Monday February 8, 2010

    Our pastoral intern, Ben Alexander, preaches excellently. I am always both encouraged and challenged by the words of Truth which Christ speaks through him.
    This morning he preached on 1 Corinthians 13 — you know, the famous “love” section. He highlighted verse 7:

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    It made me think about the members of Christ’s body that have truly reached out to us with such Christlike love lately. It isn’t just anyone who has loved us with this true type of love. The type that bears with us, believes with us, hopes with us, and endures with us. There are a number of people who have tangibly loved us this way. And my eyes filled with encouraged tears as soon as he began reading his sermon text this morning.
    A dear friend sent me an email not long ago saying that they find my husband & me to be exemplifying the love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13. The email meant a great deal to me, and blessed me. To know that we are ministering to others, proclaiming the Gospel through our life, and showcasing Christ’s love even in our grief and pain — that knowledge blessed me. And so I was reminded of that this morning.
    But in all honesty, I do not feel deserving of such encouragement. I do not feel like I bear all things or endure things — not well, at any rate. I feel like believing and hoping are grasping at straws for me some days.
    But may the Lord enable me to continually grow and become established in Him, conforming more and more to His image, so that I may (ere I die) be mature in this.
    Upon hearing the sermon text for today, the number one person that popped into my head was my Steven. He is patient and kind; never envious or boastful, arrogant or rude; he does not insist on his own way (even though he knows I would necessarily submit to him if he did); he is not easily irritated or harbor resentment; he rejoices in Truth; and truly, truly he bears all things (good, bad, ugly…) with me & for me, he believes all things (by the power of God in him) with me & for me, he hopes all things (for his hope is grounded deeply in the Lord), and he endures all things (I don’t even need to begin a list here). This man loves with a never-ending, never-failing love.
My Steven epitomizes this section of Scripture.
Praise the Lord. And amen!
    The next set of people that popped into my head are my parents. Never have such parents existed before, I think. (I know, I know — I’m partial, right?) They bear, believe, hope, and endure so much with us. Tangibly.
Praise the Lord. And hallelujah!
    And then there are others. Some who read this very blog! 🙂
Thank you for loving us with Christlike love.

    I know that Galatians 6:2 (“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”) is referring specifically to burdens of transgression, but I think the principle is largely (and appropriately) applied to other burdensome situations as well. My dearest friend’s mother leads a Bible study I attend, and she said recently “if you are bearing one another’s burdens, you should feel burdened. Truly burdened.” So for those of you who are specifically loving us in the way of helping to bear our burden of the past year — thank you for being burdened, and may our kind Father in Heaven bless you with a doublefold reward.

This morning, Ben Alexander said

Maturity is the man of the most love.


Maturity is a person who knows that God loves them…
Who hates their sin and loves their forgiveness.

I liked those snippets.
He also said

Post millenialism is confident faith in God’s victory over the world.

I love God’s victorious reign!

The five main points of the sermon application are as follows:
1) Christ’s enduring love is not provincial.
2) Christ’s enduring love is not self-preserving.
3) Christ’s enduring love does not believe a person can’t change.
4) Christ’s enduring love does not give up on people.
5) Christ’s enduring love places maximum value on the other person.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Monday February 1, 2010

Read this entry of Steven’s, and the excerpts of Mr. Palpant’s prayer.

Some of the sentences that made my chin quiver and my eyes pour out like little salty fountains:

~”We are those who buried another child, though we prayed against it, and though we hoped, and now the dark is very dark and we are often tired in the very center of our being.”
~”Forgive us for wanting to simply get through to the other side of the anguish, unwilling to sit in the desert and let you wash us off and clothe us and be with us. Forgive us for forgetting our great heritage of suffering and the Cross that stands as the sign and purpose of our mortal lives. Forgive us, Father, for hoping our joy would come cheaply.”
~”Forgive us for keeping our suffering to ourselves, for hiding behind a stoic smile, for selfishly wishing we could be only left alone.”

Tuesday December 29, 2009

I love celebrating Advent. We don’t do much with it. Not yet. Someday when Gabriel is older (and has siblings on earth, we pray!), we will incorporate more tangible things into our Advent celebration and anticipation. Crafts and outings and activities and books. This year, Gabriel latched onto the chocolate routine with vigor. Next year I will add something. Thankfully I have eleven months to come up with it. 🙂
And something else for someday – celebrating the twelve days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany. My husband smiles and shrugs (for now!) when I suggest it, but I think he’ll come around someday. I am eager to incorporate more and more of the traditional Church calendar into our lives in the future, especially with kids. Why should we live according to a secular calendar so minutely, and yet throw out the Church calendar?! It makes absolutely no sense. Unless you’re a pagan.
So anyway.

