Monday, February 26, 2007

Knowing God

Well, it took me over a year, but I finally finished reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Long thought of as a classic in Christian literature, we embarked on reading and studying it one chapter at a time in our small group. We were interrupted once with a church-wide study (Peacemaking - excellent, but for another post) and just finished it last week.

The book is 22 chapters long, and each chapter stands well on it's own, although they do build on each other. We found they were independant enough that newcomers to the group were not lost picking up in the middle of the book, which is great for the ever-changing dynamic of small groups!

I cannot adequately explain what this book has meant to me in one post, so I hope to post some of the more meaningful passages in the future. Suffice it to say that the author insists that knowing God should be more than an intellectual pursuit, and each chapter revealed something unique to meditate on about God and that drove me to worship Him more. The book is worth it's weight in gold just for that.

I can't stress enough that if you don't own this book, buy it now! It is one you will want to have in your library and is perfect for reading through from cover to cover more than once, as well as refering back to parts of it when needed.

I will quote from the last chapter, since it is most fresh in my mind, concerning Christ's death and the gift of faith:
pg. 265

"The apostolic writers present the death of Christ as the ground and warrant of God's offer of forgiveness, and that we enter into forgiveness through repentance and faith in Christ, will not be disputed. But does this mean that, as a loaded gun is only potentially explosive, and an act of pulling the trigger is needed to make it go off, so Christ's death achieved only a possibility of salvation, needing an exercise of faith on our part to trigger it off and make it actual?

"If so, then it is not strictly Christ's death that saves us at all, any more than it is loading the gun that makes it fire: strictly speaking, we save ourselves by our faith, and for all we know, Christ's death might not have saved anyone, since it might have been the case that nobody believed the gospel. But that is not how the New Testament sees it. The New Testament views is that the death of Christ has actually saved "us all" - all, that is to say, whom God foreknew, and has called and justified, and will in due course glorify. For our faith, which from the human point of view is the means of salvation, is from God's point of view part of the salvation, and is as directly and completely God's gift to us as is the pardon and peace of which faith lays hold."

I will quote some more in the following weeks . . .

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I posted a while back (see here and here) about our friends, Kate and Aeron and their pregnancy troubles. Kate has been on bed rest since right after Thanksgiving, while trying to take care of their little one, too.
Well, I rejoice in telling you all that their baby girl was born, safe and sound, on Friday! They will definitely have their hands full with a 12 month-old and a newborn, but God sustained her pregnancy, and for that we are thankful!
Praise God for His undeserved goodness!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Who Can Save the World?

We bought Elijah a Superman costume for Christmas (purchased on clearance just days after Halloween) and he loves to dress up in it and requires that we call him "Superman" while he is wearing the costume.

So this morning, I was helping him put it on and when I finished I said, "Alright, Superman, go and save the world!"

He replied, "Superman can't save the world." To which I answered, "You are right. But do you know who can save the world? God can!"

The little heretic replied, "God can't save the world, only Buzz Lightyear can."

Thank-you Disney . . .

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oprah's Gospel

My post on Oprah's "secret" gospel has generated some great comments. If you haven't read them, stop over to the original post and do so!

I promised to post about what I got from the short 10 minutes that I watched all about the "secret" and I will deliver!

One of the panel "experts" was detailing the idea that we are all made of energy and the principle of like attracting like. He said something to the effect of (in other words, not an exact quote here) "The more energy we put out to something, the bigger it gets. So if you are constantly focused on all your problems then they will only get bigger."

What a great example of our thoughts about God! The more we learn about Him, the more we dwell on Him and meditate on His Word, the bigger He gets in our life! Now, I don't believe He gets any bigger in reality, but in our estimation of Him. And that is worship, to attribute to God the glory that He possesses and the glory He deserves from us.

Unfortunately, I don't think that is what the panel experts were thinking about!

