been enjoying reading the book series The 39 Clues with my boys during the past few weeks, and trying to get ahead of them in the series so they will quit letting out spoilers, which has occupied not a small amount of time, I have to confess. My oldest boy does not seem to understand just how serious I am about how much I dislike having a story spoiled with plot reveals while I’m still reading along. He’s the kind of kid who will read all about a book on Wikipedia and skip to the last page and read the sum-up companion book at the end of the series because he just has to know. And no matter how often I threaten to quiet him with a well-placed piece of duct tape, he still keeps letting little, and sometimes really big plot twists out. Most of the fun of reading for me is to see if my guesses and theories are right and being surprised along the way. I finally caught up to my son and stole the book he was reading for a day and have now moved ahead in the search for the 39 clues. Equilibrium in the family is restored. :-)

And there are other ebbs and flows of a normal life, some good, some that have made me sad, and some that are kind of neutral but which all occupy a lot of thinking or energy but are not the kinds of things that need to be out here on the blog, and this is how it should be. Blogging is a good hobby, but it needs to stay a hobby and not interfere with the real stuff of every day life. Not only have I sort of involuntarily slowed down with blogging, but I am purposely cutting back on Facebook time this week. That particular little hobby has become much too much of a temptation to waste time, and it’s far more addictive than I really care to admit, so I’m trying to really limit time there this week in an attempt to be a better steward of my time.

And none of that is actually what I sat down to write about this afternoon while I had a few moments.

What I actually meant to write about was the passage in Philippians that I spent last week memorizing and part of this week’s work which I’ll type out here:

Philippians 3:7-16

7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith -

10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.

16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Before I took my unplanned blogging break, I was following the blog buzz over two controversial books that have become popular/notorious in the Christian world. It isn’t my purpose to discuss either of those books, and I’ve read enough about them to know I really don’t want to read them. I don’t need any help in adding confusing voices to my thinking. But as I read the discussions I have been examining my thinking and heart in recent days, and I am ever more aware of just how often my thinking has been shaped more by my culture and by the Christian subculture than it has by the Bible at times. I find it sad that some of what I’ve imbibed in the Christian subculture isn’t actually Christian, meaning, it is more man’s wisdom and humanistic psychology than biblical wisdom, and I am finding that I need to constantly be on guard to run any idea or way of thinking through the grid of scripture and examine myself to be sure that the opinions I’m holding are godly and biblical and to learn to shed those that are not. In fact, there are times I find it necessary to step out of blog world and examine myself because I do not want to be immature in my thinking and faith, but want to be ever growing toward maturity and biblical thinking. More on this in a future post, I hope, but I am extremely grateful that the reason I persevere in faith is because it is Christ who is holding me firm. It is not because I am so good, it is because He is so good and faithful that I am still holding firm.

In reading the discussions on those books, I see once again and clearly how important it is to know the Bible and to be committed to the understanding that no matter how interesting an idea may sound to our ears, the Bible is the authority for how we are to think about God. He has revealed Himself to us. We don’t have the right to approach Him just any old (or new) way we think is right, but we must be about the business of knowing Him and believing about Him what is true.

I have also found that any time I start to get puffed up or prideful, thinking I have all my theological ducks in a row, I discover some immature or wayward thing in me or I do something really stupid or sinful that proves that I have not yet attained it, and I confess that sometimes I get downright depressed to find such shallow and selfish thinking still holding sway over me, but I do press on.

And now, finally, I get to the point. In thinking on these verses over the past couple of weeks, I find that I really long to have this mind - that I count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. He really is the something better that we long for. The Christian subculture is not what I long for. What I long for is Jesus. To be found in Him, not having a false kind of outward righteousness that can spout out Sunday school answers or sound really good or 'spiritual' to anyone listening but has a cold heart, but to really know Him. The only righteousness that is true righteousness is that which comes from God and depends solely on faith in Christ. This is the satisfaction for the hunger and thirst of a soul that finds itself weary in doing what I don’t want to do and not doing what I long to do.

And the only reason I can press on to make it my own is because Jesus has made me His own. I found I couldn’t say that for the first few days last week as I was working to memorize the verses without stopping to marvel at that glorious and extremely humbling thought. He has made me His own. This is the hope of righteousness! This is hope eternal! He is Lord and He has made me His own and He will complete what He has begun in me. Though I may not have yet completely made it my own, He has made me His own, and because He has, I can press on, I can shed those weights that entangle and run the race because He is Lord, and He is worthy of all praise. He has made me His own and freed me to do what is right and believe what is right because of the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ alone. He has freed me to really obey, He has made me righteous in Christ Jesus and for His glory. It is God who works in me to will and to work for His good pleasure, and He will do it. Because this is true, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, and I hold true to what I have attained in Him. And I find it extremely encouraging that God will reveal to me where my thinking needs to change and to become more mature.

