Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Envelope Day TODAY!

Send your red envelopes today!

We sent 3 from our home-- one from Ryan, one from me, and one from our unborn child. I remember a story from my childhood, The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. It's a plea of one on behalf of many-- in this story, truffula trees-- in the face of danger. The trees are being sawn down ruthlessly because their tops can be used to make very profitable products. They are losing their lives for money, for convenience, for another's gain. This story always stuck with me as a powerful argument, not just for caring for our environment, which it certainly is, but as a wonderful argument against abortion. So many of the arguments against irresponsibly, selfishly sowing destruction in our world could and should be used against irresponsibly, selfishly sowing destruction against our own wombs. If it is wrong to cut down a tree merely for your own convenience or gain (and to a certain extent, I believe it is!), how much more so to take a human life for your own convenience or gain!

"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."

"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." (Prov. 31:8-9)
"May He defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!" (Ps. 72:4)
Amen!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Malachi Update

for some of you who asked, here's what I know of his case:

"The guardian ad litem for little Malachi has said that he would make a motion before the courts that Malachi be moved to a foster home where he would benefit from a male roll model and be allowed to develop mentally and emotionally in regard to gender identity. (After being taken from his foster home under false pretences, Malachi was placed with Lesbian foster parents.) The guardian ad litem also wants a specialist to come from out-of-town to testify at the hearing. The eventual outcome of this case could affect future guidelines for all adoptions in South Carolina. Pray that the guardian ad litem will be courageously firm in what he has said he will do, for the expert to be willing to come to testify and for a judge who is as fair and unbiased as possible to hear this case. Pray for the outcome of this matter, for the sake of Malachi, and for other children who will be adopted in the future."

Red Envelope Day Tomorrow

...just a reminder! Tomorrow's the big day- don't let it slip past you!

Pray for Abby

Jenna (almost 5!!) with her partner-in-crime

John reading to Jenna & Abby

Me with my welcoming comittee-- every school morning I'd be greeted with exuberant "Nina! Hi! Nina! Hi!" I'll miss that.

Abby, who has lived with my friends Dave & Sina since a few days after her birth-- some of that time along with her birth mother-- and has been their foster daughter for about a year, went back to live with her birth mom last Friday. This is a hard transition for everyone, and all parties involved need much grace. Abby's birthmom has since had another little girl, "Baby Emy" as Abby calls her, and you moms can imagine the difficulty of caring for a toddler AND an infant alone! Pray that she will be a godly mom to her girls, and will establish a life for them based on God's word and full of the fellowship of a Gospel-loving church.

Abigail has no idea what's going on, which broke my heart the last time I saw her. She walked around naming everything in her secure little world, with no clue that come a few hours she'd probably never see any of those things again. Of course she'll get over the transition and won't even remember it in a few years, I'm sure, but still, it's hard to watch kids go through things they can't understand and you couldn't explain to them if you tried. The Shueys will be moving on in life as it was before Abigail came to live with them-- back to three children, no toddler to confine, no screaming baby at the dinner table. Of course, there isn't really a "going back to life without" because once you've had life WITH, you know nothing's ever quite the same again. So please pray for them all-- the kids will be fine, but despite all their complaining about their little foster sister at times (who doesn't complain about siblings??), they love her very much and will miss her. Most of all, please pray for Abigail, that she will always grow up hearing of Christ and His Love. Pray that she will come to trust Him as Savior at a very early age, and that she will be surrounded by godly examples as she grows up. Pray this for her baby sister, too.

We all want God's glory to be done in this situation-- that's why Dave & Sina took Abigail and her mom into their home in the first place, and why they took on full-time care of Abby later. We want God's love to be displayed before an unloving world, and it has been. We hope and pray that the fruit of all their self-sacrifice and hard obedience will be eternal souls saved to honor a God they now despise. Whose souls? We don't know-- we hope Abigail, her family, her sister, and even Dave & Sina's own children. All of them have seen God's love incarnated, and all have seen God sustain. Many others are witnesses of this, too. Lord, You have sent out laborers into Your harvest-- let them reap a bountiful crop! Amen!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pregnancy Update

Well, Mommy's moved on from just feeling nauseated 'round the clock to actually vomiting most days. Who said second trimester got better??? There are some days that I get a massive headache and then can't keep water down... I'm hoping we figure out what triggers or alleviates those so I can not have them anymore! Lately my biggest constant companion is a sore throat from all the regurgitation. Lovely, isn't it? Also, unfortunately the liver seems to be no help against this wave of sickness. I guess it bought me 3 months, though. When things are worst, Ryan's always so sweet and just rubs my back and holds me and gets me water or anything that might possibly help, and I remember that the Lord will give me strength to outlast all of this, even if it does last all 5+ months to go.

