A Fruitful Life from a Heart of Love

Roots and wings are the gift Christian parents pass on to our children. We establish rules, give them responsibilities that build confidence and skill, and we water those deep roots with lots of love and prayer, knowing that strengthening wings will soon carry our children away from home, out of reach of our influence and our protection. Now, in my family, there is one more full-fledged adult as my third son has graduated from college.

In my prayers for the four young men who are so close to my heart, I’m taking my cues from the book of Philippians. Writing from a Roman prison, Paul the missionary church planter tips his hand and opens his heart to reveal Paul the spiritual father. His prayers for new believers and leaders in faraway fledgling churches have fueled my own prayer life as one-by-one my sons leave the nest to make independent lives and decisions in a world very different from the one I encountered at their age.

Prayers for strong marriages, safety on the job, or wisdom in college selection are all good and specific requests from the heart of a Christian mum, but Paul’s three-verse, single-sentence out pouring to God challenges me to lift my sights to motivation, to pray about the drive behind my adult children’s following lives—and to take a careful look at my own.

In this season of graduations and weddings, many of us are releasing freshly minted adults into the world. It’s always a delight to partner with Desiring God where, today, I’m writing about praying for our adult children, and the ways we can find ourselves being continually shaped and stretched by our prayers.

Join me there?

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Sunday Scripture ~ Genesis 1:1

The New City Catechism asks, “Who is God?” and then provides an answer based on the very first verse behind the leather cover of your Bible:

“God is the Creator of everyone and everything.”

Whether you are personally in the business of creating by threading a needle or making music on a keyboard or by stringing together sentences on another kind of keyboard, your urge and ability to create come from your Creator.

From the time when Adam took up residence in Eden with no instruction manual other than God’s permission to “master it,” humanity has been unwrapping God’s gifts and glorifying Him as co-creators, even if some fail, in this life, to acknowledge His role in it all.

This Sunday, let’s delight in God’s creation and in His gift of creativity,

 

 

Self-Discipline: A Wholehearted Yes to the Call of God

Child #1:  “But I don’t want to do my spelling lesson.”

Child #2:  “I really don’t feel like cleaning my room.”

Parent:  “I’m not asking you to want to. I don’t expect you to feel like it. I’m asking you to do it anyway.”

There was a season in which conversations like this were standard practice in our home. With a focus on quotidian matters of chores and school work, they seem, at first glance anyway, to be inconsequential. However, the performance of small needful duties without procrastination or complaint is a sign post which, if followed to its destination, carries the promise of a more disciplined life in the future. St. John of the Cross expressed it well:

“Do not wait for desire before performing a virtuous deed, since reason and understanding are sufficient.” (134)

Elisabeth Elliot was uniquely qualified to write on the topic of self-discipline, for she brought to it her unique brand of no-nonsense wisdom, a product of having already “set her face like a flint” in this following life. A right understanding of discipline requires a right understanding of the God we follow, for training in self-discipline requires a “wholehearted yes to the call of God.” (16)

In her recently re-released Joyful Surrender, Elliot creates a linguistic mosaic featuring the words dependence, responsibility, and obedience to fine tune her readers’ thinking. Her strong gospel underpinnings keep her thoughts from a purely bootstraps mentality, for she understood that “discipline is not my claim on Christ, but the evidence of His claim on me.” (28)

7 Disciplines for the Believer’s Life

We embody self-discipline here on the ground by the miracle of grace, according to the guidelines of Scripture, and through the inspiration and enabling of the Spirit of God. What we bring to this equation is our own will–as an offering to God. (37) Our cooperation with God in a life of self-discipline shows up on seven fronts, and Elisabeth has devoted one chapter to each in a devastatingly convicting and yet hopeful celebration of joyful surrender.

  • First, discipline of the body is basic and essential, and it’s amazing how Christians fall into Gnosticism when we’re confronted with the need to wrestle our habits into submission to the will of God.
  • Rhythms of fasting and resting impact on the body as well as the mindand the Christian life is a continual journey of being “re-minded”–corrected  and pulled away from error by the Spirit who aids us in “thinking Christ.” (64)
  • In her discussion of the disciplines of place and time, Elliot’s focus is on the authority of God in our lives to call the shots, while the main question in the discipline of possessions is:  Are we willing to accept what God gives and to relinquish our grip on what he chooses to withhold?
  • The discipline of work views every task as a gift to be offered back to God, no matter how big or small, and our feelings, likewise, are to be recognized, named, and then laid open before the Lord for his training. (145)

Discipline is fundamental in the life of a disciple, and it finds its expression in our lives as we give up our “right” to my-way-my-time-my-stuff-my-preferences. Living in Joyful Surrender, we find that our obedience to Christ is met with gifts that far surpass the value of anything we will ever relinquish to Him.


