Thursday, November 16, 2017

What if you don't feel thankful?



“Hey Google! Do you burp?”
Before I could register the question, a loud, obtrusive sound pierced our kitchen. And that, followed by fits of giggles from my youngsters.


Normally I am turned off by rude noises, but in that moment, I turned from the counter where I was preparing supper and laughed. Not an appeasing little chortle, but a real, deep belly laugh. Complete with tears.
Maybe it was because I was totally caught off-guard. Maybe it was because of the infectious laughter of my kids. Maybe I was at my wits end in coping with emotional stress and pain. But I don’t think it matters, because I desperately needed that kind of laugh!
The whole of the last year-and-a-half hasn’t been funny. Rather, it has been riddled with adversity. Sometimes I know right away when I need to take a public stance with a public voice--my miscarriages are an example. But this particular circumstance seemed more private. And I’m still not ready to share details here.


There can be times when limited details are best. Sometimes, that’s how we relate on a broader level. Not everyone has experienced the exact trauma our family went through over a year ago, but everyone has experienced SOMETHING. And those somethings, I think, can more easily come to a head during the holidays.


A friend posted about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on Facebook the other day. She said SAD is real, and she was currently experiencing it. SAD is defined as a type of depression linked to the change of seasons, but I think it could also be linked to the pressure to feel certain ways during certain holidays.


Thanksgiving season is here. We are supposed to feel thankful. But what if we don’t?


Some circumstances don’t produce much desire to shout out thanksgivings. I remember one thanksgiving season long ago when I uttered the words: “What do I have to be thankful for?” not in an attitude of jest, but one of severe and utter desperation.


Perhaps that’s you this year.


Those kind of deep, painful circumstances that tempt us to utter dark words can feel enormous and insurmountable. And sometimes the expectation of gratitude during the current season can feel forced or even pour salt on open wounds.


So I am not here to minimize those very real emotions.


But I am here to say that sometimes, those very real emotions can’t be trusted to tell the truth.


For instance, when I wondered what I had to be thankful for, the answer was staring me right in the face. But I couldn’t see it. I was so engulfed in my dark wounds that I had trouble seeing the light.


During our current situation, the ripple effect of sin has left wounds. In the aftermath, I cried. A lot. I grieved. A lot. I spewed. A lot. And I prayed. A lot.


The two circumstances have some similarities--being on the receiving end of another’s choice and not choosing the circumstance. In fact, not even WANTING the circumstance. But the difference between then and now centers in attitude.


Back then, I didn’t understand the concept that for a child of God, not one thing is wasted. But now, I have a better grasp of it. And I have proof it is true.


Not one thing is wasted.


“Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or the fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that...It’s doing something. It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen...it’s not meaningless. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore do not lose heart, but take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.” (excerpt from John Piper’s message “The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity” as featured in Shane & Shane’s song “Though You Slay Me”)


I have come to believe trial isn’t meaningless. It still hurts. It’s still hard. But it’s not meaningless.


I have come to understand that God is truly sufficient in all circumstances. More importantly, I have come to believe that God is truly sufficient in all circumstances.


He was sufficient then, and He is sufficient now.
He was there then, and He is there now.
So, my belly laugh at Google’s noisy, intrusive burp?
Proof that thankfulness can coincide with pain. It’s just all in how you look at it.

This article was originally published as my column, Lipstick & Pearls, in the Nov. 15, 2017 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press. I have been writing L&P since 2008.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17


It was several years ago, and I felt lonely at church. It wasn’t as if I was alone...I saw friendly faces each Sunday, and I was able to have conversations. But, still...I was lonely.


Warren Wiersbe explains that phenomenon in his commentary on Proverbs. He says, “It’s possible to have many companions and no real friends...friendship is something that has to be cultivated, and its roots must go deep.” (p. 437)


And what better place for roots to grow deep than on our knees?


