Posted in discipleship, God's word, grace, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God

Forget Me Not

When you feel remembered–when someone acknowledges and leans in, it is so powerful. You feel seen and heard and chosen. There’s nothing more deflating than having to introduce yourself to a person for the 49th time, and they have no clue who you are. It feels empty. That’s why I love to connect with people–we need to know that we are valued. It changes how we interact with and invest in others. It reminds us that we are not alone and that we are a unique person in the middle of the masses.

A random gift I have is remembering people–what they do, where they are from, what motivates them, their name, etc. Because of 43 years of involvement in school, ministry, interests, there have been a lot of experiences and a lot of people, and my files are pretty full. So, I am getting more confused from time to time because it’s different to remember layers of connections from a combination of places, times, seasons. It makes me sad when, because of that, I forget someone.

The last few days, I have been studying in the Psalms again. There are several repeated phrases throughout the 150 chapters. ‘Remember. Do not forget.’ In fact, Psalm 106 traces the history of the Hebrew people in a series of God remembering them, taking care of them and them forgetting and ignoring Him.

The Hebrew people did not remember:

  • Did not consider His wondrous works (have you heard the one about parting the sea????)
  • Did not remember the abundance of His steadfast love but rebelled at the sea
  • They soon forgot His works and did not wait for His counsel
  • They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt
  • They exchanged the glory of God for something they could touch and see
  • they served their idols which became a snare to them
  • They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan (sound familiar?)
  • Psalm 28 speaks of evil men not regarding the works of the LORD of the work of His hand

But, notice what God remembered and the reason why.

  • YET He saved them for His NAME’s SAKE that He might make known His mighty power
  • On their behalf, he rebuked the sea and made it dry, He led them through the desert, saved them from the enemy, redeemed them
  • He showed His anger at their rebellion and said He would destroy them and Moses stood in the gap for them, He gave consequences for their unfaithfulness as they were taken over, His anger was kindled against His people and He abhorred His heritage
  • Many times He delivered them (though they were unfaithful)
  • for their sake He REMEMBERED HIS COVENANT (promise) and relented according to His steadfast love

The root of our actions comes out of the fact that we live as though God is not there. We forget His words. We live oblivious to His works and His movement. We fashion for ourselves idols of pragmatism (what works for us for our goals), romanticism (what feels best to us and what seems fulfilling), consumerism (striving and ingesting and going after more) instead of regarding His name and His glory. We do not listen long enough, make a practice of remembering His faithfulness, or bother even knowing Him to know that He is much more fulfilling and brings peace to our hearts in ways the things we fashion can never do. (Check out 1 John 2:15-17) So, we come up with a plan of our own.

The phrase that is haunting my heart–‘But they soon forgot His works and they did not wait for His counsel.’ and ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

I do not want to forget who God is…or be found to have fashioned a god in my own image. That seems to be our M.O. these days–one of these two things. The only way I REMEMBER Him and KNOW Him is to hear from His word by the power of His Spirit. When we use our own circumstances, our own desires, our own wisdom to figure out what He is for and what He is against, etc. we have made it about us. We are missing out on the gift of knowing Him and seeing the worth of His name. We, in effect, put words in His mouth–and He will not be mocked.

So, I encourage me and you to REMEMBER who God actually Is and to NOT FORGET His works and purposes. May we not devalue His infinite value, holiness, righteousness, justice, steadfast love by brushing over who He is like a chance introduction at a party. Let’s lean in. Let’s dig deep into His character poured out in His word and throughout the thread of our lives. He says and warns…’Forget Me not.’

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, God's word, grace, humility, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Contrary to Popular Opinion…

You are not enough.

You read it right.

That’s offensive, huh?

I am NOT saying you do not have worth. I am NOT saying that you do not have value. I am NOT saying you cannot do hard things. I am NOT saying you are not tough. I am NOT saying you are a failure. I am NOT saying you are less than your neighbor.

I am saying that the voice inside you that feels behind, that sees you cannot spin all the plates, that feels less than adequate for all the adulting, that is constantly on a performance wheel that seems to go nowhere…there’s a reason it is there. Our reality and our experience show us that we fall short all the time. We cannot be all things to all people doing all the things all the time. Period.

