Toward a Joyful, Prayerful Life

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Ostrich or Chicken?

When it comes to focusing on the good things God is doing in and around me, and being aware of, informed about, and prayerful for bigger issues further removed from my immediate life and circumstances, I seem to bounce back and forth between two extremes.

I’m an ostrich with its head happily buried in the sand, thriving in my bubble, ignoring the turmoil that’s at large in our nation, the greater church of America, and beyond.

Or I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off, forgetting my blessings, freaking out, and trying to fix propaganda, defend honest people, and save babies.

Deep breath.

Both approaches alone are wrong.

Finding Balance

Like pretty much everything in life, I need to find a God-honoring balance.

God wants me to be excited about what’s happening in my sphere. It’s where He’s placed me, and there are good things going on here that I should support, participate in, celebrate, and enjoy. That’s kind of a no-brainer.

But my little world isn’t where life starts and stops.  Awareness of what is taking place elsewhere does a few things:

  1. Wards off tunnel vision and inspires broader perspective.
  2. Humbles me.
  3. Encourages me with good things occurring apart from “my world”.
  4. Incites thankfulness for “how good I’ve got it” here.
  5. Reminds me that this life is temporary.

I believe God wants to help me find that joyful balance between contentment with where I’m at and concern for people elsewhere. Rather than fret, I should bring all issues (both personal and widespread) to God in prayer. Freaking out is never a healthy or productive approach. It distracts me from the gospel, which then causes friction and negativity with the people around me.

The more I’m aware of my tendency toward the extremes, the more I can seek God’s grace in fine-tuning me and fashioning me into the joyful, prayerful Christian I desire to be. I don’t want to be the ostrich, with its head buried in the sand, or the chicken, running around with its head cut off. I want to serve with gladness where God places me, without becoming indifferent to the world around me. And when the population’s problems and decline feel too depressing to bear, I want to be encouraged and take heart in all the good that God is bringing about in the seemingly little ways.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

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{Seminary Journal} Update Letter October 2013

For those of you who don’t attend our home church in Washington, this letter went in the church mailboxes last week. =) I loved that Andrew thought of and made time for doing this…it was a fun way to feel connected with everyone back home. If the text is too small, you can click on the letter to enlarge it.

Letter

{Seminary Journal} One-Month Expectations

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Photo by Rv Sun. A hike I took with our Bible study this week.

This is the 100th post here on Anchored! We’ve been here for a month as of yesterday. Last night at a small fellowship group with fellow sem wives, my friend Tia asked everyone a few questions related to what we’d expected to encounter down here, and how those expectations have been fulfilled or turned out differently. It was a good question. I thought about it a lot more when I got home and decided to blog some of those expectations.

  1. I expected our apartment to be tiny and cramped, but it’s not. There’s far more space than I’d even hoped for and pretty much everything we brought fits, with a little wiggle room.
  2. I expected church to feel big and overwhelming, and it does. But joining a fellowship group makes a big church get small really fast. I’m surprised that we run into people we know every Sunday, in a church of thousands.
  3. I did not expect to feel lonely, but I do. It’s not the homesickness I’d anticipated, it’s different. There are moments, after my work and responsibilities are done and Andrew is still doing homework, when not having my best friend or a family member to call for coffee or a game night hits me really hard and I feel very alone.
  4. I expected there to be many young married couples without kids in seminary, but there aren’t. There are tons of young families and a lot of single guys.
  5. I expected Andrew to be swamped with homework, and he is. God prepared me to be fully ready for evenings and Saturdays to be for homework. I’m encouraging Andrew to study and not making him feel bad about being busy. This week he got 105% on his first Hebrew vocab quiz! When I texted that I was proud of him, Andrew replied, “It’s a victory for both of us ’cause the time I spent studying was time I didn’t spend with you…but it paid off!”
  6. I expected it to be hot, and it is. It’s been around 100 or more all week. As I write this, it’s 101 and supposed to reach 103 this afternoon. The apartment is stuffy and cooking is a drag. But that’s no surprise and I’m learning to get used to it.
  7. I expected it to take awhile to make close friends, and it does. But we’ve already been so blessed to meet a number of amazing people who love Jesus and have a heart for people and ministry. I know there are very special friendships in store, likely with some of the people we’ve already met but haven’t spent much time with yet.
  8. I expected to be hard to find gluten free food, and it is. Until yesterday. I discovered Sprouts on the recommendation of friends. It is like our co-op back home, maybe better! It’s in Burbank but so worth the extra jaunt! Thank You, Lord!