I began praying… “God, I would love a friend at church. I have many good relationships outside of church, but I would REALLY love a friend at church, too.” Later, our church transitioned through a pastoral retirement, and my prayer grew… “God, you know Miss J is alone in her age group. Please bring a pastoral family with a friend for her.” Add another long-ago prayer, way back to a small group I was part of shortly after getting married… “God, please provide good, solid friends for my husband.


God heard all of those things. He numbers our days, and He knew just the right fit. And, in only a way He could, He answered all those prayers in the form of another family. Husbands & wives, boys & girls. It just was a good fit. Over time, the bond was solidified.

Having kids the same age helped. Not giving up on each other helped. Walking through adversity together helped. Praying together helped. But I know what it really boils down to is that God likes to give His kids good gifts. And this one was worth the wait!




I’ve come to lovingly think of this dear family as soul-friends. As iron-sharpens-iron friends. No matter where we start a conversation, we always make our way back to the Lord. And since He is the One in which all things live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28), it’s only appropriate to center our lives, conversations and friendships on Him.


I admit this is all on my heart this week because we had to say goodbye to each other last weekend. This wasn’t a surprise to God, but it sure hurts. We’ve gotten used to having coffee and meals together. We’ve gotten used to having superb conversations together. We’ve gotten used to teasing and joking with each other. We’ve embraced each other’s kids and each other. And maybe at the top of the list, we’ve gotten used to holding each other accountable and sharpening each other, spurring one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).




So, all that said, I couldn’t help but write about friendship this week!


Wiersbe, again in his commentary on Proverbs, outlines six qualities of true friendship. And in honor of my dear friends, I want to share his list today:


  1. Loving friendship will produce loyalty. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17); “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (18:24)
  2. True friends know how to keep a confidence. “If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.” (25:9-10)
  3. True friends have the ability to control the tongue. “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.” (11:9) Don’t believe the first thing you hear about a matter because it may be wrong. (18:17) And, beware of people who cause trouble and then say, “I was only joking.” (26:18-19)
  4. Be lovingly honest with each other. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (27:6)
  5. Faithful friends counsel and encourage each other. “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (27:9)
  6. Friends exercise tact and are sensitive to each other’s feelings. “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him.” (27:14)

May each of you experience the sweet communion of soul-friends, and may those relationships be rooted deeply into Christ. Because, like all of life, that is how we stand firm! And may we willingly be iron sharpening iron, continually stirring each other up and forward, always to Christ.



Thursday, November 2, 2017

Home Connection | Lot's Wallpaper



Let’s pretend a minute. You’re visiting my new house and we’re having coffee. You ask, “Would you be ever so kind to tell me where the restroom is?” I say, “Absolutely, it would be my pleasure! Go down the hall and pick door number one OR door number two on the left.”

You’re puzzled until you do a little peek into door one and door two. Both are full bathrooms. Both are fully functional. Both are separated by one wall running between Thing
One and Thing Two. Scratching your head, you pick one.

When we moved in several months ago, that’s the method we went with, too. We scratched our heads at the random layout and then picked one. I organized everything, we settled into using the chosen as our main bathroom, envisioning the other room to, at some point, function as main floor laundry, thereby freeing up a basement room for my future office.


And then we went to switch the toilet. And instead of simply swapping out the oldest toilet we have ever had the pleasure of removing, we swapped bathrooms. Any new toilet, used in the chosen room would lend to having a face too close to the wall. And that’s just uncomfortable.

So, we traded rooms. And then I was stuck with mauve. Lots and lots and lots of it. On everything. And wallpaper. {Sometimes I think I need to hang wallpaper just so the next generation has the privilege of stripping it.}

And that’s where this edition of Home Connection lands. Wallpaper.

This isn’t my first wallpaper-stripping rodeo. But I tell you, the wallpaper in this house is the most stubborn, ridiculous...did I mention STUBBORN...stuff I have known. So as I whittle away with dime and quarter-sized success rates in my new bathroom, I’ve had lots of time to think and wonder…

HOW OFTEN AM I LIKE THIS SILLY WALLPAPER???

How often do I serve a purpose somewhere, only to continue clinging when it’s time to go?



