The Fifty Dollar Bill

50

Taking our anger out on those we love most seems to be a pretty typical pattern for many of us.

If something bad happens at work, on the team, or at church, most of us tend to keep our cool. It isn’t until we are in our own homes that we react emotionally to the painful incident or bad day and end up hurting those closest to us by lashing out in anger.

The other day, I found an old checkbook that I no longer use. I ripped up the few remaining checks and threw the whole thing in the trash. For some reason, I glanced down at the wastebasket. Was I surprised when my eyes fell on “part” of a $50 bill!

At first, my thought was no way! and I quickly reached down and pulled out the piece, not quite believing that it was actually real. Then I panicked a bit — did I actually just rip up a $50 bill?

I started searching a bit frantically for the pieces. In just a moment, I had found all three. I carefully put the pieces in order and then started taping them back together.

Will the bank accept this bill? I think so –although I’m not quite sure — never having done this particular foolish thing before.

But will it ever be the same again?

No, it will not. I can never make that bill magically into one whole piece again. It will always be taped for the remainder of its days in circulation.

What makes this even sadder is that I never intended to rip up that $50 bill. It just kind of got in my way, unknowingly hidden within the pages of an old checkbook (I still have no idea why it was there or any recollection of putting it there).

What a great picture of what so often happens with our closest relationships–

We are frustrated or upset about an issue that has nothing to do with anyone at home. Yet, as we are letting go of the angry or hurt emotions, we often end up ripping our loved ones into pieces. It isn’t our intention, it just happens.

The thing is, just like that $50 bill can never be put back together whole, so we can never truly repair the damage we do to our relationships. Oh, we can patch things up and forgive each other and move on but the damage has been done. While we can forgive, we rarely forget. How helpful it would be if we just didn’t let these things happen in the first place.

Life is so short. And most of us have been so blessed with deep, abiding relationships with our families and even some friends. Let’s make sure that no person is ever in the path of any ungodly anger or emotion we end up displaying (which is certainly sinful under any circumstances, but seems to be doubly bad when we end up hurting others in the process).

Let’s protect our relationships. They are fragile. And oh so precious. No bad day is worth causing those we love hurt and pain. Let’s not let something that won’t matter a bit in eternity erode our relationships with our spouse and children. It’s so not worth it.

Look at Me

indexThink about your last Facebook post. Or Tweet. Or Instagram Photo.

What was it about? Who was it about? What was the intention of the post?

Chances are, for 99%+ of us, it was about ourselves. Most likely, it was a post designed to make ourselves look good and impress everyone and to say, “Look at me!”

In fact, the word “selfie”, a relatively new concept, is now familiar to us all. We are that into ourselves.

Of course, there are a good many of us who simply want to share the happenings in our lives with our true friends and families. We may be excited about our new hair cut or a new job. Or we may just love  the cool shot we got while we stood with the flaming sunset in the background and want to share it.

So how do we know if someone is posting because they are self-centered?

That’s not the issue here. It doesn’t really matter if we know the difference about anyone else. That is between God and them.

It’s much more important that we examine our own online posts and behavior. Why are we posting what we are posting?

Is it for attention? Or praise? Or our own personal glory? Am I trying to make my life look better than it is?

And, with so many of us trying so hard to portray a perfect and enviable life, many of us inevitably feel the emotion of envy welling up inside us as we scan through newsfeeds of “perfect” families and vacations.

Naturally, people are sharing the best of their lives online. If someone’s perception of my life is based solely on my Facebook page, it looks pretty darn perfect. And, really, I have been blessed with a great family and have enjoyed some pretty wonderful events in my life. And I am excited to share them with the people who are really my friends (like in real life, as well as on Facebook). But if someone doesn’t really know me, they may think that I have the perfect life.

The thing is: I don’t.

And nobody else does, either. Sure, some of us have tougher lives than others at certain times. But life throws all of us curve balls. None of us are exempt.

We need to enjoy the fun photos of our family, friends, and classmates for what they are — a snapshot of the good in their lives. Let’s be happy for them– for they have struggles with their relationships and health and finances, just like you.

But I guess one of my saddest observations about the online world is that, while we are often saying “Look at me!” we are rarely saying “Look at God!”

