Being Content

A few weeks ago our oldest daughter was accepted into the nursing program she had applied to. There were more than a few tears of thankfulness and great rejoicing all around. The weeks of waiting ended in a pleasant and longed for result. But what if she hadn’t been accepted? She had not one but two different contingency plans in place and more importantly she had her head and mind in the right place. She was prepared to submit to a different outcome.

In her book, Virtuous, Nancy Wilson shares that her mother-in-law defined Christian contentment as a deep satisfaction with the will of God. This is more, far more, than a grin and bear it attitude. It is much more than a waiting for my ship to come in outlook. True contentment is more than a Pollyanna-esque belief that if God closes one door He will open a window.
Deep satisfaction.
A complete acceptance of circumstances. 
An abiding trust when it just doesn’t make sense.
It’s the bloom of faith in the midst of hard disappointing circumstances. And that sort of faith doesn’t just happen. I mean it’s easy for us to be content and fine when the lines are falling for us in pleasant places. And that’s okay. We should be happy and thankful when God is pouring a blessing upon our head.

But true contentment isn’t the lovely wildflowers that spring up across a field. They’re the flower on the cactus blooming among the sharps points and barbs.

That kind of contentment hard fought and won and often times we are even unwilling to see and accept it in others. If a young mother never complains about difficulties with her little ones we assume she doesn’t have any. Or we assign some kind of super next level faith to her.
The woman who never speaks ill of her husband is looked upon as being married to a perfect man and having a perfect life. In actuality she has learned that complaining and whining doesn’t make her burdens any lighter but rather heavier.
That deep satisfaction with God’s will grows in the soil of submission, watered by prayer and fertilized with God’s word.

We have to be willing to wrestle through our own discontentment, pain and hurt, plans and agenda. We have to dig in and believe that His timing is perfect and that what He designs for us is far more perfect and good for us than anything we could come up with on our own.

Only then can we say along with Paul that no matter what situation we find ourselves in we are content.

Teach Them To Hate

Sometimes it is a sweet reminder…a quiet encouragement to be kind and to love each other as I am walking out the door.

Other times it is a desperate plea for them to stop fussing and needling each other and just for the love of all that is holy and little green apples just love each other and get along!

As Christians we talk about love a lot, as well we should, considering He is a God of love. Indeed He is love, and if we are His people we are to be characterized by His character.  He shows us and tells us how that love should look – patient, kind, not boastful or arrogant and rude, not seeking it’s own or irritable or resentful, it doesn’t take pleasure in wrong doing and finds joy in truth, bearing, hoping, believing. That is love.

After all, isn’t love the greatest command given to us? They asked Him and He answered what they had already learned, what they already knew.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Love Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. Oh, and the second command is like the first one: love your neighbor as yourself.

So we toil and strive and work to love Him and each other because this kind of love doesn’t come natural to us.

And neither does hate.

Oh, we can hate well enough, that comes pretty natural to us, don’t you think? But just as He gives us a right way to love He gives us a right way to hate.

We are just as called to hate rightly as we are to love rightly.

Oh, you who love the Lord, hate evil!

Hate the sin and love the sinner we’re told. And that sounds great and all, but it really says nothing because we don’t know how to hate what He hates and we don’t know how to teach our children to hate what He hates. But He even tells us what He hates.

“…haughty eyes…a lying tongue…hands that shed innocent blood…hearts that devise wicked plans…feet that make haste to run to evil…a false witness that breathes out lies…and one who sows discontent among brothers.”

You hate all evil doers…

We shuffle our children off to a special service geared just for them. One that they can “understand” and yet somehow we’re raising up a generation that is always learning but unable to know truth. A generation that not only doesn’t know what they are supposed to hate but they can’t really grasp why they need to hate. We’ve let a salad bar teach them about lying, coveting, and adultery and all manner of sin and in the process, or lack thereof, we’ve not shown them how hideous, how black, and evil sin is. A caricature of sin has produced a caricature of consequence that has produced a caricature of God.

We’re trying to show them how grand and big and bright and perfect His love is for us, for our world but we’re trying to do it divorced from just how ugly and fallen that world is. We’ve G rated sin and actually ended up dimming the light because we forget that light shines brightest when it is shone against real darkness.

I’m not saying that we need to be gratuitous in teaching our children about sin. We don’t have to use graphic or explicit language but I think we do need to remember that if we want them to see how big God really is, how huge Jesus’ victory really was we must also teach them the truth about sin and just how big the battle was and is. Because if we don’t balance big grace against a big need for grace then we are teaching our children that God is, as N.D. Wilson puts it, the great big over reactor in the sky. The sin we want them to recognize and run from as dangerous has to look dangerous…it must be in proportion to the grace we are pointing them too.

So we must teach them to love and love rightly. But we cannot forget that we must also teach them
to hate rightly as well.

If The Cliche Fits…

I know it sounds overused and almost silly.

But they really do grow up so fast!

Last week I was looking through some old pictures and I came across one that I took a mere 3 1/2 years ago. I was amazed by how much different the kids look now.

For some reason the kids were agreeable to redoing the photo so off to the beach we went.

Here is the original taken in December of 2011. Under it is the one we took the other night.

So much of their baby-ness is gone! And, I would also like to note, that I think my skills have improved 🙂

Here is another redo we did from the same time.

We all got a little tickled about how much harder it was to pose them the same. Legs are a little longer, bodies are a little taller and they don’t fold and tuck in together the way they used to.

Oh, and Claire is actually wearing the same dress that Emily was wearing in the first set of pictures.

Doing this reminded me of one reason I love photography. Being able to watch them grow up again and again. Priceless memories.

How We Fight

Maybe, just maybe, we haven’t shown the world what marriage truly is.

Maybe we haven’t lived our marriages in such a way that it is more than a legal transaction that grants certain rights and privileges. Maybe that’s all it is to the world because we haven’t shown them that it is holy and sacred…that it mirrors a holy God and His bride.

Maybe the world doesn’t view marriage differently because, statistically speaking (or so it seems), there isn’t much difference in pre-marital sex, abortion, adultery, and divorce inside the church as outside the church.

Consider that young man, the next time you behave less than honorably toward a young woman.

Consider that young lady, the next time you put on that push-up bra and low cut shirt and buy the short shorts that are just tight enough across your bum.

Consider what picture you are giving of marriage when you lay down beside one who is not your spouse.

Consider that husband when you choose yourself and what you want or what’s easiest for you instead of laying down your life for the one who you’re supposed to lay your life down for.

Consider what your actions are really saying despite any words you may utter wife, when you disrespect your husband and belittle him.

Obviously how we got here is much more complicated than that. But it seems like a good place to begin fighting back, doesn’t it? A better way than any pithy Facebook status or quippy little meme that just stirs up strife and contention.

We are told in Scripture to not answer a fool according to his folly so we don’t fight the way the world does. We don’t rely on just persuasive speech and political change.

We live relationships that reflect the glory of God. We love each other in a manner that brings honor to the One who has called us to be His Bride. Let our children and the world around us see the Gospel lived out flourishing in grace and restoration.

And when we do have opportunity to speak about why we believe what we believe about marriage and mankind and sin and grace and restoration may we do so with something more than bumper sticker slogans. May our words be winsome and wholesome, beautiful in that they point to Christ.

What happens after that is not ours to know or finagle an outcome. We are called to be faithful no matter the outcome.

May it be so.


Ponder This

Our church service includes a lot of Scripture reading.

There is an Old Testament reading followed by a New Testament. And then there is a Gospel reading.

All of which connect to and relate to the sermon’s Scripture passage.

It’s done for a variety of reasons I imagine, one of which is that it shows the continuity  and connection of Scripture to Scripture. Most people tend to view the Bible in two distinct parts, Old and New, as if they have no real relation to each other. The OT gives the history and was for the Israelites but does not have much for us modern day believers. That’s what the NT is for.

But through Christ we have become the new Israel so it all matters. But none of that is what I want you to ponder with me. It was just more by way of introduction.

You know how you can hear or read a passage of Scripture that you are familiar with but it’s like you’ve never heard it before? That happened to me a few weeks ago.

For his sermon Rob read Mark chapter ten all the way through chapter fifteen. It was quite profound to hear so much of the Easter story that is usually truncated or chopped up told in one reading.

This is what I have been thinking about ~ in chapter eleven verse twelve we read this:

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his  disciples heard it. 

This is what stood out to me as if I had never heard it before:

When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.

He cursed the tree and it withered down to its roots because there was no fruit. But it wasn’t even the season for it to have fruit. Yet, He still cursed it.

That just brought me up short and I was left blinking and rereading it.

What does that do to all of our excuses? What does that do to our ideas about just living a good life? Is it enough that our kids only listen to Christian music and we go to church every Sunday and we do all the right things?

I’m not a scholar and I know this passage is directly connected to the destruction of the temple but it has still tilted my world a little.

The tree was doing all the right things according to nature. It had nice green leaves and was clicking right along with the schedule. But Christ looked for fruit anyway and there was a judgement pronounced when none was found.

The Christian life seems to be about a whole lot more than just the things we do or don’t do. More than just being good people. There is a fruit that is expected to be cultivated for His good pleasure and when it’s not there He seems to take it pretty seriously.

It has definitely given me something to ponder.