Pressing In

Day Three

I have pretty painful tendonitis in my achilles tendons on both heels.

It can catch me off guard if I stand after sitting for awhile or sometimes when I wake in the morning. Getting moving can be rough.

I asked the doctor about it and she advised that I stretch my legs—specifically, those tendons on each heel—regularly. And I do try.

But I find that I’ll go a few days without stretching, and then the pain is almost unbearable when I get up and start walking.

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Talking to Myself

31.days.

Day Two

I talk to myself a lot.

Maybe most people do and they don’t admit it. Or maybe most people don’t and therefore have nothing to admit.

But I proclaim loudly that I talk to myself—out loud—and it helps me. It helps me be a better writer and a better student. It helps me sort out life.

Sometimes, though, talking to myself is self-destructive. I’m pretty good at beating myself up and noticing my flaws (I am a former perfectionist, you know—ahem).

And when tragedy strikes, I find that talking to myself becomes a raw discovery of who God is and what he’s doing.

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31 Days to a Deeper Faith: Seeking God While Surviving a Crisis

writingmomof3.com

I recently re-discovered the Nesting Place blog and noticed that she was hosting a “31 Days” Blogging Challenge.

I had been looking for something to motivate me to write more regularly, and I thought this challenge would be a good one for consistency.

Right now, my husband is unemployed due to a crazy string of events. God is moving us through a trying time and teaching us all sorts of things about himself, ourselves, and our faith.

I thought this topic would be a good one to explore from various angles for 31 days.

Join me, won’t you? Let’s discover together what it’s like to really seek God’s will in the middle of a crisis. When you are faced with struggles and hardship, how does your faith deepen? What does God teach us when we are stripped of all our comforts and crutches?

For background, read this post first: The Job Saga of 2013.

As I blog each day, I’ll post the link below so you can simply check back to this post.

I’m excited to spend October pursuing the heart of God.

Day One

31 Days to a Deeper Faith: Seeking God While Surviving a Crisis

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Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. Any statements made on this blog about essential oil use are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition. My statements about essential oils are my opinion and are based upon my own experiences and research.

I occasionally feature affiliate links in my blog posts. Should you follow my link and make a purchase or join a membership website, I will be compensated for my referral.

I Belong

God’s been dealing with me lately about the idols of my heart—those things that I tend to value more than him. Those things that tend to thrill my soul when all is going “right.” And those things that tend to send me to the pit of depression when all is going “wrong.” 
I suppose that this self-examination may not make sense to one who is not a Christian, since you probably assign “good” things the attribute of “good” (a new job is “good”; a new baby is “good”) and “bad” things the attribute of “bad,” right (losing one’s job is “bad”; experiencing a miscarriage is “bad”)? But in your heart of hearts can you admit that even the “good” things—even when they are cranked up to the highest level—don’t ultimately satisfy? 
That restless longing is because we were created for more than a superficial affection for “stuff.” We were created for communion. And the only way to experience that true, eternal communion is by devotedly loving Jesus.
I belong to Christ. I am his. And since I am his, he doesn’t tolerate being second or third on the list of my interests. No. He commands first place. When I deny him his rightful claims on my life and chase after empty idols, I’m left broken, confused, and exhausted. 
What does this look like in my life? 
I desire comfort and security more than trusting in Christ. I desire accolades and recognition more than glorifying God. I desire equity and self-preservation more than following God through a wilderness experience.
 
But the Bible tells me over and over that the Christian life is one of ownership, discipleship, sacrifice, and service. Because I belong, I am required to confront those things in my life that cause my heart to wander. Because I belong, I am required to love Christ more than any other earthly thing. Because I belong, I am required to deny my will and embrace God’s will. 
As my pursuit of Christ intensifies, my pursuit of idols will lessen in its attraction. As my hunger for God deepens, “empty calories” will make me sick to my stomach. 
And that peace of God—the peace that passes all understanding—will guard, strengthen, and preserve me because 
“I am not my own, but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.”
—from the Heidelberg Catechism, Answer #1
If you want to read more about this topic, I recommend Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It is an excellent study!  (Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and do receive a small commission from sales I recommend.)

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Pat Robertson Explains the Ten Commandments

I must begin this post with a disclaimer.

