Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reclaiming submission

Caution...this post may not be appropriate for little eyes.


Hijacked by 50 Shades of Grey

Over the past few days, the female Christian social network has been abuzz over the controversial summer read, "50 Shades of Grey," and hundreds of Christian women have joined True Woman in its "I'm not reading 50 Shades of Grey" movement. Dannah Gresh has done a great job laying out reasons why women shouldn't read a book with a plot line glorifying BDSM (that's bondage, dominance, sadism, masochism), so there's no need for me to create my own reasons for not reading the book.  However, as I've been reading the reviews in publications like Newsweek and NYT, I have found myself wrestling with one word that keeps popping up like a bad weed.  A beautiful word that has been hijacked, tampered with, and changed into something so ugly that it makes us queasy just to look at it.  What word, you ask?


"Ugly" submission vs. "Beautiful" Submission

In almost every review or article I've read, some form of this word has surfaced.  And it's never pretty.   It's almost always in reference to the sexually submissive woman who allows herself to be beaten, bruised, and abused.  

This is what I call "ugly" submission.  And let me make this very clear from the is not healthy or good.  No woman should allow a man to inflict pain on her for his own pleasure.  This is antithetical to the love and submission that the bible speaks of. When the Bible speaks of submission, it is a word of beauty, grace and freedom.  

To submit literally means to "put yourself under the authority of another."  The question is...whose authority are you putting yourself under?  

The Bible says that we are called to submit ourselves to God. (James 4:7).  Not a domineering, abusive God.  A loving, compassionate God, all-wise and all-powerful.  Often when we hear the word "submit" we hear a word that devalues.  As if being under someone's authority automatically makes you "less."  But that's not the kind of submission God calls us to.  We are instead called to submit ourselves to God so that "he might exalt" us.  

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. -James 4:7-10

Submission is for our good and his glory.

Under his tutelage

Not many of my readers know this, but up until a few years ago, I dreamed of becoming an opera singer.  For years, I practiced and trained with three different vocal coaches, in hopes of one day singing at the Met.  

The relationship between a musician and her teacher is one like none other.  In every other area of my life, my submission was somewhat forced.  I had to submit to my parents...they fed me.  I had to submit to teachers...they graded me.  But with my voice teachers, I was making a conscious choice to submit to their authority.  I was trusting them to teach me and guide me to my dream.  I surrendered to their authority because I knew that it would be for my good.  They knew what was best for me.  They knew when I needed to be pushed and when I needed to rest.  They knew what lessons I needed to learn.  They knew what vocal exercises would help me sing better.  They saw the big picture and broke that down into bite-sized, manageable little pieces.

They were masters of their craft, but their desire was never to put me down so that they might be puffed up.  They wanted me to be successful.  They selflessly loved me, cared for me, groomed me so that I might be "exalted," but I first had to submit to them. I had to make myself low (sometimes practicing the same vocal exercise hundreds and hundreds of times!) before they could make me high.

I realize that it's not a perfect analogy. No human authority can ever be as perfect as God because we are a fallen people (in fact, one of my voice teachers is now in prison because of his abuse of authority with one of his students). But my hope is that it helps you see what beautiful submission really looks like. It's kind. It's caring. It's loving. It's sacrificial. 

A perfect example of submission  

What I love about God is that he never call us to do anything he hasn't already done. In Jesus, we have a perfect example of submission to God... 

Even though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 5:6-11

Jesus, the God of the universe, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross in submission to God the Father.  And now, he is highly exalted.

A perfect example of submission.  

The question of submission

Early on, I asked the question, "Whose authority are you putting yourself under?"

So...who is your authority?

Are you allowing yourself to be beaten and bruised for someone else's gratification? Or maybe you're living for yourself ? Either way, the results aren't promising. Romans 8:13 says "if you live according to the flesh you will die."

If you are under another authority, I urge you to submit yourselves to God. He alone can rescue you from death because he endured death on your behalf in the greatest act of submission and sacrifice in history.

And not only does he rescue you from death, but he promises eternal life and glory in Christ, who "will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  (1 Peter 5:10)

Submission doesn't have to be ugly, friends.  Being under the authority of a generous, merciful God is the most freeing, beautiful, safe place I have ever been.  

Today, I'm linking up with...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Moments of remembrance

Twelve years ago, a group of school children touring the nation's capitol were asked the question, "What is Memorial Day?"

