Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Necessity of Forgiveness


One of my favorite passages in the Bible that deals with forgiveness is Matthew 18:21-35. Peter asks Jesus how many times should one forgive others. Perhaps Peter thought he was being generous in suggesting that he forgive someone seven times. But the Lord answered, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." I believe that Jesus' point was not that we should literally only forgive 490 times and then that's it. But rather, seventy times seven implies we should forgive so many times that we just do not even keep track. Jesus then tells the story of the king and his servant. A certain servant owed the king a huge sum of money - ten thousand talents. I do not know the exact amount in today's standards, but I have heard that it was probably millions. The Bible clearly states that the servant did not have the money to pay the king back. The servant was brought before the king and ordered to pay all that he owed. The servant fell at the king's feet and begged the king to be merciful. The king had declared that the servant was to be sold, along with the servant's wife and children, and all that he owned, in order to pay the king back. I mean, can you just imagine the hopelessness that this poor servant must have felt. Not only would he be separated from his wife and children, they would all be split up, too, and sold into slavery. There would be no chance of every being free again and being a family, because the debt was too great for someone such as this servant to ever pay back.

I love how the Bible says the king was "moved with compassion." He had pity on him. Not only did the king decide not to sell the servant and his family into slavery, but he COMPLETELY FORGAVE THE DEBT. All of it! Can you even imagine what that must have been like? Two seconds ago, your life was over and you would probably never see your family again. Now, you are forgiven. Freely and completely forgiven, and you never have to worry about that debt hanging over your head again. What would you do? You would think this servant would run home as fast as he possibly could and hug his family tighter than he ever had.

Unfortunately, that is not even close to what happened. It's interesting that the Bible says that the servant went out and FOUND one of his fellowservants who owed HIM money. That seems to tell me that servant #1 went looking for servant #2, to intentionally try to collect on his debt. Sometimes do you ever find yourself wishing you could go back in time and just smack some sense into someone like this? I do, until I realize that I have done the EXACT SAME THING to people in my own life. Anyway, more on this in a minute - I'm going to finish the story first.

So, servant #1 finds servant #2 and asks sweetly and respectfully if servant #2 could pay him back. Wait, maybe that version is in the NIV, but that's not what the KJV says. (A little tongue-in-cheek there, folks!) No, he put his hands on him and GRABBED HIM BY THE THROAT. He starts choking this poor fellowservant because he is so angry that servant #2 owes him money. The Bible says it was a "hundred pence." Again, I do not know how much exactly that is in today's standard. I've heard anywhere from a few pennies to around $15 dollars. Not a huge amount, compared to what servant #1 owed the king.

Servant #2 falls down on the ground, begging for servant #1 to be patient with him and give him a little more time. Sound familiar? You would think that would trigger pretty recent memories in servant #1, wouldn't you? But servant #1 wasn't going to hear any of it. He threw him in prison until he could pay the debt. Of course the rest of the story goes on to say that the king was told of servant #1's actions, and the king rebuked him for what he had done, and ended up punishing him in prison for his lack of compassion and forgiveness.

God is like the king in this story, who forgave me for my sin debt. I could never pay him back for all my sins, and therefore, I was doomed to spend eternity in the place of punishment, the place called hell. That was like the first servant who owed a million dollars - there was no way he could pay that back ever, even if he spent the rest of his life trying. I could never be good enough to atone for my sins. I could never pay God back by being good enough, even if I spent the rest of my life trying. God loved me, and had compassion on me. The Bible says that God is not willing for ANY to perish (that means be separated from God by spending eternity in hell). Now, unlike the king, God could not just overlook my sin. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, died on the cross and shed His blood to pay that debt. He took my place, and because of this, God is able to FREELY and COMPLETELY forgive my sins. All of them. He gave me back my life when I placed my faith and dependence fully on Jesus Christ alone as my Savior, and offered me eternal life in heaven with Him. So you would think I would spend each day freely forgiving others, remembering I had been spared from the fires and torment of hell. You would think I would forgive quickly. That any petty little thing that came up, I would not even give a second thought to.

Unfortunately, that is not what I do. No, I don't literally go up to people that have wronged me and choke them! But how many time have I spoken hateful words to them that wound just as deep? I often hold little grudges and bitterness in my heart. I act coldly towards them because they did me wrong. Don't we all? And is anything that any human could do to me as significant as the huge sin debt I owed God? If we are honest, we would have to say no. It's like comparing a few dollars to a million dollars. There really is NO comparison.

Whenever I am really struggling to forgive someone, I try to think of this passage. It really puts things in perspective for me. It suddenly makes what someone else said to me or did to me seem like the first servant choking the second servant. And you know, verse 35 talks about forgiving from the heart. I used to not really see the significance of this. I've come to believe that you can forgive with your lips, but not with your hearts. You can begrudgingly say to someone, "I forgive you," because you feel like you have to. But all the while, you harbor angry feelings towards them in your heart. Those angry feelings turn into bitterness if left unchecked. But when you forgive with your heart, you do not hold any more angry feelings in your heart towards that person. Now we as humans are not good at doing this. We actually like to nurse angry, bitter feelings because somehow we think we are hurting that person back by doing so. It's like a way to get a little piece of revenge - we think. Actually, the truth is it just hurts our own self. We need the Lord to help us get rid of the anger and bitterness when someone has wronged us. Can people do some pretty hurtful things to us? Oh my, yes! Can we trust the Lord to help heal that hurt and take the sting of those hateful words or actions away? Absolutely!

So, how do you forgive? Ask the Lord to teach you how to have compassion, and how to freely forgive from the heart. He can and will teach you, if you allow Him to. Then, remember this verse: II Corinthians 1:3. God is the God of all comfort. That circumstance that hurt you and wounded you so deeply that you don't think you will ever come back from this?  - He is powerful enough to help you to forgive and take that sting away. Is anything to hard for the Lord?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Lord IS good!

The Lord is good
Tell it wherever you go,
The Lord is good
Tell it that others may know;
Tell of His blessings and
Tell of His love,
Tell how He's watching
From Heaven above:
The Lord is good
Tell it wherever you go.
 - Alfred B. Smith

Remember to reflect on God's goodness today. Not just how He has been good to you in easy times, but especially how He was good to you during the difficult times and brought you through. I find that when I remember His faithfulness to me in the past, I learn to trust Him more with my present and future.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Discipleship Training

Have you heard of Bright Lights? "Bright" stands for Being Radiant In Godliness, Holiness, and Testimony. Their website gives the purpose of this ministry - "to give practical training in godliness, to encourage young woman to live the years of their youth fully for Christ, to provide edifying fellowship and accountability, and to be a group which will minister to others." Our church is in the process of starting a Bright Lights group in about three weeks. This is a discipleship training program for young girls, although they have also started a new group for young boys called The Light Shop. You can check out their website for more details on this program, as well as how you could start a Bright Lights ministry in your own church. Our church purchased the training manual and dvds so that all of our workers could learn the philosophy behind this ministry. The training dvds have been excellent! The Bright Lights lessons teach concepts such as children giving their heart to their parents, learning how to get along with brothers and sisters, having a clear conscience before God, and many others. The recommended ages for a Bright Lights group is for girls age 10-13. Our church has decided that we are going to also adapt the lessons for girls as young as second grade. While we whole-heartedly believe in reaching teen girls for Christ and discipling them, we are finding that many girls are already "set in their ways" by the time they reach their teen years, and often have a hardened heart towards the things of the Lord. We are hoping to reach younger girls and teach them Biblical concepts before they even reach those extremely critical years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Character Qualities


Dr. S. M. Davis, along with Park Meadows Baptist Church, has a wonderful ministry of helping Christian families. His website is SolveFamilyProblems. Dr. Davis has preached in our church, and the truths he preached have deeply impacted our church, Christian school, and my own family. He talks a lot about anger, rebellion, marriage, character, parenting, friendships, and much more. He has put his sermons on DVD, using a unique technique of hundreds of picture illustrations that really drive home the points, while making every sermon very interesting and easy to listen to. He even has some free downloads on his website. Our school's theme this year is developing Christian character. Dr. Davis has a free downloadable chart of the 49 Character Qualities on his chart. These are so good, I have listed this chart below. I think teaching good, godly character is something that is desperately missing from many of our Christian homes these days. As I read through the list, all I can say is "Oh me. I have some work to do in my own life!" Through watching Dr. Davis' video sermon on instilling godly character in children, my husband and I have renewed our determination to teach our children these Biblical concepts, as well as work on them in our own lives.

