Monday, January 31, 2011

success and failure

It's wonderfully freeing to realize that our value does not depend on our acheivements. Success does not define who we are or why we matter. The single most important thing about us is unaffected by our performance: we are deeply loved by the God who made us in His own image.

There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. 
There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

Our greatest fulfillment will always be found by living out of that knowledge.  I am loved. God knew what he was doing when He made me. He has great things in store for me because He loves me.

While some of us can acheive success some of the time, no one can acheive success all of the time. In the end it's totally freeing to give our best efforts to God, leaving the results in his hands and knowing that He loves us no matter how things turn out. If success depends on us, then life is full of pressure to perform.  But since we're loved either way, the pressure's off!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

new blog features

For a while I've been wanting to figure out a way to add other "pages" to my blog so that I could easily share resources that have been helpful to me on my journey.  At the top of the page you'll see links to both academic and parenting resources, as well as lists of my favorite academic and children's books.  There's something for everyone!  If you receive my posts in your inbox as rss feeds or through a service such as blogtrottr, then you'll need to click on the title above to take you to my blog site in order to see the links.

In case you haven't noticed it before, to the right of the blog posts there is a list of all of the subjects that I have blogged about so far.  If there is something you'd like to read more about, just click on the subject and blogger will filter out all the posts that relate to that topic.

These new pages are a work in progress. I plan to add another page for people new to the faith. Let me know if there's something else you'd like me to add!

Monday, January 24, 2011

out of the mouths of babes...

I'm still sick. The kids hung out with me for a while this afternoon to keep me company. I heard all kinds of delightful stories from Emma about kindergarten, including this one...

Emma (age 5): I asked all the kids in my class if they believe in Jesus.  And I told 'em if they didn't then they're gonna go where Satan is.

Would this be considered bullying?

We had a good talk about sharing the love of Jesus and not trying to scare people into believing in him.  She assured me that she was not threatening them, just letting them know in case they didn't.  Mercy.  I am glad that she is concerned about her friends' eternal destiny, but there is so much more to the good news than escaping hell!  We'll have to talk more about that.

Easton's story was more on the lighthearted side.  He tromped into the room with his bucket of vehicles and announced, "I'm gonna make a rainbow for each all of us!"  After working on his "rainbow of cars" for a while, he made another announcement:  "I'm gonna clean up now.  I'm not gonna make a rainbow.  I changed my mind."

I wish you could hear him say the word 'rainbow.'  He gives "bow" everything he's got.  S-o-o-o precious.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the power of problems

I'm reading through a little book this year called Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen by Charles Ringma.  For each day there are a few short paragraphs for reflection.  Somehow, the author must have known that I would need these words today:

"God ... creatively uses difficulty to gain our attention.  He does not create the difficulty.  We are good at doing that; or sometimes the difficulty springs from the brokenness of life itself.  But problems can arrest us.  And if we are willing to learn from them, they can become our friends."

I've been sick since Wednesday.  And though I needed to make major progress on my thesis this weekend, I did not.  I have rested, slept, emailed, and spent what little physical strength I had left on the house. You see, we had two showings scheduled for this weekend.  Our first ones.  We were jazzed because we haven't even put our house on the market yet, and we wondered if God would give us the gift of a Spring with no roller-coaster of house-cleaning-and-showing.  Danny literally spent every waking moment working on the house Friday, Saturday, and this morning (minus the hour he was at church).  You don't really realize how much clutter there is until you start to box it up.  And you don't realize how dirty the house is until the clutter is gone.

And then both showings were cancelled.  The second one at the last minute.  Both of us wanted to collapse from exhaustion.  We wanted to cry.  We wanted to know "Why, God?!"  We could have had a restful day.  We could have been playing with our kids.  We gave every ounce of our strength to a project that didn't have to be done.

But. 

The Scripture for today's devotional is this:
"My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9)

I'm still not sure what this was all about.  Perhaps God wanted to give us the gift of a clean house to enjoy this month.  Many of the tasks we accomplished will not have to be re-done, and this weekend put us way ahead of schedule.  But maybe the lesson is for us to seek the Giver and not the gift.  We have certainly come to the end of ourselves, and there is no doubt left that we need Him.

