The Truth About Sin

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I’m in the middle of seven books. I know. That’s ridiculous. I’m sure you’re thinking that I’m terribly forgetful or suffering from ADD. It’s probably more of a combination of the two. If a book is hard, then I go slowly through it, so it causes me to pause a lot and I end up reading a review of  another book that sounds interesting so I give it a whirl. Or someone gives me a book. Or someone makes a suggestion about a book, so I look for it online, get it, and start reading that one, not realizing that the pile is growing. Before long, I’ve got seven books beside my bed and I’m scurrying to renew books online…it’s a crazy life. I do eventually finish the books and let others know my opinion (like it matters! Ha!).

I love reading fiction, but I also love biographies and books on spiritual topics, too. My sister suggested a book called Loving God with All Your Mind by Elizabeth George, so I’m adding it to my pile. A friend at church recommended The Invisible Hand: Do all Things Really Work for Good? by R.C. Sproul and if you read my blog, you know I love his books! Another friend in church recommended a book called Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. I’d heard of him, but never read one of his books. Well, I am now. It’s one of “the seven” and let me tell you, it’s great. Something I read this week smote me between the eyes. And yes,I just used the word “smote”, that’s another reason to worry about me. Anyway, here’s the quote that I just have to share:

Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil. Life in a fallen world is like attending the ultimate masquerade party.  Impatient yelling wears the costume of zeal for truth. Lust can masquerade as love for beauty. Gossip does its evil work by living in the costume of concern and prayer. Craving for power and control wears the mask of biblical leadership. Fear of man gets dressed up as a servant heart. The pride of always being right masquerades as love for biblical wisdom. Evil simply doesn’t present itself as evil, which is part of its draw.

from Whiter than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, page 32.

I read that paragraph, and stopped. (This is one of the books I’m taking slowly.) I rolled the words around in my mind. I’m ashamed to admit that I often catch myself thinking “I’m doing okay on the not-sinning-a-lot thing.” And maybe I am, on the outside, but my heart is nowhere near sinless. The words above hurt, but they are also helping me as I continue to mediate on them. I’m a sinner, yes, no argument there! But I’ve been saved from that sin by a sinless, holy, perfect Savior. I don’t want to wallow in sin, or self-pity for that sin. I want to confess it and trust a risen Savior for grace to do better.

These words have given me food for thought for several days. Maybe they will bless you as they have me.

With love,

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Amazing Mount Rushmore

After we finished the three day preacher’s conference in Sioux Falls,  and the trip to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s little town of De Smet, South Dakota, we headed west to see Mount Rushmore. It was out of the way and we were exhausted by the time we arrived, but when we saw the “four faces” (as Matthew calls it) for the first time, we were in awe!

I took about two hundred photos there – yes, you read that right – but I soon realized you can only photograph the side of a mountain so many times and in so many ways. It’s not like their expression will change! Haha! I did capture several different angles though. I noticed that the mountain looked different in the sunlight verses the shade, too. I enjoyed trying out my zoom lens and different settings on my camera. We had to drive seven hours after our Mt. Rushmore visit so that we could be home by Saturday, so we tried to hurry. We took a two mile hike, which led us to see the monument from different vantage points. I was so thankful that God allowed us to see it in the autumn! I can’t imagine it looking any prettier any other time of year. I was also thankful for the gorgeous day God gave us to see it. That area has already seen snow this year, so we were a bit nervous about driving and viewing conditions. All in all, it was a marvelous trip. I praise the Lord for allowing us this opportunity and for guiding us safely there and back again. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos I took.

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On our way from one side of South Dakota to the other, we passed through Pierre, the state capital. We learned that they pronounce it “peer”. We also learned that you can drive right up beside the capitol building and get your photo taken without any trouble at all! Pierre is only about 13,000 people, which is a fairly low population for a state capital. It was a lovely city though! We enjoyed our last fast food meal for the trip here.

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Our first sight of Mount Rushmore!

The following photos are from the hike we took. I was able to get various angles of the monument. Hope they don’t bore you. :)

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I loved the really blue sky in this one.

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Along the hike, you can go inside this cave and look up at the monument to see George Washington looming above you.

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My zoom lens on the Nikon allowed me to get *really* close to the faces. Look how the eyes are made! Fascinating.

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Around the base of the monument, you can see the stones that were blasted from the granite mountainside. The long divot in the rock in the center is from the explosives. They drilled into the granite, slid in dynamite and the explosion formed part of a face. In fact, 90% of the monument was shaped with dynamite! Amazing!

