Archive for Christian living

Why I Take Pictures and Weekend Favorites

The pursuits of motherhood are often undone minutes before they are completed, aren’t they? (Laundry, anyone?) It can be a little discouraging to look back on your week and wonder what you actually got done. Yes, the house is still standing. Yes, my children are all in once piece, but WHAT did I do with my time? There’s nothing to show when you are driving kids to work and washing, dirtying, and re-washing dishes over and over again. So, I’ve purposefully documented a few of the domestic things I’ve done over the last month, as a reminder of what did actually get done and as an encouragement that though my work is “here for a moment, then vanishes away” it WAS done and it did count, even if my foggy mind can’t recall what I did two minutes ago.

Today, I thought I’d share a few of those domestic pursuits from this past week, plus some favorite finds from around the web. One of the reasons I love taking pictures with my iPhone is because it helps me remember and give thanks for the life we have.

If you’re a young mom wondering what you actually do with all your time, TAKE TIME TO SNAP A PICTURE. It’s wonderfully encouraging to review and see the moments where you were shaping your family culture by caring for others, cooking, cleaning, spending time, or serving the Lord together. It’s also a reminder that time passes and though there are no awards for the mom who sat up with the croupy kid all night, we know that God sees every small deed done for Him and we will be rewarded by Him.

Domestic Pursuits::

This week I made Marcella Hazan’s delicious bolognese sauce, a recipe that people across the internet swear is THE only bolognese sauce you’ll ever need.  It was fabulous. It cooks for hours on the laziest of simmers and the whole house smells divine in the process.  I served it with pappardelle and lots of fresh pecorino Romano.

(Please forgive the mediocre iPhone pics!)

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I also made some homemade ice cream using this coffee ice cream recipe based on David Lebovitz’s recipe, and of course, I used Starbucks Morning Joe as the coffee of choice.  It came out delish! I also made mint chip , though, next time I will steep my fresh mint in the milk a bit longer.

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We had overnight guests, so I made my favorite waffle recipe and added berries and whipped cream. (You all know about Trader Joe’s shelf-stable whipping cream, right? You store it in your pantry until you want to use it, then stick it into the fridge for a few hours to chill and viola! Whip it with your Immersion blender and it takes less than 3 minutes to make delicious whipped cream.)

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I also made this crustless quiche which is a great recipe to make when you are cleaning out your fridge and have a mishmash of leftover veggies.

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To make, saute 4 cups of fresh, cut up veggies. Sometimes I use thinly sliced zucchini and onion, but today I used pepper, onion, mushroom, scallion, and tomato.

I put all the sauteed veggies in a 9X12 pan. I then whisk together a dozen eggs and a bag and a half of shredded cheese. (12 oz.) Today I used mozzarella and cheddar, but you can use whatever you like. Pour the egg/cheese mixture over the veggies. I then add a tsp each of fresh chopped basil, oregano, and parsley. (If you don’t have fresh, use 1/2 tsp of basil and oregano and 1 tsp of parsley. You can use whatever savory herbs you like.) I add a little garlic salt and pepper and stir that in as well. Then I bake it for 18-22 minutes or until the edges are browned.

Of course, you can also add chopped ham to this recipe or tweak it however you want. I make this when I am having a friend over for lunch and serve with a nice salad.

We just finished up a bit of landscaping around the yard (happy!) and I am thrilled that our rose topiary (that Peter bought me after our trip to England last year) is thriving and in full bloom. I was pretty sure I had killed it after I knocked it over once and over pruned it this past fall. Little B likes to help me water all the flowers first thing in the morning.

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I also had a few hours to pick up a paint brush and start a watercolor of my little one at the beach. It’s not finished and may not be for another month, but here’s the start of this work in progress. IMG_3120
Articles I Enjoyed::
This Harvard study tracked the emotional well-being of two groups of men from 1939-2014, and found the #1 single most predictor of happiness in the results. Fascinating read.

This article entitled “Peaches in Paradise” about Elisabeth Elliot was inspiring.

This article entitled “Throw Away The Lumps and Enjoy the Sweetness” was a great reminder to not focus on the negativity of life.

This sermon by Mark Minnick on the power of the flesh is a helpful reminder that the flesh is often underestimated and has a complete life of its own. Also an encouragement to say “Yes” to the Lord whenever He prompts you to do right. Thankful for the powerful and effective preaching of God’s Word. It’s a grace in our lives!

I enjoyed this sermon by Paul Washer “Recovering Biblical Womanhood”, though I have to admit that his “style” is not one I love. This sermon will either make you mad or make you cry at how far our culture has come in its pursuit to destroy women and femininity. He also shows what a loving marriage looks like as far as loving/respecting goes and how that intersects with leading/submitting. Helpful!

I loved this podcast on How Humility Nurtures Your Soul by Hannah Anderson. Great to listen to as you wash those dishes! Redeem the time! :)

 

Family Photos and Updates

It’s been a while since I updated this space with family updates so this post will be news-y.

Our biggest life update is that our daughter Emily is engaged to be married to her childhood friend, Sam. Sam surprised her by proposing two days before she was scheduled to leave on a missions trip. Though they haven’t set a date yet, we’re excited for them. Also, please pray for Emily as she travels with the Musical Missions Team again this year.

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18447218_10154466345245785_8847105110921616241_nMany have asked how things are going with our foster son. There are really no changes in our situation, but he is doing well and thriving.  He’s learning basic three year old stuff (no means no, whining isn’t acceptable, obey the first time, focus) but I’m also unlocking the pieces to his puzzle, and I’ve come to realize that this little guy is a quality time person who just loves to be right with people. His heart is reached through praise and he lights up as soon as you mention that he obeyed well, or colored well, or did a good job shooting hoops. (He’s in a home with 3 adoring teen girls who are constantly telling him how cute he is and doting over everything he does.) Please just pray for his little heart and that God would meet his every heart-felt need as time goes on.