I never watch Pat Robertson on The 700 Club. Never.

But yesterday, as I was unloading the dishwasher in the kitchen, I turned to Channel 4 for something to listen to.

You see, at that time of morning, I would have ordinarily tuned into The View. But in the kitchen, we don’t have cable and only have the digital converter box—which, incidentally—doesn’t work very well at all. So, the only local channel I get is 4.

Channel 4 is Nashville’s NBC affiliate. I cannot for the life of me figure out how The 700 Club got the mid-morning weekday timeslot. But, anyhoo, someone somewhere is paying big bucks to have Pat Robertson relay his particular stripe of theology to middle Tennessee viewers every day.

I just happened to catch the last minute or so of the program. As I reflect upon those fading seconds of the show, I’m amazed at how few words it takes to butcher so completely a fundamental tenet of basic Christian belief.

But Pat Robertson did. Oh, yes, he did.

I tuned in just as he was answering viewer mail.

A viewer wrote to Pat with this question:
What is the point of the Ten Commandments? No one can keep them all, so I don’t understand why God asked us to try. What do you think, Pat? 

He answered:
That’s nonsense. Of course we can keep them all. The Ten Commandments aren’t all that hard.

Watch the clip below, beginning around the 53-second mark.

Here’s what Robertson should have said (in some form or fashion):

No. We cannot keep The Ten Commandments. Ever. 

Even if we don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, and don’t lie—even if we “do” all things “right” and keep all the outward definitions of the Law, we still fail. 


Why? Because God demands perfection and complete obedience. We are incapable of that. 


Wasn’t this topic primary to Jesus’ ministry? As I recall, Jesus shot down the rich young man—pointing out the greed in his heart, despite his “keeping” the Law. He taught that hatred was the same as murder and lusting was the same as adultery. Jesus was quick to point out the necessity of the Law but he also told us that he was the fulfillment of it! He did it. He kept the Law and he expanded it. 


Now, under the New Covenant instituted by Christ, while believers are still held to God’s unchanging standard, that standard is expanded. It’s not just an outward motion of “keeping” a ritual or “avoiding” something. No, Law-keeping has expanded to the condition of one’s heart, one’s motives, and one’s thoughts. 


Feel defeated yet? Sure, we could stay there in the knowledge of our inability. But, here’s the good news that is the Gospel. Jesus kept the Law and possessed pure thoughts, motives, and attitudes. In Christ, we are seen as him: Law-abiders. We are saved from the Law by grace so that we may desire to keep the Law out of worship (we know it pleases God) and gratitude. 


So what is the purpose of the Law today? Since Jesus kept it, can we just forget it about it since we believe in Christ? 


No. The Law is an aspect of God’s character. If we want to know how to live a life that pleases God, we are required to study his character. It reveals our sin so that we may confess and repent. The Law also foreshadows our Savior, giving us greater insight into him and his work on our behalf

I’m really hoping that Pat Robertson wanted to respond with something like that. I single him out because he has singled himself out. He’s put himself on a syndicated television show, calling himself an “authority.”

The Bible says that teachers will be held to a higher accountability. His answer to a question so fundamental to the proper understanding of law and grace, Christ’s purpose, and the sanctification of the believer is an impromptu misquote at best and a theologically bankrupt and ignorant proclamation at worst. Either way, Pat, you got it wrong.

