Posted in From The Altar, Out Of My Head, With The Kids

Not About “Me-Time”

There is this myth in our culture that we have to look out for number one in order to get anywhere successfully. “Put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.” It sounds like such wise advise. It sounds like wisdom. 

People hop from church to church because they aren’t “fed”. Even worse are those that use multiple churches to meet all their own “spiritual” needs. Sunday morning here, Bible study there, women’s group over here— using what they consider to be the “best” of each “option” to build their perfect spiritual atmosphere. 

There is a very big book industry based on this concept. You’ll find options to fit every person, every religious affiliation, every type of person. Moms need “me-time”. Christians need “me-time”. Women need “me-time”. It sounds like wisdom. 

Sometimes, what sounds like wisdom, isn’t wisdom at all. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (CSB) says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.” This message of “me-time”— looking out for yourself first— that isn’t the Christian message at all. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. As Philippians 2:4 says, we are to look out not for our own interests, but the interests of others. (If you want to argue the “not only” portion, do yourself a favor and look up the MOUNCE Greek translation on Bible Gateway and see that the “not only” has no Greek underneath, because it isn’t in the Greek. See Dr. Kinlaw’s The Mind of Christ for more on that subject.) 

Christ says, to find your life, you have to lose it. He doesn’t say that, to find your life, you need to set aside an appropriate amount of me time in order to better “center yourself” for that life. Nope. Following Jesus is dying to self. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Jesus is full of paradox. Things that sound like wisdom are foolish. The last will be made first— not because it is fair, but because that is His way. Those who lead will serve. Those who seem wise will be fools. If you really want to live, you lay down your life and let Him live through you. 

I’m not saying to neglect your health. I’m not saying that anything you do “for yourself” is sinful. I am saying that perhaps we need to look a little closer at the wisdom of the world and not accept it just because it sounds like wisdom. Check it against what God says in His book. Check it against your cultural assumptions. (Gym time is a luxury not afforded to many in this world. If you equate your gym time with personal righteousness, you are saying something about who can and cannot be righteous according to your gospel.) 

If I find myself looking for the religious experience that best suits me, I doubt I will find it. If I’m not being “fed”, perhaps the issue is that I’m not out in the field sowing. (“He who does not work will not eat” could apply to spiritual feeding, as well.) Perhaps I need to stop treating church like a spiritual gym and more like the meeting together of the people of God. 

When I am tired as a mother, the Bible does not tell me that luxury (through gym time, manicures, shopping, hair appointments, massages, etc.) is the way to find rest for my soul and strength for my task; the Bible tells me that in my weakness, He will be strong. It tells me that I can rest in Him and His promises. The Bible tells me that I will not work alone and that my work in making disciples of my children is His great commission. I could write an entire book on the blessing of being a mother and the amount of grace I’ve received from letting God work in those tired, busy times— but for today I’ll save you all of that. What I will say to the fellow mother who is struggling, feeling weighed down— the answer isn’t “me-time”. The answer is Jesus. Throw your full weight of burden on Him and watch Him transform it into something beautiful, meaningful, and redemptive.

Be careful, dear friends, in listening to what seems like wisdom. There is nothing wrong with going to the gym, getting your nails done, getting a massage, etc. There is something wrong if you equate those things with what it means to be a godly person. There is something wrong if you see those things as your “right”. There is something wrong if you are so focused and intent on those things that your are putting them first. This isn’t a call to martyrdom— to smear yourself in ashes and sackcloth to prove your righteousness. This is a call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about how you can serve others like Jesus.

Posted in From The Altar, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Christmas Day Devotion

It is finally here! Christmas!

Today, we celebrate the Jesus was indeed born to redeem us. He has come, and He offers us life in Himself. He has come, and He offers us hope in His name.

Our rescue has arrived! Our Redeemer has come!

We lit the candles of expectation, preparation, celebration, and incarnation! Today, we light the last candle, the Christ candle. The Christ candle is traditionally white, and in the center. Our Messiah has come. He is our light. He is our source of hope. He is at the center.

