Happy Isn't Good Enough!

Ah, there is such a difference between pleasure and satisfaction. Pleasure can never be satisfied...pleasure for the sake of pleasure, outside of Christ, only seeks ever new and more expensive experiences and trinkets. Pleasure might make me happy, but I find happiness insufficient compared to satisfaction. Pleasure-seeking will make you deeply unhappy, unless your pleasure is sought and found at the right hand of God. Only satisfaction can satisfy.

Sin can bring pleasure. But God promises that the pleasure will only last for a season. Jehovah alone can fill a yearning, gaping soul with satsifaction, and only satisfaction ultimately satisfies.

"Stuff" brings pleasure. Again, temporary. But relationships with people who you love, and who love you back...that brings satisfaction. A chocolate doughnut brings pleasure...a healthy, strong body that weighs ten pounds less than it used to brings satisfaction. Laziness can be a pleasure, but an honest, hard day's work brings satisfaction.

Building bigger barns brings pleasure. Being able to give a gift so powerful as to alter a deserving person's destiny...what satisfaction!

I could go on and on. I hope I've provoked your own personal ruminations regarding pleasure versus satisfaction! It is a satisfying thing to consider.

Doing The Hard Thing - Grace in Action

My pastor-husband and I are in the midst of a process with our oldest son. This process began about a year ago, and is now reaching the point of decision for him. We have been doing the hard thing, in obedience to God's word, and are fully prepared to see it through - following the example given to us by New Testament Scripture.

One year ago, in our flesh, we had moments when we wanted to circumvent the process, and act rashly. What parent of a rebellious son doesn't struggle with that? But when we searched the Scriptures, we realized we were not free to deal with this situation as mere parents - but as church leadership. (These aren't incidental things we are dealing with. We were open with people in this.)

So, contrary to the opinion of someone near us at the time, someone who was demanding that we deal with our son their way, we consulted Scripture. Thankfully, we chose to resist the urge to manipulate and control. We decided that those who preach the gospel should "live of" the gospel, and live of it in ways that go far deeper than an income. We chose, under a "multitude of counsel" from more experienced leaders, a slightly different, a wiser course of action, instead of giving into the demands of the one person.

Our son, we decided, would not be anyone's doctrinal experiment. This would be handled "by the Book".

We rather chose to imitate the heart of God and extend our son the same Biblical process, the same freedom to fail and space for repentance that any member of the church is entitled to, should they exhibit a desire to be helped. All while carefully watching over the flock of God to insure that our son's process could not harm some unsuspecting young person.

Yeah. Try and walk that tightrope. It will humble you to the dust, drive you to your knees, and cost you more than you imagine.

The law is so much easier, friends. The quid-pro-quo way of dealing with others: "you do this, I treat you accordingly"..."here is what you must do"...that mentality requires NO obedience on your part. It is NOT the hard thing to do.

The rigid application of the letter of the law is not true obedience. It is a clever counterfeit. The rigid application of the letter kills. Pure and simple. Anything masquerading as life is carefully scripted and skillfully managed.

(Law must control. Because Life is Messy, you see. People sin and stuff.)

You can't take even the Biblical, New Testament guidelines and "letter-ize" them. You can't picture the process of "if your brother is overtaken in a sin, you who are spiritual, go and restore him in a spirit of meekness" as being a series of steps that might take one week. Quite frankly, restoration can take months (in some cases, years) there is no set time table. No two cases ever look the same. That alone makes a legalist crazy. They are all about being fair, and "what about John?" (John 21:21)

And restoration can look, for a time, like a failure...all the while, it is going to be wildly successful in the end.

So. We have reached the place that - with an eye towards ultimate restoration - we are willing to take the next step in this long process, whatever that step involves, regardless of the emotional cost to us. We are completely confident that every grace has been extended to our son. We are confident that we have closely followed a Biblical pattern, going by the Spirit, not rote, mindless rule of law. We know we have paid an excruciating price to "live of the gospel" in this. Thankfully, this long arduous process has cost no one else. Just us and our family. Dearly. But that is as it should be. I would not trade the lessons I've learned for any price.

The point? Only now, after months, is it time to conclude this process one way or another. (It yet remains to be seen what our son will ultimately decide. This is a communication from the front lines, my friends, not a nice, neat observation from hind-sight.)

