Refine My Heart

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

Psalm 66:10

I am amazed at how faithful God is to refine my heart, making me more and more into His image for His glory. Have you ever had a time when you seem to face the same sin or struggle over and over? I know I do with myself, and I can also see it while disciplining my children. Discouragement can creep into my thoughts as I wonder why I choose the wrong action again and again. Sometimes I find myself in the bathroom with a child discussing the same sin issue as yesterday and the week before, almost as if it won’t go away.

Malachi 3:3 says the He is a Refiner’s Fire, purifying and refining us that we may bring gifts of righteousness to Him. He is a consuming fire, and Scripture reminds us that only when the dross is removed from the silver can the vessel be shaped.

refining my heart

Refining silver requires several steps. First the ore is broken.  The Gospel is clear: we offer nothing for our salvation, and we contribute nothing to our great need for rescue from our sin. We need the breaking open by His hand so that Christ alone can save us.

A crucible, a place where concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change and development, heats these pieces of ore. High heat separates the silver from all the other matter mixed with it. Proverbs 17:3 says The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. The Holy Spirit works within our hearts, convicting and bringing up to the surface the waste, the sin, the flesh I wrestle, in order to remove them and cleanse me from my unrighteousness. His hands patiently skim this next round of selfishness or impatience off the top all the while seeking to clarify my heart that I can reflect Him more and more.

Silver becomes more and more malleable and flexible as the dross is removed. My heart bends more towards His as He refines. The artist can fashion beauty as the waste is removed.

my response

How much do I dread the dross? How often do I avoid or try to cover up the very thing God desires to draw to the top in order to remove?  I seek every opportunity to recirculate it through or push it back to the bottom so that no one else could see or so it doesn’t reflect on me. But God wants to work in these very areas that shame wants to hide. He desires to eradicate the flesh that He may be glorified. 

Even in parenting my children, as I watch the Spirit refine and work to remove the sin, the waste, the dross in their lives, I squirm. I worry that I am responsible, that perhaps their struggles are my fault. I want to step in between His hand and them and buffer or mend. As my daughter wisely stated, “Perhaps God is at work in our character in ways only He can.” 

Only He knows the exact plan for each of us. Thankfully He knows the vessel He desires to create and continues to refine. He will work in our lives that we may know and love Him more.

Conviction

Sometimes I can see it immediately, the blackness, the thickness of it, the wedge it places within my heart – the absolute movement away from the truth in order to answer the pull and tug of my flesh. I can see the curtain drop in order to allow my pride or my selfishness to justify my actions. I know my choices are sinful and yet these desires draw me in. I long for forgiveness for the sin I see.

photo credit: noah kimsey

But there are other times when my flesh fools me. The filmy gauze that covers my heart is almost invisible to me – the inspection within that checks my motives cannot see the lies I embrace. Until the Spirit blows across. The flutter of heart deceit, the lifting of a corner of pride, or the push for self preservation becomes visible for a moment. Often I am surprised to see the hidden motivations of flesh and the self-worship that spring forth.

Conviction comes with both and conviction only comes through the Holy Spirit. He is perpetually at work within me turning my heart from the idolatry of self to the worship of God alone.

Repentance must follow the conviction. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We can confess our sins and be cleansed. Spurgeon says, “We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins.” Confession of sin is not merely saying something was done. “To confess sin, then, means to say the same thing about it that God says about it,” Wiersbe clarifies.

2 sides of forgiveness of sin

Cleansing is 2 sided. We have the judicial side or what I’ve always thought of as positional forgiveness. As a believer I am forgiven for all sins, past present and future. That will never change.

But the other side is personal.  My relationship minute to minute with Christ depends on my level of pursuing light or my comfort with the dark. Matthew 5:3 addresses this when Jesus talks about being poor in spirit. If I live my life understanding my need for salvation and forgiveness and if I mourn (Matthew 5:4) over my sin then I am continually listening to the Holy Spirit as He brings conviction. I am surrendering and confessing so that I stay in right relationship, staying in step with the Spirit.

His truth in forgiveness

The joy of right relationship with Him leads me to proclaim who He is. I worship unreservedly because I know He sees all of me. I serve wholeheartedly because I know how much I have been given. My identity does not contend with the flesh uncovered. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, I am secure ~ secure to walk with Him, to repent before Him, to realign with His truth, and to rejoice in His salvation.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, nut now you have received mercy. ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Where do you find yourself struggling with your sin?

