Archive for November 2013 | Monthly archive page

What I’m Reading

Nov
2013
19

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You know, it was brought to my attention recently that I am incredibly blessed to have a constant resource of great books at my disposal. Because my husband is a pastor, I don’t even really need to look for great theological and spiritual books to read. They just appear in our house on a regular basis. And if I express interest in reading one that I’ve heard about, chances are he already has it in his giant library at church.

For instance, I recently read this review of Timothy Keller’s new book on suffering (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering) by Joni Erickson Tada. And I texted the link to Josh and said, “Hon, I really want to read this book,” and he was like, “Yeah, I already ordered it.”

And on top of all that, we regularly go to conferences where giant bookstores are set up with every book on every topic imaginable. Now I love to read, so this is heavenly to me. I love to wander around and look through books. I get lost in it. I miss talks at the conference because of it.

But even if you don’t love to read, which is fine, I think that reading books that encourage and build the faith is a great habit for every Christian to develop. John Piper said this, and Josh and I both found it incredibly encouraging:

“Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!” (you can see the full post here).

Anyone, even a non-reader, can do that!

Anyhow, since I have such regular access to great books, I thought I’d share with you what I’m reading on a semi-regular basis. First, my hope would be that it would give you some ideas of books you may enjoy, and encourage you to pursue reading. Second, it will probably keep me reading as well. If I tell you I’m reading a book, I’ll be embarrassed if you ask me about it 4 months later and I still haven’t finished it. See! We all benefit!

So here’s what I’m reading now…

I just finished The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. Our pastors at Four Oaks encouraged us all to read this as they preached a short sermon series on the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 (fantastic sermons that you can find here). You guys, this book is so good. It’s about 130 pages, an easy read, but so packed with great truth. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“The father could not just forgive the younger son, somebody had to pay! The father could not reinstate him except at the expense of the elder brother. There was no other way. But Jesus does not put a true elder brother in the story, one who is willing to pay any cost to seek and save that which is lost. It is heartbreaking. The younger son gets a Pharisee for a brother instead.

But we do not.

By putting a flawed elder brother in the story, Jesus is inviting us to imagine and yearn for a true one…our true elder brother paid our debt, on the cross, in our place” (84-85).

This book is gospel-saturated, the best kind of book. Totally worth your time. If you go to Four Oaks and haven’t read it yet, I’m pretty sure there are still some copies available.

Now that I finished that, I’ve just started reading Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible, by Jerram Barrs. I picked this up in April at The Gospel Coalition conference in Orlando, but haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. Barrs sums up the purpose of the book nicely in his introduction:

“I have been deeply troubled in our churches by the way much teaching on women begins with the restrictive passages in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 and 1 Timothy 2 and often ends there. It is not that those passages are insignificant, but I have been eager to ask a more foundational question: How does the Lord see women…what does God think about women, and how does He treat them?” (9).

Each chapter in the book focuses on a specific woman in Scripture and examines what the text reveals about that woman and God’s view of her (Eve, Sarah, Tamar, Rahab, etc.). I’m only a few chapters in but I’m excited to read a book that takes a different look at women than any I’ve read before.  I’ll let y’all know what I’ve learned when I finish it!

Some other books I’ve read in the last year and have really benefited from:

Future Grace by John Piper

Humility by Andrew Murray

The God Who is There by D.A. Carson

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (yes, I KNOW, I hated on this book before I fully read it and am now a convert. Maybe I’ll devote an entire post to how that happened someday)

Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering (25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain) edited by Nancy Guthrie

Hope these suggestions are helpful to you! I’d love to hear what other people are reading and learning from as well. I’m always looking for great books to read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But I do it anyway.

After mentioning the fact that I get up before my kids in this post, a few people asked me about it, so I thought I’d talk about why I do it.

Around the time I had Reagan, I read the book Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughters.  Now, I don’t always like these sorts of books, because I’m cynical and obnoxious, but this was a really good one. It’s got all the expected tips for being a more organized and effective wife and mom, BUT it begins with the gospel. It’s who we are in Christ that drives our obedience, and not the other way around.

Anyway, one of the big things they talk about in this book is rising early. As in, REALLY early. 5am early. With the express purpose of communion with God being the first thing that happens in your day. A side benefit of this rising early being that you are up and alert and ready to love and care for the rest of your family when THEY get up.

This all seemed like a brilliant idea. So I spent the next 5 years trying and failing miserably at it. I went in and out of seasons of thinking it was a good idea and trying to make it happen, and thinking it’s legalistic and excusing myself from it.

