Think On These Things

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,
for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 2:10-20

Something To Ponder

“The Hebrew word for “virtuous” is used 200 plus times in the Bible to describe an army. This Old Testament word refers to a force and is used to mean able, capable, mighty, strong, valiant, powerful, efficient, wealthy, and worthy. The word is also used in reference to a man of war, men of war, and men prepared for war. Change this definition to the feminine case and you begin to grasp the power at the core of this woman! (A virtuous woman who can find? ~Proverbs 31:10) Just as mental toughness and physical energy are the primary traits of an army, they also mark God’s beautiful woman.” ~ Elizabeth George Beautiful in God’s Eyes, Treasures of the Proverbs 31 Woman

How virtuous do you feel?

To be honest there are days where I don’t feel that kind of virtuous ness flowing through my veins. But I can also be honest and say it’s when I have lowered my sword and my shield is somewhere around my feet.

We are, more times than not, our own worst enemy. Which leaves us unprepared for battle when the enemy does show up.

The answer to this is found, obviously, in Scripture.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks.

Speak to each other in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Put on the armor of God.

And on and on these call to arms are speaking to us from the Bible.  Use one of these.

Let the virtuous woman be found wherever you are today whether it is standing at the kitchen sinking, sitting at a desk in a cubicle, or running from meeting to meeting.

Raise your battle cry and go conquer whatever you have before you this day.

Because truly the battle belongs to the Lord.

16666404378_18571b03b2_o

Sharing with Tell His Story and  Candidly Christian

Poured Out

Sometimes I have a hard time knowing how to start a post. I have a core thought but I’m not sure how to introduce it. Like that awkward moment in a conversation when you want to throw something out there but an opening just hasn’t presented itself.

Or, and this is more like real life, I have this on going conversation in my head and putting it out there can seem a bit like blurting out randomness. I do it all the time to Rob. I have half the conversation in my head before I say something out loud and he gets this play of emotions across his face…confusion, a look that clearly shows him mentally groping for a thread to grab hold of, and a kind of eye shrug that declares “I got nothing” before he says, “Huh?” or sometimes “Woman, what are you talking about?”

So, I apologize up front if you have a woman-what-are-you-talking-about moment while reading this post. Just know that I have been thinking about being content, prayer, doing whatever you do to the glory of God and not being idle and just go with it.

Specifically this morning  I was contemplating the idea of giving ourselves as a living sacrifice and what that means. Unless you are new to this blog, and me really, then you know this is not a new topic. Romans twelve is and has been a big part of my thoughts. I’ve blogged often about how that can look, the dying to self, in our lives as wives and mothers.

But this morning, because of the above mentioned topics, I zeroed in on the quantitative meaning. And it seems to me that I can be pretty good at sacrificing bits and pieces here and there but giving my whole self over, holding nothing back is something more than what I am used to.

I’m not sure I know what it means to continually empty myself out on behalf of the people around me. Instead of pouring myself out as a drink offering as Christ did I might be tossing a thimbleful out in places. Or maybe a whole cupful or even a bucketful if I feel a sense of urgency or weightiness to a need.

But to continually pour myself out completely? To utterly empty myself out into the world? I’m not sure I know what that even means much less how to do it

IMG_0089

I think it can be easy to end up here. Lots of little demands and the busy-ness of being busy can do that. It wears you down and exhausts you and makes you feel like you are constantly being poured out, but how often have you really given completely over until there is nothing left?

This year is our youngest daughter’s first time on the school volleyball team. On the way to her first practice we were talking about playing hard and giving it all she has. I want her to see that she can play hard but still be holding back. And what her team needs (not just from her but from every player) is to leave it all on the court. To be completely focused and pulling from deep inside and putting everything she has into it.

We aren’t called to sacrifice a toe this day and maybe an arm some other day. Rather we are told to present our body as a living sacrifice. To give it all, everything, every day.

I wonder if we don’t live this way because we live such chopped up lives with so much going on? Or because we have believe we can’t be everything to everyone, we can’t do it all, and the biggie of big lies, you have to love and take care of yourself in order to love and take care of others? (Yes, I know there are times in Scripture where Jesus went off by himself to pray and be alone. But I really don’t think we can equate what He did with our version of mani-pedis and treat yo-self attitude. There is nothing wrong with finding alone time. Read a book, go get that mani-pedi or massage. But we should be careful not to over spiritualize it by thinking it is the same as quieting all of the day to day ruckus so that our heart and mind can find rest in God.)

