Thursday, May 26, 2016

Part 4: Giving Thanks for Canyon's Birthday

This month I’ve been blogging on Thursdays about gratitude. (If you’re catching up, read here and here and here). I’m loving how the intentional emphasis on gratitude changes my perspective every day.

Tomorrow is my nephew’s second birthday, and I feel it’s only fitting to end the month giving thanks for him! (I know, I know—I gave thanks for the people in my life last week, but he gets his own spot. ;))

Becoming Aunt Lala has been a joy and a blessing. Even when other kids come into the mix—mine or Michalea’s or Clinton’s—I don’t doubt Canyon will have his own special place, reserved only for him.

First picture - May 27, 2014

So, to the little guy who is second only to my husband—I wrote a poem in honor of his birthday:

Once upon a time, a sweet baby was born.
With joy, his whole family welcomed him into this world.
For his life, we praised the Lord.
And his place in Aunt Lala’s heart soared.
To help his mommy was Lala's great pleasure,
And Wednesdays became Dancie and Lala’s treasure.
Week by week, they held their breath—
From sleeping
And rolling
And crawling
To walking
And talking—
They marveled at his progress.
Gifted with music, he can sing any song.
Outside is his favorite; he could stay all day long.
A heart full of laughter and hugs to share.
A blessing to love, they can’t help to stare.
Although he is two and every day growing,
His Aunt Lala will never stop sowing.
For all his days, he will have his own space;
In Aunt Lala’s heart, he can’t be replaced.
Happy Birthday, Canyon, sweet boy of power.
You will become a mighty man of valor.
Know that your family loves you deeply.
We will always be here for you faithfully.
Love, Aunt Lala

I love you, Canyon! And I’m forever thankful for your birth! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Honor in Marriage (Part 2)

Last time, Laura discussed wives honoring husbands, so I think it’s appropriate for me to discuss husbands honoring wives. Ha! I bet you thought I was going to say “husbands loving wives.” Well, that’s part of it, a big part actually. As men, there are several ways in which we are to honor our wives.

In Ephesians 5: 25-27, Paul lays out basic instructions for loving your wife. He says to love your wife as Christ loves the Church and to love your wife as you love yourself. 

How do we do that? Well, Laura and I are big believers in the Five Love Languages for starters. She is a quality time person, so one way that I show her love is by spending time with her. I believe we have such a great marriage because we spend a lot of quality time together. This doesn’t always have to be a date, but dates are nice now and then.

Today, we worked in our house for five hours…right after we took a walk together. That’s what quality time looks like, and for Laura that’s what love looks like. Your wife may be a gifts person or something else like physical touch.

Now the fun part, humbling yourself. “What!? Did he say fun!?” Yes, I said fun. You will be amazed at how much better your marriage is when you give yourself the freedom to be wrong now and then. This sounds like crazy talk, but it’s true… I’m living it. Andy Stanley says it this way:

  • When I discover that I’m wrong, I’ll admit it.
  • When you say I’m wrong, I’ll honestly consider it.
  • When God says I’m wrong, I’ll immediately embrace it.

Although I do believe God has specific roles for husbands and wives, I also believe God created men and women equally. Despite the historical, social, cultural, or even religious perspectives of men and women, husbands can lead their wives without an attitude of being the dominating ruler of the house. I see Laura as an equal partner—capable of hearing from God and of offering great insight. (A woman’s intuition is a real thing, so pay attention to her gut!)

So what does that have to do with humility? Well, we honor our wives by being open to the possibility that they may be right or have an equally as good opinion as we do. Being open to this possibility honors her by seeing yourself on the same level with her. And when your wife knows you consider her this way, you make it easier for her to submit to your leadership. In my experience, the best decisions are the ones we both have a peace about.

Lastly, you can honor your wife by praying for her and with her. This is one of the hardest things a husband can do with his wife, but it may be the most rewarding. I know sex is awesome, but follow me here. Praying in front of someone who really has a vested interest in knowing that you pray well and for the right things can be daunting. I’m telling you, though, she really just wants you to pray out loud with her. It doesn’t have to bring down angels from the clouds. I’ve discovered that this is one example of practice makes perfect. 

You may be thinking this seems like a less important way to honor your wife, but this stat will amaze you: David McGlaughling reported in “The Role of the Father in the Family” that while one in two marriages ends in divorce, only one in ten thousand marriages ends in divorce when the couple prays together out loud regularly. ‘Nuff said.

So, love your wife as Christ loved the Church and as you love yourself; consider your wife’s opinion and humble yourself if you’re wrong; and pray with and for your wife—out loud. All of these points hopefully give you some new perspective and practical tips for honoring your wife. We pray that this helps lead you to a wonderful marriage.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Part 3: Giving Thanks for the People in My Life

And I want God’s peace to rule in my heart.

And I want to be thankful.

I recently attended two funerals within three days. Both men were incredible leaders and mentors, and as I listened to the testimonies at their funerals, I sat amazed at the legacies they left.

