Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Consumed By Christ"

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.--Psalm 1


This chapter--more specifically, the first verse of this chapter--is the verse that I almost used as my header on my page here (until I remembered the one that's there now) because it speaks of meditating on God's word. And that's alot of what I try to do here; I just try to "think out loud" so to speak, on this page, and it is very helpful.

This chapter is also one that we read last night, the first night of a new prayer group that we're starting among the single ladies at PV. Not very many of us were there last night--besides myself, there were three other people. But I've recently felt the need for a "small group" to gather with in His name, so I'm thrilled that one of them decided to start this. She wanted it to be simple, not requiring alot of prep work...so we decided we would just read a Psalm, and then work on reading through a NT book. She suggested a gospel. Then another of my friends spoke up, "What about Hebrews? I've read all of it at different times, I'm sure...but I don't think I've ever just read through it." Of course, I was excited to hear that suggestion, and I agreed wholeheartedly. She continued "I just haven't read through it all the way...it and Revelation." Then we were all in agreement--Hebrews it is! (Maybe we'll tackle Revelation next...but somehow, I doubt it.)

So after reading through the first chapter of Psalms and the first three chapters of Hebrews, we shared some of our prayer concerns and spent some time in prayer. Nothing extravagant about our meeting together...except that we spent time talking to each other, talking to the Father, and reading from His Word.

I think it's important to spend time doing all three of those...everyday. Day and night, even, as the scripture says. Meditating day and night. It is my understanding that the literal meaning of the word translated "meditate" means "to murmur." How often do you concentrate so hard on His Word that a certain portion of scripture remains at the forefront of your heart and mind so powerfully that you find yourself murmuring or muttering the scripture to yourself??? How often do you find it overflowing into the things that you say and do?

These questions all brought to mind a quote I heard on the radio not too long ago, a comment, that to me, seems to be a little bit of a challenge. And it almost seemed even a little boastful, but I don't think that's at all how it was intended, and it makes more sense because it was said about a band as a group, not that the individual was necessarily claiming this for himself. The comment was from one of the members of MercyMe, which has a song on their most recent CD (which I believe was released last year) entitled "One Trick Pony." He said, "We are a one-trick pony. We walk around with our heads and our hearts consumed by Christ, and that's all that comes out of us."

What a challenge! Oh how I long to be like that, to be literally consumed by Christ, so that He and His Words are what come out of me! Yet I am so far from that. But I wonder if the practice of meditating on His Word isn't a starting point? Your thoughts?

Much love.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I'm It!!!!!

Or at least I think I am, since Alan tagged me with this questionnaire which, as he puts it, is "designed to draw out a deeper level of self-disclosure." These questions seem more difficult and prying than the other tags I've seen, which simply require a list of random facts. (But even that seems to be too much for some people.) I would really rather not do this, but since I just gave Keith a hard time for not doing one of these, for me to shirk my responsibility to the blogging community in this aspect would only make me a hypocrite...

Laced with as much sarcasm as you can possibly imagine: Thanks, Alan.

Here we go...

1. First Memory - Hmmm...that was a long time ago. I have some really vague memories from the preschool I attended between the ages of 2-4 years old. I remember it was at a local CoC in Texarkana, I remember at least one of my teachers, and just have some vague memories of sitting in those classes, w/different activities or learning Bible stories.

2. First Real Kiss - Justin Hignight. Guy I dated a loooong time ago. He's a sweet guy, really, and we're still friends...he still calls me, to this day.

3. First Concert - I'm sorry, I really don't remember.

4. First Love - See #2 above.

5. First Crush - 2nd grade--Zeke Miller--he was my "boyfriend" for awhile--but being in the 2nd grade, I'm not sure what all that entailed.

6. First Thing You Think in the Morning - "Nine more minutes..." (cause that's how long the snooze is on my cell phone) and then"Maybe the Lord will return in the next few minutes, and I won't have to get up and go to work" (this thought only comes because the ringtone that I use for my alarm on my phone is "Days of Elijah" so the first thing I hear is "Behold He comes, Riding on the clouds, Shining like the sun, At the trumpet call," etc., etc....)

7. First Book you Remember Loving - Well, when I was little, I read all the "Babysitters Club" books, I liked them. But as far as just absolutley loving a book for its wonderful story, it would be "Where the Red Fern Grows," which I think I read when I was in the 6th grade...kind of a sad story. I haven't read it since then, so I don't even recall the exact ending, but I do recall that I loved it!

8. First Pet - She was a rat terrier mix named "Peaches." We got her when I was about 7 or 8 years old, and had her till she died, when I was 15. That was a sad day.

