Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Planning a neighborhood bible club -- catching the vision

Eight years ago we moved into a "normal" neighborhood. Before that we lived an a very abnormal one (we loved it, but it was not typical).

When we moved in I began to pray for opportunities to meet and shine Christ's light to those around us. I envisioned mom Bible studies, chatting at the park, bringing neighborhood friends to Awana, and on and on.

Now, eight years later we are only inches down the path to that dream. I had no understanding of the suburban garage-entry lifestyle and how busy everyone keeps and how social circles don't have many entry points and I'm a whole lot more introverted than even I realized.

However, last year started something that I had long dreamed of -- I had the privilege of running a Bible club in my front yard for a week. God taught me a lot through that week and a whole lot of research and reading that is now becoming the launch of a ministry that I pray will spread to every neighborhood in our city.

First, let's back up a little bit.

God pressed deep into my heart after reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire that I really need to reach out a bit more into those around me and relight my passion to live out my faith visibly to those next door. I had to trust Him, share Him, live my faith not just in my four walls or at church.

We have had a few opportunities to serve our neighbors -- shoveling driveways, fixing a broken mailbox, bringing baked goods when  a loved one passed away, etc. But, I still feel so far from the visions I had when I first moved in. I needed to take more intentional steps to give my faith a pathway into these lives that are just a few yards from mine.


I still lacked the urgency. This video reminds me of that. The man stands yelling about the coming tsunami. He has a clear view of what's ahead, of the incoming danger. You can definitely tell his urgency, his passion to warn people, to save people from what he sees growing larger every second. I also know of a coming danger. I also should speak with urgency to everyone God brings along.

In addition to growing a passion for my city, God has also shown me some ways to use how He naturally gifted me to accomplish this. Every since I was in junior high I have served in children's ministry - Awana leader, nursery volunteer, story teller, puppeteer, you name it, I've probably done it. I like adults and all, but kids' ministry just flows for me.

God placed me here to use me for His glory. Intentionally here. This house, this street, this neighborhood, this city. And, He made me the way He wants to use me - my experiences, my gifts, my relationships. Now, with a fresh vision, I needed to figure out how to put it into action.

Up next - Neighborhood Bible Clubs  - learning from others



Friday, January 11, 2019

A time to read

As each year ticks by I find more and more snippets of discretionary time.

When I worked full time while homeschooling our older three kids, had two more preschool age kiddos and a puppy, I had very little time to shower let alone anything resembling "free" time. In those days I soaked in God's Word in the morning through half open eyes and enjoyed read alouds as part of school.

Just this past year, I have rediscovered my love of reading and made it a little more of a priority in my schedule. While I used to be lucky to finish 2 books of my own choosing in a year, in recent months I have maxed out my monthly hoopla 5 book limit.

A little bit of what I have finished recently:


Precept Bible studies have had a huge impact on my spiritual growth in the past year and a half. This study on the Sermon on the Mount nourished and challenged and was absolutely beautiful. I know this isn't a book in the traditional sense, but I highly recommend Precept studies and this one in particular. It has inspired a few of my recent blog posts, and I love the richness of just settling in face to face with God's Word.







Perfectly timed read as it coincided with my study of Matthew 6 and Jesus's own teaching on treasure. It put into words so much of what I hunger for in stewarding my resources. Could I possibly regret having given more? Have I truly chosen God over money/material goods? Stabbing into the heart of the matter and relentlessly scraping away any bit of self that keeps me holding on to anything but Him.








Stirring a fresh desire to show grace. To fully recognize and meditate on the grace that God has generously poured out on me, and then, as He wants, to send it off in torrents to those around me. Understanding grace, recognizing grace, and practicing gracious living. A story early on sums it up well -- when a hurting, homeless woman was approached by a volunteer and asked if she had stopped in at the local church to ask for help the woman looked shocked. "Why would I ever go to a church? I already feel miserable enough!" Yet, they ran to Jesus. Flocked to him in droves seeking his love and grace. That's my model.





Although I grew up in a far less liturgical context than the author describes, I could still relate to the need for recognizing the spirituality of daily obedience to God. All of life is worship, and Warren paints a Norman Rockwell picture of that concept lived out. Not a perfect life, but a faithful one. Not holy, pious routines, but visually, constantly surrendered to His agenda. On a side note, it made me want to visit an Anglican church sometime. Made me thankful I don't attend one regularly, but intrigued by the liturgies and symbols that show up regularly in their services and throughout their sanctuary.




Next on my list . . . 

Just a Minute by Wess Stafford
The Life Giving Parent by Sally Clarkson

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

. . . perseverance

Some words define true love that I never would have included in a definition of love 25 years ago.

Perseverance, hard work, accepting disappointments, real life, forgiving.

I knew those were all part of it, but I thought our perfect love would somehow act like supernatural shock-absorbers to the sinful attacks.

We have learned first hand that "the best views come after the hardest climbs." 

