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Posts from the ‘Spiritual Development’ Category

Am I Really Happy? Am I Really Sad?

I’m still thinking through this one.

About rejoicing and mourning…

Last week, we gave one of our children a gift. We didn’t have a reason. We love her. That’s all. And, okay, we got the idea from The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers/Children by Gary Chapman.

We didn’t give the other two gifts. Their “day of no reason but love” will come.

One of the two handled the event very well, helping to wrap the gift and showing great excitement for the receiver. The other child did not handle the event so well. Let’s just say there was a bit of a melt down, a few tears, and maybe a stomp or two.

I know some of you would become enraged at this point, and I don’t know when I became this person, but I could barely hold in my laughter. So, after the sulker and I gathered ourselves, we launched into a discussion:

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

I wonder if it’s easier for us to weep with those who weep because we don’t want the lot they’ve been given.

Maybe we struggle to celebrate with those who are celebrating because of jealousy.

I wonder if it’s easier to rejoice with those who rejoice because we don’t want weeping to get in our way (like me with my sad child in the above story).

Sometimes we’re quick to join the mourners only to look like the hero.

Are we truly happy when something goes well for others?

On the other hand, are we truly grieved when it doesn’t?

Verse 9 of the same chapter in Romans says, “Let love be genuine.”

May we be genuinely celebratory with our friends when they receive an expected or unexpected gift.

May we truly hurt when they are hurting.

As I keep reading back in this chapter, all of these issues seem to “fix” themselves…

every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (3)

present your bodies as a living sacrifice (1)

Daily Bread To The Full

The Lord’s Prayer has been on replay in my mind lately, specifically “Give us this day our daily bread.” Looking ahead to all that has to be done overwhelms my life. When I look at each day, I may feel somewhat troubled, but when I observe the week on my calendar, and especially the month, I could break out into hives. So, I’ve tried to focus more on the day at hand, asking for strength, provision and guidance for each day. In doing so, I’ve thought back to the Israelites wandering in the desert. Here is Exodus 16 in its entirety, but I want to share a portion:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked towards the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’” Exodus 16:4-12

The Lord gives us our fill daily. More is often the case, but never less.

When we seek him for help, we are able to see his provision and declare that He is the Lord our God. 

What I’ve realized is that in asking for help, I’m more aware that I’ve received help. When I’m aware that I’ve received help, I’m grateful. I’m also overwhelmed, but not with despair, with awe. The Lord is faithful to give today what is needed for today.

The-Lords-Prayer

A Few Words Go A Long Way

Have you ever had to make a big decision?

Were you concerned with how that decision would be received?

Over these months as Chris and I have been toiling over our decision to homeschool, we have bounced many ideas off our friends. Still, we knew we owned the ultimate conclusion. And, while I knew many would receive the news well, I was surprised at the words I heard from so many people. Words, I think, most of us are accustomed to saying to our children but not necessarily our friends.

I’m proud of you.

These words keep ringing in my ears. And, maybe I’m hearing things (totally possible), but I hear more than just that. I hear: Move forward in confidence. You can do this. We’re behind you.

These four words have been beneficial for me because they have helped me to look around. I’m more aware of how tough parenting can be and the big and small ways my friends are making me proud in the ways they handle their children. The Dismukes come to mind, my mother-in-law who has cared for my brother-in-law day in and day out for weeks on end, the countless dads I know who take their kids for donuts for one-on-one time, my husband who will rake 45 bags of leaves and still fit in basketball with Cooper, my neighbor whose son had a tragic accident and will forever be in her care, and the many friends who serve their children daily by making meals, making beds or teaching scripture.

In and of ourselves, none of this is possible. We do what needs to be done for our children through the strength of the Lord.

Encourage means “to instill courage.” Let your friends know when they make you proud. A few words go a long way.

Is That Wrong?

This morning, I was fixing my hair (after I had showered, exercised and meditated on scripture while drinking coffee), and I asked God a question my children often ask…

Is it wrong?

Is it wrong that I just took a deep breath as if to enjoy the fact that I am alone? Is it wrong that one moment I grieve sending my baby to kindergarten and the next there is a bit of relief over his excitement? Is it wrong I just enjoyed three things for myself?

Much like my response to my children, there was not a “yes” or “no” response. But, I hope the response rings loud in my mind throughout this “freed up” (Ha!) school year.

Your life is no more yours now than it was then.

My life is not my own. My time is not my own. While this new transition will be and has already proven to be daunting, I want to be careful to remember my schedule is under the Lordship of Christ. Everything belongs to the Lord. From colossal to small.

