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Posts Tagged ‘truth’

quote

The three “R’s” used to be readin’, ‘wrightin, and ‘rithmetic, right?  In home school, at least at my house, we have a different set of “R’s.” They are respect, reasoning, righteousness, and responsibility.  If I succeed at teaching them those things, I have zero doubt that my kids will succeed in whatever it is they choose to do in life.  Even if their paths and choices lead to failure, they will succeed in character, integrity, and wisdom if just these four things are instilled in them.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan!’ For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” ~Matthew 4:10

“What?!  Why would he say that?!” exclaims my indignant nine year-old.

“What?”

“Why would Jesus tell the devil to worship God?!  He will never do it!!”

“Just because we know someone is not going to listen does not mean God does not want us to tell them the truth.  Truth has two purposes.  One is grace for those who will listen and change by it.  The other is condemnation for those who will refuse it.

In other words, Jesus’ faithfulness in telling the truth of the scriptures to those who do not listen is actually what he will point to when he judges them.  It is not just sin that will condemn people, it will be also the saving grace God gave that was refused.

 The only sin listed in the Bible as unforgivable is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  What that means is that when God shows up to teach us and offers His truth to us by grace and we disbelieve, dismiss, and ignore it, we cannot be forgiven because we have pulled the rug out from under the means by which he saves.  If we refuse the Spirit of God when it speaks plain truth to us, we stiff arm God’s grace and we remain in stubborn, willful darkness.

We must learn to love the truth, girls.  No matter how uncomfortable, difficult, or painful it may be for us to accept, we must always embrace truth.  Never refuse or put off the truth of God when you learn it.  The Bible says, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.  Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now its the day of salvation.” ~2 Corinthians 6:1-2

There is a particular urgency to the truth.  Today is the day.  Don’t put it off.  Don’t wait one more second.  Take the truth to heart, now!  Today!  Do what is right, right away!  That is how we are to react when met with the truth.  Jesus is the Truth and he is the Way.  If we are following him, we must obey the truth, and obey it quickly.

The next day Bible class resumes.  We read Revelation chapter 16.

“Then I heard the angel of the waters say to God: ‘Holy One, you are the One who is and who was.  You are right to decide to punish these evil people.  They have spilled the blood of your holy people and your prophets.  Now you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’  And I heard the altar say: ‘Yes, Lord God All-Powerful, the way you punish evil people is right and fair.'” ~Revelation 16:5-7

This time my seven year-old protests.

“Doesn’t God say ‘Don’t do bad things back to people when they do bad to you?!’ Why is he doing bad to the bad people?  He is disobeying himself!!!”

“God tells us not to take revenge.  The reason we are not allowed to take revenge is because he is going to.  He tells us not to repay evil with evil because if we do, we will be judged, too.  God has to punish evil and he will punish evil because he is just and fair.  He punished Jesus for our sins but those who do not love and obey Jesus will get their own punishment.”

“Education was, in fact, so important to the Puritans that it was required.  By 1642, parents were required to teach their young children to read so they could know the Scriptures…The purpose of teaching was to learn the Word of God and defeat Satan, who was the deluder.  So the law to teach was called the ‘Old Deluder Satan Act.'” ~Linda Lacour Hobar, Mystery of History, Vol. III

My lessons for the week are very clear.

1. Tell the truth even when your hearers refuse to listen.

2.Trust God to judge evil.

3.Remember that it is parents who are responsible for their children’s education.

4. The ultimate goal of educating children is knowing and understanding the Scriptures.

AMEN.

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beauty

He calls me on his birthday.  Seventy-one today.  A true father to the fatherless, he cares to listen.  He asks my condition.  He encourages, advises, and patiently instructs.  Here is a man who loves unconditionally.  I know,  not because he says it; I know because he does it.

If only we knew how much we are loved.  If only we loved like Dennis.  What grace!

Flooding in comes all the grand examples of the providence of God.  The red birds’ appearing.  The chance meeting with Daddy’s best friend.  The parable of daily bread read to a dying woman after holding out my empty hand repeating softly, “I trust you, Lord.”  The tender, unmistakable instructions to eat; to rest.  The dinner date planned months prior.  The revelatory dream.  The friend who just happened to be there.  The song that prepared.  The woman with the expensive perfume.  The beatitudes.  The movie.

Yes, the movie.  Collateral Beauty.  Pain is not collateral damage.  Pain is collateral beauty.  If we hurt, we know we love.  We have love.  We share love.  We do love.  Even the deepest pain reflects our grandiose blessedness.

