Take Courage Where God Has Called You

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

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

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

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

Why entertain…I’ll never be Ina Garten.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joshua 1:9

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

Matthew 28:20

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

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

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

 

Weekend Edition

This weekend I’m sharing a few links that I think you’ll enjoy, so grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.

I’ve been doing all the planning that comes with another school year: meal plans, curriculum choices, Bible study plan, etc, so it feels good to get some of that out of the way.

Food-wise, as soon as the weather gets crisp, I want to start making soup. I make it once a week because it’s usually frugal and it gives me an excuse to eat French bread and makes plenty for easy lunch leftovers. Rebekah was asking for some of my favorite soup recipes, so I thought I’d post them here as well.

Some great soups online::

Garlicky White Bean Soup with Greens via Nourishing Gourmet: This is so inexpensive to make and it’s delicious…and I don’t even care for bean soups usually.

Tortellini Sausage Soup via Gooseberry Patch: This soup is present at nearly every fall family gathering we have. It’s so good served with Caesar Salad and bread.

Cream of Pumpkin and Apple Soup via Wilson Farms. I love the sweetness of this soup. I’ve used canned pumpkin before with great results. Wilson Farms is a beautiful, New England farm and Lynn Wilson has a wonderful cookbook that is one of my go-tos.

Zucchini Cheddar Soup via Wilson Farms: Cheesy and delicious.

These are all family favorites. Let me know if you try them and how you liked them.

What I’m reading right now:

Keeping House: A Litany of Everyday Life. This is a book I return to when I need a little home making inspiration. It’s not a book that will guilt you into becoming a better homemaker. It’s one of those books that reminds you of the why behind what you do. It talks of the necessity of sheltering, clothing, and feeding the people we love the most. It connects the duties of home to Kingdom work and most importantly, it shows how it mirrors God’s watch care over us.

Favorite quotes:

“Housework is all about feeding and clothing and sheltering people who, in the absence of that daily work, would otherwise be hungry and ill-clad and ill-housed.”

She discusses how our culture spends more and more money on kitchen gadgets and cookware, while fewer people actually cook and eat at home. She discusses seasons and rhythms of life and likens them to homemaking and faithfulness.

kitchen

 

“Putting away things that get daily or weekly use is a way to exercise a kind of providential foresight. Having clothes ready to wear in the drawer or in the closet is part of creating an expectation that in this home we care for one another. Our needs are not a perpetual emergency but are anticipated and provided for ahead of time.”

“A well-kept house thus possesses a kind of sacramental quality. It is no substitute for either the kingdom of God or the church. But it is a kind of foretaste of the kingdom. A nurturing and hospitable home can be a reminder that God has always been in the business of making a home for people, that God desires that people should have the food and clothing and shelter associated with home, that one day our tattered and partial provision of these things for one another will be gloriously supplanted by God’s perfect provision of shining robes and a sumptuous feast in God’s own house.”

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And one of my favorite quotes:

“A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone.”

While I do have a few qualms with the book and she doesn’t write from a conservative Christian perspective, the book is extremely valuable.

The Blessing of Humility by Jerry Bridges was published posthumously and is, not surprisingly, a blessing like his other works.  He starts with the premise that humility is the second most frequently taught character trait in the New Testament, second only to love, but is a trait that is hardly pursued or celebrated. He argues that humility is not optional, but a command of God which is enabled by grace to those who are born again. He goes through each of the Beatitudes and shows how each verse (poor in spirit, mourn over sin, peacemaker) reflects the qualities of the humble person.

A few favorite quotes:

“Instead we too often use the Scriptures not as a means of judging ourselves but as a means of judging others, especially those whose sins are more flagrant than ours. The meek person, in contrast, searches the Scriptures (or listens to it taught) not to judge others but to allow the Holy Spirit to judge him or her. In fact, the meek person earnestly desires the Spirit to use His Word to effect a deep change in his or her inner being.”

