Saturday, July 28, 2012

OUT FROM UNDER ALL OF THIS

Feeling confined by your spouse? Kids?  Job?  Feeling trapped?  Wish you didn't have to answer to anyone?

Welcome.  I'm glad you're here.

I'm all about this new show called "Beyond Scared Straight." It chronicles a handful of teens who are raging against the various authorities in their lives, getting into trouble, and therefore spending a day behind bars to see where their current path will eventually lead them.  And, without fail, their pre-interviews contain some variation of this sentence:

"Nobody's gonna tell me what to do."  

And then they sit in a prison for a whole day listening to inmates tell them how it REALLY is.  

"I don't get to sleep in anymore.  Now I am told at 5:30 that I WILL get up.  I am then told to take a 2-minute cold shower, put on an uncomfortable jumpsuit, told when to go the bathroom.  I'm then told to sit in a cell for hours until the next thing they tell me to do.  I don't get to go to my refrigerator when I'm hungry to get something that sounds good.  I'm told I have 8 minutes to eat the disgusting crap they put on my plate, and if I'm not done in 8 minutes, too bad--nobody cares--I go hungry.  The lights go out at 8pm, even though I'm not tired.  I am told what to do literally all day long.

Kind of a far cry from "Nobody's going to tell me what to do."

And yet I doubt we're much different than these.  Because I think there's something in me and in you that bristles at being told what to do.  Accountability kind of bites sometimes, to be honest.  And we begin to perceive freedom as being out from underneath the things and the people to whom we're accountable.

But the unexpected happens when we wriggle out from underneath accountable relationships:  That's precisely when the fetters tighten around our wrists and the prison door slams shut on us.  Because pursuing "freedom" outside of God's design always brings bondage of some sort. 

The mom who resents her family for whom she's sacrificed may find herself wanting out.  But the "freedom" she envisions for herself will actually include working incessantly to afford an additional mortgage or rent payment, the lack of freedom to tuck her kids in at night, and the bondage of a possibly irretrievably broken relationship with her children.  

The man who wishes he could tell off his boss and be rid of him once and for all?   The "freedom" he envisions includes phone calls from the mortgage company saying, "I don't care how much you hated your boss--You owe us money."

Wow. "Freedom" sounds fabulous.  

If you're finding yourself hungry to be free right now, and if your desire for what you perceive to be freedom is having you considering abruptly quitting a job, breaking vows, or slipping out from underneath authority that God has established...would you take a moment to just pause before you pursue?  Will you please, please, on-your-face PRAY for wisdom to understand how God defines freedom?

He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  We don't have to try and escape out from under what we consider to be our burdens when He has already asked to trade yokes with us.

His path is not one of confinement--and if we're thinking that something God has made or joined together is confining, then we are thinking wrongly about it.  Period.  "I RUN in the paths of Your commands, for You have set my heart free" (Psalm 119:32).  

Freedom never comes out from underneath what God has given or established.

And when we try to find freedom outside of His ways, that's when freedom evaporates.  Prison doors slam.  Chains tighten around us.


JESUS, do not allow us to be deceived by the lie that freedom is found apart from You.  Please, give us strength to STOP before trying to wriggle out from under what You have established! 


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Friday, July 20, 2012

I AM...BUT I ALMOST WASN'T

You're here.  But what if you weren't?

There almost wasn't a "Me." 

Years ago my mom was pregnant with another child, but miscarried.  And if not for the loss that my mom would never have voluntarily chosen, she wouldn't have gotten pregnant with me.  I was conceived in the time when she still would have been carrying her other child.
So God began the task of knitting me together in the depths.  But then at my birth, the cord was wrapped dangerously around my neck three times, threatening both my mom and me.  And yet God's hand was on us, sustaining our lives.


I think of how my children almost weren't.  My daughter's story is just like mine--she came to us shortly after the miscarriage of my second son.  If not for the loss I know I wouldn't have ever chosen at the time, my sweet Liley wouldn't be here. But that wasn't all; I was also reminded recently that an unexpected and tragic loss made a way for my husband--and therefore our children--to be. 


I can't help thinking that there have been a few different things just in the last 2 generations alone that could have made things go very differently.  But God made a way for us--for all four of us--to exist. Wow.


