Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

...from Canton, GA!
Ryan & I drove down here in our NEW Chevy Malibu, "Roxy," on Monday, and have been hanging out with our family since. More on Roxy later-- like her predecessors, Max & Caleb, she is burgundy/red. Unlike them, she is completely UNbroken! No tape, no dents, no scratches... it's pretty amazing to us both!

We've enjoyed both chilly and warmer weather, Dominoes, Rummikub, Cranium, good food, good movies (like The Tale of Despereaux), family, talking, stories, Grandpa's fudge, and even walking around the subdivision. I've tried my hand at adapting some recipes to gluten-freeness for the whole family (a little scary for everyone, I think!-- certainly for me!); pancakes & eggs for breakfast yesterday, and pumpkin pie today. Both were met with at the very least consumption, and at best decisive compliments, so I am very grateful. I was praying for culinary grace there!

We opened presents from our drawn-name-recipient last night (Christmas Eve)...hehe story there for another day... that was really fun. The gifts this year were so creative and thoughtful! When we're home with our cable, I'll upload some pics! Grandma got a digital camera from her daughters & sons-in-law, and was rendered speechless for an entire minute! (that is a feat indeed!) This morning we waited for the Grands to get here (we're all at Ryan's parents' townhouse, but they're staying at the AFB hotel), and after reading the Nativity account in St. Luke 2, we opened the rest of our presents. Ryan got me three books which I am already delving into-- I'm in the middle of one that he found in a little shop in New Orleans on his last business trip called The Legacy of St. Patrick; as found in his own writings (Martin P. Harney). It's so inspiring! The man was such a champion of the faith! (the other books were Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling, and ). Ryan's quite happy with his ESV Study Bible from me. Oh yes and I can't WAIT to listen to my new Andrew Peterson Resurrection Letters, Vol. II.!!!

From a very warm Canton, GA, Ryan & I wish you all a wonderfully happy-to-your-toes celebration of the Incarnation. I'm reading Lauren Winner's Girl Meets God right now (highly recommended), and her Advent chapters are very very insightful! Maybe tomorrow I'll put a quote from her book on here-- it was the doctrine of the Incarnation, of God becoming Immanuel- God with us- which first drew her to Christianity out of the rich tradition of Orthodox Judaism.

Embrace the wonder of it! Just think...

"In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God... and the Word of God became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory..." (Jn. 1:1,14). Amazing. In all the foreshadowing and promises, no one expected that God would send Himself to save His people... I guess the tabernacle was the biggest clue-- by law it was to be always smack dab in the very middle of the people's camp, and because of it's presence the people were both commanded to be and declared holy-- because their God was in their midst. And then in the person and physical body of Jesus the Christ, He actually came and walked among us, as one of us. And He's promised to never never ever leave us.

Wow.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Per Mom's Request...

Some Christmas decorations pictures from Top Porch...






Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hey, Beautiful Girl

So I ordered this CD for 2 little boys in my life- my cousin Luke and "nephew" Noah- and have in the meantime fallen in love with it. (I HAD to check it out before sending it on, right?) It's WONDERFUL!!!! I highly recommend it, if you have small children, or if you have children in your home on any sort of regular basis... or if you are intimidated by children and want to learn how to cuddle, romp and laugh with them! I suspected I'd love it, because one- Andrew Peterson's grasps the vast sweep of "redemptive history" (how God has worked in the world since the beginning). Two, he's a great songwriter, so I knew the lullabies would be solid and sweet, singable.Three, he "gets" little boys. His song "Little Boy Heart Alive" is still one of my all-time favorite songs because I love little boys, and he totally captures why in that song. And last of all, after reading On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (Ryan & I read it out loud together and LOVE IT!!) I knew the CD would be fun! If you've ever listened to his song "Matthews Begats" about Jesus' geneology in Matthew 1, you know what I mean. I have not been disappointed. He's got a song about an action-packed game of tag ("Who's Got the Ball!?"), one with a hilarious twist ("Tractor, Tractor"), and a great one about getting a baby to burp ("Chicken Wiggle"--it starts out "Burp, burp, chicken wiggle! Don't spit up! Don't spit up!"), all sung with such a "straight face" and legitmately orchestrated that it's even funnier!! So, all in all, great CD. Go get it. On iTunes it's $9.99 for a download, which is the best deal I've found so far.

Quotes from the artists (which sort of tell you what the CD is like): "Parents won't want to stick a fork in their eye when they've heard it for the 10th time in a row." -- Randall Goodgame
"It's the first time I've been glad that my music can put people to sleep." -- Andrew Peterson


Surprisingly, the song on this CD that is currently on repeat, bringing tears to my eyes at times, has nothing to do with anything little-boy or fun. It's a lullaby sung by a father to his baby girl, starting off with the desperate lines "I've got you swaddled/and I've got your bottle/ and you're too loud to ignore./ Your mama is sleeping/ the angels are keeping/ so cry no more." That's all sweet, and so true to reality that it makes me smile. Then came the chorus,

"Hey! Beautiful girl! Daddy loves you!
He loves you!
Most beautiful girl in the whole wide world."


All of a sudden the Spirit whispered to my soul "that is how I sing over you." Michael Card says that he thinks God loves each of us "naively;" like a lover who knows the beloved is unique and precious; like He said of Job "there's no one like him!" We know from Zephaniah that "The Lord your God is in your midst, a Mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing." (Zeph 3:17). As I read the Bible, and especially since going through the book Because He Loves Me (Elyse Fitzpatrick), I have realized more and more that God loves me deeply. Why? Because I am in Jesus. Jesus, the Perfectly obedient Son. Jesus, the Beloved. The One of Whom the Father said, "this is my Beloved Son, with Whom I am well-pleased." (Mt. 17:5, Mk. 1:11, Lk. 3:22, 2 Pet. 1:17). I am in THAT Son! When God looks at me, He sees that Perfect Obedience, and He smiles-- wouldn't you!? Washed clean by Jesus' blood, swaddled in Jesus' righteousness, He holds me close and all He does is smile. A man asked me last week if I loved God, and my impromptu answer was to stammer "Yes! Yes! He loved me first!" He did. He pursued me with His love, and put me into the Beloved... because I got IN to His love quite apart from any merit of my own, I don't have to be afraid of ever falling OUT of it by any of my mis-doings. I am secure. To my Heavenly Father, I am always the "most beautiful girl in the world." Wow.

My throat is all lumped-up just thinking about it.

The God of the Universe smiles and sings me lullabies.

Knowing my self and my persistent, hard-to-kill sins as I do... and knowing that He knows it even more than I do, and that He hates sin more than I do because He is more perfect and completely apart from it (holy)... wow, that makes it even sweeter and more amazing.

Thinking of one of my sisters who is facing so much hurt from those who had sworn to love and protect her in this world, I suddenly wanted to send her this song; to remind her of Who loves her, and Who thinks she is the "most beautiful girl in the whole wide world," no matter what. Not because of anything she does or did or will do, but because she is in the Beloved. For all of you who are in Christ, this is how our Father sings over YOU!!!

"Hey, beautiful girl, Daddy loves you; He loves you- most beautiful girl in the whole wide world..."

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Ones You Leave Behind, the final version =D

Being back in Greenville, especially for church services at Grace, is fun in that I get to reconnect (briefly) with people I've loved for a long time, and who know me well. It's sad, though, too. Why? Because of a problem that's systemic around here. Grace Baptist of Taylors has long been a large church, regularly adding members. So why hasn't it ever really grown? Because people are always leaving. Every few years there's a new church on the block that comes into vogue and several families leave to go there (I could name 3 such churches off the top of my head). There are SO many families that "used to go to our church," most still living in Greenville, and still naming the Name of Jesus. I'm not talking about people who were just attenders, either, I'm talking about people who had applied for membership, testified in front of the entire body, read the church confession of faith and constitution and gladly agreed with them, willingly put themselves under the guidance and oversight of the pastors and deacons, and been in regular fellowship with other members for several years. Yet they leave. For diverse reasons, they just walk away, most without ever so much as a peep as to why, nor efforts to resolve anything.

