Thursday, June 30, 2011

Away from self

Oh Spurgeon, you've done it again. Totally needed to be reminded of these meditations from Hebrews 12. His morning selection for the 28th reads:

"But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: he tells us that we are nothing, but that "Christ is all in all."

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee--it is Christ;
it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee--it is Christ;
it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument--it is Christ's blood and merits;

therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ;
look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope;
look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul.

If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by "looking unto Jesus." Keep thine eye simply on him; let his death, his sufferings, his merits, his glories, his intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to him; when thou liest down at night look to him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after him, and he will never fail thee."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Coming up for air

DEEP BREATH. 

I'm coming up for air just in time for the weekend.  Having a really full schedule these days and trying to keep the most important things a priority in this crazy season of life-- a dear friend's wise suggestion.  Her e-mail ended with these two sentences that have encouraged me throughout the week:

"Stay faithful in the small stuff rather than focusing on everything you have to do.  The Lord will continue to be faithful."

Yeah. He will. He will never fail or waver or faint or change. He will not give up or abandon. He won't even change his mind. His plans are firm and as permanent in their place as the universe is in its place. Like my friend Loulla (um, nick name) always reminds me -- the secret things belong to the Lord. He draws our boundary lines in life in pleasant places (check out Psalm 16 for this reference) and we can trust him to give us what is best.

I've had to tell my heart to follow through in approaching Him in prayer. Run to Him even when I feel like things are spiraling. Sorry for being vague- if you want the "deets," let's go for coffee, or better yet a drive to the burbs while listening to Keane. Oh, Keane...new favorite :)

A few encouraging quotes to meditate on this weekend:

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death."  Beloved Romans chapter 8. [High five, Larry!] 

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."  Hebrews 4

"No heart can conceive that treasury of mercies which lies in this one privilege, in having liberty and ability to approach unto God at all times, according to his mind and will."  John Owen

As my friend, the birthday girl, Jenn, would say--  Keep on :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Additions to the book list

Ran across two new books that I'm definitely adding to the list to read this year:

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand 

and 

Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope
by Mary Beth Chapman

Both are stories of redemption and God's faithfulness. As I hear more about God's faithfulness to others, it helps me to praise Him for his unstoppable grace that is on the move world-wide and has been through the ages. It helps me to love him more, to thank him more, and to praise him that nothing can stop him.

I'm reminded that:
I have been treated better than I deserve because of Christ.
All God's ways towards me are good.
He is good.
He will not and cannot ever fail.
He is perfect.
Nothing can thwart his plan.
His plan is perfect.

Hoping that as I read these books I'll have even more ways to thank God and praise him for his faithfulness throughout the ages.

"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds."  Psalm 36:5

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Deep Sea of Joy

I'm talking to instead of listening to myself today (thanks, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Here's how the conversation is going:

"The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: my soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of his society. [...] and thou, my soul, look on thy Jesus, and bid heaven and earth unite in thy joy unspeakable." 
Spurgeon's Morning selection for June 15

"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
Psalm 16:11

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!"
Psalm 34:8

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Melt this hardened heart

"The law breaks the hard heart, but the gospel melts it. A stone duly broken, may be still a hard stone; but the gospel melts."

Ralph Erskine

Monday, June 13, 2011

Friends: Engaged!

Paul & Kim back in April on the Sunday they got engaged.
Paul, Kim, & Kim's sweet parents
It's all in love.

Kim & Nerminey. Memories of a certain trip to the zoo on August 7th of last year... ;)

Spontaneous favorite.

The group who drove up to York to surprise these two friends.

Super sweet afternoon.

Kim & Lauren. We're all huggers.

Lauren, Kim, Amanda, and me standing in Kim's backyard

7 years of friendship. Sweet to the soul! Love this girl. (Don't miss Great White, Mr. Storey's boat, in the background)

Toots & Larry like to coordinate. Sweet, sweet gift of a friend.


Love these two!
Excited for September 10!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Staycation

A few days ago I got out of the city with some friends and drove around the "burbs."  You know, where there are houses with yards.  Kids playing in the streets.  Mailboxes and tall oak trees.  White picket fences and more minivans than you could ever imagine.  I asked my friend to drive slowly, as we drove out of the neighborhoods and headed back to the city.  There might have been some tears in my eyes.

Y'all, I miss the burbs.

I think I really miss them because I need (want) a vacation. I feel a bit frazzled and am ready for a breather.  So, some dear friends of mine went out of town this weekend and invited me to stay at their home in the semi-burbs of Alexandria.

So, I packed my books and drove ten minutes away to my little weekend oasis. As of today I'm on vacation. I'm turning off all distractions. No computer. No phone. No activities. Just me, a good book, and a cup of Illy coffee :)

Grateful for a time to rest, read, and reflect. 

