By Laurel Robinson
This spring, we put our house on the market. On photo day, it looked better than it has since we moved in! For several months beforehand, we tackled all those long-procrastinated projects -- painting, cleaning, tightening up, decluttering. We got rid of 15% of our stuff and packed up another 25% to hide in a storage unit. Still, when the cameras showed up, there was nowhere to hide. We were stuffing things into closets. We had to hide our trash cans and toilet brushes.
For the next 40 days, we had to live in our house, but also had to keep it neat. A showing at 6:30pm meant a simple dinner at 5:30 and complete cleanup afterward. Simply leaving the house for the day meant making all the beds, picking up any clutter, and emptying the trash just in case someone made a showing appointment while we were out.
During that time, I realized something about beauty and real work: doing major projects makes a mess, and if you want to keep things tidy, it’s best not to start any projects!
We all want to be beautiful. We want our lives to look good to the onlookers and visitors. But when keeping up appearances, there are certain things we can’t allow. If I am worried about my mascara running, I won’t let myself be moved to tears during worship. If I am concerned about impressing my fellow moms, I might just crack down on my kid’s behavior and not take the time to address the heart behind that behavior. If I want my marriage to appear perfect, I might never initiate a hard conversation that could start a fight - even though it would also lead to healing and a deeper connection.
I’m all for taking care of things right away and putting things back where they came from. But sometimes messes are necessary. Real work is messy. If you are decluttering or organizing, you know that it gets messier before it gets better. Same with crafts or cooking projects. You pull out all the supplies, and then you make dust, or crumbs, or scraps of fabric. The most fastidious among us put everything away when we are done -- but sometimes we are just not done, and we have to leave it all out for the next day. Or the next week. But creating something beautiful or delicious, or accomplishing something challenging, has rewards that are worth the mess.
This summer, as you get a break from many of the schedule commitments that keep you busy during the school year, I challenge you to pursue renewal. Take some time away from the rigors. You don’t even have to travel anywhere to do this! You can have a staycation. Just carve out some time, or create a new daily routine, and open yourself up to the Lord.
He may clean out your closets! He may make a mess for a little while. But--He may heal your wounds. He may teach you something new, help you accomplish something great, or give you a vision for the future. Wouldn’t that be worth the temporary mess?
Or, if you feel like your “closet” has already been emptied out and your “stuff” is all over the floor, take heart! God is able and willing to make something lovely out of it all. Come with an open mind and see what He will do. Expect great things from our great Creator.
By Laurel Robinson
The enemy wants us to see our trials and feel sorry for ourselves. He wants us to blame God, or assume that God is not paying attention.
This is what we do. This is what our culture does. This is even what our friends’ sympathy may encourage us to do.
If you are feeling sorry for yourself, it’s time to “flip the script” -- to look at things from a completely different angle.
Over and over in Scriptures, we see a God who does not coddle His beloved, but gives them opportunities to flex their faith, to grow in their trust of Him, and even to understand more intricately how He loves us. Think of Hosea. God had him love and marry a woman who was unfaithful and broke his heart. Hosea then understood like never before, the way that God felt when His people went chasing after false gods for a sense of security. He was able to convey that to his countrymen in a way that had deep meaning. Hosea knew what he was talking about.
Remember this promise today, from 1 Peter:
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind,forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
Remember that Peter’s love for the Lord was also deepened by hard times. He knew what he was talking about!
Speak Truth to your trial today: The Lord loves you, and everything He allows into your life is intentional. He will get you through this. He is preparing you for Heaven. He may strip away some of your favorite things in the process, but this is only because of His wisdom and love for you. Trust the process; more importantly, trust the Provider.
By Ginger Laury
In 1 Corinthians 13 we learn about Love. Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. It isn't arrogant or rude. It doesn't insist on its own way. Love isn't irritable or resentful. It doesn't rejoice at wrongdoing, but does rejoice with the truth.
At first glance we might read this passage as a to-do list, or a list of instructions . . . Yes, I want to love, this is good, so I’ll be patient and kind. I won’t envy or boast. I won't be arrogant or rude, and on it goes. However, upon closer look, we find that this passage isn’t telling us what we need to do or strive for. It’s telling us who God is and who He wants to transform us into. He does this through our trials, our blessings, our lives. We can’t do this in our own strength. It’s something we receive when the timing is right.
The verse goes on to say . . . When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child and I reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things . . . referring to our speech, our thoughts, and our reasoning. As we grow older and wiser, God blesses us with wisdom that transforms us into His likeness, love. All good in us, all love in us, is there because He has blessed us with it, not because we achieved it. He does this through time, and through tests, and through trials.
Think of a trial you’ve gone through. Has it made you more empathetic? Has it given you a greater understanding of what someone else is going through? Has it given you a connection with Love you otherwise would not have? It seems like God plays a nasty trick on us, making us suffer and hurt, and mess up our otherwise perfect lives. But the blessing is, in every pain He has a purpose. In every trial there is a transformation. In every low point, there is Love.
