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…

discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

authenticity, comparison, discernment, eternal things, God's word, idols, infertility, self-absorption, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Where does my hope come from?

Jack turned one a few Sundays ago.  My heart was full with thanks, memories, relief that that first month was not to be relived:).  What a beautiful, fun-loving, joyful, strong, funny, determined little one we are blessed with.  In the time of postpartum depression, I could never have imagined the beauty of his life and liveliness.

Sleepless nights, deferred goals, multiplied chores, inconvenient days…all of those are included in parenthood.  I stand today thankful.  I am thankful for this opportunity and humbled by it.  It is so easy to become overwhelmed and forget the miracle and not stop to experience the joy of moments that are racing by.  The giggles, the new milestones and funny tricks, the little mumbles and squeals…all can be easily missed.

You know what I hate, though?  These nagging thoughts that pull on my joy.  I am still trying to figure out balance–time in the word, time to keep house, time to cook, time to minister, time to do business, time to invest in my relationship with Greg, time to teach Jack, time to play with Jack, time to invest in family, time to invest in friendships, time to exercise.  I seriously do not know how to do it.  The thoughts that play in my head include the word “fail” a lot.

We all choose ways to try to make life work.   I have found myself struggling with two things…seeking peace where it is not to be found and comparing my family situation with others.  Everyone needs breaks to regroup.  The Lord has convicted me that I think that breaks and a vacation and date night and quiet times is where I will find my peace…where I will finally rest.  The only problem is I have not been getting any of these regularly or at all.  So, as with every expectation that is blocked, I get frustrated.  I think “if I could just…if they would just…I need more of…”  Until the last two weeks, I have not been diving into the Word consistently.  I have been expecting little breaks and laziness to be my solace.

This backward thinking has been designed in the sinfulness of my heart.  I have been seeking my idols of comfort and ease.  See, I have always sought after them before God.  He has been teaching me for a long time about this, and I always forget and forsake Him to try to be comfortable again.  I then begin to prop up my idols by comparing (coveting) my situation with other parents who are leaving their kids with grandparents a lot or going on vacations alone or even with their family.  See, I have not been joyful for them…I have just been thinking that they have it made…poor old me.

The Lord woke me up to the grossness of my thoughts.  He reminded me that peace is only found in Him.  No vacation or quiet or pampering or girl’s night or date night will give me the peace that passes understanding…only Him.  I have found solace and true joy in His Truth again.  He has allowed me to see where I have allowed these thoughts to take control–the more I have spent time in Him, the more I see the battle for these thoughts of covetousness.

Weirdly enough, I have entertained them much more as a mom than as a woman who struggled with infertility.  In infertility, I spent a lot of time in the word and in trying to guard my heart against sin. I spent a lot of time then reminding myself that the purpose of life on earth is not to be fulfilled with marriage and children and vacations and stuff.  I remembered daily that my hope is found in Christ and in eternity where we will see fully and experience fully His joy.   Since I have less extended time to spend in the word and I have not guarded my heart against sin in this area, it has been covetouspalooza in my mind and heart.  I have experienced amnesia of where my hope is to come from.

I am so thankful that the Lord has graciously awakened me to this sin pattern and the truth of His grace and hope in the midst of this season of my life. I do not come to you today with seven steps to get “cured,” but I come reminded of His grace in the Gospel, the power and efficiency of His Word, the joy that is experienced in Him.  Instead of having a free for all of jealous thoughts, I have been working toward remembering truth, rejoicing with those who rejoice and choosing to be thankful for so many blessings in my life.  It is still a struggle but one that I see the lie in now.

I want to be faithful…I want Greg and Jack to be spurred on in that…to see the richness of Christ.  That is more important that any momentary comfort on this earth.  I also remember that there is an eternity to travel and rest on the new earth.  Following Christ I lack nothing.

authenticity, comparison, God's word, grace, humility, prayer, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

The Tyranny of Criticism

The last few weeks, I have been working with a couple of the young women I disciple to help them identify where their hearts are in the everyday.  The objective is to stop and identify where they are as they come to God–sharing their heart with God, joys, disappointments and confusion.  This is where prayer begins…with honesty and connection.

I begin honestly this morning with the fact that I am feeling defeated.  Criticism from others and myself has torn me down.  I have taken part in this process because I have listened to and ingested the poisons.  Don’t we all?  We do not live the Christian life in a vacuum from the real world.  We are learning to have hope while IN the real world.

I knew I would die today without the truth and His presence to fill me up again…to counteract the darkness that is swallowing me.  So, I fixed Jack a blanket with all kinds of toys, turned on this kid’s hymn cd my friend, Cindy, gave me and began to talk to God.

First, I identified all the things going through my heart and mind.  These are some of the phrases…defeated and anxious, broken, guarded, pointless as a leader, helpless to affect change, small, not in control.  Just the way we all like to start our day:).

Next, I identified from God’s word what He says about Himself–where and who Jesus is.  I camped in Colossians 1:15-20.  He is the Center, Creator, the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn over all creation, All things made through Him, to Him, for Him.  He is before all things–all things HOLD TOGETHER IN HIM.  He is the Head of the body/The church (in control).  He is preimminent in everything.  My body and spirit began relaxing into Him.