So why do I do it now? Well, I think there are 2 reasons.

1) I finally got to a point where I started to GET that it’s about being with God. I think that deep down there has always a been a desire to do it for ME. I wanted to feel like I’d checked my “quiet time” or whatever you want to call it, off the list. I wanted to the benefits of time with God, but not necessarily God Himself. Plus, I wanted to have some peace and quiet and drink my coffee and get the laundry started and dishwasher emptied without interruption. But only recently have I begun to simply long for the time to commune with my heavenly Father and acknowledge His presence and control before the day begins. What does the Psalmist say? “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” And, simply put, I’ve begun to taste this longing.

2) The second reason is not quite as pretty as the first. I obeyed. I disciplined myself to do it. The idea of being up before my family, drinking my coffee and drinking from the well of God’s Word was a beautiful picture in my head. But, in the end, the alarm was still going to go off when it was still dark out and I was NOT GOING TO WANT TO GET OUT OF BED. I had to say, OK God, I need to meet with you. Help me. Here we go. 1-2-3 GO.

The discipline involved in developing this habit has been 2-fold. Getting up when the alarm goes off is a big part of it for me, but more importantly, I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour so I’m able to do it. Let’s face it, when you are at home with children all. day. long. and said chidlren have been touching/talking to you for 12 hours straight, the moment they are in bed feels like a glorious release. FREEDOM. And the later I stay up, the longer that freedom lasts. But it is for the true freedom to know God and serve Him rightly that I have been set free (Galatians 5:1). Not for a freedom to enjoy being my own master for a couple hours.

I know all of what I just said sounds super legalistic, so let me elaborate on it a bit.

While I do believe that there is much in the Word of God that points to the value communing with the Lord BEFORE the day begins (Proverbs 31:15, 20:13, Psalm 5:3, 88:13, 119:147, Mark 1:35), there are no express commands to do so. For me, this has been a matter of conviction that coincides with this value I see in Scripture. The reason I had to do it is because God wanted me to and He made it clear to me. I need it, and He knew I needed it, and I couldn’t get away from it.

However, this is a grace-filled activity.

When I do it, it’s by God’s grace. He graciously enables me to obey. Sometimes, He wakes me up with a cough from a child when I’ve forgotten to set my alarm (this has seriously happened). And sometimes He just gives me the strength to sit up instead of hit snooze. Either way, it’s all Him.

When I don’t do it, I am under grace. This is a great day for me to write this because I actually haven’t gotten up early in days. I have a bad cold and I’m having trouble sleeping. Grace. Sleep, Katie. I’m with you always. Not just when you meet me in the morning. Or when there is a crying newborn in the next room. For heaven’s sake, don’t even think about it then. That’s crazy. Or sometimes my husband and I need time together and we stay up late talking and hanging out. That’s better. That’s from the Lord. Grace.

So, if you feel yourself longing for that uninterrupted morning time with God, then by all means, pursue it. By His grace. And if you have children, like I do, who like to get up before the dawn, get this clock and force them to stay in bed. And if you’re in a season of life where it’s just not practical or possible, then don’t do it. By His grace.

Rest in God

Nov
2013
14

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So this weekend Josh and I got to go away. To Sandestin. FOR THREE DAYS.

I can’t even describe how amazing this was.

First of all, everything you read about adoption makes you feel like you won’t be able to leave your children alone for like a year after getting them or you’ll give them a complex. So it was pretty unexpected to get to go rest up after such a short period of time. As with all literature about marriage/child-rearing, there was much to gain from all the adoption books we read, but one has to take these things with a grain of salt. We did not give them a complex. Instead they gladly shooed us out the door because Mimi is here and who needs you guys anyway?!

(Speaking of Mimi, good grief. My husband’s mom watched ALL FOUR of our children while we were gone (with some help from my sister-in-law). The woman is a saint. And will probably have to sleep for a week to recover. And has an extra jewel in her crown in heaven for this weekend.)

Second, we got to go to a conference with Douglas and Nancy Wilson as guest speakers and if we didn’t already love them we love them now. They talked about pride and forgiveness and child-rearing and godliness and it was just so good (in case you have no clue who I’m talking about, you can read some stuff they’ve written here and here).

Side Note: This was a conference for the Presbyterian churches in our region. And we totally crashed it to hear these people speak. Which makes us complete weirdos.

Third, did I mention it was in SANDESTIN??

