Covered by Love or Lies?

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Yesterday at church we focused on Colossians 3:1-17.  Now Colossians 3:1-3 are my life verses.  I often repeat them with my name in it.  They have deep meaning to me.  For I am not who I used to be–though some would like to say I am exactly who I used to be.  They are incorrect in their assessment.  And I refuse to shake hands with those kinds of statements.  How about you?

“Well, you know how ____ is….”

“_______ always is such a hypocrite.”

“I know ______, she is holier than thou.”

“_______ will never get her act together.”

I guess, I used to be.  Or maybe I gave the wrong perception or operated from the wrong motives. Even so, that is no longer who I am. When God looks at me, He sees me as His beloved child.  And there is nothing that can separate me from Him or His love.  I am covered by His love not the lies that some might slanderously speak over me.

In Colossians 3:1-17 you will notice that there are two kinds of lists–the list to take off and the list to put on, like clothing.  Read below, put your name in it and notice the two lists:

Since, then, ______, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For ______, you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your (_____’_)  life, appears, then you (_______) also will appear with him in glory.

______, put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived, _______. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, ______, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, ________, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, _________, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

OK, maybe you read it…maybe you skimmed.  Either way, go back and read it one more time, please.

What I want to put forth here, and doing so succinctly is this: For the put off list, notice that lying covers the behaviors here.  We can live this way and cover it with lies.  Whether we are believers or say we are, we cover with lies.  Or perhaps we are overt in our behavior.  That is absolutely true within our generation. But for the most part, I have witnessed and I have myself carried out this sort of covering, I act and then I cover with lies.

So do you. God says here, put this behavior off, like clothing that is no longer fitting.  The thing about clothing is that we have a choice about how we are clothed (You can read more about that here.). When it comes to spiritual-behavioral-emotional clothing, we choose it.

We can also choose to put it off–not making agreements with others who knew us then.  Right this second, we can be who we were made to be!  It happens by putting on the clothing in the verses above.  And what covers it?  It is covered by LOVE.

There is nothing and no one that can separate any of us from the love of Christ–no opinions or gossip or slander or judgement.  We are in Christ.  We are made in his image.  Now, let’s walk in WHO we are–we are His.  And you know what?  He has got you covered!! For He is LOVE–He is our covering!

Covered by His Love,

 

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Do You Really Want to Know?

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Is this conversation familiar to you?

“Hi!  How are you doing?”

“Fine, how are you?”

“Oh, I’m okay.”

“Good talking with you, have a good day.”

“Yeah, you too.”

How about this one? Seem familiar?

“I just heard what happened! I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Thank you, no, we are fine.”

“Well, if you can think of anything, please don’t hesitate to call me.”

Have you ever been one of the participants in such conversations? Do you feel like you have at least offered your help or showed some concern with either conversation?

I have, almost daily.

Part of my job is answering a customer service phone line. It’s unbelievable how many times the conversations start with, “Hi, how are you today?”  I can get pretty frustrated, because they don’t really want to know.  They don’t want to know that my ankles hurt so badly I can barely walk on them in the mornings, or that I didn’t sleep last night so I’m falling asleep at the keyboard now, or that my son just called and he really doesn’t want to go to school today and I have to somehow convince a 17 year old over the phone that he does in fact have to go to school, or that I have about 10 bills due that I have to figure out how to pay, or ……  I think you get the picture.

It’s programmed into us to ask insincere questions and respond with insincere answers.  It’s a canned response that we give without a second thought when we greet people.

But I wonder…what if we really asked because we really wanted to know how someone was doing or what we could really do for someone during a time of need?

I just had a friend ask me how I was doing. While I responded with a canned response, I also went on from there and had a moment of a real conversation with her. Her husband had recently had surgery, her father had recently passed away, her family was hurting in ways that I knew about, and she was about to become a grandmother. I could have chosen any number of things to show genuine concern because I am genuinely concerned about her. Even after she walked off I thought of her circumstances and prayed.

That’s what genuine concern does. It reaches out, it takes part, it lifts up, it encourages, it stands in the gap, it takes a moment and gives space for someone else’s tears. Genuine concern asks you a second time, while making eye contact, “How are you really doing?”