Do you seek His forgiveness, listening to His conviction?

Do you walk triumphantly, confident of who you are in Christ?

Parenting children with hope & peace

What do you do when parenting your children seems next to impossible? Settling my heart in truth becomes vital. The Gospel holds my peace and hope.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Squabbling, fussing, arguing, complaining, and the dreaded whining are all common symptoms in my family on this parenting journey! And truthfully, I can do it all also! I often see an outbreak with a transition, busyness in our schedule, at the beginning of a vacation, or in stressful seasons of life. My children will fuss, demand their way, complain and as they grow into their teen years, they may seek to avoid or isolate.  Negative engagements are a guarantee, and if I don’t see them for their purpose, I miss something beautiful.

Unfortunately, I often get this perspective very wrong. In my selfishness, I want peace, quiet, ease, and happiness for all. I don’t want squabbles, whining, etc. so I will tend to shut it down quickly with verbal discipline.

Searching out the heart purpose behind a fussy child is the more significant work ~ one of His designs of family life. When I begin to embrace the heart pursuit God desires for each of my children, when I begin to filter their actions through the sieve of Gospel truth, then grace can grow within me for them in the moments of discipline. My heart undergoes a transformation before I ever engage in shepherding theirs. Prior to ever stepping into the bathroom where my child sits, I need to spend a few moments with Him. I need to seek what lies may be at the root of the behavior, determine what flesh is on display, and see both my child and the behavior the way God does.

And often before I can even engage in prayer over my child, I need to spend a few moments looking at the lies, flesh, or sin that welled up in me as all this erupted in my home. That’s just the truth. Most sin sparks sin in others. We have a saying in our home that sin is contagious and can make everyone sick within minutes! So whether the sin is divisiveness, selfishness, fear, worry, anger, pride, you name it, other people will soon be exhibiting symptoms in reaction to the initial sinner. We can all resent the mess out of this contagion, or we can use these moments to declare God’s power, His victory, and His salvation over our desperate need that is on display.

Let’s be warriors for truth! Let’s get down into the midst of the sin and call it out for what it is, not from pride or disgust, No! but from a place of grace and mercy that we have received and we now offer to the sinner in our midst. Let’s be more like Christ was with the adulterous woman or the woman who touched his coat – let’s explore the heart deep within and tend to the wounds, the lies, the fears and apply the salve of great grace, deep love, and complete truth that only Jesus offers through His death and resurrection. Let’s speak the Gospel to our children in ways that make it the most desirable, the most welcoming, the most trustworthy space for them to occupy.

We can create environments where Jesus can shine in all His glory because we are pointing to Him. As we set our own hearts on His truth, we confess our own need for Him as we fail.  We assure our children of God’s steadfast love when we resolutely love them despite their failings, despite their sin, despite their flesh. But just like God does not leave us in a space of unrighteousness but rather calls us out to walk with Him in truth and holiness, we also need to be faithful to truth and holiness. Calling sin a sin is not condemnation, not when my heart is humble to the truth that I too struggle with sin.

Parenting with purpose takes time.

And sometimes it feels like all I do is move from one sin moment to another when every child needs special touches and reminders of God’s grace in the face of great sin. But I cling to the truth that these days are the most valuable for the Kingdom. These moments proclaim to the next generation the goodness of our God. Only when sin bursts forth do we see our great need for a Savior. Only when pride declares a godlike desire for worship can we point to the only One worthy of our praise and honor.

These are the days when the worship music plays at full volume and we dance in the unstoppable grace of a God who showers us with love, patience, truth, and mercy.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1:9-11

practical thoughts about discipline

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds. ~ Jeremiah 17:9-10

 

There have been SO many times in the Kimsey household where I have had children in every bathroom in our house and some more on their beds, thinking about what they did that contributed to the great conflagration that just occurred!   It only takes a little spark to begin to fuel an explosion between multiple factions and next thing I know, everyone is mad, taking sides, screeching and screaming!

Before I interact with any of them, I seek to set my own heart firmly in the truth of the Gospel. I want to begin with seeking out my own heart because more than likely I have been angered, short-tempered, or in some way put out by the disobedience, fighting, or whatever precipitated this time. The same truths for them apply to me. So I want to take a few minutes with Jesus and set my heart on Him, on the truth of my sin, on His love, on His great mercy and His pursuing grace.

