Tag Archives: Jesus

Drink Him Up!

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thirsty drinking

God bless my son.

It happens in the most unsuspecting of times. A conversation that winds its way to some deep, meaningful truth.

My oldest had been telling me about how afraid he was when he woke up one morning. He said he had “the shivers” and didn’t even feel up to getting himself some breakfast. Sweet little tender heart! I had to get to the bottom of this for sure!

He explained to me that since his grandma left (she had come to stay a few weeks with us this summer), he had woken up with this intense fear of falling. And this fear made him shake all over. He just couldn’t “shake off” that feeling.

At first I started to tell him that he had nothing to fear because his bed had rails and now that he was downstairs, he most certainly would not fall from any great height. But then I remembered how I feel every time I have a weird dream that is so terrifying it wakes me. I can never think rationally in those moments. Whatever it is that I fear is so real to me that not even Paul could set a convincing argument against it. In my wild-eyed terror, I cannot shake the fear for what seems like an eternity. I have to wake up completely and let my brain’s rational functioning kick in before I realize that snakes are not indeed all over my bed.

So, as I sit across from my son who is still shaken up in his fear, I grab his hand and we sit on the floor together. I place him on my lap and wrap my arms around him, and I begin to pray. Lord wrap Your strong arms around him so that He will know You are here. Take away his fears and replace them with Your presence. Help him to look to you when he is afraid. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I proceeded to get his bowl and cereal, and as we sat together, he began to eat and to drink. I’m now watching him like a stalker, furtively glancing his way to see if anything is happening, and as he takes a drink of his ice water, I see him shiver. uh oh. I suck in my breath and wait to see what he’ll say next.

Mommy, you know what’s weird? When I took a drink of this water, the shivers went away! It’s like this cup of water is God!

Bless his heart! I had to hold in a giggle and decided to just go with it! Yes, I guess so! We want to drink Him up! We want more of God. He takes away our fears. Thank you God!

I love his simple faith. When I have my fears released, it simply must be that God did it. Amen, brother!

I thought our little talk was over, but then my son says, What is it that they call Jesus? The Living…? Living Water! He is our Living Water!

Yes, He is son. You know, there’s a story about Jesus and a woman at a well. He tells her that He has living water and that when we receive it, we thirst no more! And the crazy thing about God is even though we can drink this Living Water and not thirst, we still want to go back and get more of God. It’s like we can’t get enough of Him. Almost like we thirst for Him. So drink Him up! 

Of course I had to explain the difference between physical water and spiritual water, and a list of other terms, but I believe the message stood strong. He is the Living Water that we must drink up! Whether I’m experiencing deep-seated fears or belly-laughing joy, He is the One that I need to draw from. And His well is endless which is why I can continually go back to Him for drink after drink after drink.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Taste with the spirit. See with the spiritual eyes. He is good.

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Evangelism 101: Out of the Mouth of Babes

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matt 18-3 child

{Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3}

Humbled is the only word to describe it.

I have shared before that I’m a very private person. I get into the store on my mission to get out as quickly as I can, and this usually involves the duck and run method (if I don’t make eye contact with people, I won’t have to talk to them and waste precious time). But then you throw 3 boys into the mix, and well, things just don’t go as planned…ever. My oldest in particular is very sociable. He will introduce himself to anyone! He has no problems striking up a conversation with anyone of any age. It’s one of the things I like most about him because I’m just not like that. At. All.

So you’ll understand my rising anxiety when we pull up to the park, and I see a van parked there already. Sure enough, there’s a lady with 3 boys and a baby plopped down at one of the picnic tables. I quickly correct my thought process of “oh no, I might have to talk to them” to “oh good, the boys will have some friends to play with.” Because, let’s face it, that first thought is ALWAYS what comes to my mind. Don’t get me wrong, once I’m in the inevitable situation, I can manage just fine and usually end up having a great time! I have come to realize that my boys can bring such joy to people in ways that I never knew was possible. I’m learning to seek out ways to serve and be a blessing to complete strangers because I’m so often the recipient of these kinds of blessings. It’s just that it means I have to raise my head up and see people, even look them in the eyes. It means I have to get out of my selfishness and intentionally speak truth over people. And let me tell you, that’s challenging!