Our family is in a season of transition right now. Maybe you are too? And I understand that to completely let go and face the unknown is, well, unknown. So, will I allow myself to be peeled off without a fight, or will I align myself with Lot and his wife, cling tightly, hold on stubbornly, and face the salty consequences? (you can read more about Lot and his wife in Genesis. I’m specifically talking about chapter 19 today.)

As I have prayed through and pondered my own season of transition, I was reminded of Lot’s story. I found myself asking:

“Am I like Lot’s wife?”

That can be a scary question. I remember being petrified to completely align myself with Job (read more HERE & HERE). But the more I read the WORD, the more I understand that yes...all the written rottenness serves a purpose...and if I am REALLY honest, I find myself in all kinds of Bible stories.

So I wasn’t afraid to ask it this time. God is good. And if the answer is “Yes, Malinda, you ARE like Lot’s wife right now” so be it. God is good. He will forgive me. He will help me. He will teach me and train me for righteousness. (see 2 Tim 3:16-17)
And man, am I FREE in that!

So again...in this particular transition, “AM I ACTING LIKE LOT’S WIFE?” Admittedly, in certain ways, I am. I feel stretched between obedience to God and wanting people to like me. Standing firm, or appeasing people. Have you ever felt that particular pull? Oh Lord, give us strength!

In Genesis 19, the main figure is Lot, not his wife or daughters…but to understand them, we must understand him. Lot had compromised with sin, moving himself and his family closer and closer to Sodom until he and his were not only living IN Sodom, but Lot was also part of the city’s leadership.

Through the faithful prayer of Abraham, God sent angels to rescue Lot and his family from Sodom, a city on track for utter destruction. We see how deeply embedded they are when Lot tries to give his unmarried daughters up to the mob. The visiting angels had to intervene with blindness to put a stop to the madness. The angels finally tell Lot what Sodom’s future is, and when Lot tries to explain the urgency of this to his future sons-in-law, he “seemed to be jesting.”

Lot’s compromise made him untrustworthy.

Night continued to press in. Then the angels, in the morning, once again urged Lot to get out. And yet, the Bible says, “But he lingered.” (wallpaper. yep.)

Lot’s stubbornness put his entire family at risk.

So listen to what happened next...It is written, “So the men (angels) seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”

This is the part that really grabbed my attention. Even after everything, Lot refused to leave. He stuck to his wall like stubborn wallpaper...not giving more than small, dime-sized concession. So the angels seized him and physically brought him and the family outside of the city.

And even after that...after the angels told Lot to go to the hills “lest you be swept away”...Lot ARGUED. “Oh, no, my lords….let me flee instead to that nearby city. It’s little.”

Lot’s compromise marks his family.

And then Lot’s wife disregards instructions as well. I don’t know what she was thinking. Perhaps she was simply following her husband’s compromising lead. Perhaps she just wanted to see if the destruction was real. Whatever her motive, she looked back. And that was her end. She turned to a pillar of salt.

The story doesn’t end there. Lot’s daughters were also affected by compromise and sin. And they committed incest with Lot. And both had babies. And those babies became fathers of enemies of Israel.

Sad tale.

To simplify this, I don’t want to be like Lot OR his wife OR his daughters. I want to make choices of obedience even when it’s hard. Even when people don’t understand. Even when others are disappointed in me. I never want to compromise when it comes to the Word.

This quote from A.W. Tozer is apt in my current season, and maybe it is in your’s too:

“I claim the holy right to disappoint men in order to avoid disappointing God.”

May I...may we...avoid the trap of compromise, stand on His truth (leaning not on our own understanding) and be peel-able, not in dime-sized stubbornness, but in sizable, WILLING chunks!



Thursday, October 26, 2017

Studyin' the WORD | 8 Questions to ask

I am SO excited to talk Bible study tips today. Studying the Bible is one of my favorite things! { Can I confess something? It wasn’t always that way for me! It’s been a growing hunger that started in high school and has seeped into my bones. And now it makes me giddy!} I tell you that, so in case you’re saying, “that’s good for you and all...but not me"...don’t stress. Don’t leave it there. But don’t stress!