All this talk of positive thinking, Oprah's secret and Joel Osteen led me to a great article written by John Piper about the deciet in prosperity preaching. Go and read it here to be challenged and blessed.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Gospel According to Oprah

I sat down to feed Allison the other day and found that my usual 4pm show was a rerun, so I started flipping through the channels. I had honestly forgotten that Oprah was on at that time, since I quit the show over a year ago. Even though I enjoy the “makeover” shows and there are some topics that are fun to watch, I found myself being bombarded with humanistic ideas and morals. It wasn’t worth my time or Godly mental health to watch any longer.

But there I was, stuck in a chair and longing to watch something, so I indulged myself and tuned in, hoping for one of those shows that wouldn’t make me shout at the television. I wasn’t so lucky. On the show was a panel of “experts” (basically all motivational speakers) who had contributed to a new DVD entitled “The Secret.” The secret to a happy life, to financial freedom, to the body you’ve always wanted, etc. . . . What was the “secret”? To quote Oprah’s website, and Rhonda, the marketer, er, I mean, discoverer of the “secret”. . .

“The Secret [is] the law of attraction, which is the principle that ‘like attracts like.’ Rhonda calls it ‘the most powerful law in the universe,’ and says it is working all the time. ‘What we do is we attract into our lives the things we want, and that is based on what we're thinking and feeling,’ Rhonda says. The principle explains that we create our own circumstances by the choices we make in life. And the choices we make are fueled by our thoughts—which means our thoughts are the most powerful things we have here on earth.”

That’s it. Now to give Oprah some credit, she pointedly informed us all that she has known the “secret” for years, but just didn’t know it was a “secret.” She’s been telling us all this for years, and I can attest to that, having turned my mind to mush after watching too many hours of her gospel in the past.

And that is exactly what it is – her gospel. And not only hers, although one could argue that she is the biggest voice of it. It really isn’t that different than what Joel Osteen preaches. God wants to bless you, He wants you to have “Your Best Life Now” and all that is missing is us claiming it! Think it is true, act as though it is becoming truth to you in this very moment and it will happen. And as the best false prophets do, there is enough of a nugget of truth in what they speak that it makes it easier to believe. After all, Osteen is a preacher and uses Bible verses to back up his message and Oprah is very religious herself. And then they douse their speeches with true-life stories of those who have obeyed their commands and who are living gloriously happy lives now. The panel was filled with stories of heartbreak, depression, bankruptcy and financial burdens. But now, now they have conquered it all - and you can too!

I tolerated 10 minutes of it before I was so upset I had to change the channel. Back to the Food Network, where you never go wrong, even if it is a rerun. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, although, and I mourn the thought that millions are accepting this religion and even expecting God to “help those who help themselves.”

The question remains, what if I do all that I can to make my dreams come true, what if I only think good and positive thoughts and I still feel empty? They never address that issue. What if I make my millions and others look up to and adore me, but there is still a void all the adoration fails to fill? Am I just failing in their “system?” Do I just need to think more positive thoughts? But what does this do for me for eternity? It never addresses how I can get my “Best Life Later!”

It never even stops to think that maybe I am not the center of my universe. Maybe the world doesn’t revolve around me. Maybe getting my felt needs fulfilled are not what will really make me happy. Maybe, just maybe, my suffering here on earth is meant to take my eyes off of myself. It never addresses those ideas.

Thankfully Scripture does. I end my thoughts with the wisdom of a man who had everything a heart could desire. This is what he says on the matter. Too bad Oprah won't give his side of the story any airtime . . .

Ecclesiastes 1
1The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

3What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
4A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.
5The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
6The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north;around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
7All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full;to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
8All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it;the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
10Is there a thing of which it is said, "See, this is new"?It has been already in the ages before us.
11There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembranceof later things yet to be among those who come after.

