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Christian Living

Posts Tagged ‘Christian Living’

Letter from Christ

Gleaning insight from Howard E. Butt, Jr.  this morning, I was surprised to read something I had failed to notice before…ever.  I was so surprised that I had missed this analogy, that I looked it up to verify that it even existed.

II Corinthians 3:3 …you are a letter from Christ….

Other analogies were secure in my mind–yeast, salt of the earth, even this little light of mine–hide it under a bushel? NO!

How could the letter from Christ escape me? Why, I’m a letter person. I’m a word person. This analogy is so…me!  And it is perfect.

In an age where a thought is only half formulated before being launched across the cyber-universe, there is no comparison to reading words that someone painstakingly penned for your eyes only. There is nothing like the thrill of unearthing a hand-addressed envelope in the mailbox, the feel of a piece of stationery in the fingers, the few minutes of intimate connection as your own world fades and the words of a loved one far away etch themselves onto your heart. It is, dare I say it, a treasure.

And we are such treasures.

You are a letter from Christ. I am a letter from Christ.

Read me world!

Wait!

Read me?

What does my letter say?

Does it say patient, loving mother, emulating forgiveness, effusing godly joy, radiating Christ’s grace? Or does it say haggard, distracted master of chaos, bitter, uncertain, lost?

Does it say I spend my time well, training my children, serving my husband, encouraging God’s family, loving the lost. Or does it spell out that my time, my priorities, are elsewhere?

Does it tell of a life devoted to Him, or does it tell of a life devoted to self with Him in the background?

Does it shout forgiven? Or does it shout better-than-thou?

Does it read grace? Or does it read making my own way?

I know what my letter could say, if Christ had not written it. I know it would be filled with failure, regrets, bad choices. I know it would tell of bitterness, resentment, lack of forgiveness, lack of trust. I know the positives would be buried beneath the rubble of broken promises, broken dreams, broken relationships.

But Christ wrote my letter, and it is written in blood…

His blood.

It says only one word:

Forgiven.

I can walk out into the world, a world that knows my faults, knows my failures, witnesses them anew, and I can hold up my letter, my letter from Christ.

But with my letter comes responsibility. I must live for the Author of my letter. If my letter is a recommendation, then everything I say or do will reflect on the Recommender. If I shout at my children, dress for the world, disprespect my husband, and bow at the feet of bartenders, what am I saying about the Author?  If I worship Favre over faith, image over others, self over sacrifice, how will my letter stand out?  Who will want to read about how Christ eliminated my filth if they see me reveling in that same filth? 

The letter is worthy.  If I live the life of the gratefully forgiven, the world will see my letter and know it is the genuine thing.  I must remember who has written my letter.  I must tell my story, share my joy, live the love, be the letter.

In a world of email, texting, and cyber-scribing, I hold my letter high.  I am a letter from Christ.

Linked up to Walk with Him Wednesdays at Holy Experience.

  

 

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The Year of Joy

Writing down old habits...

This is the Year of Joy.

No, as my shell-shocked husband asked, we are not expecting baby girl number six named Joy (and if we were, she may well be a he and his name would not be Joy). Rather, my year has a name and that name is Joy. 

This is the year of true, unshifting, soul-waking, refreshing, God-given Joy. 

Instead of focusing on resolutions, on what I am going to make of this year, I am directing my attention toward what my soul most needs, what God has offered and what I too often refuse to accept, and that, I am ashamed to admit, is Joy. 

What is Joy? 

Joy is not happiness! That truth stings the ears and is worth repeating. Joy is not the same as happiness. 

When God gifts me with Christian Joy, it does not mean I will carry with me a slapstick smile and a quick laugh. Happiness is a fleeting, temporal, situational emotion, often based on getting what I want. Joy reaches far beyond happiness. Joy flows deep. Joy is based on Him: what He wants me to have (good or bad in my eyes), on being the person He wants me to be (a servant), on doing what He wants me to do (serve), and mostly, on His salvation. Joy is based on His gifts and on Him. It has little, if anything, to do with me. 

...such as "falling down" and...

...such as "falling down" and...

So, what is Joy? 

Joy is absence. The absence of 

fear
anxiety
discontent
unnecessary stress
selfishness
bitterness
envy 

It is not the absence of trouble, sorrow, or pain. 

Joy is presence. The presence of 

trust
forgiveness
child-like faith
a servant’s heart
contentment
gratitude
love
God 

…in all things. 

...hurling them into the fireplace...

How can I speak of Joy when troubles surround us? Because Joy is not situational. 

