3.29.2011

In Other Words ~ "The Answer"






"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.

You are yourself the answer.
Before your face questions die away.
What other answer would suffice?"


~ C.S. Lewis 



This quote sums up what has been probably the biggest lesson God has taught me in the past few years...that there are some questions to which we will never know the answer until we see Jesus face to face...and that it is entirely possible that at that point, the questions and their answers simply won't matter anymore.  


There are some things...certain doctrines, various circumstances, aspects of God's character, and many of our trials...that we will never understand in our finite minds.  One of the wisest Bible scholars I know once said (and I am paraphrasing greatly here, as I can't remember the exact wording used) that there are some things (referring at the time to a specific doctrine) that we will never be able to completely understand...because God is God, and we are not.  His thoughts and His ways are so much higher than ours that there is no way we could possibly understand them all...and at that point, we simply have to trust.  


For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.
~Isaiah 55:8-9


I have so seen in the past few years the truth of the above quote, and been reminded of the words to the old Scott Wesley Brown song...

When answers aren't enough, there is Jesus
He is more than just an answer to your prayer
And your heart will find a safe and peaceful refuge
When answers aren't enough, He is there.


There are times when there simply aren't answers.  There are times when even if God gave us the answer, we wouldn't be able to understand it.  There are times when if we did understand it, it wouldn't necessarily help.  He has begun to show me in recent years that in those times, we realize what is always true...that HE is the answer.  We don't need answers...we need HIM.  We need His presence, we need to see Him more clearly and know Him more intimately.  We need to focus, not on our circumstances or on our questions, but on His face.  Then, when we have turned our eyes upon Jesus and looked full in His wonderful face, as another old song says, "the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."  ("Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", Helen H. Lemmel)


A friend posted this song on Facebook this morning....it was one of those times when a new song (and a new-to-me artist) really grabbed my heart.  I read these words from an interview with Laura Story about this song and the things she is learning through her husband's brain tumor...


What does it look like when I spend years praying for healing for my husband that never comes? I feel like we’ve gotten to a place of having to make a choice- are we going to judge God based on our circumstances that we don’t understand? Or are we going to chose to judge our circumstances based on what we hold to be true of God? I’m learning that every morning when I wake up, to choose to trust God. And that’s what “blessings” is about. It’s just considering… MAYBE THE BLESSING IS ACTUALLY FOUND IN THE ABSENCE OF THE THING THAT I’M PRAYING FOR.
-Laura Story






I am excited to be hosting In "Other" Words today, and I also owe a huge apology to all those participating this week.  I somehow didn't get my hosting date on my calendar and completely overlooked the fact that this was my week!   My apologies to any who may have looked for this week's post earlier in the day...I'm sorry for any inconvenience that may have caused. 

I do hope that you will join us this week...just post your thoughts on the above quote on your blog, and then come back here to post your link on inlinkz.  Then be sure to visit the other participants and leave a word of encouragement in their comments!  Thank you for participating this week! 







3.27.2011

I Heart Faces...Slice of Life...



I've been wanting to start participating in I Heart Faces weekly challenges again, and when I saw that this week's challenge was "Slice of Life", I decided this was a great week to start!  I had a terrible time deciding on my entry, though...it's hard to pick!  

I kept coming back to this one, though.  It captures so well Billy's relationship not only with Ammah Grace, but with all his girls.  I walked out of the cafe at the zoo last week to find a tired little girl curled up on her {also tired} daddy's lap and couldn't resist snapping the moment.  It ended up being one of my favorite photos of the whole trip. 





Be sure to visit I Heart Faces to see other entries in this week's "Slice of Life" challenge! 


Sunday Songs...





We sang two of my favorite hymns this morning in church: "How Firm a Foundation" and "Blessed Assurance".  Both have been favorites from childhood, but have become even more precious in the last few years. 

Our hymnal only has the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th verses of "How Firm A Foundation" as found here...I love the additional verses, though!  

