"little words"

"We are all like the Word himself--we might say that we are 'little words,' made to be communicators in words just like our Creator. God is the One who called all worlds into being by his creative word, who sustains and rules over all things y his powerful and law-giving word, who reveals himself by his truth-giving word, who communicates by his life-giving word. We are to use language in imitation of him by exercising the gifts of creative imagination, by understanding and naming the world around us, by revealing ourselves truthfully in all we say and write, by communicating with our Creator and with one another to build trust and to give life to all of our relationships."

(from Jerram Barrs' _Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible_, Eve at Creation, 17-18)

Reviewing this book for the Campus Store. So far, I'm loving it!!

clean & secure... a computer analogy

"God of grace, I stand astounded, cleansed, forgiven and secure.
"All my fears are now confounded, and my hope is ever sure." (from Getty/Rea)

Over the Christmas holiday, I got a virus on my computer. Thankfully a friend of mine is an IT whiz! He tutored me over the phone as we wiped out the main virus (Security Tool; dubbed 5201109.exe). But there were multiple other applications (sr882388.exe, siszyd32.exe, fjhdyfhsn.bat, _ex-08.exe, _ex-68.exe). ... It was a MESS!

On Christmas Eve, I thought I had it all. I made the comment on FB: "Praising the Lord for a clean computer & computer savvy mission team friend who bailed me out. I can actually see how some people could enjoy this stuff. Took ~3 hours in all to clear the Security Tool virus, his pseudonyms and all his mucusy cohorts. And so finally at 2:22 [am], I can say, 'Merry Christmas to all, and to all a GOOD NIGHT!'"

But alas, there were more infected ... "temporary internet files" under Content.IE5, that needed to be cleaned out, which included getting into both the computer's registery editor (regedit) as well as its command center (cmd) via "Run" and deleting files that wouldn't show up anywhere else. Finally after three days (probably 7 hours of work), the (now installed) Security Suite from Charter is finally declaring the computer clean! 0 viruses, 0 adware, 0 malware, 0 riskware...

For me, it's an illustration of the work of Christ, picturing salvation, sanctification, and finally glorification. Allow me to make the analogy:

I was a MESS! Sin was at work in my soul down at the command center level, and it was deemed fatal. There would be a total system failure, and literally, "hell to pay."

BUT GOD, Who is rich in mercy, sent His Son JESUS to come to Earth, taking on human flesh so that He could be the perfect substitute for lost humanity (see Eph 2:1-9 & the Gospel of Luke).

When I put my faith in Him, He took away my sin. Jesus declared me righteous in relationship with God. In effect, He cleaned out sin, the main virus, along with its eternally fatal consequence.

AND YET there were/are still affected areas of my life, results from my previous condition. I still have sinful habits--spiritual malware, if you will. It takes time to clear all of that out. That is where the process called sanctification comes in. To sanctify simply means to set apart, to make holy or clean. And so the Word of God sanctifies me. Like a valid security scanner, it points out to me problem areas and cleans out what it can.

It also acts as a shield. (Side note: The idea that God is our Shield recently sunk into my 5-year-old, knight-loving son's mind. You're right, Micah! That's a very cool thought!) God, His Spirit, and His Word protect me from evil.

But (back to the analogy) sometimes just reading the Word isn't enough.

James 1:21-25, niv: "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

There are times that the antivirus security software program locates a problem but cannot clean it out by itself. That's when I have to get into the cmd or regedit and purposefully delete infected files. Similarly, in my sanctification, I have responsibility in the cleansing of my own heart, mind, and body.

"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:8, esv, emphases mine)

"Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Cor 7:1, esv, emphasis mine)

This sanctifying/cleansing takes determination and practice, cutting out the bad habits of my former state, renewing my mind by memorizing specific statements of Truth from the Word of God, and establishing new habits and ways of doing things (see Ephesians 4).

Let me just say this here, biblical counseling from a pastor who studies and applies the Word of God faithfully can be very helpful in this area. And it doesn't have to be a "big deal." It could be that you work through eliminating a lot of major issues, but there's still a few hidden files that you're having a hard time putting your finger on and fixing. You know there's something wrong, but can't quite figure it out. Just as we would seek help from a computer technician if the problem was on our computer, getting advice from a biblical pastor can be extremely helpful.

And now let's focus on that final phrase of 2 Corinthians 7:1, "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Cor 7:1, esv, emphasis mine)

We can have confidence that one day holiness will be complete as we perfectly fear God and enjoy His presence forever. No more sin, no more sickness... and no more malware--of any sort!
That's the glorification aspect. Heaven, at last!

In retrospect, one of the sad realities is that the Charter Security Suite is free to those who choose Charter as their internet service provider and yet I had not installed it onto my computer. The comparable, though far greater, truth is that salvation is free to all those who will put their trust in Jesus Christ.

Without accepting His free gift, I allow sin to overtake my soul, blocking out anything good that would be possible. With Christ, I am "cleansed, forgiven, and secure."

