Tuesday, December 28, 2010

If you haven't seen this....it's worth it!

Christmas Eve

Yep...that is right...today is Christmas Eve. At least in our own heads it is!:)

Of course, just 4 days ago we celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with church family (and we had such a sweet time with all of them!) but we have the privilege of doing it all over again with my parents and a couple of my brothers (and sister-in- law) this week!

Last week flew by in a blur of activity and my camera did not make an appearance at all the events...but here are some snapshots...


Faith was the first of all the kids to go to a "real" hairdresser and I am SO thankful I did not attempt her haircut on my own (though I got some good tips from YouTube!:))



We had a fun evening after our Christmas Eve Service with the Baergs and the kids were SO excited to stay up till midnight!:)





Christmas morning started with pancakes...and a Daddy "challenge" to eat his monster pancakes. Three of the kids "took him on" and emerged victorious!!





We had a beautiful time at the Hendersons on Christmas Day complete with Gingerbread sleighs that they had made for our kids. SO PRECIOUS!!!!

A wonderful Sunday Service and a 6 hour car ride through gallons of rain brought us to where we are today...a place that I will always call home though I have never been a resident of Hood River...because it is where my parents live!!!

Today is Christmas Eve in our heads and our hearts are so happy to be together!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Worth Pondering!


I'll be honest...these last couple of weeks leading up to Christmas have not been nearly as "quiet" or "reflective" as I was planning for them to be. It's like I get to the bottom of my "to-do list", excited that it is all checked off...only to flip the page and find a whole new list waiting for me!:) But each day God gives us new opportunities to seek Him, to preach to ourselves instead of listen to ourselves, to dive into His life-giving Words and to be refreshed and renewed in the midst of craziness! And He continues to bring great blog posts across my path, too!:) I think you will agree that this post by CJ Mahaney is well worth pondering and then acting upon this weekend!

A Gift Idea

Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity to give gifts to those I love. I enjoy doing all I can to surprise them with a particular gift. I am sure you do as well.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize: too often I can put more thought into the gifts I buy them than I do the content of my conversations with them at Christmas. In fact the content of my conversation can be a gift of greater substance and of more enduring value.

By using words that are carefully and skillfully chosen, we can give the gift of grace to others. And Christmas provides us with many opportunities for conversations with a variety of friends and family. But are you prepared?

The Apostle Paul writes, “let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

This promise is stunning! By carefully choosing my words I can give grace to those I care for.

Yet as Charles Spurgeon once noted in a sermon, “I consider that one of the great lacks of the Church nowadays is not so much Christian preaching as Christian talking.” In fact, a preacher may invest more time in carefully thinking about the words he will use in one sermon than most of us will invest thinking about the words that will come from our lips all year.

And the result is that we often waste our words. Corrupt talk is a daily temptation. Rarely do we consider the decay that we spread through our speech. And rarely do we consider the grace-giving potential of our speech. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21).

So what words fit a particular occasion? Consideration for one we are conversing with must inform our words. So before I speak I must observe and listen. I must ask questions. I must take an interest in them.

* If they are Christians, are there evidences of grace I can draw their attention to?
* If they are not Christians, are there evidences of common grace in their life?
* Is this person experiencing prosperity?
* Or is this person experiencing adversity?
* If they are suffering I want to give them comforting grace through my words.
* If they are weary, I want to give them sustaining grace through my words.

* And to all, when and where appropriate, I want to share the gospel, for that is the most effective way to give grace through my words.

So here is my point. Buying the appropriate Christmas gift for someone requires that we know and study them. But this is no less true of our conversations.

So as you consider certain individuals, and seek to buy meaningful gifts for them, also consider how you can give them grace through your words.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sunday Skate


This past Sunday we had the blessing and fun of going skating with our church family. Micah and Samuel are "pros" on the ice and Titus had the privilege of going once last spring...but, for the rest of the gang, it was all new! I had not been on the ice in over 15 years myself...so it took a little getting used to again...but we all had such a great time and Grace, Faith, and Caleb did SO well!!!

