Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Welcome to the Wermel's Apartment
The little silver dish was a birthday gift from Lacy :)
Finally gave in and bought some gold plate chargers.
Probably the only snow I'll see in Texas ;)
Mom sent us some gifts to open on Thanksgiving Day- this Nativity scene was such a beautiful surprise! Thanks Momma!
Doggies are tired from decorating all day Friday after Thanksgiving- they're catching up on their rest today.

Our beautiful tree comes from West Jefferson, North Carolina!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Even if

It's a little too quiet in my apartment. My turkey is thawing in the fridge, and I've vacuumed everything twice already. Andy cleaned the bathrooms last night. I don't need to start cooking until tonight. Andy's gone to work. I'm sure there's school work I could do, but my mind wants a break from all that.

I got up and started thinking about my Mom. She'll be busy as a bee today- cleaning, prepping for the big meal at her house tomorrow. Last year, I was home with her- dusting and polishing and arranging live branches I'd collected from the yard in the vases that only get used when I come home. When I think about not being there, it's easy to get sad or even angry, so I decided to come into the study and spend some quiet time with the Lord.

We're beginning to learn about the life of Abraham in BSF Genesis study. I've always sort of dreaded learning about Abraham- because his story begins with leaving. Even when I was younger, and wasn't so inclined to stability, I wasn't nuts about the principle of following God wherever He asks you to go. It was always costly. But it got harder, a lot harder, as I got older and the cost seemed to go up and up.

I studied Genesis probably seven years ago in BSF, and it's funny how life has altered my interpretation of Abraham's life story. Seven years ago, it was the initial call on his life that stood out to me. Here in Austin on the 21st of November, with my family in North Carolina, and an undetermined amount of time here ahead of me- I am most impressed by Abraham's choice to continue to trust in God throughout his entire life.

I am beginning to understand the meaning of faith "without sight." I think that I've often let my mind be tricked into believing that true faith- big faith- is accompanied with some sort of major action- like moving to the mission field or adopting orphans from Africa. That's not true. Faith is accompanied by action. James made that abundantly clear, but what precedes that action is true heart change. Faith cultivates the heart, so that genuine action can follow. If all we do is pursue the action, then it's not the real deal. I've found myself tempted to do just that at times here in Austin- I guess to try to make sense of the emotional mess that I've lived in here. But God is too clever for that- and good for Him. I've come to really appreciate that God is not a liar, nor can He be lied to. It might be my favorite thing about Him at this point in my life. That, and His persistence with me. Rather than letting me pursue my actions and get further entrenched in my own self-righteousness, He keeps on after my heart- and allows the circumstances that create a need for Him to remain in my way until I realize that what He's doing is better than just making everything okay, or allowing me to feel like some super-star Christian. I think that's what was going on with Abraham. He moved, but what was really even the point of moving? He didn't set up a mission or start some sort of ministry. He just did what God told Him to do when He told him to do it. It was Abraham's heart that God was after- and his changed heart eventually affected an entire nation.

I am learning this- slowly but surely- God is after my heart, not out to please me or set me into continuous action so that I can feel good about myself. He wants my heart to be devoted to Him unconditionally. Who can blame Him? How cheap would it be for me to just want what He can do for me (though I confess that has been my heart attitude toward Him a lot of the time) Why He wants anything to do with me, I do not really understand, but I do understand needing to prune the spoiled, self-centered nature that resides within me so that I can truly enjoy Him for who He is. All of this is "too lofty for me to attain" but I catch glimpses of it, and He is God, what can I do but eventually submit to Him?

In that vein, I've started to begin to ask God for Himself again- just Him- a prayer I haven't prayed in a really, really long time. I've wanted Him to fix things, to give me things, and that kind of faith isn't the kind of faith that Abraham had- it's not the kind that really pleases God. I don't think He minds if I ask Him for things. His Word says that I should. But I do think that He's hoping that I'll want Him more than the perfect set of circumstances. And I think He's been working on my heart to help me actually desire that for a long time now.