And so in conclusion, I share with you again a cherished hymn text (from Getty/Rea) that I am LOVING this holiday season:

"God of grace, amazing wonder, so immeasurable and free;
"Oh, the miracle of mercy, Jesus reaches down to me.

"God of grace, I stand in wonder, as my God restores my soul.
"His own blood has paide my ransom, awesome cost to make me whole.
"God of grace, I stand astounded, cleansed, forgiven and secure.
"All my fears are now confounded, and my hope is ever sure."

Thank You, Gracious God.

just a "little" note ... merry CHRISTmas!

Reveling in the reality that God often chooses little, insignificant things to glorify Himself. Thinking specifically of Micah 5:2, "O Little Town of Bethlehem." And then remembering, too, the love of Jesus for "little children" and the reality that "of such is the kingdom of Heaven." Had a wonderful day with our little family rejoicing in our Awesome God and His great Gift to us!! Merry Christmas to you & yours ... With love, michelle

Our God Reigns

Part of Moses' song in Exodus 15 reads: "In your unfailing love You will lead the people you have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble...The LORD will reign for ever and ever!"Today, though I am more aware of my shortcomings than at previous times, I am rejoicing that God is in control and that He LOVES me. He proved it at Calvary. He continues to demonstrate it in His daily leading, bolstering me, gracing me, on my journey Home. I pray that God would use me and my family as He did Moses and his family to show the nations that there is ONE GOD and He deserves our worship.

Hungry for Thanksgiving...

What? We're going to eat as a family for Thanksgiving!?

Turkey Meatball Soup

Instead of bread crumbs, to keep this Thanksgivingish, try using cornmeal & adding a box of StoveTop turkey stuffing... Mmm. I like using Jewish type spices (ever since Alan went to Israel): coriander, pinches of cayenne & cumin... Mmm. Thanksgiving soup... for a fresh twist on my favorite holiday!

Pumpkin Pie with Soy Milk alternative

In school the other day, the kids were asked to tell something they were thankful for. Micah chimed in "goats!" It might sound odd, but to a kid who doesn't get to have regular cheese, he's thankful for goat's cheese...when he gets it.

This Thanksgiving, we'll be making pumpkin pie with vanilla soy milk. Click on the title for this simple substitute.

I am so thankful for all the things the Lord allows us to enjoy. We each have limitations, and yet there are so many things that are within our grasp that we can praise Him for & enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

So much to be thankful for... and yet it's so much more than a warm, fuzzy, gathered-with-the-family-around-a-fat-turkey feeling, devoid of a recipient.
Thanksgiving is an offering to our great God for Who He is & how personally and intentionally He interacts with us for our good in addition to His glory.

Believe me, I'm planning to enjoy my time with family, cuddled close with some warm chocolate soy milk (our version of hot cocoa) or some silk nog to sip; but my heart is to spend this Thanksgiving week giving thanks to the Giver of all good things.

Hope you have a great one too...

With love, michelle

Driven by Desperation

I'm finding recently how desperately I need the Word, just more and more. I tried to read extra this summer b/c I know how difficult it can be during the school year, but I'm finding that doesn't cut it.

The more I give out, the hungrier I am. I know what's coming out through me can't be as helpful if I'm not continually restocking my resources.

I'm thankful for the extra opportunities to minister the Word and love other people in a meaningful way, not just because I love living that way and seeing change take place in others' lives, but b/c it pushes me to desperately seek God's face.

I must daily humble myself to stop the business that deceives me into thinking that I'm so important. I must instead set aside myself and sit at my Savior's feet, studying not just to teach someone else, but to know my Lord better. It is daily being washed by His Word, being scrubbed by His Spirit, that purifies my heart and its motivations.

Only then can I be truly effective. Only then can I know true joy and fulfillment.

Lord God, keep me desperate. Give me whatever You know I need to make me more and more hungry for You. I want my life to be a sweet savor to You, and I know that's only possible when I savor Your sweetness. Thank You for intentionally pursuing me and drawing me back to You again and again, closer and closer. Help me to love those around me with that kind of intentional love. Grow us each up in Christ until we all together are the perfect Body for Your Son. Thank You, Father. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit.


book review: Houndsley & Catina

Just found a fabulous new set of children's lit titles by James Howe, illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay.

The Houndsley & Catina series is reminiscent of the beloved adventures of friends like Frog & Toad and Mr Putter & Tabby... Built around the sweet friendship of a cello-playing dog who appreciates the simple things in life and loves to cook and a fashion-conscious cat who wants to be a famous writer but settles for writing really bad poetry, they also include a third friend, Bert, who is a bird and subsequently loves worms and wishes Houndsley would cook with them.

The words are lyrically beautiful; the watercolor illustrations, simply charming. Useful for encouraging your child to enjoy listening to the sounds of well-chosen words strung together, these books are also excellent for engaging your child in discussions about the essence of friendship. A treat for the child as well as the parent!