I have found that removing children to quiet places works well. In our home, we use the bathrooms most often simply because there is not much in the bathroom to distract my child from the primary goal of this quiet time. I want to create quiet space for my child to begin to hear from the Holy Spirit about why he or she is struggling in relationship with the others in the family. This removal is not a timeout or a timed interval at all; rather, it is a space where emotions can calm down, their minds can stop racing, and their hearts can be tended to.

Can I encourage you to remember all the truths of the Gospel when parenting and disciplining your children? Romans 1:16 resonates in discipline moments, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, When I keep this before me, I have greater empathy and patience for my children; when I just want good behavior, I am short tempered and become a part of the problem. Your children are believing the same basic lies that have motivated all sin from the beginning of time – whether the lies are that they should be in control which promotes disobedience and rebellion, whether the lies are they are most important which leads to selfishness and cruelty, or some other lie that declares what they are worshiping. Their heart will deceive them, leading them away from the truth of God and towards the pursuit of loving themselves first. They will naturally seek their own good, their own control, their own protection. They will defend their own “wisdom” despite its futility. When we understand the heart of man, we can understand and not be surprised or offended by their behavior. Our goal is not to stop the heart of flesh. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to point to the Savior and illuminate their fierce need for Him.

So my bathroom conversations with my lost children as well as my saved children run on parallel tracks, both pointing to Christ. To my saved child, the goal of the conversation is to help them honestly look at their part, to guide them through what was motivating them and what lie they chased, and re-establish with them the truths of who they are because of Jesus Christ and what God is at work doing within them. To my lost child, it is my opportunity to point out their need for the salvation Jesus offers and offer hope to them.

Bathroom discipline often looks practically like this – I sit down, bringing myself down to their eye level and I ask them to stand in front of me with their hands on my knees. Really this just stills their little body and helps them focus their eyes on mine. I want them to hear me speak, which means emotions need to calm if they are upset, focus needs to come, and bodies need to quiet. I try to speak very softly, asking questions that purpose to lead them into a thoughtful examination of themselves, even at the little ages of 2 & 3. Questions like, “Why are you in here?” or “Tell me what happened that made you have to come in here?” let me know what they understand about what has happened. Conversations are the goal initially. I want to hear their heart, both to see what work the Spirit is already doing as well as to see what they may be believing that is not true. Listening intently and seeking to make sure that I have even gotten the complete picture of what offenses took place are very important tasks. Many times I have removed the loudest or the one with the most fingers pointing at them only to find that there are other guilty parties that need to be disciplined as well! 

One important truth that steadies my heart in the midst of the discouragement of everyday life with a bunch of sinners is that God pursues us continually. He does not cease. He is a God who values relationship, who declares His redeeming love through His Son, and who is at work transforming us from one degree to another. He does not get discouraged with my stubborn heart or sinful tendencies. He keeps on pursuing. And He is doing the same thing with each of your children and invites you to join Him in pursuit. What an honor!

I seek to chase the lies they are believing and introduce the truth God offers instead. God’s word holds the truth we need. To the one who is saved and walking in new life, this is encouraging; to the one who is lost, this is a holy invitation. Prayer covers the time with hugs and a final blessing is given as they walk back out the door.

The blessing launches them back. They more than likely need to go to the one(s) they have offended and apologize and own their wrongs. They have confessed their wrongs before God but now must confess again to their siblings or others. Just like Paul closed every letter with a blessing to the churches to launch them into the truths he had laid before them, I too want to bless my children. So I spend a few moments reminding them of my love for them and my belief that God is at work in them changing them to be more like Him (if they are saved) or calling them to know Him as their Savior (if they are lost). These are words of life that point to where God is working and moving in their hearts. I know God is working on you becoming a mighty peacemaker for Him (if they have been struggling with arguing) or I see the way God is changing your heart for others and making you a servant of others (if they are struggling with selfishness). Always point them to God’s work in their lives. This time of discipline is NOT your opinion or what makes your life easier today. This is God’s holy work, you are merely an ambassador for Him. Point to Him. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Corinthians 13:14)

the butterfly lesson

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. ~ Psalm 33:8-9

We are growing butterflies over here this spring. We have watched excitedly, monitoring the growth of our caterpillars, marveled at the chrysalis formations that each one did, and now are anticipating the hatching. (is that the correct terminology?) Today was the day! The first two chrysalides began to shake, little butterfly parts began to emerge, and we watched in wonder as two different butterflies sought to escape their cage.