If only we knew how much we are loved.  If only we loved like Dennis; like God.  His love is everywhere; in everything; always.  Even all that is wrong in the world proves that true love is real, that injustice is wrong, that righteousness is worth striving for, and that pain has great and beautiful purpose.

When a man cannot so much as speak for how much he hurts; how much he loves, therein is the power of God.  Pain is not collateral damage.  Pain is collateral beauty.  My Lord, I trust you.  My God, how great Thou art!

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cub

For the first time in 14 years, I stood in the outfield. I stood in the outfield remembering. As the ball was pitched and the bases run, I remembered.  I remembered a simpler time, a wholesome world, and a good man with whom I enjoyed a place just like this.

The older I get the more I realize how much of a gift reminiscence is.  Remembering.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

We live in a world where nations rage and people plot in vain.  We live in a country where rulers set themselves and take counsel together against the Lord and his anointed.  We live communities where people kill each other based on beliefs, backgrounds, and bloodlines and where pastors and leaders avoid one another because they cannot agree on faith or doctrine or duty or delegation.  We live in churches divided by nepotism, preferences, pettiness, and pride.  We live in houses with absent daddies, desperate moms, and disrespectful, drug-laden children.  We live in bodies that set themselves daily upon idolatrous thrones and build our own kingdoms right over-top of the monuments made to make us remember God himself.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
    and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
    What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
    you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
    the children of Jacob and Joseph. ~Psalm 77:11-15

There is a time for everything.  It is time to remember.  It is time to remember where we came from.  It is time to remember our one and only true God.  It is time to remember how to blush.  It is time to remember how to love.  And when the world does not follow, it is time to mourn.  Surely, there is a time for everything and now is the time to mourn.

You hold my eyelids open;
    I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
    the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
    let me meditate in my heart.”
    Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
    and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
    Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
    Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” ~Psalm 77:4-9

I will appeal to the Lord.  I will remember the Lord.  I will mourn.  This, for us, for our homes, for our churches, for our communities, for our country, for our world.

I love people of every color. I love protectors of every kind. There is only ONE side in this spiritual war our beloved country finds itself engaged in: LOVE. LOVE is the only house I will ever choose to live in. I love people.  Therefore,  I am so very sorry for what we lose every day through ignorance, anger, hate, and bitterness.  We have a beautiful, strong, great country.  Each day we lose that great nation a little bit more.  Surely, the Lord is calling us to remember and repent.  Amen.

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heart

I am indecisive.

He tells me to write something.

 I ask why.

 He reminds me that I like to.

 I oblige.  The following is the fruit of that exchange.

Sometimes it helps me when I write.  But sometimes it is hard.  Sometimes I am at a loss for how to say what is on my heart.  Sometimes I know exactly how to say it but I do not want to.  Pouring out your heart and soul and dreams and fears and failures on the daily is scary.  You either have to resolve to not care how people read you or you have to care so much that you resolve to make your scribblings absolutely perfect with a willingness to correct them when they misinterpret you.  Sometimes it just feels like no one is really listening anyway.  Like those things that mean the very most to you, those things you’ve said and written and tried six ways from Sunday to express go wholly unnoticed and unheard.  Writing is like shouting out to all the world your deepest feelings only to let them float unabashedly through the air.  And you’re waiting.  Waiting for someone – anyone – to catch them; hear them; learn from them; know God through them; seek him…and know you; understand you; feel you.

So often those words don’t work, though.  It is like you are pouring yourself out all the time and the only thing that keeps you from becoming empty is to keep pouring out.  Even still, after all the words have floated away for days and months and years on end, you are left wondering whether you are yet altogether unknown; misunderstood; unaccomplished.  Who knows where the words have gone?  The writer prays for the somewheres where they might have fallen.

Sometimes I do not know myself as well as I would like to.  Writing helps me know myself better.  It helps me understand myself and who I am and why I am feeling happy or sad or frustrated or lost.  It helps me organize my thoughts on God, on life, and on who I really am and what I know as truth.

There is one thing writing does not do, though.  Writing does not talk back.  As much as I try to personify my notebook, she remains silent.  Writing does not talk back.  It only listens.  It is lonely.  I guess that’s why I write a lot about the Bible.  It is like God is talking and I am listening.  My writing is just me telling the world what I heard.

I am happy that God has given me this gift to write but sometimes I am sad that I cannot seem to say things audibly instead.  I feel so closed and unable to speak freely sometimes; many times.  I do not know why I am so afraid.  The fear I feel when I think about talking out loud about what is in my heart is often so strong that it makes me almost run away and hide.  I am so afraid.  I want to pray and tell God so many things but I am afraid to say them out loud.  Saying them makes them real and maybe I just wish they were not real.  So I often just pray about being able to pray.  I do not run away anymore.  I stop and I write it down instead.

I guess my biggest fear is rejection. That God or men will hear what is in my heart and what is most important to me and throw it away.  Or not care.  Or disregard it altogether.  Or hate me for saying it.  But why would I think that?

I think it because it is what happened to the most right and truthful one of us all:  Jesus.  It is what has been happening to me in many ways my entire life.  Because people reject truth and lack grace, I distrust and doubt the God who made them and somehow believe he will do that same thing.  Once I gave a man a paper with the gospel and he physically threw it down and trampled it in front of me.  But if I trust the God of the Bible I believe that even that kind of act – be it physical, relational, or otherwise – is a blessing working in my favor.

I digress.

Vulnerability is what the writer’s heart is made of.  Vulnerability is what God’s heart is made of.  He, too, chose written words to deliver his deepest messages to us.  He sent the One He loved most and watched him suffer in order to save.  And people throw his best efforts away.  We do not care about his words like we should; sometimes not at all.  We disregard Him altogether.  Some hate Him for saying  his best words and we even crucified his exact representation.  Yet, He spoke them still.  He speaks them still. He sent Him still.  He sends us still.

Maybe my written words will somehow send those same messages to someone.  The messages of love and forgiveness and grace and truth.  Maybe I will suffer long to find those just right words I have been called to write.  Maybe He will save through them; through Christ in me.  I dare to believe that hope every single day. It is the often only thought that keeps me from utter discouragement.  I lift my pen and let the words float away in greatest hope and terrible fear.  My prayer is ever, “God, please bless this trembling writer’s work once again.”

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purpose

Did I condition my hair ?  Where’s the vanilla extract?  I’m late.  Do my children have socks on?  Did I even eat anything today?  There’s no way my blood pressure is as high as the doctor said.  *Take blood pressure myself*  Really?!  Why is my blood pressure so high?  Do I have the address?  “Take the dogs out and get in the truck, girls!”  Where am I going?  Do I have my list?  Oh, yeah, the address.  Did I remember the baby?  *Count children inside truck*  Why do I feel so stressed?  *Pray*  My life is so, so blessed.  Thank you for so many gifts, God.  No, we cannot shop for your birthday yet, Mia.  I cannot believe I am not tired.  Why is my blood pressure so high?!  Daddy’s was, too.  Wow.  I miss him.  I guess long distance running every day of my life for the past 10 years wasn’t enough.  Oh well, it was fun.

That’s five minutes in Loriland.  How are you doing?  I bet your internal dialogue is just as busy.  I call them trains.  The tracks are like oodles and noodles all crossed and overlapping.  I ask the mechanic, “Are the trains running?” when he accidentally forgets to listen to the words he hears me speaking.  I know they are.  Maybe I should ask myself, though.

What is life?  A bunch of random events joined together by the day to day urgencies meant to distract us from said events?  What’s the point?  Where’s the break?  What really matters and why am I moving at such a high rate of don’t stop, get it, get it… All.  The. Time?

My t-shirt says #1 Mom.  I bought it at Walmart for five dollars and fifty cents.  My oldest daughter chided me complete with eye roll and smart mouth tween tone disbelief.  “I can’t believe you bought that for yourself.”

“Daddy wears t-shirts with his business name on them doesn’t he?  This is my business.”

My business.  My busyness.  My babies.  My best blessings.

Our small group Bible study talked about what is unique about how we interact personally with the world.  How do you present different than those who do not believe the gospel?

 I’ve thought on it.  I’ve thought and thought.  I believe I have it.

Answer: I go to the grocery store.

 I go to the grocery store, mid-day, with four kids – three in tow and one strapped to my chest.

“No school today?”

 Cue sweet smile.

“Yes.  We are done already.  We home school.”

“I could never do that.  I don’t have the patience!”

Child 1 runs away while child 2 cries for candy.  I send child 3 to retrieve child 1 as child 4 is awakened by child 2’s crying.  I now have exactly three minutes to finish shopping, get through the checkout line, and feed her before she follows suit.

“Neither do I.”

“What made you decide to do that?”

“When I was young and people asked me what I wanted to be, I would say, ‘Not a school teacher.’  This was God’s idea – not mine.  It’s a calling.  I think I would miss them too much if I sent them to school anyway.”

“How long will you do it?  Until they graduate or just a few years?”

Shrug shoulders.  “Until the Lord releases me from doing it.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Some days.”

Smile sweetly.  Finish shopping.  Resume internal dialogue.

God!  How is that at all building your kingdom?  How am I?  Am I?  I am.  You are I AM.  I am because you are- the God who “is.”  You are the living, the life, the now, the necessary,  the needed.  You are what is happening.  You are in the moment, the market, the mundane, the mom who is musing at the mom who is an ecclesiastical mess – that is, me.

You are in me.  I am surrendered to you.  My shirt reminds me.  That is why I bought it.  #1 Mom.  That is my business.  My calling is in the cradle and my purpose is to be a blessing to my family in such a way that God’s glory is seen in the grocery store.

I do not feel like #1 anything.  I do not understand how what you have called me to do amounts to much of anything on a day to day basis.  I do not see fruit…yet.  I do not “feel” accomplished, acknowledged, adequate, or amused.  I do not know why this is what I am to do.  But I do know that it is because I know your voice.  And I am content.

I think of these things as I sit on the couch feeling (and looking) more than momish in my mom shirt on the eve of a women’s retreat where a friend I greatly love and admire will speak on a book I greatly love and admire.  She is living the dream I always thought I was made for – the calling I wanted.  Wasn’t I made for…more?  I was.  And this is it.  Yep.  The mom gig.  The “more” is what I hadn’t imagined and the less is what I had.  Ironic.  That is the title of her book: “Made for More.”

  Who knew I would want what I did not want?  Who knew I was made for a lot more than what I did?  I still have to remind myself to stop pressing my face to the window and turn around sometimes.  Inside the home is where the wisdom of God has called my gaze to rest.  I do not know why I did not get to be that teacher.  I am just thankful that I get to be this one.  Herein lies my purpose and all that God has for me to do.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.

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dennis

In Psalm 68 God is described as a father to the fatherless.  It says he sets the lonely in families.  Because my dad became ill when I was very young and my family was already quite broken even by that time, this has always been one of my favorite passages.  I’m writing tonight to tell you that God is faithful to his Word.  This passage is true and that, in addition to actually being Our Father who art in heaven, God does indeed provide both spiritual fathers and families to those in need of such things on earth.

What grace!

Some people think you have to be rich and famous to be great.  Some think you’ve got to have fame to be significant and fortune to make a real difference.  I know much better, though.  I know a man who has none of these things, yet has changed the world around him one person at a time through nothing more than a simple life coupled with great faithfulness.

Last Sunday we attended a reunion dinner for Covenant Baptist Church in Uniontown.  It marked 35 years for the lay pastor’s service.  For anyone who has not met Dennis Cox, I always describe him as the best man I’ve ever met.  Over the 8 years I’ve known him, he has been a spiritual father to both me and my husband.

When I first met Dennis, I had questions about life.  I had questions about the church.  I had questions about theology.  I had questions about the Bible.  I would call him every time I had a question.  He was never too busy to answer my questions with great patience and wisdom.  He began to meet with me and my husband every week in the morning while it was still dark outside to teach us one on one.  He shared his vast knowledge line by painstaking line this way with us for the better part of 6 years.  No praise.  No honor.  No glory.  Work and personal sacrifice was all there was in it for Dennis.  Still, he was always there, sitting with us; teaching us; loving us.  He and his wife invited us into their real lives despite our rough and ragged edges.  We had dinner together on numerous occasions.  He attended our children’s birthdays.  He let us drop in on him whenever we were in the neighborhood.  He counseled us on many occasions when we were lost, hurt, angry, or just plain wrong.  He prayed for us faithfully.  He corrected us in ways that never felt condescending.  He rescued our marriage more than once.  Even when we failed miserably and did all that he’d taught us not to do, he loved us like his very own.  Without even a hint of anger or disappointment to shame us, he gently and kindly led us back to the truth.

What grace!

This is a man who has done as much and more for countless others as well.  A man who has lived life well because he has lived life right by God.  Dennis is a great example to us all and there was a banquet room full of people to prove it.

As he was honored by that room full of grateful people, he spoke of nothing but his own undeservedness.  My husband mused that the amount of humility he displays is “almost unbelievable.”  That it is – especially for a man who has done so very much for so many.  This is a man who has truly changed the world for the good without fame or fortune.  This is a man who has truly changed the world for the good with his example of faithfulness and love.  It reminds me of another man I know – a man named Jesus.

We ran a race the day of the reunion and I realized something.  The moment I saw the first person ahead of me turn the corner toward the home stretch to the finish line, I felt a wave of relief; of encouragement; of inspiration.  Even though I was still quite a long way from the finish myself,  I began to run faster in anticipation and, as I did, I couldn’t help but think of Dennis.  He is so far ahead of us in wisdom, in experience, and in faith.  But we can see him turning the corner toward home and it inspires us to follow harder.  It encourages us to be better.  It relieves our fears.

Thank you for giving so many good things to us and so many others, Dennis.  You are the best man we know.

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mouth

“Mommy, do you love the baby more than me?” my soon to be 7 year old asks with curious eyes.  “I love all of you girls the same amount.”

“Well, you seem like you like her better.  You always talk nice to her and you never get mad at her.”

“She’s a baby.  She doesn’t do anything wrong yet.”

The implication is plain.  “But I do,” she is thinking.  She is thinking about how she does do things wrong.  She is thinking about how I do speak sternly to her when she disobeys.  She is thinking about how much she doesn’t like mommy to be disappointed with her.

After a long while she comes back to me with a perfectly completed math paper.  “I want you to be happy to me, Mommy.”  She is performance driven because she believes it produces love and approval.

This is a girl after my own heart.  She craves praise.  She seeks approval.  She lives to please.  She often wonders whether she is truly loved.

She is wrong.  I am wrong.  True love is not earned and it cannot be lost.  Children learn what they live and old habits die hard, though.

She stubs her toe.  She cries and immediately apologizes.  “Why are you sorry?”  “Because I’m trying not to cry.”  “Why?”  “Because I don’t like to.”

She doesn’t like to cry because she doesn’t like to fail; to show her pain; to reveal her true feelings.  She fears rejection.

I guess that’s the six year old in us all.  All the time trying to be brave when what we really need is to be honest.  Always trying to be strong when all we are is desperately weak.  We fear rejection.  We fear disapproval.  We fear judgement.  We fear being misrepresented.

I consider our fears and facades.  I file my scattered thoughts from last night’s Bible study alongside the words I am about to speak tonight at a church.  We spoke about the lack of transparency and honest confession to one another.  I am preparing to share my own life’s journey from death to life in Christ very candidly.  It is kind of ironic that these two realities have presented themselves at the very same time.

It is difficult to be honest about our own struggles, fears, weaknesses, and failures.  The reason it is difficult is because information is power; being vulnerable is risky.  We fear rejection.  We fear disapproval.  We fear judgement.  We fear being misrepresented.

We fear.  Fear, fear, fear, fear.  Fear is not what God is doing.  Fear is what we are doing.  Faith is what God is doing.  Maybe that is why God wants us to tell about what he has done.  Maybe that’s why he wanted me to tell my story in this particular way…

Here is how my story begins:

“I want to begin by saying, “I know.”  “I understand.”  Just like I say to my baby when she sobs.  Not to puff myself up with any knowledge I have gained from these trials but to identify with all of you and your stories – to be able to sympathize with and love well those who have struggled in one or more of these areas.  Not only that I know, but that God knows.  Your sisters in Christ know.  But sometimes we are just too afraid and ashamed and full of pain to tell one another our stories.  Sometimes it just hurts too much to talk to each other or even God about the things we are going through.  So we just don’t.  And no one knows.  And we’re all alone in agony, in shame, is despair, in misery.  We look so polished and pretty one the outside but we are dying on the inside.  At least that’s how my story went.”

…and here is how my story ends:

“I cannot pretend I’m the good Christian girl I look like on the outside.  I’m not shiny.  I’m a wretch.  God saved me and I have to tell someone how good he is.  I have to tell you that I know that life is hard.  I understand the pain that life brings.  I have felt it in so many areas.  Life hurts a lot.  I still struggle with feelings of great insecurity and deep rejection.  I take everything personally because I am skeptical of everyone who says they love me.  But I am growing.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my family, my church, and my heavenly father love me.  I could not say that with any amount of confidence before these tragic events over the past few years.  That’s how I can be thankful for them all.

No one is beyond redemption.  None of us deserve grace.  Give it anyway.  And trust that God is just.”

God does not love anyone more than he loves you and me.  We are all his babies.  We do do things wrong but those things do not keep him from loving us.  True love is not earned and it cannot be lost.

So tell your story.  Be real.  Be weak.  Be honest.  Be transparent.  Be vulnerable.  Be faithful even when you are afraid because God is glorified  by the truth.  He is worthy of our trust and he will take care of those who are not.

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