So this quiet morning, though I'd actually really love to be at home with my mom, cleaning bathrooms and collecting leaves from her yard, I chose to sit in my study and ask God for Himself- no strings attached. North Carolina or Texas, understood by others or misunderstood forever, riches or poor- let's just be together. I need You. You are good.

This song by Kutless came to mind and I wanted to share it.

You are God and I will bless you as the Good and Faithful One. You are God and I will bless you, even if the healing doesn't come.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

From above...

I'm on Thanksgiving Break, which means I don't have to spend my afternoon grading papers or  trying to get everything prepared for the busy week ahead. This rest is needed, not just on a physical level, but a spiritual one.

Andy's at the Formula 1 race having a great time this weekend (his 30th birthday present from me!)  I've been home catching up on sleep. I woke this morning as physically rested as I have been in a  long time. Andy left for the race early, and I found myself with several hours of alone time before having to get ready for church. Almost always, when I'm left with such time, I start some sort of project. This morning, I decided to open our Christmas decorations and sort through them. I wasn't going to put anything up, but I LOVE decorating for Christmas, and I wanted to sort of develop a master plan for decorating the apartment the Friday after Thanksgiving. I also wanted to see if there would be anything I needed to pick up to fill in any "decor gaps" while I'm on break this week.

I had a Christmas DVD playing, and I thought that I would be put in a very Merry mood by the work. But by 10AM, I was on the sofa with Gatsby in my lap, feeling sad. This surprised me because I'm very excited about Christmas. Especially since we're not traveling home for Thanksgiving this year, I'm so happy about preparing for our Holiday trip to North Carolina, as well as trying to enjoy the December days that Andy & I will spend in Austin before school lets out.

The movie ended, and I switched to TV mode, and was delighted to find myself with a front row seat at "First Baptist Atlanta." I love watching Charles Stanley. My parents watch him on Sunday mornings as they get ready for church, so listening to the wisdom in that very Southern drawl reminds me of home and brings comfort to my soul.

Charles Stanley was talking about adversity being a bridge to the heart of God. He said that God allows adversity to come into our lives so that we can grow into a more intimate relationship with Him. I've heard this before, I've even written about it before. I've walked that bridge in years past and found joy in my Father's embrace. But that was years ago. And this Sunday morning, as I sat with my best buddy on my lap, I realized that there's an adversity bridge before me that I have refused to walk. I knew this because of the Christmas decorations. There I sat, three new decorative trees from Hobby Lobby sitting on the coffee table before me, Santas and candles strewn about- proof positive of my ongoing submission to my own desires to control my circumstances.

Obviously there is nothing wrong with decorative trees or Santas. God has spoken to my heart about this before- there is nothing wrong, in fact, there's a lot of right in wanting to create a comfortable, happy home for your family. But it is wrong- dead wrong- to use something as simplistic as decorating to try to control my circumstances. And I do this all the time. But it's not just decorating- it's work in general- it's the drive to achieve, to accomplish, to perfect. I follow that drive into exhaustion in an effort to escape a truth that Charles Stanley was making painstakingly clear- all things.... ALL THINGS... come from the Lord above.

And there's the problem for me. Because there are a handful of things in my life that I have absolutely refused to have seen as being from the hand of God. They are things that have hurt me deeply- a pain that I avoid by trying to accomplish other things. Things like sorting through Christmas decorations and working too hard at school. Charles Stanley said that on this adversity bridge, the railings on either side are each of the following:
1. That God is in control of our circumstances.
2. That God is working those things out for our good.
These two basic Sunday school truths sound easy enough, but when something comes into your life that you just really, really do not want, it's hard to stand still and believe that thing is coming from God. Instead, I want to say that it's the fault of other people, and I think that if I can just avoid those people, then I can get away from the circumstance all together.

I am recognizing that the root of my false belief is this- I have believed that God will only bring pleasant things into my life. I don't know why it is that I believe this, or even when it started. I think perhaps it was sometime in my mid-twenties. I suffered heart-ache from my own poor choices in my early twenties, and then, I though that as I began to more faithfully follow God, that God would start to reward me with good things because I was, in my own thinking, a much better girl now.

