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Is Jesus Enough This 2020 Easter?

Sweet sixteen and never been kissed. Sweet sixteen my heart full of dreams.

I had a plan for my life. I thought I wanted to be a marriage and family counselor.  I headed to college with this goal and a dream.  A dream to meet a guy, get married, have kids.  I wanted five boys! My prideful heart wanted to raise young men who were fun, gentlemen, and knew how to treat a girl – I didn’t always find this in the college boys I knew! I flirted with babies and cuddled them.  A stranger in an airport once commented that I must love children as I made friends with a baby across the aisle.  I nodded – of course!

I was 25 when I had my first date.  I was shy of 31 by two months when I had my first “real boyfriend” – I’d only gone on a handful of dates with a handful of men before that.  I married “my first real boyfriend” two years later on my 33rd birthday.  This man is nine years older.  God gave me cysts on my ovaries while in college, putting me on hormones for 13 years before I ever got married, causing doctors to not know what that would mean for having children later.  God gave me an older husband, and a wedding long after I thought He would. God allowed things that would make conceiving difficult.  And He took my desire for kids of my own and gave me peace even if I had none.  Complete peace.  No longings, no yearnings, no jealousy of others.  He gave me nieces and a nephew, and great nieces and nephews on my husband’s side.  He told me to love them, pray for them, and for their parents.  He took my baby flirting too… and now I can hold and cuddle them, but the desire within me to have my own is gone. I pass them back with utter peace. How strange! How different than my teenage plan!

I had thought long ago that I knew what I wanted.  Now I find myself unsure what I want.  College and grad school to become a counselor came and went. That didn’t seem right, and a counselor I’m not.  When dating my husband, we discussed children and thought we’d be fine either way. We discussed adoption and infertility before even getting married, and made choices against, regardless of whatever came.  I struggled with feeling like I “should” consider these options, until my pastor said that if that’s not what God has put on our hearts, that’s not His plan for us.

It is now four years later.  I’m not living the dream I had so long ago.  What am I living I sometimes ask?  Why am I in social services, I never thought I’d be doing this!  What do I want? I muse over and over.  This life is good, and yet it’s not what either I or my husband thought we’d be, me this close to 40, and he to 50! We thought we’d have more, be more, do more.  Hmmm.

My husband, my friend.  Our lives now one.  We can’t make decisions alone anymore.  My goals and dreams now encompass another. Being one with him becomes the plan.  Yet we are individuals too.  What is God’s plan for us?  For him?  For me?  I question this now over and over and pray that he and I become all we were meant to be – which in God’s plan includes unity between us, and following His plans, not just my dreams.  Hmmm.  I ponder this life, my old dreams, and who I am now.

And then, COVID 19.  Things we love stripped from us: socializing, hugging, connecting, church fellowshipping.  Easter weekend is here.  No church!  No family gathering! No Easter baskets or hunts!  (Which by the way, I’ve decided children really do promote some of the “fun” of holidays.)  No shopping just for fun. No eating out.  No going for a lazy drive just because – at least while we are under stay at home orders.  No friends in our home. Travel reduced.  Work cut off.  Finances less. Life in general right now.

I ponder all this.  I ask myself: Is Jesus enough?  Really enough?  Enough to be my everything, when everything around is different than the dream, or even the norm?  Enough when there is no other?  He says He is.  I say He is Lord over me.  But here I find myself wanting things this world gives or wanting my dreams to become reality! (Which dreams aren’t bad! But all thing are to be under the authority of Christ over me, even dreams and life as I know it.)

It’s Easter tomorrow.  Jesus died and rose again for my sin and yours.  He bought my life and the right to each day as He chooses to give it. He made a way for a relationship with Him both now and through eternity.  He is enough!  But praise be to God who gives so generously! He gives a world full of beauty and color and emotion and relationships and delight!  He gives work and meaning and purpose.  He gives blessing after blessing.  He allows us to choose.  And sadly, so many of us choose other loves over Him first and foremost.

Perhaps this strange Easter season, this season of social distancing, and quarantine, and a pandemic –new words to our ears — perhaps this is all to remind us that Jesus is enough, and to show us just how much hold all these other things have over us.  Perhaps?  Oh precious sisters in God — press on to know Him.  He promises to be more than enough for all we need, and to give us all we need for life and godliness!  Press on, and Happy Easter!

Valentines Day

Happy Valentine’s Day!   I like romance and flowers and pretty things too. I do. It’s true!  (And cheesy rhymes are good today – right?!)   And yet, lately I’ve been thinking of love and of how warped the world’s view of love is.  I’ve seen afresh just how easily my own heart and feelings have been shaped by the world’s concepts, rather than God’s concepts.  Some of this is because I’m now married, and I’ve learned quickly that dating and romance are not the same as marriage and love. Lust and love are different.

 

True love is God’s love – agape love at it’s finest: selfless, pure, giving, sacrificing, a choice.  And it’s hard.  And it takes God’s love in me to be able to give it freely. It is costly.  It is constantly being shaped and refined in me.  It can not be demanded from anyone, least of all my spouse.  So it starts in my own heart, and it lets go of expectations from another.