We can’t be everything to everyone and we can’t do it all but the good news is that we aren’t called to be everything to everyone and to do it all. We look at our life and qualify it as everyone and everything and it simply is not so. We have the life and work that God has put us in and given to us and we are called to give ourselves completely and wholly to that. Do we over extend ourselves sometimes? Sure, but there are seasons and times of that and it will pass but we like to hold on to the feeling of it because in some way we get a sense of importance and self worth from it. If I feel like I am doing it all, or at least feel like I am expected to be doing it all, then I must be somebody; I must have meaning. But who is that making much of, me or God?

Maybe the reason we don’t really live emptied out like that is because we don’t understand what it really means. We have made it about actions and we can look around and declare with a certain amount of assurance, I just cannot physically do more.

It’s not just the physical work though, is it? I mean the action is part of it but it’s the whole faith without works thing…we can’t be poured out without, well, being poured out. It is the right combination of the physical with the right heart motivation and right focus that pulls it in line and turns what we are doing day to day into a life being spent in the name of Christ and for the glory of God.

As I finished my first draft of this post my husband sent out the Old Testament reading for our worship service this week. How kind is God to just tell us what it looks like to live poured out as an offering?

“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”

We over complicate the thing by over thinking it, maybe? Or we want to control it so that we can maintain a certain level of comfort that we have become accustomed to and we reduce it down to something we feel like we can manage?

But He lays it out so simply. Fear me and walk in my ways, love me, serve me with everything you’ve got, and be obedient. And get this, it’s all for our good. The following two verses from that passage in Deuteronomy should give us great courage to live life this way.

He goes on to say that the heavens of heaven itself and the entire earth belong to Him and He has set His heart in love upon our fathers and their offspring. We’re the offspring! Everything belongs to Him and He loves us.

Now we are to go and live like it.

Sharing with Fresh Market Friday.

 

 

 

He Thinks I am A RockStar

Seriously. He has been amazed by me lately and I feel a bit guilty because honestly, what he is noticing is really what should have been all along.

It started some time last week. Have you ever had one of those days where you are just burning through your to-do list? Yeah, it was like that only I didn’t have a list.

I was just being busy. Actually, I think that is the wrong word to use. We all know we can be busy, even really busy, and not actually be accomplishing much of anything.

I was being very purposeful. I was looking for things to do. I wasn’t trying to be productive but it happened.

Pssst, side bar. What you read and meditate on has a huge effect on your state of mind and attitude and that in turn has a huge effect on your life. Start reading about contentment. And start pondering prayer. Your life will change in a very quiet but solid way.

Here is what I learned. If idle hands are the devil’s playground then laziness is the fertilizer for discontentment. Not doing work leaves your mind free to wander and think about all the stuff you don’t have but wish you did. Too many breaks between chores and you have time to ruminate on how he doesn’t really love you the way you need to be loved. A pause in tending what needs tending will make it easy to tend the hurts and perceived insults and wounds you’ve suffered, to concentrate on how you just aren’t appreciated.

But maybe that isn’t what happens to you. I will be honest that those things might happen in my mind and heart upon occasion but not often. You know how it really shows up for me?

Apathy. I just don’t care much about those things that really ought to be cared about because it is more fun to daydream about the things that I decide ought to be cared about. And rarely are they things that you can look at on the surface and dismiss as not being important per se, but in reality it’s devoting a lot of time and thought to misty things. Things that aren’t super substantial or carry much weight.

5960580231_54d081f1ca_o

It’s like cultivating a diet of fast food rather than a palate that desires fresh fruits and vegetables. You are indeed eating and taking in sustenance but we can all agree that it is not the healthiest way to live.

Rather than just giving stuff a cursory swipe of my attention I was paying real attention to whatever task my hand found to do. And amazingly enough I was getting a lot done. And I even felt more energetic to keep going. (Now, lest you think otherwise, I am a pretty good housekeeper for the most part. I had worked out a routine to keep things nice and tidy in such a way that you could drop in unannounced and it would not have caused a bit of panic. But, things like that have a way of becoming a way to gloss over something with no thought or real effort. Intermixed with contentment and prayer you should try a steady consideration of glorifying God in all that you do. That is a real game changer!)

