Sola Fide

In case you were wondering:
Halloween: Hallow = Holy/Sanctified.
Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is the day of
preparation for All Saint’s Day (November 1).

The tattoo on my wrist: the symbol of a peacock done over old scars born of hopelessness.

The symbol of a peacock (hopeful faith in God) done over old scars born of hopelessness.

We are Christians.  We decorate for Halloween and hand out chocolate and take our own kids trick or treating (aka repent or perish). This year, at midnight, will be trading our skeletons and spider webs for peacock feathers (eternal life), and painting our orange pumpkins white (holy) and gold (joy)* as we remember our fellow Saints who have died.
Death is a reality. There is no point in pretending it isn’t or trying to detract from how frightening it is.  Ever since Adam and Eve lost their faith in God, we have begun to die from the moment of birth. We aren’t safe in the Garden of Eden any more. Personally, I’ve lost more loved ones then I care to count. Some of them were overcome by death in normal, predictable ways, and others through cruel and unexpected ways.  I miss each of them deeply and that is appropriate. The separation caused by death, the breech of fellowship, it is scary and painful.  But because we are Christians, we worship the only God who swallowed up death and emerged the victor. We do not grieve like those who walk in darkness, but with hope. We miss our loved ones, but we know they are not lost.  We can be confident in the faith that they will rise again through the power of Christ Jesus.  We will see them again and we look forward to that day. It is for that reason, we can laugh in the face of death and join in proclaiming the good news at every door! Repent and find eternal life, or perish eternally. Have faith, Saints, and celebrate the well lived lives of your loved ones and anticipate seeing them again in Glory.

Peacocks historically symbolize eternal life. Fun fact: They are also able to swallow poisonous snakes and not be harmed.

Peacocks are able to swallow poisonous serpents and not be harmed.

 

*These are the liturgical colors for this season in the church calendar.

 

 

Becoming One, Take Two

Finding privacy, time and energy for sex seem to be common dilemmas for couples with littles. For us, finding time is particularly challenging. Something my husband and I have learned is that there is no such thing as “finding” time — you must make it. The following are collected ideas for the purpose of aiding prioritization of the marriage bed. It is our prayer that these suggestions will help couples overcome obstacles, so they can strengthen their marriages through toe-curling, mind-blowing, soul fulfilling sex…

Read more at: http://www.oysterbed7.com/2014/10/becoming-one-take-two-abra-guest-posts.html#sthash.nmSv23pE.dpuf

Guilt and Grace

In the grip of sin, in the grip of guilt, it feels impossible. It feels like millions of miles between you and goodness, between you and relief, but the gospel is the good news that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, it’s near, it’s here. Repent for grace is at hand. You can turn to Him now. You can give Him your sin now, and in an instant, in a blink of an eye, it will be gone forever and you will be free. It can’t be that simple. Isn’t that cheap grace? No, not hardly. Jesus paid the infinite value of His life for this grace. There’s nothing cheap about it. Whatever you have done, whatever ditch you have fallen into yet again, why not tell Jesus that He needs to do it for you? Why not tell Jesus that you can’t cross the canyon and there is no other way but grace? Ask Him to take away your sin and guilt and all the condemnation that you feel.

-Excerpt from Grace at Hand 

On Pride

Part of the power of pride’s duplicity is in its parasitic nature: it latches on to genuinely good things, gifts from God, and pride so maneuvers and blends into the surroundings that we are deceived into believing that confessing certain forms of pride would be to confess virtues and gifts and truth. And so we let the tape worm grow for fear of poisoning the body. We refuse to remove the leech out of a blind love for arms and legs.

 

Excerpt from The Dark Wine of the Spirit. Check out the whole post for some really helpful thoughts on pride verses true joy.

How To Make A Woman Beautiful

Do not allow your wife to swallow the lie that she is not beautiful. Ever. Use all your man-like warrior skills to combat Satan’s deceptive ploy to steal your wife’s beauty. She may never model for a glossy magazine but she is hand-crafted by God to mirror His beauty in a way that only she can. Your job is to show her. To tell her. To remind her. To insist that she see her own beauty the way you do.

 

Answered Prayer 2014 No. 12

It’s the middle of October now and I’ve only been tracking answered prayers since January, but here we are, with 12 clearly answered prayers – and these prayers aren’t even the little prayers: sickness, finances, dinner not being burnt, strength on difficult days, naps, sleep, inspiration. You know,”ordinary” mercies. When we really start looking for God in our lives, He never disappoints.

