“I’m so very ‘umble” – Uriah Heep, Jennifer Lawrence, and You

220px-jennifer_lawrence_sdcc_2015_x-menI happened across an interview with Jennifer Lawrence the other day where she was asked, “Do you believe there’s an afterlife?”

 

Her answer was, “No.  That’s a reaction to innate narcissism.  To think that we don’t have to cease to exist.”

This year I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I’m going to call the Uriah Heep Mentality.

Uriah Heep is one of my favorite, creepy villains of all time.  Charles Dickens created him to be the thorn in David’s side in David Copperfield.

[Heep’s face] was quite as cadaverous as it had looked in the window, though in the grain of it there was that tinge of red which is sometimes to be observed in the skins

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Artwork by Chris Riddell

of red-haired people. It belonged to a red-haired person—a youth of fifteen, as I take it now, but looking much older—whose hair was cropped as close as the closest stubble; who had hardly any eyebrows, and no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep. He was high-shouldered and bony; dressed in decent black, with a white wisp of a neckcloth; buttoned up to the throat; and had a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention, as he stood at the pony’s head, rubbing his chin with it, and looking up at us in the chaise.

His hands are always wet, cold, and clammy, like a dead fish, and his catch phrase is calling himself “humble” (or ‘umble) over and over again while being a sycophant to everyone around him.

He’s the type of guy you might feel sorry for except that he overdoes the false humility, and later you find out he’s been sneaking around behind everyone’s back to make sure they come to ruin so that he can own them all in the end.  His hypocrisy is deceptively sneaky and takes a suspicious David and a wise Mr. Micawber to figure out the years of ingratiation, lies, and manipulation that went into his scheme.

The sad thing is, I’ve met Christians with Uriah Heep Mentality.

Christians, who, like Jennifer Lawrence pretend to be “so very ‘umble” by saying that God doesn’t love them, God doesn’t want them, they’re worthless, they’re wretched sinners, and they deserve to be trampled upon and have nothing good happen to them their entire lives.  Maybe you don’t realize it in the beginning, but you realize it was false humility all along when they show you how they really think.

These Christians can also find themselves the most sensitive at the slightest perceived “attack.”  Because how dare others criticize when I am trying so hard and am doing so much better than everyone else. The obsequiousness is often sneaky arrogance disguised under a clammy, skeleton costume.

Don’t get me wrong.  Yes, we are wretched sinners.  Yes, we do nothing to earn our salvation.  Yes, we deserve nothing but hell. Yes, we should bow on our faces before a great and powerful God.  (1 Tim. 1:15, Rom. 6:23, 14:11)

But God.

He does not choose to leave us there.  Uriah Heep Mentality forgets all the other verses that talk about us being inheritors with Christ Jesus, a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor, that the Lord delights over us with singing, that we are bought and redeemed with all of His blood, and that heaven and the kingdom is our inheritance!  (Rom. 8:14-17, Heb. 2:7-9, Zeph. 3:17, Is. 44:22, Luke 12:32)

Does the Christ who died to pay for us want us to go around wringing our hands calling curses down upon ourselves and feeling like bruised victims waiting to assume the worst about everyone and everything because crushing ourselves makes us feel better?  Maybe this isn’t your motivation, or maybe when you peel back the skeleton costume, you reveal that it is.  ❤

It’s actually really super ‘umbling to stop and say, I’m loved by the King of Kings.  I’m His princess or prince.  I am made in His image, the greatest part of His creation, His masterpiece.  Jesus calls me His brother or sister and His friend.  I have His same power in me. Nothing can stop me from receiving God’s love.”  (Deut. 10:17, Ps. 86:5, 36:7, John 15:9-17,  Rom. 8:37-39, Gen. 1:27, Eph. 1:19-20, 2:10)

Do those things make you squirm?  They shouldn’t.  They’re taken directly from Scripture.  See all those verses above.

Why do they make you squirm?  Is it because you’ve been bullied and rejected and downtrodden all your life, and you’re afraid to believe in the Sovereign God’s love for you?  Can I recommend Because He Loves Me by Elyse Fitzpatrick for that, just to sit and seep in the beauty and boosting love of the gospel?  He would have died just for YOU, Christian.  If you had been the only human being on earth. ❤ (Matthew 18:12)

Or is it because you actually believe in a works religion, where you have to keep maiming yourself and brow-beating yourself until you’re “holy enough” that the Lord God will accept you, and it pains you to see other Christians happy and rejoicing in their salvation and inheritance and greatness in Christ? (1 Kings 18:27-29, Phil. 1:14-17, Mt. 23:1-4, Lk 18:10-14, Rom. 14, 

Believe.  Doing comes after.  Believe that it’s nothing of you.  That you could never follow all the rules.  That you could never be perfect.  That you have been lifted up out of that mud that you like to throw yourself into.  That your sins are forgiven, and God doesn’t even see them any more.  That Christ’s blood is all He sees, and you are hidden in Christ.  That He will sanctify those stubborn sins step by step and you don’t have to go on hating yourself to make Him like you better.

