Links Worth a Look...

Just a couple today that are well worth a read...

1. I want to be a Follower!  Does Christ Have Fans or Followers?  On the Road to Calvary

Ann Voskamp does it again.  Beautiful, convicting, thought-provoking...

2.  Interesting and alarming... Christian Faith: Calvinism is Back

This article, linked by Challies this morning, struck me as really interesting until I hit the 3rd page.   (Having never realized until a few years ago that what I believe could be labeled as Calvinism, I just assumed I was noticing more about Calvinism in the world around me these days.  I had no idea that there was a "trend" involved.)  Then it was suddenly alarming, quoting statistics from a Barna Group survey to determine how many people hold a Biblical Worldview.  Fasten your seatbelts for these statistics:

Americans who hold a Biblical worldview (believe the Bible is absolute truth, that God is the all-powerful Creator of the universe, that you can't earn your way to Heaven by being good, etc.)...........................9%

18-23-year-olds with a Biblical worldview............................0.5%  (And no, that is not a typo...that is half of one percent.  That number scares me to death for our country and brings tears to my eyes.)

Number of professing born-again Christians with a Biblical worldview...........................19%  
(That number would have shocked me a few years ago, but unfortunately no more.)

That's all for today.  I had planned a "real" blog post for today, until the microwave died this morning, creating a need for "microwave research" this morning before school, and then my review copy of Lisa Samson's book Love Mercy came in the mail this afternoon, triggering an "I can't put this book down" response tonight.  It's past my bedtime now, and I'm off to read. :)



Spring Monday Daybook!

FOR TODAY... March 29, 2010 (Where in the world did March GO, anyway??)

Outside my window...  A truly beautiful spring day!!  Temps supposed to be near 80 later this week.   I don't want it any warmer than that, but *this* is perfect weather.  Ahhh...

I am remembering... last year this time, when we had just had Emlyn's baptism, and were preparing for Bayley's (along with a number of others).  That Easter Sunday baptism was truly glorious.   It seems like so long ago...it's been quite a year!   Looking forward to another beautiful Easter this Sunday!

I am thinking...  about all that needs to be done this week!!  Such a busy time of year, with Easter, testing, and the Growing Kids Sale all approaching.  And then before we know it, summer will be upon us!

I am thankful for...   improved physical strength and stamina and mental clarity recently.  Praying that that continues as we move into a very busy season (while trying to overhaul this house at the same time!)

Noticing that...  my kids are growing up!  No, definitely not the first time I've noticed, but there are signs everywhere of how quickly their childhoods are progressing.  Just a few months until Peter will move into the "student ministry" at church...eeek!  Seems like just yesterday he was a stocky little 15-month-old with a white blond bowl cut, throwing an Easter egg at my mom because he thought it was a "BALL!!"  (She didn't realize she was supposed to catch, and got hit between the eyes instead.  Uh-oh. :))  And Ammah Grace moves into the children's department in a few months...for the first time in 12 1/2 years, I won't have a preschooler!  Wow. 

I am praying for...  continued strength, stamina, and clarity, and wisdom in decisions large and small...

From the learning rooms...  a good, solid "last full week of school before the test", I hope!

On my mind...   keeping up the "sorting, organizing, cleaning" momentum from this weekend in the midst of a busy week.  

Pondering these words... 
"Rejoice in the Lord always. 
I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
 ~Philippians 4:4-8
This is our "Mega-Memory" passage for the next few weeks.  It's shorter than usual, because I want us to delve into these verses even more deeply than we usually do with our longer memory projects.  I want us to not only hear the Words, and memorize them, and talk about them, but LIVE them.   I want us to be intentional about living them, and then I want them to become such a part of us that we don't have to be intentional about them anymore...they are just *who* we are in Jesus.   No matter what else my children learn in our "home of learning" (which has to be way more than just "school at home"!), I want them to learn to be 
Close to Jesus
Peaceful people
People of protected minds and guarded hearts in Christ Jesus
Intentional thinkers, taking every thought captive and dwelling on what is excellent and praiseworthy.
And for me to teach them to be those things, I need to be those things!   Which means I need to get these Words under my skin and into my heart and permeating my mind.
From the kitchen...   Cereal for breakfast, and then I have absolutely no idea!  I planned a loose "this is what we're eating for the next two weeks in general" menu and shopped for two weeks worth of groceries, but I have absolutely no clue what we are eating TODAY.  :-D  Guess I need to figure that out pretty quick and get something simple started for supper so I can get out the door for a baby shower tonight...

I am creating...  order from what seems to regularly turn into chaos....the dining room!   (Which could be because it is more of a multi-purpose room than a dining room...dining room, schoolroom, studio, office, and library all rolled into one!