And He's been doing this all along.  I think of the protections and provisions God made for His Son Jesus to be born of the house and line of David.  First, the stature-challenged David went toe to toe with the massive Goliath--and God made a way for David's victory (and therefore the preservation of David's life)! But the threats to David's life didn't stop there.  Later on, King Saul felt threatened by this young man after God's own heart, and "kept a jealous eye on David" (1 Samuel 18:9).  King Saul made plans to kill David, but God used Jonathan--Saul's own son--to protect David and preserve his life.  And the ramifications of this were huge: Generations later, the Messiah was born of the line of David. 

So what's YOUR story?  Maybe it was the grandparents that almost didn't marry, the life-threatening situation, or a loss that paved the way for your presence.  Consider that God SO wanted you to be here that He made a way for it to be so--preserving and protecting  the generations that would one day produce YOU!  Rick Warren wrote about the powerful notion that God knew exactly which two people had the DNA that would make YOU--and He joined them together so that you could be.  Indescribable glory!  I'm blown away even to think of how God joined this California girl with a Boston boy, and that we have two Georgia peaches of our own.  Amazing. :)


The ordering of steps.  The preservation of life.  It's all one tremendous miracle!  If you're reading this, know that God made a way for you.  I know.  Because I almost wasn't.  

And yet here I am.

Thank You for making a way for us, Father.  Thank You for carving out our place in the midst of the generations.  Preserve our children's lives and join them with the ones You see fit to be joined to them, that the generations may continue as You will.  We love You for being a great and omniscient God.  It is AWESOME to know You have planted us and established us to display Your splendor (Isaiah 61).  

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

THE PRESSING PLACE

"Sometimes you'll find yourself in a pressing place which will try everything in you.  
It's there that your praise and testimony are produced."


Hope for the hurting is this: That being squeezed out of these heartbreaking days is your TESTIMONY--your future proclamations that God came through.

To those in a pressing place:  Remain in Him and you will YET praise Him and declare how awesome and faithful and good He is.  I think of ones dear to me who are hurting right now through no fault of their own, and I can literally ENVISION their future praise of the God who will redeem the rivers of devastation they're wading in.  And maybe He won't come through in the way we're hoping, but it's not the end of things.  Because He WILL come through in a way of surpassing greatness. 

For those suffering, confidence is fitting--not because your circumstances will necessarily change--but because as brutal as today feels, there are days of praise ahead.  You will YET see fit to praise the God who is carving glory out of your current pain.  Your future declarations of His faithfulness are being juiced out of junk you really wish you weren't going through right now.   

I am confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait for the LORD.  Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14

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Monday, July 16, 2012

THE NINE COMMANDMENTS (and The One Suggestion)

There are nine commandments...right?


Sometimes I live as though that's the case.  Honor thy father and mother?  Absolutely.  Do not murder? Um, check. 

But "Keep the Sabbath"...what's that?

Church and laundry and tutoring preparations and vacuuming and cooking and grocery shopping--this is how I spend my Sundays.  Doubt I'm alone in that, either.


I very rarely honor the Sabbath.  I hardly ever carve out a day of rest.  Do you?


And yet it is one of the commands of God that is to be honored and obeyed as much as the others.  Look at the owners of Chick-fil-A:  The Cathy family decided in the beginning that they would close every Sunday in honor of the Sabbath.  They've been told how much money they could be making if they would only operate 7 days a week like everyone else--but they haven't taken the bait.  Let it cost what it may, they have chosen to take a day of rest for themselves and their employees.  


I'm posting this early on in the week because there are things I can do all week in preparation for and protection of the Sabbath.  Putting in a bit more time in tutoring prep throughout the week.  Meal planning for the weekend.  Doing an extra load or two of laundry so it's done and back in drawers before Sunday.  


What needs to happen Monday through Saturday in order for Sunday to be a day consecrated and set apart for the LORD?  Do you struggle with keeping the Sabbath?


I'm just thinking that if God set this command alongside the ones He did, it's probably worth our attention--and obedience.

After all--they're not called "The Nine Commandments And One Suggestion."


Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work...for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but He rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:8-11
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

THE UNWORTHY FRENCH FRIES

Sure, I'm a girl who's all about organic yogurt, cage free eggs, sprouted grain bread, and spinach smoothies.  But MAN, do I love a good McDonald's french fry!

On the rare occasion I do get them, though, I never eat them all. I always leave a few behind.

Some of them are unworthy. 


