Thursday, February 28, 2013

Run Your Own Race

We all have felt the pain of heartbreak and disappointment. We all have trials and struggles in this life. We are all running a different race, and we cannot compare our race to another. Runners keep their eyes forward while they run. They waste time and energy looking over their shoulder at other runners. Focusing on what is behind you slows you down. We must keep focused on the finish line. We get weary at times. The race seems to drag on, we are tired. We lose sight of where we began and cannot yet see the finish line. At the beginning of the race we burst out of the gates full of energy and excitement.  At the end of the race we see the finish line getting closer. We draw closer to our reward, we begin to pick up the pace just a little, the burdens seem lighter and we finish strong.  

Which part of the race are you running? Are you tired and having trouble seeing the finish line? Be encouraged! For one day, you will be able to say like the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Glory Days

I think there is a real danger in, or an allure to, relive the “glory days.” Perhaps we look back at our younger years with fondness and nostalgia. Maybe there are some great memories from the years prior to knowing Christ. Those “great memories” get better with age, and distance. Were they really wonderful events to be recalled, or a sinful past to be repented of and forgotten?

People tell us—“oh, I wish I had your testimony, I never got to experience any of that stuff” or “I don’t have this amazing story of what God saved me from.” It always frustrates me to be honest. How much more amazing to say “God saved me from ever having to go through those painful experiences.” How I wish I didn’t have the scars of all my sins to carry around in this life. Do not discount the incredible testimony you have.

Don’t look back. There can be no glorifying our sins. The wages of sin is death. There was pain in those days. We forget the pain of childbirth, remembering only the joy of holding that newborn. Don’t forget the “pain” of those sins. Do you REALLY want to go back to a life without Christ? The worst day with Christ is infinitely better than the best one without Him.

Do you struggle with feeling like you “missed out”? Has God spared you from some of the pain others of us had to experience? If so, take time to give Him thanks for the excellent gift you have received.

I will end with a few of the lyrics from a Sara Groves song, “Painting Pictures of Egypt”:

“The places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling after me like a long lost friend”….

“I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacked
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sleepless in the Suburbs

Ah, the lovely side effects of Prednisone! Sleeplessness is a blessing, and a curse. I feel like I could take on the whole world! (although my feet are still numb) Unfortunately, I am not sleeping much at all. It is amazing the thoughts that go through your head at 2 am. I have been trying to quiet my busy mind and spend an extended time in prayer. It has been a good, much needed time of communion with my Lord.

So, do you ever find yourself awake in the middle of the night, with no hope of going back to sleep? Here are a few of my ideas on what to do at those times:
  • Get up and move. I find a walk helps to clear the mind and make me tired again.
  • While you are up and moving, clean something. It is amazing how much you can get done with no one else around!
  • Write about some of those thoughts racing through your mind.
  • Have some hot tea. Caffeine free preferably.
  • Take a nice relaxing bath. Soaking in hot mineral water really relaxes you.
  • Read a good book. Better yet, read a bad book, it will put you back to sleep in no time!
  • Most importantly, enjoy some sweet, quiet time with your Heavenly Father.

What types of things do you like to do on the sleepless nights?

Have a great day and get some sleep!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fathers and Forgiveness

My earthly father was (is) a hard man. He was abusive. After divorcing my mother (when I was 6 years old), we barely saw each other, until I had been forgiven.

That above sentence may seem at first to be a typo or mistake, but it is not. I’ll get back to this in minute. First, let me explain some background information. (If you haven’t read my story you can read part 1 and part 2) A child should be protected by their parents. There is no way to explain the pain inflicted on a child who has been abused, especially by a parent. It shatters your entire world and shapes your identity in very unhealthy ways.

I grew up with a lot of hatred towards my dad. Amazingly, I was more hurt (at the time) that he left and didn’t keep in touch more than I was about the abuse, after all, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know that the abuse was inappropriate. I never knew anything different.

By the time I was a teenager, that hatred for my father was very great. I used to imagine if he ever bothered to call or show up somewhere, I would tell him off, or run him over, or who knows what. I was angry at the world. I had all the feelings bound up with no one ever to talk to about it all. Unforgiveness brings bitterness and anger to the person holding on to the wrong, while the other person is usually oblivious and going on with their lives.

Long after being married and having children, I decided to see a therapist to get over some of these issues in my life from the abuse. It was, well, “therapeutic”, but it wasn’t until 1998 when Christ quickened my heart and transformed me, that my heart began to soften. I then confronted the feelings of anger I had toward both my dad for abusing me, and my mom for not protecting me. I had to repent for all my anger and other things. The long process of forgiving and healing didn’t happen overnight, but it did slowly happen.

