This Too? This Too.

My wife has been having some health struggles lately. Serious struggles.

This is on top of a life that’s above average on the crazy difficult scale of late.  Work has been harder than it’s ever been, and I’m not wearing the stress very well (at least until my recent vacation).  And even when I was in school, I was able to make it through because Theresa kept things running at home when I wasn’t able to find the attention span.

And when life is at a pace where I’m tempted to give up and say “I can’t take it anymore” God has added this to the pile too.  When I’m saying “no more” God says “actually, this too.”

1Thessalonians 5:18:

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

If you look up the word “all” in your concordance the Greek word there mean (wait for it) “all.”  Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is God’s will for your life.  This one too?  Yup.  Give thanks for everything.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard or that you can handle it.  There’s another all to remember in 1Peter 5:

casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Cast all your cares on Him.  There’s not a single one you should try to carry on your own.

If you’re anything like me you forget that.  Pretty much every day.  I try to handle it on my own.  And God’s the One who handles it.  And you’re thinking, again if you’re like me, do I cast this anxiety or care onto Jesus too?  And what does He answer?  Yes…this too.

His burden is light, and yours is hard.  And He wants to trade.

And this is why you can give thanks in all things:  because every hard thing He sends your way is a reminder that He’s got this and that He wants to take it off your back.  So let Him.  Walk in His grace, giving thanks for the hardest of the hard, and He’s got this.  This too.

 

Celebrations and Rest

So there’s  been a gap in posting, but I’m not going to make a deal out of it again.  I had hoped to have several posts lined up and scheduled before I went on vacation but just didn’t get that done.  I thought I might have some writing time on vacation, but that didn’t happen either.  But it was a nice, restful time where I completely unplugged from work and most of life, and spent some great time away with my wife.

Speaking of the wife, Thursday we celebrated 21 years of marriage.  For TC, this is the first anniversary where she’s been married longer than she was single.  I’ve got a few more years on that one, but it’s kind of cool that she’s put up with me that long.  We had a nice quiet evening with the children at home and I cooked a nice meal and we watched the Cubs whoop it up on the Reds.  I love to cook, and we’d eaten out a lot on our #miamivacay16 trip, and so it was fun to make a nice meal of steaks and fresh vegetables from our co-op order, including some roasted beets (a favorite of my bride) and enjoy the baseball game.

Did I say Miami?  Yes I did.  We spent a long weekend there courtesy of Hilton HHonors points, frequent flyer miles and some savings.  It was amazing…and I can’t wait to go back.  I’d like to have some more Spanish under my belt before then though.  I completely unplugged..no work email or thinking about work for 5 days.  After the push to finish a couple of big projects before I left it was so nice to be out of touch for a while, and I was able to go back to work on Friday refreshed.

Work is a good thing.  I love my job.  One of the ways I keep that love burning, though, is getting away just often enough to get some rest, breathe, and rejuvenated enough to throw myself back in.  I could go on and on about what we did while on vacay, but I’d rather go on about my marriage.

As of last Thursday it’s been 21 years.  Some of them haven’t been fantastic, but since about year 7 every one has gotten better than the previous one.  When I travel, no matter where I go, I want her along.  She’s my soulmate and my favorite companion.  Every experience is better with her along.  She sees things so much clearer than I do most of the time.  Her perspective always makes mine better.  And she likes me, which is in itself a feat.

I’ll be returning to the things God hates posts again this Thursday, and we’ll get into some less rambling posts as well.  But take some time to rest and celebrate when it’s appropriate.  You’ll be glad you did.

A Chord or a Nerve

I finished a post last week that I started months ago on anger, sanctification, grace, and consequences:

Sanctification, by God’s grace, has led to improvements.  Huge improvements by comparison, but God’s still not done rooting out this particular sin.

