Uncategorized

Taking a Break

Hey peeps! after all the computer hullabaloo over the past couple months, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging. As I’ve talked about numerous times on here, prioritization is key. Part of fulfilling our callings (the good works God’s prepared in advance for us) is to say “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to others. I’m finding that blogging is taking time away from some of my “yes” things. I don’t know when that will change–I imagine it will at some point since I’ve really enjoyed blogging 🙂

Thank you so much you few faithful people that actually read my blog!! It’s been very nice knowing I’m not just sending my thoughts out to the void. I love you and pray for you guys!

If you’re interested in keeping up with what’s going on with us, check out our podcast Epic Every Day (epiceverydaynow.com or facebook.com/EEDCast).

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Christian Living

How to Be Faithful

Sorry guys! I know it’s been a while. We’ve been fighting through more car and computer problems. I feel like it’s the story of my life lately! Anyway, computer availability has been spotty, but hopefully we have a solution now at least for e-mail and blogging. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about faithfulness. Probably because I’ve been tired and in pain a fair bit which has slowed my activity level. For a long time, I thought faithfulness was about how I acted, what I did. Having a chronic illness that occasionally brings my life to a screeching halt has forced me to reexamine that belief.

So what is faithfulness?

The definition I wrote down last week was “living each moment according to faith’s perspective.” It’s being full of faith in a tangible way. I’m reminded of James 2:18–“Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. ”

There’s kind of two ends of the spectrum we can fall prey to: thinking about faithfulness and acting faithful without faith. Thinking about faithfulness is when we work on having faith in our minds. It’s not true faith though unless it changes the way we live. It’s like identifying a tree by its fruit–someone can tell you all day long that it’s an apple tree, but if it bears cherries, they’re wrong.

Acting faithful without faith is what Jesus called the Pharisees on. They went through the motions of faithfulness without having the substance behind it. There wasn’t love for other or God motivating them–it was all about the outward obedience.

Faith is somewhere in the middle–it’s having the conviction and acting it out. It’s believing that God’s perspective on life is correct, that when He says something, it’s true. With our car and computer issues, it means believing that God really will provide abundantly–regardless of how I feel about the situation or how it appears to me.

So faithfulness is something we can all do even when things are hard or we’re sick or… you get the point. We can all ask God to give us His perspective on things and then act in accordance with that. We can choose to have joy and not to worry. It’s not easy, but, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s possible.

What does faithfulness look like in your life?

Blog_ How to Be Faithful

 

Christian Living

True Success Includes Peace & Joy

So today I came across this gem of a verse in my reading (not that the Bible isn’t full of great verses–I even love the genealogies because they showcase so clearly that God cares about and treats us as individuals). Romans 14:17-18 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval” (NIV).

Quick context: Paul is talking about the importance of unity and not causing a weaker brother to stumble. That’s where the eating and drinking comes in: the kingdom of God isn’t about eating/not eating meat sacrificed to idols or drinking/not drinking wine.

Why do I love this verse? Because this is the opposite of what we often get caught up in. Anyone who serves God in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit is pleasing God and receives human approval. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gotten focused on crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, spiritually speaking. In other words, if you focus on the outward expressions, following the rules and such. That’d be my hand you see raised.

I like clear directions. I like to know I’m fulfilling expectations. I like knowing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. So sometimes I get caught up in judging my progress (or lack there of) based on whether things have changed outwardly. Before I became a believer, I read my Bible religiously. It didn’t make a lot of sense and I was afraid I’d go to hell if I missed a day, but I did read it.

But empty actions aren’t the point of Christianity. You can look pristine on the outside but if you don’t have righteousness, peace, and joy, you’re not pleasing God. You’re like the Pharisees in the New Testament who Jesus compared to whitewashed tombs that were beautiful on the outside and unclean on the inside.

It’s easy to judge others based on that “empty actions standard” too.

I also super love that Paul included peace and joy on that list of what the kingdom of God is about. As Christians, I think sometimes we get focused on the righteousness part (which is gifted to us in Jesus anyway) and forget about peace and joy. Especially joy because joy, at least to me, feels pretty optional. Maybe it’s our puritan roots or something, but it definitely feels like a luxury to have joy and maybe just a little bit evil to have zest for life in a broken world. Stop for a minute and imagine what your life would be like if it were characterized by peace and joy.

I don’t know what you thought of but what came to mind for me was less fear, more childlike wonder, more room to just be without having to do, more space for “island time,” less worrying about my issues and other people’s problems…. just lighter.

And that is winsome to people. Peace and joy and righteousness are attractive and win favor. I love that the Bible clearly says “this is how to get men’s approval.” Proverbs 3 has a similar exhortation. We can get caught up in chasing fame and approval. But chasing it by changing ourselves or dressing a certain way or acting a certain way only works for a moment. Peace and joy and righteousness are the long-term solution.