I am reading...   as fast as I can through a stack of book review books! :)  

I am hearing...  busy children working on chores.  

Around the house...  deep cleaning the dining room and entry hall this week, and the Great Spring Clothes Switch...EEK!! :)  

One of my favorite things...  an odd thing I thought of yesterday, which is heartwrenching and yet such a blessing as a parent...seeing my children experience true brokenness and repentance and restoration.  

A few plans for the rest of the week:   Baby shower tonight, choirs on Wednesday as usual, a full day on Friday since Billy is off for Good Friday, Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, Easter Celebration on Sunday.  Whew!  

From the photo archive...  A little of what I've been up to this weekend...:-)

To see what others are doing this week, visit Peggy at The Simple Woman's Daybook.



Links Worth a Look...Hope!

(Jonquils, planted by my grandmother when she lived in this house over 20 years ago, poking their heads through the ground again.  They haven't been tended or cared for in years, and have survived storms and abuse of all kinds...and yet they continue to pop up every year!  A beautiful reminder of hope and new life!)

Recent news and discussions of the "health care reform bill" expected to be signed into law today have been enough to breed intense anxiety if I give it even the tiniest bit of opportunity.  It's easy to get bogged down in the mire of the known *and* unknown pitfalls this bill brings.  I feel my blood pressure begin to rise, and realize that this is one of those times I'm glad my dad is *not* still here...I can hear exactly what he would be saying, in a not-so-quiet tone of voice, and see his face getting red as he said it!  (That would be where I inherit the "blood pressure rising" part...:))

While I am convinced that we need to do whatever we can to turn the tide (including sending home each and every Legislator who voted for this bill, and electing people of integrity and wisdom to replace them),  I also keep having to remind myself that no matter *how* disturbing the whole situation is, it *isn't* the end of the world, and there are...hard as it is to remember sometimes...more pressing issues than even our leap off the cliff into socialized healthcare.  Our focus cannot, must not, be on the current events swirling around us...it must stay, at this time as any other, on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

I've been so encouraged by the messages of hope I've been seeing over the last few days...some specifically referencing or directed toward the current political situation, and others far removed from it.  I thought I would share some in today's "Links Worth a Look" post...

1. I love Sally Clarkson!  "Do Not Fear" at I Take Joy  

I especially love this quote, "We will never make a decision to quit when we are in the midst of a rain storm."   Excellent, excellent post. 

2.  Short, but powerful.  Focusing on Christ Amidst Swirling Changes by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates.

I so related to Barbara's comments in the beginning about living as if  "If I could just do..." then "I could take a deep breath...and everything would be okay."  2x4 between the eyes, anyone??  Eek.

3.  We know the end of the book!  Hope in Discouraging Times by Randy Alcorn.

Alcorn's specific response to questions about the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill...what a great reminder that unlike human leaders, Jesus never gives false hope.  He is always faithful to fulfill His promises!

4.  A little lighter...  The Streak 

A fun father-daughter bonding story and a challenge to this "hit-and-miss-read-alouds" mom!

5.  And even lighter... except on the calories!!  Murphy's Hot Hamburger from the Pioneer Woman.
It certainly won't change the world, but it will make my husband very happy when I add this to the weekend's menu! :)

5.  Talk about Hope!!  This video is incredible!  Thanks to my friend Annette for sharing it!

6.  Not a link, but... this verse just keeps coming to mind this week.  Our trust is not in a president, or Congress, or a healthcare system (thank goodness!), but in the name of the Lord our God.  I so need to memorize this verse and quote it every time I feel my stomach start to knot and my blood pressure start to rise...
Some trust in and boast of chariots and some of horses, but we will trust in and boast of the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:7 (AMP)

What has encouraged you this week?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Btw...I have tried in vain multiple times to fix the spacing on this post.  I'm not sure what the problem is, other than it is apparently one of those "Blogger Hates Me" days.  :)   My apologies for the weirdness...someday maybe Blogger and I will be friends again and I'll figure out how to fix it!


Hymn Ramblings...:)

Anyone who knows me very well or who has read much of my blog knows I love hymns.  I blog a lot about hymns.  I consider it one of the great blessings of my life at this point to be in a church that still sings hymns...as in, we pull out the hymnals every week and sing as a choir and congregation with piano and organ (and sometimes instrumental ensemble) accompaniment.  There are few things more beautiful to me than that.  Except when Lyndel does as he did this morning, discreetly motioning to the instrumentalists to stop playing on the final chorus of "He Hideth My Soul"...because a hymn sung A Capella in four part (or more) harmony by choir and congregation is one of the most beautiful things on earth.

