Saturday, March 30, 2013

Delivered from the cup; delivered through affliction

"...Jesus drank a full cup of suffering for us.  He drank it fully so we need not to.  In affliction we learn what we could not otherwise.  Wax unheated will not receive the impression of the seal...stone is hewed, cut, carved and polished.  So suffering saints are prepared for the highest degrees of glory..."

William Cooper, 1659

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fears, trust, and a promise

For my own heart's sake - a friend wrote out these reminders on a card for me during surgery recovery last year. I have them posted in my room as a reminder. Thought I'd share:

Fears: In a fallen world, some fears come true. Our fears don't always lie to us. Sometimes they really do happen. Fears do lie to us about how important they are. As Christians, they are never the most important thing in our lives, though fear tries to tell us otherwise.

Trust: Who will we ultimately trust? God? Spouse? Job? Wealth? Health? Our helplessness is the door into complete trust in God. That is how we learn what complete trust is. His power is displayed most perfectly in our weakness as we rely on him. He gives us our worst days to rely on him. When you are in time of increasing hopelessness, where do you go? Choose to go to God with your problems.

Promise: God never abandons his people.

Excerpts taken from Mark Dever's sermon on 12/4/11

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For kicks and giggles

This video is hilarious. and this guy is crazy talented! 

If you ever wondered what really happened to the Disney Princesses, check this out!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten things to remember during suffering

  1. God is infinitely sovereign and kind, even in the midst of difficulty when it doesn't seem like it. 
  2. God is the only One who is control of my life and to desire control is, in effect, to desire to be God. 
  3. To be conformed to Christ who was bruised, necessitates being bruised ourselves. 
  4. It is a good thing to consider [one's own] death. 
  5. It is good not to cross bridges until you have to cross them. 
  6. Physical illness is part of a much bigger spiritual battle. 
  7. God is more interested in building character than giving us explanations. 
  8. The local church is a wonderful instrument in the Redeemer's hands. 
  9. Above all else, guard your heart. 
  10. The weight of glory far outweighs any number of momentary afflictions.
I'm especially thankful for my church and Christian friends who remind me of these things in day-to-day friendship. Trials are for our good, friends. They are reminders that this world is not home, and that one day our King will come back to make all things right. Come Lord Jesus.

Top ten taken from this article.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Nine promises that will never be broken

Borrowed from Parnell's recent article on Desiring God:

By the blood of his Son, God has promised infallibly:
  1. I will meet all your needs according to my riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  2. My power will be made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  3. I will strengthen you and help you and hold you up with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
  4. I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
  5. I will not let any testing befall you for which I do not give you grace to bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).
  6. I will take the sting away from your death with the blood of my son (1 Corinthians 15:55f).
  7. I will raise you from the dead imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52).
  8. I will transform your lowly body to be like my glorious body, by the power that enables me even to subject all things to myself (Philippians 3:21).
  9. I will do this without fail because I am absolutely sovereign over everything and therefore, I can do all things, and no purpose of mine can be thwarted (Job 42:2).
Wow. Lord, help me to trust you! You have never broken a single promise!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spurgeon on friendship

"A man may drag along a miserable existence in proud solitary dignity, but his life is scarce life, it is nothing but an existence, the tree of life being stripped of the leaves of hope and the fruits of joy. He who would be happy here must have friends; and he who would be happy hereafter, must, above all things, find a friend in the world to come, in the person of God, the Father of his people."

Charles Spurgeon's sermon on friendship, 1857

Friday, March 15, 2013

Happy Jenee Day!

"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,

    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." 

Proverbs 18:24

Thankful that you have pointed me to the ultimate Friend, Jesus, who has bound Himself permanently through the cross, when he paid for our sins, and drew us to Himself. 
He will one day bring us both home, sweet friend. 

Happy, happy birthday to you, my special Bud-Bud! 
I love you more each year, Jenee!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The already but not yet

If you are ever discouraged by your sin (as I often am), I hope you are encouraged by these two quotes: 

"'My sin is ever before me' (Psalm 51:3). A humble soul sees that he can stay no more from sin, than the heart can from panting, and the pulse from beating. He sees his heart and life to be fuller of sin, than the firmament is of stars; and this keeps him low. He sees that sin is so bred in the bone, that till his bones, as Joseph's, be carried out of the Egypt of this world, it will not out. Though sin and grace were never born together, and though they shall not die together, yet while the believer lives, these two must live together; and this keeps him humble."  Thomas Brooks (Puritan)


"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life."  Titus 3:3-7

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Take a break and consider these things

A few of my favorites from an article by Piper, where he spoke of an old college professor who had a pastor's heart and a poets eye. Piper said of him, "When he spoke of the tree he saw on the way to class [that] morning, you wondered why you had been so blind all your life."  He encouraged his audience to "stop seeking mental health in the mirror of self-analysis, but instead to drink in the remedies of God in nature."  

