1 Simple Method for Accomplishing Devotions in the Summer

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Oh, Summer!

I love its loosened pace.  I love its wide open days with space to choose what we do, where we go.  I love its switch-up in routine which allows for rest and healthy change.

But, I do not love what Summer does to my relationship with my Bible.

The moment school is out it is as though all of my self-will is tossed in the trash, alongside the kids’ end-of-year paperwork. My discipline goes on vacation as of the last weekend in May, and I struggle to corral it for 8 solid weeks.

Do you share in this tension between rest and laziness?

Sally Clarkson asserts that a “wise woman surrounds herself with other wise women”.  And it was a wise friend who once shared with me a method for accomplishing simple, daily Bible reading which has helped me since, when life gets chaotic and frazzled.

A Study in the Psalms

A few years back, I went through a period of struggling with crippling depression.  And for over a year, I was nearly emotionally immobilized.  It was awful.  In fact, so pervasive was this depression that I clearly recall journalling, “Today I laughed”.

Thankfully, God taught me more through this period of darkness than I could ever learn in the sunshine, so I am indebted to His mercy.  But, it was difficult.  And I was mentally worn by the struggle to daily “rise and shine” and put on my Mom-armor in order to face the tasks of a busy family.

It was in this period, that my wise friend recommended a study in the Psalm as a means of refreshing myself in God’s character.

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Each day, she suggested, take a Psalm and read it until you have written down 3-5 characteristics of God’s nature.  And then pray to know and believe these characteristics.

And so, I did.  My journals from that year are some of my most prized possessions, because they tell a story of faithfulness.  And I can literally read back and watch my faith and confidence in God growing, with each page.  For the sake of example, I drew up a quick graphic to illustrate how I worked my way through the Psalms.

Below is an example of 5 characteristics of God I jotted down from Psalm 1.

 

 

This Psalm-study method of recording God’s character became valuable to me for 2 main reasons:

1.  Time – A few minutes of concentrated study is often more helpful than an expanse of time with lofty goals.  There are times and seasons, and a Psalms study is a great exercise in a busy or interrupted season.

2. Focus – A few minutes anchored in God’s character instantly reduces self-focus for the day.  Being reminded of who He is transforms my thoughts.  My thoughts become more like His, less like mine.  And then my actions more easily follow suit.

If you find yourself struggling with a plan for quiet time this Summer, I would recommend a Psalms-study.  It is everything devotional time needs to be in an interrupted season – simple, quick, attainable.

But it is also powerful.  Because in solidifying our minds in Christ’s character, we become strong and better equipped for life as it unfolds.  And even in the unpredictable, “lazy” days of Summer, I still desperately need His grace.

 


The Dad Factor: The Best Gift Ever

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My children are excited to give their Dad a gift we found him for Father’s Day this year.  And they are counting down the days til we present him “the best gift ever”, as my oldest called it.

The gift we found him is fun.  I would not call it the best, but it is fun.  Yet without fully realizing it, my daughter’s best gift ever may just be the man she presents our fun find to.  And here is why.

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Nancy Pearcey recently noted an article from the Washington Post, in which the author sets the record straight as to statistics regarding women and abuse.  Though the subject of abuse is a painfully common one, there are distinctives that bear emphasis.

As the Post article states, the simple statistical truth is that:

Women and girl from homes with married Dads, are safer.

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The article begins by acknowledging a very real problem:

Across the United States, millions of girls and women have been abused, assaulted, or raped by men.  

But then it goes on to clarify the contexts for the presence of much of this abuse:

This social media outpouring makes it clear that some men pose a real threat to the physical and psychic welfare of women and girls. But obscured in the public conversation about the violence against women is the fact that some other men are more likely to protect women, directly and indirectly, from the threat of male violence: married biological fathers {emphasis mine}.

The bottom line is this: Married women are notably safer than their unmarried peers, and girls raised in a home with their married father are markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father.

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Father’s Day is coming.  And on this day, we will take a moment or two to pause and acknowledge our Dads – why we love them, and why we are thankful for them.  Our families might grill hamburgers and have the kids deliver hand-made cards.  And we will spend a little extra time doting on the men who make our worlds go ’round.