Christ would love you even if your sins didn’t change.  

(Phil. 1:6, John 10:28-29, Deut 7:7-10, Is. 54:4-8, Hos 14:4-7, 1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Does that feel like heresy?

It’s not.  Scripture says so.  And if His love was dependent on your sins, then you would have some control over your own salvation.  The life on earth is but a breath.  You are saved – you have eternity in heaven.  His love is everlasting, and it doesn’t disappear in this life-breath when you fail. (Jer. 31:3, Ps. 144:4)

And His love doesn’t lessen AFTER salvation, when you keep messing up.  If He loves you when you did nothing to deserve it, why should you somehow change it like a lever later based on the speed or efficiency of your sanctification?

You should want to quit sinning just because you love Him so much that you want to obey Him with all your heart, not because you think you can force your own holiness and bring yourself into better standing with God.  We are supposed to strive for holiness, but we don’t do that on our own.  We do that leaning on and resting in and being with and enjoying God.  Otherwise, we fail. (John 14:15, Mt. 11:28-29, Ps. 37:4, Eph. 1:19-20, Rom. 8:11, Gal. 5:16)

It’s arrogance to assume you can control any part of Him, and that you can affect the Almighty God’s love for you – that you can control it with your own works and life.  His love is steady like the sun, and its existence nothing to do with you.  It IS and it changes you merely because it is His good pleasure to do so.  It will never change, never stop, never lessen, and never disappear.  David’s wife Michal was chastised for stopping David from dancing and rejoicing in the Lord in what is the ultimate story of Uriah Heep Mentality. (2 Samuel 6:14-23)  It is not narcissistic to rejoice that you are an eternal, spiritual being as well as a physical one, to look forward to eternity and to your glorification in a righteous body, seated up with God in the heavens. His blood has paid for your place there, and He wants you to live like you know it! (Eph. 2:6, Ps. 63:3, Hk. 3:17-18, 

BASK in that.  Enjoy that. Be happy and rejoice. Put your tiara on your head and dance around in it like you would the sunshine on a summer day.  It’s your gift, and instead of shoving the gift away, you can live in the light of that glory.

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Photo by ЗДОРОВЬЕ ЧЕЛОВЕКА

God’s love and kindness
    will shine upon us
like the sun that rises
    in the sky.
On us who live
in the dark shadow
    of death
this light will shine
to guide us
    into a life of peace.

Luke 1:78-79

 

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Suffering is Not an “Automatic Godliness” Button

I write this post with tears still soggy on my lower eyelashes.  I have read in the news of yet another compounded tragedy – where one tragedy added to the pain of another and beget another tragedy.  And a family is left torn up and wounded beyond recognition in its wake.  It reminds me of so many other stories and things I’ve been pondering lately.

The choices made that led up to this second tragedy devastate me, and would have seriously confused me as well a mere two or three years ago. But God has been teaching me something so seriously sobering as I enter into the sufferings of others, and experience it myself.

Suffering is not an “Automatic Godliness” button.

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I think that we Christians give ourselves pep talks for trials by thumping our flimsy, unarmored chests and saying, “No worries.  It will make me a better Christian.  Everything will happen to make me grow.  I’ll come out the other side more Christlike.”  As if we can sit back in our lawn chairs and wait for the magic happen.

The thing is, we’re told to PUT our armor on (Ephesians 6:10).  We’re told it’s a battle.  We are not spectators in our own trials, lying in surprise pain and waiting for it to be over when we can be awarded with instant Spiritual Hero trophies.

I’ve seen family members go through the exact same trial, and one is a light and beacon for her faith, while the other walks away from God completely.

172013316I’ve seen very similar adults go through nearly identical rejections and hurts, and one man is bitter and angry, assuming the worst about all of humanity, while the other embraces those around him, counseling and promoting God’s goodness.

