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Archive for the ‘Religious’ Category

Once upon a time I blamed genetics on my “thriving on chaos.”  My family has a long line of go-getters, and have come a very long way in their lives.  I respect that, I do!  But some have used their wandering spirit in misguided ways.  I know, because I’m one of them.  I spent years investing in things that I suspected would not yield a return.  Things that ate up our resources quicker than they replenished them.  I did it anyway.  I have lots of speculation about why: the feeling of being useful or needed, seeking approval, lack of clear direction or listening to God’s call, plain stupidity, etc… But rather than dwell on those things, I want to delve into how we’ve changed our life to reflect ourselves in a more true way.  For what it’s worth, we learned a lot along the way, and tho’ retrospectively we would make different decisions, we are who we are today because of our past, and I’m thankful for the ways God used those situations for His glory – and has blessed us greatly through the process.

The nagging itch I used to try to scratch has softened.  Though the yearning still lingers, it has been redirected.  Now I know that it is a gift, not a curse.  It’s a longing for a life after this one.  Nothing here can quench the thirst to eternal life with Christ.  But here’s the hitch: we  live with Christ not only later on, but today.  Every day.  Every moment.  And that is what I truly believe became clear to me, calming the need to create my own false paradise.

This multi-generational quality* continues to be apparent.  I still am motivated by many things, and always have goals.  Let’s be real, life is a work in progress that will never be complete.  We are not supposed to sit around lolly gagging but should use our resources wisely and productively.  And so we press on with new adventures in business, family, home & education.  We seek to ‘better’ our lives in ways that we can, but with contentment.

And there is the key: contentment.

Since the day we listened to God’s call and decided to let our old farm go, God has blessed us exponentially.  Our discontent turned into bigger blessings than we could have reached for in all of our trying.  For one, peace reigns.

A few short weeks after we moved to our current farm, Scott ended up in the hospital for some time.  We saw this as a clear blessing from God, orchestrating timing so perfectly for what could have easily been a fatal blow had we still been at the old property.  Almost losing him – over and over while he was in the ICU – left our whole family with a lot more contentedness.  We value every day more.  We also let things roll off our shoulders that would have been big deals before.  We learned how to let go in a way we never knew before.  The freedom we sought in doing came by not doing.  It’s a shame how we all seem to have to learn through experience instead of the wisdom of others.  Makes me extra prayerful for our children.  As much as I would never wish hardships on them, it is often the refining moments that are the most powerful and life-altering.

So this all sounds honky dory and all, but I wanted to share specifically some practical ways we have learned to curb discontentment.  Cuz let’s face it: it rears it’s ugly head in the mundane.

When we’re feeling discontent, we go to action:

If we want something, we figure out what we can get rid of (sell) to buy it.  Even the kids do this with us.  While waiting in the process,  it allows the desire to wane, or makes it all the more worth it.  It also keeps our goal of living more minimally in check as we do not add to our stuff without eliminating things first.

If we want to do something, we make plans that fit our family and budget and lifestyle.  Vacation can be simple to be gratifying (for us anyway).  We also love road trips, which helps.  Our family of 7 can travel via road much more affordably than fly.  That said, we’ve let Adyn know we’re banking on him for private flights when he’s certified.  Ha!  There are also several buddy programs that allow affordable access to local attractions, friends with fun toys, etc.  There’s never a lack of something we could do and have fun doing!

If we’re discontent with our lot in life and try comparing it to others’, we try to spend more time with them.  We learn quickly that they, too, don’t have a perfect life.  Everyone has flaws.  We can grow together instead of separate ourselves into levels of “coolness.”

If we are not content in a circumstance (relationship, place of work, church, school, etc) we try to change it starting in our homes first.  Our lives should be a testament of what we believe.  Whether or not other places reflect our values 100%.  I’ve found that when I’m content with our personal lives and home, it’s easy to be content outside of it.

These are a few ways that we have personally harnessed discontentment and turned it into something positive. I can think of oodles of examples that we’ve put these to work, and with prayer, God has been faithful to turn our attitudes around every time. Sometimes it took a while, no thanks to my impatience and stubbornness.  😮

Which leads to one of the biggest ways I have personally combated discontentment: Seek advice/counsel and find a prayer partner.  Sounds like a big sister club, yeah – but really, I’m incredibly thankful for the brothers & sisters in Christ who are particular prayer warriors in my life that I can ask anytime, anyhow, without being discouraged. Find someone you know who you trust to understand your heart, and encourage and walk along them as you work your way through things. I cannot share how much the value of solid transparent christian relationships has been in our hard (or bad attitude) times.

