Abide in Love ~ Abound in Thanksgiving ~ Work in Joy...
Live Fully ~ Suffer Rightly ~ Trust Deeply ~ Bless Truly!


"Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long."
~ Psalms 25:4,5

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Sacrifice of Lent

As I was reviewing some memory verses lately, Ephesians 4:29 stopped me in my tracks.  “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  (NIV)

With Ash Wednesday approaching, it dawned on me that  in view of God’s mercy to me through the cross, I could offer my words as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God as a spiritual act of worship.  Not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world (which justifies the flinging of letters under the guise of “personal expression” and “freedom of speech”), but - wow - to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  (Rom. 12:1-2, NIV, not word for word)  What would happen if I truly thought about what I was going to say before I said it?  Thought about how those words will make an impact.  Will they be a relational withdrawal, will they take a piece away from that person’s (fragile?) God-made image?  Or will they be words that build that person up and benefit them in their walk with Christ?

I have “given up things for lent” many a times in the past.  And the discipline of this fasting has proven beneficial in different ways (Hopefully I will have a future post on my fasting experiences).  In years of late I have strove to have my mindset be more of a sacrifice in order to redirect my thoughts onto the deep, painful sacrifice of my Savior on my behalf – something I too often take for granted.  When I am tempted in that specific way, make the suffering of Jesus for my sake be my focus, instead of that temporal satisfaction.  This transforming of my mind has proven more challenging than the actual "giving it up" itself.

And yet, it’s only a day in to this sacrificial fast and already three times the type of words I committed to giving up are the words that have poured out of this fount which can’t decide if it wants to house fresh water or salt water! (James 3)  Oh, dear brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so…thank you, Jesus, for your righteous work on the cross for me.  

I exhort you in this spiritual act of worship – Go before God and seek Him for Guidance in what He would want you to sacrifice in order to draw closer in intimacy with Him.  What part of you would you willingly lay on the altar, the refiner’s fire, in order for Him to take away the impurities and re-create you to look a little more like His Suffering Servant-Son, Jesus?


Continued from original "Lent" thoughts...

I have two friends whom I banter with like sisters.  This is an email I wrote to one of them regarding my Lent Sacrifice.  

So today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season.  "Giving up
something for Lent" may be baggage you have from your Catholic background.  I have my own baggage on it from my Methodist background, but  in the past several years, choosing something as a sacrifice to remind me of the sacrifice of my savior is a spiritual practice, I have found freeing,
humbling, and rewarding.  I wanted to share my sacrifice of this season with you.  I recently had Ephesians 4:29 laid on my heart, "Do not let any
unwholesome talk come out of your mouth but only what is useful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen."  I want to sacrifice my words to Jesus for the next 40 days and pray that each time I am tempted for something that is unwholesome, not building up or benefitting someone that it refines my tongue in such a way, that after 40 days my lips will flow with the words Jesus would have spoken more naturally!

I tell you this for three reasons:

1)      This commitment will affect the way I speak with you and you will
probably notice and I wanted you to know what's up with that.  I have been especially convicted lately that my words have been way too loose with you.  I am committed to only speaking words that build you up and benefit you!  So no more engaging in banter with you

2)      As one who I speak with regularly, I ask for your accountability,
dear sister.

3)      I invite you to join me.  I understand this is my conviction and not
yours, so I leave it between you and God.  If there is something else he
wants you to sacrifice, that is great.  If He shares a reason He doesn't
want you to give up something for Lent, I will respect that, too.  I just
know building habits like this is like working out - sometimes easier with a partner

Love, Jill
And her response was that she would pray about it; then that she didn't feel a strong leading; she's got a spiritual formation book that keeps bringing up stuff; and she's not sure what I mean by banter.  When I used the specific example from a recent evening of our bantering, she seemed shocked.  In her mind it was harmless teasing. In my heart sarcasm usually has a root and it's more healthy for me to avoid it completely, for when I start getting sarcastic my words too easily fly into words that tear down rather than build up and hurt rather than benefit (or I end up on the receiving end of it.)

So then I got off the phone and felt like I failed at fulfilling Ephesians 4:29 because my explanation itself made her feel guilty!   AHHHHHH!!!

So this was my response...