Back to my rockstar status. I had been pretty productive but still had some time left in the day. Two things about that last sentence. First, when I say “time left in my day”  I am referring to time left before my love arrives home. Time  is measured and used differently when he is home and we’re all together. Not sure how to explain it but it’s a marked difference in the blocking out of our day.

Secondly, I cannot tell you how many times I have muttered, moaned, and groaned over the lack of enough time in my day. In hindsight there is no doubt that it is much more of focus and time management problem than an actual dearth of seconds, minutes, and hours. I have actually had more time to read, snap a picture or two, blog, and do all manner of things  while accomplishing so much other stuff like laundry and what have you.

So what did I do that day last week when I suddenly found myself with time on my hands and no desire or feeling to do nothing? I ironed his shirts. I know I am going to sound so spoiled right now but Rob’s main dress shirts go to the cleaners weekly. I haven’t had to do anything with them other than drop off and pick up for a few years now. If he needed a casual shirt (polo or short sleeve button up style) pressed he would pull it from the closet and I would happily iron. And I do mean happily because I fought that battle a long time ago to not whine or hate doing that task.

But see the gloss? I would do it when asked, even with a happy heart, but I didn’t invest the time to just go ahead and do it so that the shirts were hanging up waiting for him to need one. And I didn’t do it for any good reason other than I was “too busy” only the truth was I wasn’t busy doing anything other than looking busy.

Man, I sound ridiculous, don’t I? But what can I say? This is where I have been these days and what’s going on in my heart and mind.

This morning when he mentioned again how he was loving the shirts being ready in the closet and not knowing if I had turned over a new leaf or what,  I just told him it was my own way of stepping a little further into being a grown up.

That’s what it feels like really. As if I am maturing a bit…seeing myself a little more clearly, learning a little bit more about God and how he expects his people to be his people. Funny how that shows up in such mundane everyday things.

I will confess that today I decided to amp up the rockstar-ness in Rob’s eyes so I did two things. I made a trip to the cleaners (without him asking) to drop off the shirts because he had planned to do it and forgotten.

I also took our sixteen year old daughter driving. We are never in any hurry for our kids to get their permit or driver’s license according to when they legally can but we have really procrastinated teaching this particular child how to drive. (Probably because we have been too busy…ha!) For whatever reason it has been difficult for Rob and this daughter to uhhh, enjoy the father/daughter bonding over driving instruction. She makes him nervous which in turn makes her nervous and you can see how this cycle can break badly.

So, today I turned it up to eleven and took her driving.

Total rockstar.

Sharing with Candidly Christian.

 

Think On These Things

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

~Psalm 23

 

 

Living the Life

To want to be a writer seems to be a very presumptuous thing to me. To author anything, be it a blog post, book, or even a twitter feed, is a rather arrogant undertaking. You are essentially saying, “I have had a thought that should be heard. Someone else needs to hear what I am thinking other than the me that walks the halls of my mind and heart.”

How is that not presumptuous or arrogant? Yet here I am, pen at the ready. Or more accurately, fingers at the keyboard.

IMG-0255

We like to be made much of. We can crave the praise of man and feel driven to pursue acceptance and notice. I remember what it was like when several years ago a blogpost of mine was commented on and reposted by a well respected gentleman in our circle, a ministerial peer, if you will, of my husband. Man, I felt like I had arrived! Or when someone unexpected would engage with a post? That was like I had a feather in my cap.

That kind of pride or desire for that praise is one of the reasons I didn’t write/blog for a while. The lines of what motivated me became a bit blurry and I didn’t (and still don’t) want what could be a good thing to become nothing more than a narcissistic work of the flesh. It’s why I still come to it with a bit of hesitancy.

So, why am I here? How do I know it is okay for me to claim this part of the cyber world and to write? And further more to put it out there and invite you to read my thoughts?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

When I was younger I would read that verse and envision a boisterous medieval style feast, colorful and loud with joy and merriment. Eating and drinking with no concern of gluttony or hangovers as long as a cup was raised in honor of the King and thanks was rendered. It meant that no task, no endeavor, was ever “too much” if it was done for and in the name of Christ.

That seems a wee bit foolish, doesn’t it? It would be easy to tack a “Cheers!” style attitude on to just about anything and call it good if that were true. No, doing all you do to the glory of God is not free reign to indulge as deeply and unconcernedly as we can because just a few verses prior to that admonition is the reminder that while all things may be lawful not all things are helpful.

What does it mean to glorify God in all that you do then? John Piper defines it like this, “Glorifying” means feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.”

That is my plumb line…it is what I put my writing up against and how I evaluate it. It’s how I take measure of every thought and action that I do and have. Does this ________________ accurately reflect the characteristics of my King? If someone comes across my words, or sees me cleaning my house, or practicing hospitality, managing my time, eating and drinking, if anything I do is seen by anyone , will they see God in it?

Is it okay, or lawful for me to write? Are my words gentle? Are they kind? Do they encourage and point people to Christ? Am I being obedient to what I should be writing or am I just flapping my chops, as the old timers used to say? If I can answer those questions correctly then let the words fly!

A lot of the reason I am more comfortable these days with wanting to write is because of of the books I have been reading and sermons I have been pondering, etc. One book in particular that sort of solidified things is You Who by Rachel Jankovic.

“We have a natural, God-given desire for glory, but it must have a healthy purpose. Glory to give, not glory to hoard. Glory to pass on. This bring tremendous freedom. We do not struggle to be glorious, but we struggle to give glory.”

It’s not just in being free to write because it is something I want to do. It’s about being free from trying to turn it into something. When the purpose in doing what we do is to glorify Him, is giving evidence of His greatness, then I can be content with what I’ve done. He is free to make as little or as much of it as He would like.

Living that way is truly living. All of our work becomes important. I do not need to search for meaning in my tasks or to over spiritualize washing dishes and doing laundry. I just do them joyfully, content to allow the glory of His provision, His restoration, to have their proper place and be revealed through my obedience in these mundane ordinary tasks.

Whatever you do, do as unto the Lord. I always took that verse to mean do your work like God is your boss. I’m wondering now if it might mean a little more than that. If it might also include a bit of doing as unto the Lord as reflecting back the work He has done and is doing? Less a do the work well because the Big Boss is watching but rather do the job well, no matter how simple or difficult, small or significant, because there is glory to give in that task?

Today is grocery shopping day. As the kids have gotten older and in school or able to be home alone I have settled into a rhythm and routine of doing that task in a quiet focused solitude. Today Sam and Claire will need to go with me. There will be no quiet solitude and my focus will be dancing all over the place because their focus will be doing the hokey pokey all over the place. I literally just stopped typing, reread that sentence and took a big bracing sip of coffee. That alone is enough to give me pause but we aren’t called to face our day with teeth gritted and a just get through it attitude.

The truth of the matter is that no matter what is on the agenda today for me or you, we can do it all to the glory of God. We should do it all to the glory of God.

And who knows? A trip to the grocery store with two of the biggest personalities in the house may yield a blog post or two 🙂

Sharing with Candidly Christian and   Tell His Story

 

Think On These Things

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.
For each will have to bear his own load.
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:1-10

Hello Monday

Well, last week went by rather quickly, didn’t it? It must have been the holiday which is funny to me because as a child the holidays seemed to make time slow down. Christmas break seemed to last forever but with my own kids it seems like we head back to school before I have really gotten settled into the break.

Of course this shift in my perspective on time could be because I might be getting old.

Regardless of how fast or slowly it went for you I hope it was a good day. We had friends over and an abundance of food. It was a laid back kind of day with some of us working in the kitchen and some of us outside keeping an eye on the kids in the pool. One family got here and their son was literally in the pool for less than three minutes before a back flip off the diving board went awry and there were some tears, blood and a big ol’ goose egg on his noggin.  Thankfully everyone stayed calm and he was pretty brave about the whole thing. (It totally helps that mom is a nurse and so is Sarah so he had more than enough medical professionals around to evaluate him.)  After sitting with some ice on his head for a while he was soon splashing around again and I am happy to report that subsequent back flips went much better.

