Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Update On Moving To New Website...

So, this wasn't quite as difficult as I expected.  I will no longer be using blogger.  You can see my previous blog post.  Our new family website can be found here:

Please come visit!

The Acuffs Are Moving....

Well, just to a new website.

I've decided to change my blog to Wordpress so that it will be a more interactive community, meaning if you leave a comment to a post, I  can respond back to you.  Also, it seems to offer more if I can figure it all out.  But, mostly, to be interactive.  You get it.

I won't be blogging for the next few days to get the new website going and to transfer archives, but please feel free to visit.  I would love for you to subscribe and and start following my blog at the new address.

It is www.theacufffamily.com.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reality is Found in Christ

Comparison is good if we are searching for cars but not when we are comparing ourselves to others.  It is never difficult to find someone better or worse than we are - by human standards.  Our reality, however, is found in Christ.

When making a comparison, it only makes sense to compare ourselves to perfection.  In that comparison, we see our need for a Savior.  With Christ as the plumbline, righteousness is the goal and nothing less.

But there's more...  Do you know that "in Christ" you are already righteous?
"And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
(1 Corinthians 1:30)  
He has declared us righteous, is perfecting His righteousness in us and will complete His work at His return.  We need not compare ourselves to others.

The next time you're tempted to compare yourself to someone in regards to looks, material possessions, talent, marital bliss/lack thereof, perception of spiritual maturity/lack thereof, or anything else, remember your reality and righteousness are found in Christ.  He is the standard by which we measure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Basil Pesto

Did you know you can freeze pesto?  That's a good reason to make it in bulk.  I separate mine into sandwich bags (about 4 T per bag), but you can also freeze it in ice cube trays. 
4 cups fresh packed basil leaves
5 cloves garlic
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (I cube mine)
salt/pepper to taste (remember parmesan is salty)
2 cups extra virgin olive oil (drizzle as being processed)
Pesto calls for pine nuts, but I don't use them, probably because they are not a staple in my house.
Serve with pasta and grilled chicken.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Dose of Daily Identity

WOO HOO!  The idea of this slapped me in the face!  The more we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem. I've learned to preach the gospel to myself and identify myself by what Christ has done on my behalf, BUT I have always struggled with my weight. So, I am tempted to define myself by that struggle and others I face.  How would you define yourself? Divorced, depressed, addicted, angry, abused, adulterous, dishonest, impatient, gluttonous?

Your struggle may be with one of the above or something different, but if you are in Christ, you are first a child of God.  Take 1 Peter 1:3-9 to heart.  Did you hear that?
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness...

Whatever name-calling you're inflicting on yourself, Christ has His own name for you.  Find a list here.  
Preach it to yourself.  Preach it to others.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Responsive Reading

When I was reading this morning, Cooper asked me to read out loud so he could hear.  I was about here:
"O LORD God Almighty, who is like you?" Psalm 89:8

Cooper responded:  No One!

Ha!  I wasn't expecting a response, but my 5 year old was probably accurate. 

God is looking for a response to His Word.  

It has power and authority and requires action. doing. response.

Sometimes our response is just to wrestle with God's Word, but it's movement nonetheless, right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

See For Yourself

"God designed us to live in community, first with him and then with one another.  According to the Bible, personal change is a community project.  In fact, it is in the process of change that we really begin to see our need for one another."  Paul Tripp

Too many times, we do not see our need for others.  Honestly, I don't think I started living in community because I was humble enough to see my need.  I think I started because I believed others when they said enough times You have to be with others to grow.  I took their word for it, although cautiously, and had to see for myself.  I have to agree with Tripp: Once the heart is transformed in community, we see our need. Maybe we don't see our need because we haven't taken that first step into real community.

