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Living the Christ Life

Set your mind on things above

 

 

 

I wanted to reflect something amazing.

I wanted to live something noble.

I wanted the Divine to invade in such a way that we all stood in awe of His glory.

But then the kids got up whining.

They fought through breakfast and one wiped his snotty nose on the couch and we stumbled out the door late and I had to take Little Bit to the doctor.

It was rush hour and we literally squished ourselves onto a subway that was packed like sardines with people who had bad breath and B.O.

And when we got to the hospital to have blood drawn, we entered this open air hall crowded with nearly 1,000 people… all of them there to have blood drawn.

It was hot and stuffy and there were no chairs and the wait was long. And that ache for glory, for something noble and worthy, it seemed to slip away, further and further beyond reach.

I could feel the slipping, the slow death, the faith and hope being wrung right out of me by a thief I couldn’t even see.

And I wondered what a person is to do when life has starved her of what really matters. How does she regain faith when it’s been lost? How does a hope-deprived heart regain its health? How does a perishing woman apprehend her life line, that glimpse of Glory, before it’s too late?

 

Set your mind on things above

 

And I’m standing in that huge outdoor hall, waiting our turn for the needle, when the woman beside me asks about my Little Bit. “Her parents didn’t want her?” she asks. “Was she abandoned?”

I wince at such a cruel question, like I’d been elbowed in the gut. Because I am her mother. We are her parents. But it was asked in ignorance, so I overlook the words and speak to the heart of this woman. “My Little Bit was left in a cardboard box the day she was born. But we are her family now.”

We chat a few minutes more. I want it to be enough. I want to go back to just waiting, go back to being numb. I want to retreat into my shell of no- risk living. Hoping for Glory is just too painful. It makes the heart ache.

And yet.

I know this is an opportunity for me to share the good news of Jesus. On the one hand, I want to hope for Glory. I want to live the Christ- life. On the other, I just feel so tired. I’ve done this so many times before, it all seems canned, mechanical, so… futile.

But the prompting inside, that  internal force, the tidal wave of hope… it’s like He’s laid His hand on me and I cannot help but speak up.

So I do.

I can’t say that my heart is totally in it. I’m not full of faith that something miraculous will happen as I open my mouth. I just… simply… begin.

“I’m a Christian,” I tell her. “We adopted because adoption is what God does for us. He brings us who are without hope into His family.”

And no sooner do the words leave my mouth than the lady beside me flails her arms and reaches for her purse. She’s a crazy woman, digging deep in the bowels of her bag. She comes up with a pack of tissues just in time. She bursts into tears.

“I’m a Christian too,” she sputters, dabbing madly at her eyes. “Just haven’t been to church in a very long time.”

And I’m shocked. You don’t meet Christians like this here. Not in this country, not in a hot, crowded, smelly hallway where you are just one anonymous person. I voice a few more words, awkward and tentative. I don’t know where to go with this. I’m listening for His prompting to direct my words, guide my speech.

The life of Christ fills me then and I do know. I know why we’re here, why years ago we left father and mother on the other side of the world. I know why we squeezed into a subway that morning and stood lost in a crowd of a thousand. I know. It’s so we could stand next to this one woman and be the Father’s voice- her Father’s voice- to her. “You are very special,” I tell her. And I’m really just relaying a message from our Daddy.

“There is something He wants you to do, some way you can serve, and no one else can do it. He’s prepared you for it and He’s given you this ministry. He has tailor made you for this job.”

Tears are dripping down her cheeks and her heart is soaking up words that are not mine. We are two crazy ladies crying in public. Everyone around us stares and I’ve a mind to let them in on the joyous secret:

God draws lambs into His fold. He restores hope to His people.

We all like big shindigs. We want church planting movements, big followings, best sellers, and we don’t want to settle for anything less than A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

I get that.

But God whispers to our child-like hearts, “Don’t ever despise the day of small things.”

The Lord rejoices in the small beginnings… and He is a God who leaves the ninety and nine for the one.

And sometimes you can know it at the strangest of times, like in the midst of a very ordinary day when your kid smears snot on the sofa and you feel your inadequacies and you are standing next to someone with body odor. You can know that in spite of everything that’s wrong with you, God has given you the ministry of reconciliation.

You can know He’s made you alive in Christ.

 

 

“I come as one who desires, who seeks, to be prepared to live out the life of Christ today on earth, to translate His hidden heavenly glory into the language of daily life, with its dispositions and His duties.

As I think of all my failures in fulfilling God’s will, as I look forward to all the temptations and dangers that await me, as I feel my entire insufficiency and yet say to God- ”I come to claim the life hid in Christ, that I may live the life for Christ;” I feel urged and drawn not to be content without the quiet assurance that God will go with me and bless me.

May I indeed expect to live the life hid with Christ in God, so as to make it manifest in my mortal body? I may. For it is God Himself will work it in me by the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. The same God who raised Christ from the dead, and then set Him at His right hand, has raised me with Him and given me the Spirit of the glory of His Son in my heart.

Believe what God says about you. Accept what God has bestowed upon you in Christ. Take time before God to know it and say it. The life of every day depends on it.”

