Stepping Into Community

As part of our twelve days celebration last month Rob gave me a pair of slippers. More as a joke than anything, they were leopard print and fuzzy. And, as it turns out, warm and comfy so I wore them all the time. I also washed them frequently and needless to say they didn’t hold up well so I had to get a new pair. Sadly the feisty print was unavailable and I ended up with somewhat the same style only in pink and not fuzzy. They’ll do I suppose but I liked the fuzzy warmth of the other pair and truthfully the sassy print was fun to wear.

I’m not really a good shoe shopper. I know what I like when I see it on other people’s feet but I really don’t have a great perspective when looking at them on my own feet. Then there is the whole fit thing. Some shoes will be just darling but the hurt like crazy…just uncomfortable. Others are so cute they make me wish I was the kind of person that could wear them but frankly I just look silly in them. Like those high top Converse sneakers. I think they are so cute but I just can’t pull them off…they’re not me. Or cowboy boots. Love ’em on other people but no way could I wear them without knowing that I was wearing them every moment they were on my feet and they would be the only thing I was thinking about. Then there are the ones that I like and they fit but there’s still that initial newness that has to be broken in for them to be a really good comfortable fit. Of course once in a while you find a pair that is the perfect fit and feels like a dream on your feet from the first moment.
Our church is about to do a study on community and friendship. It’s already generated a lot of helpful, and somewhat uncomfortable, conversations. I’ve been thinking that oddly enough finding community can be a lot like finding the right pair of shoes. I’ve come across some communities that, while I can see how other people fit there, I know I just don’t. I’m not comfortable there even though I can see the beauty there. 
Other communities I am really drawn too. I love peeking into different worlds and maybe even stepping into them for a bit but they aren’t me. I don’t belong there and like the cowboy boots if I try to make a place there I pretty much can’t even walk a straight line because I am starring at my own feet.
And then there is the community that does fit. Where I do belong. Only it’s not that slide your foot into the shoe and it’s like walking on a cloud perfect fit. Because, let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen all the time. That kind of fit is rare and should be treasured. It’s the fit between a husband and wife or that very best friend that is as close to you as it is possible for a friend to be. 
I’m talking about the kind of community that you look around and see it’s good. Solid and well made. Sturdy and ready to help you climb the mountains of life with sure footedness, slog through the mud in the valleys, and dance in the meadows. But there’s that slight stiffness up front. Not the kind that comes from an ill fit, but more the kind that comes from being new. It’s the give and take as your foot finds it’s place and the shoe conforms to it’s shape. It takes a little wear to smooth it out and make it the comfortable place that it can be.
It’s the kind of community where on the surface there may not be much in common…different walks of life, different stages of life, etc. But there is just good stuff happening. There’s love and fellowship that goes deep despite those differences. It’s the kind of community that makes you a better person because it encourages and it confronts. It forgives and it nurtures.
It’s the kind of community that’s worth the work of fitting in.

Titus 2 Tuesday

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What To Do With Rocks

When my second daughter was about a year old she picked up a dirty little rock and gave it to her grandmother. Now my sweet mother-in-law is crafty and quite sentimental about her grandchildren so she bought a little frame, cut a piece of pretty paper for a background, added a bow and glued the rock in place and as far as I know she still has that little memento on a shelf or end table somewhere.

Our youngest daughter has also had a fascination with rocks for as long as I can remember. Big ones, small ones, clean ones, dirty ones…she completely lacks discrimination as to which ones are pretty or ugly. She used to bring these little treasures to me until I had a box full and over flowing. She’d find them in the yard, the neighbors yard, sidewalks and parking lots. If there was the tiniest of stones loose and able to be picked up she was going to be reaching for it.

I came across that box of rocks recently and it got me to thinking. Life is full of rocks. The Dragon lobbed a hefty stone at Eve and she promptly tossed it to Adam who tried to return the volley when confronted by God for walking around with it. Not long after that Adam’s son picked up a rock and used it to smash in his brother’s head and then dropped the blood covered stone aside with a nonchalant, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

And you and I? We stumble over rocks with words like fear, unforgiveness, selfishness, and bitterness carved into them. Sometimes we pick them up and carry them around, their weight a strange security that we take solace in because it’s a familiar anchor that requires little from us. We use them to build walls to hide behind that allow us to stay in our mediocre comfort zone. It becomes our burdensome excuse that gives us a free pass to not move from the shadows into light that is a little too bright sometimes.

Because if we set those rocks down and move into the Light then the Light is going to show the other rocks in our lives.

You know the ones I’m talking about. It’s the boulders fired off at us by a deliberately hurtful husband or thrown with unerring accuracy by a bitter angry wife. The smaller rocks that come from a thoughtless friend or coworker and the pebbles from complete strangers that cut us off in traffic or clearly have way more than 20 items in the speedy checkout line. These are the ones that we swiftly pick up and use as our own weapons. Their smooth bulk a justification for the war we’re fighting, for the temper tantrum we’re having.