Update on Prayer No. 7 One morning last month, I woke up and walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth. My long (greying) hair was tangled in knots from not having undone my bun the night before. My face was clean and shiny from overheating in the night (thanks, crazy hormones). I looked at myself and it dawned on me, my face is beautiful — even without makeup! This might sound very conceited to a stranger, but I’ve struggled my whole life with poor body image. I’ve never really thought I was pretty and this belief has been reaffirmed over and over, both through the normal mediums (media and culture) and more cruelly from the mouths of people I love. I’ve been told to lose weight (as a teenager), to not part my hair certain ways, and keep bangs to hide my prominent forehead. I was even told I shouldn’t wear jeans because I looked “too masculine” in them. So, being at  this point where my weight is higher than it has ever been (even fully pregnant), and wearing bigger clothes then I have ever had (even fully pregnant), it is a miracle to look at myself and find beauty. I’ve been praying all year for me to begin to see who God designed me to be, I want to see what He sees so that I can become  more of that person. He is answering my prayers. It isn’t a quick, overnight sort of answer, it is slow and sometimes painful — but always good and always humbling.

Answered Prayer 12: My husband has been working for the last several years to get into med school to become a physician. Last year he got an interview for one of the more competitive campuses. He was told to reapply this year. A couple of days ago, we got his rejection notice  (even though he applied to a less competitive campus). At some point in the last year, their application requirements changed ever so slightly that he was ineligible this year to even submit an application — now how we missed this little detail, and why we weren’t notified before completing the application, we don’t know, but we do know for certain that God orchestrated all of it. Shortly after learning this disappointing news, we got the call telling him that his application (submitted last Spring) to work as an EMT with a great ambulance company was accepted and they want him to start right away; Monday, in fact. In between the school rejection and the job offer, he and I had been sitting, and I was reflecting on a sermon I recently heard about how God always shakes things up when He draws near. Nothing is ordinary, the world gets topsy-turvy — that is just how He works. Clearly, God is near as this has been quite the roller coaster of unpredictable outcomes. Did I mention that all of this happened on our daughter’s birthday? As she opened up of her presents, delighted with each one, this verse came to mind:

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  (Luke 11:9-13)

We are rejoicing in Ben’s exciting new job (which will have more normal hours!! YAY!!) and for clear direction on what we should pursue this year. We are looking forward to seeing God’s plan for us, which is better than anything we could dream up, unfold.

 

 

 

Tasting

We enjoyed an incredible lunch of home-made onion soup with gruyère croutons a couple of days ago. It had been made by our favorite chef friends and it was such a delight to eat it with them.  Wonderful fellowship with old friends and incredible food – it doesn’t get much better then that! We started talking about the best shops to buy cheese that has been aged “the right way”  and eventually got around to the subject of food snobbery.

My husband and I are avid food enthusiasts. We own a bookcase filled with books on obtaining, preparing and consuming different foods. We even own a digital and hard copy of a book that cross references complementary flavors. My food Pinterest board is overflowing with delicious looking recipes.  One of our favorite home dates is to cook (and eat) a fancy meal together after our kids are asleep. We enjoy making our own salad dressings, creating new dishes, learning what wine to drink with which dish and poaching pears in it! We could live off stinky cheeses, indeed, even our puppy sneaks wedges of brie if we don’t watch him closely.  If money, time and climate were no problem, we’d buy all our food locally and prepare it in our home kitchen.

About 5 years ago, we had transitioned into primarily a slow food diet — which meant we made everything from scratch at home 95% of the time. We felt good, it wasn’t expensive, we only had 2 kids (so I had plenty of time to be in the kitchen) and we were better able to control the quality of our meals.  Eventually, it got to the point, that we were eating so much “slow food” that my body started having a negative reaction to anything else. I couldn’t eat a slice of take out pizza without my throat swelling up. I couldn’t go out on a dinner date or grab some french fries and smoothies with my kids as a reward for good behavior in the grocery store. I had to bring Benadryl with me whenever we ate at other people’s houses and try to take it sneakily, if needed, without our host noticing. Thankfully, my problem was easily solved; I simply re-introduced processed foods gradually and my body adjusted back to being able to handle them with minimal to zero negative effects.

