Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Heavens Declare

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1

My kids and I got to see something very cool this morning on the way to the bus stop. It was several shooting stars, one of which was very bright. I’ve never seen a shooting star before today, and we all stood there in amazement, shouting, “That is SO cool!” as we watched the sky this morning before the sun came up. One of the few things that makes walking to the bus stop not so bad in the dark morning hour is how bright the stars are here. We live in a place where you can actually see lots of stars, and I love it.

Turns out, as a friend let me know, what we were seeing was the Geminid meteor shower, which is supposed to peak tonight. I’m thinking I’d like to try to see it. 

Anyway, walking home from the bus stop, scanning the starry sky, I got to pondering about creation and how beautiful and somewhat terrifying it is. When I was in college, I took an astronomy class for one of my science credits, along with the required lab class. During lab, we had several nighttime exercises when we were required to trek out to the dark part of campus where the telescopes were, and we had to find certain things and view them. I still get eery chills remembering how I felt looking at Saturn through the telescope and seeing its rings. It’s one thing to look at a picture, but to look through the telescope and know that you’re actually looking at the real thing hanging way out there in the silence of space is somehow overwhelming and just a bit frightening to me. I think I felt that way because space, the universe, is just so vast and mysterious and huge and OUT THERE, and when I get to thinking about how huge it all is, it is almost more than I can comprehend and I don’t know the word for the kind of uncomfortably awestruck feeling it gives me. Then I start pondering God and the fact that He spoke all of that into existence from nothing. How vast, how measureless, how awesome must our God truly be. 

And when you ponder that for a bit, and then you start thinking about His eternality, that He has always been with no beginning or end, if that doesn’t start making your mind spin and make you feel a sense of awe like you’ve never known, then think about this: That God, who is so immense and awesome and, let’s face it, terrifying, had the compassion to send His Son, to put on human flesh and walk among us, and to rescue us from our helpless state of sin and rescue us from our terror and enable us to love and worship Him. 

He knows our frame, and He remembers that we are dust. 

He is God With Us - Immanuel - and the angels spoke of His glory to the shepherds in the fields on the night when Jesus was born as Immanuel, Redeemer, the God who saves men from their sin. And then He grew, He lived as fully God and fully man, no sin, perfectly in submission to the will of the Father, perfectly fulfilling the Law of righteousness that every single one of us has broken in a vast number of ways, and He preached the good news of the Kingdom that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. 

And when His creation, His people to whom He came but who knew Him not, crucified Him, Jesus, the glorious, perfect Lamb of God, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!” Have you ever pondered the riches and immensity of that? The One who holds all things together, through whom and for whom all things were created, and He hung on a cross, put there by the very people  whose breath depends upon Him, and He cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Deep, and rich, and amazing grace, almost more than I can comprehend. (Read Colossians 1:15-23!!!)

He knows our frame, and He remembers that we are dust. 

His immense love, mercy, and grace are amazing. He died, taking the wrath and shame that are rightfully ours, we wandering sheep who every one has gone its own way and been the enemy of God, and He purchased redemption for those who would place their trust in Him alone.  He rose again, the veil of the temple having been torn in two from top to bottom, His sacrifice the final and perfect and only effective sacrifice for sin, and He is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for those who belong to Him in repentant, trusting faith.

And we know all of this because, not only did He give us the heavens, which declare His glory, testifying in terrible beauty to the evidence of an all-powerful Creator, but even more, He gave us His Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, and in His mercy and grace, He gave us the Scripture so that we could know Him, love Him, repent before Him and worship Him, because that truly is what is best for us. 

He knows our frame, and He remembers that we are dust.

Why would we neglect to read and ponder and search the scriptures which make us wise unto salvation? He is not silent, and He speaks to us through His word. The heavens declare His glory, and His word reveals His story to us, His will for us, and His love for us. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

What an awesome God. How deep, how vast, how measureless are the depths of His love toward His people. How deep and vast and measureless is the gospel when we begin to peer into its glorious depths. 

How thankful I am for the chance glimpse of a meteor shower this morning, which turned my attention to the glory of the One who created that meteor shower and who is giving me life everlasting through His Son. 

You can see information about the meteor shower at this link.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fair Warning:

The following post is purely a rant, and if you don’t want to hear my strong opinion, walk away now. 

Fair warning: 

I'm done. 

We don't Santa during our Christmas celebrations at our house. We never have. It's just not part of our traditions and celebration, for reasons that are thought out and considered and on purpose. 

In the past, because of an incident I wrote about here, I've bent over backwards trying to prepare my youngest and help her know what to say or not say around her friends who believe in Santa so as to not be obnoxious to them. But, as of right now today, I'm done with it. With sadness and regret I realize today that in my misguided attempt at practicing being a ‘good neighbor’ with all my being so careful to prepare my daughter and help her know what to say, I found out today all I've done is totally confuse her. 

And, no offense to anyone meant, but that matters more to me than shattering someone’s belief in a lie. I am fighting tears at the moment for being so foolish as to make a bigger issue of this with my daughter than it EVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN. By making it an issue, I’ve blown it up into a big deal, when that is the exact opposite of what I meant to be doing. Lesson learned.

Today I told her she can and should talk about Santa however she wants to, I don't really care if people get mad at us anymore. She shouldn't have to lie when her friends start talking about their Christmas celebrations, and I found out today that she felt like that's what I'd been telling her to do. It wasn't, but she's now extremely confused. I’m done confusing her. Her friends can talk about their Elf on the Shelf and their Santa all they want, she should be able to talk about her Christmas traditions without a muzzle, too. So, I told her, no lying. Don’t argue with people, don't intentionally bring up Santa's truth or not truth, but just be honest about how you celebrate Christmas.

Now for the true confession:

I really don’t like Santa the way we do it in America, and I HATE the movie, "The Polar Express." Shocker there, I’m sure. If that makes me a Grinch, so be it. Bah Humbug and all that. I think it’s wrong to lie to our kids. For all the griping about “Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas” and “Holiday Trees” and whatnot, you know what I think? I don’t give one little rip whether someone says, “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” to me in the store or out around town - both end up feeling really forced anyhow, most of the time, and I'll smile and say, "Thank you," or "Have a nice day," and take no offense either way. I don't get all pushed out of shape if someone says, "Happy Holidays." And I don’t even care if they are silly enough to call what is obviously a “Christmas” tree a “Holiday” tree or call the RED and GREEN cake mix “Holiday” confetti cake when Christmas is the only RED and GREEN holiday I’m aware of. You know why? Because most of America isn’t really celebrating Christmas anymore, anyway. Most of America is celebrating the secularized, materialistic version with no room for Jesus - so let them have their “Holiday,” and happy on ‘em. 

