Favorite Weekend Links

I hope you have a great weekend. Here’s a newsy post for you. Grab some coffee and enjoy!

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News:

Rebekah is already back at school and Emily is headed there tomorrow. Pray for them, won’t you? We’re hoping that any health problems that Em had her freshman year will be no longer an issue now that she is an appendix-free girlie, as of this summer. :) Pray for Rebekah to be a servant-leader on her hall in her role as RA.

Also, I’m excited to tell you about a great opportunity the Lord has given me. I’ve been asked to be a contributing author to an online resource/counseling website for hurting women. It’s launching this October and honestly, this team of writers is out of my league. Two words: Karen Ehman. Yes, she’s one of my favorite authors (hospitality ninja) and she’s also a contributing author. Also, when you read all of these women’s bio’s and then you see mine, you’ll laugh. ;) But, I’m honored to be part of such an amazing team! I’ve learned so much in the past two months from all of them, working behind the scenes, getting this project together.

Just because an opportunity presents itself, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s from God. So, I’m following God’s lead (and seeking Peter’s advice and the advice of godly friends!) as He hands me ministry opportunities in the areas of writing and speaking lately. I’ve always wanted to write books, because I’m so thankful for the part that “book mentors” played in my spiritual growth. I hope to share what I’ve learned about life– motherhood, hospitality, ministry, mentoring—and be a help to some other struggling woman. I’ve never wanted to speak to women, because, my comfort zone is speaking to teen girls or teaching younger children, but the Lord keeps nudging me and giving me opportunities to speak for Him. A godly woman schooled me: “Satan’s women are out there spreading his message! How can the Lord’s women not speak for Him?”

I feel the Lord is preparing me for that “someday” ministry right now. He’s swinging doors wide open, and I wish I could say that I strut through them with confidence, but my reality is that I peek through the crack of the door onto the other side pretty timidly, and fearfully, not really sure if I’m ready to take that next step and walk through. Pray for me as I write, that the words of my mouth (keyboard) will spoken in love and will point people to Christ.

Articles I loved:

4 Ways to Live Out Your Role as Helper: Jen Thorn

The Truth About Grace For Today: Ruth Simons

How To Have Joy: Christine Hoover

Why It’s So Critical We Connect With Friends: Lisa Jacobson

If Your Child Is Looking At P*rn, Give Them Grace: Jessica Thompson (Elyse Fitzpatrick’s daughter)

Talking With Your Children About Persecution: Kara Chupp

Ferguson and My White Son: Trillia Newbell

Currently Reading:

Women of the Word (Advance Reader Edition): How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds
The Holiness of God
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

 

Kindle Deals:

Women Living Well: Find Your Joy in God, Your Man, Your Kids, and Your Home is $.99 today.

Funny:

You know it’s true! ;) lol

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  Crafty:

 Easy Fall Watercolor Tutorial for kids. 

DIY Pearl Statement Necklace via Gracelaced. Ruth has an amazing sense of style and this necklace is gorgeous!

Yummy:

Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

Copycat Vanilla Chai Recipe (Just like Dunkin Donuts)  I’ve eliminated a step to make it super easy. This is a great mix to make for your college students! My girls love it!

Great Quote:

It makes me boil when I think of the power we profess and the utter impotency of our action. Believers who know one-tenth as much as we do are doing one-hundred times more for God, with His blessing and our criticism. Oh if I could write it, preach it, say it, paint it, anything at all, if only God’s power would become known among us.”  Jim Elliot

*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Easy, Fall Watercolor For Kids

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Here’s an easy fall watercolor you can do with your younger kids. This was done by Holly when she was 11. This can be done with cheap Prang or Crayola watercolor boxes.
1. Gather a variety of leaves outside.
2. Bring them in and trace them onto watercolor paper, marking veins and stems.
3. Begin with yellow. Paint washes of yellow. Allow to dry.
4. Next, overlay orange and watery red. (The more water you use, the less intense the color. Let kids play with this concept to get a variety of tones.) Let dry.
5. Add greens. Make greens by mixing blues and yellows. Let dry.
6. Make the leaves “pop” by adding dark purples or browns to the background. This pushes the lighter colors to the front and adds visual interest. Allow to dry.
7. Frame.

Enjoy!
*You can do this on a smaller scale, making stationary by using watercolor greeting cards, available at any craft shop.
** for older kids, add acorns, berries, twigs to the mix.

