Type A Christianity

Type A Christianity

We all have our thorns, right? Some are more obvious than others. Some lead to tougher earthly circumstances than others. Some feel debilitating while some are just plain annoying. Nevertheless, they are unwelcome interruptions that hold the potential of affecting our relationship with the Lord and with those around us.

And one of the very unfortunate tendencies among believers is to play the comparison game, and I am just as guilty as the next guy. It happens in a number of ways, but I would like to focus on one particular avenue the enemy takes in order to cripple Christians when it comes to comparing our thorns.

Who can relate to this scenario?

You’re sitting in a Bible study, church service, or even a big worship event. The speaker or facilitator starts to share what they’re setting up as a deep, dark secret or huge confession. They proceed to spill the beans on this devastating stronghold they just HAD to get off their chest and you’re left sitting there dumbfounded thinking, “Seriously? That’s it? That’s the big, ugly, dark sin you’ve been carrying?”

Please tell me I’m not the only one with both hands in the air right now?

But it’s true, right? It feels a little bit like when a spoiled, rich kid starts complaining about having to settle for Gucci instead of Louboutin. “I mean, how do you even cope with life?”

So there you are, squirming in your seat because your wretchedness is glaring at you in the face harder than ever, and not just because you’re that much more aware of your “real” sin but because now you’ve also managed to trivialize the sin of another believer.

A Living Sacrifice

A Living Sacrifice

Followers of Christ are instructed in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

This is the only time in the Bible that the words living and sacrifice are used together. I’ve been a church-going, Bible-reading Christian for over 30 years now but only recently did these two words jump off the page at me in a way that awakened me to a fresh view of God’s grace and mercy.

What comes to mind when you hear or read the word sacrifice? For me, it’s death. Something must die, usually a pretty gruesome death, for a sacrifice to be complete and effective. When I study the Old Testament and all the sacrificial practices, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that we no longer have to go through the rituals they had to before Jesus. The smells, the sights, the sounds, all of it. I’m sure at a point the Israelites had grown almost numb to the process involved, but I can’t believe for one second that there wasn’t some level of emotional pain felt by those performing and watching the sacrifices take place. If for no other reason than they were keenly aware that this animal was brutally stripped of its life for their sake. That has to leave a mark.

Enter Jesus.

The man who left glory to come put up with humanity for a time – to walk in our shoes, breathe our air, break our bread, experience our joy, and endure our pain, only to be scorned, beaten, and killed. But His death and glorious resurrection turned the tables completely, didn’t it? It didn’t necessarily eradicate the need for sacrifices completely, but it did redefine what sacrifice would look like for the rest of time.

Hear me out.

Motivation For Obedience

Motivation For Obedience

“BECAUSE I SAID SO!”

Four words that every parent has uttered, even though most of us probably vowed when we were young to never say them.

But as adults, we have a better understanding that there’s more to that phrase than can be heard by the ears of our children. I know that when I say those words to my boys, I am actually saying, “You need to obey what I’ve told you to do or not do because I know what’s good for you and I only have your best interest in mind. So just trust me when I instruct you. Believe that I will take care of you and protect you.”

But let’s face it, to a stubborn seven year old, that sounds like pure gibberish and does nothing to quench his desire for immediate gratification. And so we lean on that old crutch to get them to respond and hopefully obey.

Don’t you know our Heavenly Father gets a good chuckle every time he hears us use that phrase? Because we, like our stubborn children, are just as guilty of rebelling or avoiding obedience when it doesn’t scratch our itches. We obey quickly and easily when there’s something in it for us, but as soon as He asks us to do something that interrupts our agenda we hesitate, and sometimes even outright refuse.

A few months ago I found myself in a similar predicament that wound up having a profound effect on my understanding of obedience.

Parenting With Grace (For Yourself)

Parenting With Grace For Yourself

When I got married at the age of 27, Stephen and I knew it wouldn’t be terribly long before we would start our family. We knew we wanted two or three kids and we had no idea if getting pregnant would be easy or difficult for us. So with only about five or six months of marriage under our belts, we started trying. By God’s grace, after only a few months we found out we were expecting our first baby, and the following May our Bishop Anthony arrived. A perfect 7 lb. 11oz. bundle of pure joy. I remember just sitting and watching him sleep. At different times, Stephen and I would look at each other and say, “What did we ever do before he was here?”

Well fast forward nine and a half years and two little brothers later, and I can list for you about 364 things we used to do before he was here. Things like . . . go see a movie after church every Sunday, eat at a restaurant for under $25 and with almost no meltdowns, drive little cars with 2 doors and tiny gas tanks, and sleep uninterrupted ‘til 10:00am every Saturday. I wish I could say that there’s never a single moment that I wouldn’t give anything to go back to those days, but I’d be a liar. Because the bare-naked, raw, honest truth is that over the years we’ve moved from “What did we ever do before they were here?” to “Why did we have children again?” We are just in a really hard and trying season of parenting. I realize that every season of parenting has it’s own struggles, but for us right now, with energetic boys who are 9, 7, and 4, even the thought of going out in public with all 3 of them sends me into the fetal position. Just about every night I go to bed disappointed that I let another day go by without managing to control myself and my responses to the boys. And just about every morning I wake up praying that maybe this would be the day I don’t let them push me over the edge.

