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Love the Imperfect “Right Now”

Yesterday, I woke with the knowledge that I was already behind. Coffee mugs, ice cream bowls, and popcorn kernels graced my kitchen sink and told the tale of the late night festivities that come with a house full of older children and their friends who come alive at night when I am ready to collapse into bed.

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An untidy house can send me over the edge depending on my mindset. (Did I mention I was tired?) Plus, my to-do list was long and our little one was up three times the night before.

These are the days when I feel my lack: not enough time, skill, wisdom, wit, energy,or money to create the life I’ve crafted in my mind as “ideal” and I feel myself sinking into discouragement.

And it’s rough, dear friend, when you hang on to ideals and compare them to the life that is right in front of you right now. It’s a sure fire way to make yourself miserable.

Today, maybe you are lacking as well. Maybe your ideals and your present circumstances are nothing alike. You believe you need:

  • more understanding to be a better wife,
  • more patience to be a better mom,
  • more money to provide better meals,
  • more wisdom to relate to people better,
  • more opportunities to get ahead,
  • more organization to be efficient,
  • more free time to pursue hobbies and dreams.

But here’s the thing: the need for more is a little lie I tell myself. It stems from a heart that believes that God short-changed me. The belief of “not enough” is a poor-me mindset, living like an orphan who needs to fend for herself, when I am in fact, a daughter of the King who has promised to take care of every one of my needs.

This quest for more because of a perceived lack is not a new phenomenon. No, it’s as old as

  • Sarai who wanted a son pronto, so used Hagar to get her way
  • the Israelites who needed better food because they were fed up with manna,
  • David, who believed he should have more in the wife department so killed and committed adultery to get it,
  • Annanias and Sapphira who wanted prestige and all their money at the same time, so they told a tall tale.

The lie of “Not enough”, when mulled and meditated upon, when toyed with and hand-crafted in our thoughts and imaginations, emerges as a micro-idol that lodges into my very being like a parasite. I barely know it exists until it shows itself in the unexpected moments:

  • complaining
  • blaming God
  • sour attitude
  • depression or apathy
  • lack of submission to others
  • demanding my own way

No matter what form it takes, its core of self-reliance, discontentment, control, and self-pity must be rooted out with gospel-truth.

My lack is supposed to show me Someone who never lacks and is all-powerful. It’s meant to break the death grip I have on preserving my own life through my own resources, and pry away my fingers so that I can gently hold the hand of my loving Heavenly Father who wants to provide what He knows is best for me.

The truth is that I have everything that I need in Christ. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want/lack.” This truth has been a great simplifier for me in my Christian walk. I can be at peace knowing God always gives me what is good and is too good to withhold any good thing from me.

When dishes in the sink mount, and dust flies in the air, and I can’t seem to get ahead, I need to preach to my own heart that failings don’t define me and inadequacies don’t disqualify me from the love of God. I can love the imperfect present because I am loved in spite of my dirty dishes or toddler who tantrums. I’m cherished regardless of how put together I am in the moment because God’s love is not about me measuring up. I’m still in His care when I’m exhausted and depleted and frustrated and feel un-spiritual. I still have His resources when I’m disappointed. And you can rest, too, whatever your lack, real or perceived. God has us where we are for a reason, and He will never give us something that is not for our good. Learning to be content in this present place is where the gospel-work is being done in our hearts today, friend. Let’s let God do His work in us.

Love,

Sarah

New Year’s Resolutions for the rest of us.

This post is for women who can barely get ready in the morning without littles banging on the bathroom door, for the mom who is nursing a baby and trying to train toddlers, the one who can barely eat a meal while it’s warm without an interruption.

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This post is for the mature woman who is caring for an aging parent  whose days are more like one continual stretch, dotted by doctors appointments and scares at the ER.

This post is for all of us who are caregivers by choice and nature, whose days and schedules are not our own.

This post is for all of us who want to make New Year’s resolutions but who are too scared or too realistic to try anything “big” because big dreams require chunks of time and we don’t have that right now.

Me? I’m in a season of homeschooling and carpooling and caring for a just-turned-3 foster son whose needs are ever evolving and whose care consumes most of my days. So setting anything but the most basic goals is not a realistic option for me.