I was recently at an event that was emotional for me, but I tried to keep those emotions pressed down. I made it through the event just fine, but afterwards, as the place was clearing out, one of the workers asked me how I was doing. She knew the event was stressful for me. She knew that I had to revisit memories of recently lost loved ones.

I gave the canned response and continued to prepare to exit the building as quickly as possible. But I was stopped by this sweet lady taking my hands.

She stilled my busyness, touching me, forcing me to make eye contact and then she asked again, “How are you really?”

The tears came then because truthfully, I wasn’t okay.

In that moment, I found healing. Suddenly about 7 women surrounded me, all touching me somehow, all crying with me, all understanding completely without words the pain I was in. There was community in the truth.  There was a sisterhood that connected us, because none of us are as “fine” as we say.

It only lasted for a few moments, but I was forever changed. No longer can I give the canned response and no longer can I ask the question unless I really want to take time to find out how someone is.

Like the beggar outside the Temple…

Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon.  And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them —walking, leaping, and praising God.

Acts. 3:1-8 HCSB

The beggar wasn’t expecting anything other than what he had always been given…. little attention and little time. But Peter and John stopped, made eye contact, gave space to someone else’s need, and changed a life.

What if, instead of asking what we can do to help someone, we just show up with dinner one night? We knock on the door of a friend going through a rough time and offered to watch the kids while she takes a bath, do the dishes and put on a load of laundry? What if, instead of passing people by, we actually stopped and chatted with them, listening more than speaking? What if, we truly made space for other people in our schedule?

What if we just simply made eye contact and asked with a sincere heart,

“How are you really?”

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Cup O’ Courage Brimming with Blessing

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(Shared from April 2010 issue of Exemplify Magazine)

Imagine with me this scenario: you are preparing meals for an enemy, who has destined you and your extended family for the grave.  He is completely unaware that you are actually in the camp which he has already destined for death. In fact, his pride and joy at being invited not only once, but twice, to dine with you and your husband is immeasurable. He is both giddy and unassuming. So what do you prepare? Are you more or less likely to spend extra time caring about preparations for an enemy? How are you feeling about this whole situation?

This scenario is exactly what Queen Esther faced (you can read Esther’s story in its entirety here). She chose to prepare and fix two meals for her husband, who makes her feel less than confident, and for Haman, who has placed all Jews, including Esther, in mortal danger–and with his own money.

Queen Esther begins by asking her uncle Mordecai and all her people, the Jews, to fast from food and drink for three straight days–morning, noon and night.  On the third day, Esther initiates the preparations for the banquet she would host.

Her invitation to the king could easily have ended in death, depending on how he felt toward her at the time.  If he felt edgy that particular day, he easily could have sentenced his wife to die. But rather, he extended favor by putting forth his gold scepter.

The invitation is accepted by the king and Haman, so Esther begins to prepare the meal for her husband and her enemy. They sit to dine and the king asks Esther what she would like, even up to half his kingdom.  And Esther’s reply is that she want to do this all again tomorrow. She then prepares a second meal for her enemy.

Let’s now press the pause button…how did Esther feel about preparing the meal and sitting down with her enemy–twice? Did she make an extra effort to prepare or not?  Perhaps she thought of King David’s words in Psalm 23 (The Message), “I’m not afraid when You walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.  You serve me a six-course dinner, right in front of my enemies. You relieve my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.”

In courage, Esther issued the invitation. By courage, she prepared it. And clothed with courage from head to toe, Esther sits to sup with her enemy.

The ones she loved most had fasted for three days, as she had fasted herself, and the LORD infused wisdom and strength, wrapped in courage into this young woman named Esther. He showed her how and when to carry out each course of each meal.

I asked some friends to share about when they prepared a meal for an enemy and whether they prepared more carefully or less or the same. I also asked how they felt.

Here are their responses:

“Yes, I have a few times. I don’t think I prepared or decorated any differently but I do remember wondering if they might feel differently about me afterward. They didn’t, but it made me feel good to be serving them for His Name’s sake.”

“I worked extra hard, hoping to make some difference in their opinion of me.  I was uncomfortable at first, but as I began to pray, I felt God’s unexplainable peace. It did not change their opinion.”

