"for such a time as this"

Esther is a fascinating account of faith. I had someone say to me recently regarding my being in a particular situation, "for such a time as this"--that climactic quotation from the book of Esther--an understood meaning conveyed that this may very well be God's plan at this particular time to bring about His divine purposes.

I've thought through the story plot, reading the book again this month, specifically asking myself, "What does a modern-day Esther look like? How might her example of faith apply to me?" And here are my musings:

Being a modern-day Esther may mean...
  • Submitting to your authority, doing what you don't want to do, with a heart full of hope, even while it's aching.
  • Withholding your full identity or specific request until rapport is established in a relationship. (In a witnessing situation, it may mean not giving the gospel upon first meeting--not every time, but sometimes. In a workplace scenario, it may mean holding your peace until the right time. It's not easy, but sometimes it's what's necessary to accomplish the goal.)
  • Fasting and praying, and asking other believers to join you in your beseeching of God for His power and mercy, believing God for a miraculous answer.
  • Making a bold presentation, doing the unexpected, breaking the culture's normal formalities--by faith.
  • Getting to be a part of something way bigger than yourself that God is going to do on behalf of those who believe in Him.
  • Seeing God change the heart of a man in charge, a man of honor.
Pray for me as I pray for you. God will accomplish that which concerns us. Let's walk by faith, my friends, no matter what.
With hope,
michelle

select stories

I love when conversation lends itself to story telling. Alan & I were recently in a restaurant and were having so much fun listening in on the stories the guy behind us was stringing together for the benefit and enjoyment of the others in his party. They were having a great time, and so were we.

I got thinking then about how so much of our conversations is just that, relating of stories--descriptions of events, recounting of interactions, and so forth.

As I spent time visiting family members this past week, I was thinking about this concept, this post, and how true it is that the stories we share reveal something about who we are, what's important to us, or what we feel the listener needs to know about something--even if we don't come out and say the "lesson" we hope they'll gain from the sharing of the story.

Dialoguing with an editor-friend recently, I realize sometimes my bent is toward direct instruction, the teacherliness coming out too obviously, rather than just letting the story stand and allowing the reader to pick up on those lessons gradually.

And in the meantime I believe I was influenced by a book (though I cannot even remember which one it was at the moment) that was discussing the largely narrative nature of the Old Testament.

In reading through Genesis these past couple of weeks, I have felt a growing understanding of who God is as He has selected out and related specific stories for the benefit of those who would read His Book (you and me). I love that! And I love Him more because of that.

Along the way I was also struck with how much we miss when we're distracted from or avoid times together that feel like just a bunch of people sitting around sharing stories. To listen to my uncle, or my gramma, my dad, my mom, my brother or a friend--these are all opportunities to learn--about who they are, how they think and feel and why, what's important to them, the wisdom they've gained through their unique experiences and perspectives--wisdom that truly could protect me and help me to understand this world and where I fit in it. Definitely not a waste of time.

Two flares--warnings that shoot up regarding relationship pitfalls:
1. Take the time to listen.
Do we take the time to listen that we so desperately need or do we avoid these opportunities, replacing them with vain amusements? Do we listen to the truths
that those before us know we need? Do we allow them to pass on the wisdom they have learned?

Do we listen without interrupting? Do we let the person say it or do we try to insert what we think they want to say at certain points along the way or to argue a point that hasn't been made? This is one I have to be careful of too, to keep my mouth shut, allowing the long pauses for thought so the person can put his or her ideas together without my pre-editing them. We show respect and love for the other person as we listen to what they have to say.
And beyond human relationships, do we take the time to listen to the God, the One Who has recorded his heart in an eternal Book? Do we see His purposes in telling us each of His specific stories, whether directly stated or not? (And some are harder to figure out than others--why did God include ....) Do we learn from the Book and adjust our livestyles to match up to His purposes?

And let me include, too, an emphasis I've picked up from listening to my dad--we have the Holy Spirit. Understanding the Scriptures is not "on my own" learning. We have a Teacher that illuminates the lessons to our hearts, that strengthens our relationship with the Author, that allows us to grasp the intended meaning the closer we grow in relationship to Him.
A second warning would be:
2. Do not jump to conclusions and responses of anger.
And again, yes, I'm speaking from experience, but it is so easy when we do not understand a premise or the setting/context of a story or the person's viewpoint who's telling it, to jump into the muddy puddle "anger" and ruin everything. Suspend judgment ("longsuffering"), assume the best ("love"), ask questions, and graciously try to understand what the person was saying. We're all always still trying to get to know the other person, even if we've grown up with that person or are married to that person. Dear friend, we must be patient and forgive when others have jumped and ask forgiveness when we have. Restoration is absolutely vital for growing relationships.

I've seen this be true for people regarding God as well. They misunderstand
what He has said or they do not know Him well enough yet, and they assume He
meant ..., and they respond in anger and jump ship. Theirs is a sad conclusion
for they have left off listening to the One Who would have saved them, Who loves
them eternally.

James 1:19-25 (NIV here) seems apt, this time rather than a story, a letter clearly stated. I think you'll see the two warnings here as well:

"My dear brothers [and sisters], take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 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 is 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" (emphases mine).

Blessings,
michelle

fear chokes out faith, but ...

"Trust me & obey what I tell you, and you'll do fine." The words I spoke to my son in the swimming pool echoed in my heart the words of Jesus to his disciples, to me. When my son would not do what I told him to or would not trust me, he was soon overcome with fears and very soon literally choking, making no progress in his swimming.

But when he by faith did what I said, he began very quickly to progress. By the end of the afternoon, both boys were swimming without floaties (in the shallow end).

The Lord reminded me in this process, in keeping with the truths in yesterday's post, that His Word tells us not that faith leads to victory but that "faith is the victory" (emphasis mine).

Enlarge my faith, Lord. Strengthen my walk of faith, regardless of what I see. Help me to trust & to obey. Just like the song says, "there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust & obey."

I hope that short anecdote will be an encouragement to you as it has been for me today.

Blessings, my dear friends, as you walk by faith as well,
michelle

book review: will medicine stop the pain?


I have been so thrilled recently with what has been coming out from Moody Press. This time respected women's counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick has teamed up with Dr. Laura Hendrickson to speak a gracious voice of truth to women who struggle emotionally.

