A Value Proposition

Never A Dull Moment – Week 4,Days 4 & 5

NADM Tears

Did you miss me yesterday?!  Whew!  Taking care of an injured kiddo is NO. JOKE. Especially when she is just enough like her Momma that she is stressed and worried about all manner of things that have no bearing on her actual reality.  Bless her heart… I have passed along the Martha gene.  Jesus, be a fence… as my good friend Mary Anne would say!

Today’s post is a perfect illustration of how God always knows better than I and has things firmly under control, even when I think they’re spinning wildly and commence fretting over them.  You guys know me well enough by now to know that not posting yesterday really upset me!  I didn’t even sit down to record a haggard looking video with Facebook LIVE… what a slacker!  Ugh.  I prayed and took deep breaths and had enough else to do to get through it relatively unscathed and then this morning, I sat down to my personal quiet time.  BOTH resources I use regularly wrapped up Days 4 and 5 in a perfect little bow.  One of them even focused on Revelation 21, the same text I referenced in “Tears!”  God whispered in my fretful little ear: “See?  Stop. Worrying. I was well aware that posting would not happen yesterday… it wasn’t meant to.”

[LONG deep breath]  That God… He’s something else, isn’t it He?

So… on to the combined post!  Here’s the thing, friends: “Loving God” and “tears” comes down to a value proposition: how do we know our worth?  Where are we seeking love?  Who or what are we expecting to dry our tears?  If our answers are ANYTHING or ANYONE other than Jesus Christ, we are going to be sorely disappointed.  And not just disappointed, but perfectly set up for the enemy to knock down.

Understanding and KNOWING that God loves us is crucial to our being able to love ourselves and others.  Think back to “Writing Down the Whispers” and “Daddy Do”… this world is FULL of distractions, disappointments, and ups and downs.  Without a deep recognition of God’s love for us, we just won’t make it victoriously.  We’ll probably trudge through.  We might make it with minimal scarring.  But our lives won’t be what God intended.

For this life to be what God intended, we have got to “know that we know” that we are loved and operate out of that love.  We have got to know that we are worthy because God SAID we are worthy: worth loving and seeking and sending His One & Only Son to die for.  We have got to KNOW that He knows us and sees us and is in control.  We’ve got to know that tears are not only a part of life, but OK too because God sees and care about every one.

Isn’t that the Good News?  God loving us so much that He came to wipe our tears with His own hands, to wash our feet, and take our sins and teach us to pray?  Isn’t the Good News that the Creator came and now knows exactly what it feels like to be the creation?  Isn’t it about God understanding us and saving us?  He has always cared so much about our tears that He bottles and records every one.  In Jesus, He came to experience and know our sorrows – to cry His own tears.  And even though we missed His first coming, one day, He will take our faces in His loving hands and gently wipe all of our tears from our cheeks.

Don’t let this life – don’t let Satan – steal what has been given to you.  Anchor yourself firmly in the love of God and the hope of Christ.  Pray everyday to know and understand a little bit more about the boundless love the Father has for you.  And when the tears come – as they always do – lift up your face to the One who made it and ask Him to wipe them away.  He is faithful and He will do it.

Much love, my friends.  I am sad that our daily journey is coming to a close.

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Jesus Knows Me

Never A Dull Moment – Week 4, Day 3

NADM Jesus Knows Me

Don’t you love this?  Not “Jesus loves me, this I know…” but Jesus KNOWS me, this I love.  Makes a little bit of a difference!

I became fascinated with the fact that Jesus seemed to read the minds of the crowds and the Pharisees a couple of years ago when I did a verse by verse study of the book of Luke.  The next time you read through the Gospels, take note.  I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me.  Clearly, He is God and God certainly knows us inside and out, our specific spot on eternity’s timeline, the motivations of our hearts, our needs before they are expressed and on and on.  Seeing it work out “in the flesh” is just shocking though.  That’s not how human beings normally operate.  But, then again, Jesus was no ordinary human being.

His “mind reading”  happens often and it always gets me thinking about the implications for us.  We talked through one application in today’s reading: even though He KNEW what the Pharisees were thinking, Jesus did the right thing, without regard for His own safety, much less His popularity.  You’ve been there and so have I: those times when you just know how something is going to turn out or be received.  The choice is: do the right thing or take the easy way out.  I pray we always follow Christ’s lead.