I, for one, will continue to celebrate Christmas, and choose to enjoy it with my family in the way in which we choose. And I’m DONE apologizing and tiptoeing about Santa and worrying about offending over a lie. I don’t say that with rancor or anger, though I realize it probably reads that way. 

I’m just done making an issue where there shouldn’t have been one. I messed up, well-intentioned though I may have been, and I’m done with that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Few Thoughts About Prayer

I hear or see something said often that has gotten me thinking over the past few months. When someone asks for prayer, people will say something like, “Prayers sent your way!” I know and understand that is meant to be encouraging, but I fear it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what prayer is. I don’t think I’m being nitpicky with this, either. I guess someone could argue it's just misuse of the phrase, like a grammar mistake, but somehow, I don't think so. I see it too often for it to be just an unintended error. 

See, I think for much of the pop culture of America, prayer has taken on a sort of pop spirituality definition that means little more than something along the lines of, “Good feelings, warm thoughts for you,” rather than realizing prayer is actually talking to Someone, and who that Someone really is. America is saturated in a kind of civil, sentimental religion, “God Bless America,” feel-good sentimentality that masquerades as spiritual that I think is becoming more and more pervasive. Less and less do people we rub shoulders with in our community really understand or actually believe in the real, true, almighty Creator God who has revealed Himself very specifically in His word and through Jesus Christ. What I’m noticing today is that when people talk about ‘God,' they really don’t have a clue about GOD, but they have in mind a kind of deistic god who is benevolent, but not really intricately involved in their lives except when some crisis comes along and they ask for ‘prayers’ but live pretty much without much thought for God any other time, and they certainly don’t seem to think much about what God may demand of them. He’s sort of like Santa Claus. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good.....and you give him your list of wants/demands/wishes when you ‘pray,’ and if he doesn’t deliver or if your prayers aren’t answered the way you want or bad things happen to you, well, you get mad at him. This video says well, I think, how much of our culture has a wrong understanding of who God really is:

This sentimentalized spirituality that has so saturated our cultural dialogue is manifested in a number of ways. I think that’s one reason there’s so little discernment over books like “Heaven is for Real” and Joel Osteen’s feel-goodisms and Oprah and contemplative spirituality even in our evangelical churches and dialogues. We just don’t see the error for what it is because it’s so sweet and feels so nice and sounds so good. We were at a band competition once and the school band boosters of the sponsor school made an announcement before the awards that this competition had been dedicated to the memory of a girl from their band who had passed away. They said the family asked that instead of a moment of silence that we all cheer loud enough for her to hear us. There was an awkward moment of silence before the announcer came back on and said, “Come on, now, let’s hear it.” I am NOT mocking the pain of a family who lost their daughter much too young. NOT at all. My heart aches for them, truly, and while the stands awkwardly cheered, I prayed silently for the family. But that demonstrated, to me, some of the weird, sentimental spirituality so much of the culture around us embraces that breaks my heart when you see how very far it is from understanding the truth. In the end, it’s empty, wishful thinking, hoping for something better, faith in faith, but with nothing on which to rest that hope and faith. And my heart breaks for people who are burdening under that tyranny of hopeless hope.

Christian friends, we have the Something Better for which they hope. We know the gospel. We know the Savior. May we, may I, do a better job of articulating and sharing it with people we rub shoulders with. 

Anyway, back to prayer. The thing is, when I ask for prayer, I really and truly do not want prayers ‘sent my way.’ I can’t hear or answer prayers. Well wishes and kind thoughts are all well and good and very much appreciated. I am not knocking that at all. But they aren’t PRAYERS. Prayers, true prayers, are prayed to God. We pray to God for other people, we don't send prayers their way. God hears the prayers of those who come boldly before His throne through Jesus Christ, and, friends, that is the ONLY true way to pray to the God who created all that is. 

Words mean something. Prayer is talking to God. The only way to truly pray is to pray to the God who IS, and the only way to pray to the one true God is through His Son, Jesus, who shed His blood to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness and be our ONLY mediator with the Father. Jesus alone is our High Priest, and it is in relationship with Him alone, cleansed by His blood alone, dressed in His righteousness alone that we can stand before God and pray. And the wonder of it is that as believers in Jesus Christ, we have the awesome privilege and burden and responsibility TO pray! How wonderful is this!

So, send kind thoughts my way if you want, but prayers? They are only to be to God.Only God can hear and answer prayers. Sending them my way, or the way of anyone else won’t do anyone any good at all. 

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Some Things I'm Thinking About Today

I believe what I wrote yesterday.  I also think it would be hypocritical of me not to admit that believing it and feeling it are two different things. I’ll be honest here and tell you I am deeply disappointed with the results of yesterday’s election. I do not believe that the majority chose wisely yesterday. I could write a lengthy political post this morning detailing my frustration and disappointment, but I’m not going to do that. (Tom Chantry has some good thoughts on it, if you're interested.)

I will admit to you that I’m about having to sit on my hands not to make this a much longer post about some of the things I'm thinking through, not least of which is the implications it has on the issue of the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, and a right understanding of economics. I believe we, as a nation, have gotten what we, as a nation, have said we want. Now all of us get to live with the consequences, and I have to say, I am not at all optimistic that those consequences will be anywhere near what I believe is the direction I want to see our country go. I have so much more I could say, but I’m stopping there. 

I’ll also be honest and admit to you that I’m having some attitudes and thoughts this morning that I have to confess are sinful. I’m praying through it and trusting God to keep my heart and guard my heart and mind and tongue as I seek to honor Him. 

So now let me tell you what I truly, deep down believe. God is sovereign. It is He who sets up rulers and brings them down. If this is the outcome of the election, then I absolutely believe God has a plan and a purpose in it. Someone asked me once if I think we are a nation under judgment. That’s a complicated question. I do not believe our nation has a special covenant like Israel did, and I am not one of those ‘reclaim America’ people who tend to make an idol out of our country and what they think it should be. In fact, while we’re being really gut-level honest here, please don’t stone me if I share that I haven’t felt real comfortable with the idea of placing my hand over my heart and pledging allegiance to this country (or any country) or singing, “God bless America,” for years. How can we as a people enact laws that enable us to kill millions of unborn children, just to name one issue, or daily shake our fists in the face of our Creator in countless ways, give no thought to repentance and holiness, and then have the audacity to think we can ask for God’s blessing on our unrepentant ways? That may be a controversial opinion, but it’s one I’m struggling with and have been for years. Don't take that wrongly, either. I am thankful for my country, I pray for my country, I want what is best for my country and I'm very thankful for the sacrifices others have made so that we can have the freedoms we seem so willing to take for granted and throw away today. But I am also wary of extreme patriotism that sometimes blinds us to the truth. What I pray for is repentance. That is what God blesses, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We are just one of the nations. How I answer that question about judgment when asked is that I think we are a nation that has gotten what it has elected and chosen. I do believe that as a nation more closely aligns with righteousness, it will prosper, and as it choses otherwise, it will face consequences. Read Romans 1.