“Knowing he was coming, and wanting to avoid any sort of negative comment and/or put down, caused huge anxiety and bitterness as I cleaned my home and ‘went all out’ preparing food I knew he favored.  It was never good enough, however, to escape scorn and ridicule…not enough salt, too much ‘this,’ not as good as my mother-in-law’s, ‘guess Judy didn’t teach you anything about cooking’ and the inevitable selfish comments and behavior. All of this from a man who professes to love the Lord and is a ‘religious church attender.’ During the time of preparation, I would be short-tempered, impatient, wanting everyone to be on top of things. By the time I sat down after hours of preparation I was usually unable to eat. I would brace myself for the comments and rude remarks directed at myself, my husband, my children, my mother-in-law. My focus would be defending my children and intervening if they became the target of his abuse.”

Can you imagine?  Have you ever felt this way before? It takes a God-infused wisdom and courage to face some people, doesn’t it?  Of course each of these scenarios did not leave their lives or their loved ones’ lives hanging in the balance.  Queen Esther’s real-life story is an extreme.

However, I believe, in reality, Esther planned more carefully, paying attention to every detail–perhaps she even listened to the advice of the head of the kitchen, as she listened to advice when she won her husband’s heart. And I believe she was not feeling angry at all.  Rather, I think the Spirit of God hovered over her as a guard. I believe she felt courageous and fully at ease. She was secure, confident and even quietly courageous–a God-infused response.

I want that in the face of my daily battles. I want to be quietly confident, courageous and secure in the face of my enemies.  I want to live God-infused every day, like it matters. I want to make quite a wave–affecting many– in light of the small drop of courage I release into the ocean of each day’s possibility. Don’t you?

Like Esther, we need to take our invitation to our enemy seriously, carefully and confidently–even courageously. It makes all the difference in a life, a day, a people and an eternity.

With that being said, here are two courses Esther may have chosen to prepare–rich foods, comfort foods, expensive foods, which call for careful, even tedious, steps in preparation. I think you will enjoy them!

Shrimp Scampi
3 T. butter
2 T. minced garlic
1 1/2 pounds peeled, de-veined shrimp
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 t. basil
1/2 t. oregano
1/8 t. thyme
1 1/8 t. Italian hot pepper flakes
2 egg yolks
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
2 T. finely minced parsley (optional)
12 oz. angel hair pasta (plus 2 more T. butter for pasta)

Melt butter in skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add shrimp and cook for one minute over medium-high heat, tossing with a wide spatula, until shrimp are bright pink all over. Do not overcook shrimp (makes them chewy). Add white wine and tomato sauce (still med-high heat) for one minute.

Turn heat down to medium-low. Add 1 cup of cream, basil, oregano, thyme and hot pepper flakes. Beat egg yolks with remaining cream and add to sauce., stirring until sauce is thickened. Do not boil. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Cook pasta according to package directions. Then drain and add 2 T. butter and stir.

Pour sauce over pasta and enjoy! Serves 4-6.

Chocolate Mousse
4 1/2 (1 ounce) squares semi-sweet baking chocolate
1/3 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
4 egg yolks
2 t. brandy flavoring (or 2 1/2 T. brandy)
3 c. heavy whipping cream
1 egg white

Melt chocolate over hot water in the top of a double boiler. Place water and sugar in small saucepan, cooking over medium heat until sugar is dissolved (stirring frequently). Pour melted chocolate into blender or food processor. Blend, slowly adding in sugar/water mixture. Continue, while adding egg yolks, one at a time. Add brandy flavoring. Process until smooth.

Set aside and let cool. In a separate large bowl, blend egg white and whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in cooled chocolate mixture with a spatula. Spoon into 8 individual serving dishes. Garnish with chocolate shavings. Chill 2 hours. Serves 8.

Be courageous!

 

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Bankrupt

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Lord, as I enter into Your Presence today, I am carrying so much that is weighing heavily on my heart. The reality of our choices and circumstances seem to have caused great consequences. It unearths in me the feelings I sorted through nearly three years ago, as we found that we had no other route, but bankruptcy.

And You carried us through.

We are nearly to the dismissal.

GOOD has come out of it.  Truly.