Ha! A perfect opportunity happened just now. A youngster was fussing that we ran out of white chocolate syrup for coffee (ridiculous. we don’t usually have this.) and said we need to buy more, so we Googled and made more with a few pennies worth of 3 measly ingredients.  All the while talking about how often we have what we need for what we want if we’re willing to work a little at using our noggins. Why buy when you can make?!  Oh, and now we have semi sweet chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream and caramel sauce.  Great.  We’re all going to get fat.

*or is it just “the American dream/er” in us all?

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Written May 28th, 2015

Tonight we studied something we have many times before: forgiveness.

It’s funny how the “same old” thing can be taught, but with different receptors (on my part), they connect in different ways.  Well, tonight I grasped some important bits that struck to the heart, all summed up in this guest post by (then) Jasmine Bauchman on my sweet friends blog:

And here’s a truth that floored me the other day: I don’t need anyone to apologize to me, I don’t need to be vindicated in a temporal sense, I don’t need to be acknowledge as the victim, the wronged party, in order to experience closure. Because Christ either nailed the sins committed against me to the Cross, or he will exact judgment for them on that last day. Either way, it is finished. I am not bound to sorrow or bitterness until the chapter closes satisfactorily. Because it’s already done. And I’m free from it just like I’m free from the fetters of my own sin.

Free. Isn’t that an overwhelmingly beautiful thought: freedom in Christ? Free not to be offended or wounded or prideful! Free to bask in who he says I am! Free to prize reconciliation, because it’s a beautiful thing, but to realize that, even if it never comes, we are reconciled to the God of the universe through the sacrifice of Christ.

You see, I’ve been worming my way through an abusive (for lack of better word*) situation in my past, trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do to “make it right” with someone/s who has hurt me deeply and I’ve tried to reconcile with, now with a rather large rift – no, canyon – between us.  Then it hit me: it’s not up to me to make right.  Christ already did.

And I have to let Him.

Let that sink in.

(I’m talking to myself now)

Like another friend Dorothy said this evening: forgiveness is a journey.  We will never be complete of our own accord, but through Him we can be free from the burdens of anger, bitterness, fear, or vengeance.  No writing anonymous blogs or “fiction” story-telling.  No secrets or passive aggressive manipulation.  But also no hiding.  We instead can turn it into praising God and love toward others!

If I am to love my God with all my heart, and others as myself (Matt. 12:31), I really don’t have a choice in forgiveness.  Following Him means trusting Him.  It means leaving my self behind (over and over again as reminders are graciously given), including my pride and sense of justice.

I still live with the scars of the offenses that I’ve carried.  They still rear their ugly head in unexpected moments.  I perpetually remind myself that it is not truth, and that God commands us instead to think on things that are noble… just… kind…. (Philippians 4).  That He honors us when we truly give our lives to Him.  That tho’ consequences remain, it is not my burden to carry.

No holding back.

Lord I believe.  Please help my unbelief.  (Matthew 9:24)

Help me not cling to anything but you, Lord, and remove all distractions.  Cleanse my heart and mind with renewed YOU.

*random fact: use of the word “abuse” has escalated in the past generation.  Might I even say, the word itself is, well, abused.

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I think I’ve shared with you all before, but it seems often in my life there is a running theme, changing once or twice a year.  Right now, it’s criticism.  Quotes and books and events keep cropping up that make me stop and pause to reflect on criticism; what it means, how I should respond, and how I should(n’t) dish it out most of the time.  My heart is an ugly place so often.  Thank God for perpetually reminding me things.  He is the potter.  I am the clay.  Mold me, even when it hurts.

I’ll start with a story.

I have always felt blessed beyond what I deserve.  I believe I live a charmed life.  Funny, when I share the minute (huge) details of struggles out loud, it doesn’t match up to that description in the slightest.  But I still believe and know it to be true.

