Thursday, April 26, 2012

Constant in Prayer

 The more I read the Bible, the more I see my sin. And the more I see my sin the more I see God's perfection. The more I see His perfect character, the more I see just how utterly and completely I need Him every moment of every day. And that is when it hits me just how little I really do pray.

"...be constant in prayer." Romans 12:12


"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayer." 1 Peter 3:12


"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." I Thess. 5:16-18


"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
                                                                                                                      Jeremiah 33:3

"It takes us long to learn that prayer is more important than organization, more powerful than armies, more influential than wealth and mightier than all learning." - Samuel Chadwick, The Path of Prayer

"Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness."- Martin Luther 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

All of our married life we have rented the homes that we have lived in. The last 10 years, when those around us have invested in homes and we have not been able to do so, I have encouraged my heart with Hebrews 11:9-10:

"By faith he (Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God."

I truly was content living in what we referred to as "our tents". It was a reminder that this world is not home...home is in Heaven with God. I will really be home when I am walking streets of gold, by the light of the Son, enjoying the magnificent architect built by the hands of God. The day is coming and I can't wait!

But we did pray that, at some point, the day would come when we could have a place to call "ours". A place to really settle into and grow deep roots.

It happened this weekend.

Really!:)

We bought a home with my parents. And, YES, we all really do want to live together!:)

Want to hear the story?

After the vote went through, my parents put their house on the market. Saturday morning they accepted an offer on their house, we then put an offer on the house we wanted and it was accepted... and all this took place within 4 hours!!!!

Sometimes God says no, sometimes He says wait, and sometimes He knocks the door right off it's hinges with a resounding YES! Saturday felt like God was busting down doors faster than we could thank Him for it! :)

Lord willing, we will be moving into a beautiful, spacious home on 2.5 acres of land (about 10 minutes outside the city) the 3rd week of June. Even the timing of that is such a blessing. The kids will have finished school a week before and we can "set our sights" on our new stomping grounds!

"You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!" Psalm 118:28-29

PS. To all our dear Canadian friends....we know that many of you are weary. Many of you do not feel settled and you feel like God has said "no" to your desires or you feel in a waiting pattern with no light at the end of the tunnel. You are looking for a "yes" and praying for peace.

We pray that God would use the work He is doing in our lives to encourage you. Not because there is anything good in us but because everything God does is good...even when it feels so painful. There is great hope because we serve a great God...and He is ever so faithful! Don't grow discouraged and don't lose your joy in Him!

"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;"                         Psalm 37:4-7a




Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Will I sacrifice?

I read this article on the Desiring God Blog today and I had to repost it here! It was like getting a spanking and a piece of chocolate cake all at the same time:)....a spanking because the following is, so often, not me...and a piece of chocolate cake because it's exactly what I desire and want most in my life (the article, of course, not the cake...although that might take a close second :)). There were three little sentences that I don't want to quickly forget...so I made them bold, although I probably should have made the whole article bold...it's that good!


The Everyday Question of Motherhood by Christine Hoover

As a mother, there is a constant, uncomfortable battle that rages inside of me. It is not the big or dramatic: Will I raise my children to love God? Will I train them to obey Him? Do my children belong to Him?

The constant battle of motherhood is more subtle, more everyday, more hideable. At the center is one question: Will I sacrifice? Or as Oswald Chambers poses in My Utmost for His Highest: "[Am I] willing to spend and be spent; not seeking to be ministered unto, but to minister?"

The Everyday Question isn't answered one time, with the birth of a child, with the planning of school, or with the decision to discipline. This question — Will I sacrifice? — is answered everyday.

It’s answered when a child wakes early with a need, interrupting my quiet hour alone with the Lord.

It’s answered when a sick child keeps me from worship and adult interaction at church on Sunday mornings.

It’s answered when I am emotionally spent, but a child’s behavior requires my patient, purposeful response.

It’s answered almost every moment of the potty training process.

It’s answered as I systematically teach my special-needs son how to interact with others.

In motherhood, the Everyday Question is answered every time a child’s concern or need must come before my own, which is most of the time.

