Of Battle and Comfort and Truth

Some mornings I sit here in front of this screen and I know exactly what I want to write and how I want to write it. The words come pouring out of the tips of my fingers in an almost miraculous way.

This is not one of those mornings.

Some mornings I know what I want to say but the words are blocked up and it’s like wrestling a gorilla to get them typed in any sort of sensible way. Every word seems like way more work than it’s worth, and I wonder why I’m bothering. Sometimes I don’t bother; I just give up and walk away and do something I know I’m capable of, like reading a book.

This is not one of those mornings either.

Today I look at my blinking cursor and it dares me, as if it can read my mind– just try to write. Just try to fill this big empty whiteness with anything worth saying. It knows I have no idea what to say.

Do you ever have days when there’s just this one thing that is dominating all your thoughts, and you know you need to let it go and turn your eyes on Jesus and all that, but you just can’t seem to do it? That’s me today. And this one thing isn’t something I’m ready to blog about yet, because I haven’t worked through it all yet.

But it’s all I can think about. Which is making writing in this blog a bit of a challenge.

And I’ll be honest with you– I’m fighting this morning. Fighting lies and fighting fear. Not sure if that’s even true. Fighting seems too strong a word for it. I’m tired. I feel like I’ve been in one long, exhausting, bloody battle with the enemy of my soul– my accuser– for weeks now. Paul tells me to stand but even sitting seems like too much work today.

I wonder how I can face another onslaught of this attack on my value, my identity in Christ, my purpose. I feel insignificant and misunderstood. I’m pretty sure that’s exactly how Satan wants me to feel. There is only one cure for this, and it is Truth. Nothing but the real, God-given Truth of God’s Word can fight against the lies of an enemy who knows my weak spots and isn’t afraid to jab at each tender place with exactly the right lie, the perfect subtle twisting of what is true.

Maybe you’re where I am today. Questioning your value, your mission, your purpose, your significance. Wondering if you’ll ever get past this valley. Conflicted and overwhelmed and not even sure of what you’re doing or what’s going on inside your heart. Maybe you also would like nothing better to go to your bedroom with the biggest bag of chocolate you can find, curl up in a ball and read a book or binge-watch Netflix reruns for the entire day.

On days like this my flesh wants to wallow in self-pity, and it takes discipline to open Scripture and read truth. It does. God’s Word is sweet like honey but let’s be honest, sometimes we just want to be allowed to be bitter for a while. That’s what sounds nice to me right now; I’m not going to lie. But I can’t be like that. That too is a lie– that somehow there will be comfort in self-indulgence and self-pity and selfishness. There is no comfort in self, y’all. That’s the truth.

Where there is comfort is in God’s Comforter– the Holy Spirit. Jesus sent Him as our Comforter and also to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). And today, I need to realize that it is in that truth that I am going to find my comfort, not in a huge bag of chocolate or a Netflix binge or snapping at my children or convincing my husband I can’t possibly ever do anything again so he probably needs to take the kids down and enroll them in the local school and then please bring me a pizza.

So here’s some truth for my weary heart today– truth straight from the Word of Truth, brought to mind by the Spirit of Truth, who is my Comforter– and yours, if you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved.

I question my value, but God says–

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

I question who I am, but God reminds me that I am His child and that He is still doing His good work in me–

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.(1 John 3:1-2)

And He tells me that I am chosen–

You did not choose me, but I chose you. (John 15:16a)

I question my purpose, whether I’m doing what God wants me to, whether God even has a purpose for me. But God’s Word is clear–

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)

I am chosen and appointed and given the purpose to bring forth fruit, and to glorify my great God–

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.(1 Peter 2:9)

I feel insignificant, but that’s a lie. Because God says I am significant to Him–

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14

Significant, and precious–

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:15-16)

I feel misunderstood, and maybe I am by the people around me, but never by my God, my Creator.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

He knows me. He understands me. The forsaken outcast, Hagar, recognized God as the One who saw her, and that brought her great comfort. He sees me too. He has called me, purchased me, adopted me, named me, and set me apart as His. He has given me a purpose, a mission. And He has given me the help I need to complete my mission– and the comfort and encouragement I need on the days when I feel like a pointless mess.

I asked my friends on Facebook to share verses that encourage them when they are discouraged. Here are the references they shared with me. Maybe they will bless you, too.

