Captive Thoughts

Lately it seems like I’ve had more opportunity to dwell on the wrong things and to let my thinking get out of line with the truth. For one thing, feeling nauseous constantly makes it really easy to slip into self-pity and ungratefulness. I’ve realized in fresh ways that it takes hard work and conscious effort to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This is always true, but the issue of selfish thinking is more glaring when I’m faced with something difficult. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been loving 1 John and 1 Peter for my quiet times. I like being able to grab one verse or passage that I try to take with me throughoutshoes the day. It’s what I go back to when I catch my thoughts drifting in a direction that does not bring glory to God.

I’ve also appreciated solid Christian music to fill my mind with truth. For a year or so now, I’ve listened to far less secular music because I find the uplifting, Scripture-filled quality of worship music to be so much more beneficial. (I haven’t gone cold turkey. I still enjoy Taylor Swift and others, but in moderation.) Earlier this morning I was struggling with a situation I am currently working through, and I was so thankful that the Lord brought Fernando Ortega’s musical rendition of Psalm 19:14 to my mind, which I sang as a prayer while I worked in the kitchen.

Let the words of my mouth
Be pleasing to You, pleasing to You
The meditation of my heart
Be pleasing to you, pleasing to You
Oh Lord, my strength
And my Redeemer

Right thinking does not come naturally to me, but it is so worth the effort to drag myself back to the Lord for the mind-makeover I need at every moment. When I draw near to Him, He is faithful to use His Word to encourage my heart and correct my thinking.

“I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” (Ps. 119:11)

{Seminary Journal} One Year DOWN!

10342448_10152463688788109_3686387471429485253_nTwo semesters. One (school) year. Done. It’s crazy! I can hardly believe how quickly that FLEW by. One moment I was crying ten gallon buckets of tears as we hugged our families goodbye, and the next, Andrew is finishing his second semester and we’re getting ready to watch dear friends graduate…friends we didn’t even know nine months ago. Three years sounded really long when we first made plans to move, but now I feel like if I blink, it will be Andrew’s turn to graduate. That’s not to say that some of the days didn’t feel long; they did. But overall, the weeks and months sailed by.

There is much to be grateful for as I reflect on these past two semesters. Andrew has certainly grown, not only in his Bible knowledge, but in his passion for it. How could you not, when you spend hours and hours immersed in it each week? I love to get a window into his experiences when he gets home from class and spills over highlights from his day. I love when he is so excited about what he learned, that he can’t tell me sitting down. I love when I get a mini off-the-cuff sermon and a tiny taste of what it might be like someday to sit under his preaching. I love to meet in person the guys he raves about to me at home. I love to hear about the conversations he is having with fellow students who love Christ. There is so much to love, I could go on and on!

Andrew has been not only an exemplary student thus far, but also an A+ husband. While somehow pulling off amazing grades, he has not neglected to care for me and see that my “emotional cup” is full. Sure, there is give and take. I have to be content with homework-filled weekends and evenings, and days when we don’t get to really connect the way we’d like to. But overall, despite a ton of homework, work, and other ministry responsibilities, Andrew chooses to make time for the two of us, usually at the cost of sleep or some extra studying. Not only does he spend time with me, he serves me in so many ways. Today when I got home from work, for example, he’d taken a break from his last homework assignment to wash the dishes, clean out the fridge, make the bed, and start two loads of laundry. With my current state, he’s a better housewife than I am! ;)

I don’t say this to brag, I say it to build up my husband and “publicly” thank him for being such a servant-hearted guy. I am immeasurably blessed to call him mine.

The next two years will be more challenging than the first, as we juggle this apartment manager thing with harder classes and a baby. But God’s grace is truly sufficient for all things, and I am confident that it will be another sweet season to treasure Christ and each other as we grow in new ways. Praise the Lord for His many undeserved blessings in our lives!

Jesus, Thank You

There is so much to thank God for, all year round, and I love the heightened emphasis on thankfulness that comes with November and especially this week. I’ve not kept up on the 30 Day Gratitude Challenge, but I’m going to keep pecking away at it into December until it is done. It’s a nice thing to add to quiet time when I want a little something extra.