But God has made it abundantly clear to me that was not His plan. He did give me one of the greatest desires of my heart- my sweet Andy, but with that, He gave me a life far from my home and my family and that has always been so hard. Other deep heartache has also always been associated with our marriage-  and so it was that this sweet, good gift- came with strings that I did not want to be attached to. Those strings are my adversity bridge. They are meant for my good. They are from God and meant to help me draw closer to Him. But I don't want to walk across to the Father. I want to run away to Pottery Barn. Because walking through the adversity means facing the painful things that are not under my control and giving thanks for them. Accepting them. Submitting to the Holy God who chose them for me.

I went to Hill Country Bible Church after First Baptist Atlanta and was encouraged again by the message there- it was about thanksgiving in prayer. The minister said that as we give thanks to God for all things- all things- especially the things that we find it difficult to be thankful for- that we find our gratitude in the character of God, and not our circumstances.

When Charles Stanley closed his sermon, he thanked God for not giving us fullness and joy in our circumstances- so that we could find fullness and joy in Him. Wow. I spend so much time trying to get my circumstances to work out perfectly so that they will bring fullness and joy, and I am so frustrated and sad when they don't. When I got home from HCBC, I still felt sad, but I got on my knees and cried out to God. I am sad. I'm sad in my heart about how some things have turned out, but trying to cover it with Christmas decorations isn't going to help- wallowing in self-pity isn't either. Giving thanks to God, and walking over this adversity bridge into His arms is the only right thing to do.

I am praying that God will help me to truly believe that these things that I fight and want to run away from or be angry at, are ultimately from Him, and that He is indeed currently working them out for my good. My heart still aches with the truth of that, but aching is better than numbness, and maybe, if I just walk forward, I'll feel His arms sooner than later, and I will see that it has all been for good.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father... James 1:17a

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Fall

The story has sounded so redundant and lame every time I've told it that I hesitate to blog about it and wouldn't except that- it's true- and no matter what, I find that the truth has a way of seeping into your life and affecting everything- no matter how much you might try to resist it.

So here's the story of my fall- and why I haven't written- shoot, why I've barely even thought much for the past eight weeks.

It starts with school, and I won't go into the nitty gritty details- but I've had too much work to do. My teacher friends will get the gist of this- the rest of you can just scroll down and look at the pictures. I've got five classes this year, with four preps - all of them are lab courses and one of them is AP Biology. In addition to all of that academic stuff, I agreed to be the student council faculty adviser and with that responsibility came the planning of the main Texas fall event- homecoming.

To raise money for our homecoming dance, the student council (and myself) sell shaved ice at football games. This is a sticky, and time-consuming endeavor, and the very first week of shaved ice responsibility- I managed to tear some tendons or something in my left foot. (yes, I was walking the dogs in heels on my lunch break) This was the end of August, I believe. Andy was out of town the week it happened, and I was on crutches for a few days and hobbled for a few weeks afterwards. I think that hurting my foot was the advent of the craziest first quarter ever.

Here's a picture of my nasty, swollen foot. I sent it to Lacy when I was crying on the sofa, feeling very sorry for myself.

Planning Homecoming is like a full time job. There was money to raise, mums to be ordered, a DJ and a venue to call, games to plan, and, to top it all off, this was the first year that our school acquiesced to the student body's desire for a homecoming court. So we voted, and we had a king, queen, prince and princess. It was all very fun, and very overwhelming and very, very tiring. But I did enjoy some fun moments- like when I put the queen's tiara on my head on Homecoming Friday and sent this pic to my mom and Lacy.

Andy & I did have a fun time at the dance, and I'm trying to track down a couple of the Homecoming Dance photos to share. The theme was "Phantom of the Opera" so we both had masks to wear to chaperone the dance. We even went out to IHOP after the dance to celebrate the end of homecoming, though I almost fell asleep in my strawberry pancakes.

The weekend after Homecoming was my 30th birthday, and, even though I wasn't quite caught up with all of my grades for the end of the quarter, Andy & I caught a flight on October 19 headed to NYC! My parents and Grant met us there, and we celebrated the weekend together. It was oh so sweet to get to see them on my birthday and to spend time together playing tourist in New York! I have some photos- but not many. My camera died when I went to the DR, and my phone serves as camera these days. Since my phone battery died on Saturday afternoon, there aren't too many good pics. I'm going to ask Santa for a new camera this Christmas... or next Christmas... or sometime when Santa can afford it. Anyway, here's what I've got...