On a positive note, I have found gluten-free bagels (Glutino brand)!!! They're relatively inexpensive at Meijer!! I haven't eaten bagels in 5 years (since being diagnosed with Celiac's), and the prospect of a warm toasted sesame bagel topped with TONS of cream cheese and dill was just too good to pass up. So far, my tummy loves them, so I am downin' 'em! This baby will come out looking like eggs, bananas and bagels, at this rate! :) I also splurged and grabbed a gluten-free frozen Amy's Pizza... the less time spent smelling food while I cook, the better! I've come to appreciate convenience foods in a whole new way, lol.

Baby Herself is about the size of an apple this week, with a newly developed sensitivity to light. Apparently if I shine a flashlight into my belly she'll shy away! Last week we learned the baby would scoot away if poked, so we've been having fun poking my belly and imagining a tiny child swimming away inside. The preschoolers especially enjoy doing this, and since the belly's right at eye-level for them, it's especially cute! Our baby weighs about 2 1/2 ounces! Supposedly I'm supposed to have gained 5 lbs... maybe I've gained 2? Not that I'm worried-- I'm sure the baby is getting whatever he or she needs outta me! My next appointment is next week, after a week of Spring Break, and then, the next visit... we find out whether our firstborn is a son or a daughter!

I'm still enjoying swimming (when I'm feeling well enough to get to the seminary pool), and always feel much better after going. I wonder if the baby can tell when I'm in water... :)

Blessed Already!


So it started even before Ryan & I were even thinking about trying to become Mommy & Daddy... my Aunt Robin (lives in Nashville, 3 adorable kids, if you needed a refresher) gave us these three baby items "just for whenever" because her youngest, baby Jack (Ryan's birthday buddy) had outgrown them. Our first items of baby gear, then, for those of you less familiar with such things, were a bouncy seat (VERY useful because you can bounce a fussy baby with a foot when all else fails), a boppy pillow (for nursing), and a sling. I already know I'll be a baby-wearer, so I'm pretty stoked to try out the sling...

Our friends Jenny & Aaron supplied our first baby furniture-- a bassinet! Their baby Jane outgrew it right about the time we told them we were new parents, too! Perfect timing, huh? We've set it up in a corner of our bedroom, and are using it to store the little things we're already receiving for Baby Szrama.
Like... BOOKS! My mom ("Nina" as she will be called) has already started a library for her first grandchild. The Baby Einstein book is in five languages (plus an Esperanto translation by Lyle) and "Le Petit Prince" is an abbreviated version of one of Ryan's and my favorite books, in French! Mom knew how much Ryan liked it and picked it up last time she & my Dad were in France. The Valentine book is one Ryan gave me our first Valentine's Day together... or rather, apart. I was in Italy at the time... :)
Fun bath stuff-- the sign homemade by a very craftsy Tia Nicole (my middle sister), and the washcloth set a Valentine's Day present from Nina. :)

This arrived just last week from my mom, with contributions from my mom (and some picked out by Nicole), my grandmother -"Mama Peggy," -Aunt Robin, and my Aunt Virginia (my Mom's youngest sister)... it's so cool to have aunts who have just now finished having kids, because they are so generous to pass on cool stuff to me! So far I've worn two of the pants... one pair is currently my favorite pair of pants ever! Whaddya know-- Nicole picked 'em out! I was AMAZED at how much Mom crammed into that little box! It was like my birthday or something!

And our baby's latest gift, from his/her Aunt Kendi & Uncle Greg --Ryan's brother & his wife. Kendi is a BIG-TIME crafts woman, and surprised me with this wonderful baby afghan by mail yesterday! It was especially touching because I'd spent quite a miserable day due to Baby the day before, and was still not feeling well. When this came in the mail, I remembered WHY I'm going through all this: to have a sweet little Szrama to wrap up in blankets like this. And that makes it all worth it!


We are so blessed! Praise to the Giver of all good gifts!
--the 3 Szramas of Louisville
p.s. See more pictures at my Facebook album.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Star Wars as Seen by a Three Year Old

The highly accurate and astute summary of Star Wars, Episode 4 (original 1), in the words of a very cute three year old girl:



The moral of every Star Wars episode? "Don't talk back to Darth Vader, he'll getcha!"

My favorite line: "You know who's gonna buy R2 and de shiny guy-- de shiny guy always worries-- Luke!"

Monday, March 23, 2009

For a real-life case example of Right of Conscience

Here is one story I read that falls exactly under the "right of conscience" issue: a lesbian couple sues a doctor who declined to inseminate one partner artificially because of her own religious convictions (to not inseminate unmarried women). The woman went to the doctor to whom she refered her, got pregnant, and then decided to sue the first doctor. San Diego courts, I'm glad to say, ruled in favor of the doctor. Remember, all of these "Right of Conscience" issues are over ELECTIVE medical procedures.