I realized something this morning (not for the first time) as we were singing: very often, my favorite verse of a song is the next-to-last verse.  I'm not sure if that is because those verses are actually so much better, or if they were less familiar to me as an adult because I hadn't sung them as much.  I know that sometimes they tend to be overlooked.  I grew up in a church where quite frequently, in the interest of time, I suppose, we would sing the first, second, and fourth verse of a four-verse hymn, or the first, second, third, and fifth verse of a five-verse hymn.  I *love* the fact that more often than not at our current church, we sing all verses of the hymns we sing.  There are exceptions, like the medley of  "first verses" we sang this morning, but they don't seem to be the norm.

I have to interject here...It's always hard for me to name my "favorite hymn".  I have different favorites in different seasons of life, and so many that are "lifelong favorites".   When I'm hard pressed for a specific answer, I'll usually say "Blessed Assurance", which I have loved since early childhood.  But "It is Well" and "O Sacred Head now Wounded" and "When I Survey" and "Crown Him with Many Crowns" and "Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus Our Blessed Redeemer" and "Have Faith in God" and "On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand" and "Day by Day" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and....you get the idea...they could all be called my "favorites".  Oh, and let's not forget almost any of the "new" hymns by Stuart Townend and Keith and Kristyn Getty.  I just love hymns. :)

Another of my favorites is "He Keeps Me Singing".  Specifically the fourth verse.  I remember noticing that particular verse for the first time at BMA camp in Ringgold, LA, when I was 17.  Our family was going through some deep waters at the time...my dad's unemployment and health problems, my grandfather's end stage cancer...in fact, Daddy and I would be called back home by my grandmother just a couple of days later, arriving in time to be there with them for his last days.  I've loved that fourth verse ever since.   Years ago at our current church, we sang this hymn several times in a row *without* singing the fourth verse.  Verses 1-3, and 5, but no 4.  I finally went to Lyndel and said, "Can we sing the fourth verse next time?" :)  I only remember leaving out the fourth verse once since then, and he specifically mentioned it to me and explained why he had had to leave it out. :)   (Yet another reason why Lyndel is our friend-el...and if you weren't at his 25th anniversary celebration, I'm sorry that you won't understand that decidedly insider reference. :))

Anyway, all that to say, "next-to-last" verses are important. :)  This morning I noticed another one I love.  The third verse of "He Hideth My Soul"...

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.
~Fanny Crosby

Isn't that beautiful?  What incredible words!

What is your favorite hymn?  Your favorite hymn verse?  Is there an often-overlooked verse you love?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments!



Found Art Blog Tour

"As you may well know, foreign territory doesn't only exist ten thousand miles away; we can find ourselves in unknown countries without going anywhere."
~Leeana Tankersley in Found Art

Three and a half years ago, we suddenly found ourselves in a foreign country...and we hadn't left our living room.   It wasn't a popular tourist destination like Paris, London, or Venice.  It was the equivalent of a war-torn Somalia, Bosnia, or Afghanistan.   Fortunately, we knew the language...in a very academic sort of way...but the culture was completely alien. 

Although our "foreign place" was a situation, not a country, I nonetheless could identify somewhat with Leeana Tankersley's book Found Art.   For many of us there is a defining moment...which sometimes stretches over years...in which God turns our world upside down and in the process changes the very fiber of who we are.  For Leeana Tankersley, it was the year she lived in the middle east with her Navy SEAL husband.  During that time she learned that God "is making everything beautiful in its time.  While we wait, we must breathe and heal and grieve and become.  We don't see the beauty immediately, but as we look back. we find the art in and through it all."  

Leeana calls that art "Found Art": 

"....God is at work even now, creating and recreating an enduring piece of art from my little old, broken-down, Diet Coke saturated life.  This is what we call found art...created when odd, disparate, unlikely, even long-abandoned castoffs are put together with other similarly unexpected remnants to create something new and, if all goes as planned, lovely."

Found Art is a beautiful book.  Its textured hardback cover is a tactile treat for the bibliophile, but the true treasure is Leeana's conversational yet exquisite writing style.  Her words are woven together as beautifully as the Persian rugs she writes about as she shares intimately God's work in her life in the mundane as well as the exotic.  

While I was left wishing the book had been a bit deeper spiritually, and realizing that the author and I aren't necessarily like-minded in certain areas,  this was a beautiful, inspiring read, and a picturesque reminder of God's hand creating art in our lives, and our need to look for and see that art as we go about our everyday life.  I especially appreciated chapter 12, "Mending", which illustrates the reality that grieving is not limited to death, and in fact, death is not always the most difficult loss to grieve.  In this chapter, she discusses the bereavement traditions of Judaism, particularly the practice of rending garments.  It was interesting to ponder how different our society might be if we recognized and accepted the depth of the grieving process as cultures such as Judaism do.  