Every time I come back to Greenville, I am grieved anew at this. Christians, let me
plead with you: don't leave your church! As I hope to expound in this post, it is (usually) un-Biblical, and always always hurtful-- to you as the leave-er, and, as I have experienced first hand, to those whom you are leaving behind. It hurts. A lot. To the point that I struggle with bitterness towards those who have left, the mere thought or sight of them bringing all those negative feelings back up.

So, why stay? First of all, because, if you're a Protestant, you've made a covenant with those people in that particular local church. A church isn't primarily a set of doctrines, nor a set of traditions, nor even a set of pastors/deacons/leaders (or the main preaching pastor)--it's certainly not the building. (When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he was writing to the group of believers in Corinth.) When you leave a church, you may be leaving because of a disagreement with church leaders, or because of a deficiency in the preached word, or because you aren't feeling like your gifts aren't being used adequately,
but you aren't leaving any of those things. When you leave, you are leaving your fellow members. Just as a divorce severs one human from another, so leaving a church rips apart christians joined by a covenantal bond.  My dad put it perfectly into words when he said, rather sadly, "I can't help feeling that they're just walking away from... me... from all my family.  And that hurts."
-----------My apologies for leaving this so long unfinished.  I now have my computer back after a long absence, thanks to my cousin Heath's kindness, his electrotechnical prowess, and a rather sizeable dose of daring (he disassembled and reassembled a Powerbook on his own)!  Anyway, I'm back now.---------------

The church is often compared to a Body (Eph. 4).  In one sense we CANNOT leave The Body, ever-- the Church Universal is made up of all believers, no matter their denomination or age.  It will be united and whole in Heaven, but is only seen in glimpses here.  The local church is how we worship now.  [Aside: Unfortunately, there is division, which is necessary because there is error, much of it heretical, and truth naturally must divide from error when error refuses to be corrected.  There are also differences of understanding, which make everyday church life detrimental rather than helpful.  SO yeah, I understand why we have denominations, and why these probably won't go away until Heaven.]  The local churches are like mini-bodies.  In our world, can hands just rip themselves off of one body and transfer to another body, without careful preparation, re-attachment, and a high risk of infection? Yikes, no!  So leaving one local fellowship must be approached- carefully, slowly- no matter the reason, even a positive one.  Just walking away isn't "seeking peace with all men."  It's a cop-out.

Secondly, there isn't any Scriptural basis for leaving.  You want a really awful church?  Take the one in First-Century Corinth.  you've got factions (1 Cor. 1-3) , disagreement over the authority of the apostles (chapter 4) gross sexual immorality (5-incest/adultery; 6-promiscuity), people suing each other (6), people with weird ideas about celibacy (7), gluttony & discrimination in Communion (10), chaotic worship services (14), and even doubts about the resurrection of Christ!! (15) All this to the point that God was putting church members to death in loving judgement (11:13)!! I find it so striking that Paul nowhere commands the faithful to leave and start another church.  NOWHERE!  On the contrary, he exhorts them to be unified, to stop sinning and embrace righteousness, and then -as a unified body- to discipline those in their midst who insisted on persisting in sin.  Nowhere do we read anything like "but if these issues seem disturbing, you should leave these so-called brothers of yours and quietly begin worshipping in the house of a faithful man.  I will send another pastor to shepherd you there soon."  Granted, there wasn't "First Church of Straight Street of Corinth," competing with "First Modern Church of Corinth--"  they were all house fellowships, probably meeting in different locations as persecution came and their numbers grew, yet still in fellowship and communion with each other-- so it's not like they could really leave a church in the same way we can now (which I believe is a travesty!).  Instead, Paul had the confidence that I do: that the work of the Holy Spirit, through the Word spoken and read, will transform a church rife with problems and DEAL with those problems.  I am NOT advocating silently letting Jesus' church do things utterly dishonoring to Him.  Paul doesn't tell people to just stick it out without a peep-- on the contrary, he rebukes them, and urges church discipline!  In other letters he does the same to other churches.  So does Jesus in Revelation 2.  If you've see an issue in a church, and after much prayer you still see it, it's probably there!  So do you just leave?  Is that the Biblical thing to do?  Is that the God-glorifying-est option? If we can't easily answer those questions, we can certainly answer this one:  is it the most loving, others-serving thing to do?  As one of those left behind, I can painfully say, "no."  
It sure isn't loving to leave someone in their sin, ignorance, misunderstanding or struggle; neither is it loving to leave a group of people similarly set.  Talk to us!  Tell us what you think and what you see!  Oh how I grieve when I imagine how strong and joyful Grace Baptist would be if all those who had left had stayed.  Such godly people!  Such diversity, such strength there would be!  Oh, why did you leave!?  I plead with you who haven't left yet (and if you've just left, come back!), instead of leaving, work to BE a part of the solution.  SERVE us if we are weak.  That's how Jesus dealt with the 12!  He was so far above their petty arguments over who was the Greatest, and He didn't leave them.  On the contrary, He washed their feet and died for them.  Don't walk away in your "strength" and leave us in our weakness.

Thirdly, whoever you are:  you are a sinner!!  What does that have to do with anything?  It means I KNOW you will never find a perfect church:  wherever you go, YOU will be there, so it WON'T be perfect.  Gospel-embracing churches, made up of Gospel-embracing people, are beautiful precisely because they are embracing the Gospel-- that means they are loudly proclaiming that it took the death of God to pay for their God-offending sin, and that they STILL need His grace every single day!  The best churches are ones full of self-acknowledged sinners... meaning that even the best churches will still be flawed.  The excuse "I wasn't growing anymore, so I left" is one that is waaaay over-used.  And that is your pastor's fault how?  Is it ever valid?  Quite likely.  If the Word is not being faithfully taught and given as food, the people will be hungry.  But again, is the answer to immediately, quietly, leave?  NO!!  The problem might be you!  Are you resisting growth?  Are you being lazy in your pursuit of personal holiness, and then blaming a preacher or a teacher for not pulling you along?  Are you being open and honest, confessing and confronting sin to/in your friends, or are you remaining isolated, surface-deep, and blind?  You will not grow if you are not pursuing the means of grace.  "The godly are easily encouraged," as one man said.  If you are honestly pursuing growth and it is not coming, or if you see a deficiency, then speak up!  Go humbly to your brother and share your burden for his good, your good, and the good of all your neighbors.  Your pastor may not be the best preacher, but he probably loves you. If you see a lack of clear teaching, be open to modeling good teaching.  If you sense shallow "fellowship," invite a few out for coffee and try to be open with them (do a book study on "Because He Loves Me," "The Cross-Centered Life," "Gospel Transformation," or "A Gospel Primer" for great starters).  PRAY.  The Lord might use YOU to be the agent of grace in the church where you are struggling.  Look around at the people you're thinking of abandoning, and think "wouldn't I rather be used to encourage them?"  God has you where you are for a reason.  It probably isn't to just stop growing spiritually, whimper and then slink out.