I’ve been reading Adorned and highly recommend it and also,  The Friendships of Women at the recommendation of a friend. It’s excellent so far and has been liberating in a sense. In a world where women are told that we need to be like men, it’s been a great encouragement to use the gifts of intimacy and connection that women as nurturers generally possess. One statistic I didn’t know from the book: both men and women report feeling connected and encouraged when they spend time in the company of female friends over male friends. Hmm.

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Do you find that you read in a certain place? Over the years my reading spot has changed from my couch to the bedroom, and now to this lovely old a chair that a friend gave me. I love opening the breezeway door and hearing the birds in the morning.

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I’ve been enjoying my roses and love taking a few blooms inside to pretty up the table.

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IMG_5650I also tried my hand at some moisturizer because my skin is changing and it’s hard to find a moisturizer that worked. I had heard so much about the Boom Stick makeup, so I looked at the ingredient list and tried to duplicate it. I REALLY love the way it makes my skin feel. I am “forcing” it on my sisters on Sunday because that’s what good sisters do, and if they like it, I’ll share my recipe here. If it burns or irritates their skin, I’ll post pictures of their “after” results.  JK

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I entertained a few times this week and shared my scone recipe.

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What are you reading? What creative pursuits have you tried your hand at this week? Are you planning a garden for summer? I’d love to hear your comments, or if you blog, drop your link so we can all visit your “home”.

 

 

“I am enough” and other lies Christian women believe.

The church seems to be confused about the concept of truth.

We say we believe the truth, but I believe we’ve been conditioned by our culture to think that it is more educated/enlightened/accepting to believe that my truth is as relevant as yours.

Just believe what you want. Believe in yourself if you want. Who am I to criticize your truth? If we each have our own truth then there is not truth or right or wrong.

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In Christian circles, I see confusion everywhere: from the books pumped out of Christian publishing houses, to the bloggers we follow. When they deviate from the Bible, we’re quick to write it off as a misunderstanding or just “their experience”, when in reality they are breaking rank with Scripture and we are giving them a thumbs up as the world watches on. Recently a big name blogger divorced her husband and married another woman. Instead of grieving this woman’s vow-breaking and disobedience, Christians bought in to her “journey” as though that was the ultimate thing. Some jumped on board and applauded her because she’s happier now, when women who know God’s word should be grieving that yet another public figure tossed obedience aside for desire.

This is a silly example, but Christians memes filled with error are EVERYWHERE.

This morning, scrolling through my FB feed was this meme: “I am enough.” It was from a Christian page. Christian women were liking and affirming this feel-good three-word statement. But the meme is not true from a Christian’s worldview. What’s the problem with “I am enough” you ask? We’ll, obviously, if I were enough, I didn’t need Christ and he died in vain. If I were enough I could have saved myself and taken care of all my own need in my self-sufficiency. God’s Word teaches the absolute opposite– that I was so lacking in EVERY area, morally and spiritually destitute, it was like I was a dead corpse, and Christ reached down to help me. No, I am not enough and neither are you, and people who believe they are enough will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, as it is only for those who recognize their utter spiritual poverty as detailed in the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt.5:3) (Good news & spoiler alert: Christ is enough.)

We’ve elevated feelings and demoted God’s Word as a take it or leave it smorgasbord.

Are you uncomfortable with the word “truth”? The church is called the “pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Do you relate to Pontius Pilate who mused, “What is truth?”

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Jesus claims to be THE Truth.

Truth is an indisputable fact. It’s reality. Truth transcends culture and time.

As Christians, we’re commanded to speak the truth in love, but do we understand what this means?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

 

The verse doesn’t say to speak YOUR truth. Many like to imagine that this verse is their straight-up mandate to vent all.their.feelings, and let you know everything that you EVER did to them that they didn’t like about you. That might be speaking your truth but, just to set the record straight, it’s not speaking the truth. It’s having no filter. So, NO, you shouldn’t tell Sally that she really should lose some weight or let Jane know that you don’t approve of the length of the skirt she’s wearing.

Speaking truth is to edifying another believer towards Christian maturity by promoting Scripture as TRUTH that can be depended upon. It’s to promote sound doctrine and to build up a discouraged (or even sinful) believer with the promises of God’s faithfulness.

It looks like this:

“I know you’re discouraged that you used your tongue in a less than gracious way again, Sally, but God is faithful to forgive us when we ask and He’s promised to give us a way to escape the temptation if we look to Him. Why don’t you just ask Him to forgive you and return to Him?”

“Yes, this heartache seems unbearable, Jane,  but God is the God who is near to the Brokenhearted, so He is right here with you.”

“I know it’s disappointing when people don’t respect you, but ultimately humility is a place where we can embrace the lowly mindset of Christ. Could this be another opportunity to kill pride and become more like Christ?”

In Alive in Him, Gloria Furman, states it this way:

“Speaking the truth in love” has…everything to do with building up someone else with good doctrine in a loving manner. Solid doctrine is our building material, love is our disposition, and maturity in Christ is our aim.” pg.117

“Truthing solid doctrine with each other wars against our flesh while it strengthens our souls. If a toe gets stubbed, the whole leg smarts, and the body walks with a limp. Ephesians teaches us that the ascended, victorious Christ is creating in himself one new man of which we are a part…every member, then, is a minister to every other member.” p.117

Sometimes speaking truth means that over my dead body will you go this direction while I remain silent.

Do we feel all “weird-ed out” to hold anyone to a biblical standard of truth even as Christians? It’s risky, isn’t it? Because often times Christians are offended when other believers hold them to the Biblical standard by which they claim to live.

We have to also speak up when truth is trampled by erring Christian teachers who are not discernible from the world. God’s grace is bringing us toward’s greater goodness and holiness every day, my friends, and we have to expect that pursuit from the people we look to for leadership.

