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How Jesus Comes

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5:42 am. No sooner do I sit down for morning quiet time than youngest comes out of his room. He’s crying.

“Momma, I pee-peed in my bed.”

So this is how my day begins, not with coffee, quiet, and the Word, but with stripping beds, bathing children, and washing clothes.

What I’d like is a long, deep quiet time. What I get is mere moments, snatched here and there, nothing extraordinary or mountain-top about them.

Days turn into weeks and weeks to months and I wonder if a momma can survive like this.

I’m so hungry.

It’s early on another morning that I read a little phrase from the book of John, Words devoured before the madness starts.

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”

It strikes me, how we can only receive what is given…and if I don’t see something as given, a gift, then I can’t open up and receive it. I will withdraw, reject, close off. Push away.

But if I see all as a gift, as given from heaven, then I can receive all.

I wonder when I stopped seeing certain things as gifts and started seeing them as inconveniences instead…sort of like a Plan B for my life?

Plan A, what I’d like, would be a long, meaningful quiet time every morning. Plan B, what I get,  is mere moments.

What I’d like is fun loving banter at the table. What I get is spilled cups, arguing, untouched food, and talk of passing gas.

And on and on it goes.

Yet what if I have God’s permission to receive it, however it comes? As a gift from heaven?

And what if I accepted it - however small, messy, crazy, ordinary, undignified it seems? All the mundane mommy moments, the interruptions, the squabbles, what if I received them all and stopped expecting things to look a certain way, to live up to some sort of self-imposed standard?

Expectations are blinders.

Truth is, even John the Baptist didn’t recognize the Gift when He came.

It’s our nature to expect the Messiah to be great and mighty, to show up strong and glorious with a major Wow factor.

But He came to earth small…as a blood-covered babe birthed in pain.

It was all a bit ragged and raw and messy and maybe this is how Christ comes and maybe we just miss it? Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is that Jesus comes to the messy, the small, the difficult, the lonely, the pull-your-hair-out moments of life.

We can see it if we’re looking.

We look for the mountain tops, expecting that’s where He’ll be. But He enters the lowly, lays down in trough, sleeps on hay, hangs out with animals.

Next morning, I snatch a few more Words, picking up where I left off, in John 4. This time Jesus shows up as a dusty, thirsty traveler to a loose woman.

She didn’t recognize Him either.

It’s what He says to her that stuns me: “If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink…”   

And surely women throughout time have known neither His gifts nor His appearing.

I marvel.

Ann Voskamp wrote a whole book about it, about all being grace and us accepting all with thanks. I’ve read it and nodded agreement but truth is, when my morning time was interrupted, I’d sigh. Or when sleep was non-existent, I’d grumble. Or when the noise and clamor and bickering escalated, I would too.

I still didn’t see.

I could make a list but I knew not the gift or the appearing.

It is easy to see God in the goldfinch, the Christmas lights, the sweet sloppy kisses. It’s not so easy to see Him in the cold lonely stable of life, when sweat clings to the brow and dust cakes the body and Plan B seems to be one major fiasco.

Yet if one can’t see the gift of God and Who it is right there in the mess, then one can’t receive.

Can’t worship.

Can’t enter into fellowship with the Savior who stoops low and gets messy.

Could this be what He asks of mothers, asked it of His own mother that night in the barn? To trust that these messy, hard places hold the Christ child?

 

He asks us to trust that Emmanuel, the Great I AM Himself, has entered in.

With eyes of faith, I see clearly.

I do trust. I receive.

This morning when a child stumbled from his room…early, much too early…tears in his eyes, I gently put down Word and journal and I take that wet, sticky little boy into my arms.

It’s as if I’m holding Christ.

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

 

And a sneak peak at what’s coming in January? The entire eBook, Complete, will be posted during January as a series. To see what prompted this eBook and series, read Joe’s story here. More details soon!

In Christ, you are complete. Believe it, live it.

{Make sure you are subscribed to Arabah Joy to receive free updates!}

 

When there are no answers

 

 

Today we have a guest post from Kristen, a blogging friend who is also an adoptive mother. She shares a prayer for those times we just don’t have the answer…

 

Again! He was disrespectful again. Mouthy. Defiant.

 

Again. He was at the hardware store with Daddy and slipped it in his pocket. It wasn’t anything he wanted. He didn’t even know what it was. But it was lying on the floor and instead of giving it to the clerk to put away, he put it in his pocket and snuck it out of the store.  So again, Daddy must take him back to the store to confess to the manager.

