Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Bridget is 3 Years Old!

Dear Bridget -

I'm so thankful that you are my daughter! You bring joy, laughter, and sweetness to everyday. Here are some things I want to remember about you at this age.

  • You started preschool at Trinity Baptist Church in the fall. You only went once a week but you really enjoyed your teachers, your class, and the projects you did there. You jumped right in. There were a few times towards the end of the year that you were (or pretended to be) bashful and didn't want to go in, but without much convincing, you were fine. 
  • You had your end of the year school graduation and said your class memory verse, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." - Psalm 23:1. You also sang Jesus Loves Me and the ABC Song. 
  • You continue to be quite the talker. You have a pretty big vocabulary and I am amazed the
    sentences you speak these days. You still talk in a "little-kid" way that is really adorable. And for some reason you have a twang and make a lot of single syllable words into two syllables like "Be-ear" 
  • Speaking of bear - you still love your white polar bear and sleep with him every night. You are pretty flexible and can still go to sleep without him, but you much prefer it if he's with you. You also pretend that bear is your baby - even though I try to convince you to play with your baby dolls, that worn out bear is still the favorite. 
  • You have always been such a sweet child, but turning three has brought about an attitude we haven't seem before. You have been questioning our authority and not obeying very well lately. You are pretty sneaky in your disobedience and won't outright disobey, but will somehow not do what we ask. You are just in the normal three-year-old testing phase and I'm glad that I at least know from experience that it is just a phase! 
  • Still you remain very sweet and tell me all the time that you love me, that you are happy I'm your mom, that you like some part of my outfit or hair, etc. Yesterday I was wearing a Ralph Lauren shirt with the emblem on it and you pointed to it and said "Mommy, I like your cow" - 😂
  • You are extremely emotional. You cry at the drop of a hat and it is sometimes hard to distinguish if you truly are upset or are just wanting our attention (or trying to get your sister in trouble). It is also hard to get you to stop crying. We have been working on "taking some deep breaths" to calm down, or calming down in your room. I think these cry-fests are your version of a tantrum. 

  • You are a great big sister to Josiah. You a eager to play with him and love to make him laugh. I trust you to watch him and play with him and "make sure he doesn't put anything in his mouth" while I'm doing something in the kitchen or have to step away for a few minutes. 

  • You are also a great little sister to Lucy. You are a faithful playing companion. Most of the time, you are happy for her to take charge and decide what you will both play. Sometimes you put your foot down and have you own opinion - there are lots of learning opportunities when y'all play - especially recently because y'all can communicate pretty well together. You have both gotten more imaginative lately. We are at the beach this week and you, Lucy, and your cousin Wyatt were playing that you were going on an adventure and I heard you pipe in "We have to get a map!" 
  • You have had to show some patience and understanding with Lucy doing more things than you because she is older. She played soccer in the spring and you really wanted to play too, but you cooperated and cheered her on and would sometimes kick the ball or run down the field while she was practicing. You were totally fine with Lucy going to school an extra two days and seemed to enjoy staying home with "Mommy and Josiah" - I think you enjoyed getting to be in control of playtime on those two days and more attention from mommy.  
  • You continue to try to keep up with Lucy and succeed a lot actually. She LOVES to draw and do art a lot at the dining room table, and you are right there with her a lot of the time. You don't have quite as long of an attention span, but you do enjoy being able to do art with her. Recently you started using her scissors - apparently you aren't interested in your all-plastic ones anymore. 
  • We had a "Frozen" birthday party for you a week before your actual birthday since your birthday fell on the day of your preschool graduation and also the day we drove to Atlanta for a homeschool conference - Teach Them Diligently. So the day of your birthday, Gigi and Pops and your aunts and uncle watched you. 
  • You got some Polly Pocket dolls for your birthday and enjoy playing with those. You also enjoy playing outside. 
  • You are a really loud talker! At least around the people you know well. You seem to shout a lot of your words - especially when you are excited. 
  • You potty trained around the time when Josiah was born - so you were probably 25 or 26 months old. It took about 3 months to really get it down. You are a pro now and only have rare accidents when you get distracted with playing in a new environment. 
  • You have always been a good eater, but in the last 6 months it has become a little more difficult to get you to eat. Rewarding you with dessert seems to help, but you can get really SLOW eating things you aren't crazy about. 
  • At your three year old doctor appointment you were 50% weight and 80% height. You didn't get any shots, but we did talk to the doctor about your constantly runny nose and made an appointment with the allergist. 
  • You wake up around 7:15-30 each morning, take a nap from 2:00-4:00, and go to bed around 8:15 or 8:30. You still nap pretty consistently but we have started to have about 1 day a week when you just refuse to take a nap. Those days, you are pretty tired in the evenings. 
  • Sharing a room with Lucy has gone pretty well. The only downside has been when one of you wakes up early, then wakes the other one up 😮 It also is tough when one of y'all is sick. In that scenario, we put the sick one in the formal living room for the night. 

