I'm always on the lookout for children's books that are beneficial to read to toddlers. I'm very impressed that my 19-month-old sits still for The Jesus Storybook Bible
during family worship, but that took lots of tears and training and I'm not sure how much he understands. Shepherd's Press's God's Great Plan
by Melissa Cutrera however, is absolutely perfect for him and I can easily see it as being a family treasure for years and years to come. You can actually watch a video of the book being read here.God's Great Plan
is a very simple narrative of creation, the fall, the life of Christ, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and our future hope, written in concise, rhyming couplets. I can easily foresee my son filling in little details about the gospel from the easily-recallable rhymes, which I think is the author's intent.
I appreciated all the little theological details in God's Great Plan. I
It says Satan was lying about God
when he whispered to Eve. This has come up in conversation a lot during discipline sessions; "You know how the snake lied about God when he told Eve that she
knew what's best and God didn't? I think the same thing might have happened just now when you thought sitting up in your high chair was better than obeying Mommy. God's ways for you are always best."
There were many other "I-like-that" moments, such as when it mentions God formed man out of the dust or when it says Jesus even ate bread after the resurrection. Such details lay such a good foundation for explaining deeper concepts to my children in the future.God's Great Plan
is such a gift to the church, not only to teach very young children but to enlighten the hearts of parents. The theological depth, taught in skillfully simple and memorable rhymes, gives even our toddlers an excellent foundation for understanding the gospel. The illustrations are captivating and relatable (though at times potentially nightmare-inducing) and those who disapprove of visual images of Christ will be pleased to know that all the drawings of Jesus are intentionally indistinct and his face is always obscured. All readers, young and old, are reminded that God made an incredible plan before time began, nothing has interrupted this plan, and He has allowed us to be a part of this plan. I very highly recommend this book.
Disclosure: I received this book for free from Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. These opinions are my own.
Why Christ Came
by Joel Beeke is a 105-page devotional focusing on the incarnation. Obviously it would be especially helpful for the Christmas/advent season, but the timeless truths therein make it a relevant devotional for any time.
My concern when beginning the book was "Isn't this just an attempt at 50 Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die
by John Piper?" but after reading the reasons alone (then most certainly after reading the actual chapters) I was convinced that both books serve the church in unique ways. Piper's 50 Reasons
focuses on the atonement, but Beeke's 31 focus on the incarnation; meditating on Christ in either way just makes you fall more in love with Him.Why Christ Came
is heavily laden with scripture from the Old and
New Testament. Beeke also employs many beautiful quotes from saints and confessions of old, and---of course---the Puritans. I didn't find myself learning a lot of "new" things about the incarnation, but I don't think that was Beeke's aim in the first place. Instead this book gives readers more solid understandings of what we already knew about why Christ came; bits of scriptures and truths that we've probably heard before all come together to give us grand appreciation for the incarnation, one profound reason at a time.
That said, this is probably not a book that I would give to my extended family or anyone outside of "reformed" circles. I felt the writing may have been kind of dry and impersonal (the scriptures being in KJV did not help.) I do like everything else I have read from Joel Beeke, but I cannot say this book is a "you've-really-gotta-read-this" for every Christian.
Anyone who knew me in high school knew I was obsessed with this mystical creature called "My Future Husband." I wrote over 40 letters to him. I talked about him all the time. I made many decisions with him in mind. And I had no clue who he was.
I had a lot of ideas of what I wanted in a husband, but my ideal man seemed to shapeshift to whatever guy I had my eye on at the moment. I knew I needed to have standards, and I needed to be able to expect some non-negotiable character traits. I just didn't know what those were...what really is most important in a guy?
A lot of the guys I had crushes on---who at that time seemed like promising, Godly young men---have ended up being total losers. So how can you look at a young man and have a decent idea of what kind of a husband he'll be after you're committed for life and he's not trying to impress you anymore?
I creepily observed my husband Peter for a full two years before he began to pursue me. He wasn't the overly romantic type during courtship (no flowers or fancy dates), but I had a pretty good idea that he would be a keeper long-term because I saw the makings of a good husband before and during that period of observation. In this list I'll brag on my hubby a little as I describe what I mean by that.
2 1/2 years and almost two children later, I don't know a lot about marriage or everything about my husband, but the time certainly counts for something. I've learned that there were some things I thought were important but proved not to be, and there are some things that I didn't think were important that have proved to be absolutely essential.
In my previous post
, I talked about the "Finding My Mr. Right" fallacy and what to do if you find yourself married to "Mr. Wrong." This post is primarily addressed to single women who are trying to figure out what to look for in a man.
I acknowledge that sanctification is a lifelong process and it is completely unfair to expect any man to be perfect; only Jesus can be that for us. However, there are some things about a man that I think we can expect to already be present if he is to be considered "marryable." We can expect growth and fruit from his branches as long as those branches are at least already present.Main RequirementDoes he really love Jesus?
Jesus. The person.
I'm not talking about ministry. I'm not talking about theology. I'm not talking about feelings/experiences. I'm talking about Jesus. Does the man you're considering actually adore the risen Christ?
If you're not a Christian, this requirement will not mean anything to you. In fact, you should not be in the market for marrying a Christian if you are not a Christian. Please consider the words of 1 John 5:12: "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
" You are desperately missing out today and for eternity. I beg that you seek Jesus.
Yet even if you do identify yourself as Christian, this requirement still might not seem that important. I have some questions about that:
1) How can you expect someone to love you unconditionally if he himself is empty of the unconditional love of Jesus? He is not free to love you with everything he has because he still desperately needs love that you cannot offer him.
2) Who is he modeling himself after? A football player? Will Smith? A nice guy at work? You're selling yourself short if you think someone can pull off servant leadership without constantly looking to the Suffering Servant himself.
3) The difference between Christian and non-Christian is, biblically, life and death (see 1 John 5:12, quoted above.) Indeed, even if you have a nonbelieving husband it is possible to have a good marriage and to raise your children well. But if you still have a choice in the matter, please consider deeply the implications of marrying someone who is not spiritually alive.