In 1875, when Hannah Whitall Smith penned a book entitled The Christian’s Secret to A Happy Life, it became an instant best seller, well before the days of the internet or celebrity blogger. She was a big ticket and her success set her up as a prominent speaker on the “higher life” idea of Christian victory. People bought into it and sought her out.

Behind the scenes though, there was a huge disconnect between what she wrote and what she lived. Her personal life was a total mess. In 25 Surprising Marriages, William Peterson recalls the unhappy nature of her marriage to her husband, Robert. He traveled a lot, leaving her alone and they fought. He accused her of being a cold, frigid wife. Her journal reveals that she doubted God, especially after the death of her little boy, and years later she described herself as an agnostic. The year her book was published was also the year her husband had to step out of ministry for adultery/infidelity. The year she wrote another book about child raising (1894) was the same year her younger daughter married atheist Bertrand Russell. And her older daughter left her husband and two children for an artist.

My point is not to glory in Hannah’s failure’s. Not at all. But to warn that though she wrote this:

 If we are to walk as Christ walked, it must be in private as well as in public, at home as well as abroad. It must be every hour all day long, and not at stated periods or on certain fixed occasions. We must be Christlike everywhere and to all. It is in daily living that practical holiness can best show itself, and we may well question any “professions” that fail under this test of daily life. An anxious Christian, a discouraged, gloomy Christian, a doubting Christian, a complaining Christian, an exacting Christian, a selfish Christian, a cruel, hard-hearted Christian, a self-indulgent Christian, a Christian with a sharp tongue or bitter spirit, may be a very earnest worker and have an honorable place in the Church. But, he or she is not a Christlike Christian, and knows nothing of the lessons of this book concerning the higher Christian life.

her life was different behind the scenes. Did her reader’s catch that in her book? Did they overlook it?

I have to ask myself how someone with so much knowledge of scripture, and with a vibrant public ministry like Hannah’s, with the wherewithal to write the above excerpt could have turned away from God?

What truth did she deny? What truth are we denying? Where are we skeptics when God’s Word has spoken it as truth?

Do we believe that God is who He says He is?

If so, what responsibility do we have to His Word?

Are we living as though God’s Word is Truth?

EVERY word of every book, teacher, pastor, speaker, blogger, should be examined through the sieve of Scripture to see if it aligns with the Truth.

Every thought and motive in my own heart should be tested as well, to see where it stands.

Often we have to peel back the layers of our own thoughts, words, fears, emotions, to see the lies that are buried in our own hearts that we are holding on to as Gospel Truth.

If we want to be women of the Word, we have to KNOW the Bible inside and out. We have to read it. A lot. We have to let it infiltrate our mind and change our pre-conceived notions.

“Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

Then we need to meditate on what it says. “What does it say and mean?” Simple questions. “What am I doing about this information? Am I living this truth?”

Don’t read for knowledge’s sake. Read to obey.

And please, please, don’t confuse interest in the knowledge of Biblical things with being teachable by the Holy Spirit. A teachable heart is pliable to the truth of God’s word.

“All you have said, we will do.”

“Sanctify (set them apart) with thy truth. Thy word is truth.”

I’m praying for you this week as you get into your Bible. If you have little kids in the house like I do, I know it’s hard to make this happen. I have to set aside time every day to read or it doesn’t magically happen. Five minutes is better than nothing so don’t let time restraints keep you from even a little. Put your Bible in a prominent place, like the kitchen counter so you can glance at it on your way by or when you have a free minute to stir your soup. I know you know all this already, but I wanted to encourage you today to put away any distractions that would keep you from getting into God’s Word. It’s not something that’s celebrated in the world, so I want to cheer you on as you learn to love and value God and His Word a little more each day.

Praying for you as we seek Him together and believe HIS Truth.

Sarah

For when you are not okay

Summer awakens my senses. After a cold New England winter, the warmth of the softened ground gives way to growth and I love everything about it. The smell of freshly cut grass, the sounds of Katydids and frogs in the pond on summer nights, the smell of sunscreen and salt water as we watch the ocean crash wildly in front of us. It soothes, mentally and physically.

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I’ve been alive long enough to know that some seasons are like this, full of robust growth. Kids are thriving, I am thriving. Life lessons sink in deep with grace. My inner man is aware of God. My heart is rooted in His word, grounded in truth, and the fruit is evident. Change is happening and I know it.

But other seasons, wilderness seasons, are different. Growth is hard. Appetites are dull. Senses seem unaware. Hearts are numb. Trouble abounds. The inner man is cold and soil of the heart un-tillable. Nobody seems to learn their lessons. Everyone is hurting and out of sorts. Life is plodded through instead of lived alive and joyfully, and getting through the day is the main goal.

Many of my friends are RIGHT NOW in the midst of trials, and it breaks my heart to know they are hurting. We can all struggle for a while and be “okay”, but when the struggle lasts for years on end, we get worn thin and depleted. Though I can’t write about specifics (nor would I) I am sobered by their pain, knowing we will all go through unbearable heartache at some point in our life. Sometimes husbands don’t pan out to be the knight in shining armor we married. Sometimes church members act dumb and hurt others. Kids rebel and make life altering choices. Health leaves. Money is short. Resources sparse. Sometimes people never change. Or maybe our own loved one is self-destructing and there’s nothing we can do about it.

For all my friends who are hurting and struggling, who are going through tough seasons and are basically non-existent emotionally, I hope this post is encouraging to you. Nobody wants to hurt or be depressed, and it’s torture when you know you just “aren’t right” and don’t want to be this way. What now?

I know you don’t want to feel this way. You are usually “fully alive” and this season is wearing you down.

