Saturday, May 31, 2014


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Hebrews 12:1-2
     Sometimes, I just need to be reminded of what I am doing, where I am going, and of Whom I am following to get there. I have been having one of those times of reminding lately; a time when God has been patiently waiting for the fog of sickness and busy-ness to clear so that I can see Him clearly once again and get back into step. This is a time when He is faithfully reminding me of who I am and Who He is to me so that once my head stops spinning, I will be looking, not for something new or some further distraction, but for Him. A time when He is reminding me of the ultimate goal of this journey that I am on.

     Today's passage is special to me because it was the inspiration for this blog, the source of its title, and also serves as a kind of a perpetual reminder of what my business is on this largish, whirling ball of rock and water. It reminds me that my life--my marriage, my home school, my child raising, everything--is a sort of race. I have trained for it even before I had a hint that I might be doing it, and to finish it will take more than merely doing my best. It will take an endurance that is far beyond me. It will take me looking to Jesus--fixing my eyes on Him so firmly that all else fades into black and I keep going, not from any strength of will that is left to me but because the vision of Glory at the end of the tunnel that perpetually draws me homeward.    

     It is not just the reminder of the Purpose of the race, however. I also love the bit right before that, though--the bit about laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely. This is a reminder to me of the two things that hinder me in the completion of this race. One is sin, naturally. The sin I allow myself to become mired in does cling like so much heavy mud, impeding my ability to press onward toward my goal, at times even constraining me to the point of a spiritual immobility. I can become confined by my own sin, imprisoned. Yet because Christ has set me free from the bondage to sin, it is a prison I allow. I love the reminder that I do not have to submit to to sin's claim of mastery. I belong to the Lord who give Himself for me, and so thanks to His power at work on my behalf, I can lay the encumbrance of sin aside--an action that does not connote great effort but merely decision. Thanks to Him I am free, so I ought to run as only a free woman can run.

     But its the other thing--the laying aside of every weight--that I find I need the most frequent need of reminding. I do often allow myself to become The Greek word translated as "weight" is transliterated ogkos, and according to Thayer's dictionary means, "...Protuberance, bulk, mass... hence, a burden, weight, encumbrance." Why, when I read that definition, do I hear so clearly Jesus' words, "Take my yoke upon you...for my yoke is easy and my burden is light?" Besides the weight of sin which I allow to inhibit me in my progress down the path, there are the many burdens I heap on that are not necessarily sin but are not explicitly given to me by God either. They are the bulky items I add to my agenda, the clutter I place in my priorities list, when I see spare time in the schedule given to me by my Father.

     It is my tendency to look at the Divnely appointed task list I am given and think, "Is that all?" and so feel quite justified in embellishing or adding on a little thing here and there until I find that I am no longer running freely, but fettered by chains of my own making. Once I am so heavily laden that my race has become more of a plod or a sluggish crawl, He will step in and remind me that I am only responsible for the things He has given me to do. Even if that means saying "no" to other people, it is not to them that I must ultimately answer, but to Him. And when He provides room for rest, it is not helpful for me to fill it with activity. In fact, this is where doing good things crosses the line to sinful, for that space in my agenda was given to me, not for my own selfish purposes, but for me to spend with my Lord; listening, learning, soaking in His presence. It is His space I am filling, and in doing so I am crowding Him out of my schedule when He desires me to sit at His feet and listen for a time.

    This over-scheduling is an insanity, but one I hope I am finally recognizing and will be able to thwart in the future. For I do find in my times of self-imposed busy-ness, the one thing I miss most is those long and leisurely hours spent with my Father, meditating on His word, listening to His soft voice, or even merely reveling in His great Presence. There is a reason He does not call me to do all the work that needs to be done. It is not all my place to do. It is my place to listen and to obey, to do all the work assigned to me heartily as to Him and not to man, and to remember that He is the goal, the purpose, and the stimulation for the endurance needed to finish this race. By His grace, I will finish it, and I will finish it for Him.

