Gracelessness

Symptoms: unusual clumsiness, amusement at oneself, often followed by increased clumsiness, greater hilarity, and occasional need for assistance in accomplishing ordinary tasks. Symptoms occur almost daily, but are usually worse every few days. Symptoms do not include embarrassment or low self-esteem and are not general thought unpleasant, only inconvenient.

Treatment: Relax. This is not a life-threatening disease, and always goes away on its own within a couple of months. For 98% of people it only lasts a few days or weeks. It may reoccur from time to time throughout your life, however. There is no treatment generally agreed upon to lessen the impact of the disease. Some local doctors suggest various natural remedies, which you can find on other sites if you wish. My suggestion is to simply enjoy the entertainment while it lasts. It’s not every day that clumsy the clown goes to town with such skill, so play it up and have fun!

– Laura Anne (a frequent relisher of the disease)

God’s Incredible Love

I had plans to write about something different today, but this morning I have been feeling particularly thankful for God’s love for mankind, so I decided I’d rather express those thoughts instead. The story of God’s love is more beautiful to me than any other story I’ve ever heard or read. It’s not fictional. It’s not just a nice Hallmark based on the true events of people that I’ve never met. It’s a personal story about God’s incredible goodness towards me and includes the stories of many other people who also (like me) don’t deserve what they’ve been privileged to experience. I want to tell you the part of the story that relates to me.

Most of what I truly used to be was hidden from the public eye. You might have known me in my earlier years and never noticed the signs of who I was on the inside. I was selfish, not in the way that made me unpleasant to be around, but that selfishness was at the core of everything I did. My selfishness drove me to be dishonest. I became a liar, and I frequently cheated on my schoolwork. I was a girl who never desired to do anything for anyone unless I felt I would be recognized or appreciated for doing it. I had very little consideration for God and his word. I lived the morals of the Bible so far as I felt they benefited me (if they made me look good, or feel good), but where they seemed to counter what I thought was more comfortable or enjoyable, I always chose to ignore them and live my own way. Beneath my sweet exterior was a lot of ugliness and rebellion that was not hidden from the eyes of the all-knowing God. Why would God have any consideration for such a self-centered, foolish, disobedient girl as I was? Yet he did!

1.) He pulled me out of slavery to my sin, and gave me a new desire to love and serve him.

2.) He forgave me of all my sin, and freed me from the coming judgement. I no longer need to fear his wrath.

3.) He continues to give me a greater and greater desire and ability to obey him, and I find I trust him more and more the longer I know his ways.

4.) He promises that no one can snatch me out of his hand and nothing can separate me from his love.

5.) He has prepared great things for all those who love him. I look forward to spending eternity with him in the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells!

As Paul Washer of Heartcry ministry once put it:

“What Grace! He declares the wicked righteous by the blood of his dear Son. He prepares good deeds for them by his sovereign will. He empowers them by his Spirit, and then he rewards them for what they have done as if they had done it. What grace! What marvelous grace!”

-Laura Anne

The True God

What is it that sets the true God apart from other so-called gods or distortions of the real One? I think it’s an important question and worthwhile to meditate on. The Bible presents a God that is unlike any other imagined God: much bigger, more powerful and more beautiful. The Bible speaks of the kind of God that is truly able to satisfy a soul; a God that fully deserves trust and worship. Here are a few of my favorite aspects of the true God:

  1. He is the only God.

Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. (Isaiah 43:10b)

See also Isaiah 44:6&8, Isaiah 45:5&21-22 and Isaiah 46:9.

2. He has always existed as God.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:2)

The Bible also speaks of God as the eternal God (see Deut. 33:27), the everlasting God (see Isaiah 40:28), the first and the last (Isaiah: 48:12-13) and the alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8).

3. He created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

See also Isaiah 45:12.