Lastly, you are hurting yourself, and setting yourself up for blindness and sin.  Leaving a church always hurts you, even if you don't expect it to.  When you leave those who know you best, and start over somewhere else, you lose the accountability you had.  You open the door to sin and blindness-- because who's gonna know you there?  Who will love you enough to speak the truth in love?  You are likely taking a shortcut, the easy way out, and we all know that isn't how God's Grace works. He saves us all at once (justification), but then He keeps saving us (sanctification) for long agonizing joyful years.  He doesn't infuse us with patience; no, He gives the testing of our faith which PRODUCES patience (James 1:2).  That means He gives us hard medicine that tastes yucky, to work a beautiful cure.  That might include bearing with a church that's not perfect, and working lovingly, humbly with them THROUGH those imperfections, both teaching and being taught.  Maybe you feel like your church isn't letting you live up to your full potential.  Maybe that's because you think too highly of your potential.  The one who skips all that and walks away is taking the easy way out.  We shun quick fixes like diet pills... why do we think a quick fix of a church change will be any better for our spiritual health?  I've seen people leave because they were having marital problems, because they just broke up, because their children were rebelling, and shame drove them away.  "What would people say if they knew?"  Yikes!  You NEED those who love you and will speak the truth and listen in love, more than ever.  You of all people, stay!  Let us love you! Yeah, it will hurt, and it will be hard... but it's still good.  Slightly differently, I've heard people leave because they were newly weds and/or new parents and wanted to start out on their own or find a church that could better serve them at that new stage.  The same applies to you!  You are not as strong as you think you are.

One last word to those who want to leave a fellowship for entirely other reasons- maybe a passion for a certain people group, maybe a gifting that's duplicated within your church fellowship.  Those gifts are given you by God TO SERVE HIS CHURCH.  First of all, talk to your church leaders- don't just "inform" them that you are leaving and why.  Let them be a part of it-- they are your authority and can give guidance you need.  Then talk to your fellow church members, at least some of it.  Don't they deserve an explanation, if not consultation?  Do they see how you could plug into the church?  If they agree that your leaving is advantageous to the Gospel, and your passions & gifts can't be incorporated into your church body as it is, then by all means expand your church!  Start a new ministry.  Move to that other neighborhood, or city, or country.  If it just isn't feasible to stay at your church, make it a matter of expansion and growth, not disunion and stunting.  Gather people around you, watching your back, holding you accountable, and praying for you.  At the very least, be honest.  Wouldn't you rather be
sent than just leave?



I write this so thankful for those who have stayed at Grace.  I have watched you grow as you've stayed and pressed on.  I will testify of how it has done you good; how you have been rewarded for your steadfastness, patience, and willingness to be wronged.  Your faces flash across my mind, and I'm afraid to name you, because I know I'll leave someone out, but I also want to honor those deserving of honor. ... remember that I'm typing this from 450 miles away, and be gracious to me. :) Glenn & Helen, Mark & Cheryl, David & Kimi, Bruce & Jean, Jamie & Lydia, Ed & Miriam, Lou & Sally- you've been there since before I was. Ben & Denise, Ryan & Lydia, Craig & Ashley- you've stayed when many of your age left.  Blaine & Wendy, Jack & Janice, Jim & Robin, Mark & Kathryn, Seth & Katie, Victor & Ellen- you put your hand to the plow and haven't turned back.  Chad & Melanie, Glyn & Jo Lin, Doug & Beth, Mike & Linda, Todd, Ravonda, Pene-- you came and haven't left.  Of course there's my parents, Bart & Karina.  And Bob & Cathi, Aaron & Rachel, we know you love us and are so glad you're back.  

Please know that I write this in all humility, out of deep love for the honor and good of Christ's Bride-- He values her, thus so should I!--and especially my brothers at Grace, who have been hurt again and again.  May God in His mercy strengthen you and use you to do great things!

--Christina

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008


Ryan and I have been enjoying Thanksgiving here in Greenville, SC, where I spent most of my childhood & college years. It's been great to see my folks and to be free from the pressure of a job... Mom even lets me off of so many of my WIFEly jobs-- I barely am allowed to clean or cook while I'm here!  We ate a big Thanksgiving dinner at my Uncle Steve & Tia Olga's-- my Mom baked the turkey and stuffed mushrooms, Anna did some bruschetta, Nicole made some coffee ice cream to DIE for, I put together a gluten-free pumpkin pie, Uncle Steve made gravy, Heath (my cousin) made mashed potatoes, Derek stole us some cake (long story) and then Tia Olga filled out the rest with apple pie, home made rolls & stuffing (both glutinous and GF), cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. SO YUMMY!! One of Derek's friends- a British citizen- from college came home with him, so we got to be his first experience of Thanksgiving. :) I hope and pray that the things Matt heard will challenge his views on "religion" as a system, and instead embrace Christ through faith. When we went around the table and each said what we were thankful for, he commented that he'd never seen or heard of a family sitting around and sharing spiritual things like that, and that he was thankful for getting to be there. Lord, plant and water those seeds!!

Then I got sick. :( For the first time in a long time...and pretty badly too. I was begging God to keep Ryan healthy, and to let me recover quickly-- I could all-to-well imagine the ride back three to a truck cab... crowded at best, and miserable when sick. I'm feeling better, though, well enough to sit up and participate in conversation at least. :) God's so kind!
We'll be back soon! And we'll be looking for a new car, so if you have one you're wanting to sell, let us know!
-- a very thankful girl



My sister Anna (18), double-fistin' it on the mashed potatoes.  And to think she used to be the SILENT baby of the family! :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Help for Married Couples

Click here to download the sessions from the Couples' Retreat which one of my pastors, Ryan Fullerton just did at my former church in Greenville, SC. Pastor Ryan married Ryan & I, and along with his wife Christy did our pre-marital counseling...they still counsel us post-marriage, too. =D The sessions are
1. "Marriage: It's fallen on hard times."
2. "The Grace-Based Marriage: how NOT to apply Ephesians 5"
3. "Sex and Marriage: How to be lovers in dangerous times."

Check them out and pass them on to anyone you'd like!
--Christina

For those of you who had trouble downloading, I emailed the webmaster, so hopefully you can get them now. If you'd like, Jenny & Leslie, I can give you a CD copy of the 3 mp3s from my computer, or an audio CD of the 3rd one. Just say the word!

Just so I'm clear...

Watching a clip on YouTube made me want to be more familiar with the our nation's "current standing." The video clip aside, I know a LOT about certain issues, the ones that I think matter, and I can give pretty good overall explanations of each candidate or party's position on issues such as health care, environmental issues, personal wealth (taxes, redistribution, etc.), gun-control, educational reform, the War in Iraq, how to handle the much-feared "economic crisis," and oh yeah, abortion (my biggie). But I don't keep up to date on the whos and whens of our politics. It's not totally necessary, I know (so what if I know about them, right? They aren't asking me how to act!). I don't spend my time staying up on the public lives of movie or TV actors, or most that this world deems "public figures," preferring to keep up with the church abroad, especially the persecuted church, and the people with whom I am interacting right NOW, here. But I also don't want to be a hermit!

So, just for my own info, and for yours if you were wanting/lacking it:

-- The Speaker of the House since 2007 has been Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California. (Speaker of the House is second in line of presidential succession)

-- The Senate is a little different, since the VP is the President of the Senate: "The Senate Majority and Minority Leaders are two US Senators who are elected by the party conferences that hold the majority and the minority respectively." "The Majority leader customarily serves as the chief representative and "face" of his or her party in Senate, and sometimes even in all of Congress if the House thus the office of Speaker of the House is controlled by the opposition party." In practice, the Majority Leader presides over the Senate. (from the omniscient wikipedia)

--The Democratic party controls Congress (not often both Congress AND the President are of the same party--see here and here). This has been the case for the past 2 years. Article glorying in that fact here.

