12.13.2015

Today was good - and I needed it.


Today was a good day.

The Lord provided opportunities to worship with the body of Christ three times.
Church.
A memorial service.
A Christmas concert.

Our church service was uplifting, thought-provoking, and pushed me in my faith.
Our youth service was challenging and energizing.
I left each one feeling encouraged and ready to charge into a new week with passion and intensity.
Always a good way to leave the church parking lot, yes?

The memorial service was touching and thoughtful.
A life celebrated with joy because he redeemed the time he had on earth, and used it to honor the Lord and make sure everyone he knew was aware of the One who redeemed his life from the pit and set him on solid ground.
Family, friends, and classmates rejoiced over a life well-lived for the Lord.
And, of course, it made me ponder my own life because "It is better to be in a house of mourning than a house of feasting because death is the end of every man, and the living take it to heart." Ecclesiastes
Oh, Lord, may my life not be wasted, but used for Your glory and the edification of others. 
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.

The Christmas concert was festive and fun and full of believers lifting their voices in praise to God through the beauty of Christmas hymns.
O, Come let us adore Him, Christ the KING!

Every Sunday I sneak into the church to read my Bible in the peace and quiet of the sanctuary.
This morning, after reading several chapters, I turned to the Psalms for my daily Psalm reading.
(You know the secret, right? You read the Psalm of the Day, then add 30, read that Psalm, add 30, read that Psalm, etc. So today's chapters were 13,43,73,103,133. 
Every day you read five chapters and complete the entire book each month. It's a wonderful discipline!)
Anyway ...
While reading, I discovered a theme running through the chapters.
Take a look.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 43

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all Your works.
Psalm 73

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103

Do you see it?
PRAISE!
Sing to the Lord - Praise Him - tell of His works - bless His name.
I LOVE this!
And I needed this today.
My heart is not heavy, but it is numb.
I need to 'feel.'
And when I worship, the walls around my heart and my emotions come crashing down leaving me vulnerable and defenseless.
Exactly where I need to be with my Lord.

How I LOVE Scripture!
And how much I love the God who spoke it into the hearts of men so we might know and understand who He is and how He works.

"Let me live that I might PRAISE YOU!" Psalm 119:175

12.05.2015

Teaching self-control to children ~ and ourselves!

A friend shared this list with me several years ago when we sought wisdom in parenting our active, and verbal, boys. We memorized it together and I quoted it often to prompt correct speaking and behavior.
The littles are memorizing it now.

Self-control is the ability to control myself so that Mom and Dad don't have to.

Self-control means to think before I act.

Self-control is the ability to talk about problems instead of grabbing, pushing, or hitting.

Self-control means that I limit the noises I make when others are around.

Self-control means that I focus on one thing until it gets done, before I move on to the next.

Sensitivity means that when I walk into a room I look and listen before I speak.

Sensitivity is thinking about how my actions are affecting other people.

Sensitivity means thinking about how I could help someone else.


After reading it, it is obvious that these truths are as applicable to adults as they are to children.
Self-control and sensitivity must be practiced by all ... especially those in the household of faith.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. II Peter 1

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. II Timothy 1

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. I Peter 4

But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Titus 1

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. I Corinthians 13

12.04.2015

This and that.

I am a bit sad that my time in Scripture has not produced writings or words of encouragement these past days, but I find consolation in the truth that God's Word is alive and active and never returns void. Even when there is no tangible evidence.

I read one of my favorite Psalms in my daily reading - and it made me smile. Not because I can claim this attitude for myself, but because I WANT to!

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    His praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34

It's as if the Psalmist is making a resolution ... I WILL extol ... His praise WILL be ... I WILL glory ... LET US exalt.
Wouldn't this be a wonderful way to greet each other? How it would change the course and content of our conversations! And - keep our focus where it belongs ... on Jesus Christ.
Oh, how I LOVE Scripture!

~~~ A dear friend sent me a note yesterday asking me how I was doing. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I replied, "I feel like I have a continual 'under construction sign' around my neck."
You know the drill. A contractor is hired to build a room addition, says it will take four months to complete, and ten months later you are still buried in dust and debris.
But, better to be under construction than CONDEMNED!
Perspective. It matters.
Especially when the contractor is the LORD!

Isn't this a sweet little nativity set?
Dennis collects them for me when he travels the globe.
I wish I had thought of this when he first began traveling because we missed out on Lebanon, Austria, and China. And I am quite sure each of those countries boast beautiful nativities!
This sweet little set is from Thailand.
Dennis found the colorful one in Zambia.
He also brought me a tiny nativity from Cambodia carved out of a coconut.
When the boys were in choir they performed at a church which filled their auditorium with nativities from around the world. I loved walking through that room. 
Each set was unique and accurately reflected the culture of its country, and they all had one thing in common: a baby, the Savior, being worshiped and adored by men.
My collection will never match theirs, but it's a start!

~~~ Last year I discovered a fantastic idea for parents and children regarding Christmas presents, and immediately declared, "I am stealing that one!"
Three gifts.
Gifts that represent what the wise men brought to Jesus.
Something valuable (gold), something spiritual (frankincense), and something personal (myrrh).
Love it!
I had the older boys interview the littles for their lists, and the older boys created their own. It was fun to listen to them talk and share ideas - and see them give thought and intent to their gifts.
The thing that pleased me most, however, was the fact that not one child complained or whined with cries of, "What? We only get THREE gifts for Christmas? Come on!"
Love it MORE!

~~~ Our youth group Christmas party takes place tomorrow. And we are going as a family. A good old-fashioned country Christmas complete with barns and horses and hayrides. Yahoo!
I cannot even begin to imagine how the students are going to pull off the western theme AND ugly sweaters in the same outfit, but I am confident a few of them will deliver and their creativity will be remembered for years to come!

~~~ Apparently our Isaiah has joined a mafia family, and Luke is the Godfather.
Today Josiah was annoying Isaiah, over and over again, and Isaiah had had ENOUGH.
He yelled at Josiah, walked into the house, asked where Luke was, and marched straight to the boy's room. The next thing we heard was, "Luke, Josiah is bothering me and he won't stop. Will you go take care of him for me?"
After I admonished Isaiah for this less-than-godly plan, Dennis, Micah and I laughed out loud.
The things kids say - and the way they think! Sheesh!

~~~ White Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas movies. It always makes me smile.

