I have to admit I have become quite a hermit on the weekends beginning with my husband’s influence and ending in my newfound habit of needing alone time. However, this weekend was filled with people. I started on Friday spending time with my mom and going to see my Uncle Tip in the hospital. He is really sick and is actually having surgery on his heart this morning (so, pray if you will). Greg and I then went with my mom to lunch and aided her in computer shopping. We briefly came home to then go back out again to dinner at P.F. Changs with our friends, Zach and Natalie. They are getting married in a month–Greg is officiating and I am in the wedding. It was good to spend time with them–they both long to glorify God so much in their wedding and marriage. We then proceeded to East Knoxville to go to a boxing tournament to watch our friend, Forrest. This was a new experience for me. I do not ever relish the thought of seeing people get bloody. I won’t lie; I got into it cheering him on! (He won for his division!) I did feel like a mamaw around a sea of fraternity and sorority girls–so easily I forget the bubble of college life. Saturday Greg and I went to breakfast at Mimi’s–a nice treat! Then, I went grocery shopping, cleaned and took off to Athens for a baby shower I helped host for my friend, Cindy. It was great to fellowship with good friends and serve my friend. I also got to celebrate with my friend, Amber, who helped host. She just bought her first house. It is really cute, and she is hard at work to get things painted. Cindy and Amber have been my dear friends since high school, and it is wonderful to celebrate big happenings in their lives! There were good interactions with old dear friends in that time. I also got to catch up with my friend, Kelly, on the phone. By the time I drove back, I was exhausted and felt like I could not form another sentence. Sunday, I helped to lead worship and Greg spoke at church. My friends from Athens, Ric Wilson and Ben and Joy Finch, came up to visit our church. It was great to see them. While sitting and working on Bible Study material for Monday night, I also caught up with many people as they walked by and shared what was going on in their lives. Many times, I run out of words after Sunday mornings. There are so many people to check in with, and that is the main hub time to see people. I always hate that I feel like there are many superficial conversations because there are so many people with so little time. We finally got to spend some time with our friends, Jacob and Beth Winn on Sunday night. They have had such a hard season with Jacob’s back pain, and we have not gotten to connect in quite awhile. So, off we go into another week!
Last week, I was privileged to have moments by the window with coffee while it was snowing. It was quiet…the kind of peaceful quiet that only comes when watching snow blanketing the ground. In that moment, I was reminded that I am one of those snowflakes–here and gone in an instant with no clear mark on the world. The Bible says we are as dust, as grass before God…we spring up and are gone. Oh, how I need that reminder when I am weary and feel the sadness of relationships and the exhaustion of ministry. I think I am so important…that life hangs in the balance because of me, and then God uses a beautiful snowflake to remind me of the lesson that he is Everything and I am not. There is great comfort in that. He is the reason…he upholds me, gives me strength, wins the battle. I cling and follow and he gives me the privilege of knowing him and becoming more like him. I am also reminded that this too will pass, and in a moment’s time, I will be with him in eternity. Oh, how I long for that. In this brief span of time, he invites me to depend on him loving him and loving others. He invites me to do it in his holy and wise ways–not mine. He molds me to trust and know his ways are far better than mine. I will be in that process until I melt like that snowflake. I will also need to be reminded of the lesson of the snowflake hour by hour. His word and Spirit are my guide as I am easily deceived in thinking that I have blown it or that I have to fix everything. He lovingly reminds me that there is forgiveness for my sins and that I do not have to earn my way back into his presence. He calls me to repentance and trust and obedience. May I remember that today.
In a conversation with a friend the other day, I was reminded that the only things that are lasting are hard and take time. This a totally opposite concept from our world. I text instead of call…Call in the car instead of at home…order my food to go…have a vacuum that sort of cleans the floor for me…send mass emails to disseminate information…pay bills on line…keep up with friends on facebook…fast forward through commericals with a DVR…I could go on. This is a deceptive life for me to lead. I begin to think and wish that there is a short cut for relationships. I think “this should not take this long or should not be this hard.” I start equating hard with bad or not worth it. Whereas, all the good, rich things in life take time and energy and exhaustion (marriage, friendship, parenting, developing skills). The very things that matter make you want to give up several times–sometimes everyday. The deepest, most beautiful relationship we have takes investment, faith, sorrow, brokenness, study, fasting, etc. Our hearts are purged of sin and filled with love and obedience in the Father over long periods of time. Like a farmer who tills the ground, plants and waters and weeds and harvests over months and years, we must go back to the Father day in and day out. This does not jive with the lessons I am learning as an American. Life gets faster with technology and therefore, it seems that my heart looks for that instant gratification of growth in Christ and in relationship to others. I want to skip the very reason I am here–to be with and learn from my Eternal Father. May my heart not jump ahead…may I sit with him to learn and grow and worship. And, may I sit with others and share with them in that way, too. May the concept of discipline be practiced in my life daily and may I have the wisdom and grace to teach others that as well.