Our biggest lesson? True obedience is relational. If you can complete it expeditiously, list in hand, it isn't obedience. If it does not require you to change your mind, it isn't obedience. If it doesn't humble you, and take you completely outside your own version of personal peace, it is not obedience.

Obedience is not a rigid set of steps to be ticked off, all so we can all feel like we have acted courageously. No. True obedience...true courage....it goes the distance with people. It endures a long process with people...human beings who were not even created to conform to a list. Progress is not linear. At times what does not look like progress, is in fact the greatest progress of all.

To act Biblically will cost you. Some who you least expect will accuse you of the fear of man, and of being lax about sin, when in reality the very opposite is the truth. (These are typically the very ones who refuse to go the distance with anyone who significantly displeases them.)

However this comes out, there is still a relationship with our son. It might have to be strained for however long, but not estranged. Because if you don't have at least a relationship, you had nothing to work from in the first place.

And who knows...our son may choose very wisely and very well. Either way, this process is a triumph of grace, and an exercise in actual (versus imagined) obedience to Christ.

I heard my husband telling our other son two or three days ago, "In my life, Jesus is Lord. In this house, His Word guides our every decision."

I can attest to your integrity, Timothy! The fact that this process has taken so long is living proof of the Lordship of Christ in our lives. The other alternative would have been far easier, much less costly....and it would not have been coming under His Costly Lordship at all.

Here is what I know: Law requires no personal Lordship - much like doing the speed limit requires no special, submissive relationship to anyone in law enforcement. But you get to feel like you accomplished something... when you really didn't accomplish anything of eternal value.

Us? We are actually accomplishing things - eternal things.

You won't waste a prayer on us!

Old Testament Grace Sighting!

This year, I am reading through the Old Testament systematically, looking for what I call "grace sightings". Since Christ was the plan of God from before the foundation of the world ("that before the world even existed, I would be holy and without blame before Him, in Christ" as Ephesians says - and as we heard it preached at Harvest Church yesterday) it stands to reason that the Old Testament is full of the gospel of Jesus Christ - or, the gospel of grace.

Grace is, quite simply, unmerited favor. Undeserved blessing. A righteousness completely, utterly outside of ourselves, imputed to us as a gift.

Well, the Old Covenant is so full of grace, that my studies are very slow going. Grace is splattered everywhere, from Genesis to Malachai. I've only made it to the life of Isaac, so far.

And the LORD appeared unto (Isaac) and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of:
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

The untrained student will read the above and conclude that the blessing of God was given to Isaac because his father Abraham kept the law.

As I read the above passage this morning, with the veil of the law removed from my eyes, I could clearly see that God was, in fact, making yet another statement of grace here. Never forget that Abraham's righteousness was "reckoned" to him because of his faith. It was an imputed right-standing with God, based on covenant alone.

Want proof? Here you go: The law had not yet been given.

God said that Abraham obeyed all his laws and statutes 400 years before there was ever a single law or statute.

It is impossible for anyone but God to declare that Abraham had been fully and completely obedient to all obvious and obscure laws that he did not know about...pages of fine print that did not even yet exist. It is particularly impossible for anyone but God to declare that Abraham had been fully obedient, in spite of Abraham's not being fully obedient. How can even God do this, without telling a lie?

By keeping the law on Abraham's behalf, before the law ever came into being. By planning to take Abraham's punishment - being Abraham's substitution.

Yeah. Go ahead. Wrap your mind around it, if you can.

After prayerfully writing my own commentary on this passage, I then (and only then) consulted other commentaries. And yes, many of those dead guys agree with me.

Calvin's commentary:

Because that Abraham obeyed my voice. Moses does not mean that Abraham’s obedience was the reason why the promise of God was confirmed and ratified to him; but from what has been said before, (#Ge 22:18), where we have a similar expression, we learn, that what God freely bestows upon the faithful is sometimes, beyond their desert, ascribed to themselves; that they, knowing their intention to be approved by the Lord, may the more ardently addict and devote themselves entirely to his service: so he now commends the obedience of Abraham, in order that Isaac may be stimulated to an imitation of his example."
Poole's commentary:
Here was a covenant made between God and Abraham; and as, if Abraham had broken the condition of walking before God required on his part, God had been discharged from the promise made on his part; so contrarily, because Abraham performed his condition, God engageth himself to perform his promise to him, and to his seed. But as that promise and covenant was made by God of mere grace, as is evident and confessed; so the mercies promised and performed to him and his are so great and vast, that it is an idle thing to think they could be merited by so mean a compensation as Abraham’s obedience, which was a debt that he owed to God, had there been no such covenant or promise made by God, and which also was an effect of God’s graces to him and in him.