Others see in us what we can't see in ourselves.  Other believers provide grace, direction, and encouragement at just the right time.  In seeing these things for myself and finding community to be an agent for change, no time soon do I want to step out of the safety of community - not until I'm in the safety of eternity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fall Back

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2:23

Are your first words those of defense?  Is arguing or pleading your case what first comes to mind?  Do you deflect the stones or catch them and throw them back in retaliation?  Do you slice others with the sharpness of your tongue when you are hurt and insulted?  
Suffering or threatened?  
When your husband is hurt and insulted?  
When your kids are hurt and insulted?
Do you entrust yourself to Him who judges justly?  To Him who secures your salvation?  To Him who marks your identity?  Do you entrust yourself to the one who speaks on your behalf?  The One who says what I think/know about you matters?
Will you entrust yourself to Him who stands in defense of your reputation? 
Will you entrust your husband?
Your kids?   

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Man and His Music

Cooper is the lover of all things music...

No shirt required for Bongo drums.

Our attempts at transferring Keynote to video failed after many hours of work, so here are some individual videos of Cooper doing what he loves.

Spoil. Punish. Repent.

Who made the kids in your house so rotten?  I mean, seriously, who bought them all of the toys, took them out to eat so many times, let them stay up late and let them get away with sassing you like that?  This is currently one of our favorite conversations.  Why do we spoil our kids and then punish them for it?  Eating out may have been a luxury when we were growing up, but if we take our kids out to eat weekly, should we be shocked at their lack of gratitude?  When we let them stay up late, is it fair to punish them for their grumpiness the next day?  This one is going to sting:  Can we really have a sharp tongue all of the time and expect that our kids will not turn and respond as a smart alec at some point?  These examples only scratch the surface, and they don't begin to touch the baggage carried into teenage and college years.

I think most of us desire to cultivate a spirit of  gratitude in children.  The last thing we want is to send more entitled people into the world.  So what do we do with them?  More importantly, what do we do with us?
Parents:  We always start with repentance.  Then, we let the gospel reshape our thinking and doing.
Children:  Henry Van Dyke says, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.”  With that said, gratitude is internal, meaning it comes from the inside out.  We can make them say "thank you" all day long, but we can't make them feel it.  We can't guilt them into it.  Can we trust the gospel will shape their thinking and doing?

John Piper agrees that gratitude is a feeling.  For more on gratitude, follow this link from Desiring God:
Is gratitude nothing more than a thoughtless feeling?

Monday, July 11, 2011

I worry what you just heard was give me a lot of bacon and eggs...

If you like Ron Swanson as much as we do, this is the video for you.

Can Someone Help Me Out Here?

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  James 1: 22

Have you ever known that certain changes need to take place, but you didn't know how to make them?  Maybe you even made steps but felt defeated and quickly gave up.  Have you ever known that certain changes need to take place in someone else?  Have you stood back shaking your head as they struggle for their confessional and functional theology to match up?

We have all probably been on both sides.  Some of us hear the word and want to change but we're not really sure what action to take.  Some of us know the actions to take, but instead of helping, we watch from afar hoping not to get our hands dirty -- we want others to change without it costing us.

In making disciples of Jesus, we have to be willing to show one another how to do.  Find that struggling someone and make a date.  Help them apply biblical truth to their lives, teach them their identity in Christ and provide them the accountability they need.  

"Faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience."  Bonhoeffer

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tim Challies on Homeschooling

Tim Challies is a blogger, author and book reviewer.  He recently wrote a three part series on homeschooling.  If you are interested in following the articles, you can find the first one here.  If you read the first, you will see links for parts two and three.

I believe there are 2 ways that we can go about prayerfully discovering if we are weak or strong. Before we do that, though, we need to remind ourselves that in this context we are discussing people who are saved by grace through faith and who are not looking to any of their choices as a means of salvation. Neither are we discussing people who have refused to weigh the options. The man who enrolls his children in public schools without counting the cost and without carefully shepherding them along the way is not weak or strong—he is stupid. The person who homeschools his children because he thinks that the 4 walls of his home will protect them from sin and worldliness is not weak or strong—he is foolish. -Tim Challies

Friday, July 8, 2011

Seeping. Bursting.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:22-23

When we drive to Chattanooga and see water seeping through the limestone from the interstate, I imagine creation groaning.  I envision the creation subjected to the evil of this world wanting to burst forth and cry out to the Holy God to restore it back to its intended state.
Do you feel it?  
Our souls do the same.  
It's welling up in you.  It's welling up in me.  There are no words adequate enough for us to express it to one another. We just know it's something we share because we're told so. Some days it seeps like the water from the limestone. Some days it feels as though it will burst from your chest. The eagerness for adoption.  The eagerness for redemption.