All that said, I am not in despair today. Sure, I’m disappointed, but, honestly, not much has really changed from yesterday. The mission of the Church is the same as it has always been. Granted, it may well become more difficult for Christians to have the freedom of speech we’ve always taken for granted in this country as political correctness and the ‘tolerance intolerance’ mentality gains ever more influence in our cultural discourse, but we need to remember that we are citizens of another Kingdom. Though we are called to be good citizens in the country where we are placed, our final allegiance isn’t ultimately to any country. As Christians, our calling is so much bigger than one nation. Our calling is to be proclaimers of the gospel and to live as salt and light and obedient servants of King Jesus wherever He calls us to be and in whatever time He calls us to live, to love even our enemies and to share with them the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to live peaceably with all men, as much as it is in our power to do so. To be honest, I believe we evangelicals have been too willing to worship at the altar of the political process anyway. The gospel isn’t America first or reclaim America or God Bless America. The gospel is that Jesus has come to save sinners, for God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

Here’s some things I’m thinking and praying over today, and rather than type out the whole passages, I’ve linked to them so you can read them. I’ll be honest and say some of it is hard:

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day Thoughts

I know what outcome I hope for today, and I have now done my part as a citizen and voted for the choice my conscience can live with having voted for, and I’m thankful for a country where I’m free to do so, but I also know that however the election turns out, I will sleep tonight, because I know where my true hope lies.....and it isn’t in government. I know which candidate I believe is better for America, and I have definite political opinions, and still will tomorrow, but I also know that my hope isn’t in who wins an election or even ultimately in what happens to America. For generations, America has been a model of peaceful elections and transfers of government leadership, and I pray today will be the same. I pray all the media hype over potential riots, is just that...hype. But my hope, ultimately and always, is in my God, and I know that my Redeemer lives.

Isaiah 26:3-4
3 You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
4 Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

Philippians 4:5-7
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The LORD is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Job 19:25
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

Philippians 2:9-11
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Status Report - November 2012

November has arrived, chilly and right on time. Does it seem like this year is flying by? I intended to write a status update post yesterday, but never got to it, so here it is today. my kitchen. It’s a little chilly in here, so I’ve got my sweater on. It’s been chilly enough for our gas fireplace to kick on the past few mornings. I have a feeling it may be a cold winter this year. 

Sipping....homemade ‘pumpkin juice.’ We really liked the pumpkin juice we found at Universal Studios’ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter last year, and I’ve attempted to come up with something similar here. The last time I tried to discover a recipe, we didn’t like it very much, but that may be because we didn’t stumble across the secret that we did this time, which is that it is much better served cold than hot. After looking around on the internet for some ideas, the recipe I came up with this time is much more to the liking of my boys and myself. Even my daughter claims to like it, though she didn’t finish her small cup of it last night. Here’s how I made it if anyone wants to give it a try:

1 gallon apple cider
1 can pumpkin
1 large spoonful honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice (if it’s ‘allspice,’ why do you have to use other spices with it? Just something my inquiring mind wants to know)
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Add all together and simmer on the stove for a while. Cool and store in refrigerator. Best served cold. 

Funny (to me) story...The apple cider was not in the refrigerated section of the store when I bought it, so when I brought it home, I put it on the counter until I finally got around to trying the pumpkin juice experiment, which was two weeks later. I was wondering if maybe it should have been refrigerated after all because it seemed to have expanded the plastic jug it was in a little on the bottom and it was a little tangy and it frothed pretty quickly as I simmered it. I did a little wondering about how bad it might be if the teetotaling Southern Baptist deacon’s wife made her kids tipsy with fermented apple cider, but it turned out ok. :-) 

Waiting....for the sun to come up just a little bit more so I can go out and take a walk. Walking outside is a little depressing when it’s chilly AND dismal gray out, so I’m hoping for chilly and a little sunnier. I need some exercise, though. I haven’t done very well this week with exercising (meaning, I haven't exercised at all, urg) and need to get back to it. 

Glad....that the time change is this Sunday. It will be nice to have daylight in the morning when I walk kids to the bus again, at least for a little while. Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke detectors, too!!

Thinking...that this year is flying by. I think the busyness of band practices and football practices this fall contributed to how fast time seems to go by. Just last summer when we were thinking that the busiest time of the year would wind down in October once marching band season was over, that seemed such a long way away. And here we are, no more band practices for my oldest boy, and only one more week of football for my middle boy. Already. Band ended on a high note (smile!) as their band finished fourth in their class for the state. Just qualifying for state finals was so cool. And football is ending on a high note for our middle boy, too, as his team won their playoff game last week and is 'superbowl' bound this weekend. It's going to feel strange when all the whirlwind slows down after this week, but it's going to be nice to have a more relaxed family time in the evenings, too. Looking forward to getting back to reading together again. We still so enjoy reading books out loud together, and that's been on hold for MONTHS now. I'll be glad to get that back. how often people gripe about laundry on Facebook. Seriously, laundry isn’t exactly my favorite thing, either, but it has to be done. I, for one, am really glad to have a washing machine and dryer. After watching Revolution and wondering how they always seem to look so clean with no electricity for the past 15 years and always on the road looking for the kidnapped brother, and then thinking about what a chore laundry really would be without electricity, I've decided that, yeah, laundry can feel like a drudgery and a ‘vanity of vanity’ kind of chore since once you get it done there’s always more, but it has to be done, so might as well just do and stop griping about it. My two cents there. You could always be glad you don’t have the torture I do going through my head, singing, “Laundry, Laundry,” to the tune of “Monday, Monday” every time I go in there and start sorting the clothes. Or, then again, maybe now you will now that I’ve planted that little gem in your noggin. You are welcome.

