Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homeschooling, Modesty, and Little Blessings

It's only a bit passed noon, but already I feel like I can say that today is a good day. It's not that it started out particularly wonderful. In fact, I didn't sleep very well last night, nor did my hubby, since the baby was up in those wee hours of the morning (and he had to head off to work at 5:20am!). But, counting the little blessings, he did not prompt me to make breakfast for him at that hour (although I had said I would do so if he would rouse me from my sleep), knowing I had endured the night with minimal sleep. He is such a kind husband. Does he realize that the extra hours of sleep help me tremendously when I'm trying to focus on teaching and training our wee ones, or does he simply do it because he loves me? (Or both?)

I struggled through the first hours of the day, and we did not sit down for lunch until a quarter passed ten (although I had given the kids bananas shortly after they woke up). I struggled with my attitude and felt like writing the day off, even considered sending the kids outside to play while I settled down with a book.

But, I knew that it would not be wise to dismiss the day so quickly, especially since we are a homeschooling family and, well, it is my duty to uphold structure and order, even if we are running behind.

While the kids finished eating their biscuits and pears, I read to them from I John. Our prayers for the Fruit of the Spirit wer answered, and then our day began to move along in a much better fashion.

Today, Keagan, age three, began his reading lessons. I decided it would be good to "test the waters" to see if he was ready to start- after all, he does seem to listen in while I'm teaching his siblings. The first lesson went surprisingly well- perfect, actually. There were many high-fives, and then we called Daddy to report on how well he had done. Could it be that we will have a little one reading before he is four?

See, reading has been one of the subjects I have hated the most (even though I love to read!). With my first born, Merikalyn [Mare-eh-kuh-lyn], it was a nightmare situation. What we did not realize during that time was that she had a brain mass which hindered her education. It made it difficult to retain and remember information. We learned of this a year ago when she suddenly began having partial seizures and was rushed to the hospital. Days later, doctors had peeled back her scalp and were peering at her brain.

They still do not know what the mass was, but they removed two-thirds of it, and by God's grace, the remaining third disappeared.  Once home and back to our normal schedule, she was finally able to retain information and recall it. We had to return to the very beginning though- with numbers and letters and the basics of education.

As I mentioned, it has been a year since her surgery, and we are seeing great improvements. We don't really do "grade levels" in our homeschool, but I suspect she would be at about a first grade level in most subjects. I don't really fret about it (okay, I do sometimes), because I know each and every child has their own pace, and she is moving along well enough. She is doing some basic reading and cannot wait until she can read the bible on her own. (Currently, she likes for me to give her the "address" of a verse- say, John 3:16- so she can look it up herself.)  Her main passion is in homemaking. She loves to cook and bake, and has been exclaiming how she cannot wait to learn to sew!

It is exciting to see things "click", and I know Merikalyn will really enjoy helping little Keagan learn to read. It will likely help her own reading skills improve!

Going through their reading lessons today was a huge blessing to me. Some days homeschooling feels much like herding cats or nailing jello to the wall, but there are also those days when there is just an overflow of joy and excitement- even when the baby is refusing to nap, and I have to bounce her on my hip while trying to read the bible and scarf down breakfast.

Speaking of excitement, Merikalyn's long-awaited package arrived.  I found some beautiful long skirts for little girls on and bought them, along with two beautifully feminine button-up shirts. (And, even a long black skirt for myself.)  It's crazy how hard it is to find decently-priced modest clothing for little girls!  My girls do not need to be wearing shorts or skirts that barely cover their heinies! I am thankful that tights (not the thick panty hose sort- I'm talking about the kind that are like pants) are in style and are easy to find because they are great for slipping under skirts and dresses for a bit more coverage.

When I was a little girl, I was not allowed to wear pants at all. I loved skirts, but found them most inconvenient since I was pretty active and, um, one can give the little boys an eyeful when romping on the playground, climbing trees, or flying through the air on a swing.  Tights were a staple in my wardrobe in those days. Mom made sure I had a pair of tights (or shorts) under each skirt.

While Merika is allowed to wear pants, she prefers her feminine skirts and dresses (as do I), so tights are still a great addition! (They also allow summery dresses to extend through the winter and coolness of spring. Panty hose are just too fragile!)

Anyway, back on subject. Merikalyn was thrilled to tear open the package and see her new skirts and shirt!  She kept exclaiming, "Oh, Mommy! It's so long! Just like yours! We can be twins! It's so long!"

The package wasn't supposed to arrive until tomorrow (according to the shipping notification I received), so it was a lovely surprise to receive it today! She'll be thrilled to wear it to church tonight!

Praise God for the little blessings and pick-me-ups!

Sermons: The Fruit of the Spirit

My brother, Chip, and I really love listening to Bob Vincent's bold, clear teaching.  I encourage you to explore his other sermons.  Right now, we're going through this series on The Fruit of the Spirit.

Introduction to Fruit of the Spirit

Love: It's not about me

Joy: It's series business

Peace: It's not just no war

Longsuffering: It's redemptive

Gentleness and Goodness: They're not just synonyms

Faith: It's about a trustworthy God

Meekness: It's not about being intimidated

Temperance: It's not about self-control

If you need something a bit more basic, consider listening to his two sermons titled, "Hold Fast to the Basics" (part one and two).  I know I often need to go back to the basics of the gospel, and I encourage you to as well!

