{Guest Post} Lessons for the Living at the Bedside of the Dying

 

 

I’m excited to share with you a guest post from my friend Sarah Hudson. We had the joy of spending several days together this summer as she and her family were on deputation.  Over years of corresponding, we’ve become iron-sharpening-iron friends, and I’m so thankful for her tender mom-in-ministry heart. She’s guest posted for us before.

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She shared with me some thoughts she journaled as she processed the death of a member of their church in Vienna. She graciously offered to share them with you, and I hope her words challenge and convict you (as it did me!) to seriously consider how are days, hours, and moments are spent.

 

Here’s Sarah:

As the chestnuts fall here on the sidewalks near the Vienna woods, I am astounded that autumn has come around so quickly.  It’s time for blazing foliage horizons, vineyards slimming down to mere stripes on the hillside, and cosy slippers by living room fireplaces.


A year.  How quickly each one passes.  

Even in October, there are tired-brained moments when I must pause to think as I scribble “2014.”

 Time—-so fleeting, so elusive—is marked by these years that are scarcely here before they’ve gone.


My monthly calendar pages turn before I even get used to the picture hanging in my kitchen.  Our church’s monthly communion seems to happen every week. Our days seem to be measured by turning off and setting alarms, with the in-betweens growing a bit blurry.


Yesterday as we stood at Manfred’s bedside, I realized that his day was divided—-not by hourly intervals or even minutes—-but rather into labored three second intervals of breathing.  His chest was rising in effort, then falling in exhaustion, taking about three seconds.

 A breath. Three more seconds passed, repeating the intervals through the evening and the dark night as Christa loving hovered and prayed over this dear husband who had led her to Christ several years ago.

Each minute stretched into about 20 breaths rising and falling in a cadence of gratitude.

Each breath was cause for praise. Each hour a milestone. This afternoon, we slipped into his room for the final 3 second interval. Christa hovered and prayed. Tears coursed down our cheeks.  For Manfred, time in Heaven had just begun and eternity lies open-ended.


Time seems cheap to those of us who are living.  Three seconds are wasted without a single thought, without a wisp of praise. Hours pass in boredom or worthless pursuits. We “survive” our schedules without doing much true living. 

There are lessons for the living found with the dying. Lessons about living a legacy and dying in tenderness. Lessons about preparing in today’s trivial for tomorrow’s trials. Lessons about passing the torch of serving others in the body of Christ.

It was 8 months ago that Manfred was traveling in Israel.  Twelve weeks ago, he painted an apartment for a couple in our church.  About six weeks ago, he celebrated his 61st birthday with friends in his backyard—without a clue that eternity was on his doorstep.  Twenty seven days ago, he entered the hospital for some tests.  Today he entered eternity.


How can I begin to harvest my 3 second intervals?  How can I wake up to the precious gift of every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year?


The children in Vienna are gathering their chestnuts for decorations and crafts. May I gather with them a new awareness of autumn, the passing of 3 seconds, and eternity at my doorstep.

Oh, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

The Wrong Discussion We’re Having about the Cat Call Video

I watched the now viral “cat call” video. If you’ve not heard of it by now, it’s of a woman walking silently through NY for ten hours with a hidden camera, to document how many men yelled to her, whistled, “complimented”–if you call “hey baby” a compliment. (Guys, it’s not. It’s creepy.)

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For those of you wondering, YES, she was dressed modestly. Mkay? Moving on.

People are discussing whether this is sexual harassment or not. The internet is debating whether this is normal, too much, or if women are just big whiners about this stuff.

What I dislike about this discussion is that it addresses the symptoms and not the root.

The cat calls are annoying, vulgar, harassing, and unwelcomed.

But the bigger, most obvious question is this:

When you steal something, when did it become normal to taunt the victim of theft? or

Since when was it okay to look at a woman to lust after her and to let her know you are doing it?

How morally adrift do you have to be to not only do something unacceptable, but then yell out and celebrate it to the victim.

What ever happened to propriety and decency and shame? How about knowing right from wrong?

Oh, I know. People will say I’m prudish and that boys will be boys.

But this isn’t the same thing. It’s boys being in your face with their moral failure at your expense.

I mean, I know that lusting after women is a struggle for men. I get that.  It use to be a silent struggle because it was socially unacceptable.

