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Thursday Thoughts: Peace in an Unpeaceful World

PeaceOur ladies’ Bible study at church just completed a study on the book of 1 Peter. It was such a good book to study! I really enjoyed it and learned so much. I was reminded of the importance of studying Scripture in context. Just having finished the book, Peter’s closing words (5:14b) have been on my mind:

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

Reading this verse quickly on its own may make this verse sound like just a good way to end a letter, but having studied this book as a whole, it seems like there is a lot more bound up in Peter’s final words.

One of the themes that we found throughout the book is suffering. There were various kinds of suffering present. Chapter 1 states that “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vv 6-7).

Much of this suffering would have led to some level of unrest, lack of peace. So, what kind of suffering did Peter address that may have led to the robbery of some aspect of peace?

Religious Suffering: No Peace to Worship without Persecution

Peter wrote to Christians spread out all over Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He wrote likely from Rome around 64 A.D., during Nero’s terrifying reign. Christians were being persecuted in Rome, as well as other parts of the world. In fact, Peter wrote this letter only a few years before (as tradition states) Peter watched his own wife’s death, followed by his own crucifixion upside down in Rome. The point is, Peter was writing to a people who were suffering for their belief in Christ.

Peter actually tells believers not to be surprised when they suffer as a Christian. Note his gentle reminder:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. . . . If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (4:12, 16, 19).

Peter, who was “a witness to the sufferings of Christ” (5:1),  points us often to Christ’s sufferings. In 4:1, he says “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh [i.e., he was killed], arm yourselves with the same way of thinking [italics added; i.e., prepare yourselves to also suffer, even to the point of death].” He goes on to encourage suffering believers to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (4:13). The reason suffering believers can rejoice is that they have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1: 3-5).

Internal Suffering: No Peace from Sin

While believers can certainly “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13), the reality is that believers are still at war with sin–temptations that arise from our sinful passions, as well as temptations from Satan and the world.

Peter calls us to be “preparing your minds for action,” a phrase that literally means gird up the loins of your mind. This literal phraseology refers to soldiers of the day who would pull up their robes to prepare to fight a battle. We are to prepare our minds to battle, so that we are not “conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1:14-15).

In 4:1-6, Peter calls believers, as mentioned above, to arm themselves (note the battle terminology again) with the kind of thinking that prepares us to suffer for Christ to the point of death. Believers do this by not living for human passions, but for God’s will. Unbelievers will notice a believer’s holy living with surprise, which will eventually turn into maligning for not joining in their sinful behavior.

Peter finally calls us to be sober-minded, watchful, and resistant to Satan, who seeks to devour and cause us to lose faith (5:8-9).

Political Suffering: No Peace from the Government

Another theme in 1 Peter, often closely related to suffering, is submission. While everyone was to be subject to their God-given authority, Peter specifically discusses a few relationships requiring submission (and sometimes suffering).

Peter commanded that we all “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors” (1:13-14). Remember that Peter likely wrote during Nero’s reign–this was no simple command to submit! Peter even goes as far as to say, “Honor the emperor” (v. 17). While Nero’s (or any governmental leader’s) horrible actions deserved no honor, his position as emperor earned him a God-mandated submission and honor.

Societal Suffering: No Peace in Social Rank

Peter addresses servants/slaves in 2:18-25. He told them that they were to be respectfully subject/submissive to their masters, even` when their masters were unjust. One can imagine that some, if not many, were then “suffering unjustly” (v. 19).  Yet, Peter once again pointed these people to Jesus who also suffered unjustly at the hands of unjust authorities, yet “did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges rightly” (v. 23).

Marital Suffering: No Peace in Relationships

Peter encouraged wives to submit to their husbands (3:1-6).  Specifically, Peter wrote to wives whose husbands were unbelievers. One can imagine the strife that may have been present in the marriages of a male-dominated culture, in which a wife was a believer and the husband was a pagan. Yet still, the wives were to graciously obey in all areas not sin and submit to their husbands–whether believing or not– motivated by their hope in God (another theme in Peter).

Pastoral Suffering: No Peace in Ministry

Peter, a pastor himself, also wrote to fellow pastors to encourage them (5:1-4). Though suffering is not explicitly mentioned, the implication is that ministry can be very difficult. He encourages pastors to shepherd willingly and eagerly, mindful that the chief Shepherd will give them an unfading crown of glory.

Peace in the Midst of Suffering

So, Peter ends a book that talks about all kinds of suffering–suffering from religious persecution, suffering due to our struggles with sin, suffering from oppressive government, suffering from social status, suffering in relationships, and suffering in ministry. He ends it with a glorious reminder,

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

So, how do we have peace in the midst of suffering? The clue is found in Peter’s closing comment itself. Those who are in Christ have peace.

Those who are in Christ are the people who have hope. They have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1: 3-5).

Those who are in Christ are God’s people. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2:9-10).

Those who are in Christ are exiles, just passing through this world, with an eternal home waiting for us. We are “sojourners and exiles” (2:11) who hope in the living Jesus Christ in heaven who keeps for us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading” (1:3-4).

Those who are in Christ “believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:8-9).

This is how we can have peace in the midst of suffering. Peace in the midst of suffering can result only from a hope in the risen Lord who promises a future of perfect justice and final grace. We read of truth and grace in the “good news” (1:25), the imperishable “living and abiding word of God” (1:23).  And we “stand firm in it” (5:12). We have faith in what God has done for us through Jesus and we have hope that he will help us obtain the outcome of that faith, the salvation of our souls. And this brings unshakeable peace.

So, if I could borrow Peter’s closing, encouraging phrase, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Worthy Word Wednesday:  Pornography: How It Works and How to Reverse Its Effects (Part 1 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here. The below article is  helpful in understanding what has typically been perceived as a male problem. However, the fact is that many women view or read pornographic material as well. The below article is one my husband wrote for his men’s Bible study, so it is geared toward men, but I’m sure that much could apply to women ensnared in this sin as well.