Today, as we celebrate the Savior’s birth, let’s remember that He offers to us the love of the heavenly Father. He who is the delight of the eternal Father came so that we too might be adopted into His eternal family. He wants to make us sons and daughters of His Father. He loves us that much.

While the Gospel compels us to share this message with those who do not yet know it, it also compels us as people who do already realize its wonder to rejoice and shout with gladness. Christ, our Savior, is born!

Christ has indeed come, and Christ will indeed come again! That’s good news!

Scripture Reading:

        Luke 2:1-20

Optional Activities:

·        Enjoy the day!

·        Remember that today is the first day of Christmas. Check back in for personal devotions through the 12 days of Christmas leading to Epiphany.

·        Take advantage of the next 12 days to do all the Christmas things you didn’t get around to the previous weeks. It is still Christmas! Bake the cookies. Make the gingerbread houses. Do the crafts. There is still more time in this season.

Posted in From The Altar, Under Our Roof, With The Kids

Incarnation: Advent Week Four Devotion

He is almost here! Each week, we have lit a candle. We lit the candle of expectation, the candle of preparation, and the candle of celebration! This week, we light our fourth candle, the candle of Incarnation. What is Incarnation? It is the Son of God becoming flesh.

The Christian message is not one of escaping this life so that we can get a better one. The Christian hope is not that we can rid ourselves of our bodies. The Christian story is not of a God who from afar decreed that everything’s okay and we’re forgiven.

No, the Christian message, hope, and story are rooted in the fact that Christ became one of us to redeem us. He really did.

Does that stir you? It should.

The eternal Son of the triune God became a human person, a man, to rescue us. He really did enter the womb of a virgin and cloth Himself in our flesh. He really was born. Forget about what the hymn says; He really did cry when He woke up in the night when the cattle were lowing. He really did get hungry. And when he did, He also really did nurse.

Why? Because He loved you so much that He wanted to become like you so that you would love Him so much that you would want to become like Him.

As we go through this last week before Christmas, let us not let our eyes fill with the desires of this world, on the gifts and the glitter. Let us focus our attention on God made flesh dwelling among us. A baby who would rescue us all.

Scripture Reading:

        2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16

        Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

        Luke 1:26-38

        Romans 16:25-27

Optional Activities:

·        Make a nativity. Draw it. Paint it. Use popsicle sticks. I’m sure Pinterest is full of ideas. Just focus on there being real people, a real stable, a real manger, real animals, and real baby Jesus there.

·        Immerse yourself and your family in the songs of the season.

·        Discuss the reality of what Mary would have been going through this week before her son, Jesus, was born. The travel. The hardship. Extend the discussion further and discuss the reality of His humanity. He was really potty trained. He really learned to walk and read and talk. He was really taught Scripture.

·        Watch a Christmas movie about Jesus. The Nativity Story is a great one that really highlights the realness of it all.

Posted in Around The Church


abide art

The Pastor asked me to make some graphics for a sermon he would be preaching. I liked the results, so I decided to share it with you. You can listen to the sermon here, if you want.

Posted in From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

The Book That Changed My Life

I mentioned in my 2013 Book Review List  that this book changed my life. That was not hyperbole. It really did. So much so that we decided to use it for a small group at our church where we saw it change the hearts and lives of other people as well. I’m going to tell you the full story.

Back at the end of the summer or beginning of the fall, whichever way you like to view your year, we were out to lunch with a group of people from church. One of the young women there, Candace, asked if Adam had read anything by the author Brennan Manning. Adam said he had not. I knew of the author and knew he wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel but that was as far as my knowledge of Mr. Manning went. Candace said we absolutely had to read The Furious Longing of God. A friend had loaned it to her and she was deeply touched by the book. I grabbed my phone and purchased the book immediately. (I am known to do this from time to time.) I informed Adam on the way home that I had purchased the book.