The Big (Lego) Apple
Inside St. Patrick's
Took this shot in Times Square Saturday AM, but we went to see WICKED on Saturday night.
On the double-decker bus on Saturday morning

Flatiron Building as seen from the bus tour. This was one of Andy's favorites.

Black & White Cookie- one of my favorites! :) 

New building at the WTC
St. Paul's Chapel. Love that you can see my mom and dad in the reflection here. :)
This picture is inside the vestibule at St. Paul's. I thought it was really powerful.
Subway ride down to 34th St. Blurry but one of my favorite shots from the whole trip!
Sunday morning was perfect weather for visiting the top of the Empire State Building. Andy smiling by the ARMY placard.
My 30 year old self on top of the world. Sort of. Lady Liberty is keeping me company in the background.
Andy & I are looking north toward the park. This is my only proof that Grant was there- he took this picture. Grant doesn't like his picture taken.
Me & my Momma! My one regret from this trip was not getting a pic with me and my dad- what was I thinking? We need more family photos in general this Christmas, ya'll.  
Beautiful tree in Central Park. Andy & I got to just stroll around on Saturday afternoon. It was magical.
So after the amazing weekend, I spent the next four days grading non-stop, and then crashed. This weekend has been the most restful and refreshing weekend in a long time. Andy & I have gotten to spend a lot of time together, and tonight we'll complete one of our traditions- pumpkin carving! Maybe I'll even take some pictures, and maybe, just maybe, I'll get to post them before two more months goes by. No promises. Life is busy, beautiful, exhausting and good.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What I didn't do this summer.

 I don't have anything profound to say today but I just wanted to reflect on the summer because, like every summer before it- It was here, and now it's gone. When you're a teacher and you go back to school, everyone asks one another, "Did you have a good summer?" and then the next question inevitably is, "What did you do?" And I've found that, unless someone went on a spectacular vacation, the answer is almost always, "Not much." I wonder if we teachers shouldn't ask one another, "What did you NOT do this summer?" I bet that we would get a lot more info if we reversed the question. So I thought that, just for kicks, I would answer the question in this way and write about what I didn't do this summer, and how bad it wasn't.

1. I did not wake up at 5AM. Not even once.
2. I did not grade anything.
3. I did not answer emails from upset parents.
4. I did not ever not have the energy to cook dinner.
5. I did not stay pasty white. ;)
6. I did not have to miss my mom so much- I was with her for almost a month!
7. I did not miss quiet time- not perfect on this one, but I did commune with God almost every day.
8. I did not love every book that I read, but I did read five.
9. I did not get so busy that I had no time to spend with my husband.
10. I did not miss many long morning walks with Gats & Daisy.
11. I did not avoid the media- I have been for two years for personal reasons- but after time to rest and renew my mind, I subscribed to Austin American Statesman and read BBC news almost every morning.
12. I did not feel guilty when I stayed in bed reading and dozing off until almost noon.
13. I did not drink as much soda or eat as much junk food.
14. I did not miss any opportunity to play soccer. (that I was in town for)
15. I did not miss many of the Olympic events- including watching Team USA Women's soccer win gold.
16. I did not stay in Texas all summer- spent time in the NC mountains and beach! :)
17. I did not stop desiring reconciliation and healing in the broken areas of my life.
18. I did not stop dreaming about how to become a better teacher.
19. I did not stop wanting to know Jesus authentically.
20. I did not rest completely- there was always something to think and pray through, but I did rest, and I'm more convinced than ever that this year I will need to rest in the shadow of the Almighty to not repeat some of the same stressful things and sinful mistakes that happened over the past two years.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Explosive Weekend

This weekend Andy had drill. Andy sends me a link on drill weekends with Austin's "Weekend Piks"- things that might be fun for me to do with myself in and around Austin while he's away. I picked the Fredericksburg Trade Days. F'burg is my favorite place to spend a day shopping for random treasures, and eating good German food. The "Trade Days" happen once a month in a fair-ground type area outside of town.
Trade Days draws people who like to buy and sell crafts and "antiques" ;) It's a great example of how one man's trash becomes another man's treasure. I didn't buy anything, but there were some interesting things to look at. Like this booth where there was a disturbingly large collection of doll's heads...