But this Father’s Day, my heart is thankful for a fundamental truth which is often obscured in the shuffle of raising a family:

That simply by coming home each night to us, my husband is doing his job best.

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When he steps in the door each night, he immediately begins “doing” all sorts of things: helping with homework, cleaning up dinner, disciplining when I cannot “get through”.  But none of these functions are helping us so much as his being there, is.

I confess that far too easily my voice is raised impatiently as we juggle family needs and tensions.  And truthfully, I am good at missing the forest for the trees.  Making mountains out of miniscule household-task molehills, I ignore the bigger picture: He is protecting us best by his dedicated presence.  Not by loading the dishwasher.

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This Father’s Day, simple statistics are enabling a deeper love for my husband.  His is an ordinary life.  A quiet life.  A mundane life.  But he knows a great truth: It is not about him anymore.  It is about them.

And he wants to give them “the best gift ever”, which is a healthy, safe and protected child-hood.

And he is.


Ian and Larissa: {When Love Didn’t Give Up} & Giveaway!

ian and larissa graphic

The story of Larissa and Ian has been shared in several places in the Christian world.  But Desiring God has been doing a particularly excellent job of keeping those interested in Ian and Larissa up to date with their progress.

To those unfamiliar, Ian and Larissa are a married couple whose story is unlike most of ours.  They have encountered many trials, and have persevered in a tenacious, Christ-like love.

Ian and Larissa were like any other college-aged couple – enjoying the carefree fun of dating  – until the day Larissa received a troubling phone call.  Her boyfriend, Ian, had been involved in a car wreck.  Larissa immediately began to pray that God would spare Ian’s brain, as she drove to the hospital to be with him.

ian and larissa before accident

But Ian’s brain had been traumatically injured.  And for several hours he was in surgery, as doctors worked and Larissa prayed.  Miraculously, Ian pulled through surgery and began to make progress.  Brain-activity tests showed him to be gaining ground.  Larissa made the decision to move in with Ian’s family, so that she could become a part of Ian’s daily care.

The two continued to date, though Ian was unable to talk.

“We just prayed that some day marriage would happen.  We watched all of our friends get married, and that was challenging.  But we just tried to hold out hope that that would be us some day”.

And it was.  Eventually, step-by-step Ian re-gained the ability to communicate enough.  And he and Larissa began to pursue engagement.

I think what helped me, Larissa states, is knowing that Ian would not have left me, if the roles were reversed.

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Ian and Larissa were married.  And they began to build the foundation of a marriage, though with a unique set of challenges.

We are able to love each other with just a more Christ-like love I think, because of Ian’s disability.  And we are able to understand that picture a little bit better than if you were healthy, Larissa offers.

Agree? she asks Ian.  Yes, he states firmly.

In the past 3 years, Ian has made continued progress.  He is able to walk on his own, enjoying increased freedom of movement.  And he and Larissa move forward in building a solid, married love.

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When asked: How have you seen God at work in your marriage? Ian is quick to respond, A better question would be, how have I not seen God at work in my marriage?

 

 

Ian and Larissa have been at work writing a book, sharing their adventures and experiences in seeing God’s faithfulness to their marriage.  Entitled Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, the book releases August 28th of this year.

ian and larissa book

In honor of their dedication and perseverance, and in conjunction with my birthday which is also 8/28, I have pre-ordered 2 copies of When Love Didn’t Give Up: Eight Twenty Eight – one for myself and one to give away.

If you would like to be entered for this giveaway, please leave a comment at the end of this post.  Or, click over to the Facebook page and leave a comment there.  I will leave the giveaway open until Friday, as Summer fun has slowed blog traffic down.  And please take 8 minutes to watch Ian and Larissa’s beautiful story on the video above.  It is well worth a few moments of your time.

Happy Monday, all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Blessing of Family Dinner & {Family Conversation Jar}

photo family dinner

Do you remember family dinners?

I do.  From toddler-hood, my siblings and I {all 5 of us} were expected to sit through family meals.  But in particular, evening dinners were non-negotiable in participation.  Dinner-time was sit-down.  But mostly, dinner-time was focused time to bond as a family.

Our meals were never extravagant.  My Mom still jokes about stretching a pound of ground beef between all 7 of us, to keep finances in order.  But the conversation during meal times, was rich beyond words.  And to this day, I credit talking though dinner one of the key formative experiences of my childhood.

Each night the pace varied.  Sometimes we would read a book together.  Often, we would share stories from our days.  One time, we were tasked with taking turns writing reports to present to the family, as my parents felt like the family was in a negative-chatter rut.

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But always, my Dad opened the Bible and we read.  Sometimes just a few verses, but time in the Bible was stone-set.  And we followed reading with family prayer.

Every night without fail, my parents maintained this small but critical thread in our routine.  In fact, I can still recall my Mom sadly wondering about how to continue our tradition when we were teenagers with cars and jobs – it had become such a part of us.

When Pat and I married, we set out to fight for the value of family dinner.  Not for any heightened moral sense, but due to the healthy impact we knew it to be.  Though our routine is a tad different, nonetheless family dinner and worship is our daily groove now, too.  The kids are old enough to participate, and so sometimes, we let them lead.  Other times we rotate turns praying.  But always, we read a portion of the Bible aloud to them.

These evening times together are often the spaces where vulnerability and need is revealed.  These collections of time are where we get to know our kids better and deeper.  And we all go to bed a little stronger, because of the mutual bond of sharing and knowing we are supported.

My friend Christina, has designed a wonderful printable I want to share with you today, in the hope that it might assist any of you who are desiring to create a more intimate setting for family dinners.  Christina has designed a PDF called The Family Conversation Jar.  The Family Conversation Jar is a collection of questions that can be used at meal times, to encourage conversation in a family.

 

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This list is a prompt, meant to initiate healthy talking, and perhaps create a new way of experiencing dinner together.  I have printed this list off, and hope to utilize it this Summer.   I find that many nights we talk about and pray about the same items – which is certainly not a bad thing- but I do want the kids to think beyond the “same old”, too.

If you find that your dinner-time or family-time is lagging, consider printing off Christina’s PDF.  You can do so by clicking here.

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And as a little extra boost, above you click here to find a link to 30 easy crock-pot meals.  So often, lack of time is what eats away at our family growth.  But time is gained in such simple ways.  And the crock-pot has got to be one of the best means of simplification that God has given us :).

Consider developing a plan for family dinners as a powerful piece of your defense plan for your children.  A study performed recently compared 2 groups of teenagers: those who ate family dinners two or less times per week, and those who ate family dinners five or more times per week.  And here is what it found:

Teenagers who ate family dinner two or less times per week were:

  • Three times more likely to try marijuana.
  • Two-and-a-half times more likely to smoke cigarettes.
  • One-and-a-half times more likely to drink alcohol.

In addition, the study revealed that more frequent family dinners produced children who experienced:

  • Lower levels of family tension.
  • Teenagers who more often said that their parents are proud of them.
  • Teenagers who more often said that they can confide in their parents about a serious problem.

I am so grateful for the effort my parents poured into defending our dinner table.  Because in essence, they were defending us.  Our characters.  Our futures.  And though at the time, we wriggled and balked sometimes against what felt like a strict boundary, I can see now that family dinners saved us from a great deal.

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One last link above, meant to simplify dinner plans.

Now go turn the crock-pot on!


Mary de Muth: An Open Letter to Sexual Abuse Victims

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Over the past few years, God has opened up conversations with several friends, in which I have gained a glimpse into the devastation of sexual abuse.  There is nothing like knowing a friend is struggling with what cannot be undone.  Such a helpless place to be.

Sadly, the current statistics now claim that 1 in 3 females are victims of sexual abuse.  And those are merely numbers of those who eventually tell.  Sexual abuse is a highly secret pain, one that stays buried as long as it can, but often seeps out onto the surface of life as adults grow older.

My heart’s desire in this space, is to encourage those of you who have been torn apart by the shame and breath-taking pain of sexual abuse.  I know that your memories are difficult, and this makes every-day functioning of marriage, sexuality and mothering, difficult too.

And maybe you have never told anyone.

 

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Today, I want to introduce you to someone who may encourage you, if you are wrestling through the aftermath of childhood victimization.  Mary de Muth has become a well-known speaker in the Christian realm, courageously sharing her story of childhood sexual abuse.  And an equally powerful message of healing and hope.

Mary wrote a letter to women who have experienced sexual abuse.  I wanted to include it today, as I believe the realm of sexual abuse to be one of the biggest kept secrets among women.  The shame of sexual abuse holds so many captive, and as Christian women, I hope that we can be “safe” and helpful to our friends who have suffered.  And this letter may be a good place to begin

 

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Dear Sexual Abuse Survivor,

I don’t really like the word victim. Even survivor has a strange connotation. And I’m not too keen on victor. None of those words encapsulate what happened to you, the devastation sexual abuse enacted on your heart. But we’re strangled by language sometimes–even writers can’t adequately express horror.

I much like the word BRAVE. Because it’s so darn brave to walk away from something like that. It’s brave to forgive. Brave to live your life in the wake of sexual trauma. Brave to hold your head high.

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First let me say I am sorry. I’m so terribly sad that sexual abuse is part of your story. It’s not right. Someone chose to take something from you–your volition and your body. That person (or people) violated you. They used their power and bully persuasion to overwhelm you with their sinful desires. And now you’re the one left feeling dirty and used–while so many perpetrators walk this earth free. 

It’s not fair.

Some of you feel shame and guilt in gigantic measure, heaped upon you. Some of you feel that you invited the abuse. The way you dressed. The hole in your heart that longed for attention. The equating of sex with love and affection. You feel you wooed the perpetrator somehow. Let me say this: A person who adores and loves you would NEVER EVER violate you. Never. Instead of violation, they would protect. They would pray for you. They would honor your boundaries.

Someone’s selfish gratification is not your fault. Don’t own that. Dare to believe your worth, and allow yourself the feel the grace that God grants you. Forgive yourself. Let yourself off the hook. You were abused. You didn’t want it. Someone took from you–like a thief. They may have used slick words, threatened you, persuaded you that you wanted it, but it’s not true. Thieves are often liars.

In sexual abuse’s aftermath, you’ve possibly thought of suicide. You’ve cut your skin until the blood came. You over-ate. You spent years hard as rock, bitter as horseradish, always vigilant–ready to fight. You’ve protected your heart with ironclad resolve. No one will EVER hurt you that way again. Not on your watch.

All these coping strategies had good purpose a long time ago. They protected you. But now they’re strangling the life out of you. I only say that because I’ve walked the path of isolation and withdrawal. Actually, I spent about a decade of my life keeping the sexual abuse secret. And once I let the secret out, I decided I’d been healed, so I tucked it back away for another decade and lived inside myself–not daring to deeply engage my heart.

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An untold story never heals, friend. Isolation only masks the problem.

That’s not living. It’s existing. It’s pushing stuff down that you hope stays submerged forever. Unfortunately, our stories have a way of coming out–almost always in our actions. We end up hurting those we love. Some people become perpetrators because they never deal with getting better.

I know there are questions. I have them too.

  • Why did God allow this to happen?
  • Why didn’t He step in and rescue?
  • Why do I have to suffer seemingly forever for something someone else did to me?
  • Why can’t I ever feel normal?
  • Will I ever be able to enjoy sex?
  • Why does my spouse have to suffer for something someone else did to me?
  • What’s wrong with me that I kept being violated?
  • Was I put on this earth to be stolen from?
  • Why am I here?
  • What was it about me that perpetrators found irresistible?
  • Why do other people keep telling me it was a long time ago and I should be over this?

I want to assure you that these questions are entirely, utterly normal. And you should ask them. You should wrestle with them. Some of them will not be answered this side of eternity.

When I feel overwhelmed by the whys and the whats, I stop a moment and consider Jesus. This may not resonate with you because you might be mad at Him. That’s okay. I hear you. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus understands.

He took on the sins of everyone, including sexual sin, upon His holy, undeserving shoulders. He suffered for everyone’s wicked crookedness. And when He hung on a cross, He did so naked. Exposed. Shamed. Humiliated. Bleeding.

That’s why, when I write about sexual abuse recovery, I have to involve Jesus. He has been the single best healer in my journey. He understands. He comes alongside. He “gets” violation.

Sexual abuse is devastating. It pulls the rug out from under your worth. It keeps you scared. It infiltrates nearly every area of your life, consciously and subconsciously.

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But I am here to let you know there is hope. Though the healing journey is long, it is possible. When I tell my own story now, it feels like I’m sharing about another person’s sexual abuse. I’ve experienced profound healing. It didn’t happen passively or quickly. I had to WANT it, pursue it. I had to stop shoving it down and bringing my story into the light–with praying friends, with counselors, with my husband.

Today I enjoy sex. I can share my story without getting that vomit-y feeling in my stomach. The flashbacks are less and less. I still have moments, of course. But I am so much farther along than I had been.

I want to end this letter with this truth: You are amazing. You survived something traumatic and horrific. You are reading this letter blessedly alive, connected to others. Your story absolutely matters. Don’t let the trauma steal your story of hope today.

Joyfully free,

Mary

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If you find this letter helpful, please forward this post on to family or friends who may benefit.  Mary’s candid approach to healing from past abuse, has helped so many.

And in the mean-time, if you are 1 of the 3 women who have experienced sexual abuse, know that I am praying for you today.  Your hurt runs so deep, and I pray that you find God’s grace and love to be the first facet of your healing.


Guest Post by Grace: Why I am not “Lucky”, but Thankful to be Home with my Children

 

Today my sister, Grace, writes about the word “lucky”, in regard to raising small children at home.  I think you will enjoy her thoughts on this topic, as she addresses thoughts I have heard others wrestle with.  Enjoy hearing from Grace today!

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Since becoming a mom, I have been told that I am “lucky” to stay at home.

Our desire and our decision that I stay at home with our girls is not a luck-based decision, but rather a well thought-out and purposeful choice.  Here is a little history as to why I am thankful, but not “lucky” to stay home.

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 In 2006 I met Justin.  It was love at first sight. It was also very intense from the beginning.  He was 5 years older than me, and knew he wanted to get married.  Fast.  We had many very intentional discussions covering everything from faith, to theology, to our future marriage and family.  We both agreed we wanted a traditional family.  He would work and I would stay at home.  After past relationships where this had been an area of dispute, he was thrilled to find that we were on the same page.

Justin once told me he had given up thinking there was a woman in the world who wanted to stay at home.

 

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We were married in 2007.  I still had not finished school.  I moved from Tennessee to Justin’s home in Georgia.  I started the admission process at a local school.  Through a lot of really hard and emotional conversations we decided I would not continue to pursue my Social Work major.  A 21st century woman, without a degree.

The reality was that I wanted to be a mom.

In 2008 I got pregnant with Cora, and gave birth to her in 2009.  So began my long-awaited vocation as a stay-at-home mom. And let me tell you: I was really silly enough to think it was going to be the dreamy, romantic, fictional job it’s made up to be.  I thought I would have wonderful days of pink dresses and bonnets, long walks in the sunshine, my perfect baby on my somewhat larger hips.

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Instead I spent day-after-day, night-after-night, hour-after-hour with a screaming baby, one that never slept. I cried a lot. I was so lonely and I became very depressed.  Suddenly, the life I had chosen seemed to be the very worst choice I could have made.  The constant,loud, relentless, never-can-have-enough-patience career called being a full-time mom.

My only means of survival was the ever-present help of our good and gracious God.

It was during this first year of being a mom that He began to break and refine me in ways I did not think possible.  If I was going to be a good mom, I was going to have to change.  I was going to need to learn to live day-by-day and hour-by-hour with never ending neediness and no one to lift or relieve me of that need. I was going to need to learn to meet needs with kindness, with love, with patience.  I was going to need to choose joy when all I felt was failure.

 

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So as I began mothering two girls I faced the next big hurdle.  Humility.

The reality that staying-at-home does not guarantee a good or perfect child.  Actually, it also does not guarantee that I am a good mom.

Just like any other job it takes hours of intentional time and planning.  It takes constant hard work-both mental and physical.

I recently had a talk with a dear friend.  She was facing the reality of going back to work…having to leave her two boys.  She is an amazing mom and I reminded her of how blessed her boys are to have her as their mommy.  She is so intentional and loving. They know that they are her priority. I can be at home all day long but if I don’t pour into my children, then what use is my being with them?  I don’t have someone looking over my shoulder asking me, “Is it done yet?  Have you finished it? Is it done right?”  I have to be my own accountability.  That is not easy.

As Justin left for work yesterday, Cora was crying.   Elinor was going three places at once, and the house was already in total disorder.  He cracked the door and he said, “You have the harder job.”  

 

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Do I really have the harder job?  No, not every day, but maybe yesterday my day was harder and maybe today his job will be harder.  It really doesn’t matter.  We don’t live life to prove we have it harder, that we do more than the other person…we live to glorify Him.

Would I say I am blessed to stay at home?

Absolutely.

Am I thankful to stay-at-home?

Yes.

Would I say I am lucky to stay at home?   No, because the definition of luck is: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

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I give thanks to God for his sovereign will to put me in our home, in our town, as wife to Justin and full-time mom to Cora and Elinor.

A job I pray I carry out in grace, in gentleness, in patience, in humility, and intentionality, that I might glorify Him.

 


Summer Reading Goal: 10 Least Popular Books of the Bible

In a recent info-graphic, The Overview Bible Project produced a flow-chart of the 10 least popular books of the Bible {HT: Challies}.

I have never considered before that there are pieces of the Bible that are rarely read, but I suppose it makes sense that sadly, popularity extends even to Scripture.

 

Infographic: least popular books of the Bible

 

In a quick overview of this chart, I was interested {but not surprised} to note that 6 of the 10 books are prophetic.  The Old Testament prophets were not well-received even in their day, so it is not a great shock that in modern-times they are still not our favorites.

God’s prophets were no cowards.  Tasked with speaking out against ungodliness and God’s judgment if hearts remained hard, these men lived taxing, lonely lives.

Prophets have never been popular.  In fact, did you know that nearly all of the Old Testament prophets were martyred as a result of their stand for Truth?

This Summer, I plan to familiarize myself better with these bold men and their teachings.  To spend a little more time refreshing my memory on the lives of these courageous heroes.

Photo:{www.meggielynne.tumblr.com}

Photo:{www.meggielynne.tumblr.com}

And I plan to walk through the other “un-popular” books too : 2 John, 3 John, Philemon and Jude.

I would love for some of you to take on this challenge with me, and compare notes at the end of the Summer.  These books are all short and will require mere minutes of your day to read, so they are a perfect Summer-day length.

Would you like to explore the 10 Least Popular Books of the Bible this Summer?

Click here for more information on the context of the books.  And let me know if you plan to get reading.  {My husband is going to read along beside me, as a means of accountability}.

I would love to compare notes with you in 8 weeks. I read Jonah this morning, and already my pencil has been busy noting themes I have not focused enough attention on in the past.

And maybe if enough of us read, we can bump the 10 least popular books of the Bible out of the running, and into a better-respected category.


Miss Kay Robertson: “I Told God that I would FIGHT for my Marriage”

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By now, we are all familiar with the Robertson Family, A & E network’s Duck Dynasty royalty.

Miss Kay, Willie and Jace have nearly become household names as they chronicle their lives as business owners and as members of a tight-knit family.

