Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Body of Christ in Action

Sunday night our family experienced the love of Christ in a VERY tangible way. Most of you know that we have been living in a house provided by Rothwell Baptist Church in Pooler, Georgia. They have allowed us to live here rent-free for over a year now, which has of course saved us a ton of money. All we have to do is pay our utilities. During the time that Bobby was in treatment various church members also gave us grocery-store gift cards and brought over food and other supplies. We have gotten involved here at RBC: Eric has preached a lot and taught quite a bit on Sunday nights, Caroline and I have joined the choir and been involved in the women's ministry, and Mary and Bobby have really enjoyed GAs and RAs respectively. This has come to be our church family, and we love the people here a lot.

A couple of the young ladies of the church put together a pantry shower and money tree reception Sunday night to benefit our family, and it was amazing! Between the financial gifts and actual gifts of food, we have at least three months of groceries taken care of. What an incredible blessing this has been to our family, not just materially but also spiritually. We see the body of Christ in action, and God at work taking care of our every need--and some of the kids' wants, in the form some foods we usually can't afford...

Our hall closet is stuffed with paper products:

And here are Mary and Bobby with all the food we were given:

It strengthens our faith when such things happen, and makes us more aware of others around us whom we could be helping, as well. It's easy to teach your children about God's provision and about helping others when you are, yourself, the recipient of such generosity. Soli Deo gloria!

Friday, April 25, 2008

OK, Be Honest: Have You Ever Done This?

I confess that I have done this before. But during everything that our family has been through, and seeing just how much people praying for us helped us, I have not done this. When I tell someone I'm going to pray for them, I write them down in my prayer journal and actually do it. I may not be able to pray for them every single day, but I do lift them up at least weekly. And not in just the "Dear God, help so-and-so, amen" way, but praying for their specific needs. It's important that we share specific prayer needs with one another, not just "please pray for me." I'm not saying we need to pour out our hearts to everybody we meet, but we each have a few trusted friends on whom we can depend. These are the people we should share specifics with, and trust to lift us up to the Father.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Famous Birthdays

I know it may sound crazy to some people, but this whole week I've been waiting for something bad to happen. I posted about this last year. Some of the worst things have happened right around my birthday before, so it's nice to have a year when mid-April is peaceful. I also found out this year that while I share a birthday with Hitler, my husband shares his with Charles Manson. It's kind of fun to see what famous people share your birthday, even though it's utterly meaningless. For example, in addition to good-old-Adolf, I share a birthday with: Joey Lawrence, Carmen Electra, artist Joan Miro, Don Mattingly, and quite a few other Hollywood-types. My husband, in addition to Manson, shares his with Tonya Harding! He also gets a lot of "normal" famous people: Sammy Sosa, David Schwimmer, Nadia Comaneci, Al Michaels, Wallace Shawn, Grace Kelly, and "The Thinker" sculptor Auguste Rodin. On a side note: anyone who believes in astrology should spend some time looking at these birthday lists. The idea that all of the people born on a certain date share similar characteristics and fate would quicky be dispelled. For example, my father shares a birthday with the late Vladimir Lenin, my mother shares a birthday with the equally infamous Nikita Kruschev, and my mother-in-law shares a birthday with the hanged-for-war-crimes Saddam Hussein. Hmmmm.....I sense a communist/fascist/absolute dictator theme going on in my family....

So, although it really means nothing, it's kind of cool to see who might be having a birthday cake and hanging out with their friends and family on the same day as you. Even if their idea of hanging out with friends might be something crazy like this,or this. I, on the other hand, went out to dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with my husband on Thursday night, and will have a nice dinner with family tonight. Then, tomorrow, (my actual birthday, ta-dah!) I will go to church with my family and hear my husband preach. Now that's a real gift--to be in the house of the Lord with other believers, worshiping together and being taught from the Word. We've been invited to another family's house for lunch, so I won't have to cook, either. It all adds up to a fine day in my book.

P.S. Just got back from my in-laws' house, and it was actually a small surprise birthday party! I wasn't expecting it. My mother-and-father-in-law were there, as well as Eric's sister Esther and our brother-in-law Nate, and Teddy and baby John. Charlotte made delicious pot roast, potatoes, carrots, and a salad, and we had strawberry shortcake for dessert. I even got to open most of my birthday presents. It was a wonderful time.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

An Honor and a Privilege

Yesterday I was able to do something I've never done before. I helped coach my sister-in-law through childbirth. Her husband was there, too, supporting and coaching. Of course, my s-i-l did all the real work and I was incredibly proud of her. I've given birth three times, so I knew what I was in for, but I had never before been in the room when someone else was having a baby. It was a wonderful experience. I'm thinking maybe I missed my calling when I studied to be a high school English teacher. Perhaps I should have been a nurse, doctor, or midwife. It's too late for that now, sigh! I'm too old to go back to school, and don't want to anyway...so I'm glad I got to experience what I did yesterday.