Obviously, that peace and joy part is as impossible for us to muster up on our own as it is for us to muster up some righteousness of our own. It is “in the Holy Spirit.” Getting the peace and joy means surrendering to the Holy Spirit so He can work His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22). I also really like that. When I do remember the importance of peace and joy, I can get caught up in trying to make myself have them. But God says right here that finding my own peace and joy is a dead end. It’s always nice when someone saves you time by telling you when you’re headed the wrong direction 🙂

So! It’s actually a good thing to long for peace and joy. We should have them if we’re believers–it pleases God. We don’t have to plod through life–we’re allowed to want zest, to really be present. We’re allowed to want to stop worrying or being fearful. It’s our job to cultivate them, day by day growing in surrender, growing in our relationship with God.

Blog_ True Success Includes Joy & Peace

Christian Living

Faithfulness: Aligning with Reality

Normally, I write about things that I learned over the previous week/month in the course of Bible study or daily life. Today, I’m going to write about something I learned today because I’m super excited about it!

Okay, so this morning in my Bible study (I’m still doing Beth Moore’s Living Beyond Yourself) I started the section on faithfulness. Now, I don’t know what you think of when you think of faithfulness, but I usually think of doing something consistently regardless of how difficult it is because it’s the right thing to do. Hmm, guess that says a lot about my life, eh?

Anyway! Beth Moore quoted The Complete Word Study Dictionary where they defined faithfulness this way: “firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness” (Spiros Zodhiates et. al., ads., The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament [Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1992], 1162).

Now the part that struck me was that “reality” bit. It actually cracked me up because Beth Moore made a similar point only a paragraph later–after I’d already scribbled in my margins. The thought I was having is that faithfulness equals living according to God’s reality or aligning with God’s reality.

Why am I so excited about this?

Aligning with something is kind of the easy part–at least in my experience. You don’t have to figure out where to cut if there’s a pattern you’re following–you just cut on the lines. Aligning with God’s principles works the same way: we just follow the pattern.

In Tai Chi, we talk a lot about body structure and how to align your body with the way it’s designed to work. If you’re out of alignment–for example, bending forward when you’re trying to lift something or trying to grab something with your arm behind your back–it takes a LOT more work to accomplish anything. Aligning with God’s principles actually makes life easier. It may not feel like it sometimes–Lord knows, there are days I wish I could eat whatever and still be healthy, but that’s not the way my body is designed to work–but it actually is. When we do things God’s way, we miss out on the consequences. As you may have noticed, I’ve been blogging a fair bit about money lately because I’m working on changing my perspective. If I come at money from a fear standpoint, I won’t handle money well (regardless of how much or how little I actually have). Aligning with God’s principles means recognizing it’s all God’s money anyway and just being intentional about how we spend it.

And finally, I love that it’s reality. This is the rubber meeting the road. This the way things actually are. This is life-changing on a day-to-day basis. One of my very favorite things about God is that He is transcendent–He has a third-person perspective on the nature of reality; He knows the truth of everything. When God tells us a principle about the world, we are absolutely guaranteed to prosper when we follow that principle–whether it’s a moral principle (for example, don’t lie or don’t have sex outside of marriage) or a life principle (“the borrower is servant to the lender”[Prov. 22:7 or “stress makes you sick” [e.g., Prov. 3:7-8; 14:30; 17:22; ]).

Why can we be faithful? I love that Beth Moore talked about both the fact that faithfulness is part of the fruit of the Spirit (and thus only possible via the Holy Spirit’s work in us) and that our faithfulness is a response to God’s faithfulness. We can be faithful because God is faithful. We can believe God because He’s always trustworthy and honest. We can align with God’s reality because it’s always the real way the world works.

How sweet is that?! I love that we can trust God and that He never leaves us.

So, now that you have this perspective on faithfulness, are there any areas where you need to align your life with God’s reality? And if so, how?

 

Christian Living, Uncategorized

Unwavering Faith

I can’t believe it’s DECEMBER–as in the last month of 2016! Crazy how fast this year went. I’m trying to wrap up some various projects by the end of the year so I’ve been making lists of what needs done and what needs put on my list for next year. It’s good but also a little overwhelming. There were a lot of goals I had for this year that didn’t happen for various reasons.

In the middle of this, I found myself in Romans 4. If you’ve never read that chapter, it’s pretty amazing. I’d like to focus in on verses 18-22: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (NIV)

After spending the past few months in James, my brain immediately threw neon lights around that phrase “waver through unbelief.” In case you’re not familiar with that section of James, James says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” (1:5-8, NIV). There’s this idea that wavering in your faith gets you even less than you started with.

