3 small words

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

We have been using this book as a family devotional at dinner time. We love reading the Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by the same author. The devotionals in this book are short, child friendly, yet deep and thoughtful enough for the adults too. The illustrations are beautiful.

Last night we read this:

“[Treasure] these words of mine in your heart and in your soul.” Deuteronomy 11:18 (ESV)

What words does God want you to treasure in the deepest part of you?

“Be good”? “Do it better”? “Try harder”? Are those the words God wrote in the Bible for us, to rescue and free us?

No. Those words only show us what we can’t do.

The words God wants us to remember are just three small ones: “I love you!”

They are the words that stop the Terrible Lie that Satan whispered to Eve in the garden: “God doesn’t love you!” They are the words that heal the poison in our hearts that stops us from trusting God.

They are the words that Jesus came to tell us with his whole life.

They are the words he died to prove.

What words will you treasure today?

From “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing” by Sally Lloyd-Jones & Jago (page 24)

 

The past few mornings I have been waking up feeling anxious. I usually like the solitude and quiet of my early morning wake up time but lately I have been waking up with a churning stomach and anxious thoughts. I immediately start thinking of all the ways I am going to fall short today. This morning I began praying and the devotional came to mind.

What words will I treasure today?

Will I chose to believe the lie that God wants me to try harder and do better? Will I let my attitude today be determined by thinking of God as a task master with a checklist who shakes his head in disappointment when I don’t do something right? Do I choose to believe that somehow God is less than satisfied with me at the end of the day because I didn’t give enough, wasn’t radical enough? What is enough?

No!

God loves me!

Right now, with nothing I can do or not do, God loves me. He rejoices over me. He made me. He knows me. I bring him joy. Right now.

I know this because he sent his Son. I used to know this theoretically but I am seeing more and more the beauty and wonder of Christ coming as man to this earth. The enormity of him bearing the wrath for my sin. So that, right now, I am seen as righteous before God and can come before him without fear or condemnation. That’s how much God loves me, he wanted me to be able to come before him without fear or condemnation.

As I was contemplating these things and praying that I would feel and live the truth of his love, two little blonde headed boys climbed sleepily into my bed. They snuggled up to me, one on each side. I asked them, “What three words does God want us to remember?” and without a moments hesitation they replied, “I love you!” So we made a deal that today we would be on the lookout for ways that God is telling us he loves us.

Sickness…

I did not intend for it to be so quiet on the blog this past week. But we have all been sick. First the boys, then me. It is a bit frustrating for me since I feel like I haven’t been completely well since Thanksgiving. But God is using this to show me my dependency on Him as well as His love for me. I saw God’s love through my husbands generous and gentle care for me. Through working out details like snow days, long weekend, and being in and out of the dentist office in under an hour for a wisdom tooth extraction. I felt God’s love through friends praying and calling to check on me.

Today Aaron is back at work and we are working on getting a routine back. It is slow going for me in the morning. But I am trying to remember that all is grace, I am completely loved, and I have been given everything I need in Christ.

the 7 experiment

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

A few years ago I began to get very uncomfortable with all the excess in our life. Our pastor was doing a Lent sermon series in the book of Isaiah. I was reading Francis Chan and David Platt. I was following numerous blogs of people who were adopting, giving, living “radical” lives for the gospel. At the same time I was reading and learning more about the real cost of consumption to the earth and to people. Over the years we have made baby steps in many areas in order to simplify our lives. And when a favorite blogger of mine, Jen Hatmaker, came out with a book titled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess I knew I wanted to read it.

Here is the description on Amazon: American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.

7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.

Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.

The year rolled on and I just never got around to ordering the book. I continued to read Jen Hatmaker’s blog and her posts were always inspiring and convicting and funny. Then late last year a friend at church asked me if I had read the book. She had just read it and was eager to discuss it. She mentioned organizing a group of women to read the book and do the experiment together. I told her that I would love to be part of it!

In early January the idea was brought up again. At first I was reluctant to join in because I am at a tender place right now. I have leaned towards legalism and rule-keeping all my life and I wasn’t sure that starting an experiment like this, when I was trying to lean into grace and unconditional love, would be the best thing for me. But I talked to friends, and prayed about it, and I was so excited by the idea that I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose. So I ordered the book and when it arrived devoured the whole thing in a day and a half.

I do not fear doing this out of legalism any more (I will explain more about that in another post) and I am eager to embark on this experiment. I am going to share this journey on this blog as a way of documenting my process and maybe even inspiring someone else.

Here is how the 7 Experiment is working for the group at our church. A bunch of us are reading the book and also doing a version of each “fast” as described by the author for a month. As we go through the experiment we are encouraging/challenging/sharing on a private Facebook group. Here is how the months will break down:

Food = February, Clothes = March, Spending = April, Media = May, Possessions = June, Waste = July, Stress = August

So there is my introduction to what we are doing. Next week I will give some more thoughts as to the “why” I am doing this. Feel free to get a book and jump into this craziness with me! Even if you chose not to do the “fasts” I highly recommend this book. It is funny, convicting, thought provoking, and challenging in all the best of ways.