I'll leave you with this thought from the puritan preacher Richard Sibbes:  

"When we love things baser than ourselves it is like a sweet stream that runs into a sink. As our love therefore is the best thing we have, and none deserves it more than God, so let him have our love, yea, the strength of our love, that we may love him 'with all our souls, and with all our mind, and with all our strength,' Leviticus 19:18."

See you next week!

RT

He not only cures, but crowns

"Christ is the most bountiful physician. Other patients do enrich their physicians, but here the physician doth enrich the patient. Christ elevates all his patients: he doth not only cure them but crown them (Rev. 2:10). Christ doth not only raise them from the bed, but to the throne; he gives the sick man not only health but also heaven."

Thomas Watson

Yes, I'm on a Thomas Watson kick :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The cord of love, fastened to his heart and mine

" [...] here is a cord of love let down, and the upper end of it is fastened to Christ's heart, and the lower end of it hanging down the length of your hearts. And, O! shall not Christ's heart and yours be knit together this day. Here is a cord to bind His heart to your heart, and your heart to His heart."

Ralph Erskine

Bring nothing but your broken heart

"Christ is the most cheap physician, he takes no fee. He desires us to bring nothing to him but broken hearts; and when he has cured us he desires us to bestow nothing on him but our love."

Thomas Watson

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It is unspeakable mercy that God will manage life for us

Humbled by this true perspective:

"I can hardly recollect a single plan of mine, of which I have not since seen reason to be satisfied, that had it taken place in season and circumstance just as I proposed, it would, humanly speaking, have proved my ruin; or at least it would have deprived me of the greater good the Lord had designed for me. We judge of things by their present appearances, but the Lord sees them in their consequences, if we could do so likewise we should be perfectly of His mind; but as we cannot, it is an unspeakable mercy that He will manage for us, whether we are pleased with His management or not; and it is spoken of as one of his heaviest judgments, when He gives any person or people up to the way of their own hearts, and to walk after their own counsels."

John Newton

Joanne's wedding

Joanne & Bryce got hitched!
Me and the bride

Jessica & Andra, moments earlier being mischevious
Pete & Pete


A sequence of attempts to get the right photo...

Favorite.

Love this sweet friend.

Bryan friends.

This is what happens when Andra takes the camera.


Got to see Leanne and baby Charlie! Cute kiddo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wishing

Courtesy of Snippet and Ink & Mandy Lynne photography

Kind of wishing I was on a long bike ride today.

Maybe in Portland with Amanda...
Maybe in Vienna with Johanna as vineyards pass by...
Maybe in some place new.

Just a little heartsick for something suburban and subdued.

"But let patience have its perfect work, 
that you may be perfect and complete, 
lacking nothing." 
James 1:4

Lord, help me to be patient.

"However many blessings we expect from God, 
His infinite liberality will always exceed all our wishes and our thoughts." 
John Calvin

Lord, help me to desire more of You and not just your gifts.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Run to, not from Him

"The difference between an unconverted and a converted man 
is not that the one has sins and the other has none; 
 
but that the one takes part with his cherished sins 
against a dreadful God, 
 
and the other takes part with a reconciled God 
against his hated sins."  
 
William Arnot, emphasis mine

This quote has been a great encouragement and reminder to me to keep fleeing to God with my sin, instead of running away from God and getting my act together on my own (which ultimately is impossible).  I'm reminded of the line from that great hymn, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy

Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.
 
 
Let me tell ya, I feel it. Grateful for a long-suffering, committed, loving, Father God.


RT



Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jesus plus nothing equals everything

My mind wandered back to a memory from summer 2004 (I remember dates, okay) today as I read a blogpost...

I remember being in the parking lot of a Christian bookstore at my home in Texas.  Overzealous youth-groupies approached me-- with camera in face, microphone at mouth, and big questions in their eyes.  I'll be honest, I was nervous.  They asked me, "If you stood before God right now, what do you think he would say to you?"

My heart got heavy, like an unbearable weight was on my shoulders.  I answered back, "I think He would say, 'Try harder Bekah.'"  And you know what-- I really believed that.

Looking back, I see that my answer showed that I really did not understand the Gospel.  In contrast to what I said, the Gospel tells me that without Christ I am actually an enemy of God. So, there really is none of this "try harder" talk coming from God; instead, he actually tells me the truth that no matter how hard I try to be good by my actions or efforts, I simply cannot be because I cannot compare or attain the perfection that God requires. I am not holy and my heart is not good; only God is holy, and only His heart is altogether good.  And because God is good, he must punish sin.  So, basically I am an enemy of the eternal God who deserves and will certainly receive punishment.