If you think your husband candidate really loves Jesus because he's on the track for ministry or missions, I also have some questions for you:
1) What is he doing right now to know Jesus and tell others in his life about Him?
2) When you walk away from a time of "good fellowship", is it all because he talked about future ministry or poked fun at poor theology, or did he actually talk about his own personal current growth and struggles? When you ask what God has been teaching him, does he give you vague concepts or is he able to tell you specifics that prove is actively pursuing Jesus?In short, if a man is doing nothing of value in his mundane right now, he probably won't ever truly do anything of value
, no matter how lofty his position might be someday. Additionally, if his worship experiences at church (no matter how emotional or passionate) are the only times he worships, something is very amiss. If a man raises his hand on Sundays that means nothing if he never uses that hand to open his Bible on the other days of the week.
Character RequirementsDoes the man work hard?I read recently
that the construction industry in America is in such great need of workers that we are having to outsource to foreigners. Americans simply are not willing to get their hands dirty. It says a lot about a man's humility if he gets strong by using a shovel instead of lifting a dumbbell...but I'd better stop here because I think I'm getting into "preference" territory. I know plenty of Godly men who work desk jobs and go to the gym.
(Let me just also throw in the fact that Christ was a carpenter for 30 years. I really believe there's something particularly Christlike about a man willing to lower himself to do a dirty job.)You know you've found a good man when you read Proverbs and he keeps coming to mind.
Is he faithful? Can he hold a job or commitment without getting bored with it and walking away? Does he work when he needs to but doesn't want to? (Notice that his work ethic is probably closely tied to how willing he is to work on your marriage.)
Because of the decision we made to start our family when neither of us had college degrees, and because Peter is insistent on me being a stay-at-home mom, this has looked like some really difficult times of figuring out what we could do for a living. When Peter's job was slow, there were times when we were going around town turning in applications everywhere
so he could get a second or even third job to make ends meet. But God has been faithful and Peter worked hard and he is now the owner of a very successful business that supports our family well. I feel like most guys our age would have simply collapsed under that kind of pressure because they don't want to lower themselves to do less-than-glamorous work.Love RequirementsHow does he treat family?
I'll just say it: I knew Peter was a loving man because of how he treated his mom and how he treated my grandparents.
I read an excellent article
recently that talked about how a litmus test for someone's understanding and application of grace is how they treat children and how they treat the elderly. The family is the perfect context for finding the character of a man because how a man acts at home is how he really is.
Peter had no experience with kids (Stephen was pretty much the first baby he held!) but I knew he would be a good dad because of how he loved my grandpa. He talked to him and enjoyed his company. He talked to me about how much he admired Pappaw and before things got really busy for us he made it priority for us to go to my grandparents' house every Friday night to spend time with them.
It's hard to tell how a man treats his mom when the people he tries to impress aren't around, but how respectfully a man speaks to and about her really does count for something. After 19 years of living together, Peter had seen his mom's bad side, and she's seen his, so the mom-test is a good one when possible. I don't think Peter has ever said anything derogatory about his mother. Additionally, the way Peter's mom talks about her son also clued me into how much they love each other, and it gave me the idea that he would really love me and treat me well.Communication/Relationship Requirements Is he good at repenting and forgiving?
E-Harmony would never match Peter and I. Aside from Costco trips and Tom Cruise movies, we share no hobbies. Our styles of communication differ greatly. Our love languages are not the same. Our personalities clash. It's not the cute kind of "opposites attract." We argue and disagree all the time.
But as long as we both possess one trait, we will thrive: repentance and forgiveness. We're good at saying "I'm sorry" and we're good at saying "I forgive you." And we're good at meaning it.
Even on the day I wrote this, Peter and I had a really ugly spat. However, instead of fuming and holding grudges for days, about an hour afterwards we both apologized for sinning against God and each other and were able to have a really sweet evening together.
This really does fall under the umbrella of being changed by the Gospel. I expect us to both grow in our repentance because that's what's happening all the time as every Christian is made more like Jesus. If there's no continued repentance, there was never any salvation, so repentance is something every Christian should be good at and growing in. I would much rather have a man with an occasional temper who is very good at admitting that he's wrong and working to improve than a man who is easygoing but always thinks he's right. The first man can only become more kind and the second man can only become more of a jerk.
Repentance and forgiveness is essential for the longevity of any good relationship.
I'll add here the importance of being a member of a local church that practices church discipline. I can rest easy knowing that if Peter (or I!) were to stop this process of repentance/forgiveness and fall into sin, or if we were to withdraw from other believers, he/I would be pursued quickly, lovingly, humbly, and persistently until the issue was resolved. Church discipline happens on a weekly---if not daily basis---through accountability groups and deep relationships within the church. I know that heart issues are addressed, and if confrontation is spurned, the proper steps would be taken to bring us to repentance. As my pastors say, the purpose of church discipline is not punitive but restorative.
So a man's submission to other members and to elders in the church is absolutely imperative (though sadly, most churches don't expect such submission and do not practice church discipline!)Theological RequirementsIs he a man of prayer and a student of the Word?
Especially since we've begun parenting, I've seen how important it is that my husband and I are unified in our beliefs on the depravity of man, who Jesus died for, God's priorities in ruling the universe, the Holy Spirit's work, and the sovereignty of God. It would be very difficult for my husband to comfort me about God's hand in something if we believed differently about the extent to which God's hand is in things.
That said, I know many Godly men who believe differently than I do, and I know many immature boys who do agree with me theologically. That's why there are other requirements.
But even more than specifics that are not essential for salvation, a husband candidate should be a student of the Word. I don't mean that he attends Bible college or wants to go to seminary. I mean that he must love the Bible because it's God's Word. Joking about the Bible or speaking of theology light-heartedly should make a candidate lose points. A marryable man is one who reads, studies, meditates, and memorizes scripture because he realizes that he needs it.
I knew Peter was a student of the Word because he talked about it...a lot. Whether he was discussing theology or witnessing to someone, he quoted scripture. He was slow to explain things with "Well, it's like John Piper says," and quick to explain things with "Well, 1 Corinthians 14 says..."