 

A day late

This post was supposed to go up on Monday. But on Sunday evening both boys went to bed with coughs and slight fevers. Monday morning saw us heading to the doctor after Jeremiah’s science class. But the count continues…

This counting gifts thing seems so hokey. At first glance it seems like some kind of self-help exercise. It seems like an attempt to will yourself into positive thinking, “Just think happy thoughts!”

But it’s not that at all.

This counting of gifts is a specific choice to fix my thoughts and focus on Christ. As I have been reading in John as well as the book Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick I am seeing more and more how understanding my identity as being in Christ is key to how I view my relationship with God.

“How can our faith grow if all we see before us in our record of failure?” – Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

Corrie ten Boom wrote in a devotional once (that I can’t find the exact source of so I am just paraphrasing here) that a follower of Christ is to be like a mirror – always reflecting the image of Christ. As soon as the mirror is moved in any way the reflection changes. As soon as we take our eyes off of the reflection then we no longer remember what we are to be reflecting. If my eyes are focused on Christ and who I am in Him then I don’t have to feel failure or shame – I am complete, redeemed, loved, perfected!

This counting of gifts is a physical reminder of how loved I am in Him. Every gift I scribble down is God saying to me, “See how much I love you? You didn’t deserve this love, but in Christ I have lavished my love on you and called you my daughter.” Every gift I count is a reminder of who I am.

So I keep counting…

19. a friends listening ear and encouraging words…  20. Aaron taking over bath & bed routine at the end of a long day…21. an encouraging email…22. Jeremiah’s kindness toward a younger child

23. soft lamplight early in the morning snuggling warm in bed reading my Bible and praying…24. deep conversations with the boys today about things of faith, beautiful reflections of the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts…25. Nathaniel trying to sneak up behind me in the park, his shadow giving him away, me surprising him and twirling him around

26. hot cup of coffee, fresh and waiting for me when I wake, by Aaron…27. the boys coloring together, right in the middle of the floor, in my way, but having so much fun…28. all 3 of us around the school table learning together, watching Nathaniel get better at reading

29. morning grapefruit…30. Jeremiah reading his Bible snuggled up next to me in bed…31. afternoon tea

32. scrambled eggs, made by Jeremiah, his helpful attitude has been encouraging…33. a new magazine in the mail box, glossy and bright yellow! fun cheer on a gray, wet day…34. Jeremiah’s tousled blonde hair, us reading together on the couch during rest time

35. rain on the roof, always relaxing at the end of the day…36. pink striped rain boots…37.holding hands

38. being moved to tears during corporate worship…39. compassion…40. generosity

Five Minute Friday: Dive

Go

I saw the word for today and wanted to run away from it.  Dive.

It is probably supposed to inspire musings about fearlessness, trust, living wide open. I get that. There are times in my life when I have needed to be inspired to just hold my breath and take the plunge. But lately that well intended mantra, “Just dive in!” “Just trust!” “Just be fearless!” has caused me a lot of anxiety. I have used it to judge myself as somehow less-than. I have turned the encouragement into law. Because in a specific situation recently I didn’t just dive in, and I believe that I made the right decision to not dive in, but I still beat myself up about it.

Would a better person have taken the plunge? Did I not trust enough? Am I not fearless enough? Do I not love enough?

As I am learning to listen to the Holy Spirit I am realizing that sometimes I need to hold my breath, take a wild leap, and dive. There are other times when I need to wait, and rest, and test the waters. Both are okay. Both take a special kind of bravery.

Stop

The count starts again

A few years ago I started a list. Inspired by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience I started writing down my thousand gifts. This simple habit caused quite a change in my usual Eeyore-like demeanor. It is safe to say that I am not usually a “glass half full” type of person. Starting the list seemed self indulgent to me. It seemed like a modern “feel good” exercise and I was skeptical as to just what the outcome of it would be. As I scratched out my list in a notebook, everything from the seemingly mundane to the miraculous, I began to notice things. I began to see beauty all around.  I began to see how much I was loved. My focus changed and I saw that even on the most difficult of days my heart could see God’s goodness to me.

But at some point I stopped counting. The list stopped abruptly somewhere in the 700’s for reasons I don’t remember. Maybe I thought I got the point? Maybe I got lazy? Maybe I turned a joyful exercise into a requirement? Count on me to turn a joyful experience into a task and rob it of its joy. At the fresh start of this year, in which I am on a quest to discover more of grace, I decided to take up the Joy Dare again. I picked up my pen and a crisp new notebook and started to number the gifts again, starting back at #1 because there is grace to begin again. It feels comfortable and seven days into the new year I feel the joy in the counting return. I take a moment to notice the sky, the blossoms, the twinkle of lights against the rainy day, the sparkle in my son’s eye, the steady arms of my husband. In this renewed habit I begin again to see the everyday beauty of God’s love for me. Each gift scratched in pen a testament to love. Not just a general, all-encompassing love but specific love. For me. It’s mind boggling really.