How Firm a Foundation

  1. How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
    Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
    What more can He say than to you He hath said,
    You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

    In every condition, in sickness, in health;
    In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
    At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
    As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

    Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
    For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
    I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
    Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

    When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
    The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
    For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
    And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

    When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
    My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
    The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
    Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

    Even down to old age all My people shall prove
    My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
    And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
    Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

    The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
    I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
    That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
    I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
    ~Attributed to John Keith


I always say I really can't pick a favorite hymn.  There are too many that I love too much!  But if I were pressed and absolutely had to pick an all-time favorite, it would probably be this one.  It was my favorite when I was a little girl, and I love it even more now than I did then...


Blessed Assurance

Bless├Ęd assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Refrain

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
~Fanny Crosby



And then just as a "bonus"...another song we sang this morning that I love...




Photo Credit: Stock.Xchng


3.23.2011

Functional Universalism?



I've shared before (here and here) about some of my experiences with the topic of universalism and those who hold to universalist beliefs.   Because of some of those experiences, I've watched/read/listened to the controversy surrounding Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, with a great deal of interest and quite a bit of sadness at the thought of people being deceived by the universalist thought that is becoming so prevalent even in the "church" today.  


Then came Sunday's message from Romans 9:1-5:

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 
They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.
 Amen. 

I think quite a few of us left with seriously bruised toes.  The thought of Paul being anguished to the point of willingness to give up his own salvation for the sake of the lost...that is a depth of love for Christ and for the lost that I can't even really fathom.  And the whole time I was listening to the sermon, and trying to take notes, I kept thinking, "Why is it that we...I...can be so disturbed by the teaching of universalism, and yet be content to stay in our...my...comfort zone and pass by people every day that we *say* we believe are going to Hell, and yet we...I...do nothing about it?"  


It's been on my mind and heart all week.   And I'm asking God to make me aware and prepared for opportunities to do something about it.  I don't want to be, as David Platt describes in this video, a functional universalist.  


David Platt is the author of the book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream
 (which is, btw, one of the best books I've ever read).  He has been in India this week sharing the gospel with some of the 597 million lost people in that country.  He addresses my Sunday morning thoughts in this challenging and convicting video:





3.22.2011

IOW ~ Plotting in the Darkest of our Times


“ In the darkest of our times,
God is plotting for our glory.
If we would believe this and remember it,
we would not be blind when God reveals His grace. “
~ by John Piper ~





On a recent Sunday morning, standing in the choir loft at church, I realized something that really blew me away.  Our pastor often mentions, in his prayers or even in his sermons, "those who are going through one of the storms of life right now".  A couple of weeks ago I had this shocking revelation: I no longer automatically thought "That's me" when I heard that phrase.  Not that life is easy or a bed of roses, by any means, but after 7 years of non-stop storms, including the "tsunami" 4 1/2 years ago that left unimaginable devastation in its path, I finally feel like we have reached a bit of calmer weather.   When I hear that phrase about those going through the storms of life, it is friends going through dark days that come to mind first, not our own situation.  

Even typing that scares me a bit.  I shared with a friend last night that in June of 2006, I had finally begun to feel that we had "survived" the two worst storms of our lives...Ammah Grace's premature birth/health issues/NICU stay and my dad's last illness and death.  I felt like we had truly been through the fire and had come through stronger, we had had our "major crises" and now it was time to get back to the "new normal".  Little did I know at that point that what we had been through up to then was going to seem like a walk in the park compared to what was going to hit just a few days later.   So...every time I begin to feel that we are perhaps to the "new normal" stage, I begin to feel a bit of fear about what may be just around the corner.  

What does all of that have to do with the above quote?  God gave me some promises back in those dark times when all I could think of when Bro. Kent said those words about the storms of life was, "Yes, Lord, we are there", usually with tears in my eyes.  He has taught and is teaching me some amazing, if at times painful, lessons.  One of those is that "what you see isn't always what you get".  

Last week when we were on our vacation, we went to the Zoo.  This is the same zoo I've been visiting since I was a young child, and I've seen it go through many changes over the years.   They have worked hard to make the "habitats" more aesthetically pleasing and realistic as they've had the funds to do so.   They have also added new exhibits through the years...the latest being their new "Penguin Pointe" exhibit.  We were so excited to find that Penguin Pointe would be open for our visit, as our middle daughter is a bit of a penguin fanatic. :-)  There has been much publicity statewide for the new exhibit, and the Zoo is quite proud of it.  It really was pretty cool (no pun intended :)).  