  • At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
  • I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood [or womanhood].
  • I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

Reminds me of a favorite song by Sara Groves called Maybe There's A Loving God, "Maybe I was made this way; to think and to reason, to question and to pray." And indeed, we were.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Notes in the mail

I've never met a person who didn't enjoy getting letters in the mail, and I am among that number. I LOVE writing letters and LOVE opening my little mailbox to see a personalized letter inside. 

Well, the past few weeks some little angel has been sending me anonymous notes in the mail. Each note is written on the same stationery, but each with different handwriting. And when I open the letter, there is just one Scripture on the front. I've received three notes so far and have had the joy to meditate on these verses:

"Therefore, behold I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt."  Hosea 2:14-15

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 
Do not be afraid, for I am with you..."  Isaiah 43:2-5

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness! 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him."  Lamentations 3:22-24

Encouraged and grateful.

Monday, March 11, 2013

For whatever purposes He deems best

Dan Allender asks a hauntingly beautiful question:

"Do I believe that God is a loving Father who is committed to my deepest well-being, that He has the right to use everything that is me for whatever purposes He deems best, and that surrendering my will and my life entirely to Him will bring me the deepest joy and fulfillment I can know this side of heaven?"

A few hundred years earlier, John Newton (1767) says something similar:

"It becomes us to say, It is not necessary for me to be rich, or what the world accounts wise; to be healthy, or admired by my fellow-worms [human beings]; to pass through life in a state of prosperity and outward comfort, these things may be, or they may be otherwise, as the Lord in His wisdom shall appoint; but it is necessary for me to be humble and spiritual, to seek communion with God, to adorn my profession of the Gospel, and to yield submissively to His disposal, in whatever way, whether of service or suffering, He shall be pleased to call me to glorify Him in the world. It is not necessary for me to live long, but highly expedient that whilst I do live I should live to Him. Here, then, I would bound my desires; and here, having His word both for my rule and my warrant, I am secured from asking amiss. Let me have His presence and His Spirit, wisdom to know my calling, and opportunities and faithfulness to improve them; and as to the rest, Lord, help me to say, "What Thou wilt, when Thou wilt, and how Thou wilt."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wiser than we are

"Indeed we may admire His patience towards us [...] But our gracious Lord is long-suffering and full of compassion; He bears with our forwardness, yet He will take methods to both shame and to humble us, and to bring us to a confession that He is wiser than we. The great and unexpected benefits He intends us, by all the discipline we meet with, is to tread down our wills, and bring them into subjection to His."

I'm on a John Newton kick, okay? :) It's just too good.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Today & Tomorrow: In the Good Shepherd's hands

"Let us cast down the load we are unable to carry, and if the Lord be our Shepherd, refer all and trust all to Him. Let us endeavor to live to Him and for Him today, and be glad that tomorrow, with all that is behind it, is in His hands."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Mercy: a weaning of my will

"It is indeed natural to us to wish and to plan, 
and it is merciful in the Lord to disappoint our plans
and to cross our wishes. 
For we cannot be safe, much less happy,
but in proportion as we are weaned from our own wills, 
and made simply desirous of being directed by His guidance." 

John Newton

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This is what a Christian believes

Upon a life I have not lived, 
Upon a death I did not die, 
Another’s life; Another’s death, 
I stake my whole eternity. 

Not on the tears which I have shed, 
Not on the sorrows I have known, 
Another’s tears; Another’s griefs, 
On these I rest, on these alone. 

O Jesus, Son of God, I build on what Thy cross has done for me; 
There both my life and death I read, my guilt, and pardon there I see. 

Lord, I believe; O deal with me, 
As one who has Thy Word believed! 
I take the gift, Lord, look on me, 
As one who has Thy gift received.

Upon A Life I Did Not Live
Sandra McCracken

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An unspeakable mercy - He will manage life for us

"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."

A selection from a John Newton letter from 1767. He speaks of disappointments:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A strange and severe love

"Your Lord is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think that you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he would not stop in heaven without you; he would sooner die than you should perish, and he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart's love and himself."

Spurgeon, September 12

An amazing encouragement for my heart. He would sooner die (and amazingly, he did) in my place than let me perish. Not even death gets in the way of his love. No human can love like he loves us.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The best is yet to come

"The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. 
God sees to it. 

The best is yet to come.

 That is the unshakable truth about the life of the woman and the man who follow Christ in obedience that flows from faith. 

I say it to the young who are strong and hopeful. 
And I say it to the old for whom the outer nature is quickly wasting away. 

The best is yet to come.

God is at work in the darkest times - for our good and for Christ's glory.

He will see to it that the glory of his son fills the earth. 

That in him we find everlasting joy.

The pledge that God makes to his people is UNBREAKABLE."

John Piper

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Encouragement from Dad

"I can only imagine what special days He (God) has ahead for you as you keep your eye on the One whose eye is always on you."

-A quote from an email from Dad

A girl always needs her daddy. Sweet words I needed desperately and won't forget. 

God is plotting for my joy

"Life is a winding and troubled road; switch back after switch back. And the point of biblical stories is to help us feel in our bones, not just know in our heads, that God is for us in all these strange turns. 

The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory; it's more like a dark and seemingly unknown trail through the mountains. There are rock slides and slippery curves, and hair-pin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. 

