The List

During my early thirties, my over active guilt glands were at their peak, self-introspection was killing me and depression had its long bony fingers firmly grasped around my neck. For several years, every day felt like a matter of survival. Every day felt like failure.

Amongst my drawer full of books that instructed me on how to be a better Christian, wife, mother (etc.), there was a self made list to which I often added new items. It was a list of my sins. A list that grew longer as each minute passed. Every night I would pull it out, stare it down, and wonder how I could ever be forgiven for all that I had done; wonder how anyone could love me who knew all of these things about me; wondered how tomorrow I’d expunge these sins from my record. The list became an obsession to the point that I could feel its presence in that drawer throughout the day. It was calling out to me the shame of the secrets that I longed to be set free from.

But the list wasn’t the exhaustive list that it should have been. The truth is that I had broken far more of God’s laws than that list represented. It was ridiculous to think that I could account for them all. As I have said before, the written law was meant to expose to us the ugliness of our heart and bring us to our knees begging for grace. The problem is that in the years of my life that I kept this list I knew nothing of God’s grace and lived trying to please him through fulfilling his law.

It was not until I began meeting with a counselor that I really began to hear the true gospel. I had spent my entire Christian life hearing and believing that the gospel was what we preached to non-believers so that they would believe and be saved. I disregarded the fact that every day of my life was sustained by the grace of the gospel and not of my own works. I truly believed that now that I was saved, it was up to me to stay in God’s good graces until the very end, never understanding that because of Christ, there was nothing that I could do to be separated from his love.

After months of counseling, I finally confessed that I had this list that I had kept and to my horror my counselor had asked me to bring it to her. With much trepidation I pulled it from my pocket in our next meeting and laid it out on the table. There it was, The List, laid out in utter vulnerability, everything that I never wanted anyone to know about me. I could not think of a more humiliating experience.

Without reading the list my counselor handed me a marker and instructed me to write “PAID!” in all capital letters across the words over which I had felt so much shame and guilt. She told me of everything that Jesus had done in order to destroy the list that I had kept. She told me of the freedom that comes with having an unsettled debt paid off. She told me of how all of that sin, every one of those acts, had been laid upon his back and died with him in his death; how my sins were cast into the sea of God’s forgotten memory (“His Be the Victor’s Name,” Zac Hicks). And then she shared Psalm 103:10-13:

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

I’d like to say that this was an instantaneously freeing moment for me but I can’t. In fact, it angered me. I was insulted that there was nothing that I could do to make up for all of the awful things that I had done. I was offended by this gospel that she so adamantly preached to me week after week. I was offended to the point that I told myself one day that if she brought up the gospel one more time, I was going to get up and walk out of the office. Of course she did, and of course I didn’t get up and leave. The Holy Spirit glued me to that seat. I could not escape the Spirit’s furious longing for me to hear the truth. I believe that this was the day that the message of grace finally broke through my hardened pharisaical heart, and I began to believe that I could rest in my forgiveness. It was then that I began to grasp hold of the comforting truth that God’s love never shudders at the state we’re in (Francis Spufford).

The gospel is scandalously offensive to those who are trying to earn their way. Rightly so. Not one of us wants to be the weak person who needs to be rescued. All of our lives we are told to “stay strong” and “keep fighting;” while these are helpful survival tips, they are counterintuitive to the gospel. The gospel tells us to “give up” and to “boast in our weakness.” For it is in this giving up and admitting that we are weak, that we die a death to ourselves and are raised into the newness of life; a life of vulnerability, grace, and the unending comfort of living in forgiveness.

Replenish Your Soul

For the past eight summers my family of six has crammed the car full of rafts, towels, sleeping bags, bathing suits, a ridiculous amount of sunscreen, and coolers full of food for the week. We head six hours north to Sequoia National park and it’s worth every minute of the drive. After years of planning, organizing, and packing I have this trip down to a science. I know exactly how much spending money, how many extra towels, and how many meals and snacks to include. The first year we went I spent hours online researching cabins to rent, finding new and fun vacation recipes, and planning out which places we wanted to explore and which activities we would participate in while we were there. This is why we go back to the same place every year. It's predictable. It's easy planning for me now. And most of all it's where we love to be.

With a week void of cell phone and internet service I am left to sit on the shore, gaze at the beauty of the lake set against the back drop of towering mountains and think. I think a lot. Lake thinking is different. It's more unambiguous and many of my best ideas and plans have been born at the lake. This is where I hear God most clearly.

This year was a bit different. With no books in the works and the sober reality that I do not have the time to write another one in this season of my life, along with my newfound freedom of becoming nobody, I felt that I listened more to God than to myself for once. I spent much time talking to God about where He wants me to be serving and what the future looks like for our family but I spent even more time listening. 

I have a full plate with four kids in the house, partially homeschooling, and driving all over Northern San Diego County every day. But I still long to use the gifts God has given me. I don't have the time and space to give myself away on a regular basis, and I no longer want to be involved in public ministry in the same capacity that I was before. I needed something that is good for my family and good for my soul. So I began to pray. What does it look like for a mom of four to use her gifts without giving up too much of her time? The answer was Repleo Retreats. 

This new venture, Repleo Retreats was born at the lake while I was replenishing my soul. I figured that if I could plan a week's stay at a cabin for my family of six then I could certainly do that for a small group of women who desire to get away. 

What is Repleo? In Latin, Repleo means to refill, refresh, and replenish. That’s exactly what I want women who attend a Repleo retreat to experience— a weekend away to replenish their souls. Repleo retreats are designed for the woman who needs rest in an intimate setting with good friends, great meals that she doesn’t have to prepare or clean up, and most of all lots of Jesus. 

If you are located in Southern California (or if you don't mind traveling here for a great weekend) consider grabbing a group of friends and heading to the local mountains with me! Our February Farmhouse Retreat is already full but I have room for a group of five in March. If the March retreat is not your deal (maybe you aren't a group of moms, you have more than five people, or would like to have a weekend away closer to your home) contact me and let's plan something special!

You can find more information on my Repleo Retreats page here

Becoming Nobody

“It takes more courage to become a nobody than it does to remain a somebody.”

I’m sure these aren’t the exact words I read but this is the message that was implanted in my brain several years ago. I can’t tell you who wrote it or where I read it but I can tell you that God sent that message just for me. At the time of reading it I was steeping in my own self-importance. I thought I was a Somebody. Ministry had slowly morphed into a race of numbers. How many followers did I have? How many parties was I invited too? How many friends with big platforms was I surrounding myself with? It was all about me and how much I was gathering, instead of Christ and how much I was giving. I knew it was wrong and I wanted out.

I had often recalled these words when I was feeling dejected or not big enough. I knew something had to change but I didn’t have the courage. I didn’t know what it meant to be a Nobody and so I started praying. It was an occasional prayer, the kind you pray because God is pulling it out of you, the kind that you know if you commit to then God might doing something really big and that’s just way too scary. 

I am very well aware that in the world of celebrity Christians I really was not a Somebody. With a platform under five thousand followers, no best selling books, no national speaking tour, I certainly didn’t fall into the category of “well known author” the way that I had hoped for.