By the end, Grace and Faith had ditched the "walkers", Titus was making short trips without it as well, and Caleb was finally getting his feet to do what he wanted them to do! I don't have pictures of all the kiddos nor do I have pictures of all the precious kids, teens, and adults in our church family that took the time to skate with them and help them get more comfortable on the ice...but we all left with sweet memories and excitement about doing it again next year!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Micah's Music

Micah started taking guitar lessons again in October. His instructor, Sam, has been just great and Micah is really enjoying being taught by him. He was not able to be a part of the winter recital, so he and Sam shared the song they had worked on together with the waiting room!:) We were all impressed and thought you might enjoy hearing it yourself (especially if you are related to this young man!:)).

Click HERE and turn up your volume!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Distractedly Doing or Simply Sitting?

Last Wednesday I mentioned how, when I get busy and feeling overwhelmed, one of the first things to suffer is my relationships with others. But, usually, those relationships suffer because my greatest relationship of all is suffering...my relationship with Jesus. I become so much like Martha...anxious and troubled about many things...sacrificing the one thing that Jesus says is necessary...sitting at His feet.

Girltalk did a GREAT job of putting their whole series, "Sitting Out the Holidays" (having a "Mary mindset" in the midst of "Martha-like" moments), on a PDF file that can be downloaded and read. I just took time to read it all, reflect on the truths taught, repent of my sinful inclinations, and rejoice in the promises that are mine as I make the Lord my portion each and every day. I know your hearts will be blessed, too, by what they have shared!

May our hearts echo the prayer below ( by Scotty Smith) and may God help us to stop "distractedly doing" and start "simply sitting" at the feet of Jesus! As Burke Parsons put it, "The Bible is the only book that each time it is opened, the Author is present."

Gracious Jesus, the juxtaposition of images in the nativity scene are almost too much to wrap my tiny heart around. Your mother, Mary, is just beginning to nurse and know you. Even as I write these words I realize what a holy mystery and immeasurable condescension your incarnation was. You, the very God who created all things… the Lord who sustains all things by the power of your word… the King who is making all things new… as a baby you drew life-sustaining nourishment from a young maiden’s breast. I’m stunned by your inconceivable humility—a humility that marked your life from cradle to cross.

Shepherds ran off to spread the word of your birth, while Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” “Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still and letting you tell me about yourself. It’s always been easier for me to do “productive” things for you, rather than spend undistracted, unrushed time with you. I confess this as sin, Jesus. This simply isn’t okay, for knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart… by any stretch.

To know you is eternal life, and I do want to know you, Jesus… so much better than I already do. I want to treasure you in my heart and ponder who you are. I want to contemplate your joyful life within the Trinity, from all eternity. I want to marinate in everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you will be to us in the new heaven and new earth—the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride.

O, blessed circuit board overloading and breaking glory… there’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder. It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering. I treasure and ponder a lot of things, Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit…an impoverished heart… and a spent body.

Jesus, this very Advent season, by the power of the gospel, slow all of us down… settle us afresh… center us on yourself, that each of us might say with awe and adoration, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, we pray, in your peerless and priceless name.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Oh Lord, Save Our Children!


I had a long conversation with one of my children this week and walked away with a little bit of a broken heart...with a heavier heart...with a heart crying out to the Lord for the salvation of not only her but the rest of my kids.

Our conversation was a sober reminder to me that, while God may promise that if we train up a child in the way he should go he will not depart when he is older, He does not promise eternal life to our children. I cannot change their hearts, I cannot make them a new creature...it is a work of God alone. And I found myself starting to fear...to fear the future of my children...to fear for their eternal destiny.

Praise God! He did not let me stay there...He impressed upon my heart the precious truths of His sovereignty, patience, power, and love. And He brought a couple of great articles into my life this week that I wanted to pass on to you as we all continue to lay our children (and the fears, of all sorts, that can rise up) at the feet of Jesus.

Girtalk, speaking on the subject of fear said:

One reason we shouldn't listen to our fears is because they lie. Fear not only fails to accurately predict the future, it also tells lies about the Word and the character of God.

Fear says: God won't come through for you and your children. God doesn't care about the nitty-gritty problems of your relationship. You've messed things up too badly this time. Your child's problem is too big. They are too far gone. There is no hope.

Fear dares to suggest a future without God. Fear challenges the sovereignty of God, questions His wisdom, doubts His love and mercy, defies His Word.