I could really tell the Zoo had been doing some "spiffing up" since our last visit (which was actually 7 years to the week earlier, when we took the three big kids one afternoon while Ammah Grace was in NICU. Time flies!)    There were even all kinds of  "decorations"...photo cutouts, plaques with wildlife quotes scattered through the park, etc.  


However, it struck me as we walked through the Zoo, that for all the updated exhibits and motivational quotes, there were also some areas that were just...well...yucky.   Areas that weren't maintained, that were junky or dirty or even...smelly.   Most of them weren't necessarily obvious, but if you looked, you could certainly see them.   Those photos don't make it onto the website, or the brochures, or the latest TV ads for Penguin Pointe. :)   If all you see is the PR, you don't get the whole picture.   All is not as it would seem to be in the glossy ads.  (And there isn't anything wrong with that...of course the Zoo wants to put its best foot forward, just as any such organization does, and it is understandable that funding issues mean that there are areas that must wait their turn for "spiffing".)



Things aren't always the way they seem in life, either.   The good news about that is that, for Christians, things are often much *better* than they seem.  The picture we are seeing is often the dingy, cluttered back side of the exhibit...rather than the amazing work God is doing that we just can't see yet.  When we are going through the "storms of life", often all that we can see is the darkness and the crashing waves.  But as John Piper says in this quote, "God is plotting for our glory".  What an exciting thought!   There is glory and good that is THERE...just not yet seen.

He promises us in Jeremiah 29-11 that He has a plan for us, a plan for good and not for evil, a plan to give us a hope and a future.   I will never understand completely the plans God has for the devastating circumstances our children have been through...as Bro. Kent has said several times in recent weeks, some of the "good" that we are promised in "all things" is part of that "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison"  about which Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.   However, there are times when God does give us a glimpse of His reasons and His plans and the good that comes of our trials here on earth.  Over four years after our personal "tsunami" hit, we are finally beginning to see some of that glory and good.   He is showing us His work in our lives and the lives of our children.  He is allowing opportunities to share in the "fellowship of suffering" with those who are going through major storms right now and wondering if the waves will ever stop crashing.   He is giving us amazing glimpses of His glory.  

One thing I have learned in the past 4 1/2 years...I don't want to be blind when God reveals His grace!  I want to be watching for it, looking for it, ready to see it in all of the glory He can reveal to us as finite humans.  And I want to encourage others that no matter how dark and stormy it may seem right now, God *is* plotting for our glory, and He *will* reveal His grace if we will simply watch and wait.  

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18



3.20.2011

Time Flies...



Seven years ago today we were leaving what had become our "home away from home" for six weeks...the UAMS NICU.  We had been told to expect to be there at least until Ammah Grace's due date...April 17...so the earlier discharge was a huge blessing and a testimony to God's healing hand in her life.  I had spent the night at the hospital in a "rooming in" room, monitored all night by a nurse, to prove our ability to care for her "on our own".  Our discharging doctor was the head of neonatology for UAMS/ACH and was one of our favorite doctors.   He had already told us that due to several factors, he was actually discharging her earlier than he typically would.   His confidence in us, and in our pediatrician at home (to whom he had been teacher, mentor, and long-time friend), was at the same time comforting and a bit frightening.  It was even more frightening when she coded and had to be "bagged" within the 24 hour window before we came home...which under normal circumstances would have earned us a few more days in the hospital.   But the doctor cleared us for discharge in spite of it, and the next thing we knew, we were on the way home.  


Two other special things about that day...first, the "big kids" got to see their little sister in person for the first time.  We were all so excited about that!!  They had waited so long to see something other than pictures, and then one short view through the window when she was moved into the intermediate unit briefly.  Second, Mrs. Amanda and Jacob came that Saturday to help get everyone to Little Rock and back...and Mrs. Amanda videoed the whole event.  We were and are so thankful for her help and friendship!