All I ever needed to learn about forgiveness, I learned from my Father; my heavenly one, not my earthly one. I was forgiven much, and called to forgive. It took me a couple of years to finally write my father a letter. I explained my sin and asked for forgiveness for my wrongdoings. I also shared the gospel and told him I had forgiven him. Letting go of that anger and truly forgiving was essential for me to move forward.

We currently have a not very close and strained relationship. He is still a difficult man to talk to. He admits no wrongs, blames me and others for all his problems, and is still frequently emotionally abusive. I can be made to feel like that wounded little 6 year old girl very easily by him. Forgiving is something I am continually striving to do. I am also learning to be honoring, but not let him walk all over me. Setting boundaries is not a bad thing. I continue to pray that he might repent and be saved, and that God would use me to share the Gospel message with this lost man.

Are you hanging on to unforgiveness? Is there someone you need to call and repent to? If you are not forgiving, and hanging on to old hurts in anger, your Heavenly Father is waiting for your call.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Easter Egg Hunts

As Easter approaches, I am reminded of the excitement of Easter egg hunts as a kid. Do you have any fond memories of running through the yard looking for Easter eggs? As you find one and pick it up, you squeal with delight as you open the egg and find the prize inside; maybe some money, gum, or candy. You are happy to have found your little treasure.

As adults, do we treasure the gifts God gives us with the same amount of enthusiasm?

What is our response?
  • Take the gift for granted—It has always been there. You just expect it to continue. Don’t really put much thought into it. 
  • Take credit for the gift—You earned it by yourself. It was your hard work that got you where you are. 
  • The gift becomes mundane—You don’t notice it anymore. You are no longer excited about it. 
  • Do you respond correctly? 
  • Do you give thanks to God? 
  • Are you thankful each and every day for His new mercies? 
  • Do you remember that every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from your own hand? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Never Good Enough

We all struggle with feelings of inadequacy at times. Maybe we have trouble keeping up with others in sports. We may find it takes us longer to “catch on” to something new than it does our co-workers. Whatever it is we face, there will always be someone better, faster, or stronger.

Similarly, we all struggle with sin. We think we have an issue under control only to see it rear its ugly head again when we least expect it. We look around at others in church and they seem to have it all together. If only I could be more giving, patient, kind, etc. (fill in the blank). If only I could be more like whoever (fill in the name).

The truth is we are all sinners. We all struggle with sin, every day. None of us really have it “all together.” We are unable to perfectly fulfill the law of God. The Bible tells us that “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). The Law of God teaches us that we are sinful, that we can never be “good enough.” We cannot earn His favor. No matter how hard we try or how much we do.

The challenge today is to look to Christ as an example of the standard to strive towards, and stop looking at everyone around you. Repent of your sin, confess your utter dependence upon Him and need for His help, and know, that despite the fact you aren’t good enough, if you are truly His, you are forgiven. Now that is good enough!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Potpourri Friday- It is Well with My Soul

Today I wanted to highlight one of my favorite hymns. Horatio Spafford penned this hymn shortly after losing his four daughters. Even in the midst of pain and on the most physically difficult days, by God’s grace I am still able to say, “It is well with my soul.”

If you haven’t heard his story, a brief overview can be read here.

Copies of the original hand-written hymn can be seen here.

It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But Lord, 'tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
Horatio Spafford

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And the Winner is...(drum roll please)

I finally went and saw the doctor yesterday afternoon. He has tested just about everything he could think of. One test was normal; the other 7 tests were all abnormal. He has been able to fit the pieces together to form a conclusion-Chronic Inflammatory Sensory Polyradiculopathy (CISP). It is an apparently “very rare” autoimmune condition that causes inflammation the peripheral nerves, causing the numbness and weakness I have been experiencing. I will start immediately on prednisone (again) and if that works, long term I will need IVig infusions.

I can now add this to my growing list of autoimmune issues:
Chronic Inflammatory Sensory Polyradiculopathy (CISP)
Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy (degeneration of spine)
Autoimmune Inner Ear Disease (causes tinnitus-ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and balance issues (dizziness)

Time to do some more research I guess. I find it helps me to be well educated. J

I give all the glory to God and am thankful to Him for providing answers. Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement, call and emails. I have appreciated so much the support I have received from the body of Christ. Have a great day!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Words Escape Me

Some days I just sit and stare at the computer screen, and don’t have anything to say (Chad, stop laughing, I know you think I never run out of things to say!). Today is one of those days. I sit here sipping my hot coffee and looking out the window at the cold, dreary day. On days like these, I am thankful. Not thankful that I have nothing to say, but thankful for so many things God has provided.