It shocked me – the unpredictability of the response of humans to suffering.  The unpredictability of my own heart.  And that’s when I realized that suffering changes you, in one direction or the other.  You can’t stay stagnant.  You’re either going to fester and blister and wound, or you’re going to be cleaned out and refined like gold.  But it’s something in which you have a say.

I’d even go so far as to say that trials are not to GIVE you faith, but to TEST your faith.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4 says that the trials are to test our already existing faith, to make us more Christlike.  To do a work, not to have you stand still.  And the passage implies that we should already have the faith necessary to withstand and produce steadfastness.  That we should be waiting on WHEN, not IF these trials come – expectant and ready.

Maybe what’s important isn’t the outward specifics of any trial – “big” or “small” – but how bad the inward yuck you have to battle in the midst of it.

If it’s not actual faith that we have inside, it’s sin, or most likely, some mixture of both.  Suffering WILL bring out our yuck.  And every little sin has the potential to be exposed when we go through a tough time.  They come to the surface, often shocking our family, surprising our friends, mortifying ourselves.  Some of us have a whole host of yuck that come spinning out of the deepest crevices of our hearts.

Absolutely no one can sit there and assume that sin will just flee in the face of suffering.  Throw on your armor, wipe your sweat, and fight.  Otherwise, that heart will be unrecognizable at the end of your trial if you choose to lie around in the mud and wait it out, lazy and unhappy.

God clearly is the one fighting with you and for you, but He desires our action and our 220px-bowser_-_new_super_mario_bros_2hard work alongside of Him – it’s the way He planned it to be.  I want to start a list of the sins I’m aware of, the yuck that lingers and are hard to beat, and I want to get diligent about a spiritual military regimen to fight them today. I don’t want to wait for a trial to explode them into giant bosses like at the end of a video game level.

One thing is for sure: suffering may not be an instant godliness button, but it will definitely, always, 100% of the time, change you. 

There is no option to just stand still. Do you want it to change you to be like Christ?  Or do you want it to change you into a monster that no one, least of all yourself, ever would have expected to be your future?

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Tim. 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its improper desires.” Romans 13:14

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rev.12:11

“For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.” Ps. 18:39

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

“Through You we will push back our adversaries, through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.” Ps. 44:5

“We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Romans 8:37

 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” 1 Pet. 5:8-9

 

 

The Good-Embarrassing of My Mom

My mom will be embarrassed by this post.

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But the good kind of embarrassed, I hope.  And it’s all well and right to good-embarrass a godly person once in a while.

We just finished studying Romans in BSF this year, and Paul good-embarrassed a boatload of people at the end of Romans 16 – Paul knew how to give praise and affirmation, and how to be thankful.

And that’s what I want to do today, on Mothers’ Day Eve.

2011_01_11_KES-1449_2When I first became a mother back in 2011, Mothers’ Day quickly had all sorts of significance.  I had been cut open and stitched back together to bring my husband’s and my DNA into the world, and so I deserved to be celebrated, dagnabbit!  With my three-month-old daughter in tow, on my first official Mothers’ Day, we revisited the arboretum where we got engaged and had pictures taken.  My mom was there too, probably taking the pictures, but the day was suddenly about me.

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I was twenty-four years old and thought I was the best mom in the world. The doc had diagnosed a serious dairy allergy in my infant and I was totally off dairy to nurse her.  She was three months old, and I knew everything.

Right.

Here I am now, seven years later, three little girls later, and all I’m thinking is Heeeeeeeelp.   I know nothing.  I never knew anything.  I’m going to fail them.  I’m already failing them.  How did my Mom do it, and what made her so gloriously wonderful?

But now she lives across the U.S. and I can’t hit the arboretum with her, or stop by on a bad day and cry, or throw myself into her arms and say thank you about two hundred times.

Now, in 2018, this day is all about her to me.

My mom was the golden middle child of five.  And I don’t mean she was perfect.  I mean she was literally golden.  The only blondie in a household of brunettes.  The only one that really looked like her own mom.

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She was friendly and outgoing, a bit of a follower, and super cute.  She wanted to be well-liked, and she tried to please everyone.

One day at the end of high school, she was invited to Young Life, and there she confessed her sins and embraced Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross.

While she got her teaching degree, she worked all over doing numerous fun and temporary jobs during the summers, including a stint at the Von Trapp family lodge in Vermont.  She was an evangelist, a people-person, and cheerful.  She sparkled and enjoyed life.  All of the pictures I’ve ever seen of her show her smiling broadly, happy, purposeful.  She’s the perfect picture of a healthy ENFJ.

