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Monthly Archives: November 2010

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Because Holy Feels Scary

So I’m convinced that God is all about our holiness rather than our happiness.  And for me that feels scary.  Because of all the times that He uses brokenness to teach me and make me more like Him.  Because I really, really like non-brokenness.  And comfortable.  And happy.

But I forgot that God’s design for me, no matter what hard stuff that might take me through, and His very presence, arewaaaay better that my happiest happy.  So He reminded me.

Psalm 84:1-2, 4-5, 10-12  NIV

     How lovely is your dwelling place,
   LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
   for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
   for the living God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
   they are ever praising you.

 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
   whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 

10Better is one day in your courts
   than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
   than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
   the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
   from those whose walk is blameless.

 12 LORD Almighty,
   blessed is the one who trusts in you.

And so I will trust in God Almighty.  Because He is worth my trust.  Because one day with Him for real is better than 1,000 days anywhere else (even Paris, France or anywhere in the Caribbean — though I would be willing to test that one out just to make sure).  Because He lives.  Because He withholds nothing from those who walk in His ways and really truly trust Him.  Even in the midst of stormy storms and crappy days.

Lord, may I not lose focus of that truth.

Amen.

Holy Above All

What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than happy?  It’s a thought that, quite frankly, I fear the truth of.  In fact, several years ago, I started reading a book based on that exact premise and couldn’t get past the first chapter.  Because deep down in my heart of hearts I recognized it to be true.  Truth I was not ready to face.

Because I like to be happy.  I like to enjoy.  I have always believed that enjoying life is a huge part of real living.  The kind of living Jesus said He came to give.  Sure, there are times of struggle.  But, learning to deal and enjoy through them and getting to the other side of them, well — if I’m completely honest, that’s been the focus.  Trusting that God uses those times to make me holy and more like Him.  But I’ve established my hope in the prospect of suffering’s reprieve.  And I am learning this is my vice.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”  Jonah 2:8

It’s not just marriage, though that discussion is what started me on this thought journey.  I mean, if I’m gut-honest, the truth is that’s God’s design for most everything.  His purpose for our holiness.  And He will use anything — marriage, parenthood, friendships, jobs, sickness, brokenness, yes anything — to get us there. 

But today when I read the final chapter of Finding the Hero in Your Husband, by Dr. Julianna Slattery, I was forced to face the fear for real.  Because she ends the whole book on the thought that maybe, just maybe, ours won’t be the ideal marriage, but that does not mean that God has not called us to remain faithful and serve Him and our husbands wholly as He uses these relationships to make us holy and more like Him.  While I do believe that God has given me an amazing husband who I do not deserve, I don’t like the idea that God is more about my holiness than my comfort or my happiness.  Because holiness sounds great and all, but right now, I like comfortable and happy.

Of course the deep truth in that is the fact that true holiness, being like Jesus Christ and in true and constant fellowship with Him, is the only true kind of happiness.  But that takes some major trust and faith.

Yep.  Trust.  Faith.

Okay, I get it.

Lord God, help me to see like You do.  And to love You wholly so that I can be holy like You want.  And all about You, even more than my own comfort and happy.

With Extravagance

Remember Mary of Bethany?  You know, the one who always ends up at Jesus’ feet every time she shows up in the Bible.  The one who risked it all just to love Him extravagantly.  She risked her dignity showing up at that men-only banquet in order to spill extravagance all over the feet of her hero and then wipe it up with her hair.  Tens of thousands of dollars worth of extravangance.

Because it was all that she had.  It was everything she had.

I think about that, my favorite-ever story in the Bible, and I wonder . . . what if I loved Jesus like Mary did?

What if I was not just verbally willing, but put-my-money-where-my-mouth-is willing to give Jesus literally every ounce of everything I have?  My dignity.  My comfort.  My time.  My energy.  My motivation.  My sleep.  My budget.  And I’m not just talking sacrifice.  I’m talking what if I loved Him so radically, so intensely extravagantly that I was not just willing, but was excited to give it all?