“It is often the sinful use of our tongues that causes conflict. But the tongue is only the instrument. The real problem is the heart, for Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) It is because of pride, anger, jealousy, and the like in our hearts that we speak cutting and hurtful words to one another. And it is because we nurse hurts from other people and harbor resentment in our hearts that we engage in verbal conflict.

To become peacemakers, then, we must begin with our selves. We must ask ourselves, “Why do I make cutting remarks to another person? …What causes my resentment toward that person? or “Why do I continue to nurse hurts by that person instead of forgiving them?”

I could go on…it’s Jerry Bridges and he was truly one of my favorite authors. I’m so thankful for his ministry of teaching via writing.

Sermon on the Mount by Jen Wilkin is an inductive Bible Study that covers the Beatitudes. Like all of her studies, it has been excellent. If you’ve never done an inductive Bible Study, this is a great place to start.

Jen defines a meek person as “enduring injury with patience and without resentment” …and as “someone who is not occupied with self at all, someone who does not insist on a set of rights.”

Highly recommend. In fact, I’m doing this with my teen girls this fall.

What books are you reading right now? Let me know in the comments.

Links you might enjoy:

Gossip Says More About Me via Desiring God.

Community Requires Vulnerability via Christine @ Grace Covers Me

The Ministry of Your Everyday Normal by We Are That Family

Blessed Weakness by Lydia Brownback

Projects:

I’m in the thick of choosing paint colors for several rooms in my house. We’re beginning repairs soon, and I have to have my ducks in a row for the builder. I’ve been on Pinterest searching for a great greige color. If any of you has found a warmish greige color that you really love, let me know the color in the comments or on FB. Thanks. :)

Well, that’s about it. I hope you have a GREAT weekend.

*Post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks for supporting JoyFilled Days.

 

A Word About Enforcing Obedience

The human heart pulses with the desire for self-rule.

Every fiber of our natural being is bent toward autonomy and self-sovereignty. We don’t naturally want to bow to the Lordship of Christ, and even after we’ve trusted Christ, our old selfish nature fights against God’s new standard for us: submission to Him.

Truthfully, the flesh hates to submit to anyone. We get really uppity when our will is crossed or people question us. I don’t like it when Peter questions why I keep the water bottles in this drawer or why I don’t crush my boxes before I put them into the trash bin. When he tells me that I should use this curriculum instead of that one {the one that I researched for a gazillion hours and where were you again during that process??} I can feel that old self, that defensive self, rising up claiming its right to rule the world, and I have to force it back down under the rule of Christ.

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

The rubber meets the road in the oddest places and over the smallest issues sometimes, doesn’t it? Water bottles, recycling, and curriculum?

Even in small matters, God’s will must super-cede our whims and wishes. God wills that I submit to others in areas of preference, and He wills that I submit to my gentle husband.

And unless we choose to bow to God’s will in the small, insignificant moments, taking drastic measures to cut out selfishness and self-seeking– measures that include repentance and turning from the wrong way into the path of obedience,

and unless the grace of God shines in and prompts us towards a serious pursuit of humility,

we’re going to fumble and fight our way through this life, hurting people, sacrificing relationships on the alter of our own ego, burning bridges, cutting off those who cross us, and elbowing our way to our perceived top.

kids

So every morning, my job is to de-throne Sarah and re-throne Christ to His rightful place, as Master and Lord. This is seriously hard business.

SO, where am I going with this?

Well, I often talk to frustrated mothers who are dealing with disobedient children, and they can’t seem to see that their sweet child is struggling with the same old temptation we all face: the submission issue. The child wants what the child wants. End of story.

And honestly, the mother is not dealing with this situation well. They’ve gotten into a battle of the wills and the child is driving her crazy and she resents all the TIME it takes to parent this out-of-control child. She’s frustrated, so she takes action. Nobody will accuse her of being a passive mom. She’s armed with Ephesians 6:1 and she uses it like a boss. She sets out to enforce first time obedience and nobody better cross her. She uses threats or promises to control the child’s behavior. She begins to expect outward compliance. She uses punishments and rewards to get a desired behavior. Her moods are all over the place. She snaps in an effort to control. She yells.

