Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

Favorite Fall Recipes ~ #TheLoft

It’s our favorite time of week again! This week we’ll be sharing our favorite fall recipes with you, so come join us in the linkup.

Jen 🙂

 

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

This Week’s Topic: “Fall Recipes” (Yum!)

Get a running start on Next Week’s Topic: “Thanksgiving” (Food, traditions, an essay or video, or just your own gratitude list. Maybe we’ll find some new ideas to incorporate into our celebration this year!)

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

Each week we provide a topic to start the conversation.

 

PLEASE NOTE: We want to foster community and transparent conversation with one another, just like we’d do if we were meeting in real life. So we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic and that you mention The Loft in your post. Thank you so much!


Monday night, at 9pm Eastern, the linky goes live and all week you can link up your post on that week’s topic.

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

So grab your coffee mug and come on up! Hang out for a bit. We betcha you’ll be glad you did.

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic 🙂

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

 

Now it’s time to link up!

 

This Week’s Topic: “Fall Recipes”

 

Enter your link below:

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Just a Closer Walk~ #TheLoft

My sisters in Christ, I’m very excited about this week’s topic for The Loft. I look forward to reading what each of you have to say about your walk with the Lord.

I know in my own life, I get easily distracted. I struggle with consistency and self-discipline so often.

And I used to believe that the sweetest times with the Lord were on the mountaintops, when I chose to abide closely in Him. I spent large chunks of time reading the Word and praying.  But lately I’m learning there is a sweetness to be found in the valleys as well because what I’m hearing from Him in the valleys would have been impossible to hear on the mountaintops.

The last few difficult years have challenged my view of God like never before.  His grace is much greater, His love much deeper than I ever could have imagined. He faithfully loves me even when I cannot love myself. Even when I loathe myself.

Perhaps it’s maturity at work in me or just life circumstances, but I find it easier to abide in Him, especially in the dark times, when I’m really honest with Him.  I realize now that much of my “young” Christian life was spent trying to please a God who was already pleased with me.  I held myself, and others, to high standards, and although I thought I understood grace, I think I was probably a little legalistic, maybe even self-righteous. I’m sure I still make that mistake sometimes even today, we all do at times. 🙂

And then came the valley of the shadow of death, or at least it felt like it, that filled these last couple of years.  At times I didn’t even want to leave my bed. At times I begged the Lord to come quickly – everyday life felt like too much to bear. I questioned the Lord like never before. I wrestled with him like Jacob as one blow after another fell upon my life. I quit trying to act the part of perfect Christian and begged for understanding. I got real with Jesus.

It was (and still is in some sense) a most difficult struggle.

Yet my faith has been strengthened!  Out of my honest conversations, out of my most desperate cries, came an understanding that I am perfectly loved, perfectly wanted, perfectly accepted.  I knew a brand new Grace, and it blew my mind – still does!

Because when I was my ugliest self, He loved me still.

He loves me still.

He loves you, too, my sisters, even at your ugliest, your most unlovely, your most unworthy.

And when we come to Him honestly, then He can begin the real work of “creating a clean heart” within us.  He gives us “grace-colored” glasses and teaches us that progress is what really matters, not perfection!

He teaches us confidence that only comes from fully understanding our Daughter-of-the-King status.

Walk with the Lord, Abiding in Him, Just a Closer Walk, Spiritual Life, Christianity, Christian Living, Growing in Christ

 

I’ve come out of that valley with a closer walk, not a perfect walk, but a closer one.  Not because I do my devotions without fail, not because I am sweet to my family, not because I serve Him at church, not because of the words I type out here.

But because I know Him more deeply.

I trust Him more deeply.

You can trust Him, too, sisters. Whatever your valley may look like, He promises to carry you through.

…For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say,

The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?”  Heb.13:5-6

Even this.

Even this.

Jen 🙂

Also sharing this with Tell His Story.

 

The Loft is open, come on up!