One time, in Boston, she took a teaching job that involved kids on parole.  By the start of the year, numerous teachers had already quit, but my mom hung on.  On the outside, she doesn’t look tough – the woman cries at practically every touching movie we watch, and numerous books as well – but she has guts on the inside that people always underestimate about her.  And mostly she has a gigantic, whale-sized heart.  She loved those difficult kids when no one else would.

Wait, I’m talking about my siblings and me.  Did you think I meant the kids on parole?  Oh yeah, she loved them too.  *wink*

She stuck that class through and won them over that year.  She also spent years teaching special needs children and adored them.

But rewind.

After moving to Colorado to live with a dear college friend who had just had a difficult miscarriage, she met my dad who was stationed nearby in the army. They met at Sunday School, because my mom was always at church, rain or shine.  She was also planning on heading to Japan for short-term ministry when they met, and she planned her wedding in a short space and time before leaving for overseas.

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Six years later, after my dad got out of the army and graduated from Harvard, my mom had me.  After that, the rest of us came quickly, four children in five years.

38809_140824595948509_806722_nMom stayed home and became the world’s best housewife.  She had a schedule for everything on her multiple whiteboards, and she was as predictable as the sun rising in the mornings.  Everything had a place, everything was secure, everything was safe.  She made us feel like our world was all right.

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Mom got excited about homeschooling pretty early on, and started with me right away in kindergarten.  As each younger sibling began school with us, she added to her own workload without a blink of the eye.  Every once in a while, she’d beg for her fifteen minute nap in the middle of the day, but that’s only because she got up at five thirty in the morning to meet with God one-on-one for hours.  And could she nap!  She could go out like a light at 199852_195007213863580_1038841_na moment’s notice, in a public place even, without pausing a second.  I’ll never forget the time the piano teacher found her asleep on a chair in the other room, mouth wide open.  Mom is a queen napper.  She has no ability to stay up late.  She’ll get this fuzzy delirious look and won’t listen to a word you are saying.  As a teen, I should’ve asked her for big bad things at that time of night.  She wouldn’t have remembered saying yes. *wink*

Faithfully taking us to the very best of Bible studies, to all of our sports, to all of our friends’ houses, and laying down her lives for ours, Mom didn’t have much time for herself outside of her home, her children, and her Lord.  But she led Bible studies and 1914825_186167651414203_7180005_n (2)neighborhood groups, started get-togethers and women’s meet-and-greets.  She could get to know anyone.  Meeting new people is her favorite pleasure in life. We used to groan and joke every time someone randomly started telling Mom their life story.  She knows the grocery checkers by name, will pray for their children by name, and starts conversations with all the other moms at the sports games and doctors’ offices.  No one is off-limits to Mom when it comes to a conversation, and she knows how to slip Jesus in when you aren’t expecting it.

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Mom can disarm anyone.  I’ve never met a single person who doesn’t like her.  People walk away warmed from the inside out because she’s the least intimidating, most caring person you’ll ever come across.  And when she says she’ll pray for you, she means it, in her numerous organized prayer journals, and on down on her well-used knees.

Mom used to randomly say, “I love you, Rachael Lynn,” using our full names, just because she felt gushy inside.

The only conflict I can really remember us having is when I would blitz through my chores like a madwoman, wanting to get to my entertainment and play, and Mom would go back over the dust with her finger, calling out my lack of thoroughness.  Or the times I’d get far too creative and not really do the work she wanted me to do.  Or the time she’d use her razor sharp discernment and call me out on something spiritually that I’d delusionally insist wasn’t true.  Or the times she’d try to correct my early writing and I was too arrogant to submit to it.  Sometimes we’d call her Scrooge, which she hated, because she suggested doing away with Christmas presents and just focusing on Christ.  *wink*

She is in my top two favorite people to be around, including my husband.

And then I got to my late teens and early twenties, and I wanted my friends, wanted to my freedom, wanted my husband.  And I was moving too fast and being too foolish and getting too obsessed.  And Mom was frightened about the technology and “Inter-web” and “intelligent phones” and things that might take me away from the Lord and their home.  I kept silent, expecting her to handle things badly, lying to her and being rebellious deep in my heart.  But when my sin came out, she was nothing but forgiving and gracious, adapting in ways I had not thought possible, embracing the future God had for me, counseling and guiding me, and I slowly began to repent and grow.

No matter what interests take my fancy, Mom is interested too.  Mom listens, researches, studies, and embraces.  No matter how weird.  No matter how odd.