For instance yesterday morning was Valentines Day.  I’d already discussed it earlier in the week with my husband.  We decided to go out to eat on the weekend, not Valentines Day.  He’d already said clearly that he didn’t need or want anything (even a card).  This stuff doesn’t matter to him.  I’d said I like something, something little.  Something.  This stuff matters much more to me. So yesterday morning he smiled at me and called me his Valentine and hugged me tight.  My heart swelled with feelings of being loved.  Then he said, “Is it ok then if I don’t get you flowers today, but wait until next week?”  My heart’s warm bubble burst in a second.  “Why?” I asked.  He looked at me and said slowly, “Well, to save a few bucks.”  I had an instant choice.  Love him, or demand from him.  If you know my husband, you’d know he loves me. He is generous to me, and good to me.  He also knows I like flowers, and wanted to give me some.  However, we are in a season where our income is lower than it was.  He once insisted on buying me a dress at full price, simply because I liked it.  Now he tries to limit unnecessary spending as our income has dropped, and in many ways it is him who has sacrificed the most in this area.  In an instant I decided to love him.  You see, Brad feels most loved when he feels my understanding and kindness to him.  My husband is always honest with me, and I know that Valentines day flowers are more expensive then any other day.  I know this. So I chose to respond in love.  And you know what– my heart swelled afresh with feelings of love and his heart did too! And I was fine, really fine, with just getting a sweet card from him later in the day.  I told him, “You know, if you bring me flowers, any flowers not just roses, as a surprise some day, that means more to me than 100 Valentine flowers.”  So we’ll see if some flowers are bought next week, or if they get forgotten in the manner of life.  But I’ve already determined that I love Brad regardless of if he remembers next week or not, and I’ve already determined to let it go if he forgets.

True love. God’s love.  That is what each day is for. Valentines Day is a fun day.  It’s good to remember to say we love those in our lives, and maybe give them an extra gift, or offer some exciting romance.  But it is not what makes for true love.  And when I was a single, I wanted the romance and the extra attention.  I know Valentines Day can be hard on singles, widows, those whose marriage is not good, or even those whose marriage is good and they want the extra attention but don’t get it.  Regardless, God’s love is true and was given on a cross freely.  His love can make any day, even Valentine’s Day, full of love.  But it will cost you — it will cost you the will to choose this, and that can be hard!  It helps if we are already developing the practice of being loved first by God, and giving His love away — without any demands from any other person.  Precious sisters, you are loved by God so much.  May you press on to learn to give love away everyday.

 

 

A Poem (an honest look at my heart)

 

Lord,

Teach me to pray, I plead.

He gives me a man,

Who according to plan,

Is different than me,

Submit to he.

 

He gives me a season

And tells me no reason.

Backwards I feel,

and sometimes cheated!

Life was a blast, but that is past.

I was growing and thriving,

But now I feel dying.

Lord! Who am I? Where are You?

What are You doing? I cry!

 

He asks me to trust

His plan is the best.

He changes my ways

By giving me trials.

He changes my habits

By revealing my madness.

 

Madness?

Yes, madness:

The things down inside

I try so to hide.

Things like pride,

And my selfish side.

 

Don’t get me started

On how life has parted

From child-like simplicity

To adult complexity.

Do I even like the me I see?

 

Sin in me.

God’s grace to me.

He reveals and prods,

My heart He pokes.

I don’t like it! I angrily balk!

 

Then talk! Responds He to me.

Tell Me your dreams and worries.

Tell Me your fears and joys.

Tell Me your sorrows

And whisper your secrets.

Confess your sins and ask My advice.

Ask Me about My promises,

And verbalize your praise.

 

Then read My Word,

Let Me tell you:

My plans not yours,

My will not yours,

My life for yours.

Your surrender a must

So therefore trust.

 

Teach me to pray, you say?

My Child,

This season is reason

To pull from your heart

The madness and confusion —

To set you apart

To make you who I want.

 

Trust Me, dear child,

I know what I’m doing.

A man, you his wife,

This season, your life,

Are but tools I use

To teach you to pray.

Record Snowfall, Blocked Drains, Cleaning Fish Tanks … and Marriage

Whew!  What a title!  But here is my question for you: What do record snowfalls, blocked drains, and cleaning out a fish tank have to do with marriage?  I’m about to tell you!

This past weekend we marveled at the large amount of snow that fell.  Today is April 16th.  April 16!  And we had a blizzard!  On Friday the weather forecasters were saying 6-12 inches.  After the second time of shoveling my husband groaned that it felt more like 18 inches.  And the snow kept coming. I’m not sure the actual snow accumulation of this past weekend, but the birds started singing again this morning and the squirrels and bunnies were out prancing through the snow while the sun cheerfully came from behind the gloomy skies of yesterday.

To make the weekend even more eventful our kitchen sink drain backed up.  This too made my husband groan.  Around Friday evening it was draining slowly.  He commented he’d have to clean the trap.  Sunday morning (no church due to weather) while he cleared snow again, I made cinnamon roll biscuits, a nice treat to welcome him back inside. But as I washed the dishes the sink filled higher and higher.  Uh oh!  I gave him the delicious breakfast treat and told him I hated to give him the news but the drain was very slow.  VERY SLOW!  He said he was beat and he’d deal with it the next day.  But by that night, the slow draining turned into complete blockage.  Gross!

Monday morning we awoke and snow had stopped, but the blowing had pushed snow into the driveway again and plows had filled in the end of the driveway.  Our double kitchen sinks were both half-full of nasty water.  And I received the unexpected and welcome news than my work was cancelling the daily routes due to the weather.  Knowing my husband’s back was sore, and he was beat from a weekend fighting weather, I suggested I help him shovel.  He said no need to get my back sore too!  He looked at the sinks and told me they’d have to be drained with a bucket and a sponge.  He went out to shovel telling me that he’d deal with that later.

I grabbed a bucket, a sponge, and a plastic cup.  I can help you, I said.  So while he was out shoveling, I was cupful by cupful emptying nasty water into a bucket, toting the bucket to another sink, and cleaning out the sink.  That was a slow process!  But as I dipped that cup into the water, I was reminded of a similar chore at a different time in my life.