Holiness for the Church That Is Too Ridiculous

Are you frustrated by the pursuit of holiness? Does it seem like an impossible task? You’re not alone.

Pretend with me that you are seated in a church sanctuary. Now, look around the room at the people nearby. What kind of people do you see?*

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In my imaginary church, I see

  • A frazzled mom impatiently SHUSHING her kids in the sanctuary.
  • A moody husband who rolled his eyes and belittled his wife yet again with sarcasm.
  • An energy-drained single mom trying to make ends meet on her own because her husband is a good for nothing.
  • A married couple who live side by side in cool indifference.
  • A heartbroken woman who dulls the pain of her husband’s unfaithfulness by excessive spending and endless Botox.
  • A guy whose pornography addiction has devastated his wife, leaving her fighting depression and overbearing guilt.
  • A ministry couple who came to church fighting and will continue the argument after the morning worship service.
  • The bitter woman who proudly carries a chip on her shoulder like it’s a victim badge.

On any typical Sunday, in any given church, you’ll find pews full of sinners. (If you find a church that’s perfect, let me know!)

We’re all ridiculous in our own ways. And still the command rings in our ears:  “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” I almost want to snicker, Are you kidding me? Holiness seems about as likely as lassoing the moon.

But the command remains. What’s a raggle-taggle church full of ridiculous sinners supposed to do with this command?

Be Holy. Set apart. Consecrated unto God. Single-minded. Obedient.

First, humble ourselves. Stop thinking we can do this alone.

Then, draw near to God and claim, yet again, His enabling grace.

Grace motivates us to keep on going. Kinda like when you taught your kid to ride a bike, and they tipped, and fell, and failed. You kept cheering them on, and holding the back of the bike for them, running alongside, never leaving them for a minute, telling them that they could do this thing. You encouraged them toward a goal, but their lack of fear and confidence in your good will toward them motivated them to try, try again, keep peddling, keep getting up, even when they are unbalanced, wobbly, scared and have never done it right before.

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It’s the same with Grace. If we feared getting the proverbial ax every time we mess up, we wouldn’t even try. But grace leads us, nurtures us, teaches us in love and keeps encouraging us in the right direction. The same grace that saved us keeps us and teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live sensibly, upright, and godly lives in this present life. (see Titus 2:11,12)

God’s grace does not stop when you’ve failed. It pulls you back, spurns you onward and helps you to see big picture. Many people tell you that when you fail, you should look upward. Of course they mean that you should look upward to God and from your circumstances, and I know what they mean.

But I believe that God’s grace teaches you to look downward. God’s grace teaches us to see things with an eternal perspective. We start at heaven and look down, and all of the things we thought were so big actually pale in comparison to eternity and spiritual treasure.

If you have legalistic tendencies, grace alone may disturb you. So, lest you misunderstand, and think that I am encouraging recklessness and lawlessness, a caveat:  a focus on God’s grace that ends in disregard for God’s laws is not grace at all, but licentiousness.

“Legalism makes believers think that God accepts them on the basis of what they do. Licentiousness makes believers think that God does not care what they do. Both errors have terrible consequences. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Grace should not make obedience optional. When God removes good works as a condition for His acceptence he does not remove righteousness as a requirement for life. The standards of scripture glorify God and protect His people from harm.

Resting on God’s grace does not relieve us of our holy obligations; rather it should enable us to fulfill them.

Bryan Chapell, Holiness by Grace: Delighting in the Joy That Is Our Strength

Grace-living that relies on God to help us live in ways that please Him produces fruit that looks like Him.

  • Selfishness takes a back seat as you live for others and God’s glory.
  • True ministry to others can take place as your heart is purified and base motives removed.
  • Closeness to God occurs as pride falls away and humility is embraced.
  • Your love for others is seen more clearly as you truly learn to love and obey the Lord.
  • Your reasonableness is known to all men.
  • You fulfill your call to be “holy and blameless BEFORE HIM.” Eph. 1:4

Martin Luther, the once Catholic priest turned reformer, when he realized that good works and law keeping could not save you, but faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, encouraged us to drop what we once considered our spiritual “trophies.” These words should encourage you to stop attempting holiness for the wrong reasons. God does not owe us anything because of our feeble attempts at holiness. He loves us and desires us to be holy and spurns us onward with His power.

