Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Come Let Us Adore Him



Christmas...the word brings us memories of sleigh rides, skating, Santa and presents, family feasts and singing songs. It's a holiday that many people all around the world celebrate, and most of the aspects of Christmas have their roots in different pagan traditions. But for me, Christmas is more than trees and tinsel, lights and lists. Christmas for the Christian is a time to remember the birth of Jesus. It's a celebration of that point in time when God finally spoke after 400 years of silence. He broke through the heavens and came to earth in human flesh as a tiny baby, ending the centuries of silence with the small, frail cry of an infant. He was born in a stable surrounded by sheep and oxen, and placed in a makeshift bassinet softened with hay. There was a star that hovered over His birthplace, leading shepherds and kings to find Him. There were angels filling the sky, proclaiming the glory of the Lord. Yes, the night when God took on flesh and was born as a baby was a sacred and holy night, one to be remembered.

But there's so much more to Christmas than the baby in the manger. The baby grew into a young man who was found teaching in the temple, confounding the wise with His wisdom. He became a man who walked on water, healed lepers and blind and deaf people and raised the dead with a word. He was a man who was tempted in every way, but never gave in to temptation. Rather, He overcame every dart of Satan with Holy Scripture. He was bold as a lion when faced with the desecration of the temple, yet gentle as a lamb when He laid His hands on the children and blessed them. This God-Man lived a life of perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father. And when the time had come, He laid down His life and died on a cross, to make the perfect payment for the sins of His people. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, and then three days later He conquered death by rising to life again, never more to succumb as Lazarus did, but rather to live forever as the Holy King of the Nations.

So this year when I hear O Come All Ye Faithful, rather than picture the manger, I will picture the cross. This was the purpose of the manger, for God the Son to humble Himself by becoming a man, live a life of obedience, die a death to pay a ransom, and to rise victorious as King. I look forward to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

DVD Review - Desiring God

The only thing better than reading Desiring God, is watching Piper speak about desiring God. This man has ministered God's grace and truth to me for years now, especially the years after leaving a wonderful home church and waiting to find our next home church. The video makes the themes and gist of Desiring God the book come alive with Piper's passion and zeal for the Lord. With quotes from great theologians like C.S. Lewis, George Mueller, Augustine and John Owen, Piper spurs us on to a desperate pursuit of our complete satisfaction in God for our joy and His glory. I highly recommend this video for personal use, as well as use in small groups, Sunday school and any other place you have an opportunity to show it to one other person!
May God use this DVD powerfully in creating God-exalters all over the world!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: When the Hurt Runs Deep

Kay Arthur nails suffering and the sovereignty of God in this wonderful book! How often have you wondered why a circumstance has come into your life, and how you would ever find the strength to come through? The answers to those questions are found all throughout the Scriptures, and that's exactly where she takes us to find them in this book. Through the stories of Joseph, Job and Paul, she demonstrates time and again God's complete control in every circumstance. In Chapter 4, she writes these words:

"Many people like the idea of having God or a 'higher power' around when it suits them, to help them with their stuff as long as He doesn't interfere. In other words, 'God is all right as long as He doesn't make any demands on my life...kind of a jolly old grandfather in the sky who lets me do whatever I want and never gets in my way.' "...I am pausing to say all this because I firmly believe that genuine healing is tied to a correct knowledge of God's sovereignty - His rule over everything - and His character."

In today's society filled with the false teachings of the "Name It - Claim It" prosperity gospel, Ms. Arthur's book rises above with the glorious fragrance of truth. God is not a genie in a lamp waiting to grant my every desire. Nor is He standing by, waiting to see what will come into my life daily and how I will respond to each situation. No! He is the Master Orchestrator, the giver and sustainer of life, the One who holds all things together by His will. When we learn that all of life is ordained by Him for His excellent purposes, that's when we can truly be free to live for Him in whatever He calls us to live.
This is a must-read for anyone who has faced any trial, from difficult parenting to the suicide of a loved one; it's for anyone who might be called to speak Truth into the life of someone in a difficult situation. It's for believers who long to know more about the character of the God who redeemed their life from the pit. In other words, its for everyone!
I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Book Review: the Blessing

The Blessing, by John Trent and Gary Smalley (revised and updated)

This is a Christian parenting book. It's main idea is unconditional love and acceptance for your children. Instead of calling it that, although those words are in the sub-title, they call it blessing your children. If you're a parent and you've never read a parenting book, this is a good one. Bless your children by affirming them, loving them, valuing them. If you're a parent and you've read good parenting books, I think you'll do OK to miss this one. It's all been said before. Love your children.
I received this book from Thomas Nelson publishing for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