Obedience has become the end-all and she’s ruled by that desire.  And this is where it all goes terribly wrong.

To be clear, the desire for kids to obey is a good desire, but it’s not the ultimate goal and it’s abusive to use ungodly methods to get your child there.

In fact, dear mom, more important than your child obeying you is YOU OBEYING CHRIST. Your authority only comes from Him and He has put you in this place to represent Him.

You are His ambassador and your authority has boundaries. You can’t rule any old way you’d like to. You’ll answer to God for your treatment of His kids.

Your authority must be reflective. It MUST reflect Christ. It should bring the child face to face with the Father’s character. It should hold the child’s hand and say, “I’m dealing with you this way because this is how God is.” “God says we all must obey His word, and this behavior is not in His will for you. We can’t bite and hit and hurt others. We must be kind.”

So when mom is not under the authority of Christ and is ruling like a CRAZY–

You are portraying a false image of Christ to your child and undermining all that you are setting out to do. You’re marring the image of Christ and portraying Him as a moody, silent, manipulative, angry, frustrated, or exasperated taskmaster. And you’re harming your child’s soul. (hardening it as well.)

I know parenting is hard. I know it is. But we make it harder when we don’t submit to God’s will for our life  because we’re locked and loaded on one aspect of our kid’s life. 

There’s a lot about training kids online, but if we would just submit ourselves to Christ, our authority issues won’t become central. No, showing your child Christ becomes central.

If you’ve asked your kids to obey for all the wrong reasons, or if your heart’s motivation was all wrong–GO AND TELL THEM and ask them to forgive you. Tell them that you have an authority problem–a problem as old as Eve– and you’ve used that authority in ways that displeases and misrepresents God. Tell them that yelling, manipulating, and the silent treatment are all just adult selfishness and sin.

And tell them that you are working on trying to be a mother that obeys God just as much as they are working to try to obey you, for Christ’s sake.  Tell them that we are all under the authority of the Word of God and none of us can live the way we want.

Then repent of your wrong reasons for enforcing discipline in the home and remember that your number one job as mothers is to teach our kids to glorify and honor God’s Word and to point them to God by reflecting His nature.

Life is simpler when we follow Christ first. Only then can we lead our kids to Christ.

 

 

A few ways that mid-life is better than being 20-something.

We live in a culture that worships youth and all that goes with it. Advertisers daily remind me that I need anti-aging creams and miracle fixes to make my middle age wrinkles re-wind the clock and bring me back to a better time and look.

And although I do have a few aches and pains that I didn’t have five years ago, there are aspects of mid-life that have given me perspective that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Mid-life has been surprising, I’ll admit. We took in a 2 year old foster boy the same year our oldest daughter got engaged to be married. That’s something I never would have predicted.

Still, there are aspects of mid-life that are better than when we were young, and I thought it would be fun to share that today.

couch

Personally & Spiritually::

When you are 40 something, you know who you are. You know your limitations and quirks. You know what you believe and why. Experience is your friend and time has been your teacher. This gives you wisdom to know what is worth pursuing and what is a waste of your time. You know when to walk away from a toxic relationship and you feel freedom to do it and you know when a toxic relationship is redeemable. You value time and relationships and realize that life is short and people are where you should invest. Money, fame, health, power all fade. Love stands forever. You know and appreciate that people come from all different places and that we respect other people not because they deserve it or not, but because we are respectable. You understand the love of God more each year and it causes you to grow in humility and compassion, thankfulness, and dependence.

Motherhood::

Mid-life motherhood means raising teens and adults and there’s a fundamental shift in the relationship. It’s easy to think of toddlers as your babies, but teens are full-fledged people with likes and dislikes and hearts that struggle with fear, people pleasing, idolatry, and sin in general just like their mother and father. Mid-life mothering is more friendship/discipleship based and it’s wonderful. My adult kids are truly such wonderful friends. And as much as I can guide and encourage them to follow hard after God, I have to remember that God wants this more than I do and He is able to shape them, convict them, teach them, correct them and love them when they go the wrong way or love the wrong things too much.