So, that is really terrible news if things are left there. But, God does not leave the story there.

Out of the depth of his mercy and love, God sent Christ and Christ chose to come and lay down his life to rescue us from the punishment we deserve, earned, and are enslaved to.  The Bible says that Christ actually became the curse so that we wouldn't be cursed any more. To prove that Jesus was enough, God raised Him from the dead (this is why Christians celebrate Easter). And our response to this great exchange should be to repent (turn from) of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15). Repent from what? Our sin and rebellion against God. Believe what?  Believe that God sent Christ and is fully satisfied in his payment for our sin, and now sees Christ's perfection on our lives instead of our sin.  Seriously, isn't that an amazing thought?  Who would have ever come up with that on their own?  

So, back to the question I was asked in a random parking lot 7 years ago: "If you stood before God right now, what do you think he would say to you?"

Let's fast-forward to today. I think before He would say anything to me, He probably would embrace me because all he would see is the grace of Christ all over me. Remember the parable of the lost son in Luke 15? My favorite part of that parable is where it says that the Father saw the son while he was still far away, and was filled with compassion for him and ran and embraced him.  Tears.  The Father loves the Son, so I can imagine that before any words would be exchanged, that there would be deep love shown and felt.

And I think the words out of his mouth to me-- his reconciled, rescued, redeemed child-- would be the same words that he said to Jesus in Matthew 3:17-- he would call me His daughter, tell me he loves me, and tell me he is pleased with me because of Christ.  See, his words would not have a lot to do with me, which is totally the way it's supposed to be.  This is God's world.  My life is a gift from him.  And down to the very breath I take, everything is designed to bring him glory and praise.

So, looking back I see that the original answer I gave had much more to do with me and my own efforts than it had to do with God and what he has done for me through Christ.  Tullian Tchividjian wrote a helpful blog post on perfectionism that has served as a reminder to me today that God has freed me from my own efforts to gain his love and acceptance, and instead lavished grace on me through Christ. Here's a portion of the post:
"Perfectionism (or performancism) is a horrible disease. It comes from the pit of hell, smelling like rotting flesh. Someone convinced these folks that they were called to measure up to an unattainable standard. [...]
Nobody told them that Jesus was perfect for them, and because of that they didn’t have to be perfect for themselves. They didn’t understand that if Jesus makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Christian, please remember that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. That,
Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak;
Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose;
Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one;
Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary;
Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.
Preaching the gospel is the only thing that helps us take our eyes off ourselves and how we’re doing and fix our eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus fulfilled all of God’s perfect conditions so that our relationship to God could be perfectly unconditional.

You’re free!"

Free indeed. 
RT

Friday, June 3, 2011

In every change, He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul! the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul! thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
 
Be still, my soul! thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul! the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul! when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul! thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul! the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
 
Be still, my soul! begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul! the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.
Be Still My Soul, Katharina von Schlegel, ca 1700s

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Meeta Wookie (Mr. Lukie)

Nephew time:  Luke, 18 months

Luke in his Grammy & Bam-Bam's backyard
Probably helping Gram with watering the plants



Lukey and Daddy have matching shoes, hehe
Seriously, how cute is this?

His service is freedom, his rule is love

"In my experience, I have found him good, so good, indeed, that all the good I have has come to me through him.   

He was good to me when I was dead in sin, for he raised me by his Spirit's power; he has been good to me in all my needs, trials, struggles, and sorrows. 

Never could there be a better Master, for his service is freedom, his rule is love: I wish I were one thousandth part as good a servant. 

When he teaches me as my Rabbi, he is unspeakably good, his doctrine is divine, his manner is condescending, his spirit is gentleness itself. No error mingles with his instruction--pure is the golden truth which he brings forth, and all his teachings lead to goodness, sanctifying as well as edifying the disciple."

Today's evening portion of Spurgeon's Morning & Evening, June 2

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Interruptions

Let's be honest-- I struggle with seeing interruptions to "my plans" as helpful. But I have to say that the older I get, the more I realize that most of them are used by God as wonderful reminders to be humble and to recognize that He is sovereign over my time, productivity, and relationships. Interruptions, in fact, help me to rely on God and trust that his purposes will stand, whether my plans are implemented or thwarted. Proverbs 19, anyone? "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." 

Here's a keeper that I read in an article on time management yesterday:

"Every interruption is a chance to surrender your work to the only one who can bless your work."

More helpful gems to remember, here.

So, here's to you, Wednesday. A day that will likely be full of interruptions-- not only because I may or may not have A.D.D., but also because my mind and heart are tired from a crazy week. Trusting God's grace, especially in my weakness today. For when I am weak, his strength is made perfect. Yes.