Archive for Christian living

Take Courage Where God Has Called You

Sometimes comparison is a good thing, nudging us upward to higher potential. Maybe you’ve experienced that nudge after reading a missionary biography and, as a result, decided you needed to do more in the way or trusting, praying, or serving. Maybe you’ve been inspired by a friend’s beautifully appointed home and decided to make changes in your own to make it more appealing or orderly.

Comparison that prompts us to evaluate our stewardship is a good thing since we’re going to give account of all we’ve been given: our gifts, resources, and abilities.

But sometimes comparison spirals into self-evaluation, and we are painfully aware of our limitations and shortcomings. And aren’t we always our own hardest critic? We feed on our own failures or on life’s disappointments, and it discourages us from trying because, well, we’ll leave that for the experts,  the more put together person, the more disciplined person, the lady who isn’t constantly blundering her way through life. 

bird

Why bother trying to decorate if I can’t be Martha Stewart.

Why entertain…I’ll never be Ina Garten.

Why try to minister? I’m no Amy Carmichael or D.L. Moody.

I don’t have the faith of Abraham, the whole-heartedness of David, the faithfulness of Anna, or the humility of Mary.

I don’t seem to have much to offer, so why bother.

The simple answer is that God called you to this time and place. He didn’t call these other men and women to your neighborhood, home, or church. He called you to be His hands and feet and mouth in this time and place and hour.

Our job is to look around and faithfully answer the call by meeting the needs as God providentially presents them.

God didn’t call Ina Garten to serve that hurting woman at your door a glass of lemonade. He didn’t ask Martha Stewart to make up that bed for that missionary family. He didn’t ask Jay Adams to counsel that frustrated mother who begged you to meet with her to discuss child raising. He didn’t ask Clara Barton to bring soup to that neighbor who is sick or to bring cold facecloths to your feverish child.

He sent them to you. To your little humble abode.

And comparison that freezes in fear is a dereliction of duty of sorts when you believe in God’s providence.

Don’t leave the job for the gifted. The gifted person is not there. You are.

Christian women, we need your “small attempts” performed in love. We need your faithful “unspectacular” deeds because people are hurting and need another human to step up in courage and offer what they have.

Offer your five small loaves and two fish and see how God multiplies the most insignificant offering. All of our small attempts are little offerings, aren’t they? Given in love to be used as God sees fit?

We need you to take courage and know that your devotion to God qualifies you

and that the need in front of you was not brought to your attention by accident.

You are not a conduit, funneling people to someone better than you.

You are a servant and you have an opportunity, and if the Master presented it before you, He’ll help you perform it.

Like Joshua, who needed encouragement to lead the unruly Israelites after Moses died, God promised His presence as the help Joshua needed and we have that same promise of God’s presence:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.

Matthew 28:20

Has God brought people into your life that you think would be better served by someone else? Is God giving your opportunities to speak for Him and you’re saying “No, thank you.” Does guilt over past failures keep you from stepping out in faith in areas that God has called you? (Confess any sin, claim God’s grace and forgiveness, make it right with fellow man, and move on.)

What lies are you believing about ability and God’s dependability? How can you adjust that thinking and take courage where God plants you today?

Take courage, friend. God is with you and will equip you.

 

Four Ways to Thrive Spiritually

Imagine being so spiritually healthy and noticeably thriving, so happy in joyful obedience to the Lord, that someone comes up to you and says, “Hi. I hope you are as physically healthy on the outside as you are clearly spiritually healthy on the inside?” That’s the question/concept Jen Wilkin posed in her Abide podcast, a study through 1-3 John that I highly recommend and have enjoyed immensely.

External health that matched the excellence of your spiritual health. Would that be a scary thought for you?

That’s exactly what John wished for Gaius in 3 John vs 2:

“Beloved, {Gaius} I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

I often sit with women who know they are struggling spiritually. They want to know what I am doing in my devotions because they’ve been Christians for a very long time and feel that they aren’t thriving. Some of you write because you’re  isolated and lonely and have no one to pour into you. Some are in Christian ministry and are afraid to ask for help. Others just know that something’s off and they’re not sure what to do about it.

This question from Jen is helpful because it makes all of us ask a simple question: am I thriving spiritually?

bible

That’s my topic today and I want to talk a little bit about a few steps we can take to test our spiritual health. Are we hot, lukewarm, or cold? What do I make of Jesus right now? What place does He hold in my heart right now? Am I living for Him or not?

I want to make clear that actual thriving is not a feeling. It’s not a high one day followed by a discouraging low the next. Too often, women mistake hormones or feelings for good and bad spiritual days.

Thriving spiritually can look a lot like obedience through extremely hard trials where you feel physically beaten up, like your spirit is almost crushed. Perseverance and faithfulness in the middle of trials is thriving, though it doesn’t feel like soaring, and it doesn’t feel good.