Andrew Murray, The Master’s Indwelling

 

Join something new we are doing here?  A 4 week eCourse on Abiding in Christ and living out our new identity? The course begins February 4. Get all the details here. 

Hope

newton_pin

 

 

 

 

 

An incredible story to give you hope this Christmas season

 

 

The bus swerves on the mountain road and I look straight down from my window seat to see sheer drop. Nothing but mist lies beneath us. We are mere centimeters from death.

Mountain climbers call this exposure, the condition of “being on high vertical rock with full consciousness that nothing exists between you and the distant ground but thin air.”

And there are times in one’s life when you come into full consciousness, when you know nothing exists between you and death but the invisible sustaining of God….

 

The orphanage juts from the side of the mountain and as we climb the steps to enter, I see faces of children peeking out from behind doors.

We spread food out on tables. Children run up to snake packages of cookies, crackers, and candy into their pockets. Some sit down to eat the fried chicken we brought, others just horde, waiting for their own private feast.

All the children but one has special needs. The healthy children get adopted out to homes around the world. The rest stay behind.

“If you have any language ability,” the director of the trip tells us, “please spend time talking with the children.”

That’s me. I’ve worked hard to learn this difficult language. The thought crosses my mind:

“What if I’ve learned this language for a time such as this? Just for today, to communicate the love of Christ to children abandoned up the side of some mountain in the middle of nowhere?”

So I approach child after child, see mouths of rotten teeth and clothes with holes in them. I offer warm arms and warm words and I pray Christ takes broken pieces and words and nourishes the hungry soul anyway.

Then…

I’m standing by the director of the trip when she says to the group, “There is one child that hasn’t come out. The child is tied up in the room next door.”

A child tied up? Mercy. My heart starts to pound.

“They told me the child can come out if someone takes the child and does not leave their side.” The director says this and I see raw panic in the eyes of our group. So does the director. We all want to run from what we can’t predict, what we can’t make sense of, avoid what is risky and unknown.

The director turns to me. “Arabah, will you take this child?”

I stammer out a “Yes, of course,” and follow the house parent to the room where the child is tied.

It’s a girl standing at the window. 

Her hair is chopped short and it’s hard to tell if she’s a girl or boy with her clothing, but I look in her face and I see the spirit of a girl, the feminine beauty mirrored in my own heart.

I want to cry.

The window is open, even in this cold, and she is tied to a security bar at the window. Her eyes are bright and I take her hands into mine. They are freezing.

I look in her eyes and speak softly, asking if she wants to go outside for awhile. The rule is that I must keep her on the “leash,” a thick strip of fabric tied around her torso, and that no matter what, I can’t feed her.

I soon find out why.

She rushes the food tables and grabs trash off the floor to eat it. She smacks snacks out of other children’s hands and tries to stuff food and debris down her throat.

I adjust to this child. A child with food issues. I smile inside, thinking of my Little Bit. I can do this.

I steer her away from the food tables, but not before grabbing a wrapped bun. The house parent told me not to give her any food, that this little girl who lives tied up had already eaten.

I don’t listen. I’m sorry, I can’t.

I give her the wrapped bun and she tries to eat it, only to realize it is secured by packaging that she can’t open.

“Wo bang ni,” I tell her. “Let me help you.”

I want her to receive food from a stranger, to know generosity, to realize there is kindness. After a life of abandonment and abuse and pain and isolation, I want to move her one step closer to trust. She needs to know there is hope, there is a good future. There is a Maker who is also a Father.

Is this not why we go in His name?

It seems preposterous for me to try to communicate to her that she doesn’t have to self-protect and look out for her own interests. Me of all people, and she who has lived in a dog-eat-dog world. This is a stretch for sure that seems better left undone.

But I try anyway. I get down on her level, face to face, and repeat the words to her again and again, “I can help you. I will open it for you. You are so special and so beautiful. Slow down, everything is okay.”

She glances up at me quickly. Amidst the rush around us, somehow that inner need for survival is overpowered by trust. She looks at me. Finally, she hands me the bun.

I rejoice at the victory. I open the package and give her the bread.

She devours it.

We repeat this over and over until she’s had chicken, buns, cookies, crackers, juice.

I spend an hour with my little friend, oblivious to everything else going on. At the end, she finds a shiny gold ornament that fell off the Christmas tree. She picks it up and for the first time, she smiles. She speaks. She holds the ornament and rolls it around and around in her cold hands.

“It’s yours,” I tell her. “You can have it.”

I speak words of love over her and when it is time to go, I ask the house parent to take her. ”No,” she tells me, “You must go tie her back up.”

It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life… tying a child up.

And then leaving.

The words are even hard to write.

But as I get ready to leave the room, I notice I’m the only adult there and many of the other children have returned. They are lined up in wheelchairs and every single one of them is staring at me, with hopeless eyes. I touch each one and try to speak words they can understand.

They don’t. Their eyes tell me the words are meaningless. They stare at me dark and hopeless and empty, so I speak just one word. Just one word again and again and again. It’s the only one they need know, really.

 

Jesus.

