Unaccepted Apologies = Unhappiness {Lent Day #16}

She emailed me in her grief and asked if I’d pray.  She had said things not intended for certain ears, but those ears eventually heard and they were hurt.  So hurt and angry that they refused to forgive.  My friend tried several ways of reaching out and admitting her fault and expressing sorrow for what she’d said, but her efforts were refused, balked at even.  An olive branch of a package was even sent, and my friend is hoping it will soften a heart and restore a friendship, but she was feeling hopeless about the outcome when she wrote.

My friend is not happy.  She is deeply grieved over what she has done and doubly grieved by the unaccepted apology.

It made me think of this:

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!
Psalm 32:1-2

Exclamation points! Happy!  That’s what “blessed” means.  That’s the English translation of the Hebrew word “esher.”  I thought I had learned that somewhere before, and I thank Blue Letter Bible for confirming it today.

HAPPY is the person who has been forgiven!  SAD is the person whose sins are held against them {or whose sins are never mentioned…but that truth comes later in the Psalm}.  That’s just how our hearts work, because His law is written on them. Thankfully Christ has made provision for the unhappy state of our hearts by offering forgiveness at the Cross ~ especially when people do not.

Lord, I’m sorry today for…

my negative attitude
my grabbing at control
my thinking I can control things better than You
my lack of trust
my refusal to think on Truth
my excessive focus on self
my reluctance to serve
my working against my husband rather than for and with him at times
my sometimes cold heart toward Your church and Your people
my squelching of Your Spirit
my unwillingness to do the hard work of forgiveness {when You give it so abundantly…}
my always wanting more
my lack of compassion and grace
my lack of gratitude
my worry, my pride, my judgments
my withholding of relationship
my questioning of Your love and Your good plan
my resisting the call to motherhood and homeschooling
my gossip, slander, disdain…

Thank you for not leaving me in the unhappy state of guilt and sadness that these things lead to.  Your grace and forgiveness make provision for a free and happy heart.  I’ve taken that truth for granted, and I’m sorry.

Amputation, huh? {Lent Day #15}

I’m not sure how Martin Luther did it, confessing his sins daily and sometimes for hours on end.  I read recently that he just about drove his Father Confessor insane with his “excessive” confessions. He was accused of  trying to avoid work and studies by staying in the confessional, but that wasn’t the case.  He was only and sincerely in earnest regarding the practice of confession.

Unfortunately, I can not always relate to the devotion of my brother Martin. Some days it just seems difficult to enter into a time of confession before God.  Is this really necessary?  Have I really sinned since yesterday this time?  Was it really that bad?

Actually, those aren’t very good questions to be asking, but those are the ones that were coming to mind today.  So, I turned my dilemma and reluctance into a prayer…

Why can’t I see my sin more clearly, Lord?

Why am I not feeling an appreciation or deep need for Your Cross today?

How do I follow through with the command to confess, when I’m numb to my need?

What should I do on days like this, Lord?

And what He seemed to be saying in response was…”Have faith.  Take Me at My Word.”

And what His Word says in regard to sin and my ability to stand before Him without the Cross of Christ is… a lot!  But these were the verses that came to mind:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…
Romans 5:12

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
I Corinthians 15:22

And then that phrase “made alive” reminded me of a book by John Piper that I started reading a while ago called Finally Alive.  In it, he gives a helpful illustration…

“Most people do not know what is really wrong with them.  One way to help them make a true and terrible and hopeful diagnosis is to show them the kid of remedy God has provided, namely, the new birth.  If you have a sore on your ankle and after the doctor does his test, he comes in and says, ‘I have hard news: We have to take your leg off just below the knee,’ then that remedy tells you more about the sore than any erudite medical words. So it is with the remedy ‘You must be born again.’ ” {p. 20}
My dad didn’t need to have his leg amputated, thankfully.  But he has required two knee replacements!