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All the granddaughters

She insisted on doing all of the gardening and mowing herself, and taught us how to run a home independently by age twelve.  She took us on hikes and sang us the bear song and the skinny-dipping song.  She gave us St. Patrick’s Day treasure hunts and folding-laundry-movie nights.  She took us on all-expenses-paid vacations with her inheritance money and put little gifts on our car dashboards.  She held hour of prayer days and taught us hymns.  She let us sleep in her bed when Dad was away on business trips, even when we kicked her in the middle of the night.  She taught us about the human skeletal system, even when it made her feel like passing out and she had to sit with her head between her knees.  We made meals for church members, hosted strangers, and prayed for persecuted nations.  She taught us to see outside ourselves.

She does everything well.  She would insist I’m lying when I say that, so I have to admit she’s never had a great relationship with technology.  She’d gush and gush about how patiently I taught her how to use a computer, but to me, she was easy.  I’m pretty sure I first realized that I loved teaching from all of the pleasant hours spent showing her how to minimize a window.  *wink*

11700878_1115777958439547_6278047765549556863_nMom reads every single one of my novels as I write it, giving few critiques, but all excitement, loving and rooting on my characters, lecturing me for writing something that keeps her up too late at night unable to put it down.

When I got married and moved away, Mom still visits and simply cleans my house, attending my children’s sports and activities, even grocery shopping together.  When she visits, we do life together, and she’s like my second set of hands.  We work together, talking until my throat hurts, best friends sharing our souls.  We can talk Christ for days on end.  I never tire of being in her presence.

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I, as her child, rise up and call her blessed.  Many women have done virtuously, but she excels them all. I truly strain in my head to find faults with my mom.  They simply don’t exist. She walks more humbly and closely with God than another human being I’ve ever met – and I would know!  She loves Jesus with a realness and dearness that I long to emulate, and she loves people in complete purity.  She is gracious, giving, non-judgmental, flexible, loyal, and pleasant.  She laughs easily, she serves continually, and she is wise.  She is over and beyond humble, and she has suffered long.  Her faith does not waver.

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If I could be half of who my mom is, I would be satisfied.  Thank You, Lord, for putting a spiritual giant so closely in my life as my very best friend.

I love you, Mom.  Happy Mothers’ Day.

 

 

 

Open Letters to Persecuted Christians – From My Children

We’ve been praying through Voice of the Martyrs prayer calendar – praying for a different persecuted country every day.  This has been very eye-opening to my two oldest

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Front Cover of the Prayer Calendar

girls – children who’ve known peace, safety, and security all their lives.

Today we studied a passage on heaven and Jesus’s second coming.  At the end of the passage, Paul tells people to encourage each other with these words.  I mentioned that thinking about eternity in heaven was probably very encouraging to those being persecuted, and my oldest daughter got a lightbulb idea from the Lord.

“Let’s write a note of encouragement to them about heaven!” she said.

So that became our English assignment for the day.  ❤

I copied down exactly what both girls wanted to say.  These are 100% their words, not mine.  As we look for a place or person to mail these, I thought I’d share them here as well.  ❤

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            I’m writing to you because I want you to know that Christ is always with you and you can depend on Him to always be there.  Even if your enemy is hurting you, you can know that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, will always be there in your heart and around you.  You can know that at some point you will be in heaven and you will enjoy it.  You will get to see the Lord who you’ve been waiting for – the One you believe in!  If any of your Christian family members have been hurt or persecuted or killed, you will be able to see them up in heaven too.  Just remember that Jesus, your Lord, is still with you, and you can depend on Him to help you.  Every day, in every way, He will always keep His eye on you, so that He knows what is happening. Everything that is happening to you is all in His sight and it is all for good.  Even though you might be alone, you can still have the Holy Spirit in your heart and you can keep Him there. He will never leave or go away.  You will never leave Him.  You will always be in God’s arms. Even though we, in America, haven’t gone through the persecution you have, we still have a very bad sin of not focusing on God.  😦 We can learn from you because you and your family focus on God and keep up standing up for who you believe in.

Love,

R.S., 7 years old, USA

 

Dear friend in Christ,

            God loves you and He will always be there for you, no matter how hard your troubles are.  He’s there with you! When Jesus comes back again, there will be a great celebration.  He will take all of the Christians up, and, if you are one, He will take you up too.  🙂 At the end of the world, God will create a new earth and it will be part of heaven. Everyone will be satisfied in heaven and there will be no sadness. There will be no anger.  There will be no dying.  Everything will be happy in heaven! Whenever you have a trouble, just pray to God and He will figure out a way to solve the problem. I will meet you in heaven too!  🙂

Love,

R.J., 5 1/2 years old, USA

Why I Stopped Texting at Red Lights

may1Last year, my state of Washington enacted a new law: you can’t even hold your phone in your hand at red lights any more.  Ever.  You will be ticketed and fined if you are caught even holding your phone at a red light while sitting and waiting.  Yes.  For reals.  The article is here.

