I am a recovering self-reformer

“Since sin is deeper than bad behavior, trying to do better isn’t a solution. Only grace that changes the heart can rescue us.”

Paul David Tripp

I’ve been challenged again by Paul David Tripp in his New Morning Mercies — a Daily Gospel Devotional.  I grew up in the age of “I’m ok, You’re ok” , the best selling self-help book offering transformation through transactional analysis. I grew up in a country with a “can do” attitude. I was taught in a framework of performance-based education. I currently live in a country where tolerance is one of the top values. I often catch myself unconsciously viewing life from the trenches carved by these influential streams of thought.

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This reactive natural response flies in the face of the Gospel-centered words of Tripp:

“There is a difference between a person in whom disappointment leads to self-reformation and someone in whom grief leads to heartfelt confession. The first person believes in personal strength and the possibility of  self-rescue, while the second has given up on his own righteousness and cries out for the help of another.”

How many times have I hurt someone or made a blunder or didn’t prayerfully think a course of action through, ending up with a backlash. This would leave me with a pit in my stomach,  but with plenty of self-preservation to pick myself up, comfort myself, rationalize, justify, and plan a course of action to avoid that again. There it is, self-improvement combined with self-protection. Ugh! Tripp states it well…

“Self-reliant personal reformation and the penance that follows is the polar opposite of heartfelt confession with the repentance that follows. People who acknowledge that what they have done is wrong and then immediately lay out plans to do better unwittingly deny what the gospel of Jesus Christ says about them, how real life change takes place, and where help can be found. What they have neglected is confession.  When you confess your sins to God, you don’t just admit that you have sinned; no, you also confess that you have no power to deliver yourself from the sin you have just confessed. True confession always combines an admission of wrong with a plea for help. The heart, then, encouraged by the forgiveness and presence of Jesus, longs to live in a new, better way (repentance).” 

Now, to be honest, not only was confession not promoted in the predominantly self-actualization affirming culture that surrounded me, but neither was the non-politically-correct word, “sin“. I remember not even understanding what salvation was all about as a young teen. Saved from what? Thank the Good and merciful God, some Biola students explained it to me when I was in junior high, during a visit to my beloved Aunt Velma. Now perhaps there was someone at the Methodist church I was confirmed at that tried to explain it, but it didn’t make sense to me somehow. Perhaps my abstract thinking wasn’t matured enough. Tripp challenges further by stating:

“A person who manifests a self-reliant recognition of wrong assigns to himself the power to do better and then gives himself to spiritual-looking acts of penance that make him feel good about himself and his potential ability to do better.”

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Wow! I can so identify this in my own heart and inner dialogue over the years. Even in the Christian world, we seem to have pendulum-shifted from the “fire and brimstone” eras to the universalistic view that God’s love is for all no matter what we do. It is true, Biblically, that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) But that refers to salvation, not sanctification, i.e. our spiritual transformation from death to life.

I understood in my early twenties that I had first believed in God, the Savior, but trusting Him as Lord of my life was a much more painful dying-to-self and intentional choice. When I was little, I thought of God like the kind-hearted Santa Claus. In the midst of teenage years I understood him as my Savior giving me a ticket to heaven, but when my ways of trying to make life work didn’t prove successful, I realized that He was calling me to trust Him wholly with my everything, and stop trying to do it on my own. But self-reformation is not an easy addiction to overcome when all the messages around us promote that false thinking, and the sin within so beguilingly deceives.

Are there many of us running ragged, serving, serving, serving in a sort of “make up for it” kind of penance? Or simply thinking, well I’m not so bad especially compared to others. The sad part of this is that rarely is there lasting change. “It never produces a protective and preventative humility of heart. It never stimulates further worship and service of the Savior. It simply does not work. If you had the power to change yourself without God’s help, Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. The whole story of the gospel in Scriptures is a story of people who are desperately trapped in sin and have no hope except the rescuing grace of the Redeemer.”

Check out Luke 18:9-14

What is your path to transformation? Are you a submitted humble repentant or a self-reformer? May we all choose the path of the Redeemer – it truly is the better way.

I would like to personally thank my daughter for giving me this devotional book and for modeling a grace directed life. I am humbled and thankful you are not just my daughter but my sister in Christ. I love you.

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“There is so much out of my control right now.”

Someone I love stated this recently and it has caused me to ponder… and be reminded that we women especially often feel “lack of control” in our lives.

The recent call for women to share their stories of sexual harassment and assault have flooded social media, revealing how epidemic it all is, and how many silent sufferers there have been. #Metoo

As a follower of Jesus, who even Himself submitted to His Father, I wonder what are we truly meant to have control over? What do we mean when we chant, “God is in control”? What is a realistic and Biblically-based platform of being in control? What is our responsibility and what is not, according to this life for Jesus we are meant to live? Many questions emerge…????

I am drawn to some of my favorite writers who have taught me much on this “desire” for control in this seemingly spinning-out-of-control world. The first is John and Stasi Eldredge’s book, titled, Captivating – Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul.