 

The Loft: A weekly Hangout and Link Up for Christian bloggers
Graphic by Kerry Messer

 

 

About #TheLoft

 

The Loft is the place for conversation, community, networking, and Christian growth.

 

PLEASE NOTE: We want to foster community and transparent conversation with one another, just like we’d do if we were meeting in real life. So we ask that your link stick to the weekly topic and that you mention The Loft in your post. Thank you so much!

 

We’ll have fun topics, serious topics, practical, soul-ful, holiday, and so, so much more…we can’t wait to get started! This is not only a great way to connect with others, it’s also a fun and easy way to establish a writing habit. If you aren’t a blogger, you are welcome to join in by leaving your comments in the comment section.

This Week’s Topic: “Intimacy with Jesus” (What does that look like for you? How do you abide in the vine? What barriers do you face or victories you’ve discovered in maintaining intimacy with Jesus? Let’s encourage each other!)

Get a running start on Next Week’s Topic:”Fall Recipes” (Please do share your favorite fall recipes so we can enjoy too!)

 

To Participate:

 

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic. But please stick to the weekly topic 🙂

2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.

3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and/or link back in your post so we can find each other. Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.

 

The Loft Link Up

 

When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 4 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are: Jen, Rebekah, Leah, Arabah

 

Now it’s time to link up!

 

Click to Add Your Link Below:

 

18 Comments »

Like a Proud Big Brother

One day after our seven-year-old’s soccer game, he waited in line at the concession stand.  The rest of the family waited a few feet away, arms full of camping chairs and water bottles, ready to head back to our trusty minivan.  I watched as our son’s easy grin lit up his face while he talked animatedly with a teammate behind him.  His team had remained undefeated, and he was on cloud nine!  He called out to his younger brother to come over and join them.

As the four-year-old boy bounced closer to him, our middle son’s smile widened and his eyes crinkled.  He bent down to the younger’s level “This is my brother, ” he told his teammate. “Say, hi!” he encouraged the four-year-old.  Pride shone forth from his face as he talked about how he teaches his younger brother and sister how to “do sports” and how they listen to him and do what he says.  He put his arm around the four-year-old in a protective and possessive way, completely pleased to be the big brother.  “Gimme five,” he instructed.  The younger brother gladly obliged and bounced back to where the family waited.

Then, he called over his younger sister, also four, and the scenario played out all over again. She giggling and he smiling in her face.  Her quick wave to the teammate was cute and girly.  She, too, gave a five and then pranced back to join us.

I listened as the two teammates in line continued to converse. “So, they’re like your minions?!” the other boy asked, impressed.  “Yeah, pretty much. They’re my minions.” our seven-year-old nodded his head in affirmation.

As I laughed quietly, I realized how true it is.  They are his minions.

They trust him.  They listen to him.  And most of the time, they do his bidding.  But he also cares for them.  He helps them.  He plays with them.  He loves on them.  He gives things to them.  And when his friends are around, he introduces them with such beaming pride that you would think he birthed those two four-year-olds himself! 🙂

I didn’t think much more of that conversation until later that week when I attended a Beth Moore simulcast.  She spoke on grace and law, how we often trust grace for salvation, but we fail to trust it in our everyday lives.  Instead, we walk as if still under the law, guilty and defeated, when we could be living free and victorious!  

At the end of the day, Beth brought our attention to the fact that we, who are in Christ, are fully accepted by God; there is nothing more or less we can do to “please” Him.  Then, she ended with a speech given to us, one phrase at a time, to repeat to a partner. It was a speech of words about who we are in Christ, and a speech about how Jesus would present us, His sisters of inheritance.

As I spoke the words aloud to my partner, I suddenly recalled my seven-year-old’s beaming face.

And I was undone.

Because that’s exactly how Jesus feels about each one of us, my sisters!  He’s the proud big brother, and in His eyes, through His love, we are something to be joyful about.  