Hold Fast to the Basics, part 1
Hold Fast to the Basics, part 2

Sermon audio has an app for iPhones. I do not have an iPhone, but I often download sermons to my mobile (just click where it says MP3 on the page, I click the MP3 link that says "lower bitrate" by it). In fact, I'm listening to one now!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Slaying with the Sword of the Spirit

Yesterday was a very difficult day for me. I felt as though I was under extreme spiritual attack.

That evening, as husband moved about the kitchen, I leaned on the kitchen bar counter- my voice raised with frustration as I questioned my own salvation.

"How can I be saved and have these thoughts? How can I?"

Thankfully, I can no longer bring to mind the questions and the turmoil that was winding its way around my heart and soul like a boa constrictor, threatening to choke the life out of me.  My husband had just the tool.  He pulled the rocking chair close to the couch so we could sit face to face. He picked up our favorite bibles- the ones that have much underlining, highlighting and notes scrawled in the margin- and we sat down to pour over the Scripture.  Some time later, when my husband's voice was raw and worn from reading and discussing the Word of God, I realized that I once again had peace and assurance. My doubts and worries had been slain.

I was reminded of a sermon I recently read from Charles Spurgeon in which he states, "We have seen this sword take off the head of many a Goliath doubt, slay a horde of cares and unbeliefs.  We have seen the Spirit pile up heaps on heaps of the slain when the Word of conviction has gone forth, and men have seen sin to be sin, and fallen down as dead before the Lord and His law. We also know what the use of the sword by the Spirit of God means, for within our own being He has left marks of His prowess.  He has killed our doubts and fears and left no more mistrusts to worry us."

I recommend Spurgeon's  sermon on Spiritual Warfare titled, "The Sword of the Spirit."  It is one of the sermons in a series of sermons compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe (Classic Sermons on Spiritual Warfare).  You can read this particular sermon free at the Spurgeon Archive.

I remember feeling relieved to find that other godly people I respect have also struggled with some of the same things I have.  I am not alone! In one particular study session, Tim Conway confesses that, after he was saved, he began to question the existence of God.  These questions which filled his mind, although unwelcomed, made him question whether he was truly saved.

We need to understand that the devil wants us to question God's word and work in our life. In fact, that is exactly what he does when he appears before Eve.  He slyly asks, "Did God really say...."  It is his favorite tactic!

Satan obviously knows God's Word. He tried to use it to tempt Christ!  With every testing, Jesus responds by using the Word of God.  So, Satan attempts to wield the Word of God against Christ, saying, "If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." [Luke 4:9-11]

Sneaky, sneaky- that one!  Satan often uses Holy Scripture to lead me to question God, but we must notice how he twists it, throwing "ifs" and "buts" in there or leading us to question if we really understand what God has said.

It is clear that the only way we can fight the devil is through God's word, just as Christ did. Christ did not respond with excuses or try to form some convincing argument.  He simply quoted the Scripture. He stood on the Word of God alone.


For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as to divide soul, spirit, joints, and marrow; it is a judge of ideas and thoughts of the heart [Hebrews 4:12].  If you notice in Ephesians 6:10-18, the Sword of the Spirit is our only weapon. We are to put on the full armor of God and firmly grasp the Sword of the Spirit. We are not to lay it down.

Spurgeon goes on to say,  "In this combat you will have to use a sword such as even evil spirits can feel, capable of dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow."

He reminds us, "Our foes are not only of our house, but of our heart. I find an enemy within which is always near, and I cannot get away from him. I find that my antagonist will get his hand on my throat if he can. If our foes were far away, and we could play upon them artillery which would kill at six or seven miles' distance, we might lead a pretty easy life. But no; they are here! At our doors! Yea, within us; nearer than hands and feet. [...] You have to slay your foe or your foe will slay you."

So often, when we think of the spiritual warfare, we think of what is going on in the world today, but we must remember that we have quite a battle ground within ourselves, within our very own homes.

"Take the sword with the grip of sincere faith; hold it fast by a fuller knowledge, and then exercise yourself daily in its use. The sword is to be taken for earnest fight. You will not be long before occasion arises in such a world as this. You will have to parry with it, to pierce with it, to cut with it, and to kill with it. 'Where shall I begin?' says one. Begin at home," Spurgeon commands, "and, for many a day, you will have your hands full. [..] Inside your own heart you will find a band of bandits which should be exterminated.  There will always be a need to keep the sword going within your own territory."

As my husband and I dug deep into the word of God (and one can go deep into the Word and remain on just a few verses!), I saw my doubts beheaded and my fears bleeding out.

Hear Spurgeon's instruction for battle, "As quick as arm can move, drive texts of Scripture through every new fallacy, every new denial of truth, and spit the whole of them upon the rapier of the Word. It will be good to kill these doubts outright. Do not play with them, but fight them in real earnest."