So many of us claim to be Christians and yet so few of our posts and tweets have anything to do with God. He is supposedly our reason for living and, yet, we never talk about Him in the most public place available to us.

Why is that?

My guess is that many of us just don’t want to be labeled “one of those” in this day and age where spirituality is very cool but true Christianity is definitely not. Others of us just don’t want the hassle of the unkind or questioning comments from unsaved friends and family that are sure to follow any post about our faith. And some of us are just that self-centered we don’t even think of posting about anything –or anyone– other than ourselves.

It is such a constant battle to keep God number one in all areas of our lives– even our online world. For me, too. I’m not pointing my finger at any of you, because I am too busy thinking about my own life in this area.

I can’t help but wonder what the Facebook pages of former godly men and women would have looked like, if this online world had been available to them?

Would Apostle Paul have plastered shots of himself as he traveled?

Or would Jonathan Edwards have posted family pictures?

Would A.W. Tozer’s page been filled with sports trivia?

Or Susannah Wesley’s page covered with photos of her grandchildren?

Of course, none of these things are innately wrong to post in any way. My question is — if we are so willing to post about our travels and families and hobbies — why are we so unwilling to post about our God?

And, look, I’m not talking about hypocrisy here. That’s a whole other subject, is it not? If we are going to put quotes and Bible verses and Christian song lyrics on Facebook, it won’t sit very well with those who know us, if we aren’t living the matching lifestyle.

Ah, so much to think about in this online world– a world completely unknown to us not that long ago. It brings up all kinds of questions and dilemmas and quandaries. But it also provides us a wonderful opportunity to stay in touch with long-lost friends and far-flung family. This is a tremendous blessing former generations did not enjoy. But, as with all blessings, there are some pitfalls, too. In this world, as in all areas of our lives, let’s desire to live out the words of scripture–

I Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 

 

 

Alone in the Store

The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store

The actual rainbow I saw as I came out of the store

The sky grew darker and darker. Billows of black clouds rolled above my head. I couldn’t believe it wasn’t raining yet. I nervously drove towards the grocery store, wishing I had just stayed home. (I am pretty sure that the tornado that ripped through the development just down the road almost ten years ago is still affecting my nerves when the sky grows dark!) But I was almost there already, so I wasn’t going back home now.

The leaden sky and heaviness in the air made it very clear that the storm was approaching quickly and I saw people scurrying around as I got out of my car. I asked myself again: What exactly am I doing out in this?

I grabbed a cart and decided that I was probably going to need to wait this out in the store. I really wanted to be at home, but I wasn’t and so I decided I just needed to make the best of it.

Just as I went inside and made my way to the produce aisle, I heard the deluge begin on the roof above me. The fact that the wind and rain could be heard so loudly inside a building with hardly any windows was actually a little scary. But I continued to shop.

The store at this time was abuzz with activity. Lots of people traveling hurriedly among the aisles and cashiers busily checking out customers. But about ten minutes later, I realized something. I was the only customer. Well, maybe not the only one, but I didn’t see another one as I traveled the aisles and the store had grown deadly silent aside from a few excited store employees moving about as they discussed a leak in the back of the store.

What was I missing?

Why had everyone gone out in the pouring rain instead of waiting it out in the store? I have to confess that about that time I started wondering if there was a tornado warning or something that I should know about. I called my daughter and texted my husband. All was okay at home. I breathed a sigh of relief. And then I started imagining the shelves caving in on me when the dreaded tornado blew through (it’s one of the downfalls of being a writer–this vivid imagination!) My eyes started searching the store — where would I be the safest? And then I just laughed at myself. There certainly wasn’t much I could do about it, so I just kept shopping, taking my good old time, because I certainly wasn’t going to venture outside in such weather. (A few days later I found out that there was indeed a tornado warning!)

About the time I was ready to check-out, I heard one of the cashiers exclaim to her co-worker, “It looks like the sun is out!” And then, “there’s a rainbow!”

I breathed a sigh of relief and checked out as hurriedly as I could. I had spent enough time in the grocery store for one day!

As I pushed my cart outside, there was indeed a rainbow, vivid in its colors, along with a fainter, second rainbow just above it. It was beautiful!

I can’t help but relate this experience to how I feel as a biblical Christian in the current culture. The storm is upon us and with each new heresy, tons of Christians are jumping ship–

There’s no hell? Yes, I like that idea. And there goes several thousand.