For starters, I am thankful for my doctor squeezing me into his schedule today to go over my test results. I am thankful for whatever answers he is able to give.

I am thankful that I have a wonderful home to protect me from the elements. I am thankful for blankets, and hot coffee and warm clothes. I am very thankful for a hard-working husband who willingly works outside in this weather to provide for our family. I am thankful for my two beautiful, healthy children.

Mostly, I am thankful for a Savior who helps me to be thankful on a day like today. It would be so easy to stay in bed, be lazy and get depressed on this dark, winter day. I am thankful He doesn’t leave me to face these days alone.

May we always give thanks to God for all He has provided! What are you thankful for today?

Have a great (and warm day)! I am hoping to give everyone an update tomorrow on my medical situation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Side Effects and Sin

Prescription medication and me usually don’t get along very well. I tend to always be the 1% of patients that experience the unusual side effects. Many of the medications on the market today that we take can cause side effects, some more serious than others. Mild ones include things like headaches, dry mouth, stomach upset. Very serious side effects can cause permanent organ damage or death. Others can be anything in between.

I have had to make some tough decisions about medications in the past. Sometimes the “cure” is worse than the disease itself and you have to weigh the risk involved to the possible benefit. Often I find myself taking one medication to treat an illness and then needing another medication to treat the side effects of the first meds. I rationalize that the treatment must be taken for the greater good, and deal with the bad things that come as I hope to see some good results.

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, I tend to find spiritual analogies to fit the medical situations I face. As I prepare to begin a new medication to treat my current nerve issue, I thought at how the domino effect of one medication causing side effects and the need for other medication is very similar to sin. We tell one little lie, thinking that there will be very little “side effects” or consequences.  One untruth can’t be that bad, right? We rationalize that it will happen just this once, it won’t hurt anyone else.

Sin has consequences and it can snowball into something deadly. We lie, steal, cheat or are unfaithful. We think it is no big deal. One lie causes another and then another. Pretty soon the side effects are catastrophic. Families and lives are destroyed.

You should read the instructions and warnings before starting a new medicine, and you must know the dangers of your sin. “For the wages of sin is death….” (Romans 6:23). There is only one “treatment” to fix your sinfulness, and that is Jesus Christ alone. “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The side effects of sins are too great, the consequences are eternal. Are you aware your sin has deadly side effects? Are you choosing to continue in them, or are you looking to the “cure”, Jesus Christ for forgiveness?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

My family is probably sick of me saying this, but I tend to quote Dory from the movie Finding Nemo, frequently saying, "Just keep swimming."

Some days are harder to get through than others. If I can "just keep swimming" I can make it through the day. Even if I am taking baby steps and feel like I am not moving very fast or very far, by the grace of God, I eventually look up and realize just how far I have come. Don't get discouraged or overwhelmed in your struggles. Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus and keep moving forward. If you are in Christ, He will be there with you each step of the way.

When I ran across this picture on my favorite couponing website, I thought I'd share it today.

Keeping this post short today! Have a blessed Lord's Day and see you back here tomorrow. Just keep swimming!  :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

God is the giver and sustainer of all life, and as Christians we enjoy liberty or freedom in Christ. But, are we to pursue happiness? Our pastor always says, “God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness.”

A quick search of the words ‘happy’ or ‘happiness’ in the NKJV Bible produces just 24 results, whereas searching ‘holy’ or ‘holiness’ produces 610 results. Scriptures have much to say on God’s holiness, but the Bible also call us to “be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15).

It is so easy to focus on being "happy." We buy this or that to fill some void and think it will make us happy, we can't wait until we are married because then we will be happy, or when we have kids, or when they move out, etc. Our constant striving to find this elusive happiness leads to discontentment. It also causes us to miss out of the joy and blessings we have today, because we are looking toward tomorrow.

We should be focused on Christ and His word and pursuing holiness with the same zeal we strive to find happiness. As we come to know Him more fully we find true, lasting, joy and not a passing feeling of happiness.

Are you striving toward holiness or always chasing elusive happiness?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Potpourri Friday-Grab a tissue!

Not much makes me cry--this did!
A story of the love between two brothers, one with a severe disability, and the other who shows great compassion. Watch the short video (here)--it is well worth your time.

Have a great weekend. See you tomorrow!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Purpose Driven Wife

Man’s purpose in this life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.1). What does it mean to “glorify God”? How do we “enjoy Him”? 

