Nuggets: How To Let it Go Over the Holidays

Who sat on your last nerve yesterday? What relative, family friend, crazy-Christmas shopper or road hog nearly sent you over the edge?

It’s easy to quickly lose our cool with those who frustrate us. It’s especially draining when we’re talking about ongoing discord. These relationships and situations are likely to come into painful proximity over the holidays. I’m not sure why, but God recently gave me a perspective check.

In the heat of the moment, our reactions to these people is fiery. It’s us against them; you against us; I’m right and you’re wrong. But regardless of who is “right” in any given circumstance, one of the best ways to defuse an argument and lower your blood pressure is to remember that the other person isn’t evil, they aren’t your true enemy and chances are they have good intentions. 

When you look at the word “wicked” throughout the book of Proverbs, you get a pretty good idea of what God considers a wicked person:

  • devises evil plans
  • runs to do evil
  • walks in darkness
  • conceals violence
  • his soul desires evil

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that most of us don’t know anyone like this. At the very least, your spouse probably isn’t evil. Neither is your mother-in-law, sister or best friend’s boyfriend.

So, if they have good intentions as you do, if they are not really an evil person, maybe you can just let this one go?

Nuggets: What were you expecting?

So, my hubby comes out of the field for (what feels like) the 100th time today. This excursion was only a couple nights, but a quick glance back at the month of October and I realize the heavy toll I’m feeling is grounded in the fact that we scarcely had a single weekend together last month.

I’m sitting comfortably at my kitchen table, enjoying quiet time with Jesus and waiting for Eve to wake. He texts me and suddenly my mind is off, thinking about what our evening will hold, happy that he has tomorrow off and conjuring up a myriad of expectations for our window of time together:

I want him to enjoy Eve … I want to feel intimate and close to him … I want physical affection … I want a chance to talk to him … I want him to express an achy “I missed you guys” too … I want him to tell me about what happened out there and how things went … I want to talk to him about some ideas rumbling around in my head … I want to make fun plans for this coming weekend since he’ll finally be home …

Quickly, (thankfully) God stopped my musings.

Haven’t we talked about this before?

This single greatest danger I have allowed to enter our marriage through my own weaknesses is expectation. Expectation of another fallen human being is doomed for failure, reaps disappointment and breeds discontentment and ultimately bitterness.

Psalm 62:5 says, “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”

My expectations have no place but in God. There is no one else who will meet them every single time. There is no one else in whom they are safe. There’s honestly no one else who can handle them and no one else who can comfort me when they go unmet.

Where are your expectations today? What are you going to do when someone lets you down?

Nuggets: Cut Off Your Hand

In the span of 24 hours, three women I love deeply told me of their partner’s unfaithfulness. And it all began in their right hands.

That stupid phone.

That little gadget puts more power beneath our thumbs than between our ears. And more danger at our finger tips than in any previous generation.

All three women discovered that their husbands (one is a boyfriend) are having ongoing conversations with other women. Simple texts morphed quickly into rendezvous, emotional attachments and physical relationships.

And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

I’ve always thought Matthew 5:30 seemed a little odd. At least Jesus was using hyperbole, right? I still don’t think Jesus intends for us to literally chop off our hands, but it’s more obvious to me now how segmented we pretend sin is.

It’s almost as if when sin starts (and stays for a while) in just our hands, and not yet in our hearts or the rest of our bodies, we excuse it: “It’s just a text right?”

It’s as if we think when sin is so simple, so easy it must not be as bad, right?

Jesus doesn’t think so. My loved ones know it isn’t so. Sin hurts, destroys, kills. And it can start in the palm of your hand.

 

Is God Disappointed In Me?

I remember it like yesterday, but I can’t read his expression any better in my memory than I could 15 years ago.

It was somewhere between a mix of frustration, disappointment, reservation, compassion and confusion. We’d covered this ground so many times before, Granddad and I, and he was nearing the point of wondering if things would ever change.

Oh please, don’t give up on me, my mind whispered, even as I held back the tears and held my ground—“I’m not going to eat chocolate ice-cream.”

For all of my fifteen years, a visit to Granddad and Grandma’s house had been synonymous with the frozen treat—preferably chocolate and served in a bowl pulled fresh from the freezer. But since anorexia had dug its deceptive claws into my mind, I refused to participate in this sacred tradition.