I think this law is stupid.

End of blog post.

—–

Okay… just kidding.  There’s more.  *wink*

I could go into all the reasons why I loathe this new law, why I think its stupid, etc. etc.  What is dangerous about sitting completely stopped at a red light? Practically nothing that would involve a phone.  How long are those red lights where you’re just sitting and waiting?  Often super long.  Would I ever practically get caught doing it if I kept my hand down below the window?  Probably not.

Will so many of you comment with why the law isn’t stupid and will I still insist it’s stupid?  Yep.  *wink*

I could also give you all of my excuses: I get lost easily and have to constantly check gps.  True.  I never text or anything while actually moving.  True.  I am an efficient person who likes to use that dead time.  True. The odds are 99.999999999% that nothing will ever ever happen if I hold my phone in my hand while stopped at a red light.  Also true.  The law was probably made because people are too stupid to pay attention to whether their car’s moving or not.  Probably also true.

However, it’s a law.  It can be repealed on the basis of idiocy, but until then, we’re stuck with it.

I keep wondering if my kids are whispering the same things to themselves behind my back.

“This is stupid.”

It probably feels super stupid to them when I tell them to turn the other way and not sneeze all over the food.  I know they’ve got to think it’s stupid, because they continue to sneeze all over the food and look confused when I exclaim over it.

It probably feels stupid when I tell them to get dressed, make their beds, tidy up their rooms, and do their devotions before they go down to breakfast.  Because time and time again, they choose to ignore this one also.

There are lots of things our authorities tell us to do that can seem overbearing, nonsensical, and stupid.  However, we elect those authorities into office, and until laws get changed, the stuff still stands, stupid or not.

Yet there are just things that are tempting to ignore because they seem stupid.  Using your phone at a red light isn’t in the Bible.  It’s not even considered common sense nationwide.  If I were to move back to Texas tomorrow, I could still hold my phone in my hand and make calls while I drive!

After the umpteenth time of trying to reiterate why we have a certain rule in our house, and having my kids give me that blank look that shows stuff isn’t computing, in a fit of frustration, I vowed never to use my phone at a red light again.

That wasn’t where you thought I was going with this, was it?  *wink*

But really.  I just realized that there are areas – giant areas – and sometimes teeny tiny areas – of unsubmission in my own heart.  Things I want to do anyway because I truly think I know better – and because I’ve decided they’re stupid.

And because I was trying my very best to get through to my kids – “Whether you like it or not or care about it or not, God says to obey your mother, and so you should want to do it because you LOVE HIM, and obeying me shows love to Him.  So because you love Him, just do your homework assignment the way I told you to.  Okay?”

I realized that often times I show hypocrisy.

Now there are gigantic ways I do this, of course, and you might be saying, “Come now, RJ!  What’s this about phones at red lights?  Next you’re probably going to talk to us about watching illegally ripped movies on Youtube or fibbing that your vacuum cleaner stopped working and that’s why your carpet wasn’t clean!  No one cares about this little stuff.  We all do it.  Talk to us about your big, deep sins.  Let’s gawk at that.”

Oh, my friend, I usually do.  I usually talk about the giant stuff on this blog.  But not today.  Today I want to talk to you about a stupid new little law on cell phones at red lights.

Because I think that the same heart attitude of, “I don’t care.  Stupid people made this stupid law and I’m going to do what I want anyway” is the same attitude that my kids have towards completing their chores, and the same attitude I have towards all my biggest sins of pride, ungodly speech, impatience, selfishness, and fear.

“I know what I want, and so I’m going to do it anyway.”

When did Christians become people who tried to get away with as much as possible, instead of people striving for holiness?

And no, I’m not saying we do even the smallest and stupidest of laws so we can be “perfect” and harshly, fearfully lash out at those around us (or maybe even internally judge) like, “How DARE you commit the red-light-law?!  God have MERCY on YOUR SOUL.”

Also, don’t do it because of those watching.  “Kids, let me read you this blog article I just wrote.” *sniffs and straightens lapels* “You can get a good look at how righteous Mama is!  Feel like wanting to be me?”