For starters, by glorifying God we are not adding to Him anything, as if He was lacking in something and needed it from us. We glorify God when we praise and worship Him for who He is. We bring glory to Him when we live a life that points others to Him. Everything we do, big or small, must be done with this purpose in mind.

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)

By glorifying God, we are able to enjoy Him, both in this life and in the one to come (forever). We now enjoy spiritual communion with God as we enter into His presence in worship. When we glorify God in our lives, we are able to fully enjoy Him and the many blessings He provides.

“In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” - C.S. Lewis

We should filter all our actions and choices through this filter: “Will God be glorified in this choice? Will doing this (or not doing this) cause me to enjoy Him more?”

Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is the real purpose-driven life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Oh, Look, A Shiny Thing

We live in a day and age with fast food, microwave ovens and 200+ channels at our fingertips. Our world is constantly on the go…and so are our minds. We are easily distracted and always wanting to be entertained. Our minds are repeatedly bombarded with one image after another in rapid succession. It’s no wonder why quiet time seems like a relic from the past.  Every second or every day we have the entire sum of all human knowledge available on the internet. Constantly checking our email, Twitter and Facebook accounts, receiving phone calls on our cell phones no matter where we are. We spend so much of our time “connected” to the world around us.

There are times when I feel like there are 1,001 things running through my mind at once (I know most men think only one thing at a time, but all the women out there know what I am talking about!). I sit somewhere to spend some time in prayer, and it goes something like this….
“Dear, Heavenly Father, thank you so much for this day. May Your name be glorified….oh, I better start the laundry…right, praying….quiet my heart Lord….yes, that’s right, I forgot to take the roast out of the freezer….” You get the idea.

It took practice to learn how to use all the gadgets we carry around with us, and it takes practice to learn how to spend quality, uninterrupted, quiet time with the Lord in prayer. The refreshing, renewing and communion that comes from such quiet time with the Lord is a precious gift, and a necessity for our daily strength and focus. This is something I am making a priority each day. I start my morning away from technology, to study God’s word and pray. It helps keep me focused on Christ and keeps my mind calmer throughout the day.

How much time each day do you spend connected to friends, family and the world with messaging, calling, tweeting, etc.? How much time each day do you spend “connected” to God in prayer?

Have a great day! I have got to get back, what was I doing?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fitting the Pieces Together

This past year I put together the largest jigsaw puzzle I have ever done- 3,000 black, grey and white pieces of Picasso’s Guernica. It was more challenging than expected, and took a very long time. When it was finished, I couldn’t bear to take it apart, so we glued it, and framed it, and hung it on my son’s bedroom wall (It has since traveled off to college with him). At the end of the whole process, I could stand back and appreciate the art; in the midst of putting it together, however, all I saw was black and white and grey. There were just hours and hours of matching shade variances, looking for matching lines and patterns, and testing to see if pieces fit together. At times, I didn’t want to continue (I am way too OCD to stop in the middle though!); I didn’t want to look for one more piece. Adding to the difficulty of the puzzle, as if the sheer number of pieces wasn’t daunting enough, is the fact that all the pieces were virtually the same size and basic shape! Some puzzles provide such random sizes and crazy shapes that putting it together seems easy. In the end, I was rewarded with a nice conversation piece, and my son has something to look at in his dorm besides white cinder block walls.

Over the last few months, I have become a medical jigsaw puzzle. I have had new symptoms that didn’t fit any specific, common diagnosis. I have undergone more tests than I care to remember. Just like putting together the Guernica puzzle, it was difficult at times to focus on the bigger picture-the finished product. Both my doctor and I had to take a step back at times and get a glimpse of the larger puzzle and stop comparing lines, colors and sizes. I am thankful that we live so near Chicago and have access to great hospitals. I am grateful that I have a doctor who enjoys putting together puzzles as much as I do. He wasn’t willing to quit in the middle either. He asked for help from colleagues to complete the whole puzzle (now would be a good time to give thanks to my daughter, whom I mercilessly begged to help me finish my Picasso puzzle-love you girly!).

Hopefully, by the end of the week, the “puzzle” will be put together and finally finished; and I will be updating you with some answers (Lord willing). In the meantime, are there any “puzzles” in your life that you feel like giving up on? Do you get bogged down in the details and forget you are working on a masterpiece?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hospital Gowns and the Righteousness of Christ

I have had my share of doctor’s appointments, tests and ER visits. One thing that never changes is the fact that I don’t like putting on hospital gowns. No matter how many times I wear one, I still feel exposed. Do you know the feeling? Sitting there constantly checking that you are fully covered. Feeling vulnerable, insecure and self-conscience.