I had hoped you’d know better.

~~~

If you want to read on this topic further, I beg you to check out the Larger Catechism of The Westminster Confession of Faith (Questions 98-150).

I think Question and Answer #149 sums up the point of this post precisely:

Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.

This historic document—upon which my denomination is based—is an exhaustive, yet easy-to-understand explanation. After reading through it, you’ll be confronted with your sin, and you’ll never read the Ten Commandments the same way again. 

What do you think of Pat Robertson’s explanation of the Ten Commandments?
How do you regard the Ten Commandments?
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Author Anne Rice Quits Christianity

Anne Rice, popular author of the Vampire Chronicles, says she has “quit Christianity.” 
Rice—for most of her adult life—was a proclaimed atheist. But about ten years ago, she returned to the faith of her childhood and professed her Christianity. 
I have followed her story from atheist to vocal Christian with interest for a few reasons:
  • As a popular author, she’s in the celebrity realm. I’m intrigued to see what pop and Church culture “do” with celebrities who profess their faith. 
  • She’s an author. In general, I’m intrigued by most of what successful authors do. I just like seeing how they navigate life and how they portray themselves. 
A few years ago, Rice appeared on my favorite Christian “talk show,” White Horse Inn. I regret that I can’t find that interview online now, but the notes are still posted. I remember listening way back then and enjoying it so much. 
When I first heard of Rice’s ditching Christianity, I was heartbroken. But then I read further. A few sentences into this post, and I was nodding in agreement:
It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.
—Anne Rice
 
I was relieved to read that Rice still professes her belief in Christ. She claims that she is ditching the organized religion and all the trappings that go with it. 
I get her. I really do.
Rice and I have a difference of opinion on the definition of the term, Christianity. She claims it involves following Christ’s followers—not just Christ. 
I disagree. The definition of Christianity is still “those who follow Christ”—however broad and sullied those in the group make it. And, I’ll take the label because I do follow Christ. I think Brian McLaren sums it up well, as he supports Rice but maintains his affiliation with Christianity and all that term entails: 
If I were to leave to join some new religion that claims to have – at last! – perfected the way of being pristine and genuine through and through, we all know where that’s going to lead. There’s one thing worse than a failed old religion: a naïve and arrogant new one. In that light, maybe only religions that have acknowledged and learned from their failures have much to offer.
—Brian McLaren
On some level, I wish Rice had chosen a different way to announce her decision, without saying she’s quitting Christianity.
 
But really? I’m sorta glad Rice made her announcement in the manner she did. You know why? Because she is still proclaiming her faith but she’s also exposing the legalistic and detrimental trappings of “organized religion.” Everyone’s talking about this! Isn’t that what we “Christians” want? Christ to be discussed in the public square?



What do you think of Rice’s announcement? 


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I Will Not Break in the Wilderness

I love Charles Spurgeon.

And when I get to heaven, I’m going to hang out with him. I am going to love talking to him about writing. He’s one of my favorite writers. (And, yes, I know I’ll be worshiping Jesus, but I’m hoping part of eternal bliss is allowing us to have relationships with other saints. So, permit me this idea that Charles [can I call him, Charlie?] and I will be BFFs for eternity, mkay? 😉 )

Anyhoo … as I’ve been thinking more along the lines of the wilderness experience, I remembered a devotion by Spurgeon in his Morning and Evening. I hung it on my bathroom mirror when I was struggling with infant twins, post-partum depression, and sleep deprivation. Some Most days—truly—these few words from Spurgeon’s pen were my only connection to the Gospel.

From Spurgeon’s Evening devotion for July 19 (public domain, bold emphasis mine): 

Evening, July 19

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench.”

Matthew 12:20

What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax?  
A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed
Then look at the smoking flax—what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant’s breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, “The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break.” 
Some of God’s children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza’s gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows—weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. 
Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus—so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. 
Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.
When have you felt like a bruised reed or a smoking flax?  
How do these words encourage you?
~~~

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New Month, New Home, New Friends

It’s the first, and I’m excited about all the things ahead for this month and this year!

I know you’ve noticed my new blog design. I’m enjoying it so much, and I think it really captures the feel of The Writer’s Block. Lindsey at Sour Apple Studio did the work and did a great job. Thanks, Lindsey!

You may notice that the cartoony woman really looks a lot like me. That is intentional, of course. We tried to make her hair color and eye color like mine to achieve this. And, of course, I’m that skinny and always look that nice in my tailored suit. I always have hair and makeup fixed with a smile on my face while I juggle all of those colliding responsibilities. Yep. That’s me, alright. 🙂

I am still tweaking a few things here and there, even though I had hoped to be all set for today’s “re-launch.” But, you know, I’m juggling all of those colliding responsibilities and so, I’ll get to it soon.

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I’m also excited to tell you about a new online home for my writing: FaithfulBloggers.com. I have joined Kelly and Courtney as a contributing editor, and I am thrilled! I’ll be posting over there four or five times each week, as well creating podcast interviews of member bloggers. Faithful Bloggers is devoted to helping Christian bloggers glorify God with their blogs. So, we’ll be talking about blogging, writing, and online stuff and how it relates to your faith. Please come see me there.