9. First Question You'll Ask in Heaven - Why?

10. First thing you think when you hear the word "vacation" - Summertime, and not having to go to work!

11. First Best Friend - Amber Rochelle. She was a girl I went to school with and was in the same class with her from 1st-3rd grade.

12. Last time you dressed up - Ummm...depends on your definition of "dress up." I don't "dress up" too often, I prefer to be comfortable. I almost never wear an actual dress, I usually wear pants to work and to church...I'll just wear pants and a nice top. But a skirt does occasionally get thrown into the mix. The last time I was in a dress was at a district convention for the sorority I was in when I was in college, and at the end of the convention we had our banquet. I wore my little black dress. So I guess that would be the last time I was really dressed up.

13. Last CD you bought - I don't really do that much CD buying. When I was in college, my best friend was a mass comm. major and worked on the campus radio station--she would generally give me any tuneage desired or that she deemed that my library was lacking in. And why buy a whole CD for just a couple of songs that you like? I prefer to purchase one song at a time on my iTunes. So then, the most recent songs I purchased on iTunes were "By His Wounds" by Mac Powell and Mercy Me's "Homesick."

14. Last Book You Read - I just finished up both "Facing Your Giants" by Max Lucado and "Pilgrim Heart" by Darryl Tippens.

15. Last time You Cried - Hmmm...good question...I don't cry very often...and definitely try not to cry in front of other people...so I think it's been awhile......oh yeah, it was at the church camp I counseled about a month ago, I believe. This summer would've been my cousin Jordan's first year to attend the week of this camp that I counsel at...so the thought that "She was supposed to be here" was tucked away in the back of my mind. But one night in particular, one of her friends from her church was thinking about her and got really upset. Then Jordan's sister (my cousin, Cori) and another of my cousins (Summer) --who were both there as campers--saw that, and they were understandably upset. I held myself together as best as possible, trying to be the comforting, reassuring Cousin/Counselor, but once they were calmed down and off to that evening's activities, I retired to the cabin by myself for a few minutes. Just needed a minute or two let some of those same feelings out myself.

16. Last Movie You Saw - Underdog! My dad and I took my 3-year-old nephew to see it yesterday afternoon.

17. Last Time You told someone you loved them - This afternoon...I went down to visit my parents this weekend, and told them I loved them right before I left to come back up here.

18. Last really Funny Thing you Did - Hmmm......not so much what I did as it was what I said. As previously stated, I was down to visit my parents this weekend. Since they live in Texarkana, last night my dad and I hopped over to the TX side of town to purchase a couple of lotto tickets (sorry, we didn't win...but just to see how many people, if any, actually read this...leave a comment on this post...whoever leaves me a comment on this post is guaranteed at least $10,000.00 when and if I ever do win!) Anyway, the funny thing I said was when I was playin a scratch-off. Mine was a type of "Yahtzee" scratch-off where I had several "rolls" of dice to scratch off and if I had any certain combinations, I could win various prize amounts. Well, my dad had finished his and kept asking me "Did you win anything? What did you win?" I said, "I dunno yet, I'm still scratching my rolls!" That didn't come out right, did it???

19. Last Halloween Costume - Ummm...I think it was a princess costume with a long purple cape and a little silver tiara. I thought it was very appropriate. (Why are you laughing???)

20. Last Concert Attended - Riverfest 2007...multiple concerts...Smash Mouth, Pat Benatar, George Clinton, Ruben Studdard...good times, good food, good sights, good smells, and good music. I love Riverfest!


Now...who am I gonna tag? I would love to hear Keith Brenton's answers to these. (He probably won't do this for me...I'm almost certain he will in some way repsectfully decline. But here's hoping!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why?

A few weeks ago, I asked if you could hear Him. Perhaps I should be asking myself the same question...

I try to listen to what it is that God tries to tell me, how He wants to lead me, and what it is that He would have me to do. Sometimes it's a relatively easy task; other times, not so much. But right now I tend to be noticing a pattern. Perhaps it's just on my heart right now, and so that's why all of these instances just happen to stand out to me? Or perhaps there is something there I should be listening to and learning from??? I'm really not sure...but I'd like to share a few of them with you...

A few weeks ago, on a Wednesday night, we had a guest speaker from Lipscomb, Earl Lavender, at our church to close out our guest speaker series on the theme of "My Mission." Dr. Lavender's lesson was entitled, "It's Time to Fly: Living Out God's Mission." He had several excellent points, but the main thing that I took away from his lesson was to stay focused on living for Christ--no easy task considering what goes on around us. But he encouraged us to have faith that God is in control, no matter what happens; he said, "Live in a world where God is sovereign, and there is no place for worry."

