Monday, December 04, 2006

Information at the Expense of Relationships

During certain phases in a woman’s life, her family may be her only ministry.
—Carolyn Custis James, When Life and Beliefs Collide

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
—2 Corinthians 11:3
November, especially the second half, was a good month. A major reason for this was that I was freed from the burden of my participation in the blogosphere. I have prayed and I have enlisted friends to pray for me as I sought God’s direction for Logoscentric, and He has made it clear to me that my contributions to the blogosphere have come to an end for now.

My natural inclination is towards information rather relationship, and God has made it clear to me that I have enough information. My primary focus must now be on relationships, both with Him and with others, especially my husband and children. Too often, my blogging and reading blogs took my attention away from them. (I am so thankful for the cross!)

Therefore, this will be my last post. Thank you to Lisa N., Michelle, and Kim for your support and encouragement. And to Lisa S.: I am so sorry that I didn’t get to know you sooner! I pray God’s blessings upon all of you as you continue seeking to glorify God in the blogosphere.

To my friends and family members who have read my blog and have prayed for me and encouraged me, I thank you as well. You are quite a longsuffering lot of folks, and I appreciate your putting up with me. I love you.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Worthless Things

I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.
Psalm 101:3a
Three years ago, when my daughter was a newborn, she liked to be held. All the time. I sat around a lot doing things I could do while holding an infant: reading, watching television, surfing the Internet. My general idleness was encouraged by my environment. We were living in a temporary rental house surrounded by boxes as our new home was being constructed, so I had no motivation to do any homemaking other than the absolute necessities of doing laundry and preparing meals. After some weeks of wasting my days away, I read Psalm 101:3a: I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. The Holy Spirit’s conviction was quick and specific: No more online celebrity news. No more Oprah or Dr. Phil. Think about what you’re spending your time doing, Katy. Is there eternal value in it?

Ever since that time, the Spirit has been quick to bring the verse to mind when needed, and for the most part, I have been more careful about what I “set before my eyes.” The King James Version uses “vile” rather than “worthless,” but I think the NASB’s use of “worthless” is superior. Not only does it seem to be the more accurate translation of the original Hebrew word, it also raises the standard for our conduct. I do not struggle with setting what I consider to be vile things before my eyes. I am not tempted by pornography or trashy books or magazines. I wouldn’t be caught dead reading Cosmo, much less anything worse. But do I expose myself to things that are worthless? Too often I still do, I’m afraid. For example, on more than one occasion, I have spent more hours than I care to admit reading knitting blogs. The knitting blogs I read wouldn’t have been considered vile by the most devoted of Puritans, but spending an inordinate amount of time reading them is indeed a worthless pursuit. Generally speaking, there is no eternal value in reading a knitting blog.

Since God impressed upon my heart the message of Psalm 101:3, I rarely watch television. I have been more careful about the movies I watch. I have been more selective in the books I read. Not that what I was exposing myself to previously was bad (I’ve been a snob for some years now.), but I have raised my standards. Is what I’m exposing myself to pleasing to God? Does it have eternal value? Does it manifest artistic merit? And something that our morning speaker brought to mind this very day: Is it something I would be embarrassed for Jesus to see me doing upon His return?

I feel compelled to provide some specific examples that may be “getting into your business,” as my pastor likes to say. Do you read Danielle Steel when you could be reading Jane Austen? Do you read Joel Osteen when you could be reading John Piper? Do you watch Desperate Housewives when you could be spending time with your husband? (Yes, THAT is what I am implying.) Men, instead of watching one football game, do you watch the whole Saturday line up? I encourage you to ask God, “Lord, what am I setting before my eyes that is worthless?” Make a list. Then ask Him to enable you to raise your standards. He is faithful.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Spiritual Maturity and Knowing God

This week in our study of The Patriarchs, at the bottom of page 161, Beth Moore writes: “Over a two-decade span of time, the abiding presence of God “who has been with me wherever I have gone” (35:3), gradually shifted Jacob’s focus from the things of God—blessings, protection, land—to God Himself. This shift is the single most profound turning point toward spiritual maturity, for Jacob or for us.”

As I reviewed this passage from the text in preparation for class, God made it clear that this is what He would have us focus on during our discussion time. I know that this is the place where I am in my walk with God, and there are several other women in the class that I expect are in the same place. For others, those who are still primarily learning about God and familiarizing themselves with the things of God, it gives them something to look forward to and to strive for.

The Bible makes it clear that knowing God and having a relationship with Him is the ultimate reward in the Christian’s earthly life.

  • In Genesis 15:1 (NIV), God told Abram, “I am your very great reward.”

  • Paul said in Philippians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…”

  • Jeremiah 9:24 says, “but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me…”

  • In John 17:3, Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

Things of God in Our Lives
What are the things of God that we focus on during the early stages of our respective relationships with Him? For me, I spent a lot of time reading books other than the Bible that helped me to understand doctrine and how to live the Christian life. Many of the books I read were invaluable to me, such as The Pursuit of Holiness, Ordering Your Private World, and The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life. At the time, I think this reading was appropriate for me, but if I continued spending more time reading books than studying Bible, I would be focusing on the things of God rather than God Himself.

Other “things of God” that can distract us from God that we discussed are church and related activities, music, a certain pastor or teacher, Bible study, and the list goes on. All of these things are good things and can be very beneficial. However, if they distract us from having a relationship with God and knowing Him, and if they are more important to us than God Himself, we will not mature spiritually.

How Can We Know God?
The best way to understand knowing God and having relationship with Him is the romantic relationship analogy. This is not inappropriate as the church is referred to in Scripture as the “Bride of Christ” (Ephesians 5:22-32, Revelation 21:9). When you fall in love, you want to spend time with the person, talk to them constantly, know their opinions and their likes and dislikes. You want to do things for them. You conduct yourself in a way that will please them.

It should be no different in our relationship with God. You spend time with Him and talk with Him in Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers. You learn God’s opinions, likes, dislikes, and priorities in the pages of Scripture. You do things for Him through acts of service to others (Matthew 24:35-36, 40). And you conduct yourself in a way that will please Him through obedience to His commands (John 14:15).

Knowing God Versus Knowing About God
It is important to differentiate between knowing God and knowing about God. There are many people who know about God but do not know Him at all. They are familiar with the Bible and with the things of God, but they do not have a relationship with Him. The classic example is the president of the United States. Because of his position and the modern media, we know a lot about him, but how many of us actually know him, have a relationship with him?

Not that knowing about God isn’t important. One must know about Him in order to know Him. All of those books I read early on in my walk with God were very important in providing the foundation I needed for a relationship with Him. (One book that I highly recommend in learning about God is Knowing God, by J.I. Packer.)

The Word of God is the Key to Knowing God
In John 14:9, Jesus says, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” To know God, one must know Christ, and to know Christ, one must know the Word. In John 1;1, John refers to Jesus as “the Word.” Constant exposure to and study of the Word of God is the primary means of knowing Him. Prayer is not secondary, but it should be initiated and informed based on the Word. This way we can be confident that we are praying according to the will of God.

You cannot overexpose yourself to the Bible. Daily study and reflection on Scripture, small group discussions, preaching and teaching in church, scripture-based music, praying scripture…Every opportunity to exposure yourself to God’s Word should be taken advantage of if you genuinely desire to know God and to mature in your faith.

Following are the lyrics to one of my favorite praise songs.

Knowing You

All I once held dear, built my life upon,
All this world reveres and wars to own;
All I once thought gain I have counted loss,
Spent and worthless now compared to this.

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best,
You're my joy, my righteousness,
And I love You Lord.

Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
To be found in You and known as Yours,
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness.

Oh to know the power of Your risen life,
And to know You in Your sufferings;
To become like You in Your death, my Lord,
So with You to live and never die.

©1993 Make Way Music
Words and Music by Graham Kendrick

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Do You Know Watoto?

Last Sunday night (9/24/06), the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda, Africa performed in concert at our church. The choir is made up of orphaned children, nine boys and nine girls, most of whose parents died of AIDS or as a result of civil war. These children have found new life and hope in Christ through the Watoto ministry.

We had the privilege of being a host home for three of the Watoto girls and their “Auntie Alice” from Sunday night through Tuesday morning. The girls we hosted—Ezarine, Anita, and Laziya—are pictured above with our children. There is a photo of the lovely Alice below.

Our experience with these precious Ugandans was delightful. The children were sweet, soft-spoken, and incredibly polite. My children adored them, and they played well together. “Auntie Alice” was a wonderful care-giver and role model for the children in her care. Her job on the tour is to manage the shop that sells handmade African gifts and jewelry, and she also manages logistics for the tour. Alice is a graduate of the University of Kampala with a degree in travel and tourism. She is beautiful and gracious, and I consider myself blessed to now have her as a friend.

I encourage you to check out the Watoto web site to learn more about this ministry. More than a thousand orphans are currently being cared for, and the leaders have a vision to minister to thousands more orphaned children throughout Africa as the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to impact the continent. I also encourage you to check the tour schedule and to attend a concert, if one comes to your area. You will be blessed.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Lessons in Prayer from Abraham’s Servant in Genesis 24 UPDATED

Some weeks, my preparation for the Bible study I lead takes less thought and prayer than it does in other weeks. This week in our study of The Patriarchs, we spent two days on Genesis chapter 24, which tells the story of a bride for Isaac. After completing those two day's study, I knew exactly what I wanted to discuss in class: what we can learn from the prayer of Abraham’s servant. Following are the lessons I learned from his prayer and from the circumstances surrounding its answer.

1. The servant was in complete subjection to his master (v. 9,12) and focused on his master’s success (v. 33).
I should not expect my prayers to be answered if I am not in subjection to my master, Jesus Christ. If I am living my life for myself and for my wants I cannot expect Him to grant my requests. Furthermore, when I ask for good things, if my motive is to please myself and accomplish my purposes rather than to please God and to accomplish his purposes, I should not expect my prayers to be answered.

2. The first thing he did when he arrived in the city was to pray (v.12).
So often, I don’t think to pray until much later than I should have. Rather than praying to prevent a crisis, I tend to pray in the midst of it. One recent is example occurred when my husband and I attempted to get away for a fun, restful weekend alone. We did not pray in advance for God’s protection and blessing on our time together, and as a result, our children both got sick the day we left, and I was "under the weather" myself. In contrast, I have a friend who always asks us to pray for her and her husband when they go out of town, and God has honored her faith and dependence on Him.

3. He prayed “in his heart,” which means silently and deeply. (v. 45)
If you’ve been reading Logoscentric for some time you are familiar with a phrase I’ve used in the past to describe my feelings about my prayer life: treating God like a cosmic short-order cook. My prayers are often a thoughtless sending up of a request in the midst of a busy day. They cannot often enough be described as silent and deep. I pray that God would grant me the ability to pray silently and deeply.

4. He prayed for something seemingly impossible (v.14).
It would have been consistent with ancient Middle Eastern hospitality for Rebekah to provide a drink of water to a stranger. However, for the servant to ask God to send woman who would voluntarily water ten thirsty camels was extraordinary. Scholars estimate that Rebekah may have drawn as many as 250 gallons of water for the camels! The servant requested something that only God could provide in his desire for God’s choice for a bride for Isaac to be clear. How often my prayers underestimate God’s ability to provide! Matthew 19:26 says, “with God all things are possible.” I must learn to pray big.

5. He believed God would answer his prayer (v.12).
This is something that I infer from the text. The fact that he even prayed such a prayer demonstrates this (See 4, above.), but his response to the immediate answer demonstrates it as well. Before he had finished praying he looked up and saw Rebecca, and he ran to meet her (v. 17). He didn’t watch for a while from a distance and ponder to himself whether or not she could be the one. He didn’t pray some more. He ran to her in expectation that God had provided the answer to his prayer. Neither did he appear to be surprised that God answered so quickly. Matthew 21:22 says, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

6. He bowed low and worshipped God immediately upon receiving the answer to his prayer (v. 26).
The servant responded to God in humility and gratitude, and praised Him for His provision, AND he did it right away. I am all too often guilty of taking for granted God’s answers to my prayers rather than responding to Him as the servant did.

7. He gave glory to God and shared the story of God’s provision (v. 27, 35-48).
How often do I take credit for myself when God clearly is the only one deserving credit for my circumstances? The servant's actions have inspired me to be more deliberate in giving glory to God and to share with others how he has provided for me and worked in my life.

Addendum: In class this evening, another lesson from the servant's prayer was offerred: His prayer was specific. We need to be specific when we pray. Then there can be no doubt when God answers our prayer, and He alone will receive the glory.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katy and the Men

During my summer vacation in the woodshed, God taught me some things about submission. Since that time I have continued to ponder how to submit in light of my spiritual gifts; specifically, as they relate to my participation in Sunday school class.

My husband and I attend a couples class, and I am by far the most outspoken woman in the class. In fact, the primary talkers are two other men and me. I always try to comment when I feel led by the Spirit, and I make a conscientious effort to give others an opportunity to speak. I do not monopolize the conversation, and I have been repeatedly assured of this by my very reserved husband and others as well. While I was in the woodshed, during a conversation with one of my friends, she shared that in God’s dealing with her on submission, she had felt directed to refrain from speaking in class in deference to the men. I have thought about it a lot since then, and have at times refrained from speaking because she is in the class, and I wanted to be responsive to her counsel. However, on other occasions I have simply had to speak out of obedience to the Spirit. I recently entertained the idea of attending a women’s class thinking that would be more appropriate for me.

It has been a real dilemma. How does a women with the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, discernment, teaching, and prophecy keep her mouth shut during a Biblical discussion in a group of men and women? Is she supposed to given that she has such gifts? I finally got my answer Monday evening as I resumed reading When Life and Beliefs Collide. The section that spoke to me is in chapter 8, and it is subtitled “Mary and the Men.” First, I will quote the passages of scripture to which the book refers.

John 12:1-8
Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, "Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?" Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. Therefore Jesus said, "Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me."

In Matthew’s account (26:13), he includes Jesus’ words:
“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this women has done will also be spoken in memory of her.”

Carolyn Custis James suggests that unlike the disciples who still had their hopes set on an earthly kingdom, Mary truly understood the gospel in advance, which prompted her to anoint Jesus in preparation for his burial. Following is the passage from the book that spoke to my heart. It’s lengthy, but I encourage you to read it all.

[Mary’s] actions poke holes in the notion that it is ungodly, unfeminine, insubordinate, or pushy for a woman to take the initiative, Here we see Mary taking he initiative in public, on a theological matter, and in a gathering of male leaders. What is more, she did it right in front of Jesus. And to everyone’s astonishment, Jesus praised her for her actions. Jesus taught a brand of theology that was living and active. It did not lead Mary to withdraw into passivity or wait for a man to do the job; it lead her to accept responsibility, step out, and take action where she saw a need.

Under the umbrella of Jesus' approval, it is clear that Mary's decisive actions did not in any way violate headship. What may come as a surprise is the fact that her actions actually modeled godly submission, the kind of submission Jesus also displayed. She is not mindlessly resigned to what Jesus has purposed to do. That would degrade the meaning of biblical submission and is certainly not the kind of submission Jesus desires of his followers. Christ (the standard of true submission for all Christians) never modeled a passive unthinking submission to his Father, and Mary did not offer that kind of submission to him. She had applied her mind and heart to understand what God required of Jesus and whole heartedly threw herself, as well as her resources, into embracing and promoting Jesus' obedience to the Father. Submission did not reduce her to passivity but actually drew her out to participate in God's will. Her submission to God united her to Jesus, and as a result, she flourished and took the kind of bold action such a moment calls forth. Biblical headship does not ask less of us. It asks more. Headship is not so fragile that women must walk on eggshells for fear of threatening or destroying it. Jesus did not look askance at Mary's behavior nor rebuke her for making the Twelve look bad. To the contrary, he applauded her.

And did she make the men look bad? One would be hard pressed to resist arguing that they looked bad enough on their own. They saw it that way themselves later and wrote with great integrity of their failure that evening. Ironically, the disciples were the ones who violated Christ's headship with their unsubmissive rebellion against the will of God. But the fact is, Mary's actions that evening certainly did expose their failings. Although clearly Mary's intent was not to embarrass or shame the disciples, neither did she show any interest in covering for them. Mary's primary allegiance was to Jesus, not to the disciples. But the outcome was beneficial for them as well. Imagine what she would have denied Jesus and what great harm she would have brought on his disci­ples had she restrained herself to protect their sense of masculine leadership. Their masculinity didn't need to be shielded by her holding back but needed rather to be jolted by her obedience.

This is not to suggest, however, that Mary's actions leave room for women to be offensive, insensitive, or cavalier toward others. Mary didn't elbow her way into the room or behave disrespectfully toward the disciples, although they were in fact offended by her actions. Her conduct was above reproach, filled with grace and graciousness. The fruit of the Spirit must always govern how Christians interact with one another. This underscores the importance of fixing our eyes on Jesus to know him and his ways, so we will reflect him when we step out. Mary was not putting herself forward, fighting for herself, her rights, or her sex. She was fighting for her Lord. The issues involved were much bigger than Mary or the disciples. Her eyes were fixed on Jesus alone. Knowing Jesus prompted her to initiate and act on the truth in a way and with a spirit that would honor him. Her actions were costly and difficult for her, but it was the right thing for her to do, if Jesus' words mean anything at all.

I will speak as I am led by the Spirit as I fight for my Lord.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Becoming an Exact Person

I think all serious readers at one time or another desire to be writers. However, desiring to be a writer and actually writing are two different things. I began journaling intermittently and dabbling in poetry at a young age—around ten, I think. When I was in the tenth grade, I remember asking my English teacher if she thought I could be a writer. She gave me a vaguely encouraging response with which I was not satisfied. I did well in high school and college English, and my writing skills enabled me to maintain the B I needed for my financial analysis seminar in graduate school, as my financial analysis skills were somewhat weak. I landed my first "real job" as a technical writer and editor primarily because of my writing skills. There have been a few isolated incidences wherein I was moved to record my thoughts or experiences, but I never developed a regular discipline of writing until I began blogging. Before I began blogging, I entertained ideas of being a writer. Since I began blogging, I actually WRITE.

I was motivated to begin Logoscentric while I was leading my first Bible study in early 2006. I felt compelled by God to share the things he was teaching me, and He has continued to show me things to write about. There have been several occasions when I have had to get out of bed to jot down ideas for a post. Sometimes the posts seem to originate out of nowhere, and at other times, I contemplate things to write about for some weeks before actually recording them.

I have been through periods of near-obsession with blogging, and I have contemplated deleting the whole thing during periods of struggle and apathy. I have been repeatedly discouraged by the lack of feedback I get, especially from my friends. But I think I have finally come to the place where I am supposed to be. I blog simply because it is something I feel led by God to do, because I like to write, and because I am the primary beneficiary of these posts.

Recently, I was flipping through an old journal, and I came across my notes from the 2004 RZIM Founders Conference. I had recorded the following quote from Ravi Zacharias: “Writing makes an exact person.” (A paraphrase of Francis Bacon.) Blogging has motivated me to write, and writing has enabled me to articulate what I think and how I feel about things that I may not have realized had I not taken the time to reflect on them through writing. I am becoming a more exact person. If you are benefiting from my experience, then that is an added blessing.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Being Set Apart

I am currently leading Beth Moore’s The Patriarchs on Wednesday evenings at my church. In week one, Moore emphasized Abraham’s being set apart, both as being chosen by God and by his isolating himself from the wicked cities of the valley. In class, we briefly discussed what it means for Christians to be set apart. Following are a few of the verses we discussed.

I Peter 1:15-16
…but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

I John 3:9-10
No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

Romans 12:1-2
Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodes a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Scripture makes it clear that there is a standard of conduct for believers that differentiates us from nonbelievers. However, since our class discussion, I have been thinking about other ideas related to being set apart that are important to understand as well.

I. Provenance
The first thing we must understand about the initial act of our being set apart, i.e. our salvation, is that God does it. Just as God chose Abraham to initiate his plan of redemption, God chooses us for His kingdom (Ephesians 1:4). One who is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and who is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10) cannot set himself apart. Colossians 1:13 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” God rescued us, and God transferred us.

II. Process
The term we use for being made like Christ is "sanctification." The original Greek word is "hagiasmos," which means consecration or purification. It is encouraging to know that scripture often refers to us as already having been sanctified (I Corinthians 1:2, I Corinthians 6:11, Hebrews 10:11). Hebrews 10:14 makes it clear that our having been sanctified was completed in Christ.

However, anyone attempting to live the Christian life can attest to the fact that being conformed to the image of Christ in His purity is a process. I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” And Philippians 1:6 supports this as well, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Just as a sinful human being cannot initiate setting himself apart, neither can he make himself like Christ through the process of sanctification. He began the good work, and He will carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6. NIV). This does not mean we are passive in the process. We can choose not to cooperate. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” We must determine to walk by the Spirit.

A couple of years ago, when my small group was studying Galatians, I began praying that God would show me how and enable me to walk by the Spirit. I have since concluded that this something at which I will never “arrive.” Learning what the Bible says about how I am to live and think and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring it to my mind and to direct my actions is something to which I must continually submit. I expect to see progress in my willingness to submit and in the mortification of sin in my life, but I will only be completely holy when I am no longer encumbered by my sinful flesh.

III. Purpose
Holiness is not an end unto itself. As those who claim the name of Christ we most definitely want to reflect His character and to bring honor to His name. However, we are also sanctified to be useful to the Master and to complete the good works that He has prepared beforehand for us to do. II Timothy 2: 21 says, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” And Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

The concept of being set apart is rarely taught in churches today, as evidenced by the number of so-called Christians whose lives are not substantively different from the rest of the world. I encourage you to make pursuing holiness a priority in your life. If you have not read the book, The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Temporary Alternate Reality, UPDATED

Did you see the film, The Family Man? Nicolas Cage stars as a New York investment broker who is given the opportunity to see what his life would be like if he had chosen to prioritize marriage and family over his career. He gets to temporarily experience an alternate reality in the suburbs, and he discovers that it is what he REALLY wants.

I need my own temporary alternate reality right now. I’m sure it would be helpful for me to spend a few days back in Atlanta living the life of a career woman as if I had never left. How high up the corporate ladder would I have climbed? Where would I live? Who would my friends be? What would I be doing socially and for entertainment? How would I really feel about the evenings and weekends at my disposal to do whatever I wanted? How much money would I be making???

I can imagine loving my job, going for runs along the Chattahoochee River after work, living within ten minutes of Barnes and Noble, eating at interesting restaurants, watching movies with subtitles (in the theater), having leisurely evenings at home to read or to watch videos or go to bed early. These things are easy for me to imagine because this is what my life was like before marriage and children and life in the boondocks. However, to provide no additional information would be misleading. Because regardless of how “good” my life was back then, what I wanted most was to be married and to have a family. In fact, this desire is what God used to draw me to Himself.

Those of you home schooling half a dozen children will find it hard to understand, but this stay-at-home mom thing is the hardest thing I’ve EVER done. It’s harder than graduate-level quantitative analysis. (Back in the day, I did my linear programming WITHOUT a computer.) It’s harder than being a teenager whose parents won't let her go to the prom. It’s harder than marriage. Going to work every day and dealing with incompetents and office politics is a cake walk compared to this. And if one more person tells me that it’s only going to get harder, I’m going to do something drastic—like eat a whole quart of Blue Bell Banana Pudding ice cream.

There is only one explanation as to how I got myself into this situation. It is not a choice that I could have made on my own “in the flesh,” as we say in Christian-speak. Only Christ in me working through the Holy Spirit could have motivated me to choose a life of self-denial and hard work. Philippians 1:6 says, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. God began a good work in me by saving my soul, and he is perfecting me through my being out of my element and through life being hard for me.

I never GOT I Timothy 2:15 until I was well into motherhood: But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. The Greek word for "preserved" is “sozo,” and Strong’s defines it as follows:

1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
a) one (from injury or peril)
1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
b) to save in the technical biblical sense
1) negatively
a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance

What I get from this verse and from an understanding of the meaning of “preserved,” is that in becoming a mother, I was rescued from myself. I am confident that my experiencing a temporary alternate reality would not only demonstrate all of the temporal things that I long for on a bad day, but it would also demonstrate a lack of the eternal things I have gained through my present life. I was rescued from a life of purposelessness and delivered into a life of eternal possibility (Colossians 1:13).

I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
—Philippians 3: 13-14

I don't feel the need to defend myself against the negtive personal attack I recieved on this post. However, it occurred to me that perhaps I didn't make myself clear enough on something, which resulted in inadequate glory being given to God.

Prior to my marriage I was completely career-oriented. I have an M.B.A. with an emphasis in corporate finance, for goodness sake! I had absolutely NO intention of being a stay-at-home mother. I intended that my income should be adquate to provide for in-home child care or a nanny, if possible. What I am doing now is completely against my goal-oriented, ambitious nature. And the credit for that goes to God. He changed my heart, and He changed my life, and I am thankful.

The Overriding Purpose of the Woodshed

This is my final post on my recent woodshed experience. I appear to have emerged. For a week or so, I wasn’t sure.

On August 4, as I was reading My Utmost for His Highest, God communicated to me through the following passage the overriding purpose of my recent time in the woodshed:
It is not a question of our equipment but of our poverty, not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a question of natural virtues of strength of character, knowledge, and experience—all that is of no avail in this matter.

In addition to the particular lessons I learned, the ultimate purpose of the woodshed was to make me absolutely certain of my own poverty as I begin a new semester leading a women’s Bible study at my church. It could be easy for me to lapse into confidence in my flesh. In the spirit of Philippians 3... I was a very successful member of my university’s debate team; I have taught college and university courses in economics and finance; I have additional experience with public speaking through past work experience; and I have much better than average knowledge of scripture, theology, and doctrine. However, I also KNOW that I am consumed with sin and selfishness, and that I am completely incapable of accomplishing anything for God’s kingdom except that which He chooses to accomplish through Christ in me. The woodshed simply reminded me of how bad I really am and how much I need Him, thereby providing the necessary humility for me to be effectively used during the coming weeks of the study.

Based upon my experience leading a study last semester, I KNOW that any good that came out of what I did was because Christ was working in me through the Holy Spirit. I was constantly claiming 2 Corinthians 12:9: My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. And God was faithful to demonstrate His power through an empty vessel. We cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit if we are full of ourselves. The woodshed ensured that I would not be full of myself.

Lessons from the Woodshed—Prayerlessness

Looking back on my recent time in the woodshed, the whipping reached a crescendo during the message by Priscilla Shirer at the Precept National Women’s Convention. Shirer’s message was on prayer, and her text was Matthew 6:6: But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Shirer began her message discussing the power of prayer and the general need for prayer. Then it got personal. Here’s what I wrote in my notes: If you’re not praying, it’s an issue of what you love the most. You do what you love. You must understand prayer is NECESSARY for your life. Prayerlessness is the first sign of pride. = Not depending on God.

Shirer provided an excellent illustration from her life. For a number of weeks in a row, she had to go to her doctor's office for blood work. There was a gated parking area that required payment of a $3 fee to enter the lot. Around the third week, as Shirer pulled into the parking area, she looked in her review mirror and saw a McDonald’s across the street. Tired of paying the $3 fee, she backed out, drove across the street, and parked her car behind McDonald’s. When she returned to the McDonald’s parking lot after her appointment, her car was gone. It had been towed. Her telling of the story was much funnier and more entertaining than I can make it here, but as you probably have anticipated by now, it cost her more than $150 to get her car back, when she could have paid a mere $3 to park.

Shier’s point was that in making prayer a priority, it may cost you a little now, but it will cost you a whole lot more if you don’t make it a priority. To write an “ouch” here would be a gross understatement. Shirer’s entire message on prayer was excellent, but this portion of it brought a flood of conviction upon me. At the end of the message, I was very thankful that I had let my hair grow out because as my bent my head over and repented and wept, my mane provided a measure of privacy that I would not have had a year ago. (It’s strange, the things you think of in times of distress.)

I have written about prayer here before, and I have been praying for some time that God would teach me to pray and make me a woman of prayer. It’s not that I don’t pray, but I haven’t loved prayer the way I love studying the Bible. I haven’t looked forward to praying. I haven’t searched out time to spend with God listening to Him. I haven’t seized opportunities to pray such as when I lay down with my daughter to get her to sleep at night or when I’m alone in my car. I have prayed, but prayer has not been a priority.

Later that evening, as I was talking to my friend about the conviction brought on by Shirer’s message, I told her that in essence *I* had paid the $150 towing/impounding fee when I could have just paid the $3 parking fee. She encouraged me by telling me to be thankful for learning the lesson now rather than later.

Indeed I am thankful for this particular lesson from the woodshed. And I am thankful that God is full of grace and mercy and that His actions are not contingent on my prayers, but, rather, He ordains my prayers to accomplish and to allow me to participate in His purposes. To Him be the glory.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sympathizing with My Sin

Never sympathize with the thing that is stabbing God all the time. God has to hurt the thing that must go.
My Utmost for His Highest, August 13

In my reading this passage today, God showed me that I have been sympathizing with a struggle that I have had for many months. I looked up the word "sympathize" at and this definition stood out: "be understanding of."

I have prayed. I have confessed. I have repented. I have fasted. I have done everything but mortify the struggle completely because I have been understanding of it. In being understanding of it, I have analyzed how it came to be and why; I have tried to determine how God is using it in my life; and I have come to view it as a cross that I must die to daily. BUT I have not been entirely willing to kill or mortify it. This is something I can only see in retrospect.

I have been stabbing God with it, and it must go.