Self-control is not an option.

"If we are feeling uncomfortable from any cause, we have no right, according to the law of love, to diffuse our irritations through the household. If we are in any unhappy mood, in which we cannot suppress the ill-humor, we have no right to vent it in the circle of our loved ones, and would far better go to our own room, or out into the fresh air, alone, somewhere, and stay until we have gotten back our sweet spirit again, so that we can scatter roses, not thorns, among our loved ones." ~ J.R. Miller

This quote smacked me in the side of the face when I read it last week.
I needed the hit.

It is so easy to unleash on the ones closest to us because it is "safe." We do not fear disgust or rejection from our spouse or children because they are always there. They know us. They accept us "as we are." But does that make it RIGHT?
If we behaved in public - at work, at church, in social settings, with friends - like we do at home when we are in a foul temper, we would soon find ourselves receiving few invitations to join the human race.
Why is that?
Why do we have self-control and tight reigns over our mouths, our actions, and our attitudes when in a crowd of people? In a board room? A Bible study? At an engagement party?
We have no, or very little, trouble thinking before we speak, being aware of who is around and how our words might affect them, or speaking with kindness when we are in public.
And then we come home.
We complain, rant, gossip, slander, vent, spew, criticize, roll our eyes, sigh, and respond in ugly tones - because we are frustrated, annoyed, hurt, offended, worried, or exhausted.
We are able to contain all of those sinful, negative actions when we were with our friends, the CEO, and our pastor, but ask us to exercise self-control at home where we are safe and secure? Forget it.

"If we are in any unhappy mood, in which we cannot suppress the ill-humor, we have no right to vent it in the circle of our loved ones, and would far better go to our own room, or out into the fresh air, alone, somewhere, and stay until we have gotten back our sweet spirit again, so that we can scatter roses, not thorns, among our loved ones."

When I read this I was reminded of a scene in Anne of Green Gables when Marilla and Anne get into an argument and Anne refuses to submit. Anne storms off, Marilla is overwhelmed and undone, and instead of following Anne, huffing and puffing all the way, she walks into the field to pull herself together. Her brother, Matthew, watches her with a grin which declares, "She is going to cool off." And she does.
Marilla returns to the kitchen, calm and collected, and graciously accepts Anne's apology when she offers one.

Marilla responded as J.R. Miller encourages us to do.

But J.R. Miller is not the ultimate authority.
God is.
So we need to look to His Word, for His commands, and then - obey.
Self-control is not an option.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, 
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded 
for the sake of your prayers. 1 Peter 4:7

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 5:22, 23

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age … 
Titus 2:11-14

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; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5



"I am the LORD your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy." Leviticus 11

We do greatly deceive ourselves, if we imagine that we are drawing nearer to Heaven - while only following those courses which lead to Hell. 

We are woefully deluded, if we suppose that we are journeying towards glory - and yet are living in sin. 

Christ died to procure holiness - not to secure an indulgence for sin. 

To live in known and allowed sin, and yet expect to be saved by Christ - is the master deception of Satan! 

My reader, a faith which does not transform character and reform conduct, is worthless. 

Saving faith is only proved to be genuine by bearing the blossoms of experimental godliness and the fruits of personal piety.

Great multitudes of ignorant people who live under the Gospel, harden their hearts in sin and ruin their souls forever, by trusting on Christ for such an 'imaginary salvation' as consists not at all in holiness - but only in forgiveness of sin and deliverance from everlasting torments. They would be free from the punishments due to sin - but they love their lusts so well that they hate holiness and do not desire to be saved from the service of sin. If they do not desire to be made holy and righteous in their hearts and lives - then they do not heartily desire true salvation.

                                                                                                     ~ Arthur Pink, 1937


I use a hammer, but I own a pillow!

Our COMMITTED group had been apart for a couple of months, so to reconnect us at our last meeting I asked everyone to bring an item that represents where they are in their walk with the Lord, and an item to represent where they would LIKE to be with the Lord.
I always enjoy this exercise because it is not invasive but still reveals much about each person.