     Sometimes, I need that reminder.
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalms 127:1-2


Saturday, May 17, 2014


Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? 
Micah 6:7-8
     I don't know about you, but I often find myself in a hurry these days. Or at least I did until God sat me down firmly and reminded me of what my duty is to Him. You see, though my heart desires to follow His priorities alone for my life, I often find that there is another, more earthly portion of my heart that wants to please others, or perhaps to look good, or some other, less noble motive. That is the part of me that struggles to say "no" to scheduling items, the part that wants to make sure my home-schooled kids are involved in enough activities, the part of me that, flatly stated, does not trust God enough to follow Him and Him alone but rather adds to the agenda He has given me so that it appears (to me) more well-rounded and fleshed out. Fleshed out, indeed, for it is simply works of the flesh that I add in; they have no spiritual merit or use to my Lord at all. He has given me the work that I need to do, but I continually struggle with a tendency to want to "improve" the list He has given me.

     Very recently, I have found myself in this place again. In addition to our regular schooling, we attended tutorial this year, were involved in activities in 4-H, took care of our house and large lot, and kept up our commitment to church and to family in another city. That may not sound like much compared to the typical American family involved in multiple sports and extra-curricular activities, but for our rather easily frazzled family, it was a lot. Bear in mind, too, that I was not merely substituting my own agenda for God's, but adding to it. With all of this, we rarely missed our daily Bible reading as a family, our family prayer times, our commitments to ministry both small and large. These things are often unseen, but I knew somewhere in my heart that they were non-negotiable. And so, rather than drop them, I added to them until my daily schedule had very little margin time, very little time to sit at the feet of my Lord and listen. In fact, the Bible reading often became a mere check-list item and not a time of spiritual nourishment and refreshment.  In adding to God's agenda, I found myself in the same sinful state as if I had dropped His priorities altogether.

     Then there is the simple issue of health and how each of us is constructed differently. With all the bustle of this school year, I did fine for the first semester, but once I caught my first cold, I never really shook it and have had a variety of relatively minor (thanks to modern medicine) but still cumulatively debilitating illnesses. I am simply not able to keep up the modern pace, perhaps in part due to the one-two punch of meningitis followed by childbirth years ago, perhaps simply because it is how God reminds me to focus on Him. I do not know why--I only know that it is a fact that I really cannot escape.  That more tangible fact coupled with the knowledge that I tend to become less joyful and gentle and more hateful and grouchy when I am overly busy leads me to the certain conclusion that I am not designed to live the fast-paced modern lifestyle.

     As for my kids--well, it is much the same with them. Their physical health does not suffer as much, but they become more snippy with one another, less focused on the Lord, less obedient and more sassy with me when they are over-scheduled. The most difficult realization of this lesson to me was the realization that I had prioritized worldly values over Godly ones when it came to the teaching and training of my children. I had a soul-sickness, and I dragged my children along with me in my incessant attempts to measure up. I have seen a change in their focus, too. Less focus on the task at hand and more on what is coming next--as if I were training them not only to be busy but creating an addiction to busy-ness that increased as we became busier. Instead of creating a sense of satisfaction once the activity was over, they began to immediately ask about the next thing to come as soon as one was complete. It reminded me of junkies in need of a fix, and while it did not bother me in myself, it appalled me in my children. In order to achieve some self-imposed standard of what a good home school mom should do, I had given my kids to feed this monster of appearance within. I had figuratively sacrificed the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul.

     The funny thing is, I did not think we were over scheduling this year at all. That is why I found myself adding to God's agenda liberally and even with relish. And He let me, likely because, in His wisdom, He knew that I would respond to the more concrete facts than a simple command. I am much like my own children--I often need the consequence to see why I should have listened in the first place. That is a humbling realization.

     The fact of the matter is this: There are many good things to occupy my time and a veritable wealth of good things for me to get my kids involved in. As a home school mom, I often feel pressure to make sure my kids' education is comprehensive and balanced, to make certain they are not falling behind in a fast-paced society; in essence, I feel pressured, to use a cliche, to "keep up with the Joneses." This is not, in itself, wrong. I also feel pressure to make sure I measure up in ministry--that I am engaged in my quota of discipleship and missions-minded ministry activities. This also is not, in itself, wrong. But neither is it wrong to have a simple life, quiet time to listen to the Lord or reflect on His word, time to simply be and not just rush from one task to the next. It is not only not wrong, but critical, when that is precisely what He commands.