Our house flooded when I was in junior high.  We packed up belongings as high as possible, we took some stuff, we moved into a small apartment for the summer.  Before the apartment was ready, we’d all gone to different houses.  Our dog had go to a shelter for a short time while we were all split up, and boy was that hard!  Our dog had never been to a kennel of any kind!  But we left behind our fish in the tank.  I’m sorry fish!  I honestly didn’t think a whit about them.  My dog on the other hand, that was a different story!  So one day when we are cleaning in our home, my dad gave my sister and I the nasty chore of cleaning out the fish tank.  You can use your imagination I’m sure.  The electricity had been off, the poor fish had therefore frozen, and the tank of water and fish had sat for at least a month before we got around to cleaning it.  Talk about gross!

My sister and I put masks over our nose (it stunk!!) and went about it (perhaps not very cheerfully).  We were about half way into it when one of us (I’ll give her credit) made up a silly little song about cleaning a nasty fish tank out. We sang that little song over and over, until the task was done!  And we smiled at the silliness of the song and the looks of us with masks on, and the disgusting job we had been given.

Today, I’m thankful for that nasty task.  The cleaning of the sink wasn’t half as gross, or tedious!  While I worked today, I listened to my husband work outside.  He consistently pushed the shovel back and forth; I consistently dipped the cup in and out.  I thought while I worked.  I remembered the disgusting fish tank.  I remembered the singing and how it helped my mood.

So this morning as I worked I thanked God for unpleasant tasks.  Unpleasant tasks that come around so rarely are great reminders of how good we actually have it!  I have indoor plumbing and sinks that I normally give little thought about.  I have a husband who does the brunt of all the outside (heavy) work.  And I thought also of the blog post I’d read recently.  I really appreciate this author’s work.  She was talking about the ideals of marriage verses the reality of marriage.  She notes that “the monsters of suffering and difficulty are the friends you must learn to love.”

Hmm…. love.  I’ve been pondering love a bit lately.  Agape love is God’s unconditional, unselfish, wanting the best for the other type of love.  It’s the opposite of the selfishness that can happen in a marriage.  When my husband and I gladly help each other with some of the unpleasant tasks, when we give up our desires for the other’s best at the moment, when we tackle life together in all the moments of difficulties — it’s in those times that we love each other best.  When my husband thanks me for helping him with cleaning out the sink, or I appreciate the hard work he put in to keep the driveway ready for me to drive out without doing any work myself, then I know that we are learning the secret to lasting love.  We are learning that romance and passion can not carry a marriage.  But suffering and working together and laying down self for the sake of the other go a long way to make me a happy wife and him a happy husband!

 

I am a Woman, a Helper, and a Wife

Today I rose early, I couldn’t sleep.  I had woken to use the bathroom and my eyelids still felt the weight of sleep.  But sleep would not come back, so I got up.  I sat on the couch and read.  I’ve always had an interest in being a woman. I love that God made men and women uniquely different.  When single I sometimes got mad at things that men did or aspects of who they were.  But (ask my roommate Keri) I always followed the frustration with, “But I still want one!”  Now that I’ve been given a man of my own, I’m still interested in how different we are.  Sometimes our differences still cause frustration.  Other times they make us better.  Thus, I’m reading about being a helper.

My book now sits on the floor though.  My thoughts are varied.  I’m observing our wedding picture which hangs on the wall.  Some days this picture becomes part of the wall.  I barely see it.  Other days I get up close to it, I look at the names of friends who witnessed that day.  I remember.  Today, however, I’m looking at it in light of the book I’m reading.  I peer into the faces.  I see me.  I see a beloved man.  I see us standing close together, smiling.  I look into my own eyes staring back.  I ponder who I was, and who I’m becoming.  Next Tuesday we will have been married two (short)(wonderful) years.  Two years.  How can time move so fast and so slow all at once?

But there is more to what I’m thinking.  I’m thinking of the dreams we had as singles.  I’m thinking of how we wanted our lives to intertwine, and now that they do it is not as cut and dry as we thought it might be.  I’m also thinking of our culture and how far we’ve come from the Biblical view of men and women.  I’m thinking of the little girls in the next generation.  Who will show them what it means to be a woman? I don’t even know some days if I display womanhood in the best light.  In two years there have been moments when I’ve not elevated my man or been a helper to him.

Being a helper is about being a woman.  And being a woman is not about being married.  Singles are called to this too. So as my anniversary approaches, and as this book teaches me, I’d like to pass on some encouragement to you.  You and I, my sisters, we are daughters of Eve.  Eve, the first woman.  We, the woman of this generation who get to teach the next generation of girls who they are.  It’s a tall task.

Author, Susan Hunt, writes,

Women’s helper design is not so much what we do but rather who we are…. [it] should not be confused with our various roles.  Our roles change: Daughter, student, wife, friend, employee, employer, mother, etc… But our design equips us to bring a unique perspective to that role….So the core question is not what is my role, but what is my goal? It is essential to recognize that I am created in the image of God for the purpose of reflecting His image. But I cannot, and should not try to, escape the fact that I am a female and that I am to glorify God as a female person.

So as my anniversary approaches, as I examine myself portrayed two years ago as a bride, and as I think over these two years and into my next year of marriage I am pondering my helper role.  I am pondering the next generation of little girls growing up in a feminist culture.  I’m pondering the idea that male and female (according to culture) are the same and can be interchanged.  The Bible doesn’t promote that, but culture does. It’s sort of a scary thought.  I’m praying that my little girls and boys never doubt that they were created by God as either a male or a female.