Failure and Grace

An email following up my falter in my Lent commitment:

Dear Friend,
I guess I failed at Eph. 4:29 again already today – I have a feeling I didn’t leave you feeling built up and I have a feeling I didn’t benefit your walk with Christ if I left you feeling guilty.  A skilled teacher is able to meet someone where they are and help them take the next step.  I’m still having my skills refined.  I think Beth is much better there than I am.  I am too quick to see people’s potential, that I think I don’t assess where they are as well.   But know that was my intention – using the lent season to help us grow in the area of the words of our mouth; what I hoped to communicate was “wherever God had you there” not “what it looks like for me”  OR if God had another aspect of your “process of holiness” for you to sacrifice in this season in order to better embrace the sacrifice of Christ (because I know that’s a weakness of mine and I think for others as well).  I just think we can get overwhelmed by all of our areas of unrighteousness that it can be beneficial to focus on just one for the 40 days of lent in hopes that it breaks the bad habits and builds new ones, to refine us to look more like that Savior who sacrificed His Life on our behalf.  Hope that explains more of where I’m coming from and helps relieve the guilt that Jesus does NOT want to be there!

In His Grip of Grace as He picks me up from my falter,
Love Always,

And a follow-up thought on this!

Friday, February 24, 2012


Divorce and Deceit
Bible Study of Divorce and Adultery

In His Grip of Grace

Follow - up thoughts from a email of confession.

As I was meditating on my sign off in the email “In His Grip of Grace as He picks me up from my falter” I just realized, maybe this 40 days will be more a lesson of God’s grace than on my tongue!  Maybe He led me to an area that He knows I will fail at regularly so I will regularly have to turn to His Grace – which was at the root of the cross, the object in which I want to better embrace during this Lenten season! 

Maybe I should have “given up” chocolate, that would have been so much easier!  Oh my, there I go again, saying something that could offend someone…what I mean is that giving up chocolate would be easier for me, it’s no judgment on anyone who genuinely gave up chocolate.  That can be a true addiction that can lead someone to meditate on the sacrifice of Christ time and again as they are faced with that temptation!  Phew…It’s all about You, Jesus, all about You!

Divorce and Deceit

It happened again, I heard of a pastor (whom I respect), telling a wife that she had grounds for a divorce.  Sexual addiction.  "Every time he looked, he broke his vow."

My heart breaks for her, for her situation and for her pastoral advice.  And my heart breaks for God - for how His marriage covenant - the promise, the commitment - has become so tainted over the centuries and is barely even recognized as a covenant in modern society, even Christian society, among His people.  

To clarify up front, this is NOT a condemnation for the divorced nor a condoning of sexual immorality; for we all are probably friends with someone divorced and many of us affected by the pain and brokenness of divorce.  “He who is sinless cast the first stone;” (John 8) I do not stand as judge nor can I stand as judge (I believe my sin of harsh, disrespectful words and the ways he fails to fully love me are just as ugly sins in God’s eyes – physical adultery and adultery with words both offend God’s holy design for marriage).  And yet there is A Judge who has established the standard for marriage, even created it to model the relationship He has with His people.  

I only want to voice how I see the Bible portraying marriage and divorce in hopes to spark in people's minds a transformed (Rom 12:2- not conformed to the pattern of this world) understanding that maybe, just maybe will be a spark that starts a radical passion for marriage that flames strong in The Church, fighting against the deceit the crafty serpent has demised. 

So, God creating marriage to model His relationship with His people…and that is modeled after the union He has in the Trinity! (Genesis 2, Ephesians 5)

So what does God’s relationship with His people look like?  He extends His covenantal love, grace, forgiveness, faithfulness, protection, provision to an appreciative, faithful, loving people – right?  No! - He again and again reaches out to an ungrateful, faithless, idolatrous/adulterous, grumbling group of people.  His people (Israel and The Church – think Peter, Saul) sin against Him and each other regularly, not just every once in a while.  And He forgives them and embraces them in His covenantal love each time – no doubt with sadness, even anger…but the picture of our God is to initiate toward us in our sin…and yet again.  (cf. Hosea)

Is this the picture - the model - the people of God are giving as a witness of God’s love to the watching world?

I think most would agree, “No.”

When my best friend from high school was separated from her husband and contemplating divorce, as one who stood as a witness to her marriage covenant vow, I was motivated to seek what the Bible really says about divorce (as opposed to what our itching ears have become accustomed to hearing these days – 2 Timothy 4:3).

That study can be found HERE.