My girls were creative, as always, and brought interesting items. A watch, a pull-up, a plant, curly ribbon, a juice drink, and Rolo's to name a few!
They presented their items, explained them, and then offered more details and depth when answering our questions.
This activity is always light-hearted and fun - and - purposeful.
Spending time together as believers is always a good thing, but spending time confessing sin, encouraging one another, and praying for one another is better.
And that is always our goal for COMMITTED: To leave each other with a desire to read the Word, pray, and love God more than we did when we arrived.
My time with these young women is such a blessing!

So - why the pillow and the hammer?
Those were my items. Quite a dichotomy, yes?

The hammer represents where I am in my walk with the Lord.
Toiling. Laboring. Striving.
I keep swinging the hammer over and over again expecting different results. Problems will be solved. Attitudes will improve. Habit will become passion.
But nothing changes. I just keep swinging, getting one nail secured only to find three more that must be thwacked into place.
It is exhausting, and fruitless.

And the whole time I am breaking a sweat with the cold, hard hammer in my grip, I can see the soft, fluffy pillow in the corner of my eye.

The pillow represents where I WANT to be with the Lord.
Content and secure.
Trusting the One who holds me close as I nestle in the pillow that rests against His strength.

But the truth is, there is comfort in the swinging and striving - because I am in control.
I decide when, where, and how hard to swing. Forget the fact that the Lord is continually clearing His throat in my ear asking, "Are you done wasting your time yet, daughter? I have a better way."
"You mean there is something better than endless toil, failure, and defeated pride? Who wouldn't want to exchange waste for profit?"
Me, apparently.

As appealing as the pillow is to me, however, there is risk in resting on it.
When I am in pajamas, cozy, relaxed, and asleep - I am vulnerable.
I have no idea what is happening in the next room, let alone out in the world.
I cannot make decisions, veto ideas, share my opinion, or get my way.
I am asleep! Completely dependent on the one who is awake, alert and aware.
The only thing I can do - is TRUST.

When I have the hammer in my hands I don't have to trust. I am making all of the decisions - even if they are terrible ones. There is an illusion of control - and it is comfortable.
But 'comfort' is not what God has promised me.
Control has never been offered.

I hate that I keep swinging my hammer. I hate that I even own one.
But - I take comfort in the fact that I also own a pillow!
I may not use it enough, and I may not always recognize the value of surrendering to its comfort, but it is in my possession - and that is a start!

Lord, break my desire for toil and striving, and teach me how to surrender to the safety and security of Your rest.
Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind
Ecclesiastes 4:6

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23



"The questions should not be, "How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?" There is nothing noble in such living.

The questions should rather be, "How can I pass through these trying experiences — and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles — and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these testings of my temper — and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?" This is the true problem of Christian living."
                                                                                                   ~J.R. Miller


An important lesson I needed to learn!

Last night I could not sleep, and while I stared at the ceiling praying, thinking, and pondering, my thoughts kept roaming back to the thoughtful note I received in the mail. Something seemed familiar about it - as if it was confirming something I had already heard.
And then, all of a sudden - Light bulb! (to quote Gru from Despicable Me)
It sounded familiar because it WAS!

My sweet Angela chose these verses to encourage me:
And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 
I Corinthians 1:9

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith Hebrews 12:1, 2

Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator ... 
Colossians 3:10

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy ... Jude 24

Do you see it?
The very first verse is the same one the Lord pressed upon my heart to cling to during the "Under Construction" job He is doing on our family.

I thought about the wonder of this ... how the Lord put thoughts of me in the mind of my sister, prompted her to write out these specific Scriptures, and faithfully sent them to me at the moment I needed to hear them. "How good is a timely word!"
If the Lord orchestrated the timing and the words - then I better LISTEN!

The Lord uses the Holy Spirit, His Word, and His church to minister to the saints.
Therefore, when He prompts a brother or sister to share Scripture with me as a source of encouragement or correction, I need to take it seriously - listen intently - and pray over what He brought to my attention.

