Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Away

We took a much needed, much anticipated weekend away last weekend, which included staying a night at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells. We had a blast with some good friends and thought you might like to see all the fun! (You'll notice there are no pictures of me in a swimsuit - that's the power of running your own blog!) This is Elijah being camera-shy. He was taking a snack break from all the crazy water slides he had ridden!
Dan and Elijah are looking at the "giant" as Elijah described this waterfall. There was so much for him to do, it was a bit overwhelming!

Too impatient to walk around the net, Elijah is trying to get back in line for the water slide as soon as possible! The kid's pool was great - only about 8-10 in. deep in the deepest parts. It was great for really little ones, toddlers, and older kids, too!

This is Alli posing for the camera. I love a baby in a swimsuit!

Lookin' up to her friend Em, who graciously watched her so Dan and I could enjoy some rides every once in a while!

The water park finally wears Alli out. She fell asleep while I held her and we made a successful transition to a soft chair. Her nap was about 2 hours long and it made the rest of the day enjoyable - for Alli, for us, and for everyone else!
If you've never taken advantage of the off-season deals these types of parks offer, then I highly recommend doing it! It was a fun break from the ordinarily dreary, rain-soaked April days. As we left, Elijah was already asking when we would get to come back!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Book Review - "The Cross Centered Life"

What can I say about "The Cross Centered Life" except stop what you are doing now and go out and buy this book!?!? I cannot think of a better book to own on your bookshelf, to read and reread, or to give away.

As I've said before about C.J. Mahaney, he is very easy to read. Don't worry about his writing being "over your head." His style is conversational. His book is short (a mere 85 pages) and if you are disciplined, could easily be read in one sitting. (Although this is nearly impossible for me!)

The message of the book is simple: Keep your gaze on the cross. And by the cross, he implies all that the cross purchased for us. Our justification, sanctification, righteousness, and our ability to grow in gratefulness, joy, and holiness, despite our circumstances.

He focuses on breaking the bonds of legalism and condemnation, which is easy for every believer to tend towards, despite upbringing. Those two chapters alone are worth reading every week! He defines legalism as "seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and acceptance by God through obedience to God." And he defines condemnation as the guilt and shame that brings the burden of depression, guilt, regret and grief. Specifically, he asks these questions regarding condemnation: (pg. 39)

1. Do you relate to God as if you were on a kind of permanent probation, suspecting that at any moment He may haul you back into the jail cell of His disfavor?

2. When you come to worship do you maintain a "respectful distance" from God, as if He were a fascinating but ill-tempered celebrity known for lashing out at His fans?

3. When you read Scripture does it reveal the boundless love of the Savior or merely intensify your condemnation?

4. Are you more aware of your sin than you are of God's grace, given you through the cross?

These are important questions to ask, as I have been guilty on many occasions of answering "Yes" to all of these.

His point is this: if you focus on the cross, all these burdens will be easily given up, in an act of rejoicing and worshipping the God who made us perfect through His Son. Unfortunately, we don't focus on God's grace enough, and that is what this book is trying to teach us to avoid.

He ends the book with multiple, every-day tasks to keep us focused on the cross, and specific verses to memorize and meditate upon. I will share some of the verses in the coming days.

Until then, thank God for all He has done for you! Don't be tempted to move on to more "deep" doctrines, while forgetting the doctrine of what the cross has done for us. It is central to our faith and should be treated that way!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New View from Our Corner of the World!

I've been thinking about trying a new template for sometime, and today I decided it was time! The pink of my old template was starting to annoy me, so it is time for some changes! I'm trying out some new titles for my blog, still thinking about the right one, so check back for that change. Also, I hope to update my friend's blogs link and the links for the blogs I check on a regular basis. No time like spring to do some organizing and updating!

Also, thanks to everyone who has been praying for my dad. He is out of the hospital and enjoying (last I heard) the extension of their vacation that was interrupted. I really appreciate all the notes of encouragement and prayer.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prayer Request Update

Things are looking better for my dad in TN. Nothing has grown on the culture they took, which looks good that it has not affected his heart. His arm is looking better, and after 3 days on antibiotics, he should be getting out tomorrow. Then they go on their way, continuing the vacation that was so rudely interrupted. He needs to check back with his cardiologist when they return home, but for now, things look good. Thanks, everyone, for praying.

Is this what life looks like when your parents get old?!?!?! ;-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Prayer Request

I have a prayer request for you all. My mom and dad are on vacation in Tenesee and my dad somehow cut his arm (he doesn't know how it happened). Well, they woke up on Sunday, their 35th anniversary, and his arm was swollen and sore. They went to the emergency room and he was diagnosed with a staph infection, treated with IV antibiotics and sent on their way.

Monday morning his arm was no better, so they travelled to the next town and went to the ER again, only to be told he would have to be admitted. It looks like he will spend the next 3-5 days in the hospital while they treat the infection. As you probably know, staph can be VERY dangerous. In fact, the doctor who is treating him thought she heard a heart murmur and questioned whether this could be a sign that the infection has travelled to his heart. If you know me well, you will remember that this exact thing happened several years ago and damaged his heart to the extent that he needed valve replacement. Back then, if they had waited a day longer, it probably would have taken his life.

