Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Best Heart Medicine




For the past several months, I've been dealing with some relatively serious health issues. You can read more about it here if you'd like more details, but in a nutshell, I've been suffering from acute allergic reactions since November. The cause is still unknown.

Since we don't know exactly what's triggering these episodes, my doctor has put me on a pretty strong cocktail of antihistamines in hopes that they'll help keep me safe while he tries to come up with a diagnosis and a more permanent solution.

Today, I realized that my heart is mirroring my body. There's something wrong there. Something I can't diagnose right now.

After my first major allergic reaction, I saw an allergist who sent me home with no more than an epi-pen in hopes that it was "just a fluke." Needless to say, I sought out a second opinion because I knew that I needed someone who would help keep me safe while we searched for answers. 

In the same way, I want to keep my heart safe as I sort out whatever is going on in there, and I think a hefty dose of God's life-preserving Word is just what the Great Physician ordered. 

God's words of eternal life are like the pills I take each morning and evening to ward off sickness. If I am in God's word, then I am fully armed and protected to face each new day with the belt of truth and the sword of the Spirit.

"If your law had not been my delight," the psalmist writes, "I would have perished in my affliction." He continues, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life." (Psalm 119:92-93 ESV)

God uses his word to give us life and to sustain it. In times of uncertainty, his word is reliable and true. We can count on him and his word to keep us safe.

Yes, I want a diagnosis, and I'm sure God will be faithful to search me and test my heart. For now, though, I put on my armor and pray, "I have suffered much; give me life, O LORD, according to your word." (Psalm 119:107 ESV)



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Hearts Made For Baseball and the Gospel



Some families spend their summer vacations traveling to national parks. Mine visited national ballparks.

Many of my best childhood memories took place at these parks—singing the seventh inning stretch with Harry Caray at Wrigley Field, cheering for the sausages at Miller Park, watching the Red Sox score twenty-two runs at Fenway, and celebrating Cal Ripken Jr’s birthday while chewing on Double Bubble at Camden Yards.

There’s something about a major league baseball game that makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself. The ballpark is a magical place where old and young, rich and poor, fathers and daughters all gather for one common purpose: to enjoy America’s favorite pastime together.

At each baseball game, you form a sort of family with the other 20,000 fans in the stands. When the lights go out and your new family members return to their respective lives, your heart aches just a little. Even grown men have been known to shed a tear or two at the end of the season. But there’s always the promise of next year (just ask our beloved Chicago Cubs).

Why do we love baseball so much?

It could be because our hearts are made for it…or at least something like it.

Something that brings together people of all colors and cultures and puts them on a level playing field…

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 ESV).

Something that gives us reason to stand up and cheer…


But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV).

Something that makes us want to share hot dogs and peanuts and Cracker Jack with the guy sitting next to us in the stands…

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-27 ESV).

And something that gives us great hope…


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The same hearts that soar after the game-winning run are the hearts that were made to praise and glorify God forever.

And because of the good news of Jesus Christ...they can.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When All You Want to Do is Strike



Do you ever feel like you just want to strike?

Maybe you've fantasized about walking out the door for a day, leaving the dishes, diapers, and dinner for Daddy?

You're not alone.

On March 8, the Women's March movement is encouraging women to walk out on "paid and unpaid labor" as part of their A Day Without a Woman strike.

Today, I'm beyond thrilled (and incredibly humbled!) to be a guest contributor at Desiring God discussing the very first "Day Without a Woman" and six ways the Church can stand with women. 

But what about you--the weary, sleep-deprived, overworked mama? 

Maybe a strike sounds good to you right about now. How then should you respond when all you want to do is strike?

HOW NOT TO RESPOND

Before we discuss how we should respond to the temptation to strike, let's first take a moment to talk about how we should not respond.

Being a wife and mother is hard work. 

It's beautiful work, it's rewarding work, but have no doubt, it is hard work.

As Christian women, it's tempting to grin and bear it. To show the world how #blessed we are to clean the permanent marker off the dining room walls, when all we really want to do is scream.

