Archive for Christian living

A Newsy, Political-free Post

This is going to be newsy because I haven’t had much time to blog in a while. I’m staying off-line for the most part because of the drama/hate/turmoil of the election. It breaks my heart to see the lows of humanity and the fact that #rapeMelania is trending on Twitter makes me realize just how broken we are and how much people need the Lord.

So if I’ve been quiet and slow with answering email and messages, that’s the reason.

On the home front, the cranberry harvest is over and I’m in full holiday mode.

img_4561 In the span of one week, we’ll celebrate three birthdays (Peter, Holly, and Little B) and host Thanksgiving. Matt is flying home and I’m so thankful to have a few days with him. Plus we started construction on our home to repair the water damage from a few winters ago.

What I’ve been up to:

Crafts::

I’ve been decorating (frugally) for fall. I wanted a few little accents for Thanksgiving. I painted this old picture frame and gave it a chalk board insert for fall. (I used Olde Century Paint in Pearwood.)

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Also, I wanted a natural wood sign like you see everywhere, so I decided to make one. In the process I realized that if you stain the wood, then seal it with glossy spray sealer, you can write on it with chalk marker and make it erasable like a chalkboard. I’ve made several of these sizes for the Christmas season and for my mantle. :)

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We had a craft night with some of the kids’ friends and made these little yarn hats to hang on the Christmas tree.

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Ministry::

Hospitality continues to be one of the biggest blessings of this season and I’m always amazed at how often God opens the door when I’m sensitive to His leading. Sharing burdens, encouragement, and common grace over a hot mug of tea or coffee, all while fulfilling God’s commands and the Great Commission. What’s not to love?

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Hospitality can be intimidating, but don’t shy away from it. Don’t confuse “entertaining” and “hospitality.” One focuses on the meal, the food, your performance; the other on the person, their need, and nurturing a growing relationship. We need other people and without the input of other believers, we believe our own “press” and don’t benefit from the truth that others speak into our lives.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13

If you are nervous about extending hospitality, start with having someone in for tea. Use what you have. Don’t stress over having the best of everything. Most of my dishes are mish-mash and many are things I’ve picked up at second hand shops. They aren’t there to see your things, but to spend time with you, and to get to know Christ a little better through you, and vice-versa.

Mentoring::

I’ve been helping a younger mom who is having some struggles with her kids. In the process, I’m reminded that we so often believe the lie that proper parenting guarantees that your kids won’t make mistakes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m guilty of falling into this mindset as well. I can recall several times when our kids failed and instead of realizing that we are all sinners, I wondered where I went wrong. In my sleepless nights, I’d wondered if maybe I gave them too much leeway, or perhaps too many rules. Did I train them enough in righteousness or just give them all the dos and don’ts.

Friends, we are flawed parents who want to teach our kids the right way. But we can’t function from the mindset that our performance, wisdom, or righteousness is what “sures up” and sustains our family. We can’t measure success by an absence of sin because that is to deny what scripture teaches about all of us.

We are all sinners. You, me, everyone. So don’t be surprised when your kids mess up, and please, please, don’t shame them into thinking that they are in some special class of sinners because you are angry, embarrassed, or devastated by it.

We were never meant to parent as though it all depends on us or our performance. God is a God of grace: for you, me, and our kids.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your job. Not at all. Do it with all your might. Heed Deuteronomy’s command to talk of God as you rise and sit and live and go your way with your kids. Teach them diligently. But don’t make perfection an idol. It’s an illusion. Make God the aim.

Meals::

I’ve been trying to save some money for Christmas, which means that I’ve been trying to do meals that are less expensive than normal. I’ve really enjoyed these frugal meals.

Quinoa Chili from Cooking Classy. My cousin, Susan, told me about this meatless chili that uses quinoa for protein. My kids even liked it. I served it topped with cheese, guacamole, and sour cream. YUM.

Shakshuska. I don’t even like eggs and I loved this. It’s inexpensive and so yummy. I served it with warm bread and lots of feta on top. Note: If you can’t eat eggs or just plain don’t like them, you could fry up some boneless skinless chicken breast slices in the oil (for protein) and then make the sauce as directed. It could be served over pasta, “fra diavalo” style.