Speaking...of Facebook, I’m thinking it may be time, once again, to take a bit of a hiatus. Facebook is good in a way, because I’ve reconnected with friends from times and places past who I had lost touch with or would have lost touch with, and I enjoy keeping up with them. However, for someone like me who is all too prone to hermit-like tendencies, it also has dangers in that it can lead to a false sense of connection, too. It’s really easy to get sucked into thinking that if you interact with blog and Facebook friends that you have ‘community’ and then ignore the real people right across the street. What I mean is, Facebook can feed hermit-like tendencies if I’m not careful. So, need to watch it and get out there and connect with my nearby neighbors more. Plus, when you’re tempted to check in too often, it eats away at things that are more important. For example, I meant to be getting serious about my writing this fall. I need to get past the ‘mean to’ and just DO IT. That may mean hiding my dumb ‘smart phone,’ which I think has actually made me dumber with the false urgency of having too much right there at my finger tips all demanding my dwindling attention span. I am convinced computers and smart phones are turning us into zombies.

Speaking....of zombies, what is the deal with all the death stuff on kids’ clothes? And all the talk about zombies everywhere, all the time, by almost everyone? My daughter has nightmares about zombies, thanks a lot everybody for talking about them all the time. Stop it already. Why is our culture increasingly obsessed with grossness and death?

Working....on memorizing several passages of scripture again, and I’ve come up with a way to be more disciplined about working on it throughout the day. Aside from the limited time block I’m planning to allow myself on the computer, whenever I’m tempted to hit the Facebook app on my phone, I’m going to reach for the memory work instead. This morning I began reviewing Philippians to refresh it once again. It’s amazing that after all those months I spent memorizing it and how well I once knew it, how rusty I’ve become since I haven’t reviewed it in a while. I don’t want to lose it completely, so I’m actively reviewing it. I’m also going back to work on something else I started but never finished a few years ago. When I was an Awana helper at our church in South Carolina, we were challenged as leaders to memorize several passages, and I have always intended to complete that challenge, for my own benefit even though we are no longer there in SC. Today I was reviewing Psalm 23, and I just love, love, love that Psalm. I think when a passage is familiar, sometimes we neglect to take time to really think about what it’s saying, and this morning was sweet indeed as I thought about how the God who is so awesome, as I wrote about in the October 23 post, is so very tender and personal and loving to His children that He is our shepherd who cares for us and leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 

Reading....well, just finished reading, The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. I highly recommend this book. And I’m also reading a fiction book I got at the library the other day, State of Fear by Michael Crichton. Due to my aforementioned smart phone induced ADD, I’ve had a little trouble sitting still long enough to really read, but I think that will be improving now as I put the safeguards in place to really limit those tendencies to be online all the time. Hoping to spend some time writing, too. Like I’ve said countless times before, I need to hurry up and keep writing the pirate story while my middle son who requested it is still a kid and can enjoy it.......

Looking....out the window, I see the sun is finally up, so I think I’ll go ahead and end this and post it and get moving today. 

Happy Friday, all.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Church Sign Wretchedness

My husband just this minute came in the door from his drive home from work and told me he'd found the worst church sign we've seen yet on the way home today:

"Be an organ donor, give your heart to Jesus."
Huh. Do I even need commentary?Just look at my last post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Awe (Revised Post)

Romans 1:18-23

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Romans 5:8
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This is going to be a long post. 

My son and I saw this recently:

After I watched this inspirational video extolling how fortuitous it is that we human beings evolved the ability to sense awe, to be awestruck, and what a benefit that ability is to our species, something finally fell into place for me.

What I discussed with my son after viewing the video with him was, “Why do you think we are capable of experiencing awe? Is it a fortuitous accident of biology? Is it just an experience to be sought for the sake of the experience? Why do you think it affects our brains as it seems to do? Is that just a fortuitous thing? Should it bother us that he claims they can measure biological benefits in our brains and our emotions and how we feel in response to being awestruck?” 

We are hard-wired, created even, to worship. How sad it is that this video which is meant to inspire fails to look high enough at the awesomeness the speaker thinks he’s appreciating. How depressing to consign it to mere evolutionary selection. How much more awesome to begin to understand that God created us to worship, gave us the ability to be awestruck. We are able to be awestruck at the incredible glory of the created world, and that ought to point us to the One who created such awesome beauty. If I am awestruck at a beautiful sunset or the Grand Canyon or at the wonder of the universe which we can only glimpse through our telescopes, how much more awesome and worthy of worship is the One who spoke these things into existence by the very power of His Word? If what we can see is so awe-inspiring, and we are capable of being awed by it, that ought to drive us to our knees in wonder at the immensity of the One who created it and instilled in us the very ability to be awed by it, and ever more so, by HIM

Taking this further, this awesome God, who hard-wired us to worship, not only spoke the universe and all it’s beauty and wonder into existence, He spoke revelation to us in His Word, in the Bible, that we might know Him. Not just to know that He is, but to actually know Him, know who He is and what He expects of us, and how to be reconciled to Him and to know His love for us and to be drawn into right relationship with Him, that we might express our awestruck wonder at His glory rightly. And not only that, this awesome God condescended to come down to us, put on human flesh and walk among us, fully God and fully man, God With Us, Immanuel, Jesus, and identified with His fallen and sinful and rebellious people. He fulfilled the law of righteousness that we have hopelessly broken, we wandering sheep who every one of us has gone astray. He Himself fulfilled that law for us. As Jesus, the Word made flesh, was dying on the cross, the perfect Lamb bearing the wrath we deserve because of our sin and rebellion and our refusal to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength in awe of who He is, cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What amazing compassion and love He shows us!  Friends, the more you think on this, this is awesome, and worthy of our most serious attention.

Ponder deeply your sin, and when that causes you to tremble, look to the cross and ponder deeply the immensity of the love and mercy and grace that put Jesus there in your place to bear the penalty your sin deserves, and be struck with awe, truly awestruck that God would do such a thing while we were yet sinners, He died for us. And He rose again. To those who repent and believe this, He is the resurrection and the life! 

As I thought after watching that video and talking with my boy about how sad it is that what this speaker thinks is inspiring when he chooses to worship the fortuitous nature of evolutionary selection rather than turn to be struck with awe that we have such a gracious Creator who would even grant us the ability to worship Him and how short this video falls in understanding the true impact and nature of awe, what fell into place for me was that I finally realized what it is about so much of today’s brand of evangelicalism that is off the mark. 

We have lost our sense of awe.

Take, for example, so many of our conferences, concerts, retreats. Too often, I fear, we have exchanged emotionalism, sentimentalism, and experience for awe. So much of the time we think we haven’t worshiped if our emotions haven’t been whipped up into some kind of experience. We aren't convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture and are always looking, looking, looking for something more. There is an energy generated in rock concert like settings with lights and guitars and drums and performers on a stage all taking on the posture we expect that says, ‘worship,’ and lots of expectant audience members already emotionally prepped to ‘feel’ a certain feeling. But, honestly, if you don’t hear the words, the same experience can be had at a secular concert sometimes. Experiential emotional highs aren’t the same as being awestruck in true worship. 