Baby John was born late in the afternoon, and I was literally in tears at the beauty of childbirth, the miracle of the infant emerging into the world. What an amazing thing it is to see the baby for the first time, and to see the joy of his parents at meeting him, finally, outside the womb. I'm so happy for my sister-and-brother-in-law. God has blessed them with a second child. I was blessed to be there with them.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Being Disciplined--What I'm Learning

No, this isn't a post about whether to spank or not to spank. It's not even about spanking at all. I just thought the picture would get your attention.

I've been thinking a lot about what it is that God is teaching me through the difficult circumstances of my life. It's actually discipline, you know. Not the "you were naughty and must be spanked" kind of discipline, but the kind described in this definition. Part of the definition is: "1. Training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement." which then leads to "2. Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control."

We tend to think of discipline as always being punitive in nature, so when things happen in our lives that are unpleasant or produce suffering, we don't like to say that God is disciplining us. We often say that He is testing us, or has merely allowed these things to happen and will somehow work them for good. But if we see the word discipline as a good thing, a training, a teaching, our perspective can change. Go to Bible Gateway and do a search of the word "discipline." (I did the NASB and the NIV.) What rich treasures we find in God's Word regarding His love for His children and His discipline of us. Think of it this way--if Eric and I never disciplined/taught/trained our kids, we would be poor parents, indeed. See how God's Word echoes this:

Hebrews 12
God Disciplines His Sons

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

There are many other places in Scripture that encourage us to accept discipline joyfully. Job 5:17 tells us not to despise the discipline of the Almighty. Psalm 94:12 says we are blessed when God disciplines us. Proverbs 3:12 says that God disciplines those He loves.

So, I don't think God is punishing our family for anything with all that has happened, but I do think He is disciplining us, in order to make us better disciples. We are being stretched, and growing. We are learning patience, endurance, trust, long-suffering, hope, faith, and the utmost importance of fixing our eyes on Jesus. We are learning the grave importance of self-discipline in the areas of Bible study, prayer, and fasting.

What is it all for? What about that big question: WHY? Some people would say that we may never know until we get to heaven, and it's true we may never know the specifics of "why?" But I'd like to think that we do know the general reason: It is for making us more like Him. It is for molding us into His image, getting rid of the dross so that we may be purified. Ow, it's painful and unpleasant! But we sure are looking forward to that harvest of righteousness and peace.

Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

So Many Thoughts Tumbling....

around in my head these days. It's hard to even put things into words or at least, words that make sense. I was in a depressed state for a while there and feel like I've come out of it. Reading Elizabeth George's Finding God's Path Through Your Trials, which I haven't finished yet, has really challenged me to "count it all joy" and quit feeling sorry for myself and my family. I had forgotten for a few weeks to count my blessings and instead was totaling up my worries. When will Eric get a job? Where will we live? How will we not go bankrupt before this all happens? What about setting up a house? Where will we get everything? What if Bobby really isn't in remission and the cancer comes back?

I have a genetically inherited tendency to worry about things (no disrespect intended, Mom) and I have to fight that tendency pretty hard right now. In God's Word I read "Do not be anxious about anything" and "Cast all your cares upon the Lord" and "I waited patiently for the Lord, He inclined and heard my cry." The trouble for me is how to put these things into effect day-to-day. The Lord has been helping me. A few weeks ago He sent our friend Rachel to us for the day to encourage us in our prayer life and in fasting. Her account of revival at her church was inspiring and made me stop and take stock of my own life. Do I long for personal revival as well as universal-church-wide revival? Am I in the Word daily, praying during a devotional time as well as throughout the day in order to stay in close contact with the Lord? I have decided that all I can really do right now is learn to count life on hold as joy.

I went back and read my post from last year about this same topic and reminded myself of a few things: God is in control. I do not have to be in control. There are plenty of things to do while we are waiting on the Lord. Things could be a lot worse: we have a nice, pleasant house to live in, Bobby is in remission, the girls are doing well, we are all healthy, we have a great church to attend, we have lots of friends to call on in times of need, and we are saved by His grace and mercy. When I put things in perspective I am overwhelmed at God's goodness and love. And when I'm tempted to start worrying again, or feeling down,I can always go to His word and meditate on it. Phil. 4:8 helps a lot, as does that good ol' stand-by Prov. 3:5-6.

Another thing that helps, and about which I've blogged before is being thankful for everything God has given me. Right now at the top of that list is my husband, Eric. He is amazing. I know it's driving him nuts not to have a job right now, but he still treats me like a queen. And I love the fact that he leads our family in Bible study together almost every day (not usually on Sundays or Wednesdays.) He has been teaching us through the each book of the Bible, not reading through every book, but learning the basics about each book: who is the author (if known,) what are the theme/main passages/main ideas, what are the main things we can learn from it. It has been wonderful so far. We are in Psalms right now. I feel so blessed to have a husband who loves God's Word and wants our children to know it and love it, too.