Sunday, August 31, 2008

Song for Sunday

The Lord Will Provide
(John Newton, writer of "Amazing Grace", courtesy of Matthew Smith)
~
Though troubles assail and dangers affright,
Though friends should all fail and foes all unite;
Yet one thing secures us, whatever betide,
The scripture assures us, the Lord will provide
~
The birds without barn or storehouse are fed,
From them let us learn to trust for our bread:
His saints, what is fitting, shall ne'er be denied,
So long as it's written, the Lord will provide
~
We may, like the ships, by the tempest be tossed
On perilous deeps, but cannot be lost.
Though Satan enrages the wind and the tide,
The promise engages, the Lord will provide.
~
His call we obey, like Abram of old,
Not knowing our way, but faith makes us bold;
For though we are strangers we have a good Guide,
Trust in all dangers, the Lord will provide.
~
When Satan appears to stop up our path,
And fill us with fears, we triumph by faith;
He cannot take from us, though oft he has tried,
This heart-cheering promise, the Lord will provide.
~
He tells us we're weak, our hope is in vain,
The good that we seek we ne'er shall obtain,
But when such suggestions our spirits have plied,
This answers all questions, the Lord will provide.
~
No strength of our own, or goodness we claim,
Yet since we have known the Savior's great name;
In this our strong tower for safety we hide,
The Lord is our power, the Lord will provide.
~
When life sinks apace and death is in view,
This word of his grace shall comfort us through:
No fearing or doubting with Christ on our side,
We hope to die shouting the Lord will provide.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Don't Act SO Surprised...

but yes, it's true...I'm working out." That's how the conversation went down when I first told my dad that me and my husband have started working out together. And while his reaction was humorous, could I blame him for being so surprised?

If you know me, have seen me, have wrapped your fingers around my tiny wrists, have commented on just how puny my arms really are, then you know that regular exercise for me has historically been non-existent. (Just ask Jen - she wooped me everytime I tried to take her when we were growing up!) Oh, I used to proudly claim that I DID workout since, after all, I was in marching band...for a whopping two years. But realistically speaking, "working out" and "exercise" have never been in my daily routine, much less my daily vocabulary. However, my husband bought our workout program three weeks ago, and I must brag on him for doing his research. With the countless fads, most of which are completely unbelievable, one might deem it nearly impossible to find a reputable exercise routine. Not only that, but how many of us have actually taken the steps to ordering a brand new system, get all excited and ready to get fit...only to watch whatever we bought sit in the corner gathering dust weeks later. My husband spent months researching a particular workout system prior to making the purchase, and he not only found one that we could easily follow along with but one that also works fairly well with our hectic work and school schedules. While I am not using this as a platform to advertise, I can at least tell you that it works. It sounds so cheeseball to say, but if it works for someone like me, weakling that I am, it can work for anyone!

So why did I start working out with my husband, and why does this one program work so well for me? Those questions must be asked together, and hopefully you will quickly detect why when you consider my reasoning and approach to working out:
~Me and my husband -- My time with my husband is limited. With both of us still in school and me working full-time, our moments spent together seem fleeting most days. Working out together not only prevents us from having to work out alone, but also provides an opportunity for us to make the most of our time together. There is no other person who can encourage quite like your spouse can, and this holds true for mine. He is encouraging, challenging, and spurs me on to persevere. I am more than encouraged that my husband sees beyond self-centered attainment in matters pertaining to exercise and personal stewardship.
~Skinny does not equal being in shape -- So I am skinny compared to some. While I am rather pear-shaped (thanks to what my momma gave me), I can look at my arms and upper body and know that I am smaller than some. I finally got tired of people commenting on how thin I am, all the while telling myself that they don't know the real me. Some of the comments come from people who don't know that I am a lover of sweets and that I have spent many years of my life not caring one iota about health and fitness. Ask anyone who has ever suffered from some medical condition that would otherwise go undetected. There are countless things that can go wrong that cannot be seen externally, but that can be prevented through proper attention to our personal fitness. I know plenty of women who are far more healthy than I am and who also happen to have more curves and are at a higher weight. I think focusing on the weight and focusing on the external appearance is what gets people wrapped up in fads that never last. There has to be more to this whole habit of working out than obsessively counting calories and stepping on the scale, right?
~This one body, this one life -- I have no idea how much I weigh right now. As a matter of fact, I don't care to know how much I weigh right now. Regardless of how thin I appear to those around me, what does it matter of I know deep down that I am horrible when it comes to personal stewardship? What does it matter if, beyond what everyone else knows or thinks they know about me, I know that I have potentially wasted years in this lifetime? Now, of course, in God's sovereignty there is ultimately no such thing as wasted years, but there is a right and biblical way to look at one's past. I have a track record of not taking care of my body, and, to be bluntly honest with myself and anyone else, that is not glorifying to the Lord. Being thin doesn't automatically mean that someone must be healthy and in shape. In fact, I have come to realize that sometimes having certain "thin genes" can be more dangerous when it comes to making excuses and not disciplining yourself.