Joy is a gift only God can give. It requires focus, not on a superhuman effort to remain cheerful in all situations, but a focus on Him, on the Big Picture, and the Big Picture is His plan for His Kingdom and His plan for my life. (Your Big Picture isn’t so much about His plan for my life as it is about His plan for your life, ‘lest you think you need to do a crash course study of me.) Notice I did not say my plan for my life in His Kindgom. It’s His plan. 

The sooner I stop pursuing happiness and start letting His Joy take root in me, the sooner Joy will sprout and grow and radiate out, an infectious condition that transforms the soul, the mind, the family, the life. 

To plant this seed I must first make room. 

...to be burned...

...to be burned...

So long fear; we have too long been bedfellows, and you have proven yourself a false friend. I spent many hours with you, and none to my benefit. Goodbye anxiety! (Reasonable caution and responsible concern, you may stay.) Unnecessary stress, you are a thing of the past, like a bad picture in a high school yearbook. Selfishness, bitterness, envy, pack your bags and get o-u-t, and take your cousin, self-pity, with you. You waste my time, and my time is too precious to be spent on you! Discontent…ah, sweet discontent, I muster my strength and tell you that you are not welcome here. My heart has something sweeter than your bitter gall to sip, so be gone! Be gone! 

I plant the seed. 

I plant the seed of gratitude for all God’s gifts–for the troubles, the pains, the disappointments, the blessings, the triumphs, the happiness. I plant the seed of trust, knowing the past is forgiven, the future is in His hands, and my life at this moment, where I am right now, is resting on and bolstered by Him. I plant the seed of child-like faith, not only for eternal life through Christ, not only for help on this earth, but faith in the knowledge that along whatever darkly wooded, ominous path He leads me, I walk hand-in-hand with my Father. I plant the seed of a servant’s heart, quietly, humbly serving in His name, however small the ripple of my labor. I plant the seed of contentment…in all things, in all places, in all circumstances, nurturing this tender, struggling sprout. I plant the seed of love–not judgement, not envy, not disdain, not impatience, but true sacrificial, time-giving, hand-holding, ear-bending, eye-meeting, heart-touching love. I dig deep, deeper, I water heavily, and I plant the seed of forgiveness, receiving His gift of permission to forget, to let go, to let the Blood do its work. 

...never to return.

...never to return.

When contentment, gratitude, forgiveness, trust and love fill the soul, there is room for nothing less worthy. 

This is my year! My Year of Joy! 

Join me. 

Thank you, Ann, for the courage to birth this Year of Joy.  May your Year of Yes be a blessing. 

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My Thousand Thanks 21-30

1November 2007 151I have been feeling far from home. A lot has occured among my extended family in the past two years. Within our growing group there have been three blessed births (including our own little Boo), one unexpected death, a not-so-unexpected but rather sudden wedding, a car accident, injuries and recoveries, graduations, financial troubles and successes, and life’s ceaseless circle of holidays, gatherings, and celebrations, Thanksgiving being my favorite. I would like to be able to share the joys, help with the needs, and hold a hand when a hand needs holding, but I can do so only from a distance. I am too far from the hands-on cherishing of extended family. (Somebody call the WHAAAAmbulance.)

Wishing does little, and self-pity even less. I am blessed. I am blessed to have an extended family that loves us and prays for our well-being and faithfulness. (If this is a stretch and they merely tolerate us, then I shall blissfully remain in my delusional world.) I am blessed to have a quiet and peaceful (loud and boisterous, actually) celebration here with my own dear ones, something I adore! I am blessed that this year I do not have to share my allotment of Stephen’s savory gravy–a precious commodity already stretched too thin among the eight of us, never mind leftovers. I am blessed to live here in the desert where I never wanted to be and where God is teaching me contentment.

I remember at Thanksgiving that God has us in our desert for a reason, for His season, and my duty is to be grateful and serve Him here. It is a day and a life meant for gratefulness, not self-pity, and shame on me for my distraction and my selfishness. Others have moved far from family and off their land, and they did not lose themselves in a mire of pity–the Pilgrims come to mind.

517614BYPSL._SL160_Ah, the Pilgrims. I love the week or two leading up to Thanksgiving. We have been enjoying an in-depth study of the Pilgrims this year, thanks to numerous free resources that homeschoolers love to share, as well as through Barbara Rainey’s treasure given to us by a dear friend. It is a parent’s delight (and sometimes dismay) to note what children take from a lesson. My children are enthralled with the fact that Miles Standish, a grown man, actually named his sword and spoke to it as if it were a friend. They can’t get over it–a grown man after all. They wonder if he introduced his sword to people he met: “Hi, I’m Miles Standish and this is Gideon. He will understand if you don’t wish to shake his hand.”