Back in my car, I’ve given the older boys their food to go off and find a table for us while I get the baby and the rest of our things gathered. I watch as my oldest walks straight up to the lady at the table and introduces himself (not surprised) and proceeds to ask, “do you know Jesus Christ?” My eyes grow wide.

Excuse me. What just happened here?

Did my 6 year old just start sharing the gospel before I could even unbuckle my 1 year old?

Just like that?

I am in disbelief and yet a smile comes to my face, and I lean in to try to hear her answer and his response to it. But no, I couldn’t hear anything but her response which was, “I know who He is.” That kind of struck me funny. If she really knew Jesus, I would think the answer would be much different than that. My stomach does a flip. Does this mean I’m going to end up sharing about Jesus with this woman? My oldest son made it look so easy. And this is why I’m so humbled.

I didn’t teach him this. I swear it. I never once told him, when you’re at a park and you see someone, you should ask her if she knows Jesus. It was God using a 6 year old to speak truth into a complete stranger. And bless his heart, he simply did it! No questioning if it’s the right thing or wondering if it would be awkward or worrying that he might say the wrong things. It was as natural as him asking what they were having for lunch.

Later in the car he told me that he asked her if she knew Jesus Christ because if she didn’t it would mean she wasn’t going to heaven, “and we don’t want that, because if she died, she wouldn’t go to heaven.” Uh. yeah. That’s exactly right my dear one. And why do we lose sight of that?

I wrote a post on spiritual gifts, and I know that there are people who are gifted in evangelism. I for one am not gifted in this, but I am still called to tell the story. My oldest may just have this gift, and I’m going to find every way I can to cultivate it! Just because you’ve been given a gift doesn’t mean you should throw aside the other gifts as useless in your spiritual closet. Let them challenge you as you grow more well-rounded in your faith.

I realize that it’s not completely true that we have never taught our son to share Jesus with other people. We talk to our kids about Jesus and our need for Him because we are sinners and that Jesus is the Savior. We tell them that no one can go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. We’ve given them the gospel, and God has already allowed that seed to land in fertile soil and go forth to others. Humbled.

So I guess it is that simple sometimes. Who knew that those conversations in the car could turn out to be so fruitful? Momma, keep giving them the truth. Dad, keep giving them the gospel. It doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it can be as simple as finding out what someone is having for lunch.

When the Tables Turn: Lessons from a Child

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Kid-Teaching

You gotta love it when your 6-year-old son nails you about something you’re doing wrong.

We try to teach our two oldest sons that obedience is important and that there are consequences when they disobey. We also try to teach them that life isn’t about following the rules so that people will love them (or, on the grander scale, that God will love them). It’s a tricky balance because on the one hand, they disobey a lot and encounter lots of consequences. On the other hand we don’t want to encourage a performance-based spirituality.

My simplest solution is to share out loud when I mess up and to ask for Jesus’ help in front of them (and sometimes apologize to them when said mess up involves yelling at them). It is the simplest yet hardest thing to do some days. That is exactly how it went down last week.

The day started out just like every other day, except for some reason I was completely irritated. Not a single person had talked to me that morning, so I couldn’t blame it on anyone. Shucks. But then my second oldest continually got himself into trouble. Grabbing an ornament here. Breaking apart a toy there. Spilling his cup on purpose. Disregarding what I’d just said FOR THE HUNDREDTH TIME. Ok, so I exaggerate. But it felt like that, I assure you. Plus, I’m already irritated for no reason, so it just makes my nerves prickle. As we’re getting in the car, I can feel the irritation rising as I’m waiting with little patience for the boys to get themselves buckled. So I say, “I am sorry for being grumpy today. I need Jesus to change my attitude. Lord, please change my heart and help me to calm down.” Whew. Baby steps.

We run our errands and get home (in one piece) and the second oldest starts in on the usual things that get him into trouble. After the 10th transgression (or something like that), I give up on saying anything nice or calm. If he’s not going to listen, maybe he’ll hear when I get louder. That’s how it works, right?

After I lecture my second oldest on this last defiant act, my 6-year-old whips his head around and says, “Mommy, you need to pray and ask Jesus to help you.”

Oh.

Really?

So I say what any spiritually mature mom would say. “Well, I think we should pray for him because he doesn’t know how to obey!”

Nice.