Many times I have been asked to go into the women’s locker room area of a hospital radiology department and put on a gown, then go sit in the separate waiting area until my name is called. You walk towards the waiting area, checking and rechecking that you are fully covered. You pull, yank, and adjust the gown as you sit and check again that the slightest movement didn’t uncover your most private areas.  Each person sits in the waiting area, no one speaks, no one makes much eye contact, everyone clutching their gown as if their life depended on it, and yet no feeling of security is to be found.

Romans 13:14 tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and Philippians 3:9 states that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, not our own. When we have genuine faith in Christ as Lord, we are clothed in His righteousness. Unlike the hospital gown, His righteousness does not leave us exposed. God looks at us, and instead of our sinfulness and filthy rags, He sees the righteousness of Christ. We do not need to feel insecure and vulnerable. We can sit in the “waiting room” of this life fully assured that when our name is called, we can stand before God on judgment day fully covered.

Are you “fully clothed” in Christ’s righteousness, or are you constantly grasping at a thin gown to try and cover yourself?  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Choose Your Own Ending

When my kids were younger, they loved those mystery books where you choose your own ending. They got hours of enjoyment out of them, since the story could be different every time. On this Lord’s day, I decided, in an effort to get some of my readers commenting, I would try a similar thing. (I know somebody is reading, so won’t you leave a comment below? It’s easy!)

My husband and I are spending the day in Iowa visiting a sister church, and hopefully getting to meet some new brothers and sisters in Christ, while encourage a friend of ours who pastors there.

Do you have any special plans today? How does your family spend the Lord ’s Day? What is your favorite part of the day? Now is the chance to “write your own ending” to my blog!

Today, I am going to....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When to Just Relax

Some days I would love to just stay in bed. Mornings are never fun. I frequently wake up with a headache; my whole body is stiff and sore. It takes a while for me to get going (getting older stinks). Some days I am in a lot of pain, and it gets worse as the day wears on. I have never been one to just sit and relax. I am a doer. I go, go, go until I fall over exhausted.

As I have learned to accept the fact that I am not healthy and young anymore, I have gradually made some changes. I can now enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, while sitting at the computer and writing. I like reading. I have recently begun putting jigsaw puzzles together to give me something to do while I sit and rest for a bit. Many of my friends enjoy a long soak in a hot tub; I have never been much of a water person. I absolutely love music and almost always have some playing in the background. I also find time in prayer to be relaxing, plus it helps me to keep my mind off my problems if I am praying for other's needs.

Today, I’d like to hear from you. When you have a bad pain day, or a sick day or just a plain ‘ol lazy day, what do you do to relax? How can you keep your mind off the pain, while still feeling useful? Share some of your ideas, and have a great, relaxing day! J

Friday, February 8, 2013

Potpourri Friday: Free Book Giveaway and Author Interview

Reformed theology topics are hard to find in your local Christian book stores. They are filled with rows and rows of books will feel good messages and self-help books. There seems to a push to sell more books, rather than guard God's word. Today I'd like to introduce you to a writer you should know. He is a man in whom I have a great deal of respect. He upholds the truth of God's word. He makes church history interesting (now, that is saying something!). Bryan Holstrom is an elder in my church (Covenant of Grace OPC in Batavia, Il) and he is someone I'd like to introduce you to.

Me: Hello Bryan!

Bryan: Hi Shari.

Me: Please tell us a little about yourself.

Bryan: I’m a husband and father of four who works professionally as an investment advisor but also happens to write books on theological topics in some of my spare time.

Me: What books have you written?

Bryan: The first was entitled Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament, a work which sets forth the Reformed case for the historic practice of infant baptism. Next was an exposition of the person and work of the Savior entitled Thinking Rightly of Christ. And this past year I released my third book entitled The Gift of Faith: Discovering the Glory of God in Salvation.

Me: Why is sound doctrine so important?

Bryan: Because having a proper understanding of who God is and what he has done produces (through the work of the Holy Spirit, of course) holy lives and sound living. There’s an old axiom in biblical studies that “the imperative is rooted in the indicative.”  That is to say, what the Bible calls us to do (the imperative) is grounded upon the truths expressed about God and his work of creation/redemption, etc. (the indicative). We see this pattern of instruction throughout Scripture, but especially in Paul’s epistles, where he draws out ethical principles for living only after first having set forth the doctrinal foundations from which they flow.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where it is not uncommon to hear voices in the church attempting to pit doctrine against practice, as if the study of sound doctrine were actually an impediment to holy living, rather than the spur to it. The end product of such thinking, however, is a bare legalism or works righteousness mindset. Having the proper understanding of biblical doctrine is the way in which we avoid such faulty thinking, which is characteristic of the ‘natural’ man, not the Spirit-led Christians that Christ has called us to be.