 

staring-eyesIntroduction

Pornography is defined as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement,”1 and it is obvious that pornography is an epidemic in our society. It is imperative that we as Christians understand this epidemic and equip ourselves to live righteously in its midst.

It should be clarified at the outset that the activity of researching this topic leaves one overwhelmed by the myriad of resources that have been written in reporting on and responding to this epidemic. Moreover, when one’s habit of study is not in the field of medical science, there is a certain hesitation and humility that comes from leaning so much on the words of others. It is not my intention to misunderstand or misrepresent the sources cited below. Nonetheless, what follows below is one man’s meager attempt at examining how pornography works and how to biblically reverse its effects for his own sake and the sake of those who listen.

A 2006 study indicated that the US spends an annual $13 billion on pornography, and $3 billion of that total is for pornography through the internet.2 Pornography has become so mainstream in our world today that free porn has led to a 50% decline in porn revenue worldwide since 2007.3 In other words, porn is so common that it is abundant and free. Why even pay for it? Just look at how this epidemic affects society today:4

  • $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second.
  • 28,258 internet users view pornography every second.
  • 372 internet users type adult search terms into search engines every second.
  • A new pornographic video is created every 39 minutes in the United States.
  • There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, which is 12% of all

The average age of seeing porn for the first time is 11 years old.5 One study suggests 1 out of 5 teenage men view pornography “every day or almost every day.”6 The Washington Post reported, “According to a report commissioned by Congress, some 70 million individuals visit pornographic Web sites each week; about 11 million of them are younger than 18.”7 Proven Men Ministries hired the Barna Group to conduct [a] survey of a representative 1,000 adult men in the US in 2014. Reportedly, “Approximately two-thirds (64%) of U.S. men view pornography at least monthly,” and sadly, “The number of Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average.”8

Temptation lurks in every corner. Are you part of those statistics? If so, do you realize what porn does or has done to you? How do you reverse its effects?

How Pornography Works: A Physiological Explanation

Porn Gives Instant Pleasure

Men receive sexual pleasure by the mere sight of explicit pornography. The pleasure received from this experience is similar to taking a drug. This similarity is described in this way:

“Once we got a peek into the brain . . . our understanding of how addictions work changed. It turns out, cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs have more in common than you might think. Sure, on the outside, some are poured into a glass while others are lit on fire and smoked. But once they’re in the body, they all do the same thing to the brain: flood it with a chemical called dopamine. That’s what makes them addictive. And porn does the exact same thing.”9

As mentioned, pornography pleasure[s] through the release of dopamine, “a chemical that makes you feel good.”10 One article describes dopamine and similar chemicals released by one’s body in this way: “They help us feel pleasure and to bond with other people, and they motivate us to come back to important activities that make us happy.”11 The means whereby dopamine will “motivate us to come back” to the activity that produced its release is by its relation to the protein iFosB. One article explains,

“When a person is aroused by porn, their brain releases a chemical called dopamine that makes them feel pleasure. As the dopamine goes through their brain, it leaves behind a pathway created by a protein called iFosB (pronounced delta fos b) that connects feeling aroused to looking at porn. Basically dopamine is saying ‘this feels good; let’s remember how to get back here,’ and iFosB goes to work building a brain pathway to make it easier for the person to do that again. When this happens with healthy behaviors it is a good thing, but when it happens with unhealthy ones it can lead to trouble.”12

Putting these thoughts together, the instant and overwhelming pleasure of pornography motivates the user’s behavior to repeat this experience and to do so in [an] addictive manner.13

Porn Is Never Enough and Leaves You Wanting More

How does this addiction take place? Despite the instant pleasure that pornography provides, this pleasure wanes over time. The pornographic experience must be enhanced in order to achieve the same level of pleasure again.14 Here is a description of this addictive process:

“Just like other addictive substances, porn floods the brain with dopamine. But since the brain gets overwhelmed by the constant overload of chemicals that comes with consistent porn use, it fights back by taking away some of its dopamine receptors—which are like tiny ears on the end of a neuron that hear dopamine’s message.

“With fewer receptors, even if the brain is putting off the same levels of dopamine in response to porn, the user can’t feel dopamine’s effect as much. As a result, the porn they were looking at doesn’t seem as arousing or exciting, and many porn users go hunting for more porn or more hardcore porn to get the effect the old porn used to offer.

“As a frequent porn user’s brain acclimates to the new levels of dopamine flooding through it, regular activities that would normally set off a burst of dopamine and make the person feel happy aren’t strong enough to register much anymore, leaving the user feeling down or uneasy whenever they go for a while without looking at porn. That’s one reason why pornography can be so addictive.”15

As the user becomes addicted to pornography, this “addiction damages the part of the brain that helps you think things through to make good choices—the brain’s limit setting system.”16 The cumulative effect is that, as the user feeds his addiction to porn, he is less and less able to choose to break his addiction.17 Moreover, he seeks out more and more sensational pornography as his addiction continues.

In our advanced technological setting, one has the ability to feed this addiction all the more. As one author describes it, man cell phone“Thanks to the Internet, porn now mixes the most powerful natural dopamine release the body can produce with a cocktail of other elements—endless novelty, shock, and surprise—all of which increase the dopamine surge.”18 Princeton University professor Dr. Jeffrey Satinover describes this situation accordingly:

“With advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution.”19

Porn and Its Behavioral Effects

A porn user’s behavior is affected by his seeking more porn, and porn of such a nature that allows him to feel the same pleasure as in his previous pornographic experiences. As the addiction increases, other activities in life decrease in their significance to the user and fall by the wayside in order to feed the addiction to porn because the use of porn is more fulfulling. This addiction can often lead to the use of personal funds for more sensational porn.20 Eventually, even the most pleasurable of pornographic experiences will begin to wane, and the user’s addictive behavior may lead to acting out upon what he has seen. Of the many examples that we could give, Dr. Satinover gives two:

“Since the 50s, as pornography became mainstreamed and pushed the envelope of normal sexual conduct, law enforcement reported that sex crimes mimicking comparable acts were being inflicted on women and children.”21

“Testimony from victims and police commonly finds pornography to be an on-site-sex abuse manual.”22

In general, one could say that the rapid production of more and more pornography over the past years is a behavioral illustration of the fact that no porn is ever enough. For the individual, computer usage increases (desktop, mobile, etc.), family relationships disintegrate (especially with one’s spouse), the act of sex loses its original pleasure, infidelity increases, etc.23 People involved in romantic relationships with the user feel “hurt, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, lonely, isolated, humiliated, jealous, and angry.”24

A Biblical Understanding of Enjoying Pornography

Seeing the physiological description of how porn works and giving an all-too-brief survey of its effects can leave anyone discouraged and wonder if a remedy for this epidemic even exists. Indeed, there is such a remedy, but let us not forget to look first at the survey above through the lens of Scripture.

Biblically, lusting after another person is sin in and of itself (Matt 5:28). Both the production of pornography and the enjoyment of such are also acts of sin. Sexual pleasure is to be enjoyed with one’s spouse alone (Gen 2:24; Heb 13:4), not through producing pornography for the enjoyment of others or being the one to enjoy it.25

For the user of pornography, it should be added that lust often leads to acting upon such lust. As one is tempted as lured and enticed by his own desires and these desires are provoked by porn, one may just act upon such desires, leading to spiritual death (James 1:14–15). Remember that for David, looking was not enough, especially when it is relatively easy to act upon these desires (2 Sam 11:2–5). And for the one who acts upon such desires, there will be consequences for his sin that will never go away (cf. 2 Sam 12:7–15; Prov 6:33).

Next week I’ll conclude with “How to Reverse the Effects of Pornography: A Biblical Perspective.”

  1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.11th ed. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 2003), s.v., “pornography.” 
  2. CovenantEyes, “Pornography Statistics: Annual Report 2014.” Online: http://www.covenanteyes.com/pornstats/. Accessed 14 Jan 2015.  
  3. Ibid.
  4. All statistics in this list come from “Internet Pornography Statistics.” Online: http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet-pornography-statistics.html. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. These statistics stem from a study conducted in 2006. 
  5. “Internet Pornography Statistics.” 
  6. Covenant Eyes, “Pornography Statistics: 250+ facts, quotes, and statistics about pornography use (2013 Edition),” p. 15. Available online: http://blog.clinicalcareconsultants.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/porn_stats_2013_covenant_eyes.pdf.  This study consisted of 813 students from six schools in the US. 
  7. The Washington Post, “Protecting Kids Online.” 1 Jul 2006. Online: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19307-2004Jun30.html. Accessed 16 Jan 2015. The author of the present paper could not find a copy of this study for himself, and the online article did not give this source a detailed citation. 
  8. Proven Men Ministries, “Pornography Use and Addiction.” Online: http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey/pornography-use-and-addiction/. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. For a helpful report on multiple surveys on this topic throughout the world, see Mike Genung, “Current Porn Statistics.” Online: http://www.roadtograce.net/current-porn-statistics/. Accessed 15 Jan 2015. The statistic given above differs somewhat from a report by Luke Gilkerson, “Get the Latest Pornography Statistics.” 19 Feb 2013. Online: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2013/02/19/pornography-statistics/. Allegedly, “Regular church attenders are 26% lesslikely to look at porn than non-attenders, but those self-identified as “fundamentalists” are 91% more likely to look at porn.” 
  9. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Addictive.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-is-addictive/#sthash.X4KlqVYZ.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  10. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Changes the Brain.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-changes-the-brain/#sthash.wZ9K17FU.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  11. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” August 8, 2014. Online: fightthenewdrug.org/porn-is-like-a-drug/#sthash.MaGHW4LD.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  12. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Addiction Escalates.” August 8, 2014. Online: http://fightthenewdrug.org/porn-addiction-escalates/#sthash.9Oy50nDL.dpbs. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  13. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” 
  14. Albert Mohler, “Hijacking the Brain – How Pornography Works.” February 1, 2010. Online: http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/02/01/hijacking-the-brain-how-pornography-works/. Accessed 26 Jan 2015. 
  15. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Changes the Brain.” 
  16. Ibid.
  17. For empirical research on this conclusion, see Macrina Cooper-White, “Watching Porn Linked To Less Gray Matter In The Brain” (2 Jun 2014). Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/porn-less-gray-matter-brain_n_5418607.html. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. 
  18. Fight the New Drug, “Porn is Like a Drug.” 
  19. Jeffrey Satinover, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities.” Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space, November 18, 2004. Online: http://www.ccv.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Judith_Reisman_Senate_Testimony-2004.11.18.pdf. Accessed 14 Jan 2015. Satinover is quoted in brief in the previously referenced article as well. 
  20. Fight the New Drug, “Porn Addiction Escalates.” 
  21. Satinover, “Hearing on the Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities.” 
  22. Ibid.
  23. Covenant Eyes, “Pornography Statistics,” pp. 9–10. 
  24. Ibid.
  25. I would add that pornography within the confines of marriage is unwise at best, if the question must even be asked. It allows one spouse to engage in sexual pleasurewithout the other spouse, even though the absent spouse is “present” in the form of pornography. Also, watching videos of one another engaging in sexual relations or doing so while actually engaging in sexual relations with one another would seem to distract one another from the pleasure God intended to be derived from solely enjoying one another. Moreover, what if someone were to inadvertently stumble on such pornography? When does one choose to dispose of such pornography? Will the children or others have to identify and dispose of this pornography when their parents pass away (cf. Gen 9:22)? What if they, like Ham, have the perverse desire to look on the nakedness of their parents? Yet still, what if an older couple watches videos of themselves when they were young? Is that really seeing themselves for who they are in the present? The proliferation of technology creates many interesting questions for sexual ethics, but perhaps it is best to let “one flesh” mean as much today with respect to technology as it did to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. 

