Oh, I Want To Be In That Number

Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. Revelation 14:1-5

According to the Revelation study guide I am reading, the popular opinion of the identity of these 144,000 saints is that they are the same as the group mentioned in Revelation chapter 7. LaHaye puts forth another possibility- that they are “the most outstanding 144,000 saints of the Church from the early days of the spread of the Gospel to the Rapture of the Church” (p.194)

It was at this time of year when I was in high school that we would be attending all sorts of award banquets, depending on the activities we were involved in. I was a pretty good student academically, so could count on earning some sort of award at those types of events. I remember one year being inducted into National Honor Society, having a drawing win a category in a regional art show, and honored for my involvement in theatre. It seemed like I was constantly walking up to receive some sort of plaque or certificate- fun! Toward the end, my fellow honored seatmates and I started to chat back and forth, not really paying attention to the proceedings. Suddenly, we noticed the crowd had hushed and appeared be be waiting for someone. I looked around, wondering who it could be, then my friend elbowed me in the side and said my name was called. Wow- another award! This time it was for placing high on a statewide math exam. I felt like Anne of Green Gables that night, lugging home all these prizes.

How much greater would it be to be included in God’s National Honor Society? How infinitely more important is it to strive in this life to be considered worthy in His eyes? Earthly tokens and badges say to us, “Good job. Your efforts had value. You have accomplished something special.” I can’t even imagine what the honors of Paradise would look like, handed a crown from the LORD as he says, “Well done. Your sacrifice has value to Me. I made you for a purpose- loving Me, and you did your best to accomplish that while on Earth.” I’ll make sure to be paying close attention this time.

Some say this world of trouble,
Is the only one we need,
But I’m waiting for that morning,
When the new world is revealed. ~ from “When The Saints Go Marching In”

They are led in with joy and gladness;
they enter the palace of the king.
Psalm 45:15

Freezer Jam!

dsc03286.JPGI came across Marie’s Make and Take blog the other day, and just had to make myself a batch of her freezer jam. This opens up many more possibilities for putting by the fresh fruits we get this summer- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries…Mmmm, mmm, good, to borrow a line from Campbell’s. 🙂

What Did He Say?

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
John 12:24-26

I heard quite a courageous sermon today by J. Steven Wilkins, titled “We Hate Children”. [Once at the blog link, click on the title of the post to download the mp3.] Shocking, right? It got my attention, and the attention of his congregation, I am sure. What follows are my random thoughts on this powerful message.
I appreciated so many things that Pastor Wilkins had to say. Like the Amy Carmichael biography I am reading, this sermon helped me be better able to express what I believe when it comes to children. I am convinced that God wants Luke and me to be open to having as many children as He gives us. This position we hold is often met with statements from people that require me to defend myself.

For me, it comes down to a matter of dying to my selfish nature. I’ve written at length about my continuing journey in this here. God has called me to do things in this life that may be exhausting, painful, or at least very difficult. That doesn’t mean I refuse to do them or find some way to get around His instructions. It means I buckle down and endure in His grace and strength. The above passage in John is my goal. To be totally spent means to really live. To truly value life, I must not consider mine at all. Those that value their own life over others’ will lose everything.

I heard Pastor Wilkins say something in the sermon at one point,

“Unbelief is present-oriented, and suicidal for that reason.”

This was a strange, complicated phrase, and I had to really think about it to figure out what it might mean. The word suicidal in there leads me to think he’s saying basically what I am in the above paragraph- defining the essence of having a life, yet taking it by one’s own self-centeredness. Any individual or culture that is anti-God is naturally self-absorbed, and only focused on the here and now. Since they have no hope past themselves, they will not give in sacrifice or make any provision for tomorrow. The unbeliever will waste away, destined to die by their own inaction. This is not God’s way, and must grieve Him so to watch the progression of unbelief. God is the author of life, of hope, of a future.
Other neat thoughts from the sermon:
~As a husband and wife, we are used in the creation process. What a privilege to play this part in building His kingdom!
~Children are not an accident of marriage! It is easy to start thinking of a pregnancy like a ticking bomb- something to approach with great caution and planning, or avoid entirely. I hear phrases like “when we decide to have a child” or “she got pregnant” or “that baby wasn’t planned” or “why would they have a kid at a time like this?” God is the one that gives and takes away life. Viewing life as “an accident”, we start to think conception is our doing, and can forget God’s complete sovereignty. Sure, I have questions like everyone else as to why He has given life to some less deserving, and taken it away from others more deserving, or why He lets birth control work in the first place, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that this whole area of reproductive abilities is under His control. There are no accidents.

