This is What We Wake Up to Easter Morning…

 

I don’t know, it just makes the whole day start out right. πŸ™‚ This is a joyous day! (Now that sounded old fashioned. Oh well.) Of course every day is a chance to rejoice in His resurrection and to share in the power of it, but there is still something special about taking a whole day to praise Him for it and to dwell on what it means. I’m excited. I hope you are too. πŸ˜€

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The {Seemingly} Hopless Day

“Today” was the “hopeless” day… Jesus was dead. In the tomb.

No life, no hope… imagine being them.

We know the end of the story. We know that “tomorrow” He rises again. We’ve heard it a million times.

But I think we forget… how dark it looked this day. How it seemed like it was all over, like this was the worst thing that ever happened… I think we forget that people don’t normally… rise again.

So… this day I am remembering how dark it looked–right in the middle of it all. He was dead… died yesterday. And He still hadn’t come out of that tomb.

And I am remembering… that light did come. Glorious light… The Light. The Light that never goes out… the Light that is shining even on our darkest nights.

And I am remembering…That… God knew what He was doing, all along. That no matter how insane it looked, how wrong it was… He had a plan, and He was working it out.

And it was a good plan, because He is good.

I mean… what if He saved Himself? What if Jesus… didn’t die that day?

What if, instead, He fulfilled the selfish and short-sighted desires of their hearts? What if He came down off the cross and defeated the Romans? Oh, they would have cheered… they would have gladly proclaimed Him King… they would have followed Him. Followed Him…to temporary freedom. From their immediate problem, the one right in front of them.

But they had a bigger problem. An eternal one. And He knew it. He knew that not only did they have this problem–this problem with no solution–but there were billions more who would come after them with the same problem.

And He knew… He knew He had to do it. He knew it was the way His father wanted to be glorified. Oh, they would have glorified Him if He had defeated the Romans… but it would have been so temporary.

And what of us? Where would we be, if He had only saved them from their temporary and pressing problem?

Oh… He knew, alright. * smiles *

And He… still knows. He knows what WE need. He knows how to glorify Himself in our lives.

Aren’t you glad for a God who knows? A God who sees the whole picture? A God who… cares enough to put us on the hard path?

[This is an edited re-post from last year… It says what I want to say again today.]

Today…

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. But then I remembered what we are thinking of today–

He died.

In our place.

Those were my nails.

That was my death, my punishment He took.

“And as the substitute for our guilt, bearing our sin upon His shoulders, represented by the cross, we see the Great Scapegoat led away by the appointed officers of justice. Beloved, can you feel assured that He carried your sin? As you look at the cross upon His shoulders, does it represent your sin? There is one way which you can tell whether He carried your sin or not. Have you laid your hand upon His head, confessed your sin, and trusted in Him? Then your sin no longer lies on you; it has all been transferred by blessed imputation to Christ, and He bears it on His shoulder as a load heavier than the cross.” –Charles Spurgeon, quoted in the book Finding Freedom in Forgiveness

The highlighted line in that quote made me stop short and think about it. I had never thought about it quite like that…. so, awhile ago, I imagined that. And… wow. I encourage all of you to try that. To visualize all your sins and your iniquity flowing on to Him… the perfect, spotless Lamb of God. It’s… heart-wrenching. And yet, so gloriously freeing and hopeful.

Today is good. But that doesn’t mean today is without pain. Yes, today our salvation was purchased, and God’s glorious plan was revealed.

But oh, the cost.

We can’t fully appreciate the joy, the grace, the mercy, if we don’t meditate first on what it cost Him. That is what today is about.

{I wrote about some things we learn when we Survey the Wondrous Cross last year… I encourage you to read it today.}

On Being Right

I want to be right. I love being right.

I love it way too much. I love it so much that I am afraid to ask questions, afraid to make bold statements–because what if I’m wrong??

When I’m saner I know that being wrong is really not that bad. How else are you going to learn? But so often I find myself desperately clinging to my right-ness.