I think the most admirable thing I noticed about Peter was when he encountered a theological topic on which he did not yet have a good understanding. He surely did read books and listen to sermons about it, but by far the main deciding factor was scripture. He memorized an entire book of the Bible that he knew dealt largely with that topic because he wanted to have an in-context, full understanding of God's heart on the matter. This taught me that my husband is on the track for pursuing truth, so I can be confident in his leadership of our family in whatever theological issue we encounter in the future.
In these 2 1/2 years I've already seen this fleshed out in two areas in particular: 1) involvement with a local church, and 2) family worship. When we got married these weren't things that were really on our radar, but as we've encountered each issue, Peter has sought God through prayer and the Word and has led our family well. I don't know what we'll have to sort through next, but I trust that my husband will take it seriously and approach it biblically and humbly, because that's what he's made the habit of doing in the past.
I noticed these things about him over five years ago. Now Peter's commitment to prayer and scripture looks differently than it did back then because he has a lot more on his plate. However, my husband remains a man of prayer and student of the Word and is growing still.Conclusion
This list is not exhaustive. In five, fifteen, and fifty years I might re-evaluate this and make some changes. But I think, timelessly, these four questions must be able to be answered with a resounding "YES!" before a Godly woman should allow herself to be pursued by a man.
I also think a woman's loved ones should be able to answer a resounding "YES!" to these questions about the woman herself.
And finally, pray
for your future husband!
Unfortunately, manliness is becoming a lost art in many churches and there is major shortage of genuine discipleship. Young men tend to not be teachable, and older men tend to think any young man who shows any interest in the Bible needs to go be a pastor. The result is a bunch of tweeting 20-something-year-old kids who think they know everything but in reality know oh so little of hard work, diligent prayer, reverent study, valuing family, or adoring Jesus. So what must waiting women do when all the guys are losers? Change churches and find a system that's producing real men, maybe, but most certainly pray
God responds to prayer every time,
because even when we pray for unbiblical things the Holy Spirit intercedes for us and changes the gobbly-gook we said to things that are actually consistent with God's Word, then God answers them (see Romans 8:26-28.)
This blows my mind because each day I spend with my husband I get to see answered prayers from my mom since before I was born, myself since I was in 8th grade, and the countless friends and relatives who had been praying for my future husband too. There is never not
value in praying for your future husband.What would you add or take away from this list? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
<-- for the sake of sharing on Pinterest
I used to have this idea that there's "The One" guy that God picked out for me and all I had to do was find this Mr. Right...but I didn't know how deadly that mindset would be when marriage started getting to be difficult. Peter and I have both been tempted to think that we married the "wrong person" because sometimes it just feels so difficult and so wrong. (Jesus is the only "One" who will never let His bride down, by the way.)If I let myself really think that there's someone out there who was actually "God's best" for me but I missed my chance with him, then what a bummer life with my actual husband would be. That's why we must trust the covenant of marriage to sustain the love of marriage rather than the other way around; as I've said before, "It's not passion that sustains the promise; it's the promise that sustains the passion." Before I begin, I don't want to give the impression, however, that if you're in an abusive situation you should just pray and submit. This is where your local church needs to step in and help, especially if your husband is a covenanted member who has agreed to be subject to church discipline.
Even worse, if I really believed that God had allowed me to "stray from His will" by choosing the wrong husband, I would grow quite bitter towards God. I try to imagine how I would feel towards God if I sustained this belief in "The One" only to find out shortly into marriage that, indeed, my husband is
a total jerk and probably not even a Christian. I'd have to live the rest of my married life knowing that I'm in "God's Plan B" and there's nothing I can do better? Let me just tell you that I would probably try to right the wrong and murder my husband if that were the case.
The Bible mentions women who probably were tempted to feel like they married the wrong man. In fact, the weaknesses of Bible characters are so profound that this probably went through the mind of just about every wife of every husband we read about. But two examples come to mind that should be encouragement to women who feel like they married total jerks, and especially to women who actually have
married total jerks.God's Hands Are Not Tied by a "Bad"---Or Even Unbelieving--- Husband
I've benefited a lot from learning about Timothy's mom Eunace
(see also a great sermon here
.) Timothy's dad was probably not a believer (see Acts 16:1-3), but his mother was. So did his mom just pout and whine and give up because she found herself raising a child with someone who had totally opposing views? 2 Timothy 3:14-15 (which alludes back to 2 Timothy 1:5) gives us a really good glimpse into what she did instead:
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings,
which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
From childhood, Eunace showed her son the scriptures. She must've known them well herself, because she used the "sacred writings" they had (the Old Testament) to point her son to Christ. She taught her son the gospel. He believed, was discipled by Paul, and became a really great help to the church. God is Able to Bring Repentance to a Husband
I cannot even describe how many times 1 Peter 3:1-6 has been a refuge to me in these short years of marriage (see also this great sermon
.) There have been times when I've known my husband is in the wrong. Some women have given me counsel about how to respond that is quite attractive to my sinful nature, but completely fails when held up next to this golden passage.
Verse 1 even addresses wives of unbelieving husbands in particular ("if some do not obey the word.") How are their husbands won? Is it by airtight arguments or years of nagging? This verse says that it can be done "without a word
by the conduct of their wives" (emphasis mine.) Change is so possible, even in an unbelieving husband, and God's Word says that it can happen by a woman simply obeying God's Word and being submissive to her husband nonetheless.
Sarah respected Abraham (a man that I would not
like to be married to) so much that she called him "lord", after all. She was able to do this because she hoped in God. What Happens to You Is God's Plan A
From my studying of the scriptures, I have been convinced that everything God does is Plan A.
Ephesians 1 says He predestined us for adoption before the foundations of the earth. So that means He chose for us to be a part of His family, at the cost of His Son, before sin ever even entered the world.
One time I talked to a man who had adopted five kids and he said, "We wanted kids of our own, but that didn't work out, so we adopted." That is not
what God did for us.
