September 28, 2010

On Being a Christian

The essence of Christian theology is grace,
and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.
-a professor of RC Sproul's

I've been chewing on this quote a little over the last few days. I'm nearing the end of Sproul's commentary on John and I still recommend it! His wise teaching on the book and depth of knowledge of the Scriptures & God's redemptive plan are spurring me on to love God more.

Two things the above quote makes me think about:

1. Christian theology is all about grace. In fact, there is no Christian theology without grace.


Our pastor in Cambridge, MA liked to mention that Jesus loves me, this I know is deep Christian theology; it's more than a cute song we sing to our kids. Yes, there are rules in the Bible about how we should live, but before you can get to those, you have to start at the cross where Jesus died and bore the penalty for all sin of all time - yours and mine - reconciling us to God.

Because there was no hope otherwise.

Adhering to Christian principles is nice, but it won't bridge the gap. Only the grace of God, poured out through His Son's life, death, and resurrection brings us back into right relationship with our creator.

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Sometimes I wonder why. Really God, a brat like me?! Grace flies in the face of normal, human thinking. But it's God's way of drawing us back to Himself. He went to the greatest lengths possible.

Once we grasp it, we can do nothing but be thankful - the second part of the quote.

2. The reason a Christian lives in obedience to God's commands is thankfulness for all he has received from His hand - that amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.


In the Word we find commandments, precepts, statues, etc. Knowing we have been called by God to be His people, we desire to obey these, loving God and our neighbor, because we are so. very. thankful!!!!

It's not always easy, but God gives us His Spirit, He reminds us our sins are forgiven, and He changes us as we walk with Him. We can live in peace with thankful hearts, because we enjoy the most secure relationship available to man.

Here's the wrap up:

I believe because God started a work in me that only He could begin; I did nothing to earn this place in God's family, as His adopted daughter.

That's grace.

I obey in His power for the same reason: I did nothing to earn this place in God's family, as His adopted daughter.

That's gratitude.

And the gratitude only grows as I walk with the Lord, as He ever so gently shows me just how desperate my situation is with out him. The more He opens my eyes to my sin, the more precious Jesus' death on the cross becomes.

Truly, the essence of Christian theology is grace,
and the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.

Thanks for this quote, Dr. Sproul.

September 27, 2010

Music Suggestion #3

Genre change, here!

This fellow is a hip-hop, rapper type of singer-songwriter. His lyrics are thought provoking and offer interesting social commentary; the music is up-beat and fun. I've not gotten his last two albums, mostly because I'm really good at getting behind in the music scene! This post has got me motivated to pick up those albums asap.

I like running to his music, keeps my mind busy and my heart pumping. And, by the way, if you click on the name of the artist in my "Music Suggestion" posts, you'll be directed to their sites.

September 24, 2010

A Blog Referral for Moms

I met this lovely Canadian woman named Kristen at the conference I attended in Colorado. (My apologies for not posting more about said conference, I will get to it one of these days!)

I've only read a few of her posts, but that's enough to know she is wise. And having had conversations with her, I know she is also very real and can make anyone feel comfortable. May you too be blessed by her meditations on Scripture and her thoughts about being a mom & wife.

The most recent post is about forgiving and forgetting. Anyone else have room for improvement in such things?!

September 22, 2010

Music Suggestion #2

Trying to post a picture with suggestion #1 didn't work out. So I guess these will be photoless posts. Sorry! Darn copyrights ... don't they know I could potentially be selling more of their music. Oh well. (I'm not actually upset about it and respect the rules.)

A-hem. Moving right along to #2!

I sincerely hope some of you are already familiar with his music. Over the years it has been a pleasure to hear Andrew grow in his faith, as expressed through his music. Each successive album has greater depth and ministers even more to my spirit.

My two favorite albums:
  1. Resurrection Letters, Vol II: I've talked about a song from this album here at Life in the Valley before. Other favorites are Hosea and All Things New.
  1. Behold the Lamb of God: This album sweeps through the Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. There's even a song of the genealogy in Matthew! I'd never experienced an album like this before. Technically it's a Christmas album, but I listen to it year round!
I look forward to purchasing his latest, Counting Stars, soon!

Maybe you will too.

September 20, 2010

Music Suggestion #1

I wanted to share some musicians or groups that I enjoy. This will be a series, so I don't bombard you all at once. The list will come in no specific order and all are Christian.

I listen to a lot of Christian music; it helps me stay focused on things that are good, noble, trustworthy, praiseworthy, excellent, etc. (Philippians 4:8) I love to wake up in the morning humming a soul-nourshing tune - even if I only remember one line! I believe feeding our minds with good music is one way the Spirit can speak to us in quiet whispers, as a tune comes to mind at a random time during the day.

Without further ado ... here's #1!

Their purpose:
Our hope is to help the church recover the tradition of putting old hymns to new music for each generation, and to enrich our worship with a huge view of God and His indelible grace.
You can read more in the "about" section on the website.

The theology woven into old hymns of the church - many I never would have heard, but for Indelible Grace - is rich and powerful. Music (while I'm not much of a musician) has always spoken to me, being one of the easiest ways for me to remember important truths or memorize scripture. May you too be blessed by the words of the saints gone before us, set to beautiful contemporary music.