~~~ On a serious note ...
How we need to pray for our country!
As easy as it is to say, "End times are here and things are only going to get worse" (which is true), Scripture commands us to "pray without ceasing." There is no clause that says, "Pray without ceasing UNLESS things look really bad. Then you can throw up your hands, live in fear, and let the enemy win."
No, no, no!
Our God is sovereign - and He is on the throne that rules heaven and earth.
It is the sin in the hearts of men that devise evil plans and carry them out.
Nothing is new under the sun states Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
And our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Pray!
Pray as if your life depends on it. Because it does!
And then - remember who your God is ... and rest in Him.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. I Chronicles 29:11-12

~~~ I pray your weekend will be filled with immeasurable joy as you celebrate the Christ child, love the people in your life as if you will never see them again, and feel a renewed sense of desire for Scripture and prayer.
May we look back on this weekend with contentment, and without regret.

11.29.2015

Quote.

I remember two things:
that I am a great sinner,
and that Christ is a great Savior.
~ John Newton, 1799

11.22.2015

God knows - and He cares.

... for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:8

How true
and wonderful
and comforting
this verse is to the believer!

God knows what we need.
Physically.
Emotionally.
Spiritually.

Sometimes He uses others to meet our needs.
A hug from a loved one.
A note of encouragement from a dear friend.
An unexpected monetary gift.
An invitation to dinner.
A visitor in the hospital waiting room.
The perfect sermon that convicts and challenges us.
A conversation that changes our respective and restores us to right thinking.

Sometimes He removes everyone so we will rely solely on Him to supply what we need - exactly when we need it.
Relief and healing from an illness.
A passage of Scripture that turns our mourning into dancing.
Unexpected free hours to rest and 'be still' before Him.
A profound time of prayer.
A peace that passes all understanding.

God KNOWS.
And - He cares.
For us.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

11.19.2015

This and that.


This week has been a good one!
Dennis is home, all of the Eastmans are healthy, schooling went smoothly, attitudes were correct, and everyone seems generally happy and content.
Thank You, Lord! It is only because of You that any of this is possible!

My stationery drawer is full again!
My stock was running dangerously low, but thanks to birthday presents, a gift card, and the $1 section at a certain store, I now have enough paper to send notes for the next three months. Yay!
(If only stamps could be found in the dollar bin as well! hehehe)
I have been on the receiving end of some hand-written cards in the last two weeks and, as usual, they made my day!
The power of the written word!

~~~ Do you ever feel like every time you read Scripture the words/passages either thwack you between the eyes or provide exactly what you need to hear, just when you need to hear it?
That is what I have been experiencing these past few weeks, and I have to say - it is WONderful!
There are times my Bible reading feels mechanical - reading for the sake of obedience rather than going before the Word of God EXPECTING to be encouraged, challenged, and changed.
God promises His words "never return void" and that Scripture is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
If Scripture is judging the thoughts and intentions of my heart while I read, then it doesn't matter one bit how I "feel" during the process! Refreshed, convicted, encouraged or robotic ... God is at work and I am being changed. Praise Him, Praise Him for such a truth!

The littles were inspired by D's travels to set up their own airplane in the backyard and pretend to fly
around the world.
It had been unusually quiet in the house, and just when I wondered what they were doing I happened to look out the kitchen window and witnessed this scene. I was not sure what they were doing until I spied the luggage and heard Josiah say, "We will be landing in 20 minutes, ladies and gentlemen." HA!
I love when kids use their imaginations! Who needs TV, iPads, and battery-operated toys when you have a mind that can create a dozen different adventures every day?

I have a new obsession. It's wrong, I know. And yet ...
You see, we have six children. Two of whom are the size of grown men, one who is about to shoot into teen-size, and three little ones who are no longer toddlers weighing in at 30 pounds apiece.
These six children are sitting in the back of a minivan - not next to each other, but ON each other.
Though the van model we have boasts "eight seats," this is not actually true. There are six true seats, and two half seats. These half seats cannot accommodate a child's car seat or the back end of an adult body, which is why we are now bursting at the seams in our faithful van.
So this beauty is what I have my eye on!
Isn't it lovely?
The best part? It has TWELVE SEATS! Twelve! And even if each row contains a half seat it doesn't matter because they can remain empty!
Imagine - an entire two feet of space in between each set of children.
I swoon at the thought!
The rational, mature side of me says, "Who cares if they are squished in like sardines? It forces them to learn how to share, sacrifice and adapt to frustrating circumstances."
The fleshly, annoyed side of me screams, "If I have to listen to ONE MORE argument about who-is sitting-where-and-touching-whom-and-not-being-able-to-fit-in-their-space I am going to blow a proverbial gasket!!!"
Sigh.
Dreams are nice things to have I suppose. <smile>