Bible Study of Divorce and Adultery

This is a follow-up post from a post "Divorce and Deceit".

When my best friend from high school was separated from her husband and contemplating divorce, as one who stood as a witness to her marriage covenant vow, I was motivated to seek what the Bible really says about divorce (as opposed to what we our itching ears have become accustomed to hearing these days – 2 Timothy 4:3).  This is the study that unfolded.  I am aware that it flies in the face of what most Christians I've heard of support, so it may rub you the wrong way.   I'm not looking to be confrontational; I'm looking at what is actually said in the Bible, the immediate context in which it is said, and the broader context of Scripture as Jesus' platform on which He would speak on divorce.  I'd be honored if you considered the exegesis without dismissing it because it's not "common teaching."

For the Glory of CHRIST and HIS CHURCH!!!

Matthew 5:27-32   27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.  31 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'  32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

q  Man divorces wife, makes her commit adultery
q  Man marries a divorced woman, he commits adultery.

Ø     Why does he make her commit adultery?  He leaves her alone (in that culture a woman being  alone leaves her pretty useless,) so it is almost necessary for  her to remarry, but if she does, she commits adultery because she is still joined to her husband in God’s eyes.  That is why the husband would make her/ cause her to commit adultery.
Ø     Why does a man commit adultery if he marries a divorced woman?  Because God still considers her married to her first husband.
Ø     Why does a man not make her commit adultery on the grounds of sexual immorality?  Because when she was sexual immoral, she committed adultery on her own, he did not make her.

  I don’t think this is a justification for divorce, but a clarification of the adultery labeling.

 Matthew 19:3-12   3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"  4 He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  5 and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh'?  6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  7 They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?"  8 He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." 

q  Man divorces wife, marries another, commits adultery.

Ø     Clarification: “marries another” – that second union is what causes adultery to be committed against the first spouse.
Ø     Could it be that he does not commit adultery by divorcing his wife and marrying another because he has already committed adultery through his sexual immorality?
This verse is different than Matt. 5 because it refers to him committing  adultery instead of making her. OR does he not commit adultery against her because she has already committed adultery against him with her sexual immorality?  Who’s sexual immorality is highlighted here?

Luke 16:18   18 "Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

q     Man divorces wife, marries another, commits adultery.
q     Man marries a divorced woman, he commits adultery.

Mark 10:2-12   2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?"  3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?"  4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away."  5 And Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment.  6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.'  7 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,  8 and they shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh.  9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.  11 And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,  12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

q     Man divorces wife, marries another, commits adultery.
q     Wife divorces her husband, marries another, she commits adultery.

Ø     All bases covered: Man divorcing wife, wife divorcing man, and man marrying divorced wife = adultery because Jesus reminds us in these passages of God’s original intent for marriage that has been distorted through hardness of heart.  God joins two together in marriage to become one and does not separate that union except through death. (Rom. 7)
Ø     No “except for sexual immorality” in Mark or Luke, must not be the key message of those verses.  If the clause for divorce justification was the intent for those verses, you would think it would be present in each of them, since there would be no other Biblical support for it.  The Matthew verses stand alone for the supposed “justification of divorce on the grounds of adultery,” thus maybe that is not their intended message.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First 'God Revelation'

DD 23 months was sitting in her high chair at dinner showing us the "huut" (hurt) on her pinky finger.  Dear Brother, 4, is quick to inform her that God will heal her owey (and that's pretty cute in and of itself).  And DD says "Godt" for the first time and starts looking around and turns around to look out the patio door and looks around some more with a sparkle in her eye and hopeful anticipation for Godt to come and heal her "huut"!

May the great anticipation of our Healer continue to grow and keep the sparkle in her eye!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Like Mother, Like Son

As I was praying for DS4 tonight, he sat up in bed and said, "Mom, do you know where such and such clothes are?"  I can't remember what clothes he asked for specifically, but it was probably his red shorts and shirt because he has been obsessed with them, even though it's the middle of winter!  He's pretending to be a basketball player (our hometown team color is red.)  I say, that they are in the dirty hamper and he says, "Maybe I can wash them in the morning real quick and then dry them real quick!" 

This especially struck me as funny because when I was in 6th grade I got upset with my mom for washing something I didn't want her to wash because I wanted to wear it again.  My dad said, "If you're going to talk to your mother that way, you can do your own laundry."  And I have been ever since.