As far as her health, we later laughed that apparently all Ammah Grace wanted was to go home.  She had false alarms after that (including one in the Burger King where we stopped to have lunch on the way home), but never had another actual episode.  Yet another circumstance God worked out to show His glory and His sovereignty!


Last week when we were on vacation, Ammah Grace wanted to see the hospital in which she spent the first six weeks of her life, so we drove by on our way to the zoo.  We talked a little about the NICU itself and pointed out the parking garage where the attendants would ask how our "little one" was doing as we would come and go.  There was at least one attendant who reminded me often that she was praying for us and for our little one...what a blessing that was!!


We stopped to eat lunch at the Back Yard Burger across the street from UAMS.  I had to get a picture of Ammah Grace, seven years later...




We are so grateful for our miracle girl, and for the living, breathing, twirling, skipping, singing, giggling reminder she is every day of God's faithfulness and love.  


I waited patiently for the LORD;
   He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
   and put their trust in the LORD.
  Blessed is the man
   who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
   to those who turn aside to false gods.
 Many, O LORD my God,
   are the wonders You have done.
The things You planned for us
   no one can recount to You;
were I to speak and tell of them,
   they would be too many to declare.
~Psalm 40:1-5






3.07.2011

Pondering a Name Change...and the Gifts...






Between illness, busy schedules/catching up, and computer issues since the first of the year, it's been hard to keep up with blog *posting*, much less updating headers, sidebars, etc.  My blog has needed a complete overhaul...or at the very least some basic maintenance...for a long time.  


Not sure when I'm going to get to the overhaul...:), but I'm trying to do a bit of maintenance here and there.  Yesterday I decided it was time for a new blog header.  I have never been particularly fond of my blog title...it was one of those things where I was in a hurry to get started actually *blogging*, but had a complete mental block as far as a creative title.  "Scraps and Snippets" was really supposed to be a "temporary" title until I could come up with something I liked better.  I've now been blogging almost four years...still under that "temporary" title.  That seems to be the way things work in my life...houses, cars, and apparently, blogs. :)


At various times through my blogging years, I've tried to come up with a new title, but although there have been a few possibilities, nothing has ever really "clicked".   Then along came this week's Sunday School lesson.  As I was preparing the lesson, I kept thinking how I loved the translation of the ESV in 1 Peter 1:1 of "elect exiles".  Such a perfect description...I love the picture it paints of the dichotomy of who we are as Christians.  "Exiles"...people who are in forced absence from their homes...people who don't fit in...strangers without a "place".   But yet..."Elect"...chosen...carefully selected...called..."bought with a price", with the place of all places being prepared for us!  


We were discussing that verse in SS yesterday and pointing out that "Elect Exiles" would make a good name for a musical group. :)  But in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "It might not make a bad name for a blog, either." :)  


So...yesterday when I was playing with a new blog header design, I decided to "try on" a new name for a while, too.  I haven't "officially" changed it in my blog settings/template...just on the header.  I'm going to test the waters with it for a bit and make sure I'm happy with it (and perhaps get some feedback? :)) before I "finalize" it.  So...I'd love to hear any comments you have about the change!


Several weeks (actually, more like a couple of months...eek!) ago, I began participating in Ann Voskamp's "Multitude Monday" (1000 Gifts).  I haven't managed another Multitude Monday post since.  I hope to be more consistent with that this spring...and here's a start...

11--hot water...one of those things I always take for granted, until I spend 24 hours trying to do laundry, dishes, and baths for 6 people without it!  

12--friends who are generous with their time and skills to help with dead hot water heaters and dead trees.  So thankful for our church body that is so good to help meet *all* kinds of needs!

13--a handy husband who tackles (sometimes with help :)) all the "broken things" around here.  

14--friends who sharpen "as iron sharpens iron", and time to share with them and be sharpened.

15--My Sunday School girls!  I love them and am already grieving a bit the upcoming loss of my seniors (but looking forward to my upcoming 7th graders, including one of my own!)