1. Truthfulness vs. Deception - Earning future trust by accurately reporting past facts (Ephesians 4:25)
2. Obedience vs. Willfulness - Freedom to be creative under the protection of divinely appointed authority (II Corinthians 10:5)
3. Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy - Eagerness to do what is right with transparent motives (I Peter 1:22)
4. Virtue vs. Impurity - The moral excellence and purity of spirit that radiate from my life as I obey God's Word (II Peter 1:5)
5. Boldness vs. Fearfulness - Confidence that what I have to say or do is true, right, and just in the sight of God (Acts 4:29)
6. Forgiveness vs. Rejection - Clearing the record of those who have wronged me and allowing God to love them through me (Ephesians 4:32)
7. Persuasiveness vs. Contentiousness - Guiding vital truths around another's mental roadblocks (II Timothy 2:24)
8. Alertness vs. Unawareness - Being aware of that which is taking place around me so I can have the right responses (Mark 14:35)
9. Hospitality vs. Loneliness - Cheerfully sharing food, shelter, and spiritual refreshment with those whom God brings into my life (Hebrews 13:2)
10. Generosity vs. Stinginess - Realizing that all I have belongs to God and using it for His purpose (II Corinthians 9:6)
11. Joyfulness vs. Self-pity - The spontaneous enthusiasm of my spirit when my soul is in fellowship with God (Proverbs 15:13)
12. Flexability vs. Resistance - Not settling my affections on ideas or plans which could be changed by God or others (Colossians 3:2)
13. Availability vs. Self-centeredness - Making my own schedule and priorities secondary to the wishes of those I am serving (Philippians 2:20-21)
14. Endurance vs. Giving Up - The inward strength to withstand stress to accomplish God's best (Galatians 6:9)
15. Self-Control vs. Self-Indulgence - Instant obedience to the initial promptings of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25)
16. Reverence vs. Disrespect - Awareness of how God is working through people and events in my life to produce character in me (Proverbs 23:17-18)
17. Diligence vs. Slothfulness - Picturing each task as a special assignment from the Lord and using all my energies to accomplish it (Colossians 3:23)
18. Thoroughness vs. Incompleteness - Knowing what factors will diminish the effectiveness of my work or words if neglected (Colossians 3:23)
19. Dependability vs. Inconsistency - Fulfilling what I consented to do, even if it means unexpected sacrifice (Psalm 15:4)
20. Security vs. Anxiety - Structuring my life around that which is eternal and cannot be destroyed or taken away (John 6:27)
21. Patience vs. Restlessness - Accepting a difficult situation from God without giving Him a deadline to remove it (Romans 5:3-4)
22. Wisdom vs. Natural Inclinations - Seeing and responding to life situations from God's frame or reference (Proverbs 9:10)
23. Discernment vs. Judgment - The God-given ability to understand why things happen (I Samuel 16:7)
24. Faith vs. Presumption - Picturing what God intends to do in a given situation and acting in harmony with it (Hebrews 11:1)
25. Discretion vs. Simple-mindedness - The ability to avoid words, actions, and attitudes which could result in undesirable consequences (Proverbs 22:3)
26. Love vs. Selfishness - Giving to others' basic needs without having as my motive personal reward (I Corinthians 13:3)
27. Creativity vs. Underachievement - Approaching a need, a task, or an idea from a new perspective (Romans 12:2)
28. Enthusiasm vs. Apathy - Expressing with my spirit the joy of my soul (I Thessalonians 5:15, 19)
29. Resourcefulness vs. Wastefulness - Wise use of that which others would normally overlook or discard (Luke 15:10)
30. Thriftiness vs. Extravagance - Not letting myself or others spend that which is not necessary (Luke 15:11)
31. Contentment vs. Coveteousness - Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)
32. Punctuality vs. Tardiness - Showing high esteem for other people and their time (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
33. Tolerance vs. Prejudice - Acceptance of others as unique expressions of specific character qualities in varying degrees of maturity (Philippians 2:2)
34. Cautiousness vs. Rashness - Knowing how important right timing is in accomplishing right actions (Proverbs 19:2)
35. Gratefulness vs. Unthankfulness - Making known to God and others in what ways they have benefitted my life (Ephesians 4:25)
36. Orderliness vs. Disorganization - Preparing myself and my surroundings so I will achieve the greatest efficiency (I Corinthians 14:40)
37. Initiative vs. Unresponsiveness - Recognizing and doing what needs to be done before I am asked to do it (Romans 12:21)
38. Responsibility vs. Unreliability - Knowing and doing what both God and others are expecting of me (Romans 14:2)
39. Humitiy vs. Pride - Recognizing that God and others are actually responsible for the achievements in my life (James 4:5)
40. Decisiveness vs. Doublemindedness - The ability to finalize difficult decisions based on the will and ways of God (James 1:5)
41. Determination vs. Faintheartedness - Purposing to accomplish God's goals in God's time regardless of the opposition (II Timothy 4:7-8)
42. Loyalty vs. Unfaithfulness - Using difficult times to demonstrate my commitment to God and to those whom He has called me to serve (John 15:13)
43. Attentiveness vs. Unconcern - Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
44. Sensitivity vs. Callousness - Exercising my senses so I can perceive the true spirit and emotions of those around me (Romans 12:15)
45. Justice vs. Fairness - Personal responsibility to God's unchanging laws (Micah 6:8)
46. Compassion vs. Indifference - Investing whatever is necessary to heal the hurts of others (I John 3:17)
47. Gentleness vs. Harshness - Showing personal care and concern in meeting the needs of others (I Thessalonians 2:7)
48. Deference vs. Rudeness - Limiting my freedom in order not to offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21)
49. Meekness vs. Anger - Yielding my personal rights and expectations to God (Psalm 62:5)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Where is a Gideon?

I have heard this song before, but I heard it again this past Sunday in our church, and was reminded again why I like this song. I know that the best example in Scripture for us to follow is Christ's example, but I think we can learn a lot from other Bible characters, even if they did make some mistakes that are recorded for us. Gideon at least started off right and did mighty things for the Lord, and this song is about those times he stood for the Lord and for the right. Does it seem sometimes like there are not many Christians who are willing to take a stand for Christ? It is easy to get discouraged, looking at the world around us. Things were tough in Bible times as well, and have been throughout all of history. God is still looking for men and women and even children who are willing to take a stand for truth and what's right. You and I can still make a difference in our world, and be that light that shines, piercing the darkness.

This is a day when idols are worshiped,
Even God's people are trapped in their snares.
Good men have fallen, standards have shaken -
Where is the answer? Who even cares?


Where is a Gideon? Where is the man
Who'll be a leader, and follow God's plan?
Where is God's champion? Who'll be the one
To stand like Gideon? I'll be that man!


Where is a man who gives up ambition,
Worldly desires are all set aside!
Where is the man, though lowly be service,
Who's satisfied only in Him to abide?