Too often, I attend to necessary tasks — leaving the stove to help with pant buttons, putting down the phone to search for a beloved toy, excusing myself from a conversation at church to take tired children home for a nap — while my heart grumbles. If I just had one moment to complete a task or have an adult conversation without an interruption.

The Everyday Question, however, asks not just about what I do but also about my attitude: Will I joyfully pour out my life as a fragrant offering before the Lord for the benefit of my children? Will I serve my children out of obligation and duty or will I serve like I'm serving God Himself? Will I die to myself so that I might live to God in the specific calling He has given me as a mom?

The Everyday Question must be answered everyday.

Because motherhood is not so much the big, dramatic acts of sacrifice, but the little, everyday, unseen ones. 

Because we can have a clean house and obedient children and not sacrifice. 

Because we are so easily deceived to think we can live for ourselves and be faithful to God in our ministry as moms. 

Jesus said that those who live for themselves will actually have an unfulfilling life, but those who lose for their lives for His sake will really experience life. As parents, our self-death for Christ’s sake not only produces fruit in our own hearts, but produces fruit in the hearts of our children, fruit that grows by the power of God. Let us, then, choose to joyfully give of ourselves for our children.

Everyday.

“For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal bodies.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died, and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Phillipian Absolutes


As I have been working through the book of Philippians, one thing that has struck me over and over again is how many "absolutes" there are.

An absolute, by definition, is something that is not limited by restrictions, qualifications, or exceptions.

In my study of Philippians, I have been so thankful to see the "absolutes" that God gives in relationship to Himself. It is so comforting to know that He is my all in all and will supply everything I need. But other absolutes that are given in this book are directed at ME and MY ATTITUDE. These bring a weight to my heart because I know that, in my own strength, I am incapable of "all", "in everything", and "always". I know how far short I fall of these absolutes and the battle that often rages in my own heart.

I love what Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp say in regards to this:

"We should reject any perspective on the Christian life that minimizes the war that rages in our hearts everyday - or ignores the fact that God is fighting for us and with us! The Biblical picture is that God meets us in the trials of life, and He doesn't just give us rules - He gives us His Son."

I CAN keep the "alls", the "in everythings", and the "always"...because, as a follower of Jesus, I no longer live but it's Christ living in me and through me. And He keeps every "all" and every "always" perfectly. What hope that gives me and, as a result, what joy there is when I read all those absolutes...knowing that they are possible in Christ!

And, just in case you were wondering about those absolutes, here are some to get you started!:

-not frightened in anything (1:28)
-do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit (2:3)
-do all things without grumbling or complaining (2:14)
-count everything loss compared to knowing Christ (3:7)
-rejoice in the Lord always (4:4)
-do not be anxious about anything (4:6)
-in everything pray and give thanks (4:6)
-be content in whatever situation I am in (4:11)
-in any and every circumstance...I can do all things through Him who gives me strength (4:12-13)
-and my God will supply every need of yours (4:19)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sarah's Bridal Shower


Over the weekend, my mom, the girls, and I made a trip up to Seattle for my brother's fiance's bridal shower. Paul and Sarah are getting married on May 12...and we are so excited for them and this new season of life they are about to enter. And I am super excited about my soon to be sister-in-law! Sarah loves Jesus with all of her heart...and so does Paul. That means they will be starting their marriage with Jesus as the focus and the goal...and that is where all good marriages start and must stay!

We were also able to spend some time with Sarah's mom, Jenny...and what a blessing it was to get to know her better! It's so nice when you move out of "stranger" and into friend!:)

Another sister-in-law, Michelle, put together Sarah's shower...and it was absolutely beautiful! There were flowers, food, and sweet fellowship in abundance Sunday afternoon!:)
My most favorite part of the shower came at the end when we took time to pray for Sarah and Paul. We were given, as a group, topics to pray for (ie: the days leading up to the wedding, their first month as a couple, learning to serve each other, etc...) and then "popcorn prayers" went up throughout the room as 25 ladies took Paul and Sarah before the Throne of Grace and prayed for them. It was something that I don't ever remember doing at a shower...but something I will recommend from here on out!
Can't wait to drive back up in May for a wedding celebration!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April showers bring....baseball!


Last night was Micah and Samuel's first game of the season! It was cold and rainy...but that seems to be the weather of choice these days.:) It's so fun to have both boys on the same team...and fun to see them work together.

Samuel did a great job...even making it to home plate twice! It's evident to all that this is his first time playing...but his smile and desire to do his best is just as evident and, in so doing, he endeared himself to many of the parents. I think he may just have his own fan club!:)

Micah is showing us more and more what a great "big brother" he is. His kind words of instruction to Samuel during the game really blessed my momma's heart. He played 3rd base for all 6 innings and, though he may still be smaller than his friends, he has a mighty good arm!:)

We are excited to enter the world of "peanuts and cracker jacks" and be rooting for our boys and their teammates here in Hood River!

Monday, April 16, 2012

A New Season


Today I did something that I have not been able to do in quite some time. I kissed my husband good-bye as he left for work!:) You heard that right....WORK! And not just any kind of work...but ministry work. And not just any kind of ministry work...but pastoral work. And not just pastoral work at any kind of church...but associate pastoral work at First Baptist Church where my dad is the senior pastor! Yesterday, Bryan was voted in as the Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hood River, Oregon.

Am I dreaming?!:)

We are so excited, so humbled, and we feel so blessed to be called to work alongside this precious group of people! We once heard a pastor say that "ministry is not our gift to God, it's God's gift to us" and we are so thankful for the gift God has given to us in being able to serve Him in this ministry.

So many of you have prayed for us and have gone on this "journey" with us...thank you for your love, support, and prayers! God has used you to encourage our hearts and display His faithfulness in ways that you may never know but we will not forget! Would you continue to pray for us? Pray for additional work for Bryan (as this position is, for the time being, part-time), pray for wisdom as Bryan begins to seek to shepherd the families and children at FBC, and pray that God would continue to unite the hearts of those at First Baptist, through His Word, that His name might be proclaimed and His fame go forth in our church and community!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36


Friday, April 13, 2012

Thwarting the Path of a Pharisee


There is one passage that has really spoke to my heart on this subject of Pharisaical living in our kids (and us!). It's a passage that we should read and share often with our kids as we seek to keep them from the path of a Pharisee. It's the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14:

"He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”


There have been many times that we have had conversations with our kids about the way they are looking at another person and the judgements they are making about him or her. We often remind them that, but for the grace of God, that could just as easily be them. And, if we are truly thinking Biblically, it IS them. God has made it clear in James 2:10 that "whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point (he) has become accountable for ALL of it".

This is not just a lesson for my kids...it's a lesson that I need everyday, too.

Oh, may our homes be full of souls that are quick to say, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Path of a Pharisee


Do you ever fear that you are raising a Pharisee? For me, it's a fear that I have to take to the Lord all the time. Why? Because, I know my own heart...I know how prone I am to wander down the path of Pharisaical living. It appeals to my flesh.

I love lists. They help me remember things and maintain order in the home. When I see a list with a bunch of check marks, I can't help but smile! But list-making in my Christian walk can be very dangerous. When I mentally make "lists" of all the good things I am doing...I am prone to glory in those things, to boast in my accomplishments, and see myself as "good" based on my own merit. I am living like a Pharisee. I am forgetting that there is NOTHING good in me apart from Christ. Isaiah 64:6 says that all my righteous deeds are like filthy rags. The literal definition for "filthy rags" is menstrual cloths...does that make you grossed out just thinking about it or what?! Paul says that every "good thing" he did apart from Christ was rubbish, or, in other translations "dung" or "waste". How's that for another picture image?

Menstrual cloths and poop. That's how I should see everything that I seek to do apart from Christ. That is what those "deeds" look like to God when I am doing them in my own strength, for my own satisfaction and glory. It's a pretty grim picture...and it's a picture I want my kids to clearly see, too.

Growing up in a Christian home can be amazingly beautiful...but it can also be dangerous depending on how we parent. As we seek to "train up our children in the way they should go" if our focus is primarily on outward behavior without a balance of their desperate need for Jesus' transforming work in their hearts, they may be quick to live a life of legalism instead of dependence on Christ. As they outwardly obey, they will grow more and more puffed up in their "righteousness" and less and less aware that their heart is deathly sick and wicked and in need of the saving work of Jesus. And, the more they see themselves as "righteous", the more they will look down on others and the lives they lead.

And that is why, while we cannot change their heart, we need to seek to "get at their hearts" in our training and discipline so that they might see their sinful heart for what it is and realize that they cannot do enough good things to make God happy (because it all looks like poop to Him). Only then will they understand why Jesus had to die. Only then will they see what it truly means to be saved by Jesus...what it means to be loved by Him and forgiven. Verses like 2 Corinthians 5:21 will begin to mean something to them: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." And Paul's words in Philippians 3:8-9 will make sense to them: "For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith...".

We cannot save our children. We cannot make them love Jesus...only God can give them eternal life. Only the Holy Spirit can move them from legalism to grace, from self-sufficiency and pride to dependence on Christ and humility. But, as parents, may we continue to sow seeds in our children's hearts. Let them see us repent of our sins and daily show them, in word and deed, why we are so in love with Jesus and so thankful for His amazing grace. And, in doing those things, may we do all we can to make the "path of a Pharisee" a path less traveled in our homes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tomorrow's Supply


"If tomorrow's supply depended on today's thanksgiving, how much would I have?"
-Nancy Leigh DeMoss

I can't help but think that if the above quote were true, there would be days where I would have nothing. Praise the Lord that His mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is great! There is nothing in my life that I should NOT give thanks for...since I know that all that comes to me each day has first gone through the hands of God and has a good purpose for my life!

And on a very different note...as you think of "tomorrow's supply", look in your cupboards to see if you have the ingredients on hand to make the following recipe!:) I have been looking for cheaper alternatives to cereal and have found a BIG WINNER in this recipe. The kids love it with some milk poured on top!

BAKED OATMEAL SQUARES

Ingredients

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Cut into squares.

(note: I double the recipe and bake it in a 9 by 13 pan. I also cut the oil in half and replace it with applesauce...and, who needs raisins when you can replace them with mini chocolate chips :))

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Birthday Samuel!


Saturday, April 7th, Samuel turned 10 years old. One full decade!:) Out of those 10 years, we have had the privilege of spending (almost) 3 of them with him...and this was his first birthday celebrating with Papa and Grandma!

After realizing that I could not make a "Canuck logo" for the top of his cake...and I had no way of buying some type of hockey paraphernalia to stick in his cake :)...he got brave and went with my suggestion of brownie pie for his birthday. (Samuel loves brownies!)

Thankfully, it was a huge hit (and has already been asked for birthday 11 :)) along with the other food items he requested that day....pumpkin pancakes, mexican chowder, and cornbread (not all eaten together, of course!).

He had a fun day of an Easter egg hunt at the city park, an afternoon with a friend, and a night of food, family, and Wii Bowling!
As a parent, I couldn't help but think of how neat it was that his birthday was "sandwiched" between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. How we pray that Samuel's life (and not just his birthday) would always be lived within the cross and Christ's victory over sin and death!

Dear Samuel,

In the last three years, we have learned much about you and you have learned much about us. We know that you still don't like milk that much and cheese is best eaten on pizza only!:) We have come to realize that we might just have to say to other people "Yes, that is our son with the big Afro!".:) We have learned that you are one great hockey player and look forward to seeing what kind of baseball player you are going to be. You love sports...and that has given you a great common bond with Micah.

We have watched the two of you grow in your care and love for each other. You have become "Best Brothers" and that is something we prayed for even before you were in our home! Samuel, you are a "people person" and our hearts have been so blessed by the kind things others have to say about you. Your respectful words, the way you help out the little ones at church or when we are with another family with young children, and the fun you have with friends and your excitement about their lives.

