Living for the Kingdom

Seeing March on the calendar reminds me that spring is on the way. Spring draws my attention to Easter and Easter brings the gospel into the forefront of my mind. Truthfully, I should live very day in light of Christ’s call and sacrifice, but I don’t. I am journeying through the gospels with a friend of mine and in some ways it feels like I am hearing Jesus’s words for the very first time. It is both convicting and refreshing. Luke chapter 12 has had a particularly lasting effect on me.

In this passage Jesus relates the parable of the wealthy man who had such abundance he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. God curses him for being so confident in himself and his wealth and the man died that very night. Jesus goes on to urge His followers to not worry about such things as food and clothing for those things do not have eternal value; instead, we should center our lives on what has eternal consequences. I don’t believe Jesus is saying that it is wrong to enjoy good food, tasteful clothing, a cozy house, fun vacations or any of those things that delight us throughout the day; He is saying that they should not consume our thoughts more than He does. And that convicted me.

As I read I realized that my thoughts are generally about temporal concerns like meal preparations, clothing purchases, finances, how much time I’ve spent on my phone, or whether or not I’ve offended a friend. Again, these things aren’t inherently bad, but when I’m dwelling on them I’m not seeking the Kingdom. And if I’m pursuing Kingdom matters earthly things suddenly won’t matter so much. What does this look like in practical terms?

This is a question I’ll be pondering all month and perhaps even longer. I know that I want to talk to and about Jesus more every day; I want to obey His promptings immediately; when I begin to worry about something material I want to ask myself if it will matter when I’m seeing Jesus face-to-face. I would like to be more interested in what God is doing in the lives of others and their efforts to share the gospel with those around them.

This month’s posts will be focused on gospel-living. How do you seek to bring the gospel into your every day living? What temporal concerns tend to dominate your thoughts?

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What It Takes to be Kind

“Have you ever felt tossed back and forth, trying to please people in different worlds, searching for an anchor to hold you steady?” This is a question posed by Lara Casey in chapter 4 of her book, Make It Happen. I asked myself, “Well, have I?” My initial reaction is, “Of course not!” But then I read chapter 7 of Luke in which Jesus directly commends three people, from very different walks of life, for their faith. I realized that not only have I been tossed back and forth in search of an anchor, I still am.

How do I know this? I know this because I am easily swayed by circumstances, opinions and temporal interests and desires rather than being devoted to Who and what I know to be true. When those factors change, I change. If things are aligned correctly and are favorable to my preferences, I am pleasant to all who cross my path; but it’s a different story when I am disgruntled with my place in the world. Alternatively, if my eyes and heart remained anchored to Jesus and my pleading tears of repentance washed His feet, life would be noticeably different; it would be lush with the fruit that comes only from abiding in Him. Temporal trends would not impact how I respond to others and I would have insight into how to minister to the living beings who share the world with me.

This month of love is drawing to a close. I can’t say that I’ve aced all the tests of loving responses and serving with kindness that have come my way. In fact, my eyes have been opened to how much I can improve as I’ve been blessed with unexpected kindnesses from loved ones and strangers alike. But as a new month approaches, I plan to redouble my efforts to abide in Jesus and share the fruit that comes from an anchored life.

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When a Book Touches Your Soul: A Book Reflection

I finished another book and was reluctant to read the last page because I was soaking in every word and didn’t want it to end. This book is written for mothers, but the gospel truths it contains apply to every believer seeking to live a relevant life.

In Gloria Furman’s Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, the relevancy of the gospel to daily living was presented in a straightforward manner that I had not previously considered. I had unconsciously fallen into the mindset that being a mom was an end in and of itself and was striving to do as much as I could on my own. Motherhood challenges me like nothing else. Ironically, I handle the diaper blowouts in Costco more calmly than I do the dropped puzzle pieces that the dog chews up. I become angry over childish fumbles but manage to stay calm in the face of extreme chaos. Why do dropped toys and broken treasures bother me so much?

It is because I am a sinner; I am fallen and I need a Savior to not only guide me in being a wife and mother but also in being a Christ-follower. Gloria Furman drew my attention to the impact the gospel has on motherhood. The main points that have stayed with me from this book are these:

  • Motherhood is not an identity or end in itself. It is a tool God uses to sanctify and equip me for His kingdom. It is for His glory.
  • The chaotic days and the mundane ones do not undermine the power of the gospel. In fact, they emphasize it.
  • All moments of motherhood are an irritation to worship. Am I overwhelmed? Christ provides discernment. Am I blessed beyond measure? Praise Him! Am I exhausted? Christ is my strength and rest. Did I fail yet again? Christ forgives. Am I unable to do this on my own? I don’t have to and am not meant to.
  • Long-view mothering sees beyond the present and scans the horizon of eternity. One day my children will make the decision to accept or reject Christ. One day their souls will reside somewhere other than here on earth. Am I mothering with that view in mind every day?
  • A relationship goes two ways. The responsibility of being close to God doesn’t rest solely on my shoulders. Yes, I need to do my part but He reaches out to me too. He knows my rough days and meets me there.

Without hesitation I would recommend this book to every mom. I will be reading it again to glean even more and to reinforce what has already resonated with me.

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How ARE You?

One of the simplest and most sacrificial ways we can show love to someone else is by taking the time to genuinely listen to them and to show them that we are ready to listen. Recently I was convicted about this in my relationships.

