Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book review: LOL with God


I don’t usually jump at opportunities to review devotional books because I often feel like they’re lauded as [sorry] substitutes for reading the Word of God. However, I’ve read a couple of books by Pam Farrel before, and I like her ability to be funny without allowing her humor to overshadow the Gospel. That’s how I ended up with LOL With God: Devotional Messages of Hope & Humor for Women by Pam Farrel and Dawn Wilson.

As I expected, the hope was a constant throughout each devotion, and the humor was just right. My typical concerns with devotional books were assuaged as I read the first devo: “We’re glad you’re reading this devotional, but that’s not even the same as choosing intimacy with God. Even this book can become a ‘glowing screen’ of distraction from sitting at Jesus’ feet. We pray that you’ll read and saturate your thoughts with God’s words in the Bible…and grow in your love for Him.” Amen to that.

Each devotion includes:
  • A Bible verse to start it (see more on that below)
  • A short story to drive home a biblical principle
  • A brief prayer (in a section called "Send Up a Message")
  • Some additional verses (called "Text Helps")
  • Space for you to write a response to God ("Your Turn")
  • A joke or funny story (simply titled "LOL")

My one dislike: I think they tried too hard to be hip. The Bible verses at the start of each were written in text speak, more aptly described in most cases as text babble to the extreme. A decent example: “Kp urslves in Gods luv as u w8” (Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait, Jude 21). A ridiculous example, which is what most were: “w t tmptashn He wl lso prvd t wy o escp” (With the temptation he will also prvide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:13). If you’ve ever talked to me about text speak, you know that I think it will be the downfall of polite and educated civilization and that I struggle not to think less of people who use it extensively, particularly outside of texting. This is why I only began texting about ten months ago. I still don’t love it. In other words, I’m biased against it, so I’m not certain that what I dislike here is due to my pet peeve or legitimate criticism. In a positive light, though, I did spend more time meditating on each verse because I had to decipher it first.

If you like text speak and are looking for a light-hearted but biblical-grounded devo, this is a good option. (But don’t blame me if your text babble dismantles the foundations of democracy.)

Many thanks to Tyndale House publishers for providing this book for my review. They didn’t ask me to provide anything other than an honest review, and I’m thankful that they communicated with me in complete sentences free of text jargon.

Really?!?

(alternate title: Speaking of vomit...)

Who thought these were acceptable as play food?

The mess I've made

(Warning: this post may involve some discussion of the stomach bug we had this week. If you'd like to avoid vomit talk, move on.)

I love what parenting teaches me about God.

Flashback to last week, Monday morning. Our little guy started crying for me to come get him, so I opened the door to his room, which was still dark because we have great curtains in there to block the sun. So he could adjust his eyes to the light gradually, I didn't flip the light on. I usually pick him up, flip on the lamp by the changing table, and let him get used to the light.

I might not be so kind in the future.

This particular morning I noticed two things as I was halfway between the door and the crib: 1) Something stunk. and 2) Something was squishy under my feet.

Back to door. Flip the switch. Cue scene from The Exorcist after the chick's head has spun.

Oh, the vomit. With a smiling, bouncy(, smelly) boy standing in the middle of it.

I'm the momma, so I couldn't just walk out and let someone else deal with it. I had to figure out what to clean first. Everything - the carpet, the wall, the crib, the bedding, the curtains, the boy, his clothes - needed to be washed.

Why do I tell you this? It's not just to make you feel a little ill. (By the way, before I came to college in NC, I didn't know that "ill" could also mean annoyed or irritated. I was so confused when friends talked about being ill about something.)

I tell you this because it made me think of myself. I can get icky in my sin so that not only am I covered in it, but I have made a mess all around myself.

Just as I did with our little guy, God cleans me up. This part of theology most Americans agree with. "God loves you," emblazoned on bumper stickers, usually isn't considered to be an offensive statement. I love my little man, so I cleaned Him up. God loves me, so He washes me with the blood of Jesus to make me white as snow.

But, praise Him, He doesn't stop there. He's not okay with cleaning me up and then putting me back in my mess. That's where the Gospel starts to offend those who want God on their own terms. Sure, he can clean me up when I seek that, but I don't want Him to mess with my life. Through repentance and forgiveness and sweet, sweet grace, He restores my mess too.