Jesus, our brother

With a smile on His face, He calls me over, puts His arm around my shoulder, and proclaims for all to hear,

“Father, this is my sister, Jen.  Isn’t she great?

Look how beautiful she is!  I love her so much that I willingly gave my life for her, covered her sins in my blood.

She is infinitely precious to me, a daughter of the King.”

The Father smiles in agreement.

The Christ-brother holds out His hand for a celebratory five.

And the angels rejoice!

Jen 🙂

To read Beth’s commissioning prayer (and other goodies from the simulcast – like the Grace Poem), click here.

To find me linking up, check these lovely blogs.

8 Comments »

The Honeymoon is Over

we do not lose heart

It was bound to happen eventually.  I’ve only been blogging for a few months now, so I don’t really have much experience to go on.  But I think I can say with some certainty that the blogging honeymoon is over.

Blogging, like so many other things in life, was so fascinating and exciting when it was new to me.  Every view was cherished, every comment celebrated.  Some days I would check the blog first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.  It’s the truth; I think I became just a tiny bit obsessed! Maybe, just maybe, I even made an idol of it, to my shame.

I do that, though. I throw myself into new things with such enthusiasm, such big plans and dreams.  And then somewhere along the line, it stops being quite so much fun and starts to feel more like work, like just another burden to carry.

Some of you might be thinking, but it’s just a blog! To a certain extent, you’d be correct.  It doesn’t feel like “just” a blog to me, though.  It feels like part of me that I’ve put on display for the world to see.  And there are these nifty little graphs that measure that part of me day by day by day… And some days they just don’t measure up to what I’d like to see. No matter how high they reach, there seems to be this desire for more. And the inspiration isn’t always there.  And busy schedules get in the way.

And sometimes…

I just want to give up.

Let’s be honest.  It happens to all of us!  When that new baby comes home smelling so sweet, and everyone is exclaiming “how perfect”…when that new job is so exciting that you just can’t wait to go to work, and people tell you how happy they are to have you there…when that new ministry that you’ve been planning for and dreaming of finally comes to fruition…when you make that purchase that you’ve been saving up for and it’s just. so. cool….when that mountaintop experience leads you to a faith high that just can’t be matched.

Inevitably, a valley follows that mountain.  That perfect baby that slept so well in the hospital cries all night long, night after night after night.  That new job has its own set of challenges.  That new ministry has flaws, too.  That new purchase grows old or outdated. Thus the mountain gives way to a valley.  And those feelings that had us on cloud nine in the mountains leave us, and we wish for more.

But our spiritual lives are not lived just on the mountain tops.  In fact, those mountain tops most likely add up to a very small part of our faith journey. The truth is that the valleys often naturally follow the mountains , not because anything has changed but because our physiology is built that way.  Our bodies cannot sustain a constant state of  “high,” so we must experience a “low” to bring us back to equilibrium.  And perhaps even more because we were not meant for this imperfect world, so we yearn for something better.

While I know that my faith isn’t built on feelings, as a woman emotions do come into play!  How often I’ve wished those pesky emotions away even though I know they serve a purpose. 🙂

So what’s a girl to do when she just gets a case of the blahs and the blogging honeymoon seems to be over?  She recognizes the valley for what it is – temporary.  She remembers that she is not a citizen of this world. She blogs anyways because that’s what God led her to do,   just like she mothers anyways, she loves anyways, she trusts anyways, she clings to His promises anyways, she speaks truth anyways, she leads anyways, and she hopes anyways.

She keeps seeking.  Sometimes she even stumbles and falls, and she’s so ashamed of her weakness.  But He’s right  there to help her back up again.  Along the way, she learns a little more of the unfathomable depth of God’s grace.   She grows a little more confident in an overwhelming, unconditional love. She grows a little more confident in His timely provision. She grows a little more confident in the work He’s doing within her.

Because He promised that one day, one glorious day, that work would be complete.

And the valleys will be gone.

And the mountain top lasts for all eternity.

And  we see His face.

