Followup thoughts

Jesus

I clicked on “Publish” a couple of hours ago on a post about my mind-bending thoughts on God, healing, and hurts. Imagine my delight when I plopped down on the couch this afternoon to read today’s entry for the devotional book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It’s written from the perspective of Jesus talking directly to us about our circumstances:

January 29

Keep your focus on Me.  I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind.  Only the crown of My creation has such remarkable capability; this is a sign of being made in My image.

Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to Me.  Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into My Presence.  In My radiant Light, anxious thoughts shrink and shrivel away.  Judgmental thoughts are unmasked as you bask in My conditional Love.  Confused ideas are untangled while you rest in simplicity of My Peace.  I will guard you and keep you in constant Peace, as you focus your mind on Me.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Isaiah 26:3 (AMP)

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

God’s love is not more or less

love, MS, Uncategorized

For some reason I tend to have a wrong way of thinking sometimes that God’s love for me is measured by my circumstances. Today is day NINE. Nine good days in a row and I am celebrating!!! Since the beginning of September, I’ve had more physically bad days than good with weird neurological/auto-immune symptoms that look like MS. I detest clichés, but they are cliché because they are true; so bear with me on the following statement: We don’t really appreciate good health until we don’t have it. Right now, I truly appreciate good health.

God loves me just as much on my bad physical days as He does on these good ones. God’s love for me on my wallowing-in-self-pity-ugly-cry-days is not an iota more or less than on a great day like today. Today I power-walked around neighborhood lakes. It was glorious! However, I am reminding myself of this truth: God’s favor and love for me today is no greater than on my days when I could do nothing but lay there on the couch.

God is love. He is always love and always good. The depth of His love and concern for me is never dependent on my circumstances.

What if we really believed what God says?

Christianity, freedom in Christ, love, new creation, religion

Have you believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? That He died for your sins and mine, that He was raised from the dead, conquering death and sin? If so, we can walk in a glorious reality. So often we don’t, though. Do you find yourself just shuffling through life, or maybe racing through it? Same old stuff, different day…it shouldn’t be so!

What if we really believed what God says? What if we not only believed it, but knew it, deep down in our soul?

If you and I believed and knew God’s lavish love for us, then we would act and feel differently.

What if we really knew and believed that we are made new when we are in Christ; how would we think and what would we spend our time doing?

What if we were truly free from caring about what others think, and only concerned ourselves with what God thinks about us?

Maybe our lives would be more compelling and maybe we’d walk in the freedom and abundant life that Jesus promised us.

The apostle Paul illustrates this in a tangible way that is challenging. Remember that before he was Paul, he was Saul of Tarsus, murderer and zealous persecutor of Christians. Imagine that there must have been times that he would reflect on some of the horrible deaths that he had been party to. Surely that would invoke guilt or shame from anyone. Instead, Paul had a radical change of heart and behavior. He went on to be a missionary and wrote a large portion of the New Testament, including many letters to other believers. What’s really mind-blowing is the way Paul describes himself in the introductions that he gives in these letters. I think if I were Paul, I probably would have started my letters awkwardly, something like this: You probably remember me, I used to be a murderer. But don’t worry, I’m not gonna try to kill you or anything, I just want to talk to you about Jesus.

Instead, it seems like Paul was able to grasp the reality that God had made him into a completely new and different person. Paul didn’t define himself by his past, as significant as it was. Check out the first few verses of Romans and how it seems that Paul knew and believed God.

Here is how Paul describes himself:

a servant of Christ Jesus,

called to be an apostle and

set apart for the gospel of God—

He goes on to describe Jesus in his introduction:

who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David

who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.

Don’t you love that Paul is firm in his belief of who he is in this introduction, and then he introduces Jesus? Powerful! So I want to believe and walk in this truth, that I am a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, may you believe it too!

God, help me believe you. Help me know you more.

LOL. Is there any other way?