It arrived 2 days later. Adam had a stack of books by his side that he was reading and said he’d get around to it. For whatever reason, I decided to go ahead and dive right in. The book immediately began speaking into my soul, but on page 81, my life was changed. The chapter is titled “Healing”. And it brought that and more to my life and those around me.

A little back story now. I had a falling out with my parents in 2010. I had not seen them for 3 years. I had not spoken to them in over 2 years. It was a rift I didn’t forsee as being able to be mended. I was taking a very protective stance on the issue to protect myself and my children from hurt. Of course I felt justified in my actions. I had forgiven them, really I had. But reconciliation was completely out of the question for me. I just didn’t see that it could ever be possible. I didn’t think the fall out could be mended. I had honestly just given up. But in August, before Candace recommended the book, my heart had begun to change. I felt weights lifting off of me and began to wonder if the passing of time could heal old wounds. I didn’t think anything could be done about it in the near future, but began to see hope for maybe some day. Until I got to page 81.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human what I have received from the Lord Jesus; namely His unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be.” (p.82)

“You have the power to give someone the courage to be, simply by your affirmation.” (p.94)

“The question is not can we heal? The question, the only question, is will we let the healing power of the risen Jesus flow through us to reach and touch others, so that they may dream and fight and bear and run where the brave dare not go?” (p.104)

The seed was planted. I could extend a healing hand to my parents. I could extend my hand and maybe they would be free of past hurt and anger and pain inside them. After all, the falling out was certainly not easy on any of us. I could change it. But the thoughts crept in. What if they were over it and didn’t want to be reconciled? What if nothing in their hearts had changed and we were right back where we started? What if they demanded an apology? Could I move forward without demanding an apology? Yet I felt the very strong and very real calling of God to offer my hand… to extend healing. The more I thought about it, the lighter I felt. I felt very strongly that God was telling me it would go well. I felt God telling me it would be different, they were changed and simply waiting on my healing hand. I could feel it so strongly.

Not wanting to trust myself.  I finished the book quickly, knowing in my heart what I heard God saying. I knew exactly what I  was being called to do. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it flew straight in the face of all conventional wisdom. I knew it would make me vulnerable. But I knew where God was calling me. I tested it. I handed the book to Adam and told him he had to put everything aside and read this book right now. He wanted to know what this was about. I explained that if I was hearing God correctly, Adam would confirm it. We’d talk after he read the book. I apparently conveyed the urgency of the situation and he read it that very night. (Which is remarkable, because the Pastor can be very stubborn about setting things aside to accomplish a new thing and also can be very slow in reading a book, particularly one he wasn’t dying to read in the first place.)

Adam finished the book and we sat down. I waiting to hear what he’d say about it. He said, “Your parents…” I cried. Exactly. He asked, “How?” I said, “I don’t know.” I knew I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what. We thought about it, we talked about it, we didn’t know how to accomplish this huge thing. I knew if I let time pass, I’d be frozen in the land of not knowing what to do. So, I picked up the phone and called my dad at work. Just before I hit “call”, Adam asked, “What are you going to say?” I said, “I don’t know.” And I hit send anyway.

My dad answered the phone at his work. I said, “Hi, Dad.” He said a hello. I said, “I don’t really know what else to say. That was as far as I got.” He said, “Hi is enough!” And I cried. (And I will tell you now, I am not a crier. At all.) We caught up. I called my mom. We caught up.

Driving Emery to gymnastics, I thought, “Man, it is August. It would have been totally cool to save this for my mom’s birthday.” Then I realized it was her birthday. So after getting Emery settled in the gym, I stepped out to call again and wish her a happy birthday.

And just like that, my life changed. My children’s lives changed. My parent’s lives changed.

We’ve seen them several times in person since then and have contact on the phone and through texts and Facebook. God healed us. He healed our family. He lifted a weight I didn’t think was able to be lifted. Imogene has even told me how happy she is that God healed our family and she’s seven. It is nothing short of a miracle. Lives changed. People made whole. That is what Jesus does. He heals people. He heals us.

granny & raj group