There are many passages in Scripture about food, often in reference on how to bless others with it. Food is never simply about fuel in the Bible. It is something much bigger and more spiritual than that. In Psalm 34:8 we are even called to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Jesus literally broke bread and fed those around Him repeatedly throughout His lifetime. Leviticus 2:1-2 depicts the grain offering being baked into bread because God loves the smell of it. In 1 Corinthians 10, right after being warned against provoking the Lord’s jealousy (vs 22) by making a bigger deal out of food origins then we ought, we are told it is permissible to eat everything in the market for the Earth and everything it in belongs to the Lord (vs 25 & 26). It goes on to tell us to partake or refrain out of kindness to others (vs 28-29). The Bible is clear that God and those made in His image are always more important than what we put in our mouths. As Christians, we need to use our food to thank God and bless mankind.

This is not intended to chastise those with severe reactions (celiac disease, for instance) – this side of Glory, our bodies aren’t what they were designed to be, but for the rest of us,we  must tread lightly when we decide what we won’t put in our mouths. Are we partaking or refraining for our own benefit or for someone elses’? Are we more concerned with the sins of mega-corporations then we are with loving our neighbor? Is fellowship being severed by our foodie-ness? Are we having to refrain from breaking bread with brothers and sister’s in Christ over dietary restraints?  Is our family diet a kill-joy for the kids or are they delighted with what we present them (most of the time ;-))? We need to ask ourselves these questions, especially as home-makers — the kitchen table is a foundational place in our mission field.

We must be mindful to love God, our family and our neighbors more than our ideology. We will stand accountable before God for our actions, for what we say, for who we judge, for what we don’t allow our kids to eat. Of course,  this principle also applies to those who freely partake of their Diet Colas and Hot Pockets – remember just because those foods are covered under the Christian liberty clause, it does not mean they are beneficial. As we shop, let us remember to first love God and love our neighbors with our food, all that glorifies God is in accordance with that principle.

“Everything is permissible,”but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,”but not everything builds up. No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.”

-1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (HCSB)

 

 

Shaken, Not Stirred

I don’t believe in flukes. Everything happens for a reason. (You could disagree with me, but I’d just tell you there is a good reason for you disagreeing.) The last couple days have been rough. I had a writing deadline, my body is essentially glitching on me. I’m in pain, I’m exhausted and I feel gross. Small stuff in the shadow of the Ebola scare, but you know. I keep praying and reading my Bible, but it’s not making as much sense as it usually does. My house is a mess so I decide to listen to a sermon while I clean during my boys’ nap.

I swear our 6 month old puppy, Rango, is a faster learner then I am. I tell him to sit, it takes a couple verbal commands or a nudge on his behind, but he sits. Several times a day, my 2 year old will pat Rango on the nose and run off giggling. It is a taunt, an invitation, to disobey. The puppy wags his tail, he might whine, but he looks at me, keeping eye contact. He’s young and feisty, but he has impressive discipline.

The sermon queued up on my phone is on Haggai, called Shaking the World. As I listen, it becomes clear that my problem isn’t my broken body, it isn’t the way my pants fit, it isn’t even that my To Do list is growing instead of shrinking. My problem is that I’ve lost my focus. In the sermon, Pastor Sumpter talks about how when God draws near, stuff happens — the world shakes, *we* shake and it is good. There is a wonderful point to God’s dramatic approach. He is making the world, He is making us new. He is making Glory. I’ve written before that I think my experiences with Hyperemesis Gravidarum were a gift from God, a gift to shake me out of complacency, a gift to teach me faith. Weeks like this week (yes, I know it is only Monday), are like minor earthquakes, designed to remind me to stay focused on Christ. It is when I finally realize this that I can intentionally lean in to Christ, that I am able to rejoice, to thank God for the sour laundry, for my slow computer, for my bloated belly.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
-Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

If you want to hear the sermon, I highly recommend it to you, here is the online link:
http://thecafe.canonpress.org/trinitypodcast/2014/09/15/minor-prophets-xv-shaking-the-world-haggai/

You can also find this sermon on iTunes here:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/minor-prophets-xv-shaking/id663098110?i=319033777&mt=2

What Are You Training For?

[O]ne of the things we are constantly practicing is either being governed and assessing our lives and this world by God’s word (no matter what anyone else thinks or how we feel at the moment) or we are practicing serving our own passions and pleasures or even fears. You are either practicing delighting in the law of the Lord and finding security in His Word or you are practicing delighting in your own law, the law of your flesh and how you feel.”

-Pastor Toby Sumpter in Like Showers of Rain or Bad Habits & How to Start Over