For my friend who just recently told me that she doesn’t really desire anything right now,

and for the lady who wrote that her faith is wavering,

and for anyone out there who is waking up to their own foolishness and realizing that your own actions landed you in the place you are,

and for the woman who has been numb so long that she’s wondering if she’ll ever come through the hurt,

can I just encourage you to hang on a little while longer and to stop adding to your grief by beating yourself up for being human? To stop assuming that your grief is not okay with God, as though sorrow and mourning and downright lamentation is some sort of sin?

Can you believe me for a minute when I tell you that God was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and that the brokenness of this life is sometimes just plain overwhelming?

Can you trust me when I say God is still good even when our life seems to be in disarray?

Can you believe that your performance didn’t matter before and He’s not disappointed in you or your situation now?

Can you hang on just a while longer to the fact that Jesus loves you first and best and longest and forever? That He’s always faithful even when we are faithless and faltering?

Can I just say that emotional dullness is part of life?

And can we all just admit that our culture’s “get over it”–grit your teeth and just move on–mentality is not helpful when you are truly hurting?

Remember, we are physical and spiritual beings. and feelings aren’t facts. Wilderness times are not always things we can control and obviously, these times are not always because of something we’ve done. However, even if you are where you are because of your own foolishness, please remember that in Christ, you are justified, which means that God looks on you and sees Christ, and that’s good news because it’s as if you’ve always obeyed His Word.

Can you just hope in the nature and character of God a little longer and realize that He’s going to hold you until this is over?

I’m so sorry you are struggling. I wish I could sit with you in your grief. I don’t have much else to say except to point you to Christ and the verses that help me when I am discouraged and fearful.

When you feel like God doesn’t care:

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.

Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me. 

Isaiah 49:14-16

When you feel stuck:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40:1-3

When you feel like giving up:

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
    when he delights in his way;

though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the Lord upholds his hand.

Ps. 37:23,24

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

 

When you feel like God doesn’t like you

He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:10-12

When you self-justify and fall short:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

Romans 4:4-5

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Romans 8:33-34

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Heb. 4:16

On a practical level, these are some things that have helped me during times of discouragement or heartache. They may or may not help you. Take or leave what you will.

  • getting extra rest or extra exercise, depending on how I feel.
  • eating healthy, small meals.
  • setting aside time to visit a friend.
  • purposefully slowing down to notice life around you: the smell of your child’s hair, listening to the noises of nature, watching the sunset or waves at the beach, feeling the warm water as you wash dishes.
  • doing something you enjoy at the moment. Antiquing, crafting, baking, drawing.
  • praying. When we pray, our voices go straight to the ears of God. It’s comforting to know that He hears our heart.
  • helping others. It always helps to cheer someone else up.
  • listening to Scripture, especially the Psalms. You’ll find lots of true prayer about every sort of struggle, and you’ll be refreshed as you see the Psalmist hope in God in his trouble.
  • meditate on one verse at a time.

I’m praying for you today. When you are weak, He is strong on your behalf. Rest in Him.

I am mad so I bake a cake. {A Few Thoughts on the Unthinkable going on in Syria}

I wasn’t planning to write today so I’m putting this out here as a stream of consciousness, unedited and imperfect. Forgive my mistakes, but…

I’ve been thinking about the horrific attack of life in Syria–the hopelessness those poor people must be feeling after realizing that their own government forever changed their life with violence. Senseless violence. Wickedness. Murder. Chemicals used on children. 27 of them. Innocents assaulted and killed. Children of God, made in His image. Imagine how the injustice of this must anger God and fly in the face of His mercy and love. One man lost 25 members of his family. I can’t imagine the pain. Father, forgive me when I complain.

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I was convicted when I woke this morning and saw the news.

You see, I’ve been frustrated and tired. We’re in a pattern of sleepless nights over here again, our foster child waking at 2:30 am pretty consistently and crying on the hour. Sometimes until 5 am. Sometimes he comes into bed with us. Other night he screams and I rock him. This is hard and I don’t know why he’s doing it. I’m wondering if there’s emotional problems I can’t reach or fix. I’m focusing on the what ifs. I’m not counting this all joy.

My ordinary life–my hard day–is nothing to complain about. There are 27 mothers somewhere in Syria who would give anything to be up at night just one more time with their child. They’d love the chance to try to problem solve for their little one.

I asked God to give me eyes to see the big picture through bleary eyes and weak body.

I prayed for those mothers. Won’t you pray for them, too? I wondered what I could do today when the problem is so huge and the struggle seems so impossible.

I instinctively start to clean and make the home cozy. A magazine here, fluff the pillows and add a throw blanket there. I light a candle, bake a cake.

I recall hearing someone somewhere say, “In times of tragedy, create beauty”–or something along those lines.

I’ve thought of this advice after the death of a loved one, or whenever life seems hopeless. I find myself wanting to create order out of disorder. I suppose that to some extent, it’s a way to imitate our Creator.

Creating beauty and a peaceful environment is like a silent resistance–a refusal to be overcome by the evil or defeated by the spirit of hopelessness. For the artist at heart, creating beauty is a way to deal with grief, and giving art is an offering of healing and friendship to the recipient, whether it’s a handwritten note, baked good, watercolor, fist full of wildflowers, or musical piece.

When my niece Addy had her super risky surgery two years back, I painted this piece: Teach us to Number our Days.

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When my grandfather died, my daughter Rebekah wrote this 3 part violin arrangement of Be Still My Soul (Finlandia) for her and her sisters to play for him one last time at his funeral. Beauty born in the middle of grief.

Some of the most amazing music has been born out of grief. Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, (Adagio) was played in Berlin during the RAF bombing and the orchestra continued playing until the end. You can hear it here or purchase the original recording here, digitally remastered so you can still hear the bombs in the background. I highly recommend you listen.

French composer, Oliver Massiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time was composed and performed in a concentration camp on an old, out of tune, upright piano in the winter of January 1941. The piece can be heard on YouTube here (I especially love the V movement: Praise to the Eternity of Jesus. 20:15 in the recording.) and more about how he obtained paper from the guards, and worked with other musicians in the camp barracks and the performance can be found here.