 So today, by faith, I choose to remember that I was dead in my sins before His death made me alive.  By faith I am sobered that the remedy for my condition required His brutal death.  Even though acknowledging this may be a stretch for me today, I choose {by faith} to call to mind that my sin was not just a tiny sore, but an infectious disease requiring radical amputation and regeneration.

Only God Can Do This Stuff {Lent Day #14}

Yesterday Robert urged me to sit awhile and reflect on the Lord’s goodness to me over the weekend.  “Otherwise your heart will grow hard,” he said.

He told me that he does it every Monday ~ reflect on all that the Lord did on a Sunday.  All of the conversations, the responses, the encouraging words, the coming coffee dates to discuss how the message has impacted someone, the lit up eyes and faces, the obvious worship that was going on, the afternoon meetings ~ all of it.

“Don’t just keep plowing through your week.  Take some time to take it all in and thank Him,” he strongly exhorted.

I planned to do it.  I looked forward to it greatly in my exhaustion.  But it didn’t happen.  The day was taken by unforeseen events and then it was over. And there may or may not have been some tears and some indulging in M&M’s over this…

But today is another day, and my confession today will be that ONLY GOD could have orchestrated the way things played out over the weekend.  I confess that He alone is sovereign and good.

It was time for me to get up and give the last of four talks at a weekend women’s retreat.  Surely they are so tired of hearing me speak, Lord, I had thought as I prayed for the time.  I know that I am tired of hearing me speak!

One of the retreat coordinators came to me and told me that a woman would be giving her testimony right before I gave the final talk.  This was an unexpected turn and SHE was unexpected candidate.  Surely she’s not going to give THAT testimony, my mind began to race. It’s so vulnerable and risky for her to do that here, I thought.  She’s probably just going to pick another way the Lord has worked in her life through another situation and not THIS one.

And then my mind swirled with what I was about to approach the podium and say.  The fourth talk in a weekend series about how to cooperate with the Lord in the “turns” and seasons of sanctification.  We’d already covered the “turns” of normal, faithful living, of crisis, fear, and desperation, and of blessing and answered prayer.  Now we were going to look at a “turn” of restoration and remembrance…“In seasons of restoration and remembrance, we should be eager to give authentic testimony of God’s goodness and redemption in our lives.”

I’m sure it will be a great testimony, but certainly she won’t be THAT authentic today. Not here.

And then she walked to the microphone and behind the music stand and she gave THAT testimony.  The one that has caused the most heartache and pain, loss of friends, persecution, and almost her marriage.  She admitted her own fault and her failure to relate to the Lord “vertically” rather than “horizontally.” She feigned no piety. She was broken before us, and yet healed and strengthened, too…by her Lord.

Stunned by her courage and vulnerability, I was in tears.  She had no idea what I was about to speak about.  No one did. It was orchestrated by none but the Lord. When she finished I thought maybe I should just walk to the mic and say “Amen.”  What else needed to be said?

When I got to the podium I could see that the whole crowd was in tears. I prayed through my tears before I spoke, and thanked her for so bravely illustrating what I was about to teach.

Only God knew and it was a beautiful surprise to ALL of us.

Come, and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell you of what He has done for my soul.
Psalm 66: 16

I will speak your testimonies before kings and shall not be ashamed.
Psalm 119: 46

It was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His Word.
I Kings 12:15

I’ve sat and I’ve reflected and I’ve written it all down.  Only He is God.  Only He is good.  And every “turn” is intended to “establish His Word.”

Morose Mood = M&M’s {Lent Day #13}

I really wish I could come up with something better, more mature, and deeply spiritual to post for my daily Lenten confession endeavor, but this is all I’ve got today.  It’s not your typical Lenten practice.  In fact it’s actually the opposite of the fasting and self examination traditionally observed, but it’s what I resorted to today ~ eating a third of a bag of leftover Valentine M & M’s purchased for Latin drill rewards for my Challenge 1 students.  I’m  hoping they will soothe my sullenness. It was like I was eating popcorn and not candy, and I really even prefer popcorn to candy, but not today.