Me: There seems to be a shortage of current reformed authors in our society today. Which of your books would you recommend to my readers if they could only check out one of them, and why?

Bryan: I suppose if I had to choose one it would be Thinking Rightly of Christ, because nothing is more practical or beneficial for the Christian than cultivating a deeper appreciation for the significance of the one whom we worship as Lord and Savior. The book attempts to strip away some of the misconceptions that plague our understanding of Christ’s person and work, with the goal of increasing our devotion to him in the process. In my (humble) opinion, everyone on the planet should read it.

Me: Are there any plans for a 4th book? If so, can we get a sneak peek?

Bryan: I suspect there will be a fourth book at some point, though I consider myself to be on an extended break from writing right now. As to subject matter, I have several ideas brewing at the moment, but don’t know what I might finally settle on. I’m leaning toward a book with more of a historical bent next time. At any rate, I’ll make sure that you are the first to know when I finally make a decision, Shari.

Me: Any last thoughts you'd like to share?

Bryan: Yes. Soli Deo Gloria.

Me: Thank you for your time!

I hope you all have had your interest piqued and will get a copy of each of his books to read!

For the record, I am not being paid for this endorsement. I just really think that his books are truly worth reading! There are just so few reformed, contemporary authors worth recommending!  :)

Now, run, don't walk, to and check out his books! (here)

Sorry, giveaway has now ended.


I would like to give one copy of each of Bryan's books to three of my readers. Head over here to FB and "like" my page for one entry. Leave a comment (below) on this post for a second entry. 

One winner will be randomly chosen from all who "like" my Facebook page. Two winners will be randomly chosen from all comments on THIS post. *One entry per person, per method of entry. Please don't leave 100 responses!

Winners on Facebook will be contacted through a private message. Winners from blog comments- be sure to leave your email for me to contact you. (I am not responsible for technical issues, lost entries, inability to contact winners, etc.) Contest ends at 9:00 am Central time on Saturday, February 9, 2013.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When Tears Fall

Some days I forget that I am human. I feel like a superhero, able to leap tall buildings…oh, no, wait…able to endure any amount of pain, able to deal with all the appointments, and the never ending string of doctor’s appointments without needing anyone. On the one hand, this drives my husband crazy because he would like me to rest and let him take care of me. On the other hand, he is thankful that I don’t need him to miss work to go with me to every appointment (of course, if I did, he’d be unemployed—there are a LOT of appointments). On days like today, I am glad he was there with me.

This has been a LONG week! I have been up very early everyday and driven into Chicago for four days of testing. The first 3-day long test wasn’t painful, but it did involve more than two hours of driving per day and lying on a hard, uncomfortable table for over an hour each day. When you deal with chronic back pain, this “simple” test can become painful. Today I started the day out with a lip biopsy (trust me, so far it isn’t fun), and then an afternoon round of nerve testing. Again, the nerve testing isn’t really painful, but it is uncomfortable, especially when your lip hurts and you are sleep deprived (did I mention I have been up before the sun every day this week?).

On days like today, I feel human. I feel the weight of my pain. As I sit there being hooked up to electrodes, I hurt, I am tired, and frustrated. I feel alone and overwhelmed, and in that brief moment, the tears fall. I fight them back, after all superheroes don’t cry. I don’t like “pity parties” and I don’t often cry. There are just days like today when you need to let the tears fall. When you feel like you can’t do this anymore, when it all seems too much. And then, in that next breath I am reminded that I am never alone. God has been right there beside me, giving me that daily dose of “superhero” strength; the strength I need to go on. I look forward to the day when “God will wipe away every tear from [my] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” (Revelation 21:4). So for today, I will let the tears fall.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What Not To Say To Someone With A Disability