Source: Consequences (Change takes time) | #Optimism and Irony

..and this post for whatever reason has already almost twice as many views as any other post in the history of my blog.  I set a new PR for visitors in a day (nothing by a lot of bloggers’ standards and the post keeps getting more hits than anything new.

It was also a deeply personal post (which there have been more than a few of on this blog) but it apparently hit people in a way that they shared and clicked through in droves that I’ve not seen before.

I’m honored (assuming that’s what went on here) that God has used His rooting out of my sin to help others and humbled by it.  I’m also continuing to re-think what I’m best suited to speaking and writing about, and this is new food for thought.  I don’t get caught up much in my “stats” but I do want my writing to be read by others, and when it is I always wonder why.

To my regular readers who are reading even the “less popular” posts:  thank you for sticking with me as I write.  Feel free to give feedback here and on FB or Twitter, constructive and positive, that will help me grow as a writer.  To those who are only reading here and there:  thank you for giving me something to think about.

I don’t know if I struck a nerve or a chord, but I’m glad to see my writing doing something.  Even if it’s just gathering virtual dust most of the time.

Bearing Burdens 

A couple of months ago in our staff meeting we sang one of my favorite hymns, How Great Thou Art.  The verse that always has meant the most to me is this:

And when I think,  that God His Son not sparing

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in:

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin

Then sings my soul…my Saviour God to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

The line that hit me in a way it never had before this time was this:  “That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing…..”  At Samaritan we use Galatians 6:2 in almost all of our materials:  “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  When we take on one another’s problems, help one another with sins (Gal. 6:1), and bear the hard loads with one another we’re displaying what Jesus did on the cross.  One of the ways I’ve explained this to folks new to the idea (borrowed from Seth) is that we move pianos.

You’ve moved a piano (or some other heavy piece of furniture) with a friend, right?  Everybody gathers around and finds a place to grab on and then lift, shuffle a few steps, and set it down.  Then repeat that until you’ve gotten the piano out of the house, onto the moving truck, and then back into the new home.  Bearing burdens for one another means taking on things too big for one person to handle and doing them together.  And Jesus displayed this (among other things) in His bearing your burdens and mine on the Cross.

You and I owed a debt we couldn’t pay, and so He took it on Himself.  He bore that debt, paid that penalty for you and for me.  He didn’t have to.  He did it out of love.  And when you help a brother in need or do good to another man or woman (v. 10) you display the Gospel.  You display what Jesus did when he bore your burden.

Live like that.  Don’t grow weary in doing good and show forth what He’s done by treating others with the same love and grace has He’s shown you.  Bear one another’s burdens and so proclaim the Gospel with your life and works.

Proud Eyes Can’t See 

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue, and
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that devises wicked plans,
  5. feet that make haste to run to evil,
  6. a false witness who breathes out lies, and
  7. one who sows discord among brothers.
Source: Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV - Bible Gateway

(previous post here)

I mentioned last week that I’d be writing a series of 8 posts, including the introduction, on this passage from Proverbs chapter 6.  The first on this list is “haughty eyes.”  Webster’s defines haughty as:

having or showing the insulting attitude of people who think that they are better, smarter, or more important than other people

or 

blatantly and disdainfully proud

Pride is a hard thing to root out in your life.  This haughtiness, or pride on steroids, is all about a false self-image.  Those of us who have been won over by the grace of Jesus should know one thing as central to that Gospel:  there’s nothing good in you or me.  Nothing worth boasting about.  What did we bring to the table for our salvation?  Sin.  And that’s it.  A self-image based on truth is humble, not proud.  There’s nothing in yourself or myself that is worthy of esteem except what Jesus brings to the table. Continue reading

Spring and Life

Spring is here. This past Sunday I sat out on my back patio and, despite the wind, enjoyed the sun and the view and did some reading and writing. It was wonderful.  Sure it was breezy enough that some of my tools were moving around on the back table, but it’s nice to have one of these Spring days where sitting outside is comfortable and enjoyable.The trees (as you can see in the picture below) are still pretty bare.  Soon, though, there will be buds and then leaves and the ravine behind the house will explode with color…mostly green of course. After dying in the fall and lying dormant all winter the first will be full of life.**