It will be a bloody battle, and surely you will find that, as the Sword slices through falsehoods and doubts, you too will be trimmed by its blade.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take stand. [Ephesians 6:11-13]

Take note- you MUST take up the FULL armor of God. And there must be preparation.  We must be devoted to reading and praying and to walking in the Holy Spirit.  We must not rely on ourselves and our own "weapons"!  Let us remember, as David M. Lloyd-Jones points out, "If Adam in that perfect state fell, who are we to stand?"  We must stand in Christ if we are going to stand against the devil. We cannot do it on our own strength, with our own means, with our own words, or with our own agendas.

Parting thought:

If we are not spending time in the Word of God, we will not be able to wield it as our sword.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Like a bull in a china shop

My husband is a patient man, which is good, because I'm not.  You see, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of gal.  When I'm ready to cut my hair, I want it cut now.  When we need a grocery item later in the week, I want to go grab it now.  When we rent a movie, I want to watch it now. When something needs to be done, even if it can wait, I want to do it now. At times, this approach works, but most of the time, it's in the wrong spirit.

Sometimes, instead of just trusting my husband's leadership, I press ahead.  And, I confess, this has been my struggle lately.  We are in a position right now where there are a lot of questions, and I want the answers now! While I may stand by waiting, I'm also impatiently tapping my foot in discontent!

Often, it comes from a good place- I want to see God glorified, but I want it done my way or on my time frame. Right now I'm really struggling because I see we are at a crossroad where many decisions need to be made.  As I told my brother, "I know I need to step back and allow my husband to steer, but it's hard!" 

I often feel as if I'm saying, "Jesus take the wheel," but refusing to remove my own hands from the helm.

My soul feels a bit restless.  For the last couple years, we have not had a church to really call our own, and God has made it clear the churches we have attended have been "for a time".  This is difficult, because it's hard to get to know people and become as family, only to be uprooted later (for whatever reason).  This is often a painful process.  When we moved from Louisiana to Texas, I really missed my wonderful church family there in Moss Bluff.  I felt we had been incredibly spoiled to attend such a loving, bold church. That feeling was magnified when we set about searching for a church in our current location.  After visiting a dozen churches, I felt ready to give up. He has given us opportunity to learn and grow in churches for a period of time here and there, and I am most thankful for those lessons and the growth that resulted, but He has yet to give us a place to settle. I often feel like we're wandering, and even worse, I feel like one of those families who plays "musical chairs" with churches. And, of course, with every one I attend, I wonder, "Is this it? Will this be where God plants us?"  (It's very discouraging to search for a church- we found so many preaching "another gospel, another Jesus, another spirit" and having a "form of godliness, but denying its power".)

So often, I want to stamp my foot down and throw a little fit. I cannot yet see the purpose, but I trust there is one. Sometimes (heh, okay, most of the time), I feel like taking the reigns, forgetting (or choosing to ignore) that God has put a wonderful, godly man over me to lead our family.  I need to trust that God will give my husband the wisdom he seeks.  I am encouraged to see my husband bowed before the Lord in prayer, submitting his life to God's will and searching through God's Word for direction. I know my Father in Heaven will honor my husband's request for wisdom and guidance. I just need to step back, and allow my husband to lead.

This is something God has really been laying on my heart. It's easy for me to say, "But God! Aren't I submissive enough? Can't I just have a little control?"  He is showing me through my marriage that, not only do I hold back some of my submission from my husband, but I also do not submit my all to Christ either.

I can't say, "All to Jesus I surrender," if I'm still clinging to even a morsel of my life.

And, when I think about it, when I try to control things, it doesn't turn out well.  I'm like a bull in a china shop!  This is why God has given me a patient man who thinks upon things and prays upon things for a time before he acts!  I love how God not only uses my marriage to teach me more about Him, but He has chosen a mate for me that balances me out so well.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Come Thou Fount

1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing, 
 tune my heart to sing thy grace;  streams of mercy, never ceasing, 
 call for songs of loudest praise. 
 Teach me some melodious sonnet, 
 sung by flaming tongues above. 
 Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, 
 mount of thy redeeming love. 

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer; 
 hither by thy help I'm come; 
 and I hope, by thy good pleasure, 
 safely to arrive at home. 
 Jesus sought me when a stranger, 
 wandering from the fold of God; 
 he, to rescue me from danger, 
 interposed his precious blood. 

3. O to grace how great a debtor 
 daily I'm constrained to be! 
 Let thy goodness, like a fetter, 
 bind my wandering heart to thee. 
 Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, 
 prone to leave the God I love; 
 here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
 seal it for thy courts above. 

This is one of my favorite hymns. I was a new Christian the first time I heard it, and found it spoke so dearly to my heart. I felt my own soul crying out, "I'm prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! Here's my heart- take and seal it! Seal it for Thy courts above!"

It is my prayer that God will tune my heart to sing His Song- the song of Christ alone.

Prayer: The Weapon of Warfare

I confess, I'm a bit hard headed. So, often, in my prayers, I feel the need to remind God of this (as if He doesn't already know). It usually goes something like this:

Lord, I am easily distracted, foolish, ignorant, and stubborn. I need your guidance, and I need you to really hammer it home so I can't miss it. I'm afraid that I might miss your direction if it is not clearly spelled out for me.