 

“Don’t forget,” I tell them. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”

It seems such a pitiful attempt in the face of such pain and hopelessness. When the dark emptiness stretches endlessly before them. It seems so meaningless, so impractical. Why bother? Why pretend that it matters, that it is somehow significant?

When I return home, I cry with Jackson and Jackson tells me the headlines of death and loss and devastation. And we all wonder why?

Hearts wrenched and wounded and this is why we self-protect and just look out for ourselves and quit believing in Good. This is why our hearts grow numb and we die that way and why we don’t bother with the small attempts because what’s the point, really?

But there’s that one word, that Name, that God-man who left heaven and came down for the express purpose of entering into our pain.

He’s called the “Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

And He didn’t have to be. He could have stayed far removed. He didn’t have to climb the mountain and untie the sash and speak the good news to a broken world and make Himself bread and become the Lamb who took stripes for us and now promises to never, ever leave us … He didn’t have to do all that. But He did.

He wept and He didn’t run from the hopeless, evil, dark pain of our lives stretching out endlessly before us but instead entered into it so that He could overcome it and give us our heart back.

We really can believe there is Good. There really is a future and a hope. Life really is worth living. 

Where is God? we wonder.

And I have no answers but a word: Jesus. Emmanuel. Bread of Life. Freely Given. Shepherd and Savior and Close to the brokenhearted. Binder of wounds. Healer. Sustainer. Weeper and Empathizer. Comfort. Light in our darkness. The Way, Truth, and Life. Redeemer. Overcomer. Victorious One. The Pearl of Great Price. Lamb of God.

He’s everything and He’s right here with us.

And I realize it, that in our moments of exposure, when all the safety nets and securities are removed,  in that place where we understand how close we really are to thin air, we can see Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Down the Gun

gun

 

 

 

 

gun

 

 

I’ve been totin’ a gun.

It’s actually been part of my daily garb for many years,  tucked away just out of sight.

But I have a little problem. You see, I’ve been trying to get rid of the gun. How do you ditch a gun? I mean, I could just put it in the garbage, but that doesn’t seem safe or practical. Plus, you don’t just put guns in the garbage unless you need to be arrested for something.

Perhaps a couple of monks can help you understand my predicament. These monks live in Snowmass, Colorado at the St. Benedict’s Monastery and one day, an unnamed monk was working alone in the vegetable garden.

A second monk happened upon the first and tells the story: “I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?”

He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had.

“I would like to become a monk,” he answered.

“But brother, you are a monk, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been here for 25 years, but I still carry a gun.” He drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun.

“And they won’t… are you saying… they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I  know.”

“Well then, why don’t you give it up?”

“I guess I’ve had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.”

“But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.”

“Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.”

“Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble.

He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he embraced me.”

 

~~Monk story from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry“~~

 

Ruth Barton goes on to say, “Most of us have a gun- some way of protecting ourselves and making ourselves feel safe, hidden, under the robe…Holding on to our self-protective patterns is one manifestation of our unwillingness to surrender ourselves to God for the journey that is ahead.”

I know it. I mean, I really know it.

My gun, my self protection, is what’s hindering God’s work in and through my life.

And though I’ve been a Christian for a long time…even taken some risks… left home to live my life working overseas...I still carry a gun.

I’ve known the problem of my self protection for some time. In fact, the monk story has been sitting in my drafts since 2/25/12, waiting for the right moment to be shared.

I’ve struggled hard to put the gun down.  The sad truth is that I’ve not been willing to take the risk required. Give up the control I hold so desperately to.

Maybe I’ve been waiting for some dramatic moment, some monumental point of decision, like when God touched the blind man’s eyes and he was healed of his infirmity.

Self protection is an infirmity.

Some of us know that. Some of us see how the disease has manifested itself in our relationships.

It isn’t pretty.

But Jesus didn’t always heal the same way. For these, he told them to go. Go in obedience, in faith, taking one step after the other in the direction of holiness. They were healed, not instantaneously, but as they went.

And I’m pretty sure that’s where God wants for me to go. Down the foot path. One foot in front of the other, pushing through the fears, doubts, pain, one step at a time.

I’ve been putting it off long enough.

It sort of reminds me of Pikes Peak. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve driven up the thing and for a girl from the flatlands, it was a frightening drive to be sure. I’ve taken the tram up. Beautiful and scenic. But I’ve never walked up. That’d be hard. Risky, even. And certainly not quick. The view at the top is the same either way. But for those who’ve climbed, the scenery is sweetened by the victory of the journey, the sense of accomplishment, the fellowship, the win.

I could get the workbook on overcoming self protection. I could do the bible study, take the tram up. And I could laugh shallow and say I’ve been up Pikes Peak.

But I do believe God is gracious enough to tell some of us there isn’t the direct route plan in our trip agenda. There is no instantaneous healing, no quick fix. The is no car, no tram.

There’s something better. There’s ownership. There’s a hard climb and each step is a victory and there’s this sharing in his cross and crown.

Yeah, there’s fellowship.

Maybe that’s what the self protective heart needs more than anything.

Intimacy. Finally.

So I’m on the journey, the difficult foot path. And my loving husband told me, “Why don’t you take Complete and do the 21 day journey and apply it to this area of self-protection? I’ll help you.”