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From the accompanying guided journal…” Women learn from their mothers what it means to be a woman, and from their fathers the value a woman has.” 

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The only thing more tragic than the things that have happened to us is what we have done with them. Words were said: painful words. Things were done; awful things. And they shaped us. Something inside us shifted. We embraced the messages of our wounds. We accepted a twisted view of ourselves. And from that we chose a way of relating to our world. We made a vow never to be in that place again. We adopted strategies to protect ourselves from being hurt.”

“The problem is that our plan has nothing to do with God. The wounds we received and the messages they brought formed a sort of unholy alliance with our fallen nature as women. From Eve we received a deep distrust in the heart of God towards us. Clearly, he’s holding out on us. We’ll just have to arrange for the life we want.”

“We will control our world.”

“But there is also an ache deep within, an ache for intimacy and for life. We’ll have to find a way that does not require us to trust anyone, especially God. A way that will not require vulnerability. In some ways, this is every little girl’s story, here in this world east of Eden.”

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Can you relate? Does this resonate? It sure does me. This has helped me understand my broken fractured perspective that affects my choices and emotions. I have been duped by my own false thinking, the “Serpent”, and the world! I can almost hear the hiss…”did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1) My hunger and thirst for control reveals my lack of trust in our Sovereign Creator Personal Loving Shepherd God.

When I realized my propensity for self protection and distrust of God, I had to repent, which then revealed my “demanding spirit.” Ugh!

Now to highlight another author and book that changed my life: Inside Out by Larry Crabb.

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If we are to change from the inside out, then we must look carefully at our style of relating. The mark of maturity is love, and the essence of love is relating without self-protection. Change …requires that we take a disturbing look at the ugly parts of our soul. In the minds of many that look means nothing more than confessing a tendency toward impatience or a sometimes critical spirit. Others resist a look at the inside ugliness, preferring to think more about struggles than sinfulness. ‘I don’t have enough self-confidence. I’m just so insecure. Why am I such a perfectionist? I worry too much…” Problems like these generate sympathetic concern from others and an almost heroic self-pity in oneself. The exposure of sinfulness, on the other hand, provokes conviction.”

I confess I didn’t like the light shed on my demandingness, birthed out of a yearning for some illusive control featuring the “if only”…mentality. It would hit me at times with such force that shoes would be thrown, swearing would come out of my mouth, and angry tears of frustration would seep out of eyes that needed to release the pent up ache of loss and grief. In those times I realize that I was shaking fists at God like a toddler having a tantrum. The lie or illusion of screaming for control perhaps lodged its jagged spear when I was sexually abused by a teen cousin we were visiting when I was but five.  We are so vulnerable to being misguided in the formative years and then feeling shame and guilt from our regretted compliance.

However, when we are old enough to process and talk about it, we have to take responsibility for our responses in life – we must move from being victim to becoming overcomers. As Larry Crabb states, “We cannot excuse our sinful responses to others on grounds of mistreatment of us. We are responsible for what we do. We are both strugglers and sinners, victims and agents, people who hurt and people who harm.”

Self protection can come in some interesting forms. For me, one of the ways I use to self protect is to deny that I had needs, and I tried to be other people’s fixer and problem-solver. I loathed being weak, but I loved being compassionate, which my empathetic nature so leans towards naturally. It happened that when my unresolved grief and loss combined with frustrated helping efforts combined with an accumulation of personal unmet needs that the controlling demanding spirit would show it’s ugly self.

We are a demanding people. Because we stubbornly walk right past God’s water supply to dig our own wells, we end up depending for our own survival on finding water when we dig… We demand that spouses respond to our needs; we demand that our children exhibit the fruit of our godly training; we demand that our churches be sensitive to our concerns by providing certain ministries; we demand that slow drivers get out of the passing lane; we demand that no one hurts us again the way we were hurt before; we demand that legitimate pleasures, long denied, be ours to enjoy.”

“How absurd! Can you imagine an army where new recruits give orders or companies where errand boys set policy? And yet mere people shout orders to the universe. Such foolishness is the inevitable result of taking responsibility for securing our own happiness, a burden that’s simply too heavy for our shoulders. When we assume responsibility for what we desperately require but cannot control, we irrationally demand that our efforts succeed.”

I think the breakthrough for me came while attending a large youth event in Boulder, Colorado, as a leader. The dynamic speaker, who only had use of a small portion of his lungs, spoke on the passages in Scripture talking about digging our own wells.

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13 NASB

I remember sitting alone in my room, challenged to imagine I was sitting face to face with Jesus, who is asking me, “What do you need from me?” I broke down in uncontrollable sobs realizing that I rarely took time to look at my needy heart. I confessed I had been digging my own leaky cisterns. I remember feeling such a sense of relief and freedom by simply acknowledging that I had needs and He is the source of all I need. I needed to receive His abundant grace and let the Living Waters flow, bringing restoration and healing.

God opposes the proud who demand but gives grace to the humble who express hurt.”

More statements I have underlined in Larry’s book are such important reminders for me.

