Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Women Read

When was the last time you perused the aisles of your local bookstore, whether it be a Books-a-Million or a Lifeway? Did you take note of the books promoted, the top bestsellers, in each of the different categories? If so, what was the seemingly overarching theme in those books that tend to fly off the shelves? I was driving with a friend of mine to Lifeway several days ago when we had this conversation. She was picking up some books that she was going to be using at church for a Bible study young girls, and I simply came along for the ride (an excuse to get away from my desk). While waiting for the customer service guy to round up her books, we browsed the section dedicated to women, and my friend came across a paperback advertising "how to ensure that second date." How to ensure that second date?? It made me forget for a split second what kind of bookstore I was in.

Thus began our conversation and one that I have been thinking about ever since. I have been trying for several weeks now to come up with some answer to a question that has been bugging me. Since we were going to pick up her books, we started discussing all of the curriculum that is published for women. One only need walk two steps into a Christian bookstore to see the abundance of resources available to women. Books, study guides, prayer journals, whatever meets the fancy of a sentimental woman. Why, though, is there such an overwhelming trend in curriculum written for women? Do we see such materials published en masse for Christian men? There is something that draws the attention of women, something I may go so far as to say is marketable, and then keeps such related items selling at a rapid rate. Women are in general and by nature much more emotional and sentimental than men. This seems to be why there are prayer journals with flowery verses and quotes purchased by females without a similarly large assortment sold for men. There seems to be a greater emphasis on women's ministry in the church than ever before, whether they focus on scrapbooking or hospitality or the weekly Beth Moore Bible study.

Such wonder then leads me to another question, and one that seems much more serious than wondering about the aim of certain publishing companies: is the curriculum written for women any good? When I see a woman walking down the hallway of a church, equipped with Bible, journal, and study guide in hand, I cannot help but wonder about the material with which she is filling her mind. My friend and I were talking in the car that day while coming back from Lifeway about the books she bought for her girls at church, and she told me that she was already going through and making notes where there seemed to be either wrong emphasis on a theme or misuse of Scripture. I was encouraged by her concern for doing such work on her own as I could discern that it was from a sincere heart desiring to encourage these young girls to really learn Scripture and what it means and looks like to have a personal relationship with Him. I was also reminded of how many times individuals I have heard teach do not feel the need to study for themselves. They assume that the writer is accurate either by reputation or popularity of the material in other churches.

Why is this so crucial? Because women are sentimental and oftentimes need solid ground on which to base their emotional responses to various issues or circumstances. I attended a church recently wherein it seemed, based on their conversations, that the women involved in a particular Bible study were content to pour over the study guide rather than Scripture, and to memorize the "truths" from the author's pen without testing her words against the authoritative Word of God. This observation was not new, but instead seems like a fairly consistent pattern in many churches I have been involved with at one point or the other. Women tend to flock to curriculum, whether because of the author's name attached or because of the content or theme of the material.

This is not an opportunity for me to come out and advertise my own critique of certain curriculum specifically geared toward Christian women. This is simply me voicing my concern after observing over time the trends I see women following after, not just in home decorating or fashion, but even in our Christian bookstores. And as long as women are being fed with whatever our Christian culture is deeming as spiritual food, then such materials will continue filling shelves both in the stores and in homes.

Here are some questions worthy of asking yourself when choosing what to read either for a women's Bible study or for your own personal devotional time:
  • Does this book base its premise and overall purpose on the foundation of Scripture?
  • Does the author acknowledge and faithfully submit to the authority of Scripture?
  • Is there an understanding of sincere confession, repentance, and growth in personal sanctification?
  • What is the author's view of the Lord, and is the root and focus of the study always pointed toward Christ?
  • Who does the author say that I am as a woman in light of who the Lord says I am in His Word?
  • Does the author approach grace as an undeserved gift given to those whom the Lord has chosen?
  • What does the book or study encourage: beginning with the heart issues, or simply revamping your daily tasks and calendar to merely have the appearance of looking better?
  • Is there an emphasis on "hardcore pragmatic moralism, that calls wrong wrong and right right, but has no sense of the madness and slavery of the human heart, and no sense of the need for a Savior to invade the world and save us from ourselves"? (quote by David Powlison)

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,

Holy reverence, true humility;

Test our thoughts and our attitudes

In the radiance of Your purity.

Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see

Your majestic love and authority.

Words of pow'r that can never fail—

Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

(Keith & Kristyn Getty)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And the pictures keep coming!

One of my mother-in-law's best friends sent her some pictures from both our rehearsal dinner and the wedding day. These were my favorites from the ones she sent to me. I love this picture of my husband and his family at the rehearsal dinner. Some of the most meaningful things I heard all weekend, and even now, are the times when my family commented on how much love was demonstrated in his family. Individuals from my side came to me at different times during that weekend to tell me how encouraged they were and how awesome it was to see the obvious warmth and love between him and his parents. They also commented on how welcoming they were of me into their family, and I could not agree more. It was one thing to be around them while we were dating, but I truly could not ask for more in the amazing family of which I am now a member.
This was one of my favorite elements at our rehearsal dinner, and one that I adopted from an idea I saw at our best man and his wife's wedding a few years ago. I had one of our engagement pictures framed with a matte, and had the matte displayed outside of its frame on a table at the rehearsal dinner. People were then invited to sign their name or leave little encouraging notes to us. I am glad we chose to do this at the rehearsal dinner instead of at the reception. Those at the dinner truly represented those who know us best and have walked alongside us through all of the years leading up to our wedding celebration.

Panda Pop and Panda Girl ~ my former youth minister who officiated at the wedding, and his daughter who happened to be the most precious flowergirl I have ever seen! I absolutely adore this picture of them, and it really makes me reflect back on the years that this family has played such an instrumental role in my life.

And last, but not least, I will let this mouth-watering picture speak for itself!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Recommendation(s)!

We just turned in a review in my Counseling Observations class for the book How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. This, as with any books put out by CCEF, is one of the best I have read when it comes to practically applying the truth of Scripture to our daily walk. There were many jewels of wisdom found in the pages of How People Change, some of which I spent days meditating over. Whether discussing the ways in which we tend to fill the "gap" in our lives with anything but the Gospel, or pointing out how we respond in our hearts to the circumstances and trials which come our way, Lane and Tripp demonstrate grace and wisdom in their counsel through writing. Here are just a couple of very brief snippets from the pages of this book:
  • “By God’s grace, you are being progressively delivered from the one thing that can completely destroy you: sin. But God not only delivers you, He restores you.” (48)
  • In regard to the trials we face, “God is simply taking you where you do not want to go to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.” (131)
At first read, that last quote sounded kind of similar to things I have heard before. Yes, trials are inevitable and we are encouraged very specifically in Scripture. But how often do I stop right in the middle of a rough patch, of a season in which I am prone to discontentment or worry or doubt, and trust that the Lord is doing a work in me that I could never achieve? And am I thankful in acknowledging His work? Such a simple statement was so profound, and that compounded with all of the other elements in Lane and Tripp's made it a deeply convicting and encouraging read.

As far as other recommendations go for books you can find through CCEF, these are the ones that I have read and also highly recommend (and if you are really interested and can't find them in your local bookstore, please let me know!!):
  • Addictions--A Banquet in the Grave, by Edward T. Welch (in dealing with depression)
  • Age of Opportunity, by Paul David Tripp (good resource for parenting teens)
  • Blame It On the Brain?, by Edward T. Welch (what does the brain have to do with behavior--this one I am actually still reading)
  • Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, by Paul David Tripp (one of my top favorite books)
  • Seeing With New Eyes, by David Powlison (one of the most gracious, clear, and Christ-saturated authors I've read)
  • Speaking the Truth in Love, by David Powlison (covers the book of Ephesians)
  • When People Are Big and God is Small, by Edward T. Welch (the title speaks for itself)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When Old Hymns are Revived

"His Love Can Never Fail"
I do not ask to see the way
My feet will have to tread;
But only that my soul may feed
Upon the living Bread.
'Tis better far that I should walk
By faith close to His side;
I may not know the way I go, But oh, I know my Guide.
His love can never fail, His love can never fail,
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.
My soul is satisfied to know His love can never fail.