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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Frugal Friday: Filling the Freezer for Post-Baby, Part 1

297When I was pregnant this past summer with my youngest, Ashlyn (now 6-1/2 months!), I decided I was going to make post-baby meals ahead of time to make life easier. It took a lot of work and planning, but it was really nice to have a freezer full of over 30 meals to choose from. I kept a list of these meals on the fridge with the date made, use-by date, defrosting instructions, and preparation instructions. I also later painted my deep freezer with chalkboard paint for easier inventory.

There were many recipes that I will definitely make again and some that I won’t for various reasons. I thought I’d pass along over the next few weeks the recipes I tried with just a few comments as to my opinions. The easiest way I found to prepare these meals was to simply double up a recipe, using one for dinner that night and one for the freezer. If I found a cut of meat (especially roasts) on sale, I would buy a couple and throw them in a freezer bag with whatever else I wanted.

For what it’s worth, Aldi freezer bags worked fine. The only thing you want to make sure is that you have a good way to organize your deep freezer. I’m still working on that. A couple bags did get ripped because I was digging around looking for something.

Here are some of the recipes I did make. I’ll star my absolute favorites that I know I’ll make again.

1. Brown Sugar Meatloaf 

This was really good, and my husband liked it. This is a great meal to double and freeze half. I just love my mom’s recipe for meatloaf, though (even though my husband thinks it’s too saucy). I will make this again if I plan on freezing meatloaf. If I plan on just having it for dinner I’ll make my mom’s (which is the best meatloaf ever!) 🙂

 2. *Burritacos 

Yummy! This one is already doubled within the recipe, easily allowing you to freeze one for later. I would either exchange the pepper jack cheese with monterrey jack or do half-and-half, because it was a wee bit too spicy for my fam.

 3. Chicken pot pie

This was really good, and I like the fact that the sauce is homemade (i.e., no canned condensed soup). I might make it again for dinner, but not freeze it. For some reason, it didn’t taste as good to me the second time around, but that might just be me. . .

 4. Mexican stuffed shells

I really liked these and would totally make them again, but they were not my husband’s favorites. He absolutely loves Mexican, and it was a desecration in his mind to mix Mexican with pasta. 😉 I don’t think I actually froze any of these, but I totally would have if Dave liked them.

 5. *Breakfast Burritos 

These were great! I am definitely going to do these again. I think we actually have a few left over still (and they still taste good).

 6. Shepherd’s Pie

Again, this was a really good one, but it was not my favorite after frozen. Not quite sure why. This is also another one, where I love my Mom’s a little better. But, this was super tasty fresh!

 7. Chicken Pesto Calzones 

We were not a fan of these, but it could have been the pesto I used. I also didn’t use grilled chicken breasts (just chicken from a whole cooked chicken).  I may try it again with different filling. Pesto is not for everyone.

 8. *Sausage Spinach Tomato Soup 

Delicious, easy, and pretty healthy. The first time I put the whole pound of ditalini pasta in, and it was too thick, in my opinion (though my husband liked it that way). The second time, I used half a pound, and that is what I would probably do again.

 9. *Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast 

This is definitely one of my favorites! So easy and delicious. Bone-in pork roast is really cheap too. This is one where you can buy several roasts on sale or reduced-price and have a few easy to prepare and cook recipes in the freezer.

10. *Slow Cooker Turkey and Black Bean Chili 

 Delicious, healthy, and easy.  Another good one to double/freeze half.

Next Friday, I will try to post part two. Do you have any tried-and-true freezer recipes that I could add to my to-try list?

{On Fridays, I attempt to pass along a frugal tip I have learned or am attempting to learn. I love a good deal, and I love to help our family stay within the budget by being frugal in every area of life!}

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Worthy Word Wednesday: How Much Exercise is Healthy?

tennis-shoesI don’t usually post about exercising, but I just read a tidbit I wanted to share, especially with any of my fellow exhausted young mommas. I am doing some reading in order to complete my nursing continuing education requirements for my license renewal. The following quote is taken from “Cardiovascular Diseases: The Leading Cause of Death in Women” by Jassin Jouria, M.D.

“The typical recommendation made by the Surgeon General of the United States, the American Heart Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine is to exercise moderately for at least 30 minutes on most days. An alternative option is to exercise vigorously for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 days a week[.] Exercising regularly improves mood and can help lower a high resting heart rate. It also lowers blood pressure and relieves stress.”

I love the addition of the alternative option–20 minutes vigorously for 3 days a week! This is doable! In fact, a workout that I have found that meets these qualifications is Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred (warning for any male readers: this link takes you to the Amazon page, which shows the dvd cover with Jillian Michaels immodestly dressed). In fact, I have been doing this workout 3 days a week lately, and though hard work, it is nice to be done in only 20 minutes.

So, take heart, fellow moms of littles. One hour a week of vigorous exercise is not only doable but heart-healthy! And, if you are discouraged because of the sporadic nature of your exercising, here’s another note of encouragement from the article:

It has been noted that even short bouts of activity favorably affect the risk profile of individuals who are otherwise inactive.

Now, quit reading blogs and go exercise. . . 😉

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Worthy Word Wednesday: Is It a Sin to Skip Church? (Part 2 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here, another blog to which he regularly contributes. You can read part 1 here.

churchLast week, I gave one of two reasons that we should meet with our local church on Sunday, the Lord’s Day: we should meet together every week with our local church because it was clearly the pattern of the churches in the New Testament. Here’s reason number two.

Second, we should meet together every week with our local church because this setting is essential to provoking one another to love and good works.