Maybe the quote should read–you do not have to perform to someone’s version of enough to have value. OR, your value is not defined by the world’s standard or by your performance.

When we feed ourselves the line that we are enough, we are lying about a huge reality in life. We are incomplete, and at the core, I think we know it. That uncontrollable longing that you feel (or run from) when your mind slows, that anxiety in your belly when looking at life, that wondering in your mind about the deepest questions of the universe, that thing that you have tried to overcome over and over and keep missing, those monumental regrets…all of that is pointing to something more and our lack. It is a need we cannot meet or problem solve.

What happens when we grasp the reality that we are not enough?

We don’t want to face it because that tears apart the scaffolding of our lives. We all try to make sense of and build our lives in different ways with the same problem. We may think if we do it perfectly, or if we are useful to others , or if we produce and achieve enough and gain status, or if we dig deep within enough we can construct meaning, if we learn and conquer knowledge, if we come up with a plan to secure life, if we experience life to the fullest and adventure, if we take charge and lead the way for the underdog or if we can bridge the gap for peace that THEN we will be enough. We will be complete.

There is huge freedom in accepting the reality we are not enough even though it is uncomfortable. I think that this is when true Life begins and is lived. We then see a need for truth, strength, and meaning beyond ourselves. We can quit performing and striving and listen.

Why can we not be enough? We go back to the beginning. We look to the Creator who created in His own image; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) The Image of God: That is very worthy. And, Then, something jarred everything…made it hard, less clear, brought toil, separated us from the Beauty of God and the peace of being WITH God: The whole process began with “did God really say?” “Surely He didn’t mean…He’s lying to you. He is keeping power and honor, love, fulfillment and glory from you–your rightful identity.” Then, the three letter word was born: Sin. We took understanding into our own hands. We defied the One who lovingly created us to commune with Him. We said: We are enough without You.

That leads us to today–the anxiety, the striving, the loneliness, the frustration, the gaining ground only to fall back down, the one-second glories that take longer and longer to achieve. The line of fulfillment we were fed was a bald-faced lie. Our “freedoms” enslave us all the more. It is grace to see that we are not enough.

There’s a problem: We cannot make it better on our own.

The beautiful part of the truth of God’s word? The promise of redemption was hinted at in the same chapter that the Fall of enough occurred. AND…the Old Testament gives the picture of what enough is through the Law of God. That law is the picture of perfection–of God’s character, otherness, set-apartness (I may have made up a word). AND…trying to be WITH and like God by performance was an epic fail. The way we are reconciled to God is through the enough of Jesus…in fact, the perfection of Jesus’s life on this earth AND His death in the place of ours. There were dire consequences for our rebellion and insurgence–death and separation. God, who is rich in mercy, made Jesus who knew no sin, no rebellion, to be sin for us. He was punished, killed, separated from God (whom He had communed from eternity past) in order that reconciliation might be made and in order that those trusting in Him may be called children of God through the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For those who see they are not enough and put their trust in Jesus work on the Cross on their behalf, they are given new hearts and lives. The One who is more than enough lives in their spirit, guides them, encourages them, reminds them, strengthens them, renews them.

So, in ourselves, we are not enough. We do not have the tools. We do not have the heart. We do not have the strength.

In Him, though. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We find joy, freedom, grace, no condemnation, identity, purpose, hope, and deep and abiding love In Him. That helps us take a deep breath. It helps us feel lighter even when things are HARD and the way is very CLOUDY. We are able to see others in the grace afforded to us instead of railing against them for not being enough. There is freedom in this reality and in the power of God in the midst.

So, where are you today? Striving, surrendering, exhausted, or at peace? I pray that you take your heart and your life to the One that is More than Enough.

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, comparison, discernment, grace, insecurity, parenting, the gospel, transformation by truth

A good mom…

Well, it’s building again.  That pressure to do the right thing, to do it the best way, to prove your worth is on the rise.  Where does it come from?  From women’s mouths, popular books, sub-cultural norms to your ears–actually straight to your heart.  The words marinate in your heart until you believe it and act in pride or until you are shamed because you are not enough and you embarrassed because you have fallen short again.  This must be something really essential–you think.  Or has someone else pushed it as essential?