I find that shows like this tend to be overpriced. Even this cactus (which I admit was beautiful) was over $100.

Bones. Weird. People buy this stuff?

Everything for sale- even the kitchen sink.

Trade days has some good eats. I had lunch at a place that smelled like brisket and boasted these Texas flag picnic tables. So Texan.
Lavender grows beautifully in the Hill Country.

Fredericksburg is almost always teeming with weekend shoppers and diners. It's a great place to get away for the weekend.

I had to pick up Andy's favorite treat from the Fredericksburg Bakery- a sweet German pretzel.
I don't know if there's anything you actually need for sale in Fredericksburg. There are dozens of shops full of unnecessary objects that are just for fun- like this little plaque. And the earrings I ended up buying. ;)

Jager Schnitzel, potatoes, sauerkraut. Ohsogood.
Andy was done with drill on Sunday, and was actually back in ATX in time for us to go to church and have Sunday lunch. Afterwards, though, we packed up for an overnight trip to Houston to see my favorite band of all time- Explosions in the Sky. I've loved this band for years, but have never seen them perform live, and even though they live in Austin, we had to drive to Houston to see them play. They haven't done too many shows in the past year or so, and they'll be overseas most of this year. So we were fortunate to get to see them at Warehouse Live in Houston.

Kinda dark, but this is me waiting for the show to begin.

The show was awesome- mesmerizing and powerful. Even Andy really enjoyed it- he even got feisty and told some Chatty Kathies standing near us to pipe down so we could hear the music without any distractions. Thanks for taking me, baby! It was AWESOME to go with you. ;)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A shocking story

The past week or so I've been immersed in a best-selling crime novel. When I've not been eating, sleeping or hanging out with people, I've been reading this book. I'm not going to mention the name of the book because it's not necessarily something that I can recommend to my students- and some of ya'll read this old blog every now and then when you're bored. Reason being, there's a lot of violence and sexual content that is pretty rough. I try to skip over some of that stuff as I'm reading, but it's still there. Reading the book has given me some pause spiritually. I've prayed a couple of times, "Should I be reading this?" And I haven't really gotten a clear answer "Yes." or "No." But it's been on my mind so much that I found myself journaling about it during my quiet time this morning.

My main dilemma was not actually with exposure to the content itself (like I said, I was sort of editing as I read) but with the amount of time I was spending immersed in murders and exploitation. I began to write about how I felt like my time reading this crime novel would not qualify as time spent dwelling on what is noble, pure, true, excellent.. as per Philippians 4:8. And then, I had to be honest, I found myself thinking (praying, really) about how I don't want to stop reading the book because I like the story- the story is exciting. The characters are smart and adventurous and I don't want to let them go. I'm interested- I confessed- and I don't want to become un-interested.

I sat there and looked at my little devotional book that I truly love, but at the moment, thought just could not compare to the entertainment I've been finding in my crime novel. I know that entertainment is not everything. But I was being honest with my feelings about this situation with God. I like my crime novel. I like my devotional. But they seem so separate from one another. I have the (incorrect) tendency to think that the Bible is all hearts and rainbows (and I mean, there are hearts and rainbows in the Bible) and that if I want a really good psychological thriller, then I'll have to turn elsewhere, right?

I decided to put the Bible to the test, so to speak. I knew the reasons I liked my novel- tough characters, unexpected twists, nothing predictable, definitely no rainbows. So I started flipping through Judges because I've read some pretty shocking things in there before. But I don't think I'd ever read the story that I ended up reading today. I landed in Judges 11- and here's what that story is about. There's this man named Jephthah, who is the son of a prostitute. And he gets booted out of his hometown by his brothers because he's a bastard. Then when his brothers get threatened by an enemy, they come crawling back to Jephthah for help. Well, Jephthah decides that he's going to make a vow to God before he goes to battle, so he swears that if God will give him the victory in battle, then when he gets home, he will sacrifice the first thing that comes out of the door of his house to meet him. And, of course, God gives him the victory. That part of the story is pretty similar to other Bible stories I've read. When you study the life of David, there are lots of prayers before battle and the Lord delivering the enemy into his hands. But Jephthah's story is a little different...

