Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

Six years ago our family started celebrating Thanksgiving Day at our own house, inviting friends each year to join us.  At that time, the Lopez's, our newly acquired friends who had just moved up here from California, were the first to come.  We're happy to report that my beginnings at cooking the turkey didn't poison them and they have come every year since.

You want to hear something goofy?  Even though I had been an adult for years, married with children, this transition to celebrating Thanksgiving at our house and being the one to cook the turkey felt like a right of passage of sorts...I finally felt grown up.  Weird, isn't it?

Some years it has been just our two families, some years others have joined us.  This year, twas the Coombs that joined in on the fun.  Here are some pictures from our day together, which at the same time share some of the traditions we enjoy.

The coloring of the Thanksgiving Banner:
We do birthday banners for each birthday and our first year together, as we were plotting ideas for our celebration, my oldest daughter suggested we do a Thanksgiving Banner.  Great idea M!  We've created one every year and the kids have great fun coloring it as you can see from this sampling...


The creation of the Thankful Chain:
We borrowed this idea from friends of ours...thank you Adams'.  We take some time to record all kinds of things we're thankful to God for on strips of Fall colored paper, sharing them with each other as we do it.  Then we tape them together to make a decorative chain.


Then we wrap it around all the children to take the annual Thankful Chain photo:

Of course, food is a big part of our celebration too:
Here is the girl's table, decorated by my young ladies with glee

The adult and little boy table:

Lots of good food to enjoy...

The littlest guy, our friend Owen, showing us all how to eat with a happy heart:

Agata, busy in the kitchen preparing one of our heavenly desserts:

Singing together:

(here we see the three amigos with remote controls to race...can you say fun?)

All this to show and tell, we had a lovely Thanksgiving Day...singing, praying, feasting, playing, rejoicing with friends before the Lord who made us and gives us all these things to enjoy in His presence with thankful hearts.  This year was a year of plenty, but whether in times of plenty or in want our God promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  We were once His enemies, traitors and rightly awaiting His just judgment, and He sent His Son so that He might be both just and the justifier of those who believe in Him.  When we have Him as our greatest Treasure, we always have reason to give Him thanks.

From our family to yours, we end with this message:  Our banner this year had Hebrews 13:10-16 on it, which ends with "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased."  We have a Father who freely gives to we journey through the holiday season this year, let us remember to imitate Him, by doing good and sharing with those He puts within our reach.

Monday, November 23, 2009

dishes and fellowship

My beautiful 7 year old daughter Rebekah came into the kitchen while I was doing dishes and asked if she could help.  "Sure", said I.  She grabbed a towel and started drying the dishes and we chatted away about all kinds of things while we worked together.  When we were done, she cheerfully said "Mommy, I like helping you because when I do, we get to talk."  What a delight to me she is.

How is that for a simple, but beautiful illustration of the spirit of adoption?...glad to be part of the family, jumping into whatever I'm doing so we can share each others company.  That is the kind of heart I want to have more and more in relationship with God...jumping into His mission, serving and sharing His company.   One day I want to hear "well done"...therefore, I'm off to live today, if the Lord gives me breath for another day, doing all that He puts into my hand to do, by His grace and in His presence.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Little Black Boxing Gloves

I have little black boxing gloves hanging in my bedroom as a reminder that on this side of glory, there is a fight we're to be engaged in, the fight of faith, the fight to run with endurance the race set before us when so many paths posing as easier, funner, safer, richer, etc. tempt us to turn away from the grace laden "Jerusalem" road that has a cross before a crown.  One glove has the reference 1 Corinthians 9:16-27 written on it...verse 26b says "Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air."

My question this morning as I found myself "doing my exercises" at a lazy pace, was:  Am I really fighting or am I just going through motions that make it appear that I am fighting?  How's that for a brutally honest question?

I'm reading the book of Job this week.  I love the book of Job!  I chewed on some of the imagery of chapter 28 and compared it to fighting while I was working out...Job talks about how men take risks and work hard in dangerous, creepy caves to find gold and other precious things

Questions came to my mind:
*  How many miners stop mining after they find a nugget or two?  How many fighters think the battle is over after they've poked at their opponent a few times?  Am I still digging and fighting?

* Don't miners work harder after finding one nugget with the hope of finding more nearby? Job moves on to talk about wisdom as fearing the Lord...a miner digs to find little pieces of creation which cannot compare with the infinitely more valuable worth of Wisdom...what kind of effort do I exert in growing in my knowledge of and devotion to God? 