So we wait, like so many others before us.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,

let us also lay aside every encumbrance

and the sin which so easily entangles us,

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,

who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,

despising the shame,

and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility

by sinners against Himself,

so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

And we don’t lose heart.

Jen 🙂

32 Comments »

Much Ado about Missions: The Experience

Much Ado about Missions

Today marks the beginning of week two of our Much Ado about Missions blog-hop series.  In case you’re joining us for the first time, in the first week we zeroed in on the need for emphasizing global missions and how we can accomplish that even within our homes.  I shared an introductory post about why the need is so great (and so often misunderstood) and then followed up with a post on 8 Resources for Teaching Missions in the Home.  Sarah, from Love Notes, wrote an excellent post on how to engage children’s hearts by engaging their hands in The Missional M&Ms.  Angie, from My Four Monkeys, finished off the week with a fantastic craft to introduce the concept of missions in Introducing Missions to Little Ones.  If you missed any of these posts. you might want to catch up before we delve into this week’s topic. 🙂

While we discussed impacting our homes in week one, this week we’ll be discussing how to impact our communities and even our world.  So, week two will be more about missions experience opportunities and outreach opportunities for you and your family no matter what your circumstances!

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my husband is a minister in a small country town.  So, by nature of his job, our family experiences a lot of community outreach through our church and even aside from the church.   However, we also want our family to be involved in things that have an impact beyond our community.  We want to be mindful of the needs in that great big world out there and have the Lord’s heart for the nations.  I listened to a sermon recently given by a missionary who said that he drove a single mile  to the church he was speaking at that morning and passed 3 churches on the way! Yet in an unreached people group in China that is 15 million strong, not a single church exists. Not. One.

So, I’m going to start out the week by challenging you to leave the comfort of your own home, your own city, your own state and try something as a family that could potentially change many lives.  My husband and I want our children to understand the importance of global missions as much as they understand community service and outreach, and that requires us to stretch beyond what is comfortable.   Experiencing firsthand is so much more powerful than just hearing about it from missionaries who come to speak at church or your former MK wife/mother. 🙂 So, we’ve put together a very brief list of experiences that could benefit the whole family.

the missions experience

Church missions trips – If your church is offering a missions trip experience, this would be the perfect way for you, and possibly your family, to experience and serve alongside a missionary that your church is already connected with.  While  heading into unfamiliar territory, you would at least have the comfort of travelling and experiencing right alongside other members of your church.  This type of trip helps you to better understand the need as well as the missionaries you help support.

Wayumi – if  leaving your home country to serve in a remote location scares the pants off of you, or just isn’t possible for medical reasons, etc., why not start with a missions experiences available right here in America through New Tribes Mission?  You can spend anywhere from 1 day to a week at Wayumi, a center located in Pennsylvania, and be exposed to other cultures, the trials of language study, and so forth.  Although the experience offers very realistic replications of tribal huts, tribal foods, and so on, some modern conveniences are still available.  It’s a way to learn about missions and perhaps even stretch yourself and your family a bit, but the cost is significantly less than an overseas trip.

Serve with New Tribes Mission (NTM) – http://usa.ntm.org/go – this non-denominational mission that focuses on church planting along with scripture translation offerst a variety of opportunties for families and even college students.  Short term, service-based trips last anywhere from 2-4 weeks, while longer stays of a year are necessary for associate workers who go to fill an immediate need.  College students can even earn credits through the Interface internship program in Papua New Guinea.

World Changershttp://www.lifeway.com/worldchangers/index.php/about/ – is a program for youth through college age students.  These trips usually take place in the summer months, when groups travel to specific cities to complete community service projects.  In the past, some groups have gone to inner city ministries, disaster areas for restoration projects, etc.  This is not your everyday community service.  Students complete bible study/training beforehand, including learning how to use evangelistic tools.  If you have or know a youth, this program is an excellent way to teach them how to be someone who changes the world!