Where is a Gideon? Where is the man
Who'll be a leader and follow God's plan?
Where is God's champion? Who'll be the one
To stand like Gideon? I'll be that man!







Friday, May 27, 2011

How big is Space?

Here's an interesting link about the relative size of some of the solar system: Earth and Sun. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, because it is just mind blowing. How magnificent our Creator God is! The heavens truly show His handiwork!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Backing authority in your child's life

One of the most important things a parent can do for their child is to back their child's authority. I'm primarily thinking of the Christian school setting for this post. Obviously, God designed parents to be the primary human authority over their own children, but if a parent chooses to place their child in a Christian school, the parent is essentially entrusting some of that authority to the teacher, at least for the hours the child is at school. I think as parents, our initial, normal reaction is to want to defend our child. There can be a time and a place for that, if we do it the right way. And granted, teachers are human and make mistakes just like everyone else.

If there really is a situation where you feel your child has been unfairly treated by a teacher or some other authority figure, the best thing you can do for your child is to NEVER let your child see that you disagree with the decision made by the teacher. Letting your child see that you disagree - or worse, that you are angry and resentful towards the teacher - does great damage to a child. In fact, it breeds rebellion in the heart of a child. and it is extremely difficult to undo that kind of damage in your child's heart. Instead, go to that teacher privately to speak with them. But the key here is to wait until you have had time to calm down. Don't go talk with that teacher when you are so mad and upset that you cannot even see straight. No good is going to come of that, and you will probably end up saying much that you regret.
Also, realize that many, many times there was just a big misunderstanding. Get to the bottom of the situation before you jump to conclusions, even if the conclusions seem logical. Give the teacher the benefit of the doubt. And it's important to realize that children sometimes get the story wrong. It's hard as a parent to not immediately take your child's side. It is possible - and highly likely - that a child will put some sort of a spin on the story to make himself appear more innocent than he really was in the matter. Am I saying that you should consider that your child sometimes does not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?Well.....er....um.....YES!  (Not my child, you say to yourself. My child would never lie to me!) Yes, it is entirely possible that your child just told you a bold-faced lie to get out of being in trouble. I'm not suggesting that you should become overly suspicious of anything your child ever says. Absolutely not! But what I am saying, is that you need to get to the bottom of the situation, and do not "take up the cause" for your child before you even know whether the child was in the wrong or not. Ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment in how you should proceed with problems between the teacher and your child.

I've heard the story of a teacher who told all of her students' parents on the first day of school - "If you promise not to believe everything your child says happened at school, I promise not to believe everything your child says happened at home." I like this humorous saying, because it really does go both ways. Teachers and parents both need to work together at solving little problems that come up. If they both gave each other the benefit of the doubt before getting angry, we would have a lot fewer problems in the classroom.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Follow-up post about Thyroid disease

Yet another thyroid post - can you handle another one? :) I wanted to update about my appointment today. But first, what does the picture have to do with thyroid disease, you ask? Not one thing, but I just thought this post needed a fun picture. :)

I took my My Med Lab bloodwork results sheet to show my doctor. In my last post, I mentioned that my TSH was 5.54. My doctor said he wants to get that number below 1. He said a lot of doctors think that a TSH of below 1 is over-medicating. He disagrees. The research I have done also has indicated that a TSH below 1 is so much better than a 1 or a 2. He was not as concerned with my Free T3 and Free T4 numbers, and here's why. In about a month, he is going to have me come back to do extensive bloodwork. I can't even remember all the tests he said he would run, but I do remember a few - antibodies, insulin resistance, cortisol, cholesterol, progesterone, estrogen. There were more, but like I said, that's all I remember. He said he needs a baseline from which to then be able to treat my symptoms fully. He said there is a reason why my levels are off, but it could be any number of things, and he's going to try to find out why through the bloodwork. The main thing he advised me to do was 1.) always take my medication (I take Armour) on an empty stomach, and 2.) avoid the following foods like the plague - soy and all soy products of any kind, peanuts and peanut butter, and garbanzo beans. I have to chuckle at that last one.....I've never heard anyone say to avoid chick peas! Too funny! Come to find out, garbanzo beans are a "close cousin" to soybeans. Soy, peanuts and garbanzo beans all INTERFERE with the thyroid. I'm not going to pretend like I understand exactly how (my doc explained it, but it was pretty technical), but suffice it to say, they do. :)

My husband was able to go with me for this appointment, and I was so glad he was able to hear exactly what the doctor said. I always seem to forget half of what was said, or sometimes I have a hard time explaining technical things to someone else. My husband has done even more research than I have about the thyroid, and he was very impressed with my doctor's answers and explanations. He feels that this doctor will really be able to get to the bottom of my symptoms.

Of course, we realize that all healing and help comes from the Lord. We are praising the Lord for the way in which He continues to work in this situation. I just cannot say this enough, if you or someone you know is struggling with thyroid problems, please please please do not give up. Keep fighting for answers and don't give up hope that one day soon your life will be back to "normal" again.

photo from free pixels

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Medical Testing / Thyroid Testing

Disclaimer - the following post is meant to be simply informative, but in no way is it meant to treat, diagnose, or give any kind of medical advice. I am not a My Med Lab affiliate.

Have you heard of My Med Lab? You can register for a free account and request blood work, all without a script from a doctor. There are many different types of tests - thyroid, autism, vitamin levels, cancer screens, female wellness, male wellness, hormones, diabetes, liver, autoimmune, and more. The tests are very reasonably priced, at least as far as I have found. Once you have selected and paid for the tests you want, your order will be reviewed and approved within two hours. My order for some thyroid tests was approved almost instantly. Then you just print out the approved order, and take it to the nearest lab that is affliated with My Med Lab. In my case, I just took it to the nearest Labcorp. I walked into Labcorp, handed them my order, and I had my results back from my blood work THE NEXT DAY! I was able to view my results online at My Med Lab. Now all I have to do is print out my results to take them to my doctor at my next appointment.

Why would you need to use My Med Lab? I often hear of people with thyroid problems or suspected thyroid problems that have trouble getting their doctor to agree to run certain tests. You can order your own blood tests, without needing your doctor to approve them. This happened to me. I asked my doctor (at the time) if he could run Free T3. My doctor only wanted to run Total T3. My doctor said it was an extremely expensive test. I ran TSH, Free T3 and Free T4 for about the same price I always paid for my bloodwork at other labs.

Another reason you might want to use My Med Lab is if you suspected that your thyroid levels were off, but didn't want to make an appointment with your doctor just to get a script, then have to go get bloodwork, then make another appointment to discuss the results with your doctor. Using My Med Lab eliminates that first apointment. You can simply order your tests first, then make one appointment to discuss the results.

I will point out that my family and I have chosen not to have traditional health insurance. We are part of Samaritan Ministries, and I will try to write a post explaining how Samaritan Ministries works in regards to health care very soon. I pay out-of-pocket for bloodwork and doctor's appointments. I am not sure how My Med Lab would work for someone that does have insurance.

So the results from today - TSH was 5.54, Free T3 was 3.3 (range 2.0- 4.4), and Free T4 was 0.91 (range 0.82 - 1.77). After I see my doctor about my results I'll write a post explaining these levels. I know the TSH is way too high, and the Free T4 is too low. I'm not sure about the Free T3 since I have never had that tested before. While the TSH is not super high (I've been at 54 before), it is still high enough to explain why I've been feeling bad again lately.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Resurrection Sunday

This coming Sunday is Resurrection Sunday. It's also called Easter, but I love to call it Resurrection Sunday. It's my most favorite Sunday of the entire year! It is a day of reflection as I recall the story of the brutal torture and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that He was on that cross dying for me. It is a day of gratefulness as I thank Him for willingly laying down His life and shedding His own precious blood to pay my sin debt. It is a day of rejoicing, as I worship the One Who has the power to raise Himself from the dead. My Savior is living!

