Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday is for Fotos (and a bday tribute to my mom!)

July 23 was always an important day in my family growing up. But so were five other seemingly random days. July 23 is my mom’s birthday, and even though the rest of the world was doing their own thing on this summer day, the Tarter’s were celebrating. And we did this for every family member’s birthday. Birthday’s were (and still are) a big deal for us. It marks a beginning that will forever be etched in the mind of the one who gave birth to us. It’s a special day that no one else in the family can claim as their own (unless you are a twin of course!).

My mom always worked really hard to make our days super special, even if a birthday was only two days away from another sibling (like mine), or if a birthday was 11 days before Christmas (like my youngest brother’s). Regardless of the timing in the year, it was still our day. When we were younger, and had less money, simply having front seat privileges all day was a big deal. As we got older, we received more things. But it never changed the momentous nature of the day. Mom never forgot what she was doing that day when we were born. And she never ceased to try and make us feel like we mattered in this family of ours.

So today is her birthday. She gets to feel special. Over half of my family lives in Florida now, so they are able to experience the fun and food that will encompass her birthday celebration, while I celebrate from afar. There are many things that I could say about my mom and how much she means to me. As I have thought about her, and her impact on my life, this week the description that sticks out to me most is “servant-hearted.”

It’s not uncommon for my mom to “whip up” a meal for a family during a busy season, or to buy a gift for a new mother even if she hardly knows her, or to organize a gathering so women can hear the word of God. That’s just who she is. God has given her a heart for people and a desire to see them blessed and encouraged. And it’s a gift to me and the church.

Perhaps the most evident example of her servant-heartedness in recent years is something that very few people saw happening. When both of her parents (my grandparents) faced death she stayed with them all through the night reading the Bible to them, advocating for them with the medical staff, and singing to them. When my grandpa was very sick and failing earlier this year she cared for him every day by taking him to the doctor, making him meals, and in the end standing near his bedside as his life slipped away.

Was it easy? Hardly. But that’s not how my mom operates. She never would have dreamed leaving my grandpa in the end. She lives in light of the Gospel that changed her so many years ago and still changes her to this day. Sure serving people isn’t always easy, but it is joyful and she understands that. Ultimately she wants people to love Jesus and serve him all of their days. Even though the world might not see, she knows that God sees and that her ultimate service is to him alone.

I often find myself praying, asking God to give me a small measure of her desire to serve people. And I also find myself thanking Him for giving me a mom like this one. I have always loved my mom. But as I have gotten older my love for her has grown from one of loving her for what she does for me, to loving her for who she is and who God has made her to be. May she feel as special today as she has made me feel these 27 years.

Happy birthday, Momma!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Philippines

It has been said that there are more slaves in the world today than all of the slaves combined during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. I suppose the argument could be made that there are more people in the world today than there were 250 years ago. But that doesn’t change the issue. People are in chains. People made in God’s image. People who are just like you and me, robbed of their freedom, dignity, and often times purity.

Many countries could face the pointed finger regarding slavery, and America is one of them. Reportedly one of the greatest consumers of sex trafficking, the USA bears much of the blame.

There are many things that I could draw attention to regarding ways to pray for the Philippines, but the one that has burdened my heart the most this week is the issue of the sex trade in this country. According to Operation World, there are 60,000 children and 500,000 women involved in this horrific trade in the Philippines alone. And many more are trafficked to other countries. Between 32% and 50% of Filipinos live below the poverty line, which only perpetuates the cycle. In some countries many families sell their children (whether knowingly or unknowingly) to traffickers to either pay off debt or to receive the promise of food and shelter for their starving child.

There are over 90 million people living in the Philippines. While there is freedom of religion many Filipinos hold to Catholicism due to the years of influence from Spanish rule. Much of the following of Catholic religion is syncretistic in nature. There is a small segment of the Filipinos that practice Islam. They are located in the southern portion of the Philippines and have been the perpetrators of violence. The Muslim minority in this area (Mindanao) would like to establish their own separate Islamic state. There has been a growth in evangelicalism in recent years, but poverty and second generation nominalism has made growth less than desired.