I said it before and I’m saying it again, memorizing scripture is becoming a truly wonderful thing for me. I love that it is causing me to think on these things and to make them my own. Rather than a discipline to follow, it is becoming a joy, and I am so glad I was encouraged to do it. There’s so much more I could share just from thinking on this one passage, but this post is long enough as it is.

**Update: After I posted this I read this blog post, and I found it very encouraging, so I thought I'd share it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Morning

Monday morning. Thirty-five callers ahead of me on the Army pediatric clinic appointment line. And I am humbled when I feel the irritation well up over that minor inconvenience and it strikes me how surreal it is that I sit here in comfort while half a world away the people of Japan are gripped by grief, fear and devastation. I struggle to really grasp their plight as real people in real distress, and not just images on a TV screen. Whatever minor inconveniences I may face today pale in comparison to the real tragedy facing the people of Japan. I confess that I cannot wrap my brain around it.

I try to pray for the people, and I don’t even know what words to say. All I know to pray through tears is, “Please, Lord, have mercy. Please may people turn to Jesus in the midst of the horror.”

And I find myself saying stupid, trite things in conversations about it to try to make sense of something so massive that really, it would be wiser to just put my hand over my mouth and bow before holy God who is sovereign and trust Him and allow His Spirit to intercede where I do not have the words or wisdom to know what to say.

Closer to home I am pondering the sermon yesterday that challenged us, challenged me, and I am convicted that I am too much of a hermit too much of the time. I am convicted that my neighbors are lost, and I am called to live blameless and innocent in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation and walk among them as a light in the world. I am humbled when I think that God has placed our family here, in this neighborhood, and we can be a lighthouse to point our neighbors to Jesus. And I confess the fear that fills me and the shame when I confess that I do not often enough think about my lost neighbors and pray for them and get out into the neighborhood and get to know them and learn to care about them. And Saturday when I was out there I missed an opportunity to witness to a neighbor because I was distracted, and I weep because I realize how much I need God’s grace to open my heart in this area.

Studying Revelation in Sunday school the past several months, we are being reminded every week that it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, that it is all to His glory, and that the point and purpose of all prophecy is to point us to Jesus. And tuning my heart to recognize that He is coming again, and that all these things I’m pondering are wrapped up in the fact that I aim to love His appearing, that I aim to live in the light of the fact that He is coming again, Hallelujah, what a Savior.

And last night I was reminded as we read Psalm 19 together in our discipleship class that while the heavens declare the glory of is His Word that is perfect, converting the soul. Today as I think on that, I recognize that it is on meditating and studying His Word that my mind is transformed and renewed so that I may think the thoughts that turn my heart and desires to love the LORD my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and I can present myself to God as a living sacrifice and walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Lord, please have mercy - for the people of Japan, and for my neighbors. Please tune my heart to sing Your praise. Teach me to love the LORD my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength, and as I learn to love You with all I am, teach me, equip me, enable me to love my neighbor as myself. Nothing is impossible with You, Lord, turn my heart of stone to a heart of flesh, soft and teachable and unselfish. I am riddled with selfishness, Lord. Change me, because I cannot change myself. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19

Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Morning

5:15AM: Woke up to daughter calling, “Please turn my light on, it’s too dark!” She had to go potty and it was scary in the dark.

Back to sleep.

5:45AM: “I need a tissue!” - Same daughter. Beginning to think sleeping in this morning is optimistic thinking.

Back to sleep.

6:30AM: Dog retching, my shoulder felt wet, wet spot on bed. Nothing like having the dog puke on you when you’re trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning.

Got up and had shower, noticed that the laundry hamper in the bathroom is full. Interesting that. I just did laundry yesterday, how is it full? Somebody who shall remain nameless on this blog must have cleaned his room after I did laundry and, low and behold, dirty clothes. Lots of them. Explains why the nameless someone only had one shirt that I folded from the entire five loads of laundry I did yesterday. Grrr.

I’m thinking someone probably needs to be taught how to help with the laundry today as a practical lesson.