And at first I balked because that just would be over the top and what if I can’t? And what if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too demanding and how will I know what to do? And a thousand other what ifs. Can you believe that? How audacious I am?

Of course I must do it!

Last night Jackson and I stayed up late talking about it. Self protection is THE thing that is standing between me and my promised land. I simply cannot run from it any more.

So friends, I’m doing something very scary. I’m publicly declaring war on the giant in my land. Yes, I’m trembling in my boots. When it comes down to it, I’m no Caleb. And yet I do know without a doubt that the Lord has given me this land; and not only that, He has graciously given me a battle plan specific for this: Isaiah 58.

If I’m sporadic around here over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m camped out on the mountain somewhere in the wild. Living this thing out with God. Battling the giant. Living Complete.

It’s time.

Oh, how it’s time.

{I anticipate having lots to share~ wink~}

What I learned from the “fat girl” {How to Set Up Banners}

the_fat_girl

 

 

the_fat_girl

 

 

It was junior high.  I was “brace face” and she was “the fat girl.”

She was a year older than me, and quite pretty with her bold red curls, except no one allowed her an identity beyond her weight.

Certain things can mark us for life. And we can wear unfair labels for years.

I wonder if she went home every day in tears at the way she was treated. But she came to school and smiled again and did it all over.

Again and again.

And in seventh grade I learned defeat can be like that, coming down torrential day after day.

Perhaps defeat comes in many flavors but when it comes the Exodus 17 way? Well that’s just vicious. You know, when the Amalekites came up behind the traveling Israelites in the wilderness on their way to the promised land? Those slaves-turned-free were just minding their own business. The Amalekites had no bone to pick. Yet they showed no mercy. They attacked the weak, the young, the ones who were already struggling and lagging.

They attacked from behind.

We have an enemy who attacks us at our weak places. He doesn’t come head on, he slithers up from behind and gets us where we struggle the most. And he laughs while doing it.

The fat girl’s name was Pam and I liked her. When she came back for tenth grade, she was different. She wasn’t fat. She was a striking red headed beauty. I would have been intimidated to talk to her, except I knew she was kindhearted.

“Pam, what happened? How did you change so drastically? Your appearance is amazing! What in the world did you do?”

She smiled, beamed really. “Over the summer break, I decided I didn’t want to live like that anymore.”

“I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to help me. Then I got up in the morning~ every morning~ and went for a walk. Each day I prayed and asked Him for help and walked out my front doors and He helped me!”

I should have learned it from her then, but I didn’t, that Christ is our victory. That Christ is the only victory. That there is no hope apart from Him but that with Him, there is all the hope in the world.

Scholars say that in the Bible, “Amalekite ” refers to our flesh, the old self that clings and trips us up and weighs us down time after time. It attacks us from behind, it devours us when we’re weak and it sabatoges all our plans for living in the Promised Land. We talk much about being the intercessory Moses and keeping our hands up in the air, but we need also remember our Victory.

Yahweh God said, “Write this as a memorial in a book, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And it says it right there in that memorial record that HE Himself wages war against Amalek from generation to generation.

He’s waging it in mine.

He’s waging it in my children’s.

He is waging war against our Amalek, against enemies that sneak in unsuspecting and bring us low and in His name, we can have victory.

 

“And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, “The LORD is my Banner (Victory).”

It’s something Pam learned in between ninth and tenth grade. She learned the LORD was her victory and every day she flew the banner of the victorious and under the safety of that banner, she opened her front door and stepped out and walked.

The girl walked.

The first day she walked around the block, huffing and puffing. The next day she did it again. By the end of the week, she could walk a block and a half; by the end of the summer, she was walking several miles.

Pam, she taught me some things.

Today, I raise the Banner and step out into the fray. The Banner flaps victorious overhead.

“We will sing for joy over Your victory, and in the Name of our God we will set up our banners.”
Psalm 20:5

 

Personal Note: If you’ve ever been called “the fat girl,” even if only by yourself, please know that you are not defined by your label. You are defined by your Savior. Part of being victorious is letting Him define you. Joining hearts and praying for our labels to come off today, friend.

Insurmountable {How to live the hard days}

encouragement for when life seems insurmountable

 

 

 

encouragement for when life seems insurmountable

 

It’s after the second day of class that I start looking for a way out.

I’ve spent the last six years nourishing babes and putting one amazing husband through a PhD program… not reviewing characters and speaking foreign and making linguistic progress.

After an excruciating 2 hours in class I approach the teacher, “I can’t read or write at this level. I think I need to drop down a level.”

“That’d be a waste of your time,” she tells me. “You’re going to have to learn to write and you might as well start here.”

She gives me something to read~ heavenly mercies it’s in English~ about the difficulties and hardships of learning this particular language. Marked by dry, unproductive seasons and lots of confused discouragement, the learner’s path must be one of perseverance.

I take the train home.

I stand the entire hour and a half it takes to get there and collapse on the couch.

I’m in over my head. What to do?

When faced with a task that overwhelms, when faced with the impossible, when called upon to do the incredible, what to do?

How exactly did Peter walk on that water? I need to know.

