Posted in Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

Covid-19 and the Church

The church is seeing some interesting debate during Covid-19.

Pastors are making difficult decisions based on ever changing data about whether and how and when the church should open for services.

Pastors are having to think and pray through what, how, and when to communicate with the congregation.

Some pastors are choosing to stir unrest and encourage disobedience to the government orders, others are choosing to obey, constantly praying for the wisdom to discern the difference between honorable submission to government and disobedience to God.

These choices weigh heavy. We’ve seen stories from all over the world of churches meeting and soon after, dozens or hundreds or more showing symptoms of coronavirus. These choices carry significant risk.

I’ve seen a lot of excellent articles, blogs, and resources published for pastors as they navigate this time. I’m thankful that there is a community of leaders who seek to encourage and to help each other process these difficult decisions.

However; this has also highlighted some significant opportunities for the church members to process and prepare during this time.

I’d like to highlight some observations and things to think/pray about as we encourage our pastors and church leaders.

I want to offer the perspective of a church member, a part time ministry director, and a sister in Christ to any believer who chooses to click and read. (Thank you).

Is Church Essential?

Pre-covid, there were plenty of Christians who would confidently proclaim, “I do not go to church because going to church does not make me a Christian. I can follow Jesus without it. Jesus over religion.”

This, coupled with the fact that fewer Americans regularly attend church shows that it’s a pretty popular view that church is not essential.

With this in mind, pastors have had the difficult task of defining the church to the committed members who are grieving this time of not meeting.

“The church is not a building, it’s the people.” We’ve seen the slippery slope of that statement before the pandemic, but how do we, the people who eagerly anticipate meeting together again in a building, process this?

In the song Brick After Brick by Sovereign Grace, it says,

God used to dwell in a house among His people
But now He has a home that’s better than the first
It doesn’t look like a building with a steeple
Now, He’s living in the people of the Church
Brick after brick, God is building His temple
Brick after brick, He is making it strong
With Christ the sure foundation and His people as the stones
He is building a place He can live

He is building a church by the grace found in Jesus. He is building a church locally and globally as others come to know and love him. We, as believers, are the church. The song doesn’t end there.

All His people gather ’round, singing out with joyful sound
Giving glory to their Maker
And they build each other up as they share the bread and cup
To remember their Savior

Gather. Worship. Communion.

The individual bricks of his church join together, in the unity of Christ, to worship, build up, and remember our Savior with the bread and cup.

Scripture is filled with commands and encouragement to meet with one another. To encourage, teach, and grow together in the truth of God’s word. To serve one another in love and sacrifice. To give generously. To pray for and with those in suffering or hardship. To praise the One who makes it all possible through his love and grace.

“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:24‭-‬25 CSB

May we pray for hearts that see our membership, participation, and service to the church as essential.

May we pray for hearts that trust that there is absolutely nothing that can destroy the church, Christ’s beautiful bride, who eagerly awaits the ceremony that unites us wholly, perfectly, and eternally with him.

The church is essential because God calls his image bearers to himself, giving us value and worth impossible to find anywhere else. Our cause was essential and urgent enough that God came to earth, died, and rose again to deliver us from our worthless pursuits leading to death.

Movie Theatres vs. Home Theaters

One thing I love to do is pay way too much money for tickets, soda, and popcorn and watch a movie in the theater. We watch movies at home, but there is something about the experience of watching it on a huge screen with other people.

Has this absence from meeting in the church building felt like that in some ways? Has your way on consuming church felt unsatisfying? Is our main objective to consume church in a more comfortable and preferred way?

Our culture of entertainment has infiltrated the church.

We want a place to casually attend, to observe, and to enjoy. We like the music. We like the preaching. We like the break the nursery provides.

A band we did not have to practice with, schedule, or audition performs for us while we sing along. A pastor we are unaccountable to with our deepest, darkest sins shares an inspirational (and hopefully gospel focused) message we may or may not process, pray through, or discuss with others. Various other ministries are available that miraculously “just happen” without any effort or sacrifice on our part provide a break from our children or bathrooms that are clean and stocked or food that is prepared and enjoyed in fellowship with others.

