The Long View

February 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

There are many joys of being a parent, but there are also many hard lessons. Some of the lessons come from learning what not to do the next time around. Some of the lessons come from seeing your own sin tendencies in living color as you watch your child succumb to the same temptations as you.

Recently, I was reminded of this as one of my children protested rather dramatically after having taken a bath. The child was cold and uncomfortable and from her limited perspective, the discomfort was not going to end anytime soon. I knew that the situation was momentary; soon she would be warm and cozy and ready to conquer the day. Telling her all that though fell on deaf ears. She knew that she didn’t like the current situation and she wanted me to change it…stat.

While I certainly understood my daughter’s desire to get warm (and quickly), I couldn’t help but smile a bit at how limited her viewpoint was. I had the larger perspective and I knew that if she trusted me, all would soon be made right. She didn’t need to worry or fret (it wasn’t going to change the situation anyway.)  My past faithfulness in this regard should have been enough to calm her fears. My legacy of love and provision should have squelched the anxiety she felt. She had every reason to believe that I would take care of her, and no reason to believe differently. Yet, in the moment her loss of control overwhelmed her confidence in me.

Despite my smiles at the absurdity of the situation, I couldn’t help but also experience the twinge of conviction. How often does my behavior mirror that of my child’s when God places me somewhere that I am experiencing uncomfortableness or pain? How quickly does my confidence erode when I don’t see any benefit to my current despair? When I recognize that my control is limited and my future unclear, do I carefully recall His past perfect provision or instead do I anxiously protest and complain?  God’s remedy may be moments away, but am I so busy seeking my own solution that I neglect to take solace in Him?

Too often an examination of my life would find that my response and my daughter’s is pretty much the same. Instead of trusting the One who can see not only my present circumstance but also my future condition, I let the fear of the unknown overrule my thoughts, my heart and my response. I plead and complain – desperately wanting things to change – without acknowledging the goodness of His yet-to-be revealed plan. My perspective on the current situation is unclear; why wouldn’t I rely on the One who not only knows today, but Who also holds the future in His hand? He has the long view in mind, and from that perspective He can see just what I need, both now and in the moments ahead.

do-not-be-anxious-about

Sweet Sorrow

February 26, 2015 — Leave a comment

It was William Shakespeare in his play “Romeo and Juliet” that popularized the idea that parting could be “such sweet sorrow.” The phrase, uttered between two lovers as they prepare to bid adieu to each other for the night, reminded us that while good-byes are necessary, they hold within them the hope of when we will see our loved ones again. The anticipation of being reunited can mingle with the despair of separation, and something that is at its essence sad, can be marked by promise.

The last few weeks have brought this phrase to mind repeatedly because, as God ordained it, three people that we know have passed away. Two of them were young men in their thirties who left behind young sons. Another was a mom, seemingly in good health up to the moment of her death. These were good-byes that you did not anticipate. These were deaths in which no “plausible” explanation can be given. Medical opinions aside, it has been hard to grasp the reasons that these individuals are no longer with us. From a human perspective, it just doesn’t make sense.

However,  despite the lack of clarity, one thing that has been made evident – all grief is not the same. There is a different kind of grief when a Christian passes away. The pain is no less real; the gaping hole is just as wide. Yet, despite this, there is an assurance, a confidence that this good-bye is one that can, on the perimeter, be characterized as “sweet.” The farewell is not permanent; the separation is not forever. In anticipation of when we will see our brothers or sisters again, we grieve, but not without hope (I Thess. 4:13). We know that our Redeemer lives (Job 19:25), and we can boldly look froward to that time where we will be united with Him and reunited with those in faith who have gone before. Every day that passes is a day that brings us closer to that Day. There is sadness, and it is deep, but the grace and love of our Father can fill it with peace.

It is hard to say goodbye to those that we love. It is difficult to imagine a “new normal” – a life where they aren’t in it. But the Christian knows that life on this Earth is merely a vapor; hope is not to be found in it but in the One who conquered death to bring us true life with Him. And when He calls us Home, the pain of sorrow will dissipate as we experience the sweetness of being reunited with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we rejoice together in the presence of our Lord.

 

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The Pride Fight

February 25, 2015 — Leave a comment

It can creep up on you without notice.

And yet sometimes it smacks you right in the face.

It can convince you that everyone feels this way.

And it can tempt you to think in your case, it is o.k.

It can seem like a pebble, barely worth paying attention to.

Then it can become a boulder that brings you down.

Pride.

