A few years ago, I was participating occasionally in a weekly blog challenge to post my outfits for the week. The point of the challenge is to encourage stay-at-home-moms to get dressed and care well for our appearance, instead of staying in sweat pants all day every day.
The problem for me became that I was constantly obsessing about putting the perfect outfit together to showcase for the world (you know, all three of you who read my blog– hi mom!) I was caring a little too much about what I was putting on myself each day. I was considering too much what others would think of me based on my clothing choices.
About that time, I read 7 by Jen Hatmaker and one of her chapters is on clothing. It really shook something inside of me to realize my pride in my appearance– that I was spending too much time shopping for clothes, getting myself dressed, and gazing at myself in the mirror. I began to spend the time I was getting ready each morning praying instead of obsessing. I prayed that I would be clothed with Christ. I prayed for specific characteristics and qualities I wanted God to clothe me with for the day– like patience, compassion, love, and joy.
It was just the practice I needed to stop my self-pride and focus on getting myself ready for the day in the ways that matter most. I may have the cutest sweater, most trendy jeans and most perfect accessories on, but if I am not “clothed” spiritually, I am not ready to face the day!
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (Colossians 3:12)
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
When I was a very new mom fretting about starting my first baby on solids, I spoke with a veteran mom from church whom I very much admired. She shared her experiences with babies and solid food and encouraged me to pray about what food to start with and how to begin.
I have taken that advice to heart so many times over the years– praying about things others might deem small and worthless. Dropping naps, giving up pacifiers, solids, when to take a kid to the doctor, how to get to heart issues in correcting and disciplining my children, how to explain hard truths about life (like cancer and death)… the list could go on and on.
Paul would probably tell a new mom the same thing my friend told me:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. (Philippians 4:6)
Isn’t that just the perfect piece of advice for moms? Baby having trouble settling into sleep habits? Pray. Fever spiking again? Pray. Rash all over child’s skin? Pray. Starting solids? Pray. Teenager starting to drive? PRAY. Firstborn applying for college? Pray. Child having difficulty with friends/teacher/schoolwork? Pray. Son talking back when you ask him to do something? Pray. Daughter not wanting to share about something going on with a friend? Pray.
What are you worrying about today, mama? Don’t worry anymore, instead pray about it.
Believers should desire to live fruitful lives. But what does that mean? In John 15, Jesus likens us to branches who are supposed to bear fruit. He says that to bear fruit, we must remain attached to the vine (Him). (Also notice his warning in the first few verses!)
“1 I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me…”
So the first key to bearing fruit is to be attached to the vine.
But what exactly will our “fruit” look like? Clearly we are speaking in metaphor here because we aren’t going to sprout apples or pomegranates from our limbs. (Funny mental picture though.) Paul writes about the kinds of fruit that the Holy Spirit works to produce in us in his letter to the Galatians:
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
So, once we are attached to, and remaining in the true vine, we can pray for these types of fruit to be manifested in our lives. As we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, we will see the fruit!
There is something that happens when we count our blessings. It seems to be the key to all Paul’s commands for us to rejoice and be thankful. How else do we find ourselves filling to capacity– and overflowing– with joy, than to do the work of noticing our blessings and giving thanks for them?
“Blessings” may be as small as little bodies snuggled close seeking comfort after bad dreams… fall bathing the trees in its glorious hues… a cup of hot coffee after an interrupted night’s sleep… a hot bath… new mercies arriving with the rising sun… answers to whispered prayers…
Taking the time to count them. To acknowledge them before God, somehow lifts the soul and fills with joy.
Try it today.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Most people can quote the beginning of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God…”
The New American Standard version of the Bible states it a little differently:
Cease striving and know that I am God…
I love that. Doesn’t striving adequately describe what we do all day every day?
The second part of the verse is oft left unquoted but I think it’s a beautiful ending to the command to cease our striving.
Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
We can be still. Stop striving. Settle down. Wait patiently. Because God is glorious and will be glorified. Amen.