Just think of all the examples... a health care worker who asks not to be scheduled to hand out contraceptives to minors without parental consent, a fertility doctor who states up front that he or she will not perform "selective reduction" in the case of multiples, a family physician who will not end a patient's life on demand, a prison doctor who will not administer lethal injections, a nurse who will not assist at abortions, an adoption agency that will only refer to married couples (or to couples of a certain religious conviction, or to couples of only a certain level of health), a fertility doctor who "draws the line" at certain practices (IVF or donor sperm/egg, etc.), a mental health care worker who does not choose to use certain methods of treatment, surgeons who will not perform sex-change operations... Note that none of these in any way compromise the life of any party involved... unless you count not performing abortions or physician-assisted suicide as SAVING lives. I will also say that, were I a doctor/nurse, I wouldn't necessarily object to all of the situations I outlined above, but some people might, and they have every right to tell their patients that they aren't willing to do those things. That's called integrity.

There are also scores of POSITIVE examples when we do want medical personel who stand up for what they believe is right, especially in life-or-death situations-- think of a surgeon who insists on doing a risky procedure in order to save a life, a hospital administrator who refuses to let a person's income or race determine their eligibility for a transplant, a nurse who appears at a patient's bedside, day after day, with encouraging words and a smile no matter how the patient treats her, or a doctor who tells a patient's family words they do not want to hear in order to save or improve a loved one's life. Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, and we honor them when they hold to that, when they stand fast to their convictions. Why not the other way around-- why should we criminalize integrity?

Calling All Doctors

I received this from a friend of mine currently in medical school, right on the heels of having heard it discussed on the radio while driving home one day. While this letter was written directly to medical students and medical personnel, I post it here in the hopes that you will make your healthcare providers or friends in the medical professions aware of what's going on. This also HUGELY affects us! Would you want to be cared for by a doctor who was being forced to violate his conscience? I sure wouldn't! Lastly, there is lots that WE as JoeShmo & Suzy Americana can do-- it's our country, after all! Please read this and take as many of the steps towards action as you are able to do!

A little background info on this issue:
"In August 2008, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) took long-overdue action to address a growing crisis of abortion-related discrimination that could force thousands of conscientious healthcare professionals out of medicine. After several months of public comment on its proposed regulation, in December 2008 HHS finalized a regulation that made clear the protections offered by three civil rights laws passed by Congress with bipartisan support.
The civil rights laws declare that American tax dollars will not fund programs in which healthcare professionals are fired, penalized or otherwise subjected to discrimination because of their ethical stance related to abortion and other morally controversial issues.
However, in March 2009, following protests from abortion special interest groups, the new administration officially declared plans to rescind--get rid of--the conscience-protecting regulation. The administration has, as required by law, called for public comment on the proposed plan to get rid of the conscience-protecting regulation, with a deadline of April 9, 2009." (from freedom2care.org)

Remember-- the proposed legislation will remove the law that currently says medical professionals cannot be coerced into doing something that is against their consience. That means that if you go to your doctor & request an elective procedure, he has every right to say, "You know, I would not feel comfortable doing that, [and here's why:___]. But here are several of my fellow doctors' names & numbers-- they are competent & would have no trouble doing that for you. I'll be glad to send your files over to whichever of them you choose." THAT'S ALL! Tell me how that is so outrageous!?? I mean, people and their doctors have always had a right to disagree-- that's where the whole "second opinion" comes in. If you don't agree with one doctor, after listening carefully and researching, you are free to find another one... and there's no need to sue the him, either! That said, read the below.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A letter from David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics), leader of the CMDA (Christian Medical & Dental Association) to all members of CMDA:

Your Right of Conscience is going, going and could be gone. The administration intends to rescind the HHS regulations we fought so hard for last fall and for the first time put teeth into Right of Conscience laws. I need you to speak out now before it is to late. Here is what is going on in a nutshell:

  • You have until April 9th to make public comments to HHS and encourage others to do so - colleagues, nurses, pharmacists, office staff, friends, SS members. We need to flood the site so the administration sees a high political price if they go forward.
  • CMDA has organized the Freedom2Care Coalition, to fight for your right to not participate in abortions or other activities that violate your conscience. Coalition members include the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America, the Catholic Church, Alliance Defense Fund, National Right to Life, The Christian Legal Society and others are joining daily.
  • Our three goals:
    1. To protect the new federal HHS [US Dept. of Health & Human Services] “provider conscience” regulation.
    2. To educate and persuade the public, policy makers and the medical community regarding conscience rights.
    3. To expose and undermine the abortion-mandate ideology of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood and other abortion lobbyists as unethical and detrimental to patients.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Go to http://www.freedom2care.org/ today and frequently as it continues to develop with content daily.
  • Send a comment to HHS: Click the "Healthcare Professionals'" link at the top. You can send a form letter or write one. I encourage you to write your own comment. Address the issues that HHS wants addressed. Information, including specific examples where feasible, addressing the scope and nature of the problems giving rise to the need for federal rulemaking and how the current rule would resolve those problems; Information, including specific examples where feasible, supporting or refuting allegations that the December 19, 2008 final rule reduces access to information and health care services, particularly by low-income women; comment on whether the December 19, 2008 final rule provides sufficient clarity to minimize the potential for harm resulting from any ambiguity and confusion that may exist because of the rule; and comment on whether the objectives of the December 19, 2008 final rule might also be accomplished through non-regulatory means, such as outreach and education.
  • Learn more about the issue.
  • Find resources to equip you to educate others.
  • Sign the petition on the site that will be forwarded to Congress and the White House.
  • Tell your story of discrimination or being pressured to violate your conscience. Stories are worth their weight in gold!
  • If you have been discriminated against or pressured to violate your conscience please let us know by sending us an e-mail to communications@cmda.org. We are putting together audio and video resources to tell your story. Stories are a dramatic tool that demonstrates the need for these regulations.