These are just a very few of the multitude of opportunities to serve your world beyond your neighborhood, your town, your state, even your country!  What can your family do to stretch and grow beyond what is normal and familiar to you?  How might you consider helping to reach the most unreached peoples of the Earth, the third of our world  population who currently have no hope?

I know that God asks believers to fill a variety of roles in the Body, of which missions is only one.  But I also know that God’s heart is for all nations, not just the one we live in.  I read another missionary comment recently that said what is most needed is not more money.  He reminded us, “Jesus is the fishes and loaves guy.”  What is needed is those who will be willing to advocate for the most unreached people groups and those who will be willing to answer the call of “Whom can I send?”

Deny self

As I mentioned in the Introduction of this blog-hop, I don’t have all of the answers, even for our family.  I believe it is something that all Christians should prayerfully consider. How will you respond?

Jen 🙂

If you know of another firsthand missions experience opportunity, please feel free to share with the readers in the comments!

Want to learn more about the value of a firsthand missions experience for teens?  Read here:
http://www.wordslingersok.com/2013/07/7-reasons-teens-need-to-go-on-short-term-mission-trips-2/

You may find me at any of these lovely blogs.

11 Comments »

Into the In Between

Five Minute Friday: In Between

Remember that Old Testament story about Abram? The time when God told him to go “in between,” into the land of the unknown with no destination in sight? No idea where the road might lead.

Gen. 12:1 “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you…”

I believe my husband and I are facing one of those unknown in betweens.   It’s happened before; in fact, it happened as little as 2 years ago when the Lord began to speak to us individually.  His voice wasn’t clear at first, just a feeling that some big change was coming and we’d better be ready!

And a few months later my husband quit his job and took a position in full-time ministry.  And a year later, we finally sold our house and moved. And it’s been difficult, yet beautiful.

into the in between, Abram ventured into the unknown, when God calls you into the unknown

The in between can be scary – the kind of are you really going to ask me to leave all of my friends and family scary.  Do I need to sell my house scary.  How will my children react scary.  I don’t know if I’m strong enough for this scary. What exactly are you asking scary.

I’ve always been impressed by Abraham’s ability to go forth into the in-between with no ifs, ands, or buts.  No conditions on his obedience.  No bargaining. No pleading for more time.

Going into the in between without bartering for some sort of control is difficult.  But I know if our Savior is leading us there, then the in between will be a good place, perhaps difficult, but good.  The in between will be good for me, good for my husband, good for my family, good for my faith.

I know it.

I cling to it.

I wish the knowing lessened the feeling. 🙂  It’s true.  The fear is still there, that unknown in between that stretches beyond our human vision.  But like Abraham, we’ll venture forth into it, trusting and believing that although we have no idea where the road ends, He does.

What was Abraham’s reward?  A son.

No even more, a nation of sons.  The beginning of the Promise that would bring hope to all mankind, an abundant blessing he could not even have imagined when he first stepped into the in between.

We’ll listen for His voice.

We’ll go in between.

Jen 🙂

linking up at http://www.lisajobaker.com

22 Comments »

A Savior Who Never Grows Weary

I’m privileged to attend a women’s bible study on Tuesday mornings most weeks.  We’re currently studying the book of Hebrews in depth, and this week the focus was on the latter part of chapter seven.

In this chapter, the author spends a great deal of space demonstrating why Jesus is the ultimate High Priest, even greater than Melchizedek, who was a pillar of the Hebrew faith. Because Jesus is eternal, He is superior.  Because He is perfect, blameless, He is superior.  Because He continues to intercede on our behalf at the Father’s right hand, He is superior.

Hebrews 7

“23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever.”

When asked to reflect on these verses, the end of verse 25 jumped out at me.  “He always lives to make intercession for them.” That is His purpose at the right hand of the Father, to intercede on my behalf, continuously, for all of eternity.

Did you catch that?  Our risen Savior didn’t just choose us at the cross. He chooses us now; defends us now; redeems us now; intercedes for us now, moment by moment, forever and ever, hallelujah! 