So then my oldest says, “But mommy, you are angry.” Ugh. He’s so right. I’ve been owned by a 6-year-old.

I retreat, realize how ridiculous I must sound, and swallow my pride. “Jesus, help me to be wise with my words and be patient with my children as I teach them about You.” Then I get to apologize to my child who has just received a nice, unnecessary tongue lashing from me.

I never knew that these teachable moments which were intended for my children would turn out to be more for me than for them.

I’m thinking a few verses may need to go up in my kitchen:

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harshword stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Will I still mess up? Yes, you bet I will. This life is meant to be lived depending on the One who saved me and continues to save me. He made me holy and continues to make me holy. The sanctification process is just that. A process. It’s not a “try harder and maybe you’ll get better” spirituality. It’s not a “boot straps” religion that requires you to just be tough and get over it. It’s more about admitting when we’re wrong, asking Him to change our hearts, and walking in the truth that He speaks in that moment. Obedience. Grace. Intermingled in a beautiful dance. I hope I can keep in step and follow His lead.

Fixing My Eyes

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At the risk of sounding much too simple, I’ve decided to write about Jesus. He’s always the answer in class, right? All joking aside, I have been reading about encounters that He and Peter had, and this particular week has been about the Transfiguration. If you don’t know what that means, think of a person that you’ve known all your life suddenly change into who they REALLY are. Jesus is both God and man, and as He was transfigured, the 3 disciples with Him got to catch a much bigger glimpse of the divine Jesus.

In Matthew 17, it says that Jesus’ face shined like the sun, and even His clothes were as bright as light. I love the passage in Hebrews 1:3:

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

Imagine being one of His disciples, having had encounters with His divinity in the form of miracles (healings, power of weather, raising the dead, feeding people out of practically nothing), but then being allowed to see further into who He was as God. Pardon, who He is as God. He is the radiance of God’s glory, an exact representation of God’s nature. The disciples have been grappling with what kind of Messiah Jesus came to be. They often struggled, like the crowds did, with wanting Jesus to be an earthly king who would rescue them from the oppression of the Romans. Peter had moments of understanding in which he confessed the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. But then he rebuked Jesus for divulging the plan of His own death and eventual resurrection.

When Peter saw Jesus in all His radiance and glory, he did what he always does. He stuck his foot in his mouth and said the first thing that came to mind. I’ve got to laugh at this because I’ve done it too. In my haste or even excitement, I can get caught up in the moment and say some pretty ridiculous things. But then God the Father speaks out of the cloud and tells them to Listen to My Son. This seemed to have brought Peter to his senses, because he and the other two disciples end up on their faces before Jesus. I can’t decide what my favorite verse is next. Jesus bends down to touch them and tells them not to be afraid. What a beautiful picture of Jesus. He bends and He touches. See what I mean about simple? Something so simple and yet profoundly important. The very next verse says this:

And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

What you may not realize is that Moses and Elijah were also present in this shin dig. So we have Jesus, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah, and God the Father present in this narrative. After Jesus stoops down to them, they look up and see only Jesus.

Peter had a history of taking his eyes off of Jesus. Remember the walking on water fiasco? He glanced at the wind and waves, taking his eyes off of Jesus. Remember his confession? Immediately afterward he rebukes Jesus for telling them He must suffer and die, taking his eyes off of Jesus. Then we have the transfiguration. Moses and Elijah show up and all of the sudden, his mouth starts flapping as he tries to lay out an agenda for their special visitors and Jesus. Taking his eyes off of Jesus. The Jesus who stands before him with radiant face and dazzling clothes. He missed it again. God bless him. I feel better already.

What does it mean for me when I take my eyes off of Jesus? Let’s say I’ve not slept well for the past month (I’ve got a 6 month old who has decided that 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. are good times to be awake). When I get up, I’m cranky and in a hurry for some reason. I want my older boys to get down to the kitchen “now!!” and by the way, you’d better clean up that mess, and why in the world are you whining again? Taking my eyes off of Jesus. Or try this on for size, I’ve got a to-do list as long as War and Peace, and heaven help the child or adult who gets in my way of completing it. Taking my eyes off of Jesus. This is a confession and not a guilt trip for anyone else who can relate. Trust me.