Some Background information:

  • CMDA Informal Member Survey: 25% have been discriminated against - lost a job, lost a promotion or lost an educational opportunity; 40% have been pressured to violate their conscience, 90% say the problem is getting worse.
  • Right of Conscience is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights - "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" [My note- forcing someone to violate their conscience would definitely be a prohibition of free exersice of that person's religion. That's why in many states parents can opt out of vaccinating their children, and in all states religious objectors are exempt from combat duty, just to name a few examples.]
  • The present laws are being ignored since there is no provision to enforce them.
  • Pro-abortion groups are attempting to force healthcare professionals to participate in activities they are morally opposed to or leave medicine. These regulations are needed more than ever.
  • A medical referral means you endorse the competency, ethics and integrity of the doctor you refer to, believe the procedure is necessary and that you have entered into a professional relationship. Patients don't need a referral to find someone to do an abortion, just a phone book.
  • Healthcare professionals of conscience have not been doing objectionable activities in the past so these regulations will not limit access for patients. The greatest danger to patient access is to force out of work up to a quarter of healthcare professionals.
  • You provide full and accurate information to patients even when they request something you won't do. You treat them courteously.
  • Professional and other ethical statements support your position.
    - American Medical Association - AMA reaffirms that neither physician, hospital, nor hospital personnel shall be required to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles.
    - World Health Organization - The physician should be free to make clinical and ethical judgments without inappropriate outside interference.
    - Canadian Medical Association - The CMA stresses that physicians who decline to participate in abortion should not be discriminated against, and emphasizes the need to respect the rights of conscientious objectors, especially those in training for obstetrics and gynecology, and anesthesia.
    - European Convention on Human Rights - Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes… freedom …to manifest his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
  • This is more than the issue of abortion. Should we force pacifist to kill or doctors to participate in executions? What about forcing them to participate in physician-assisted suicide where it is legalized?

There is much more information on Freedom2care.org and CMDA's websites. Act today, don't delay. You may submit more than one comment as you address different parts of HHS's request.

I close with this quote from Crispin Sartwell in the Los Angeles Times last fall. He describes himself as a "Pro-Choice Atheist."

“The extent to which an institution seeks to expunge individual conscience and moral autonomy is the extent to which it is totalitarian and dangerous. The idea that I resign my conscience to the institution or to the state is perhaps the single most pernicious notion in human history. It is at the heart of the wars and genocides of this century and the last.”

In Him who gives us peace in the storm,
David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)
Chief Executive OfficerChristian Medical & Dental Associations

Friday, March 20, 2009

How I Told Ryan

We all love stories. We're built for them. It's why we love ballads and movies and books and even gossip; why God revealed Himself in narrative rather than pithy sayings or truisms. I've found that everyone wants to know (well, everyone FEMALE anyway) how you told your husband you were pregnant. I guess it's kind of like your "how-you-met story," or your "proposal story." Maybe in a past age that was considered taboo, I don't know, but my guess is that in a further past age it wasn't. So here's how I told Ryan... don't worry-- I tried to make it interesting. ;)

I found out via pregnancy test early one January morning-- I'd suspected but hadn't told Ryan because I didn't want to get his hopes up. I had called my Mom the day before because I had to tell SOMEONE!! That night around midnight (it was a verrrry long day), I gave Ryan a back-to-school gift, as he was starting seminary the next day. First there was a card full of double meanings (like quoting Ps 139), and the lines started with the letters D-A-D-D-Y. The p.s. said "I know you don't like nicknames, but I think this one will stick:_ _ _ _ _. Fill in the blanks using the first letter of each line." Though he figured that out, he TOTALLY didn't get it... he just thought I was affirming him as the kind of wonderful man who would make a great father "some day."