“We tend to measure someone’s love by their degree of cooperation with our plans.”  Ugh!!!

Demandingness is a serious problem partly because it rarely feels like a problem. We may actually feel stronger and more alive when we pursue our demands and rehearse to ourself their credibility…

Christian growth requires that we surface the tendency to demand. It must be identified, exposed in all its ugliness, and abandoned. Otherwise deep change will not occur.

Perhaps the first step in learning humility is to consider who it is we think must change. A demand that things be different represents an accusation against God, a charge that He’s guilty of mismanagement and negligence in His duties.

The necessary foundation for any relationship with God is a recognition that God is God and we are not. We therefore have no business demanding anything of anyone, no matter how fervently our soul longs for relief from pain. Desire much, pray for much, but demand nothing. To trust God means to demand nothing.”

Twenty years have passed since that powerful encounter, and I can honestly say that choosing to battle the demanding controlling spirit whenever it crops up leaves me so much more content, most of the time. Now when I feel an ache rise to the surface or even a sense of frustration, or even some physical sign that I am harboring some anger, I ask God to show me the loss, the worry, or the fear. I confess my desire to direct my own “kingdom” and I lay it at His feet and entrust it all to His wise care as the Good King and Shepherd. I ask for His sustaining grace and strength so that I can become more like His son Jesus.

What comes is peace, perfect peace.

 His rest – Shalom.

So the cycle tends to be woundedness leading to self-protection leading to control leading to demandingness, which requires acknowledgment, repentance, and submission to He who is in control, He who is just, He who knows the big picture, He who is love, He alone who is completely trustworthy.

If this has hit any chord within you, I would love to hear from you.

If you have been sexually abused (i.e anything that made you feel uncomfortable in your sexuality), I highly recommend Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart.

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May we lay down our illusion of control and choose to trust God and seek out those older and and wiser in this journey of faith to coach us offering a humble teachable spirit. Let’s choose to put the apple back and stomp the serpent on the head. Jesus Christ has provided a way back to wholeness through His death and resurrection, let’s not turn back.

 

 

 

Have you ever heard of Huldah?

Grab a cuppa and join me for a few minutes, and let us ponder together a brave hardly-mentioned woman in the Bible…

Have you ever been reading your Bible and you meet a character that you feel like you never met before? And you think, how did I never notice this person before?!

That happened to me today. I was reading in 2 Kings 22 about the reforming King Josiah who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.” Now I love reading about Josiah especially since my third grandson was named after him.

King Josiah was only eight years old when he became king after his evil king father was slain. Now his mother, Jedidah is mentioned right before the phrase I quoted above, which can cause us to infer that she must have had some kind of godly influence in his life for him to not follow in his father’s evil footsteps.

There is another woman mentioned in his reign that changed the course of his life and the future of the kingdom of Judah… and her name is Huldah. ( Might need to find this book below.)

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There are only seven verses surrounding her, both in the 2 Kings passage as well as the parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 34. But what an impact she had!

Here is the summary of the account. When young King Josiah asks his high priest Hilkiah and secretary to get the Temple back into shape with builders and stonemasons to repair it, Hilkiah finds the long-forgotten dust-covered book of the Law. The secretary reads it and takes it to King Josiah and reads it to him. Josiah responds with grief and mourning and tells his High Priest to go inquire of the Lord, “for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book.” (vs.13)

So where does Hilkiah go, accompanied by four other officials? To Huldah, the prophetess, wife of Shallum, the keeper of the wardrobe, living in the second quarter of the city of Jerusalem! What was her life probably like? Probably needlework and repairing of the priestly robes and tablecloths for the Temple, and more importantly, she must have listened to the Lord. She must have spent time meditating on this long forgotten book of Truth and Life. She must have had a reputation for being connected to the Lord God. A woman! Now that is pretty spectacular!

And what was her message or prophetic word from the Lord to this esteemed group of leading men?

It was a strong warning!

“Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants… because they have forsaken Me and have made offerings to other gods.” (vs.16-17)

Then, she has a personal prophesy for King Josiah… “because your heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before the Lord upon hearing the word of the Lord… you shall be gathered to your grave in peace and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.” (vs.19-20)

So what is my personal response to this passage and this bold brave woman of God in troubled times? My heart is encouraged that my time in the Word of God is not wasted. That my simple efforts of service and being available can be used of God.

I confess I grow weary at times when those around me don’t understand and value the importance of regular diets of feeding on the Word of God to counter the invasive lies of our flesh, the devil and the world. There is so much “self-ruling” promoted. There is so little Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. There is so much “Thus Saith the Lord” that is people-pleasing rather than the Biblical reality that most prophecy is a warning.

I want to be like Huldah and live my life in service to God but ready to proclaim truth even if it it not popular and is instead counter-cultural. May I be faithful, meditating daily on the Word, listening to God in prayer, and available to encourage others to point their hearts towards the Lord.

As a side-note, I recently watched a poignant disturbing episode from the Netflix series titled Black Mirror – it was season 3, episode 1 (Nosedive). Also, the new film, The Circle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson… something to ponder in regards to the power of social media and our current technology trend and our need for approval.

