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Simply Complex

 

One of our cultural values is uniqueness.  We can sometimes think no one really "gets" us, and when people try to generalize or offer suggestions to us, they are ignorant of our unique situation.  This can be a helpful "instinct" to have; offering nuance and distinctions that can lead to greater understanding.  To offer your unique perspective, or your unique struggle can help others to empathize and gain insight.  

But, there's also a downside to this instinct.  One thing I've noticed is that we're very hesitant to accept any direct advice.  Whenever anything is direct or clear; we can view it as being "simple". If what we're struggling with has deep roots and needs deep exploration, we can reject concise ideas and statements about us.   

The problem is, . . . the bible is often very direct.  The bible diagnosed us in the deepest way; and, in every way.  We're not deeper than the Holy Spirit.  We don't have a depth that God doesn't understand.  So, we should freely receive short, direct, clear statements in God's Word about problems that we face. 

Now, this doesn't mean that walking with Christ is EASY or SIMPLE.  But, again, sometimes the diagnosis of our problem IS rather simple.  The complex issues come as we try to repent, walk with Christ, and live day to day in light of what Christ has done.  That is hard, and often comes with complex decisions every day.  

But, if we don't let the Bible speak clearly to us on what the problem is, and we don't let others give us clear insight into things that they see. . . . we think too highly of ourselves.  I know much harm has been done by giving cliche answers, not listening to each other, and dismissing hard problems as having an easy fix (i.e. "just pray about it").   Those are not the biblical ways to approach tough issues.  Let's seek humility in those times, though,  and let others (especially God's Word) have "eyes" to see things that we may not see.   

The Christian life is simply complex.  It started in a garden, it will end in a City.  Our problems are satan, our own Sin, and Death (the curse) hanging over all of creation.   Walking day to day with Christ can become complex as we face different issues.  But, if we'll let God's Word speak to us clearly and concisely to help us understand ourselves correctly; we'll have greater success seeing where we need to go.  You aren't hopelessly complex.  The Holy Spirit knows what you're dealing with, and He inspired the Bible to speak to all of us.    He knows us better than we know ourselves. 

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Back to School

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In our neck of the woods. . . .this is back-to-school week.   Some of our kids started on Wednesday, some on Thursday, others on Friday.   I also work in the Boulder Valley School District and am returning to work on Thursday.  

I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination.  But, after having done this a few times, I thought I would offer some thoughts and encouragements for parents at the beginning of this year.  I apologize for the "preachy" tone of some of this.  These are all areas of freedom for parents, and we can come to different conclusions.  Here are some of mine. . . here goes:  

1)  Relax.   You cannot provide the ideal experience for your children this year.  Home School, Public School, Private School, . . .it doesn't matter.  Your kids will not remember the fine details of their first few days of school this year.  Relax.  We are spending way too much time as parents worrying about giving our kids "a fun summer" or "a great back-to-school" or "the perfect birthday party".   If there's one thing all of our kids need, it's to not think of themselves as the center of attention.  Those kids aren't fun to teach, in my experience. 

2)  Check in and take responsibility for educating your kids.  The teachers may teach most of the content.  But, as parents, we should help our kids process the content, and process the social events at school.   Regardless of our school choice (and I like them all. . . in different seasons) we need to be shaping our kids' thinking during the school years. 

3)  Spend a lot of time remembering the dumb things you did as a kid.  Really, spend some good time.  Most of us think we turned out as fairly well-adjusted adults, right?  We all have weaknesses and I hope you don't think you're done learning, or are "the finished product".  But, we turned out ok, right?  Even the things from our childhood that still hurt and effect us are not things we could have foreseen.  Guide your kids, help their thinking, and then hold on and pray a lot.   You don't determine their future.  You can't keep them from everything hurtful anyway.  

It's not that we should "check out" as parents when we see our kids making bad decisions.  Not at all; sometimes we need to step in forcefully.  It's just helpful for us to remember that we also made mistakes, and it is impossible to keep our kids from ALL of those during the school years.

4)  Evaluate each kid, each semester regarding classes, school choice, and teacher fit.  You may not be able to change things each semester.  But, "one size fits all" doesn't work with different kids. We should think about what they need, and what they're experiencing.  School teachers and administrators need to know what's happening and our kids, while not being the center of attention, need to know we're listening.  

