Reflecting some of my family's interests: God's wonderful creation (especially mountains and hills!), music, and language...
Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
30 December 2008
24 December 2008
Read more of the story here, here, and here.
18 December 2008
17 December 2008
It's nap time for the little one... And for me, it's the perfect time of day to sit on the couch, listening to Handel's Messiah, as I try to make progress on coupon clipping and organizing – glancing up now and then to enjoy the happy little Christmas tree lights...
16 December 2008
Our pastor has been encouraging us and working with us as a church on memorizing the following passage from the prophecy of Habakkuk:
11 December 2008
(And now I must get back to the "vacation recovery program" – cleaning house, putting things away, etc., ETC!)
10 December 2008
There was a time in the not-too-distant past, when I seriously doubted whether I would ever have the joy of hand-made school projects and decorations. Looking at the precious Thanksgiving projects, brought home from K-2 and propped up on our desk as decorations, has literally brought tears – of unspeakable joy – to this Mommy's eyes!
22 November 2008
As we approach Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the following divinely revealed truths:
Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God...
(1 Peter 3:18)
God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy...
By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed."
(Scripture quotes from the New American Standard Bible.)
15 November 2008
(For those of you overseas reading this... Yes, I'll miss the couponing game! I must admit that I thrive on this kind of challenge. But I know that God will always provide – I can trust HIM to be more than enough. He is faithful!)
The latest, greatest couponing experience for me occurred at Walgreens today. Here's a snapshot of the loot...
This seemed to be "holiday baking" week at Walgreens. Here's how it all played out with the help of coupons in the weekly store flier, stacked with manufacturers coupons, plus the $5 off a $20 purchase coupon Walgreens emailed to me. I went to two stores – the first was out of two desired items, and I wanted to use a second coupon on the Carnation evaporated milk deal anyway. According to my receipts, the totals were:
Total "out of pocket" – $15.05
WG coupon savings: $10.51
WG advertised savings: $4.00
Manufacturers coupon savings: $2.55
Total savings: $17.06
Total out of pocket – $6.45
WG coupon savings: $4.11
Manufacturers coupon savings: $3.50
Total savings: $7.61
Notice please that both times my total "out of pocket" was less than the total I saved! But the best part is that it was all FREE because I used my Walgreens gift card – thanks to their EasySaver catalog deals (where they refund the price of certain items each month and add a 10% bonus if you decide to get the rebate on a Walgreens gift card)!
Now I can hardly wait to get started on holiday baking!
A special thanks to my friend Andrea (here) who introduced me to her two favorite blogs – Crystal at "moneysavingmom" (here) and Sarah at "Fiddledeedee" (here) – which in turn caused me to enroll in the "Walgreens 101" and "Publix Super Saver Deals" online courses. Thanks, ladies!
While concentrating anew on frugality, recent sermon applications have repeatedly brought me to focus on generosity and biblical good works as well. (See an earlier post on those topics here.)
To see my new blog, inspired by couponing, click here.
12 November 2008
Our little fan of letters – big and small, English or Spanish – named all the letters correctly in Spanish, except for the S in exóticos which in the actual font on the poster looked very much like a capital G. She also commented that one of the O’s had a little stick – ¡Tiene un palo! – as she pointed out the accent mark!
We will always remember. We will always be proud.
We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
~ Ronald Reagan on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day
06 November 2008
05 November 2008
Headline: God is on the throne of the universe! (See Psalm 2.)
My dear husband read an encouraging passage to me last night before we knew the definite outcome of the presidential election.
The Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to write the following words to Titus, the pastor of the church in Crete:
(John Mark prefaced the passage by pointing out the description of the Cretans, the people Titus was pastoring, in chapter 1. We couldn't help but notice a parallel to our modern society...)
"Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
The instructions to Christians in Crete in the first century apply to me, an American Christian in the twenty-first century. (Let's not forget the mercy of God in saving us!)
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,
to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
I'd also like to share a link to an encouraging article I just read; Pastor Chris Anderson in Ohio outlines a biblical response I, as a Christian, ought to have...
Christians and the Obama Administration
28 October 2008
Note however, (before you get too excited) that she also wanted to make the title “My name is...” say “Steel” – so we’ve since made that addition.
19 October 2008
Definitely and delightfully ALL girl, Elizabeth also is (like her Mommy before her!) interested in what are typically considered boy's toys. She loves anything with wheels and is very interested in learning specific names of vehicles, etc. She came up with this train, using wheeled parts from three different sets of blocks...
She also loves to build, combining larger blocks with smaller, at times fitting all of them snugly into spaces. She'll even use books as building materials, too...
She obliged me and exhibited some of her handiwork...