I keep a tight schedule since routine is critical to the smooth functioning of our day. I have little time for long chats (as much as I would like them) and my emotional energy is often maxed out towards the middle of the day when I might have the chance to converse with fellow adults. Needless to say, when I’m able to interact with friends or relatives I have the habit of forming opinions and prepping responses while the other person is talking or texting with me. I think I do this to maximize my time and cut down on small talk. But that is not sincere listening.

Listening means not formulating opinions until they are asked for since I don’t truly know what it’s like to walk in her shoes. It means avoiding having prepped answers for the sake of hearing the other person’s heart and not merely their words. And it means asking, How are you? and really wanting to know.

In her book Make It Happen, Lara Casey says that women avoid answering the how are you? inquiry honestly because they assume people don’t really want to know. Let’s change that this month, shall we? Let’s step out and ask and posture ourselves for listening. And let’s honor the genuine inquirer by giving an honest answer.

I’ll start: how am I? I’m tired and a little overwhelmed with all that I think should be done. I am afraid to lighten the daily load more than I already have because what if I never get passed doing the bare minimum of food, sleep schedules and laundry? I’m a little lonely. My day doesn’t allow much time for deeper connections with other women. I squeeze in a text, Polo or post where I can. I want to connect with my children on a deeper level too, but it sometimes feels like the demands of their physical care prevent that. Yet, I do feel content overall. I like my quiet moments, my writing, my book time and having a professional side with my Thirty-One business. Best of all, I know God sustains me when I can’t go on another minute.

How are you?

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Welcome to the Love Month

We are in the month of love. Society has warped this beautiful, emotional action, making it all about physical pleasure and momentary commitment; in actuality, love is about “you before me” and persistence when your feelings tell you to give up.

I’ve been pondering how I can love better. My husband and I have begun the The Love Dare devotional (by the makers of Fireproof) and the first dare involves praying for one week about how to love better and be a more loving person. This challenge has opened my eyes to all the ways that I am unloving- not simply in marriage but in every aspect of my life: friendship, parenting, interactions with strangers, and with Jesus. It’s in the little things, the moments of choosing self first, the outbursts of impatience when love could make all the difference in the world.

And so, as I proceed through this new month, a month that celebrates love, I am going to try to focus on ways to live and serve with a more loving heart. Perhaps I can ask God to help me release the bitterness I feel towards that person who really hurt me; maybe I can spend a little more individual time with each of my children; I can offer a word of kindness to a friend or stranger who is hurting; I can take the dogs on a little longer walk than usual; I could definitely ask my husband about his day before barraging him with all the details about mine.

What would this world look like if we all tried to live out the love we claim to have? How can you put love into action this month?

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Here and There

January 30th. The first month of the new year is almost completed. In some ways the new year still feels fresh; in other ways it feels like it’s been around for a while. Old habits die hard and it’s a struggle to stick with the changes I want to make in order to live better this year than I did last year. But I’m not giving up!

This month has been one of adventure. We made our first major trip as a family of six all the way to HI. Getting there we traveled for 36 hours but that was easier than the shorter trip coming home! We were on the island for a fast week and didn’t get to visit all the places we wanted to, eat the yummy food we hoped to or see all the loved ones we miss, but it was a blessing to reconnect with beloved family and make lasting bonds between them and our kids.

As we journeyed home through different airports, planes and cities, our kids kept asking if we were in HI or in the new state we call home. From their young perspective it is difficult to grasp how you can be in one place at one moment and then in the next be some place entirely different. And then I realized that my heart and mind haven’t entirely grasped that concept either. At times I think I’ll step outside my front door and be able to wave at my nephew and nieces or that I can hop in the car and drive to my parents’ for a swim. The distance hurts and the stretching of one’s heart is a painful process.

In her book Cultivate, Lara Casey reminds us that good things come out of hard things. While visiting Hawaii I was encouraged by how my world had expanded in less than two years! Many new names and faces have been added to my list of loved ones; delightful experiences have been added to my memory bank; and my perspective on life has broadened as I learn to look outside myself so that I can better understand the people around me.

As we all cozy up indoors during this nationwide cold snap, let’s take a moment to think about all the people we are connected to around the world. What have you learned from them? How have they inspired you? Is there something you can do in the month ahead to make the world a brighter place? Our bodies might be limited to one physical location but our hearts can be spread out here and there.

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Weary of the Worry

A friend and I are journeying through the New Testament this year (I got a late start so she is way ahead of me) and it’s a good journey. I take the beginning gospels for granted because I assume I know them so well. But as I read truths are refreshed and my heart responds.

Take the ending section of Matthew 6, for instance: the admonition, from Jesus Himself, to not worry. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? … So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ Or ‘What shall we drink?’ Or ‘What shall we wear?’ …Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I have read this passage dozens of times through the years but it convicted me anew as just seconds before I had been worrying about those every day concerns. I rarely bask in the God-given goodness of the moment but exchange that for problem-solving the future. Why? If God provides for me today, is He not able to do so tomorrow as well?

I think this passage on worry is addressing temporal, surface issues, if you will. I think fear is different from routine worry and is not being particularly addressed in Matthew 6:25-34 (it is in other passages, though). This leads me to muse if whether or not contentment could be the antidote for worry. Perhaps if I am content with how things are my mind won’t drift towards better, more or different. If I am content, I can be happy with how things are and rejoice if change happens.

There will always be some type of disturbances in life’s waters: job issues, vacation details, wardrobe dilemmas, meal planning, budget constraints, health improvements, parenting modifications. These are the things that bring me back to Jesus again and again and again. After all He did say, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Worry makes a wearisome burden, wouldn’t you agree?

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