 

Again. He lied. Again and again and again. It comes so easy to him.

 

What do I do, Lord? How do I deal with this?  We’ve done what all the books say to do. They say, “Just take the kid back to the store and have them confess to the manager and return the item!” Well, we’ve done that. Every time. But, it hasn’t stopped the stealing.

 

We’ve tried the techniques and ideas in all those books we’ve read that are supposed to deal with lying and disrespect. We’ve tried “natural consequences” and punishments and lectures and “tomato staking” and just about everything else and now we’re frustrated and hurting and scared and all that has been spilling out into angry words and shouting and none of it is working.  Help us, Lord. Help us! You gave us this child. We don’t know what to do.  We just don’t know what to do!

 

Moses thought he could single handedly save the Israelites, starting with killing an Egyptian and hiding his body in the sand.  God spent forty years with him in the wilderness as he shepherded his father-in-law’s flock, humbling his heart, developing his character and making him into a leader He could work with.

 

Joseph was a spoiled, arrogant brat who foolishly flaunted his father’s favor to his jealous brothers enraging them to the point of plotting his death. His transformation was brought about through slavery and false imprisonment.

 

Peter had a hot temper and a quick, foolish tongue. He was brought low by his own fear and cowardice, denying knowledge of the One Who, by his own admission, he believed to be the Messiah.

 

Jonah, King David, the Apostle Paul….. the list goes on. Men whose stubborn willfulness could only be dealt with by the Holy God.

 

Transformation does not always come easy.

 

Sometimes it is not always as simple as praying for your child, who then realizes the error of his ways and comes around and walks the straight and narrow road.  This child may be one whom the Lord God must take in hand Himself. There may be a wilderness ahead for him. Pain. Humiliation. Can I pray, “Whatever it takes, Lord.”? 

 

I do pray, “Whatever it takes Lord. Just walk it with him. And bring him out on the other side, a man who can be used by You.”

 

 

 

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

When we don’t have the answers, it comes down to trust. For God does indeed “take in hand” and lead through waters to redemption. Kristen, I’m trusting with you today, friend…and praying for your young one held in the Father’s hand.

Join in next week for a very special edition of Simply Trusting…a story working its way through my heart.

A Motto in the Madness {or what to do when you sit on a wet toilet seat?}

 

 

So. It’s a typical morning of madness at our place, me flipping pancakes in the kitchen while simultaneously packing lunches, oldest shoving papers in my face to sign, Little Bit crying over a belly ache, the other two running around turning the lights out on everyone.

I run~ literally~ to the bathroom for an ultra-quick pit stop only to discover that Sunshine Girl has tee-teed all over the toilet seat. Unfortunately, I don’t discover this until after I sit on it.

I need a thorough body scrub following the encounter with the toilet…but who has time for that? That’s what perfume is for. Right?

Welcome to high octane mornings, momma! Who said we need wait til the holidays for full-on madness? Just try motherhood.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, a little phrase pokes it’s way through the noggin: “When the crowd pressed in on Him…”

Jesus was pressed in on.

He is here, in the middle of a mad momma morning, telling me He knows what it’s like. He lived in the pressure cooker of life and was hemmed in on every side and He knows how to do this.  If I’d like to listen, He can show me a thing or two.

Really? Well yes, that would be just what my mornings need.

How exactly did Jesus deal with it all? I do a search to find out and start reading in Mark 5. I reach verse 39 that reads, “He said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing?”

I laugh. Finally a way I can claim to be like Jesus.  How many times have I asked the kids that very thing?

I finish the account and honestly, nothing earth shattering jumps out at me. No tip or trick or strategy to make my mornings go more smoothly.

I have to read the passage a second time before I hear what He is trying to say. I jot down phrases that begin to jump out. Phrases that describe what Jesus did as the crowd pushed Him and the people scolded Him and the disciples advised Him every which way…

But Jesus kept looking around…”

“He turned around in the crowd…”

“Ignoring what they said…”

He did not let anyone follow Him…”

“He made them all leave…”

 

It becomes clear to me that Jesus, in the middle of the rush, He stood strong. He did what He needed to do. He didn’t get swept into the flow.

Instead of letting life carry Him along, He made life happen.

 

If He’d caved to the pressure, a woman who had bled for years wouldn’t have been healed.

If He’d listened to what circumstances dictated, He’d never have gone to Jarius’ house.

If He’d heeded the commotion and wailing, a little girl wouldn’t have been raised to life.

He lived against the flow.

And He invites mommas everywhere to live the same way.

I want to know how? How does a momma stand erect in the midst of a tidal wave? When everything and everyone is pushing you, this mad cascading free fall?

Jesus saw what God could do in the situation.

He kept His eyes on the divine work. He stayed intent on a divine call.

He knew exactly what He was there to do.

That’s it, isn’t it? To know exactly what we are here to do in the lives of our children. If we don’t have a clear target, how will we ever hope to hit it?

Jesus never lost sight of His reason for walking among men, to seek and to save that which was lost. When the pressure was on, Jesus focused in on that purpose and He nailed it.

Jesus mothering means we know clearly and succinctly what God has given us to do in the lives of our children.

 

When the craziness begins, the more focused on it we become.

This week, I’m filling in the blanks: God gave me these children to ________.

My mission for mothering. A motto in the madness.

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

Today and for the next few Thursdays, we are talking about trusting Jesus in our mothering… what does it look like to adopt habits in mothering based on the life and character of Christ? You are welcome to join in as we learn together!

Mothering when you’re stretched thin

 

 

I never planned 3 kids in two years, it never entered my mind. After all, I was a sane, organized, well-planned person who was also “infertile.”

Least that’s what they said.

So when the 3 littles came along in under two years time…well, it wasn’t a bad thing but it was a personal tsunami and how does one ever recover what life was like before something like that? How does one ever learn to stand on shifting sand again?

That’s when fear started creeping in.  Dread of what lay on the other side of those closed doors every morning. Dread of Little Bit’s tantrums and biting herself and of Sunshine girl’s proclivity towards danger and dread of the amount of time I’d spend wiping bottoms with three in diapers. Dread that I was losing connection with my oldest since he had to take a backseat to The Daily Rodeo that had become “home life.”

There was always this steady diet of anxiety… I couldn’t be enough, couldn’t do enough, wasn’t smart enough for all this. I simply wasn’t enough.

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s not, I really don’t know. But a mother can dread mothering.

She can want to run sheer clear of it.

And a mom can do one of two things when she’s under the gun. When the dread pumps in the veins and she feels a bit frazzled and topsy turvey. She can push or she can pull.

She can push children away, push them off on someone or something else, push back against their demands, push them to just behave. Or she can pull them close, pull up a chair, pull down on grace, pull out the snack tray.

For me, well it always happened at the dinner table. The time we sat together to eat. Talk. Enjoy one another. Read together. Or die trying.

Cups would spill and food would smear and kids would overturn chairs and bump heads and cry and need lovins and another would ask for more and then not eat it and then…. always, always, Sunshine would come climb up in my lap.

And I got tired of it.

I got tired of trying to salvage another spilled cup when she hoisted herself up. I got tired of trying to feed baby and hold her too. Tired of not being able to eat in peace, of balancing bites on a fork and aiming for my mouth like a kamikaze pilot.

So I told her she had to stay in her chair at dinner.

She would look at me with puppy eyes each night. I’d shake my head at her. No, she couldn’t come.

A mom’s got to keep her sanity. Right??

But then one day a very random verse came to my mind at the dinner table. The one about Jesus at His last supper.

“There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples….” John 13:23

And can’t you just imagine it? A grown man leaning against the bosom of Jesus? At the dinner table!

And Jesus welcomes it.

For weeks I said, “Good for You, Jesus. I’m so glad You welcome us. I’m glad that the cultural norm was to lean on each other at meal times. But I’m really about to lose my ever lovin mind and I can’t handle a kid hanging on me at the dinner table.”

But then I remembered the next part of the verse.

“There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,”

Here is a man~ who is writing the book of John~ who doesn’t call himself by name, just describes himself like this: “loved by Jesus.”

It wasn’t his past or his upbringing or his ancestry or his talents or his success among peers that defined him.

He had a new self-acclaimed identity. A new self-worth.

His very identity had completely been re-made when Jesus showed up…when Jesus showed him that no matter what and no matter when, even at the dinner table, he was welcome. He was accepted. He was embraced and enfolded. He was loved.

And what identity can I give my child? What rock-solid core can they have on the Isle of Peer Pressure? On the Journey of Adolescence? On the night of betrayal?

What can mothering like Jesus do for them? I’ll tell you what: it can give them an identity and security that they are deeply, unconditionally loved.

When we let our mom bodies be His arms and His bosom and His embrace and His words, we can give them the single most important truth we all need to know.

It’s a reflection of Truth Himself… of Christ… that we are deeply, unconditionally loved and accepted by God.

Here’s the amazing part. It all happens by saying “Yes. Come! Really! You are welcome.”