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Mitchell climbed up this huge rock. Behind him is the sculptor’s studio. Gutzon Borglum, the designer and main sculptor, worked in this studio where he could see the progress on the project out of the huge windows (which are behind this boulder in the photo).

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Inside the studio, you can see this scale of what the finished monument was supposed to look like. I love how it looks, but it would have been really wonderful to have seen it all finished.

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I enjoyed seeing the lovely autumn leaves so much. It’s one of the things I miss about home.

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What a joy to see this with my best friend! Every day is an adventure with this guy. ;)

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Tada! Just being silly.

I take my kids’ photos every year for frames in my living room. It’s an easy way to decorate! I was planning to snap their photos at the Wildlife Refuge near our home, but haven’t had the time. One look at the fall leaves in South Dakota and I decided I’d take the photos right there!

[Note to family members: feel free to right-click and save, if you wish. I will try to develop these and mail some out, but it may take a while.]

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We discovered on the way home that driving through western South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma is bleak. There are few gas stations and restaurants, so we did a lot of praying! ;) We did see a lot of the  “bread basket of the U.S.”, and we are thankful for the farmers who keep us fed.

This journey was a wonderful experience for our family. Thanks for tagging along with us.

With love,

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Visiting the Little Town on the Prairie

The setting sun’s rays danced through the blue sheers on my long, skinny bedroom window. The day was bidding adieu, which meant Mom and Dad would be home soon. Supper preparations would begin and we would get in our places around the table. We would be together, enjoying food and each other’s company and I would be storing up memories for the days to come. There were only three of us, now that Melanie was away at college in Chicago. Even though I often got a lump in my throat as I sat beside her empty chair at the table, there was a comfort in knowing that at least I had Mom and Dad.

And Laura.

I always had Laura Ingalls Wilder with me. She took me away, away from the loneliness I felt at night, now that Melanie was no longer there to whisper to me in the darkness. I could always turn my bedside lamp to the lowest setting, slide my book beneath the dim light and viola! I was suddenly surrounded by a whole family! Laura, Pa, Ma, Carrie, baby Grace, Mr. Edwards, Almanzo, even nasty Nellie Oleson – they were all there, making me smile, despite the deep down sadness I carried. They made me see the bonds of love that are within a family. They made me value my own snug little house in the city, and most of all, my own Dad and Mom, who were every bit as wonderful as Charles and Caroline. I would finally get drowsy enough that even loneliness could not stop sleep. As I drifted off, I wondered if I could ever talk my dad into taking me there – to the places where Laura walked with Mary, “seeing” the sunset, the wheat fields, the birds and the sky for her. Could I ever see the house where she lived? No, of course not. Mom and Dad worked too hard and had too much going on to make such a long trip.

Years passed. I met many new friends through various and sundry books, but no one held the place that Laura did. Then one day, I had the chance to visit a “Laura” place – for there were many! That first trip was to Malone, New York, (the scene of Laura’s book Farmer Boy). We visited there as we passed through on our way to Montreal, Canada. It was a thrill! But, the thrills didn’t end there! In May of 2013, I got to see Laura and Almanzo’s home in Mansfield, Missouri. I got to see Pa’s fiddle, Laura’s embroidery and quilting, and countless other items from the books.

This past week, my husband had the chance to attend a preacher’s conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and he offered to take us along. Sioux Falls is about two hours from where Pa farmed a homestead claim in De Smet, South Dakota! Terry graciously agreed to take all of us there, and by doing that he allowed me to fulfill a childhood dream. I did it –  I walked where Laura walked. I visited the places she wrote about: the homestead claim, the school, the surveyor’s house, the Brewster School, Pa and Ma’s house, and finally, their graves. It was like coming home to place I’d only seen in my mind, but felt as though I knew so well.

I suppose all of this seems silly to my practical readers, those of you who deal with reality head-on. I am the type who needs that escape that only literature can provide. In other words, I live with my head in the clouds! :)  I’m thankful for the written words that have comforted me all these years, beginning with God’s Word, the Bible. If you’d like to join me on this trek to the little town of De Smet, South Dakota, then I welcome you! If you’ve never met Laura, go find her at your local library. You won’t regret it.

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 We climbed up four flights of stairs to get a lovely panoramic view of the homestead claim. I enjoyed using my zoom lens!

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The buildings on this land are only replicas, but the land goes all the way back to when Pa followed behind a plow and sowed his first crop.