Then he opened the proper gift, and pulled out a tiny t-shirt I'd painted to say "My Daddy goes to Southern" with the Southern Seminary seal on it. Still... he didn't get it. Thankfully, I'd put in the actual pregnancy test, and as he pulled THAT out and things started slowly clicking. By this point I was a little concerned, thinking that his lack of response was a sign of displeasure.
"That's a pregnancy test that I took this morning," I said, my heart in my mouth. He stared at it, then asked "how reliable is this thing, anyway-- didn't we get it as a wedding gift like a year and a half ago?" (yes, we did get pregancy tests as a joke wedding gift from some married friends)
"No, honey- I bought that at Kroger yesterday."
"Umm... the horizontal line isn't very dark..."
I reminded him that if it were negative, there would ONLY be a horizontal line (our test shows a + for positive, and a - for a negative).
His classic response, with dawning understanding:
"Oooooh! that's a very dark vertical line!" Then he got all excited and started hugging me and laughing, and we spent the next hour talking, half shaking, about us being parents of a BABY!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Holiday to Celebrate

The Jewish festival celebrating God's deliverance of His people through Queen Esther falls in March this year, and so we studied the story of Esther in our class... notice a theme of God's people being courageous? Patrick, Esther, and we also studied Peter & John and Daniel from the OT. It was a GORGEOUS, warm, windy day here in Louisville, so we got to play outside for a long time, and we had our delayed Purim celebration. As is the Jewish custom on this holiday, we made groggers-- noisemakers-- and as I told the story in the warm sunshine, they either raised their tiny fists and shouted "Hooray!" at the mention of Esther or Mordechai, or they shook their noisemakers for all their worth and yelled "BOOOO" at Haaman's name. As you can imagine, they loved making noise. That's why we went outside, as they proudly announced to anyone who would listen.

I think these sorts of fun traditions help engrave these stories into their little hearts, and to remember yet another story of God's deliverence, and to start learning that there are more important things than being safe: obeying God and loving our neighbors.

In Honor of the Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I've been getting my preschoolers hyped up about it for weeks, and this morning tied green ribbon in their hair or around their wrists to keep them all from getting pinched. :) We listened to Celtic music all day (Michael Card's Starkindler ). We did mosaics of green shamrocks, and talked about how Patrick used them to explain the Trinity to his Irish flock-- one God, three persons, just as there is one plant, and three parts. Of course the illustration breaks down, but if it didn't, it wouldn't be talking about a Mystery of our Faith, now would it!?? Anyway, the kids loved it. I also stood by the door of my choir classroom and pinched every middle school boy who walked in without green... many of them escaped via green duct tape or green marker, since our school uniform doesn't have much green in it.

So, why do I love Patrick enough to tell his story to a bunch of preschoolers, and to be a bit ridiculous about the color green once a year? It's not just because I love all things Irish... though that doesn't hurt. :) For Christmas, you may recall, Ryan gave me an unassuming little book about Patrick's life, in his own words as far as they exist. Patrick was more a man of action than writing, and back then paper wasn't exactly growing on trees (hehehe), but he did leave a Confession, and a letter, and perhaps some poetry as well (it's been attributed to him and there's no real reason to doubt it is his, but he didn't sign his name to it). Remember that "confession" comes from the Latin word confesso, or "I believe," as in the Latin version of the Apostle's Creed-- "I believe in God the Father..." Patrick's Confession is his testimony, his life's account of what he believed and how he lived it out. Ryan read the book first on a plane trip, and couldn't put it down. I started it the day after Christmas, and by the time I finished it, I wanted to name our second son (if we ever have one) Patrick.

Why? Let me let him tell you, in his own words:
Speaking of his captivity as a slave in Ireland in his youth (he was kidnapped by Irish pirates at age 16):
"...the Lord opened up the understanding of my unbelief so that at length I might recall to my mind my sins, and that I might be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God, who hath regarded my humility, and taken pity on my youth and my ignorance, and kept watch over me before I knew Him [...] Wherefore, I cannot keep silence- nor would it be fitting- concerting such great benefits and such great grace as the Lord has vouchsafed to bestow on me in the land of my captivity; for this is the return we make, that after our chastening or after our recognition of God, we should exalt and proclaim His wondrous ways before every nation which is under the whole heaven."

"... this I do most certainly know, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in the deep mire, and He that is mighty came, and in His mercy lifted me up and indeed raised me aloft, and placed me on the top of the wall. And therefore I ought to cry aloud so that I may render something to the Lord for His benefits which are so great both here and for eternity, that the mind of man cannot estimate them. [...] Moreover, it is fitting that I spread everywhere the name of God without fear, confidently; so that after my death I may leave a legacy to my brethren and my sons whom I baptized in the Lord-- so many thousands of men."

You can see how he viewed His Savior in this line:
"...I who neither knew the number of my days, nor savored God?"

He is utterly God-centered, always speaking of God's mercy and the delight he himself had in Him. He is Bible-saturated, quoting & referring to Scripture constantly. He is Trinitarian, rooting his every belief in the Father, the Son & the Spirit-- his faith is the simple uncluttered faith of a Bible believing man, not confused by ritual or rite (though we know he used both, they were definitely secondary, appearing nowhere in his writings), and unfettered by years of tradition. We read of no prayers to anyone but Christ, no thanks to any patron saint, no remarks honoring anyone but His Creator, Mediator & Savior. His is a pastor's heart, loving his flock deeply and desirous to see them grow in the Lord. His greatest wish was to die among them, as a martyr if the Lord was so pleased.