Lord, I confess I am weak. I want to be loved and served and considered.  I want friendship and fellowship. I don’t want to identify with You in the laying down of my life.  I would rather love my life than hate it.  I don’t want to take up my Cross.  I don’t want to deny myself {hence the M&M’s}. I don’t know how to pray or to listen or focus on Your Word today, and I’ve even tried to do those things.  I’m selfish and I’m sad…and I’m sorry.  You are so good and worthy of any sacrifice, but today I’m steamrolled and weary and wanting only what I want.  Thank you for your love and forgiveness in spite of this.  May I delight in each part of knowing and walking with you.  Thank you for the Cross and the coming celebration of your death and resurrection.

Resisting Gifts & Retreat Rejoicing {Lent Day #12}

“My dear,” she said after a time, “have you a perfectly distinct, settled view of what Christ is to the human soul?”

“I do not know.  I understand, of course, more or less perfectly that my salvation depends on Him alone; it is His gift.”

“But do you see with equal clearness that your sanctification must be as fully His gift as your salvation is?”

“No, I said, after a little thought. “I have had a feeling that He has done His part and now I must do mine.”

“My dear,” she said with much tenderness and feeling, “then the first thing you have to do is learn Christ.”

“But how?”

“On your knees, my child, on your knees!”

~Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss

{So…I know that Lent isn’t traditionally practiced on Sundays, but that’s okay….}

Lord, forgive me for thinking that “now I must do my part” and then getting worn out in my efforts, not to mention prideful.  I cannot achieve sanctification, just as I could not achieve salvation, but I confess that I’ve thought and acted as if I could. Forgive me for resisting your gifts and for striving so much ~  as if working for them would make me worthy.

“Therefore, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12: 1-2
The weekend was so wonderful, and as usual, I came away feeling as if the greatest gifts and blessings were given TO me rather than coming from me.  Maybe I can share more about that soon.  I’m really overwhelmed by specific ways the Lord revealed Himself through the women at the retreat and through the order of events and the scriptures and how He wove it all together to reveal His power and grace.  Wow. Just wow.  
{And I love how He wove Hebrews and one of my favorite passages from Stepping Heavenward today.  Just grace upon grace…}
Joyful tonight….and sleepy.  Good night.

Wonderful Weariness {Lent Day #11}

“Hardship after hardship is with me…” is what Job said in the aftermath of losing just about everything he had from his property, to this servants, to his livestock, to his health, and to his very own sons and daughters.  Now, that’s true hardship.  And it was one after the other after the other.  What else could he have said?
I have never even been close to that kind of hardship, but there are some folks around me and dear to me who are very close to that sort of hardship right now. My so-called “hardships” of a life in constant motion are nothing in comparison, and still “I’m worn” as the song says, “life just won’t let up.” 
But Lord, I confess that my expectations are way off and so are my desires.  You’ve given me so much. You’ve filled every part of my life with abundance and blessing and joy and health, but it’s never enough, and my complaints come far too easy.  Forgive my grumbling and complaints.  Forgive the attitude that my life should be…ought to be…any day will be….easier, better.  It’s unrealistic and ungrateful. And my life is so good.  I know that’s your grace.
Today, I am at a women’s retreat ~ as the guest speaker ~ for four main sessions. I’m speaking on the “turns” of life {see 1 Kings 12:15} and the sanctification process.  I’m exhorting women to not only face their “turns,” but embrace them as directly from the Lord and for the distinct purpose of making them more like Him, giving them hope and joy in Him, though the turns often feel like hardships.  This is a humbling privilege.
And though I’m feeling worn as I write, feeling it “before the day even begins,” from the pace of a rich and full life, I’m trusting the Lord to strengthen me to embrace life’s “turns” and be used by Him in the process.  Pray for me today of you think of it ~ and for all of the women in attendance to be built up in their faith.
Yes, I’m worn, but it’s the wonderful kind of worn.
P.S.  Thanks, sis, for telling me about this song and for wanting rest for me.  Praying for you to embrace the turns that are coming, so that you can then look back and see His beautiful plan for you.