The mind reading Jesus also prompts me to check my heart’s motivations.  If Jesus in the flesh “knew their thoughts” how much more does His Spirit within me know mine?  Gulp.  I, of course, am being a little dramatic, but seriously.  Be reminded by the experience of the Pharisees in Luke 5 that Jesus is well aware of our thoughts.  He knows why we do what we do.  He knows if we are doing the right thing out of love and obedience to His word or a desire to please man.  He knows if we are trying, in some warped way, to earn His favor, grace and salvation.  We can’t do it and when we try, we get ourselves into all sorts of trouble.

Let Luke 5’s paralyzed man also be a reminder: simple FAITH is all that is required of us when interacting with the God of the universe.  ALL the man did was stretch out his hand.  Jesus didn’t even have to say another word and “[the man’s] hand was completely restored.”  The healing was not proportional to his efforts.  Don’t ever forget that part of the story.  Just do what’s asked.

Just follow His lead.  Just let your heart love Him and watch the motivations, the actions, and the results fall into place.  He wants to give you the kingdom.  He died to make a way for you.  His heart is to completely restore yours – whatever parts need restoring.  HE KNOWS YOU.  Don’t you love it?

Are You So Foolish?

I spent the first part of this morning like I always do: up, coffee, dressed, breakfast and carpool for Kid #1, call Kid #2 to say I’m on the way, breakfast and coffee for said Kid #2, carpool route 2 and home again.  I skipped my typical first moment in the Word in favor of one more “snooze” – ding #1… you’re off to a GREAT start, Joeli.  On the way home, my mind races through the day and I tell myself passionately: You are NOT doing ANYTHING until you have your quiet time and PRAY over this day!  WooHoo!  Go me!

Arrive home: the puppy is literally black up to all four of her “knees!”  I make my way to the backyard to determine the cause of this MESS that has also found its way onto my just swept floor.  There, I find my FAVORITE sunglasses, the ones I have searched for several times in the last 36 hours, TOTALLY destroyed by said puppy!  Ugh.  Then my phone dings and I get distracted for a few minutes.  I look at the clock and 30 minutes have flown by.  How. Does. This. HAPPEN?!

Ok!  That is IT!  NOTHING is stopping me from opening my Bible, hitting my knees and restarting this day!  WooHoo!  Go me!  LOL!

I open up Journey and what do my always amazed eyes see but God’s precious, right on time, message to me; one He has delivered many times before and surely will deliver many times more: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)”

Um… no Sir. … But “I am sure of this, that [You] who started a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

WooHoo!  GO. GOD!

[Deep breath!] Thank You, Father, for grace upon grace upon grace… upon grace, UPON GRACE!  Thank you for meeting me RIGHT where I am in ways that never cease to amaze me and make me smile.  I am loved by You.  You have provided for me and it feels really nice to know that ALL things are in Your hand, nothing is impossible FOR YOU and You do not expect me to finish this race in my own flesh.  WooHoo!  Go YOU! 

In Jesus’ sweet, faithful name… from the grateful heart of Your easily distracted, much loved Daughter.  Amen.

Arm in Arm with the Lord

As He often does, God has been weaving a theme into my life over the course of the last few weeks. I am a Type A, “make the plan, work the plan, check the plan off the list” kind of girl and there are many times that my desire for control and perfection sabotage my walk with the Lord. I get so frustrated with my imperfections that I forget God is well aware of the sin in this girl He calls daughter. And in my frustration, my default can be to give up or feel like an entire day is “wasted” because of one missed step. In my desire to be perfect or nothing, I forget about grace and I grow deaf to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. I forget that life is a journey WITH God. He doesn’t save us and send us on our way. He walks WITH us. This week was so busy and so full of opportunities for me to fall, but God (I so love that phrase!) has repeated over and over again that my job is to follow His lead and allow Him to make and execute the plan in His time.

My online Bible study of Esther landed on week four and the most quoted verse from the book, Esther 4:14. Like Esther, I can’t let fear or worry or my inability to control the outcome keep me from what God has chosen for me. We are indeed living each moment of our lives “for such a time as this.” Even Mordecai simply trusted that that deliverance his people needed would come from somewhere or someone else if Esther did not speak to the king on their behalf. The phrase “who knows” is supremely rich. Mordecai didn’t pretend to know how it would all work out, but he knew it would because he trusted in Sovereign God. And in verse 16, Esther completely surrendered control to God: “If I perish, perish.”