As Katherine Brooks pessimistically replied to Anne of Green Gables hopeful ideas for her future–“Bend in the road? There’s no bend in my road. I can see it stretching out straight in front of me.”

If you’ve chosen a life of caring for others and your schedule is not your own, and there’s little to no “bend in your road”, and you’re feeling a little down about that, wondering if your life will matter, here are a few thoughts I’ve been processing myself, that I hope will encourage you.

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  1. Success is not defined solely by doing great things. Success is doing small, faithful things with great love.
  2. Success is not reserved for the woman with no boundaries or constraints on her life. Success is doing what you can with what you have. Many of the greatest inventions were born out of need not abundance.
  3. Your quiet time may not be as quiet as you like, with toddlers on your lap or interruptions that you can’t avoid. Remember that Bible reading is only half of the equation. Meditation is the secret weapon that brings change and peace. So even if you’ve only got 5 minutes to read the Bible, you will benefit greatly by meditating on what you’ve read throughout the day. I try to write one truth on a 4″X6″ card to remind me of the verses I want to think about that day.

Reading is the exposure to the Scripture, but meditation is the absorption of the Scripture.

Donald Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life

When living your daily life, even when your time is not your own, you can still grow spiritually by asking this simple question before you act or react: “What will bring the most glory to God?”

Spiritual growth can happen no matter what our circumstances because God uses ordinary days to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

  • So on the days when you feel like you have no control over your situation (kids sick, dog throwing up, money tight) ask, “What does the Bible say about this situation?”
  • When you are unsure about the future, ask “What truths about God do I know for certain?” and meditate on those.
  • When you are frustrated or feeling stuck, ask “What is God teaching me about contentment and godliness today?”

For all of us with no foreseeable bend in our road, we may not have grand goals or plans for the next year, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t set our heart to seek the “things which are above, where Christ is”. And isn’t this what true spirituality is all about? Seeking God’s will and glory faithfully, right where you are, trusting Him with every detail of your life?

Happy New Year, friends. May we all be faithful wherever we are and love God and others more in 2017.

Measuring God’s Goodness, In Joy or Trials.

How do you measure God’s goodness to you?

If you are like me, you tend to equate material and physical blessings with God’s smile, and hardship and trial with God’s frown. When my kids are doing right, and we’re on top of the world (aka organized and on track for school) or when God provides ministry opportunities and we see fruit in our work, then God is blessing us.

But the dark side to this thinking is that when trouble strikes, we assume Satan is after us because we’ve been so righteous (pride) or that God’s somehow withholding blessing from us (self-pity…aka…pride).

Looking back at this past year, our family has had tremendous blessing. We’ve traveled more than ever, enjoyed health and happiness in our family, grown in size with a new son-in-law as our daughter married, and we’ve seen God provide in miraculous ways for our family. If I’m not careful, I can equate God’s goodness to us as a correlation to our performance or His happiness with our family.

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Our family has also known worries and trials that we’ve never experienced before with the care and keeping of our foster son. Emotional unrest, uncertainty, and fear were all very present in 2016. If I’m not careful, I can equate all of this to God’s displeasure or a reflection of our poor performance in our Christian lives.

The wonderful truth about God is that He is good to His children because that’s His nature. The end. It’s not based on how good we are. This is at the heart of the gospel. God seeks us when we are sinful and unlovable, and does all the work to save us. It’s not about us or about our performance. I don’t know about you but I need this reminder daily.

This small line of verse has been ringing in my ears for the last 6 months:

“Every joy or trial, falleth from above,

Traced upon our dial, by the Son of Love.”

“Works Christianity” can creep into my mindset so easily, even though I’ve fought that natural teaching my whole life, and worldly philosophy like Karma and survival of the fittest can jade my worldview, distort the truth of the gospel, and rob my joy.

Circumstances are not an indication of God’s pleasure or displeasure, love or coolness toward me. God’s act of sending Jesus to die for us on that bloody cross is the final indication of His love for us.

When we have plenty of money, lots of opportunities, when life goes smoothly and people treat us with love and respect, God does indeed love us.

