Wednesday, April 3, 2013

South Carolina or bust!

For the past 7 weeks we have been living in South Carolina.  Nick has been going to Chaplain school at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  When we found out he would be going to school here we made the decision to travel up here with him.  Because we homeschool the kids we are very mobile, and we believed it could be a great experience.

So February 8th we packed up the van; the next day the kids and I headed off on our great adventure.    It definitely started with an interesting experience.  We had just dropped off Nick when our cat decided to mess his carrier.  As the lovely odor began wafting through the van we knew something had to be done.  So I stopped the van, cleaned the cat's carrier and we were off, again.

We arrived in South Carolina, got our apartment, and found it furnished with the furniture we had rented.  We quickly unpacked the van, unpacked our stuff, and headed out for dinner.  Moving to a new city where you know where nothing is can be a challenge.  It was dark, but I had trusty Google Maps on the phone so we were able to get to where we were going with no difficulty.

The second day in South Carolina included getting the internet set up, getting Nick from the Columbia Airport and getting lost in Fort Jackson.  We eventually got Nick situated where he was suppose to be, and managed to get off base safely.  I had to give Nick his phone that had Google Maps on it so I was mapless for the rest of the time here.

Monday brought new adventures.  We found the library and tried to get a library card...that was an utter failure.  So we found the big library, and we got library cards!  Then we explored the library, it was amazing!!!!!  It has four floors, the garden level or bottom floor is dedicated to the kids.  There are thousands of books and the kids were in heaven!  We explored each floor; Aaron's favorite was the periodical section.  As we where exploring there we found periodicals from the 1870's.  Aaron thought that was amazing.  We would visit that section of the library several more times, including once so Hannah could read for a project an article that was published days after Amelia Earhart's disappeared.  We even discovered story time and we would return several more Mondays to enjoy some stories and crafts at the library.

Tuesday we went to an amazing kids museum.  Admission was only one dollar so we went to the Edventure museum, it was a blast.  The kid's favorite part was the "snowy" area.  They got to have "snowball" fights, and even ride down a "hill" on a tube.  We did have to leave disappointed because one particular area that Bethany really wanted to play in was extremely crowded and she was not able to play there.  We did return a month later on the next Tuesday the museum had $1 admission and she got to play to her heart's content in the area she wanted to play.

We started to get into a routine with school and running.  Our apartment complex has an exercise room where we spent many hours.  I am running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday so it was very important to train. During our time here I ran 172 miles on the treadmill.  While I ran the kids would watch TV in the exercise room.  We finally figured out that Scooby-Doo was on at 10:30 everyday, so we would do our very best to get there by 10:30 so the kids would be able to see the beginning of the show.

Friday brought daddy to the apartment.  We got to pick him up and keep him every weekend!  That first Saturday we went to a performance of Frog and Toad at a children's theatre.  It was a very good performance and it inspired Bethany to check out and read all the Frog and Toad books at the library.  We did some more exploring of Columbia and even found a barber shop that Nick would frequent several more times during our stay so that he could get his hair cut.  Hannah and Nick even started a routine of watching Star Trek every Saturday morning.  She is a trekkie in training!

Sunday we went to church.  As we entered the church we met two other chaplains that were going to school with Nick!  That was probably the best part of the day, because the rest of the day did not go well.  Hannah cried in her class because she was "church-sick," and Aaron spent the time crying because it was a new experience and he hates new experiences.  Bethany loved it-so we got one out of the three.   It took Aaron a couple of weeks, but he grew to love church, and Hannah even made a couple friends.  They even got to go to Awana on Wednesday nights and they loved it.  Well, not the first week they went.  Hannah liked it and shockingly Aaron like it, but Bethany hated it!  The last Wednesday there was crazy hair night, and they had so much fun getting crazy hair.  In the end, church was a great success for the kids and they were very sad then they had to say goodbye.   For me, it was wonderful.  I have been to the same two churches for my entire life and since I was in high school I had always been busy doing something.  For the first time in a very long time I had no responsibilities, and I could just go to church and worship.  I loved it, it was like a breath of fresh air.  I think I really needed a break from serving for a little while.