While we have only been at this workout program for two weeks, that is two weeks more consistent than I have ever been in the past. I go home every evening and look forward to whatever DVD we are going to exercise to for that evening. I can also attest that everyone is different, and everyone is attracted to and responds differently to different kinds of workouts. What matters is not the name of the system we purchased, not how quickly I can lose however many pounds, but rather than this body was created for a purpose. I did not earn good health, I do not deserve a blessed life, and I cannot work toward personal stewardship of my body without the ultimate goal in mind -- glorifying the Lord with the body He created. He breathed life into my bones, and my worship is lacking if I am not displaying thanks through such stewardship. May that be the motivation that aids in my perseverance, and may it motivate you if you are in need of such encouragement~



Monday, August 25, 2008

Song for Sunday

Praise the Father, Praise the Son
O sovereign God, O matchless King
The saints adore, the angels sing
And fall before the throne of grace
To You belongs the highest praise
~
These sufferings, this passing tide
Under Your wings I will abide
And every enemy shall flee
You are my hope and victory
~
Praise the Father, Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, Three in One
Clothed in power and in grace
The name above all other names
~
To the valley, for my soul
Thy great descent has made me whole
Your word my heart has welcomed home
Now peace like water ever flows
~
Praise the Father, Praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, Three in One
Clothed in power and in grace
The name above all other names
~

Friday, August 22, 2008

When I Grow Up...

Was that a McDonald's commercial when we were kids that featured all the kids singing "When I grow up!" followed by the boy saying he wanted to be an astronaut or the girl wanting to be a ballerina? I think it was and I can remember my own dreams of such high achievements. One of our assignments in Mrs. Killackey's 6th grade homeroom class was to write an autobiography. We were instructed to elaborate upon who we were, what we were planning to do in junior high school, and what career we had set our hopes on. This was serious...I mean, I think I broke out in a sweat at the nervous thought of how important it was to discuss whether or not I was going to be popular and play the saxophone. I held my head high as I turned in the finished product after hours and days of pouring over this assignment - it was crucial that I get my achievements right and impress my favorite teacher. The rundown was that I was going to play saxophone in junior high school and make straight A's and have tame hair...yes, my ambitions were high. As an adult I was going to be a famous singer (a reasonable combination of Debbie Gibson, Bette Midler, and Reba McIntyre of course), the author of the most exquisite novels ever to grace the shelves of any bookstore, a Disney voiceover with the purpose of stealing the jobs of those women who had the speaking parts of Belle and Ariel, and let's not forget that I was going to have time to be a marine biologist. Are you kidding me? Where did I pull that one from?? I am baffled to this day as I wonder why I ever had the desire to squeeze in time with the fishies between all of the music gigs and signing autographs.