Martin Luther, from The Sum of the Christian Life:

It will be exceedingly difficult to get into another habit of thinking in which we clearly separate faith and [Works of] love … even though we are now in faith… the heart is always ready to boast of itself before God and say:  After all, I have preached so long and lived so well and done so much, surely he will take this into account… But it cannot be done. 

With men you may boast:  I have done the best I could toward everyone, and if anything is lacking I will still try to make recompense.  But when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home and remember to appeal from justice to grace.

Let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for a man, who all his life has been mired in his work righteousness, to pull himself out of it and with all his heart rise up through faith in this one Mediator.  I myself have now been preaching and cultivating it through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still I feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something, so that he will have to give me his grace in exchange for my holiness.  And still I cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace;  yet this is what I should and must do.  The mercy seat alone must prevail and remain, because he himself has established it;  otherwise no man can come before God. 

Are you depending on God’s grace today to give you the power to change, or are you running on empty/exhausted from trying to live the try-hard life for yet another day? You can’t do this on your own. You need enabling power. Plan to sit with the Lord today and ask Him to open your eyes to your need and His all sufficient resource, GRACE.

*This exercise, adapted and personalized from Bryan Chapell’s Holiness By Grace.

How to Be Holy When You Wake Up Grumpy

How are you supposed to be holy when you wake up grumpy?

We know what holiness is not, and what it looks like, but how do we get there?

If I had to describe myself when I wake up in the morning, holy is not the first word that pops into my mind. Tired, yes. Holy, no.

Some mornings I wake up grumpy. I don’t want to face the day. I wake up overwhelmed.

So, what now?

KGcbEHoSLmcHyhqA2nfl_76591_667052060003591_1045050051_nHoliness is not about being perfect. Jesus was the only person to walk this earth in a sinless manner. He was perfect for us!

So, holiness is not a matter of attaining perfection, but of mimicking. We want to follow Christ’s example, because we want to be like Him. And, holiness is not about feelings, but about direction. We are purposefully choosing to walk as He commands. Obedience. Choosing the right path.

Here’s what that looks like in real life:

You wake up exhausted. Instantly, thoughts flood into your mind: problems, worries, what-ifs.

You breathe a prayer for help: “Lord, this day, all of it is yours. You are ruler of my life. Help me to follow You.”

You have two choices: you can feed on the negative thoughts, or you can choose to feed on what’s true, honest, just, pure, lovely. You can choose to praise God with your heart, soul, and mind.

Holiness is about making excellent choices.

The phone rings and you’re greeted with that problem person (Love your Nellie Olsen!) and her stinky remark. You have another choice. You can use this person’s sin as an excuse to sin yourself and retaliate in kind, or you can choose a higher road. You decide to overlook the lousy attitude and treat this hurting person with care and kindness.

The kids wake up and didn’t seem to get the “holiness” memo either. They’re bickering and grumpy, and general selfishness seems to reign supreme. You could react in kind, with snarky remarks, put-downs, or threats, or you could see things with eternal perspective, encouraging them to follow you while you follow Christ and His commands, helping them see where they’ve fallen short of God’s code of ethics for loving others well.

The list of scenarios could go on and on, but you get the picture. Holiness is about obedience and not necessarily about feelings.

Some quick tips for pursuing holiness:

1. Take time to be holy. It’s a song, I know, but the truths are spot-on. The more time you spend communing with God through prayer and Bible reading, the more transformed your mind will become in your desire to pursue holiness. Cut out needless distractions to make time for the Lord. Then, go out and serve people in a way that points all the glory back to Him.

2. Don’t make excuses for your sin. Call it what it is and agree with God. Make it right with the person you’ve offended. If you don’t own up to your own sin, you won’t put it off or make progress in holiness. (Confess, find forgiveness, move upward.)

3. Listen to your heart. And I don’t mean in the sense that you’re following it. Listen to what you say to yourself when you are alone with your thoughts. Where does the needle of your internal compass land, when you have a free moment? If it’s on problems, then you’ve got to recalibrate. If it’s on bitter or unloving thoughts, you’ve got some forgiveness to do. If it’s on worry, take time to get to know your God. (You can only trust God to the extent that you know Him! The more you know His character, the greater your ability to trust Him!) Self-assess what’s going on in your own spiritual life.