Ways to pray:

  1. There are key Christian leaders within the government. Pray that God would use them to wield their power for his glory and for the sake of the most vulnerable—slaves in their own country.
  2. Pray that these leaders would proclaim Christ to the people they come in contact with.
  3. Pray for existing evangelicals and that they would be equipped to advocate in Jesus’ name for the least of their society.
  4. There are relief organizations in the Philippines seeking to rescue women and children from the sex trade. Pray for their work and that they would be fruitful and see Christ magnified out of the most dark circumstances.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elyse Fitzpatrick on Modesty

Elyse Fitzpatrick has a great post on The Gospel Coalition blog on modesty. Summer usually means a lot of talk on modesty, and her piece is an excellent reminder and heart check for all of us as we look at our closests and our motives behind our outfits. In her post, "Gentle Jesus, Meek and....Modest?" she links modesty to the character of Jesus. Jesus was modest, she says. Defining modesty as "a refusal to show off out of love for God and one's neighbor. Jesus refused to show off his power." And he could of. In a heartbeat. Instead he exercised restraint so that the plan of salvation could be accomplished for you and me.

She goes on to explain how immodesty is essentially a desire to show off. She says:

"Conversely, immodesty flows out of the heart of a show off. Maybe we’ve worked hard at the gym or purchased an expensive new pair of jeans. Maybe we want to prove how free we are to dress in any way we choose, no matter how scandalous. When we show-off we’re failing to love our brother (and sisters) who may be tempted to lust or covetousness or sinful imitation. Showing off is a fruit of pride and love of self. Immodesty demonstrates a cold unconcern for the church."

And I don't ever want my heart, reflected in my attire or anything else, show a "cold unconcern for the church." I can relate to the pull to wear something just because it looks good without any regard for the people around me. As a Christian woman my desire should not be to show-off my own fashion taste, or my body, or even my freedom. My desire should be to show-off Christ, which is ultimately a pointing away from myself and towards the Savior.

And that's the beauty of it all. She goes on to say:

"The beauty of the gospel, however, is that it informs us about who we are and what Jesus has already done. While it convicts us that we’re all unloving show-offs (in some way), it also assures us that we’ve been loved and that we no longer need to show off to get other people’s approval because (here’s the best news of all!) the record of our Modest Redeemer is ours! Our identity isn’t wrapped up in the approval or envy or lust of others. Our identity is found in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Christ is our life. He loved us and refrained from showing off so that we could be His and freed from the need to prove that we’ve got a great body or wardrobe or … because we’ve been lavished with His love instead."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Biblical Truth on Motherhood from Jani Ortlund

I love reading (and listening to) anything by Jani Ortlund. She is a gift to many women through her biblical wisdom. She loves serving women and helping them love their husbands and children, just as Titus 2 commands her to. She also delights in serving her own husband and now grown children. God has shaped her and equipped her to be a model, which is why I was so excited to read her article in the 9Marks E-Journal this past weekend. The article came out a few weeks ago but I didn't have time to sit down and read it, so I saved it for this past Saturday. I was so blessed. The article is titled: "For the Young Mother: Ministry Guilt and Seasons of Life." And it is worth the read.

Now I know what you are thinking, "she doesn't have kids." You are right. I don't have kids, but I hope to someday soon. So it's never too early to start preparing for the most important job I will ever have. Plus, there are truths in this article that can be applied to me even now as I serve my husband and cultivate a home. I don't know about you, but I am constantly wrestling through unbiblical and biblical guilt. Often I am weighed down with guilt that is not of the Holy Spirit's conviction, and is therefore seeking to destroy my life. Jani has some helpful truths from God's word to put guilt in a biblical perspective.

"Don’t waste your guilt, but instead listen to it and evaluate it. Take it out of the shadows and examine it in the light of Scripture. Lay out your feelings before Christ. Is this guilt legitimate conviction of sin? Then confess your sin, receive his forgiveness and ask him where and how he wants you to change.

But maybe your guilt is a nagging, self-focused fear that if you were just a bit better or worked just a little harder, then you would be noticed and admired enough to feel okay about yourself. That is false guilt, rooted in pride. It will hurt your family and hinder your relationship with your grace-giving Father. If this describes your guilt, then remind yourself that through Christ’s death and resurrection, you’re accepted by God. The solution to false guilt, as to true guilt, is the gospel.

Paul speaks of these two kinds of guilt in 2 Corinthians 7:10. There is a godly grief that produces repentance, and a worldly grief that produces death. Ask yourself this question: is what I give my time and energies to driven by life-giving repentance or life-depleting pride?"

If you want to learn more about what it looks like to fight false guilt and live in light of the Gospel you can read the rest of the article here. Enjoy!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday is for Fotos

The top picture is from a family reunion we went to in Ohio. Daniel's mom's side of the family had a reunion and it was great meeting many of them for the first time! I learned so much about his family history, but unfortunately it was information overload and I can barely remember any of it. We got to put our names on the family tree, attaching ourselves to the Rower history.