They influenced people because they poured themselves into the lives of others.

Coach Warwick was my golf coach in high school, and he had an incredible gift of prophecy—the kind that called forth the truth in someone; he saw what could be, not what was.

A young man shared a story at the funeral that Coach had prophesied over him the first day he walked into the classroom.

I smiled through my tears. He did the same thing for this fourteen year old—before he was my coach, before he even knew my name. He pierced my heart and pulled out the true me that was hidden in there.

What an amazing gift and influence!

I meet close to a hundred new students as they enter my classroom each semester, and I want to have that kind of influence and encouragement for them. I want to hear God, to see each heart as He sees it, not as it appears on the outside.

Both of these men left an inspiring legacy, but they both died unexpectedly (and too soon in my opinion!). They left wives and children and young grandchildren.

I kept thinking of my own parents who are close to the same age, and not only did I find myself begging God not to take them away any time soon, but also I reminded myself to give thanks.

We are not promised tomorrow. And we are not promised that our loves ones—our spouses, our children, our parents and siblings and grandparents—will be here tomorrow either.

I have been blessed with an amazing husband, with an extraordinary family, including awesome parents and siblings, and with great friendship.

The work, the stress, the ‘to do’ lists, even the bills—that’ll all fade in and out.

But relationships are forever.

They’re worth sowing into.

And they are the greatest source of my gratitude because the best gifts God ever gave me are the people He placed in my life.

Let’s give thanks for our relationships today! (Click to Tweet

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Part 2: Giving Thanks for Who I Am in Christ

I’m continuing this month’s focus on gratitude, and let me tell you, being intentionally focused on all that I’m thankful for continues to bring a wealth of peace to my heart.

Today I feel most thankful for who I am in Christ. The trouble, some days, is believing it.

I don't think I'll ever get a tattoo (for a few reasons—none of which are religious!!), but if I were to get a tattoo, I think I would tattoo the word BELIEVE in pretty cursive font on my wrist. 

That's the reminder I need every day. 

Jesus said it like this—this is the work you do: to believe (John 6:29). 

We have to believe three areas—all of which shape our new nature: 1) who we are in Christ; 2) who He says He is; and 3) what He says He’ll do.

Believe who I am in Christ 
- that I am whole, complete, lacking nothing
- that I am healed
- that I am enough 
- that I am redeemed, restored
- that I am righteous 

Believe who He says He is
- that He is faithful
- that He is good
- that He is enough
- that He is all-loving
- that He is healer
- that He is redeemer
- that He is shepherd and provider
- that He is Abba Daddy, Jesus Savior Lord, and Holy Helper

Believe His word, what He says He will do
- that He accomplishes His word
- that He finishes the good work 
- that He restores my soul
- that He perfects that which concerns me
- that He leads me to still waters

You may be thinking: How does believing who I am become a source of gratitude? Well, lemme tell you; it’s changed my life!

I didn’t come up with this phrase (and I’m sorry I don’t know to whom to give credit), but I like to consider myself a “recovering perfectionist.”

If Mary and Martha were a scale—a spectrum of sorts—I would be on the high Martha end. Always doing. Always working. Always stressing—and comparing and feeling exhausted.

That’s who I was—outside of who I am in Christ.

I worried constantly what others thought, and I struggled all the time with guilt—that I wasn’t doing enough or that I wasn’t enough to do it right.

I’m not saying I never struggle with those thoughts anymore, but today, I am grateful to walk in and believe who I am in Christ (emphasis on believe because it’s not always what I feel).

Because of the finished work of the cross, because of all that Jesus accomplished, He made me righteous and at peace with God. It’s always and forever as it should be between us.

I don’t have to work to please.

I don’t have to carry guilt.

I don’t have to worry that I’m insufficient or insignificant.

What a gift!

He says I’m the head and not the tail, and He thinks I’m pretty awesome.

Who I am in Christ has become a source of peace for me; it’s changed how I think about myself, how I interact with others, and how I interact with the Lord.

Today, I’m thankful for Jesus, for the cross, and for who He made me to be when I became hidden in Him.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Honor in Marriage (Part 1)

I want to write about honoring our husbands, but if you’re like me, you may need a little disclaimer first.

In grad school, my eyes were opened to women’s rights issues and the real inequality women face, especially women of color.

My mantra became about empowering women, and I wrote several papers in school about women in the church. My best friend loves to say, “Power to the SHE” (because she loves Athleta :)), and that spoke to my heart too.

So, for many years of marriage, I tuned out sermons about submission, which I felt was just rhetoric to get women to a place of powerlessness. Fortunately for me, I married a man who is pro-women and who did not feel the least bit threatened by my independence.

I still wholeheartedly believe that women can have a role in leadership in the church and that God created us equally (suggested readings: Women in the Church, Why Not Women?, and Powerful and Free).

But my heart toward submission and honor has also changed, as I’ve learned it’s not either/or; it’s both/and.