So, its no wonder that my gracious God tends to do just that.

I've really thrown myself into studying prayer because, um, I'm not that good at it.  I'm worse than a child really, rushing before my God with a slur of request and then skipping back out the door before I've received an answer.  Then I began to see how important prayer is, and my heart began to long after it. 

Over and over again, God has brought me back to the situation in Isaiah 64:7, "There is none that calleth upon Thy Name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee."

What a sad situation for Almighty God to look upon His people and see no one interceding on their behalf, no one crying out to Him, no one calling upon His Name.

William Culbertson (1905-1971), in his sermon titled The Weapons of Our Warfare, makes many points I would like to share here: 

He makes the observation that "what is behind lawlessness and moral breakdown in the world today is satanic in origin.  Robert T. Kethcham states,"Satan is managing the affairs of this world [....and..] this whole world system in which we are living is under the control and domination of Satan.1"

Culbertson goes to quote Dr. Reuben A. Torrey:

"I believe that the devil stands and looks at the Church today and laughs in his sleeve, as he sees how its members depend upon their own scheming and powers or organization and skillfully devised machinery. 'Ha, ha,' he laughs, 'you may have... your costly church edifices and your fifty-thousand dollar church organs, and your brilliant university-bred preachers, and your high-priced choirs, and your gifted sopranos, and altos, and tenors, and basses, and your wonderful quartets, your immense men's Bible classes, yes, and your Bible conferences, and your Bible institutes, and your special evangelistic services, all you please of them, it does not in the least trouble me, if you will only leave out of them the power of the Lord God Almighty sought and obtained by the earnest, persistent believing prayer that will not take 'no' for an answer.'"

Torrey continues, "Prayer has so much power today, when men and women are themselves on praying ground and meeting the conditions of prevailing prayer, as it ever has had."

So Culbertson questions, "Has God spoken to you recently about this matter of praying with [fervent] prayer? Or have you been so occupied with things temporal, so seeking after outward demonstration of success, that the place of prayer is cold and empty? Oh, how God has excoriated this cold heart of mine about my prayerlessness with that text (Isaiah 64:7). For, you see, prayer doesn't come easily and naturally, and it isn't something we like to do in our fleshly natures. We have to stir up ourselves. And we have to mean business to lay hold. [..] We give ourselves (Acts 6:4). It takes a bit of doing. It isn't something that comes automatically. We'll give ourselves with purpose of heart, with determination."

I have been trying to explain this to a friend of mine who seems to believe that the Christian walk comes so easily to me. Yet it is not me who walks well, it is Christ in me.  And, whenever Christ is not in me, I am floundering like a fish out of water flapping helplessly on the sand. And, it should be Christ in us that stirs us up to prayer.  Yet we become quite good at ignoring that still small voice, don't we?  We're pretty good at ignoring those gentle prods and pokes from the Holy Spirit urging us to pray.

Or at least, I am.

I need to be reminded to pray, and pray often. To pray without ceasing. To give myself in prayer. To make supplication and intercede for others. To shake all hell (literally) with the prayers of "the righteous" (which, I can only call myself such through the blood and name of Jesus Christ).  This is the point I feel God remind me of often. Pray, my daughter. PRAY!

And why? Because the one who kneels down before God can stand against the devil.

1. Ketcham states, "It seems on the surface, to deny the sovereignty of God, so opposition immediately arises before the opponent has really thought his way through. Think with me now, and I am sure you will see that my statement is not a wild, fanatical one. It is based upon Scripture itself, and evidenced by observation of history as it unfolds. [...]  Satan appeared to [Jesus], and at one point in the series of testings said he would give Him all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him. [...] At no point in the rebuttal of Jesus that day did He deny that Satan had a right to offer the kingdoms to Him. Or perhaps putting it in better form, at no point did He enter a protest to Satan's claim of ownership. [Satan] has control over them. They are his system. They are his kingdom."  John 12:31, Christ states, "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out." The apostle Paul calls him "the prince of the power of the air" and "the god of this world".  As Ketcham points out, "God set Lucifer, the son of the morning, to rule [the earth]. He was to rule it for God and for His glory, but pride came into his heart, and he said, '....I will ascent into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: [...] I will be like the most High.".

Friday, March 25, 2011

I am a fool for you

I finished reading Through Gates of Splendor (Elisabeth Elliot) last night.  Earlier in the day, I had sat outside reading while the kids played, the sun turning my back and neck to a bright pink. It's a tough book to put down.

My cousin said he felt the book was slow at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it quite riveting.  The only reason, I felt, it could be "slow", was that I was eager to get to the end to find out God had used the death of these men to quicken the spirits of those around them.  Their lives (and deaths) seem to be like a pebble skipped across the water- waves of ripples spreading far and wide.

While still a student in college Jim had written: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

What wisdom!