Life is full of rocks and whether or not we pick them up or have them thrown at us there is something we’re supposed to do with them. We stack them. We take the missile fired off by the husband or wife and we put it on the pile. And we resist the urge to toss the ones back that came from the friend or neighbor and we add it to the pile. We empty the load of rocks we’ve been carrying around for years covered in the buzzwords that we’re told should be important to us like low self esteem, me time, fulfillment, and learn to love yourself and we dump them on the pile.

And then we climb on top of the pile. And we die there because underneath all our petty stones is the stone that was rejected, that became our Cornerstone. That pile is where death can lead to life and bondage falls away.

That pile of stones becomes the alter where we boldly proclaim that the hand of the Lord is mighty.

That He can overcome anything and everything. It’s where marriages are healed and relationships are restored. There, on that alter, we learn that we need to love our self less and Christ more.  It’s where God triumphs over our past foolishness and dark hurts.

It’s where we learn that we ~ us, me and you ~ are the true stones; the living stones being formed and fashioned into a spiritual house for His name.

The Burden of Life

Sometimes a burden is both heavy and good. I forget this sometimes.

I forget sometimes that weighty can also be the same as substantial, important.

And something serious can also be joyful, satisfying.

Hard does not always have to mean bad.

Sometimes hard things in life are like the heavy winter quilt that settles around you, weighted in it’s warmth and comfort.

Sometimes hard is the fierce and loyal hug of a friend.

Or the smooshed up kissy face of a two year old pressing in to give mamma some love.

Parenting is a burden that is heavy and so.darn.hard. some days.

Being a wife is hard. Being a friend and neighbor is hard.

Sometimes heavy and hard is the satisfying labor of moving things around and putting stuff in it’s proper place. And that hard work can happen inside our minds and hearts just as easily as working in the garage or a closet.

I want to welcome the burdens in my life…the ones that ground me in His love…to accept their weight of

grace just like the worn quilt that brings comfort.

Burdens mean that He is working His good and perfect will in us…sometimes through burdens that He places on us that are good and right; sometimes through the ones that we pick up and tote along until He tells us to set them down…that we don’t need them.

But they all come from the hand of the Father whose Son calls us to find our rest in Him; the One who says His burden is easy.

Life isn’t easy nor should it be. But the hard will often times yield precious heavy joy~the kind that will last past this earth and into eternity.

Guarding Hearts ~ Part Two

I think as we continue our conversation on courtship it would be helpful if we remembered to view courtship as part of a whole. Our position on courtship and dating are part of the bigger overall picture of our family way. It’s not a subject that exists in a separate compartment that comes up only when our children reach a certain age. It is fertilized and finds it’s roots in our family’s theology of life.

Because each family has it’s own distinct culture courtship, stories will be varied, illustrated by the personalities of the individuals involved. While I expect a certain amount of similarities among the tales of love and romance for my five children, I also expect that no two stories will be written in just the same way.

However, there are certain non-negotiables that we’ll work from that will be the same for all of them. Our children, being raised in covenant households as believers, will not be allowed to court or marry unbelievers. A teenager’s social life, especially in the heart department, is not a mission field. We do not seek to win the lost by allowing our children to have romantic relationships with them in the hopes that they will turn to Christ. It is far more likely that our own children’s heart would be led astray. And since I know that many of you are already gearing up with the “But I know a couple” stories where one or the other was not a believer that came to know God through that relationship, I ask that you remember what I said last week. The exception does not become our rule. Just because we know someone that has survived swimming with the sharks doesn’t mean that we should throw our children into those waters.

This will also be a no contact sport. Until a ring is on a finger, there will be no hand holding, no kissing, no nothing. (Total sidebar: do any of you remember that 80’s song by the Georgia Satellites, Keep Your Hands to Yourself? I always liked that song.) It seems inconceivable that we would expect this from our children in this day and age. This is shocking and radical behavior even among the most devout evangelicals. But it really isn’t. It’s smart and safe. There are two phases to this and they both have the same starting place. Physical attraction is designed by God and is quite powerful. It is beyond foolish to think that somehow because our children know better and are Christians that they aren’t tempted.

Courtship is not the same as engagement and it is a time when clear thinking is sorely needed. Physical activity can blur the thinking and cloud judgement during a time when a couple is searching out whether they are suitable for each other. I know the question begs to be asked, how will they know if they’re physically compatible if they never touch, if they never kiss? I have a better question. Why wouldn’t they be physically compatible? Physical attraction is already a given because one really doesn’t enter into any stage of courtship if one finds the other physically repulsive. So why wouldn’t a young lady thrill to the young man’s touch if she has already found him to be attractive, trustworthy and honorable enough to consider marrying? Why would he not want and enjoy kissing her if he has already determined that her worth is far above rubies?

Sex is a part of any romantic relationship…couples will have sex – the question is whether it will be honorably or dishonorably. We can do a lot to help make sure that it is experienced without regret and shame and with honor. Even after a ring has been given and accepted strong and sturdy boundaries should be in place for the protection of the couple. Wisdom tells us that alone time should be limited and handled with great care.