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There are several cats located on this property. They relished the attention from the girls, because they are used to children playing with them. We were there in the “off season”, so they were getting lonely. Unfortunately, Leslie broke out in hives soon after holding this kitty, so she had to take Benadryl. She was tired the rest of the day. I am allergic to cats, too, so this is as close to them as I got.

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 Laci is a big cat lover! Too bad we just can’t handle them with our allergies.

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These are the cottonwood trees that Pa planted in honor of his girls. Laura and Almanzo visited De Smet only one time after they moved to Missouri, and that was in 1931. She confirmed that these were the trees on that visit. The fall colors were simply gorgeous! Across from these trees is the Big Slough, where Laura and Carrie got lost in the tall grass and met Almanzo Wilder for the first time.

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Back in town, we got to tour the actual house where the Ingalls family lived the winter of 1879. I couldn’t take photos inside, but it was really fun  to see where they had lived. If those walls could talk! Oh wait, Laura already spoke for them. :)

The two photos below are of the Brewster school – yes, the actual building! This is the first school where Laura taught when she was only fifteen. She never wanted to teach, but did her best at it so that she could earn money to keep Mary in college in Iowa. It was quite an ordeal which she shares in the book, These Happy Golden Years.

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Mitch is ringing the bell in front of the school building where Laura and Carrie attended. This school is also mentioned in These Happy Golden Years.

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We also got to tour the house Pa built after he sold his homestead claim. He built it in town, close to the church. When he died, Caroline rented out some of the rooms to support herself and Mary. This is where both Charles and Caroline died.

I definitely relished this trip more than anyone else in the family, but I think everyone enjoyed at least part of it. During the tours, the kids were able to ask intelligent questions about Laura and her life because I’ve read all the books aloud to them – not for school, but for sheer pleasure, because that’s what the books gave to me.

Thank you so much for being here.

With love,

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The Personal Spiritual Life {Book Review}

mast20_2I fear I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but I have to say it yet again about another book: It was so good! The Personal Spiritual Life convicted me and helped me in many ways. Dr. Peter Masters, pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England, helps us navigate our way through a consistent walk with God. When finished reading this book, the Christian will be encouraged to search out the scriptures, pray more and witness for the Lord. Dr. Masters shares personal illustrations that help the believer to identify weaknesses and he debunks myths that have been perpetuated through the ages from pulpits everywhere. He also explains the spiritual gifts in a practical way, and shows us how everyone needs to work for the Lord, even be willing to participate in areas which may not necessarily be our “gifts”.

I’ll be honest, he doesn’t skirt the issues. In the chapter called “The Christian’s Personal Struggle”, he says, How dare we say to ourselves, as we give way sin, ‘It will be only this once; I will vent my anger just this time; I will covet this thing  I long for, but I will not go too far.’ ‘God forbid!’ says Paul. How outrageous!  Ouch.

Chapter three, which I’ve written about HERE, gives believers a practical plan of action for being holy. I’ll go ahead and outline it for you (I know you’re dying to know.) ;)

1. Recognise the problem: A serious determination to struggle against sin is the only way to live as a Christian, yet it is a stance that many professing Christians today, bombarded by worldliness and show-business information and entertainment, seem unwilling to take.

2 Have positive aims: Sin will not be broken and overcome without a longing to avoid it, and the preparation of a prior battle-plan of intentions.

3. Plan to avoid sin.

4. Keep up self-examination

5. Long for overall improvement

6. Seek spiritual help.

7. Mind heavenly things: To mind heavenly things is to be strongly drawn to spiritual study, reading and conversation; to be keenly concerned to hear about Christ’s mission in this world, and the blessings and trials of Christian workers everywhere; to be sensitive to the needs and experiences of other believers, so as to include them in our personal ministry of intercession; and to be always praying for vital opportunities to witness and encourage seekers.

8. Mortify sin. If the believer allows old sins to develop even a little, giving them free rein only for a while they will become harder to suppress.

He advises us on spiritual joy, which comes from regular Bible reading: Every day ask – What doctrine do I learn here? What reproof do I find? What duty and encouragement and promise is presented? And is my Lord and Saviour in the message?

Anyone ever told you they “felt” the Lord move or work? Dr. Masters says: They think imagined leadings, visions and words of knowledge springing into their minds are evidence of the Lord’s presence. All this is mistaken, and may sometimes be a form of proud spiritual elitism. They are no indication of the Lord’s presence. We know the presence of the Lord by faith.