If you are interested in being interviewed about your faith and your blog, contact me. We want Faithful Bloggers to be a dynamic community, representing the many faithful voices of Christian bloggers.

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Remember, I’ll be posting and tweeting from Blissdom this weekend. I’m so excited I can barely stand it. Check back here to read what I’ve learned. 

How Sin Deceives

From Grace Gems

The Deceitfulness of Sin!
by Jeremy Taylor

“Lest any of you be hardened through the
 deceitfulness of sin!” Hebrews 3:13 (read ESV here)

First sin startles him,
then it becomes pleasing,
then easy,
then delightful,
then frequent,
then habitual,
then confirmed!

I think this progression is particularly helpful in dissecting how sin takes root in our lives. I immediately turn to food.

As you know, I’ve been blogging about my New Year’s resolutions and my plan to eat intentionally. I confess that I have sinful issues surrounding food (overeating, emotional eating, idolizing food, and so on).

Sin is especially effective when it deals with our senses (first sin, anyone?). I’m startled all the time by the enticement of food. Oh! That looks good. Oh! That smells good. Oh! I have a craving for …

That “startling” often triggers a sense of urgency upon which I must act. I’m immediately rewarded because it tastes so good. Science has pointed out that eating releases endorphins (I think; it releases some chemical in the brain, anyway, that registers “pleasure”), so I’m pretty much hooked at this point. The “pleasing,” “easy,” and “delightful” aspects just affirm my engaging in this behavior. The “frequent” and “habitual” just serve to establish the habit and “confirm” it in the fabric of my character.

Think of Eve. Talk about being startled! A talking serpent with a “pleasing” proposition? It must have been quite startling to hear the challenge to God’s authority, character, and trustworthiness come from that snake’s mouth. The Scripture makes a point of saying that Eve found the fruit pleasing to her eye.

When were you last startled? Did that lead to a pleasing experience? Could it be the planting of sin? Guard yourself so that you see the deceptive progression of sin, which can prey on your sensibilities.

Life’s Struggles. Hope in Christ.

I’m sitting down to write tonight and just feeling the weight of being a grown-up.

As a child, teen, college student, and even as a young adult, I confronted inevitable tragedies with a hope that things would change and improve. While that is still a somewhat valid coping mechanism, it’s ultimately empty.

That belief places its hope in some nebulous something (what? the future? “life”?) that is fallen, temporary, and unpredictable.

The older I get, the more I realize how empty and futile it is to put my hope in anything in this world.

Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve received all sorts of bad news–sad, heart-breaking, concerning news–from family and friends.

I am faced with so many realities in these sober times.

My loved ones aren’t necessarily going through things that are terribly exceptional. Others have endured similar pain, suffering, and confusion. But their pain is so close.

And it makes me sad.

I am reminded that everything (EVERYthing!) in this world will ultimately disappoint–if not destroy–us.

I can only deal with what “this day” may bring because I have Christ.

So, how do we respond?

  • We must live always with the end in mind. I’m not afraid to die, nor do I dread it. No. I want to more deeply, more consistently, more consciously meditate and long for heaven. I am merely a sojourner here. Understanding our place in this world is central to dealing with suffering.
  • We must not clutch too tightly to the temporary, sin-tainted things of this world. At best, their good qualities are but a fraction of that which awaits us; at worst, they become “little gods” for us and derail us from the whole-hearted devotion to which God calls us.
  • We must prioritize our lives accordingly. One of the most important tasks I see before us Christian parents is to equip our children for their future battles. I don’t know that they will face anything more seemingly insurmountable than other covenant children have faced previously. But I am convicted that we, their parents, are much less prepared to train our children adequately for maturity in the Faith. We must feed our own souls so that we are strengthened to nourish them.
  • We must live in the love of Christ. Jesus has conquered all of this! He has defeated sin, death, sorrow, and suffering. Jesus is the Rest that gives a final relief, a complete comfort, and an everlasting peace.

(I’ve submitted this post to the Blog Nosh Magazine’s Loads of Hope for the Holidays Blog Carnival. Read some of the other carnival entries here.)