Even moreso, one of my absolute favorite verses is Romans 8:32:
"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
God didn't keep Jesus from us, so why should we ever think God will keep anything good from us?Even if you were sinning when you said "yes" to the man you married, be comforted that those who crucified Jesus were certainly sinning as well. But God is big enough to handle your sin (see Genesis 50:20)...if He brought the best good out of the sin that put Jesus on the cross, He can most certainly bring great good out of any sin or lack of wisdom that put you in your marriage.God doesn't want you to feel condemned because Jesus already bore 100% of the condemnation for you (see Romans 8:1.)
That said, read Part 2 (Future Husband Requirements) here!
"I can't stand it, Dad! I just can't look! Why are these poor boys torturing themselves?"
"I love it," My dad heartlessly replied. "They're giving it their all. I'm challenged by them. This is real sports!"
He was almost giddy as we watched several young men writhing in the grass trying to catch their breath. Other high school guys were puking or flailing their arms in delirium. I overheard one of my brother's teammates describing the hallucinations he saw "in the death zone."
I was about to lose it...whether that meant throwing up or crying my eyes out, I wasn't sure, but one thing I did know: I will never stand near the finish line at a cross country race again.
Even still, I think my distaste for true athleticism hurts me in many ways. I've seen verses like 2 Timothy 4:7 and Hebrews 12:1 slapped onto T-shirts and used almost as gimmicks by Christian coaches during pep talks before a big race. However, it wasn't until I saw how the top runners truly spent themselves that I appreciated the Bible's sports-related metaphors.
As I watched the boys "catch their breath" (to say it conservatively), the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith as well as heroes throughout church history that I've read about came to mind: George Muller, Sarah Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, Helen Rosevare...I imagined them finishing this race of the Christian life to reach Christ, fall at His feet, and puke all over the place in exhausted relief because they had spent every ounce of strength they had during their time here.
I feel like I, on the other hand, wouldn't even be breathing heavy because I have wasted so much of my life just trying to be as comfortable as possible. My issue isn't even primarily with seeking physical comforts such as keeping the AC on 75 or whining if something isn't dishwasher-safe (I pride myself with having gone three months without a microwave recently.)
The major place I see the luxurious I-deserve-comfort mindset in my life is when marriage or parenting is hard; the thing I seem to want most out of the difficulty is relief, not for God to be made known to myself and others more truly.
I want the problem gone
; growth and depth are not priority in those moments.
Recently my husband Peter had a day off work, and we just stayed home and relaxed for once. I even took a nap. It was awesome. As we were going to sleep, I begged Peter to never work again so we could have such relaxing days all the time. "This life is not our rest," he gently reminded me.
How true a statement! God has not only provided but commanded that we take a day of rest every week, and sometimes it's good to even have short seasons of rest to recharge so we can be more effective. However, those days only look to the Day when our souls will be able to rest in enjoyment of Christ forever. (As Shai Linne says in his song "Fal$e Teacher$", "If you're living your best life now, you're heading for hell!
1 Corinthians 15:58 charges us to "always be abounding in the work of the Lord."
Proverbs 14:23 says "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty."
I could point to numerous other verses (especially in Proverbs) that highlight the value of a lifestyle marked by hard work. Better yet, the Bible emphasizes hard work done "heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23.)
In fact, I have found that the times I get most bored with my work is when I'm not working very hard. If my goal as a stay-at-home-mom is "a pretty tidy house", "decent meals", and "keeping my child alive", I'll probably spend my days rolling around wishing I was doing something actually stimulating. I put the blame on the monotony and mindlessness of my job, not on the lack of effort and motivation on my part. I'll be tempted to think things like "I wish I could be doing something more exciting than this. My mind is made for greater work than this."
Indeed, there will be times (like when there's a newborn, sickness, etc.) when keeping my kids alive and having sandwiches for dinner will be all I can do. But I've found that when my goal is to spend myself for Jesus, most of the time it's definitely possible for that to look like a clean, organized, and beautiful home...nutritious, delicious, and economical meals...a disciplined, educated, and loved child...and it's truly a thrilling challenge to try to do all those things! That doesn't even cover investing in relationships outside our home or practicing hospitality! As I learn to grow and excel in all these areas, I find that my job (the butt of many jokes by people who have "real" jobs) is very
So I think it's possible, even if all I am for the rest of my life is a homemaker, to cross the finish line as a true athlete, spent and useful. I look again to Hebrews 12:1 and find my greatest hope in the verse that doesn't make it on the athletic T-shirts:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1,2
The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 and throughout church history ran their race with endurance, for sure, but only because their gaze was on the One who not only created and referees the race, but who entered our race and ran with joy, spending Himself to the uttermost for His glory and our good. I think this is even exemplified on the cross, when He did not take the wine mixed with myrrh (which would've helped dull His pain) but He did accept the sour wine,
which prolonged His pain. He spared no expense for us. What a wonderful Jesus to whom we can look as we labor!
Before I began reading J. Stephen Yuille's book A Hope Deferred, I would have told you that it's a book about infertility and international adoption, both of which are topics that I really care about, but neither of which I'm walking through right now. I thought it would be good for me to read so I could offer helpful counsel to friends in those situations, but I was certainly not ready for the depths of the Gospel that God would counsel me with in the pages to come.
The odd-numbered chapters address the six blessings of adoption in Romans 8, and the even-numbered chapters briefly share the Yuille family's story with a primary focus on things they learned about God in each part of the journey. I appreciate Yuille's frankness when talking about what it was really like to go through years and years and years of waiting and uncertainty, so much so that I sometimes thought "Is that really how a Christian should struggle?" because the pain was so real to him. But his grasp on the scriptures and the character and providence of God quickly silenced such thoughts. On the contrary, I appreciated the biblical truths even more given his decades of experience in trusting God's goodness and faithfulness amidst confusing circumstances. The things that I think take forever to come about (like these last couple months of pregnancy!) pale in comparison to, say, over five years of waiting for the adoption of one specific child (after they had already begun the process multiple times ten years earlier but were delayed for various reasons.) In other words, the Yuille family has certainly earned a platform to teach me about the fatherhood of God.