Gluten Free Friday ~ Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars {Lent Day #10}

The confession I need to make today is that I told my sister I would send her this recipe a few days ago, and I didn’t do it.  Sorry, Melinda! ☺ But here it is, and hopefully still in time for your craving or occasion.  We had this on Christmas morning when my Texas and California family was here visiting.  We actually make it quite a bit around here.  It’s great for breakfast and perfect for snacks.  I’m pretty sure it originated with my friend, Aimee, and has now become a staple in the homes of all of my friends.  Mine is tweaked a bit to accommodate the lack of gluten = more eggs and oil ~ and even xanthan gum if you’ve got it!
I don’t have a very good picture, but here’s one of the bars in the re-usable wraps and bags we’ve been making around here!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

2 cups GF flour mix
4 cups GF oats {regular or quick both work fine}
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1 1/4 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
1 12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
1 tsp xanthan gum {this is really optional, but when I have it, I use it}

Blend sugar into oil.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together; add to batter along with milk.  Stir in chocolate chips and spread into a greased jelly-roll pan, cookie sheet, or 9×13 baking dish.

I’m leaving this evening to speak at a women’s retreat at a nearby conference center for women from churches in the surrounding areas.  I would be so happy if you prayed for me and for the women who will attend!

Wounding Words {Lent Day #9}

The sad thing is that I didn’t think I was capable of this.  Speaking words that wound.  Growing up, I was on the receiving end of a lot of wounding words, harsh, sarcastic tones, raised voices, and unbridled criticism.  It was painful then, and the the memories can still produce grief.  I would never do that to anyone I loved, I thought. But here are some things I find myself having to say frequently and sadly, reluctantly…
“I’m sorry I got angry when we were talking about…” {insert either important or silly, non-crucial issue}
“I’m sorry I raised my voice. Mom’s are not supposed to do that.”
“I know it hurt you when I said…”
“I’m sorry I talked about that person {that you are required to submit to, reach out to, minister to…} in a negative way…”
Or it’s sometimes like this…
“I’m sorry I did not talk to you about…{any difficult situation}…I should have done that.”
Or it could be that I just don’t speak at all, withholding words of blessing, encouragement, praise, affection, friendly questions, and prayer with and for others.  Why do I do that?  Because with my spoken and unspoken words I cling for power and praise, respect for myself and the control of others.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 
Ephesians 4: 29

When I read that this morning, it made me think of two others:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:21

{and I like how it’s “worded” in the Message: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit ~ you choose.}


There is one who speaks rashly, like the thrusts of the sword {ouch!}, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12: 18

There are HUNDREDS more verses than that regarding words and the tongue.  During my college days, I was challenged to the task of looking up and writing out all of the verses in the Bible that mention the tongue or words.  Whoa.  It’s frightening, really.  A near impossible standard that I’m wrestling with even this week.
Lord, I confess my hurtful words and tone, my un-helpful, non-grace-giving words ~ words that are in order to build myself up and put another down.  Forgive me and my lack of control in speaking.  You often strengthen me to forsake hurtful words and even to speak words of truth and grace, but still I regularly choose against your exhortation to either remain silent or to speak encouragement to others. These are things that required your death on my behalf.  Thank you for forgiveness as well as transformation.  Give me a tongue that speaks selfless healing as well as praise to others and to you.