It is such a sneaky sin. Just when you think you have a handle at staying humble, the reality of your self-concern is brought to the forefront, making you understand that even in thinking that you have a grasp on humility, you are really just exercising the same haughty muscle in a new way.

Whether its the fact that your inner self objects when someone else receives a compliment you don’t think they’ve quite earned, or your quick to add your own child’s accomplishments to the one-up-manship game, the tendency to be self-concerned can not be ignored. And as justifiable as we might think it is, God makes it clear –  Pride is antithetical to a relationship with Him (Ja. 4:6). If we are so busy thinking about our desires, skills, and plans, we certainly do not have our focus on Him.

And that’s the real problem with pride. It takes my eyes off of the Savior, and puts them on the sinner. It shifts my attention from things that are eternal to what is temporal. It prevents me from looking heavenward, because I am too busy looking at myself.

Which is why I must fight it. Every day.  Although my victory may be incomplete this side of Heaven, the fight must wage on. Sure, over time, my punches may land a little more squarely in its face. I may learn how to bob and weave more deftly to avoid its attacks. But it will always seek to gain the upper hand. I want my hands, however, to be lifted in daily surrender to my Lord. So I fight. I fight to think of myself less, and to think of Him more.

True-humility-is-not

Growing Accustomed

February 24, 2015 — Leave a comment

Last year, my husband and I moved into a new house. God graciously provided us with a chance to get a little more space, which included a yard for our growing family, and we were overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift. A year before we couldn’t have anticipated that this provision was part of His plan; His generosity and kindness to us were evident.

When you move, they say that you grow into the space you have. Although at first it seems like you will never be able to fill the new square footage, you soon realize that the challenge is not as difficult as you once anticipated. It is easy to think that it is because we have also added on to our family, but I know that in reality that is not the case. Even without really trying to, there is a propensity towards accumulation. What once seemed like an abundance, can quickly seem insufficient. It is easy to think about what you have, what you would change, and what no longer seems ideal once its your daily experience.

Although there may not be anything wrong with pondering what you would do differently, I fear that often when we do so, we show that the gratitude which at first overwhelmed us has dwindled. Human beings are surprisingly resilient, but one of the shortfalls of this resiliency is that we quickly become accustomed to the gifts that God has given us. What was originally a daily reminder of God’s kindness can become a benefit that we ignore. What we once couldn’t anticipate can become an expectation.

The challenge is to maintain a heart of gratitude for the generosity shown towards us even when we experience that same generosity day in a day out. It’s the same reason that I teach my child to say “thank you” every time I give her a snack. She may be completely confident by this point that I will not let her go hungry, but I want her to know that every good gift is worthy of appreciation, to the person from whose hands we receive it, and ultimately to our kind Father.  When we grow weary of giving thanks, it tends to lead our heart towards sin. When we forget that we are owed nothing, and yet God graciously gives us so much, we tend to grow discontent.

There are many things that God has given us that we are now in the habit of receiving, and as a result we have grown accustomed to their presence. May we not let their prevalence in our life be an excuse to not give thanks.  Instead, each time that we experience that same good thing may our heart be filled with the same level of gratitude as it was when we first received it. Instead of growing accustomed to the gifts, may we become habitual at giving thanks.

 

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Minding the Moments

January 22, 2015 — Leave a comment

The other day I was struck by the fact that in less than 16 years my oldest child would be a legal adult. When I shared this realization with my husband, he smiled amusingly, probably thinking that this was only something that a mother would consider a “short time.” Although I realize that many people have children that are much closer to being on the brink of adulthood it nevertheless caused me to pause. It seems only a short time ago that we were coming home from the hospital and with the lightning paced that the past two years have flown by, I can only imagine that the next 16 will be gone before we know it.

While there is a part of me that it sad at the rapid growth of our daughter, rationally I know that this is a good thing. A parent wants their child to grow, develop, and eventually enter the great big world as a responsible adult. However, this realization prompted me to recall again that the moments are fleeting. I will never have another “today” with my children. The days that seem so long will be gone before I know it.  Every moment counts, even the seemingly insignificant ones, because there are no “do overs” in the sands of time.

This means I want to take every opportunity that I can to teach my children – not just what it means to be a responsible adult, but what it means to be a person who solely depends upon God. When we hear sirens blaring in the distance, I want to stop and remind them that we need to pray for whomever the emergency personnel are rushing towards. When something unexpected and inconvenient happens, I want to demonstrate my confidence in the One who orchestrates the setting of the sun and the dawning of the moon, knowing that what happens to me is not outside His hands. At the start of the day and at the end of the day, I want my life to be replete with gratitude for all that He has provided and all that He will.  I want my moments to be filled with lessons – both stated and observed – of what it means to live a life for the sake of eternity.