RAI scan - June 2011

Well, the scan is done and it was inconclusive. It showed a large dark spot in my right jaw area. I've been having swelling, numbness and tingling in that area for 3 weeks now, so that makes it suspicious. I'm waiting for Dr. Bajpai (oncologist) to talk with Dr. Phillips (radiologist) to determine the next step. I'll either go back to see Dr. Dumas (ENT), or have further testing done to determine what is causing the symptoms. Otherwise the scan looked clean, with no uptake in my neck or chest, which is great news.
Thyrogen is an amazing medicine. I was injected twice prior to the scan. This enabled me to remain on my thyroid meds rather than go off them for a month prior to the scan. My TSH prior to the injections had been in the 0.2 range. Yesterday my TSH was 78!! And the only real side effects I've had are sleeplessness and fatigue. HOpefully my TSH will go back to the normal range pretty quickly.
So now I'm waiting to hear about the next steps...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: Untamed

Lisa Harper has a way with words. She takes gospel stories and rewords them as though they were happening today. For example, she rewrites John the Baptist's message to Jesus this way:
"Are you really the Messiah? I mean, good night, here I've been slaving away in the desert without wine, women or ESPN, and You're going to parties, hanging out with drunks and prostitues, and telling people to love those who persecute them. I thought You were going to come out swinging and spewing fire!" (Chapter 3, pge 51).
Yes, she maintained the essential gist of the message John sent back to Jesus (Mt 11:1-3), but adds an edge and some humor. Typically that's my own style of storytelling and writing as well. It engages people who might otherwise not be able to get through a study about the Messiah. It adds a little skin, makes Him seem more real.
The book is laid out in chapters, with questions at the end of each chapter. It could work well as a Bible study guide for new Christians. It is not theologically deep, but it does tear away the images of a Jesus in clean white robes who never sweat or got tired.
So it's not my favorite book about Jesus, but I believe it has a place in the church, where often times people shy away from a Jesus to whom they can't relate.

I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Next things...

I've had very little going on lately in regards to cancer. I've been seeing my oncologist farily regularly, but nothing else. But next week is my follow up RAI (radioactive iodine) scan to see if there's any residual thyroid cancer. So I've been on the low iodine diet, which really isn't as bad as I made it out to be originally. Last time I had to do it for 2 months, but this time only a few weeks. And I've lost 10 lbs, which is a nice side benefit!
Ordinarily with this scan, I would have to stop all my thyroid meds for a month prior to the scan. That would make me extremely hypothyroid, which was a very unpleasant place to be - fatigue, hallucinations, memory loss (I almost forgot to include that one!) But thanks to a drug called Thyrogen, I don't have to stop my meds at all. That sounded like a good deal at first, but as I've read more about Thyrogen and understand how it works, it's a little scary. Instead of becoming hypo over the course of a month, I'll become hypo in just two little days! Yikes!
So my upcoming schedule is as follows:
Monday - Thyrogen injection
Tues - second injection
Wed - labs, then swallow the RAI pill
Thurs - a 2 hour full body scan at 11:00, then see my oncologist at 1:00 and get the verdict - to treat, or not to treat!
Fri - labs
If anything at all shows up on the scan, I'll have to have another high dose RAI treatment, which will mean 8 days in isolation again.
Along with all this, I've had a swollen area in my jaw for the past 3 weeks. My face is numb and tingly, and certain noises make my ear ring really loud. I've been trying to decide: dentist or doctor? I have no tooth pain at all, but it's a possibility. In my indecision, I've done neither in hopes it will just all go away. I'll probably stop in to see my doctor some time next week. Hopefully that's not related to everything else. Sigh...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Book Review: The Waiting Place

The Waiting Place; Learning to Appreciate Life's Little Delays
by Eileen Button

This book is a collection of personal essays written by Eileen Button throughout her life, as she experienced various delays, interruptions and struggles. It's a quick read, and she is transparently honest in how she faces each delay. Her life as a Methodist pastor's wife, mother, adjunct college professor and finally newspaper columnist is filled with disappointments, unfulfilled dreams, a seriously ill child and a busy and often distracted pastor/husband.

I was drawn quickly into this book, enjoying the honesty and sweetness of her writing. After a while, though, I found myself longing to read of her dependence on God and His unavoidable wooing. I was hoping to read about how God is great in the good times, and just as great in the bad times. So I guess I finally closed the book feeling a little disappointed. I wanted a glimpse into the life of someone so enamored with God that the waiting places throughout life became meeting places with God. Instead it was basically just a biography done in essay format. Well done, if that's what you want to read.

