"We become like what we focus on!" -- Expectations Transformed!

"We become like what we focus on!" -- Expectations Transformed!

First posted 2011
LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

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The Beauty of the Incomparable Christ...the Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-2:4)

images-2
images-2

Back in 1995 we lived in Centerville, Ohio.  Centerville had a wonderful little post office in those days right behind Bill's Donuts.  In February of that year I stopped by to buy some stamps, noticing a large poster of the current stamp. As I awaited my turn in line, I reflected on the picture of the cherub I saw on the wall.

sistine madonna cherubs
sistine madonna cherubs

"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "I've seen that cherub before, but in a bigger painting."

I had taken art history in college and loved it! So I was wracking my brain to try to remember what painting it was part of. I couldn't let it rest...so it sent me to the library to those big, dusty art books.

Sure enough, here's the painting those little cherubs are part of:

sistine madonna, raphael
sistine madonna, raphael

The cherubs are hardly noticed in this painting.  The obvious focal point is the mother and child...but the mother, more than the child!

"Wow," I thought, "Isn't that just like what we do in our Christian life?  We loose our focal point -- the Lord Jesus Christ!  Rather we focus on all the peripheral Christian things, as good as many of them may be...things like the spiritual disciplines, godly behavior, our motivation, the latest Christian best-seller, the current Christian "band-wagon," the retreat or conference everyone is talking about...the Christian to-do list!

I love this "equation" that says it all:

Jesus + nothing = Everything

Right here in the first chapter of Hebrews, we see the exalted Christ...God's final revelation...the culmination, the fulfillment of all that has gone before.

He's better than prophets and preachers; better than angels and other emissaries; He's God's Son...God Himself!  The Father has spoken in His Son, the Logos, the Word (John 1)!

And as with any speaking, there's the expectation that someone will listen.   So it is and much more so when it comes to hearing God in His Son:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

Why must we hear HIM? He's the Darling of Heaven! He's the Indescribable One, beautiful beyond human words! The Incomparable Lord Jesus Christ! 

He's the One our God describes and compares in the letter to the Hebrew Christians of the first and second century.  And He's the One our God wants US to hear in the 21st century.  So, my friends...

Let us HEAR HIM!

I Stand in Awe by Mark Altrogge

You are beautiful beyond description, Too marvelous for words, Too wonderful for comprehension, Like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of your love? You are beautiful beyond description, Majesty enthroned above.

(Chorus) And I stand, I stand in awe of you. I stand, I stand in awe of you. Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of you.

You are beautiful beyond description, Yet God crushed You for my sin, In agony and deep affliction, Cut off that I might enter in. Who can grasp such tender compassion? Who can fathom this mercy so free? You are beautiful beyond description, Lamb of God, Who died for me.

(Chorus)


An Open Letter to a New Mom

Dear new Mom!

Welcome to Motherhood! You have entered a whole new mode of existence --that of being forever "MOM."  Your life will now take on exciting dimensions you’ve never before imagined.

You've probably gotten all kinds of advice -- some great, some good, some best to be forgotten!  Well, here's mine to add to the mix: “Stay a beloved child in dependent and intimate relationship with your Abba Father” (1John 3:1).

God tells us that we become like what we focus on  (1John 3:2; 2Cor 3:18).  As you focus on Him, you will more and more become like the Only Perfect Parent.

So let yourself “be parented” by Him everyday.  All else flows from that:  strength, wisdom, patience, insight, peace, rest, etc.  And you’ll need all of these and more!

Refuse to think of yourself as separate from your Father God (Col 3: 1-4) – that’s the devil’s trap.

Return in your mind and heart to that sacred, secure place in God from whom flows everything and anything that you will ever need.

Many blessings on you and your precious little one.

As I affectionately say,

We moms are ‘ruined’ for life – we can never not care again!

Welcome to that glorious Sisterhood!!!

With much love Jan & other  Old Experienced Moms of every generation

Beth with William 2015

 

 

 

The God of my Mothering: the Rock I Can Trust

house-150x150

house-150x150

The wise woman builds her house; But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

Jesus liked to teach in "parables," stories/metaphors that teach a lesson.  One of my favorites is found at the end of the famous "Sermon on the Mount."

Read it in Jesus' own words:

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man [woman] building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the ROCK. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man [woman] who built a house on the groundwithout a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:47-49

What does that mean for us moms who are "building our houses" as we raise our children...and as we launch them into adult life?

WHO is the ROCK that Jesus is talking about?

Throughout the Old Testament, God is called a ROCK:

Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock. Isaiah 26: 4

Jesus, the Son of God, names Himself as the ROCK.

