Above the Commotion

It’s funny how we can live near someone and not really know the full sweetness of friendship until we are far away.  It was that way with my friend Stephanie.  Her dad is a pastor whom our family greatly respects, and he still challenges us with His passion for scripture and its application in our daily life.  But it wasn’t until our family moved to another state that our friendship really blossomed, and I count Stephanie as one of my heart-friends.  So when she wrote these thoughts for you, friend… I couldn’t wait to share them with you.  They speak so much to a struggle we all have, if we’re honest.  They call each of us to rise above the commotion of everyday life… for something so much more.

From Stephanie:

We are selective by nature. Facebook friends with irrelevant or bothersome posts get unfollowed. The especially appealing images are re-pinned on Pinterest. Magazines are purchased based on a headline’s promise. We innately filter life and choose what we spend our time on. This is good.

We are always looking for the best information, funniest videos, most insightful articles— discoveries meant to increase our happiness or improve how we experience each day. The search is legitimate, the longing innate, but the sources we look to for fulfillment are insufficient.

I keep up on Instagram, check out new books from the library, and seize quality “me” time at a coffee shop— often looking to those things as a source of fulfillment.

But no matter how desperately I try to extract balm for my battered emotions and nourishment for my weakened spirit, those sources are insufficient to heal.

 

Jeremiah 2:13 describes how the people of Israel made the same attempt and failed: “They have abandoned Me, the fountain of living water, and dug cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that cannot hold water.” I hadn’t realized it before, but I am an expert at digging broken cisterns.

 

 

You are probably familiar with the saying, “Not everything that glitters is gold.” In this day and age there is a lot glittering. There are so many cisterns holding out the promise of living water. We expectantly approach, desperately thirsty, and we depart devastatingly unquenched. If we want to address our spiritual dehydration, we must look to a different source. It isn’t modern, it doesn’t have a subscribe button, it’s not “pinable” and it won’t go live on Facebook. It’s a daily, genuine relationship with the Creator of your heart, the Savior of your soul, the King of the universe. His words for you are alive and accessible in the simple, unadorned, un-hashtagged Holy Bible, and “They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold” (Psalm 19:10). His words alone will truly satisfy our thirst.

 

In Proverbs we receive the instruction: “My son, be attentive to my words…For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh” (4:20, 22). The healing, life-giving words Solomon is drawing our attention to are ultimately the supreme words of scripture. We must be attentive. We must be watchful, critical, discerning.

 

The source of ultimate joy, deep satisfaction and renewal is hiding in plain sight, we are often just too distracted to see it.

 

Amidst the chaos of other voices clamoring for your attention, “Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion” (Proverbs 1:20, 21).

 

Picture the last ridiculously loud situation you were in. Concert? Sports game? Bar? Driving while one kid has a meltdown that could shatter glass, the other kid conveying their desperate need for a cracker? Think about the concentration required to hear what someone is saying to you over all of that noise. For a moment, somehow, your brain manages to tune everything else out, your eyes lock on their lips as they form the words. You carefully take note of their gestures to interpret what they are communicating and without even knowing it, you lean in. That is the kind of focus needed to filter out the commotion of distractions in this world and take hold of the life-giving words of Christ. They are there, amazingly, ironically free and worth more than everything else this world can offer.

 

 

 

I’m so tired of leaky cisterns. I’m irritated by a dissatisfaction in things that were supposed to be rewarding. In a world of movement and temporality, of trends and innovation, I am chronically attention-deficit. The void in my heart aches and longs for undistracted, uncontested time with the One who satisfies. I want to filter out more of the trivial, the secular, the empty; I want to be attentive to His life-giving voice. His call is steadfast, and though we are not, the way remains open. “Therefore…let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2 HCSB).

 

Visit Stephanie at Read, Cook, Devour to see what else she’s sharing.

 

{Thank you, Stephanie, for challenge and encouragement!}

 

It’s More Than a Fairy Tale (Marriage Matters, Part 1)

From the time I was a little girl, I’ve wrestled with mixed messages about relationships. On the one hand, there was the fairy-tale version that involved a great quest, a wicked enemy, a ballgown, true love’s kiss, and a lady being swept off her feet.  On the other hand, I saw real-life examples of broken vows, angry breakups, and heard a clear message of girl power.  Women who were themselves hurt by their choices and others, preached a message of independence and autonomy – I was told over and over, “you don’t need a man,” “never trust anyone,” and “look out for #1!”  When it comes to marriage matters, I’ve always had a jumble of messages to sort through, and the sorting and living out is vital… even before the wedding day.

 

The problem is, we humans were made to need each other.  It’s true, life isn’t just a fairy tale where you will meet that one person you can’t help getting googly eyed over, riding into the sunset to live happily-ever-after.  But our best history of the world and God’s plan in it, the Bible, shows us there is a lot we can learn from the idea of that fairy tale; in fact, it’s been said that the best fairy tales point us to the grand truths of life.

 

 

Marriage is more than a fairy tale.

In some ways it has all of the elements, but it goes way beyond the pages of fantasy.

 

Marriage does involve “true love.” Most often, there’s physical and emotional attraction, and all of this leads to “falling in love”. BUT where the movies (and our own bodies) might lead us to think we’re controlled by that emotional and physical attraction, the truth is we can choose to stay attracted, to draw near when we want to pull away and serve our own desires in the moment.  Even more, I believe we can set ourselves up for success in marriage when we train ourselves to take action in both expressing and reigning in our attraction long before we reach the marriage relationship.  We can practice self-control with both our emotions and our bodies as single people, and that practice builds strength for the needed choice to honor our spouse with our thoughts, our emotions, and our bodies, throughout our married life.

From the time we’re little we hear that we “Can’t help our feelings.”  I wish I had been taught differently.

 

The truth is, we choose whether or not to be controlled by feelings every day of our lives.  Not married?  I dare you, begin to practice that truth now. CHOOSE to feel love, kindness, commitment toward others.  CHOOSE to treat others as brothers and sisters in Christ… not just objects for feeding our emotional and physical pleasure.

Just like in a fairy-tale, marriage is a great adventure… but the hero and heroine gain their status from thousands of little moments of quiet faithfulness.

 

Marriage does have a hero and heroine.  Together they battle the dark forces of evil, literally out to get them and destroy a God-ordained picture for a watching world, of the kind of Love that made Him give His life for the salvation of mankind.

 

In his book Love and War, John Eldredge says:  “You live in a world at war. Spiritual attack must be a category you think in or you will misunderstand more than half of what happens in your marriage.”

 

The real-life hero and heroine in a marriage prove their hero-status with dogged commitment to stay faithful to each other.  With little choices like ignoring annoyances and saying no to distractions and choosing the good of another and with a huge decision: to yield to each other under a yielding to God, as they lead their own family in the order He ordained.

 

In marriage, too, whether you have physical or spiritual children, you lead your “kingdom” and serve together – influencing those around you for good!
In real-life, marriage requires sacrifice.  One of the hallmarks of true love is yieldedness to another’s best interest.  As Christians, our yieldedness is first to God, then to each other within the body of Christ.  Throughout the New Testament, God paints a picture of the specific type of yieldedness He calls for in marriage.  In Ephesians and elsewhere, husbands are called to lead sacrificially, and wives are called to submit to their leadership “as unto God.”  As we work out the specifics of that relationship personally, we paint a beautiful picture for a watching world, of the kind of love God has for us.  But if we fall to the tendency to put ourselves first, we damage our own heart, the heart of our spouse, and the portrait of Love we have the opportunity to represent.

 

Worship of “me” WILL ALWAYS FAIL US.

 

Want an honest admission?  I cannot live up to my own expectations.  I hold a high standard for my family and those I love around me… but I’m busy letting my own self down most of the time, quietly failing to meet my own standards.  So when I put “me first,” I risk causing misery for me and everyone around me.  And this is a truth my husband and I have learned the hard way:
ME-FIRST mentality hurts the team.
Here’s something we can hold onto, though (my women-friends, especially!) – the standards God holds us to are even higher.  And we can meet those standards… but only with His help.

 

And we needn’t worry about this submitted heart He asks us to have – because He has high standards for our spouses, too.  And He modeled for us what that kind of love looks like – along with the eternal, awe-inspiring, dancing-in-the-streets kind of freedom and joy it produces!  But again – we can only get that freedom by yielding ourselves completely, heart-mind-soul-strength, to Him.

 

No matter what mixed messages we’ve been fed, no amount of fury or fight will fix all the broken things in us and in those we love.  We have to move forward, give, sacrifice, grow, and sometimes step back, re-evaluate and create healthy boundaries, but it’s the yielding to God, the trust we build in Him to care for us, that produces beautiful fruit in our relationships.

This following comes from a post called Beauty in Gentleness, written by Christine Willard on The Edges Collective:

“Being married costs everything. Tears… Incredible vulnerability and sacrifice. It causes you to take a deeper look inside your heart and soul, your desires and your personality… It is not easy. But that does not come as a surprise to you. You already know that!… Of course loving costs everything–look at the Cross. But loving is always worth it…We all know that loving is hard. Marriage is hard. It is hard because it is opposed. The devil hates marriage… But God loves marriage!… He is for you… Marriage is going to ask everything of you, and that is why you must have a vision for it… We live in a great love story, set in the midst of war. We need each other–desperately. We have been entrusted with the heart of another human being. Our loving will prove to the world that love is real. We will play out before watching eyes the Great Love Story of the ages.”

How are you being challenged to live beyond the fairy tale?

Feeding our Hungry Souls (Spiritual Nourishment)

I think a lot about hunger – both physical and spiritual hunger.  I love food: the making of it, the sensory experience of food, photographing it, smelling it, and eating it.  I love to share food with others and teach them how to to make what I can, or learn from them about new things to create.  I’m amazed at how many parallels there are between physical food and spiritual food, and as much as I love a good meal, spiritual nourishment is far more important to me.

 

I realize that I often settle, in the physical realm, for food that’s temporarily satisfying, but in the end, leaves me hungry.  As a mom of littles, I’d fly by the counter and grab the crust and crumbs of my kids’ leftover sandwiches and then wonder why I was “starving” at 4 in the afternoon.  In the same way, I often graze on spiritual “fast food,” and then wonder why I’m impatient, lacking in wisdom, tempted to speak unkindly of someone, easily afraid, or any number of other kinds of immature.  I wonder, when I try to get by on spiritual crumbs, why my heart is hungry.

 

 

I shared this thought at Sal et Lux last week, and I’ve been chewing (rather, more accurately, stewing) on it ever since.  I am personally challenged as I think about this statement, because I realize so often both physically and spiritually, I’m tempted to be satisfied with crumbs.  Or worse, I’ll settle, in a pinch, for physical or spiritual fast-food, that doesn’t just leave me unsatisfied; it endangers me, body and soul.

 

Spiritual fast food, like the drive through stuff with which we sometimes feed our faces, is dangerous, because it gives us a false sense of nourishment.

 

What is spiritual fast food?  I believe it’s the little nuggets of half-truths, feel-good-statements, and snippets of scripture, even, that make us temporarily feel good about ourselves and our spirituality, but don’t actually nourish us with a complete “meal” of truth, as defined by the whole of the Bible.  It might be the pretty quote (even scripture) that I “like” on Instagram, or the podcast I listened to by an inspirational speaker.  Maybe it’s even the short devotional writing I read on my phone or in the book I keep in the guest bathroom.  (Do you do this, too?!)  Spiritual fast food is like a treat for my heart.  It’s often a good thing, but it’s not the best thing.  It’s more like a snack, and less like a filling meal.

 

hungry-soul-dancing-with-my-father

 

There’s a trend going around in women’s circles that I think of as “spiritual fast food.”  We find little devotional books that claim to put all we need to know in little bite-sized pieces, easily digested in just a few short minutes, or we watch snippets on social media, and think we’ve filled our spiritual selves.

Does that mean it’s wrong to read a short devotional or listen to an encouraging song about God or life?  To read a feel-good book or watch a show that lifts our spirits?  No.   I’m also not heaping guilt on you if you’re a busy mama or caring for an elderly parent, working two jobs or serving others with your time.  I’m a mom of five, and I’ve worked at least part-time while raising our home-educated kids… and I’m a serial creator-of-stuff-and-stuffer-of-schedule, so I know what it feels like to be rushed… to ever feel the weight of busy.  I also remember well what it was like to be in a season of babies and toddlers who were up before the birds (I promise it settles, mama-friend – just in time for them to want to stay up till hours talking, if we’re fortunate 😉 ).  Sometimes we have to settle for “snacks” in a short season, because it’s genuinely all we can get.

It’s awesome to follow an account on social media that challenges and encourages, (Gracelaced on instagram makes my heart happy, and I have tons of other inspiring social media accounts that grab my attention!)  and we know from Paul’s teaching that “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23). But we have to be careful that these little treats don’t become our full diet.

I am a chocolate girl.  I’ll go anywhere for good dark chocolate, and if it’s laced with espresso or crunchy cacao nibs, I’m all the happier.

But no matter how healthy, or raw, or naturally sweetened I find or make my chocolate, if it’s all I eat, day in and day out, I’m in trouble.  

I’m going to soon be nutritionally lacking or packing on the pounds, and I won’t have helped myself be well nourished.  I’ve got to eat a variety of foods that have good fats, protein, vitamins and minerals, and fiber.

 

In the same way, I have to feed myself spiritual meat, by “eating” God’s word.

 

Again, I’m in NO way wanting to heap guilt on you if you are genuinely in a season where your primary ministry (your husband and children, if you have them) means you have to be creative about learning from God what He wants to teach you.  I am not trying to burden you that you have to carve out hours each day to read your Bible, else you’ll be spiritually emaciated.

 

I do want to encourage you, though, to make that “meat” a priority, even over “good things” like devotional books and uplifting Christian podcasts.  I want to challenge you, friend, to be intentional about eatting good food, spiritually speaking.  That means reading the Bible, itself, as often as you can.  Try to read whole chunks (full chapters and books), so that you can put the text and message in context.  Be intentional about understanding and applying the Bible to how you live.

 

bible-study-tips-women

 

I’ve created a printable to encourage you as you make a point to grow deep.  Print it out, tape it into your journal or pin it to your inspiration board, and be encouraged as you make spiritual nourishment a priority. Grab it using the quick form below!

 

 

If you’d like a couple more resources, here are some good ones, with thoughts on more in-depth Bible study:

Awesome resource for inductive Bible study

This post has a powerful question to ask when you read the Bible (because it’s all about knowing Him better…)

As an easily distracted girl, I enjoyed this encouraging post.

 

How is God challenging you to eat “good food,” spiritually speaking?  Do you have tips for how to dig in deeper?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Much love, friend.

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