4. Just do the next right thing. The flesh is not your friend, so whatever feels natural in the heat of the moment, don’t do it. Don’t tell that person off or give her a piece of your mind. Don’t give the cold shoulder and pretend they’re dead. Don’t yell at your kids. Don’t manipulate behind the scenes. Don’t gossip or slander. All of those sins feel good for a minute, but that’s it. They’re killing your spiritual life, your testimony, and your quest for holiness. It’s not worth it. Count the cost, and do the RIGHT thing. Take the higher road. When everyone around you is “seeking their own,” you love others enough to transfer that care that you once had for yourself to them. That’s God’s way. That’s what He did for you. Loved you when you were unlovely. We’re trying to be like Him.

5. Spend time with those who are pursuing holiness. You become like those you spend time with! Choose carefully. Look for women who are trying to respect God’s word. Spend your “free” time with women who are confident in their identity in Christ, who give and receive encouragement, who are transparent about what they are learning and how they are growing, who will challenge you to be a better person and who talk about others in a positive way, when they are not around. (Of course, there are several types of friends, and we all spend time with a variety of people, but when you have a choice, choose the person who’s walking the same direction as you are!)

What about you? What are you doing to pursue holiness? What would you add to this list?

What is Holiness? {Some Friends Weigh In}

I’m following the restoration of the beautiful Chataeu de Gudanes, a 94 room 1700′s chateau {read: mansion, hello!} in southern France that has seen better days.

An Australian couple bought the place and are restoring it to its former glory. Not only are the pictures breathtaking, but the process of finding bits of hidden carvings here and original artwork there is fascinating! {I get excited when other people are excited about happy happenings in their lives!}

This Chateau is stunning, but each day of restoration makes it more amazing and returns it to the image that the original builder had in mind years ago.

It’s the same with holiness.

We were created in God’s image, but after the Fall, sin left us in disrepair. When we are saved, God begins the restoration process. He gives us new life (think DNA) in Christ, which enables us to be like Him.

God’s desire is that we would be restored to the image of His son. He’s not going to leave us in shambles. He’s got better plans for us, if we’ll cooperate.

The process of restoration includes painful things: chiseling away, sanding off, getting rid of rot and dead wood, polishing, painting, tearing down, building up. But the final product looks beautiful.

How do we keep that restoration/sanctification process headed in the right direction?

“Be ye holy, for I am holy.” This is a right now, present tense calling. And it also includes a continuing into the future tense. Keep on being holy.

My life, lived out in a holy way, is the most beautiful Christian life I can live, whether we have misconceptions about it or not.

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I asked some of my iron-sharpening-iron friends {some pastor’s wives, some ministry wives} to explain holiness. They’re a great group of women (serious about doing the right thing before God and others!) and I really respect their insight so I wanted to share some of their thoughts.

This is a longer-ish post, so grab some coffee and come back and read what they have to say!

What is holiness?

“I would say that I look at holiness as a progressive and continuing work that God does in us and is not complete until we are in Heaven. We are “holy” before God because of Christ…but our life is pursuing holiness continually.

The one infallible test of our holiness will be our humility before God and others. Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness.” In contrast: “The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility”.

My biblical understanding: Separate from worldly views in living and in thinking and in lifestyle.”

“I think a holy person is someone who knows God and takes time pursuing Him. The closer they draw to God the more they reflect His holiness. I know my life reflects what I spend time doing…easy to be consumed with living up to others expectations when i keep Facebook, pinterest, tv…in front of my face. But if my mind is meditating on who my God is throughout the day and putting into it God’s Word, my life will reflect his holiness more. This is how I think holy people can be truly beautiful. I guess the sense of holiness that is ugly is a life of self imposed holiness…trying to be like God through your own strength.”

Holiness in the Bible is to be set apart and sacred. I think holiness is showed by a person who has great self-control because they don’t fly off the handle and sin at every turn of event.

Holiness is not how many standards you have but how you keep yourself “unspotted from the world”. I know plenty of people who are not anywhere close to holiness but have enough standards to make the Pharisees think it’s ridiculous! (Okay, maybe not that bad! :P)

Holiness is dependence on God because you know how wicked and sinful you are. Holiness happens when you keep the 1st and 2nd greatest commandments. Holiness happens when you keep short accounts of your sins with God. Holiness happens when you don’t have a fear of man but when you trust God. 

God wants our worship (what we revere, adore, honor, pay homage to) to be something different, set apart. God wants how we worship to be something set apart. 