He is also incredibly humble, in the same paragraph remarking of how he has "baptized so many thousands of men," and trained elders from their midst, and referring to his own ""mediocrity." HAH! If that's mediocre, then I'm an utter failure!

" [...] daily I expect either murder, or robbery, or enslavement, or the occurrence of some such calamity. But none of these things do I fear, on account of the promises of Heaven! I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty, for He rules everywhere, as the prophet saith: "Cast thy care upon God, and He shall sustain thee." ...And if ever I accomplished anything good for the sake of my God whom I love, I beg Him to grant me that I may shed my blood with these exiles and captives for His name [...]."

This last quote, from the end of his confession, makes me shout internally every time I read it "I cannot WAIT to meet this man in Heaven!!":

"I testify in truth and in the joy of my heart before God and His holy angels that I never had any motive except the Gospel and its promises for ever returning to that nation [Ireland] from whence previously I had barely made my escape."

Rejoicing at the Grace of God which can make such faithful men out of pagans,
--Christina

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gospel Quote

I got this "gospel quote" from quite an unexpected source-- a memoir of an Orthodox Jew-turned- Christian; Lauren Winner, whom I had the pleasure of hearing & meeting when she came to speak on Chastity at Furman. Well, that the Gospel was in that particular book wasn' the surprising part; the surprise was that it was in the midst of a section enunciating the differences between Yom Kippur (modern Day of Atonement) and Good Friday, particularly quoting rabbis disdaining the Christian view of sin, redemption, and man.

"Judaism [and any other religion, really] and Christianity's different understandings of atonement derive from different understandings of sin. To oversimplify, for Jews, sins are acts. To violate a commandment is to commit a sin. Christians, too, understand wrong deeds-- lying, stealing, fornicating-- as sins, but for Christians, sinful acts are always undergirded (and overshadowed) by our sinful state, endowed at the Fall. [...]
The Christian God is certainly interested in individuals' repenting of their sinful ways, but because sin is a state, not simply a collection of misdeeds, there can be no atonement without Christ's bearing our sin for us on the Cross. Jews can perfect their behavior; Christians can never be good enough to be reconciled to God without His sacrifice on Golgotha.
No one is more eager to point out these differences than the rabbis. In 1945, Joseph Solevitchik, the leader of modern Orthodoxy in America, wrote that, for Christians, "Only the supernatural, miraculous intercession of God on behalf of the sinner" may cleanse one's sin. The Christian "is a passive, pitiful creature who begs for and attains divine grace." Three years later, Leo Baeck described the Jewish notion of atonement, which stands in obvious contrast to Christian ideas about the Cross. Atonement, Baeck wrote, "is no mere act of grace, or miracle of salvation, which befalls the chosen; it demands the free, ethical choice of the human being.... The sinner himself is to turn to God. ... No one can substitute for him in his return no one can atone for him.""

~ Girl Meets God, "Pentecost," pp 273-274. by Lauren Winner, 2002.

Praise the LORD that Baeck is wrong, and that Solevitchik's caricature of orthodox Christian beliefs is remarkably close to Reality! We never could be good enough. Sin permeates our being... defines us before God. Yet there was One who was sinless, who could and DID substitute for us, not just in a return to God, but in a life of perfect never-leaving-God's-side, and DID atone for us, in a death utterly forsaken and separated from God's mercy. The wonder of the Cross.

Rejoicing in the Cross,
--Christina
PS- I finally finished this book today, and loved it! More to come... and I'll gladly loan it to you if you want to borrow it! Comes with all my bonus quotations and notations all over the margins. :)

Reinventing the Wheel

My Dad was on TV... again! He's pretty much the resident TV liason expert for Michelin's Tweel project... you know, the one that's on NASA's lunar rover, and was featured in the Inaugural Parade. This clip is really cool... not just because you get to see my super-smart poppa, but because the idea really is fascinating! Engineers get to do so much cool stuff!! :) Go Dad, Go!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Red Envelope Day

"...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments..." (Ps. 78:7)

As many of you probably already know, March 31st will be Red Envelope Day here in America. I will most certainly be participating, and I strongly urge you to consider doing so as well. As a mom-to-be, I'm already concerned about protecting my child from chemicals, from evil influences, from hormones, from radiation... And motherly concern doesn't just extend to him personally-- I'm concerned about preserving and bettering his home (our world) and praying for his generation of society. Becoming a mother-- even more than being a teacher, and auntie, and youth worker-- is making me more burdened for "the next generation" of little ones who won't stay little. So more than ever, I'm concerned about protecting childrens' lives, and seeing them gain Eternal Life. Your child's life, my own child's life, what difference does it make? Adoption, orphan care, famine relief, the persecuted Church, evangelism, and abortion are (if possible) even more personal to me now-- these issues concern children whom my child could know, or... never know. They will shape the world he knows and in which he grows. Compassion International, Voice of the Martyrs, and the pro-life movement all are growing more important to me. The latest threats from Washington sicken me even more, and my hands go automatically to my belly, where my own child-- not so long ago a tiny child in the embryo phase himself-- kicks & grows & makes me tired. :) So... Red Envelope Day. Think about it.