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The Nosedive

 

 

 

 

So how many of you were aware of Huldah the Prophetess?

Thanks for taking time for tea with Mama G

 

 

 

 

Removing toxins

I am on a quest to remove as many unnecessary toxins in my life. It all began…

when my dad was diagnosed with cancer back in 1976 and subsequently passed onto glory July 1978 at the young age of 42.

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From then on my mom was even more determined to raise us as healthy as possible. She has always cooked us delicious food from scratch, learning new international recipes, and taking cooking classes to build her repertoire. Thanks, Mama, you inspire!

You see, my dad’s cancer began in his gut. Yes, he smoked, served overseas in the air force and was exposed to lots of stress at NASA in the era of getting an American to the moon. These all most likely played into his weaker immune system.

I was also a teenager in the age of everything natural is cool — the 70s. I wanted to be a “granola girl” and live as close to natural as possible without becoming a hippie. LOL!

It has been a slow journey of discovery, seeking God for guidance to care for this earthly temple, my body,  as a sacrifice of thanksgiving to my Creator Father God. You can ask my kids how often I fed them “healthy creations”, sometimes to their dismay, keeping sugars on the lowdown, but the proof is in the proverbial pudding — they are both health conscious, carrying the passion to further heights. They now teach me. How cool is that? So it has become a family legacy that began with my mum, who passed it to me and then I have passed it on to my kids and now it is being infused into my grandchildren.

So my motto has been for food — use items that are as close to the way God made it, staying away from additives, etc. It hasn’t been easy and since I am not a natural cook, often challenging.

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My other value is saving money and reduce, reuse, recycle.

So this brings me now to the next level, trying to clean out the toxins I use on my body and in my house. It was fueled by a series about cancer that was probably a bit one sided on the natural way of handling cancer, but there were many lessons on how the body works and how chemicals affect us. I watched the ravages of radiation on my dad as he declined into a whisper of a man. Thankfully, I know that he is whole again with the Lord.

Scripture has some helpful healthy living information if one looks. But I won’t get into that in this sitting.

Before moving to the UK, I was blessed to attend a Refresh retreat with Aunt Diane in Switzerland. There I had a delightful Swiss couple as counselors and they specialized in health and nutrition. My only request was, please tell me how to age well. There were some fabulous lessons learned with them as well as lots of blessings of being with some very dear friends, one who is no longer with us anymore… Mari Ellen, I miss you.

So as you see this has been a journey. In college I started using natural beauty products, but slowly moved away from it somehow. I also got big into the benefits of blue green algae. Living overseas in Germany, a country known for doing things natural like Switzerland, taught me more about cooking from scratch and enjoying produce free from pesticides, as well as whole grains and seeds, like Flax-seeds.

Now I am in a season where I actually have time to explore and learn more.  With all the interest of the younger generation in living healthy and fair-trade there is a lot out there to discover. More research has been done on the benefits of coconut oil and essential oils. I actually have three sets of Germany oils to play with. I have a large kitchen drawer full of spices so easy to find here inexpensively in the UK.

So let the natural beauty and cleaners grow to new heights! I am enjoying the helpful site called Wellness Mama

Will you play with me in the land of grown-up natural chemistry? Please share your ideas and recipes for going chemical free.

And enjoy a cup of Redbush or Green Tea!

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Confessions

Do you have a few minutes to ponder with Mama G and consider our lives and why we do what we do and for what end? Before jumping into this reflective journey please read my previous post, Captive Hearts where we considered our design to be slaves and looked at who or what we serve, because, truthfully, we will be serving somebody – it is in our spiritual DNA.

Now for my honest confessions. These are the things that I can struggle to keep in their proper place. First, would be SELF and especially my emotions and gut feelings, which are often misleading and even beguiling. The world, the flesh and the devil all urge me to be a slave to my thoughts, my feelings, my desires, etc. etc. But God says in His Word…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5 NIV

My thoughts and my feelings are flawed. My perspective has been marred by the poison of sin passed down from generation to generation like a bad gene.

It was perhaps Augustine of Hippo who first coined the phrase incurvatus in se.[1] Martin Luther expounded on this in his Lectures on Romans and described this state as:

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Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.”

Then from this self focus or self-preservation, I turn to family and friends. Family has been a big deal in my life and especially in my upbringing. Of course, loving family is not wrong and there is a lot in Scripture to support the importance of family and relationships in general, but when its demands are observed above God’s plans then we can get into a lot of trouble. When I was 17 years old and my dad lost his battle against cancer, his final word was “family”. Wow! Does that give you a mental picture of the high value of family in my personal story?! Truly I have been so blessed with such an amazing and supportive family that it feels blasphemous to even call “family” a potential “idol”, but honestly, it has been true in my life. And having the loving family I have makes this temptation more potent. Seriously, we want to be with people who love us no matter what, comfort us, laugh with us, cry with us… and God wants us to have that too, but not at the expense of placing Him below them. It is a fine line sometimes in my life.