Looking up at Granddad that night, his unreadable expression branded my heart. I felt like a failure, a stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious failure.

Unlike many others in their battles against an eating disorder, I was blessed to have male authority figures who did their best to represent the Heavenly Father. They loved me, disciplined with gentleness and according to biblical principles. But they weren’t perfect. For a time, I translated that pained expression from grandfather’s face to my belief about God; it hindered my relationship with my perfect Heavenly Father.

In I Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul opens a letter of stern rebuke and uncompromising correction. As I studied those verses, I began to see the truth about how God corrects His children.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (emphasis added)

The Corinthian church had a lot of problems. They were abusing the Lord’s supper, and engaging in and tolerating sexual sin among other things. However, Paul begins the letter with: “Grace to you.”

That’s how God always addresses us, even in the middle of our failures and repeated mistakes. Even when we’ve sinned and broken His heart, God sees us as the righteousness of God in Christ, simply because we believe in the perfect sacrifice of His Son. Even when we need correction and training in righteousness, God always reminds us that He has given us grace in Jesus Christ, we are enriched in every way because of Jesus, God confirms that Jesus is within us and He will keep us firm to the end because He is faithful.

You Remind Me of a Horse

Running Horses Hooves

“I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.” Song of Solomon 1:9

Few of us would swoon if our husbands compared us to a horse. In fact, using today’s connotations and implications that might get your man slapped!

Today, however, I heard an interpretation of this little verse that changed my perspective not only on being horse-like, but on the biblical concept of being a helpmate to the leadership role of my husband.

Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage offered an explanation that I’d never heard before. Apparently, mares were rarely harnessed to a Pharaohs’ chariot. Generally, because speed and power were desirable, Pharaohs used the brawniest stallions to do this work. But they found that when they harnessed a mare among the stallions, she produced in them such a frenzy that they drove harder than ever.

What do you bring out in your husband? When you spend time with him, work beside him raising your family, speak to him–what character qualities and attitudes do you cultivate? Does he leave your presence more determined than ever to be a servant leader or a committed father?

Does he feel stronger, more confident, more capable than he did before?

Women, we have a lot of power. To listen to the culture, you wouldn’t think so. Collectively, we clamor for more power and equality. But I think this tactic is evidence of the way we often wield our power–manipulatively, subversively.

This calls for extra care–prayer–in our words and deeds.

Next time you are tempted to blame your husband for something or harass him for failing to live up to your expectation in some way, consider first what attitudes, qualities and actions you have cultivated in him.

You are his helpmate, harnessed alongside him for a good purpose. Your mere presence can multiply his power and productivity in life. Don’t take this lightly.

 

Why Would God Wait for You?

I seriously miss my family. My husband is in the Army, so for our twelve-plus years of marriage we’ve lived at least 500 miles away from them. After we visited them last time, I printed off dozens of pictures and covered every square inch of my refrigerator. Now, whenever I open the freezer, my heart catches a little. I long to cuddle with my nieces, play games with my nephews, sip coffee with my dad and walk the dogs with my mom. Even though I’m so blessed to have a family who loves me, missing them hurts sometimes.

There are many Bible verses that instruct us to wait on the Lord, but did you know that God waits for you?

Isaiah 30:18a says, “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.”

The word for waits is “chakah”, and can also be translated “to tarry or long for”. If you have not yet trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He is not far from you (Acts 17:27), and He is anxiously waiting to be merciful and gracious to you.

(first published on http://www.swagga4christ.com)

 

One Way to Love Your Enemy

“…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:20 (ESV)

How are you feeling as you merge back into life after the hectic holidays? As wonderful as fellowship with family and friends can be, it often includes sharing close quarters with at least one person who seems to bring out the worst in us. Along with hallowed hymns and scrumptious side dishes, we find a healthy serving of tension and stifle the grumblings of bitterness. How do we deal with these feelings? How do we overcome the unwelcome irritation?
The Biblical character, Abigail, gives us an example of the godly, effective way to deal with these relationships. I Samuel 25, tells us that Abigail was married to a harsh and selfish man named Nabal. When Nabal’s foolish behavior got their whole household into trouble, Abigail’s response was not accuse him or retaliate against him. Instead, she sought his good! Abigail set out to preserve and protect her household.
The godly response when faced with negative, frustrating people is to seek their good. “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” 1 Corinthians 10:24. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to those who hate us. Bitterness, arguments and defensiveness do not produce the righteous life that God desires. However, when see turn the other cheek and act in kindness toward those who hurt us, God will honor us and receive the glory.