-- The 111th Senate will be composed of 56 Democrats, 2 Democrat-leaning independents and 40 Republicans, with two seats still to be determined as of November 19, 2008.
Senate Majority Leader is Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada. Senate Minority Leader is Mitch McConnell of Kentucky (again, from the Great Wiki) .

-- Bill Ayers is a radical left-wing who lives in Chicago, and who has connections with Obama, though it is debated just how deep those ties go. [Side note: I don't get the whole "anti-war terrorism" idea. How can you be violently opposed to war? Isn't that another war right there? "Hey! Stop openly bombing the innocents or I'll secretly bomb you!" That's a vigilante version of most wars themselves!

--Barney Frank is a very-popular US House Representative from Mass. In 1987 he became the first US Representative to come out as openly gay. [side note: I learned today that he partnered with Ron Paul to protect online "gambling rights." Great. I say I like MOST things about Ron Paul...like the abolition of the income tax, long one of my favorite bones to pick with the Amendments...but not all. Still not convinced on his foreign policy. But I love the man's consistency!]

Thanks to Zogby International for motivating me to make sure I have my names & facts straight. And I am interested to see how this plays out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deep Quote of the Week

"My" little Katelyn, on the story of Eve's deception and fall:

(eyes large and sad) "She was coveting God!"

Which is exactly right. In eating the fruit, Eve was trying to usurp God's...godness. She wanted to be the judge of what was good, and what was evil-- as I put it to my preschoolers, she wanted to be "the Boss."

Which is what all of my sin is, isn't it?

Our Fall

Since photos are worth thousands of words (and so easy these days), I'll try to capture the highlights in several here, and leave you to peruse the remainder at your leisure on Facebook!
There's been a lot of fellowship, mostly through our church (as it should be): The Bluegrass Jam Session on Halloween @ the Moores' (that's me with their cutie, "Little D"); The Harvest Party in Shelby Park the next day; "Family Dinner" at Maison de La Vie (where Ashlea is Mother Superior), then Book Club there the next day(you've read my thoughts on that); church every Sunday and Wednesday, Care Group at our house every other Sunday, and people from church here to eat with us (I LOVE having a whole house in which to entertain!).
There've been a lot of showers: two baby showers in one day! One for Jenny Montgomery, which Amanda B & I hosted here in the morning; then another for my co-worker Sarah Bebee, which Corrie Ann , Suzanne (two other teachers) & I hosted at our school in the afternoon! There's also been Dana (soon-to-be-Wright)'s wedding shower. I was very proud of my first attempt at a diaper cake-- this one was for Baby Girl Bebee. It was such a pleasure to host the showers, firstly because they were each so encouraging, but secondly because I had such wonderful co-hostesses! It was so cool to watch it all come together! (ps- Jenny posted all the pictures from her shower to a Facebook album, to which I'll later post a link).
There've been a lot of kids-- between Alexis' 5th birthday party (at which Ryan was the Fairy Godfather), Jenna C's 2nd birthday party, keeping the Fullerton foursome one night, my job as a pre-school teacher, and teaching Sunday School, we are surrounded by them. We LOVE them and I could totally write a book just quoting all the things they say.
There's been a lot of Ryan & me-- we used a gift card to PF Chang's for our monthiversary (it was the PERFECT amount!), and have cuddled up many an evening with CS Lewis' Perelandra, or a movie... I can't bring myself to watch the next episode of "NCIS: Season 2" because I know my favorite character will die in it, and I just can't handle it. Once we get past that, we'll keep going. :)
And, let's just be honest... there's been a lot of Jenny & Amanda (their babies in tow, lol). Pretty much every week we all (or just two of us) get together to drink coffee, talk, scrapbook or plan events together. Oh you know you wish you were a fly on the wall!! ;) Praise the Lord for such sisters and friends!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Perspective, Good Strategy

This article (thanks again, Matt) is really encouraging. I have often found it helpful to compare the fight for equal rights for the unborn to the fight for equal rights for the un-white. When you put it in those terms, you can see how horrifically surface-deep the distinction between "baby" and "fetus" are-- merely one of location, just as the other is merely one of melanin. All those with human DNA carry on them the very imprint of God-- we are ALL Image-Bearers, made to reflect His glory, made to rejoice in knowing Him... whatever variation of brown we are, or whatever age (days, weeks, months, years) we are. This article takes another angle with that view, one I find very encouraging, and one I will be praying towards. While of course we can and should be praying for legislation to be enacted (like the ending of slavery) or repealed (like segregation or "Jim Crow" laws), there is a much bigger picture that needs to be seen, and fought. Read it and tell me what you think, all of you who want to end the "tragedy" of abortion. Especially by mothers who are un-informed, misguided or even deliberately deceived.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thankful and Passisonate

The past few days have been mentally exhausting, and grieving for me. I remember why I have always hated politics, even as I get fired up about them. In high school I was on the speech and debate team, and wasn't half bad at either drama or debate (Congressional style), but despite the enjoyment and success I was often frustrated by the end of a tournament.

Why? Partly because I hate hearing things that I consider to be wrong. That can be really funny when I'm actually the wrong one, and it used to get me into trouble all the time as a kid. :) By God's grace I've learned a lot about patience, forbearance, HUMILITY, and just overlooking silly differences. Who cares if they call that color indigo and it's really cerulean, right? Then it's just MY standard we're talking about. But it's not so funny when the issues are huge, as they tend to be in Congressional debates. When we're talking fiscal or even educational policy, I have less difficulty being flexible. But moral issues (and most everything comes back to a moral issue)... those really are hard for me. Why? Because a lot of those issues aren't contradicting me; they're contradicting the Truth of God, as I understand it. I want to "fix" everyone's opinion, correct every flaw in logic or morality. First reason to be thankful: I'm NOT God, and I don't know the answer to everything, and I'm not responsible for everyone! I'm learning to hand a lot of that over to God in prayer... but God's word is crystal-clear about some things, and it weighs so heavy on my heart to see people I love being deceived, whether politically, or spiritually. I've wrestled a lot with fear lately, too; fear over the future, fear over my loved ones' souls, fear over our nation... lots of fear.

We are supposed to be Valient-for-Truth, we are supposed to have unswerving, unshakable integrity. We are supposed to be narrow-minded in one sense when it comes to God's word and will... that does not mix well with "politics." I am still just as passionate about "issues," and following the mandate of God's Word when it comes to ANY area of life (How cool is that-- because Scripture is God-breathed, it is applicable to every area of life, even politics thousands of years later). But I also must stop myself from exchanging politics with the Gospel.

Let me clarify: The Gospel = "good news"= the news that God became a man, lived perfectly on earth, died under the wrath of God according to a pre-made plan, and then rose in victory and power 3 days later, all in order to pay for the sins of all who trust in that death, and that death alone, to save them. All who call on Christ to save them become united to Him, and so get the blessing, smile and inheritance of God that HE alone deserves. Those people are indwelt with the very Spirit of God and are adopted into His family, so of course now they WANT to obey Him and please the One who has not held anything back in love for them. It's pretty all-encompassing. It affects every single facet and moment of your life.

That's the rub for me. Because politics touches so many areas of our daily lives, from how fast we drive to where our tax goes to what our attitude towards immigrants are to where our kids go to school, it is close to the Gospel. So I want to make it perfect; I want to make it into a gospel to my liking. The difference is that it offers no true hope. Sure, it can make life a lot easier or difficult here on earth. It can oppress or set free in many capacities. But it cannot make you have peace with God. It cannot give you hope to get you through anything this fallen world may throw at you. It cannot fix your broken heart. Laws are powerless, really.