But when God seems distant, and everything we touches falls apart, when money’s short, and hurt surrounds us, God also loves us.

Whatever comes our way, “every joy or trial”, comes from His good hand and it’s intended to bring us close to Him.

Whatever accomplishes that,

whatever makes us look up at Him, whatever strips us of our own delusions of goodness or self-sufficiency, whatever makes us realize how small and out of control we are apart from Him, whatever drives us to cling to Him as our only Hope, that is exactly when we can see the love and goodness of God despite the circumstances.

This past year, despite highs and lows like we’ve never experienced before, the goodness of God’s love has shined through the circumstances and God’s grace has shown us His presence.

In the end, dear friend, God is the goal and to know Him is the stabilizing factor in our lives.

Whatever your goals for 2017, don’t assume that God’s goodness is measured by the amount of ease, plenty, respect, happiness, approval, or health you’ll experience. Good or bad, come what may, be willing to embrace everything and anything as from the Father’s good hand, knowing He’s there with you and present, and that is the ultimate gift.

 

A Mary Heart During the Busy Season

Got a minute? Good. That’s all I’ve got these days. So my posts will be short, because we’re all busy.

Christmas hands us a never ending to-do list: present-buying, baking cookies, decking halls, and family parties. All this merry making can be exhausting.

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Tis the season when we tend to neglect our souls. {Yes, you, mom.}

How can we accomplish so much without becoming frazzled?

How do we keep our hearts focused on Christ in all the clamor and noise?

The only way is to choose the “one needful thing”–a mental “sitting at Jesus’ feet” during the hustle and bustle of the season.

This is done by dwelling, living, staying in the “secret place of the Most High.”

Ps. 91:1 “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.”

At the end of a busy day, I love sitting and staring at my Christmas tree. It’s calming to my body and restful for my mind.  In the same way, our soul is refreshed when we gaze at the Light of the World, and reflect on His beauty and goodness. When we are still and focused on the only One who will truly satisfy every longing in our heart.

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You may not get long periods of time to physically sit, but it’s a mental mindset that is thinking heavenly thoughts while carpooling kids and speed-cleaning the house. It’s remembering His faithfulness as we fold our clothes and set our table.

I noticed this “dwelling” this morning in the Luke 2 narrative of the Christmas story.

Mary and Elizabeth both had “dwelling hearts.” Mary’s mind was focused in the whirlwind of events happening around her. Her heart was humble and her eyes spiritual to see what God was doing in her home and in the lives of her friends and family.

We see Mary’s humility in her words: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Basically, I want God’s will for my life and will embrace it immediately, wholeheartedly, even if it means people will misunderstand or life will be hard.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoiced in God my Savior.” Her focus in on promoting the Lord and agreeing with what God was doing!

Notice that Mary does not focus on herself. She’s not gloating. She’s thankful to be part of God’s redemption story to redeem mankind.

Elizabeth is another example of a humble, God focused woman. She’s spiritually sensitive. When her cousin Mary comes to her home, pregnant with the Lord Jesus Christ, we see her humility in this statement: “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

She feels blessed to have Mary, pregnant with the Savior entering her home. No animosity, no jealousy, no soap opera drama, no comparing, no thoughts of “She was chosen to have Jesus and I’m just having John the Baptist.” These women were righteous, inside and out. Not perfect, but striving to do right, and dwelling on the bigness of God and aware of all that He was doing around them.

And that’s our job today as well. You won’t be visited by an angel, but we’re all part of God’s redemption story as well go about our lives building and promoting the kingdom of Christ in our own little corner of the world.

Pray for eyes to see what God is doing and how He can use you.

Embrace your “lot” in life as “servants of the Lord,” like Mary and Elizabeth did. God is in control and you and I are part of His story. A humble heart and a heavenly mindset will help us to embrace our little piece of God’s story with contentment, joyfulness and anticipation of the great things the Lord will do for us!

So happy serving, and may your heart also rejoice in God your Savior as you cook, clean, carpool, and love the people God sends your way.

Additional Articles to Inspire You:

Have a Mary Heart includes two acrostics. Which one are you?