I think He would like my extravagance.  I think it would smell like million-dollar perfume to Him.  And I think He would be pleased.

Extravagantly pleased.

Why Jesus Loves Me Matters to My Marriage

“True servants are selfless only after they realize the incredible value that God has given them and those around them.  They no longer have to justify their existence or prove their worth.  They are free to serve, knowing that God has already settled the matter.  An understanding and acceptance of self-esteem is essential to developing a healthy and intimate relationship.  Depending on others to determine my worth creates a dependency that saps the strength out of any intimate relationship.  In fact, it makes being vulnerable almost unbearable.  If I give my husband the role of determining how valuable I am, then he can potentially destroy me.  If I have accepted my worth based on my relationship with God, I can be vulnerable to sharing myself with my husband.  His rejection will hurt, but it does not threaten my emotional survival.  This allows me to serve my husband without depending on his reaction to validate my own worth.”      

Dr. Julianna Slattery in Finding the Hero in Your Husband

The truth is: the worth of a person comes from God alone, not from a husband or a wife.  God made each one of us in His very image.  He created, carefully and thoughtfully, every single strand of every single fiber of each one of our beings.  God Himself.  And THAT is what makes us valuable.  Worthy of respect.  You.  Me.

The truth is: God spoke our very worth in the Word, who He gave for every single one of us.  We are worth that much to Him.  The very life of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And so: we are free to serve without the weight of wondering if it’s enough to validate our worth.  And we’re free to love and accept love in our marriages because, while our husbands can certianly hurt our feelings, our emotional survival does not depend on their accepting or rejecting us.  And our husbands are free to love us without feeling the pressure of having to satisfy our every need, because some of those needs were never meant to be met by them.

“Jesus love me, this I know.  For the Bible tells me so.  Little ones to Him belong.  They are weak, but He is strong.  Yes, Jesus love me.  Yes, Jesus love me.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  The Bible tells me so.” 

It’s Vigilant Wives Club Monday, where we focus on our serving our husbands and being the Godly wives that we are called to be.  Join the discussion here in the comments and let us know how God is using you in your marriage.

Of Freedom and Grace

He spent six months at war.  A war that was never really a war.  But hell just the same.  Maybe even worse.  He lived decades in those months.  Survival at its most raw.  He lived through anguish I never will.  So that I never would.  And when you ask, he will tell.  Humbly, he will tell.

Because heroes are like that.  Humbly strong.  Quietly brave.  Having given more courage and bravery than most.  Admitting utter God-dependence that took every ounce of everything he was, even though he didn’t realize it at the time.  The realizing would take years. 

The reason he is here:  the grace of God.  Period.  The very grace that cost Him everything.  For the freedom that costs no less than all.

And the older I get, the more I realize that neither are free.  Freedom and grace.  Indeed, perhaps the most costly of all.

Thanking Almighty God for His grace that cost Him everything.  And for the call He gave so many in our country to give everything.  And, after all of that, to give me my hero dad who would not be were it not for the grace of God.

Friendship True

She almost died a few years back.  But she made it through.  She’s tough like that.  Eighty-eight years old, and she still kicks strong.  She’s lived alone for most of her adult life, so she loves company and excuses to make peach cobbler and potato soup and things of that nature.  She’s good at it too.  The baking.  Pretty much everything domestic, actually.  It’s one reason why she’s been so excited about her friend’s visit from California.  She’s looked forward to it since the day she heard.

They’ve been friends since 1973, before I could even say the word, let alone understand its meaning.  And now here they are all grown up and then some more, still nourishing their comraderie and visiting each other’s homes half a continent away.

My kindergartener walks in the door announcing her new friends’ gifts — a homemade bracelet and a picture that declares their mutual fondness — and pondering how she will reciprocate.  She decides on a picture and a piece from her Halloween candy stockpile.  I watch her work, concentrating as she labors for that extra-special gift for her extra-special friend. 