I was able to find a few of Jim Elliot's sermons on sermon audio.  So awesome to hear the preaching of a man who was so deeply broken and smitten by Christ's love for him.  I often come across haughty preachers who seem to forget that their hope lies in Christ alone.  I think this is why I really love listening to Paul Washer preach. It is truly evident that Washer is a man broken before God.  While he preaches boldly, he does so from the heart of Christ.  When he rebukes, he does so with the love of Christ.  It is rare to find pastors and preachers who are truly broken before God.

My husband often tells of seeing his father weep for the people of their church.  I can only imagine how that scene must have impacted him as a young boy to see his father- a large man towering over six feet and weighing well over 300 pounds- crumbling before God and weeping for souls of men and women captive to sin.  While his father has been gone for nearly 15 years now, those images remain seared into his memory.

Am I broken for Christ? Am I willing to be made a fool of for Christ?  Do I tremble and weep for the souls of men who are still under God's wrath?

One of my favorite bands (and the only one I personally know!), Broken Vessels, wrote a song that so beautifully expresses Jim Elliot's thoughts:!/i_am_a_fool.html

I Am a Fool
Words & Music by:  Tory Dardar

I give what I cannot keep
to gain what I cannot lose
I am a fool for You
I am a fool for You
Verse 1
Life is oh so fast
We’re here today then gone the next
For me to live is Christ to die is gain
So with every breath I bless Your name
Verse 2
Death no longer has it’s sting
So thru the valley I can sing
Of how You’ve healed this hurting soul
With a love that won’t let go

Our days are numbered
a shadow with no hope
What have I got if I gain the world
and lose my soul

This is one song I hum throughout the day! It's my favorite on their cd!  (Listen to a snippet of it here.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sermons of the Holy Spirit

"The Holy Spirit is not enthusiasm. Some people get enthusiasm and think they have got the Holy Spirit." (A.W. Tozer)

"The Holy Spirit never enters a man and lets him live like the rest of the World." (A.W. Tozer)

These are for my own purpose, as my husband and I are currently studying the person of the Holy Spirit.  I have chosen a few classic sermons, some to listen to and some to print and read.  You may also find these useful, encouraging, convicting, and informative.  I love listening to A.W. Tozer. While his preaching is bold and clear, he is also easy to listen to and often adds tidbits of humor.  I wish we had more Tozers and Spurgeons today!

Listen to the Holy Spirit Series:

A.W. Tozer, Who is the Holy Spirit & How can we know Him?
A.W. Tozer, The Holy Spirit: Let Him Come In
A.W. Tozer, The Signs of the Pentecost Today.
A.W. Tozer, What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make?
A.W. Tozer, The Path & Power to Usefulness

Read Spurgeon's sermons on the Holy Spirit:

Grieving the Holy Spirit
The Work of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit's Intecession
The Personality of the Holy Spirit
The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit's Chief Office

Countering the poison of false doctrine with intercessory prayer.

Satan, the world and the flesh are continually bent upon falsifying the word of God or the pure doctrine, and never before has such perversion been carried on so variously and extensively as at the present time, so that in our day millions are being carried off in to eternal death by the poison of false doctrine.
- A. Graebner, Theological Quarterly, 1898

We need to be bold in speaking the gospel, and bold in our prayers. Are we failing to intercede on the behalf of the lost? Do we not understand the power of prayer and the commands that we pray without ceasing, to make supplication and intercede for others?  Do we forget that Jesus withdrew often to pray, and if this is His example, how much more should we do so?

Counter the poison of false gospel with urgent prayer for lost souls. I have seen many leave one false doctrine only to be persuaded by another.  Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

It is my prayer that God would open the eyes of the lost, pouring out his Truth upon them!

Are you praying for the lost in your life?

Father! Deliver them from the poisoning doctrine and inject them with sound doctrine leading to faith in Christ!

Lost in Psalm

Do you have a favorite book in the bible?  Do you find yourself drawn to a particular book or chapter?

I often find myself tugged into the the psalms of David. His ups and downs speak to my soul.  In one psalm he confesses, "For my sins have flooded over my head; they are a burden to heavy for me to bear. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness .... So I confess my guilt; I am anxious because of my sin."  Then he cries out, "LORD, do not abandon me; my God, do not be far from me. Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior!"  [Psalm 38]

Later, you witness the calming of his turmoiled heart, "I am at rest in God alone; m y salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken."  And again, several verses later, he repeats, "Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation. my stronghold; I will not be shaken." [Psalm 62]

I can always find a glimpse of myself within his prayerful songs. I begin reading, and cannot stop, often going through chapters and chapters of his songs, crying out to God when he cries out to God, praising God as he praises God.

As I sit legs crossed beneath me on the couch with our makeshift coffee table (a dumpster find) pulled too me and bible and notebook placed atop, the sun suddenly breaks through the clouds and pours it's light directly upon my bible.  The beauty of it takes my breath away.  It is as if God is highlighting the bible, pouring His love upon the words I am reading, and I feel overwhelmed by the Spirit.

"God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water. So I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory.  My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands."  [Psalm 63]

I want to shout along with David, "How awe-inspiring are Your works!"

How can it be that such a Mighty, Amazing, Most High God- the one who made heaven and earth and spoke all of creation into existence, is mindful of me?  Small, little, sinful me.