Overall, you are such a happy, loving little girl. We love having you in our family and are so thankful that God gave you to us! I see so much potential in your emotional, sweet demeanor. You seem to have the best emotional intelligence in the family - it comes naturally to you to empathize with others. You are eager to share your toys because you love to see others happy. I love how talkative you are and can't wait to converse with you over the years to come. One of my favorite things about being a mom is seeing you build one-on-one relationships with your siblings and your parents. You and Lucy have become great play mates recently and it is such a joy to watch y'all getting along and having fun together. You and Josiah love giggling together 😊  You are an amazing daughter and sister and we can't wait to see what the next year has in store for you. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Call for Help

Several months ago, I shared with y'all that I had the opportunity to take over our church's Global Medical Outreach (GMO) ministry.  I wanted to take a little bit of time and update you on what's been going on over the past few months because there has been a flurry of activity:

  • Planning decisions made: 237,498
  • Emails sent: 1,267,649
  • 1 Scouting trip to Ecuador planned, cancelled by Delta, and then subsequently rescheduled over this past occur Memorial Day weekend
  • Conversations: 467
  • Specific answers to prayer: Countless
So, a little bit tongue and cheek with the above list except the cancellation of the scouting trip - that actually happened. And except the countless specific answers to prayer - which will be likely be another blog post because it is so cool to see the reality of specific prayers answered.  But I say all of that to highlight that there has been a ton of activity and that it is time and energy consuming to be planning a mission effort across the globe.  However, I am happy to report that we have a full team of clinicians, pharmacists, and volunteers committed and we are right on target for our trip in July!

And this is where I need your help. Trips like this require financing and I need to raise $2000.00.  This amount will help cover trip expenses as well as provide funds to help cover the cost of some of the medication and supplies that we need.  And of course, if together we raise more than the $2000.00 then the extra amount will be applied to our general GMO fund to offset costs for subsequent ministry and outreach efforts.  It will not be wasted!

$2000.00 is a lot of money.  It is daunting to me to try and raise that much.  But I know that I serve a big God who delights to answer prayer and who delights to see his gospel work advance!  So let's do this!

To donate, please make a check payable to Warren Baptist Church and put Ecuador in the "memo" line.  Then download the form HERE and fill out the bottom portion.  Place the check and the bottom portion of the form in an envelop and send it to the address listed on the form which should be:

Warren Baptist Church
3203 Washington Road
Augusta Ga, 30907

Thank you so much in advance for your support.  This kind of effort cannot happen without your help.  Also, stay tuned for ways in which you can pray for our team.  Finally, if you would like more specific information, stories, updates about Ecuador you can follow our church's Ecuador mission blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A New Year, A New Opportunity

I (Jason) have some exciting news to share at the start of this New Year.  God has given me and Laura an incredible opportunity to head up a new ministry at our local church, Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.  We are launching a Global Medical Outreach and I am leading the first trip to Ecuador July 22-29 of this year!

First, a little bit of background.  Several years ago, Laura and I moved to Augusta for my physical therapy school.  During my time in school, I had an opportunity to go on a medical mission trip with our church to Ecuador.  Later that year, one of my pastors gave me a copy of a book called "Preach and Heal" and that book had a tremendous impact on my life.  After talking with Laura, we began to pray together for our lives to be a proverbial blank check for God to use and we began think more seriously about medical mission work.  Fast forward to just about 2 years ago, I had been practicing therapy for about 2 years and Laura and I began to research full time medical mission since this was still on our heart.  We spent about a year studying different agencies, meeting with missionaries, and learning about seminary requirements to go full time.  But towards the end of that time we did not have a good sense about the full time path and just continued to pray on how to use my medical skill and Laura's expertise to God's glory. In the meantime, our church discontinued it's medical mission trip and no longer sent any type of short term medical teams.