Opening with Laura's gripping personal testimony of her and her brother and the opposite conclusions that each of their diagnosis with bipolar pointed them to (her brother to suicide, herself to Christ), Laura and Elyse share a practically-balanced and personal yet completely biblical approach to dealing with anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.

This is not just a surface-level book. It digs deep and examines how our bodies and brains function, how our spirits (minds and hearts) cooperate with our bodies and brains, how each affects the other, and also how specific categories of medicines can affect both. They are very careful to point patients/counselees to their medical doctors and urge you not to just quit taking any medicine that you've been prescribed.

Meds are necessary at times, sometimes for extended periods of time. Other times, though, our problems are able to be addressed with Scripture and a true God-dependency. It is important that we consider all the factors when trying to figure out what the real problem is. The goal presented here is a good one: as little meds for as short an amount of time as possible (if possible) and as much time with God in true fellowship and trust in the reality that He is in control and working.

One of the most helpful portions for me was on the suffering of Christ and coming again to a biblical view of suffering. Suffering is not sin. Sometimes God gives us a cup to drink that is deep with pain. Think of our dear Lord Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross. We think pain is bad: get rid of it. But sometimes that pain/suffering is exactly what we need to help us learn the lessons God is wanting to teach us and to strengthen our trust in Him. Ultimately suffering/pain is for God's glory. And along the way we (by His grace) can come to realize that it is also intended for our good.

I am thankful for the specific Scripture treasures that are included in this book and for the Gospel-transformation that is time and again referenced as the starting point of hope.

I believe this book will be a helpful resource to all who will receive it. And I recommend this book with no reservation. (I only wish there were a companion book for guys, as this one is aimed at a female audience. See Don Johnson's review and a few reasons why he recommends guys go ahead and read this book.)

You may also find the Discerning Reader's review helpful. And the title of this post is linked to Elyse Fitzpatrick's website (9.99 purchase price).
I strongly encourage you to invest in this resource, whether you personally are struggling with physical pain or emotional struggles or if perhaps you have a friend who is. We are here to come alongside one another as we all grow in our relationship with God.

Grace and peace, my dear friends,
with love,

michelle

encouraged husbands

All four broadcasts on "A Hurting Couple Finds Hope" now ready for download at http://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/roh/today.php

Just a reminder. This series echoed so much of the transforming love that God has worked in my own marriage. Day 2 had 83 comments last I checked, telling me this is obviously striking a chord in women's hearts across our country. I pray that you will be encouraged by this series as well.

Alan actually listened along with me for a portion of these and laughed and "amened" along the way. I told him I wasn't sure I wanted to listen to this with him. But we laughed and listened on. And then I listened again later too. =)

Blessings, my dear friends,
michelle

biscuits -- no milk

I wanted an easy-to-remember, milkless biscuit, and here's what came together:

1/2 cup oil
1 cup plain soy "milk"
2 eggs
4 cups flour (self-rising or add 2 Tbsp baking powder, 2 tsp salt)

(Notice each ingredient doubles (1/2, 1, 2, 4). I love memory clues.)

Mix with fork, then fingers.
On a floured surface, roll out dough into a thin rectangle, fold over into fours, roll a little more.

Press out circles, place touching sides, and put in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. (Notice the numbers. Yeah! I love easy-to-remember.)

Serve with sausage gravy, or FROG jam,
tomatoes and bacon, or green eggs and ham.... =)

This one's for Micah, my no-milk kid. =)

Love you, buddy. --Mom (michelle)

p.s. FROG jam is Hillside Orchard's Fig-Raspberry-Orange-Ginger that I discovered at "The Tomatoe Vine" fresh food stand on Old Buncombe Road. Love it!!

helpful series on encouraging the faith of our husbands

Click on the title to link to the Revive Our Hearts series that began yesterday, Monday, July 12. Listen or read the transcript, though I definitely recommend listening to Kim and LeRoy talk with NancyLeigh DeMoss and hearing their voices. Especially if your husband is ministry-minded, I believe this series will be an encouragement to you as you seek to be the vine in your home, supporting and strengthening your husband. Thank you, Nancy, for following the wisdom of our Lord in sharing Kim and LeRoy's story. Thank you, LeRoy and Kim, for sharing so honestly from your hearts how God has taught you and brought you to where you are today in your marriage. Grace and peace to all, with love, michelle

fresh "peaches and green" salsa


  • 6 peaches, pitted and chunked (4 cups)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced (3/4 - 1 cup)
  • 1/2 red grapefruit, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 large green tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 pt fresh blueberries (2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (loosely chopped) (Since I picked this fresh from our garden, I just chopped up the flowers and everything; adds a pretty white)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix together with hands. Serve with tortilla chips or as a salad in its own rite.

Or try cooking down and serving over grilled fish, like a chutney.


by michelle l. grover
Bon Appetit.

the word that sustains

"Sustain me according to Your Word, that I may live;
and do not let me be ashamed of my Hope."
Psalm 119:116 nasb

Recently in small group we've been reviewing the major themes of the individual books of the Bible and memorizing a verse from Psalm 119.

Alan (my husband) commented how a study of Psalm 119 earlier in his life was exactly what he had needed to spark that fire of love for the Word of God as a whole. It's true. The psalmist captures so many of the major themes of Scripture and does it with a humble, grateful voice of praise.

So far:
  • Genesis: Creation/Beginnings (the word "genesis" literally means "beginnings" and this book is full of "firsts"); Psalm 119:73 "Your hands have made me and fashioned me; Give me understanding that I may learn Your commandments."
  • Exodus: Moses/Out of Egypt (the prefix "ex" literally means "out of"); Psalm 119:54 "Your statutes are my songs In the house of my pilgrimage."
  • Leviticus: Holy Living (Levi was the tribe of priests, a holy class); Psalm 119:38 "Establish Your Word to Your servant, As that which produces reverence for You."
  • Numbers: Wilderness Wanderings (Are your feet "numb" in your sandals yet?; a long trip full of amazing evidences of God's faithfulness and humbling lessons); Psalm 119:105 "Your Word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path."
  • Deuteronomy: Time to Review (deut/duet: two, this is a 2nd giving of the Law; emphasis on God's love relationship with His people); Psalm 119:49 "Remember the Word to Your servant, In which You have made me hope."
Memorizing has been such a help and blessing. I'm actually putting the verses on the "notes" tab on my phone so I can review easily wherever I'm at. I'm so thankful for this study and for the enthusiasm my girls in small group are showing as they learn and treasure our great God and His precious Word that sustains.