Then, my response to Him.  Thankful, restful–called Him my Refuge, my Hope, my Righteousness.  As I was praying and reading, “This Is My Father’s World” was playing in the background.  Jack pulled up on my stool, and I picked him up to dance and sing.

“This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world

The battle is not done

Jesus who died shall be satisfied

And earth and heav’n be One.”

Maltie Davenport Babcock

Oh, the beauty of God singing over me as I sang over my child.  Jack smiled with delight, and I smiled with delight thinking of in whom my hope resides.  See, I am broken, pointless, helpless, guarded, defeated without Jesus.  I am no different than anyone else.  I am small and not in control.  However, in Him, there is no condemnation toward me.  I rest in Him.  I delight in Him.  He holds everything together.

Oh Christ, be the center of our lives

Be the place we fix our eyes

Criticism will always be as long as we are on this earth.  As a mother, the stakes have been upped.  I am convicted of all the times I am critical in my heart and with my mouth.  Every parent out there has a way they do things…a lot of things are preferences, some are morally right and wrong.  There is a time to speak up for the welfare of a child, but mostly we need to keep our mouths shut and support one another through prayer (speaking to myself here).

There is a huge gift in the grace of Jesus…we cannot be perfect, He is.  I want to listen to the Spirit’s leading in parenting Jack.  I want Jack to know he cannot be perfect or righteous on his own.  I want him to learn that from me and Greg.  I desire that we parent with humility, with grace, with dependence on Jesus.  All of these desires are in me, but they are complicated in the “real” world when comparisons and expectations arise.

I cannot parent in this way without being parented by my Gracious Father–blanketed in His truth.  So, I come again and again defeated and needy, and again and again He reminds me that in Him all things hold together.  What a beautiful, gracious, loving Lord we serve.

discipleship, discipline, doctrine, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, trusting God

Feelings, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Feelings…

In the last few days I have had several conversations that remind me that our feelings can be tricky.  We have feelings for a reason.  They help us express joy and enjoy life.  They can be exhilirating.  They often can alert us to something big going on in our heart and relationships.  Feelings are not bad in themselves.  The danger comes when we elevate feelings and experience to god status.

Think about relationships…in the beginning the feeling is like flying.  Studies even find that chemicals are released in the brain that are euphoric at the beginning of relationships.  So fun.  But then, what happens when they go away?  Some panic thinking their love is not true.  Some try to recreate that same feeling and when it fails they are despondent.  Some move on to the next relationship to capture that feeling again.  Some get married and fight a new battle of feelings.  Those who push through and learn see that love deepens and matures over time.  They may not experience euphoria, but they enjoy the person and trust is built and friendship is deepened and they are fully known, scars and all.  There is a peace and reward to that kind of commitment.

A marriage, over time, has peaks and valleys, but with the goal in mind, much growth can occur.  Endurance through those highs and lows and commitment and focus bring maturity and intimacy.  This can be likened to our relationship with God.

At first, when our hearts are made new, it is so exhilirating.  We are new creatures learning a new life and so full of love.  We see God so many places.  We want others to know Him.  We hear Him.  Like a child, we grow quickly because there is so much to learn.  We long for more…and then something happens and we may lose that “feeling.”

I remember as a teenager and a newer Christian looking at adults and thinking they didn’t get it.  Mind you, some of them really did not know Jesus, but some did and did not have the same “passionate” response as me.  I made a judgement on them.  I discounted their faith.  Now, I am on the other side of that (twice the age I was then).  I understand a little more.

Think about adulthood.  Once you hit a certain age, your growth changes from outward to inward (at least we hope).  The early and mid twenties are about finding out who you are and asserting that relationally in the world.  I work with young women everyday who have hit the wall of adulthood and say “is this what all this is about?”  They easily get depressed.  It is hard.  They feel lost.  I remember those exact feelings.  There’s the F word–feelings.

Part of my purpose is to point them to truth and to bring them to bring their feelings underneath the truth.  As a person, if you do not learn to do this, you will continually be seeking the next thing that will create good feelings within you.  This could be a new spouse or relationship, a new job, a new city, another kid, new friends, walking away from faith, walking to a new faith, self-help, drugs, status, material things, vacations.  I could go on and on.

In our relationship with God, He wants us to know Him despite our circumstances, in and even despite of our feelings.  Many think when they lose that first feeling and passion of the early days in their walk with God that they have lost Him.  He may be teaching us not to trust or rely on feeling but Him.  He may want us to seek Him and find that He is true even in sadness.  We all have seen people who are so driven by experience that they are always chasing the next new thing in Christianity because that’s where people are really “knowing” God.  A lot of times that can be mysticism without God at all.  We can make our religious or spiritual experiences an idol.  He will not stand for that.

God is so much wiser than we make Him to be.  His word says that those who endure to the end will be saved.  This life is not a sprint but a marathon.  Ask runners if the whole marathon is a high–they will tell you there are definite highs but there are moments that they want to quit and do not think they can make it.