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I confess it.

But the Lord has been gentle with me on this one, by reminding me with verses like this from Matthew 10:37

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

As a cross cultural worker living overseas for almost 20 years, the passage below has been such a comfort as well as a reminder to embrace the ache of separation from parents, siblings, grown children and grandchildren and lifelong friends.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30 NLT

Another value in my life that can creep into a higher place in my affections is TIME. I strongly dislike deadlines or being rushed or being scheduled. Some people like regimented lives. I confess I do not. This has been another hard learned lesson, battling control and becoming submitted and with eagerness “attending” His opportunities to serve Him by loving on others. He has been patient with me. I wake up almost every day thanking Him for allowing me to have slow mornings at my season of life. Nothing starts my day off better than sitting in my bed with my Bible and devotional and prayer prompts along with a nice cup of coffee brought by my beloved hubby. It is like a regular date with God where we look at what the day holds together.

It is beautiful. It is life giving. And it is personal. He is truly the only ONE worthy of our worship because He made us to worship Him. Pretty simple. 

How about you? What or whom is the hub of your life that spins you the directions that flow from focusing on that hub? Share with someone and watch it lose its grip. 

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

James 5:16 NIV

 

Captive Hearts

“God’s call to obey is itself a grace. In this call, He is actively rescuing you from you.” 

Paul David Tripp’s entry statement on today’s devotional from New Morning Mercies struck a  chord in my spirit today. You know those times when you’re reading something and you stop, press pause, stare into space and think…I need to chew on this. …Those times when the Lord has been giving you spiritual pieces for some sort of collective mental mosaic and they start making an image? Please grab a cuppa and muse with me a while.

I am almost daily reminded that God created with intelligent design, and there is purpose and meaning built into every detail of life, pointing us to Him. So one piece I have been pondering is that we were designed to be worshipers. We knowingly or unknowingly seek something or someone to fix our eyes on, to be our best for, to belong to, to give us purpose and meaning in this troubled life. The object of our worship motivates us to make sacrifices for it. We follow some sort of rules or rituals in our worship that order our lives, whether consciously or subconsciously. That object of worship is the hub of the worldview wheel that navigates our decisions and choices everyday, and yet many of us have not taken the time to really ponder… what is that worldview?

We can so easily live our lives as  automatons driven by cultural values (the shoulds and expectations that families and society place on us.), consumerism and media feeds.  It is a type of slavery. It can be a zombie-like idolatry. Images of The matrix film come to mind.

So who or what is the object of our worship?

Paul Tripp writes: “We were never hardwired to be free, if by ‘freedom’ we mean an independent, self-sufficient life. We were created to be connected to something vastly bigger than ourselves. We were designed to have our lives organized and directed by an agenda that is bigger than our truncated personal desires and goals. We were carefully built by God to have every aspect of our personhood connected to Him and His plans for us, and when we reject Him, we don’t live autonomously; we replace Him with something or someone.”

How do we discover if we are worshipping a false god or idols? Let’s consider some questions we can ask ourselves. What do I think about the most? Whose messages do I most eagerly await? How do I spend my money? How do I spend my leisure time? Do I really know the God as revealed in the Bible or am I believing in a god made in my own image? Check some of these out: 10 idols of your heart to remove.

Paul Tripp says it well, “So what does [God’s] grace offer you? The answer is the world’s most wonderful , heart-satisfying, life-changing, and hope-producing slavery… His absolute rulership over every area of our lives is not a deadening law but a life giving grace. He is freeing us from our slavery to what is not true and cannot deliver.”

“God’s call to obey doesn’t end your life; it is meant to protect the life that only He can give you.”

So what do you think about this idea of being willing slaves to an Invisible God? Am I trying to serve two masters? Is there anything in my life I silently send the message to God, “please don’t touch” or “off limits”?

Join me in laying before the Good Gentle Shepherd our hearts and see what He shows us about perhaps some hidden idols or things or people we value too much. I would love to hear your thoughts or testimonies. Meanwhile, I will share mine in the next post…so until then…God bless and let’s share a cup of tea again soon.

Winter reflections

I confess I have not been inspired to write for three months. Perhaps it comes with spending so much time listening to and engaging with so many other people’s stories. Listening and “feeling” with others takes much mental and emotional energy – energy I love to give and grow from, so this is not a complaint. I also confess I struggle with putting my thoughts to the written word because, seriously, what do I have to offer the magnitude of blog traffic out there?