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” Abraham Kuyper

Intentional Living – Even In The Suburbs

I recently volunteered at our school’s festival. Complete with vendors, games, food and auction, it was sure to raise money for our already impressive school. I love our school. The administration is strong. The teacher’s have been good to my children and care about their education. I love our neighborhood, too. After being here for about 5 1/2 years, my love has grown deeper. Getting to know the families, I’ve seen a neighborhood laced with care and talent and picking up slack when others need help. This is a strong, educated, beautiful community. But, there’s something you don’t see living in the suburbs, unless you look really hard.

When I was serving at the festival that day, I looked around the room. I saw a multitude of The North Face jackets, Tom’s shoes and other designer clothing. I saw children flashing $20 bills and smiles covered in braces. I saw children choosing what they wanted for lunch from the vendors present.

Reality is deeper than what the naked eye can see. I had to jolt myself into that truth while my eyes were perusing the room. What’s true is that everyone everywhere needs the love of a Savior; needs are visible and invisible. I can’t assume that a child ill-dressed is unloved, and I can’t assume a child well-dressed is loved.

From that moment on, I helped children play the game differently. Because I didn’t know if they might be suffering through the divorce of parents, being abused, watching a parent die, failing in school, hating their appearance or just being ignored, I wrapped my arms around them and guided their hands, hoping love would reach their little bodies.

For the last several years, there has been much talk in the Church about loving the city. For that I am grateful. My attention needed to be turned, my affections needed to be balanced, my view needed to be widened, my life needed to be challenged, and my heart needed to be tugged. These are works that must not cease.

For me, the great part of these teachings is the awareness it has created in my own neighborhood. Had my perspective not been broadened, I would not have been able to see what should be the focus of my narrow. I have seen a greater purpose for where I am, and my heart has been stirred to be intentional in every encounter. While I have realized my responsibility in both locations, the intentionality of how I live in my own neighborhood is different. Needs are easier to cover in the suburbs. I have to listen closer and look harder. I have to be present and available. I have to stop putting myself first.

This tension in my life is good and necessary, but I have drawn one conclusion in my tension: Jesus is Lord of the City and the Suburbs. All neighborhoods need a Savior. In order to find Him, they may need an intentional neighbor showing the way.

Insecurity And A Balanced Life

One of my biggest areas of insecurity as a parent is sick kids.  I NEVER know what to do when my kids are sick, and it hasn’t changed with my oldest being ten. Should I go to the doctor?  Should I wait it out? If I go and pay a $30 copay, and he’s not sick, I will be wasting money.  Do I get the prescription filled or will she become immune to antibiotics?  Go to school or stay home?  Fever or just hot in our house?  No fever or broken thermometer?  Rash or red magic marker?  Stomach bug or bad food? Bend your wrist up, bend it down, this way, that way, no, it’s not broken, go to bed. What if it’s broken and I just sent my kid to bed?  All kids have those lumps in their necks; it’s okay as long as they move around.  Right?  I am right?  Right?

Exhausting!!!

I keep singing this song in my head Where could I go but to the Lord?  Just don’t go to WebMD!

The Mind

First, may I appeal to logic?  The Lord loves your children more than you do.  He always has and always will know the depths of who they are beyond our capacity of understanding. His love cannot be outdone.  “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” (Ephesians 3:17b-19a)

The Heart

And, next, the heart.  The gospel has to so penetrate our hearts that everything is out of focus compared to him.  Our hearts can be transformed to love God above all else — do not misunderstand — we are still in the flesh and will fear, become anxious and allow our imaginations to run wild — but our hearts can be reassured with peace, being reminded with His Spirit that our identity is staked in a secure foundation.  Love for God and identity in Christ must exceed the heart and identity of “mother.”

I confess, it’s suffocating to say those words because I know my idols.  I am often convicted of loving my children more than God and plagued by fear and insecurity because of my sin.  I’m grateful for grace and a God who continues to point me toward his truth.

The Will

Lastly, the will.  Do you submit your will?  His Spirit gives the strength needed.  In submitting to God’s authority, we experience the true joy and relaxation that yielding produces.  As parents, we must lay down our wills daily before the Father whose will is perfect.

What is your greatest insecurity as a parent?

With mind, heart and will balanced, our insecurities can be subdued.

Work It Out

As a Christ-follower, do you every size-up yourself with the thought

I should have progressed beyond this point by now.?

I expressed those sentiments to a friend one day over a struggle, and he suggested that as we grow, sometimes the Christian walk seems to get harder.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There is such a thing as false peace, there is such a thing as believing delusions. The whole of the New Testament  and the history of the Church throughout the centuries bear eloquent testimony to the fact that there is a ‘fight of faith’, and not to have any troubles in your soul is, therefore, far from being a good sign.  It is, indeed, a serious sign that there is something radically wrong, and there is a very good reason for saying that.  For from the moment we become Christians we become the special objects of the attention of the devil.  As he besieged and attacked our Lord, so does he besiege and attack the Lord’s people.”