"The first-fruit does but whet the appetite--does but stir up the desire it was never meant to satisfy.  [It] should but excite in them an insatiable thirst after more."  Charles H. Spurgeon

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Specifically Simplicity

I am eager for God to create in my heart an anthem of simplicity -- to cut out the clogging and bondage of duplicity. 

Yesterday, I expressed a need for simplicity in my life.  Clutter often gets in the way of what I feel God is calling me to, but I would like to be more specific about what that looks like for me.

1.  Keeping our family schedule whittled down to few activities.  When we are running around non-stop, there is little room for work, quiet, study, meditation or time to focus on Gospel-centeredness and Kingdom efforts.

2.  Trying to keep consumption at a minimum.  What I've learned is the more we have, the more we have to keep up with.  It's bondage.  Not freedom. Simplicity means not having too much in our possession but also sharing what we have.

"Covetousness we call ambition.
Hoarding we call prudence.  
Greed we call industry."  
Richard Foster

Simplicity comes down to time and money in my life.  The above are my desires.  They are not my accomplishments.  I fail at them daily.  I hope to look back at the end and believe my time and money have been well spent. So far, I'm not anywhere near satisfied.

What clutter is clogging your path?  What are you doing to simplify your life?


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Reaching for Simplicity

I fear I am not meeting my full potential in Christ.  Do you ever feel there has to be more?  If the same Spirit dwelling in me is the one that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) and if the Sovereign God of the universe is for us (Romans 8:31) and if we ask anything in His name, He will do it (John 14:14), there have to be higher standards.  The higher standards aren't meant to impress others or to reach some worldly success or goals; they are a personal calling I feel tugging at my heart.  The standards will not be met only by work but by first answering the call of God on my heart.

What is the biggest obstacle to reaching the raised bar?  Our biggest obstacle is always sin.  It may be fear, the idolatry of comfort or our family, pride, greed or a moral failure.  Many times what is standing in my way is the neglect of simplicity.  I desire to seek first God and His Kingdom, but there is always a great amount of clutter causing me to seek other things first.  I may be on the right track one moment, but in the blink of an eye, I can get wrapped up in the world around me and lose sight of the reality of Christ. Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline says, "conformity to a sick society is to be sick."

I am eager for God to create in my heart an anthem of simplicity -- to cut out the clogging and bondage of duplicity.  There is a bar to reach, the plumb line of the perfection of Christ and all He has called me to, unmet potential that I want to fight for.  There is a higher standard that deserves my all.  It was all accomplished for me on the cross, so for that, I will continue to reach. (Philippians 3:12-14)
I have this plaque on my shelf that says "simplify" to serve as a reminder.  I often joke that it is so covered with clutter that I can't see what it says.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's Only Cute When Kids Say The Darndest Things

Have you ever noticed that people say really dumb things when you're in a tragedy?  When Chris and I were struggling through the affair, I was amazed at the things people would say.  They ranged anywhere from being extremely insensitive to making it about themselves.  I've heard similar stories from others.  I have a friend who lost a child to cancer.  Someone remarked in the receiving line at visitation that they knew how she felt -- they had just buried the family pet a week earlier.

I became very critical of others during our difficult time and wrote them off as shallow and uncaring.  I expected many to pull through for me in ways that were probably unfair.  They were trying to help and console the best they knew how.  I learned to have more grace from my friend who lost the child. She commented to me that people just don't know what to say in a tragedy. After what she has dealt with, I'll take her word for it.