This was a fascinating and beautiful read, and I am thankful to Zondervan for providing me a copy in exchange for participating in Blog Tour Spot's social media tour.   For other reviews of the book, please visit the other blog tour participants listed here.  Be sure to visit Leeana's website as well.  



Links Worth a Look...

1. Fascinating!  Live Barn Owl Nest Box Cam 

"Have any of the eggs hatched yet??"  This was the question of the evening last night at church.  I got a bit tickled...the hot topic of conversation among my friends last night was, of all things, a barn owl and her babies.  We've all been watching in fascination as Mama Owl waits for her owlets to arrive (and a bit of revulsion as she eats fluffy bunny rabbits and then regurgitates them...blech!)  I'm not sure who is more enthralled...the parents or the kids!

If you haven't seen Molly in her nest box yet, check it out here...but be forewarned...it's hard to tear yourself away!

2. A Bevy of Blogs... Top 100 Church Blogs

Many of these I've seen before, some I visit quite frequently, and quite a few I'm looking forward to checking out soon.  Interesting list!

3.  It would almost be funny, if it weren't so infuriating (and scary!)  Jack Cafferty on Obama

Conservative Republicans aren't the only ones unhappy with the current administration...

4. Beautiful, Challenging, Convicting... Scotty Smith's Heavenward

I ran across Scotty Smith's blog this past weekend, and Tim Challies linked to his new blog home today.  I loved Smith's Restoring Broken Things, co-written with Steven Curtis Chapman.  His blog is almost entirely Scripture-based prayers.  I wish I had an hour or two to sit and read them all.

5. And one more... Leeana Tankersley's Gypsy Ink blog

Leeana Tankersley is a fascinating new author whose blog I can't wait to delve into a bit more.  Check back here tomorrow for my review of her book Found Art...an amazing read! 



St. Patrick the Missionary

We've never devoted much time to St. Patrick's Day. We just aren't really into leprechauns, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, or "the luck 'o' the Irish".  However, this year we had a free download from Living Books Curriculum on the history of the real St. Patrick, so we decided to delve into it a bit.  We learned that St. Patrick lived from 389-461, and that he was a great missionary.  He was kidnapped and sold into slavery in Ireland at the age of 16.  During his captivity, he became convicted of his sins and repented, accepting Christ as Savior.  At the age of 22, he managed to escape and return to Britain, but soon after his return, he felt called by God to go back to Ireland as a missionary.  One of the first converts of his ministry was his former slave master, Michu.  St. Patrick said later of his ministry in Ireland, "Is it my own doing that I have holy mercy on the people who once took me captive?  What I am I have received from God.  And so I live among barbarians a stranger and exile for the love of God."  What a testimony of forgiveness and grace!  

St. Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.



In "Other" Words...Finally!

“I turn to wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known.
My confidence will rest in You;
Your love endures; Your ways are good.
When I am weary with the cost,
I see the triumph of the cross;
So in its shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun.”
~ When Trials Come
by Keith and Kristyn Getty

I love the music of Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend.   Their music has ministered to me in so many ways in the last few years.  

I ran across this song recently when I was looking for a video of another Getty Music song.  These words struck me *so* sharply.   They so perfectly express my heart (on the good days….) and what God has been teaching me over the last few years.  

Wisdom ~ When we were catapulted into a situation the likes of which we never dreamed of experiencing, we realized one thing immediately…we did not have the wisdom we needed to make the decisions we needed to make and deal with the situations we were suddenly forced to deal with.  Combine the realization that you have NO idea what the right path is with the realization that *one* misstep on that path could spell disaster for your entire family…especially your children…and you learn to cling to God’s wisdom in a way you have never clung before.  What a huge comfort to know that He is not only the Source of All Wisdom, but He has a perfect plan already mapped out, and He is waiting for us to seek Him for direction.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. 
In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.
~Proverbs 3:5-6 (Amplified)
Battle ~ During one of the deepest faith struggles of my life, I heard these words in three unrelated settings, “Nothing that comes into your life takes God by surprise.”   No matter what struggle, storm, or battle we are going through, He knows not only what we are going through *now*…He knows what is coming, and He knows how it will end.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.
~Psalm 139:16

Rest ~ We have realized in a whole new way over the past few years that any confidence that we have in ourselves, in other people, in laws, in *anything* other than God is radically misplaced.  And yet, if our confidence *is* in Him, where it should be, we can have total rest in the midst of chaos.  There have been many times that my faith has faltered and I have *not* had rest….but when I have kept my eyes completely, desperately focused on Him, He does give sweet confident rest in the knowledge that He is at work, and what He is doing is for our best good. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
       will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say  of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
       my God, in whom I trust."
~Psalm 91:1-2

Those last few linesI need to hang those last few lines on my wall to read every day (several times!) 