John 3:16

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 18:19

Jeremiah 33:3

Psalm 23

1 Corinthians 15:58

Galatians 6:9-10

Romans 8:28

Psalm 103

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Hebrews 11

The books of Psalms, Philippians, and Ecclesiastes

That is an amazing list. Enough, I think, to get any believer out of the dumps. And as I sit here in my chair, hours after I started this post, this is what the Spirit reminds me of:

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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Monday Meanderings, Week 9

I meant to write this post several hours ago, but I’m reading Gods and Generals right now and sitting with my nose in a book seemed way more enjoyable at the time than writing in my blog. Yay for Monday and days off, am I right?

Last week was super busy and high-pressure for our family. So thankful for a faithful God who helps me through each crazy day. And for flexible music teachers, and for Grandpa the Super Fun Babysitter Guy.:) Honestly now I keep trying to remember last week and it was such a blur. If I sit and think about it I can kind of remember what I did each day. Last Monday seems like a month ago, yet it seems like last week went crazy fast. It was just one of those weeks.

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Angry Ranger got his braces on on Wednesday. He had a few painful days but seems to be adjusting rather well. On Thursday we were at a restaurant waiting for our food, and he wrote a poem about his braces that began “pain, pain, pain, pain, pain.” I’m not allowed to share the rest of it because apparently it is not cool enough for his online persona. So here’s a way super cool picture of him instead.

bubs braces

He doesn’t have a wire on the top yet because he has to get a couple teeth pulled. Lucky boy.😉

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Wednesday night at our kids’ club at church I got to be part of an entertaining conversation between Darth Piggy and one of the other kids. She asked DP what grade he’s in, and he couldn’t remember. I know some homeschool parents don’t do grades at all, but I have always told my kids they were in first or fourth or whatever. Mostly for this reason. But it’s not exactly important to my children, especially to Darth Piggy, who doesn’t care what grade he’s in as long as he can get his work done and please go play Minecraft now.

Also it doesn’t help that I’ve been in Major Obsessive Planning Mode for next year and keep accidentally calling the kids by next year’s grades.

Anyway, the thought that someone couldn’t remember what grade he was in was a very strange concept to DP’s friend at church. And it made me laugh. It’s not like it matters anyway. He reads books that I often find on eighth or ninth grade reading lists. He’s behind in spelling but making progress. He’s in fifth grade for math and grammar. Who even cares. Right? I mean, other than the kids at church? LOL

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selfie

I had the awesome privilege of speaking with my mom at a ladies’ event at our church on Saturday. I don’t have a single picture of us together, which is sad. I did, however, get this super fabulous selfie before everything got started, so that’s something, I suppose.

Our theme was the Bread of Life, and the ladies of our church who have domestic abilities far beyond my wildest dreams decorated everything up absolutely beautifully and created a lovely meal of lasagna and breadsticks and salad and strawberry shortcake. Seriously, y’all. Some of those ladies were there for five hours on Friday decorating, and then back again on Saturday for five hours. And I had to do none of it, except print one thing for someone. I count it such a privilege to be called to serve in a church where everyone is able to use their gifts. What a blessing that I was able to focus on my responsibility– putting the program together and working on the devotional with my mom. The whole thing was just a wonderful experience and reminded me of the joy of the Body of Christ.

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Art and I had a super fun bonding experience at a pain doctor’s office on Thursday. Art has ongoing neck pain and they are trying to find a treatment for him.Thursday’s office visit involved needles and his neck, so I expect you can imagine how much fun it was. Actually he recovered a lot faster this time and didn’t look like a walking cadaver afterwards, so that was a bonus. We celebrated by going to Village Inn and eating food, because food is good.

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This morning I took Pooka to the Salvation Army in search of Not Having To Go To Walmart With The Menfolk. The menfolk had to go to the Walmart because yesterday the two younger menfolk, who are actually just boyfolk, had a bit of a disagreement over who got to use the water faucet on the kitchen sink, with the awesome result that they broke the water filter right off said water faucet. Also we couldn’t find all the parts of that thing that goes on the end of the faucet to make the water come out all nice, so every time you turned the water on it shot out like a fire hydrant and soaked the front of your shirt. Also that water tastes nasty without the filter on it. So, needless to say, it was necessary for the boyfolk to purchase a NEW water filter so that we can drink good water and also not look like our belly buttons leak. And as fun as THAT shopping trip undoubtedly was, I thought it would be more fun to take Pooka to the Salvation Army. And clearly I was right, because look at this picture:

pook sparkles

This outfit, with the exception of the adult size medium sparkly cardigan, is a true Pooka original. Who else could even get away with a Smurf shirt, a flowered skirt, leggings, and striped rainboots? And Anna braids, obviously. And three missing teeth.

