Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

2020

IMG_8146.jpg

 

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, he leadeth me, by his own hand he leadeth me;
his faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me.
(He Leadeth Me, Joseph Henry Gilmore)

 

I can’t believe she was born less than a year ago, I’ve been saying.

I suppose it’s time to start setting goals and planning for the decade, but today I’m still looking back. I only have approximately 10 journal entries for all of 2019, so I’ve been relying on my photos to jog my memory as I reflect.

The year started with my rounded belly. There’s that photo of me sitting in the church office when we thought I was going into labor early. The selfie from L&D. There are significant events like her welcome home and baptism. We’ve got some family trips in there. But mostly the camera roll is filled with everyday graces. Of learning, of friends, of play. And of children, imperceptibly but steadily and undeniably, growing.

I look back at a journal entry from twelve months ago, my list of hopes for the year, and I can’t say those have all panned out. What I thought would be important at the time wasn’t what was on my mind two days ago as the decade closed. Some desires, God hasn’t granted. Yet apart from what I have intentioned, my life has been brought to me moment by moment, and I have been changed.

It strikes me then that the thing that matters most about last year is this: I have been led through it.

As I think about 2020, I am hoping to keep some habits and lose others. I will, by grace, continue to bring to God yet unanswered requests. I still have some key words I want to try keep in focus. I want to follow Jesus more closely, to love and know him more deeply. But as I follow, I will rest in the truth that thus far he has led, and he will lead me still.

The other day as Jeff held the baby, she had a death grip on his shirt— as if she could fall while he held her up. So it is that though our following and God’s leading in many ways is one and the same, what matters much more than our sheepy resolve to follow, is our Shepherd’s commitment to lead. My hand holding onto my kids looks the same as theirs holding mine, but my vigilance matters the most as we walk.

Know this dear one, whatever the strength of your resolve, into each new day of the new year he goes before you. And at the close of each, he hems you behind.

Lead us, oh Lord. We follow after you.

Taking Heart

Continually

IMG_2145.JPG

I need Thee, O I need Thee,
Every hour I need Thee!
O bless me now, Savior, I come to Thee.
– I Need Thee Every Hour

The girls are in school and we are in a new season. While I’m not exactly swimming in free time, I’ve been afforded a bit of mental space and time (albeit with toddler and baby). But with this gift of margin, I have found myself anxious, even paralyzed at times. There’s so much I want to do but not enough time to do it all. How do I choose what gets done and what doesn’t? Where should start?

This anxiety isn’t new for me. A refrain in my tenure as a stay-at-home mom has been the struggle of feeling like I’m not accomplishing all I should. Some of my problem is practical— I need more realistic goals and expectations. Some of it is spiritual— the ongoing struggle against perfectionism and asceticism.

God is speaking to these things even now. I have been coming to “aha!” moments with gladness, then stopping and realizing I’ve had these “revelations” before and have either forgotten or not thought to apply them this time.

In Psalm 71:3, the singer cries out: Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.

The continually is a comfort for forgetters like me.

In education, there are different types of curriculum. The “mastery” ones stay on one topic and move one once the learner has “mastered” it. “Spiral” ones spread out one topic over time, progressively bringing the learner to a different level each time a topic is repeated. I am hoping that the reiterations of truth God is speaking to me now are going deeper than before. That God is patiently weaving multi-spiral lessons into my life and I’m just seeing one strand of color resurface for now. Or maybe I’m just giving a chance to learn what I never mastered. Whatever the case, I am glad that God is not upset that I need him to repeat himself. Again.

Continually.

Do you need him to speak to you words of grace and truth today? Are you frustrated that you still need help? Still need comfort? Still need healing? Still need correction?  Do you imagine he is as frustrated as you are? Picture the most patient and kind teacher you know. Times that by 1000 and you’ll start to get a clearer picture of what God is like.

Beloved, take refuge in your infinitely gracious God today. Our fleeing to God for help is not a one and done thing. As our Father, he delights in our coming to him. As Lord, he receives glory as he gives the command to save. He does not tire of repeating himself and will not rebuke you as you come to him once more.

Taking Heart

Gaius

IMG_9670“Unfortunately, no other information about Gaius has survived,” I read. I pause and store this fact (of lack of facts) to come back to.

The unknown surrounding the life of the recipient of an epistle (3 John, specifically) is strangely comforting to me. Although, I shouldn’t say ”strangely” since I’m predictably drawn to such stories of hidden, Godward lives. I wouldn’t dare to say I identify with these saints as if I’d number myself among them. But their stories refresh my heart and recalibrate my desires. And they give me relief from the soul-shaping pressures of what is showcased and applauded in the world and much of Christian ministry today.