I often wonder what it was like to be one of the women who went to the tomb that morning. Their day did not start out triumphant. (Now Jesus had actually already risen from the dead sometime before dawn, but of course, the women did not know this yet.) Their day started with sadness and sorrow, and possibly dread, as they faced their task of going to the tomb. They expected to see the torn, bruised body of the One they loved so much. I'm sure there were tears as their mind played over and over the horrific scenes of the crucifixion they had witnessed just days earlier. They did not understand, they could not comprehend why Jesus had to die in such a way. And what were they to do now? What would happen to them?

But I love the account given in the Bible. They found the heavy stone already rolled away from the tomb. The two angel messangers said unto the women, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen...." Aren't those just some of the most beautiful words in all the Bible? The women's lives were changed forever, as they realized the Savior was alive again!

Yet how sad that we often fill the day up with things that have nothing to do with the Resurrection! I'm not going to list out all kinds of things that I think are not wise for a Christian to participate in. Often that just brings division and offense. But my point is, are the things you are planning to participate in on Resurrection Sunday honoring to the Lord, and do those things put Him FIRST on this special day? (Of course, we are to put the Lord first every day, in every area of our lives, but we're specifically talking about Easter here.) My personal belief is this - if your plans for Easter cause you to miss church, then would it not seem that Jesus is not being given first place? I know there would be those that say that is a little strict, that there is no such commandment in Scripture to go to church twice (morning and evening service) on Sunday, but would it not seem right to put Him first ALL day, and maybe put off some of our own plans until another day so that we would be able to be in church for both services?

I hope we will not be so caught up in "observing a holiday" that we miss the importance of this day. I do think there are many special things we can participate in on this day that do not detract from the Lord Jesus in any way. But I hope that in our activities and in our hearts we put the Lord Jesus Christ first in all that we say and do - on Resurrection Sunday, and all other days as well. For doesn't He deserve our best service, after all He has done for us?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

He Remembers

I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure. ~ Genesis 33:14

Entire Selection from Streams in the Desert -

"What a beautiful picture of Jacob's thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be overdriven even for one day. He would not lead on according to what a strong man like Easu could do and expected them to do, but only according to what they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day; and he made that his only consideration in arranging the marches. He had gone the same wilderness journey years before, and knew all about its roughness and heat and length, by personal experience. And so he said, "I will lead on softly" (Gen. 33:14. "For ye have not passed this way heretofore." (Joshua 3:4)


"We have not passed this way heretofore, but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untrodden and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all by personal experience. The steep bits that take away our breath, the stony bits that make our feet ache so, the hot shadeless stretches that make us feel so exhausted, the rushing rivers that we have to pass through - Jesus has gone through it all before us. "He was wearied with his journey."

"Not some, but all the many waters went over Him, and yet did not quench His love. He was made a perfect leader by the things which He suffered. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He is remembering all the time; and not one step will He make you take beyond what your foot is able to endure. Never mind if you think it will not be able for the step that seems to come next; either He will so strengthen it that it shall be able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you shall not have to take it at all. ~ Francis Ridley Havergall"

In "pastures green"? Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hill-tops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
~ Barry

Photo by me

Friday, April 8, 2011

Camping Adventure

I like nature. I really do. I like it as long as I can look at it from a distance, and not actually experience it up close and personal. What I mean is I love to look at photographs of nature, or watch nature shows on TV, but, well, being out IN nature for extended periods of time is not really my thing. I get creeped out by bugs, especially poisonous or stinging ones, and snakes, and just critters in general. Oh, and bears. Florida has bears, you know. Add to that poison ivy or any other type of plant that makes you itch, and no thanks, I'll just stay inside, thank you. 
So, it was with much fear and trepidation (not really) that I reluctantly agreed to go tent camping (for only the second time in my whole life) with my husband Phil, our kids, and my husband's family last weekend. I personally was not super thrilled to go, but I knew that Phil really wanted to go. I knew it would be fun for the kids, and be a wonderful memory with my inlaws. My main concern was bathrooms and showers. I figured if they had an actual bathroom with running water and warm showers, I could make it. I've tried the whole "go in a bucket in the woods somewhere," and I have vowed never to get into that kind of situation again. So, we decided to go. It was just one night, I figured I could survive a few hours.

We headed out on Friday afternoon and got to the campsite around 6:30 p.m. The first thing that kinda freaked me out was how close all the "neighbors" (other campers) were to our campsite. I thought it was going to be a little more remote. I worried about what kind of crazy people would be camping next to me all night. As soon as I got out of the car, I begged asked Phil to take me home right then and there. Yeah, I'm a wimp. He just laughed.
So everyone was getting set up for dinner, cooking on grills and camping stoves.
My kids ran around the campsite playing with their cousins and exploring everything in sight. They were definitely in their element. Strange that neither of them take after their mama. I chalk that up to the fact that they just don't KNOW about all the terrible dangers that I know about that lurk in nature. Shortly before dinner, my father-in-law had to move his vehicle to another location, and as he was driving away, the trailer on his truck caught one of the tents and ripped a huge gash in the side. Of course, it had to be the tent I was going to sleep in. So my father-in-law had to run to the store and get some duct tape, and he managed to get it taped up pretty well.

I will have to say, dinner was awesome. At least food tastes extra good that has been cooked outside on the grill! After dinner we roasted giant marshmellows and popped popcorn over the campfire and just hung out.
 I let my kids get extra dirty, and tried not to mind too much. The kids begged their grandpa to tell them a scary story before bed, Thankfully, he didn't make it too scary. It was pretty late by this time, so everyone prepared to turn in. We got everyone down for the night, and I hoped everyone would sleep through the night. Such was not to be the case.  Ironically, it was not bears, snakes, or crazy people I had to be afraid of on the camping trip. The real terror was a handout given to us by the park service containing the pictures of an entire page full of poisonous fuzzy caterpillars to stear clear of. Sort of like this:
Try going to sleep thinking about poisonous caterpillars finding some little hole (or big hole, remember the rip in the tent?) in the tent and stinging you to death in your sleep. Add to that a child in one of the neighboring campsites screaming for half the night, as well as 50-degree weather at night, and me being all like, "aww, thanks Mom, but I don't need a sleeping bag, I'll be fine with my three fleece blankets I brought," when my mother-in-law so kindly offered to let me use some sleeping bags....for which I should have taken her up on, because I freeze quite easily, and indeed was freezing the entire night. And my poor parents-in-law's brand new air mattress somehow developed a hole and lost so much air during the night. Same thing happened to one of my sister-in-law's air mattress. And, raccoons made their way into our campsite and helped themselves to an entire un-opened package of hotdogs that was INSIDE a cooler, then found a chicken and veggie shish-kabob (left-over dinner) that had fallen under the picnic table unbeknownst to us and ate just the chicken off of it, and finally, shredded a roll of toilet paper we had brought just in case the public bathrooms ran out. And did I mention how cold it was? I did? Well, it's worth mentioning again, because it was cold. Don't laugh, all of you Northerners. That might be a heat wave to you, but I've lived in Florida for 15 years, and my body doesn't know how to handle temperatures below 70 degrees.