God, in His word, calls us to trust in Him and not our own understanding (feelings), and He will direct our path.  He calls us to mature in Him, to grow in intimacy just like a marriage.  As we mature, change comes in long and often painful periods of trust.  To become more like Him, it involves the shedding of and dying to our sin.  This does not feel good because we have come to trust it (sin) and treasure it more than Him.  If we cannot process our feelings and bring them under His truth and choose to trust His truth even when we do not feel it, we will run away to try to get a better feeling somewhere else (in marriage, we call this adultery).  We will miss some of the richest parts of knowing who He really is–not what we’ve made Him to be.

The biggest places God has refined me to know Him despite and even in my feelings are marriage and the struggle with infertility.  In His grace, He continually called me to make a decision to study and meditate on His word.  Was this easy? No.  I wanted to run…and at times I did run to get a “high” somewhere else.  However, in His grace and love, I submitted to His truth and chose to trust His sovereignty.  Oh what a deeper joy…even such that I am thankful for the time of infertility for I would never have known Him in such a way.  Faith is submission even when we are sad or angry or all over the place with our feelings.  Faith is the submission and believing in His truth when we do not feel Him.  We make this decision everyday.  I pray that you not give up or run to something that seems easier or makes you “feel” better for the moment.  Intimacy and maturity in Him do not rely on the circumstance of the moment but continually meditating on His truth and who He is and choosing to place your trust there for the long haul.  I would not trade the long marriage for the false beginning high, and I pray that I continue to remember that.

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.

authenticity, comparison, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, self-absorption, thankfulness, transformation by truth, Uncategorized, waiting

Ready, Set, Go

Setting my heart, setting my hope, setting mind…These have been words and phrases that I have been fighting to dwell on in the last few days. These phrases come from 2 Corinthians 4-6 and 2 Corinthians 1:10 and 1 Timothy 1:7.
These have been some frustrating days for Greg and me. His Rheumatoid Arthritis has been relentless the last few weeks–including bringing a canceled trip to Texas to see his family this last week. I know it has been hard for him as he is exhausted and frustrated with his body. For me, I have felt stuck. With infertility and RA and being at home with little change in any of it–stuck, stuck, stuck.
In the midst of stuck, thinking on truth does not happen naturally. Self-pity happens naturally. Reaching for numb-ers happens naturally. Escapism calls to me.
I realize I am a bit bored. I know that sounds crazy–or maybe it doesn’t. I am tired of people asking me how I am and not having a different response. Saying “fine” is so much easier and makes me feel more spiritual than “stuck.” For people around me, it seems things are always changing–kids growing, adding kids, etc, etc. (I realize they face the mundane, too.) However, it feels to me that Greg and I are in our old age as empty nesters that are seeing the futility of this life. Nothing seems to be changing in our household while everyone else is speeding by.
I know that some of this is truth–because of sin’s effects, there is futility in hoping in this life. I also know that we have been rescued to think on and hope in truth. This is not the end–here or in eternity.
I am learning, however, that it is a viscious fight to think on truth. I have to be disciplined and focused, and at times, I simply feel too tired and want to escape away by buying something or watching something or eating something. However, when I do think on the truth of Christ—what a salve to my soul! My prayers from scripture have been ” help me set my heart on thanks…help me not lose heart as our outer selves are wasting away–help us be renewed in the inner self day by day…may I see these as what they are–“light and momentary troubles”–help me think on “the eternal weight of glory”…may I remember the “unshaken hope” and remember that on Him have we set our hope…training ourselves for godliness in setting our hope and heart and mind on things above. That is life-giving. That is what I fight for…
Also, I was reminded this morning–through a Bible study that I wrote through Colossians–that my suffering and troubles are used for my good but also the good of those in the kingdom. That, my friends, makes it worth it. There is some point to this. I may not grasp it or understand it–but I trust the Father who knows beyond all what the reasons are.
This morning, as I was studying, I was reminded how my heart has been shaped. I now pray differently for others who are going through pain–I pray for spiritual fruit–for them to think on truth…to gain intimacy with the Father…to know Him and seek Him above all else. I even see, gulp, suffering as a good thing to enter our lives. We are walking in the way of Christ. DO NOT READ that I enjoy it! I enjoy Him–when I fight to get past my self-pity and escapism and laziness and complaining.
I have to choose to be thankful. I even wrote the other day in my journal listing people that God has given me an opportunity to unite with and minister to and learn from in the midst of our circumstantial pain. I was amazed at how quickly I forget where He has and is working. So, my friend, wherever you are today, I encourage you to fight to think on the gospel–truth, Him. Please–that is your choice–what you think on…
Greg and I were talking yesterday, and he said–if we get pregnant, you know there will be people who say “God is so faithful–as if pregnancy and children are something we deserve.” That is not true–God is faithful and it has nothing to do with giving us children–he did not promise us that. He is good and faithful and gracious beyond what we can fathom regardless if we are childless forever. He would be blessing us beyond what we deserve if we have children–may I remember that.