This picture of us was taken at a wedding reception we went to recently (Hi Nate and Ashley!). The couple had this great stand set up with floating picture frames, their monogram and the date of the wedding along with a table full of props and a camera on a tripod that had a timer feature. As the wedding guests got brave enough to venture over and give it a try, the results were pretty fun and produced some great shots (that the newlyweds wouldn't have had otherwise) of their family and friends (which I'm sure were fun to look through after they returned from their honeymoon).
I don't know where they got this clever idea, but I've noticed lately that creative wedding ideas ABOUND on the internet. We know several young couples who are getting married this year, and the wedding planning is in full force. Here are some of the ideas that I've seen lately online (stay with me, there is a point to all of this):
So many great, creative party planning ideas abound! The ideas are easy to find and as you plan, there are usually no shortage of people who will be willing to listen to all of your ideas, get excited with you about the possibilities and offer their suggestions to make the day just perfect. In the midst of all of this excitement, there are also some GREAT ideas for preparing for your pending marriage. At the end of the day, every bride and groom has to know that the wedding is only a few hours out of their lives, but their marriage is intended to last for the REST OF THEIR LIVES. Imagine a couple putting the same kind of investment into planning for marriage as most brides put into planning their wedding! Sounds like a good idea to me. Here are some ideas for planning and preparing for a life together that honors God:
I hope these practical suggestions are helpful! I can't wait to go to all of the beautiful weddings this summer and see all of our friends' fabulous ideas for the ceremonies and receptions, but even more than that, I can't wait to see how they develop strong, God honoring marriages by the energy and effort they pour in ahead of time and throughout their lives together.
Why is it that in the weeks leading up to university graduation, I become so much more attached to the seniors in our group? I start to see them differently and my heart bursts with excitement over who they have become and the possibilities that their futures hold. This year we have more graduates at one time than we have ever had in the past and I'm finding it harder and harder to keep my emotions in check as this weekend's ceremonies approach. Seriously, world, you have no idea how many fine young people are about to launch. Perhaps I'll introduce you to a few of them:
CHARLOTTE: Charlotte is a Secondary English Education and Special Education major. She is an over-comer. She is sensitive. She loves teaching and takes absolute joy in the triumphs and achievements of her students. She is loyal and kind and smart. I once drug her all over the streets of Brooklyn, in the dark, and we both lived to tell the tale (and laugh about it). She is learning to use her imagination and embrace the "what could be." Congratulations, Charlotte. I adore you and always will. Your future is so bright.
BRIANNA: Brianna is a pre-PA student, so graduation will be merely a time to take a deep breath before diving into her didactic year of the Physician's Assistant program. Brianna is a natural leader. She is witty and goofy. She is a picky eater, and somehow made it into her 20's before ever tasting a bean! I tease her that when she gives her friends make-overs they all end up looking just like her. If she stays on the path she is on, pursuing Christ wholeheartedly, who wouldn't want to look like her? Congratulations, Brianna. I'm excited about your next "mission field."
JIHYUN: Jihyun is from South Korea. He came to Lock Haven to get his Master's Degree in International Studies. When we met him, Jason and I agreed that if you looked up "Salt of the Earth" in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Jihyun. He has taught children's Sunday school classes at his church and led the International Bible study on campus, and I don't think he has ever met anyone that he didn't make laugh. How many international students do you know who would get up in front of everyone at an American church potluck and tell an embarrassing (and hysterical) story about themselves? It is this amazing blend of bravery and humility that make him so special. Congratulations, Jihyun. We are so blessed to know you.
AARON: Aaron is graduating with a degree in Community Health and has been accepted into the Master of Divinity program at seminary. He is the quietest leader I have ever met (I mean that in a great way). He has an infectious laugh and the most even temper of anyone I've met. He is unflappable. After miraculously surviving being burned over a large percentage of his body as a young man, it is apparent that God preserved his life because He has GREAT plans for him. Congratulations, Aaron. We stand with breathless anticipation to see all that God will accomplish through you in the years to come. We are your biggest fans!