And if my feet would go astray,
They cannot, for I know
That Jesus guides my falt'ring steps,
As joyfully I go.
And tho' I may not see His face,
My faith is strong and clear,
That in each hour of sore distress
My Savior will be near.
I will not fear, tho' darkness come
Abroad o'er all the land,
If I may only feel the touch
Of His own loving hand.
And tho' I tremble when I think
How weak I am, and frail,
My soul is satisfied to know
His love can never fail.
Words: E.S. Hall, Music: Christopher Miner

Indelible Grace and Matthew Smith were in Louisville last night and gave a concert at Clifton Baptist Church. My husband and I were first exposed to Indelible Grace during our first semester at Southern. Many of the more reformed Baptist churches in the area use their music in corporate worship, and we had the opportunity to see them perform on campus during the fall of 2005. We have loved their music ever since. Here is the interesting thing about Indelible Grace for those of you who are unfamiliar with their music: the songs themselves are not new. Indelible Grace seeks out old hymns, many of which you won't find in the traditional Baptist hymnal, and reworks the music. The rich lyrics stay the same, with the exception of an added chorus or refrain on a some of the hymns. Not only do they bring out hymns that we may not have ever heard, but they do also sing the ones you will still hear in Baptist churches. However, Indelible Grace incorporates new melodies and arrangements that seem to enhance the lyrics all the more, bringing to life the crux of the message. The songs are so different I have to remind myself at times that they are the same hymns I have heard since my youth. My husband's favorite song by Indelible Grace is "Come Ye Sinners" performed by Matthew Smith. This is the exact same hymn one will find in the Baptist hymnal with the addition of some phrases at the end of the verses. Here is just one example of why we have been so encouraged by their approach to these hymns and incorporating them into worship:

"Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you, this He gives you,
'Tis the Spirit's rising beam

Why can't all worship music be so rich? Indelible Grace has shown through their vision and ministry to the Church that there is no reason why "old" hymns can't stir our hearts to such sweet and sound worship.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Extreme Makeover Home Edition Comes to Louisville!

There are parties all across this city and state tonight as fans watch their favorite University of Louisville band member: Patrick Henry Hughes. The home makeover team came to Louisville this past fall, so we have all been anxiously waiting to see the results of their hard work. Of course, anyone can simply drive over to the Hughes familiy's neighborhood to see the house, but what fun is that when the show is airing tonight on national television?

If you get a chance, go over to Patrick Henry's website to read more about him and his family. How incredible is this--when Ty Pennington asked him about his disability, his response was "I don't see my blindness as an ability, but as a disability." He went on to say that he doesn't see what everyone else sees, so he is less likely to judge people by their externals since he can't see that aspect of the individuals he encounters. He and his dad march in the University of Louisville, and yes, he is also a piano extraordinaire.

Check out the website:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Outdoing One Another

"Let love be genuine...Outdo one another in showing honor." ~Romans 12:9-10

Long before meeting and dating my husband, there is one year I can remember celebrating Valentine's Day with a "boyfriend." It was my freshman year of high school, and only one word comes to mind when recollecting that day: ridiculous. Rather than a day for showing genuine thoughtfulness towards the one you cared about, it seemed to be a competition for who could bring the most obscene of balloon and flower displays. I, unfortunately, found myself in the middle of such a competition. I remember my awkward boyfriend showing up to school that morning with a hand-delivered bouquet of balloons, complete with red and pink balloons surrounding the featured heart-shaped balloon that had "I love you" plastered across the front. The bouquet was so large I spent the rest of the day having to shove myself into each classroom since what I was carrying couldn't fit through entryways. Everyone stared and commented, some sweet and some just as shocked as I was at the enormous display I was carrying around. At the time, at my naive and immature age, I thought such an extravagant display actually meant something. Sure, I was a little embarrassed, but such a gesture must have meant that he really wanted to declare is affection for me to the whole school!