Of course, it would be tempting to try to contrive these moments. But kids, even when they are 16 years away from becoming an adult, are remarkably gifted at seeing what’s authentic and genuine. Therefore, the best way to ensure that my kids learn the lessons I desire is to conform my life to the aspirations for them. While this won’t make the moments past by any slower, it will help ensure that each moment is spent mindfully.

Minding the Moments

Fear & Love

January 21, 2015 — Leave a comment

One of the beautiful things about Scripture is that you can read the same passage year after year and still learn something new from it. The depths and richness of the Word of God means that there are always new treasures to uncover; there is always new lessons to be learned.

Recently, the reality of this was brought home to me as I read through Matthew 10. In verses 26-33 we have recorded two familiar passages. In the beginning of this section, we read of Christ’s admonition to His disciples regarding the proper perspective on fear. He teaches them that while the world may fear those who have the power to kill them, they would do well to instead fear the all-powerful and all-knowledgeable God – the One who has their present and their future in the palm of His hands. In the adjoining verses, however, we stumble across another familiar section of Scripture when Christ talks about the Father’s care for His kids. He reminds the disciples that God cares about the sparrows that fall; He certainly is concerned with them.

Reading this passage it may seem like an odd juxtaposition. Just after Jesus talks about how people should fear God, He talks about how much God loves them. Right after He warns them regarding their eternal destination, He encourages them about their Earthly care.

While it is tempting to see this as a dichotomy, I don’t think it is. Instead Christ is concisely revealing two marvelous aspects of Who God is. God is awe-inspiring and majestic; and God is loving and kind. God is the proper object of our worship and allegiance, and He is the only conduit of true love.  Our eternity is in His hands, and through the nails that pierced His skins, He provided a way that we can spend eternity with Him.

In our humanity we tend to emphasize one aspect of God over another. We exalt His justice or we revel in His love. Jesus taught us that both these things are true of God, and because of it, we should fear Him, and rest in Him all at the same time.

 

Fear and love

Having It All

January 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

It seems popular these days to talk about how you can “have it all.” You hear it on award shows when recipients talk about how we are in a day and age where “women can have it all.” You hear it in discussions with friends when they talk of their hope to get to the place where they can “have it all.” And you hear it in the media as authors debate whether such a state is even attainable. Having it “all” – however it is defined – seems to be the desired pinnacle of our success – even if it is an uncertain one.

While having it all seems desirable, I don’t know if we really know what we are asking for when we state this as our aim. Having everything we want means that we would get all the problems and challenges that come with those desired privileges, responsibilities, roles or achievements. We want it “all” but we don’t think through the ramifications of obtaining it.  The grass may look greener on the other side, but the grass still needs to be mowed and watered.

The Christian, however, should define “having it all” differently than their friends and neighbors. The Christian’s desires should be for what God has designed for them. Our goals and aspirations are filtered through the revelation of His plan. What He wants for us is more important than what we want for ourselves. In His kindness, God often grants people the desires of their heart, but when He doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that the Christian doesn’t have it “all” –  it just means that the “all” God has planned for them is different from what they expected. We “have it all” when we are walking consistently with His design and purpose for us; not only is that sufficient, but God is able to give us even more than we can ask for or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20).

We may look at our surroundings and feel like we are deprived of so much (although for most reading this post, that wouldn’t be accurate even from an Earthly perspective), but through Christ, God has given us everything we need. Therefore in Him, we really do “have it all.”

 

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Quick to Forget

January 15, 2015 — Leave a comment

It was a seemingly insignificant moment.

I noticed a dish that I thought my darling husband may have left out and asked him if it was dirty or clean.

It was dirty, he told me, but he would wash it before he went to bed.

As I had an early morning the next day, that worked for me.

Except that the next morning when I woke up the dish was still there. In the midst of watching the big game, it had been forgotten. I knew in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter, yet it did. At least to me.

As I thought about how to express my frustration so as to frame it in the best way possible, the thought crossed my mine that rarely did my husband have to plan similar discussions with me. And while the temptation was to think that this was because my track record was perfect, it didn’t take me long to realize that was probably not the case. My memory, like most people’s, is faulty. Surely there were times that I had agreed to do something and then forgotten to do it.  The reason I couldn’t recall a history of my husband initiating similar conversations was more due to his graciousness than my diligence. More often than not, he chooses to overlook my errors and knowing him, when I am forgetful, he probably does whatever thing I neglected to do without making a peep. He doesn’t require “a good reason” for my lack of mindfulness; he opts to issue me grace. While I may be inclined to wonder how he could quickly forget the dirty dish, I should instead be gratefully wondering why he is so quick to forget my mistakes.