So I must channel my passion into the One Thing that DOES save and mend and dictate life, life Eternal: the Gospel. I'm thankful for a True Hope-- the Gospel. I've said a lot about our nation, our president, and our politics. I want to say even more about Jesus Christ. I do want to challenge all of you who are Christians reading these words, wherever or whenever you are: are your political views clearly flowing out of Scriptural principles? You may not see eye to eye with me on how they play out, but are you consciously, prayerfully, making Scripture even the mandate of your political opinions? And are you treating and speaking of your "opponents" gently, respectfully and as you would like to be treated/spoken of? We are to do all things in gentleness and respect, lest we shame the name of our Savior. And the enemy is never the other political opinion; the enemy is the Prince of the World, Satan, who is the Father of Lies. May I stand firm and "destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," first and foremost in my own heart! (2 Cor. 10:5)

The Christians living in Rome under a serious of often- delusional rulers, the Caesars (think Emperor Nero), were told to "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. ...For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer." (Rom 13) This is NERO we're talking about. Talk about oppressive, downright insane politics! Yet they are told to honor him, and to view the Roman authorities as agents of God's goodness! I'm thankful for God's sovereignty, and His faithfulness throughout the ages!

Ultimately, we have a King, not a President. We have a Supreme Judge, not a Supreme Court. We have the Laws of God, not those of Congress. Way more demanding... and way more comforting. If we are in Christ, all things work for our good. Even our own death is for our good. And our beloved Ruler will in the end be clearly seen as THE Champion of all time. As much as Obama supporters rejoiced when "their candidate" won, untold thousands times deeper and purer will be the joy that resounds through the heart of His saints when Christ ascends His throne forever. Fix your eyes and feast on THAT!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Very Good Article

Please take the time to read the following article. It is very well-thought-out and expressed; not difficult to read at all. In light of past politics, it is terrifying... if I did not cling to my faith in a good, ultimately Sovereign God, then I would be packing and moving to Greenland right now.

For anyone who is scratching their heads over why the heck I get so passionate about this issue, read the following blog posts(1, 2, 3) by my friend, Matt Foreman, a pastor and preacher in Media, PA.

And lastly, do know that I will honor the Office of President of this nation, regardless of who holds it. I will be praying often that the Lord Jesus would reveal Himself to President Obama, and do what He does whenever He savingly meets someone face to face: completly, radically change his habits, his desires, his fears, and his joys. God can do it! Amen!

"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord ; He turns it wherever He will. " Prov 21:1

More on Little Malachi

Thank you to all who prayed, and are praying. Please KEEP praying!

This bit of news broke my heart: Malachi's birth parents both want Malachi to be with the Michael & Lisa, but in Wednesday's court session their parental rights were taken away. Malachi's birth mother was at the hearing and cried throughout the court session. (Can you imagine being a birth mother, crying because you don't want your child raised by the ones adopting him?)

The judge will be the one to decide whether Michael & Lisa can even attempt to adopt Malachi. If the judge says they cannot try to adopt Malachi, the case will be closed and Malachi will be adopted by the Lesbian couple. If she says they can attempt to adopt him, they will have to wait for another court date about the removal of Malachi from the lesbian couple and his being brought back to them. The one positive thing which happened in the court session was that Malachi's guardian ad litem recommended that Malachi be placed back in a "traditional home" to prevent long-term damage to him. When the judge indicated that she wanted more time to go over the paperwork, she did not give any indication about when she would make her decision known.

The family, including my friends Travis & Jennifer, requests that we continue praying that God would have mercy on Malachi and bring him back to be raised by His people in a God-fearing and faith-based home.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST-- FUTURE OF A BABY BOY AT STAKE!

One of my friend (Travis)'s parents, Michael & Lisa, fostered a baby boy, Malachi, for a year (Malachi is now about a year and a half old). Then about 6 months ago DSS told them they had a couple who wanted to adopt Malachi, so took they baby to be with them. However, DSS virtually lied to Michael and Lisa by giving them the impression that this was a regular married couple when in fact it is a homosexual couple. DSS knew that Michael and Lisa would not approve of a same-sex couple. Michael and Lisa have taken legal measures to have Malachi returned to them so they can adopt him. Today, November 5, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm Michael & Lisa have a hearing at Family Court. Pray that the court will award Malachi to them.

Please stop and pray right now, that God will have mercy on this child, and also on the gay couple who wished to adopt him, that they might meet the only One who can satisfy their souls!

Grieving the Election, Trusting God's Providence

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8:38-39

And may God have mercy on our nation...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Why I Will Never Vote for ANY Pro-choice Politician (any level)



My reasons...

Firstly because I believe the legalized, systemized killing in cold-blood of thousands of innocents every year is murder, and thererfore have a HUGE problem endorsing anyone who will not work to end it (or at least allow individual states to end it). The Bible is so clear about life beginning at conception. It is equally clear about our responsibility to preserve life-- especially human life, because man is made in the Image of God. "You shall not kill" as everyone knows. Abortion could scarcely be called "loving your neighbor as yourself," now could it?

Secondly, I do not want a man willing to stand for the slaughter of the most defenseless as the head of my government, the chief of my military, or any elected official whose policies will affect me or those I love. The military creed is to defend the weak and fight for the helpless. Abortion does just the opposite, preying not only upon the unborn but upon the scared, hurting and usually confused women whom it promises to help. It doesn't. (Just a few resources, here and here.)1 As a crisis pregnancy counselor I've never met a woman who wasn't hurt in one way or another by an abortion she had, some physically (they are often linked to uterine damage, which itself leads to later sterility), all emotionally, carrying immense guilt and self-hatred. One of the most wonderful things I have ever seen is women with post-abortion-trauma come to find forgiveness for their abortion in Christ as they realize that the murder of their son (or daughter) wasn't the worst crime they've committed: by their sin they've murdered the very Son of God (Jesus in the Cross), and God is willing to forgive them for both...just as He is willing to forgive every sinner rebelling against Him and therefore just as disgusting and wretched in His eyes as a serial muderer.

I wanted to explain why abortion matters so much to me and other Christians. I hope you'll think about it, long and hard. It is especially harmful to black Americans, with a disproportionate amount of abortions terminating black pregnancies than white or Hispanic. Some have called it "Black Genocide." We have an ever-growing number of bi-racial or African-American adopted children in our church, and we rejoice to see them saved from death and raised in loving homes.

If you'd like to think more about this, or if you're wondering if abortion really deserves the front-and-center spotlight many christians give it, this sermon and resulting correspondance from Covenant Life Church (Pastor Josh Harris) may help.
--Christina

1) one especially striking quote: "As the medical data above reveal, more than three decades of legal abortion have not made the procedure much safer—women are still dying or suffering serious harm. Even Warren Hern, noted abortionist and author of Abortion Practice, a leading medical textbook, writes, "[There are few surgical procedures given so little attention and so underrated in its potential hazard as abortion.""

2) Abortion is actually a way men oppress women, rather than liberating them: "So while "pro-choice" feminists hail abortion as the symbol of women's sexual freedom and equality, the ordinary young woman may find no such liberation when she has sex with her date, thinking, as women are prone to do, that sex will bind the two emotionally. Instead, when he doesn't share the depth of her feelings and then hands her $400 for the abortion when she becomes pregnant, it's not only her heart that's broken. She alone has to live with the possible short-term and long-term medical consequences of the abortion for the rest of her life. For many women, "reproductive freedom" has meant that women continue to negotiate all that comes with reproduction while men enjoy the freedom of sex without consequences." ~Erika Bachiochi

The Election Tomorrow...

Two articles from two men whom I respect:
An Article by Singer-Songwriter Derek Webb- "How Shall We Then Vote?"