RYAN & JENNA: Ryan is receiving a degree in Health and Physical Education and Jenna is graduating with a degree in Education. We had the privilege of providing premarital counseling to Ryan and Jenna and we have high hopes for them for their future together. They will both make outstanding teachers and will be a great team in ministry as well. Ryan is easy-going and has a true servant's heart (and he can traverse a high-ropes course BLINDFOLDED!). Jenna is bubbly and outgoing and has never met a stranger - only friends she hasn't gotten to know yet. We look forward to your wedding in June! Congratulations Ryan and Jenna. We have full confidence in each of you!
KASEY: Kasey, I cannot remember what degree you are getting! How lame is that? Maybe it is because she is so good at so many things. Kasey was a student athlete at LHU and we loved seeing her swim long distances at both home and away swim-meets and watch her enthusiastically cheer her teammates on poolside. She is artsy and whimsical and fun and lovely. She is tenderhearted and sincere. The world is a better place because it has a Kasey in it. Congratulations, Kasey. We wish you and Joel all the best and hope you will walk with the Lord all of your days.
JILLIAN: Jillian is graduating with a degree in Early Childhood Education. This is her second bachelor's degree! Jillian is a true friend, faithful wife, dedicated teacher, and loyal daughter and sister. She has tremendous inner strength and maintains a grateful attitude. She is not afraid of hard-work. She sees what makes people special and unique, even when they don't see it themselves. Jillian, you are an inspiration. Keep fighting to be all that God has created you to be. We love you.
Welcome these graduates with open hearts and arms, dear world! They are going to WOW you! :)
Joshua 1:9 (NIV) - "... be strong and courageous, do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go"
"So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, 'If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.'" - John 8:31-32 NASB
There are many ways to approach studying God's Word. Below is one approach to personal Bible study that Priscilla Shirer shared at the Going Beyond simulcast event today in Orlando, FL. (This is just ONE WAY to approach scripture study... not the only way.)
1. POSITION YOURSELF to hear from God. Position yourself both physically and spiritually to get the most out of your time in the Bible. Physically: reduce distractions as much as possible. Spiritually: come with a heart and mind that EXPECT to get something of great value out of your time in the Word, and come with a knowledge and acceptance of your dependency on the Holy Spirit to help you fully grasp and apply what you read.
2. POUR OVER the passage and PARAPHRASE the major points. Read, re-read, focus on, think about, consider context, give as much attention to the text as time and the situation allow. Then write down the major points in your own words. Do not twist what you have read in anyway, just write down the major points simply, in your own words.
3. PULL OUT the spiritual principles. Is there a promise made? Is there a command to follow? Is there a sin to avoid? Is there an attribute of God or man described? Write down what you find.
4. POSE the question(s). Ask yourself questions that are based on what you've read and answer them honestly. Example: Do I need to adjust my thinking or actions based on what I've read? Does my life show that I really believe this scripture? etc.
5. PLAN obedience and PIN DOWN a day and way to obey. The whole point of studying scripture is to know God better and to conform our lives to His will. Don't get up from your time studying the Bible without deciding how and when you will obey what you've felt convicted about. We do not become the people God wants us to be through happenstance, we have to be willing to make strategic decisions regarding obedience to His Word and act on them over and over again.
An aside: Make a decision to never walk away from your time studying the Bible disappointed. Sometimes it will take days of digesting a particular passage before it sinks into our souls. Also, you NEVER know how God will use what you read that day in your life or in the life of someone else. You may get up from your Bible study time feeling a little bit perplexed, like you didn't really have any clear revelation that day, and then later that afternoon you will have a conversation with someone and discover that they need to hear the exact Word from God that He gave you that morning. Our time in scripture should not just benefit us, but benefit those we come in contact with.
I went to a local book sale yesterday. It was in an old high school gymnasium and there were rows and rows of folding tables covered with all kinds of books, all for $2 or less. I went SLOWLY up and down every aisle not wanting to miss a potential treasure. The stack of books I walked away with made me laugh. There is no rhyme or reason to the things that caught my attention, but I suppose that is also just part of who I am. I like a multitude of authors,a plethora of genres, a variety of musicians, and don't even try to pin me down on what my favorite color or animal is!! How can one get tied down to just one of ANYTHING?!? ... other than a spouse, of course. :)
One of the books that caught my attention was, Faith of Our Fathers, by John McCain. I brought it home (for 50 cents, no less), and started reading it last night. In the prologue, are the following quotes:
“Our family lived on the move, rooted not in a location, but in the culture of the Navy. I learned from my mother not just to take the constant disruptions in stride, but to welcome them as elements of an interesting life.”