Hunt notes that the helper design is intrinsic to being a woman.  She notes that our worldview forms our idea of being a female.  Most people think that a helper is lesser.  Rather she writes, “When we consider how God is our helper, we can begin to understand the depth and the power of our female design.”

I’m thinking afresh of my role as helper to Brad, now two years into our marriage.  I’m thinking of all women, single or married and how we can be a helper in our culture.  Helpers are not just married women.  Rather, in God’s design only having men in the world was not good.  So God planned a different design, women.  Women and men together display God’s glory.  Single, or married, will you purpose in your heart to display God’s glory and bear His image as a woman?  He has a plan for your life, dear sister! Teach the little girls in your life that they are valuable as women.  They have gifts of compassion and service and grace that are unique to their sex!  What an incredible God we serve!  Let’s be women who elevate God in whichever role He places us in!

 

(From the book By Design, by Susan Hunt).

 

 

 

A Journey

I’m going on a journey.  It’s a long one.  It’s one I can’t plan for or prepare for.  And my planning, control – desiring self can’t really quite take it.  Oh it’s a surprise! I tell myself.  But really, I prefer to not have a surprise.

To be honest, I’m not sure I want to share my journey with you.  It’s like staring down a railroad track: endless, mile upon mile, bleak.  Yet I know that track is more than I can see, goes through pretty areas, and gets me to my destination.

So let’s go.  You can come with me if you want.  A friend to walk along side with — yes please!

But the truth comes again, we can only walk so far together.  Eventually you will follow your own track, and me mine.  Loneliness upon the journey is part of the process.  I’m convinced.  No spouse even can totally walk the journey with you.  They too have their own tracks.

You see we are journeying towards heaven.  Every single person on this earth is journeying towards heaven.  That’s the pretty way of saying it.  The dark way of saying it is that we are journeying towards death.  Each baby conceived takes his first cry the minute his lungs breath the air outside of the womb.  Some babies never make that first cry, their heartbeat stopping within the walls of a womb.  Some people can’t take the life they’ve been given or the consequences they’ve chosen by how they decide to live, so they choose their destiny and kill themselves.  Others choose to kill themselves for a cause that doesn’t even make sense.  Suicide bombers for example. Car accidents and diseases steal a life.  But most people start their lives and end their lives as God designed: conceived by egg and sperm joining and the amazing process of life beginning.  Cells multiply, fingers and toes form, hearts beat.  Life happens.  Legs and arms grow.  Haircuts change a thousand times, teeth fall out and are replaced by adult ones. Bodies mature.  Wrinkles and sunspots and grey hairs quietly take over.  Then, a casket envelopes the body.  A body now lifeless.  It’s the process of getting to heaven.

For a Christian, all I just described is natural and normal.  Life begins, life happens, life ends.  We are called to give up our body and let the spirit finally meet our God.  But we have hope of having new bodies someday, bodies raised in life.  For Jesus was the first-fruit of all that is to come.  He overcame death.  We will too.

But as we live on this earth we make choices that affect our eternities.  The first choice is choosing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as God himself, sent to earth.  He died on a cross for the remission of sin for all mankind.  He rose again.  He shows us how life on earth can actually happen well.  But that means if we want to live for eternity now, that we make choices now on earth that we might not see the result of until we get to heaven.

I want to share a secret thought of my heart with you.  I’ve thought I was a pretty good Christian.  God called me to Himself at a young age.  As I’ve shared before I was not really rebellious. He drew my heart deeper into His Word and into loving Him. As a single I had plenty of time to develop myself in habits of Christian growth.  Secretly pride begin to develop in me.  I thought I was “doing this Christian life pretty well!”  Then I got married, switched jobs, and my husband and I are in a season of slow going.

Things deep in my heart started to surface.  Things that are not pretty.  Discontent, resentment, impatience, grumbling, questioning God’s ways, irritation over minor things, selfishness, envy, criticism.  I think you get the picture.  I also think you know exactly what I mean because these things come up into your thoughts or words as well.  Oh sure, not all the time.  I’m also seeing joy and delight in new ways.  But I’d be lying if I said those ugly things weren’t in me.

I am reading a book on marriage, that I highly recommend: A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas. He brings the idea of death into our marriage today.  He notes that how we love our spouse will matter greatly when we stand before God.  He argues that seeds of love, patience, self-sacrifice, and any number of things grow, maybe unnoticed until we die.  Then, God will ask us how we loved our spouse.  He will show us the produce of those things.  But the opposite is true, if we daily plant bitterness, anger, resentment, selfish idols, need and greed, and many other things of the flesh, then once we meet God we will see that too.  Hmmm.  Thought provoking.

So you see, I’m a newly married woman and God is allowing this season of not being where either of us want to be, as well as new time challenges which hinder my carefully built habits of Bible study and capability of even making a meal on time, to show me the junk in my heart.  He is inviting me on a journey into a place that seems for the moment unseen.

You might not be a newly married woman.  Maybe you’ve been married 5, 15, 27, or 45 years.  Praise God!  You might be a single woman still.  Praise God! You might be a widowed woman, missing marriage or enjoying a newfound freedom to pursue God’s kingdom in new ways.  Praise God!  You might be a woman in the throes of cancer or another disease that leaves you without strength.  Praise God! In each season, dear friend, you and I are simply taking another step, another leap, or another glance into the journey to eternity.  The journey to heaven.  Oh press on sister in Christ!  Look down that railroad track of life.  Note the unendingness, the bleakness, the unknown.  And then start, step by step, day by day.  Place one foot in front of the other.  Ask God to show you His ways that you might walk in them.  And as you do, step by step, you and I will reach heaven.  It’s guaranteed!  And when that railroad takes you around unexpected turns into open valleys of delight, please enjoy all that is offered!  Weary walking and unending unknowns are only part of the journey! The other part is great delight!  And oh, I forgot to mention one thing.  There is a friend who actually is able to walk every single step with you.  His name is Jesus.  He alone is able to be your companion every step of the way!