Fast-forward over the many school years of singleness to my senior year of college. I spent the weekend at my then-boyfriend's house with his parents, and I remember that area of West Texas getting snow overnight on Valentine's Day. We were supposed to travel that day to visit friends, but the weather prevented us from being able to go anywhere. He woke me up by bringing me breakfast in bed that he and his parents worked on together: fresh coffee, poached eggs, and bacon. The gesture would not have been complete without my 5-month-old Nali puppy coming into the room with him to greet me. I was so moved by the thoughtfulness of everything he did. It was so simple and sweet, a little something he wanted to do since our original plans for the day had been cancelled. That was one of the first times he showed he was learning that I am a very simple girl, and some of the most simple gestures can mean the world...

And now I am married to him! I was reflecting on the ways in which he has shown his care the past four years since we first began dating, and all the times he has really shown thought in wanting to display just how he feels in a way that he knows I will enjoy. He became a student of me early on, and such a desire has challenged and encouraged me to do the same. We have an entire lifetime, however many days the Lord gives us, to continue learning one another. I spent much of Valentine's Day this year still feeling a little sick. I was still sneezing and coughing, wanting to do nothing but give in to my weakness and sleep the whole day. But I persevered and went to work and school anyway, only to come home feeling like I could collapse. When I arrived home after my 6-hour class on Thursday, my husband was not there. He showed up a few minutes after me with his hands full of grocery bags, and also revealed the exquisite bouquet of while tulips and roses he bought for me. He is so thoughtful and knows that my favorite flowers have always been white roses, so he said, "I would have just gotten you roses instead of a roses and tulips, but these were the nicest and most pure white roses I could find. I hope that's okay..." The bouquet was absolutely stunning, and as I have always done everytime he has given me roses, I carried them around with me everywhere I went in the house that night. What were all the grocery bags? He went and bought food to grill and prepare a wonderful meal for Valentine's Day, but when he saw that I wasn't feeling well, he decided to postpone the dinner. He, instead, asked me to go lie down on the couch (of course I brought the vase of flowers with me from the kitchen counter to the coffee table) and made me chicken noodle soup. He didn't get frustrated that his original plans for the evening were put on hold, but simply wanted to show his affection in whatever way would communicate his love to me that night.

This is a significant aspect of what loving one another is, and something I am still learning. Outdoing one another is not about other people seeing your actions. It's not about putting on a show with the hopes that others will look on and pat you on the back. Outdoing one another is about being a student of that one person the Lord has given you and asking yourself, "What is the one thing I can do today that will show him that I love him?" This is a question unique to each individual, and question that only those who know each other as one in Christ can answer. There is a time and place for celebrating in a big way with a nice dinner or night at the symphony, but then there are times when the most meaningful display of love for your spouse is by sharing an evening in over a hot bowl of soup. That was the most sweet thing he could have done for me that night, and he did just that. How gracious the Lord is in providing a husband that not only wants my best in all things, but one who finds great joy in putting my wants above his own. And nothing could be more challenging and encouraging than living with someone who regularly displays such selfless acts of love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Notes on Books While Sitting on the Couch

It's a good day for a blog entry such as this considering the fact that I'm sitting on the couch in my pajamas, gazing at the winter wonderland outside, and transitioning between sleep and getting up for more hot tea. The best way I can describe my pitiful state (yes, I'm pretty pitiful today) is that my body has been trying to get sick for over a week now, but hasn't quite gone off into an official sinus infection or whatever else I'm prone to during this time of year. Instead, I have one day when I'll feel just fine, only to wake up the next day with a sore throat and my head feeling like a big balloon. Hopefully I'll be back to feeling better tomorrow so I can get back to work and also be ready for my 6-hour counseling class tomorrow afternoon.