“First made a migrant by the demands of my father’s career, in time I became self-moving, a rover by choice. In such a life, some fine things are left behind, and missed. But bad times are left behind as well. You move on, remembering the good, while the bad grows obscure in the distance.”
I had to pause after reading this section and think about the influence that John McCain's mother had on his life. The book itself, is not about her. It is about his father and his grandfather, who were both Four Star Admirals, and about McCain's own life and how he tried to live up to his impressive military heritage. Even so, his mention of this gift of perspective from his mother in the prologue speaks volumes to me about the impact we can have in shaping our children's view of the context of their lives. His father and grandfather gave him an example to strive toward and his mother gave him a proper perspective of the challenges of his military upbringing. These influences came together, by God's grace, to make John McCain into a man who, later in life as a prisoner of war, had the fortitude to refuse a dishonorable early release by his captors based on his family legacy and endure five years of torture and solitary confinement.
As parents, it is our responsibility to give our children an example to follow and an attitude to embrace. Children don't get to choose the family or the circumstances that they are born into, but they do get to choose their attitude. There were many times in John McCain's life when he resented the pressure of being the son and grandson of Navy Admirals. His mother could have commiserated with him... she, no doubt, suffered greatly as the wife of a man who was away more than he was home and who was constantly in harms way. But she didn't. She taught him that his life was "interesting," not bad, "interesting." Over time, this birthed in him an ability to see his circumstances as temporal and his chosen attitude as permanent.
As a little girl, my parents moved our family from Florida to Arizona. We moved away from every family member and friend we knew. We moved from a lovely, brick ranch home on acreage with a pond in the backyard and horses across the street to an aluminum mobile home in a trailer park in the desert. You might think that as a child, I was devastated by the change. I was not. It was an adventure! It was an adventure because my mother and father made it an adventure. I vividly remember my mother telling me about the "chandelier" hanging in the dining room of our new home in Arizona. (It was really a simple hanging light fixture, but because of my mother's excitement and description, it was a chandelier to all of us, and we couldn't wait to get to Arizona to see it.) I remember as we drove across the county line in Arizona, as we crested a hill and the town we would be living in came into view, my father said with great pride, "Look! The promised land!" It was lovely, but it was a different kind of lovely than we had ever seen before... desert instead of forests, wide open spaces, sand and bright red rock formations instead of grass and lush greenery, a man-made lake instead of the Gulf of Mexico. In that moment, and for the rest of my childhood, however, there would be no comparing it to what we had known before, it was only "the promised land."
As an adult I have moved many times and seen much of the country and I am grateful to my parents who gave me an example to live up to and an attitude to embrace, and now it is mine to pass on to my son.
Proverbs 22:6 KJV "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."
Today I saw one of those cute printables on Pinterest. You know the ones I'm talking about. This one had a list of 21 questions to ask your kiddos. I should have glanced at the questions before I started asking Tim, but I didn't. As I made my way down the list, I realized every question had to do with ME... what he thought of me, his perceptions of me, etc. Oh dear.
Well, it certainly could have gone worse. Some of his answers were actually very sweet and even encouraging. Others were a bit too accurate, if you get my drift. Here are the results:
1. What does your Mom say to you all the time? "Do your chore sheet!" (I'd like to think I say it a little nicer than that... perhaps not? hmmm.)
2. What makes your Mom happy? "Food." (I'm working on that one, maybe by this time next year he will say something like, "the stairmaster.")
3. What makes your Mom sad? "When I do bad things." (Awww, I guess it does make me sad, but I wish he would have said something like "people living in poverty" or "seeing people hurting" or something more big picture and less day-to-day. C'est la vie. I suppose I don't show him what saddens me much of the time... I'll have to ponder that one.)