Let’s go dear sister, please do walk with me awhile! And when your track splits off and you are forced to go a different path, remember Jesus.  He is with you!

My Name Is Grumpy

When a dog’s sparkle is gone, everyone knows it.  The wag isn’t there.  The bounding energy is replaced with uncharacteristic melancholy.  Thankfully most dogs get this way only when they are in pain, or in trouble, or no person is interacting with them.  They don’t tend to get grumpy (I don’t think!).

Unfortunately, we as humans lose our sparkle too.  We have bad moments, bad days, bad attitudes.  The other day my husband had every right to rename me Grumpy for the evening.  My wag and sparkle rivaled a dog heading to the vet. I tried to be enthusiastic but I just wasn’t feeling it.  I arrived home from work in a semi-good attitude.  But that attitude steadily and rapidly deteriorated in the 30 minutes it took me to ready for bed.

My husband knows me so well.  So he asked me if I was in a poor mood.  Yes, I agreed.  Why?  Hmm.  That one always gives me pause.  Why, he asks.  I’m not always sure.  Sometimes I am sure, just stubborn and want to hold onto my anger, so voicing a reason is easy.  But the other night I knew I had no right to be in a bad mood, so why was I?  It was a good question.  Often my husband’s next question, which I love because it draws me out and opens a door of conversation (and demonstrates his heart), is have I done something?  I had to say no to that as well.  Literally nothing.  So I told my husband that I had minor irritations.  Truth.  But not very helpful to a curious husband who wants to make things right or help me out.

So grumpy, wagless me snuggled into my pillow and tried to figure out my heart.  Hmm.  Well, for starters the guy I work with didn’t feel well and I responded poorly to him — irritated, yelled a little at him.  Then, my husband and I had chatted earlier in the evening and I felt he might be disappointed in me or wishing I was someone I am not. (And he never said that, still doesn’t, I was just perceiving that).  Lastly, I needed a shower but was tired and didn’t want to go through the effort of taking one, just wanted to hop into bed.  But my husband reminded me we had company coming the following day and that our bathroom rug gets wet, thus making it not as nice for people.  Selfish grumpy me didn’t feel like caring at the moment, but I begrudgingly took my shower. (And ok, it did feel good.  I admit it.  And the next day the rug was completely dry for company.)

Grumpy.  Complain-y.  That was me.  Joylessness flowed out of me as obviously as a sad dog who gets sent to the corner.  Only I deserved to be sent to the corner.  You see, I had just finished reading Jonah.  Secretly I like Jonah, because sometimes I am Jonah.

Jonah is not noted for immediately obeying the voice of God.  Rather he knows God’s forgiving and compassionate nature.  So he hightails it the other way.  He falls asleep on a ship.  The ship gets tossed and turned by the angry waves, and Jonah holds onto his joyless, grumpy attitude.  The other people on the ship (not believers in God for they pray to their ‘gods’), are terrified.  Jonah freely admits that God must be allowing the storm because of him, and states that the only way to stop the turmoil is to toss him overboard.  Finally they  do, and the waves die down, and God sends a fish to swallow Jonah.  I’m guessing Jonah was still grumpy.  Holding onto his anger.  I probably would be if circumstances kept getting worse and worse for me.

So then God gets Jonah where Jonah was supposed to go in the first place.  Jonah got a first class ride in the belly of a great fish, the only passenger with all the leg room he wanted!  Then Jonah got vomited out onto the land.  Yuck!  Maybe the first thing Jonah did was bathe in the sea to get the stench and slime off of him.  Then he finally (and grudgingly) set off to warn Ninevah of God’s wrath and upcoming judgment. He told them, and they repented completely, and God relented from His fierce anger.

Jonah went outside the city to sulk.  Perhaps he felt slighted.  He had been warning of impending judgement, but God relented.  Did Jonah feel put off that “he looked bad” by what he said not actually coming true?  I’m not sure, but I do know he was still in a bad mood as he sat to sulk.  He actually wanted to die!  God provided a little plant as shade for him, and then God sent a worm to devour the little plant that Jonah sat under.  Jonah sulked and complained and God asked if he had right to sulk!

The book ends that way!  Jonah doesn’t repent of disobedience or a bad attitude throughout the whole book!  In my grumpiness the other day I wrote in my journal:  I know I should be grateful, joyful, content.  But I’m just not.  I know I should be fine, in a better mood, but I’m not.  I know what God’s Word says about rejoicing, about thoughts in my heart, about gratitude.  I’m just grumpy.

My husband suggested we not talk about one of the triggers that was irritating me.  He suggested we go to sleep and deal with it in the morning.  I woke up much happier, rested, and not irritated.  What changed.  Nothing.  God’s grace gave me a second chance to change my attitude.  The next day was great all around.

How often I choose grumpiness, joylessness, sad-puppy-woe-is-me attitudes over grace, patience, forgiveness, joy, selflessness, or life according to God’s kingdom rules.  I choose to be Jonah.  In the movie Anne of Green Gables, the red-headed, dramatic, romance and sweet- times loving Anne comments on it being “such a Jonah day.”  I’ve been there.  But usually my Jonah days are my days of running to everything but God to make me happy.