Dennis and his colleagues were able to visit an amazing place during their stay in Cambodia: Angkor Wat. It is a temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world.
Dennis sent me a note after his visit which read, "The only thing that would make this place better is if you were with me!"
His passion for history and historical artifacts is quite strong. When he has the opportunity to explore a new place - especially one that is hundreds of years old - he grabs hold of it and absorbs every drop of the experience.
The photos do not do it justice, I am sure. Every time I look at them I am awed by the splendor, and find my eyes drawn to the gorgeous, clear, brightly colored sky. The world contains so much beauty! All because of the creative work of a loving God who designed the universe with a word. How great is our God!

~~~ We have an entire weekend ahead of us, and not one commitment! (I know you cannot see me, but my face is BEAMING!)
We have learned the hard way that we need an entire week to recover after Dennis has been out of the country. Just because he comes home, he is not accessible. He is exhausted (they put in 12 hour days while there), off schedule, and goes right back to work the day after he returns. He needs time and space to acclimate to his normal routine, and we need to give him both.
Once he is rested he is back in action - entertaining, engaging, and bringing life to our home.
This has been the easiest transition yet, so we are eagerly looking forward to a weekend of fun, laughter, and good conversations as we debrief about all that took place since we parted.
Three days.
No commitments.
Just us.
Thank You, Lord, for such a gift!

11.18.2015

Quote. God's presence.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13 

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good!" Proverbs 15:3


To walk with God is to live ever as in His presence! To realize His presence, to abide continually under His eye, to recognize our Father as close by our side - is the secret of much peace. We must ever regard Him, not as if He were far away in some inaccessible abode - but nearer to us than our nearest friend. In our chamber, by the wayside, at our work, in our recreation, when mingling with others, or all alone - we must see One whom the world sees not, we must hear a voice that the world hears not.

Whether beneath the eye of man or not, let all things be done under the eye of Him to whom . . . .
  all hearts are open,
  all desires known, and
  from whom no secrets are hidden!

A few plain principles have been given to assist us in carrying this out in daily practice:
Say nothing you would not like God to hear. 
Do nothing you would not like God to see.

Write nothing you would not like God to read.

Go to no place where you would not like God to find you.

Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me."

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like God to say, "What are You doing?"
To consciously live in God's presence will aid us in cultivating through genuine piety and godly character. 

                                                                       ~ George Everard, "Daily Walking!" 1866

11.16.2015

Just come HOME.


I love this.
It is simple yet profound.
Sweet, yet deeply moving.
"Never mind what you've done.
Just
come
HOME."

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15

John MacArthur's notes read:
"Clearly, the father had been waiting and looking for his son's return.The father's eagerness and joy at his son's return is unmistakable. This is the magnificent attribute of God that sets Him apart from all the false gods invented by men and demons. He is not indifferent or hostile, but a Savior by nature, longing to see sinners repent, and rejoicing when they do. 
From the fall to the consummation, God has been and will be seeking to save sinners, and rejoicing each time one repents and is converted.
Notice that the son did not get to finish his rehearsed words of repentance before the father interrupted to grant forgiveness. This picture's God's eagerness to forgive.
Without a single word of rebuke for the past, the father pours out his love for the son, and expresses his joy that what was lost had been found."

And the best part is ... 
not only does God bid us "Come just as you are," He doesn't leave us that way!
Day by day, year by year, He continues the work He began on the day of salvation. Smoothing, shaping, refining ... making us look more and more like His Son.
How great is our God.
Forgiving.
Gracious.
Merciful.

We do not need to get 'cleaned up' before we walk to the foot of the cross.
We just need to start moving.
And like the father with his prodigal son, God seeks us, and then welcomes us with open arms - 
because He loves us.
"Never mind what you've done.
Just
come
HOME."

So He told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15

How blessed we are to be in the sweet and tender care of the Great Shepherd!

11.13.2015

Quote.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do - do it all for the glory of God!" 
I Corinthians 10:31

This same principle is applicable in all common actions and everyday affairs. No single moment of our lives, no single action - ought to be taken outside of the sphere of this rule.
Our rising up and lying down,
the disposal of our time,
the spending of our money,
our social gatherings,
our conversations,
our recreations,
the way of conducting the affairs of our household,
the books we read,
buying and selling,
business transactions of various kinds -
all these, and a multitude of other suchlike matters, are all to be ordered under the daily guidance of this same principle. We are to do all to glorify Him who is . . .
  our Creator,
  our Savior
  our Preserver,
  our most loving Father.

Reader, beware of neglecting to exercise this universal principle in little things. Great occasions for serving God occur but seldom; lesser ones arise every moment. Little things are not to be despised. "He who despises little things, shall fall little by little." Little omissions of duty, little acts of disobedience, as they may seem to us - may prove a great hindrance along our path. A few grains of dust, or a small insect in the eye, will often cause great pain and annoyance. A little stone in a horse's foot will make it stumble again and again.

The Christian will find much the same thing from the indulgence of apparently trivial sins. 
They will . . .
  harass the mind,
  destroy the peace and comfort which he might enjoy,
  prove a stumbling-block to him as he endeavors to run the heavenly race.


~ George Everard, "The Right Principle!" 1866

11.05.2015

God uses friends to remind us that He cares!

This has been a difficult week.
In all areas. Emotionally, physically, spiritually.
I slipped into "robot mode" on Monday so I could function, move, think, respond, and serve.
But as a dear friend says, "That shutting-off is the creation of an emotional grenade. All feelings that get buried get buried alive."
At some point, the emotions must be allowed to surface, and when they do, they need to be embraced, processed, and then filtered through the truths of Scripture.
I am almost ready to do that, but not quite.
I asked a friend to send me a selection of songs to push me into the process. Music is a powerful tool for me, and the Lord uses it to dig deep into the recesses of my heart to reveal all that is hidden therein. And I will admit, there is quite a bit waiting to be released.

I am not just a ninja master when it comes to 'shutting off.' I am also quite adept at doing so - in isolation.
There is no need to burden others with my problems, right? Why should they have to stop their lives to listen to me? They have their own struggles and sorrows, so there is no need to add mine to their pile.
Can anyone say "H Y P O C R I T E?"
I preach non-stop that we are to live out the One Another's of Scripture. I continually challenge women to share their trials so others know their needs and can serve them accordingly. I constantly quote Ephesians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." I even rebuke women when they refuse to knock down their pride to say, "I need you."