Many thanks to Revell for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Trusting for grace in the glad surrender,

Michele (1)


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Joyful Surrender, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Musings: May 2019

May has been a month for gathering and for celebrating milestones. Our third son graduated from Eastern Maine Community College on a Friday afternoon, and then the family landed here on the hill that Sunday for Mother’s Day.

On Monday of that same weekend, the Ladies’ Missionary Fellowship came for a turkey dinner and our final meeting before summer break. I’m grateful whenever I can fling open the door of welcome, either physically or metaphorically, and this spring, there has been a steady stream of comings and goings.

 

We were grateful for the opportunity to hear our youngest son play his trumpet in the orchestra at Maine’s All State Music Festival. And of course it was just icing on the cake that our grandson came to spend the night with us that weekend, snoozing in his dad’s old sleeping bag and chowing down on blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

May Reading and Writing

May was also a month of joyful gallivanting around to other people’s sites to write and interact with readers there:

Self-Discipline:  A Matter of Grit and Grace What a treat to be invited to writeSelf-discipline is a matter of grit and grace. about the legacy of Elisabeth Elliot! I chose to focus on her incredible self-discipline and her humble admission that she didn’t always have it all together herself. And I loved her wry humor. When asked about self-discipline and weight loss, she noted that no one is actually qualified to address self-discipline around eating habits because if you don’t struggle with your weight, you don’t know how hard it is, and if you do struggle, you’ve got no room to talk!  Click here to read the tribute to Elisabeth’s impact for Jesus Christ.

Make it your practice to begin working on your spiritual goals by addressing today’s adjacent possible.Reaching Out for the Adjacent Possible— If you’re feeling overwhelmed in trying to reach your goals, maybe the problem is that you’re reaching too far all at once. Over at Living by Design Ministries with Sarah Koontz, I’m sharing thoughts on a concept called The Adjacent Possible. Adjacent means ‘in close proximity’. If I am looking for The Adjacent Possible, I stop scanning the horizon for a “eureka” moment and begin looking close by for a small positive step in the right direction. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what’s working for you in accomplishing your spiritual growth goals. Head on over to read more about following hard after Jesus one glorious step at a time.

When Meghan Weyerbacher said I could write about whatever was interesting toIt turns out that as we reframe our inner monologue, we actually change the way our brain works. me at the moment, I knew my guest post would have to be about the science behind renewing our minds (as the Apostle Paul has urged us to do!) Over at Meg’s place, you can read more about neuroplasticity, transformation, and God’s delight in coming alongside us when we expand our boundaries for His glory. And while you are there, be sure to read about the two books she has launched into the world!

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We managed to fit in a few reviews this month, and they covered books I’ve been waiting for with great anticipation. I’ll share a link to my reviews, and a quick sentence or two here just to whet your appetite. And while we’re on the subject, what have you been reading this spring?

Mended by Blythe Daniel and Helen McIntosh— God is in the business of mending broken hearts and broken relationships, so Blythe and Helen invite readers into His neutral territory in hope that sharing individual thoughts and desires will lead to standing on common ground together.

Surprised by Paradox by Jen Pollock Michel–Jen Pollock Michel asserts that biblical faith “abides complexity rather than resists it.” (4) She wonders aloud about doubt and certainty, humility and hope, and then settles into the examination of four themes in Scripture in which paradox abounds: Incarnation, Kingdom, Grace, and Lament.

The Color of Life by Cara Meredith–Cara Meredith is one of the voices I have listened for as she navigates her own way toward seeing color and blazes trail with her words. A white woman married to a black man, Cara is raising two mixed-race sons, and she shares this emergence from her own white bubble with one eye on the future for her two children and the other cast back into history which has been shaped toward justice by the influence of her father-in-law, James Meredith, the first black man to graduate from the University of Mississippi in the early 60’s.

The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis–In 1643, Jeremiah Burroughs unearthed Paul’s secret in great detail in The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment. Pastor and author Andrew M. Davis revisits the classic work, providing updated illustrations and a fresh look at Burrough’s wise counsel:

“To be well schooled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian.” (40)

The Power of Christian Contentment begins by documenting Paul’s credentials for his claim, reminding readers that, while Paul tested the limits of extreme discipleship, contentment was not something he was born with or that came to him on the Damascus Road.

