I don’t know what you’re doing

green teaMy husband is addicted to Lipton Diet Green Tea.

I suppose (full disclosure) you could say that I’m addicted, too, but not quite to the extent that he is.

So, when we go to Sam’s Club about once a month to stock up on green tea, we don’t just buy a case or two. We buy 10-12 cases. Of 24 bottles of tea. 10*24=240 bottles of green tea. Minimum.

I stopped by there tonight on my way home from work and grabbed a modest 9 cases to get us through a few weeks. Did I mention the addiction?

What I neglected to consider is that my trunk is full of boxes, so I ended up stacking the cases in my backseat. During the ten minute drive home the cases slid or fell over as I rounded several curves. With each plastic crunching crash, I cringed. And then sighed. Now my car – like my house and my life – is a mess.

(It’s not as hopeless as all that, and I’m reminded that my mom reads my blog and hurts with a momma’s heart when I talk about hard things. But I’m learning that I can’t always stay silent to spare her further pain. To all the mommas, your children are going to go through hard stuff in this life, both when they are under your roof and years after they have flown the coop. Of the joys and pains, heights and depths of being a mom, this is one of the lows).

Where was I? Oh, yes, the mess. There’s a lot going on that I cannot control right now. I can’t fix the problem in our basement. I can’t fix my husband’s chronic pain. I can’t fix problems with relationships. I can’t fix my heart. Etc, etc. It’s all way too much for me to handle. And lately, I’ve been not handling it in very destructive ways.

Who You Are

So, I’m driving home with cases of tea scattered across my back seat and Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Jimmy Needham’s version) playing through the speakers. I found myself asking God, how? How can I sing that your faithfulness is great? How is it great?

I know the answer as soon as I ask. It’s faith. It’s believing everything I know about God as revealed in the Bible – that he is true, that he is unchanging, that he is sovereign. It’s also God’s faithfulness, not mine that I lean on. I run away. I abandon him. He never leaves me. He never stops loving me.

And, so, tonight, this is where I am. This is what I can say: I don’t know what You’re doing, but I know who You are.

I had never heard this song before today, but that line hits home so perfectly and gives me the strength to hold on for today. And then one more day. And then another.

I hope you take the time to listen to this song. I hope it helps you find faith to trust what God is doing in your life.

I’m linking up with:

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Day 31: Continually crushing

crushing your kingdoms

Every day for the month of October, I have participated in a 31 day writing challenge and today is the last day! If you would like to read all the posts in this year’s series, click here for the index post.

One thing I’ve recognized this month is that, while on this earth, we will never completely crush our kingdoms. We have the sin nature in us, always at war within us to regain control, to put self back on the throne. It’s part of the sanctification process that we continue to journey to be more like Christ.

To fight against this tendency, we need to learn to preach the truth about God to our hearts. Tim Chester, in the book, You Can Change, identifies four life-changing truths that we can cling to in this daily struggle:

  1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
  2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
  3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
  4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

This is a continual process. We are to be continually crushing the kingdoms of our own making as we grow closer to God. You can follow these steps as you grow.

  • Acknowledge: I’m completely sinful, but I’m completely loved.
  • Admit: I see the sin in my own life and I own that it’s wrong.
  • Determine: I choose turn from the sin to not do it anymore.
  • Recognize: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought.
  • Rejoice: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought, but he’s a bigger Savior than I knew.

Thank you for journeying with me this month. I hope you will continue with me as we continually crush our kingdoms and build up God’s kingdom.

Day 29: How to crush your kingdoms

Yesterday we looked specifically at the approval idol and how we need to look to God to fill the need for affirmation and approval.

Continuing that thought, let’s look at how to overcome the control, power, and comfort idols.

~~~

If you greatly value self-discipline; if you hold everyone, including your self to certain standards; if you worry constantly about things you can’t change, then you may be dealing with an idol of control. With a control idol, life only has meaning if you gain mastery over a specific area(s). This one trips me up a lot, though not nearly as much as approval. It’s also interesting because control can go to both sides of the spectrum. Sometimes people who are constantly dieting or obsessing over weight/size are really struggling with an idol of control. When a lot of my life might feel out of control, I sometimes find myself overeating because it’s one thing I can control. Some people may obsessively clean their home or body in an effort to control, while others may exhibit slovenly behavior from the same need to control.

Contrast this with Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Our vain attempts are control are just that – in vain. Pointless. God is the one who has all things under his control.

