Friday, October 30, 2009

Surprised by...Hope

It is one of the great mysteries to me that God can continue to surprise us with His mercy and grace. You would think that we would anticipate it given His history of generosity and perfect timing. I find myself wishing I wasn't so daft as to always only recognize His mercy after-the-fact. It seems a lack of faith somehow.

Crazy, I know.

Then I start thinking. Perhaps the surprise is part of the grace. Maybe God allows us to be surprised at the depths of his mercy because it makes the experience of it sweeter. The surprise of it all is a grace in itself. God is just that creative.

I had one of these moments at church one recent Sunday. I was sitting in our usual church service just listening to the choir sing when it happened. They began a beautiful song that seemed vaguely familiar to me. I checked the bulletin and saw it was a song by Chris Tomlin. The arrangement was so different that I almost didn't recognize it at all. As they sang it seemed I was really hearing the song for the very first time.

The song was Jesus Messiah. A beautiful song no matter how you arrange it. But this morning was different. I heard something new, something I needed to hear. One little phrase, "All our hope is in you..." really resonated with me as I sat there. Immediately I thought to myself, "No it isn't. My hope is not in You right now, God." My hope has been...well, absent and most certainly not in God lately. As a result, I have found myself discouraged, defeated, and frustrated.

This little surprise encounter with the Almighty (I know, we should always expect to encounter Him...especially in church!) did wonders for my heart, mind, and soul. God spoke to me through a song I've heard a thousand times and surprised me with a personal message. My hope had been misplaced...maybe almost non-existent. I knew it then, but really admitted it to myself that morning in the pew.

I really believe that the great sin is not any of the countless issues we hear Christians talk about in the public forum. No, the real sin is unbelief. Abandoning hope. Refusing to trust God. Forgetting our history and who God is. That is the real sin.

And it is just like our amazing God to convict us of it in such a tender way as through a song or a passage of Scripture. "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him" that is really all He asks of us. All He wants is for us to remember that He has proved steadfast and sure and to place our trust, our hope in Him.

So, my surprise wasn't really a surprise really. But, then, holy surprises never really are. They are more like moments of truth, of remembrance, that somehow refresh our perspective. They remind us Who God is and how much He loves us. God is good like that.

{Jesus Messiah is on Chris Tomlin's album Hello Love. You real should buy it or download it or whatever it is you do. Or maybe ask for it for Christmas? :)}

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Breakfast Panini Plug

I must share that I believe the new Lean Cuisine Breakfast Panini is a REVELATION! Scrambled egg whites, sausage, cheddar, and reduced fat mozzarella cheeses and sweet maple sauce on cinnamon-flavored multigrain bread. Can you say, YUM!"? I just had one for lunch and it was delish! Plus it has 5 grams of fiber and some iron in it, two things we women often need. And if you're a Weight Watcher, it is only 5 points! And as a bonus, it has made my whole kitchen smell like French Toast! They've got a Denver Style one I am going to buy and try next. I'll let you know if it is just as tasty!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Small Town America

A cocktail napkin I found at my in-law's house that says it all. I've learned this through recent experiences (in wee-little-Wilmore and other places along the way). I dare you to disagree!

{The pic is from Mary Phillips Designs, LLC. Lots of fun and sassy products!}

Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Recommendations

Lest any of you think I am a complete nerd and only read educational books and autobiographies (two things I freely admit that I love), I have a couple of random book recommendations for you. These are just your average, everyday juicy books. I have some issues with the language in one of them, but they are both delicious fun. Let this post also serve as my shameless plug to support your local library. They have just about everything you'd ever want to read - in print (which I'd recommend) or on CD.

Sophie Kinsella is delightful. She writes such a fun story with this one. I have yet to read any of the "Shopaholic" series, but I imagine I will eventually. This particular one is pure fun for any woman. Emma shares the insecurities and secrets of us all...and maybe a few (ok, several) I do not share at all. While my reality and my "secrets" are nothing like Emma's, I found the entire story relatable and fun. It is a fantastic book, the kind that you miss when you're finished with it. I hear it might become a movie starring Kate Hudson, who I also find delightful. This is just rumor, but I hope it is true! Next on my list by Sophie Kinsella is Remember Me?.