Who we think ourselves to be when receiving daily praise and attention is not who we are once the world is silent. What I needed was silence. What I needed was to be shown who I had become. 

When I first started writing my goal was to serve. I wanted others to know the same sweet Jesus that I had come to know. I longed for prisoners of the law to be set free. I had no platform; I had no books, just a computer and a story.

But…

I knew people. Some of my very best friends were Somebodies (and they still are). They introduced me to other Somebodies. Soon those Somebodies were texting me, telling me how great I was, inviting me to dine and party with other Somebodies. I wrote for their blogs. I promoted their work. I defended their honor. And by simple reasoning I figured if I was hanging with the Somebodies then I guess I was a Somebody, just a smaller Somebody.

Spiral into Freedom

Things were looking good from the outside as I was running a ministry, writing a book, blogging for larger ministries, speaking and podcasting. The deeper I got into the world of being known the more I had moved away from my initial goal of writing which was to write in response to what Christ has done, not for a response from others. It was a pretty simple mission statement that was so easily drowned out as I plunged forward into seeking the approval of others. I had gone from writing boldly for Christ to writing boldly for attention. I wanted to say what nobody else dared to say and I had a group of fans egging me on, hungry for the next dose of “shock them with your sin, then point them to Jesus.”

I don’t think that anything I wrote was wrong. I don’t believe that I was unbiblical, or unfaithful to the truth of the gospel. It was not the content of my work, but the heart behind it. I know that God has used my ministry to help others. I also know that I became a person that I didn’t want to be. I had given up on my prayer to become Nobody. I enjoyed the life I was living and the opportunities I was receiving. I wanted to push forward to be a bigger Somebody.

But God…

God is the finest of unravelers. I know this to be true because I have witnessed it over and over again in my own life as well as others. It is a long process but a loving one at that. He can turn Somebodies into Nobodies in a matter of seconds.

I had tried many times to take a break from social media. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t live without knowing what was being said. I couldn’t stay away for fear that people would forget about me. Not only was I not able to pull away from the chatter for my soul’s sake but I also had a new book being released that I needed to market. It wasn’t the right time to become a Nobody. But is it ever?

My platform deconstruction was not planned. I would say that it started by accident but as we all know nothing is an accident with God. I had been messing around with my Facebook account settings and before I knew it my page was gone. Vanished. I panicked (which is a sign of what I had shifted my hope to). I spent an entire week trying to figure out how to regain it. Thousands of followers lost on the brink of a book release. This was one of my biggest marketing tools. How would anyone know my book was available? How would anyone know my book was out? I started a new page and messaged as many people as I could think of to tell them what happened and where they could find me. I even paid to promote my page. I was desperate for likes.

Six months passed and I continued to be swept up in the online drama of Twitter and Facebook. It deeply affected my mood. One tweet could ruin my whole day. By this time I had marketed my book and the excitement was dying down. I wasn’t gaining the opportunities that I had with my first book because I had broken up with many of the Somebodies that had been promoting my work. The world was screaming at me to work harder, promote myself more, put myself out there, yada, yada, yada, and God was gently nudging me to find rest, to not worry that the interviews and speaking engagements weren’t coming. God loved me for me, not for the words I wrote.

It was after a two hour-long meeting with my pastor that I decided I should pull the plug. A number of issues had resurfaced regarding one of the Sombodies I had involved myself with. There was too much pain, too many stories that I wanted to add to, too much fighting and anger. I was tired of being silenced. I was on the verge of voicing my pain in ways that would have brought nothing but anger and zero of Christ to an already volatile situation. And so I did it. Actually, I made my husband do it. I sat next to him on the bed as he pressed, “Delete account” and then changed my password. There was no turning back. I melted in tears. It was a bigger loss than I thought it was going to be.

Really? Crying over a Twitter account? It’s true. I had gotten so wrapped up in building and maintaining an online platform that I fell apart when it was gone. I felt that I had lost my identity. How would I ever get another publisher? How would I network? How would I know what to be angry about?! All of these thoughts consumed me for days. It was a detox. I had shifted my hope in Christ to hope in people, numbers, and platforms. I missed the likes and the retweets and the praise. It was hard to be alone with my four kids serving in a right-in-front-of-my-nose sort of way. My world felt so small and nobody was giving me a thumbs up every time I wiped the counter top, cooked a meal, or gave a hug. It was then that I learned who I had become and I was glad to see her leave.

So What Now?

I have spent over a year away from Twitter and Facebook. I changed my Instagram account to private and kicked just about everyone off that wasn’t an in-real-life friend or family member. Sorry!

I have been keeping my world small.

I’ve rested.

I’ve found joy.

I will be a Somebody to my family and a Nobody to the world. I will keep wiping the counters, cooking the meals, and giving the hugs. I’ll write when I’m inspired. I’ll speak locally when I am asked. I will love my neighbor. I will mess up, repent, and rest in a Savior who loves me and approves of me regardless of numbers. I will be a Nobody because He is Somebody on my behalf.

 

WHEN LOVE ISN'T IN THE AIR

Valentine’s Day...

As one of my teenagers pointed out, “If you don’t have a significant other, you spend your day wishing you did. If you do have one you spend your day hoping not to disappoint them or be disappointed by them. Everyone is miserable. What’s the point?” God bless my little cynic.

As disparaging as this statement may be, I wholeheartedly agree. Every Valentine’s Day, no matter what my relationship status, has been filled with some degree of angst (that was until I married another cynic and we threw the holiday out all together. Thank you, Jesus!). For some, February 14th conjures up an incredible amount of expectation and hurt. And for others, the hopeless romantics of whom I cannot relate, it is a temptation to self-righteously cling to their giant boxes of chocolates, perky bushels of roses, and sappy love notes wondering what everyone else’s problem is. Or even worse, believe that their Valentine inspired works might just get God to check the yes box on their latest “Do You Love Me?” note.

Cynic or romantic, perhaps today (and every day) we would all be better off looking to the only Lover who truly speaks our love language without ever getting it wrong.

The First “I Love You”

Christ's incarnation, life, death, and resurrection were the first "I love you" spoken to this world. A gift of love from a God who longed to save us through His son.

-It was Love that reduced Him to the size of a seed in His mother's womb.

-It was Love that was helpless at the hands of first time parents.

-It was Love that grew as a boy, being completely God and man, under the submission of sinful parents.

-It was Love that perfectly served an imperfect family.

-It was Love that resisted every temptation known to man.

-It was Love that was falsely accused, mocked and beaten.

-It was Love that went to the cross without opening His mouth.

-It was Love that was humiliated and spat upon in open nakedness.

-It was Love that saved the sinner next to Him while in suffocating pain.

-It was Love that was separated from His Father, void of perfect fellowship for the first time.

-It was Love that took the most tragic day in human history and redeemed it for our Salvation.

-It was Love that united us to Himself, leaving with us the Holy Spirit so that He would still be near.

He loved you when you had no love on your lips, when the other four letter words outweighed the L-word. He knew you'd struggle to love Him back yet He chose to love you. He knew you'd love yourself more than you love others yet He pursued you as His bride. He knew you'd hate your enemies yet He chose to love you even when you were His.