Now fast foward to today. Today is August 22, which means a number of things. For one, it means that one of the most influential couples in my life, two people who encouraged and led me all the way from early adolescence up until my wedding day just months ago, are celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary. I am more than blessed to know them, moved by God's grace in how He has so evidently used them as instruments in my life, and I wish them nothing but a sweet, reflective, joyful day as they celebrate this union the Lord orchestrated. As a married woman myself, I am so much more aware of why they said the things they did to me at an early age, why they cautioned me when I wanted to do anything but be patient, and because of that, I am all the more grateful for how God brought us into each other's lives.

On another note, today marks three years that I have been employed by the company where I work. I spent the first year feeling like an ignorant kid in an industry I knew nothing about, and now, three years later, I am considered the leader on my team. I am the one people come to with questions and the one responsible for any new training. If I stop and think about it for too long, I still feel like a kid wondering what I'm going to be when I grow up. On the bad days, the days when I'm in a crummy mood, I am most prone to questioning what in the world I am doing here. I look at my undergraduate degree and my current degree plan, and I wonder if I will ever actually be able to do what I want to do. My husband and I had what was perhaps one of the sweetest and most rich conversations a couple of nights ago that we have had in a long time. We started talking about where I am at in my current job, how I am enjoying it more than I ever expected, and also about where he is at in his seminary education. We talked about our dreams for the future, both individually and now together as a married couple walking through life together, and I realized that I hadn't dreamed big in a very long time. I look back on my first two years in Louisville and see how I dreamed less and less as the months passed by, and replaced the dreams with settling for how everyone around us defined the Christian life. I was often discouraged by the fact that I had awkward conversations with other women simply because I had a full-time job. Without even realizing it, I guess I had settled for not being in the mold, not being "normal," and had just stopped dreaming. My husband and I were talking about how we both started dreaming again after joining our church, and I couldn't help but take a deep, refreshing breath at such thoughts that had remained dormant for so long. When are our dreams for our lives actually impossible? I would have to say rare, and I say that because I think that we sometimes just stop dreaming altogether. Think of how many different circumstances--job, school, etc.--can create an atmosphere in which we shirk away from dreaming big. I fervently believe that the Lord has given us specific gifts for His glory and for us to utilize as we serve as instruments in the fields we are in. The people and responsibilities that we are inevitably going to be faced with are often further opportunities for us to serve and grow. For this particular season of my life, I am not in my "dream job," but that doesn't mean that it's not a place where I can mature and be used in completely unexpected ways as an instrument of truth and grace. This environment has proven to be a challenge I would have never anticipated, and one I would never want to change during this particular season of my life. Knowing the gifts I have been given, knowing that my ultimate calling is to glorify the Lord as a wife and hopefully as a mother some day, I can live each day knowing that I am where I am supposed to be. I won't be in this place forever, and the horizon is wide open as we look ahead. Dream big.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Need Thee Every Hour
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
~
(Chorus) I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
~
I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.
~
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.
~
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
~
I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou bless├Ęd Son.

I love the Church. When significant circumstances or seemingly mundane details overwhelm my heart, I am grateful for the Church. When I am admittedly battling with uncertainty, frustration, or worry, I am grateful for how the Lord manifests Himself through the encouragement and presence of fellow brothers and sisters. How easy it is and how quickly we can downspiral into the black hole of feeling as though we are the only ones going through a specific situation, acquainting ourselves with those thoughts that no one can fully understand or relate to our struggle. But how incredible is the real truth that we have not only our great High Priest who is near and sympathizes with our every weakness, but also that He provides the Church. In our sin and desire for comfort and signifance, we can quickly lose sight of those whom He has given us. Just as the disciples doubted Jesus even as they witnessed Him walking on water, we are so prone to doubt and question. But He is still alive, still interceding, reigning from His throne yet making His nearness evident. His nearness is our good, and that nearness is so often evidenced through fellow recipients of such unmatched and undeserved grace.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Song for Sunday

Jesus, Thank You
~
The mystery of the cross I cannot comprehend
The agonies of Calvary
You the perfect Holy One, crushed Your Son
Drank the bitter cup reserved for me
~
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You
~
By Your perfect sacrifice I’ve been brought near
Your enemy You’ve made Your friend
Pouring out the riches of Your glorious grace
Your mercy and Your kindness know no end
~
Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father's wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank you

Friday, August 08, 2008

And So We Wait...