Christmas:: My cards are almost done. Woot.

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Reading::

I’m currently reading through Colossians with Weirsbe’s Commentary and Dr. Constable’s notes , which are very helpful and free online.

Humble Roots is on sale right now for $7.73 (usually $12.99). If you haven’t read it, I’m going to be bossy and insist that you do. 😉 I’m giving it to a few friends for Christmas, it was THAT good.

Also, Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin is also on sale for $7.23 if you haven’t read that yet.

Articles I appreciated::

Steward the Gift God Has Assigned to You. “Our lives are not about pursuing our dreams. Many of our dreams are self-exalting pride fantasies and gratuitously selfish when we really examine them. And the truth is, we rarely know what’s best for us and what will really make us happy. But our Designer knows.

Mothering or Smothering our Adult Children Appreciated the wisdom of this older woman.

I hope you have a wonderful thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for and if we don’t praise the Lord, who will?

 

**This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

On Being A Counter-Cultural Mom

My mom was a counter-cultural mom.

When everyone else was watching certain movies and listening to certain music, my mom said no. When disrespect was flying out of the mouth of teenagers everywhere, mom expected respect to our elders, including her. We didn’t call boys. We didn’t dress provocatively. She expected us to be in church on Sunday, whether our heart felt worship-ful or not. Some days I thought she was the strictest mom I knew, but now I know that she was actually a God-fearing mom, and I’m so thankful.

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Today, as mothers, we have to make similar choices. Often, being a follower of Jesus Christ means saying “no”, not only to the outright wrong, but to questionable activities that the world views as normal. And this can lead to being labeled: legalistic, over protective, old-fashioned.

I’ll be honest, there are stands in the Bible that I don’t completely understand, and sometimes I don’t know exactly where to draw lines when it comes to application and practice.

This is where I have to walk by faith.

When God says “no” to something and calls it sin, I have to agree, whether I understand completely or not. When God says that I can’t be like the world and we can’t embrace the values, norms, or philosophy of the world, I have to trust God to lead me through the grey areas. I have to use the best information I have at the time and follow Him without apology.

Moms, when you have to make hard, unpopular decisions, and you are swimming upstream, don’t waver. And when you see other Christians and blogs and articles telling you that your “verboden” area is nothing to worry about and why your kids should do XYZ, pray, ask God about it, then do the right thing.

This world is full of rationalizing and line walking. And it has infiltrated the church under the guise of enlightenment and moderation.

But, dear mom, you answer to God and not the latest blog. Rely on Him.

In order to stay the course, we have to remember that we are called out to be a people unto God. Separate. Not isolationists, but consecrated to God’s Work as the “temple of the Holy Spirit.” There can be no mixing of darkness and light.

It means I can’t sin in order to get a chance to witness to someone, and I can’t compromise or engage in worldliness to somehow affect the people around me.

We are to be “salt and light” according to Jesus. Light shines in dark places, and salt preserves and flavors. Faithfulness right where you are is what will make the difference. 

I’m studying the quiet faithfulness of women of the Old Testament and how God used them to accomplish His will. Most had mundane lives, living in obscurity, with little to no rights, but what made them great is their faith that led to brave, counter cultural acts of obedience. Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives, are two examples of counter-cultural, God-fearing women. They refused to comply with the king of Egypt’s order to kill all the Hebrew baby boys as they were being born. Exodus 1:21 tells us they defied the king “because the midwives feared God” more than they feared the King. Their refusal to sin preserved the fledgling nation of Israel. Talk about being part of God’s story.

And this has to be true of us today, right where we are, in our little homes or out and about living our everyday lives, raising families for God’s glory. We have to live with our eyes and hearts toward God, and we must fear and respect Him enough to boldly live out our faith when it’s counter cultural and unwanted by society. It’s okay to be different. In fact, we have to teach our kids that this world is not our home. We are truly strangers and pilgrims on our way to a Better City.

So, if you have to say no to the worthless, so you can pursue and ingrain the eternal, do it.