It wouldn't have been okay for me to clean Robbie up and then put him back in that crib. It's not okay for me to seek forgiveness and then run back to my mess. God has redeemed me for more than that.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Romans 6:1-4, 14

A watched pot

can still brew coffee just fine.


(A neglected wall of spackle that needs to be sanded and painted needs a little more than just watching, though. Hmm, I need to get on that.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

MUST READ: I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

If I could only tell you one thing about I Will Carry You by Angie Smith, it would be this: You. MUST. Read. This. Book.

Seriously.

If you didn’t catch this from what I wrote above, let me rephrase it: I think every woman should read I Will Carry You, whether or not you’ve experienced the loss of a child. (And, guys, if your wife or another woman close to you has lost a child, you should read it too.) I haven’t lost a child, but I have supported friends who have. And this book spoke to corners of my life where I have experienced loss – loss of health, loss of dreams, loss of friends.

(The one loss neither Angie nor I have experienced was the loss of hope. Praise Jesus that hope rests in Him and not our circumstances!)

Angie Smith, the wife of the lead singer of Selah, wrote this tender book about the loss of her daughter Audrey. She was eighteen weeks pregnant when doctors told her that her baby had conditions that were incompatible with life. They chose for her to carry Audrey throughout the rest of the pregnancy, and this book chronicles their story – from beginning of pregnancy and beyond the end of Audrey’s life on earth.

It’s a tough book. A get-yourself-a-whole-box-of-tissues kind of book. It will break your heart. But, somehow, it will encourage you at the same time. It’s encouraging because of things like her reaction immediately after getting the news about that her baby isn’t expected to survive. When the doctor asks what she’s thinking, she says, “I think my Jesus is the same as He was before I walked through that door.” Amen to that.

She dives into the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead in great detail. I will never look at that passage the same way. Here’s what she wrote about John 11:35 (which, as the shortest verse in the Bible, says “Jesus wept”):
I want to share a beautiful distinction I came upon months after Audrey's death as I poured over these verses. At first glance it appears that Jesus, May, and Martha were sobbing together, but the original language of the text reveals that while Jesus was weeping (dakryo), the women were wailing (klaio). While Mary and Martha were crying out in agony over the loss of their brother, their tears moved Jesus, and He began to weep. This is the only occurrence of dakryo in the entire New Testament. He isn't crying over the death of Lazarus but rather the hurt He is experiencing with people He loves dearly. He isn't crying because the situation is hopeless, but because He is an empathetic God.

He knows that in a few moments Lazarus will walk out of the tomb.

He also knows they can't see that hope.

And neither can we.

There is a difference in despair and deep sadness over the time that will pass until we can see her again. It is a conscious, daily choice to experience dakryo, the sadness that allows one to grieve with the expectation of redemption.

We don’t have a God who is oblivious to our human experience. Instead, Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us this: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” What a blessing it is that we can approach His throne! Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, acknowledging the Father’s ability to do anything and asking for the cup of suffering to be taken from Him … and then (get this!) prays, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36 and Matthew 26:39) and “may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).

In Gethsemane, Christ serves as the perfect example of how we can approach suffering, asking for a change in circumstance but submitting whether God says yes or no to our request. Angie isn’t a perfect example for us like Christ is, but she is a precious example of what it looks like for an imperfect woman to take a similar path. And her writing style is vulnerable and real enough to make me wish she was my best friend.

I wrote this at the beginning, and I’ll say it again: you must read this book. It is both heartbreaking and heartening at the same time. It may empty you of tears, but it will fill you with hope as well.

The FTC requires that I disclose that B&H Publishing Group provided this book for me to review. B&H, however, required nothing from me and didn't ask for a positive review or anything else. Therefore, I like the letters B&H more than F, T, or C, but I include this disclaimer because I also like not being fined by the FTC.

This guy

likes food.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Confession: FIRE!

Confession: About five years ago, only a week or two after our wedding, I screamed like a little girl and thought I was burning the house down the first time I used the stovetop in our new house. I had never cooked with gas before, and I didn't know that flames were normal.

I'm certain Lee was a bit worried that day about the cooking cluelessness skills of his new wife.


(And, no, I'm not Roman Catholic, nor have I ever been. But I like the idea of making confession posts a somewhat regular thing, and Confession Sunday had a nice ring to it.)