You know the soft, wonderful fries?  Totally worth the occasional splurge.  But those crunchy, pointy-edged ones?  They're not worthy of the amount of the calories they'll take up from my daily allotment. I mean, really--I only get so many calories a day.  Girl can't waste those things on unworthy fries!

In the same way, I also feel a sense of accountability for the ways I spend my life.  And the God-given gift of conviction comes when I choose to spend my time in unworthy ways.


All too often I use up a whole precious hour watching some show I don't even care about.


Other times I pay for an hour doing random stuff online with the very 60 minutes I could have spent with my family.


And too often I let really unworthy things consume my daily allotment of time that was given to me so that I could be busy about things that are lasting. 


I really don't want to live an "Unworthy Fries" kind of life.  I have an allotment of time--determined by God and unknown by me--and I want to make it count.  


What most threatens your time?  What are the unworthy things that contend for a spot in your day?  And what worthy things don't get to be in the mix because of the unworthy things that have consumed that time?


LORD God, Your Word says our lives are just a vapor--here today, gone tomorrow.  Let Your Holy Spirit lovingly convict us when we fritter away our days with unworthy things.  Point out to us the specific things that are using up our allotment of time unwisely. You say the days are evil...drenched with opportunities to drift, and we don't want that. We want to live to bring You glory.  We are here for YOU! -- This abundant life is not for our own pleasures and comforts, although You are gracious to provide those things when You do.  Remind us right now that TODAY is one of our numbered days.  This day isn't practice for the next thing we await--today IS the thing.  Keep us faithful, obedient, and pure.  Keep us considerate of the worthiness of the things that are eating up our days.  We love You and want to honor You with our time! 

Be very careful how you live--
not as unwise but as wise, 
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

THANK YOU, SHOE LADY

Somebody needs you to do something. A specific something. 

The shoe lady did it for me, and it meant everything.

Somebody is DESPERATE for you to do it for them.  In fact, somebody's day, week, or month is hanging on whether or not you'll do it.

Someone needs you to ENCOURAGE them.


Last week we took our son to get some new shoes for the upcoming school year.  As we were leaving, the shoe saleswoman took me aside and said, "Your children are really polite.  I don't see enough of that and I just wanted to tell you you're doing a great job with them."

I almost hugged her in the middle of LLBean.  Like, we're talking a hug with a leg wrap.  With those simple words, Nancy the shoe lady was pretty much my favorite person ever!  

Why did a comment like that mean so much?

Because I was DESPERATE for a word of encouragement--specifically in regards to parenting.  A day or two earlier I was up at night sobbing my eyes out, feeling like I was failing as a mom.  Feeling like I was getting it wrong.  Feeling worthless and ineffective in the very area I want more than anything to get right.

I needed those words.  I mean, I really really needed them.  But it required a woman taking an extra 30 seconds out of her life to share them with me for me to have what meant so much to me that day.


When did you last go out of your way to encourage someone?  


To let someone know how much you look up to them/respect them/love them/appreciate them/get them?


To pass along a compliment you heard about them?  I mean, let's be honest: A lot of times people will say great things ABOUT someone but never get around to saying great things TO them.  And that just means that the ones who most need to hear, often never do.  What a loss!

Will you do it today?  Pick up the phone, send a tweet or Facebook message, drop a card in the mail, fill out a comment card for that great employee at the store, let a manager know of exceptional service, drop off a treat and kind note to the grumpy neighbor, or just let someone know they came to mind. And, last but certainly not least, it's pretty important to be lavish in encouraging the ones under our same roof!

So are you in?  Let me know how you encouraged someone!  Can't wait to read what encouragement looked like in your life today. :)

* Many thanks to my stepmother Peggy, who is ridiculously good at encouraging and an amazing role model in this area, and Christine Niles, an awesome woman and friend who goes out of her way to serve others in encouragement!


Encourage one another DAILY, 
as long as it is still called today, 
so that none of you may be hardened
by sin's deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

REDEFINING SEXY

I am really starting to get concerned.

I believe the enemy is after the hearts of women.  I have seen too much and personally experienced temptation way too often and too intensely to doubt it. 

A few weeks back I wrote about the girl next to me on a flight reading "Fifty Shades of Grey," and how I was pretty much as uncomfortable with that as I would be if a man next to me was reading Playboy.  To me I really just didn't see the difference.

And now every channel is pumping out commercials for "Magic Mike," the male-stripper movie. 

Whatevs.  That stuff is out there, right?

