I rejoice

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure — not to put it too severely– to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him.”  ~2 Corinthians 2:5-8

Disciplining children is probably 50% of what I do daily – (the other 50% is probably laundry and food prep!) and many days it’s wearisome. Truth is not arbitrary – when I parent, I am called to line up my boundaries, concerns and discipline with the truth of Scripture, not the truth of the day.

But as I have aged in this mothering thing, God has really taught me so much of His grace that abounds in the truth that must be our plumb line.

God’s grace never changes the straightness of truth — but it caresses the heart as it helps the heart bend in submission to the truth. That is my testimony throughout my life – my God in His great grace redeemed my anti-truth life and is in the process of making me more and more in His image and bending my heart more and more to His will.

But as the momma, I can be so put out with the “offender” – they’ve wrecked my plans, slowed me down, derailed the peace I had in the home, etc. I am quick to anger (and mostly it is unrighteous) and quick to respond-

Yet my God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! That combination of attributes is completely linked together all throughout God’s word as His response to sin. (some passages are at the bottom) I on the other hand desire to rid the sin from the moment, cleave it off forever and become exasperated if I have to address that same sin repeatedly (and especially if it’s with the same child!)

Paul in this passage is talking to the church at Corinth in which there was great sin. Many in the church had refused to confront the sin initially. When they finally confront and discipline this sinner in this passage, he repents. So Paul lays out the very important last step for the church to do – turn to forgive and comfort him. With my children, I must follow my discipline all the way through to forgiveness and comfort. This requires time. This requires energy. This requires investment. I have to keep reminding myself of this! Their sorrow over their sin needs to be met with forgiveness and comfort. Paul warns that if it is not, if there is a part of me that withholds my comfort/my heart then Satan has a prime opportunity to step in. In verses 10-11, “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Satan delights in my irritations about disciplining the same offense over and over. My flesh grows weary, and he offers thoughts “if they would just get this” or “how many times do I have to tell them” or “they never.” But God does not look at me with irritation remembering all the times before I’ve floundered here in the same areas of sin that I like to wallow in. 1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love believes all things.” My perspective or filter for my child needs to be from God’s loving perspective. In the Greek “believe” is pisteuei which means to believe, entrust, have faith in. You see that is God’s filter for me – He has entrusted me with His grace, His fullness, His Spirit that I may walk with Him.

Later in 2 Corinthians 7 Paul does this comforting – He praises their godly sorrow, gives examples of their comfort for Titus which he says also comforts him. He commends their earnestness, eagerness to be different in verse 11. And he encourages them after the discipline by saying that they have pleased God, encouraged others, and then ends with this amazing nugget: 2 Cor. 7:16 “I rejoice, because I have complete confidence in you.” This statement takes my breath away – this statement comes after very painful, loving discipline in the church and after a while of watching them and seeing how they will walk out truth. But it comes. It is so powerful to speak these words of life into a soul that wonders if anything good can come from them, who fears that they may always be the disobedient, the stumbler, the mistake maker, the mean one, the selfish one, whatever condemning lies the enemy is whispering.

 I rejoice with you because I have complete confidence in you, my child. I rejoice in your life, your fervor, your tenacity, your inquisitiveness, your independent streak, your boldness, and I have confidence that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.  That is the blessing we can bestow on our children and reaffirm our love and give them a picture of God’s unconditional love.

How do I sow?

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.” ~2 Cor. 9:6-12

How do I sow as a mother? as a wife? as a friend, daughter, sister? God has been whispering this question to me now for several weeks as He patiently works within me on this point. Do I even view my life as a planting ground with seeds for a future harvest? Or is my life one thing and the way I spend my money the only sowing I need to worry about?

We read these verses and often think about tithing or our money. I can almost discount these verses as I study the book of 2 Corinthians because my knee jerk is to think, “well i tithe and we give willingly to many things” and so walk away from what God wants me to hear in the passage. But if I look at these verses in light of mothering, something beautiful and soul sustaining shows.

Giving in motherhood – it is a requirement from the moment of conception – I will give my body, my time, my affection, my focus to care for this life given to me. And this giving continues for the rest of the child’s life – without pause. We like to think it ends at 18, but I believe it, like marriage, may only be beginning to hit a sweet spot by then. The methods and needs may change but the giving does not.

