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.