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everyday life inside the fishbowl

Thursday Thoughts: The Most Important Parenting Truth I’m Learning

crossI haven’t written in over a year. Life has happened, and I’ve tried to make real life a priority over the blog, fun as it may be. The kiddos are now almost-7, 5, almost-3, and 6.5 months.  Real life has been really busy around here lately.  .  .

Mothering has become even more full-time than ever, and I’ve been learning a whole lot. I am a mom-in-progress as I find out the hard way the better way of mothering.

This isn’t a post about whether or not to schedule you baby’s sleep, whether or not to use a pacifier, whether or not to vaccinate, whether or not to give your child sugar. I have learned a lot about sleep, food, vaccines, etc. But these are not the most important parenting truth I’m still in the process of learning.

This truth is the truth about how I view myself and how I view my children.

My older three children are at intense stages of discipline right now. They are learning to be disciplined in their schoolwork, piano, chores, and play with each other. And behavior. Behavior discipline is especially {ahem} challenging–to say the least–with the two-year old at the moment.

But I consistently persevere with the two-year old, because I look at my six-year old, and I realize there is HOPE. God can use my measly, growing, evolving mothering to do a work of grace in my children’s hearts.

I especially hope in regard to the two-year old when I observe my five-year old. This child has more spunk, will, and emotional versatility and volatility than almost anyone I know. Discipling her and disciplining her behavior has been a difficult path for us. Yet I have recently seen a softening in her in response to our discipline, and I have tried to put a finger on its cause.

I think this truth may play a big part in it. I have learned that it is essential to view myself on the same plain as my children–at least where I hope they place themselves.

I need to keep myself–with them— at the foot of the cross.

I need to remind myself that I am in need of just as much grace as my children are. I need to remind myself that I am just a little ahead of them on the race–the same race–that we must both run.

And not only do I need to remind myself of this truth, but I need to frequently tell my children this truth. I believe that this has made a huge difference in my disciplining of them and their response.

  • I apologize daily to them for sinning in my interaction with them. I ask them to forgive me.
  • I tell them that they are sinners–just like mommy–when they are being disciplined. I tell them that they need Jesus, just like mommy does.
  • When they obey, I point them to Jesus. We praise God that He is teaching them to obey. When I am more patient with them, I tell them how thankful I am that God is teaching me to be more patient.
  • I pray with them for myself. I tell them how I struggle and how I ask God to help me.
  • I ask them how they think I’m doing with the struggles that I have (primarily patience!).

Here’s one example from just the other day. The five-year old was out-of-control reacting {again} to something the two-year old did {again}. I yelled at the five-year old and lectured her about being out of control. In the middle of my lecture, I just stopped. I recognized what I was doing. I took a deep breath, and I told her that mommy was out of control too. I told her that we both needed Jesus to help us have self-control, especially when other people do things that we don’t like.

This five-year old who used to have a hardened expression on her face during these conversations, who used to suddenly “have to go to the bathroom right now,” who used to tell me “I’m bored” when we would talk about behavior and Jesus. . . . This girl suddenly started gently scratching my back, and hugging me, and listening. And this has been her general disposition lately.

I don’t know what exact work that God is doing in her heart right now. But I know one thing. She knows that her mommy is running the race with her (or at least calling her to run with her), at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

 

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: Provoking Your Children

By Mindaugas Danys from Vilnius, Lithuania, Lithuania (scream and shout) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mindaugas Danys from Vilnius, Lithuania, Lithuania (scream and shout)

I’ve been writing a Bible study on the book of Colossians, and it has been such a benefit to my soul! Christ is the theme of the book. A major sub-theme is the believer’s position in Christ and his responsibility to live in accordance with his position.

The author, Paul, spent the first part of chapter 3 discussing what relationships should look like within the body of Christ. The last part of the chapter focuses on family relationships. While the wives-submitting-to-their-husbands part struck home for me as I anticipated, the parenting aspect struck a new chord.

Paul says in verse 21,

            Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

While Paul directly addresses fathers, I believe that it is valid for mothers to take note of this command as well. I also looked up the parallel passage in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians:

 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (6:4).

Paul’s point is that there is something wrong when a parent provokes his or her child to discouragement or anger. Clearly, there are times when a parent provokes his child to unwarranted anger. When I tell my child that we will not buy any of the candy in the checkout lane of the grocery store, and that child throws a fit of anger, I am not guilty of sinfully provoking that anger. (However it might be wise to avoid shopping with an overly hungry child and/or to have a conversation before hitting the checkout lane!)

So, I began thinking about which of my words or actions can provoke my children to anger or discouragement. I came up with a list (and I’m sure there are more!).

  • Inconsistency
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Unclear or unspoken expectations
  • Teasing
  • My own anger or impatience

Next, I looked at what Paul contrasts with provoking your children to anger in Ephesians: “but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The implications of this contrast were really sobering to me.

When we provoke our children to anger or discouragement, we do not have the goal of disciplining or instructing our children in the Lord as our primary goal. If we provoke our children, then we are evidencing that our primary goal is likely selfish–anger, pride, inconvenience, impatience, etc. If our primary goal is to discipline and instruct our children in the Lord, then the manner of our discipline and instruction will be such that it will not anger or discourage our children. (Again, our children may become angry or discouraged simply because they do not like to be disciplined, but we are not at fault if we have not provoked that anger by our own sin.)

When we sinfully provoke our children to anger, we’ve also lost (or at least hindered) an opportunity to help our children focus on the Lord’s instruction. They instead become focused on our words, actions, or attitude that provoked them to discouragement or anger.

As I write this, I think of how I fail in this area multiple times a day. The discouragement would be overwhelming if I didn’t remember the context that these verses are in. Colossians 3:3 says,

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Despite my many failures, my life–with all its sin–is hidden in Christ’s perfect life.