“When I am weary with the cost,
I see the triumph of the cross;
So in its shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun.”

Along with these verses…

Therefore, 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.  Let 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.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
~Hebrews 12:1-3

We know the end of the story!  We know that He has already won the victory.  We know that He has promised to finish the work He has begun in us.  What an encouragement, no matter WHAT our circumstances!

“…being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
~Philippians 1: 6

Thank you for visiting In "Other" Words today!  It is always a privilege to be able to host.  We would love for you to share your thoughts on today's quote with us as well.  You can link up with us here.  (I posted Mr. Linky before I finished my own post, and was having trouble modifying that post without losing Mr. Linky in the process.  Hence the separate post. :))  

In Other Words ~ "When Trials Come"

“I turn to wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known.
My confidence will rest in You;
Your love endures; Your ways are good.
When I am weary with the cost,
I see the triumph of the cross;
So in its shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun.”
~ When Trials Come
by Keith and Kristyn Getty

I am excited to be hosting this week's In "Other" Words, and looking forward to seeing what others have to share on the above quote.  To participate, after posting your thoughts on the above quote on your blog, come back here and link to your post (not your main blog page) on Mr. Linky.   (Come back later this morning for my post as well! :))

Thanks for participating, and be sure to visit the other participants as well!



From the Archives...Filthy Rags

Bro. Kent's sermon this morning on Romans 3:12 reminded me of a couple of old blog posts, which I've decided to dig out of the archives, dust off, and repost. :)    This one came to mind immediately when Bro. Kent talked about all of the things we see as "good" in ourselves being as filthy rags.  He talked about the fact that sinful man (ALL people prior to repentance and salvation) is "universally worthless".  Not humanly worthless...we may do good things and be successful at what we do...but worthless in God's sight just as spoiled milk is worthless...unusable for anything.  

I needed to re-read this post today...what a blessing to be reminded of the abundance of God's grace!

Thankful Thursday...Barely!

No...not barely thankful, but barely still Thursday!

I've been reflecting since last night about the blessing of God's grace. This time three years ago, God was in the process of beginning some intense lessons with me in the area of grace. I vividly remember, during the last few months of 2004, experiencing and understanding the concept of grace in ways I never had before. Since that time, God has continued to show me in new ways how amazing His Grace really is.

Last night during choir rehearsal, we were working on the song "Grace Alone". It's a beautiful song, in words and music, but last night as we sang, it took on new meaning to me. Obviously, it applies to all of us...God's grace provided to all Christians. But I began to see the words as they specifically spoke to *me* right now...a Christian homeschooling wife and mother. The second verse seemed especially applicable to us as wives and moms. And the chorus is exactly the answer to the stress, the frustration, the insecurity, the weariness that we sometimes find in those roles. As I was sitting there singing and thinking about all of this, Lyndel stopped and did one of his mini-devotionals about God providing both the *desire* to do God's will *and* the *ability* to do God's will through His grace. (Probably a bad paraphrase...maybe someone who was there will see this and comment more accurately. :)) But what a wonderful thought...and what a challenge.

As long as I am trying to do it *myself*, as Lyndel reminded us...it is "as filthy rags". I started thinking about "filthy rags"....and ended up with a rather unappetizing example. I thought about what would happen (*not* that this would *ever* happen at our house, you understand...strictly hypothetical ;-)) if one of my children were to break a *major* rule at our house and take a cup of milk into their bedroom. And then if that (hypothetical, remember) cup of milk were to be spilled by their (also hypothetical) younger sibling. And then if the two of them (again, hypothetically) were to try to clean up the resulting milk mess with a (hypothetical) towel. And then if, since the milk wasn't supposed to be in the bedroom to begin with, they decided to shove the towel under someone's bed (definitely hypothetical, since no one in this family would *ever* shove anything under a bed...another rule, you know. ;-)). *Hypothetically* that towel could stay hidden under the bed until it began to smell, and someone began to search for the smell of the odor. And by then, *smell* and *odor* would be polite words for it. It would *stink*. BAD. Not that I would *recognize* that smell, I assure you, as this would never happen at my house. But I can imagine. It would *really* stink. Yuck.

