Saturday, February 20, 2016

Worldliness - What is it?

It seems the topic of worldliness has been coming up repeatedly in the past few months from the pulpit at our church, with our preaching elders alluding to and defining worldliness in various ways.  I also have been watching one of my daughter's come of age, seeking to define her Christianity and dress standards for herself wondering who she is and where she fits in this world - asking what is modesty and who defines it.. 

 We all agree that worldliness is to be avoided, but what is it?  The Amish feel that rubber tires and electricity are worldly. Our conservative Mennonite friends believe that ties for men, neck scarves for women, movies for entertainment, and current fashion trends are all worldly.  Another church I know defines worldliness by the color of dress you wear - pink, purple and red and even some shades of blue and green being worldly and of course prints are definitely considered worldly.  There are so many voices out there trying to define what worldliness is, in fact each person or group seems to want to draw the circle to fit themselves and exclude those who are not like them.

Often when I'm wrestling with an issue, insights will come in the early morning hours as if they were dropped there by God.  The other morning a Biblical story came to mind and I knew that it applied to this issue of what is worldly!  Esau came home from hunting, thinking he would starve if he didn't immediately have a bowl of the lentil stew Jacob was cooking!  Jacob bargained with him for his precious birthright and Esau easily sold it off saying, "What good will it do me if I die of hunger?"  There was nothing wrong with the stew or even with being hungry, but there was something terribly wrong with Esau's value system and priorities.  He was willing to sacrifice the long term and spiritual for the present physical need. That was worldly! I don't think worldliness can be simply defined as what you do or don't wear or what you do or don't do, though those things will flow out of a worldly or spiritual heart, I think rather the root of it is defined by how we use the resources and things of this world.  Do we use our earthly position and resources to further the Kingdom of God or do we sacrifice the Spiritual on the altar of meeting our immediate fleshly needs and desires.  What are our priorities and where is our heart. Perhaps the outward expressions of a right heart will look different for different Christians according to their different cultures and settings and their specific gifts and calling by God.  It's much easier to just set a standard and reject everyone who doesn't fit into my "circle" but God is the judge and He is able to make my brothers and sisters "stand" if they are seeking Him. 

Years ago I read a book by Watchman Nee, Love Not the World I think I'll see if I can find it again and reread it. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall

I just finished a beautiful series of four books by Michael Phillips, The Secrets of Heathersleigh Hall. 
These are the first books I've read by Michael Phillips himself, though I've read many of the George MacDonald books he's edited.  I was so blessed by the deep heart issues he raised and dealt with in a beautiful Biblical way.  I related deeply to the prodigal, Amanda and her parents as they prayed and waited for her return.  I identified with the beauty of her return to the Father and to her family as I am daily thankful for the return of our prodigal and the beauty God continues to mold into her life and the joy we share now that she is home!  Pages and pages were filled in my commonplace journal as I read this book - Michael Phillips has a beautiful way with words, but even more powerful are the Biblical concepts easily taken to heart in story form.  I found the introduction to the ideas and political climate behind World War I and the issues of women's rights and one of the character's explanations of the atonement.   I can't wait to start another Michael Phillips series!! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

God is Faithful

Just listened to this encouraging video of music by Jonathan Urie and text by Roy Lessin of Meet me in the Meadow.  I hope it blesses you, too...  God is Faithful.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

He Holds Me By the Hand

"The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord.  He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand." Psalm 37:23,24NLT

What a blessing to know that step by step we ARE being directed by the Lord.  But even more than that, that He delights in EVERY DETAIL of our lives.  When I am stressed or worried about some part of my life, not managing to "pull it together",
not sure which direction to take, or just overwhelmed with it all, I can reach for His hand and tell Him all about it, He WANTS to hear the details - He's never too busy - He DELIGHTS in EVERY DETAIL!  And even if I stumble, He is HOLDING ME BY THE HAND and he won't let me fall....  Beautiful picture!!! 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Teaching the Young Women to Love Their Children