The parallel relationship of verse 6 is true. Most of us can agree that the more we invest somewhere, the more dividends we receive. Then Paul says in verse 7 we must decide in our heart our giving level. And in the realm of the abstract, I will declare my willingness to give all I am; but in the reality of life, I often quit, withdraw, whine, or feel resentful when the need is great. And often I “run out” of giving as the day progresses – my flesh- bound well has hit the bottom and there is no more to use. This may sound harsh, but God keeps reminding me not to be deceived by the arguments of the world, the enemy, or my flesh that justify my empty well. That commiserate with me about having so many children, or having the difficult child, or the rebellious one. That whisper that if I could just have a day off, or some quiet time by myself (at starbucks!) or an hour with no one fighting, needing, etc. You see, giving is a decision. It should not be tied to the emotion of the moment. The “I don’t know if I can do this today or want to do this today” thoughts need to be vanquished in light of my decision to give wholly of myself. But not because I am just going to suck it up and gut it out.

God is able to make all grace abound to you momma! Not dribble out, not come in bits and spurts but abound – to be plentiful; overflow; exist in large numbers. So that having all sufficiency – we are sufficient because His grace abounds to us. So in the depleted moments I need to run to Him for plenty; in the moments I think I got this, I need to bow my head, for his grace is better than anything I can offer my children. His patience, His joy, His love, His wisdom, His knowledge, His peace, His contentment – these need to be my well from which I draw. Paul covers all my doubts as well – all sufficiency in all things at all times! When I calibrate on His grace, I receive all I need all the time — it is matchless, limitless, boundless! Hallelujah!

And then verses 10-11 – the physical and the spiritual parallel reminiscent of the comparison Jesus drew in the Sermon on the Mount. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food WILL supply and multiply my seed and increase the harvest. He is the source. My seeds of the Gospel, the picture and experiences of His grace I give my children when I am drawing from your well, Lord – these you multiply. Increase my understanding of grace that I may see it more and more at work in me and thus overflow. And then I will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.

My shortcomings are His opportunities – I need to allow Him to be the source – to give cheerfully knowing my cup is endless because if flows from His bounty. So I have found in my moments of overwhelming exhaustion or tearful aggravation, His grace is my only hope. His filling of me for the next few hours (until bedtime) or minutes to shepherd a rebellious heart – those are His and need to be viewed in that way. I ask Him to show me my giving and the need for giving in my home – who needs more than my flesh wants to give or realizes is needed?

Giving isn’t a digging down into the last dregs of “niceness” and patience to get to 8 o’clock. It doesn’t look like kindness on the outside and resentment on the inside. Giving looks like the mind of Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, 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 humble form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” ~Phil 2:5-8. That my children may see Jesus in me, experience His grace and be softened to hear the Gospel because of what they receive. Just like giving of money often opens doors for the gospel, my mothering sourced in His grace and sufficiency daily declares this gospel to my children. It primes the pump so that a discussion on Christ’s sacrifice and our need is understood.

So why am I walking around frustrated with all I have to do, the overwhelming list of chores coupled with mothering and schooling – never mind all the other roles I have that also make demands? Because my wayward heart believes I can be the source or has forgotten to seek The Source. Both are possible in the moments of life and both demand the recalibration of confession and repentance.

I want to abound. Verse 11 is true – when I am allowing His grace to be the flowing force, the seeds planted and watered are divine, and my heart sings thanksgivings to Him. I see the workings of the Holy Spirit in my home and know that this is His work.

Weeding

“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” ~Hebrews 12:1-2

I hate weeding. I truly hate it – not because the work is so hard or demanding. I hate it because it highlights for me the lack of care or maintenance of the yard for so long that could allow the weeds to get to this point. It now demands total attention or we will be overrun. It commands time, attention, and a commitment.

And there really has never been a time of weeding when the Holy Spirit hasn’t used it to draw parallels in my life with my sin and His work. His quiet voice speaking to me. In John 16: 7-14 Jesus promises, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” The time spent in a bed becomes an inner discussion with Him about my own weeds that I have allowed to grow, turned a blind eye to, or tolerated that now threaten to take over and damage.

