Skip to main content

The Two Sides of Simple

Simplify

When I was in school, this word meant reducing a math problem to its lowest terms. Knowing how to simplify fractions helped me pass seventh grade and kept me on the honor roll for another year.

Many years later that word carries much more weight. In fact it can conjure up a variety of images depending on your personal circumstances. Perhaps you envision a stark white room with minimalist decor, a user-friendly monthly budget, or an organized system for your kids’ socks and shoes (where do they all come from?). A basic definition for simplify is:

to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier:

Simplicity and ease are marketed to us on a regular basis. Ever heard of the Staples “Easy” button? Channels like QVC share item after item designed for a more organized life even down to simpler bracelet clasps and robotic vacuums. Our culture runs after easy.

Does a time come for a follower of Jesus, though, when simplifying is not only nice for a more organized home and peaceful schedule, but necessary for the survival and health of a family? Is is vital to strive for simplicity because it’s essential to an abundant spiritual life? 

I have written before about the idol of busyness that so easily creeps into my life. I say “yes” to more responsibility not because I feel called, but because I feel conspicuous if I say “no.” I want to blend into the willing, hard-working Christian culture around me. The past year has revealed to me that all too often, I add more to my plate because I have convinced myself that I am the savior of my family, marriage, and ministry. Thinking that I am more invaluable than Christ himself inevitably spells trouble.

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with anxiety and emotional burnout from all the people and responsibilities that “needed” me. I shared with Adam that I just had to take something off of my plate, but I didn’t know what to address first! He lovingly pointed out that I do regularly take things off my to-do list to compensate for my exhaustion, however those things are often the hidden things of my life – the things that don’t affect my busy, booked-up image. For example, if given the choice between saying “no” to teaching a class at church or cutting back on our homeschool work, I would most likely choose the behind-the-scenes responsibility of school with the kids. It’s much easier for me to put my marriage, children, and ultimately my relationship with Christ on the backburner than to have an awkward conversation to turn down a public responsibility.

Ultimately, this issue stems from a misunderstanding of what God values in his followers.

Does God appreciate hard, faithful work? Yes.

Can a believer reflect the gospel through acts of love to the community around her? Yes!

Do we move higher up the spiritual ladder as the number of tasks on our lists increases? We know the answer is “no,” but Satan deceives us otherwise.

Jesus himself was very active during his years of ministry. He seemed to have a never ending line of those wanting healing, love, and attention. However, Jesus never experienced burnout or meltdown because he realized that the private, unseen areas of His life were essential to his public ministry. His habits of prayer with His Father, physical rest when he was weary, and fellowship with his disciples gave him a proper balance in service.

Those hidden habits are even more crucial for us as broken, sinful, selfish human beings.

There is another side to the simplicity coin, however. Scripture makes it clear that our hearts can make idols out of literally anything – even a simple life.

During His ministry, Jesus warned that life is filled with trouble and trial. Often our best laid plans are destroyed by an unexpected diagnosis or a needy visitor. Life’s circumstances are messy and hard. Because of this, it’s important that I don’t say “no” to potential ministry opportunities just because I want to keep my life simple and stress-free. As a follower of Jesus, I have been called to lay down my life for the gospel and to bring Him glory through the actions of each day. This could potentially mean that my homeschool schedule is interrupted because of a church need. It could also mean that a church need is unmet (by me) and I spend extra time with my children. Each responsibility should be filtered through the Holy Spirit’s calling for that day.

I pray that 2019 will bring more maturity in this area of busyness and over-commitment. I pray that I will not buy into Satan’s lies that I am the rescuer of my circumstances, and instead rest more and more heavily on the ability of my Rescuer to weave a life used for His glory.

Simply put, Jesus is the Savior, not me!

——-

Dear readers, 

In the spirit of simplifying, there will be a few transitions happening with my online spaces over the next few weeks. Many of you realize that I have been writing on a couple of different websites for over nine years now! I have been able to consolidate all of the posts from Dishes & Doctrine and A Steady Rain (minus a few hundred that were edited out) on one site: www.rachelpereira.me 

You will find a “Subscribe” button at the top left of the page above “Home.” In order to receive notifications of new posts, you will need to add your email there. 

As far as social media, I will primarily be using Instagram to share glimpses of our life and gospel centered resources for you and your children. I would love to connect there.

I have closed down my writing Facebook page to simplify my online responsibilities there as well.

I have not made a final decision on the Dishes & Doctrine audio blog. All of those episodes are still available on iTunes for you.

Thank you for your support and understanding over the years. I have been able to step away once again from the part time church work I was doing for about half of the year. This has given me a little mental space to brainstorm about some upcoming posts and projects.

Rest in Him today, friends!

The One Thing

>>>Listen on iTunes<<<

I haven’t written much lately, and it’s not because of a lack of desire. It’s not because of a lack of time (most days). It’s not even an issue of writing material.

I think it’s because I am a Martha

I approach life with a sense of duty, purpose, and a to-do list. I struggle to rest if tasks are left incomplete. I work with pride both in my giftings and in the fact that I’m sure others don’t have nearly as much on their plates as I do. My haughty heart can get pretty ugly.

The thing is – writing is a work of rest. It may not be the same for all writers, but I need a quiet mind and a still soul to process my words before they ever arrive on the computer screen. This is hard for a Martha like me. The dishes that need to be washed and dried, the dog that needs a bath, and the bread that needs to be baked for the church dinner two days from now, demand all my brainpower. This afternoon, my husband literally took the sponge out of my hand and forced me out the door reminding me that every extra chore I completed was eating into my writing time.

I desperately want to be a Mary.

I want to approach life with a sense of reverence and awe at the hand of God. I want to take respite in His sufficiency even if the to-do list is missing some checks. I want to humbly listen to the voice of the Master, soaking in His wisdom and the hope of His sacrifice for me.

Hard work and faithful service is a good thing. Jesus’ followers ought to be marked by a desire to be diligent in the roles to which we are assigned. We are called to be living sacrifices. Our churches and homes would not function without the hands-on effort of the Marthas.  Those who tend to be laid-back or shy can even learn valuable lessons from the bold and assertive members of the body.

A Martha may simply have her priorities mixed up which leads to inevitable burnout and bitterness. Let me explain from an example in the Old Testament.

After the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem, Nehemiah and the Levites spent time reading and teaching the law to the Jews who had returned from exile. After hearing and understanding their grave sin, they mourned, ripping their clothes and covering themselves in dust. After their confession, the leaders encouraged them to “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting.” What follows in Nehemiah 9, is a beautiful song, tracing God’s faithfulness to his people in spite of their failures over and over again. The next chapter, outlines the continued response of gratefulness from these rescued Jews. They committed their lives, finances, and resources to the care of their refocused, God-centered culture and the recently rebuilt Temple.

Isn’t it interesting that Nehemiah didn’t return to Jerusalem and immediately set up a Temple-serving schedule. He didn’t pass the offering plate or lecture those whose children had married pagan spouses. The people’s work and sacrificial living was fueled by repentance and worship after spending time with God’s Word.

Marthas (like me) have the tendency to rush to the final step. We serve and give from an empty well because duty trumps worship. The beauty of Mary’s heart though is her desire to know Jesus first. She was hearing the Word from the Word himself. Who would pass that up? The service of Martha was tiring and frustrating because she didn’t have the humility of Mary first.

This is more important than ever as I close out our homeschool year and take on some more duties at church again. I must prioritize God’s Word. I must allow the Holy Spirit to convict my soul leading me to repentance and then worship. The effort I put into all the obligations must be fueled by these heart attitudes first. It is only then that I can experience true rest even in a busy schedule.

Furniture will gather more dust. More church emails will need to be sent. One more meal will need to be prepared. But only one thing will last. Only one Person will empower me, satisfy me, and love me. May my Martha heart learn from Mary and choose the One thing that will never be taken away.

Scavenger Hunts and How Can It Be?

>>>>>Listen on iTunes<<<<<

It sounded like a great idea at first. We could purchase the $1 scavenger hunt map, find the interesting memorabilia displayed in the two small museums, and become experts of the history of Winter Garden, Florida. It would be a chance for family bonding and count as an educational outing for our homeschool year.

It wasn’t that simple.

The twelve treasures were located in small boxes both inside and outside the historic buildings across the downtown. Each required reading a few paragraphs of historical information, answering a question based on the reading, and stamping the map with unique labels. I mapped the locations with the gps coordinates provided and dragged the family on a wild goose chase around the city. Although my inlaws had some knowledge of Winter Garden’s history, many of the locations were almost impossible to find or missing key elements like the stamp for our map. What should have been a fifteen to twenty minute search around a museum, turned into a couple hour process.

As I waited for the waitress at the local pizza shop to find the treasure box hiding behind the menus on the hostess stand, it hit me that I was holding the maps. I had been writing in the difficult answers. And there was not a child to be found. They had found a sidewalk bench and were waiting somewhat patiently for me to finish the work.

To complete the task, we headed back to the main museum to turn in our maps in exchange for a unique Winter Garden Historical Society patch. The museum guide congratulated my three children on a job well done as he took the maps with my work written all over them.

My work had earned their reward.

As I stood outside on that gorgeous December day, I was struck with the visual illustration I had unintentionally acted out with my family.

 

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

2 Timothy 1:8-9

His work is my reward!

The task was insurmountable. Generations of humans had tried and failed. The work was complete and perfect. He “redeemed the curse of the law” and tasted the sting of death. He was victorious.

Instead of a scavenger hunt map, I turn in His record of righteousness and instead of a patch, I receive rescue from my sin and everlasting life.

As Charles Wesley so beautifully put it hundreds of years ago…

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

May my daily duties and tasks be done today with the realization that I am walking in victory through Jesus. May the amazement of His unconditional love for me be the motivation to love and serve others in my path today! How can it be?

Rainy Day Reflections

Email subscribers: Click through to website to listen! 

 

It was one of those kind of mornings.

Actually, it’s been one of those kinds of months.

All five of us woke up on the wrong side of the bed. The noise level was deafening from the moment the boys’ feet hit the floor. My husband and I argued about something trivial related to the homemade donuts I had attempted for breakfast. Our littlest had so many meltdowns that I had no other option but to put her back to bed for a few hours. I didn’t get any coffee until at least 10 am.

The mood in our house imitated the cloudy day outside our windows.

Lately, our home has felt more like a prison than a haven.

It could be the winter weather that has trapped us inside for the last 5 months.

It could be the middle of the school year blues.

It could be the fact that we spend almost every waking hour with one another.

It could be the germs that won’t leave our health alone.

As I was lying on the hardwood floor next to my daughter’s bed trying to coax her to sleep, it hit me.

The emptiness I felt in our family was because we had once again forgotten the gospel. 

Chaos and stress cause us to default to our natural tendencies. Mine is perfectionism and law (for others, of course). My training lately has turned something similar to that of a military officer. Do this! Clean this! Stop that!
The harder I try, the more our weaknesses as a family are revealed. I demand certain behaviours without reminding them of the Person who can enable those actions.

A friend once told me that she felt she was failing at what our family must be doing perfectly and consistently. The truth is that it has been weeks since we’ve had a family worship time. My instruction to the kids to read the Bible gets almost as many eye rolls as when they’re asked to clear the table after dinner. I could name at least a dozen things off the top of my head that need desperate improvement in our home.

The sun peaked through the low-hanging clouds outside. The bright rays cut through the dimness of the house and pierced my heart with hope. I embraced a rare quiet moment to preach to myself.

My standing before a holy God does not depend on the standard of my living, but on the sacrifice of my Savior.

Gentleness can replace my short fuse because His kindness brings me to repentance.

Grace and forgiveness can be given freely (parent to child, child to parent, and sibling to sibling) because of the great debt that was paid at the cross.

Paul Tripp in his book Parenting offers this necessary reminder,

“No parent gives mercy better than the one who is convinced that he desperately needs it himself.”

I am definitely desperate, and I am choosing to cling to the new mercies He offers me each day. His power is made complete in my many weaknesses. Maybe their mommy’s obvious need for grace will allow my children to grow up trusting in an almighty, unfailing power outside of themselves. Maybe our family shortcomings and the forgiveness we offer through Christ will give them a framework of gospel hope on which to build their lives. I cling to the fact that because of Jesus, God is redeeming and reconciling all things (even temper tantrums and bouts of depression) – everything – to Himself for His ultimate glory.

There is eternal good even in the most cloudy of days. 

When the World Doesn’t Need Your Voice

Email subscribers – click through to the website to listen.

Social media is loud.

Google says, “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

Let those numbers sink in for a second. It’s no wonder that on some days posting on social media feels like standing in the corner of a crowded party yelling at the top of my lungs for someone to pay attention to me.

Social media is the place to be. Churches and Christian organizations have realized that Facebook posts and YouTube videos are incredibly effective in sharing the gospel message. This post from almost four years ago describes the incredible benefit of smartphones and social media in the spreading of Scripture. The growing platforms of pastors and Bible teachers prove that the Holy Spirit is indeed using online ministry for God’s glory.

 

Could it be, however, that social media has encouraged laziness in our gospel witness? Have we forgotten the command to “go into all the world” and instead expect the world to come to our website or fan page? I have been convicted of this very thing recently.

Matthew 9 records the words of Jesus to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We have each been given a harvest field in which to labor. Mine happens to look like a tiny town in the Pennsylvania mountains. It includes a 177 year old church in an even smaller community and a toddler who has yet to give her life to Christ. It might also occasionally include a waitress or gas station attendant as I travel to visit family and friends (also included in that harvest field). My crop looks different and may yield different God-ordained results than yours, but we are each given the stewardship of time and talents to work the ground of our harvest field.

My heart has been grieved for the lack of time I spend in prayer for my lost extended family. We live miles apart and there is the very real likelihood that I will never interact with them in person again, but I can beg God to send a laborer to their field. I can ask the Spirit to pursue their lost hearts in a way that I will never be able to through an Instagram post.

The problem is that I too often spend time sowing and attempting to reap in fields that are not mine. While some may be called to speak to gigantic audiences, most of us will influence much smaller groups. I can spend huge amounts of time crafting the perfect tweet or advertising my latest blog post for those who will scroll right past.

Instead of using social media as a tool for ministry, I have turned it into a buffer to keep me clean from the sweat and tears involved in true gospel labor. I post a status from a godly worldview or pick a timely Bible verse and check the “witnessed today” box in my mental t0-do list of spiritual virtues.

The entire world does not need my singular voice. It will most likely get drowned out by all the noise anyway. Those in my path, in my everyday interactions, those in my harvest field need it desperately though. How are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).

Father, forgive my laziness and apathy toward those who are facing an eternity without You. Deliver me from the temptation to take the easy route when sharing my faith. Help me to offer my life, not just my tweets, for the furtherance of the good news as Jesus laid down His life for me. 

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
– Charles Spurgeon

One Dollar Bill {a Christmas reflection}

Email subscribers – click through to the website to listen. 

My request wasn’t new. As he’s gotten older, I often instruct my son to hold the door for strangers as we are out and about. He dutifully props the door open until the last person has passed.

This time was different. One of the shoppers was an elderly woman accompanied by her adult daughter. As they got closer to the door, I heard her exclaim, “Look at this nice young man holding the door for us!”

She fumbled through the items in her hand, rustling through receipts and coins until she located a $1 bill which she handed to my son with words of gratitude.

I was surprised at this woman’s act of kindness, but understood her desire to reward my son for his “good behavior.” It never occurred to me that my son wouldn’t understand her gift.

“Mom, why did that lady give me a dollar?” he asked as he caught up to the rest of the family. He was bewildered that she would pay him for such a simple task. I explained that she was thankful for his help and wanted to show her appreciation before she left the store.

The interaction was soon forgotten and the money was spent on a box of Nerds to share with his brother and sister on the way home.

That was last week and I have yet to stop thinking about it.

The argument could be made that my son was deserving of the woman’s gift. He did something nice for her, so she did something nice in return. Many of our daily interactions follow a similar pattern. In fact, we keep a mental tally of the good and bad in order to balance it out with our responses.

Since she made a meal for me when I was sick, I need to make one for her when her baby arrives.

I can’t ask her to watch my kids because I might not be able to babysit hers in return.

She was totally stuck-up when I saw her at church yesterday, so I just won’t try to talk to her anymore.

We live our lives by the “tit for tat” rule.

Kindness for kindness.

Rudeness for rudeness.

Good for good.

Bad for bad.

When we as followers of Jesus act this way we are forgetting that this cycle is in complete contrast to the gift we were offered 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem and later at the cross of Calvary.

Romans 5:8 stops me in my tracks every time I read it –

….but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I was not “holding the door politely” when Christ sacrificed his innocent life for me. I was His enemy. I hated good and desired evil.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Kindness for hatred.

Sacrifice for selfishness.

Good for bad.

I write through tears this afternoon as I sit overwhelmed at His merciful gift to me, an unworthy sinner. Although, I am often tempted to try, any repayment for this salvation is impossible. My good works are simply a small token of gratitude to the God of the universe who stooped down to rescue me.

He “held the door” for me AND gave me the reward He earned. This, my friends, is incredibly good news and as we finish out the Advent season, I pray that our hearts would understand once again the richness of the gospel of Jesus. His coming offers a peace, hope, and wonder that will last well beyond Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Note to the reader:

My “wish” and prayer for you this season is that you will be overcome with the beauty of the eternal One who became man for you. May the realization of His eternal love and His eternal power over the circumstances of this broken world, bring you a peace that passes human understanding.

I will be taking the next few weeks to reflect on my Savior and rest with my sweet little family! I’ll “see” you in 2017!

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

On Fevers and Advent

Listenonitunes

I gently separated her damp curls from her sweaty neck. Her cries had forced me out of bed just as I was falling asleep. It was obvious that the fever had tightened its grip on her little body and was planning to hold on throughout the night.

It had appeared suddenly after her nap earlier in the afternoon. She didn’t complain, but lay lethargically on her daddy’s chest until an early bedtime. Her toddler sparkle had been replaced by an indifference to the world around her.

There is not much a mother can do during these small battles with germs. I wish the maternal guidebook included a magic potion to relieve all the possible illnesses our children may contract during their years under our roof. I wish I could experience their symptoms for them leaving them healthy and carefree.

Instead, their small bodies must fight the germs on their own. They must build an immunity to disease. Their white blood cells must strengthen to fight off future viruses.
As a mother, I can only offer comfort, cool drinks, and tepid baths. I cannot take away their symptoms, but I offer my care as they battle the bug inside of them.

on-fevers-advent-1This stands in stark contrast to the deep spiritual illness we all contracted in the Garden. Each individual throughout history experiences the symptoms of a sin-sick soul. Our hearts hide hate, bitterness, and fear. We spread our infection through harsh words and self-serving choices. Human beings are unendingly capable to express evil in the most disgusting of ways.

We do not possess spiritual white blood cells that work to fight the disease of sin. We cannot defeat the depravity of our hearts. The diagnosis is grim.

Read these words from Scripture:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24b-25a

 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:24

You have been healed. 

What was once dead is now alive. What was once broken is now whole. What was once damaged has been restored.

My prayer this advent season (which kicks off today, by the way) is for a renewed awe at the incarnation of God himself.  May my eyes see clearly the severity of my sickness and may my heart rejoice at the cure provided by Jesus. May my soul once again realize that its very life depends on the One who gave His so freely. May this Christmas season be filled with joy flowing from more than dazzling lights, Frank Sinatra, and plaid and velvet toddler dresses. May it celebrate the ultimate healing found in Immanuel, God with us.

Why brokenness matters

Listenonitunes

Email subscribers click through to listen

One of the sad parts of full time ministry is the regular bombardment of bad news. Although, I’m rarely the first to know, I often hear stories of failed marriages, battles with cancer, struggles with sin, or even wayward children.

Brokenness is all around us. One minute into the evening news shows us the affects of sin from every part of the globe.
Unfortunately, that bad news doesn’t contain itself to other countries or even other churches. It’s readily available in our own living rooms and church pews.

So, the question has to be asked. If brokenness is so rampant, what are we supposed to do with it? Do we ignore it and put on a plastic smile? Do we take pride in it, because it makes us like everyone else? Do we simply ignore it?

Let’s take a look together at why brokenness matters in the life of the believer. 

why-brokenness-matters

  1. All brokenness brings pain. 

From medical diagnoses to adultery, the fractured pieces of our lives bring pain to both ourselves and those around us. It’s inevitable.

If a husband is diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease, his wife and children are also greatly affected.

If a wife is unfaithful to her spouse, the infection of that sin spreads to her children, extended family, friendships, etc.

The phrase “no man is an island” is particularly applicable here. Brokenness cannot stay contained to one person. Psalm 37:39 says,

“But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked”

The first failure in the Garden of  Eden had gigantic repercussions. Included in the deception of the snake was a forgetfulness of the long stretching effects of sin. Eve was only thinking about her own opportunity for greatness and Adam was only intrigued by what God might be withholding from them through His “don’t eat” rule. Neither comprehended the pain that would be brought upon thousands of generations to come after a simple bite of fruit.

          2. All brokenness brings shame 

I can still smell the musty carpet in the church nursery turned 6th grade classroom. Mrs. Cook had just left the room with a warning to keep our mouths closed and our bodies in our chairs. Usually, the teacher’s pet, I didn’t initially plan on disobeying, but my best friend really needed to know the plans for our afternoon recess. I spoke a few words as quickly and quietly as possible before our teacher appeared in the doorway.

“Who talked while I was gone?” she asked as soon as she returned. About a dozen hands sheepishly lifted into the air which earned them the current classroom consequence. My hand was not one of them.

Immediately, my heart was filled with the heaviness of shame.

I had talked. I had disobeyed. I had sinned. And I deserved the full punishment for it!

The story has several other elements including a tearful admission and apology to Mrs. Cook three days later and the most beautiful illustration of forgiveness I had experienced in my short 11 years, but I will never forget the agony of guilt that followed me after my lie.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the last time I would experience shame after sin. It attacks us immediately after any failure big or small. It comes after eating one too many brownies to losing your cool with your four year old again. It can even rear its ugly head at unintentional brokenness. We experience guilt at our failure to solve world hunger and our lack of time to bring that new mom a meal.

Our shame causes us to hide just like Adam and Eve after their disobedience. Shame feels terrible so we sew together parts of our personality and lifestyle to cover the true state of our hearts. We act strong and unaffected by our brokenness, hoping that others won’t notice. We laugh at our failures while all the time cringing inside at our lack of perfection. We shift the blame to others to minimize our own faults.

Shame leaves us feeling hopeless which is why the next point is so important.

          3. All brokenness brings hope

The effects of sin in the world and in our own hearts, bring us to the end of ourselves. Our search to find strength and resilience inside consistently comes up short leading us to look to something bigger outside of ourselves.

It won’t be found in “Inspirational Books” section of Barnes & Noble and it might not be the verse your friends quote to you when you share your shortcomings and needs at small group, but it is the answer and hope to the brokenness surrounding each one of us.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

In the middle of verses depicting the desperation of human nature, we find a glorious hope in these few words. Adam and Eve had messed up and were hiding in their shame (as we can so easily relate). The Serpent seemed to have gotten his way and the beautiful life of the Garden was quickly wilting. God gives a glimpse of the future when a Rescuer, a Messiah, would come to bruise Satan’s head conquering Him and ending his dominion.

The Gospel Transformation Bible sums up the hope offered in the middle of this fresh brokenness:

Though the corruptions of sin quickly infect humanity, grace is displayed for Adam’s and Eve’s descendants (“offspring” or “seed”): there is a seed despite Adam’s and Eve’s sin ; there is a means to relate to God despite sin; there is protection for a murdered despite sin; there is warning of the corruption of sin and at the same time indication of the faithfulness of God to provide the “seed” for sinners. 

In other words, there is salvation in the shattered world we experience each day through sickness, sin, and corruption. The Second Adam restores the life that was lost to Satan and offers victory and peace. While we still battle the flesh and its evil effects, we will one day reign with Him as rulers over a once again perfect Earth.

Because of this hope, don’t downplay your brokenness. Don’t hide behind the facade of independence. Don’t wallow in your shame.

Instead rest in Jesus’ perfection. Hide in His work on your behalf. Rejoice in His victory.

Wait expectantly for the day when all brokenness will be replaced with unblemished wholeness forever.

On Cat Naps & Good Works

Listenonitunes

Email subscribers – click through to the website to listen. 

“Mommy? Mommy? Oh! she’s sleeping!” came the little voice from outside my door before I heard little footsteps retreating down the hallway.

I had just laid down for a cat nap before preparing dinner and was grateful that he had decided to let me rest for a few minutes.

On Cat Naps & Good WorksMy momentary deep sleep was soon interrupted when he returned with a Spiderman blanket for my body and a clean washcloth to cover my feet. Seeing that I was cozy enough, he turned off the lamp on my bedside table and pitter-pattered out of my room once again.

He wasn’t done, however. Now that I was snug under the blanket, he determined that I would need some fresh air from the ceiling fan which he could not reach after several attempts at using my bed as a trampoline.

It was time to recruit help. Soon his older brother joined in Operation Help Mommy Sleep which resulted in bright ceiling lights shining in my sleepy eyes and frustration from the commander who whispered loudly, “You’re going to wake her up!”

The next step of his mission was to drag the oscillating fan from his bedroom into mine and attempt several different outlets before finding one that would work the best for his plan. I was incredibly grateful for the blankets he had so carefully placed over me when he turned the fan to its highest setting several inches away from my face. When goals his were finally accomplished he left the room with a whispered, “Good night, Mommy”

Needless to say, I got up from that rest time feeling far from refreshed. However, even though my eyes still felt heavy, my heart was full. In his four year old way, he had truly attempted to serve me. His gift was far from perfect, but I accepted it with joy (and quite a bit of laughter), because I know his heart toward me.

In quite the same way, the gifts and “sacrifices” I place at God’s feet are never perfect either. They so often come from a heart with misplaced motives and selfish desires. Even the good I do is tainted with sin. However, because of Christ’s perfect life and self-sacrifice, those imperfect acts of service are pleasing to Him.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says:

“Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.” (Westminster Confession 16.6).

The fruit of my faith in a perfect Savior, is a sweet offering to God. 

Rage Room {what to do with all that anger}

Listenonitunes

I won’t deny that there are many days that leave me wanting to scream. Hearing my name spoken 4,000 times in an hour causes my temper to flare in the most unflattering ways, and I often find myself crying over spilled milk (literally).

I was so intrigued, though, to watch a news segment recently about a new fad in Texas called a Rage Room. Customers pay $50 for 15 minutes of tantrum time. They enter a room filled with junk (TV’s, furniture, tires, etc…) and are allowed to beat, break, and smash anything and everything in sight. Those interviewed mentioned that they were able to relieve built-up stress and bitterness by physically destroying the items in the room. Critics believe that this kind of behavior will not help anger issues, but rather create new habits of violence which are instigated when stress levels rise.

I watched the two minute clip with my mouth hanging open. Do people really do that? Does the owner really make money off of those who want to release the tensions of a hard, frustrating day? Could I imagine myself in one of those rooms?

rage room{what to do with all that anger} (1)

Most of us struggle with anger more often than we would like to admit, but is the answer letting out our rage on old glassware, or is there a deeper solution?

*Admit and Identify It.

Oftentimes, actually owning up to the bubbling anger inside of me is one of the hardest steps. Among the spills, broken furniture, and sibling rivalry, I can find many good reasons to excuse away my temper. It’s so much easier to blame the ones around me than to identify my behavior (and thoughts) as sinful. Once I admit and identify my tendency to lean on my fallen nature rather than Christ, I am able move forward.

*Find a Rage Room.

Anger like all sin is extremely damaging not only to the one “blowing up” but to those who happen to be around at the time. Words said in a moment of frustration can linger in the mind of the attacked for a very long time.  I don’t think that the destruction of as many items as possible in a quarter-hour is the answer to our anger issues, but I do think that heading somewhere apart from others (ie. a bedroom, office, etc…) when the temper flares is a great practical way to minimize the harm to others. Taking a step back from the situation when possible also allows for confession and reflection with the Father which brings us to the third anger tip.

*Remember the Wrath Meant for You.

Anger is just a sliver of the brokenness and depravity of our human hearts, yet we continue to try in countless ways to combat that sin on our own. We apologize and promise to do better next time. We experience feelings of desperation when our impatience with others never seems to fade. We forget that Jesus hung in agony on a cross for that very blow-up and for that exact harsh word, and in doing so bore an incomprehensible and ultimate holy wrath from His Father. The punishment that we so obviously deserve for our constant tantrums has been taken by our Savior. You are not enslaved to your anger problem anymore.

Christ shattered the chains of sin freeing us to speak and act with love and grace to those around us. The Holy Spirit offers the only power that will conquer the anger problem in your life and He doesn’t even need a hammer!