Yikes!

All you Mommies out there, take notice! Thanks to Blythe for giving me the head's-up about this newest research on baby shampoos & products! Several popular baby washes, such as Johnson's Baby Shampoo, L'Oreal Kids Extra Gentle 2-in-1 shampoo and Pampers Kandoo foaming hand soap contain "enough formaldehyde to trigger a skin reaction in highly sensitive people, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said in its report. According to the US National Cancer Institute, studies of workers exposed to formaldehyde have linked the chemical to cancers of the nasal sinuses, nasopharynx, brain and possibly leukemia." I remember my younger sister Anna being super-sensitive to soaps, etc., growing up. I wonder if she was reacting to this particular chemical.

As the report summarizes: "If chemicals are causing cancer in animals, we really shouldn't be putting them on babies' heads," said Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics." Definitely not!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Strong & Fast!

Ryan & I had the amazing privilege of hearing our child's heartbeat for the first time yesterday afternoon! Any doubt I'd had about actually being "with child"-- instead of just having a weird, very-long-lasting flu-- was gone. As the midwife said "there definitely is a living being in there!" It was amazing... I almost cried, just hearing that precious sign of life. If the lights had been a little dimmer, I probably would have cried. :)

Being the technologically-savvy daddy that he is, Ryan recorded the heartbeat and has posted it to his blog (for those wondering how we did it, Ryan brought in his MacBook, turned on GarageBand, and our midwife cranked up the Doppler's volume so it would record! That's why there's a lot of static, too).

Women who see an ultrasound of their unborn child have a FAR greater chance of choosing life over death for their child, no matter what their initial decision was, going in. I wonder how much effect even just hearing a HEARTBEAT would have!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Destroying our Tiniest

I thought this article by Dr. Albert Mohler was right-on, and quite helpful in understanding President Obama's recent removal of embryo-destruction restrictions.

Here is one excerpt which I found a concise summary:

"President Obama is now personally responsible for research that will involve the intentional destruction of human embryos. This comes even as the ideological roots of this conflict have become increasingly clear. Credible alternatives to research that would require the destruction of human embryos have become available, even as the most promising avenues of medical research are now using adult stem cells, which avoids the moral issues involved in the use of human embryos.


The scientific community increasingly appears to have drawn a line in the sand on this issue. The insistence that embryos must be destroyed is a matter of ideology. Some researchers seem to resist any alternative source of stem cells, no matter how great its potential."


And this illustrates well the fallacy within the idea of "keeping ___ and personal beliefs (or religion, or conviction, or faith-- call it what you will) separate." In one sense, you can't! Legislation is almost always moral-- we always legislate morality.

"The "instead of dogma" language is a direct criticism of the Bush administration policies. President Obama delivered a rebuke to the Bush administration in this new statement of policy, but the new President is either disingenuous or deceptive when he suggests that science can ever be free from political considerations. Science does not happen in a vacuum. Scientific research takes place in a social and political context, and when the federal government is involved through funding of that research, such research is intensely political. The space race was fueled by the ideological context of the Cold War. Decisions about research priorities and policies is hotly political. So is President Obama's new policy that will lead to the destruction of more human embryos."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Baby Got Book

At a recent baby shower, the game was girls v. guys, trying to sing as many songs containing the word "Baby." Of course, "Baby Got Back" came up, though no one actually sang the song. I remembered that in college, my RUF campus minister Rob Hamby knew EVERY WORD to the Christian parody "Baby Got Book." I watched the video just now and couldn't stop laughing... as my friend Jacqui put it, it raises Christian nerdiness to a whole new level.
p.s. I promise I have meaningful things piling up in my head to say... the baby keeps Mommy away, though. That and grades due next week. :(

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy Lord's Day!

We sang this in church a few Sundays ago and it brought me to tears... overcome with the desire to SEE Christ-- my Beloved!-- returning in glory, to hear His delighted "Well, done, good & faithful daughter!," to see all those other trophies of Grace I prayed for and strove alongside, perfected and holy along with me, over come at the thought that I, the worst sinner I know, am part of the Prize for which He died???! Surely "such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!"... and yet, they are Reality. Immediately, I knew which "mellow" song my High School Ensemble would be arranging and performing for our Spring Concert: "O Church Arise" (the other one they're doing is "Arise My Soul, Arise" to Kevin Twit's new "Indelible Grace" tune).

