Monday Meanderings, Week 10

We have reached Monday again, and it has been a glorious day in Tiny Town, Iowa. So thankful for spring! What a beautiful season.:) Last night there were thunderstorms and rain, and this morning everything looked fresh-washed and glorious.

Tomorrow is the first day of our last week of this school year, and we are all so ready to be done! It’s been a good year, I think. I’ve seen all my kids making great progress in so many areas. It’s nice to think of putting the books away for the summer with a good amount of progress to show for all our work. We will be taking May and June off, and then returning to school in July. I know that’s early, but we really enjoyed taking December this school year. Starting in July makes that possible.

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reading reclinerSomeone in my house is turning seven years old on Wednesday. I am having a very hard time wrapping my brain around this fact. In my head she is still my baby. In her head she’s perfectly capable of everything her big brothers do. This causes some trauma and problems in our lives.

She has become a strong reader in first grade, after a rough start. It’s exciting to see her grow and change and learn– exciting and hard, because she is my last baby and my little girl. But I love how our relationship is growing too. Having a daughter is a sweet and highly challenging blessing.:) She is having a Frozen birthday this year, so I have been obsessively purchasing blue and white and snowy decorations. Should be fun!

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I am having some issues today determining what to blog about. All week I’ve been thinking, “That was awesome. I’ll have to write about it on Monday.” And guess what. I have no idea what any of those things were. LOL. Maybe I need to write throughout the week and just post the whole mess on Mondays.

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Tonight I am busy planning an upcoming getaway for our family. We are all so excited to get out of Iowa and see family! We will be visiting my sister in Louisiana and Art’s sister in Indiana, so we are titling this trip the Epic Sisterly Road Trip of 2016. Obviously. Because “family vacation” is way too simple. Anyway, the ESRT2016 will be so much fun for our kids. I’m just thankful to have our sisters a bit closer so that our kids can know their cousins better. Plus, look at this baby I get to love on at my sister’s house.

pouty lip This was his face when his mommy told him it was still going to be more than a week before Auntie Erin came for a visit. Poor thing. You can tell he needs lots of hugs from me. It will be hard, but I will sacrifice myself to be a blessing to him and meet his needs.😉

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me n boThis boy informed me today that he was writing a story where the main character wears sunglasses because he is cool. Obviously said character is patterned after me. Right?

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I’m giving up on this post now. Have a happy day!:)

Saturday Morning Poetry, edition 3

Treasure

treasure in heaven
shining like gold
lasting forever
without growing old

treasure in heaven
a glorious crown
to carry to Jesus
and gladly lay down

treasure in heaven
oh, let me live
all glory to Jesus
forever to give

2016 by Erin Jo Kilmer
togetherforgood.wordpress.com

Standing Up

standingYou’ve got to stand up for your rights!!!

Indulge yourself. You deserve it.

Never settle for less than you deserve.

Always stand up for yourself. . . . No one in this world is more important than you are.

Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your happiness.

If you don’t stand up for yourself, who will?

Be yourself: . . . think your thoughts, indulge your tastes, follow your inclinations, behave in ways that you decide are to your liking.

Those are some quotes I gathered in about ten minutes of googling things like “what I deserve,” “stand up for yourself,” and “indulge yourself.” They are a perfect snapshot of the way our culture and our flesh look at self. They are a lie from Satan.

We fall into a terribly seductive trap when we start to seek our own rights, what we deserve. But I hear people all the time– believers– encouraging one another to “stand up for yourself” and “not take anything from anyone.” I hear things like, “You have to do what’s right for you,” and “You deserve to be happy.”

I have told myself these lies, told them to others, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are lies. I know they are lies because they are opposed to truth.

How I wish they were true! How I wish I could indulge my flesh and tell myself that I deserve it! How I wish that God’s greatest purpose for me were to make me happy! How I wish that I did deserve good things. I don’t. You don’t either.

Friends, if we are going to truly live as Christ lived, we have to give up this idea that we deserve anything besides eternal punishment in hell. We have to give up the idea that we have a right to freedom, to happiness, to self-indulgence, to put ourselves first.

This is so hard to write. It goes against everything our culture says. But this is what God’s Word says:

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . .

The mind– the attitude we are commanded to have is the attitude that Jesus demonstrated while He was on earth.

. . . who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped . . .

“He was in the form of God” means that He was God in His inward nature. But He did not greedily clutch His rights as God! He did not cling tightly to the things He deserved because He was the holy, eternal, omnipotent, glorious Lord of all eternity.

. . . but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Jesus Christ gave up all the splendors of heaven, all the worship of the angels, all the perfect holy beauty of eternity. And He didn’t just do that. He came as a servant. A slave.