You can be gay and be a Christian, too? Yes, that satisfies my flesh and my thinking just fine. And there goes several thousand more.

Christianity is based more on my experience and how I feel than on what God’s Word says? Oh that feels real good. And off go a great big bunch.

God didn’t create the world in seven literal days? Well, whatever the secular scientists say must be right. And we lose many more.

You only have to say a prayer asking Jesus into your heart and then can continue to live however you want? Heaven and my flesh, too? Perfect. And there goes several hundred thousand.

Until those of us who are adhering and obeying God’s Word in its totality feel completely and utterly alone in the “store” wondering if we are missing something? Of course, many who are jumping ship were never believers in the first place, but what puzzles most of us is why fellow believers are venturing out into such a relentless and severe storm of demoralizing confusion? Is there something we don’t know?

I think what we do know is that, in the end, many will be deceived. Many will lose their love for truth and instead want their ears tickled with pleasing fancies and fables (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 24:24).

But I am committed to “staying in the store” no matter what weather blows outside because I am safest there (Psalm 91:1-3). Would you consider staying here with me? Let’s be the ones that stick together until the end — loving God more than we love ourselves, desiring to please, obey, and glorify Him alone.

There is still a precious remnant who wants to honor the Lord and obey His whole Word. There are still some of us who are sticking to the traditional faith, where whole-hearted repentance of sin, faith in Christ alone for salvation, and a transformed life because of this faith are the defining signs of a genuine believer. There are still a few of us who adhere to the Bible as the literal and inerrant Word of God. We are not alone. Let’s weather the storm together, knowing that when it’s over our reward will be far greater than a beautiful rainbow (James 1:12; I Corinthians 2:9; Romans 8:18).

 

The Nice Guy

shaking-hands

I met the nicest guy on vacation this week. Seriously. We were chatting by the pool on Sunday and he couldn’t have been friendlier. He was clean cut and his daughter was well-behaved. We had seen him all dressed up before we saw him at the pool, so we made the assumption that he must be a church-goer.

As we started chatting, I found out that he and his family are moving to Costa Rica for ministry in August. This area is home, but they are living at the campground temporarily, because their house is already sold.

I started thinking that this may be a fellow believer so I asked the “church” question– “So where do you go to church?”

We attend Kingdom Hall, just down the road.

Oh. Not a fellow believer, after all. My heart sank, because he really is a nice guy. And he really believes he knows the truth.

But he doesn’t.

So how do I know that? Because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not follow “only the Bible, and nothing but the Bible.” Instead they have twisted the scriptures to say things that are in grave error. These changes were made by two human (and fallible) men named Russell, and later Rutherford. Satan has used these two guys to draw thousands — probably millions– away from the Truth.

As I sat there, chatting with this really, really nice guy I realized that even though he is really nice, it doesn’t really change anything. He doesn’t know the Truth. He is as guilty before God as the murderer sitting in prison, because he does not understand that Jesus paid the price for his sin.

Later on, we watched him chat with a young mom. She was truly a sweet young girl and we had the delightful opportunity to chat with her later on. As we got to know her and her beautiful baby during the next few minutes, she mentioned that he had invited her to a picnic. And she seemed pretty excited about that.

After we left the pool, the girls and I talked about how bold he was to invite a complete stranger to his site for a get-together. And we talked about her reaction to that invitation. That man — sold out to heresy– is more bold and more excited about his faith than I have ever been.

Why can’t I be more like him and witness freely and without reservation?

I think there are two different reasons we are so close-mouthed when it comes to sharing the gospel-

1) We are so worried about our reputation. We want to be cool. We don’t want to be linked to the “crazy Christians” (Christianity is so out of vogue) and we certainly don’t want to be linked to the J.W.s or Mormons, because we don’t like their reputation.

2) We are so worried about being asked questions we can’t answer. What if they ask us something and we have no idea how to answer? What if we don’t even know how to share the gospel clearly?

But here is what I learned from that really nice guy– there are people, so many people, just longing for joy and fulfillment. They are searching and they don’t know what they are searching for. They jump at the chance to belong and to feel some sense of purpose. Because of this, they are not going to mock us. I also learned that no matter what the response is, we still need to share our faith. This guy did it because he is in a works-based religion and he believes he has to in order to reap his reward. We Christians have a different reason, don’t we? We do it because our hearts are filled with love and passion for the Savior who died for us.