Keep your eyes open for my upcoming Bible study, Beyond Belief, due on June 2, 2015.

A New Kind of Balance

balance-875412-mIn the 2012 Olympics, Gabby Douglas, a USA gymnast, slipped on the balance beam, her favorite event, and forfeited any medal in the competition. It was hard to believe, since just days before she had performed beautifully in qualifications.

In the competitive sport of gymnastics, there isn’t real balance. There is pass or fail. For Douglas, it wasn’t enough that she’d performed well previously; past scores did not balance out poor performance and eliminate her loses. She would either make it to the other side or fall, keep her feet on the straight and narrow or crash gracelessly to the ground. There’s not much freedom, no margin for error.

In the beginning stages of recovery, as I clawed my way out of the depths of an eating disorder, finding balance felt much like being on the balance beam.

To finish reading this post, please visit FINDINGbalance

All Things New, Life After Death

I’d given up on that phone call years ago. Subconsciously, I just knew it wasn’t a good idea. I’d ruined my body for having my own babies, why would anyone else trust me with theirs?

But last week, a sister called me. My second sister isn’t much of a talker, so I knew something must have prompted the call. “What’s up?”

“Well, nothing is wrong, don’t worry. In fact, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, it’s a big deal, but…”.

“Now I’m really curious,” I urged her on with a laugh. What on earth could tie her tongue and yet still be so important as to warrant a phone call in the middle of her daughters’ bath time?

“My husband and I have been talking and praying about it. We would like you and Patrick to consider being the ones to take the girls if something were to ever happen to both of us.”

She paused. My heart hit the floor and took wings all at the same time. Giddiness washed over me. Me? They chose me—my husband and me?

Not so many years ago, I would have been a terrible choice to take care of my nieces if something happened to their parents. In the throes of a longterm battle with anorexia, it wasn’t a stretch to wonder if I might not live to see them reach high school. I let my mind follow that line of thinking.

Not so many years ago, my sister and her husband might have feared that living with me would warp their girls’ body image. They might wonder if I’d feed them well, tend to their precious bodies or teach them how to fully embrace all of life outside the numbers by which society measures happiness. Or they might have been concerned that I wasn’t mentally present enough to assume responsibility for their little girls. What if I fell asleep at the wheel driving to gymnastics? What if I was re-admitted to a treatment center—what would happen to the girls then?

My sister still waited on the phone; slowly my mind resurfaced and collected itself. I tried to control the waver in my voice and suggest following the proper protocol. “Of course, I’ll talk to Patrick and we’ll pray about it. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. But I have to ask one question—why did you pick us?

My sister and her husband have done a remarkable job instilling the love of Jesus in the hearts of their little girls. A passion for Christ at the center of all things is the desire of their hearts, the defining trait they want for the home where their children mature.

“We think that you guys embody the way that we want the girls to grow up. We want them to know Jesus as a Person, not simply grow up in a religious home. We want them to feel His presence and learn to walk with Him.” (Not a precise quote, I wasn’t recording my sister.)

Not so many years ago, the mention of my name conjured worries, memories of treatment centers, confusion, deception and fear. I identified myself as anorexic. The dominant thoughts of my wakeful hours, and often even my dreams, were calories, food and exercise. But now…

Oh the joy, the sheer magnificence of a healing God! He healed me and allows me to experience abundant life, unhindered joy, Christ-filling. He redeemed the years, redeemed my reputation, redeemed my identity.

To be known as one whose mind, heart and home is consumed with Christ, is a greater honor than I can explain. To know that the old is so far gone, so far has He removed my sin from me, and the new has come—there are no sufficient words.

Of course, you’re likely wondering if I ever consulted my husband, who would share the responsibility of raising our nieces and what he said. He said, “Yes!”

Please don’t be put off or allow this to be seen as a morbid story, considering the loss of my sister and her husband. Rather, I believe her call, their question was meant first and foremost as God’s testimony to me, of me, that He makes all things new.