Needless to say, it was a very long night. I laid awake alternately thinking about caterpillars and how cold it was. I must have finally gone to sleep, but I'm convinced it was probably only for 2 or 3 hours. I was so glad when it was morning. You didn't have to tell me twice to get up. Morning meant that I could go home in a few hours! I headed off for the showers, and then we all ate a big breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage gravy, and corned beef hash. I considered giving the kids a bath, but I knew that they would get dirty again, so I figured I'd just give them a bath when we got home that afternoon. I don't think they have ever been so dirty in all their little lives! They were having so much fun though. We had a leisurely morning just hanging out together, but soon it was time to pack up and head home (yay!).
To be honest, I really am so glad that we had the opportunity to spend time as a family and with our extended family, and I got lots of pictures and video. We all definitely got in some serious bonding time, that's for sure.
P.S. To family - just because I had a great time, you shouldn't assume I will be game to go again next weekend. It's gonna take a while for the "pain" to wear off. :))))



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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tortellini Soup

I'm always on the lookout for quick, easy, healthy recipes. I made Taste of Home's Tortellini Soup for dinner one night this week, although I modified it just a little bit to fit our tastes, and added twice the vegetables. It was perfect for a cool, rainy day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Will Not Doubt

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
"I trust in Thee."

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses,
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored in this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
"I do not doubt," so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.
~ Unknown, selected from Streams in the Desert

What a beautiful, heart-felt poem! I hope it speaks to you as much as it did to me. What a difference it would make in my life if I faithfully trusted God during the difficult times. It's so easy to trust when there are no hardships or pressing troubles. I'm reminding of the Israelites who witnessed God's power, protection, and provision first-hand, but then as soon as a new problem arose, they became fearful and doubted that God would be faithful to help them. They forgot God's blessings. They forgot all the times in the past when God fought for them. They forgot all the times God provided food and water in the wilderness. But don't we do the exact same thing? We forget the times God has worked in our life, too. We forget the times God has showed us His goodness and power. We become fearful, and begin to doubt that God can handle this new problem in our life. He saw us through in the past, why wouldn't He be faithful to see us through now? Trust the Lord to work that problem you are facing to your good, and trust Him to be faithful to comfort you and guide you through the dark times.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My journey into Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, Part 3

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.

If you haven't read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series on autoimmune thyroid disease, you may want to before you read this post. When I left off from Part II, I was once again looking for another doctor to treat my condition. I found a doctor using this website. I clicked on links for my state and read the reviews. I called pretty much all the endocrinologists in my area, and to be honest, a lot of them didn't want to give me very much information over the phone. I was asking questions like, Do you test Free T3 and Free T4, and do you prescribe Armour? I wanted to kind of get a feel for their philosophy before I paid all kinds of money to see them. Like I said, most were not too willing to share a lot of information over the phone. But I did find one doctor who actually had a website, and in addition, had a TON of information about his philosophy of treating thyroid disease. Plus, his receptionist was the nicest one I talked to! ;) He is not an endocrinologist, but he is well-trained in this field. I ended up emailing him some additional questions I had, but his website stated that he gets over 400 emails a day so it might take awhile for him to email me back. He emailed me back WITHIN TWO HOURS!!!! I was impressed, to say the least. Everything he said lined up with what my research had said. I booked an appointment, and went to see him.
 
I was very impressed during the first appointment, because the doctor shared with me that he has the same disease I have - Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. I feel more confident with this doctor, because he faces the same challenges as I do. There were many helpful things that he told me.
 
First, he said to get off ALL soy. Now, I do not eat soy products, or at least I didn't think I really did. Um....how shall I say this? Soy is in practically EVERYTHING. Check the labels on crackers, breads, cereals, cookies, etc - even the stuff that says "whole grain" or "organic". Yes, even organic foods, can you believe that? Basically, if it is pre-packaged, it probably has soy. Look for soybean oil or soy lecithin - anything with that in it should be avoided if you have a thyroid problem. Soy interferes with the thyroid. There is alot of technical information on how it does that exactly, but since I'm not a medical professional, I'll not get into all that.
 
Second, my doctor mentioned to me that he eats a gluten-free diet. I had heard of this before, and was dreading that I might have to go gluten-free, just because it seems like such a hassle. My doctor believes that almost ALL the symptoms will go away with a gluten-free diet. So far, he has not said for sure I have to do that, but I'm sure that day is probably coming. Goodbye to all my favorite foods!
 
Third, my doctor suggested a Vitamin D supplement, to be taken with fish oil capsules. There seems to be a great probability that people with thyroid disease are deficient in Vitamin D. He also recommended Selenium. He wrote out for me how much to take and when. I had heard about taking these supplements before, but just didn't know the amounts or when was best to take them. I didn't know if they would interfere with the Armour I take every morning. So, it was a big relief that he was able to tell me exactly what to take and when. While I'm thinking of it, for those who have to take thyroid medicine every day, it is so important to take it at the same time every day, and to also take it on an empty stomach, and wait at least 30 minutes before eating anything. Some doctors recommend waiting 45 minutes or even as much as one hour. I can tell a big difference within just a few days if I am not waiting at least 30 minutes. If I'm not in a hurry, I will try to wait an hour to eat, but some mornings it's not feasible. You need to give your body a chance to properly absorb the thyroid medication, because food can interfere with that.
 
I'm going to try to wrap things up here, but the conclusion will probably be long. Dealing with a chronic illness can be frustrating for the person who has it, as well as their family who has to deal with that person. I recommend doing as much research as you possibly can and really doing what it takes to feel better. I wish I had known this was going to be a long process, and so I really want to get the word out and help others that are battling the same problems. I go through phases where I feel pretty good, and then other phases where it affects me so badly physically, mentally and emotionally. Thankfully right now I am feeling great, and I almost feel like my old self, pre-thyroid disease! This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like my old self.

I'm not really sure how or why the thyroid affects the brain, but it does. You may hear someone with thyroid problems talk about experiencing "brain fog." The feeling is horrible, not being able to think of common every-day words in conversation, and just feeling like you are not as clear and as sharp as you once were. You feel like you have lost something of yourself, and you don't know if you are ever going to get it back. Stress seems to elevate my symptoms, and I find that I cannot do as much as I used to. That, for me, was maybe the hardest thing to accept. I'm in my early thirties, yet sometimes I feel like I'm in my 70's. Waking up every morning with extreme fatigue and muscle aches and pains took it's toll on me emotionally. I had days where I could hardly get out of bed.

I was angry that I had this disease, I was angry that my body wouldn't function properly, I was angry that I felt robbed of my health, I was angry that I always felt crazy and stressed. People would look at me like, "What is wrong with you? Why are you always sooo stressed out?" I became like a completely different person. I didn't even recognize myself. This anger led me into what I call the spiral. Once I started that spiral, it was next to impossible to get out of it. I would have a few good days a month, but the rest would be dark, horrible days in this downward, out-of-control spiral. I constantly felt like I was at the end of my rope with nowhere to turn. And I hated myself with a vengeance for constantly being angry, stressed out, and crazy. The self-hatred turned into self-pity, and there was just no end to this spiral. I can see now that I allowed my mind to dwell on those feelings rather than to fight them in the strength of the Lord. There were times that I had lost all hope of feeling normal again, and I was simply too tired to fight. That is no excuse, but I'm just being transparent here.
 
I tried to pray, I tried to trust God, I tried to do everything I knew a Christian should do. Sometimes the dark thoughts would be quenched for a time, but the spiral inevitably seemed to start right back up again. I have a hard time asking for help and letting people get to know the real me sometimes.  My husband has been so awesome during this whole process. Even though he doesn't always know what to say, he is ALWAYS there for me. He always supports me and comforts me the best he can. My parents and in-laws and a few friends that knew my situation also tried to help me many times.

And God did not give up on me, not once. He finally helped me see that this was a gift from Him. A gift????  That's right. A gift. He isn't putting me through this just to play Russian roulette with my life. He has promised to work ALL THINGS for my good. When I stopped refusing to accept what He had chosen for my life, the anger went away. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started trying to find answers of how I could make things better. I also make sure that I turn to God for strength and help the very moment I start to feel that old spiral starting up again. I do not allow myself to dwell on negative thoughts, nor do I allow myself to indulge in a pity party. I read Scripture, especially Psalms, for comfort and peace, and I sing one of my favorite hymns as I go about my housework. And the number one thing I do.......I start thanking God for all the abundant blessings He has placed in my life. Do you know what? When I choose to have a thankful heart, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a complaining and bitter spirit! I love how God does that!
 