*Check back soon for one good thing I did learn from Oprah’s panel and for a great refutation of this false gospel.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love Story, Part 3 - Our Engagement

The Christmas break in 1998-1999 found my dad having emergency heart surgery and so I stayed home for the spring semester and worked to pay my way for school in the fall. Dan visited us over the break, while my dad was still in the hospital, and shoveled our snow-filled driveway, further endearing himself to my parents. He returned to Maranatha in January and we settled in to a long-distance relationship. By this time I knew we would get married, but I wasn’t expecting it until he finished college, which would be in the spring of 2000.
I had a friend at home, Alison, who was dating her future husband while he was at Maranatha, too, so we made a couple of treks up there together to visit our guys. I’ll be honest; dating long-distance wasn’t the easiest part of our time together. Dan was working 3 jobs and we never had a lot of time to talk. It seems those insecurities that were present on our first date flared up again. But by God’s grace, we persevered, and it paid off!

I was on my way to visit him the weekend of Valentine’s Day and we were to travel up to his grandparent’s house a few hours north to celebrate his grandpa’s 80th birthday. We had been up there together before, so I noticed when our car started driving another route. Dan told me it was a short cut his Dad had told him about, and if you know his dad, that didn’t surprise me in the least. It wasn’t until we were in downtown Fondulac that I started to mention to Dan that maybe we took a wrong turn somewhere. We kept driving and ended up in a park on the edge of Lake Winnebago, where there was a small lighthouse.

Now Dan and I had already expressed our love of lighthouses to each other before. In fact, we had plans of decorating our home with them and dreams of visiting some of the beautiful lighthouses in America. So I wasn’t about to get my hopes up of something special happening, since I convinced myself that he brought me here to just show me the lighthouse.
It was a freezing cold day, (after all, it was February!) and we walked around the lighthouse when Dan pulled out a beanie baby (remember those?) of a Chihuahua. My mom had been dog sitting one and I fell in love with it and told Dan that I wanted one of my own. So he said something like, “Here is that Chihuahua that you wanted” and when I tried to take it from his hands he wouldn’t let go. When he finally did, I saw a beautiful diamond ring on the dog’s leg and then all the typical stuff happened. He got down of one knee, said some beautiful things (I wish I had recorded it!) and asked me to marry him. I cried and said “yes” a dozen times and then took off my gloves to put on the ring. Problem was, it was so cold that my hands were shriveled and the ring was too big, so we high tailed it to the car so we could warm up.

His plans included a nice breakfast, which explained why he wouldn’t, for the life of me, stop to get me something to eat on the drive up! We told the waitress that we had just gotten engaged, (she wasn’t as excited as we were) and then ate a wonderful breakfast. I still remember that I got stuffed French toast. Mmmmm, yummy!

We traveled the rest of the way to his grandparent’s house and got to announce it to his whole family. It was such a glorious weekend! I remember traveling back to Maranatha that Sunday afternoon when the weight of what lie ahead of us hit me. All of a sudden I was overcome with fear about whether or not we could really do it. Could we make enough money to live while we both finished up college? Where would we live? We had picked a date to marry only 6 months away and there was so much to plan for! We stopped at a gas station (I still point out that station every time we pass it as the “place I freaked out.”) and Dan calmed my nerves. He has always been such a planner; he had already worked out a budget and thought through all the possibilities. It was there that I learned that if Dan thought we could do it, we could. He has never made empty promises to me, and has always been more than conservative when it came to money and finances. I started to trust him to lead me as a husband at that moment.

We married 6 months later on August 14th, and are now 7 years into this adventurous lifetime together. I’ll have to post more about our marriage some other day, maybe for our 8th anniversary this summer! Until then, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I love telling this story! Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey! I love you!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love Story, Part 2

This is part 2 of a continuing story. If you haven't read part 1, scroll down and do so first!