If you are overwhelmed today, realize that our soul knows that this world is broken and we all wait and long for Eternity.

Perhaps create something beautiful for the sake of your children, husband, friend, or even yourself.

Tell someone you love them. Set a table for tea. Light a candle. Love others well. Pray for those who do the unthinkable and those who are bearing injustice. Wait patiently for Him. Do not be overcome with darkness. Walk in the light.

Waiting is your calling. Waiting is your blessing. Every one of God’s children has been chosen to wait, because every one of God’s children lives between the “already” and the “not yet.” Already this world has been broken by sin, but not yet has it been made new again. Already Jesus has come, but not yet has he returned to take you home with him forever. Already your sin has been forgiven, but not yet have you been fully delivered from it. Already Jesus reigns, but not yet has his final kingdom come. Already sin has been defeated, but not yet has it been completely destroyed. Already the Holy Spirit has been given, but not yet have you been perfectly formed into the likeness of Jesus. Already God has given you his Word, but not yet has it totally transformed your life. Already you have been given grace, but not yet has that grace finished its work. You see, we’re all called to wait because we all live right smack dab in the middle of God’s grand redemptive story. We all wait for the final end of the work that God has begun in and for us.” Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies

Does Jesus Satisfy and Is He Enough?

What to do you value above all else? What rules your thoughts, retains your affections, has your undying loyalty, and warrants your precious energy?

Why does this matter?

Because what you are passionate about– what you believe is worthy of your devotion and effort–at its core, is where you put your hope.

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Easter and the message of the cross, and the supremacy and sufficiency of Christ, and I have to ask myself this:

If I really believed that Jesus is better than anyone or anything and that he alone could satisfy, how would that transform my life?

If I believed Jesus is better:

  • my sin would lose its grip on me
  • sinful attitudes (lust of flesh, eyes, pride of life) would be repulsive to me
  • my focus would be on Christ
  • my aim would be to be his follower above all else,
  • my attitudes would reflect His,
  • my duty would be to love His children,
  • my highest goal would be to please Him in everything.

If I believed Jesus satisfied:

  • earthly pleasures would lose their charm and allurement,
  • earthly treasures would be held loosely,
  • I’d seek Him as the ultimate treasure.
  • He’s be the first person I run to when I have a need,
  • He’d be the person I’d want to spend time with,
  • my body, habits, lifestyle would reflect moderation and self-control,
  • my attitudes would be joyful, because I’ll always have my prized possession.
  • I wouldn’t seek my identity apart from Him.

The gospel is not just a teaching. The gospel is hope, healing, and life.

“The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.” Jerry Bridges

This Easter and every day, as I look at the cross where God’s wrath for my sin was poured out in full on Jesus, I want to keep these two truths in the forefront of my mind. Jesus is Supreme and he alone satisfies.

Maybe you need this reminder, too?

I think we all need to keep these truths between our eyes because when I look around at the landscape of Christianity, I see that we’re often blind to our own sin and keen to point out others. We’ve become a joyless lot, up one minute, down the next. We’re distracted. Boy are we distracted. We have more ads, images, entertainment, temptations before our eyes than ever before. Digital candy, there to entertain and delight us one click at a time. Yes, we the church, and the church leadership, are often sinful and seeking lesser gods.

I don’t mean that we’ve stopped serving Jesus. Oh, don’t get me wrong. We’re getting it done. We’re doing ministry, but I wonder if we’re doing it God’s way–like people who have been transformed by an amazing love? People who are supplied and satisfied by God’s transforming provision?

I think we’re a lot like Moses, frustrated, all set, and I.can’t.even who struck the rock twice out of anger (dramatic much?) (Numbers 20:11) to “minister” to the thirsty, complaining children of Israel in the wilderness. We “serve the Lord” through gritted teeth and deal with His people harshly, and do ministry in self-serving ways, using our own carnal methods. We show up. We complain about how ridiculous these kids are or how nobody appreciates all we do. We strike the rock. We lead the group. We pick up his socks and close his bureau drawers completely. We complain about the brother. We gossip about the sister. We bite and devour. We one-up someone else. We compete instead of collaborate. We self-justify our anger when it all comes tumbling out. We blame others– the people God gave us–when in truth we acted upon what thought would satisfy us.

Amazingly, and scarily, the stricken rock flows pure water and the job gets done and God waters His people in spite of us.

Don’t confuse God’s provision and goodness with His blessing. We aren’t pulled out of ministry or motherhood, and by all outward appearances, things continue as normal, but we lose the blessing and we forfeit our godly influence.

God will water His people because He is good. He uses our failures to water others but “Be not deceived, God is not mocked” because our God sees our heart. You can’t hide that from Him. And He cares more about your heart purity and your relationship to Him than He cares about any outward ministry or action you could perform.

Our job is to take account of our own heart, keep close tabs on our motives and place every thought and action underneath His control. We are to be disciples, first and foremost, who are gospel-infused, Spirit-led, and dedicated to truth. This means exalting God’s Word, His methods, means, timing, and super-natural power.

If God is sufficient, we won’t dig our own cisterns.

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

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We’ll be satisfied when we take and drink and enjoy the Source of the living water, an endless supply, a spring of refreshment, cold, pure, free. We’ll find Him sufficient when we “come to Him” and put down our tools and our try-hard tenacity, and realize that the self-dependence that we once thought at strength was really a weakness and a hindrance from knowing Him. It’s a man-made glass with a hole in the bottom that can hold nothing and deliver nothing and will always leave you thirsty and wanting more.

So, this Easter, as you think about the cross and the resurrection, ask yourself how this has changed you. Have you found in Him your sufficiency and satisfaction?

 

Messy Beautiful Friendship Book Review

I just finished reading Christine Hoover’s Messy Beautiful Friendship which comes out on April 18th, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely and wanted to share a few thoughts and quotes from it with you.

First off, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a book about cultivating women’s friendship. Would it seem seventh-gradish? Would I feel seventh-gradish reading it? Who has time for all the drama that can accompany women’s friendships, never mind read a book about all the ins and outs of said friendships? But Christine is one of my favorite bloggers, and I appreciate her writing, so I gladly jumped in and read, and I’m glad I did.

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Christine continually points us to Christ for our ultimate fulfillment, and gives us a Biblical framework for nurturing healthy, God-honoring friendships, which is why I would recommend this book.

It’s easy to read, relate-able, and convicting.

She shares her own struggles with interpersonal conflict, her tendency of building walls that shut women out, her assumptions about other women’s behavior when she doesn’t know the whole story, her tendency to make excuses that hinder friendship, and the common struggle to second guess everything about sticky friendships–aka–assume the worst in conflict.

She tells how she matured and pushed through to understand, listen, honor, and really love her friends from all stages and walks of life. She confides how she used her position as a pastor’s wife as an excuse for not having close friendships, when, in fact, she claims that her own indifference and pursuit of the “one friend to rule them all” were at the heart of her years of loneliness.

She writes:

“When we hold an ideal of friendship in our minds, believing it’s attainable, we hold a standard above the heads of real women God has placed in our lives, and then we wonder why we’re constantly disappointed by the realities, complexities, and difficulties in our relationship.” (Kindle, loc. 366)

“But in reality, our wish-dreams have little to do with God and his kingdom and everything to do with us and ours. God gives us relationships that are enjoyable and a blessing but also sanctify and challenge us out of our selfishness, because he intends to get the glory from our friendships.” (Kindle, loc. 378)

In other words, friendship isn’t all about us.

“Biblical friendship begins with God and ends with him also.” (loc. 462)

“When I am disappointed with my friendships and I take time to dig a little deeper in my heart, I inevitably find that I’m looking for my friends to relate to me as only God can.” (loc.504)

She devotes a section of the book to threats to friendship.

Fear: “If fear lies at the heart of our attempts at friendship, our interactions with other women will be drenched with insecurity. We will be entirely unable to handle conflict, will lash out an anything that brushes against our old wounds, and we will be quick to retreat at the first whiff of difficulty. We tell ourselves that this is natural, that this is the way friendship goes. This may be the way worldly friendship goes, but it doesn’t resemble anything we see in Scripture. Fear is an impediment to all the commanded “one another” moments in Scripture, because fear keeps our attention solely focused inward.” (loc. 737)

Unloving thoughts: “What are your thoughts about those who have hurt you? Did you have expectations of them that were too weighty? Are you holding on to bitterness even though Scripture tells us to root it out? Are you hurt because you’ve been keeping score and you feel you’re not getting what you deserve? Have you been keeping a record of wrongs? And if you’ve been legitimately sinned against, are you allowing God to escort you through the process of forgiveness? Are you fearful of being hurt again and therefore unwilling to trust God with your heart? And, most importantly, do you see what your fears are doing to you and to your friendships?” (loc. 798)

And she includes a super helpful list of questions to help you identify your most spiritually beneficial friendships, so you can put extra effort into nurturing and caring for those relationships. I did this simple exercise of jotting down the names of those women who build me up spiritually, who I trust to speak truth and correction into my life because they’ve earned my trust and mutual respect.  I realized through this exercise that I really need to schedule more time to spend with these edifying women, so I can benefit from them and bless them. The exercise also showed me relationships I need to be careful about, because we are warned against having friendships with angry people, or those who are unloving, untrustworthy, or an “unfaithful” wounder.

Turns out, being a good friend is about loving others well by following Scriptural mandates about honoring others first, loving them enough to think the best about them, giving the benefit of the doubt, faithfully speaking the truth of scripture into their lives, breaking through the awkward and being the first to love, honoring and preferring one another, submitting to one another and a host of other “one another” commands. We can only do this well when our identity is secure in the love of Christ as our ultimate friend.

I think this book will especially be helpful to moms of teenage girls who are navigating the maze of early friendships and learning what really loving one another looks like in practical terms. The teen years lay the foundation and course for normal, healthy friendships (or unhealthy ones) later on.

Caveat: I do need to mention that there are several casual references to music and television shows that I know conservative readers may not appreciate or endorse, such as Seinfeld, Survivor, Journey, etc… which can unwittingly normalize/validate shows with questionable elements. But apart from that, this book was extremely helpful.

*This post contains affiliate links. I received this book free to review at my discretion from the publisher, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

What is Important Ministry Work?

“Does my work matter in the grand scheme of things? And how do I live a life of ministry to God and others if I’m home all day with kids?”

I asked myself this question many times over the years as a stay at home mom of five children who came all in the span of under ten years. During that time, if I wasn’t pregnant and throwing up with morning sickness, then I was nursing a baby or trying to potty train and juggle toddlers. If I’m honest, I think the real question haunting me was whether my ministry work mattered as much as what Peter was doing for the Lord, because sometimes motherhood feels like you are sidelined and out of the game, not really doing the real work, the stuff that matters.

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I’m addressing this today because this topic comes up in my inbox often. In so many seasons of life, we try to choose between kids, home, work, and “ministry” like we’re walking a tightrope, trying to balance our Christian life by finding the perfect “home:ministry:work” ratio that will please God.

I think this confusion means that we need to better define what qualifies as important ministry work.  

A missionary wife once confided that her days on the field felt unproductive. While her husband was out “ministering,” she was shut away spending so much time trying to provide basics like washing clothes and cooking meals, gathering ingredients and waiting for electricity so she could actually cook the meal. Her work seemed sub-par and unimportant compared to his ministry since her daily highlights would hardly make the next newsletter updates. How again was she contributing to the church? Was this what her calling to the mission field was going to look like for the rest of her life?

Today I want to share a few things that have helped me through the years of having to sort through priorities and what ministry means in my life.

First, If it’s appointed, it’s important.

I needed to stop setting up a false dichotomy between the “secular” and “sacred” aspects of my life. Teaching Sunday School was important, but clipping the kids’ fingernails was unimportant.  As a believer, I can’t think this way because God tells me that He is the one who planned out the work I am to do:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph.2:10

The Bible also says, “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” In short, God does the “doling” out. My ministry with a large family, as a homeschooling mother, in my time and place will look very different from the single woman’s ministry. And my ministry will change as the seasons of my life change. God knows every detail. And all the work He has called me to do can and should be done for His glory.

For instance, some days my assignments from God are simple: I make the bed for God’s glory. I wash the floor, make supper, and bake cookies to God’s glory. Other days God asks me to teach a Sunday School class, counsel a hurting friend, or teach the teen girls. Some days He appoints that I visit someone in the hospital or speak to a large group of women. Some jobs are easier than others for me and some are not my favorite, but each one can be done with joy as an offering to God. There is not one assigned job that was unimportant.

Secondly, when we think of ministry we need to re-evaluate what that means. What is a woman’s ministry? Or, what is your ministry as a woman? Is it when you teach a Sunday School? Is it ministry when you drive dear old Aunt Martha to the grocery store, or sit with a sorrowing friend? Is it when you mentor that younger mom who is at your kitchen table in tears? What qualifies as ministry? Ministry sounds like a lofty word, but simply put, it’s service. And service isn’t always glamorous and a servant rarely gets to choose his work for the day. A servant does the will of someone else for the benefit of another. Service. Work. Under the Lordship of Christ. Plain and simple.

Thankfully, the Lord allows us to serve using our “gifts” in many ways as we are led by the Holy Spirit. And the Lord will give you the desires and direct you to use your gifts in the ways He wants–and to the people who need your service. There are so many varied examples of “ministry” in scripture that they are too numerous to name, but a we see that God uses women in many important ways: teaching good things, ministering to the sick, sewing for others, telling the good news to friends and family members, caring for widows and orphans, hospitality, correcting doctrine, feeding people, housing the church. My friends all have so many varied ministries that none of our lives look the same. From working full time to staying at home, from caring for an aging parent to cradling a newborn. Whether you are traveling the globe as a missionary or evangelist’s wife or serving in the hometown you were born in, the job and location doesn’t really matter, does it? But there’s a common thread that runs through all work that is done for the Lord and you’ll see it in the lives of the godly older women you most admire: the Word of God is primary.

True ministry is “Word Work.”

  1. It is Word-filled. We aren’t here to spread our own opinions. We aren’t here to spread the opinions of a great author or commentator, and we aren’t to study their books or words over the Words of Scripture. Anybody that we work with should know by our words and deeds that Scripture has the final say in our life and conduct.
  2. It is Spirit-directed. The Holy Spirit directs us and we almost can’t help but minister to the people He intends for us to minister to.
  3. It’s purpose is God’s glory. True service is never about me. In fact, if God doesn’t come out shining then you are doing something very wrong.

Your work, no matter how big or small, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way brings glory to God.

Whether you are ironing your husband’s shirt, reading to your children, counseling your teen, or speaking to a crowd, your work, infused with God’s Word, done God’s way, brings Him glory.

My encouragement for you today is that your important ministry is:

whoever God puts in front of you today: your kids, your husband, extended family, and out from there: neighbor, class mate, co-worker, the lady at the grocery store, that woman who calls you crying. Younger moms, if the only people you see all day are under 2 feet tall and are clinging to your leg about to drive you crazy, remember God gave you those kids as an assignment from Him. You are the only one called to those kids and the work matters to God.

whatever God gives you to do today: from everyday responsibilities like food prep or car pooling, to surprises like sickness or a friend who suddenly needs help, or to opportunities that fall into your lap, everything comes from the hand of the Lord, and He’ll direct you, give you wisdom and the energy to do what must be done. No matter how lack-luster or glamorous, the assignment isn’t really important, but our faithfulness and joy as we do it as unto the Lord.

What has God called you to do today?

What one job or person do you dread?

What can you do to change your outlook and work as though you are standing and doing it for the Lord?

Words With A Purpose

 

Words, words, words. We use them every day. And God has quite a bit to say about our words.

Our words can build up or tear down. They can be kind or bitter. They can bring God glory or bring Him shame.

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Today in Sunday School we talked about not grieving the Holy Spirit by sinning, and one of the ways we grieve Him is by using “corrupting communication.”

Ephesians 4:29,30 is one of those extreme “never” verses. Never let this happen. 

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit…”
I can’t think of anything that I would actually want to be defined as corrupt. A corrupt file? A corrupt accountant? A corrupt home? No, thank you. There is nothing attractive about something that is corrupt. And lips and words are no exception.
What are some synonyms for corrupt? Rotten, useless, depraved.
We are talking about words that tear another person down, or build ourselves up at the expense of another. It also encompasses thoughtless, backhanded comments that hurt or belittle another person.
God’s word says that out speech should have a purpose. To build up and edify.
Anything that falls short of that goal grieves the Holy Spirit.
I often tell our teen girls that when you use your lips as a tool to slander or tear another person down, you are never more like Satan. When you encourage and edify another sister in Christ, you are never more like Christ.
We have ALL kinds of excuses for our sinful speech, don’t we? Excuses ranging from “Oh, it just slipped out” to “I have PMS.”
But sinful words have a sinful root. A sinful heart. We hate to admit this, because it is so much easier to make excuses or tell people about all of our extenuating circumstances. We love to blame others and claim our own goodness.
But we can never blame another person for something sinful that came out of our own lips. We need to own our words. And when we have grieved the Holy Spirit and torn down another believer, we need to make that right on a vertical level (God) and on a horizontal level (person you offended.)
When you find yourself in conflict, how is your speech?
A Facebook friend had this as his status this week:
“Conflict is especially effective in breaking down appearances and revealing stubborn pride, a bitter and unforgiving heart, or a critical tongue… It is important to realize that if you do not glorify God when you are involved in a conflict, you will inevitably glorify someone or something else. By your actions you will show either that you have a big God or that you have a big self and big problems” (Ken Sande from his book The Peacemaker).
If you find yourself wishing that you didn’t have to deal with this sin nature, and you are discouraged by battling your tongue once again, remember this:
God has given us all we need to live for his glory. 1 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.”
Do you find yourself struggling? We all do.
Do what it takes to avoid this sin. This might include separating yourself from people who tempt you to gossip, recording yourself during the day to evaluate your tone of voice with your family, taping scripture near your telephone or computer, or just plain limiting the amount of words that come out of your mouth.