So, with our chief end being to glorify God, as we walk the road of courtship with our children and those two load bearing walls in place let’s talk a little about what we’d like to have happen next. My husband will have essentially vetted the young man and given him permission to press his suit with our daughter. If she has no interest, Rob will let the young man know and she is spared any awkwardness. If, however, she does have an interest then we will all sit down together and lay out what expectations are. By “we” I mean everyone including his parents, so that we’re all on the same page. We hope for both families to spend as much time together as we can. Everyone is better able to give counsel to their respective offspring by watching how each family interacts and is governed. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and insight is gained by getting to know how each family functions.

Time apart from everyone will be done according to the discretion of my husband. Whether they are allowed to be alone from the rest of the family on the front porch, going on walks or the young man picking up and driving our daughter somewhere will be established by her father. This may seem like overkill and ridiculous to some but my husband’s job is to protect our daughter. I wonder how many christian fathers look at the messes their daughters have ended up in and wished they had done a better job protecting her?

This is a heavy responsibility on the father and a lot of trust is required from the daughter to rest easy in his decisions. A godly father will have shown himself to be seeking only her good all of her life. She will trust that he will withhold no good thing from her, so while it may not be easy to go at his pace she will yield to him in good faith.

Rather a fitting way to enter a marriage, don’t you think?

Guarding Hearts Part One

Pretty As A Pig Snout

Discretion. 

Not a word we hear often in our society, is it? And if it is used it’s usually in conjunction with being quiet about keeping a dirty little secret. But there is more to discretion than what our modern times would describe.    

As a mother of four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, I spend a lot of time contemplating and pondering things like modesty and beauty. Modesty, I believe, is intrinsically intertwined with real beauty. Unfortunately I don’t think we have a good grasp of either beauty or modesty. Culture seems to have two main default positions:

1.) The glam, sexy, up-to-the-minute fashion that shows everything off or
2.) Prairie muffin

Like I said, I think about this a lot so I have plenty of thoughts on the matter. More than can be shared in a  blog post…or two or three. But I can sum part of it up rather easily.


We, the church, need to stop dressing like the other team. Our clothes shouldn’t look ready to move from the Communion Table to the nightclub. I’m not saying that skirts and dresses should come down to your ankles, but if the length and style of your skirt would fit right in with what the party girls are wearing on a date Friday night then there is a problem.

Nor am I saying you have to immediately set up shop with Holly Hobbie and forsake all things fashionable. But I do think the Christian community has got to stop complaining about how hard it is to find modest and stylish clothes as if that is some kind of free pass to stay as close to edge as you can. It is hard. But it is also possible and should be pursued joyfully so that the world doesn’t view it as mere keeping of the rules or being a drag. Of course there is no special virtue in being drab and dowdy either, and we would do well to avoid both extremes so that a reasonable conversation can be had.

I think a good place to start would be Proverbs 11:22 ~ Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.

Have you ever seen a pig’s nose? They aren’t all cutesy and pink like Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web or Babe.
The pig uses it’s nose to root around and dig in the dirt. You can see why Scripture contrasted the dirty and gross pig snout with the shiny gold ring…they don’t belong together. The ring doesn’t take away from the dirt of the pig snout but the pig snout certainly takes away the beauty from the gold ring. It just looks foolish.

A woman without discretion is like that. 

Consider what the word discretion actually means ~ the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.

A lack of modesty is a lack of discretion wouldn’t you say? Revealing clothing reveals a lot of private information. The curves and softness of a woman were designed by God to be enjoyed by man just as surely as the strength and lines of a man were made for woman to enjoy. But without discretion the beauty is dimmed and can be just as wasted and foolish as the gold ring in a pig’s nose. 

For many within the church the greatest argument for modesty falls under the first part of discretion’s definition…the idea of behaving in such a way to give offense. Or in church speak, to cause a brother to stumble. While this is important I think it is far too narrow. We should be training our sons and daughters with the understanding that we are all a part of the Body of Christ and what we do affects those around us. But the offense caused by immodest dress actually goes to our Bridegroom. 

Earlier I said we should stop dressing like the other team. As the bride of Christ we are set apart, made holy because the Bride price was impossibly high and yet it was paid in the death, burial, and Resurrection of Christ. He replaced our tattered, torn and filthy rags with garments of grace and beauty. To allow culture to dictate our fashion without restraint, without the boundaries of being His bride, is like piercing the pig nose. 
Modesty is about way more than our clothing though. Modesty begins in the heart and shows itself in choices and actions that show discretion. The visible manifestation is important yes, but not enough. I can be dressed modestly (and fashionable I might add), but if my mind and tongue lack discretion I’m still only as pretty as that pig snout. 

God’s people have been given the task of redeeming the culture, of reclaiming it, shaping and forming it to reflect it’s true King. It’s time that the Church says modesty is important. But we have to understand that it is about much more than the length of a skirt.