God is so smart. He knew exactly what He was doing when He chose to teach us about boundaries with sleepovers and birthday parties at a Growing Families International (GFI) conference back in 2009. I had no idea how this one teaching would shape our family over our kids’ combined 8 years in the Middle Years (2010 to 2018).
At the conference, during a “lunch and learn” breakout session, the couple teaching asked if we would like to hear their family’s perspective on sleepovers and birthday parties. We enthusiastically agreed. Their family decided that birthdays were special, but that they wanted to celebrate them at home as a family without “inviting the neighborhood”. They also decided that play dates should end before bedtime and sleeping should be done at home. They had several reasons for making these decisions, including their children’s safety when not under their supervision, the financial strain of numerous birthday parties, and the time involved.
As we drove home from the conference, with so much new information in our “parenting tool box”, we decided that we needed to pick one topic to focus on. This was the topic we chose and it was an easy one to implement, since our kids were only 3 and 7 at the time. Our son had a best friend since kindergarten, who he was already spending a lot of time with, and we made an exception for them, as we had a close relationship with their family.
What I didn’t know in 2009 was that we would open our first fishing bait and tackle store at the end of 2011, and that I would have a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter when Joshua was 9 and Jordan was only 5. Keeping our children close to home, close to our business, and not “shipped off” here and there was so important. In the beginning of this crisis, we were fortunate to have friends help with public school drop off and pick up, but as I got healthier, I realized that part of my healing included taking over those tasks.
“The fifteen hundred days of preadolescence are all the time you have to prepare your kids for the nearly thirty-seven hundred days of adolescence. Let’s make the most of every minute.” – Robert Bucknam, MD, from the “PreTeen Wise” foreward
I wanted to make the most of every minute. John was extremely busy with his full time job and with the new tackle store and, whatever time he did have available, needed to be with me and the kids. Building our family identity happened in large part because we were always together. If our kids weren’t at school or at a church activity, they were most likely at home. Yes, Joshua spent time with his best friend and Jordan spent time with my parents, but these were all like-minded influences.
Leading your children from your authority is critical when your children are young and you’re establishing first-time obedience. But it definitely works against us when we get to the Middle Years. Moving from “leading from your authority” to “leading from your influence” could be the hardest task you’ll ever face in your parenting, but it pays such dividends. You’ve spent years “filling your child’s moral warehouse”, and now it’s time to see what’s really in there.
Think about this. God doesn’t ask His children questions because He doesn’t know the answers. God asks us questions to pull out of us what is inside, clarifying for us what we really believe. Just as God plants seeds of wisdom into us as we grow in maturity with Him, we as parents also plant seeds of wisdom into our children (“filling their moral warehouse”). It is our job to ask questions of our children, pulling out of them what is inside, clarifying for them what they really believe. If we’ve done our job well (with the Lord’s help, of course, as none of us are perfect parents), those seeds of wisdom grow over time and our children will be able to verbalize what they’ve internalized, further solidifying their beliefs for themselves.
We don’t want our children to act a certain way because “Mom said so”. We want their behavior to reflect what they truly believe inside. And the only way to do that is to pull that back out of them time and time again, just as God does with us.
Now that our kids are 14 and (almost) 18, they fully participate in family decisions and we consider their input carefully. We have made conscious decisions together to allow a sleepover or a birthday party here and there, allowing our kids to give their reasons, cite potential issues, and explain what they will and won’t participate in. It’s put the responsibility for their behavior in their court, not because “my parents said I can’t”, but because they’ve thought through the consequences of their actions ahead of time. Owning their own behavior has made all the difference.
Update 4-13-20: Unfortunately, all Kensington Church mission trips for the remainder of 2020 have been cancelled due to COVID-19. But feel free to read about our 2013 trip below. Thank you!
In 2013, when Joshua was 11, he and I were blessed to be able to go on a mission trip to Costa Rica with Joshua Expeditions through Kensington Church. I’m thrilled to announce that we’re going back in 2020 and bringing Jordan Rose with us. 🙂 I see this as a “launching” trip, as Joshua will have graduated from high school (18) and Jordan will be heading into high school (14). Joshua will be able to put all of his engineering and woodworking experience into helping the construction team build a house for a local family. And I’ll be blessed to be able to watch Jordan use all of her childcare experience while we both work with the kids’ camp.
Here’s how you can help. First, we would love your prayers over this trip, the participants and the people we’ll meet there. Your prayers are powerful and effective. Thank you!
Second, if you would like to make a financial contribution to our trip, we would be so very grateful. Simply click on the following link, scroll down to click “Donate to a Participant” and you’ll find our names alphabetical by first name in the drop-down menu. If you don’t already have an account with Kensington, you’ll need to create one (user name, password, email, pretty basic stuff) and then your gift will be tax-deductible.
And here’s the blog I wrote in 2013, each night from our hotel room, in its entirety. This was also posted in 2016 as “Costa Rica 2013“, so it’s entirely possible that you’ve read this before. If not, it will give you an idea of what we’ll be doing in 2020. Enjoy!
Friday 7-5-13 @ 10:24pm
We’re at the Marriott by the airport, getting up at 2:45am to catch our 6am flight to Costa Rica.
Night-night! Love, Beth & Joshua
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 2:30am
Got 2 hours of sleep, woke up, got ready and now I’m sitting here drinking coffee waiting for time for Joshua to get up.
Blessings to you! Love, Beth
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 9:42am
Feels like afternoon, but it’s 8:25 in Houston CDT. Costa Rica is on CST, so we will be 2 hours behind you. Our flight doesn’t leave until 11:30 (about 3 hours from now). We just found bacon and eggs for $14 for the 2 of us. Yikesters!
Love this Logitech keyboard. 🙂 Happy Mother’s Day to me.
Love you and talk to you soon! -Beth & Joshua
Saturday 7-6-13 @ 10:31pm
We are home from a lovely dinner and settling into our rooms for what will hopefully be a much longer night sleep than last night. 🙂 Two hours was not nearly long enough (nor was Joshua’s 3 hours), but I did manage to sleep on both planes (Joshua didn’t – he was too busy visiting with friends – can you imagine?).
We are at the Country Inns & Suites, so any contact info you had for the Radisson is not correct. That was a mix-up of dates. They had plenty of room at this hotel for this week and it’s the hotel they’ve stayed at all 7 years, so it is the natural choice.
You are all on the blog list, so you should be receiving a blog update each night. Now that we’re here, Joshua and I plan on putting our electronics away for a few days. It was great to talk to Ma, Papa, Jordan and John on Facetime tonight and also to Rick on iMessage. I’m glad we got to connect with you. But don’t be concerned if you don’t hear from us for a few days (other than the blog). I’m so glad that Rick was able to help Ma & Papa get Facetime working. Great job, Uncle Rick!! 🙂
Have a good couple days. Much love to you all! -Beth & Joshua
Monday 7-8-13 @ 12:42am
Or really good morning, as I think it’s 12:30 am your time. Getting out my iPad to set the alarm for the morning, and thought I’d send you and update. I don’t think a blog post went out last night and we just got home from dinner, so I don’t know what their plans are tonight.