J. Stephen Yuille writes very pastorally, with brilliant exposition on every page and an appropriate amount of illustrations and clarifying examples. Scripture is exalted and informs every sentence. I also appreciated the frequency with which he quoted the Puritans. I would definitely say this book is worth re-reading. I've read Adopted for Life by Russell Moore and highly recommend it to every Christian, and I would put this book on the same level.
I received this book for free from Shepherd Press via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Maybe I'm weird, but I often think about a hypothetical scenario in which I am locked up in solitary confinement for 10 years and lose 99% of my vocabulary and comprehension. If my deteriorated, unstimulated brain could only remember one thing, what would it be? I usually come to the same conclusion of what I think my answer would be:
"His Word is life."
I feel that God has ingrained this truth into my heart and mind even more deeply this past week as I felt the absence of my husband Peter while he was in Haiti.
We both predicted that this week apart would be difficult (we've never spent more than one day away from each other), so we both wrote letters for the other person to read each day during the week, then we sealed them in dated envelopes. (And neither of us knew the other person was doing it!)
Partly because written words are my love language and partly because I just love hearing from my husband, these letters were an unspeakable treasure to me.
Communication with Peter while he was overseas was very scarce, so these pre-written letters really were the main way that he communicated with me last week. One night I stayed at my parents' house and forgot to bring the letters with me, so it was miserable to know that I had words from my husband waiting for me in an envelope to which I didn't have access.
It's not that the letters said anything new or even that they were particularly mushy; there weren't any big announcements or flowery poems. Each letter was just another way of Peter telling me he loves me.
I have really needed to be reminded of that every day. One day I was having a hard time, and remembering something he said in a prior day's letter served as great comfort to me. (And he told me my letters had the same effect on him.)
I say all this because I see such a beautiful parallel between my longings and needs for Peter's letters and my longings---or at least my needs---for God's Word. Indeed, every day God has prepared for me (though not hand-written in a labeled envelope) words to remind me of His love for me.
He wants me to remember them, and He wants me to be comforted by them. (And, unlike what Peter can do, God has given me the Holy Spirit to live in me to teach me all things and bring to my remembrance all that Jesus has said [John 14:26.])
I don't need any "new revelations" (When someone says things like "I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more", we should probably be concerned, since that's strikingly similar to how cults like Mormonism get started...) Look at 2 Peter 1. Simon Peter was talking about the transfiguration---which he himself witnessed---but says in vs 19, "
And we have something more sure
, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."Discovering God's love, character, and purposes more deeply is what will fill my soul and mobilize me more than anything. And that is exactly what God provides in the gift of His Word.
From this truth that God's Word is life, I would like to remind you, dear reader, that God's Word is sweet and God's Word is necessary.God's Word is Sweet
Any Christian who does not loooooove God's Word simply hasn't been reading it. As illustrated by the letters from my husband, if you are in a healthy relationship with someone it would be quite unnatural for you to not loooooove the words of your beloved, especially when those words are concerning his or her love for you.
You've probably heard a quote along the lines of "Every page is dripping with the blood of Jesus."
This is not just a statement to counter man-centered teaching.
It should be great comfort to your soul that God made a plan for salvation even before anyone needed to be saved...even before anyone existed. Ephesians 1 tells us "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world." He spent 39 books telling us about that plan, one way or another, before the Hero was even born.
Reading about that
every day is what is going to tell me about His love. What a gift!Studying God's Word takes more digging than page-flipping and misinterpreting mushy words does, but it's so worth the treasure of knowing God.Studying all of God's Word enables me to point to more than John 3:16 when my heart starts to wonder if God really loves me.God's Word is Necessary
I love how Deuteronomy 32:47 describes the words of God: "For it is no empty word for you, but your very life."
Psalm 119:50 (NASB) says "This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your Word has revived me."
Time and time again, even in my short 21 years of life and even shorter years of being a Christian, I have seen this to be true.
Jesus prays in John 17:17, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your Word is truth." The Bible is not just true; it is the truth to which all other true things must conform.
Psalm 119:160 says "The sum of Your Word is truth." If you take a head count of everything in scripture, the number you come up with will be "truth."
This is extremely comforting to me because I go crazy, like, all the time.
I need a solid rock to hold onto when my mind is swimming.
Just to let you know, friends, when I go through hard times, it will do nothing for my heart to hear things like "You are strong! You can do this!" or "It'll all be okay soon" because I simply can't trust myself to be strong, and sometimes deep suffering doesn't end "soon."
I don't need you to come over and bring me a movie to watch so I'm distracted from the matter at hand. The biggest help to me will not be to "talk it out."
I need to be immersed in reality; I need my loved ones to cover me in Scripture. I don't want the pain to be numbed; it's worth it to feel the pain so I can feel the healing, so I can grow in perseverance and have deeply rooted hope
(see Romans 5.)
I've noticed that many atheists/agnostics I know who claim to have the firmest and most enlightened grasp on truth spend most of their days in fiction-world, consuming entertainment media with reckless, zombielike abandon.I have no reason to even entertain the validity of someone's worldview if that person spends so little time in reality.
And why do I believe the Bible? I love how Voddie Baucham says it
"I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin."
I really believe that whether you believe 100% of the Bible or not is the most important decision you can make. So if you're on the fence, I beg that you figure out what you believe about it and---objectively---why
you believe it.
So please, dear Christian, enjoy the feast that God has already prepared for you in His Word.
Yep, steak is harder to chew than mashed potatoes. But keep on chewing, for the delight and stability of your soul.
Here is another post from my series about the Bible:The Real Reason We Don't Read Our Bibles
When you read the title of this post you are likely to think either:
1) Hope doesn't think you need to go to church? There's something I agree with her about! Jesus and I have our own thing goin' and church is just a formality anyway.
2) Hope doesn't think you need to go to church? Has she gone off the deep end!? Every Christian needs to go to church!
I mean neither of those things. Please let me explain myself.
In the past year, I've been thinking a lot about the Church. A lot
a lot. As a result, in recent months I've tried to eliminate the phrase "going to church" from my vocabulary.