Dear Pastor Toby Sumpter has inspired me this morning with some readings.
You must read them too.
You simply must. 🙂
I got chills when reading one and tears when reading the other.
Read what he says about proclaiming Christmas to the old, the decrepit, the dying.
And then read what he says about living, resting, and truly doing Christmas with his own family.

Happy fifth day of Christmas!!

Thursday December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve, my friends!!
As we’d say when I was little, “only one more sleep until Christmas!”
I hope your preparations are joyful and your festivities are blessed.
The Lord be with you, and may He give you great joy!

From Heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.

To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

’Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

He brings those blessings long ago
Prepared by God for all below;
That in His heavenly kingdom blest
You may with us forever rest.

These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By Whom the heavens and earth were made.

Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this Child, so young and fair?
The blessèd Christ Child lieth there!

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through Whom e’en wicked men are blest!
Thou com’st to share our misery,
What can we render, Lord, to Thee!

Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How hast Thou made Thee weak and small,
To lie upon the coarse dry grass,
The food of humble ox and ass.

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
The truth to us, poor fools and vain,
That this world’s honor, wealth and might
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Here in my poor heart’s inmost shrine,
That I may evermore be Thine.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given,
While angels sing, with pious mirth,
A glad New Year to all the earth.

~Martin Luther

I don’t know if any of you do much blog-hopping – I do.
Especially to blogs of mommies who have lost children – through miscarriage, stillbirth, or later deaths. It simultaneously makes my heart ache and encourages me. I am not alone. I am not weird. My heart is doing what it should do – no matter what anyone may tell me about getting over it, moving on, or being ‘happy’ regardless of circumstances.

So anyway…

Yesterday I went to one of my favorites.
And she had a post about True Joy.
This is coming from a young woman whose only child, a precious & beautiful 11 month old girl, died last February.
She is expecting another baby any day.
And you can try to imagine the mix of emotions they are enduring this Christmas season.
I must admit that I don’t have to imagine very hard – I know all too well that line between grief & hope.

She refers to the One Year Book of Hope I have recommended, too.
And I hope it will bless you to read what she says, and quotes from that book.
I know it blessed me.

Regardless of our state of happiness this Christmas, even WE CAN BE JOYFUL.
So without further ado, here is what Jess wrote (in case you’re afraid to click on links)….

“The truth is, it is possible to be filled with joy and still not be described as “happy.” Sometimes we’re just plain sad, not only down in our hearts, but down to our toes…

…The Bible says, “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, NASB).  As we savor the joy we have in Christ, we feel the healing power of that medicine.  In fact, our joy should be as consistent as God is.  It doesn’t have to be tied to the turbulent conditions of our feelings and moods.  Our joy is grounded in God.  It flows from him and back to him.  Joy is not something we can generate with positive thinking or a bit of humor.  It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our inner lives.  Joy shines forth from the life of the true believer, no matter how dark the circumstances.  Joy in God deserves our constant, courageous pursuit.” -Nancy Guthrie

How reassuring is it to know that our joy isn’t tied to the sometimes turbulent conditions around us?

It isn’t tied to how sad I am feeling as we prepare to celebrate this first Christmas without Cora. It isn’t tied to how my heart hurts when I see all these happy Christmas cards and realize again that there will be no family pictures with Cora this year. It isn’t tied to how sad I am that Cora won’t be here to welcome her new brother or sister with us. It isn’t even tied to how much love we will feel when we meet Baby Mac any day now. True joy does not necessarily equal happiness.

My joy is grounded in Christ.
And I can experience deep joy, even in the midst of sorrow,
because my hope is in Christ.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have any tears or sadness.
But, I pray that this true joy is what others see shining from my life and family,
even during this first Christmas without Cora.

Monday December 21, 2009

So we had Mommy & Tots today for the first time since September, I believe. It was so nice to have the ladies and tots in my home again! There were five moms and seven kids (plus two “baking”!) – Gabriel is the oldest. 🙂 We visited mostly, and let all the kids play with toys (and each other!), had a Christmas ornament exchange (gotta love those), and ate a brunch of orange slices, gingerbread with whipped cream, and my favorite egg casserole (Jac & Sam, I think you girls shared this with me years ago!).
I thought I would share my recipes with you, as well as our words of encouragement for the mommies this week. 🙂

Holiday Gingerbread

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/3 cup sifted flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
pinch salt
Heat butter and molasses until melted and bubbly. Cool slightly. Beat in sour cream, sugar, and egg until smooth. In separate bowl, sift dry ingredients. Add molasses mixture to dry ingredients, blend until lump-free and smooth. Pour into a greased 9-inch pan (round or square or loaf). Bake at 325F until done – firm, yet bouncy to your finger. Test after 45 minutes. Do NOT overbake. Watch it closely, since you want it moist not dry. Serve with whipped cream!!

Campbell Ranch Egg Puff

1/2 cup butter
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1 pound shredded cheese – I use colby-jack
10 large eggs
1 pint cottage cheese
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup or so of cooked sausage, ham or bacon (I usually use about 5 strips of bacon)
In a large frying pan, melt the butter. Wash and dice the mushrooms, and add to the butter. Saute for a couple minutes until completely coated with butter and getting a little soft. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs until well blended. Add remaining ingredients and the mushrooms/butter. Pour into a greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.

Published by Nancy Ann December 6th, 2008 in Everything Christmas

The Christmas build-up is famous for being prime stress-out time, particularly and especially for busy moms. So here is your annual gentle reminder to forsake all stressing out. Put all your worries, concerns, panics, and pressures (and lists of things you cannot possibly get done) in a big box, tie it with a ribbon, and put it away. Remember that all good things come with temptations, and Christmas is no exception. Being tempted is not the same thing as sin. Having temptations to get stressed out is normal, every day life. Giving way to the temptation is the problem.

Now a little stress is a good thing; without it we might not get very much done. Deadlines make us work harder, and there is no stopping December 25. But when stress turns into worry which then leads to self-pity, which causes grumbling, which makes for a sour attitude, it is no fun for anyone, neither you nor the people who are witnesses to your stressful life. In fact, they get tired of hearing about it: Ha! You think you have it bad. I have eighty-five people on my list. And I haven’t even started shopping yet!  And of course this is not glorifying to God, which is what our lives are to be all about. Especially at the celebration of Christmas.

The worst case scenario is that you won’t get it done. The cards won’t get mailed on time. The cookies won’t get baked. The kids won’t have the hand-made gifts you had planned.  But if the kids have a joyful mom over Christmas, that will have a far greater impact on them than the missing cookies or gifts.

Maybe the stress is because of finances this year. You just can’t do all those things you had hoped. One of my kids’ favorite memories of Christmas involves stockings full of bungie cords and rubber bands! They had so much fun with those things for months.

Sometimes the big disasters (the turkey burned, the gravy spilled, the gifts were all late, broken, and stolen) make the best stories later. We need to recognize them at the time and enjoy them as we live them out, believing God as we go.

So have a wonderful time of preparation. Don’t stint on the gifts and the candy and the celebration. But do it all as an overflow of JOY, not as a panic-stricken obligation! And treasure up the good stories as you go.

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Reckless Giving
Published by Nancy Ann
December 2nd, 2009 in Everything Christmas

As you do your Christmas shopping, you are bound to run into the person who is feeling very guilty about buying presents. It’s so materialistic, they say. Well, yes, it is in one sense. After all, it is stuff. But if we are buying this stuff to bestow on our friends and family because God has bestowed so much of it on us that we just have to let it slosh over, then that is not materialism.

Thankfulness is a great antidote to false-guilt giving. Look at how much God throws away on us all the time. How much rain just runs down the gutter? How many sunsets are enjoyed by the whales because no one else is around to see them? What about the mountainsides covered in wildflowers that no human eye will behold? God just gives and gives and gives recklessly. He doesn’t want us to feel guilty about the sunset or the flowers. He wants us to overflow in thanksgiving. And though we cannot come near His capacity to give,  we can imitate His extravagance by giving gifts and filling stockings and making fudge, all to the glory and praise of The Great Gift Giver Extraordinaire.

A Kind of Christmas Tale

December 23, 2007  |  By: John Piper  |  Category: Recommendations

I wrote this story about four years ago to tell the children at Bethlehem‘s Christmas Eve service.

The Poor Man and His Cow
And the Rich Man and His Wall

Based (very loosely) on a story in T. H. White’s The Once and Future King.