Last night was our Thanksgiving service at church, during which we focused on the work of Jesus, specifically His ascension. Jesus’ return to Heaven after His resurrection isn’t an event zeroed in on often, so Pastor John’s reminders of all that it marks were a great way to encourage thankfulness for our amazing Savior going into this week. Here are a few of the things His ascension does:

  • Marks the completion of Jesus’ earthly work.
  • Signals the sending of the Holy Spirit.
  • Establishes Christ as the ruler of all things and Head of the church.
  • Marks the start of Jesus’ High Priestly ministry.
  • And much more…

After singing “Jesus, Thank You” by Sovereign Grace Music last night, I can’t get the lyrics out of my head…and I really don’t want to. Take a listen; it’s one of my favorites right now.

Your blood has washed away my sin
Jesus, thank You
The Father’s wrath completely satisfied
Jesus, thank You
Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table
Jesus, thank You

Choosing Gratitude Challenge

Would you like to join me in a 30-Day Choosing Gratitude Challenge?

I’m so excited to be sharing this project with my sem wives discipleship group and I’d love for you to hop on the band wagon, too! Each day includes a passage of Scripture (usually quite short), a few devotional thoughts, and a specific challenge or prayer prompt. For example, today’s suggestion is:

Ask the Lord to cultivate in you a more grateful heart over these next thirty days. If you have realized that your “Gratitude Quotient” is not what it should be, confess your ungrateful spirit to the Lord. Ask Him to forgive you and to transform you into a truly thankful person.

What could come of this but good? Additional reading from God’s Word and encouragement in the area of gratitude to Him. Sign this ungrateful heart up!

Here’s the link: Growing In Gratitude 30 Day Challenge

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I’ll kick off this challenge with a public thank you to the Lord for providing Andrew as my life partner. Recently I have been working through a handful of challenging circumstances and Andrew has been right there next to me in each one, encouraging, counseling, listening, and gently correcting me as I stumble along. He chooses to take the time I need to talk through issues that arise even though the demands of the semester are expanding rapidly as December draws near. He’s making the conscious decision to prioritize me and my emotional and spiritual needs above homework and other responsibilities. That’s love in action. And that’s just one of the gazillion reasons I’m grateful for him.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for matching me up with a man perfectly suited to do life with me! I am blessed far beyond what I deserve!

Your turn. What are you thankful for? Direct your gratitude to the One Who deserves it all!

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)

Toward a Joyful, Prayerful Life

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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)

Same T-Shirt, Different World

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On Sunday, after Doulos, I went to the Special Ministries service at 10:30 AM. I had a little trouble finding the room, but when I did step into it, there was no doubt I’d come to the right place. There were people of a wide spread of ages (but almost entirely adults) with varying disabilities, levels of responsiveness, and personalities.

Almost immediately, I spotted a young man in the middle of the group of about 20 people. He caught my eye because he was wearing a bright blue striped shirt, the same one I’d bought for Andrew at Target a few months earlier. He looked to be in his early twenties and he had a very handsome face. At first I thought he might be a volunteer…but when he opened his mouth or moved his arms, it became clear that he was a participant in the disabilities ministry.

For the whole class period, I was drawn to him. He was very much in tune with the teaching time, sitting on the edge of his seat to listen, and answering questions about the gospel correctly (though his speech was difficult to decipher). There was something oddly sobering about such a normal-looking guy in a t-shirt my husband often wears. So similar in some ways, yet so vastly different in others.

God’s sovereignty and providence are really all that lie between blessing Andrew with a typical, robust life and creating him with the severe disabilities I observed in the young man in the bright blue t-shirt. It was a powerful challenge to thank the Lord for knitting Andrew together from conception in a way that provided him with a strong body and healthy mental capacity. God could have created him with special needs and thus taken him down a very different path. He would still be fearfully and wonderfully made, just as this young man was, but Andrew’s life would have many difficulties that he doesn’t have to face. I was also reminded that a bad car accident could change our lives forever if Andrew (or I) were to sustain serious brain damage.

Basically, God used a t-shirt to fill me with a renewed sense of gratitude for the blessings in my life, not the smallest of which is a healthy, intelligent husband. It’s not a gift he bestows on everyone, but for whatever reason, in His good pleasure, He did that for us.

Never take your life and luxuries for granted…there are so many who know nothing of them.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:16-18