If you're in the middle of a tragedy, know that most people aren't really as inconsiderate as they appear; they may be uncomfortable and searching for the right words.  If you are on the other side of tragedy, like me, you may need to look back and show grace to some; you've probably said some pretty awkward things yourself.  And, a good lesson for all of us when dealing with those in tragedy -- it is okay to have no words.  They usually just need a listening ear anyway.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Building the Identity of Girls

One of my goals as a parent is to help instill in my girls their identity in Christ.  It is a struggle, but I don't want to emphasize their abilities or traits over that which only Christ has and will do for them.  At the point in which they begin to look to their intellect, athleticism, talent, beauty, success, weight, race, shame, mistakes, shortcomings, or sin, they will be exalting themselves to a position that those found righteous in Christ do not own.  We have His identity.

This article is beautiful.  It's a sweet story of adoption, but it's also a great reminder of how we shouldn't put our girls' identity in their beauty.  The world often speaks of building the self-worth of our children.  What is gospel-centered building?  Reminding them of who they are because of Him!


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Getting My Goat

This week, I bought a big honkin' log of goat cheese.  I like to spread it on triscuits for a quick snack or even lunch.  But, I also use it for two of my favorite recipes:

Roll goat cheese in chopped dried cranberries and pistachios.  Spread on crackers.  This is a crowd-pleaser.  It's great any time a year, but the colors are perfect for Christmas.
The second is fried or baked goat cheese.  Simply slice the goat cheese when it is very cold.  Dip in egg batter.  I have even used egg-beaters.  Dip in panko bread crumbs.  And, bake at about 350 degrees, turning once until slightly soft and browned.  Or, fry.  When I say "fry," I mean spray with Pam, and cook until browned.
 I like to serve on salad with balsamic vinegar.  Adding rotisserie chicken to the salad doesn't hurt either.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Finding Your Children in the Bible

Before I start, let me just say the Bible is not about me or my kids; it's about God.  But, I found myself getting a little creative the other day as we were studying together.  I am currently reading Acts to my kids.  I stop along the way to give explanations, but they are fairly attentive as the book is full of entertaining stories, and they are full of questions.  It has been one of my favorite parts of our summer.

We were reading the story of Stephen in Acts 6-7, Stephen's speech was getting lengthy, the "littles" were starting to stand on their heads and make funny noises, and I began seeing a pattern with the speech.  So... I told everyone to listen for their name because they were all in Stephen's speech, kindof...

Cooper's middle name is Stephens, so while it is a family name, it originates from the martyr Stephen "crown".  A few sentences into Stephen's speech, he mentions Abraham.  Abraham was married to Sarah "princess" (my 10 year old).  At the end of his speech, he mentions David, which finally gives opportunity to the least attentive Abby (Abigail -- a wife of David, "My father is Joy").  There is nowhere else in the Bible that all three of my children are linked together in name.  Pretty cool.  They were thrilled!

Your children may not have the names of men/women in the Bible, but you may find stories/personalities/situations that relate to them.  Sometimes we have to be creative in keeping their attention.  As long as we are pointing them to the gospel and not themselves, there is no harm in that.  Have fun coming up with ways to keep them interested!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Idols

"Idolatry is when anything that was created to point to God replaces God in the thoughts and desires of your heart." Paul Tripp

I don't have wooden or bronze statues on my shelves.  I believe those gods are unresponsive to worship.  I believe in worshipping a living God, but I am no stranger to the sin and repentance of my own idolatry.

My idolatry comes in placing the things in my life before God:
I like to have a decent schedule in my home.  Everything runs better that way. When everything is clean, homework is complete, meals are prepared, and everyone is doing things my way, life is just better.  I call it scheduling. When it rules me, it's the the idol of control.

There are times I am plagued with the fear of losing my children.  There is an element of control that kicks in with me wanting to be over-protective.  Or, I fear dying because I believe there is no one who can care for my kids better than I can.  When I love people more than I love God, they are my idol.

I am safe.  When I feel God shoving me out of my comfort zone, I dig in my heels a little and beg Him to leave me alone.  Things are fine the way they are.  I don't need to be stretched.  Why can't you just leave me alone?  I idolize comfort.   