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Timothy immediately wanted to “help” as the first butterfly tried to break free. Explaining the danger of helping a chrysalis break open to a three-year-old is a bit difficult, as he cannot tear his eyes away from the battle in front of him. Transfixed by the scene, he just kept asking, “Why can’t we help? What will happen that’s bad?” Finally, I hit upon an explanation that made sense to his little heart ~ the butterfly grows his muscles breaking out of his cocoon. If we step in and help him, we risk hurting its body or wings. The butterfly then will die, unable to have the strength to pump fluid into its wings and thus open and dry them. Armed with this knowledge, he could peacefully watch as, for over an hour, the little butterfly shook and wiggled, pried, and finally broke free. We marveled at the way the wings looked so shriveled, yet within a short time, they were drying out and beginning to move. God’s work, His creation, is amazing!

We had another chrysalis opening at the same time as the first, but the results were considerably different. This little butterfly’s chrysalis had somehow become entangled in some of the webbing the larvae had used before making the chrysalis. So as the butterfly tried to emerge, its feet became entangled in the string. It fought all day long to break free from the string, his wings shriveled and wilted, and the front portion of his body stayed within the chrysalis. Honestly, it was heartbreaking to everyone as we watched. Ultimately, we had 10 of our 11 butterflies break free and begin to flutter and fly around the cage, but that one struggled against the entangling strings for 2 days, unable to fully emerge.

Why do I share this story? I don’t have deep parallel truths about our Christian walk that source in this story. I just know this opened a doorway of conversation with my children in which we could discuss meaningful truths of God while we watched the complete metamorphosis. We began talking about how incredible God’s plan for butterflies really is ~ that He designed eggs to become larvae to know to grow a hard, protective covering around them as they completely change into a different creature over a few days. While the 10 butterflies we hatched were all variations of each other with slightly different colors, patterns on their wings, no other creature emerged from the chrysalides. We practiced patience waiting for their emergence, hopefully staring at the dangling shells for days. We wondered why hatching had to be such work for the butterfly, investigating why God designed this fierce battle almost at the beginning of their life as a flying insect. And we mourned our lost one, longing to step in and save it from the ultimate end. We so wanted to tear all the webbing away and cut it free, but that action would have disrupted the 3 other chrysalides that hung very close to our struggler.

When we marveled at His plan for a butterfly who will only live for a few days, we began to wonder at His plans for our lives. The commitment to the butterfly translates into an immense commitment to us. Jesus teaches this exponential truth in Matthew 6:25-34. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious. Taking a few days to dwell in the truth of God’s great plan for each of their lives was beautiful in recalibrating my eyes to see my children as well as speaking into their hearts a basic truth that the enemy wants to steal away. The truth is this: their uniqueness, their strengths, their weaknesses are all known by Him and designed by Him for His plan and for His kingdom. And His plan is for their good and for God’s glory. Do not be anxious! Instead, keep looking to Him ~ He welcomes your cries for help, He comes alongside you in victory and distress, He is the everlasting, ever in tune with you God, and He is trustworthy.

Our God is amazing! He is Creator with neverending imagination and wisdom worthy of our worship. Beckon to your children to worship with you, to marvel at Him in the midst of His beautiful creation. Delight yourself in who He is in His creation today. Worship Him for He deserves all praise!

Grace & Peace Multiply

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ~ 1 Peter 1:2

Every day, it seems, is stuffed with activities, planning schedules, organizing of lives, never mind cooking, cleaning, laundry, mothering, and relating to my children and husband. I would love a day when I can wake up and not have countless tasks and events looming, requiring a Tetris like skill to make all of them fit together and actually get accomplished. Today, for instance, includes making 2 costumes, editing 4 research papers for different children’s end of the year projects or college essays, a dishwasher that has broken, 3 haircuts scheduled unfortunately for the same time across town, registrations for camp, homeschool tasks, a car tuneup for a trip, organizing movers, and staging our home for sale.

While my head swirled with a list of things to complete, my heart began to sing this morning as I studied 1 Peter. Grace and peace are multiplied to me. God does not merely add up grace, stacking a little more on top as we go through our day. He doesn’t add more peace as we start to waver in distraction or panic. Multiplication happens. The impressive truth about multiplication is that it isn’t merely repeated addition as we often teach 2nd graders. Addition only allows like terms to be added together to slowly grow. Multiplication allows the compounding of unlike terms with growth happening at an exponential rate.