Because that Abraham.] His obedience was universal to all the wills of God; and is here alleged, not as the meritorious cause, but as an antecedent, of the blessing. Our good works do truly please God in Christ, and move him, after a sort, to do us good; yet not as merits, but as certain effects of Christ’s merits alone, and such as of his merit. {a}
Good ol' Matthew Henry:

The obedience of Abraham to the Divine command, was evidence of that faith, whereby, as a sinner, he was justified before God, and the effect of that love whereby true faith works. God testifies that he approved this obedience, to encourage others, especially Isaac.

If you have hung in there this far, you are a student.

It is sad to hear a believer say, "I try to keep the law, because I want the blessings that come with keeping the law." This is a sad statement to hear, because it reveals how precious little foundation has been laid in the life of that believer. Where are the true apostles and pastors who are courageous enough to preach the gospel?

It is much easier to comply with the merit-mongers. But once your eyes are enlightened, if one time revelation hits you, you can no longer give lollipops to law lovers. When you see Christ in all His glory, you become a card-carrying Jesus Freak, with "Sola Gracia" emblazoned on your chest. You cannot pretend that anyone can attain to a righteousness that is of their self-will.

You can't even pretend it with your best friend.

"I want to be a friend of God."

A Quiet Spirit

And (the servant of Abraham) said, O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
And let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and thereby shall I know that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
And it came to pass, before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder.
And the damsel was very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up.
And the servant ran to meet her, and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hasted, and let down her pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink.
And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking.
And she hasted, and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels.
And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not. "

This man held his peace, to wit (in order to know) WHETHER the Lord had made his journey prosperous...or not.

He simply held his tongue. He waited. I am positively stunned and struck by the patient wisdom that Abraham's servant displayed here. Is it because he was a man? Sorry, girls, but most women (myself included, I guess) would have never held their peace by this point! They would be so anxious for the world to know "the favor of God" in answering their prayer so specifically and spectacularly, they would be blabbing on and on...telling Rebekah the whole back story.

Such a turn off. Really. Think about it.

Abraham's servant waits until precisely the right moment to tell the whole story, and even then, he tells it very carefully. He is almost sparing in his description of events, and you get no impression that he attempted to manipulate others' perceptions in the telling.

Ah, we would do so well to follow his example. We speak far too soon, we are far too anxious to parade our blessings and convince ourselves that God is up to "big things" with us and ours. A son or daughter who has spent months making life difficult for the parents, makes one seemingly wise choice, and mom declares him or her a totally changed individual.

Only...time proves that there has actually been no real change. It would have been better that nothing at all was said, than to speak too soon.

Do you know someone, who every turn of events is accompanied by their declaration of God's intrinsic blessing and involvement, and the entire back story is told? Told too soon? Way too soon. Know anyone like this?

Far from being true faith, what I just described is actually a manifestation of deep insecurity. The more you and I truly trust God, the quieter our spirits become.

There is simply no need to prattle or explain or manipulate. There is great wisdom in not counting (or killing) chickens before they hatch. Let God be God, and let the results speak for themselves, not our version of the results, before those results are actually in.

Kitchen Reveal: She's Done, But Still Needs "Jewelry"

The kitchen repair and redecorating is done...all but for the "jewelry". Jewelry is the last thing I put on, when I dress. And so - cabinet knobs and pulls are the "jewelry" of the kitchen...I put them on last. As in fashion, same with kitchen design: my favorite jewelry is the most expensive.

Therefore, to be completely honest, I have no idea when I will purchase the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs I want. We did this whole kitchen repair and redecorating for under $300...there is no more money allocated to the kitchen for now. It will have to wait. The kitchen jewelry I want will actually run me well over $100! So please excuse the knob-less cabinets, and the drawers with the old "twig" style pulls...other than that, my kitchen is "dressed" and ready for a few more years of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and parties.