Theirs is large, happy,  and functioning unit- full of quirks and resulting humor which makes them easily identifiable.  But the Robertson’s are perhaps best-known for their Christian convictions. They are strong advocates for traditional family.  And they are equally determined in their outlook on marriage

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To look at the Robertson family, you might assume that theirs has been a “simple” journey of boy-meets-girl meets the American Dream.

But written behind the story-line of what we all see on television, is a back-story.    A story of a 14 year-old girl,alone and vulnerable.  Married at 16 to a 17 year-old boy, angry and addicted to alcohol.  A girl kicked out of her house by this self-destructive husband, left to fend for herself and her three little boys.

A teenage-Mom, lost and found by God, when brought to the end of herself.

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Kay Robertson vowed as a young woman, “I will FIGHT for this marriage”.  And fight she did.  Praying each night with her young sons, Kay begged God to change her husband’s heart.  To work repentance into him.  And over the course of months, God began to work in Phil.  One day he showed up at the house where his family was living, wanting his family back.

He was changed.

As Phil Robertson claims of his new-found understanding of the Gospel:  “It was profound.  That Jesus had died, been buried and rose again.  I had never heard that before”.

“I decided I was going to live as hard for God and my neighbor, as I had been living for the Evil One”.

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Phil and Kay began working to put together a solid marriage.  And Phil slowly began to earn his family’s trust.  “Is the Devil is going to leave Dad this time?” the boys would ask at times, insecure in their trust of their Daddy.  But Phil and Kay persevered.  And slowly, they built a family.

“It takes a lot of time to learn the fruits of the Spirit: to be patient and kind”, Kay acknowledges.  But God was with them in their “fight”.  And ultimately, His love won.

Phil and Kay have been married now for 47 years now.  And Kay still calls Phil the “love of my life”.

Yesterday, I wrote about the ease with which divorce is handled in our culture.  But today, a journey of a nearly-broken marriage, redeemed by a gracious Savior.

Phil and Kay Robertson’s story is inspiring, because ultimately, their is a story of all of us.

Of being lost, and then found by God’s incredible, saving grace.

 


“He Walked Out” {And Why Divorce is Too Easy}

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Standing in the aisles of Target, I was sorting through purchases.  Sufficiently distracted enough to nearly miss an old friend, standing just a few yards away.

We greeted one another, and with that keen fondness of a few shared memories, began to sort through the past handful of years.  Kids, jobs, life.  Noticing she had not mentioned her husband, I inquired.

How is Jay?

And without missing a beat,  Oh, he walked out on us last Christmas.

Heart sunk and confused, I remembered Jay as a great Dad and a sensitive husband. 

Oh no!  What happened?

Well, my friend replied,  I still don’t really know.  He hasn’t said. 

But I think it is just too easy to be divorced these days, and he chose the easy way.

 

Unhooked

My friend at Target made a keen observation that day.

Divorce is easy these days.  Too easy.  Whereas a century ago there was tremendous stigma associated with the notion of breaking a married commitment, to post-moderns adults, divorce is easily explained.

Be Happy is the cry of our entitled hearts, and marriage not-withstanding, we will attain it.  In the world of 21st -century singles, self-fulfillment trumps even promises.

be happy

Lauri Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked, has written a fascinating book on the problem with marriage in the 21-century.

And one of the most discerning observations Strauss has made upon speaking with many now-singles, is that the partner who splits and runs often places blame on “the marriage”.

The marriage was not connected. 

The marriage was difficult. 

The marriage was stifling. We just could not make the marriage work.

To many, The Marriage is handled as an impersonal object, devoid of singular responsibility.

On Forgiveness

Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say I Do, challenges this laissez-faire approach to commitment.

People do not fall out of love, Dave reminds.  They fall out of repentance.

Married love is a climb.  And due to life’s obstructions, one requiring enormous perseverance.

roots

Alistair Begg preached a sermon a while back, and in it he noted:

Many find that when they cannot reach the summit with all that they hold in their hands, they let go of the summit and pitch their tent in the plain. And the plain is so very full of tents.

Often, marriages stop flourishing when both partners stop climbing up in accountability to God, and fall out of fellowship with those who will hold them to His high standards.