For mothering and ministry and marriage, for cooking and cleaning and serving, for the mundane and the miraculous, how do we do this thing?

Words  from a deep well rise up.

 

“Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.” I Chronicles 28:10

 

Yes, that’s it. The way of Solomon. Young and inexperienced, Solomon was charged with…chosen for... an epic task: build an amazing,  glorious sanctuary worthy of the One True God.

And when we’ve all fallen short of His glory and the work rises above us and stretches out before us and we know every inch of our incapability, our weakness, our unworthiness… what do we do?

How do we build the amazing, glorious work we are called to?

“Be strong and do the work.”

And seasoned David, who’d once been a boy who took up sling and stone, who was courageous enough to face his giant, told his son Solomon, “Be strong and do the work. You are chosen for this job. The Lord will never leave you. Now do it.”

Oh yes, there’s this too: The plan. “Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms and the room for the mercy seat.”

Solomon completed the task by following the plan. Most things we don’t stumble into. We need a plan to get there.

I get up from the couch and sketch out my plan. 30 minutes of reviewing vocab cards. 30 minutes of writing. 30 minutes of homework.

Tedious, insignificant, small work. Nothing noble here.

But over time, it’s the seed that brings the harvest.

It’s the small and insignificant that holds untold potential.

When staring at the big, the downright overwhelming, and you don’t know where to start, just take the next step. Plant a seed. Brush the next stroke. Write the next sentence. Forgive the last wrongdoing. Cook the next meal. Offer the next prayer.

Do the next thing.

And when you aren’t sure what the next thing is, sit down and get God’s blueprint.

Plan your work and work your plan. 

It’s the way of Kings.

 

Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”

I Chronicles 28:20 

 

 

{email subscribers click over for video}

 

Q4U:

What’s your insurmountable today?

Now what’s your plan?

Go out and plant your seeds.

Further Resources:

 

A follow up post on what’s happening in my language study this semester!

A short video by John Piper on learning a second language

David and Solomon and how that majestic temple was completed after seven years

When you need some perspective { A Tradition for Difficult Times}

The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

A Tea Tradition and story for facing hard times

 

 

Dear Daughter,

When they told me what we had to do, the world stopped and I just needed to pull you close and sit down. They said for you to grow, I must give you injections every night before bed; but that isn’t the worst part. “They’ll need to be given in the stomach,” the doctors said. “These will continue until she has reached adult height, in about ten years.

And I don’t know what the next ten years will bring us, but I know hard things and painful nights will certainly be part of our lives.

I wish there were some other way, a way to avoid pain and discomfort. In this life, there is no such way.

 

That’s why it is important for me to give you something greater than a pain-free life, my daughter. I want to impart to you perspective.

 

I want to train you how to stop and see the unseen.

So daughter, I’m shopping for a teacup. Yes, you and I are going to sit down to tea.

Before the injections start in a few days and our evenings shift and change, you and I are going to have tea. And I’m going to tell you a story…

 

 

The Teacup Story

Once upon a time there was a quiet little shop tucked away amongst the busy streets of London. This shop was magic because from time to time, items in the shop ~ like wooden horses and over-stuffed elephants ~ would briefly come to life. One day a little girl and her mother were visiting London and got lost. They stumbled into the quiet little shop and began looking at the varied items found there.

The mom noticed high on a shelf sat a beautiful teacup. It was lovely! The mother reached for the cup to show her daughter. As they touched the delicate flowers and ran fingers across the cup’s rim, something surprising happened. The cup began to speak!

“I have not always been a teacup. You see, there was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, patted and pounded me over and over and I yelled out, ‘Don’t do that. I don’t like it! Let me alone.’ But he only smiled, and gently said, ‘Not yet!’”

“Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. ‘Stop it! I’m getting so dizzy! I’m going to be sick,’ I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, ‘Not yet.’”

“He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… then he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. ‘Help! Get me out of here!’ I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, ‘Not yet.’”

“When I thought I couldn’t bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! Ah, this is much better, I thought. But, after I cooled he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. ‘Oh, please, Stop it, Stop it!’ I cried. He only shook his head and said. ‘Not yet!’”

“Then suddenly he put me back into the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up. Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited ——- and waited, wondering “What’s he going to do to me next?”

An hour later he handed me a mirror and said ‘Look at yourself.’ “And I did. I said, ‘That’s not me, that couldn’t be me. It’s beautiful. I’m beautiful!’”

Quietly he spoke: ‘I want you to remember. I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you’d have dried up.

I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.

I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn’t put you there, you would have cracked.

I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn’t done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn’t put you back in that second oven, you wouldn’t have survived for long because the hardness would not have held. Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.”

 

 

Daughter, you are like that teacup. God is the Potter of your life. His plan and delight is to make something stunningly beautiful of you. But beauty doesn’t just happen. Beauty is shaped with intentionality. Beauty and purpose sometimes come only with force, fire, and discomfort.

If our teacups could talk to us right now, they would tell us it was all worth it. The shaping and the fumes, the fire and the heat. One day, you will be able to say the same thing.

For now, we must get to know our Potter. He is good, always… and always faithful. He knows what He’s doing.