Well, about 10 months ago, I had a not so chance conversation (because I don't really believe in random chance.  God ordains meetings, conversations, etc) with the physician who no longer led the trip due to getting close to retirement.  In that meeting, which was at his grandson's birthday party, I asked him if he was still going to Ecuador.  He told me that unfortunately the medical mission had ended and they had not taken a trip in 5 years.  I asked why and he told me that he had not found anyone who was interested in leading trips and carrying on this ministry of the church.  I paused, grinned at him and said, "I will."  So I began to explain some of my testimony, which I related above, and I began to sense that this is where God was leading us to serve Him in a mission capacity.  We went to the Pastor, had a couple of meetings and the next thing I knew, we were launching this ministry again!  I am really excited because after 6 years, our church is going to be sending medical professionals and other volunteers on short term medical mission trips again! This is so important for our church because our church is dedicated to the advancement of the Gospel both locally and globally and because, as many of you know, Augusta has a large community of healthcare professionals and many of them are in our church. It truly is amazing how God, in his timing, brings you to certain locations, gives you passions and skills, and then gives you an incredible opportunity to serve Him where you are with those skills.

I had the opportunity to host a vision meeting for our ministry and highlight our mission statement.  I wanted to include it in this blog so that you can see and know the heart and desire of this ministry.  Our Vision statement is simple: Warren Baptist Church Global Medical Outreach exists to make Christ followers of all people by empowering local churches across the globe to proclaim the Gospel using the medical knowledge and skill which God has graciously entrusted to us as health care providers.

And really this statement can be applied across every believer with a wide range of skill sets and not just health care.  Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God and with the purpose to advance His Kingdom and make His name known.

Finally, I say all of this to say that, while this is a very exciting time, this is something that Laura and I have never done before and it is stretching our faith and my energy levels daily because there are many needs sitting in front of this ministry.  It's funny, so often I've been on the receiving end of ministries and organization soliciting for help but now I am on the front lines with them as we work toward a common goal of spreading the Gospel.  But I report these needs knowing full well that God will provide.
  • PRAY: This sounds so cliche, but honestly, being on the leadership side of ministry now, I have a greater and deeper understanding of the necessity for brothers and sisters in Christ to intercede.  God has already answered many of our prayers in cool ways and he continues to do so.  But join me in praying over this ministry.  Pray that God would bring the right team members for this trip and the trips in the future.  Pray that God would prepare the hearts of the people we will come in contact with that they would receive the Gospel message and be saved.  Pray that God would watch over all of our travel and logistics.  And finally pray for me and my family that we would continue to be obedient followers of Christ, that we would trust Him always, and that we would have unity as a married couple and family.  Be a warrior and in all things, pray.
  • GIVE: To pull these types of short term trips off requires a lot of supplies, a lot of transportation on the ground, and a lot of logistics.  And all of that takes dollars.  Again, this sounds so cliche, but as I continue to walk with Lord and grow in his grace it is becoming clearer and clearer that perhaps the reason we have been given so much wealth on a global stage is to use it to advance God's kingdom.  George Mueller says in his autobiography that you will never regret investing in the Kingdom of God.  So I ask you to consider supporting this effort.  Your donation will be used to grow this ministry, fund scholarships for participants, provide supplies, help with transportation costs on the ground etc.  You can make your donation by writing a check to Warren Baptist Church, notating Global Medical Mission in the "for" section and mailing it to 3203 Washington Rd, Augusta, Ga 30907. Or, you can go online and make a donation designating your gift to Global Medical Outreach.
  • GO:  We need folks.  We need man power.  So if you are looking for a ministry to get involved with not just financially but tangibly, we would love to have you.  Maybe you are a medical professional looking to use your skills abroad to share the Gospel.  We need you.  Maybe you are a student studying to make a career in health care but want to know if there is something more you can do.  We need you.  Maybe you have the gift of language and can interpret.  We need you.  Maybe you just have a heart for missions and God's command to make disciples of all nations and can volunteer and assist the effort.  We need you too. So if you would like more information you can email me at
This is a cool opportunity and I am looking forward to see where God takes this effort.  Lastly, I hope in your own life you reflect and ask yourself if you are leveraging your time, finances, and gifts for God's Kingdom which will never fail.  As C.T. Studd once wrote:

Only one life 'twill soon be past;
Only what's done for Christ will last.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Lucy is 4 1/2 Years Old!