No, I’m saying, strive for holiness in all those little unsubmissive ways that are pricking your conscience right now – for no one other than the Lord Himself.  Because you love Him.

You’re so in love with Him, that you’d lay down every pleasure, everything that you’re lazy about, everything that you just can’t do without, and everything asked of you just because He defines your happiness and reality. Because you want the cleanest conscience and the holiest living because you’re just in love with who He is – and simply because He says so. ❤

 

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 RJ Conte is a wife and homeschool mother of three little girls (aged 7 and under) by day, and an author by night.  She has written a devotional for toddlers and preschool kids that is meatier than the typical fare they hear in Sunday school.  ASTOUND delivers doctrine and big concepts for the very small, and teaches them to love God, in language they can understand!

 

Do you have a FACE?

When it’s 2 AM and your brain is shot because you were up to 4 AM last night transferring files onto your new laptop, and you’re still busy doing it tonight and you’re sooooo done…

You get weird thoughts.

There was a line in a George MacDonald book I was reading called “The Fisherman’s Lady” that is sitting deep inside of me and making me think.
In it, the character of the blind bagpiper is this really quirky old man. He’s been blind his whole life. He adores his family but hates his enemies. He’s a stubborn, stubborn, passionate man with a few obvious strengths and a few glaring faults. Someone with the last name of Campbell killed his great grandmother, dooming that generation of his family members to a hard life. Even though that doesn’t affect his own personal life, he’s sworn to DESPISE anyone from the Campbell family – going so far as to wish them dead. Like it runs deep.

At one point, someone tries to challenge him biblically on his hatred and lack of forgiveness – this didn’t even happen in his generation! The guy is a really decent grandfather, good citizen, and Christian man, yet he can’t forgive this enemy of his ancestor. It’s like he needs something to passionately hate. His pride is a scourge on his heart.

Her words just don’t get through to him, and she finally approaches his grandson, the main character, Malcolm.
Malcolm has a thought that keeps sitting in my brain.

Okay, look at this picture of these babies. Just look at each one’s FACE. See the vulnerable, adorable HUMANITY in that face.

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Well, everyone started out a baby just like that. And everyone has a FACE. A face with humanity all over it.

Malcolm points this out and tells the woman,

“When I was a young laddie at the school, I once heard that a certain boy was mocking my grandfather. When I heard that I thought I could have just cut the heart out of him and sunk my teeth right into it. But when I finally found him and got a grip of him, and the rascal turned up a frightened dog-face to me, I just couldn’t drive my clenched fist into it. Mem, a face is an awful thing! There’s something looking out from inside that just prevents you from doing what you might otherwise like to it. But my grandfather’s never seen a face in his life.”

I wonder if that’s why people can be so vicious on FACEbook – because there really isn’t a FACE to be seen anywhere in the conversation. If that’s why the real wicked lurking in people’s hearts actually come out online. We don’t really see the eyes – the window to the soul – of the people we’re talking to before we cut their hearts out and sink our teeth into them.

And then there’s Charlottesville.

Seriously, I don’t even use the word “race.” There isn’t such a thing. There are different levels of melanin in the skin, and, to be honest, melanin doesn’t interest me a hoot. I don’t give a rat’s behind about melanin. Now we all have a FACE. And the face is always, always beautiful. The face says we are all human beings. ❤

Some people who have eyes that work are actually blind. Look into the FACE. And see people God created and loves. That’s all that matters to me!

Forgive, love, give, serve, and be the FACE of Christ to others!

 

Clean Romance, Infertility, and Marriage Advice from Melanie D. Snitker!

MelanieDSnitker2016Melanie D. Snitker is a sweet author friend of mine from Texas.  She writes stories with a heart – an emphasis on a deep love for each character, and a romance to go with it!  I’d like to think that if you enjoy my novels, you’d enjoy hers.  🙂

Melanie has prayed for me, knit baby cutesies for me, and encouraged me at the hardest of times.  I hope all of you can support her worthy books!  Thanks for being you, Melanie!

You can purchase Melanie’s books here on Amazon.com!

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Me: Hi, Melanie! Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types.  Share about being an ISFJ and what your personality is like. 🙂

Melanie: You know, I’d never thought much about the Myers-Briggs types until I met you, RJ! I find it all fascinating. Like you mentioned, I’m an ISFJ. I’m definitely quiet and very introverted. I get along well with people, and I tend to be a really good listener. If I say I’m going to do something, not only will it get done, but I’ll do my best while I’m working on it. I’m organized, and I rely heavily on lists and my online calendar. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced ties into my being an introvert: I also tend to worry about what others think. I’m slowly getting better about this as I get older, but it was something that held me back for a long, long time. I think that it will always be something that’s in the back of my mind to a degree. I have to admit I really admire those who can say and do anything and not worry what others will think!