A Word from Dr. John Piper, one of my favorite theologians, writers & pastors:

See Romans 2 for an explanation of why Dr. Piper might say "the abortion IS the judgement, the gay-rights activism IS the judgement..."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thoughts from Book Club

At our book club yesterday our discussion centered on the book Wives and Daughters. Two things came up which relate to godly womanhood, particularly in light of the Christian culture in which we now live. Two issues which at time seem to lack balance in our day.

The first is that the "Proverbs 31 woman" is an IDEAL woman-- she never existed, and never will. She's the perfect wife whose traits young men are told to look for in their future wives. That takes a lot of the discouragement and pressure off of us! We are told in Eph 5:22 to submit to our OWN husbands, which means that each wife's godly, good submission will look a little different. We might be embodying some of all the godly traits that the "Prov 31 Woman" personified, and each look different, because we're each married to different guys, and we're each submitting to very-different them.

The second issue was the topic of personal interests in the context of marriage. One of the wives in our book, Mrs. Hamley, is a wonderful wife and mother, yet she is so described:

"He had married a delicate fine London lady; it was one of those perplexing marriages of which one cannot understand the reasons. Yet they were very happy, though possibly Mrs Hamley would not have sunk into the condition of a chronic invalid, if her husband had cared a little more for her various tastes, or allowed her the companionship of those who did. After his marriage he was wont to say he had got all that was worth having out of that crowd of houses they called London. It was a compliment to his wife which he repeated until the year of her death; it charmed her at first, it pleased her up to the last time of her hearing it; but, for all that, she used sometimes to wish that he would recognize the fact that there might still be something worth hearing and seeing in the great city. But he never went there again, and though he did not prohibit her going, yet he showed so little sympathy with her when she came back full of what she had done on her visit that she ceased caring to go. Not but what he was kind and willing in giving his consent, and in furnishing her amply with money. 'There, there, my little woman, take that! Dress yourself up as fine as any on 'em, and buy what you like, for the credit of Hamley of Hamley; and go to the park and the play, and show off with the best on 'em. I shall be glad to see thee back again, I know; but have thy fling while thou art about it.' Then when she came back it was, 'Well, well, it has pleased thee, I suppose, so that's all right. But the very talking about it tires me, I know, and I can't think how you have stood it all. Come out and see how pretty the flowers are looking in the south garden. I've made them sow all the seeds you like; and I went over to Hollingford nursery to buy the cuttings of the plants you admired last year. A breath of fresh air will clear my brain after listening to all this talk about the whirl of London, which is like to have turned me giddy.'

Mrs Hamley was a great reader, and had considerable literary taste. She was gentle and sentimental; tender and good. She gave up her visits to London; she gave up her sociable pleasure in the company of her fellows in education and position. Her husband, [...] loved his wife all the more dearly for her sacrifices for him; but, deprived of all her strong interests, she sank into ill-health; nothing definite; only she never was well."

~Wives and Daughters, Chapter 4, by Elizabeth Gaskell (wonderful read-- http://www.online-literature.com/elizabeth_gaskell/wives_daughters/)

That lead to a discussion on wives constantly/willingly sacrificing their own interests, hobbies or friends for the sake of a husband or child's preference, not just in some matters, but in every or most, or even in the ones that are deep-felt. One of my friends, a very godly wife and mother herself, mentioned how her sister had just had to speak to her husband about this-- as the mother of a very young boy (so far the only one) while her husband pastors and pursues his Phd, she was finding little time to read, get out or do anything on her own. She respectfully pointed out to her husband that as their son grew up, he would respect his father as a man, because of his character, and also because of his learning and experience-- her husband is and would become even more of a well-rounded, well-grounded, articulate man. She told him that she wanted her son to also have a mother whom he could respect and relate to as a complete person, a beautiful Imago Dei. I thought that really crystallized the point. A wife devoid of any interests or hobbies that make her unique is not only boring, but not really respectable. At times, it seems, the love of husband and child may lead a wife and mother to hold withold some time or money from her family, and with their blessing use it to edify or enjoy herself. (I mean, come on, what guy sets out to marry a boring woman?)

Even more importantly, it seems the glory of God is at stake. As Eric Liddell (Olympic gold medalist, then missionary to China-- he died there as a martyr) put it, "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure!" God has made each of us to reflect His Image, and not all of us reflect that in the same way. When we EACH glorify God, we have unity, but not homogenity. Ecclesiastes seems to flesh this out-- over and over the writer comes back to "Remember your Creator, keeping His commands, and as you do, be glad in what God's given you to do, seek joys that please you, because in so doing you are glorifying God." "The glory of God is a man fully alive," Ireneus said. The second half of that quote completes it: "moreover man's life is the vision of God."

Let us be women with eyes full of God, living out our lives FULLY alive and joyful. Let us fully explore each talent, interest or perspective God has given us, with the ultimate goal being for everything to go back to God: for our joy to move us to praise God, and for our sucess to move others to marvel at what God has made. Both of these points to us seemed to be a little bit lacking in many Christian-calls-to-wifehood. As we seek to do our husbands good, and to serve them and our children, we are not called to be cookie-cutter doormats, or insipid smiling servants with no interests of our own. The Lord has not called us to that. He has called us to die to our flesh, yes, but in doing that we are more free than ever to serve Him with and find joy in honing our unique, God-given gifts. We will better be able to use them to serve the church that way, as Rom 12 and 1 Peter 4 call us to do.

Thoughts?

Joyful and thankful for His grace, which has redeemed my every joy,

--Christina

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Last Word

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;
95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

--Martin Luther's 95 Thesis

"When they [Paul and Barnabus] had preached the Gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:21-22)

"I [Jesus the Messiah] have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Press on, my friends!

"A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing.../...more happy, but not more secure the glorified spirits in Heaven..." ("A Debtor to Mercy Alone" by Augustus Toplady, vv 1 & 4)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

"Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite ("Repent ye"- Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:15, repeated by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:38), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.
2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.
3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven."

The thesis go on to explain why this puts the system of "indulgences" out of line with Scripture, because if Christians are going to be repenting daily until they reach Heaven, then they can't buy a pardon with money. Indulgences are supposed to be pardons bought by a believer to short-cut your penance time on earth after repenting to a priest, and/or to short-cut your time in purgatory. As important as that debate was, and still is (this all flows out of unBiblical doctrines of the need for penance and purgatory...the ways you can get indulgences are just as unBiblical, often having nothing to do with living a lifestyle of repentance, and, it's just not prescribed in Scripture, no matter how systemized it's become now, and it has), my favorite thesis are these first four.

They comfort me because they remind me that I'm supposed to have to keep repenting! I'm SUPPOSED to! I will always have sin in my life and heart to confess and of which to repent. The Lord's justification is complete, but His sanctification of me won't be until I wake up dead (woohoo!). This is so encouraging to this "Sad Moralist" (read Elyse Fitzpatrick's Because He Loves Me, chapter 7) because I tend to get depressed at how much sin I still see in myself!

They convict and spur me on because they remind me that I MUST be repenting and confessing, not just sliding along, doing what I've always been doing.