~~~

What about power? Are you someone who has to win at all costs? Is success the name of the game? This may mean that you prize work and climbing the corporate ladder above everything else. It could mean that you wish to exert your influence over the people around you. It may be that you want to win at anything you do. Other people are often seen as pawns to be used as you feel helps you the best. You may feel anger at others who attempt to exert power over you or when you cannot have influence over a circumstance. With a power idol you only feel that you have worth if you have power and significance over others.

The answer to this lies in Psalm 145:8:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

God is gracious and compassionate to you and so you can let go of your need to exert power over others and instead be gracious and compassionate. 

~~~

And, lastly, for those of you who identify with the idol of comfort. As pointed out in a comment, this doesn’t necessarily mean luxury, but instead seeking ease or lack of stress as the most important thing. If you desire your privacy above serving others, you may be struggling with a comfort idol. You may find yourself choosing the easy road, the path of least resistance. You may not accomplish as much with your life, but you’ll make sure you don’t have a lot of stress put on you. Life only has meaning if a certain quality of life, pleasure or experience happens.

Cling to this instead, from Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Instead of looking to pleasures to bring you comfort, look to Christ for the fullness of joy and pleasures that never end.

~~~

I hope that this look at idols hasn’t weighed you down too much. It’s hard to look face-to-face at some of the ugliness of sin within us. Don’t be discouraged, but look to Christ instead. We’ll talk more tomorrow about the joys that wait on the other side of the coin.

Because it’s national cat day (who knew?) – I’m sharing this of one of my two babies:

Silly cat playing in tea package

~~~

Catch up on every post in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 28: When longing for approval

Hopefully by now, you’ve identified which of the four root idols is your stumbling point, having used the reflective questions from last week. Thank you to everyone who commented with such openness about the root idol you see in your life.

Zephaniah317

Here’s mine: approval. Big time. Maybe 90% of what I do is done in light of what someone else will think of me. How I dress, what I buy, my ever-so-witty statuses and tweets. I blog (sometimes) so you, reader, will be moved to comment or like or share.

If you’ve ever said something nice to me in person, I probably treasure it and mull it over again and again. If you’ve ever had a negative or harsh word to me, well, like a cow chewing its cud, I ruminate on that hurt repeatedly. I worry almost constantly about whether or not someone likes me.

Here’s a ridiculous example from this week:  I grew up listening to Christian Contemporary Music. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons here; I would posit there’s good and bad CCM. Today, I listen to a mix of music with some CCM still thrown in, though frankly not much. In my car, I typically listen to music on my iPod connected to the stereo though bluetooth. When my iPod dies because I forget to charge it, I tend to default to a CCM radio station, for lack of anything better. This past Sunday, my car needed to be moved, so I handed over the keys without thinking that my iPod was in my purse. What that meant is that once the car moved far enough away from the iPod, the bluetooth disconnected and the radio turned on. Tuned to a CCM station. With the volume on loud.

*cringes*

See, I go to a rather hipster-y type church, with a lot of artists and musicians. Of whom I have great respect. Some of whom, at times, have been vocal about their disdain for CCM. And, so, I’ve been mortified since Sunday to know that one of two people might think I was jamming to CCM. Because I care about what others think of me. Because I find my worth by being loved and respected by people I love and respect. Because I have an idol of approval.

(The amusing thing is that just yesterday I posted two songs here, one of which is by a popular CCM band.)

The thing I need to learn is that I will never find my worth by being loved or respected by _____ people. At best, it’s like drinking salt water when you’re thirsty. It seems like it will satisfy as it touches your lips, but it only further dehydrates your body.

Instead, I need to focus my heart on finding love, respect, and worth from God – the living water that truly satisfies. As Zephaniah 3:17 says,

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

This is who I should cling to for affirmation. This is who I should desire to admire me. Oh, how I like that idea of someone rejoicing over me, loving me, and exulting over me with loud singing. And I would bet it won’t be to CCM.

