“You want a warrior Jesus.”

[This morning I spent some time reading through the private blog I kept a few years ago while walking through a deep valley. For the moment (I’ve learned that things can change in an instant), the path is much smoother, but these words resonate nonetheless.]

place-of-healingFrom A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada:

Here at our ministry we refuse to present a picture of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” a portrait that tugs at your sentiments or pulls at your heartstrings. That’s because we deal with so many people who suffer, and when you’re hurting hard, you’re neither helped nor inspired by a syrupy picture of the Lord, like those sugary, sentimental images many of us grew up with. You know what I mean? Jesus with His hair parted down the middle, surrounded by cherubic children and bluebirds.

Come on. Admit it: When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, when you feel like Morton’s salt is being poured into your wounded soul, you don’t want a thin, pale, emotional Jesus who relates only to lambs and birds and babies.

You want a warrior Jesus.

You want a battlefield Jesus. You want his rigorous and robust gospel to command your sensibilities to stand at attention.

To be honest, many of the sentimental hymns and gospel songs of our heritage don’t do much to hone that image. One of the favorite words of hymn writers in days gone by was sweet. It’s a term that doesn’t have the edge on it that it once did. When you’re in a dark place, when lions surround you, when you need strong help to rescue you from impossibility, you don’t want “sweet.” You don’t want faded pastels and honeyed softness.

You want mighty. You want the strong arm an unshakable grip of God who will not let you go — no matter what.

on taking and leaving

As I’ve mentioned, I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I picked up a few helpful tips (folding my clothes and arranging them vertically, taking all my clothes out of the closet and only putting back in what I want to keep…). I disregarded the suggestions to talk to my clothes, to greet my home when I come in every evening, and to empty my purse every night. Neither my clothes nor my home can hear me, and unloading my purse every night would be a futile task and ridiculous burden.

And that’s okay. Except for the Bible, we’re free to pick and choose, to take what we want and leave the rest. Whenever I see someone jump on a bandwagon or fangirl (or guy) over everything someone says or does, I get a little creeped out. There are so many writers and theologians and really smart, wise people whom I admire, but I can think of no one who is infallible. I have learned so much from John Piper, for example, and his The Pleasures of God changed my thinking, and really, my life. I’ve read many, if not most, of his books. But I don’t agree with him 100%. And no one agrees with me 100%.

And, again, that’s okay.

The only book that I’m not free to feel that way about is the Bible. If there’s something there that I don’t like, or that bothers me, or that just sounds weird (I’m reading through Genesis now, and woah — Jerry Springer show!) , I have to grapple with it. I can’t shrug my shoulders or just write it off. I have to wrestle with it and ask God to change ME. I have to trust Him. 100%.

I can’t pick and choose or take and leave from Scripture. I can’t be trusted to do that. And I don’t trust anyone else who does that.

Just thinking out loud,

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monday miscellany: new year edition

From around the web:

~ Don’t believe in yourself:

One of the most dangerous qualities of pride is that it sneaks into places in our hearts where other sins once lived. We begin to conquer some sinful attitude, or habit, or addiction with God’s help, and soon enough we marvel at our own strength, or resolve, or purity, as if we somehow accomplished it on our own. C.S. Lewis writes, “The devil loves ‘curing’ a small fault by giving you a great one” (Mere Christianity, 127). The confidence we feel in ourselves after defeating sin can carry us as far away from God as, or even farther than, the sin we defeated.

If we battle some sins, but welcome pride, we will lose the war. But if we suffocate pride, we will starve every other sin of its oxygen.

~ 5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life. Here’s one:

The Word of God is like an anchor. Each time you read it, you are putting your anchor in the ground and holding on. It keeps you from drifting. But without daily grabbing on to this anchor, you may be miles away before you realize what happened. This is why frequent study and meditation of the Word of God is crucial.

~ Speaking of daily Bible reading, this is the plan I’m using in 2017.

~ Lord, deliver me from distraction.

~ This year I’m planning to use a combination of the lists in the 2017 MMD Reading Challenge, with an emphasis on reading books I already own.

My New Year has started off well. I’m off work today and still in my pajamas!

Happy New Year & Happy Monday!

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monday miscellany

Rainy days and Mondays…make for a short list:

~ I’m glad to see someone talking about this: All sins are equal, and further reflections on the belief that “all sins are equal.”

~ Chuy’s Creamy Jalapeño Dip copycat recipe. I really want to make this but I’m afraid it would set off a binge the likes of which I’ve never seen. That stuff is good, y’all.