But along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn't let you see very far ahead, and may even make you feel like you've been led to the edge of the cliff, God gives us encouragement and hope that all the perplexing turns in our lives are going somewhere good

Often when we think God is farthest from us, or has even turned against us, the truth is that he is laying the foundations for greater happiness in our lives

God is plotting for our joy. 

He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes, for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ. 

That is a sweet and bitter providence."

John Piper

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The one year mark


That's the word that pops up into my mind when I think about the last year. God has made my heart increasingly grateful for the things he has taken away and for the things he has given. In his grace, he's given me scars as reminders that his eye has never left me and his thoughts have never been far from me. His purposes are good... even if that means surgery or loss or pain. 

And a year ago today, it was just that. I had tumors on my thyroid and needed it to be removed. In fact, my surgeon commented afterward that had I not chosen to be speedy in the process, he thought my body would have been sending signals and shutting down. It was painful; there were complications; but through it all the Lord, my church, and friends were alongside me encouraging me and helping me through. Sweet memories coming to mind:

Lindsey set up meals and visitors for me three times a day for three weeks! This was when I discovered I was half introvert / half extrovert (sister needs time to charge). This sweet deed allowed me to have some wonderful conversations and deepen many friendships. I praise God for the foresight of this friend who has always had an eye for how to bless me in specific ways. 

Carrie, who had three babies at the time, drove from DC to Arlington to hand-deliver Chickfila fries to me. That was what I was craving, and she packed up her family and made it happen.

Fatigue set in almost immediately, and I remember Erica and Matt brought me dinner in their pajamas (what I wore 24/7 for the first month) and just came to be with me. Although the lettuce wraps and yummy peanut sauce was great, the thing I'll remember most is how loved I felt, and accepted just the way I was. Erica's face was also the first one I remember coming out of surgery. She touched me and cried (apparently I looked pretty rough) and just used her words and touch to communicate such love to me). 

Kari saved my life in hospital several times, and acted as my unofficial nurse throughout the recovery. She also stayed up with me when I had restless leg syndrome and gave me Tums on demand. Then she helped me buy vitamins to figure out what my body needed.

Kenda never left my side for the first week. I praise God for her every day and will be forever grateful for her selfless gift of friendship and love. 

Erin brought me groceries and spent the night with me when I was afraid to be alone. 

Lauren read to me Psalm 23 and Romans 8 in the hospital, which rang in my ears and heart throughout recovery. 

Sarah took me to appointments and blood draws... and made sure I had plenty of Fro-Yo to ensure a full recovery :)

Bev came over for walks and talks, and helped me cross the road when I couldn't turn my head to watch for traffic. 

Jessica drove me to the doctor and helped me up and down the stairs. 

Thomas brought me wine and a sweet card and sat with me one afternoon, just happy to be my friend and enter into my world of recovery. 

Ben came to the hospital and gave me a kiss on the forehead and prayed for me. Of course, I barely remember this, but am grateful for friends who told me so. 

Margaret brought me flowers and smiles in hospital, along with encouraging words and prayers.

Elizabeth, newly pregnant and not feeling great, sat with me and listened to my stories.

Stacy came and cried with me as we shared our stories of God's grace in our surgeries. Then we watched Downton Abbey #addicted

Lydia came and made me laugh my keester off.

Shiloh and Michelle came and brought their little ones, who played cars on my wood floors. They left me soups that lasted for weeks. 

Allison came and just let me hold her baby and enjoy friendship. So thankful for friends who just willingly entered in my world. 

Jennie came and cried with me while we ate soup. 

Elizabeth came and told me the premise of the Hunger Games books and three hours later I decided I didn't need to see the movies. Love that girl.

Janna brought me West Wing seasons 1 & 2 and just wanted to come and sit with me. 

Hope spent the night and prayed that my heart would be calm, and that I would trust the Lord.

Maxine wrote me notes and called me, telling me not to fear because the Lord has numbered my days, and I can trust him. She has the scar to prove it.

These friends and many more were there for me, encouraging me, loving me, and pushing me towards trusting the Lord even through a trial of my health. I will never forget the nearness to God I felt during that time. When his kids are hurting, he makes himself especially near. 

William Cowper's hymn God Moves In A Mysterious Way has been on repeat in my mind ever since I purchased the new Indellible Grace CD  (which is all about joy and sorrow - you should buy it!). This verse in particular has been helping me translate my current circumstances into a prayer for faith that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8):

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

And indeed, blessings have broken on my head. Looking forward to watching another year of God's faithfulness to me. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Deny to gain freedom

"In order to be a disciple we must deny ourselves - this is to exercise authority over our own spirit. We must take up the cross - this is to submit to Christ's authority. And we must follow - this is continued obedience. This is the road not to confinement, to bondage, to a stunted or arrested development, but to total personal freedom. It means not death but life, not a narrowly circumscribed life but "abundant" life. The gate is narrow but not the life. The gate opens out into largeness of life. There is, we know, also a broad way. We know where it leads - to destruction."

Elisabeth Elliott
Let Me Be A Woman