I’ve already confessed to you my great love for Valley of Vision. Today I want to share one of the prayers that has meant the most to me over the past few years. I first read it when we were choosing an apartment in Turkey and I was struggling with selfishness and entitlement.
I love that this prayer reminds us that the way to conquer a lust we have for something other than God. We can’t just overcome our lust by sheer willpower alone. We must replace it with Jesus, letting him fill the space with such awesome glory that the former lust becomes unimportant, even despised. And we can be content in Christ.
If I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty,
make my heart prize your love,
know it, be constrained by it,
though I be denied all blessings.
It is your mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
for by these trials I see my sins,
and desire to be rid of them.
Please help me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
if those things will help me feel sin as the greatest evil,
and be delivered from it with gratitude to you,
acknowledging this as the highest testimony of your love.
When your son, Jesus, came into my soul
he became more dear to me
than sin used to be;
his kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny.
Teach me to believe that if I ever want to conquer any sin
I must not only labor to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to take its place,
and he must become more valued to me
than the vile lust had been;
that his sweetness, power, life may be there.
So I need to seek a grace from God that will oppose sin,
but I should not seek it as a thing on it’s own, apart from himself.
When I am afraid of evils to come,
please comfort me by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but in Christ I am reconciled and live;
that in myself I find insufficiency and restlessness,
but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace;
that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good,
but in Christ I can do all things.
Though now I have his graces in part,
I shall shortly have them perfectly
in that state where you will show yourself fully reconciled,
and alone sufficient, efficient,
loving me completely,
with sin abolished.
O Lord, may that day come quickly!
moms humans, it’s so easy to fall into less than ideal patterns of behavior. Like yelling at our children, or using unkind words. I’m sure many moms (and dads!) can relate to my struggles in this area! We’re running late and child forgot backpack. Milk spilled all over the freshly mopped floor. Backtalking or complaining with we ask for help around the house. In a moment of heated anger, we spew forth lava of harsh words in a far-from-gentle tone. When the moment passes, it’s easy to chalk our behavior up to the stress of the moment, or the foolishness of our children.
The real problem though is not found outside of us in the stresses of life or the childishness of our kids. The real problem lies within us. Luke 6:45 tells us:
A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.
What we say (and how we say it) comes directly from our hearts. It’s not a matter of stopping yelling, or ceasing the flow of unkind words. Those things will only be changed when our hearts are changed.
When I feel bogged down by my sin and shame, I often feel far from God. There is good reason for that. Psalm 66:18 says,
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
When I go for days (or weeks!) without carefully confessing my sin, I start to feel like I am talking to a brick wall in prayer. Confession is an essential part of our prayer lives as believers. We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, asking for His forgiveness and help when we fall short. (Which is approximately every day if you’re anything like me!)
A great prayer of confession is found in Psalm 51. It’s a great guide to a time of confession with the Lord.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
One of the things I love about this whole Psalm is the natural progression you see: confession is made (v1-6), forgiveness is granted (7-9), the heart is clean, filled with joy, and upheld by God (v10-12) and THEN ministry can happen (v13). This time of confession– allowing God to cleanse me is so essential to me being able to minister effectively to my husband, my children, and to others in the community.
How do you spend time in confession to the Lord? Do you follow a pattern or Scripture for confessing sin? Do you see a difference in your “ministry” when you have unconfessed sin in your heart?
Our world has more advertising than we could ever fathom. Screaming from the TV, billboards, flyers, Facebook ads, junk email, someone is always telling us we need something newer, better, flashier, bigger, more expensive, faster, quieter, more sparkly, more colorful, cheaper, louder, shinier, smaller… to make us happy.
If you buy/upgrade/get/purchase/attain/trade-in/upsize/downsize ____________, you will experience true happiness.
Well I’m calling BULL. It’s not true. It will never be true.
Do you know where TRUE JOY is found, always and forever? Do you know where to find the best pleasures and treasures?
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)