Weeding with the children yesterday was work for everyone. 2 of my boys and I were working around a tree, just pulling up large and small and tiny weeds from around its base, and discussing how many there are and how so many seem connected to each other either with runners or just clustered together in spots with like weeds. Our 7 year old quietly said, “These weeds seem a lot like Satan in our lives.” and then my 10 year old chimes in,”Yea like how he wants to fill our lives with sin.” And I was struck with the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit to speak to all of us.

~weeds will envelop whatever is in their path – don’t be fooled into thinking this little sin will just remain in this one area of my life. 1 Cor. 16:13-14 calls us to be watchful of our faith and 1 Timothy 4:16 warns “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”

~weeds that pop up all over often have a long tentacle that runs back to a base weed. My sin that entangles is rooted in some thought pattern/heart lie that needs to be rooted out. It’s so important to look further than just the sin that sparked my attention and see what really lies at the heart of my action. There is some lie that I have exchanged with the truth of God. Romans 1:25 directly speaks to this, “because they changed the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” This active exchange fuels my behavior.

~weeds cling to the ground tightly – often my sin clings to me like Hebrews 12:1-2 warns. It is work to actually pull that weed out by the root rather than ripping the leaves off of it.

~weeds can seem lovely – sometimes they grow flowers. While we were weeding, our 3 year old was arguing with me about the beautiful yellow flowers I was pulling up because she wanted to keep them in the yard. Trying to explain to her that these are dandelions and soon they will have the ability to spread their seed all across the yard with a vengeance if I did not remove them now was not easy. We compromised with a pile of yellow flowers that we floated in a cup of water for a few days! Our sin may look lovely, either to us or to others. The world encourages self fulfillment, “you time,” self preservation, self reliance. I can easily shift from a dependence on God to a dependence on my self. I quickly embrace the thoughts that encourage my love of my self rather than the humility of loving and walking as Jesus did. Philippians 2:3 often makes me squirm, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

~the little weeds are the most difficult. There is just great truth to this – the big weeds are often easy to pull out. Now there are a few that have a little thorniness to them and require determination, but most are shallow and easy to yank. But those little ones that pop up everywhere – those are the ones that make me want to quit and just leave some behind for next time. Often for me the big, obvious sin is easy for me to eliminate or avoid, but the incessant growth of impatience, pride, fear, worry, or anger becomes discouraging. Many times I have not wanted to repent one more time, so sick of seeing this sin in my life, and listening to the lie that the Father must also be sick of this sin. But He never wearies of us! He never gets tired of exposing and removing the little weeds. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ~1 John 1:9. He is committed to making us into His image and sanctifying us.

Whenever I weed, doesn’t matter if I wear gloves or not, I wreck my hands. Dirt gets all in my fingernails that I can’t dislodge, my fingers roughen, I will often get cuts or irritations on my arms. Fighting sin is a bloody battle. There will be reminders in the days after you have weeded. You will carry testament to what Jesus will do in your life when you surrender to His work. Not just once at the cross, but daily before Him. Living in light of His Gospel that “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” ~2 Cor. 5:21

Let it rain

“For the land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.” ~ Hebrews 6:7
 