We’re not to manufacture love on our own. Love is what we are blessed with when we open our hearts to God and ask Him in Christ to give us the desires of our hearts. At first it seems impossible. If we can’t muster it up our selves, then why try? Should we just give up? Well, maybe in a sense. We give “up” our striving. We give “up” our control. We give “up” our efforts.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. God has invited us into His life. He has a purpose for us that’s so easy to forget when we get caught up in the details of day to day life. But God is a gentleman. He’s not going to barrel into our lives and scream and clamor for our attention. He is patient. He is kind. He will wait for us to give Him our attention. When we were children perhaps we didn't have the capacity to be still and know He is God. To sink in, to slow down, to meditate and listen to God’s quiet voice . . . but we do have that capacity now. The quietness is a doorway to Love.
What might be hindering you from love? From patience, kindness, humility or selflessness? What childish things could you put away? Are you willing to be still? To know that He is God? If you are, this is love and God will bless you with the desires of your heart.
By Laurel Robinson
What does God’s love look like? When we were children, we were taught about the tender shepherd in Psalm 23. We saw pictures of Jesus taking children to His lap, encouraging everyone to have the faith of a child, and warning anyone who would cause a child to stumble.
Now that we are grown, we know that life is more complicated. There are trials, disappointments, sickness, and a variety of enemies.
But God’s love is no less near. He is still that same shepherd. In fact, God allows trials because of His love for us.
His love is so fierce, that He will do whatever it takes to make us more like Himself. He knows where we need to be pruned. He knows how we need to be stretched. His wisdom is orchestrating those moments when we come to the end of ourselves and finally remember to reach out for Him. He even knows when we need rest.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
This was written by Jeremiah, in a book called Lamentations. The prophet was lamenting some terrible circumstances, and yet he could still perceive that the Lord’s love was present, and that He had not forsaken His people.
With the faith of a child, what will you bring to the lover of your soul today? Tell him of your circumstances and ask Him to amaze you with how He works through them and delivers you.
By Laurel Robinson
"New year, new you!" What does this mean? It calls out and resonates with our sense of needing improvement. Since we are living in a fallen world, and waiting for our coming redemption, this will always be the case: we are constantly a “work in progress.” The concept of New Year’s Resolutions can be used for good -- reflection, positive change, steps in the right direction. Resolutions could also become overwhelming, or demoralizing, or an idol. It can definitely be used by marketers to sell us new “stuff.”
Ways to be the master of your resolutions, and not the other way around:
Pray. Ask the Lord what He is giving you the grace to give up, take up, or change in the coming season of your life.
Seek. Read the Scripture for guidance as to what God desires of His people and how you may be falling short.
Ask. Ask trusted people to help you identify and/or work toward your goals.
Track. Where appropriate, keep a record of successes or calories or pounds or pages or whatever you can quantify.Do not let this become your measure of yourself, but only of your progress. God sometimes chooses to work wonderful things in us through our “failures,” too!
Thank. For any success or progress, thank the Lord and give him the glory!
By Laurel Robinson
The following passage is commonly quoted at weddings and associated with romantic love, but it was written by the Apostle Paul to believers in Corinth, a prestige-oriented society in which even the church members were having a hard time grasping humility:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Paul is talking about the love that God has for us since He first called us into existence; the love that Christ demonstrated when he was in the flesh; the love that the Holy Spirit can put in our hearts. Agape. As an elder at our church pointed out this week, the opposite of love is not hate, but simply selfishness.
Love always trusts: does it trust in people, whom we know will at some point let us down? Does it trust in our own ability to love everyone around us well? No; it trusts in the power of the One who is Love.
Love always hopes: does it hope in the great circumstances before us, and believe that things are going to be just fine on this earth? Not especially; it hopes with faith in the promises that the Lord has made. Namely, that all shall be well when He returns; that we will be made new; that we will receive a new Heaven and a new Earth. And our sister in the Lord will also be made new, and we will share in the kingdom of God together!
Love always perseveres: Is God calling us to be tireless? Not in our own strength. He is calling us to rest on His promises. Because of the presence and the promises of God, we can persevere.
In this holiday season, there are two kinds of people: those who are energized by the parties and the giving of gifts, and those who struggle with the incongruence of external festivities versus their internal feelings.
To the first group: enjoy! And, be careful to put love first. To paraphrase Paul-- if I give the greatest gifts and host the hottest parties, but am not selflessly serving others, I am cleverly calling attention to myself, for my own glory.
To the second group: hold on to Love. Receive the love of others, no matter the “language” in which it is given. Hold on to the promises of the Lord. Advent is a time to reflect upon how the Lord fulfilled so many of His prophesies. Look back to see how faithful He has been, and draw on the well of His faithfulness, to hope and persevere all the way to the coming Kingdom.
By Laurel Robinson
How are you?
If you don't give the automatic answer of “fine,” what honest answer does come to mind?
Tired? Stressed? Busy? (That’s what comes to my mind!)
I recently read Kevin DeYoung’s book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully Short) Book About A (Really) Big Problem.
