Now and Always

Now & Always 7-28Most who are married or who have attended a wedding have heard those well-known words:

…for better or worse
for richer or poorer
in sickness and health…

We cover the extremes of life in those wedding vows. We commit to stick beside each other in the best and worst of times. But sometimes we forget about now.

Now can be the hardest time to honor, love, and cherish our spouses. Now is tough. Not fitting into either the best or the worst, now is often mundane. It is ordinary. Nothing exciting is happening to keep us motivated. Nothing with extreme challenge is making us stronger.

It is just ordinary life.

Now is also not the same as then. Then I was a young, blushing bride. Then I will have hopefully reached some new measure of success. But now? Now I am caught up in being a wife, mother, homeschooler, and employee. Now I am a good twenty pounds overweight and struggling with discipline. Now lacks the newness of sixteen years ago when our relationship was just blossoming. Now lacks the mysterious wonderment of what our future might become.

Now is just ordinary.

But he loves me right now. Oh what a gift!

Amazingly, it gets even better!

Now is not just when he loves me. It is also when he tells me he will love me always. He sees me in the mundanity of life and says that he will love me even if nothing ever changes. He will love me always.

The extremes of life, whether they be successes or failures, do challenge marriage with those make-or-break moments. But the daily, ordinary, boring mundanity of life can subtly chip away pieces of even a strong relationship. Or, they can offer us the opportunity to reaffirm the solidarity of our love, for now and for always.

May we shower love upon our spouses this week, even in the ordinary of now. And in doing so, may we find ways to offer the assurance of always.

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Obedience of the Small

During my time in the religion department at Ouachita Baptist University, I had the privilege of taking a biblical interpretation course. Dr. Hays taught us to take a passage and see its layers. Simply by reading, reading again, and reading yet again, he showed us how new details could stand out to us even when we thought we had exhausted every avenue of thought in a verse or passage.

Noticing Details

I have not always exercised that developed eye for details, keeping it in shape to see the depths Dr. Hays taught us to see. Even so, there are times when things jump out at me because I have learned to take a second, third, and fourth look at passages.

Take this verse, for instance:

So they established a decree to circulate a proclamation throughout all Israel from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to celebrate the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem. For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed. 2 Chronicles 30:5

This continues the story of Hezekiah we discussed a couple of weeks ago. The people have been purified, and they are ready to celebrate a nation-wide Passover for the first time in many generations.

So, what stands out to me here? The very end of the verse. “For they had not celebrated it in great numbers as it was prescribed.” (emphasis mine)

Do you know what that means?

Some still celebrated.

Celebration of the Few

The temple had been in various states of disrepair over the decades, and many years passed with priests completely unable to perform their duties. Yet some people still faithfully celebrated the Passover.

How must it have felt year after year for those few? They were being faithful. They were being obedient. Yet I cannot help but think that some of them must have longed for something they had never experienced – a Passover like God’s people held in the very beginning. A Passover with the whole community. A Passover in great numbers.

But they did not let those longings keep them from obedience. They persevered. They celebrated. They worshiped. They persisted in obedience. Even when the great numbers focused their attention and energy elsewhere.

We have no details showing us how life was for the small numbers who continued in worship. There is no story chronicling their faithfulness. They are not mentioned at all until this moment, and even here it is just a passing statement that only infers their existence.

What About Us?

It is not glorious to obey in small numbers. In fact, it is just the opposite. It is lonely. It is challenging. It goes unnoticed.

But it is worth it.

Are your numbers small right now? Obey anyway. Do you feel isolated? Stand strong anyway. Is obedience challenging? Obey anyway.

The world may never notice. History may never record your perseverance. But it is worth it. Keep going! The day will come when the great numbers will join you. And I guarantee your joy will be complete in that day!

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Life

You know how it goes.

You get it all figured out. You create a plan. You dive into that plan, and all goes well for a while. Then something interrupts.

It’s called life.

Life used to frustrate me. I wanted to walk according to the plan. Predictability was my friend. And, if I’m honest, I will admit that I would still prefer things to always fit perfectly into the schedule and progress according to plan.