Going to the movies or a sporting event or a concert is not the same as going to church.

Is the church essential? I’ve already given my thoughts on that.

What’s essential for the church to open back up?

An audience? No. Participants. If we think the church (in terms of meeting together) is essential, then it is essential we start considering and praying through how we can help make that happen on the timeline our pastors and elders lay out for us.

May we pray for hearts that are willing to partner with and serve in and alongside our churches.

May we value what we label essential by being discontent with casually observing what we are called to join in meaningful, embodied ways.

A Flourishing Church

Ultimately, if our goal is to meet again, then our goal is to do so in ways that enable flourishing in our church body, homes, and communities.

Opening back up is not a “gotcha” moment to the government, the CDC, or to those who disagree.

If we arrogantly bust open the doors and shout the praises of American rights, we are not contributing to the flourishing of the church (meanwhile, churches around the world pray for literal protection from the governments quick to arrest and imprison them for meeting together).

The reopening of churches may result in some disturbances of our preferences.

If you are triggered by these words:

-Face masks

-Social distancing

– Limited and reduced capacities,

it may be a good idea to start praying about the posture you will assume when churches lay out their requirements to meet inside the building again.

Will it shock and anger you if masks are required in the building? What if they simply make it a recommendation and some choose not to wear them?

Will you be angry if your kid runs to play with another family’s kid and an elder/deacon/staff member interrupts and says that all fellowship not adhering to a six foot distance must occur off of the church property?

How will you feel if the morning is hectic and you are running late only to find out the church is already full and you cannot come in? “There’s only fifty people in there for goodness sakes!”

Why do you attend church? Why do you view it as essential?

How do we enable the flourishing of the church in such a hostile, confusing, and scary time?

Slandering our church leadership online or to fellow church members? Connecting our tithes, attendance, or service with our desired outcomes?

How do we enable the flourishing of our churches, homes, and community? Isn’t that question a good place to start? Doesn’t it shift our focus to God’s glory AND the love of neighbor?

How do we enable flourishing?

Here’s how I picture it:

Members of the church enable flourishing by respecting and submitting to the leadership of the church. Humbly asking questions or offering input IS NOT disrespectful or unsubmissive, but how we handle the answers or the response to our input can be. Are we known to be argumentative? Arrogant? Skeptical and difficult to please?

Members of the church enable flourishing by valuing people over opinions. Are you willing to lay down your preferences in love for your neighbor?

Members of the church enable flourishing by seeking and providing accountability, fellowship, and community to other members of the church. The preaching pastor may not always know what burdens you carry, but there are brothers and sisters who do, and they encourage and love you in truth. This also enables flourishing in times like these. We remain connected and known in meaningful ways in times of physical distance.

Members of the church enable flourishing by serving the church. Sunday morning cannot happen without service. Meal trains cannot happen without service. We need to shift our focus from, “here’s WHY and WHEN the church should open,” to “here’s HOW I will partner with my church when the time comes (and long after!).” If you don’t know the specific needs of your church, asking is always a great place to start.

Members of the church enable flourishing by prioritizing spending time in prayer and God’s word in their personal lives. The church needs good students of scripture. This enables the flourishing of different ministries: teaching children, youth, and other adults. It enriches conversation. It vets what’s being taught. Churches filled with people committed to prayer and Biblical literacy make beautiful and helpful mentors, leaders, and teachers.

Members of the church enable flourishing by confronting sin and idols in our midst. First and foremost, we must constantly repent of our own sin. I am truly the worst sinner I know. When we see and confront sin and idols in others, we must do so in a way that points to grace, maintains their dignity, and is said in love.

There are a lot of other ways members of the church enable flourishing, and I’m sure the Lord has gifted you in more ways than you can count to contribute to it, but I hope you see that true flourishing occurs in the midst of grace, humility, submission, service, and love.

Fellow church members, let’s evaluate the cost of our desires: are they bent on selfishness and preference or on the flourishing of God’s people? Let’s model why the church is truly essential.

“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works — this person will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 1:19‭-‬27 CSB

Posted in Random Thoughts

Seven Years of Marriage

Seven years of marriage.