And when the horrible realization comes that I am wrong–not just about one particular thing, but just plain wrong–it hurts.

I like knowing stuff. I like being able to understand it and explain it. I like it way too much.

So much that instead of just resting in the fact that God knows, again and again I strive to figure it out.

When I’m saner I know He knows and I’m content to trust Him. But so often I find myself pleading to know.

Lately God’s been showing me how much I’m wrong and how much I don’t know. It isn’t fun at all.

But it’s good.

Because when I am weak, then He is strong. As I let go of me, I gain more of Him.

I don’t really know how to explain it–how horrible and how wonderful this exchange is.

Even though we are gaining Him, and He is so good and so worthy and so glorious, it doesn’t change the fact that dying hurts. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s all by faith, and we can’t see, quite, all that is really happening–we don’t see the end. We don’t see, fully, why we must die, why our dreams must die. We only know that they must, if we are to have Him. And it hurts.

What does change it all is when we look at Him, and see that He does it all for love.

And that not only does He ask all–He gave all. He knows what it is like.

In times of my deepest distress, reading Isaiah 53 has been so much help.

He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

Oh, what a difference it makes to have a Savior who suffered! He knows what it is like. And, even more astonishing–He did it for us! For you, for me. Even though we despised and rejected Him! Crazy.

So when He asks you to take a hard path–know that He really does know what it’s like, and He only does it for love.

Turn, in the trouble, the pain, and look with faith-eyes on Him, and trust that He does it all because He loves you and wants you to be holy. Holiness is not a bad thing. It is for our profit, for our good. What could be better than being freed from our sin, and being set apart for and to Him, the Lover of your soul?

Bright Lights Tonight…

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(The girl’s discipleship group, not the kind that brings light in dark places. Though we do that too.)

In two hours, a group of young ladies will be meeting at our church. We’re going to be talking about God. We always do, in some way or another–but tonight we’re specifically talking about who He is, and about getting to know Him better.

Because one of the enemy’s favorite targets with his lies is God’s character. He gets us all confused and disillusioned and… deceived. And when you don’t know what God is like, nothing else makes sense.

So please pray for us, tonight–pray that God will come. That He will speak through us and reveal Himself to us. That we will desire His glory above all else. That hearts will be softened and eyes opened.

Thank you…

Daffodils by Starlight

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I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,

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A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

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Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line

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Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

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The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,

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In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

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For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye

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Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

P.S. If you ever want people to think you queer in the head, just take a pot of daffodils outside in the dark, put them on the back of a car, kneel down, and start taking pictures. Just thought I’d pass that along…. *grin*

Random Learnings

God is so, so good, and so very kind. And patient. He’s been teaching me so many things–things He has tried to show me before, but things I still haven’t quite grasped yet. I’m just going to share a few little snippets here… they may not make particular sense to you, so my apologies in advance. But… then again, perhaps God will use them for you, in your own struggles. I am not going to explain all of the context–some of you will know without my telling you… but for the rest, it would simply take too long, and there is no need for you to take my burdens on top of yours.

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“Not only is what is thus given up received back again to become doubly our own [speaking of spiritual gifts], but the forsaking all is followed by the receiving all. We abide in Christ more fully as we forsake allΒ  and follow Him. As I count all things loss for His sake, I am found in Him. Abide in Christ

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“. . .from T. C. Upham’s Inward Divine Guidance: “The disposition. . . to leave the dearest objects of our hearts in the sublime keeping of the general and unspecific belief that God is now answering our prayers in His own time and way, and in the best manner, involves a process of inward crucifixion which is obviously unfavorable to the growth and even the existence of the life of self. Passion and Purity

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“Think of the self God has given as an acorn. It is a marvelous little thing, a perfect shape, perfectly designed for its purpose, perfectly functional. Think of the grand glory of an oak tree. God’s intention when He made the acorn was the oak tree. His intention for us is “. . . the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Many deaths must go into our reaching that measure, many letting-goes. When you look at the oak tree, you don’t feel that the “loss” of the acorn is a very great loss. The more you perceive God’s purpose in your life, the less terrible will the losses seem. Passion and Purity

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“What kind of a God is it who asks everything of us? The same God who ‘. . . did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all; and with this gift how can he fail to lavish upon us all He has to give?’