Good grad school student, not so good wife

As I headed out of the house to meet with my graduate thesis advisor a week and a half ago, I had everything in order. I was trying to print a couple things before I left, though, because having hard copies of work makes me feel happy. I was taking my laptop with me, and I had emailed my professor the files. Hard copies weren't really needed, but I wanted them. I would have printed them the night before, but we had run out of printer paper.

Lee, who took the afternoon off from work so I could go to my meeting, also served me by picking up paper so I could print. I put the paper in the printer, pressed the button to resume printing, and ran upstairs to get ready for my meeting. Lee served the kids lunch while I rushed around.

I came downstairs, and nothing was in the printer tray. It turns out that we had no more ink. Lee had ordered some a couple days before, but we didn't have it yet.

And I, who was prepared even without the hard copies, blew up. I vented. I fumed. Instead of being thankful for Lee's selflessness in taking care of my paper and ink needs and in caring for the kids and in esteeming my schoolwork above his job that afternoon, I tore him apart. I denigrated* the very man I'm called to respect and build up.

I would like to say that I shaped up before I left, but I didn't. I slammed doors. I acted with less maturity than our kids do when they throw tantrums. And that's what it was. A tantrum.

As I had a drive ahead of me to campus (because I'm a distance ed student who takes online classes rather than a local one), I began thinking. I began praying. And these verses came to mind.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Had I been loving? No.
Was there joy in any aspect of my behavior or attitude? No.
How about peace? No.
Had I been patient? No. 
Kind? No.
Did I show goodness to my husband (or to my kids, who were observers)? No.
Did I demonstrate faithfulness to God or Lee? No.
How about gentleness? No.
Self-control? Absolutely not.

It wasn't long before I was repentant, seeking forgiveness from God and from Lee. My meeting with my thesis advisor went well, but I had already blown it when it really mattered.

I'm so thankful for forgiveness. 

And I'm thankful to be part of a community of believers in which we can learn from each other instead of all having to sin in the same ways. Learn from me. Don't blow it when it matters so that you can excel in secondary things.

(*And, on a less serious note, using the word "denigrate" above made me think about this quote, which is from Bob Newhart and was included in a book I just read. I actually do like country music, but this quote made me laugh: "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'")

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Love

Love him. And the beach. But mostly him. :)

(And love that my swimsuit was $8 on clearance.)

The best news ever

Jocelyn loves watching this. I love the message it conveys and the Gospel-driven conversations we have each time we watch it.



You can find more info here on the song (from Sovereign Grace) and the animator (Chris Powers). Thanks to Justin Taylor for posting this!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Free donuts

No, not today. Or upcoming. Sorry.

I think it was June when Krispy Kreme was giving away one free donut per person. Yum.

Flashback Friday: Random college edition

This is a hodge-podge post, brought on by all the retro pictures people were posting not too long ago on Facebook. Considering that I update my Facebook pictures about every six months or so, I figured I'd make this Flashback Friday the college edition. Other than having to be from the three years at UNC before I graduated and having to be from an event with Lee, there is no other organization to this.

This is from Valentine's Day in 2002 at our favorite little Vietnamese place in Durham. We haven't been there in ages! I found it initially when one of my best friends from college, Lara, was missing her Vietnamese restaurant in Charlotte. I searched online, and we had no idea whether or not it would be a good one. Granted, it is in one of the sketchier parts of Durham, but it's worth it!
 
 
 
I think Lee took this during the summer that we both lived with my parents. That would have been 2002.

With some of the Lutheridge camp counselor crew - Lee, me, Matt, Becca, Allison, and Hillary - at our campus ministry national gathering in Phoenix (Dec 2001/Jan 2002)

Also in Phoenix: the palm tree explorers Katie and Lee! (Don't ask. Not because you don't want to know, but because I honestly don't remember!)

The UNC group in front of a big horse somewhere in Phoenix (Lee, me, Lara, Christy, Patrice, Lauren, and Corinne)

The UNC group (minus me - maybe I was taking the picture? - and plus Lee) in our hoe-down attire at the hotel in Phoenix

Lee and I being silly after painting part of a church in Miami during spring break 2002

At dinner on the way to the campus ministry fall retreat in October 2002 (with Andy, Lauren, and Erica ... and, um, I think we're at Hooters)

Us with some of our old camp counselor buddies in Phoenix, I think, which (like the shot a couple pictures above) would have been around New Year's 2002 - we're with Hillary, Allison, and Erin.