His Beloved

Some of you have heard the tender words of "I love you" since the moment you caught your first breath. Yet others still await the words you've longed to hear since you were a child. But as you and I walk in the shadow of the cross we both hear the same sweet whisper from our Savior's lips, "You are my beloved child."

No matter how many or how few times we hear the enchanting words "I love you" here on this earth we know that there is only One that truly loves us. There is only One that can speak these words and fill our souls with a love that is pure and can never be taken back.

There is a precious Love that breaks through to the broken, the self-righteous, and the cynical hearts like yours and mine. His name is Jesus and he calls us his Beloved.

The Day Love Pursued

All four of my kids have at one time or another struggled terribly with going to school. I think I cried just about every day the first year that they were all finally there full time. Every morning was a battle. And just about every afternoon when I picked them up I had all of their teachers walking towards my car wanting to discuss their day with me before I could even turn off the engine. It was emotionally exhausting and I carried much guilt and shame over my messy family. We were doing our best at home with our children but all the world could see was their lack of self-control, stubbornness, and emotional breakdowns.

There was one particularly difficult day that I will never forget. My son was in second grade and quite tired of being told what to do. We had been having some discipline problems with him that we were working through so it was not surprising that he had blown up at his teacher that day. As he stood in line after recess he began to bounce the ball that he was holding. His teacher kindly asked him to hold the ball. This one little request was his tipping point. He bounced the ball as hard as his little arms possibly could and took off running. The principal was standing nearby and caught sight of him as he headed off campus and thus began on foot in pursuit of my rogue eight year old. My son barely made it out the gates of the school before the man tackled him. He was then carried back to the school office where the principal sat with his arms wrapped tightly around my kicking and screaming son, repeating these words, “I will not let you go. I will not let you go. I will not let you go.” The struggle was so fierce that the office staff called me in for back up.

When I heard that my son had tried to run away and was throwing another one of his outrageous fits, I was angry. Thank God that we lived twenty minutes from the school because after the week that I had already had with him, I’m not sure how I would have handled the situation had I not had that time to cool off. My drive there was filled with desperate thoughts. “How could he embarrass me like this?” “What are we doing wrong?” “Why can’t he just get his act together and do what he is told?”

Something beautiful happened on the twenty-minute drive into town. The Lord began to soften my heart towards my little boy. He began to show me how very much I often act like my son was acting but I just hide it better. I thought about Jesus’ unrestrained love for me in the way that he relentlessly pursues and tackles me every time I try to run. He holds me while I kick and scream and tells me “I will not let you go” over and over and over again.

I arrived at the school to a tear faced, mussed hair boy in the arms of an exhausted principal who had been committed to holding my son down until I got there. And by God’s grace my heart just wanted to love him. And so I did. I took him to the car and we went to lunch. We didn’t even talk about what happened. We just ate our fries and made jokes. We enjoyed each other for the first time all week.

After bringing him back to the school to finish his day I sat in the parking lot wondering if I had done the right thing. My son had run away from school and I took him out to lunch. Everything I’ve ever known and had been told as a parent told me to do the opposite. For once I stopped listening to everything that everyone was shouting at me about how to raise my children and I just listened to God. My son had heard enough of the law of try harder and do better and he broke. It was time for him to know that he was loved, even if he never got any better. No strings attached.

Little did I know that God wasn’t done teaching me about grace that day. While our family piled in the car to go to out for the evening, I noticed that the dog was missing. It was dusk and our little dachshund was off running in the countryside chasing rabbits, oblivious to the fact that she was coyote bait. We couldn’t leave without finding her. My four kids and I spotted her in a field down the road and immediately jumped from the car and raced after her. She had caught the scent of a rabbit and was oblivious to the mob that was hunting her down. For close to an hour we chased her and pleaded with her to come back. As the sun began to fade we grew more and more concerned and our calling and pleading and searching became more intense. We had already lost several animals to coyotes that year and were not about to give up on her.

The pursuit ended with a desperate tackle and our little dog locked tight in the arms of my daughter. We had given up our evening plans because of the search, thorny stickers had vandalized our socks and shoelaces, but we had our little friend back safe in our arms. The hugs and attention that she received that night were a picture of Jesus’ tenderness toward us. Nobody lectured the dog. We were just happy that she was home safe.

I remember that day fondly as “The Day Love Pursued.” If my little family was willing to give up a piece of themselves for one little dog, or the principal of the school was willing to tackle my son, how much more does Jesus relentlessly pursue those who are running; those who have their nose stuck to the rabbit trail, oblivious to his call?

Romans 5:20 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Did you read that? While you were sinning God came after you! While you were still selfishly pursuing your own interests, finding your worth in your work, using people, over eating, abusing alcohol, and giving God and the rest of the world a cantankerous kiss-off, he was stubbornly seeking to redeem you. The Hound of Heaven hunted you down in the midst of your unrighteousness. And he continues to pursue you. This is how he shows his love for you. He continues to chase after you every time you bolt.

You have been his all along. There is no escaping his tight grip, no matter how big your mess is or how much you think you have it all together. He is holding on tight, whispering in your ear “I will not let you go. I will not let you go. I will not let you go.” You are His beloved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting Down

As a mom, there is never a night that I go to bed with my work done.

I have yet to lay my head down on my pillow at the end of the day and say “My work here is finished.”

I may have a quitting time each evening but what is left undone stays undone until the following day where it takes its place back on my never-ending list. My job has no beginning and no end as I remain on call twenty-four hours a day, whether I’d like to be or not.

There are very few restful moments while raising young children.

While as moms we may never truly be finished with our ongoing chores and care for our children, we can however rest in the fact that Christ’s final words on the cross, “It is finished,” were meant for us just as much as anyone else. These three extraordinary words were not referring to the end of His suffering, but rather to His completion of the law on our behalf.

His final and most important command to our busy hearts was, “It is finished. Stop trying to earn your way and rest in what I have done.”

Day after day the priests of the Old Testament offered up sacrifices for the sins of their people. The priests were never able to sit down (can you relate?), never able to rest because their work was never finished. Because of the fall, the world was in an endless cycle of sin and sacrifice.

But then God sent us The Great High Priest. The only priest (Christ Jesus) that was able to offer up one full and final sacrifice that would atone for all of the sin of the world would be the only priest whose work was finally finished and was able to “sit down” at the right hand of God.

“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19

While I can’t lie my head down on my pillow at night knowing that each job on my task-list for the day was checked off, I can still utter the words, “It is finished” and rejoice in His finished work for me. I can revel in His goodness knowing that although I will start the next day with more dishes, laundry, and needy children, I will also start the day with a spiritual list that reads “DONE.”

So it is through Christ that we are able to “sit down” and rest in the work that has been done for us. We can stop the feverish work of trying to live up to self-imposed standards to make ourselves worthy, it is finished. Believe it and rest!

 

-An excerpt from Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood

Speak to the Weak

Dear Friends,

I'd like to share with you something that I have learned over the past years. It's something that I view as integral to ministering the comfort of Christ to others. It's wisdom that I have gained in the countless hours that I have walked and talked with my brothers and sisters as well as from my own struggles with weak faith: When you speak of faith, always speak to the weak. 

I know that you believe that it only takes the faith of a mustard seed and that the weakest of faith receive the same strong Christ as the greatest of faith, but are the people listening (someone is always listening) hearing this truth? Is there room for the weak of faith, the doubters, those hanging by a thread in your sphere of influence? Are you pastoring, writing to, or speaking (we are all speaking to someone) to those of little faith? Or are you only addressing the confident, the convinced, the sold-out Jesus lovers? 

It's easy to speak to the steady. It's easy to talk about having great faith and doing great things in the name of Christ for those who seem to be floating along on a constant Jesus high claiming that nothing can get to them because they are confident of the Solid Rock on which they stand. It's also easy to blow out a smoldering wick. 

The challenge of speaking or writing to a group is that we must speak in a way that addresses everyone in the room. And in one room you may have hundreds of believers all who have been given different measures of faith, struggling with different circumstances, and on different paths. If you preach with the assumption that everyone who receives your word has a stellar walk with God then you are sure to be snapping reeds. Talk about faith must be a talk of something outside of ourselves. If the focus is on what we can do, or what we can gain, or what we aren't doing right then the listeners find themselves with one of two options; pride or despair. 

There are some listening that believe that if they just try harder to get to know Jesus better then they will be able to have the confident faith that you speak of; that they will finally feel worthy of being a disciple. This causes despair when they walk out the doors, put down the book, or turn off the podcast and find themselves doubting once again. They will wonder why they can't have the kind of faith that you have just encouraged them to have. They will assume that everyone around them has a faith that they don't have, and eventually they will begin to question their own salvation. 

And then there are others who are confident in their faith and lean on the strength of their own faith instead of Christ's strength. They will hear your exhortations, take charge and in the confidence of their faith (leaving behind the confidence of Christ) they will charge ahead to do "great things" all the while stepping over the corpses of those who have since given up the race because they couldn't keep up. 

Both groups of people are in great need. Both need to hear these three truths:

1. Our faith isn't strong enough and never will be. 

2. Christ loves us despite our strength of faith.

3. Jesus' perfect faith and trust in the Father is what we have through Christ. 

Leaving listeners with the hope and strength of Christ rules out assumptions. We must always lean on the side of comfort in Christ when we don't know the details of every person's life. 

Here's a little something that Barb Duguid says in Extravagant Grace about people with weak faith that I just love:

"I counsel many people who struggle with assurance and suffer with a faith that is weak. I just can’t wait to see the joy in their faces when they finally get to heaven! Those who are blessed with strong faith in this lifetime will wake up to find themselves in glory just as they expected. They knew that it was all true, they trusted in God, and perhaps they rarely experienced a moment’s doubt. For others, however, that moment of their awakening will be worth a fortune to watch. Can you imagine the surprise and delight on their faces to find themselves in heaven after all? On earth they could barely hope that the promises of eternal life were true and that God had actually saved them, and they never felt the joy of it during their lifetime. But once they get to heaven it will all change, and I imagine that they will perhaps spend the first millennium or two in heaven surprised and delighted simply to be there. I can only imagine their joy when they hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master”(Matt 25:21). Their joy in heaven will be matched only by the Father’s joy in proving once again that the gospel of his Son really is enough to save the weakest and most broken of people. The angels are already dancing and the band is playing for them; they just don’t know it yet (Luke 15:7, 9, 22-24). God’s grace really is sufficient for the least of these."

The best gift that you can give to those listening is to dig in deep and speak from your weakness. Speak from your need for Christ. This is the only place where your strength isn't needed and certainly isn't helpful. Christ is your strength – preach that! 

For the sake of God's loved ones, learn to speak the language of the bruised reeds. If you give them Christ and nothing more then everyone within earshot will be fed. You can't miss if you preach a strong Christ to weak people.

 

Hello, Again

Hello, again! It's been over a year since I've written here–since my fingers have tapped out anything other than shopping lists, garden plans, and homeschool lessons. It's been a busy season to say the least. Busy and restful all in the same moment. A time of healing and learning how to hope again.

My break from writing and especially social media didn't come suddenly. It was an evolved absence that I didn't realize how much I needed. I slowly backed away from the internet and with each step I shed a little more of the person that I had become–a woman more interested in numbers and names than glorifying Christ (more about that another time). 

Blow after blow over 2015-2016 had left me spinning. I needed to leave the drama. I needed to get my bearings. There were times over the past year that I had drafted my heart only to press delete for wisdom's sake (THANK GOD!) because some things are meant to be worked out in the quietness that is not the internet. 

Though raising four kids, homeschooling, and countless animal and property projects hardly seems like rest, it has been the health of my soul. There are times to make your world smaller, and this has been that time for me. 2015-2016 asked all the questions, 2017 brought the answers–and all of those answers were found within the loving arms of Christ who so faithfully held me close.

I hope to come back to this keyboard again as time permits, not to bring you myself and fulfill my own longing for purpose, but only to bring you Christ and his purpose–a purpose of rescue for weak and needy sinners. 

I hope that your 2017 was filled with much grace and joy. I have missed you all.

Until next time...

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Pushed the Elf Off the Shelf

“Mommy, if there really was a naughty and nice list we would all be on the naughty list.”

This statement from my seven year old had much greater theological depth than she knew. Her observation didn’t come from a manipulative self-pity over being naughty. It came from a clear view of what she knows about the gospel: “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).

As the traditions of the holidays swirl around my children, my hope is that they will learn to distinguish the law from the gospel. I want my kids to know that God is not another Santa Claus. I long for them to embrace the fact that they are not capable of being good enough to receive anything but coal in their stockings and that our hope for goodness can only be found in the only One capable of perfection.

With the advent celebration and family traditions intersecting this season there is a very clear battle between law and gospel going on. Many parents set an elf on a shelf to watch over their children leaving notes such as, “I saw you steal a cookie today. If you are good from now until Christmas I promise that I won’t tell Santa. If you are extra good then maybe you will get that iPod you asked for.” It’s just another extension of the naughty and nice list. It’s the law kicked up a notch and it gives parents a way to manipulate their children’s behavior as they deal with children high on Christmas treats and anticipation, and who can blame them. If I weren't so lazy and uncreative I would be doing the same. 

The Elf on the Shelf can be a fun Christmas tradition but unfortunately it is often a more intense reality of what many children are taught all year long. Do good and you will be accepted by God and will receive good things. Do bad and you will be punished by God or worse yet, be turned away. It’s the law, masked as Karma, masked as parenting.

Thank God for the Gospel! Thank God for the incarnation of the Son who came down to save us from this filthy mess into which we’ve gotten ourselves. Thank God that we no longer live under this burden but now live in the freedom of Christ. Is that not what Christmas is about in the first place?

We no longer have to live within the confines of the law. The Holy Spirit was not left to look over our shoulder to make sure that we are being good enough for God. Jesus didn’t come for those who were good enough and He certainly didn’t come to tattle on us. The Son Of God humbled himself into the restricted form of a human body, lived a sinless life worthy of one million iPads, and willingly hung on a tree to die for those who deserved not only coal but much worse. He did this all knowing that we could never be good enough to appease the Father.