Gret tagged me to write three sentences from page 123 of the nearest book to me. I looked on page 123 of the nearest book and decided that it would make more sense to quote three sentences on page 122:

"So in this chapter, I want to keep us focused on what we might call ordinary anger that we sort of accept as part of our lives but that is actually sinful in the sight of God. In facing up to our anger, we need to realize that no one else causes us to be angry. Someone else's words or actions might become the occasion of our anger, but the cause lies deep within us--usually our pride, or selfishness, or desire to control." Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, Jerry Bridges

I haven't actually read this book yet--it's one of the many on my list of books to read that seems to increase tenfold during the peak of the school semester. While I'm pouring over reading material for classes, I find myself occasionally glancing over at the ongoing list of those I still long to read. I will say, though, that I have little doubt that this book will be rich, particularly when the very title of the book can be used as a means of conviction: respectable sins. It makes me stop and immediately examine myself with questions regarding those sins I so often brush under the rug, chalking them up to mere personality quirks. How often do we justify ourselves rather than "confronting the sins we tolerate"? I am going to go out on a limb here, beyond the conviction of my own indwelling sin, and say that the Church on a whole does not do this enough. We could probably look at the more common trends across Evangelical churches and see evidence that we aren't dealing with ourselves enough, and we do examine ourselves, it probably isn't a very honest assessment. If you have never read anything from Jerry Bridges, I strongly recommend beginning with Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts. Particularly if you are in a season of question or doubt, if you are on the brink of a significant change which is about to occur in your life, any issue which may be causing you to struggle with or wonder about the Lord's sovereignty--this is, without a doubt, one of the most encouraging books I have read. I would be more than glad to send you a copy of Bridges' book if you are interested in reading it for yourself.

I'm not yet sure what the purpose of this post is, if there is any this far into typing. I guess that is what you should expect when I start typing with a fuzzy head. Gret also posted a challenge on her blog for the month of March. She challenged her readers to pick out a book for the month of March that we have not read before, and that it be a book we have always wanted to read. I told her I was definitely up for the challenge, and then realized that I may be partially insane to add one more book to those I am reading for my classes. However, it poses a different kind of challenge for me in that I desire to read a couple of books that have truly been on my heart for quite some time. I left her a comment with the two books I have narrowed down: either Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone by Elyse Fitzpatrick or When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper.

My thinking in choosing between these two is that it will be the month of March, a time when school is in high gear. School for me includes a tendency to focus more on academic achievement rather than the gift and wonderful opportunity the Lord has given for me to grow through studies. If I'm not consumed with that struggle, the other one involves contentment with work. Where I work now has absolutely nothing to do with where I want to be in just a couple of years, and the day-to-day can quickly become discouraging as I question how in the world such a job could be preparing me for counseling ministry. Such times can be significant in regard to personal sanctification. The Lord is sweet in both the seemingly good and bad to refine us as we grow deeper in our knowledge and dependence on Him. I know that I struggle with doing and doing and doing until I have ceased allowing for time to rest. Such a tendency robs me of sweet time spent in Scripture and in prayer. How can I begin to counsel or encourage someone else when I'm drawing from an empty well? My prayer this semester is that I will see each assignment and each "never-ending" day at work as one of many ways in which the Lord is providing above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined for myself. May I be thankful for my husband. May I be thankful for the job He has provided that meets our financial needs and allows me to serve my husband in a unique way while he is a seminary student. May I be thankful that I am able to study under pastors who have a deep desire to counsel, and train students in counseling, individuals with the solid foundation that Scripture alone can provide. Praise the Lord for His goodness, and even moreso when my limited perspective can't visibly see what He is doing!!

My apologies if this post turned out to be a nothing but a random assortment of book recommendations...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Evening Snowed In

This was the glorious view from our back door and patio
View from the front door - I would have spent more time trying to get a better picture, but it was 18 degrees, so I just took the picture and got back inside as fast as I could!

Nali is like a little kid when she gets out in the snow, and she could seriously entertain me for hours! She turns into a giddy kid, prancing around trying to bite at the snow in the air and seeing how much snow she can get piled up on her nose.