Yet, also bad. The feelings of shame and fear would like to creep back upon me, taking permanent residence. What we had hoped would happen (and still could, with a small glimmer of hope) has been derailed by the word on our file–Bankruptcy. Oh. Sigh!  And tears. Again on my face on the floor before You, asking for Your help, as we sift through the rubble of it.

Consequences, indeed!

Oh, but then, LORD?  I am reminded that I am not alone. All of our files that lay before You say BANKRUPT.  We are all empty and sinful.  We have all born this mark, as long as we are here in this planet, we are bankrupt.

Then, Jesus came!~

And He applied mercy and grace in abundance.

And He spoke on our behalf and bore the BANKRUPT title…for me and for you.

He stood in the gap and said, NO MORE!

No more shall this name be yours, child.

No more shall you stand still in terror.

No more shall your hands be tied in absolute defenselessness.

I AM your defense.

I BORE your sins.

I REMOVED them as far as the east is from the west.

And NO MATTER what consequences may come, I shall trump them and make them GOOD.

I LOVE YOU, CHILD. Rest in that.  Rest in me.  Come climb up on my lap. Let Me apply my thoughts to your thoughts (Isaiah 26:3) and show you a better way.

So I have been bowed low.  Yes.  And sometimes, it hits me afresh with grief.  But I am not alone in that grief.  Jesus shares it–and redefines it.  That is why we come into His Presence, daily, moment-by-moment.  There, and there only, may we experience the GREAT EXCHANGE. His death and resurrection for our sake makes a WORLD of DIFFERENCE in a day.

Amen.

 

 

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Do We Really Mean Til Death Do Us Part?

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When you married, you pledged that  you would stay together until death do you part.

Now I know many of you completely believed that then, and you still do today.

But other women are really struggling with this. They’re extremely lonely. They cry almost everyday. They’ve sought out counseling because the marriage is so difficult. They’re worried about their kids.

They want a new start at life, where no one is telling them what to do, criticizing them, or perhaps worse, ignoring them. I know some women who have prayed for their husbands to have affairs so that they would have biblical justification in leaving him. And I have talked to other women who have said that they find the whole affair justification strange, because having a one night stand is not nearly as bad as what her husband does to her on a daily basis, but her friend with a husband who had a fling can leave, and she can’t. It doesn’t seem fair.

No, it doesn’t. But here’s the thing: God never promised it would be. I really struggle with the idea that divorce is off limits when I talk to some of these women, because I truly feel for them, and I truly do think their husbands are horrible.

However, just because your marriage is horrible is not justification for ending it. One Christian writer I know well told me that she left her husband because he had violated his marriage vows to love her. He had an anger problem, and even though he wasn’t abusive, he was often angry and sullen, and demanded sex all the time. She felt that the Christian view of marriage was “oneness”. We have been made one, we treat each other with respect and love, and God intended for us to be connected. When that hasn’t happened, as in her case, then you’re justified in leaving.

I don’t believe this. Yes, God intended marriage ideally to be a certain way, but He never says anywhere in Scripture that if the ideal is not met we are welcome to violate our vows. When you marry, you make a vow before God. God takes that seriously. I don’t think we understand that because we live in a society where fulfillment and happiness are the prime goals. To continue in a relationship which drains your spirit rather than fills it seems like a sin in and of itself.

But for whatever reason, God made marriage this way. He gave only a very narrow excuse for leaving, and even then, He doesn’t command us to leave. He just leaves the door open, should we choose to do so. God wanted relationships to be permanent, even if they are far from perfect. Commitment matters. Stability matters.

Why? Because when we commit, we teach our children to commit. We create a society that is based on grace rather than performance. We leave room for God to work. We learn to rely on God in our hard times, rather than thinking another person can fill our voids. We learn to compromise, to accommodate, to give. We become less selfish.

And perhaps there’s a bigger reason. How about, quite simply, because God said so. That is what I am teaching my kids about their future marriages: you stay married because God said so. You don’t look for a way out. Divorce is so hard on kids, even when that divorce is justified. It usually leaves one or the other of you down the wrong path. I have seen divorces occur in my family where one of them became promiscuous and alcoholic after the divorce, which likely would not have happened had they stayed together, because they had stability. Take that stability away and everything falls apart. Marriage increases holiness, even if the husband appears petty, mean, or clueless.