18 October 2008
I heard and my inward parts trembled,
At the sound my lips quivered;
Decay enters my bones,
And in my place I tremble
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
07 October 2008
How sweet and awful is the place
with Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
the choicest of her stores.
While all our hearts and all our songs
join to admire the feast,
Each of us cries, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"
Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
and enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
and rather starve than come?
'Twas the same love that spread the feast
that sweetly forced us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
and perished in our sin.
Pity the nations, O our God,
constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious word abroad,
and bring the strangers home.
by Isaac Watts
02 October 2008
Our pastor has been teaching from the book of Isaiah on Sunday evenings, a series begun a year ago (if I remember correctly). On September 28, in the providence of God, he preached from chapter 23: Vanity Fair Overthrown. (Did John Bunyan perhaps have this chapter in mind when he wrote that section of The Pilgrim’s Progress?)
For a good summary of the sermon, click here. (By the way, I didn't read Andrea’s thoughts until I had finished writing out my own!) In the context of Isaiah 23, application was made from three New Testament passages. And I’ve been meditating on those passages this week…
Question for application: Am I controlled (enslaved) by a love of money?
Matthew 6: Verse 24 is the pivotal point of the passage: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
“No one can serve [lit. slave for] two masters…” Why? Because a master demands ALL of his slave’s time! And the Greek term for wealth in this context is worth noting: mamonas, for Aramaic mamon (mammon); i.e. wealth, etc. personified as an object of worship. The use of the term mammon implies that slaving for wealth is idolatry. If I’m serving wealth, I am not serving God; I cannot serve two masters because the demands of one master occupy all my time, thoughts, energy, etc. So, who then is my master?
Test: On the one hand, where am I storing up treasure?
In verses 19 to 21, Christ says: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Test: On the other hand, am I worried that I won’t have enough?
After saying: No one can serve two masters... You cannot serve God and wealth. Christ then says: For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Mind-numbing, stomach-churning worry is slavery! Worrying about not having enough and slaving to store up treasure are two ends of the same stick. Those who think themselves “poor” and are slaving, worrying about how to get more, are just as enslaved by the love of money as those who are “rich” and slaving to get more. Christ says that I must stop slaving to store up treasure on earth and I must stop slaving by worrying that I don’t have enough and need more.
Question: How much is “enough” for me – for any child of God through faith in Christ?
In I Timothy 6, the apostle Paul under divine inspiration states (in verses 6 to 8): Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
Consider the warning in verses 9 to 11, instructing against slaving for material gain and encouraging God-honoring pursuits instead: But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness…
Consider the specific instruction in verses 17 to 19 for those who have been blessed (by God!) with abundant material possessions: Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.
And who among us, especially living here in the United States of America, has not been blessed with material possessions? Besides food and clothing, most have homes larger than 500 square feet in relatively safe neighborhoods, plus several modes of transportation, not to mention the daily blessings (so often taken for granted) of running water (cold and hot!), electricity, air conditioning and/or heat at the touch of a button, clothes washers, dryers for rainy days, etc.
God seems to emphasize that having food, clothing, and covering is “enough” and that with those we must be content! Yet even when those may seem scarce, He instructs us not to worry. Look at how He provides food even for the birds and how He clothes even the flowers of the field – and HE knows our needs!
So we are instructed to be content with “food and covering” and “not to be conceited or to fix [our] hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” – and we are instructed “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…” and thus “store up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven.”
Question for application: So am I controlled (enslaved) by a love of money?
Test: How do I respond to others?
In James 2, the apostle James under divine inspiration writes (verses 1 to 4): Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
How do I respond to the people that God brings across my path? How do I treat the rich? How do I treat the poor? Do I make distinctions? Am I prejudiced? Do I shun those I view as unable to do anything for me but treat nicely those I view as able to do something for me – because I have “evil motives” (of potential personal gain) in mind?
In verses 14 to 17, the apostle James provokes us to serious self-examination: What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
True faith in Christ (as defined in the Scriptures as a whole) involves repentance – an inward change of mind/attitude, agreeing with God’s revealed truth – a change that is proven by outward actions. And in verse 27 of chapter 1, the apostle James prefaces this definition of living faith with a definition of “pure and undefiled religion” – that is, following Christ's perfect example. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
Am I a true disciple of Christ? Am I following His perfect example? Am I looking only for opportunities to gain? Or am I also looking for opportunities to give? Am I concentrating only on (economic) frugality? Or am I also seeking specific opportunities to demonstrate generosity?
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Concluding thoughts: Christ instructs me, in Matthew 6, to not be enslaved either by trying to store up treasures on earth or by worrying about food and clothing. And then He reassures me: Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
27 September 2008
18 September 2008
What should be my response under pressure?
Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.
God is our refuge and strength,
Abundantly available for help in tight places.