As one of my students said, this song's melody is gorgeous. That is such a strength of this husband-wife modern hymn-writing combo-- appropriate melodies. They soar appropriately, or slow as needed. The melody advances the words, while remaining singable (I can't always say that about other modern hymn-writing movements... or other song traditions such as "original" hymn tunes, either, lol). Keith & Kristyn Getty along with their buddy Stuart Townend have also written "In Christ Alone," "Speak, O Lord," and "Hear the Call of the Kingdom," among many others! If you don't already know & love them, I urge you to go listen to them! I LOVE Stuart Townend's Easter Hymn "See What a Morning"!! Heheheh... the Gettys're Irish, what can I say?

My favorite part of this song, as of most of their other songs, is the words! How many other hymns are being written today about Christ gaining the Prize for which He died, or about putting on spiritual armor to rage against The Captor while loving the captive soul? Listen to the song, and may it bless you as it has me!


Also, a wonderful article on hymn writing (which my students "had" to read last week). I highly reccomend it for all who would like to discern what makes a "good" hymn. A bit of it:

"...creating modern hymns for the church universal, hymns that all ages can sing together in worship. After all, he explains, “What we sing becomes the grammar of what we believe.”

“It’s been several hundred years since Christian worship was as shallow as it is today. Christianity is more universal than it’s ever been, but people’s understanding of their faith and the Bible is disappointing,” he says.

Whether writing hymns with his wife or Townend, Getty says two goals guide him. “We try to write theological and Bible truth that speaks in everyday life, as Charles Wesley did. And I try to write melodies that large groups of people can sing. That is my filter: Can all ages sing this melody? [...]

Given their Irish heritage, it’s no surprise that the Gettys often capitalize on the power of a story. “People will sing forever if the song takes them on a journey,” Keith Getty says.


Happy Sabbath!
--Christina ...very glad to have Ryan home after a week away on business in D.C.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Just In Case

This news story caught my eye-- you can watch the news report here or here. Basically, little T.J.'s mom had told him that if he ever saw her fall down and not get up, or found her not talking or moving, that he should dial 911, and ask the firemen to come help. She must have worked with him on good manners, too, because as you listen to the 911 dispach recording, he is very polite and well-mannered. Her training paid off, in this case literally saving her life. She was making lunch for her son when she had a seizure, fell out of her chair onto the floor, and lay there. TJ quickly called for help, answering the dispacher's questions clearly and repeatedly asking "Could you please come right over here?" My favorite line is "Mommy say if her's laying on the floor, dial 9-9-1." Thankfully, he at least DIALED correctly...

I just found a similar story here. Again, a four year old saved his mother's life by calling 911.

The reason I wanted to pass this on via blog is to encourage all you parents or caregivers out there to teach your children how & when to dial 911, as soon as they are able. Of course you'd have to impress upon them the EMERGENCY-ONLY need, and threaten severe consequenses for playing around dialing 911, I'd think. I especially wanted to highlight this skill for you at-home moms who are often at home alone with children for most of the day.

We all know to teach children not to talk to strangers or go with them... but this is one easy to overlook. Sort of like pool safety-- the #1 skill to teach small children (besides swimming-- even before that) is how to climb OUT of a pool. Kids can often get to the edge of a pool, but don't figure out on their own how to go along the edge to a ladder or steps where they can climb out. Life-saving tip I learned from my uncle there.

What Clothes To Buy?

My friend & fellow expectant Mommy sent me this insightful link, on baby clothes: how many of each, and what sorts to buy for a newborn? As you know, I've never stocked up for a newborn before. Of course, minimalist that I am, I wouldn't find it seriously shocking if my child spent most of his/her first 90 days of life in a diaper & onesie, swaddled warmly in a recieving blanket. The end! But since we'll probably sometimes want to go out and about, I suppose I'll "have to" invest in some tini clothes... :)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fruit Baby

So, our baby is between the size of a lime and a plum this week... Hard to believe. He's already got unwebbed tiny fingers and toes, and hair follicles, tooth buds and even nail beds! Heart, digestion, pancreas, spine, nerves, liver, lungs, brain... all there, wow! Her intestines just have to move into her abdominal cavity instead of her umbilical cord now. And her skin needs to get less see-through-y. Mommy's about to start gaining an average of 1 lb a week, so they say!
--Glad to be a fruit bowl

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wedding Memories

video
I was inspired by my Fernando Ortega kick to put some of our wedding photos to our actual wedding music. These are from the ceremony, and mostly are candids taken by our friend Kira (due to various technical difficulties, they were the most accessible to me on this computer). Anyway, I hope you enjoy! I have another one of the pre-ceremony preparation, almost ready to go, and hope to do some fun rehearsal/reception ones. It's good memories! :) Praise God from whom all blessings flow, indeed! (and too bad that recordings, especially those filtered through all sorts of editing software, don't do live music justice!)

A happy bride on month 19 of her honeymoon...