I think the point that struck them and me most–as it always does–is the Pilgrim’s open and genuine trust in and gratitude toward God no matter what, not acknowldging Him as a distant spirit, but binding their lives to Him as a just and caring Savior. The minute details of God’s providence during their journey from Scrooby to Leiden to Cape Cod and through those first years is remarkable and so often overlooked in today’s self-absorbed (guilty!) Thanksgiving particpants. The pilgrims gave God full credit for their successes and turned all matters of necessity to Him in prayer, with amazing success. In a world so willing to lay down principles and overturn beliefs, it is refreshing to remember the Pilgrims and the sacrifices they made–enormous sacrifices we pampered Americans cannot fathom–for faith, family, and Godly principles. It reveals my pity-party for what it is–trivial and sinful.

However blessed I am to have my dear husband and precious children to spend this day with, I am even more blessed that the God who brought the Pilgrims to a world where they could worship freely is the same God who guides my little family, who rules our lives with His sovereign will, and for whom we too must and will sacrifice with willing and grateful hearts.

Enjoy your day, your family and friends, the food, and the providence of a God who supplies all things. As for me, the pity party has ended, and I count my many thanks.

…a warm fire on a chilly Thanksgiving morning

…a tousle-haired boy who smiles when he sees me

…children with words spilling over

…full pantries and freezers and two pies made by two small girls

…that dog

…a man with strong arms who roasts an amazing (and heavy) turkey

…those Americans who are not blind to the decay of a once great and God-fearing country

…those who work the earth and love it and give a bit of it up to all of us

…a few minutes of silence to listen to Him

…this day, this desert, this duty–this place and time and season of service

A blessed Thanksgiving to all! May you truly live in gratefulness, as this is one of His means of gifting you with joy.

holy experience

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Should a Christian Declare Bankruptcy?

Dead TreeLiving in the hardest hit housing market in the country while surviving on a real estate–dependent income is a lamentable combination. I don’t recommend it. We are blessed to have our home, to have our food supplies and to be able to afford fresh groceries. We have two (yes, two) vehicles, and we put gas in them when we need to. But the fact is, things ain’t pretty right now. (You know they’re ugly when I say “ain’t!”) It could (and might) get a lot worse. It could (and will) eventually get better. In the meantime, losing the house is always on the fringe of our thoughts.

I know others who have it worse, much worse. I know people who have lost their farms, homes, or jobs. I also know people who madly spent themselves into a mire of debt, spent their home equity, and then freely gave up their houses and abandoned their debts without a glance back. We also know companies who have declared bankruptcy and walked away from their financial obligations, money owed not only to corporations but to individuals, to us.

A few short years ago, we had a lot of sweat and blood (a little too much blood) equity in our house. In between running a business and catering to the needs of a pregnant wife and (then only) four children, my husband worked hard to build this place we call home. Today, although we did not spend it, the equity is gone and we are now floating upside-down. Paying off the enormous void between what we owe and what our charming abode is worth takes a sizeable chunk out of our rapidly shrinking income. If we were to walk away from our house right now, we would be in a situation that could allow us to focus on the music mission. We would also be nearly debt-free. It is a temptation.

“What’s a Christian to do when she doesn’t know what’s right and what’s wrong?” I ask myself, out loud…talking to myself…again.

“Look it up in the Bible,” a child’s voice calls out. Oh to have had such wisdom before the grey hair!

I obey.

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again:
but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth.
~Psalm 37:21

I love the King James, but you, perhaps, may not, so:

The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously.
~Psalm 37:21

That settles it. A Christian should not voluntarily walk away from his debt.

When faced with economic hardship, a Christian must make every effort to shave off unnecessary expenses. (Satellite television, Starbucks, and even date night are unnecessary expenses, in case you were wondering). Debt settlement is a responsible debt-reduction option that should be pursued before bankruptcy is considered. Having experienced this ourselves, I can assure you it is doable and extremely helpful if you are in a tight place.

If, after seeking guidance, stripping the budget, and looking into debt settlement, there is no option but to declare bankruptcy, the Christian should still make every attempt to repay the debts as soon as he is able. Generally companies will not accept post-bankruptcy repayment efforts, in which case your debt is forgiven and obligation has ended. I can, however, think of a small business or two that would benefit from the fulfillment of currently abandoned financial obligations.

My last word: tough economic times can be frightening. You do not need to go it alone.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (KJV)

While I was compensated for this blog entry, it does represent my views at the time of writing. Notable Blogger will never publish anything that conflicts with our views, ethics, or Christian values.