I love this person in ways I did not know I was capable of loving a person.

I want him to flourish in all areas of his life- I want him to grow in wisdom, sanctification, and love.

I will not shy away from confrontation. I see what no one else sees. I feel the effects of his decisions in real and meaningful ways.

His success comes at a cost. His success brings flourishing. His success brings tears. His success brings risk. His success brings opportunities. His success is never a neutral or easy happenstance.

His failures point to hope. His failures illuminate the brokenness we always knew was there. Brokenness in him, in systems, or in the world. His failures weigh heavy on his shoulders. His failures make him human.

His sin is a sin against God, but it ripples into our whole family. His sin has consequences. His sin is not surprising. He is not ruled by his sin.

His words matter. His words bring life. His words bring truth. His words bring insight and things to consider. His words bear heavy on the decisions of our family. Our finances. Our parenting. Our next assignment. Our outlook. His words are important to me. His words, and how he says them, signify the kind of leader he is.

His sanctification matters more to me than anything else. I will encourage him in truth. I will approach him with concerns. I will question where he places his hope in various circumstances. I will love him despite any disagreement. I will always look and pray for HIS best, even if that means enduring hardship and clinging to each other and to God.

Marriage is not easy work. These priorities to not always point to easy things to implement.

As I grow older, I recognize that I have way more questions than answers. The crazy thing about questions is that they can be answered to suit different contexts, but the best questions point to answers of bringing life to a situation.

I am an imperfect spouse. There are many times I complain when I should be content, I disregard his opinion when I should be listening and asking questions, I disengage when I should be pressing in with intentionality. I do not answer the questions of “how?” perfectly, but by God’s grace, I keep asking the questions, and by his grace, I fumble through and find any way I can to rely on him to answer with truth and to love in a sacrificial way.

In seven years of marriage, I don’t have any marketable advice, but I’ve learned some questions that help me to love Alex on the good and bad days. These questions help me to reorient my motivations toward his flourishing as opposed to my desired results. These questions help me to value Alex as an image bearer of God. As a leader. As a father. As my husband.

How do I honor my husband?

How do I speak about him to others?

Am I careful or reckless with who I entrust with our struggles?

Does this person I am speaking to know and love us in a secure community? Does this person long for our flourishing as a married couple?

Is this a struggle worthy of outside care, prayer, and encouragement? Is this simply venting of minor inconveniences and annoyances about him?

Am I praying for/with him? Am I trusting the Lord with our issues?

How do I respect my husband?

Do I recognize the unique abilities and qualities he brings to our family?

How do I respond to confrontation?

How do I respond to disagreement?

In what ways do I belittle his advice, opinions, or decisions?

Do I put him in endless and impossible positions to have to try to earn my respect?

What tone do I use most often in our discussions?

Do I use all of my kindness reserves on other people or do I leave room to be kind and patient with him?

Do I think about what I want to say before I say it? (In confrontation)

Do I give a reason for my concern/frustration or do I resort to accusations and defensiveness?

Am I content or demanding of more, better, or new?

How do I delight in my husband?

Do we laugh together?

Do I pursue ways to encourage him?

Do I rejoice in his accomplishments? Am I regularly happy for him?

Is there a special dessert/meal/sporting event/etc. that I can enable him to enjoy today?

Do I give him opportunities to delight in things I may not find delightful? (Ex: Do I complain about football everytime it’s on?)

I think we all know some other very practical things that I do not need to name here, because, well, that’s private and I have family who reads this.

These questions are very general, but I apply them specifically in various situations.

Is there something fun and light hearted we can implement into our day today?

I feel angry that he just said _____, I will pray and ask myself, “how can I talk to him about this in a loving and respectful tone? How can I communicate this in a way that also contributes to HIS flourishing and a better way to move forward? ”

He’s suggesting a budget change and I want to roll my eyes or disregard, that would prompt the question, “how do I take a posture of listening to understand and to VALUE his decision regarding our finances?”

Do I act impulsively at times? YES.

Do I get angry about things that are minor offenses I need to let go? YES.