4. He gives all men life and breath and everything else.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being the Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

5. He always does what he says he will do.

I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient time things not yet done, saying, “my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,  . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11)

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)

There are obviously so many more aspects of God to admire, but aren’t these wonderful? Pair these truths with truths about God’s goodness and faithfulness and wisdom, and I can hardly imagine not desiring to trust and serve and praise such a big and powerful God! Aren’t you glad that the true God is so much grander than any figment of one’s imagination?

The Use of the Tongue

Lately I’ve been spending some time in the Proverbs. Anyone who has ever read the proverbs has probably notice that there is a quite a bit said about the tongue. What we say is a big deal. So big, in fact, that Jesus once said, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). This is because our words reveal what is in our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Since this topic of the tongue keeps popping up in proverbs, it’s been on my mind. And I’ve noticed myself saying some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. I may have thought I didn’t really struggle much in this area, but after looking again into the mirror of the word, I’m seeing that I need to be a little more cautious here. It’s just like the Lord to humble me and guide my feet in the right direction.

I’ve noticed that the Bible speaks of two sides of the issue: How we shouldn’t use our tongue, and how we should use our tongue. I think we all can pretty easily pull up a list of ways we shouldn’t use our tongues. For some reason that side seems to be talked about more. But I just wanted to quickly share a couple of verses about how we should use the tongues:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that is may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

So we see that we should use our tongues to build up others, and to give grace.

The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.

I liked this verse, because of the picture of feeding others with what we say. It seems to imply an intentionality. I think of a mother bird, finding and digesting worms to feed to her little ones though her beak. In the same way, we would do well to prepare ourselves to feed others with our words.

– Laura Anne

A Reason to Smile

Back in early June, I was talking with my friend Amy at a picnic. Here’s one thing that I told her: “It’s funny, I must be smiling a lot more lately, because I keep noticing that my jaw is tired and then it dawns on me that I’ve had my mouth in a smile for a long stretch. I’m not quite sure why I’m smiling more, but I know I am.” We laughed, and that was that conversation.

Later, though, I reflected on this smiling business, and found it pretty easy to pinpoint at least one reason why I’d been feeling happier. Makes a whole lot of sense, actually.

Back up a week or two earlier, and I had been in a fairly prayer-less phase of life. I was going about my life with little thought to ask God and thank God for things. Once in a while I would set aside time to pray, but have trouble feeling very connected or thinking of much to pray for, and would end up a bit discouraged. I started to remember the best seasons of prayerful communion with God that I’d had in the past, and to want to have that again.

So I determined, as a step toward that, I would set aside 5-10 minutes every day to simply “sit in God’s presence.” Let me try to explain what I mean by that, since I’m sure it’s not easily understood. First off, I realize that the entirety of our lives are spent in God’s presence, so I had no intention of separating time into two categories (that spent in His presence and that spent away from it). Instead, my intention was simply to set aside specific time each day to remind myself of His continuing presence. I didn’t necessarily intend for this to be a time of “prayer” so much as a time of reflection. Though I found it often naturally turned into prayer.

For me, it was a time to acknowledge God. To meditate on His existence and nearness. To remember my relationship to Him and His relationship to me. Similar to a little girl who hangs around her mother’s skirt or who wants to be held in her mother’s arms, even when there is no communication between them, it was a time for me to simply “be” with God, putting myself in a frame of mind that desired to communicate with Him.

It wasn’t long before such a small thing began to make a significant difference! I found myself naturally asking Him for things and thanking Him for things, not only during the time I had set aside, but all throughout the day, because I was tuned into His presence in a way I hadn’t been for some time. It was only natural and it still remains the natural thing for me.

And so, I believe I started to smile more often as well. It’s a beautiful thing to be bought with a price by the blood of His Son, adopted into His family to be cared for as His own sons and daughters! Experiencing that close relationship in daily communication is such a wonderful reason to smile! Wouldn’t you agree?

– Laura Anne

More Verbatim Scripture Songs

I have a confession to make. Of the verbatim Bible songs we own that are not free, my very favorites were made for children. I don’t have a problem with that.