Now my son wasn't angry with me but it made me chuckle that we both were particular about our laundry and ready to take it into our own hands!

Not a real "spiritual" lesson, I don't think, but a cute story I wanted to record nonetheless!

First lesson in Spiritual Warfare

... Continued from Blessing for Blessing.

So yesterday, (see link above) was a special day.  A day of obedience, a day of peace, a day of blessing.

This morning started off fine, I was getting ready in my room, the kids playing on the bed and it started - the whining...(see link above)

So I took this opportunity to teach DS4 his first official lesson in spiritual warfare.

Hey, Buddy!  Do you know who the snake in The Garden was?

uhhhh...shake of head...Satan?

That's right.  And what did Satan want Adam and Eve to do?

Eat the fruit.

Yes.  Was that obedient or disobedient?


Right.  And is Satan on God's team or is he God's enemy?

God's enemy.

Right.  Now are you on God's team or God's enemy?

God's team!

So, do you think that Satan wants you to obey or disobey God?


That's right.  Did you have a really obedient day yesterday?


And were you blessed for being a blessing?


Do you think it made Satan happy that you obeyed God so well?


So, Satan is probably going to really try to tempt you to disobey today.  So, you are going to have to fight against that temptation and really rely on Jesus to help you to obey.

OK, I'm going to fight him and knock his head off!  (LOL, we're still dealing with a four year old here!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Blessing for Blessing - Little Learners

Thursday of this week (2/16/12), DS4 comes in pretty much first thing in the morning and declares, "I'm going to have a good heart attitude today and not get any discipline!"  I said that would be great and we prayed right then for Jesus to be His strength for self-control.  Within the hour he starts to whine (the main battle of the heart currently).  "Uh-Uh," I gently warn. "You told me you were going to have a good heart attitude today."

He stopped.

That was it.

All day long!

No whining, no arguing, no complaining (No WACing, for short:)).

I usually repeat it all day long.  And this day, not at all.

The draining training of motherhood... (which I do plan on being fruitful and am ever grateful for the resources who have aided me along the way - mainly "Shepherding a Child's Heart" and "Don't Make Me Count to Three")

"I need first time obedience.  I need you to obey all the way, right away, without complaint."  This is the chorus of the day that is sometimes followed by obedience and sometimes followed by discipline.  And I'm aware that maybe this chorus, instead of being a refrain repeated should be the understood tune of the music that plays peacefully in the background - understood and followed without the continual reminder.

So, when our family friend asks if he can accompany her to a college basketball game, I'm inclined to say, "Yes!"  DS4 is really into basketball right now and I knew he would be blessed by this fun excursion. We haven't done anything like this before, but I had a meeting and DH had a project he had to work on so neither us could accompany him.

God blesses us for obedience (Deut. 11:26-27, et al.) and God blesses us in order to be a blessing (Genesis 12).

I have been blessed, my son was a blessing today, I wanted to bless him in return.

He thoroughly enjoyed the basketball game.  He was enamored and when asked what his favorite part was (choosing among popcorn and his picture with the mascot and the funny blow up guy who "ate" the basketball player), his answer was, "Watching them play basketball."

Blessing for blessing for blessing.

Jesus to DS - giving him the strength for self-control; DS to me; me to DS.  Thank you, LORD Jesus for making it all possible!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"If there was no God..." - Little Learners

I think it was at dinner time on Monday of this week (Feb. 13th, 2011) and DS4 asks, "Can we reach God?"    I don't even know what initiated the question in his little head, it wasn't related to anything that we had been talking about recently.  He's always been into how BIG God is and Fast and Strong and the Best.  And ever since Granny passed away 2 and a half months ago, his concept of heaven and where God is has been developing more.

"Can we reach God?" - How ya gonna field that one, Mom and Dad?

I don't know how to answer it, but I do know Acts 17 talks about reaching God, so I go grab the Bible and read: 

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being...’ (Acts 17:24-28a - NIV)

And so I commentate through, explaining to him what each phrase means, slowing down and emphasizing the verse that addresses his question: "God made us so we would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find him, but He's not far from us because He's with us in each breath we take.  So, if He's not far from us and He wants us to seek Him and reach out for Him, does that mean we can reach Him?"

Unaltered by the corruption of "adult-like faith" which is continutally tempted to lean on their own understanding (Prov. 3:6), the faith of the child responds: He can be in our hearts and in heaven!