But what does it look like when I fix my eyes on Jesus? When I lift up my eyes, and I see no one except Jesus Himself alone? If you’re like me, being in a phase with young children, no two days look the same (and I have a feeling this isn’t the only phase in life like this, but don’t rain on my parade…let me hope). It’s not that I haven’t tried to make each day look the same, but my plans don’t work out with what my kids decide to do that day. Starting my day out tired and frustrated that my plans aren’t going as planned is typical. I simply don’t have the power to control all things. That’s when I do something that isn’t really profound at all. As my feet hit the floor, I whisper with my eyes shut tightly, “Lord help me to rely on You today because I know I can’t do this myself.” It’s called recognizing my need and surrendering. It’s called humbling myself. It’s called fixing my eyes on Jesus. There’s no limit to how many times during my day I can do this, and there’s no rule that says I’m doing it wrong when I fail. Fixing my eyes on Jesus doesn’t guarantee that I won’t have trouble. There are times when I want to act out in my frustration and say a sharp word to my kids, and in that moment, I can fix my eyes on Him or I can look away and try to do it my way. Obedience has a lot to do with fixing my eyes on Jesus. Being in His word is part two of fixing my eyes on Jesus. He’s given me His word and told me what is right to do. Am I willing to do what I know He’s told me is right? Will I obey the Father when He beckons for me to listen to His Son?

What about you? How are you fixing your eyes on Jesus?

May we be able to say that we lift our eyes to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, even as we stumble and fail. He is faithful.

[Now let’s all sing “Fix My Eyes” by For King and Country!]

I’ve Got This Sinking Feeling

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BOAT ON THE SEA

But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ Matthew 14:30

I know I am weak. Weak-hearted. Weak-minded. Weak-bodied. Oh, I’m sure I have my moments of strength just like everyone else, but I’m mostly just weak. Sometimes I’m okay with this. Other times, I get super frustrated (this is what I say to my kids so they’ll understand that I’m REALLY frustrated and not mad).

I get easily discouraged at times. This usually happens when things aren’t going my way, and though these times aren’t frequent, it’s enough to make me wilt. For example, when I play tennis, I don’t try as hard and my resolve to win weakens when I’m not hitting my shots well (and this happens to be quite frequent). Any great tennis player has learned that you not only need to be physically fit, but you also have to be mentally fit. You’ve got to learn to deal with the ups and downs. And though you have a perfect game as far as shots are concerned, you could still lose the whole match because you crumble under pressure. Weak-minded.

Then there are those times when I start my day with a cup of spilled coffee all over my workbook and with a child that is bent on doing anything opposite from what I say. Every moment after that seems to be one wrong turn after another. My spirit weakens. My lip quivers. I’m already throwing in the towel for the day. Weak-hearted.

I’ve got my eyes on the waves instead of on the One who called me out onto the waters (something which, like Peter, I requested of Him).

I wish I could be more consistently focused on Him in these fragile moments. I don’t want to be of little faith (Matthew 14:31), “incredulous, lacking confidence — in Christ” (from Strong’s). Trusting in the “Son of God” (v. 33) is truly a moment by moment choice. Jesus asks Peter why he doubted, and because I know my Jesus is not one who shames us, I think He asked it because He wanted to encourage Peter to trust Him. Jesus encourages us to have faith in Him because He is faithful. He is completely capable. It’s implicit in His question that He can be trusted. And why? Because His heart is good.

I would like to say that my struggle is not in trusting Him because I know with all my heart that He can be trusted. I like to think that my struggle is a problem of letting go and surrendering to Him. I always want to try to do it myself. But this is exactly a problem of faith. The problem is, I think that I can handle the situation better than Him. Well, that’s still an issue of questioning whether He can be trusted with the things of this life. He is more than able.

In those moments of panic and anxiety, I want to fix my eyes on the Author and Perfecter of my FAITH who can always and will always strengthen my faith in Him when I call out to Him (Hebrews 12:2). May I throw off every hindrance, and run the race set before me (Hebrews 12:1), intent on trusting Him during the moments of weakness. I think I’ll find that the weak moments get fewer because in my weakness, His power is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can face the day knowing that I’m an overcomer and not defeated by the things of the world.

I’ll be able to stare hard at the waves and watch them shrink as I step into the boat with my Savior. All glory to Him.

The Day I Knew Ashleyland Didn’t Exist…

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I know you’ve done it too.