He gives all.

He asks all.” Passion and Purity

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“Do you not know that flesh and blood cannot reveal it unto you, but only the Father in heaven? ‘Cease from thine own wisdom.’ (Prov. 23:4). You have but to bow in the confession of your own ignorance and helplessness; the Father will delight to give you the teaching of the Holy Spirit. If only your ears are open, your thoughts brought into subjection, and your heart prepared in silence to wait upon God and to hear what He speaks, He will reveal to you His secrets. And one of the first secrets will be the deeper insight into the truth, that as you sink low before Him in nothingness and helplessness, in a silence and a stillness of soul that seeks to catch the faintest whisper of His love, teachings will come to you that you had never heard before because of the rush and noise of your own thoughts and efforts.” Abide in Christ

"Sunny" even in though it's stormy

“Abide in Christ! [I bet you can already guess which book this is from. Ahem.] This is indeed the Father’s object in sending the trial. In a storm, the tree strikes deeper roots in the soil; in a hurricane, the inhabitants of the house abide within and rejoice in its shelter. So, by suffering, the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ. . . . It is an unspeakable mercy that the Father comes with His chastisement, makes the world around us all dark and unattractive, and leads us to feel our sinfulness more deeply, and, for a time, lose our joy in what was becoming so dangerous. He does it in the hope that, when we have found our rest in Christ in time of trouble, we will learn to choose abiding in Him as our only portion; and so that when the affliction is removed, we will have so grown more firmly into Him, that in prosperity He will still be our only joy.” Abide in Christ.

Also, I am learning to think, when faced with some little or big trial, that this has come to me from a loving God, who is seeking to draw me to Himself and sanctify me. What can I learn from it? How would He have me respond? It makes so much difference.

Those are [just a few] thoughts that have stood out to me lately. There is so much to be learned at His feet! What has He been teaching you there recently?

At This Moment

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Believer, when striving to find the way to abide in Christ from moment to moment, remember that the gateway is to abide in Him at this present moment. Instead of wasting effort in trying to get into a state that will last, just remember that it is Christ Himself, the living, loving Lord, who alone can keep you and is waiting to do so. Begin at once, and act by faith in Him for the present moment: this is the only way to be kept the next. To attain the life of permanent and perfect abiding is not ordinarily given at once as a possession for the future;it comes mostly step by step. Avail yourself, therefore, of every opportunity of exercising the trust of the present moment. Each time you bow in prayer, let there first be an act of simple devotion: “Father, I am in Christ; I now abide in Him.”
Andrew Murray,
Abide in Christ.

Parenting/Big Siblinging Tips

[Sorry to anyone who got the email with only part of this post… I accidentally hit “publish” before I was done. πŸ˜› Here’s the rest!]

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Now, I know I’m only 22 and I don’t have any children… Perhaps I really don’t have much to say on this.

On the other hand, though, I do have seven younger siblings, have read several parenting books, sat in on parenting talks, observed many different styles of parenting, have spent many a sleepless night and dealt with countless arguments and I have just generally thought about it a lot. [As I am writing this my baby sister is telling me,” ‘ch’is ” which is her word for “Watch this” and now she’s saying “get off!” so I’ll be back.] And I have a few little tips I thought I’d share… they are very simple, but they are things that I’ve been integrating into my interactions with my siblings with success…. so here they are.

{Note: some of the pictures go with the points, and some are just cute. Don’t hurt yourself trying to figure it out… :D}

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1. Use chores to build character in children–don’t use children to do chores. To be honest, we could do many chores better than they can. So why let them help? Sometimes we simply have to because there is too much to do–but often, I think it is very wise to let them “help” even when it isn’t much help. Why? Well, for one thing, you get to spend more time with them. For another, they will learn–not only the chore, but diligence and having a good attitude. Provided, of course, that your attitude is good. The character of children is way more important than a perfectly cleaned room.

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2. Relax. Seriously. I promise, they will live if the house isn’t up to USDA sanitation standards. Dirt is fine. What isn’t fine is a mother/father/big sister/brother who is really stressed out and is more focused on keeping a clean house than on loving the children. Perhaps the clean part isn’t an issue for you–but just whatever it is, from homeschooling to laundry, calm down. Think about it in the perspective of eternity. Sometimes, sitting around reading good books to children (who won’t be children long) is more important than folding laundry. True, we do have to do things around the home–see point one for that. πŸ˜€

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3. HAVE FUN!!! Slow down and enjoy the simple things like they do. When we take walks, it takes WAY longer with Esther. Not because she walks slow, but because she is so fascinated by everything. She bends down and pokes anthills (While telling us “ants. bite you.”). She picks up seed pods and calls them babies and hangs on to them the whole time. She stops and stares in amazement when she sees a leaf apparently floating in mid-air–we know it is hanging on a spider’s web, but she doesn’t. She picks flowers we overlook as weeds and sniffs at them hopefully. The temptation to hurry her is strong (and sometimes we have to.), but if we instead look through her eyes, the whole experience changes. The world really is a wonderful place. Do those random things the children ask you to do with them–like yesterday, when myself and my two littlest brothers and littlest sister went outside and made a tiny fire in a grill and roasted hotdogs and wrapped them up with kale from our garden (because we were playing “orphan” and didn’t have plates.).

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4. Pray. Pray all day long. You can’t get along without it, and neither can they.

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5. Praise them far more for character than for accomplishments. I heard this at a homeschool convention, and I thought it brilliant. Don’t just praise them for getting something done–praise them for the character qualities it took to do it. Be honest, of course. Don’t make stuff up. But if they did it cheerfully, praise them for serving with a joyful heart! If they scored high on a test, rejoice, yes, but praise them more for persevering and trying hard. Especially love. Always notice loving attitudes and actions.

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6. Think/pray before you discipline. I used to just go straight to spanking (once I was old enough that is.) [my 10 year old brother just came bursting in telling me about three really long black snakes!], but I’ve since realized that there are many other ways to deal with a problem, and some are more effective at different times and for different children. Sometimes I’ve simply corrected them with my words and then hugged them and spent time with them–the problem may be more one of needing more positive attention. Sometimes I’ve ordered them to go outside and breathe a little. Sometimes I’ve made them stay in their room. Sometimes I’ve had them go and pray, especially the older ones. Sometimes I’ve prayed with them. Sometimes I’ve taken them to the Bible. Most of the time I point out the rule they’ve broken, and ask them to make it right. Sometimes I’ve taken a privilege–for instance, if they hurt with words, they can’t talk for 5-10 minutes. There are many ways to do it.

P.S. Also: do actually discipline them. I see so many parents in stores and so forth that probably have a no-spanking rule–until the child get so out of hand that the parent gets so angry that they start slapping them and screaming. Awful, awful stuff. That, my friends, is child abuse. Not a calm, loving spank.

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7. Rejoice in opportunities to sacrifice. The Christian life is all about sacrifice–and those who care for children have plenty of chances for it. Be grateful, and seek to truly surrender your wants, your selfish desires. Don’t just give them up grudgingly because you have no other choice–be glad for the help in letting go of your flesh.

8. LISTEN. Oh, I can’t possibly emphasize this enough. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers–this is far more important than you realize. I know that listening to them rattle on and on about some book or computer game or recent adventure doesn’t seem important, but it IS. Do you love and value these children or not? If you do, you will value what they value enough to at least try to listen. And listening to those seemingly pointless things will provide the trust for them to share real, deep things with you. Really, it works. I’m still not fantastic at listening by any means, but I make effort–and I have had talks with younger siblings about everything ranging from the occult to pornography to crushes to evolution vs. Creation to God. Just about everything. They trusted me to listen–because I listened to the other “random” stuff. If you ignore everything else on this list, at least do this. If you don’t listen when they are 22 months old and when they are 3 and when they are 9 and when they are 11, don’t complain when they don’t talk to you at 15 or 21 or 33. For the sake of not only your children, but the whole nation–listen. Better listening equals better relationships which equals better families which equals a stronger nation. (There, now you know how to solve our nation’s problems: listen to childish prattle about bugs and baby dolls. *grin*)

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9. Focus far more on the inside than the outside. You can spank and threaten children into “being good” on the outside, but let me tell you: It. Won’t. Last. As soon as they can, they will get out from under that oppression and go be the opposite. You’ve got to pray with them and for them and set a good example and have good literature/movies/music and keep them around good people and let them admit when they are struggling. You’ve got to be real. I would rather have an outwardly rebellious child than an inwardly rebellious one. Much rather. If it’s outside, you can deal with it. You can work through the issues, because you know what they are. With an inwardly rebellious child, you’ll think all is fine and pat them on the head for being “good”–until one day you wake up and they’re gone. Perhaps not literally, but definitely inside. Trust me, I was that inwardly rebellious child. You don’t want it. It’s only by God’s grace, really, that I didn’t leave. Not that my parents are awful by any means–they’re awesome. It’s just this very common problem in Christian circles of making everything look right on the outside and stopping there. I learned very young that what people meant when they said, “well behaved” was relatively quiet and relatively still. That’s easy. What isn’t easy is having a quiet and still heart before God.

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10. Don’t Idolize your Children!!!! Sorry, I normally don’t believe in doing multiple exclamation marks (especially not four) but this one is so desperately important. Not only will it kill your relationship with God, but it will also kill your relationship with your children. Children are NOT to make you happy. Children are NOT to make you feel fulfilled. Children are NOT to make you look good. Children are NOT to be another you. Children are NOT puppets. Don’t let your worth become tied up with them. I see this so often–parents get embarrassed about their children’s behavior in public–not because they love them and want them to grow up right, but because, How dare you make me look like a bad parent/person?!! Don’t try to make them in your own image. Don’t try to get your fulfillment out of them. Go to God for that. Idolizing puts WAY too much pressure on them, and to be blunt–they will fail miserably at being God. Just sayin’. Simply love them. Desire their best–the kind of best that God desires for you. Don’t know what that is? Go read the Bible! πŸ˜€

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11. Recognize the difference between Childish Incompetence and Deliberate Disobedience. There is a super major difference between a child making a bed sloppily and a child refusing utterly to try to make a bed. And if you don’t recognize it and act accordingly–loving instruction on the first, and loving discipline on the second–you will hurt your relationship and make them not want to try at all, since they never can please even when they try hard. When they try hard to clean the bathroom to please you, don’t–oh, please don’t–immediately point out the streaks on the mirror and the splashes of water on the floor. Be thrilled and pleased and love them for it. And, later, maybe give them some pointers. But not now. For now, enjoy them in their eager attempts to help. Soon, sooner than you’d like, they’ll be able to clean a mirror perfectly. But right now–right now, enjoy your little one and your streaky mirror.

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(Yes he really is playing two Age of Empires games at the same time.)

12. Let them find new ways to do things. Your way is not the only way. If they get the job done, even if it was not how you would have done it, thank them! Praise their ingenuity. If it was wasteful or something like that, you may kindly suggest ways to improve on it–but mainly just focus on the end result.

13. Hold Them. My mom is great at this–she always gets so upset when people talk about spoiling babies by holding them. She thinks it’s ridiculous. And I agree. That’s not spoiling them! Spoiling them is when you give them everything they want regardless of whether or not they should have it. They should have holding. It provides comfort and security and it’s very God-like. It’s not a waste of your time. They’ll only be babies once, and for such a short, short time. Enjoy those moments. I remember when Esther was a baby baby (we still call her a baby… but really she’s not anymore. So baby baby means really a baby.) and I would be putting her to sleep… she’d be on me, and I’d think, I need to go do something else… and then I’d think, yeah, but this is Something. I won’t get to do this much longer. And you know what? I’m so, so glad I did. Because she’s too big now, already.

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(In case you can’t tell, that’s an ice cube Esther is holding on her bread. :D)

14. Tell them Why or Why not. Now, you veteran parents and older siblings know when it’s a genuine “why?” inquiry and when it’s a buying time why inquiry. I mean the first kind. For children like me and my brother Matthew, it’s ever so much easier to willingly obey if you understand why it is important to do thus and so. Some children don’t care–others really care. Plus, when you tell them why, you’re helping them to think things through and to do things because it’s right.

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15. Stay Calm. The calm person is the person in control. Always remember that. If you lose your calm, you lose control–of not only yourself, but of the whole situation. Speak gently. If you are really angry, LEAVE. Wait until you can be a sane person again. Deal with the anger (pray, journal, punch a punching bag, walk really fast, chop up veggies with a vengeance–whatever it takes.), don’t just stuff it. Eventually it’ll blow– way worse.

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16. Don’t start battles you don’t have time/energy for. Heard this one at a woman’s conference thingy from a really wise Mennonite lady. Super smart. Basically, if they are doing something naughty (that won’t kill them), and you are way too busy to deal with the problem properly, don’t even say, “stop doing that.” Sure, we don’t want them to get away with stuff, but it’s better in some cases than being inconsistent and teaching them that you don’t always mean what you say. Pick your battles wisely. Somethings just aren’t worth it.

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17. Rarely threaten. And if you do, only say something you WILL DO. Don’t threaten them with knocking their teeth out or grounding them till they are 30–keep it realistic and, um… well, humane? o.0

18. Let them be their own person. Don’t worry, I don’t mean to let them separate themselves completely from you or to do all kinds of odd piercings or something–just simply recognize that they won’t believe identically to you–in some ways their standards might even be higher. I know it is like that in our family some. There will be a lot of similarities, to be sure. But trying to force them all to be exactly the same, and not letting them have any individual preferences and such will likely cause even more striking differences–the whole perverseness of human nature problem. πŸ˜› When they become adults, let them be adults. It’s okay if they make bad decisions sometimes. Counsel them, definitely–but remember that now they are directly responsible to God for their choices.

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19. Let them struggle. I know it sounds a little heartless–but then again, if the Mother Hen tried to help her chicks instead of letting them struggle, they would die. I know it’s hard to just let a little one struggle–but they will be the stronger for it. Encourage them to keep trying, be there to keep them from hurting themselves TOO badly, but let them try. Let them get a little hurt. If they are genuinely stuck, of course, help them. But they’ve got to struggle some.

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(how’s that for real?)

20. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t try to be like other parents/older siblings. Don’t pretend to be perfect. Just realize that you will have strengths and you will have weaknesses. Operate in your strengths–for instance, if you are wonderful at writing but not so great at music, don’t try to learn every instrument and teach them yourself. Just teach them writing and let someone else teach them music. It’s okay. You don’t have to be everything and know everything and do everything. Be yourself–God put you in that family for a reason. Not because He needed someone else there, but because He needed–well, you. (And also because He knew that you needed the character development that that family provides.) Trust Him to fill in your weak areas, and remember that is why there is such a thing as the church body. And please, let other parents/older siblings see that you struggle too. It’s horribly discouraging if we all pretend to be perfect–how can we ever get help? How can we ever give help? How can we ever get beyond surface friendships? We can’t. We’ve got to be real.