Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

It’s wedding week in the Beals household, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what genuine love looks like. Rebekah and I have had many great conversations about life and love, and I’ve been mulling over the command to love God and others in a new way this week…in a practical way, so that I can flesh it out in words and advice to my daughter.

It’s surreal to think that the words I speak to her have the potential to impact generations (especially my own grandchildren someday) and to do good to her husband-to-be.

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Shower favors: Starbucks individual brew bags and Fortnum and Mason Tea with tags that say “Love is Brewing.”

And I’m thankful that in the midst of the busyness, the Lord has given me clarity about what loving well looks like so I don’t overload her with information because it’s my “last chance.” Not really, but that’s how it feels. :)

But love is pretty simple.

Love is not about what you can get from someone. It’s not how you feel. It’s not in the give/take tension/compromise the world promotes.

What is love? And how do we best show love?

I really appreciated Jen Wilkin’s definition of love in her Bible study over I John which I highly, highly recommend.

I’m paraphrasing Jen from the notes I’ve taken:

Love is an intelligent, purposeful attitude of esteem or devotion. A self-less, purposeful, outgoing attitude that desires to do good to the one loved.

Love is not given because the recipient is worthy, or meeting your needs today, or because you are personally feeling fulfilled, or based on your spouse living up to your expectations. No, because our love is supposed to mimic Christ’s love for us and we all know that he loved us when we were still horribly unlovely and wallowing around in the mire of our sin. We were the object of his intentional, decided love.

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

Hate is the purposeful attitude of disrespect (vs esteem) and disregard (vs devotion), a selfish, purposeful, self-centered attitude that desires to do harm to the one hated. An attitude of contempt, or worse, indifference.

 

How do you go about loving others in a practical way? What advice do you give your daughter on loving well?

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

By the way, the golden rule is often twisted in our minds into something like this:

Don’t do what you don’t want others to do to you. If you don’t want someone to___________ to you, then don’t ______ them.

But that’s not it at all.

It’s DO unto others, the thing you’d want done to you.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12

This is pretty simple because we all know how we wish others would treat us. With kindness, dignity, and respect. So be the first one to act. Outdo one another with kindness.

If you’d like him to make you coffee, then you make it for him.

If you’d like him to remember you during the day, you text him and let him know you’ve remembered him.

If you’d like him to speak with gentleness, you speak that way.

And honestly, if we lived like this, our marriage advice could be cut refreshingly short.

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; not only toward God, but toward men; not only toward those of our party and persuasion, but toward men in general, all with whom we have to do. We must do that to our neighbour which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable. We must, in our dealings with men, suppose ourselves in the same case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and act accordingly.

And Calvin says this:

The only reason why so many quarrels exist in the world, and why men inflict so many mutual injuries on each other, is, that they knowingly and willingly trample justice under their feet, while every man rigidly demands that it shall be maintained towards himself…

Perfect justice would undoubtedly prevail among us, if we were as faithful in learning active charity, (if we may use the expression,) as we are skillful in teaching passive charity.

…the second table of the law is fulfilled, when every man conducts himself in the same manner towards others, as he wishes them to conduct themselves towards him. There is no need, he tells us, of long and involved debates, if this simplicity is preserved, and if men do not, by inordinate self-love, efface the rectitude which is engraven on their hearts.

Don’t weddings tend to make you look at your own marriage and relationships and evaluate if your love has been Biblical or not?

Moms, we have the privilege of training our kids to love well by simply loving well by example. Our daughters learn how to love a husband by watching us. And we all learn from each other by being the recipients of sacrificial Christ-like love on the days we don’t deserve it. And we are more apt to love like Christ when we’re infused with His love and preoccupied with His goodness to us.

Thankful for these days. Thankful for time. Thankful for Rebekah’s Peter, the “boy” I’ve been praying for since Rebekah was a child. Thankful for God’s love to us which has shown us what genuine love looks like.

A Little Encouragement For When Life Isn’t What You Expected

Some people like surprises and some don’t. I like good surprises like flowers or a card, but I don’t generally like surprises, especially when it comes to “life.” I like to know the ground rules. I like to know what I can expect, and of course, life isn’t like that at all. We don’t have a crystal ball and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

So when life unfolds differently than we expected, we can be thrown for a loop. We can begin to fear and become discontent.

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Over the years I’ve learned that being in control is NOT something we get to be. God is in control. So, the secret to being content is to know your God and to really believe His Word.

I know this sounds simple, like Christianity Lite 101, but as I’ve talked to women and have experienced my own fears and reactions to life, I see that this is often hard stuff. Knowing words and head knowledge does not always translate into actual belief. And we see this by our expectations and our reactions.

Oh, those expectations! We hold on to them don’t we? And they can really do a number on us if we don’t let them go!

We expect things to go smoothly. We don’t expect trials. We hate suffering. We get mad when we’re treated like a servant.

