Archive for Joy

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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When Perfectionism Stops You

So, I haven’t been blogging much lately and a friend asked why. Know what? I’ve got all the excuses:

“I’m just so busy. I’ve got so many plates spinning. I’ve got a toddler again.” She could see through the words.

Truth is, I don’t like doing anything I can’t do well. I struggle with perfectionism.

 

So, since I can’t formulate thoughts as clearly as I like, and since I compare myself to other bloggers who are really gifted with writing, and who can actually edit properly, I’ve pretty much stopped.

My friend said, “I don’t think you realize what a blessing your blog is to so many women.”

I argued, “I can’t even think anymore let alone write. And my grammar– Ugh.”

She said, “You write really well. I don’t think you know that.”

This conversation repeated with another friend last weekend at a conference, and I finally decided that maybe the Lord was using these sweet friends to tell me something. God wants faithfulness not perfection. God honors obedience not ability.

So, my friends, here I am. Mumbled, jumbled thoughts and all. Less than perfect, but willing to encourage.

I’m hard on myself. Are you? Know what? Perfectionism is a lie that will paralyze and rob you of the blessings of obedience.

How do you recognize perfectionism?

It’s usually in those of us who have high ideals. We’re hard on ourselves and strive for excellence.in.everything. You’re afraid of failure. You’re hurt by criticism. You worry too much about what others think. You believe if something can’t be done well it shouldn’t be done at all. Perfectionism is self defeating and unrealistic. It’s dreamland, honey, because nothing is perfect and we all just need to lighten up.

You know what? I don’t have to be perfect–and neither do you. Isn’t that just great and grace? The gospel comes in to save the day, yet again, in our daily walk–Jesus was perfect for me! I don’t have to be perfect, because I’m already loved, accepted, and it’s all okay because of Him. 

Don’t we all need to stop waiting until life is perfect before we step out and really do what God has put on our hearts? Don’t we just need to take courage and lift palms upward and offer our here and now rather than our “As soon as I get it all together, Lord!”

Don’t we need to affirm the truth that God ordains all of our days and our meetings and that the people we serve and the opportunities He brings are not by chance?

If we wait until we all have it all together before we serve, the truth is, the body of Christ suffers and your “light” on a hill disappears.

How are you wired to serve? What gifts has God given you? What is the desire of your heart? Do you love to write, paint, or cook? Do you have the gift of wisdom, discernment, or helps?

Did you know that you don’t need permission to use those good things for God’s glory and you don’t need to wait until you’ve perfected your game?

Did you know that your imperfect words of encouragement or your invitation into a toy-strewn house for a cold glass of lemonade might be the only encouragement offered to a weary soul today.

Just do it. I am. It won’t be perfect, but it will be something. It may not be remarkable, but that’s okay.

Faithfulness not perfection. Obedience, not ability.

What has the Lord been prompting you to step out and do?

I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

Mothering in the Moments

 

I was discouraged.

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes one day when my kids were small. Their noises were a blur in the back ground. I stared, eyes glazed over and mind a million miles away, out the picture window into the back yard. I was looking at the pond but not really seeing it. Warm water was running over my hands and then a trickle of cold. I noticed. I looked down and noticed what I was doing and felt the cold water and it brought me joy.

Seems dumb to remember the cold water, but it was really at that moment that I noticed it and in that moment that I felt present.

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Alive.

For those of you who’ve never experienced discouragement, let me tell you that some days can seem flat and for lack of a better word, “unfeeling.”  Numb. You hardly recognize pain or joy. You’re too overwhelmed to notice. You just rush and do the next thing. Like an assembly line, you do the work over and over again until you do it mindlessly.

You are productive but not present.

You feed your kids, but it’s all efficient instead of nurturing and relational.

You clean your house but it’s all form and function instead of praise and thanksgiving.

You go about your schedule, never missing a beat, and all the while you are actually missing everything.

You don’t notice your daughter’s excitement when her bubble blows up big and she cups it in her hand un-popped. She tries to catch your eye, but you don’t see.

You miss your son’s slumped shoulders, a sign that he’s discouraged.

You miss real relationship because you half-answer the kid’s questions instead of really engaging them.

