From the Archives: Give Me Prudence

Jeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.

These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens.

So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). 

Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk.

I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us… and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications. I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

How has prudence played a significant part in your life?

– Written July 2009. View the original post here along with reader comments

When the Christian Life is Easier Said Than Done

photo: fancyfleamarket.typepad.com

Yesterday I went over to a friend’s place to visit. What I’ve always appreciated about this friend is her authenticity when it comes to her struggles in raising three children.

Her husband walked in the door as I was attempting to round up my kids. The three of us got into a good, unexpected conversation about hearing vs. actually doing God’s Word.

“We were inspired by our pastor’s sermon on Sunday. We were encouraged to do God’s will. We were convicted in areas that need change…” my friend said.

“Then we got home,” she sighed.

“The kids were horrible. Things felt chaotic. We exploded a lot and were so discouraged because just a few minutes ago we were so on fire to live for the Lord. It’s as if we forgot everything we’d just heard…”

I continued to listen to her story and couldn’t help but think how she was articulating exactly how I’d felt so many times. Especially on Sundays!

Just the other morning I got up early to read my Bible and journal while my husband did his quiet time. It had been well over a week or more since I had been in the Word. The kids weren’t up and I was savoring the alone time. I thought for sure it would be a good day but within the hour it was as if the house erupted. Or shall I say, Momma erupted.

If you took a peep into my window you wouldn’t have found a gentle, godly woman who had just been with Jesus. Anger exploded out of me toward my kids and I felt overwhelmed by all the change that’s happening with our move, graduation, and new baby. Sadly, I’d forgotten all that I had read.

Shortly after, I was reminded of the verses in James:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:23-25

That evening before bed, I prayed and begged God to help me in the areas of my life where I not only fail but fail big time. In that time of soul searching, He showed me how much I need His grace and that this Christian life is a process- a process of sanctification that doesn’t come over night.

And that “doing” the Christian life is pretty much impossible apart from His truth and guidance. Doing good-outward-acts can’t be mistaken for a heart that’s truly been changed by Christ.

His Word has been given to me as a gift so that I would know how to live, but I can’t be changed if I’m not “looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom.”

I’m thankful that regardless of my imperfections and weaknesses, God is still at work in me. He’s always pursuing me to come back to Him for the healing I need so badly. He knows I’m a work in progress.

And I think more times than not, I need to celebrate and remember the times where He has allowed me to be victorious in the struggles against sin, rather than focusing so much on failures and falling short.

His divine power has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)- even in the challenging times of raising little ones. So as for today, it’s time to shake the dust off, confess & repent of sin, accept His forgiveness & love, and continue living by faith in his son.

Article: When Life Has You Waiting

This article was published in Dallas Theological Seminary’s Student Journal- Spring 2012. The main audience is seminary students/future ministry leaders. I hope you’ll be encouraged in whatever you’re “waiting” on in life, too. The PDF can be found here on pg. 5

I’m guessing you’ve been asked what your future plans are after seminary. Some students know they want to press on and get their Ph.D. Some want to be pastors, chaplains, missionaries, or serve in some kind of parachurch ministry.

Or you might be in seminary simply because you know you’re supposed to be, and that’s it. Your ministry has yet to be revealed, and you’re waiting.

Waiting is a Form of Suffering

Waiting on God’s perfect timing is a spiritual discipline that requires a great amount of patience and endurance. You may have God- given dreams that burn wildly in your heart. You cry out, plead, beg, and wrestle with God about those desires.

You might face criticism and misunderstanding from loved ones because nothing “significant” has happened in your ministry or career yet. You’ve waited for years and prayed for answers, but you hear nothing in return.

In her book, Faith that Does Not Falter, Elisabeth Elliot says,

Waiting is a form of suffering— the difficulty of self-restraint, the anguish of unfulfilled longing, the bewilderment of unanswered prayer, flesh and heart failing, soul breaking. These are indeed tribulations, and tribulation is the curriculum if we are to learn patience. We want answers now, right now, but we are required at times to walk in darkness. Nevertheless, God is in the darkness.

There’s no greater way to learn patience and contentment than to go through experiences that require it. Before coming to Dallas Seminary, my husband and I already had seminary degrees from a previous school. We both felt strongly about Jeremiah pursuing more training and education in God’s Word.

After applying to DTS, getting accepted, and moving, we served in an apartment ministry for the first two years of his schooling. In those years, Jeremiah desired to have preaching or church-planting experience but the doors never opened. After we moved onto campus and had our second child is when the tide turned.

An Unexpected Internship

In one of his preaching classes, Jeremiah met Craig Schill, a grad assistant and a local church planter. They developed a friendship, and Jeremiah started interning at his church, Lake Cities Community Church in Rowlett. He was given the opportunity to preach and teach several times and spearhead a community outreach event.

Jeremiah always desired affirmation as to whether preaching was his spiritual gift. In no time he was encouraged above and beyond what he imagined from the church body, through both verbal affirmation and emails. I’ll never forget the evening he told me that the sermon he’d just preached was the closest he’d ever felt to the Lord.

Okay, Lord, we’re getting closer to your plan, I thought.

While his internship ended a few months ago, we decided to continue investing at Lake Cities in our final year at DTS. We have fallen in love with the people, and we’re learning so much about servant leadership.

Lessons from Staying Faithful

Four years seems like a long time of waiting on God’s unique gifting for Jeremiah, but it wasn’t too long for God. God taught him so much through his classes and real-life experiences. If we had rushed or manipulated God’s timing, I think we would have missed out on a huge blessing.

As we approach graduation in May, I continue to remind myself that we are, yet again, waiting on the Lord to provide the next step. While it can be fearful at times, I’m trusting that God will continue to lead us where He desires.

As you continue to wait on God in your time at seminary, be encouraged that you don’t have to have it all figured out. He has a perfect plan for your life and ministry and, He is with you even in the darkness.

Heart Renovations {Good Friday Reflections}

our kitchen in progress

We’re in the middle of a major renovating project in the new house we’re set to move into at the end of the month. With the help of very generous friends in our church, my parents, and my husband and his friends, the ugly 60s style carpet in our living and dining room has been ripped out. The kitchen tile has been smashed out and new hardwood floors will be installed soon.

As you can imagine, the downstairs is a wreck. And on this Good Friday while I have just a few minutes to reflect on it, I can’t help but take a look inside the condition of my soul, apart from Jesus.

Apart from Jesus, it’s an absolute disaster. There is nothing good that exists (I wish there was).

I’m a sinful being and my sin is so disgusting and offensive that a price had to be paid to cover it.

Jesus’ death on the cross paid the massive debt I owed. A debt which I could never actually pay on my own accord. On the cross, Jesus said “It is finished.” Wholly. Completely. Not in part- but in full. Because of the pain, suffering, and anguish he endured and the spilling of his blood, I’ve been set free from the chains of sin. And no one else could do it, but Jesus.

Because of his death, grace washes over all our sin. Amazing grace for you and for me. A most precious gift.

But the cross can’t be left by itself, displayed on a church building, or worn around our neck as pretty jewelry. The cross, which showed his great love for us, demands an answer from us. A choice that we must make. Will we accept Jesus’ gift of grace and surrender our lives to Him? Will we turn from our sin and cling to Him? Will we allow him to renovate the ugliest, shameful parts of our heart so we can be restored again?

He is more than willing if we let Him.

The beauty of the cross and his grace is that He removes the junk and debris. He changes us and makes us new. It is all an act of His grace- a profound mystery.

Today, let’s not forget just how awful our sin is and how disgraceful Jesus’ death on the cross was. But let us also not forget…

Sunday’s coming.

Check out this video.

Article: Pondering Pet Peeves

I recently accepted the offer to be a regular contributor for Ungrind Webzine. I absolutely love their mission to encourage 20 and 30 something women in their daily walk with Christ.

This article went live yesterday. It’s on the lighthearted side. Feel free to share what your biggest pet peeve is… over there!

I’d just found a comfy chair to work on a writing deadline I had for an article. I listened to the faint chatter around me and opened my laptop anxious to flesh out some words on the blank screen. Then out of the corner of my eye a man in his 40′s plops down in the leather chair caddy corner from mine.

He opened his laptop and rustled through the notes in his briefcase. He looked at them intensely and took a deep breath. Whatever he was reading must have been really good from all the “oh’s,” “wow’s,” and “hmm’s” flowing unashamedly out of his mouth.

My eyes were glued to this man. I was waiting to see if he would quiet down at all or maybe get a hint. But he didn’t…

Read the rest over on Ungrind

When Your Ceiling Caves In: Thoughts on Being First Time Homebuyers

My husband Jeremiah and I were super excited, but not naive. Enough trusted people in our lives had told us how much work goes into owning a home. This was going to be our very first home that we would close on in just a few hours.

We did the walk-thru with our realtor, Susan, making sure repairs had been made and that all was well and it was… until… we made our way upstairs and opened the door to the attic.

“Babe, can you walk across there and take down those tacky white curtains hanging in the dormers?”

They had been annoying me for a while now, especially because they were visible from the road. Jeremiah takes his first few steps, slowly. I had this odd feeling something was about to happen.

If you remember Chevy Chase in the classic movie, Christmas Vacation, you probably recall him falling through the ceiling while reminiscing over old home videos. Well, that’s basically what went down yesterday.

Jeremiah took another step and part of the floor caved in. It happened to be the dining room ceiling.

My godly, soon-to-be seminary graduate was in shock. “I’m not sure if I want to cuss or laugh! So I think I’ll laugh,” he said.

My eyebrows were raised the whole time, and then I just started cracking up. We knew we wanted the house. We were just about to close. But, really? The ceiling? Oh dear. Should we still close on this house?

Susan couldn’t believe what she was seeing either. “Well, it looks like this is going to be your first repair,” she said. All of us laughed together.

As we walked out of the door, Jeremiah assured me that regardless of the circumstances, this was what we were supposed to do and better that this happened now than later with kiddos around. On our way to the title company, we were laughing so hard about the whole situation. He was already formulating a plan on how he would fix it and what he would need to get at Home Depot.

“Maybe this will encourage you when it comes to fixing all the other future repairs and updates,” I said trying to look on the bright side.

He smiled and assured me that he was up for the task. I had no doubt he would get it done and do it well.

Well, yesterday was just the beginning of our first home buying experience. We chose a two-story house about 10 minutes away from the city, close to Jeremiah’s work. It was built in 1964 and hasn’t had any major updates, but has a ton of potential- nothing a little paint can’t fix! The house is awesome space-wise as everyone will have their own room. It’s going to take a lot of cleaning practice making sure 5 bedrooms are in order.

We were able to get an incredible deal on the home as well. It’s only a few miles away from one of our favorite lakes for running and biking and it’s near a beautiful botanical garden that everyone in Dallas seems to frequent. Not to mention, a park and playground that the kids love are five houses down.

But like I said, the house is older so with that comes a lot of work. And I can only naturally relate this whole house experience to life because it has taught me so much already. Having the ability to own a home and fill it with good things is a gift, but it will not satisfy the deepest cravings in my heart. Only God will be able to satisfy those needs.

Our new house will also, in one way or another, disappoint us. Stuff will break. Pipes will leak. There will always be work. There will be new challenges that didn’t exist in an apartment and there will be new worries and fears.

But Lord willing, God will use this house as a place to show his love, be hospitable, share the gospel, disciple our children, grow our marriage, nurture authentic relationships, make friends and family feel welcome, and teach us more about Himself. And I am definitely excited about that. Most of all, my prayer is that this home will glorify God and that it will be a place where His purposes are accomplished in our family and among the people we will live near.

Until we move out of seminary housing at the end of April, we will be painting, getting appliances, and doing lots of dirty work. Well that is, mostly my husband, family, and friends since I shouldn’t be around paint being pregnant.

Oh yeah and we’ll also be praying that nobody else falls through the ceiling.

From the Archives: An Anthem of His Faithfulness

Every seat in the chapel was filled. The doors on each side stayed open for Michigan’s August breeze to make its way in. I looked for a place to sit and found a spot on the end of a pew. As I sat down, I felt relieved that my husband was keeping the kids so I could have some time to sit and be still. Besides, this was my vacation.

God, I want to hear you tonight, prayedIt’s so hard to hear you when the daily grind can get so noisy.

Sara Groves started playing the piano and singing:

I can’t remember a trial or a pain He did not recycle to bring me gain

I can’t remember one single regret In serving God only, and trusting His hand

All I have need of, His hand will provide

He’s always been faithful to me

I tried to recollect a time when God was unfaithful to me and I simply could not. Even at a point in my life when I chose the temporal pleasures of sin over following Him, He remained faithful- patiently pursuing me and calling me to his side.

And all the needs I have ever had, great or small, he has provided regardless of my worry and doubt.

I thought about the concerns and fears I have with the future and I was comforted that God knew those too, but my uncertainties don’t change the fact of Who He Is. And if I had to follow Him all over again, in the joys and the hardships, I would still surrender my life to Him.

Sara played on and transitioned into the old hymn:

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me

A man in his 60s stood up as she sang. I imagined his life and the possible trials he’d probably faced. I thought about how he’s further along in the journey than I. Then another person in the distance stood and then another. I got goosebumps. Before I knew it, handfuls of people were standing.

Knots grew tight in my throat. God had been so faithful to me and rarely did I thank Him and stand upon that. I felt such conviction. My pride tried to keep me planted in that hard wooden pew, but I rose to my feet anyway. Tears filled my eyes and I confessed to God where I had fallen short.

God, forgive me for not regularly expressing gratitude to you for all you have done. Change me.

I observed all that was happening around me and soon enough, everyone was standing. Some lifted their hands in humbleness. God’s presence filled the air and it was heavenly and so sweet. It didn’t matter what journey any of us had traveled, this was our anthem together.

An anthem of His faithfulness.

Remember Your Creator

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” — before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain. – Ecclesiastes 12:1-2

I was reading these verses last night before bed and I was struck by the incredible wisdom is King Solomon’s words.

A friend of mine in college had told me once how as the years passed by in her mom’s life, her love and passion for God faded away. She told me how her mom was once “on fire” for God, but how that fire was extinguished because “life just happened.”

I remember thinking, Oh I don’t want that to ever happen to me. How sad.

Little did I know as a college student just how much life would happen… to me. As I got older, I started to understand and sympathize with my friend’s mom. I’m seven years out of college and I’ve gone through my share of suffering, trouble, trials, and pain. Life has squeezed me in ways I never thought it could and at times I’ve been tempted to throw in the towel in following God’s ways.

As I read these verses I realize that I’m still in my youth so to say. I’m healthy (as far as I know), just about to reach 30, have young kids, and I’m able to draw upon the Lord whenever I want. God has given me the strength emotionally, spiritually, and physically to do so.

But Solomon reminds me that there will be a day when it might not be easy to call upon God. “Days of trouble” will happen. That could mean old age, a disability, sickness, handicap- anything that is a barrier to enjoying life to its fullest. Solomon is saying to enjoy God in your youthful years, when your strength is still available to do so.

He pleads for us not to waste our life on evil or meaningless things that can cause our hearts to harden. These could be things that are good, that we find great pleasure in, but can turn into idols. These can also be things that can distance us from God.

Solomon pleads with us to focus on the Eternal, rather than the temporal, worldly pleasures that beckon us in our youth. The pleasures that try to snag and pull us away from God.

The bottom line is that there is no room for excuses, no matter how hard life can get. Loving and knowing God begins right now, while I have been given the strength and everything I need to pursue Him.

How to Handle the “In Between”

The week after Christmas tends to be an awkward week for me. The whole month of December, I anticipate Christmas. Everything I do centers around Dec. 25. And then once it’s over, I’m not quite sure what to do.

I could relate to writer Marcus Hathcock in the recent RELEVANT Magazine article, “The Thud After Christmas” when he said, “There is a huge build up to Christmas… You get the feeling that the world is getting ready for something big and mysterious.”

Then Christmas happens and life moves on the next day as if it were never here. Marcus likened it to the radio stations instantly going back to their regular programming: “No tapering down the carols, just a clean break. A thud.”

I love how he uses the word thud because that’s exactly what it has felt like for me. I’ve asked myself a few times: Now What? What’s the next thing to look forward to?

This week, I’ve struggled with being in the in-between. Christmas is over and 2012 is on the horizon. I have my share of concerns about what the future will hold and what changes might occur.

But one thing has brought me true comfort and peace as I wrestle and grapple with the in between.

Going to God in His Word to be reminded and assured of his promises.

I easily forget that Jesus is enough. We hear it so much but it’s so true. He is all I need as I anticipate a brand new year that will hold only the Lord knows! This doesn’t mean that I don’t plan, work hard, make changes, set some goals, and more. Those things will happen.

But the point is that my eyes should not be on myself and what concerns I have. Or how I feel. Or frankly what I need to do. I actually end up getting depressed when I look too hard at myself.

My focus should be upon Christ, his Word, his ways, serving Him and His people. And above all to fulfill what I’ve been put on this earth to do- to know Him and make Him known.

I’m never disappointed when I begin placing my trust in what He says. And somehow, when my eyes are upon Him instead of self, I always end up finding true joy, comfort, and satisfaction. All the things that I’m pretty sure I was looking for in the first place.

Over the past few days I’ve noticed that the thud is slowly fading away and my anxiety about 2012 is turning into excitement and joy about what God will do and reveal about himself.

Have you felt the thud or struggle with the in between?

On Sailing… and Serving Others With Your Gifts & Passions

On Saturday, I surprised Jeremiah with a boat ride for his birthday. We boarded a beautiful wooden catamaran that seated about 30 people. Scott was our captain. He was super friendly and we knew we were in for a treat on the lake. It was just what we needed after a stressful week.
About 30 minutes into our sail, Scott came by to accept our payment. Jeremiah initiated a conversation with Scott on how he got involved in sailing.

“I got on the computer and Googled ‘how to build a boat,’ ” he said.

“I found all the necessary resources and started building. I never dreamed I’d be taking 35 trips a week and that my business would grow like this…”

Then he said something profound that stuck with both of us:

“I think it’s important to find what you love to do and serve others through it.”

You could tell that Scott had what he wanted in life. He’d been married to his wife of 30+ years, his children were grown and doing well, and he was doing what he absolutely loved. But not only that, he was blessing the lives of a lot of people- every week.

Scott takes a shot of us behind the wheel

During the remainder of the trip, I thought about how God distributes gifts to people and how the purpose of those gifts are to edify and equip the Church. So often it’s easy to get caught up in the what-my-gift-will-do-for-me kind of mentality.

But it’s not about that at all. Certainly, our gifts and passions draw us closer to God, make us come alive, and give us meaning and purpose. But our gifts aren’t supposed to be hoarded and hidden inside our own little box.

We’re supposed to give our gifts away. And if we think anything different, we’re missing the boat.

I don’t know if you’ve found your gift or the one thing you want to spend your life doing. I don’t know if you’re discouraged in that pursuit or if you believe you have something to contribute to this world.

But what I do know is God created you for a purpose and that involves building into the lives of others.

You have something to offer that no one else does and other people need you to draw out your gifts, however that might look and whatever risks that might involve.

When you view your gifts with an outwardly-focused kind of mentality, your life will change drastically. Your perspective will shift off of yourself and onto how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others.

In middle school, I started journaling. It was how I felt closest to the Lord and it was the easiest way for me to write out my prayers and remember them. It also came natural, just like the assignments did in my Creative Writing classes. After receiving my first publishing contract in college (7 or so journals later), I realized that God was starting to call me out of my comfort zone of personal journaling and into riskier territory of writing for an actual audience.

As the years passed and I started writing for other publications and eventually writing Bible study curriculum for churches across the country, I realized even more that writing was my number 1 passion. But the best thing about it was that I could use my writing to serve and encourage other people and help build God’s kingdom. My focus, including my goals, started to shift. Still today, I’m learning what it means to be outwardly-focused and I’ve found so much joy in the journey.

“Find what you love and serve others.”

I’ll always remember the wisdom Captain Scott imparted to us that evening and I hope it will encourage you too.

*From the Archives*- You Might Also Enjoy Reading…

Daring to Risk a Little More

The Joy of Being on Mission

Five Minutes to Let It Shine

Give Yourself Away

 

 

 

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