Dear Lucy -

I missed your 4th birthday letter, so I'm going to try to make up for it now!

You have changed so much since since my last "Lucy Update". Here are some things I want to remember:
  • You LOVE arts and crafts - it is your favorite thing to do. We now have a craft bin in the dining room so that you can color any time you want to. I'm surprised at how often you prefer to color than to play with toys
  • Your imagination has really grown recently. I hear you doing a lot more imaginative play by yourself and with Bridget than you used to. 
  • You love helping me cook or really anything we let you "help" with. You are an eager and fast learner.
  • You still love being read to. You have a very long attention span and can pay attention to long books. I wish I had more opportunities to read with you - life is pretty crazy with Bridget and Josiah thrown in! I can't wait for you to learn to read. During your rest times, I let you look at books - you look at them for a lot of the 1 hour you are required to be quiet for. You also do a lot of soft humming, talking, singing, to yourself during this time. I have to remind you a lot to "be quiet" during "quiet time". 
  • You have a really good memory. You like to recollect experiences from your past in detail. You also like to look at family photos and videos on the ipad. 

  • You love to dance and sing. Your favorite CD is Frozen. You and Bridget love to run in circles around the room singing along. You know a lot of the words by heart. You did ballet at the YMCA this winter. 
  • You started preschool (4K) this year. You go on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30-1:30. You have done awesome academically, even though you are probably the youngest one in your class. You do a great job tracing and drawing your letters and numbers. You did great at first and didn't seem to have any adjustment issues - but a few months after you started school, I found out you had been asking your teachers to take you to the bathroom around 10 times per day! After being confused for a few days (since you didn't go to the bathroom that may times at home), we came to the conclusion that you just liked the attention you got from your teachers taking you (since at home you have to go by yourself). After talking to you and your teachers about it, and praying together about it on the way to school (almost every day) - you are doing a lot better in this area and are only asking the teachers to go about 1x per day. This was also a clue to me that you may appreciate more one on one time with me! :) 

  • You are extremely brave, assertive, and like to set the rules and play by the rules. You see things in black and white and like to "tell it like it is" - which is often really funny..... We have been working with you on being kind, saying kind things, saying things in a kind way, "kindness" is our parenting key word for you. We pray that you will come to know Jesus as your personal Savior and that his love and kindness will flow through you. 
  • You haven't napped consistently since you were three years old. You have set your mind to the fact that four year olds don't nap or need to nap - so you never do. As a result, from about 5:00pm you start to get really tired. Most mornings you do so well. You listen, obey, set a good example, play nice with your sister, etc. But when you start to get tired, you find it much harder to listen, obey, be kind, etc. I bought the book - The Power of a Praying Parent and have found so much comfort praying specific prayers over you. I desire so much that you come to love, obey, and follow Jesus - that you would choose to surrender your entire life to him. 

  • Because you don't nap, our latest strategy has been to put you to bed at 7:00pm! This is so early and often it is tough for us to get dinner done and our night time routine accomplished in time to get you to bed at this time. You normally wake up on your own at 7:30am, and when you have gone to bed early, you are in great spirits the whole day. 
  • You LOVE TV - we kinda laugh about the fact that you are a TV addict even though (or maybe because) we don't let you watch very much (no more than 1 hour a day). We are trying to cut back your amount of TV because it seems to have put a damper on all other activities (nothings seems quite as appealing to you as watching TV). 