I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson publishing for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Life gets in the way

So many times there are things I'd rather be doing, but life gets in the way. I'd rather be writing, but I have a Monday through Friday job. I'd rather be traveling, but there are bills to pay and not much money leftover. I'd rather be a stay-at-home mom, but, well, you get the picture. It's easy for the necessary things to become embittering and mundane. I think that's happening to me a lot lately. And so I need to desire the great gain in godliness that comes from contentment (1 Tim 6). It's true that I never, ever have a surplus of godliness! The question is how much to I desire godliness? Enough to press on in my Monday through Friday job, paying bills, staying at home with my family? Enough to say, "Thank you, Father, for everything that I have that has come from Your hand, and thank you for the things You withhold?" For therin lies true contentment.
So today I will pray for the desire to desire godliness above other things. I pray God will work His will in my heart, so that I will be willing to be content in what I have - after all, I have a Father who flung the stars into space and holds creation together through Jesus (Col 1:17). What more could I really ask for?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review

Life, In Spite of Me, by Kristen Jane Anderson

Just three hours...that's how much time it took me to read this book. The story of Kristen Anderson is an amazing story of God's sovereignty over every part of our lives - even attempted suicide! At the end of her rope and in the pit of despair, Kristen suddenly decides to end her life when she hears the whistle of an oncoming train. Sure that death would be a much better alternative than continuing to live her painful and disappointing life, she lies down on the tracks, expecting that her life would be over in a matter of minutes. Apparently God had a different plan for her life.
Conscious throughout the events of that night, Kristen recounts the years leading up to her decision to end her life, as well as the terrifying moments after the train rain over her body when she realized that she was alive and that her legs were no longer part of her body. And if she thought her life was bad before, it was much worse now that she was confined to a wheelchair and dependant on those closest to her. And then...the question of faith. A woman from her family's church met her in the foyer her first Sunday back, and told her that it was a good thing she lived through her suicide, because she would have gone to hell if she had died. Of course her parents assured her she would have gone to Heaven; she was a good person, after all. But this woman's simple, careless statement left Kristen wondering - Heaven or hell? And how could she be sure? Little by little, using different people along the way, God revealed Himself to Kristen. And Kristen surrendered her life to Him - the one who held her down on those tracks the night rather than allowing her body to be sucked up into the train, the One who loved her enough to send His Son to die on the cross for her sin. He saved her life, her soul, and now has given her an amazing story. A story that thousands have heard in many venues, including the Oprah Winfrey show. Because of what God allowed in her life, she has been able to bring the gospel of hope to many teens who understood her despair and needed to hear her story of hope.
In Chapter 21, Kristen writes: "What if it (the botched suicide attempt) had never happened? I shuddered, thinking of where I could be. Losing my legs showed me how big and real God is. For the first time I realized losing my legs was worth it. I wouldn't go back, even if I could."
I highly recommend this book! Especially if you are at the end of your rope or know someone who is; if you're living with pain and disappointment, or know someone who is; if you're wondering what the point of your life is, or know someone who is. In other words, we can all benefit from the message of this book. God is in control. It's all about Him.
Read it.
I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for free, for the purpose of writing this review. I am not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review: Praying for Your Future Husband

Robin Jones Gunn and Tricia Goyer do a wonderful job presenting the reader with reasons and encouragement for praying for a future husband, in a devotion-type book. There are personal journal entries, stories and testimonies from women that they have interviewed for this book. Both women present their pre-marriage times honestly and transparently. They expose their own sinful backgrounds to us as they tell us of premarital relationships and even abortion - something most Christian authors might not be willing to admit to in order to preserve credibility.

I applaud both women for caring enough about the current population of unmarried Christian young women to write a book as real as this one. As Christians, we are called to "bear one anothers burdens". The burden on young women to find a mate is a heavy one. Teaching young women to pray for their future mates is one way to lighten that load. I plan to go through this book very soon with my "almost a teen" daughter, and would strongly encourage other moms to do the same. It's never to early to cast our cares upon the Lord, because He cares for us. He cares for our purity, our future and our joy. Christian marriage is a picture of Christ and His Bride, the church. Christ prays for His Bride (Hebrews 7:25), so of course we should pray for our future husband.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: 90 Days of God's Goodness

In Randy Alcorn's devotional book, 90 Days of God's Goodness, Randy gives the soul a powerful tool: a flashlight. But it's not a flashlight to shine on our own soul. We don't need to look more closely at ourselves during a trial. He gives us a flashlight to shine onto the nature and character of God, so that when we have been kicked in the soul, we can find His goodness in the trial, through the trial, and even because of the trial. We can see Him as the author and perfector of our faith.