We minister, work, raise children, and live life in an age where we’re presented with constant, often instant, measures of success. The Bottom Line. Likes. Reach. Church Attendance. Conversions. We admire those who manage to bring in more of the above. We study how they made it. We listen to their talks and hope to one day share the same stage.

It is exhausting, discouraging, confusing, and our hearts know something is off here.

Which is why I am grateful for Gaius, whose hospitality was commended by John: “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers.” And I wonder how appealing such praise would be to most of us today, to be told we are doing a faithful thing.

I wonder if we’d opt for other adjectives: It is an effective and productive thing you do. It is an unprecedented and amazing thing you do. It is a groundbreaking and world-shaking thing you do. In the office, at home, in ministry, on social media, how many of us would consider being called “faithful” high praise?

But God rejects our terms and pays no heed to our metrics. Because, yes, you can be famous, highly effective, and praised while walking with God— but you could also gain the world and lose your soul. Because, if God saw success like we did, how would Jesus have measured up, finishing his ministry with 12 disciples—one a traitor— a mere 120 in the upper room after his ascension?

Scripture shows us it is his job to makes things grow, ours to be good and faithful servants. Thus, I am asking for grace to reject the world’s descriptors of a thing well-done and choose to do the faithful thing. As one who is beloved by God (as Gaius was described by John), to do the faithful thing in midnight baby feedings, in everyday marriage, in speaking to my children, at church, in writing. And in of it to leave the measuring to him.

I am asking for eyes to see past the screen, the praise of people, my own legacy.

And I am asking for a heart that daily works toward his praise in both senses– for the glory of his name and for his precious words of encouragement when I see him face to face.

Beloved, we may be forgotten by the world, but we will never be forgotten by him. And on the day of Christ, we will see that nothing was worth pursuing more than his welcome and well done.

Motherhood & Family

Greater Is He

IMG_8443 (1).jpg

(from Instagram)

I felt the fall last night, the pain of childbearing. In the beating my body has taken in birthing and caring for a newborn. In the toil of raising sinful children. In my own hard-heartedness.

***

I’m sick of dealing with sin.

I think that to myself after refereeing another bedtime squabble. Nothing new, but it’s the mundanity of the self-centeredness that gets to me, that pervasive inward curvature of sin. I think about what it would be like to raise children in a pre-Genesis 3 world. I’m tired and mad and tired.

I retreat from their room when the Spirit speaks: Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). A cheery voice calls from across the hall, “Mom, can we pray together?” It is a divine invitation.

I‘m still angry, but what am I going to do? Say, “No!“? So I reenter. First, anything you’re thankful for? Then, more accusatory than I‘m proud of, anything you need to say sorry for?

Their confessions catch me unguarded and convict me. They share specific moments from the day I hadn’t noticed. They give humble insights on their weaknesses. They apologize and forgive. My heart softens. We talk about friendship and family and seeing each other’s sin. I’m asked for verses that will help with a particular struggle with the flesh. We talk about Christ’s forgiveness and the Spirit’s help.

Then we pray.

I pray the gospel over us, over me. It is sheer grace I am able to do so. God himself turned the tide; he spoke, he invited, he softened.

All in spite of me, my sin, and the fall.

***

“Sometimes when I’m in a bad mood, it’s hard to do the right thing,” she says.

Me too, baby. But, praise be to God— greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.

Taking Heart

God Who Waits

IMG_7676Note: These shorter posts are reshared from content on my Instagram. I’ve found it easier these days to write shorter reflections there, but still plan to hit up this blog once in a while for longer pieces too!

***

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace
Freely bestowed on all who believe,
You who are longing to see his face
Will you this moment his grace receive?
– Grace Greater Than Our Sin

***

As a kid, I got stomachaches in the middle of the night. I’d want to wake my mom but was afraid I’d get in trouble. I never got scolded, but even so I’d wait until it was unbearable.

I’ve come to see I do the same with God.

***

There’s no such thing as cheap grace. There‘s presumption, the wrong notion that love looks at sin and says, “whatever, no big deal.” But that’s not grace. Grace is costly. All who’ve come to love our crucified Christ know this.

Sometimes though, the enemy takes my understanding of costly grace and twists it. He says to me:

…You’re going to pray about that again?
…Shouldn’t you be doing better by now?
…Can’t you handle this one on your own?

So I try to. Because I don’t want to presume on God’s kindness. I don’t want to test his patience. I don’t want to keep being so needy. I don’t want to get scolded.

But I am needy, and God knows I needed these words this week:

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.” (Isaiah 30:18)

It turns out that I test God’s patience my own way— by not going to him. I have tested him, and he has proven to be so, so patient.

Just when we think we’ve out-asked, out-needed, overestimated him—when we finally come to him— he exalts himself in showing mercy.

So beloved, pray about that need again today. Come to him broken, come sinful, come wanting.

He waits to be gracious to you.