Dear precious women: Please run into the waiting arms of God rather than away from Him!  Tell Him all about your grumpiness.  Ask Him to give you your spark back!  I have joy again (thankfully), but far too often I side with Jonah and run away.  I sulk in my attitude.  I think I know better than God.  I let self rule.  Myself never rules well.  Only Christ Jesus can rule my life in absolute perfectness.  And I’m learning (slowly) that sometimes it’s the little irritants that best show us how far we are from being who we want to be. They are teachers in a way.  I think big crisis’ – check, run to God! Little daily irritants… well, if I’m honest I run the other way and sulk far faster than I’d like to admit.  I tell myself I’m not disobeying God like Jonah did.  God gently whispers back to my heart, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is My will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I swallow.  Ok.  I am being Grumpy Jonah.  God please help me!

 

Real Romance

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  She shared her home with four others: her dad, her mom, her brother, and her sister.  She loved them all.  She grew up knowing that she was loved.  Her parents provided all her needs, many of her wants,  and gave her hugs and love each day.  Her parents bought her and her siblings a puppy.  They gave their kids a large yard to play in and freedom to be the unique individuals they were.  Overall, it was an ideal home to grow up in.  Of course there was the usual bickering between the children, but looking back it was minor.  For the most part this little family got along.  The parents loved each other too, and the home was one of peace.

This little girl grew and grew.  Happiness continued in her life.  Oh, there were of course hard times: the passing of a grandparent, the beloved dog being killed by a car, a few broken bones or surgeries among the siblings, disappointments over life’s little struggles, and the normal challenges that face families each day.  But this family knew a secret for happiness.  The parents taught the children about Jesus.  The parents understood that not all of life is delightful and glorious, sometimes it’s rough.  But they also knew that knowing Jesus helps each days trials and joys to be either easier or better!  So they shared with their children the gift of faith.

Since the family had a background in faith, and a home where growth was encouraged through play, through education, through love, and through individuality the children in the home thrived.  High school came and went, college came and went, and the two older siblings got married.  The youngest girl wanted to get married too, but the time wasn’t ripe.  So she waited, sometimes patiently, other times longingly.  Her mother continued to share the secrets of happiness and truth rooted in faith.  Her mother knew that this daughter of hers had a romantic heart.  So one day the mother advised, “Romance is any time your spouse chooses to serve you out of love.”  The daughter tucked that tidbit of information away, while telling herself but surely service with romance is ok too.  The daughter thought romance involved dancing and kissing and sweet nothings.

As this young woman watched her sibling’s marriages, she still wanted one of her own.  Long years passed before a suitor of her own came into her life.  She had been on a handful of dates with a handful of different men, but none of them were the man for her to marry.  But then this new young man came into her life.  He was tender and giving.  He treated her with respect.  He looked into her eyes and said he loved her.  He told her that he too believed in Jesus and thought that He is the foundation to happiness.  But this young man was not a dancer and sweet nothings didn’t pour from his lips.  Rather his lips told truths, spoke kindly, smiled easily, and made simple statements of love.

The young woman fell in love with this man.  And the young man fell in love with her.  So they finally arranged to marry.  Before marriage the couple sat down to talk with their pastor.  The pastor talked about the importance of Jesus in the relationship.  The pastor asked about each of them and what they wanted out of marriage.  The young woman eagerly talked of this extraordinary young man who had come into her life.  And then she blurted out, “He’s not the most romantic man! But my mom once told me that romance is choosing to serve another out of love.  And this man serves me!”  The pastor picked up on that definition of romance and inquired more about it.  He nodded his head gravely, as he believed in the worth of the saying.

After marriage the definition of romance would surface again and again.  Every time the young woman wished he’d dance with her, she reminded herself that even though his knees ached he’d often agree to walk down around the lake with her in the evening, knowing she enjoyed that.  When she wanted him to notice her more than he seemed to, she reminded herself that he had noticed that her car needed gas and filled it for her so she wouldn’t have to.  When she wanted his arms around her in passion but he seemed more busy than usual, she reminded herself that he worked hard to provide her with a home and food and clothing.  When she wanted sweet nothings, she remembered his truthful speech that told her she was just the right woman for him or that she could work on a certain sin issue in her life.  Yes, this young woman had to learn that romance is not always what is seems.

Yet there were still moments when this young woman wanted her husband to meet her expectations in ways she felt he wasn’t.  She wanted to be noticed and pursued.  She wanted to be told she was lovable and beautiful.  She wanted passion.  She sometimes wanted things she couldn’t even identify easily.  She just knew her heart had moments of struggle.  She expected her young husband, despite his faithful service and constant tenderness, to express these romantic ideals according to her definition.  But in these moments her definition of romance and love was  again askew.

But then she decided to talk to Jesus about it.  She knew that Jesus would have insight into all of the longings in her heart.  So she said, “I want to be noticed and pursued, and sometimes my husband doesn’t seem to notice me.”  And Jesus said, “My daughter, I stood at the door of your heart knocking, waiting for you to open to my love.  I loved you so much that I walked to the cross for you.  I pursued you into a relationship with me.  Give your husband a break, he loves you well.”

So she said, “But I want to be told I’m beautiful and lovable.  He does tell me he loves me, or that I’m cute.  But I was hoping for more!”  And Jesus said back, “Oh child!  You are slow to understand.  I died on the cross for you.  You were a sinner and nothing lovely was in you, but as I went through agony for you, I showed you that you are worth dying for!  And as for beauty, look to me: I am the embodiment of beauty.  Righteous living is what makes a woman exude loveliness.  Give your husband a break, he tells you he appreciates how you look and you know he appreciates your character.  He even compliments you.  He loves you well.”