In wisdom, He knows just what to bring into our lives to shape the beauty, color, and flavor He aims for us to have. He never takes His eyes off of you or forgets what you are going through. He never gets tired of His project or decides to quit. He promises to finish what He started in you. He even wrote you a letter so you can know for sure and never forget:

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”   Jeremiah 29:11

 

Oh daughter! I can see the beauty taking shape in you! I can see determination starting to shine through. I can see gentleness being formed. I even catch glimpses of compassion and service. Daughter, you are a masterpiece.

Whenever you are tempted to despair, whenever you are tossed about with doubt, this will be our tradition … we’ll pull out the teacups and reflect on our Potter.

Much love,

Mama

 

 

**Repost from the archives. Author of the original Teacup Story unknown.

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The Teacup Tradition {Helping Children cope with Difficulties}

 

Hope when you want to quit

how not to quit

how not to quit

 

 

 

It all started when I asked her to pick up.

Company is coming and an entire evening is planned and I really don’t have time to work through some issue that no one really understands in the first place.

Little Bit starts to meltdown.

When she goes rigid, refuses to answer questions, just sits there sour when I’ve asked her to pick up, I want to give up.

Throw in the towel.

I’m sick to death of the whole mess. Wounded children and exasperated mamas and adoption and being like Jesus… it’s all just one big pulsing heartache.

No, I’m not going to walk out on anybody. I’ll smile at the guests and talk about how great God is. I’ll be a decent mom and wife. But there’s more than one way to be a quitter.

Inside is where the quittin’ starts.

There’s the quiet, insidious choice to just stop believing.

Here’s the thing: when we stop believing God, we start believing something else. And on day 1,897 of the battle, I  just want to call it quits, stop believing for something greater. Inside, I want to stop trying. Stop acting like anything is ever going to change. Stop pretending there is something glorious about it all.

Truth is, there’s nothing glorious about the wretched mess.

And truth is, sometimes it’s just too much to believe for anything better. It’s too hard to keep believing when everything tells you to get real already.

When day after day you go at it like a bull rider, out to master the beast, holding on with every tenacious strand of your being…and every day you’re thrown in the mud while your confidence… your hope… gets slung and trampled, well there’s only so long you can keep doing that.

The vision can be smeared by the mud. The laying face down in the muck can rob you sheer blind. Your faith can be eroded by the maddening mundane.

I sit there on her window seat, defeated. We talk the same talk as always. They are just words now; My heart’s not in it.  I hear the company at the door. She starts bawling and sniffling and one really can wonder how in the world a mom is supposed to do this jig. Day after lousy day.

And then it comes to me: our family crest. 

We agonized for a year or more over which four family traits we wanted to capitalize on, which four values did we want etched into stone, which ones would make the cut and go on the family crest?

One of the four we decided on? Diligence.

And how many times have I told the kids when they wanted to quit at something too hard for them, “Remember our family values? Part of being diligent means we keep going. We keep trying. We don’t ever give up.”

Never Give Up.

It strikes me then. It’s a Family Value. Straight from the Father Himself. It’s a highly prized character trait and all God’s children are instructed in it.

He taught us to pray and never give up, to know that the testing of our faith works patience, to persevere through trials and not let go of our confidence.

He told us that no matter what, we must build ourselves up in our “most holy faith.”

Never. Give. Up.

And I hear the Father instructing this child’s heart: “You can’t quit, my girl. Because perseverance is a family value and you’re in the family.”

And through my gritted teeth I say it out loud before my mind has time to negotiate it: “I’m not giving up. I am not giving up.”

The tears are coming down her face and now they’re coming down mine too, the blood streaks of battle. There’s company waiting to be greeted, but I’ve got unfinished business to take care of.

“I’m not giving up!” I say it loud and crazy. I’m pacing the room and waving fists in the air and I’m doing warfare that can’t wait, the inner battle in unseen places where whole lives are negotiated for.

The course of an entire family can be traced back to the map of one person’s unwavering faith.

“Do you hear me?” I say it stronger now.  ”When the Son of Man comes, He’s gonna find persistent faith in this corner of the earth! I am not. giving. up!”

“Because I’ve got the promise of my righteous Daddy to defend and protect and avenge me speedily. He’s able to keep what I’ve entrusted to Him. He’s going to take this sorry mess and He’s going to do abundantly above and beyond all I ask or think and He’s going to keep us from stumbling and make us stand faultless before His glorious throne with great joy one day. And boy howdy, I’m not’a givin’ up.”

And in the midst of my faltering heart, I know it sure: a wounded child doesn’t need her mama to be perfect; she just needs her to be persistent. Persistent in faith.

And a faltering daughter doesn’t need her mama to have all the answers; she just needs her to have all faith.

And a wayward child doesn’t need her mama to keep pining over regrets; she just needs her to keep beseeching the Father.

And a daughter finding her way doesn’t need a mama who frets and controls; she just needs a mama who takes it all to the throne time and again.

The world needs mamas who won’t quit believing.

Who never give up. 

And just for today, I am one.

 

“I tell you, as for God, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find persistence in faith on the earth?”