And yet ... 
I have to force myself to do the same. A lesson that may, I fear, be life long.
Sigh.

But I am trying!
On Tuesday morning I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone and ask for prayer. I sent a note to a handful of faithful prayer warriors with a brief description of my current state, remembering the time I was rebuked for not letting others in. "Michelle, when you don't share your struggles with us, you rob us the JOY of serving and loving you." I will never forget it.

Praise the Lord for godly, mature, faithful friends who love me enough to speak truth and not just tell me what I want to hear. Their responses were exactly what I needed - biblical, thoughtful, honest, and challenging. No coddling or "poor you's," but simple reminders of God's own words recorded in Scripture. 
When emotion begins to take control, TRUTH must take it back. And Scripture is the only place to find real truth.
Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of friendship, Your Word, and the body of Christ!
                                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh, Michelle, that is a lot to handle all at once. I pray that you would be able to rest in the promises of God right now. He promises to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19. I pray God would grant you the patience you need for each of your children and every circumstance that comes your way. That you will have wisdom. That you will be slow to anger and rich in mercy. That God would give you rest in the midst of all the demands on you! 

Michelle, I am so sympathetic to how you're feeling! I think anyone would be battling the temptation to feel completely overwhelmed. And yes, having the correct perspective is so needed, but the trial IS a real trial no matter how small or large. The enemies focus is the same...to destroy! 
I will really be praying for you to continue to keep your mind renewed in truth! I am praying that you would look back over these days as bringing such glory to God because you walked faithfully and steadily despite how tired, alone, and overwhelmed you might feel. Praying that each time you are tempted to respond according to your flesh, you remember Jesus is advocating on your behalf and that through Christ you can make it through these days victoriously! 
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

I am so glad I texted you. You are right you can't do this. God didn't design you to. Holding thoughts captive and abiding in Him is where the battle is won.
The Lord will be strong today in your weakness, sister! He has promised to be your source of strength and arm you with exactly what you need. He has created today for you to draw near to Him. 
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8
                                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Aren't those notes wonderful?
Nothing but God's word and a challenge to act and think faithfully and obediently.
I LOVE this!
Especially because of the way my mind works. I can justify bad attitudes and incorrect thoughts and unbiblical perspectives simply because I want my way. And this does not please God!

This afternoon I put on a movie for the littles out of sheer laziness and was surprised to hear a knock at the door. I opened it to find a sweet sister holding a vase of flowers and a tasty treat, but the best part was seeing her smiling face! She said, "I just wanted to stop by to give you a hug and tell you I love you." Okay!
We chatted for a few minutes, she encouraged me in the Lord, told me how she was specifically praying for me, and when we parted ways I felt lighter - encouraged - refreshed. Just as it should be after spending time with a sister in Christ!

Like this gift, the work of the Lord is beautiful and sweet.
He allows us to walk through trials so we can be strengthened and find a greater resolve to follow and trust Him - even when we don't like our circumstances and/or they don't make sense.
Our God is GOOD. He is faithful. He is loving. He is sovereign. Not one thing happens without His knowledge. He cares for the sparrows of the air and the grass of the field, and He cares - for US.

11.01.2015

Peace is what I crave!


I purchased these lovely "fruits of the spirit" watercolor cards some time ago simply because of their beauty. I was not sure what I would do with them at first, and then an idea came to me.
I purchased a small plate holder and place one of the cards on it each week so we can focus on that specific fruit.
I have not been able to walk through our family room without my eyes being drawn to the card, thereby forcing me to meditate on the fruit displayed and praying for the Lord to make it a tangible reality in our home.

This particular card will be staying in its place for another week. Or two. Or three.
Why?
Because we haven't acquired it yet.

I want peace to permeate our home. Not the peace that means 'quiet' but the peace that reflects contentment - stillness - gentleness - and joy.
I want peace to permeate our relationships. Those that are effortless and those that are difficult.
I want peace to permeate our hearts. A deep, satisfying inner joy that continually reminds us that "it is well with my soul."

Oh, Lord, may this desire become a reality!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18

10.29.2015

We are blessed because of their obedience.

Dennis and I are filled to the brim with gratefulness to the Lord for providing two godly, mature, wise men to speak into the lives of our oldest sons.

As parents, we invest years of training, teaching, and discipleship into our children.
And then a time comes when they need to hear other voices.
Voices that speak the same truth we speak, but with a different perspective, tone, conviction, and passion.
Voices that sound familiar because the words are the same, but the delivery is changed.
Voices that repeat the words of God and make them sound fresh and exciting.
Simply stated: Our sons need to be discipled!

Micah and Luke love us. They respect us. They listen to us.
But we are only two people out of thousands who love the Lord and desire to be like Him.
Our perspective and life experience is limited to our personalities and our pasts.
We do not share all of the same interests or passions of our children, nor do we possess the same character strengths and weaknesses.
We are limited, Dennis and I. We have much to offer, we love our sons more than anyone else, and we know them better than anyone else. And yet, they need MORE than us.
Micah and Luke need to be sharpened by many strong, focused, godly men who love the Lord, love their families, and seek the Savior more than self. Men who are willing to speak truth - identify sin - correct and admonish - encourage - pray for - and love their brothers in Christ ... even when those brothers are teenagers.

I always wondered how I would feel about discipleship when Micah and Luke were still young. Would I be able to trust someone else to guide my sons in the paths of righteousness? Would I want them confessing sin to a 'stranger?' Share our personal family issues? Ask for advice and counsel?
I am finally able to answer that question now that I am sitting in the spectator seat of the discipleship relationship. And the answer is, "YES! Yes, Yes, YES!"
The impact these men have in the lives of our sons is eternal.
A word, a statement, a challenge, a rebuke ...
Prayer, encouragement, praise ...
Each one is welcome and appreciated!

Asking a man to sacrifice time for someone else's child is no small thing. He has a wife, children, a career, ministry, friendships, extended family, hobbies and interests, and needs to sleep on occasion. His time is valuable. It must not be taken for granted.
This is precisely why we are grateful for the men who willingly agreed to invest in the lives of our sons when asked. They did so with conviction and joy, and their impact is evident.
They are living out the "one another's of Scripture" and our family is being blessed because of their obedience.