WHEN did society become so bold–so corrupt–so shameless—that a perpetrator now feels free to let you know that he has just accosted you with his eyes? To.Your.Face. What do we do with that?

It’s a new low.

It’s taking something that doesn’t belong to you and then telling the person you committed the crime.

For men who not might understand why this is so offensive, it’s like going into a bakery, running your finger through various frostings to test them out, then yelling compliments to the baker and walking away. Newsflash: The cakes weren’t yours to test, Buddy.

It’s not just wrong and ignorant and infuriating, but it’s flagrant disregard for anyone but yourself. It’s a result of the ME-centered world we live in, which says, “Hey, do what’s best for you!” and apparently, a new low, “And then let everyone else know you just disrespected them in the process.”

Badly done.

 

 

Classic Books for Children: New England Authors

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New England has a rich literary history. I live less than an hour away from the stomping grounds of literary greats like Lousia May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite books written by New England area authors or books set in New England. Let me know your favorites in the comments! Enjoy.
1.Little Women

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2.Stuart Little Read-Aloud Edition (This is my favorite edition, and I’m currently reading this to Hope! Unfortunately it’s out of print, but you can get it used for a penny on Amazon!)

3.A Time to Keep Ah, Tasha Tudor. My favorite childhood illustrator. I could look at these pictures all day. If you’ve never introduced your child to Tasha Tudor’s heartwarming family scenes, this is a wonderful book to start with.

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4.Make Way for Ducklings

5.Charlotte’s Web

6. The Hat
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7.Number the Stars Lois Lowry is known for her delicate handling of tough issues. This is one of our favorite read-a-louds on WWII.

8. Blueberries for Sal  We read this every year before blueberry picking!
9. One Morning in Maine a book which I may or may not have already bought for my future grandchildren.

Lovely books set in New England:
10. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
11. Pollyanna 

12. Hitty: Her First Hundred Years We’ve read this book so many times that the cover’s fallen off!

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14. Snowflake Bentley

15.Ox-Cart Man

Can you think of any other great books I missed? Feel free to share in the comments.

—->This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting this blog.

The Real Secret to A Happy Life

In 1875 Hannah Whitall Smith wrote her best selling book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, a book that over-promised Christian experiences. It became wildly popular in the Christian community (despite it’s roots in mysticism, universalism, and her doubt of a literal hell), as it still is today.

One little known fact about Hannah was that her life was anything but happy. In the book 25 Surprising Marriages: How Great Christians Struggled to Make Their Marriages Work the story is told of her rocky marriage, aggravated by her fierce independence, her husband’s mental breakdowns and manic depression, and her own frustration due to a lack of emotional/physical “feelings” of the Holy Spirit, which she expected to come over her whole body like electrical charges of lightning and thrills.

Worse, at the height of her husband’s career as a itinerant revivalist, he fell morally into adultery. He was unrepentant, continued in his immorality, and eventually became an agnostic. Hannah, too, eventually apostatized, embracing universalism and joining the Quaker movement.

So what went so wrong? How could the author of the “The Christians Secret of A Happy Life” get it so wrong?

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It’s the same reason we get it so wrong.

Why is it that we struggle with contentment? Why is our peace elusive? How come our joy is up one minute, then down the next? Why does our spouse make us crazy some days? Why do problems with people devastate us?

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I think that one reason is that we put our trust in the wrong things.

Instead of putting our confidence and trust in the Lord, we put it everywhere else.

If you’re married, we assume that our husband will meet our needs. When he doesn’t, we’re devastated. It’s because we’ve put our trust in our husband.

We put our trust in things because we assume they will bring us true happiness: friendship, having kids, having a doting husband, having a successful career, being loved and appreciated by our church community and neighbors. When one of these things is out of our reach, we feel as though the rug has been pulled out from underneath us.

That’s because our “hope” and what we’ve built our lives seeking has been pulled out from underneath us.

Our trust, our hope, our everything has to be found in Christ.

We desperately need the mindset: “You are my God, in You I will trust.”

I’m not going to expect my husband to meet my needs emotionally, spiritually or even physically. To do so is to put him under a weight he was never meant to bear.

But God, on the other hand, is big enough, strong enough, resourceful enough to handle my emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. The God who is a refuge, a shepherd, a provider, a sustainer is 100% capable.