The other book I literally just finished is The Cinderella Pact by Sarah Strohmeyer. What a wonderful book! Nola is an endearing main character from the start. She, too, has raging insecurities that she shares with the reader and a couple of her closest friends. From start to finish this was one of the best fun-fiction books I have read in a while. I also found it to be encouraging and inspiring. You'll just have to read it to find out why. Sarah Strohmeyer brilliantly unfolds a story that most women can truly relate to, even if they do not share Nola's same insecurities and frustrations.

{Can I just say...three posts in three days?! I'm a bloggin' fool!}

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Content Today

Because my life often has a general theme to it, I ran across these words the other day. It is funny how something is always right there for us to look at and we always seem to find it just when we need it most. These words were in a book my husband keeps at his bedside always. I randomly flipped to this selection and, because my life is just like that, it was on the subject of contentment.

The selection is from The Savior's Touch by Charles Stanley, a great man of faith. These words flow out of his understanding of the following verse, "Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought onthing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (1 Timothy 6:6-8). I'll confess that, while I have always been drawn to these verses, I have long struggled with contentment. For Stanley, the foundation for contentment is simply making Jesus Christ our "chief delight." As we do this we are able to put the peripheral into perspective. All this time I think contentment is something I must try to be when really it is an overflow of simply knowing Jesus. I already know Him, now I just need to get to relying on

"We must learn to live on a daily basis. Jesus told us to pray for our 'daily bread' - the sufficient provision for today's necessities. Contentment most often is lost when we worry about the future. God is in control of that, and we must leave tomorrow's problems with Him. Today I can bring my needs to Christ. Today His grace is sufficient. Jesus 'daily bears our burdens'(Ps. 68:19).

Above all, the key to contentment is learning that I can do everything God wants me to do through His enablement...We can be content knowing that he empowers us to deal with all the ups and downs of life as we wholeheartedly depend on Him.

Contentment is a daily battle. It is something we learn by sticking to the basics - nurturing a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, living one day at a time, and knowing that Christ in us strengthens us for every challenge. This is great gain and gives great peace." (p. 114)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cultivating Contentment

So, I am currently reading this book with a couple of friends here in Auburn. My little sister has been trying to get me to read it ever since she did in her own small group. I think life and ministry kept me so busy that I just never did. Also, there's that whole "God's perfect timing" thing going on here, too. See, the book is about finding contentment and purpose wherever life finds you. Suffice it to say that there are more than a few things lingering out there for me right now that pull me more to discontentment than contentment. This book is forcing me to take a long heard look at my heart. This is both good and bad. Well, it is only really bad because I am realizing how prone to wander I really am.

The book is also teaching me that contentment, just like faith and all things related to God, is a choice. When the things of life seem overwhelming and discouraging, I can choose not to dwell on them. These are things I already knew, really...this book is just reminding me of it at a time when I really need reminding.

If you're a woman of faith, you really ought to read this book. It will force you to be honest with yourself. It will challenge you in a thousand ways. It will change your relationship with God and those you love in your life...for the better. The great thing about this book is that it carefully recalls The Book and offers biblical principles for fighting worry in your life. I think I like it because the author shares real stories and offers practical insight into why we worry and how to release it. It doesn't paint some idealistic picture of how knowing God makes us into instant saints. It acknowledges the struggle that we fight on the journey, specifically as women. It is a great book for Christian women in a genre that is otherwise (in my opinion) saturated with the idealistic and unrealistic.

Also, any book that quotes the likes of Elisabeth Elliot (a picture of authenticity herself), A.W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers and others gets my vote. I have often found that checking the endnotes in a book is telling of the depth of any given book. This one is no exception.