On the Radio

On a cold day in March when spring was still just “a promise in the closed fist of a long winter,” Susan B. Mead and I connected via Skype for a conversation across the miles. I appreciated the time we spent together and was challenged by her heart for ministry and her enthusiastic pursuit of an advanced degree happening alongside a brave adventure into radio ministry. Her program on Grace and Truth Radio airs every Friday at 4:30 Eastern Time. Click here to listen in on our conversation.

Another Book Discussion Group?

This summer here in real-life Maine, I’ll be meeting with a group of women at the home of a good friend throughout the months of July and August to learn from each other as we discussSensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown. The story centers around four women whose lives are woven together by their time at a retreat center. As they learn life lessons about how to deal with sin, how to talk to God, and how a relationship with God impacts on all their other relationships, the reader is swept up in the learning process as well.

I’m hoping to take this discussion over onto a Facebook group, so even though most of you are geographically far removed from our weekly face-to-face meetings over coffee, you will be able to read along, ask and answer questions, and take part in the learning process. More details will follow as the time approaches!

Thanks for your input here, for all the ways you enter in and encourage throughout the month. Some of the best thoughts at Living Our Days happen in the comments section, and that’s because of you!

 


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post, simply click on the title within the text of my review, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

The Secret to Contentment in a Discontented World

Secrets have a way of grabbing our attention, particularly if the secret comes with a promise of something good. If I claimed to know the secret location of a buried treasure or to possess the secret for permanent and effortless weight loss, the world would beat a path to my door.

Paul claimed to know a secret of even greater value:

“In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content . . .”
(Philippians 4:12 CSB)

In 1643, Jeremiah Burroughs unearthed Paul’s secret in great detail in The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment. Pastor and author Andrew M. Davis revisits the classic work, providing updated illustrations and a fresh look at Burrough’s wise counsel:

“To be well schooled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian.” (40)

The Power of Christian Contentment begins by documenting Paul’s credentials for his claim, reminding readers that, while Paul tested the limits of extreme discipleship, contentment was not something he was born with or that came to him on the Damascus Road.

A Secret to Be Learned

Christian contentment is a secret to be learned. When Paul wrote about contentment, he used a Greek word whose simplest translation is “self-sufficient.” He wanted to communicate his freedom from dependence on any created thing, and this is crucial because, while believers are not invited to share God’s incommunicable attribute of self-existence, there is a sense in which, at least spiritually, our contentment in Christ is a dim shadow of God’s self-existence (or “aseity”).

As usual, C.S. Lewis says it succinctly and distinctly:

“He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God alone.” (33)

Contentment Defined

If contentment is a secret to be learned, it is important to define what Paul meant. Davis unpacks Burroughs’s very thorough description:

“Christian contentment is the sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” (40)

It is imperative to note that contentment does NOT excuse complacency, nor does it mean putting up with injustice or passively accepting circumstances that should be changed and set to rights. Paul set the example by speaking out against injustice and held the magistrate’s officers’ feet to the fire when he and Silas were mistreated in Philippi.

What is the Secret?

Fortunately, Paul was not stingy with his secret, for he was quick to reveal his Source of contentment:

“I know both how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

Contentment comes from valuing Christ above all other possessions and relationships, above all other sources of strength and encouragement. It is a supernatural weapon in the trusting believer’s arsenal. Since God has commanded us to be content, he has also provided the means.

The Miracle of Subtraction

When I read Burroughs’s work several years ago, this wisdom stuck like a burr:

“Contentment comes, not so much by way of addition, as by way of subtraction.”

Rather than adding to our possessions in hope that the pile will one day satisfy, biblical contentment carves down our desires until they “equal what our loving heavenly Father chooses to provide.” (70) This, to me, seems to be the most difficult and yet most indispensable understanding of what it means to delight in the Lord without making an idol of his gifts.

Finding contentment in prosperity can be as challenging as finding contentment in suffering, and there is never a season of life in which we’re not tempted to complain–and then to make excuses for it. Davis offers boots-on-the-ground advice for combating a spirit of entitlement which includes:

  • studying the lives of biblical and historical figures who persevered with a spirit of contentment;
  • learning about the persecuted church;
  • becoming sacrificially involved in missions;
  • fasting periodically from comforts that have become idols;
  • getting involved in volunteer activities that are hidden and thankless;
  • giving freely and extravagantly from your wealth;
  • praying fervently for  growth in contentment and setting the example for your family;
  • reading deeply and widely from resources about seeking pleasure in God alone;
  • practicing vigilance in your entertainment and social media exposure.