I still have my limitations, and I don't know if some of them will ever go away. But I'm looking at it now with hope as a challenge to be confronted, rather than as a disability to be afraid of. And let me just say, I do realize there are so many other people in this world dealing with severe medical issues, that my situation is so minor compared to someone dealing with terminal cancer or some other life-altering condition.

My main responsibility is just to care for my husband, children, and the house. I've stepped down from almost all responsibilities outside the home that I was involved in in our church and school. It was hard to admit that I couldn't do it all. It was hard to hand the baton over to someone else, especially for things I loved doing. But what good am I as a wife and a mother if I'm always stressed out on things that take all my energy away from my family? I just couldn't see how that was pleasing to the Lord to live like that. Maybe someday I can pick back up where I left off, but for now, this is what works for me. If you have any questions that I can answer about thyroid problems, leave me a comment, and I'll try to answer your question as best I can.

Edited to add the following: I wanted to make sure I'm clear here. Accepting God's will for my life, even if it means dealing with a chronic illness, changes my heart attitude, not necessarily my physical condition. I'm not trying to imply that by praying and being thankful enough, God will miraculously heal me. Now, He is certainly all-powerful and able to bring complete healing, but He is not a genie that I can get whatever I want from Him by doing all the right things. I'm just saying that when dealing with illness, a thankful, contented heart goes a long way in making your circumstances seem bearable and hopeful. I also am not implying that anyone with a thyroid problem or other chronic disease is an unthankful person. Since this is my blog, I'm just sharing with you the way I felt. During one of my lowest days - mentally and emotionally - I had someone suggest that maybe I just needed to be more thankful (they meant well, it just didn't sit well with me at the time). That kinda hurt, and made me feel like they were saying that I had brought this illness on myself because maybe I was such an unthankful person. I can see now that they were just trying to remind me of this very thing I'm talking about. I saw that I COULD be more thankful, especially when I was going through the hardest days. I hope that makes sense, but please, if you have any questions, leave me a comment and I will try to clarify more.

**One more thing. With proper dosages and time, my symptoms have greatly diminished. My hair is back to being full and healthy-looking, the searing muscle cramps in my arms, legs and back are gone, my eyes are no longer dark and sunken, and while I still deal with fatigue, I can get through my day without that feeling like I can't even function. I still have a ways to go, but things are definitely improving. I just wanted to share that it WILL get better, it just takes time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stand the test

"'There is only one thing', said a village blacksmith, 'that I fear, and that is to be thrown on the scrap heap. When I am tempering a piece of steel, I first heat it, hammer it, and then suddenly plunge it into the bucket of cold water. I very soon find whether it will take temper or go to pieces in the process. When I discover after one or two tests that it is not going to allow itself to be tempered, I throw it on the scrap heap and sell it for a cent a pound when the junkman comes around. '

'So I find the Lord tests me, too, by fire and water and heavy blows of His heavy hammer, and if I am willing to stand the test, or am not going to prove a fit subject for His tempering process, I am afraid He may throw me on the scrap heap.'

When the fire is hottest, hold still, for there will be a blessed 'afterward;' and with Job we may be able to say, 'When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.'"
~ Taken from Streams in the Desert



Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why I am an Independent Fundamental Baptist

*The purpose of this post is simply to inform. My intent is NOT to offend in any way. Some of the people closest to me genuinely do not understand why I believe what I believe and this post is an attempt to clarify those beliefs, at least a little bit. If you disagree with me, we can still be friends. It does not offend me if you do not believe the exact same way as I do, and I most certainly do not think I am better than anyone else if they do not see eye-to-eye with me. Our Christian walk is a journey, and we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, not to an individual.

My family and I attend an independent fundamental Baptist church. But what exactly IS an independent fundamental Baptist church? The thoughts I have written here are taken from a study our church did awhile back called Christian Mentoring A to Z. (The study covered all kinds of areas such as assurance of salvation, obedience to God, baptism, reaching the world, victorious Christian living, and many other areas.) We used Scripture passages to learn about what God says in the Bible about different issues. One section was on the history of the Baptist church, and the fundamental principles (Baptist discinctives) that our church teaches, and most of the thoughts in this post come from that section.

Before I begin, I want to stress the fact that I do not believe I am saved because I attend a Baptist church. I do not even believe that God loves me more because I attend a Baptist church. I have no extra merit with God because I attend a Baptist church. I am saved by God's grace, because I have placed my full dependence and faith on Jesus Christ, and He alone has saved me. Not Jesus plus good works. Not Jesus plus church membership. My faith is in Jesus Christ's shed blood for my sins, and I am trusting Him for eternal life in heaven because He paid the full penalty for my sins. I cannot save myself in any way. The only merit I have with God is that when He looks at me, He sees Jesus' blood covering my sins, and so He accepts me as one of His own, on the basis of His Son's finished work on the cross.

A Baptist church is Baptist if it holds to and carries out the basic teachings of the New Testament.

B - Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A - Autonomy of the local church
P - Priesthood of the believer
T - Two ordinances of the church (baptism and the Lord's Supper)
I - Individual soul responsibility
S - Separation (personal, ecclesiastical, and political)
T - Two officers of the church (pastor and deacons)

Distinctive #1 - The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A mutual and common adherence to the whole Bible and its authority is the cohesive force among Baptists. Other churches often follow a leader or founder, and have to adhere to confessions or articles put forth by their founder. The soul of man bows to the authority of the Bible, making reason, the church, and personal experience all subordinate to it. The Bible is the written revelation of God and is complete.

Distinctive #2 - Autonomy of each local church
Each local church is sovereign and cannot be controlled by any board, hierarchical system, or other church. Autonomy means: independent, self-governing, self-supporting, an self - propagating. A Scriptural independent New Testament church is an organized band of baptized believers practicing the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper and actively engaged in carrying out the Great Commission. The foundation for independence is based on New Testament principles - 1.) the competence of the individual to know God's will, and 2.) the responsibility of the church to carry out God's will is based on the foundation that its members know God's will. The final governing authority in the autonomous Baptist church is the church itself directed by its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Distinctive #3 - Priesthood of all believers
Every born-again believer may pray directly to God through Jesus Christ, the High Priest, without a human intercessor. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God the Father (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus is not only the believer's Savior and Lord, but also his High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Distinctive #4 - Two ordinances of the local church
There are two ordinances o fhte local church - baptism and the Lord's supper. An ordinance is "An outward rite appointed by Christ to be administered in the church as a visible sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith." The Baptist church does NOT teach that baptism or the Lord's supper have ANY saving power. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality - the individual who has already placed his faith and trust in Christ alone shows that he is identifying himself with the Lord by being baptized. He is showing that he has died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and has been raised to walk a new life. Saving faith ALWAYS PRECEDES baptism. Baptists believe that baptism by immersion is the only correct way to be baptized. Why? The word "baptize" means immerse. Only immersion correctly pictures that which baptism symbolizes -death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling and pouring cannot symbolize this.

*Let me deviate from the study to put in a thought of my own. I have had someone tell me that they heard that if you join a Baptist church, you will have to be re-baptized in that church. For instance, if you were baptized in a Bible church after you were saved, you will have to be re-baptized when you join a Baptist church. Our church does not teach that, and I have never heard that taught from other independent fundamental Baptist churches that I have gone to before. After I trusted Christ for salvation, I was baptized by immersion in the Bible church that my family attended when I was a little girl. When I joined the Baptist church I go to now, I did not have to be re-baptized, because I had already been Scripturally baptized after I was saved.