When you are the only mom saying no to that movie, or that activity, or that music, or that type of dress, or that questionable situation, or that type of screen time, because you don’t believe it will help your child’s spiritual growth, stay strong. Keep your eyes on heaven. Remember Christ. This world is not all there is. This is only a moment. Eternity is forever. Rely on Christ and be faithful.

A few thoughts on foster care from the first year.

Several of you have asked me to write about my fostering experience, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts about that. Obviously, I can’t write details, but I can give you some general thoughts.

In some ways, fostering at my age is like being a grandmother except that I have full time care of the child. We love seeing all of B’s “firsts”, from big things like seeing Disney and having his first airplane ride, to small, daily things like learning to wink and trying apple pie.

Fostering is emotionally draining on levels I never knew with my own five. It requires wisdom about how to interact with the family (kinship), DCF, court, lawyers, etc… Everyone has a say and their own set of expectations. Ultimately, my job is to advocate for little B and do what is best for him.

As a homeschooling family, DCF was always portrayed as the monster lurking in the background ready to snatch your kids if you didn’t put them into the public school system. I can honestly say that I’ve had nothing but REASONABLE interactions with DCF. They’ve been pleasant, helpful, resourceful, and really quite “hands off” in our case. Yes, we had to meet certain requirements and they came to the house each month, but B’s case worker honestly just wanted to see him safe and thriving and was relieved to see that he was. She was overworked, and still had time to sit in my living room and talk about fun stuff B was doing. I can’t imagine the brokenness she’s seen at her young age (27-30 years old maybe) and I certainly couldn’t do her job without becoming depressed, but she was amazing and upbeat to all of us.

Fostering brings out the best in people. Someone has said that you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they treat someone who can do nothing for them in return. There are people who just ooze with compassion for our little guy. You can see it in their eyes–they just want this little guy to land on his two feet and their hearts hurt for his little plight. They text that they are praying for him. They give him toys and more toys. And it’s true that if you want to love people well, love their kids–or in this case, their foster kids. We’ve been so amazed by the good friends God has given us.

On a spiritual level, fostering has taught me to love without strings attached and simply for the good of the person.

Fostering has also opened up doors of ministry.  It’s put me back into the throws of younger mothers who want to do play dates and meet for coffee. When they ask me for help with parenting, I’m not talking from a “rosy” “I remember when” nostalgic view which can forget how hard the day-in and day-out really is. I can speak from a place of both experience from my adult children, and compassion and understanding from my 2 year old. I totally get it when they tell me that their toddler is taking a tantrum and they are too exhausted to read their Bible in the morning with any intelligent attempt at study.

Fostering has shown me a little more about the effects of sin on other people, and has made me more aware of my own sin. No man sins in a vacuum. It ripples out and punishes “innocent bystanders”, whether it’s heroin use or a bad mood to selfish behavior.  No where do you see little ones paying for the sins of their parents like in the foster care system. It opens your eyes to the brokenness of this world like nothing can. Any of you who’ve read here know that I have a particular HATRED for cruelty to children in any form. So to read and see the brokenness surrounding these kids makes me sob. Fostering has made me hate sin more and love God more. It’s also made me thankful for the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus Christ made possible. The gospel truly is good news for this broken world.

Fostering has taught me to embrace every season with gratitude. I can’t do what I could do a year ago because I have a God-ordained job to do right here with this little guy. I don’t write as much as I did, I’ve declined speaking invitations, I’ve backed away from things that would be good and pleasant to do, but that aren’t best for us or Little B right now, and God has given me joy in that obedience. Seasons change, moms. Embrace the NOW with your little ones.

“”Don’t let the fear of loving a child who might leave deter you. Let the fear of a child not knowing love drive you.”

That’s about it for today. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or message me. Have a great week.

 

Polluted Worship

Imagine God sitting down with your conservative, conscientious church and describing it as one that:

  • despises God
  • is polluted
  • is profane
  • is unacceptable.

That’s the scenario that plays out in Malachi, a book we are studying with out teen group for a regional Bible quiz.

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God tells them they’ve despise Him, polluted His alter, wearied the Lord with their words, left Him, robbed Him, spoken against Him (blasphemed).

The Israelites can’t figure out where they’ve gone wrong. They are literally clueless. They answer, “Wherein”–“How have we done this?”