On day 6, Randy quotes Pastor James Montgomery Boice as he stood before his congregation in Philedelphia in May of 2000, to explain that he'd been diagnosed with liver cancer. He quotes, "...God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It's not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by...God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good...If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good."
Suffering happens to every child of God. Jesus promised that in this world, we would have trouble. Randy Alcorn realizes this, and his book 90 Days of God's Goodness equips the saints to see God's goodness in the trouble, and to trust Him for the outcome.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Settling...

...into the new normal. Or the new, new normal I suppose I should say. I don't know how many diseases are cured by giving the patient an entirely new disease. I hope not too many. When I had cancer, I didn't feel sick at all. In fact, my only complaint was that I wasn't swallowing food easily. That would have made it easy to lose 50 or 60pounds! My thyroid cancer is "cured" for now, and I feel terrible most of the time! Insomnia, fatigue, irritability...and would somebody please turn down the heat!! And these are things that I'm told for the most part will be my companions for the rest of my life. I liked the cancer better.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scars

I have lots of them. I’ve had many surgeries over my lifetime. Fortunately, most of the scars have been in areas that aren’t visible. But recently I had to have open chest surgery to remove my large and cancerous thyroid gland. Those scars are easily visible across my neck and down the center of my chest. They are red, angry looking scars, even though my surgery was almost a year ago.

Initially, I was self-conscious about the scars. I often had complete strangers asking me about my health issues, which I felt were none of their business. I would become indignant if someone asked me about them. One of my doctors has also been quite focused on the appearance of the scars, even though I had not been complaining about them. He’s even suggested that I consider having them surgically (are you kidding me?!) removed, and having the subsequent scar irradiated to prevent the red angriness from returning. Hmm…sounds a bit extreme to me!

Lately though, God has been changing the way I think about my scars. After all, they are a reminder of the grace and mercy that He has shown me through a difficult time in my life. He carried me through cancer and surgeries and treatments, caring for me in ways He would not have needed to had I not been ill. My family, my church family, my neighbors and co-workers all ministered to me by providing meals, help and emotional support - they were Jesus “with skin on” to me and my family during those long months.

I’ve also realized that Jesus Himself bears scars - the scars from the nails that were brutally pounded into His hands and feet, the wound pierced in His side from the soldier’s sword to make sure that He was really dead. Those scars are evidence of hideous torture and intense agony. But they are also evidence of His deep love for His people. His scars exist because God the Father planned before the world was formed that He would send His Son Jesus into the world to redeem His people and save us from our sinfulness. The scars on Jesus’ body exist to glorify God the Father.

After his resurrection when Jesus appeared to His friends, they saw the nail prints on His hands and the wound in His side. They proved to them that He really was Jesus, risen from the dead. His body still bears the scars of crucifixion - they are evidence of His great love for His people. I know that when I see Him one day, I will look at those scars and remember what He has done for me. Through His sacrifice, I have peace with God.

I’m thankful for my restored health. I am thankful for all that God has done for me, sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sin. And I am thankful for the scars. Instead of being something embarrassing and unwelcome, I’ve decided to look at each scar as a
Sacred Call to Always Remember. They will forever be reminders of God’s love and mercy. And those are things I don’t want to ever forget.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hiding God's Word in My Heart

This year I've committed to memorizing the book of Philippians. Yes, the entire book. I've never memorized a book of the Bible before. The longest I've ever memorized are a few Psalms: 1, 23, 51. So this has been really stretching my brain cells, for sure! But what insights it has afforded me so far!!
I woke up the other morning with a picture in my head - a dog digging a hole in the yard to bury a bone. He was moving a bunch of dirt out of the way to make a place for the bone. That made me realize that hiding God's word in my heart is a lot like the work that dog was doing - moving a lot of dirt out of the way to hide something precious. There is so much junk in my heart - sin, distraction, anxiety, laziness, etc, that gets in the way of the Word. But if the Word is precious to me, I'll happily do the work - if I had a tail, it would be wagging all the while! This shouldn't be drudgery or a distasteful chore, but a welcomed privilege. I need God's grace to enable me to be joyful and zealous over the opportunity to hide His Word in the soil of my heart. Unlike the bone, which can be retrieved once and then would need to be "re-hid", the Word can be retrieved, mulled over and enjoyed over and over again throughout my entire lifetime.
"I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I may not sin against You." Psalm 119:11

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

The year is two thousand eleven,
Filled with chances for us to be leaven;
So those on the earth
Might see Jesus’ great worth,
And find hope in the Treasure of Heaven.