Monday, May 30, 2016

Only Proximately Bad

Tonight I planned to write a post on a passage of Scripture we read today in family devotions...and I had a niggling that I might have written on it years ago. Sure enough, I did. So, I figured there was no need to write on it again...but my heart's still echoing the same thoughts and it seemed fitting to share (the car accident and post was 6 years ago...Matt's doing great...and working at a car dealership, for that matter ;) )

My cousin got into a car accident two days ago. He is fine but his car is not...and for a guy who just graduated from high school and invested a good chunk of his hard earned money into that's not just a "bummer"'s heart wrenching! My heart ached for him and was full of prayers that God would be seen as great in the midst of the heartache and that He would be glorified in the pain. 

I read a quote by R.C Sproul that reminded me not only of my cousin's situation but of so many other situations that the Lord has taken others through and my own family through:

"God, in his providence, has the power and the will to work all things together for good for his people. This does not mean that everything that happens to us is, in itself, good. Really bad things do happen to us. But they are only proximately bad; they are never ultimately bad. That is, they are bad only in the short (proximate) term, never in the long term. Because of the triumph of God's goodness in all things, he is able to bring good for us out of the bad. He turns our tragedies into supreme blessings."

That quote was also in the forefront of my thoughts and meditations when I read a very familiar account in John 11. You know the one...Lazarus was sick...he was dying...and this is what John 11:5-6:

"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was."

Ouch! The One who could heal, the One who could make well with just a few words from His mouth, the One who could take away hurt and pain and bring laughter and joy in it's place, the One who could turn mourning into dancing...seemingly did nothing. In fact, He stayed right where He was. He allowed pain and death, sorrow and tears to fill the lives of those He loved so dearly. It didn't make sense. It hurt so much...Martha and Mary knew that Jesus could have saved Lazarus...but He didn't...and the pain was intense.

That was the proximate. That was what earthly eyes saw and felt but that was not the end of the story. It was only the opening chapter. God's goodness triumphs in all things...even the painful things. Lazarus died, in the words of Jesus, "for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified by it"(vs 4). Lazarus died so that that he could be risen from the the watching world could see that there is NOTHING out of God's control, nothing in which He does not claim the victory...not even death!

My cousin Matt saw God's supreme blessing today out of the midst of pain...he saw God provide in ways that were beyond what we ever could have prayed for. He saw the greatness of God in a way he might not have otherwise...and so did we! And, in that, God is glorified and He is made much of!

Love you, Matt!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Books, Books, and More Books!

"Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." John 21:25

As a book lover, I can't help but smile big at this verse. It shows the greatness of our Lord in a way that should boggle our minds! 

Not that long ago, a friend asked me for some book recommendations and I thought it might be worthwhile to post some of our/my favorites. That certainly doesn't mean these are the best books out there on a given subject (my pile of "want to read" books seems to grow daily!) but this is some of what we have read and come across in our years of ministry that has blessed and encouraged our own hearts, as well as those we have ministered to. Lord willing, a decade from now....I will have many more to add to this list! :) 

Christian Living:

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur

The Enemy Within by Kris Lungard

Adopted for Life by Russell Moore


What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp

When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey

For Women: 

Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian

Fearlessly Feminine by Jani Ortlund

Feminine Appeal by Carolyn Mahaney

Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin (can't wait to read her newest book: None Like Him!)

Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (a beautiful fiction book!)

Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski

For Moms: 

Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman ( a must have!)

Together by Carrie Ward

Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Hubbard

For Parents: 

Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley

Everyday Talk by John Younts

You Never Stop Being A Parent by Jim Newheiser and Elyse Fitzpatrick

(Note: Bryan would probably have a couple more pages of books, if I gave him the floor!;) )

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

STILL in Labor!

I was looking through some of my old blog posts, seeking to find some words that might encourage a gal who miscarried...and I came across this post that I wrote on a Tuesday...almost 6 years ago. "Past me" encouraged "present me" :) and I couldn't help but think others might be encouraged, too. Maybe you, like me, are still in labor, too. 

I am in labor!

I never thought I would have the words "I am in labor" come out of my mouth again. Those words bring back memories of my labor pains for each of my children.

With Garett, it started with my water breaking (like a flood!) in my in-law's car and then down their driveway as I quickly jumped out of the car!

Micah's came at 33 weeks and I ended up in the hospital and then on bed rest. On October 2nd, we had gone out to celebrate Garett's home-going to Heaven and contractions started coming regularly while we were at the theater watching "Remember the Titans". (Yep...we finished the movie before heading to the hospital!)

Grace was induced, as was Faith. Titus ended up being a c-section after a night of labor.

With each, the labor was different. All involved pain to one degree or another. Garett's brought as much pain to my heart as it did to my body...knowing each contraction was one minute closer to his death. There was a tinge of uncertainty and "unknown" in my delivery of Micah. There was still the possibility that he was Down Syndrome...a possibility that was not laid to rest till after he was born. Grace's delivery was relatively calm...I enjoyed my epidural immensely. Of course, the fact that she was born such a peanut (6 lb. 3 oz.) was helpful as well. Faith's arrival into the world was the most pain I had ever felt in my life and it brought tears, groans and an intense desire to do whatever it took to GET HER OUT (all 8 lbs. 11 oz.)! I even cut her umbilical cord myself!:) Titus brought a night full of pain but no progress...and I had more pain after his birth as I recovered from a c-section. Samuel and Caleb...their "birth" into our family was brought on after much "heart labor"...they were truly the longest labor of all!