God wants us to be sober-minded and set-apart. We aren’t to be like the world and its philosophies. We were ignorant of what we were. We were blind and lost. BUT now we KNOW and we desire to be like Christ…HOLY. So in every aspect of our lives, we are to be set-apart. Many times we like to compartmentalize. “This is the church part of my life, and this is the rest of my life.” We can’t  put on “Christianity” on Sundays and then live however we want for the rest of the week. All of life is worship. What we think, what we do, what we say is all revealing what we worship. So how we do all of those things needs to be holy…set-apart.

For me holiness first makes me think of being and doing what is right. Holiness also stirs up thoughts of not following after what is wrong but seeking to be above mediocre living. For me, my understanding of holiness is living a life that is always striving for what is good and pure and can often come across as self righteous (holier than thou) whether it’s meant to seem that way or not.

A holy person is one who is living out Philippians 4:4-9. Quiet confidence, pure mind, vibrant prayer life…a person who is very much in the world, but not affected by it because of close fellowship with Christ. I personally love Berg’s example of sin to a holy God being like vomit to us as moms. I don’t want to be in the same room with it, I hate even the smell of it, I clean it up thoroughly and immediately even though it’s usually the middle of the night. That example breaks down a bit since kids don’t choose to throw up, but as far as understanding how much God abhors sin, it resonated with me.

I believe the BEAUTY of holiness comes when a woman apprehends that she is separating herself TO GOD/unto good works more than FROM others who have chosen sin. Isaiah 1 – 5 is pretty harsh and judgemental. We can sense his frustration with the carnal Israelites of his day. But then Isaiah 6 happens, he sees God, sees his own sinfulness, and the whole tone of the book changes. The unto/from paradigm is beautifully illustrated by a bride. She is focused on one man, and all the others fade to the background. Dozens of New Testament verses refer to the same principle. There is a separation, but it’s towards God/ Jesus Christ, not a contest to see who can be the most separated from the world.

As a parent, I want to teach my children that God calls us to be holy and we should be striving to live a holy, different, set apart life. I want them to know Scripture and apply it to their lives. As they make choices……..what does the Bible have to say about that? How can I best please the Lord in this choice or situation?

 

When I think of a holy person, I think of someone who is trying to please the Lord in every area of life. Someone who is in the Word, someone who is striving to be like Christ. And, considering the circles I have been in, I do tend to think of someone on the more conservative side. We have various friends who are such a blessing to be around because it seems like every time you are with them, and even have just a small conversation, you end up encouraged in the Lord. Scripture just comes out of their mouths….it is normal, it is just “flowing out” because of their time in the Word and meditating on it. So I am thinking of some specific friends who I would consider holy because they are so focused on the Lord, and it just “comes out” all the time in their conversation and daily living.

I think a holy woman is one who is in constant communion with God. We must have a clean conscience before God or that conduit of communion is broken. Holiness is hindered when we have unconfessed sin in our life. Holiness is not a one-upmanship game “standards-wise”, because it focuses on God and not on competing with other people. We’ve all known people who are really obnoxious/outspoken in their displays of “holiness.” Self-focus instead of God focus is pride. So is showmanship in the church. In some circles, Christians love to use holiness for self-promotion (we’re so separated, my kids would never do that, we don’t wear THAT!) (Pride-in-disguise!!) That should make people RUN! :P) Humility and the mind of Christ and inner peace are the outcomes of a truly holy life and mind.

Don’t I have insightful friends!? :) I hope you were blessed by their wisdom as much as I was!

Feeling defeated?

Remember, Holiness is not something you do entirely on your own. It’s not you pulling the whole load and trying really hard. It’s not you doing your best and calling on the Lord when you find yourself in a “jam.”

The Christian life is lives by a series of choices, but the key words here are ENABLED. We are enabled to live as we should. Yes, we make choices. Yes, we choose  holiness or disobedience, but we never go this thing alone. Isn’t it great that as Christian women, we’re never on our own?

We have enabling power through the Holy Spirit to live consecrated (not sinless!) lives!

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

 

 

The Discussion We Need to Have

Reports estimate that that American women spend a staggering $426 billion a year on beauty products. We place a high value on beauty.

We want beautiful homes, beautiful weddings, beautiful getaways to exotic places. Beauty is a good thing, in our eyes. But do we want beautiful holiness?

The Bible describes holiness as a beautiful thing. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

This got me thinking, “Why don’t we value holiness like we should?””Why don’t we think of holiness as beautiful?”  I asked several teen girls and a few of my friends their thoughts on this matter, which I’ll share in the next few days.

But for now, the first, question: “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a holy person? The good, the bad, the ugly?”

