Busy & Blessed

July 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Life is busy.

Often times it feels that just when we have managed to complete one task, three more pop up on the to-do list.

We use technology to organize and prioritize, all the while giving ourselves more projects to complete than we will ever have the opportunity to commence (I’m looking at you, Pinterest.)

We shuffle back and forth thinking that our multi-tasking makes us more efficient, meanwhile we never give our full attention to any one thing.

And we often find ourselves complaining about all we have to do, and all that is left to complete. Our obligations grow longer while our time seems to shrink. We don’t get to do all the things that we want to do, because we are so focused on all the things we haven’t yet finished.

Yet in all of this, what we fail to realize is that our busyness is often a sign of blessing.

The fact that we have so many places to be – it’s an indication of the community that God has graciously provided.

The chores and home repairs that never seem to end – they’re a result of God’s provision in giving us a place we call “ours.”

The bills we pay, the obligations we keep, the work that we must get up for each day – they are a result of God’s good gifts.

We may feel like we’re flailing in the wind, but more often than not that rushing we feel is the whirlwind of God abundantly pouring out His blessings. Those who have little, don’t feel busy. That is reserved for those who have much. 

So the next time I am tempted to get overwhelmed by the tasks that I still haven’t done, or the goals I make little progress towards achieving, I hope I remember that the reason I’m tired when I lay down to sleep isn’t because of what I lack in life; it’s the result of all I have been graciously given. While I may wish I could do more, I am grateful for all that God has seen fit to fill my life with.  After all, those who have been given much, are those God has generously blessed.

Doubting Your Doubts – “The answer to doubt is God. The answer to our questions about tithing, membership, gender roles, politics, sin, and any other aspect in life that gives us pause is God. The blight of our generation is that we believe we are god.”

How Jesus Exposed the Idol of Self-Glory – “Self-glory is revealed to be an idol in our heart when the Lord presents us with an opportunity to glorify him by speaking the truth about our convictions or our sins, yet we are unwilling to do it for fear of what someone else will think of us.”

I Hate/Love Being Busy – “We daily are rushing from this place to that, this appointment to that one, this activity to the next. We hurry, hurry, hurry until we finally drop at the end of a day and we lay down exhausted. While we might complain about the pace of our lives at a given moment, isn’t there that little piece of you that glories in your busyness? I know there is for me.”

Dallas Willard’s Granddaughter Eulogizes Him – This is old, but I still think it is worth viewing. It is very touching tribute for a grandfather that was obviously very loved.

The Big Question of Grief: Who Am I Now?  - I found this article put into words something that often isn’t considered in the midst of grief. Namely, when you have lost someone (or something), you become disoriented about what that means for who you are in light of this new reality (even for those who know that their grief is temporary in light of the Cross.) (H/T)

Is Your Child A Christian? - This is a question that every Christian parent probably wrestles with, and this article provides some helpful perspective to consider. (H/T)

Wanting Something Less

June 10, 2013 — 2 Comments

It is not uncommon for people to express a desire to want more out of life. This is the impetus for why many people switch jobs, careers, churches, or marriages. For one reason or another they believe that the proverbial grass is in fact greener on the other side, if only they could get to it. Of course many of them find that once they cross the chasm their unfulfilled desires still exist. It turns out that long-term contentment is not a result of the circumstances you are in.

On the other side of the spectrum you may find Christians who talk about how they wish God didn’t trust them with quite so much. We know that no trial or travesty comes to us without it being under the purview of God’s sovereign plan and it is His desire that our lives would be a glorious reflection of Him. Knowing that He will equip us to do the good work that He has called us to do (Eph. 2:10) and that often times it is through the difficulties in life that our mettle for ministry is formed, we may wish that God’s plan for us were a little less grand. Given enough time most Christians can articulate how God used difficulty to accomplish good things in their lives, but sometimes we may wonder if we can withstand the problem long enough to get to the payoff.

In His wisdom and graciousness though, God is not prone to letting us off easy when it comes to accomplishing His good purposes in our lives. He knows that when we get to eternity the difficulties will seem inconsequential compared to the eternal glory that they produced. As C.S. Lewis stated, “It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” God wants us to experience the full expanse of His love and despite our short-term desires to the contrary, He is not willing to let us sacrifice eternal significance for temporal comfort.