When Peter made his famous profession of faith, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus replied, “You are Peter (little stone), and upon this ROCK(large rock, bed-rock) I will build my church.” Matthew 16:16-18

Paul confirms this in his letter to the Corinthians:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3: 10-15

Now the very practical question:  What does it mean as a mom to build upon the Rock that is Christ?

Of course, knowing, living, and then teaching our children the Word of God and God's way of salvation is paramount.  But in 2003, I experienced, in what was to me a very dramatic way, what it means to build upon the ROCK that is Christ.

Our daughter Beth was a junior at University of Dayton, majoring in Art History.  She was taking an archaeology class at the time.  Beth came home one day and said that the professor had invited her, based on some research work she had done in that class, to join a group of college students from the around the country. They would be going on an archaeological dig in Sicily during the summer to the exact site that she had researched.

Needless to say, it freaked me out!  To go that far away, with no one I know...probably no mature Christians, etc, etc!  But I had been learning  through some serious health crises (Jeremy's cancer, Beth's benign tumors, etc) to entrust my children totally to the Lord.  So Beth put in for a grant to fund the trip (because we told her we could give her a wedding or a trip to Sicily:), and we prayed for God's will.  I knew I couldn't stand in the way of God's will for her life.

Well guess what?  Not only did she get the grant, but UD offered her more money than what she applied for.  Now what college ever does that?  To me, it was a confirmation that the Lord was in this no matter how nervous I was about it.

In the meantime, I had been teaching through the Hebrew Names of God.  A cross-reference had captured my imagination.  Writing of the Israelites traveling through the wilderness in the book of Exodus, Paul says,

…our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the Rock was Christ! 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4

What did that mean...the Rock that followed them was Christ?  I would soon find out.

Back to Beth...she was going.  I was praying and trusting.  At our kinship days before her departure, we worshiped the Lord and sang the beautiful song Faithful One.  The lyrics grabbed me:

Faithful One, so unchanging Ageless One, You’re my Rock of Peace Lord of all, I depend on You I call out to You, again and again I call out to You, again and again

You are my Rock, in times of trouble You lift me up when I fall down All through the storm Your love is the anchor My hope is in You alone

The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: "I will be the ROCK that follows Beth from Columbus to NYC to Rome to Sicily, all around Sicily and wherever she travels, back to Rome, to NYC, to Columbus, and safely home again."

Beth Sicily

Beth Sicily

I had perfect peace!  We took her to the Columbus airport and I could freely and confidently entrust her to her ROCK! I shared the Scripture and the message from the Lord with her before she left.  And whenever I emailed Beth or talked to her, I said "Remember your Rock!"

When Beth returned, she told us of a time she ended up at the end of the bus-line and had to "follow the river" alone in the dark to make her way back to her apartment.  She was scared but sensed a Presence...because the ROCK that followed her was Christ.

Let me encourage you, dear moms.. When anxieties arise over your children’s welfare, remind yourself and them that the “Rock that follows them (and you) is the Lord Jesus Christ”. Turn every event on your day’s calendar into a fresh opportunity to depend on your Everlasting Rock.

ALL TO US Chris Tomlin

Precious cornerstone, sure foundation You are faithful to the end We are waiting, on You, Jesus We believe You're all to us

Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the Church Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives We believe You're all to us

Only Son of God sent from Heaven Hope and mercy at the cross You are everything, You're the Promise Jesus, You are all to us

You're all to us You're all to us You're all to us Yes, You are

When this passing world is over We will see You face to face And forever we will worship Jesus, You are all to us

Stripped Bare? Why me?

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked a few years ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting at the time.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and my blog.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 30 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3,4

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then the Lord said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, or even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

 

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11

The Rest of the Gospel: Day of Reckoning

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 KJV

Today is a Day of Reckoning...but not how you think!  Usually we use that term to mean to give an accounting, a calculation, a settlement of accounts.  In fact according to Wikipedia, it can mean a host of things from the Final Judgment Day to heavy metal albums and Nintendo games.

But in the Bible sense, EVERY day is a Day of Reckoning.  This word reckon in the Greek is often rendered consider.  In other words, "count on something to be true".  My reckoning doesn't MAKE it true.  It already IS true, so I count on it and live from it.  So each day is THE day to reckon to be true what God says is true...because it IS true.  I can take it to the bank and live from it :)

Last week, I described how I got free from the LIE that held me captive.  As you may remember, it was by considering myself (reckoning) to be dead to it, because I AM dead to it through my union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1

How this can play out in the life of a believer in a practical way is found in Paul's letters, especially to the Colossians and Ephesians.  There he uses the imagery of clothing to show what reckoning yourself dead to sin, self, flesh, legalism, and the lies of the enemy looks like in real life.   Paul then shows what it looks like to live alive to God.  It's all wrapped up in the key words put off and put on.