7:00AM: Carried sheets downstairs to be washed. Made oatmeal. Normally we do fun things for breakfast on Saturdays, but with a 9:00AM basketball game, not today.

7:30AM: Pondered how last night at dinner while having dinner with my family, I glanced at my favorite 12-year-old and thought, “What’s that dirt on his upper lip? Wait, that’s not dirt....that can’t be the beginnings of peach fuzz, not yet, no way, wasn’t he just a cute little toddler only yesterday? Waaaahhhhh!” Sun was shining in the window, and when the light shines just right on his face, you can see the faintest beginning of dark hair there on his lip. Am I ready for this? Teething and sleepless nights and baby stuff were nothing compared to this....

Posted that thought on Facebook and had a young mom ask if she’s ready for her babies to grow up. Answered her: You’ll be ready when you get there. It’s not easy, but God’s grace is enough!

And you know what? God’s grace is sufficient, and more than abundantly enough, for whatever today holds. He is the One who holds all things together, He sustains my very life. He has redeemed me and saved me and equips me to do the work He has prepared for me to do. And He chose to place these kids with me, and He knows them better than I ever could. I can trust Him to draw them to Himself. Because when she’s scared in the dark, or he needs to learn responsibility, or he is growing up so very fast, I can trust God to grant me the wisdom to be the mom He has called me to be, and I can trust Him to draw them to Himself and open their hearts to the gospel. And I fall on my face and thank Him for protecting me from the many and loud voices that are teaching error and plead for mercy and grace to have the discernment to be wise, and to teach my children how to be wise. When I feel so inadequate to this task, and I do so often, I can trust Him and know that He is ever interceding for me as High Priest, Savior and King. I can feast on His word and fill my mind with the wisdom He has provided and be ever mindful of my responsibility to talk to these children of these things as we rise up and as we sit down and as we walk along the way, and I can even trust Him with the many times when I fail or get swept up in the tyranny of the ordinary things and I can trust Him to knit it all together and grant me the grace to remember Him, to worship Him, in the midst of this Saturday.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's Not a Joke?

Well, this is one book I can safely say won't make my "Books I'm Reading" list. My first thought when I saw it was, "This has got to be a joke. Seriously?" It's a Christian vampire Amish romance saga. I just about can't type those words together without laughing. Or crying. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Not Just an Intellectual Exercise

The benefit of memorizing scripture is that as you meditate and ponder on it for weeks, it becomes part of your thinking. And then a situation arises where your emotions and your flesh are telling you, screaming at you to act and think in one way, but the Holy Spirit gently brings to remembrance that very passage that you come to see He has been orchestrating all events so that you would be memorizing for just such a time as this, and you see that God’s Word requires you to act in a way that is 180 degrees in opposition to your emotions and flesh and worldly wisdom and the lies the evil one would woo you to believe. Maybe someone steps on your pride or says words that hurt, or a driver cuts you off and you feel the blood boil, or the kids are acting up and your emotions run high, or a neighbor acts selfishly, like the unbeliever he is, and you're tempted to respond in the flesh rather than to remember to be at peace with all men as much as it depends on you, or any other number of hurts, stresses or frustrations set in. At such a time as this, the great question is, will I obey, will I submit, will I say, "No," to foolish pride, will I listen to truth and shut my ears to lies?

And with tears you pray and cry out to God, at the end of yourself, recognizing that His word requires you to do nothing from rivalry or conceit but with humility to count others more significant than yourself, and to look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others, and to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, to not be one of those who seeks her own interests but to seek those of Jesus Christ, to do all things without grumbling or questioning that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. And you know this is truth. You know this is who you are in Christ, and you cry out to Him for mercy because you know that right now, you cannot do it. Your emotions and your flesh are screaming at you to be angry, or to lash out with angry words, or to pout, or to take a small slight and magnify it into something it wasn’t intended to be, or to hold a grudge, or to be hurt and to feed that hurt by rehearsing a list of grievances you could so easily fill up your mind with.