 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

You want to talk about rights? About what we deserve? About our personal happiness and its great importance over all else?

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Friends, this is the attitude we are called to have– the attitude of God Himself made flesh, surrounded by darkness, serving sinners and outcasts, giving up not only glory and beauty and eternity but life itself and His precious fellowship with the Father.

You know who deserves everything He wants? Jesus Christ. You know who doesn’t? You and me. In fact, our sinful hearts have earned us one thing– death.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Death– exactly what Jesus experienced in our place, so that we might have life.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Every time I demand my rights– every time I indulge my flesh under the pretense of this being “something I deserve”– I spit in the face of the Savior who endured the cross, scorning its shame, for me.

Here is the teaching of Jesus about my right to be angry:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

My right to revenge:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

My right to cling to my own plans and belongings:

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

My right to hate others:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

My right to be recognized for my good deeds:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

My right to earthly treasures:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My right to worry about my physical needs:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For . . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

My right to pass judgment on others:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

My right to life itself:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

In fact, as far as I can tell, the only rights we are really supposed to be concerned about are the rights of others

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

God’s requirement of us is to do justice, not to seek it for ourselves.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Love– the greatest of all of Christ’s commands– is characterized by selflessness, not by self-seeking.

[Love] does not insist on its own way.

All through Scripture, the teaching is this– God’s people are to be humble and generous, and when they seek justice it is to be for those least likely to obtain it– orphans and widows, the oppressed, the poor, the weak.

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

This is what James calls pure and holy religion–

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

take up cross.jpgFriends, I’m going to be honest. I find myself daily buying into the lies of the world that I deserve this, that I should be seeking what is best for myself. I might do good things, but they are so often from a desire to make myself feel good or look good in the eyes of others. And as hard as it is to admit to myself, this is sin. This draws me away from the best that God has for me– serving others as Christ did, humbly, with no expectation of recognition or reward.

I want to make it clear that there are situations where self-defense, leaving abuse, or making clear boundaries are absolutely necessary. But I think that for must of us, most of the time, when we are standing up for our “rights” we are in truth selfishly pressing for our own comfort, our own affirmation, our own ego, our own personal belongings. When we indulge in what we desire because we “deserve” it, we are merely making an excuse to sin. And none of those things are godly. They are a far cry from the life of self-denial we are called to.

 I have been crucified with Christ.

When we seek nothing but our own rights, we miss out on so much that God is waiting to offer us when we turn to Him alone for all our needs. When we do that– when we truly allow our precious flesh to be crucified with Him, we experience the satisfaction of our God.

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Oh, friends, today, let us seek not to stand up for our own rights, but to stand against the enemy. Let us stand strong against sin and injustice for those who are needy, even as we lay our own lives down. And let us learn from experience that the steadfast love of God that meets us in our death to self is far sweeter and more precious than anything we can imagine.

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

 

 

Weariness, Well-doing, and a Wonderful God

fruitEvery day I sit with my kids, one after the other, and I teach them. I drag the proper spelling of words out of their bored minds. I cajole good handwriting out of their scribbly fingers. I explain again and again and again how fractions work or how counting by threes works or what a past participle is. I mark up papers with a red pen and teach and explain and beg them to get it right this time before my head explodes. Sometimes their progress zooms forward like a fighter jet. Sometimes I feel like I am the mule dragging their unwilling minds up a very steep hill. Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart.

In the mornings we sit at breakfast and they squirm and kick each other under the table and stand up to get the cereal box and interrupt to inform me that someone isn’t listening as I lead them through morning devotions. They dutifully recite John 15 with mouths full of scrambled eggs, offering criticism because someone said “this is my command” instead of “this is my commandment“– completely missing the point that the commandment is that they love one another. I plead and cajole and I pray for them to have tender hearts and most days I feel like I might as well be pleading with the refrigerator to love its neighbor the broom cupboard. As soon as I say “amen” they are off, racing to the sink to fight over who gets to wash dishes first. Motherhood is not for the faint of heart, either.

Every week we show up at church to teach the kids from God’s Word. Numbers are low. I open the Book and tell them the old, old stories– awesome stories, true stories, about the Red Sea and the battle of Jericho and Elijah calling down fire. About a Savior who paid for our sins so we wouldn’t have to. About a God who loves them. They slouch in their seats and whisper to their neighbors. They ask questions about completely unrelated topics. They rush through memory verses for a piece of candy and can’t remember a single word five seconds later. A week later they can’t recall anything about the story, the verse– anything except how so-and-so promised the coveted corner seat or that we could play soccer this week at game time. Teaching children isn’t for the faint of heart.