My heart is heavy. This morning I am reminded that the enemy is a roaring lion looking for people to devour. We are mostly devoured subtly, I think. There are people that struggle with illicit drugs and sex, but most people I know are devoured by what look, in the beginning, like seemingly good things. It then becomes their destruction. What is most heavy on me is that this destruction happens within the walls of Christendom.(do people even use that word anymore? This is my first time.) The more I walk, the more I see that most people who claim the name of Christ are pretty clueless to what his word says. We rely on someone else to tell us or a new book that sounds cool and new and different. We are swept away by new thought and cling to that to give us meaning. We are enamored by “Christian” gurus or speakers. It breaks my heart that people can listen to speakers and read books by others and they do not even think twice when the very foundation of being a Christ follower is rocked. What I see time and time again is biblical illiteracy. Until I was a senior in college, the Bible was a cursory thing in my life. I would have said that it was extremely important to me, but the way I lived, I used it to give a back up rationale for my thoughts and actions. I used it for a little encouragement here and there for some decision I had to make. Looking back, it was sort of like caffeine to me–using it to boost my life when I ran out of steam on my own. I was highly convicted during this time to look deeply into it, and I was changed. Things I assumed about God were shown empty. Other things that I had not thought of before brought the richness of who he is to the forefront in my life. At that time, my foundation was turned from what the church had taught me to the beauty of living by his word. That reliance and process keeps growing in my life to this day…11 years later. His word teaches me his character, his plan, his sovereignty…my sin, his sufficiency. It is a treasure that keeps pointing my wayward heart back to him. When I am out of it for a day or several days, I am spent, lacking, limping, and am quick to think of myself before all else. The other day, my friend Tiffany and I actually looked through Psalm 119 to study the benefits of God’s word…wow. There are a lot of them–it is a treasure. To think that God sovreignly gave us his word to show us himself, to guide us, to convict us, to plainly tell us of Christ (all throughout his word), to keep us rooted in the truth of who he is….I am beyond thankful (but yet ashamed that I do not study it enough). Yesterday, I was at a used bookstore in Knoxville where they have ‘give away’ bins. Basically, they put books in that they do not think they can sell–usually there are random text books from the 70’s and really bad novels, etc. It is always fun to think that you can get something for free, but usually, no dice on getting my interest. However, as I was walking by yesterday, a Bible caught my eye. A Bible, probably the most costly book ever. There was a time in the pre-Reformation period where no one, except the very rich and educated in the Catholic church, had a Bible, and now, this one was thrown in a bin for free. Is this a commentary on its worth to many? As I look around, I think it is. Daily, people I know are being swayed and devoured by lies. Not just lies about their worth, etc–lies about Christ–about God’s character–the very truths shown in God’s word. And, they do not even bat an eye because they have not studied. They are swayed by sentiment and feeling and worldly wisdom. I get swayed by it, too. That is the very time I am reminded that the heart is deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). I am reminded that our human wisdom is lacking (1 Corinthians 1:17). His word shows us his truth. It shows us the truth of this time…
‘For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But, you keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.’ 2 Timothy 4:3-5
Is this the time where I name names? My personality really hates to do that, but I see that people continued to be glossed over not reading or living with discernment. Just because something sounds good and cool…do not swallow it. Take it to God’s word….actually, spend more time there than anywhere else. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you the Truth through it. Memorize it. Live your life by it. Realize it’s transforming power–it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Dig deep into the meat instead of living life lazily on the surface. Look at the whole counsel of God–the Old and New testaments…study through a whole book instead of verses you go to to feel good. Follow what it says–trust God that the way he lays out handling conflict is wise and best instead of human practices (Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 18). Put feet to your faith. If you spend more time in it than being enamored by a new author which seeks to ‘redefine’ Christianity, you may see fruit beyond what you ever imagined in your life. I beg of you, study his word. Pray that he show you himself through it. Be diligent in pursuing godliness. This takes time and effort, but it is worth a thousand-fold.