Not only can I find encouragement in my position in Christ, I can also find encouragement in what God is actively doing in my life:

And have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (3:10).

May God help each of us parents to remember who we are in Christ, what Christ is doing in us, and the goal of our discipline and instruction of our children–to also know and be like Christ.

* * *

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

 

 

 

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Thursday Thoughts: Peace in an Unpeaceful World

PeaceOur ladies’ Bible study at church just completed a study on the book of 1 Peter. It was such a good book to study! I really enjoyed it and learned so much. I was reminded of the importance of studying Scripture in context. Just having finished the book, Peter’s closing words (5:14b) have been on my mind:

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

Reading this verse quickly on its own may make this verse sound like just a good way to end a letter, but having studied this book as a whole, it seems like there is a lot more bound up in Peter’s final words.

One of the themes that we found throughout the book is suffering. There were various kinds of suffering present. Chapter 1 states that “now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (vv 6-7).

Much of this suffering would have led to some level of unrest, lack of peace. So, what kind of suffering did Peter address that may have led to the robbery of some aspect of peace?

Religious Suffering: No Peace to Worship without Persecution

Peter wrote to Christians spread out all over Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). He wrote likely from Rome around 64 A.D., during Nero’s terrifying reign. Christians were being persecuted in Rome, as well as other parts of the world. In fact, Peter wrote this letter only a few years before (as tradition states) Peter watched his own wife’s death, followed by his own crucifixion upside down in Rome. The point is, Peter was writing to a people who were suffering for their belief in Christ.

Peter actually tells believers not to be surprised when they suffer as a Christian. Note his gentle reminder:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. . . . If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. . . . Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (4:12, 16, 19).

Peter, who was “a witness to the sufferings of Christ” (5:1),  points us often to Christ’s sufferings. In 4:1, he says “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh [i.e., he was killed], arm yourselves with the same way of thinking [italics added; i.e., prepare yourselves to also suffer, even to the point of death].” He goes on to encourage suffering believers to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (4:13). The reason suffering believers can rejoice is that they have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1: 3-5).

Internal Suffering: No Peace from Sin

While believers can certainly “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:13), the reality is that believers are still at war with sin–temptations that arise from our sinful passions, as well as temptations from Satan and the world.

Peter calls us to be “preparing your minds for action,” a phrase that literally means gird up the loins of your mind. This literal phraseology refers to soldiers of the day who would pull up their robes to prepare to fight a battle. We are to prepare our minds to battle, so that we are not “conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1:14-15).

In 4:1-6, Peter calls believers, as mentioned above, to arm themselves (note the battle terminology again) with the kind of thinking that prepares us to suffer for Christ to the point of death. Believers do this by not living for human passions, but for God’s will. Unbelievers will notice a believer’s holy living with surprise, which will eventually turn into maligning for not joining in their sinful behavior.

Peter finally calls us to be sober-minded, watchful, and resistant to Satan, who seeks to devour and cause us to lose faith (5:8-9).

Political Suffering: No Peace from the Government

Another theme in 1 Peter, often closely related to suffering, is submission. While everyone was to be subject to their God-given authority, Peter specifically discusses a few relationships requiring submission (and sometimes suffering).

Peter commanded that we all “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors” (1:13-14). Remember that Peter likely wrote during Nero’s reign–this was no simple command to submit! Peter even goes as far as to say, “Honor the emperor” (v. 17). While Nero’s (or any governmental leader’s) horrible actions deserved no honor, his position as emperor earned him a God-mandated submission and honor.

Societal Suffering: No Peace in Social Rank

Peter addresses servants/slaves in 2:18-25. He told them that they were to be respectfully subject/submissive to their masters, even` when their masters were unjust. One can imagine that some, if not many, were then “suffering unjustly” (v. 19).  Yet, Peter once again pointed these people to Jesus who also suffered unjustly at the hands of unjust authorities, yet “did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges rightly” (v. 23).

Marital Suffering: No Peace in Relationships

Peter encouraged wives to submit to their husbands (3:1-6).  Specifically, Peter wrote to wives whose husbands were unbelievers. One can imagine the strife that may have been present in the marriages of a male-dominated culture, in which a wife was a believer and the husband was a pagan. Yet still, the wives were to graciously obey in all areas not sin and submit to their husbands–whether believing or not– motivated by their hope in God (another theme in Peter).

Pastoral Suffering: No Peace in Ministry

Peter, a pastor himself, also wrote to fellow pastors to encourage them (5:1-4). Though suffering is not explicitly mentioned, the implication is that ministry can be very difficult. He encourages pastors to shepherd willingly and eagerly, mindful that the chief Shepherd will give them an unfading crown of glory.

Peace in the Midst of Suffering

So, Peter ends a book that talks about all kinds of suffering–suffering from religious persecution, suffering due to our struggles with sin, suffering from oppressive government, suffering from social status, suffering in relationships, and suffering in ministry. He ends it with a glorious reminder,

“Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

So, how do we have peace in the midst of suffering? The clue is found in Peter’s closing comment itself. Those who are in Christ have peace.

Those who are in Christ are the people who have hope. They have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1: 3-5).

Those who are in Christ are God’s people. “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2:9-10).

Those who are in Christ are exiles, just passing through this world, with an eternal home waiting for us. We are “sojourners and exiles” (2:11) who hope in the living Jesus Christ in heaven who keeps for us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and  unfading” (1:3-4).

Those who are in Christ “believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1:8-9).

This is how we can have peace in the midst of suffering. Peace in the midst of suffering can result only from a hope in the risen Lord who promises a future of perfect justice and final grace. We read of truth and grace in the “good news” (1:25), the imperishable “living and abiding word of God” (1:23).  And we “stand firm in it” (5:12). We have faith in what God has done for us through Jesus and we have hope that he will help us obtain the outcome of that faith, the salvation of our souls. And this brings unshakeable peace.