Please tell me you’ve done it too. Because then maybe I won’t seem so crazy.

Creating scenarios of how things might be is unfortunately a large part of my thought life. “When we move into our house then…” “When the baby comes then…” “When my husband starts his classes again then…”

Sometimes the part after the “then” is pleasant, like a daydream. “When we move into our house, then I’ll feel more settled here.” But most times, it’s not so pleasant. “When the baby comes then I’ll be getting no sleep at all. Plus, my youngest will become the middle child, and he already plays that part all too well.” “When my husband starts his classes again then I’ll be a complete wreck trying to do this parenting thing at night by myself.”

It’s as if I’m constructing my own little world all in the comfort of my own mind. Ashleyland. Yeah, that sounds pretty ridiculous.

Life gets interesting when the scenario doesn’t quite play out like I’d imagined. Who am I kidding? It rarely turns out like I imagine! And most of the time, it’s a very good thing.

Jesus speaks to this issue and calls it by name – Worry. Well, that’s the unpleasant side of it anyway.

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:31-34

The pleasant side of this thought game is more like planning, or trying to project our desires/plans onto the future. I call it the “pleasant” side because, even though it’s highly unlikely in our daydreaming state to really get what we want, it’s still nice to dream about how nice things could be.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Did you notice a common denominator between the worry and planning sides of our thought life? God is in them both. Or at least, He NEEDS to be in them. Jesus says that our Father knows exactly what we need, so that means we should not worry about how things will turn out.

Easy for Jesus to say… is my first response to that statement. Jesus and the Father have such a unique and close relationship that Jesus can speak this statement without flinching, without second-guessing, and He completely believes it 100%.

That’s exactly the kind of relationship the Father desires to have with each of His children. He wants us to believe Him without flinching, without second-guessing. The best part about believing Him is that He doesn’t disappoint.

Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. Psalm 34:5

Paul and the writer of Hebrews both speak about how we can have hope in God because He had sent His own Son, delivering His promise of salvation for all. I would say that if He can deliver in this, a MAJOR issue, He can deliver in ANYTHING else that this life brings our way.

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:33

17In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:17-20

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

In other words, trusting or believing God (hoping in Him) does not leave us disappointed or ashamed. You might say it would make one unflinching. Steadfast. Confident.

Now the flip side or the pleasant side of this is that we also can trust God to plan our ways, in the most perfect way. Remember, God is in the worry side and the planning side. We can plan our lives until we earn an “expert” rating in our own little worlds. However, planning doesn’t make it so. And there’s the rub! A man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. No amount of daydreaming will ensure that I’ll get just what I want. Even more interesting to ponder is that what I want may not be the best anyway. This is quite possibly the most obvious reason we should trust God’s heart for us. He directs our steps for good, and not to harm us. Sometimes His good feels painful (like in times of discipline), but it’s ALWAYS good (see my previous post on this!).

To take a peek into Ashleyland recently, you may go here. I can’t promise that you’ll even find it interesting, but you will find that it is what I’m really thinking…

Bragging Rights

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Have you ever taken one of those life events stress inventories? I’m pretty sure we win the biggest score this year (I’m all about winning, so don’t rain on my parade if your score is bigger!). Moving to a new state, starting a new job, starting seminary, building a new home, and having a baby are all BIG life events, and we get to check each one of them in one year’s time. It’s enough to make me want to lock myself in a closet for a week and just cry. I can’t tell you that it’s all been bad. Some of it is very exciting while other parts are frustrating and cause anxiety. But then you add to all of those BIG life events the “adventure” of learning a new location (my goodness, you people don’t know BIG until you’ve been to Houston…I’m saying….), finding a new church, and making new friends (did I mention I’m an introvert??). Someone get me a paper bag so I don’t hyperventilate.

For some reason, I’m doing fine! (well today…ask me tomorrow, I may not be so fine.) The insanity doesn’t seem so insane. That Reason is my God. Oh how I love Him.