There has so much going on that has kept me in a prayerful stance – U.S. elections, trouble and suffering in the Middle East, loved ones battling ill health, anxiety and change. But there also have been joyful activities like travel to the Ukraine and Thanksgiving with my daughter and her growing family in Kentucky – expecting number five in May.img_20161203_193736715

Ever since the kids left home, I have come to embrace a more contemplative Christmas. A time to cozy up near a warm fire, the light of the Christmas tree and the smell of candles burning. I did the hustle and bustle of Christmas for many years and now I am blessed to rebel against it – besides, my slowly aging body could not keep up that pace anymore – it is a divine mercy. We also enjoy celebrating our anniversary – 36 years tomorrow and Steve’s birthday on the 28th. A rich month. We usually have an “adoptee” with us over the holidays, but this time she comes after Christmas. So even more space has been granted to ponder the wonder of Christmas and Emmanuel – God with us.img_20161203_194011243

What called me from the cave out into the open, you may ask? It was the British contextual Christmas devotional titled: Pilgrims to the Manger, exploring the wonder of God with us by Naomi Starkey. Taking this book off the shelf as soon as I got home from Kentucky helped me with my own re-entry back into the culture I have now lived for almost seven years. The passage was from Mark 10:17-30. It is the account of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man wanting eternal life. Read excerpts of it with me…

The Rich Man

1As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

What stirs in your hearts when reading this passage? Truly, most people reading my words are in the rich category. How do I define rich? If we have choices, we are rich. But this aspect of the story is not what struck me…it was Jesus’ response to Peter…read again verse 29-30 above.

The Summer of 2017 will mark my husband and my 20th year mark since selling our nice Colorado dream family home and moving away from our loving family, friends and supportive churches. More than half of these years have also separated us from our children and now our grandchildren geographically. Since leaving we have only moved five times – much fewer than most missionaries or cross-cultural workers- something I thank God for as He knows I love to minister out of my space. img_20161203_194502773

There are times when the ache of separation takes over, but mostly, I thank God for all the people, places, and supportive communities we have had the blessing to be loved by and to love on. Our lives are so much richer for it. I pray that those who have been “adopted” into our family and hearts read this knowing that you have been a part of God’s promised blessing. You have comforted us when we have felt misunderstood and given us a sense of belonging even though we are “those Americans”.

Living under God’s economy and led by His calling has made it easier to relinquish when He calls us to give up something. He owns everything anyway – our lives, our stuff, and our plans. He is the Good Shepherd. He has been faithful and He has been Emmanuel – God with us through every tearful goodbye and every joyful hello.

So with that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas praying you experience that encounter with God as Emmanuel piercing through the busyness, or loneliness, or physical pain… discovering comfort that heals, calms, and reminds you that you are loved and treasured. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Now that is something to celebrate!

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P.S. – I especially love my combination tea at this time of year – Good Earth Tea blend with regular British Black tea with some warm milk…yummy! And listening to the gentle tinkle of this family treasure candle set.

Summer reading splashing color…

 

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“…paint on the whole canvas of your life” (Helen Parry of LICC) 

This last month’s canvas of delicious warm sunny days with cool British breezes has drawn me to take time to dip into the pools of reading. The fare has been quite a variety –  painting in many hues the colors of my mind. The atmosphere in our local neighborhood is more laid back in the month of August with the summer holidays and school break. So warmer weather plus restful quiet equals – laying in my new hammock and enjoying listening to the birds, smelling the roses and honeysuckle and curling up with a good book or two.

My small back garden has provided some delightful hours of this simple pleasure. No wonder Alice in Alice in Wonderland enjoyed reading in the outdoors, letting her imagination free to blow with the wind into all kinds of adventures.

imag1474So what does it mean to paint on the whole canvas of your life? Let’s ponder together. I know for the way God wired me, my environment is important to my sense of well-being. If it is dirty and overly cluttered with no thought in its arrangement, I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. That is why keeping my house tidy and inviting is so important to me, especially as a hopeful haven for traveling “pilgrims” on this journey called life.

For this reason, I choose warm rich colors and earthy textures, trying to create an indoor “garden” of sorts with sights, sounds, and smells to draw one to a closer walk with God experiencing His rest. The sentimental objects I wrote about before hopefully tells visitors that people matter and especially their journeys. I want my home to be “touchable” and interesting with thoughts and reflection viscerally-encouraged. I have pillows and snugly blankets to cuddle with, books everywhere, fruit ready to be eaten, music to play, films to watch etc. I want people to come, unwind and stay a while.

Now let’s go from external environment to inner life. Here is a quote from a thought provoking book titled, The Artisan Soul: crafting your life into a work of art, by Erwin Raphael McManus. imag3060

“The colors we use to paint our own lives splash all over the souls of those who are close to us.” (McManus)

So how shall I paint myself into my environment blending in? As the temple of the Holy Spirit, I want my lifemy words, my activities, my hosting, and my prayers–to be somehow like a jar displaying His light and love. Lord, help me to be Jesus in mama-g skin. With an open humble heart may I speak words of life to those around me. May the fruit be love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, gentleness,goodness,faithfulness and self-control. May I be available and open to interruptions, ready to listen and serve. May I be ready to make a pot of tea or coffee at any given notice with arms ready to hug, comfort and encourage. Help me, Lord to be sensitive to your signals.

A few magazines enter our home and one of them is now from LICC (London Institute for Contemporary Christianity), founded by  John Stott . In a recent article in its magazine EG (Example Given) John Stott is quoted using an acronym…

“BBC: Balanced, biblical Christianity”

…which means developing a worldview that allows you to look at the landscape of life and be neither demoralized by the problems we face nor swept away in the enjoyment of life’s pleasures. (I am counting on all readers being familiar with the long standing BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation whose influence is countrywide and beyond.)