The bottom picture is from my Grandpa's memorial service in March. This is his entire side of the family (my mom's family). It was the first time we had all been together in years and it was a neat time of remembering Grandpa, but also remember all of our times together as family.

Often we can get so busy with the present that we forget the people who have come before us. There was a time when they were my age, busy with marriage and life. But now they are either gone or aging. They have stories that matter. They have memories that mean something to them. And we can't forget them. Their life is the reason we are here. We are a part of them. For both Daniel and me it is through these families that we heard the Gospel.

I'm so glad I have these pictures. I want our kids (Lord willing) to someday see the people who have come before them and know that they are a part of these families too.

But I also want us to understand that if we are in Christ we are part of an even bigger family, with many saints who have gone before us. This family is not bound by genes, but by the blood of Another, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Spain

The world is talking about Spain these days. For the first time, Spain won the coveted World Cup championship game on Sunday, defeating Holland and causing many Spaniards to rejoice. In many spheres, all eyes are on Spain right now.

There are over 46 million people living in Spain, but that number is projected to decline rapidly in the next 50 years. In 2009 the birthrate in Spain was 1.39% making it one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Slow population growth has led to a concern that eventually the elderly population will outnumber the youth of the country, making it very difficult for the elderly to receive the familial care expected and needed in old age.

While Roman Catholicism is the religion of choice for many in Spain, religious freedom has allowed many to turn away from any religious affiliation. Spain is in many ways a secular state. Low birthrate, coupled with a high concentration of AIDS carriers due to immorality and drug use, further proves this as fact. Evangelical Christians are still very much the minority in Spain and many who hear of Christ’s work on the Cross do not want to trust in him for fear of being in the “minority.”

Ways to pray
  1. Pray that the Gospel would penetrate the hearts of the men and women in Spain and change their lives. The only way any of the behavioral issues will change is through the work of Christ in their lives.
  2. Pray that Christians in Spain would minister to men and women who are infected with AIDS. Spain has the highest AIDS rate of any country in the entire European Union. There is much ministry to be done here.
  3. Pray for missionaries to go to less-evangelized areas. According to Operation World, there are many missionaries in larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, but many of the more rural areas have no Christian witness. University towns are also very un-evangelized. There are approximately 1 million students in Spain who also have virtually no Christian witness.
  4. Pray for leadership development. Evangelical growth has been slow, as has discipleship of those who have trusted in Christ. Pray that God would embolden men and women with the task to go and make disciples in the country of Spain.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Developing a Long-term View of Life

Seminary can be hard on a married couple. Sure it seems romantic and exciting to pledge to work and support your husband while he slaves away at his studies for three or four years (or maybe more). Once reality sets in the anticipation can fall flat with the papers, late nights, and often other work that commands his attention. For some life as a seminary couple is a breeze. But for many that is simply not the case. It takes hard work and commitment—and it most definitely takes a good dose of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work.

I know for me it hasn’t been easy. I fell into the “romantic” ideals category when we got married a year and a half into my husband’s seminary career. I couldn’t wait to be the valiant, dutiful wife working hard to help pay the bills and keep a home for my husband. Conceptually it was a joy. Practically, I wasn’t so joyful.

Marriage alone is a big change. Couple that with the stress of immediately becoming a youth pastor’s wife (and a bi-vocational one at that) and a seminary wife. Needless to say, I didn’t adjust well. My life seemed so mundane compared to his. I just did the same thing every single day: get up before the sun rises, go to work, leave work, sit in traffic, make dinner, do various household things, and maybe write some if all of my other tasks were completed. But we also didn’t get to spend every evening together like I had always dreamed marriage would be (false expectation #1). Slowly my unmet expectations began to foster frustration towards Daniel. And that frustration turned to anger and moodiness. I needed some serious heart work.

What I failed to realize is that the call on my life to be a help to my husband (Gen. 2:18, Titus 2:4-5) isn’t always as glamorous as some women’s Bible studies make it out to be. It’s not easy, especially when a sinner like me embarks upon the task. The call to serve and support my husband in whatever avenue God calls him to is a call to first make war on the sin and pride that will try and overtake my soul. Left to myself I don’t want to serve. I want to do what I want to do.

It also requires a long-term view of where God is taking us. But isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? This moment is a blip on the screen of history, regardless of how drawn out it feels to us. And some days it might feel really drawn out.