We went with our friends who also have a brood of small children and she just kept turning to me all weekend and going “It’s so quiet…IT’S SO QUIET” It was, indeed, SO QUIET. We lead very LOUD lives, with small voices interrupting nearly every moment with questions, cries, laughs and questions (yes, I just said questions twice. YOU know why, young moms). So to have thoughts and conversations that were completed without interruption for 3 days was straight up glorious.

The second morning we were there we were sitting out on the porch reading our Bibles and sipping our coffee. Blue skies, crisp air, warm sun. Eating breakfast slowly, drinking coffee while it’s still hot, concentrating on what I’m reading. It felt perfect. And I had this thought, I wish I could freeze this moment. But I think the thought behind the thought was, I wish it could always be like this.

But that is not real life, people. I sometimes find myself, in the midst of the very hectic days, with all the needs to be met and tasks to be completed, longing for moments like that one. If only I were sitting in a quiet place, able to actually think and read and consider and BE. But to long for only that is, in essence, to say that God is only really a part of those moments. When, in fact, I am much more apt to feel my deep need for him in the daily madness.

Now I’m not saying it’s wrong to enjoy those moments. I’m incredibly grateful that we had this weekend. We so needed it, a breath of fresh air in the midst of an intensely busy ministry and family season. But there is a difference between feeling grateful for moments of rest and idolizing them. And I don’t know about you, but I can very easily idolize rest.

This is actually a very dangerous place to live. The aforementioned Nancy Wilson says in her most recent blog post, “Restlessness, dissatisfaction, and discontent can keep us from glorifying God right where we are.” It is very easy to feel discontented with life until we get to take a break and rest. But, the very essence of our relationship with God is that he comes to us when we are at our very poorest and neediest and ugliest and dirtiest and covers us with the blood of Christ and gives us faith and belief. And so we ought to continue in this as we know Him more deeply. Colossians 2:6 says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

So in the moments when I’m tempted to think, If only I were back in that quiet place, instead I ought to remember that this is the best place to meet with God, for He is our real rest. When my kids are screaming and I’m exhausted and I forgot to buy milk and I can’t even remember what I read in the Word of God this morning, He is my rest. And when we can rest in Him we can serve Him. I’m not working toward my next moment of rest. Instead I’m working as I rest, and I can be content right where I am.

 

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This morning in church we dedicated our new children to the Lord. I always like child dedication. I like saying the important things out loud. That our children are not our own. That they have been entrusted to us by God. That our roles are important and good and right. That family was created by God and ordained by Him. That parenting doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but with a family of believers to help and encourage and admonish. I like that our Elders lay hands on us and pray for us, shepherds supplied for us by The Shepherd, to care for our souls and watch over us.

Of course, while all this solemn important stuff is happening, Charlie is rolling around on the stage showing her pink monkey panties off to the entire church, but whatever. I kinda like this, too. Because it’s real. We parent REAL children.

As we stood there, together with our friends who dedicated their adopted son from China, I was reminded again how great the church really is.

I have loved our church and been loved by our church since the moment I entered it 11 years ago, even more so since Josh and I entered ministry life 6 years ago. But going through this adoption with our church family was knowing that love on a whole new level. I’ve said this before and it’s worth repeating, I do not feel like Josh and I adopted these children. I feel like our entire church has adopted them.

As I write this my little boy, the new baby of the family, comes toddling down from nap, huge grin when he sees his mama. Gone is the distended belly and the dreadful cough and serious serious face. Eva is pressed against me, no longer hesitant to seek out affection and receive hugs and kisses. Our church made this possible. Our church loves these children.

A third of the cost of our adoption was covered by the gifts of people in our church. A THIRD. On top of that, a couple let us come into their house, load all of the furniture in their living room ONTO A TRUCK and transform it into a little concert hall so we could have a benefit concert to raise said money.

Someone completely covered the cost of our airfare. And if you’ve traveled internationally you know that is no small thing.

My dear friends threw me the most beautiful shower. They showered me not just with clothes and toys but with promises to be IN this with me. To pray and cry with me, to answer my phone calls when I needed help, even in the middle of the night.

Over and over I was asked, “What do you need? How can I help? What can I do?” All wanting to be a part of this beautiful thing God was doing.

Then came the time to go and leave our 2 children to get our 2 children and the emails were sent out and people were PRAYING. Praying for us, praying for Reagan and Charlotte, praying for Eva and Titus, praying for our extended family as they bore the brunt of the childcare while we were gone. Praying for health and safety and endurance and joy. Sharing our joy as we sent pictures and stories.