4. What makes your Mom laugh? "Funny TV shows." (That's a gimme.)
5. What did your Mom like to do when she was a kid? "Ummm, cheerleading, I think?" (Did I ever!!! I also liked riding my bike around the block in our trailer park, pretending it was a horse... ahhh, the weird old days.)
6. How old is your Mom? "You are 37, right?" (Right.)
7. How tall is your Mom? "Five Foot Four." (Wrong.)
8. What is your Mom's favorite thing to do? "Hang out with people." (I like this one.)
9. What does your Mom do when you aren't around? "Go on a date with Dad." (Yup! I'd like to think that this answer means we are communicating volumes to our son about the joy of marriage and our commitment to each other... in actuality, who knows what he's thinking!)
10. If your Mom was famous, what would it be for? "I have no idea on this one." (Thanks for the vote of confidence, Son.) ;)
11. What is your Mom really good at? "Writing." (Awww. Thanks!)
12. What is your Mom NOT good at? "Jumping." (Okay, weird answer, but okay.)
13. What does your Mom do for work? "Nothing now." (Correct-a-mundo! Unless you count laundry, cooking, vacuuming, dishes... but what almost-11-year-old boy counts those things? The DNC Advisor didn't even think that those things were work for Ann Romney and she had FIVE sons!)
14. What is your Mom's favorite food? "Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory." (Krazy Kraig's Carrot Cake Cheesecake to be exact, and their Santa Fe Chicken Salad is equally divine... well, maybe not equally.)
15. What are you most proud of your Mom for? "That she is a good Mom." (I'm not makin this stuff up, folks! Can someone hand me a tissue?)
16. If your Mom was a cartoon character which one would she be? "Umm, that smart girl from Scooby Doo. Velma?" (Well, its no Wonder Woman, but it could have been worse, I do wear glasses.)
17. What do you do with your Mom? "We watch movies... eat... go places... I don't know!" (Hmmm, time to add a bit of variety to the routine, perhaps.)
18. How are you and your Mom the same? "We both have blonde hair." (True enough.)
19. How are you and your Mom different? "Um, I'm a boy and she's a girl." (Thank you, Captain Obvious! I thought about pressing him for a different answer on this one, but I suppose that gender is an important distinction.)
20. How do you know your Mom loves you? "You tell me so." (And I always will.)
21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go? "France." "Tim, I've never been to France." "Oh. Then Disney World!" (Well, definitely in my top five anyway!)
Ask a kid in your life these questions and see what you find out! You never know unless you ask.
Now I think I will sit down and answer the same questions about my Mom and send my response to her in her Mother's Day card. :) I wonder how tall she is these days...
Today in my personal time of Bible study, I was compelled to write down all of the ways that I can find that God tells us in scripture that the Holy Spirit is (or should be) active in the lives of Believers. I tend to focus on one or two of His qualities and neglect others, but this is not the way I want to live and it is not the way I was designed to live. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is God Himself, present and active, enabling believers to do whatever God asks of us. Here is what I've uncovered so far:
- The Holy Spirit lets us know what God's will is for us. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." John 16:13 NIV
- The Holy Spirit guides us into all Truth, teaching us Truth and reminding us of Truth. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 NIV "He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you." John 16:45-15 NIV
- The Holy Spirit helps us when we pray. "In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26-28 NIV "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Ephesians 6:18 NIV
- The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God in our lives like a sword. "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17 NIV "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 NIV
- The Holy Spirit's presence in our lives is reassurance of our salvation. "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV
- He gives us the ability to understand spiritual things and to live counter-culturally when necessary. "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Corinthians 2:12-16 NIV
- The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to say no to our natural sinful tendencies. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." Galatians 5:16-18
- The Holy Spirit produces Christ-like qualities in our lives. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
I want to know God's will for my life!
I want to know what is True and be reminded of it when I forget!
I want help to pray when I don't know how to pray!
I want the Word of God to make a difference in my life and help me discern my true motivations!
I want to have assurance of my salvation!
I want to understand spiritual things and have what it takes to live out my convictions even when it is hard!
I want to be able to reject the sinful tendencies in my life!
I want my life to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control!
Apparently what I really want is to embrace the reality of the Holy Spirit of God living within me! "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." Galatians 5:25 NIV
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!