I realize it is unpopular in an entertainment-driven culture to say that we must meet with our local church every Sunday unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise (e.g., working in health care, law enforcement, necessary travel, etc.). Sunday is part of one’s weekend and seems conducive to so many creature comforts that we could enjoy instead of meeting with the brethren. However, from Hebrews 10:24–25, I would firmly state that it is imperative for believers to gather with the assembly. Here’s the text:

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)

The command begins with “let us consider” (κατανοέω, katanoeō), a “hortatory verb” (i.e., a verb of command) that commands the readers to give careful thought to something.1 Specifically, their careful thought is to consider “how to stir up one another to love and good works,” a phrase which pretty much speaks for itself. The late Rodney J. Decker explains that this command then “follows with two explanatory participles that illustrate (both negatively and positively) how this exhortation is to be obeyed.”2 Negatively, the believers were to sir one another up to love and good works by not neglecting to meet together.3 Positively, the believers were to sir one another up to love and good works by encouraging one another. It would seem that the first participial phrase implies the setting for the second phrase to follow. Believers were to encourage one another by having gathered together to do so.

Apart from examining the grammar of these two verses, it is helpful to examine other details as well. First, consider the assembly. The ESV translates the noun “assembly” (ἐπισυναγωγή, episunagōgē) with an infinitive phrase that indicates its function, “to meet together.”  Quoting John Owen, A. W. Pink points out that the author of Hebrews uses synechdoche, that is, he refers to part of something in order to refer to the whole. By referring to the assembly, the author of Hebrews refers to all that is included in one’s overall worship of Christ.4 At the same time, it is clear that the physical gathering of the assembly is particularly in view. The nature of the believers’ meeting together (ἐπισυναγωγή, episunagōgē) is indicated by the following phrase “as is the habit of some.”5 In other words, the assembly habitually assembled (every Lord’s Day), and some had made it a habit to abandon this assembly.

Second, consider the reason for meeting together. The Day was approaching, which I assume to be the day in which Christ comes again.6 Quoting Decker again, because the day was approaching, “They dared not cease attending the meetings of assembly (though some had already done so) but should place an even greater priority on such interaction and mutual encouragement.”7

Third, consider the verb “to neglect.” The use of “neglect” (ἐγκαταλείπω, egkataleipō) elsewhere suggests that neglect is not a strong enough translation of this verb. Just before His death, Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; cf. Mark 15:34). Demas loved the present world and thus deserted Paul (2 Tim 4:10). When Paul stood to defend himself and the gospel, all had deserted him (2 Tim 4:16). To neglect the assembly was to intentionally abandon the assembly, a clear indication that such an individual doing so lacked the desire to provoke others towards love and good works. Conversely, to neglect the assembly could indicate the lack of desire to be provoked by others towards love and good works as well.

Considering this verb further, what may have been significant about this verb in a letter written to the Hebrews is that this verb often described Israel’s abandonment of God in the Greek translation of the OT. The use of this verb could have thus been an implicit warning in and of itself not to go the way of Israel who abandoned God time and again.8

Some Practical Thoughts

In this study of Hebrews 10:24–25, I found some practical thoughts by some of the authors to be helpful on personal and pastoral levels.

First, the focus of this command is not for people to be at a service so that they can hear the sermon. Timothy R. Nichols says this: “In the assembly, they are to exhort each other. The verse does not say, ‘Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, but listening to teaching.’ Teaching is vital, but the assembly the author of Hebrews has in mind is one where believers are encouraging each other—this is at the very least a major part of the activity.”9 Indirectly, one could say that “the exhortation” (1 Tim 4:13) by an elder could be a part of the exhortation of Hebrews 10:24–25, but the focus is clearly on how each member exhorts one another. This thought should provoke us to be more thoughtful as to how [we] can better facilitate the “one another” aspect of the assembly each Lord’s day so that we can stir one another up as Hebrews 10:24–25 commands. Simply walking into an auditorium, sitting in pews, and walking out leaves much encouragement to be desired.

Second, neglecting the assembly shows that believers lack a proper desire to love and be loved and to encourage and be encouraged. Simon J. Kistemaker says this: “One of the first indications of a lack of love toward God and the neighbor is for a Christian to stay away from the worship services. He forsakes the communal obligations of attending these meetings and displays the symptoms of selfishness and self-centeredness.”10 To this, Paul Ellingworth adds that the ability to provoke one another to love and good works “cannot be sustained unless members of the Christian community meet to encourage and exhort one another.”11 Missing a Sunday here and there without good reason may not be the worst sin in the world, but it does betray a degree of self-centeredness to enjoy something other than stirring up the people of God towards love and good works. If this neglect persists and becomes a habit, it could lead to abandonment altogether.

As the author of Hebrews says, let us encourage one another, in the assembly, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

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  1. Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews(PNTC; Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 2010), 369.
  2. Rodney J. Decker, “The Exhortations of Hebrews 10:19–25,” Journal of Ministry and Theology 6(2002): 57. See also David L. Allen, Hebrews (NAC 35; Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2010), 518. Allen calls all of Heb 10:24–25 an “imperatival idea” that contains a command which “is modified in v. 25 by two contrasting present tense participles.” The same is said by O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, 370. “Not neglecting to meet together,” says O’Brien, is one of “two contrasting expressions that explain how we can stir one another up to godly living.” Hebrews 10:25 is not the command proper, but it is clearly a part of the command in Hebrews 10:24. For this reason, some refer to Hebrews 10:25 as a command in and of itself without even referring to Hebrews 10:24. See, e.g., Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed.(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 1066. In discussing worship as an activity of the church, Erickson says only this of Hebrews 10:25: “The writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers not to neglect the assembling of themselves together as was the habit of some (Heb. 10:25).” Taking Hebrews 10:25 as an imperative of sorts is also  echoed by Thomas Kem Oberholtzer, “The Warning Passages in Hebrews Part 4: The Danger of Willful Sin in Hebrews 10:26–39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (1988): 411. He states that “the readers were encouraged to do four things,” one of which was to “not forsake their assembling together (10:25).”
  3. William L. Lane, Hebrews 9–13(WBC 47B; Word, 1998), 290. Lane states, “The reason the meetings of the assembly are not to be neglected is that they provide a communal setting where mutual encouragement and admonition may occur.”
  4. Arthur W. Pink. An Exposition of Hebrews(Swengel, PA: Bible Truth Depot, 1954), 594.
  5. Allen, Hebrews, 518–19. Allen gives a helpful survey of commentators’ conclusions concerning the meaning of ἐπισυναγωγή (episunagōgē).
  6. See F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 259–60.
  7. Decker, “The Exhortations of Hebrews 10:19–25,” 61.
  8. Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text(NIGTC: Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: Eerdmans, 1993), 528; Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, 370.
  9. Timothy R. Nichols, “Beyond the Pulpit: Two Ways Ordinary Believers Minister to the Church,” Michigan Theological Journal 10 (2004): 36.
  10. Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Hebrews(NTC 15; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker: 1984), 290.
  11. Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 527.