We sing a song at church that says, "My heart will sing no other name -- Jesus."  Sometimes, I have a hard time joining in because I know my heart sings other names.  I don't have idols on my shelf, but control, people, and comfort can serve as my idols; they can't give life any more than statues can.  "What a wretched [wo]man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:24-25

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chicken Salad

The tastiest way to make chicken salad?
Roast chicken in olive oil and salt/pepper for 30-45 min. at 400 degrees then shred chicken finely.

The easiest way to make chicken salad?
Buy Kirkland's canned chicken from Costco and open 6 cans, drain and dump in a bowl.
(Learned from my friend Kelly)

This is the base I generally use for my chicken salad:
Mayonnaise (Hellmann's with Olive Oil)
Sour Cream
Canola Oil (just to keep it from drying)
A touch of mustard (any kind)
A touch of lemon juice

We also add a lot to our chicken salad:
Red Onion
Almonds or Walnuts
And, tonight, bacon (turkey bacon from a bag)

Have you ever had hot chicken salad?
This is a great recipe:
Hot Chicken Salad on the Food Network

Renewed Sexual Integrity

The sexual integrity you have before marriage is the sexual integrity you have after marriage.  Saying vows and signing a certificate doesn't change that.  Many couples think wearing a grand outfit surrounded by their closest friends and spending thousands of dollars on that magical night will change everything.  It will change the way he talks to me.  It will change the way she spends money.  It will change his commitments. It will change her religious preferences.  It will change the heart of sexual purity. But, that is not the case.

Chris and I were shocked by the lack of sexual purity in our marriage, but we weren't shocked by our lack of integrity before marriage.  We wanted to show each other grace because of the shame, so we ignored the fact that we had issues to deal with.  So many couples find it acceptable to live how they choose before marriage because they think it will change after the vows.

In meeting with couples for premarital counseling, Chris and I have heard some mention past experiences as "a mistake" and certainly some with shame. There are some in rebellion who will not hear the counsel of waiting until after the wedding date.  Still, there are some who have their virginity, but there is no purity of heart and mind.  If you find it acceptable to have sex outside of marriage before marriage, what is keeping you from having sex outside of marriage after marriage?

A new situation or circumstance cannot change purity.  Only the renewal of our hearts and minds.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:2

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Layers of SOS

SOS or Service Over Self is a ministry in Memphis that exists to glorify God by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed through urban home repair camps.  Our family has had exposure to and been somewhat involved with the ministry over the years, but this week, our church, "adopted" SOS114.

Layers is what comes to mind when I think of yesterday.  Service in layers. The word picture of service Over self unfolded for me in a way that expanded across generations, community and races.
Here are a few ways:

1.  High school kids are in town serving middle-aged to elderly home owners in Orange Mound.  College-aged kids intern with SOS to lead the high school kids.  Children ranging from ages 5-12 serve the high school kids and leaders by handing them popsicles while they work in the heat.  Layers of generations.

2. Our church signed up to serve the campers at SOS114 this week.  That means, each night, a small group will serve the high school students and leaders in Orange Mound by preparing the food already provided or providing food and cleaning the kitchen.  Someone also shows up with popsicles each day for the hot workers and prays for them before their day begins.  Layers of community.

3.  With each home we visited, an SOS leader shared the story behind their work.  Shelley told the kids about the neighborhood and the needs of the people in such a way that I hope is forever imprinted on my mind.  At each stop, we heard the name of the home owner.  Our children prayed for them and their needs.  At the last home, my 7 year old prayed.  Abby prayed for Teddy.  White Abby for African-American Teddy.  How many times has my child seen the broken-down home of a man in Orange Mound and felt moved to pray for restoration, crossing racial barriers that she may not even see?  Opportunities of SOS, providing layers of... grace.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strength Not My Own

In John 6 after saying some pretty tough things and losing many followers, Jesus turns to his 12 disciples and says, You do not want to leave too, do you?  In Luke chapter 7, after John the Baptist had announced the coming of the Messiah and landed in prison, he questioned, Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?