Here is a brief view into the marriage of your’s truly. This was shown with the sermon last Sunday morning at our church. I try to be as honest as possible with anyone going into marriage–the best and hardest things come from it. You cannot imagine the hard that will come and the sin you will see in oneself as you grow, but there is great joy in depending on the Father to do what you cannot do. Greg and I have walked together in marriage for 6 1/2 years, and there will be many more hard and good times to come. There is NO possible way we could have made it without the Holy Spirit’s conviction and grace. On our wedding day I prayed that he was glorified and that is still my prayer today.
hpim1317.jpg Greg and I traveled to Dallas this weekend for a wedding of a dear friend. Throughout the weekend, we got to visit with many old dear friends, as well. We have not been away for fun since last spring break. We all need time to pull away from responsibilities and everyday life. It was refreshing…we laughed and ate good Mexican food and mostly slept well. It has been almost 7 years since we had been there together. I lived there in 1999 experiencing my first ‘big girl’ job and my first apartment on my own. As we drove through the streets of Lewisville, a heaviness came over me. Three weeks after I moved to Dallas in ’99, my mom was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Greg was traveling a lot speaking around the country, so I was sad and alone. It was probably one of the most lonely and sad parts of my life paired with the fact that I really had no idea who I was or where I was going. We made it through that time…thus the fact that I am Mrs. Pinkner. Instead of sitting in that heaviness of memory, I thought of all of the blessings I have today. The many people who know me–the real me (funny, I think I know who the real me is now, as well), a church family, deep roots in community, and fruit in my life (at times it seemed there was not even a wilting grape during that time). There are so many people that I know in need now and so much work to be done, it is hard to remember a time that I did not have that. I remember what is was like to be deep in depression…I think it was a cumulation between unconfessed sin in my life and circumstance. God began a time of purging in me. This weekend was a reminder to me as I interacted with the people from various stages of the last 10 years of my life (and many more of Greg’s life), that we are always in the process. He is always moving and growing us…purging sin, replacing it with godliness, disciplining…all in love and truth. What will I think when I look back on this time in 7 years, in 20 years? I thank him for the richness of life right now…hard, beautiful, purposeful, rich. I thank him for the partner in Greg that he has given me and how he has grown us from the first months of our dating until now. And, as we saw friends–Mike, Jeni, Agnew, Wilson, Leslie, Kevin and Lorraine, Dainon and Julie and many more–I am thankful for people along the way to laugh with, be sharpened and encouraged by, and to bear with. There are many in our lives that we get only brief glimpses of…together for a time. I love the friendships that you can just pick up when you pass…I have been blessed with many of those. I am reminded now of eternity where, in Christ, we will be together. I am also reminded how quickly things can change in our lives…our locations, our circumstances, our friends. May I hold closely to Him wherever he takes us.
‘Enter the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. THEY WILL TREAT YOU IN THIS WAY BECAUSE OF MY NAME, for they do not know the one who sent me…’
‘LARGE CROWDS WERE FOLLOWING Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Salt is good, but if it lose its saltiness, how can it be made salty again: If is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
He who has ears let him hear.”
These last few days, I have been counting the cost. Counting the cost of comfort, relationships, reputation, sleep, finances, only to be reminded time and again of Jesus’ words. I WILL have enemies if I follow him. I WILL be looked at as a lunatic in the world’s eyes and also in the eyes of some in the church. I WILL experience rifts in my family because of his name. I WILL lose relationships because of his name. I WILL be misunderstood because of his name. I could possibly lose my life (literally) because of his name. When I experience cost for following him, I have two options. I can cling to him and his word all the more–which is why I got to this place, or I can believe the lies of the enemy–which have been REALLY loud. I begin asking myself,
“Do I have it all wrong? Should I just give in and tell people what they want to hear? Am I really being loving? Why does it have to be so hard? Will it ever get easier? How will this cost my future children? Will I get to see any fruit of this?”