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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Thursday Thoughts: The Humbling Process of Christian Motherhood 

mum-and-son-1380973094O8eI analyze everything.  And when I say everything, I mean everything. My husband tells me all the time, whilst in the middle of analyzing away something, “Stop analyzing.” Part of why I like to blog is that blogging helps me to write down my thoughts and stop analyzing them so much! 🙂

All that to say. . . I often analyze motherhood. What makes it so difficult? Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why do I often feel like I am a mothering failure? Why have  I lost my temper more in the last 4 years than I had in the previous 28? Etc. etc. etc.

Clearly some of the answers lie in the reality that I am a mother of children. Children who–oddly enough–often remind me of me or my husband. Children who inherited a sin nature from us. Children who are naturally foolish and, well, childish.

It is a difficult job. It is repetitive. It is exhausting. It is repetitive. It is messy. It is repetitive. It requires flexibility. Did I mention it is repetitive? 🙂

But what I’ve found the most discouraging and most humbling about this motherhood process is me. I have amazed (and disappointed) myself with the depth of sinfulness that being a mother has brought out in me. I am selfish. I am impatient. I am angry. I am short-tempered. I am mean.

Being a mother has brought my need to the absolute forefront–my continued need for Jesus Christ and the continuing work of the gospel in my life.  Without the grace of God that saved me and continues to grow me, I would always react selfishly, impatiently, angrily, etc. Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in me, I know that I will improve (and am improving) in these areas–even if it is a slow, loooong process.

But what makes motherhood in particular so humbling and sanctifying? Can you be humbled and sanctified without being a mother? Of course! But (after my deep analysis!) I do think there is a particularly humbling aspect of motherhood unique to it (and a few other roles).

As a Christian mother, I am constantly teaching my children biblical principles: “Be kind, because Jesus was kind to you by dying on the cross for you. Be patient. Do not be angry. You can only be kind, patient, loving etc. if Jesus helps you. You need Jesus.”

And these things I tell them in the midst of sweetly reminding yelling at them for yelling at each other. These things I tell them while walking heavily (aka stomping) because I’m angry. These things I tell them after any number of sinful activity or thoughts on my part.

And this is why motherhood (and other roles, such as pastoring, counseling, etc.) is so humbling. We teach and correct the very things we struggle with. We need Jesus Christ as much as our children do. We need God’s sanctifying grace as much as they need His saving grace.

This is humbling. But (more analyzing. . . )it is also a good thing. My kids know very well that Mommy needs Jesus just as much as they do (although they can’t articulate that yet). They know that Mommy is a sinner who struggles with the same sins that they do. They hear me say (as I said a few hours ago to one of my children), “You were wrong to disobey and make that mess and scream, and Mommy was right in disciplining you, but. . . Mommy should not have been so angry. That was sin. Will you forgive me? See?–Mommy needs Jesus too.”

This humbling realization also helps inform my discipline. No longer am I the perfect mommy with expectations of perfect children. Rather, I am a growing disciple of Jesus  Christ who is striving to point my little children to Jesus, so they too can be growing disciples. In a way, we are journeying together. Clearly, this does not negate my disciplining role as a parent in any way; it just helps me react with grace and Christlikeness (when I remember this!). It helps me realize that discipline should not be a reaction to my inconvenience or annoyance, but a means of pointing out sin and pointing to Christ.

I am thankful for my children, despite the challenges they bring me. Being their mother reminds me how much I still need a Savior. And that helps me point them to my Savior. May they see Jesus in me. May they too become growing disciples of Jesus Christ.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Worthy Word Wednesday: Is It a Sin to Skip Church? (Part 1 of 2)

My husband, David, blogs at proclaimchrist.org and gave me permission to post his articles on my blog. This article was originally posted here, another blog to which he regularly contributes.

churchI should rephrase the question to be more precise – is it a sin to intentionally schedule something unnecessary in place of the assembly of believers?

I realize that much could be said for the descriptor “unnecessary.” Some must miss church for necessary reasons. Their occupation is to save lives, uphold the law, etc. I could go on, but, for the purpose of keeping this article relatively brief, I will leave it at that.

My answer would be yes, it is sin to intentionally schedule something unnecessary in place of the assembly of believers. I make this conclusion for two reasons.

First, we should meet together every week with our local church because it was clearly the pattern of the churches in the New Testament.

The first churches met every week on Sundays, a precedent that we as believers are to follow today. Luke began his description of a trip by Paul to Troas in this way: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, he talked with them” (Acts 20:7). If Luke’s description of Paul’s activities at Troas were representative of what took place in churches in general, the early assembly of a local church typically included the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of God’s Word.(1)

Similarly, Paul encouraged the Corinthians to make a collection for him according to how he had previously instructed the Galatian churches (cf. 1 Cor 16:1): “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come” (1 Cor 16:2). Paul expected them to meet on Sundays and could instruct collections accordingly. Though the collection he commanded may have been of a more private nature at first,(2) the command to do so was for the purpose of not collecting funds as a gathered assembly when Paul stayed with the church.(3) Collections aside, 1 Cor 16:2 assumes Christians would assemble on the first day of the week.

