Today is My Thirtieth Second Birthday

Today is my 30th 2nd birthday.

I’m already thirty-two years old, so I’m not using Hobbit speech to say the same thing. I mean that today, thirty whole years ago, I became a Christian. I was born again. My second birthday.

It was a meaningful day today because it was also the deadline to submit my addition to the Beatitude and Woe anthology Bear Publishing is putting together. I will sign again with a small press, submitting my short story, The Tears of the Emperor. *I* shed a lot of tears writing the story, which I painstakingly brought down to exactly 9,999 words.  It talks about trusting God’s sovereignty when you don’t understand why He’d allow so much suffering, waiting on a prodigal you’re praying for who’s broken your heart, and walking forward in obedience even when you don’t understand and you don’t want to do the thing. I sobbed all the way through writing it. My verse was “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” 

As I hit thirty years of being born again, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed. I’m disappointed I still lack patience, disappointed I still get angry, disappointed things like the new abortion laws can shake my view of God’s goodness for a solid week. I’m disappointed in the things I’m still afraid of, and in the ways I get discouraged. I’m disappointed that I’m not more self-disciplined and am not where I want to be in all ways as a person.

But I’m also sweetly encouraged by the Holy Spirit to see the ways in which He’s shown me mercy, the things I’ve absorbed, and the fact that going to God’s Word and prayer is always the first thing on my mind. I enjoy learning about Him, I enjoy being in His Word, and I love His church. I am content in my stage of life, I love being a mom, and I can’t get enough of other Christians who spur me on toward love and good deeds. God is making me more like Jesus, even if I can’t always see it. He keeps His promises.

Sometimes it’s a rocky rollercoaster. Sometimes the things I’ve known intellectually for decades really stretch me emotionally. Sometimes I’m lazy in my faith and expect God just to automatically make things happen without having to work hard. But He’s taken me through some awful, awful things where I wanted to walk away but I didn’t because my heart was held fast to a deep, binding cord attached to Christ. There is nothing else for me besides Him.

And so I am thankful. As I walk ahead toward another thirty or sixty years of being in Christ, I look forward to being made more like Him, to conquering these life-long sins, and to seeing Him work in my life. I want Him to be as dear to me as He was to Moses. I want my face to shine and my heart to be like His. I am so very thankful He made me His own little lamb thirty years ago.

Have you trusted in Christ as the Savior of your sins? Don’t wait. Submit and do it now. Joy is waiting. ❤

 

30th Christian Birthday

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When You Feel Like a Drop in the Bucket – Helping Fight Abortion

I spent three days of last week in an angry, emotional fog.
The abortion news hit me really, really hard, and I cried and panicked my way through 72 hours. If you didn’t know, that’s okay. I didn’t even want to talk about it. I posted a lot on Facebook, but mostly stayed at home and sobbed my way through some emotional prayer times.
 
I just felt this deep, angry, panic that there was nothing I could do to rescue all of these children. Nothing I could do to stop evil. And it felt like God Himself had no answers for me when I begged Him.
 
But then at some point, I did quiet down a bit and turned a corner in my thinking. I still don’t know God’s plan for these babies, and why so many die before they step foot on earth. I still don’t know if God’s populating heaven with them – and the reverse idea feels like insanity and I can’t handle the thought, so I don’t go there. In faith I trust that God is protecting these babies. “For such is the kingdom of heaven.” 
 
And I realized what I CAN do is give money – donate to your crisis pregnancy centers, even if, like me, you’re far too over-committed to take on donating time. Donate money. They need it badly for supplies, brochures, medical equipment, and more.
 
I realized I had some tracts through 180movie.com that not only are pro-life and talk about the unborn’s right to life, but also share the gospel. I plan on handing those out and putting them in bathroom stalls and leaving them where they can be found.
 
AND I want to just be a better evangelist. The best way to save lives is to try to save the people with power over those lives. The only way to truly stop people from being murderous and selfish in their choices is to change their hearts to love Jesus and others more than themselves. So bringing people in my city the gospel is the best thing I can do for the unborn.
 
Therefore, using my own mom as an example – who can get any human being to talk at any time 😛 – I started to look for ways to talk to people. When I picked up Cinnabon for my husband, I noticed the cashier’s nametag, which was unusual, and told her I loved names because I wrote Christian fiction. She actually wrote down my name and wants to look up my Christian books. ❤
 
In the grocery store – which is the place my husband and I get the worst comments about having three daughters – when a woman started to remark on our extreme case of estrogen in our home and to rant about her own daughter, including cursing, I latched onto the fact that she mentioned church and engaged her about her denomination and told her where our church was located. She ended our conversation by saying I gave her hope for a relationship with her daughter and little girl she nannies in the future.
 
This is NOT normally the way I engage strangers. As chipper and extroverted as I am, I’m also a busy mom who likes to get in, shop, and get out. I have enough to do worrying about my crazy toddler and naptime and homeschooling and our schedule. Usually I ignore the strangers around me unless they approach me first, and then I only spare them a big smile, and then run off to “get stuff done.” But now I’m trying to take the time to find ways to engage the people around me and get in something about my faith, my writing ministry, or my church.
 
I still feel horrified about the infant holocaust we’ve got going on, and I’m still going to ask God a ton of questions when I get to heaven, and I’m very honest with Him how I feel because He knows my heart through and through anyway, but at least now I have action.
 
And we can pray. Always, first and foremost, pray. It’s the best thing we have. ❤
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Love Thy Transgender Neighbor

This is a blog article for those who believe that the Word of God is completely true and that we are to obey what God says in it.  If you are not a Bible-believing Christian, this article isn’t for you.  I have not written it to have transgender debates.  Thank you.

 

I live in the pacific northwest.

I love it here.  It’s gorgeous, the trees are more numerous than the stars that can be seen in the cloudy sky, and the summers are to die for – light up until 10 pm at night and most days a perfect 75 degrees.  I love the lakes, the hiking, and the views.  I also love my church, Bible study community, and neighborhood.  I love that the Christians are who they say they are, and homeschooling and attending a mega church isn’t cool just because you live in the Bible belt and everyone else is doing it.  It’s what you actually believe. Even the Christian youth seem different.

But living in the pacific northwest means that homosexuality is acceptable and rampant.  I’ll never forget going on a date with my husband into downtown Seattle, and seeing a homeless woman on the ground with all of her belongings strewn about her, being ignored by a pair of sharply-dressed men holding hands, waiting to cross the street.  I wish I had snapped a picture of it.  If that doesn’t say Seattle, I don’t know what else does.

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This is not my picture, but it almost could have been

In our teeny community a drive from Seattle, we mostly avoid running into this kind of thing, and for a mom of three girls, two in elementary school and one a toddler, that makes me feel relieved, which in turn makes me feel a little bit guilty.

Better to just not look and pretend it’s not happening, right?

But yesterday I was out shopping with the oldest daughter, who is almost eight years old, and we ran into a Taco Bell up north of us in a slightly more urban area.  After placing our order and asking for the code for the bathroom – proof you’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto – I was flirted with by the cashier.

Who was very obviously a woman.

Now I can’t tell whether or not she was actually a lesbian, but a lot of the signs were there, and nothing about the exchange left me feeling at all comfortable.  I laughed, motioning to my daughter at my side, making a point of saying, “I’m a mom of three, so it’s nice to hear such a compliment.  Thank you.”  But the serious stare on her face and her insistence on commenting on my physical appearance went a long way to making me want to hightail it out of the restaurant.  Still, I wished her a wonderful day, and smiled at her as if she were any other woman, thanking her for her high praise. 

My daughter had no idea anything was up, only knowing that someone kept calling her mom “really, really pretty” a couple of times, as well as other chatter that meant nothing to her.  We moved on.

But what if she had realized the woman just might be flirtatious with other women? What if something made her vaguely uncomfortable too?

It’s not going to take very long for her to figure this kind of thing out.  Because that’s where we live.

I don’t think Christians are supposed to move out of every liberal area and create mini conservative heavens-on-earth in the Bible belt or podunk hick towns out in the middle of nowhere.  I don’t think that’s being salt and light. (John 17:14-16) Now, obviously, things can get so bad that it’s just time to protect your own and leave.  And that decision – that things have hit So Bad Level – is totally up to you and what God’s telling you. But how are we supposed to evangelize these Christ-apathetic or even Christ-hostile places if we don’t actually live there once in a while?

I actually do homeschool my kids, and I look for lots of ways to protect them, but not when it comes to who she runs into in daily life, and learning to love no matter what.

I see a lot of absolute, throwdown, hogwash nonsense (my years in the south are showing) coming out of the media and the liberal left these days.  They have been bullies, pushing their homosexual crazytalk down Christians’ throats, badgering them, twisting them into corners, taking away their businesses and their rights to free speechEspecially here in the pacific northwest.

I, along with many Christians, often press the “angry” button as a Facebook response to these posts.  I very often shake my head in total shock and horror and call it “insanity.”

And it is insanity.

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But it’s just so not the first time the church has been up against outright insanity.  Back in the time of Nero – who actually was insane – Christians were thrown to lions to be torn to shreds in front of a cheering crowd.  Real live people got a rush watching real live people’s limbs ripped apart, blood everywhere, while the beasts gorged on their flesh.  All because those people believed in Jesus.  Yeah, that’s insanity.

(And I’ve got to stop right here, people, and be real with you.  When you exclaim your love for Game of Thrones… you look like a crazed Colosseum-goer.  There’s sick stuff on that show.  Maybe no one’s really dying, but those are real naked bodies, and they’re being exploited on national television every day.  And you’re putting that kind of poisonous lion-eating adrenaline into your bloodstream and created-in-God’s-image soul, desensitizing yourself to that kind of exploitation of women.  And if you can get a kick out of a show that glorifies abuse of men, women, and children in that way, then you’re not safe for my kids.  Please let me know if you love Game of Thrones so I can never, ever ask you to babysit. We Contes will love the heck out of you, but you’re not going to be left unattended with my daughters.)

In the time of Hitler, Jewish people were gassed en masse, and children tortured in horrendous medical experiments, and many left in prison camps to starve to death all because they weren’t of Caucasian European descent.  That’s insanity too.

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Wedding bands taken from Holocaust victims

Even now, across the globe from you in your comfy pjs and your Diet Pepper and your takeout hamburger, people in other countries are raped, burned to death, kidnapped, and tortured for converting away from Islam or Hinduism.  That’s also insanity.

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Or how about the fact that we are murdering our unborn infants by the millions, and that abortion was the leading cause of death WORLDWIDE last year at 41 MILLION infants slaughtered? Utter, utter, depraved insanity.

So why are we surprised and wrathful and icked out by transgenderism?  It’s abuse our fellow Americans are doing personally to themselves this time – personally torturing their own bodies in ways that are truly biologically impossible – in yet another attempt to stick up their middle finger at God.   They’re not really hurting you, are they, Christian?  They’re surgically knifing themselves.

And they suffer and pay for it.

A recent study showed that 41% of all transgender people have attempted suicide. And many, many go through with it. That’s compared to 4.6% of all of the rest of the general population who tries to kill themselves.  A documentary I watched tells the graphic details about the sex change operations and how rarely they succeed, how they mess with you in horrific ways, and how so many regret such drastic changes that stunt their future marriages and bodies’ capabilities permanently.  There’s even an entire “underground railroad”-like ministry online helping people who are miserable and want to “detransition.”  Youtube is full of anonymous people talking about how miserable they were trying to live life as the opposite gender.

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These are deeply confused, deeply hurting people.  People who don’t feel right in their own skin, people who don’t feel like they even have an identity (which is a horrifying thought), people who notice when the look in your eye changes from, “Have a nice day!” to “Oh no.  That’s a man.” And suddenly you can’t keep eye contact and you want to get away as fast as possible.