Luke 18:8

How to start a day off right {Coffee optional}

Best way to start the day (coffee optional!)

 

 

 

Best way to start the day (coffee optional!)

 

The sun, it rises before I do.

Before the laundry gets started and the eggs get scrambled, before the children bicker and the doors slam. Before it all presses in on me, the to-do list a mile long… that one faithful witness in the sky speaks:

His mercies are new every morn.

Every cock-crowing, dog-barking, kid-fighting, laundry-piling morning, His mercies are new.

And I could live it.

Instead of scrambling to get up and get going, to beat the clock and out-run the sun, I could just believe that today is covered. 

It’s lying open there on the table when I stumble out of the bedroom. The ancient Words spoken to a fretful woman much like me are underlined: “Didn’t I tell you that if you believe, you would see the glory of God?”

And hasn’t He told us worried women time and again? That the way to see glory is to believe He’s got it under control?

The One who governs the sun guards our coming and going. (Ps. 121) He who provides seed to the sower will make provision for our every moment… when the baby cries at 2am, when the child slams fingers in the door, when you forgot to thaw meat for dinner. When you just feel like you can’t do it any. more.

His mercies are always served fresh and tailor made.

The difference that marks a life is how one begins her day. Not with stress and strain, not with fear and fret, but simple like, with faith.

 

“The great battle of our spiritual lives is, ‘Will you believe?’ 

It is not ‘Will you try harder?’ or ‘Can you make yourself worthy?’ It is squarely a matter of believing that God will do what only He can do.”

Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith: What Happens When Real Faith Ignites God’s People

 

We could live like this.

When the day begins and presses down hard, we could resist the urge to take matters into our own hands. We really could live simple, with belief.

With fresh mercies.

With the sun before us and the wind behind us and the Glory… the Glory all around us.

The One Thing I Need to Ask

 

 

 

 

The kids and I drive downtown into the setting sun. We sing in Arabic and the Sudanese teach us “Yesu gouwa aswa gouwa.” {At least that’s how I sing it.} Jesus is super, super power.

Three men report by showing videos of the lorries filled with grain traveling through the rain into the Nuba mountains. The Nuba people, an oppressed people group without a country, come running.

“Who sent this?” they ask. “Where does this come from and why?”

And our brothers, men sent out from our churches, girded with the prayers of the brethren and enabled with support, they tell them: “Your brothers and sisters in America have heard of your suffering. They love you and want you to know they care. They sent us to you with food and hope and the love of Christ.”

And the tears trickle down their faces as they receive provisions that will keep them alive. We all bow low, us sitting fancy in our church building.

We watch as the grain goes off the trucks in sacks, carried on shoulders into caves and crevices where mothers and children hide.

Then the refugees pile in. Over 500 people pack into those trucks, until they are forced to turn people away. They say no to a mom with her 5 children. “Why can’t you take us,” she pleads. “We have walked for days and nights, without food. We are starving. Please take us.”

They simply cannot. There is no room.

They leave her standing in the rain, holding her baby child. Her dark eyes haunt us.

Back down the mountain, through muck and checkpoints and danger, down to the nearest refugee camp the truck travels.

These are our brothers and sisters and we are moved and cannot be silent. One woman stands right up there during the report and asks if there is a way to send supplies, things like shoes and clothing. “I have a garage full of clothing I can’t use,” she says.

And Pastor Rex, he says something that lingers long, “It’s not a matter of food and clothing being available. They have these things available and at far lower prices than we could ever get it to them at. Additionally, there are other relief organizations on the ground and government agencies as well.”

“So it’s not a matter of availability. It’s the supply lines that are broken. They can’t get the supplies up to them.”

Pastor Rex explains how the enemy has come in and bombed, creating fear. The people are running for their lives, dispersed and scattered. The supply line needed to move resources has crumbled.

I struggle to get this straight:

The people starve because there is no way to get the abundance of food in the city up the mountains into the caves.

And long after the service is over, the Spirit speaks the words over and again: “It’s not a matter of availability. My grace is sufficient. But girl, the supply line is down.”

“The supply line is down.”

 

And don’t the scriptures tell us how the enemy of our souls, he roams and roars? He aims to ignite fear and he intends to rob us blind. He intimidates and we scatter and the supply line is cut off and aren’t all the resources of Christ surely always available to us but not always appropriated?

And then, just this blinking headlight in the battle dark…. that faith is the victory. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith.

And I see with shocking clarity, that truly the believer’s supply line is her faith and if her faith is down, her resources are cut off. It isn’t that resources aren’t available…they are not appropriated.

Why are we not asking after each other?

Sure, we’ll ask if we’re reading our bibles, praying with our families. We’ll ask how the church is growing and how the ministry is coming, if our health is any better. But all the while souls are shriveling. 

Sister, how is your supply line? How is your faith?

As you stand at the sink and wash dishes, that hope you had all those years ago for something better, bigger, something truly noble, is it a mere rock in your soul? Dead weight? An aching sore spot?

As you intervene in the sibling fights, those promises God spoke over your children… Do they seem downright laughable? Another ache? And maybe you’re thinking God came through for Sarah and Abraham, but it’s going to take a miracle in your home and things are looking too ordinary to be miraculous.