  • A lot of my thoughts these days are taken up with Kindergarten for you. There are so many options - it is daunting! We feel like God has called us to eventually homeschool our family - we just aren't sure if we should start while Bridget and Josiah are still so young and need my time and attention so much. Right now the options we are considering are: 4 day a week preschool at Abilene Baptist, Homeschool, Public School, or a new Public Charter School. We are praying through all the options. 
  • You are so brave it is a little scary! You haven't cried at all the last few times you got shots and you have lots of guts to disobey us even when you know punishment will follow..... We pray that God will give us the guidance we need to not crush you strong will but direct it to positive areas- so that you can shine in your natural given strengths! 
  • You remind me (and Jason) of ME so much! We share so many little weird idiosyncrasies. One in particular is our keen temperature perception. We each easily get too hot or cold, want to change the temperature in the house or car, like to change our outfits multiple times a day so we are the perfect temperature, etc.! Lucy (like me), also likes to know the overall plan of the day - what is going to happen throughout the day, what day of the week it is, what time it is, she wants to know it all! 

  • We have been trying to be more diligent about family bible time and singing each evening. It has been amazing to see and hear how much you understand about the Bible. 
  • In the fall, I started helping with the new preschool choir program called "Musical Melodies" which you were in! You got to sing at a Baby Dedication Service (the one Josiah was dedicated at), All Family Night (where Operation Christmas Child and other gifts are given), the Ladies Christmas Tea, and at a Nursing Home. It was so much fun to help in this area and watch you sing so well and bring joy to so many! 
Lucy - You are truly my mini me! You look like me and act like me a lot too! Many of our strengths and weaknesses are the same! Many times when I'm parenting you, I feel like I could and should be giving myself the very same lecture! God has used YOU to change ME so much! He is molding both you and me into the people that he wants us to be through sometimes painful trial and error! It is not easy growing up, or raising a child, but I truly am so proud of you. You are a beautiful little girl, on the inside and out. I know you love your family so much and I want so much for our family to be a safe haven for you - a place where you know you are LOVED UNCONDITIONALLY. I love hearing your thoughts and questions about life. You are experiencing and learning so much about this world every day and it is a pleasure to teach you so many things. I'm so blessed that God (and my dear husband), have given me the opportunity to stay at home with you, and Bridget, and Josiah. 

I love you sweet girl - Love, Mom 

Josiah is 6 Months Old!

Josiah turned 6 months old a few weeks ago. He is 18 lbs. (75%), and also 75% for height and 90% for head size. You wear size 3 diapers and 9 month clothes. Here are some things I want to remember about this stage.
  • I LOVE this age! You are so sweet and cute. You are the perfect size to be held. You can hold yourself up pretty well while I hold you so it's easy to take you with me places - like to drop off the girls at school.
  • You got your first tooth (on the bottom) a little after 6 months, and your 2nd bottom tooth around Christmas time. 
  • You wake up around 7:30 in the morning, take a morning nap around 9:30 or 10:00, another nap around 2:00pm (when Lucy and Bridget nap/rest), then sometimes need another short nap around dinner time. Unfortunately, being the youngest brother - your naps often have to get interrupted to go take or pick up siblings from their preschool, or to run errands. I feel bad having to interrupt your naps, and always hope that you will somehow stay asleep as I transition you from the bed to the carseat and vice versa. But you are an EXTREMELY light sleep and wake up VERY easily. So a lot of times, you naps are composed of lots of mini naps. 
  • You go to bed around 8:00 or 8:30pm. Most of the time you wake up around 11:00 to eat (which is right before I go to bed), then wake up AGAIN around 4:00am to eat. At this point I'm okay with this because you just wimper a little, I feed you, and you fall right back to sleep. But lately, you have been peeing out of your diaper and into your sleep sack almost every night - so the 4:00 am feeding can also be an ordeal with changing your clothes, your sheets sometimes, etc. 
  • You are a really good, happy baby. Sometimes your schedule will get pretty messed up and you amaze me by somehow being in an okay mood. If you get enough sleep and food - you are in a GREAT mood usually. You love to laugh and smile. You also love people and getting attention. 
  • In the mornings you really don't get a whole lot of attention since we are all busy getting ready. I used to feed you first thing, then put you in your little rocking chair seat while I took a shower to give your food a chance to settle (you spit up A LOT!). Then after my shower I'd let you play on a blanket or sit in your chair again while I fed the girls breakfast and got them ready for school. Around 5 months, you looked bored sitting in the chair and I started letting you play in the pack n' play while I take a shower - then put you in the exerciser/jumperoo while the girls eat. 
  • You are starting to really love tummy time and can rotate yourself in a circle. You can also push yourself backwards but don't do that very much anymore. Since you have been teething you are content on your tummy chewing on toys. 
  • You started sitting by yourself around 6 months but still sometimes fall over. If I'm not in the same room as you I put the boppy around you. 
  • I have an Ergo and use it ALL the time! You like being able to look around and being close to Mommy. 
  • You LOVE to suck on your thumb. I haven't probably exerted enough energy trying to get you like pacifiers instead. You love to fall asleep on your tummy, head tilted to one side, sucking your thumb. 
  • We are so THANKFUL that you haven't gotten very sick yet. By this age Bridget had already had tubes put in her ears and you haven't even had an ear infection! This is such a blessing!!!!! You have had a few colds with running noses, and since you like to sleep on your tummy - it is hard for you to breathe when you are congested. We let you sleep in your rock n' play and that seemed to do the trick. You have outgrown the rock n' play now though so if a bad cold happens again we will probably have you sleep in your reclined car seat. 
  • We tried out baby led weaning when you turned 6 months and you seemed to like it okay. Your first food was avocados. You also tried bananas, sweet potatoes, and diced peaches. It ended up being extremely messy. You ended wearing most of the food. I think you got some in your mouth but I had to bathe you after every meal! So we decided to switch to puffs and baby food until you mastered grabbing small bits of food. So far you are doing awesome with baby food - you love it! Most of the time, you even like the food the first time you try it. You are getting better at grabbing puffs and getting those in your mouth too. 