 

Taking the dare to see joy and count God’s gifts

1. Aaron’s “I love you” 2. Nathaniel’s giggle 3. Jeremiah playing with Lego’s

4. camilla blooms 5. our cozy school room 6. left over tacos for lunch

7. quiet in the sunroom while I shower, which means the boys are getting along 8. Nathaniel singing praise songs in the aisle at Costco 9. Aaron & boys doing devotions

10. well loved Christmas decorations 11. big stack of new library books 12. bright blue sky after days of rain!

13. the book “Because He Loves Me” by Elyse Fitzpatrick, life giving! 14. a clean house 15. Aaron & Nathaniel on the couch watching football together

16. gifts for friends – just because 17. lots of fresh fruits and veggies 18. a growing awareness of what it means to be loved unconditionally by God

What are you seeking?

This morning I was blithely reading in the book of John again. John the Baptist has revealed Jesus to be the Christ and two of his disciples leave him and start following Jesus. Jesus turns to them and said, “What are you seeking?” (John 1:38). Such a personal, thoughtful question. That Jesus, the Son of God, would ask them this question is astounding to me. “What are you after?” (The Message).

This today is my grace. This question from Jesus, spoken to two disciples a few thousand years ago but also to me today. This gentle probing that acknowledges my lack of confidence, encourages me to look into my heart, and implies that what I seek I will find in Him.

This today is my grace. That I don’t have to have all the answers today. I don’t have to rush ahead trying to fix my own insecurity or to prove my worth. I can look at Jesus, who has already done everything for me, and rest calm in his knowledge of my seeking.

“Because He Loves Me”

bookI was looking for something to read the other day and ran across this book. The author’s name sounded familiar and the description sounded like it would dovetail well with my pursuit of grace and love. The Kindle Edition was only $3.99 so I went ahead and ordered it. Just a few pages in she asks some questions,

– Are you more focused on your performance for him than his for you?
– At the end of the day is there a rest in your soul because of him, or is there guilt and a determination that tomorrow you’re going to “do better’?
– Do you still feel the need to prove that you’re not “all that bad”? Do you get angry when people criticize or ignore you?

I knew I needed to keep reading.

I have made it through chapter one, savoring, writing down quotes, pondering. Here are some quotes I have written in my journal:

” If we’re not completely convinced that his love is ours, right now, fully and unalterably ours, we’ll always hide in the shadows, be focused on our performance, fearing his wrath.”

” If you neglect to focus on God’s love for you in Christ, your Christianity will soon be reduced to a program of self improvement – just one of many methods to help you ‘get your act together.'”

” If you’re in Christ today, God’s promise of relationship and identity with him is rooted in his ageless love: I have loved you so much that I sent my Beloved Son to bring you to myself, that in believing this you might have eternal relationship with me. I will be your God, you will be my child. Rest and rejoice in all my love has done to transform you.”

As I read through the book of John and through this book I feel my soul being refreshed. I am seeing the person of Christ in a new way. I don’t know how I missed it before – this reality of Christ being a physical manifestation of God’s love, not just as a person in history, but as my Savior.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. -Ephesians 1:3-6

My word for 2013 – Grace

It has been quiet around here. We went out of town for Christmas. I was sick the whole time and am while I am feeling better am still not up to 100%. I have been doing a lot of thinking. And praying. Feeling distant from God and His love but desperately searching for it all the same. Suddenly a new year looms and I feel that I am a completely different person than I was a year ago in the most unexpected of ways. I am still trying to figure out who this person is.

Before Christmas I went through a few days of deep guilt and despair. A kind and wise friend told me that one day as she was praying for me it occurred to her that this process – the aftermath of our decision- was intended for me to come to understand God’s unconditional love in a very real way. She was praying for me to feel God’s love, to know who I am as His daughter, regardless of what I did or didn’t do.

At this time of year many bloggers I read choose a word for the year. They choose it to put some vision on the year to come. I have never picked a word. But in the past few days as I have thought and prayed the word “Grace” has kept coming into my head. I am truly on a quest to discover what God’s grace is for me. I want to learn to rest secure in His grace and love no matter what my circumstance. I want to pursue this. I want to feel this.

– favor or goodwill. Synonyms: kindness, kindliness, love, benignity; condescension.

– a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior.  Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness.

– mercy; clemency; pardon.  Synonyms: lenity, leniency, reprieve.

This morning I was thinking through some kind of Bible reading/devotional time that a friend and I had agreed to do together. We haven’t decided on anything because I am wary of reading something that will turn into legalism for me. I don’t need to read right now about how to give more, or be more radical, or how to be better, or how I should do more. I need to bathe in grace. It was suggested that we read the book of John. That sounded like a good place to start.

So for now I am going to read the book of John in the ESV and the Message. I am going to try and apply what I read through three simple steps: 1. I confess…repentance
2. I count…blessings
3. I claim…verse from the reading

I am also going to jump back into The Joy Dare with Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. I used to keep my list of gifts but kind of let it slide lately. How better to see God’s love for me than to take up the practice of listing my gifts again?

So I am stumbling into the new year. Not sure who I am. Aching to find out more of who God is. Longing to experience grace. Waiting still and quiet.