Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wisdom From Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

-- John Milton


The foundation for Christian Ethics (living Christianly) is the the Greatest Commandment found in Matthew 22:37: "'love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'...And the second is like it: 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" Those of us who have grown up in Christian families have heard this verse over and over again without fully understanding the depths of this commandment.

Jerry Bridges, in his book, "The Gospel for Real Life" renders a powerfully convicting explanation:

Have you ever thought about what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? I don't think any of us can fully plumb the depths of that commandment, but here are some obvious aspects:

Your love for God transcends all other desires (see Exodus 20:3).

Like David, you long to gaze upon His beauty and seek fellowship with Him (see Psalm 27:4).

You rejoice in meditating on His Word, and, like Jesus, you rise early to pray (see Psalm 119:97, Mark 1:35).

You always delight to do His will, regardless of how difficult it may be (see Psalm 40:8).

A regard for His glory governs and motivates EVERYTHING you do - your eating and drinking, your working and playing, your buying and selling, your reading and speaking - and, dare I mention it, even your driving (see 1 Corinthians 10:31).

You are never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you are confident God is working all things together for your good (see Romans 8:28).

Your recognize His sovereignty in every event of your life and consequently receive both success and failure from His hand (see 1 Samuel 2:7 and Psalm 75:6-7).

You are always content because you know He will never leave you or forsake you (see Hebrews 13:5).

The first petition in the Lord's Prayer, "hallowed by your name," is the most important prayer you pray (see Matthew 6:9).

Just so you all know, I completely fail this test.

Monday, August 25, 2008

From My Heart...

Some of you know that I recently found out they no longer have a job for me in Rome. This has definitley been a blow since it has been on my mind and heart for the last 7 months. Once again, I felt like God was giving me all green lights and then slammed them red at the last minute! (I repended of this by-the-way!) It is so hard to see what God is doing in the midst of confusing situations, but there is something specific he has revealed, obliterated, and is now reconstructing in my heart.

Throughout the IMB process, they ask you in every form possible how you know you are called to missions. I have seen God's hand leading me to this point for many reasons (that I won't go into now) and I have known for a while that the Lord wanted me to "go." I was following him in obedience and submission. That's how its supposed to be, right? Yes, but there is more...

When I lost the Rome job, the cry of my heart dramatically changed. It was no longer, "okay, God, I'll follow you in obedience where ever you have me" but "Oh, God, please send me!" I was no longer "allowing" myself to be used by him, I was begging.

There are several other promising job opportunites available. (The one I am particuarly drawn to is in Milan.) Not knowing where I will be less than 6 months from now is indeed frightening for this girl who LOVES to have a constant 5 year plan! However, I do know that the Lord will be faithful to sovereignly place me in the location where I can serve and glorify him the best. I am excited to see where that place is and the way he makes that clear!

Please pray for me as I am in deep prayer about this. Pray that my heart will rest solely in him. Pray that he will make his will clear to me and those in authority over me. Pray that I will release my desires and become a vessel that is not only willing but begging to be used by him.

Sweet Sixteen

One of the ladies who used to work here has a high school aged daughter. Since I had taken pictures of her before, Jeri asked me if I would be willing to be the special event for her sixteenth birthday party! I immediately laughed because I would not have been interested in having my own photoshoot when I was sixteen! (That was the point in my life when debate consumed me!)

When the day came, I asked my friend, Marsha, to join me. We went to the Durant Nature Park where the party was held. (The girls were staying overnight in the Lodge) They were all dolled-up by the time we got there and ready to take some pictures! Marsha and I had lots of fun with these girls. My camera battery died about 3/4 of the way through but I already had taken almost 500 pictures!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"How Do You Repent?"