Motherhood.  Until I was first baptized into this “secret club,” I never realized the pressure to fit there, the pressure to perform.  It starts almost as soon as you get pregnant or fill out the adoption papers.  “Surely you are going to do….A thoughtful mother would only plan this way….Are you going to feed your child that?….You let your children go this long between feedings?”   “I will only do natural birth…  You are going to put THAT into your body?”  “You are going to name your child that?”  “Godly mothers do…I only use natural products…”

I was 36 when I gave birth after many years of infertility, and I will be 38 with my second.    I had some maturity under my belt, but that little teenage girl who was worried and timid about “fitting in” and would did not know who she was looked me in the eye in the mirror as all of these expectations came rushing toward me.  I had NEVER felt so much pressure.  There was a lot of opportunity to feel so much pride in my decisions–when I thought I chose to do something “right.”  There was also a lot of opportunity for me to feel “less than” from the club of mothers around me–things I chose or did not choose or could or could not do.

It is interesting how many trends can become en vogue in just a short span of years.  Right now, I see many young women in their twenties in the serious evangelical realm going for natural and home births.  I totally respect people for choosing that for themselves.  This is obviously something you pray and decide seriously about (as with many decisions in motherhood and child-rearing.)   I have then seen women who are crushed and feel like they have failed at a major point when a health issue prevents this (and they have to have a C-section or go to the hospital) and they lose that goal.   I  see people who are drawn to sleep training and parent-directed (AKA Babywise verses people who are very into attachment parenting (AKA Dr. Sears).  There can be a lot of judgement and shaming between those camps–I felt that when we decided to carry through with a Babywise philosophy.    There is MUCH MUCH MUCH pressure to exclusively breastfeed–which is a wonderful thing, but the pressure I took on myself from outside sources and wanted to work for me nearly crushed me as my body would not produce what was needed.  I truly believe the pressure that I internalized (yes–I take the responsibility) nearly put be over the edge with such deep postpartum that I could not see straight.  I could  go on and on and on…You get the point.

This is my concern…Somewhere along the way, we have made choices into essentials of our identity. “If I do not do it this way, my whole identity is shattered.”  We get on this proving ground and lose our minds and hearts.  And, as children grow, the proving ground changes but we still act as if our identities are essential to our decisions within the parenting realm.   It may be how we discipline our children or how we interact with them or what we expect from them at certain ages or what we expose them to (homeschool, private school, public school.)  I’m kind of getting the hives just writing this.  Because we cling to making the “right” choices as our identity, then we must enforce that with others.  We judge them in our mind, hearts and with our mouths because they are not doing things our way.  We think they are less than because in order for us to continue to gain our identity and worth from these things, they have to be wrong or get on board and think we are right.  We make things essential that are side issues.

So, as the pressure mounts, yet again, on this uphill climb in pregnancy and mothering, I remind me and others of what is essential.  The essential piece to our identity is the Gospel–whether we are single, married, jobless, parents, CEO or stay at home mom.  We do not prove our worth or acceptance to God by what philosophy we adhere to or birth plan we choose, whether our children sleeps in the bed with us until they are 6 or is in the crib the first night, whether we breast or bottle feed, whether we give immunizations or feed kraft macaroni or organic.  All of us are going to fail as parents because we are human, fallen, sinful creatures.  We can lean hard into the Lord from day one and do everything “right”, and our children will sin and rebel and break our hearts.  We can royally try to do it on our own without the Lord, and our children are going to sin and rebel and mess up.  It is what we cling to and  remember in our triumphs and our failures that will shape our hearts and our children’s hearts.  Who does our help come from?  Where do we go for our essential identity?  How in our failures and our children’s failures do we point them toward the hope of the Gospel?

Our children will get the message from us loud and clear as to what we think is essential to our identity (and, in turn, theirs).  They see what we cling to and what crushes us when it falls apart.  So, from the beginning, I encourage those on the journey with me to be on the journey together, encouraging instead of accusing, making the gospel essential and not side decisions, loving instead of comparing.  Will you come with me?