What I mean is, we settle for emotionalism devoid of thinking. We allow shallow, repetitive, self-centered and often theologically off songs and teaching to be the bulk of what we fill our minds with and it never really gets our attention off of us and our ‘felt-needs’, never calls us to repentance, never deals with our sin, teaches us to demand our best life now and to love ourselves, but never really turns our attention to God in a way that engages our intellect to ponder how awesome He is, and we’re never really left awestruck over Him, but are left thinking about ourselves too much and Jesus too little, or, if we’re thinking about Jesus it’s to want what He can give us like a spoiled little kid wanting more stuff. Let’s face it, if your worship song can be confused with a love song to a boyfriend or girlfriend, you’ve missed it.

I think a lot of the arguing in the so-called ‘worship wars,’ misses the real point in arguing over styles of music. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a more modern sound to music or with drums and guitars in and of themselves. It’s the content of the stuff that’s a problem. With more modern sounding music, we left doctrinal soundness in a whole lot of cases, and what scares me is that so many of us don’t seem to miss it or to even care as long as we ‘like’ the music or the teaching makes us feel good. I really don’t see that a more modern feel to the music has to reduce it doctrinally, but that’s, unfortunately, where we are now with a lot of it, and the teaching in books and from a lot of our ‘celebrity’ pastors has also been reduced to sound-bite feel-goodisms and pop psychology without much true and in depth biblical instruction and right application in a lot of cases, and we evangelicals are suffering for it. We wonder why so very many evangelical youth leave the faith? They probably never had it to begin with. They probably didn’t hear the gospel preached explicitly and applied often and well. I’m sorry if that’s harsh. I believe it’s the truth.

To be awestruck by our God is to be in awe of who He is and what He has done in creation and in the Gospel, and it is to love Him because He has first loved us. It doesn’t stop with, “He loves me, loves me, loves me, I love Him, love Him, love Him.” WHY do we love Him? Who is He? What is the gospel? Yes, He loves us, Oh, how He loves us! But it's not a gushy sentimental love, it is love that doesn't leave us in our sin, but makes us whole and counts us righteous because of what Jesus has done so that we can truly love Him. It's a love that draws us into true communion and fellowship with this awesome God. We have lost our sense of awe when we dumb down our songs and our preaching and our doctrine. We only begin to be in awe of Him when we are encouraged and led to ponder who He is and what He has done in a real and biblical way. It’s not so much that our modern praise songs or preachers are necessarily saying wrong things about God, they just aren’t saying much at all, and that’s where I think we miss the mark. We rely on great guitar solos and harmonies and emotional singers and much repetition to generate a mood and sound-bite, shallow teaching that glosses over sin and doesn’t dig deep and rightly into the Word rather than inform our intellect to respond to the greatness of our God.

And I’m not only talking about music. You know how I’m always going on about cutesy/stupid church signs? Hello. How in the world are we to expect the lost and dying world to take us or our message seriously when we demonstrate so blatantly that the church isn’t in awe of God by being so very flippant and silly about Him on our public signs out front and in the goofy and heretical things we blindly forward in e-mails and on our Facebook pages? Let us not mistake comfort, good feelings, sentimentalism, and emotionally charged music and teaching for worship. If it’s about me and how I feel and we don’t get past that, we haven’t yet turned our gaze where we ought to and are in danger of breaking the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

When was the last time you were left trembling when you really thought about who God is, and how incredible it is that He would love you and draw you to Himself and cleanse you from sin so you can love and worship Him? 

See, we are created to worship. A rocking concert, while it may be fun and okay in its place, very seldom leaves us with a true and right sense of awe. I’m not saying ALL modern songs and preachers are that shallow, that NONE point us toward awe because there are a few good ones to be found once in a while, and when we do we are wise to think about what we’re singing or reading or hearing and apply it, not just gobble up whatever has a Christian label on it without engaging the idea behind the words and taking it to heart. But seriously, I think we rely on the emotionalism of a super worship concert driven by the energy of a crowd who desperately want to feel something to instill in us an emotional experience way too often. 

We’ll either worship God, or we’ll substitute music, sports, people, celebrities, pop culture, politics, creation, or even a certain type of emotion or experience, or something else, because we are wired for awe. Let’s make sure when we enjoy God’s good creation or good music or art or whatever it is that moves us that we let it turn our affections to Him and not stop and settle for less. Let's make sure we are not seeking an emotional high or sentimentalism more than we are seeking God Himself . How is it that we are often emotionally charged by something we enjoy but are not truly in awe of the God we want to worship? Take a hard look and it will break your heart. At least, I hope so. 

I suspect that much of what we call worship isn’t really worship of God at all. Many of our songs, preaching, books are too much about us and our feelings and wants and desire for a good life now and not nearly enough about Jesus. We want to feel good, but do we really, truly love and want Jesus? Do we treasure HIM? We want heaven, but do we want the One who makes heaven heaven? We spend too much time demanding our best life now and way too little thinking and being completely awestruck by the immensity of the awesome grace of our God who loved us while we were yet sinners, and died for us. Again, I’m pointing my fingers at myself and I am guilty. I need this message, too. My heart breaks at how much I need this message, too.

I have sometimes found myself singing ‘worship’ songs, and stopping in the middle and praying, “Lord, are you pleased at all with this?” I want desperately to worship Jesus in spirit and in truth. I don’t want my ‘worship’ to be something that in actuality dishonors Him because I focus too much on my self-esteem and too little on treasuring Him for who He is and the great love and compassion He showers on us. I want to be awestruck by His glory. I want to be faithful, because He has saved me from my wretched sin. 

We desperately need to recapture a deep and abiding and biblically high view of preaching and worship. We need to be deeply in His Word, properly preaching the gospel - conviction of sin before holy God and repentance and faith in Jesus alone. Instead of being cute or talking about how we feel about God, we need to be teaching ourselves and others His word and helping people to understand who He is rightly so that we and they can be drawn to worship Him in Spirit and truth. We need both. I’m convinced that if we rightly understand how awesome God is and how kind and loving He is, we won’t have to work to gin up emotion. We will be moved to worship Him, by His Spirit working in us as our understanding is opened through His word.