We could not earn a righteousness of our own so God’s gift to us was the righteousness of his Son wrapped up in a blood-stained, tragic death, which culminated in a cry of “It is finished.”

“It is finished” declared Jesus’ annihilation of the naughty and nice list. It was with that cry that He pushed that elf off the shelf so that we could be free. My friends, rest in Him this season. Rest in His goodness and not your own. And please, give your children the greatest gift that they will ever receive: the grace that tells them that they have a Savior who loves them and has come to rescue them from the crushing news that they will never be good enough.

You are Forgiven!

There is something so sacredly beautiful in the announcement of forgiveness. Just three words alone, "You are forgiven" can unbind a burdened conscience, restore a broken relationship, and free a troubled soul.

As my pastor says, “Forgiveness is the very air we breathe.”

Without forgiveness all we have is guilt and shame. Without forgiveness we cannot approach those we have hurt. Without forgiveness we dare not take one step forward toward the Throne of Grace.

 

How do we come by this forgiveness that is so freely promised?

Forgiveness always comes on the lips of another.

We need to be told that we are forgiven. We need to be reminded that the blood of Christ has removed all guilt and shame. We need to hear the good news from outside of ourselves in order to break through the lies so we will believe it. 

There was a time not too long ago that I did not understand my need to hear absolution from the lips of another. In fact, I thought the pastor at my kids’ Lutheran school was absurd (and maybe even a heretic) when he would announce that he forgives our sins in the name of Christ.

Excuse me? He forgives my sins? The very sins that I have committed against the Father and others? This guy is telling me that he has the authority to proclaim forgiveness over me? Hold on! He didn’t know what I had done. Wasn’t I to go to God about this? Didn’t the reformation cut out the middleman?

Having come from a faith that made the Christian walk so much about me and what I was doing for God, this confession and absolution deal made me awfully uncomfortable. I didn’t think anyone else should be butting into my relationship with God. If I needed forgiveness I’d ask him myself, damn it!

I’m glad to say that things changed for me in the absolution department but not without heartache. Several years ago I had a friend commit suicide. If you have ever had someone close to you take their own life then I do not have to explain to you the guilt and the questions that come with such tragedy. Prior to her death I had purposefully pulled away from the friendship. I had done some unkind things in order to avoid her, in order to not be hurt again. I had killed the relationship. So yeah…I had a lot of guilt.

The week of her death was met with me gasping for a breath of forgiveness. I knew that God had forgiven me but what about my friend? It was too late to repair the brokenness between us. It was overwhelming.

After days of agony I woke one morning with the word “absolution” on my mind. I couldn’t shake it. I suddenly understood why the pastor stood in front of the church and absolved us. I needed the freedom that forgiveness brings but I didn’t know how to find it. I needed to hear it from someone else. I knew that my own pastor would talk to me but I also knew it would be more of a conversation about me going to God and me trying harder to believe that I am forgiven, both good things in their own right but not what I needed to hear.

Knowing that the formal act of confession and absolution is practiced in liturgical churches I called my Episcopalian priest friend. I was hesitant but a mutual friend assured me that he would be happy to help.

Over the phone and thousands of miles away I confessed my sin to someone else's pastor. He read into the phone words of absolution, words of freedom to my burdened soul. He assured me that my sin against my friend had died along with her, that just as God remembers it no more, she also remembered it no more.

Freedom had come on the lips of another.

 

I am now a member of a Lutheran church (although I am not very Lutheran) for the very reason of absolution and confession. Every week as I confess my sin along with my family and my community words of forgiveness are spoken back to me. I am declared forgiven by another. I breathe in deep.

Every day we need to hear the good news. Read it, listen to it, claw our way through until we find that voice that will speak it to us. And in turn we can be that voice that speaks forgiveness into the lives of those around us.

Let the words on our lips proclaim the freeing truth, “ In Christ, all is forgiven.”

The Strongest Faith

The weakest believer among us receives the same strong Christ as does the believer whose faith seems unmoved.

This is good news for all of us because it’s not the strength of our faith that gives us hope; it’s the strength of Jesus’s faith.

Let me explain:

One summer my family was invited to enjoy a day of waterskiing and lounging on the lake with some friends.

The lake was choppy and with each passing speedboat came a wake that caused a big thump and jolt of our boat, which subsequently elicited a scream from my then four-year-old son.

You see, he had very little faith in our safety as we hit those large bumps in the water. However, having grown up and spending my days on ski boats, I knew that we were perfectly safe.

I had complete faith that those wakes that were tossing us from side to side were merely bumps and that the boat was certainly strong enough to endure them. My calm demeanor showed my trust. I could relax.

My child, however, showed very little faith as he screamed with each wave and ripple.

We couldn’t have been more different: me, a grown woman with full assurance, knowing that we were safe, showing my confidence in the boat, free to enjoy the sun and spray splashing up on me; and him, my four-year-old, huddled on the floor trying to eat a granola bar, certain that it was his last meal.

My faith in the boat was unshakable while my son’s was just barely hanging by a thread.

And yet here we were, two souls on the same strong boat, heading toward the same destination.

Here’s the big question: Did the strength of our faith make any difference in the strength of the boat?

Of course not.

The boat’s strength was not affected by how much faith either of us had put in it on that particular day. It wasn’t weakened by my son’s doubt, nor was it strengthened by my confidence.

Just as the boat was immovable and never swaying in its ability to bring us safely home,  Christ remains our strength even when doubts fill our minds and our faith wavers. 

In fact, it’s Christ’s faith we stand on! It’s His strength that gets us through and not our own.

Christ’s life was one constant stream of unwavering faith.

Even though He had the power to abandon the mission at any moment, He continued on in humility and perfect faith to fulfill God’s redeeming plan. Knowing the pain that was to come, He pleaded with his Father to let the cup pass from His lips (Luke 22:42).

As the answer became clear—that the cup would not pass from Him, that He was to be beaten, mocked, and stricken with sorrow at the separation of perfect union with His Father—He remained faithful on our behalf.

This has become our record. This is now our strength.

Even in our moments of greatest weakness and doubt, Christ remains our strength, holding us up out of the water, confidently taking each blow from the waves with which life is unrelentingly battering us.

When everything around you is falling apart,

the job is lost,

the child rebels,

the spouse falls in love with someone else,

the friends who said they’d never leave walk away,

life has fallen apart at the seams,

and you just don’t know how to find hope.

All the while Christ is unmoved and you are perfectly safe. He will hold on to you to the very end.

Your strong faith—or, more appropriately, your lack thereof—is not connected to some cosmic feeding tube of God’s grace.

God does not dole out His love and faithfulness based on the strength of our trust.

The gospel assures you that He loves you and is holding on to you whether you are lounging about enjoying a time of confident faith or clinging to the bottom of the boat, waiting for the ride to be over.

His perfect faith  —

is counted as yours.

*These words can be found in my newest book, Beloved Mess. If you need hope and love in the midst of your mess then this book is for you.

Loved in the Midst of the Mess

I live in a small town.

I love that everywhere I go I see someone I know. But at the same time I hate that everywhere I go I see someone that knows me.