Scurrying or Seated by Karen Ehman

This interview with Pat Berg on how she does her quiet time.

Also, how Sally Clarkson approaches her quiet time in Walking with God for the normal, everyday mamas.

DIY Doctored-Up Dollar Tree Church Ornament

Wanted to share an easy craft I’ve been working on for Christmas.

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I love New England churches, so when I saw that Dollar Tree had these ornaments, I snatched up a bunch to doctor-up.

I simply added twine, plaid ribbon from Michael’s Craft Store, and mica glitter with a glue gun to add “snow” to the roof line and perimeter of the church. You could also add a silver bell in place of the pine cone that comes with it.

They’ll be really cute attached to brown paper packages.

Enjoy.

Spanning the racial divide with authentic love.

The news of this past week has left my mind spinning, my insides churning, and my spirit grieved.

News of two African American men shot on video by the police as a first response rather than an absolute last resort, and then news of five officers shot down by snipers in retaliation has left me heart sick. These men, all made in the image of God, are now gone, their names now reduced to hashtags and public comment and the careless words of the passing scene.


How do you respond when people are killing other people and the racial divide seems to be wider and deeper and more sensitive than we’ve seen for a very long time in this country? What can we do about this problem? Is it even solvable? How much do we tell our kids?

I’m going to share a few disjointed thoughts. Please give me grace as I speak from my own experience, with no pretense of being an expert of any sort on this subject.

On Comforting the Mourning.

When heartache comes to any people, I believe we should reach out to them. We should grieve with those who grieve. I believe we’ve failed at this when we wait to see if they “deserved” it or not.

One night I was at the Jordan Hospital, visiting a family member who had been brought to the ER. I was waiting outside after a very long night, and I saw a woman stumble into the parking lot, sobbing, crying, “He’s gone! He’s gone. I can’t believe he’s gone.”

I ran over to put my arm around her and offer her any kind of comfort I could, and to guide her out of the middle of the road where she was about to collapse, and through whispers of several other people nearby, I learned that she was weeping over someone who had died young by overdosing on heroin.

Even though drugs was the cause of the death, and some would say that he basically did it to himself, this woman was really still grieving and the Christian thing to do at that moment was to comfort. This woman will hear the “facts” for the rest of her life. Heroin killed that person. He did it to himself. The junkie got what he deserved. I’m sure she’ll hear it all. But regardless of the facts, this fallen world hurts, and loss and grief need to be acknowledged and comforted and wept over.

In talking to my AA friends who are also believers in Jesus Christ, they say that the white community has not been there for them in their sorrow. That our silence reads as unconcern and indifference.

You cannot comfort someone who believes you don’t even notice enough to comment, can you? I see this as a problem because all Christians should be known by their love as THE distinguishing mark of a believer.

I know white people who don’t speak out because it seems like whatever language they’ve tried in the past, it’s somehow given offence to their black brothers and sisters. We don’t want to offend, so we stop talking all together. But I’ve learned that this is not the right response.

This week, in the wake of such horrible events, I texted several AA friends, to let them know that I love them. I talked to our dear friend, an AA police officer, to let him know that I am concerned for his safety and to hear his thoughts. These are people I dearly love, who we “do life” with, worship with, and whose kids sleep at our house and vice versa.

The Influence of Faith During Trials

I have personally been encouraged and strengthened by watching my AA brothers and sisters in Christ react to this heartache. Isn’t it true that during times of trial and tribulation, persecution and grief, that God’s glory shines brightest in a people who are praising him through grief-stricken hearts?

On Sunday morning at our church, my heart pretty much melted inside me as I listened to one of our AA deacons who I love and respect so much, open the service in prayer and pray for our country and for the heartaches of this “standing congregation.” Mr. Green always praises God for answering the prayers of the saints and being near in times of trial, and calling us to draw closer to the God who gives breath, and knows every individual need and heartache. He always talks in terms of “us” because he understands that there is no Greek, or Jew or any distinction. He exudes faith and trust and hope, and I am instructed and strengthened every time he prays.