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord.”

When you are lonely, do you expect your husband to be more attentive? More loving? More communicative?

When you are feeling unappreciated, do you wish your friends would take more notice of you and give you the approval you desire? Do you bemoan the fact that your friends are never there for you? They never do enough?

When you are discouraged, do you expect your church to be more supportive, affirming, and encouraging to you?

To expect that others will meet these needs it to place your hope for happiness and deliverance in their hands.

The people around us are human. They have limits. They’ll die some day just like you and me.

Our trust can’t be put in horses, or chariots, in kings or in princes…

or in modern language,

our trust can’t be put in possession or prosperity, people or positions, or in understanding community, or in thoughtful, kind, people…

but our trust has to rest solely and entirely with God.

Let’s face it, our unmet expectations bring us unhappiness.

Expectations kill, friends. So don’t do that to your relationships.

Put your hope in God. It’s the only sane place to put it. God is God. He has the power to deliver you. He’ll meet your needs and promised to love you like you’ve never been loved before.

I went to visit my grandmother yesterday in the nursing home. She has late stage Alzheimer’s. She spoke a little, and responded a little, but she physically can’t do much. It would be foolish for me to get upset because my grandmother doesn’t show me the love that she once did. It would be wrong of me to be aggravated that she doesn’t appreciate me, or affirm me, because she’s physically unable to do it.

We can’t expect our husband, our friends, our President, to be our “confidence” or savior. They can’t meet our needs, because they weren’t made to. Looking to them for needs that God alone can meet will mean disappointment every time.

It’s like fishing in a pond that says “No fishing.” The reason the sign’s up is that all the pond holds is snapping turtles and weeds and muck. There are no fish in that hole.

We decide to fish anyway, and then get angry when we pull up our pole yet again to find that there are still no fish there. Unless we’re pursing God alone, we’re fishing in a pond that can never deliver, friends.

We cast our lines into ponds that never fulfill.

And we expect people to produce fish in ponds that have no fish.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

The real secret to a happy life is to place our confidence in the right place. Our hope is in the Lord.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Ps. 42:11

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” Ps. 52:8

“That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments…” Ps. 76:6,7

 

 

Persecution: How It Helps Us

It’s a crisp, fall morning. I stumble my way to my coffee maker, first things first, then to find my fleece sweatshirt. I settle into my morning spot with all my comforts: coffee, warm blanket, and Bible. All is well. All is safe, and easy, and peaceful.

When I’m done, I check the news. Persecution. I click away, not wanting to see bloody bodies, burned buildings, and beheaded children in party dresses.

I feel guilty, because I don’t want to see.

A sister in Christ just died for the faith, and I don’t want to see.

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Mothers have been separated from children, driven from their homes, no food, no water, no anything but hope in Christ and the resurrection from the dead, a hope they’re willing to die for,

and I won’t let my eyes land.

No, I actually avert my eyes. I don’t choose “persecution” this morning. I choose rosy things, trendy things: Pinterest, Martha Stewart, and Starbucks.

My coffee is lukewarm.

I sip it, and swallow hard.

And I wonder if my heart is lukewarm as well.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

I feel the Spirit nudging me, awakening me, giving me signs of life where I was once cold.

I decide to pray for the persecuted.

I pray nebulously for them, but the Spirit nudges again. I know I’m not in the right frame of mind. I need to pray as though they were my own brothers and sisters, mother and father, husband and children.

Not sterile, dutiful, distant prayers– not arms length prayers—

but desperate prayers that identify with the ONE body. THIS IS YOUR FAMILY.

Fact: You can’t read the news without hearing about Christians who are being persecuted in the name of “religion” every single day.

Fact: We are in a holy war and we don’t know it.

While thousands are being slaughtered– brutally murdered for nothing more than being Christians– modern evangelicalism is entertained to death. Oh, we’re the most “educated” and “resourced” church in history, and we’re spending time –actual minutes of actual days–debating things like this.

Call me crazy, but I believe that the coming persecution will be good for the American church. Yes, for all of us.

“Whenever the true message of the cross is abolished, the anger of hypocrites and heretics ceases… and all things are in peace. This is a sure token that the devil is guarding the entry to the house, and that the PURE doctrine of God’s Word has been taken away. The Church then, is in the BEST state, when Satan assaileth it on every side… both with subtle sleights, and outright violence. And likewise it is in the WORST state when it is most at peace.” ~Martin Luther

Jesus told us to expect persecution.