Malachi 2:15 was mentioned in the sermon.

Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring.

Here it states one reason for marriage- to produce godly offspring. I liked how Pastor Wilkins admonished the young people present to choose a mate carefully. It isn’t enough to marry a Christian; they must find a partner who realizes their calling to become one and produce godly offspring.

Our future generations’ existence depends on the decisions couples are making right now as they pertain to having children, and raising them to be godly. Take a half hour to listen to this timely message. Hopefully neither the title of it nor my post have scared anyone away. 🙂

Thanks to Sherry for mentioning this enriching sermon.

Midwives and OBs

Another pregnant friend and I were talking yesterday about our pregnancies (what else, right?), and she asked me which I preferred- a midwife or an obstetrician. I told her I would have to think about my answer. I’ll put those thoughts down here.

I’d have to say that my preferences have changed over the years; with each experience I begin to see things differently.

My first pregnancy, I saw a pair of obstetricians, both men, in Mansfield who were Christians. Finding a caregiver who shares your beliefs is certainly a noble pursuit, especially when looking for one who deals with reproductive health. But, at the time, their worldview mattered more to me than their abilities or personality. I have learned that there should be a balance, especially if one is in a location where they can’t find a Christian provider. My OB’s turned out to be quite knowledgeable with good discernment, and I was especially grateful for that when my pregnancy ended early in miscarriage, and the OB wisely let me go without a D&C. Much of that one doctor’s advice still comes back to mind from time to time when I have a problem or question. I will probably go back to them when we are living in that area again.

We lived in Columbus for my next pregnancy, and I decided to see the OBGYN other family members saw. I was still holding Christianity a top priority, and had heard that this guy prayed with his patients! Wow. Unfortunately, his spirituality was no match for my first-time-in-labor ignorance, and I was badly burned by this experience with a ‘typical OB delivery’- induction after water breaking, pushing before I was ready, use of forceps, and other unpleasantries. I can’t turn back time, but this is one of those events I wish I could relive.

Bitter, anti-OB feelings steered me in a different direction: midwives. I began seeing one in Columbus recommended to me by some friends in our playgroup. There were two or three midwives in the practice, so chances were I would have one of them, and never see the OB, for my second child’s birth. They didn’t do ultrasounds, which I at first disliked but came to appreciate after baby no. 3 was born. They were very hands off, and big on me being in charge of my delivery, like having me write a birth plan outlining my hopes for labor and delivery. When my due date came and left, they didn’t seem ruffled at all, just reminded me that “babies come when they are ready”. On the morning of Luke’s birthday, I was bemoaning the fact that baby just wouldn’t come today, that would be too good a thing. A few hours later, I was having regular contractions. Not having a (good, normal) experience to look back on, I figured I was just beginning labor when we went to see the midwife. To my utter relief, I was already at six and could head to the hospital. Not long after I had gotten registered and into a gown, I was feeling the urge to push! I share this only because it wasn’t until my second labor that I learned about this. Why wasn’t I more able to get the first labor right? I can only blame the OB I had so much. I know of many who have had similar “first labor” experiences, and wonder what it is we all missed. We took the hospital classes, we read the “What To Expect..” books. Is it something that just has to be tried (and failed) once to really “get it”? If so, I grieve for my girls. I will do whatever is in my power to stop this ignorance with me.

Onto my slick-as-grease third child, who I was pushing out in the car on the way to the hospital. I’m not sure Luke has been much more afraid as he was that night, at the prospect of delivering a baby on the berm of I-270. I had the same midwives, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the janitor scrubbed in for this one; only hands were necessary for catching the baby. I praise our Creator for the quick delivery; this was ultimate grace when it was discovered he had a mild form of spina bifida. A long labor followed by a reality like this would have been extremely difficult. Come to think of it, finding this out via ultrasound at week 22, then having a long labor, then dealing with it…You can see how much worse emotionally and physically it could have been. I am thankful there were no ultrasounds. I continue to marvel at the way He sustained us there, and in the weeks to come.