Today was a great day. Long, but wonderful. The food here is so fresh and delicious and I had no idea that rice, black beans and scrambled eggs taste good together, but they’re fab! Joshua mixed his together too and agreed with me – yum!
We went to church where we’ll be working this week, they fed us lunch (delicious again!) and we started getting ready for the medical clinic tomorrow. SOOOO many medicines to unpack and repack (we could only take sealed containers through customs), but we got a big chunk of it done before it was time to go. We traveled all around San Jose in our 2 tour buses, briefly stopped at an open air market and road the buses up the steepest hills I’ve ever seen to get to our dinner destination. The view of San Jose was incredible – so many lights going on and on, twinkling and dancing in the distance. There was beautiful dancing at this restaurant and we didn’t leave until about 9:30.
We’re up at 6am tomorrow to meet with everyone at 7am, 7:30 breakfast and on the bus by 8:15, so I better sign off. It will be a busy day getting everything finished and ready to see 400 patients this week.
Love you all! Beth & Joshua
Monday 7-8-13 @ 11:47pm
I got to Facetime with Dad and Jordan for a few minutes before we left for dinner tonight. I tried John, but he had already left the store (it was 8pm your time). Jordan got to say hi to lots of people on our team of 57.
Started out the morning with a small stomach ache (I’m sure I ate some hidden gluten yesterday, but not much), running a few minutes behind (really tired still from getting home so late last night and not getting enough sleep), and a bit unsure of what our day would look like.
Our day turned out to be wonderful. I am on the welcome team for the medical team and our plan was to wash people’s feet and offer them a pair of flip-flops and maybe paint their nails if they wanted while they waited to see the doctor. We weren’t sure if anyone would let us wash their feet, but out of the approx. 50 people we saw (34 adults plus children), all except about 4 let us wash their feet. A couple women cried and I got to hug almost everyone. They don’t just give you a hug and a pat. They REALLY hug you and squeeze you. Really, I was the one who got to receive the hugs. It was just beautiful. I told them “Christo te ama” which means “Jesus loves you” and they all said “Amen, amen”. They were so sweet.
We spent the morning finishing up our 400 first aid packets, counting out pills and putting Spanish labels on everything. The first patients started coming around lunch time, so we stopped for lunch so that we could see them at their 1pm appt times (they were an hour early for the appts). Our original plan was to wrap up around 3:30pm, but it was just after 5pm before we were done with the last patients. Off to the hotel to freshen up quick before dinner (that’s when I tried Facetime) and then off to the restaurant. Everything is so fresh and wonderful. And when they say “fruit punch” it’s REAL fruit blended into a punch. Or they serve a wonderful peach tea that everyone loves (especially Joshua).
We arrived home about 8pm and shared together as a group until about 9pm. It was really neat to hear about everyone’s experiences on all of the different teams. The construction team got to meet the family today who is receiving the new house. We all get to go see the finished product on Thursday before we head up the mountain to go ziplining.
I better get to bed. They need us to come earlier tomorrow, so we need to meet at 6:45am. I got up too late this morning (too rushed), so I’m setting my alarm for 5:15.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua (who is asleep up in his loft bed – hopefully he’ll get a full 9 hours tonight, from 9pm to 6am, as he was REALLY exhausted tonight. He even laid his head down on the dinner table when he was done and almost fell asleep there). 🙂
Wednesday 7-10-13 @ 12:10am
Started out the morning taking pics around the hotel and posting them on Facebook. I told Joshua he should be very proud of me for getting so much done on the iPad so quickly. 🙂 I tried to Facetime Mom & Dad (but I think I was too late – it was already 8:30 your time and I’m sure Jordan was already off to camp) and tried John, but he was probably busy with customers. Tried again tonight, as well as Rose & Mr Dean, but no answers. Thankfully, when we tried Rick & Delia, they were there and we got to chat for a few minutes before leaving for dinner. Tomorrow night we won’t be coming back to the hotel before dinner, so we probably won’t be able to Facetime at all unless we catch you early enough in the morning.
Today was a great day. We saw about 50 patients yesterday and I believe we saw 101 today. I didn’t wash nearly as many feet today, as I wanted to give other people a chance to experience it (VERY emotional for some people), but the couple people whose feet I did wash were very impactful. One dear woman kept crying every time I looked at her. We hugged a lot and one of our team members who spoke some Spanish came just in the perfect timing for me to ask her how to say that I am this woman’s “Sister in Christ”. When she told her, the woman’s face lit up and she grabbed me and hugged me even harder. She was so sweet.
I ended up making number tickets this morning and gave them to each adult as they came in to keep everyone in order better today. So, my job revolved around welcoming people and getting them set up with clipboards to start giving us their medical info. I also picked out a lot of flip-flops (matching up shoe sizes to what we have) and painted some nails.
Oh, Rick, I think the picture you saw of me in the blog was of me helping a woman pick out nail polish after having her feet washed. Our welcome area is a hallway, so it’s a bit crowded, but it works.
Our meals were all great again today and Joshua’s highlight of his dinner was having a lizard of some sort (which was on the ceiling in the restaurant) poop right onto his hand and his plate. 🙂 He laughed so hard that the tears were running down his cheeks. They offered him a new plate of food, but he was already done. And it rather spoiled his appetite too. 🙂 He wasn’t nearly as exhausted today as he was yesterday. He did manage to get about 9 hours of sleep last night, so that was great. My body just really wants to wake up at 4:45 (6:45 your time) and I don’t have time to fall back to sleep again, so I just get up. Makes for a more relaxing morning too having extra time.
We should be able to go see the completed house tomorrow after 4pm. It’s up and the roof is started. Our biggest challenge tomorrow is going to be something we have absolutely no control over – if people come on time for their appts. We are praying that they will come on time or early and that we’ll be able to see everyone before 4pm so that we can head to the construction site. I know we all want to meet the family and see the house. We haven’t finished until after 5pm today and yesterday, so we would appreciate your prayers for tomorrow. Thank you!
Sharing at our debriefing each night has been really special. And spending time with everyone through out the day has really bonded us all together. I really feel like we now have 55 more people in our family (plus Beth and Jimmy from Joshua Expeditions).
Mom – Beth is Beth Andersen, the sister of Don and Dennis Andersen. She looks just like Don when she talks! And Jimmy is from Costa Rica and tells us all about the country. We have decided that Jimmy’s bus (the smaller one) is the best bus and we all try to get on his bus whenever we can. No offense to Beth Andersen. 🙂 She’s great too.
Ok, time to go to sleep. Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Thursday 7-11-13 @ 12:32am
I feel like these e-mails are getting later and later each night. And we just found out that we might be back REALLY late tomorrow, so don’t be surprised if there is no e-mail at all tomorrow night. Maybe I’ll just write quick to tell you we’re still alive. 🙂
Today was another amazing day. I spent most of the day charting kids’ heights & weights on growth charts. It was more relaxing that doing the welcome/intake/feet washing/flip-flop fittings and a lot of other people still wanted the opportunity to wash feet, so I was good with that. Later in the morning I had a chance to go up to the kids camp to see well over 200 kids in all different activities that our kids’s camp team had planned for them. I also took my camera today, so I got lots of great pictures of the kids and of people back in the medical clinic. I was really happy that I had waited to take pictures, as I really got to capture quite a bit of what I really wanted in a short amount of time.