She was so excited that it was raining today and she got to wear her rainboots that she went outside when we were leaving the house and splashed with great exuberance in a puddle in our driveway. She was soaked from the waist down, y’all. Except for her feet, obviously.

This child just– I don’t know. She is a challenge and a delight and she cracks me up and makes me want to cry, often within the same five minutes. Crazy girl.

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Have a great day, and may all your Mondays be meandery. (I made that word up. It is not, in fact, a spellcheck-approved word.)

Saturday Morning Poetry, edition 2

Bread of Life

share food

Praise the Lord who is Enough; all that I will ever need!

When I hunger, in His love He offers Bread of Life to feed.

I am empty, but He fills—Praise with me this matchless One!

My soul with His goodness thrills; Praise the Savior, God the Son!

Bread of Life, Bread of Life! All I need is all He gives!

By His grace I never hunger; by His death my spirit lives.

Praise the Lord who satisfies every craving of my soul;

Broken, beaten, and despised—suffering to make me whole.

I could never understand this great Love that rescues me.

See His gentle, nail-scarred hands off’ring life abundantly!

 Bread of Life, Bread of Life! All I need is all He gives!

By His grace I never hunger; by His death my spirit lives.

Praise Him, for I have been filled with His life and with His power

Every anxious care He stills as I dwell with Him each hour.

Praise Him when the sun shines bright, praise Him in the valley dim!

Praise Him in the daily fight; all we need we find in Him!

Bread of Life, Bread of Life! All I need is all He gives!

By His grace I never hunger; by His death my spirit lives.

2016 by Erin Jo Kilmer
togetherforgood.wordpress.com

 

Of Thorns and Fruit and Wandering Hearts

thornsSometimes I can’t figure out why my heart is so prone to wander. The lines of “Come Thou Fount” run through my mind– Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love! The hymnist invites God to bind his wandering heart to Himself. And I can’t help but wonder why— why do I struggle so hard to stay near the God who has proven Himself so utterly good and utterly faithful to me?

Of course there are many different answers– flesh and deceitful heart and temptation. Even Paul, the great apostle of Jesus Christ, struggled with these questions ending with the cry Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?

I guess it helps to know I’m not alone.

My intentions are always so good early in the morning, when the sun is just coming up and my Bible is open and my coffee is hot and fresh. There are new mercies and I am here with my Savior and I commit myself to live according to what God is teaching me– to abide in Him, to humble myself before Him, to be a better wife– a better mother– a better friend. To be more like Jesus by serving others.

Then the kids get up, and the house gets loud. The dryer buzzes for attention, the eggs burn, the children fight and argue. Milk gets spilled. The phone rings. Math makes someone cry and the garbage truck drives by five seconds after I realize the trash never went out. My to-do list screams for me to do something about it, but instead I must coax proper spelling and handwriting and grammar out of a fifth grader who would rather be playing Minecraft. Bikes crash and there is blood. Dishes fall and there is broken glass. Farm equipment blocks my way to town. Dinner is late, bedtime can’t come soon enough, and what happened to my day and my resolve to love and speak life and encourage and to hug my children and listen to them talk about their lives, to be present with my family, to check in with my friend who is having a hard time?

I fall into bed exhausted and a new day brings desperation as I pour out prayers of failure and defeat– again.

Today God brought to my mind the parable of the soils, and this verse in particular–

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Friends, we are all very prone to be this thorny soil. I don’t think cares of the world are always things we think of as bad. And I think the deceitfulness of riches can be very subtle in our lives. One of the cares of my world that can choke out my fruitfulness is Facebook. I check it all the time. Even this blog– and checking to see how many people have read, or if I have any new likes or comments– can be a care of this world. And as for riches– I look around my house and see so much stuff. Stuff that I thought I needed but is so burdensome sometimes. All these things to take care of.