Grace and peace together multiplied, is offered to me as His child. Four things are true of those who are saved in this verse: God foreknows them, the Spirit sanctifies them, they obey Jesus, and Jesus’ blood covers them.

God knows us, He pursues us, He calls us by name. Over and over in scripture, we see God seeking out His people. Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Is. 43:2) I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; (John 10:14-15) I will protect him, because he knows my name. (Psalm 91:14) I am chosen by Him, for a relationship with Him. Letting that truth sink into my day, how I perceive all parts of my day sets me free from the feelings and lies that I am all alone or abandoned.

The Spirit is sanctifying me. Oh! What a wonderful truth to embrace this morning! That God doesn’t turn away in anger or disgust for how I sinfully interact with my children or husband, for how I mismanage my time, or how I bow and worship at the idols in my heart brings great peace. He is at work in me. Sanctify means to set apart; to declare as holy and in this passage is the process of becoming holy. He is convicting and refining, transforming my thinking as He works to change me evermore every day into His image, making me more like Him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18) He intercedes for us before the throne. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)

My relationship with God declares I am covered with Jesus’ blood for my salvation. His redeeming work of offering up his body as a sacrifice for my sins allows me entrance into the covenant of grace and forgiveness with God. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22b), and he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26b). The obedience of Jesus creates the way for me to have a relationship with Him, and my obedience becomes the response of gratitude for cleansing by His blood. Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,..let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,… and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:19-24)

So grace and peace supernaturally, divinely multiply together, covering me today with a peace beyond understanding because I know the grace that extends over all of me. Peace floods me with the assurance that, despite my shortfalls today, my eternity is secure. Access to God is assured because of the grace given, and I can abide with Him today in all I do because He is committed to walking this day out with me. I can cry out to Him for time management – He cares! I can ask Him for kindness for wild or rebellious children – He provides! I can seek Him for wisdom – He listens! Grace and peace multiply and I can breathe. I can rest. I can linger in relationships rather than flit anxiously from task to task. I can exude these same blessings to my children in their hardest spaces, not because I am so amazing but because He is, and He has filled me.

the hagar moment

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Have you ever had a Hagar moment in your life? I can tend to follow the pattern of Sarai in the Old Testament. The times I feel I know the end product yet not the next step, I will often surge forward in action seeking to get to the promised end, impatient with God’s timing yet eager for the promise.

In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abram in which He promised that Abram’s offspring would number the stars. I can imagine Abram and Sarai, anxious to have a child and holding to this promise, talking about when and how they might get pregnant. But then we see a rush into action, an impatience in God’s timing, and the false belief that they needed to help God along with His promise of offspring. We see Sarai convincing Abram to take her servant Hagar as a substitute to allow for pregnancy in that way.  Truthfully Hagar holds a tragic place in the story in Genesis. As a servant in the household, she really had no power to make the decisions regarding her own life. Thrust into a position of motherhood, she began to own what should be hers – a position of influence and equality with Sarai as a wife.

All the manipulating only led to confusion and hurt. Sarai claimed that Hagar was treating her with contempt and sought Abram’s help. Abram then gives Sarai permission to treat her as she desires, and Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar. Fear ultimately overcame Hagar’s boldness, and while feeling rejected and betrayed, she fled into the wilderness. God, in His goodness, pursues Hagar right into the wilderness. He tends to her, gives her promises for her son Ishmael, and sends her back.

Prolonged waiting was a part of God’s plan to accomplish all He intended. God returned to Abram and made a covenant with him, changing his name to Abraham, reiterating his promise of offspring through Sarah, giving them a land of their own, and finally promising to be their God.

And this time, they wait for Him.

God wasn’t worried or concerned about how they would have a child. He was at work in His plan, His way, His timing. The problem was it did not match up to Sarai’s logic and desires.

The waiting is designed to mature us. Often the waiting seems interminable, and I can see how to move past the waiting if I only could change certain pieces. So I seek unilaterally to manipulate in order to achieve.

I war against the waiting.