I remember the 37-year-old friendship that still grows today as I watch a two-month-old one just start to bud.

And I breathe in the tenderness of friendship true.

Linking up with Emily today as I unwrap this gift called friendship.
tuesdays unwrapped at cats

Because God Is Always Good

As a young woman who was searching for the man I would marry, I made myself a list.  I had a few very specific non-negotiables.  You know — things that I would not budge on.  The things that absolutely had to be true about the man I would marry.  Among them: he had to make me laugh, I had to be attracted to him (and he had to be a good kisser), he had to have nice hands (shallow, perhaps, but . . . ), he had to have Jesus Christ as the Lord of his life, and he had to have “just enough guy in him.”  In other words, he needed some attitude.  I needed to know that he wouldn’t just lay down and let me walk all over him.  I needed him to be strong about what was important.  Not everything, but just enough.  I found it very attractive for a man to lead.

Truth is, I still mostly like it when my husband’s “guy” attitude shows up.  (Just enough of it, mind you.  Not too much!)  Because I don’t want to be married to a wuss.  Because I want him to lead me.  Not plow me over.  Not let me plow him over.  Lead.  Because that is what God called him to do when he made him a husband. 

That’s what the Biblical submission of a wife is all about.  Letting God’s design rule in marriage.  Truthfully, I struggle to write about it.  Part of the role God gave us in how He wants us to relate to our husbands.  I struggle because it’s never easy all the time.  And for some it’s never easy period.  Because it’s not only hard to understand, but it’s hard to carry out.  Especially when a husband is not able to or will not lead.  It’s hard to live out and understand because sometimes wives needs to take over the leadership role for a period of time.  Because sometimes the husband is a tyrant and leads his wife in things that are not of God.  (I did write about that a little bit a few weeks ago.  And I believe strongly that God did not call a wife to lay down as a doormat.  I also believe that Biblical submission in no way involves harm to a wife or to her children.  I also believe that if a husband leads a wife in a way that is not “as is fitting in the Lord” (i.e. not something that fits with God’s ways) then it is not Biblical submission.  You can read more about that here.)

But, as much as I struggle to write about it, in a blog series about marriage, the topic of the Biblical submission of a wife is unavoidable.  Because it is a big part of what God calls us to do as wives.  I really like how the Message translation of the Bible says it.

“Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.”

Ephesians 5:22-24 (msg)

It’s part of our job as wives… to submit to our husbands like the church submits to Christ.  To let our husbands lead us and our families.

Trouble is, that’s sometimes scary.  Like when he makes a decision we don’t necessarily love or even like.

But you know what I think?  I think it’s sometimes scary to do things the way God designed.  Like trusting Him even when we pray for something and don’t get what we prayed for.  And like sharing the truth about Jesus Christ and what He’s all about with someone who might make fun of us. 

And so I have a challenge for each of us.  Because God’s design for life and how to live it is always the best.  He always has the best in mind.  Only His glory.  He is good.  And everything He does is good.  Always.  (Psalm 119:68)  His ways are very different from ours.  But always, always perfect.

And so, living as a wife the way God designed — submitting to our husbands as is fitting to the Lord — requires trusting Him for Who He is.  Believing that He will not ever let us down.  Even when things don’t go the way we think they should.  It requires surrender.  To God and His ways.  Even when our husbands don’t get that decision right.  We have to trust that God had our best in mind when He called us to it.

And so I present a challenge to you.  To myself too. . .

What if we took what God says about submitting to our husbands as direction and guidance for the kind of life He wants us to have?  The promised, eternal kind that Jesus came to give us.  Look at what Romans has to say about God’s amazing-ness and what we should do about it.

 “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.

   Is there anyone around who can explain God?
   Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
   Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
      that God has to ask his advice?