I’ve also appreciated the openness of many of my AA friends who are also bloggers and writers and pastor’s wives, who’ve encouraged dialogue and allowed hard questions to be asked without taking any offence. I’ve learned by watching their holy example.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve seen a lot of people on FB and social media asking what can be done? Where do you even start?

I’ve been praying about this all week. Of course, we want the Holy Spirit to lead in all that we say and do, so that’s where we need to start.

As you pray for guidance and a tender heart, I truly believe the Holy Spirit will guide you into the right course of action. Your assignment may be different from mine on a practical level, but the big picture will be the same: bring glory to God by loving all people well.

Here are a few of my “answers” after much prayer this week:

I’m praying that God would open my eyes to people who are overlooked, hurting, or disenfranchised–black or white.

I’m going to speak up and affirm those I love, rather than assuming that people know I care.

I’m starting with the people who God puts me into direct contact with physically/location-wise. I am more responsible to God for the people He providentially puts into my path today, than to those I’ve never met.

I’m talking to my kids about loving others well. I am responsible before God to train my kids to love others well, do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. You are responsible for your closest sphere of influence as well.

I’m listening to learn. We all have preconceived ideas and prejudices, don’t we, whether black or white? We all see life through our own lens. Listening and considering another person’s experience and point of view is how we build bridges instead of building walls.

Right Response

I’m praying that we would all respond righteously as we are each responsible for our own actions and reactions.

I’m praying that we’ll be quick to share the gospel of reconciliation. We know that there will never be peace on earth as long as sin reigns. This makes us long for heaven when all injustice will end and wrongs will be made right. People need the Lord.

We know that the behavior of the world is not necessarily the behavior of the saints. The church should be a little taste of heaven here on Earth with the unity of the saints a picture of what is to come. I’m praying that the church would love more and more and that we’d be the unified bride of Christ.

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

 

 

One little phrase that has helped me so much

I recently shared with a friend a tiny phrase that has been “revolutionary” to me. It’s pretty much changed my outlook on everything.

Although I’ve read this phrase many times before, somehow the truth of it took root several years ago and gave me such comfort and encouragement that God is aware of every detail of my life and I can trust Him and obey His Word with confidence.  It has helped me so much and I want to share it with you today.

"The Judge is at the door."

“The Judge is at the door.”

It’s in the book of James, chapter 5, after a lengthy discussion about what genuine faith looks like, and after multiple warnings against using our tongues to sin, chapter 5 gives us this encouragement to be patient with others and to stop grumbling:

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

Do not grumble, so that you may not be judged. Don’t assume the position of Judge by badmouthing people in your heart or under your breath or you’ll be judged–oh and by the way, the Lord is listening –He is standing at the door–and will act soon. So, watch your own words and don’t sin by complaining about others. This will give you less to answer for.

Here’s a mom-example:

Have you ever entered a room only to overhear the tail end of a “gripe-fest”? When the kids see mom, they stop, because mom has expectations and “griping” isn’t tolerated. Mom’s the “judge” in the house -and just her physical presence is reminder enough that bickering is off limits and she’ll punish those who disobey the family rules and injure others with their words.

This is the picture we have here.

The judge is standing at the door.

  • So no more complaining. Watch your words. Be careful of your heart, because Jesus will judge you and them.
  • No more two-faced speech, blessing God and cursing men because God is aware and will act.
  • No need to set the record straight or seek revenge, because Jesus is near and He will judge.

Even our unspoken words and the discontentment that lives in our hearts are known and seen by the Judge.  Motives are clearly seen as well. This realization should make us do some self examination.

This has helped me to ask,

  • Am I being obedient with my speech?
  • Do my words show the marks of a person with genuine faith?
  • Are my words laced with wisdom and goodness to everyone I come into contact with?
  • Am I justifying sinful speech because I feel I have a good reason to complain?
  • Am I living with the realization that God is near and real, or am I living as though He’s inconsequential and my action/words won’t have consequences?

When others lack integrity of speech, it can be tempting to complain in our hearts about their failures and recite their wrong doings over and over again in our mind. But this is unnecessary because their words have nothing to do with us, and everything to do with them–and God will judge them.

We don’t need to worry about injustices or past hurts because God sees and knows all of it and will judge righteously on our behalf.