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

  • We want a perfectly understanding husband.
  • We want kids who have the wisdom of parents so that we don’t have to spend so much time and energy parenting.
  • We want a home that is self-cleaning.
  • We expect people to be kind and considerate and get mad or even when they aren’t.

We get frustrated with the bumps and set-backs that come with inefficiency, sinful interaction, messes, and timetables that don’t run smoothly.

It’s in these times that we have to ask, “What is the truth about my God right now?” and “Do I really believe the Scripture?”

If you are an idealist like I am, you are easily annoyed by the seeming contradictions of this life. You know how things should be, and you’re irritated when they’re not that way. This can be good, when it leads to helping those who are unjustly treated, but it can also be a curse, when you have ideals about what your own life should look like and be, and you disappoint yourself.

These are the grounding truths you need to meditate on when life is disappointing:

I am a most beloved daughter of the God of Heaven.

I’ve signed up to be His servant and to do His will because I believe He is God of the Universe and in control, and I trust Him.

Did you skip over the servant part when you read that sentence? If so, let me encourage you to let that sink in and take root in your spirit. Those who follow Jesus Christ are here to do His will. Servants.

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

  • Do I get really upset and mad when I’m treated like a servant?
  • When my husband leaves his socks on the ground, do I have the mindset of a servant?
  • When my toddler presses play doh into the rug, do I see myself as a servant?
  • When I am in ministry, “serving others” do I get ruffled when I am treated as a servant?
  • When God brings the “needy” to me, do I get exasperated that there are always people who need my help?

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I’m thinking that our irritability and impatience show that we don’t really have a servant’s mindset but a master’s mindset.

A master wants his will obeyed. He expects things to be his way. He wants others to respect him and honor him. He doesn’t want to be crossed EVER.

So, recognizing our servant status and thinking in terms of picking up a towel and basin for the sake of others will help us accept the will of our Master.

Because, isn’t that what a servant does–the the will of his master? He expects things to be the master’s way. He expects that people will see him as little and sends all “respect” and “glory” to his master. He doesn’t expect anything but to serve.

We’d all verbally affirm that we’d like to be like Jesus, so let’s look at Philippians 2, to see our example:

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

If we want to live as Jesus lived, it involves extreme humility.

Humility means dying to self.

Moms, do we really have the mind of Christ? Would your kids say that you are humble? Are we putting others first for the sake of the gospel instead of acting like our kids are distractions and hindrances from the grander duties of life?

Wives, do we have a “mind of our own” or the mind of Christ? Do our interactions with our husband show humility? Do we consider his needs? Help him? Pride ends (and contention) where humility begins, doesn’t it?

Ministry wives, do we get our knickers in a knot when people exclude us, talk badly about us, expect the unreasonable from us, and use us? Do our reactions reveal a servant’s mindset or a master’s mindset? Would the last congregant who hurt you say you reacted with humility?

Another way we can be like Jesus is to value God’s will over our own:

““Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42

Jesus, the man, was submissive to God’s laws. He treasured the law. He never crossed God’s law. We also need to value, treasure, and obey God’s Word. This is not legalism, or bondage. God’s Words and ways bring freedom and life. They’re our guidebook for living.

When you are disappointed in your situation,

or you feel that you’re not getting your fair share,

I’d encourage you to take another look into Scripture.

It’s clarifying. It’s hopeful. It reorients your expectations. It fills you with gratitude and hope and most importantly,

it points you to the Savior and shows you once again what it means to live a Christian life. You’ll see the suffering Christ. You’ll see the merciful Lord. You’ll see the Sovereign One. You’ll see the satisfaction He offers to those who are destitute and thirsty. You’ll see that the suffering is only temporary, and that God is good eternally.

You are loved, dear friend. What verse encourages you to think God’s way during times of trials? What do you to put those things in the forefront of your mind? I’d love for you to share in the comments or on FB.

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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Spanning the racial divide with authentic love.

The news of this past week has left my mind spinning, my insides churning, and my spirit grieved.

News of two African American men shot on video by the police as a first response rather than an absolute last resort, and then news of five officers shot down by snipers in retaliation has left me heart sick. These men, all made in the image of God, are now gone, their names now reduced to hashtags and public comment and the careless words of the passing scene.


How do you respond when people are killing other people and the racial divide seems to be wider and deeper and more sensitive than we’ve seen for a very long time in this country? What can we do about this problem? Is it even solvable? How much do we tell our kids?

I’m going to share a few disjointed thoughts. Please give me grace as I speak from my own experience, with no pretense of being an expert of any sort on this subject.

On Comforting the Mourning.

When heartache comes to any people, I believe we should reach out to them. We should grieve with those who grieve. I believe we’ve failed at this when we wait to see if they “deserved” it or not.

One night I was at the Jordan Hospital, visiting a family member who had been brought to the ER. I was waiting outside after a very long night, and I saw a woman stumble into the parking lot, sobbing, crying, “He’s gone! He’s gone. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

I ran over to put my arm around her and offer her any kind of comfort I could, and to guide her out of the middle of the road where she was about to collapse, and through whispers of several other people nearby, I learned that she was weeping over someone who had died young by overdosing on heroin.