As I already mentioned there were copious amounts of food. We’ve been grilling a lot lately and I was so over burgers and brats that I opted for chicken shish kabobs on the menu. Since we were doing those we of course had to make some lamb kabobs as well. We did make some burgers for the kids too but more about that in a minute. We noshed on chips and dips and salsa, and delicious cheeses. Oh and fruit! My goodness, the cherries were delicious and sweet! Blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon. Don’t you just love the abundance of summer fruit goodness? And there is something so solidly celebratory found in simple uncomplicated foods with everyone gathered around munching. It was a feast to be sure.

Now about those burgers…

IMG-0125One of my besties was working with me in the kitchen assembling the kabobs when she glanced over and saw me patting out my burgers. She mentioned that she has the name of a good therapist should I need one for any other ocd-ish tendencies I might have but also said my method, if you will, of shaping my patties needed to make it to the blog. Honestly, I’ve been doing it this way for so long that I hadn’t given any thought to how it looks. Basically, I smoosh out all of the ground beef into a rimmed baking sheet and then use a margarita glass to cut out the patties. It ensures they’re all the same thickness and size and that means they cook evenly. My friend joked that she hadn’t put that much thought into her burger making but there you have it. My handy dandy if somewhat weird way of making burgers.

IMG-0124 (1)

In closing I will confess that I am a total firework curmudgeon. I find them to be magical and seeing them always delights my soul. I don’t really even mind the crowds when watching them. But, and I am pretty sure this circles back around and confirms how this post started, the older I get the less inclined I am to stay up late enough to be somewhere to watch them in person, and good gracious THE HEAT. I hate sticky humid heat and I live in Florida people, so that is the kind of heat we usually have. And while I don’t mind the crowd watching the show I do not care for trying to leave in that same crowd. Sitting in a car way after my bedtime stuck in bumper to bumper traffic after sitting in that wet Florida heat quickly kills any magic to be found in seeing sparkles in the sky for me, no matter how grand they may be. Thankfully, last week we had gone to the beach with some friends who just happened to have sparklers to share and the night before my husband and son had been at a baseball game that concluded with fireworks so Sam wasn’t overly disappointed by my curmudgeonly-ness.

All and all it was a good day and the feasting and celebrating continued with dinner with friends on Friday evening and celebrating Sarah’s birthday on Saturday. Two of her friends joined us and we were delighted to celebrate their engagement.

Which happened on July 4th.

Under the magical fireworks downtown.

There. Circle complete. I am definitely getting old.

IMG-0114

The Beauty of Being Torn Apart

12328461503_f59e2a393b_oThis was a call to worship that my husband, who is a pastor, gave several years ago. I hope you are as encouraged by it as much as I have been. There is a beauty to be found in being torn apart and fashioned into something new.
God loves to tear things apart. We don’t often think about God in these terms, perhaps, but the biblical record (and what we observe in history and in our own experience) shows us that it is so.
If we go back to the creation narrative we can see that God is immediately about the business of tearing things apart – of separating thing from thing. He divides the day into light and dark – day and night. He made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse.
When we get to man, God separated some of the dirt he had made and formed it into a man and breathed life into him with his own Spirit. Then he took the man and put him into a deep sleep – a kind of death – and tore from him through a hole in his side part of his body. And from the rib he took from the man he formed the woman.
He loves tearing things apart. But notice that he doesn’t just rip them apart because he’s dissatisfied with them. Rather, he tears them apart in order to re-form them. The things divided become complements of each other, making a new thing. The one day is made up of day and night. The two humans (male and female) are then brought together and become one flesh.
Even in the case of our Lord who is Life itself, God separated his Son from life and in a sense from himself (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?). But, of course, he was raised from death and was reunited with life in a new, glorified way.
God separated Abraham from the other nations to create a unique people for himself, but even here we see in Ephesians (and elsewhere, of course) that God is remaking from the two one new man.
Even we ourselves are subjected to separation from ourselves (God killing in us that which separates us from him) in order to be put back together, to be human in the way our Lord would have us be human.
Sometimes in the midst of busy seasons it’s easy to get caught up in the finish the thing move on to the next thing moments. But always I want to be mindful of how God is at work and, like the woman at the end of the pregnancy yearns to feel the pain of contractions that she knows will bring about the arrival of her babe, I long to feel the pains of God at work tearing me apart and reforming me more and more into the image of His Son.

Think On These Things

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet,  all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8