Sometimes I'm tempted to bolt.  Sometimes I question.  Specifically, for me, there have been times when Chris' work situations have been bad and relationships have been tough.  I've told God over the job stuff if this is what you want from me, then maybe I just want out.  And with the relationships this is obviously not the way you intended this to turn out.  My faith is weak, and I know in those times I can't continue to follow a God who wants all of me.  But, then I'm reminded that it's not in my own strength that I must follow. It's not in my own strength that I obey.  

But he said to me,"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

You are not saved because of the quality of your faith but the object of your faith. Tim Keller

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I Learned At Camp

Sarah (10) went to camp last week for the first time.  She wanted to blog about her experience.

While I was at camp for a week, I learned about these things........

1. I learned that God has a calling for you. Witch means that god has something that's just for you that you need to do.

2. I learned about Paul and how he went through some rough times.

3. I learned about how God is with you even in rough times like Paul was. God was with him.

4. I learned that girls are crazy. I'm pretty sure all the girls stayed up till 12:00 every night. And I know that they were doing silly things.

5. I learned that I shouldn't tell everyone that it's my birthday because when I told 1 of my friends they told one of the counselors that it was my b-day and so she stood up on a chair in the lunch room and everybody to sing happy birthday to me. It was really embarrassing.

6. And last but not least while I was listening to the pastor talk about missionaries and so I decided that it would be cool to be one so I talked to a counselor about it and I told her that I wanted to be a missionary because people at my church go to different countries to tell people about Jesus. Because if I tell one person they might tell other people and they might tell other people and then other people come to know more about him.

Feel Like Your Job is Useless, Mom?

When I was rolling out of bed this morning, Chris was just getting in from his weekly mentoring meeting with a younger guy.  They are studying Romans 2.  He has several morning and lunch appointments this week with young adults and had a few last week.  I am proud of my husband.  I love that he mentors others, that he takes an interest in them and they in him.

But, let's just be honest for a minute.  As a mom, do you ever have those moments of...  I want to take a shower and mentor a Millennial today.  I want to have deep spiritual discussion and break down Romans 2.  I want to have lunch at Humdingers and talk about what God is doing in my life over sweet potato fries.  I want to drink coffee while it's hot and not be interrupted to pour cinnamon toast crunch.

Well, I've had and have these moments.  These times are too short to wallow for long.  The days are long, but the years are quick.  Mothers, the diapers changed, the books read, the long hours at home are not wasted.  Don't think for one minute that what you're doing does not matter.  Pointing lives to Christ is no small task.  Sidenote:  If you desire to mentor younger girls, they will come to you.  If you are a stay-at-home-mom, invite younger girls into your home.

Sometimes to get myself going, I need a plan.
So, what are we doing today? (Not necessarily in this order)
1.  Math flash cards (Sarah, multiplication -- Abby, addition)
2.  Computer time -- 30 minutes each because everyone helped clean house last night
3.  Pillow fight -- I took this idea from someone else
4.  Reading time -- 1 hour each day, the public library gives great rewards
5.  Bible time -- we've been reading 15 min. a day, just started reading through Acts
6.  Tonight -- Jerry's Sno Cones

I like this blog post for multiple reasons, but if you're having a hard time seeing how your time at home is benefiting your children, read this:  What I Don’t Look For In a Church

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Criticism? Positive?

Honestly, I didn't know there was a positive side to criticism, but after reading this article, I think I'm convinced.  Thom Rainer is the President of Lifeway Christian Resources and the author of many books.  I read this post on his blog this morning, and I think I will refer back to it when seeking a more positive outlook on criticism.

I think it's safe to say we recoil when criticized, even if someone is so kind to place the word "constructive" in front.  But, there is also maturity in receiving criticism well.  Did I just say that?  I hope I don't have to eat my words.  I hope you enjoy the article.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Traffic Doesn't Make Everyone Angry

Have you ever been agitated in traffic and looked around at other drivers only to see them singing?  How about in a classroom when someone is repeatedly clicking their pen and you could go through the roof but no one else seems to mind?  Maybe you can't stand a particular person at work or your child's school but everyone seems to get along with that person fine or enjoy their company.  There may have been a time in church when you were shooting daggers at the worship guy or pastor but everyone else seemed focused on God or content listening to the preaching of the Word.  Is there a particular race that causes you to feel superior, but when you look around, everyone else seems unaffected?

There is something great about conviction.  I've been reading Paul Tripp's book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, and something he points out is sticking with me in all of my minor and major irritations.  He says, "Though there are situations and relationships that we all dread, there is enough variety in the how, when and where of our anger to suggest that something else is going on.  That something is the heart.  We do not respond to people and situations in the same way because we do not bring the same heart to them.  This is why any attempt to examine the causes of conflict must begin with the heart."

No one can make me angry.  Not my children.  Not my husband.  
Traffic cannot make me irritated.  Not a pen.  Not a mother at school.  Not a boss.
Church cannot make me unhappy.  Not a pastor.  Not the music. 
A race cannot make me angry.  Not situationally.  Not generationally.

Everything is about the heart.  When I am mad at someone, I have to look at my heart.  When I am impatient, I have to look at the heart.  When irritated, the heart.  And, simply changing my behavior will only clean it up until the next shoe drops.  Behavior modification will never work.  The only cure for an impure heart is Christ and what Luther said was the consistent pattern of the Christian life:  repentance and faith, repentance and faith, repentance and faith.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

As children, we obey our parents.  As adult children, we honor our parents.  I certainly wasn't great at the former, but I try a little harder at the latter.  In honor of my dad on Father's Day, here are a few things that come to mind when thinking of my dad although the list is not exhaustive.
Some great things about my dad:
1.  My dad can build/fix anything.  If he can't, he'll figure it out.
2.  My dad has always provided for his family.  Always.
3.  My dad is loyal and committed.
4.  He believes in a job well done.  If it's not done well, it's not worth doing.
5.  He loves his grandchildren.  He would do anything for them.
6.  He is dedicated to the Body of Christ.
7.  His faith in Christ has never wavered.
8.  My dad is simplistic (to the point of saving the cotton from a medicine bottle).
9.  He loves a chainsaw.
10.  His house is always open to anyone.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mothers, God is Sovereign

Nearly three years ago, our neighbors' son (in his mid 20s) had a tragic accident.  He barely survived and now has very low brain function and is completely dependent on his parents.  Chris and I talk with the parents regularly and have built a friendship with them.  They are pleasant and loving.  They are dedicated parents who haven't shown an ounce of bitterness.  They've never expressed that God owed them something for the "good" they've done.

It was time for them to be empty-nesters and put their feet up when their whole world came crashing down.  I expressed this recently to the mom, and she just grinned.  I also told her that when she was out playing with her son, like I do with Cooper, she could have never dreamed this would have happened.  She shook her head.  I don't judge.  It could have been me, and none of my children are exempt from what happened to hers.  She tries to not let herself drown in what could be an ocean of guilt.  She would never escape.  Jesus can redeem any situation.  That's what I told her.  She agrees.

As mothers, we all know this guilt too well.  I've stayed at home from day one with my kids, and there have still been nights when I feel I didn't give enough.  I want to do the best I can do knowing they have their own strong wills, and above both of those, there is still the Sovereign one.  That's where we have to rest.

Gary Thomas in Sacred Parenting says, "None of us can be such good parents that God becomes obligated to save our children's souls.  On the more encouraging end, none of us can mess up so badly that our children somehow extend beyond the reach of God's mercy."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad...Maybe

When hanging out with three couples the other night, one of the husbands was trying to get his wife to come around to his way of thinking.  The other wife and I agreed with him, and he said, "See, two out of three moms agree!"  So that should always seal the deal, right?  Well, let's just say the other wife and I are a what my husband calls "a little rough around the edges."  Would that make a difference?  Maybe the two out of three aren't the best two to ask.