I often grow weary of my children (let’s be honest, now :)). I often grow weary of my husband, of others, and sometimes I even grow weary of my Lord. My love fails.

But His love never fails.  

He never grows weary of being my Savior.

He never grows weary

It wasn’t just a one-time act, that choice to suffer on the cross, that forgiveness of even the most unpardonable sins. He continues to act on my behalf, acts for my forgiveness, over and over again. Today, and the next day, and for all of eternity.

As humans, we cannot even come close to that kind of love!  In fact, even our most sacred vows end with ” til death do us part.” One day we will come to an end, and with that end, our imperfect love will also cease.  We says things like, “I’ll love you forever” but that promise is impossible for us to keep.  And even if we manage to love one another for a lifetime, our love  is full of faults, imperfections, wounds, conditions.

But His love is not our love. He alone can keep the promise of a perfect, forever love.  Our High Priest claims us time and time again. “Father, you see that one right there?  I chose her. I died for her.  Her sin is covered by my blood.  She belongs to us now. I call her beloved.  I love her as she is.”

Oh, the overwhelming grace!  It’s almost painful in its power.  It floods us and we drown in it, dying to self and rising anew.  Rising to bone-deep gratefulness.  Rising to undeserved confidence in our eternal position. Rising to true love.

Grace floods us

If you’re feeling low-down and unworthy today, unloved or under-appreciated, overwhelmed by sin or temptation or trials, or maybe just a little weary of life in general, remember who your Savior is.

He is real.

His love is real.

And it never ceases.

He sits at the right hand of the Father and proclaims, “Covered by my blood, covered by my blood.”

Rise anew, beloved, rise anew.

Jen 🙂

Sharing with: A Little R&R

See the Favorite Link-ups tab on my sidebar to find the other blogs I’ll be linking to.

19 Comments »

When the Grass Looks Greener

Image

 

‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf

does not wither’ [Psalm 1:1-3].

Last year we moved to a new town and a new (to us) home with more space and, Praise the Lord, a beautifully large backyard.  As a mama of four, with three of those being boys, I’m so grateful for the space for them to romp, to adventure, and to discover! One of the best features of our backyard (besides the lovely climbing trees) is the fact that it has a fence, a thing any mom of young children can appreciate.  Sure, it’s a rickety picket fence with flaking, brown paint that has seen better days, but it successfully (thus far…) contains our younger children.

I’m certain they could climb over the fence if they really wanted to, but they know it’s a boundary not to cross.  We’ve made it clear that the child who chooses to breach this barrier without permission will face serious consequences.  So, the physical barrier of our rickety fence serves as a constant reminder to stay inside where it is “safe.” Because they obey, I don’t have to worry about them chasing a ball into the street or wandering away when my attention is occupied elsewhere, and that gives me much peace.

Our aged brown fence keeps us all safe in other ways, too.  Strangers are unable to easily access the yard, especially since there is no gate at the front.  Stray dogs or animals cannot enter, either, if the back gates are closed.

But as much as I love our fence, it can only protect my children if they obey me by staying inside its confines.  The fence is no longer useful should they decide to venture outside of it!  And I’ve seen him, my youngest son, four years old, eyeing the gate from time to time.  He’s the sneaky one, too.  The child who is beside you one minute and vanished into thin air the next.  His disobedience is not overt, out-loud, hey-look-what-I’m-doing; rather, his disobedience is often silent, hidden, why-is-it-so-quiet-in-here? 🙂

Evidently our four-year-old is tempted by the “greener grass” on the other side of our fence.  He wonders what it would be like, that world outside of the safe boundary that his loving parents have set for him, not to keep him from something good or prevent him from having fun, but to protect him from harm from others or even from himself.