Many who were abused before puberty by the same sex, resulting in feeling lost and confused when hormones kick in and they know they’ve only ever felt pleasure doing stuff with a man.  People who have had abusive parents of both genders, people who are told their emotions and interest in art isn’t “manly enough.” Or their less feely personalities, leadership skills, and faces and bodies aren’t “attractive” or “feminine enough.”  People who look at the older generation or the way society treats them, and decide, “I’d rather be the opposite gender than be anything like you.”

When women think that the only way they can succeed in life and protect themselves is to be male.

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Almost half of all transgenders in the U.S. are Hispanic or black, and often state it’s because they felt prejudiced against all their lives

 

And a host of other reasons, countless reasons, that, frankly, you and I will never guess.

Also, regardless of what Gillette has or hasn’t done in the past, an ad like that is aired, and most men are in uproar.  When, in reality, if you look closely, the ad’s simply telling men to be decent human beings who try to love and care for others.  That maybe “manhood” isn’t about always barbecuing and wrestling in the grass and watching porn on the TV with your friends because boys will be boys.  Maybe manhood means being affectionate like John once in a while, writing Psalms like David, caring for small children like Jesus, or weeping with the women when your best friend dies like when he lost Lazarus.  It also means slaying your Goliaths like David and averting your eyes so you do not lust like Job and being a wise ruler in your household like Solomon and running a profitable business that protects the poor like Boaz.  Let’s not forget the balance here. Masculinity is open to all types and gifts God gives men.  Femininity is open to all personalities and love languages God gives women.

Your son writes poetry and cries at other people’s funerals and is diplomatic without feeling the need to fight it out with his fists?  It’s not because he was meant to be a woman.  It might mean he has a heart like Christ.  Your daughter grows up to be a judge and her “serious voice” can make grown men under her shake in their boots and she slays all her own personal dragons in a no-nonsense way?  Probably means you were blessed with some amazing biblical Deborah, not that she’s too “butch” to be a lady.

Transgenders can be broken, abused, misunderstood, confused, and lonely people who have assumed they were created wrong because they’ve been told so by a society that has one pigeon-holed way of defining human beings.

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Jesus said “Love thy neighbor.”  (Mark 12:31)

Did He mean, “Be all for thy neighbor’s sex change and tell them you’re all approve their gay marriage?”  Absolutely not. Let’s not throw out God’s Word here.  (Romans 1) That’s sending unbelievers to damnation just the same as if we ran scared and never talked to them in the first place.  But He also sat with the woman at the well and told her all about the rich, lifegiving water she was thirsty for before calling out her sexual promiscuity in a kind, subtle, and no-frills way. (John 4)

Be aware that the people you run into in your grocery store probably aren’t the leftist media, ready to bully your kids at the checkout line, wanting to expose your children to weirdness at Taco Bell, and looking for a bomb they can toss into your neighborhood.  A lot of them are deeply emotional, sensitive people. They’re just folks who need to hear the gospel and repent of their sin – fear of man, discontentment, ingratitude, bitterness, thinking God is wrong, lack of love, and unbelief – all sins you and I commit daily.

Can you imagine raising children to know clear Scripture truth and to see instantly how to lovingly apply it to our transgender neighbors?

When I see a transgender person, I now see someone with a big “I’m going to try to commit suicide” label plastered on their forehead, because odds are, almost 1 in 2 will.  And others admit, in anonymous studies, that they at least think about it daily.  How shocking would it be for the adults in our churches to go up to them instead and ask them what they think about Christ?  Like, hey, we care about you and your pain and we think you’re worth sharing the gospel with just as much as the people in Timbuktu where we’ve sent missionaries.

If you saw your neighbor standing in his house while it was on fire, even if he wasn’t calling for help, wouldn’t you care enough to either yank him out, or at least call to him from the outside?  Wouldn’t you dial 911 and shout for help, doing all you could to protect him?  These people are lost, and have no idea the flames are licking so close.  If we run scared and angry from the insanity, who do they have left?  Your transgender neighbors are dying – by society’s twisted brainwashing, and ultimately their own.

Let’s love and save them, okay?

 

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“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

 

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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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