Let's shift the situation to more serious matters.  Who are the 2 out of 3 you turn to when seeking advice?  Do they offer worldly wisdom or Godly wisdom?  Do you even know the difference?  We like to have our ears tickled.  We're encouraged by the world to only spend time with those who give us "positive energy." I don't even know what the heck that is.  What about those who challenge us with the Word of God?  It is okay to walk away from a friend feeling like you may not be making the right decisions because you may not be.  Do you run from that or embrace it? 

Isaiah's time was no different:
These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.  They say to the seers, "See no more visions!"  and to the prophets, "Give us 
no more visions of what is right!  
Tell us pleasant things
prophesy illusions.  Leave this way, get off this path, and 
stop confronting us 
with the Holy One of Israel!  Isaiah 30:9-11

If your 2 out of 3 are always agreeing with you that you're doing the right thing, you may want to add a fourth or fifth.  Stick close to people who challenge you spiritually.  Seek wise counsel.  And, ask the Spirit to discern for you if their "counseling is rooted in the revelation of the Creator."  Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Rhythm That Is Children

I once heard an expecting mother say she and her husband were bringing their child into their world.  Their lives would not revolve around the baby but he would simply begin to develop into their rhythms and they would not stop for his.  I thought that was a good idea for about the first three months of Sarah's life while she was in a carrier putting up little fight.  Now, with three children ranging from 5 to 10, I think it is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

I will also say this:  I expect my children to be very independent.  I do not jump when they ask for a drink.  They help clean the house, and they take their own showers.  Sarah does all of her own homework and projects.  Abby cuts her own fingernails.  Cooper brushes his own teeth (when so inspired).  They can tear this house apart, but they also know how to put it back together.  As independent as my children are expected to be, I still think the above comments are delusional.

Chris and I are finding that our kids, possibly now more than ever, require all of us.  We're okay with that (most days).  They need attention and discipleship.  They need Jesus weaved into every fiber of their emotional and spiritual growth.  We find ourselves saying that Sarah is halfway finished with the time she will spend in our home.  We are halfway finished pouring all we can into her before she leaves. (Our older friends are reminding us that they really start leaving around 14 or 15.  Ouch!)

How naive we are to expect that our kids will not disrupt our lives and schedules!  What joy we miss in not submitting to that (at times)!  Pour into them!  The time is now!  These years are exhausting, but we want to know that we have discipled our children well and give glory to God for the rhythm that is children.

Disclaimer:  I do not do this well.  Part of the reason I expect my children to be independent is because I am selfish.  I'm trying to learn to get up early to get things done to not put my kids on the back-burner.  I like to blog and look at twitter.  I have a small side job and keep up with our bills at home.  I have a tendency to make my kids busy themselves while I do things I like to do.  I'm trying to learn to do some of these things before they get up, so that they are not constantly having to revolve around me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grace Upon Grace

You know how you read a book and love it then the movie comes out? You want to see it but you're afraid it will ruin the book?  It usually does, but you want to see it anyway.  I felt that anticipation this past Sunday.  I love the first chapter of the book of John.  I love being reminded that Jesus is God.  I love that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  I love that from His fullness we have all received grace upon grace.

I love reading that chapter over and over.  There is a part of me that wants to keep it to myself.  At the same time, I know someone more studied than myself needs to open it up for me and give a better explanation.  I guess I'm afraid someone will butcher its beauty.  I knew Gib wouldn't do that -- part of the reason I like to sit under his teaching.  He is a gifted teacher whose focus is never less than the centrality of the Gospel. We are entering an incredible series in the book of John entitled "Believe."  For a better understanding of the first chapter of the book of John, please listen here.

And, I cannot go without sharing the words to one of my favorite songs that come from the first chapter of John:

Grace Upon Grace
Sandra McCracken

In every station, new trials and new troubles
Call for more grace than I can afford
Where can I go but to my dear Savior
For mercy that pours from boundless stores.
Grace upon grace, every sin repaired
Every void restored, you will find Him there
In every turning He will prepare you
With grace upon grace.
He made a way for the fallen to rise
Perfect in glory and sacrifice
In sweet communion my need He supplies
He saves and keeps and guards my life
To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
and all that You ask Your grace will provide.