And in the warring, I can introduce pain, heartache, sin, and doubt into places where God wants to be glorified. Learning to rest well in Him, trusting His timing, brings great joy and peace. When Abraham is finally told that he will have a son within the year, he laughs. But his laughter is not a laugh of unbelief or doubt. His laughter is filled with joy and laced with belief.

God’s covenant, His plan comes in an unfolding, never in a bolt of lightning. The growth pattern in a relationship with God moves us along growing our dependence upon Him, strengthening our root system in His truth and love, but He does not yank us two feet taller overnight. He is at work in you and me, deepening our faith as we lean hard into Him.

He knows the timing. He sees the end.

 

 

He inclines his ear

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. ~Psalm 116:1-2

God bends down. He bends down to listen to us well, intently seeking our heart, hearing our heart cries that surpass our words, and knowing the answers we desperately seek. In Psalm 116:2 the verb inclined his ear is the Hebrew word Natah which means to stretch out, incline, bend, or to pitch a tent. Our Jehovah God inclines! He leans down to listen, to come down and allow my cries and your cries right in His ear. Our whispering heart cries never go unheeded.

Often I can feel as if God is not listening. I can believe the whispering questions of doubt that wonder whether He hears my cries and needs, whether He is engaged with me at this moment. More than anything, the enemy wants you and me to believe that God is removed or latent in His relationship with us. But the Psalms point over and over to the assurance that we have an active, engaged Jehovah God who listens to each prayer and answers in His time. Psalm 40:1 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” Same word ~ inclined. Psalm 18:6 declares, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice and my cry to him reached his ears.” Just like I hear the desperate cry of a hurt child, the wailings of pain, anger, or fear, and come running, God rescues me.

The imagery in this verb points to Him tenting over us, enveloping us in the safety of His presence. Our heavenly Father leans down like a parent would, surrounding us with his presence as He listens to our prayers and our pleas for mercy. We can all remember moments when we have needed the tenting of a loving parent’s or friend’s arms surrounding us, covering us with safety and protection physically to mimic the raw emotional protection we needed in moments of heartbreak or vulnerability. Our God offers a tenting that is more comforting than any physical consolation, more powerful than any physical protection, and more consistent than any physical person. Let’s rest today with certainty in our soul that He is avidly listening to us, His children.

But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. ~Psalm 66:19

strength & joy

And so from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. ~Colossians 1:9-12

I walk on a more unique path than some – my feet are in every area of mothering except fully adult children. I have infants, preschoolers, elementary and middle schoolers, teenagers and college kids. I joke that the babies get me up super early and my night owl teenagers want to talk only after 11:30 at night. But it really is true!

I long for the insight for the moments with each child, to be filled with His wisdom, His truth to flow from my lips to a child’s heart. To show them the faithfulness of Christ who always has a listening ear and steadfast love. But many times I fail or compromise. I justify my hard, selfish heart because I’m tired, or bad day, etc. I rationalize that I’ll do better tomorrow or grab them later today to address that heart issue they have. Sometimes I just want an escape.

But Paul prays for the church and for me in Colossians 1 that we would be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. The result will be a walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, bearing fruit and increasing in the knowledge of God. Doesn’t that fill your heart with longing? I just want this more and more, and I pray this so much over my children. And then verse 11: May you be strengthened with all power according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy. That is SO hard in motherhood!

Let’s be real – I might be strong, on a good day until lunch, but the wheels are going to come off the wagon because someone is picking on someone else, or someone is demanding or whining a lot today, or someone is just obstinate. But I assure you, the wheels will come off this wagon – I will lose it! It may be a “slow leak” day where I can keep most of it turned way down, or it may be a short fuse kind of day which is always a little scary for the little people! But apart from Christ, and seeking the strength of His power and his might, I will not be able to walk worthy of Him with my kids or in my marriage. I may be able to fool you out in public, but I will never fool my kids or my husband.

But Paul says that the strength comes from God’s glorious might – I don’t have to be strong, I have to be submitted. The verb be strengthened is a present participle verb implying an ongoing action. My strengthening is not one and done. He strengthens me moment by moment, day by day. His infusing of power flows from His might full of His glory. My choice is simply will I rely on Him? Will I turn to the fount of living water which flows and floods, or will I seek my own broken cistern as a source of power today?