~~~

We’re winding down the series on Crushing Your Kingdoms. You can catch up with all the posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

 

Day 26: Four kingdoms (root idols)

apple orchardHave you had a chance to think through those questions from the You are here post? I sat down and went through each one. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised at my answers, even though I didn’t really like them. They pretty much confirmed what I guessed.

These questions are digging at determining the sin underneath the sin that drives most of our sinful behavior and other idolatries in our lives. I’ve heard several pastors and authors teach that these boil down to four big ones:

Comfort
Approval
Control
Power

The Journey Church in St. Louis did a series that includes these: Transformation. The sermon, Loving People by Uprooting Idols, in particular hits on this. If you  want to spend some time learning more about crushing kingdoms, these are a great resource. I know my church has preached on this, but I couldn’t find the audio anywhere. 😦

So, here’s the deal:

If your answers pointed to lack of stress, freedom or privacy, where your greatest nightmares are stress and demands on you, then you most likely have a comfort idol.

If your answers  leaned toward finding affirmation, love or relationships and your greater fear is to be rejected, then you are dealing with an approval idol.

Do you fear uncertainty and worry a lot? Do you regard standards and self-discipline above all else? This is the idol of control.

Is success the name of the game? Is everything about winning or asserting your influence over others? Then you’re looking at a power idol.

fallen applesThis is deep, heavy stuff, if you take time to really look at your heart and where your affections lie. I’d encourage you to go back through the questions and take inventory in where you have rooted your time, attention, and heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24