So, if I could borrow Peter’s closing, encouraging phrase, “Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: The Humbling Process of Christian Motherhood 

mum-and-son-1380973094O8eI analyze everything.  And when I say everything, I mean everything. My husband tells me all the time, whilst in the middle of analyzing away something, “Stop analyzing.” Part of why I like to blog is that blogging helps me to write down my thoughts and stop analyzing them so much! 🙂

All that to say. . . I often analyze motherhood. What makes it so difficult? Why do I feel so overwhelmed? Why do I often feel like I am a mothering failure? Why have  I lost my temper more in the last 4 years than I had in the previous 28? Etc. etc. etc.

Clearly some of the answers lie in the reality that I am a mother of children. Children who–oddly enough–often remind me of me or my husband. Children who inherited a sin nature from us. Children who are naturally foolish and, well, childish.

It is a difficult job. It is repetitive. It is exhausting. It is repetitive. It is messy. It is repetitive. It requires flexibility. Did I mention it is repetitive? 🙂

But what I’ve found the most discouraging and most humbling about this motherhood process is me. I have amazed (and disappointed) myself with the depth of sinfulness that being a mother has brought out in me. I am selfish. I am impatient. I am angry. I am short-tempered. I am mean.

Being a mother has brought my need to the absolute forefront–my continued need for Jesus Christ and the continuing work of the gospel in my life.  Without the grace of God that saved me and continues to grow me, I would always react selfishly, impatiently, angrily, etc. Because of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in me, I know that I will improve (and am improving) in these areas–even if it is a slow, loooong process.

But what makes motherhood in particular so humbling and sanctifying? Can you be humbled and sanctified without being a mother? Of course! But (after my deep analysis!) I do think there is a particularly humbling aspect of motherhood unique to it (and a few other roles).

As a Christian mother, I am constantly teaching my children biblical principles: “Be kind, because Jesus was kind to you by dying on the cross for you. Be patient. Do not be angry. You can only be kind, patient, loving etc. if Jesus helps you. You need Jesus.”

And these things I tell them in the midst of sweetly reminding yelling at them for yelling at each other. These things I tell them while walking heavily (aka stomping) because I’m angry. These things I tell them after any number of sinful activity or thoughts on my part.

And this is why motherhood (and other roles, such as pastoring, counseling, etc.) is so humbling. We teach and correct the very things we struggle with. We need Jesus Christ as much as our children do. We need God’s sanctifying grace as much as they need His saving grace.

This is humbling. But (more analyzing. . . )it is also a good thing. My kids know very well that Mommy needs Jesus just as much as they do (although they can’t articulate that yet). They know that Mommy is a sinner who struggles with the same sins that they do. They hear me say (as I said a few hours ago to one of my children), “You were wrong to disobey and make that mess and scream, and Mommy was right in disciplining you, but. . . Mommy should not have been so angry. That was sin. Will you forgive me? See?–Mommy needs Jesus too.”

This humbling realization also helps inform my discipline. No longer am I the perfect mommy with expectations of perfect children. Rather, I am a growing disciple of Jesus  Christ who is striving to point my little children to Jesus, so they too can be growing disciples. In a way, we are journeying together. Clearly, this does not negate my disciplining role as a parent in any way; it just helps me react with grace and Christlikeness (when I remember this!). It helps me realize that discipline should not be a reaction to my inconvenience or annoyance, but a means of pointing out sin and pointing to Christ.

I am thankful for my children, despite the challenges they bring me. Being their mother reminds me how much I still need a Savior. And that helps me point them to my Savior. May they see Jesus in me. May they too become growing disciples of Jesus Christ.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: A Letter to Haddon {Encouragement for Those Who Have Lost a Baby}

May, 2011 010At the beginning of March, 2011 my husband, Dave and I found out that I was pregnant with our second baby. While we were not surprised, we were very excited that the Lord had answered our prayers with another child. The timing was perfect. We announced it to our parents at the same time. We then let all of our immediate family know. We planned on having a “gender reveal party” probably at the beginning of June. The baby was due November 19, 2011. This would allow me to be off work for Dave’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, and New Year’s. Not the biggest deal in the world, but family time is important to us, so we were excited about that.

My OB appointment was scheduled for Tuesday, April 26 at 12:30. Dave was able to get off work to join me, so we could see the baby for the first time together. Right before we left, I went to the bathroom. I noticed a little bit of blood when I wiped. I was alarmed immediately. Before I was pregnant with Calvin, I had a possible miscarriage at five weeks, with the most noticeable symptom being bleeding. Thankfully there was only a little bit of light pink blood, though, and I knew some people bleed a bit during pregnancy. I was also thankful that I would be able to see the doctor within an hour anyway.

I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach as we drove. I wanted to find out right away whether everything was ok! As we neared the office building, however, I noticed fire trucks. Then, as I walked into the building the power went out. My appointment was cancelled! My heart sank; I would have to live with this fear for a while longer. Dave kept assuring me that I was fine. I called my mom, and she comforted me with the reminder that my sister and my aunt bled during pregnancy, and they were just fine. I knew that the Lord was in control, but I still feared for the life of my baby. My appointment was re-scheduled for the following Wednesday.

As the week went on, though, the bleeding continued to gradually increase. Dave still kept telling me everything was probably fine, but I was scared. I even told Calvin that I didn’t think he was going to have a baby brother or sister in November. When we went to bed, I started crying, but Dave told me not to cry until we had found out something. I laid in bed for a couple hours unable to sleep. The cramping in my legs was increasing. I was starting to feel cramping in the groin area. The bleeding became very heavy.

I can honestly say, though, as I laid there in bed, I was able to praise the Lord. I asked for the life of my baby, yet I knew that God always does what is best. I praised the Lord for this trial He had given me and for His sovereign control. I had been reading Isaiah in my devotions, and I truly believe the Lord providentially prepared me for this trial, as I had been seeing in His Word once again God’s sovereignty in all of life.

Around 2:45, due to concern about hemorrhaging, I finally called my doctor who said we should go to the ER. My parents both came over, and Dave took me to the hospital at 3:30. It was hard to keep telling everyone why I was there. In my heart, I knew I had a miscarriage. They kept saying, so you’re how far along? I kept saying, I am/was 11 weeks pregnant. I had blood work, IV, pelvic exam, abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds. . . all for them to tell me at 7:30 what I already knew. I had a miscarriage. I had peeked at the US when the tech stepped out of the room, and I couldn’t see a baby.

After the doctors left, Dave came over to the stretcher where I was lying. The truth had finally hit him, and he started to cry. He asked me whether I thought the baby was a boy or a girl. I shrugged, but he said that I thought it was a boy, didn’t I? I nodded. Dave said that we would then name him Haddon Steven, the name we had chosen for a boy. Haddon is named after Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, and Steven is after my dad, one of the kindest men I know.

As we left the hospital around 8, we cried as we walked to the car. We cried as we called all of our family. We cried with Mom and Calvin when we came home. My mom took me to the doctor after that; then I came home and tried to sleep when Calvin napped. Dave came home early, so I could sleep some more. That evening, I went to my sister’s baby shower for her expectant twins. It was good to think about something else, but it was hard at the same time. I still was cramping and grieving.

I was supposed to work on Tuesday, but they kindly took me off the schedule. I did a lot of reading in between taking care of Calvin. We hadn’t studied infant salvation in detail, and we were both somewhat undecided on it. But this reality concerning OUR baby made us think about it immediately. I read John MacArthur’s sermons on infant salvation, which helped me tremendously. I was able to build a biblical basis for believing that our little Haddon was in heaven.

I will spare the details, but on Thursday morning, I finally released what I believe was the body of my baby. This was the source of the continued cramping, bleeding, and smell. This was my dead child that had been sitting in me for days. There was no way that I could flush my baby down the toilet or put him in the garbage. I set him on some tissues on the counter in the bathroom. I called Dave at seminary. As soon as I started talking to him, I started crying. Dave said he would come home immediately.

I found a nice box to put him in. I put a bow around the box and wrote his name nicely on the box. Dave could also tell that this definitely was the baby. As I closed the box the last time and tied the bow, I started sobbing really hard. I felt like I could finally grieve, as we really, truly knew that the baby was gone. I felt empty inside, because there was no longer a little life in there.

May, 2011 003

We called my parents to ask them if we could bury him in their yard. They kindly agreed. We brought dinner over and decided to spend the evening with them. Dad dug a hole in their garden. Dave read a beautiful note that he had written to our little Haddon, and he prayed. I had bought him some white carnations. We put little Haddon’s earthly body, a couple flowers, and Dave’s note in the grave. Then I put the rest of the flowers on top of the grave.

Tears were shed, but there was also a helpful closure that burying Haddon’s little body allowed for us. We loved our little boy, but, as we told him at the funeral, God loves him even more.

We still grieve—especially on that following Mother’s Day, as we were going to announce my pregnancy. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Haddon’s namesake said,

“Dry thine eyes, and bless God that thou hast another link with heaven, and that thou hast helped to fill the choirs that, day without night, circle the throne of God with hallelujahs.”

“It is a wondrous joy to be the father of those who, day and night, wait upon God in heaven, and see his face, and serve him evermore; so be not sad or downcast if that is your case.”

As I thought about the comfort that God brought to our hearts as we studied and came to the conclusion that our child is in heaven, I wanted to share this with others. Perhaps you have had a miscarriage or the loss of a young child. Perhaps your loss has even been your own doing, through an abortion (whether intended or not). Perhaps you have a child, who–like my sweet 3 year old nephew, Evan–has severe mental disability and is unable to even willfully sin or understand the gospel. If so (or if you know someone who has undergone such a trial), then I hope this letter to our little Haddon (perhaps Haddie–we’ll find out in heaven! 🙂 ) will encourage you.

*********

May 5, 2011

Dear Haddon Steven Huffstutler,

God gave you to us for 11 weeks. Then He took you home. As we bury what will be transformed into a beautiful body in the future, we wanted to say a few things to you on earth before we see you in heaven.

  1. God knew you inside your mother, and He knew how long you would live. Psalm 139:13-16 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
  2. God was kind enough to let you have rest instead of the pain and suffering that life sometimes brings. Job 3:1, 16–17 1 Afterward Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said, 3 “Let the day perish on which I was to be born, And the night which said, ‘A boy is conceived.’ 16 “Or like a miscarriage which is discarded, I would not be, As infants that never saw light. 17 “There the wicked cease from raging, And there the weary are at rest. Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, however many they be, but his soul is not satisfied with good things and he does not even have a proper burial, then I say, “Better the miscarriage than he, 4 for it comes in futility and goes into obscurity; and its name is covered in obscurity. 5 “It never sees the sun and it never knows anything; it is better off than he.
  3. God took you to Himself in your innocence. You never knew how to choose between good and evil. Deuteronomy 1:39 ‘Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them and they shall possess it.
  4. Because you never willingly sinned, though originally sinful like us all, you cannot be judged according to your deeds. If you had a page waiting to be filled in the heavenly books, no deeds were written. And, because you died in your innocence, no accusation from the accuser can ever come your way. Revelation 20:12-13 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.
  5. Your earthly father’s namesake said he knew he would be in heaven forever. Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  6. He, too, had a child that died in innocence. He knew he would go to him one day, in the house of the Lord, forever. 2 Samuel 12:22–23 22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23 “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
  7. You now reside in a heavenly kingdom. It belongs to children like you. Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
  8. Perhaps you met the angel who represented you before the Father. Matthew 18:10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.
  9. This elect angel, like all of the other elect angels, ministers on behalf of those who inherit salvation. This inheritance is far greater than anything we could have ever given you. It is an inheritance that we will enjoy together forever. Hebrews 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
  10. We bury this small body of yours today, knowing it will be something beautiful in the future. Philippians 3:20-21 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

Haddon Steven Huffstutler, we look forward to meeting you. We praise God we were your parents for eleven short weeks. Because He took you home on May 1, 2011, we will spend forever with you in heaven.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

We love you so much. God loves you more. You know that now, and this gives us comfort. We’ll see you soon, and this gives us comfort as well.

Love,

Dad & Mom

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: How Pro-life Really Are You?

pregnancy

Some of the arguments for abortion that I’ve heard or read multiple times from those who are “pro-choice” (the mother’s right over her body includes terminating the life of a fetus within her) are that having a baby could be (1) very inconvenient (e.g., a teen having a baby) or (2) emotionally painful (e.g., a raped woman becoming pregnant). And we pro-lifers vehemently respond that, no matter what the inconvenience or pain, the unborn child is a person, and to abort this person before birth is wrong, because  “a person’s a person no matter how small,” whether just conceived or 90 years old.

I have become increasingly concerned for many Christians who are not as pro-life in practice as they make themselves out to be with their words. Whether knowledgeable or not, they actually terminate newly-conceived life for the sake of avoiding inconvenience. My goal in what follows is to help them avoid this unwitting abortion. Let me explain. . .

When my husband and I were engaged, we had many discussions about children and birth control. We knew we wanted children, but my husband was in seminary full-time and working only part-time at our church. We strongly believe that children are a blessing from the Lord, yet we also wanted Dave to complete his seminary training quickly, so he could minister in a full-time capacity. We decided that I would continue working full-time as a RN. We also both assumed that I would take the pill, just not the “abortive one.”

I decided to do some research on the topic first (I am a registered nurse and greatly appreciate medicine, yet I also like to have at least a general knowledge of medication I take). In my research I came upon this pdf version of a booklet that Randy Alcorn wrote. (You can read a shortened version here.) I quickly found out some disconcerting facts. Alcorn summarizes his own research on the pill (all quotes taken from his shortened version):

In summary, according to multiple references throughout The Physician’s Desk Reference, which articulate the research findings of all the birth control pill manufacturers, there are not one but three mechanisms of birth control pills:

  1. inhibiting ovulation (the primary mechanism),
  2. thickening the cervical mucus, thereby making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg, and
  3. thinning and shriveling the lining of the uterus to the point that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.

The first two mechanisms are contraceptive. The third is abortive.

Alcorn continues to describe the endometrial changes in detail. He cites arguments for and against his belief that the pill can be abortive. His full booklet describes phone calls with pharmaceutical companies and all of his research. I would encourage you to read it for yourself.

After much study, prayer, and discussion, Dave and I chose not to use the pill. But we felt that this was a decision we would keep to ourselves unless people asked. We considered this to be a “keep between yourself and God” issue (Rom 14: 22). It is a touchy subject, because how many devout believers and pro-lifers have used the pill and perhaps been the cause of unknown abortions? We didn’t want to cause guilt. As a pastor’s wife, I have to especially be very careful about how I counsel. I have had people ask, and I have had some continue to use the pill and some who have chosen not to.

Interestingly, Alcorn also states (emphasis added),

Dr. Walt Larimore [a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine] has told me that whenever he has presented this evidence to audiences of secular physicians, there has been little or no resistance to it. But when he has presented it to Christian physicians there has been substantial resistance. Since secular physicians do not care whether the Pill prevents implantation, they tend to be objective in interpreting the evidence. After all, they have little or nothing at stake either way. Christian physicians, however, very much do not want to believe the Pill causes early abortions. Therefore, I believe, they tend to resist the evidence. This is certainly understandable. Nonetheless, we should not permit what we want to believe to distract us from what the evidence indicates we should believe.

Imagine someone who had once used the pill, but now realizes that it can be abortive and wishes someone had told her before. Wouldn’t she have wanted to know ahead of time? Assuming there may be many women who wish they would have known because life is at stake, I have now decided to pass this information along. If life is involved, it’s more than just a “just me and God” situation. At the least, I can share this knowledge and leave it for readers to decide for themselves.

It is, to a degree, an inconvenient truth to know that a pill may kill. Sure, it would have been easier to pop a pill and not worry about pregnancy (although, for what it’s worth, all three of our kiddos have been born just about when we planned, our first 2-1/2 months after we both completed our masters degrees!). If we who are pro-life are as truly pro-life as we say, I think we will at the very least research this topic very carefully. If there is even the slightest chance that a child could be killed because we simply want convenience, then the pill should not even be an option. I would hope that believers would at least give as much attention and research to something concerning life and death as they do topics such as organic vs. non-organic, dyes in foods, vaccines, etc.

Alcorn concludes his brief article:

How many young lives have to be jeopardized for prolife believers to question the ethics of using the Pill? This is an issue with profound moral implications for those believing we are called to protect the lives of children.

May God give us courage to research this important issue, make the right choices, and have wisdom and grace as we discuss this difficult topic.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: Child-Training: Good Citizens or Godly Christians?

mom-son-and-flowersTraining my children has been one of the most challenging tasks I have every attempted. And I am only in the very beginning (albeit extremely exhausting) stage, with a 4-year old, 2-year old, and 5-month old. The aspect of training that challenges me most is training my children’s hearts. As I have read the Bible and good books (one of the most transforming books for me in this regard has been Give Them Grace) and as I have analyzed what I am doing (usually in the shower–my few moments of quiet! 🙂 ) I have realized a very important truth.

Aside from the work of the Gospel in my children’s lives, all of my best parenting efforts, discipline, and training will result in–at best–merely good citizens and nice people.

I have heard people say things like, “If a mule can learn to obey, so can children.” Okay. I suppose that is true. And I do discipline and train my children so that they will follow rules. Life is much simpler when my children aren’t total terrors when we are at the restaurant. Life is much simpler when my children play with each other and their friends without biting each other. I feel fantastic about my parenting skills when someone tells me what good kids I have (because they happened to catch us all on a good day). And if my children continue to follow these rules and learn such good behavior, they–like a mule–will have learned to obey.

These children will likely be nice people who hold the door for the elderly lady with the walker. These children will likely stay out of jail and obey most of the laws.

And that is great! As a tired mom of  kids who still fight and scream and run around like crazy, little, cute monsters, I look forward to the day when all that comes true! 😉

But merely good citizens and merely nice people are not my ultimate desire for my children. Merely good citizens and nice people are people who have learned a couple things:

  1. Conformity to the rules (what people often call obedience) generally makes life easier or smoother.
  2. Punishment for breaking the rules is a negative experience.

Now don’t get me wrong. We have our rules, and we discipline accordingly for broken rules. Do not hit, do not spit, do not throw a fit, do not run away when I say come here. . . All of these rules are necessary to train my children to (by God’s grace) be nice people (not monsters) and good citizens (not criminals). And I can certainly basically force them to go through the actions and conform to my rules. I can instill in them the principle that “the punishment fits the crime” and that the way to avoid punishment is obeying the rules.

But I have a higher parenting goal for my children, a goal that is attainable only through the work of the Gospel. Despite all my best efforts, this is something that I cannot force upon my children. Although I want to, I cannot take their little hearts and turn on the switch that makes them obey God because they love God.

Real obedience is obedience that stems from a love for God because he first loved us.

This is why parenting is so challenging for me. I cannot do for my children the very thing that my parenting wants to accomplish. While this truth has changed my mental and spiritual thinking in regard to parenting my children, I have found the practical application of this truth to be a bit more difficult.

How do I train my children to love God? How do I enforce our rules and discipline appropriately when their young hearts haven’t been captured by the Gospel yet? How do I train them to be good little citizens now without inadvertently encouraging hypocrisy?

As I mentioned, I am still in the trenches, still in the learning stage of all this, but there are some things I am learning. Clearly, only God can do a regenerating work in my child’s heart, but there are things that I can do to help prepare their hearts.

I talk about the Gospel all the time. We have our Bible story time. When I pray with my kids in the morning I speak of the Gospel. When I discipline them I tell them that the discipline is because they sinned. I tell them that they can never obey without Jesus’ help. My four-year old will ask questions, and sometimes we have quite the extended conversation. My two-year old is quick to tell me, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins, because he loves me.”  I pray with them that God would help them to obey him because they love him.

I also regularly (really, all the time) ask them to forgive me for sinning against them. I tell them that I need Jesus too. They see a very, very good picture in me of a sinner who needs a Savior.

So, I am still working out the practicalities of attempting to raise children who will be a godly Christian and not merely a good citizen. But I would say the two keys I have  found at this stage are modeling (I am a sinner in need of a Savior) and talking, talking, talking about the Gospel every day, all day.

I pray that God does a work of grace in my children’s hearts. I pray that he helps me to patiently, persistently, consistently train my children so that they will obey God from a heart that loves God, because he first loved them.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: What Finally Made Me Give up “The Law”

open bible{Well, after a 6-month break, 1 kidney stone, 1 giant extended-family vacation, 1 new (adorable) baby (Ashlyn Margaret), 2 trips back home to Michigan, and (almost) 2 major holidays. . . I have finally returned to blogging! 🙂 Posts will still likely be infrequent, as I’ve found that three children kind of push you over the edge toward insanity, but I will try! (No promises!! 🙂 ) }

The most motivating factor for my getting back into blogging was this post that I’ve been thinking about (thus the heading, “Thursday Thoughts”). Quite a while ago, I wrote my most-read post, “Over-emphasizing the Gospel.” A lot of well-meaning authors have written about how we need to emphasize grace (as opposed to focusing on obeying and being burdened by the “rules” or the “law”). In my post cited above, I simply stated that we need to be careful not to over-emphasize grace to the exclusion of the other aspects of the Gospel (e.g., obedience). Many of these pro-grace, anti-law (which I am, if defined properly) authors tell us to “remember the Gospel,” and that will motivate us to obey (rather than obeying simply because we are supposed to if we are a Christian and want God to be happy with us).

Remember the Gospel. This is good advice. But it’s kind of a buzz word–or buzz sentence, to be exact. It can be kind of vague. And there are books (and blog posts galore!) written about this subject, making it feel (to me) like this was just one more rule to follow. One more way I need to try to force my brain to think rightly and my heart to feel rightly.

Lately, however, I think I’ve come across a way to make this whole process simpler (though not necessarily easier).

Study the Bible.

This may seem basic, but let me explain. During our church’s morning worship service, my husband, Dave, has been preaching expositionally through the Gospel of Mark. We are only on chapter three, but I am seeing the immense value of studying Jesus. I see what he values (e.g., God’s Word, God’s purpose for his life). I see how he prioritizes (e.g., preaching the Word is more important than meeting physical needs). I see how he is compassionate (e.g., though preaching the Word is priority, he takes the time to meet needs because he pities needy people). I see how he is patient and selfless (e.g., diseased people pressed in on him, touching him to be healed).

When I study God’s Word in context and see my Lord’s values, priorities, compassion, patience, and selflessness (many all of which qualities I struggle with), I am motivated to be like him. I am reminded of situations in which I could perhaps be more compassionate and patient, and I am motivated to be like Jesus.

Here’s another example. In our church’s ladies’ Bible study, we are studying the book of 1 Peter. We started in chapter 1, verse 1 and are going through the book verse-by-verse. Do you know what? I am learning that the theme of 1 Peter is that Jesus Christ is our living hope! I learn that all things on earth are perishable, but all things that pertain to the Gospel are imperishable. I am motivated to emphasize the imperishable in my life. I am motivated, for example, to be a submissive wife (not because I am “supposed to”), but because–in context–submission is a way that unbelievers can see the Gospel at work in my life, so that they can perhaps be saved and glorify God!

Have you seen the similarities between my two examples? I have had opportunity to study whole passages of the Bible in context. And this has been extremely motivating for me to give up “the Law.” In other words, I am not obeying 1 Peter 3:1 (“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands. . .”) because “it says so.” (If I were perfect, I could and would for that reason at all times, but I am not. Thankfully, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for me!). I am motivated to be subject to my husband, because I understand the context of 1 Peter 3. My submission is a way of giving the Gospel. My submission is part of living for those things that are imperishable.

Studying the Bible has helped me obey because I want to be like Jesus Christ. Studying the Bible has helped me obey because I understand the rules in the big picture of the Gospel.

Please do read books that emphasize grace (as long as they don’t exclude obedience). They are helpful and sometimes necessary. But, please, study your Bible book-by-book. Learn about Jesus. Read the commands in context. I think you will be motivated to obey from a heart that loves God and wants to be like him.

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: “Of Whiners and Worshipers”

ImageOur Ladies Bible Fellowship at church has started studying Scripture that has to do with gratitude, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book, Choosing Gratitude. For the next several Thursdays, I will share what we are learning. It’s been a great study so far. I encourage you to read the book! Today’s focus is chapter 5. (You can read about chapter 4 here.)

Nancy begins this chapter by reminding us that we are either grateful people or ungrateful, whiners or worshipers. She gave the moving example of the famous blind hymn-writer, Fanny Crosby. Blindness itself would cause many to complain, but can you imagine knowing that your blindness was caused by the mistake of a doctor? This doctor ordered hot compresses on her 6-week old eyes in order to cure an eye infection. Rather than curing anything, the compresses rather led to permanent blindness!

Rather than complaining, however, Nancy notes Fanny’s response:

I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice. . . . It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation (italics added, p 79).

This godly woman chose to worship God rather than to whine about her (tragic!) circumstances. We need to be diligent to recognize our complaining–even in the midst of great trials–as an act of “un-worship.” Instead, we must worship! Nancy encouraged us to listen to ourselves relating the everyday events of our lives, because “gratitude is a revealer of the heart, not just a reporter of details” (p. 80).

This chapter gave 6 differences between someone who is a whiner/ungrateful person and someone who is a worshiper/grateful person. Which characteristics most closely mark your life?

  1. A grateful person is a humble person, while ingratitude reveals a proud heart (80-82).

When I look at my own life and conversations, I realized that I will often complain about things in order to get sympathy. Why is that? It is because, in my pride, I feel like I deserve better. The sympathy I get soothes my proud heart.

  1. A grateful heart is God-centered and others-conscious, while an ungrateful person is self-centered and self-conscious (82-85).

“Ungrateful people are bent on gratifying themselves. They tend to focus on ‘my needs,’ ‘my hurts,’ ‘my feelings,’ ‘my desires,’ ‘how I have been treated, neglected, failed, or wounded” (p. 84). Not so Christ, the epitome of selflessness and humility (cf. Philippians 2)!

Nancy also noted something very interesting: “A common end result of ingratitude is the sin of moral impurity. A person who is wrapped up in herself. . . is prime bit for a tempter who thrives on accusing God of being unfair and ungenerous. An ungrateful heart is quick to notice when self is feeling unsatisfied, and is vulnerable to resorting to sinful acts and behaviors in an attempt to eliminate pain and experience personal pleasure” (p. 84).

Initially, I thought the connection between ingratitude and immorality was just interesting, but then I found a passage in Scripture that taught the connection!

Ephesians 5:3-4 “But SEXUAL IMMORALITY and all IMPURITY or COVETOUSNESS must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no FILTHINESS nor FOOLISH TALK nor CRUDE JOKING, which are out of place, but INSTEAD LET THERE BE THANKSGIVING.

Paul is not just contrasting the verbal sins of foolish talk and crude joking with thanksgiving. He is also contrasting sexual immorality, impurity, covetousness, and filthiness with thanksgiving. One commentator states: “Instead of the self-centeredness which characterizes sexual impurity, thanksgiving embodies a recognition of the Creator and his goodness” (Lincoln, WBC).

  1. A grateful heart is a full heart, while an unthankful heart is an empty one (85-87).

Paul, from a Roman dungeon and having only the basic necessities to live, said that he had “received full payment, and more. I am well supplied” (Phil 4:18).  Nancy asks the penetrating question, What would your note from prison have sounded like?” (p. 86)

  1. People with grateful hearts are easily contented, while ungrateful people are subject to bitterness and discontent (87-89).

Though “details and reasons vary,” Nancy has noted that “one of the chief reasons behind a pervasive sense of blues and blahness [in women who are “chronically unhappy, ‘down,’ or depressed”] is a failure to be thankful” (88).

“Ungrateful people tend to hold tightly to their rights. And when others fail to perform the way they want or expect them to, they feel justified in making demands and retaliating emotionally” (p. 88).

Nancy asks, “As a rule, are you easily contented with what God provides, or do you find yourself resenting difficult circumstances or people and becoming demanding or depressed when others fail to meet your expectations? (89)

  1. A grateful heart will be revealed and expressed by thankful words, while and unthankful heart will manifest itself in murmuring and complaining (89-91).

“Hear what people are saying when they talk about the everyday events of their lives, and you’ll see in an instant the difference between gratitude and ingratitude” (p. 90).

  1. Thankful people are refreshing, life-giving springs, while unthankful people pull others down with them into the stagnant pools of their selfish, demanding, unhappy ways (91-93).