How good it is to be part of the body of Christ!

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
I Corinthians 12:24-26

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 
I Thessalonians 5:11

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
James 5:16

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

10.27.2015

The Lord shows us how to walk with Him.

One of the beauties of living in a time when we have access to multiple Bibles is the ability to read passages of Scripture in different translations. Though the context is the same in each, the choice of words varies just enough to give a broader perspective to the meaning and drive home the purpose of the passage.

I read through the Psalms each month (a habit I started in college) and yesterday Psalm 26 wrapped itself around me and would not let me go. I must have read the first few verses half a dozen times just to grasp what David was saying, and even then I was not satisfied. I went and looked up more translations, and I was so glad I did!

Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.
For Your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in Your faithfulness.  (ESV)

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.  (NIV)

Vindicate me, O Lord,
For I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the Lord;
I shall not slip.
Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth. (NKJV)

How I would love to be able to pen these words at the end of my life!
I cannot do so now.
I am not blameless.
My faith has wavered.
My eyes have looked away from His love.
I have not always walked in truth.

But God ... (one of the BEST word sequences in Scripture!)
But God is gracious and merciful and knew before He redeemed me that I could not live a blameless life. Not even with the Holy Spirit dwelling within me can I achieve perfection. He knew - and He had a remedy prepared.

Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name’s sake, O Lord,

Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. Psalm 25

How wonderful it is to belong to a God who equips those He calls and never stops working to make them look more like Him until the day they are called home to Glory.

Lord, I pray You will continue to refine me, no matter how uncomfortable, until I trust in You "without wavering" and am able to encourage others to do the same.
Make me like You, Lord. Make me like You.

10.23.2015

Dyslexia can be used for God's glory - and our good!

This morning I sat next to my oldest son in a room filled with 250 people who all had something in common. Dyslexia.
It was the first time I have ever been in 'community' with others who struggle with dyslexia or teach/care for/love someone who is dyslexic. And I was overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed by the comfort of being with people who "get it."
Overwhelmed by the testimonies of hardships and shame and misery experienced in the school setting when they were children.
Overwhelmed by the frustration of prejudice and misunderstanding and ignorance projected onto people who are dyslexic.

The seminar kicked off with the testimonies of three incredibly successful dyslexics who had to overcome tremendous odds to get where they are today. I was surprised by the emotion evoked by their stories. My eyes were wet with tears at least a dozen times, but I would not give in to the feelings bubbling under the surface. "This is not the time or the place, Michelle! Why are you so emotional anyway? Pull it together!" But it was difficult. Many of their statements struck a chord deep in my heart, and I found myself experiencing an empathy I didn't know was possible.

They made me laugh because they have learned the art of creating "a joke between us, not about us" and are brilliant at bringing comic relief into a serious topic.
Learning disabilities are not funny. They are real. They are painful. They change lives - and they ruin lives.
But it doesn't have to be that way.

Dyslexia is a GIFT.
The brain works differently in a dyslexic person which forces them to think differently. Creatively. Sometimes illogically. Because they have no choice. They can't do things 'like everybody else' so they forge a new path. They fail over and over when trying to accomplish things the traditional way, so they possess a resilience which enables them to push through difficulties until they find success.

Tears, frustration, anger, embarrassment, shame ... all of these accompany dyslexia in some form because it is almost impossible to hide. Even without a label there is a perceived difference and comments are made, judgments are formed, and prejudices are created.
Though these dyslexic adults have achieved great success (international fame), there is still a shadow that crosses the face and a quiver in the voice when they tell their stories ... when they tap into those dark days when they were told they were stupid, lazy, and not willing to apply themselves.
The wounds have healed, but the scars remain.

The beauty is - they did not let their dyslexia DEFINE them. They let it DRIVE them.
They played up their strengths, their gifting, and their brilliance in ways that were not conventional or understood. They pushed the boundaries. They ignored the rules. They convinced people their way was better.
And they were RIGHT!

I was captivated by their stories.
Encouraged.
Challenged.
And convicted.

Listening to them share with ears seeking information and knowledge was one thing.
Listening with the ears of a mother who is raising and educating four dyslexic children was quite another.
Certain words, specific phrases, and overall attitudes they expressed drew my mind to the ways I have addressed dyslexia in our family. I have done some things well, and I have failed in others.
Once again, I was overwhelmed.

We were given a 20-minute break, Micah stepped outside to stretch, and I stood quietly to the side watching the group interact with one another. (95% of the group were educators/therapists.) As I stood there, the emotions I had ignored for the last 90 minutes refused to be held back, and the tears began rolling down my cheeks.
I moved back to my chair, sat down, and cried.
Right in the middle of the George Bush Conference Room.
I cried for the mistakes I have made.
I cried for the ignorance I possessed in the early years, and the choices I made based on that ignorance.
I cried for the humiliating moments when people shined a spotlight on the seeming shortcomings and inabilities of my dyslexic children - when my children knew they were being mocked.
I cried for the children I don't even know who are treated like they are 'lesser' simply because they cannot do things like everybody else.
I cried for the adults who still carry the pain of decades of shame placed upon them by the parents and teachers in their lives who should have been protecting them.
I cried because I needed to find that place inside of me that could empathize with the pain a dyslexic person feels ... and feel with them.

Whether anyone noticed me sitting in the middle of the room wiping away tears, I don't know. But in those isolated minutes, I felt like I was living in their skin - for the first time.
I am not dyslexic. I cannot and will not try to pretend I understand their struggles, their battles, or the war that requires constant awareness, attention, emotion, and fight.
But I want to understand.

Micah returned from the break to discover my watery eyes and immediately asked, "Mom, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm okay." (How does one explain to her firstborn dyslexic child that she did not know enough to DO enough for him? That she pushed him too hard in some areas and did not encourage enough in others?)
He didn't buy it.
"Mom. You are sitting in a seminar crying. Something is wrong."
I looked at him through my tears and said, "I am just mourning the lost opportunities and mistakes I made with you and Caleb and Josiah. I could have done so much more."
And that is when I saw it. A glimpse of the young man he is becoming.
He responded, "Mom, you haven't done anything wrong. You did the best you could with what you knew. It's just another chance for redemption. God knows. And He will take care of it."