Jesus calls the saint’s death “precious.”

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” Ps. 116:15

Why would this be? Why would God call the most horrific thing we could think of “precious?”

Perhaps because God is such a loving heavenly Father, that He’s excited to give us all of the eternal blessings He has promised us for so long? Eternal life and an inheritance that has been stored up for us for so long. Perhaps our homecoming is like Christmas morning, only better.

Persecution helps us to remember that:

  • there’s more to this life than what we can see, hear, taste, smell and feel. There’s eternity.
  • we’re pilgrims and strangers on this earth. This is all temporary.
  • Christianity is worth living and dying for.
  • there is a true spiritual battle going on, but the end is already determined: “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

With so much talk about replicating the authentic early church, now may be our time.

Except,

The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity. ~unknown

But with the persecution, comes joy. The gold bought by fire brings joy.

Tertullian, famous for saying “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”, also confesses this:

“The Christian, even when he is condemned, gives thanks.”

 

That’s the “other worldly” mindset I long for.

And I have to say that I’m ready for persecution if that’s what it takes to get rid of this blight of apathy in my own soul, and in the church at large.

Don’t you see them exposed to wild beasts for the purpose of persuading them to deny the Lord, yet they are not overcome? Don’t you see that the more of them that are punished, the greater the number of the rest becomes? This does not seem to be the work of man. This is the power of God. These are the evidences of his appearance.” ~Letters to Diognetus, AD 80

 

Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, crucified, thrown to wild beasts, chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; instead, the more such things happen, the more others—in even larger numbers—become faithful and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus. For if someone were to cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it would grow up again and yield other branches, flourishing and fruitful. Even so, the same thing happens with us.~ Justin Marytr, AD 150

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

Friday Favs

Are you all enjoying this beautiful fall weather? I can’t help but pull out my iPod whenever I am out and about and spot a beautiful autumn scene.

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When your weeks are the busiest, I’m telling you, it’s important to notice the little things of beauty all around you. God is such an amazing Creator and His beautiful creation is a feast for the eyes and a reminder of His watch care in the smallest details of life.

I did a lot of entertaining this week, and a lot of cooking. Several of you asked me to share some of the recipes and menus I use. Here you go.

First of all, I decorated with fall leaves and hydrangea from my yard. I added some bittersweet, sticks, and leaves and viola…free, fall-y centerpiece.

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{Thankful and Blessed free printable here.}

To feed a large crowd, 20 or so, I use this menu:

Ham Dinner Menu

Spiral Ham- I love Aldi’s spiral ham. They’re inexpensive (as spiral hams go) and delicious.

Homemade Mac and Cheese. I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe, minus the eggs. I also added a can of Campbell’s cheese soup, a brick of cream cheese, and some milk. I made it up about two hours from the event and kept it warm in a greased crock pot set on low. It was cheesy and delish.

Fried Apples- You could just serve warm applesauce and cinnamon, but this recipe is over the top. It’s my friend Susanna’s recipe and I always get compliments on it.

Combine in a saucepan and heat until dissolved:

1 cup water

3/4 cup sugar

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg.

Core and peel 8 large apples, slice into eighths, and add to syrup. Cook 15-20 minutes on medium heat until apples are cooked through and syrup is slightly thickened and bubbly.  Add 1 T butter.

Remove small amount (1/2 cup) syrup and dissolve 1T cornstarch into it. Add to apple mixture and simmer in pan until the syrup thickens and has a glossy look.

*I add more apples and you can play with the spices until you get it how you like it. :)

**If I have unexpected company, sometimes I just heat a large jar of applesauce, throw some peeled, sliced apples into it, let them simmer until softened, add spices, serve warm and call it a day.

***Leftover, this is great on ice cream or as a pancake topping.

Green Beans- I get French cut green beans at Aldis for $.49 a can. I heat with butter and garlic salt.

Cranberry sauce and rolls. Ocean Spray. Just saying. :) Right now there is a coupon for $1 off a bag of Ocean Spray fresh cranberries, and Walmart has fresh fruit for $1.50 this week! (Coupons.com also has a dollar off Hershey’s chocolate, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups… which can be squirreled away for Christmas stockings.)