Later in the afternoon, I got to go help out where the doctors work, filling prescriptions and saying goodbye to people as they left. Some of them had seen me at the beginning and the end and they looked confused – like I had a twin or something. 🙂 The pastor taught me to say “God bless you” (Dios te bendiga) the other day and I got to say that a lot as people were leaving, as well as “Christo te ama” (Jesus loves you). We’re all slowly building our Spanish vocabulary and it’s been really fun.
Sonja (our trip leader) and the camp director (Flory, which means “flower”) were leaving to go to the kids’ camp over in Guarari about 3pm and Nancy, our medical team leader, said I should go with them, as I was done with my job. Thank you Nancy! What a wonderful opportunity to drive over with a small group of women and one little boy from the neighborhood who Flory watches. We also called him Flory’s GPS, as he tells her how to get around that side of the city. 🙂 Joan (pronounced “Joe-an”) was his name and everyone loves him. When we got to Guarari, Joshua said, “Joan!” He was very happy to see him. What a special little boy. We all prayed for him later at the construction site, as Mariela really felt that he is going to make a huge impact in his life. He’s just that kind of kid. It was beautiful to hear Joshua join in on that prayer for Joan too.
We were only at the Guarari kids camp for a few minutes before it was time to head over to the construction site. The kids had been there since about 1pm and their time was up. We did get a few pictures before we left, but I can’t share them until I get home and can download them on the computer. When we got to the construction site, we were all overwhelmed by the fact that people live in these kind of conditions. Susan shared tonight that she’s been in a lot of proverty-stricken places in her life, but that city poverty feels much worse. Being in Africa out in the bush, at least you’re surrounded by nature. But in the city, it’s just filthy.
What a bright spot in the middle of all of this to see the newly constructed home. And we got to completely surprise the family with the furnishings. They had no idea that the house wasn’t empty. After everyone on the construction team had a chance to share, and the pastor prayed for them, they got to go into the house all by themselves. They screamed when they saw the inside. Screams of joy. We let them have some time and then came and knocked on their door as their first visitors. But it had rained through our whole ceremony, so our feet were pretty muddy and we didn’t want to dirty their brand new house, so just the construction team went in and the rest of us took pictures from outside. I’ll share those after we get home. It was just beautiful.
We went directly from the construction site to dinner and arrived back to go directly to our debriefing. Lots of people shared tonight and it was a wonderful meeting. The kids and teenagers commented that these people have so little, yet are filled with so much joy. Joshua agreed – why are they so happy? He concluded that it could only be the love of Jesus that fills their hearts with joy. I completely agree. Our “stuff” weighs us down, but these people are free to be generous with whatever God brings into their lives. It’s really beautiful to see.
Tomorrow is our last morning at the church and Beth Andersen warned us tonight that it will be very emotional saying goodbye and that we need to leave plenty of time to do so. She said “Saying goodbye takes a long time in Costa Rica”. 🙂 We have to leave the church no later than 1pm tomorrow to get to the zip-lining mountain on time. But God completely answered our prayers today and everyone who wanted to see a doctor got to see one and the rest of the medical team was on the bus by 4:05. Whew!! I know He will answer our prayers again tomorrow.
We got to talk to John on Facetime this morning and maybe we’ll have a chance to try Mom & Dad & Jordan again in the morning. We’ll see how it goes.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Friday 7-12-13 @ 12:27am
As promised, I am writing to tell you that we are alive. 🙂 We did all 12 zip lines today and they were AMAZING! We finished up at the church this morning with a very emotional send off from the pastor and were off to the zip lines. Then we went from there to dinner & shopping and this time we managed to buy a few things (no bargaining this time).
We have to be on the bus at 6:30am, so I am going to bed now. Figure I need to get up at 4:45 to be ready on time. We take a tour bus 1.5 hours to the catamaran, then eat breakfast on the dock and then take a 1.5 hour catamaran trip out to Tortuga Island, where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Tortuga means turtle. 🙂 We’ll be on the island for 5 or 6 hours and then we take the 3 hour trip back to the hotel. I’ll try to send another quick “we’re alive” e-mail tomorrow night. 🙂 We have a 6:30am flight on Saturday morning, so we’ll want to head straight to bed tomorrow night.
I just gave my SD card to Sonja for her to use pictures for the blog, so check it out Friday. You may see some of my pics from Thursday (the only day I took pictures). Just go to Sonja’s e-mail from a couple days ago with the link to the blog and then click “home” to get to the home page (which will probably show you today’s blog once it’s done). Please pray for Sonja. She looks exhausted. Too many late nights up working on the blog, thank you cards, and other trip details. No rest for a great leader.
It was great to talk to Mom, Dad & Jordan this morning on Facetime. I don’t think we’ll be Facetiming again until the airport, if I can find a wifi signal.
Love you all! -Beth & Joshua
Friday 7-12-13 @ 11:55pm
What a day! On the bus to Tortuga Island at 6:30, breakfast on the dock at 8:30 and to the island by about 10:30. Took more pictures today on my camera, so I’ll download those when I get home. The camera battery is now dead, so I’ll charge that at home too. It lasted just the perfect amount of time.
We snorkeled in the ocean (lots of beautiful fish!), road on a banana boat being pulled by a fishing boat (with a 75 HP Yamaha, may I add), ate a lovely 4 course meal on the beach (in the shade – very nice), rented a 2 man kayak for an hour so that the boys could paddle around and it ended up being used by about 6 people, which was really cool, played in the water, and watched as 9 people from our group got baptized in the ocean. Wonderful!
Then we got back on the boat for another 1.5 hour ride, which was really nice, and a 1.5 hour bus drive during which most people slept (you guessed it, I was talking the whole time). 🙂
Dinner, shower, packing and now heading to bed. Joshua was so exhausted that he took his shower and went right to bed with no dinner (he wasn’t hungry). I could only eat veggies, as we were having pasta tonight, but it was the perfect night for it. I wasn’t really hungry either.
Joshua fell asleep on my bed, so I’m up in the loft tonight. I just posted a quick pic on Facebook. Bittersweet tonight – happy to be going home, but really sad to leave. It’s been an amazing trip for everyone.
Should be home in about 24 hours if all flights go well. We should get into Detroit about 8:30 tomorrow night.
Riding on the back of a motorcycle is a lot like life. You have to hold on tight, stay steady, keep your eyes forward and don’t panic. If you freak out and cause the bike to crash, not only will you cause serious injury to yourself and the driver, but also to everyone around you. It doesn’t matter how scared you are, just keep looking forward and hold on tight. Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t start crying. Just breathe.
I rode on the back of John’s motorcycle during the Blessing of the Bikes at Kensington Church several years ago. John decided to sell his motorcycle that day. Not because I freaked out (because I didn’t), but because Michigan roads, and people who text and drive and don’t pay attention, could all too easily take him away from his family. Thankfully, we walked away unharmed that day, but we really didn’t enjoy the ride.
I wish I knew then what I learned on Labor Day 2019. It would have been a much more enjoyable ride. Josh Isenhardt spoke at Kensington Church on Labor Day and his message was called “One Thing“. He encouraged us to add one thing, one small habit, that would change our lives over the course of the next year. Here’s that message:
And here’s what I wrote to Josh 18 days later:
Hi Josh, I wanted to thank you for the message you gave Labor Day weekend at Kensington CT. “Discipline” is one of my top 5 strengths on Strengths Finder, so I couldn’t imagine what small habit I haven’t already incorporated into my life at 47 years old and 25 years following Jesus. So, as you walked off the stage and the band came up, I asked, “Lord, what’s my action step?” And clear as a bell I heard in my head, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” And then the band started singing “Jesus, I will trust you. I know you never fail”, which I took as confirmation that I heard Him correctly. So, since that day, every time I start to get anxious, even just a hint of anxiety, I repeat to myself, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” and it’s made such a big difference. I know I would have been in tears many times over the last 18 days, but because of that little sentence, He takes the fears away. Thanks so much!! -Beth
In Josh’s message, he recommended the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and I bought it. I’m about 1/2 way done, and it’s so good that I keep wanting to quote about every other page. Instead, I’ll just quote one thing and let you buy the book (or grab it from the library) and read it for yourself:
“Small changes often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold. The most powerful outcomes of any compounding process are delayed. You need to be patient.” – Atomic Habits by James Clear, Chapter 1 summary (pg 28)
We need to keep on keeping on. If we do, we will hit critical mass and we will break the plateau. But we have to keep moving forward. “3 steps forward, 2 steps back” actually works out to 4 or 5 steps back because we’re erasing the power of compounding. Think of it like taking money out of your IRA instead of keeping the money there and letting the interest compound.
Beth Moore’s 2019 Simulcast, called “Strong Sisters” was on September 28th. If you know Beth, you know she had a whole lot to say that day, but one thing really stood out. I’ll paraphrase her:
“At what point will we stop doing what keeps un-doing us? … If we’re about to freak out again, are we grabbing hold of what Christ died to give us?”
Wm Paul Young, the author of “The Shack“, said something similar when interviewed by Chris Cook on his September 18th podcast of “Win Today“. Paul said:
“Who am I without my brokenness? I’m more comfortable in the prison that I know than the freedom that I don’t know that Christ offers me.”
I immediately asked myself that same question. Who am I without my brokenness? Who am I if I don’t freak out when I’m overwhelmed? What would it look like to be okay? To move on? To hold it together? To press on?
Last week the toilet overflowed twice in 12 hours. The only reason I wasn’t freaking out was because I kept repeating one thing over and over again, out loud, as I cleaned up the mess: “Thank you Jesus for indoor plumbing.”
When I woke up the other morning, this song was running through my head. I’m so thankful to Smile.FM for playing music that stays in your head and pops up at just the right time. Guess what the song is called?
Here I am In a river of questions Can I pour my heart out to a listening ear? I see this life Its valleys and mountains And I think of all the roads that brought me here I’ve questioned my reasons The life I’m living I’ve questioned my ability To judge wrong from right I’ve questioned all the things that I’ve ever called certain My race, my religion, my country, my mind
But the one thing I don’t question is you You really love me like you say you do You really love me like you say you do Hold me Hold me
I’ve questioned significance Meaning and relevance Does the work I’m doing really matter at all? Well I’ve questioned my friendships Alliance, dependence Who will still be here when I fall?
Only one thing doesn’t change Only one thing stays the same All I know at the end of the day is your love remains
October 19th is my 48th birthday, but I’m no longer on Facebook, so I won’t be posting this there like I have for the last 5 years. It’s funny. I found that Facebook was one thing that I really didn’t need.
Jesus is my one thing. He doesn’t change. He stays the same. His love remains.
I’ve always wanted my blog to be about encouraging, contributing insight and hopefully giving good advice. But Seth is saying that’s not good enough. And he’s right. If my words don’t incite action, then what am I writing for? I keep hearing the word “action”. So today, my 47th birthday, let’s talk about action.
I want to be an encouragement. I want to be someone who takes action. But, many times, I don’t believe I have the energy to accomplish what needs to be done. Do you ever feel that way? Like you want to make an impact and you want to enjoy the journey, but you end up feeling like you’re just trying to keep up?
How can I be creative, productive, helpful, encouraging and inspiring, when I constantly feel like I’m falling behind?I want to learn how to catch up and stay caught up so that I have excess energy to share.
“Action steps are my favorite thing because we live in a world where people try to make their words count for works. There’s a difference though. Either you talked about being there for someone, or you actually showed up for it. Even when the lies in your brain are deafening, you can make them weaker by stepping out into action.”
I love that.
“Even when the lies in your brain are deafening, you can make them weaker by stepping out into action.”
Yes, there are lies in my brain. I bet there are lies in your brain too. So, let’s dig a little deeper into the power of stepping out into action.
A few weeks back, our Pastor, Chris Zarbaugh, said that “Love is fundamentally more action than emotion”. He quoted what is probably the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, stating that it doesn’t say, “God so loved the world that He felt it in His heart.” What good would that have done? No, it says “God so loved the world that He GAVE”. He did something about the love that He has for us. He gave His only Son.
The Apostle James said it this way:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” -James 2:15-17 (NIV)
“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” -James 2:26 (NIV)
James clarified further, using Abraham as an example:
“You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.” -James 2:22 (NLT)
I think it comes down to awareness (faith) and action (deeds). First, we need to be aware of what needs to be done and then we need to do it. We probably won’t do it perfectly and we certainly won’t be able to do it ALL, but we absolutely can do SOMETHING. Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Matthew 25:40
Thankfully, Craig Mayes clarified this by asking if Jesus said to help ALL of the least of these? “No, He said whatever you do for ONE of the least of these.” Just one. If we each take care of one thing at a time, one person at a time, it’s all going to get done. We need to see what’s in front of us, ask God what He wants us to do, and do it. Take action.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
And that quote incited action in Joshua. Check out his post (click the orange title above) where he explores 9 ways that we can craft this life:
1. Make Relationships a Priority.
2. Remove Unneeded Possessions from Your Home and Life.
3. Make Your Work Your Job.
4. Or, See Your Job as Part of Your Work.
5. Guard Your Time.
6. Take Care of Yourself.
7. Appreciate Your Season in Life.
8. Understand the Reality of Trials in Life.
9. Find Happiness in Your Every Day.
In point #6, “Take Care of Yourself”, Joshua says that “an empty cup cannot pour into another.” So, how can we take care of ourselves? Well, we know the answer probably isn’t taking a vacation. Maybe it has more to do with a “Stay-cation” (click on those orange words to read the article about “reclaiming the place you already chose to live”).