Even though drugs was the cause of the death, and some would say that he basically did it to himself, this woman was really still grieving and the Christian thing to do at that moment was to comfort. This woman will hear the “facts” for the rest of her life. Heroin killed that person. He did it to himself. The junkie got what he deserved. I’m sure she’ll hear it all. But regardless of the facts, this fallen world hurts, and loss and grief need to be acknowledged and comforted and wept over.

In talking to my AA friends who are also believers in Jesus Christ, they say that the white community has not been there for them in their sorrow. That our silence reads as unconcern and indifference.

You cannot comfort someone who believes you don’t even notice enough to comment, can you? I see this as a problem because all Christians should be known by their love as THE distinguishing mark of a believer.

I know white people who don’t speak out because it seems like whatever language they’ve tried in the past, it’s somehow given offence to their black brothers and sisters. We don’t want to offend, so we stop talking all together. But I’ve learned that this is not the right response.

This week, in the wake of such horrible events, I texted several AA friends, to let them know that I love them. I talked to our dear friend, an AA police officer, to let him know that I am concerned for his safety and to hear his thoughts. These are people I dearly love, who we “do life” with, worship with, and whose kids sleep at our house and vice versa.

The Influence of Faith During Trials

I have personally been encouraged and strengthened by watching my AA brothers and sisters in Christ react to this heartache. Isn’t it true that during times of trial and tribulation, persecution and grief, that God’s glory shines brightest in a people who are praising him through grief-stricken hearts?

On Sunday morning at our church, my heart pretty much melted inside me as I listened to one of our AA deacons who I love and respect so much, open the service in prayer and pray for our country and for the heartaches of this “standing congregation.” Mr. Green always praises God for answering the prayers of the saints and being near in times of trial, and calling us to draw closer to the God who gives breath, and knows every individual need and heartache. He always talks in terms of “us” because he understands that there is no Greek, or Jew or any distinction. He exudes faith and trust and hope, and I am instructed and strengthened every time he prays.

I’ve also appreciated the openness of many of my AA friends who are also bloggers and writers and pastor’s wives, who’ve encouraged dialogue and allowed hard questions to be asked without taking any offence. I’ve learned by watching their holy example.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve seen a lot of people on FB and social media asking what can be done? Where do you even start?

I’ve been praying about this all week. Of course, we want the Holy Spirit to lead in all that we say and do, so that’s where we need to start.

As you pray for guidance and a tender heart, I truly believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right course of action. Your assignment may be different from mine on a practical level, but the big picture will be the same: bring glory to God by loving all people well.

Here are a few of my “answers” after much prayer this week:

I’m praying that God would open my eyes to people who are overlooked, hurting, or disenfranchised–black or white.

I’m going to speak up and affirm those I love, rather than assuming that people know I care.

I’m starting with the people who God puts me into direct contact with physically/location-wise. I am more responsible to God for the people He providentially puts into my path today, than to those I’ve never met.

I’m talking to my kids about loving others well. I am responsible before God to train my kids to love others well, do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. You are responsible for your closest sphere of influence as well.

I’m listening to learn. We all have preconceived ideas and prejudices, don’t we, whether black or white? We all see life through our own lens. Listening and considering another person’s experience and point of view is how we build bridges instead of building walls.

Right Response

I’m praying that we would all respond righteously as we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions.

I’m praying that we’ll be quick to share the gospel of reconciliation. We know that there will never be peace on earth as long as sin reigns. This makes us long for heaven when all injustice will end and wrongs will be made right. People need the Lord.

We know that the behavior of the world is not necessarily the behavior of the saints. The church should be a little taste of heaven here on Earth with the unity of the saints a picture of what is to come. I’m praying that the church would love more and more and that we’d be the unified bride of Christ.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

 

 

Let’s End Parental Condemnation and Public Shaming

When 2 year old Lane Graves was pulled into the water by a vicious alligator in the middle of the idyllic and exclusive Disney’s Grand Floridian Spa and Resort,

and as his parents frantically fought back in horror trying to save the life of their little boy,

the internet exploded with shocking responses: finger pointing, judgement, and shaming.

As if,  1) they have any clue what happened 2) as though they are in a position to judge because they are perfect parents.

I was shocked, not only because we had just been in that very resort a few months earlier with our two year old foster son, who we got permission to take on our family vacation,but because the realization was setting in that we were totally unaware of the danger lurking in the water of that beach that looked so inviting and family friendly.

The beach with alligators in the water is just to the right of this pool...a stones throw away.

The beach with alligators in the water is just to the right of this pool…a stones throw away.

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This splash pad area for kids adjoins the beach where little Lane was attacked. Here is Holly and our little guy playing in the splash pad area.

 

The news of this attack hit my sisters and my cousins pretty hard because we were all just there for the Ocean Spray annual meeting with all our kids.