Okay, I’ll admit to turning the volume down in the before I pull up someplace where people might hear what I’m listening to, just in case somebody might notice. But really, I’m not sure exactly why I feel the need to do that, because these CDs I’m going to mention actually contain nice music. I think a lot of adults would concur. The songs are quality enough that my whole family enjoys them, and I’m the youngest of the clan. I actually think I could fool you (with many of the songs) into thinking that they were meant for adults. So if you’re not too dignified to try them out, you should definitely invest. Of course, if you have kids at home, you have no reason to be embarrassed anyway.

Here are the ones you need: Seeds Family Worship (8 cds, I think) and Jim Spencer’s Scripture Memory Songs (1 and 2).

That will keep you busy for a while, but when you start wanting fresh material, here are some more ideas to try. These are actually written for adults:

Mark Atrogge (or Alligator as we call him, since we’ve never been quite sure how to pronounce his last name) has 10 Scripture song cds here.

Jim Orrick has 2 cds of Bible music. Jim Orrick is an old family friend of ours. My friend Lydia wrote a post about his music and included an order form on her blog for His albums. Check that out here.

You can also check out the Fighter Verse songs. There are enough good ones to make a nice “best of” cd, but you have to do some weeding. Benjamin’s already done the work of finding the ones that he thinks are worth buying, so you can get that information from us if you want.

Sherri Youngward has Scripture Songs 1 and 2, but be aware that she does some translation mixing on a few of the songs to make them work. Around here we call that cheating, but it’s not as bad straight up paraphrasing. We’re kind of hard core about wanting our songs to be word-for-word, so we were a little disappointed when we discovered that she did that. But, she has a really nice sound. I like her choice of instrumentation. Certainly worth the money.

Slugs and Bugs by Randal Goodgame is also nice (this one is for Children). Some of the songs are paraphrased Scripture, though, so be aware of that.

Michael E. Owens has some in psalter style, for those who like that.

I forgot to mention 2 other free albums last time. There is a set of songs from Philippians, and a set from Galatians, done by Covenant Life Church. Visit this site and scroll down until you see the ones by Covenant Life Church.

Hope you have fun exploring these!

– Laura Anne

Free Scripture Song links

About 2 years ago, my brother Benjamin started hunting down verbatim Bible songs from everywhere. He found an incredible amount of them actually, and it’s been so fun! We’ve reached a point now where we hardly listen to anything else anymore. I love it! It’s amazing how music can help me think about a text differently than I ever have before. It’s a powerful new meditation tool.

I wanted to share my favorite Scripture artists and songs with you, so that you can also reap some of the benefits of Benjamin’s hard work. This post will just be the free ones.

This first one is the entire book of James! It’s incredibly well done musically and instrumentally. http://noisetrade.com/indeliblepublishing/james

Next is Esther Mui. She is Malaysian, so she has an accent that you have to get used to. Mainly she just uses piano and her voice, but sometimes she brings in other instruments as well. I didn’t particularly like her stuff the first time I heard it, but it soon became my favorite and has remained my favorite since then. What I like best about her style is that she does longer and often less familiar passages. It’s amazing how much scripture I’ve memorized and found useful to know from her collection.
http://www.scripturesongsforworship.com

Then there’s The Verses Project. There are a lot of these that don’t particularly suit my taste, but I weeded through them one time and made a “best of” CD that has been really valuable and a favorite. If you know me personally, you can ask me sometime for a CD of those songs I collected together. Who knows though, you might like more of them then I did, so do some exploring yourself.
http://www.theversesproject.com/explore .
Here are two of my personal favorites to get you started: http://theversesproject.com/verses/32/Psalms-91.1-2
http://theversesproject.com/verses/15/Luke-12.32-34

And lastly, here’s Benjamin’s own youtube channel, where he has put some of the ones he has written: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuDRsUZ3p7y0KiCCqkxHWsA

I have more albums to share with you that are not free, but well worth the little bit they will cost you, so stay tuned for those links.

– Laura Anne