Our God is awesome and holy and He has saved us to do the works He has prepared for us to do. Let’s honor the gift He gave us in the ability to be awestruck and turn our attention to Him and allow our awe of Him to stir us up and encourage one another to share His message with a lost and dying world. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Complicated Discussions in a Culture of Sound Bites

I find watching election year debates an extremely frustrating endeavor. If I am frustrated as I watch, I can only imagine the frustration the actual participants feel. Watching the last presidential debate and subsequently reading and reflecting upon people’s comments about it on Facebook hit home to me part of why I feel so frustrated watching these things. I’ll see if I can explain. First to get this out of the way, I am not at all unbiased in the upcoming election, and I’m not even pretending to be. I am not one of those clueless undecided voters, because I see a clear distinction between the two sides, so if that colors how I viewed the last debate, I won’t apologize for it. I’m not pretending to be unbiased here because I don't have to be, and I wish more people would be honest about their biases, too. If you aren’t decided at this point, you aren’t thinking about the issues and how very differently the two sides view the world. Not really the point of this post, though. 

We live in an age when people don’t seem to want lengthy discussions and well-reasoned arguments that take more than about a minute or two to explain. We want a quick answer that makes us feel good and doesn’t require us to do the hard work of thinking through a complex argument. We want a pithy sound bite or Facebook post or Twitter....twit, would that be what a post to Twitter is? I wouldn’t know, I haven’t entered the confusing world of Twitter yet. I’m hopelessly behind the times, it would seem.

Anyway, as I watched the last debate, I grew increasingly frustrated at how 2 minutes just isn’t enough time to adequately answer a question in any coherent and well-reasoned sort of way, no matter your bias, and then the opposing side gets to spend their response time totally mischaracterizing and LYING about what the first speaker just said, and then when the first speaker tries to clarify his position, people say he’s a bully, he’s mean, he’s too aggressive, he’s running over the moderator (who in this case was blatantly biased for the president, hello?) blah, blah, blah. You know what? I don’t think it’s mean or being a bully to refuse to sit back and have your position completely misrepresented. And the problem is, really, that the issues being discussed need much more than 2 minutes and a pithy sound bite to adequately discuss and hash out. And when my Facebook friends and ‘news’ anchors go on and on about how neither candidate is ‘nice’ that just frustrates me to no end. When did our warped definition of ‘nice’ trump reasoned and rational and even passionate discussion of serious issues? Why is being ‘nice’ more important than having your position clearly articulated and understood? You don’t go into politics and set yourself up on that high a stage to be ‘nice,’ and if your skin isn’t thick enough to go to the mat for what you believe is right, you shouldn’t be there.  I’m not really looking to elect the ‘nicest’ person. I’m looking for someone who has a realistic understanding of the issues at hand and will be a leader who is looking for what’s best for the country and whose view of what’s best for the country is closer in alignment with my own. I don’t really care if he’s so ‘nice’ that he sits back and doesn’t clearly articulate important issues. If refusing to allow your postion on very important issues to be misrepresented is being a bully, well, so be it. And I don’t blame Mitt Romney one bit for insisting on attempting to get what he wanted said said. THAT is what the debates are supposed to be about. Call me goofy, but I’d rather do away with artifical time limit rules and such and actually give each candidate time to actually spell out their positions. Because serious issues need much more than 2 minutes or a sound bite to lay out the foundation and rationale.

I just finished reading Atlas Shrugged, a very long, at times, to me, tedious book. I didn’t agree with Ayn Rand’s atheism, obviously, but I did find much to agree with and at least think on in her understanding of how capitalism works and how dangerous the entitlement worldview is to a country and a people. Her main character spends pages and pages and pages expounding on his philosophy, and let me tell you, a mere sound bite would never have encapsulated what he was trying to say. That’s true of any complex issue that people need to discuss. 

Another thing about sound bites is that they can be spun any way the media and listeners want to spin them when they are devoid of their context. A Twitter twit may be witty and pithy, but devoid of context it’s open to the interpretation of the reader. A quote may be an awesome quote, but taken by itself without the context that developed it, it can often be taken to mean something vastly different from what the original author or speaker meant it to mean. 

As important as political discussion is, and it IS important, I find it even more true and troubling in discussion of Christianity and the Bible that pithy little quips and short little quotes and cutesy little church sign slogans (hello??) do not adequately address complex ideas. For example, I am reading a devastatingly thoughtful and good book at the moment, The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. I’ve been highlighting quotes on practically every page, and I’ve often started to link a quote to my Facebook page, thinking, “What an important and needful thing to say!” But every time I have stopped myself from putting out the quote, because I realized that the quote by itself devoid of the discussion in the pages and paragraphs before it that laid the foundation and context of the quote would not be nearly as powerful absent that context. Context is VITAL to understanding difficult or complex ideas. Sound bites may be pithy and interesting, but they are open to much misinterpretation if all you hear are the sound bite or the isolated quote. No matter how solid the quote, you have to have the context of the fuller development of the issue to fully grasp the meaning of the idea being conveyed. And I am not of the postmodern school of flawed thinking that says that truth is relative. No, you have to look at what the speaker or author meant and understand the full context of the issue being discussed, stop relying on your feelings and emotions solely and THINK LOGICALLY about things. Not is this true to me, or do I feel good about this, or is it ‘nice,’ but is it TRUE

And while we’re on the subject of context, this is one of the reasons I am not a huge fan of ‘favorite Bible verses.’ Hear me out for a second. We evangelicals have a bunch of favorite verses we memorize and write on coffee cups and t-shirts and toss out as encouragement and such, and many, many, many, many times we take those verses out of context and mangle the actual meaning. One of the most misused verses that comes readily to mind for me as I’m typing this is Psalm 46:10. We see that used so often to mean something like, “Don’t worry, God’s got this!” or “Just let go, and let God,” or “Be still, be calm,” in a kind of endorsement of contemplative spirituality. We usually see it written, “Be still and know that I am God.” Did you know that this is not even ALL of that verse? If you read it, the whole verse is, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” To take this even further, have you ever read Psalm 46 in its entirety and looked at verse 10 in its context? It isn’t saying what it’s often portrayed as saying. It’s a rebuke against those who rage against God and saying that all that rebellion will be stilled before Him. It’s a word of refuge for those who trust in God, yes, but it isn’t a call to contemplative stillness, but a call to still the rebellion against God, a statement of His sovereignty over all the earth, and an affirmation that He will be exalted in the earth. There are lots of verses we do this to, take them out of context and take them to mean something they may not actually mean.That’s a dangerous thing when you are talking about the Word of God, and we shouldn’t be playing fast and loose with something so important. Context is vital.