That did it.
Truth trumped emotion.

None of my children are DEFINED by their dyslexia.
Their identity - their intelligence - their skills - their everything is defined by CHRIST!
God created each of my children in His image, and He knows the plans He has prepared for them to give them a future and a hope. Even with a learning disability.
He can break through any learning barrier - any physical, mental or emotional barrier - and His glory will be seen when they accomplish things DESPITE their dyslexia because they can do all things through HIM who gives them strength!

Imagine how thrilled I was to return home after the seminar to find a box waiting for me which contained a Bible for Josiah.
He has to fight so hard to read - to recall the sounds of letters - to remember a word he just figured out two minutes before.
If he can only learn to read one book I want it to be the Bible!
And today - he did. He read a sentence from the Bible for the first time.
He had to work through each word, but when he finished the sentence he looked up, an enormous smile on his face, and declared, "I read the Bible!"

The world thinks it decides intelligence - who, what, where, when, why, how. But it does not.
My children were formed in the secret places of the earth by a God who chose every detail of their mind and body, and He will use their strengths and their weaknesses for His glory. And for their good.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40

10.21.2015

The contrast of life and death make sense in the hands of a sovereign God.

What a week of contrasts.
News of births and pregnancies.
News of unexpected deaths.
How tightly they are woven together.

A baby draws his first breath while a woman draws her last.

My thoughts keep floating to Ecclesiastes 3 - remembering the truth that there is a time for everything.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Life.
Death.

We must rejoice over the first, and trust the Lord in the second.
Both are from His hand, both are in His time, and both are for His purposes.
He gives and takes away ... BLESSED be the name of the Lord!

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

10.20.2015

Quotes to encourage-challenge-inspire us as we train our children in righteousness.

I wanted to record a handful of quotes that impacted me while reading this book. (Not one of the pages is void of highlights - and I am only halfway through!)

Getting to the hearts of our children takes much more time, energy, and effort than simply stopping a behavior - but the results are worth every discussion, every sleepless night, and every sacrifice made.

I trust the Lord will use these words to encourage and inspire other parents who need a little "pick me up" in this long race called Parenting.
We were not meant to run this race alone. We need each other!
We need to PRAY for each other.
Encourage one another.
Listen to one another.
And more than anything, we need to push each other back into Scripture so we can find the wisdom, the help, and the strength we need to be obedient to God's call to "train our children in righteousness."
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Training and shepherding are going on whenever you are with your children. Whether waking, walking, talking or resting, you must be involved in helping your child to understand life, himself and his needs from a biblical perspective (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)."

"All behavior is linked to an attitude of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart. Your concern is to unmask your child's sin, helping him to understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed. That leads to the cross of Christ. It underscores the need for a Savior."

"If correction orbits around the parents who has been offended, then the focus will be venting anger or, perhaps, taking vengeance. If, however, correction orbits around God as the one offended, then the focus is restoration. It is designed to move a child who has disobeyed God back to the path of obedience. It is corrective."

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; therefore, your objective in every context must be to set a biblical world-view before your children. From their earliest days, they must be taught that they are creatures made in the image of God - made for God. They must learn that they will only "find themselves" as they find Him."

"It is our task to faithfully teach our children the ways of God. It is the Holy Spirit's task to work through the Word of God to change their hearts."

"If you address only behavior in your children, you never get to the cross of Christ. It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel. The gospel is not a message about doing new things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given His Son to make us new creatures. God does open-heart surgery, not a face-lift. He produces change from the inside out."

"Instead of talking to our children, we should seek to talk with our children. Communication is not a monologue. It is a dialogue."

"One of the most powerful ways we can warn our children is to fill their heads with the cautions of the Bible."

"Honest, thorough, truly biblical communication is expensive. Insightful and penetrating conversations take time. Children require both time and flexibility. Children do not pour out their hearts or open themselves up on a demand schedule. A wise parent talks when the kids are in the mood. In those times, when their conscience is stirred, you need to talk. This may require dropping everything else to seize a critical moment.
You must become a good listener. You will miss precious opportunities when you only half-listen to your children."

"You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. This is your calling. There is nothing more important. You have only a brief season of life to invest yourself in this task. You have only one opportunity to do it. You cannot go back and do it over."

Quote.

"The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another."

10.18.2015

Motherhood regrets and guilt - replaced with forgiveness.

I am now on my fourth read of this wonderful book. Four reads! 
Clearly, I am a slow learner because the wisdom and truth contained in the pages are smacking me between the eyes as though I've never read them before.
Sigh.
Fifteen years of parenting and I am still a novice.
Schedules, routines, time management, organization, chore lists, lesson plans, holidays ... no problem! Almost effortless.
Issues of the heart? Tremendous effort is required on my part, and my success to failure rate is 50-50. I could attribute the successes and failures to my personality, my past, and my perspective, but most of it? Sin. Age old, nothing-new-under-the-sun sin.
And I hate it!

The Lord is using this book to purge me. He is doing a work from the inside out - and it is difficult to bear.
Do I have regrets as a parent? Yes.
Do I feel guilt and shame about my thoughts/words/actions as a parent? Yes.
Do I wish I could turn back time and do things differently? Double YES!
But I cannot.
The past is past. It cannot be undone or changed.
What it can be, however, is RESTORED!

I have had to work through regret and guilt over the years, but if I am honest, really really honest, I never went the distance. I would satisfy myself with a "Forgive me for all of my sins as a parent, Lord," or "Forgive me for being impatient and angry." What I would not do is what we are commanded to do in Scripture - confess our sins - one by one - every day.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5 Confession and repentance are not one-time when-I-got-saved actions. We are to continually confess our sins, and then exchange our sin for righteousness. "Put Off - Put On" as Ephesians commands.

And that is what the Lord has been showing me.
This book has brought up painful memories. Shameful words, embarrassing actions, ugly attitudes, and unbiblical responses toward my children.