Christianity, depression, freedom in Christ, joy, new creation

People say I have a distinct laugh. Which means it’s really obnoxious and loud. I have really tried to tone it down or make it more lady-like, but it still seems to come out as a sudden, loud, burst of unrestrained laughter. This means that my “distinct laugh” is really more of a guffaw. I also have the world’s gummiest smile. You can see most of my teeth and gums…and I just can’t help it! Yesterday in church they played a beautiful song, Restoration, by David Brymer. The lyrics are repetitive and also profound. This is what got me to thinking about my boisterous laugh.

Although I have had a real relationship with Jesus for the last fourteen years or so, I have continued to struggle with depression off and on. Sometimes I wonder if depression is even worse as a Christian. That sounds weird, but here’s why I say this: Being a Christ-follower can bring a whole new dimension of guilt. For example, when you aren’t able to pull yourself out of a dark place or season of life, you reason that Jesus is enough and if you only had enough faith in Him, you would be free from this. There’s a real tension here, because it’s true that Jesus IS enough. He is all-sufficient, He is healer and powerful to overcome death, depression, or any sickness. So what do we do with the reality that sometimes these maladies remain, in spite of the truth that we know about God and His ability to take it away or heal?

There’s not a clear-cut answer for this question, at least in my experience. All I know to do in these times is to cling to God’s truth, and cry out to Him, being honest about how I am feeling. It helps to read the Psalms aloud. They are authentic and raw, and no matter what season of life you are in, there is always a Psalm that can articulate our complex feelings. This song that was played yesterday echoes Psalm 30 and reminds me of what a joy it is that I laugh too loud and have a cheesy smile that I can’t seem to tone down. It’s because Jesus has held on to me when I have felt too weak to hold on to Him. He brings restoration and healing to our souls.

Here are the lyrics:

You bring restoration
You bring restoration
You bring restoration
to my soul

You’ve taken my pain
called me by a new name
You’ve taken my shame
and in its place, You give me joy

You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take weeping and turn it into laughing
You take mourning and turn it into dancing
You take my sadness and turn it into joy

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
You make all things new, all things new

You’ve taken my pain

This video is about 10 minutes long, but if you only listen for a minute or two, you’ll hear the powerful lyrics that echo the greatness and power of God to bring restoration.

Something’s not right here…

religion

It started at Christmas-time. One of our pastors emailed a plan to youth leaders, challenging us to read the entire New Testament of the Bible for the month of December. I thought, “That’s a nice idea, we can read about Jesus and try not to get sucked in to the normal American commercialism of Christmas.” I had a lot more than that coming!

As I read through the Gospels, I was reminded from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John that Jesus doesn’t want me to live the way I’m living. It’s not okay to go throughout my day like I have been: Wake up early and have a “quiet time” reading through Scripture and praying, live a normal, cushy, suburban life of excess, then end the day with a family Bible reading time and prayer, go to bed, repeat. Kind of living my life, plus a little Jesus tacked on.

Last night I saw myself with startling clarity as I looked at the tabs I had open on my computer: several blogs of missionaries we know, alongside a lighthearted online place that has recipes, decorating ideas, crafts, and more. I suddenly saw that these tabs represented my heart. Don’t get me wrong, surfing for recipes and decorating is really fun, and I don’t have a moral objection to it. But it stirred me to ask myself: How is it that I can cry as I read and be challenged by missionaries sacrificing all their comforts, by believers around the world risking their very lives to follow Jesus, meanwhile the tab next to those indulges my materialism and want for more stuff so I can impress people? What I saw is that I have a heart that is very drawn to material things and temporary pleasures of this world, while it is also drawn to Jesus.

Jesus requires so much more than I have been giving from anyone who would follow Him. I was blown away to be reminded again that Jesus wants this from me:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. (Kind of radical. Not the life I have been living.)

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Again, I asked myself, why isn’t this me? Why does it seem that I have been grasping at comfort and safety for dear life?)