5)  Be an advocate for your kids' teachers.  Sometimes there are bad teachers.  Sometimes your kids are being bad.  But, most of the time there is a communication gap from student to teacher and when you get the whole story, we should usually let our kids know that we all recognize the teacher's authority.  It will help our kids in the future to realize that even when things aren't fair. . . . you respect the person in charge.  In the rare cases where we need to confront an error by a teacher or express a concern, we should do so humbly, not thinking that our kid is the only kid in their classroom.  

6)   Your kids need structure and energy.  You should make them have a reasonable bed time and eat reasonably.  Again, others will have to "pick up the pieces" in this area if we don't, as parents.  It's not right to give others the responsibility to manage our kids in these areas. We can have different conclusions about these things.  But, we need to have some conclusions.  Kids need it.  

7)  These days go fast, they really do.  I remember my oldest's first day of Kindergarten.  She will be in the 11th grade this year.  Enjoy the days of your kids learning so much, having activities they enjoy doing, and growing in wisdom and stature.  School is a gift, and let's not ruin the days with our stress, our helicopter parenting, and our fears.  God is in control.  He knows what our kids need.  Let's ask him for help, hang on, and cherish the days. 

Stepping off the soapbox. . . . . . . :) 

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Rocks in the Road

It's been a great summer going through the book of Psalms together.  All the varieties of human emotion are present in the Psalter.  It's a very honest book.  There's so much spiritual gold to mine in the book.  I think we'll do it again. :)  

Moving forward into the Fall, we wanted to take a few weeks and look at difficulties we all encounter in our lives.  "Rocks in the road," we're calling it.  These are perplexing things, issues that don't go away, and that we "give up" on many times.   But, as Christians, we are sons and daughters, heirs of the Kingdom; not victims.   "In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus promised us.  We wanted to look at some of the trouble, and what the Bible says about it.  

If you're in the Boulder area, I hope you'll join us!  We'd love to have you.  We meet at 10 am, Eldorado K-8 school, in Superior, CO.

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Will We Disappear?

"SELF-WORTH.  BOTTLED UP IN LIKES AND COMMENTS.  BUT IT'S HARD TO FIND YOURSELF WHEN YOU'RE PRESENTING A CERTAIN EDITED VERSION OF YOU TO THE WORLD." 

I remember MySpace.  At that time in the history of the Internet, I had a band. . .and you had to be on MySpace if you had a band.  I also remember when MySpace stopped being cool, and we all moved on to Facebook.  I had a lot of content on MySpace.  We released music, we scheduled concerts, and connected with many people.  Where did all of it go?  Where will all of our facebook information go?  I'm not sure what will be "next" for social media, but there are large parts of my life, too large; and many memories that I may lose when Facebook goes away. 

I'm in a season where I find myself on the Internet too much.  I'm thinking through what to do about it, but one of the dangerous things about "living" on the internet is that we start to find our significance there.  If we're gifted at writing and taking pictures (the only two activities that have value on Social Media) we can take a lot of pride in ourselves online.  We can start to sell ourselves like a product to our fans and consumers.  The flip-side is that when we aren't getting attention online, we can feel very invisible.  We can doubt our self-worth and begin to feel that we're no longer valued since our social media "friends" don't value us.  

This piece from Amber Patrick wrestles with that question.  She is a single woman and discusses that reality as well.  But, these questions are good for all of us to think about.  Where are we finding acceptance and significance? Whose opinion matters the most to us right now?  When was the last time I set up a meeting with a flesh-and-blood human being?  How will I ever become a better photographer?  (I kid)  

God is with us, He has not forgotten.  And, He knows all of the parts of your life that aren't photographed.

 Let's remember that we are Remembered.  Let's see that we are Seen.  Let's love that we are Loved.  

Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go

-- Genesis 28:15--

 

 

 

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He Laughs

A fitting image for our time. . . . . 

A fitting image for our time. . . . . 

 

I've been trying to think on what bothers me the most about politics.  The "group-think" and "unruly mob" elements are certainly part of it.  We section ourselves off into camps and dig deep into our "tribe" for a few months.  I think it causes people to stop thinking at times.  Also, the flag-waving and cross-waving to score political points is distasteful. 

But, if I had to pick one thing about political season that is the biggest turn-off.  It's the determinism of the candidates.  The notion that they will get everything done; that they COULD solve all the problems they claim they will, is ridiculous.  Humility and nuance typically go out the door.  Candidates who exhibit such character qualities lose in the primaries.  That, really, is the thing that hurts us the most.  If we desire big cartoon characters making huge promises, well, then we'll get what we deserve.   I love my country, but these seasons bring out the worst in us, at times.  Let's remember who's on the throne.  