Some of the answers:

A person who:

  • tries not to sin
  • is reserved, serious,
  • is a monk, priest, nun,
  • is judgmental, outspoken about how people should live,
  • always looks down on everyone else,
  • knows God and tries to pursue Him,
  • always assumes that everyone else is less spiritual or too liberal.

Obviously, from these answers, we’ve got some confusion about what holiness is.

You’d think holiness looked like this:

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

 

Yet the Bible describes it as beautiful and expected. In fact, we only know what holiness looks like because of Christ. He was the epitome of all that is lovely, and kind, and humble. So why do we have such distorted views of this? And further, how do we follow the command to “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” if we don’t know what it is, or associate it with so many negative and untrue connotations?

I think we need a discussion on this, which is exactly what I plan to do this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you think of holiness as a desirable, beautiful trait for a Christian woman?

Chime in.

When God Gives You Trials, When You Asked For Tiaras and Truffles

I tend to want my own way, but God tends to do things differently.

If I had it my way,

my kids would be perfect, my money would never run out, our house would self-clean, the people in our life would be perfectly kind, considerate, and just, and my energy levels would always keep up with my demanding schedule. Scratch that–I wouldn’t have a demanding schedule.

perfect

If I had my way, I’d live a Pinterest-perfect life, thank you very much. But sometimes, God’s given me trials, instead of the tiaras and truffles I asked for.

See, God knows that I’ll be truly happy when I am holy. God’s made me in His own image and while selfishness reigns, I’m defiling that image and misrepresenting Him. I can never be happy until I am living as I was created to live.

He has mercifully spared me from my own ideals, knowing better than I do. He’s seen fit to use what I would consider “strange” means to make me more like His Son. Upside-down methods, bumpy roads, unacceptable situations, and bitter pills. Yuck.

God, in His Providence, seems to have super-ceded my dreams.

I noticed in my study of Philippians that Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but God sent him as a prisoner. Not exactly what Paul had planned, I’m sure.

But you can’t read Philippians without realizing that Paul knew a secret that produced peace and joy: You can further the Gospel of Jesus Christ in chains as well as in freedom. When your mind is God-centered, the circumstances barely matter. A mind, fixed on Christ, experiences God’s perfect peace.

Bonus: Your ministry expands, as you can reach people in chains that you’d never reach if you were free.

Chains.

They’re about the worst possible problem we independent Americans can imagine. Nobody’s gonna tell me what to do or how to live my life. I’m the master of my own destiny and I call the shots. 

And yet God uses chains. They’re those things that hold us and limit us and make us crazy.

They’re the unwanted things in our lives–that critical person, that illness, that wayward child, that broken relationship. Chains are the one thing you can’t control. That one thing you’d wish away in a heartbeat.

Yet, in chains, we can praise. In fact, it’s when we are in chains that we must praise.

Every limitation and irritation we have in life must be seen as from God’s hand. End of story.

The sovereignty of God super-cedes our circumstances. They may not be planned or pleasant, but they are from our Father’s good and loving hand.

I like to picture God’s hand reaching down through the clouds to me, holding whatever particular trial I am facing, as though He is giving it to me. “Here,” I imagine Him saying. “If you trust me through this, THIS GOOD THING THAT YOU CONSIDER A TRIAL, will make you more like my Holy Son.”

My mind wiggles and contorts, trying to escape like a toddler who wants to get down off his mother’s lap and run when he’s supposed to sit still.

It helps me to remember that nothing comes to me except through Him.

The-Creation

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:11

Not only does God illuminate my way, he also shields me from anything He deems not good for me.

He “screens” my life. He allows certain things and not others.

And I’m so glad of it.

 

A Christian Buzzword I Hate {Or In Praise Of Women Who Get Things Done}

I’m sure you’ve all heard it by now. The word “intentional.” I’ve really grown to hate it. We’re told we need to be intentional in our parenting, in our ministry, and in everything else under the sun.

Problem is, intentions are just that. Intentions without perseverance and good old fashioned W-O-R-K equals your pie-in-the-sky ideals never played out or acted upon. They meant to get things done, they planned and talked and wrote things down, they were intentional, but it never seemed to happen.

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Mothers don’t always have the planning luxury. Many times, we’re just keeping everyone else running and above water. But keep them afloat we do.

For all of you women who are getting things done, not worrying about the critics and philosophers and nay-sayers all around you, I applaud you.