So really, the things listed above are just excuses. Excuses to keep us doing from we are called to do (Mark 16:15-16). Excuses that keep people from hearing the Truth of God’s Word (Romans 10:14).

We run into so many people each and every day and most of them are not headed to heaven. And, yet, they think by being a good person, they will end up there. Who is going to tell them the truth, if not us? Who will tell them what the Bible says, if not you? If not me? We need to stop worrying so much about ourselves and grow in courage and boldness. We are God’s hands and feet in this world. He doesn’t need us but He certainly delights in using us to reach the lost.

 

What a Smile Can Do

Perfect_Smile_2

Going to a new place where you know few people is never easy. Fitting in at a new church can be especially hard. Finding myself in this position last summer, I finally made a decision to help with the children’s ministry on a weekly basis so that I could possibly get to know a few people. And, happily, this did help me feel much less like a stranger when I walked in the church doors every Sunday morning. But little did I know that one of the best things that would result from my weekly service would be my acquaintance with one of the little guys I saw every week.

This little boy, for whatever reason, started giving me a giant “hi!” and a big hug whenever he would see me. He would smile so brightly at me and it would make me feel so much better– no matter what mood I was in. This started many months ago and continues even now when I see him on Sundays, even though we are taking a summer break. Needless to say, he has certainly taken a special place in my heart.

Now, I don’t really know him and he doesn’t really know me, but can I even begin to tell you the warmth that fills my heart when he smiles at me? His smile says to me, “I think you are special!” and his hug says, “I like you!”

You see, he’s a little boy, so I know there are no social mores or hidden agendas behind his smile. I know that his hugs are genuine and his smiles from his heart.

What happens to us as we get older? We may smile, but it often doesn’t reach our eyes. We may even offer hugs, but they are often born out of a sense of duty. Why can’t we freely give smiles and hugs like little children? Why do we have to grow out of this delightful habit?

It’s probably because life teaches us some pretty difficult lessons and we learn that we can’t trust everybody. We become skeptics. We build walls and put on our armor and then cover it all up with a fake smile.

But thinking about this sweet boy who has brought joy to me in such a simple way has made me realize that I, too, can bring joy to others simply by giving them a genuine smile — and even a hug, if the situation is appropriate– making them feel important and loved.

You see, it doesn’t really take money or fame or wisdom or stuff to impress most people. No, most people just want to be loved.

And a genuine smile is a great start to showing that we truly care about others.

As I write, one final thought comes to mind — perhaps we should start giving some genuine smiles to our immediate family members. So often we save our best smiles for friends and acquaintances. Let’s try this week to show our families that we are genuinely glad to see them. What a simple–but effective– way to add some joy to our homes this week.

Are you ready to smile with me this week?

:)

 

 

 

Worldview Changes Everything

Woman-taking-off-wedding--007

We hadn’t seen the girl for a long time. We knew her like we know our postman. Barely. But enough to smile and say Hi. I didn’t even know her name.

She referred to her husband in the past tense in the course of our conversation. Which made us wonder. Was everything okay?

Turns out everything wasn’t okay.

Unbeknownst to me, my small question had just opened the door for a very interesting conversation.

She shared about how she and her husband had never really felt anything for each other. They had just dated as kids and after you date you get married. She realized that they had really only been just friends more than anything else and she decided after a few years that this wasn’t the way she wanted to live the rest of her life. There was no enmity, no arguing–but there wasn’t any love, either.

I got the distinct impression that this was more about her not feeling love than him not feeling love. She went on to share that her choice had left him broken-hearted and devastated. She truly felt bad for him, but not that bad. The separation had recently become final with that ugly word divorce.

It all made complete sense. If you have the world view that your happiness is your first priority then it made complete and absolute sense. I don’t fault her. She is just living out what all of us have been taught for at least the last 30–if not 40– years: Our personal happiness is the most important thing in the world. We cannot be the human being we were always meant to be (although with most of the world believing in evolution, what does that even mean, anyway? What exactly were we meant to be if we are just a bunch of cells thrown together??) But I digress. As I was saying–we are taught that we cannot possibly be all that we were meant to be if we aren’t happy. Many marriages, children, parents, friendships, and other relationships have been sacrificed on the altar of personal happiness.