     The problem arises when I am given a Divine instruction, and instead of simple obedience, I embellish; when I think my marching orders look bare and stark, and so I touch it up here and tack on a little accessory ministry item there. At that point, while I may give every outward appearance of the good and faithful servant, I have in reality crossed the line from obedient child to disobedient rebel, albeit subtly and with the best of intentions. I have left the feet of Jesus and given in the  insistence of Martha that I get off my indolent rear and help her with the work, for goodness' sake. I have forgotten what is required of me. I do have work to do, but it is not always the work I believe should be done. It is simple, really: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with my God.  Not run ahead or lag behind, but with Him, every day, every step of the way.

     O Lord, help me not to take for granted the simplicity of the commands You give me. An act of obedience to You, however small it may appear to my own eyes, is still a far more noble thing than any good deed done in defiance of Your express command and wish. Help me no longer to crowd out Your voice with my rushing about. Help me to teach my children the difficult priority of making abundant room for You in our lives even when it requires a sacrifice of many other good things and especially when it means sacrificing the way we appear to others for the sake of obeying You.
      Make my heart long far more to please You than it does to please man. Remove from me the tendency to want to put what others think I should do--even others within Your Church--over what You have told me to do. Especially, Lord, I repent that it is often my own perception that lays this burden on me and not actual pressure from other people, for it is my anxious comparison of myself to others that cause me to over schedule and not scorn from them. It is all me, Lord, and I take full responsibility for this sin. Forgive me and help me to put You first in all things, even when it means that my schedule looks much emptier than I think it should. Even if I do receive criticism or contempt from others, give me the strength to be obedient to You first and foremost.  Help me to trust You enough to obey You explicitly, as a woman, as a mother, as a wife, and as a teacher. May my life be lived to Your glory alone, amen. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Encouragement from Hebrews

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things--things that belong to salvation. For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.
For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 6:9-20
     I love that the author of this letter followed his very stern warnings with some equally strong encouragement. He reminds us of the patience of Abraham, who received the promise but not in the timing that our American minds would find convenient or acceptable. The fact is that our microwave society chafes at waiting for anything: We press the buttons on the elevator again because the door did not pop open at our behest, we groan when a program does not instantly load on our computer or phone, we pray and wonder if God is listening because the answer to our prayer was not waiting for us neatly tied up in a shiny ribbon the moment we opened our eyes.
     But there are things worth waiting for.This passage not only encourages the readers that the author, while concerned, does believe that they truly do have a commitment to Christ, it also serves as a reminder that He is worth the wait. After all, Abram waited 25 years on the promised heir, he obeyed and waited faithfully up to the very moment of wielding the knife for God to provide protection for that promise, and he died not seeing the land promise fulfilled but understanding that it would be fulfilled to his descendants.

     There was an even greater promise given to Abraham; the promise that through him, all the nations would be blessed (see Gen. 22:18, 26:4). That promise was certainly not fulfilled in his lifetime, nor even in many lives of his children and grandchildren. It was centuries in coming, but as God is faithful and cannot deceive but is always true to His word, the promise was fulfilled.  And Abraham saw it.

     We know this because Jesus told it to an increasingly hostile crowd. In John 8:56, He said to them, "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."  This riled the group so much that they attempted to stone Him, but He had already left. We can see in these words a glimpse of the magnitude of the promises of God and of their longevity. We can see our own impatience and selfishness, often believing that all promises have everything to do with us right now and forgetting that sometimes they have more to do with all His Kingdom and with generations that may come from us.

     And so "we have this sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf." We can be encouraged that God has never forgotten His promise and that He never will. We can be reminded that it sometimes takes patience,a  patience far above what we are accustomed to exhibiting. When we do not see His promises fulfilled in our time frame, or even within our lifespan, we can cling to the reminders throughout the Scripture that He is faithful and just, and that He has never once gone back on a promise. We can remember Peter's words: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)

     Lord, teach us to be patient and to trust in the surety of Your promises. Forgive us for doubt and help us to be encouraged that You are not forgetful, but that You are patient and compassionate with more than just us and our small spheres of influence. Give us Your patience and help us to cling to the steadfast hope we have in Christ, that You will always come through and Your promises are a guarantee that we can build our lives upon, an unshakable rock that will stand the storms and the test of time. Amen.