I applaud the mother who gets up, middle of the night, and just meets the needs of her kids, having never fully nailed down her philosophy of parenting.

I applaud the woman who meets the needs of her community or hurting neighbors whether she planned to or not.

I applaud the woman who mentors the desperate younger mom, whether she feels qualified to do so or not. One of the great benefits of believing the sovereignty of God is the realization that nothing happens by chance. Every interaction is God-ordained. God brings people into your life for a reason.

I applaud the mom who wakes up in the morning and breathes the prayer “Whatever you have for me, today, Lord, make me your instrument.” She knows that children are unpredictable, but believes that God will give her the grace and strength to meet each task “as unto the Lord,” “ordered by the Lord.”

I applaud the woman who runs herself ragged caring for her aging, sick parents. She falls into bed at night wondering, “What did I accomplish today?” She lived for others needs and almost neglected her own basic needs, like food.

I am all for planning and intentions. I really am. But without stick-to-it-iveness and follow-through, your plans are wasted.

So, perhaps, instead of worrying about intentions, you should open your eyes and “Just do it.”

Just tell that neighbor about God’s love.

Just give that hurting person a hug.

Just speak a healing word of kindness to that grouchy cashier.

Just encourage your younger sisters in Christ to keep on keeping on.

Don’t over-analyze or you’ll miss out on opportunities to live in the here and now. Be faithful with the people around you right now, and God will continue to lead the right people to you.

God will use the willing, ready soul RIGHT NOW, if you are prepared and willing to do good unto all men.

 

Free Resource! “Your Reactions Are Showing” {PDF Download}

Years ago, I bought a helpful pamphlet entitled, “Your Reactions Are Showing.”

At the time I was dealing with some anger issues that I was trying to “kill/mortify” from my life. My children’s behavior “made” me angry—or so I thought. The truth is, I was angry because I had anger in my heart. My children’s behavior was just a pressure that exposed what was already there.

This booklet was so helpful, that when a woman sought advice last week about the hold that anger had on her life, I told her she could borrow it and told her how helpful it had been to me.  Lo and behold, it’s online free!

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“A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.” Elizabeth Elliot

 

“These kids are driving me crazy! That’s why I snapped!”

“My husband is so inattentive. He’s lucky I stay with him at all.”

“My mother-in-law is such a beast, so I just gave her a piece of my mind (Or the silent treatment).”

We’re all prone to magnify the sins of others and minimize our own sin. But if we are truthful with ourselves, we’ll admit that nobody causes me to sin. I choose it.

Whatever your “pressure” right now,

a stressful job, an unreasonable boss, interpersonal conflict, cranky kids, marriage problems

God is using it to conform you and change you into the Image of His Son. Your choices reflect you. Your words reflect your heart, and nobody “made” you do it. Not even Satan. (“The Devil made me do it!”–This phrase always confused me because it denies the truth of free will and choice.)

When we love God most, we’ll desire to do His will. We’ll choose conformity. We’ll surrender our own sinful desires, knowing He’ll do what’s best for us if we obey His Word.

I’m not saying that this is easy. It’s not. It’s hard, and humbling, and it drives you to your knees and to the cross. And that’s a good place to be.

An excerpt:

Were a person to watch my actions, he would not really know me. My actions would not reveal to him what I really am, because my actions might be planned and practiced for his benefit. But it is our reactions–our spontaneous, unconscious, unscheduled reactions–that reveal what we really are.

Have we ever been in “hot water”? Have we been in hot water with a husband? Or wife? Or
children? Or relatives? How did we react? How did we respond? Like the dark-brown color that comes from the tea bag, something unchristian shows up in our reactions. We cannot blame someone else for putting that into us. The truth is he or she merely brought out what was dominant in us at that moment.
The hot water did not put the color in the tea bag. It brought the color out. Squeezing a lemon does not make the juice bitter or sour. So this is what our reactions do. They reveal what is already in us.

Be sure to download the free version of Your Reactions Are Showing. It’s a super helpful resource for yourself and your kids.

 

 

How To Have A Beautiful Day

Rushing through life is not a good game plan. I know because parts of my life have been defined by trying to keep up and they are now just a blur. As a counterbalance, I think our minds rebel against the rush by making us agitated and discontent, forcing us to crave slowness and to seek the beauty we’ve failed to see.

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Isaiah calls the weary to “wait upon the Lord” when our strength needs to be renewed, and Jesus tells us to “come unto Me” and I will give you rest. The remedy for the busy, rushy, crazy-instant life is purposeful rest and quiet. Be still, my soul.