I wrote about the blessing of the thorn as something that keeps us humble. I’d like to boast in my God for this post. He is the One who gives us good things. One of those things is faith or trust. I have seen Him turn my anxious heart into one of bold trust in Him. Here’s a simple, very real example. I am due to give birth to our third boy April 17 (can you imagine three little Farmer boys? seriously…I’m going to be one fit momma). We close on our house April 9. Now unless the medical world has come up with some medicine that miraculously allows you to have your baby whenever you want, I’m pretty sure I can’t depend on this little one to show up on his due date. I can’t even depend on him to hold off until after we get moved in. For all I know, he could come tonight. This REALLY bothered me for, oh, the last 8 months. I just want to have it my way. I would tell people at church, “Please pray that the baby comes on or after his due date!” But then I went to the doctor for my 36 week visit, and she tells me I’m already dilated and thinning out some. *GASP* Let the panic attack begin. I freaked out for a few days (packed my bags since I was so sure he’d come at any moment), but then I got wise and started to ask my friends to pray for me. Keep in mind every cell in my body and thought in my mind was set to anxiety overload. There was nothing I could do to change this, or the events that will soon take place. I was so pathetic, and yet God breathed peace into my heart and mind, allowing me to stop and rest in Him. He spoke truth over me, and I can have full assurance that whatever happens is going to be the best (and though the best may be hard, it’s still the best).

I can boast that my God is able. There’s nothing too big for Him to handle. There’s nothing too small for Him to care deeply about concerning me. He is able. (Mark 10:27; 1 Peter 5:7)

I can boast that my God is strong. In my weak moments when I lose perspective and begin to worry over the things in this life, He gives me sufficient grace so that when I’m weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9; Deuteronomy 11:2; Psalm 68:35)

I can boast that my God is in control. Though everything seems absolutely chaotic, and nothing feels at peace or settled, He is unshaken. His plans are perfect and nothing can disrupt them. (Psalm 33:10-11; Job 42:2; Psalm 93:1)

When I’ve “got it together”, it’s only because He’s holding me together. It has nothing to do with how spiritual I am or how good I am at handling stress. I’m a wreck without Him (just ask my children when I’ve started out in a bad mood for the morning…oh Jesus, help me…).

I just love how my God handles me when I’m a wreck. He’s no drill sergeant. He’s not interested in giving a guilt trip. He doesn’t even act disappointed that I can’t get myself together.

He’s so kind. And truthful. And compassionate.

So when I’m in negative mode, I don’t have to be down on myself and feel guilty that I’m just not trusting Him. What I should do is recognize my weakness (admission), go to Him (confession, utter dependence), ask others to pray for me (humility, intercession), and let Him do His work in my heart (sanctification).

He delights to give His children good things and to see us walk in truth (Luke 11:13; Psalm 145:9, 15-16). When we give thanks for what we receive from Him and when we know the truth of who we are, we bring glory to His name. When we have been overwhelmed by His goodness, may we be quick to turn to Him with hearts full of gratitude  and shout with joy about what He’s done.

 

Feeling Like a Foreigner

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I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to this. This place still does not feel like home. After only four months, I suppose this may be normal, but there’s something that keeps me very much unsettled.

Maybe it’s that I’m not in my own home yet. (Could the end of March take any longer??)

Maybe it’s that we’re still not completely settled into a church yet.

Maybe it’s that we haven’t gotten the chance to make friends yet.

Or maybe I’m just getting a glimpse of what we should feel like as God’s children living in a place that’s really not meant to be our home.

There’s definitely something about moving that can give you a perspective for eternity. In the deepest parts of my heart, I really don’t want to ever be comfortable in this place as long as I live. If I start feeling too comfortable, perhaps something is wrong. Maybe not wrong…but not completely right.

I’m thinking that my desire to be with Christ in heaven should make this earthly home pale in comparison. {Lord, may I never be too easily satisfied with what this world offers…} We just read from Philippians this Sunday about Paul being conflicted in himself about being with Christ or remaining on the earth with those whom he’s been able to teach (1:12-30). He said in v. 21,

For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.

It’s so short yet so profound. Now there’s a man who knows where his citizenship lies. Later in Philippians 3:20 Paul talks about our citizenship being in heaven and “from it we await our Savior…”.

I’m telling you, there’s nothing like being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by unfamiliar people that makes you really long to be with what’s familiar – Jesus.

Even the writer of Hebrews addresses this in the famous “hall of faith” chapter (11:13-16):

13 These [Old Testament believers] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.”

Sigh.

I’m so beyond grateful that He is my home.