Can I be honest? Many days it feels like I am teaching rocks instead of kids. Argumentative rocks. Sometimes I wonder if there is any point at all to the time and energy these things require. Seriously. We all want to make a difference. We want to see some kind of fruit for our work. And we are promised fruit, right?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

We will reap– that sounds like a promise to me!

And don’t forget this one:

 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Do good–> reap a harvest. Abide–> bear fruit. Seems pretty straightforward.

So what about when we don’t see the fruit? What about when we are actively choosing to abide in Christ, actively drawing on His power so we do not grow weary, actively seeking His direction for each obedient step, and we still are seeing no fruit? I am not an expert in these matters. I have not mastered this life in Christ; after 32 years as His child I feel like I am just starting to step out of the kiddie pool and into the deeper waters of this vast ocean. But God has been teaching me.

1. God’s Schedule Isn’t My Schedule

I am small, and my life is barely a blink in the vast incomprehensible ages of eternity. In due season isn’t according to my tiny timetable. God is eternal and everlasting, and He sees time completely differently than I do. He promises a harvest– but I must trust His good timing.

For a thousand years in your sight
    are but as yesterday when it is past,
    or as a watch in the night.

2. God’s Ways Aren’t My Ways

The way God brings forth fruit in our lives and ministries isn’t always the way we expect. It is seldom a linear, logical progression. I might be praying and working really hard in one direction, only to discover unexpected fruit in another area completely. I might be pouring my life into the church kids with little to show for it, but meanwhile God is growing His good fruit in the life of someone else in the church. This doesn’t make sense to me, honestly. But so many times, as I have followed God in obedience in one area, He has given fruit in an area I was barely paying attention to.

Often the fruit shows up in my own life. When God wants to cultivate patience in my life, He gives me a kid who needs to learn fractions and has a mental block about it. And while I pray for that child to understand and for wisdom to help him get it, God is growing patience in me, and a deeper compassion for my child.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

His ways aren’t mine. I must submit to that and trust Him– and keep my eyes out for fruit in unexpected places. God is never not at work.

3. God Desires Faithful Obedience

Faithful obedience means trusting God enough to do what He has given me to do, day after day, week after week. It means showing up again and again and giving all I have, even when there seems to be nothing to show for it. It means surrendering my expectations and my desires to His will, His timing.

My faithfulness to my calling is based purely in the faithfulness of God. Is God faithful? I believe He is. I say that– but am I living it? As I live it, I am proving His faithfulness to myself and to those who might be watching my life. Here’s truth– God has never stopped being faithful to me, though I have many times proven unfaithful to Him.

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

So when I can’t see what He’s doing, the least I can do is be faithful to Him. And as I step out in faith and obey my good God, I experience His grace in unexpected ways.

4. He Is Always Enough

Sometimes my desire for fruit is based more in my own pride and desire for affirmation than in a real desire for God to be glorified. When I don’t see the fruit I am hoping for, striving for, well, in that moment God is still enough. As I faithfully follow Him and trust His timing, His perfect ways, He draws me near to Himself. I follow in Christ’s footsteps– He was obedient to His Father also, and at the Cross His life surely looked like a failure– and I meet Christ there.

Friend, if you are struggling to see the purpose of your work, looking for fruit, frustrated by the hard days of seemingly pointless work, may I suggest you look to Jesus? He is your strength, your help, the Author and Perfecter of your faith. He is the joy of your heart, the Bread of Life that keeps our souls satisfied. One moment in His glorious presence, one glimpse of His love for you– it is enough to keep you going.

He is amazing. Keep abiding in Him, and let Him do His good work in you, in His time, in His way, all for His great glory.

 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? . . . We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Good Fight, Part 6– Actions of a Warrior

the good fightBefore we look briefly at the actions of a warrior in this spiritual battle we are all called to fight, I want to refer you to last week’s post about the attitudes of a warrior. These actions must flow from a heart that is in a right relationship to God. We must let God work in our hearts first, or we are attempting to fight in our own strength. There is no faster way to experience burnout, discouragement, pride, legalism, and fear than trying to fight a spiritual battle in our own strength.

Many of the actions we will consider today will be expanded on in coming weeks as we consider the armor of God. Today I will attempt to be brief. I’m not saying I’m going to succeed.:)

1. Cast Off Sin

Paul calls our sin “deeds of darkness” and holds them up in contrast to the “armor of light” in Romans 13:12–

 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

Our culture tells us that sin is normal, natural. We see sins that were once at least hidden away in the dark and secret places being brought forward and glorified, and we see holiness treated as sin. Regardless of all of this, our personal responsibility before the holy God of the universe has not changed. We are called to live holy lives– lives that can stand up not to the warped spotlight of the world, but to the pure light of the very glory of God Most High.