Reminds me of this quote by James McDonald:

There will always be enough injustice and irritation to keep you in the wilderness if you choose to murmur and complain and criticize and covet and doubt and rebel. But life also has plenty of people and situations to generate thankfulness and love and faith and submission and contentment-attitudes that cause life to flow with “milk and honey” of God’s blessing and abiding presence. The choice is ours. 

One thing I’ve clearly noticed is that when I walk in faith, peace reigns.  Even in the tumultuous times.  I can’t take the credit for this.  I tend to over-think everything.  To wrap myself up in nonsense.  To give a good nudge to escalating things.

I don’t know if it’s aging…  Or if it was our life-and-death experience at OHSU almost two years ago now…  Or if it’s our (finally) decision to take a massive leap of faith several years ago and follow Him no matter what… But God has given an extra measure of peace in our hearts during this lengthened season.  Even during the scary moments.

All of this to lead up to a conflict I was in a couple of months ago.  It was surprising how foreign it felt (considering it used to be the norm), and yet how quickly it felt so “normal.”  Only this time was different.  It was brief.  It got ugly.  I got hurt.  But it didn’t stick.

The next morning we were doing extended family devotionals, and someone shared this link.  The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  God used it to keep my heart soft.  To keep me in His ways, instead of the slippery slope of my old ways.  I think it’s an excellent article that I’d encourage anyone to read, not just about criticism, but about how to deal with tough situations and people in your life…  I know it’s another click, and another thing to read, but I think you won’t regret it.

Another excellent bump-in I’ve had with criticism, and learning about how damaging it can be, was when I was reading Lord, Change My Attitude, by Josh McDowell.  I could identify so much with:

“Too often I have heard myself speaking words of criticism that, upon further reflection, were rooted in the pain I felt from being harshly treated. This is not an acceptable excuse.
Some of the pain that fuels criticism must be quickly dismissed as not worthy of our attention.
I encourage you to turn down the volume on the critics in your life. Center your attention on what God thinks of you, and life will be better. Otherwise, it’s so easy to get sucked into the wilderness by someone who seems to love it there.  Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).”  

The context here is how to deal with people who are continually criticizing (quick to speak, murmur’er, lacks humility), not wise counsel or godly confrontation. It also reminds ME how to deal with an attitude of (wrong) criticism in myself.

And lastly, this paragraph in the same chapter of McDowell’s book really resonated with me.  It convicted me to want to remember/share/incorporate specifically as I blog/share (and read/absorb others):

Here’s a third principle about criticism that we find illustrated in the attack by Aaron and Miriam: Criticism is self-exalting. Ultimately, criticism inflates the self. Oswald Chambers, the great devotional writer, wrote, “Beware of anything that puts you in the place of the superior person.” Anything that makes you feel superior is not conductive to your spiritual life. That’s what critiscm does: It takes the focus off me and my faults and highlights me as the one who knows. “I know; I see.” Criticism elevates me as the highest and best. Criticism reduces the pain of being in the spotlight and gives me the fleshly satisfaction of running the spotlight. And in a sick sort of way it can feel good to put that kind of pressure on others. People find it much harder to see my life if I am shining the glaring light of criticism on others! Be careful you don’t find yourself saying subconsciously, “if I can’t make my mark in this world by what I do, maybe I’ll make it for knowing what others could do better.” Criticism is self exalting, and God will not honor that. ~ James MacDonald

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Have you ever felt lonely?  Have you ever lost a someone close to you, maybe not by death?  There’s good news:  It doesn’t have to control your life.  No matter who is at “fault,” God can heal.  We’ve seen it in our lives this year, and we believe it in all areas of our life.

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Hearts are broken.  People are damaged.  Words are cruel.  There are two sides to every story.  But God is bigger.

If both people are not willing to work on the relationship, don’t lose heart!  People are not here to change hearts, God is.  So no amount of your begging, or trying, or even trying to buy affection will bring change.  If true reconciliation is desired, God will honor that and bless it.  Even if it doesn’t look like we want or expect.

Know you are not alone.  Almost everyone I know has a very sad place in their heart of missing someone they love to relational issues.

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Sometimes we have to lose people (and things) we love to see a bigger picture.

Find the good in your situation.  See how God can work on you and through you to use the situation, despite the sins of this world that allow quarreling to control relationships.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galations 6:9

People, situations, words, differences do not control you, or tell who you are.  How you respond does.