"That's the day the pool opens!" one child replied.  

It was that child's response that encouraged Congress to establish a national moment of remembrance.  One moment on Memorial Day when we are called as a nation to pause and remember those who sacrificed their own lives so that we might enjoy our freedom.  

Today, the nation will pause at 3:00 p.m. to honor these fallen soldiers.  Families will join hands in prayer, stadiums will fall silent...Americans everywhere will take a moment to remember.

Photo credit

We are a forgetful people in need of constant reminders.  As Christians, we might take a tip from Congress and establish moments of remembrance in our own lives.  Moments where we take the time to remember he who sacrificed his own life so that we might enjoy the truest freedom...

...Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated 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 once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:12-13                                                                                                                      
Pause and remember.

Today, I'm linking up with...

miscellany monday at lowercase letters

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stories of Daughters Redeemed: Gleaning from Ruth

Stories of Daughters Redeemed

I don't know about you, but I LOVE hearing other people's stories. Where they come from, who they are, what makes them's fascinating to me! So, I've decided to make Fridays story time here at Daughter Redeemed. Each Friday (lord-willing), I will be sharing Stories of Daughters Redeemed. The redeemed daughter may be someone famous or she may be someone unknown. She may be living for Christ now or she may be gone on to glory. But all of these women will have one story in common...their story of redemption in Christ.

A Diamond in the Rough

Today, I thought it fitting to start out the series with this blog's namesake...Ruth.

Ruth is one of my favorite characters in the bible. To me, her story is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption ever told.

A while back, our church went through a series on the book of Judges. If you've never read Judges, it's a pretty heavy book. Lots of darkness. Lots of sin. And it ends with one of the most tragic lines of the bible, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

But I remember our pastor referring to the book of Ruth as "the diamond in the rough." All this darkness, all this sin...but there's a glimmer of hope in the book of Ruth.

Where the book of Judges ends, the book of Ruth picks up, with the first line reading, "In the days when the judges ruled..."

 At first, we don't see the diamond. It looks like all rough. The judges were ruling. There was a famine in the land. Ruth's husband had died, along with all the other men in her family. She, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law Naomi, were left to fend for themselves.

Naomi, realizing that she had no way to care for the girls, encouraged them to return to their homeland. One daughter-in-law left, but Ruth was determined to stay. She was fiercely loyal to her mother-in-law. A trait that I have always admired in her.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth decided to follow the one true God, and she and Naomi traveled back to Bethlehem together...just in time for barley harvest. And Ruth, out of care for her mother-in-law, set out to the fields to "glean" after the harvesters. While in the fields, she happened to come to the part of the field which belonged to a man named Boaz who took particular interest in her...

“Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Then she said,“I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

When she returned home, Naomi--in typical mother-in law fashion--asked whose field she had worked in that day. When Ruth told her about Boaz, Naomi praised God, for she knew that Boaz was a relative and a redeemer.  You see, at this time, if a woman was widowed, an unmarried man in the family could take her as his own bride so that she and her family would be taken care of.  This man was called a kinsman redeemer.  Naomi recognized that Boaz was a potential "kinsman redeemer" and praised God for bringing him into their life.

Boaz eventually redeems Ruth (and Naomi, by association).  Before the elders and all the people of the land, he takes Ruth as wife, and the people and the elders pronounce a blessing on the couple on their offspring.  The bible says that they then conceived and bore a son.  

And then one of the most beautiful lines in the book reads...

The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!"  

You see, God had not just delivered Naomi and Ruth from hunger and poverty.  This was just a small part of an even bigger redemption story.  For through the baby boy who was born to Boaz and Ruth, would come another baby boy who would one day redeem not just a family, but an entire people to himself by dying on a cross.  Jesus, our true kinsman redeemer.  A diamond in the rough.

"Gleaning" from Ruth

In Ruth's story, we see a tremendous example of simple, yet profound trust.  She deserted all that she knew, all that she follow the one true God.  When she was poor and hungry, the bible says that she took refuge under the wings of her redeemer.  At one point, she even laid herself down at the feet of her redeemer, surrendering herself to his care.

Today, I encourage you to have that same level of trust in your own kinsman redeemer.  Lay yourself down at his feet.  Surrender to his care.  Blessed are you, daughter, for he has not left you this day without a redeemer!