Focusing on areas I can show him honor, respect, and delight is not so much about me figuring out all the right answers, it’s more about spending time praying, pondering, and inviting time to do the work of calming my nerves, offering perspective, and allowing what’s truly important to lead the way. I don’t ask every question in every situation, but you better bet I am always questioning my own motives, heart, and desires. I am a wife who needs to repent regularly. I am selfish in too many situations. I am easily angered at times.

I don’t have many answers as to what marriage is supposed to look like, but I do know asking questions is a good place to start.

*I would like to point out that I do not think many of these questions would be helpful in situations of abuse. I do not assume the position that any issue is caused/fixed by MY behavior alone, but this is simply a posture I take in my martial context. An entirely different set of questions applies to that situation, primarily questions of safety, so please do not think I’m being prescriptive!

Seven Years Ago
Posted in Jesus Chats, Links

Christian Parenting Resources

I have benefited from parenting books about sleep, discipline, and a variety of other topics. I can close the book and walk away with tips and tricks to try to achieve longer sleep, or a calmer way to discuss some of the negative behaviors in my home.

Another book that is beneficial in not only parenting, but in ALL aspects of life is the Bible. While it has some direct applications and commands, we still struggle to implement them or figure out what they look like in our day to day life. Ensuring the crib is free of blankets? Easy. Teaching our children the word of God? Intimidating!

Just as we become good students to sleep or discipline methods to achieve some parenting priorities, we must also be good students of the word of God. We want to ensure that our instruction and conversations with our children about the Bible are true, grace filled, and loving.

There are a lot of really great children’s resources out there to guide you in reading stories and explaining tough topics, but I thought I’d share some resources that have been helpful to me as I try to study and communicate the word of God. I read story Bibles to my children, but discussion about God is not restricted to story time. As parents, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, spouses, churches, and communities is prioritizing our study of God’s word.

Below you will find a few books that have helped me in my studies. (A few of the kindle books are currently on sale- The Bible Story Handbook is $2.99 and Women of the Word is $5.20)

If you click on an image, it will take you to the Amazon link for the book. (Not an affiliate link).

I recommend all of these books as we disciple children in our homes, in our churches, or in our community.

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

Who I Am Inside (Thanks Mulan)

Mulan is one of my favorite Disney movies.

In one very moving scene, she sings a song about her inability to conform to society’s expectations of her…”Be quiet, woman!” “Smile and look pretty!”

In the song she sings after royally screwing up her “test” with the matchmaker, she sings a line that says, “when will my reflection show who I am inside?”

I thought of this line today because I took a picture of my door and saw my reflection.

My reflection mirrors my daily life, holding a baby with my curious and talkative four year old never too far behind.

I didn’t think of this song in a longing way of “ugh, this is not who I truly am.” Nor did I see it and think, “THIS is the time my reflection shows who I am inside.”

I saw it and thought, “Wow, Mulan asked a very profound question.”

Did motherhood awaken some deeper purpose that defines my identity and reveals my true self? Maybe in some ways, yes, but I can also think of other times I have looked at my reflection and felt happy and self assured, full of purpose and contentment.

I remember looking at my shadow on my bike as a kid. I would stand up and sit down, so amused by the way it grew and shrank. I’d sit and put my hands in the air and beam with pride that I could ride and steer with NO HANDS!

I remember glancing in the reflective windows at my university’s school of business while walking to a different building, noticing my backpack on, and feeling a sense of accomplishment and freedom in my studies. Away from home. Navigating relationships (imperfectly), responsibilities, and life as a pseudo adult. (Joke was on anyone who stood long enough to actually check themselves out. They were reflective windows, but the people sitting inside could still see EVERYTHING!)

I remember taking engagement pictures with Alex (ironically on the same day of our wedding). Months before our pictures were scheduled, I worked it out with a local ice cream shop to have our shoot there. I remember sitting at the table and looking down at the laminated menu, catching a tiny reflection of my face in that moment. The joy was undeniable. I just married the most fun person on the planet.

There have also been plenty of days I don’t love what I see.

I remember looking in my reflection after long days of pretending. I have done a lot of that in my life. I remember feeling like a fool, a fake, and feeling a loneliness that ached in ways I can’t figure out how to describe.