Posted in advent, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, grace, healing, Hymns, sin, the gospel, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

When blind hearts see

I hate that thing in us, in me, that thinks we know better than God.  The voice that says, “yeah, but I see another angle.”  “Just this one time I have it figured out.”  “I deserve better.” It gets us in a whole heap of trouble.

That trouble becomes the state of our heart health and our sight and our hearing.  We become blind to what reality is–we even begin seeing illusions.  We hear what we want to hear instead of actually what is said.  We become hardened to things that matter and strive to fulfill senseless passions.  We destroy ourselves and the people around us in one blow and sometimes with little blows that wrecks relationships over time.

I hate it–hate it.  Yet, why do I fall into it more often than not.  It’s subtle, but the final blows are catastrophic.  Marriages wrecked, children disillusioned and neglected, relationships destroyed, hearts jailed in bitterness.  Three little letters–SIN.  A billion consequences–for ourselves and those around us and our offspring.  Did I say I hate it?  I obviously do not hate it enough not to die more to it daily and be on guard against the enemy that is out to steal, kill and destroy me and those around me.

This morning, I remember a phrase from scripture…”Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This sin thing is not new–it’s been around since close to the beginning.  But, so has a promise of rescue–rescue from ourselves and our own brand of “wisdom.”

This rescue comes in the most unlikely way–the God of everything condescending to us in the form of a baby–humble, helpless, feeling the arrows of the collective sin of the world.  Born in filth, cold, no fanfare.  Growing, serving, perplexing those who seem to have it down pat.  Turning conventional wisdom upside down to introduce real wisdom, real life, real hope.  Taking the blows in a horrible death meant for me, for you, for those who hated him.  Making a way to enter our hearts in relationship that was an impossibility on our part. Holding the promise of real joy and life and peace out to us saying “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Asking us to trust Him in faith that we might turn from our sin, our way and put our faith in His work on our behalf.

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today

O Come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”

What a privilege to know Jesus–our Hope, God with Us.  My prayer is that I, you, we pray to be made new–to place our faith in the One who gives abundant life, who pardons our sin, who gives us the strength to follow Him in this dark world.  Who, in the midst of the messes we make (in ourselves, our families, our friendships), asks us to trust Him and His ways–to follow His wisdom, to be quick to be truthful about our “junk” and to love with His love.  It is not too late…

Posted in discipleship, God's word, grace, humility, New year, pride, self-absorption, the gospel, transformation by truth

A humble entrance

       As I looked toward this new year, I am overwhelmed.  Yes, we are having a baby (still sounds crazy to say), but that is not until June.  I am seemingly overwhelmed by every task and relationship I face even before the new year rolls.

        This Christmas season has been busy.  We traveled for a full week to Texas, and in our time there my heart was burdened for family and friends.  There was not an extended time to focus on Christ–to be in and savor His word.  I came back feeling empty and defeated.  I began thinking through next week and next semester and the things going on in girl’s lives that I disciple.  There is a lot to prepare for for the future child, but there is so much to be faithful in NOW. 

      As I walk with these 20-something young women, I see the battle is so fierce for their affections.  A day without truth poured in breeds so much falsehood, deception–spaces where the gospel truth is robbed and they fall back into self-reliance and/or guilt.       I reflect back on this fall.  I feel like I have failed these girls because of my complete lack of energy and the intense sickness that I had with pregnancy.  I guess the balancing act begins as I see the struggle between caring for a child (whether in my womb or out) and serving others in the body of Christ!  I want  to be purposeful in planning and taking advantage of this time before the little one enters the world.  I long to run well and faithful–pouring out His truth and honoring Him above all.    Pray for me that I prepare now to help these girls as my life transitions and I lead in ministry. 

       The good thing about the way I am feeling now is that it puts me in a posture of complete need as the new year commences.  Is there ever a time where I am not in need?  Is there ever a time that I can do any of this on my own?  No.  However, there is always a time when I think I can.  There are times when I walk in self-reliance, self-preservation, self-righteousness.  Unfortunately, those times come too often, and I forget that He superintends the growth–He is in charge.  I try to give myself honor instead of Him.  Or I tend to think it is all on my shoulders.  So, yet again, I am reminded that my hope is in the Gospel.  Jesus took the punishment for my self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-righteous pride.  It is finished.  I am to repent of my rebellious ways and cling to Him yet again.  There is such peace in that–such release.   And yet, everything within me fights that truth.   If there is anything I want and need to pass on to these girls, to our children, it is this beautiful way that Christ has made–the Gospel.

       If there is anything that this season of life has taught me, it is that my hope is not in circumstance or people.  My hope is in Christ.  In this time of joy and preparation for a child, it is so easy to get side-tracked from that hope.  Having babies has become like having a wedding.  We are tempted to plan for a nursery or ceremony more than a life and marriage.   More than nurseries or diapers, I have been thinking about the overwhelming task of discipling children, of teaching them a God-entranced worldview.  How do I do that from birth?  If there is anything I want to be faithful in, it is that.  He is so faithful to teach me through these girls that I meet with–to trust and  rest in Him, in His word.

      So, with all the swirling thoughts in my head entering this new year, I pray for a continued reliance on the beautiful Gospel of Grace.  The Lord is so good, and I am in such need.  In my feeble ways, I pray that this year, each day, I point others to the beauty of Christ, the truth of His gospel, and remember it myself.

Posted in community, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, thankfulness, The body of Christ, the gospel

One

Last night, I came together as a part of our church body and participated in the Good Friday service. Greg spoke and talked about the 7 last words Jesus said on the cross. As a congregation, we sang about the gospel and participated in confession and repentance as we took the Lord’s Supper.

When I first became the wife of a pastor (which by the way I swore I would never be after growing up in a minister’s family:)), we had a pastor’s wives get-together. At this get-together, a guest who was an experienced pastor’s wife from another congregation, educated us that it was important to be seen supporting your husband. Her exact directions included sitting on the front row with him and rubbing his back gently for the congregation to see said love flowing between you. At this point, I stopped taking notes. I realized that I would not be a good pastor’s wife with this criterion because everything in me rebelled at that thought. Here we are, seven years later, and the first time I sat front row at our church with my husband was last night. With a sly smile, I threw in a gentle back rub.

Though not a front row sitter, I genuinely worshipped and enjoyed sitting front and center last night. From the first word sung, tears stung my eyes. The beauty of Jesus’ life, submission and obedience to the Father, and the heart of the gospel–my very hope was clearly articulated. I sat there thankful for the place God has us–where he has brought us. I reflected back to the time when Greg began his full role as teaching pastor, which ironically came about the time I turned 30. From 30 to 35 has been the most challenging time of my life–dad’s sickness and death, infertility, depression, Greg’s rheumatoid arthritis. From 30 to 35 has also been the most God-saturated part of my life–knowing Him clinging to Him more deeply. It hit me–this all happened around the same time Greg began teaching more. Now, I am not a spiritual warfare guru who sees demons around every corner planning my demise, but it hit me last night that not all of these things are coincidences. I have a firm faith in the Sovereignty of God–even in spiritual warfare, He has us–we are His and NOTHING is out of His control. (Read Job) But, at the beginning of the service, I realized that these things that we have experienced could be the cost of what we do. IT IS WORTH IT. Christ and His glory are worth it. This thought framed my worship as we all reflected on the death of Christ.

As we took Communion as a congregation, on the front row, we were the first to partake. After that, I watched a good portion of the congregation pass in front of me to take the bread and dip it in the cup. I cannot explain it–except for the Holy Spirit. I had such joy in seeing those brothers and sisters in Christ walk before me. Some I knew intimately in disciple-making relationships, some were dear friends, some were families that I see from afar, some were strangers, young adults, senior adults, children, singles, marrieds, widows. My heart was reminded of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we be one in Him–unified. With each face, I worshipped. The hope that we have in Christ flooded my heart, and I was so grateful for the exact place He has us–in this congregation.

God is so good. I have nothing and am nothing apart from Him. I celebrate in this Easter weekend the glorious death and resurrection of Jesus. I celebrate the cost of becoming like Jesus. I celebrate the family of believers that He binds together through His Spirit. I am not going to sit on the front row every week to rub Greg’s back, but I am thankful I did last night. Maybe that woman wasn’t all that crazy.