Imperfect Patterns {Lent Day #8}

 “Something has gone terribly wrong.  And everyone knows it.”  is how the chapter on the Fall opens in the book Doctrine by Driscoll and Breshears. The last few days around here have proven it over and over, and I’m not talking about the frustrations inherent in every sewing project, but they are a good illustration!  Just look at what happened to Mary’s bobbin over and over during our Saturday girls’ sewing day until we diagnosed the problem:
On Monday we learned that the young brother of a church member is fighting for his life due to sudden complications from pneumonia.  He had just not been feeling well for a few days, and now this.  Yesterday we learned that friends had lost their oldest son, a senior at UMass, to possible suicide.  This is the second friend of mine to lose a son to suicide in the last year. Last week we sent Valentine flowers to a young woman whose husband has chosen to divorce her even though she doesn’t want him to. Kayla came down with a fever and aches again last night after a full day at Classical Conversations ~ her 4th round of fever, aches, flu, etc since the summer. And today a friend and I shared Starbucks coffee and stories of the battles and disappointments that go hand in hand with parenting, and our often sinful reactions of anger and harsh words.  Yes, everyone knows that things are not as they should be.  There are reminders everywhere.
While we pinned and cut and pinned and cut some more, I kept reminding the girls how important precision is each step of the way. The pajama pattern we were using is actually quite forgiving, unlike a tailored shirt or dress, but lining things up as perfectly as possible along the way ensures less frustration at the end.  Even then, the finished product often does not quite measure up to your hopeful expectation.

It got me thinking about sin, and confession, and this season of considering my imperfections, my depravity. Ever since Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, the pattern for humanity and creation has been imperfect ~ pervasively so.  It’s not necessarily that my sin is only the “bad stuff” I do, but rather it pervades {spread through and perceived in every part} my entire being, the entire order of the natural world. All is marred and imperfect ~ my thoughts, my motives, my actions, my desires…everything. It’s the reason for sickness, and suicide, angry outbursts, divorce, and all other disasters and tragedies.
And knowledge of this is what ought to make the Cross and salvation so glorious to me.  Jesus pays for my imperfections and rebellion, and then He even makes something good of me by and through Himself.  He takes my imperfectly cut pattern and fabrics and sews together something useful and beautiful in His grace.

Thankful for reminders of this beautiful truth everywhere ~ even in flannel pjs made together with friends!

Hopeless, Ashamed, Yet Brought Near {Lent Day #7}

The tears were coming so easily yesterday and this morning ~ tears of joy and tears of fatigue and frustration.  My friends got to meet their sweet son soon after his birth mother gave birth, and the pictures that followed were just so beautiful.  In the midst of all of that joy, there was also the stress of preparing to teach, buy groceries two days before pay day, shepherd teens in their various activities and needs, and just physical weariness.  I sent the oldest out the door early this morning for a Young Life ski trip, and as he left I couldn’t hold back the tears of realization that he’ll be gone next year, and of how much I will miss him.

And my temptation is to plow through the early morning hours accomplishing the long list of urgent chores, but I sit and read and this these verses strike me.  They also bring to mind things discussed yesterday over lunch with a young woman from my church.  She wondered about her motives in living out faith and serving in various ways, whether they were out of a sincere love for Christ, and whether she should be doing them if not.

“…remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Ephesians 2: 12-13

Lord, thank you for drawing me near to You in Jesus. I was a stranger and without hope and You brought me near through His blood.  Again, I confess taking it lightly and living with the attitude that I deserved it.  I didn’t deserve it ~ it was a gift in spite of my lacking of any qualifying characteristics.  Thank you for the gift of salvation.  Forgive the attending of church, the singing of songs, the leading of Bible study ~ when those activities are all for my own enjoyment and exaltation.  I do love Your Word and worship and ministry, but there is always selfishness mixed in and a desire to gain approval and a circling of friends who like me and make me feel good and useful. Forgive and purify those thoughts and motives. Forgive my hesitations and outright refusals to speak of You because my reputation may be in jeopardy if I do.  And if I really get to the bottom of this, I have to confess being ashamed of You, and not truly loving Your church either.  Just like I was hopeless to save myself, I am also hopeless to have pure love for You and pure motives in serving You without Your grace and transforming work in my life.  Thank you that you give that grace freely!