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Life Lessons

Life is a harsh teacher. There is no grace period for late papers, no test re-take policy, and very little recess. After about sixth grade, there isn’t even a milk break. The whole life process itself is a learning experience, training and developing each participant into the person he or she is today, preparing for the person he will be tomorrow. The failures, the hurdles, the stumbles in life all have a hand. They all serve a purpose. They are all part of the lesson.

Picture 305I’ve had some pretty notable life lessons over the past few months. It occurred to me not too long ago, while inspecting the multi-colored underside of my upper cabinets, that there is a reason a blender comes with a lid. Note to self: use it. I’ve also learned and relearned that it is not wise to say “yes” to a small child unless you are absolutely sure what he is asking…and even then it may be unwise. I’ve also learned a lot about making assumptions. One stands out. It is not wise to assume that the window in the nursing mothers’ room at the church you are visiting is one-way glass. Major oops.

Of all the lessons I’ve learned, the greatest, yet most difficult, is trust. I know the lessons well:

Trust the Creator with your life on earth and your life in glory through faith in Christ. Trust Him with the small details and the big decisions. Trust His will. Don’t make trust only an issue of the head, but a hope of the heart and an action of the body. Don’t just say, for example, that you trust God to care for you in the economic crisis; believe it by still giving out of your lack. Don’t just say, for example, that you trust God to work beauty into your marriage; believe it by handing the reins to Him through prayer rather than giving your tongue free rein. Don’t just say, for example, that you trust God with your family size; believe it by relinquishing control. Trust.

I am not good at trusting. I am a failure, in fact. Worse than that, I talk the talk and stumble through the process of putting one foot in front of the other. Anxiety becomes my god and I leave the Father of Trust with His arms held out to me, longing to gather me in. I leave Him for the idol throne of fear where I am annointed with guilt and despair.

Over and over He calls me back. My Father.

Come back, my dearling. Stop clinging to fear and cling instead to me. This life was never your problem to begin with, but something meant for you to hand to me. Lift your eyes, child, and look at me.  Stop fighting me.  Stop resisting my peace. Stop. Just…let me…be the God…the Father, I know you need. It is okay, my dearling, to trust me. I am not them. I AM. Trust.

Trust…

Lord, grant it.

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Look to the One

It’s time for a confession:

I am a paranoid perfectionist. Yikes. That does not sound pretty. Well, it ain’t! (In fact, the perfectionist in me is having a very difficult time not removing that “ain’t.”)

Look toI am one of those mothers who focuses on getting it right. I lie awake at night regretting words misspoken, time misspent, and attention misdirected. Comparing myself to the “experts” of Christian parenting, I see myself falling short, and soon battle the uphill struggle to catch up, measure up, straighten up, but I just can’t get it right. How will my failings affect my children?

What to do…what to do…?

When medical concerns come up (about every 15 minutes), I bolster my immune system, analyze medical records, dwell, dwell, dwell on every symptom in every family member, and settle into a pattern of anxiety bordering on panic. To whom should I listen? Where should I turn? What should I do?

Whom to trust…whom to trust…?

When financial issues arise, I struggle with my inadequacies. I seek to support and help my husband, but how? Should I step into this arena, head down that avenue, or tap this skill?

Where to turn…where to turn…?

In short, I have an exhausting mental character flaw that makes life a little more murky than it needs to be.

In steps God. Read the rest of this entry »

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Parachutes, prayer and planes

Because my darling site manager spontaneously seeks to improve this little blog world of mine, things get a little topsy turvy.  I used to follow behind and sweep up the mess, but that takes hours if not days.  He inevitably finds time to improve things again, and the cycle continues.  If he ever settles on a somewhat more permanent design, I will reorder things such as this page.  In the meantime, please accept my apologies for anything amiss in this Wonderland.  My site manager, by the way, works for pie and cookies and is a dream.  That’s why I married him.  
(1) Gather your supplies and cheerful helpers.
(1) Gather your supplies and cheerful helpers.

Parachutes, planes, prayer, and homeschool children. The combination hints strongly of a potential visit to the emergency room. Ah, not so! In this case, the combination represents little missionaries at work.

The Voice of the Martyrs supports a missionary pilot who attaches Bibles and short-wave radios to small parachutes and drops them into guerrilla-controlled areas of Columbia. He needs tens of thousands of parachutes to continue his mission.

We decided to help. While the Bagasao Children’s Prayer Club studied and prayed for the Columbians, we also put our hands to work measuring, cutting and sewing these parachutes.

Would you like to get involved? Follow these simple instructions, or follow our steps below! Read the rest of this entry »

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