What to say, what not to say, that is the question. I have lived with chronic pain and disability for a number of years, but it wasn’t until 2009, when I had to start dealing with wearing the full-length leg brace on my left leg. There is no hiding my disability any longer. Strangers used to never know; now everyone thinks they somehow need to commensurate or share their story with me. It makes no difference where I am, the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or eating dinner at a restaurant with my family, people walk up to me and say random things. Here are just a few I have heard many times:
  • “Oh, look at you, you are walking so good!” (Said in a voice that you would use to talk to a 3 year old.) I am sure this is meant to be an encouragement, and I try to take it as such.
  • “Oh, that’s nothing!” (…and then they feel the need to tell me how some medical condition they have gone through is so much worse, so I should be glad I am not them.) Well, I AM glad I am not them, but this is NOT nothing! This has been a long, hard, difficult path. I realize people feel the need to relate to me, or to try to make me look on the bright side, but to tell me that you had knee surgery years ago, and that it “hurt worse than anything you are feeling” (yes, this was a recent quote from a woman at the grocery store) does not make me feel better. To be honest, I struggle to keep my cool. I try hard to remind myself, that this is an opportunity to let God work through me. To let a stranger talk about themselves (everyone loves to do this) and be able to encourage them, to say “that must have been so hard for you”, to acknowledge their pain and ask if you can pray for them, does make me feel good. I know that God is working through me and His Spirit strengthens me to hold my tongue.
  • “I know exactly how you feel.” No, you don’t. I do not believe we can “compare” sufferings or hardships or disabilities. The truth is we all go through things. Some are very difficult for one person, and may not be the big of deal for someone else, but I cannot make the assumption that if something is “easy” for me, it should be easy for everyone. God has made each of us with different gifts, and skills, different coping skills, different pain tolerances, different families and support systems, etc. (You get the picture.) Even, if an identical situation were presented to two different people, neither could say the “know exactly how” the other feels. It is not helpful to try to minimize my situation to make me feel better.
  • “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes, this seems like the only thing to say, although I wonder, should you REALLY feel sorry for me. God has allowed these events in my life to sanctify me. I need your prayers not your pity. Don’t feel sorry for me. Pray for me. Tell me that you are praying that God would continue to strengthen me. Pray that He would be glorified in me. Pray that I would not lose sight of my Savior.

I have no problem with people I meet asking what happened. I actually prefer that to staring or avoiding, but the key (for me at least) is that you are a “person I meet.” I don’t really want to discuss all my medical issues with a complete stranger in the grocery store. You would not walk up to a healthy person and ask how their kidneys are (at least, I hope you wouldn’t). The moral of the story: talk to a disabled person like you would talk to anyone else you know.

Have any of you had a similar experience? Do you agree or disagree? Please share!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Do A Paralyzed Leg and A Hardened Heart Have in Common?

My husband reaches over and puts his hand on my knee. He quickly remembers and says “Oh, you can’t feel that, can you?” He’s right, of course, I cannot feel that any more. I cannot feel most of my left leg anymore (read the story here), but it used to work normally. I know he is there, he is right next to me, but the sensation of his touch has dulled. My senses no longer recognize his presence.

Having a partially paralyzed leg provides me with a great analogy and reminder of our sinful hearts. How can a numb leg make me think of a hardened heart? Well, read on and I will try to explain.

I know Christ is near me, with me every step of the way. I am a believer. I have placed my faith in Him. He will never leave me or forsake me.

We can flirt with sin, step over the line, and go further than we should. Maybe we used to hear the rooster’s loud crow; maybe we still hear it but choose to ignore it. Maybe we never hear it anymore. Has your conscience been seared, as with a hot iron? (1 Timothy 4:2) Has your heart become hardened and scarred, and now you no longer “feel” conviction like you used to?

We do what we ought not, and don’t do what we ought. We ignore that still, small voice. True believer’s cannot lose their salvation, cannot be snatched from the Father’s hand, but we are called to examine our hearts to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) Does God have His hand on your heart, and can you feel it? Or is your heart numb to Him? Examine yourself today!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Drywall Patching, Car Shopping and the Body of Christ

So what could patching holes in dry wall and car shopping in the snow teach me about the body of Christ? Plenty! But first, what is the “body of Christ”?

When people refer to the “body of Christ” it is in reference to the group of people in a local congregation (or body) who believe in Jesus Christ and work together to do the Lord’s work. Here is what the Bible says about this:

         1 Corinthians 12:12-26 
12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

It is God who arranges the parts of the body in the local congregations (verse 18). This is an important fact. Each church is made up of a group of believers that have been brought together to function as one body, to do the Lord’s work and bring glory to His name.

So, back to my story, patching and shopping are all a part of showing me the intricacies in the way the body works together.  About a week ago, we decided to rearrange some of our furniture after replacing the carpet with hardwood flooring. The last item we attempted to move was a rather large couch in the basement. We can recall bringing this particular couch down to the basement several years ago, somehow fitting it around a narrow and twisty set of stairs. (Maybe we were wrong?!) After multiple attempts, by multiple people, the couch won and ended up staying in the basement. In the process of trying to get the couch around the narrow corner of stairs, some holes were made in the drywall. (For those of you reading that don’t know us, yes, we embrace the notion that if it doesn’t fit, you should force it).