God goes on to say that they’ve used terms of endearment for Him, saying “Father” but not honoring Him as such, and “Master” but not giving Him the respect due a Master. Basically just taking God for granted, like He’ll take anything from us, even our worthless, leftover sacrifices.

He mentions their “polluted” offerings, basically the cast offs that cost them nothing, given like they were the best they had.

To use modern terms, these people honestly thought going to church, serving in the church, and doing the “right things” would make up for the fact that their heart was far from God.

G. Campbell Morgan says,

“These people are not in open rebellion against God, nor do they deny His right to offerings, but they are laboring under the delusion that because they have brought offerings, they have been true to Him all along.

Theirs is not the language of a people throwing off a yoke and saying, “We will not be loyal,” but of a people established in the temple.

It is not the language of a people who say, “Let us cease to sacrifice and worship: and let us do as we please,” but it is the language of a people who say, “We are sacrificing and worshiping to please God,” and yet He says be the mouth of His servant, “Ye have wearied me: ye have robbed and spoken against me.”

…They have been most particular and strict in their outward observances, but their hearts have been far away from their ceremonials. They have been boasting themselves in their knowledge of the truth, responding to the knowledge mechanically, technically: but their hearts, their lives, their characters, the inwardness of their natures, have been a perpetual contradiction in the eye of Heaven, to the will of God…..and they look with astonishment and impertinence and say, “We don’t see this at all?”

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as we study together and think it’s relevant to Christendom in general today.

All I can think of is this verse,

“Having a form of godliness, they deny the power thereof.”

We see this in our own lives and in the church around us. It’s a display, masquerading as holy, but hollow and vacant in the heart.

We see this with people who’d never miss a service but who have a sour, contentious spirit.

Or those who take pride in dressing modestly, but have proud hearts, feuding and arguing with others, marring their “Christian” walk.

Or those who have Bible knowledge coming out the ears, but can’t seem to love that one brother.

Or those who teach “the truth” but don’t live it themselves.

God also said that He is “wearied with their words” because they claim that God loves everyone who does evil, and that He won’t judge sin. They portray Him as the big softie upstairs who just giggles at our rebellion. They said, “Our God is a God of love; there is no judgment.” We should be clear that God does and will judge sin. He is the one who names it and defines it. We can’t excuse what God forbids.

It’s easy to see the sin in others and miss our own. So let’s not be too hard on the old Isrealites. Let’s ask ourselves how we are like them in areas where we compromise. Let’s ask God’s Spirit to show us our impurities. Where does this all start?

“Ye departed out to the way.” Malachi 2:8–Instead of teaching the law and keeping it, we’ve gone our own way in these matters. We paid lip service, but lived any old way.

We know the right thing, but do the wrong without remorse and without repentance. We assume that God will accept our service while our heart is polluted. We imagine that God will be appeased by sacrifice or service, but without a devoted heart, it’s all worthless.

A form of godliness…but denying the power.

We may hold to the truth of scripture intellectually, even condemning false teachers and speaking out against false doctrine, but if our heart is astray, it’s all polluted, detestable, not accepted.

I think this serves as a warning to us today to really check our hearts. I was thankful for the grace of conviction during this study. Whom the Lord loves, He chastens.

Some questions:

First, do we actually love God, and is that love displayed in obedience for Him?

Second, do we come to the “table” with clean hands? Are your motives pure? Are you obedient? Are you hiding sin? Is your conscience clean? Are your desires pure?

Thirdly, do we serve in a sacrificial way or do we serve in ways that benefit us? Do we seek recognition? Do we get miffed when someone gets an opportunity we wanted? Do we manipulate to get preeminence? Do we put others first? Do we only serve when others will know or when it’s easy for us? Do we get agitated when we are treated as a “servant” rather than a “master”?

As Christian women, God is Master and everything that is done must be done to bring Him glory. We must heed Malachi’s warnings and check ourselves:

  • let’s worship with pure heart, hands, and minds
  • let’s free ourselves from greed in our service
  • let’s honor God in our activity to the point where our service costs us something.