Once upon a time there was a very wise old man named Job. In his old age God gave to him a daughter whom he named Jemima, which means little dove. He loved his little girl and she loved her daddy.

One day Job decided to go on journey and asked Jemima if she would like to go along. “Oh, yes,” Jemima said. “I would love to go along.”

But Job said, “It will be a journey that takes us several days. So we will be staying each night wherever people will have us. So I can’t promise it will be nice. But God will take care of us. He always does what is right. He always meets the needs of those who trust him.”

Jemima smiled and said, “And even if things go bad, God makes them turn for good. Right, Daddy? Just like the little poem that you taught us:

When things don’t go the way they should
God always makes them turn for good.”

“That’s right, Jemima,” Daddy said, “and there’s another little poem you need to learn. It goes like this:

When things go better than they should
For people who are bad,
Remember, if they stay that way,
At last they will be sad.”

And so they started off on their journey and walked all day. At sundown they saw a little cottage and knocked on the door. A very poor man and his wife and baby lived there. Job asked if he and Jemima could spend the night there before they continued on their journey in the morning.

The poor man and his wife were very happy to let them stay. They gave Job and Jemima their own room and made them a simple supper. The special treat was fresh milk from their only cow. This was how the poor couple made a living. Their cow gave good milk and they sold it for enough to live on.

In the morning when Job and Jemima got up they heard crying. The cow had died during the night. The poor man’s wife was crying, “What will we do? What will we do?” she sobbed. The poor man was about to cut the cow into pieces and sell the meat before it spoiled. But Job said, “I think you should not cut the cow in pieces but bury him by your back wall under the olive tree. The meat may not be good to sell. Trust God, and he will take care of you.”

Then Job and Jemima went on their way. They walked all day again and were very tired when they came to the next town and noticed a fine home. They knocked on the door. A very wealthy man lived in this house and they hoped that they would not be an inconvenience to one so wealthy.

But the man was very gruff with them and said they could stay in the barn. He gave them water and bread for supper and let them eat it by themselves in the barn. Job was very thankful for the barn and the bread and water and said to the wealthy man, “Thank you very much for the bread and water and for letting us stay in your barn.”

In the morning Job noticed that one of the walls of the house was crumbling. So he went and bought bricks and mortar and repaired the hole in the wall for the wealthy man. Then Job and Jemima went on their way and came to their destination.

As they sat by the fire that night Jemima said, “Daddy, I don’t understand the ways of God. It doesn’t seem right that the poor man’s cow should die when he was so good to us, and that you should fix the rich man’s wall when he was so bad to us.”

“Well, Jemima,” Job said, “many things are not the way they seem. Perhaps this once I will tell you why. But after this you will have to trust God.”

“The poor man’s cow was very sick, but he didn’t know it. I could taste it in the milk. Soon he would have sold bad milk and the people would have gotten sick and died, and they would have stoned him. So I told him not to sell the meat, but to bury the cow under the olive tree by his back wall because the Lord showed me that, if he dug the grave there he would find a silver cup buried from long ago, and sell it for enough money to buy two good cows. And in the end things would be better for him and his wife and child.”

“When we spent the night at the rich man’s house, I saw the hole in the wall and I saw more than that. I saw that hidden in the wall from generations ago was a chest full of gold. If the rich man had repaired the wall himself, he would have found it and continued in his pride and cruelty. So I bought brick and closed the wall so that the man would never find this treasure.”

“Do you see, Jemima?”

“Yes, Daddy, I see.”

“So never forget, Jemima, many things are not what they seem. But if we trust in God,

When things don’t go the way they should
God always makes them turn for good.”

But if we turn away from God and are unkind and selfish, then the other saying will come true:

When things go better than they should
For people who are bad,
Remember, if they stay that way,
At last they will be sad.”

And that’s the way it was with Jesus. It seemed like he was unimportant because he was born in a small unimportant town, not a big city. He was born in a stable, not a palace. He was laid in a manger, not a fine bed. He was a carpenter not a famous statesman. He had a small group of friends, not a great army. And worst of all, he was killed like a common criminal on a cross.

But many things are not what they seem. He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world. He rose from the dead. He is alive today and rules over the world and King of kings and Lord of lords. And everyone who trusts in him will have all their sins forgiven, and will be able to say,

When things don’t go the way they should
God always makes them turn for good.”

It’s only FOUR days until Christmas!! Time to start counting down….. 🙂