Have you been there, too, in this stint called motherhood?

I wonder if we get discouraged because we don’t know what we are doing, or how it will all turn out, and we fear we are investing our lives into a pursuit with no guarantees.

I don’t know much but I do know this: mothering that is not done in the present is a waste of time, energy, and LIFE. It’s thankless and devoid of thanksgiving.

How you live your days is how you live your very life.

When you mother in the moment you notice, and feel, and discuss, and teach, and enjoy. (This is where grandparents excel!)

I really think that every mom can be a good mom and increase her own joy

if she would just be all there in the mundane mothering moments.

I know it’s hard and seems tiring.

I’ve done it both ways and my kids are older now, but  having come out the other side, I think it’s MORE tiring and draining to not be all there.

Mothering in the moment looks like

  • noticing the birds singing outside enough to mention it to your kids.
  • pointing out the beautiful cloud patterns outside your window.
  • being happy just to share in the happiness of others. To have the mindset that all goodness is a reason for happiness and I can be totally happy to share in your joy because I saw “goodness” and goodness is a gift whether it was my possession or blessing or not.
  • taking interest in what interests your child
  • looking them in the eyes when they talk to you
  • talking to them. Relationship, relationship, relationship.
  • teaching them to notice. Really notice life around them.

Peter used to ask me the same question every night: “What did you do today?” He honestly wanted to know. I used to answer with generalities:

“Oh, we did school.”

“I took the kids to Suzuki lessons.”

“Went to the park.”

The truth is that many days I felt like what I did was hardly worth mentioning. The moments felt insignificant and I was tired, like I was on a treadmill that was always moving but never progressing anywhere.

But mothering in the moment changes your perspective. It takes you off the treadmill and plants you firmly in a time, a place, a moment.

In the moment you can notice the ducks, clouds, warm sun. You notice the smell of the freshly cut grass.  You taste and enjoy the ice cream.

You don’t just acquire, you possess. You don’t just do, you enjoy. You don’t just plan, you partake.

In short, you notice and appreciate and give thanks to God for these mundane moments that you can never recover and can never relive..

Are you in the middle of the mundane today? Notice the moments. Do one thing at a time. It will increase your joy!

2 Minute Ways to Feel Productive

If you are caring for young children, you know that your time is not your own. Many days you don’t have five minutes to yourself. You try to unload the dishwasher and someone needs you. You come back later to the job half done and it’s frustrating.

Instead of getting frustrated, settle for doing things in small chunks of time as you can. If you feel like you’re not accomplishing much, think of your days in small chunks of time and attempt life that way. The small chunks certainly can add up and you’ll find you are not as frustrated and are much more productive.

Something is better than nothing.

What can be done in two minutes? Here are a few ideas.

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  • Glance down at your Bible on the counter for a word of encouragement or instruction.
  • Write out a verse on a card for your fridge.
  • Text a friend, “I’m thinking of you.”
  • Rotate the laundry.
  • Write a thank you.
  • Water the plants.
  • Make a bed.
  • Clean a toilet.
  • Wipe down a counter or Windex an appliance.
  • Wash a glass door that is full of hand prints.
  • Braid your daughter’s hair.
  • Pull out meat from the freezer for dinner.
  • Straighten the pillows on a couch and fold a blanket artfully.
  • Sweep the porch or deck.
  • Check the mail.
  • Tidy up the shoes by the door.

What are some other ways you find to be productive with little snatches of time?

 

Monday Morning Worries

It’s Monday morning. I’ve already hit the ground running.

Before 7 am, I’ve washed my sheets, cleaned the bathroom, had my devotions and coffee. Last week was crazy busy and I’m not expecting this week to be any different, so I plan and economize and…in truth, I worry.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

I don’t know if I’ll have all the strength, energy, wisdom, resources, or will-power to complete this week according to my ideals.

When it’s all about me and my resources, it’s deflating, friends.

It’s easy for me to get bogged down before I even start the day. I’ve scribble down our to-do list, a grocery list, a remember list. I have to remember to get this child to skating and this child to work. I like checking things off my lists, declaring them “done.”