*  Don't fighters "go for the kill" when they see that their attempts are having an impact on their enemy? Job also tells us "to depart from evil is understanding" often do I try to make peace with my flesh by gratifying it (thinking foolishly that it would be appeased, rather than believing the truth that what you nourish grows stronger)?  Does a fighter make peace with his opponent in the ring or does he give all his effort to knocking him down and keeping him down?

*  Based on the premise that we seek what we value, does the use of time and resources in my own life regularly demonstrate a hunger for God, a thirst for His righteousness, a desire to know Him and make much of Him in every area of life? 

This morning I was moved again to ask God for His mercy, and to thank Him for it in the same breath as I picked up the pace in my exercises by His grace.  Honestly, I think my beginning exercise pace reflects my "going through the motions is enough" mentality as of late. It is by God's grace alone that I am not a completely white-washed tomb or worse. 

Is a miner content to walk through caves without a desire to gain treasure?  NO!  But how often am I like such a miner who walks through a cave, maybe even swinging a pick, but without effort to work for what is valuable?

Here is a cursory look at the daily To Do List:
* Bible reading - check ( I may not be able to tell you what I read, but I took the time to scan my eyes over the black marks on the page)

* Exercise - check (the pace may have been so easy that there will be little or no benefit, but I took the time to do them, isn't that what counts?)

* Various labors - check (may have been cranky with the kids, disrespectful to my husband, but the dishes got done and the laundry is put away)

Ouch...There is none who do good, no not one...oh Lord, thank you for Your mercies which are new every morning.  Thank You for Your grace, which is sufficient every day.  It is time to put the gloves back on again.

Yes, we have a fight to fight and I want to beat more than air.  I want to become more and more like Jesus and put to death the deeds of my flesh.  I read recently on a blog that a 90 year old was encouraging someone with the truth that whatever we're dealing with right now, these are momentary afflictions...she said "the first 100 years are the hardest."  I liked that!  The road of faith may feel long, but truly this life is a vapor and eternity is stretched out before us with the promise from God that both now and then, He will be with us.  For now we have tears, we have to fight, we have to run, we have to be miners...but one day, we will see Jesus face to face and the tears will be dried and we'll have rest and joy which right now we cannot even fathom fully.

I've asked my family to bury me with those little black boxing gloves.  REALLY.  Not because I want to take them with me, as if I could or would want to, but because when God takes me home the battle ends and it's symbol can be buried right along with me.  The reference on the second glove is Hebrews 4...there is a day of rest coming!   A day when the fight ends!  At the end of the fight, I want to be the one still standing. 

All my hope is banked in the One who promised to complete the good work He has begun in me.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sweet 16

Sixteen years ago today...

I stood trembling with joy at an alter where Mike took me as his bride. 

Last night we laid in bed recounting sweet memories we've shared.  As every couple that weds does, we promised before God and witnesses to be loving and faithful to each other in every sort of circumstance.  Our Gracious Father has brought us through much TOGETHER so far...we've known some of plenty and want, some of sickness and health, some of joy and sorrow...and through it all, God's tender mercies have been new every morning. God is the perfect loving and faithful One!  We cannot say the same about ourselves, but by His grace, we continue to enjoy our union very much!

Because we know the One who does love perfectly, and we entrust ourselves to His care, we look forward to the future TOGETHER.

Please join us in giving God thanks today as we celebrate our anniversary.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


 I grew up with a warped view of God...fear was readily found within me, but joy was missing because I saw God as an angry judge with a list of arbitrary laws that stood ready to turn anyone who crossed Him into toast.  And I knew I crossed Him.  I was inwardly fearful all the time, though outwardly I likely resembled a Pharisee as I sought to please Him on my own work-ish terms.

I became a Christian when I was 15 years old and began to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, to know His mercy, to rejoice in His salvation.  The Word of God was tasty bread to me now.  I also started reading who I referred to as Old Dead Guys a lot (John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Spurgeon, Thomas Boston, Jonathan Edwards, and others).  They preached Christ so powerfully and helped me to understand the Scriptures.

Then I was introduced to a few living authors that didn't succumb to self-esteem jargon and health, wealth, prosperity talk...people who stick with Christ crucified as their message. One of my all time favorite books, besides the 66 of them found in the Bible of course, became John Piper's Desiring God.  What a perspective changer it was for me!  He wrote a follow up book to it, which was also helpful, titled When I Don't Desire God, How to Fight for Joy.  It is from that book, on page 157, that the following acronym came from.  I share it with you because it has proved so good for me.