BONUS: If you live in the Pittsburgh area. Matthew Smith and Indelible Grace will be performing at Murrysville Community Church on Friday, October 15 at 6pm. Tickets are $9.

September 15, 2010

Can You "Pump Up a Bump"?

She can.

That's how Elizabeth referred to flexing her bicep for the first time yesterday.

Have you tried to "pump up a bump" yet today?

September 13, 2010

A Heritage, a Reward

Thursday night I attended a mommies discipleship group led by a sweet woman at our new church. She is a mother of four grown children and is following the directive of scripture to teach young moms - see Titus 2. (I hope I can serve the church in this capacity someday; I'm so thankful for her example!)

We're just beginning a discussion of Ministry of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson. One of the questions after the introduction asks the reader to look at Psalm 127. Verse 3 reads:

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from Him.

Ah yes, and our minds were filled with dreamy memories of our child's last tantrum and how, as
we sighed,
counted to three,
administered discipline,
we were all the while thanking God for His beautiful gift to us.

No wait. That's not how it went at all!

Sally's question: What does this verse imply about the ministry of motherhood?

Children are a blessing given to us from the Lord.

Yes, they fight, whine, and make demands. But that does not change that God's purposefully given them to us. And so we are called to minister to them. Thankfully our children also make us laugh, awe us with their curiosity, hug us, and readily say both 'I love you' and 'I forgive you.' The road is paved with difficulty and delight.

Sally's question is a good one. What is our attitude toward being moms? Do we think of it as a ministry the Lord has given us? Or are we just hoping we somehow make it to eighteen? Honestly, until encountering Sally's books, I'd never thought about mothering as a ministry.

It's been changing my life and attitude to consider that THIS is the ministry I'm called to prioritize right now.

Yes, there are many good things I could be pursuing, but if I'm neglecting the spiritual nurture of my own children, then all is for nothing. There will be a time in the future when the kids are grown and I will be able to put more time into ministry outside the home. But for now, I will embrace this immense calling and seek the Lord's guidance in it. It is His gift to me, surely He will sustain, lead, and grow me in the process.

Moms, be encouraged today! God knows you and your kids. He chose you for each other. May we throw off everything that hinders and embrace this calling with joy. To God be the glory.

September 7, 2010

Off to a Good Start!

The school year has begun!

First day photos - Brian had to get in on it, too.

My kind and generous parents-in-law let us set up
my old desk in their dining room.

September 4, 2010

Homeschooling: chapter 2

Tuesday morning Elizabeth begins first grade: in the dining room, on the couch, in the kitchen - depending upon the task at hand.

I love this.

My heart delights that I won't wave good-bye to her as she boards the school bus; she'll wake up, have breakfast with the family, get dressed, brush her teeth, and then we'll sit to begin the school year together.

How did we get here?

If you click on the "homeschooling" label in the list on the right, you can learn a little about how we got started. The short story is that I began thinking about homeschooling when E was about 2.5. I never, NEVER, NEVER imagined I'd homeschool; I was a public school teacher in my former life, for goodness sake! But as E entered an age where I could do crafts with her, teach her things, and read longer stories to her; my heart said, Hey, this is great! Maybe I should teach her at home!

Without a clue where to begin, I read "Homeschooling For Dummies," got a little overwhelmed at all of the different styles, and shelfed the book ... and the idea.

When she turned 5, we needed to make a decision about school.

I read a lot more that summer and we settled on homeschooling, mostly because in Cambridge Kindergarten was full day (8:30am - 2:30pm) and it didn't sit right with me. Funny how God works, huh? If they had offered half day, we probably never would have started homeschooling from Kindergarten.

Throughout last year I learned, as I went along, the beauty of the homeschooling lifestyle. And that's what it is. It's a lifestyle. My kids are with me all the time, and while I do plan lessons, there's an attitude that life is our classroom.

Why are we continuing?

We currently reside in my in-law's home, in the best school district in the state. People think we're nuts for homeschooling.

We don't.

Yes, of course my life would be easier if I sent E to school and I know the teachers do a great job! But we've gotten the taste for home education, and we won't be quitting any time soon. You can read some about that here. I love the fact that E is not only learning the 3 Rs, but has free time to play and explore, develop her relationship with B, listen to good literature while we cuddle, learn hymns, and pray for missionaries. And mostly, I love that I get to disciple her through this crazy little thing we call life.

Am I always so confident?

N - O, NO!!!

In fact, writing this post is reminding me of why we homeschool. And my soul is dancing.

The last few weeks I have been plagued with doubt about my ability to get organized or teach my kids anything useful at all! But the Lord has us on this unexpected journey, and we're going along for the ride.

Your journey may have you at home, working, kids in public, private, or charter schools. Please, please, please be assured that I don't think you're a bad parent if you're life doesn't look like ours. I DO NOT. Regardless of where we find ourselves, let's remember first and foremost to rest in the arms of our loving Father, and seek His guidance in prayer and the Word as we raise these precious ones He's given us to nurture and love!