Taking off clothing and putting on other clothing are things we do everyday.  We hardly even think about it (except to chose our outfits ).  Let's compare this to the spiritual activity of living from the life of the indwelling Christ each day.

from the ragbag 2009
Let me illustrate from my own "world of fashion".  About 15-20 years ago, I bought a beautiful nightgown to keep me warm and feminine in the cold Ohio winters.  I've loved that nightgown!  I could wrap myself in it and be cozy and comfortable.   And despite the fact that it's faded and worn, I've had a hard time giving it up to the ragbag.  Every year as the weather has turned colder I've taken it out of said bag to put it on "just one more year".

Now my husband is not a rich man, but he is a good provider and has enabled me to have other beautiful options.  But they are not as comfortable to my "flesh" as that old "friend".

one of my beautiful "options"

Yet in reality, that old rag is not consistent with who I am as John's wife...a well-loved and cared for woman.  I just have a hard time putting on those new gowns.  So out "she" comes for yet another season.

It's kind of the same way with our spiritual clothing as beloved believers united to our True Lover Jesus Christ.  He has provided His own beautiful character as clothing for our human life on this earth:  love, forgiveness, kindness, truth, compassion, peace, self-control...

But what do we do?  We continually go back into the "ragbag" of our fleshly life before Christ and put on those comfortable characteristics that are inconsistent with who we are in Christ:  things such as sexual immorality & impurity, pride, greed, jealousy & competition, unforgiveness,... [For further study look at these passages:  Ephesians 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-16; Gal 5:16-26; Rom 12:1-3,9-20; Rom 13:8-14; 2Tim 2:22]

God says to put those off!  Every time we are tempted to live out of the ragbag, we can chose to

put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14

After all, the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ IS our wardrobe!  In fact, by choosing Christ in all His fulness of character, we are at the same time laying aside the ragbag characteristics of life without Christ.*

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life...is with Christ in God. He is your life.

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God...bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:3-14  MESSAGE

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*For an inspiring, though challenging sermon on this very point, read The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers.  This is not for the faint of heart, but you will be incredibly blessed!

 

 

 

We become like what we focus on!

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Vacation Blog

Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06

Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's

Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


Hebrews 1:1-2:4 -- The Beauty of the Incomparable Christ...the Son of God

Back in 1995 we lived in Centerville, Ohio.  Centerville had a wonderful little post office in those days right behind Bill's Donuts.  In February of that year I stopped by to buy some stamps, noticing a large poster of the current stamp. As I awaited my turn in line, I reflected on the picture of the cherub I saw on the wall.

"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "I've seen that cherub before, but in a bigger painting."

I had taken art history in college and loved it! So I was wracking my brain to try to remember what painting it was part of. I couldn't let it rest...so it sent me to the library to those big, dusty art books.

Sure enough, here's the painting those little cherubs are part of:

The cherubs are hardly noticed in this painting.  The obvious focal point is the mother and child...but the mother, more than the child!

"Wow," I thought, "Isn't that just like what we do in our Christian life?  We loose our focal point -- the Lord Jesus Christ!  Rather we focus on all the peripheral Christian things, as good as many of them may be...things like the spiritual disciplines, godly behavior, our motivation, the latest Christian best-seller, the current Christian "band-wagon," the retreat or conference everyone is talking about...the Christian to-do list!

Those of you who studied the book of Colossians with us had our focus sharpened to see that truly...

Jesus + nothing = Everything

And that is what we will see again in the book of Hebrews.  In fact, right here in the first chapter, we see the exalted Christ...God's final revelation...the culmination, the fulfillment of all that has gone before.

He's better than prophets and preachers; better than angels and other emissaries; He's God's Son...God Himself!  The Father has spoken in His Son, the Logos, the Word (John 1)!

And as with any speaking, there's the expectation that someone will listen.   So it is and much more so when it comes to hearing God in His Son:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him! Matthew 17:5

Why must we hear HIM? He's the Darling of Heaven! He's the Indescribable One, beautiful beyond human words! The Incomparable Lord Jesus Christ! 

He's the One our God describes and compares in the letter to the Hebrew Christians of the first and second century.  And He's the One our God wants US to hear in the 21st century.  So, my friends...

Let us HEAR HIM!

I Stand in Awe by Mark Altrogge

You are beautiful beyond description, Too marvelous for words, Too wonderful for comprehension, Like nothing ever seen or heard. Who can grasp your infinite wisdom? Who can fathom the depth of your love? You are beautiful beyond description, Majesty enthroned above.

(Chorus) And I stand, I stand in awe of you. I stand, I stand in awe of you. Holy God, to whom all praise is due, I stand in awe of you.

You are beautiful beyond description, Yet God crushed You for my sin, In agony and deep affliction, Cut off that I might enter in. Who can grasp such tender compassion? Who can fathom this mercy so free? You are beautiful beyond description, Lamb of God, Who died for me.

(Chorus)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgUvKan0i3I[/youtube]

Homework --   Read Hebrews 2: 5-18 Answer questions in Hoping for Something Better, p. 188-190 Read chapter 2, p. 21-36, Hoping…

Class notes for Hebrews 1:1-2:4 : THE BEAUTY OF THE INCOMPARABLE CHRIST

For a well-known sermon by A.B. Simpson, click on HIMSELF.  It is well-worth the few moments of reading!

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: the Grand Finale

cheru, Raphael
cheru, Raphael

Back in 1995 we lived in Centerville, Ohio.  Centerville had a wonderful little post office in those days right behind Bill's Donuts.  In February of that year I stopped by to buy some stamps, noticing a large poster of the current stamp. As I awaited my turn in line, I reflected on the picture of the cherub I saw on the wall.

"Wait a minute," I said to myself, "I've seen that cherub before, but in a bigger painting."

I had taken art history in college and loved it! So I was wracking my brain to try to remember what painting it was part of.

cherubs
cherubs

I couldn't let it rest...so it sent me to the library to those big, dusty art books.

Sure enough, here's the painting those little cherubs are part of:

sistine madonna
sistine madonna

The cherubs are hardly noticed in this painting.  The obvious focal point is the mother and child...but the mother, more than the child!

"Wow," I thought, "Isn't that just like what we do in our Christian life?  We loose our focal point -- the Lord Jesus Christ!  Rather we focus on all the peripheral Christian things, as good as many of them may be.

In the book of Colossians, we have had our focus sharpened to see that truly...

Jesus + nothing = Everything

Earlier today, my husband and I were driving along, listening to a collection of old songs by the Carpenters.  They were popular during our "courtship" in the 1970's.

One of Karen Carpenter's most romantic songs is I Won't Last a Day Without You.  As it began to play, I remembered using it in a ladies Bible study with the statement, "The only One we could really sing this to is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lover of our Souls!"

Enjoy it with me, O Bride of Christ...sing it from your heart to your True Bridegroom:

I Won't Last A Day Without You

Day after day I must face a world of strangers Where I don't belong, I'm not that strong It's nice to know that there's someone I can turn to Who will always care, you're always there

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

So many times when the city seems to be without a friendly face A lonely place It's nice to know that you'll be there if I need you And you'll always smile, it's all worthwhile

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

Touch me and I end up singing Troubles seem to up and disappear You touch me with the love you're bringing I can't really lose when you're near

If all my friends have forgotten half their promises They're not unkind, just hard to find One look at you and I know that I could learn to live Without the rest, I found the best

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

When there's no getting over that rainbow When my smallest of dreams won't come true I can take all the madness the world has to give But I won't last a day without you

Thank you, dear sisters and brothers, for journeying with me. May the Lord continue to use His Word and His Spirit to reveal Himself to us.

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: a Day of Reckoning / Put off, Put on

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11 KJV

Today is a Day of Reckoning...but not how you think!  Usually we use that term to mean to give an accounting, a calculation, a settlement of accounts.  In fact according to Wikipedia, it can mean a host of things from the Final Judgment Day to heavy metal albums and Nintendo games.

But in the Bible sense, EVERY day is a Day of Reckoning.  This word reckon in the Greek is often rendered consider.  In other words, "count on something to be true".  My reckoning doesn't MAKE it true.  It already IS true, so I count on it and live from it.  So each day is THE day to reckon to be true what God says is true...because it IS true.  I can take it to the bank and live from it :)

In my last post, I described how I got free from the LIE that held me captive.  As you may remember, it was by considering myself (reckoning) to be dead to it, because I AM dead to it through my union with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.

For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1

How this can play out in the life of a believer in a practical way is found in Paul's letters, especially to the Colossians and Ephesians.  There he uses the imagery of clothing to show what reckoning yourself dead to sin, self, flesh, legalism, and the lies of the enemy looks like in real life.   Paul then shows what it looks like to live alive to God.  It's all wrapped up in the key words put off and put on.

Taking off clothing and putting on other clothing are things we do everyday.  We hardly even think about it (except to chose our outfits ).  Let's compare this to the spiritual activity of living from the life of the indwelling Christ each day.

Let me illustrate from my own "world of fashion".  About 15-20 years ago, I bought a beautiful nightgown to keep me warm and feminine in the cold Ohio winters.  I've loved that nightgown!  I could wrap myself in it and be cozy and comfortable.   And despite the fact that it's faded and worn, I've had a hard time giving it up to the ragbag.  Every year as the weather has turned colder I've taken it out of said bag to put it on "just one more year".

Now my husband is not a rich man, but he is a good provider and has enabled me to have other beautiful options.  But they are not as comfortable to my "flesh" as that old "friend".

Yet in reality, that old rag is not consistent with who I am as John's wife...a well-loved and cared for woman.  I just have a hard time putting on those new gowns.  So out "she" comes for yet another season.

It's kind of the same way with our spiritual clothing as beloved believers united to our True Lover Jesus Christ.  He has provided His own beautiful character as clothing for our human life on this earth:  love, forgiveness, kindness, truth, compassion, peace, self-control...

But what do we do?  We continually go back into the "ragbag" of our fleshly life before Christ and put on those comfortable characteristics that are inconsistent with who we are in Christ:  things such as sexual immorality & impurity, pride, greed, jealousy & competition, unforgiveness,... [For further study look at these passages:  Ephesians 4:17-5:21; Col 3:1-16; Gal 5:16-26; Rom 12:1-3,9-20; Rom 13:8-14; 2Tim 2:22]

God says to put those off!  Every time we are tempted to live out of the ragbag, we can chose to

put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14

After all, the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ IS our wardrobe!  In fact, by choosing Christ in all His fulness of character, we are at the same time laying aside the ragbag characteristics of life without Christ.*

Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life...is with Christ in God. He is your life.

And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God...bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.

Don't lie to one another. You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:3-14  MESSAGE

[*For an inspiring, though challenging sermon on this very point, read The Expulsive Power of a New Affection by Thomas Chalmers.  This is not for the faint of heart, but you will be incredibly blessed!]

 

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Lesson from a family vacation

ibarnegat lighthouse
ibarnegat lighthouse

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford. It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000
Family reunion at LBI 2000

Renner Family Reunion 2000

Vacation Blog
Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06
Vacation Blog06

Renner Reunion 2002..."a skeletal crew"

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  It's done!  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's at LBI
Bageleddi's at LBI

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.

sunrise over ocean
sunrise over ocean

The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01
Vacation Blog01

Jeremy, Cortney, Beth, Jan and John @ Mud Hut 2002

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What are you focusing on right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

 

Mystery of Christ in Colossians: Focusing Week

Carter in car
Carter in car
Evan in car
Evan in car

I have 4 adorable grandsons!  Two of them live close enough for me to see often. About a month ago, I had 5 year old Evan and 4 year old Carter for the day.  We decided to go visit G-G.  G-G is my 89 year old mother in law who lives at Trinity Retirement Community not too far away.

When we had visited before, I couldn't help but notice how the typically serious and sad looking residents seemed to "come alive!"  So as we were driving over to Trinity, I was preparing the boys to be greeted by many older people longing to, in a sense, "get a piece of them!"

"You boys are so special!  The older people here just love when you come!"  I told them.

"Why, Babci (my Polish name for "G'ma)?

"Because you're little (and not scarey) and loving and fun and friendly.  These people are lonely and sad and afraid."

So sure enough, as Rock Stars Evan and Carter walked in, the place came alive!  Every aged face was glowing and longing for a smile, a touch, a handshake, a hello...

Evan & carter in car
Evan & carter in car

Later as we were driving away after our visit, I said,  "Didn't I tell you?  You boys are so special!"

Younger brother Carter replied, "THAT boy (pointing to older brother Evan) is NOT special!!!"

"Why do you say that?" I ask somewhat taken aback.

"Because he's mean to me!"

Catching my breath, I respond,  "Oh Evan IS still special.  He's just not acting like the special boy that he is!"

And later I thought, what a good metaphor for how we "new creatures in Christ," filled with His fulness, still don't act like the special people we are in Him!

So far in our journey through Colossians, we've basically seen the truths summarized in this big idea:

Because of the mystery of Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ lives His full, divine, resurrection life in and through me, as me.

1.  He livesunited to me in His fulness(chapters 1 & 2).

For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. Col 2:9-10 ESV

2.  He lives united to me for myfreedom (especially chapter 2).

In him also you were circumcised ...by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith... And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities...by triumphing over them in him. Col 2:11-15 ESV

And now...this week is Focusing Week (and our final week) in our continuing, restful, summer study in the book of Colossians.  And so this third point...

3.  He lives united to me as myfocus (chapters 3 & 4).

 In the last two chapters in this glorious epistle, Paul starts out...

