Isaiah 32:17"The Effect of Righteousness is Quietness and Assurance Forever..."

“When the devil accuses us and says, ‘You are a sinner and therefore damned,’ we should answer, ‘Because you say I am a sinner, I will be righteous and saved.’ ‘No,’ says the devil, ‘you will be damned.’ And I reply, ‘No, for I fly to Christ, who gave himself for my sins. Satan, you will not prevail against me when you try to terrify me by setting forth the greatness of my sins and try to bring me into heaviness, distrust, despair, hatred, contempt and blasphemy against God. On the contrary, when you say I am a sinner, you give me armor and weapons against yourself, so that with your own sword I may cut your throat and tread you under my feet, for Christ died for sinners. . . . As often as you object that I am a sinner, so often you remind me of the benefit of Christ my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins. So when you say I am a sinner, you do not terrify me but comfort me immeasurably.’”

Martin Luther, commenting on Galatians 1:4, “. . . the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins.”

Missionary/ Medical/Mathmetician/Ministry/Musician/Marine/?

I, like every mother, counted all the toes on each baby, smelled their soft little fuzzy hair, and wondered who they would grow up to be. Twenty-plus years later, it is only now becoming a little more clear.

Sarah will one day be a missionary, with her great love, and soon to be husband Jonathan. Hannah works in the medical-clerical field, and is leaning towards serving the local church in ministry. Her husband Justin will graduate soon with a Master's degree in mathematics. He has a teaching gift on his life, as does Jonathan. Josiah is an excellent musician, and is also swearing in as a Marine this Monday....and the question mark (?) is the baby...the almost 17 year old "baby" of the family.

He hasn't picked any field that starts with "M". Although he does lean towards physical therapy/sports medicine. Only time will tell if he actually does become a therapist, or becomes a dynamic preacher, or a basketball player, or whatever. (?) We have tried to expose them to a great variety of input, many, many things to dream about and lots to do with their hands....building, repairing, painting, yard work...a home has to be full of possibility for a wide range of training.

"Given a tiny new human being, how can you know what encouragement to give? Is this a musician, painter, writer, mathematician, or zoologist who will do something magnificent in one of these areas, given the right beginning? The knowledge of what talents lie within the seed is hidden, but an atmosphere can be conducive to developing in many directions, until later one or another becomes obvious as some special talent. The environment in a family should be conducive to the commencement of natural creativity, as natural as breathing, eating, and sleeping."

--Edith Schaeffer, What Is a Family?

Finding What I Seek

I read just today about a phenomenon called "Situation Evocation". This refers to the fact that we spark responses from others that reinforce a tendency we ourselves already have. Cheerful people tend to make others smile back at them. Jaded people are dangerously contagious. Critical people get little mercy from others. The merciful obtain mercy. Just like in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man, the Proverbs say.

I've noticed I can talk about how that leaders have to be "people-persons", and then ask someone, "What makes you an extrovert?" - and they will answer me with whatever is evidence in their mind about what makes them a people person.

But then, weeks or months later, if I talk about the beautiful artistic gifting inherent to the introvert, I can then ask the same person, "What makes you an introvert?" - and they will give me evidence for that, too.

Here's the thing: we all have the ability to find evidence for two opposite conclusions. Which conclusion we choose to go with reveals our heart.

If I look at my husband and think, "He doesn't care" - I find evidence of it. If I look at him and think, "He is so sweet and loving" - I find ample evidence of that.

I know. I've tried it, both ways.

It is stunning, the way my thoughts can define and dictate my feelings to me...not vice-versa. I can "truth" my way out of any lie, if only I am willing to have my perspective adjusted. I can choose a critical perspective, and my experience will soon confirm the conclusion; when I seek evil, I can find anyone and anything at any given time.

He who earnestly seeks good finds favor, But trouble will come to him who seeks evil. (Proverbs)

Perspective is a function of the heart. The heart of every woman is predisposed to seek either good or evil, to be either positive or negative - because the heart is wired to function from a basis of either grace or performance (works), nothing in between.

"And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." Rom. 11:6

It is important, therefore, to be renewed in the "spirit of your mind". Allow your heart to be renewed in the gospel, begin to earnestly seek the good in your circumstances and in the people you say you care about. If you do, you'll find your perspective adjusted to function from grace instead of a mindset of "earning and deserving".

If you must "earn and deserve" with God, then so must your children and spouse and friends with you. If you rather earnestly seek good, and you receive the free gift of grace from God, so must your children and spouse and friends ultimately experience undeserved love from you.

When I hear someone refer to this as "cheap grace", or "easy believe-ism", I laugh. I've read (and love) all of Bonhoeffer's works, and I get what he meant, when he coined this term from a prison cell, suffering for the sake of Christ.

But nobody else can use it with authority, unless they are likewise suffering. Pretty much everyone who tosses around the words "cheap grace" today, are using them to look down their nose at someone else's theology. Almost none who bandy that term in our generation have actually lived grace out - it is mere concept to them, that is why they think it can be cheapened. When you "live of the gospel" as opposed to merely saying you believe it, nothing is more costly or more difficult in life than to earnestly look for the good, to "keep yourself in the love of God". (Jude)

Every time you choose to re-name and re-frame by faith, calling things that be not as though they were, not being moved by what you see, all hell will conspire against you. Please. Do not even start spouting grace until you have counted the cost. Stick with the will require less of you. Law is way easier. Far from being "cheap", the truth of grace will cost you more than you ever thought you could pay, and stretch your faith beyond where you thought you could go.