Lunch company

Lunch usually means that moms and kids are coming. I usually try to make sure I have something “kid friendly” and something yummy for the moms.

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My go to recipe is a quiche. My recipe is really simple and flexible.

Easy Quiche

Frozen or homemade pie shell, unbaked.

1 brick grated extra sharp cheese, thrown into the bottom of the shell

1 1/2 cups “filling”–anything you want, thrown on the cheese. My favorite variations:

  • cubed ham, scallions, pepper,
  • bacon (I’ve used real bacon bits before with good results), pepper, onion
  • asparagus (roasted), red pepper, onions

Then carefully pour into the pie crust:

5 eggs beaten with 1 cup of half and half.

Bake 400 for 45 min or until edges are browned and middle it set.

Salad

My favorite salad is a pear, cranberry, blue cheese, candied pecan salad.

I use spring greens, slice up a pear, throw on the pecans, a handful of Craisins, and add some chopped scallions to the mix. I put the blue cheese on the side because not everyone likes it. The dressing makes is what makes this salad to die for, and it’s super easy.

Sweet Balsamic Vinegar Italian Dressing

1 pkg Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix

1/8 c. good balsamic vinegar

1/8 c. white vinegar

2 T. sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Mix well until incorporated and pour over salad at the last minute.

*You can really use whatever you want in the salad: apples, strawberries, mandarin oranges. It’s all good.

On My Nightstand:

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I’m making my way through these books right now, but life has been busy so extra reading is at a minimum.

I received A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together? in the mail two days ago from Cook Publishers and I have to tell you, it’s fabulous. This was a new author for me, but it’s been such a great appeal to love your spouse, that I think Peter and I might try to read this book as a couple. Put this one on your wish list. :)

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds is a must read. I plan to go through the “how to” principles in this book with my youth group girls. Studying the Bible is more than reading a passage and then consulting commentaries. It’s a slow, steady, lifestyle. I’m encouraged that a younger generation of women are increasingly relying on the Word of God, instead of the second hand studies of men via commentaries, blogs, books and sermons…which are all very helpful, but cannot replace careful BIBLE study.

When the Kara Tippett’s husband contacted me about reviewing her book, The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard
I have to tell you, I was so impressed by this guy’s letter, and his obvious care for his wife and her story, that I agreed. Kara is fighting stage IV cancer, and this is her story of letting go of her “idol” image of what life is supposed to look like. “Hard is not the absence of God’s goodness.” I will review it in more depth later on this month.

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness is a book that Rebekah had to read for leadership training at her college. I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into this one. I keep thinking…how could churches have missed this stuff? This has been basic to our teaching since childhood, so I guess we’ve been blessed. It’s like growing up in a cooking school, and having an expert cooking instructor write …”Did you guys realize that you have to bake all this stuff? We need to turn on our ovens.” Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it was just my mood. There you have it. It’s a great read for new believers, for sure, but I would recommend The Pursuit of Holiness
first.

What have you been reading? Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

Trigger Points: That One Thing

This week the Lord convicted me of my selfishness by using an iced coffee. The lady got it SO wrong, which is usually no big deal, but that day, it was like the worst thing ever. And I didn’t realize the “wrongness” of the situation until I had driven away.

“Can nothing go right today? Not even my coffee?” sigh, grumble, sigh again.

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As I drove around town doing my errands, the coffee was not only bitter and the wrong flavor, but it was losing it’s appeal to me, staring me in the face as the thing the Lord was using to sanctify me that day.

I had to admit my impatience.
I had to admit that at that moment, I was living like coffee was all there was. I had set my heart on a medium pumpkin spice and nothing less would do.
I complained about it in my own heart, and let it affect my mood.
I was not prizing God and his holiness at that moment.

Jesus tells his followers that following Him will mean self-denial.

“If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

Many believe the call for self-denial to be archaic, puritanical, punitive, and for those who don’t understand grace.

Today, we like things done OUR way, from our burgers to our lattes. The blessings that are “America”, have morphed into “demands” and “expectations” and “my rights.”

Selfishness has become a birthright, yet it is the polar opposite of self-denial.

Self-denial acknowledges the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Self-denial acknowledges the sovereignty of God to give us what is best for us.

Selfishness demands that I get my way, and “myself” reigns supreme.