Nali and Maia having taste tests of the fluffy white stuff

Speaking of tastes...what a perfect evening to try out our new bread machine!

Proof to everyone that if I can assist in making bread successfully ("assist" with the intention of communicating that my husband did the work), then ANYONE can use one of these machines! You literally dump the four ingredients into the machine, and it does all the work for you. Three hours later, you have this beautiful loaf of sweet bread!

What a cozy, late night snack before going to bed...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Look!!

Welcome to the new look of my blog! I went back and forth all day on Saturday trying to decide which of the designs I liked best. I ended up putting my name in the hat for a contest over at Jilly Blog Designs, and mine was the name she selected! When you visit her blog, you'll be able to see why I had such a difficult time choosing the perfect one. After much consideration, though, I think I found the perfect. If you know me (or if you've simply seen my wedding pictures here!), you know that I am a fan of red. In so many other cases, I will try to veer away to another color, but always come back to red. So I am excited about this new look, I am excited about whatever posts are yet to come, and I must put in a recommendation for you to go check out Jill's wonderful designs!!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Prayer for Those in Distress
This post from Timmy Brister's blog includes additional photos and weblinks to those who are keeping us all informed in the aftermath of the tornado that ripped through Union University's campus on Tuesday night. Are you ever reminded of how small this world is in times of great distress? The aftermath of such natural disasters so often stirs up conversations of knowing someone either directly or indirectly impacted by such an event. Do continue to pray for those across all of the states that were impacted by these storms. Some areas will take years to rebuild, and all of the areas hit will require great sacrifices of financial giving. Click on the link to Timmy Brister's blog above for the address where you can send financial support to Union University if you are so led. May such an event remind us personally, and cause us to encourage others, of the great truth that God is good and works in and through events of such proportion. He is not less good because He ordains such a plan that includes seasons of great joy and peace and seasons of distress and question. He is not passive, sitting on the sidelines wondering why such events have occurred now and throughout history. He is our only hope in times of greatest need, and I pray that such difficult times will bring Him great glory as He uses both the good and the bad to draw us to Himself and deepen our awareness that He is THE only One who provides for our every need.
~Isaiah 45:6-8~Isaiah 40~2 Corinthians 1:3-7~Hebrews 4:14-16~

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Samples of the Official Wedding Pictures

As you can see, I have changed my profile picture on this blog. There was deeper meaning behind my decision to have the image of Arwen and Aragorn as my profile picture in the past, but we have now entered into that which will define the rest of our lives as husband and wife. I found it appropriate to change the profile picture accordingly.

I was looking through all of the pictures that Brian took, picking out the ones I wanted to print. I couldn't help but notice just how often I make silly faces in pictures. This one was one of my favorites with all of my girls, including PandaGirl!

Most of the pictures prior to this one are of me crying and wiping my face. We took this picture before the ceremony thanks to Brian's creative idea for us to take this without seeing each other. As soon as I came around the corner and heard my groom's voice, I started crying. After being calm all morning, all of my emotions came at once and I could hardly believe that this day had finally arrived.

Taken immediately after the ceremony ~ I love all of these veil pictures of us so much that it was hard to pick which one was my favorite!

Now that I am married and getting used to being wife to a wonderful husband, I can say that I am definitely ready for a blog makeover. This is a brand new chapter in my life, one that marks the beginning of however many days the Lord gives for us to walk this earth together. Because of that, I want a fresh, new place to come write and update friends on current happenings.
I have entered a fun contest to try and win a free header from Jilly Blog Designs. You can go there yourself and see samples of her creative ideas! (The contest ends tomorrow evening if you want to enter - see her blog for details!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

For All My Texans

Well, I did it...I am now the holder of a Kentucky state drivers license. And they don't let you keep your old license, so when they handed me the new one, they KEPT my Texas license and tossed in a pile behind the desk!!! Well, they can take it away, but that doesn't change the fact that--
--Ain't that the truth.