The question becomes, then, “If God wants me to stay, then how am I going to manage it? What can I do to make my life bearable?” And that’s a good question to ask, because it forces us to go to God. It forces us to ask Him to be our peace. It also forces us to confront the real issues in our marriage and make an honest stab at fixing them, whether it means counseling, or a lot of prayer, or persistence.

I don’t think it’s easy. When these women in hard situations come to me, I want to say, “You’re right. You should leave.” Their husbands don’t deserve them. But I can’t say that, because I just don’t think it’s true biblically.

Here’s a bit of encouragement, though. In large scale studies of marriages, they have found that couples who split were less likely to be happy five years later than people who stayed together, even if their marriages were equally miserable. And even better, 78% of couples who had miserable marriages rated their marriages as wonderful five years later. The act of committing to riding it out made them happy. So if you’re going through a rough time, it likely will not always be like this. And no matter what, God is there to help you, to heal you, to comfort you, and to change you (and minister to him). If you’re miserable, throw yourself on Him. Wrestle with Him. He can take it. And ask Him to provide you with an escape from your misery–even if that escape is actually within your marriage!

Sheila writes more about marriage at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog! (http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com). She loves great conversations about how we can strengthen family and make this world resemble God’s heart. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, will be out in January with Zondervan.

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2008

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I wrote this post on my personal blog in January, 2009. The reason I share it with you today is that I want to encourage and comfort those of you who are enduring a trial.

As you will see as you read this post, 2008 was a horrible year for me. To be completely honest, 2009 wasn’t too hot either. But here we are in 2011, and I can honestly tell you that God has been faithful. He has brought us through. Life is not perfect (never will be this side of Heaven), but in 2008, I honestly felt that I would never smile again or have a reason to be happy. If there is one thing you take away from this post, I pray it is that God truly does work all things together for our good. Don’t give up no matter what you are going through. Keep your eyes on Him, trust Him with all your heart. Let Him hold your heart. He will not let you down.  

Humanly speaking, 2008 kicked my butt.

I can honestly say it was one of the worst years of my life. If the problems of the past year only involved me, I would be able to share more; but there are other people involved and it is their story, too. I don’t have their permission to write about it. Someday I hope to be able to speak more freely, but it probably won’t be for a very long time.

I hesitated about writing what might be perceived as a negative post, because I don’t want to come across as whiny, complaining or that I am begrudging anyone who had a fantastic 2008. Yet, I want to be honest and authentic here.

And I also want to share what God has been doing in my life in the midst of the problems and the pain. I want God’s faithfulness, love, and care to shine in bright contrast to the darkness last year had brought to me. So if I gloss over the hard parts, or merely say, 2008 was a really hard year, you would be missing part of the magnitude of God’s goodness to me in 2008.

There have been nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep and days where it took all I had not to fall apart at work, or in line at the grocery store, or when some well-meaning person would ask, “How are you?”. I learned that my car is a great place to cry and to pray out loud when I want to be absolutely sure no one can hear me but God.

Some of the problems of ’08 have lessened in severity, some have morphed into new problems, and some have improved. In some cases, the only thing that’s changed is my perspective because of what God is doing in my life through all of this. None of the problems has an easy fix or look like they will be going away just because we bought a new calendar. Obviously, these are not the first problems I have had to deal with in my 44 years of life, but they have had a different intensity than the others.

I have been a Christian since I was 9 years old. I have tried to walk with God and serve Him and love Him ever since.  I don’t know if what we’ve been dealing with this year has been a refining by God or a sifting by Satan. One thing I do know is this: even when life seems out of control, God is in control and I can choose to trust Him or I can give in to despair.

I choose to trust.

I trust that God is the almighty Creator of the universe. I trust that He loves me and has a plan for me. His plan is to work all these things for good in my life and to use them to make me more like Jesus. These same things are true for every member of my family. He loves them much more than I do and He wants so much more than I can even ask or imagine for them. He wants that for each of us and for you, too.

My nature tends to be one that wants to fight against the problems, to expend a lot of emotional energy lamenting over the fact that there are problems, and yearning strongly for the time they will go away. I can’t do that in this case. I have had to accept this state of affairs and not try to fix everything, because I can’t fix them; but I am learning how to manage them with Jesus’ help.

I liken it to having a chronic disease that may or may not be cured. You still have to live your life, but you make accommodations for the disease and go through certain measures to care for yourself. With my “disease”, the measures are staying close to Jesus through prayer, reading His word, worshiping Him, and seeking Godly counsel.

Henri Nouwen described it like this:

When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains … those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described it like this in Romans 5:1-5

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

So, I choose to ask God to help me rejoice in whatever suffering I may endure in this life.

And I choose to hope.

Not just hope the way a person may hope for a raise at work, or hope to go on vacation this summer, or hope that their problems will just go away. No, my hope is in something, Someone more sure.  My hope is in Jesus Christ.

Again, it is Paul who wrote in 2 Timothy 1:12 “… Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day”.

What have I entrusted to him for that day? Everything. My life, my salvation, my family. He’s got it all and there is no better place to entrust it all.

So, what have I learned in 2008 that shines so brightly in stark contrast to what we’ve been dealing with?

  • I am not in control. God is. And that is infinitely better.
  • God loves me no matter what. I am not defined by my circumstances. I am defined by my position as a child of God. Period.
  • God’s will is to conform me and all His children into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is using this trial to do that.
  • I have grown closer to God and clung to Him more tightly that I would have if 2008 been a super fantastic year.
  • I have grown closer to my husband. A lot of time stresses can drive a couple apart, but God has used this to bring us closer. Quite the silver lining, I would say.
  •  I have been reminded that this life is not all there is. As a Christian, my eternal home is in Heaven, as it is the rest of my family’s. Even if these problems don’t get resolved here on earth (which would be due to human stubbornness, not God’s lack of faithfulness) they will be resolved in Heaven.

I’m not crying myself to sleep as much anymore, but when I do find myself struggling to hold it together, I know it’s because I have allowed my perspective to shift back to my circumstances and away from the Prince of Peace who is the ultimate Comforter.

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The Gospel and Generosity

Hand Reaching

…when justice for the poor is connected not to guilt but to grace and to the gospel, this “pushes the button” down deep in believer’ souls, and they begin to wake up.  – Tim Keller Generous Justice

I have been reading recently books and articles on the subject of justice and helping the poor.  It has come out of a desire to understand the church universal’s role biblically in the face of a cultural mindset that seeks the answers in government institutions.  I have wrestled with what I think about that – I want to know what the right course of action is – thus the readings.

But I have also found in me a desire to be more generous on a personal level.  One would think that two years on the mission field in Peru, working with some of the poorest in the world, I would have a a heart of generosity.  Unfortunately, the opposite happened – as a result of my experience in Peru, I found myself hard, calloused and cynical.  How could that be?  Well…

I forgot the gospel.

I forgot how poor I am.

I was offended by the bad behavior some of the poor would use to get what they needed.

I wanted them to be honest and grateful and, in some way, earn my generosity.

I forgot that I am just like they are.

Poor in spirit.  Poor in heart.  Self-protecting.  Self-justifying.  I will do whatever I need to do to get what I think I need.

I also am poor – not in the same way – but poor nonetheless.

Tim Keller, in his little gem of a book, Generous Justice, calls believers to consider those suffering poverty and injustice,  just as God considered us – as  poor and in need.  As Jesus so eloquently states to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”(Luke 5:31-32)  It is because we were shown generosity from God the Holy One, condescending, becoming “poor” in more ways than just taking on flesh, in order to rescue us from the slavery of sin and death, that we would overflow with grace and generosity for others, especially those who are suffering day to day, moment to moment, just to survive without basic needs.  Not out of guilt, as the quote above suggests.  Not out of legalism – we HAVE to love the poor because that’s what we are supposed to do.  Not out of a political agenda that seeks to manipulate the weak for it’s own uses.  Not out of a feeling of superiority – pride – I’m so good I even look after the poor….

We do it because we know that we are just the same.  There are many ways to be poor.  Our Lord Jesus became poor in every way that one can – financially, relationally, physically, and yes, even spiritually – that He might raise us up with him in glory.  It is the gospel that enables us to do the same for one another of mankind.

