The Win (and what to do until then)

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Isn’t it interesting how schools cycle through their glory years? One year the guys’ basketball team or girls’ soccer team is undefeated and there is enthusiastic school spirit supporting them. And then a season or two later all the glory has ended. Key players or a coach moves on and the dynamics change and suddenly they aren’t the team on top anymore.

The same dynamic plagues most professional sports teams, as well. I am a Philadelphia Phillies fan–no matter if they win or lose. But right now it is bad. Let’s just say that we aren’t watching a lot of baseball this year. It’s just not near as much fun as when they were really doing well and headed to the World Series.

And we are left with one conclusion–

Winning is glorious and losing is not.

A lot of the stories of King David are tales of victory over enemies. Just yesterday, we read of how the Ammonites asked the Syrians to fight with them and after being soundly defeated, we read that the Syrians were afraid “to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Samuel 10:19). I guess I would have been, too. David had a reputation of being victorious. But King David doesn’t win every battle. We will soon read of his battle with lust that he loses in a big way (2 Samuel 11).  And let’s not forget that just a few years earlier he was fighting for his life as he was chased down by Saul. He eventually became King, but it certainly wasn’t without grief and struggle.

This is what makes life so hard. We win some and we lose some. But some battles are so much more important than others. And what are we to do when we feel like we are losing such critical battles? The battles for–

Our country

Our churches

Our freedom

The hearts of our kids

Our marriages

 

We are losing some of these battles pretty soundly right now. Have you read the news lately?

But we know that we win the war. That is worth repeating: We are going to win this war between good and evil.

We can’t lose sight of this. No, God does not promise us that our kids will be saved or that our spouse will stick around. He doesn’t promise that our churches will preach sound doctrine or that our country will return to its Christian roots. But what we do know– without a shadow of a doubt– is that God will reign victorious in the end. Every knee will bow to the King and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10-11).

When we consider this very important truth, we naturally come to the conclusion that the only thing that really matters is whether or not those around us are going to confess Jesus Christ as Lord before it’s too late.

So often, we worry so much about the outward stuff that indicates serious problems– the bad grades, the drug and alcohol abuse, the debt and materialism, the false doctrines, the laws, the liberalism. And we try to fix things. We try to fix our kids and spouses. We try to fix our churches and our government.

But is anything truly fixed without a changed heart? A child can change behavior without ever changing his heart. A government can make laws that are more compatible with our beliefs, but will that really solve our country’s problem?

I don’t think so. Because the reason we are having such deep, heart-breaking issues– both in our families and beyond– is that people believe in a lie. They have chosen to reject the Word of God and they believe the lies of the world. They believe these lies of the devil–

–That their purpose and fulfillment is what matters (which leads to self-centered, self-absorbed individuals only out for themselves)

–That their kids’ happiness reigns supreme (which leads to spoiled brats who think the world revolves around them and want the world but are not willing to work for it)

–They believe unity is more important than biblical integrity and that loves trumps holiness (which leads to a shallow, fake religion pretending to be Christianity)

–They believe that the Bible is just partly true. That it has errors. They believe that God just got the ball rolling and then put the creation of the world into the hands of some kind of evolutionary process (placing doubt on The Bible removes the foundation for true Christianity)

–They believe that you get to heaven for doing good things. That they simply need the good to outweigh the bad (this is a insidious and very old lie — that your righteous works will win your salvation)

–They believe that God would never want them to be unhappy (this leads our faith to become me-centered rather than centered on the almighty God of the universe)

–They believe that man is basically good and that sins are simply diseases and disorders (the sinfulness of man is a key component of true Christianity and cannot be overlooked without forfeiting biblical salvation completely)

–They believe that their happiness will be found here on this earth (but Jesus said “blessed are you when you are persecuted, for your reward will be in heaven”. See Matthew 5:11-12)

 

I challenge you to talk to someone that calls him or herself a “Christian” but doesn’t live like it. Somewhere in their thinking is a lie (or two or three) that they are believing.

It is impossible to fight the battle for someone’s soul if they are believing lies. We have to start at the beginning. And that beginning is the Word of God. For that is where we find the truth. This means that we need to know it and study it and understand it ourselves.