Esther reminded me of Joel 2:14 and Daniel 3:15-18. The prophet said that repentance may bring a relenting from the Lord – who knows? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God was able to save them from the fiery furnace, but declared that even if He didn’t (who knows?), they would not serve an idol, but would bow only to God Himself. Week Two, Day Three of Beth Moore’s Children of the Light, “A Theology of Walking,” reminded me that this life is a journey of ups and downs, victorious parades, seasons of crawling, sprints, beautiful strides and lots of stumbling, less-than-graceful moments. The merciful grace of God, however, ensures that the Believer is always held by God’s righteous right hand (Is. 41:10). What is it that God requires? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with my God (Micah 6:8); to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); to press on (Phil. 3:13-14); to know that LIFE, with all its peaks and valleys, is meant to make us look more like Jesus.

When we follow after God, we will know peace like a river and righteousness like the waves of the sea (Is. 448:18). Our peace won’t be like the motionless, stagnant waters of a pond, but the twisting, turning waters of a river, flowing over rocks and rolling over rapids. Our righteousness won’t be automatic and look like perfection, but it will ebb and flow consistently and surely – because it comes from Jesus alone. I found myself, once again answering the question Paul asked the Galatians: “Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort (Gal. 3:2-3)?”

Over and over again God has been showing me that it is OK to not know and just trust – it is BEST, in fact. I can almost never really control the outcomes of my situations and circumstances, but I CAN walk with God and trust HIM with the outcome. I can stop trying to “win” my own favor with God by observing the law and remember that it was won for me on the cross. And that is BEST because as tightly as I grasp everything and every person and every situation, what I REALLY want, in my heart of hearts to simply walk with God: to know Him and to experience Him and not miss what He is doing. And as far as “the plan” goes… ultimately the one I want is the one God has in mind anyway.

Down with Anxiety Girl

Anxiety Girl

I am still slowly picking my way through the book of Luke with my online Bible Study Peeps at Good Morning Girls – and let me first say that slowly processing scripture for yourself is the way. to. GO! I am so enjoying how God is whispering His truths to my heart as I take time to listen to what His living and active WORD might speak into my little life.

This morning found me focused on Luke 21:12-33. My heart was so struck by Christ’s distinct calm in the midst of describing terrible worldwide, as well as, personal calamity. Oh, please take the time to read it right now. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021:12-33&version=NIV;ESV;CEV;HCSB;NLT

My take away – and my encouragement to you – is very simply: down with Anxiety Girl. Back away from the cape. Do not worry or fret over even the terrible things (much less the frustrating, inconvenient things). They are coming regardless of our worry, firmly in God’s hand and so very temporal – they WILL pass away. As someone so aptly noted in my “face to face” Bible study this week: we win in the end. And, I would add, Anxiety Girl will have nothing to do with it!

When I look around at all that is happening, think about all that will happen and add to that my tendency to stress over things that MIGHT happen, this passage so encourages me to: trust God – PERIOD, to seek His face and His wisdom and most importantly to PRIORITIZE HIS WORD. That seems so basic, as a 25 year veteran to Bible study, but it is so easy to lose track of in the daily. His word is the ONLY thing that will never pass away. Even the most terrible things will one day be history. The concerns I have for my Kiddos, now 7 and 10, will one day be blips – if even that – on the timeline of my days with them, but His Word, His promises to us, His assurances, His example, His sovereignty will never change. Please do not hear me saying that life is not really, really hard some days. I know that it is much easier to type this when all is well, the coffee is hot, the job is secure, the Kiddos are well and the bills are paid than it is to LIVE it when none of those things are true. But even then, something in my heart is so longing to just let. it. go. Even when Anxiety Girl’s get-up is right there ready for me to don, I think I am finally ready to give just trusting Jesus a shot. I think it will be really, really awesome. I think if I seek Him first, Jesus really will give me all the rest as well (Matt. 6:33). I think He will really be able to orchestrate all my stuff way better than I can and I think I really believe Him when He says that tomorrow will worry about itself (Matt. 6:34).