See, I can read that verse up there and think the cares of this world— well, clearly that means sin, and fleshly desires, and all that, right? But what if it just means all the stuff we let distract us? Maybe even good things? Would I have had time and mental energy to be a more loving mother yesterday if I had not logged into Facebook as frequently? It is very possible.

And as for the deceitfulness of riches— that always calls to my mind some high-powered executive chasing hard after a new car or second vacation home. But maybe it should call to mind the four skirts hanging in my closet that I never wear, or the overflowing shelves of my pantry cupboards. All these overabundant gifts that I cling to, that maybe I was meant to share. Instead they burden me.

I want to be the good soil that Jesus taught about–

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

fruit.jpgI want His Word to bear its fruit in my life, uninhibited by my stuff or my distractions. My heart is prone to wander– and prone to be choked out by the things I allow into my life that do not allow it to bear fruit.

I’ve had Psalm 119:37 as the wallpaper on my phone for over a month now. Maybe it’s time to start taking its words to heart:

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
    and give me life in your ways.

Give me life– and fruit– in YOUR ways, as I turn my eyes away from what is worthless (not necessarily BAD, just not worthwhile!) and turn them instead to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith.

This is abundant life.

Of Glitter and Glory

galaxyThey are three little girls like stairsteps at the table across from me– 2nd grade, 1st grade, kindergarten. One set of too-big grown-up teeth, one laughably naked upper gum, one even row of baby teeth. So many changes in just a couple years.

We are learning a verse together, in dramatic fashion, because all of them want to talk and go play and run out for a drink and maybe go to the bathroom twelve times, and so I am pulling out all my years of high school drama class and waving my arms and speaking in an overloud excited voice.

“Psalm 138, verse FIVE!” I say, holding out my hand with five fingers up. “Yes,” (a vigorous head-nod) “they will siiiiiiiiiiing” (sung loudly, in a high-pitched falsetto, with hands clasped in proper opera style) “of the ways” (my two hands go out in front of me like the outline of a road) “of the LORD” (pointing up to the sky with both hands) “for GREAT” (arms spread as wide as they’ll go) “is the GLORY” (arms make a big wide circle with twinkly fingers) “of the LORD!!!!!” (arms finish their circle and return to pointing up at the sky”

By the time I have done this four or five times, they have stopped looking at me like I’ve completely lost my mind and have started joining in on some of the words. I encourage them to do the motions, and pretty soon there are four vigorous head-nods; four high-pitched falsettos; and eight hands and arms pointing, sweeping, twinkling in one giant motion as they chant with me “GREAT is the GLORY of the LORD!”

“Let me say it,” begs Miss Second Grader, who nearly falls out of her chair with the vigor of her head-nod. I nudge her through the verse by silently doing the motions.

“My turn!,” interjects the Toothless One, her hair bobbing around with every word in her I-Dream-of-Jeannie ponytail. When she reaches the word sing I expect they can hear her in the next county.

I turn to the Kindergartener, who isn’t usually in this group and isn’t convinced she wants to be. “Do you want to try?” I ask.

“I dunno,” she shrugs. I’ve been watching her and I’m pretty sure she’s got it down.

“Please?”

No motions or dramatic vocalization here. Just the words: “Yes, they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.”

We all cheer.

“Wait a minute,” I command. “What is glory? Does anyone know? What is this verse even talking about?”

Miss Second Grader is very excited and sure she knows. “Um, it’s like, God and Jesus and stuff.” The kids know that Jesus is often a safe answer to questions at church. (Maybe they’re not so wrong, even when it’s not the answer I’m looking for.)

“Does anyone else have any ideas? Toothless?”

She is brimming with it. “Glory is like all sparkles and glitter.” A passing adult hears this and stands in the hallway, silently laughing.

I try to explain the glory of God– how can I?– How God is wrapped up in light and that is His glory, how it is so huge and bright and amazing that if we saw it now it would kill us, but one day we will be given new eyes to see and we will be able to see Him in all His glory. And I tell them about Psalm 19:1, about how the sky and the stars and the sun and the moon declare His great glory.

They are wiggly, so we return to more recitations of our verse. They are eager to say it over and over, to declare with the heavens the glory of God. I am distracted as I think of the galaxies spinning and the pictures of space where the stars look like so much glitter flung across the dark and the black.

glitter spillThat toothless first grader is mine, and she loves glitter. Our house seldom is free of rogue sparkles from art projects involving construction paper and glue and a rainbow of glitter. It drives my menfolk crazy, but it’s just life with a little girl. On the messy days, when the house is overwhelmed with laundry and dishes and stacks of books and papers everywhere, the little sparkles on the carpet remind me that there is a little girl in my house who loves her family and friends and wants to fill their lives with artistic beauty rendered in glitter and crayon.

My glorious God is like that too. He scatters stars in the heavens, and He scatters glory everywhere– sometimes it’s just not as obvious as a galaxy or a marvelous mountain experience. On the hardest, darkest days in the desert or in the valley, He might not send a flood of glory; but He always leaves His little glowing reminders that He is there, that He loves me, and that He is the beautiful God of the shining mountaintop.

Maybe my toothless first grader wasn’t so wrong after all. Maybe sometimes glory is like glitter and sparkles.

Thank You, Lord, for the tiniest sparks of glory in the darkest places and the biggest messes.

Yes, I will sing of the ways of the Lord,
For great is the glory of the Lord!

The Good Fight, Part 5– Attitudes of a Warrior

the good fightWe’ve looked at our enemy and how he attacks us as believers; now we’re going to shift our focus to God’s expectations of us in regard to spiritual conflict. Knowing that we are under attack, how should we respond? God’s Word contains both attitudes and actions that will enable us to experience victory and growth in every trial and temptation. Today I’m going to take a look specifically at some attitudes that should be the present in our hearts as warriors. As we put on these attitudes, we will be prepared for obedient action!

1. Expectation

We need to have at attitude of expectation– trials are coming and there’s going to be battle. This doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it? Yet all through the New Testament, we are told that we are going to suffer and be tried and tested. 1 Peter 4:12 tells us not to be surprised when it happens!

 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

If we are not experiencing trials and testing, that is a problem. That is unexpected and surprising. In John 16:33 Jesus Himself said “you will have trials.” We need to face them, because it is in the times of testing and trial that God refines us.

I confess that I still get surprised and a little angry sometimes when I find myself in a hard time. We want to think that walking with Jesus should be easy and fun, like we should be skipping hand in hand through fields of daisies while yellow sunlight bathes us in its golden glow. Friend, that day will come– the day when we lay all our burdens down and have no sorrow or pain or trouble, just Jesus Himself in all His sweet perfection. But, to quote my friend Aragorn– “It is not this day. This day we FIGHT!”

Can I challenge you a bit today? Friend, if you are not experiencing trials and hardships in your spiritual walk, something is wrong. Not that we should go looking for trouble, but when we are walking earnestly with God, trouble finds us. And this is a good thing, as Peter demonstrates in our next attitude.

2. Joy

Yeah, this just sounds crazy, I’m not going to lie. But the testimony of Scripture is that it is a privilege to suffer for Christ and that it is the testing and trying of our faith– the battles we fight– that grow us to be more like Jesus. Look at 1 Peter 4:13–

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

Each walk through trial and temptation is an opportunity to experience life in Christ in a new and deeper way. I had this brought out very clearly to me at a conference we attended last summer– I am forever praying that I want to be like Jesus, but I hate trials. But here’s the thing–the way to be like Jesus is to walk the way He walked in the places where He walked. And where did He walk? Basically, His journey was one long, hard road to Calvary. He suffered. And I cannot really know Him if I refuse to suffer for His sake. That’s why Paul considered suffering such a privilege:

 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.

It has been granted to us. Like, a special gift. And Paul knew what it was to suffer, friends. He spoke from experience, and he considered suffering for the sake of Jesus to be a privilege. In Philippians 3 he expresses this more thoroughly–

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 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— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

Paul lost everything and didn’t care because all He wanted was to know Jesus. He recognized that in coming to know Jesus, He would also become like Jesus, and that was His goal. Christ’s worth far surpasses everything we must give up, my friends. And as we suffer for His sake, for the sake of knowing Him and glorifying Him, we are changed to be more like Him. Isn’t that what humanity has always wanted, since the garden? To be like God? We think it’s about exaltation and greatness, but we are given the opportunity to be like God when we humble ourselves and walk through suffering and count it all joy.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

3. Humility

When we think of soldiers, we often think of “the few, the proud”– of the natural pride that comes from fighting for a cause. But spiritual battle is different, and it requires humility. The truth is that none of us can fight our spiritual battles in our own strength; we will fail every time. James teaches us the attitude to have as we face our enemy:

He gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

As we humbly submit to God, drawing near to Him, we are able to resist the devil in the strength of our Mighty God. When we draw ourselves up in pride, puffing out our chests, we are also pulling ourselves away from the One who is our Strength and our Shield. So draw near with a humble heart, and remember that you were not chosen for your strength or wisdom. You were chosen to allow God’s glory to shine more brightly through your weakness!