In turning our backs on who and what builds up, we easily turn our attention toward things that slowly undermine us.  Without intending to, we find a home in the plains.

And statistically speaking, over 52% of married couples are now pitching their tents there.

Two Good Forgivers

Ruth Bell Graham likes to say that a happy married relationship is a bond of “two good forgivers”.

forgivers

Don’t you agree?

It is not so much the commonalities shared, mutual agreement, or even perfect sexual connectivity that makes a union “work”.  Good marriage is built upon layers and layers of forgiving the un-forgiveable.  And this theology of forgiveness links right back to our understanding of God.

Because His grace covers all, our grace needs to do the same.

A marriage grounded in humble repentance can scale the highest mountains of anger and disappointment and still find someone to love at the top.

As Alistair Begg reminds, it IS easier to pitch our tents in the plain.  Avoiding the last great haul toward the summit, with all of our baggage strapped on our backs.

But it’s the view from the top we miss if we give up.

And the sun doesn’t shine as bright in the plain, either.


So Many Sisters: And the Opportunity to “Do Good” to One Another

emma anna 1

I once heard it said that “sisters are the perfect best friend”.

And as the oldest of 3 sisters, my heart cried: Yes! to this sentiment.

My sisters and I are loyal, long-suffering.  We are unconditional in our love.  And we are unbreakable in a bond held together by genetics and history.

Anyone with a sister understands the near- mysterious bond of two women joined by the parents – and in many ways, the same life.

It is moving and it is beautiful.

 

emma finger

In a similar manner, as Christian women, we are called into a Family of another kind.  One that dates back to the beginning of time and will persevere to its End.

Regardless of our families of origin, in God’s great Family we inherit countless new relationships.  And included in this collaboration, are dozens of sisters.

emma josh anna1

Sisters in the Lord- What Does that Mean?

As North Americans, we are highly autonomous people, aren’t we?  We raised the flag of freedom back in 1864, and we have been fighting to remain independent of authority ever since.

But is this fierce independence a help to our relationships as women in our churches?

Galatians 6:7-10 advises us that God desires our accountability to one another: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.  In other words, God wants the first-fruits of our kindness and compassion and time to be given to those within His Body, the Church.

Our sisters should come at the front of the line-up of our priorities, and not in the back.

Hard to wrap our minds around, right?

emma 1

 

Why might it matter to God, that believing women “do good” to one another, ahead of all other loyalties?

Well, the single greatest reason is this:  Church is the place where God’s power and glory are most on display.  It is in the healthy functioning of the Church, and the love of its people toward one another, that God Himself is made to look beautiful!

And we, as hard-working hands and feet, are necessary components to creating that beauty.

Doing Good – But I am Tired!

School, sports, doctor’s appointments, a house to clean.  We are busy people, not looking for any more ways in which to be tired.

Doesn’t doing good look like just more work?  Well, yes.  Which is why Paul encourages the Galatian church: “Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up”.

Doing good will be work, and will inevitably make us weary.

But the confidence of a harvest is our focus, not the labor of our sowing.

emma following

 

Doing Good – What Does it Look Like Practically?

The “going good” that Galatians references, will have varying faces.

Doing good might look like picking up an extra nursery shift, so an over-extended Mom can take a week off.  Or Baby-sitting children not your own, so a friend is freed up for an hour.  Doing good might look like encouragement when a marriage is facing difficulty.  Or it might appear as a note in the mail or a mid-day phone to call that friend who has been on your heart all week.

Doing good might mean serving when there are no other hands to serve, and the Church is tired.

And in our tithe of “doing good”, rather than being emptied, we are filled.

Rather than remaining independent, we instead become inter-dependent.

And the vulnerability of needing that frightens, gives way to the most precious love – because we see that we can need, we can rely.   And out of that willingness and love, emerges something breath-taking: The visible Church.

emmajosh1

So for those of us struggling with commitment to our friends at church, let’s continue on and not give up.

It is hard work to give and to love.  But, let’s do it.  Let’s give of ourselves and place one another in high priority.

Let’s make Him look beautiful by our love.