When he gets home, Jephthah's only child, his daughter, is the first one to come out the door to meet him. And he tears his clothes and is so sad because he just made this vow that he's going to sacrifice whatever comes out of his house first. So Jephthah's daughter is amazingly chill about the prospect of getting slaughtered because her dad made a vow to God, and says, "Go ahead and do what you've got to do, but can I have a couple of months to go out into the hills and mourn with my friends because, you know, I'm never going to get married?" And dear old dad says, "sure," just come home in two months so I can kill you. And so she goes out to the hills.

Now at this point I'm reading this story, and I'm like, well obviously something is going to happen during this time that she's out in the hills and Jephthah is going to realize that he just needs to pray and God will provide some ram or something to take the girl's place. I mean, that's how Bible stories go. Except I was looking for something psychologically thrilling.... a little disturbing, violent, even... remember? And God was faithful to show me just that.

Jephthah's daughter gets back from her two months out in the hills crying with her friends, and then her father sacrifices her to God. And that's basically the end of the story.  Judges 11- bastard son of prostitute deals with family drama and prospect of war by making homicidal vow to God, and ends up sacrificing his own child. Shocking, much? I sat there at the kitchen table and said over and over again, "What a disturbing story." Something I hadn't even uttered about my crime novel the whole time I've been reading it.

While I got cleaned up for the day, I was thinking about my crime novel and Judges 11, and I have to hand it to God, He is unexpected and I totally underestimate Him. He gets the victory on shocking stories today- hands down. But, aside from shock value, why is this story in the Bible? Why did something like this ever happen? Stories like this are the kinds of stories that make some people say that they would never put their trust in the "God of the Old Testament" who appears to just slaughter people, or in this case, allow them to be slaughtered, for no apparent reason.

I came up with a couple of clear thoughts. One, Jephthah was the one who made the vow. God didn't require that vow from him, but he made it of his own volition- probably he was thinking that a goat or something would wander out of the house- I don't know exactly, but he was pretty devastated when it ended up being his daughter. This made me think about what Jesus said in Matthew 5:33-37 about not making vows to the Lord, but just letting your "yes" be "yes" and "no" be "no." Jesus is giving people the simple out of just relating to God and men without the drama of a vow, which was new thinking because back in the day, the Israelites thought they needed vows to get God's attention- and maybe they did- but because of Jesus- we don't have to make those sorts of vows. We already have His attention.

Another thought came to mind- child sacrifice- what a grotesque thought- something we surely define as the epitome of evil- and yet, isn't that what salvation is based on? Isn't Jesus God's child? Wasn't He sacrificed for us? I mean, there are no hearts and rainbows to be had at the crux of the story- literally the crux. The promises are only good- the hearts, the rainbows, the peace and righteousness- because of the blood, the anguish, the violence or Christ's death. Jephthah's daughter is a reminder of that violence- the blood that God required to forgive us. I don't like it- in my culture, it's considered inhumane- but God is the one who required death for life. I'm just thankful that the work is done already.

But the final thought has to do with the very issue that the work is done already. I think that God is making a point to me by having me read and write about this story this morning. He is a God of love, of peace, of hope-filled promises. But He is a God of wrath, a God who requires death as the just penalty for sin, a God familiar with evil to a degree that I cannot fathom, and yet completely pure of it, and determined to ultimately abolish it. God wants me to know that He is not some pansy god who just wants me to have warm and happy feelings all of the time. And I like that. I respect that. I crave that. And it means much more than me being entertained by a novel- because this story is true and it tells me something about a Real God who- as C.S. Lewis put it- is not safe, but is good.