In the midst of folding laundry, come! In the hot steamy kitchen, come! While I’m at the computer working, come! While I’m in the little girl’s room, why not? You come in anyway. And yes, at the dinner table…especially then…come!

That day I wrote it in my journal: “Lord, with Your help, never again will I turn a child away. I will find a way to say “Yes! Come!”

Maybe sometimes it takes a bit of creative juggling and lots of praying, yes? But

 

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

and

“He who comes to me, I will in no wise reject.” John 6:37

 

So when little ones come and I droop weary, or an older one invites me into his world with a comment, I smile heavenward. Because being a push-mom is my way. But being a pull-mom is His, and He will do it. He’ll provide the way.

And He does.

 

 

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

Join us for Simply Trusting Thursdays? For the next few weeks, we are talking about what it means to trust Jesus in parenting like He does. Welcome to join in! Last week’s post can be viewed here: When a child sins, we die…

The question that demands an answer

 

 

I told him we’d have to wait until the weather warmed back up before he got the water toy out of storage. With that, I tucked the box away and out of reach, not giving it a second thought.

But I heard him playing in his room last night and come this morning, I find the water toy in there, water all over, pieces scattered.

He’d snuck out of bed and fished the toy out of storage.

This isn’t a toddler, this is a ten year old.

It’s disobedience and it isn’t cute or funny.

And what does a momma do in the rush to get breakfast on the table and homework folders signed and little ones dressed and kids off to school? What does she do when she sees a son headed down a road he doesn’t know any better than to go down?

And sometimes I wonder if people think missionaries have everything figured out… think that since we take the gospel to hard places, we automatically know how to live the gospel in hard places.

Our own hard places.

And I have to say, no… no. We don’t know.

There’s just this desperate reliance on God, yes?

I pull son aside and tell him I’m taking all toys out of his room. He doesn’t have much but the ball track and a snap circuit kit. “You disobeyed, son. If you were a driver and abused driving privileges, you’d have your license revoked. It’s the way things work. So you lose your priviledge to play with your toys at will.”

I rejoin the morning bustle but I can tell he’s bummed. Not in a good way, either. He isn’t receiving correction joyfully. He’s heaping on the condemnation, lying thick in self loathing.

Sometimes it’s all we know to do with our sin.

As we walk to school I tell him, “Buddy, I’m not upset with you. I’m not trying to punish you. I’m trying to teach you. Don’t give up, learn from it and let it make you better. Don’t be discouraged, son.”

“It’s kind of hard not to be,” he replies. He scuffs a shoe against the sidewalk.

And I don’t know what to say because I know…oh how I know…that the discipline of the Lord can feel like His hatred and the Law of the Lord can feel like an impossible burden and what exactly are we to do with our sin?

Because we are all sinners and we inherently know that God is just and our sin deserves punishment and are we just doomed to a perpetual cloud of shame and condemnation and self hatred?

I drop the kids off at school and sneak in a few moments to open the Word. I need a reminder. I feel the weight. I know the answers in my head, but my heart needs reminding.

It lies open before me, I John 1:7:

“And the blood of Jesus, His son, purifies us from all sin.”

 

It’s what we do with sin. We remember that it’s under the blood.

I remember then…Another missionary told me once of a time when she almost died. She was having dinner with friends and a man approached her. He asked her to try a flavorful dish. The Spirit spoke to her and told her not to eat it, that it was a trick.

Turns out, the food was poisoned.

Her mission work was intruding on the darkness and the darkness was pushing back.

But then, she got lax. She was out again with friends and she sensed the Spirit warn her again but she ignored it. She kept enjoying the company she was with and did not follow His lead to go get her jacket from the coat room where she had left it.

Her phone was in her jacket and unbeknownst to her, someone placed a detonating device inside her phone. On her way home, the explosion occurred. She was almost killed.

While unconscious she had a vision of sorts…she was in heaven and although she couldn’t see anything, she heard voices talking. “See, look at her! She is here because she didn’t listen to Your Spirit. She didn’t heed your voice. She disdained your word. She didn’t fear you. She valued her comfort more than you.”

And that missionary and I, we were standing together, alone, in the dorm hallway one night close to midnight when she told me this story and this is what she said: “After each accusation, I felt myself stunned, like I was being hammered into the ground.

And then, after each accusation, another Voice spoke up and said, “My blood has covered that.”

 

And that is how we deal with sin: we hear the Voice of our Savior from the pages of His Word because they tell us His blood has already covered and the solution has already been provided and the way has already been made.

From the foundation of the world. It’s covered!

 

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”

“Everyone who sins breaks the law. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins.”

 

It’s right there in I John, that love covers and love reconciles and love restores and most amazing of all, Love removes sin.

And I know that whatever I do, I have to parent the gospel. I have to preach the gospel in my mothering. I must relay the good news, show this Love…even in sin and disobedience and rebellion and hard heartedness.

Because  “Even while still sinners, Christ died for us.” {Romans 5:8}

This is how we parent the gospel: when a child sins, we die.  We die not to redeem that child but to re-direct that child to the Redeemer.

We die to anger…because we know the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.

We die to irritation. To condemnation and shame and harsh and haughty words….because we know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

We die to desires for instant gratification and results and quick fixes and easy children who never present problems and resentment and lost hopes and dreams…because we know the flesh profits us nothing, oh haven’t we learned that by now?

We die because we know that when we parent the gospel, that gospel message is the power of God unto salvation. {Romans 1:16}

{Think of it! The power of God unto salvation! We can parent the gospel!!}

Oh Glory!

 It starts right here: “While sinners, Christ died.”

So will I.

When they sin, I will die. I will uphold the gospel, exalt the Lamb, speak of blood.

And when that boy comes home from school, I take him aside again and I parent the gospel. “Son, there’s something God wants you to know. And there’s a story you need to hear…”

 

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

For the next few weeks, the topic for Simply Trusting Thursdays will be parenting like Christ. The challenge is for us to trust HIS way of shepherding and adopt it as our own…to lay down our own baggage and beliefs and take up truth.  “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it IS the power of God unto salvation.” I’m trusting. I’m believing!

Jesus Mothering

 

 

Every day this week Little Bit’s come home from school with an attitude.

We walk out of school, cross the street, pass the gate guard, turn down the side alley, approach our building. Up the stairs is when she starts. First the crying, then the all out bawling and by the time we get halfway up to our 3rd floor apartment, everyone around is wondering why this little thing of a girl is carrying on so in the stairwell.

And I’m always self-conscious about it, when all my *white* children are happy and smiling and my *dark* child is not.

Especially living in the country we adopted her from.

So the first day I soothed.

The second day I reminded her of all the reasons why she didn’t need to break down.

The third day I walked her back outside to “re-do,” to try to over-ride whatever was triggering the melt down.

On the fourth day, I was tired of it.

I took her into the bedroom and sat down with her on the bed. “Baby, you’ve got to stop this.” I told her.

“I can’t keep doing this with you every afternoon when we get home. There is homework to do and snacks to prepare and the other kids need help with things and we just can’t be doing this every. single. day.”

And I try to talk to her about why this is all happening and she doesn’t know and how can someone who hurts so deeply explain what is going on inside?

So I tell her she just needs to stop.

A momma gets so tired. And a momma has only so much time, energy, and know-how. And for surely the umpteenth time I ask God how exactly I am supposed to know what to do? I’m not smart enough for all this, nor is there enough of me to go around.

And that night, after the kids are down, a worn out momma picks up the book and starts reading where she left off.

 

“Jesus leaves the healthy ninety-nine safe in their pen while he goes out into the night looking for the one who’s lost, sick, depressed, disappointed, wounded, enslaved. And when He has found it, He lays it across His shoulders.

Can you imagine what His message to us would be otherwise? “I’ll come after you and save you- if I’m not too busy saving others, and if my attention isn’t needed keeping the ninety-nine others safe. After all, you probably got into this mess yourself, and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the others, who are being good, of my time and attention just to keep coming after you.”

Never in Scripture does Jesus give a message anything like this. Instead, He promises to come after the one…”

~Undaunted, by Christine Caine

 

And I’m cut to the quick and whispers across my soul tell me why He’s placed these children in my home, why my life has been turned upside down by adoption. He’s picking me up by my weary arms and setting me on my feet and calling me to a Glory I can’t wrap my petty mind around.

The glory of the gospel.

My heart stirs and I fall in love with Jesus all over again and I commit to shepherding these hearts, even little hearts that don’t know why they do what they do ~  especially those ~ with a pursuing love that reflects the Savior.

How will I do it? I don’t know except this: by Him and through Him and to Him… and with Him.

How many times will this be asked of me? Countless. How many soft words, gentle touches, kind guidances, second chances? As many as the sands of the seashore.

And each time I’ll experience afresh His mercy, be awed by His humility, become perfected in His love… I’ll know the gentle ways of the Shepherd.