This year, Greg and I have experienced more discomfort and opposition for the sake of Christ than ever before. We know that this will only grow stronger. As we have grown more to cling to his word and live by it instead of the status quo of Christian expectations, there has been a distinct difference in the reaction of others to us. And, there has been an increased joy in fellowship with Jesus. I am reminded daily that wide is the way that leads to destruction and narrow is the way that leads to life in Him. I also am reminded that as an American Christ Follower in the South, my cost is minimal compared to those risking their very lives in China, Southeast Asia, and around the world. But, I still must count the cost and cling to him in where he has placed me. I want to be faithful to him and love him and treasure him above all. In order to do that, my mind has to be renewed in his word daily…hourly. I look around at churches and pastors that are taking the easy way. It is hard to find a place to worship and grow where Christ is treasured and exalted above all–and his word is the guide. In times of cost, I can understand how they get there. It is hard, but I am reminded that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is in us. What is impossible with man is possible with God. It is scary when you hear that people hate you. (Especially for a fleshly people pleaser like me.) But, this is not to be a surprise. I thank Jesus that he laid this out in his word for us not to be surprised. So many times, I feel myself teetering on a fence thinking that I can get reward from the world and from God. Then I am soberly reminded that that is not true. In that moment, I am also convicted that Jesus is to be my treasure. He is the deepest, truest, costliest, most beautiful treasure. When my mind is saturated in his truth, there is nothing I want more than Him. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. This is a trust and a love that goes beyond our comfort…it trusts his very words are true and life giving. It examines every motive within us. It does not panic when someone attacks or questions or tears us down. It continues to cling with everything to the Truth…our treasure. I do not claim to have conquered any of this, but I claim to cling to the One who made a way for us to walk freely in Him. I pray for my brothers and sisters who read this to remain in Him (John 15) and his words. I also ask that you pray for our family. May he be treasured and glorified today whatever the cost.
As I was taking Bailey, our boxer, to the vet yesterday, I listened to Shane and Shane and was encouraged. Funny how easily I forget simple phrases in God’s word. One of the songs was from a Psalm–“This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”Continue reading “Thankfulness”
These last few weeks have been emotionally, spiritually and physically exhausting. Wednesdays are my killer days. I meet with young women most of the day and have worship team practice or a theology class at night (coupled with every other night filled with something else). Greg and I do not see each other on Wednesdays. Most of the time by 8:30 pm, I am a walking zombie. However, the last two days, I made myself get on the treadmill. I was tired of feeling anxious and worn down. And, I actually had energy for people by the end of the day. There is a marathon of spurring people on in this life, and I have to be prepared by taking care of myself. So, it really does work. I am just stubborn and lazy and need to be reminded!
I’ve been a bit of a bundle of nerves this week. Last week, I was spending time with girls at my second home, Panera, when I happened to notice that my wedding rings were not present in their usual spot. At first, I thought “oh I must have forgotten to put them on this morning–they are by my bed.” I got home and checked the usual spots to much inner panic…they were not there. This was my mind this week…”where could they be? Did Greg take them for a surprise? Did Bailey eat them and they are in a surprise package in the backyard? I am in big trouble! I will never get a replacement…They are only jewelry. They are a symbol…but I am in deep trouble.” Imagine a knot growing exponentially in my stomach with each passing hour while trying to play it cool, calm and collected on the outside. Fast forward two days to where I am looking under every piece of furniture, in every drawer, in the washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner…because yes, this would be the week that I tried to be super clean! Finally, in a last ditch effort, I looked in the cushions in the couch, AND….I found my engagement ring. Swhooooo! I called Greg, who was in the middle of Blockbuster, and cried tears of joy. He, then, let out a collective sigh and said I would not have even gotten a cubic zirconia if the ring was lost. (A side note…even though internally angry and frustrated, Greg was a jewel (no pun intended) through the whole process.) I think the wedding ring itself is lodged in a mechanism in the couch. Ruin the couch versus get my ring…I think I will go with being able to enjoy the couch nightly. You are saying to yourself, where is the spiritual lean in this blog? Well, I did thank the Lord. I also examined my heart that it would have been okay–it is a piece of jewelry that I will not take with me. But, I am seriously relieved! I am also reminded of the parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep. Greg and I were remarking at the people through the years that slip in and slip out as quickly. People who seem to be walking with Christ and then they run or slip away as fast because they love their sin/the world. Do I diligently pursue those who are struggling, those who do not know the wonderful truth and gift that he is? It is something to think about. It is something that Jesus told us to think about through these parables…rejoicing over the one sinner that truly has come to repentance. I rejoiced over the ring on Friday, and now, may I rejoice over the things that really matter–people in repentance coming to know the true treasure, Christ.