My simple point from these two examples(4) is this: if the NT description of the early churches was to meet on Sunday every week, I think it is fair to say that we should do the same today. But, you may say, that’s only a description and not a prescription. Descriptions only go so far, and I grant this point. But, what is helpful is that Scripture also gives a command that pertains to the weekly assembling of believers as well. And that will be a matter to discuss in my next post.
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1. John B. Polhill, Acts (NAC 26; Broadman & Holman, 1995), 419.
2. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 813.
3. David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 753–54.
4. A third text often brought into this discussion is Rev 1:10. John is described to have a vision on “the Lord’s Day,” which is likely a reference to the first day of the week on which the Lord Jesus rose from the grave (cf. Matt 28:1).

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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Tasty Tuesday: Almond Joy Coconut Milk Ice Cream

almond joy coconut milk ice creamMy friend, Sarah, recently told me that she made some coconut milk ice cream, to which I intelligently replied, “Does it taste like coconut?” 😉 When she told me that it was only made with coconut milk, honey, and vanilla, I knew I had to at least try it. I’m not a huge fan of coconut, but I do like some things with coconut. Like Almond Joy candy bars. And Mounds candy bars. So. . . I thought I’d work a little magic with the coconut milk and turn it into something yummy, and it worked!

I searched Pinterest for a basic coconut milk recipe, and finally hit this recipe from the Nourishing Gourmet. I followed the basic recipe exactly, then added the almonds and chocolate chips. I only used 1/3 cup of honey this time, but I think I will use ½ cup next time. It needed just a tiny bit more sweetness in my opinion.

Ingredients:

2-14 ounce cans of full fat coconut milk (I chilled mine)

1/3-1/2 cup of honey

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

½ cup chopped almonds

½ cup of chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet, but I think dark chocolate would be delicious too.)

Directions:

Combine the coconut milk, honey, and vanilla extract in a bowl, whisking well. If your coconut milk was not chilled, you may need to put you milk mixture in the fridge for a couple hours (or per your ice cream maker’s instructions). Follow ice cream maker’s instructions to make the ice cream. In the last 5 minutes of mixing, add the almonds and chocolate chips.

ice cream 3Place the softened ice cream in a shallow container.

Cover with plastic wrap, so that the plastic wrap is lying against the ice cream (to prevent freezer burn), followed by a lid.  Freeze for  2+ hours. I didn’t do this, but I did think that some toasted coconut served on top would be delicious!

Enjoy!

Calvin and Mackenna Ice cream

My kiddos enjoyed watching the ice cream form. I must admit, I always get a kick out of watching the transformation from liquid to ice cream too! 🙂

ice cream 1ice cream 2

 

 

 

{On Tuesdays, I share a yummy recipe. Typically, my recipes will be super easy, because I’m a mom with littles. I try to be healthy and frugal as well. But I like good food, so it will always be delicious! }

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Thursday Thoughts: A Letter to Haddon {Encouragement for Those Who Have Lost a Baby}

May, 2011 010At the beginning of March, 2011 my husband, Dave and I found out that I was pregnant with our second baby. While we were not surprised, we were very excited that the Lord had answered our prayers with another child. The timing was perfect. We announced it to our parents at the same time. We then let all of our immediate family know. We planned on having a “gender reveal party” probably at the beginning of June. The baby was due November 19, 2011. This would allow me to be off work for Dave’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s. Not the biggest deal in the world, but family time is important to us, so we were excited about that.

My OB appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, April 26 at 12:30. Dave was able to get off work to join me, so we could see the baby for the first time together. Right before we left, I went to the bathroom. I noticed a little bit of blood when I wiped. I was alarmed immediately. Before I was pregnant with Calvin, I had a possible miscarriage at five weeks, with the most noticeable symptom being bleeding. Thankfully there was only a little bit of light pink blood, though, and I knew some people bleed a bit during pregnancy. I was also thankful that I would be able to see the doctor within an hour anyway.

I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach as we drove. I wanted to find out right away whether everything was ok! As we neared the office building, however, I noticed fire trucks. Then, as I walked into the building the power went out. My appointment was cancelled! My heart sank; I would have to live with this fear for a while longer. Dave kept assuring me that I was fine. I called my mom, and she comforted me with the reminder that my sister and my aunt bled during pregnancy, and they were just fine. I knew that the Lord was in control, but I still feared for the life of my baby. My appointment was re-scheduled for the following Wednesday.

As the week went on, though, the bleeding continued to gradually increase. Dave still kept telling me everything was probably fine, but I was scared. I even told Calvin that I didn’t think he was going to have a baby brother or sister in November. When we went to bed, I started crying, but Dave told me not to cry until we had found out something. I laid in bed for a couple hours unable to sleep. The cramping in my legs was increasing. I was starting to feel cramping in the groin area. The bleeding became very heavy.

I can honestly say, though, as I laid there in bed, I was able to praise the Lord. I asked for the life of my baby, yet I knew that God always does what is best. I praised the Lord for this trial He had given me and for His sovereign control. I had been reading Isaiah in my devotions, and I truly believe the Lord providentially prepared me for this trial, as I had been seeing in His Word once again God’s sovereignty in all of life.

Around 2:45, due to concern about hemorrhaging, I finally called my doctor who said we should go to the ER. My parents both came over, and Dave took me to the hospital at 3:30. It was hard to keep telling everyone why I was there. In my heart, I knew I had a miscarriage. They kept saying, so you’re how far along? I kept saying, I am/was 11 weeks pregnant. I had blood work, IV, pelvic exam, abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds. . . all for them to tell me at 7:30 what I already knew. I had a miscarriage. I had peeked at the US when the tech stepped out of the room, and I couldn’t see a baby.

After the doctors left, Dave came over to the stretcher where I was lying. The truth had finally hit him, and he started to cry. He asked me whether I thought the baby was a boy or a girl. I shrugged, but he said that I thought it was a boy, didn’t I? I nodded. Dave said that we would then name him Haddon Steven, the name we had chosen for a boy. Haddon is named after Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, and Steven is after my dad, one of the kindest men I know.