I told my husband recently that I'm finally at a place where I can be thankful for our struggles. Because, they show that our relationship is not superficial or mechanical; we are in this together. No matter how we change or what we face, we are growing together, struggling together, fighting for our marriage, and laughing and coming out closer in the end. Thankfully, never satisfied with status quo.

While no one goes into marriage expecting it to fall apart, many people go into it naively thinking that love will carry them through, that for no reason other than they want it to; their marriage will be one to beat the odds. I would guess that many couples that have stayed together were just as miserable at one time or another as couples that divorced. I've talked to many wives in those valleys, and some as they walked out the other side of the valley as well, marriage still intact, if just barely, beginning again that uphill climb to a "good" marriage.

I have learned it takes a lot more than wanting it to last and expecting it to last to make it happen. It is not easy.

More than most posts, I really wrestled through writing this. And, in the couple months it sat in my drafts, God has continued to teach me and grow our marriage. It never quits, thankfully. I know 100% for sure that God wants our marriage to thrive. Do you know what 75% of divorces come from? Arguing and lack of commitment.

I am talking about the:

"I married a different person"

"I'm a different person now"

"We just don't like each other any more"

"All we do is argue"

"We've tried everything to fix us"

"Our family would be better off"

"I don't remember why I got married"

 . . . and on and on.


Marriage can be hard. It can go through valleys. But, we must press through each of those  sandbars, and on the other side you can find something completely new and fresh.

While many marriages aren't likely to that level of needing a counselor, they do need some hope, ideas, and prayer. Lots of prayer.

You can never let yourself stop trying. After a disagreement, sometimes I want to sit out an inning, but instead I need to remind myself of the value of marriage, dust off some old habits and start fresh.

Good old fashioned prayer and Bible reading can keep the fire burning. A few good books also helped to reset my thinking and give me some hope and inspiration (Paul Tripp's book, What Did You Expect? is amazing, I'd also recommend Cherish by Gary Thomas).

Pray for yourself. I prayed for my husband. But, I realized I also needed to pray for myself. I started praying that God would help me to love my husband more in the ways that he would sense. God reawakened love in areas that had grown a little cold. The intensity of our expression and emotion of love might ebb and flow, but when we notice it diminishing, we need to dig in and nourish it afresh.

And, obviously, pray for your husband a lot, too. After all, he's the one that has to figure you out  and stay happily married to you as well.

Marriage is very much worth fighting for, and we need to make sure we don't spend a single day just coasting.  

Then, the rest of the posts I wrote back in the fall came into play -- Find time alone, be thankful, read about marriage, kiss for real, forgive, and review your vows now and then.



Sunday, January 6, 2019

Pressing into a New Year

Blog update - I do plan to blog again more consistently. Have it on my schedule, and have a bunch of rough drafts started.

The last couple months I've been wrestling through some weighty issues and usually writing is my way to sort things out, but these topics have not worked that way, so they sit unfinished, still mentally consuming me. Maybe they will be posted at some point, and maybe not.

In looking over recent posts, I have been writing heavily on what God is teaching me spiritually, which I love to share. But, I have a few posts in the works that will bring me closer to the original intent of this blog:
  • homeschool tips 
  • an occasional peek into the daily life of our ever changing household 
  • creative teaching ideas 
  • thoughts on marriage and parenting
  • of course, still lots about what God is teaching me before, during, and after all of that
I know not every post will apply to your situation, but it amazes me how certain posts will have visitors for years to come and I just pray that my simple words might somehow encourage or inspire someone somewhere.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward to a full year ahead. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Trap of List Checking






Finger pointing at the Pharisees comes easily. They wandered so far from God's plan and led Israel away in the process. Legalism, routine, judgment, self-righteousness, and ritual sacrifice filled their days. As God continues to impress on me that sanctification comes from the heart not from habits, I begin to see the false security I have sometimes found in checklists.

And, at this time of year when many people at least mentally compose resolutions, goals, and seek out new habits, I'm again challenged to revisit what lies beneath.

Starting from the seemingly impossible command stated in Leviticus 11:45 (and elsewhere):
I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

Or, maybe you prefer the similar statement from Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Sure, no problem. Try putting that right at the top of your New Year's goals: 
Be perfectly holy like God. 

Both of these statements come in the context of the law, quite a significant point for accurate interpretation. 

As I study through the Sermon on the Mount, I am realizing afresh the purpose of the law. The law pointed out sin, defined truth and righteousness, set up a temporary sacrificial system pointing to the Messiah, and set apart the nation of Israel. But, (and this is a huge 'but') the law did not save. Romans pounds this message home.

The law (and any man-made list of rules also) cannot save us. It cannot help us lead perfect lives. It cannot get us to heaven, make us like God. 

Instead, it does just the opposite. The law shows us that on our own salvation is impossible. This is what the Pharisees completely missed, and we so often do as well. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. Only through his perfect sacrifice. 