Our older kids walked near the water on that beach. Being from Massachusetts, the “No Swimming” signs would never have clued us into the fact that there were alligators in the water. Never. Though we wouldn’t have gone swimming, we might have stepped into the water. We might have thought the no swimming restriction was for reasons such as high pesticides or algae counts, or fuel spills or contaminants in the water, or perhaps sharp drop-offs or rocks, but never alligators. Not in the middle of a Disney Resort yards from lawn chairs strewn across a white sandy beach. (If we had been in the Everglades, I would have thought “alligators” but not in a Disney Resort.)

After hearing of this poor family’s dream vacation turned nightmare, I was further shocked by the venom they received on the internet. People who felt free to carelessly comment and rip these already grieving people down one side and up the other.

Twitter was especially rough, surprise, surprise, and full of venom. The parental condemnation police were out in full force with all their slander. Doesn’t Twitter tend to be a haven of slander? Slander is speaking into a situation to ruin the reputation of someone else when you only know half the information. Or it’s judging someone harshly/unfairly in order to blacken the other person’s name and make yourself look better.

Parents, do we really want to be a society that shames parents when an accident occurs? Why are we so quick to assign blame?

Do we actually believe that good parents don’t allow accidents to happen to their kids?

Or conversely, are we willing to say that you are a bad parent if your child has/gets into an accident of any kind? And where does this slippery slope end? Do parents of kids who get life threatening illness also face social-media shaming? How about women who miscarry?  Do we really need to start rehearsing all the what ifs and if only’s:: maybe they didn’t feed them enough organic food, or didn’t vaccinate on schedule or over-vaccinated, or allowed red dye in their child’s diet, or were free range parents or helicopter parents driving the child to hide their behaviors.

Can we just admit that we really can’t control everything?

Let’s go further than that. We don’t control much of anything.

Let’s just admit that we do our best. Our very best. But at the end of the day, accidents happen. Even sickness and death happen, and God-forbid I be the parent pointing fingers at the parent who tried hard enough but still lost a child.

These parents? I want to stick up for them. They saved for a family vacation to Disney. They stayed up late to see fireworks with their little ones. And they WRESTLED AN ALLIGATOR for their sweet boy. The father suffered injuries from a second alligator attacking him as he tried to rescue his son and refused to leave the scene to seek medical treatment in his grief.

I want to say that bad things happen to kids of good parents, and an accident does not necessarily mean that the parent is negligent. An accident means that we live in a fallen world full of grief and misery and pain.

Do you realize that when you publicly shame a parent for an accident, you’re also re-opening old wounds and shaming every other parent who has ever lived with the trauma of losing a child in a horrific way? You’re pointing fingers and driving down the already wounded and that’s not okay.

When our kids were little, they loved to live in a fantasy world where they could do whatever they wanted and be whoever they wished.

I think as parents, we sometimes enter these fantasy worlds as well, and believe the lie that we can always protect our children and that we if we don’t, we’re a bad parent.

I want to suggest that not being able to protect our kids from harm means two things: we are not God, but instead, we are very much human.

We are limited.

We aren’t all knowing or all seeing.

We’re not able to be in all places in all times.

Those are attributes that only God possesses, and that we can never possess.

So when horrible things happen to other people’s kids, let’s remember that in this sinful world, horrible accidents happen. Let’s not put cruel pressure on already grieving people to be like God in ways they were never meant to be like God. Instead, let’s show the attributes of God that we CAN mimic: love, kindness, co-grieving, compassion.

And let’s remember to judge with the type of judgement we’d want to receive, because some day, we might be the ones grieving and bearing the weight of unimaginable loss, and we certainly won’t want shame/slander/unjust judgement and parental comment and condemnation…rather we’ll want mercy and compassion.

DIY Old Pewter Mint Julep Cups

It’s the weekend and this week I’ve been crafting up a storm for our daughter’s upcoming wedding festivities.

I wanted to decorate one event using the very popular “mint julep cups” look. If you don’t know what I mean, go on pinterest and search “mint julep glass centerpiece.”

The cups are usually silver plated, and they were a little more expensive per piece than I wanted to spend, so I got to crafting, girls, because I needed to copy the look.

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I had trouble finding tutorials online. Everything was either for faux mercury glass (which is lovely and I’ve made before for candle holders) or didn’t look “authentic” to me. Also, I needed something that could hold water for flowers when the project was done, so the mercury glass thing was out because it’s painted on the inside and when water hits, it would all flake off.

So I texted a few crafty friends, including Lindsay and Jolene of New England Nesters, and jumped in. I tried three different approaches, and they yielded three different looks: silver, old zinc, and old pewter.

Here’s what I did:

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I found these cute glasses at the Dollar Tree. They say “Old Fashioned” on them. Right up my alley. I liked that they had ridging detail and a logo on them because many mint julep glasses have monogramming or something fancy on the front. You can use any glass you like.

I removed the price tag and washed and dried them well.

 

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I lightly sprayed the outside with Rust-oleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish. I wanted to give it the thinnest coat I could and tried to avoid paint drips.