I love the text of Psalm 2 during these times.  The Lord looks at our re-shuffling of the deck chairs, and our sound and fury. . . . . and He laughs. 

Psalm 2

 Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.

 

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A Place of Grace

 

"The funny thing about working to make yourself good enough to be Christian is that you inevitably end up more self-absorbed and less assured of God’s love for you. If we are not careful, our youth groups and churches can easily develop a culture of image-making—Christians striving to define themselves, especially according to some Christian cultural norms, instead of resting in Christ’s definitive work."

We want our churches to be safe places for struggle and the opposite of "image making" boutiques.  This is the only atmosphere where the Gospel can grow.  If we just try to churn out "good people" or "cool people" we've taken too much of God's work into our hands.  He wants to make "Christians" out of all of us.  Wherever we are, whatever we struggle with, God wants to move us closer to him, using whatever means necessary.   Read this whole piece from Alan Noble. . you'll be glad you did.   

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"Fame in that country. . . . fame on earth."

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"We raise our kids, go to church, serve on the worship team, practice hospitality, pray in secret. Nobody sees these things. We live in the mundane moments. We simply do what we’re commanded, without fuss or pomp or likes."

Yesterday, Tim Duncan retired.  If you're not a sports fan, you just need to know that he was one of most boring basketball players of all time.  He had almost the same statistics every night.  He was consistently excellent, and he didn't really have any fanfare.  

Stephen Altrogge asks the question in his piece on Tim Duncan:  "If we do a good deed and don’t get any likes, did that good deed even happen? If I share the gospel and don’t show the video on Facebook, does it even matter?"   

Stephen quotes C.S. Lewis from "The Great Divorce" and I"ll copy it here.  This scene seems to be a vision of someone who was common on earth, but great in Heaven.   Let us long for fame "in that country" and view our small kingdoms here as. . . . . small.   Here is the whole piece from Stephen Altrogge, it is worth your time.  

 

"First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers. Then, on the left and right,at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done.

I cannot now remember whether she was naked or clothed. If she were naked, then it must have been the almost visible penumbra of her courtesy and joy which produces in my memory the illusion of a great and shining train that followed her across the happy grass. If she were clothed, then the illusion of nakedness is doubtless due to the clarity with which her inmost spirit shone through the clothes. For clothes in that country are not a disguise: the spiritual body lives along each thread and turns them into living organs. A robe or a crown is there as much one of the wearer’s features as a lip or an eye.

But I have forgotten. And only partly do I remember the unbearable beauty of her face.

“Is it?…is it?” I whispered to my guide.

“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”

“She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?”

“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

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What's Really Going On?

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood. . . "

I wonder if, often, when we're struggling and wrestling with an issue, we have the wrong "enemy" in mind.   This helpful post from Rebekah Merkle below,  (an author I highly recommend) helps us think about the trials and temptations in our lives.  

See, we often mistake a common "trial" as the enemy we need to fight. The Bible, on the contrary, promises us that we will face trials consistently, but we can be content, joyful, and hopeful (depending on the passage of scripture) within the trial.  Much more difficult, are the temptations that trials bring out.  These core issues are the root of why we're frustrated, or struggling.  However, if we can't see what we're really facing isn't of flesh and blood (a trial) but is a spiritual battle (a temptation) we won't be able to see clearly what we need to repent of and get to work on.  God has promised us help and victory over our temptations. . . . .He has not always promised us a change in circumstances to "fix" our trials.  This is so important for all of us to realize as we navigate our lives.   Here's a taste of the article (emphases mine):  I hope you'll read the whole thing here.   