Moses said in Deuteronomy 32, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess" (nasb).

And in the NT, we learn that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1) in the person of Jesus Christ, who "is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17); and perhaps even more clear, "He [Jesus] is the radiance of His [God's] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3).

And so I close as I began: "Sustain me according to Your Word, that I may live." Your Word is what holds me together and sustains my very being. You are my Hope for life and for eternity. "Do not let me be ashamed of my Hope." I love You, O Lord my Sustainer, O Word of power and truth and life. Be praised today and forever with the life You have given me. Amen.

michelle l. grover

as you're going ... make disciples

Missionary Philip Hunt (Zambia) pointed out the great commission imperative from Matthew 28. Contrary to what we might assume from many of our English translations, the main command in the Greek is not "go" but rather "make disciples." The "go" is a given: it's assumed that we are all going various places. As we go, we're to be making disciples.

Matthew 28:18-21 (GOD’S WORD Translation) is helpful: 18 When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time.”

This is the idea that the Lord keeps bringing back to me: evangelism and disciple making ought to be the regular way we live our lives.

An Analogy: Crash dieting and binge exercise has very little effectiveness and is actually unhealthy in the long run. Maintaining a healthful diet and exercising regularly--as a way of life--is what makes the difference.

Similarly, effective disciple making doesn't rely on special meetings and once-in-a-while-when-I-get-really-convicted evangelism. This kind of evangelism must be followed up on by building a discipleship relationship if lasting change is to take place. Otherwise we may actually not be helping anyone. We're not after mass professions, remember. Making disciples isn't just "gettin' people saved."

May I be so bold as to say it's also not inviting people to church? The church is the gathering of believers. Evangelism takes place "as we are going" out and about. It takes thought and intentional effort to make contacts and build those relationships. But as you make gospel-living your lifestyle, I'm convinced you won't have to go far--right across the street, over the counter, just one desk over ... all those places you find yourself regularly. It may also mean getting involved in a local group (moms, sports, etc) in order to shine your light (rather than hiding it under a bushel).

Once someone believes and is converted, they are a disciple, but that's just the beginning of making disciples. A disciple is a follower, not just in faith but in practice also. And discipleship continues, following through with obedience in baptism and with teaching obedience in every other area too (being sure we're practicing what we're teaching along the way).

That may take a life-time and it won't be just you and your disciple. You'll see God bringing multiple people into the life of the one that you're bringing along, just as you see Him bring multiple people into your own life to bring you along. That's life-long disciple making, the way Jesus set it up.

"Make disciples" is the command. The question is whether or not we will obey.

Just remember, obedience brings joy. There is no greater joy than to watch God transform lives from the inside out and to know He is getting the glory He so deserves.

Blessings,
michelle

book review: fiction/non-fiction re: women in the Bible




I would like to highly recommend both of these books.

Non-fiction: Jerram Barrs, professor at the Francis Shaffer Institute, rises to the challenge in Through His Eyes: God's Perspective on Women in the Bible, re-examining multiple female characters in the Bible within their inspired contexts. He doesn't shy away from the tough topics--individuals like Tamar and Rahab, for example, and the prophecy that the young women would prophesy. Both intensely devotional and down-to-earth practical, Barrs' book challenged me to return to Scripture with a refreshed perspective on faith and the great mercy of our God. Probably my favorite book of the year, Through His Eyes is one I plan to reread again and again.

Fiction: Francine Rivers , accomplished author, evidences (once again) in-depth biblical research and a gifted imagination. First published as five novellas, A Lineage of Grace recounts a believable fleshing out of the stories of the five women whom God chose to specifically include in the genealogy of His Son Jesus, recorded in Matthew 1. Unveiled is intense and shows the daring faith of the woman Tamar; Unashamed reveals the dramatic redemption of the harlot Rahab; Unshaken shows the rewarding love of the faithful convert Ruth; Unspoken, the mercy of God in the life of David and Bathsheba; and Unafraid, the humbling humanity of the woman who would bear the Messiah, Mary. Francine masterfully weaves realistic human experience together with throughly biblical research. It may or may not have happened as she sees it--she would say the same--and there were times I thought, Hm, I've never thought that about that particular character, but her brave attempt allows us to realize the reality: these were real people, not mere storybook characters. Somehow fiction does that: it gives us a greater understanding of non-fiction, what's imagined reveals a deeper conceptualization of truth. I love that.

Thank you, Dr. Barrs. Thank you, Mrs. Rivers. The combination of your books read closely together intensified the truths of the greatest Book in my heart.

I am so thankful for God's great love for me as a woman, and I pray these books are an encouragement to you as well. Sincerely, michelle

more than letters after your name

As a SpEducator, my mind thinks in terms of Goals and Objectives. Reevals are a good thing, especially because they include multiple perspectives and adjustments toward realisitic expectations.

I'm thankful for the perspective voices the Lord has given me as I reevaluate my own goals and objectives. My husband is perhaps my chief sounding-board, and he's so patient to listen to my whims and wonder-ifs.... Extended family, especially my parents, are extremely helpful as well, especially given the amount of time they've known me. Even my kids' voices help me reevaluate what's important--the exuberant "Thank YOU, Mommy!" or the whiny "I'm not tired" both tell me their own truths.

Recently a still, small voice helped me reevaluate a reoccuring objective--one that I still have hopes for accomplishing, but not any time in the near future. If you're a believer, you know the Voice I'm talking about: that kind yet strong Voice of the Holy Spirit of God.

As background, let me just share that my husband is currently working on his PhD in NT Interpretation. It's been a lot of work and there's still a chunk to go, but I'm completely behind him in as his desire is to give national African men the seminary tools they need to understand the Word of God and to communicate those truths to their own communities.

It's tempting to call the degree, the goal; and at times it seems very much like the goal. But the truth is, it's only an objective on the way to the real goal.

