Monday, May 31, 2010

Moms, it's Monday #2

Last Tuesday we got back from a long trip to North Carolina. My mom helped with the…interesting…(we’ll keep it at that) journey back across the country with the three little ones. She left Wednesday morning for a conference in Vancouver and I had planned to do nothing but get adjusted back to our life in Seattle and just vegetate for a day at home. Since they seemed to miss their toys, that was lovely for about two hours. We did a trip to the store, which actually was more than decent considering my cart full of children, and then headed home for …an unfortunate downhill journey.

I’m not sure why exactly. All I know is that suddenly it felt like we had been in the house ninety days straight and that daylight was thirty nine hours long. I was beginning to feel like naptime was going to be kind of crucial and don’t you know when you’re counting on something it doesn’t happen. For whatever reason, Salem would absolutely not sleep and seemed terrified for me to leave him in his room. I couldn’t figure out why but after some trying and crying it out and the usual tricks, he was awake with me again. The afternoon involved some nice moments but mostly some toddler craziness and keeping Salem up to see daddy before bedtime turned into a full time attention commitment. I remember around five just letting myself drift into a daze. And by 6:00 I am not sure I was even responding to my children anymore. Hmm. Anybody been there? I was jetlagged, somehow already had cabin fever after less than 24 hours in my house, and when Jason got home I am not even sure I looked up. I just shifted into okay-somebody-else-has-it gear and kind of shut it all down. I put Salem to bed and climbed into bed sensing that a good dose of bible reading was what I needed. I finished my day at 8:00pm, falling asleep with my clothes on and the lights on, reading I’m not sure what in my bible. I remember thinking before I went to sleep, I cannot have a day like this tomorrow. It was one of those thoughts that felt a little bit like giving up, like if another day like that had to happen I didn’t want to do it anymore. Just being honest. It’s a low you hit when you’re just drained of all you can be. And I thought, I have to get up in the morning and have a quiet time, I just have to.

So the next morning two out of three of my children woke up at FIVE A.M. That is not fair or right or JUST. That is just evil. Jason, who loves sleep more than me, has no mercy for jet lag and carried Kanah back to bed telling her to go back to sleep believing a hundred percent that she would do so, which sort of worked for another hour, at which time I put on Cinderella for her in the playroom. I went in Salem’s room at 5, changed him in the dark, gave him some milk, and hoped that he would sense that what I was trying to get across was, “you are up too early, so go back to bed” which was the routine I did with him waaaaay back when, when we could not get over that 5:00 hump of sleeping through the night. He obliged for about an hour an a half and got up at 6:30, which made me happy b/c I had already showered and begun my quiet time. Jason took over around that time, since he likes to have the kiddos around when he gets ready, so I got back to some serious prayer and bible time.

On a morning like that, it’s not a nice little quiet time. It’s not, let’s just read some verses over and say some sweet little prayers and jot down a casual journal entry about how I am feeling today. I have been telling some of my friends lately that on days like this, the truth about whether God really really exists is seriously important to me and matters immensely in a moment where I feel like I absolutely hands down cannot do something if He does not show up and become real to me.

So that morning my bible reading wasn’t a long chapter. It was four verses. Here they are (not word for word exactly, because I don’t have a Bible nearby, but close enough to semi-quote):

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another and forgive one another just as in Christ, God forgave you.

Colossians 1:11 May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy, giving thanks to the Father…”

2 Samuel 22:23 “It is God who arms me with strength.”

I read them slowly and deliberately, absorbing their truths, and then I got up with my coffee cup and slowly circled my downstairs. I like to pray and let words flow off of my tongue and just kind of get lost in talking to God about my life and our family and just letting him know my heart and trying to understand his. But that was not one of these days. It was a day of desperation for him to answer very specific prayers. Prayers that are according to his Word and according to promises he has for me.

The two Ephesians verses are commands and they feel totally beyond my capability. Be completely humble and gentle? Be patient? Be kind? Be compassionate? Not easy. Add the next two verses to the mix and then I can be hopeful about achieving the first two.

So I prayed the Ephesians verses from my viewpoint over each of my children, that with his strength and by the power of his glorious might, I might be able to be completely humble and gentle and patient, bearing with Kanah…and Grace…and Salem…in love. And that I would be kind and compassionate, forgiving Kanah…and Grace…and Salem…because God has forgiven me. These were my slow, deliberate, meditative prayers this morning at the foot of the throne of God that morning.

I am only scratching the surface to this whole idea of meditating on Scripture and particularly on the promises of God. I am beginning to respond to the Spirit as he has been guiding me lately into reading less, sitting longer, and dwelling more on what he really wants me to hear and what response I should have with my own lips.

I’m not saying some miracle happened that morning. I don’t know, maybe God would call any heart change a miracle. But what I am saying is that He compelled me to that time with him, he led me to specific instrumental Scripture both to instruct me as well as empower me, and he used the time in prayer to change my heart and to prepare me for the day ahead. A friend just gave me a verse in 1 Peter the other day about how we need to prepare our minds for action. Our actions, our behaviors, our words, our interactions begin in our minds. And that is where the Lord wanted to begin with me. And the day wasn’t perfect, but the Lord had increased something of himself in me that sustained me and convicted me when I need to be and…kind of carried me. So at the end of this day, my heart feels like doing the second half of Col 1:11, and I want to joyfully give thanks to the Father. And I want to get up again tomorrow. Because his truths are real. And prayer time does matter. And heart change does happen. And God really really exists and this matters to me immensely.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Moms, it's Monday

Lately I have felt a lot of conviction around being prepared for Mondays. When I am not ready for Monday and it arrives knocking and I am all surprised that I have a visitor, it’s just silliness. I shouldn’t be surprised that Monday has arrived. I should be ready. I just need to admit to myself that I am not a fly by the seat of my pants type girl and that going to the Lord to submit my week to him and to ask what He would have for me and my children, is wise and essential.

Proverbs 14:1 says that a wise woman builds her house and a foolish one tears hers down with her own hands. When Monday surprises me, I find me and my kids stumbling through the week with my only agenda a playdate here or there and then all else is makeshift and random and survival. This is foolish for me and I find myself tearing my house down, so to say. I am “tearing down” instruction and discipline and relationships that I have spent much purpose building up. So I have felt conviction to not just have general convictions about building my house in theory and how I want to raise my kids, but to have specific plans each week to carry out the greater vision. I could go into detail, and maybe I will later, but for I just want to focus on the idea that on Mondays, us mamas need to not be surprised by the calendar.

I feel like the Lord gave me two encouragements recently to give me the grace I needed to get through the day. I felt like sharing them, so I will write them out here. And if God sees fit, I had the thought that maybe every Monday I should post a “Moms, it’s Monday” encouragement, as the Lord leads. We’ll see, because I’m certainly not as great as other blogs about remembering what day it is to do a certain kind of post, just like I often forget that it's Monday altogether!

1. Psalm 84:5-7 “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength til each appears before God in Zion.”

It was a number of years ago when I first read this verse. I think it was actually the year I was pregnant with the girls and I was really battling the ability to get through strict hospital bed rest. I am absolutely spurred on by the words “who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” Being a Christian is not about this moment or how I feel right this second or how easy something is. I see my circumstance with an eternal perspective, knowing that from the day that Christ saved me until He redeems me, I am ON PILGRIMAGE. This is a long obedience in the same direction. I am walking with Christ not just for thirty minutes of exercise today. I am walking, walking, walking forever with him. My pilgrimage does not take a break or slumber or cease to exist at times. I am always on pilgrimage with Christ. I am in a continual, perpetual, unceasing season of refinement to look more and more like Jesus himself. We are encouraged in this verse to SET our hearts on pilgrimage. We may not see it that way now, but we are being asked to turn our hearts that way and to keep setting them in that direction.

Secondly. We go from strength to strength. I don’t know why but that makes me tear up right now. I need to hear this. It is a bit of a word picture for me feels completely like how it practically seems to work spiritually. I don’t just become a super Christian over time and one day when I am really mature I am just strong in Jesus all the time. I think it’s more like this verse. I GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH. Each time I am weak, I go to Jesus. He strengthens me for that purpose, just like when I eat a meal, I am made stronger. Jesus asks us to FEED ON HIM as our daily bread like the manna that came down for the Israelites in John chapter 6. We accept him as our Bread of Life when we are saved, and then he asks us to see him as our daily bread, continually. We go from strength to strength.

2. Isaiah 40:30-31 “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I just wrote in a recent blog post about “popular verses” and how when I come across one I sometimes do a little “yeah yeah” song in my head and quickly scan them, looking for some fresh ideas. Ohh. That’s a no no. Lots of conviction the past few years on that one. As I mentioned, popular Bible verses are popular because they are amazing, not because lots of people like them. Only pride would keep me from reading them slowly and with great gratitude in my heart. So I came across ol Isaiah 40:30-31 recently in a quiet time as I was on my way to something else and I stopped. And let the Spirit minister to me. And reading these truths slowly, with hope in what the Lord does in us, I was encouraged. Again because of that word strength. My job is to keep hoping in the Lord. I need to keep believing him, who He is, what His promises to me are, and what He is able to do. That is my job. In that, He is renewing my strength.

Also what struck me about these verses is that word “run.” I joke with close friends that my nightmare is being stuck forever running on a treadmill. When I was younger my gymnastic coaches would make us run for conditioning and almost always I would end up weezing myself into the locker room, searching my red gym bag for my inhaler. These days I could probably just visualize running and end up on one of those rolling oxygen tanks. He he. However, when I see people running, especially people who look like they are in real agony, counting the tenths of the mile, everything in me wants to roll down my window and cheer and holler for them because I think they are amazing. I think runners are superheroes a little bit.

So anyway, I read that part about running and not growing weary and I thought not of those of you who run for fun and it feels good to have all those endorphins flowing through your muscle loaded bodies. That verse for the people in that category might seem easy to overlook. No, I thought of this body that runs only ten feet at a time for a runaway toddler in danger and whose muscles from those gymnastics days have softened into a cushy material. :) This body and running combined with the words “not weary” perplex me and make me curious. I can envision myself doing certain things I do not or cannot do now, but running is never on the list. So I’m reading this verse thinking about how impossible that sounds and I feel the full impact of this verse, that God says that spiritually I can run through my days and not grow weary. I can go through a day that feels impossible and hard and like it’s wrecking me inside and I’m counting the seconds that get me through the minutes that get me through the hours – you know those days I am talking about I think – and God says that the place He desires to get me to is being able to “run” like that and not grow weary. Haven’t you met these souls? The humble people of the faith who seem to just be going through the wringer and they do not complain or give up or have enormous mommy meltdowns and they just cling to Jesus and even support others in their wringers? Lord it feels far away, but let your words come true for me. I want to run through my days and not grow weary. You can do this for me.

Mom, it’s Monday. It’s the beginning of the week. And I’m feeling compelled to start it with promises, with encouragement in my mind, with the Spirit at my side. And to let what He says in His Scripture begin to be true, as I do my work: “hope in the Lord.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Second half of the List

This is the second half of my list of things that have been "renewed" in my mind since coming to know Jesus twenty years ago. Read the last two entries for the whole story...

Motherhood. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I knew I wanted children. Jason and I got married. Never thought about it. Jason was open to kids from the beginning, but was never pushy and always open to how I was feeling convicted. One, two, three years went by and nothing changed. Neither here nor there, but mostly not on the radar and had to remind myself that at any moment it could happen to me. At some point around year four I felt compelled to really start praying about it. If you know me, you know I am incredibly intentional, a lot of times to a fault. But with decisions like this, it’s super handy! My kids will never ever wonder if they were wanted :). I like to journal so I started a new one that I called my “mom journal” and I only wrote in there when I felt the Lord teach me something new about growing my heart towards being a mom. Sometimes it was one line. Sometimes I got distracted and just wrote baby names. Sometimes after spending time with a mommy friend I would notice something about her heart and jot it down. Sometimes I avoided it. Sometimes I just prayed in it, asking God to grow my heart and help me believe Scripture’s thoughts about children. I spent one year visiting my mom journal. After that year I was totally transformed. I’m not trying to pull a testimony on you that sounds like something out of a get-saved-gospel-tent. I’m really serious. It was not overnight. It was one year. But just the same, my mind was utterly convinced. And not at my own convincing. Just by sitting with the Lord on a very specific question, He completely ministered to me and GAVE ME HIS HEART FOR BEING A MOM. It was incredible. I was no longer on the fence. It was no longer miles away. No longer in the recesses of my mind. It was a burden, a desire of my heart, and I agreed with Scripture in the most sincere way when it said things like “children are a reward.” We got pregnant quickly. And had a miscarriage. We mourned greatly for a number of months and it took about nine for us to get pregnant again. I grieve for women now who suffer infertility because those nine months were the darkest of my life and I know that many women wait for much, much longer than that, and sometimes never see another pregnancy again. God had more for me to learn, more for me to gain through suffering and loss, for his glory. And I didn’t deserve them, but then he gave us two babies at once. Sweet Kanah and Grace. And although it was a horrific pregnancy, as Jason always reminds me, I was at war for life for their lives until they came into the world. I never thought I would be “ready” for children, and I think it’s silly that any of us ever assume the superhero thought that we are “ready” for anything because we all are weak and need Jesus at every moment and turn. But HE readied me, daily. And where I began as a mother from day one was something I could have never imagined accomplishing on my own. But He so prepared me, in the Spirit.

Vocation. It took me a long time to even accept that a homemaker and stay at home mom was even a vocational calling. And the best calling for me, at that! Prior to having kids, I definitely was torn about whether or not I would go back to work. I didn’t see what the big deal was about doing one or the other. The decision more came down to whether I wanted to do it, not whether God was asking me to. I still do not see this in a black and white way and I will not get into all of my thoughts and convictions about this but generally for ME it came down to a conviction that I did not see being at home as valuable, purposeful or as a good of a use of my giftings as accomplishing something in the world. It wasn’t about money. For some women it is, and you have to work to be able to get food on the table, so I am not talking about that. We didn’t need the money from my job. For me it was about accomplishment and gifting. Maybe some women relate, because even many Christians who really love Jesus get hung up much more on having our giftings used than we do on the possibility that God might be calling us to something much more humble than saving the world. Maybe that sounds harsh, but maybe it’s that ugly for a lot of us. I really felt God grace me with an ability to SEE Proverbs 14:1 with new eyes. “The wise woman builds her house.” It took a couple of years but through many conversations, prayers, observations, sermons and just divine appointments I began to see my home and my children as having infinite value and purpose. My children are little BEINGS with SPIRITS! They have been created by God in his image and in love they have been made to be individually gifted and pursued by Him. It is an HONOR to be with them daily, to love on them, to create a home around them, to point them continually moment by moment to Truth and to both instruct and discipline them in the ways of God. It is an honor. This doesn’t mean it’s easy or that everyday feels like a gift or that I see this amazing supernatural fruit and my children are growing up to behave perfectly and that by age 2 they were Christians. Not at all. I’m saying my heart has changed. I’m saying I see God’s view of my kids, as much as my heart is able at this point. (and I hope for that to keep deepening). I’m saying I love my job. At home. With my kids. I used to say, I’m neither here nor there about it. Now I say, I can’t believe I have this honor for this brief, crucial, ever-important season in my life. I love being home to build our home, serve my husband and raise my children. It’s crazy great, no matter what kind of day it is.

My responsibility. I hate being misunderstood. It’s my biggest button. You hit that button and I start to scramble. It’s looked different over the years, for certain. Marriage has been the biggest E on the eye chart with this issue. I really like resolution. I really like to feel good at the end of a conversation. I really like to end it with a feeling of, okay they heard me, they know me a little better, and that was good. It’s very difficult for me to feel that distance, or that disagreement, or maybe even that affirmation that what I am saying resonates with the other person too. The affirmation often came up when I wanted to get something, mostly Truth, across into someone’s life. Not affirmation that my directions to the store were right or that other simple things. It was usually about something I had a conviction about. And I do think that mostly those convictions where right, if I still were to evaluate them with the discernement given me. It was just that I wanted, needed, desired too much that affirmation from another. If someone had a question or a doubt or felt stuck understanding something about the Lord or something spiritual, I felt this interesting responsibility to clarify it for them. To give them the mind of Christ. Though it was not mine to give. The Spirit teaches, counsels, gives wisdom. I obey with my words and relinquish. That was hard for me to accept. I wanted a selfish, satisfied result. Somehow I wanted that heavy responsibility. And along the way, the Spirit taught me(and still teaches me in the moment) an interesting balance between being used as an instrument for his righteousness in that moment, to whatever degree He sees fit, and then not having that urge to fix the other person. I began to have this open handed feeling with people. It felt light. It felt like…trust. I began to believe in God FOR that person. He loved them more than me, He was able to open their eyes, He could translate my broken words about His Truth and make it have total sense for them. It was up to Him to make their scales fall. I obey and relinquish. And rest in this strangely trusting, satisfied, grateful place that God wants them to get it more than me. It also helped me a lot a couple of years ago to read in some book (so much for citing the author) that Jesus was more misunderstood than any of us and that is an extreme understatement and hardly worth comparing. Jesus was never understood, never really saw for who He was, and walked with that disconnect – in every relationship – daily, his whole life and to death. And still even those of us who know Him, and I speak for myself here but assume for most all of us, we always kind of think we understand His heart. But there’s always more. Who has understood the mind of the Lord, asks Job and Isaiah. We are but dust. He gives us the mind of Christ, and enables us to understand spiritual things, but we are just on the brink of the canyon of God. He is so wide and deep and vast and awe-inspiring. We just admire from the shore and understand the ocean by the waves crashing into our lives. Jesus being so infinitely misunderstood by believers and non helped me accept that sense of being misunderstood myself. And to trust that HE KNEW ME. And that that was enough.

The Gospel. I grew up hearing lots of people saying that you need to preach the gospel to yourself everyday. That is so awesome. That is so true. And I so didn’t get that at all. I am sure I even said it a lot. But I am pretty sure I had no idea what I was talking about! I think I still mostly thought the gospel was about salvation. I mostly thought it was for non-believers and that I already accepted the gospel, so now I moved on to looking like a Christian. But it turns out that it’s impossible to look like Jesus without the gospel daily preached to my heart, so it mostly didn’t go over well and looked Pharisaical most of the time. Yes, the gospel is about salvation. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. Romans 10:9-10. Amen. Beautiful gospel. I did that, I confessed that at age 12 at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. So what’s the gospel after that? It’s what Jesus has accomplished for me, working itself out over and over and over with grace upon grace upon grace, for me a sinner from the time I am scooped up and saved until I go to be with him in glory. Everyday preaching myself the gospel just means acknowledging that I am going to mess it all up, every moment, without Jesus. I need Him. I need the Holy Spirit’s counsel, guidance, empowerment and strength to live and move and have my being. And as I mess up and sin and hurt others and think thought that are not pure and loving, there is GRACE in the forgiveness of Christ. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 2:1-3). This sounds like an active relationship with him, that is under a security of what has already been accomplished and under promises of how God WILL receive us daily, as we come to Him. All of the Bible shows us glimpses of this active daily relationship with Jesus and who this God is who continually seeks relationship with us, because he created us for himself, for his glory and his delight. I am bent to sin. When I abide in the gospel of grace, he bends me towards his glory, toward what I am made for, toward enjoyment of Him and what he made me for. His gospel for me now, as a Christian of twenty years, is about abiding in His truths, abiding in His love, abiding in constant grace. I’m so thankful for the gospel of Jesus. It will never bore me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The List - Part 1

If you didn't read my last post, it's an introduction to what this list is all about, so you'll be caught up...

So here’s my list, the good, the bad and mostly the ugly…I have attempted to order them on kind of a timeline but for the most part they are in no particular order…

Bible heroes. I used to look at Noah and David and Abraham and all those guys as if they were the ones that really had found favor with God. They were the mature Christians, the ones everyone looked up to, and because they were so righteous, God loved them and lifted them up. I overlooked all of their grave mistakes, including drunkenness, murder and adultery to name a few, just concerning the three men above. I failed to see that Jesus was the only hero of the Bible and none of us are picked because of the righteousness we have made for ourselves, but because of the righteousness Jesus has placed on us. 2 Co 5:21 says that He who knew no sin became sin so that He could place His righteousness on us. The problem with this thinking, as it personally affected me, was that I tended to see myself with a good hat and everyone else not as “good” with a bad hat. I saw all of us on a scale and it caused me to depend on a RELIGIOSITY rather than SOLEY on the blood of Jesus.

Grace. I struggled with a particular inclination especially in my late teens, early twenties with being really judgemental and hard on others concerning biblical issues that I myself had only just learned about. It seemed like as soon as the Lord brought something to light for me, I didn’t understand why everyone else simultaneously didn’t also have that same revelation. Even though the Lord had been patient with me in “x” area of my walk, after like five seconds of seeing it myself, I was already irritated that the whole world didn’t also “get it”. I had no grace and also no humility. I will still struggle with this at times and find myself bending this way when not abiding in Christ, because my sin awareness radar is off the charts, probably because of my spiritual giftings, so I often very quickly am aware of others’ weaknesses as well as my own. But I am learning, and hopefully have learned a lot, that any wisdom that I have is first of all from God. (James 1:16-17 “Don’t be deceived. Every good and perfect gift is from above.” He has given me everything that I know and understand and so I cannot be prideful. And two, God has given us a gracious and patient Counselor, the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) I am a teacher at heart, so I appreciate this name for the Holy Spirit as a Teacher and Counselor. He has God’s glory and our sanctification in mind. I need to trust Him. I need to be slow to speak and quick to pray and ready to speak when He leads, not when I am impatient.

Bad language. (Sigh). So, I know that a lot of people are still really torn on this issue and I do not even attempt to write out a thorough argument on this matter so please don't hold me to it. I don’t feel that this is nearly as black and white as I used to think it was. I think my main problem, in the first ten-ish years of being a Christian was that I kind of rated popular, obvious sins as most offensive to God and I wanted to avoid those, make everyone else avoid those, and totally pass over the issues of the heart. I focused on sins like sex before marriage, drinking, drugs, bad language, homosexuality, and abortion. Literally (I grin) that was my entire sin list. If you were cleared on that list you were good with me. My moral bar was so high on the bad language topic and was so fierce that even if you were a NON Christian with no conviction whatsoever (obviously) on this issue, I would still rebuke you! At this time I would like to apologize to YOU if you were one of those people. I was nothing shy of FOOLISH to rebuke you. Foolish. Also I would now like to apologize to anyone else I rebuked for using bad language. Why did I consider myself the four letter word police? My heart was so focused on your offensive words that I missed the whole picture of your heart or why you even used the word in the first place. All over my head. I’m sorry, again. This was also a season in my life where if you asked me to talk about the sins I was dealing with and what I was asking the Lord for help with, I would not have been able to answer you. Why? Because I wasn’t doing anything on my offensive sins list. I could not see that I was doing my own thing, hardly ever praying, judging constantly, hearing the Bible but not always receiving it in my heart or responding to it (I'm not saying I'm perfect at these things now either, for certain), and basically walked around feeling pretty self-righteous. But hey, I wasn’t smoking or saying bad words, and that’s being like Jesus right? I wouldn't have SAID outloud that this was my theology...but the beliefs that you LIVE are the ones that you really believe. I was so backwards about sin. I just think bad language is a lot further down on the list, if it’s on the list at all, as to things that the Lord is concerned about. I think there’s a lot of freedom around language, more than I thought before, and I just need to keep before me two important instructions around my words and follow the Holy Spirit’s personal conviction for me in light of them. 1. Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” And 2. 1 Co 10:31-32 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble…”

Dating. Especially in high school I remember having zero purpose with dating. I do think it would be kind of rare, but I hope that my kids will be graced with the wisdom that dating, or whatever you’d like to call it, is for a purpose. It is FOR marriage. It is not to fool around. Or for experience. I also really believed that as long as the guy I was dating was technically a Christian then everything was cool. No. There are lots of different kinds of Christians out there who believe lots of things all over the board and have many different convictions. I think in general Jason and I don’t understand any purpose of dating until a certain age, but we’re trying to keep it open in our hands, as the Lord leads us for our kids in the years to come. We want to stay prayerful, not religious. We want to address the heart, not the behavior. I am grateful for a community believers who believe with us that we want our boys to grow up “dating” mommy so they can practice for the years that they are pursuing their wife. And for daddies that are “dating” their daughters, treating them with a lavishing love, taking them to dinners and opening their doors and treating them as daughters of the King. I hope a generation of young people are coming who want to honor Jesus as they begin to desire marriage and spending their life with a husband or wife.

Boundaries with “sexual immorality” (this was before marriage). Another one that makes me laugh. I remember me and some of the other kids in youth group would constantly ask and constantly debate what the “line” was with “how far you could go.” Yet another inability to look at the heart. If my heart while just holding hands was incredibly lustful and distracted and disrespectful to the person I was with, then what I was commiting in my mind is to Christ the same as the sin of actual commiting the behavior. My pastor just talked today about how a religious person is only concerned about the EXTERNAL behavior, whereas Jesus digs straight down to the wellspring of our hearts to see our true motives and whether or not He or our desire is on the throne of our hearts. In that moment of opportunity to sin, am I surrendering my life to Christ, asking Him for help to be under His authority and to HONOR him with my thoughts, words, deeds, and actions? Or am I concerned with how much he will let me get away with? What a difference in heart. Even asking where the line is shows your heart’s desire is more for the sexual immorality than for purity and what pleases the Father. Psalm 19:12-14 says “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. (things that I do not even realize are sins) Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. And then Psalm 139:24 says “See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I'm going to post the rest of my list in another post since this is getting so far and the next one will cover more issues from the past eight years of my life...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Twenty years

This September I will have been a Christian for twenty years. I remember raising my hand. I remember my mom was there. I remember where my youth pastor was sitting and where I was sitting and that I really wanted to do it and that no one made me. I remember not really having any idea what I was getting into but felt…compelled.

As I was preparing for our Bible study this week I kind of got stuck on a popular verse that got me remembering that when I turn 32 this year, shortly thereafter it will have marked twenty years with the Lord. For the past few years I have been convicted about the popular verses. I don’t gravitate to them often. Only because of pride. Oh, I already know those. Or, everybody has read that a thousand times. That’s nothing new to anyone so I’ll look for something else. Even more prideful, I’d like a new revelation about this. Gross. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit exposed that to me, starting with the famous John 3:16. There’s a reason popular verses are popular. They are amazing!

Without further ado…the popular verse…with much valid, worthy, and admirable reason to be popular…Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

This is our instruction from now until the door of eternity. Not just a nice Bible verse from my quiet time today. This sentence is my bread, defining what in the world sanctification means. Renew your mind. Renewing our mind, with our hearts surrendered to Christ, means that we will be able to be different. But it starts with the mind. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says that “we have the mind of Christ”. That is a gift He gives. We are able to discern, now, spiritual things and to begin to think the way that God does about life, people, our spouses, our kids, non-believers, other Christians, trials, crisis, loss, blessing, and all else.

So sitting there, dwelling on my popular :) verse I didn’t want to move on because I felt compelled to sit there and examine what had been renewed about me these past t-w-e-n-t-y years with the Lord. (That’s a reaaaally long time. Wow. I feel like I should start thinking about throwing a party. I definitely should.)

So, how did I think about things before? How do I now? I made a list.

Lists are kind of fun. When I was younger, I would make “happy lists” (shout out to Laurel) and “why I am looking forward to summer” lists. Lists of how I wanted to sign my name with my new married name. And later baby names lists and prayer lists and meal plan lists and now I have this little writing book that is essentially a cute way of making a list of ideas and what people say that’s interesting and topics and all kinds of things. So, I like lists. And this list felt important when I was gathering my thoughts for our study. Not as much for the other women at all, but I was interested to do it between me and the Lord. A list of how my mind has been renewed on very specific topics. If I knew you at age 18 and haven’t seen you since, meet me – the today version – this list will help :).

One word to keep in mind: GRACE. I felt a lot of God’s grace as I was making this list. Thinking about how I saw things before and how I see things now isn’t a guilty or embarrassing or shocking thing. God is ever graceful and patient with us, revealing our sin in His timing, and refining our views of others and refining our words and refining our thought lives. There has been a lot of grace for me as slowly over time the Lord has gently addressed lots of messed up areas of thinking and living in my heart. He is soooo gracious to me and you. And I look at what I wrote, not with sadness or embarrassment, but I feel willing to expose it to myself and others because it’s a testament, a story, about a God who is about redemption. He is changing me. He has declared me a new creation. 2 Co 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” And for twenty years I have been His workmanship, changing me to look more and more like who He has declared me to be.

Since this is such a long blog…I will post my “list” tomorrow. I’ve got to have cliff hangers every once in a while, people!