Lee (second from the left) and me (second from the right) and the UNC group (Robin, Lauren, Andrew, Karen, Corinne, and Erica) ... um, I think we were supposed to be in workshops during this. We just made our own Frisbee one!

Me, Corinne, and Lauren welcoming 2003 - I need to hang out with those girls again soon!

Why, yes, that is a straw. And glasses. I've always been classy. And I'm sure Lee is thinking, "This is exactly why I'm going to propose to this girl 15 months from now."

Lee and I with our dear friend Erica (who I need to reconnect with - this is one of the thing I love about flashback Fridays: it makes me pause to remember, which - in this case - makes me remember how much I love and miss old friends!)

Lee and I with the UNC campus ministry (Corinne, Pastor Mark, Karen, Lauren, Erica, and Patrice) group in New Mexico


9J4D2GDEQMWE

something to add to the "pro" column

When it comes to RA, most of the medical facts would fall into the "con" column if I made a pro/con list. The "pro" side is filled with sweet truths that God has taught us, but there's pretty much nothing from doctors over there because, medically speaking, RA isn't a good thing.

Except for in a study that was published this week and led by the guy in the picture: "A signaling protein released during rheumatoid arthritis dramatically reduced Alzheimer's disease pathology and reversed the memory impairment of mice bred to develop symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease." In other words, having RA makes it unlikely that I'll get Alzheimer's. And the weirdo physiology of those of us with RA might be providing a breakthrough in the treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's. (Makes you think of Genesis 50:20, doesn't it? "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.")

Score one for the "pro" side.

The Berenstain Bears Show God's Love (5 Children's Books in 1)

I remember watching The Berenstain Bears show and reading the books when I was little. I didn't realize, though, that the bears had gone Christian. I did some Google magic, and it seems as if this shift occurred in 2005 when the publisher shifted from HarperCollins to Zonderkidz. I liked The Berenstain Bears when I was a kid; now, as a mom and with the new Christian messages, I love them.

This book, The Berenstain Bears Show God's Love, has five titles in one hardcover book. Each can be bought individually as well, but I like the presentation and durability of this version. The books are (with Amazon links to the specific books):
 My favorite was the one about loving neighbors, but they were all good. I also like that the cover page for each story has a Bible verse. When I read it to the kids, I start with the verse and then go back to it at the end to emphasize that while the bear story is good, the Bible verse is better because it's God's Word.

At the very end of the entire book, there is a page of activities and questions from each book. I wish these had been at the end of each story instead of at the end of the book, but that's my only real compliant.

The FTC requires that I disclose that Zonderkidz provided this book for me to review. Zonderkidz, however, required nothing from me and didn't ask for a positive review or anything else. Therefore, I like Zonderkidz more than the FTC, but I include this disclaimer because I also like not being fined by the FTC.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

That's what I want

It’s inevitable as I do medical searches in online journals (yikes! Graduating in December means I’ll be cut off from my ECU library privileges, which means it will become much harder to search journals for full articles) that I stumble across an article title like this one: “When and how to evaluate mildly elevated liver enzymes in apparently healthy patients.”

I might skim the article, but I don’t usually spend much time with these. It’s those pesky last words, “healthy patients,” that tell me it's not for me.

I’m not sure when exactly it happened in the past three years, but somewhere along the way I stopped being one of those.

It used to make me sad. I had to grieve the loss of that healthy girl.

And, if you don’t know me well or if you’re new to this blog, let me explain a bit: I don’t always feel sick. And hopefully I will reach a point at which my rheumatoid arthritis is in remission and my other health issues are managed well. Then I should feel pretty normal. I long for that day. Even then, though, I’ll still be a chick with two chronic health conditions. Two diseases that won’t go away before God performs a miracle, a miracle that I know will happen. I just don’t know that it will happen on this side of heaven, and I’m trusting God to make that miracle happen with His perfect timing. I do know one thing, though:
if it will bring Him more glory in my life and in the lives of others not to bring the miracle before heaven, that’s what I want.

Let me say that again in a different way: If I am healed before heaven and that act of healing glorifies God, I’m all for it. However, if God’s glory is magnified more through my chronic conditions, then that’s what I want, warts RA and Hashimoto's and MRSA and all. I can do without the label of "healthy girl" because I'm glad to trade it for "Christ's ambassador" and "daughter of the Most High."