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Romans 11:33-35; 12:1-2 (msg)

What would happen if we started a movement in our homes by “tak(ing) (our) everyday ordinary li(ves)” as wives “and plac(ing) (them) before God as . . . offering(s)”?  What if we made a commitment in our homes to trust God in such a way that we encourage our husbands in their decision-making role instead of second-guessing or even demeaning him for possibly making the wrong one?  What if we chose to pray for his wisdom and trust God to give it to him (whether through our words or some other way) without using our manipulative or control-freaky wiles?

I like to think we just might start a marriage revolution.  I say we go for it.

You in?

**It’s Vigilant Wives Club day, so why not blog about something you’re doing to strengthen your marriage?  Then leave a link in the comments so we can all read your thoughts too.

Thoughts From The Laundry Pile

I used to love doing laundry.  In fact, when my husband and I were newly married and purchased our very first washer and dryer, I did a little celebration dance at Lowe’s as we left just because I was so excited.  (Yeah, I know.  That’s how bad I had the newlywed bliss.)

But things have changed.  And now, well, the dancing looks a little less like celebration and a lot more like the groaning that comes with pms or being awakened in the middle of the night by a sick child.  (i.e. I don’t like it anymore.)  Somehow the prospect of pushing that ever-loving start button and emptying the soap as the water runs through doesn’t thrill me anymore.

I think it’s because it’s so . . . perpetual.  I mean, unless I do my laundry naked and make my family do the same, I will always have something to wash.  And, seeing as how that’s just wrong on so many levels and might cause problems for my children somewhere in their futures, I won’t be doing that anytime.  Ever.  I’d rather have perpetual laundry.  But that still leaves me with, well, perpetual laundry.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love clean laundry.  Slipping into clean sheets at the end of the day and sniffing in the comfort of the clean — ahhh.  Nothing like it.   And, well, nothing beats clean jeans.  Am I right?  Well, not at first, I guess, since they kind of shrink when I dry them and then I have to stretch them out again so they fit my butt.  Okay, maybe many things beat clean jeans.

There is, however, one thing that I do love about laundry. . . it begs for multitasking.  Because I put in some laundry and then have at least 45 minutes before I have to touch it again. 

So Friday, while the washer and dryer were working overtime to get through that big ‘ol pile of laundry that I let sit for way too long, I read a book.

Hmmm… maybe I do like laundry.

Why I Don’t Have to Be Afraid

When I stop and really listen to all that goes on, I can get overwhelmed with the possibilities.

Like the friend’s daughter who had a hemmorhage in her throat four weeks after her tonsillectomy.  And the 22-year-old woman who had a stroke and later passed away.  And don’t forget the fire that burned down the home and all the belongings of a friend’s friend.  Or the car accident that left my friend’s husband in a coma for two months.

Yes, it can be very overwhelming.  Because of what might be.  Because hard things happen.  Because I don’t do well with blood.  Because I don’t like watching other people suffer.  Because I don’t like to suffer.  Because I love comfort and rest.

But God’s been showing me things about Himself and His always-companionship lately.  Things that make me feel safe even when it’s not comfortable.  He’s been showing me that this side of heaven is hard.  But temporary.  He’s been reminding me that His Spirit is always with me — to strengthen me, to encourage (give courage to) me, to peacify (just made up another word. Do you like it?) me.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:26-27)

And He’s given me this unquenchable thirst for His truth about peace.  A thirst that has led me straight to the water that is His Word, the Bible.  In it, I’ve been reminded of and taught truths such as these:

  • Colossians 1:11  I am “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that (I) may have great andurance and patience…”  For the temporary struggles.
  • Colossians 2:9-10  “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and (I) have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”  So — the fullness of Holy, Almighty, Creator God lives in me.  And I can access His power and strength in any situation I am faced with!
  • Psalm 74:16  “The day is (God’s), and (His) also the night; You established the sun and moon.”  It’s all in His hand.  So I can sleep and truly rest on my pillow, because it’s all under His authority.
  • Psalm 75:1a  “(His) Name is near” !!!  And His Name alone is power.
  • Jeremiah 29: 11-14a  “For (God) know(s) the plans (He has) for (me) . . . plans to prosper (me) and not to harm (me), plans to give (me) a hope and a future.  Then (I) will call upon (Him) and come and pray to (Him), and (He) will listen to (me).  (I) will see (Him) and find (Him) when (I) seek (Him) with all (my) heart.  (He) will be found by (me).” !!!!  And He won’t forget.  Further proof that this hard stuff is all temporary.
  • I Peter 3:10-11  “Whoever would love life and see good days must . . . seek peace and pursue it.”  Because when I seek and pursue real and true peace (the kind that only He can give), I will be able to rest and consequently love life and see good days.

And so, not only do I not have to be afraid, I would be remiss if I let myself stop pursuing peace.  This last verse hit me right where I’m at.  It’s a command based on the truth of Jesus Christ’s endowment of peace that He left us, His children when He sent His Holy Spirit to go with us, always.  The John 14 verse up there in the quote block.  You know, the one that tells us the Holy Spirit, God Himself, will walk with me?  Yeah, that one ends with the command that has left me pining for even more of this peace.  Here it is from the Amplified Bible:

 Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. [Stop allowing yourselves to be agitated and disturbed; and do not permit yourselves to be fearful and intimidated and cowardly and unsettled.]                    John 14:27 (Amplified)

Yikes!  Pretty strong command, don’t you think?  And yet, before He gave the command, He gave the promise.  Because that’s how He rolls.  He doesn’t ask us to do anything for which He’s not equipped us.  And He will not.  Ever.  Because He goes with us.  He walks us through.  So when car accidents and barf happen, He walks us through, with the very fullness of Himself and in His strength that we don’t even realize we have until He calls us to use it.

And therein lies a peace that cannot be explained.  The kind that can only come from God Himself.

“It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”   Philippians 4:7 (msg)

And so I settle in.  And rest in Him, the Giver of Life.  The Giver of Peace. 

The End.  

 

Switching Cycles

“Within the context of intimacy, women need to be valued and protected, while men need to be respected and connected.”  ~Dr. Julianna Slattery in Finding the Hero in Your Husband

Before I got married, I believed that marriage was a kind of end-all-be-all of life.  Then I got engaged.  And I realized that, once I became a wife, I would still have a life.  It would just be life with a husband rather than life on my own.  And the new me — the one where I was a wife — would now have a choice to make everyday for the rest of our lives together.  The choice live within that context of intimacy referred to at the top of this post.  Or the one where I help perpetuate the cycle of self-protection, which is the exact opposite of God’s design for intimacy.  The cycle in which I seek to preserve my own value rather than looking to God for my value and, consequently, imparting to my husband his God-given value as well.

So today I ask — which cycle are you perpetuating?  The one where you feed off of the perception that your husband does not value you, and you in turn undermine and humilate him which then leads to him seeing you as unlovely and you see him as incompetent. 

Or are you working towards deeper intimacy in your marriage?  Not just physical intimacy, but the kind where you respect and complete him.  The kind of intimacy where you seek out his needs and figure out how to communicate that respect to him.  Where you figure out how to let him know that you trust him and believe in him.

It’s not easy.  Especially when he might be leading your home in the self-protection cycle that makes you want to curl up and make him pay for devaluing you.

But what if  you committed this week to stop the cycle and seek out his language and use it to speak value into his life and respect and honor and love?  What if you found your worth in who God says you are so that when you feel devalued by your husband you have the wherewithall to switch cycles?

I believe that if each one of us committed to this kind of respect and honor in our homes, at least on our parts, we would soon learn that intimacy is so much better than own self-protection.  I believe our husbands would have to sit up and take notice.  I believe they would be drawn to us in ways that maybe they have never before been drawn.

Wanna’ try it out?  Let me know what you think….  Leave me a comment here — I would love to hear your thoughts.  And feel free to leave a link too if you’d like to join in the Vigilant Wives Club challenge.