God has given you a very bright mind. I still can't believe you caught up with your class and learned all 50 states and capitals in less than a month! (Thanks, Max, for your extra help!) What you put your mind to, you usually excel at! Of course, we all know that the opposite is true to...when you don't engage your mind, it's never a good thing.:) Praise the Lord, this month it has only been a broken pinky toe and a concussion. We pray God would spare you of further injuries as you learn to think before you "leap"...quite literally!:)

Samuel, I am so very thankful God has placed you into our home and into our hearts. God has used you to grow your father and I in so many ways! God continues to use you and your siblings to stretch us, humble us, and help us see our continued need for God's wisdom, power, and grace in our lives as we seek to train you in God's precious truths. We are so thankful that He shows us each and every day that we cannot live life on our own, that we cannot glorify Him apart from His Holy Spirit.

As I think of your own life, I pray that for you as well! There is much in your 10 years that you have had to do "on your own". It has ripened an independence in you years before it should have ripened. We are so thankful that God saw fit to make you our son and give a place of dependence to your independent heart. But, greater still, we pray that God would continue to draw you to Himself and that you would feel "at home" in His arms. That you would learn the beautiful peace and joy that comes from fully depending on the Lord and finding out that all that your heart needs is found in all that Jesus is!

I love you Samuel...and I look forward to many more years and many more birthdays filled with brownie pies, pumpkin pancakes....and LOTS of love!

Happy Birthday sweet Samfro!

love,
Mom

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Quiet Mouth


Remember in 2 Samuel 12 when Nathan came to David (after his affair with Bathsheba and Uriah's subsequent murder) and told him the story of the lamb that was unjustly taken from the poor family. David was outraged over the actions of the selfish rich man who took the lamb; but was quickly confronted by Nathan that HE was that man, having taken Bathsheba away from Uriah.

I was reminded of that same "story telling" principle as I was reading in "The Excellent Wife Day by Day" today. It was rather convicting! :) Here is what the author shares:

"Eric plopped down on the couch and let out an exasperated sigh."What's wrong?" Melanie asked. "Oh, it's Jim at work. The man continually questions everything I do. 'Why are we using that program? Why don't we move the ship date? What did you do that for?' The guy is driving me crazy!" Melanie's jaw dropped open. "Hold it," she said. "Aren't you his boss? Where does he get off questioning you? That is unbelievable! If I were you, I'd fire him!"

Eric smiled and took Melanie's hand in his. "Forgive me, sweetie," he said, "but I just made all that stuff up. Jim is fine. But I wish I could say the same about you." At first Melanie was hurt, but as they talked, she realized that she had gotten into a very bad habit of questioning her husband's judgement about virtually everything. The next day during her quiet time with God, she prayed about it, and realized that she had unknowingly tried to put herself in the driver's seat of their marriage. It was true that Eric had made some bad decisions, and he wasn't exactly an expert in all things. But overall, he had proven himself to be trustworthy. She knew that the real reason she questioned his judgement was simply her desire to be in control.

Melanie had fallen into the trap set up for Eve by Satan, when God declared "Your desire (to control) will be for your husband" (Genesis 3:16). Our lust for control often makes us question our husband's judgement, knowledge, opinions, and decisions. When you question him, what you're really saying is, " I don't respect you enough to trust your decision-making abilities." This will make your husband not only feel you don't respect him, but that you think he's stupid.

If you truly don't understand why he's made a particular decision, it's not wrong to ask for clarification. But you should question your own motives first: Do you have a different idea of how the situation should be handled? Is asking for more information simply a way to introduce your opinions into your husband's decisions?"


Did that hit home at all? I know that there may be exceptions to the "rule of thumb" given above and, there may be issues in your marriage that need outside counsel and wisdom. But, for many women, if you are at all like me...the words above were very much an encouragement to my own "controlling heart". Oh, that God would give us a quietness both of spirit and of mouth as we seek to glorify Him and "do good to our husbands" in our role of wife and helpmeet!

Proverbs 29:11 "A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back."

1 Peter 3:3-4 "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

Proverbs 18:13 "If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame."

Proverbs 11:12 "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent."

James 1:19 "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger..."