I’m so thankful that my “Stay-cation” this May, June and July included Joshua Becker’s 12-week on-line Uncluttered** class. I was astounded by the results. Our very first assignment was to formulate our “why” and this was mine from 5-1-18:
“I long for the day when the energy and inspiration I receive from my “clean spaces” is more than enough to fuel what I need TODAY to accomplish those energy-draining tasks that I continually look at and say “not today”.”
One of the best parts of this class is the real-time interaction with participants from all over the world via a closed Facebook page. On 7-21-18, I wrote this response to a fellow-De-clutterer’s celebration Facebook post:
“Just goes to show how de-cluttering truly creates energy!Yes, I know that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only changes form.So, let me restate that.De-cluttering takes the energy that was wasted on telling yourself that some day the mess would be gone, and turns it into energy you can use today.Yippeee!!”
In one of the class Webinars, I remember Joshua Becker saying, “Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “better”.” Every single “better” is a little victory that your future self will thank you for.
So, here’s where we get to the action. What have you been thinking about but haven’t acted on yet? What one action would your future self thank you for?
Requesting a payment plan on that bill you’ve been dreading?
Telling someone you’re proud of them?
Finding a home for one item that doesn’t belong where it’s at?
Cutting up vegetables for a salad instead of eating that ________?
Donating an item that someone could use right now instead of keeping it in case you might need it some day?
Taking the dog for a walk?
Scheduling the doctor’s appointment that you’ve been putting off?
Balancing your bank account?
Visiting a friend?
Recycling the bottles and cans?
Asking her to marry you?
Putting away the laundry?
Cooking a meal for someone in need?
Getting out of bed?
One step. Accomplish one thing, grab onto the energy that brings and take the next step. It builds. It grows. And it’s not just addition. It’s multiplication. It compounds, like interest. But it all starts with one action step. Just one. Let’s take that step.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Let’s make it count.
And if you’ve never put your faith in Jesus Christ, maybe that’s the most important action step you could possibly take right now. Accepting the gift that God so freely gave, thanking Him for His forgiveness and putting your faith in action.
**When I wrote last October’s birthday blog post, “The Best is Yet to Come“, I had no idea that “the best” would start with the Uncluttered class. I’m so glad my 12 year old Jordan Rose encouraged me to pay the $89 to take the 12 week class. But you don’t have to pay $89. Now that I’ve taken it, I have permission to share with you the discount code to take the same class for 25% off: FF25. Now that I’ve paid once, I never have to pay again and I will definitely be taking the class again (for free). Join me! Truly, the best is yet to come. 🙂 https://my.becomingminimalist.com
You haven’t heard from me in a while. Why? Well, I’ve been taking an on-line class. I’ve been posting a bunch on Facebook too, but you most likely haven’t seen those either, because I’ve been posting in the closed “Uncluttered” Facebook group. What a concept. Truly, that’s where the magic happened.
Tomorrow is the last day of this magnificent 12 week class. Part of our assignment for this week was to write a “looking back” email to the class creator, Joshua Becker. I wanted to share that email with you, along with the before and after pictures that I posted on Facebook today.
Thank you so much for this class. Wow. I hardly know where to begin.
How about here? I spent most of 2013 in a Celebrate Recovery step study, focusing on untangling the ties of co-dependency, depression and anxiety in my life. I spent a lot of time writing (and reading out loud) in that step study, and my “step-sisters” really liked what I had to say.
Then, in 2014, after many, many people over the years had told me, “You should write a book!”, someone finally said, “You should write a blog!”. Oh, I can do that. I started my blog on 7-16-14 and after a few posts, changed the tag line to: “Sharing everyday miracles to encourage those who struggle with depression and anxiety.”
The big break-through happened on my 43rd birthday, 10-19-14, when I wrote and posted “Moment by Moment.” After I posted it, I shared it with each person on Facebook who wished me a happy birthday. And then I continued to share it for the next year on each Facebook friend’s birthday.
Ever since then, I’ve written a “special” post for my birthday, following the same pattern I started in 2014. My post last year was “The Best is Yet to Come.”
And I just shared this on Facebook earlier today, along with some before and after pictures:
“When I wrote last October’s blog post, “The Best is Yet to Come“, I had no idea that “the best” would start with this class. I’m so glad my 12 year old Jordan Rose encouraged me to pay the $89 to take the 12 week class. But you don’t have to pay $89. Now that I’ve taken it, I have permission to share with you the discount code to take the same class, starting September 4th, for 25% off: FF25. Now that I’ve paid once, I never have to pay again and I will definitely be taking the class again (for free) on September 4th. Join me! Truly, the best is yet to come. 🙂 https://my.becomingminimalist.com”
When I found out that your class was $89, I had told Jordan Rose, “I have Peter Walsh’s book, “It’s All Too Much”. Why don’t I just read that and do what it says?” Well, I got that book in 2007. How’s that plan been working for the last 11 years? Jordan, a true un-clutterer at heart, thought it was wise for me to spend the money on the class, because then I would actually do it. I likened it to spending money on Weight Watchers, which has worked very well for me in the past. Get some skin in the game, and you’ll be motivated to take action.
And take action, we did. 🙂 Thank you again for offering this class. I already know what my 2018 “special” birthday blog is going to be about. 🙂
24 years ago today, a 22 year old girl and a 28 year old guy were married.
They weren’t going to have kids, and then they changed their mind. They had two kids, they started a business, they had their ups and downs. Lots of ups, but, boy, there were a lot of downs too. From a temperament standpoint, she’s a melancholy “quitter” and he’s a choleric “commitment freak”. Thank goodness he’s committed. No matter how many times she wanted to give up on life, he kept her going. But it certainly hasn’t been easy.
Thankfully, they kept up with date nights. It helped to get out and unwind. Six months ago, date night was a Switchfoot concert.
And after that Switchfoot concert, they waited to see if Jon Foreman would play an after show. Sitting in the car, refreshing Twitter, no updates, they decided to leave Meadowbrook and head home. Jon must be spending time with his Michigan family tonight. However, on the way home, one more Twitter refresh, and the after show was announced. And this guy, he turned the car around. What a guy! 🙂
They arrived in time to catch the last 2 songs out of 3. And the third was “24”. She grabbed her iPod and captured the moment. The video and lyrics are posted below.
Today, on this 24th wedding anniversary, the words of this song are so perfect:
I am the second man now And You’re raising the dead in me
Second man? Who is that? Well, Adam was the first man and Jesus was the second man. Adam brought death, but Jesus brought life. Like Adam, we are physically born into this world just once. But we can be born again, a “second birth”, a spiritual birth. This is raising the dead in us; Jesus Christ living inside us. All we have to do is ask.
You see, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people LIVE.
The girl and the guy, they weren’t bad people. But they were still people. Human beings, born in the spiritual deadness of Adam, ruled by pride and selfishness. Jon Foreman says it this way in “24”:
Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong With all my excuses still twenty four strong
Sounds like marriage to me. I don’t think that girl and that guy would still be married today, 24 years later, if they hadn’t asked that Second Man to come live inside of them.
Is there dead inside that needs raising in you?
That’s why He came.
That’s why He died and rose again.
To raise the dead in us.
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesusfrom the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
-The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, Verse 11 (English Standard Version)
And if you’d like to read more about what happened between 24 years ago and now, check out this post: Joshua the Prophet
Twenty four oceans Twenty four skies Twenty four failures Twenty four tries Twenty four finds me In twenty-fourth place Twenty four drop outs At the end of the day Life is not what I thought it was Twenty four hours ago
Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You And I’m not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong With all my excuses still twenty four strong
See I’m not copping out not copping out not copping out When You’re raising the dead in me Oh, oh I am the second man Oh, oh I am the second man now Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You’re raising these twenty four voices With twenty four hearts With all of my symphonies In twenty four parts But I want to be one today Centered and true
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You You’re raising the dead in me Oh, oh I am the second man Oh, oh I am the second man now Oh, oh I am the second man now And You’re raising the dead in me
I want to see miracles, see the world change Wrestled the angel, for more than a name For more than a feeling For more than a cause I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You And You’re raising the dead in me Twenty four voices With twenty four hearts With all of my symphonies In twenty four parts. I’m not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.
Is there any way to fully capture the feeling of falling in love? Any way to adequately describe it? To really do it justice? It stirs the soul. Joy-saturated energy rises up from somewhere inside and overtakes you. In that moment, you can conquer the world. You can take on any obstacle. You can overcome any fear. You can be fully alive.
But in the summer of 2014, when I first watched the film, “Fading West“, I fell in love. Not with the guys (although they are adorable), but with the feeling behind this film. The breath-taking scenery from all over the world, watching the guys surf monstrous waves, play concerts, interact with fans, each other and fellow bands on tour. And the music. Oh, that music. It lifted my soul. This was actually the beginning, the spark, of everything that happened in the fall of 2014. My miracle started here. If you don’t know that story, you can find it here: My Story
That particular story concluded on my birthday, 10-19-2014. And here I am at another birthday. I always post a blog on my birthday. Sharing these posts has continued to be a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2017/2018 without sharing a new one with you.
And this was 2016’s installment: Treasure Hunting (can we really live every day better than before, or is this as good as it gets?)
And for the entire month of September 2017, all I heard was “the best is yet to come”. Everywhere I went. Here are just three examples:
Craig McGlassion of Paradox Church gave a message on 9-10-17 called “Plan for Rain“. Craig told of hiking the Grand Canyon and finding himself wanting to stop and camp at every turn, so beautiful, massive and enchanting. Thankfully, Craig was with people who had gone this way before and they encouraged him to keep going because they knew what was ahead. Every stop was more amazing than the last, and he was thrilled that he listened to them and kept going. Craig tied that story to our lives today and said, “Our best days are yet to come…. Your best days will always be in front of you instead of behind you…. Don’t be satisfied…. Don’t spend more time reminiscing about what God did than dreaming about what God is going to do.”
I was blessed to be able to attend Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live Simulcast in person in Toledo, Ohio on 9-16-17. Beth spoke on regaining our vision. She said that we may have had an “initial vision”, but something happened along the way and we lost it. Maybe we gained an “unwanted vision” in the process, and saw the darkness in the world and in ourselves, which lead to cynicism. We wanted our eyes to be opened to good and evil (like Adam and Eve did), but we weren’t expecting to see our nakedness. We wanted to see grandeur, not gore. So, maybe we lost our vision. And now it’s time to “Re-Vision” our future, which may include our original vision, but it will most likely transcend it. This new vision will probably be harder, but it will also be more meaningful.
And then on 9-24-17, during the first week of the message series called “Leave a Mark“, at exactly 1 hour 15 minutes, Chris Zarbaugh said, “We are incredibly grateful for all the past stories of success and life change, but THE BEST IS YET TO COME.”
So, why all of this encouragement to keep going? Craig McGlassion put it this way:
“Where are you camping in your walk with God? When the past of what has been satisfies us more than the future of what could be is driving us, we’re camping.”
Camping. Yep, I’ve been camping. Actually, I think of it more as “coasting”. I’m 46 today and I’m coasting. If my great grandmother, Willie Katherine Saylors, had lived three more weeks, she would have been 96 years old (February 13, 1908 to January 20, 2004). So, at 46, if I live to be 92, I’m only half way there. Coasting? For half of my life? Why?
Christopher Cook answered this for me. On 10-5-17, I received an email survey regarding Chris’s podcast, “Win Today”. In the process of completing the survey, we were asked to read the story behind his company, which included this statement:
“I was safe and stuck in my very small world, with arms wrapped tightly around every aspect of my life in an attempt to control and prevent further pain.”
Why am I coasting? Chris said it: “To control and prevent further pain.” If I stay safe in my own little world, maybe I can protect myself from pain. But notice that Chris said he did this “in an attempt” to prevent pain. In practice, it doesn’t actually work.
At the simulcast, Beth Moore took a deeper dive:
“We can so protect ourselves from being hurt that we protect ourselves from JOY…. We think it isn’t worth the risk…. Lord, grant us courage to live. To really live…. Awake me to the wonder of You, finding wonder in the every day…. Wonder cannot be held. These are moments. But they are worth it…. We live in the Now and Not Yet. The world is a mess, but we’re still called to rejoice in it and to love each other with His Love.”
Back on 5-13-17, I received a “Whole 90 Devotional” email written by Cliff Johnson, our Birmingham campus pastor. Cliff expands on Beth’s thoughts:
“In Ephesians 2:8-10, Paul reminds us to remember not only how we were saved: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast,” BUT WHY WE WERE SAVED, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He has prepared in advance for us to do.”
I have not only been saved FROM something—like death, sin, hell—but I have been saved FOR something. God actually has moments waiting for me to boldly engage to advance His Kingdom. For those of us longing for new stories, this truth should be music to your ears. Although the journey has been painful at times, sharing the story that God has crafted in me through both heartbreak and healing is part of the future He has laid out for me.”
And that future is worth living for. The Prophet Isaiah said it this way:
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
-Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
In 2016, Jon Foreman, Switchfoot’s lead man, did a TED Talk at the University of Nevada called Live Your Song. Check it out. It’s nineteen minutes of pure inspiration. After the first of three songs, Jon encourages us to keep on keepin’ on:
“You matter. And there is a void in the symphony of life when you are silent. The pain, the anger, the frustration, the dissonance. Be brave. Sing through it. Be brave and sing the truth, one note at a time.”
Don’t be silent. We need you. Fill the void with your song; a song that only you can sing.
And join me in falling in love, letting yourself be overcome by the exhilaration of being fully alive, belting out “Love Alone is Worth the Fight“:
We’re only here for a season I’m looking for the rhyme and reason Why you’re born, why you’re leaving What you fear and what you believe in
Why you’re living and breathing Why you’re fighting it and getting it even Let’s go headed down the open road unknown
And we find what we’re made of Through the open door Is it fear you’re afraid of? What are you waiting for?
“We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
– Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)
Whether you’re a follower of Christ or not, I bet you’ve heard this verse before:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
-Philippians 4:13 (ESV)
I’ve generally seen this verse used in the context of being strong or able to accomplish great things. But do you know what it says right before that verse?
The Apostle Paul writes the following in his letter to the church in Philippi:
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
– Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)
You see, read in context, this verse is really not about being strong or accomplishing great things. It’s about contentment.
Contentment. Yeah, maybe 2000 years ago, but in this day and age? What is that? In this “gotta have it now”, smart-phone-driven, “just Google it” world that we live in, what value is there in contentment?
Let’s back up a bit. Earlier this year, before I started back on the Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet**, I was really struggling with the concept of “fullness”. It didn’t seem to matter how much I ate, I was never full. I was so frustrated that I sat down at my computer and pounded out a big, long rant about the futility of the pursuit of fullness. I felt better after ranting, but it still didn’t solve my problem.
Thankfully, I remembered the Carb Addict’s Diet, bought the book again (I must have given away my old copy) and got back on it. Turns out that insulin is one of the most powerful “drugs” available and it’s manufactured right here inside this amazing human body of ours. I’ve heard it said that food addiction might be the most difficult addiction to deal with because we can’t just go “cold turkey” and stop eating. It must be managed and it’s crazy hard to do.
I had been on the Carb Addict’s Diet for five years (2008 to 2013) and loved it, but in 2013 I found out that I had a gluten problem. I was in so much pain that I hired a Functional Medicine doctor and a health coach and I completely changed the way I ate. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here: Salsa Chicken
Through that whole endeavor, I solved my gluten issue, but I created an insulin monster that was getting harder and harder to tame. Thankfully, in April 2017, I had enough knowledge, along with a gentle reminder from Jesus, to put myself back on the Carb Addict’s Diet, without the gluten madness, and the insulin monster has once again been tamed. Thank you, Lord!
But that process got me thinking about the concept of fullness, or the pursuit of filling that “hole in our soul”, instead of living in contentment. And I came to the conclusion that, on this planet, we are always going to feel a little empty. We’re always going to want one more thing, one more toy, one more taste, one more nap, one more show, one more laugh, one more hug, fill in the blank: one more, one more, one more.
Vince Antonucci from Verve Church in Las Vegas said that God longs to fill us because He knows that we leak. No matter how full we are, we leak. And we need to be filled again. Vince’s solution? Go to God and let Him fill you. But don’t stop there. Vince encourages us to ask God two questions, every day:
“How do you want to love me today? Who do you want to love through me today?”
I love it. I love the focus. But if I may, I would like to tweak those questions just a bit. Because I think that asking one time per day isn’t enough. We lose focus much too easily. And it seems that the more challenging our day is, the faster we “leak”. How about:
“Lord, how do you want to love me right now? Who do you want to love through me right now?”
If we could ask those two questions over and over again, all day long, listening for the answer and doing what He says, what kind of world would we live in? If we were to let God fill us and then take that love and pass it along to someone else, I bet we’d feel a lot more full, a lot more complete, than filling ourselves by our own devices.
So, let’s do it. Let’s let Him love us and pass that love along. Let’s not fill ourselves completely, but leave room for God to fill us. Let’s not focus on what we don’t have, but instead thank Him for what we do have. I believe God wants us to want what we already have. We may not feel like it’s enough, but it is. We can do this through Him who gives us strength. This is contentment. This is enough for now.
King David said it this way, a few thousand years ago. I think it still applies today:
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
– Psalm 37:4 (ESV)
** Update from 1-1-18: One thing I didn’t mention in this post is that the Carb Addict’s Diet is the only low carb diet I know of that lets you eat whatever you want for one meal per day (as long as you’re done, first bite to last bite, within one hour). You eat low carb/ no carb the rest of the day and your insulin levels stay steady. I am living proof, as a former hypoglycemic. I hope this is helpful info! Happy 2018!!
If God is so good, why did He allow my little girl to be murdered? That was the question that haunted Mack and kept him stuck in The Great Sadness. How many of us are stuck in a great sadness of our own, brought on by one tragedy after another, day after day? Would we jump at an opportunity to have our questions answered by God Himself? One day, Mack received an invitation to meet God at “The Shack” to do just that. I would like to invite you to do the same.
Have you ever invested hours and hours of your life in great book, only to go to the movie theater and be completely devastated by how a wonderful book could be turned into such a disappointing use of two hours? This is not the case with the movie “The Shack”.
I spent much of the summer of 2013 listening to “The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity” by William P. Young on CD in my car. I listened to it a full three times before the library insisted that I give it back. And when I found out that the movie of “The Shack” was going to be released on Friday, March 3, 2017, I grabbed my print version, which I had never actually read, and dove in. I’ve invested a good 25 hours of my life in this book, and the 2 hours and 12 minutes that I spent on Saturday, March 4th watching it unfold on the big screen did not disappoint.
Actually, the only criticism I’ve heard about the movie is that “Father God”, also known as “Papa”, is played, for most of the movie, by a an African American female actress. If God is our Father in Heaven, why is He portrayed as a woman in a dress? That’s another question Mack wanted answered. Papa responded:
“To reveal myself to you as a very large, white grandfather figure, with a flowing beard like Gandalf, would simply reinforce your religious stereotypes, and this weekend is not about reinforcing your religious stereotypes.”
I would say this entire book (and movie) is all about challenging our religious stereotypes. How many of us struggle with God as a Good Father simply because we have no earthly example of a good father? Might it be freeing to see God through fresh eyes?
Consider Genesis 1:27:
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
If God made us male and female in His image, then His image contains both male and female attributes. God demonstrates this throughout the Bible by referring to Himself not only in “fatherly” terms, but also in “motherly” terms. Here’s just one example. The Apostle Matthew records Jesus lamenting over His children with a Mother Hen analogy:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” – Matt. 23:37 (NIV)
Papa has full knowledge of Mack’s “father wounds” that keep him far from a Fatherly God, and so He presents Himself as Mother. And this is just one example of God’s goodness and kindness portrayed in “The Shack”.
Another example has to do with the rest of the Holy Trinity and another character known as “Wisdom”. Papa is an African American woman and, later in the movie, a Native American man. Jesus is a Middle Eastern Hebrew man. The Holy Spirit is an Asian woman. And Lady Wisdom is a Hispanic woman. What a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom:
“Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
– Clare Herbert Woolston
So, if you’re red or yellow or black or white or purple, if you have questions for God about good and evil and why He allows such things, I urge you to go see “The Shack”. And if you want to know more, read “The Shack” (or take it out of your library on CD and have it read to you). Eugene Peterson, who wrote “The Message” paraphrase of the Bible, is quoted on the front of my print copy of “The Shack”:
“This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”
I haven’t written a lot in the last year. Why not? Well, I’ve been medicated, which is a beautiful thing (thank you, Jesus, for good meds!), but the same mechanism that stops the downward-spiral of anxious thoughts also stops the creative process of writing. So, you could say, my muse has gone on vacation.