Frowning, she tried again.  She said, “But sometimes he’s busy and I want passion.”  Jesus tenderly responded, “Young lady, you don’t know passion.  Your husband is a good husband who serves you and meets your needs so well.  He is passionate towards you.  But I will show you passion.  I was beaten for you.  I went to the cross for your sins.  I took your sin on myself.  Passion is extravagant love.  Your husband loves you well. Let him love you how he does, and let me love you how he can’t.”

The young woman pondered this.  All that she wanted in her husband had already been given to her by her Lord.  All that she expected out of her husband was actually freely given to her already –if she allowed her definition of romance to become love, service, provision, and faithfulness.  She thanked Jesus for helping her see into her heart.  She smiled for the truthful reminder that true love is patient, kind, forgiving, and self-sacrificing.  She knew afresh that her husband loved her. In fact she knew deep down that he was generous in his love for her, because he was modeling the same love Jesus did.  Every time he served her out of love he was, as her mother had long ago shared, defining romance in their home. She remembered too that occasionally a sweet card, a soft statement expressing her beauty, or flowers showed up.

The young woman smiled to herself again.  Loved.  She sighed, and pondered her mother’s wisdom.  It was life -giving truth.  She mentally noted that some day she’d have to thank her mom for teaching her of faith and truths about happiness and marriage.

The end.

 

What’s In A Word?

images2XQ68WIQI remember having to learn how to diagram a sentence.  It started around 7th grade, perhaps earlier.  I can still picture my English teacher — a constantly smiling, red dyed-haired, bright red lipstick wearing woman whose slip sometimes peeked from under her dress.  I can see her standing over the projector, smiling and instructing us.  I can remember learning how to write papers properly.  I remember stacks of 3×5 cards with subjects for each paragraph that was to come.  I remember red marks on those papers noting my errors: missing punctuation, misused punctuation, improper sentences, run-on sentences, paragraphs lacking a direct subject, and the like.  Needless to say, I learned much from this English teacher.  I had her for 7th and 8th grade at the private school I attended.

And then I moved to the public school for high school.  Sitting in English class, I bemoaned the fact that we were spending an extraordinarily long time on the basics of sentences.  Hadn’t these students also been subjected to the rigorous (slightly boring, but so important) tasks of tediously diagraming a sentence?  As I talked to my sister one day as we waited for the bus home, I commented on how much time we were spending on what a noun was.  A girlfriend standing near, two years my senior, heard us and stated, “A noun?  I don’t know what a noun is.”  I was astounded.  I remember that day distinctly.  How did a junior in high school not know that!

And then I went to college.  I was decent at writing papers, still had errors, but for the most part after my own proof reading as well as another friend reading through it briefly, I got average to above average marks.  Then one day a friend asked if I’d help her proof a paper she had to write.  I read it.  Line after line I got more and more discouraged.  I was tearing her paper apart due to the lack of organized paragraphs and the grammatical mistakes.  I finally suggested she take her paper to the learning lab, a place set up by the school for free basic tutoring and homework help.  I didn’t know what to do with her paper, and I wasn’t sure I could help!

Thus, though we use our language every day of our lives — reading and writing, we all need a refresher sometimes in correct writing.  In fact, don’t look too closely at this article (especially if you are an English teacher!),  for I’m sure that I have my own disorganization and grammatical errors!  Yet I was thinking the other day how important words are.  How important each function a word has within a sentence. There are the basics, of course.  A sentence has to have a subject and a verb.  For instance, “I ran” is a short sentence.  I (the subject) act out the past tense form of “to run” — so in the past I ran.  Basic.  But then you can add an adverb (in case you’ve forgotten, an adverb describes a verb, or an action, and often answers the question how).  So, “I ran quietly” becomes a better sentence … more descriptive.  Or, try this – “I ran to the bed quietly.”  Now, my sentence gives details, provides interest, and is more than just a basic sentence.  When reading this new sentence you can imagine where I was running and how I was running.  But now, the finale:  “I ran to the bed quietly, jumping into it just before my parents checked to see if I was still sleeping.”  You know know why I ran to the bed quietly.  I added interest with my words.

A word is vastly important.  Authors choose their words and then editors pour over these with a fine tooth comb.  Editors have the job of helping an author correctly use words, and make words the best they can be.  It’s a hard job!

Why does this all matter?  Well the other day, as I read my Bible, I was reminded of the value of a single word.  All scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).  Meaning, each word of Scripture is ordained by God.  Different versions may have various interpretations of the original language, since English is a translated version of the original Greek or Hebrew.  But if I believe that all scripture is ordained by God, and that it is without error, then every little word matters.  We sometimes read our Bible and ignore key words in the sentence.  For example in 1 Thessalonians 5 we read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  It is very tempting to skip the word all.  In our minds we tell ourselves something to the effect of: in the circumstances we choose, give thanks.  Or again, “Wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:24).

As a newlywed, I am tempted to read the words in everything with a blind eye, so to speak.  I don’t want to submit in everything.  I want my own control.  I want to have him submit to me sometimes.  I want the words in everything to have an out, so I don’t have to obey.  Of course, with all verses the context matters, and scripture should always interpret scripture, and the whole counsel of the whole Bible provides the answers to anything confusing.  So in submitting to my husband in everything I am not to follow him into sin, or turn a blind eye to him when he sins (such as abuse).  That being said, if I were to diagram that sentence I’d see myself (a wife) as the subject.  The verb (or action) is to submit.  The phrase in everything clarifies what I’m to submit to my husband in.  The sentence is pretty clear.  The wording is important.

