Accepting Blessings

 

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There are two particular passages in Scripture that help us to understand the consequences of refusing to receive a blessing with gratitude.  We often talk about blessings as being those things that we wished for.  We say we are blessed when things are going according to our plan.  But God sometimes has a different definition of blessing than we do.  He often sends blessings that are entirely opposite of what we think we want, and yet the impact of goodness that comes with them is even greater than our plan.  Sometimes God sends more babies when we wish we could be done, sometimes God provides a new job in a new city when we don’t want to move, sometimes He leads us to selling our home when we really wish we could keep it.  There are many more ways that He calls us to do something we either don’t want to do or think we are ill equipped for.

In Numbers 14, the people of Israel curse Moses and question God for bringing them out of Egypt.  They complain that the people of Canaan are too strong for them, and they long be back in their days of slavery.  They look at the direction God is sending them and it looks too hard, too risky, too scary.  God has told them there is great blessing on the other side, but they can’t see past the tough stuff they must get through to get to the beauty of the promise land.  God is not pleased with this lack of faith.  He takes the blessing from them because they do not have the faith to see it as a blessing.  Instead he gives the blessing to their children, and they must stay in the wilderness until they die and their children are ready to take the land

In Luke 1, Zacharias is told that he will finally be given the blessing of a son.  But, instead of believing the word of the Lord, He questions how God will be able to bring it about.  Instead of accepting the news with joy and faith, he is doubtful of its truth.  God is not pleased with his doubt.  He strikes him with muteness until after John is born.

When a blessing comes our way, even if it is disguised in lots of hard work, sleepless nights, uncertainty, and confusion, God wants us to receive it in faith.  He wants us to believe that the magnitude of blessedness will far outweigh the hard work that comes at the outset.  When the Israelites were facing the people of Canaan, God wanted them to look past the strength of the opposing army and see a land flowing with milk and honey that was promised to them.  When the angel told Zacharias he was going to finally have a son, God wanted Zacharias to look past the confusion and uncertainty of the situation and receive the blessing of a child with joy and hope.

Many times in my life I have seen a big change on the horizon and groaned with worry about all that needed to be done instead of focusing on how that change would bring with it a greater amount of blessing in our lives. When God called our family to move across the country, I faced my unpacked home with anxiety.  I added up the hours I had in a week and found that I had none left for moving a home, especially with toddlers running around.  I constantly made mental lists of all the details: change of address forms, new internet service, changing banks, finding a church, readjusting my shopping routines, etc.  Of course all these things need to be done and it is necessary to have some level of organization when a change comes, but God wants us to see past all of that and give thanks for the good things that are on the other side.  He wants us to lay aside the worry and the need to have everything figured out.  Fear keeps us focused on the “how” and the “when” instead of giving us the courage and hope to see the great benefits.  The hard work is a means to a greater end.

God is always moving us from glory to glory, refining us, and sanctifying us for our good and His glory.  Often moving from one glory to the next glory seems challenging and sometimes impossible.  This is the way we see God working through all of Scripture: when things are getting hard and the enemies appear to be giants, blessing and glory are right around the corner.  He wants our cheerful obedience.  He wants His people to march around the walls seven times and in the end it is the shouts of joy that bring the walls of Jericho tumbling down.

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Disciplining in Selfishness

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I believe that one of the hardest things about disciplining my children is to do it in consistency with Galations 6:1
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
 
The obvious application is that we should not discipline a child if we are angry with them.  If we are also having an outburst of sin, then we need to recruit the other parent to step in and help out.  We are not in a position to correct a child’s behavior if our behavior needs correcting.  But I believe there is a more subtle application of this verse that is harder to see.  It says that we should “consider ourselves”. This means that we should check our own motives and be sure that our correction is out of love.  If our motivation for the discipline is selfish, then we should not be disciplining them.  The actual rule or command that we enforce in the home might stay the same, but the motivation is everything. This is hard for the parent to recognize, but it is painfully easy for children to see.  It is always hard for us to be critical of our own heart and our own motives.
 
As an example, I might choose to correct my son because he is running through the house screaming.  If he does not obey, this will turn into more serious discipline.  Is this a righteous thing to me to ask of him?  It all depends on my own heart!  Am I spiritually qualified to correct him?  Am I asking him to calm down because it annoys me that he is being loud?  Or am I asking him to calm down because I love him and I know that control over his body will serve him well in the future?  
 
Another example, I might choose to correct my daughter for eating rice with her fingers (this is actually a real and strange problem our house).  Am I being nit-picky? too strict? too overbearing?  Well, how is my heart?  Am I asking her to eat with a spoon because I am so sick of sweeping up rice?  Or am I asking her to eat with a spoon because I love her and I want her to grow into the kind of woman who is respectful of others around the table?  My tone and my correction will sound different depending on where my heart is.  No matter how much I try to convince myself that I am correcting her out of unselfish motivations, she will be able to tell if my correction is coming from a place of selfishness or a place of love.
 
Ultimately, the whole point of all discipline is to raise people who are capable, stable, kind, respectful, God-fearing, self-controlled, joyful, confident adults.  Training up a child correctly has nothing to do with my own comfort in my own home.  I am becoming more and more convinced that discipline has very little to do with the actual rules, but it has everything to do with why I discipline and my motivation for the discipline.  This challenges me to ask many questions of the rules.
Do we let our children climb on the back of the couch and walk on the coffee table?  The answer is not yes or no, the answer is…how is my heart?  Do I tell them to get off the furniture because I want clean furniture or because I want them to learn to be respectful of the possessions of others?  Do I want to preserve my home like a magazine or do I want my children to learn to be stewards and care takers of whatever their surroundings are?  
 
Do we let our children talk back?  Well, actually yes, but only after they have obeyed and only if the “talking back” is in a respectful tone.  When our children have a question about a decision that we have made, we allow for questions and discussion, but only after cheerful obedience!  It would be far easier for me to make a rule about “no talking back, no questions, no means no.”  But it is better training for me to listen to their plea and to teach them how to make an appeal in a respectful way. It is far more self-sacrificial for me to explain my reasons. When I explain my reasons to them, it teaches them that there is a standard higher than me.  It gives me an opportunity to explain God’s standards. It also gives me an opportunity to search my own heart and make sure that my restrictions are actually founded on what God requires and not on my own selfish preference.
 
I love being a mother. I really had no idea how much I would love it.  The most wonderful thing about it, besides the adorable chubby toes and sweet drawings, is that I have three microscopes on my life at all times.  They are the best motivation for me to confess my own sin.  Because I am constantly needing to correct them, Galatians 6:1 tells me that I am constantly needing to go before the Lord and set my own heart right.  No slacking off allowed, and I am so thankful for that!

The Body

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“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12

Paul spends much of 1 Corinthians talking about the body.  He discusses sexual sin, reminding the Corinthians that their bodies belonged to Christ and had become a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.  He talks about the authority that a husband and wife have over each other’s bodies.  He refers to physical exercise and training the body.  He discusses communion and food and becoming the body of Christ through partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  In Chapter 12, Paul begins of discussion of the many parts of the body of Christ.  He explains that we are all members, but we all have a different role.  But without each member doing it’s part, the body cannot function properly.

I have been recently been learning more about the fascinating workings of the endocrine system.  The endocrine system is a collection of glands that regulate hormones in the body.  In the brain, the hypothalamus sends messages to the pituitary, which releases hormones to the adrenal glands.  The adrenals release cortisol (which helps the body regulate stress and sleep) and DHEA (which is the precursor to progesterone) which plays a vital role in blood sugar stability as well as some other functions.  Other glands such as the thyroid and ovaries (in women) operate on a balancing axis with the adrenals.  It’s a complicated system, but here is the interesting part.  When something as insignificant as inflammation from food or environmental allergies or long-term stress is effecting the body, it can block the receptors of the adrenal glands which has a domino effect on the whole endocrine system.  Improper amount of estrogen can get stored in the body, putting additional pressure on the liver, which then sends the wrong messages to the pancreas.  Progesterone is lowered and can effect the reproductive organs causing infertility.  The hormonal system is a delicate system and when it is off, many organs in the body do not function optimally.

Bringing this back to Paul’s words to the Corinthians, his metaphor of the church being like a body is more fascinating and interesting the more I learn about the body.  There are many functions that happen within the body that we do not see.  Most people don’t even know where the pituitary gland is located, and yet without it’s important work the entire hormonal system is thrown off, which then effects metabolism, tissue function, reproduction, sleep, blood sugar regulation, and much more!  How many times do we find ourselves with seemingly insignificant tasks that are completely hidden from the rest of the world?  A mother who, despite her exhaustion, reads books cheerfully with her children.  A father who works extra hours to provide an education for his children.  A teenage who respects the curfew.  A single brother or sister who diligently works at whatever job or schooling God has put in front of them.  A few minutes spent memorizing a Psalm, taking a moment to send an encouraging text to a friend, confessing the envy and covetousness and discontent, controlling our thoughts so that they are honoring to God.  All these things and many more acts of obedience often go completely unnoticed and unappreciated.  But, what does Paul say?  We are like a body.  And what do we know of the body?  It all functions together.  When one part is suffering, the whole body feels it.  Even if the part that is no functioning properly is a tiny gland sitting on top of your kidney.  It seems like it would not make a difference, but the impact is actually huge.  When one part of the body of Christ is allowing little disobediences, the whole body of Christ feels it even though they can’t see the disobedience.  When all the little parts of the body of Christ obey diligently, the whole body thrives.  The interesting part about healing the endocrine system is that when the cause of the disruption of hormonal balance is treated, the healing process also has a domino effect and the whole system can heal.  It is the same in the body of Christ.  When one member is faithful, even in the small things that many people do not see, the whole body is blessed by those secret obediences.  So, whatever God has asked you to do, even if it seems small and insignificant, do it.  If it is just being content with the size of your house or ceasing complaints about your job or turning off the TV show you know you shouldn’t be watching, it effects all of us in ways that we can not see or even understand.  Faithfulness in the little things is life to us all.

Trusting God in Long Illness

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I was recently listening to an interview with an MD on treating chronic illness. He mentioned that one of the exercises he prescribes to his patients is to keep a journal of symptoms, improvements, relapses, and any changes made to diet and lifestyle. Besides this being a helpful tool for the doctor to know what is working, his reason was because when a patient is feeling ill, they have a hard time remembering that they have made any progress. And when a patient has a good day, they have a hard time remembering that they are sick and need to care for themselves with rest and nutrition. The journal was to work as a tool for keeping the patient on the right track, and to give them encouragement because they could see the progress however slow.

Chronic pain and chronic illness can cause us to forget all kinds of things. We forget what it is like to be well. I remember having a cold as a child, and I could not remember what it was like to breath through my nose, although I’m sure the cold lasted only a week.  Sickness brings short-term memory loss. More importantly, we forget that we have God on our side. When Moses sent the men to scout Canaan before moving in, most of them returned in fear of the fortified cities and giant men. They allowed the reality of the situation to cloud their faith. But, as Joshua and Caleb pointed out, they forgot the key factor. Strong walls and strong men are nothing compared to the strength of God. David knew this when he stood across from Goliath. He knew that without God the odds were not in his favor. In illness, we can easily fear the future. We can fear what doctors tell us . They are looking at lab reports and medical files and comparative illnesses. They are looking at what they believe to be reality. But doctors often do not factor in God’s strength. Even when facing the reality of a chronic or incurable illness, God is on our side. Even if we have to live through all the horrifying symptoms and procedures, God is on our side.

Chronic illness brings with it plenty of fuel for discouragement and despair. Besides the fact of suffering through the physical pain, the fear that the pain will worsen is frequently present. The pain itself can drain courage out of you. James says that testing our faith brings patience, and patience bring perfection.  If we do not have the wisdom to understand the test then we must pray for God to open our eyes. James found a direct link between suffering and joy. My husband often tells me that emotions are like nerves. Our experiences cause emotional reactions, just how physical contact causes nerves to react. James is saying that the emotional reaction to the experience of suffering should be joy. But that is not a natural reaction. The natural reaction to suffering is despair, which is why we have to pray for wisdom. We have to pray for the wisdom to feel joy when we suffer.  We have to pray for the Spirit to do His work in us so that we can see the joy in suffering.

The most intense frustration with chronic illness is the limitations that it places on your life. Often illnesses stand in the way of doing the things we love the most, sometimes they even stand in the way of performing basic work that we would otherwise be content to do. Illness can stand in the way of building and maintaining friendships, and of accomplishing goals and plans. The Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If that is our purpose, and we believe God to be all sovereign over our life, then accepting His will to lay in a sick bed is following His calling. I think we often talk about “our calling” like it is our life-work. But our calling is really just doing whatever God has put right in front of us each day. If chronic fatigue is right in front of you, then God has called you to glorify Him and enjoy Him on the couch. We don’t have to be discouraged over canceled plans or goals, because God’s will for our days will be whatever He does with them. Sickness brings with it a stressful panic for relief, for healing, for finding the right doctor or medication. God has counted every single hour of the illness, and in Him we can find the peace to live through illness with patience. He knows when and how relief will come, and He will always bring it at just the right time.

Idols Crashing Down

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In Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, she talks about giving thanks for all things.  She spends most of the book focusing on gratitude for the small things like the moon and flowers and chocolate, but she includes the exhortation that is is necessary to give thanks even for tough circumstances.  She calls this hard eucharisteo.  It is hard to give thanks for the tough things.  How do we give thanks for a chronically sick child or a dying friend or financial devastation?  How do we go about actually feeling gratitude for those things?  Voskamp suggests that we begin with the words and the feelings will follow.  Gratitude opens our eyes to good.

If you are struggling to be thankful for hard circumstances, start by thanking God for the fruit.  When God brings you something that you do not like, something hard, we know that it is for our good.  As we thank Him for our circumstances, our eyes are opened to fruit in us that He is using this hardship to grow.  Pruning, although painful, produces a generous harvest.  But you may still struggle to see the fruit because it takes time to grow.  If you struggle to see fruit, give thanks for the idols that you see crashing down. I have often found my hardships to be perfectly aimed at my own personal idols.  I have found that God brings hardship to the area of my life which I have started to love more than Him.  The hardship tears my idols apart, until only God is left to bring me joy.

Before I had children, I loved saying yes to everything.  I loved being involved with every event that I could, I loved running events, I loved being involved with my church and school.  If there was something to sign up for, my name was on the list.  While this is not a sin, I began to make an idol out of it.  I found so much self-gratification out of serving the community this way, that it drove many of my decisions and even friendships.  I took great pride in being dependable.  Then God gave me a baby that needed more from me than I had imagined.  I found that it was nearly impossible to commit to anything.  I was home most of the time trying to figure out nap schedules and nursing and swaddling and how to comfort a colicky baby.  I was lonely.  I felt like I was not doing anything worthwhile because nobody could see anything I was doing.  God took my idols of “community involvement” and “people pleasing” and smashed them.  I had to look to Him for joy and value.

Seasons of life bring their own unique challenges and hardships.  We can welcome the hardships because we know that God uses hardships like a sword, tearing down all the things that stand between us and Him.  Give thanks for all the things that are falling.  Maybe you have are gifted athletically, but you have an injury that will take months to heal.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of fitness.  Maybe you have always wanted to be married, but the circumstances have not worked out that way yet.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of marriage.  Maybe you excel in hospitality, but chronic illness is keeping you from opening your home.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol our of hospitality.  Maybe you extremely talented in your field of work, but babies or aging parents are requiring you to spend more time at home.  Give thanks that God will not let you make an idol out of work.

 It is not uncommon for the Lord to test us on the things we love the most.  When He asked Abraham for the life of his son, He wanted to see Abraham’s devotion to Him.  God wanted to see that Abraham loved Him with his whole heart.  God wanted Abraham to see that he loved Him with his whole heart.  When you are asked to lay your most prized possession on an altar, prepare to see all your idols crashing down around you.  No matter how much joy they may bring you, when your idols crash you find that God is your only comfort, and that is the sweetest place to be.

Helping children fight fear

 

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This spring has been cold and snowy, just like our winter.  Just this morning there was frost covering the car, and now I have a child with a cold napping on my lap as I write.  It definitely doesn’t feel like spring.  Just a few months ago I took this little sick girl in for a doctor visit (a well-child visit, ironically), and she was so afraid that she had a hard time getting out of the car.  It can be difficult to help a child with fear because even if you can get them to obey, there are many emotions still lingering.  I decided I needed a system to help my kids gain courage.

First, we obey.  I tell them not to think about how they feel, but just to obey.  It doesn’t matter if they feel like it will be scary in the doctor’s office, they need to obey me and walk in.  It doesn’t matter if they have butterflies in their tummy, they need to obey my instructions.  That is the first step.  Obedience even when the emotions are not there.  I have to explain to them that sometimes we should not listen to ourselves.  Sometimes our emotions are wrong and when they are telling us to disobey, we have to act against them.

Second, we remember.
  We remember all the times we have been to the doctor and come out alive.  We remember all the ways that doctors have helped us.  We talk about times we have done scary things and everything turned out well.  We remember when we went to the dentist and it didn’t hurt one bit.  They may be too young to remember some of these times, so I tell them stories.  I tell them about how they were sick as an infant and God protected them and brought them healing.  Or if they are afraid of something else, like the dark, we talk about all the times God has protected us in the dark.  We remember that He watched over us through thousands of nights.  I have to show my child how to talk truth to themselves.  The truth is that God cares about us and is constantly watching over us with care.  I need to help them remember that so they can fight their fear.

Third, we give thanks
.  We give thanks for all the kind mercies along the way, even if the experience is hard.  We look at reality, which is often less scary than our imaginations and worries.  We give thanks for the stickers and the prize box at the pediatrician’s office.  We give thanks for the free ice cream coupons after shots.  We give thanks for the funny looking hospital gown we have to wear and we take silly pictures in it.  I remind my child that God does not give us hard things without giving us gifts in the middle of the hard.  We look around for the gifts and give thanks for them.  On scary dark nights, we give thanks for nightlights and flashlights and CDs with our favorite stories and fuzzy pajamas.  I can’t just tell my child to stop being afraid and obey.  That is only the first step.  I have to help them replace their fear with gratitude.  I have to show them what courage looks like.  If they are going to gain victory over their emotion of fear, they need to know what other path to take.

Remembering

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I would apologize for my long absence from writing on this blog, but in all honestly I’m not really sorry. I have been putting all my energy into getting hot dinners on the table, keeping school uniforms clean, corralling the crayons, surviving a thousand winter illnesses (isn’t that always what happens the first year of living anywhere?), and working on a bigger writing project. But here I am, back again, with some thoughts from Psalm 136.

Psalm 136 is a song of gratitude to God for His mercy. The Psalm opens with “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”   The last line (for His mercy endures forever) ends every verse in the Psalm.  The writing walks through the history of creation, through the deliverance from Egypt, through the victories against the Amorites, and through God’s direction in leading the Israelites to their new home.  This was written as a song that the people of God could sing in worship and it acted as a reminder for all the the Lord had done for His people in protecting and guiding them.

One of the common enemies of Christians is fear, anxiety, and worry.  This isn’t a new struggle.  When God’s people first came to the promise land, the spies (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua) were too afraid to pursue the promise because the people dwelling in that land were strong and terrifying.  We still struggle with this.  We are afraid of financial devastation, of illness, of terrorism, of death.  It cripples us.  We are even too afraid of what others think of us.  We worry about the present and the future.  We worry about the past and psychologically our culture is infatuated with defining people by their past trauma.

This is where Psalm 136 comes as a glorious example to us of how to break free from the sin of fear.  We have to remember.  The Psalmist remembers all that God has done and writes a song so others can remember too.  When we look back on our story with eyes of gratitude, scanning our chapters for moments of His mercy, we are reminded of how good He has been.  What if you wrote the story of your life like the Psalm 136?

I was born into a Christian family, with my whole body functioning perfectly, for His mercy endures forever.

I was given nourishing food, education, and siblings to be my friends, for His mercy endures forever.

I was given a spouse to sharpen me and love me and care for me, for His mercy endures forever.

My body was sustained through pregnancies and c-sections, for His mercy endures forever.

I could go on and on.  He has shown mercy to me in a thousand ways.  When we remember all these mercies, the big ones and the little ones, it gives us the faith to have courage in the future.  Remembering His mercy is the arrow that pierces fear.  Remembering is our shield to face the future with the assurance of His protection.  Remembering His mercy is the lens to look at the past without regret or bitterness.  Cling to the good things He has already done and you will find faith that He will be good on every day in the future.

Snares

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There is a spot on the corner of our couch where I can see the very top of Moscow Mountain peeking over the neighbor’s roof.  I love to sit here in the mornings and watching the first light hit the very top of the mountain on a clear day.  Last week, with coffee in hand I watched the mountain slowly glowing and read Hebrews 12, a favorite passage:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

I often think I am strong enough to get through a day without sinning, but this is false.  I need forgiveness daily.  I often forget to foresee all the entanglements I will face each day.  I make a list of things I need to do, but do I make a list of all the snares that are waiting for me as I try to do those things?  No!  Instead of recognizing the snares that so easily entangle me, I often just stumble along through my days carrying around weights of small unnoticed sin, feeling it pull me down, but not always able to realize what is bothering me.    Paul says that carrying the weight of sin keeps us from being able to run with perseverance.  I see this all the time.  I feel tired, I feel like complaining, I feel like crashing into bed at the end of the day and just trying not to think about all the hard moments that I glazed over.  But that isn’t perseverance!  Perseverance is strong and works hard and looks for opportunity to grow.  Perseverance doesn’t mean just stumbling through the day putting one tired foot in front of the other, perseverance means I am ready for the next thing.

Whenever I take my kids to a new place, or when we do something that I know will be hard for them, we have a talk about what is expected of them and what temptations they might struggle with.  If we are going out shopping, I remind them how they should act in the store and how they may not act.  When we go to church, I remind them to sit still and be quiet and to stay in the designated area after church so I can find them when it is time to go.  But I find that I am lazy to do this for myself.  I am lazy to look ahead to various situations that I face in order to look out for the snares.  Instead what happens is that I often allow temptations to creep up without even noticing, until by the end of the day I am weighed down and entangled.

When I am dressing in the morning, what kind of temptation might I face?  Discontent with my mother-of-three body.  Envy or covetousness towards women with a more extensive wardrobe selection.  When my kids stumbled out of their beds, grumpy and whining, what kind of temptation might I face?  Annoyance or laziness because I am not quite awake enough to deal with their sin.  When a friend says or does something unkind? What kind of snare might be waiting for me in that situation? When I am paying bills? When I am folding the millionth load of laundry? When I am running late for an appointment because someone can’t find their shoe?  When my child disobeys again after I have already corrected them several times?  When I have a headache? When the car breaks down?

I need to look at these situations daily and ask myself what temptations I might face during these times: fear, frustration, impatience, taking offense, despair, complaining, loving things or myself more than others.  I need to anticipate temptation more and put a hedge of prayer around me.  Even fun events, like family holidays, can present a number of temptations that if I am not ready for them will quickly weigh me down with sin.  But if I think ahead and look for the temptations I might face, then I am ready to cast the weight onto Christ when it comes.  I am ready to persevere like running a race, instead of trudging along with a limp.

 

Worry

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I have been thinking recently about the nature of worry.  It is a sin that we are pretty quick to excuse, sometimes perhaps because we confuse worry with concern.  Concern is often on some else’s behalf and it often has a conclusive action on our part.  If I am concerned for my friend because she looked really tired, I can offer to watch her kids or take her a meal.  If I am concerned for my child because they are sick, I can take them to the doctor to get them medicine.  But worry doesn’t have an action that is helpful.  Worry is caught-up in the what-ifs.  Worry is us telling ourselves a bad story.  Worry is usually about our own well-being instead of some else’s.  Here is the interesting thing about worry that I have been meditating on: worry is telling ourselves a story where we sin in the future.

I worry about not having any money because I am afraid of not having food or clothing or a home.  I am worried that I might be discontent in the future.  I worry about illness because I won’t be able to do the things I love to do.  I am worried that I might be selfish in the future.  I worry about loosing someone I love because I will be in the pit of despair without them.  I am worried that I might wallow in self-pity in the future.

Do you see what I mean?  Worry is telling myself that I will have a live a hard story and I will just be sinning up a storm in the middle of that story.  It is telling myself that in this bad, hard story I will not be rejoicing and I will be discontent and I will not be loving others or loved by them. But what about the fact that I am sinning in my current story with all this worry?  No wonder Christ told us to stop it. I am telling myself that if disaster comes then I will not have the strength of the Holy Spirit and I will not have the support of the church.  Worry is telling myself a lie.  Worry is telling myself that I will not have a Comforter or a comforter.  It is taking the worst case scenario about tomorrow and robbing it of all God’s graces and mercies.

Psalm 112:7 says “They will have no fear of bad news, their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”  It is only possible to have no fear of bad news if we believe the Lord when He says He will be with us through the deep waters, He will guide us with His counsel, He is trust-worthy.  Whatever the future holds, there God will be, ready to protect us from sin, ready to enable us to rejoice.

Loving Husbands

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I have a very dear friend that lives too far away.  We don’t talk as often as I would like, and we don’t see each other much.  But she is a treasure in my life.  She has never been afraid to tell me when I am wrong and to point me in the right direction.  She is a patient listener, but won’t put up with complaining for a second.  She always says “confront or forget and then move on”, and it is always the advice I need to hear.  But one of my favorite things about her is that she consistently reminds me what a great man I married.  Just in a normal conversation she will say something like “what a blessing that you married someone handy, who can fix things around the house” or “it is so fun to be married to someone with a great sense of humor, you know what I mean, Jon is hilarious” or “Jon is such a hard worker – he will always take good care of you.”  She is a constant reminder that I was given a man who is kind and generous and funny and hard working and handsome and loves kids.  And her praise of her own husband exceeds this.

I think this is an aspect of what Paul is talking about when he says for the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:4).  Not only are older women to be a good example of how to love and respect, but they can also be helpful in pointing out the good.  Remind the younger women, often and specifically, of what a great gift they have been given.  Help them to keep their focus on the great qualities of their husbands and children.  Point out how God has blessed them.  Show them the respectable things their husbands do and the adorable things their kids do.  If you notice a teenager being helpful, tell their mother.  Help her love her teenager even more.

One of the most discouraging things we can do to a young wife is say something critical of her husband.  Of course all wives know what their husbands’ faults are; women are experts at finding faults.  Criticizing her husband will only make it hard for her to respect him.  Make a point of being a fan of your friends’ husbands.  Make a point of loving your friends’ kids.  This is a huge encouragement to each other, and our words have so much power to give each other courage to be women who forgive quickly and who forget faults and who remember good.