It may be tempting to wish for less of the responsibility of trials; it is understandable why we would desire that hardship be reserved for another. However, let us not forget that it is often through difficulties that we experience God’s love, grace and kindness in ways that we neglect to pay attention to during times of ease. May we desire that our lives be filled with His glory – by whatever means will produce it.

Study to Serve

June 6, 2013 — 2 Comments

iStock_000000641866XSmallMy dad used to tease me that I would be a great professional student. As with most humor the reason this was funny is because there was truth behind it. I am one of those rare people who love school. I appreciate the organization, I treasure the learning and I actually like the process of studying. Having dedicated time to learn new material works well with both my introversion and my tendency to collect things (like random facts.) Academic pursuits are invigorating for me.

Since I am no longer a student in any official capacity it would be easy to think that my days of studying are over. After all, no one is going to issue me a pop quiz. Finals week does not cause me to stay up late and attempt to cram (since now I’m the one giving the finals I stay up late to assess how successful the cramming was.)  Report cards are a thing of the past. Studying, it would seem, would join it.

While I may not be sharpening any number 2 pencils or purchasing any blue books, it doesn’t mean that my study sessions are over. There is a far more important report than the one that arrived in the mail every semester. At the end of my days there is an account that I will give to my Maker regarding what I did with the blessing of marriage that He gave me. Giving an account that will honor Him is one that requires even more diligence and focus than my hardest exam. It requires that I study.

This may seem like an arduous task for something that is supposed to be a delight. And let me assuaged any concerns by stating that I deeply and profoundly love my spouse and being married to him is the second greatest gift in my life after my salvation in Jesus Christ. However, serving him in a way that pleases Jesus doesn’t come naturally. Serving anyone goes against our sinful nature because our desire is to please ourselves. Serving another person in a way that will be best for that other person requires awareness, expansive knowledge and spontaneous recall. In other words, it requires that I study who my husband is so that my service is prompted by what would most benefit him. The aim of my study then is not so that I can pat myself on the back for my good performance, but that through our marriage my husband is encouraged and God is pleased.

What things should I study? There are at least four areas on which I should focus:

1) Study his habits  – Maybe your spouse always forgets where they put their keys. Or maybe you know that he likes a glass of water before dinner or the house cooled before he goes to sleep. When you studying your husband’s habits it makes it easier to know how to best serve him because you can more easily identify areas where you loving assistance would be most appreciated, and most beneficial to him. Diligently observing how he regularly organizes and operates his day while reveal specific ways that you can do good to your spouse and as a result display Jesus’ love to him.

2) Study his hobbies  – It seems to be en vogue for husbands and wives to spend their time separately. We want to allow each other to “be their own person” or so the reasoning goes. However, when you got married God joined you together (Mt. 19:5) and it makes sense then that there would be some crossover between what the other partner likes to do. Hobbies are a wonderful indication of what someone values because they demonstrate how a person chooses to spend their time. Studying your spouse’s hobbies doesn’t mean that you have to go to the golf course with them every single time or that you have to become an expert in their favorite team or movie genre, but it does mean that you should be able to converse about these things. If something is important to your loved one it should be important to you. Serving your husband means that when you spend time together it shouldn’t always be about what you mutually like to do or worse yet what you exclusively want. Sometimes simply sacrificing your time to pursue a hobby that your husband values is a wonderful way to serve him.

3) Study his heart - The Bible teaches us that where our treasure is our heart will be also (Mt. 6:21). In order to serve your husband well it is important to study what he values. For some, a home cooked meal every night is a meaningful and significant way to serve them; for others they could care less about this. It is important that we don’t always assume that we know what our husband needs, but that we are diligent about studying who he is in order to serve him in the way that will be most significant for him, and in keeping with what he treasures.

4) Study his holiness - If we are going to serve our spouse well, one of the things that we should be cognizant of is how God is currently working in him in order to make him more like Christ. As someone who cares for our husband, we should be helping and supporting their sanctification. This doesn’t mean that we should strive to do the work of conviction in our husband’s life; that is the Holy Spirit’s role and frankly He does a much better job of it. But it does mean that when we know our husband is striving to conform a certain aspect of his life to more closely mirror God’s desires, we can support, encourage and help him in doing so. We should be celebrating the work that God is doing in our husband, and doing so requires that we are careful to pay attention to how God is working to make our loved one more like Him.

There may be a temptation to read all of this and to think “well that sounds sweet and all, but what about what the husband should do?” And I get that our prideful nature wants to make sure that we aren’t extending ourselves in service if it is not going to be reciprocated. However, there are two things to keep in mind. First, our obedience to Christ shouldn’t be contingent on another person’s response. We are called to serve others (see Gal. 5:13) and our husband should be first on the list of those who receive the outpouring of our service to Christ. Secondly, Christian husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church and there is no one who served more sacrificially than when Christ laid down His life to take on the sins of the world that we may be saved and spend eternity with Him. In other words, while this isn’t supposed to be a one-way street, we can’t let whether or not our spouse is going in the right direction deter us from pursuing what God has called us to do.

It may sound unconventional to study our spouse in order to serve them well. We may be tempted to think that this should be a natural outpouring of our love for him, and in reality, it should be. But in order to serve him in a way that is most beneficial to and appreciated by him requires diligence, focus and intention. In other words it requires study. May our studying of our spouse lead us to serve him in a way that will bring more glory to God, through our lives and his.

Nine Examples of the Internet Changing Our World - We are kind of used to this whole Internet thing by now, but it’s helpful to recount at least some of the ways it has changed things. (H/T)

Two Kinds of Funerals – “The contemporary funeral deals with grief by indulging it, even feeding it. A successful funeral — with its heart-wrenching personal testimonials, its parade of mourners pouring out their anguish, the emotional manipulation of the congregation — works by creating an emotional catharsis. The upsurge of feeling can indeed feel cleansing. As at the ending of a tragedy, the emotions are purged. The bereaved feel drained. The aftermath, in Milton’s words, is “calm of mind, all passions spent.” The grievers really do feel better. But how different is a traditional Christian funeral.” (H/T)

Doubt Your Doubts – “The answer to doubt is God. The answer to our questions about tithing, membership, gender roles, politics, sin, and any other aspect in life that gives us pause is God. The blight of our generation is that we believe we are god.”

Two Kinds of Regret, One Kind of Hope - What’s the difference between godly and godless grief? This post helps articulate the difference as well as the different results that they produce.

Does Your Inside Match Your Outside? - “The word hypocrite comes from a word meaning actor. A hypocrite’s an actor, a pretender. He professes some value or belief but his private life does not match it. He’s not pure in heart.  So to be pure in heart means our words match our thoughts. Our outer life matches our inner life.”

Tracked Time

June 4, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

©iStockphoto.com/Devonyu

As a fan of organization it would come as no surprise to those who know me that I like systems. However, when you become a parent having a system to manage all of the ins and outs becomes a necessity, not a preference. Your child’s doctor, babysitter, grandmother, or concerned friend will all want to do what is “normal” for your kid. Because so much changes so quickly, “normal” is a shifting definition. The only logical solution is to note and record what happens during the day.

Because of the need to keep such records, I have become astute at tracking how much time I spend doing various activities with my kid. On any given day I can give you a fairly precise review of what happened the day or week before. I can report how much time my child spent eating, how long she slept, and at what times these events occurred. I have a detailed understanding of how the day has been invested, and based on my recorded schedule, I can give you a pretty good indication of whether the day was a “good” one or not.

Recently, I wondered what would happen if I did something similar with the time I invested in my relationship with God. What would the record look like if I noted when I prayed, at what frequency, and at what length? Would my daily schedule reflect a commitment to ingest and digest the Word of God? Would the resulting report show that I spend as much or more time pursuing Him as I do going after many lesser things?  If I stood before the Great Physician and reviewed the daily details of my life, would the diagnosis of any soul troubles be readily apparent?

I’m concerned that if I were to do such a thing, I would quickly be aghast at how I spend my time. When I realized how many hours in any given day my child spends intaking nutrition I was astonished, yet I wonder if my investment in my spiritual growth can be even slightly compared to the investment in her physical maturing. The moments and the minutes of the day can pass by so quickly and it is easy for our focus to wander from the things that are primary and be distracted by that which eternity will find futile. If we kept track of what we spent our time doing, perhaps our tendency towards diversion would dissipate.

The danger, of course, is that we would measure the value of our relationship merely by the time that we spent investing in godly activities. Or perhaps that we would spend a perfunctory amount of time seemingly investing in our relationship with our Father only to cross the to-do off our list. Just like my child doesn’t keep a timecard to assess my feelings towards her, neither should a simple count of minutes be the sole determinant in our evaluation of our love for our Father. However, the way we invest our time is at least one indication of what we value and treasure. It would be good to consider whether our moments, as well as our days, are spent pursuing things of eternity.

How to Survive a Cultural Crisis – “In all this, Christians are tempted to become panicked or to speak as alarmists. But to the extent we do, to that same extent we show we’ve embraced an unbiblical and nominal Christianity. Here, then, are seven principles for surviving the very real cultural shifts we’re presently enduring.”

How Premarital Sex Rewires Your Brain - “Dopamine, Oxytocin and Vasopressin are three powerful and important products released during sex between a man and a woman in a committed relationship and helps couples bond. When they are introduced in casual sexual relationships, however, they can cause much trouble.”

Why You Can’t See Your Biggest Flaws - “Virtues of gifts and temperament have a corresponding “dark side” because our gifts and natural temperament are bound up with the idols that dominate any not heart filled with the gospel of grace. Without a thorough knowledge of the gospel, we look to good things—human approval and relationships, the exercise of power and accomplishment, the control of our environment and self-discipline, the enjoyment of comfort, privacy, and pleasure—and make them into pseudo-salvations. So the person who makes an idol out of human approval may be a sensitive artist, and the one who makes an idol out of power might be a courageous leader. But gifts and temperament in the service of idols—and this is our normal state—always are a mixed blessing. They have a good side—they produce virtuous behavior—but they lead the person into a corresponding sin or vice as well.”

Does God Like Making You Suffer? - “Our heavenly father does not take any pleasure in causing us to suffer. He is not a cosmic sadist. Yes he uses suffering for our good. Yes he uses suffering to make us more like Jesus. Yes he works all of our sufferings for his glory and our good. But he does not enjoy breaking us. He does not take a perverted pleasure in seeing us brought to nothing. All suffering is the result of sin in the world (not necessarily personal sin, but the fact that sin is in the world).”

I MIssed My Son’s Birthday - “Five years ago I didn’t know that the greatest joys of my life were already here, and yet not quite here. I didn’t know that the Lord was using the suffering of an empty cradle to teach me what it means to love two sons more than I ever would have known possible. Perhaps I need to be reminded of that when I allow the worries of the present age to overshadow the glory that is to come. Perhaps I need to be reminded that while I bemoaned my situation five years ago, my children were waiting all the while. And, right now, as I consider the worries of the present age, there’s an empty tomb in Jerusalem, the first installment of the glorious kingdom of Christ.”

Accepting “No” As God’s Will - “The prayer of faith is not a demand that we place on God. It is not a presumption of a granted request. The authentic prayer of faith is one that models Jesus’ prayer. It is always uttered in a spirit of subordination. In all our prayers, we must let God be God. No one tells the Father what to do, not even the Son. Prayers are always to be requests made in humility and submission to the Father’s will.”

One of the things I have been reflecting on recently is how much a child changes during their first year of life. When you consider the number of things that they learn during that timeframe – from learning to hold their head up to learning to walk and say words – it really is a marvel. I would guess that there is no other single time in life when so much physical and mental growth takes place 365 days. With that being said, a lot of growth happens in the parent’s life during the first year as well. Here are some of the lessons I have learned over the past month:

Prepare to Be Humbled – It is inaccurate to say that this lesson is merely from the last month as I began learning it the first week of my child’s life. As someone who had been around a lot of kids throughout my life I thought I had a good grasp on what to expect from motherhood. It turns out I was wrong. Being a parent means being prepared for the unexpected and when the unexpected occurs it doesn’t take long to realize that there was no way to prepare for it. What you think you know can get turned on its head without a moment’s notice. Just as your child is learning to make sense of this world you are learning who your child is and how much you are reliant on God to parent them well. This lesson in humility is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing.  Yet God graciously redeems the difficult times to use them for His purposes and glory.

The Exception Shouldn’t Become the Expectation - Because your child is always changing, it is tempting to think that every new experience is a new milestone. For example, my husband and I took our kid to my work to meet some of my colleagues. Our little one was a trooper, staying up longer than normal and being pleasant the whole time. I thought this meant she had learned to consolidate sleep and extend time between naps. It turns out God was just generously allowing us to have some time to introduce her to others. When I start letting my expectations be shaped by the exceptions, I am bound to be disappointed. God doesn’t owe me a thing. The fact that He mercifully allows some days to go a little better than the rest as if the sun was shining down on me just a little bit brighter doesn’t mean He owes me those days. Instead I would do well to thank Him when they occur and to cherish them rather than count on them this side of Heaven.

Training Time – As I wrote about previously, it didn’t take me long to realize that even at a young age my child is beginning to understand things. Because of this, I know that I can begin, in very small ways, to train her in regards to how she should behave. What I’ve been reminded of, though, is that as I am training her, God is training me. He is molding and shaping me not only into the type of parent He wants me to be, but into the type of Christian He desires of His children. Recognizing that parenthood is one of the most refining experiences a person can go through makes me appreciate even more the privilege it is to be a mother.

Be The Example I Want Followed - Because my child is already beginning to make sense of the world around her, she is already beginning to observe my behavior and how I respond to things. Part of raising her up in the way that she should go means being an example of what I desire for her. It is my hope and prayer that she would come to know and serve Jesus at a young age and that her life would be defined as someone committed to Him. If this is what I want for her, I need to make sure that I am living the same way and therefore setting an example for her to emulate. She is learning all the time. I need to make sure that I’m teaching her the lessons  I want her to know.

It is such a privilege to be a parent. It is not without its challenges but the blessings are so very sweet. I’m grateful that God uses me even though I still have a lot to learn. And I’m grateful that in His perfect timing He teaches me just what I need to know.

What God Doesn’t Need – “God doesn’t need us. He’s managed to achieve quite a bit without our help, thank you very much. In his kindness he allows us to participate in his mission. Let’s strive for excellence. But more importantly, let’s place our confidence in the God who does great things through weakness.”

What We Mean When We Say Amen – “Amen means ‘let it be’, ‘so be it,’ ‘verily,’ ‘truly.’  When you finish your prayer with ‘Amen’ you are saying, ‘Yes Lord, let it be so. According to your will, may it be.’ It’s a final note of confirmation at the end of our prayers.”

New Use for the Smartphone - When a camera is an easily accessible as reaching for your phone, it means all kinds of things can be instantly captured – including a disputed call in the French Open.

A Heart-Breaking Description - Warning – this is a graphic description. In testimony before Congress a former abortion doctor describes the procedures he used to perform. It should not only make our stomach turn, but should drive us to our knees in prayer.

Five Lies Sin Tells Me - Next time your tempted to do something that is against God’s directives, ask yourself whether you are believing one of these lies.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:19

“Relax,” people say. “It’s not that big of deal.”

And in regards to many things that we spend our time worrying and fretting about they are right. Unfortunately often times when we hear this remark it is not in response to our fear but in response to our adherence to God’s standards. If Satan can convince us that it is not a big deal to ignore one of God’s rules than it is a short trip to believing that it is not a big deal to ignore many or most of them. Yet, loving Jesus means devotion to the same things that were important to Him, and the passage above and others (for example John 6:38) make it clear that doing the will of the Father was of utmost importance to Christ.

There are many things in life that we should probably be more relaxed about, but our commitment to obeying God’s commands should not be one of them. Because of our deep love for Him we should desire to do the things that please Him, and to teach others to do the same.