"So let’s say that there’s something truly difficult – let’s say that your house is genuinely too small and everything is very cramped and very hard to keep organized and clean. And you’re tempted to feel really sorry for yourself, to dwell on how difficult your life is, to compare your lot to that of your sister who has much more money than you. That’s just plain old, garden variety discontent. But when we’re caught up in the grip of it, that’s not what it feels like. It feels like the house is too small. It feels like the Great Foe you have to fight against is the impossible situation that is your house. It’s the house’s fault that you’re unhappy, and there seems to be no way to overcome the problem – especially given the lack of closets. But here’s the thing. The actual enemy is not the house, it’s your attitude – but it’s your attitude wearing a camouflage suit and pretending to be a small, untidy house. There’s no spiritual discipline that will transform an outdated apartment into a spacious and beautiful, Pinterest-worthy home . . . and we all know that. So it all seems hopeless, and we dwindle further into the sadness and the self-pity. But – there is a spiritual discipline that can conquer a bad attitude . . . and it turns out that it’s a very easy one. It requires looking past the trial and looking at the temptation – and this is what the temptation is working very hard to keep you from doing. The whole strength of the temptation lies in its pretending to be a huge, unconquerable giant of a problem. But when you look directly at the temptation itself you discover it to be a small, petty, ugly little thing that is easily swept away by a prayer of repentance."

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Comfort and Compromise

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In seasons of disappointment or discouragement we can often ask "Does God just always want my life to be hard?" or "Why do others seem to have it so easy all the time?"

One of the tensions we hold on to as Christians (not seek to resolve) is that God is doing something different in all of our lives, while calling us all to the same things.  For some it is Spring, for others, Winter.  For some, relationships are currently enjoyable and life-giving; for others, relationships are currently needing work and constant "weeding".  For some the bank accounts are full,  . . .others. . . empty.   What do we do with that?  Here are some things to remember:  

1)  If you are on the "good" end of the equation and are in a season of ease, comfort, wealth, etc. . consider the fact that God may have given you that season to be blessing to others and help with their needs.   It IS glorifying to God to praise him, laugh, smile, sing loud, and rejoice in good times.  But, remember that there is probably someone near you who is not in such a time, and you may be God's blessing to them.  Also, be on the lookout for this:

2)  There is no way to seek 100% ease and comfort without compromising your faith.  Through many trials we enter the Kingdom of God.  There are no "spiritual get-rich quick" schemes and shortcuts to godliness.  We will take up our cross, we will die to ourselves.  Well, unless we don't want to follow Christ anymore.   Those difficulties are the Christian life.  So, in a season of prosperity and ease, don't fight to keep that season going when hardship hits.  I'd say, in fact, that much sin we fall into is from making an effort to hold on to comfort when God is calling us into the valley.   Follow Christ. There is peace, there is His Presence, but dodging the hard times is not God's will for his children.  He's using those times; He has a purpose in them.  "God what do you want to teach me?" , a heartfelt, hard, deep thing to pray in the midst of a storm.   There is no way to seek ease and comfort all the time and not compromise your faith.  

This does not mean you can't ever seek to change your circumstances.  But, pain relief should never be the driving factor in such decisions.  

3) We need to consider personality-type and relational styles when we evaluate the prosperity or pain of others.   Some people just seem to have it together all the time.  Some people seem to always have a good attitude.  Good for them.  That doesn't necessarily make them "phony". That doesn't mean they don't have trials.  Some people just interact with the world in a more optimistic way.   Some people don't have internal angst about decisions.  That's ok.  They have other stress points and difficulties that we are not aware of. 

At the same time, others seem to always be in a hard time, always seem to be processing, always seem to see the glass as half-empty, or perhaps broken on the floor.   That is ok.  That doesn't mean their life is necessarily harder than others' (though God may have them in a tougher season).  This is how they process information.  They need to think through things, need to process.  The success of others makes them question their own life decisions.  That is ok.  Don't be too quick to try and "fix" someone's outlook.  Just be with them. . . be present and listen.  

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God is doing different things in all of our lives.  But, we are all called to connect in community, called to bear one another's burdens, and called to rejoice with those who rejoice/weep with those who weep.   Seeking to escape hardship can, at times, be running away from God.   Dwelling on our hardship and refusing comfort and care can also be a kind of "running" away from God.  Bottom line; be God's.  Be all his, wherever He's taking You.  That's where you want to be.  

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He must Become Greater, We must Become Less

“The foolishness of God in the cross is wiser than the wisdom of the world… It is not like accomplishing something but like dying and coming to life. It is not like earning something but more like falling in love… The theologian of the cross knows that the love of God creates precisely out of nothing.”  --Gerhard Forde--

Our Lutheran friends have long made the distinction between "a theology of glory" and "a theology of the cross" for the Christian life.   The point is that we, as "little Christs" follow in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus.  Our lives will mirror his life.  We don't progress in the Christian life from victory to victory, but from the path God has for us.  This path includes pain and trial, as it did for our Savior.     I wonder how long it will be before we learn this valuable lesson and stop trying to find God only in the triumphs, victories, and good times, and instead realize that He often reveals himself in the pain, tears, and trials of our life.  