 
God alone takes the dry and waters it. Ps. 114: 7-8 “Tremble, o earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.” He is not hindered by what seems to be; He alone can completely change the very properties of a rock and make it a pool of water. Two different times in the Israelites’ journey God changes a rock into a water source to address the thirst of his people. He asks Moses to strike the rock in Exodus 17:6, “and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Then in Numbers 20:8 He tells Moses, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them.” Both times the Israelites have been grumbling about thirst to the point of doubting what God has done for them. Complaining so much and longing to be back enslaved again to all they had escaped. God responds with provision of what they need.
With mercy and grace, He gives a physical picture of a spiritual truth – Christ the Rock, struck for us, pours forth his living water that we may drink and be satisfied.(1Cor. 10:1-4; John 4:13-14)
Don’t forget that the Israelites were no different than we are – I grumble… a lot. I have seen the work of the Lord so many times, yet I too forget His faithfulness. And interestingly certain events or happenings almost act as a trigger for me, pushing me headlong into a complete whine fest and panic moment. Just like the Israelites.  They had been in this position before, thirsty, tired, over it. Why someone doesn’t say, “Hey remember the last time, God had Moses hit a rock and we got tons of water. Let’s ask again.” No, they fight, panic, and want to return to Egypt or die.
My triggers may not be physically thirsting in a desert, but I definitely have them. If I’m really transparent, 5pm around here is a great trigger. Life seems to be at its craziest then, so the fight to walk in a trusting, humble way, seeking His patience and grace is just much harder to do than to speak harshly. The unknown is a great trigger. When things don’t look like I want them to, trigger. When I feel threatened by some action of someone else, trigger. And all of a sudden I find myself saying, “why am I here? it would be better if …”
Praise God He provided the Rock, the Living Water. Christ was struck, broken and died for my sin that I may live with Him and for Him. That is the Gospel.
Hebrews 6:7 says, “For the land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God” Am I a land that drinks in his rain?  do I drink in His Word, seek Him in prayer and walk according to what He has declared in scripture? Do I welcome the hard or painful lessons, the stretching? Because there is a promise attached here – that land will produce a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated. Can I really understand that God’s will is that I will produce a crop that is useful for my children?
That I will be such a land that overflows with His grace, whose soil is faith, rich in His fruit, full of His mercy that my children walk safely in my fields knowing and seeing Him more. That they experience eating the fruit of kindness, patience, self control that springs from His work in my life but pours forth for their edification.
There’s a nuance here that I often miss – I desire the fruit to be abundant in my life, but I really believe I miss who its abundance is for. My flesh can hijack any fruit seen in my life and pat me on the back, commending me on a life well lived. Yet my life, my field is being cultivated, not for me and certainly not for my fleshly appreciation. I am being cultivated to be useful in His kingdom. So right now, my cultivation is important to my husband and 8 precious lives. There may be more lives impacted along the way but my land has been designed by the Master Gardener for those 9. Because I want more than anything else for them to see Jesus Christ, let me drink the rains.

The Day in Between

“On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” ~Luke 23:56b

The grief of that day. The gripping fear of what just happened to the man they had followed and loved. The women followed Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus as they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with spices and placed him in a tomb designed for Joseph. They watched his burial and then the Bible says, “they rested according to the commandment” in Luke. The burial process that the men had performed on Jesus’ body was shortened by the impending Sabbath. They would not be able to completely treat the body as they ought which is what motivated the women Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph to return early at the dawn of Sunday with spices.  They wanted to complete the burial, to honor Jesus in His death.

Can you imagine how they spent that Sabbath? quiet weeping, shock, discouraged, maybe angry as they saw the Jews in the synagogue who had demanded his death just 2 days earlier, righteously indignant that men could demand the death of their loved one. I can just imagine the pleadings and tears in their prayers to Yahweh that day, questioning everything, replaying everything they knew had happened, looking for the moment where things could have been different. And yet knowing it wasn’t different.

Jesus had died. He was buried in the cave. His body was wrapped, spices applied quickly that first day because every Joseph and Nicodemus needed to honor the Sabbath. But the day following the Sabbath the women hurried to the tomb to apply more spices and finish the treatment of the body that Jesus would be appropriately honored in his death. No one anticipated his resurrection. Everyone believed He was gone, or they wouldn’t have treated his body for burial. They were not thinking in terms of his prophecies or aligning His teachings with the prophecies of a risen Savior.

So the Bible shows us that the disciples and the women went back to what they knew – they honored the Sabbath. In their grief and fear, they still remembered the commandments they had been given and walked in light of them.

Sometimes life seems really dark, really sad or really hopeless. We are fearful and questioning – questioning God’s goodness, His plan, demanding answers or hiding in our fears. We desperately want to know that God has another plan or another way coming. That He will DO something that will change all this grief and despair and bring us to a place of joy and peace. But in those times, do we stay with what we know? Do we return to the truth and the steadiness that only comes from Him?