And our check lists don’t end on paper. Oh no, we also have these mental check lists as well, a sort of running commentary of all the things that could ever go wrong and threaten to overwhelm us. Am I right? There’s no check box for that list. It’s always there, never done.

We think about all that is before us in the future, all the health and emotional needs around us, the unknowns, the looming bills that need to be paid, that problem in our own life that is still unresolved, that problem in our friend’s life that we feel helpless to counsel never mind fix, that problem in our church, that deficiency in our own life, and how all of these things will affect our kids.

In short, we worry and borrow trouble and it weighs us down.

Jesus knew this tendency in humans and tells us to stop living as though we have no Heavenly Father.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 

yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Matthew 6:25-32

Of course, this is just one passage that reminds (actually commands us) not to worry. To worry is to question God’s goodness to His own children.

Earlier in Matthew 6 we see there are other things people worry about:

  • some religious people worried about getting the praise of men, so they used religion as a tool to get what they wanted. They played a role for applause, and God saw it and saw through it and declared them hypocrites. To desire the praise of men is to be a glory-thief. Nobody is worthy of praise but our God.
  • We worry about saving money and amassing wealth and luxury, but God tells us that all earthly treasures will eventually rot. The only treasure that last is what we lay up in heaven by serving the Lord here.

I tend to worry when I forget that God takes care of me and is in control. Matthew 6 tells me that God has not forgotten me and He knows everything I need.

This is a comfort! I don’t need to carry these burdens. “Cast your burdens upon the Lord.” Worrying does nothing but weigh me down and keep me focused on the wrong things.

My focus should be–>”Your Heavenly Father.” (Matt. 6:32)

He knows what I need. He knows what my family needs. He knows what my friends need. He sees that problem and can handle it.

He’s faithful.

When I worry, I’ve forgotten my Heavenly Father.Problems are big and He is small in my mind. I’ve dwarfed Him and minimized Him and I doubt He’s amused.

I’m living like an orphan when I have the best Father possible.

He gently reminds me, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” (vs. 33) Stop living for the lesser things (like praise or money). It’s never-satisfying.

Worry is living for the here and now instead of remembering that I’m not made for this world, and I am just a pilgrim here, and my Heavenly Father has called me to a higher calling and to a Kingdom mindset that takes the focus off of self and places it on the majesty and glory of the Lord!

And with that mindset, worry vanishes, just like that.

How to Stabilize Your Faith When It’s Been Shaken

Many of my very dear childhood friends have had what I call a “crisis of faith.” They believe in God, but they are totally skeptical of the church.

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Who can blame them, when their childhood church experience consisted of:

a majority of teaching that majored on minors, quirks, and non-essentials (this is what we wear…let me get up on the platform and model what a Christian woman wears….and if we see you out and about dressed differently, we’ll call your parents/husband/father to task)

a healthy dose of fear-mongering (if you are sinning you’d better check to make sure you are really saved! Struggling with sin means that you are most likely not!)

a lot of pride (we’re so glad we’re not like those really bad sinners out there! God is good! Make sure you stay away from them!)

a lot of partisanship (OUR church is the best and we don’t mind saying so.)

a little condemnation (If you don’t do such and such [tithe, read Bible, witness], I’d be afraid to get into my car and drive.)

a little self-sufficiency (Just try harder. Are you sure you’re dedicated?)

major people worship (OH MY GOSH, that was pastor so and so. “Hello, Pastor!” Giggle, giggle. THANK GOD that we have THIS man as our pastor!)

“family love” that was pretty shallow (We’re all a big family and we all love each others. Unless you cross ME. Or leave THIS church. Then we are pretty much through.)

They were taught a wishy-washy gospel that led you straight back to law-keeping for acceptance. You can be saved, yes, but after that, you’d better perform.

They’ve come to equate Christianity with rules, regulations, and fear-mongering.

I’m actually thankful that my friends knew enough to reject this type of religiosity. It’s a false gospel of works, and certainly not the atmosphere of a loving family of God. They’re still searching, many of them, and that gives me hope.

They want to know God, but they doubt they can trust the church.*

So for you who are searching, I know from talking to you, that it’s hard to unravel what God is like from how the church treated you.

But, hear me out, a relationship with God is your oxygen. It’s what you need for life. Like physical oxygen to the body, without it, your life is just a choking, suffocating existence.

Let’s be frank, God is not like the church. And yet He loves the church! Isn’t that a wonderful truth! God is so much better.  In fact, the glorious truth of the gospel is that God came to rescue an “adulterous” people. We are so unfaithful to God in word and deed…but God loves sinners. I know you’ll be tempted to tune me out right, but please try to read:

There’s nothing you can do that will make God love you any more or any less. It’s unconditional love. That means that the love never changes. Never. Jesus paid it all, did it all, and continues to do it all for you.

How do you wrap your mind around such grace? How do you de-program your mind from such ingrained wrong teaching ?

How do you come to believe that God does actually love you? What exactly does it mean to keep the faith? Does it mean that you grit your teeth and hold to a certain creed with dogged determination?

The answer is to go back to the basics of faith.

If you’ve been raised in Christianity from childhood, the word faith is used so frequently that its meaning begins to be foggy.

Faith is simply believing what God says.

And because we are mortal, from day to day, our faith can vacillate.

But we can’t even begin to keep the faith if we don’t know the Faithful One. I don’t mean that you haven’t trusted Christ by faith to save you. Many of you have trusted Christ for salvation. But on a daily basis, do you know God personally and in a friendship way,  so that you can believe God?

I recently went apple picking. My dad’s big old apple tree lost a branch and we collected all the apples in an LL Bean Boat and Tote Bag. I trust LL Bean because I know that if anything happens to the bag, they’ll replace it. How do I know this? They say it in their catalog, yes, but they’ve also been faithful to their 100% satisfaction guaranteed warranty for many years and have a reputation for doing what they say they’ll do. I trust LL Bean.

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It’s the same with faith.

I can’t trust someone that I’ve spent no time getting to know personally.

I can say I know about Princess Kate. I might follow her styles and hair styles, but I only know OF her.  I don’t actually know her personally. If I got the chance to sit and chat with Princess Kate, and find out her likes and dislikes, and understand her as a person, I could say I really KNOW Princess Kate.

God’s the same way. You need to know Him personally through His Word and time spent communing with Him. Think of it like spending time getting to know a friend.

Faith that gives hope is not just some nebulous dream, like,  I hope that someday I’m going to heaven, or I hope that things will work out the way I’d envisioned. I hope God has this situation in hand.

Faith is based on knowing God’s character as revealed in His word. Just like I learned what Peter was like through writing letters when he was away for three years at college, I learn what God is like through His book, the Bible. It’s history, poetry, doctrine, law, prophecy that all points to God and reveals His character.

I knew Peter’s heart because I studied those letters in High School. They were a priority to me.

And I know God’s heart because I read His Word.

One of my favorite things about God is His faithfulness. In a world where people change and fail you, God’s faithfulness is a rock of security.

So many times throughout Scripture, we’re told that:

God is faithful,

His faithfulness is great and never fails,

He’s the faithful God, keeping covenants for generations because of His steadfast love and mercy.

He faithfully upholds us, literally keeps us together, by the word of His power.

We see time and time again how God intervened for His people to protect them. We see His faithfulness to the extremely unfaithful, sinfully idolatrous nation of Israel. We know that God even sacrificed His “only begotten Son” for our benefit.

What should be our response to the faithfulness of God? Faith, faith, faith.

Ask yourself:

Is God a liar? No.

Is God more powerful than I am? Yes.

Is God attentive to detail? Yes.

Does He promise to care for our needs? Yes.

Is He more capable than I am to care for my needs? Yes.

Then why don’t I trust Him?

Fear and faith cannot co-exist in the same heart. And so often, we suffer in this life with anxiety, doubt and fear, because in truth, we lack faith. We have to ask hard questions, like “Do I really know God for myself, or have I just heard of Him through other’s experiences?”

Notice the connection between lack of faith and its consequences in these verses:

Fear:  “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matt. 8:26

Doubt: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matt. 14:31

Anxiety/Worry about tomorrow: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matt. 6:30

Lack of Power in Ministry: “Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?”  He replied, Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:19-21

Unforgiving Spirit:So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the LORD,”Increase our faith!”  He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”  Luke 17:3-5

Having faith in God:

  • means that you believe what He says in His Word. Even things that are hard and may not sit right.
  • Faith believes that God will do all things for your good. Even the things we perceive as bad.
“Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there.” Spurgeon

 

  • Having faith means that we may not know all the outcomes, but we are okay with that, because we know the nature of the One running all things.
  • Having faith means that we don’t have to attempt to dole out punishment for those who have wronged us, in childhood or in the present. We can forgive them, as God has forgiven us. It doesn’t mean that what they did was right, or that they are out of trouble, but simply that the Righteous Judge who sees all things will judge them as He promised to do. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”
  • Having faith means that you let God be God and you abdicate all rights to self-rules and allow Him to preside in your life.
  • And having faith means knowing that God will help us on days when we don’t feel faith. Feelings are not to be trusted. Feelings are not facts.

Living a life of faith means looking to God and following Him. Loving God with all of our mind means believing Him to be a truth teller.

So many of my sweet friends really struggle for even basic things like happiness and joy. They don’t want to live that way, and neither do I.

On the days when I struggle for joy, the real cause may be that my faith is anemic.

The cure may be closer than you think and easier than you expected.

The cure is to look for God in His word. Get one-on-one with your Bible and admit, “God, I know that my experience has left me wounded, but I really, really want to know you! I need you to show me what you are like!”

I promise, if you do this, God will reveal Himself to you through His Word. “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.”

He wants you to really know Him. He’s made all the provisions, and He knows all of your hurts and baggage. He’s available for you. Go to Him.

Do you struggle with faith? How has it affected your life? Do you find worry, anger, and doubt come easier than faith in God? Don’t be defined by your past. Don’t let the fact that you’ve lost your way here and there stop you. Seek the Lord. “Return to Me” is the desire of His heart towards you.

* This is why it’s so important to teach the clear Word of God, ministry leaders. Can you imagine what God will say to those in Christian leadership who made it harder for others to know Him? Instead of leading them straight to Christ through the Word, they made His sheep jump through hoops, live in fear, and serve some pastor’s small-k kingdom desires, when Christ has already done all the work and made the way wide open?

The Discussion We Need to Have

Reports estimate that that American women spend a staggering $426 billion a year on beauty products. We place a high value on beauty.

We want beautiful homes, beautiful weddings, beautiful getaways to exotic places. Beauty is a good thing, in our eyes. But do we want beautiful holiness?

The Bible describes holiness as a beautiful thing. “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

This got me thinking, “Why don’t we value holiness like we should?””Why don’t we think of holiness as beautiful?”  I asked several teen girls and a few of my friends their thoughts on this matter, which I’ll share in the next few days.

But for now, the first, question: “What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a holy person? The good, the bad, the ugly?”

Some of the answers:

A person who:

  • tries not to sin
  • is reserved, serious,
  • is a monk, priest, nun,
  • is judgmental, outspoken about how people should live,
  • always looks down on everyone else,
  • knows God and tries to pursue Him,
  • always assumes that everyone else is less spiritual or too liberal.

Obviously, from these answers, we’ve got some confusion about what holiness is.

You’d think holiness looked like this:

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

 

Yet the Bible describes it as beautiful and expected. In fact, we only know what holiness looks like because of Christ. He was the epitome of all that is lovely, and kind, and humble. So why do we have such distorted views of this? And further, how do we follow the command to “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” if we don’t know what it is, or associate it with so many negative and untrue connotations?

I think we need a discussion on this, which is exactly what I plan to do this week.

What are your thoughts? Do you think of holiness as a desirable, beautiful trait for a Christian woman?

Chime in.

Today’s Christian Woman: Distinctly Unholy?

Every Christian woman wants to hear and read books about being highly effective, being fulfilled as a person, finding your purpose and and being relevant in today’s society. But one topic that we are not clamoring to read about is personal holiness.
 
We’ve all been turned off by someone who thought they were acting “holy” when in fact they were just plain judgmental and critical making mountains out of what they thought was mountain-making-worthy. They are self appointed “police”–they figure, if I point out all your flaws, nobody will have time to notice my obvious flaws. (Note: truly holy people are so worried about their own sin that they have very little time to point out your.)
 