Right now we are wrapping up a three-week stretch of winter break from school. Their old school in Texas got out a week earlier than their new school here in Tennessee, which means their new school starts a week later than their old school. So for 21 solid days we have had zero structure and to make life crazier, we made the biggest move we’ve ever made in the middle of it. And I don’t know about you, but we are a family who thrives in structure and without it we sort of fall apart at the seams. Needless to say, Monday morning could not come fast enough for me . . . I mean, us.

Lately I’ve been going to the Lord and pleading for Him to show me how to be a better mother to these boys; to give me more patience as I deal with their defiance, more understanding as I mediate their arguments with one another, and more of a desire to enjoy them during this season. Something I felt Him say to my spirit is that I’m way too hard on myself. I’ve set my expectations for myself, and for the boys, way too high. I compare our family too often to other families. Then it hit me . . . I give myself zero grace so why on earth would I have any grace left to extend to our children? I strive every day to parent on my own strength, by my own standards, with my own expectations. Until I can get to a place where I’m willing to lay that down, nothing will change.

Biblical Pouting

Biblical Pouting

Let’s talk for a minute about disappointment. We all experience it. It may look different in frequency and intensity for each of us, but it’s certainly a universal experience nonetheless. It’s a very personal thing too, so trying to compare circumstances as some kind of gauge for how disappointed one should feel about a given situation isn’t fair. At the end of the day, there was an expectation that didn’t get met and oftentimes it creates a series of inconveniences, frustrations, and extra work – hence the disappointment.

The journey my family has been on for the last 3½ months has been nothing short of chalk full when it comes to disappointing moments. And each time I’m met with a choice – to wallow or not to wallow. I would love to be able to say that as each moment came, I received it with grace and patience. But it was quite the contrary. Sometimes it was as simple as a hefty grunt of irritation. Other times it took a good venting session with a friend or family member to be able to move on. And then there has been a time or two where I went full throttle into pout-mode and had to dig my way out to see reason.

So how does this God-given emotion fit into the Christian walk and testimony? One of the best pouters in the Bible has got to be David. He did not hold back in his feelings of disappointment, fear, anger, and hurt. Yet he did it in a way that challenges us today to feel what we’re feeling, but keep our eyes fixed on the Lord whilst doing so (don’t you love a good “whilst”?). That second component is so important because it is what dictates the outcome of our disappointment. Let’s look at a few examples of how David handled himself in disappointing situations.

95 Days (And Then Some)

95 Days (And Then Some)

On the evening of August 30, 2016, Stephen and I took what we thought was the last big step to launch our family’s transition from Texas to Tennessee. Our house was officially on the market. We braced for a quick sell and looked forward to making plans for our move. The only other time we’d sold a house, we had 4 offers by day 12, and everyone we knew kept telling us that this house would probably sell even faster. We had no reason to think this step would drag out for over 3 months. Nevertheless, day 12 came and went, then month 1, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving. Then, it happened. After 95 . . . NINETY-FIVE . . . days, 4 price drops, and almost 40 showings, WE GOT AN OFFER!

As you know from my previous posts, by this point my brain, heart, and even body are completely exhausted from the toll this one step has taken. It also wasn’t the most cut and dry process to finalize all the contract details. So celebrating didn’t come quite as easily as I thought it would. But still we gave thanks to a great God. We slept a little harder. We recognized that this was the release we had been waiting for, whether it looked the way we thought it would or not. So it should only get easier from here, right? Not so much.

Proverbs 16:9 says, In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

Boy, are we learning this lesson in a real way. And yet, I’m proving to still be that stubborn, hardheaded, pouty child I revert back to when things don’t go my way. Every morning for 95 days I prayed for that to be the day we got an offer. We finally get an offer and at the first sign of struggle, I start whining and complaining. “Well that’s just great, all the houses we liked are now gone . . . but we need to be up there before our Texas closing date because Stephen has to start back to work on January 3rd no matter where we are  . .  . blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

Nevertheless, we came up with what we thought was a good plan, then the bottom fell out when on day 99 we got the call that every seller dreads. Our buyer’s financing had fallen through so she had to back out of our contract. Well, super!

You can imagine the flood of doubt and questions that came rushing in almost immediately. At this point, any confidence I had developed in our ability to tell the difference between God’s voice and that of our flesh is shot. Is this the enemy trying to wear us down, or is the Lord continuing to build our faith? Is Satan pulling out all the stops to break us, or could this be God trying to tell us that we’ve been mistaken this entire time?