Knowing God is a lot like "dying and coming to life".  It is not related to the "goal/accomplishment" focus of our culture.  There is dying, failure, suffering. . . . We need to live like that is true.  It is Good News.  It is the Gospel.

 

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We're Different

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This past week, we discussed the issue of gender at GLC.  If you'd like to listen to that, or read some insightful commentary on our current cultural moment. . . here are some links:  1   2   3  

Instead of making an argument as to why our culture is mistaken to consider gender a fluid entity, and consider self-identification to be the highest of ideals; I thought I would point you to a beautiful portrait of one difference between men and women. (there are many)  

This piece (linked below) also doubles as a great encouragement for married folks.  As men and women, we can, unfortunately, relate to each other in ways that are practically gender-neutral.  I know I often have.  It's one of the things we lost when we lost the manners, expectations, and roles of a century ago.  Were those things wrong-headed and oppressive towards women?  At times, yes, they were.  But, when we threw the baby out with the bathwater, we made it difficult for men and women to take cultural cues in how to relate to one another.  This piece shows us one way we can take some of that back.  It addresses the realm of communication and I hope men and women will give it a good read.   After all, the beauty of our unity, equality, and "same-ness" is that God made us different, and complimentary.  

The Tender Heart of a Woman

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The Passion Hypothesis

I'll be honest. . . . . .I wish someone would have written this about 10 years ago(link at the end).

Not a week goes by when I don't talk to someone who is tied up in knots about what they should do with their life, someone who is considering a career change, young people who are stressed about deciding what direction to take, or people who work in the service or skilled trade industries thinking they are missing out.  (FOMO is huge when we think about this question)

We've all heard, and been influenced by the passion hypothesis.  It goes something like this:   " the key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches your passion”. Sounds harmless, right?  Maybe even helpful?   Here is an excerpt from Bethany Jenkins' article that shows a few big problems with this thinking:  

First, there’s no evidence we have preexisting passions to discover. Most of us are vocationally nimble and capable of doing a great number of things.

Second, focusing on our passion is self-centered. It’s asking what the world can offer us, not what we can offer the world. Such a perspective makes us hyperaware of what we don’t like about something.

Third, there’s no evidence that, if we love doing something, we’ll love doing it as a job. I’m passionate about running, but—setting aside that no one would sponsor me at my nine-minute/mile pace—I love it precisely because it’s play, not work.

Fourth, the passion hypothesis is anxiety-filled and riddled with too much pressure. It drives us to question our choices and overemphasize the importance of every step we take. It gives birth to fear and worry, not faith and peace.

I couldn't agree more with all of that.  From the self-centered aspect (Jesus said, whoever will lose his life will find it), to our passions changing, to the pressure of the whole thing; our culture needs a value adjustment on this issue.  I would hope the church would help people towards contentment and joyfully pouring out their lives for others.  I hope the church would help us to be humble with our passions, view them as fluid, and see them as a pathway to community, not individuality.  

I hope you'll all read Bethany Jenkins' piece on this issue.  It's so helpful.  (here)

(Sometimes people respond to me, "Aaron, you ARE working in your passion, so, easy for you to say!".)  Well, I will say that God has blessed with a lot of enjoyment in my work, but it's often not the thing I am excited about the most.  I also have had seasons of doing other things in my life, and my have those seasons again.  In fact, spending time doing things I don't love helps me appreciate the things that I DO love.  It helps me filter my life and stop expecting vocational things to be all-fulfilling.   Yes, I love what I do, I've worked hard at it, . . but, I have many passions and try to hold things with an open hand. )

  

 

 

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Tension

We've been handling some pretty tough questions at GLC the last few weeks.  (If you'd like to listen, you can do that here)  One temptation when we're diving into the mysteries of God is to concentrate on one attribute of God too much, to the neglect of the others.   God is infinite!  As the apostle John said, "all the books in the World" could not hold what we could say about Jesus (not to mention the Father, and the Spirit). 

This is why it is a crucial part of our discipleship, worship, and teaching, . . to simply be amazed at God.  We need to have our gaze lifted, our perspective broadened, and our hearts enlarged, (like the Grinch :) )  because God is bigger than any of us can comprehend.  He has "incommunicable" attributes.  That big word means; attributes that we can't communicate.   We actually can't put words around some things about God that would do Him justice.  