But the reality is that life is not simple and straightforward. No day runs exactly the way we want it to. Sometimes the deviations are rough. Other times they actually improve the day. But the reality is that they will always exist.

So, what will we do with life?

My gut reaction is to change life. To make it fit into the plan. Or to at least stick to the plan no matter what life brings.

If I can’t do that, I want to give up. To throw up my hands and decide that it is just not worth the effort.

Instead, I choose to live life.

You see, my Savior is in charge of life. His plan is perfect. He never loses control nor does He ever see a day that does not move exactly according to His wishes.

And I get to live in that perfection!

I am pretty sure today will not go as planned. But that is okay. I will make it my intention to honor God with all I do, seeking His kingdom. When I do, life will be good, even when it deviates from my plan.

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Leading the Leaders

The reign of Hezekiah has always thrilled me. If I had to pick a favorite king of Judah, he would be the one. After generations of sinfulness and disobedience, Hezekiah decides to do it right.

He wastes no time beginning reforms.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 2 Chronicles 29:3-5

Who’s in Charge?

There is something I find interesting in this story. Hezekiah instructs the priests and Levites right here in the very beginning. Yet all through the reforms, a certain theme is repeated:

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed and until the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. 2 Chronicles 29:34

For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:3-4

Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 30:15

For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. 2 Chronicles 30:24

Do you see the progression here?

- Hezekiah initiated.
– Some of the religious leaders responded, but not all.
– The people responded in greater numbers.
– The religious leaders slowly came around, feeling convicted because of the response of the people.

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this.

First, our positions mean something! Hezekiah should not have been the initiator. The people should not have been ahead of the priests and Levites. It was their job to instruct the king and be spiritual leaders for the people. They failed and then had to play catch-up when they should have been leading.

Fortunately, others stepped up! This leads directly to the second lesson.

Don’t wait for the “right” person to act! Leaders do not always lead as they should. Sometimes they get complacent. That does not give followers an excuse. Sometimes people must be willing to motivate their leaders to action.

You might not see yourself as a leader, but you still have no excuse. If you are choosing to sit around and do nothing simply because your leaders are not acting, then you are living in sin. You are jointly responsible. And you are capable of instigating a change!

The priests should have been the ones to direct the king and mobilize the Levites. The Levites should have been the ones to teach the people, stirring them to action. Instead, Hezekiah pushed the priests and Levites. Then he stirred the people to action. The Levites got a more decent start than the priests, but it was only the amazing responsiveness of the people that truly lit a fire under the sluggish priests. The ones who should have started everything were the last to respond.

Where will you and I fall? May we be the first!

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Marriage Monday: Protection

So many things in marriage need protection. In a matter of seconds, all of us could rattle off a list of ways we can and must protect our marriages from adultery, from breaking under stress, or simply from growing cold.

But there are other areas of marriage that I think we forget to protect. Even when our marriages are strong, little things threaten to chip away at the intimacy we share.

Think about a few of these things with me, if you will.

SUCCESS – Are you your spouse’s biggest cheerleader?

How often do we consciously remember to protect the success of our spouses? I fail at this one so frequently. My husband is amazing. He succeeds in so many ways, but many of those successes are never applauded. Why? Because Doug is a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. He is the idea person behind the success of others. In all honesty, he prefers to be in the background. But, this world measures success by what they can see. So, if my husband’s success is only visible as the success of others, it can be easy for him to feel like a failure.

I must protect his sense of success! It is absolutely critical for me to acknowledge and cheer on his skills because I am the one who sees them. If I do not protect his success, then I am promoting his failure.

On the other hand…

FAILURE – Do you allow your spouse to fail?

No one likes to fail. But it is so easy to take a personal dislike for failure and turn it into a prison for someone else, especially a spouse. We hold an expectation of perfection over our spouses and magnify every one of their failures.

Protecting our spouses’ freedom to fail is almost as important as protecting their successes. Marriage needs to be the safest place to fail. (Now, keep in mind that I am not talking about a failure to keep marriage vows.) My husband needs to know that my love is not based on his ability to avoid failure. In fact, his greatest growth often comes from moments of failure. It is important for him to know that I applaud, support, encourage, and protect all growth, even growth through failure.