I am too easily satisfied by the work of the Holy Spirit, for thinking the good little "God-talk" was over, we move on with dinner and a little while later the faith of the child proclaims, 

"If there was no God, there would be no us, there would be no anything!"

"You're right, buddy, you are so right."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lost and Lost

LORD, what is to be my lesson when my children lose things?  It would be telling if I had a timer on to testify to the amount of minutes of a day spent looking for things that have wandered from their homes or are homeless and therefore harder to track down.  Shoes, gloves, keys, phone, the empty ink cartridge that was set aside to refill...

Today it was the Ernie Elephant Awana patch and the little orange basketball.

I promised DS4 that I would get his Awana patches sewed on before his next Awana meeting - that was two days ago...I got 3 of the 5 sewed on.  I asked for forgiveness.  Today, I told him as soon as I got ready for the day I would sew those last two patches on right away.  The kids were on the bed playing while I was getting ready.  They helped themselves to tactiling the thread and patches.  When I went to sew them on, Ernie was nowhere to be found.  Turnover pillows, under bed, under dresser, out in living room where DD22mo may have re-homed it.  Only 4 out of 5 patches sewed on...still...Ernie still lost.

Five pm, long day - DD very fussy, decided on only 1 hr. nap.

Inching past 40 degrees, I decided I could brave the chill and the fresh air would probably do all good. DS wants to go up to the basketball court...and bring our Little Tikes basketball hoop.  I say I'll bring the hoop up from the basement and he can carry the ball.

We bundle up and a few minutes later, daddy gets home!  Oh, what a blessing, Daddy can take them!  He changes, they get ready to go, and ... the little orange basketball is nowhere to be found.

DS was sure he carried it up from downstairs...our house is not that big...there are not that many places for a 7 inch diameter basketball to hide (that's an estimate on the size b/c I can't measure since the ball is still missing!)

Mom does two laps around the house, looks outside front, outside back, garage...DS can't remember where he had it last...

LORD, what is to be my lesson when my children lose things? 

It happens to us all and I'm trying to learn to have homes for things - a place for everything and everything in its place - helps the time and emotional drain of searching for things that should be 'right there.'  It's one thing when it's your own mindlessness; it's another dimension of feeling futile on the search when you have NO IDEA where the child would have mindlessly dropped "it."

Just found!  Basketball in DD's room - I looked there twice!!

(Daddy found Ernie Elephant in his shoe a week later!)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

New Insight (for me:)) into Spiritual Gifts & Serving

I really hope this doesn't sound "anti-serving" or anything of the sort.  This was a freeing lesson for me, so maybe you put your own gifts or callings in place of mine or maybe you had this figured out already...

One of the spiritual gifts that shows up when I take a "spiritual gifts test" is the gift of teaching.  I feel a sense of energy when I have the opportunity to use that gifting and receive affirmation when used also.  It is my understanding that those two aspects can be confirmation of gifting, so for the purpose of this post I will claim the spiritual gift of teaching (and no level of quality is pronounced in that claim:)).  In fact, last week I had an opportunity to teach on "Heart Needs" in which I used material from a recent post and I had to humbly cling to the  LORD as the enemy plagued me with doubt after my message - a good exercise in not looking for man's approval and trusting that God was still choosing to speak this message through me. (1 Cor. 2:4-6)

Anyway, the passages on Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12:3 ff, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7ff make it clear that some have the gift of teaching, some the gift of serving, etc.  And yet there is also a calling in scripture to all Christ's followers to serve as He did, right? 

"Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who...taking the form of a servant..." (Philippians 2: 5-7)

"...But whoever would be great among you must be your servant..." (Matthew 20:26ff)

"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)

This message in scripture (then presented in the form of messages from the "pulpit" through my college ministry years and beyond) have left me with the belief that I should be serving in sacrificial ways as Christ did.  Which I think is true, but I also am realizing that what I have internalized is that "to serve" means to help the church with all those "hands on needs."  I have been so impressed with people that seem to serve the church tirelessly and realized that I carry a weight of guilt that I don't feel like I serve as much as I should.  I have looked at the women a stage or so ahead of me in life as an inspirational model to be like one day and given myself grace that I'm in a stage of life that demands a great deal of my time and energy with two young, highly dependent children.  But then I look at the women in my stage of life - specifically the two with one or two more young children than I have and both homeschool and yet still seem to on the front lines of serving the church.  I spent a weekend fighting the burden of comparison - such an ugly, godless activity.  And yes, I can know the truth that I am not to compare and try to dwell on that truth, but it was my reading of Acts 13:1-4 that brought this new insight and the sense of freedom...