Dr. John Piper's teaching is focused on these sorts of things, and in this short article he answers the question "Will God hurt me and call it good" by calling us to hold God's attributes in balance.  I hope you'll take a minute and read it.  This perspective helps us so much in relating to God and understanding Him (as much as we can).     

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No Matter What

 

Some great reminders from "For the Church" on the things that will never, ever change for the Christian:  

Read the whole article here: 

No matter what happens, I will remain in Christ.

Although I have deep concern for the hearts and lives of those around me, ultimately, there is comfort in knowing that external circumstances won’t impact the security of my own salvation. When I don’t have to defend my own stance before God, I can focus on pouring out love to others, remaining calm in difficult storms. I don’t have to fear those who can kill the body (or the dream or the bank account), because the one who controls both the soul and the body says my destiny is secure. I can go forward without looking back over my shoulder for the law to condemn me. No poor response, helpful word, moment of worry, or worst-case scenario can separate me from the love of the father.

No matter what happens, I will receive grace to persevere.

A few minor concerns are enough to show me that my anxiety-prone flesh is weak. With the spike of a child’s fever, my heart can be thrown into a tizzy. But the spirit in me is willing and able to offer grace, causing me to have a supernatural response of peace when the world tells me to freak out. This was the grace given when my husband and I drove to the hospital with our infant son. I can’t project what challenges God will allow in our lives, but I can rest in the truth that the Holy Spirit will give me the grace I need to remain focused on Christ in the trials. When I need the words, they will come. When I need comfort, I can call on the God of comfort. I will finish the race, because my ever-present helper will pull me safely through the obstacles.

No matter what happens, it will be for my good.

From our earthly perspective, worst-case scenarios get their label for a reason - they seem awful. Death, disease, empty bank accounts, public shame, persecution, or loss of relationships threaten our joy and plans for a “good” life. But God’s definition of good is much different. Our Lord put Mary’s worst-case scenario for motherhood at the center of history. Her worst was God’s best. Paul acknowledged this truth in his letter to the Philippians, noting that even his imprisonment was an opportunity for the spread of the gospel. His suffering provided a chance to display contentment; trusting God’s plans even when it defied earthly comfort.

No matter what happens, my future hope is unchanging.

Something amazing happens when Peter writes a letter to the Christians in the dispersion; he tells them to praise God in the midst of their worst-case scenario. And it’s not because things are going to eventually be wonderful for them on Earth, but because things are ultimately going to be wonderful for them in eternity. They have an inheritance that isn’t impacted by present tribulations. In Christ, we share in this same hope and unfading reward. It doesn’t matter how bad things get on Earth, because our present sufferings can’t be compared to the glory that is coming.

Of course, I hope that I never experience another drive to the emergency room with a child in the backseat, although with four young boys, this is highly unlikely. But I’m confident that I serve a God who will see me through any worst-case scenario that my fragile heart can imagine.  In Christ, my imagination can walk down that road and always find good and glory at the end, no matter what happens in this present life.

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The Invasion of Common Grace

I love satire.  I'm a big fan of The Onion, the Daily Show, the Babylon Bee, etc. . .  All of us are just a tad ridiculous and need to be made fun of from time to time.  :)  It's good for us.  

This piece from the Onion is funny, but also touches on an important concept for Christians.  So, you should read it first, (it's really short) laugh for a while, and then we'll think about the important point being made.  

When our trials pile up and our days don't bring us joy, we can get to the point where we stop noticing God's blessings.  We stop noticing how God invades our lives, daily, with his common grace.  It could be a sunset, it could be the smile or touch from a friend, or maybe the change of a season.  Personally, it has often involved a chicken sandwich :).  God "causes the sun to rise on the righteous and the unrighteous", and if our eyes and hearts are open to his work in the daily ins and outs of life, it will help us through discouraging and tough seasons.  God gives us "life, and breath, and everything else".  If we choose to not see those things or thank God for them, we will be miserable.  