 

 

For the next few weeks, Simply Trusting Thursdays will focus on Jesus-like mothering. Jesus-mothering is based on trusting the gentle ways of Jesus to guide us, teach us, and show us how to shepherd our children.

As a mom who does not have mothering all figured out, I’ve been turning to the scriptures…yes, in desperation…and He’s been challenging my heart to trust. Trust enough to follow in His footsteps, lose my life, scatter the seed, cast bread on water…let go of my mothering hopes, dreams, and expectations. Take it one moment at a time, surrendered and listening.

I’ve been meditating on these principles now for several months as they relate to mothering, and although I’m shaking in my boots to even attempt to put them into words here on the blog where others can read them, I need to for me. I need to process what He is kneading into my heart. It seems He’s shaping in me a brand new philosophy of mothering…

 

 

Why you make God giddy

 

 

He reaches for me and I stiffen.

I know how I *should* respond. I know all the ought to’s and why nots but I’m too distracted, too chaotic.

Intimacy as a “should do” is an oxymoron.

Intimacy can only be cultivated, given as gift.

And me, the one with intimacy disorder, I have to fight for it. I have to fight for intimacy. I have to fight to cultivate, not mandate.

I begin a mental routine, a renewing of the mind which always includes prayer.

I’m coming up pretty dry.

“Lord,” I pray, “I’m available. But that’s all I seem to be able to offer this time.”

Sometimes it is so much easier to offer the body than the heart, to go through the motions than to feel, and how do we really move into the holy sphere of oneness?

“Why are you crying?” Jackson whispers as we press close, and I can’t even make sense of it myself.

All I know is that I’m fighting for intimacy.

And it’s later in the day, when I’m sitting at the computer checking email that Jackson comes in the room and starts talking. He’s saying something and I’m trying to respond to an email and I am not good at doing two things at once and I’m frustrated at the interruption.

I stop for a brief second to tune in to Jackson.

He’s telling me how crazy he is about me.

 

And our gracious God makes me pause… because one of the tools for the intimacy disordered is to hear love-words as God-words. To let them mirror His heart, to receive them as His love, to allow them to communicate my own desirability to a God who is crazy about me.

This is the mystery of the marriage bed, the reflection of Christ and His church.

At the computer, I click over and open a word document. I start recording the words Jackson is saying.

“I am crazy about you. I desire you. I desire everything about you. 

I desire your friendship. I desire your companionship, your intimacy.

I desire long walks on the beach barefoot, watching the sunset together. Hand in hand, heart to heart, chest to chest.”

I tell him what I’m doing and he laughs. “I can’t keep talking when I know you are writing it down!” He tells me.

So I stop. I’ve got a whole sumptuous meal to sit down to with those words. But I write down one last thing:

“I’m downright giddy about you.”

 

And it’s God who wants to enjoy life with me, who finds me desirable, who wants to hold hands and laugh and feel sand between toes with.

Why do we think God loves only in the intimate moments? Only when He wants us raw and vulnerable and surrendered? Only when it’s good for Him?

Doesn’t He think of us a million times a day, with thoughts more numerous as the sand on the seashore?

And if the Bible says that His thoughts towards me are numerous, too many to count, then does He whisper these things to me all day long, always speaking of the love, the passion, the giddiness…

And do I sit at the computer screen of life trying to tune it out because what I’m doing seems more practical? More fulfilling?

Why don’t I focus on the affection? Tune into those words? Hear that heart thumping with crazy love?

Maybe truth is, He primes the pump all day long. I’m just sitting blind and deaf and totally miss it.

Too distracted.

Too chaotic.

Too hung up thinking there is some hidden agenda.

Not today. I take words and I make a meal of them: Our God is giddy about us. He dances over us with singing. He can’t help it.

 

Intimacy requires trust.

Trust that He loves everything about you.

Trust that He’s crazy about you.

Trust that you make Him giddy. You really do!

Isn’t it amazing?!

Here are some of His words towards you. Trust them! Make a meal of them. Psalm 139; Zephaniah 3:17

{And remember, He turns messes into miracles! Wink!}

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

Reaching for Hope

 

 

Old man carrying his grandchild (Chengdu, China)

 

For decades they’ve been told there is no God.

“You came from a monkey.”  That’s what the government tells the vast millions… those hunched under their burdens and those trying to climb the economic ladder…those aged and stained with culture wars as well as the young who don’t know better.

I’ve seen the effects of a godless government and it’s frightening.

And I’m in the bank one morning when one of the millions enters through the glass doors.

He’s slightly bent, old, with tattered clothing.

 

 

And I don’t know why, but I look at his shoes.

They speak.

“Believe.”

It’s written right there like a banner across the dirty, stained canvas.

 

Believe  Banner

 

And I think to myself…

If we don’t praise, the rocks will cry out and even when governments silence, shoes speak.

Across the dirty canvases of our lives, our culture, our circumstances, our past…it’s written right there: Believe!

 

BELIEVE

 

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping–believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”  Romans 4:18

 

 

When it seems the gates of hell prevail, when you’re overwhelmed with the dirt, listen to the rocks. The flowers. The birds.

Even shoes.

They are telling you to believe God.

Even against all hope…

 

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

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When Trust is Good Enough

 

 

“Are you the driver today?” I ask the man as he grinds a cigarette butt into the pavement. He grunts an affirmative. Jess and I follow him to the van. A complete stranger drives us away from our homes and families, off into a city of 10 million people.

For a moment I stall.

Beginning is always the hardest part, especially with the masculine species who prefer grunts to actual communication.

“Are you native to this area?” I ask him.

Another grunt.

I make a decision to forego the animal talk and take the plunge. “Are you a Christian?”

I know the chances are slim. Only 1% of the people in this city are Christian.

“I’m a Buddhist,” he tells me…with words. We’re getting somewhere.

I tell him I’m a Christian and ask if he’s heard the story about Jesus before and he tells me yes, he’s heard it and that all religions are basically the same.

I love it when they tell me that. “Your religion and mine are indeed very similar,” I tell him. “Except Jesus? He rose from the dead.”

I let it sink in for a moment. “All other religions follow a man who died. But Jesus died and rose again. Do you know why?”

I ask the man and he doesn’t know and I explain that God raised Jesus from the dead to show that He was pleased~ fully satisfied~ with Him. “He is the perfect substitute.”

He tells me about Adam and Eve and how all of us are sinners because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and I tell him he sure knows a lot for someone who’s a Buddhist in a communist country. He laughs. “I have friends who are Christians,” he tells me.

My heart is warmed by a God who has arranged for this man to have Christian friends. “God loves you very much. He is your Creator and you are very special to Him,” I tell him.

“So what do you do when you sin?” I ask him. “You believe in the 8 Fold Path…but no one is perfect! There is no religion on earth that can make people good enough.”

I explain that this is why Christianity is different: all other religions believe in striving hard and doing good {with differing definitions of what “good” is.} But Christianity acknowleges that we will never be good.

Only with Christianity can one finally. stop. trying.  

“Christians have accepted that God is satisfied with Jesus. Jesus was given to us as a gift. When we trust in Jesus, His righteousness becomes ours. It’s a love-gift from a God who loves people.

And as I speak of Christ to a man who has stopped grunting out answers and who laughs with me and talks openly about religion, I wonder…what if we Christians really lived what we say we believe? What would our lives look like if we just stopped trying?

If we stopped trying to be good enough.

If we stopped trying to earn acceptance.

If we stopped working for approval.

If we stopped trying to prove our worth, our competency, our value, our goodness? What if we rested in the truths of our faith?

“Christ is the end of the Law to everyone who believes.”

“Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”   Romans 4:4-5

 

What if? What if Christians got a good dose of Christian beliefs? What if I did?

 

Simply Trusting Thursdays

 

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Putting Flesh on Faith {Stress Inoculation}

 

 

 

 

The light is peaking under the shades when I finally throw the covers back and switch on the light.

 

Light / Building / Shadow

 

I groan when I see the time: 6:39am. So much for a quiet time this morning. I regret turning the alarm off.

I know it is a matter of mere moments before the children are up.

“Lord,” I pray. “I know You are with me. I know You will help me. Thank You for breath, for legs that work, for these children that will bustle out any second. Thank You for what You’re doing in my life.”

I do not feel strong. Dread is creeping into my heart. Jackson is out of town and the demands of the day fall squarely, solely, to me. Pondering what lies ahead of me today makes me shake in my boots.

So I become a spiritual Navy Seal.

Seals are trained for success through something called “stress inoculation.” It happens by being repeatedly placed in high stress situations that trigger a panic response. Yes, that sounds familiar. But I missed the anouncement that I’m moving out of basic spiritual training and entering special forces.

Seal training involves keeping the emotional center of the brain in check. When pushed to the breaking point, the trainee learns to over-ride the panic response.

It isn’t something that comes naturally. It isn’t a “zap” that happens while they sleep one night. It happens through repeated training.

Scriptures refer to the Christian as a warrior, a soldier in training. We are to know how to effectively deal with pressure, difficulty, and high stress situations. We are to put on the full armor and apply our training and meet each challenge standing~ i.e. successfully.

I go to battle.

“Lord, we will make it through breakfast,” I say as I pull on pants. Goal setting in small segments is one of the four techniques Seals use to train their brain. To combat mental chaos and suppress the negative emotions that fear evokes, Seals are pushed to the limits over and over… and asked to employ tools to deal with the realities those limits evoke.

Successful training means they exit ready for practically any mission.

I practice the four tips too.

I visualize how I will master the morning until breakfast. In my 10 second visualization~ for there is no time for lengthy ones~ I see myself drawing from Jesus and responding with a smile… through breakfast.

The Bible calls it renewing the mind.

Two children exit their rooms as I exit mine. The game is on.

This is where the theory of faith is put into practice.

 

Stress inoculation doesn’t happen in a classroom.

We can attend Bible studies and conferences and hang out with friends and drink coffee, but truth is, stress inoculation happens when you’re submerged under the water.

And this morning, I’m submerged. Little Bit decides she does not want to get up. She refuses to come to breakfast. I leave her in bed and go take care of the other children. As I pour cereal into bowls, Little Bit begins screaming in the next room.

Two children start bickering. I run out of milk. Youngest child complains. The screaming next door escalates. Chaos starts to creep into my mind and I fight it by speaking Scripture aloud. I sing the first hymn that comes to mind.

At breakfast, I ask oldest son to read from Jesus Calling For Kids. The words apply, even to big kids:

 

Supernatural

“I trust in Your love.” Psalm 13:5

When it seems like absolutely everything is going wrong- trust Me. When your life feels more and more out of control- thank Me.

That’s not what usually pops into your mind, is it? When you’ve missed the bus, lost your best friend, and the dog really did eat your homework- your first response is to complain.

Put on the brakes! Don’t do the “natural” thing- do what is beyond natural. Do what is supernatural. Trusting and being thankful in the middle of a really bad day are supernatural responses, and they unlock My supernatural Power in your life.

I’ll see you through whatever mess you’re in and fill you up with My peace, which is beyond your understanding.”

 

I gather the children around~ all except for the one still screaming~ and we sit on the living room floor. We’ve made it through breakfast. “Okay, Lord, let’s just make it to snack time.”

Aloud, I say to the children, “Let’s practice trusting and thanking. What are some things about God that we can trust?”

The answers pop out: His faithfulness. His power. His love. His kindness.

Then we sing. I pull out one of my personal heavy hitters, the Jeremy Camp CD. We sing “I will trust.”

There are interruptions. A thrown toy smacks a sibling in the head. A child has to be disciplined for whining when given instruction. It is not pretty or or seamless or perfect…but my mind is held steady, focused on Him.

Chaos does not rule. Fear does not win. Defeat doesn’t mock.

Not today.

 

The rest of the story…

After our morning devotions, Little Bit and I worked through her choices. We set goals for her too…not to miss (refuse) any meals and to use her words to communicate instead of screaming. We review them frequently and talk about what throws her off track.

This is the working out of our faith, visualizing what walking in trust looks like….then doing it.

God wants our theology to become our methodology. Methodology means we step out of the classroom, out from the church pew, out from the peaceful quiet of our morning time…and we enter the real, gritty, scary mess of the world.

After all, Faith is proved with fire. Just as a Seal comes out of training with a useful, powerful set of skills and tools, so we come out of repeated fires with something more precious than gold. 

Be encouraged today, friend? Passing the “one man competency test” in special forces training is important! We need you on the team! Whatever you are facing today, you can do it! Below are some helps to encourage today?

 

 

Resources:

The tips in this 8 minute video have greatly helped me in combatting mental fear, dread, and chaos. The 4 strategies include visualization and it is how the Navy Seals train their brains, a practical “how-to” renew the mind as commanded in Romans 12:2.

{The beginning of this film refers to evolution. Evolution is a lie and as such, cannot explain why our brains function the way they do. The strategies on this film, however,  are valid and helpful, even if the evolutionsists theories are incorrect.}

http://youtu.be/PWKb2oI-hPs

I also highly recommend the daily devotional Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions For Kids.  It has blessed our entire family. Carried Me: The Worship Project remains a favorite music CD after many years of use.

Need a Family Activity to engage little hands and calm nerves? Try making and playing the Quiet Hearts Board Game.

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{Linking up today with Sarah Mae’s brand new link-up “What I Know Now.”}

Simply Trusting Thursdays

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