Praise God for His mercy and grace which chose ME before the foundations of the world to be adopted into His family, as His daughter!! Not because of anything good I'd done (because...I um,... really haven't done anything good. Anything good I've done has been since being converted, and well, that was all Him! Gal 2:20), but just because He's good. And praise God for His continued mercy and forgiveness, as I daily must and should repent, and daily am forgiven!! No penance or wallowing in guilt is needed... instead, as Luther pointed out, a repentant heart will overflow into changed actions! Lastly, praise God for His continued keeping and love for His Bride, the Church. He is committed to making her pure and spotless, by the washing of the Word and Spirit through all the ages until He comes to marry her (Eph 5:27). We sure have a lot of ground left to cover, but He has never abandoned us!!! Amen!
Edit: Excellent, clear, helpful article on what defined "Catholic" and "Reformed" Doctrine in the 16th century.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I Am Excited About Reformation Day Coming Up

Quite a few people have a really bad opinion of "calvinism," either because the idea of a Sovereign God irks them, or they've been taught that God values man's free will supremely, or because they just find John Calvin a tough character to love. (I myself can identify with that last group-- I far prefer Martin Luther as Reformers go =D) Many people who react negatively to "Calvinism" haven't really searched the Scriptures to see if it's true or not; they've been taught or told that "Calvinists" are a bunch of anti-missions radicals. Several in my own family were this way. As a result, I don't usually label my theology "Calvinistic." Besides the knee-jerk reaction many give, the title is misleading: I don't follow some system a guy named Calvin made up. Rather, I have built my life upon the truths which he happened to catalogue before anyone else did. Calvin didn't invent Calvinism, and he didn't have a corner on believing it, either. With minor variations in practice, Luther, Zwingli, Knox and others writing, preaching & studying in the 16th century read Scripture and found the same Truth. Nowadays the usual term is "Reformed Theology," because this understanding of the Gospel aquired its distinctive characteristics during the Reformation. One last reason I don't usually call myself a "Calvinist" is that most people assume Calvinism is only embraced by paedobaptists (baby-baptizers), because Calvin was a Presbyterian. Heheh-- there IS a such thing as a Reformed Baptist! Until the 19th Century, ALL Baptists were "reformed!"

Name it what you will, I love the Gospel as Calvin catalogued it. The Gospel as the Apostles taught it. The Gospel as Christ (God the Son) preached it.

Spurgeon (the "Prince of Preachers" in his day) says it way better than I could. This quote made my heart leap for joy, and want to share it with you all. Reformation Day is on Friday, and you better believe I'll be building up to it in cyberspace!! :)

"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what is nowadays called "Calvinism." It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel…unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the Cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called."
~Charles Spurgeon C.H. Spurgeon: The Early Years

Monday, October 27, 2008

Edjumacation at its Best

This is incredibly sad...

The saddest part is that these people WILL vote, and likely a lot of people are just as clueless as these 3 were. Some people will vote for McCain because they don't want a black person, others will vote because they want a female VP, and others will vote for Obama for the exact opposite reasons-- they WANT a black person... regardless of each potential-president's policies, view, voting record, or character. This clip also demonstrates the complete power of the press in our nation-- if a person on "the news" says something, many people will just think it's true, with no research or questioning of the newscaster's bias at all.

Please, don't be like these.

Think, pray, evaluate, research... THEN vote.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lift Up the Suffering Symbol-- and Only Him

Our pastor for preaching, Ryan Fullerton, is preaching a series through Galatians right now. Today's message was particularly good-- or maybe my heart was particularly prepared for it. I've been thinking a lot about "the Gospel" and clear presentations of it, between my middle school girls Bible Study, my pre-school class, disciplining the children in my choirs when I need to, keeping it central in my own heart, and perhaps especially in the "Christianity Explained" study I'm leading two friends through-- one is Sherry, whom you've met before, and who is a wonderful encouragement to me in it, but the other friend is an unbeliever from an unchurched background. All these have tuned my ear to clear, simple, powerful presentations of how a person is reconciled to God. Praise the Lord, they are ALL OVER Scripture!!! (I will bring this back to today's sermon, I promise. Just bear with me in the meantime. =D)

As any of you who've read my blog before know, I love stories. One which came to my attention as a WONDERFUL picture of the Gospel is the story of the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. The Israelites sinned horribly against the Lord by AGAIN grumbling and complaining against Him, doubting His goodness and promises. God sent "fiery serpents" to chastize them; He is just and holy and does not let sin go unpunished. It's so clear that we are just like the Isrealites, deserving exactly the same sort of judgement they got. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved them, made a way out: He instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and nail it to a pole, and lift it high so all the people could see it. Anyone who looked at the bronze serpent, the very symbol of their suffering, as Michael Card points out, would be healed. Jesus himself viewed this as critical to understanding His own mission on earth: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15) What a clear, concrete picture of saving faith: simply, and only looking away from yourself because you know you are dying, justly and mortally wounded, and looking towards Someone else to save you. That's all. And that's everything. (Elyse Fitzpatrick really presses this home in chapter 6 of Because He Loves Me, which I HIGHLY recommend.) This story has been so sweet to me, and I hope it is to you, too. But two things have come out of my meditations and musings, which I hope to pass on to you:
1. Saving faith has obvious results. The Israelites who looked at the Bronze Snake in faith were HEALED! It was that obvious. Have faith, be healed. Don't, die. So it is with us. Our faith must be proven by radical obedience, by a leaving of sin because we hate it now! Those who are raised to life by faith in Christ will not live like dead men anymore! Faith=Fruits. This is the point I want to press to my friend, who as of now still is loving her sin (as far as I can tell), though she claims to be looking in faith to Jesus Christ. There's no visible healing of her soul. Please pray for me as I tell her this, and for her, that the Lord would open her eyes and allow her to judge herself, before He does!! "Faithful are the wounds of a friend..." Wouldn't I rather have a friend judge me by my fruits, and tell me in time to truly repent, than to be judged by the Judge on the Last Day, and too late hear "depart from Me, I never knew you!"? (Read Matt. 7 for more on "Judging", espec. vv 15-23)

2. Only Christ is to be lifted up to be looked to for salvation. There was nothing in the actual symbol of the Serpent to be adored- later Israel made this very symbol of the Messiah an object of worship, an idol, and they were again chastized by the One True God, the Jealous God (2 Kings 8:14). God the Son (Jesus the Christ) is the only One Whose lifting-up is able to draw men to Himself (Jn. 12:32). This relates to the previous point, and to the sermon this morning, in this way: every person's faith will be shown by his or her works, and sometimes, we will all stumble and need to be rebuked. Even believers, whose lives are clearly characterized by fruit of the Spirit will at times bear bad fruit; the old man dies hard. We heard this morning about how the Apostle Paul had to confront the Apostle Peter to his face on a very serious issue (listen to the sermon!!! It is so encouraging! and helpful!, from Gal. 2:11-14). The Apostle PETER!!!! The guy who spent years walking, talking and eating with Jesus Himself! The guy who was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, the one who was so bold before the Sanhedrin and the rulers of Jerusalem!! The guy who preached at Pentecost (Acts 2) and saw 3000 saved at once! Yeah, THAT guy. If HE can fall and need public rebuking (which he did, oh so clearly)... so can I. So can anyone. We all stumble in various ways, James wrote, and we all need friends to "wound" us at times, holding us the standard to which Christ has called us. Dude, the whole book of Galatians is to a church that was living quite out of line with the Gospel. A whole church needed a sound rebuking! Hear me, my friends: NO man-- not a bishop, cardinal, or pope-- is infallible. Nowhere in Scripture is that stated. (Come on, Peter, supposedly the first pope, an inspired author of Scripture!!, needed to be rebuked. He was not infallible!)* Do not follow anyone completely, unquestioningly, except Christ. He is the Only One whose lifting up brings salvation. NO author, no preacher, no president, no speaker, no church-planter, is infallible. We ALL stumble in various ways. We all need prayer, need rebuking, need encouraging, need "checking up on." We all need to be weighing each other's counsel against Scripture, constantly. Do it!

And the good news? When we are all singing our praises to Jesus, and tuning to His Word, we all will sing in wonderful, united harmony. Amen? Amen!