One friend emailed me regularly, long emails about her day, what was going on, funny things that had happened. She’s a busy mom, but she took time to do this because she knew how hard it was on me to be so far from home.

And then we came home. And oh how our church LOVES these children. That first Sunday, coming home, being with family again is one of the best Sundays of my life. It was as though these children of ours had been here all along. Covered in hugs and kisses as they met family after family who had prayed them here.

All I can do is pray that we would continue to be a church who does this. That our story would be the story of many other families in our church. Today is Orphan Sunday, a day to consider the physical, emotional and spiritual need of millions of children worldwide. Children without homes or families. Children in need of saving. Our children were orphans, but they aren’t anymore. Would you join me in asking God, seriously asking him, what would You have me do? It’s a terrifying question to ask. I KNOW. But I can guarantee that if you open your heart to it, whatever He might have you do, He will give you joy in it. That is my story every day. This is our story, the church’s story.

 

 

 

I Need…

Nov
2013
01

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Several mornings ago, Charlie came downstairs and the first words out of her mouth were, “I need.”

I was doing something – flipping pancakes or loading the dishwasher or something – so I didn’t see her, just heard her lispy voice, “I need…I need…I need…I neeeeed…I neeeeeeeeeed…”

I turned around to find her wandering around the kitchen, searching for something, and I realized she didn’t have any idea what she needed, just that she needed something. She finally landed on something she spotted on the counter – a toy maybe? I can’t remember – and said, “I need THAT.”

As I watched her do this, I thought, Is that what I look like to you, God?”

When I wander through my day, dissatisfied, grumbling, easily irritated, looking for something, anything to satisfy, do I look like a 3 year old saying, “I neeeeeeeed…”

Isn’t that what we do sometimes? This, God, this isn’t enough. I don’t know what it is I need, but it’s something more than this. Then we allow our eyes to wander around and we fix them on some temporary thing that we think will meet the undefined need. If I could just have a little more time to myself. If I could just have a vacation. If I could just have that food I don’t need. If I could only have my pre-baby body back. If I could just have that new clothing item or decorate my house a little more nicely or whatever. In the end the thing itself doesn’t matter because all it’s doing is pointing to the condition of the heart. I need something more than you, God.

How hideous. That I would look at an all-knowing, saving God and say this isn’t enough.

But I am Charlie’s mom and I know what she needs and know more than she does and have patience with her (sometimes) when she thinks she needs more than I’ve given her. And though it is indeed hideous that I would look to God with anything but gratitude, He patiently shows me that He is more than enough. Always. Over and over.

Let’s take this out of the abstract and talk about real life for a minute. I was a rather unpleasant wife and mother today. And that’s putting it rather mildly. I met the endless questions of my children at the breakfast table with something less than joy (again, to put it rather mildly). Josh literally woke up to the sound of me shouting down the stairs at Charlie. I had let him sleep in but I was being a huge martyr about it, which completely defeated the purpose of doing something nice for him. He tried to be nice to me and joke around and get me out of my funk, but oh no, I was staying in it. Friday morning is our date morning, and I look forward to it ALL WEEK, but then I ruined it with my bad attitude. And I just continued in this vein for the rest of the day. My husband even let me take a nap this afternoon and I was still snippy and irritable when I woke up.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?

Well, I’m an idolater and I think I need more than I have. Today was no different from any other day except that I said yes to sin and no to God. I wandered through my day with that “I need” feeling and refused to allow Him to satisfy it. Even typing this I cringe to think of it. In Loving the Little Years, Rachel Jankovic says that sometimes you want to spank all your kids but you know deep down you’re the one who needs the spanking, and that sure was the truth today.

So what do I do when Charlie professes to need things she doesn’t actually need? Well, she’s 3, so obviously I’m not going to go into some deep theological lesson about it, BUT, it is my job to teach her that there is only one thing she needs. This means that sometimes I let her have the thing and sometimes I don’t and have to deal with a tantrum, but always I am teaching her, you don’t need this, honey.

And God, my Father, He is teaching me the same thing. I read His Word and I see it everywhere, that He has met every single need I could possibly have from now until the end of time in Jesus. And He won’t let me stay in a day like today, and He let’s me come crying repentance to Him and to my husband and my children because of Jesus. Even that need to make the wrong of a day like today right is met in Jesus. He is more than enough, when we obey, when we sin, more than enough.