I can fret with the best of them, but Jesus so reminded my heart this morning, that if I seek him first and prioritize His word in all things – in my daily mundane stuff, in my relationships, while the Kiddos and I are coming and going, when Kep wants to talk, when Kevin needs extra TLC, when Caleb needs a happy Momma helping him study for the Social Studies test, when the checking account balance doesn’t look like I want it to, when I feel like I have too much on my plate, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m stressed, when I’m calm, when I think I know what’s going on and when I have no idea – if in ALL THINGS, I seek Him first and prioritize His word, I will be prioritizing the eternal and giving my family, friends and neighbors something that will never tarnish or fade. I am ready to take Anxiety Girl DOWN. My heart knows that I can’t keep all these plates balanced and spinning. Jesus just stepped in this morning to remind me that HE CAN. Blessings, fellow Super Girls. Give Jesus the cape… He’s got this!

Wide-Eyed Wonder

If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.  If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. – Luke 11:34, The Message

When I was in high school I had a really good friend who often said I wore rose-colored glasses.  He was a really smart guy and a year older than me.  So, I think I took that oft-heard comment as an indication that in order to be “really smart” and “mature”, I would need to eventually take off those glasses.  Over the years, there have certainly been times and seasons when the glasses seemed to be slipping.  But this morning as I read Luke 11:34 from The Message, it hit me that I don’t ever want my “positive outlook” to leave me – or even become dull from years spent in this crazy life.  Certainly, there have been experiences and circumstances that I wish were different.  I do expect the best, goodness, and honesty from people I meet along the way and when they behave differently than I expect, it is shocking and disheartening.  But Jesus said to live “wide-eyed in wonder and belief”.  Jesus said that if I live “wide-eyed in wonder and belief”, my whole body – my whole self – will fill up with light.  I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to live!

I want my whole outlook to be hopeful.  I want to believe and see God move and trust His heart for me.  I want to be a doer of His word and trust Him for the results even when I don’t see them.  I want to extend grace to the people I meet and forgive them when they stumble because I have been extended great grace and I have stumbled many times.  I want to be known as His girl because I am filled with His light.  And I want to see others like God sees them: precious creations, made in His image; masterpieces worth dying for.  So, “mature” and “really smart” or not, I will keep looking around with wide-eyed wonder and belief, holding unswervingly to the hope I profess, knowing that the One who promised is faithful.  My prayer is that you will do the same.  Who doesn’t want to be filled with light?

Propitiation: A Big Word I Didn’t Know I Knew

I often say that God did all the hard work for our salvation.  He chased us throughout history, always loving us first; always making a way.  He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die in our place.  He, by the power of His Holy Spirit, draws us to Himself, convicts us of our sin and even cries out on our behalf in prayer when we don’t know what to say.  Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father telling Him over and over again as we come to His throne with our humanness – in our sin – what it is like to actually walk around on this ball of dust held captive by skin.  He does the chasing.  He does loving.  He did the dying and the resurrecting.  He does the drawing.  He does the mediating.  By comparison, our job is so simple.  Our job is to recognize Him as Lord, to see that He loves us, to hear when He calls and to confess our sin – every time.  Our job is to repent and rest and be quiet and trust; to obey and follow and stay focused on Him.  He does the forgiving, the leading and the directing.  Our job is to receive it from Him.

I am working through a pretty hefty book right now by John Stott called The Cross of Christ.  This morning’s lesson is on “propitiation”.  How’s that for a vocabulary word?  It’s so funny to me that I am studying this now because 5 years ago, before sitting under the teaching of my current Pastor, I would have had to look it up in a dictionary.  (Don’t worry… you don’t have to get yours.  I am about to tell you what it means!)  Now, it at least doesn’t scare me!  To “propitiate” means to assuage or appease someone’s anger; to gain or regain the favor or someone else.  Turns out what I “often say” can be summed up in one really big word.  I don’t like thinking too terribly much about the anger of God, but to use my own terminology, “propitiation” simply means that God did all the hard work to save us.  To quote, Stott, “It is God Himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God Himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God Himself who in the Person of His Son died for the propitiation of our sins.  Thus God took His own loving initiative to appease His own righteous anger by bearing it His own self in His own Son when He took our place and died for us.”

I don’t know about you, but that blows me away.  God took His own loving initiative to do the hard work for me because He knew I would never be able to do it for myself.  He bore His own righteous anger at MY sins because He knew I would never be able to withstand it on my own.  And then He, Himself, in His Son, Jesus, died for my sins so that I might be His very own daughter – chosen, adopted, blessed, gifted with every good gift, abundant and eternal life, the Fruit of the Spirit and the very fullness of Christ.  And my job is to simply accept His gift of grace and mercy, rest in His salvation and trust Him with all that I am and all that concerns me.  My job is to simply gaze into my Father’s face and fall in love with Him.

O Father, captivate me.  Even when I struggle and pull away – as children sometimes do – hold me fast.  Change my heart and draw me close.  Whisper my name in the winds of life in this world and the downpour of my daily.  Continue to do the hard work of drawing me to Yourself and make me more and more like Jesus as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

Job, His Idiot Friends and Jesus

I just finished reading the book of Job.  I have read Job’s story before and Job 42:5 has been one of my favorite verses for a long time, but this reading swept me away.  I felt heartache over Job’s suffering and questioning.  I wanted to hug him and tell him the “secret” that God was trusting him with the challenges he was going through and that God Himself called him “blameless and upright” when he brought him to Satan’s attention (Job 1:8).  I found myself wanting to, quite frankly, punch Job’s friends and tell them to just hush up and go back to sitting with him!  Incidentally, isn’t it just like us human beings to get it right for seven days (Job 2:13) and then totally blow it when we open our mouths?  And, most surprisingly maybe, since He isn’t even mentioned in the book, I found myself thanking Jesus for coming to rescue me.

So, with the disclaimer that I am certainly no Bible scholar, here are a few of my observations from my most recent read through Job.  If you avoid his story (as I sometimes have) or haven’t read it in a while, maybe this will peak your curiosity and get you flipping back to the Old Testament.

God trusted Job to remain steadfast in the midst of trials

Sometimes, depending on how we perceive our circumstances, we don’t want to think about the fact that everything in this life goes through God’s hands and we certainly don’t want to think that God would point us out to Satan, but that’s exactly what happened to Job.  It is oddly encouraging to me that God saw Job living his life in a way that was pleasing to Him and said, “There’s my servant.  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  I don’t want to go through a fraction of what Job went through, but WHEN suffering comes, it is good to know that God is still in control and that maybe, He is simply trusting me to remain faithful to Him in the midst of the trial. 

Job’s Friends: A Study in What NOT to Do

Job’s buddies say a lot things that resonate with me as a believer in Christ.  They make factual statements about God’s character and the benefits of holy living and repentance.  They make pretty good arguments that any attorney or philosopher would be proud of.  They give reasons for why they say what they say and their culture would have affirmed an awful lot of it.  They even remind me of New Testament writers sometimes.  (Compare Eliphaz’s comment in Job 15:35 to James 1:13-15 and see if you agree.)  But they never seem to draw the right conclusion because they DIDN’T KNOW WHAT GOD WAS DOING. 

Over and over again as I read, I was reminded that as good as our intentions may be, as much as our culture may affirm us, as well versed as we may be in the practices of the church and even in the Word itself, WE DO NOT KNOW THE MIND OF GOD.  We would do well to remember that and hush up sometimes.  Sometimes, being right and even knowing God’s character and what He has revealed to us in His word is not what’s needed.  Sometimes, what’s needed is just a loving friend that will shut her mouth and sit with us in our misery.

And one more lesson from Job’s friends: sometimes what we “observe” and what we feel are A) not right and B) not good enough reasons to speak.  (See Job 4:8 and 20:2-3)

Seeing Jesus in Job

After spending a solid month in the Old Testament, it was refreshing and surprising to be reminded of Jesus.  In chapter 9, verse 33, Job says, “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us.”  And I replied in my margin: “There is an arbitrator in Jesus!” 

Job 14:15-17 says “You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made.  Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin.  My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover my sin.”  And my mind went to Jesus: weeping over Jerusalem, giving up heaven’s throne to live on this earth, dying for my sins, knocking on the door of my heart and rescuing me from worry, uncertainty, dissatisfaction and death.  My prayer scribbled in the margin of His word: “Thank you, Jesus, for accomplishing this very thing.” 