Having a long-term view of our lives not only gets us through seminary, but it helps us in the ministry too. Stand alone circumstances can do a number on your soul and your sanity. Life is hard. Horrible things happen. But those days are not isolated from the greater story. They are simply a piece.

What I have learned in my brief time as a seminary wife is that all of events, trials, and even mundane activities are preparing me for something greater—ultimately heaven. As John Piper says, “For the Christian the best is always yet to come.” Satan would want nothing more than to distract us and keep us from the task, namely caring for our husbands right now, in this moment. If we spend our days dreaming of what it could be like at the end of the seminary road (or whatever road you are on) then we will miss the opportunity to be shaped and sanctified in the times that God has given us right now.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday is for Food: Greek Chicken Pasta Salad

I love everything about summer. The weather, the longer days, and especially the food! Summer is great for cold dishes. I found this recipe a few years ago and now I have no idea where I got it! It has sort of morphed into my own creation over these years, so I am not even sure how accurate it is to the original. Daniel and I really enjoy it and it is super easy. It also works well as a potluck dish. And you know how us church-folk love potlucks (or at least the Reissig's do!).

Greek Chicken Pasta Salad

4 large chicken breasts
1 box of bow tie pasta (cooked)
1 package of feta cheese
4 Roma tomatoes (quartered)
1 jar artichoke hearts (if desired)
Capers (if desired)
1 green pepper, chopped
Kraft Greek dressing
Lemon pepper seasoning

Season chicken breast with lemon pepper
Cook chicken breast and chop

Mix cooked pasta, chicken, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, capers, green pepper, and feta cheese in a large bowl. Add Greek dressing to moisten as needed

Refrigerate overnight or for 2 to 3 hours

Serve cold

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Albania

The effects of war and Communism can have long-lasting impact on people groups. In the Balkan country of Albania, years of oppression from Communism followed by devastating fighting in the 1990’s had led to it being still on of the poorest European countries.

There are approximately 3.3 million people living in Albania. While there was no religious state during Communist rule, it took until 1998 for religious freedom to be established. Even then, evangelicals were viewed as social disturbances to the Orthodox, Catholic, and Muslim people living in Albania. According to Operation World, over 50% of the population is culturally Muslim, but many of them are syncretistic—mixing Islam with other folk religions. Despite efforts to squash other religions, evangelicalism has grown in Albania in recent years and now every town and city has a group of evangelical believers.

Countries, such as Albania, are typically very ripe for the Gospel in the wake of government failure, economic instability, and absence of religion.

Ways to pray:

  1. The threat against freedom religious freedom is great. Pray that the years of ethnic hatred would not spill over into hatred of evangelicals. Pray that Christians would be able to worship freely and openly.
  2. Pray that evangelical Christians would be faithful to God’s word and be means of reconciliation and restoration in their country.
  3. Pray against the Muslim witness. Many Muslims have worked to distribute the Qur’an and refurbish mosques in an attempt to spread Islam.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Psalm 119 and Loving God's Word

The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119. For a long time all I knew about this particular Psalm was its length. I skimmed over it in my devotion time because the amount of verses in one sitting scared me. They were intimidating. But God is so kind to change hearts, and he sure did with mine. A closer reading of this Psalm reveals the pleasure of treasuring God’s word and the sufficiency of his word for our daily lives.

The entire Psalm is a meditation on God’s Law—the Torah. And it is clear from this passage that God’s word, his commandments to his people, is the theme of this Psalm. But it is more than a Psalm about God’s word. It is a Psalm about treasuring God’s word. His truths are life to the Psalmist.

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!”—verse 25

“Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.”—verse 111

The list could go on. The thing that struck me most as I thought through what the Psalmist was saying is how much he knew God’s word. You don’t delight in something unless you know it, study it, and understand it. I love my husband, and the more I know him and study him the more my love for him grows. If I didn’t work hard to know him, then my love for him would fade away. He would be distant from me.

So it is with God’s word. If we do not do the hard work of studying, then we will not reap the fruit of delight and pleasure. But we cannot do this on our own. Left to myself I am lazy, unorganized, and unmotivated. I need the Holy Spirit daily (actually, every second) to give me desire and drive to want to know God more deeply through his word.