The people sitting behind me in the drop off line at school watching me wrestle my reluctant child out of the car are the same people that I may have accidentally cut off that morning. And the people that saw me at the store in my pajamas buying cheap wine and Cheetos after a bad day are the same people who see me stuffed into my bathing suit at the public pool. There is no hiding.

In a small town there is no anonymity. I’d much rather not be known. To be known by others means there is a chance that they will see my messy side and reject me. I often forget that it is not this way with God. To be known by God is to be nothing other than deeply loved and accepted; mess and all.

Whether we wear it on our sleeve or hide it deep inside there is no denying that we all have messes. Some of us are just better at hiding it than others. God is the only one that knows every detail of our messy lives yet loves us right in the midst of it all; just as we are.

Romans 3:10 tells us that “Not one of us is righteous. No not one.” Not one of us can keep God’s law. Not one of us is perfect or ever will be.

You see, in order to keep God’s law (everything He commands in His word) you must keep all of it perfectly in every thought, word, and deed. There is no wiggle room. There are hard and fast rules such as thou shalt not murder, do not covet, and love your neighbor.

Maybe you haven’t murdered anyone today but you may have wished them off the face of the planet in your heart. Maybe you haven’t coveted your neighbor’s house but you sure do wish you had a body like hers. Maybe you did love your neighbor and helped her clean out her attic but as you walked home you patted yourself on the back for being such a great friend and pride crept in.

Do you see? No matter how hard we try, it just can’t be done. The law was set at such a ridiculously high standard that there is no reaching it. Was this a cruel joke by God? Does he hold it out of our reach and laugh at our efforts? Of course not! The law was never meant for us to be able to complete it. The law was given to show us that no matter how hard we try all of our efforts are actually quite pathetic.

According to the law, each one of us is a mess. But because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection each one of us is his Beloved Mess. The gospel frees us to live a life of freedom knowing that we are loved as we are. The law is good. It shows us how short we fall and delivers us into the arms of our Savior.

We are in need of rescue. We are in need of the One who perfectly obeyed the Father. The One who perfectly loved, perfectly served, and perfectly gave his life on our behalf so that we can now stand before the father in all of our messiness and be loved. And through Christ we have just that.

 

*For more on being loved in the midst of your mess check out my new book, Beloved Mess.

 

Rest for the Wrestling

"True Christian religion does not first present God in his majesty, as Moses and other teachers do. It commands us not to search out the nature of God, but to know his will presented to us in Christ, whom he wanted to take on flesh and be born and die for our sins; and he wants this to be preached to all the nations. 'For since is the wisdom of God the world in its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe' (1 Corinthians 1:21). So when your conscience is in conflict, wrestling against the law, sin and death, in the presence of God, there is nothing more dangerous than to wander amidst curious heavenly speculations, searching our God's incomprehensible power, wisdom and majesty - how he created the world and how he governs it. If this is how you try to comprehend God, attempting to pacify him without Christ the mediator, making your works a means between him and yourself, you will fall as Lucifer did and in horrible despair will lose God and everything else. God is in his own nature immeasurable, incomprehensible, and infinite, and so human nature finds him intolerable.

If you want safety, then, to flee from perils of conscience and salvation, bridle your presumptuous spirit, and seek God in the way that Paul teaches: 'We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom.' (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). So begin where Christ began - namely, in the womb of the virgin, in the manger, at his mother's breast. The reason he came down, was born, lived among men and women, suffered, was crucified, and died was so that he might present himself plainly to our eyes to fasten our spiritual sight upon himself, so that he might keep us from climbing into heaven and from the curious searching of the divine majesty."

-Martin Luther (Commentary on Galatians, pgs 34-35)

I Need to Hear it Again

I Need to Hear it Again

It seems like the end of the school year is just one big streak of painfully long weeks. Every day is crammed with what feels like pointless projects, obligatory award ceremonies, and cookie and juice parties that feel like death for this introvert. Everyone is talking about summer schedules and vacation plans and I’m just standing in the corner asking Jesus to help me not kill my children.

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Bikinis, Bra Straps, and the Righteousness of Christ

 

I made myself a pair of cut-offs before heading to the beach last week, only this time I cut them to hit a whole four inches above my knee. Gasp! Scandalous, I know! But for me this is yet another step in my freedom from the life that I was once bound to; a life of rule keeping, list embracing, and a shame-based moral code with no room for error.

You see, for a woman like me who once donned only skirts and dresses that fell below my knees, believing that pants were immodest, that I should wear shirts with neck lines up to my ears, shorter shorts are a big step in a good direction. For a woman like me, and maybe like you, modesty has been yet another mask of the imposturous self; another link on the chain of imprisonment.

While my life may have looked proper and pure on the outside, clothed from head-to-toe during those years, the extra yards of fabric only hid my fear of others discovering who I really was and the mess I had made. The worse things were on the inside, the better I had to make them appear on the outside. It was exhausting! I used a list of rules to secure in my mind that I was doing ok. My self-righteous heart told me that if I dressed more modestly than others then God would love me more; it was all just an effort to cover up the ugliness of eating disorders, self-injury, anxiety, and depression.

It wasn’t until I began to understand the gospel that I could see what I really was. I had just as much of a dirty heart as did Gomer (Hosea 1), yet I was living the life of the Pharisee. For years I tried to clean myself up on the outside so that I could make myself approachable to God, until Jesus interrupted my life with the same strong words that he used for those whose behavior he detested, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27)". And then I came to understand that God loved me as I was, not the me that was properly covered up, not the me that was doing it right—or thought she was doing it all right. He loved the real me – his beloved mess.

As someone who once dreamed of running away and joining the Amish so I would feel more at home, I have stayed miles away from this controversial subject. When I hear the call from blogs, books, and conferences to theoretically button up my shirt or lengthen my skirt, I feel as if I have just been punched in the stomach. Maybe you do too. You see grace is not grace if it comes with a set of rules. It is not grace if it is followed by a “but”, and it is not grace when we pair it with an “if.” Grace is only grace when it stands alone in all its scandalous freedom.

So if grace stands alone then where does it leave us on the whole modesty issue? It leaves us in a free-fall; a glorious, liberating fall into trusting our sisters to the hands of their redeemer. Grace leaves us without the list of how-tos and without the question of “what-if?”. Grace leaves us to cling to Jesus and nothing else. And as we cling tighter and tighter to Jesus the doors to our prison cells are opened, our hearts are transformed by His one-way love, and we are set free to revel in God’s favor because we already have it in our nakedness.

Christ didn’t die for the way we dress, he died for the condition of our hearts; hearts that cling to sin whether it be in rebellious immodesty or in self-righteous cover-ups. He lived a modest life in every sense because he knew that we wouldn’t. He embraced whores, prostitutes, and tax collectors without reservation and pursues us with just as much longing and acceptance. He chastened the ones who thought that their outward appearance would impress his Father, the ones who couldn’t stand the company he kept.

Christ didn’t come for the righteous; he came for sinners (Luke 5: 32). That’s you and me. That’s the scantily clad and the covered-up. And that, my friends, is good news.

