Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets

A Blown Mind

I enjoy a good, fictional story. Whether it’s a movie or a book, I like the experience of working through the tale from start to finish and enjoying the nice, neatly wrapped package of an introduction, a crisis, a climax, and a resolution.

Yes, I know life is not like that. Life never presents us a concluded story. From birth to death, life is one long, complex, interwoven series of stories that never truly find solid conclusion. They are ever evolving, ever changing, and ever intermingling with one another. When we watch movies, read novels, or even dive into biographies, we are essentially pulling a single thread – maybe even two or three – from a much more complex piece of fabric. We focus on this relationship or that experience, but the remaining realities such as work or extended family or history that, in real life, strongly impact those threads are only side thoughts and setting for our compact story.

And you know what? That’s okay! It is not wrong to enjoy the narrative of a few threads, even learning powerful truths from that narrative if we choose our entertainment well.

The problem comes, though, when we apply the same reading style to Scripture.

Too often, I read God’s Word with a desire for a nicely wrapped package. I enjoy meditating on a passage for days on end, but if I have my preference, each day will bring a thought that I can wrap my head around. Even if the learning grows each day, I want something tangible and solid every time I meditate.

But, it doesn’t always work that way. Some days, what I end up with is the birth of a realization. The first tricklings of learning that completely evade understanding. In a nutshell, my mind is just blown, and it feels like the millions of scattered pieces will never come back together.

Sometimes, the light bulb begins to come on within a day or two, and increased depth of learning follows understanding. But other times it’s a slower development. I’ve hashed through certain mind blowing concepts for years on end, pulling in a piece here and an edge there, assembling the most challenging puzzle I have ever encountered in an attempt to get even the smallest glimpse of what the final picture looks like.

As overwhelmed as I feel when my mind is blown by Scripture – as much as I prefer the nice, neat, storybook package of study, learning, and growth – I am learning to crave this type of open-ended learning more and more. I’m learning to hunger for questions that take weeks, months, or even years of study and exploration to answer.

The written Word that we hold in our hands, creation all around us, and even God’s active work in our daily lives and throughout history are all just a tiny glimpse of the essence of the Almighty King of all existence. He is so much greater. So much more profound than anything we can imagine. His gifts of revelation represent a depth that our hearts and minds will never fully reach, no matter how many years we are given on this earth. But that should never prevent us from diving!

If our minds are not blown at least every now and then, it is not evidence of the vastness of what we know. Instead, it is an indictment against us, showing our failure to even try to plumb the depths of the revelation our amazing, loving Father has so graciously given us.

Oh, may I hunger more and more for a glimpse of just how much I have left to learn.

May I never fear a blown mind.

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Posted in Reviews

The Captivating Lady Charlotte

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to review The Elusive Miss Ellison by Carolyn Miller, and I enjoyed it immensely. So, when The Captivating Lady Charlotte, book two in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series, came available for review, I was delighted to take the opportunity.

Once again, readers can visit a world where the meeting of social class expectations is critical and deviation is frowned upon. Novel after novel has been written about socialites who have bucked against the expectations of their class or their parents, declaring that love or personal ambition is more important than fulfilling social expectations. But is that always the case? Can embracing the expectations sometimes be the correct solution?

That, in a nutshell, is the conflict in The Captivating Lady Charlotte. And Carolyn Miller handles the conflict beautifully, processing through both the spiritual and social aspects of the question. How does independence flow with maintaining a relationship of honor and respect with one’s parents? Can social constraints and expectations always be categorized as positive or negative? When is a desire to break free of social expectations honorable and when is it self-centered?

Throughout the process of grappling with this conflict, Carolyn Miller also explores spiritual growth and relational dynamics while weaving a beautiful romance. Readers who enjoyed getting to know Nicholas and Lavinia in The Elusive Miss Ellison will enjoy seeing them again as their lives intersect with Lavinia’s cousin Charlotte.

Once again, my lack of familiarity with the culture and social construct of British high society in the early 1800’s left me pulling out the encyclopedia or running quick web searches now and then to explore just what the author was referring to when a specific destination or “current” events story was mentioned. What induced daily conversation among Britain’s elite in 1814 did not always reach the American history books of my day! But, although it might have been easier for me as the reader to have had a little more explanation worked into the storyline, it was also fun to stop and do a bit of research on my own, learning something new about a segment in history with which I have limited interaction.

Carolyn Miller’s second installment in the Regency Brides: A Legacy of Grace series is definitely one that I both enjoyed and gladly recommend. My daughters are enjoying the series right along with me, and we look forward to reading book three, The Dishonorable Miss DeLancey, when it comes out this fall!

THIS BOOK WAS SENT TO ME BY KREGEL PUBLICATIONS IN EXCHANGE FOR MY HONEST REVIEW.
Posted in Marriage Monday

The Hypocritical Wife

I often feel like a hypocrite when writing marriage articles. One reason is because I struggle so much in my own role as a wife.