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The One Thing Needed

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While making homemade pretzels one day, after the dough had risen and I separated it into several pieces, the directions informed me to let the dough rest. Do you know why? Because if it was stretched into a pretzel at that point, it would simply break. It needed to rest. Do you see where I’m going with this?

So once it had rested, I was able to stretch and mold the piece of dough into a nice, long snake that I could then fold into a pretzel.

Rest is vital if you want to grow. It just is. There are times when you feel like you are being stretched in a million directions and you are about to snap. BEFORE you even get there, rest. Rest and let yourself be resting. Put away the to-do list. Put away the things that you want to accomplish. And for a time, rest in God’s Presence.

With a Bible, you may ask? Well, if you want. But you see, it’s not about accomplishment or checking off your “I read the Bible today” box. It’s about rest in His Presence. And that rest? It comes in many forms-prayer, praise, crying out, letting His Word soak into your rest in Him or even silence.

It’s like a Mama here in town who read Psalm 91 over and over, as her 5 year old daughter was in ICU. She was resting, abiding. There’s not a box that said read Psalm 91, so you can accomplish something. She chose to rest in the LORD’s ability.

Do not let yourself get to the point where you have gotten so tightly wound that if you were stretched, you would break. Sometimes, you need to just pull it all in and rest. Regroup. Prepare. Restore. Rewind, even. Our culture has trained you to accomplish.

What if I whispered really loudly over the wires here: accomplishment is NOT the goal! Walking with God does not mean that you will accomplish much. It will mean that you accomplish BEST-and that may be one thing that He is preparing you for right now, but you are too busy about the many things.

Are you resting today? Dwell in His Presence. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will REST in the Shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1 Yes, rest.

And if you will, pray for those who are hurting so badly in ICU this day. May God wrap His arms ’round about them. (Yes, Katie, I am thinking of you!)

 

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His Interests

Man giving woman gift.

The other day, my husband was sitting at the computer looking at motorcycle stuff. Exhausts….helmets…handlebars…..you name it. Our oldest son saw something he wanted me to see and began with the, “Mom, look! Look!”.  Before I could even reply, my husband answered him. She doesn’t care. Our son asked again, and again, before I could reply, my husband chimed in with the same answer- She doesn’t care.

I would have been upset by his refusal to let me answer, but something else stopped my dead in my tracks.  The small trace of what I detected as rejection and hurt in my husband’s tone. Honestly, it surprised me. I mean, he is right, I really don’t care about motorcycle stuff, but I guess I thought I had hidden my indifference a little better. I didn’t think my lack of interest mattered to him.

But it did.

It does.

While I don’t make motorcycle parts a priority in my life, I should make my husband and his interests, and let’s be straight here, that is a choice sometimes. A choice to remember that when he invites me along to help fill deer feeders with corn or set up game cameras, he is wanting to spend time with me. When he asks me to look at exhaust or handlebars, or when he wants to talk UFC, he is relating to me not as the woman who cooks and cleans for him, but as his friend. Who doesn’t want that from her husband? Isn’t their attention and time things we, as wives, most desperately long for?

Would you like to know something else? Sure you would….

Not only did his reaction surprise me, but it also caused an ache in my heart. A hurt which was a direct result of the knowledge that I had hurt him. I felt bad for it. I was remorseful about it. I don’t want him to think I don’t care about him or his hobbies.

While I don’t see myself climbing aboard the bike anytime soon, I do see a shift in my attitude and my actions about it. I can take the time to stop and share in my husband’s hobbies. I can choose to be interested instead of flippant when he desires to include me in them.

What about you? Are there areas where your husband’s interests have been put on the back burner? Would he echo my husband’s statement that you don’t care? What would his tone tell you?

If the answer is yes, then join me in re-prioritizing today. Join me in esteeming our husbands above others – people, chores and things. Let us each be as intentional about cultivating the friendship we have with our spouse as we would be with new friend from church, work or school.

He is worth the time.

He is worth the effort.

Our marriage will be the better for it.

*To put a disclaimer at the end, if his hobbies (or yours for that matter) are causing marital strife or are not godly in nature, please seek biblical counsel about how to address those situations. Please don’t climb on board with activities that are detrimental to your marriage and yourselves. If you need prayer, let us know.

 

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