I am blown away by Abraham’s faith. I can’t even imagine the way he could walk that line–to acknowledge the truth vs. falling into denial but to still hang onto his faith. It’s incredible to me that he could take an honest assessment of things. So often I feel like faith is portrayed as this ability to lie to yourself–to ignore the reality of whatever the situation is. But that’s not faith at all. Faith is living in the truth of whatever is going on–regardless of how overwhelming or impossible it seems–and then trusting God to work it out for your good, for my good (Rom. 8:28).

As we are smack dab in the midst of the crazy stress that often constitutes the holidays, trying to finish out the year well, trying to figure out how to start next year well, I need the reminder that God can work all that out. I hope you can hang onto that too. It doesn’t matter how huge the situation is–after all, Abraham and Sarah were both impotent but God still worked things out for them to conceive–God can do something amazing in and through it!

Uncategorized

A Culture of Mediocrity

I just went through a major disillusionment. It wasn’t a fun experience. I mean, I was happy in my delusions. Lately, I’ve been reading some of the comments on fan fics, which is something I don’t usually do. It’s not pretty. I sorta feel like I’m watching one of those train wreck situations where somebody hears somebody else sing and tells them they have such a great voice that they should quit their day job and become a singer, despite the fact that they couldn’t carry a tune if they had a wide-mouth twenty-gallon bucket. I mean, I know that with fan fiction it’s definitely a case of “reader beware”–sometimes you get some really great authors and sometimes you get people that can’t write their way out of a paper bag–but I guess I thought that the average person could recognize which was which. I read a truly dreadful fic this week. The plot was okay. It could have been really good. But the writing was seriously lackluster, and because I’ve been editing lately, some of the major writing flaws stood out to me–and I do mean flaws as in agreed upon mistakes that would preclude the story from getting published vs. just personal preferences.

Guess what! In the comments people a) talked about how amazing the story was (including the writing), but b) actually singled out the very flaws I had found and held them up as being good writing. It was so sad–both for author and for me. Like finding out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Now, why exactly am I ranting about this? First of all because I just needed to rant. Loving stories and literature the way I do, it hurts to see mediocrity held up as above average. Just as we’re seeing the dumbing down of school children and language itself, I feel like, between self-publishing and the internet, I’m watching good writing slowly slide its way into obscurity. This is not to say that there aren’t good authors who are self-published or that there aren’t good fan fics–because there are. It’s just frustrating to have to wade through so much poorly written literature.

Second of all, I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of celebrating mediocrity. Fan fiction communities seem to tend that direction (unless they just happen to have a bunch of really awesome writers–then they pull the standards up). In my experience, a lot of fan fiction readers read fan fiction exclusively, so they’re not exposed to good writing. Thus you end up with a situation where everyone’s grading on a curve, and the best student in the class is getting C’s.

So part of that standard of mediocrity comes from a poor sample size. But my husband and I were talking last night and he brought up a good point–part of it comes from not wanting to engage in the conflict of telling someone their writing needs serious help and part of it comes from authors reviewing other authors and all wanting to hear nice things about their own work–there’s a sort of quid pro quo that goes on.

Unfortunately, I think we have a lot of the same things going on in the church. Check out this verse that came up in my Bible study this week: 2 Thess 3: 14-15 “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (NIV)

I got to attend a church event this month for the first time in a long time. It’s a monthly ladies’ fellowship/Bible talk night, and the women’s ministry team has decided to use it to talk about friendship. The leader went through a run down of what we as women look for in friendships and it was full of things like love and patience and kindness, but sadly there was no mention of someone to give you a good kick in the pants when you need it. That doesn’t mean it won’t come up, but it wasn’t mentioned. I don’t know about you, but I crave people who tell me when I’m being dumb because I’d rather have a friend tell me I’m being dumb than continue being dumb for who knows how much longer.

Paul specifically tells us not to let junk slide, but we all do. Really, when was the last time you ever had anyone come up to you and say “I love you, but you need help”–preferably before things got dire. When was the last time you let someone know you well enough to know when you needed help?  Note: he’s talking to believers here, so we’re not even talking about critiquing people who are not believers–just take that off the table.

I also love the balance that Paul talks about–we don’t let stuff slide, but we don’t regard the person who needs help as the enemy; we warn him as a brother. I think part of our unwillingness to address issues in the Church comes from a misconception that if we call someone out, we are treating them as the enemy and we become the bad guy. I know I definitely don’t want to comment on poor fan fics and tell them they really need to work on their writing after everyone else has given glowing comments. I feel like the bad guy. But really, if you care about someone, you don’t want to see them continue to make mistakes that could cost them in the long run.