In our sinfulness it is easy to notice the missteps and errors of others. However, we are less aware of the kindness and sacrifice that others extend to us. May we strive to reverse this tendency. And may we follow the example of my husband and become quick to forget.

 

Proverbs 19-11

I love a good joke. If you were to ask one of my college classes they may argue over the word “good” since I tend to tell jokes that are pretty corny, but still, laughing is one of my favorite things to do.  Whether it’s a witty play on words or a creative pun or even just an unexpected twist in a story, finding humor in life’s everyday circumstances is something that has served me well over the years. The Bible seems to support this proclivity. After all, Proverbs 17:22a tells us that “a joyful heart is good medicine.”

Recently, I was reminded of a very important truth about humor, though. As I read the story of the NFL replacement referee who notoriously missed a crucial call, I realized how critical it was that we remember the person behind the punchline. After the game, the skewering of this particular official was severe.  All the pundits, late night talk show hosts, and armchair quarterbacks may not have given a second thought to the impact of the critique they were making, but the impact was significant. The referee ended up suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of being the target of so much criticism.  His infamy destroyed his life.

This is an extreme case to be sure, but often times there are lessons to be learned from the extremes. Everyone we tease may not end up seeking professional help, but there is at least the possibility that one of them may. Words matter. If you doubt that, think back upon your childhood. If you are like most people you can remember at least one hurtful word that was seemingly spoken in “jest.” The fact that you still recall it all these years later demonstrates the impact it made.

This is why, all these years later, I have grown to really appreciate the punishment my dad meted out when I rashly pulled a prank on my sister. My defense for my seemingly innocent act was that I was “just joking.” My dad required me to memorize Proverbs 26:18-19 which taught me that not only was that defense useless, but that what seems like “jokes” to us, are not viewed the same from Heaven.  God doesn’t appreciate deceit, but He does applaud love. As we approach life, may our humor reflect the same.

 

Punchline Behind Person

Godly Goals

January 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

I have never been a big fan of New Year resolutions. There are several reasons why. First, I never understood why I should wait until the calendar changed to make a change in my life. If there was a goal that was worthy enough to work on, then it seemed I should start working on it now, rather than later. Secondly, New Year’s resolutions seemed to be rather dichotomous – either you achieved them or you didn’t. Most changes are gradual in nature, and I didn’t like the sense of “failing” if I happened to have a day when my resolve waned. I am the type of person that likes to keep on making progress. I didn’t want to forgo my goal in its entirety simply because I had a day or two when my focus wasn’t as it should be.

My lack of appreciation for this annual ritual has grown in recent years because I have increasingly realized that most people make their resolutions based on what’s important to them. This may seem obvious, but if you listen carefully, rarely will you hear someone’s whose list of desired achievements has to do with anyone besides themselves. Perhaps there are good reasons for this – after all you can only change yourself – but it seems that there is not even attempt to do anything beyond that which will make the individual happy. “I want to lose weight.” “I want to read more.” Even the seemingly altruistic resolutions that focus on “becoming a better person” often have a lot more to do with the perception we want other people to have of us than we may be willing to admit. When I sit down to think about my plans for the coming year, it is tempting to consider my perspective alone – and what will give me a feeling of satisfaction if I achieve it before the calendar changes again.

As Christians, however, our agenda is not our own. Our focus shouldn’t be on what we want to achieve, but what God wants to achieve in us. Resolutions of any sort, shouldn’t happen without spending time in prayer and without careful contemplation of Scripture. We should be seeking God’s wisdom for the goals that He wants us to focus on, and we should be aligning ourselves with His stated intentions, not asking Him to align with ours. Our “resolutions” shouldn’t be an attempt to help secure more of our own happiness, but instead our focus should be on how we can obtain more Christ-likeness as we seek to serve and honor Him. We should be pursuing godly goals – and not just at the beginning of a new year.

I Thessalonians 4:3a states, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” In other words, if you are a Christian, God’s plan for your coming year (and any years that follow that) is to make you more like Him. My goals should have them same focus. And the good news is, even if I have failed to keep my new year’s resolutions, it is always a good time to make a goal to become more like Christ.Godly goals