And that's what all the good stuff I try to do is to God, without grace. Not to mention that it just doesn't work.

I was standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes today thinking..."What sane person could possibly think that one person can be a helpmeet to her husband, a keeper of her home, a mother to her children, *and* homeschool three grades at once (plus a preschooler)??? It is completely impossible and there is no way it can all be done." And this song popped into my head again... and I realized...."That's true...it can't." And that is where grace comes in. He gives us the grace and the strength to do what He has planned for us to do. He provides for every need. Abundantly.

I am thankful for God's incredible, amazing, unbelievable Grace.

"Grace Alone"

Every promise we can make, every prayer and step of faith,
Every difference we will make is only by His grace.
Every mountain we will climb, every ray of hope we shine,
Every blessing left behind is only by His grace.

Grace alone which God supplies,
Strength unknown He will provide.
Christ in us, our cornerstone,
We will go forth in grace alone.

Every soul we long to reach, every heart we hope to teach,
Everywhere we share His peace is only by His grace.
Every loving word we say, every tear we wipe away,
Every sorrow turned to praise is only by His grace.

Grace alone which God supplies,
Strength unknown He will provide.
Christ in us, our cornerstone,
We will go forth in grace alone.
~Scott Wesley Brown and Jeff Nelson



On Authority....

We've been working on the concept of "parental authority" with our children recently...both our own authority and that of other parents over their own children.  Night before last  we had yet another discussion about the fact that I, as their mom, owe *no one* an explanation for any decisions I may make regarding them...except their daddy and God.   As "the Mom", I had gotten too lax recently in allowing them (one in particular) to ask for explanations of certain decisions I made, whether it was a decision about our daily schedule/chores, consequences for misbehavior, or why we couldn't go somewhere they wanted to go.   We had also encountered some situations recently in which my children didn't agree with decisions their friends' parents made about certain things (usually when it affected something they wanted to do with said friend. :))

It's one of those things that we've taught in various ways since they were tiny, but that we sometimes have to refocus and "teach in a different direction", and/or just plain old have a "refresher course" on because we've been lax.

God gave parents the responsibility for their children.  Period.  He provides people in our lives to give wise counsel at times, but ultimately, *we* are responsible to God for the raising of these children into the adults He wants them to be.  No one else has that responsibility for our children...not extended family members, not teachers, not babysitters, not their friends...no one.    Our children may have very valuable relationships with those other people, but we have ultimate responsibility for, and thus ultimate authority over, our children.  And this has been one of those weeks when we have needed to remind them of that...:)  "Because Mom (or Dad) said so" is all the explanation they need.  Now...sometimes (maybe even often) we may *choose* to give them more explanation than that, but not because we *owe* that to them or because they *demand* it.  But it is crucial that they learn to obey without question, whether they understand or not, trusting that Mom and Dad love them and have the goal of doing what is ultimately *best* for them (even if it isn't making them happy right now! :))

Now...Mom and Dad aren't perfect.  And sometimes, no matter how hard they try to do what is right and best, they'll make mistakes.  BUT...the key here is...they are accountable to God for those mistakes.  We take that accountability seriously.  And God will (and does!) deal with us when we are not being the parents we should be.  But unless there is a sin issue that needs to be dealt with in the manner of Matthew 18, that accountability doesn't extend to anyone else.  We don't answer to our children (or to others who may not agree with our decisions) for our parenting choices.

As our children get older, we are trying to reinforce that that concept doesn't just apply to our family, but to all families.  God has given all parents the responsibility for and authority over their own children, and they are accountable to Him, not us, for their decisions in that area.  Unless they are in obvious sin (which would need to be dealt with in accordance to Matthew 18), we should support parents in their authority over their own children...parental authority should never be undermined just because a parent is making choices we wouldn't make or that we don't understand.  We are working to teach our children that they should never "bad-mouth" someone else's parents (even if they have just grounded them before a much-anticipated play-date :)).

We are also working to teach them that keeping secrets from parents is not okay, period.  Wise teaching that has stuck with me for years...we should teach our children that ANY time ANYONE tells them to keep a secret from their parents, their IMMEDIATE response should be to IMMEDIATELY (if not sooner!:)) go tell their parents.  The ONLY exception to this is birthday and holiday presents.  Surprises are okay in those circumstances, otherwise, secrets from parents are NEVER okay.

Authority is a tough concept for adults to deal with...in practice, at least, if not in theory.  It can be a tough concept to teach children, as well.  As humans, we don't naturally submit to authority easily. :)  But we persevere in working to teach it to our children, realizing that grasping the "absolute authority" of their parents in their lives as children is a precursor to accepting the "absolute authority" of God in their lives as they get older.  (And it sure helps in dealing with earthly authorities as well!)

Our children are making progress.  It's one of those things where they "know" it in their heads, but living it out can be rough.  It's hard not to question Mom and Dad when their decisions seem to make no sense sometimes.  But they're learning.  And someday, hopefully, it won't be quite as hard for them to accept that there are things about God's ways we may never fully understand...but just like with Mom and Dad, we have to trust that God knows what's best for us and He is working for our good, whether it makes sense to us at the time or not.  The wonderful difference is...Mom and Dad will occasionally make mistakes, no matter how hard they try not to, but God's ways are ALWAYS perfect!

(Now...if some of the adults in our life would learn these lessons, too...life would be much simpler! :))



The End of the Rope...

“There’s somethin I learned when I was homeless:
Our limitation is God’s opportunity.
When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothin you can do, that’s when God takes over.”
~ Denver Moore~
Same Kind of Different As Me
(co-written with Ron Hall, with Lynn Vincent) 

I'm going to start this post with a bit of a disclaimer.  I probably shouldn't be attempting it right now because (a) I'm in a great rush due to really trying to stay *somewhat* on schedule during our 30 Day Challenge month and this morning has not quite gone as planned (when do they ever??), and (b) it's foggy today.  Actually, it's a beautiful sunny day outside, but my brain is foggy this morning...one of those days when I thought of two things I needed to write on my list while I was in the kitchen, and by the time I had walked the 15 steps to the dining room to add them, I had already forgotten what they were.  (And I've now spent an hour trying to figure them out, to no avail! :))  So...clarity in writing is probably out the window. 

I started not to even attempt this post, but every time I think "I'll wait and do my IOW post later...", it doesn't get done.  And I did have some thoughts on this quote, chosen by today's In Other Words hostess, Miriam Pauline.  So, I'm going to try to toss them out, rough and unedited, and hope something will make a bit of sense!

The first thing that came to mind when I read this quote was the story I've told many times about the phone conversation I had the day before my water broke at 30 weeks with Ammah Grace.  Here it is, copied from a post last month...

Six years ago Wednesday, I uttered the infamous (and theologically incorrect, btw...) words to a friend: 
"I know God won't give us more than we can handle, but I have told Him this week that I am there."
The next evening I was in the back of an ambulance being rushed to Little Rock in a snowstorm because my water had broken at 30 weeks.  Three days later, Ammah Grace was born. 

And then began 6 weeks of  NICU in a city 2.5 hours away from home, with three children 6 and under at home.  Talk about more than I could handle!  I learned during that experience that my statement *was* theologically incorrect.  I posted that whole story in a previous IOW post. God showed me through the intervening months (and years, actually) that it isn't about what *I* can handle, but what *HE* wants me to depend on Him to handle for me.  

The second, related, thing that came to mind when I read this quote had to do with our greatest fears.  I've never been homeless.  But I have experienced my greatest fear coming true.  Everyone, I think, has "the big one"...the thing that worries you more than anything else in the world, the one thing that you would do *anything* to keep from touching you or your family.  For some, it may be homelessness.  For others, terminal illness.  It could be bankruptcy, pregnancy/birth complications (that was second on my list before Ammah Grace...), or fire.  The list goes on and on.  

When Billy and I got married, we actually had the same "greatest fear".  The good news, for us, was that this was a fear that we knew would *never* happen to our family.  You see, we had the background and the knowledge and the determination to protect our family from this threat.  There were many other things we couldn't protect our family from, but *this one*, we had covered.  We had met, after all, in court, both working in different areas of Child Protective Services, and if there was one thing we could do, it was protect our children from outside threats (kind of like a firefighter *knowing* he can protect his family from fire...).

We've learned something in the past few years.  God is the only one who can protect our children.  And sometimes His definition of "protect" and ours are not the same.   And even in the areas in which we think we have the most control, we are actually totally helpless.  "Helpless" is not a fun place to be.  There isn't a crowd waiting for their chance at "the end of the rope".   But when God finally gets us there...where we realize that we *are* completely helpless and unable to *fix* any of it...then we are in the perfect seat to watch His power at work and show His majesty and glory in unbelievable ways.

We're still watching.  We've experienced His faithfulness in ways we could never have imagined, and we've seen our own unfaithfulness raw and ugly as we've never seen it before.  There are days, after all we've seen Him do, that I still fall into the pit of doubt and despair.  But He always picks me up out of the pit, reminds me of His love, sovereignty, and goodness, and tells me again to "Wait" on Him.  

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Do you not know?
       Have you not heard?
       The LORD is the everlasting God,
       the Creator of the ends of the earth.
       He will not grow tired or weary,
       and His understanding no one can fathom.

  He gives strength to the weary
       and increases the power of the weak.

  Even youths grow tired and weary,
       and young men stumble and fall;

  but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint.

~Isaiah 40:28-31

For more on today's quote, please visit MiPa's Monologue.  



Daybook Monday

Outside my window... Gray skies and rain sprinkles.  *So* thankful for the warmer temps, though!   
I am remembering... Eight years ago today...a day that was supposed to be tragic as we all waited for our friends to have a baby that wasn't supposed to survive.  I will never forget the phone call saying that he was here, alive, and much healthier than there was any medical possibility of his being...we rejoiced in a true miracle. 
Two years later, I used to walk by his picture on the bulletin board at UAMS on the way to the NICU to see Ammah Grace, thanking God for what he had done for Josh and his family, and praying that we would see such a miracle ourselves.  On the hardest days, that picture reminded me of God's faithfulness and gave me hope. 
Josh is now one of the brightest, healthiest, most active kids I know...not to mention hysterically funny.  He is a sure cure for a bad day...I start laughing in anticipation the minute Kathy says "I have another Josh story...." :-D  
Happy Birthday, Squash!!

I am thinking...  that a Monday morning when we had to get up early to take Billy to work and then go to a field trip in the middle of the day was probably *not* the best day to start a new "kids' chores" regimen!  
I am thankful for...   the promise of His strength in our weakness..."But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10
Noticing that...   Having *everything* written down (or typed :)) is making a difference!  I have officially declared war on the brain fog that has plagued me in varying degrees for the past 5 years, and which seems to have settled in deeply recently.  One of the bullet-points of the battle plan is "Lists and Lists of Lists!"  I have been working to create checklists for every area of life right now, so that rather than constantly spinning my wheels about what needs to be done (and forgetting most of it!), all I have to do is remember to look at the lists. :)  The lists are down to the absolutely nitty-gritty...*nothing* is left to "Surely I'll remember THAT!" chance.  The lists themselves have been some work, but it has been well worth it!
I am praying for...  a missionary friend in Indonesia whose family is heavy on my heart this week as they await medical test results on their 12 year old son.  
From the learning rooms...   Testing is a month from today.  I spent some time yesterday writing down some goals for a "30 Day Challenge" for the month.  As I mentioned last week, testing is not a big issue here, and in keeping with that, very few of the challenge goals are testing-related in any sense, and not all of them are even academically oriented!  But the time frame seemed like a good opportunity for a challenge. :)  We're trying to build some good habits and get rid of some bad ones we've slipped into...Mom and kids alike.  I'll keep you posted on our progess. :)  
On my mind...   Various events in the past week have caused me to ponder how very far our legal system has *not* come when it comes to protecting the rights of victims...particularly child victims.  It can be quite depressing if one dwells on it too long.  But...God has also been gracious to send reminders during the week of His constant care of His children *despite* the shortcomings of the legal system.  His power is sovereign over all, and He is ever working for the good of His children.  What a comfort and blessing to be reminded of His love and care!
Pondering these words...  "The lost man leaps into sin and loves it; the saved man lapses into sin and loathes it." ~ Adrian Rogers, quoted by Bro. Kent in last week's sermon.
From the kitchen...   Making granola tomorrow, at Billy's request.  It's been a while. :)  
I am creating...   lists! (See above. :))
I am reading...   my lists. :)  (Are you seeing a pattern here?? :-D)   Seriously, this past week has been pretty intensely focused on the "battle against brain fog", so I haven't done a great deal of reading that hasn't been related to that or school.  Looking forward to jumping back in to Wrestling Prayer: A Passionate Communion with God
, by Eric and Leslie Ludy,  and Found Art: Discovering Beauty in Foreign Places
, by Leeana Tankersley, which I will be reviewing soon!
I am hearing...  Rain!  I started this post early this morning, and am just now getting back to it in the late evening.  
Around the house...  Hoping to get a lot of sorting and purging done during our 30 Day Challenge!
One of my favorite things...   listening to Billy read aloud!  He has started reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle aloud to the kids at bedtime.  It's been a while since we've had a "Daddy Read-Aloud", and we are all excited. :)
A few plans for the rest of the week:   Today was Earquake, which was wonderful!  The rest of the week is home, home, home...other than the normal Wednesday church activities and Friday grocery trip (at least I hope!)  
From the photo archive...

My grandmother's jonquils peeking up in my front yard!  She planted them over 17 years ago...possibly over 20!...in what was then *her* front yard...and they continue to come up every year.  They always make me smile. :)