He is good whether or not we have energy. 
He is good whether or not we show the house.
He is good whether or not we sell the house.
And His grace is ALL we need.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

diaper boxes...

... are the perfect size for packing Bible commentaries.

Just so you know.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Mom's stunning!"

Well, that's what it sounded like Easton said.

What he meant was, "Mom's studying."  Which was true.

I've been doing quite a lot of studying lately.

And loving it.

I'm working on my thesis -- an exploration of the Old Testament background of 1 Peter 2:9-10:

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may declare the mighty deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were no-people, but now you are God's people; once you were 'un-mercied,' now your name is 'Mercy'."

Peter is writing his letter to a mostly Gentile church made up of Christians who are scattered throughout an empire full of unbelievers who are making life very difficult for them.  They are discouraged and wonder if they've joined the right team.  Peter does not just think up nice things to say to make them feel better.  He bestows on them the very titles that were first given exclusively to the Jewish nation! (See Exodus 19:5-6 and Isaiah 43:20-21 for starters.) He is making the very radical claim that believers in Jesus the Messiah are the true Israel, God's treasured possession, chosen to carry out his mission on earth.  If they are suffering, it's because they have chosen to follow the Messiah who suffered and died on behalf of the world.  Their suffering is not a sign that they have done something wrong, it's confirmation that they are doing God's work.  And since they belong to Him, wonderful things await them.

I may just be studying, but that's stunning news.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

a little too close to home

Today is National Awareness Day for Human Trafficking.  Since two local news agencies ran stories on our church's efforts to fight the global slave trade, I went online to see the stories.  Fox News provided links to a local task force working to stop human trafficking here in Charlotte.  What?! 

That's right.  I was thinking (maybe you were, too!) that the problem of slavery or forced prostitution was an inter-national problem, not a national or local one.  But I was wrong.  Really wrong.

The fact is, the US is the second biggest destination for modern-day slaves.  Most of them are women exploited for sex.  Listen to this"North Carolina has become one of the top states for human trafficking."

It turns out that the world's oldest profession doesn't pay very well, unless you're the slave-owner with the lock and key.  And what can I do about it?  I can start by gathering items for emergency supply bags that can be given to women who are rescued.  And I can blog about it so that others will know, too.  I'm not satisfied with that, but it's a start.

Friday, January 7, 2011

two-and-a-half

... is a delightfully fun age.  Just listen to what I've heard today:

Easton: "Mom, I need some medicine for my mouff and for my feet to make me better."
Mom: "Really?  What's wrong with your feet?"
Easton: "They are falling off."

---

Easton (over, and over, and over, all morning long): "I'm going on a date wiff my Dad to Home Depot for lunch!"
Mom (several hours later): "Easton, did you have fun with Daddy at Home Depot? 
Easton: "Yeah!"
Mom: "What did you see?"
Easton: "I see Frosty the Snowman wiff french fries!!!"

[Mom discovers that there must be a Wendy's on the way!  Sweet Easton, who recently learned all about Frosty the Snowman at school, found it fascinating to eat a milkshake apparently named after him.  Yum!]

---

Easton (randomly): "I'm falling down a waterfall!"

---

Easton: "Hey, Mom! Let's play Lincoln and Logs!"

---

Easton (watching me get ready in the morning): "You painting your face, Mom?"
Mom: "Yes, I'm painting my face."
Easton (encouragingly): "It looks nice, Mom."
Mom: "Thank you, Easton."
Easton: "You gonna brush your eye brown?" 
(I suspect he's talking about mascara... and intending to say eyebrows.)
Mom:  "Yes, in a minute."
Easton: "I like your forehead, Mom.  It's nice."

Gotta love this kid!

Monday, January 3, 2011

$207,805

... is how much our church family gave in December to International Justice Mission to fight the global problem of slavery and forced prostitution!

In the middle of a recession.