He longed for me.  So, he came and got me.  My sins were many, so He sealed them up and tossed them away.  I don’t understand all of His ways, but I surely do love Him.  And I hope one day He will say of me: There’s my girl.  There’s no one earth like her; she is blameless and upright, a woman who fears God and shuns evil.

The Perfection Problem

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

 My relationship with perfectionism is a lifelong one.  I don’t think either of my parents would say that they tried to instill it in me, but somewhere along the way, I certainly picked it up!  Way back when I was getting ready to graduate from college and start life in the “real world” I dressed up my perfectionist tendencies in the form of a well-crafted interview answer:

 Interviewer: What is your greatest weakness?

Me: I think it is my tendency toward perfectionism.  I want things to be done well and I strive to be the best I can possibly be.  If I am going to do something, I want it to be done right.  If I am going to be something, I want to be the best.

Pretty good answer, eh?  I mean who wouldn’t hire someone whose GREATEST WEAKNESS is perfectionism?!  Ugh.  Me… I would not want to hire someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  I honestly do not want to BE someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  So, why in the WORLD would I want to work with someone who had the same neurosis?  Perfectionism makes me question EVERYTHING.  It makes me feel like NOTHING is ever good enough.  It cripples me and keeps me from trying new things.  It makes me slow to start for fear that the finish will not be well.  Gracious.  Wonder how many jobs I lost because of that “well-crafted” interview answer?  Anyway…

 Just in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I have long since realized that my “greatest weakness” – my tendency toward perfectionism – is not REALLY a strength… no matter how I tried to spin it for my potential employers.  In reality, I knew even way back then that wanting everything to be “perfect” was not really a good thing, but I figured I had to say SOMETHING in an interview and I SURE wasn’t going to say that REALLY my greatest weakness is my perpetual tardiness or my inclination to overreact or propensity for procrastination!  I knew THAT wouldn’t get me the job!  And those things only touch the TIP of the iceberg!  But I digress (another trait I have!).  That’s another blog for another day. 

The point here is: perfectionism and I go way back.  And whenever it comes up, especially in Bible study, I get a little antsy.  I start thinking of my self-imposed checklists and all the blanks I have left unfilled in 25+ years of Bible studies, the dates left unchronicled in my journal, the Sundays I skipped, the prayers that went unprayed and on and on and on.  Not to even mention all the harsh words spoken, angry thoughts, inconsiderate ways and unkind actions I’ve taken over the years – all as a professing Christian.  I am in no way, shape or form perfect, but in Matthew 5:48, Jesus said to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Yikes.  Just YIKES!  I know intellectually that I can never REALLY BE “perfect”.  As my children say, “Only Jesus was perfect, Mom.” 

So, what do I do with a verse like Matthew 5:48?  Well, the first thing I do is praise God that I am under the blood and grace of Jesus Christ; that EVERY sin, when confessed, will be forgiven (1 John 1:9).  Then I remember that, in Christ, I have been chosen and adopted and am now a child of God.  As such, I am blessed, redeemed, forgiven and DEARLY loved.  (See Eph. 1:3-8, Eph 5:1 and 1 John 3:1)  God doesn’t do things half-way, He LAVISHES His love on me as His child and completely transformed me when He saved me (2 Cor. 5:17).  I figure, if I can love my Kiddos so much that it literally makes my chest hurt even when they make mistakes, don’t use proper table manners, forget their backpacks, lose their jackets, talk ugly, act crazy etc. etc. etc. then SURELY the God of the universe will do what He has promised and love me unfailingly even when I mess up.  He SAID to come to Him and repent.  He SAID that He would never leave me of forsake me (Deut. 31:6).  He SAID that He would catch me when I stumble (Psalm 37:24).  He SAID to fight the good fight and press on (1 Tim. 6:12 & Phil 3:12).  Obviously, He KNOWS that this life will be, on many days, an uphill climb.  He KNOWS that we need grace and mercy for every day (Lam. 3:22-23).  He KNOWS that we NEED Him to remember that we are but dust (Psalm 103:13-14). 

