5.09.2016

What's Your Favorite??

I always feel a little weird when people start discussing "favorites". Favorite colors, favorite books, favorite foods...everyone else always seems to have definite answers, and I'm always trying to narrow down a mile-long list.

Hymns may be one of the longest lists, and one of the hardest to narrow down for me. I've been known to say, "most of the Baptist hymnal...and a few that aren't in there!" And that's pretty true. I love hymns, and so many are so precious to me for so many reasons.

I realized yesterday that if I were forced to decide on a "life hymn", it would have to be "He Keeps Me Singing". Maybe it's because I've always loved to sing, but I've always loved the chorus. It's one of those you just almost can't sing without it bringing a huge smile. And the verses cover it all...salvation, joy and grace, suffering and trials, and our sure hope of heaven.



The summer I was 17, this hymn took on new meaning. I had really wrestled about spending my usual 3 weeks at summer camp in Lousiana as a "Whitefoot" (Jr. Volunteer Staffer/Counselor) because my grandfather was in the last stages of cancer. We had finally decided that I should go ahead and fulfill my commitment. It was a hard time in a lot of ways. Health and job issues in our family, my grandfather's illness, and the beginnings of turmoil in our beloved church.

I remember standing in the chapel singing this song one evening that summer and the words taking on a whole new meaning...especially the fourth verse. It became my theme song for that summer, which included my grandfather's death just a few days later, and throughout the coming year, in which we would end up leaving the church I'd grown up in to help start a new church in western Conway, among other difficult days.

It's continued to be a favorite in the years since, but this year it's become especially precious again. I'm always amazed when John sends the hymns for the week, as it so often seems that God has hand-picked just the hymns I need to be immersed in as I practice each day. This week's were especially good for a hard week: "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Amazing Grace", "I Stand Amazed in the Presence", and then "He Keeps Me Singing". I practically wore the piano out with the last one in particular this week.

Then I realized that the last one was actually the one scheduled for Sunday night, but we weren't having services Sunday night due to Mother's Day. I sent a special request to Bro. Gary and to John that we add it Sunday morning, and they were kind to oblige. :)

It was our last hymn for the morning, and Bro. Gary said something about singing it all day long. I actually did, catching myself singing it as I took pictures in the rain on the Mother's Day drive my family indulged me in and as I walked through the grocery store later in the afternoon.

If you've read here much, you know I love hymn stories. I always think of this as such a cheerful, encouraging hymn, and yet it was written out of great sorrow. Luther Bridgers was preaching at a conference when he received a phone call from home. He answered excited to tell his wife all the great things God was doing at the conference, only to discover that she and their three sons had perished in a house fire.

"He Keeps Me Singing" was written out of his grief in this horrible loss.

I was struck all over again this week at how many of our greatest hymns have come from hymn-writers who have known great suffering. What a testimony!

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow. 
 
Refrain: 
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.
 
All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumb’ring chords again.
 
Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His shelt’ring wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.
 
Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.
 
Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.
~Luther Bridgers

Do you have a favorite hymn? Or a few? I'd love to hear about them in the comments! 

You can follow the blog via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!  
 
 

2.03.2016

{Pondering Protection} Resource List



I promised this list over a week ago, and I am finally sitting down to type it. It's been one of those weeks this week!

When our world exploded 9+ years ago, my first response was prayer--desperate, gut-wrenching prayer. My second response was research. I'm a researcher at heart, so that's my typical reaction to pretty much anything: research. What I discovered, however, was that there was really very little out there for families wanting to deal with abuse trauma in a Biblical manner.

Since then, thankfully, some excellent resources have come along. I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via the contact box in the sidebar if you are aware of other resources for Christian families seeking to deal with abuse trauma in a Biblical way. Here's my list for prevention/protection/trauma response resources:

Books

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb--Published 5 years after our journey began, this is the best resource I've found. The Holcombs deal with this subject Biblically and gracefully.

God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb--I have not personally read this book, but it comes highly recommended by people I respect. A book to discuss hard but necessary issues with children.

Thin Places: A Memoir, by Mary DeMuth-- Mary DeMuth's writing has ministered to me greatly throughout our journey.  Her story is one of hope and healing through God's grace.  

Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing After Sexual Abuse, by Mary DeMuth--I haven't read this one yet, but everything Mary DeMuth has written has ministered to and encouraged me. On my list for this year. 

(Two other books by Mary DeMuth that don't deal specifically with the topic of abuse, but that are excellent reads, are Everything and  The Wall Around Your Heart. I highly recommend both.)

On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church, by Deepak Reju--This is another book that's on my list to read this year. It comes highly recommended, and every excerpt I've seen from it has been excellent. 

I'm not as familiar with the next two, but the excerpts I've seen have looked good, and I hope to read these soon:

 Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores, by Diane Langberg

Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse, by Steven R. Tracy 

Online Resources

G.R.A.C.E. (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)--I don't agree with everything they post/publish, but they have some excellent resources. 

The Gospel Coalition--The Gospel Coalition is not a child protection ministry per se, but they do have a number of excellent articles, particularly regarding preventing and responding to sexual abuse in the church. I've linked to a search of child protection articles on the site. 

The Safe Side--This site was recommended by a friend at our meeting last Monday. I haven't had a chance to spend much time on it yet, so I can't make an unqualified recommendation, but it definitely looks worth checking out. 

Child Protection Resources at Ponderings of an Elect Exile--I'm in the process of updating, streamlining, and reworking some of the child protection information here on the blog, but this is an older post that contains many of the links to articles here on child protection, trauma, and related issues, plus additional resources. 

In addition to updating and reworking some older posts, I'm also in the process of creating new content on these issues based on the information I shared at last week's meeting. If you are interested in this subject, please follow us via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!  


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1.26.2016

Awakening the Slumbering Blog...



I arrived home 12 hours ago with blog posts dancing in my head. Getting back to the blog has been one of my most treasured goals for 2016, and yet with the year almost 1/12 over, I haven't hit publish once.

Last night I had the opportunity to speak to a group of ladies on a subject very close to my heart: child protection. It's been a frequent topic here on the blog, and yet as I prepared for last night's session and then shared with the ladies last night, ideas for a new series on the subject swarmed.

I had hoped to have a handout for the group last night, which didn't happen, so I committed to typing up info to share via our homeschool group email loop. I could kill two birds with one stone by publishing the info here and linking to it for the group.

I sat down this morning to begin, and despite the outline written in my dearly-loved colorful Flair pens on the legal pad in front of me, I was struck with an abysmal case of writer's block.

Seriously?? How can someone with 11 pages of handwritten notes in front of them have writer's block?

I just couldn't figure out how to begin. The subsequent posts were lined up neatly in my mind, but the beginning just wouldn't come.

I finally decided that the problem was going from 0 (as in zero posts since the first week of October, ack!!) to 60 (jumping headfirst into a series on a deep and difficult subject) without any transition whatsoever.

So here's the transition. Ponderings of an Elect Exile is awakening from its deep slumber. I'm hoping, and planning, and praying to be blogging regularly in the coming months. Included in the planning are this series on child protection issues, the continuation of a long-interrupted series on creativity, frequent Bible journaling and planner posts, and the 31 Days of Letters to My Children series that was supposed to happen in October but didn't. :)

Hope is my word for the year this year, and a topic that will appear often in the 2016 Ponderings.

I hope you'll join me for the 2016 Ponderings, and I'd love to hear from you! You can follow us  via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. And I would love to hear from you! You can leave a comment below or message me via the contact box on the right. Thank you!!  



10.01.2015

Welcome, October! And 31 Days of Letters to My Children



"Lord, please just give us a boring September!" 31 days ago I prayed those words. October 2015 has been a dreaded, looming specter on the calendar for over seven years. As we were about to welcome 2015, I faced some serious struggles that "the year" had arrived. 7.5 years had passed all too quickly; I knew 10 months would most likely fly by.

The first 8 months of 2015 were akin to a whirlwind. On August 31, I realized that we had only one more full month of relative peace. Thus my prayer that day for a boring September.

We haven't had any major crises, but it's been anything but boring. A full calendar, health issues, and an unanticipated major decision kept things hopping all month.

Several months ago, I had decided that I wanted to participate this year in the Write 31 Days project. I'd followed other bloggers during the "31 Days" blog series in previous years, but had never had any real interest in being a 31 Days blogger myself, mostly because I couldn't imagine being pinned down to a particular topic for an entire month. My brain and personality just don't work that way. :)

This summer, though, I had a brainstorm. I've had a blog series partially in my head, partially on paper, partially in blogger draft, and even partially published on the blog (just a post or two) for years, but it's never quite come together the way I'd planned.

This summer's brainstorm was that it would make a perfect 31 Days series! And thus today begins 31 Days of Letters to My Children. The topics will be all over the map, from deep theological truth to goofy mom-isms to practical life stuff. Most of them are things I've talked with my children about before, some many times, but I love the idea of sharing them in letter form on my blog as well. 

My original plan involved having the bulk of the posts finished before October arrived. When mid-September came and I hadn't written post one, I thought, "I'll be okay if I can just get 5 or 6 posts done ahead so I'll have a bit of a buffer." But here we are on the first of October and I don't have a single post finished and scheduled. Ahem. 

I'm going to go for it anyway. :) 

Check out the other Write 31 Days blogs here. And follow me on social media using the links below so you don't miss the rest of the series!




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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2015 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. Thank you! 

9.04.2015

Revisiting 7 Truths for Hard Days (And Every Day!)


I'm needing to re-read 7 Truths on Which to Dwell on the Hard Days (And Every Day!) again today. Perhaps you need these truths today, too? Or perhaps you know someone else who does? Click on the link for this post from a year ago today, and if it blesses or encourages you, please feel free to share it with others. I'd also love to hear your thoughts in the comments or via the email widget in the sidebar. *heart*

(I'm also planning to share a bit about this on my first Periscope broadcast this afternoon...around 1:45 CST? You can download the Periscope app from the Apple or Google Play Stores and then follow me by searching for jenbh. I'd love to see you there!)




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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2015 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. Thank you! 

8.05.2015

Be Still and Know...



This week is the eye in the midst of the hurricane in our schedule. I'm worn out and a bit brain-scrambled coming off four months of pure crazy, looking forward to more of the same starting Saturday, and realizing how much must be accomplished in the next five days to make the next few months work.


I posted that as part of a Facebook status on Monday. We accomplished much but not nearly enough on Monday. Yesterday I tried to hit the ground running and just ended up feeling like one of those cartoon characters whose legs are running frantically but who never move from their starting point.

As I breathed a prayer for the day and the tasks thereof, Psalm 46:10 came immediately to mind. So thankful for years of encouragement and accountability to memorize Scripture so that it is there for the Holy Spirit to bring to the forefront when needed! "Be still, and know that I am God."

Be still...not easy in today's world, and yet so, so necessary that we prioritize the time to just be still in His presence, to get into His Word, to meditate on it, and to communicate with Him in prayer. Be still...

...And know that I am God...such simple words, and yet mind-blowing, if we truly rest there and ponder. In the stillness yesterday morning, I spent some time studying verses from our Behold Your God study on "God's rule". Reading (and writing) through a list of verses about God's sovereignty and ultimate right and will to rule every facet of the universe (including and especially us), gave me a new focus and view for the day.

A couple of quotes from yesterday's study:

Who our Master is will determine how we serve Him. The measure of His dignity and rule must be the measure of our obligation and privilege in serving Him.

The attribute of God's sovereignty teaches us that God possesses and exercises the solitary right to do all His pleasure with all His creation, without explanation or interference.

~John Snyder, Behold Your God
 Scripture References: Psalm 103:19, 1 Timothy 6:15, Psalm 24:1, Colossians 1:16-17, Romans 11:36, Isaiah 40:23-24, Daniel 7:13-14, Psalm 93:1-2


From there, I went to the piano to practice music for Sunday. I hadn't settled on an offertory yet, and as I played through some possibilities, I came across the hymn "Jesus Shall Reign".  As I played through the arrangement, the words to these verses kept scrolling through my mind, and I was struck at how perfectly they correlated with the verses I'd read earlier. I'd found my offertory. :)

LOVE these words! Such truth. He reigns! Nothing that Satan or any earthly power can do can change that. There is no place we can go to hide from that. Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does its successive journeys run...Let every creature rise and bring honor and glory to our King.


My list seems to be getting longer instead of shorter, and the time in which I have to accomplish it continues to shrink. There are all kinds of things swirling around us, good and not-so-good, right now that make my mind swim if I let them. 
The solution to the brain scramble and the anxiety that attempts to accompany it is not to work harder (although diligence is definitely in order). It is not to get better organized (although organization is a fabulous help). It's not to psych myself up to have a good attitude (although my heart should certainly be joyful). 

The key, as God continues to teach me, is worship. It is the cure for the troubled soul. Being still, and knowing that He is God. Acknowledging that He reigns, above all. Seeking Him and knowing Him as He is, such as our little finite minds are able.

In the midst of life's crazy, we must stop and be still. But don't stop at being still! That may give temporary relief, but on its own, it's not the answer. Be still, and know that He is God. Dig into the Word. Cover it all in prayer. Meditate on what He says about Who He is.

What is God teaching you right now? I'd love to hear in the comments!

Super-simple Bible journaling today, in an old ledger that belonged to my grandfather *heart*. Pilot G-2 1.0 pen and assorted washi tape. :) 



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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2015 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email. 

 

7.25.2015

Adventures of Grace, Continued!




FINALLY, I can share this!! I've been bursting at the seams. :)

Three years ago this weekend, we officially made the move to Grace Baptist Lavaca. It was a hard, hard decision to leave our beloved Oak Cliff, but God was so clearly leading that we had to obey. And while leaving Oak Cliff was hard, becoming part of Grace wasn't, as we already loved Bro. Gary and Becky and what was then our little mission church.

God has done a LOT in the intervening 3 years. We had no idea what He had in store for us, and there have certainly been a lot of unexpected twists and turns along the way. Our Grace family has gone through a LOT of hard stuff together in those three years. But...we've shared some huge joys as well, including constituting as an official church, four baptisms (the first of which was our Ammah Grace!), and new families joining us.

Today, our Grace Baptist family starts a new chapter in our church history. We are no longer Grace Lavaca; we are now Grace Barling. I love that in God's perfect timing this new chapter begins three years to the weekend from our initial move to Grace Lavaca. :)

The story behind the move is a long one, but again, it has been so evident that it is God's hand, and there are a multitude of reasons why it is a good and wonderful thing. (And while it wasn't a reason for the move, a fabulous by-product of the move is that the new location is MUCH closer to our home...15 minutes as opposed to 40+. I can't TELL you what a wonderful thing that is, although some of us are going to miss the picturesque drive and the cows looking in the window in Lavaca. :))

God is doing exciting things at Grace Lavaca. Someday perhaps I'll tell the whole story of today's move and the obvious and intense attacks of the enemy it involved. For now, I'll just say, the attacks of the enemy were great, but we serve a God who is far greater, and His grace was sufficient!

So thankful for so many things today...for all those who have worked so hard today and in days and weeks prior to make this move happen, for my kids (and their friend Joshua) who have put in some serious hard labor this week with good attitudes, for our friends Kathy and Kaitlyn, who may have saved our lives today by bringing a bunch of exhausted, hot, starving people pizza for lunch, for protection for our Bay, who fell and hit her head last night and had to sit and watch today (and those who know Bay know that was pure torture for her!), for answered prayer for our pastor, who was unable to get out of bed for a good part of the morning, but who was able to come later (and work hard!), for people who have prayed fervent prayers for all of us in all of this, and most of all, that God's power is made perfect in our weakness, always!

And thankful for the anticipation of our first worship service tomorrow at Grace Baptist Barling!

Is God doing something exciting in your life right now? Or perhaps leading you to something a little scary? I'd love to hear in the comments!

More of the Story:

As Promised ~ The Story Behind Our New Adventure

I Press On Toward the Goal (A Not-By-Chance Encounter)

Saying Good-Bye

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Welcome to Ponderings of an Elect Exile!  Whether you are new here or a faithful friend and regular reader, I'm glad you're here!  If you aren't already following, I'd love to have you join us for the 2015 Ponderings.  It's easy to do, in a variety of ways!  You can follow via  Facebook, Twitter, and/or Pinterest, or  find me on Instagram as Jenbh68. You can also sign up in the sidebar to receive new posts by email.