If [Since...] then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 ESV

Look for the key exhortations in Col 3:1-4.  Write them in your journal.  After that, look for the reasons, right in the same four verses.  List them also.

Then look for the metaphor of "clothing," starting in Col 3:5 through Col 4.  Make two columns in your journal titled Lay aside/Put off and Put on. List each of the exhortations in chapters 3 and 4 in one of those two columns.

Because of our indwelling Christ, we can live a holy, God-filled life...a life consistent with the special people we are in Him.  This is not because He "helps us" live it.  Rather He lives it through us as we let Him [faith].

In the next post in this series, we'll look at a principle that I wholeheartedly believe: 

We become like what we focus on!  Colossians 3:1-4

And then in our final post of our study in Colossians, we will explore Paul's metaphor of clothing and the principle of faith [reckoning].  Colossians 3:5ff

Then the Grand Finale :)

Thank you so much for journeying with me through this marvelous treasure of Scripture called the epistle to the Colossians.  We have barely scratched the surface, so keep reading and meditating and praying!

My prayer has been that in the course of these weeks together, our equations may have changed to be closer to that of our Father God:

Our Lord Jesus Christ (His glorious Son) +Nothing (not religion, wealth, pleasure, fame,...)  = Everything...LIFE itself!!!!!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The rest of th gospel
The rest of th gospel

I highly recommend this life-changing book:

The Rest of the Gospel by Dan Stone

It speaks to the issues found in Colossians 3 & 4.

For excerpts of Dan Stone's writings, click here.

C-C-C-C-Courage...and So Much More

In this world, you will have trouble,But take courage, I have overcome the world!John 16:33

Who doesn't love the classic movie The Wizard of Oz?  And of all the characters, the Cowardly Lion is a favorite!  Why is that, I wonder?  Could it be that we see ourselves in him -- while putting on a brave front to face life, we find that, in reality, we are scared little "kitties" inside?

I especially love the lion's "courage monologue":

COWARDLY LION:  Courage! What makes a king out of a slave? Courage! What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage! What makes the elephant charge his tusk in the misty mist, or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! What makes the sphinx the seventh wonder? Courage! What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

DOROTHY, SCARECROW, TINMAN: Courage!

COWARDLY LION: You can say that again!

Can you identify? I can...

And that's how I felt with teaching and speaking in a front of people.  I was inwardly terrified!  I felt a lot of shame about this, because I wanted to trust God completely.  (I've since found out, though, that speaking in public is one of the top fears among women -- go figure!)  Anyway, this fear was debilitating...often to the point of physical illness.

This was especially true when it came to a big meeting connected to my job with a local Christian school.  I used to be a home school coordinator, and in those early days, I had a very large group of families to help.  At the end of the summer each year, we would meet as a group with all our families -- new and returning.  At that time, we would tell them about ourselves, encourage them, and explain how the program ran.

Well, I dreaded it!  Not because they were a hostile group...in fact the opposite was true!  And they loved me to boot!

DCS homeschool moms 2009
DCS homeschool moms 2009

So in my mind, this fear was totally illogical and unfounded!  I talked to myself and the Lord about it...but to no avail.  It would ruin my whole summer every year!  UNTIL...

One summer, I was agonizing as usual over the big home school meeting. In the midst of my agony, I thought to myself, "I need courage!"  So I proceeded to beg, plead, pray for courage.  I tried to do my best "courage self-talk".  All to no avail!  I was still a wreck!

In the meantime, that summer I happened to be teaching the little book of Colossians...for the 2nd time (I'm a slow learner!).  As I was preparing to teach the second chapter, the Holy Spirit highlighted two verses to my mind and heart:

For in Him [Christ] the whole fulness of deity [God] dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him... Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

All of a sudden the realization came crashing through:  Jesus wasn't a wimp! Remember how He stood up to the Pharisees -- not exactly a friendly audience!  Courage is part of the fulness of God in Christ.   And the courageous God Christ lives within me.  He will live His courageous life through me as I trust Him! That's what being filled in Him means.  No more begging, pleading, self-talk, Christian mental mind games!  No more shame & despair!

So I decided to trust the Courageous Christ.  And guess what?  He WAS courageous through me so that I could relax and be my charming :) self--to the glory of God!  And it broke the bondage for me in those situations...now I have normal levels of nervousness.  And I know that every situation is a new opportunity to trust the full Christ within to be who He is in and through me.

So do you need courage today?  The Courageous Christ will be courageous through you as you trust Him. Do you need love today?  The Loving Christ will love through you as you trust Him. Do you need to forgive today?  The Forgiving Christ will forgive through you as you trust Him. Do you need patience today?  The Patient Christ will be patient through you as you trust Him. Do you need _______ today?  (You fill in the blank)  The _________ Christ will be ________ through you as you trust Him.

If you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the full Christ lives within you.  He is full through you as you trust Him!  It's the devil's lie to get us to think of ourselves as separate from our Lord.  He's not up there, and we're down here, praying He throws down a little courage (or whatever) if we pray correctly!  NO!  We are one with Him...united in a way that nothing in heaven or earth can separate!

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

So, dear sisters & brothers, look at whatever you are facing today as your opportunity to experience Him in His fulness!  Praise His Holy Name!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2Peter 1:3 ESV

...that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. Eph 3:19b ESV

Lessons from a Family Vacation: Expectations Transformed

Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000

Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

Vacation Blog05

Vacation Blog05

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Family reunion at LBI 2000

Vacation Blog

Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06

Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's

Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01

Vacation Blog01

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


The God of My Mothering: the ROCK I Can Trust

The wise woman builds her house; But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

Jesus liked to teach in "parables":  stories/metaphors that teach a lesson.  One of my favorites is found at the end of the famous "Sermon on the Mount".  Read it in Jesus' own words:

Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man [woman] building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the ROCK. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man [woman] who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:47-49

What does that mean for us moms who are "building our houses" as we raise our children...and as we launch them into adult life?  WHO is the ROCK that Jesus is talking about?

Throughout the Old Testament, God is called a ROCK:

Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock. Isaiah 26: 4

Jesus, the Son of God, names Himself as the ROCK.

When Peter made his famous profession of faith, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Jesus replied, “You are Peter (little stone), and upon this ROCK (large rock, bed-rock) I will build my church.” Matthew 16:16-18

Paul confirms this in his letter to the Corinthians:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3: 10-15

Now the very practical question:  What does it mean as a mom to build upon the Rock that is Christ?

Of course, knowing, living, and then teaching our children the Word of God and God's way of salvation is paramount.  But in 2003, I experienced, in what was to me a very dramatic way, what it means to build upon the ROCK that is Christ.

Our daughter Beth was a junior at University of Dayton, majoring in Art History.  She was taking an archaeology class at the time.  Beth came home one day and said that the professor had invited her, based on some research work she had done in that class, to join a group of college students from the around the country. They would be going on an archaeological dig in Sicily during the summer to the exact site that she had researched.

Needless to say, it freaked me out!  To go that far away, with no one I know...probably no mature Christians, etc, etc!  But I had been learning  through some serious health crises (Jeremy's cancer, Beth's benign tumors, etc) to entrust my children totally to the Lord.  So Beth put in for a grant to fund the trip (because we told her we could give her a wedding or a trip to Sicily:), and we prayed for God's will.  I knew I couldn't stand in the way of God's will for her life.

Well guess what?  Not only did she get the grant, but UD offered her more money than what she applied for.  Now what college ever does that?  To me, it was a confirmation that the Lord was in this no matter how nervous I was about it.

In the meantime, I had been teaching through the Hebrew Names of God.  A cross-reference had captured my imagination.  Writing of the Israelites traveling through the wilderness in the book of Exodus, Paul says,

…our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the Rock was Christ! 1 Corinthians 10: 1-4

What did that mean...the Rock that followed them was Christ?  I would soon find out.

Back to Beth...she was going.  I was praying and trusting.  At our kinship days before her departure, we worshiped the Lord and sang the beautiful song Faithful One.  The lyrics grabbed me:

Faithful One, so unchanging Ageless One, You’re my Rock of Peace Lord of all, I depend on You I call out to You, again and again I call out to You, again and again

You are my Rock, in times of trouble You lift me up when I fall down All through the storm Your love is the anchor My hope is in You alone

The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart: "I will be the ROCK that follows Beth from Columbus to NYC to Rome to Sicily, all around Sicily and wherever she travels, back to Rome, to NYC, to Columbus, and safely home again.

I had perfect peace!  We took her to the Columbus airport and I could freely and confidently entrust her to her ROCK! I shared the Scripture and the message from the Lord with her before she left.  And whenever I emailed Beth or talked to her, I said "Remember your Rock!"

When Beth returned, she told us of a time she ended up at the end of the bus-line and had to "follow the river" alone in the dark to make her way back to her apartment.  She was scared but sensed a Presence...because the ROCK that followed her was Christ.

Let me encourage you, dear moms.. When anxieties arise over your children’s welfare, remind yourself and them that the “Rock that follows them (and you) is the Lord Jesus Christ”. Turn every event on your day’s calendar into a fresh opportunity to depend on your Everlasting Rock.

ALL TO US Chris Tomlin

Precious cornerstone, sure foundation You are faithful to the end We are waiting, on You, Jesus We believe You're all to us

Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the Church Let the righteousness of God be a holy flame that burns Let the saving love of Christ be the measure of our lives We believe You're all to us

Only Son of God sent from Heaven Hope and mercy at the cross You are everything, You're the Promise Jesus, You are all to us

You're all to us You're all to us You're all to us Yes, You are

When this passing world is over We will see You face to face And forever we will worship Jesus, You are all to us

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoXPhuDVp4U[/youtube]

An Open Letter to a New Mom

HAPPY MOTHERS' DAY, dear New Mom!

Welcome to a whole new mode of existence --that of being forever "MOM."  Your life will now take on exciting dimensions you’ve never before imagined.

You've probably gotten all kinds of advice -- some great, some good, some best to be forgotten!  Well, here's mine to add to the mix: “Stay a beloved child in dependent and intimate relationship with your Abba Father” (1John 3:1).

God tells us that we become like what we focus on  (1John 3:2; 2Cor 3:18).  As you focus on Him, you will more and more become like the Only Perfect Parent.

So let yourself “be parented” by Him everyday.  All else flows from that:  strength, wisdom, patience, insight, peace, rest, etc.  And you’ll need all of these and more!

Refuse to think of yourself as separate from your Father God (Col 3: 1-4) – that’s the devil’s trap.

Return in your mind and heart to that sacred, secure place in God from whom flows everything and anything that you will ever need.

Many blessings on you and your precious little one.

As I affectionately say “We moms are ‘ruined’ for life – we can never not care again!”

Welcome to that glorious Sisterhood!!!

With much love Jan & Old Experienced Moms of every generation

 

 

 

 

The Father's Pruning

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch in Me...that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1,2 From what I understand, important to the process of growing grapes is pruning the vine.  Now I am definitely not a gardener!  So if I have ever pruned anything, I've done a very wimpy job of it.

I was shocked just a few weeks ago when we visited a vineyard in Temecula Valley, CA.  John & I had traveled there to help our daughter and son-in-law move into the house they were renting.  I told Beth I'd like to see a real grape vineyard "in person" because of John 15 and this new website.  So off we went!

Now in my mind I was thinking at least green and lush...after all, this was Southern California and tulips and flowering trees were blooming.  But NO!  What I saw was vine after vine with absolutely NOTHING on them.  I could just barely see little stubs attached.  Those were the branches!

Oh my!  Talk about instant spiritual lesson!  Have you ever felt like a little stub of a branch, stripped bare?  Over the course of my sixty-plus years, I have many a time.

One of the times that was most painful was when we first moved to Ohio about 25 years ago.  That was at a time when I didn't really know the unconditional love of my Father-God apart from my performance.  I was trying to earn his love and acceptance by doing all the Christian stuff.  (I was trying to earn what, in reality, I already had).

My health was breaking because of strange reactions to chemicals, molds, foods, and who knows what else.  Since there was little understanding in the traditional medical community at that time, I was deemed a hypochondriac who needed anti-depressants.  It was then that I started into anxiety/panic attacks.  My doctor put me on Xanax.  It helped me sleep, but I still had the reactions and the panic attacks.

This was a huge blow to me as a Christian working for my sanctification.  But the Lord was pruning me, freeing me from my performance addiction and attaching me to Himself alone as my support and deliverance.  Since the only Scriptures that made sense to me during that time were the Psalms, God spoke to me there:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. Psalm 56:3,4

First of all He said to me, "When you are afraid..."  not  "Shame on you for being afraid...".  That was freeing because I lived with such self-condemnation because of the attacks.

Then He said, "Use those first inklings of panic as a signal to turn your attention to Me and trust me."  So those panic attacks started to become a "place of worship" for me.  Previously when I was in the car driving with my two young children in the back seat and I started into an attack, I'd make it worse by freaking out that I was going to kill my kids.  After the Lord gave me my signal, I would instead focus on Him praising and trusting in my Deliverer. ("We become like what we focus on" is a spiritual principle...but that's for another blog).

Little by little, as I turned to the Lord each time the panic started, deliverance came.  My allergies and sensitivities continued to get worse.  Some still continue to this day.  But the panic is gone.  I've come to know and trust my God on a deeper level than ever before.  And  I've come to know His unconditional love, which is a greater treasure than perfect health.

I have met many women who suffer from anxiety/panic attacks.  Why?  Probably for each one there is a unique physical, emotional, even spiritual reason.  The one thing I know is that God can use it to deepen a woman's dependence and trust in her Father-God.  It can truly be a "Key to the Kingdom."

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3

My son [daughter], do not regard lightly the discipline [pruning] of the Lord...for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines [prunes]...All discipline [pruning] for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet...afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:5,6,11