Yes, there are a lot of good and hard things about this new season of life. It’s stretching, and Jesus’ presence and love are becoming more dear to my heart. Despite the tearful moments and the ache in my heart that sometimes doesn’t want to fade, I am very content and completely confident that today I am exactly where God wants me to be. No second thoughts, regrets, or misgivings. God’s work in my life is an encouragement to me, and I know He has so much more in store for my spiritual growth as the weeks roll on. Thank you for your prayers…there is no doubt He is answering them!

{My Husband Blogs} Expository Preaching

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I am thrilled today to introduce my husband’s first-ever post here on Anchored! We have so many great discussions about life and ministry, and I often say, “You should write about that!” Well, he finally did. Without further ado…here’s Andrew.

The Focus of Expository Preaching

In an effort to keep this short, I am narrowing down several amazing lectures by Dr. Lawson and Dr. MacArthur into one point of many that could be made about expository preaching. (Expository preaching is, in short, the verse-by-verse reading, explanation, and application of Scripture.)

During this one-week class, I was reminded again of the soul-gripping power of expository preaching; not because of the persuasiveness of the preacher, but because of the power of God at work through His written Word. Expository preaching leads us directly to the source of the help we so desperately need: the life changing truth found only in Scripture.

2 Corinthians 2 hits at the heart of the expositor. What did the Corinthians expect from Paul when he came to them? They were used to the orators of that age who were able to skillfully move crowds with the rhetoric of the day, bringing them to tears and laughter, and entertaining them with words. Corinth was heavily impacted by Athens, the hub of philosophy and rhetoric. The Corinthians expected Paul to persuade them using skillful words and moving orations.

What did Paul do? We find out in the first verse of 2 Cor. 2 when he says, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” What?! Paul, come on! You’re going to lose your audience! They’ll become disinterested, dissatisfied.

In verse two Paul explains what he preached. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” The answer is Christ. The Bible is about Christ, and salvation is in no other except Him. What should the focus of preaching be? Should it be “plausible words of wisdom” (v 4) and cultural relevancy, or simply the “power of God” (v 5)? Only the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). Therefore, our focus in preaching should always be the exposition of Scripture.

God does not need our “help” to make His Word appealing to our audience. (In fact, if we think we can make the Bible more attractive, we have far too low a view of it.) Expository preaching creates boundaries around the preacher, helping him to remember that he is nothing more than a herald of God’s message.

{Seminary Journal} All I Have Is Christ

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At Grace Community Church (GCC), there are two (identical) 90-minute worship services at 8:30 and 10:30 AM. During each one, there are various Fellowhship Groups happening elsewhere on campus. These groups are also 90 minutes long and are basically full-blown worship services, with a singing time and a sermon. Add the 90-minute evening service, and you’ve got a packed but oh-so-rewarding Sunday. Since moving to LA, we’ve spent each Sunday visiting different Fellowship Groups in the mornings to figure out which one to join. It’s been hard to attend a group or two and then have to wait an entire week to go to another, when we both want so much to jump in and start connecting with people and getting involved. We appreciated things about each of the four groups we’ve visited, but were excited this week to decide where we will land, for many reasons–Doulos (the Greek word for “slave”).

During the worship portion (which we absolutely loved) of Doulos we sang All I Have is Christ. To me, that song embodies our church family back in Bellingham, since it has become a favorite staple there in recent years. I couldn’t help but cry as we sang the chorus together in Doulos and I pictured our church at home, worshiping God at the same time. As I pondered the profound lyrics, I was reminded again of what a precious thing it is that no matter where I go, I have my Savior there with me. “Hallelujiah, all I have is Christ.” I had Him back in Bellingham, surrounded by familiar faces, and I have Him here in LA, where everyone and everything is new and different. I am still His, and He is still mine…and no matter what the future holds, that truth will never change. Amazing!