We have been in Marion for babies four, another miscarriage, five, and six. I sought out a midwife when we moved here, thinking that this was the only way to have a good labor and delivery (I was still a bit jaded against OBs). Andrea was nice enough, but when my due date arrived and passed, suddenly this baby “wasn’t coming out”, and “when did I want to schedule my induction?” There were only a few openings, and I got suckered into losing a week of waiting to go naturally. I now am certain that boldness is not one of my strengths. 🙂 But, I didn’t expect this kind of pressure from my midwife! What happened to “babies come when they are ready”? Apparently, Andrea saw things differently. Therefore, I started to see things differently. Maybe midwives were not always acting in my best interests, either.

My second miscarriage was somewhat traumatic, requiring a D&C. The OB over Andrea performed this, and I appreciated his thoughtful manner and caring attitude. He had appointments in another location the afternoon I needed the procedure, and canceled them so I would not have to wait another day. I will not forget that. Because of Dr. Smith’s example, OB’s from then on were forgiven in my book.

Dr. Smith delivered number five, since he was the one on-call when I went in. What stands out about this delivery was that it seemed like Little A was taking a long time to come out. I think back to my first OB- he might have been using forceps by then. Dr. Smith just waited, very calmly. His confidence in me helped me to finish that labor well.

Both Andrea and Dr. Smith moved away, leaving me with a new midwife for number six. Not only that, she lived out of town, so it was a little tense those last few weeks of pregnancy, wondering if I should go ahead and schedule an induction, just to make sure I had her to deliver. She didn’t seem too concerned, so I tried not to worry. As usual, my due date was a day like any other, and I wondered what my midwife would say about an induction now that I was overdue. She seemed surprised I was thinking of having one. Yes! I had a midwife who thought “babies will come when they’re ready” again! She ended up being out of town for baby’s birth; I was introduced to one of Marion’s other fine OB’s while in transition! He turned out to be super friendly and very wise- he actually talked me out of an epidural (I beg for one each time- long story), pointing out how close to the end I was. I really liked him. Yet another OB worthy of respect and trust.

All this to say, when choosing a midwife or OB, it really depends on what kind of person the midwife or OB is. I used to hang onto preferences I had that I thought were important, and would make my choice accordingly. What I really should have been doing was prayerfully considering my choices each time, then proceeding accordingly. This last birth has shown me that God really is taking care of me, and can order events even when they are (gasp!) out of my control. I wonder how much better things would have gone all along the way if I would have trusted Him more.

The king’s [or OB’s, or midwife’s] heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. Proverbs 21:1

Other Stirrings

On Dating:

Modern American dating is no more than glorified divorce practice… And instead of stepping in and doing something, many Christian parents simply view these types of relationships as a normal and necessary part of growing up. Unless your child is wiser than Solomon, stronger than Samson, and more godly than David (all of whom sinned sexually), they are susceptible to sexual sin, and these premature relationships serve as open invitations.

On Children:

The idea that motherhood, fatherhood, and family are not as honorable as high-income careers or highly visible ministry positions is biblically uninformed at best and grossly heretical at worst.

…The size of our families has become a matter of income and convenience… I am amazed at the number of people I meet who live in two-thousand-square-foot homes with two cars parked outside and argue that they can only “afford” to have one or two children. Amazing! Our forebears successfully raised houses full of children in homes that we would now consider meager at best, but we can’t afford it.

~Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith

family.JPG

I’ve changed my mind. The topic I originally wanted to discuss, I am now feeling like I don’t want to go there with this blog. Instead, I thought I would go through some more of Voddie’s statements about things that can rival God for our affections.

Before he mentions sports in the chapter, he points out the danger of prioritizing our children’s intellectual education over their spiritual education. In a post earlier, I quoted Baucham as saying that many times “we trade in the biblical standard for a cultural norm” (p.18). Here’s what he says next:

The result is a generation about whom Christian Smith has written, “Religion seems to become rather compartmentalized and backgrounded in the lives and experiences of most U.S. teenagers.” [Christian Smith, Soul Searching] This…is completely understandable in light of the minimal weight given to spiritual matters. Smith explains:

This is not surprising. It simply reflects the fact that there is very little built-in religious content or connection in the structure of most U.S. adolescent’s daily schedules or routines. Most U.S. teenagers’ lives are dominated by school and homework.

~Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith

Please excuse the quotes within a quote; I found these lines too important not to share in their entirety. One of the biggest struggles in an individual’s spiritual life is putting the Lord first every day and making time to fellowship with Him; I can’t help but think that today’s Christian families, being a group of many individuals, would have the same trouble being consistent in their devotion to God. It gets “backgrounded” to Sundays and the occasional Wednesday, if there isn’t anything else going on. Not only that, but we have our culture conditioning us to think we are nothing without “a good education”. I take full responsibility for my actions, but cannot ignore the influence my culture has had on my decisions in life, and now guiding my children in life. Oh, how I long to be free of society’s chains- it can happen if I make God’s word and will a priority over my faulty worldview.

Stirring The Waters

When I posted the other day about Voddie Baucham’s views on kids involved with sports, I rather expected some opposing comments. When all of the feedback came in on a positive note, I felt a little like Dash in The Incredibles, when someone catches the icicle Frozone makes before it drops, pouting, “I like it when it shatters.” See, I was hoping to hear from anyone with a different take on the issue, but nobody left comments like that.

Sara, however, has used the last few days to think things over, and has posted on her blog her thoughts concerning Voddie’s statements. I really enjoyed reading what she had to say, and think she made many good points. Some highlights:

I wish I could ask Mr. Baucham why sports, or any extra-curricular activities, can’t be used as a vehicle to re-enforce these Christian values? Can’t friendships be built on a ball field? Can’t you swing a bat with joy in your heart, even if you’re not good at it? And why, oh why, if God chose for us to live during an era where there is time and opportunity for evangelism, should we not take advantage of it?

Definitely head over there to read the whole post. I bring this up here more than just to spotlight Sara’s well- thought- out conclusions. There are many controversial issues these days, that many Christians think they need to be on one side or the other on, when there may be a middle ground, something apart from what either extremist could come up with.
My next post is near and dear to my heart, one of those very controversial subjects within born-again circles. I pray I can lay it out as carefully and sensibly as possible, for it is going to be a major portion of the testimony I am working on. LaHaye was saying in his Revelation study guide how a true testimony is simply speaking the Gospel. If I am to testify of the Gospel, and God’s work in my life, this one area of my life shines as an example of what God can do when I let go, as I die daily to self-preservation. Amy Carmichael’s biography couldn’t have come at a better time- it has given me more words to express what I have been needing to flesh out in my own worldview for a long while.
Anyhoo, just to warn you, more chances to argue duke it out respectfully disagree ahead.

I Really Don’t Like Cats

Yesterday we almost lost Kiki.
dsc02759.JPG Sometimes when the sliding glass door is left open, she wanders out onto the deck. Just before dinner, I saw her out there, and called her in. She wouldn’t come, and I had to shut the door and get on with my business, so I promptly forgot about her being out there.
Later, while we were watching home movies, we heard what sounded like the neighbor cats fighting on the deck. Luke went out there, shooed the cats off, and returned to the house.
Still later, we hear another cat fight, and I remember saying, “Those cats are really obnoxious sometimes,” while Luke breaks it up, this time with a broom.
Then, at bedtime, I notice that I haven’t seen Kiki around lately. I search Carol’s room, no cat. Basement- no cat. Then it hits me- I probably never let her back in from the deck, and those howls earlier were probably her getting her bell rung by the Caledonia Cat Gang! Luke and I both proceeded to call her, and look around the deck and surrounding flower beds for her. It was dark, though, and with no flashlights, this was not getting us anywhere. I remembered that the sound of her food bag being shaken often will bring her out of hiding. Kiki’s package of Meow Mix is as big as my five year old, so I decided to substitute a can of oats. I’m out there shaking this can, calling “Kiki! Kiki” and Luke comments, “Oh, so you really do like her!” I quickly responded that no, I do not like her, I just don’t want to be the person who goes down in history UNDER MUCH SUSPICION regarding her disappearance. Upcoming family gatherings would be fraught with whisperings about “who ‘forgot’ to let the cat in that night?” and “who never gave the cat any bowls of milk?” and I would never live it down. Sure, I’d like to see her go, but one of my (minor) goals in life is to not be responsible for her demise. I decided to leave out her food bowl and water, in the hopes these would draw her back.
While getting a drink of water later I thought I’d check one more time outside- and up the deck stairs saunters Kiki, tail high as ever, like she had just come home from the most enjoyable Fancy Feast with her friends. I would rather have her with her tail between her legs and an ear bit off- that would make this story more exciting. But there it is. She is back, safe and sound. Even ventured out again today- the nerve! We can’t let anything happen to her while Carol is away, so I’ll continue to swallow my pride and shoo her back in the house.