As I talked to the Lord about this new revelation, and wondered how many times I have missed His lessons by responding to a note with, "How sweet" rather than absorbing what was said and how it applied to my life, I was reminded of an e-mail I received the previous morning.
I pulled it up, read it again - and smiled.
Every verse she quotes relates to the theme of God's never-ending work in the lives of His children.
Every verse relates to the needs we have as a family, specifically me as a mother, as He takes us through this time of construction and remodeling.
Every verse relates to the truth that HE is God - and I am not. 
I cannot give up, I cannot grow weary, I must keep my eyes fixed on Him, I must put off sin and put on righteousness, and I must remember that He IS the author and perfecter of my faith - and therefore, I can trust Him. In all things. In all ways. No matter how long it takes.

This is her letter:
I love you Michelle, my dear sister and beautiful friend.
As I was in the Word I was struck by the way life is a "passing shadow". I was compelled to send you a note of Truth, wishing so much I could be sitting across from you over some breakfast.

I was reminded this morning again, of how small man is. Yet God loves us and is so intimately acquainted with us, even our unformed substance.
This life is such a struggle, a battle, in a world filled with wickedness and sin, with hearts bent towards evil. Thankfully though, a dwelling place and not our home.
Take courage in knowing you are walking in a manner worthy of your calling with which you've been called. Don't grow weary in doing what is right. Continue to take refuge in and seek wisdom from a Heavenly Father who understands your thoughts from afar, who searches you and knows you by name. He sits above the circle of the earth, and nothing happens that He does not allow. He gives strength to the weary, with His mercies new every morning, and He longs to be gracious to you. He waits on high to have compassion on you, because He is the God of mercy and grace.
Your life is an active testimony of what it means to live with purpose and glory to our Father in Heaven.
Keep you eyes fixed on Him as you boldly approach His Throne of Grace. He is always there, and will never leave you or forsake you.
I treasure you. Keep moving forward.

She knew nothing about my struggle. She knew I was wrestling with the Lord, but had no idea why, or how long the match would last. But because she loves God more than she loves me, she was willing to be obedient to share what He put on her heart, and I was blessed because of her obedience.

I learned an important lesson last night.
Words spoken in person.
Words written on the page.
Not just any words ... but words inspired by the Lord to provide encouragement, comfort, correction, and admonishment.
When God speaks, He expects to be heard. And obeyed.
And His words are clear and unmistakeable when they come directly from the pages of Scripture.

Thank You, Lord for affirming what You are teaching me through the faithfulness of these two sisters. Your Word is TRUTH - and there is no confusion when we trust in it!


My heart is wicked - yet HE loves ME!

I don't remember what my pastor said, or the context, but in my sermon notes from Sunday the words, "God knows every detail of our hearts - and yet He loves us" are scrawled across the page with an arrow pointing to the phrase, "Investigate!" next to them.
I kept the paper, thought about the words several times, and finally decided to begin the investigation.
I'm sure there are greater depths to plumb, but these verses were enough to satisfy me.

When you consider the wickedness of man's heart - and the all-consuming love of a holy God, it is difficult to blend the two. Like two magnets repelling one another, it seems to be an impossible alliance.
And yet - it is because God IS love that His love can suffocate the sin that dwells in us.
His love holds forgiveness.
His love holds compassion.
His love holds power.
Power that defeated death.
Power that sets us free.

Scripture is precious.
It is filled with truth.
Some truths are easy to find, easy to understand. Others require effort, thought, wisdom, and patience to unwrap the gems held deep within.
Both are worthy of our time.
Both produce fruit.
Both bring maturity and a deeper love for our Lord.

Today the Lord pushed me to search His Word to understand the contrast of my sin, and His love.
It is baffling, that He could love a sinner like me. That He would send His Son to die for me.
But He does! He did!
And I am thankful.

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:10

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. I Chronicles 28:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

There is no one righteous, not even one
there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away, they have together become worthless; 
there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3


But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Thank You, Lord for saving my soul.
Thank You, Lord for making me whole.
Thank You, Lord for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.



"Don't you folks ever read your Bibles?" 
~ Dr. John Mitchell, founder Multnomah School of the Bible

It's time this generation of Christ followers stopped expecting pastors to study the Bible for them.

Your pastor cannot put on the armor of God for you.
You're in a war.
Suit up!