Do you have a recommendation for Stories of Daughters Redeemed?  If so, please leave a comment below!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moment by Moment

Just this past year, I discovered the words to an old hymn called "Moment by Moment".  I have been in love with this song ever since...

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a battle with wrong for the right,
Never a contest that He doth not fight;
Lifting above us His banner so white;
Moment by moment I'm kept in His sight.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear;
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop, and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on the throne
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus, my Savior, abides with me still.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

-Lyrics by Daniel Whittle, Music by May Whittle Moody (Daughter-in-law of Dwight Moody)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rightly rejoicing

Mother's Day is this Sunday, and I'm not a mother yet.

Last year, I remember turning to my husband at church on Mothers Day, beaming as I whispered, "Just think! Next year, I might actually BE a mother!"

I thought I would at least have a bun in the oven by now. But that wasn't God's plan. Not for this Mother's Day at least.

And so, this Sunday, I will go to church, surrounded by cooing babies and doting mothers. And while I'll be tempted to sulk in my circumstances and wallow in my heartache, I hope to "rejoice with those who rejoice." (Rom. 12:15) A lesson that God has been teaching me for some time now.

The truth flesh doesn't want to rejoice with those who rejoice. It doesn't want to attend another baby shower or look at thousands of baby photos on Facebook or listen to the great "baby wise" debate.

"Because," says my flesh, "if I don't have one, then you shouldn't either."

But thanks be to God who has saved me from my own flesh! I am now able and equipped to rejoice with those who rejoice because "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Because of Christ, I don't have to wish away anyone else's happiness. I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice.

But what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?

Before I talk about what it looks like, I think it might be helpful to talk about what it doesn't look like.

Over the past few months, I've learned that rejoicing with others doesn't mean masking or stifling your own suffering.

It's okay to hurt. It's okay to long for a baby or a husband or a job. It's okay to weep. Romans 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice," but it also tells us to "weep with those who weep." It's okay (and actually good) for others to see us weep so that they can be obedient to weep with us. The bible tells us to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). By hiding our suffering, we aren't allowing the body of Christ to function as it's intended to.

Rejoicing also doesn't mean just getting by with the cultural etiquette. For awhile, I thought that going to baby showers, cooing over babies and discussing cloth diapers was me showing my friends that I was rejoicing with them. And those actions, in and of themselves, aren't bad. But when those social conventions aren't paired with a rejoicing heart, they aren't good either.

You see, rejoice doesn't actually mean to "show joy." It means to be joyful. If we are trying to show joy without being joyful, we've missed the point.

So back to the initial question...what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?

In Psalm 92, we see what it looks like to rejoice:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

The psalmist shows us that real rejoicing is about rejoicing in God--in who he is and in what he has done.

We rightly rejoice, then, when we join with our fellow believers in giving thanks to the LORD and singing praises to his name.

We rightly rejoice when we see and declare his steadfast love, faithfulness, and other divine attributes.

We rightly rejoice when we are made glad by what he has accomplished.

Take a moment to think about what this might practically look like in your life. How can you rejoice with those who rejoice?

For me, it might look a little something like this...

Thank you, God, for your good gift of children. As your word says, children are a blessing from you. You are the author of life, and I praise you for so intimately knowing and creating these little ones and for so intimately knowing and creating me. I pray that they will grow up to experience the true, everlasting life that is found in you. I rejoice in experiencing your great redeeming love in my own life and pray that these little ones will one day know your faithfulness and will see your steadfast love as displayed on the cross. I thank you for graciously making your great name known to yet another generation.

You see, rejoicing isn't about being glad in those around us. It's about being glad in God with those around us. When we focus our gladness on who God is and what he's done, the "me vs. them" mentality disappears and an "us" mentality takes its place. Because the gospel isn't just about God redeeming me, it's about God redeeming a people, an "us", for himself.

Let us rejoice together in our great God...

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Eph. 2:4-9

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Honoring the dishonorable

When I was little, I had a bit of a sassy mouth.  I thought I was always right and always had to get the last word in.  I didn't get a lot of spankings, but I was well acquainted with the infamous bar of soap.  

I remember one morning when I was being particularly sassy.  I stubbornly continued to run my mouth after my mother had asked me to stop several times.  Overwhelmed with my disobedience and the needs of three little ones at home, she lost her usual cool and slapped me across my cheek.  