I remember spending hours at the mirror, just hoping I’d finally figure out the hair and make up style that would actually make me feel pretty. (Having a couple of guys tell you you’re ugly has a profound effect in those formative years).

I remember looking in the mirror as tears streamed down my face (on numerous occasions), and wondering, “Where can I find comfort? What on Earth am I doing with my life? Why are my efforts so fruitless?”

Free spirited. Self assured. Loved. Full of love for others. Joyful. Hurt. Ashamed. Alone.

My reflection has never hidden who I am inside. It’s not some thing to discover or some journey to embark. It’s in our responses to each day. It’s in our posture as we tackle the circumstances, struggles, or triumphs of each season. It’s a complexity we experience as we recognize and embody celebration, grief, or doubt throughout our lives.

Perhaps this is why I struggle with throwing the weight of my credibility, passion, or advocacy toward the reflection I see today.

Perhaps the message of Jesus: Christ came, Christ died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again, is the only message worthy of my advocacy and full endorsement (as if God NEEDS my support ;)).

Perhaps this focus helps me to see a reflection greater than myself: a reflection of others enduring hurt and pain. A reflection of others in joy and celebration. A reflection of a God who looks back on me and sees even more than the sum of my failures, successes, and circumstances.

Perhaps it helps us to see that our reflections are not the full story, but are small snippets in a bigger redemption story.

Our pain. Our marriage. Our singleness. Our rejection. Our parenting. Our childlessness. Our celebration. Our grief. Our loneliness. What we see in our mirrors, windows, or shadows today point us to an unchanging image of hope. Peace. Rest. Grace. Love.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12‭-‬13 CSB

“As water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person.”
Proverbs 27:19 CSB

“My heart says this about you: “Seek his face.” Lord , I will seek your face.”
Psalms 27:8 CSB

“Those who look to him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.”
Psalms 34:5 CSB

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked one abandon his way and the sinful one his thoughts; let him return to the Lord , so he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will freely forgive. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord ’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do.””
Isaiah 55:6‭-‬11 CSB

“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works — this person will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless and he deceives himself. Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
James 1:19‭-‬27 CSB

Posted in Random Thoughts

Growing as a Writer

“As you grow as a writer, you’ll figure out what needs to be said and what doesn’t, and you’ll know when to let it breathe. Some plants need pruning. Others are meant to grow wild.”

-Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

Writing is funny that way.

Everything I write comes from thoughts I’ve had for a day, week, or month. I process those thoughts on walks, while making dinner, or at random moments during the day. Then, I sit down and write.

There are a lot of thoughts that don’t translate well to paper. And then there are even more thoughts that just simply do not need to be said.

My favorite thoughts are those that unravel as I write, inspiring deeper thought.

Writing is funny because it’s often about expression, but even more than that, it’s about growth. Not all expression is beneficial or even necessary. Not all words bloom.

It’s humbling to have a thought, write it out, read it back, and absolutely hate every word of it.

Backspace.

Discard draft.

I currently have about sixteen unfinished drafts on this blog alone.

Perhaps a better way to articulate this point will come to me.

Perhaps this prompt will inspire me in the future.

Perhaps it’s something that does not need to be said, at all, ever.

Perhaps it’s breathing, waiting for the right season and context to emerge.

Perhaps this waiting is the growth. This discerning.

The old written out thoughts wait to know their final fate while new thoughts are born daily, yearning to be written. Or deleted. Or drafted.

It’s a beautiful process.

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

“I Want to Help!”

Today, quiet time came to an abrupt end when my daughter heard the harsh tapping of water against her bedroom window.

Isn’t it funny how water can take on the peaceful sounds of waves from the ocean or a spring trickling down a bed of rocks OR it can sound like a powerful rage as it crashes down a waterfall or slaps against the window of a house from a hose? Water is more than the three states it can inhabit, water, ice, or steam. It also has the power to transform what you see, feel, and hear under different contexts. I feel relaxed observing a stream, trying to make rocks skip as many times as I can (unfortunately, a singular “plop” is typically my experience.) Apparently, my daughter felt excitement at the prospect of a hose aimed at her window, attempting to clean off years of dirt and debris.