But it's not just OUT THERE.  It's IN HERE.  In Christian circles.  Affecting your friends and mine.

On Facebook lately I've seen groups of women going out together to see the "Magic" together--photos snapped of women all dressed up, going out for a girls' night, just having some fun.

I want to be clear--these are women who know and love God.  And so I'm just puzzled--at what point can we as Christ followers justify handing over money to see something that's been rated R for "pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, pervasive language, and drug use"?

I know these very things are, to varying degrees, peppered throughout just about any movie showing in the theaters these days.   But when you go to a movie fully knowing you're going to be staring at really good looking guys taking their clothes off for 90 minutes?  Is this really where we are--marinating our minds in pervasive sexual content that has nothing to do with our own spouse?  If we really want to see God glorified then when we see all of this for what it is, we should be unsettled  UNDONE by this trend.

And how do the husbands feel about this?  Were they allowed to go out to a strip club that night while the girls saw that movie?  And really--would it have been any different than what their wives were doing?

I'm worried.  I'm worried that I don't guard my own heart enough, my own eyes enough, my own ears enough.  I'm worried at what I see becoming more and more "okay" in circles of believers, all in the name of girls' night out. 

I am very worried that we're getting a really messed up view of what is "sexy."  Channing Tatum is an attractive man, no doubt, but watching guys pelvic thrusting around a stage doesn't do it for me.

A man who is faithful to his family is sexy.

A man who is considerate is sexy.

A man who serves others is sexy.

A man who is there 10 years, 20 years, 30 years and so on after the vows were spoken?  Sexy.

A man who honestly wants what God wants is what is desirable.

And ladies--many of us have the "sexy" already in our own houses.

And if not, we need to be hitting our knees in prayer for the men in our lives--and making sure WE are desirable in these ways as well. This isn't to say that we're never pulled toward these illusions of desire.  But if we're not wanting what God wants, we've got to be busy about praying for the WANT to want what God wants.

Not daydreaming about that other guy who seems to take so much interest in you.

Not soaking up every word of that hot novel all your girlfriends recommended.

Not running off to the movies with the girls.

All of these are only steps--I get that.  But they are steps that LEAD SOMEWHERE.  And for those who find themselves too far down the path, sometimes they find themselves paying for their pursuits with their reputations, their friendships, their marriages,  and their families. 

WAY too high a price to pay.

Father, protect Your daughters!  I feel such a war being waged against our hearts.  For every wife and mom who is looking for something to tantalize her tired heart, meet those needs with PURE things.  Keep the enemy far from us!  Protect our marriages, protect our families.  Keep us in Your Word, that we might not sin against You.  These are such real battles, LORD.  Let your Holy Spirit make us very, very uncomfortable in pursuing passion outside what is pleasing to You!


Whatever is
TRUE
NOBLE
RIGHT
PURE
LOVELY
ADMIRABLE
EXCELLENT
PRAISEWORTHY
Think about such things.

Philippians 4:8


Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people.

Ephesians 5:3


* I am hearing awesome things about Craig Groeschel's SOUL DETOX: Clean Living in a Contaminated World.  It's next on my reading list!  It sounds like it's getting in a lot of people's business--in the best, most soul-sanctifying way!

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

THE WEEKLY SIX - July 5

 *MOMENTS OF LEVITY AND CLARITY*

1. Sometimes you have to put the camera down.  Yesterday I was so intent on capturing special moments of our family watching the fireworks that I was actually MISSING the very moments I was trying to capture.  I set the camera down, snuggled up with the little one on my lap, and realized there was no way I was going to need a photograph to remember those moments.  Father, help me to savor--rather than just try to save--these moments.

2. Auto-correct was created to make life funny--I'm convinced of it!  I had my parents very confused and thinking I'd run off to the northwest when I texted "Today has been so restful" and my phone corrected "Today" as "Idaho."

3. Perspective matters. Our water heater broke recently, and we had no hot water for nearly a week. But we were mindful that we were blessed to still GET TO take cold showers. And we were thankful this happened in June, not January!

4. Circumstances can shout whatever they wish at us. But confidence in Almighty God is never, never, NEVER misplaced.

5. You'll have already pulled two-thirds of your hair through the highlighting cap when the plastic hair hook snaps in two. That's how that timing will go!  :D


6. Life is hard.   But the hardest things and the longest nights stir up in us a very appropriate hunger for Heaven.