How do you respond to adversity?  Do you gossip?  Do you try to recruit ‘sides’ or try to involve others?  Do you lie?  Do you defend yourself?  Or do you keep your “side” to yourself?  Do you try to focus on the fruits of the spirit?  Do you seek peace above justice?  …But how can you have peace if someone is hurting you, you ask?

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we  have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

Whichever end of a situation you find yourself, remember:

I’ve learned … that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.” – Anna Mary Stonoff, my grandmother

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We Betray Ourselves

actions don't always depict true feelings.

actions don’t always depict true feelings.

This last year I read Lies Women Believe, a book I’d recommend to any christian lady (or fellow!), addressing the many things we tell ourselves both consciously and subconsciously that are stumbling blocks and not true, productive, or good.  On the same subject, I am shamelessly typing out and sharing with you the handout I have from last years ladies conference at our church.  Below is part was what speaker Wendy offered on the subject, hitting straight into my heart as feelings used to control me more than I wish they did, and can be a real threat to ones faith, relationships and life – I hope it blesses you!

Obstacles to believing God’s promises:

  • As women, we are weaker (emotionally). 1 Peter 3:7
  • As women, we are more easily deceived. 1 Timothy 2:11-14
  • We tend to place too much weight on our experiences. (rather than the Word of God)
  • Often our afflictions feel heavy and eternal
  • God says our afflictions are light and monetary.
  • Our afflictions are working for us an exceeding and eternal weight o glory! 2 Cor. 4:17

Prescription for pain: The promises of God

  • God promises all things work together for our good.  (Rom. 8:28)
  • God promises nothing happens outside of God’s will.  (Matt. 10:29-30)

Putting it into Practice

  • We must put forth the effort to truly believe.
  • To receive help from God’s promises we must believe (1 Peter 1:1-4)
  • We must learn the habit of preaching to ourselves.  (Ps. 42:5)

Selfdeception is the surest way to self-destruction.
Reality has a way of catching up with us. – Sam Erwin

May we always remember to keep our mind & heart in the safe place of the Cross.  Giving up ourselves (or our wayward thoughts) and believing Him, trusting always.  Not puffing ourselves up to combat our loss with equal lies, but to rely on Him as our everything.

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You can listen to Wendy’s entire message by clicking here.  Also, it’s been a year now since that conference, and is time for another!  I’d encourage you to join us tomorrow for the 5th Annual Ladies Conference.  More details here.

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We’re far from old or wise, but God has sent people into our lives seeking counsel.  Together with the Bible, we’ve been able to walk hand-in-hand with brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging each other and spurring each other to grow.  One resource we’ve used in the past is What Did You Expect? by Paul Tripp.  It’s an excellent marriage seminar that addresses several important topics.  He’s easy to listen to, comical, loving and holds close to Scripture.  We’ve recommended him and have shared his ministry.

But last week something happened.

A fellow by the name of Tullian Tchividjian filed for divorce after extra-marital affair/s.  He was also a pastor (stepped down; license now revoked), an author of christian books, a contributing author to well known (and excellent) Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and Billy Graham’s grandson.  He and Tripp were close, and after a week-long counseling session by Paul, Tripp shared a statement last week with this line:

So it is with sadness that I, along with others, have come slowly and cautiously to the conclusion that his marriage is irreparably broken.

(this post has since been removed from his blog and Facebook page after receiving much backlash, including threats of client-privacy breeches.  It can be found online, and I’ve included here)

Ouch.

Because we live in a world where all information is public – or seemingly so – we know that Tchividjian claims to have “sought comfort” outside his marriage after being heartbroken by a wife who was cheating after 20-some years of marriage.  Obviously, there is plenty to this story that we don’t know (or have any business knowing).  But what we do know is that it’s been six months since Tchividjian says the trouble began.  Most of those six months the couple trying to work it out on their own, only to ask help and expose it 3 months ago to the church.  The church has had 3 months to come along side and counsel.  3 months.

Yet “clearly” their marriage was not fixable.  After 3 months of “work.”  Even less, really, as Paul Tripp states this only after one week of counseling.  Why he felt the need to make a public statement, I’m unsure. To that, Mark Jones quoted 1 Corinthians 10:23: All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. Challies shared Mark Jones’ post on the matter, found here.  I’d highly encourage you to read it.