We are not dry-wallers. In fact the whole situation caused me a bit of stress. Then along came a member of our church who does have experience dry walling, and painting. He graciously offered to come help do the repair for free. He enjoys doing it, and likes having something to do since he is retired, and we are blessed in the process.

Meanwhile, another member of our church is trying to buy a used car on her own and is feeling a bit stressed as well. I (who used to sell cars and actually thrive on a bit of confrontation) agreed to go with her and help negotiate. She was very grateful for lessoning her stress, and I was excited to help because I love giving a salesman a hard time! We headed out in below freezing temperatures, in the snow, and had a successful trip.
I had a great time! Me, the disabled, middle-aged (did I just say that out loud?) woman, who doesn’t get to do many of the things I used to enjoy, was able to go and help someone and get a bit of an adrenaline rush by negotiating a good deal. I feel blessed to have been able to help. I feel blessed because I was helped by someone else. This has been a great week, and a wonderful example of the body of Christ working in perfect harmony; each of us using the gifts we were given for the benefit of others. The world calls it “paying it forward”; I call it the satisfaction of bringing glory to name of our Lord.

This may seem crazy or insignificant to some of you, but for me, it is an amazing thing to stand back and see God at work. He arranged each of us in such a way that we could all help each other. In the end, we were all blessed because of our serving others and also in being served. How beautiful it is to see each of us able to do what our gifting and talents are for the glory of God.

What is your gifting? How do you use it to be a blessing to others while being blessed yourself?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One Test, Two Test, Red Test, Blue Test

Sometimes tests come one right after the other and the rapid-fire trials seem never-ending. Other times, you feel like things have been going along so well, you forget what the hard times were like.

This week, I have four days of testing in a row (literally). I will be headed into Chicago at 6 am each morning to go through some more tests to try to find the cause of my nerve inflammation. Hopefully, I will get some answers in the next couple of weeks; maybe I will only get more questions.

It is easy at times like this to feel overwhelmed or feel sorry for myself. (I mean I REALLY don’t want to spend 4 days driving to Chicago being poked, prodded and scanned, but I have already told you that God gives me what I need not what I want).

I heard Valerie Shepherd, daughter of Elizabeth Elliot, speak at a mother-daughter conference last weekend. “Self-pity is a dead end street,” Elizabeth used to tell her daughter, and my how true.

Valerie also said this, “For this, I have Jesus.” Whatever you are going through, however many tests and trials you face, God is sufficient. Whatever the situation, you have Jesus.

This week is going to be challenging, but “For this, I have Jesus.”

Have a great day and enjoy the super bowl J

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Does This Excuse Make My BUT Look Big?

There are those things you should do, you would do, if only…(fill in the blank). You know what I am talking about!
I would serve at church… BUT…my week is so hectic; I just need time to relax.
I would give more…BUT…we never seem to have any extra money after we go out.
I would forgive…BUT…that person hasn’t repented, and she should ask for my forgiveness.
I would go…BUT…I am no missionary, besides, I am so busy.
I would teach…BUT…that is really not my thing.

I am thankful Jesus didn’t make excuses like we so frequently do. Is there someone you should go help, somewhere you should go serve, BUT you haven’t done it yet? This week, take a little time out of your busy schedule to serve someone else. Maybe it is time to stop and ask yourself, “how big is my BUT”?

What excuse do you have?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Potpourri Friday- Serve or Be Served

Ministry Spotlight

Many of you know Joni Eareckson Tada’s ministry ‘Joni and Friends’; for those who do not, here is her story.  

Today I’d like to shine a spotlight on a Joni and Friends ministry called Family Retreat.

If you or someone you know are disabled (child or adult), you may be interested in learning more about this experience. It is one amazing week of encouragement and strengthening of families dealing with a disability. There is something for everyone: boating, hiking, zip line, climbing walls and activities for siblings of special needs children. All activities are accessible for everyone. A STM (see below) is assigned to each family for the whole week to assist with your needs. Parents are able to spend some time relaxing and attending practical seminars on a variety of disability topics. Register early as space fills up fast and results in a waiting list every year. (Cost varies by location)
For more information, to find a camp location near you or to register:

For families affected by disability-click here.

If you are interested in serving as a camp counselor, called a “STM” (Short Term Missionary), family retreat is a great place to serve with your heart and hands. You will be paired with a child, teen or adult with a disability. STMs do not provide medical care, but provide friendship and general support to the family. 

My daughter, who served last year as an STM and will serve again for two weeks this year, says, “Serving as an STM is truly an unforgettable experience and one thing is certain: you will walk away from Family Retreat changed.”

To apply to serve as a STM-click here.