But there is an intrinsic problem with this world view–we are searching for something that can’t be found, even if we have more money, a better body, or the perfect marriage. Happiness cannot be found in perfect circumstances. Even when we think we have found it for a year or two, it is so elusive, that as soon as we think we have grabbed a hold of it permanently, it disappears again and we are left empty-handed or frustrated, continuing our search elsewhere.

No, true happiness isn’t to be found in changing our circumstances, but instead it is found in fixing our eyes on Jesus and submitting ourselves to God’s plan for our lives. True happiness is found in obedience to God’s Word. (Psalm 37:4, Proverbs 16:20, Proverbs 28:14, and almost all of Psalm 119)

The time wasn’t right, but I so wanted to share with her that God can fill her heart with love — deep and abiding love– for her husband. I wanted to tell her that Jesus isn’t just a name or some historical figure that people talk about but that He’s real and is making a real difference in my life and many other lives of true believers. That He has radically saved and changed me. And my husband. And our kids. I mostly wanted to tell her that He can radically save and change her.

But after she had told us about what had been going on in her life, we were out of time and we had to head different directions. And so I had to walk away from that conversation rather dissatisfied at the outcome. Thinking I could have done better. Said something wiser. But, alas, the opportunity was over.

But we left realizing that the world view that most of us have taken to heart is an outright lie from the pit of hell.  And, lest we Christians become a little “uppity” here at this point, think for just a moment about how important your happiness is in your own life. Oh, we may not walk away from a marriage or do anything so drastic, but this quest for personal happiness plays itself out in millions of small ways every day, causing arguments, strife, and heartache. You see, whether we are Christians or not, when we fall for this lie– when we make our own happiness our most important priority– we not only end up bringing disappointment and turmoil to our own lives, but to many lives around us, as well.

Let’s find our happiness and joy in Jesus, delighting in and obeying His Word and submitting to His will for our lives. **Only then are we be able to say that we are truly happy.

 

** At least until the next time we find ourselves focusing on ourselves yet again–it’s such a cycle. Permanent and everlasting happiness will come in heaven and not before. Another thing to remember.

 

 

Removing the Junk

chocolate-peanut-butter-cup-ice-cream-3-550

I have a feeling my husband might be a little upset with me today. Well, let me begin at the beginning.

I have spent the last year or so on a very slow and arduous journey. It has taken me to the highest mountain and to the lowest valley. I have felt the exhilaration of success and the sting of defeat.

Most of you know I am not an athlete, so you probably are wondering what in the world I am talking about?

It’s called Weight Loss.

Ugh.

Can anyone relate? My journey is so slow that when I went to the doctor in April, I had lost only 18 pounds in one year. But, as I figure it, that is 18 pounds less than I weighed a year ago. That is 18 less pounds that do not need to be carried by my bad knees. 18 less pounds of fat surrounding and impeding my internal organs. 18 less pounds. I consider that somewhat of a success. At least for someone who can’t run anymore.

I do have lots to share about the past year. If you are discouraged in your weight loss journey by physical limitations or simply hopelessness, please contact me privately. I am not ready to share anything publicly yet, as I have such a long way to go.

But, on to why my husband may be upset with me…

So my doctor’s visit in April was a wonderful success and then I let my guard down. Everything was crazy busy with the wedding, I was doing great, and…

I got lazy.

This morning I stepped on the scales with great trepidation. And, rightly so. I had gained several of those pounds back.

I thought over the last few weeks and realized that there was a good reason I was seeing that number on the scales. I had completely left my guard down and had brought junk food back into my home. It’s also ice cream season and I have a hard time resisting ice cream. I had grown apathetic and had not exercised as regularly as I should.

The funny thing is that all of this bad stewardship of my body wasn’t making me feel better in any way. Nope. All that extra sugar and fat was making me feel lethargic and gross.

As I was thinking about that this morning, I decided that today is a new day! I am going to feed my body well. But I was also fully aware that as I progress through the day, this bright morning resolution was likely to dim considerably as the ice cream would start calling my name from the depths of the freezer.

Something drastic had to be done.