Our real goal is to bring glory to God by worshipping Him wholeheartedly with gratitude and reverence and by by cultivating discipleship relationships with people in the specific cross-section of the world He's given to us.

So the objective that I'd like to see accomplished for me: a Master's degree in Special Education, more specifically in Reading and/or Written Expression Disabilities. And a doctorate isn't beyond what I could dream about. Yes, I'm an over-goaler. But I would love to pass on a love for SPED to the next generation of educators as well....

But at certain points along the way, I have to step back and do a reeval.
*Right now, I'm teaching SPED to help my husband accomplish his objective: it's part of what I believe is within the scope of the Proverbs 31 woman, allowing him to the man God intends him to be.
*I'm also a mom: Alan and I have two growing boys, still in early elementary school, who it is our privilege to love and disciple.
*And I'm a small-group discipleship teacher for the high school and college age young women in the InnerCity Ministry at our church.
*Not to mention writing...and reading....

It's not time to pursue a degree.... At some point, when Alan's completed his degree, perhaps the Lord will allow me to begin working on the Master's. But for now, Acts 4:13 has been a huge encouragement to me. (Title linked to Acts 3, 4 nasb via Bible gateway.)

Without any letters behind their names, with no formal education (4:13), the disciples of Jesus Peter and John spoke their message with unashamed clarity (Acts 3:11-4:3). Theirs was a noteably effective ministry (4:4, 21). They were not intimidated by others with more credentialed power who could have potentially silenced them, sending them to prison (4:5-12,15-18). Instead, they were set apart by God, filled with His Holy Spirit (4:8) and uniquely gifted (4:9-10; 3:1-10). They were devoted to Christ Jesus (4:11-12, 19-20), and it was obvious--largely because of the lack of letters after their names, so to speak--it was obvious that they had been with Jesus (4:13)!

If my goal is what I say it is, to glorify God, than if He realigns my objectives and even if He omits "graduate degree" from the list, that should be fine with me. He knows what He's shaping me into and what I need to have. If the best way I can worship Him and bring others along with me in praising Him is to forget the formal training, than so be it. He's given me wide-open ministry within my own family and neighborhood; He's broadened it to include discipleship relationships in our local church and in the Christian school where I teach.

The thing I need most right now is not more formal training. It's exactly what was so apparent of Peter and John: time spent with Jesus.

And that's a relationship incomparably more valuable than any letters after a name.

New objective: Michelle L. Grover will spend a cherished amount of time each day with Jesus, by reading His Word, by talking with Him in prayer, by singing and by journaling. mlg

Reeval submitted 5/27/10.
michelle l. grover

welcoming our adorable new nephew... with love and prayers

Brandt Ethan was born May 25! He's absolutely precious!!

For more pictures and prayer updates, click on link.
http://www.brandtsbeacon.blogspot.com/
Currently holding his own with no oxygen and a great set of lungs!
1st HypoLeftPlasticHeart surgery scheduled for Tuesday, June 1.

Thankful Parents: Glenn and Lindy Markevich
Excited Big Bro's: Joel & Seth

With so much love already!
... & lots of prayers,
aunt michelle =)

family time

First-priority ministry: My family! (Some recent pix.)

My awesome husband, taken at the state park last nite...

("So much for being able to start a fire with two sticks."--Alan. ... The coals never did catch fire--even with lighter fluid doused on them--but they still managed to flavor the meat nicely, and we all enjoyed a nice picnic, complete with pasta salad and carrot cake.)

And our beloved boys, taken at Davy Crockett's birthplace in TN...


(Love that they love the historic stuff! We're reading through BJU Press' 8th grade History textbook, The American Republic, this summer. How cool is that!)

Hope you're enjoying your family this summer too!!
michelle


book review: the wormling series

I just finished reading the five-book Wormling series by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry last night. In order from 1 to 5, the titles are: The Book of the King, The Sword of the Wormling, The Changeling, The Minions of Time, and The Author's Blood.

Rather than give you a play-by-play, I'm going to do pros and cons lists and let you decide if you want your kids to read these:

PROS:

*Plot is very possibly Jenkins/Fabry's greatest strength. They weave together an intricate map of two worlds that mirror one another and finally converge at the fulfillment of the final prophecy of the King. Commendable feat.

*Highly imaginative--though sometimes ridiculous--this series fits into the fantasy category w/o question

*Plugs for reading Scripture and living by the Book, obeying the King, living by faith regardless of sight, serving others, loving the outcast, and so on

*Highly allegorical, though not completely--this is consistent with most Christian fantasy

*Short chapters that keep the flow going--especially for today's young readers

*Multiple viewpoint characters--helpful for training the brain to hold information and wait for gratification/resolution

*Vocabulary building--defines a lot of words within the text (which is to say he tells you what the word means without you having to look it up in the dictionary)

*Classic quotes at the beginning of each book--love these!

*Good vs. evil is clearly defined; and the good triumphs over the evil--a must for truly good literature!!

*Many great truths explained and/or applied appropriately

*Uses descriptions of music as part of his scene-setting, the Dragon's being called "a percussive hymn" and "cacophony"; starkly contrasted by the King's peace-giving and joy-filled strains.

*Clever, easy-to-remember character names: Owen Reeder is the main character whose gift is reading and who lives in a bookshop; Clara Seacrest has eyes that sparkle like the sea; Watcher is the dog-like, faithful friend who has been watching for the return of the Wormling and whose gift is to recognizing even invisible presences; sometimes using synechdoche, naming the character, e.g., "White Shirt"; biblical allusions, such as Rachel (who weeps for her child) and Nicodemus....

CONS:

*Tells the story rather than showing us what happens along the way, probably to condense space, but at times it's jarring and/or disappointing.

*The whole five-book series was written within two years' time and lacks the finesse that I would've expected from a renowned author who boasts his own Writer's Guild. Specific areas: repetitive word choice/phrasing (types of verbals) and less than smooth flow/transitions. Maybe it's just me: "Not my style" (although recently I've found several others who would agree, having read other books/series, that there are some stylistic elements that could be improved in more than just the children's fiction writing). One more read-aloud would've done wonders, I'm convinced, but that takes time when you're pushing to make the deadline and/or another quick sale. Thankfully, the plot allows a forgiving reader to move on. However, and unfortunately, an additional pre-release revision would've made this series more enduring than it undoubtedly will be. ... C.S. Lewis is still the unrivaled Christian fantasy champion.