Discontentment is an insidious evil, easy to overlook and hard to uproot. A mindset that views every single circumstance as a gift from God’s good hand is a frame of mind and heart that requires supernatural help and continual vigilance.  By grace, growth in Christian contentment will lead to a deeper fulfillment in the following life and a richer experience of gospel truth.

Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Because “godliness with contentment is great gain,”

 


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC
Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Power of Christian Contentment, or  The Rare Jewel Of Christian Contentment simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Photo by thr3 eyes on Unsplash

Is It Time for You to Try Something New?

When the Apostle Paul urged believers in Rome to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, he was pre-figuring a field of neurological research that would appear on the scene (by natural means, anyway!) two thousand years later under the moniker of a “growth mindset.” It turns out that as we reframe our inner monologue, we actually change the way our brain works. Moving from negativity toward a “renewed mind” of trust is not only biblical. It’s good science! This neuroplasticity—or change in brain mapping—leads to new freedom of possibilities and learning.

Of course this is easier read than done, so I’m putting some of this good science to the test in my past middle-age, empty-ing nest life. We can pick up the conversation over at Meghan Weyerbacher’s place where I’m sharing some thoughts on overcoming my stick-in-the-mud ways and, by grace, leaning into a growth mindset. I look forward to hearing your thoughts! Click here to join the conversation…

Learning to delight in God’s transforming ways,

 

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If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

 

Avoid These 4 Obstacles to Seeing the Color of Life

In rural Maine, conversations around race seem remote, theoretical, and (frankly) like somebody else’s business. Colorblindness is nigh unto snow-blindness here:  whiteness all around and a certain sightless condition that follows hard after it. Raising sons in the 90’s with a narrative of color blindness involved earnest conversations on the way to Portland or Boston, thankful for the opportunity and mindful of the privilege.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m invited into a completely different way of seeing the world in which we take note of the colorful array that God created. The challenge, then, is to exchange the privilege of not noticing race for the greater privilege of taking note.

Cara Meredith is one of the voices I have listened for as she navigates her own way toward seeing color and blazes trail with her words. A white woman married to a black man, Cara is raising two mixed-race sons, and she shares this emergence from her own white bubble in The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice. She has one eye on the future for her two children and the other cast back into history which has been shaped toward justice by the influence of her father-in-law, James Meredith, the first black man to graduate from the University of Mississippi in the early 60’s.

Navigating the Obstacles

Navigating a collision of cultures takes courage and the way is often unclear. Walking a “road paved with apologies and lessons yet to learn,” (209) Cara’s memoir calls readers to hear the “tramp, tramp, tramping of feet” toward justice, and she points out the narrow places and perilous potholes in the road:

  1. Fear — The unknown — the risk of stepping onto unfamiliar ground — is enough to keep all of us in our safe corners. The power of love calls us to a brave knowing and a new awareness of the stories of others. Will we overcome fear and pray along with Cara?

“Lord, give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear the pain and the hurt around me.” (68)

2. Differences — The Merediths found that their differences required an awareness of their lenses of racial understanding. Rather than chalking them up to temperament or gender, Cara made the brave choice to lean into James’s unique pain as part of her healthy partnership in their interracial marriage.

3.  Swooping — Cara’s ministry to youth extended the love of God across boundaries of race, but it became clear to her that this had nothing to do with “swooping in to save a brown girl’s experiences of racism and hate.” Opening her ears, she began to listen in a new way to evidences of the real and material effects of race.

4.  Ignorance — Like many readers, I smiled at Cara’s edgy description of James as her Hot Black Husband (HBH!). I thought the “little caramels” was a cute designation for her sons. Only after hearing the real names of black and brown victims of racial injustice did Cara realize that her nicknames robbed her family members of their dignity.

So she apologized.
She admitted that her good intentions had been cancelled by a lack of understanding.
Confessing our ignorance may be the first step toward awareness.

Beginning to Notice

As we make room for paradox and uncertainty and live our way into a new and clear-eyed knowing, we will find a fresh way of seeing the world--with all its many colors.“According to one study, out of about 3,400 books analyzed, people of color accounted for only 22 percent of children’s book characters.” (152) This statistic became reality on Cara’s own bookshelf, and noticing led her to action. She wanted her boys to see illustrations that included faces like their own, strong protagonists who reassured them that theirs was also an active role in their own stories.

For all of us, noticing may require some homework to chisel away the granite of our solid “knowing”. As we make room for paradox and uncertainty and live our way into a new and clear-eyed knowing, we will find a fresh way of seeing the world–with all its many colors.


Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

michele signature[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice,  simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash

Subscribe to Living Our Days to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.