I'll never forget the look on her face afterwards.  Sheer terror and disbelief.  Tears flowing down her own cheek, she ran out of the room.  She was probably more shocked than I was at what had just taken place.

Not long after, she returned, bending down to my level.  "I'm sorry for losing my temper," she said.  

And that was the first time I realized...

My parents are sinners.

As we grow older, our parents shed their superhero capes.  We become more aware of their flaws and are forced to come to terms with their sinfulness.  The ones who taught us, trained us, raised us to do what is right don't always do right themselves.  It's a tough pill to swallow.

The bible tells us (multiple times!) to honor our fathers and mothers.  But as adult children who now know the fuller extent of our parents' sinfulness, how are we to accomplish this?  How do we obey God while they disobey?  How are we to honor the dishonorable?

To put it Jesus did.

During his time on earth, Jesus was all about honoring the dishonorable.

He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.  He healed the demoniacs, lepers, and lame.  He associated with the "untouchables" of society.

In the same way, we should spend time with our parents.  This may seem quite obvious to some, but if you're like me, time with mom and dad can easily get lost in the shuffle.  When the business of life takes over, parents can often take a back seat.  We honor our parents by making time for them.  Taking time out of our busy schedules for a meal, phone call or note is one way to honor our parents.

He didn't condone their sinfulness, but he didn't run away from them either.  He sat with them, cared for them, spoke with them, listened to them, healed them, saw them, loved them.

It's important to remember that we are children of God first, children of our earthly parents second.  God and his ways should always be our first priority.  We are not called to enable sinful behavior or to engage in sinful activities.  We are instead called to be blameless and holy.  Honoring our parents does not mean turning a blind eye to sin or allowing our parents to sin against us or others.  That does not honor God.

But we do honor God and by respecting and caring for our parents.  This may take many forms in different relationships at different ages.  For the college student, it may mean listening to your parents and giving special weight to their advice and opinions as you make important life decisions.  For the young, married professional, it may come back to taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to mom and dad.  For those with children of their own, it may mean teaching your children to respect and love their grandparents, accepting counsel from your parents with grace and humility, and allowing them to be a part of your parents' lives.  For children of elderly parents, it may mean caring for the physical needs of parents who are no longer able to care for themselves.  For the children of deceased parents, it may mean thanking God for  your parents and being grateful for their years of service.

He preached the gospel faithfully.  Calling each one to repent and follow (Mark 1:15).  Praying that they would come to know him (Jn 15:1-26).

Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, and his greatest desire is that we repent and follow him.  We then honor our heavenly father when we proclaim the gospel to those around us.  He is delighted when we point each other to Christ.  Our conversations with our parents (both believing and unbelieving parents) should be seasoned with talk of Christ's saving work on the cross.

When a parent is being "dishonorable," it is good and right to lovingly point him or her to Christ.  And taking our cue from Jesus, we ought to pray for our parents as well...that they "might know the only true God" (John 17:3), that God would "keep them from the evil one" (17:15), and that they might be sanctified and glorified in Christ (17:17,22).

He viewed them as sinners in need of forgiveness and he died for them so that they might enjoy a restored relationship with God.  He became dishonorable so that we might become honorable (2 Corinthians 5:21).  

The bible tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  We, too, are dishonorable sinners in need of forgiveness.  God has forgiven us much, therefore we must forgive much.  We must be quick to forgive and eager to reconcile with our parents, for that is God's own heart towards us.

We are the benefactors of such great love and mercy.  Our proper and God-honoring response is to extend this same great love and mercy to others.

When I find it difficult to love my own parents, I find myself meditating on this verse...

"We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Because Jesus loved us, we are now free to love others. On the cross, he made it possible for us to love the unlovable.

And on the cross, he also made it possible for us to honor those undeserving of honor.

How do we honor the dishonorable?

Quite Jesus did.



Today, let's purpose to honor our parents in two specific ways:

1) Pray for them.  If you're not sure how to pray, I would encourage you to use John 17:1-26 as a guide.  This passage shows how Jesus intercedes for us!

2)  Show love to them.  Make a phone call, send a note, or grab a cup of coffee and try to season your conversation with talk of Jesus and his saving work on the cross.