It's probably not a big deal and I'm not judgmental of people who use that terminology (I still do sometimes!), but for me it's been so good for my mind to reorient its way of thinking (by Scripture, of course) to describe what happens on Sunday mornings.
Before I begin, I'd like to mention that I'll be talking about the visible, local body of Christ more than the invisible, universal, elect of God (which includes believers who have already died or who have not yet been born).
So here are some reasons it has been helpful for me to think of the church as a body to join more than a building to frequent.1) I get excited about Sunday mornings.
I'm talking thrilled out of my mind.
I always keep a countdown in my noggin of how long it will be until I get to "gather with Covenant Life
" (instead of "go to Covenant Life"). I am also always excited about gathering with Covenant Life people on Tuesdays in Missional Community and throughout the week when possible in smaller hangouts, but it is so exciting to be able to celebrate Jesus intentionally with the whole group on Sundays and hear the Word preached faithfully.
It is seriously painful to miss a week, not because I'm super spiritual but because getting to worship with the church is super satisfying!2) My motives for "going" are exposed.
When I'm getting ready in the morning and Stephen is whining and tugging at my leg, lately I've been trying to tell him something like "Stephen, I'm getting ready to worship with Covenant Life! I want to be awake and prepared!"
I'm not driving 30 minutes away on a Sunday morning to spend two hours sitting in an old chapel so that I can fulfill my Christian duty or get noticed by others. I want to guard my heart against dressing up a little so that I can impress the people "at church" or garner attention when I "enter the church's doors."
When I train my mind to remember the purpose of why
I'm about to leave my home, I begin to truly prepare my heart for worshipping Jesus with others...and that includes putting a little effort into cleaning out my crusty eyes and brushing my rat's nest of hair so I'm ready to be more attentive.3) I begin to see other Christians as Jesus sees them.
I think my main struggle---aside from pride in general---is loving Christians. Verses like "Outdo one another in showing honor" or "Consider others more significant than yourselves" are totally convicting to me.
Shamefully, when it comes to church gatherings, I'm very tempted to think things like "Ugh, I hope I don't see ______ at church today because I get annoyed with her every time we talk."
So it really helps my heart to remind myself "I'm meeting with the Beloved of God. I'm worshipping with fellow heirs of Christ. I'm celebrating the resurrection with those who also share in Jesus's resurrection!" I'm so glad Jesus doesn't identify me the way that I am tempted to identify others. 4) I begin to see non-Christians as Jesus sees them.
I totally believe that the main purpose of the weekly gatherings is for people who already know and are known by Jesus primarily, and for those who do not yet know Jesus secondarily.
That being said, I am excited to show non-Christians what it is like when Christians meet together.
I know a woman who has been faithfully meeting with Covenant Life for many months (and to my knowledge is not yet a believer), but English is not her first language. She told me with great delight that one time she understood 80% of the sermon because she had already been familiar with the topic's vocabulary.
I asked her why she keeps coming, and she said the peace she sees is unlike anything she's experienced anywhere else. She is very interested in this Jesus because the people who come together to sing to Him, learn about Him, and talk about Him have something she hasn't seen before.
God is making His appeal to non-believers through us (2 Corinthians 5), and the large-scale weekly opportunity to display community is an incredible way to make such an appeal.5) My children are exposed from the beginning to a biblical understanding of what the church is.
I have an incredible children's book called What is the Church?
created by Sojourn Kids that describes it well on the very first page:"Let's say you ask me, 'What's the church?'
I'd say, 'Not what, but WHO!'
The church is made of people just
Like me and just like you.
The church is not a place we go
To meet on special days.
It's us---it's he and she and we---
Called out to bring Christ praise."
I want it to be considered common knowledge to my kids that God has created the universe to worship Him, that all mankind has fallen short and worships self instead, but that God in His mercy has made a way (namely, Jesus) for people to have a restored relationship with their Creator and do what they were initially made to do: enjoy Him forever.
I want my kids to know that these people, no matter where they fall on the timeline or what they had/have in their bank accounts, are the most privileged people on earth (see 1 Peter 2:9,10!), and they're scattered all throughout the world.
It would delight my heart to hear my children nonchalantly reiterate to me that Mommy and Daddy have made a covenant with some of these privileged people---we call this smaller group of nearby people our local church---and we get to see them regularly and encourage each other and worship God together.
Isn't this all so freeing and exciting? When we begin to take this gift of the church more seriously (see my post Bronies, La Leche League, and the Church
for more about why the church is such a gift), we understand and appreciate the Gospel more deeply, and are mobilized more passionately and effectively to bring this good news to those who haven't heard it and/or don't believe it.
I'll close with the kind of church building Ephesians 2:19-22 describes:So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Photo by PHXCC on Flickr (http://tinyurl.com/lvlsdac)
I recently saw the trailer for a documentary about "Bronies", the self-given title claimed by teenagers and adults who share a passionate obsession for the children's show My Little Pony. They have conventions. They have art. They have costumes, with rainbow manes, pony ears, and all.
Fans claim they love the show because of the art, the vocal talent, and the music. However, it doesn't take much digging to find the deeper
reason Bronies love the show: the resulting community.
Near the end of the trailer, we see teenage boys and men talk about how lonely they felt before they started watching...but now they have hundreds of friends due to their common love for the show.
I think I have a decent understanding of the movement because I have friends who would call themselves Bronies or belong to similar movements.
In my freshman year of high school, I hung out with the self-titled "Narutards": a large group of intelligent, Japanese-culture-obsessed students who were addicted to the anime Naruto. I've never seen an episode of Naruto---I've actually always detested anime---but I still gladly chose to be "one of them
" because of the practically unconditional love and acceptance I found in the group.
We would sing loudly together in the cafeteria, we would share Pocky with each other, we would break social norms together, and united we would refuse to cower at the judgmental stares or whispers of our classmates. In that year I experienced solidarity like never before. I loved my friends...and they loved me. It was an amazing feeling.