Howell and I make decisions together. We equally contribute and share. But submission means that I “come under” his vision. I trust his vision for our family is also submitted to God’s vision, and I get to support that.

It’s not about “who’s the boss” or CEO versus GM. That kind of attitude creates power struggles that lead to dishonor.

We rarely disagree about a decision, but when he feels led to do something, I am instructed by God’s word to support his decision.

Submission, unfortunately, has become a term about service and subjugation, and so we have this picture that a submitted woman serves her husband’s meals, gets his paper and coffee, waits on him hand and foot, never speaks against him, never voices an opinion, never disagrees, etc. It looks a lot like this: 

God’s heart is not for one-sided service in marriage. We’re to serve each other equally. We’re also to honor each other in marriage.

But honor is not subjugation.

In fact, honor really means releasing control and exercising self-control.

When we try to manipulate our husbands, that’s not honor. And when we try to blame our husbands, that’s not honor either.

But when we honor each other in marriage, we actually both become empowered—as free, powerful people who can hear from God and speak His truth and vision.

Wives do have special instructions to submit to their husbands, and I believe God blesses us when we choose to support our husbands instead of tearing them down or manipulating them.

Husbands are our authority; the bible is clear about that.

But, unless you’re in an abusive relationships, your husband doesn’t want to own you or control you. He probably values your opinion when you give it in an honoring way. He wants to make decisions as a team. He wants to know you trust and support that he hears from God too.

As a woman, you don’t have to give up your voice. You’re still empowered by God to do His kingdom work. You are still created equally, beloved and favored.

But when you know who you are in Christ, you also feel comfortable releasing control. You no longer need to control your husband (or your kids) because you know, “The only person I can control on a good day is myself” (Danny Silk).

From that place of freedom and empowerment, you can honor your husband the way he desires to be honored. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Let the Peace of God Rule in Your Heart... And Be Thankful."

I love when God gives Howell and me the same word at the same time. I know it’s a moment to listen up—He wants us to hear this!

Several weeks ago, the Lord put Colossians 3:15 on my heart: “Let the peace of God rule in your heart…. And be thankful.”

My sister had given me a chalk board decoration for Christmas, and it sat without a message on my fireplace for quite some time. She told me she would write on it whatever I wanted.

When God put that verse on my heart as a word for me this season, I asked my sister to work her chalk magic and put it on the board for me.

That same weekend, the Lord put the same verse on Howell’s heart. We hadn’t talked about it—and I hadn’t told him what I had told Michalea. (He probably didn’t even notice the blank board had left the fireplace. :))

I came home from being out of town, and he had written on our little message board (where we write notes to each other—yeah, I know, we’re cute and cheesy :)).

I walked into the kitchen to see, “Let the peace of God rule in your heart.”

I asked him about it, and he said the Lord gave him that verse at men’s retreat, and He reminded him of it this weekend while I was gone.

I laughed out loud.

My new—and pretty—board came home last week, and every morning, as I sit in my chair and drink coffee and talk to Jesus, I get to be reminded of His words:

“Let the peace of God rule in your heart…”

…. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed with work.
….When you feel anxious about your writing projects.
….When you feel insecure in your friendships.
….When you feel easily annoyed or frustrated or moody.
….When you feel discouraged.
…. When you feel not enough.
…. When …. Always.

Always. Forever.

Walk in peace.

Peace is not only a fruit of the spirit—a by-product of Him when He’s moving in me—but it’s also His kingdom.

Romans 14:17 says that His kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy. When I say, Lord, let you kingdom come today, I am opening the doors for His peace to rule in my heart.

In this moment. In every moment.

When something rules or reigns, it means it has the ultimate authority or power. The peace of God should govern us, control us, lead us, dominate us, manage us, dictate us.

But we are Americans—and we like our freedom! We don’t like those kinds of verbs (unless, of course, we’re in the position of power).

Letting God’s peace rule, reign, control our hearts isn’t really a suggestion, though; it’s a command.

Col 3:15 holds another command—and I love how short and simple it is: “…And be thankful.”

Again, this isn’t suggested; it’s commanded.

I’ve blogged about gratitude many, many times because it’s a word that has become central to my relationship with God. When I lose my thankful heart, my alignment gets out of whack really fast.

When I forget to be thankful, I become entitled—thinking not only that God owes me but also that He’s forgotten me or that He’s holding out on me.

Sooner or later, that attitude will trickle down into my relationships, too—probably starting with my own marriage.

And before I know it, there’s not only no gratitude in my heart; there’s no peace there either.

A thankful heart invites the peace of God to dictate our lives—our feelings, our thoughts, our decisions, our attitude, our words.

These two go together: Let the peace of God rule in your heart…and be thankful.

If you’re not experiencing peace today, I encourage you to spend time thanking God for what He has done for you.

I’m taking my own personal challenge to do this, and for the month of May, I want Thursdays to focus on areas of thankfulness.

Dear friends, care to join me? Let’s see how God’s peace can rule in our hearts when we are thankful.