Untangled in Love

I never thought I’d be one for mushy stuff. Anyone who’s heard my commentary during chick flicks knows I’m not a romantic.

But there’s this guy.

The one I moved seats to be near the first day of class. The one whose shenanigans had my head and finger wagging from the start. The one who asked me to date him after I spent hours telling him every reason not to love me. The one who led me to my Savior.

His eyes were fixed on Christ even as he took my hand in his. I thank the Lord he has little regard for any other sight.

During more than 6 years of knowing each other now, I’ve witnessed a faith-skill of his I pray the Lord helps me hone as my own.

He’s an expert disentangler.

Ironically, this only applies spiritually. When it comes to being entangled physically, he’s got a knack for being wound up in cords, having limbs stuck in furniture, nearly strangling himself with ties, and being unable to remove himself from places he climbs into (AKA…dryers.) Some evidence:

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Spiritually, though, my husband is quick and nimble to:

“throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” –Hebrews 12:1

What I’ve noticed most in his way of staying free and ready to obey the Lord is an attention to who He is serving. 2 Timothy 2:26 warns of being enticed into entanglement in the enemy’s snare. The verse says our enemy captures us for the purpose of having us do his will.

We are never entangled in sin for the purpose of serving God.

So, when we are entangled, we’re serving the will of the enemy.  It might be through self-serving or through people-pleasing. We may be money-driven or fear-abiding. Whatever the case, when we’re entangled, we’re not fixed on the purposes of Christ.

This is one of the ways my husband’s “black and white” thinking helps.

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He isn’t easily entangled because His eyes are fixed on Christ intently. He notices when he is looking at someone else. He notices when what he’s doing isn’t serving the Lord.

And when he notices, he turns from the dark to the light. He shifts his eyes to Christ. He throws off whatever is bidding him to pay attention to or serve anything else. Whatever it is, it’s not worth missing out on beholding the Lord.

I’m blessed when he helps with my writing because I know he won’t fail to point out words that hinder instead of help the gospel. As I analyze, assess, and plan in life I am grateful to have by my side someone with foresight and discretion regarding the Lord’s will.

Among the most precious aspects of our marriage is my husband’s habit of getting my attention to direct me to Our Lord -who has his attention.

He hates to be entangled, and he hates to see me tied in knots too.

Praying this Valentine’s Day you and your loved ones can help each other disentangle to fix your eyes on the One who matters most.

This post may also be shared on: #MomentsofHope, #DreamTogetherLinkup, #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #TellHisStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #Heart Ecnouragement, #LiveFreeThursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

I’d love for you to guest post on First and Second! Especially for an upcoming series…more here.

In Planning We Trust

{The tenth installment in the In ____We Trust Series}

For open words on life, faith, and the unfailing love of the Lord, visit Carly over at Life In The Spacious Place. So grateful for Carly's honesty and simple, plain truth-telling way. 
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All my life I have been a planner.  I was always the child who had their homework done on time, who had everything they needed with them, who saw all the detail in a situation and kept others organised.

As a teenager, before a family holiday to Disney World, I even read a guidebook and created a detailed plan of exactly which order to go on the rides and attractions in order to minimize queuing and make the most of the day!

I didn’t like the feeling when things were out of control, and planning became a way to combat that.

As I got older I learned to relax a bit and accept that life doesn’t always go according to plan, but sometimes the desire to find control through planning can still kick in.

Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

I have learned to trust God, but I struggle to trust him with all my heart.  It is easy to divide my trust between God and my own planning.

I realised last year that this was an issue.  Part of my work is organising camps and events for young people and it was becoming increasingly stressful.  The week leading up to an event would be filled with sleepless nights, while the days would be a frantic flurry of photocopying, of thinking up wet weather alternatives and creating back-up plans for every eventuality in case other people didn’t do what they were meant to do.

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I’d have said I was trusting God, but really I was relying far too much on my own planning and that was the root of the stress.  The worst thing was that other people were beginning to rely on me for everything too, which only added to the pressure.

Fortunately God had a plan to address this.

Part 1 of the plan was that I forgot something for an event, which I realise is not as earth-shattering as it seemed at the time.  I couldn’t understand how it had happened but I’m convinced that God was behind it.  I had written a list of everything we needed and triple-checked it.  It seemed impossible that I could have forgotten something, especially something obvious and important.

It was embarrassing and it was an inconvenience to sort out, but God definitely worked it for good.  It showed me, and others, that I was not invincible, I learned that others would show me grace, and I realised that we could deal with the situation and it wasn’t the end of the world.

Part 2 of God’s plan was thrusting me into leadership in a situation so completely chaotic that I hadn’t a hope of being in control.  There were too many unknowns, too many factors that depended on other people, too many difficulties that could never have been foreseen.  Every time I felt I was making progress something else would go wrong.  There was no way my planning was going to fix it and I had to accept that from the start.

It made me look to God: to seek him, to truly learn to rely on prayer rather than planning, to let my first response be turning to God instead of finding my own solution.

It forced me to admit that I couldn’t deal with it myself- that my planning was not enough but I needed God to bring order from the chaos and make it come together.

It allowed me to see God’s power and faithfulness as he did just that (at the last possible moment, which really exercised my faith!) and I knew that in the end, the successful result was all down to him and not to me.

Planning is still something that comes naturally to me, but I don’t want it to be an idol, or the place I put my trust.  These verses from Proverbs remind me that my trust has to be firmly in God and that it is his plan I should be seeking and trusting him to lead me.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.(Proverbs 19:21)

Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.  (Proverbs 16:3)

For the next few weeks, guests will be writing each Monday on something (or someone) we tend to trust in besides God. 

What about you? How do you fill in the blank: In ______ I Trust?

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup, Faith-Filled Friday, Sitting Among Friends, and #SoulSurvivalLinkup.

My Mess, His Order

There are days life is a mess.

Like the morning I spilled three glasses of water, got hot chocolate all over my clothes, ripped my lunch bag and forgot my needed sweater.

The mess got to my heart next.

Within the hour I was at work in a special needs classroom. A student, twice my size, was spread out starfish style on the floor throwing a fit. My heart was flustered, unsure of how to help and what the student needed…

…… curious what the Lord did with my mess? And what He can do with yours?

Click here!

I’m privileged to be sharing over at Christine Duncan’s blog Precepts & Life Preservers. She’s a hoot and a holler-er for Christ! See for yourself 🙂

This post will also be shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

 

WordoftheWeek: Strengthen

“Be strong and of good courage… do not cower.

Do not heed your fears. Take the land I have given you to possess.”

Joshua 1:6, 7

Joshua is one of my favorite books of the Bible. The third chapter in particular grips me every time. So thankful Christine shared about the Lord using Joshua to encourage her to worship Him during battles of all kinds.

Genuinely praising God amidst the crazy and chaotic takes strength.

That’s the word this week, pulled from Joshua 1: Be Strong.

4 Facts:

  1. “Be Strong” is a Verb

I’m referring to the word strengthen because in this verse, in context, “be strong” means “grow strong” or, simply “strengthen.” It’s an action word.

Strength is not something we just possess. To be strong is to exert power.  It’s to use what you have been given with might.

  1. Strengthening is Multi-Faceted

Sometimes being strong means grasping something tightly. That might involve seizing hold of it…or it may mean clinging with force to what is already in your grip.

When you exert strength, it takes effort and sustenance. You must firm up your muscles- even your Spiritual muscles.

  1. Strength Derives from Something Given

“Adopt” and “apply” are some of the first words listed in the definition of strengthen. The potential of the power and might have been given. The Lord’s promises have been made and His call has been issued.

To be strong is to apply what has been given. Flex the faith-muscle God has been growing.

  1. Being Strong Means Relying on the Lord

Another aspect of “be strong” is “be encouraged,” or, “fasten.” What is it that the Israelites were called to be strong in? What is it we’re to fasten ourselves to, take hold of, and grip with all our strength?

God’s promises. Be strong in taking hold of God’s promises.

Securely and resolutely take hold of the one who is growing you.

That’s what it is to be strong: to flex our God-given muscles in the battles we face.

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We take hold and flex in praise, in faithful following, and, as the verses that follow state, in obedience.

Will you stretch and flex from the soul with me today?

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, #TellHiStory, #Thought-Provoking Thursday, #DanceWithJesus, #LLMLinkup and #LifeGivingLinkup.

Listening Through the Static

I drove past that familiar gnarled tree, and the yellow house I like. Approaching  that long stoplight, I slowed to a stop. It’s a road I know. A drive I make daily. I try to get near to the Lord on the trip. To help me tune in, I’ve usually got a CD and two preset Christian stations.

One station is based 78 miles away. It’s rare to hear anything but static. But that morning, I forgot a CD. The other station had commercials. So I tuned in anyway.

The scratchy noises and competing voices blaring through the speakers echoed in me. But a few words I knew came through-

I’ll stop living off of how I feel…”

“tatat, froo, Ohah, today’s stats, mrrr…” competing voices, again, blared in.

But I knew the rest of the words. I love those words. So I sang along anyway.

And start standing on Your truth revealed.

Isn’t that life? If you’re anything like me, your head is full of competing voices and songs. We’ve got static in the form of distractions, worries, to-do lists, conversations on replay. Life is crazy busy and our hearts have tons and tons to sort out. So much of our time is spent trying to piece it all together until something makes sense.

We live in static. We feel that we live in the midst of the chaos, lost in the noise. But we know the Word of truth.

We can live it and sing it through all that tries to drown out our hope and our peace.

Scripture encourages us:

Fix your eyes.” Listen, because:

his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger” (John 10:4-5.)

Sometimes, it’s better not to change the station in life for a clearer, more upbeat song. The static will always be there. The distractions will always beckon and call. We aren’t just to look to Christ when there is nothing else to see, or listen only when the others voices are hushed.

See through the mess, listen through the noise: He is here. His truth is clear. It does not change. Keep singing along.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory

What Hope Can a Broken Heart offer?

How can our brokenness be useful to others? Offering our broken hearts to the Lord as a sacrifice and a praise is one thing. But, giving ourselves to others when we’re messy and vulnerable is another.

Though we shouldn’t recklessly hand over the reins to our heart or carelessly welcome anyone’s influence into to our hurts, there is a place for being broken among people. Scripture allows for this, explicitly and implicitly:

“Mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” –Romans 12:15-16

We are to share in other’s sufferings and grief. At the same time, sharing even in Christ’s sufferings, we are to be those who mourn and who need others to mourn alongside us. That’s part of living in harmony. According to Christ, it’s part of living in this world:

“In this world you will have trouble.”John 16:33

Recognizing that fact and admitting to broken-heartedness is part of witnessing to others, Christian and unbelieving alike.

Unfortunately, there are two lies we believe that stop us from living and proclaiming Him to others even when we’re a mess.

The lies?

  1. To make anyone want the Gospel, we have to make it attractive by having it all together.
  2. No one else will understand anyway. Our comfort isn’t in this world.

Half-truths are deceptive lies, aren’t they? That anyone understands, and cares, and has been messy and broken and vulnerable –that’s what we need to hear. That’s what the unsaved and the struggling believer needs to know before they can live the end of John 16:33:

But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Living as those who know that He has overcome the world, our brokenness is a testimony to the Lord and to the realities of this world that many people deny. It means that in our brokenness, we still have hope to offer because:

  • We can be broken but not destroyed.
  • Our brokenness does not cause us to be useless and abandoned, but loved and sufficient in weakness because our strength is in Him.
  • The stream of living water in you and me doesn’t cease to flow when our persons of clay pottery shatter. It flows all the more freely.
  • Defenses down, hearts exposed, the honesty of being broken is something this world doesn’t admit or acknowledge -not with any hope.

BUT in our brokenness, we continue. We fix our eyes. We smile. We pray. We offer ourselves to others anyway, because our worth isn’t found in the all-together we have to give. Our worth, to others and in our innermost being, is bound up in the one who was broken for us.

That’s why our brokenness offers hope. His body and Spirit were broken, separated from God Himself, rejected. Offered as a sacrifice, as our broken hearts are to be. God uses that sacrifice, raw and messy in our lives and others’ to help restore life, revert perspective, and bring us into a more intimate reliance on Him.

Imagine- when your broken heart is sacrificed to the Lord, He uses the mess to let others know the truth, His presence, and the hope He has to offer all of us. The hope we need. The hope even we as believers ignore when we pretend that brokenness doesn’t come before redemption.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday #Faith-Filled Friday, and #DanceWithJesus.