Selfishness rears its ugly head whenever we focus too much on our wants, needs, desires, and is always a result of the carnal self being stronger than the desire for God’s glory and grace.

Today, it’s not popular to examine your heart. Culture wants to excuse bad behavior under the guise that we’re all really good inside and that something outside of us made us do this bad thing. We love to rationalize and hate to take responsibility.

But if we sin, we are responsible and super-sized love for the wrong things is usually the culprit.  Let  your reactions be a light that shines down into some dark corner of your heart to show you, however shocking, what is actually hidden there. I know it’s more comfortable to say, “I was just tired,” or “I was caught off guard” than to admit sinful desires and misplaced loves, but this is necessary work if we intend to deal with self-will and selfish motives.

How do you deal with selfishness and self-rule in your life? I look for “trigger point”, the things that make me unhappy or discontent.
It can be different things on different days, but perhaps it’s a messy house or an extraordinarily busy calendar, or rude people, or wrong coffee.

What is that one thing that

“you desire too eagerly, and must needs have it, or else you will be impatient or discontent, and cannot be quietly ruled and disposed of by God, but are murmuring at his providence and your lot?” Richard Baxter

Are you so eager for _________________,” (husband, wife, a child, wealth, for popularity, power, influence, admiration, happy marriage, well behaved children, Pinterest perfect life)

while you are so cold and indifferent in your desires after God, and grace, and glory?” Richard Baxter

Then I ask myself a few hard questions:

Why does this make me unhappy?
What that says about my focus right now?
What do I believe about God in this moment? His Providence?
What or who am I living for in this moment? Who is master?
What do I need to adjust?

Self-denial is easier when we remember all that we have in Christ.
Self-denial is a no-brainer when you compare heavenly things to the trinkets (or iced coffees) of this world.

When we remember Jesus Christ and all He has done,
His great love,
our inheritance in heaven,
our blessings, both external and internal,
and the comfort and fellowship we have in Him every day of our lives,

carnal desires and sins will lose their death grip on us. Things that were once demands, the “end all,” the things of earth will grow “strangely dim” as we learn to love and appreciate the Creator over the created.

The Heart of the Gospel vs. The Pharisee

Have you ever confided a struggle to someone, only to have them use it against you later? Have you ever done something good, a work that God led you to and helped you perform, only to find out later that someone criticized your work?

I found it interesting this morning, that this is exactly what the Pharisees did to Jesus and his disciples in Matt. 12. It was the Sabbath, and Jesus and his disciples were walking through the corn and they were hungry, so they plucked ears of corn to eat them.

Seems innocent enough, but pharisees always look to criticize and they basically accused the men of harvesting corn, which was akin to work, which was a big no-no in their book, and therefore a very big deal.

Thus is the heart of the pharisee: watchful of others, suspect, accusing, condemning.

The Pharisees scold,

“Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.”

The pharisees missed that these men were hungry. They missed mercy.

Who cares that you were hungry. You broke our law and we are so glad we were there to catch you!

I love Jesus response, and I think it’s worth noting:

“But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would have not condemned the guiltless.”

I love this for several reasons, but especially because it contrasts the heart of a pharisee with the heart of the gospel.

Jesus calls them out on their lack of knowledge. They prided themselves in being the repository of knowledge when it came to spiritual things. And they were famous for either interpreting the law too loosely (Jesus clears this up for them in Matt 5) or in this case, too strictly.

Matthew Henry says this of the pharisee mindset:

“It is common for men of corrupt minds, by their zeal in rituals, and the externals of religion, to think to atone for the looseness of their morals.”

“It is no new thing for the most harmless and innocent actions of Christ’s disciples to be evil spoken of, and reflected upon as unlawful, especially by those who are zealous for their own inventions and impositions.”

“They are no friends to Christ and his disciples, who make that to be unlawful which God has not made to be so.”

The Pharisees didn’t know God, so they didn’t reflect His goodness, mercy or kindness to others. No, their hallmark quality was their lack of mercy.

Instead of seeing hungry men, they see lawbreakers.

Instead of seeing the Lord of Glory, the Lord of the Sabbath, they nitpicked and tried to spiritually “one up” Christ.

How sad.

How sad that these were the religious leaders of the day.

Imagine being with them? You go to church or deal with them in the streets, only to be condemned: “Cursed, accused, sinner, lawbreaker…you  have no hope of ever being accepted by God.”

And how refreshing must have been the message of Christ, in His famous sermon on the mount, when the first words out of His mouth were “Blessed….”

The crowds must have thought, “What? We can be blessed? We have hope? We can breathe? There is grace?”

I came across this piece from a Peter Marshall sermon “Letters in the Sand” and it illustrates beautifully the heart of the gospel in sharp contrast with the heart of a pharisee. It’s a little long, but so lovely. (I’ve edited it a bit to make it readable.) I hope it encourages you to “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.”

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The woman lies before Christ in a huddled heap,

sobbing bitterly,

trembling in her shame

shivering as she listens to the indictment.

Her head is bowed; her face covered with her hands…

Her disheveled hair falls over her face. Her dress is torn and stained with the dust of the city streets along which she has been dragged.

His disciples look into the face of Christ and see in His eyes an infinite sadness, as if the load of all the sin since the world began has already been laid on Him.

His steady eyes take in the situation at a glance.

He sees what they try to hide from Him-

the hard faces that have no pity or mercy in them,

the looks of satisfaction and self-righteousness with which they finger the stones they have picked up.

Every hand holds a stone and clutching fingers run along the sharp edges with malicious satisfaction.

Their shouting ceases as the piercing look of Christ travels round the circle questioningly, and they fall to muttering, as one of their group shouts out the accusation again.

The woman has been caught in the very act of adultery. It seems to His disciples that Christ does not look at her at all. He is watching those men who try to hide the stones they carry in their hands.

They are ready-

her self-appointed judges-

to throw them at the poor defenseless creature on the ground, for it is the law- the sacred law of Moses-

that such shall be stoned to death.

The circle of bearded men wait impatiently for his answer.

Will His verdict be justice-or mercy?

It is a clever trap. Surely the Nazarene can find no way out of this one! He does not speak. Stooping down, He slowly, deliberately begins to write in the dust at His feet. This is the only time we know of His writing anything, and no one knows what He wrote.

Some ancient scholars believe that He traced there in the dust a catalog of human sin. Perhaps He looks up at a tall man, with graying hair and piercing blue eyes, and traces the word “Extortioner”- and the man turns and flees into the crowd.

Christ looks up into the faces of the men standing in the circle, and steadily-with eyes that never blink-he speaks to them:

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7-)

His keen glance rests upon the woman’s accusers one by one.  Then He writes in the sand at their feet-letter after letter.  They watch His finger-fascinated, as it travels up and down, up and down.

They cannot watch without trembling. The group is thinning now. They think of the recording angel. They think of judgment. They have howled for it. Now it has descended on them.

Looking into their faces, Christ sees into the yesterdays that lie deep in the pools of memory and conscience. He sees into their very hearts, and that moving finger writes on …

  • Idolater
  • Liar
  • Drunkard
  • Murderer
  • Adulterer

There is the thud of stone after stone failing on the pavement. Not many of the Pharisees are left.

One by one, they creep away-like animals slinking into the shadows … shuffling off into the crowded streets to lose themselves in the multitudes.

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

But no stones have been thrown. They lie around the woman on the pavement. They have dropped them where they stood, and now she is left alone at the feet of Christ.

Only her sobbing breaks the stillness. She still has not lifted her head . . . And  now Christ looks at her. He does not speak for a long moment. Then, with eyes full of understanding, He says softly: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” (John 8:10) And she answers, “No man, Lord.”

That is all the woman says from beginning to end. She has no excuse for her conduct. She makes no attempt to justify what she has done. And Christ looking at her, seeing the tear-stained cheeks and her eyes red with weeping, seeing further into her heart, seeing the contrition there, says to her:

“Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

What He here says is – Not that He acquits the woman, but that He forgives her. Not that He absolves her from blame, but that He absolves her from guilt. Not that He condones the act, but that He does not condemn her for it-He forgives her instead.

Perhaps He smiles upon her, as she slowly raises her eyes,

a slow, sad smile of one Who knew that He Himself has to pay the price of that absolution.

She has looked into the eyes of Christ.

She has seen God.

She has been accused, convicted, judged, but not condemned.

She has been forgiven!

 

 

A lesson I’ve learned from failure.