Like I said in my little confessional, my growth in this area has been a process. So in order to appeal to a wide range of Bible study habits, I’m going to focus this post on only one part of my study time. I realize that as a stay-at-home mom/work-at-home writer, I am not bound by the clock as much as others might be, so I don’t even want to talk time commitment. {BUT, I will challenge with this...find a time. Stick with it. Silence the excuses. Be obedient. Be committed. Be excellent with whatever time you have.}


A couple weeks ago, I read an article called “8 Questions to Help You Understand and Apply the Bible” by Matthew Harmon. It was totally up my alley, and I quickly sat down with a notecard and fancy markers to make a cheat sheet. I don’t want to summarize the article, since it is a great read by itself. I encourage you to head on over to the article when time allows!

So what DO I want to do?

I want to walk through a scripture passage using the 8 questions! {HAPPY DANCE time}

I am currently studying Romans and reading through Psalms. Because Romans is all inter-connected, I don’t feel like taking a snippet does the book justice. SO, we’re going to land in the Psalms...and what better place to start than the beginning? Psalm 1 it is.


First, let’s read the whole thing. Out loud is good. {Come on...I'll give you a high five 😉}

“Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

“He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.”

Now, let’s dig in! (please note that I am NOT the authority for interpretation/application. Check my words against THE Word! Also, know that these notes are definitely not exhaustive!)



QUESTIONS FOR INTERPRETATION

  1. What do I learn about God?
  • He knows the way of the righteous. He also knows the way of the wicked, and they will perish.
  • He is the ultimate decision-maker!
2. What do I learn about people?
  • Humanity is blessed by NOT...
    • walking in the counsel of the wicked
    • standing in the way of sinners
    • sitting in the seat of scoffers
  • Humanity is blessed by…
    • delighting in God’s law
    • meditating on God’s law day and night
  • A blessed man is...
    • like a tree with plenty of water to drink
    • Fruitful in its season with beautiful leaves
    • Prosperous
  • A wicked man is...
    • Like chaff driven away by the wind

3. What do I learn about relating to God?
  • The wicked will not stand in judgment (and that is all humanity without Christ)
  • Sinners will not stand in congregation with the righteous (and we are only righteous in Christ)
  • The LORD knows the way of the righteous (who are only righteous in Christ)
  • The way of the wicked will perish

4. What do I learn about relating to others?
  • DO NOT
    • Take counsel from the wicked
    • Stand with sinners
    • Sit with scoffers

QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION

5. What does God want me to understand/think?
  • From other scripture I know that humanity is either an enemy of the cross or made righteous through the cross (i.e. Romans speaks of all this). It would be easy to allow pride to creep in, thinking myself better than the wicked, when really, left to me, I would always be God's enemy. I am called blessed ONLY in Christ.
  • The only way I can avoid perishing is through Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

6. What does God want me to believe?
  • That the wicked will disappear/perish but the righteous will be healthy and known by the LORD.
  • Righteousness comes by…
    • Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31)
    • Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH, the LIFE and no one goes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6)
    • All humanity falls short...we cannot add or subtract from the cross (i.e. Romans 3: 19-31)

7. What does God want me to desire?
  • To be counted among the blessed
  • His law!
  • To be planted like a tree by streams of water
  • To bear good fruit
  • To not wither, but to prosper
8. What does God want me to do?
  • Avoid counsel of the wicked, standing with sinners, sitting with scoffers (and remember that I AM those things without Christ)
  • Delight in the law
  • Meditate on the law day and night

This is a pretty bare-bones outline, so if you like to expand (like me), feel free. You can include this as a section of your study time (I also do a lot of research/reading/writing) OR, I really think these questions can stand alone.

Prayer time is vital, so carve time in for that as well...remember, meditate day AND night! {A big goal, to be sure, but God is in the business of impossible things. He WILL COMPLETE the work He starts in us, and that is wonderful news! (Philippians 1:6)}

Be sure to let me know if you have any questions...leave comments on this post, or get in touch via my Facebook writing page!
Blessings in your studies! 💗