Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord this week for:

~the opportunity to guest post as part of the hospitality series at Desiring Virtue

~Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church and the wisdom I gleaned from reading it

~the sound of ocean waves

~the smell of salt air

~the warmth of sand beneath my feet

~crowding around a dinner table with the dearest of friends

~books borrowed from friends

~a girl growing up

~20 years of marriage

Blessings all mine, with 10,000 beside!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Twenty

Today marks twenty years that I stood before a God I didn't know and a man I hardly knew better, and made promises I had no ability to keep. If my capacity to love was limited, my capacity to be loveable was even more so. Yet as I looked into his tear-filed eyes and took vows I couldn't comprehend, I knew the man in front of me would love me no matter what.

I had no idea how much I would need him to.

I was not a believer when I took those vows. My husband thought I was. I thought I was. Praise God, He did not leave me to my own devices. Though I had blasphemed His Name, though I had been evil and reproachful, though I had murdered Him over and over again in my heart, He saved me. He broke through my cold and dead heart with what He knew would reach it most effectively - the love of a caring, patient, godly man.

God has every means at His disposal to call His children unto Himself, and yet for me, He chose my husband; it is a gift I have often taken for granted.  Through these twenty years, my husband has faithfully practiced Ephesians 5: 25-31, even - especially - when I did not understand, when I bristled, when I did not love.

He has loved me sacrificially. There have been few times when he has put his own needs ahead of mine. He provides for our family. He's granted many of my wishes, unreasonable and demanding though they may be. He's forfeited his happiness for mine on more occasions than I can count.

He has cherished me. He tenderly cared for me after a multitude of surgeries and other health issues. He's stood by my side as we've mourned losses together. He's been faithful to tell me and to show me how much he loves me.

He has held fast to me. We've faced many obstacles over the years. He's firmly grasped my hand through each one of them, staunchly refusing to let me pry myself loose and run away when I rebelled against him.

My husband has helped me to better understand the marvelous love and grace that God has extended to me, a vile sinner. His willingness to model Christ has encouraged my willingness to do the same. His offers of love and forgiveness have precipitated mine. During these two decades of marriage, there has been no short supply of opportunities to pardon each other. There are days when the trash hasn't been taken out and dirty socks litter the floor, when clean laundry remains crammed in a basked unfolded and a frozen pizza qualifies as dinner.  The minutiae of life often require as much gospel grace as the heavier matters that weigh us down.

During a discussion about our anniversary, my girl quipped, "How have you put up with each other for 20 years? You're a handful, and he's a handful." I don't remember my retort, but the simple truth is that these two "handfuls" (translation: sinners) could persevere through marriage for two decades only because of the gospel.

A quote from Shakespeare heralded the invitation to our wedding: My love hath in't a bond, whereof the world takes note. Twenty years ago I was certain that our bond would be noteworthy, that our marriage would be a testimony to perfect love. I was right; it is. Not my husband's. Certainly not mine. God's.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord for a week full of blessings:

~A weekend away with my husband, which included a show at the Kennedy Center and worship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

~A husband who granted my longtime wish to see a show at the Kennedy Center

~Mark Dever's faithful and powerful exposition of John 19

~The events of John 19, and God's revelation of Jesus as King from court to cross to corpse

~A gentle reminder from the Lord that I too often rely on what I think I know of Him, rather than looking to His true revelation of Himself in His Word

~God's providential care

~An astonishingly beautiful book about unimaginable suffering and the goodness of God

~The opportunity to post at Out of the Ordinary  this week, and the ladies who blog with me there

~Thought-provoking, iron-sharpening discussions with my husband, with my girl, & with dear friends

Blessings all mine, with 10,000 beside...Praise His Name!




Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Quiet Life is Rewarding

Our world thinks little of a quiet life I, too, have wrestled with the reality of a small, quiet life. It is only recently that I have grasped its intrinsic value.

A stronger marriage.  My husband and I love each other deeply, but I never want to assume that our marriage is unshakable.  A quiet life will protect our time together and enable us to better serve each other.

A stronger family.  Our girl is finishing her first year of high school. I am acutely aware that our time  is short. A quiet life will give plenty of opportunities to teach, laugh, cry, listen, play, and encourage. I want to savor each one.

A stronger relationship with the Lord. My life flourishes when I have meaningful time in the Word and in prayer. A quiet life, not crowded with meaningless activities, will give me that time each day.

A stronger contentment. I am most content when appreciate the blessings the Lord has poured out on my life. A quiet life will keep me from comparing myself with others, allow me to do the things I most enjoy, and help me see the goodness of the Lord.

Stronger friendships. I've been guilty of allowing technology to take the place of personal contact. A quiet life means not relying on social media or text messaging to find out what's going on in the lives of those who are dear to me. It will also give me time to send handwritten notes of encouragement and appreciation.

A stronger ministry. I have often missed out on serving others because I didn't have the time or energy. A quiet life, not overwhelmed by demands, will make it easier to open our home and to intentionally care for and disciple others.

A stronger witness. A solid marriage, a solid family, a solid theology, a stronger prayer life, a stronger contentment, stronger friendships and a stronger ministry  - as Paul instructs, walking properly before outsiders.  All shining lights so that others may praise God. (Matthew 5:16)

A quiet life requires thorough introspection and unwavering commitment, but it is a life well-lived. It is a life of incomparable worth. It is a life I intend to pursue with all my heart.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Praising the Lord this week for:

~A symphony concert with my husband. A violin solo always turns my insides to mush.

~Marking the birthdays of my Dad, my Mama, and a most special little girl.

~The gift of mothers. Besides my biological mother, the Lord has given me numerous older women  - believers and unbelievers alike - who have "mothered" me throughout my life.

~His grace when the guilt of past sin oppresses me. Confronted by an event in my life prior to salvation, I literally felt as if I were suffocating. Then I remembered Romans 4:22-25 and I could actually feel the burden ease. Hallelujah! what a savior!

~Hearing His Word exposited and the Gospel preached faithfully Sunday.  

~Evidences of His work and long-awaited answer to prayer. 

~The delight I've found in this small corner of the internet. This new home has refueled my love of blogging and reminded me that I best enjoy a small blogging community. Blogging quietly and intentionally has given me the focus and the inspiration I need.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Minding My Own Affairs


In 1 Thess. 4:11-12, Paul exhorts the Church at Thessolonica to aspire to live quietly. As part of that instruction, he encourages them to mind their own affairs.  It's not so easy in the internet age. Temptations are everywhere. Blog posts and Facebook statuses invite me into the lives of others, feeding the voyeur within me. 

But how much do I need to know?  Is there any benefit in having such a wealth of information about mere acquaintances - their thoughts, their travels, their menus? Status reports and tweets can overwhelm me, stealing valuable time I have to invest in genuine relationships and luring me away from my responsibilities.  One big lie of social media is that if we miss something, we miss something. My world won't shatter if I don't read every detailed status report, insightful link, or witty tweet.

Part of a rich, quiet life means that I must properly mind my own affairs by:

Prioritizing my involvement in the lives of those around me. I have many friends and acquaintances, but I limit my close relationships. I cannot effectively minister to a large number of people. I am able to maintain fellowship with and pray for a few whom God has knit to my heart. When presented with opportunities to serve others, I try to be realistic. I can only do so much and still meet my other responsibilities.

Realizing how trivial some things are. I need to remember to look at everything through the lens of eternity.  As a believer in Christ, I should have no room in my life for drama, whether played out "live" or online. Celebrity break-ups and neighborhood gossip should be meaningless to me. The same goes for the latest Facebook or Twitter fracas.

Giving up my need to interject my opinion.  I will not always agree with everyone. In certain situations, there is a time and place to make that known. Most of the time my opinion doesn't matter; offering it only feeds the frenzy.

Focusing on the works God has planned for me. I'm certain the Proverbs 31 woman was so busy with her own responsibilities that she didn't have time to worry about what other people were doing.

I see a quiet, productive life as a protection from the Lord. Women, in particular, are vulnerable to being led astray by gossips and drama (see 2 Timothy 3:1-7).  Indeed, feasting on the sins of others isn't new (Hosea 4:8).  It is akin to eating junk food three times a day; it doesn't satisfy and it causes irrepressible cravings for more. Feasting on the Bread of Life leaves us full, gives us energy and focus to attend to our work.








Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thankful Thursday

From my quiet corner of the internet, I'm praising the Lord this week for:

~The body of Christ, near and far. It's wonderful to know we are not bound together by geography, but rather by the grace of God.

~The providence of God, even in small things. Little details remind me how much God loves and cares for us. I especially delight in them when my girl is the recipient of such blessings.

~This bittersweet life without Mama, as we mark her birthday and Mother's Day this weekend. It's been a long 14 months since I've heard her voice. I still miss her so, but I also rejoice that we will meet again.

~Discussions with my girl, during the least expected moments. I'm particularly thankful for opportunities to talk about the perils of living in a fallen world and to express gratitude for saving grace.

~The joy of watching my girl mature, physically, mentally and spiritually.  The teenage years offer plenty of opportunity for learning and growth, for mother and daughter alike.

~Laughter and hugs, with friends, young children, teenagers, and my sweet husband. It's been a week full of them.


Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Not Feeding the Frenzy

Increasingly, we are living our lives in the public forum. Hand-written letters to friends were exchanged for emails, which were exchanged for text messages, which have now been exchanged for tweets and notes on a Facebook wall for all the world to see. Secrets among friends, it seems, no longer exist. Meaningful friendships themselves may soon be a thing of the past.

Social media has allowed us to collect "followers" and "friends" like trinkets on a charm bracelet.  We are compelled to share intimate details of our lives with complete strangers, yet we are ashamed to ask those closest to us to pray as we wrestle against sin. We foster, as Carl Trueman writes, an "intimacy of strangers which is such a part of celebrity culture - for example, the faux-chumminess of all those tweeted exchanges and retweets, lives lived as soap operas mediated by the internet..." We brand ourselves with carefully crafted personas, afraid the true person cowering behind the screen isn't good enough. We allow site hits to determine our significance.

We shamelessly promote ourselves instead of the One who deserves all glory.

I am guilty as charged. In the words of Thabiti Anyabwile

I’m vulnerable to the tempting siren of "influence,” to trying to cultivate a persuasive power that inheres not so much in the truth of ideas but in the power of personality or “appearance.” What a horrible insatiable monster that kind of pride and self-seeking is. How vain to monitor twitter followers, web statistics, and anything else that suggests “influence.”
Yes, I am guilty as charged.

Although it may not be easy to accomplish, a quiet life demands discretion. Paul instructs the Thessalonians to make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully (1 Thess. 4:11, Amplified). Endeavoring to live quietly requires me to consider the noise I contribute to the social media frenzy.  And so I am asking myself these questions:

Am I attempting to drown out the voice of God? I must aim to glorify Him and Him alone in what I post. Family accomplishments are to be celebrated, not paraded for public consumption. If a prideful heart lurks beneath my motives for posting such items, doing so is sinful.

Am I infringing on my family's privacy? Sharing what God is doing in our family can be an encouragement to others and testify to His goodness. Sharing my daughter's struggles or my husband's sins violates their confidence in me. How can I teach my daughter to guard her privacy if I'm not guarding it for her? When sharing my own sins and struggles, I must be careful not to implicate my family in any way.

Will this encourage and help others in their walk with the Lord?  I must remember that even in social media, I am called to disciple and encourage others. While I enjoy freedom of speech, it is wise to consider Paul’s words regarding food and apply them to my social media contributions: “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9, ESV)

Yes, it is hard work, but I press on toward a quiet life.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thankful Thursday: Reading Edition

This week, I'm particularly thankful for reading. It was a blessing to read the beautiful, wandering prose of Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. It's the narrative of a proper English butler, now past his prime. I would describe it as Carson (of Downton Abbey) meets John Ames (of Gilead).

I've also  been blessed to read a real-life Carson.  I finished D.A. Carson's Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus this week, and was it ever wonderful! There's no way I could adequately describe it; reducing Carson to a blog post is tantamount to blasphemy. So, I will simply share some of my favorite quotes and encourage you to put this book on your reading list.

To take up your cross does not mean to move forward with courage despite the fact that you lost your job or your spouse. It means that you are under sentence of death; you are taking up the horizontal cross-member on your way to the place of crucifixion. You have abandoned all hope of life in this world. And then, Jesus says, and only then, are we ready to follow him. (p. 25)
Many in our society have been taught that in the religious realm the only view that is wrong is the view that says that any other view is wrong. The only heresy is to insist that there is such a thing as heresy. Compound such social trends with moral and theological indifferentism and prayerlessness in many of our churches, and it is easy to detect widespread malaise. And the church is suffering on account of it. (p. 78)
How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing. (p. 103)
Coming to the end of these books gives me time to focus my full attention on Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. I've been taking this one in small bits, but now I'm ready to immerse myself in it. I'm hoping to blog through portions of each chapter and share what I'm learning.

A friend recently told me she believes a quiet life leads to deep thinking (which has been lacking in my life lately).  As I ponder over these works, I pray I will find she is absolutely right.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Noise Reduction

I'm not sure exactly when it started, this quest for a quiet life. I don't remember one single moment when I looked around and thought, This chaos is too much. In fact, by many standards, my life has been quiet, safe, and maybe even boring. I'm an introvert married to an introvert; we are not loud people by nature unless there's a football game on, in which case all bets are off. As I've poured over 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, I've come to realize that a quiet life isn't as much about volume as it is about reducing noise.

We live in a world full of noise, clamoring for our attention.  

                              Email.

                              Blogs.

                             Facebook.

                             Twitter.

                             Smart phones.

                             24-hour news networks.

                             Hundreds of television channels.

We have unlimited access to information, unfettered interaction with people near and far. But at what price? We've become desensitized to the constant droning around us. We are uncomfortable with face-to-face contact. We have exchanged flesh and blood for pixels and gigabytes.

Noise reigns in our lives.

Merriam-Webster defines noise
any sound that is undesired or interferes with one's hearing of something; irrelevant or meaningless data or output occurring along with desired information.(emphasis mine)
Keeping this in mind, these are the questions I want to ask myself - think on long and hard - as I seek the quiet life:

Does this interfere with hearing God? I must guard my time in His Word before spending time in the words of others, no matter the source.

Does this interfere with hearing my family? I must also guard my time with my family. I cannot forsake my responsibilities to love and minister to them.

Is this relevant in God's Kingdom? I must gauge the importance of the information I'm consuming in light of eternity.

Is this encouraging and helpful in my walk with the Lord?  I must accurately assess its influence upon my willingness to live for God's agenda rather than my own.

A quiet life requires that I return to these questions over and over. My recent neglect to do so (and the ensuing fallout) prompted a fresh start with this blog, a place to begin again and narrow my focus to living in light of the Gospel.