I slump into the corner of the couch, a heap of exhaustion and rattled nerves, halfheartedly crack open my Bible and try to get comfortable. My back is sore from the strain of the day.

I want to be alone after tending to others. I need to “take in” after giving out all day. I’m all wrong inside, and I know it. I approach my Bible like a vending machine, picking and choosing, getting my “fix” with my favorite selections, although my intellectual side scolds me. I don’t even care. I’m too exhausted to care. I just need something.

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On the days when I lose it with the kids,

the days when nothing went right,

those days,

right there in the midst of all the internal upheaval and frustration,

is when I need a fresh look at Christ. I need to remember Him.

I need to see His gentleness as He deals with people who want, want, want. Needy people, following Him in crowds, asking favors.

I need to see His meekness as people use Him for miracles, and crowd His door at all hours of the night, when He is tired.

I need to see His compassion for the sick, that never failed to give a word of encouragement.

I need to see His hospitality as He stops to offer living water to an outcast Samaritan woman who was looking for love in all the wrong places.

I need to see His generosity and goodness as He feeds the hungry multitudes, the Son of God stooping to serve them bread and fish.

What I need is to see how pathetically short my irritation and impatience falls, when compared to His goodness.

How can I claim to be working for God’s glory, when I allow small irritations to annoy me as if the people I’m called to serve are an inconvenience?

In the mundane, where you and I live every day, we can’t afford to miss the Savior.

We can’t miss the fact that all the work we do is sacred. There are no categories: important, non-important; spiritual, non-spiritual.

Washing dishes, chopping vegetables, making meals, setting tables, changing sheets, giving out band-aids, comforting a crying child, rocking a fussy baby, cleaning bathrooms, doing errands for a shut in, talking to the lonely, delivering meals, practicing hospitality,

these are the holy tasks, ordained for you today. They are tasks to be done “as unto the Lord.”

They may not be convenient, and they will cost you something, yes, but after all,

isn’t all of our work a sacrifice to God, our reasonable service? 

Work is worship. Let that sink in, and it will change you.

That dramatic teen who you were tempted to snap at because you can’t deal with the drama for one more minute? Your work is worship.

That child who didn’t do their work again? Forgot this, forgot that? I’m so tired of the excuses that I could scream, and I remember this…

My work,

this calling of motherhood, wife, friend, teacher, mentor, neighbor,

THIS work is worship.

Some days I need to repent because I’ve despised the work the Lord gave to me.

Some days I need to repent because I’ve despised the fact that the work was a sacrifice, and not on my terms, not in my timing, and not with my results.

On days when I’m resenting the mundane, I desperately need to remember that Jesus picked up the rag and basin and chose menial work, washing dusty feet. He cooked fish for his disciples. He fed multitudes. He ministered to the sick. He sat and taught friends, and did life with them. He took the lash and nail for my impatience and anger with my family at that very moment, and now has called me His child, and loves me despite my selfishness, and pulls me into His inner circle and treats me as though I’ve never sinned against Him at all.

This is the example I’m called to follow, and this is the love that I am supposed to share, especially in the midst of my sacred mundane.

Friday Fun

Just a quick post with some of my favorite links for you to enjoy!

1. Free Fall Chalkboard Printable: because, free decorating!! I especially love the oval “Thankful and Blessed” piece. She also has Christmas sayings. Via Nest of Posies.

2. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy this blog tour of 34 homes beautifully decorated for fall. I love how varied they are: some are frugal, some neutral, some eclectic. A great place to grab ideas.

Caramelized Apple German Pancakes

3. This Carmelized Apple German Pancake Recipe from ihearteating.com. No explanation needed, because, YUM. I’m making this for breakfast this Saturday.

4. Reads:

Let’s Pretend My Husband is Still Alive: Five Things I Would Say To Him

If My Child Marries Yours

Dear Mom Who’s Trying from my friend Ruth from Gracelaced. She’s also an amazing artist who is in between packing up a house to move and a Christmas launch of her beautiful artwork. No big whoop. ;)

Hard Love

5. If you are in New England, make sure you visit the Makepeace Cranberry Festival Columbus Day Weekend. Very educational and a great take for families.

I just added another watercolor card to my Etsy shop if you are interested. I talk about the new venture here. :O)

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Is it getting chilly where you are? It’s sweater weather here! Have a great weekend!