I don’t know which would glorify Him more: a total healing or continued trials. I don’t have to ponder that, though, because it’s up to Him. And I trust that His plan is perfect in whatever He chooses.

Healthy girl? I liked to think of myself that way, even if that’s more of a memory now.

Christ’s ambassador? I’m humbled to take that role, and I’m asking God to use me, chronic illness and all, to reflect His glory.

Lord, please keep me from getting so wrapped up in myself and my fleeting trials that I fail to point to you. May I never communicate the good or bad of my health as a me-focused story. Instead let me share the story of Christ.

For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21
And, on the topic of my health, here’s an update: liver is still not doing so hot. We’ve dropped one drug and will do bloodwork again on September 7. Please pray that my interactions with office, lab, and nursing staff that day point to Christ and that the labs will show that my liver is on the rebound.

Love,
The okay-with-not-being-the-healthy-girl girl

Good times with the clown sprinkler

When I was little, my grandmother had this clown sprinkler thing that I loved. I'm hoping I'll be able to find some pictures of those good times, because now I have pictures of my sweet ones playing with it. New good times!


If you're not familiar with this type of sprinkler, here's how it works: (1) Position hat on clown's head. (2) Turn on water. (3) Stream shoots from the top of the clown's head, lifting the hat into the air. (4) The water diverts out the top of the hat, spraying it all around (and making a difficult task out of taking pictures without soaking the camera!).


Lee had never seen one before, so he was impressed by it...especially because I had done a terrible job of describing it, which meant that he had no idea what to expect when he set it up.


And the kids sure enjoyed it too, don't you think? Although they did discover that the hat falls off when the water flow is interrupted for more than a quick moment, which is why the hat is by their feet in the picture above.


When they realized what they had done to the hat, they were quite proud of themselves.


Next time we go to Nana's house, I will bring a change of clothes for me too. It took a while for them to get the hang of putting the hat back on. Which meant that Mommy had to run into the spray zone and fix it. Again. And again. And again.


I didn't mind, though. How cute are they?


Can he catch the water?

Yep.


However, he wasn't expecting the spray in his face when he caught it. Poor guy!

Well, poor guy for a bit, Until he learned to deflect it out toward everyone else!


Mwahahaha says Little Man as he soaks everyone near him.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

GOOD READS: Discerning Truth by Dr. Jason Lisle

Christianity and intelligence. Faithful and rational. Creation and logic. Belief and brains.

Our culture usually likes to portray each of those pairings as oppositional. Paradoxical. Contradictory.

And I hate to say it, but Christians don’t always help themselves in this regard. As I’ve reviewed some homeschool curriculums as we think about the future, I’ve found many of them to be watered down versions of secular ones with a God stamp added in. On a mommy online forum I used to frequent, I was hesitant to jump into faith discussions because the Christians there were often playing into the got-Christ-not-brains stereotype that unbelievers had. Sermons are dumbed down. And so on, and so on.

Dr. Jason Lisle isn’t one of those Christians. His book, Discerning Truth: Exposing Errors in Evolutionary Arguments, isn’t perfect but it is intelligent. It’s all about logic and rhetoric. (If I were still involved with debate groups, I would make this assigned reading for my students, even though sections are a bit dense.) He doesn’t shy away from difficult principles in logic or philosophy, but he doesn’t water them down either. Each chapter is brief, most around four or five pages long, making it easy to digest in small pieces. He includes two chapters of examples of logical fallacies for readers to analyze (plus answer keys for each), and he acknowledges that creation proponents sometimes use flawed arguments too.

The FTC requires that I disclose that New Leaf Publishing Group provided this book for me to review. NLPG, however, required nothing from me and didn't ask for a positive review or anything else. Therefore, I like NLPG more than the FTC, but I include this disclaimer because I also like not being fined by the FTC.

The life of the pool party

Well, I'm not sure that little man was the life of the pool party (a birthday celebration for his sister's best friend), but he sure was the persevering one. He continued to play for at least 30 minutes after everyone else had cleared out!

Look, his head sprays water!

Okay, not really.

A ball (one of his favorite things) + water (another favorite) = good times.

Though said ball is an easy target for something to put in his mouth. We're not past that stage yet. :)

And, Little Man, can you tell us what you think about the spraying water?

Yippee!