Back to the study. The second ordinance is the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial table, picturing the body and blood of Christ and serving ONLY as a reminder of His sacrifice. The ordinances were instituted by Christ on the eve of His death (Matthew 26:26-30). The purpose is given in I Corinthians 11:25-26 - for a memorial. We reject the doctrine of infant baptism, since individuals must decide for themselves. We also do not practice infant church membership, since members must be saved, scripturally baptized, and request church membership. These two ordinances are not sacraments. They neither give salvation, help salvation, nore keep salvation. We observe the ordinances due to commandment (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24).

Distinctive #5 - Individual soul liberty
Each individual has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He can worship God as he believes the Bible teaches. People have individual wills, and God directly instructs individuals. God deals with people as individuals and judges people as individuals. Each person has individual soul liberty to choose his own church, determine his own spiritual fate, and decide what the Bible teaches (or deny the Bible altogether). We must never force our beliefs on others. Share the gospel and biblical truths, yes, but not coerce.

Distinctive #6 - Separation
Separation is to be in three realms - political, ecclesiastical, and personal. Political separation - God established civil government, and He instructs the Christian in their duty to government - pray for it, submit to it, support it, and honor it. Ecclesiastical separation - as a church, we must separate from apostasy - II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:16-17; II John 10-11; II Thessalonians 3:6,14. Personal separation - a Christian is to be personally separated FROM the world (Romans 12:1-2) UNTO Christ (I Thessalonians 1:9). In order to take the question out of questionable activities, there are three things to consider. First LOOK UP (Colossians 3:2) - does it violate a direct command from God, and will God be glorified through my participation? Second, LOOK IN (I Corinthians 6:19-20) - what effect will it have on me, on my mind, on my body? How would I feel if Christ returned while I was invovled in this activity? Third, LOOK OUT (I Corinthians 8:12) - what effect will it have on the unsaved, or on the saved (it is a sin to cause a brother to stumble). The Christian has the privilege of living a holy life for Christ. This is also our duty. It is far from boring; and it is not restrictive. It is a joy to please our great God and Savior.

Distinctive #7 - Two officers of the local church
The offices of pastors and deacons are the only Bible-recognized offices in the local church. The congregation chooses both. The Bible clearly teaches the qualifications and responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacons.

An independent fundamental Baptist church is the church that I choose to attend because it is the kind of church that I believe best follows the guidelines of the New Testament church. I'm not saying my church is a perfect, flawless church. No church is, because it is made up of imperfect people. I do believe God has led my husband and I and our children to the church that we attend. Our pastor teaches and preaches Biblical truth. It is not that we blindly swallow everything he says, hook, line and sinker without even thinking or searching the Scriptures. No, we do listen carefully and turn to the passages he is preaching from and we confirm whether the things he is saying do indeed line up with the Bible. Our pastor does not just preach "feel good" sermons; on the contrary, he preaches straight from the Word of God and does not skip over topics just because they might offend. Does he intentionally try to offend people? Absolutely not, but he does not just skip over things that might be offensive.

We use the King James Version of the Bible because we believe that is the most accurate translation available. We sing congregationl songs from hymnals, the great hymns of the faith. We do not have a band that plays rocky "Christian" music, nor do we sing any "Christian Contemporary" music. We believe that most "CCM" music sounds worldly - because of the beat and "watered-down" lyrics- and that it often seeks to glorify the performer through intricate vocal techniques, rather than the Lord. However, don't think that if you were to walk into our church during the singing that it would sound like a monastery. We use instruments, and our music director picks out arrangements that have meaningful words and beautiful music. We hope to soon have a full orchestra as we add more musical people to our church. I wear a dress or skirt to church, as do many of our ladies. However, some of our women do wear pants to church. While I have a personal conviction to not wear pants myself, I do not look down on those that do not share the same conviction. God does not love me more because I came in a skirt. Wearing a skirt, in and of itself, is not an indication that I am right with God.  For all of these things I have mentioned in this paragraph, our church does not teach that God loves us more because we do these things. Our church does NOT teach that any of these things give salvation. Our church does not look down on those who do not believe as we do. I have always heard our pastor give Bible verses to back up what he is preaching. IF something is his opinion, he is careful to distinguish between his opinion, and a clear directive in Scripture.

I am not saying that no other church teaches the Truth. I have been members in three different Bible churches (non-denominational) and all three taught truth from God's Word. I have even visited a few Community churches and Southern Baptist churches, and found them to also teach truth from the Bible. Now SOME of those same churches had some issues on which I strongly disagreed with. However, it is my personal belief that an independent fundamental Baptist church is the type of church that best follows the guidelines of a New Testament church. This post is simply meant to give information, and not condemn or point fingers in any way.

photo from free pixels

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My journey into Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, Part 2

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.
My last post about thyroid disease left off in December of 2008, right after I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem. In January of 2009, I was able to find an endocrinologist and get in for an appointment. It was at that first appointment that I learned that I did indeed have a 9 mm nodule on my thyroid, but that the doctor didn't feel it was serious enough to biopsy. I also was sent for more bloodwork, and the endo discovered that I had thyroid antibodies in my blood. This indicated that my thyroid problem was now thyroid disease. In my case, I had Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, and autoimmune disease. This means that my body thinks my thryoid is a foreign object and makes antibodies to attack it. This causes the thyroid to shut down, or at least diminish it's function. As a result, my metabolism slows way down. It is believed that every cell in the body is affected when the thyroid is not functioning properly, and that seems to explain the myriad of symptoms in multiple regions of the body.

Thyroid problems often occur after a major surgery (such as the c-section) or pregnancy, and sometimes genetics plays a role, too. My mother has a minor thyroid problem, but as far as we know, she does not have Hashimoto's. She is able to control her condition with a small dosage of generic Levothyroxine which she has been on for about 10 years. At the time of her last bloodwork, her TSH was between a 1 and a 2, which is a very good range. This has worked well for her, and her condition has not seemed to worsen over the past 10 years. I have no idea why my condition is so much worse than hers, but I assume it is because I have the antibodies.

My endo switched me from Levothyroxine to the name-brand version which is Synthroid. I initially had an appointment every three months for bloodwork to check to see that my levels were going down. Every three months, the endo would up the dosage. If I remember correctly, the dosages went something like this - 50 mcg, 75 mcg, 88 mcg, 100 mcg, 112 mcg. I wondered why the dosages were increased so slightly each time, but I was told that it takes time to regulate all of this. Everyone is different and responds differently to treatment. I remember that I would start to feel better during times when I wasn't stressed or super busy. Once I would get too busy and overwhelmed, I would feel worse.

The months went by, and I was doing a lot of research on my own. I tried to learn as much as I possibly could about Hashimoto's. There was a lot of information out there, and a lot of it was confusing. I found a patient advocate, Mary Shomon, who had written articles and books on thyroid problems. I bought two of her books, and read her online articles. I highly recommend reading anything about thyroid problems by Mary Shomon!

In the fall of 2009, I asked my endo if I could switch to Armour. I didn't want to continue on Synthroid because the research I had done indicated that Armour was a much better option. Synthroid is a synthetic medication, whereas Armour is natural. Here's where it's going to get technical. In addition to checking the TSH level, it is also necessary to check the T3 and T4 levels. Synthroid only gives you T4, it does not give you T3. For someone with an underactive thyroid, you need both. The idea behind Synthroid is that your body will convert the T4 in the Synthroid into T3. But the problem is that so many people are not able to convert the T4 into T3, and therefore their levels are still off. Armour gives you T4 and T3, so there is no problem with conversion.

My doctor was a little hesitant, but agreed to write me a prescription for Armour.  At the time of my last bloodwork (spring of 2010), my TSH was down to 2.14. To be honest, I do think Armour works better for me than Synthroid, but I still continued to have symptoms. Mary Shomon insists that doctors need to be checking not only the TSH, but also the Free T3 and Free T4. This is very important. Some doctors only do Total T3 and Total T4, and not the Free's. The Free's are important! My endo did TSH, Total T3 and Free T4. I asked them to do Free T3, and they would not. So, I decided it was time to look for another specialist. I had had a few issues with my endo, like the fact that they had me see their nurse practitioner instead of the specialist. I actually had one appointment where I had several questions I needed to ask about, and the nurse practitioner literally inched towards the door as I was still asking questions. When I expressed frustration that my symptoms were not really going away even though I was very close to the good range, they did not seem overly willing to explore what could be still causing my problems. In October of 2010, I decided to find another doctor who was willing to get me the answers I so desperately needed.

May I urge you, if you have thyroid problems, find a good doctor! Find a doctor that you can trust, and that is determined to get to the bottom of your symptoms. It may take switching doctors a few times until you find the right one. Just don't give up! More to come in another post!

My journey into autoimmune thyroid disease, Part 1

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.

About three months after the birth of my second child (this would have been in March of 2008), I began to really notice that I was not feeling well. I had had a very easy recovery from the c-section, but this was different. I just felt "off." At first I tried to excuse all my symptoms, thinking that it was somehow all related to post-pregnancy adjustments. I also figured that since my daughter was not yet sleeping through the night that I was just really sleep-deprived.

By the time summer came, I was downright miserable. My hair was falling out in handfuls, way past the time that seemed normal for post-partum hairloss. I was dragging all day long, and just had no energy. But summer was my busy time of the year, as I headed up a small daycamp at our school during the summer months. I figured I had just taken on too much, especially since my daughter was STILL not sleeping through the night. I did consider the possibility that I was either anemic or had a thyroid problem, but I didn't WANT there to be a problem, and I guess that I talked myself out of believing I needed to see a doctor.

Finally, in October when my mom was able to come and stay with us for a week, I told my mom how I was feeling, and she really thought I needed to get checked out. It was November before I actually went in to see my doctor. I told her about the complete exhaustion that would hit me as soon as I woke up in the morning and lasted all day. My skin was dry, my once glossy, thick hair was now thin and limp, my eyes were puffy and sunken, and I was starting to get searing muscle cramps in my back and legs and feet that felt like charlie horses. The doctor told me she would do a full blood workup, but also threw in a little comment about possibly needing anti-depressants. (Strictly my opinion here, but when a doctor mentions anti-depressants, that is the first sign that you might need to switch doctors!) I told her kindly but firmly that I was not interested in anti-depressants.

I went back in December for the followup and bloodwork results. The first thing my doctor mentioned before she had even shut the door was that my thyroid level was ridiculously high. She joked that she didn't even know how I had driven myself to the doctor's office! The level she was referring to is called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The best range for TSH is between a 1and 2 (although some people actually feel better when it is between 0 and 1). Mine was a 54. That definitely confirmed a thyroid problem. My doctor told me she would start me on a prescription medication called Levothryoxine. She told me that I would start feeling better in a matter of days. It was all rather confusing because I didn't know anything about thyroid problems, but I did feel relieved that I would be getting some help very soon.

My doctor also sent me for an ultrasound of my thyroid to check for nodules. When those results came back, a nurse technician from my doctor's office called to tell me that there were no nodules, but that the thyroid was enlarged which meant it was now called a goiter. I was relieved that there were no nodules, since I had heard of thyroid cancer. But the term goiter scared me a little. I had heard of people with goiters that caused their neck to swell to a grotesque size, and I wondered if that was going to happen to me. The nurse technician told me that their office was going to hand me over to a thyroid specialist (endocrinologist), since there was nothing further they could do for me. When I expressed concern about the goiter, the nurse told me that usually they use radiation treatments to zap it. Needless to say, I was very alarmed by this! I had no idea what the ramifications of that treatment would be, especially since my husband and I were considering having more children in the future and I wasn't sure if that would be possible after radiation treatments. The nurse was dismissive, and when I asked if it would be possible to delay the treatments, she just cautioned that it might not be good to wait too long. That answer did nothing to make me feel better about the situation.
Now let me stop right here and tell you that a lot of what I was told by this doctor and nurse were completely false. 1.) When your TSH is practically off the charts, you are most likely NOT going to miraculously start feeling better within a day or two of starting medication. It is a process to bring your numbers down and get your levels in the right range. It would have been nice for them to tell me that, so that I would be prepared for the long process. 2.) They didn't read the ultrasound results correctly - I DID have a nodule, a 9mm nodule on the right side of my thyroid. I'm not really sure how they missed this one, because I later saw the report from the ultrasound with my own eyes and it very clearly stated there was a nodule. I found this information out at my new endocrinologists office. 3.) This is the worst thing I was told - that I might need radiation treatment for my thyroid condition. I am HYPOthyroid, which means underactive thyroid. As far as I know, radiation treatment is NEVER required for hypothryoid. Radiation treatment is used to "kill" an overactive thyroid, so it would be futile to "kill" an underactive thyroid that is already not even functioning at all, or functioning at a very limited capacity.

Little did I know that my journey was just beginning! More to come in another post!

Trusting God to keep His promises

It is the everlasting faithfulness of God that makes a Bible promise "exceeding great and precious." Human promises are often worthless. Many a broken promise has left a broken heart. But since the world was made, God has never broken a single promise made to one of His trusting children.
Oh, it is sad for a poor Christian to stand at the door of the promise, in the dark night of affliction, afraid to draw the latch, whereas he should then come boldly for shelter as a child into his father's house. ~ Selected, from Streams in the Desert

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rest

One day when walking down the street,
On business bent, while thinking hard
About the "hundred cares" which seemed
Like thunder clouds about to break
In torrents, Self-pity said to me:
"You poor, poor thing, you have too much
To do. Your life is far too hard.
This heavy load will crush you soon."
A swift response of sympathy
Welled up within. The burning sun
Seemed more intense. The dust and noise
Of puffing motors flying past
Wish rasping blast of blowing horn
Incensed still more the whining nerves,
The fabled last back-breaking straw
To weary, troubled, fretting mind.

"Ah, yes, 'twill break and crush my life;
I cannot bear this constant strain
Of endless, aggravating cares;
They are too great for such as I."
So thus my heart condoled itself,
"Enjoying misery," when lo!
A "still small voice" distinctly said,
"'Twas sent to lift you - not to crush."
I saw at once my great mistake.
My place was not beneath the load
But on the top! God meant it not
That I should carry it. He sent
It here to carry me. Full well
He knew my incapacity
Before the plan was made. He saw
A child of His in need of grace
and power to serve; a puny twig
Requiring sun and rain to grow;
An undeveloped chrysalis;
A weak soul lacking faith in God.
He could not help but see all this
And more. An then, with tender thought
He placed it where it had to grow -
Or die. To lie and cringe beneath
One's load means death, but life and power
Await all those who dare to rise above.
Our burdens are our wings; on them
We soar to higher realms of grace;
Without them we must roam for aye
On plains of undeveloped faith,
(for faith grows but by exercise
In circumstances impossible).

Oh, paradox of Heaven. The load
We think will crush was sent to lift us
Up to God! Then, soul of mine,
Climp up! for naught can e'er be crushed
Save what is underneath the weight.
How may we climb! By what ascent
Shall we surmount the carping cares
Of life! Within His word is found
The key which opens His secret stairs;
Alone with Christ, secluded there,
We mount our loads, and rest in Him.
~ Miss Mary Butterfield
taken from Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman

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