Over the course of the seven weeks we have been here some days have been boring some interesting.  We have been to an Art museum, we have been to a Three Little Pigs opera, we have played at many playgrounds, we have read many books, we have been to many Build and Grow workshops at Lowes, we have played with Legos at the library,  we have shopped, we even swam in the pool in water that should be called ice water, we have all had some emotional breakdowns, but through it all we have had a lot of fun.  It has not always been easy, I have gotten lost driving through Columbia a few times, we have had our fights, but overall it has been a great adventure.

The last 2 days I have been going to Chaplain's Spouse Training.  For two days the wife of one the chaplains has been teaching us about Navy life.  We have learned more about what our husbands do, we have learned about how to handle deployment, how to read a pay statement, how to move, how to help the kids handle life with dad away.  It has been a great learning experience.  I have enjoyed meeting other women who are in the exact same situation that I am in.  We even had an admiral and his wife come in and talk to us about their life in the Navy.  I am so excited for the ministry that Nick is in. He has an amazing opportunity to minister to so many people and I can't wait for him to finally get started.  We don't know when the next adventure will begin, but we are praying that very soon he will be able to start ministering as an active duty chaplain in the Navy.

Today is graduation, and in a way I am sad to see it because it means that this adventure is over.  I love Columbia, and I am very sad to be leaving.  I am so proud of Nick, he has overcome many challenges, he has accomplished things that he didn't think he could accomplish.  He is a Navy Chaplain!  He is following the call the Lord has given him and a dream he has had for a very long time!   While this adventure is coming to an end a new one is just around the corner and I can't wait to see what life brings.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So what's the big deal about love? Part 2

Here is the link to first part.

After I finished that post I kept on thinking of more examples of God's love throughout the Bible, but that will have to wait for another time.  This time I want to look at how the love that we have been shown transforms us.

Romans 5:7-9 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

The greatest expression of God's love toward us was Christ's death.  God's righteousness, holiness, and justice required a punishment for sin.  That punishment was death, an eternity separated from God, it was a heavy price, it was a price that we in our limited capacity as humans had no way to pay.  We had no hope of ever being able to escape the punishment or to pay the price; it was hopeless. But God is his love offered to us his Son.  His Son, Christ on the cross received the punishment that each of us deserved.  God's righteousness, holiness, and justice were satisfied, the price for sin that no human could pay was paid by Christ.   There is no way in this world that I would ever think to offer my son up  for the payment of someone else's debt, but that is what God did for us.  We often forget the significance of that love; do we even have a grasp of what that love is?  The big deal about love is that without love we would still be dead in our sin.  Without love we would be destined for eternal separation from God.  That love is the very foundation of our faith, without the love of God there would be no hope.  

Three separate times in the last lesson that Jesus taught to his disciples before his death he instructed his disciples to love one another.  

Jn 13:34-35
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Jn 15:12-14
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Jn 15:17-18
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

In the prayer that Christ prayed before he went out into the garden he even prayed that his disciples would have the love that his Father had toward him would be in his disciples.  It was how he finished his prayer.

Jn 17:24-26
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. 26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

In the life of a Christian love is one of the most important attributes that should be exhibited.  Christ said that the two great commandments were to love the Lord and to love your neighbor.  He said that on these two commandments hung all the law and the prophets.  If you love your neighbor then you will be kind, you will treat others correctly.  You won't lie, steal, or cheat etc. if you are loving your neighbor.  The importance of love is that without love you will ever be able to be a Christ-like Christian, because love is integral to his character.

Up next will be a look at I Corinthians 13.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

So what's the big deal about love? Part 1

Sometimes it is amazing to see how the Lord uses many people to help teach us lessons.  In the past week I have had two separate conversations with people about love, and then I heard a message on the topic.  It is the topic that I have been pondering for a while.  So what is the big deal about love?

So often as Christians we focus on God's justice, holiness, and righteousness.  We acknowledge that God is love, but it is never the focus.  We consider it good enough for the kids in preschool (one of the first verses they learn is "God is love"),  but that basically as far as it goes.  We mention it when we talk about Christ's birth and death, and we gloss it over when we talk about how we should live our Christian life.  Focusing on God's love doesn't mean that we ignore justice, holiness and righteousness or any other attribute of God it just means we are taking some time to mediate on the concept.