When I’m with Him, I’m home. No more feeling like a foreigner. No more feeling unsettled in the unfamiliar. His Word gives me hope as I look forward to that home He’s preparing for me. In the meantime, I can look to Him and sink into those familiar arms, trusting that anything from Him is better than anything here.

Up is Down

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Artwork by Tony Damico

Following on the heals of my last post, I decided (or more like have been undergoing sculpting by the Potter) that the issue of service deserved further attention. Two weeks ago I sat in a Bible study watching a Beth Moore video in which she asked us to write a letter to Jesus telling Him what we seek (what we want from Him…and I’m not talking a fully furnished home and a Rolls Royce). Some of my letter was practical. “I want my baby to be born AFTER my house is completely built.” “I would like to settle into a church home before Your second coming.” You get the picture. Other parts involved spiritual requests. A few were typical “Give me faith to trust You even when things are hard.” “I want to be a woman of courage.” But then I got to this one issue.

Perhaps you’ve done this, and perhaps you felt as sheepish as I did after being brutally honest. Let me shoot straight, you want to ask Jesus to change someone else so that things would be easier for you. Yeah. I did that. The real issue for me is that there are people who are easy to serve and then there are “those other people.” You’d rather suffer through boils all over your skin than to stoop down and just serve those other people. It’s not that you’re opposed to serving, it’s just that those other people have a sense of entitlement (that you should be serving them), and this attitude makes your skin prickle all over. It makes me jerk my head in defiance honestly. I feel like those people don’t deserve to be served. Am I striking a chord with anyone? Am I the only one who does/thinks this? Bueller?

But like a good girl, I asked Jesus to give me a heart of service anyway because I OBVIOUSLY need it. It’s like asking for patience. We all know what happens when we ask for patience. We are placed in situations in which we must learn to be patient, right? So that means if I ask for a heart of service then I’m likely to have LOTS of opportunities to serve those who are hard to serve. And isn’t this exactly what I don’t want to do? Ugh. I’m really speaking with tongue in cheek here. I trust that God will chisel away at the places in my heart that don’t reflect His character. But the chiseling still hurts…

I had to start thinking about the scenarios that Jesus might have encountered as He walked this earth. He certainly came across countless people who had difficult personalities. He did not pick and choose whom He would serve based on how nice they were or how appreciative they would be or how deserving of the service they were. Jesus told the Twelve, if anyone wants to be first (greatest), he must be last (least) and a servant to ALL (Mark 9:35). This statement came from His mouth right after the Sons of Thunder (James and John) were arguing about who would sit at his right hand in the Kingdom of God! They learned that if you want to be great, you have to learn to be the least person. Up is down. No more thinking you’re important or powerful or in control. You get down and serve, and that is what Jesus calls greatness.

One of the best things about Jesus is that He lived this out. He didn’t come to be served but to serve and give His life for us (Mark 10:45). You’d expect the King over all creation to have a grand reception in which He would be waited on hand and foot as soon as He made His entrance on this earth. But no. He didn’t even have that mindset.

http://alisonfurminger.blogspot.com/2010/04/scriptrix-scribblings.html

Artwork by Alison Furminger

He took the form of a servant (ESV translation) and humbled Himself to die a criminal’s death. If God did this, what’s my excuse?

If I’m going to truly obey His word, He leaves me with no excuse but to bite my tongue and quietly serve (and trust me, there are lots of times I just want to smart off with some corrective or telling statement). It may always be the case that person “x” never learns to appreciate your service. The point is that you’re doing what you’ve been called to do regardless of how person “x” responds. You can leave their issues in the hands of Jesus (who is likely to be chiseling away at person “x” too if that person is a believer). I want to be great in His estimation. If that means to get down, so be it. (Just don’t expect me to like it…at least for a while…and don’t think I won’t have trouble serving because I will.)

They Call Me “Mom”

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I’ve been debating when I should write about this particular topic. It’s a bit of a touchy issue for a lot of people. But here I go anyway!

For anyone who knows me, you are aware that I value womanhood but not in a femi-nazi sort of way. I started a class at my old church (boo hoo, I miss you ladies) on the role of women as explained in the Bible. This sets off all kinds of red flags for a lot of women because many of you automatically assume I mean “you have to be a stay-at-home-mom, homeschool your children, cook gourmet meals every day, keep a spotless home, and serve your brains out by being completely hospitable all the time” (or any other combination of “that woman”). It’s just unfair! That could be several examples of different ways women express their God-given roles, but I seriously doubt that every woman could do all of those things (or should do them…). For this post, I’m only going to hone in on one particular role: mother.