Me: Even we 100% extroverts can be people-pleasers and worry what others think, for sure.  I’ve been LOVING the book When People are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch, and would love to recommend it right now to my readers.  It’s helped me put God in His proper place, and see my need to love others instead of just *need* them.  🙂
Speaking of loving people, you write the sweetest romances ever. What first inspired you to help and write about clean romance for Christians?

Melanie: I enjoyed romance novels as a teen, but didn’t really read much beyond Janette Oke, Dee Henderson, and a few other Christian authors. When I got into high school, I started to browse through some of the other romance novels at the library. I was shocked to find that clean romance was a difficult thing to find. That’s when I decided I would start writing the kind of romance novels I wouldn’t mind my own daughter reading some day.

Me: What a sweet legacy!
How many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Melanie: I’ve lived in Arizona, both in Flagstaff and Phoenix. A lot of people that haven’t been to Flagstaff are surprised to find that it has a lot of mountains, and it can get a fair amount of snow in the winter. I’ve also lived in many different places in Oregon as well as Texas (where I currently reside). My favorite place to live overall is Texas. The people here are incredibly friendly, I like the mild winters, and I love all the wildflowers (bluebonnets, especially) in the spring. My second favorite place would be Oregon, especially in the fall when all the leaves turn. Gorgeous!

Me: I live in the gorgeous pacific northwest as well!  Love it!
Melanie, you were a huge encouragement to me two years ago. Can you tell us about one of the hardships you’ve experienced and how God has used that in your life? ❤

Melanie: I have endometriosis and it has resulted in a lot of infertility issues that I’ve dealt with for a long time. It took two and a half years of tests and a surgery for my endo before we found out our son was on the way. After he was born, we’d hoped that the next baby would be much easier. Four and a half years later (after another surgery and different medications), we were finally able to try one round of IVF. Praise God, one of those sweet embryos burrowed in to stay, and our daughter was born eight months later. There were so many times during this journey when I wondered where God was and why this had to be so hard. But I learned more about patience than I would’ve liked to, and I also learned about God’s perfect timing. There have been many times in the last six years since our daughter was born where I’ve looked back and realized that, even though I didn’t think so at the time, God really did know what He was doing!

Me: I loved your faith when I was going through that hardship myself!  And you have absolutely beautiful kiddos!!  You have absolutely beautiful characters too.  😛 Which character, in all of your books, is your favorite?

Melanie: I’m going to have to go with Lexi (although Lance is a close second). She’s introduced in Finding Peace, the first book the Love’s Compass series. Then she and Lance get their own story in the second book, Finding Hope. She’s my favorite because she goes through a lot in her life with a cancer diagnosis that leads to a complete hysterectomy which saves her life. It also means she’ll never have children of her own. What causes her inability to get pregnant may be very different from what I or many of my friends have experienced with infertility, but many of the emotions are the same. She’s definitely a character that was written straight from my heart.

Me: Awww.  I remember Lexi!  So what’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

Melanie: I’ve had several readers thank me for creating quality, clean romance novels that they can read without the guilt, and that they wouldn’t hesitate to let their teen daughters read as well. It’s what I originally set out to do, and even though the road of an author can be a rocky one at times, it’s encouragement like that which reminds me it’s all worth it!

Me: Amen! On a real-life front, how do you think we, as Christians, can learn to love like Christ more in our marriages?

Melanie: I think it’s easy to get caught up in every day life. Things get hectic, the kids always need something, and by the end of the day, it’s easy to feel like we have nothing left to give. But it’s the little things that show Christ’s love in a marriage. Like when my husband is completely exhausted, yet takes the trash out with a smile. Or when I’ve had a rough day and I’m tired, but I bake my husband the cookies he loves because it will brighten his afternoon. The other day, we had a busy afternoon full of cleaning and grocery shopping. I’ll admit, I was a complete grump by dinner and not much fun to be around. Instead of getting upset with me, or even letting my mood change his, my sweet husband made a trip to the store to find something I was looking for, and even brought something else back that made me laugh. Finding ways to put our spouse first, even when it isn’t easy, can give us even a small glimpse of the kind of unconditional love that Christ has for us!

Me: I think your home must be very joyful and warm.  🙂  Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: Thanks again, RJ!