And just like in fan fiction, our community of believers can become ingrown. For example, my husband and I don’t even listen to contemporary Christian music anymore because we believe it celebrates mediocrity. When you look at great music and literature and art in the classics, so much of it was done by Christians because they believed excellence was part of God’s character. I’m not saying that there are no great CCM artists–I’m saying they’re the exception rather than the rule. We’ve created a whole genre of music full of mediocre music and mediocre lyrics. Christian fiction is often the same way as well.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to contribute to a culture of mediocrity. I want to be, as Paul says, a Child of the Day (1 Thess 5:5)–a shining star (Phil 2:12)–that both showcases God’s excellence in everything He does and encourages others to work for that same excellence. I firmly believe that Christians should strive for excellence in all we do because that reflects who God is–not that we don’t make mistakes, or that we don’t go through the learning process, or do things that we suck at simply because we love them (e.g., me drawing stick figures with my kids because I cannot draw to save my life), or on the other end of the spectrum that we fall into the trap of perfectionism, but that we really work for and celebrate excellence. Christians used to be the foremost scientists and artists and musicians and writers and doctors, etc., etc. The whole Protestant work ethic revolved around the idea that God has put each of us where we’re at–whether you work in a  fast food restaurant or you’re a stay at home mom or the president of a large corporation–and so faithfulness in our jobs is eternally significant.

No matter what you’re doing today, you can strive for excellence.

Movies

Bookshelf Tour: Speed Racer (the movie)

So, I was thinking books when I said “bookshelf tour,” but well, maybe I should have named it “story tour” because there a movies that are just as important to me as books. As I’ve mentioned, Speed Racer is one of my soul’s “chiropractic adjustments.” Most people we’ve shared that movie with just don’t get it, but I love it! Fortunately, our kids do get it 🙂

Okay, so for starters, lots of people can’t get over the cinematography. The film was done by the Wachowskis (they also did the Matrix if you’re not familiar with them) in 2008, and they really worked to keep the cartoon feel for people who loved the old cartoon Speed Racer. So, the colors are really bright, and there are some camera shots where you see multiple events happening on-screen at once. It can be a lot. But, once you let go of all that (if you dislike it–I personally thought their story-telling methods were really interesting), it’s easy to see there are some incredible themes.

*SPOILER ALERT*

The way they handle family is so beautiful. After a fight, Pops Racer becomes estranged from his son Rex, who dies in a car accident without ever reconciling. In the beginning Pops believes he lost Rex in the car accident, but later, when his son Speed is in the same situation, he realizes that he lost Rex to the fight because he “let him think a stupid motor company was more important” and he–dah duh dah!–changes. I can’t tell you how beautiful that is to me. He handles the same situation with Speed very differently.

You also see how important family is to all of them throughout the film. They really stick together and encourage each other, despite being aware of each other’s faults.

I absolutely love the way they talk about calling. In the movie, Speed participates in a race in order to try to bring down one of the race fixers. At the time, however, his father doesn’t support him. Mr. Racer tells him “You think you can drive a car and change the world? It doesn’t work that way!” When winning the race doesn’t have the results Speed hoped for, he’s discouraged and upset. Racer X then talks to him about why they race. He says, “You don’t get into a T-180 to become a driver–you do it because you’re driven.” I love that statement. I can’t tell you the number of times I tell myself that. We don’t do what God calls us to do so that we can become a certain kind of person. We do it because we’re driven, because there’s something in our souls that just can’t leave things the way they are. Anyway! At the end of the movie, after Speed wins the last race, the race commentator says “It’s a whole new world!” Basically, the point driven home is that Speed was able to change the world simply by driving a car.

Speed also struggles with why he should keep driving when he finds out that the vast majority of the racing industry has nothing to do with cars or racing, but instead with money and power. He tells his girlfriend, Trixie, that when he’s driving “everything just makes sense.” Throughout the movie, you learn that Speed has been obsessed with driving pretty much since he was born (arguing it’s in his blood). And his mother gives him this beautiful pep talk about how what he does is art, not business. In the end, he drives because it’s part of who he is–not because of what he can get from it. I don’t know about you, but I need that reminder. I need to be told that do flows out of be. I need to be reminded that I mother/teach/write/etc. because of who I am, not in order to try to reach a certain outcome.

On the other hand, I love being reminded that simply by being the person God created me to be God can use me to create “a whole new world.” That my calling isn’t a waste of time even on the days when it feels like it is. And the way that Racer X talks about the world–“it doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us”–is another reminder for me not to hang my hat on results. Just like Paul talks about it Galatians where he says “what matters is new creation,” what matters in the here and now is who we are–not what we accomplish. God’s the one who accomplishes things. It’s our job to just be who we’re supposed to be (and to act on that–e.g., to actually participate in races if that’s our calling) and God does whatever He’s going to do through all that. Such a comforting thought!

So that’s why we watch Speed Racer. There are some years where we watch it a LOT if our life choices get called into question. For us, watching Speed Racer is a call to “hold the line!” even when there are no results and friends/family members think we’re crazy for doing the things we believe God has called us to do.