The tension that I’m feeling is trying to reconcile the life that I’m currently living with the life that Jesus is clearly calling all of His followers to. Eight years ago, our family felt the certain instruction from God to leave our home, sell everything, and move to Africa as missionaries. This was the most difficult and most wonderful thing I’ve done as a Christian. My white-knuckle death grip onto the stuff that I had accumulated through the years was in direct opposition to my joy and desire to let go of everything and follow God to a land and culture I knew nothing about.

After coming back to the States five years ago, I can’t help but wonder how I have slowly begun to feel more at home. It kind of scares me that I have gotten so comfortable and so okay with living the American dream. The dream that is completely out of line with Jesus’ instruction to anyone who would follow Him. It is a struggle, but I am glad to be feeling the struggle and tension, to feel my heart being tugged by the One who denied Himself, giving everything He had, so that I could live.

Change-Not so much

Uncategorized

If you have known me for a year or more, you know that I love to change my hairstyle.  I get bored with it pretty quick and want something new.  I like change when it comes to my hair.  It’s been almost every color that occurs naturally.  (or not so naturally!) Currently I love L’Oreal 5 1/2 RB with highlights.  I’ve been hooked on it since last fall.  I love to change outfits.  I love fashion and mixing up clothes and accessories.  But when it comes to the big things in life, I hate change.  Maybe it’s because I like to be control of the change in my life.

If I had to characterize the last few years of my life, one of the big titles would be Change or Transition or Contentment in the Midst of Change.  Ouch.  So now it seems that we could be near the end of a season of change in our lives, at least geographically.  Moving back into the original house that Herschel and I lived in 14 years ago seems to bring us full circle.  Part of me is giddy with excitement about the fun stuff with remodeling, new paint & flooring, decorating and organizing, and part of me realizes that I will not be any more content in the “new” house that I have been ever before, unless I choose to be.  I think one of the things I’m learning is that contentment might just be a choice that I make.  I don’t have to like the season of change I’m in.  Sometimes I kick and scream or pout about it, to be truthful.  Or complain. But there are times when I look around and think:  Life is good.  I am loved deeply, I love others deeply.

Why we homeschool

Uncategorized

Because it’s what all the cool people do.  Not really.  I feel like education is a personal choice for each family.  We have done it all with academics: public school, home school, private and international school.  Did I leave any out?  With our oldest starting his sophomore year in college, and youngest going into 8th grade, we’re learning a lot but there’s still several years to go.

Back to answer, “Why we home school”, there are several reasons.  The most important one is because we feel it’s what God wants us to do this year.  I’m not a hard-core “If you’re a real woman, you home school the whole way through” kind of chic.  I prefer to think about the following things as we look at our education choices:  What does this child need right now: in their academics, character, confidence, people skills, and spiritual life?  The other big question is this:  What’s going on in my life as a mom?  Can I commit to homeschooling, or do we need to look at other options right now because of our family situation, finances, or other personal matters?  And of course, we pray.  A lot.  And wait to hear what direction we feel God is taking us.

When people discover that we home school, they’ll often ask me, “Did you home school Christian, your oldest, all the way through?”   It makes me smile when they ask that, because I feel like they’re asking me, “Do you have x-ray vision?” or “Did you make that entire quilt by hand?”  (By the way, the answer is definitely no)  Because I know that many, many days, I feel completely inadequate as a home educator.  I know that in my own self, I could not do it.  But this is where God has us right now.  It’s really fun and really challenging.

A couple of years ago, I really struggled with the question of whether or not we should home school that year.  As I prayed about it often, God spoke to me clearly through a song.  The lyrics repeat over and over again “I don’t wanna gain the whole world and lose my soul”, reminding me of the verse in Mark 8:36- What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  I remembered that years ago I had planned what I would do when my kids reached school age.  I would take tennis lessons, have a lot of cute tennis outfits, and lunch with my girlfriends.  Wow, has it turned out different from what I planned!  I felt like God was asking me if I wanted to “gain the whole world” with those things that I had planned, or give up that for a while and pour life into my child’s soul.  I still think about how fun the tennis thing would be one day…Maybe later!