The law tells me to love my neighbor, which I can never do perfectly.

The law tells my sinful heart to have no other gods before Him and yet I constantly catch myself running after worldly idols (achievements, accolades, things, comforts, etc.)

The law commands perfect obedience, yet I can hardly get out of bed without a selfish grumble. 

Yet, there is this interesting encounter Jesus has with a "rich, young ruler." (Mark 10 and Matthew 19) This young man had convinced himself that he had kept the law perfectly. He had checked all the boxes. He felt his salvation was just a breath away. 

What did he lack? Perfection. Jesus said he only lacked one thing. Just one thing and he would be perfect! Wow! But, Jesus knew. It was the one thing that man could not surrender. 

This New Year I am mercilessly searching my heart to make sure there is not that 'one thing' remaining that might hold me back from reckless abandon for my God. 

It's not a list (Bible time, prayer, giving, worship, church attendance, hospitality, etc., etc.) and yet it will overflow and seep into every possible area of our thinking and existence. As we seek to know God, we become like Him almost without trying. Drawing close, drawing our heart in step with His, checks every box and then some. 

Ditching the list and just chasing hard after my perfect, and perfecting, heavenly Father. 

  



Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The root of sanctification


We unfortunately slip often into the same error of the Pharisees: action over attitude, visible over invisible, deeds over devotion. sacrifice over obedience, checklists over surrender, judgment over grace.

We want salvation or sanctification to get boiled down into a written list of items I can accomplish on my own. A balance that we can dump the day's accomplishments on and pat ourselves on the back for actually having a good day. We don't want to have to admit that we can't do it. That it has nothing to do with what we can do.

The book of Matthew is written just for us. God doesn't want our actions, our sacrifices, our law-abiding obsession. He wants our hearts. He gave the law to point us to our need for a savior and lay bare our sinful natures.

Despite the fact that the Pharisees had taken God's law and greatly expanded it to a monstrous list of do's and don'ts, they actually made it easier, made it appear more achievable. Look at the rich young ruler who said (seriously), that he had kept all of the law since his youth! He completely missed the point of the law.

When the law was supposed to show them their incapacity to save themselves, they tried to make it the catalyst for salvation.

The law pointed out our illness and instead they saw it as the prescription.

The law came to convict and they used it to build up.

The law pointed to something future, something essential, but they tried to make it an end in itself.

Jesus is our salvation, our prescription, our foundation and builder, our future, our hope. Our everything.

I don't need a list of behaviors to change.

I don't need seven habits or
another purpose to drive me or
positive thinking or
to draw a circle or
chicken soup or
to make my bed or
say a new prayer or
to start a new habit or
even to wash my face.

I need Jesus.

I can't explain the fresh wind that blows through me with that last sentence. He. is. all. I. need.

When I flounder in a dry spell, I start groping around for a new gimmick.

When I feel a sin weighing me down, I look for a new habit to help overcome it.

When my spiritual life plateaus, I try to shake things up with more worship songs and Psalms.

Sometimes those things can help, but really, I need to hunger and thirst for Him, and then I'll be satisfied. I need to seek first His kingdom and all these things will be added to me. I need to walk in the spirit.

Mental, spiritual saturation in my Savior Jesus Christ fixes everything. Not every situation, but everything that matters -- my relationship with Him. And, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. From it flow the well-springs of life.

When my heart is in tune with Him, the melody flows naturally without even needing a list to live by.  It loves, forgives, rejoices, encourages, finds peace, hopes, waits, sings, and soars.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Sowing

 

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

7
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart,
not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
8And God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that always having all sufficiency in everything,
you may have an abundance for every good deed; 

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

Meditating.
Mulling over again and again.
On the road, folding laundry, wiping counters, sweeping floors. 

 The meaning sinks in deeper.

 

Where am I sowing?

relationship

bank account

spiritual growth

family memories

What am I sowing?

love

earthly goods

faith

wisdom

prayer

grace

forgiveness

What can I really expect if I don't put in the work? 

I had always thought of "cheerful giver" as related to money, but that isn't really the full context of this verse. Giving money is sometimes the easy part. 

It is easy and a joy to write a check for a:

student going on a mission trip

ministry to pregnant teens

long established missionary

evangelistic efforts into an under-resourced area

new vision to grow God's kingdom.

 

But, do I cheerfully . . .

stay up late when a teenage child needs help wrestling through a life lesson

get up early to spend extended time in prayer

clear out cluttered closets and storage areas to send useful items to families in need

forgive the daily grievances that come with living in community

accept criticism and accountability as needed for growth

push out of my introverted shell to bless and be blessed

trim back on our budget to maximize giving

have the hard conversations to promote growth in our kids.

 

The next two verses offer some great encouragement and hope:

Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest
of your righteousness;
11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality,
which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.

Use me, God. Help me find joy in giving even in ways that seem hard for me now. Thank you that I'm not who I was yesterday and I'm not yet who I will be tomorrow. ~Amen