~ 25 books to read when you feel like the world is falling apart. I actually don’t feel like the world is falling apart, but it’s an interesting list nonetheless. I’d put at the top Island of the World, my favorite novel. I’m going to read it again in 2017.

~ And last, a little something to think about on this Monday from Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink:

Think about yourself. Does what energizes you—what gets you up in the morning and propels you through the day—come from the inside or from the outside? What about your spouse, your partner, or your children? How about the men and women around you at work? If you’re like most people I’ve talked to, you instantly have a sense into which category someone belongs.

Happy Monday, y’all!

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“There may be no finer words in Scripture.”

heartFrom Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives

God does not forgive you based on the quality of your confession or your resolve to be a better person. But you keep thinking otherwise. Your standard is what you would do to someone like yourself, and chances are that you would not let the incident pass quickly. God, however, forgives for his own name’s sake. “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). There may be no finer words in Scripture. God bases his forgiveness on himself and his forgiving character, not on the quality of your confession.

bittersweet

Some of you know some of my story — of how my husband of twenty-two years insisted on walking away from our marriage. This happened over four years ago, and sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s my story. Friends have encouraged me to write more about that experience and what I’ve learned, but it’s really hard for a variety of reasons. First, it’s not only my story. It’s also my children’s, and I’m sensitive to that and to the fact that he is their father. Second, I don’t want to overshare, and I don’t want to dwell. And, honestly, it still stings. But I think I should share what I can, because I remember how very desperate I was for every morsel of encouragement and hope when I was in that deep, dark valley. If my story can help someone else, I’m selfish to keep it to myself. So if I can figure out ways to put my thoughts together, I’ll share them here from time to time.

One of the things I’ve found curious as I’ve moved through these past years post-divorce is how my previous life seems like it’s not my life. Everything I found out was such a shock, such a complete and total up-ending of the life we built for over two decades, that I really don’t know what was real and what wasn’t. I’ve questioned everything.

But as I decorated the Christmas tree last week and unwrapped hundreds of mementoes collected throughout all those years, I was reminded that YES, I did live that life. It happened. The memories are real. I really did visit those places, make those friends, worship in those churches, make a home over and over again. I cared. I loved. I didn’t just dream it. And even thought that life is gone now, I still remember.

hulasanta

so many memories of our 8 years in Hawaii on the tree

mosaicstar

evidence of my brief foray into smashing plates and making ornaments

japanorn

a souvenir from our 2 years in Japan

britorn

I bought this one in my favorite city — London

So I decorated the tree feeling that now ever-present sense of bittersweetness. I felt sorrow but I wasn’t crushed by it. I took joy in remembering and was thankful for that. Surely that’s progress, right? I can’t take credit for the progress, but I know the One who can.

If you’re where I found myself about four years ago, or if you know someone who is, I can tell you that it gets better. It’s not a straight line, but more like a crazy stock market graph with lots of highs and lows. Pain hits at the oddest times , and it still hurts to say “ex-husband.” But God is always good and faithful, and I’ve found that He comes through for me. It’s often not in a way I expect or even want, but He’s faithful. Even when I’m hanging ornaments on a tree.

This I know.

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“…a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions…”

[a repost from January 2013]

Early Sunday morning I awoke anxious and angry. Added to that was frustration that on my one morning to sleep in a little, I was awake, tossing and turning. I finally got up, made tea, and got back in bed with my journal, Bible, and Psalms study material, grumbling all the while.

I prayed for God to give me wisdom and show me how to deal with anger at a person and about a situation. It’s an ongoing thing, but there are times that it flares up and affects me even physically — disrupting sleep and giving me heartburn. This is one of those times. I’ve run out of words to pray, and I’m ever so grateful that Christ intercedes for me. So I prayed a rather simple prayer asking for help and then turned to my study of Psalm 37. My sister just gave me Derek Kidner’s commentary, and I finally had a chance to dig in.

kidnerpsalms

Kidner looks at the advice of the psalmist, Fret not yourself, and summarizes the encouragement that follows the opening verse as Look ahead! (focus on eternity — God’s time), Look up!, and Be constructive!

Here is part of what he writes on Look up!