Newlywed or not, you and I are to read the Bible with an understanding of each word’s value.  Rejoice alwaysGive thanks in all circumstances.  Forgive each other as in Christ God forgave you.   Be completely humble.  Each word or phrase I’ve highlighted are words we like to ignore when reading scripture.  We want to rejoice sometimes, give thanks when we feel the circumstance is good, forgive only when we feel someone deserves it, and be humble when the occasion merits.

Oh sisters, let’s be women who understand the value of a word.  Let’s read scripture with the pen of an English teacher, seeking out each word that we may mine the richness of the Word of God.  We know that God’s Word is inerrant, it can not be false in any way.  When you see a word believe it is purposeful.  Each tiny word tells the extreme details of God’s design.  Submitting to my husband only when I feel like it, or giving thanks only in happy times, would make me miss out on the beautiful character building truths that God wants for me.  Submitting when I don’t like my husband’s way teaches me to let go of control and learn to trust.  Thanking God in the midst of trials reinforces what I believe about God, that He is sovereign and in control.

So you see, a word is extremely valuable.  Just like an editor helps an author write in such a way that each word is purposeful, descriptive, and necessary — the words that God uses in His Word have been carefully chosen.  The littlest detail is intentional.  Enjoy the Word of God, it is living and active, down to the last in, but, and all!

 

 

Marriage Busters Anonymous

addiction-selfishness

Hello, My name is Selfish.

Hi Selfish!  Welcome to Marriage Busters Anonymous!

Oh, no… not me. You see, I’m just here observing.  I don’t have any problems.  Really.  Wrong person.  I’m not actually a marriage buster!

Knowing glances around the group and then the leader announces, “Well Selfish, we are glad you are here.  Maybe you will have a better view of your need after our meeting.”

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Of course I’m being tongue-in-cheek.  Yet there is a grave reality in this little sarcastic story .  It’s called “me.”   Entering marriage, most people do not believe that they would ever have need to participate in “marriage busters anonymous.”  However the sad reality is that most of us are addicted to self and in need of this group, and on a daily basis at that!

I have now been married for three (short) months!  And I would have said I was pretty giving, pretty content, pretty non-demanding, pretty stable emotionally, and overall pretty nonchalant.

But I have a confession.  On a regular basis Selfish rises up within me.  I try to silence her.  I tell her she is not welcome. She needs to go sit in a marriage busters anonymous meeting and get help, because left unheeded, she will ruin my marriage!

_____________________________

Selfish, do you want to tell us about you?

Oh no, I already told you… I’m not a problem to my marriage.  I’m just observing you all.  I’m not like Laziness, Discontent, or Rudeness.  They ruin marriages.  I don’t.

Oh no?  Hmm, Selfish do you listen more to yourself or to your spouse?

Ummm… myself I guess.

Selfish, does your spouse appreciate you when you insist on doing things your way?

Well… no.  But you don’t understand.  His way was not thought through, his way took longer, his way was harder, his way was just not how it’s done in my family! It’s not my fault that he sided with me in the end!

Selfish, did you pressure him into doing things your way?

No not at all!  I simply told him my side over and over.  And then I whined a bit when he had a different idea.  But he said he wanted to know my opinion!  I just told him plainly!  It is not my fault.  I’m still not a marriage buster!

Selfish, who do you wake up thinking about?

Well, me…

Selfish, would you be able to go a whole day without voicing your opinion?

Me!  Are you serious!  No way!  Why would I have to do that!?  My opinion is best after all!

Selfish!

Ok, alright!  I guess I do talk a lot!  But really, I am not a problem!

Selfish?

Ok, ok.  I guess I might have a tiny thing to do with busting a marriage.  Are you sure I’m just as bad as Rudeness?  I mean she really gets her spouse’s goat!

Selfish, in this group, Marriage Busters Anonymous, we all strive to recognize our own part in damaging relationships. None of us are healthy. That is why we are here!  We want to change!  We don’t want to be a marriage buster!  Look around this group.  We have Rudeness, Laziness, and Discontent (who you’ve already noticed).  But look who else is here admitting they bust up relationships: Loudness, Demanding, Jealousy, Unforgiveness, Pretense, Resentment.  We are all here, because like you, we actually came to Marriage Busters Anonymous seeking help.  I think you actually do realize you are a problem in your marriage.  That is why you are here.  Hang out with us for awhile … next week we have a special speaker coming to share with us how to not be a marriage buster.  Her name is Love.  She may bring her friends Grace and Unity.  Be sure to come!

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I recently watched the animated movie, Inside Out.  And guess what? I loved it!  The whole time I watched I said to the girl next to me, “Maybe it’s the psychologist coming out in me, but I really like this movie!”  I liked how it depicts a person, from the feelings within her head! And I liked that as the girl grew she learned that all the feelings had a place, but that they needed to work together.  If you haven’t seen it, I actually recommend that movie!  But truly, in any relationship, marriage or otherwise, when we place ourselves on the throne of our lives, problems occur.

Let’s be women who spend time with God, asking Him to be on the rightful throne of our lives.  Let’s be women who seek love and grace and unity above self, resentment, rudeness, or any other harmful attitudes that vie for attention within our hearts.  Joni Erickson Tada wrote once that after her accident she started to learn that even the tiniest irritation could be a chance to respond with righteousness.  Marriage is showing me that I am very selfish in ways I never even knew!  I am learning afresh that this is a time to respond by seeking God first!  My husband is not responsible for my attitude. I am.  And honestly, often it is my selfishness that fights for priority, when he has neither said nor done anything wrong!  I was reading a book recently and reminded of James 4:1 – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”  Passions in other versions is stated as lusts, selfish desires, or pleasures.  Dear ladies, it is that within us (the god of self) that causes problems in any relationship.  Press on to master self, and let God rule!