She immediately runs down, “I need to put shoes on RIGHT NOW and help daddy outside!”

Oh, if only the eagerness to help and work at home could be a permanent fixture.

Very rarely do we tell her she cannot help us, so shoes went on, and she rushed out the door.

Does she realize that her help often requires ample instruction (repeating the same directions over and over and over again?) Does she realize that her help means the time it takes to complete a project typically doubles?

Surely, if she did, and her true motive were to help, she would think, “wow, I add a lot more time and setbacks to completing this, the most helpful thing I can do is sit this one out.”

Thank goodness she doesn’t think that way.

I think, in a lot of ways, this is how our help looks to God. We stumble through, with willing hearts, calling out repeatedly, “help, God! I don’t know what I’m doing!” We definitely take more time to accomplish one miniscule task than it takes him to create the whole universe.

We can reach the lower level windows pretty easily, but we need his strength and height to help us the harder and higher work. He will probably have to go over what we did finish, to make it just right.

“I want to help, God!”

A willing heart. A loving God. A patient Father, willing to instruct and help us as we offer what we can to him.

At the end of a job, when we can finally sit down and enjoy the fruit of out labors, we praise Eleanor, “thank you for helping us today. More than anything, it means a lot that you WANT to help daddy and mommy. It is important that you try and that you willingly learn and handle correction in the process.”

We don’t delight in what she accomplished, we delight in her and how she engaged in the process. We know that we can accomplish all tasks with or without her help, but it is such a joy to see her learn, grow, and experience new things in our home, through her work.

What a blessing to know that God doesn’t receive our willing hearts because all the stakes are on us and the labors we pursue! What a blessing to know that when we do ask, “can I help?” He doesn’t just pass the task along, but he labors alongside us, encouraging, teaching, and disciplining us along the way. What a joy to serve a God who gives us delight and a sense of purpose through our work, but ultimately allows us to rest in HIS delight over us, His image bearers.

To God be the glory, for he redeems our work. He has done glorious things. Let his works, his greater works, be known to all of the nations. Let us always remember that our works, while valuable, pale in comparison to His greatness.

“Indeed, God is my salvation; I will trust him and not be afraid, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation.” You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation, and on that day you will say, “Give thanks to the Lord ; proclaim his name! Make his works known among the peoples. Declare that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord , for he has done glorious things. Let this be known throughout the earth.”
Isaiah 12:2‭-‬5 CSB

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

What Do You Want to Get Done Today?

“What do you want to get done today?”

My husband asked me this question every day for the first week and a half of the shelter in place. It’s helpful to make lists, but I finally admitted, “that is a hard and sometimes frustrating question to answer.” Why?

Because what I WANT to get done in a day is a different list than what I CAN get done in a day. If I see a list of tasks to accomplish, I am often discouraged by my inability to place a neat “it’s done!” check mark next to each item.

Instead, we’ve been making goal lists, with a couple of top priorities to do first.

Sometimes, the list looks like this:

*Vacuum house

*Organize master closet

*Video chat meeting for work

*Order supplies for work

Other times, it looks more like this:

*Spend as much time reading as we can afford.

*Write, write, write. Write here. Write for work. Write in my journal.

*Spend time with Eleanor and Simon.

Productivity is not always measured by the visible accomplishments. A clean room, a shiny countertop, made beds. This work is good and worthwhile and honorable. I am also motivated by organizing, bringing order to chaos, and making things sparkle again.

But what about the work we do not measure? I seldom put things such as preparing meals, emptying the dishwasher, or tucking my kids into bed on my to do list, especially on the days where we seemingly do nothing.

I like to prioritize and plan, but I do not want a measured life. What did you do? What do you know? What have you accomplished?

I prefer a life of learning and experience, even as we work.

What motivates you while you clean? Music? Podcast? Audiobook?

What has inspired you recently?

What about your work brings you joy? Frustration? What triggers those feelings in you?

What have you learned while you work that surprised you? That you CAN repair a toilet? That a certain project you avoided ended up being a lot more fun than you imagined? That a warm bath and hot cup of tea are the best remedies after a day of yardwork or heavy lifting?