The seasons we have cycle through, year after year, reminding us of life and death. And Spring is that bursting forth of life from the dead, much like the resurrection we look forward to someday.  Continue reading

Consequences (Change takes time)

What follows is a deeply personal post with some hopeful application for some of the readers.  I’m being transparent here in admitting struggles and sins.  But my main desire is to show forth the graciousness of a Savior who helped me, and my family, survive and grow out of a difficult time where my sinful patterns set the tone for my household.

So I lost my temper the other day. It was months ago now but the memory hasn’t faded much.  Considering historical norms it was an outburst of smaller magnitude and a shorter time to repentance than most of my past. And it had been weeks or perhaps months since the last time I yelled at one of the kids. But it didn’t really matter.

I have had a temper for a long time.  Sanctification, by God’s grace, has led to improvements.  Huge improvements by comparison, but God’s still not done rooting out this particular sin.  Doug Wilson (who I don’t unequivocally endorse) had a really great post about angry men a while back:

Some of what I am going to say will seem hard or harsh to you because for years you have used anger to keep any real criticism far away from you. So while I know it will seem hard, please know that every word here is written with your best interests in mind.

Source: An Open Letter to an Angry Husband | Blog & Mablog

This is something I wish I’d had someone around who could give me the practical help I needed earlier in my marriage.  Some of my children have grown up with similar anger difficulties and struggles, bearing testimony to the Proverb:

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Source: Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV

God has finally been working on my temper long enough that I can see the progress.  I know that I got in the way (“don’t quench the Spirit“) quite a bit and my pride kept me from both repenting in some instances and from seeking help in other instances.  But as I said above, it doesn’t happen near as much anymore.

The older children, though, can still see when it’s close to happening.  When I’m about to “lose it.”  And sometimes, even if, by God’s grace, I am able to moderate my response I can see the look in their eyes of the reaction almost identical to when I actually did lose it.

That bothered me for a while, because it made it feel like they didn’t see progress or that it wasn’t worth changing if no one would notice.  And then I figured out that it was something to be expected.  I had a volatile, unpredictable response queued up most often when they were younger, and I lost my temper often enough that I should expect them to expect me to lose it this time.

I figured this out one day when we needed something at the dinner table and I asked if someone could grab it.  Realizing that I was just being lazy and that I could get it myself, I jumped up when no one else responded immediately.  But the reaction on some of the kids’ faces was one like I was mad, instead of joyfully doing what needed to be done.  And it hit me that too many times I’d jumped up in anger to do something, selfishly thinking that someone else should have done it first, and made self-serving comments in the process.  And it was wrong for me to expect that the kids would realize that this time I was doing it because I knew I was lazy and self-serving and I needed to get up and do it myself instead of asking them.

We had a good conversation about it that night, and I was able to let my kids know, again, that I know it was hard for them to have me as a father.  And to point them to the Father who never loses His temper, never acts sinfully, and always loves and is gracious to us in all things.  We spoke as siblings in God’s house, not as a dad to his kids.  And someday they’ll, instead of reacting with fear about what might be about to happen, be along side me, encouraging me, and rejoicing in that change that has seemed forever to take root.

Whether it’s anger or some other sinful habit pattern that you’re caught in, God has grace for you.  Grace of forgiveness, and the grace of sanctification.  Forgiveness and peace in knowing that Jesus, if you’ve trusted in His life and death and resurrection, has paid the penalty for that sin.  Grace of sanctification knowing that God is working in your heart and your life to make you more like Jesus.  He can change you, and what often starts that process is your realizing that you’re powerless to change yourself.  It’s all grace.

May God continue to purge both your and my sin from our lives, and may He use even our sin for His glory as He works out His plan in His providence.