We want to be people who make “Jesus and His gospel winsome to all who come within the reach of [our] grateful, ‘happy spirit’” (p. 93).

After reading through these characteristics, I sadly find myself falling more often than not into the whining category. By God’s grace and by some disciplined thinking and speaking, I want to rather be a worshiper.

So, what are you? Are you a worshiper or a whiner?

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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Thursday Thoughts: “Why Choose Gratitude?”

ImageOur Ladies Bible Fellowship at church has started studying Scripture that has to do with gratitude, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book, Choosing Gratitude. For the next several Thursdays, I will share what we are learning. It’s been a great study so far. I encourage you to read the book! Today’s focus is chapter 4. (You can read about chapter 3 here.)

In her introduction, Nancy tells of Matthew Henry, a well-known commentator of old, who was robbed when he was in London. Nancy quotes his response to the situation on page 62 of her book:

Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

What an amazing way to view a very bad situation. I think he gives us a great example as to how to be truly thankful in a situation without mindlessly mouthing words of gratitude for being robbed (i.e., “Well, I’m supposed to be thankful for everything, so I guess I’m thankful for being robbed.”)

This chapter simply gives 8 answers to the question in the chapter’s title, “Why Choose Gratitude?”:

  1. Gratitude is a matter of obedience (pp 62-63).
  • Colossians 3:16-17 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM.”
  • And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This obedient thanksgiving is evidence that Christ’s Word richly dwells in us.
  1. Gratitude draws us close (pp 63-65).
  • Psalm 69:30 ~ I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
  • {In all good conscience, I must make one clarification here. While I certainly believe that gratitude as a matter of obedience draws us close to God, I do believe that the verses Nancy uses do not directly support her claim that gratitude draws us close to God. Again, I believe that it does, but I would personally not use this verse or the other verses she lists in this section to support that statement.}
  • “See if expressing gratitude to the Lord doesn’t ‘magnify’ Him in your own eyes, increasing your depth perception of this One. . . . See if the practice of intentional gratitude doesn’t transport you even nearer to Him” (NLD, 64-65).
  1. Gratitude is a sure path to peace (pp 65-67).
  • Again, one more clarification: It is a “sure” path, assuming one is also striving to walk in other aspects of God’s will.
  • Philippians 4:6-7 ~ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  • One of Nancy’s online discussion questions asked: “According to Philippians 4:6-7, prayer is not all we can or should do in disquieting situations. What–plus prayer–equals peace, according to this passage? (p. 66) How have you experienced this?”

Thanksgiving + Prayer = Peace. When there are specific situations that frustrate or worry me, it is good to pray about them, praying for God’s will and even praying that God might change or take away the problem (realizing that is not always God’s will). It is calming to lay my burdens at his feet, but more so to do so with a heart that is thankful for who God is and how he may be working through that difficult situation for His glory and my good.

  1. Gratitude is a gauge of the heart (pp 67-69).
  • “When you catch yourself being grateful to God for His obvious and even His more subtle (or hard to understand) forms of blessing, it’s an indication that your heart is being drawn to His, and that you believe He is good, faithful, and can be trusted” (NLD, 67)
  • Psalm 140:13 ~ Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.

Interestingly, this psalm (140) is one of many laments. “This individual lament serves the needs of people under threat from ungodly people who intend serious harm” (ESV note). Even in the midst of threat, we are to give thanks; this is an indicator of our “righteous” hearts.

  • “Giving of thanks is an indicator of our true heart condition. Those who have been made righteous by the grace of God will be thankful people” (NLD, 67).
  • In another discussion question, Nancy told of an interview with Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed at a young age:  “Joni told Nancy that she’s just disciplined herself to ‘give thanks in all things,’ so now it’s become a reflex reaction. Do you agree that expressing gratitude is a discipline? (p. 68)”

I do believe that the practice of gratitude is a discipline, but it should never be simply a rote response. We can voice “praise the Lord” automatically without meaning it. We must discipline our minds to be ever aware of God’s goodness so that we think–and speak–with gratitude consistently.

  1. Gratitude is the will of God  (pp 69-70).
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~ Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • Looking for God’s will? Well, here it is, in part: thankfulness in all circumstances!
  1. Gratitude is an evidence of being filled with the Spirit (pp 70-71).
  • Ephesians 5:18, 20 ~ And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. . . . Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Just as we would not believe an abuser or embezzler is being filled with the Spirit, “no more, then, can we believe that a person who habitually gripes, murmurs, and worries about his pressures and problems, rather than ‘giving thanks for everything,’ is filled with the Spirit! The fact is, we cannot whine and complain and be filled with the Spirit at the same time” (NLD, 71). Sobering!
  1. Gratitude reflects Jesus’ heart (pp 72-74).
  • Luke 10:21 ~ In that same hour he [Jesus] rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
  • Jesus “gave Himself to God and to the world, not under coercion, but with abandon and . . . with gratitude, grateful for the privilege of obeying His Father and of fulfilling the mission He had been sent to earth to complete” (NLD, 74).
  1. Gratitude gets us ready for heaven (pp 74-75).
  • Revelation 4:9-11 “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.’”
  • Rev 7:11-12 “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’”
  • Rev 11:16-18 “And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.’”
  • “Every time we speak and live out our thankfulness here on this very temporary base of operations, we join our voices with the grand chorus of gratitude that wells up before the throne of God, and we prepare ourselves for what we’ll be doing throughout all eternity, glorifying and thanking Him for all He is and all He has done. So think of today as a ‘dress rehearsal’” (NLD, 75).

Just one of these 8 reasons should be ample motivation to choose gratitude. I so often fail, yet God is a patient God, who continuously pours grace on me, giving me even more reason to praise him and give thanks. I so look forward to joining the throng around the throne giving thanks to my Creator and Redeemer!

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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