While we make lists, plan, or attempt to master optimal levels of productivity, let’s also look for those moments that teach, inspire, or reorient us. Each goal we set does not merely have a beginning or end, but also a process. Sometimes, the process is the most beautiful and life giving part. Sometimes, the process opens us up to new opportunities, new knowledge, and new perspective.

We can “eat that frog,” tackle a project, and work in a way that restores our humanity in beautiful and life giving ways. As we make our lists, let’s be mindful of the beautiful opportunities behind each task.

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats

Do NOT Fear!

Tim Challies is sharing some excellent videos about church history and missionaries from around the world. I watched EPIC: EPISODE 8: India today.

In it, he shared a poem from Amy Carmichael, a woman born and raised in Ireland who served as a missionary in India helping rescue young girls from forced prostitution in Hindu temples.

In the video, Tim shares a poem that struck me as extremely timely. She had fallen ill and wondered if she was too much of a burden for the mission, and in letters with a friend, she was encouraged by a theme in Revelation 2. “I know.” Jesus knows our pain, and somehow, this provides so much comfort.

Here is the poem written by Amy Carmichael in it’s entirety:

UNFATHOMABLE COMFORT

(Revelation 2:9-10)

“”I know”: The words contain Unfathomable comfort for our pain.

How they can hold such depths I don’t know I only know that it is so.

“Fear not”: The words have power To give the thing they name; for in an hour Of utter weariness, the soul, aware of One beside her bed, Is comforted.

O Lord most dear, I thank Thee, and I worship Thou art here.”

I’ve seen “fear not, have faith!’ floating around my social media in these scary and uncertain times. As a Christian, these are commands I am wise to practice, but is that simple phrase enough? Can it be understood by the reader?

I don’t know.

I do know that my brain is not programmed to avoid feelings of fear.

I do know that avoiding or pushing away fear contributes to my anxiety.

I do know that the simple statement “don’t fear” can spark shame in those who can’t seem to get a handle on it.

How do we trust the Lord when fear is CONSTANTLY crouching at our door?

How do we resist fear when our brains are programmed to release chemicals and automatic responses to it?

I’ve often heard that fear is a lack of faith, and perhaps it is, but it’s also a way to point us back to our only source of comfort.

If we truly master our control of fear, will we need God?

In scripture, “fear not” is less a response of, “dumb fool, why are you afraid?” And instead, is much more like “sweet child, for I am with you!”

There are many nights my daughter tells me she is afraid of monsters.

What if I were to say, “that’s silly. God says don’t be afraid, so stop wasting the energy on it?”

What if, instead, I were to say, “monsters can be scary. Do you trust that mommy and daddy will do everything they can to protect you? Do you trust that mommy and daddy made this room safe for you? Sometimes we have scary thoughts that make us feel afraid and alone, but we can rest knowing that God is always with us and that God has given you a mommy and daddy to protect you and help you when you feel afraid. Can we talk to God about your fears and ask Him for comfort right now?”

In a lot of ways, coronavirus feels like a monster. It’s scary. Unlike those imaginary bed time monsters, we can’t be comforted by simple words of, “hey, you’re safe and nothing will happen to you.” Instead, we cry out to God, whether we are experiencing pain or witnessing the pain of others, we name our fears, we entrust it to the Lord, and we walk patiently and lovingly with those who can’t quite let their fears go.

One of the great freedoms in Christ is the beautiful comfort and peace we are able to experience in Him, even in the scariest of times.

One of the great gifts we can give to believers and unbelievers alike is the ability to say, “I know you’re afraid, and I am with you. I have comfort in my fears because God is with me, and while I am still unsure what my future holds, I know that today, in the trials and suffering or health and blessing, God is good. The hardest days reveal the faithfulness of God in beautiful ways, so while I also fear hardship or illness, I trust that he’s more than enough to get me through them.”

People are scared. Let’s meet them in those fears with love and tenderness.

Jesus knows our pain, and he knows the sources of our fears.

Let’s be people of hope, people of patience, and people of understanding, modeling the grace and unending patience God shares with us.