Or perhaps you are still reeling from the damage of a childhood spent in a works centered religion, where people zealously pointed out others “sins” like there was a reward for it, or you grew up in a works-centered Catholic home or a misguided fundamentalist work. Remember that that is not holiness.
No, 

“To be holy in our own strength and for our own glory is to be distinctly unholy.”

 
We’ve believed a lie about personal holiness. We’ve believed several lies actually. 
We’ve bought into the idea that holiness equals a
  • joyless,
  • secluded,
  • stiff,
  • puritanical,
  • disapproving lifestyle.
We may not verbalize it, but we act as though the world with it’s pleasures offers real joy. We relish our sin and keep returning to it as a dog returns to his own vomit.
It concerns me as I look around at the landscape of today’s Christian woman. Instead of getting better and better, we seem to have lost our moral compass and have embraced a distinctly unholy lifestyle. Oh, I don’t mean that we’d verbalize this, or that our public confession would be such, but that very few women are really concerned about their own personal holiness. And we are raising younger Christian women (who have learned from their mothers) who are now looking for fulfillment in the worthless and seem enamored by the world. 
 
They do not value God’s word as THE guide for life, a most precious love letter. They don’t see their relationship to God as paramount. There seems to be this justification of “living on the edge” and “acting like the world.” If we look like the world, respond like the world, love what the world loves, embrace what the world embraces and spend our time, energy, money on these lesser things, who will be salt and light to the world? And why do we wonder that the church lacks “power”? The church lacks power when the church leaders and God’s people are unholy and unsurrendered and they don’t even know it. 
 

THE TRUTH: holiness and joy go hand in hand in scripture.

 
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions. Hebrews 1:9
Every Christian is commanded to be holy. The idea of holiness includes being set apart, belonging to God, hating what God hates and pursuing what God loves.
“Be ye holy as I am holy.” 
” Strive for holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” 
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” 

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin…”

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

Holiness is not some conjured up, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, try harder life. The desire for true holiness comes as we compare our lives to the perfect life of Christ. It starts when we get a glimpse of our filthy sin and then gaze on the beauty of His holiness, seeing Christ as He really is. It begins when we abide with him, rest in him and depend on Him. In short, when life is more about HIM and less about me. It is a grace that enables us to say NO to our fleshly desires to pursue what makes the heart of God happy.
 
Holiness keeps us from the bondage of sin. For whatever reason, we think that we can dabble with sin and not be effected. But when we embrace sin in any degree, we can not be embracing holiness.
Sin is always deceitful. It lulls you to sleep, promising you pleasure and freedom, when in fact it always entangles you.
 
My mom would always say:
Sin takes you farther than you planned to go, and keeps you longer than you planned to stay.
playing_with_fire
 
Think of sin as a fire. Or poison. Or a viper.  Not only do you not dabble in it, you stay away from it. You don’t let your kids light a little fire on the kitchen table, or hold a little viper in their bed, or drink a little poison at dinner time. You keep those things out of the house because they can harm you.  
 
The same is true of a little sin. Holding on to and cherishing sin separates us from communion with God–and others believers. Today, believers are deceived into thinking that sin doesn’t have consequences. In fact, we think we can pretty much do what I want–after all, I’m an American. I take my political liberties and mix them up with my spiritual liberties and end up believing that I am free to do as I please w/o consequence.
  • I can watch immorality as entertainment and not have it affect me.
  • I can listen to unwholesome talk and be okay.
  • I can be unloving to one person without consequence.
  • I can indulge in the flesh in food, drink, sleep or s*x and nobody’s going to get hurt.
  • I can nurse that grudge and hold on to unforgiveness without it effecting me spiritually.
  • I can chase worthless pursuits because God wants me to be happy.
If you’ve thought these things, sin has deceived you. If you are living these things, it’s totally entangled you. When God’s word says to flee certain things, like immorality, youthful lusts, wrath, hatred, envy, jealousies, evil communication…and we not only indulge in them but justify them, we are in serious trouble.
And we have to ask ourselves,
WHAT is the state of a believer who will not obey scripture? Are we not followers of Christ? Did He not tell us to be holy, as He is holy? WHY would we think that sinning is okay? Are we truly in Christ? Or are we a scoffer, posing as a believer when in fact our life shows that we have no desire to “do the will of the father.” Have you asked the hard question, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, but do not the will of my father?” 
 
The world lies and says that sin is fun and fulfilling and freeing and sin may seem to be all these things for a short time. But in the end, sin brings death and separation from God. Sin dulls your sensibilities and renders you spiritually blind. You’ll lose your moral compass, believing that right is wrong and wrong is right. God’s word teaches that being set apart to God is a blessing and a holy life is what brings joy and freedom. A clean conscience before God and men should be the norm for every believer. 
 
When we are living lives according to scripture, not perfectly, but striving for holiness, we paint a more accurate picture of what Jesus looked like. We are called to this. Let’s not defame His name by claiming we are his, but living like we don’t care two cents about his will.
 
 

20 Easy, Inexpensive, Warm-Weather Ways to Entertain

Spring and summer are some of the best times to entertain and show hospitality. As the warm weather comes, you can move your party outside and enjoy warm evenings together. Casual barbecue dinners, sitting in the sunshine sipping lemonade with friends or more elegant dining on the patio with votive candles a-twinkling make this my favorite time of the year for hospitality!20 easy ways to entertain lemonade

But, the best kind of entertaining happens when we aren’t frazzled when guests arrive. Gourmet cooking might be your passion, but for the rest of us, I humbly offer these easy ideas that are perfect for the warmer weather that’s ahead of us!

1. Simple Chips and Salsa:  Find pretty linen napkins that you love. Line a basket with the colorful cloth, fill to the brim with warm tortilla chips and serve with my dad’s amazing salsa recipe here.

2. Soda Floats: In the summer, make root beer floats and serve them with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a fun striped straw.

3. Movie Night: Initiate a movie night. This is especially great for families with little kids. The kids sit and watch the movie and munch popcorn while the grown ups gab in the kitchen.

4. Game Night: Invite some couples over for some favorite board games and serve simple brownie ice cream sundaes. You can use muffin tins to bake individual brownies in. While they are still warm, push the middle down to form a small indent for ice cream.

5. Pizza Night: Make your own pizza night. Make or buy pizza dough, and let everyone make their own pizza. The toppings are endless: pepper, onion, mushrooms, pepperoni, etc…

6. Coffee Double Date: Dessert and coffee with friends. (Or if you are in the north, iced coffee with friends!)

7. Cheese and Fruit Tray: Make an artisanal cheese and fruit platter. Serve ice tea in stemware and you’ve got an easy table assortment that everyone will pick at while you talk.

8. Use your crock pot. Crock pot meals take the last minute pressure off you as a hostess, and is usually forgiving if guests are late.

9. Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough: Keep chocolate chip cookie dough in the freezer so you can pull them out in a pinch when company drops in unexpectedly.

10. Soup and Salad: Have a soup and salad get together. Ask each family to bring a different soup. You provide the salad and rolls. Easy.

11. Play Date: Have a young moms play date. Ask the moms to bring snacks for their own kids since they usually have a preference as to what they eat, and you focus on the adult snack. Child proof your house so the moms can relax.

12. Casual Brunch: Have friends over for a casual brunch. Homemade waffles topped with fresh fruit, sausage, orange juice and coffee.

13. Grill Out: Invite friends over for burgers on the grill. Make a platter of toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, pickles, bacon, etc. In the warm weather, sit outside and place a candle on your table for atmosphere as the sun goes down. Grill corn on the cob. Delish.

14. Share a slice of your life: When Rebekah came home from her missions trip, we had several couples over for snacks and to view her trip pictures. We shared stories and enjoyed Christian fellowship.

15. Last Minute Meet Up: Initiate a meet-up at the park, beach or local attraction with other moms with young kids. Pack your own lunches, spread a blanket and enjoy the company.