Some things to think about:

Is God enough? If you were stripped of all your outward shows of ministry and service, would God still say He knows you as a friend?

Do you carefully follow God’s word, or do you live and worship any old way you want?

Is your “ministry” free from ulterior motives?

Is your worship worship-ful, from the heart, or just part of your routine?

Does your outward dedication to God reflect your inward longing for Him? If not, this is hypocrisy.

Have you read Malachi lately? I challenge you to do so. And then ask, “What needs to change today?”

A Few Thoughts On “Humble Roots”

Today I wanted to share a few thoughts on Hannah Anderson’s new book, Humble Roots, available now via Amazon.

Fine Print and Disclosure: I received this book free from Moody Publishers and I am part of the Humble Roots Launch Team. However, you know from reading here that I will not recommend any book that I believe to be unsound. If I find a book to be helpful as a whole, but find problematic spots, I’ll disclose that to you as well.

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It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a book like I did Humble Roots. Not only is it theologically sound, but Hannah’s writing style is gentle, descriptive, and calming.

Hannah’s book recounts her struggle with restlessness, anxiety, loss of sleep, feeling like she has to do it all, fear that she can’t do it all, and a myriad of other common symptoms that plague the modern women. She ties all of these issues back to a few common denominators: failure to rest in God, trying to do life on our own strength,  and unknown pride. She then gently unfolds what true humility looks. She explains, “Humility is not a commodity. It is not something you can achieve. It is not something you earn or accomplish. Being humble is something you either are or you aren’t.”

She uses agricultural examples to cement the truths in the book: ripening tomatoes (excerpt here), sowing seeds, root blight, grafting trees, pure honey, thorny blackberries, etc. I found her descriptions of Appalachian life endearing and refreshing, and I may or may not have spent an hour watching YouTube videos late one night learning more about the process of grafting apple trees onto common root, an example that only deepened my understanding of Jesus command to “abide in Him.”

This book was helpful to me, and went along perfectly with the Beatitudes study I told you I was doing using Jen Wilkin’s “Sermon on the Mount” inductive Bible Study.

Some favorite quotes:

“When Jesus calls us to take His yoke, when He invites us to find rest through submission, He is not satisfying some warped need for power or His own sense of pride. He is calling us to safety. The safety that comes from belonging to Him. The safety that comes from being tamed…It is understandable that we fear the yoke. We fear the loss of control. We fear surrender. But we must also understand that without the protection of a good master, we are not safe. From the manipulation of other masters. From the expectations of society. From ourselves.” pg 43

“…humility begins by remembering where we come from. Humility begins by remembering that to be human is to be dirt. Humility begins by remembering that we are “dust and to dust [we] shall return.” pg. 66

“At its root, pride confuses our identity with God’s and makes us think of ourselves as larger than we really are. But when we begin to think of ourselves this way, we expect other people to think of us like this too. Without realizing it, we begin to expect more glory and honor because we actually believe ourselves to be better than they are.” pg. 70

“The first step to engaging our resources with humility is to recognize how much we have been given. This may sound simplistic, but left unchecked, pride blinds us to God’s good gifts. Because pride convinces us that we deserve a certain experience of the world: and when something disrupts that, our pride reveals itself by complaining.” pg. 140

Her final chapter on death, the death of her beloved grandmother, and our return to the dust as the humble beings we truly are, was my favorite chapter in the book. I cried through much of it.

There are too many wonderful quotes to add to this short review but I highly recommend this book without reservation. It is one of the best books on humility I’ve read. It helped me to appreciate the humility of Jesus in a world that values and promotes self-sufficiency and self-promotion. It helped me see the loving Savior as He really is, to see the beauty of humility, and to value it just a little bit more.

I also loved, loved the simple yet beautiful pencil sketches by illustrator and artist Michelle Berg Radford.

Have you read Humble Roots? It’s now available through Amazon here.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting this blog.

 

 

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. 

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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?

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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.

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

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

But love is pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

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

 

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

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

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

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

But that’s not it at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

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

And Calvin says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility means dying to self.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you are disappointed in your situation,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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Let’s End Parental Condemnation and Public Shaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are limited.

We aren’t all knowing or all seeing.

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

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

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

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