"But my fears feel so real." I once complained to a wise pastor's wife. "I know" she replied, "They wouldn't be good lies if they didn't feel true."

Which is why we must never rely on our feelings as a litmus test for truth. "I am determined" said Mr. Spurgeon, "that if all my senses contradict God, I would rather deny every one of them than believe that God could lie."

Every time we are tempted to fear, we have a choice. We must choose between believing our own fickle, sinful, "sense" or God's faithful, righteous Word. If we trust our fears, we are calling God a liar.

That's one very good reason to stop listening to ourselves.



Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile wrote a blog post titled: Parenting Children Who May Have "Cursed God in Their Hearts". It was a beautiful encouragement about the calling God has placed on the lives of parents in regards to their children:


“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually.” (Job 1:5)

It seems Job suffered for his children before he suffered for his children. Before the calamitous news of their death, Job worried about an even greater potential tragedy–their spiritual death.

This righteous man longed for his children to love and honor God. It’s the desire of all godly parents.

But Job lacked the one attribute most parents wish they had: omniscience. How could he know what his adult sons and daughters did when he was not around? How could he know what lie in the hearts of his children? Had they “cursed God in their hearts”? What a terrifying set of questions for any parent. This is why we don’t sleep until all the children arrive home safely. This is why we ask questions about friends we don’t know very well. This is why we sometimes inspect their rooms or ask searching questions while hoping not to offend. What if our children live double lives? What if they curse God in their hearts?

How does this righteous man deal with the questions and worry? how does he deal with not knowing? He appeals to the One who does know, who sees all. The very God Job feared His children might have cursed is Job’s Great Ally in the war for his children’s hearts. Job wants what God wants–a godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). God, then, is Job’s Warrior in this battle.

So, Job does two things. First, he consecrates his children. He sets them apart for God. His children do not belong to him; they belong to the Lord of life. If children are arrows in a parent’s quiver, Job aims His directly at the courts of God. One can only speculate about how much greater Job’s suffering and difficulty would have been if he maintained an idolatrous hold on his children. Certainly losing all his children in one day was as unimaginable a disaster possible. But would he have maintained faith and sanity had he prized his children above God, or built his life on his children, or found his ultimate joy in his children? Consecrating his children was not only right and godly, ultimately it provided a measure of protection. This is how Job could reply to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10) Or, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Second, Job interceded for each of his children. Notice “he would rise early in the morning.” The earliest business of day was prayer for Job. He made his offerings to God on behalf of each child’s soul. For if they cursed God in their hearts, only God could renew their hearts. If their offense was against God, only God could relent and forgive them. They needed help from God, and Job the faithful father went to God early, interceding for their deliverance. Notice: “thus Job did continually.” Here’s a portrait of a persistently pleading parent. He conquers his helplessness by appealing to the Almighty.

These things are written for our instruction (1 Cor. 10:6). How kind of God to leave us in His word such a compelling and clear example to follow. Let us set apart our children to the Lord, and renew our prayers on their behalf. Conquer parental anxiety with petitions to our covenant God who knows our children and renews the heart.

Friday, December 10, 2010

God Ordains the Times


I read this off of the Desiring God Blog today and I thought it tied in perfectly with the struggle to "get everything done" this Christmas season or any other season of our life for that matter! Sam Crabtree said on his blog:

Last week a subcommittee of elders had supper with Al Mohler where he said, “Every day you live there are more things you are never going to do.”

At this stage of my life, I must admit I am never going to be on the high school debate team, play on the college basketball team, pay off that mortgage in my forties, run that marathon in my fifties, and so on. For example, the evaporating number of days remaining in my life implies that I will have less and less time to read many of the great books.

That is not cause for wistful grieving, but thoughtful thanksgiving. In his infinite wisdom God ordains the times and places for each person to dwell.

Two prayers:

1. Thank you, God, for the providential track my life has taken, a track that no one else in history ever has or ever will take, a divinely designed life for just me, with fruit that will come from only my life, and rewards just for me.
2. Lord, help me focus on things that could still be accomplished. There remain countless wonderful things I could still do in the strength you supply.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Loving Each Other


When I get overwhelmed and my mind is full of tasks that need to be completed, often, one of the first things to suffer is my relationship with those around me. I can be more grumpy, irritable, and just plain "negative" in the way I look at the people and situations around me. The birth of Love incarnate is just around the corner...but I often forget what it looks like to live out the very love He gave to me so freely. John Piper has encouraged my heart in this area too...and although the title is about loving each other amid differences (and was written for Piper's Elders)...I think it fits just as much as we seek to love each other amid the stress and busyness of life!