16--Music...always and ever on my list...as God always brings "just the song" for the day or week...and Lyndel's wisdom and sensitivity to the Spirit as He selects the choir music that is often where "the song" is brought to mind...

17--His Word...which is sharper than a two-edged sword...and a pastor who isn't afraid to wade into the deep (and sometimes not-so-pleasant) truths.  Thankful especially for such encouragement and comfort these last few weeks from Romans 8!

18--Thankful for the sufferings...even the deepest ones of the past few years...that God continues to show me are and will always be some of the greatest blessings of my life...although they certainly didn't seem that way for a long, long time...

19--Thankful to be looking forward to vacation next week!!  

20--MOST thankful this week for a daughter who was baptized..."on the right side" of her salvation...yesterday...and for God's convicting and saving grace at work!




For more on Multitude Monday and One Thousand Gifts, please visit Ann...




3.06.2011

"It's All Good"




I'm not sure where they picked up the phrase, but somewhere along the way, "It's all good" has become a stock response from my children whenever there is a crash or a thump or a bump (at which point they know they are going to hear, "What WAS that?"  from Mom...:))  "It's all good!" I'll hear before I can even get my question out.  It isn't especially reassuring, and I typically respond with "That's great, but you can go ahead and tell me about it anyway." ;-)


Recently, however, "It's all good" seems to be a theme in what God is teaching me.  Bro. Kent's sermons, the Sunday School lesson I taught this morning, blog posts I'm reading...seem to revolve around the truth that "It's all good."  It may not always *seem* good at the time, but IF we are His children, then it is all working for our good and His glory.  LOVE these verses from today's SS lesson...

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.   Though you have not seen Him, you love Him.  Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Our suffering is going to result in the praise and honor and glory of God!  And it is going to result, as I keep being reminded this week, in our being purified as gold is refined in fire.  And He gives "joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" in the midst of what we think of as the "bad".  What could be better than all that?!


A few notes from Bro. Kent's sermon a few weeks ago...from Romans 8:28...

"All things work together for good..."  You say, "But does that include ________?" Yes, it does.  Whatever you would fill in that blank with, it is included in "all things".  There is NOTHING with which you can fill in that blank that changes the answer.  All things.  God can even turn evil to good.  That doesn't mean the evil wasn't wrong...it was evil, and evil is NOT okay.  But God still is using it to accomplish His plan for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory. (Gen. 50:20)  
 Our definition of "good" is very different from God's...we don't even have a frame of reference.  "Work together" here in Greek is the word from which we get our word "synergy": parts working together to produce a whole. Brings about good in the "here and now" AND as part of that "eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17)
"So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."     (2 Cor. 4: 16-18)
This promise is only for believers, for those saved by His grace.  For the unbeliever...everything is working together for bad...for judgement.  If one has not repented of sin and accepted Christ's free gift of salvation...there is no true good. 

And then this blog entry that I came across yesterday (perhaps via Ann Voskamp?).  Wow.  I have so very far to go...so much dross that needs to be burned away...(Even if you don't usually click through to links, I encourage you to take the time to go to Katie's blog and read this post.)  Here are a few quotes:


“'What ever He wants,' she chuckles.
I look at the joy that is spilling out of her wrinkled face and I repeat the words that she has spoken in my head and that doesn’t make sense. She is hurt and she is suffering and she is laughing about it and sparkling with beauty and radiating Joy."
That doesn’t make sense. Not to me. Not yet.
But she already knows what I am just learning. That even this, it is from Him. Even this, it is Holy ground. This thing that I label suffering, it is really Joy. 
Suffering, pain, loss, shame – all these things I have blamed on a broken world, Satan even. But can’t a broken world and even Satan only give what God allows? Suffering, pain loss and shame are only these things because I label them as such. Because I, a sinner, choose to eat from the tree, choose to turn away from nail-scarred hands and ignore the grace and miss the gift. He is beautiful and everything He creates is beautiful and if I choose to label it suffering I am choosing to miss the beauty that is freely offered me. 
“Surely, just as I have intended, so it has happened and just as I have planned so it will stand.” Isaiah 14:24
Just as He intended. Even this, planned by God.

All good.  It is all good.


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