I suppose my inolvement with the Narutards faded and my friendships became more mainstream until recently as I became a mom. I got breastfeeding support from La Leche League, which helped me get plugged into the local cloth diaper group, where I again enjoyed finding solidarity with others, this time with the "crunchy mamas
" who have home births and nurse their toddlers and babywear and refuse to give their kids processed foods. Again, I didn't possess some of the stereotypes (like composting or the Positive Parenting philosophy), but I loved being a part of the group because I was truly accepted by others who also receive a lot of negative feedback from relatives and strangers about our atypical styles of life and parenting. (By the way, I love you, mama friends, and I plan on hanging out again soon!)
The common theme I see through all these groups---be it the crazed fans or the crunchy mamas---is the desperate cry for community. Everyone has been given this innate desire to be loved and accepted by those with whom they can celebrate and grow in common interests. For most this need will be more obscured behind "being normal", but groups like the Bronies, with their colorful stuffed horses and songs about magical friendships, make the human heart's universal desire for community loudly pronounced.
God's gift of the Church is exactly what the Bronies---what we all
---need. Ephesians 2:19 should pique the interest of the lonely, outcast soul:"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God."
Christ has made it possible to find acceptance and unity and membership within the most incomparably important and satisfying group there could ever be: the household of God.
1 Corinthians 12 also gives us a glimpse into what it should be like as a part of this Body of Christ:
"If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
The "one another" commands of the Bible are an incredibly attractive component of the Christian faith...as long as you're committed to a body of believers who is seeking to do these things.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Bear one another's burdens.
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted us.
Be kind to one another.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the LORD.
The list goes on and on, but even these brief commands, if taken seriously, seem to prescribe just the kind of joyous community that all souls desperately need (whether they realize it or not.)Despite the fact that churches are made of sinners who will undoubtedly be selfish and fail to offer perfect community, Jesus runs His church well.
We can be sure that where the Spirit truly is dwelling in a group of people, there will be rich, biblical community.
If you're not seeing this in your church, maybe it's because so many nominal Christians who do not truly know the Father have squeezed into your faith family, slapped on the title "member", and with their lukewarmness have confused everyone about what Biblical community has been designed by God to look like.
May this bring Christians to be grateful for God's provision of the church. For far too many, "church" is just an obligatory place to go and be entertained for awhile and the people in the church are nothing more than nosy hypocrites that don't need to be any real part of your life. That was my ecclesiology for many, many years.
But that is not the Church as the Bible describes it.
The Church is a blood-bought people, the most privileged people in literally the entire universe, because they are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (1 Peter 2:9.)
The gates of hell shall not prevail against this Church (Matthew 16:18.)
Christ loves, sanctifies, nourishes, and cherishes this Church (Ephesians 5:22ff.)
This Church has been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God (Colossians 2:12.)
I really could go on and on and on and talk about things that I am just scratching the surface of beginning to comprehend. But one thing I know is that the Church is a gift from God, and Jesus takes His blood-bought people seriously, so I should too.Everything changes when you realize the other people in your church have more in common with you than the fact that you heard the same sermon on Sunday. If you and they are truly in Christ, then you have everything in common.
That video clip of obsessed male adults singing in unison about magical ponies barely serves as even a .001% opacity glimpse into how joyfully unified Jesus has made the Church to be.Acts 4 is a great example of this as we read that "the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul", echoing Ezekiel 11's now-fulfilled promise that God would give us "one heart."
May we hold out the beauty of the Church to those around us who are not part of it. In John 6:37 Jesus said "All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out." Nobody on this side of eternity has to fear being rejected by Jesus; the only problem is that the human heart---though desperately in need of Him---does not want Him (see Romans 3.)
So we as ambassadors, as if God is making His appeal to others on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:20), can openly talk to others about the beautiful community we have found in Christ (and most of all, the beautiful Christ that our community adores!)
My first little bundle, Stephen. Born at home on April 10, 2012 after 14 hours of labor.
When people ask me what natural childbirth was like, I usually say something along the lines of "Absolutely horrible! But I loved it and wouldn't change a thing."
Let's say you need a car. Would you just walk into the nearest dealership, hand them your credit card, and say "I'll buy the car everyone else is getting"? No way! You would do research and visit multiple dealerships and look at multiple models with multiple options before giving anyone a penny.
The sad truth is, many Americans don't put this much effort into choosing their birth options. This is probably because most Americans don't know there are options.
I am so grateful for hospitals and the birth-related procedures that can be done there, and I know some amazing, life-saving, Jesus-loving doctors and OB's, but I do plan on giving birth at home again. I'm not choosing home birth because I'm a stubborn non-conformist hippie willing to put my child's life at stake for my selfish goals. I'm choosing home birth because my husband and I have researched thoroughly, pondered and prayed much, and considered it the best option for our family.
If you want to know the health/safety reasons I plan on having another home birth, I recommend the documentary The Business of Being Born. (Warning: As it shows women laboring and giving birth, it does show women unclothed and there is some, erm, expressive language.
) The movie contains reliable research, big names in the birth world are interviewed, and there is an overwhelming amount of eye-opening facts about births in America.
If you want a more scholarly source, I recommend the book The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
by Henci Goer. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
by Ina May Gaskin, though wrought with spiritual/new age-type stuff with which I disagree, has a lot of helpful information as well.
For a quick fact, there was a study
in Canada that took place from 2000 to 2004 and observed almost 13,000 births. "The mortality rate per 1,000 births was 0.35 in the [planned-and-attended-by-registered-midwives] home birth group, 0.57 in hospital births attended by midwives, and 0.64 among those attended by physicians, according to the study."Infant mortality rates were actually slightly lower in home births than hospital births.
Much more research can afford to be done on this topic, but across the board you will find that home birth (when done properly) is at least as safe as the hospital.I really want to be sensitive to women who struggle with infertility or who have high-risk pregnancies or have experienced much suffering related to birth. If that's the case for you, I weep with you, and this might not be helpful for you to read. However, the large majority of women do have options but might not be aware of them, so I still think this list was worth writing.
Here are 8 personal reasons that I'm choosing to plan on having a home birth: 1. Birth is not a problem to be fixed but a glorious natural process to be helped.