I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of being a mom. I know, stone me now, what kind of a mother am I anyway?! Well, I’m one of those mothers who has grown into her role as a mom. And I’m still growing… But I definitely believe in the importance of being a mom and raising the children God has given me. I just don’t feel like I’m very good at it. Yet.

You see, I had lots of dreams about what I wanted to do with my life (I know, it sounds awfully selfish written out like that). I was going to get my master’s degree and start out in a great job then have children. I am a planner. This was my plan. But God had the real plan, and enter at stage right, my first child. All of the sudden my perspective changed. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom, so this new addition to our family meant I would be staying home. No master’s degree. No great job. No pats on the back for a job well done.

I began to learn very quickly that mothers, particularly those who don’t work outside of the home, get stuck in a vicious cycle known as “it’s never enough.” No matter what you do all day long, you feel like you don’t have anything to show for it. So what do you do to remedy this awful feeling? Enter stage left: works. Anything that makes you feel like you’re doing something that gets results. It could be ministry. It could be volunteering for a noble cause. It could be part-time work. Anything but parenting and taking care of the home (because who wants to work at something that doesn’t get immediate results??).

The world tricks you into thinking that what you do in the home is not “real” work. It gives you no warm fuzzies (only occasionally when that one child does the cutest dance you’ve ever seen or picks up his toys without you asking). It tells you that what you’re doing is not worthwhile because you can’t see immediate progress (and who decides what is actually progress anyway?). And let’s be honest, we believe it almost all the time. When you aren’t acknowledged for that brilliant way you handled a sibling tussle or how you prepared a meal that turned out perfectly, even according to Emeril’s standards, you get discouraged. You begin to question if you’re doing this whole mothering thing right. You wonder if it’s really worth it.

Now take away all those “works” and all those voices that whisper (or scream) that you’re wasting your time. That’s kind of what has happened to me in the last 2 months. When you move to a new place, all you have are each other. You have no church home (yet) where you can serve (cross off ministry). You don’t have a place to volunteer because frankly, you’re still trying to figure out how to get the grocery store to buy food for your family (cross off noble causes). You have no part-time work and no desire to try to look for any for that matter (cross off that job that you can measure your success at). But you do have your children and husband. Suddenly I’m getting better at being a mom because that’s all I have right now!

Those distractions (though they can be very good things to do, don’t get me wrong…it’s all in the motives and in the calling) have become less and less, and I’m able to see with more clarity what I can be doing with my boys right now. Does that mean I’ve got every minute filled with exciting science projects, fun new adventures around the neighborhood, educational field trips, creative snacks and games? No. I told you I’m a mom, not super woman (P.S. neither is anyone else in this world…she doesn’t exist). However I am taking the time to settle into this mom role. Those boys are worth it. One day they’ll be our leaders, and I don’t want anyone looking at me wondering what’s gone wrong with our society. I’m taking this thing seriously, and I hope you do too. After all, we’re not doing this for anyone on this earth. What God thinks is what really matters in the end. He is our standard and the One who determines real success.

So please, be encouraged today if you are a mother. What you do in the home is  important because God says it’s important. Remember that Abraham wasn’t running around the country speaking at men’s groups or volunteering at the soup kitchen to find his worth. He already found it in his God. And this God expected him to go to a new land in faith that God would bring about a promise that he could not even fathom. Later this same God speaks to the Israelites (Abraham’s legacy) about what they are to do – “teach these things to your children…” (Deut. 4:9). No big audiences. No pats on the back. I’m sure God expected Abraham to teach his children who his God was. He was to be found faithful with what God had given him, and I believe you’ll find that he did just that (see the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 and Genesis 12-23). May we be found in that last day as women of faith who did well with what He has given us.

P.S. I’m speaking from a stay-at-home-mom viewpoint. I am in no way downplaying a mother who also works outside of the home because I have a feeling she also deals with some of the same issues I face. My desire is to encourage all mothers to see the importance of what they do in the home whether or not they are there 24-7. Whew. I feel better now that I got that off my chest…