Barnabus and Saul were set apart by the Holy Spirit for the work to which He had called them.  Also, I was reminded that in Acts 6 those disciples preaching the word appointed 7 men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom (honorable description, not lesser because not preachers) to serve the physical needs of people.  Yet, those who preached, preached as God opened doors for them and those who preached, served physical needs of people as God opened doors for them - yet they were called to spend a majority of their time and energy preaching and therefore God opened more doors for those opportunities He wanted them to be faithful with.  Priscilla and Aquila were a neat example to me of this in Acts 18.  They were tentmakers by professional (their vocational calling-where they spent a majority of their time & energy) who served Paul by opening their home to him (fulfilled the need of hospitality as God opened that door) and then taught Apollos The Way more accurately (as God opened that door). 

As I have been wrestling with my calling (of being a wife and mother) and my gifting (teaching) and my duty? to serve the church, my God Whispers had repeatedly been something like "be faithful with the little or big task I am asking of you in the here and now.  That is serving Me in faith.  I will open doors for you to serve Me - serve in the form of teaching, serving in the form of hospitality, serving by mercy, OR even an open door to serve Me with those 'hands on service opportunities' by setting up tables and chairs or helping with food for a church gathering."  

So, I am NOT at all saying only those with the "gift of serving" should serve the church, just as not only those with the "gift of hospitality" should be hospitable (Romans 12:13). I think what I'm learning is that the call to serve means to serve with the "grace given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift" (Eph. 4:7).  I may have that grace in a larger measure for teaching and the grace in a smaller measure for serving, hospitality, mercy, exhortation, etc.  

For me, who wants to be a good servant, is learning the blessing of saying, "No" and living within my God-given capacity, and who does like to be helpful, this lesson from the LORD was a refreshing one of freedom.  I am just asked to seek the LORD for what He wants me to do and be faithful to that and not follow some imagined, phantom "scripture perscribed" servant.  My being a faithful servant of the LORD (and specifically being faithful in serving the church) doesn't always have to be the front lines help I see my friends doing.  Maybe they are called to that and maybe they are in the process of learning the calling vs. the duty of serving? I have seen people burn themselves out by trying to do it all to a great measure - hospitality, serving, giving, teaching, exhorting, leading, shepherding.  And I have seen people hurt because they expect those in leadership to be doing these all to a great measure.  And I have seen people wear the burden of failure because they aren't all these things.

I am faithful if I take time and energy and obediently write a letter of encouragement that the Holy Spirit is prompting me to or take the time to really listen to and give someone biblical counsel or go out of my way to generously giving in order to meet a physical need.  I'm not being faithful to God's working in my heart if I'm comparing myself to people, nor shall others compare themselves to my opportunities "to teach" (public or private) or whatever other spiritual gift I may be living out in whatever measure of grace I have.  Am I responding to God's promptings with the measure of grace, time, and energy He is providing?  

"Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." (Romans 12:11)
"Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
"to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ," (Ephesians 4:12)  To serve the church = to build up the church (body of Christ).

Serving the Lord means serving the Church and serving the Church better be done with a heart attitude of serving the Lord. And serving the Church sometimes means serving the hands on "kitchen duty" needs of the church, but serving the Church should always mean building up the Body of Christ.

What am I doing, what are you doing to serve the Church; what are we doing to build up the Church - each day, on a regular basis, according to each God prompting!?!  To be faithful to this IS being a faithful servant of God's spiritual gifts, all in His grace.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Heart Needs - Of Children and Those Who Once Were

You know the scene: the gaggle of middle schoolers – the leader girl in hot pink sweat pants, the geeky guy trying to be a part of the crowd.  I was kicking with my kick board in the lap pool at the YMCA which has big open windows looking into the hallway that connects the Y to the middle school.  It was right after school got out so those adolescents were being as most are à please, notice me; help shape my identity; I’m cool, right!?!

As I thought back on my 11th through 14th years and remember those questions and longings and associated wounds, I wondered “How can I help parent my children through that rough season?”  “What is it that makes or breaks kids at that stage in life?”