I had a couple of friends who were intent on hooking me up since I was newly single again. Don’t ask my why they took such an interest in my dating dilemma, but praise God they did! They started talking about Dan, the new soccer player everyone was raving about, and asking me if I had met him yet. I hadn’t and when I did, (no offense, honey) I wasn’t impressed. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike him, but I wasn’t pining immediately, either. He was cute, tall, blond and played soccer, all qualities I was attracted to, but also very quiet and shy, two qualities I had never been attracted to.

There was some more interaction between us, mostly because of those 2 friends who tried to force the issue, and some because of those silly MBBC rules that required multiple people in vehicles for a trip to Wal-Mart and such. But other than that, not much transpired between us.

Fall Artist Series was fast approaching when I was invited to a party at a home of a student who lived on campus, but whose parents lived relatively near by. I rode to the party with my roommate, Jana, and one of those buddies who were trying to set me up. We arrived and Dan was there. Since we had interacted enough to know each other, we started to talk and for the first time I felt attracted to him. Yes, he was quiet, but also really nice! And I had known enough “life of the party” type guys that I found myself enjoying his meekness. The party ended without anything exciting happening, but I started to think about him more. In fact, I started thinking it would be nice to go to Artist Series with him. After all, everyone went “date crazy” around Artist Series time! Well, I found out shortly from that aforementioned “buddy” that Dan already had a date and that Dan had actually thought I was dating my guy buddy because we rode to the party together! And even though we both insisted we were only friends, it didn’t help our cause when we decided to go to Artist Series together instead of dateless.

After learning that Dan already had a date, I succumbed to the Bible College mindset and had him marrying the girl before they ever went out. I checked him off as “taken” in my mind and tried to move on. Problem was, I couldn’t. I kinda liked him enough already that it was hard to just move on. Then the report got back to me that his Artist Series date hadn’t gone great and they would not be likely to go out again. “Ok, what now?” I thought.

Well, the other guy buddy who was intent on setting me up got it in his mind that Dan and I should be a pair. So he arranged an outing where we would inevitably be paired together and asked me if I wanted to go. I saw through the story and surmised that this was a fix-up, so I told my friend that if Dan wanted me to come, he would need to ask me personally, like a real gentleman! Shortly after, I received my first phone call from Dan. He was nervous and so was I, but we talked and talked and had a great conversation! I started to really look forward to this date, until I found out that his Artist Series date would be coming also. As you can imagine, this was going to be awkward. Especially since her date cancelled at the last minute and that left us in a group of an odd number.

I entered the date unsure of what to expect and nervous that I was “competing” for Dan. I have never been competitive, per se, and especially in the dating arena, where all your insecurities come bounding to the forefront of your mind. So, admittedly, the date was only mediocre. We went to someone’s house and had a bonfire, then watched a movie. It was an awkward assortment of people, as many outings at Maranatha were, so Dan and I didn’t even get to talk a whole lot. We both came back to our dorm and reported to our roommates that it was just an “Ok” date.

Then came Monday morning at Chapel time. I was talking to some college friends that I knew from home and reporting to them about the date when I saw him enter the back of the “gymnatorium.” I slipped back into my seat, which just happened to be on the aisle he walked down, and he approached me and asked if he could sit with me. Now to be fair, Dan, being new to the MBBC mindset, didn’t realize that sitting with me in chapel meant everyone who saw us would automatically assume we were a couple. But that was ok, because after some more fantastic conversations in the library in the following days, we were pretty much inseparable.

The more I got to know Dan, the more I liked him. His shyness faded away, at least around me, and we really connected. His background was pretty similar, and I found that his theology was, too! He wasn’t raised legalistically, so the fears of “all Maranatha men think women shouldn’t wear pants and all CCM is sinful” were gone. In fact, we had a lot of convictions about the same things and both of us were turned off to the legalism we saw. His faith was real, and that calmed my nerves even more. So shortly after we started talking, I invited him home to my house for a Christmas party that my college group hosted. He came, and I think it was that weekend that my dad basically told him that he could marry me! (Dad, how embarrassing!) But it was good to know that my parents like him, probably the first of my boyfriends they ever did!