Six Biblical Guidelines for Loving Each Other Amid Differences

1. Let’s avoid gossiping.

The New Testament warns against gossiping. The Greek word translated “gossip” means whisper or whisperer. In other words, the focus is not on the falsehood of the word but on the fact that it needs to be surreptitious. It is not open and candid and forthright. It has darkness about it. It does not operate in the light of love. It is not aiming at healing. It strokes the ego’s desire to be seen as right without playing by the rules of love.

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find...that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)

2. Let’s identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.

The church in Corinth was deeply flawed. But Paul found reason to thank God for them because of “the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). The most flawed pastor on this staff—and we are all flawed—is a work of grace. It honors Christ, and keeps criticism in perspective, to see it and say it often.

3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.

The point is not that we will always agree on everything, especially the practical application of shared principles. Paul’s word in Romans 12:18 is, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It may not be possible, but we should try.

4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.

When Paul deals with disagreement in Romans 14, one of the things he appeals to is that those with opposite practical convictions have identical heart-motives. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6). Christ-honoring passions, Paul says, can unite us in spite of differences of application.

5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (Psalm 40:16)

To mention a few things we hold in common: the Elder Affirmation of Faith, the sovereignty of God, the supremacy of his glory in all things, the majesty and meekness of Christ, the all-sufficiency of his saving work, the precious and very great promises summed up in Romans 8:28 and 8:32, the value and sweetness of the Bible, the power and patience of the Holy Spirit in transforming us, the hope of glory, a profound biblical vision of manhood and womanhood, a common global mission to see the nations know Christ...

6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.... And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Ephesians 4:32–5:2)

“The one who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). In other words, think more of your own sins and how amazing it is that God saved you than you do about the other person’s flaws.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joyfully Accepting My Limitations


This post from Girltalk back in 2006 still rings true today in my own heart and is a needed reminder in those all to often moments of trying to "do it all".

The Christmas season is at our door with a loud, demanding knock. And with that knock comes a whole new set of responsibilities that can be even more daunting than the ones we just completed: Making lists, shopping for presents, wrapping those presents, putting up Christmas decorations, trimming the Christmas tree, addressing Christmas cards, attending Christmas parties, baking cookies, preparing for out-of-town guests…. Not to mention, we must squeeze all of these tasks into the already-full-schedules of our daily lives! How is it possible for a woman to do everything she needs to get done this time of year?

I still remember the wise and helpful counsel my husband CJ shared with me many years ago when I was having one of those “I just can’t get it all done" breakdown crying sessions. When he finally got the chance to speak, he said: “Carolyn, only God completes His to-do list. We are not God. We are finite creatures with serious limitations. Therefore we need to humble ourselves by accepting our limitations and draw upon God’s strength to simply do what we can.” CJ’s advice not only helped me then, but continues to benefit me to this day, especially with the Christmas season on my front doorstep.

Here are 3 simple ways we can be mindful of our limitations as we make our to-do lists this holiday:

1. Separate the-really-do-matter items from the really-don’t-matter items--of course doing the really-do-matter items first.
2. Simplify the really-do-matter items where possible (i.e. purchasing already-prepared cookie dough rather than making Christmas cookies from scratch).
3. Trust God for all the things on the list that don’t get done.

Let’s honor God by answering Christmas’s knock at our doors this year with humility--joyfully accepting our limitations and simply doing what we can.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Gospel Program


Last night we had the joy of watching our children and other children in our church take place in the Christmas Program.We had 2 shepherds, 1 angel, and 3 readers who were privileged to be apart of the program and they worked hard memorizing their lines and reviewing their verses and songs in the weeks leading up to last night. The presentation was written by one of the high school gals in our church and it was truly the most gospel centered Children's Christmas Program that Bryan and I have ever seen! The night started in Genesis and ended with the cross. We tend to see Jesus as the babe in the manger on Christmas and can forget that it was all to make a way to the cross. Last night, we were continually reminded!

And that truly is my prayer this Christmas season...that my heart would be fixed on CHRIST and the work that He did on our behalf. That my thoughts would be on the incarnation and the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us. That I would not be distracted, overwhelmed, scattered, hardened, or desensitized to the true wonder of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer!

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting great reminders from others that I have saved, copied and pull out each Christmas in an effort to guard my heart and keep my planning and thoughts "Christward".

Today...it's from John Piper:

Here is a simple exhortation that I have been trying to implement in our family:

Seek to see and feel the gospel as bigger as years go by rather than smaller.

Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time.

The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart,

* grace gets bigger;
* Christ gets greater;
* his death gets more wonderful;
* his resurrection gets more astonishing;
* the work of the Spirit gets mightier;
* the power of the gospel gets more pervasive;
* its global extent gets wider;
* your own sin gets uglier;
* the devil gets more evil;
* the gospel's roots in eternity go deeper;
* its connections with everything in the Bible and in the world get stronger;
* and the magnitude of its celebration in eternity gets louder.

So keep this in mind: Never let the gospel get smaller in your heart.

Pray that it won’t. Read solid books on it. Sing about it. Tell someone about it who is ignorant or unsure about it.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel.... For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Stained Carpet


I was vacuuming the house, just now, getting ready for our Bible Study's Christmas party tonight and feeling very frustrated. We rent a very lovely home for which I am SO grateful for...but we have some very unattractive light pink carpet. But it wasn't the color of the carpet that was bothering me as much as it was all the stains.

I LOVE having a clean home...but no matter how much I vacuum over those stains they just don't come up...because they are stains...they have "soiled" the very fabric of the carpet. I found myself starting to grumble and complain (who in their right mind puts carpet in their dining room anyway?!:)) and the Lord convicted my heart. He quickly brought to mind that MY heart is not very different from the carpet. No matter how much I might try to "vacuum up" the "dirt" (sin) of my heart, on my own I cannot make my heart pure and clean. Sin has stained and darkened my heart to the point of no return.

BUT GOD! I love it when Scripture says those two words...because it changes EVERYTHING! God alone can make my heart pure and clean. God alone can make my black heart as white as snow (Psalm 51:7). I Corinthians 6:11 says, "...but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

As I go back to vacuuming and getting things ready...this time, it is with a heart full of thankfulness. Every time I vacuum over another "spot", it's a beautiful reminder of what Jesus Christ did on my behalf...a reminder of the Gospel...a reminder of why we are even having this Christmas party...the Savior has been born!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gospel Living

Bryan read me a quote just a minute ago from Martin Luther...and I had to share it with you...

"Preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and was coming back tomorrow."

My heart leapt inside of me because that's it. Luther hit the nail on the head! That is the passionate outlook we should have! That is Gospel living...and that is the life I want to be living!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Recipes


I got a request for the recipes I mentioned yesterday and I thought I would pass them on! I am so thankful for the internet and all the recipes already posted!:) I found both of them online so I'll just give you the link and add my "tweaks".:)

Surprise Cupcakes My recipe calls for half of the chocolate cake ingredients. You end up only filling the cupcake tins up about 1/3 of the way and it only makes about 18...but you get lots more of the "filling" which is the most yummy part! I guess you could make the recipe accordingly and just double the filling! Have fun experimenting...you'll want to make them again!

Mexican Chicken Chowder This is one of my favorite "quick soups"! I double everything and this recipe is no exception. I will often used canned chicken (from Costco) in a pinch to save time and instead of the cheese whiz...go with cream cheese...much better! Throw in a couple of cups of hashbrowns during the last hour or so and it gives it a bit more substance. Oh, and don't forget broken-up tortilla chips for the top!:)

And I just have to mention the corn bread while I am at it...I buy the "Marie Callender Corn Bread" mix at Costco (in the states)...all you have to do is add water and it is SO GOOD...especially with honey butter!:)

****I just was on my sister-in-law's (and her sister's) cooking blog and she had posted a recipe for corn bread today! She is an amazing cook...so, if you have extra time or can't get to Costco...check out this cornbread recipe!:)