4. Courage

This attitude is found in the form of a command in John 16:33 and is the word of Christ Himself.

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Our courage comes from Christ, and there is no better place for it to be founded. When we face spiritual battle, temptation, trial, and painful circumstances, we are called to remember that Christ has already won our victory. We are in Him. There is nothing that anyone– not Satan, not even we ourselves– can do to remove us from His hand or separate us from His love. Even when we fail miserably, we can have the courage and the strength to stand up and try again, because we have already been named victorious.

My friend, Satan will tell you again and again that if you fall you might as well stay down. He will lie to your heart, shaming you, shooting darts of doubt (“there can’t be enough grace for me; I keep falling into this same sin again and again”) and defeat (“there is no point in even trying; I will just fail again”). Do not believe his lies. There is hope and freedom, unending strength and forgiveness, and there is victory promised to every believer. Keep fighting for it. Take heart.

We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Next time we will look at the actions God commands us to take with regards to our enemy and our spiritual battles. Until then, expect– rejoice– humble yourself– and take heart! Your trials and sufferings and battles are never without good purpose in your life.

You are beloved!

 

His Ways

distorted mirrorHis ways are not my ways— it feels like the theme of my life these days. Maybe I expected to surrender and to be dramatically changed, overnight, into the image of Jesus. Wouldn’t that bring Him the greatest glory?

Everything that seems logical and sensible to my human way of thinking is exactly the opposite of what God does. And so the things I want– even pray for– are often exactly the opposite of God’s best plan, His good ways. Maybe that’s why it takes a lifetime of progress from faith to faith and glory to glory before most of us are ready to stand before Him. He’s not just changing our actions or our appearance. He is changing the very fabric and beliefs of our hearts. He changes our thoughts, our minds, our motivations, our desires, our way of looking at the world. Everything shifts and changes and we realize just how far we have been from the reality of everything.

We are called to a life of topsy-turvy living, opposed to the world’s way of life, opposed to what comes naturally, what sounds right to our logical minds. Sin didn’t just bring death into the world; it separated us from God by throwing everything out of whack, like a fun-house mirror. Imagine if you always saw everything through the wavy distortions of one of those confusing mirrors; if every person you saw, everything that ever happened, was seen with that kind of distortion. And then imagine one day someone came and took that warped lens away and allowed you to see with perfect clarity.

Wouldn’t the reality be confusing and seem wrong? Wouldn’t your mind struggle to grasp what your eyes were seeing? Wouldn’t you long for, at least some of the time, the ability to see the way you used to see, the way everyone around you still was seeing?

I think that sometimes God’s ways just seem plain wrong to us, because we have become so used to looking through a distorted lens. I think of the teachings of Jesus and the way He completely threw the foundational beliefs of the religious leaders into complete disarray, not just with His words, but with His actions.

He didn’t just say Love your enemies; He did it in the most audacious way imaginable– While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He didn’t just say Do good to those who hate you; He did it– offering His own life in payment for the sin of those who spat upon Him and held Him in highest contempt.

He didn’t just say Bless those who curse you; He blesses us with every spiritual blessing, even though we would have stood in the crowd at the cross and hurled mockery and curses just like the mob did, if we had been given the chance.

He didn’t just say Pray for those who abuse you; He cried out in the agony of His death– Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Whatever our standard of love and justice are without Christ, they are entirely warped and broken. We can only see the reality of love and justice at the cross, and it is seldom what we expect.

A God who loves me enough to sacrifice His own Son on my behalf has the right to ask anything of me, and can be trusted to ask only good. He has the right to take away the things that I love, because He knows what is best for me and has it in His hand, ready to give. I clutch my dreams and my hopes and my plans and my cherished vices and the gifts He has given me and I say These are mine, and because my hands are clenched in fists around what I think is so important I cannot receive what He has that is so much better.