Yes, faith is greater than fear, but fear can drive us to deeper and more authentic faith, if we let it.

Thanks to @carwoods92 for making this photo available freely on @unsplash 🎁
Posted in Jesus Chats

Sanctification

“Come on over! I’ve actually been cleaning for the last two hours, so a break would be wonderful!”

Imagine walking into my front door and seeing toys scattered all over the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and zero evidence of two hours of cleaning. Nevertheless, a hug from me smells of cleaner (and maybe a little sweat).

“I’ve spent the last two hours scrubbing marks off walls, trim, and cleaning every door in this house. Can you see how clean they look?”

You observe one door and say, “wow, yes, it sure does look clean!” It’s not a lie, BUT truth be told, you’ve never actually looked at my doors, walls, or trim too closely. Haven’t they always looked like that?

In a lot of ways, this is how I feel about sanctification. Every day, I trust in the Lord to both help me hate my sin AND love him a little bit more than I did the day before.

I want sanctification to look like a noticeable declutter. A big mess now bare. A pile of papers recycled. Boxes and boxes taken to the dump (we do donate a lot of stuff, but I don’t want to donate the inner junk that I am pointing to right now). A deep breath where there once were anxious questions such as “what do I do with all of this stuff?”

Dear God, please come into my life and go full Marie Kondo on all my junk, because, no it does not bring me joy.

Maybe that’s a step because God IS faithful to forgive us of our junk, but I am often discouraged when the junk still lingers, or I bring another worthless treasure into my heart and mind, thinking it has value worthy of my worship and admiration.

Maybe sanctification is the slow, unnoticeable acts of cleanliness and restoration.

Maybe God is more focused on cleaning the scuffs and dirt and marks of disobedience (marker) from the things people don’t really see: our hearts and minds. Careful attention to detail. Slow progress. “HAVE YOU REALLY EVEN CHANGED? IT STILL LOOKS A MESS IN HERE!”

You may see my clutter: How I anxiously toil and doubt, trying to earn some sort of approval from whatever source I deem worthy of attaining it from in any given week. My inability to “always use speech worthy of building others up,” how I can easily be caught in a cycle of criticism and frustration. How easily I succumb to avoidance as a coping mechanism- closing myself off and mentally escaping from daily demands.

There is still plenty of evidence of my brokenness and weakness. There are messes everywhere! But there is a faithful Lord quietly and faithfully cleaning the spots that you (and sometimes even I) cannot see. He knows the motives of my heart. He knows my thoughts. And maybe, before I focus on the things that need to be picked up over and over and over again, I can rest in a patient and loving Savior, slowly changing my foundation, slowly making what holds all of me cleaner. Faithfully wiping away smudges and dirt and evidence of a messy life that start inside and quickly seep out in my words and actions.

As I see the “before” and “after” of his daily, seemingly unproductive work, something only I am privy to, I can see that it’s those faithful moments that truly change my heart.

Sanctification isn’t a race. It’s not a weekend deep clutter perfectly edited for your viewing. It’s slow, hard work. It’s transforming the things we do not see. As we transform our thoughts and hearts, we view the messes a little differently. They’re there, but they are covered in Christ’s blood, thank goodness, and they do not compare to the beauty offered in Him. Slowly, we stop adding to the current messes or creating new piles. Slowly, we hold up one item at a time, weigh it against the beauty of Christ, and say, “this really has no place here anymore.”

Slowly but surely, we hate our sin a little bit more and we love and trust our savior a little bit more. A savior who says, “your messes are now my messes, and there is freedom in me. See that table over there? Let’s feast! See that couch over there? Let’s read a story or just chat! There is still much to be enjoyed here, and I delight in you and desire to be with you.”

It’s a messy life, I’m a messy person, but the Lord is faithfully cleaning and redeeming the things of value, because in Christ, the value I have surpasses the junk. The treasure I cling onto isn’t scuffed or made messy by me, because he was already broken for me. He was already deemed trash and worthy of death. He was already thrown away, only to rise and to reveal true beauty and redemption.

He is good.

He is patient.

He is doing the important work.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ” Psalms 51:10

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