Tuesday, September 29, 2015

beautiful truth

It's a simple equation: God blesses and takes care of those who rely on Him and trust in Him and serve Him. Just as simple is the fact that Satan and sin destroy and demolish anything that they can get ahold of.

Viewing life in that perspective makes it easy to understand why the world is hurting... why so many of my students go to a house but not a home at night... and why every time I sit down with the Peoria Journal Star I wonder if there's any hope for anybody anywhere.

At first glance, though, those equations don't explain the trials of believers. It's the age-old question: Why do bad things happen to good people? It's something I've been thinking about lately a lot. Walking down rocky roads makes me so tempted to question, "What am I doing wrong?" As I was thinking about it on Saturday morning, I ran across these verses in Luke 1 about Zacharias and Elizabeth: "And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years."

Elizabeth's trial of barrenness was not a result of sin or wrong. It was simply that... a trial. It was good to be reminded on Wednesday night of II Corinthians 12, and God's use of trials to remind us of who we really are in relation to Himself. I fear trials - I really do. When life is going well, I wonder when the bubble is going to pop. I'm so scared of being tested. But challenges and trials are not necessarily ominous... or a result of sin. They are to help us re-focus on God and keep an eternal perspective, and honestly, to help us live holier lives and to keep us from sinning. Trials are meant to draw us closer to the Lord - not separate us from Him, like sin does. That's why Paul could say that He rejoiced in tribulation.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." John 16:33

Monday, September 28, 2015

hard truth

A note came through my inbox the other day to let me know that a student was moving. When I asked him about it today, he said... "yeah. I'm moving to Chicago. My mom has a boyfriend." Later I was talking to a co-worker and her only comment was "they'll be back." She explained that regularly when students move, they return later in the year.

It's heartbreaking, honestly, that I cannot think of a single student out of the nearly 250 that I see every week who come from homes where their father and mother live and function together, where home is complete, happy, safe, and whole. I'm sure there are a few, but every single student who I know anything about comes from a broken family.

It's also heartbreaking to know that I can do so little. The hard truth is that redemption from this cycle can come only in the form of salvation through Jesus Christ... but in order for that to happen... Jesus Christ has to be visible in me. And that is just scary.

We were challenged on Sunday morning in Princeville: Could you tell someone, like Paul did in Philippians 4:9 - "those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you"? If people were watching me, would they find Christ?

It's a thought provoking and convicting question in wake of a rough Monday at school... a place where, more than anything, my students need to see Christ in me.

I was reading in John 4:34 today Jesus' words: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." I don't understand people's lives. I don't understand how to help. It's all so overwhelming that its tempting to do nothing at all. But 'finishing His work' ultimately means proclaiming His name with every step that I take, and to realize that in my weakness, His witness is strong.

Friday, September 25, 2015

book review | through a man's eyes

I'm really glad I read "Through a Man's Eyes". The phrase "men are visual" is overused and under-explained and this helped me understand how to be a better and more supportive wife, mother, and sister-in-Christ to the men in my life.

Around the time I started reading this I was seeing and hearing a lot of thoughts and heated feelings about dress codes - specifically in schools. A lot of women feel it's not their responsibility to help the guys around them stay pure in their thoughts. I guess for those who aren't Christians I can see why people would feel that way. But if you are a Christian woman, there is no getting around God's commandments not to be a stumbling block to others - nor can we deny that God doesn't want us defining ourselves or flaunting ourselves through our clothing choices. This book not only helped me think through my own stance on modesty but also caused me to more fully appreciate the efforts my husband is making to keep himself pure.

"Through a Man's Eyes" addresses a lot of issues that I haven't seen brought up a lot of other places and offers good perspectives and insights. Overall I felt the book could have been a little bit better researched or biblically-based - as it's a little bit just like a collection of stories, thoughts, and experiences - like someone went to a computer and wrote down everything they knew about the subject. That could be good - and this is decent - but I felt like the quality could have been a little higher. That said, it was a valuable read that has really honestly changed my views on men, modesty, and the world around me in general.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, September 11, 2015

fitly framed together

She says she'll have cereal for a snack. Then I realize that she actually only meant the "charms", not the luckies".

He says he remembered his Spanish notebook! Then I realize he forgot his pencil, planner, Spanish workbook AND his chromebook. Oh and wait, that's actually his science notebook. Can he go get his Spanish one? (Don't you miss middle school?)

I say it'll only take me three hours in Peoria. Then I realize that if you spend an hour driving in circles, and have two toddlers with me, AND decide to go to the Health Department, it will take me longer - like, six hours. And I will leave with my previously formed opinion of the Health Department unchanged.

So honestly, the week has been pretty average. Two steps forward, one step back.

It was comforting to read in Ephesians 2 today: "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19-22)

I'm at home. This is life. All the pieces of it are scattered all over the place, just like I found Ivory and Titus's blocks yesterday on the front porch, but at the same time - I am fitly framed together by God. And growing. Not complete, and definitely not the cornerstone. But by grace - through the Spirit - I am a fellowcitizen with the saints and a habitation of God.

Glory to Him alone!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

no fear

"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (I John 4:18)

The song has been running through my head... "There's no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear..." And come to think of it, I need that message in my life right now so badly.

There's currently a certain amount of stress in my life that is reasonable, expected, and even healthy. I'm starting a new job, yet still deeply feeling the responsibilities of being a wife and mother and learning to balance it all. However, there also exists plenty of stress that I shouldn't be hanging on to... but that I'm still feeling solely because I'm refusing to entrust it to my Heavenly Father.

I had/have been trying to really focus on my prayer life lately, learning what it looks like to have intimate conversation with the Lord in the way that He has designed. But it's almost like I was too focused on it - such that I felt a burden to make sure that everything got covered (or maybe more accurately stated, controlled) by me. God is bigger than that. He knows me, and He knows the future. And I can trust Him with all things. The point of me praying is not to take control. It's to release. When I give it to Him, the fear and anxiety fade away.

My reading in Springs in the Valley this morning was so fitting to go along with this:
"No man ever makes Him supreme and suffers loss, for Jehovah will not be left in any man's debt. When a man holds on, God takes away, when a man lets go, He gives, and that liberally. [...] Make me a captive, Lord, and I shall be free. [...]. Oh master, show me this morning how to yield myself up to Thee completely, and then how to ask of Thee things great enough to be worthy of a King's giving. Make me equal in my requests to Thy infinite eagerness to give." (p. 264-265).