Now THAT'S cool.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ideas for Family Devotions

Something about the new year always gets us thinking about how we can make sure we're reading the Bible with our kids.  We've tried a lot of different ways to do "Bible Time," and since we're always in need of new ideas I thought I'd post some of ours in hopes that you'll comment with some of yours.

I've already recommended my two favorite children's Bibles: one for 0-5 year olds, and one for 5-10 year olds.  One way to make sure that you're actually reading the Bible with your kids is to plan it for the time of day that is the most structured.  Dinner time has not worked for us, but maybe it would for your family.  Bedtime has been a lot more successful at our house.  The kids always ask for a bedtime story, and so last year we decided that the Bible would always be their bedtime story.  We made it through our big children's Bible (for 5-10 year olds) by mid-year.  The Big Picture Story Bible (for 0-5 year olds) lasted only a couple of weeks because it does what the title suggests: gives the big picture, rather than a lot of details.  It would be great for a weekly family Bible time, and does an excellent job of tying the whole story of Scripture together.

Other ideas we have used:
  • Read a proverb or two each night at dinner and talk about what it means.
  • Read through the New Testament in a year by doing a few chapters each week on Saturdays and Sundays.  Danny did this with Eliana in 2010.  They listened to the Bible being read aloud online and followed along in the NIV.
  • Work through a children's devotional.  We're going to start off the year with "Keys for Kids," something from way back in the early 80's that I loved as a kid.  Our kids have also really enjoyed Under the Tagalong Tree, a book that includes Bible stories followed by modern-day stories for kids along the same theme.  I read it over and over as a kid. 
  • Read a missionary biography together or a book like Hero TalesThis works well with children ages 6 and up.  Now is the time to inspire them to ask what God wants them to do with their lives!  Most people who become missionaries were first exposed to missions during their childhood.
  • Work on memorizing questions and answers from a Children's Catechism (Q & A about the meaning of life from a biblical perspective).  You'd be amazed at what young children can memorize! (Note: I haven't used this one in particular, but it appears to be similar to ours.)
  • Light a candle and spend time quietly listening to God, followed by prayer.  Think your kids won't be quiet long enough?  Having a dark room with a candle lit makes a big difference!
  • Work on memorizing familiar passages of Scripture together.  Some of our favorites are Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 100, Deuteronomy 6, and John 1.  Make it a family contest!
  • Eliana and I are going to work our way through Genesis this spring while reading our new commentary written just for kids her age.  This is the first kids' commentary I've ever seen, and I'm excited to try it out!  We plan to do it together on Sunday afternoons while the younger kids are napping.
Whether first thing in the morning, dinner time, bedtime, or Sunday afternoons, family devotions will not just happen unless you decide they are important and make it part of your routine!  There isn't a 'right way' and a 'wrong way' to do it.  Just find something that works for your family and go for it!

I'd love to hear your ideas, too.  Post a comment below...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

...and Hello, 2011!

I'm starting off the new year by diving into my MA thesis ("Treasured Possession": Peter's Use of the Old Testament in 1 Peter 2:9-10).  It's a topic I'm very excited about.  My thesis is due March 1st, which means I have no time to sit around wondering if I'll be accepted at any of the schools where I've applied.

Meanwhile, admissions committees will spend the months of January and February reading applications and deciding which students to accept for doctoral studies.  Please join us in praying for the men and women who are making these difficult decisions.  We do not envy them!  Pray that God would give them wisdom, discernment and guidance throughout the process.

I don't expect to hear anything definitive until March, but you can check here for updates.  May you all have a blessed year in 2011!

Goodbye, 2010 ...

You can probably guess why my blog has been silent over these past two weeks.  I've been soaking in the extra time with family over the holidays!  We went on a road trip to Colorado, driving for a total of 60 hours and spending a fabulous 8 days with my immediate and extended family.  A great time was had by all!  It was a welcome break from studying before these next couple of months which promise to be intense.

I had some great Christmas post ideas, but they'll have to wait until next year.  Here is a link to our family video for 2010.  It's 13 minutes long, and a lot of fun.  Thanks for joining us on our journey!