There are four titles that I am aware of:

Houndsley and Catina
Houndsley and Catina & the Quiet Time
Houndsley and Catina & the Birthday Surprise
Houndsley and Catina Plink & Plunk

At least three of these titles are available at the Greenville County Public Library.
If they're not at your library, they're worth requesting the library to order.

I hope you'll enjoy them as much as we have... Sincerely, michelle

A perfectly delightful anniversary

7's always kind of revered as a special number. And this year, we celebrated our 7th anniversary! It was definitely special! Alan's mom watched the boys and we took off for the mountains. Ditching our tentative plans to hike Table Rock (which proved a good choice considering the downpour during dinner), we ended up discovering a new favorite in Flat Rock, NC, just a little less than an hour from our home.

Season's Restaurant at Highland Lake (website linked to the title) offered the perfect dining experience. Alan enjoyed the "Grilled Ribeye Served With Whipped Yukon Potato Mash, Onion Worcestershire Reduction and Fresh Vegetable Selections" while I experimented with the "Fresh Local Tomato and Cucumber Chilled Soup with Yogurt Drizzle" followed by the fabulous "Lump Crab and Fried Green Tomato: Napoleon Corn Meal Dusted Fried Green Tomatoes Accompanied by Lump Crab Asiago Cream Drizzled with Parsley Oil."

We split their Triple Chocolate cake, slowly savoring each bite, then tipped the waiter and headed around the corner to the Flat Rock Play House for a delightful enactment of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

The evening's play was "officially" sold out, but they assured us in the Box Office that they'd be able to get us seats by the time the play started. But as I walked over to the Box Office before show time to double check, a man stood there with his wife: "They gave us four tickets, but we only need two. Could you use them?" "Are you sure!? Can we pay you?" "No... You'll be sitting by us, though," he said. "That's fine with us. Thank you so much!"

The play was extremely entertaining, a true delight. And as we drove home, our minds and hearts full, we agreed that the Lord had His hand in the evening and that He must have wanted to encourage our marriage.

It truly was a wonderful night, the perfect way to celebrate our 7th anniversary.

building and balancing

"New Year's Resolutions" only seem to last as long as it takes me to replace one short-term memory item with the next "really important thing to remember" or as long as it takes to fill a page full of neatly-scripted, carefully-worded, detailed-and-decided-upon strategies-for-change-and-success in a beautifully bound journal and then close the journal and set it on a shelf and forget which journal I wrote those goals and strategies in.

For me, resolutions are (of necessity) to be shared. I need accountability. 

Daily, meaningful, quiet time in prayer and Bible study is something I desperately feel the need for. But "prone to wander--Lord, I feel it! [I'm so] prone to leave the God I [really do] love. Here's my heart! O take and seal it--Seal it for Thy courts above" (from "Come, Thou Fount"). And as frustrating as it is to admit when I have wandered from the discipline and have lost the desire, when I honestly want to grow, I will make myself thankful for the faithful friend who will ask me how I'm doing.

Diet & exercise, as a way of life, not just a whim of woe when we stand on the scale, or walk past the scale because we just don't want to know. I've recently started going to the fitness center during my lunch hour. The ladies that I have met have been "iron" for me. As we run on the indoor track or elliptical machines, lift weights, or teach each other a new Pilates stretch, we encourage each with the over-arching purpose behind the pain we're inflicting on ourselves: ultimately, increased effectiveness for the glory and praise of God, increased energy for our families, and increased efficiencies in our labors of love within and outside of our homes. Now, I will say that I count it an awesome privilege to work on the campus of a uniquely Christian institution where there is that sharpening edge of fellowship on a regular basis, but I really believe this is possible whether you're a stay-at-home mom or work in the secular work force. Finding another person that can challenge you to continue on, someone to exercise with on a regular basis. At times, I've set up different people to exercise with on different days of the week ("Amy" on Mondays and Wednesday mornings at a local university, "Rachel" on Tuesday afternoons at the park, "Lori" on Fridays, and so forth). It's not a bad idea to have a group of three or four of you that can trade off two watching each others' kids for an hour while the other two go work out. For me, exercising has been such an excellent time to build relationships.

There are obviously other areas in life that accountability is helpful for. Just meeting once in a while for tea while the kids play in the backyard or emailing if getting together isn't possible that week. A phone-call once a month to catch up and exchange prayer requests, a short hand-written "I'm praying for you today. Thought of you a lot recently and just wandered how you've been"--it doesn't have to take long, but the people that we network ourselves with are some of the special gifts the Lord has given to keep us balanced. 

God called His Church, a Body. He intended for us to be "tightly joined together." 

"Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who is the Head, into Christ, from Whom the whole Body, joined and held together by every joint with which It is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the Body grow so that It builds Itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:15,16). And obviously the flip-side of "speaking the truth in love" is being willing to listen to the truth being spoken in love.

Accountability--it's beautiful--building--balancing. 

Special thanks to each of you who have held me accountable and who are holding me accountable... With love, michelle