I find honest prayer and an attitude of gratitude goes a long way in creating that kind of relational atmosphere supporting the above worldview. I confess I am almost always an optimist searching doggedly for the silver lining on the clouds, but I also am ready to mourn loss with someone. It is a roller coaster ride – life. One day we can be soaring in the clear blue sky and then the next we are deep in the slough of despair from circumstances and losses that have shattered our seemingly well-ordered lives.  Only holding onto the Lord can we remain afloat in this sea of ups and downs allowing Him to carry us.

“Love never comes without wounds; faith never comes without failure.” (Erwin McManus of MOSAIC) Image result for tears images pictures

2 Peter 1:3-9 is an anchor passage for me.
Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.
5–9  So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. [The Message]

So inspiring, don’t you think?!

Lastly, I want to share a quote from one of my beloved writers, George MacDonald. His novel, The Laird’s Inheritance, is rich with spiritual depth and inspiring characters from Scottish days gone by. Truth that is timeless. May this be my prayer.

“Make not of thy heart a casket, Opening seldom, quick to close; But of bread a wide-mouthed basket, and cup that overflows.” 

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Rest and Recreation Rhythm

Lake District:

One can see why so many English writers and artists spent and continue to spend time in the English Lake District. The weather alone invites you to enjoy stunning verdant nature walks on the not so rainy days as well as cozy tea-drinking, Grasmere-Gingerbread-eating days when the weather looks better from the inside.

We have recently come back from a refreshing and restorative 9 days in the Lake District, staying in Ambleside near the largest lake in the UK – Lake Windemere. Our church friends own a holiday home called the Old Fisherbeck where their family enjoys time together and they bless others like us, sharing it with us too. What a gift – a place of rest nestled among beautiful hills and tranquil lake waters.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

Psalm 23:1-3

This passage describes perfectly this time of rest and relaxation for me. I will try to paint a picture of our days in Cumbria so that you can imagine with your minds eye the power of this place. These lakes in this summer season do not have loud motorboats and jet-skis marking up the calm waters… instead, visitors kayak, canoe, sail or ride the quiet tour boat that barely leaves a wake of water.

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If feels like everyone wears hiking boots in the towns as there are countless trails to explore and peaks to climb. These are not Disney-ride-queuing engineering, but often rugged map-reading-requ2016 093 SAM_0811ired routes following damp stream beds..

However, when you climb the lung-exhausting rocky trail…

 

…you end up with soft grass covered vistas to pause and reflect at the wonder of nature and creation.

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And when you return through Beatrix Potter’s Peter-Rabbit-inspired hollow at the end of this trail in the inviting town of Grasmere, you can enjoy the famous Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread as a treat with a good cup of tea.

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On sunny days canoeing is so delicious and tempting. We hit the hottest day of the year so far in the UK, so we rolled the Canadian canoe of our friends to the lake and enjoyed a day on or in the water, stopping for  a picnic with nearby munching sheep as we enjoyed watching elegantly-floating swans.

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Are you hearing the gentle lapping of the water and the refreshing breeze on your skin? Can you feel the draw to lay underneath a giant oak tree near the water’s edge after a delicious well-earned lunch after paddling up a river, then along the shore from Ambleside (barely visible behind swans in photo)? Are you mesmerized by the sparkling sun-kissed deep blue waters? Can you feel yourself breathing deeper, your heartbeat slowing to a calmer rhythm?

Is this what Jesus did after His busy ministry days? Usually it was in the night but those early mornings must have been glorious with His Abba Father in the quiet.

Here in England one enjoys the long summer days when the sun is shining to the utmost, as they are precious and not common like California summer days. On one of those days I enjoyed sitting on a nearby bench with a view of the lake only ten minutes from the Fisherbeck. I love beckoning benches, don’t you? After reading for a while, my spirit felt called into the cool trees where I happened upon a lovely fern-filled trail and a trickling stream – He leads me beside “trickling” water – He restores my soul. I sat on a rock and slipped off my sandals and dipped into the running water. 2016 136 IMG_20160718_174437820

 

 

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On days when the weather is less inviting, Old Fisherbeck offers a conservatory room where I enjoyed therapeutic coloring.

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After a hard rain we ventured forth on a trail that led us to powerfully gushing waterfalls just on the outskirts of Ambleside. The natural beauty of this place simply never ends, for even if one has seen something before, the weather, the clouds, the light and the shadows transform it.

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On our final day we explored Lake Ullswater and the mystifying Castlerigg Stone Circle. One could see why the ancient people thought this spot was special – it has a 360 panorama view of the mountains. Simply heavenly and so quiet as if an ancient hush covers the sheep-friendly collection.