What would happen should he choose to leave the security and protection of our fenced backyard?  Perhaps nothing.  The first time he leaves, he might not experience any consequences at all.  In fact, we may not even catch him doing it.  Having experienced no negative consequences, he might decide to slip out unnoticed again….and again… and yet again… until one time, he happens to find himself suddenly facing grave danger, like Peter Rabbit who disobeyed his mother and found himself face to face with the dreaded gardener and his giant shovel.

And just as suddenly as the bunny faces that danger, he understands the reason behind the boundary, the one he crossed without permission, the one meant to protect him, not to ruin his fun.  But it’s too late. The damage is done and now he must deal with the consequences, whatever they might be.  He must run for his life and hope that he can be saved.

How often are we like that curious four-year-old, that disobedient bunny?  We fail to understand the reasoning behind the boundaries God sets up for us.  We fail to trust in the wisdom of our Father God, the One who created us, the One who knows all and therefore, knows what is best for us.

Isn’t that what happened in Eden?  God gave Adam and Eve a panoramic paradise to live in, a perfect relationship to enjoy, and a life of ease with all of their needs provided for.  And he gave them one rule. One.

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In the elementary age Sunday school class I teach, we’re learning about this rule.  But before we learned about the rule, the boundary, we learned about the Person who gave the rule.  We learned about how as the Creator of mankind, He had and still has the right to make decisions for mankind because we belong to Him.

We learned that as an All-knowing and perfectly loving Creator, He alone knows what is best for us.  We learned that His love was so great for His creation that He, the Creator of the Universe, the Most High, fashioned a beautiful world for us out of nothing, formed us in his own image, breathed life into us, and continued in relationship with us by walking and talking with us in the garden.

But then He gave us this rule, and like a curious child, we were faced with a choice.  Taste the forbidden fruit or avoid it like the plague?  Obey the God who planned out perfect paradise for us, or choose our own way?

I asked my Sunday school pupils why they thought God would even give Adam and Eve a rule about this particular fruit.  Why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Why not some other tree?  At first, they had no answer.

I then asked them why their parents give them rules or boundaries, such as: Don’t touch the stove! They quickly grasped that loving parents set rules in place to protect their children for two reasons: 1)because they know what is and isn’t safe and 2)because they love their children enough to want to protect them.  And then they understood.  They understood that God wasn’t trying to ruin Adam and Eve’s fun; He wasn’t trying to keep them from something good. After all, He did spend six days creating that perfect world solely for their pleasure! These young pupils saw that God must have a reason for setting a boundary around that particular fruit.

 

O taste and see that the Lord is good;

How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Psalm 34:8

You see, God knew what would happen if Adam and Even ate the fruit.  First of all, they would be demonstrating a desire to go their own way rather than depending on Him.  Second of all, once they experienced the knowledge of good and evil, they would no longer be innocent, no longer perfect.  The scripture records that before they disobeyed, Adam and Eve walked around naked and felt no shame.

Can you imagine?  Feeling no shame? Ever?  We’d be like toddlers running wildly naked after a bath, carefree and full of joy and exuberance.  Total freedom and wild abandonment.  We’d dance and sing and laugh.  That, my friends, is what God had planned for us.  That was His original desire for us: to live a free and abundant life of pleasure in a world of paradise!

But we chose our own way.  Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and the whole world changed, even plant life and childbirth and the physical world changed.  They left the fence to venture out on their own and the consequences were immediate and disastrous: separation from God relationally (immediate), separation from the Tree of Life (leading ultimately to physical death), and after death a permanent separation from our Creator (lake of fire).

Imagine the sorrow of a Father God sending his beloved children out of the garden, knowing that for the time being, they would suffer and struggle, knowing also that one day, His only Son would pay a terrible price for their single indiscretion. One rule; one choice.  Imagine the sorrow of leaving that beautiful paradise, that haven of perfect joy and peace. Imagine the weight of knowing evil for the first time; life would no longer be carefree.