And so I gathered the container of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream that I can’t resist and the half-eaten bags of Dieffenbach’s chips and threw them away.

You see, I know what I can and cannot resist and those two things were making it difficult for me to continue on my path  to health and wellness. Enough is enough and they had to be removed. Now, my husband does not like when I throw away food. Do you think it is okay if, in this one instance, I went ahead and did it, anyway? I think so, since I am pretty sure me being healthy is more important than a few dollars wasted.

The ridiculous thing is that when I bought these items at the grocery store, I knew full well that they would be difficult for me to eat in moderation. And so a wise person wouldn’t have purchased them in the first place. But I had this insatiable desire for sugar and salt and decided to completely ignore the voice in my head that told me to walk by them in the store.

Our spiritual lives are so similar, aren’t they? We know full well what sins we can or cannot resist. And yet we flirt with them, thinking somehow that we won’t reap the sorry consequences of our choices. But a spiritual diet of all junk food is just as devastating to our spiritual health. For we always reap the consequences of our actions. I can’t eat a regular diet of junk food without reaping the consequences of extra weight. It’s the same in the spiritual realm.

And so we need to carefully think about what we are allowing in our lives and discard anything that is keeping us from being the healthiest we can be spiritually.

And, just like eating a good, balanced diet helps me to feel so much better and be my most healthiest self, so feeding ourselves biblical truth through Bible study, solid preaching, and books that help us understand scripture correctly helps us to be our healthiest spiritual self.

And so let’s think about our lives. What do we need to discard today? What is keeping us from growing like we could be? Perhaps it’s a favorite tv show or an addiction to movies (get rid of cable)? Or an insatiable desire to buy stuff (cut up your credit cards)? We all struggle with different things. But we all struggle. Let’s be fully conscious of the things that are keeping us from being the healthiest we can be–in all areas of our lives!

When We Are Wrongly Accused

1409592_81898043

The accusations came in an e-mail. From someone I thought was my friend. In the e-mail, she stated falsehoods about me as facts. There was no doubt or indecision in her statements. Just a break of friendship because of a, b, and c that she had heard about me. Things I had said or done that made it impossible to be my friend anymore.

My first reaction was to write a letter of self-defense. After all, I was being unjustly accused of something that wasn’t even true. The hurt ran very deep. She didn’t even value my friendship enough to talk to me in person about these accusations.

But as I talked it over with my husband, I decided against it. I realized that if she was willing to end our friendship via an e-mail, without any offer to get together and talk about it, then she probably had never been a friend at all. And, honestly, I just wasn’t interested in making her choose who to believe. To write a letter would have meant I needed to accuse someone she loved dearly of lying. I didn’t see any good coming from that.

A few years after that e-mail, something similar happened. Eric and I made a decision that we knew was very risky to some future relationships. We definitely felt the Lord’s direction and guidance and decided to obey Him. We tried to make the necessary change as gracefully and lovingly as we possibly could. After the decision was made, several friendships which we valued grew very icy. We couldn’t figure out why.

A few months later, we had a pretty good idea what had happened.

You see, friends we value very highly actually came to us and told us that someone had lied blatantly about us. They valued our friendship enough to ask if what they heard was true. It wasn’t true at all. And we grew almost depressed knowing that this person was telling such vicious lies about us. The feeling of powerlessness that happens in a situation like this is almost overwhelming. But, again, we realized that more harm than good would come from a confrontation and so–as painful as it was–we chose to just let it roll.

This all happened a long time ago, but it came to my mind recently, for some reason. I think it may be because we find ourselves in a bit of a complication with the state of Pennsylvania because we have been wrongly accused of not paying our unemployment compensation to the state. They are stating that we did not pay our taxes due from the third quarter of 2011. In the aftermath of that, they have increased our rate substantially and revoked our sales tax license. When I talked to them on the phone, explaining that they are wrong and that we have paid the tax, there isn’t much belief or help on their part. I am in the middle of that mess and e-mailed bank copies of the cashed checks in the exact amount to them yesterday.

I have found that there are few things that make you feel more helpless and powerless than when you are wrongly accused of something.