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(You may notice little white dots on this pic. My 2 year old foster son squirted me and the cup with his water blaster. LOL. It did no harm and he thought it was hysterical…so he kept doing it.)

(If you want your project to look new and shiny like this picture, this is actually very close to the finish of a new silver mint julep cut. After this step you could give it a second coat and be good to go. These look lovely with votive candles near the base because they reflect the light.)

After this first coat dries, I gently applied a thin coat of “Dark Pewter” acrylic paint with a dry brush and in a circular motion around the perimeter of the cup. (Not up and down height-wise/vertically. Does that make sense?)

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I really liked how this looked after this step. It reminded me of the old zinc lids of a canning jar.

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After this, I ever so lightly sprayed a second coat of the silver spray paint…almost misted it…trying to manipulate the spray so that it didn’t get full coverage. I wanted to leave some of the pewter color peeking through.

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I was so excited with how this turned out. When placed side by side to my old pewter, this finish was extremely close. It even has the dark blemishes of old pewter.

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I filled this with flowers (fake from Walmart for the picture) and I think these will be so pretty in every window.

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IMG_3026I hope you enjoy this tutorial. If you make some, send me a pic or if you are a blogger, shoot me a link. Have a great weekend, everyone.

**These glasses are for decorative purposes only. You should not drink out of anything sprayed with spray paint, Mkay? 😉

One little phrase that has helped me so much

I recently shared with a friend a tiny phrase that has been “revolutionary” to me. It’s pretty much changed my outlook on everything.

Although I’ve read this phrase many times before, somehow the truth of it took root several years ago and gave me such comfort and encouragement that God is aware of every detail of my life and I can trust Him and obey His Word with confidence.  It has helped me so much and I want to share it with you today.

"The Judge is at the door."

“The Judge is at the door.”

It’s in the book of James, chapter 5, after a lengthy discussion about what genuine faith looks like, and after multiple warnings against using our tongues to sin, chapter 5 gives us this encouragement to be patient with others and to stop grumbling:

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Do not grumble, so that you may not be judged. Don’t assume the position of Judge by badmouthing people in your heart or under your breath or you’ll be judged–oh and by the way, the Lord is listening –He is standing at the door–and will act soon. So, watch your own words and don’t sin by complaining about others. This will give you less to answer for.

Here’s a mom-example:

Have you ever entered a room only to overhear the tail end of a “gripe-fest”? When the kids see mom, they stop, because mom has expectations and “griping” isn’t tolerated. Mom’s the “judge” in the house -and just her physical presence is reminder enough that bickering is off limits and she’ll punish those who disobey the family rules and injure others with their words.

This is the picture we have here.

The judge is standing at the door.

  • So no more complaining. Watch your words. Be careful of your heart, because Jesus will judge you and them.
  • No more two-faced speech, blessing God and cursing men because God is aware and will act.
  • No need to set the record straight or seek revenge, because Jesus is near and He will judge.

Even our unspoken words and the discontentment that lives in our hearts are known and seen by the Judge.  Motives are clearly seen as well. This realization should make us do some self examination.

This has helped me to ask,

  • Am I being obedient with my speech?
  • Do my words show the marks of a person with genuine faith?
  • Are my words laced with wisdom and goodness to everyone I come into contact with?
  • Am I justifying sinful speech because I feel I have a good reason to complain?
  • Am I living with the realization that God is near and real, or am I living as though He’s inconsequential and my action/words won’t have consequences?

When others lack integrity of speech, it can be tempting to complain in our hearts about their failures and recite their wrong doings over and over again in our mind. But this is unnecessary because their words have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them–and God will judge them.

We don’t need to worry about injustices or past hurts because God sees and knows all of it and will judge righteously on our behalf.

For those of you who have been hurt by people who should have known better and who will never on earth apologize or admit fault because of their own pride, God will judge them. We can take comfort in the fact that He’ll do a just job of judging and we can give up that grudge and stop holding vengeance over that person’s head. God is God and He’ll do what is right.

“The judge is standing at the door” is also a reminder that we live for an audience of One. 

It’s an encouragement to speak with integrity because Jesus commands it. It propels us to love the unworthy and unlovely because God commands it.

Instead of murmuring about the difficult people in our lives, we are given the opportunity to practice patience with those who sin against us. God’s not done with them, and He’s actively teaching me through their undesirable action, to see if I’m going to obey and trust His word and leave the judgement to Him.

The judge is standing at the door– He expects me to obey. Isn’t this what genuine faith is all about? Living in the reality that God is really real and that He has expectations for my life? When I claim to be His follower, I am bowing my will and desires to His better path and plan? 

There’s comfort knowing that He’s in control, good, just, and He will judge.

Two Types of Ambition

My last post was about letting God lead you and how the Christian life is not directionless, but about being more at ease with God’s plans and will than your own.

I had several people tell me that the post was so freeing, and others who wondered if I thought it was wrong to have ambition in life. “Is ambition bad? Does that mean I’m not trusting the Lord to make my plans?”