Does this generation know what love is?

I read an article the other day that made me wonder if our current generation understands love at all.

It was entitled “Survey: Sleeping together before a first date is a-okay, but cracked phones are a put off.”. My heart hurt after reading it, and though I know these types of surveys aren’t completely accurate, I couldn’t help but feel concern for a generation who is looking for love and connection so desperately that the cultural norm is sleeping together on the third date.*

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The world interprets many lesser things as “love”–

  • cheap clicks on social media
  • attention gained through sexting and skin-baring
  • gaining a “following” by revealing your most private self for men to gawk at on Instagram or Snapchat
  • “being together” even when abuse is present because anything is better than being alone
  • indiscriminate s*x outside of marriage

The hurt and regret that follows such a misguided pursuit of “love” makes me wonder where our kids have learned this. Can we blame them entirely? Kids learn from examples, and we have to ask, where were we in this teaching process, and do we know what true love is? Have we demonstrated self-less love in our marriages and to our kids?

If we haven’t, the world has certainly been busy indoctrinating them to reject God as Creator (ultimately dismissing Him from any say in their life, erasing accountability) and to embrace self-love as the “ultimate good”, doing what feels right in the moment, an act which in itself makes loving others impossible.

Which leads us to confess that apart from God, we don’t know what true love looks like. Without His example of extreme sacrifice, we’d believe that the greatest love is the one that gets me what I want, feeds my ego, lets me use and dominate others, and always caters to my needs.

God shows us a better way. True love serves and sacrifices, as seen on the cross.

Love actually does the hard thing. When you want to fall in love, know this, love costs and invites inconvenience.

And we have to ingrain this in our kids and live it out before them. Sometimes love is not a feeling. Sometimes it costs us something. Sometimes we lose so others gain. Sometimes love is self-denial instead of indulgence.

Peter and I have been married for 25 years, and though I’ve married one of the finest men alive, it’s not the flowers, notes, dinners, or get-a-ways that show me how much Peter loves me.

It’s his love displayed in the daily self-denial moments.

  • It’s holding his tongue when he feels like telling me off.
  • It’s getting up for work every day for 25 years to provide for us.
  • It’s standing by me in my worst moments, through 5 pregnancies, the “unattractive days” of morning sickness, the bed rest, the encouragement through postpartum depression, the getting up early on Saturdays so I can catch some extra rest while he walked the floor with cranky babies.
  • It’s the speaking truth to me when it’s not popular.
  • It’s giving me opportunities to do things I love when he could have used the time or money on himself.

Love looks a lot like sacrifice that doesn’t wait around for reciprocation.

You and I can relate to this kind of love in motherhood. What mother doesn’t want the best for her kids? We do hard things because it’s best for our kids. When we are exhausted, we still get it done for our kids. When they’re praised, we don’t pout and wish we were the one praised. (Love does not envy.) When they are excited about an opportunity, we rejoice–we don’t brag about our own opportunities. (Love does not boast. Love is not proud.) It’s not about us, it’s about them, and we’re happy to have it that way.

(Side note: when you struggle with that problem person in your life, compare your love toward them to your “mother-love.” Ask, would I be excited if my child was honored or given an opportunity? Yes, because, mother-love. Then how does my love for this person compare? Why is it lacking? Would I be glad if my own child received good gifts that I never had? Yes. Then why do I feel the need to downplay or stew over their happy moments? Usually, you’ll find that love is lacking, friends.)

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, let’s remember that we only know what true love looks like in purity when we see Christ. We can’t define love our own way. God has modeled and defined it:

Love is patient and kind. It doesn’t ever envy or boast because it’s always happy for the other person. It isn’t proud because it mainly serves. True love doesn’t keep track of wrong doing. Doesn’t tally up your mistakes as ammunition later. Love overlooks and extends grace. Love protects and cherishes. It always expects good and hopes with eyes that sees all the possibilities for a person.

Don’t settle for lesser loves. Don’t embrace a love-fraud that promised happiness and leaves you hurt. Let your love be regulated by scriptural bounds and tested for truth and purity by Biblical standards.

As Christians, we’ve known the Giver of the greatest love, and as we know and enjoy Christ more every day, and find our satisfaction in Him, that knowledge will revolutionize the way we love others in return.

Want to love your spouse better? Plan to sacrifice more. Want to love your neighbor as your self? Serve him in ways you’d appreciate being served. Want to love that church member as Christ commands? Plan to deny your flesh, and expect inconvenience as ministry (aka–service).

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  ~John 15:12

 

*Side note: no matter how conservatively or conscientiously you’ve trained your kids, they are more like the current culture than you’d ever believe. For reference, read Generation Me and Already Gone and Revolutionary Parenting, all very helpful books for understanding how the “rudiments of the world” stick to your kids and shape their thinking.

**This post contains affiliate links, at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting my blog when you use these links.