As we left the hospital around 8, we cried as we walked to the car. We cried as we called all of our family. We cried with Mom and Calvin when we came home. My mom took me to the doctor after that; then I came home and tried to sleep when Calvin napped. Dave came home early, so I could sleep some more. That evening, I went to my sister’s baby shower for her expectant twins. It was good to think about something else, but it was hard at the same time. I still was cramping and grieving.

I was supposed to work on Tuesday, but they kindly took me off the schedule. I did a lot of reading in between taking care of Calvin. We hadn’t studied infant salvation in detail, and we were both somewhat undecided on it. But this reality concerning OUR baby made us think about it immediately. I read John MacArthur’s sermons on infant salvation, which helped me tremendously. I was able to build a biblical basis for believing that our little Haddon was in heaven.

I will spare the details, but on Thursday morning, I finally released what I believe was the body of my baby. This was the source of the continued cramping, bleeding, and smell. This was my dead child that had been sitting in me for days. There was no way that I could flush my baby down the toilet or put him in the garbage. I set him on some tissues on the counter in the bathroom. I called Dave at seminary. As soon as I started talking to him, I started crying. Dave said he would come home immediately.

I found a nice box to put him in. I put a bow around the box and wrote his name nicely on the box. Dave could also tell that this definitely was the baby. As I closed the box the last time and tied the bow, I started sobbing really hard. I felt like I could finally grieve, as we really, truly knew that the baby was gone. I felt empty inside, because there was no longer a little life in there.

May, 2011 003

We called my parents to ask them if we could bury him in their yard. They kindly agreed. We brought dinner over and decided to spend the evening with them. Dad dug a hole in their garden. Dave read a beautiful note that he had written to our little Haddon, and he prayed. I had bought him some white carnations. We put little Haddon’s earthly body, a couple flowers, and Dave’s note in the grave. Then I put the rest of the flowers on top of the grave.

Tears were shed, but there was also a helpful closure that burying Haddon’s little body allowed for us. We loved our little boy, but, as we told him at the funeral, God loves him even more.

We still grieve—especially on that following Mother’s Day, as we were going to announce my pregnancy. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Haddon’s namesake said,

“Dry thine eyes, and bless God that thou hast another link with heaven, and that thou hast helped to fill the choirs that, day without night, circle the throne of God with hallelujahs.”

“It is a wondrous joy to be the father of those who, day and night, wait upon God in heaven, and see his face, and serve him evermore; so be not sad or downcast if that is your case.”

As I thought about the comfort that God brought to our hearts as we studied and came to the conclusion that our child is in heaven, I wanted to share this with others. Perhaps you have had a miscarriage or the loss of a young child. Perhaps your loss has even been your own doing, through an abortion (whether intended or not). Perhaps you have a child, who–like my sweet 3 year old nephew, Evan–has severe mental disability and is unable to even willfully sin or understand the gospel. If so (or if you know someone who has undergone such a trial), then I hope this letter to our little Haddon (perhaps Haddie–we’ll find out in heaven! 🙂 ) will encourage you.

*********

May 5, 2011

Dear Haddon Steven Huffstutler,

God gave you to us for 11 weeks. Then He took you home. As we bury what will be transformed into a beautiful body in the future, we wanted to say a few things to you on earth before we see you in heaven.

  1. God knew you inside your mother, and He knew how long you would live. Psalm 139:13-16 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
  2. God was kind enough to let you have rest instead of the pain and suffering that life sometimes brings. Job 3:1, 16–17 1 Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said, 3 “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ 16 “Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, As infants that never saw light. 17 “There the wicked cease from raging, And there the weary are at rest. Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, 4 for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 “It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he.
  3. God took you to Himself in your innocence. You never knew how to choose between good and evil. Deuteronomy 1:39 ‘Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
  4. Because you never willingly sinned, though originally sinful like us all, you cannot be judged according to your deeds. If you had a page waiting to be filled in the heavenly books, no deeds were written. And, because you died in your innocence, no accusation from the accuser can ever come your way. Revelation 20:12-13 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
  5. Your earthly father’s namesake said he knew he would be in heaven forever. Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  6. He, too, had a child that died in innocence. He knew he would go to him one day, in the house of the Lord, forever. 2 Samuel 12:22–23 22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23 “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
  7. You now reside in a heavenly kingdom. It belongs to children like you. Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  8. Perhaps you met the angel who represented you before the Father. Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
  9. This elect angel, like all of the other elect angels, ministers on behalf of those who inherit salvation. This inheritance is far greater than anything we could have ever given you. It is an inheritance that we will enjoy together forever. Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
  10. We bury this small body of yours today, knowing it will be something beautiful in the future. Philippians 3:20-21 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Haddon Steven Huffstutler, we look forward to meeting you. We praise God we were your parents for eleven short weeks. Because He took you home on May 1, 2011, we will spend forever with you in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We love you so much. God loves you more. You know that now, and this gives us comfort. We’ll see you soon, and this gives us comfort as well.

Love,

Dad & Mom

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Worthy Word Wednesday: Chosen to Serve {Encouragement for Pastors’ Wives}

pastorsfamilybook

 

Another of the (many) books that I am in the midst of reading is one written for pastoral families, The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, by a pastor and his wife, Brian and Cara Croft. So far, it has been challenging and encouraging. I wanted to just share one snippet of encouragement for other pastors’ wives:

“Remember that God did not place you in this position accidentally. He has chosen you to be at your current church, with your husband, doing the things you are doing. Know that you are exactly where God wants you to be, whether or not you feel qualified today. Embrace this truth. Grow to love it. And trust that God is using you as the wife of a pastor for his purposes and glory” (p 92).

{On Wednesdays, I share from a book, blog, or other resource some “worthy words.” I love to read, but my time for reading has been much decreased since the birth of my first child. I am encouraged when I am able to read snippets of precious truth as I come across them. Hopefully these few words will encourage your heart, as well as give you a resource for fuller reading as your time allows.}

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