So there you go. I'm very impressed this morning with God, His Word, and His willingness to meet me where I am. I think I will finish my crime novel. But I will remember that it is fiction, and I'll keep asking God to help me really dwell on truth- even the shocking parts of it. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Yesterday I went to the Christian bookstore with a friend to get some resources for a summer Bible study we're doing. I used to love to go to the Christian bookstore, and I would get really excited about all the new titles. I'd feel really motivated and want to read every book. Now, I look around and feel a little more cynical and overwhelmed than excited and motivated.

It's not that there aren't great books out there. I wouldn't have been there if I didn't think there were books that would be beneficial to read. In fact, I am sure that there are books that I need to read. But experience has taught me that a lot of times, people read a book and get all excited about it. Maybe, after reading it, they'll temporarily change a thing or two about their lives. Sometimes people argue or get really emotional about what they've read. But eventually, it all fizzles out. The book goes on the shelf, and people go back to their normal lives, and a few years later, the book ends up in a box headed for Goodwill. This is not always the case. But I've seen this happen a couple of times over the past few years. In fact, I've recently given away one of those type of books.

So why do books that we get all excited about end up in the give-away pile? Am I missing something? Am I the problem?  I certainly could be. The older I get the more certain I become that I am selfish to the core and without hope, except for Jesus. My sin nature affects everything, and I am not pure or good. I think I am being made pure, but I understand that work to be something that is completely outside of myself. So it could be me. It could be that I am overly critical and that frustrating experiences have made me overly cynical. But, I don't think that I'm the only one affected by this phenomena. Otherwise, the books we already have would suffice, wouldn't they? Would we continuously need more books with new messages and cool cover-art if they really were sufficient for our needs? If they were really the answer to how to "do church" or "live in community" or "live fearlessly" or "find financial freedom" or any number of things, then would someone need to keep writing another book on church, community, finances, relationships, etc? I really don't know. I understand the need to keep things updated. My computer reminds me of that almost daily. ;) But so many books come out all of the time. There are the biographies (which I really should read more of), the Christian how-to books that usually feature a larger than life picture of the famous author's face on the cover, looking very smiley and trustworthy- like they are saying "Follow me! I know how to lead you to your financial/self-esteem/marriage/parenting goal." Then there are the Christian romance novels, which usually have a cover drawing of a girl dressed up in some pioneer outfit, looking longingly off into the distance. And recently there are books with simple covers and one-word titles that appear very hip and modern and apparently challenge the way that Christianity has been done for decades. I'm not saying that any of these things are bad or wrong- in fact, I'm sure many of the books are great. But what I am saying is that I'm weary of putting my hope in a book, and weary of seeing other people do the same thing as a group.

I'm not denying the helpfulness of books. I'm reading two Christian books right now, and they are helpful. But really, they're only helpful in that they help me remain motivated to draw near to God, and read His Word for myself. Knowledge is good, but only in that it helps lead to good practice. The problem I've seen in my own life and in groups that I've been in is that we accumulate knowledge from whatever book we're reading and then we never really put it into good practice. For example, I'm a big proponent of understanding human nutrition. I took a nutrition course in college- two actually (one human and one animal) and it was great information. I would argue that everyone should know what I learned in my human nutrition course. But, that information is of no benefit to me or anyone else if not put into practice. I can know all about what I ought to feed my body but does it really matter unless I actually buy that food, prepare it and ingest it? I would say that the writers of most Christian books have in mind that they want to share some revelation that they've received from God or His Word. And that's cool. That's exactly what I do on this blog. But it doesn't really have much power- none beyond the encouragement that we can give to one another to fight the good fight. Their words have power to motivate, but not cause change because people are not powerful enough to achieve their desired purpose in another by their words. Only God's Word can actually cause change. When He speaks, His Words accomplish what He wants. He is the only One in the Universe who can make that claim, and He did in Isaiah 55:10-11. And that's why, after looking at so many of the books on the shelf at the Christian bookstore yesterday, I was not motivated to come back and read all of them. I was motivated to go home and open my Bible. Because when the author of the book speaks, he can motivate me. But when God speaks, He can change me. And I am for change.