  • Your favorite toy is the signing snail. You love to watch Lucy and Bridget play and put up with them getting into your "personal space" pretty well 
  • You do pretty well at church nursery, BSF, and the gym nursery. We have left you with a few babysitters too and you have done well. :) 
  • You are a pretty good traveler too! We have gone to Atlanta a few times and even drove out to Mississippi this week! 
I just love you so much Josiah! I still can't believe that I have a little boy! It is the best thing ever. Your smile, laugh, and cuddles melt my heart. LOVE YOU ALWAYS - MOM 

His Love is BIG

I was a guest blogger over the summer on my friends Liz and Angie's blog Hometown Honey. Here's the post!

As I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics a few weeks ago, I was mesmerized by how many countries there are in the world. Sure, there were the big names that have an athlete to represent them in almost every sport: the USA, Great Britain, China, Germany. but there were also tiny countries there that I had never heard of before: Cyprus, Comoros, &Lesotho? It was amazing to see the variety that God has created. I thought about how he LOVES each of those athletes just as personally and MUCH as he loves me.

Then, my mind flipped back to some of my small inconsequential prayers of the day. "Lord, please help my screaming baby fall asleep." "Lord, please help my daughters get along - just for 10 minutes!" "Lord, help me find my phone - I lost it again!" "Lord, please help me be patient today - and speak in kindness to my family." And guess what - I am 100% confident that the God of the universe heard those little prayers, and even more amazing - he answered many of them!

But what about all those 100s of athletes parading around the Olympic stadium? Did they have little prayers like mine? I'm sure many of them did. And probably some more important ones - like "Lord, help me win this medal that I've worked my whole life for!" And I know that my God heard those prayers and answered many of them as well.

I feel like my mind is spinning most days because I have 3 small children whose many needs need to be met (by me most of the time). Sometimes I can't even think straight, or listen to the many questions that they ask me simultaneously. However, God is SO MUCH BIGGER than me or even than I can imagine him to be. He not only created me, all the Olympic athletes, and the additional 7 billion people living on the globe, but he LOVES every one of them and is intimately aware of what is going on in their lives - their small needs and their large ones. This is true whether they are his followers or not. If they are his followers, he loves getting to hear their prayers and revealing himself to them. If they have turned their back on Him, he longs for them to return and seeks out ways to reveal himself to them. (The story of the Prodigal Son reveals this side of God to us). However, if they know nothing of Him, he desires for them to know the truth of his gospel. Not only does he KNOW what is going on, he LISTENS to their prayers, and INTERVENES in their daily life! The God of the universe! I can't wrap my head around this power.