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My soul was refreshed and deeply filled, enabling me to head back down the mountains, back to the south sea town of Worthing to carry on walking with a more steady step with My Good Shepherd. May you find those spaces and places to meet with God and allow Him to refresh your soul. It is time well worth taking. It is where we can discover His Shalom – His peace. His Rest.

Where do you experience green pastures and quiet waters?

Sentimental Objects

My home is filled with sentimental objects. Is yours? What I mean by that is, objects that remind you of someone, a place, a time, an event that you want to remember or perhaps deeply miss. I have recently realized that my home is a type of museum of such artifacts.

Everything Is Illuminated PosterLiving overseas far from family, friends, and the familiar for almost two decades AND living in two different countries has only increased my propensity to collect. Now I am not as strange as the main character in Everything Is Illuminated, where he collected personal affects, like dentures, hair etc. from loved ones, placed them into a sealed clear bag and then posted them on his bedroom wall. Don’t let that description put you off from seeing this amazing film that mostly takes place in Ukraine with adorable big eyed, Elijah Wood trying to discover his Jewish family’s past.

This collecting has come to the forefront again as we have been once again sorting through the remaining items of colleagues/friends/missionaries that have left the field. I practically re-sort my whole household trying to weed out the old and bring in the newly left behind items that I like and remind me of times gone by. It is almost a part of the grieving process… the saying goodbye… the letting go. It is also a way for me to think of dear ones and pray for them and thank God for the chapter or season we shared.

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Let me give you a short tour. In the kitchen, we have visible to the eyes my mother’s copper canister set and bright red fondue pot, plus some collected salt shakers of my grandmother. There are numerous tea pots given to me from dear friends. On my fridge there are pictures of loved ones and pencil and colored drawings by my Kentucky grandchildren spilling over onto cabinets. Inside one cabinet is a cheery chalk drawing my daughter drew when she was in school – it is near all the colorful Starbucks mugs which began as a gift in our Black Forest Academy school days from Jen, who incidentally married my son’s best friend.

There are Polish pottery gift pieces and Germany pottery from where we used to live. Collections of dishes stem from shepherding Field Leaders, the Old Coastguard House where our mission office began and where we lived our first four months, former BFA staff and friends, my grandmother, and my husband’s family dishes that he grew up with in South Korea.They are reminders of the special memories of shared gatherings around a table of fellowship and conversation, both ordinary and special occasions. I even have carried my paternal grandmother’s blue mixing bowl and Golden Anniversary tea pot with me across the oceans and land. I have my maternal side of the family’s ancient Irish glass punch-bowl. All visible and eclectic.IMG_20160708_102138287

In the dining room I have decorated my Fourth of July table with bright blue and red handmade Nigerian placemats from pastor Joseph who lived with us in Colorado. There is a wooden shadowbox left by a missionary friend on the wall which displays shells from all over and handmade ceramic napkin holders made by Beccy B ( an art teacher who made our lives shine with her winning charisma); Steve’s dad’s silver baby spoon and a few other knick knacks given to me when a child. A redwood tree Burl clock ticks comfortingly next to the shadowbox that has moved with us from our wedding onward.

Moving into the lounge area there are bright importesque cushions on the couch that were in my relaxed office in Germany where I used to read children’s stories to the students feeling the pressuIMG_20160708_102422520re of leaving childhood. You are getting the gist… A single green plant sits on a bookshelf given to me by another student – thank you, Dan B. There is a German basket full of stuffed animals, puppets and books that I pull oIMG_20160708_102206940ut when Skyping with my grands. Two  of my  favorite tea set collections peep from atop shelves – antique Japanese and modern Uzbekistan.  A silent German cuckoo clock also hangs on the wall – purchased as a goodbye gift from our 12 years in Germany. A Turkish woven carpet from one of our dorm daughter’s sits under our coffee table. Even the gold cross cake topper from our wedding cake is hung on the wall.

Our hallway upstairs is the ancestor gallery of pictures – something I put together before heading overseas to give us a sense of history far from home. In the bathrooms there are artwork from loved ones and more pictures of beloveds. I even made curtains from the material my mom made our living room drapes from- another reminder of happy home days.

The bedrooms have old hats, sewing boxes, family furniture, including a rocking chair made for my mom to nurse me in by my Pampa. A favorite oil painting from Korea is over our bed and freshly washed sheets from the Old Coastguard remains covers our bed. Watercolors from scenes from Room with a View by my brother beautify the walls over the guestroom bed that belonged to my parents. My doll collection finally found a place to be displayed after 30 years of beinIMG_20160708_122044815_HDRg packed away. Framed cross stitch-work made by longtime friends celebrating my children’s births are on the wall and my mom’s old Jemima doll toaster cover sits invitingly on the corner book shelf filled
with children’s books and inspirational novels. My son’s last teddy-bear sits ready to be held again along with Pooh and Ollie the Otter.

So you see, I have surrounded myself with familiar sentimental objects that remind me who I am, where I have come from and with whom I have journeyed this half a century of life. They remind me to pray and give thanks. We read in the Bible about remembrance monuments. Do you have any sentimental objects? Please share. I will grab a cup of tea and enjoy your examples.