But God doesn't call us to false humility, friends. And he most definitely does not call us to pretend to have it all together. He's all about #keepinitreal.

How should we not respond to the temptation to strike?

By not responding.

God doesn't want us to act like we have it all together, and he also doesn't want us to suffer in silence. Jesus says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest"
 (Matthew 11:28).


THE GOD WHO SEES

A strike can be tempting when you feel like your efforts are under-appreciated and largely unseen.

You're doing important work, and you want to feel important.

But sister, I implore you not to go down that road.

As followers of Christ, our motivation shouldn't be to earn the recognition of men--whether that's from our husbands, our children, or anyone else. 

Colossians 3:23-24 says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

God sees every diaper you change, every meal you make, every runny nose you wipe, and he is pleased.

Consider the Proverbs 31 woman. God sees her late nights, her early mornings, and her hard work. He recognizes all that she does for her family and for him, and he calls for her to be praised in the gates (Proverbs 31:10-31).

God sees what you do as well, mama. And you know what else? He sees you! Your thoughts, your pain, your desires--he sees all of it (Psalm 139:1-3). And he wants to help.


THREE GOD-HONORING RESPONSES

If we shouldn't keep silent and we shouldn't strike, then what should our response be?

Here are what I believe to be three God-honoring responses when all you want to do is strike.

1) PRAY.

The Bible says that the "eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those who heart is completely His"(2 Chronicles 16:9).

God wants to support you. He wants to strengthen you. All you need to do is make your requests known to him and ask for his help (Philippians 4:6)!

2) PREACH THE GOSPEL TO YOURSELF.

When you feel like walking out and giving up, take a deep breath and preach the gospel to yourself.

What does that mean exactly?

First, think about all that Christ has done for you.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
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. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Then, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of these gospel truths and help you apply them to the situation at hand. 


Maybe you're feeling like you just don't have any more love to give. Preaching the gospel to yourself might look like this...


"I don't have to love in my own strength. I am able to love because Jesus first loved me." (1 John 4:19)

Or maybe you're feeling weak. Here's how you might preach the gospel to yourself...


"I don't have to be strong. God is strong for me. His grace is sufficient for me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Or maybe you're hurt and angry. Give this a try...


"I can forgive because Christ forgave me. I can find joy because my greatest need has been met. I am at peace with God." (Ephesians 4:32, Romans 5:1)

It's hard to walk out on the job when you're thinking upon the sacrifice Christ made for you.

3) ASK FOR HELP.

If you are consistently being treated poorly by your husband or family, it's time to talk.

God's word says that you are to be honored and loved (Ephesians 5:25Ephesians 6:2).

You are not a doormat.

Instead of striking to make your point, though, ask your husband or family to sit down and have a conversation. Share with them how you feel, and humbly ask for help.

You might want to take this time to list every grievance, but try to focus in on one or two things your husband and/or kids can work on. 

Do you need more help around the house? 

Ask your family to do the laundry or to take over dinner one night a week.

Do you feel like you need some time away?

Tell your husband how you feel and figure out a way for you to get a much-needed break.

Do you feel unappreciated?

Share your feelings with your family and tell them how much a simple "thank you" means to you.

Whatever you do, don't suffer in silence. If there is sin that needs to be addressed, address it (Matthew 18:15). And if you need help, ask for it. Allow your family to be a means of grace in your life. 


An important note: If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. Talk to your pastor, local law enforcement agency, and/or trusted friend. God does not want you to stay in an abusive situation.

DON'T WALK AWAY

Let's face it. There are going to be days you just wanna go on strike.

Resist the urge, mama. 

Two thousand years ago, a young carpenter also wanted to walk away from the bitter cup he had been given. "Nevertheless," he prayed, "Not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42).

He laid down his rights--his life!--for you and me, so that we might experience God's amazing love in salvation. 

When you feel like walking off the job, remember that amazing love.  Your savior sees you, he loves you, and he wants to help.