Grace for One of Those Days

The sticker on the back of the jeep in front of me threatens to crush my weak spirit. It has the words, No Bad Days encased in a fish outline alluding to the fact that there are no bad days with Christ.

What? No bad days?

The guilt and condemnation pour over me as I think about the “bad day” that I was having. What had I done wrong? Perhaps it was my pessimism coming to a head again. Maybe I just needed a more positive attitude. Or maybe God was punishing me for my unkindness to my children as we were getting ready for school that morning. I should have kept my mouth shut. I should have prayed and asked God for patience before entering into a discussion with my daughter about her unbrushed hair.

Then there was the broken dishwasher, the mess from the dog, and the unruly rooster that attacked my daughter, drawing blood from her leg.

As I sought to sleep off my frustration and annoyance with a quick nap, my husband informed me that the school had called to say that my son hurt his arm and possibly needed to go to the emergency room. In an instant, my feelings of what had transpired over the course of the day came out in one tired, selfish word, “Seriously?”

Perhaps you have had a day like mine recently, so full of chaos that you can’t seem to escape. Nothing catastrophic has happened, yet there have been enough little mishaps to label it a bad day. Or, maybe it’s been one of those days when tears gather on your lower lid, waiting for a blink to push them out. Maybe it’s one of those days where you try to find an explanation for your urge to fall apart; a continual holding-it-together-hoping-to-avoid-a-trigger day because if you cry you won’t be able to say why. You know…just one of those days.

If you are like me, you may believe that you are the only one who has bad days. You may look at others in life and only see No Bad Days plastered across their foreheads. You believe the lie that if you are a Christian you are not allowed bad days. You may have been misled to think that once saved your life would simply be a tiptoe through the tulips and you wonder where you’ve gone wrong.

Maybe you believe that your bad days are a punishment for your sin. As if you are finally getting what you deserve from God. If that is the case, please rest in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” There is no wrath left for you, and the unraveling of your day is NEVER a barometer of God’s affection. In fact, as our days start to spin out of control, we can be assured that because we now have Christ’s righteousness God continues to be as pleased with us as he is with his Son.

It is in the midst of our bad days that our sin and weakness is magnified, showcasing our desperate need for the strength of Christ. And these are often the days that he is most glorified as we are reminded of our need to be rescued and we turn, once again, to Him.

God is the lover of those who have bad days. He loves to love you in your weakness. He pursues you in your pessimism. He desires you when you are undesirable. He loves you when you are unlovely. Believe that no matter what kind of day/week/year/life you have had–whether good or bad–that you remain His longed for beloved His heart’s desire and His beautiful bride. There is no sin or circumstance that will ever change that. Rest. You are free. You are loved.

The Gospel For The End Of The Day

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

Last night I told my daughter that she needed to stop thinking about her day and just go to bed. It’s something that I have to tell myself often because there is a natural self-examination that happens at the end of the day; an examination that tries my faith and leaves me with a scorecard in hand.

For some reason, I find it necessary to look over the events of the day, tally up my sins vs. my successes, and place myself in one of two categories: “good enough” or “not good enough.”

It’s my law bent heart that drives me to always check to see if I’m making the mark or not. And do you know what happens when I do this? I’m either left feeling like I can’t go on or feeling proud and self-righteous, all of it depending on my performance that day.

You see, we all having a longing to justify and prove ourselves. When we forget the gospel our lives become all about our personal performance. The law tells us that we must perform to meet its demands. But the gospel reminds us that the demands of the Law are met and we can now rest. Jesus said it Himself, “It is finished!” Our hearts can rest because of Christ.

If we don’t have Christ to still the pendulum in our hearts, swinging between pride and despair, we will go on trying to justify ourselves by what kind of day, hour, or moment we’ve had.

Without the gospel we will live for what other people think of us and what we think of ourselves. We will judge ourselves by whether or not we make people happy, whether we had all the right responses, and if our hearts really wanted to be serving our neighbor.

Jesus Christ came and perfectly loved, perfectly obeyed, and was perfectly humble on my behalf because He knew that I would snap at my husband, join in the chaos of my fighting kids, or throw the towel in and quit.

As I come to the end of my day I don’t have to weigh the good against the bad and hope that I’m still in God’s favor. Christ came and threw away the scale of the law to set me free.

Because of His finished work for us, we don’t have to go to bed and scheme about all the ways we need to try harder and do better the next day. We don’t have to beat ourselves into obedience with judgment and condemnation. We can rest knowing that Christ is the keeper of our souls and the purifier of our hearts. We don’t have to live wondering if we’re accepted. We don’t have to convince ourselves that we’re good enough.

It’s true that our actions certainly deserve the condemnation that our hearts want to live in. We can even agree with the accusations of the enemy that we’re not good enough because his accusation is surpassed by the proclamation of the gospel. According to the law we will never do enough, be enough, or even care enough. But, according to the gospel, Christ IS enough on our behalf.

So we can be free to lay our heads down at the end of the day. We can be free of condemnation, shame, and pride because God’s love for us is not based on how hard we’ve tried today but rather on the every day reality that His Son lived perfectly on our behalf. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8.1), not today, not tonight or tomorrow morning. Now that’s freedom!

Five Truths Everyone Needs This Mother’s Day

*I wrote this for mothers but don't worry, If you aren't a mom this list is for you as well. After all, we can all use a little Good News today. 

I’m guessing that anyone who is interested in reading a blog post about motherhood cares enough about what she does for her family that she doesn’t need to be told to do more. Most likely she already knows that her role in the house is incredibly important and she feels the weight of that every single day. She has probably spent this past year working hard to be the best at what God has called her to be yet she still feels as if she is not enough. She may even feel like God is angry with her over what seems like constant failures to be the mom who she thinks she needs to be. She is exhausted and she doesn’t need another list of how to try harder to do better. What she needs and longs for is rest.

So in efforts to avoid laying more burdens on the already overloaded shoulders of mothers and to hopefully offer a bit of freedom, I present to you a list of truths to remind yourself of when the burden becomes too much, when you forget where Christ fits into motherhood, or when you just can’t read another list on how to be a better mother. 

 

1) God’s promise to be faithful is a one-sided promise.

Our faith is not in what we do but rather in who he is; a merciful, gracious, redeeming, Savior. Even when we feel like we are barely hanging on we can be sure that God will not let us go. We aren’t holding onto him, he is holding onto us.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”

-2 Timothy 2:13

 

2) Our slate has been wiped clean and replaced with Christ’s perfect record of righteousness.

We don’t have to wake up every morning and get to work on creating our resume’ of righteousness. His record is now ours.

"...and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith..." -Philippians 3:9

 

 3) There is nothing that we can do that will cause God to love us any more or any less than he already does through his Son.

God’s love for us is not fickle. It’s not manipulative or abusive. God is not passive-aggressive or codependent. He has no requirements except that we need him. He loves to love us. He rejoices over us.

“The Lord your God is in your midst,   a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
 he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.” –Zephaniah 3:17

 

4) God’s grace is sufficient for you in every weakness.

We can boast in our weakness because Jesus is strong. We have nothing to prove because he has proved it all on our behalf. His power is shown to be perfect through our weakness and failures.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:9–10

 

5.) We can rest because the work is done. It is finished!