What are the circumstances or thoughts that most remind you of the fleeting nature of this world? What compels your heart most to crying out thanks for this life, but longing for the one to come? I can testify to a number of such instances, a few of which I have seen or experienced in the past 24 hours...

The first instance came about while watching Larry King Live last night as tears formed in the corners of my eyes. Steven Curtis Chapman's family was featured for the entire hour, anwering questions from both Larry King and guests who either emailed or called in to the show. As the famous host asked questions pertaining to their faith - "Did you ever doubt?" - "Did you wonder if this could be prevented?" - "Were you ever angry at God?" - I was encouraged by the family's responses during what is still a very dark hour for them. They did not waver once, even when it was clear that the host was baffled by their answers. They are thankful to the One who gave them their precious daughter, sister, friend, and yet often long for the day when they will meet her again. What grief that is seemingly impossible to explain, and they continually hope and trust even when they don't understand or have all the answers to Why all of this has taken place. We don't have the answers, we don't know why such tragic events occur in our lives, but we trust in the One who causes all things to work together for our ultimate good and His glory. Marybeth Chapman answered a viewer's question regarding doubt. Her response was this - even in our darkest hour, when we were at rock bottom, even if we hit rock bottom face first, we always knew we were landing on a solid foundation.

The second instance occurred today while going through the motions of another day at work. I spent the day trying to distract myself with the tasks covering my desk and computer screen, while in reality I was struggling to think of anything but a particular phone call. This is the circumstance that reminds more often than any other of this fleeting life. I have been diagnosed with an uncommon medical condition, and I am currently waiting for lab results on something that is probably unrelated. Doctors aren't certain at this point, and I am in the waiting process of not knowing anything at all. Physical flaws and sickness have the incredible ability to do one of two things; they either send us into a self-loathing, self-pitying downspiral, or they draw us to the One who knew us before time began. I find myself continually preaching the truth to myself, the truth which only comes from His Word. His Word remains true when my heart is prone to doubt, worry, or not like what I see in the mirror. My mind becomes flooded with the faces of those I know personally who have walked through dark valleys of serious illness, and I am reminded of how a mere phone call from a doctor can make one's life feel as if it's been turned upside down. I am reminded of how relatively small my medical concerns are in light of those of others I know. I am also reminded that these outer bodies are continually in the process of aging, and no one can reverse the inevitable.

The third instance took place this evening while watching a prominent news channel. My husband and I couldn't help but notice that every major news network was not reporting on the Olympic Games, not reporting on the turmoil in the country of Georgia, but on the news about John Edwards' extramarital affair. We paused briefly on a particular station after resolving that it was the only item receiving attention, and I became so angry that I had to leave the livingroom. A recognized contributor to the station was giving his two cents about this affair, and attempted brushing over the ordeal with the excuse that "he's only human." This was the second of two men, one of whom is a former employee of the Edwards campaign, who tried not fousing on the affair, but wanting instead to focus on his supposed efforts and causes in the political sphere. I didn't know whether to put my fist through the television or get sick to my stomach, so I made my exit from the room until I was calmed down. I don't bring this up as a conservative individual give my political opinion of a prominent member of the opposing party. Rather I bring this up with utter disgust at how the choice to brush aside issues pertaining to man's integrity has become seemingly effortless. Does the Lord judge someone based on whether or not he managed to get universal healthcare implemented without acknowledging the thoughts and intentions of the heart? Last I checked, the truth is that it's actually the opposite. That a man can completely dishonor his family, engaging in infidelity while simulteneously denying such actions, all at the altar of success and fame, makes my blood boil. This is more than a political game during an election year but is rather an issue of man's sinful, corrupt heart. May all be made right in the Lord's sovereign timing.