For those of you who have been hurt by people who should have known better and who will never on earth apologize or admit fault because of their own pride, God will judge them. We can take comfort in the fact that He’ll do a just job of judging and we can give up that grudge and stop holding vengeance over that person’s head. God is God and He’ll do what is right.

“The judge is standing at the door” is also a reminder that we live for an audience of One. 

It’s an encouragement to speak with integrity because Jesus commands it. It propels us to love the unworthy and unlovely because God commands it.

Instead of murmuring about the difficult people in our lives, we are given the opportunity to practice patience with those who sin against us. God’s not done with them, and He’s actively teaching me through their undesirable action, to see if I’m going to obey and trust His word and leave the judgement to Him.

The judge is standing at the door– He expects me to obey. Isn’t this what genuine faith is all about? Living in the reality that God is really real and that He has expectations for my life? When I claim to be His follower, I am bowing my will and desires to His better path and plan? 

There’s comfort knowing that He’s in control, good, just, and He will judge.

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

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

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

So what’s going on?

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

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

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

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

Why do we go elsewhere again?

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

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

We all become like what we behold.

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

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

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

2 Cor. 3:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Advice from Elisabeth Elliot

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

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

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

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

advice

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

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

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

to chose the path of bitterness and resentment toward God.

Hear what Elisabeth says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE FROM ELISABETH ELLIOT:

Keep a Quiet Heart

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

 

 

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10 Helpful Lists to Remember from the Bible

Are you a list person? I tend to live my life by paper lists. Right now I have a grocery list, a wedding list, a thank-you card reminder list, a priority list, a hospitality list, a prayer list, and a vacation list in my planner. I write these things down so I can know where I want to go, remember to do what must be done, and ultimately, live by my ideals.

lists

The Bible has some very helpful “life lists” for us as well. They give us guidelines and boundaries.  They give us a vision for the future and cover almost every situation .They tell us when we are out of step with God’s will.

I shared one of these lists with a lady I recently counseled. She wanted help with a relational problem in her family and asked me for a book recommendation on the subject. After listening to her story, I shared one of my Life Lists with her. She didn’t need better communication skills and she didn’t need another how-to book. She simply needed to put into practice the simple truths of scripture. “Be ye kind…let no unwholesome speech come out of your mouth…love one another fervently…”

I’ve found this true in my own family.  No marriage book will strengthen our marriage if I blurt hurtful things to my husband or disrespect him.

A seminar won’t help interpersonal problems if you’ve held a grudge over someone’s head, dwelling on their offenses when Scripture commands us to forgive.

No mentor will help you become a gracious, thriving ministry wife if you are unloving or resentful to even just one of the people in your congregation. Loving others is not optional.

Lists help us gauge where we are headed and can help us anticipate outcomes and consequences. Wisdom would dictate that we take this seriously.

Here are 10 Lists that will help you and give you direction as you seek to grow in Christ-likeness.

If you want direction and an example of a life well lived, this list tells you the good deeds that qualify an older widow for church support:

having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. 1 Timothy 5:10

And if you want to know whether you are qualified to mentor others or if the mentor you are choosing is a wise choice, consider this:

teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Titus 2:3

If you want to know if your attitude is right toward another person:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Eph. 4:31,32

If you want to know if your actions and attitude are Spirit led:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.… Gal. 2:22,23

If you want to know if your actions are wrong, carnal, or fleshly:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.… Gal. 2:19-21

If you need to evaluate whether your love for another person is self-centered or Biblical:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Cor 13:4-7

If you need to identify and stop your wrong behavior:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity,passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice,slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices  and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Col.3:5-10

If you want to know what your daily wardrobe should look like:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Col. 3:12-14

If you need to know true wisdom vs earthly wisdom:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish.For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. James 3:13-17

If you want to know how to grow in godliness:

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.  2 Peter 5:7

Of course, there are many more. And let’s not forget that there are things we should never keep lists of:

  • the offenses of others against us
  • the failures that are behind, former things
  • worries about tomorrow

If you are struggling with one of these areas, write out these lists as a reminder and post it where you can see it often. It helps so much!

 

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