As I pondered, the LORD brought some thoughts to mind.  As a psychology major I like to think about these things.  What came out ended up being four needs that God has wired into all of us, I believe.  There are surely more researched conclusions with PhD behind them, but this is what I’m working with for now:

1                            1)  Feel secure in relationship of love with those important and consistent in my life (parent, siblings, God, friends, other family members)
                2) Feel valued: Who I am is good, I am liked.  This is accomplished by being listened to, understood, cared about, having thoughts & feelings & best interest considered
               3)     Feel connected to a community, a sense of belonging (with family, friend, church, extra- curricular group)
               4)    Feel a sense of worth: I can be successful at something; I am an asset somewhere; I have something to offer God’s economy.

Each need is based on feeling.  I have heard that “children are great observers, but poor interpreters.” I understand that children begin life interpreting through their feelings so whether they are loved or not isn’t as important as whether they feel loved.  Maybe Uncle Joe is a consistent person in their life but they don’t feel secure love in that relationship; that may be affecting the child more than anyone is aware.  Maybe they know God is supposed to be an important part of life, but they don’t feel that.  A child may need help navigating through these parts of life and need to have a secure relationship of love to assist in that.  That first need is so foundational to how the others will unfold.  Needs #1 and #2 are primarily being fostered in the elementary years.  In those middle school years is when needs #2 and #3 need more nurturing, but needs #1 and #2 best already be well established.  As the child is growing into an adult in the high school and college years, there is the greater need for needs #3 and #4 to be experienced.  Much of what they have already determined about themselves and the world they live in  and how they are going to go about getting them met from here on out is largely based on how the needs have be met or unmet thus far.

As those needs go unfulfilled, children (actually we all) seek in desperate ways to have those legitimate, God-given needs met.  Unless those needs are met in the ways that God intends, the seeking will lead to unhealthy lifestyle patterns – whether it be private habits such as eating disorders, cutting, depression or group activities in hopes to find that community to belong to and have something in common with in the form of drugs, gangs, or other unhealthy relationships.  With the backdrop of these needs unmet, it is easier for me to see and sympathize with those who stumble into such situations.  To take it a step further, even patterns such as people pleasing, performance based acceptance, fashion, athletics, pride…are unhealthy (meaning ways God did not ordain) sources of striving to have needs met.  I think this is related to when God said in Jeremiah "They have forsaken me as the spring of living water and have made for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water."  We try to gain love, value, community, & worth in means that God intended to be the only one to fill with the never-ending spring of love, value, community, & worth found in Him and His God-given gifts. (James 1:17)

If the foundation of a secure relationship is missing, it is going to be harder for that child to feel valued.  If the community of family is broken or dysfunctional, that need is going to be sought elsewhere (sometimes to the dismay of the parent(s)).  If there are not safe relationships and community where the child feels valued, where are they going to receive the affirmation and encouragement needed to pursue talents, skills, strengths, interests in order to begin developing as productive citizen who feels like they are an asset with something to offer (whether that be a positive personality trait (your compassion would make a great nurse) or a specific skill (you have great writing/math/teaching/athletic skills)).  I would argue that the more solidly and in a healthy, God-given manner these needs are nourished, the more emotionally healthy and mature we become; on the contrary, emotional stagnation occurs as these needs go unmet and seek unhealthy fulfillment.

So how do we play a part in loving, proclaiming value, fostering community, and investing in the assets of the young people (or really anyone) in our lives or who cross our paths?  To those in close/consistent relationship to you: confirm a secure relationship of love.  To anyone(the checkout cashier, the janitor, the homeless person you give a sack of food to): communicate their God-given value and need to be validated by listening, caring, being considerate of them, seeking to understand them, expressing evidence that you like them, they are ‘very good.’  To those is your community (your family, church, any group you’re a part of): extend Christian hospitality, a sense of belonging (none of that clichy stuff that causes feelings of exclusion!)  To those you are working with in a setting of ‘skills’(physical or characteristics): Teacher (Sunday School or otherwise), parent, boss, etc. – Praising work/attitude done in excellence (not perfection, but someone working to the best of their abilities – you can praise an elementary student or a handicapped child for their efforts of excellence, even if it’s not a ‘perfect’ presentation; affirming talents/strengths you witness; acknowledging gifts of God and His kingdom, as appropriate.