This semester, I have the privilege of taking four amazing classes. Of course, working almost 40 hours per week and taking them does not give me quite as much pleasure! Nonetheless, I certainly see God's hand in each of them and am amazed at how they are blessing me in different ways. One of the classes is Christian Ethics with my supervising professor, Dr. Liederbach. This past tuesday, I sat absolutely captivated as I watched a brilliant intellectual who has an amazing gift for teaching and articulation also desplay unquestionable humility and spiritual depth. He completely blows the concept of "Whitewashed Southern Baptists" out of the water by exploring the depths of the idea "ethics as worship."

One of the points he made that particuarly struck me related to a discussion on living a life wholly acceptable before God. He noted that when Paul says he is perfect in the eyes of the law, he doesn't mean he never sinned, but, when he did, he appropriately handled it.

For the Christian life, of course our desire is to become more chistlike every day and flee from sin. However, the key is not to never sin but, when we do, do appropriately handle it.

He then offered a scenario:
Bob struggles with sin X day after day. Bob commits sin X and becomes so frustrated with himself for not being able to overcome it. "I just can't talk to God right now. I need to cool off and clear my mind first." We all know this is the "wrong" response - but how often do we actually say this in reality without realizing it? I know I do.

How different is this from "works based salvation?" The point of grace is that we don't have to clean ourselves up before coming to the Lord. All of us who have grown up in good Southern Baptist Churches know this. The concept of "works based salvation" immediately raises every red flag in the fiber of our being. However, we are not too quick to dismiss "works based sanctification" whether consciously or unconsciously. To think of it another way, works based sanctification is actually a refusal or even denial of God's grace!

Liederbach then asked the question, "How do you repent?" This question has indeed been on my mind. For the past several months, God has been convicting me of my lack of repentance before him. I recognize and acknowledge my sin and I ask for His help to overcome it through the power of the Holy Spirit, but do I actually repent?? Do I literally drop to my knees in humility and brokenness before him? No, I want to "pretend" before my Father who knows every whim of my heart. More precisely, I look toward the future and how I want to change rather than acknowledging the past in humility before him. I don't humble myself; I try to "improve" myself. Of course, this is not "purposefully" done because I know better. It is amazing how the sin of our hearts gets away from us so frequently! The key is to have hearts that are continually broken and contrite before a perfect, holy, and ever-gracious God. God forgive us for being so focused on salvation by grace that we forget about sanctification by grace!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

This is a song written by the Gettys that is both comforting and convicting at the same time.

Oh For A Heart

Oh for a heart to serve my God
A heart that's ever broken to His will
Oh for a heart to serve my God my King
A heart that's ever delighting Him

Oh that I would be made pure
That I would strive to love Him more
That every work of my hands
Would accomplish all His high plans
So that He would be glorified

That I would place no other above
That I would die to lift high my God
That every blessing I enjoy
Would always be employed
In the service of my faithful Lord

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tatem Reception

Oh, all those memories of flashcard flipping, endless hours of class sitting, Greek speaking, embarrassing moments sharing (I promise I didn't show Dr. Schemm that video!! And, it's all Jen's fault that we snicker every time we hear the word "romanticism", Dr. Ladd!) and, of course, movies, moods, and many calories! Those were the golden days with me and my college girl-friends.

That season has come and gone. Not only is my roommate married, but another one of our good friends, Rachel, is too! They had a small, family-only ceremony in the gazebo in front of Lolley Dorm on campus. After their honeymoon, they hosted a reception for everyone. I was so excited when Rachel asked if I could take the pictures!

I stole the newly weds away for a few minutes to get some mushy pictures!

My dear, dear friend, Sarah! (who is also Rachel's sister.)

They had the BEST idea for a reception. Instead of having one wedding cake that always tastes aweful, they had lots of different homemade cakes set up on tiers. Everyone who went through the line was cruelly forced to choose between them. (most everyone got "little" pieces of several! ...or at least I did!)

They decorated with pictures of the new couple on the tables along with flowers and candles.

Little Isaiah - isn't he a cutie??

Rachel's mom with one of the granddaughters, Hannah.

Gravitating toward the babies again! He had an adorable Ireland outfit his Aunt Sarah brought back for him!

Father-Daughter Dance

They were quite impressive!

The sisters rockin' it out - like they usually do!

Congratulations, Rachel! Love you!

Memory Lane...

One afternoon, I started humming a song from a movie I used to love many, many years ago called "Rigoletto." It is a Feature Films for Families movie that is a mix between a Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast. The movie is magical and wholesome - perfect for a little girl. The part that captivated me the most was the music. I remember closing my eyes and listening to it even though I was barely old enough to grasp the basic plot! After one of the songs came to my mind, I decided to see if the movie was available on Netflixs - and it was!! When it came in the mail, I tore it open and dashed upstairs to watch it once again. Perhaps it was so wonderful just because I was captivated by it as a little girl, but I thoroughly enjoyed it just as much now as I did back then!

Not only is the world at your fingertips through Netflixs, but YouTube as well! Here are links to my two favorite songs. The first one is pretty blurry and the sound isn't that great...but you can get the basic idea.

Notice the beautiful Italian in the second one!!

Amber's Content Critique: (for those of you who are interested:)

The Bad - I'm not crazy about some of the warm, fuzzy "unlock the love within yourself" message. That is not where love comes from and I don't think ourselves need to be that "esteemed." This theme is not pervasive but it is still in the undertones.

The Good- It is true that an "ugly heart is worse than an ugly face." This is a good lesson for little children.
It is also notable that this movie seems to be one of the last where "the rich" are not portrayed as being the dishonest jerks of the story. Literature has been filled with benevolent wealthy until recent years. (Mr. Darcy, Scarlett Pimpernel, Mr. Jarndyce, Mr. Brownlow, etc.) Today, most stories paint the poor as the "heroes" at the expense of the rich. This political message is subtle, emotionally appealing, and obviously successful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend Photo Shoot

One of my friends, Marsha, and I recently found out we have a mutual hobby in photography. We decided to plan a photo shoot together to play around and try some new ideas. The first family that came to mind to "beef up" both our portfolios was the Jones family. They have 5 beautiful children and getting good pictures of them was so easy! Here are some of my favorites:

The Show Must Go On!

My sister, Grace, and her friends, Taylor and Lindsey, love to practice and preform plays for us on a regular basis! They never cease to be cleaver, humorous, and very, very creative! Here are some snap shots I took for their upcoming performance: Puss in Boots!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Biking and Pictures

Next weekend, I am taking pictures for a 16 year old girl's birthday party! The girls will spend the night in the lodge of Durant Nature Park and I am going to take each one out for personal "photo shoots!" How fun is that?? 

So, I took the opportunity on a saturday afternoon to stuff my bike in the back of my car and head to the park to scope out the scenery. It was so beautiful that I decided to jump on a biking trail and ride. My bike and I had a very happy reunion from the days I rode it for miles and miles. Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved riding. I am already scoping out biking trails in Europe and can't wait to revisit this hobby! 

Here are some pictures I took along the way. 

Monday, August 4, 2008

They're Married!

Well, my roommate is officially married and off honeymooning in Jamaica! The wedding was absolutely beautiful and I was so blessed to be a part of it! I don't have pictures because they wouldn't let me bring my camera! (I understand being forbidden from taking pictures while I'm on stage...but not having it for the reception??!!) I actually really appreciated their ban on my camera since it freed me to have fun without worrying about missing great shots! (I knew Casey was getting them all much better than I could anyway!!)

Since the wedding preparation started, I KNEW I would be a basket-case when the day finally arrived! During the rehearsal, I started to tear up! After the dinner(which was a great cowboy theme with gingham table cloths, lanterns, sunflowers, and BBQ!), Derek, Amanda and I had one last "talk" on the steps of Binkley and even more tears welled up in my eyes. I knew they would come quite liberally at the ceremony and I was just praying I wouldn't fall off the stage!

Laying in my bed that night, memory after memory kept entering into my mind as I reflected on the last 9 years I have known Amanda and the last 3 1/2 years I have know "Derek and Amanda." I remember the first Sunday our family came to Trinity and I saw her sitting with her family in a cute yellow sundress! I remember the first time I spent the night at her house. In fact, after we asked our parents if we could spend the night, my mom's first response was, "But, Amber, you don't have a toothbrush!" With a smile creeping out of the side of his mouth, Mr. Goetze said, "That's okay! We have a guest toothbrush that all our guests use when they stay with us!"

I met Derek that semester in my History of Ideas class. When I first met him, he and Amanda had JUST started dating. I knew she was dating someone, but I did not realize it was him. We sat together in class and I remember thinking, “Who is this guy who keeps cutting up! He is pretty funny but clearly doesn’t take life too seriously!” The first time I saw them together in the hallway, I said, “YOU’RE dating Amanda Goetze??” (They never let me forget thatJ)

Shortly thereafter, I moved in with Amanda and we became roommates! The first day I moved in, we all loaded up in her Mustang and hit the town! Throughout the next 3 ½ years, we made many trips in that car to Krispy Kreme at midnight (being big bad Southeastern students!), had many late night talks, edited quite a few papers together, attended many classes, cooked many dinners, watched many movies, studied in the library for MANY hours, and laughed more than I can remember! Derek is the ONLY person who could get away with accusing Plotinus of “flushing metaphysics down the cosmic toilet” in a paper read to the entire class! Some of my favorite times were when the three of us would “do rounds” together while Derek was working with Campus Security. We would go through all the buildings (cracking jokes all the way!) making sure they were locked and secure. We had our favorite banister to slide down and always took note of the mustard choir robes at the bottom of Binkley that would be Amanda’s bridesmaid’s dresses one day!

D & A have been the truest of friends! They have literally laughed and cried with me! They always knew exactly when I needed to “talk,” when I needed to “laugh,” and when I just needed some donuts! What a huge blessing it has been to be a part of their lives and to have them a part of mine!

The day of the wedding arrived and I hiked to Binkley Chapel to meet Steph Joyner to get my hair and make-up done! I LOVE Stephanie and she always does an awesome job! Before long, the room was filled with photographers, mothers, bridesmaides, and the bride all getting hair and make-up done! We started getting ready at 8:00 am and finished around 1:30!! It always takes SO much longer than you think to get everyone ready to go! The bridesmaid’s dresses turned out to be really beautiful. They were white halter tops with light yellow floor length skirts and a yellow sash around the waste. Very clean looking and exactly what I pictured for Amanda's wedding. The yellow dress she was wearing the first day I met her 9 years later became the yellow bridesmaid dress I was wearing! We went outside for some great pictures with Casey and Kristin while Wes and Angie took the guys pictures out back.

When the time to walk down the aisle finally arrived, I felt very "emotionally stable" and excited! We had one last prayer time with Amanda and one last big hug! Still feeling good, I lined up to walk down the aisle. After Allison and Patrick walked down, Mrs. Bush signaled for me and Heath to step forward. As soon as I took my first step, the tears came! They continued to flow all the way down the aisle! When I saw Derek, his eyes teared up with the half-cry half-laugh emotion that has haunted me for weeks! I made it to my spot and gained a little bit of composure...until the doors of Binkley opened and Amanda walked down the aisle. She was absolutely gorgeous and Derek's face was priceless! I know they had been waiting for that moment for a long time.

The ceremony was beautiful and I managed to dry up my tears/big smile combination leaving just the big smile! The reception was an absolute dream! It was held at a beautiful old house that has been excellently redone for wedding receptions and events. Gorgeous garden, great band, cobblestone dance floor, beautiful tent, amazing was perfect! I know Amanda was living her dream!

Now they are off having a wonderful time in Jamaica. I'm sure their happiness knows no bounds! They have waited patiently for this for a long time and the Lord has blessed them both richly. I can't wait to see how the Lord uses them as man and wife!