Even today, we often choose to leave the protection of boundaries that He sets forth for us in His Word .He provides boundaries about what we do with our bodies, what we put into our minds, and how we relate to others.  And when we leave for the “greener grass,” instead of becoming free, we become ironically enslaved.

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Like the four-year-old investigator, we might not see the danger lurking at first.  We might not suffer any harm, or so we think.  But each time we leave those boundaries that our loving Father set about us to protect us, we take a bigger risk.  And one time, we’ll have gone too far. We’ll be face to face with danger, with the Serpent, with Satan.  With His lies, he ensnares.  He promises freedom, but delivers slavery.

My sisters in Christ, why oh why do we choose to leave the protection of the fence?  The grass on the other side isn’t really any greener; in fact, it’s a hollow deception, a mirage. What lies on the other side of that lovingly placed boundary is

t…h…i…c…k  mud,

s

i

n

k

i

n

g

sand,

 miry clay.

That movie that we really shouldn’t watch or the book we really shouldn’t read doesn’t free us.  That person who is so attractive, but off-limits, isn’t good for us. That friend who entices us to leave the fence isn’t really an uplifting friend. That substance we so desire provides relief that is only temporary at best, not forever paradise. That choice to willingly disobey only brings us danger and heartache and burdens, so many burdens. And each time we venture out, we risk more. We risk a reputation, a relationship, a marriage, a child, a ministry, sometimes even our very lives.

The truth is, the only green grass we’ll find in life, the only abundant paradise, is right within our Father’s fence.  His boundaries exist for us, not against us; for our benefit, not our detriment;  for our protection, not our suffocation; and only because…

He.

Loves.

Us.

Like a parent looking after a beloved child, He gently guides us away from evil in this world, if we allow Him.

So, the next time you think you see a prime piece of green pasture just over the boundary, remember Who built the fence and why He built it.  Remember that what He most desires for you is paradise.  If you choose to stay inside the protection of the fence, the only thing you’re missing out on is the Serpent’s deceit and the slavery that follows.  Choose freedom.  Choose abundance.  Choose life.

like a tree

What verses help you stay inside of the fence?  Please share with the rest of us in the comments!

Only because of Christ,
Jen 🙂

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Rough Morning?

Some days just getting started in the morning is the most difficult challenge we’ll face all day long.  You know the days when:

the kids wake up way too early

you feel overwhelmed by your to-do list

you didn’t get enough sleep

you’re so grumpy you feel out of control

it’s rainy and dreary outside

all you want to do is get back in your comfy bed.

How do you overcome those dreary mornings? What do you do when you wake up with zero motivation?  How do you get past a grumpy mood so early in the day?

Today I’m honored to guest post over at my cousin Angie’s blog, My Four Monkeys.  I’ll be sharing ten tips for getting your inner motor going first thing in the morning. Just click the picture below to read the full post at her site:

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Be sure to leave some comments for us on her page and give us your best advice for dealing with a not-so-great morning!

Jen 🙂

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Five Minute Friday: Imagine

Imagine.

Imagine a home filled with three rowdy, laughing boys and one daughter with a giggle high and light.

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In that home you might hear such phrases as:

“Don’t lick your brother’s face” and

“You can’t beat up your sister’s special doll.”

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You might also find messes like this on your nine-foot ceilings,

evidence of a seven-year-old boy left too long in the bath. 🙂

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Now imagine a young, often tired mama, who tends to be on the serious side.

She dislikes messes,

and rowdiness,

and chaos.

She appreciates controlled fun, if there is such a thing.

I never imagined myself to be the mama of so many boys, but I certainly am thankful for God’s wisdom in placing them in my care.  By the grace of God, I’m learning to embrace

noise,

chaos,

wrestling, and even….

….fart jokes. 🙂

Imagine that tired, young mama opening her mind and heart to a world of fun and let’s pretend.  Those rowdy boys and silly daughter teach her to play. They teach her to take life less seriously.

Imagine life without my children?  Impossible!

Jen 🙂

What do your children teach you?  Share with us in the comments.

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