Another weekend where I met his parents, and then we were officially a couple by Christmas break. That was December 1997.

Tomorrow I will tell you how we got engaged. It was exactly 8 years ago today that Dan asked me to marry him!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Love Story, Part 1

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I would tell the story of how Dan and I met. It isn’t every day that you get to relive the day you fell in love, so I am going to enjoy this, even if you all think it is corny!
I was about to embark on my sophomore year at MBBC when I complained to my parents that I really did not want to go back. I didn’t have a boyfriend, or any real prospects and I was going back to a crazy, dating world. Everyone was dating, or was desperately trying to find someone with which to date. It was somewhat depressing for me, especially because I had experienced such a great summer at home with my college group. It was filled with outstanding Christians that were real in their walk and didn’t know or understand the world of legalistic Bible colleges I felt I was returning to. I desperately wanted to date someone with a similar background and belief system and I felt that there wasn’t anyone like that at Maranatha.

So after venting to my parents, my dad said, “Well, Donette, maybe God will bring someone new to campus this year.” I quickly reminded him that I couldn’t date a younger guy, so the likelihood that would happen was slim. He replied, “Maybe some junior will transfer from another college.” Like most young adults, his parental prediction went in one ear and out the other. I returned to school without thinking twice about what he said.

I was working in the telecounseling office in the admissions office and came across some information for a new student who had transferred in from Cornerstone College in Grand Rapids, MI. I hadn’t met him, so I questioned my workmates about who he was. It seemed everyone already knew of him and they all started telling me how he was this great soccer player who had played on scholarship at Cornerstone and now was going to take our soccer team to great heights. (Our team didn’t have the reputation of greatness, and the campus was obsessed with good athletes. Remember the girl basketball player who had played D-1? She was a legend before she ever stepped foot on the court.) I didn’t think about him again.

Now this is where the story gets fuzzy. Dan swears that we met sooner than I remember, but all I can vouch for is my memory, so that is the version you will get. . . . . . . . . tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Portrait in Sepia

I just love developing pictures in sepia tone. We have matching frames that we put the latest pics of the kids in, and sepia tones really *pop* in the frames. So here are our latest pictures, Elijah is 3 years exactly (we took the pictures on his birthday) and Alli is just over 7 months. With these pictures so close together, is there any doubt that the kids are siblings?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tagged, again!

This tagging thing keeps me up on my posts! I was tagged by Hindto to give 5 interesting things about myself. This doesn't come easily, since I don't find myself very interesting, but here goes:

1. I have hundreds of ideas for starting my own business. I have always loved the idea of owning a bookstore, but I would only stock books that I agree with, so the market better like my ideas! I also would love to run a coffee shop, especially in cooperation with my sis-in-law, Noelle. She would decorate and teach me the way of the barista, and I would buy books for our customers to read while they sip our delicious coffee. I sell Mary Kay, so that is one of my business ventures, and I have often thought about getting my cosmetology degree, just so I could cut my family's hair and any friends who trust me!

2. I used to laugh when Dan would suggest me working with him (he owns his own business) and tell him that I would rather stay married to him! Now I feel a little differently. After 4 months of him working by himself with no team members, I decided I could do it. Unfortunately, I was at home with a newborn and 2 year old when I had this revelation, so there was no way I could do it! However, if the need ever arises again, I know that I will be more willing to pitch in and help. And who would make a better team member than your spouse? I pretty much always know what he is thinking already! :)

3. In high school, I remember saying that I would never have children because I was scared of the pain (who isn't?) and that I just couldn't imagine myself as a mother. I was more of a feminist than I was willing to admit. One of my best friends, Amber, told me that she couldn't imagine me not being a mother, since I was already so motherly! Trust me, this wasn't a complement to a 17 year old girl! But since having children, I can't imagine life any other way. I love being a mother! I'm so glad I was wrong!