He shares the importance of humility and the various ways that pride rears its ugly head in chapter eleven. Chapter twelve concludes the study by discussing our life of commitment to Christ, warning us not to live for our careers or financial success. He cautions against becoming distracted, as John Mark did in his early life. I like this quote regarding commitment, since it convicted me:

Here is a challenge for all of us. When we were first saved we witnessed a great deal. Do we still? We took every opportunity to pray for those to whom we spoke, and were eager to join in other outreach activities also. Are we still? Would Paul be able to say of us, ‘He is a fellowworker unto the kingdom of God, and has been a comfort [encouragement] unto me’? 

Indeed, are we as in love with Christ as we were in beginning of our new life in Him? Or have we, like the Church of Ephesus, lost our first love? Are we truly committed, or just doing our duty? I know I have fallen into the trap of going through the motions, especially regarding my Sunday school class. I don’t want to stay that way.

Blessings to you,

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Does Prayer Work? {Giveaway Winner!}

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I wanted to thank those of you who entered my giveaway! The time is up and we have a winner! Are you ready? Drumroll, please….

The winner is….

DEBBIE H.!

Please send me an email with your address.  I will mail the book out shortly.

I have been working on my own prayer life, because everyone needs to improve, and I am seeing blessings because of it. I cannot claim to have had any huge answer to prayer in recent days, but that’s not what this was  about. It’s not about finding ways to get what I want, but rather. being obedient to God and glorifying Him. I have seen God work in my heart to correct some sinful behavior, help me give praise to Him for things I once took for granted, and reverence Him in private. This past Sunday, a visiting preacher gave a sermon on this very topic! My heart was full to overflowing as he expounded from scripture some of the very things I’d been seeking to learn more about. He reminded us that if we want God to work in our lives and in our ministry, the secret is prayer. It’s not about how creative we can be, how smart we are, or even how hard we work. In fact, prayer is work, and it’s work we often leave undone.

I still have a long way to go, and this is just one step. Thanks for joining me on the journey.

With love,

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Rainbows and Mockingbirds

Well, it’s been a busy two weeks. Crazy, in fact. But today, I saw this beautiful rainbow. Then, a lovely mockingbird stopped by and sang a few notes on my front porch railing. I didn’t get a photo of the bird, because he was only there for a bit. I did manage to quickly snap one of the rainbow.

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I thank God for sending some rare beauty into my life today.

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I Love Oklahoma

It’s never easy to leave home. Even though I’m so thankful that I am now part of such an amazing church family, I must admit that I sometimes feel homesick. I miss the trees, the fall colors, the honeysuckle, and most of all, the warm ambiance of one very special brown brick house – the place where I left my heart. I miss seeing my mother frequently, and the memories that welcome me each time I crossed the threshold of my childhood home. One thing that helps me adjust to the changes is knowing that no matter where we are, there is always something to miss. No matter where I am, I miss my Dad, my partner. I long for Heaven where I will  be together forever with all of my close family and friends. Also, no matter where you are, there is always something to good. If we look long enough, we can always, always find the good! I didn’t have to look long to see there are many things about Oklahoma – not just my wonderful friends – which I love.

Last July while my mom visited us, Terry and I had the opportunity to explore a little bit of Oklahoma City. We live far enough away that making the drive often with several children in tow is unappealing. What a blessing that my mom would babysit so we could go off on our own! Here are some photos of our day in the Bricktown area of OKC. We started our date off by eating lunch at Toby Keith’s restaurant. It was very good! After that, we rode a water taxi on the river walk. We finished the day off with some shopping. This was our second excursion to the capital city, and I still have many more things on my list to see and do there.

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Mickey Mantle is from Oklahoma!

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This group was performing live in the hundred degree heat!

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Bricktown has…wait for it…bricks!

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While we wait for our water taxi.

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Part of a mural on the river walk.

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The Sonic headquarters! That’s right, my fellow slush addicts, Sonic began in OKC.

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A view from the water taxi.

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Lovely.

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This only part of a huge monument to the Boomers and the Sooners – the historical ones, not the football team. Our tour guide knew a lot of Oklahoma history. I hope to bring the kids over sometime so they can all enjoy a water taxi ride.

The more I learn about Oklahoma, and her people, the more I love it. I don’t feel like Oklahoma is “my home” yet, but I think I will someday. I’m off to a good start, anyway.

With love,

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