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Is it okay to want to do great things for God? Is it wrong to learn new skills and prepare for something God is giving you a heart to do?

The answer is no, ambition is not wrong. Planning is not wrong.

Ambition is a good thing. We encourage hard work and, of course, the wise person plans ahead. We use our talents and gifts for the Lord. We’re negligent if we don’t.

But ambition is never neutral.

Ambition always stems from somewhere.

James tells us that there are two types of ambition: selfish ambition and the ambition that stems from the wisdom that is “above”:

James 3:13-18

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Selfish ambition has self promotion as its center. It works to give me an advantage. It labors to make sure that I am taken care of and seen and heard and on top. At its core is jealousy and envy, and its “fruit” is every sinful and despicable practice meaning that it eventually will produce bad conduct: every vile practice. A person with selfish ambition has been made ineffective to Christian service and is actually harming the body of Christ. Selfish ambition feeds on the lies of the earth, the flesh, and the devil and is a contradiction “to the truth” of Scripture.

Ambition that works for the good of God and others has several traits. It has no ulterior motives. Its motives are pure-hearted. Its practice is gentle. Its demeanor is open to reason and discussion. Its lifestyle is lovely and full of mercy and good fruits. It blesses others without partiality or partisanship. Its single-focus is God’s glory and it will always produce godly behavior that promotes peace.

I think there is so much confusion about ambition because we start with pure motives but we can quickly morph into sinful motives:

  • Like the person who takes on a ministry in the church only to become territorial and domineering about it later.
  • Like the church leader who gets jealous and irritated when people seek counsel from “laypeople” in the church instead of them.
  • Like the woman who wants to counsel others but lacks love and speaks her “wisdom” without self-control or Spirit-leading.
  • Like the mom who wants to train children as unto the Lord, but who allows self-image to become a tyrant and obedience the end-all product.
  • Like the husband who wants to provide well for his family, but lets that ability to provide come to define his worth.
  • Like the college student who is ambitious for popularity, so they compromise their convictions to make friends.
  • Like the woman who appears to want to serve others, but for the wrong reasons–always with strings attached–and when others don’t give her the thanks or friendship she thinks she deserves, she sulks and punishes them later.

 

I know these are simplistic examples, but our hearts are so wicked, that we can start out “Spirit-filled” and morph out of control quickly if we forget about Christ and ignore His leading.

I hope this shows you what I mean by having the correct type of ambition when it comes to walking the Christian life.

It’s ambition that says, “I want to do what you have for me today, Lord.”

It’s ambition that is obedient to the Scripture, and that does not sin in order to get what it wants.

It’s ambition that does not have a hint of bitterness or jealousy connected to it.

It’s an ambition that doesn’t look for praise, promotion, or preeminence in any regard. It’s not looking to make a name for itself.

“Whether therefore you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do ALL to the glory of God.”

It’s an ambition that has the heart of the Savior behind it: to lift others up and give them the better place, to encourage and serve for the sake of His name not for self gain, and to work for the kingdom of God with no regard to the costs and with no expectation of earthly acclaim or adoration.

Striving under selfish-ambition is a dead end, Christian woman. Only when we turn our eyes towards service for the True Master and hate our selfishness, envy, comparison, jealousy that we’ll find the freedom to live for Someone bigger and better than ourselves. Anything motivated by selfish ambition is slavery to sin and will keep you spinning your tires, getting nowhere, reaping the unpleasant consequences of that type of sin, and will, because of the bitter nature of jealousy and envy and selfish ambition, keep you at odds and at war with others. It will keep you in bondage, all the while promising grandeur and greater things.

If God condescended to serve us, then our only ambition can be to serve Him out of gratitude. And of course, where bitter jealousy and envy and selfish ambition reside in the heart, thanksgiving and gratitude cannot reside in the same residence.

 

A blog about nothing in particular?

It’s come to my attention that my little blog is not easily classified. When people ask me what I write about, I don’t really know what to tell them. Just this past week a lady asked me, “I hear you have a blog. What do you write about?”

“Well, you know, whatever I’m learning or interested in. Kinda about life… Err…” {crickets}

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When I read about social media growth strategies and “growing your brand” by surrounding yourself with people who are writing and talking about similar things, I realize that my my little blog is kinda in no-man’s land.

How do you market a blog with no clear focus? {“Market” would imply a “business model” which I don’t have. HA.}

Who are my people–my “tribe”? Moms? Wives? Ministry Wives? Home schoolers? Artists? Christians? Foster parents? Really, I’m kinda all over the place.

This week I was re-reading Kisses from Katie and she helped me realize why I’ve never been able to quite nail this down.

She says, “Today I am living the desires of my heart and I cannot imagine being happier; I cannot imagine living any other life than the one that unfolds before me day by day. But believe me, I am by no means living my plan…I am watching God work, and as I delight myself in the Lord by doing what He asks of me and saying yes to the needs He places in front of me, He is changing the desires of my heart and aligning them with the desires of His heart.” Kisses from Katie.