As you wait at the pharmacy for the RX, have you vision for a God-encounter? Have you lost the eyesight to envision the extraordinary?

Oh sister, how is your faith?

As you walk into that office, prepare for that little-attended lesson, call that family member, prepare that dinner… where is the spark of faith that says, “this is significant and I’m pumped because God is gonna show up and bust this joint wide open!”

Why on earth aren’t we asking each other if our supply line is down?

Are we encouraging each other in the insignificant and failing to build up that which is most precious? 

And all I can think about is that momma of five standing out in the rain holding her baby in the dark. Her feet hurt, her belly aches and she doesn’t know how much longer she can make it.

Sister, is that you?

We’ve got to re-establish your supply line. Because faith is this crazy confidence that even when you stumble and falter and live weak, even in the face of the downright impossible, God’s gonna come through for you anyhow.

 

“Faith is the source of all graces that we recieve. We are saved by faith. We live by faith. We pray by faith. We walk by faith. We appropriate the filling of the Holy Spirit by faith. By faith we overcome the world. All these blessings and virtues of the Christian life are rooted in faith.”

~Dr. Joon Gon Kim, founder of Campus Crusade’s Korean ministry, as quoted in Vonette Bright’s book “In His Hands”

 

If we are not fully appropriating the sufficiency of Christ, we must tend to our most holy faith. 

 

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit.”

~Jude 1:20 (AMP)

 

There’s something that needs tending to in the sisterhood. I can envision it, faith rising like an edifice, stretching from south to north, closing the gaps, re-establishing the supply line.

And with my own battle weary eyes I see it, a faith amongst God’s children the globe over that appropriates all the sufficiency of Christ.

Our most holy faith.

Yes, beloved ones, it’s time to re-establish the supply line. Let us build ourselves up in our most holy faith.

 

edited repost

What you need to calculate today

he Joy calculator; How to really crunch numbers and circumstances!

 

 

 

The grocery list grows long and the pantry gets scant and Jackson and I sit down to crunch numbers.

“We’re going to be okay,” he tells me with a smile. “Just don’t go to the grocery. And don’t get gas. Oh, and don’t pay any bills either.”

I laugh.

Some days you need to borrow the faith of another and today I lean heavy on Jackson’s.

But I still don’t know how creative I can get with canned beets and tuna.

Crunched numbers tell a grim story. It tells us where we stand and how we fare and somehow the story always comes up short.

And who doesn’t do it… Crunch numbers?

We crunch to get information, to clarify purpose, to gain wisdom.

We input the numbers and run the calculations and out comes the result.

But numbers aren’t the only thing you can crunch. You can crunch circumstances, too.

We can calculate trials and hardships and bare pantries and lost relationships and bad doctor’s reports.

Crunching circumstances is part of life.

he Joy calculator; How to really crunch numbers and circumstances!

It’s okay to crunch circumstances. In fact, Scripture commands us to crunch circumstances, just like we crunch numbers…we just have to crunch correctly. When we crunch God’s way, the result is always the same:

J    O    Y

 

Who would have thought God’s gift to us is a calculator that takes all of life’s ups and downs, all the testings and the trials and the difficulties and crunches them to produce a single, shining outcome: Joy?

Who would have thought?

But this is indeed the gift we have, this JOY calculator, if we will but sit down and do the crunching:

 

“ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” James 1:2

Pastor says “consider” means to count, to calculate, to press your mind down upon. It’s an accounting term.

“You can’t come to a joyful conclusion about a trial without calculating it,” he says.

Yes.

This is why we worry about the math calculations and the check book balance and the doctor’s report and the phone call we never received and the break we never got…we’ve forgotten to run things through the Joy Calculator.

It’s time to sit down and crunch.

The Joy Calculator, it tells the truth. We can always use it and say, “I’ve crunched the circumstances and things look good, real good!”

 

“And we boast in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.

You have need of perseverance so that after you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.” Romans 5:3, Hebrews 10:36

 

Pastor explains that perseverance is “hoopomone” in Greek and it means “to bear up under.”  Trials give us the ability to bear up under pressure.

And this single characteristic of “hoopomone” is the means to all other virtues and characteristics.

Hoopomone is the “funnel” through which we receive everything!

 

“And let hoopomone have its perfect work, so that the man of God may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:4

 

So the calculating goes something like this:

Trial (fill in blank) + faith = Hoopomone (perseverance) 

Hoopomone = mature, complete, perfect!

 

This…this is why we can calculate everything as joy. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (II Cor 4:17)

So I sit down with the Joy Calculator and I do some crunching. I plug in the circumstances and I apply faith and I see what God is doing and sure enough, out comes the expected result.

Joy.

I keep plugging things in, hard things. Sad things. The worst things I’ve ever experienced.

It is quite unbelievable. No matter what I plug in, the result keeps coming out the same.

I think I’m addicted.

I’ve done some calculating and things look good. In fact, they are glorious and I can’t help but share the wonderful news.

{Want to borrow my calculator this weekend?}

 

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*Repost from archives. I’m doing more calculating this week~ smile!
 

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