An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention; note the preoccupation with the Lord himself, expressed in the four phrases that contain his name here. It includes a deliberate redirection of one’s emotions (4a take delight; cf. Paul and Silas in prison, singing as well as praying), and an entrusting of one’s career (your way, 5) and reputation (your vindication, 6) to him. This is a liberation…

I take this as an answer to my anger. God is reminding me through his Word, explained by a wise teacher, that I need to take my eyes off the other person, off the anger itself, off the situation, and put them on Him! I am to deliberately redirect my emotions and be preoccupied with God, not myself and my circumstances. When I asked Him in prayer to give me wisdom and guidance, He answered quickly. Not an easy answer, but a simple one.  Now, I will work to take captive my thoughts and focus on Him, the One who loves me so well.

I began the morning angry and anxious, and in a matter of moments, my Lord lifted my head. I get the distinct impression that He cares for me! 😉

Oh, Father, how good you are to me! How slow of heart and stubborn I am, yet you continue to show Your love to me for Christ’s sake. Forgive me for my unbelief, and by Your presence and Your Spirit, remind me to turn my thoughts to You. Thank You!

(By the way, there’s more good stuff here in Kidner’s book, but I’ll just leave you with this for now.)

Awed,

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“…living as if you are in charge of the world…”

From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives

Ephesians 2:1–10

What’s behind all of your wrong anger? Whether you are angry about something trivial or something serious, your wrong reaction reveals that you are living as if you are in charge of the world. You believe you have the right to judge the people around you and the way God is running the world. Think about when you get angry. Aren’t you insisting, “My will be done; my kingdom come”? Anger is merciless. Anger sees, punishes, and gets rid of all offenders. But God has chosen to be merciful to wrongdoers, including someone like you, who struggles with taking God’s place in the world (Ephesians 2:1–5). God’s mercy brings life to you. If you struggle with bitterness, if you grumble, if you yell and argue, then you need God’s mercy. You will receive mercy and help when you confess to God your struggle with trying to control everything, with wanting to be God, and with judging those around you. God’s just anger toward sinners like you was poured out on his Son on the cross. Because Jesus died, you can be forgiven and have a whole new life. When you honestly confess your sins to God and ask him to forgive you for Jesus’ sake, you will receive forgiveness and the gift of God’s Spirit. The Spirit will give you the power to express your anger not your way, but God’s way.

~ David Powlison

monday miscellany

From around the net:

~ If it makes you happy:

But what is the problem with being happy? Isn’t happiness a good thing? Doesn’t God want me to be happy? Again, it depends on what we mean by our use of the word “happy.” Happiness must be rightly ordered. Our happiness must be subject to our holiness. God does not want you to be happy when it is at odds with you being holy. When these become disordered we fall into the same problem as the nation of Israel at the end of Judges. The result of that tailspin was, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Happiness unchecked will always lead to doing what is right in your own eyes. And when we understand that the “heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9), we can quickly understand the problem with doing what is right in our own eyes.

Instead, Christians should acknowledge that love is the answer but should labor to define that term as the Bible defines it. Happiness falls far short of love. Happiness is an emotion or state of mind. Love is something so much more.

~ A brief history of the Hawaiian shirt.

~ A free Bible study on how to change the way you think, act, and experience life.

~ Lean in on Sunday morning.

~ Don’t have time to read books? Try this one weird trick.

Happy Monday!

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monday miscellany

Links from ’round the webs:

~ You’re not meant to do what you love. You’re meant to do what you’re good at:

If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done. To function as a society, there are labors that are necessary. Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life of passion, because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose? No, of course not.

You can choose what you love to do, simply by how you think of it and what you focus on. Everything is work. Everything is work. Everything is work. There are few jobs that are fundamentally “easier” than others, whether by virtue of manual labor or brain-power. There is only finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful.

Read the whole thing.

~ What you read matters more than you might think.

~ Sounds like the Navy finally wised up about those ridiculous blue cammies. To modify a meme I’ve seen floating around Facebook, if you’re afraid to speak up at a meeting, just remember someone once piped up, “Let’s put sailors in blue camouflage.”

~ I’m currently reading John Bunyan’s Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, so I found this post on his arrest and post-pluralism persecution in America interesting.

~ 7 Ways to deal with doubt. I especially love #6.

~ An open letter to someone having an affair.

~ The immaturity of addiction:

This rule of thumb makes sense under closer observation. When someone begins to abuse substances repeatedly, they are often exchanging responsibility for pleasure. Many addicts enter this lifestyle to escape hard circumstances, trials, or truths about themselves they do not want to face. Consequently, the lessons they would have learned in meeting these situations, dealing with them constructively, and growing in maturity through them are lost opportunities. If you ever wonder why a thirty year old drug user makes a really dumb choice even when he is not high, it is not just the effect of the drugs on his reasoning abilities. He simply has never learned any better.