*A handful of not-helpful descriptors ("as if he'd drunk too much"--hopefully the age group he's writing to hasn't seen too much of this; "testosterone-laden" as an adjective for teens; "yeah, right you were looking at her eyes;" and so forth): sure, these are believable, but is it what we want to have our kids laugh at or focus on? The story would be just as strong, and I would argue stronger, if they were to leave these out. We choose our audience by what we write, and apparently/sadly they've chosen a pop culture group of kids versus the families that are trying to teach godly discernment to their young people. However (to use one of their favorite words), we can use even this element to help our kids learn that that's not funny or necessary.

*Cheesy, at times...

*Lack of discernment at one major point: Throughout most of the book, the words from the Book of the King are loosely translated from the Bible. Then in book 3 (p. 108), they quote the following from the book of the King: "As long as the King gives me breath, I will honor him and thank him... [an obviously biblical allusion; but then following right on its tale is some flagrant psychobabble:] ... Allow your heart the freedom it craves and then have the courage to follow it." This teaching doesn't fit the whole rest of the Book. Be careful. The intended audience age may not be discerning enough to pull this out, especially since it's so craftily wedged amidst really good, biblical thoughts.

*Definitely aimed at a specific age audience, rather than "the childlike of all ages" (George MacDonald, classic fantasy author and inspiration for C.S. Lewis).

CONCLUSION:
*I made notes in my copies at each of the points that lack discernment as well as at points where literary techniques or biblical truths are used with skill. I always recommend parents/teachers pre-read books they give their kids and talk through any crucial and/or questionable concepts as well as any literary devices their kids could incorporate into their own writing.

*The story begins with good intrigue, wanes a little in books two, three and four with journeys and battles that get a bit long and somewhat repetitive, though interesting and important characters are added along the way. The authors leave enough threads dangling that the reader is encouraged to press on and tie it all together--which is what the fifth book in the series does. Book Five is, in my opinion, the best of the five.

To read Michele Howe's plot summary for each of the five books in Jenkins/Fabry's Wormling series, click on the title link for this blog post.

And then, you decide.

michelle

book review: same lake, different boat--final installment


The final chapter of Same Lake, Different Boat was perhaps the most convicting for me: "On Change: Revolution or Reformation."

Having taught through a fiction title based in the French Revolution this year, and loving Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the very word revolution conjurs up various and sundry graphic images. Once fully persuaded in our minds of the need for implementing the truths in Same Lake, Different Boat, truths founded clearly in Scripture, it is only natural to want to convince everyone else of their need to change too. But the manner in which we educate others and exhort them to change must be full of grace. I am so thankful for this timely admonition from a sister in Christ.


"Revolution," Stephanie writes, "is energized by frustration, promotes the forcible change of external behaviors, values the attainment of its cause above the worth of others, and focuses on the acquisition of power from its enemies" (224). Ouch! She doesn't mince words here. And she shouldn't. "If we conform to the world's pattern--revolution" (216), we will very likely end up with wounded souls in the process.


"Reformation is energized to promote change as a heartfelt response of gratitude toward God for His merciful intervention in our own lives" (216). "God's pattern for transformation--reformation--always starts with with personal Spirit-led change from within the human heart" (217). It is an "ongoing" process in my heart. It "retains a sense of personal perspective while simultaneously valuing all people, and focuses on the expression of love toward others" (224).


I love the way she sums up this idea of "reformation": "the narrow road ... a long obedience ... small beginnings, quiet faithfulness, and a humble reputation" (ibid).


It is my sincere desire that these posts have been helpful to you. I am convinced that you will be encouraged by Stephanie's book. And whereas Stephanie is from the Presbyterian theological perspective and utilizes the word "covenant" far more than I am used to having grown up in a Baptist church, how can we not love and learn from this woman who clearly embraces the cross of Jesus Christ and so obviously has a vibrant personal relationship with Him, a woman who doesn't just tell others what they should do but sets the example--and sets it high.

Thank you, Stephanie, for your "justice, mercy and faithfulness" in sharing with us the things God has so graciously taught you. You have been an encouragement to my heart and made an impact that will be enduring.

And so, book read, highlighter expired, and truths still working their way in, I commend to you Same Lake, Different Boat: Coming Alongside People Touched by Disability by Stephanie O. Hubach, published by P&R Publishing.

And if a condensed audio format is helpful, visit http://www.archive.org/details/StephanieHubachSameLake_DifferentBoat_IdentifyingwithandMinisteringAlongsidePeopleTouc or click on the title to part 1 of these book reviews.

Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and power from the Spirit of truth and love,
michelle

book review: same lake, different boat--part three

In the third and final section of the fabulously helpful, intensely practical book Same Lake, Different Boat, Stephanie Hubach makes direct application to the Church. Part three of this blog review will cover chapters 10 through 12, and I will reserve a final post for the concluding chapter.

Quoting from Matthew 23:23-24 in chapter 10, the author urges us to apply Jesus' emphasis on "justice, mercy and faithfulness."

Justice "does not promote compensation of the 'poor' at the expense of the 'great,' but calls for the restoration of a level playing field with regard to the treatment of both groups. The goal is not to show partiality to anyone, but fairness to all... not to convey that people with special needs are somehow God's special people--those who are due extraordinary rights and privileges [but] to restore a fair and respectful treatment of every person as a unique individual created in the image of God" (155). "The antithesis [or opposite] of justice is oppression--the holding down of another--through the use of power ina way that is immoral and inequitable...either actively or passively" (ibid). But she tempers her challenge to those who neglect justice with a warning to those of us who are passionate about advocating for persons with disabilities: "Don't let the callousness of others cause your own heart to become hard or self-righteous. Peaceful change comes through a posture of humility" (158).

Mercy, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa is "a voluntary sorrow which enjoins itself to the suffering of another" (qtd 159). Stephanie points out this definition does not say "others in general--but another--a single, individual, unique, and precious person" (161). Well spoken, Steph!

Faithfulness, finally, is an "unwavering, personal commitment for the duration" reflective of God's faithfulness demonstrated via loyal love.