Here is the kitchen "before" (picture from last Christmas) ~

And "After"~

The long view, from the hallway~

Fun details~

My glassware, more fun details on top of the cabinets~
One of the corner shelves~

The kitchen window (took some of these pictures late last night - not a good idea, probably...)~

Looking backwards, into the dining room (since I don't style my photos,you can see my sister's pocket parrot on a barstool. ::smile:: We're bird-sitting Pierce Brosnan (his name!) while my sister is at the beach with her family...)~

The kitchen's new accent color is torquise blue for the spring and summer, and I'll go to chocolate brown accents in fall and winter~

That hallway wall you see in the background will soon be painted in some Swedish/French inspired color - a dove grey, or a very pale shade of blue-green. The color palette of the entire house will be changed from autumn colors, to a very quiet white/cream/grey palette...colors that whisper.

Since taking art classes last summer, I have fallen in love with the idea of a "white canvas"...it is peaceful, and full of possibility. Any color in the whole world can be added, and it will never clash. I want the entire background of my home to be like that white canvas...fresh and clean and bright.

Thanks for coming by!

Healthy Meals

My buddy Lydia has started a new blog, dedicated to healthy eating. I can testify to the fact that she has been "living" her blog, and trying new recipes and sharing them, for quite awhile now. I am very excited for her, and hope her blog ministers to lots!

I have been one to scoff at "food rules", generally. Why? Because you name it, I have done it. Complete with cooking an entirely low-fat and no-fat Thanksgiving dinner, for which my family has mercilessly mocked me for over a decade ever since. I've done a whole foods diet, tried soaking my grains, and have been on a low carb diet. I still eat entirely whole grain bread and pasta and rice, and I still grind my own grains when I am in the mood.

I still believe in "real" food. I use butter. I use olive oil 95% of the time. I don't think twice about splashing real cream into my whole grain mac-n-cheese recipe. You won't catch low fat this or that in my fridge. I'm more concerned about fake food than I am fat grams.

Back in the day, I was adamant about eating "chemical free" food. Still, all that control over my food didn't do a whole lot for me. (I also don't have any known food allergies. If I did, that would be different. A few rules would have to apply.) In fact, it was precisely when I let go of the food rules that I felt dramatically better!

Nevertheless...I turned 40, a few years back. I swear, there is some invisible line you cross at 40. All at once, you have to wear reading glasses, and you have to eat consciously. It is time for me to be a little more mindful about my diet. This is what I love about Lydia's blog. It inspires you to conscious eating, not rule-based eating. (There is a strong link, by the way, with food rules and legalism. One is often a manifestation of the other!)

These days, I do notice a difference when I load up on Omega 3's, B vitamins (through fresh food sources, as well as a sublingual supplement), and I do so much better when I have a bit of protien with each and every meal, and when I have four or five tiny meals instead of two or three larger meals. What I eat, and how I eat it, now noticeably affects the quality of my day.

Inspired by Miss Lydia Joy, I want to share some particularly healthy recipes with you - recipes that constitute a nourishing breakfast and lunch.

Free range eggs, with salmon and fresh squeezed orange juice...

Salmon, any way you can get it, is crucial, in my mind. Unlike many, I won't even quibble over farmed or wild - canned or smoked - whatever you can afford. Just please eat your salmon.

Ingredients for hummus: 2 TB tahini, chickpeas, 2 cloves garlic, 3 or 4 TB lemon juice, coarse salt, and a splash of olive oil.

I love hummus with organic blue corn chips. Yum!

Fresh spinach is another very important food for us girls over 40. Walnuts. Flax seed and yogurt. And I am getting carried away.

Do visit Lydia's blog. I think you will enjoy it.

The Sad Reality of Offenses

The person most in position to advance you into the next level, is the person you are most likely to get offended by.

I plead with you, when this happens ("when", not "if") when the offense comes, stick and stay. See it through. Come under the authority of the word of God. You must come under to get over the mountain. Otherwise, you will have to repeat the lesson, and take the test over and over and over and...

...you get the idea. You can experience ten years worth of spiritual growth in a week, by simply coming under. Or, take ten years to "get" what could have taken you only a week. Either way, you never advance to "C" without going through "A" and "B".

I don't get to pick the vessel through which I am to be dealt with or promoted. I don't get to pick who I will hear and who I will not. The moment I choose not to hear, the very moment I run from the lesson, my life becomes like...

"...the song that never ends!
It just goes on and on my friend.
Some people started singing it
Not knowing what it was
But they'll just keep on singing it forever, just because
This is the song that never ends!
It just goes on and on my friend.
Some people started singing it..."

There is one, and only one, common denominator in all your broken relationships: you. The day you give up and face that fact, change your mind, deal with your issues, and go mend those relational fences, will be the day of your greatest glory. All of heaven will record it.