But the mercy of grace, the wonder of the gospel is that I can’t do it. But He can. Jesus Christ is ever interceding for me, when I don't even know how to pray, He is my advocate and Redeemer. By the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, if it kill me, I will obey Him. I will crucify the emotions and flesh and lies, and I will submit to His Word, though it be with tears and difficulty, I will mortify this flesh and live in the light of the gospel of Christ. I will love with His love and forgive as He has forgiven me. He is master, I am slave, bound to Him by the precious blood of Christ, shed for me, shed to forgive me of my sin and reconcile me to God. And by His grace, He will do it. And there I bow and worship Him and find freedom and peace.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Some Kid Music We've Enjoyed At Our House

I discovered the GO FISH guys when a friend came back from a MOPS convention and told us about this fun group she'd heard. This won't be everybody's cup of tea, but I have to tell you that my daughter and I will sometimes crank these guys up really loud in the car or dance around in the kitchen with them. She likes them, and I do too! I really enjoyed their Christmas album this past Christmas.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thankful Thursday

I was opening up the window to try to air out the house a bit - two sick boys at home today. Well, one boy probably could have gone back to school, but tummy still hurts him this morning and he was still pretty puny last evening, so I thought another day at home wouldn’t hurt. On the roof outside the window was a beautiful bluebird. I love it when the little bluebirds come back! Brilliant blue feathers and a rusty red belly. So, I’m thankful for the beauty of God’s creation and the smile that little bluebird brought to my face as a reminder that Spring really is coming.

I’m thankful it’s not terribly cold and I can open the windows for a little bit. It’s getting chilly, so I’ll have to close up soon, but the fresh air is nice.

I'm thankful for good books to read.

I’m thankful for hot tea, especially Constant Comment. I’m going to go have some now.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Status Update March 2011

Thanks again to Lisa for the status update blog post rescue format.

Sitting....on the back porch. Well, by the time I am typing this I won’t be on the porch anymore because I don’t have a lap top. I very late 1980’s early 1990’s of me. Anywho, it’s such a pretty day I just needed to be out and enjoy the sunshine while we have it, so I brought my notebook (the spiral-bound paper kind) and pen out and here I sit (sat). Thermometer in the car only read 55 degrees, but with only a slight breeze and nice, sunny spot on the porch, I am just peachy keen.

Drinking...a jumbo cup of sweet tea from Chick-fil-A. That’s real sweet tea, not Sweet-N-Low this time. Splurged and went through the drive through with my girl for lunch. I’m a Chick-fil-A girl. I’m a sweet tea girl, too, but you already knew that.

Hearing...the booms as the tanks do their training thing over on post. One of the more disconcerting surreal interesting things about living this close to Ft. Knox. No, I haven’t seen the gold.They don’t let normal people anywhere near that building. Boo playing down on the lower porch and yard. Nice to hear outside play again. Spring is on the move...hoping the warming trend holds. Also listening to Roscoe-the-hyper-dog whine because he can’t come outside with us. He’ll be really glad when Drew finishes the fence he’s building out back. middle boy felt better. Stomach bug. Cleaning freak, germophobic, sympathy-stomach-lurching mother. Poor kid. He’s feeling pretty puny today. Been pushing ginger ale, jello and crackers on him all day. Ginger ale and jello tolerated okay, crackers not so much. Poor guy.

Thankful...for my darling husband. It’s never good when you hear frantic footsteps at 4:30 in the morning, slamming bathroom door and then shortly a puny, “Mom......” My stomach immediately lurched and I poked Drew and said, “I don’t think I can...” He could and did, and I’m thankful. That’s not the only reason I’m thankful for him, but at 4:30 this morning, you betcha.

Also thankful...for automatic washer and dryer. Come on, y’all. For all the complaining about laundry, it could be much harder than it is, you know.

Thinking...about how even though our church is without a senior pastor at the moment, how blessed we’ve been by the men who have stepped in to open God’s word and teach us over the past 5 months so far. From lay men in our own congregation who are apt to teach (and God has richly blessed us there), to seminary professors (a decided benefit to living where I live so close to Southern Seminary), to men from our state association, we have heard challenging and encouraging and enriching Bible teaching that is making us think. Good stuff.

Pondering...last Sunday’s sermon. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 was the passage we examined, and I am challenged that, by God’s grace and by the power of the Spirit working in me, I want to be able to say at the end of my time on earth that I fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. I am mindful that this is something I must do more than ponder about but must invest in now, today, as I walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, and take seriously the charge and calling to strive alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ for the faith of the gospel. Have I mentioned how meditating on the book of Philippians is challenging me? It is.

Waiting...for my copy of John MacArthur’s new book Slave to come in the mail. Looking forward to reading it. I am sure it will be challenging as well.

Glad...spring is on its way. My bulbs are poking little green sprouts through the formerly frozen ground. Can’t wait to see the flowers bloom!

Enough...rambling for now. My daughter is busy slathering bubble stuff all over her little legs, and I should go check on my puny boy. Must go be parental.

Happy March!