He talked a little bit about being on a college campus and dealing with students, as they dealt with the events of 9/11.

As he made the contrast between a close friend, who recently lost his daughter unexpectedly in a floating accident, and some of his family members, who were recently in a horrible car accident yet were able to walk away from it, Dr. Lavender was able to bring home the point that it really is not always possible to make sense of the things that happen in this world and why. But then, he said, that was part of what made Christianity so wonderful. As Christians, we choose to believe, no matter what happens. In doing so, we are relieved from having to answer the "why" questions; we choose to believe anyway.

It was a good lesson that I appreciated, and then it was over--or so I thought. After church, I got up and visited with some friends from our singles group, and a few of us decided to go dinner at Fazoli's. I got in my car, with my radio tuned to K-LOVE, and was ready to be jammin' to a good song on the way to eat. It was then...I had no more than pulled out of the church parking lot when I heard the DJ make an announcement about a bridge in Minneapolis collapsing into the Mississippi River. The DJ paused to say a word of prayer for those involved, and I was almost moved to tears, thinking "That's what he was just talking about. In this world, where things like that happen, I've gotta choose to believe that God is a loving God and He is in control of that situation. Although it is not a good situation, I've gotta believe that He is able to bring good from it."

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Earlier this week, I was perusing through this guy's archives, and I came upon a post he had written entitled "Calling All Angels." He posted this story on his blog a little over a year ago, but the piece is well over a decade old, written about a Methodist pastor who, back in 1994, was affected by a series of tornadoes that ripped through her area. As he puts it, "Forty-two people died that day, including 20 parishoners at the Goshen United Methodist Church in Piedmont, Alabama where Palm Sunday services were in progress. Among the dead was Hannah Clem, the 4-year-old daughter of one of the pastors, the Rev. Kelly Clem." When Pastor Clem was asked how this tragedy affected her faith, her response was, "My faith is what sustains me."

There's that idea again...faith in God, in spite of the world around us. That powerful statement seems to take it even one step further. Not only does she choose to believe in God, indeed, she could not go on without her belief in her Father. "My faith is what sustains me"...powerful, powerful words. I believe we would all do well to learn and truly know what they mean.

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This past Wednesday night, as our minister taught our class, he spoke of going down to Mississippi to go to a funeral for the brother of one of our members at my church. Because the man who died had committed suicide, our minister wanted to speak about that for awhile last night. We looked at examples in the Bible; we discussed among ourselves possible reasons why a person might do such a thing. However, in our discussion, it seems like we had more questions than answers. Seems like the ideas we ended on were that God is both just and merciful; and we have to trust that God works things out. Then our minister closed out his lesson by reading a section from a book by Philip Yancey entitled, "Where Is God When It Hurts?"

That is the million-dollar question, isn't it? Where is He??? What are we to do with our faith in Him when it hurts??? We are to continue on, knowing that He is with us, He gives us comfort, and He understands...

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That's what's been on my mind and in my heart most recently...the idea that although I live in a world where people fly planes into buildings...or bridges collapse into rivers...or mines collapse and people are trapped inside, injured, or killed...or someone chooses to take their own life for no real apparent reason...or a 12-year-old girl is running and playing one second and literally gone the next......as a Christian, I choose to believe in a loving and faithful Father God who is right beside me, helping me to get through whatever obstacle there is. I keep recalling Dr. Lavender's words...

"Our faith in God frees us from having to try to answer the why questions when something bad happens..."

One of these days, I'm gonna learn how to do that, how to accept that freedom...

Right now, a part of me still wonders why...

Monday, August 6, 2007

What I Believe

What We I Believe, Part 2--Faith and Values

What We I Believe

The following statement of faith is written, not for any group of Christians, not to define what any group of people believe, but rather for only one person. I have written this in an effort to examine what I believe, meditate on it in light of God's word, and come to a clearer and deeper understanding of God's saving truth. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but is intended to be what I find to be most important of all that I believe. I am posting it here, on the first day of my 25th year upon this earth, "as a milestone that I can look back upon and, as I mature, add or delete what God's spirit has revealed to me should be a part of it." Although I post this for my own benefit, I pray that as you read it, you will be encouraged in some prayerful reflection of your own, as you examine yourself and what you believe in light of God's word. May He give you, as well, a clearer and deeper understanding of His truth. God bless and much love!

I believe in one omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God. God is many things...He is love, He is holy, He is just, He is merciful, He is faithful...He is perfect. I believe in the Trinity, that is, the idea that this one God exists in the form of three 'persons': the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is an interesting concept, because my mathematical brain has yet to figure out how one plus one plus one equals One; yet I believe this is just more of the mystery and majesty of the God that I serve. The Father is the Creator of the universe, the Lord Almighty. His Son, Jesus, also fully divine, existed with Him in the beginning, and through Him, all things were made and were given life. Jesus, the Son, became fully human and lived on this earth, died, and rose again. The Holy Spirit is the Presence of God in the world. I think I like best the description Max Lucado gives of the Holy Spirit--that of "God with his sleeves rolled up," as He is always active and working in the lives of people. I believe it was His Spirit that inspired the authors of the Bible, giving them words to write, words that are to serve as encouragement, teaching, instruction, example, and guide to life for all believers. Some things that were written, I believe, apply to the particular people and situations in which they were written. Others were meant for all times, places, people, and situations. I believe there is much room for interpreation of the Scriptures, and each person is to use his or her conscience as a guide, and in doing so, refrain from passing judgement on those whose views differ from their own. All of my beliefs that you read about here are based upon my own, personal interpretation of those Scriptures, with my God-given conscience as a guide, along with experiences with God in my life.

"He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He."

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men...The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."


I believe that of all of the Lord's creation, we, as humans, were given a very special gift--that is, He created us in His image, to be like Him. He loves us and desires relationship with us as His children. However, He loved us enough to give us another gift, that of free will. He would not force us to be His, but He wants us to want that relationship with Him. With that gift of free will, we, as humans, have the ability to act contrary to His will--to sin. Indeed, because we are not perfect, as He is, we all have sinned and fall short of His glory. Because of God's holiness, that sin separates us from Him. And because of God's justice, we, as sinners, face a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death. Yet our God has a perfect plan to correct our mistakes, and through it, He is able to bring us back into relationship with Him.

"So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female He created them."

"For the wages of sin is death..."

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

My God is One who, as a Faithful Father, has always honored people's faith in Him. Throughout history, from Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, to His prophets, to His people...those who have believed in Him and have shown evidence of faith in Him through their actions...those are the people that He has blessed. In particular, He took the people of Israel as His own and poured out His blessings on them...all in the name of keeping His promise and covenant of blessing to His faithful follower, Abraham. He established the nation of Israel as His people and gave them rules of life to live by. He gave them very specific instructions on how to worship Him and instructed them to make animal sacrifices to Him for their sins. However, at the heart of all this was...well, the heart. For even when His people followed these instructions to the letter, He was displeased with them when they would simply go through with the motions, yet not live their lives in service to Him. At times like this, God would demonstrate His perfect justice, as He would bring punishment upon His people. However, He would not stay angry with them forever. Even when they were unfaithful, He remained faithful to the covenant He had made. For not only did He promise to bless Abraham's descendants, He promised to bless the whole world through Abraham. This happened with the coming of Jesus, the Christ.

"Now, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see...and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him."

"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to Him as righteousness."

"I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring, all nations will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

Jesus came to this earth through divine conception. He was born to a virgin, concevied of the Holy Spirit. He was our Immanuel, our "God with us," both fully human and fully God. He had a very humble beginning (literally "born in a barn") followed by a life of humility and service to others. He lived a sinless life of love, teaching people how to live and showing them compassion. He continued to honor faithfulness--countless times, it was because of a person's faith that He would heal them or forgive them. In fact, He was unable to perform miracles for those who had no faith in Him. Christ taught that those who had faith in Him would be saved and have eternal life. His life of service was complete with His selfless sacrifice, as He died on a cross for the sins of the world. However, as the Perfect Sacrifice, Christ conquered death and rose from the grave three days later, just as He had previously predicted He would. After His resurrection, He spent time teaching His disciples, and told them to take His message to the rest of the world. Then He ascended back into heaven, as He had already promised His followers that He was going to prepare a place for them to come live with Him forever, and He promised to return again. In the mean time, He would send His Spirit to convict, teach, guide, and empower His followers to do His will.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!"

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am"

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you...He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement...He will guide you into all truth."

His Spirit did indeed come and is active in the world still, even to this day, and He will remain so until the Lord returns again. He convicts men of their sin. When convicted, we as humans, still have that precious gift of free will--how we choose to respond to His Spirit is completely up to us. I believe that the response that God will honor is one of faith--faith that is evidenced in my life--faith that leads to obedience. We now benefit from a new, better covenant with God, where Jesus serves as both our sacrifice for sins, and our High Priest who intercedes with God for us. Some people that I know view the issue of salvation under this new covenant as a step-by-step process--that we are to believe, repent of our sins, confess Jesus as our Savior, and then be baptized into Him for forgiveness of sins. I, on the other hand, believe that baptism is the first of many things that I must obey. Scripture tells me it is where I am united with Him in His death, so that I may be united with Him in His resurrection. But I'm not sure it's as simple as the step-by-step described above. For example, although I have faith in Jesus and have been baptized, I constantly find myself in situations where I need to repent. I stumble and must allow Him to help me back up and get back on track. Although there is a moment of transformation that occurs as I begin to follow Christ, I believe salvation is also a process of transformation, as God transforms me in to Christ's likeness. (Remember, we were created in His image, to be like Him!)

"The covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises...the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our conscience from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins commited under the first covenant."

"We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection."

"We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

I believe that God adds people to His church--that is, Christ's body of believers. He gave us a body of believers to worship Him with, and for all of us to be a family, because I believe He created us for community, as He said in Genesis, "It is not good for man to be alone." So it is in our walk with Him. As a church, we are able to help meet each other's needs, share each other's joys, and bear each other's burdens. We are able to worship God together, and we are able to commune with each other as we celebrate the Lord's supper. Indeed, communion is a central part of our worship together, as, on the night Jesus died, He turned the Passover feast into a memorial for Himself, requesting that as often as we partake of that meal, we remember Him. His apostle Paul would later write that when we partake of it, we proclaim His death until He returns, and as we proclaim His death and resurrection to the world, we, as His body, are not only communing with the risen Lord, but with each other. I believe the early church knew this a little bit better than we did. They met everyday and shared literally everything. We've somehow whittled it down to approximately three times a week--this hardly seems like enough for me.

"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

Unlike the old covenant, under which God gave very specific instructions on worship, under this new covenant, when it comes to instructions on how to worship, He gives us precious little. The main things that come to mind are "spirit and truth," "reverence and awe." I believe this is to allow us to experience even more freedom from the Law, where we don't have to worry about checking off a list of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots." Once again, I believe that, as it was under the old covenant, at the heart of this matter is still...well, the heart. Rather than give us instructions on how we must worship Him, He lived on this earth to show us how to live and how to love. Also, the writings of His apostles to His early church focus less on how to worship and more on how to treat one another and how to live our lives to be pleasing to God.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifies, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship."

So whether we are singing, praying, giving, or just living, we must do it to God's glory, with a sincere effort to be like Christ and to love God and others with all of our hearts. This, I believe, is the key. For many people write creeds or statements of belief or affirmations for a group of particular people, in order to try to unite or more clearly define themselves as Christians. However, if we are all focused on loving God, loving one another, and being like Christ, we will achieve the unity that we so desire...the unity that Christ so desires for us, as His body, to have.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

The undersigned prayerfully commends these considerations, this 6th day of August, in the year of our Lord 2007.

Lacey Michelle Mauk
Member of the Body of Christ

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Wonderful Weekend...

Friday night, my parents drove up to Little Rock to stay with me for the weekend.

My older sister, brother-in-law, and 3-year-old nephew drove up Saturday morning to spend the day. We took my nephew to the zoo...which I, myself, had never been to, at least not that I remember (my parents say they brought us up here when we were really little.)

It was great to see all the many different animals, from monkeys to warthogs, from elephants to giraffes, camels to otters, bears to birds, and tigers to snakes (ewww...) and we had a blast, despite the fact that it was approximately 100 degrees yesterday afternoon. There's a little train ride that you can take around the zoo, and my sister and I got on there with my nephew...he LOVES trains, so the look on his face while we were riding it was priceless.

We came back to my place, and while my dad and brother-in-law went to pick up dinner, my sister and I took my nephew for a dip in the pool...except that he's kinda afraid of the water...but he was alright. When the guys got back, we all ate dinner together, then we celebrated w/some birthday cake (my dad--51 on Friday; myself--soon to be--well, old).

My sister and her family headed home late yesterday evening, but this morning, my parents came to church with me! It was our first Sunday with our new worship minister (I am SO EXCITED about what the future holds!) and my mom especially was excited about getting to worship with us. Then was a lovely lunch with the 'rents before they headed back home.

All of this just to let you know what a wonderful weekend I've had. I am truly blessed.

Thank you, Lord, for my family; for the good times we are able to share; and for the blessed opportunities to worship together.

Much love!