So, when He says to “be perfect as I am perfect” I know He means to keep choosing Him – every day, in every encounter, with every thought, in word and deed.  I know He knows me better than I know myself and was well aware of what He was getting and who He was saving when He went to the cross on my behalf.  My part is to keep my gaze fixed on Him; to keep letting my heart be changed by His Word and His Holy Spirit.  And little by little, my freshly washed heart will overflow with more Christ-like behavior, more loving thoughts, more gentle words and a more radiant face that reflects His glory – rather than my own worry, distress or frustration.  I praise Him that my “wholeness [my “perfection”] is firmly rooted in [Him].  To live a life of perfection is not to make all A’s or to never miss a Sunday at church; rather it is to live a life true to [my] identity as [a child] of an utterly untemptable God who never changes, shows no partiality, and has no darkness in Him at all (Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick, “Perfection: Part Two” in James: Mercy Triumphs, 149).”  Thank God that IN CHRIST, “perfectionism” can actually be a good thing!  In Christ, striving toward perfection is RIGHT because it means drawing to the Only One who is truly Perfect.

The First Day of a New & Better Way

What Would Your Relationships Be Like If You…

  • Treated everyone, including yourself, as a person in process rather than as a machine that performs?
  • Showed in your words and actions that you valued relationships more than time?
  • Listened long enough to understand what another person was thinking and feeling?
  • Gave up harsh and condemning words and learned to speak softly?
  • Focused on finding solutions to problems rather than finding someone to blame?

From Love as a Way of Life by Gary Chapman

This is the book my Sunday school class is currently studying.  At the same time, as you know, the Ladies Bible Study I attend is studying the book of James.  Tuesday, because both studies asked me to, I wrote James 1:19 TWICE!  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Today, MasterWork, our Sunday school curriculum, took me to James 1:2-4.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

I am glad that the same God who holds the stars in place and created everything we know of (and things we cannot even imagine!) is ALSO the God who knows me better than I know myself and actually cares about how I interact with the people around me.  So, again, by grace, I say:

I hear you, Lord and I so want to be a doer of your word and not just a hearer. (James 1:22)  Even on days when the “job” of Mommy seems a little bit like a trial, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I know that my Kiddos have taught me more in 8 short years than I have learned in the 30 before about being the person You want me to be.  The role of “Mommy” is the one I KNOW cannot do well without You.  It’s the one that motivates me more than any other to be better: more loving, more patient, more compassionate, kind and gentle, more self-controlled, more peaceful and more joyful… more like You.  Because more than anything, I want these Kiddos You’ve entrusted to me to see who You are when they watch who I am. 

It’s been said that when it comes to what we pass onto our children, more is “caught” than “taught”.  I want Caleb and Keppley to “catch” abundant life in Christ.  I want them to “catch” that His Word is living and active and makes a difference.  I want them to see that their Mom is different now than she was without Jesus and that it’s better this way.  So, even though my toes are feeling a little squished these days, I am thankful.  The God of the universe is meeting me where the rubber meets the road!  He’s challenging me to let His Word, which is planted in me, do a great work and grow into an oak of righteousness that will yield its fruit in season.  I am thankful because I don’t want my faith to just be something I “do” on Sunday mornings or slap onto my bumper or pull out when I’m in crisis.  Since this is the life [I] have chosen, the life of the Spirit, [I want to] make sure that [I] do not just hold to it as an idea in [my] head or a sentiment in [my] heart, but work out its implications in every detail of [my life].  (Galatians 5:25)

So, I wonder what my relationships with my two favorite Little Loveys would be like if I remembered that God’s not finished with us yet?  I wonder how different things would be if I showed them every day that my relationship with them is more important than my schedule; if I really listened when they talked, sought to understand their point of view and learned to speak softly?  I wonder what our relationships would be like if we stopped trying to figure out who’s to blame and started just loving on and being thankful for each other?  I’m not really sure.  But I can’t wait to find out!  Tomorrow morning when they forget their glasses, beg to snuggle with Daddy for just a few more minutes, REALLY dislike the shirt I picked out and suddenly hate Pop Tarts for breakfast, I am going to take a new approach.  I will remember that they are 5 and 8.  I will take one second to see how sweet they are with Kevin in the mornings and how good he is with them.  I will have a “back up” shirt ready to whip out and seek to understand their sudden boredom with toaster pastries.  And I will hustle them out of the house with a smile and a “still small voice”.  (No laughing!)  And so will begin the very first day of a new and better way.  For with God, all things are possible!

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