I want God to do things my way; that’s what it comes down to. I want my relationships to go the way I expect. I want my children to behave the way I think they should. I want my service to yield the crop I desire in a time that seems reasonable to me. I want my day to happen according to my plans. All these things seem good to me, like if God allowed them He would be showing real love to me.

But His ways are not my ways. He sees infinitely beyond my comprehension. He sees the goodness of a gift that seems hateful to me. He sees the sweet that comes from the bitter, the fruit that comes after long seasons of seemingly fruitless labor. He sees life that comes from death. He offers a yoke that is easy and a burden is light. He frees us so that we can be bound to Him instead. He offers abundant life in desert places and eternal life at the scene of violent, horrific death. He says we must lay down our lives to gain them and leave all to gain all. He says we are blessed when we are persecuted, given the privilege to suffer as Christ did.

None of this makes sense as long as we insist on being conformed to the world’s way of thinking. But as our minds our renewed by the Spirit of God and the Word of God, our very way of looking at the world is transformed– everything is transformed. Slowly, slowly, sometimes with such painful slowness that we feel like we must be going backwards, we begin to see life and others and the world the way God sees. We begin to understand, in ways we can’t always explain, how a life of spiritual battle is also a life of rest and peace. We begin to see how Paul could rejoice in his chains and how Jesus could offer a burden that is light and how much better it is in the desert with God than it is in a paradise without Him. And we begin to see that there is no paradise without Him anyway, and to long for His presence and His face and His reality more and more.

dimlyHis ways are not our ways. There is no worse news for our flesh and our comfort zone and our placid apathy. But there is no better news for the life of our souls.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

Monday Meanderings, Week 8

It’s a new week, full of super exciting meanderings! Okay, probably not really actually. Last week kind of flew by in a blur, so I’m honestly not even sure what I’m going to talk about this afternoon.

Books! I can always talk about books! I just finished reading Emma and I have to say I think I like the movie better. I’m fairly sure I had read the book before, but I really don’t remember very well. Emma just seemed unbearably full of herself. Anyway, now that that’s done my current fictional book is I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, which is kind of a weird way to follow Jane Austen. Angry Ranger is always looking for new books to read and I thought I’d reread some of Asimov’s stuff to see if I think it’s appropriate for him.

The book I’m reading right now that I’m enjoying the most is West With the Night by Beryl Markham. She was a pilot in Africa in the first half of the twentieth century, after growing up in what was then British East Africa (now Kenya). The book is basically a memoir about her childhood and growing up years and her experiences– she is just a fascinating author and I love her writing style. This is my current read-before-bed book and I am enjoying it immensely.

Another book I am getting a lot from right now is called Glorious Intruder by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is just short daily readings grouped together by different themes, and I had kind of expected it to be a light read, but over and over it hits me right where I am.

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I just looked at my camera to try to find some pictures to share, since I have no idea what to write about, and I took about eight all week. Art was gone at a conference on Monday and Tuesday, and there were several days of school and a day at co-op, and a trip to Omaha to celebrate my dad’s birthday, and a lovely afternoon with a friend, and another trip to Omaha for shopping, and there was a piano lesson and a guitar lesson and youth ministries at church, and grocery shopping and teeth impressions and naps and life. But I didn’t take many pictures of it. Just a regular old week, I guess . . .

But this week promises to be more exciting, what with Angry Ranger’s new braces due to be put on on Wednesday and Mom and I speaking at a ladies’ event at my church on Saturday. Clearly these are events requiring many pictures and selfies and facebook status updates and, of course, ramblings in my blog.:)

The ladies’ event theme is Bread of Life, and it has been so challenging to plan a devotional for it. Challenging in a good way– convicting. How often we act like we don’t have what we need, when Jesus calls us to Himself and says “I am all you need.” We say we believe it, but our lives often speak otherwise.