Peter tells us that our fleshly lusts wage war on our souls. They are serious. We must deal with them.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)

Often, the casting off of sin is a spiritual battleground. This is not some simple exercise in self-discipline, but a daily surrender and yielding to the strong leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything that causes us to sin must be cast out of our lives, no matter how precious it is. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that even those things we think are necessary to life– our own body parts– must be cast aside if they cause us to sin:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Christ was so very serious about this concept that He repeated it again in Matthew 18. We cannot fight against the enemy if we’re not willing to also fight against our sinful flesh, doing whatever it takes to cast aside our sin.

2. Keep Serious Watch

Sober-mindedness is something I should have included last week in the attitudes of a warrior, for we see it here in Peter’s exhortation to us to be alert–

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

We must be serious-minded, and we must be keeping watch at all times. Think of a battleship on high alert as opposed to the guys in the crow’s nest on the Titanic as it neared the iceberg that destroyed it.

Temptation is going to come. Pressures will arise that make us more vulnerable to the enemy’s fiery darts. Sometimes we will be caught off guard by the battle– usually about three minutes after we fall flat on our faces we will realize that we are under attack. But if we have a sober mind and a watchful stance, that will happen less and less. We will begin to recognize our vulnerable spots and be able to set a guard around them. We will recognize signs that we are under attack from the enemy and be able to shore up our defenses.

I will give you an example from my own life. I recently realized that I have this tendency to fall into a particular sin right after some stressful event. I would resist well all through the stress, but as soon as I relaxed I’d find myself back in that sin. And I realized that this is a place of vulnerability for me, and that I needed to set a more careful watch there and be more serious about setting up strong boundaries for myself. As I recently went through another time of stress, I asked friends to pray for me and I kept myself highly accountable in this area. And God brought me through it, because that is His desire. Victory!

Here is what God has been teaching me about this– I am vulnerable right when I think I am standing firm. That’s because of pride. Paul addresses this very thing in 1 Corinthians 10:12–

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Those words take heed— that is exactly what we’re talking about. Pay attention. Keep watch. Dig your heels firmly into the Rock, and stand.

3. Put on the Armor

We will spend several weeks talking in detail about the armor of God, so we’ll just touch on it here. The armor of God is what protects us and prepares us for battle. We are naked without it. Lately I have found myself entrenched in an ongoing battle that requires me to daily pray through the armor and ask God specifically to clothe me in it. As I have begun to do this daily, I have experienced far more victorious days and far more consistency in my ability to resist. Paul’s teaching about the armor of God is in Ephesians 6–

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

We have to remember that this is a spiritual battle against spiritual enemies, and that we cannot expect to fight it with anything other than spiritual weapons. And when we use the weapons and the armor that God has specifically provided us, we find they are highly effective– more effective than self-help books, motivational tricks, positive self-talk, any of it. Because we’re not able to help ourselves, friends. Putting on the armor requires us to recognize our inability to help ourselves and our deep need for Him and His strength.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:3-4)

4. Stand Strong and Resist!

The commands to stand, to be strong, and to resist appear over and over in Scripture with regards to spiritual warfare. Look again at Paul’s words in Ephesians–

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firmStand, therefore . . . (emphases added)

The exhortation to stand and to be strong also appears in 1 Corinthians 16–

 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Ladies, don’t be offended at that “act like men” thing. Be a soldier, a grown-up. Stand up and be strong. Resist temptation and endure when you have done everything else you could have done. And remember that in our resisting, we must do it from a place of nearness to God.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Did you catch that? That promise? Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Because if you’re standing firm in your faith, standing close to God, clothed in His armor, ready for action, Satan just can’t stand that. So keep standing, friend. In the evil day, when you’ve done everything, keep standing. Who knows. You might be just moments away from the devil’s fleeing with his tail between his legs. Don’t give up. You have been given victory in Jesus Christ!

5. Fight!

My promise that this would be a brief post has clearly not been kept. So far we have dealt with the defensive postures of the believer as he faces spiritual conflict. I will wait for this last command– to take the offensive and fight the good fight– for another day and another post.

As we face battles in our life, let’s do so with seriousness toward our sin, with sober-minded vigilance, with the armor of God surrounding us with protection– and let us stand and resist.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

There is a purpose in the battle– we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, established. And will will experience the eternal glory of the amazing God of the universe.

This battle we fight– it will be worth every blood-stained, hard-won inch. Have faith.

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!

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