This Big, Big God.... He loves me.  His "right hand holds on to me" [Psalm 63:8].  He is always generous, always lending, pouring out His blessings upon his children so abundantly! [37:26]

It is amazing that the very God whose power and might causes me to tremble cares me for me, loves me as a daughter.  May I never lose my amazement over Him! May my passion and awe of my God increase day to day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

For it is the power of God for salvation....

Do you ever find yourself lingering over a fairly simple verse, realizing it has much more meaning that you could ever humanly comprehend?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  [Romans 1:16]

 Oh Lord, help me to understand the depth of the Gospel! Help me understand the power, the might, the greatness therein. Write it on my heart. Help me to speak it without stumbling in my words. Help me to know it with great assurance and clarity.

And let me not be afraid to share it boldly.  Help me see Christ high and lifted up, to live for Him by whose name I am saved.

Through Gates of Splendor

I eagerly anticipated its arrival, so when I saw a cardboard box tucked into our mail slot, a gleeful squeal swelled from inside me. I would have skipped home except that I had my sweet baby perched upon my hip and a roll of junk mail adverts tucked under my arm as I tried to juggle the box upon my other hip.

I slit the tape, pulling out the books from the box one by one. And then there it was, Through Gates of Splendor, its glossy cover calling out to me.

I have heard tidbits of the Elliots, yet I was fairly clueless as to who they were, clueless of "their story".  Unfortunately, my childhood was not filled with stories of men and women who were passionate for Christ, risking all for the gospel sake, leaving behind the comforts and pleasures of modern society to bring the gospel to the beyond the reaches of what we call civilization. On the upside, now, here in my adult years, I am soaking up stories of missionaries- ordinary men and women devoted to an extraordinary God and determined to minister to lost souls- men and women who sacrificed earthy gain to pursue Christ.

With four children and a household to tend to, my reading is often a page or two here and there, so I have yet to venture passed the first chapter and am only on page 8, yet my heart beats wildly when as I read each sentence, and I anticipate the moment when I can settle down with the book again and read the "first-hand account of five young men whose obedience to God led them into the jungles of Ecuador, and ultimately into martyrdom". (Blurb on the book jacket.)

I admit, I have already flipped through the book to browse the photos shared within.  My curiosity compelled me to see what such men of God looked like.  Amazingly, they look like regular fellows.  They were likely called handsome and strapping in their day.  Jim Elliot was an educated and intelligent young man.  I'm sure people thought he was wasting his life by shipping off to Ecuador to minister to a people group who had murdered the last white man who attempted to do so.

Following his junior year in college, Jim writes to his parents, "Seems impossible that I am so near my senior year at this place, and, truthfully, it hasn't the glow about it that I rather expected.  There is no such thing as attainment in this life; as soon as one arrives at long-coveted position he only jacks up his desire another notch or so and looks for higher achievement-- a process which is ultimately suspended by the intervention of death. Life is truly likened to a rising vapor, coiling, evanescent, shifting. May the Lord teach us what it means to live in terms of the end, like Paul who said, "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy....'"

What great wisdom in such a young man!  Unfortunately, men of my generation do not have this understanding. How rare it is to find a young person pursuing the heart of God instead of chasing after the cares of this life!

I am really looking forward to digging into this book.  I do believe I will be posting about it again (and again!).

You can purchase it here for 9.99 (hardcover), or get the mass marketed paperback version for 5.99 .  There is also an unabridged MP3 available as well as a DVD. You can find it in Spanish. I've heard wonderful things about it, so... while I have yet to complete the book, I can guarantee that you will benefit from this true testimony!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Source of Life

Yesterday afternoon, my husband took the boys out on an errand run and returned with dirt, several plants, and a few other gardening goodies to transform our little garden patch off of the front porch into an edible garden. (Praying God blesses the fruit of our labor!)

Shortly after the final frost (well, the only frost of the year here in our part of Texas), we started our little seedlings, and, now, our bell peppers and tomatoes are poking their pretty little leaves above ground.  It was time to transplant them and plant a few other seeds (corn, carrots, squash, and watermelon!), but not before we overhauled the plant bed. (And boy, did it need an extensive overhaul!)

There were several different bushes in the bed, and so my husband set about pulling them out.  Imagine his surprise when several of them came out with ease.  It turns out the plants had not taken root very well.  The roots were wound around each other, still in the shape of the pot they had originally been planted in.  They had not spread and taken root in the soil in which they had been transplanted. Even though they had been replanted and the roots had room to stretch out, they had not.

Some of these bushes had beautiful blossoms, but the bushes were sickly looking. They were not thick and leafy, but looked as though someone had stuck a bunch of sticks in the ground and sprinkled them with a few leaves.  Yes, there were flowers- they were still alive- but they were not full or beautiful.

I am reminded of the Christian life, or at least my Christian life.  Sometimes I look at my life, and while I see fruit, I also see how sickly it is.  It is then I realize that my roots aren't spreading out.  I'm limited- not because God limited me, but because I have limited myself.  I have plenty of room to grow, yet I refuse.

Later that evening, as I was trimming the bushes (we planted them elsewhere), my oldest son (Nolyn) asked if he could save the trimmings for his nature collection.  I explained to him that these trimmings were not going to stay beautiful and green.  While the leaves were still alive at this point, because I had snipped them, they were now slowly beginning to die.  In time, the leaves would become brown and crispy and would easily crumble in his hand.

I touched the bush, "You see, right now, these little branches are connected to the bush- their life source.  But once I snip them off, they are severed from their life source."  I plucked a leaf from the bush and handed it to my daughter.

"Try to put this back on the bush," I commanded.  She looked at me like I was nuts (and rightly so). 
"That's impossible!" she exclaimed.

I began to explain, "You see, those without God are disconnected from their life source.  So many people in this world are lost, and they do not realize it.  They are withering and dying, but they do not know it.  Right now, this leaf appears to be alive.  It is green and beautiful, but because it is no longer part of the bush, it is dying.  It cannot bring itself back to life. It cannot connect itself to the bush or any other source of life. People foolishly believe that they can do something to give themselves life. I once believed this way as well!"

"Being a good leaf will not bring this leaf life because it is not connected to the source of life.  Just laying on the bush will not bring it life either.  Burying it in the dirt will not cause it to take root and bring forth life.  It is dying because it is not receiving the nourishment it needs! It cannot receive that nourishment because it is no longer connected to the bush."

As they looked solemnly on, I began to reveal the good news.  "You see, being good does not bring us everlasting life with God.  Just going to church and being around godly people will not bring us everlasting life.  Trying to plant ourselves and take root in some religion or making up our own belief will not bring us life.  Without God, we are left to decay. Sin causes us to decay.  But, God can connect us to the tree of life!  We can't do it ourselves, but God can.  And, once He has connected us to the tree of life, our branches will grow and flourish and blossom.  There will be no decay!"

Later, my husband explained, "There will be times when God will have to trim us just as Mom trimmed those bushes.  He will trim us by correcting and guiding us so that we can grow even more and so we can grow in the direction He desires us to grow."

I'm not sure if our children really understood our parable, but it is my prayer that one day, they will.  I hope, one day, they will be able to understand the teachings we are tried to instill within them and they will pour their lives out before God to be planted, trimmed, and pruned as He desires.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hungry for the Word: Bold Sermons

We listen to a couple sermons from each day.  This has been a great way for me to learn and grow in Christ while I do daily tasks- nurse the baby, prepare meals, tidy the house, fold laundry...

Here's a "handful" of sermons I've really enjoyed the last couple days.  If you're looking for watered down preaching, if you're looking for someone to tickle your ears, then you probably won't enjoy these sermons.  But, if you're looking for biblical, anointed preaching, well... give ear!

I will be posting links to sermons we listen to on a regular basis. 

The Narrow Door (The Straight Gate):

The Watchful Mother of Proverbs 31:

Growing in Biblical Modesty:

Restoring Fathers:

Real Religion:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Few There Be That Find {Forgiveness}

Luke 13:22-30

22And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.  23Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,  24Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.  25When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:  26Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

Does fear strike your heart when you read this?  It does mine.  Few. There will be few that enter in that straight and narrow gate. 

Read it closely. Christ says to strive to enter in at the strait gait.  Strive, friends!  Search for it. Plead for God to reveal it to you. Do not ever stop striving! Unfortunately, we have a bunch of preachers telling people there is no need to strive.  All we need to do is pray a prayer, walk the aisle, or stand up with the minister asks us if we want to give our lives to God.  Or, maybe all we need to do is live good lives or follow a list of rules.  Or, maybe all we need to do is acknowledge that Jesus existed- that He came.

It is not enough!  Strive! Strive! Strive!

Strive to find Christ. Search for Him. Search for what it means to be His disciple. Beg for Christ to reveal Himself to you! I have listened to pastors preach that discipleship is not required of the saved, but that is a lie! Look for Him and do not stop until you have found Him.  And, once you have found Him, strive to love and serve Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Good religion is not the narrow way.  Christ is the way. Christ only!  Hell will be full of people with "good religion", full of people who are crying out, "Lord! Lord! Your name was on my lips! I went to church! I was a good person! I read my bible! I went to bible studies! I taught Sunday School! I told my friends about You!" and yet Jesus will say, "I do not know you!"

And then, this is where my heart begins to ache-

           Many will hear, "Depart from me!" and they will be thrust out!  THRUST OUT!  They will see the beauty of the Kingdom of God, but will not be able to take joy in it! They will be THRUST OUT!

How many believe they are going to heaven, but are not?
How many have put their faith in Christ, but not really?
How many are anticipating heaven, but will never be able to enjoy it?

Will you find yourself on the outside, looking in? Will the door be shut in your face? Will you be thrust out? Are your really Christ's? Do you belong to Him?

Come! You weary! Come! Those filthy with the most disgusting sin, come! Come!

Give this video a watch.  Tim Conway expands on this subject and explains that there will be few that find forgiveness.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Social Site Addiction

Earlier in the week, as I was struggling through the first days of Lent, the Spirit convicted me of the use of my time.  I admit, I'm kind-of-sort-of-pretty-much a big Facebook addict. While I don't spend a tremendous amount of time on the computer, I do have a smart phone which allows me to quickly access the social sight.

It's so easy to hop on to read statuses, post photos, and update friends and family.  A little too easy, really.  In fact, it has become the first thing I do in the morning, sometimes even in the middle of the night when I'm nursing my little one.  The kids say something funny and I think, "I've got to share this!" I come across a good quote and think, "Oo, I have to post this!"  The Holy Spirit has really convicted me in this area, so much so that I felt the need to step away from Facebook for a week.

Easier said than done.  While I had planned on cutting off the Facebook activity by Monday morning, I found myself hopping on without even thinking about it.  I decided to give myself a cut off time when I would sign out and not get back on until 5pm the following Monday (March 21st).

I can't tell you how many times I grabbed my phone and absent mindedly flicked my finger across the screen, hovering it over the Facebook app.  I also promised to stay away from one of my favorite blog sites which I find myself repeatedly drawn, losing so much time in reading people's stories, replying to notes received and leaving comments for my friends.. and yet, when I hopped on the computer to check my mail, I immediately began typing out the social blog address... without even meaning to!

It's been so nice not to be a "slave" to them.  I'm still struggling through it, and sometimes I just want to give in, but I have vowed to stay away from them for a week... so I will.  It's been nice to focus on my family, on the things that need to be done, and not have these distractions calling out to me.  (Well, they still call out, but I'm learning to ignore them!)

I've been able to accomplish so much more around the house, and I've had so much fun playing with the kids without the distractions.  (I know they are grateful to have more of Mom's focus!) Since this week is Spring Break (we homeschool, but decided to take the week off along with the rest our district), we've been able to spend time with many of our schooled pals!

It feels so silly to struggle through all of this. It's just a website! A silly, social network!

But it's often the silly things that rob of us our time, isn't it?

Moments I enjoyed this afternoon:

Tossing the ball around with one my sons, and

Having a nice little chat with my toddler after getting the mail (his favorite "adventure").

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

of Honor and Fear

Malachi 1:6
  "A son honors his father, and a servant his master.  But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?......."

The Lord has loved me, yet I have repaid His kindness with disobedience.  I have failed to give Him honor. I have not feared Him as I should.  I have given, not of my best, but of what remains. I refused to sacrifice that which He has called me to sacrifice, yet I expected His favor and blessing.  I have profaned His name; I have forgotten His holiness. I have desired Him to be proud and thankful of the little I have given- satisfied with the little of my time, content with a portion of my effort.

Forgive me, O Mighty God! Have mercy on me! I am a wretched sinner!  Wrap me in Your mercy! Clothe me in Your grace! Write Your Word on my heart and help me to live a life acceptable to You!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Lenten Struggle

Sometimes I feel I am hopelessly broken.  And I would be, if it were not for Christ.

In my heart, I committed to participate in Lent.  I had always thought it to be a "Catholic thing", although I realize there are other denominations who observe the season.  I know I am not observing it as some observe, although there seems to much variety in how it is carried out among Christian groups. 

For the last few months, I have been so convicted of the food I consume. As a middle class American, I realize I am fortunate enough to have options, and many of them, to choose from.  Does my diet glorify God? 

While I have been working on eating healthier, I have so struggled over whether I should eat what the Old Testament defines as "unclean meat". This is more difficult than I thought, as pork and shellfish are staples in our culture's diet.

I know it is not a matter of salvation, but it has been my heart's cry to be set apart and pure before the Lord- to please the One I love.  I recall the days when my relationship with my husband was beginning to blossom, and I desired to know his likes and dislikes.  I so wanted to please him in all things.  Should I not desire to please the Lord as well? Should I not seek to understand His likes and dislikes?  Should I not love the things He loves and hate the things He hates?

So, as Lent came, I purposed within myself that I would set aside those unclean meats. Such a small sacrifice, in the grand scheme of things.  Yet I found myself struggling...

...Standing in the grocery store, picking up a package of bratwurst and placing it in the cart, then returning it to the cooler as I remembered my commitment.
...Preparing a pepperoni pizza for my family, settling on a bowl of granola for myself, and absent-mindedly grabbing on a small slice to nibble on before I realized what I was doing.
...Slicing authentic cajun tasso my husband had defrosted for me to season the pot of mixed beans and slipping a piece into my mouth. It wasn't until I had already swallowed it that it hit me... tasso is pork.

I felt such disgust- how can I love my Lord so little?  How can I so easily forget my commitment to Him? How grateful I am that He does not forget His promises and His covenant!

I stumble to consider Him in all things, but He always considers me. Seeing my failures and my struggles in the shadow of His faithfulness brings sorrow mixed with joy.  I am sorrowful because I want to please my Father, but I am like a clumsy child.  I rejoice because He is full of mercy and grace, forgiving me where I fall short, and still upholding His Promise to me.  I rejoice because Christ did not falter or stumble. 

And, I am so thankful that my frailty causes me to love Him more.

A Faith Willing to Fight

Tim Conway explains true faith so well. It is not this mamby-pamby "I believe", but an active, fighting faith- one that arms itself for battle and charges the gates demanding, "I will see Jesus!"