Then my mind shifted to his LOVE. Not only does he KNOW what's going on in their lives, and CARE enough to listen to and even answer prayers, he LOVES each and every human on this planet! I don't know about you, but there are only a set number of people that I'm able to "love" at a time. But God's love is limitless!

When I had my second child, I had the common worry of "How can I possibly love another child as much as my first child? My poor second child will never be able to compete with the HUGE love that I have for my first." However, as soon as my second child Bridget was born, my heart grew in size. I immediately loved her just as much - just in a different sort of way. So when I was pregnant with my third child, I didn't worry at all about the "love" factor. I knew my heart would just grow in size to accommodate another precious child. Sure enough, my heart has grown again with the addition of Josiah. So just how big is God's love in comparison, since he has approximately 7 BILLION children! Not only that, he loves each one of them with a more perfect love than the HUGE love I have for MY children. Not only that, but he has loved every person who has ever been created since the dawn of time!

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19
With every birth, God's heart doesn't have to grow like a new mother's does, it is already infinitely large. I love how personal my God is. He knows me better than any human ever has or ever will. And even so, even though he knows the dirty, sinful places in my heart - he loves me so much. All I can do in return is be THANKFUL that my God is so amazing, seek to love others in the unconditional way he does, and most importantly LOVE him back. Isn't that what we desire the most from the ones we love? For their love in return? The most precious thing in my life right now is feeling my own child's love for me in response to my love for them.

Lyrics from "How Deep the Father's Love for Us"
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory. 
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished. 
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End Book Review 2016

Years are going by so fast these days.  But with each passing year is another opportunity to tell you about the books that I read and whether or not you should read them.  I read some good ones this year that spanned different topics.  As always there is a link to the previous reviews at the bottom of this post if you are just getting into my book reviews.  Here we go!

Lead like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.  I had never read any kind of leadership book so this was a nice change of pace.  One of my pastors recommended it to me since I am involved in small leadership positions in my local church.  I really enjoyed this book.  One of the authors is a business guy and brings a unique perspective to leadership.  The book is biblically based and thorough in describing different aspects of leadership using Jesus' mentorship of the disciples as the framework.  While often focusing more on business leaders, the authors do a fantastic job of applying the principles to your church life, family life, and personal life.  I learned some basic things about vision and core values which has already helped the LifeGroup I lead and the Global Medical Outreach I am involved with at our church.  If you are a leader in any capacity, this is definitely a must read because it is thoughtful, practical, applicable, and humorous at times.

Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes.  This was a book that the men in our LifeGroup decided to read together and I am glad we did.  If you are a dude and you love Jesus, this is a good book to open up.  Kent Hughes tackles all kinds of issues relating to leadership, holiness, work, evangelism, prayer, etc.  It's easy to read and incorporates many good analogies and funny anecdotes.  But that doesn't detract from the many challenging points of introspection and application that conveys.  This book also has good discussion questions at the end of each chapter if you decide to read it as a group to help sharpen each other.  Definitely a good book to read with lots of points to help examine your soul.

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper.  I read this because of a crazy Amazon kindle deal.  And, boy, was this a cool surprise.  I really really like this book.  If you don't know about William Wilberforce you should.  Eric Metaxas has written an extensive biography of him and there has even been a movie made about his life if you want to know more.  The book starts with a brief biography to familiarize yourself with him and his life.  William Wilberforce was a smart young politician in England and after becoming a follower of Christ dedicated his life to end the slave trade in England.  So after you get some biographical information, John Piper begins to answer the question of what made him tick.  The book explores from a gospel perspective and William's own writings from letters and his work Real Christianity how this good news impacted his life and how it enabled him to overcome so many challenges while pursuing biblical social justice in an age that was blinded by political interest.  This is a great read: informative, challenging, and motivating.  (I already downloaded his book Real Christianity on the Kindle and will read it next year.)

Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.  This was a beast.  Not going to lie.  I've always wanted to read Jonathan Edwards because he is one of colonial America's greatest theologians.  So while, this book was good and thought provoking, it was also tough.  Edwards is a very meticulous writer and goes to great lengths to correctly outline his propositions and arguments so that they will not be misconstrued, which is good, but it also makes it challenging to read because you can easily get lost from the main idea that he is defending.  But I'm glad that I read it.  He explores the question, due to a rising heresy in colonial America and one that is very much applicable today, of how does one know that they are a believer?  What is it about a christian that marks him or her as a christian? How do you know if your affections toward Christ are stemming from Christ and his glorious mercy on your life or from something else.  Bottom line of the book is a welling up of joy and awe at the grandeur and mercy and grace of God enables a believer to live for Christ.  All else is fake.  Tough read, great answers, and applicable despite it being written over 200 years ago.

God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew.  This book is great.  Quite a contrast from the book mentioned.  I flew through this autobiography.  This book is about the life and ministry of Brother Andrew, a Dutch missionary after WWII.  It is his reflection on the early part of his life and ministry after coming to Christ and being one of the early pioneer missionaries that brought God's word behind the communist countries of the Soviet Union and China.  This book has stories of intrigue, suspense, faith, and God's incredible provision.  Brother Andrew has also written a sequel regarding more recent adventures into the middle east but I would start with this book to get to know him and his story.  Out of one man's conviction that people need the Bible, a ministry was started which is still in operation today.  It is called Open Doors and the they are still bringing Bibles and ministering to believers in some of the most difficult parts of the world today.  Fantastic book.  You will want to more fervently build God's Kingdom after reading this book.

Family Driven Faith by Voddie Bauchum.  Of all the great books and fascinating stories in this years reading list, this was the highlight of the year for me personally.  Voddie delivers a gut punch to your soul: a soul punch? But man, is it ever needed in today's Christian homes. Voddie centers the book around Deuteronomy 6 and each chapter in the book is pretty much an exposition of different parts of that passage.  The main point is that secular thinking is creeping into christian families and kids which is causing young people to leave the faith.  He argues that the remedy is holistic parental worldview training to impart to their young children the deep meaning and truths to our kids.  That way, they truly know the faith and can stand against the philosophical storms our children will face as they grow up.  He encourages men to lead in this process.  He challenges many of our natural, conventional attitudes towards kids, education, and family and demonstrates how they often are unbiblical.  Voddie is honest when he writes that he has received much flack from believers for this book and his arguments that are contained it in, but I think he is right.  We may just not want to hear it.  This book is powerful, convicting, extremely challenging, but encouraging and hopeful all at the same time.  It's a soul punch, but you and I need it.  #makeourfamiliesbiblicalagain. 

Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung.  I like Kevin DeYoung.  I like his books, his writing style, and his blog.  He is funny and concise and that is what you get in this short 10 chapter book.  This book is also a treasure in the midst of so many attacks on the validity and veracity of the Bible.  This book is about the Bible.  He argues that the Bible is sufficient.  That it is clear.  That is is authoritative.  And that it is necessary.  This is not an apologetic defense of the scriptures, although he provides several fantastic references at the back of the book if that is what you are looking for.  Rather, it is a book to encourage the believer.  Kevin reminds us of the beauty of God's word and that though the world would try to undermine it, God's word will last forever.  This book will definitely help you understand why we need the Bible and also help you treasure it a little bit more than you might currently.  A great, encouraging read!

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.  This book rounds out the year.  This book has been sitting on my shelf for years and I finally got around to reading it and, although small, it packs a punch.  Centered on treasures and Jesus' teaching in Matthew, Randy Alcorn succinctly and vividly describes the reality that you can and should store treasures in heaven where they cannot be destroyed.  Everything in this world is passing away and we can't take it with us but what we can do is use and leverage everything for his Kingdom.  It echoes George Mueller's statement that we will never regret investing int he kingdom of God.  This book does not read with guilt ridden language but rather with the encouragement and hope that giving is truly an eternal investment that, for the Christ follower, you will one day see.  This book is also set up for group study with prayers and discussion questions at the end of each chapter.  Our LifeGroup is going start 2017 with this as our emphasis to continue to be focused on spreading the good news near and far.

That wraps up this years review!  Hope you found it helpful and inspires you to read.  What good books challenged you and helped you grow this year?  And as always, I've got some good reads lined up for 2017 from William Wilberforce, J.C. Ryle, and Al Mohler.  Have a happy New Year and open up a book! 

Get caught up by browsing other reviews from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

Jason Baareman


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