And so while we wait for The Win, let’s fight the battle for the truth–God’s Truth. Let’s fight for the hearts of our kids, for our marriages and families. Let’s fight for it in our churches and in our country. Do it sweetly and kindly and gently. But let’s never, ever forget that we are in a war.

And never forget– we win!

 

Why Waiting Is Sometimes the Best Option

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I think I may have done the same thing. It’s hard to know, isn’t it? But if my husband would have been promised heirs as numerous as the dust and I very obviously couldn’t have children, I may have tried to fix it, too. Because that’s what we humans do. We try to fix uncomfortable, inconvenient, unpleasant situations.

Only sometimes –many times– it backfires.

I couldn’t help but think of this as I read Genesis 16. If you are doing the Bible Challenge this year, you will have recently read (or will soon read) about Sarai giving her maid, Hagar, to Abram to bear children for her.  In a culture like theirs we can’t conceive of giving our husband another woman, but that was a different time and place and Sarai was obviously desperate for a baby. So instead of waiting, she took matters into her own hands. As we read on, we see that her decision to do that not only caused heartache for her and her family, but caused strife and anguish for generations to come. She took matters into her own hands and many, many people suffered –and continue to suffer–because of it. For Ishmael is considered to be the ancestor of the Arab nation and this seems to be the birthplace of the historical strife between them and the Jews.

It is easy for me to sit back and point a finger at Sarai. How could she be so hasty and foolish to think she could fix a problem that only God could fix? And, yet, how often I am guilty of the same thing.

I have been known to rush in and try to “fix” my husband and my kids on many occasions. I have tried to fix situations at church and in my extended family. These efforts are usually not helpful and I have been slowly learning to back away and pray instead.

Of course, sometimes, God would lead us to confront someone (Matthew 1815-17) or to pull them from the fire (Jude 1:22-23) but this should only be done with much humility and after much prayer. There is a place for thinking outside of the box to solve problems and giving our energy to changing our own bad habits but human efforts should never be done impulsively or out of desperation. They should never take precedence over God’s will. And we should never, ever try to change someone else’s bad habits unless they ask for our help. Because I have learned that this is a completely fruitless and utterly hopeless task.

Of course, this is so easy to write about but much harder to put in place. For example–

The other day, I found myself growing extremely frustrated that once again my floor was filled with muddy footprints. I found myself in a bit of a panic, as Bible Study was going to be taking place in my home shortly and my family seemed to have no care about this, but continued to walk across my clean floor with their wet boots on. And so I took matters into my own hands and started yelling. Yeah, like that’s going to fix it. In my experience, yelling has never fixed anything. So why do I keep doing it?

Thankfully, this pathetic effort at trying to fix something in my life in the wrong way only humbled me and reminded me of my great sinfulness. I was absolutely mortified to be yelling at my family just before my friends walked in my house. And instead of fixing the situation, I had just made it worse.

Which is what usually happens when I try to fix something without praying and considering the ramifications beforehand.

And this was just a wrong response to a muddy floor– a tiny blip in the timeline of my life with no long-lasting consequences. I can’t imagine how Sarai must have felt after she tried to take matters in her own hands. A lifetime of strife would follow and she was to blame. Taking matters into our own hands can have minor consequences or they can have major ones, but there are always consequences.

And so perhaps we would be better off if we would wait quietly, taking time to consider and pray, bringing our baffling problems and unsolvable puzzles to the Lord instead of trying to impulsively fix them ourselves.

And the wonderful thing about doing this is that so many times, the Lord proves Himself so faithful in these situations! Even just recently, a friend shared how God worked in an absolutely astounding and surprising way to solve an impossible situation. For it’s only when we can’t solve it ourselves that we really see God work, just as He did in Sarai’s life by giving her baby Isaac. For, with God, nothing is impossible.

 

A Call to Prayer for Our Men

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{my apologies that my subscribers are receiving this post twice. I actually had to restore my site and re-post this.}

My daughter and I met some friends for lunch on Friday. The hour and a half drive there took us through a section of road that has adult stores dotting the roadside for several miles. Usually these stores have cars in front of them that are very obviously parked so that no one can see their license plates. A sure sign of embarrassment and shame.

As we drove back home on Friday, I happened to see a man get out of his work truck in front of one of these stores. He went around the side of his truck to fix or rearrange something. I stared at him as we went by. I wanted to see just what kind of men frequent such places.

And guess what? He looked like an ordinary guy that we’d hire to fix our car or stand and talk to at a sports game. He certainly didn’t look like an evil monster.

Now, truthfully, I didn’t expect him to look like a monster. So what’s my point? I believe that we women have done a great disservice to our men if we are not praying for their sexual purity.

It makes us so uncomfortable to even talk about this. Even now, some of you will be appalled that I would be writing about such a thing. But, honestly– unless you are living in blind ignorance–you must realize that pornography has become a problem of epidemic proportions in the American family. Even in Christian families. So many face the consequences of this deadly, secret sin in one way or another.

I’m not going to speak to the men since I obviously can’t understand how that temptation works for them. However, I am going to challenge the women reading this– wives, mothers, aunts, grandmothers– to pray for the men in their lives regarding sexual purity. Pray for your husbands, sons, nephews, grandsons. Ask the Lord to protect them from this particular temptation.

We can’t just turn our heads and pretend this problem doesn’t exist. Because that doesn’t keep it from existing.

Will you join me in praying for the sexual purity of our husbands and sons? Our nephews and grandsons? Our brothers and brothers-in-law? And even our pastors and spiritual leaders? God will use our prayers to help them to resist the temptation of this secret sin that destroys so many marriages and families. We must never underestimate the power of prayer!

Obviously, this is not my typical kind of post. But when I saw that normal-looking man walk into that store, my heart broke for him and his family because I know that they have a serious problem that will only grow worse unless he seeks help. And it reminded me to pray hard for the men in my life in this particular area. I thought I would share this with you, in case you, too, would like to ask God to strengthen and protect the men in your life.

 

The Right Glue

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Yesterday was a lazy day around here. No plans. Nothing that absolutely had to be done. I love days like that. Around 3pm, my youngest daughter decided she was going to build a gingerbread house. We talked a bit about it and the decision was made that if she would wait a few hours, all of us (at least all of us who were around that night) would build one with her later on that evening. We hadn’t had an annual gingerbread-house making day for a few years and it seemed like it would be a fun activity for a winter evening.

We have this habit of buying gingerbread-house kits after the season is over for almost nothing and then stocking them up for the next year.  Of course, if you go a couple of years without an annual gingerbread-house making day, we are left with with a problem–the supplies get very old. This leads to some pretty serious consequences. As you will see.

Later on that evening, we all sat down at the table to get started. As I gently pulled my pre-made pieces from the box, I was disappointed to see that one of my gables has broken and the other one was in pieces. It was pretty clear that one end of my house would have a nice, large air vent.

As we started pulling out the packets of pre-made icing, we were quickly disappointed. Some were as hard as a rock, others were stiff and hard to work with. We put the stiff ones in warm water with high hopes. As we continued some of us had better luck than others with our creations. Personally I found the whole thing very frustrating. The stiff, uncooperative icing was making it so much work to add candy to the house that photo 1revit wasn’t even all that fun. And, so, when the roof slid off just as I had finished decorating it, I decided to just go play with my new “grand-puppy.” She was getting into a little trouble, anyway, and needed someone to watch her.

I played with her for a few minutes and then wandered back to my house to try one more time. I was less than enthusiastic this time around, but seeing the rest of my family persevering at their houses made me feel a little guilty (except for my son-in-law who had gladly taken up puppy duty and was feeling about the same as me about decorating these houses!)

photo 2I tried to put the roof back on and let it rest for a moment. I then carefully put a little frosting on a piece of candy cane and stuck it to the side of the house. The candy cane fell off. I tried again and this time the whole house fell completely apart! As it lay there in pieces, I decided that now was a great time to quit and left the table.

Quitting was an option with a gingerbread house. Who really cares, anyway? But quitting is not an option with our own homes. And sometimes we do feel like quitting, don’t we?

In my gingerbread house, the glue that held my house together was of very inferior quality. And so I was running into some pretty serious problems.

The same can be said of our own lives and homes. The glue with which we hold our lives together has to be the right stuff.