We live in a different time than the disciples and women. We have the fullness of the Gospel – we know that Jesus defeats sin and death, that he returns victoriously from the grave and will one day return to take his children home. There is a lot of evil and sin, wickedness that leads to innocent sufferings, sickness and death, loss and grief, pain, anger that erupts because of our circumstances, questioning because we don’t know why, wishing that things would be different. Life here on this earth is broken. But our day will never be as dark as that day in between. We don’t have to be uncertain. We don’t have to be without hope. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” ~Hebrews 6:19-20

Too often I get stuck in the day in between, full of fear, confusion, anger or discouragement. I need to remember to return to what I have been called – to worship the One who saved my life from the sin that entangled me and to fix my eyes on the Founder and Perfecter of my faith. I know the end of the story.

As For You

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12

Paul tells Timothy just before this passage to be content, that “godliness with contentment is great gain” but to desire to be rich is a snare, a trap that can lead you away. Then he commands Timothy to flee these things and pursue traits that represent/exhibit Christ. Flee, Pursue, Fight, Take Hold. All imperative sentences in the present tense – these actions must take place today. And once you wake tomorrow, they must take place tomorrow.
Over and over Paul refers to this fight, race, this ongoing engagement in working out our faith in the day. It is a fight – it is an awareness and an active engagement in walking with Him. My eyes so quickly slip off of Him and onto my circumstances – I am so much like Peter, looking and becoming overwhelmed by the water surrounding my feet, quickly sinking in panic. And what I sink for is really quite pathetic-

I can sink for upset toddlers and preschoolers throwing fits at 5 o’clock;

I can sink for fear of college tuitions;

I can sink for water leaks and renovations gone wrong;

I can sink for sickness;

I can sink for just about anything not going my way.

I look at the list Paul notes of what to pursue and what strikes me the most are steadfastness and gentleness. What a combination! Neither of these characterize me lately. Steadfast – Merriam-Webster defines this as firmly fixed in place, not subject to change; denotes a warrior who stands his ground in a battle context. I struggle with steadfastness in the moments. Oh I can verbalize the knowledge that He is enough, sovereign, in control and trustworthy but truthfully, in the moments, I struggle with being a warrior who stands her ground. Sometimes I almost think I deserve a moment to freak out, panic, lose it, whatever phrase I want to attach to not trusting; but I am to flee those things. Most everything that rocks my world can be rooted back to a love of myself, my comfort, my wealth or ease of life. Hardship is uncomfortable and stretching. It hurts. It will demand from me all that is me, but He wants to exchange me, my flesh with His fruit.
And gentleness – that is often the opposite of my response! I am impatient, rude, self seeking or self protecting, antagonistic when I am stretched. And sometimes I am passive. But to be gentle in these tough moments, to remember Who is in control, Whose I am, what Jesus has done for me at the cross, and to pursue these responses, that becomes my aim. The grace of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the power that comes from standing actively with His shield of faith and His sword in this battle – that is my protection and my posture. This is why this is a fight! It’s not easy, natural or automatic.
But to remember the Gospel in the moments, that is faith.

Letters

You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything is coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” ~2 Corinthians 3:2-6

How often do we hear or read how impressionable our children are? how the impact we have will be for their lifetime? how what we do will or teach or how we parent will influence their life choices as adults? and in Christian circles, it’s followed up with some point about how to raise Christian kids that won’t leave the faith or won’t rebel or some other horrible picture of losing your kids to the world. I think every mother somewhere deep inside battles these thoughts – I know I do.

But what is truth? As a believer walking in the Gospel, I can see that fear has no place & worry should not be cultivated. so how am I to walk as a mom? Because I want more than anything for my children to walk in truth (3 John v4), and like Paul in Gal 4:19 “my little children, for whom I am again in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” I truly can get emotional thinking about how much I want my kids to follow Jesus.

My children are my letters, they will speak to future generations and a legacy will go forth from me. But not written by me, written by the Spirit of the Living God! My confidence in parenting comes from this – verse 4&5: “such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves (nope definitely not, prove that daily around here!) to claim anything is coming from us (not anything good or admirable about my kids/family that people praise, none of their achievements ) but our sufficiency is from God.” He has made me sufficient to be his minister of the new covenant – to be his hands and feet and mouth to tell of the Gospel to my little letters, to write on each of them His great love, His grace, His awesome power and glory, His righteousness.

When I embrace, bank on, rely on my sufficiency coming from Him, the Spirit within me, I can rest in the peace of knowing He Is At Work writing these letters through me.