But if we choose to stand up for what is righteous and true, this will probably happen to us. We will have enemies who want to take us down and discredit us. It is the very nature of the world that the wicked will try to take down the righteous. David talks about this in Psalm 109 and Psalm 41:7-9. And Peter tells us that we will suffer for Christ’s sake (I Peter 4). Part of this suffering will be verbal, reputation-ruining rumors and gossip about us.

So how do we deal with this?

Do we get all huffy and upset? Do we return evil for evil and start spreading our own gossip? That is what the flesh wants to do, isn’t it? At least my flesh!

What I have found is that, after I have vented to someone I trust wholly and completely (usually my husband or my mom), it is best to just ignore the false accusation (unless it has to do with taxes or hurts someone else — then we should not ignore it!).

If we are given an opportunity to defend ourselves (such as in court or in a conversation with friends) we should not be afraid, for the Holy Spirit will guide and direct us (Mark 13:9-13). And it’s important that any defense is spoken in a calm and loving manner. If we pitch a fit of temper and defend ourselves heatedly, we will almost always automatically disqualify ourselves to our listeners.

And, in the end, God knows the truth about you. He has told us that vengeance is His (Romans 12:19) It is so very important that we do not allow ourselves to grow bitter. This is probably what we Christians struggle with the most, don’t you think? We allow ourselves to hate those that have lied about us.

One of the hardest things I have done is to treat those that have accused me falsely with kindness. The first time you see them, your heart just sinks and you want to avoid them. But if we can face them with a smile and loving-kindness that first time, the next times grow easier and easier. You see, we can’t control them. We can only control us. And this verse comes constantly to mind when I am dealing with people who have accused me falsely–

 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)

Isn’t it interesting that the verse right after this ones talks about how God will avenge us? Our job is to live peaceably with men as much as it is up to us. God will take care of the rest.

These things are not easy. I know from personal experience. They take great effort of the mind to pull away from the thoughts of anger, vengeance, and bitterness. But if we allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love, grace, and mercy for these souls that have hurt us so deeply—if we can respond in this completely unnatural way (according to human standards)–we are a shining example to the world of the transformed life that God has wrought in us.

In fact, we can turn something Satan wanted to use to further his kingdom into something that furthers God’s kingdom. It’s completely up to us.

 

 

Spreading the Rose Petals

wedding

As most of you already know, Saturday was Wedding Day around here. Our oldest daughter was married on Saturday and is now happily honeymooning with her groom in the Caribbean.

Saturday dawned bright and clear. It all felt a little surreal, quite honestly. After a flurry of activity and many camera clicks, we were finally ready for the five o’clock ceremony.

I walked down the aisle with the best man, aware that all eyes were on me for that brief moment. I breathed a sigh of relief as I sat in my appointed seat and eyes were moved elsewhere.

I then watched my daughters walk down as maids of honor, followed by the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

And then came the children.

If you know my daughter, you know that she loves children. First came two beautiful nieces, their hands tightly holding the strings that were attached to the big, round balloons floating above their heads. And then came a handsome and very serious nephew, pulling a wagon which was supposed to hold two baby nieces. However, we heard a howl in the back and so only one adorable and wide-eyed baby girl was in that wagon.

And then came the official flower girl and ring-bearer. The ring-bearer was another nephew and the bride has been the flower girl’s nanny since she was born. This charming couple was tightly holding hands. Meanwhile, the basket holding the white rose petals stayed filled to the brim. They carefully walked down the aisle. I thought she forgot about the rose petals, but when they got to the front, they dropped hands to go different directions and that is when she put her small hand into that basket and pulled out a handful of petals. And then another. And another. She just kept pulling out those petals and spreading them over the ground where the bride and groom would soon be standing.

I finally told her that it was probably enough and she dutifully moved to her position beside the maid of honor.

I then had the privilege of standing and turning, as all eyes turned towards the stunning bride. It was an overwhelming moment and the next hour flew by, as we listened to two of our favorite pastors in all the world present very helpful challenges not only to the couple, but to us, the witnesses.

It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and I am proud of all the thought and effort that my daughter put into making the evening a wonderful experience for all who attended. It was her hope– and ours– that it would be God-honoring, first and foremost, and also enjoyable. I hope that we accomplished that.

I heard later that the flower girl told her mother, very logically, that it wasn’t possible to drop the petals before she let go of the ring-bearer’s hand. Ah, the wisdom of children.