If you look for good, you'll find it...even in your parents and your kid and your church.

If you look for evil, trouble will find you.

I bet you wish I made that up, but God said it, I believe it, and that settles it. What will you do with the truth of it?

While lacking the power and keen edge of God-breathed Scripture, and not understanding how "grace through faith" works, Goethe observed: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather...If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming."

Too Far, I Tell You!

My fondness for creating hand made things just for the joy of it has revived of late, (see my word for 2010: Create) and I have many such projects on my front end list...

...but this is carrying the whole crafts thing too far...too far, I tell you!

If you ever find me knitting an apple cozy, do just shoot me on the spot.

In Which Sheila Thinks of Spring and Redecorating...

Look at this lovely master bedroom. I do not like the lack of color, but I love the natural light, the seating arrangement, and the small table and chairs by the windows. I could easily do this sort of set-up in my own huge bedroom, once we get our home office out of it. When Sarah gets married, her room becomes my office. My very own. I can't wait to blog it - complete with pictures. Special request: if you run across any pictures of interesting and beautifully designed home offices, please do send them my way. I've already started my idea file...but don't tell Sarah.

Beautiful, amazing table and chairs. A most unusual shape and design. I have never seen anything quite like this before.

I wish my foyer looked like this. Very, very doable - installing a shelf and pegs below it. I could do without the little horsey, but I love the pops of yellow. I'd have to make sure I also get the perfect tote bag - just to hang there and look capable and colorful! Form meets function here...
Today, I stepped out and inexplicably came home with a pot of hyacinths and a pot of daffodils. I do this every year, when the days get the grayest. I don't plan just happens. Every late-January, early-February, I end up needing spring flowers. And so it was today.
Nothing short of the use of my super-powers stopped me from coming home with a pot of tulips and an entire succulent garden on top of the hyacinths and daffodils. I really, really wanted three or four of the succulents, simply because the pots were clay instead of tacky plastic, and the pot colors were so unexpected and fresh. I needed to take a bunch of them home and make a new centerpiece for the dining room table out of them. My mind was thinking something about wooden trays, pebbles in soft muted tones, and a clusters of those tiny gray-green plants in the orange-toned pots.
I am loving the color orange these days. Also inexplicable.
We're expecting snow here in east Tennessee this week. This fact gives me a mild case of cabin fever. Gardening books work wonders, as does a trip to the plant nursery. What do you always do, this time of year, to cheer the winter gray?

It Wasn't Your Test...

Have you ever handled a situation imperfectly? ("Almost 100% of the time" would be the correct answer there...)

The other day, I was analyzing where mine and Tim's shortcomings lay in handling some events of the past year. Yeah. Imagine that. When are we both aware of our faults? Only all the time, every day, that's all.

Suddenly, God broke through my self important musing. (Going over one's faults can be a form of self importance.) I know His voice. He said to me, clear as clear can be:

"But Daughter, none of it was your test. It was __________ 's test."

I have been tested and tried by God so many times, even up to and including this day. Leaders get so used to being tested, we can begin to think that we are never not being tested. But none of what I was bothering myself about, in that particular series of events, was my test or Tim's test in the first place.


There may be things you have not handled perfectly properly as a parent, as a pastor, as a leader, as an employee, as a boss, as a person. But if the test wasn't yours, if God was not testing you, you weren't being graded, pure and simple. The person being tested is the person who needed the evaluation, more for their own information than anyone else's. Tests come by the way, not as final judgment or condemnation, but simply to reveal our mastery of material we are supposed to have learned. Sometimes we've humbled ourselves enough to pass, sometimes we fail.

But if we aren't the ones being tested this time...if the test is, in fact, someone else's test and we just happen to be involved, why then it "just is". There is no pass or fail for you in this case. Just do your best - live what you know to be right and true, however imperfectly.

If you are in a difficult place, with accusation being hurled your direction, it is very important to discern, "Whose test is this?"

Are you the one being tested? Or is this your son's test? Your daughter's test? Is this your test, or the other person's, or both? Sure, it can be both of your test. But not everything is your test. Get that. Hear that.

Some people tend to think everything is their test from God, some people live as though nothing is their test. I definitely fall in the first category. I know how to borrow guilt from the vast expanse of the universe. So it was revelation to me that... was not my test. It was theirs.

Ah, that final letting go is sweet. Buh-bye accusation, once and for all, at least in this case.

Case. Closed. (That's what is said, by the way, when an accusation doesn't stick.)

(and she closes up her laptop, humming to herself happily...)

Underlined Bits

The weapon of repentance, through rejection of false beliefs and affirmation of Godly truth, has changed thousands of lives. Repentance can liberate the mind and destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) And it can help us discover the wondrous significance we have in Jesus Christ: We are deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally acceptable, and complete in Him. Our journey is a joyous and challenging adventure with Christ."
~Robert McGee