So where to we see God's love?   It starts on Genesis with Adam and Eve.  God could have allowed Adam and Eve to die immediately because his justice, holiness, and righteousness required it.  His love not only gave them a lighter judgement, but gave them the promise of a Messiah.

Think of Cain.  He murdered his brother, he deserved whatever punishment God gave him.  God's justice, holiness and righteousness required punishment, but His love meant he listened to Cain's complaint of the punishment being too hard and extended mercy to him.

Even Noah.  God's justice, holiness and righteousness required that the whole world should be destroyed, but his love saved Noah and his family.  His love extended the promise that He would never destroy the earth again with a flood. 

With Moses.  God's justice, holiness and righteousness required that Moses do what God commanded him.  His love gave Moses someone to help, Aaron.

With the children of Israel.  How many times do we find that God's justice, holiness and righteousness required the death of the people?  But how many times do we find His love preventing their destruction? In the wilderness with fiery serpents, we find his justice sending the snakes, but his love providing salvation from the death the serpents brought.

With David.  David sinned in numbering the people.  God's justice gave a consequence, his love stopped the consequence.  

With the city of Nineveh.  God's justice and righteousness demanded that the city be destroyed.  His love and mercy sent Jonah with a call to repentance.

With the woman caught in adultery.  She deserved death that was what the law required, it was what God's justice and holiness required.  Christ offered her only love and forgiveness.

With the disciples.  It was love that Christ offered them in the face of their betrayal and abandonment. 

With the children.  While the disciples offered the children only distain, Christ offered them love calling the little children to him, and chiding those that would prevent them.

With the Jews that rejected him.  His justice brought condemnation and a prophecy of destruction.  His love led to Christ weeping as he looked at the city.

With the human race.  God's justice, holiness, and righteousness required that the price must be paid for sin.  His love offered his only son to pay that price.

A focus on His love does not deny or minimize any of His other character traits.   If we study with out pre-conceived notions of what we think the Bible says, we might find something that we missed.

There is a lot more to ponder on this topic, hence the part 1.  More will be coming soon.

Part 2

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Look in the Mirror

One of the most difficult things to do as a Christian is to honestly look at ourselves in the mirror of God's Word.  It is so easy to read passages that are condemning a group of people for their sins and self-righteously pass over it thinking that we are nothing like that group of people.  The passage I have been mediating on lately is one such passage.

Matthew 23 is Christ's warning to the people about the duplicity of the scribes and Pharisees, and a harsh condemnation of their behavior.  This passage is often looked at with the viewpoint that those scribes and Pharisees were really terrible people and we are nothing like them.  But is that really the truth?

Matt 23:3-11 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

At first glance, the horror! How could the Pharisees and scribes do such horrible things?  They say one thing and then do the opposite, they want everyone to see all the good things they do, they place heavy burdens on others.  Our righteous indignation starts to simmer.  Then the tough part-let's look at ourselves.  How often do we disciple new Christians by giving them a list of rules:  read your Bible, pray, come to church every time the doors are open, tithe, give to missions, don't listen to that, don't watch that, don't go there, don't wear that, only wear this, go out soul winning.  Before long we have heaped a heavy burden onto a new Christian.  When we disciple teens they get the same list plus the added pressure of: make sure your are in the center of God's will, don't date, don't play video games, don't have facebook, don't go to the movies, have the right friends.  Even the adults: are you reading the Bible enough?, are you praying enough?, are you knocking on doors enough?, are you tithing enough?, are you confessing all your sin enough?, are you going to the altar enough? are you memorizing the Bible enough?.   Did we miss the part,  "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest, take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest for your soul for my yoke is easy and my burden is light"?  

We are so busy binding heavy burdens onto ourselves and others that we have become just like the Pharisees.  We don't even consider the rest the Christ offered us.