You sleep less because you’re up watching late night movies, or waiting for them to get home for curfew. And sleep evades you because teen problems are bigger than potty training and tantrums. Late night thoughts remind you that you were not the perfect parent and that all of your sincerest attempts were woefully short and your motives were often askew at best and sinful at worst and you beg God to be the Father and Mother that you wish you could have been and you learn to pray for your children like never before.

Friendships::

Mid-life friendships are the sweetest. You’re mature enough to appreciate other people’s gifts and talents without being threatened by them. You are realistic in your expectations and you have grown up enough to know that life is not all about you and you stop taking everything personally. You know that anything someone does or says is a reflection on them alone, not you, and you just worry about yourself.

You aren’t as needy as you were in your 20’s so you don’t expect your friends to fulfill you, be there all the time for you, or never let you down. You’re not jealous when friends get together without you {GASP} because you know that life happens and time is precious and you want good things for your friends by this point. You believe they want good things for you, too. You know that even the best people will fail you and that this is why grace in your interactions is the only way for relationships to thrive.  We don’t have time for drama, and we don’t mind walking away from it. We know who we are, we have nothing to prove, and it makes us much more comfortable to be with. We prioritize our time to be with women who make walking with God a priority as well.

Hospitality::

Mid-life hospitality is more comfortable and focused. It’s less about entertaining than ever, although I love sharing a great cheese platter or simple appetizer.  Life is busy, so any chance to minister “in house” is always welcome. Come by. If my hair is a mess, I’ll let you in and pour you some tea. If I’m making dinner, I’ll hand you a knife and you can peel my cucumbers with me. I’ll listen as you talk about life and struggles and I’ll pray with you over store-bought cookies. I’ll offer advice when I’m asked, but my goal is to encourage you, not fix you. We can both admit our faults and thank God that He’s patient with both of us and in control of our lives and have a wonderful time resting in that knowledge.

Ministry::

Mid-life ministry is easier because there’s less trying to do everything and more listening to what God wants you to do in the first place. You value your time in the Word like never before and you read to know God, not simply to know the facts or to be a wealth of information. You value the amazing and forgotten ministry of prayer because you realize that God does answer and that intercession is one of the kindest gifts you can give another person.

There’s more humility which means fewer people problems. You realize that all ministry is God’s work and He doesn’t care so much what I do but how I do it.  He cares about how you treat His sheep.  My main job in ministry is to be an example of a woman who fears the Lord, and this will open up more opportunities to serve than I could ever handle. There’s a sense that every ministry trial is a test of my obedience and humility before God and really, nothing else matters.

Mid-life has also afforded me more opportunities to write and speak, but I can take them or leave them. I don’t look to them for validation and I don’t need people to look to me, answer to me, or respect me at all.

Ministry life is about service and loving one another. When problem people arise, I try to understand what makes them tick and help them get busy doing something that makes them feel valued. When people fail you in the church, you realize that no matter who they are, they are responsible for their sin and it’s not a reflection on you even if they are antagonistic, accusatory, odd, unkind, or territorial with you. They own their sin–you own your responses. When you are satisfied in Christ, it doesn’t matter what your job is. You’re working for Him and you’ll always have Him. You have everything you need for your happiness and holiness.

 

I’d love to hear what you’ve learned as you’ve aged. Feel free to tell me in the comments or on FB.

Thanks for coming by, friends. I appreciate you.

 

Weekend Edition

My daughter got married last weekend, so this week has been purposefully quieter for me. I scheduled large chunks of time to catch up on my rest, read, go to the beach with the family, “do lunch” several times in Plymouth, and spend time with a few friends. We also had dinner company several times this week which is always fun and we celebrated my daughter, Emily’s 21st birthday with outings and shopping and lunch and good cake. It was just such an enjoyable week.

This week, we’re back to our normal pace–driving kids to work, play dates, errands, mentoring two younger women, getting ready for another homeschooling year–  but I feel refreshed and up to whatever God calls me to do.