4. All through my childhood and even into college I doubted my salvation. It wasn't until I started identifying signs of the Spirit's work in my life that that issue was resolved. I'm so glad that I know now not to just look at the date in the flyleaf of my Bible and trust a prayer! By the way, this opens a can of worms as to whether or not I was saved as a child, or until I was an adult. Who knows? Only God, and He is at work in my life now, so that is all that matters!

5. Ok, those of you who really know me probably already know this, but for my new readers . . . I tend to be obsessive-compulsive about neatness. So much so that my mom used to purposely move something on my dresser just to see if I would notice - and I always did! Some of my friends even refer to me as "Monica," and if you ever watched the TV show "Friends" you will know what they mean! I struggle not to let this tendency become a sin in my life, and I know it has. When I am more concerned about my house being in my idea of order than in loving and caring for others, I know this is sin. And when I lose my patience when my mom is here and doesn't put things back where they go, I am sinning. Yes, mom, I realize it and am working on it!

So there you have it, the only 5 things that I could come up with this morning! Hope you learned something new about me from this post!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Once A Month Cooking

Thanks to my friend, Rachel, I have been introduced to Once A Month Cooking (OAMC). I have mentioned it before, but I have never taken the time to really write about it, and I just finished a "cook" yesterday, so I thought it might be time to let you all know what it is about.

I was convinced that I would post about it before yesterday even happened, and it turned out not to be the best experience to base it on! I woke up late, the kids didn't cooperate, and I entered the laundry room to find water all over the floor, and in the basement, too! So after a call to Dan, who promised to be home as soon as possible to deal with it, and once Sarah came over, who helps me out by cutting vegetables, browning beef, and chasing the kids, we finally started!

Generally, the prep is the longest part. Weeks before I plan a day to cook, I choose my recipes, make a grocery list (by cutting and pasting from the typed recipe) and do some pre-cooking. I am a bit obsessive-compulsive, so I like my recipes to be typed neatly and I leave them on my refrigerator door for the remainder of the meals, just in case I need to be reminded how to prepare them out of the freezer.

I usually buy 2 whole chickens and put them, completely frozen, in crock pots to cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. After cooling, I pick the meat off the bird (read about that experience) and then the meat is ready for any casserole or soup on my recipe list. 1 chicken (3-4 lbs) usually gives anywhere from 6 to 8 cups of meat, which can cover 3 to 4 recipes for our family.

I try to have the mixture of ground beef and ground turkey browned before the day of the cook also, but this didn't happen yesterday. Oh well, it just made the cooking a bit longer. I learned to mix beef and turkey to make the recipes a bit more healthy and lower fat. I found most cannot tell the difference when mixed together, even husbands who claim to hate ground turkey! (although, to be fair, my husband has never said that!)

If you can manage to chop all vegetables before hand, this makes the cook day go even faster! So if you take the time to prepare thoroughly, the day of becomes assembly only, for the most part. I double all recipes, and most are packaged in 2 in gallon freezer bags. They freeze flat and you can stack them in the freezer. We have a chest freezer, which makes storing meals a lot easier. Last time I did a cook was December 1st, since we were gone over a week during the holidays. And most recipes make enough for a leftover meal for our family, which we love. So making 8 or 9 recipes on the day of the cook equals way more than just 18 meals!

I cannot express how much I enjoy doing this. It takes some preparation, especially while shopping, but the freedom it gives me during the month to grab a meal out of the freezer and not to worry about "What's for dinner?" makes the prep totally worth it.

So this month my family will be eating Green Chile Enchiladas, Chicken Quesadillas, Manicotti, Chicken soup, Chili, Broccoli Casserole, Southwestern Shredded Beef Sandwiches, King Ranch Chicken Casserole and Cheesy Corn Casserole.

Does this sound interesting to you? I would be glad to email all the recipes that I have so that you can try it too!