And now you can kind of see why I’m a miserable example of a blogger in that I can’t seem to write a short post. Just using this space to hash out my thoughts. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Church Sign Post

While driving to band competition this weekend, we came across some more church signs. I’m kind of bummed that I lost my list that I was collecting on a scrap of paper. There were some doozies on it that I was going to share, but I can’t find the paper and can’t remember any of them. That’s probably not a bad thing. Anyway, here are some from this weekend:
“For every Goliath there is a stone.” 
Sigh. Not the point of that story, and what if the trial you’re calling Goliath isn’t meant to be stoned, what if I’m meant to walk through it to learn perseverance, what does that do to someone who encounters a trial and it’s hard and he thinks maybe he just doesn’t have enough faith, because, well, church said for every Goliath there is a stone?  I think what bothers me about it is that it’s trite and it implies that life will always be easy going for those who believe. It’s kind of a triumphalistic way of looking at life. So is the next sign.....

“Expect big things from God. He delivers.”
Sigh. It’s not all about us and our wants and expectations, and we really don’t need to be encouraged to think that way. I guess this one really depends on what we mean by expect big things. How about desiring God more for who He is and what He has already done than what big things we ‘expect’ (read that demand) from Him. How about trusting God to honor His Word, because His word is true and He is trustworthy - isn’t that a big enough thing once you start wrapping your brain around it? He owes us NOTHING. We owe Him everything. He has promised big things for those who believe, but we need to be careful to rightly divide His word and think rightly about Him. He has promised to be with us to the end and to care for His sheep, and we can trust Him in this, definitely. Absolutely our God does big things, but what if being faithful in the small things is exactly where He wants me? What if walking day in and day out and being faithful to love and serve my family and share and invest in my neighbors is the big thing I need to be about today, exactly where I’m supposed to be? Am I sinning if I’m content in the small things, too? Must we ALWAYS be looking for big things? 

I’m not at all sure I’m making sense or expressing well what I want to be saying, and I guess someone could well say I’m making too much of this, but a lot of teaching today is about looking for bigger, seeking MORE, dreaming BIG dreams, and it seems to breed a kind of discontent that I don’t think we’re supposed to nurse. If I have a burden to go and do a big thing that is biblical and in line with our calling as Christians, then get to it, yes! I'm not saying we shouldn't think big about sharing the gospel and ministering to a lost and dying world or that we should develop some kind of tunnel vision where all we see is our own little bubble and ignore the rest of the world. But there’s nothing wrong in desiring to be faithful in the daily, everyday, either. 

But one thing I fear that people hear from this message is a worldly kind of ‘big things,’ not spiritual ones, if you know what I mean. Too much Joel Osteen and prosperity stuff out there poisoning evangelicalism not to have our desired ‘big things’ be materialistically bent. I know not all pastors mean that with their dream big teaching, but I think that’s how a lot of people hear it. I spent a lot of my young adult life whining and begging for God’s direction about the BIG thing I was supposed to be doing with my life and so scared I’d miss it. What I’m beginning to realize is that to live a peaceable life in faithfulness before my God is not a small task. Not all of us are going to have BIG, known things that we do for the Kingdom. For every person in the Bible whose name we know, there were lots of other faithful believers whose names we do not know but who were faithful day in and day out, and in being faithful were part of the movement that ‘turned the world upside down.’ 

It is no small thing to faithfully teach a little Sunday School class week in and week out, or to faithfully train up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, or to sponsor a Bible club halfway around the world, or to be actively sharing the faith with people and having the gospel cross our lips often, or whatever it is right for you to do. In all my seeking counsel from church leaders and pleading for what I was supposed to be doing, because we get it so drilled into us all the time to dream big, what I was missing was that I don’t even do the little things well sometimes. I still struggle with being faithful to share the gospel with my neighbors down the street - and that is a big thing, to understand that we are called to be salt and light and to make disciples as we go. Some of us will go far away and even have a large platform for this, and some of us will be ‘as we are going’ right here in a smaller sphere of influence, but we all have an obligation to be sharing the gospel, and that, my friends, is a big thing. And I am totally preaching to myself here. I am guilty. So, I guess the big thing I ask of God is to please grant me a heart with a burden to obey and love Him forever and to please put in me a supernatural, God-given compassion for the lost who need to hear the good news, in all things, wherever He chooses to lead me. A renewed life, a regenerated heart, THAT is a BIG thing. 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And on the back of the same sign, “Faith without works is dead.”
Wowza. Scripture verses, biblical thoughts, wonder what church that one is....wait a minute...that’s not even a church sign. It’s an Oil Muffler Shop. Huh. Better theology on the mechanic’s shop sign than on the churches we passed. There’s something wrong with us, evangelical church people. Seriously. Hello? Good on ya, car place people. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Releasing a Little Grammar Geek Frustration

This grates on me, and I am not trying to be unkind, but this is not the first time I’ve seen this mistake written or typed out since moving here to Kentucky, and here it occurs twice in one paragraph. Makes me wonder if the dialect here has prevented someone from realizing it is a mistake. However, it’s one thing to speak with an accent, but it is another to not be able to spell this word correctly on paper. To be clear, I am not knocking dialects and regional accents. I find different accents to be interesting and life would be boring if we all sounded exactly alike. BUT we don’t WRITE in dialect when it’s a paper that reflects on an organization professionally. A Harvard graduate would write it as 'Harvard,' even though he might say it as, "Hahvad."  Do you see it? Other parts of the country tend to look down on us in this part of the country as being kind of backward, so let’s not give them any ammunition, okay? I constantly have to correct my daughter when she is saying this word, because what she wants to be saying and what she’s actually saying do not mean the same thing. They are different words. And it drives the grammar geek in me up the wall.
According to

Drawl: to say or speak in a slow manner, usually prolonging the vowels. (And yes, in KY many of us do speak this way. :-)Therefore ‘drawling’ would be a progressive form of ‘drawl,’ and would have to do with a certain manner of speaking, yes?)

And for ‘Drawing,’ definition #5 will suffice: something decided by drawing lots; lottery.

DRAWL does not equal DRAW, and DRAWLING does not equal DRAWING. 

(And yes, 'return' is spelled wrong, too.)