If you are in Christ, you know that you’re forgiven, and you’re no longer under God’s condemnation. God looks at you and sees Christ. He not only loves you, He likes and delights in you. So we are not talking about doing MORE to be loved or in better standing with Christ.

We are talking about daily obedience, faithfulness, and what thriving spiritually looks like in the Christian woman’s life.

First, to thrive spiritually, you have to feed on truth. We can’t be healthy and discerning if we are living on and feeding on lies. We get our truth from Scripture. It should be our mainstay. If we are reading books, blogs, articles, or depending on little spiritual shots in the arms from bible studies or spiritual memes on FB, we’re short-changing ourselves and not really valuing the gift of God’s Word.

Second, we need to obey Scripture. I’m probably going to make a few people mad by saying this but Christianity is not a list of mental assents that we simply affirm and speak out about: I’m pro-life, I don’t listen to this, I don’t go there, I don’t wear that, I vote this way. This is such a lazy excuse for Christianity and unfortunately what many people believe makes a “good Christian.” No, a Christ-follower seeks to purify himself from internal uncleanness and to die daily to the temptations of the flesh. She says no to ungodliness through God’s grace–the ungodliness in her own heart and mind. She puts to death the “me first” attitude that plagues her and paralyzes her from loving others well and from pursuing humility.

Third, we need to trust that the Lord WILL lead us, even if times seem “dry” or “mechanical.” Sometimes the intersection of our flawed, human flesh and our heart for God’s Word and ways leave us feeling like we’re not too spiritual after all. We feel lousy and trials threaten to steal our joy. But God will use the days when we don’t feel like we are thriving to work out His will in our life. He does this through His word and by prayer, if we are faithful to Him. Spiritually dry times serve as a reminder that every good gift does come from above and that all of our enjoyment of life comes from Him. Feelings are not facts, friends. Thank God. I am in Christ, and I can depend on Him to finish the work He started in me and to bring it to complete fruition.

When we worry that we don’t feel one way or another…stop and engage your mind with truth. We CAN depend on the Holy Spirit to guide our steps, and to GIVE us the opportunities He wants us to have. God WILL GIVE us anything that is good for us, even this dry feeling. He will allow highs and lows to make us dependent on Him and to keep us from trusting in lesser things.

He’ll bring people to you who need your encouragement.  He’ll be faithful to convict you of sin and help you to repent. He’s trustworthy to hear and answer your prayers and to keep his promises. Faith is believing God will do what He says He will do and is NEVER dependent on my feelings or perceptions about my situation.

Fourth, thriving looks like faithful work and for women, that looks like having gospel-focused interactions with your husband, family, and the younger women in your life and church. Every interaction is a chance to share the gospel for salvation or for sanctification. Who in your home needs your encouragement and guidance? Who in your church needs your encouragement? Who keeps coming to you for help? Take the initiative to take them under your wing and offer help. This is time consuming, I know, and we are all so busy, but it’s one of the most natural ways to influence someone for the gospel.  That younger mom, the struggling one with the unruly kids? Invite her in. We can’t influence or be influenced in a positive way by people we don’t share life with. (I do realize that we can benefit from the teaching of people via sermons, blogs, books, etc…from a distance, but flesh and blood interactions are what Titus 2 talks about.)

This doesn’t take place in a classroom. It takes place as you drive that younger mom to the grocery store or sit with that heartbroken mom as she spills her heart and tears at your kitchen table over tea. It takes place as you watch an older, godlier woman deal with loss and disappointment. It’s up close and personal, sharing life. It’s about giving of time and energy for the benefit of others. There are mutual benefits, because as we speak the truth of God’s word into the heart of others, our own heart is strengthened and encouraged. Who needs to be encouraged by your gospel-infused words mixed into the ins and outs of the everyday mundane today?

We can’t allow ourselves to coast when it comes to our spiritual life, because this thing is a battle and we have to keep gaining ground and putting to death the things that break God’s heart.

Keep an eye on your own heart.

Be in God’s Word to know Him and love Him more–not just to add to a little checklist of facts and knowledge.

Be quick to root out bad motives and attitudes that will corrupt you.

Don’t fool around with sin. Don’t assume that you are some special kind of Christian who is able to control sin or who can toy with it and get away from it. Don’t assume that you are immune to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Fill yourself more with God’s word than with this world. Because when we read God’s word to see God and God alone, we are sure to find Him, the end goal, the prize, and our all in all.

Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

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

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

IMG_3115

IMG_3113

 

IMG_3106

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

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

But love is pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

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

 

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

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

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

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

But that’s not it at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

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

And Calvin says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

balloon

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

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

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

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

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

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

balloonsunsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility means dying to self.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you are disappointed in your situation,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

Recent Posts You May Have Missed:

Spanning the Racial Divide With Authentic Love

Let’s End Parental Condemnation and Shaming

A Blog About Nothing In Particular

Let’s End Parental Condemnation and Public Shaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12805955_10153353003135785_814517109189645964_n

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are limited.

We aren’t all knowing or all seeing.

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

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

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

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

Two Types of Ambition

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

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

building unsplash

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

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

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

But ambition is never neutral.

Ambition always stems from somewhere.

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

James 3:13-18

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A blog about nothing in particular?

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

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

computer pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. Thanks for supporting this blog.

 

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

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

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

So what’s going on?

peonies

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

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

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

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

Why do we go elsewhere again?

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

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

We all become like what we behold.

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

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

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

2 Cor. 3:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Advice from Elisabeth Elliot

We all have them. Bad days. Unexpected problems. Things we didn’t sign up for. Things that are totally out of our control.

Maybe it is financial hardship or a loss of a job. Maybe someone who should be doing good to you is doing you harm.

A friend betrays you or a parent hurts you deeply. A child becomes terminally ill. A church member betrays you. A spouse walks out for good.

In all these things our hearts rise up in opposition to the crisis. We wonder if God sees, knows, or even cares.

advice

I love this quote by Elisabeth Elliot who had her life turned upside down by the murder of her husband, missionary Jim Elliot, by the very people he was on mission to help. Speared through by the Auca Indians.

In an instant, her world changed. Her husband was gone and she found herself a widow. Her children were fatherless. She was in a strange land, and she had two choices:

to see God as a loving, wise Father who always does what is best for her  or

to chose the path of bitterness and resentment toward God.

Hear what Elisabeth says:

“Lord, You have assigned my portion and my cup, and have made my lot secure’ (Ps16:5). I know of no greater simplifier for all of life. Whatever happens is assigned. Every assignment is measured and controlled for my eternal good. As I accept the given portion other options are cancelled. Decisions become much easier,directions clearer, and hence my heart becomes inexpressibly quieter.”

We need the same mindset when things seem all wrong. A life of faith is a life of trust.

The Bible shows us many examples of sisters in Christ who faced hard times and chose to walk in faith, knowing that God would do what was right for them: Sarah, Abigail, Hannah and Mary to name a few. They welcomed and walked the hard path through faith. The surrendered their life to His plans.

  • Sarah packed up her life and followed her husband Abraham to their “new home.”  Problem was,  Abraham had no idea where he was taking her.  Only God knew where that would be.
  • Abigail lived with a drunken fool, but was godly enough to protect her household from King David’s anger at Nabal’s rudeness and insolence.
  • Hannah felt the pain of barrenness. She longed and prayed for children while living under the provoking taunting of her husband’s “other wife” who had no problem having children.
  • Mary  risked her reputation and many misunderstandings when she agreed to be the mother of the Savior, Jesus.

“It is in our acceptance of what is given that God gives Himself.”  ~Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?

When trials come, they open wide the dark corners of our hearts and reveal the true us. Our words and actions show what is really reigning: the “fruit” of the spirit of the “fruit” of the flesh.

The spirit filled life will produce the same works and attitudes of the Lord Jesus Christ. His life is flowing through our life, enabling us to walk as He walked. We will respond to life’s problems with trust and obedience. Our lives and testimonies will be characterized by loving others, joyful countenances, the peace of God, gentleness and kindness to all people.

When sin reigns, we will exhibit the characteristics of the fallen nature: anger, bitterness, unforgiving spirit, desire to rule others, jealousy, envy, manipulation and the list goes on and on.

We are living under the gracious hand of our Heavenly Father. How can we doubt Him? In child-like faith, we accept whatever He chooses to give knowing that though it looks bad and sometimes is hard, it’s for our own good and His glory.

If you are discouraged today and fearful, remember the God who loves you and is in control, and pray for faith to trust Him.

MORE FROM ELISABETH ELLIOT:

Keep a Quiet Heart

A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

 

 

*Post contains Affiliate Links to Amazon.com at no cost to you. I earn a small percentage when you buy via this link. Thanks for supporting this blog.

Getting Help {Ministry Wives Series}

We’re continuing our Ministry Wives (MW) series where I try to answer your questions about ministry life. Last week we talked about difficult friendships. This week, we’re answering a frequent question: “Where do I go for help? Who’ll mentor me when I struggle?”

I’ll tell you what I’ve done and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

It’s pretty much a universal truth that none of us feels like we completely know what we are doing. When we struggle with sin, embarrassment can keep us from getting help. See, we know the right answers, but sin has a way of deceiving and entangling everyone. We can either fake it and take the bull by the horns not knowing the damage to us or others, or we can admit we don’t know and ask for help.

finding help

We are all just all sinners at different stages of sanctification. Pretending to have all the answers or living like we are “above” getting help is not only proud, but it puts people off—the same people who can see clearly that you don’t have all the answers and the same people you try to encourage to get accountability for their struggles. Integrity and truth are your bff’s in ministry.

We are all just beggars at God’s grace table along with everyone else. We’re all dependent creatures, held together and breathing the air of our Sustainer God. Any time we take ourselves out from under that place of dependence, and place ourselves in a position where we believe we have no need, or worse, where we think we have it all together, we are in trouble.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard from the MWs I talk to. We avoid going to people who could judge us for help. We head to self-help books or commentaries, our spouse, or our mother. Although these all have their place and can be good things, I do think they have drawbacks.

  1. Books allow us to hide. They never look you in the eye and ask heart-probing questions about our sin or blind spots. A book doesn’t gently tell you that your attitude is wrong and your spirit, sour. Books let us skirt the issues reading what we think we need. There’s no uncomfortable confrontation with a book.
  2. Spouse. Until death do us part. For better or for worse. Our spouse is safe and isn’t going anywhere and we know this, so we ask him. Our spouse is resigned to our quirks–sometimes even our sin. He may, for the sake of peace, avoid confrontation and just listen to you vent. It’s almost hard to gauge whether he can see clearly through the situation because he’s so close to it.
  3. Mother. “Mother love” blinds us to our own kids’ bad behavior, therefore, when we need help with a struggle against sin, Mother is probably going to be too soft with us.

Taking advantage of a variety of counselors helps us to see our potential, and brings us face to face with our failures so we can deal with them. Though painful, it’s good because we don’t want our testimony to be a stumbling block to others.

One of the biggest challenges is finding “the woman” to mentor us.

It’s like we’re looking for superwoman–the one person who has it all together in all areas of life. Mary Poppins would be nice. Obviously, that person doesn’t exist.

Instead, look around and notice excellence. I look for a woman who has ONE excellent quality that I want to emulate. If she also has the character qualities I mentioned in the last post, namely the ability to keep her mouth shut…keep her counsel and not gossip, I’ll ask her to help me out. :)

I’ve sought counsel for writing, bible study, counseling, organization, health, parenting, marriage, etc…

Most recently I asked for help for weight loss.

A few months back I had a physical and the doctor told me I had gained 15 pounds in the last 8 years. Disturbed, I called my friend, Toni, who is a health coach. You might remember her from this post, Missionary Wives Speak: Have We Lost Something?

12472723_1015442525209575_6982709575175182960_n

In her sweet, unassuming way, she asked me a battery of questions about my eating, sleeping, and exercise habits and I have to tell you, my eyes were opened to several glaring problems with my weight loss struggles. For one thing, I don’t get enough sleep. I also skip meals when I am busy with the kids, reeking havoc to my metabolism. Just these probing questions were enough to help me correct several issues. (If you want to contact her, her email is tonihealthcoach@gmail.com . She’s super helpful and just a lovely person!)

All this to say, don’t be afraid to ask help from the people who really can help you and won’t be too soft on you.

Side note:

I think it’s very interesting that “Life Coaching” is an exploding, trendy industry in 2016. If you’ve not heard of life coaching, it’s a wonderful blend of consulting, mentoring, and therapy that focuses on practical, everyday stuff.  The Harvard Business Review reports that Life Coaching is a $1 Billion/year industry. The three most popular reasons people hired a life coach:

  1. to develop higher potential in their personal life
  2. for a sounding board
  3. address their negative behavior/habits

In our isolated world where a blue screen frequently replaces face to face friendship and interaction, people are going back to what they know works: mentoring and discipleship in all areas of life.

This is exactly what Titus 2 prescribes! Women, helping women. The older, helping the younger. The more experienced and excellent helping those who want to learn. Walking life with others. Isn’t it great that God knows exactly what we need and tells us how we work best? Life Coaching is a Biblical concept that works!

I know you’ve probably had bad experiences with people who shared your struggles or who talked about you behind your back. Don’t let that stop you from getting help to better yourself, and don’t let a negative experience push you into a life of isolation and fear. We really need to let go of the fear of man, and instead live for an Audience of One who calls us to a holy lifestyle. Maybe your humble desire to grow and change will be the catayst for change and growth in your church? Maybe your life will encourage others to seek God more passionately.

“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14

“A wise man will hear and will increase learning. And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Prov. 1:5

“Without counsel purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22

“Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Ps. 119:24

If you are still struggling to find help, pray. I’d be happy to pray for you, too. Ask God to guide you. I know He’ll guide you to the people and resources you need.