I have found great relief recently in the passage  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

Many days, working out my salvation looks like, in Uncle Lewis’ words, “a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerine plant,” a baby holding its breathe until it lets out that first blood-curdling scream, sitting, staring, wondering what I’m supposed to do next.

Fear

Trembling

Working it out Nonetheless

If you’re here, don’t quit.  It may not be comfortable, but it may be right where God wants you.

For (a really big word)

it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Progressing, growing, working it out — these are not by our own might.  We have the power of God working through us in this fight of faith.  Stand firm, knowing that all of these things are beneficial and necessary for sanctification.

Nothing is wasted.

What is it looking like for you to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?


A Lesson I Hope I’m Always Learning

Submission is a word that strikes all of us to the core, isn’t it?

I’ve recently gone through a time of ups and downs, what feels like waves of anger and fighting, and in the midst of it, I realized what I needed to do was lay down.  I wasn’t quite sure what the problem was, but I knew my answer was submission to God.  And, in doing that, I was convicted that what followed next was submitting to others.

Submission is a command that is quite contrary to the world, and scripture is laced with it.  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).  Wives submit to your husbands (Eph. 5:22).  Submit yourselves to God (James 4:7).  Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution (1 Peter 2:13).  For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:19).

I have been given several gifts in submitting.  One is strength.  We tend to see submission as puny, as weak, but submission comes through the strength of Christ, which is the greatest of strengths.  Joy.  Although in coming down from my anger, I’ve been in a somber state, my joy has not been erased.  In submission, God is continually reminding me of his gospel, providing joy.  Relaxation.  If you have ever submitted your control, you know true relaxation — not the kind where you have coffee and a good book or cheese dip and a close football game — but the mindset  and heartset of relaxation.

Who would have ever thought that such a tense word could bring such immeasurable goodness?  That’s the nature of the gospel.  Contrary to the world.  Upside down. Better.

Tension Can Be Healthy

The older I get, the more I appreciate the joys of living with a heart of gratefulness and remembering and repentance and celebration and restfulness and tension (insert record scratch). Tension, you say?  Yes, tension.  That rubbing of your temples and squinting of your eyes?  Well, maybe, but on a deeper, more contemplative level.

There is a healthy release that comes with the “unresolved” life of tension.  That doesn’t flow at all, does it? Release and tension living harmoniously?  Sometimes, we have to accept the possibility that we do not have all of the solutions and allow a healthy tension in our lives. 

There is a healthy tension in letting my kids figure out some things on their own.

There is a healthy tension in wrestling with what it means for me to be responsible for the poor.

There is a healthy tension, at times, in walking away from unresolved conflict in a relationship.

There can be a healthy tension, for others, if we are not always trying to be the savior of their problems.

I have found that I provide tension with two enemies:

I’ve been in physical therapy for my back for the past month.  One exercise my therapists have done each visit is hamstring stretches.  They want my leg relaxed to get the stretch, but I always tighten my leg.  They chop at my leg and say, “relax.”   When I relax, I get a better stretch.  Some of these tense opportunities will work out, when we surrender our control.  Control is an enemy of tension.  Sometimes we need that relaxed stretch to allow God to strengthen something in us.

Typically, we see tension as the enemy, when passivity is the real enemy.  Tension provides a struggle rather than comfort and safety.  Let tension cause you to wrestle with some things God may want you to work through in your life.  There was a time when the less fortunate were not on my radar.  I may have been more comfortable, but now I believe it is better to grapple with the things God has called me to than ignore they exist.

We can find release, even in our tensions, when we acknowledge God knows more than we do.

Are there “tensions” God is calling you to?

Is It Really Worth A Try?

Mom, can I love God and be famous?

It would be really hard, I said.

It’s worth a try. She added.

No, it’s not, I cringed.

This is a question my oldest posed to me one morning over breakfast.  We were having a discussion about loving God.  At the end, she asked a question I think we all want to know.  Then, she followed with the response of a risk, I think, many of us are willing to take.  In Galatians 1:10, Paul questions, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

If we’re able to please man, we may not be truly serving Christ.  Can we have the best of both worlds?  It’s worth a try, you may say.  Is it?

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  Matthew 6:24

I cannot serve God and myself.  I cannot serve God and my idols.  I cannot serve two masters.  I still try.  He still corrects.

Am I saying that the famous and rich cannot love God?  Not at all.  I’m saying only one can be our master.

How can we detect our master/idol?  Tim Keller says, “An idol is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

What do you love more than God?  What do you fear losing?  I’ll go first — my kids.

For more on idolatry, see this post from “Every Square Inch” or Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller.