Confession Time

They say confession is good for the soul, and I have found that to be the case. In light of that, there are a few things I would like to share.

First, at the beginning of this year I wrote a post about how I needed to get healthy, by changing my diet, drinking more water and exercising. Instead of doing any of that, I have actually gone in the opposite direction, consuming more junk, less water and barely exercising - outside of the everyday chasing and lifting of heavy children. Apparently that doesn't count for much.

In fact, I have generally not taken good care of myself at all. I frequently miss meals, and live on coffee. While it isn't politically correct to admit this, I can't really afford to miss meals, because while some struggle to lose weight, I have always struggled to keep my weight up to a healthy level. So, I need to work out some ways to have healthy snacks and lunches pre-made and easy to grab...and get back to the organic food aisle. I've consumed more Doritos this year alone than in my entire lifetime, I bet. Unfortunately, this is going to require planning. Not my strength.

Second, I also wrote a post about needing to get some things around my home in order. I took a break from leading small groups, so that later I could be more free to serve. Guess what...I am still in the same boat! Except now I don't just have an awareness that things need attention, I am completely overwhelmed. It's ridiculous, really, because people have been married, raising kids and caring for homes for centuries. It can't be that hard.

So, I have dropped everything again, because I have realized that I am not in any position to do ministry. If I am not physically and emotionally healthy, and if my home, and the relationships within it, aren't thriving, then I have nothing to offer. [Nobody's going anywhere or anything...we just need to work on some attitudes and discipline issues with the little kids and Dave and I need to make sure we are carving out time for ourselves. When you have four kids, it gets a little challenging ;)]

Here's one on another topic altogether. I am making it my goal to become a more encouraging person. A friend who I love dearly once told me that I am a "challenging" friend, and she was right to say it. I don't know exactly what all she meant, but I do know that I can be hard to love and I say things at times that may not need to be said at all, or that could stand a little "sugar-coating." The Bible talks about iron sharpening iron, and it does take sandpaper to wear down our rough edges, but honestly, I don't want to be somebody's sandpaper friend. When you are thinking about who you want call to come over, do you call your challenging friend or your encouraging one? That's a no-brainer. Not that there are never times to say hard things, but I don't want that to be what characterizes me.

Finally, for all the talk I do about caring for the poor and needy, I don't actually do a whole lot. I don't do nothing, but I don't think I do enough either. I feel a lot of emotion about all the need, and I can cry in a heartbeat just thinking about it, but what good is that? The danger of knowing all the right scriptures, and feeling all those feelings, is that I might end up deceiving myself.

The book of James talks about not just being a hearer of the word, but a doer. Also, knowledge puffs up our egos, but love builds people up. If I don't pay attention, I might end up believing, because I feel sorry for people and can quote scripture about why we should be giving to the poor and oppressed, that I am fulfilling the law of God. Mercy has to be active or it isn't mercy...it's sympathy. Sympathy never filled a belly, kept a body warm or set a captive free.

There, I think that's enough for now. I'm glad that's out there.


When Christmas Doesn't Feel Christmas-y Just Think About Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas songs when I was little was "The Little Drummer Boy." It always made me tear up, and I think what I liked about it was the idea that a child could have something to offer the Baby Jesus. It made me feel like I had a place there at the manger. I had no idea that there really was no drummer boy there until I was older; even my little nativity scene had a boy with a drum. But, I still love the idea that I would be welcome there and the little I had to offer could make Him smile.

I have to confess that this year just doesn't feel super Christmas-y. I'm playing Christmas music, and loving it, and we have our Christmas tree up, although strands of lights keep going out, one by one. I might as well go back to the non-pre-lit tree. It would be less trouble. But that's another topic.

I know that this time of year brings with it joy, and pain, for many people. Personally, I am thankful that though my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at this time last year, she is now cancer-free!! That she is still here makes the season meaningful.

At the same time, my friend, Summer, has just begun treatments to battle cervical cancer. It's hard to want to celebrate the season knowing what she is going through. I think of her constantly and pray often. For the past two years we have gone to their house on Christmas night for dinner, along with another family. Since none of us travel on the big day, we decided it would be fun to celebrate with friends...who are like family.

This actually would have been the first year I would be "sane." The first year I had just had a baby and was, a bit hormonal. The second year was slightly better, but I think I was still tightly wound. So, I'm a bit bummed we won't be able to spend that night together. Next year.

I think the fact that I find it hard to feel joyful exposes something: I am focused more on the human side of Christmas than the God side of it. If I am going to fuss and complain about how Jesus is supposed to be the focus of the season, not Santa Claus, not material possessions, greed, etc., then I have to also hold myself to that same standard.

Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, Immanuel, God with us. That the Word became flesh and dwelt among men, arriving in a stinky barn, no less. That He came and changed everything - one sacrifice for all. That He came and made a way for me. That He was bruised for our transgressions and by His wounds we are healed. It's about remembering that I have a great High Priest, who is familiar with my temptations and suffering. And He intercedes for me day and night. That because of Him I can approach God's throne of grace with boldness and confidence...that I can come before Him with all my concerns and requests, knowing that He hears. That my prayers go up like incense and they are always before Him. This is why I even bothered praying for my mom last year and why I pray for Summer now...I KNOW He hears. I belong to Him and so does she.

This should be my focus at Christmas. The reality is that the feeling I had as a child when I heard "The Little Drummer Boy," that I belonged there, is right. I do belong. As an adult I know this not because of that song, but because the Word tells me I do. Knowing that changes my perspective. He gave all for me. He is worthy of worship.

The challenge is to believe the truth and release our cares and hurts to Him. That is the only way to find peace. No matter what is going on around you, celebrate Christmas...the entrance of Immanuel and the revelation of Grace. Of Peace. Of the source of Hope.

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.



The Glory of a Woman

The glory of a woman isn't her hair
It's not the way she adorns her body
It isn't seen in the way she keeps her home
Thank God
Or in her perfection
For even the best-intentioned fall short

It isn't defined by what she has
Not husbands, not children, not career

The glory of a woman is in something not seen
It's a peaceful and quiet soul
It's a heart awakened to her purpose
A heart unafraid to feel
Unafraid to give and receive
Who accepts the way she's been made
And who loves freely

It's most clearly seen
In the faces of the ones she loves
And believes in
As their smiles reflect she's been there

Her heart reflects the One she serves
The One who created her
The One who loves her
And called her
And fills her.

God, make me a woman like this.

--inspired by friends who challenge me to grow



Things I am learning, and re-learning:

1. Margin in life is extremely important. There should be time in the schedule for rest, fun and the unexpected things in life that inevitably will come. If you're too busy to rest or to serve others then a reevaluation of the schedule is in order.

2. Timing is everything. There are good things we can spend time doing, but good things at the wrong time aren't good at all. They are distractions from the best things.

3. People are the only things that matter, as far as how we live our days here. I'm not going to elaborate much on that one, except to say it's slapped me upside the head.

4. Keep a full tank. You never know when an emergency will arise, or when someone will need you, so keep a full tank. In the car, in your soul and in your spirit. Be ready at all times.

5. Keeping order in the home makes everything easier. Whether it's physical order or having obedient and respectful children. This is huge. I've kept myself at home a lot because my kids can be difficult to manage at times. Therefore, I haven't focused on friendships the way I'd like to. That's just not okay (see number 3). I've also wasted tremendous amounts of time looking for socks and matching shoes...why is that so hard?

6. If there are people or things you would give your life for, then live for those things. It's rare that anyone ever has to make a life-and-death choice, but we have a choice every day to live for the people and things we say are important (faith, family, friends).

7. Push through the awkward. Whatever that is. If there are things you need to do or say, if God is leading you to do or say something that feels awkward, do or say it anyway. Don't let the moment pass because it is hard to recapture. Tell people what's in your heart. For me that's way difficult, but it's too important to give myself permission to keep things inside that need to be said. So if I say something to you that sounds, um, a little crazy or off-the-wall, but heart-felt, just know I mean well ;)

8. Live life with no regrets. Leave it all on the field. Work out issues in relationships.



There is a great one-liner in our LIFE study guide (this is a life-changing Bible study Church of the Highlands offers as a small group). It says, "we are fighting FROM victory, not TO victory." That perspective is essential to overcoming any battle we face. Although on the surface it appears that we fight the battle of sickness in our body, we actually fight it in our souls and spirits. Even secular psychology tells us what a difference it makes when a person has a positive outlook and faith in God.

I am NOT saying we don't use doctors, or medicine. It's foolish not to take advantage of the wisdom that's been revealed to the medical community. What I AM saying can be stated best in this (loose) quote from Neil Anderson:

"It's not what happens to us, it's how we perceive what happens and what we believe as a result of the things that happen to us."

Anytime we face trouble, those of us that follow Christ must remind ourselves that we fight from a position of having already won. There is nothing that can overtake us.

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 1:18-23 NASB)

Did you hear that? Did you really hear it? Did you ingest it? Has this truth become yours? ALL things are in subjection, under His feet, and He is given to the Church, His body, in that capacity.

Now, what about you?

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7 NASB)

You, believer, are also seated with Christ. That is your position, which might sound strange. You are obviously still here, not in heaven. It's not about physical position, it's this kind of seat: 1. A place in which something belongs, or is established; 2. A right to admittance to such a space; 3. A place where administrative power or the like is centered.

What those two passages tell us is this: if all things are in submission to Christ, under His feet, then you my friend share in that authority. You share in that position; therefore, you have already won whatever battles you face.

I sat behind Summer last night during our First Wednesday service, and watched her worship with a smile on her face and with obvious peace. Even though I could also see that she was in pain. That is what it is to understand your position. My friend, Mary Lauren, is being induced this morning and will soon welcome her third precious child into the world. After having a challenging induction once before, which ended in a c-section, there can naturally be nerves related to that.

In both of those situations, the real fight isn't in the body. It's in the soul. We draw from our spirit for strength...there is a well that never runs dry there. If we look outside, or to people who operate in fear and anxiety, we are done. The battle is the Lord's. Know where you are seated. Walk in that knowledge. Then stand firm. Or as Watchman knee said,



Faith and Tears

This isn't going to be much of a post. I have to confess that I woke up this morning to discover that my big girl pants had fallen off overnight. But, you know what? The presence of tears is not the absence of faith. We are to bear one another's burdens and we suffer when our loved ones suffer. In that God is glorified. I have seen Him in the midst of a stage three cancer diagnosis. I have seen Him in the supernatural grace and peace that is upholding Summer and Jeremy. I have seen Him in the response of the body of Christ over the last several months leading up to this. I have seen Him and believe I will continue to see Him in greater measure. I'm standing in faith, tears and all, knowing that our hope is not in an outcome, but it's in a person. In fact it is a person. The only source of lasting hope is God...Yahweh...Jehovah...Jesus, the creator of all things, Who holds all things together and Who sits interceding for us, day and night. I'm standing there. And I'm not moving.