But even more than this, I need the Holy Spirit daily to reveal to me in greater measure what is already true about my soul. God has bought me with Christ’s blood. I am his child. He wants me to know him, and it is this truth about my redeemed condition that should motivate me to action.
The Psalmist loved God’s word because he loved God. God’s word was food to his soul because it showed him who God is. And knowing God is what allows him to speak so candidly about his own life. He trusts wholeheartedly because he did the hard work of knowing God and found God to be faithful to his promises. It is only then that we will be able to say with the Psalmist, “I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight” (verse 174).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Repost: Celebrating Dependence

This originally appeared July 4, 2008

I always look forward to the 4th of July. But as I prepared for the festivities today it caused me to think about what independence means for me as a Christian. Though I am very thankful today, and every day, for the freedoms that I have as an American citizen, I am not really a free and autonomous person. Nobody is. We are under the rule of the One who rules the universe. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” As a Christian, my celebration of independence should be one of gratitude for the men who died so I can have basic liberties, but I also should recognize that I cannot get caught up in the rhetoric of rights. I belong to the Lord first, America second.

Following Christ also means that I have far more in common with the believer in Uganda who doesn’t know any stanzas of “My Country ‘tis of Thee,” than the person who lives next door. Every time I leave the country I am proud to say that I am from America, and very grateful to come back home. And I am so grateful to be here. America is where I live. It’s where I was born. It’s where my family is. But it’s not where I will be forever. My ultimate citizenship is in heaven with King Jesus. I feel so privileged to be here and live in a place where I can read my Bible in the park and not get arrested. But that is a mercy from God, not a basic right that will change my faith if taken away.

As I celebrate Independence Day I will gladly eat hot dogs and watermelon with the rest of my friends. We might even sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” And I will sing proudly because I am a thankful American. But as a Christian I must always remember that I am more defined by dependence than independence.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”—including the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday is for Food and Fotos

Today starts a new thing on the blog and it is going to be Food Friday and/or Foto Friday. Depending on what is going on that day, I will post a new recipe I have tried (and there are many for this novice housewife!) or a picture that captures what has been happening in our life here in Louisville. Today you get both!

We had a cookout at work a few weeks ago and I needed to make a dessert. I happened to have some fresh strawberries and blackberries in the fridge, so I thought I would try this delicious Berry Crumb that my mom makes a lot!

Berry Crumb: by Deb Tarter


3 cups of fresh or frozen berries (12 or 16 oz package frozen)
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/3 cup of softened butter
1/2 cup of flour
2/3 cup of quick cooking oats
3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of salt


Preheat oven to 375

Spread berries in a square 8 x 8 baking dish. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Mix remaining ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkly evenly over berries. Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown in oven

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and enjoy the goodness!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Opting Out of Motherhood

Every so often an expert will show up on national television talking about the growing changes in cultural norms regarding motherhood and marriage. So it was no real surprise when I caught this segment on CBS’ Early Show last Saturday morning. The expert was a marriage, family, and child therapist, and she was brought in to discuss the growing fact that one in five women of childbearing age are now opting not to have children.

Women are happier now because they have choices, or so the experts say. She said that it used to be that women felt cultural pressure to have children—now the culture has changed. Because of this shift in cultural expectations, women now have the right to say that motherhood is not for them. Many modern feminists would say that the very fact that women now have the “option” not to bear children means we have made significant strides in the cause of women’s rights. But have we? And what does this means for Christian women? The trends are not too far off in the Christian world either, as Christian women are also choosing to delay children well into their 30’s.

The real issue is not simply that women have the option to earn an income or hold a good job. Those things aren’t inherently wrong. Deep down the root behind all of this is that women now have the ability to do what they want, and they like it. And for many women, motherhood is not something they want.

Part of the reason that motherhood seems so second rate is because motherhood at its very core calls you to give up your right to freedom and “choices.” Your life is no longer your own. And that’s the beauty of it. Maybe wiping a snotty nose or investing in our child means we don’t get to do all that we wanted to do on any given day. But it certainly means we have the blessed opportunity to pour life into a soul that will one day stand before King Jesus.

The desire for “options” really isn’t all that new. It began a long time ago, in the Garden of Eden, when Eve “chose” the seemingly more glorious option than the one God had lovingly given to her. Maybe choosing motherhood means we have fewer choices. Maybe it does. But, maybe, just maybe it also means that by choosing this wonderful task we are embarking on a journey that will provide us more freedom and happiness then we ever dared dream. Now surely that is better than a corner office.

(I also have some thoughts on what it means to have an inclusive approach to motherhood and nurturing life that grafts single women into the call to be mothers. More on that later…)