 We are all guilty of hoping that thing we did will be seen and praised.  That special we sang in church, the work we did to clean up after a meal, the meal we took to others, the Sunday School class we have taught, the bus ride we have taken, the people we have ministered to, all those things and more we want the praise.  We may do them so spiritually, but we secretly hope someone will notice.  If no one notices we try to casually work it into a conversation so we get at least a little bit of praise.  We revel in the praise when someone calls us out publicly for the good we have done, or we make it a "praise" during a time of public praise.  Are we not just like the Pharisees?

Matt 23:23-28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Maybe this doesn't apply; We don't tithe spices, surely this isn't talking about us.  Look back in the mirror. How often are we so worried about how the teens are dressed, how the adults are dressing, if the women are wearing the right clothing, if the music is exactly the right style.  We worry so much about these issues, but what about judgment?  What about mercy?  What about faith?  What about love? What is most important to us?

Is it that the teen sitting beside us is wearing a top that is a little too tight or is it the thought are we showing Christ's love as we address her?  Have we stopped to consider her situation?  Have we stopped to actually talk to her instead of talk at her.  Do we listen as she tells about the difficulties she is having at home, or are we too busy thinking of all the right verse to use to tell her how she is not dressing appropriately?   When that family comes in that smells strongly of smoke do we quickly judge them and find them wanting; or do we sit beside them and learn about them and the struggles they are having?  We look good, we dress right, we say all the right things, but inside we are full of condemnation and judgment.  Even with other Christians, we overhear about an activity that they are doing during the Sunday night service instead of coming to church.  We smugly think to least my family will be in church.  

So now what?  The picture in the mirror is not looking to good. Do we ignore it?  That won't do much good.  We walk away the same way we came.  What can we do?  Pray more...that will do it.  No, maybe reading our Bible more....if we read for 1 hr every morning surely that will do it.  It might help.  Beating ourselves up about it....that might work.

Christians, let's take our eyes off ourselves and look to our Savior.  The only one that can save us from our wretchedness is not ourselves.  No amount of work or works that we do can ever change us.  The change can only come through Christ and Him alone.  Instead of teaching a list of rules and regulations that must be kept in order to be a good Christian, let's teach His love.  Take the focus off works and put it back on Christ.  Ponder his love, we who were dead in our trespasses and sin yet he saw fit to love us.  He gave up everything to demonstrate his love to us.  He loved the unlovable; he loved the diseased; he loved the dirty; he loved the children; he loved the doubters.  As unlovely as we are, as hypocritical as we are, as sinful as we are-He loved US.  That love transforms us, that love cleanses us, that love redeemed us, that love sanctifies us, that love frees us, that love never leaves us, that love saved us, that love compels us to live for him, that love strengthens us as we walk in Him.

The solution for the image in the mirror is Christ, always has been and always will be.  It's not any easy thing to look in the mirror, it's not any easy thing to admit that we are hypocritical, but it has never been difficult for Christ to love us!

Romans 5: 6-9 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


John 8:2-11 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.  And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?  This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.  So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them,He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.  And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?  She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. 

Several weeks ago the kids and I were discussing this story, and some of the things we discussed I have been meditating on.   As we were talking about how Jesus told the people that the person that is without sin should throw the first stone, one of the kids pointed out that Jesus could have cast the first stone.  I don't think I have ever thought about it in that perspective, but it is absolutely true.  Christ was without sin-meaning by his own declaration he had every right to cast the first stone, but he did not!   Instead of condemnation, he offered this woman forgiveness.   Instead of righteous indignation, he offered unconditional love.

As Christians, often we are the first in line to cast the first stone, not at others but at ourself.  We sin, mentally berate ourselves for that sin, then finally beg and plead for Christ's forgiveness hoping to escape his condemnation.   But, we have missed the point.   Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.    Christ does not offer us condemnation, he only offers his love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Unfortunately, we accept the forgiveness for salvation, but then reject the forgiveness for the Christian walk.   In our Christian life we are so worried about keeping all the rules, doing the right things, reading our Bible enough, praying enough and witnessing enough.  If we fail, we condemn ourselves, beg for forgiveness, and resolve to try harder.   We fail to realize that we cannot do anything to lose the forgiveness that has been unconditionally offered.

Let us walk in the assurance that Christ has unconditionally forgiven us, that he will never retract that forgiveness, and let us allow that forgiveness transform our lives.