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At our homeschool co-op on Thursday, we had a few minutes left at the end of speech class so I asked the kids (5th-8th grade) if they’d read any good books lately. Oh my goodness, it was truly delightful the way they responded. All of them got super excited and started talking at once and sharing what they were reading about– and so I asked what their favorites were and it got dead silent because none of them could choose. Times like those are what makes me love homeschooling– these are such great kids who love reading and love to share what they’re learning about and even though they were all talking at once nobody got upset or angry. And they were mentioning amazing books like The Lord of the Rings and Anne of Green Gables. It was delightful. Homeschooling takes up a huge amount of my time and mental energy, but I feel so blessed to have the ability to do it, and the support of my husband and my church.

Pooka started in her 2nd grade math book a week and a half ago, and I quickly realized that we had a few things we missed because we had switched curricula. One of those things was place value– thankfully I found some videos on the internet and remembered that long ago someone gave me some math manipulatives, and long story short is that Pooka is now a master of place value, as long as I don’t expect her to try to do it by herself. Pooka is quite convinced that Mommy must be NEARBY in order for her to successfully do schoolwork. One of our goals for second grade is more independence. Hallelujah.

I may have failed to mention it, but we have only fifteen days of school left. All three kids are doing really well right now and I’m excited to have them finish strong. And then we have a VACATION. All of this is very thrilling.

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Well, I truly can think of nothing else to say. Life is good, just not crazy exciting or photoworthy right now. That’s okay. Imagine how exhausting it would be if life were crazy exciting all the time. I need a nap just thinking about it.:)

Have a happy day!

Saturday Morning Poetry, edition 1

Disciple

followI have been called, and I have been chosen–
Not because of me but because of You–
You said I had spent enough time being frozen
And set me on fire with a task to do.

And though I’m afraid, and though I’m not worthy,
Yet You are my Shield and You are my song.
My failures are simply a space for Your mercy–
In all of my weakness You show Yourself strong.

Your love overwhelms me, I’m drowning in grace;
You draw me to You and do not let me go.
You clothe me in righteousness, lift up my face,
And patiently guide me, though my pace is slow.

I can’t see the future; my back’s to the past;
But You are my vision, my guide for today.
Let me be content and let me be steadfast
Abiding in You, my Life and my Way.

2016 by Erin Jo Kilmer
togetherforgood.wordpress.com

 

Appearances

candle-flame-no-reflection

She has walked through fire and, in some ways, still walks that path. She has made the hard decisions that might seem hurtful to others, trying to do the right thing. She has been hurt by those she trusted to protect her, to do the right thing.

She gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

He is fighting the lies of the enemy, who constantly berates him and attacks him with his own lack of worth and value. No matter how far he comes, how much he accomplishes in the strength of Christ, he hears that deceptive voice whispering (sometimes shouting), you are unworthy, incapable, and broken. You should be ashamed of yourself for practicing such hypocrisy.

He gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

He is in pain every single day. He fights for the strength to keep obeying, wishing so many times he could just give up.

He gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

She is caught deep in her depression, and she has been named rebellious and shamed by people claiming the name of Christ. She lives her life with a constant feeling of sad smothering hopelessness, and she wonders if it’s worth it sometimes.

She gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

She was beaten this morning by a husband who swore to love and honor and cherish her. She does everything she can to protect her children from his wrath, and to protect his reputation in the community. She fears for her life but she doesn’t know what to do or where to go.

She gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

He succumbed to the temptation again last night, and this morning he wonders if there’s any point in even trying to get back up again. He feels entirely without hope, ashamed of his weakness and afraid to ever admit it to anyone. Even if he resists today, he thinks, he will undoubtedly fail again tomorrow. What is the purpose of resisting at all?

He gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

********

He lost his job and is deep in debt, and he wonders if his family would be better of without him. She wakes every morning with a new wave of loneliness as she contemplates another day without the man she pledged life and love to. How will she even get out of bed? His estranged son lies in a hospital dying, but he is afraid to go and make things right. Her child is failing math and making terrible choices, and she fears for his future– and his present. Another bill came this morning, and they add it to the stack on the desk and wonder how they will buy food this week.

They get dressed and go out, smile and converse, and nobody ever guesses.

********

She has been changed. Her morning began with coffee and Jesus, and He is doing a good work in her heart. She knows the truth and it is setting her free; she is marvelously, wonderfully saved. She has the words of life and the answers for a dying world and the hope that is so desperately needed by every single person she meets.

She gets dressed and goes out, smiles and converses, and nobody ever guesses.

Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord . . . who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace.

We love because he first loved us.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.

 

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