Above all, spend time in prayer over this. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts. These deeply rooted idols are not removed without God’s help. But, it begins with a willing spirit to see what lies between you and God. One way might be to spend time praying through Psalm 51, David’s cry of forgiveness to God.

~~~

We continue to work through the series, Crushing Your Kingdoms, this month, with only a handful of days left. Click below to view the index of all posts in this series.

crushing your kingdoms

Altogether Separate

fall leavesI always thought that growing up meant you no longer felt left out, the misfit, alone.

Altogether Separate.

That’s the phrase my husband and some friends used to tell the waitstaff when 20 or so of us would go out to eat. Are we together or separate? Altogether separate.

That’s how I feel today. Right or wrong (and I almost didn’t post because it feels wrong).

I had dinner with a group of gals from church. From my Missional Community. The name implies we should be best of buds.

I felt altogether separate from them most of the evening.

The FMFparty was delayed. Because a huge group of fmf-ers are at Allume and were having a FMF live party. I sat altogether alone in my dining room, refreshing Twitter for the prompt. Altogether separate.

I always thought that growing up meant you no longer felt left out.

Some of this is my fault. I’m not an outgoing person. It’s hard for me to engage someone in conversation when I don’t know them or feel comfortable with them.

Some of the fault is mine. I withdraw because I’m comparing myself to the beautiful faces around the table, representing young, talented, thin, pregnant, motherly, energetic, creative, outgoing, strong, successful women.

I can’t compete with that. The same as I can’t afford a conference ticket and even if I could, would I dare to walk up to a stranger and welcome her? If I had been in that live party tonight would I have felt a part of the togetherness that I saw in twitpics and instagram photos?

This post doesn’t have the cutesy wrap-up, the illustration that makes you leave with a smile. Growing up only brings out new ways to feel alone that I never could have imagined as a child. In some ways they hurt more because there’s no promise of rosy tomorrows to brighten today’s clouds.

Nope, tonight there’s no cheery ending. Tomorrow, I may not compare myself to others. I may be content, trusting in who God has made me to be and resting in his plan for my life. But I might still feel alone come Sunday morning, when once again I can’t quite figure out how to break into a circle of girls laughing together.

Fall trees

To publish or to trash? That is the question.

I picture different people I know who might read this. What would their reactions be? My mom, my pastor, a friend… This is a peek into me. But it’s the one that we’re not supposed to show – especially in church. It’s the one that people say they want to see, but when it comes down to it, that’s not really what they meant. There are a few people who most likely will avoid me after reading this. I can picture them. I can also see a few similarly lonely people like myself. This might be encouraging to them.

Ah, it’s only the internet. Why not? 🙂

(This post is part of Five Minute Friday, hosted by Lisa Jo Baker. This week’s prompt is “together.”)

Update: I added a follow-up post of truths we should rest upon.

Day 12: Cracked Pedestals

Sitting by Dad & my sister on our big arm chair. Christmas 1975.

Sitting by Dad & my sister on our big arm chair. Christmas 1975.

Today, I’m taking a rest from the 31 Day series, to post about a great book that’s coming out on Tuesday, The Wall Around Your Heart by Mary DeMuth. (I may have mentioned it before). I’m writing over at Open Hearted Power, 31 Days of open hearted living:

Cracked Pedestals

My Dad was pretty awesome, but he was also a little bit scary. The good kind of scary, y’know? We’d have friends sleep over, and Mom would tell us to be quiet and go to bed, but as girls do, we’d whisper and giggle in the dark until Dad’s stern voice called up the stairs, “Girrls…” Immediate silence would ensue, because we knew that was a voice of authority, a voice to be obeyed, a voice not to be reckoned with. That awe we had for Dad was good for getting excited children to sleep and to behave in public, but bad in the sense that it seemed that everything Dad did was perfect. Without ever planning to, I put Dad up on a pretty tall pedestal most of my growing up years. I suppose, somewhere inside, I knew Dad was human, which meant he sinned and, thus, was not perfect, but I never stopped to think that through realistically. He was Dad.

There came a time in my teen years, when the pedestal cracked…

Would you join me at Open Hearted Power for the rest of the story? Cracked Pedestals

I’ll be back tomorrow to continue the series on rest.
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What is True (about me)

It’s true that I love cats. It’s true that I killed my first cat when I was two (it was an accident. I loved it to death by hugging it around the neck far too often).

It’s true that music is with me almost 24/7. There is music running through my head almost constantly. Often songs, but sometimes just melodies or rhythms.

It’s true that the toe next to my pinky toe is bent funny. From the bottom of my foot, you can’t see that 4th toe at all.

It’s true that as a kid, I lost almost all my fingernails and some more than once. It was a by-product of sucking my thumb transitioned to biting my fingernails and the skin around my nails.

It’s also true that I still bite my nails and the surrounding skin today.

It’s also true that that might be the thing that drives my husband most crazy of all my bad habits. It’s true that I’m aware of this and that I still can’t seem to stop myself (though I think I may be better about refraining when I’m with him, but maybe not).

It’s true that I throw like a girl. Like a girl who really, truly can’t throw. I once tried to throw a frisbee for my dog and it ended up on the roof of the house. Behind me.

It’s true that I’m out of  time. 😉

——

This was a Five Minute Friday post written for only 5 minutes on this week’s prompt of “true.” I’m linked up with a ton of great writers all writing on the same prompt, check it out.

Here are my two current furballs, Chloe and Fritz.

Fritz and Chloe

We love you, Mom!

 

 

 

I Messed Up (and so did you)

Splash

Photo credit: Yashna M (Creative Commons)

I screwed up. Again.

Not just again, as if I’ve made this same mistake before. Again, meaning I did this last week, yesterday, even mere hours ago.

Sin.

I try to be the good girl and even succeed in making most people think I’ve got it all together. But it’s a lie. Whoops, see, there I go again.

Try as hard as I may, I can’t do it.

Be good.

God looks down from heaven
on the children of man
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all fallen away;
together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

Psalm 53 lays it out so clearly, doesn’t it? There is none who does good, not even one. Ouch.

Yet,

Isn’t that a comfort? Didn’t you feel a little relief to hear that I screwed up? Again?

Because, here’s a little known secret.

You can’t do good either.

Oh, you knew that already, didn’t you?

But with your sin tucked away so no one will see, you look at me, at your neighbor, at your friend, and think we’ve got it all together. She would never struggle with this sin. He would never screw up like I have.

Wrong-O.

No one does good. All have fallen away.

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Psalmist cries out for hope in that last verse. And hope comes, in the shape of the God-man, Jesus. One, without sin and secret screw-ups, took on the consequences of our sin.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26

So rather than despairing, hope. The salvation David cries out for in the Psalm is come.

—–

I’m linking up with Everyday Awe today:

Psalms

Day 21: When Broken By Sin

A Clean Heart

photo credit: listentothemountains (Creative Commons)

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin! (more…)

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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