Chapter 11 discusses God's beautiful design for "unity in diversity" (171). This chapter is chock full of Scripture and then gives practical applications for Christian education (which Stephanie broadens to include Sunday School and other teaching times in a Christian setting, not just formal instruction in a private school setting). Implementing some alliteration, she goes on to discuss applications for Community Life (helping make social connections within the Body), Corporate Worship (urging us to rethink how we define a "disruption," Caring, allowing those with disabilities to Contribute to the life of the Body.

"It takes wisdom to know how to implement those principles effectively" (188). But "graciously engaging individuals and their families in justice, mercy, and faithfulness [is not necessarily] straightforward. [If it were, chapter 12] would be titled 'On Rules: What Every Church Should Do.' Instead, it is aptly titled, 'On Wisdom: Questions Every Church Should Answer'" and asks the following questions: "whom do we help?", "how much do we help?", "when do we help?", "how do we help?", "from where do we help?", and "with what attitude do we help?". This chapter was incredibly helpful for thinking through philosophy of ministry in general, not just disability ministry. For example, my heart was pricked in thinking through some times in our church's inner-city ministry with the following quote: "Carrying around an overinflated view of ourselves and one that lacks genuine respect, we will likely create more harm than good as we condescend to the person who is, quite literally, the 'object' of our ministry" (206). It is so important that we are worshiping with not just to. And that we are ministering from a posture of grace, realizing how great grace has been necessarily bestowed on each of us.

May each of us prayerfully consider the applications and how to answer the questions God has brought to our minds and hearts.

book review: same lake, different boat--part two

In chapter four, author Stephanie Hubach effectively speaks to the "relentlessness" of disability: "For some families touched by disability, relentlessness comes in the form of providing decades of personal care, or heart-wrenching struggles with communication, aggression, or self-injury on the part of the individual with special needs. Maybe it arrives in the form of endless hospitalizations, lack of access to transportation, joblessness, social isolation, or any of a myriad of other issues"(56). I love the way this author paints the realistic picture with brush strokes of specific examples to help us think through the variety of struggles a family faces.

In the face of relentlessness, the only response that offers any true hope is one of "God-reliance." We are all tempted toward one of two extremes--the "victim mentality" or the "'I will beat this' attitude." But Scripture gives us the counter-cultural, God-dependent perspective for dealing with difficulty, in part illustrated through the OT biblical hero of Joseph, a man who was also "thrust into a difficulty not of his own choosing" and found success both in the end and in the meantime.

After firmly laying a biblical foundation for understanding disability, Stephanie moves on to "Part 2" where she specifically addresses needs in a family setting, things such as giving a family time to deal with the natural emotion of grief and allowing them the time to adjust to a "new normal" while they process the changes to their family life. She so graciously challenges to a balance between "privacy" for the family and availability/"presence."

I would do the author and her book an injustice if I were to try to sum up the next few chapters. They are so rich with practical suggestions for building acceptance ("embracing reality as it is right now [and being willing] to embrace reality as it will be when the future becomes the present"), rich with Scripture, and rich in real-life examples that aptly illustrate the truths she is presenting.

In the final paragraph of Part 2, Stephanie draws the following conclusion: "Living with long-term disability can provide a Great Opportunity to illuminate the entrance to the narrow gate" (146).

I will conclude with one of my favorite illustrations quoted from Christopher deVinck:
"I grew up in a house where my brother was on his back in his bed for thirty-two years, in the same corner of his room, under the same window, beside the same yellow walls. He was blind, mute. His legs were twisted. He didn't have the strength to lift his head or the intelligence to learn anything.... I asked my father, 'How did you care for Oliver for thirty-two years?' 'It was not thirty-two years,' he said. 'I just asked myself, 'Can I feed Oliver today?' and the answer was always, "Yes, I can."' We lived with Oliver moment by moment" (qtd 104).

book review: same lake, different boat--part one

Disability has a way of taking us by surprise and stirring fear in our hearts. We're uncomfortable with the appropriate way to respond to socially awkward situations. We're afraid we'll do the wrong thing. We're inexperienced with how to help.

In her completely honest and in her sweet, coming-alongside-you manner of hospitality, Stephanie Hubach puts her arm around each individual who has a heart to learn about meeting the needs of individuals and families touched by disability and gently shepherds us in theologically-based, throughly practical applications of Biblical love exercised in the Body of Christ.

Beginning by establishing a Biblical view of disability as "a normal part of an abnormal world" (as contrasted with the historical or modern view as "an abnormal part of a normal world" and the postmodern view as "a normal part of a normal world"), Steph identifies "disability [as] essentially a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience" (29). We live in an abnormal world, the result of the Fall of man. Were it not for the effects of sin, there would be no disability. That is not at all to say that there is a direct causal factor with an individual or family's experience with disability; in fact, the Gospel is very clear that God ordains disability in the lives of some for the sole purpose of displaying His work in their lives for their benefit and the benefit of others (see John 9:1-3).

One of the gem-like truths of Scripture that Stephanie repeatedly holds to the light is the fact that we are all created in the image of God. If we believe this, that each individual to varying degrees reflects God's image, we will value the sanctity of human life and will both cherish and respect one another. I love the picture Steph uses to illustrate this concept: "the image of God within each individual can be likened to a mirror that reflects God's glory, in part, to others. Unmarred at creation, what an incredible and awesome reflection that must have been! In a world now impacted by the fall, each person's mirror is cracked, yet all the pieces still remain. Consequently, the looking glass reflects a distorted view of God's glory--but it remains a partial mirror of him just the same. Our struggle enters in because we find it so much easier to identify the cracks in the mirror, and so we miss the image entirely. It takes a conscious effort for us to concentrate on the most fundamental blessing of creation--that we are all created in the image of God--and to gaze speechlessly at his goodness, truth, and beauty in others. Yet lives are radically transformed--ours and those around us--when we intentionally choose to focus on the image of God within" (46). I love that!

To hear author Stephanie Hubach talk about these topics, click on the title above. I plan to continue this review in subsequent posts, but that ought to whet your appetite for now.

Praying for you as you digest this information,
michelle

creative bud vase

A flower is a gift of beauty to be enjoyed. Micah and Jordan-Elliot and I cut these together this morning, two from each of them. I hope if you're a mom you are as eagerly gifted with the various weeds and wonders little fingers find in creation.

In addition to flowers, I love quality herbs and spices, as evidenced by the empty jars. Aside from fresh-cut from the garden, McCormick's are the best. Tarragon, Dill Weed and Ground Coriander Seed are three of my favorite spices currently.

I grew up using dill, thanks to the Polish roots; Mom's chicken salad is kissed with tarragon and oh, so sweet; and the infamous recipe postcard for "Falafel--Israel's national snack" from Alan's trip last summer introduced me to coriander (also a gentle substitute for those allergic to pepper).

The glass McCormick's jars provide a fitting way to enjoy the kids' top picks in my kitchen. They're just the right size and such a fun, fresh way to showcase my little guys' gifts of love.

A transparent ribbon around the mouth of the jar would be a sweet touch as well.

Hope you have a wonderful summer, staying creative and cherishing all the memory-making moments.

book review: Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend

We met in a shoe store. The woman was wearing the customary clothing that identified her as Muslim, and she had her young son with her. We started talking casually, and I told my boys that these people are the ones who speak Arabic, like we're learning.

You see, for Christmas a couple of years ago, my husband and I bought a family gift: Rosetta Stone for Arabic. It's as much a game as anything, matching pictures with Arabic words. I love the calligraphic way their letters are shaped. I love the sound of the words. And more and more, I love the people who speak this language.
In the shoe store that day, my boys were thrilled to practice their pronunciation of a few of their favorite Arabic words. The mother and son were apparently pleased. Then, very perceptively, the boy asked, "If they're learning our language, are they going to become Muslim too?"
Door wide open. I was able to share that actually we were trying to learn Arabic so that we could share with Muslim people about who Jesus is and how they could have eternal life in heaven with God forever... but to tell them in their own language so it would be easier to understand.
Our conversation didn't go much further. But I have thought of them often, and my love for their souls has increased over and again.
Over the past couple of weeks, God has been growing in me that love for Muslim women. One of the tools He's used is a fabulously personable read entitled Woman to Woman: Sharing Jesus with a Muslim Friend. In this book, Joy Loewen shares her personal journey from fear (as a child growing up in a predominately Muslim culture) to love (as she and her husband minister in their homeland of Canada to Muslim immigrants). Joy invites us into her life, introducing us to her precious Muslim friends. She identifies specific obstacles as well as points of connection in an attempt to help you and I build relationships with Muslims in our community more effectively. I appreciated Joy's emphasis on the Word of God and her clear teaching regarding Who Jesus is--more than just a Prophet and Healer, He is the Giver of Life and our Savior God.
Last Saturday, I ran to the mall for less than one hour. In that brief window of time, I saw two identifiably Muslim women. I smiled warmly at them and in return received the most beautiful smiles in the world. How I wish we had had a chance to talk, but what I saw was an open receptivity to genuine love.
How often are Muslims in our community steered clear of or worse scorned? When was the last time one of those ladies had received a sincere smile from a Christian in America?
I pray that in the near future the Lord would increase my effectiveness in this corner of His harvest field. The harvest truly is plenteous! It is my heart's desire to go beyond a smile, beyond casual conversation, and to be able to build enduring, fruitful relationships with these dear women and their families.
If you are Muslim and reading this, I would encourage and invite you to read what you call the Injil (the Gospels). There you will discover Who Jesus is and that He came to show you love by facing death for you. He died and rose again to save your soul from hell. Through believing in Him as our Savior and God, we can have our sins forgiven and enjoy eternity in heaven together!
May Jesus Christ be praised!
I love you,
michelle

Redeemed from promiscuity & Radically Transformed according to God's promise and for His glory!

The Word of God is filled with examples of women and men who were bound by the chains of sin and yet freed by the power of God. This past weekend, I was humbled to present a workshop to our InnerCity Ministry teens and adults regarding the Gospel and Sexuality. The following is a portion of that workshop that I hope will be an encouragement to you no matter what situation you are in. I believe we can each relate to one (or more) of the following examples from Scripture.

As you read, know that, no matter what situation you find yourself in, God is willing and delighted to redeem you and radically transform your life by the grace of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, who completely paid the penalty of your sin and granted you His righteousness out of love.

Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (2 Samuel, chapters 11 & 12): due to some impropriety, though very likely unintentional, you now feel pressured or trapped into having sex with a guy; you think you are not able to resist b/c of who this guy is (maybe he's not King David, but maybe he's the captain of a football team or an important person at work...

Dinah, sister of Judah (Genesis, chapter 34): just curious about what everybody else is doing, you want to be a part of the crowd and wind up getting taken advantage of, the victim of rape...

Tamar, forsaken youth (Genesis, chapter 38): felt it was her right to have a child, encouraged by others to gain her right of passage by giving birth, and so played the harlot to fulfill her right...

Harlot, on the street corner (Proverbs, chapter 7): planted yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, wanting to look sexy and attract the simple guys' attention, just wanted to have some "fun," convinced yourself there wouldn't be any consequences (wrongly)....

The Samaritan woman at the well (John, chapter 4): went from one man to the next seeking for satisfaction; after five failed marriages, she was living with a man who was not her husband. (Jesus knew this; nothing is secret from Him)....

Gomer, promiscuous wife of the prophet Hosea (the book of Hosea): promiscuity is all you've ever known; you're addicted to sex; even when shown true love, you find yourself back in the clutches of lust...

Rahab, prostitute of Jericho; Ruth, daughter of Moab (Joshua, chapters 2 & 6; the book of Ruth): you've grown up in a sensual culture, but you know there's got to be something better and you're willing to give up what you know for what you have now come to believe (the truth about God and salvation)...

Mary, the mother of Jesus (the Gospels, esp. Luke, chapters 1 & 2): you are still a virgin, your heart is to serve the Lord no matter what. you know there's a cost, but you're convinced God's way is the best and only way to be content and truly happy....

Remember, no matter what situation you find yourself in, God is willing and delighted to redeem you and radically transform your life by the grace of the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, who completely paid the penalty of your sin and granted you His righteousness out of love.

The rest of their stories?

They were dead in their sins, but Christ woke them up and shined His love and grace into their hearts (Ephesians 2 & 4).

Gomer (prostitute wife of prophet Hosea) was restored to her husband. God used their story to illustrate the spiritual adultery of God’s people when they leave Him and pursue after false gods and vain pleasures.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba & Mary all ended up in the family line of the Messiah Jesus our Lord! (See Matthew, chapter 1.) Tamar conceived twins by her father-in-law, yet God used one of those sons to fulfill His promise; Rahab married a faithful man named Salmon and together they raised a faithful man named Boaz, who then redeemed Ruth. Ruth was the mother of Obed and eventually the great-grandmother of King David. David lusted after Bathsheba. The child born through their affair died, but God granted their marriage another son, the wise king Solomon. Mary, that humble young lady, held the ultimate promise within her virgin womb: the greatest miracle and fulfillment of God's great plan, our hope to this day and forever, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many people in the forsaken town of Samaria believed on Jesus because of the testimony of the woman at the well, a woman who was known for promiscuity. In fact she had had five husbands and was now living with a man that was not her husband. But Jesus intentionally directed His path through her forsaken hometown and patiently led this woman to redeeming faith (See John, chapter 4.)


Jeremiah prophesied to a culture not so dissimilar to our own:“Return, faithless [daughter],” declares the LORD. “I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful,” declares the LORD; “I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed My voice,” declares the LORD; “for I am your Master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).

Your city and your family may be trapped in the habits of sexual sins, but you don't have to stay in the grasp of immorality. God offers you freedom and restoration if you will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Redeemer, your Savior and King. He longs to give you grace and peace.

I would recommend reading Ephesians, especially chapters 2 & 4. If I can be of any help to you, please email me at ps48.14fam@gmail.com.
I am praying for you even as I write this. No matter what your sin, God's grace is greater!May you be overwhelmed by His mercy and love and the unchanging truth of our faithful God.

With love,
michelle grover

Simply Splendid: Peppermint Choc-Chip Cookies

An adaptation of a recipe I came across:
Preheat oven to 375 F.

1 cup butter, very soft
1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup powder sugar
1 cup Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix together, adding chocolate chips last. It's kind of crumbly but presses together nicely.
Dump onto Pampered Chef Stoneware bar pan and press down.
Bake at 375 F until lightly browned.
Allow to cool a little.
Serve in squares with a tall glass of your favorite milk. (Anyone else for chocolate almond milk or vanilla soy?)

heart beat

Over and over again in His Word, God draws attention to the word "heart"--His heart, our heart, individual hearts, the heart of cities and nations; the seat of passions, the center of our beings, the primary organ for existence. And though our focus is often subverted to the externals, God's focus is on the heart!

I want to recommend a bold book that cuts to the heart:
Eyes Wide Open: Avoiding the Heartbreak of Emotional Promiscuity.
In this book, Brienne Murk challenges the trend of technical virgin and emphasizes the heart of purity. "Emotional entanglement happens when we seek fulfillment in the things of this world rather than in God. This is a problem that goes back thousands of years. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah was referred to as 'the weeping prophet' because he so empathized with God's sorrow over Israel's sin--the sin of forsaking their first love and giving their hearts away to other gods (see Jeremiah 2). Over and over again, Israel had to learn that what the world offers cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. The key to escaping emotional entanglement is to cultivate a heart that is completely focused on God."

I've include selections from Jeremiah 2 in this post that highlight Israel's promiscuity and God's aching heart. These are key passages that, if we're honest, we can readily relate to each time we seek to replace God with any thing or any one else. It's a fairly lengthy passage, but worth our reflection.

This is what the Lord says:
I remember how eager you were to please me
as a young bride long ago,
how you loved me and followed me
even through the barren wilderness....

"Has anyone ever heard of anything
as strange as this?
Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones,
even though they are not gods at all?
Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols!
The heavens are shocked at such a thing
and shrink back in horror and dismay,”
says the Lord.

What have you gained by your alliances with Egypt
and your covenants with Assyria?
What good to you are the streams of the Nile
or the waters of the Euphrates River?
Your wickedness will bring its own punishment.
Your turning from me will shame you.
You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is
to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him.
I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!
“Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you
and tore away the chains of your slavery,
but still you said,
‘I will not serve you.’
On every hill and under every green tree,
you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.
But I was the one who planted you,
choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.
How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?
No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.
I still see the stain of your guilt.
I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!
“You say, ‘That’not true!
I haven’t worshiped the images of Baal!’
But how can you say that?
Go and look in any valley in the land!
Face the awful sins you have done....
When will you stop panting after other gods?
But you say, ‘Save your breath.
I’m in love with these foreign gods,
and I can’t stop loving them now!’
...

“How you plot and scheme to win your lovers.
Even an experienced prostitute could learn from you!...
And yet you say,
‘I have done nothing wrong.
Surely God isn’t angry with me!’
But now I will punish you severely
because you claim you have not sinned.
First here, then there—
you flit from one ally to another asking for help.
But your new friends in Egypt will let you down,
just as Assyria did before.
In despair, you will be led into exile
with your hands on your heads,
for the Lord has rejected the nations you trust.
They will not help you at all" (from Jeremiah 2, NLT).

Yet God cries out with a promise to heal:

“My wayward children,” says the Lord,“come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts” (Jeremiah 3:22, NLT).

Sometimes it's a long process, but we have the loving God whose heart pursues human hearts. He delights to heal us, to restore us to true fellowship with Him, a relationship full of hope and peace and joy.

On a side: remembering that human love is a gift from Him to illustrate to the world the love of Christ for the redeemed Church, "Wives, we must submit to our husbands (no matter how difficult that may seem) in the same way we submit to our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5, paraphrase). This is often one of our best tools for evangelism as we interact with a world seeking satisfaction from all the wrong places and coming up empty over and over again in their own relationships. And as we cultivate our love for God, our love for those He loves can only grow.

Dear Lord Jesus, help me today smash the idols and smother the stench of incense burned to false deities in my heart. Cleanse me, Lord. I want my heart to be Your home, full of only the things that You would delight to have surrounding You in Your dwelling place. Grow me in love, for You first and always, and then in my love for those You've placed around me. Fulfill Your purposes in me, in each of us. Amen.

michelle