Far too often, I feel incapable of speaking my husband’s love language. It comes across much more often as criticism than love, no matter what my intentions may be. I make choices that cause problems instead of solving them. I am needy, and I have a personality that often thrives on things that drive my husband crazy. I struggle to communicate the tasks and issues that fill my day, leaving him feeling uncertain about how to involve himself or help.

The failure seems even more profound on the ministry side of life. I hear other ministers talk about the ways their wives encourage and edify them by knowing the right words to say or sharing the right Scripture or quote with them. They know how to encourage their husbands in struggles and keep them going when they want to quit. I don’t.

Yep, it’s true. I’m not a great wife. Yet somehow my husband still finds me wonderful. He still says he made the right decision all those years ago and wants to keep right on going in this crazy thing called marriage. And goodness knows I’m not going to be foolish enough to run away from an amazing husband who will put up with all of my failures!

And this is why I write.

Despite my failures and my issues, our marriage has worked for nearly nineteen years. We are still growing and still committed to the bond created all those years ago. So, as I share, I get to pass on to you those things that make “us” work. I get to share our successes and our progress. I get to offer you a glimpse into lessons we have learned through experience, growth, and Scripture. And hopefully, in the midst of all of my imperfect sharing, you may also find encouragement and growth that will strengthen your own marriage.

I know I am a very imperfect wife. But, I am an imperfect wife who is loved by an amazing man, washed clean by a holy Savior, and hungry to share the grace and growth that has been mercifully granted to me!

Posted in Marriage Monday

Pride

We all know that pride can destroy a marriage in so many ways. Pride keeps us from admitting wrongdoing, acknowledging the wisdom of our spouses, or even simply being willing to allow someone else to get their way even when there is no clear right or wrong. It keeps us from becoming one flesh because we each want to maintain our independence and individuality.

But there is also an aspect of pride that can be strongly beneficial to a marriage: pride in one another.

How often do we vocalize pride in our spouses? And when we do, how well does it resonate? How well does it match the other thoughts we communicate to or about our spouses?

Contemplate this scenario. Over and over again, a child is harped upon to be better at this or work harder at that. Nothing is ever good enough in his behavior or his accomplishments. Every now and then, the child hears his parents say, either directly to him or to someone else, that they are proud of him. But, can he truly believe it? Or has the weight of the criticism mounted so high that the proclamation of pride has a hollow ring to it?

I think this is often what happens in our marriages as well. We criticize, harp, fuss, and complain to the extent that any mention of pride in our spouses falls flat. They just don’t believe us. The rest of the world probably doesn’t either.

My husband makes me proud in so very many ways. Doug plants seeds for so many things that he cannot or will not take credit for. Someone else gladly takes the credit and the glory while he stands humbly by in the shadows. He is more of a servant than anyone I know, but he does so quietly such that few people see his service. He is observant and brilliant. He sees needs far in advance and lays the groundwork for them to be met, sometimes even waiting years for his efforts to come to fruition. He knows how to help others succeed and is not hesitant to give them the limelight. In fact, he much prefers that over any of the light shining on himself.

Because his brilliance and service are quiet and behind the scenes, he is frequently seen as someone without many successes of his own. As a result, he receives so much more criticism than praise from the world around him.

As his wife, I want to be the opposite. I want to make sure to express just how proud I am of him and rave about his strengths and accomplishments. I want him to know how proud I am of him.

Just as selfish pride can destroy a marriage, so can withholding pride in our spouses. May we always be proud of them. May we pour into them. May we never hesitate to tell them and the world just how awesome they are.

Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets

There’s More

All my life, I have heard verses and passages quoted about not being afraid. One such passage is found in Psalm 56.

When I am afraid,I will put my trust in You.In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid.What can mere man do to me? Ps 56:3-4

Like many of our favorite passages, however, we stop there. What can mere man do to me? We like to stop there, because it gives the insinuation that man can’t really do anything to us. It almost has a super hero feel to it, doesn’t it? I’m on God’s side – you can’t touch me!

The problem is that David didn’t stop there. In fact, he went right on to lay out just exactly what “mere man” was doing to him! They were distorting his words and lying in wait to kill him.

When David stated that he would choose to not be afraid, he wasn’t saying that there was no reason to fear. On the contrary, he outlined several reasons to fear. But then he came right back to what God could do in the face of man’s capabilities.

There are many things man can do to us. There are many things we can and will endure in the spiritual battle against the principalities of this world. The key is not that we’re invincible. The key is that we serve a God who can answer any and every threat. No action by man or spiritual forces stands outside His strength, wisdom, power, and will. For every threat, God has a name. Protector. Sovereign. Judge. Provider. King. Comforter. Master. Ruler.

God With Us.

The passages that we pull out and memorize, knowing they offer comfort and guidance, are fantastic tools in the hands of the Holy Spirit. But, let us never forget that before and after every familiar passage, there is more. More richness. More promise. More conviction. More power.