But it’s my birthday and I always post a blog on my birthday. Sharing these posts has become a daily joy and I can’t imagine 2016/2017 without sharing a new one with you.
And for 2016, I’d like to take a little deeper dive. Let’s start here. This fall, my best buds and I joined a Bible study by Angela Thomas-Pharr called “Redeemed: Grace to Live Every Day Better than Before”. That title intrigued me. Can we really live every day better than before? Really? What if this is as good as it gets?
I’ve been a Christian for 22 1/2 years and today is my 45th birthday, so I’ve been a follower of Christ for exactly half of my life. After all of these years, why don’t I have this down yet? Why am I medicated? What is there to be anxious about? I know my identity: I am in Christ and Christ is in me. “If God is for me, who can be against me?” (Rom. 8:31) So, why can’t I just calm down and enjoy my life? What am I missing?
CS Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) said it this way:
“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” (Pensees 10.148)
Pascal’s quote has been summarized/ paraphrased as, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.”
That’s actually the quote that Dave Wilson used in his message in April of 1994, during my first visit to Kensington Church. That’s what got my attention. Yes, I had been trying to fill that God-shaped vacuum with all kinds of created things and none of them were working. And for the past 22 1/2 years, my focus has changed, but I’m still searching for something. What am I searching for?
Angela Thomas-Pharr took a considerable amount of time in her study to teach about the three unique stages of redemption. I’m so glad she did, so I could share them with you:
The day you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are redeemed, “changed from an unbeliever to a believer” (salvation/justification).
As you live out your life from that day forward, you are being redeemed, “being changed into the image of Christ” (sanctification).
When you leave this earth and go to be with God in Heaven, you are finally and completely redeemed, “eternally changed into the likeness of Christ” (glorification).
The writer of the Book of Hebrews defines Jesus’s sacrifice this way: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” -Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)
We are being perfected (sanctified) every day we’re alive, but we won’t be completely perfected (glorified) until we get to Heaven. It’s crazy that I spend so much time and effort trying to reach perfection (or at least perfect contentment) here on earth, because I’ll never get there this side of Heaven. And why would I want to? Adam and Eve had perfection in the Garden of Eden and they must have found it so boring that they chose to disobey God. Hmmm, maybe that’s a big part of the deception.
Deception? Yes, there is an enemy of our souls, the deceiver, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), and his job is to keep us from God, the Father of Truth. But if we’ve already accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, what’s our enemy to do? If he can convince us that we need perfection on earth, we’ll keep striving for it, wasting our time, wearing ourselves out, running in circles, looking in all the wrong places.
Do that for long enough and a new lie begins to surface. Beth Moore has said that we can be so paralyzed in our pursuit of greatness that we do nothing good. If the enemy can keep us busy, distracted, beaten down, ineffective and exhausted, we just might stop trying all together. Angela Thomas-Pharr describes this way:
“Maybe you know this. When you are tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word: Whatever.”
Yes, we are being lied to. If we believe the lie, we’ll get stuck. It’s an effective tactic. It works. And our job is to fight against it with truth. The truth is, whether we “feel” it or not, we are actively being redeemed by the God who perfects us as we live and breathe. The Apostle Paul knew this truth and he explained to the philosophers in Athens, ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ … ‘We are his offspring.’ -Acts 17:28 (NIV)
Offspring. Yes. We are not children of the enemy, that we should obey him. We are children of God. Living “every day better than before” is about knowing who we are and Whose we are, growing closer to our Father until we get to Heaven. And isn’t that what Heaven is: the place where we are completely and eternally redeemed, fully in the presence of God?
Isn’t that how Jesus brought Heaven to earth, perfectly connected to the Father? That’s what he wants for us. Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” -Matt. 6:10 (ESV) If we allow Jesus to live through us, connecting us to the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can bring a little bit of Heaven to earth. And as children of God, we need the encouragement of our brothers and sisters to keep our focus.
The Apostle Paul taught about this spiritual battle and he encouraged the church of Galatia: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” -Galatians 6:9 (NLT)
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Stay connected. Stay awake and pay attention to every little miracle. Be a treasure hunter, hunting for every scrap of joy, every gift, every moment, fully engaged. And be a treasure hunter for others too. Help them to see the gifts all around them. Life is hard and we need each other.
That’s why it’s so important that we stay connected to a community of believers; other people who can point us to the truth. No church is perfect. How can it be? The church is made up of imperfect people. But if all of us, in our imperfection, can point each other to our Perfect Heavenly Father, then we have hope. And that’s why I love my church. That’s why I go every week. Not because I’m a “super Christian”, but because I’m not. None of us are and we need all of the encouragement we can get.
A few weeks back, my church started a new series called “Heart & Soul”, exploring seven core values that can define our lives. If you missed the message on the first core value, check it out here: Heart & Soul: Identity
I was a different person
This person was my old nature
My old self
But that person died
And my life is now hidden
I am in
And He is in me
I am a new creation
This doesn’t mean that I will never stumble
Or fall back into old patterns
But I will call them what they are
Old habits of the old person
I will confess them
I will thank God for his forgiveness
I will make amends
Not because I am taking sin lightly
But because I am taking seriously
Who God says I am
Not because of anything I’ve done
But because of what God has done
He has wiped my slate clean
I am blameless before God
Has no place in my life
Because I am
A new creation
And all of the ugly parts of my story
The parts I want to pretend never happened
Have been redeemed
And they have become
The moments in my life
When God’s grace is most on display
Thank you God
My mistakes do not define me
My past does not define me
Because God has defined my identity
I am his beloved child
In whom He is
This is my identity
In Angela Thomas-Pharr’s study, she tells of a man who was asked, “How long have you been redeemed?” He answered:
“I was redeemed by Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago when He gave His life to atone for my sin. But I only found out about a year ago.”
Comedian Jeff Allen was on Smile FM a couple weeks ago. He said he spent a lot of his life waiting for an explanation from God, but what he really needed was a revelation from God. I think that’s what the man in the quote above received: a revelation from God. He is redeemed. I am redeemed. And if you’ve received the gift of Jesus’s forgiveness, you too are redeemed.
I pray that today we might receive a revelation from God. A revelation that we are redeemed and our identity is in Christ, but it’s going to take a lifetime of “day in and day out” to walk this thing out, together. Grab your best buds, the ones who point you to the Truth, and hang on tight. We are brothers and sisters and we need to keep reminding each other:
keep going keep treasure-hunting and keep focusing on Dad, our Abba Father.
We are His beloved children and He is well pleased with us.
Want to know more about my “revelation day” back in 1994? Here’s my story told through the story of my son: Joshua The Prophet
And those meds, why do I take them? Well, they help me to drown out the voice of the enemy and to focus on the One and Only voice that matters. They help me “come out of hiding” and connect with others who can encourage me, so that I can encourage them, and we can treasure hunt together. We’re blessed to be a blessing.
“Baby, you’re almost home now
Please don’t quit now
You’re almost home to me”
–Out of Hiding, Father’s Song by Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook