Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Found this article at The Sacred Sandwich. In light of yesterday's post, I just had to link it.

Browse around while you're there, and be sure to check out their photo gallery. Enjoy!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Puppy Love

Our pastor said something yesterday that sounded a bit strange to me, but I don't think it's the first time I've heard him say it. Before I tell you what he said, let me tell you about the service.

Since it was a 5th Sunday, the ministerial team decided to try something new. If it went over well, it would become a regular event. Rather than having the pastor preach a traditional sermon, we had a song sermon, in which several songs were selected to emphasize a particular theme. Between each song, the pastor provided a segue - an short speech to introduce the next song. The theme was Love, Grace, and Mercy. As part of the Ladies' ensemble who sang the first song of the sermon, I had the privilege of attending all 3 services. That's right, 3. It was enjoyable, albeit a bit redundant.

Our early service is attended mostly by older members and is traditional Methodist. A few hymns, the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the sermon. The pastor used his notes for this service. I think it went well.

The 9:40 service is more contemporary - praise songs take the place of the Apostle's Creed. The sermon is the same, as are the anecdotes. Almost word for word. It also went well.

The 11:00 service is even more contemporary - a younger, more lively crowd. This service usually runs longer than the earlier services. In the past, this was because worship was more energetic and no one was in a hurry for it to end. This seems to be a new concept for our current pastor, who tried to get us out by noon when he first came to us in June. He has since been informed, apparently, that we prefer a longer service. His tendency is to draw out the message, addding a few anecdotes or extra comments in order to fill the time. But it's still the same sermon. Almost.

So, the three services were all the same, except that in the 3rd service, the preacher man decided to ditch his segue notes, and this is when it got a little strange. He got ahead of himself and had to ad-lib his way back to the intro of the first song. He recovered pretty well, and unless you had been to the other services, you probably wouldn't have caught it. Towards the end, however, it got a little hairy. This is when, in talking about God's love, he made some vague reference to the "Hound of Heaven" and God's relentless pursuit of us. Somehow, this led to his memory of owning a kennel and the puppies that would chase and nip at his heels.

I looked at my husband and asked "Is that supposed to be an analogy?" To which my beloved replied, "Yes, God is like a puppy."

Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, don't it?

Monday, October 23, 2006

How Harmless is Halloween?

Wednesday, November 1, Everyday Mommy will begin sharing some ideas for keeping Christ in Christmas. On the eve of that day, many Christians will be participating in another kind of celebration. I know that many churches provide an alternative to this pagan holiday, such as "Trunk or Treat" or "Harvest Festival", but I wonder how many of us see this not as an alternative to, but as an additional stop on, our Trick-or-Treat rounds. It's all about the candy, right?

I know that none of us take part in the "bad" rituals that have been known to occur on Halloween, but is it a good idea to promote greed, tooth decay, and perhaps even truth decay in our children? Is it really harmless fun? Where is the message of Christ in Halloween?

Lest you think that I am casting stones, I must admit that I've never really seen any harm in allowing the kids to dress up and go door-to-door collecting candy, and I buy tons of the good stuff to hand out to the superheroes, fairies, and ghosts and goblins who come to my door. But should I? Should we be so convinced that there really is no harm in it?

I ask, because I want feedback, but also because I want you to think about the state of Christ's church. Satan has long been lurking, looking for every opportunity to distract us from the cause of Christ. He seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. His methods are subtle. So subtle, in fact, that we have been lulled into complacency. Even some pastors and leaders have been duped.

We are told in scripture that there will be many divisions among us. We see that in the numerous denominations that have sprung up since the first church began. We see it in committees who can't agree on what color the carpeting and pew cushions should be. I really don't think that's what "fight the good fight of faith" means. We are to contend, not with one another, but with the enemy!

While we're doing battle with one another, Satan is making advances, virtually unnoticed. Not only have we watered down the gospel to draw the world into the church, we are becoming disciples of the world. We adopt their way of thinking, their style of music, their dress code, and even their methods of worship: see this article on gnostic mysticism in the SBC.

Scary, isn't it?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Camping Ain't for Sissies

My beloved is away for the weekend on a camping trip with Andrew's Boy Scout troop. He tried to talk me into going along, but really, I'd rather do laundry. Now I do love me some camping, you know, when there's fun to be had, like the last time we went. It was an adventure for me because the only kind of camping I'd ever done was in a camper or in a designated campsite at a state park. The kind where your car is only a few feet away and restroom facilities include showers. Carl, on the other hand, prefers hiking several miles to a secluded spot alongside the river where he can fish.

His favorite spot is on the Chattooga River, where he had taken me and the kids once before to teach me the joys of fly fishing. He even taught me to tie my own flies. I'm not particularly fond of fishing, but because the bait isn't live and the river is clear, cold, and clean (unlike many lakes I've fished) I did enjoy fly fishing. Except the wading part, which I cannot do while casting my line. I don't know if you know this, but waders float. Yes they do. So what happened is the combination of rushing river, slippery rocks, floaty waders, and oversized boots swept me off my feet, and I, graceful swan that I am, discovered the waterproof properties of neoprene. Not only does it keep water out, it also keeps water in! Ha! Who knew?

After that most excellent adventure, Carl decided that I needed to experience the joy of real camping. The kind where you load up backpacks and hike until you find the perfect spot. We had decided to return to the scene of the accident, but this time I would have my-size shoes with non-slip soles. We bought a tent and several flashlights and packed our backpacks with all the essentials we could carry. What could go wrong?

We left after work on a Friday evening and arrived at the river just before dark. We began our hike in the general direction of the spot we had chosen, but as night fell, the trail became harder to follow, even with flashlights. Somewhere along the way, we missed a turn and wound up in North Carolina. We turned back and continued to follow the sound of the river. A few hours and two flashlights later, we came upon a parking lot. We kept going, and eventually Carl dropped his pack and told me to wait while he ran on up ahead. I have no idea how much time had passed, but in the dark, it seemed like quite a while until he came back with the news that he had found our spot. Finally! We quickly set up camp and crawled into our sleeping bag. The next morning, I awoke to a visit from Aunt Flo. Carl ran back to the car to retrieve my forgotten essentials, and when he returned, he was laughing. We were only 15 minutes from the car!

We did enjoy that weekend very much, and we still laugh about getting lost in the dark, but that's not even the best part. You know what is? The best part is that he still wants to take me camping.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More Good News!

Lindsey seems to have changed her mind already about coming at semester. Her dad rescheduled her orthodontic appointment, on his own, and she got a job at Sonic. Some things are just too good to be true. Still praying that she'll come around.

Sarah went to church Wednesday night for the "Heaven's Gates, Hell's Flames" drama production that they put on every year at this time. Following the play, several people made decisions for the Lord, including Sarah, who told me that she rededicated her life. God is answering my prayers (and yours)!

Praise the Lord!

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Light at the end of the Tunnel

Most of you know about the situation with my girls and have been lifting us up in prayer, and I am ever so grateful for your caring hearts. More than that, I am thankful for God's faithfulness to His children. You may recall the word of encouragement I received a few weeks ago at my women's retreat from our speaker, who shared with me her vision of a train as she prayed over me. She felt that it meant to stay on track and keep moving forward. While I don't know for sure what to make of her method, I do know that the Lord ministered to my heart through her teaching of His Word.

A few things have happened since then. First, before the retreat was over, I was invited to join the handbell choir, and I accepted the invitation. My first performance with them is next Sunday. Also, I have discovered a need for a prayer ministry in our school district, which is where my heart is. Unfortunately, my children are not in school here, and without them, I have no access to the names of the children who are enrolled. I shared that little bit of info with my girls, to make them aware of an opportunity to be useful, you know, a purpose other than having their own needs met. Of course, it meant little to them, as they seem perfectly content to stay right where they are. That hasn't kept me from praying that God would give them a desire to be obedient to Him and to follow wherever He leads.

I have continued to encourage them to go to church, to read their Bibles, and to pray, without much response. However, I called them Saturday and told them not to make any plans that would interfere with church attendance on Sunday, and to be sure to go to church. For the sermon, not to work in the nursery. I had doubts that they would, but when I called Sunday morning, they were getting ready to go. Praise the Lord! I called again Sunday night to discuss the sermon with them, and Sarah had time only to tell me what it was about before she left to go to the store with her dad.

Lindsey called me just a little while ago, and though she couldn't remember the sermon, she did inform me that she wants to come back here at semester. To stay. Y'all, I'm about beside myself! Further inquiry revealed that she and her dad aren't getting along well, and I let her know that while I want more than anything for her to be here, I'd rather that not be the reason. She replied, "Mom, I need to be there. Dad isn't taking care of me. He wouldn't take me to my orthodontist appointment because he was mad at me. And I lied to you about him making the appointment. He didn't. I did." I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying "I told you so."

I asked her to pray about her decision, and she told me that she was pretty sure she wouldn't change her mind again. We shall see. I also spoke with Sarah, who actually said "yes" when I asked her if she would consider coming to stay. I encouraged her to pray that God would give her a willing heart. It seems that they are beginning to see the light.

I ask you now to continue praying that God will draw them to Him and return them to the care of their mother.

God is so good, and He is faithful, and I am rejoicing through tears.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

My Testimony

God began a good work in me during a revival service, when at age 9, I followed my parents and sisters to the altar to join the church we had been attending. We were all baptized the following Sunday. We attended church faithfully for a few years, then my dad stopped going altogether, and my mom continued to take us or to put us on the church bus when she didn't go herself.

We were well-behaved children who knew how to act in church and out of church, but our family didn't pray together, except to say the "blessing" in unison over the noon meal on Sundays. We didn't do family devotions, but my dad had bought each of us a Children's Living Bible, which he challenged us to read from front to back, just as he was reading the Living Bible. I don't remember much of what I read, except the incredibly long genealogy lists that made no sense to me. I couldn't even pronounce the names, but I slogged through it to the end, no more enlightened than I had been before I started.

When I entered junior high, I was so excited to get to move up to the youth group that my older sister was involved in. She wanted to be in church all the time, and I wanted to know what that was all about. I didn't know it at the time, but I had been following in her footsteps all along. At age 14, I was listening to a sermon in which the pastor said that if we hadn't experienced a true change in our hearts, if we were able to sin without conviction, then we were not truly saved. I did a quick review of my life and realized that nothing had changed, even though I had prayed the sinner's prayer and was baptized. I was still the same person I had always been. While I wasn't a bad person by worldly standards, I knew that I didn't have Jesus in my heart. I had been going through the motions and hadn't understood what it meant to follow Jesus. That night, I went forward at the altar call, made a profession of faith in Christ, and was baptized the following Sunday.

I loved going to church, singing hymns, and worshipping with fellow believers. I became more obedient to my parents. I only had Christian friends, and everyone at school knew that I was one of "them." I was never faced with any peer pressure to try drugs or alcohol, and I was never invited to any parties. It was cool to be a Christian, no matter how uncool I was. Life was good. What I didn't know then was that my profession of faith was just that, a profession. It would be years before I obtained possession of faith.

Towards the end of my senior year, I began to have questions that I didn't know where to find the answers to. Mostly, they were questions about doctrine. How were Southern Baptists different? How did we know we were right and everyone else was wrong? What if we're wrong? Rather than look to the Bible for answers, I struck out on my own in search for truth and got instead a big ol' dose of reality. Having been a goody-two-shoes all my life, I was convinced that I was good to go, ready for the world. Man, was I ever wrong. Temptation after temptation presented itself, and I was surprised at how easy it was to give in. I hated the things I did, hated myself for doing them, and wanted desperately to find my way back to God, but I was too ashamed. I prayed often, asking for forgiveness, but I had a hard time accepting that He would forgive me. I had rebelled against Him. I had abandoned the church. I had married an unbeliever. I had compromised my testimony. How could I make it right?

Ten years after I left the church, God provided a way for me to come back. My marriage was in trouble, and my husband had gone to visit a local pastor. After counseling with the pastor, we decided that we needed to be in church. My husband was baptized, and I "rededicated" my life to Christ when we joined another Southern Baptist church. I felt like I was home, but I had doubts about my salvation because of the life I had led for the past 10 years. I prayed for assurance. One morning, I noticed that a scar I'd had on my knee for years was gone. Completely vanished. Then I heard a voice say "You are my child." I knew then that God had been there all the time, waiting for me to turn to Him for the answers I had been seeking. He had allowed me to come face to face with my desperate need for Him. My faith had been tried, and though I had faltered, He had proven Himself faithful.

I wish I could say that I've been faithful ever since, but I can't. What I can say is that I have never again doubted my salvation. I am a child of God, bought and paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ, and any good that is in me is from Him. After several years of struggling to make up for my wasted life, I finally realized that there is nothing I can do to earn His forgiveness. It is a free gift of grace, of which I am most unworthy, which God in His infinite mercy has bestowed upon this sinner for reasons known only to Him. Whenever I have stumbled, He has brought me to repentance, forgiven me, and drawn me closer to Him. He continues to prove Himself faithful, and I am confident that He who began a good work in me will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ.

This post is brought to you today by the Bloggy Tour of Testimonies, hosted by Lauren at Created for HIS Glory. Click here for more stories of God's amazing grace or to share your own.