16. Pretty Presentation, but all Pre-Made. You can find so many delish goodies at places like Trader Joe’s.  Again, use your ninja display skills to make something simple look elegant. Crackers topped with mild brie cheese and fruit jam, heat and serve hors d’oeuvres, store bought bruschetta on french bread, brie and cranberry wrapped in phyllo dough.

17. Beach Trip: If you like near the ocean, pack up the kids and a lunch and meet friends for a fun days of sand and sun. (the kids play beautifully at the beach and moms can talk!)

18. Taco Bar: Make your own tacos with all the fixings. Easy and inexpensive and kids love to make these.

19. Baked Potato Bar: Purchase large baked potatoes, bake and serve with lots of toppings including sour cream, cheese, chives, bacon, chili, or whatever you love.

20. Potluck BBQ: Everyone brings their own meat to grill and something to share: baked beans, potato salad, strawberry summer salad, or whatever you love. If you have a large party, ask them to bring their own lawn chairs as well. You provide drinks, plates, meat for your family and something sweet for dessert. Easy way to entertain a crowd.

When you have kids over, consider putting out bubbles, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes or other age appropriate toys that they can enjoy while the adults chat. It makes it easier for the parents and more interesting for the kids.

What are your favorite ways to entertain in the warm weather? Feel free to share in the comments!

 

Hospitality 101 Series

My sweet friend Niki asked me to share some ideas for extending hospitality in the home, a topic that I am happy to cover because it is near and dear to my heart.

In the last few years, I’ve been asked to speak several times to women’s groups on using the home for hospitality, and it seems that God is moving women to open their eyes to all that we have at our disposal in our homes for the sake of the gospel. (Stuff we often take for granted or complain about!)

I believe hospitality is one the most underestimated, under-utilized ministries in the church today.

I believe our homes are the “hidden talent” (Matthew 25:14-30) of our modern day churches, because it is a resource that is rarely used. Women today value being out of the home doing “important things.” But God says that by being a good manager of your home, and by caring well for your family and others, and by extending our hands–and homes–to the needy via hospitality, the gospel will be well spoken of.

In the scope of all church history, American women have so much!  I wonder what God’s response will be when we are asked how we used our goods (homes, clothes, meals, technology, etc…) for His sake? Were we good stewards of His gifts? Or did we use them for our own pleasure and indulgence? Will it be “Well done, good and faithful servant.” or “You foolish servant!”?

I often imagine the gasping, wide-eyed, mouth-gaped-open look of amazement in the faces of the other saints in heaven, when they realize all that I had at my disposal as a middle-class American woman, part of the top 5% richest people in all the WORLD. I imagine their excitement, their leaning in a little closer to hear what I MUST have done for our Lord with all THAT at my disposal, expecting to hear great things! It haunts me, actually, that thought.  It prompts me to steward our home well.

I encourage women to reach out of their comfort zones and into the community for the sake of the gospel. I joke and call it “Espresso Evangelism.” –Invite a neighbor in for coffee or to just to encourage her. Read out, instead of getting stuck in the rut of only associating with the women of your church, like it’s some kind of country club.  Invite a mom from the community over to your home and befriend her. What are her needs? The gospel? Parenting help? A listening, supportive ear? Counseling? Material goods?

It starts by simply using what you have. Look around you. Of what has God made you a steward? A teapot? A tea cup? Share it for the sake of the gospel.

I love this quote:

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF YOUR LIVING ROOM AS A LAUNCHING PAD FOR NEW LIFE, HOPE, MINISTRY AND MISSION.

and this one:

The ultimate act of hospitality was when Jesus Christ died for sinners to make everyone who believes a member of the household of God.

We are no longer strangers and sojourners. We have come home to God. Everybody who trusts in Jesus finds a home in God.”


I’ve told Niki that I feel kinda silly writing some of these ideas down, because so much of it seems like common sense. She told me that if you didn’t grow up in a home where hospitality was modeled, then it isn’t common sense. So, next week, it’s Hospitality week here on the blog, so gear up for some basic Hospitality 101 type posts.

But before we start, I want to point you to some older articles I’ve written on the subject, and also share some of my favorite articles around the web.

In the comments below, tell what you’d like to learn in this series or share your favorite hospitality tip, won’t you?