One night I was so overcome with guilt and sorrow I actually prayed, "Lord? Why did You even give me children if You knew I couldn't handle it? Why did You trust me?!?"
Images washed over me like a flood. Things I remembered, things I had forgotten ... they all showed themselves with crystal clarity as I cringed under the covers. Everything in me wanted to scream, "STOP! I can't take anymore!" But I had to take it. I walked through each of those moments, confessing, begging the Lord to forgive me, to protect my children from my negative influence, and to "restore the years the locusts have eaten."
As the sins piled up and I imagined how differently I could have done so many things as a mother, I started to panic. "I can't go back!" "I can't go back!" I kept shouting that phrase in my mind over and over again feeling like I was fighting to stay afloat in an ocean of waves that kept crashing on top of me, forcing me forward when I wanted to go back. Even thinking about it now makes my breathing quicken as I remember that feeling of helplessness.
I hated it. I hated my sin. I hated the hurt and sorrow I have caused my children. I hated my inability to change the past. I hated myself.
And that is when the Lord stepped in.

He collected my thoughts and took them captive for me since I was unable to do so myself.
Though my sin was real, it hurt my children, it hurt the heart of God, and I was disobedient - my past sins do not DEFINE me.
As He is always to faithful to do, the Lord began pouring the TRUTH of Scripture into my mind to combat the accusations of the enemy.
Romans 8:1 is the verse I clung to in the darkness. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation - no condemnation ... I kept repeating it to myself until I BELIEVED it.
I have sinned against my children, and in doing so I have sinned against God. And each one, every single one of my sins - was nailed to the cross when my Savior died.
God's wrath was poured out on the body of His Son, though I deserved His wrath myself, and my sins of scarlet became radiantly white because I was - FORGIVEN.

I was not expecting such a radical response to the words in this book. But the Lord knew what was coming! And He used it for His purposes. He needed to open my eyes to truth, push me through the process of confession and repentance, and then bind my wounds and sooth my grieving heart when it was all over.
Praise Him for such kindness and grace.

My ability to sin has not ended. I will offend and hurt my children again through action and word. But I am going to fight incredibly hard to confess my sin immediately to avoid a "record of wrongs," repent before my children and the Lord, and then bask in the beautiful gift of forgiveness because I am a daughter of a God who does not lie (Titus 1:2) and promises that He does not hold my sin against me but removes it as far as the east is from the west.
I do not have to live in regret, or guilt, or shame because of my failings as a mother. When I confess and repent, I am FORGIVEN by a gracious, merciful, and mighty God. My sin no longer has power because His love conquered sin - forever!
Thank You, Lord!

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18-19

10.16.2015

If we need it we can be sure others need the same!

I am loving our II Corinthians study!
This week we read chapter two which boasts one of the best models of forgiveness in Scripture.
I have done several studies on forgiveness in my lifetime, but I noticed something different in this particular passage that gave me pause.
One word. Comfort. One word floating in the midst of dozens of others, yet the Lord fixed my mind on it so I would think about it, research it, and understand why it was there.
I love when He does that!

Below are the notes I sent to my girls in our weekly exchange, with a few additions weaved throughout after having more time to think and study.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. II Corinthians 2

This is a fantastic passage regarding forgiveness!
Paul is very clear that the one who made the offense should be forgiven - comforted - and affirmed with love.

Sometimes it is difficult to forgive someone - even after confession and repentance take place. We want to nurse our wounds, and if we are really honest, we do not always want them let off the hook so fast, or with too little discomfort. We feel justified in our anger and bitterness because, after all, we are the victims. We are the wounded, the hurting, the injured. And justice says someone must pay.

Scripture, however, leaves absolutely no margin for bitterness, anger, or an unforgiving spirit. All are considered sin, and none of them please God.  Jesus declared, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6
In case there is still doubt we can look to these verses for affirmation:
~ Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
~ Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is number one on Paul's list.
The second? Comfort.
Paul says, "... you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."

This piece of instruction intrigued me. Why would Paul ask believers to comfort the offender? Shouldn't he be seeking comfort for the one who was wounded?
After reading these verses over and over and looking them up in different versions, it appears the issue has been discussed, prayed over, and dealt with. The offender was disciplined, and now it is time to restore him. And as we know, repentance and restoration are ALWAYS the goal when someone is in sin. Small or large, sin breaks the heart of God and breaks the unity in the church. We must never stop praying for holiness, maturity, and godliness in the life of believers!

Paul's compassion and empathy are palpable. He is asking the church to release the offending brother from his "excessive sorrow." Another version reads, "... lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow."
This may seem strange at first glance, until we remember our own sin. That one, those two, those hundreds that brought us such shame ... such regret.

A truly repentant sinner is miserable. He is excessively sorry for his sin and wants to make restitution for it. He wonders if forgiveness is possible. If relationships can be restored. If trust and respect will ever be earned again.
A believer in this state of sorrow, shame, guilt, and regret needs comfort! Heaps and heaps of comfort.
Saying, "I forgive you," and then walking away exhibits obedience - but lacks compassion.
In that critical moment we must throw our arms around our brother and offer words of hope, mercy, and grace. He needs to hear TRUTH to replace the lies the enemy is whispering in his ear.
He needs to be reminded he is FORGIVEN. Set FREE! And able to move forward with a clean slate and a clear conscience.

Sin is real. It is always crouching at our door, and the enemy is continually on the prowl seeking to devour us.
Sin is a choice. When we choose sin over the Savior - it destroys us. It may be quick, or a slow, painful demise, but sin always destroys.
Which is what makes repentance so REAL. So torturous.
We are 'swallowed up by sorrow' when we recognize we have grieved the heart of God..
~ Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4
~ For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7
When a brother in Christ is broken over his sin - he needs to be comforted! He needs to know he is not alone. He is understood. He is accepted, and forgiven.

The dictionary definition states:
Comfort
- a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
- the easing or alleviation of a person's feelings of grief or distress
- ease the grief or distress of; console

What greater way to ease grief and distress than with the genuine forgiveness and sincere love of the body of Christ!

Forgiveness --> Comfort --> Affirmation with love
This is Paul's model for us to follow when wronged by a fellow believer.
Like all of Scripture, there is no clause in this command. "Comfort him, unless you really can't stand him." "Affirm you love for him, unless you are tired of extending forgiveness and grace to someone who was such a jerk." Nope! Paul may as well scream, "Do it whether you feel like it or not, or think he deserves it! Just OBEY!"