I write about life and the way it unfolds and what I am learning and I’m not sure you can map that out ahead of time. At least, I can’t.

This is not the same as being directionless, although it feels that way. I do recognize common themes here: grace, God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness, and love. Oh, and coffee. 😉

I’ve never been one to make big plans for my life. It’s not that I’m directionless or have no goals, or that I’m lazy. I’m always busy, but I’ve learned to be okay with whatever God wants. I guess you’d call that “following.” This blog is about following God on a daily basis in the everyday moments.

I’m still floored when people show up to read here. (6K of you? WHAT??)

But I think that people show up because maybe their life is similar. Maybe your days are a bit unpredictable with kids or school. Maybe you can relate with the mundane jobs that need to be done by “someone.” Maybe you fight to choose joy in the midst of it, like me. Maybe you want can relate to the cooking, cleaning, laundry, decorating posts. Or maybe you just like to read what God is teaching me every day. Maybe you have dry spells when you don’t desire God like you should and it’s comforting to know that other people struggle with that as well.

Maybe you, like me, are just trying to follow God with whatever He gives you today. Trying to steward your moments well, depending on Him for the outcomes. Maybe you’re handing him your 5 small loaves and 2 fishes in faith and you’re hoping He’ll see your desire to give and serve and use it to feed someone else.

If you feel a little directionless like I do sometimes, or if you’ve been sidelined from your plans by kids or health or circumstances, that’s not always a bad thing. In all these things, God is leading you and your life is unfolding according to His plan.  It’s really an adventure. Every day you wake up and ask, “Lord, what today? Who will you send me? What can I for you? Who can I love for your glory?”

Some days we don’t recognize it as much. On the down days it looks very much like nursing sick kids to health or training and retraining toddlers. Sometimes our mission looks like serving nutritious meals to a husband or cheering up the people who reside in your own walls.

I am in good company. My mom, one of the women I admire most, taught me by her example to pray for whatever God has for the day and then trust Him to lead you.

It’s all holy work when God is in it. God is the focus. It’s all for Him. Our job is to follow and be faithful.

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Kids who sacrificed, and why we should expect more of our teens.

One of the highlights of our time in London was a Christian Heritage Tour. I was especially moved by this wall, a memorial tucked into the back corner of a church park. It was to commemorate the heroic acts of people who sacrificed their lives for someone else.

I think what touched me most about this Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice was the fact that so many of the heroes were young people.

IMG_1266

IMG_1259 IMG_1262 IMG_1264 One story was of Alice Ayres, a 25 year old who rescued three young children from a burning building, going back into the flame to get one child out after another, and eventually lost her own life.

John Clinton, age 10, who drowned near London Bridge trying to save a child younger than himself.

David Selves, age 12, who drowned while trying to keep another boy afloat.

Henry Bristrow, age 8, who died trying to extinguish a fire from his sister’s clothing which had caught fire.

Amelia Kennedy, age 19, who died trying to save her sister from their burning house.

George Blencowe, age 16, who died trying to save a drowning friend.

I guess what really struck me was that we’ve become a culture that expects nothing of our teens. Even in the church, the average person almost expects rebellion and dismisses it as the result of hormones or age or peers.

We aren’t surprised by disrespectful talk, immoral behavior, imitation of the ungodly elements of the world, or even passive rebellion.

And yet, here this quiet memorial stands and reminds us that our kids can take the high road, do right, and that we can expect more of them. They can live and die for someone else.

As Christian moms, we do our teens a disservice when we expect nothing of them as though they are unable to live by God’s ways.

Instead of teaching them that their young heart wants to function from THE default setting of all mankind,rebellion and self-rule because of the fall, we pander and make excuses, really paralyzing them from the self-discovery they really need: all of our hearts are rebellious, no matter what age, and we all need the restraint and rule of our Creator.

Over the years in youth ministry, I’ve seen parents blame rebellion on a myriad of things: legalistic expectations enforced on children, super intellect that needed to find expression, deep hurt from adults that should have helped the child but abandoned them, peers who led them astray.

These parents are setting these kids up to fail by excusing and deluding them to the universal truth of all men: we are desperately wicked and want self-rule and self-fulfillment. Not one of us bends easily to external rules, because our hearts tell us that we need to be our own mini-gods.

Until we come to the conclusion that our teens are passively or actively rebellious because they have the common ailment of the entire human race, a corrupt heart that needs redemption first, then submission and reliance on Christ, we’re going to spend our lives making excuses and expecting nothing from this whole generation.

This memorial was a breath of fresh air. It reminded me that all of us, no matter what age, can live self-less, heroic lives. And it reminded me of the need to teach our kids that successful Christian lives are dependent on our willingness to submit our stubborn hearts to God’s will and ways, no matter what our age.

Why the internet is wearing me down, and what I’m doing about it.