Thank you. Carry on.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Birthday Post

And a very happy birthday to my favorite 14-year-old. Yep. Joshua's turning 14 today. Fourteen years ago today we were welcoming our first child into the world. I know it's cliche, but wowza is time flying. My firstborn is now taller than I am, I almost can't believe that deep voice he's all of a sudden developed which no longer sounds anything like the little guy he once was, and I'm so pleased to see him growing and maturing as he is. My prayer is that he will grow in wisdom and faith as he seeks God and seeks to know His word. I've enjoyed watching him bloom as he's gotten to join the high school marching band this year and has found something he really likes doing and is doing well with his trumpet. Even more, I am thoroughly enjoying and challenged by the discussions we have as he asks really great questions about faith, God, Jesus, life, politics, things he's learning in school, you name it, and how to think biblically in a gospel-centered way when confronted with ideas and thoughts along life's way. Joshua, your enthusiasm for asking questions keeps me in the Word, and that's a great thing for all of us. I love you, Joshua!

Monday, October 01, 2012

October 1 - Random Thoughts to Keep the Blog Alive

Limping the blog along to see another day, I just realized I haven’t posted anything since September 6. I didn’t even celebrate the beginning of Autumn here at the ol’ Sweet Tea place. I did celebrate the beginning of Autumn, but I somehow neglected to write about it here. Life has been busy. Busy, I say.

So, it being the first of October and all, I think I’ll do a little ‘here I am, I still intend to blog in this space’ post in bullet points. Kind of like a status report, but without the creativity.
  • Fall/Autumn has begun. I am happy about 
  • this. The leaves have started turning, something pumpkinish was baking in the grocery store bakery when I visited there this morning, and smelled GOOD, temperature is beginning to cool outside, Christmas music is playing at Walmart (grr! ack! stop it already!!!), the scarecrow family is out by my front porch. I like. 
  • As I type I’m sipping a cup of afternoon coffee with homemade pumpkin spice creamer and contemplating whether tonight would be a good night to bake a pumpkin pie or whether my waist line would be more appreciative if I were to wait until I had a less caloric dinner planned. 
  • Dinner, did I mention dinner? Drizzly, gray, chilly day today, so I have a pot of ham and bean soup simmering on the stove. I’m quite excited about it. The children will be less so, but they just don’t know a good thing when it’s sitting there in a bowl in front of them. I also have yeast rolls rising. They will be pleased about that. My mother will probably think I’m cheating, but the little yeast rolls are from the freezer section of our local Kroger. I may not have mixed and rolled them, but they are rising on my counter and these little lovelies taste better than any I’d make from scratch. And Drew thinks they’re homemade and even posts about them on Facebook when I bake them, so, shhhhhh. Oh, and fried okra is on the menu for tonight, too. Just because fried okra is probably one of the best things ever. But that’s why I think pumpkin pie will have to wait.
  • Speaking of the grocery store, I am all kinds of excited to have finally discovered Aldi. I was complaining recently about how much we’ve been spending on groceries now that my boys have inexplicably grown taller than me and are no longer eating like little boys but can clean out the pantry like nobody’s business. Several friends mentioned trying Aldi. I thought, “I shop pretty smart at my usual store, I don’t know how it could really be any cheaper, but so many people have suggested it, it’s worth a try.” Wowza. Was it ever. Of course, I still have to go to Kroger for certain things (yeast rolls anyone?), but it sure has helped to split up my shopping. If you have an Aldi near you, try it. I’m a fan.
  • On to reading. I haven’t updated my reading list in a while because I have been reading this super long book that is taking me FOREVER to finish. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Good night, but this is a long book. Drew had to read it as “recommended reading” for that Army class he took last spring which had him away from home for 4 months, and he said I should read it so we can also watch the movie (second half of which is being released this month) and discuss. So I am. Slowly. Did I mention it is LONG? Interesting and I’m aware that it is Ayn Rand’s definitive work which spells out her worldview, which I do not endorse. She does a nice job of showing how dangerous a socialistic view of government/economy is, though, but I don’t agree with all of her premises. The eery thing is that as I’m reading along I find that her more socialistic characters (who are NOT the heroes of the book, but are the VILLAINS) sound eerily like our current president. I’m talking like word-for-word quotes almost. Creepy when I was reading one character’s rant about how an innovative industrialist who sweated and struggled for years to invent a new, stronger, cheaper to develop kind of metal didn’t invent that on his own. Sounded just like our president’s now infamous “you didn’t build that” speech. Anywho. I will be glad when this election is over. It’s going to be a nasty few more weeks, I’m thinking, and I have no confidence I’ll like the outcome. I’ve been doing lots of thinking, and I know who I’m voting for, and I think I can do it with confidence, seeing as I don’t trust our current president AT ALL. I can say I’m super glad my hope isn’t in government, and I wish we evangelicals hadn’t gotten ourselves into the position where most people think that we believe that it is. But that is probably another whole blog post.
  • Speaking of worldviews and politics, I had an interesting demonstration the other day that there are fundamentally different and opposing worldviews working in our culture today. Someone on Facebook posted a picture of Paul Ryan with scare quotes of all the things we'll 'lose' if he and Mitt Romney are elected. The thing is, I'm sure this person is confident that all those things she listed there would make us 'dummies' sit up, take notice and say, "Hey! I didn't know that! What was I thinking, thinking I might vote for him?" But the thing is, all those things on the list that were supposed to scare me to the other side were things I believe in and are things that make me more inclined to vote for the guy rather than less. It just hit me solidly in the face with how vastly different my worldview is from someone who would post that. We do not see things at all in the same way, and it's not really a matter of information or lack of it, but a difference in how we view the world and what we believe is important and right altogether. And that is why I'm not at all convinced that Facebook is a useful tool for political discourse. Too hard to have a real discussion of the real issues in that forum, I'm finding. But that, too, is probably better left to a whole other post.
  • Back to speaking of reading, I’m wanting to hurry up and finish reading that long thing so I can get started on the book I just purchased for my NOOK, The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler. Really looking forward to reading it.
  • Busy. Did I mention how busy we’ve been? My oldest son has entered the crazy world of high school marching band. He’s an 8th grader, but had the opportunity to march with the high school band this Fall. He likes it a lot, even though it means LONG practices and LOTS of contest Saturdays. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him bloom this year and find his niche. My middle boy is playing football. He likes it. I think. He’s also started playing trombone in the middle school band. Is it wrong for me to hope band wins out? I am trying to like football, really I am. I do enjoy seeing my boy enjoy it. So between football and band, family dinner has become a rarity this fall, but we’re making it happen as often as we can. And little sister gets to go along to all these practices for the ride. The other day when we got to see the band compete, as they marched onto the field and began playing, she moaned, loudly, “Aw, they ALWAYS play this song!” Yep. Every. Single. Day. Over. And. Over. Once October is done, life will settle back down to some semblance of normal again, we think.
  • Alrighty, then. That’s probably enough for this post.