I had five kids in 10 years. To say that this was a busy time of life would be an gross understatement. I was pregnant and so sick FIVE times in those ten years–nearly 50 months of vomiting due to morning sickness that never.went.away. I was just trying to survive most pregnancy-days, so I understand seasons of survival, but I also know that my attitude affected that season.

During that “crazy”– the times that stand out as “beautiful days” were the slow days when I mentally “checked in” and gave thanks to God for what was in front of me right then, morning sickness, messy house, toys strewn and all. Because choosing joy is not dependent on your circumstances, but on your heart. It’s a daily choice. And moms, you are SO much more fun when you are choosing to have a beautiful day.

Hope and I noticed a nest of baby birds in a hole in the wall on our back porch.  It flew the coop and we caught its first stop...on our screened door.

Hope and I noticed a nest of baby birds in a hole in the wall on our back porch. It flew the coop and we caught its first stop…on our screened door.

other babies seem concerned that one flew the coop.

other babies seem concerned that one flew the coop.

Landed safely but not sure what to do next.

Landed safely but not sure what to do next.

Some highlights of our “beautiful days” include times when we:

  • cozied up under blankets and read aloud some new book
  • took walks in the woods after a big snow storm to see the sun reflect through icy crystals
  • practiced violin or made silly music together
  • learned a new school concept
  • watched birds in the back yard with them by sitting “statue still”
  • painted together in our nature journals
  • went on nature walks or picnics
  • packed up and went to the beach
  • did normal tasks together, like baking or preparing for company

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IMG_7406IMG_6013Beautiful days happen when we choose to see details and enjoy them.

If you’re not careful, you can be together physically with your kids, but not  together at all because we have so many electronic escapes.

And let’s face it–sometimes a world of information is so much more interesting than listening to Great Aunt Jo tell about her recent hip replacement, when we’ve heard the story twice before and, and I think that the sound of her voice may actually put me to sleep which would be so rude, so it’s better to quietly engage somewhere else and stay awake…so I’ll just check my email…click, click.

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IMG_3635And we enter the world of instant information-intake. Instant gratification. Right now news. Up to the second Twitter. Always out there, the next new thing.

It’s like standing in front of fire hydrant drinking water that is gushing into your throat and trying to enjoy it long term.

Instead of the fire hydrant approach to life, I think we should choose the little cup approach. A cup that we can comfortably lock our hands around and savor. Yes, the cup is smaller, but we can contain it and process it and know its limits. The cup can be measured and valued and discerned. The cup may not be quite as up to date, or as all-encompassing as the hydrant, but then again, wouldn’t it be better to know one or two things deeply than to know a very little about a lot?

I propose that maybe unending and bigger and more are not always superior when it comes to enjoying life. Maybe slow, little, deep, knowable, intimate, exclusive, and relational are better options. 

When you rush through life, you breeze past people. People.

  • Did you notice the hurting eyes of your teenager who was trying to tell you her little story, but she went on a little long and you got a little impatient and cut her short so you could move on to the next thing–the really important thing?
  • Did you ask your friend about her current apathy about life? She’s actually discouraged and spiraling downward, and nobody seems to notice.
  • In your rush, did you speak callously to another person, so oblivious to your own tone of voice that you’re hurting people and shutting them out and you can’t figure out why they won’t warm up to you later?
  • Has kindness taken a backseat in your home? You’re too busy to sit with that child or connect with him in a meaningful way. You don’t have time for a cup of lemonade with your kids, but you’ll drop anything for a friend?

I understand that life gets busy, but I also understand that life is more busy than it needs to be. We need to decide if our “busy” is meaningful or meaningless, because let’s face it, there are a thousand-and-one ways to flitter away the day. But just because time passes does not mean it all passed equally. Some 24 hour days were lived better than others. The best days are the ones where we poured into the lives of others and were also poured into. Mutual respect and love receives and gives. (Don’t take on the martyr complex of always having to help all the needy, clueless people around you. You also have needs and can benefit from friends pouring into your life, mutually.)

Call me old fashioned, but I think if we focused more on what was in front of us and less on what was inside the magic 4″ electronic screen, we’d live happier, more thoughtful lives.

What say you?

*PS: You know I love technology as much as the next girl, so I’m not knocking it, I’m saying it’s hold on our life should have definite limits, because the people that are actually in front of us are precious.