Titus 2:3-5 KJV says,

3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
5 to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Portrait of an Old Woman 
Years ago as a young mother, I cried out, "Where are the older women?!" I longed for a mentor to walk and talk me through the wife and mother issues.  As I looked around me in church and even community, I found that most of the older women had quit with only two or three children and had sent those to the public schools for training.  They were now free to pursue jobs and individual interests and had filled their lives full. They didn't have time or answers for me. I promised myself and the Lord then, that when I got "old" I would be an older woman to the younger women.  I'll be 55 in March and my "baby" is nine years old.  I'm thinking I might be entering that "Older woman" category.  From this vantage point, I can see some of the reasons the older women of my younger years were reluctant to speak.  From this position, my own failings seem much more apparent.  Ideals have not always been realized and even when they have, I see how I missed other important things along the way.  But there are certain decisions I made and stands I took, that I wouldn't go back on given the choice again.  I'd like to talk about one of those here.  When wrestling through how to plan our family we decided to trust the LORD to design our family and the spacing of our children (more on that story here). I want to encourage you too, to love the children God hasn't given you yet, to consider them a gift and to welcome them into your life and home.   I have yet to hear a woman say, "I wish I hadn't had so many children." Even in my darkest moments with a rebellious teen, I never wished I'd had fewer children and now today with her walking with the LORD again she is a daily joy to me. But I've had dear friends who with tears of regret bemoan the fact that even reversal surgery wasn't able to bring them babies now, and their arms are empty and their hearts barren.  I can say that after years of home schooling, though I am still learning I have years of experience that would be wasted if I had no one to educate and train at this point!  You may feel that to welcome these yet unborn children is to love the ones you have less, but that has not been my experience.  If you quit having babies, you won't necessarily spend more time with the children you have - other things will come in and fill your time and you may even end up eventually spending less time with your children as your focus is much more easily diverted outside the home, when you don't have small children to keep your focus there.  Focusing on a baby or toddler doesn't need to exclude your older children from your attention, actually, it is something you can enjoy together, a wonderful way to train them for the future with their own children.  Raising little ones is a wonderful training ground and discipleship opportunity, to be embraced together as a family team. When your first few children are born, you imagine that you will be continuing to add to this chaos exponentially and feeling at the breaking point yourself with the child/adult ratio getting out of control you may desperately decide to nip this disaster in the bud.  I want to encourage you to plant liberally - you will turn the corner and begin reaping benefits of your love soon.  It may take a few years, but eventually those older children become much more of an asset than the drain they seem in the early years. You turn a corner and those you served are serving alongside you and even serving and blessing you with spiritual insight and physical service.  I looked around my kitchen the other day and there were six girls all working happily together.  A team like that can accomplish a lot in a short time!  I have gained more spiritual insight from my children than all the sermons I've ever sat under. As they share their spiritual journeys there is rich fellowship! Each of my eleven children is unique with unique gifts and I wouldn't want to be without a single one of them.  The possibilities for the advancement of the Kingdom of God through your offspring is multiplied if you are willing to embrace the children God wants to give you and divided if you reject them. Psalm 127:3 says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." I do want to say here, that God doesn't give all of us big families and if he chooses to give you none or one or two - I believe He has special ministries for you and that this is a gift to be embraced and explored.  He's not in a box. My friend and neighbor years ago conceived on her honeymoon, didn't have another baby for three years and then, though they didn't do anything to avoid children, they never had any more.  This was God's plan for their family - all His plans are good!  But if you choose to reject the children God would like to place in your family, it is a burying of your "talent" your resources, your life. If you embrace His gifts, it is true that you will be called upon to pour out your life.  Even though I don't have babies any more, I am still stretched thin - my Mom (Dad's already in Heaven) and my in-laws are aging, I am now a grandma to ten, add to that time spent with my young adult children as well as the ones still in school and you have a very busy life. But  as Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose." It is my belief that you won't regret  the exchange of your life for a single one of the eternal souls God blesses you with. And remember, without Him we can do nothing, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it." Psalm 127:1  But as you allow Him to "build your house" and family in His way, walking with your hand in His, in obedience to His will, you will see that He does all things well. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Merciful wonder - I'm not afraid!

I don't feel afraid, that is the merciful wonder!  Because God has been there in all my yesterdays and I feel His presence and know His power in today, I have confidence in tomorrow, whatever it may hold.  But still I ponder and imagine what will happen if things continue to get worse, specifically with Rachael's health.  She is now having blackouts several times a day.  Her CT scan shows abnormalities deep in her brain. When she passes out, she can still hear and think - she is completely aware but also completely unable to respond, to open her eyes, move or talk - she is hidden away completely inside herself.  I've been pondering what it would be if the damage to her brain continues and she ends up completely locked away from us.  How would we encourage her and what would it be like for a person of words, an author, to be locked away completely unable to communicate? She chuckles when she can't come up with words or the end of a sentence, what would it be if she can't respond at all? I know she would continue to be a prayer warrior because that is how she has always used her sicknesses and being set aside, in bed or even nights awake in pain, she has spent those hours in prayer for others.  So I have confidence that God's work through her will go on no matter what happens with her health! 

     On a more positive note, I was thinking last night how God is the creator of everything.  He can calm a raging storm, heal a man blind from birth or a cripple.  This sickness is no mountain to him - it is easy.  He could heal her in an instant and we've begged him for that!  She is confident He will heal her at the right moment and I see no striving or worry in her that He won't - just quiet rest that this moment, this way, is His will for her, that His strength is made perfect in her weakness.  She chooses rest in Him when her nature would be restless to be busy working on the writing projects she has with approaching deadlines and the discipling and building relationships with her siblings she had hoped to do this winter.  But He is the LORD and we worship Him in trust that He is in charge of our moments and days. 
     I do feel stretched thin.  Life is so busy! And medical things take hours and days, while the rest of life continues to march on.  School still needs to be done with our four who are students, dishes need to be done, wood stoves to keep stoked,  the house cleaned, conversations had with the other adult children in our household, stories to be read and that sweet grandbaby who is at my absolute favorite age (3 months) to love and talk to! I've been neglecting time with my Mom - which hurts - and my correspondence and reading have gone on the back burner.  But I feel privileged to have these moments and hours for meaningful conversation and prayer with Rachael.  She is a joy to be with and even in the E. R. last week we laughed and joked and shared deeply while we waited for her CT scan....  She had asked me the week after Christmas if I wanted to go out for coffee, but it was cold out and I had lots of projects I wanted to get done while school was out so I declined.  When we wound up with those four hours in the E.R. I teased her that next time I'll go to coffee so she doesn't have to get my attention by going into the E.R.  But truly, time with her is such a privilege! Conversations in the car, traveling to appointments and waiting for doctors, memorable moments, prayers, and conversations I'll treasure forever!
     And so the Redeemer shines!  He continues to redeem our souls, to redeem our hours, to turn even our pain into joy!  What's to be afraid of with a Lord like that?!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Light vs. Darkness


You don't fight darkness with a sword.  Instead it is dispelled by light.  Light overcomes darkness - ALWAYS!  If you bring light into darkness, the darkness cannot overcome the light.  Darkness is not a thing, it is the absence of the thing.  Light is the true entity, darkness is just the absence of the presence of light.  Therefore Light is stronger - Light displaces darkness.  Jesus is the Light of the world.   

He shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome Him. 

So, too, fear is displaced by love.  "Perfect Love casts out fear".
And Love is a person, Jesus Christ.  Knowing him doesn't mean we're never afraid but the more present and fully we experience Him, the more our earthly fears recede. 

When a child puts his hand in the trusted hand of another it's the protection and the care represented by that hand, not the hand itself that dispels fear.  It is the love of the adult represented, their presence that brings comfort and subdues fear.  

In the words of a favorite childhood book character, Piglet, when they're lost in the mist trying to "unbounce" Tigger -

 And so, we reach our hand out to our mighty Creator, and we find that He, who is perfect love, replaces our fear with trust, that He who is light drives away the darkness in our lives.  And His light kindles in us a light that shines out to others in their darkness.