And in the moments full of grief, pain, confusion, wonder, and uncertainty in parenting, will I seek Him? I love a quote from Maclaren, “Our sorrows make rents through which His strength flows.” Many moments in parenting are painful and uncertain, whether because a child suffers from an illness, makes decisions I know are unwise, or has circumstances that hurt their heart. My heart at times has wanted to rip apart in fear and grief, and in my flesh waves of confusion and discouragement flood my mind. But when I lift my eyes to the One who is my help, who loves my child more than I ever will, He provides the deepest source of strength and the calmest life-giving water to restore and fill me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and He commits fully to me.

Then His endurance for the long toddler/teenager day can go the distance. His patience comes flowing out of me in seasons of chaos and confusion. I rest with Him, in Him, on Him.

And His joy floods my soul.

Joy (xara, chara in the Greek) means grace recognized. Joy is not euphoria, bliss, or ecstasy the way our current culture uses the term. His joy in me centers on what He has done for me, rescuing me from the bondage of sin and death, walking me through each day in sanctifying commitment to me, and leading me ultimately to the great inheritance of life eternal with Him.  Recognizing grace, seeing His love, His work, and His plan despite my circumstances, settles my soul despite the hard, painful, demanding moments. Joy based in His Gospel becomes my bedrock.

So today, may we be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

 

 

Am I deluded?

“that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” ~ Col. 2:2-4

Walking with Jesus is hard. The onslaughts from the world, the enemy, and my own mind press in on me, blinding me from the One who holds all truth.

But I want to be the woman, the wife, the mother like Paul says – my heart encouraged in the tough stuff of life, because I have the assurance of the Gospel – that Christ died for me, to save me, redeem me, change me and make me like Him. He is committed to that process in me. He offers Himself fully to me – all His power, all His love, all His fruit working in me and through me. Scripture is replete with who we are as His redeemed, and we need to KNOW these truths because full assurance of understanding and knowledge of God’s mystery (Jesus Christ) is the only way to combat sin and flesh.

I confess, sometimes I am easily deluded with plausible arguments. If they weren’t plausible, they wouldn’t work. I would be able to spot them. The enemy is crafty. He knows the lies I can identify as lies and therefore reject and the ones I will embrace as truth. Other translations refer to plausible arguments as smooth rhetoric, enticing words, fancy talk, or persuasive speech. The concern Paul had for the believers at Colosse centered on listening to people teach about culturally “good” and popular things, not gospel truths.

While I may not relate to the specifics of Paul’s day, the same lies are still at the root today. There is still the draw for religion and asceticism for comparison’s sake – the need to measure holiness on behavior and not the heart. In a book my kids and I have been reading for ancient history, the author Genevieve Foster presents the word RELIGIO in Latin which means to bind fast. She defines religion in ancient times as “Man’s desire and effort to bind himself fast and secure to the Great Spirit of the Universe.”  As I read this, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t have to bind myself. My efforts are not required. For while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. I have been brought near by the blood of Christ and now am in Christ Jesus, sealed with the Spirit until His return. He is my Peace – no strivings, no performance needed.

The power of self, of believing that I can solve my own problems apart from God, continues to dominate cultural conversations. Self improvement books abound with concepts of self love and self care, but God calls me to Himself, not to my own self awareness. In a posture of rest and abiding in His truth, I receive His strength and power in order to walk out all that He has laid before me for each day. In Christ I can rest. His rest will tend my soul and calm my anxious thoughts. His peace goes beyond my understanding, beyond my circumstances, and becomes the bedrock of my heart.

When my feelings are elevated to wisdom and outrank what the Bible says, then truth can be different for you and for me. It can flex depending on my circumstances, the attitudes of the time, or what seems most important. Christ therefore can be a part of my belief system but not be preeminent. The depreciation of Christ from central in my relationship with God to one of many options and thus irrelevant has been one of the enemy’s chief tactics since the beginning.

Open my eyes, that I may see. Give me discernment to see where I embrace self actualization, performance, or compromise truth with humanistic thought.  Show me the idols that capture my attention and bind my heart. Help me to see the lies that surround me, and equip me to stand in the truth instead. And as I walk with You, let me rest in the security of  redemption.

More than anything, I want to grow as a woman rescued from the darkness of sin to know His wisdom and understanding; and from that growth, life will spring, walking with the Spirit rich in fruit, constantly weighing everything against the Gospel and scripture.

 He is the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father any other way. In Christ is every spiritual blessing, redemption and forgiveness lavished with grace, and an inheritance sealed. Grow me deeper in understanding and knowing You, Jesus.