*If you want extra-Scriptural proof that Papal Infallibility is a false doctrine, you need look no further than Church History! Read more here. I don't jump on board with the author's every view, but this paper is very helpful on this issue.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We've Been Out Adventuring

Well, I'm about to fall asleep and drool all over the keys (which Ryan would not like), so this is brief. If you didn't know, Ryan & I took a road trip last weekend up to Pennsylvania, and got back Monday. I went to work Tuesday, and our parents (Szrama side) came to visit later that evening. They've been here all week, and we've been doing stuff... miraculous events are taking place all around our home-- like stuff getting cleaned and fixed; it's amazing! =D Anyway, not much time to blog between company and me still working every day and trying to stay healthy. I did finally put together two photo albums from our trip:

The Wedding
(2nd Szrama Wedding in as many years! Everyone kept joking that Ryan & I'd given them a really good rehearsal last year, so they knew all about the pictures and the walking in and out. His dad even got to blow the shofar again.).

Other pictures
.

Enjoy!

Last Days of Indian Summer

or, what to do with lots of tomatoes... :)

Mid-September, and our garden was still going (or growing?) strong! Now that it's mid-October, it's starting to finally slow down, but there was a time when I had more tomatos than we could eat up as salad or in sandwiches. I mean, they were coming from our garden, our CSA, and friends who knew we liked tomatoes! I didn't really want to make the mess of salsa, or spend the time nursing the stove while I cooked them down into spaghetti sauce (which I'd already done twice). I wanted to use what we had without going to the store, so dinner it would be. Here are three recipies we loved (of course the massive, vine-ripened juciness of our tomatoes added to the flavor...):

    Baked Whole Eggplant, from The Joy of Cooking

    1. Preheat oven to 375.

    2. 4 oblong eggplants, ~6 oz e. (halved lengthwise)
    Score the cut curface with a knife without cutting through the skin.

    3. Heat in a large skillet unitl hot: 1/4 c. EVOO. Add eggplants cut side down. Reduce heat, cook until golden (~5 min). Turn and cook on other side for several minutes.

    4. Remove & arrange cut side up top to tail in shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with ground black pepper, 3 oz. crumbled feta cheese.

    5. Wipe out skillet and heat 2 t EVOO. Add 4 plum tomatoes, (peeled- I didn't) & chopped. Cook, stirring until broken into a rough sace (5-10 min). I added fresh rosemary and chives at this point. Season with real sea salt & ground black pepper.

    6. Spoon tomatoes over eggplants. Cover and bake until eggplants are tender (about 35 min). Uncover and sprinkle the tops with 1/2 t dried oregano. Bake for 5 min. more

    Tomatoes Broiled with Feta Cheese, adapted from Joy of Cooking

    Preheat the broiler. Lightly oil glass pie plate.

    1. Halve crosswise (across the equator) 4 med. ripe tomatoes. Arrange cut side up on dish.

    2. Sprinkle with 4 oz. crumbled feta (blue, gorgonzola or other veined cheese would work too). 1 t dried oregano (or 2 t fresh, or marjoram). Drizzle EVOO on top.

    3. Broil about 6" from heat until cheese has begun to brown (~7 min.) Serve hot! :)

    Fried Green Tomatoes, Gluten-Free Version

    1. Cut 6 large green tomatoes crosswise into 1/2" slices.

    2. Combine rice flour (1/2 cornmeal if you have it on hand- I didn't), dried or fresh parsley, dried or fresh thyme, paprika, ground pepper and sea salt.

    3. Dip slices 1 at a time into milk, then coat both sides with the cornmeal mixture..

    4. Heat (a lot) of olive oil. Add as many tomatoes as will fit into a single layer. Fry until golden and crisp, turning once. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes, adding oil as needed. Serve immediately with garlic mayonnaise. ENJOY!! The garlic mayo makes it. Crush a clove into 2 T of mayo (safflower for me), more or less depending on how strong you want it.

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Go See It

    I don't want to miss time with my family, so this is brief as can be, but it ought to be said:


    Go see Fireproof. More later... in the meantime, go see it. It's so refreshing to see a movie that leaves you ENCOURAGED!

    Love,
    a very happy, thankful wife,

    --Christina

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Happy Birthdays!

    From Yesterday, October 10th:

    Courtney Lin Elder, my sweet little sister-in-law, now 17!!

    With cousins Kasey & Kelly (she's the one in blue)
    We love you so much, Courtney, and are so proud of you. Remember every time that Ryan torments you that he does it because he adores you. :)


    Today, October 11th:
    Karina Ruiz Thompson (nee Vera Karina Ruiz Cabrera),
    my darling Mommy, turning the big 5-0!!
    She & my dad at my wedding last August
    As you can see, she is still and always gorgeous.

    I know this isn't the greatest picture of her, but I love it because it shows her doing what she so often does, and does so well: be a mother to others. Doesn't matter if you're 4 or 14 or 24; she'll love you, listen to, feed you and set you straight. :) We your children arise and call you blessed, Mom.

    Courtney Ruiz Weber, turning 14 today!
    A Ruiz family group shot from August, at my cousin Heath's graduation (he's front and center-- we are all so proud of him! She's the beautiful tall brown one to the far left.)
    I was Courtney's nanny for a full summer when she was about 6, and her & Justin's babysitter until I left for college. You will always be special to me, always "my baby" because I have loved you and helped care for you so many times. I can't believe you are so tall and grown-up. Just the other day you were ecstatic at being "as tall as [my] leg!" I miss you and pray for you all the time. May you continue to grow to be a beautiful woman inside and out... one made beautiful because she is hoping in God as she submits to the authority in her life.
    (1 Peter 3]

    Guess Who Showed Up!???

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Arrived in Altoona, PA

    My brother(in law) Greg gets married on Sunday to Miss Kendi Tremmel, so here we are in a corner of the country heretofore unexplored by the SzramaClan! While I'm thrilled for Greg & Kendi, and am thrilled to have another sister (yay for girls outnumbering boys at holidays, hehehe)... I must say I'm relishing my last 2 days as Courtney's favorite sister-in-law, and the favorite daughter-in-law... ;) No seriously, we cannot WAIT to see everyone and to get to witness God's goodness in action as He brings Greg & Kendi together for the rest of their lives!!! He is so kind!

    Ryan & I enjoyed a BEAUTIFUL drive up from Louisville, through lovely fall colors and rolling hills, and over lots of rivers. The only thing I could have asked for was a less warm day! (I was dressed in long sleeves). We enjoyed the whole drive, complete with good music and Starbucks treats (compliments of my students' families)... honey sticks (nothing like raw honey to give you that extra "umph")... nice fast food... and the prettiest rest stops I've ever seen! I am really enjoying Wives and Daughters which is our Book Club's selection this month. Someone has called it the "most underrated novel in the English language," and I quite agree! It's like Jane Austen, but faster-paced, and the characters provide some "I've got to read this aloud" funny parts. Speaking of reading aloud, we finished CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet as we got into dark Pennsylvania... that was right about where the driving got slooooow, circuituous and construction-y. :( But we made it without incident! Here we are in our room:
    We are sad because we are so tired...

    Me keeping Ryan from taking over the world... I mean room


    Better view of our actual room. Man I want to go to bed so badly!


    P.S. I am also modeling several of my birthday gifts.... dude, I am one decked-out-for-fall chick this season! I love it! That's the Clemson shirt from Anna, the silver chain necklace from Grandma P., the headband from Mama Lulu, and the new glasses I got from you, Mom!! THANK YOU ALL!! We marvel at the Lord's provision through you!

    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Support a Local School!

    Click here to vote to support a nearby public elementary school. We certainly need the money around here! Vote for the one in Louisville, KY.

    You can vote once a day, every day!

    Trying to love our community,
    --Christina