God is more.

So, what can man do to us? Plenty. But we must never forget that God is more.

Posted in Friday Faith Nuggets

Obedience Without Guilt

This may seem like a strange question, but how often do you feel guilty about obeying? I bet you do more often than you know.

Consider these scenarios. Have you ever felt guilty about:

  • taking a few minutes to read a chapter or rest for a few minutes, knowing the to-do list is still long or that you asked the kids to do a chore that you could have done instead.
  • saying no to a friend, church, or extended family activity, not because you had something else going on, but because you were just too exhausted to do one more thing.
  • enjoying what God has provided because you know He has not provided in that way for someone else.
  • speaking the truth in kindness and love because you know it had to be said, even though it hurt someone else’s feelings.

I might be the only one who has dealt with all of those and more, but I have a feeling that at least one of those struck home with you, dear reader. At least one.

Let me combat that strike with some truth. The enemy’s goal is to mar all that is good. Oh how clearly we see that displayed throughout Scripture! It started in the garden. We see it in Satan’s conversation with God in Job. We see it in the temptation of Jesus. We see it over and over and over again. If Satan can twist everything good – especially for those he has lost for eternity through salvation – then he can prevent truth from spreading. That means he is even going to try to make the things of God appear bad.

Yes, he’s going to make us feel guilty about obedience. We have to choose truth instead!

Our biggest battle comes when we begin to doubt whether our decisions are actually a matter of obedience or personal preference. The only way we will win that battle is by fully immersing ourselves in the Word of God. Last week I studied Psalm 1 in preparation for Sunday school. I love this entire song, but the first half resonate with the truth that obedience will always be clear when we’re immersed in God’s Word.

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NASB)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the consequences of obedience were always positive? If the choice to obey always meant that everyone agreed with us and the hard work was rewarded with beautiful results?

More often, though, obedience results in us feeling a bit like Job. Or staying hungry like Jesus. Obedience is hard. And it is always combated, contradicted, and belittled. Sometimes even by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who do not quite understand why obedience directed us into such a hard place.

Obedience will be a challenge as long as we walk this earth. But, may we stop feeling guilty about it! May we instead ground ourselves so solidly in the Word of God that we are girded up when attacked, strengthened as we rest, and stand firm to draw others closer to Christ along with us.

Be obedient, my friend. Without guilt.

Posted in What I'm Learning

Mindful Leisure

The more I think about rest, the more I have to analyze, practically, what that looks like. If I were to put the question to the wide, wide world, I would probably receive many responses related to leisure.

Our culture is all about leisure.

We live for weekends and holidays, during which we want to unplug from everything. We have movies, books, video games, ball games, amusement parks, and all manner of activities that allow us to escape life for just a little while as we supposedly rest.

So, why do we stay exhausted all the time?

I think it’s because rest was never meant to be mindless. It was never intended as escapism. Yet, so much of our leisure is just that. It’s mindless.

Now, I’m not saying that the activities I mentioned are bad. But, when we approach them as escapism, they become something that sucks the life out of us instead of pouring it back in. If we’re going to enjoy a good ball game, snuggle up for a movie, read a book, head to an amusement park, or engage in any other activity, we need to be intentional to engage in them mindfully. We must choose to actively explore how we can avoid the mindlessness that rises as the archenemy of rest.

What does this look like?

Well, that’s just it. This is all a work in progress for me. A mission of discovery. I am creative in many ways, but I do not think outside the box well. I have a hard time breaking the mold of what has been exemplified for me. If I dislike the mold, I am more inclined to leave it empty than to recreate the shape. I know I cannot leave this one empty, but I am often stumped as to how to change it. Fortunately for minds like mine, changing the mold often starts with evaluating the mold itself to see if there are useful aspects to it.

For instance, think of one thing that so many of us struggle with: time on the Internet.

We “hop on” for a “quick” look, only to find we have wasted thirty minutes without realizing it. How can we turn that around? By choosing to be purposeful in our time on the web. Think about Pinterest. Many of my friends laugh at me because I avoid Pinterest as often as possible. It’s a bottomless pit of overwhelming. But, when I have a specific task to accomplish, it can be very helpful. I choose my keywords, set a time limit, start a search, and then take my finds and go apply them to whatever project I wanted to tackle. A few years ago, ten minutes on Pinterest and a couple of hours of sewing resulted in several adorable gowns for my girlies to pack for camp. I had so much fun making those gowns, and the whole experience was one of mindful leisure and rest.

Mindfulness. Intentionality. Purposefulness. And fun! That is actually restful!

I have so much to learn about rest. How to avoid feeling guilty when I say no to people so I can obediently rest. How to balance personal and family rest. How to anticipate the Sabbath so I don’t spend the first few hours of the day wandering aimlessly trying to figure out what to do to avoid the mindless leisure that so often comes to mind first (and never satisfies!).

But I am excited to know that God will teach me as I discipline myself to rest His way. Mindfully.