Priests never sat down because their work was never finished. God sent us a great High Priest and his name was Jesus. Jesus was the only priest who’s work was ever fully finished.

"And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ2 had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." -Hebrews 10:11-14

 

The call to motherhood is not about you and your ability to raise your family; it’s about a Savior who has called you to serve him as he fulfills his beautiful redemptive plan. He has prepared the good works he has for you and enables you to do them. Whether you are working joyfully or struggling to keep your head above water, he is loving you and working all things for his glory. 

 

The Truth About Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is the day that my kids will smother me with the cards and crafts they have made that read “#1 MOM” or “Mom of the Year.” And while they do this I will want to sit them down and talk to them about how we should be honest and how we shouldn’t lead others to believe that they are something that they are not. That sounds ridiculous as I write this and while I obviously don’t do that, I can’t help but think it while I smile and enjoy the extra hugs and attention.

Now, I know that I am a “good” mom. I mean, my kids are clothed, schooled and fed; I really could be doing much worse. In fact my eldest told me yesterday that she has never experienced hunger the way that people in books describe it and came to the conclusion that she has never actually been hungry. You can be sure that I gave myself a big self-righteous pat on the back for that one. But “Best Mom Ever?” I think not.

I’m not the “Best Mom Ever” when my harsh words and anger cut through the morning air announcing that “Nobody ever listens to me” loud enough to scare the chickens in their coop. I’m not the “#1 Mom” when I tell my kids to use their words to build one another up only to tear them down with my own words when they start fighting. I’m not the “Mom of the Year” when I care more about my daughter’s bangs that are hanging in her face while she is talking to me than about what she’s trying to tell me from her heart.

I even fail to be the “Best Mom Ever” when I spend all morning making special Star Wars shaped pancakes, snuggling with my kids on the couch instead of being on Facebook, or driving them and their classmates on field trips with my purse locked and loaded with healthy snacks for everyone to share.

Not one of us is always the mom that we need to be to our children. You and I both know that we have failed miserably. All you have to do is browse Pinterest, Facebook or mommy blogs and you will soon feel that anxiety of needing to do more for your kids rising up within you. It really doesn’t take much more than looking at someone else’s family picture with nicely dressed children, sitting and smiling all at the same time for us to feel as if we are doing something wrong.

You see, this thing called Motherhood is not about us. It’s not about being the “Best Mom Ever.”

Motherhood is not about loving our children perfectly; it’s about needing a Savior because we fail to do just that.

Now that I’ve given you the bad news and made the (burnt) toast from your Mother’s Day breakfast in bed drier than dirt and the (cold) coffee and scrambled eggs (with shells) have lost their appeal, let me give you the good news.

Romans 3:23-24 gives mothers the good news that we so desperately need to hear,

“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We have all failed but because of his great love for us he has given us the gift of his righteousness."

In other words; Christ died for moms!

My friends, let’s stop living as if this truth were not a reality. If anyone needs to know that their calling is not about perfection, it is us mothers. Motherhood is messy. It is a beautiful, gnarly, exciting and exhausting calling. And if we make it about us, condemnation or pride will be hiding around every corner.

Jesus knew what it was to care for others. He knew the patience needed to deal with the immaturity of those who didn’t understand. His very ministry was to the messy, the broken, and the demon possessed maniacs that our children all too often emulate. He did this all for us. Yes, for you and for me. Every act of kindness that wasn’t deserved, every extension of grace, and every patient tone in his voice was done in our place. Every single one! With you and me in mind he perfectly and flawlessly cared for those around him when he could have so easily thrown in the towel. Never did he show a twinge of bitterness, knowing that this was the Father’s will for him and exactly what we needed as mothers. Do you see the love there?

We needed this love. We needed the blood of Christ to wipe our “bad mom” slate clean. But a clean slate would not be good enough, would it? If we simply had a clean slate set before us every day our lives would consist of trying to rewrite it with the words “Best Mom Ever.” But thank God that he didn’t leave the slate clean for moms. No, he wrote across it with permanent marker the title that was meant for him, “My beloved with whom I am well pleased.” Our record today remains as perfect, beloved, God pleasers; on the good days as well as the bad.

Do you believe this, my friends? Do you believe that God has pursued you with a furious longing since the beginning of time? Do you believe that he loved you so much that he chose to die for you because he couldn’t live without you? Do you believe that his pursuit of you, his beloved, continues every minute of the day and that he won’t ever give up on you? No matter how much you make a mess of motherhood, no matter how much you fall into the sin of thinking you are a better mom than others, He loves you just as much in your good moments as he does in  your bad moments.

This is our God. This is motherhood. We are his beloved! Let’s do the hard work of believing that we are just that.

And if I can leave you with one thought on this Mother’s Day let it be this, Christ loves mothers as the messes that they are, not as the cleaned up mothers that they think they need to be. Not one of us is as she should be. This is great news!

The Gospel for the Good Days

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9).

I walked through my bedroom door patting myself on the back and feeling quite pleased about what a great job I had done with the kids that day. It was true.

I was kind, patient and loving all while being exhausted and dealing with exhausted cranky children.

I was delighting in my goodness; proud of my great accomplishments.

Then it crept in. My mind dwelled on the idea that God must be really pleased with me and my actions. Believing that because of the great day that I had with my kids I was just a little bit more loved, a little bit godlier.

You might say "What's wrong with being good?" or "Why can't you just enjoy the fact that you had a good day?"

Shouldn't we all be good for goodness sake? Isn't that what this Christian life is about? Finding our kindness and sharing it with others?

Well, no.

The Christian life is not about me being good, it is about my utter dependence on the God that saved my soul by sending His son to live the life I couldn’t live, to die for my failures, and to be resurrected for my justification that I couldn’t earn. It's about remembering that I am a sinner who, by the grace of God, has been given the righteous record of Christ by faith so that I don't have to earn my way. Anything good that comes from me is a result of the work of Christ who lives in me.

The Christian life is not about trying harder to be good but rather worshipping the only One who truly is good.

When we start to believe that the goodness that comes out of us is something that we have manufactured or something that can get us closer to God then it all becomes about us; it becomes about earning our way by climbing a ladder of works and forgetting that the way has already been earned.  We struggle against the flesh, and that means our tendency toward self-righteousness.

We are prone to take what God has given us and call it our own. Our heart desires acceptance. Our heart wants to justify itself.

Some days, like yesterday, our hearts desire a ladder to climb because we’re sure that we’re doing great and will make it to the top. Other days, like today, the rungs of that ladder seem to break every moment we try to do something good.

But the gospel...the glorious, honest gospel comes and destroys the ladder. It tells me, it tells us, that there is no climbing into heaven by good works. The gospel tells us there is no more failure, no more striving, no more broken rungs. Jesus said, “It is finished.” And it truly is finished.

Christ came and smashed that ladder across His knee by fulfilling every work on my behalf, by forgiving every rung broken in failure and every rung climbed in self-righteousness. There is no more ladder!

So, what should we do with the good days? The same thing that we do with the bad:

Remember what Christ has done and rest in His goodness in our place.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).