IOUS - an acronym for praying in regards to reading 
God's Word
I - (Incline!)  The first thing my soul needs is an inclination toward God and His Word. Without that, nothing else will happen of any value in my life.  I must want to know God and read His Word and draw near to Him.  Where does that "want to" come from?  It comes from God.  So Psalm 119:36 teaches us to pray, "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!"  Very simply we ask God to take our hearts, which are more inclined to breakfast and the newspaper, and change that inclination.  We are asking that God create desires that are not there.

O - (Open!)  Next I need to have the eyes of my heart opened so that when my inclination leads me to the Word, I see what is really there, and not just my own ideas.  Who opens the eyes of the heart?  God does.  So Psalm 119:18 teaches us to pray, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."  So many times we read the Bible and see nothing wonderful.  Its reading does not produce joy.  So what can we do?  We can cry to God: "Open the eyes of my heart, O Lord, to see what it says about you as wonderful."

U - (Unite!)  Then I am concerned that my heart is badly fragmented.  Parts of it are inclined, and partes of it are not.  Parts see wonder, and parts say, "that's not so wonderful."  What I long for is a united heart where all the parts say a joyful YES! to what God reveals in His Word.  Where does that wholeness and unity come from?  It comes from God. So Psalm 86:11 teaches us to pray, "Unite my heart to fear your name."  Don't stumble over the word fear when you thought you were seeking joy.  The fear of the Lord is a joyful experience when you renounce all sin. A thunderstorm can be a trembling joy when you know you can't be destroyed by lightning.  "O Lord, let your ear be attentive to...the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name" (Neh. 1:11).  "His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD" (Isa. 11:3).  Therefore pray that God would unite your heart to joyfully fear the Lord.

S - (Satisfy!)  What I really want from all this engagement with the Word of God and the work of His Spirit in answer to my prayers is for my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.  Where does that satisfaction come from?  It comes from God.  So Psalm 90:14  teaches us to pray, "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the way of allurement

Years ago I taught a Sunday school class on "being a disciple of Jesus."  This week I found myself looking up the notes because I needed to whack myself upside the head with them.  They served me are a few thoughts to serve you too:

To be a disciple in the simplest sense of the word just means to be taught by another, but that doesn't go far enough when talking about being a disciple of Jesus because you can learn from someone you don't admire, you can be a pupil of someone you care little to nothing about as a person, you can be a student of someone without caring a hoot about their personal goals, and you can sit under someone's teaching simply as a means to an end (like getting a degree) without  having any interest in putting that knowledge to use.

    This doesn't fly for followers of Jesus.  His own call to us is to "Follow Me."  Those two words involve His person and His plan.  Disciples of Jesus join Him in His mission; loyal to Him and His purposes.

    • Luke 14:25-33 helps us understand that we need to rightly esteem Jesus and be devoted to His person.
    • Luke 11:1-4 and John 8:31 show us to cry out "Lord, teach us"  - we ought to be eager to know His ways.  What are His goals and His principles for how to pursue those goals?
    • James 1:21-27 makes it clear that we need to be doers of what He says; cheerfully, not grudgingly.
    • If we don't want what He wants, which we often find is the case while our old man clings to us, we need the Holy Spirit to work in us to line our desires up with His (Matt. 16:24-27; Rom. 8:5-9; 1 Cor. 2:14; Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:8-17). 
    In an earlier post I wrote about the four living creatures in Rev. 4 who never rest from taking in the beauty and glory of God nor from praising Him.  Why is it we're not overtaken with awe like that all of the time?  Well, a part of it may be because this side of resurrection, we see dimly...I have every hope that one day, when I see Jesus face to face, being filled with awe will never be a problem again.

    Another possibility is that we need to feed our souls better.  Jonathan Edwards wrote "our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can't be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value...[Therefore] endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement...There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting."  This is not to the end that we become so heavenly minded that we're of no earthly good, BUT so that the things we do on earth are full of God's glorifying purpose and joy.

    I let life get busy, too busy these past few weeks...busy with things that didn't keep in mind Christ's person or plan directly.  Distractions can lead me down wrong paths quickly (it only took a few weeks to lose God-exalting purpose and joy), so I praise the Lord for friends who confront me with grace and remind me to lay myself once more in the right "way of allurement."  I thank the Lord for old notes that remind me to keep Christ's person and His plan in focus.  God has graciously restored the joy of my salvation.

    Let us faithfully follow Him: His person and His plan.