PREFERENCES – Is your spouse free to have preferences?

This may seem to contradict our recent discussion in “The Things He Loves.” Yes, we should grow to share likes and interests. But, support of personal interests is also absolutely critical.

Far too many people poke fun at the interest of their spouses. She criticizes his love for hunting while he mocks her enjoyment of a chick flick, especially if it is a sappy one that makes her cry. She does not understand his innate need to yell at the umpires while he does not grasp the therapy of a shopping trip. (Of course, I don’t really grasp that last one myself!)

Instead of criticizing what we do not understand, we must protect one another’s interests. Some of my husband’s passions make my head whirl. I can’t always keep straight all of the nuances of his interest in guns or politics or even some of the deeper aspects of theology. But I love to see that passion. And I want to protect his freedom to enjoy those things without criticism.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But perhaps it will stir our imaginations a bit. Maybe by pondering how to protect these aspects of our marriage, we will consider other areas that need protection. Personality traits. Pursuits. Choices. Habits. Methods of relaxation. Work ethic. The list goes on and on.

What can you protect for your spouse this week?

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The Freedom to Lead

Today those of us who are from the United States celebrate our nation’s birthday. Although many dates play into the history of the birth of our nation, July 4, 1776, is the day we have officially adopted. So, today we honor the 238th birthday of the United States of America.

Many of us take less pride in our nation today than we once did. We have made some foolish and sinful decisions, and we are very divided. We do not always use our wealth well, and we have gotten our priorities out of whack.

But there are still many things to celebrate today.

The one that stands out the most to me is that, as American citizens, we have the freedom to be leaders!

No matter who you are, where you are from, or what your story looks like, you can be a leader. You have the freedom to influence others. You have the ability to start a wave. You can be a leader.

In so many other countries around the world, the masses are forced to submit. Becoming a leader from among the populace is exceedingly risky at best. At worst, it is impossible.

But that is not the case here. Here were are free to lead!

Now, what will we do with that freedom?

As you celebrate today, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how God wants you to lead. God’s answer might not be what you expect. Sometimes leadership simply involves motivating others to obedience, even if you never truly lead a great movement yourself.

Over the next couple of weeks, I intend to share some thoughts from Scripture about leadership. But today God has a plan for you. He has given you freedom to lead for a reason. What will you do with it?

Happy Independence Day!

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Around the Web

Happy Wednesday to you! What have you found as you’ve perused the Internet this week? I have seen everything from hilarious to sobering.

Here’s just a glimpse:

The Princess Bride and Legos

Is that not a fun combination? I did not sit through this whole twelve-minute video, but I did skim through it to see the different scenes created in Legos. Yes, it’s fun. And yes, some people just have too much time on their hands.

 

Doug’s Blog

If you follow me on social media, you know that I go through spurts sharing Doug’s blog posts. Then I get behind on reading and have to catch up. Well, I’m in catch-up mode again, determined to become more regular about reading and sharing. But I thought it might be fun to share his weekly sermon post here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

 

Adoption

After a recent trip to Kenya, these were the thoughts on Tricia Goyer’s heart:

The Sad News About Adoption in Our World

I have seen and experienced the reality that, contrary to Tricia’s experience, not everyone can easily adopt from the foster system in the state of Arkansas. But, our hurdles are mere rumble strips compared to adoption issues in places like Kenya. And, we often allow ourselves to be derailed by obstacles much more easily than we should. This is not only true of adoption but of many challenges that face the western church. When the biggest challenges to our faith are health issues and inconveniences, we must realize that we have it easy.

Please don’t get me wrong. A precious, precious family said a final goodbye to their young daughter/niece/granddaughter last week when she lost her earthly battle with cancer. There is nothing easy about that! But from a spiritual level, it is relatively easy to keep our faith and be Christians in our culture when the biggest challenges are things like cancer.

But I digress.

Tricia’s article is a good one that made me think about many issues. Worth the read.

 

Plans to Grow?

And while we’re on the topic of adoption. Need more sleeping space to fit the growing family? How about this?

Triple Bunk Bed Plans

Have a great week, and don’t forget to share what you’ve found around the web this week!

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