If we build our homes with unbiblical presuppositions and expectations, we will start to see certain areas crumble. If we use the glue of guilt, pride, or unrelenting stubbornness, our house will become weak. If we allow worldly attitudes and philosophies to give us the recipe for our glue, our homes will most likely fall apart. It will, at best, be a thrown-together shack with the potential to fall in on itself at any moment.

The glue to keeping our homes together is clear in scripture. It consists of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The glue that works has a good portion of humility (Colossians 3:2) and biblical love (I Corinthians 13). I use the adjective “biblical” because the world’s definition of love is very different than God’s.

The other day I was feeling really frustrated about something that wasn’t getting done around the house. I told my husband my frustration and let’s just say that my words were not filled with kindness and humility. A few minutes later, I sat down to read my daily portion of God’s Word. In my read-through of the Bible that day, I “just happened” to be in I Corinthians 13. I was quite aware of the irony of it all. When my husband came back in the house a few minutes later, I humbly apologized.

You see, God uses His Word to act as a mirror for us. It clearly shows us our weaknesses. But it doesn’t end there. It also gives instruction and help. We aren’t stuck in the mire of our pride and anger. We can get beyond our penchant for bad language or sulkiness. We can change. Our marriages can change. Our families can change.

There is a lot of hopelessness that abounds today, with little talk of victory in Christ. But what kind of God do we serve, anyway? If He can part the seas, can’t He work in our own hearts? If He can create the world, can’t He fix a marriage? Yes, we will always fight sin. Yes, we will always be tempted. But if we start using the right kind of glue, by the help of the Holy Spirit, things can get so much better.

Life is just tough, isn’t it? Relationships are sticky, tenuous things. So many families are dysfunctional and so broken. And we retreat into our shells and build walls. But perhaps it is time to start digging into God’s Word for some answers.

If you are ready to begin to discover God’s Word for yourself, I invite you to join me in the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge coming up in 2015. You can click here for more information. But you don’t have to join me to get into the Word. Just do it. Just go get started. If you are humble and ready to obey, you will find it life-changing.

 

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The Pitfalls of Living by Feeling

The following is written by Erwin Lutzer. If you are struggling with loving someone, forgiving someone, or a bad habit you just can’t seem to kick, this is well-worth your time–

Before I suggest how you can cope with your emotions, I want you to consider what happens when you live by the dictates of your own hunches and whims. A life based on desires is an invitation to the sin of disobedience. Often our feelings run counter to what God requires. In fact, most sinful habits are developed by simply following the path of least resistance, by doing whatever we feel like doing. Many of our struggles can be traced to sensuality, and by that I mean being controlled by our physical senses. This spawns defeat, self-absorption, and unbelief. Many people who think they cannot obey God’s commandments simply don’t feel like obeying. Occasionally they have days when they wake up wanting to do what God requires— but not often. Our fallen human nature never feels like obeying God; usually it wants to do its own thing. This attitude comes from Satan as he suggests to us— as he did to Eve— that God has asked us to obey commands that we cannot or need not keep. If we think we can’t obey God until we feel like it, we will never get off the ground in our spiritual lives.

Let’s be specific. In his book on overcoming difficulties in marriage, Jay Adams writes of a particular counseling situation in which all love had been drained from the marriage and the partners had already agreed to a divorce. Neither one had committed a serious sin against the marriage. They just didn’t feel in love anymore. They went to the counselor hoping he would confirm their decision that since there was no feeling left, they should divorce. The couple was shocked to find the counselor saying, “If you don’t love each other, there is only one thing to do: You will have to learn to love one another.” The couple was incredulous. “How can you learn to love someone? You can’t produce feelings out of thin air!” The counselor explained that in the Bible, God commands us to love one another. When the husband was told that he should love his wife as Christ loved the church, he gasped. He could never do that. But the counselor persisted. He explained that the husband should begin on a lesser level. The Bible also commands us to love our neighbor, and since his wife is his closest neighbor, he should love her. But even so, the husband rejected the idea that he could love his wife that way. Then the counselor explained that he was still not off the hook, for God had commanded us to love even our enemies! This couple had made a common error; they had equated love with feelings. In the Bible, love is not a feeling. We can learn to love, even though we begin with little or no emotional impetus. In other words, we can choose to love. And God gives us the grace to do so.

Love is not an emotion; neither is forgiveness. The Bible commands us to put away all bitterness (Eph. 4: 31); we are to forgive others whether they solicit our forgiveness or not (v. 32). Yet many Christians believe that they can’t forgive until they feel like it! They think that if they forgive when they don’t feel like it, they are hypocritical. However, if forgiveness were an emotion, God would be commanding us to do the impossible. We cannot switch our emotions on and off. We cannot develop the right feelings on our own. But God is not mocking us when He tells us to forgive; we can choose to do so, whether we feel like it or not. Never try to skirt God’s commands under the pretense that you don’t feel like obeying Him. A second danger of living by feelings is that you may tend to derive your doctrine from feelings. If you believe God is with you just because “He feels so close,” you will also believe there are days when He forsakes you because “He feels so far away.” The assurance of God’s presence does not come by feelings, but by faith (Heb. 13: 5). Fortunately, you don’t always have to feel God’s presence to be in fellowship with Him and to make spiritual progress.

Lutzer, Erwin W. (2010-01-01). Getting to No: How to Break a Stubborn Habit (p. 104). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

 

 

iOS Frustrations

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Well, the iPhone saga continues on at this house. If you recall, it was only about a month ago that I had shattered my iPhone and blogged about the lessons I learned from that experience (you can find that post here). When I wrote that, my phone had not been fixed. I’d like to take just a moment to tell you the rest of that story, so you can fully appreciate the rest of this post.

After trying to replace the broken screen, I finally just decided to call the insurance I apparently had on the phone (but do not remember signing up for). When I called, the kind lady assured me that she would be able to help me and went on to explain that since they were no longer making the iPhone 5, I would be sent a 5s. A day later, my phone showed up. I moved the Sim card, restored my latest backup, and was up and running in literally no time at all. It was so easy.

Fast forward a few weeks, when my husband dropped his phone. But instead of the screen shattering, something happened with his sound. He could no longer hear any calls through his ear piece and had to take all his calls via the speaker phone. Once again, I was on the phone with the insurance company.

But this time it would not be so easy.

When I called, I was informed by the not-so-nice lady who seemed to have no idea what she was doing that I would need to fax an affidavit and proof of my I.D. to them before they could process this claim. They could not approve the claim before I did this. When I asked for her supervisor and explained that I had just made a claim on another phone without doing this, she told me this was standard and there were no exceptions. Hmmm. Okay. Slightly annoyed, I did as I was told. When the approval finally came through it was for an iPhone 5. No problem there. I found it curious, given what the agent had told me the month before, but not a problem.

A couple of days later, the phone arrived. When I went to get started exchanging the phones last night, the tiny screen of the new iPhone informed me that no backups could be restored until the operating system was updated. Upon investigating further, I realized that the phone they had sent me only had iOS 6. At that point, I knew we were not looking at some easy fix. This was going to take some time. I was starting to feel some pressure. It was already pretty late at night and Eric could not be without a phone the next day. Ok, he could but it would be extremely inconvenient. I found myself wondering why mine was the easy and upgraded one. He needs his phone so much more than I need mine. Anyway.

I updated the iOS as requested only to find out that now it couldn’t restore the backup because the new phone was now iOS 8 and his backup was in iOS 7. So. Much. Frustration. So now I had to update his iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you are aware that these updates take some time. We were now at around 11:15. I left his to update and went to bed. This morning at 6:15, it looked like it had not updated overnight. And the panic hit once again. Thankfully, it had updated (must have just been a glitch on the screen). To update the new phone, I had had to set it up as a new phone. And so now I had to go back and erase and reset the new phone so I could restore the backup.

I was finally able to get the new phone in Eric’s hands at about 7:30.

What a process. All because I did not start with the right iOS system.

What I am going to say now most people do not want to hear but the bottom line is this: If we start with right operating system, life is generally simpler. 

And, in life, the right operating system is found in the Bible. If we follow the standards set up for us there, we have a better life. I have even seen non-Christians live by the standards set up there and have a really good life because they are living a good, moral life by staying faithful to their spouse, being honest, loving their children and teaching them to obey and respect authority, being a good steward of their resources, and being a good worker. These things alone will keep us from experiencing an awful lot of consequences.