I have to be honest. This year, I’ve grown tired of the online world. I’m increasingly aware of the “rudiments of the world” that seem to stick into my heart and mind by what I see on Facebook, the news, and other social media and it’s wearing me down.

Before you think I’ve been indulging in smut online, let me tell you that I am not talking about overtly horrible stuff. We are super careful about what types of media enter our home. (Honestly, not all rated-G movies make it into our home, and I’m not kidding.)

So what’s going on?

peonies

I think it’s pretty much the unintentional exposure to insults, foul language, derogatory talk, and constant cynicism, even within the Christian community. It’s like the Lord said that if you disagree with someone elses’s political standing then by all means–fire away your best insults and put downs in a public forum. And that’s just the language.

I’m tired of seeing things that contradict scripture brazenly posted by the people of God. I just am and I’ll leave it at that. I’m not saying that we all don’t have sin issues, we do. I do. But sin should be a source of remorse, not something shared for likes and public comment as though God thinks this is no big deal.

Are we too quick to be enamored with the world, with our stuff, other people, and our selves as though these sources are the well-spring of good gifts that come from God alone? Do we stay longer at the table of temporal delights because we believe they’ll deliver something we need like love, worth, happiness, or status?

Have we forgotten that every perfect gift is from above, from the faithful Father who never once changed in His aggressive, searching, seeking love for us?

Why do we go elsewhere again?

We’ve made big of sharing our story and we’re forgetful of the old, old story of Jesus and His redemptive, trans-formative love.

I don’t want to sound like the grouchy old lady, so I will just say that what I see affects me, so I shouldn’t  be at all surprised that this has taken a toll.

We all become like what we behold.

Your co-worker’s negativity drains you. Toxic people zap the life out of you. Print media in the grocery story. The fear-mongering news coverage. Podcasts. Cynical memes. Controversy, discord, feuds. It all changes you.

Thankfully, we know from scripture that something else changes us as well: looking into the mirror of God’s word.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18

All this to say, a quick “devotional time” is not going to be any match for the drip, drip, drip of this world on the outside and the sin that lurks in our own hearts on the inside.

Not only do we need to be intentional about immersing ourselves in God’s word for cleansing and clarity, but we need to do more than just read. We need to cultivate our love for the Lord so that devotions aren’t just devotions, but that our lives are devoted. 

Devoted lives are driven by love for the Lord. They say no to worthless things and make time for the most important thing.

Maybe for you, you’re not sensitive to visual negativity. Maybe your weak spot is somewhere else. But whatever is slowing you down, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us and let us run this long distance race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Christ for our inspiration, acceptance, and example.

Are you tired of the noise, too? Looking for a few good summer tools for personal Bible study and growth? If so, I hope you’ll find this list helpful as you seek to know Him more and more. Most of these are free, except for the books, so you should be able to benefit from many of these great resources.

Bible Study/Podcast: If you’re looking for a free, EXCELLENT, inductive Bible study, I highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s Hebrews study. Jen is a gifted Bible teacher, and a serious student of the Word, and that’s SO very evident as you hear her weekly podcast. I’m so thankful she is faithfully using her spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church.

Dramatized Audio Bible: If  you have young children, listening to a dramatized audio Bible as you work is a great way to fill your mind with Scripture.

Daily Audio Devotional for Kids: Kids4Truth has an excellent, simple daily devotional or biographical vignette for kids. (Some adults like them, too. ;))

20 Years of Elisabeth Elliot Newsletters: Did you know the Elisabeth Elliot’s Newletter Archive is online? Very interesting and encouraging to read.

How to Study the Word: resource page I can’t tell you how many times women have told me they study the Bible, then go on to basically say they read a commentary. I don’t have to discuss why this is dangerous. No man’s words about the Bible should replace your reading of the Bible. This page has many lessons about studying the Bible, the inductive Bible study method, etc. I also posted about the Immersion Bible Study method here.

Radio: There are many radio lessons to learn about Christian women at the bottom of this page.

Book: The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges. If my kids remember one thing about me, I hope it’s that I was a mom who loved God and who was devoted to Him. This book has helped me to see God as worthy of my devotion and praise, and has helped me to not seek only external change, but change based on love for God and hatred of sin.

Devotion to God, then, is the mainspring of godly character. And this devotion is the only motivation for Christian behavior that is pleasing to God…

It is sad that many Christians do not have this aura of godliness about them. They may be very talented and personable, or very busy in the Lord’s work, or even apparently successful in some avenues of Christian service, and still not be godly. Why? Because they are not devoted to God. They may be devoted to a vision, or to a ministry, or to their own reputation as Christians, but not to God. ~Jerry Bridges

Book: None But Him by Jen Wilkin talks about how God is different from us and discusses his attributes.

Book: The God Who Satisfies: How Jesus Seeks, Saves, and Satisfies Samaritan Women – Like Us Rebekah gave this to me and I highly recommend it.

What are your plans for summer Bible study at home? Do you have other resources to share with me? Feel free to inbox me, comment on FB or below and tell us what you’re doing.

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