Today, I thought I’d share a few pics from our week and a few links to resources that might refresh and encourage you.

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A little blurry from my iPhone but...

A little blurry from my iPhone but…

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12" skim of water and it's perfect for a toddler.

Beautiful beach at low tide. The kids love wading in the 12″ skim of water and it’s perfect for a toddler.

Delish appetizer at Anna's Harborside in Plymouth.

Delish appetizer at Anna’s Harborside.

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Really enjoying this book. Love reading about Muller’s prayer life.

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

My hydrangea tree is in full bloom so my mantle will always have blooms. :)

Have you read Delighted in God, the story of George Muller? He is famous for ministering for years and never taking a salary, but trusted God to provide for his needs through prayer.

“For George Muller, putting Biblical prayer principles into practice resulted not only in spectacular answers, but also a growth in an attractive personal holiness. Those who knew him spoke of a ‘smile which so habitually lit up his eyes and played over his features that he left its impress on the lines of his face’. And although he relished a joy which was wholesome and free from malice, nobody was inclined to engage in idle chatter in his presence. They sensed he walked with God.”

I was greatly encouraged to see the ever-important tool of Christian hospitality used to influence the life, ministry, and ideals of George Muller.  In Muller’s early years, as he was still figuring out what God wanted for him to do, he attended a church meeting and was greatly moved by one of the preachers. He said that he didn’t agree with everything the minister said, but he was struck with his earnestness. After the church service, he inquired about the pastor, and the pastor invited him to stay with him for ten days in his home. Mueller recorded, “Through the instrumentality of his brother the Lord bestowed a great blessing upon me, for which I shall have cause to thank Him throughout eternity.” It is said that this man’s 10 day hospitality influenced and shaped Mueller’s ministry.

I Thessalonians 2 talks about Paul’s ministry to the Thessalonians how he had the gospel in the forefront of his mind as he “was among them”, and how he modeled the way to live by his gentle, non-demanding demeanor that wasn’t out for self-glory, and how he was ready to not only share the gospel message, “our own selves.” 

I don’t know about you, but the women who have influenced me the most are the ones who spent time with me and talked through issues and life with me.

If you really desire to disciple anyone, it can’t be from an arms length distance. It’s not when you’re “not busy” or when it’s “convenient.” You don’t talk “at them.” It’s side-by-side, walking through life, giving of your time, so they can see your actions, reactions, traditions, lifestyle, and demeanor. And obviously, a godly lifestyle is the great qualifier for being an effective mentor. Someone who is full of great opinions or strong preferences but who lacks a godly testimony is not helping the cause of Christ. They’re actually making it look bad.

I know I’ve said this before, but your home is the perfect place to minister for the gospel and to encourage younger women to persevere and trust God. It’s one of the most underused tools in the church today and I was blessed to see how influential it was in the life of young George Muller.

Other links you might enjoy::

20 Things Every Married Woman Needs to Know via Joy Forney

This video from Dare for More Ministries on How to Deal with personal attacks.

Stop Saying “I Feel Like”

How Maintainers, Not Innovators, make the world turn.

To Spiritually Float is to Dangerously Drift

That’s about it. Have a great weekend. Let me know what articles you enjoyed and share them with us on our Facebook page or in the comments.

*Post contains Amazon Affiliate Links

 

 

Four Ways to Thrive Spiritually

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

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

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

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

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

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

bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep an eye on your own heart.

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

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

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

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

Thoughts on love as my daughter gets married

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

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

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

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

But love is pretty simple.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jen then contrasted love with hate:

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

 

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

You tell her to live out the Golden Rule.

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

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

But that’s not it at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be proactive with kindness.

Do the thing you’d love done to you.

Matthew Henry says this:

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

And Calvin says this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our expectations are deflated when real life sets in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, yeah…

A few questions about servant hood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humility means dying to self.

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

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

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

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

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

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

When you are disappointed in your situation,

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, friends!

 

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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.”

 

 

Let’s End Parental Condemnation and Public Shaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are limited.

We aren’t all knowing or all seeing.

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

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

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

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