Distracted

“Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil one could almost believe one’s own secret sin didn’t matter.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

I loved reading The Hiding Place in junior high. It is one of those profound books that sticks with you throughout the years. I have often thought back on it as I see others endure much and looked to Corrie ten Boom as a hero. If Corrie ten Boom could forgive her oppressors surely I can forgive this petty sin of fill-in-the-blank. Of course, we know this forgiveness business is all about the work of God anyway. It’s nothing we can accomplish on our own.

My heart grieves today. I wonder why we do not deal with others in the manner prescribed by scripture. Why do I need to make someone’s life miserable as payment for the mistreatment I have endured? Is that my job? I cry witnessing such godly (yet imperfect) men and women and families laid low, cut deeply by someone in their past who chooses to exact their revenge on them in cruel, calculated ways. Did Christ not die for the sins of the world? Every one of them, big or small, thoughts or carried out actions. I grieve for these misfits and outcasts. I pray that God will comfort them and whisper their worth to them over and over. I pray that they find their feet again and walk in faith the new path God has made for them.

We have a great responsibility in this internet age, and I pray God raises up a generation of believers who approach this accumulation of endless information from a Biblical standpoint.

So they sent this message to Joseph: “Before your father died, he instructed us to say to you: ‘Please forgive your brothers for the great wrong they did to you—for their sin in treating you so cruelly.’ So we, the servants of the God of your father, beg you to forgive our sin.” When Joseph received the message, he broke down and wept. Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. “Look, we are your slaves!” they said.

But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

Genesis 50:16-21

I mean can you even imagine this? All that Joseph endured at the hands of his brothers and he chooses to forgive them, to care for them, and to acknowledge the way God used it in his life. Just amazing.

If a tongue can start a fire, then how much damage can the internet cause? We must use our words wisely, written and spoken. Feeling so convicted today to stop being distracted by the blatant evil and start looking within.

Words thought vs. spoken

sunIf I think something but don’t say it out loud, am I gaining anything? Do I please the Lord more by thinking something wrong and changing my heart about it before I say it aloud?

James 1:26-27
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 3:3-6
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

Of course I turned to James for the clear warnings on how dangerous our words can be. I also read through Matthew 5 which talks about lusting in your heart being the same as adultery or being angry with someone being the equivalent of murder.

Psalm 34:11-14
Come, my children, and listen to me,
and I will teach you to fear the Lord.
Does anyone want to live a life
that is long and prosperous?
Then keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies!
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

Proverbs 21:23
Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,
and you will stay out of trouble.

Ephesians 4:29-30
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Proverbs 1:7-9
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.

Proverbs 15:28
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking;
the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words.

Alright, I’ve posted eight thousand verses here, but my conclusion is that I should be renewing my mind (Ephesians 4:23) through the Holy Spirit and checking my words before they come out of my mouth. I don’t see an excuse to let every thought and idea roll off my tongue no matter how evil or crass it might be. Hey, God still loves me and that’s part of who I am so it’s okay, right? For many believers, I think Satan is using baggage from our upbringing in the church to convince us that it’s okay to say whatever we’re feeling (after all we’ve been living to please others for way too long). See Proverbs 1:7-9 above also regarding what we’ve learned from our parents. While God knows our thoughts whether we vocalize them or not, the consequences of speaking them out loud can be quite different. Of course the verses in James above warn that our tongue can start a fire (or as The Message puts it “turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it”) or render our religion worthless. Psalms and Proverbs tell us that guarding our mouths from speaking evil keeps us out of trouble and can lead to a long and prosperous life.

Am I saying it’s okay to think evil thoughts as long as we don’t speak them? Certainly not. However, I do think that because of our sinful nature we will struggle with bad thoughts and have to constantly be renewing our minds and meditating on scripture in order to claim victory over those sinful thoughts. In my marriage, I may have horrible thoughts about my husband or his behavior in my fit of rage. Is it worthwhile for me to share each and every one of those with him? I don’t think it is. Most of the time, I’ve learned that I need to quiet my heart and pray. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in his life as He is in mine. Speaking irrational negativities is not helpful or God-honoring in that situation. At the time it is so incredibly difficult to hold those biting remarks in, but after the disagreement is resolved, I am so glad that God helped me maintain that restraint. And I am grateful that my husband doesn’t have to have flashbacks of the horrible statements that flew out unchecked. I am by no means perfect at controlling my tongue. There are plenty of things I’ve said and regretted and apologized for and pleaded for God’s forgiveness because I was very, very wrong.

So, I don’t know if I’ve made any sense at all, but I really did this writing for myself. I’ve been mulling this idea around in my head tonight and wanted to look up verses to shed light on the subject. Thoughts anyone?

Church

One year ago today, I flipped my incourage calendar to read the quote below.

The church is beautiful. I get mad at her sometimes, but she is me. We meet together, and we feel close to home – smell the home-cooking, are citizens together, built up together. Nothing in common except death, burial, and resurrection.

We are all here grasping. We ask: How high? How wide? Long, High, Deep? This love surpasses knowledge, but we try so hard to know. We try to imagine together, though He can do immeasurably more than even that.

-Amber Haines

Nothing could’ve prepared me for what the next few months would hold, but I am so thankful to be standing on the other side a year later.

I appreciate the friendships that were forged through unlikely circumstances. I am committed to maintaining a spirit of gratitude. Even though what transpired is not what I would’ve chosen, I never expected or imagined the preciousness of the body of believers who have endured this process with us.

Below is a slideshow of our church on the go.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow
Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
A photo slideshow by Smilebox

What I Learned in February

1. I have a big mouth. Why oh why do I have such a big mouth? Okay, maybe I learned this in January or even fifteen years ago, but this month it has become more evident to me. I love to hear myself talk about all of the trials and tribulations and injustices of my own little world. Why do I dwell on these things? There’s work to be done. I have to keep myself immersed in scripture and let my heart dwell on the truths of God’s Word.

2. Spring is where it’s at. Ohio weather is wearing on me. Kids need to be outside without eighty thousand layers of clothes that I have to find and/or put on their bodies. I’m about to clear out ALL of the boots and replace them with flip flops.

3. I am so thankful for relationships God’s placed in my life. I sometimes wonder when these people will realize what an obnoxious, self-absorbed person I am and never turn up again. Here’s to making my life and house more open in the coming months so that I can be available to whoever wants to come and have a cup of coffee (or water, no judgment) and talk while I shut up and LISTEN.

4. Life is a vapor. Make it count for all things eternal. Play these statements on repeat in my slow learning brain.

5. This recipe for Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin is amazing. No, I didn’t have any ground sage, but it was still delish!

6. These Oatmeal Whoopie Pies are a nostalgic trip back to the Little Debbie Oatmeal Crème Pie, but so much better. Warning: do not waste these delights on children. They will lick the filling out and throw away the cookies. Use filling #2 though. I just can’t get behind putting marshmallow fluff between two homemade cookies. I apologize if I have offended anyone.

7. The movie, The Green Mile, is not based on a true story. I watched the movie recently (I’ve seen it before but didn’t remember much about it), and asked Nate if this stuff really happened. As the movie progressed I realized how stupid my question was.

8. One should always make sure a vehicle’s windshield wipers are not frozen to the windshield before turning them on. Even defrosting the van for thirty minutes prior to this “test” resulted in a broken wiper. Live and learn.

9. When going to Meijer at 11pm, use the self checkout lane with the conveyor belt and large bagging area. Do not attempt to bag five hundred items at the small self checkout kiosk. Thank you to the late night employees who suspended my purchase so I could scan the rest of my haul with ease.

10. When gearing up to clean the kitchen, blast music from High School Musical, TobyMac, Mandisa, etc. to garner strength for the task. Also, I’ve been enjoying Fernando Ortega for a more calming option with lyrics straight out of scripture.

11. My eight-year-old son’s spelling of the word “illustrated” is “illistraded.” My six-year-old daughter spells “illustrated” like “ilushtradide.” If you know my daughter at all, her spelling is exactly how she would pronounce the word. It brings joy to my heart to see these two creating books that were written and illustrated by them just for fun.

12. These two bicker
IMG_3281
but secretly love each other…
IMG_3282

Linking up with Emily for What I Learned in February.

Live Low

Ann Voskamp

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

Write

sleddingThe word “write” is intimidating to me. I don’t consider myself to be a writer. A talker, yes. I’ve never disciplined myself to keep a journal faithfully. My version of writing regularly in a journal boils down to one or two entries every other year. Unfortunately my children will not have the luxury of looking back into my memories of the past.

My grandma always said I should write a book about our family. I never really put much stock in that, although I have toyed with the idea from time to time. Writing was never my forte though, and even in college composition classes I had great difficulty deciding on topics and narrowing them enough to create a mildly interesting paper.

I do want to somehow bottle up this time with my family and friends so that I can fully remember the accomplishments, victories and joys that we’ve experienced together. Mostly I just record these things through photography, but I’m not always on top of that either. Maybe someday I’ll figure out the best formula, but for now, I try to be present in my current situations and keep track of the lessons I learn along the way.

I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo today for Five Minute Friday.

Garbage

I do not care if I am treated as the offscouring of the earth as long as the Gospel is proclaimed.

I was reading My Utmost for His Highest this morning and the above quote stood out to me. Can I really say this about myself or do I secretly (or maybe not so secretly) want to live a comfortable upper middle class American life? Do I want to be revered and admired for my sterling reputation in my community?

It seems to me that God has put us who bear his Message on stage in a theater in which no one wants to buy a ticket. We’re something everyone stands around and stares at, like an accident in the street. We’re the Messiah’s misfits. You might be sure of yourselves, but we live in the midst of frailties and uncertainties. You might be well-thought-of by others, but we’re mostly kicked around. Much of the time we don’t have enough to eat, we wear patched and threadbare clothes, we get doors slammed in our faces, and we pick up odd jobs anywhere we can to eke out a living. When they call us names, we say, “God bless you.” When they spread rumors about us, we put in a good word for them. We’re treated like garbage, potato peelings from the culture’s kitchen. And it’s not getting any better. I Corinthians 4:9-13

To be honest, I could’ve gone my whole life without reading this. Do I really want to be treated like garbage? No, but I’m so thankful for God’s Word. What a great reminder to keep my expectations low! I’ve learned in my short stint in parenting so far that expectations are the name of the game. Keep those expectations at a realistic level and don’t be disappointed when your kids don’t live up to them. Make every experience a teachable moment and keep moving forward out of love for those precious little ones.

So, in my life, I must expect to be mistreated by others and not let my heart be discouraged by it. How else does a dying world see Jesus in me? Is it by my comfortable, easy life? No, it’s by my response to hardship, my love for those who despise me, my desire to see the Gospel made known at ANY cost.

Steadfast

People are choosing words for 2014. I typically rebel against these kinds of things because I am stubborn, but as I was sitting here thinking a word popped into my head. Steadfast.

The first few definitions swayed my decision a little: firmly fixed in place, not subject to change. Do I really want to broaden my stubbornness in 2014?

Then I read this one: firm in belief, determination, or adherence. There. That’s the description I want. Also this:

You will keep in perfect peace 

those whose minds are steadfast, 

because they trust in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Who knows what 2014 will hold? With God’s help, remaining steadfast in my faith through it all is the goal!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.