We all sin.
We all need grace. Mercy. Compassion and comfort.
We need forgiveness and love.
If we need it, we can be sure others - desire the same.

Lord, thank You, for bringing this little word before my eyes so I might be challenged and encouraged to act upon it. It can be difficult to comfort someone who has hurt us, but You are not concerned about our comfort in that moment, but care about the heart of our brother. You desire unity and peace within the body - not shame, regret, or excessive sorrow. Restoration and redemption - those are Your goals! So they should be ours.
Give us hearts ready to forgive. Give us hearts ready to comfort the one who is broken over his sin. Give us a godly love to pour over him so we might lead him back to the path of righteousness, for his healing, and Your glory.
Thank You for this model, Lord! How good You are to give us such direction.

10.02.2015

Lessons from a young sister in the Lord.

I recently enjoyed the privilege of spending three hours with a young woman whom I have known for eight years, but have never once engaged in private conversation. We knew a lot about each other, but we did not know each other.
We do now!
It was a delight to listen to her talk, sharing about everything and nothing as she swept through a myriad of topics like family dynamics, health issues, friendships, how she copes with stress, future plans, work, modesty, and personal struggles. (Yes, we covered a lot of ground in our three hour window of time! It's what girls do!)

As we took turns talking and listening to each other I was encouraged and challenged by my young sister in a few different ways.

~ It is refreshing to spend time with young people because they have energy and enthusiasm and a zest for life that is contagious. Though they are in school or working full time, their lives are carefree, unencumbered by mortgage payments, the trials and triumphs of marriage, and the intense responsibility of raising children. They have freedom to roam and travel and try new things. Their income is their own, time is theirs to spend as they wish, and no one is dependent upon their choices and decisions.
I remember those years! I enjoyed my freedom immensely, but I do not long to have it back. I long for moments/hours/a day of freedom, but in the end, I would rather spend my time serving, thinking, planning, and impacting the lives of others, rather than my own.
There is balance to be had on both sides of the freedom coin - and those who walk the wire with wisdom (and continual adjustment) are wholly satisfied and content.

~ While she was sharing about her family life she said something that struck me, and it has been replaying in my mind all day.
She was describing the differences between her and her siblings, how she has learned to accept them "as they are" and grown to appreciate their differences, and then she said this: At the end of the day none of that matters anyway. I have siblings who are saved and who love God - what else is there? That is EVERYthing!
What a fantastic perspective!
We have the privilege of choosing our friends - we do not get to choose our family. God does that for us in His sovereign will. He places us together, good, bad, ugly and beautiful - and then commands us to love, serve, and forgive one another. We will not always get along, we will lock horns, battle over the dumbest things and the important things, offend, hurt, accuse, and ignore each other. We are sinners trying to love other sinners.
But if we keep our eyes locked on the most important thing: salvation and eternal security for those we love, we will not be crushed by the pettiness and selfishness of family life because we know it doesn't matter. Do we have saved family members? Praise the Lord! May they continue to grow in obedience and grace. Do we have family members who want no part of God? Then we must pray for them! We must pray as if their lives depended on it - because they DO! We should be found banging on the gates of heaven with our requests, asking the Lord to open their eyes so they can see Him, and accept the free gift of salvation He so willingly offers.
It is not natural for us to focus on the big picture. Our flesh likes to pick out all of the flaws and mistakes we see in others. But if we can learn to look at each other through the lens of eternity - how differently we would perceive one another! Like the Lord, we would not look at the outward appearance, but only at the HEART.

~ We cannot assume that "what we see is what we get" when observing others from a distance.
We as women are guilty of this quite often.
We see a wealthy woman and think, "Her life is nothing but ease and comfort. She wants for nothing and struggles with little."
We see a beautiful and well-put-together woman and think, "She has no idea what it is like to be ignored and passed by."
We see a woman with well-behaved children and think, "Of course she loves being a mother and speaks gently to her children. She doesn't have to deal with defiance. I would be like that too if my kids obeyed!"
We see a woman whose husband seemingly adores her and serves her continually and think, "Must be nice. I would be content and joyful if MY husband treated me that way!"
And on it goes.
But all of these thoughts and assumptions are based on APPEARANCES - not on fact. Not on truth.
We can learn about people by observing their interactions and responses to others, but we are only seeing part of the story. Unless we are willing to sit down, get cozy, and do a little investigating, we will never know the whole truth.
The wealthy woman may desire to give everything up to have her husband home with the family instead of in the office 80 hours a week. She is lonely.
The beautiful woman may have been abused and struggles daily with bitterness, fear, and forgiveness.
The woman with well-behaved children has spent hours and hours of her life training her children, taking them to Scripture, crying over them, disciplining them, and wondering if they are ever going to "get it." What we see is just a snapshot of success after countless hours of frustration and consistency.
The woman with an adoring husband may have spent the first decade of her marriage in a prison of depression and despair because of poor choices and sin, but now they are RESTORED to one another and enjoying the fruits of forgiveness.

My young sister made me see this clearly last night.
Many of my assumptions about her personality and character were correct, but there was so much more waiting to be discovered, and how thankful I am she was willing to let me bring my pick!

~ The body of Christ is not meant to be made up of pockets of people who are exactly the same.
All the teenagers over here. All of the senior citizens over there. No, no, NO! We are a BODY! We are meant to work and move and interact with each other - without boundaries and without borders.
Old people need to hold babies.
Middle aged people need to read build Lego's with a 10-year-old.
Teenagers need to change diapers.
College students need to spend time with older people to gain wisdom and insight about life.

I would be incomplete and missing out on so much in life if I only spent time with other middle-aged women trying to keep body parts from sagging while driving SUV's full of children to basketball practice.
I need to hold a newborn baby, feed a college student, hug a senior, encourage a new mom, listen to children laughing loudly while chasing each other through a park, encourage a single person, be excited for a new bride, celebrate at a retirement party, and attend a very loud concert with young people.
I need them - and they need me.
We need EACH OTHER.
And that's exactly how God intended it to be.

Thank You, Lord, for last night! I needed the time away, but You gave me so much more. You gave me PERSPECTIVE. And I am thankful!
Continue to work in the heart of my young sister as she navigates through life unaware of Your plans for her future, but trusting You with everything. Give her an intense passion for Your Word and prayer, and make her more like You day by day.