And I think that Samuel and Caleb's "labor" is a bit more along the lines of what Paul had in mind when he penned Galatians 4:19 and reminded me that I am STILL in labor:

"My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you..."

What a verse for mommies to treasure and ponder in their heart, huh?! We know the pain of labor...the ebb and flow...the times of pressure and the times of pain so intense it makes us see have something take over our body that we have absolutely no control over and must trust God's plan (the work He is doing) amidst the pain... knowing that the pain is producing something so beautiful and precious...a little one to hold in our arms!

How true when it comes to the salvation of our children's souls?! Salvation is a work of the Lord...yet we are called to teach, to train, to admonish, to correct, to use the Word of God in our everyday talk in such a way that our conversations point our kids to Him and lift His name on high! It's a season of labor...the pain of our kids sinful choices is real to our own hearts and I know that we have all lifted up words that sound more like groans to the Throne of God on behalf of our children. How often my kids point me to Jesus...the One who is in control of all things...when their actions and attitudes seem to be spinning out of control and the only thing that I can do is trust the promises of God...His plan...and faithfully fulfill the role He has called me to in their lives...all the while praying that part of His plan is the salvation of their souls...that Christ would be formed in them...and that they would be a lover of Christ above all else!

So, ladies, we are still in labor...let's not forget it! May the days of pain point us to our Savior and may our "breathing technique" be one of continual breaths of prayer to our Lord. As we begin to realize more and more that, ultimately, our lives and our families are "out of our control", may we remember that NOTHING is out of the control of our Sovereign God. And when the labor pains are bringing us to the point of exhaustion may our strength be renewed by the inter-venous flow, not of drugs, but of the Word of God!

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9

"Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually." Psalms 105:4

Monday, May 9, 2016

Who Says a Quarter is Worth Just 25 Cents?

Last week, I read a statistic that had my mouth hanging open. If you were to take a single quarter and drop it anywhere in North America (That includes the USA, Canada, and Mexico) you would have the approximate size of our WHOLE solar system in comparison to the galaxy we live in, the Milky Way. And if that wasn't mind blowing enough....there are believed to be BILLIONS of galaxies in our universe! 

What does our great God, creator of it ALL, say: 

"Look up and see: who created these? He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name. Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing." Isaiah 40:26

He knows how many stars there are but, even more so, He has named them all....billions and billions of them! I'm left somewhere between wanting to cry and wanting to fall on my knees and join the chorus of the living creatures who's voices, day and night, ring out, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming." Rev. 4:8 

Look up to the Heavens, sisters in Christ, and stand in awe! That's our God...He did all that and more than we can possibly even begin to see or imagine. Don't worry. Don't be afraid. Don't grumble and complain. Don't lose heart: "For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. Hold firmly the message of life." Phillippians 2:13-16a

Look up to the Heavens, and cry out in prayer! Pray that God would cause you to shine bright in the world, community, neighborhood, and family He has placed you in. Pray that you may walk wisely as you shine, that God might use you in leading many to righteousness as they see Christ in you, the hope of glory! 

"Those who are wise will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3

And it just might not be a bad idea to keep a quarter handy. You never know when you might be able to use it as a springboard to declaring the glory of God and proclaiming the work of His hands, as He already designed it (Psalm 19:1). That quarter just might be worth way more than 25 cents! 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Praying the Bible

When I was a "wee one" (and I do mean in many of you would still say I am "wee" in stature!), I was taught that there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Or, in other words, we sin not only by doing what we shouldn't do but also by not doing what we should do. Which means, when you start thinking you are doing pretty good because of the sin you are not committing, it's a great time to be completely humbled as you think about the things you should be doing but aren't (example: LOVE your enemies, PRAY for them, and BLESS them....need I say more?!:) ).

Anyway, this concept of sinning by what we don't do is clearly seen in words spoken by Samuel in I Samuel. He said, "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way." (I Samuel 12:23)  

It is sin to not pray.

It is sin to not pray.

No...that is not a typo, I just had to repeat it twice so the weight of it would sink into my own heart and yours. So often I hear about how prayer is a struggle for many believers...and it's easy for me to feel "comfortable" with my own struggles because...well....hey, it's not just me, after all.

But that is the wrong focus...that's focusing on others instead of fixing my eyes on Christ and seeking to walk worthy of my obey Him in all regards.  Many times in Scripture, He calls you and me to pray without ceasing. To live a life in constant communion with Him. To depend on Him in the big things and in all the little mundane things that fill up our days.

My heart cried out to the Lord for help, and He so graciously gave me the form of a book! :) I'd like to commend to you, "Praying the Bible" by Donald Whitney. I can't say enough good things about it! It's only 112 pages but, in the words of Albert Mohler,"This little book is explosive and powerful".  I found my spirit rejoicing as I was reminded and encouraged to "seek the Lord at all times" using God's own Words as a template! Buy it for yourself for Mother's Day....your soul will be blessed...and your family will be blessed as you faithfully lift them up before the throne of grace, guided by Gods very Words of grace!

"I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because He inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call on Him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2