Andrew and I are both 100% excited about joining Doulos and growing under the solid teaching of Pastor Travis, who we know through mutual friends. It’s great to finally feel like we “belong” somewhere, instead of floundering. I can’t wait to share more of how we learn to love this group as it becomes home for us.

Stay tuned for a guest post from a very special individual!

{Seminary Journal} New State, New Routine, New Goals

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Andrew and Dr. Steve Lawson, who is teaching his Expository Preaching class this week.

We’ve only been here two weeks, but it honestly feels like it’s been a month or two…in a good way. Our apartment is really home and I am settling into a new routine. If I stop and think about back home, specifically my brothers, I start tearing up pretty quickly. So I’m choosing not to dwell on everyone I’m missing so much and throwing myself into everything we have here instead.

The out-of-state move feels like a totally fresh start in many ways. I have goals and new habits I want to form.

I want to put myself through a “seminary” of sorts while Andrew is in school. I have a lot of books I want to read and now seems like a good time to establish a reading routine. I love reading, but I struggle with sitting down and making it happen, because there’s always something else to be done. I have one more chapter to finish When I Don’t Desire God. Then I’m going to start through two books with dear ones back home: Creative Counterpart : Becoming the Woman, Wife, and Mother You Have Longed To Be (with my mom) and What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (with Brittney). One with a Shepherd: The Tears and Triumphs of a Ministry Marriage is also high on my reading list. And somewhere in there, I’ll finish the other three books I’m partway through. =)

So far, keeping the house spic and span has been a cinch. (I’ve always struggled with consistent housekeeping maintenance.) Something must have just clicked in my brain. I spend about 15 minutes a day straightening things, wiping down the bathroom, etc. and that’s really all it takes to maintain a tidy place. (Not counting dishes and kitchen cleanup.) It does help that we got rid of so much stuff and that we’re in a small space. I hardly have a choice but to keep it organized, or we’d go crazy!

And of course, I’m really excited to find the right ministry niches here at Grace Community. I’ve already had opportunity to help a fellow sem wife with her kids and there’s plenty more where that came from. I have some ideas of the church ministries I’d love to be involved in, but I’m waiting first to see what Andrew will choose to plug into so I can help him and then add from there as schedule allows.

Tonight is a dessert for seminary students and their wives. I’ve so been looking forward to it!

Fervent Love: A Paul and a Timothy

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There are roses growing right outside my kitchen window. =)

You probably thought I’d forgotten all about our “current” Fervent Love series, but here’s another post. =)

Fervent love may look like discipling a brother or sister.

I remember at one of our church’s recent missions seminars, the guest speaker suggested that everyone have a Paul and a Timothy in their lives. The idea is that you always be learning from an older brother or sister, while sharing what you’ve learned and grown in with someone younger. I like this concept because it stimulates continued personal growth while encouraging giving of yourself to others.

For most of my life, my mom and I have met regularly for a mostly informal discipleship time where I can learn from her and share what I’m going through. Sometimes we go through a book, although often we talk for so long we run out of time to read together. =) So for now, she is my primary “Paul”.

A year or so ago, I added two “Timothys” to my life. I met with, discipled, and prayed for a younger sister in Christ regularly, and very informally counseled/mentored a young lady as she walked through a difficult time. Both relationships were a tremendous blessing to me, probably more than to these friends! It was exciting to be able to share what God has taught me through failures and victories in my life. Maybe He used me to spare them from making some of the mistakes I did. The Lord also used our times together to show me how much He has blessed me and to remind me of difficult seasons He carried me through and brought me out of.

Hopefully if we have younger siblings we’re all building those relationships with purpose and being an intentional, godly influence in their lives. For me, especially since I don’t have sisters, the timing seemed right to add another opportunity to invest in someone younger. Now, of course, I’ve moved, but I’ll try to stay in touch with these gals, and perhaps find a new “Timothy” in our new church.

How about you? Do you have a “Paul” you are learning from? And do you see an opportunity to turn around and give back to a “Timothy”? It’s a great way to grow and be stretched in new ways.