The fourth instance is one which grieves me in a very personal way. I began watching the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games tonight, and honestly could not watch the entire program. I watched choreography and music performed so perfectly, order and precision that seemed impossible in the realm of human ability. That many people dancing in such uniformity seemed truly impossible. I began thinking of how many hours must have been put into practice in order to perfect the show. These thoughts then led me to remembering my time spent years ago with Chinese students. The ones I met were so harshly disciplined, and had such high standards set for them by others, that it was hard for them to simply be kids. As I listened to the news commentators describe the performances at the start of the opening ceremony, I was reminded of how many issues have been ignored. Seemingly countless orphans, unrest, and religious persecution are pervasive. I want to watch the women's gymnastics as I do every year, but I wonder if I will be able to this year. Whatever I decide to or not to watch, I can't help but recollect the images I saw in East Asia. Faces void of any emotion, individuals seemingly numb to surrounding pressure and events, and young students afraid to voice their yearning for freedom are still fresh on my mind... No amount of impressive light shows can erase reality.

So we wait for the Lord.
His grace strengthens
His presences comforts
His promises assure
His power activates
His rule guarantees
that someday rest, real rest, pure rest, eternal rest,
will reign once more.
No violence in creation
No weed or thorn
No cleft between God and man
No reason to hide
No cause for fear
No need unmet
No grief to face
between God and man.
Yes, rest, true rest, will live again and last forever.
So we wait for the Lord
to restore us to that place.
Bright Son, pure love, unfettered peace, unstained beauty,
God and man together forever.
Until that day,
with hearts that are strong
and hope that is undimmed
and joy that embraces the future,
We wait for the Lord.

What are the circumstances in which you find yourself longing for Christ to come quickly? What spurs you on to crying out for His justice and mercy?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Little Scrap Mania Circle

"A Scrapbooker is entrusted with documenting and safely preserving family photos in an album to be treasured by future generations."
"You have the right to take as long as you want to create an album page. This may take five minutes or two weeks."
"You have the right to do nothing more than snack and socialize at a 6-hour cropping party." (Edit: 11-hour)
"You have the right to value your personal scrapbooking style to be as important as your photographs. You are creating a treasure. . . . You have the right to create your own legacy, one page at a time."

These fun pictures were not taken by me, nor were they taken from this past Saturday of scrapbooking. If I had taken the pictures this past weekend, you would see the aftermath of mouth surgery (i.e., me looking like someone socked me in the face). And I might as well mention the valuable lesson I learned on Saturday afternoon: It is not a good idea to write really big words using a marker, without first using a pencil, when you're loopy on pain pills. You will inevitably end up with a bright, bold and purple title that is spelled completely wrong.

My love for scrapbooking has been renewed upon joining our church, as I mentioned in a previous post. More than a mere craft, this is an important task for me in preserving not just my personal photos, but those of my friends and family as well. I have had the honor of making a scrapbook for a co-worker, as well as preserving the memories in picture form of my dear grandparents. Not only do I get to spend hours being creative, but I have the opportunity to do so among friends! These sweet ladies, women I am fortunute to call friends, have become some of my favorite in recent months. We meet up once a month (try at least!) and spend hours talking, snacking, and busying ourselves with our favorite hobby. I have grown to adore them, and always look forward to the next "scrap mania." I am reminded on such Saturdays of what fellowship really looks like, and what a joy it is to invest in each other's lives.

("Scrapbooker's Bill of Rights", courtesy of www.paperwishes.com)

Monday, August 04, 2008

Song for Sunday...on Monday!

O Great God
(words & music by Bob Kauflin)
~
O great God of highest heaven
Occupy my lowly heart
Own it all and reign supreme
Conquer every rebel power
Let no vice or sin remain
That resists Your holy war
You have loved and purchased me
Make me Yours forevermore
~
I was blinded by my sin
Had no ears to hear Your voice
Did not know Your love within
Had no taste for heaven’s joys
Then Your Spirit gave me life
Opened up Your Word to me
Through the gospel of Your Son
Gave me endless hope and peace
~
Help me now to live a life
That’s dependent on Your grace
Keep my heart and guard my soul
From the evils that I face
You are worthy to be praised
With my every thought and deed
O great God of highest heaven
Glorify Your Name through me