I am also for books. I am for reading and sharing stories. But I am for realizing that those books cannot cause change in my life. They cannot draw me closer to God, help me recognize or repent of my sin, cannot give me patience, endurance or strength. They cannot bear fruit in me or anyone else.  Thinking through this helps me not be so overwhelmed by all the titles and cool cover designs. Zondervan is still publishing a plain Jane leather book that has the only real power to generate change and bear fruit in people's lives. So as I read my Christian books this summer, I'm going to be thankful for what God has revealed to the author and thankful for the author's willingness to share, but I'm going to understand that the same thing that happened to the author is only going to happen in me as I spend time opening up my Bible, reading, and talking to God about what I've just read. And since I haven't yet done that today, I better get on it right now.  ;-)

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

Monday, June 11, 2012

Port Aransas

This weeekend, Andy and I took a much-anticipated trip to the beach! We needed to get the road trip started off right. A pound of Rudy's moist brisket did the trick!
Makes me hungry just looking at it!
We got to Port A somewhere around 11:45 and were stressed that we would miss the ferry. We missed the Swan Quarter ferry when we were in the OBX last year, and it was not a fun experience. Little did we know, this ferry was a much shorter ride AND it runs 24-7. Here you see the lights of Port Aransas as the ferry crosses over.
Palm trees at our motel- the Captain's Quarters. Which sadly I cannot say that I recommend. We've got our eye on the Tarpon Inn for our next visit.
But I can recommend Bundy's for breakfast. Great food and terrific coffee. We stopped in both Saturday and Sunday morning for some food and a cup o' joe.
I LOVE packing for the beach. I brought everything we could conceivably need for a day of fun in the sun.

Andy pre-sunburn.

Sun and a book. Yes, please.

More good eats came at dinner when we made our second visit to Port Aransas Brewing Company. We went there last August after Andy's water jump in Corpus Christi. That trip made us decide we had to come back! We've fallen for their crab-stuffed jalapeno poppers. Dip those bad boys in some Ranch dressing to curb your appetite after a day of fun in the sun.

Notice the contrast of Andy's skin tone to the "Daily Brew". Red much? I have no idea how this boy burns so bad! He stayed under the umbrella and put on sunscreen! What am I going to do with him? ;-)
Sunday was a day for kayaking and fishing. We stopped at Port A Outfitters for some bait.

This kitty lives at Port A Outfitters and knows how to take it easy. ;)

We left the island mid-morning and after the short ferry ride, headed to the Lighthouse Lakes Trails. They're kayaking trails. Leave it to me and Andy to find a trail to exhaust ourselves on when we're supposed to be relaxing!

Andy tried his hand at catching some fish, but after getting skunked for about 45 minutes, we decided to take a yak trip to the Port Aransas Lighthouse. We passed by these birds on the way. Sorry it's so hard to see them. The app I used to take these pics doesn't allow me to zoom.
The Port A Light is apparently still functional, but it's only accessible by water. (I think) We passed by with our yaks. Across the channel from the Lighthouse is an uninhabited island that we read was supposed to be great for shelling. Of course, we had to go, but crossing the channel was no joke. It made me think of our other crazy yak trip to Aqua-Palooza....
When we got to the island, we were really surprised to meet this hare! Can you see him just to the left of the bush in the center? Again, no zoom and he wouldn't let me get very close to him before he started to hop away.

But this little crab let us get much closer!

Andy saw the crab in his hole and provoked him to come out with a stick!

After our trip to the shell island (which had more trash than shells, but we did find a few good ones!), Andy tried his luck at fishing again. He caught this little guy not once, not twice, but three times while fishing near the Lighthouse. (By the way, Andy's version of this fishing tale is that he caught three separate small catfish... but I beg to differ)

After paddling for miles and being out in the sun for hours, we decided to call it quits. But not until Andy had a chance to put his line in at a little cove we found on our way toward the lighthouse. Sure enough, he finally caught one of the little jumping fish that had been taunting him all afternoon. We didn't end up with anything worth taking home, but at least he felt a little bit vindicated. And we did get our seafood. We just had to stop and order it at a restaurant on the way home. :)