All of our problems aren't solved, and all of our daily struggles don't go away by being grateful for these small things; but God wants to remind us that He is there, and He is working.  We need to see it.  We need to think about it.  We need to praise, even if it's been 35 hard years. (something tells me there were a few other beautiful spring days during those years) 

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A Cult of Positivity

Credit: © igor / Fotolia

Credit: © igor / Fotolia

"Don't let the noise of other people's opinions drown out your inner voice"  

"Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution"

"Negative people need drama like oxygen, Stay positive, it will take their breath away"

(I just googled. . . "negative and positive people")

As Christians, we should have a broadly positive outlook, yes?  I mean. . . with our eternal, unshakeable promise of a lifetime of paradise with our wonderful Savior, we should be able to navigate our lives, and even grieve, with a positive hope for the future. 

But, as 21st Century Christians we struggle greatly with an "over-realized eschatology", . . . which is a $10 phrase that means, "wanting and accepting only good things in the here and now".  We view negative people, experiences, and environments as "threats" instead of possibilities.  We don't get why God would let us experience hard times and seasons.  We use this as yet another way to separate and disconnect from one another.  This is a new, modern phenomenon.  Our Mothers and Fathers in the faith knew that "through much tribulation, you will enter the Kingdom of God".  We just can't seem to get that.  

I really hope you'll take 5-10 minutes and read this article by Zach Barnhart.   He nails our cultural moment.   He shows how we disconnect from people that God has called us to, because they might be "messing up our groove".  Certainly, boundaries are appropriate at times, but this piece deserves a long look from most of us.  We're causing more difficulty for ourselves by trying to erect and maintain a cult of positivity.  Here's a taste.  

 

“You cannot expect to live a positive life if you hang with negative people.”

There is a certain aurora of positivity that [these teachers] suggest we should stay occupied in, and further, that letting negativity penetrate that aurora is extremely damaging to your well-being, even, arguably, sinful. We all know that the message of self-improvement says, “Believe in yourself.” But popular prosperity teachers have taken it a step further. A critical step to finding our destiny, achieving our dreams, realizing our potential, is keeping people out who we consider a “threat” to such things. 

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Psalm 23. . . . currently

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . . anything beyond what my heart desires.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, but I spy grass that is greener on the other side of the fence. He leadeth me beside the still waters, but I know of still more exciting places where I’d love to drink my fill.

But He restoreth my soul, squelching the wanderlust within me that moves me to live life the way I see fit.

He maketh me to walk in the paths of righteousness when I want to run in the open fields of the world—eating where I want, sleeping with whomever I want, living like the beast I am. He leads me for His name’s sake, but I want to make a name for myself, I want others to envy me, to speak ill of me if they wish, but secretly to covet who I am and what I’ve done.

Oh the shepherd’s rod is restrictive and His staff is stifling to my animalistic heart! Come valleys of the shadow of death, come storm and wind, hail and rain, I shall not fear, for I know the lay of the land, I’ve been around the block, and I’m not sheepish about telling you so.

 

--Chad Bird--

 

God help us to rest in You.  Help us to lay down our wish dreams for our life and follow You wherever You lead us.  Help us to take up our cross and rely solely on You.  It will take a miracle.  I trust You to do it, today.

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Defensive?

One of the things we don't think about often enough is how the Gospel frees us to be. . . . wrong.  It shouldn't be a goal, of course. . . "be as wrong as possible."  But, it is also unrealistic and hurtful if we don't ASSUME that we WILL be wrong regularly.  Because. . . . we will.  From heinous sins, to personal offenses, we will be wrong, regularly.  Our default setting should be apology, repentance, and humility.  Christians should not strive to be right all of the time.  Christians should not be hurt when they don't see something that is pointed out in their life by a friend. Christians shouldn't fight for every last nuance in an argument to be heard.  We are free. .  .by Christ's sacrifice. . . to be wrong.  

I struggle with defensiveness, and maybe you do to.  Here's a great piece from Gavin Ortlund on the difference between repentance and defensiveness.  

 

(p.s. this is also why it's important for churches to value justice in community.  People shouldn't have to stand up for themselves. . .because, if they are unfairly accused of something. . others should stand up for them.  We need to be people of justice who don't let gossip, complaining, rigidity, and gracelessness abound in our churches.  Stand up for a brother or sister, when appropriate, and let Grace spread in our communities.)

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A Parent's Prayer

This piece from Jen Wilkin really hit home with me. 

As parents we're always navigating the tension between wanting to protect our children from so much evil and ugliness out in the world, . . . .while helping them nurture contentment, and navigating the world that confronts them every day.   I think this prayer navigates that tension well.   

I pray that all of my kids have great peace in where God has them and who He has made them to be.  I'll spend the next 10 years or so trying to help them with that. :)  

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