Last I heard, the C-section rate at my nearest hopsital is 47%. Would God really make populating the earth so difficult that almost half of the women giving birth would need a major surgery?
A friend in midwife school said that she has yet to meet an atheist in the natural childbirth career field. This is because Creator fingerprints are all over birth
. The pregnancy and birth process is so complex and beautiful that I want to, as much as possible, worshipfully embrace
the system God has masterfully designed.
I am my midwife's client
, not her patient
.I'm pregnant, not sick.
God has commanded us to be "fruitful and multiply", and He has enabled most women's bodies to be able to carry out that command. So I find my midwife's low-intervention philosophy on birth to be helpful in adoring God.
Many people have shared with me really sad birth stories about being coerced into having a C-section or being induced when it wasn't necessary. One mom told me she still has nightmares about her daughter's birth, which was five years ago.
2. My midwife is skilled and knows what she's doing.
Many people think all a midwife brings to a birth is some towels and maybe a stethoscope. When interviewing midwives, Peter asked one of the candidates a great question: "What does a hospital delivery room have that you don't have?" and the midwife responded, "An operating table."
(My midwife's website lists
all that she brings.)
We had a fairly difficult birth with Stephen and he definitely needed oxygen and a lot of suctioning. My midwife handled the situation extremely calmly and professionally. (I'll say the best part about it in point #7!)
The prenatal appointments are also very professional. Her office is beautiful and clean, and it exceeded every expectation for both pregnancies.3. My midwife is personal.
"I'm really going to miss you guys. I think about you all the time."
These are not words you would expect to hear from your caregiver at one of your postpartum appointments. My midwife is awesome. We hug every time I have an appointment. Part of the good news about finding out I was pregnant again was "Yay! I get to see Kim and everybody again!" I love my midwife and her team.
When everyone left my house several hours after Stephen was born, my midwife and her team literally left my house cleaner than it was before they came. (And that's saying a lot, because there is a TON of mess related to birth. They put a load of laundry in the washing machine and everything.) I think that's pretty cool.4. I don't have to leave my house.
Unless you live in a pigsty, your own home is probably the place you feel most comfortable. That is certainly true of me.
stuff is here.
I know how many people have used my
The fridge is full of my
food that I like.
I sleep on my
bed every night.
I can close the blinds, turn off the lights, or play my
music if I want to. Birth itself is really the only factor that would make me feel uncomfortable (granted, it's a really big factor!)
This is what the first half of labor was like:
I did whatever I wanted in order to distract myself from the 1-minute-long bursts of pain that would come every five minutes or so. I read a Fox Trot comic book. Peter and I watched Fun with Dick and Jane
. I played Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. I could eat whatever I wanted. I made a craft. I went to the bathroom a million times.
When my contractions started getting more painful:
I chilled out on my beanbag. Peter gave me backscratches on my couch. I rolled around on my floor. I used a birthing ball and heating pad and moved into the relief positions that I had prepared for...with as much space and solitude as I needed.
And thennnnnn...reason number 5 that I loved birthing at home.5. I get to labor in a jacuzzi.
My midwife set up a huge pool in my living room and filled it with 99 degree water. Though the transition part of labor is awful upon awful (I shudder at the thought), I couldn't have been more comfortable anywhere else.
I was floating around free from gravity, Peter was in the tub encouraging me, and the student midwife also attending my birth was massaging my head. The baby's heart rate was even able to be monitored while I was in the tub! I was not strapped down, I did not have an IV in my arm...I was free
Since my midwife eventually had to break my amniotic sac, I ended up deciding to give birth on the bed, so I didn't have the water birth I planned, but the tub was still exactly what I needed at that time I had it.6. Home birth was one of the best things to ever happen to our marriage.
Teamwork between Peter and I was absolutely essential. He gave me space when I needed it, and he got in my face when I needed it. He was 100% there for me. He saw me fight like I've never fought for anything before. He still, over a year later, applauds my "heroism" for giving birth naturally. I'm convinced that he worked just as hard as I did, though. He was so strong and so gentle. I saw parts of my husband's character that day, and he saw parts of mine, that we will admire about each other forever.
I am really, really looking forward to (LORD-willing) laboring with him as my birth partner again. Mushiness over. ;)7. I was able to bond with my baby immediately.
The birth itself was a blur, but I'm pretty sure that Peter caught Stephen and I was able to hold the baby right away as my midwife calmly checked everything to make sure both of us were okay. As previously noted, she did have to suction him and give him oxygen, but he was either on my chest or right by me for all of that. He was never whisked away and I always knew exactly what was going on.
He stayed with us that afternoon, and he slept with us that night. Such intimate moments with my baby happened during those blocks of time and I'm really grateful he never left our sight. There was just no need for that (and it's not like Stephen was particularly healthy. This is just how most babies are supposed to be like when they're born!)
Also, my recovery was amazing and we went to Publix less than 24 hours later! I've read stories of women in Africa who would go into labor while gardening outside, then they would give birth and shortly after put the baby in a sling and get back to gardening. Too funny!8. It developed character and resulted in a healthy sense of girl power!
Birth is the most ferocious thing I've ever done. The pain was inexplicably intense, but I did it. I was useful
. I, the girl who has never had any special talents, the girl who can't run a mile to save her life, the girl who never followed through with anything...I
brought a human into this world. I really think this strong sense of accomplishment is God-given and healthy.
(And I do realize that many women, possibly myself even for this upcoming birth, can't do anything about it and their birth plan really must change for the health of baby and mom. To that I say this:My midwife's goal is not that I have a home birth. My midwife's goal is to give me and my baby a happy and healthy birth experience.
But in most cases, and at least for me, that will probably happen best at home.)
The feeling I got from conquering birth is certainly greater than the feeling I would have gotten if I climbed Everest or was promoted to CEO. A human being grew inside me and came out without any real interventions. I felt every bit of why giving birth is called "labor." I worked hard
for once in my life. To bring life into the world. And that is significant and amazing.
My midwife setting up my hot tub!
One of the best moments in our marriage yet!