Again, we don’t know what all this situation involves, but we do know that “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 10:27), and that “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:26).  We do know that a christian marriage is a covenant.  That someone claiming to be a biblical counselor certainly can’t decide when a marriage is over.

I’m disappointed.  I loved that fellow.  I still do.  But this doesn’t match his preaching.  Or Scripture.

In the last year or two, christians have been disappointed many times by “heroes” that have fallen.  It continues to remind me that we cannot rely on man.  That we cannot lift them as idols, or have unreasonable expectations.  We must be careful who we receive/follow instruction and wisdom from.  Just because they’re in a position of leadership, have a public platform, or have solid affiliates does not make them any higher, smarter, wiser or godlier than another brother or sister.  Perhaps more accountable/answerable, or with larger potential consequences, but no more holy or righteous.

“It reminds all that there is a difference between talent and character and that talent is never a measure of spiritual maturity.  Good preaching behind the pulpit and good communication ability even to share spiritual truth isn’t a measure of the maturity of the preacher.  We must pray for all of our pastors.” Edgar V., referring to Tchividjian’s weakness.

All christians are called to be biblical counselors.  For the word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 – and look at Ephesians 4:12-16).  I know that all people (myself abundantly included!) are flawed and in need of grace and forgiveness perpetually, and definitely can’t assume perfection by any stretch, but both of these fellows have chosen a platform of public leadership, holding them to a particularly high standard.  For Tchividjian to accept a position in a church right now (this week) mid-divorce, and for Tripp to continue marriage counseling after publicly stating a marriage was irreparable without apology… That’s not sound.

I’m hopeful for a change of heart.  And I pray no one ever gives up on our marriage when we run into rocky times, especially those we seek counseling from.

We’re praying for the entire Tchividjian family, the church who hired him, and the Tripps’ building of faith and understanding in the Chief Architect of reconciliation and restoration as they pursue ministry in this arena.

The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. – Phil. 1:12-18

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Thanks to our favorite neighbors letting us know the band would be in town, we had the privilege of seeing The Durocher Family band last month in Camas.  The Durocher’s are a family of 14 that are musically blessed, the father a pastor.  Afterward, we spent some time with one of their girls in the back, who really emulated love for Christ, not simply obedient politeness.  Impressive.

We were really blessed by their music and words.  And noted their genuineness.  When perusing their humble product table in the back, we picked up a cd, as well as a 5-session dvd called Building Strong Families in Post Christian America.  Wanting to invest our time wisely, we’re starting the series this Friday evening, leaving the latest Marvel movie in the gutter for the sake of learning as a family (and with friends!).

One thing that we really appreciated about the Durocher’s ministry is their strong encouragement to hold fast to Family Discipleship.  Sure, it’s some coined phrase that is loaded with boxed-up assumptions and some negative connotations, but the concept is one that is clearly valuable.  It really resonates with us and lines up with our philosophy (and understanding of Scripture) to live modestly, focus on our family (small and large), and keep it as real and close to the earth as possible.  The family & home being the foundation of christian living.

When our surroundings to do not look like we believe good and right, or even optimum, we always bring it back to the home – and to share and be a light from an organic place by living by example and sharing completely.  If it’s a new concept to you, I’d encourage you to read Mr. Durocher’s blip in magazine (subscribe here): What Is Family Discipleship?

It brings home the reason why our kids are most often with us, be it Sunday morning service, or at endless meetings or otherwise “adult” engagements – not to mention working alongside us always.  They learn by being a constant part of things, by interacting with all ages and professions and situations.  We see it as offering them more experience and opportunities than limiting their exposure to age/gender-specific learning techniques that are prevalent today.  It also allows us, as parents, to filter, train, and guide them based on knowing their intake of information instead of relying on others to do what we believe is our job – and what believe God has been so gracious to allow us the flexibility to do.  We are blessed to be in a season that I can stay home, that we can run a homestead business, and that Scott’s hours and income accommodate this.  In no way do we think this is the only way to parent, but is the optimum way for us to at this point.

Here is where I’d be remiss not to note the man I married.  Never one to lead with a strong hand, he is the most humble, gentle, loving and kind man who encourages and leads our family by being an example and stretching us to always focus on truth.  Leaders come in all shapes & forms (as do the led), and I’ve never doubted that God truly blessed me by putting his shape & form into my life.

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