So . . . please pray that the dr's will have wisdom in treating this. He is not sick at all, not running a fever (a very good sign that they caught the infection early), and is just sitting in a bed waiting and wanting desperately to be at home. They are travelling with a camping trailer and my mom doesn't feel comfortable towing it, so hopefully she will not need to move it before dad is released.

I'll update as I get more information. Thanks for praying.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Focused on the Cross

I'll be honest here - It is easy for me, in the business of the day, to lose focus. Even when the day is important and I should discipline myself to stay focused, the inevitable happens and my mind wanders from where it should.

So today is Good Friday. I know a lot of schools and businesses are closed, and Dan is home today, and I found myself waking this morning to the thoughts of what the day will hold, what I NEED to get done and the ever-increasing, never decreasing list of what I WANT to get done.

Somewhere in the course of all these thoughts, I remembered what today was all about. And by God's grace, I have had a blissful day of focusing on the cross. My day did not consist (unfortunately) of endless reading and meditating in a quiet room, but I was able to finish C.J. Mahaney's The Cross Centered Life. (I'll post more on that another day)

As I went about my daily duties, which included running to Walmart and the grocery store (which, by the way, were a mad-house) I contemplated God's gift of His Son and how He purchased me that day on the cross over 2,000 years ago. I was tempted to be in a hurry, and to be impatient with the crowds, but the Holy Spirit gently reminded me of Christ's sacrifice and I found myself unbothered by the traffic. I listened to Christ-exalting music in my car in-between stops and sang along.

Tonight is our church's Good Friday service. Since I am on the worship team, I know which songs we will be singing tonight and I joyfully anticipate being able to worship corporately with my blood-bought family after a day of private worship in the mundane duties of life.

God is so great, and I hope to never lose sight of the glories of the Cross. I hope your Good Friday was indeed good, and that you continue to focus on the Cross.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Testimony

God blessed me with a special gift from the moment I was born – believing parents. I can never fully know what life would have looked like without them, but I can imagine, and when I do, I am instantly humbled and grateful for that gift.

It was in the context of our believing household that I was introduced to Christ. And as most parent-pleasing children will do, I acknowledged Christ early in life, although to what extent my heart really understood, only God knew. But I comprehended that I was sinful and that Christ had died to forgive sins, and that His gift of eternity in Heaven was mine for the taking. I took . . . on many occasions.

It seems to be the consistent testimony of adolescents in my fundamental upbringing: Praying a prayer of repentance and belief in Christ, enjoying freedom of conscience for a span of time, lapsing back into sin and old patterns, questioning salvation and then either walking an aisle to “surrender” to Christ, or even praying again to get saved. It became my pattern. Summers of church camp, where I heard 3 to 4 messages a day about godly living were instrumental in reinforcing the pattern and sent me into a spiral of questioning my faith based on my ability to keep a list of requirements.

Now please understand me – I do not suppose that my own experience was the intended outcome by those who spent hours devoting their lives to see myself or my friends in our youth group honor Christ, nor do I propose that they are to blame. Although I do fear that my experience was common among even the leaders who sought to fortify my faith. Because our religion was so often based on stoic perseverance by works, I witnessed many Christians who appeared so only in name. I saw believers who kept a list of rules, but lacked joy and obvious fruit. Like the Pharisees Christ reprimanded in Matthew 23, I witnessed many who “tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”

By high school, I was an expert at double-living. I knew all the right answers and had all the head knowledge, but I desired to experience all the world had to offer, and I quietly rebelled against the authority of my parents. My rebellion looked pretty tame as compared to others, so I was never really called on the carpet for it. And my natural fear for the worst case scenario to occur kept me from many sinful actions. However, my heart did not actively desire God or His control in my life.

Sometime around my senior year in high school, that began to change. I was introduced to some friends that attended a college Bible study that our church offered and they were genuine believers. Their attitudes reflected true Christianity, yet they were not concerned about that “list of rules” that seemed so dominant in the Christianity I had witnessed. Their love for Christ was a rebuke to me, and though they were not perfect, I saw an example of what a Christian should be.

I will never know when the process of God drawing me to Him ceased and my faith became genuine and the process of sanctification began, but I know that I desired to know God more over the next 4 years of college than I ever had before. I participated in mission trips and street evangelism out of a desire to share Christ, not because it looked good or was a requirement on a list. And since college, God has been good to keep me in churches where true Christianity was practiced, and I have continued to grow.

All those doubts about my salvation from my adolescence vanished at some point as I began to see the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life. It hasn’t been easy, as I have learned to search for signs of grace in my life, instead of putting my trust in a date on the flyleaf of my Bible or in keeping a list of rules, but I have trusted God more than ever before. I know that the Christian life is a battle, and by God’s grace I will keep seeking His glory instead of my own. I rest assured in the promise of Philippians 1:6 – “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

I would love to hear your conversion story. Feel free to post it in the comments!