But when we start with the wrong operating system (known by the name ME), we run in to some serious problems. When we are dominated by our own selfish desires, pride, and lusts, we will probably not have such an easy life but instead will be forced to deal with some costly consequences.

Sure, there are exceptions to this. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. But we have to stop pretending that we can–

–Eat all we want and not get fat.

–Let our kids disobey and be disrespectful and yet believe they will somehow follow the Lord when they get older.

–Be selfish and unloving and still have a good marriage.

–Buy what we want and not go into debt.

Life has consequences. And much of the heartache in this world is due to this rule of reaping what you sow (Galatians 6:7). The really sad thing is that most times we are not the only ones who reap what we sow. The tragedies dealt by bad decisions are visited upon our children, our spouses, and our parents. Our choices can ruin lives.

My phone was so easy because I had started with the correct iOS. On the other hand, Eric’s phone was difficult and so frustrating because it did not have the correct iOS.

Let me encourage you to start with the right operating system today. This doesn’t mean we will live perfect lives (which you will understand immediately if you know me at all!), but it does mean that we will make a very purposeful decision to stop being guided by our own desires and wants and, instead, turn to God’s Word for directions on how to live. You will not only be pleasing Him by this choice, but avoid a lot of unnecessary heartache and sadness in your life.

 

If you appreciated this post, would you please take a moment to share it? Thank you.

 

 

A Lesson in Love From an Unlikely Source

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I love both my dogs. Truly, I do. But I have to admit that one is so much easier to love than the other one. (First, a disclaimer– if you don’t like dogs, you may not “get” this post. I hope you will keep reading, anyway.)

We have one dog named Belle. She is small and white and a bit cat-like. She will come if she feels like it. She will obey if she feels like it. She will stare at you with these eyes that seem to say, “see if you can make me.”  Now, overall, she is a great dog. She really is. And most times she does listen. And when she feels like it, she is the most cuddly dog you can imagine. But so much of the love is on her terms.

On the other hand, our Chocolate Lab, Macy, is almost always willing and ready to obey, to come when called, and to snuggle. She is happy and easy-going and just an easy dog to have around. She follows me everywhere and is almost depressed when I am not home for a few days. She loves me so much that I can’t help but love her back. The dog hair that seems to congregate in the corners of my house and other occasional annoyances that come with having a dog inside the house are more bearable because she is just so lovable.

The bottom line is that Macy is just easier to love than Belle.

As I was thinking about this the other day, I started wondering: Am I lovable? Do I love the people in my life so much that they can’t help but love me back?

I think sometimes we expect people (especially our spouses) to love us unconditionally, without wavering. And so they should. But perhaps we could make it so much easier for them to do so?

Should we really expect passionate and undying love from someone if we treat them like they are our servant? Or grow angry and irritated at the slightest offense? Can we really expect unconditional love if we are unkind, arrogant, and defensive? If we never, ever apologize or forgive?

Oh, it is possible to love difficult people by the grace of God and His love working through us, but we do it out of a sense of duty. It certainly isn’t because it is fulfilling or rewarding in any way. It certainly isn’t the way God designed love between two people to be.

Instead we so often fall into the habit of tolerating one another.

I have read several books on marriage that suggest that if you start serving your mate and treating them the way you would want to be treated it would go a long way in making your marriage work. I knew that this must be true but when I started thinking about my two very different dogs, understanding came in a whole different way.

It is just hard not to love someone (or a dog) who treats you like you are the greatest thing in existence. It is a rare person who doesn’t respond to kindness and loving actions shown towards them. And it is so much easier to put up with the annoyances and small irritations if we feel deeply loved by someone. Tolerance falls away and deep, abiding love takes its place.

If you are struggling in a relationship with someone today, may I suggest that you start loving that person unconditionally and without reserve?  Read I Corinthians 13 right now and put it into practice. Start treating them like they are special and see if they don’t just return that love. And, even if they don’t respond in the way you want right away (this process can take days or even years), you will be filled with the knowledge and peace that you are doing the right thing according to God’s Word (Mark 12:31).

 

The Fifty Dollar Bill

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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.

Worldview Changes Everything

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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.

 

 

Spreading the Rose Petals

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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 :)