As I was thinking about her words this morning, I had to smile. You know, she may be on to something there.

How often do we try to hold on to our own dreams and desires and please God, too? It’s like we want the best of both worlds. And, yet, it is absolutely impossible. We cannot totally experience the all-surpassing peace and joy that God promises us until we let go of our own desires. Of course, the most awesome thing of all is that when we do this, God changes us and fills our hearts with desires that please Him.

During the ceremony, one of the pastors talked about how God’s purpose for marriage can only be accomplished if we die to ourselves. He then added that living for Christ can really only be done well if we die to ourselves.

Yes, that is exactly what I saw in the flower girl’s actions. You can’t really do what you have to do until your hands are free.

You have to love the simple lessons we can learn from children.

Now, I’d better get going. I have a ton of wedding clean-up to do :)

 

My Best Advice for the Bride and Groom

weddedbliss_small

How in the world do we prepare you for marriage? It’s like trying to prepare for an earthquake or tornado– really quite impossible. You really can’t fathom what it’s like until you are smackdab in the middle of it. That’s really why is it so incredibly scary. Well, that, along with the fact that, as Christians, we know it is for good. So it’s not like we can change our minds next year if we don’t get along.

As I was thinking a bit about this, I thought I would just share a few things that have helped your dad and I along the way. Stuff we learned early on and stuff we learned later but wished we would have learned early on (these are in no particular order)–

1. Worry most about the opinions of God and your spouse. You will get so much advice in life. People telling you how to live, what to buy, how to raise your kids. When it comes right down to it, only what God and your spouse think matters. Don’t let your decisions be dictated by your parents (yes, that means me,too!), your siblings, your friends, or your church. Instead study God’s Word together and come to a mutual decision.

2. Remember that God has designed the man to be the spiritual head of the home (Ephesians 5:22-25). Oh, how we women get so uptight about these verses, but if the husband loves his wife as Christ loved the church, then it is a joy to submit to him. Of course, this is in a perfect world, right? Which is where we don’t live. But we need to keep working at it. This is so important because, when you come to an impasse (which you inevitably will) someone needs to make the final decision. God has designed it to be the man.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Before you get too far into an argument, ask yourself if this really matters. So many times your dad and I would fight over the dumbest stuff. Does it really matter where we go to eat or what color we paint the room? Sure, some of these little things add up (like being consistently late, etc) and need to be worked out, but let the little stuff go. (I can almost hear you, Jess, telling me that I have not been a very good example in this area, and you would be so right–I am still working very hard on this one).

4. Apologize sincerely. If you mess up, admit it.

5. Accept apologies whole-heartedly. Don’t stiffen your back and refuse to forgive. Nothing good comes from that.

6. Talk openly about everything. No conversation should be off-limits– from what happened at work today to how you feel about sex to how your feel about your parents to theology. Talk about everything. Communication is so very important in moving a marriage from a simple partnership to a deep and abiding friendship.

7. Keep family relationships as a priority. We have learned that friends come and go, but family is forever.

8. Keep God at the center of your relationship. Pray and study the Word together. Have discussions about spiritual things. Find a good solid church and be committed so that you are regularly fed good spiritual food.

9. Be genuinely interested when you listen to each other. We all love to talk about our hobbies and interests. You will deepen your relationship considerably if you are an active listener.

10. Please don’t let us (your parents) ever come between the two of you. It is so much more important to Dad and I that you honor God and each other, than that you do what we want you to do. If we get intrusive without realizing it, please tell us. We are here to support you and offer advice, but only if and when you want it.

11. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are struggling, don’t be embarrassed or too proud to ask for help from us or your pastor or someone else you trust. Sometimes you need some help and that’s okay!

12. And, finally, and really probably most importantly, remember that all marriages go through stages. You will have days –maybe sometimes even longer–where you don’t even really like each other. You will wonder how you can possibly live with this person for the rest of your life. But hang in there, because the good times will come again! Don’t give up. Obey God’s Word by choosing to love even when you don’t feel like it and then wait, because the feelings will return.

I am so very excited for you both! It is made so much more exciting by the fact that I can see God’s hand so clearly at work in how He brought you together and how perfect you are for each other. We are looking forward to having another son and watching the two of you live your lives together for God’s honor and glory.

Screenshot (4)rev