He admits that he wrote the book because he finds himself too busy. He also says that not all busyness is bad. In fact, he concedes that “if you love God and love others, you WILL be busy!” The Apostle Paul was busy! And certainly, God is able to sustain you in the crazy busy times.
But this book is about the problematic kind of busyness. DeYoung says that busyness can ruin our joy, it can rob our hearts, and it can cover up the rot in our souls.
For most of the book, he explains possible “diagnoses” for our busyness
Which, I would say, boil down to PRIDE and FEAR.
Three unique chapters that struck me were:
Here’s a mental exercise for you (my words, not DeYoung’s): Think of your calendar or agenda like a bag. It is full of items. Each one represents something that you have to do, or think about, or feel responsible for.
Pick one up and look at it. How did not get there? Did someone else put it there for you? Should you perhaps have not accepted it? Expectations, codependency, cultural norms that are not necessarily Biblical….if any of these apply, it might be best for your soul if you can find an appropriate way to get them off your plate!!!
Let's pick up another one. Oh, look, it's your kids! We would do anything for our kids, right? But DeYoung quotes Leslie Leylan Fields: “One of the most resilient myths about parenting is that parenting creates the child.” In other words, due to genetics, these kids are largely going to turn out the way they are going to turn out! The thing they will remember about their parents is generally how we were. Will they have a snapshot memory of a mom who is frazzled? Stressed out? Or slowing down, praying, thinking, looking them in the eye? Kids who were surveyed wanted the following: More time with parents; parents to be less tired/stressed; and essentially better anger management by their parents!! They would rather we look them in the eye and listen to them, than sign them up for another activity.
Next item in the bag: your smart phone, of course! You can’t get very far without that.
Technology can be used for good. I love having access to my calendar everywhere I go, and having it automatically sync up with my other family members’ calendars. I like to be able to look something up on Google.
But I also use it, like a drug, to check out sometimes. I also let it manipulate me into comparing my life with others’, sometimes. This may lead to me putting more stuff into my bag, so to speak. Stuff that the Lord did not put there.
But enough about me.
The bottom line of business is this: it’s about your heart. DeYoung tells us that the antidote to busyness is NOT sloth and indifference. It is rest, rhythm, death to pride, acceptance of our own finitude and trust in the Providence of God.
DeYoung spends some time talking about the importance of Sabbath. By design, we need regular times of rest. It’s important for us to have a distinction between day and night; feasting and fasting; work and rest.
He asks this question, which we should all consider: “If someone recorded your life for a week and showed it to a group of strangers, what would they guess is the most important thing? What would they conclude is the one thing you must get done every day?”
De Young closes his book with “the one thing you must do.” Sit at the feet of Jesus! Devote yourself to the word of God and to prayer.
To close, I will remind us of the words of Christ. Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Next time you look at your calendar or pick up your bag, I hope you will be reminded to consider what is on your agenda and hold it up to the light. May we live in the freedom to which Christ has set us free, and if we are “crazy busy,” may it be with things that the LORD has put on our agenda.
Chemical Free Living
by Janel Miller
Go to http://addyandme.blogspot.com/2017/06/living-clean-is-only-way-to-live.html
By Laurel Robinson
We cast off the slumbering ways that have overtaken us during the long nights and cold days of winter. Our minds are awakened by the sight of green buds popping out everywhere; birds dart and call; even insects that we haven’t seen in several months remind us that a new season is unfolding!
Spring is a time for cleaning, reaching into the dusty places with a clean, damp cloth. Wipe away the cobwebs. Sort through the clutter that has piled up. Re-home, re-purpose, recycle.
How about those resolutions we made in January? Now is a good time to re-assess them, and possibly renew our efforts. Or possibly renew our outlook: in making those resolutions, were we trying to make ourselves into something we are not called to be? Were we trying to please God, or man? Did we make those resolutions out of a love for the Lord, and a desire to give to Him all that we can?
There is a song lyric inspired by 2 Samuel 24:24 --
I will not offer anything that costs me nothing.
I’ll place before Him nothing less than my very best.
And if I’m called to sacrifice
It will be worthy of my Christ.
With the renewed energy and life we breathe in this spring, let us once again offer our all to Him.
Spring is a time for Easter. Long after the designated Sunday has passed, we can continue to bask. Rejoice in the truth that Christ is risen. He is making all things new. He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.
Spring is a time for Faith, Hope, and Love.
If you are suffering or mourning this Easter season, my friend Kristin has some thoughts to share with you:
by Laurel Robinson
February is famous for Valentine’s Day, a holiday known for chocolate and commercialism, red roses and romance--and sometimes, disappointment when we don’t receive love from others in the form that we were hoping for. Let’s look at how we can love well:
To give love, you must first receive love. How can we love others with a genuine love that is not hypocritical or self-serving? We must first experience the love of the Father. “Preaching the Gospel to yourself” contains some essential points, such as sin, repentance, our need for a Savior -- and an essential element: the love of Christ for us. When we are able to comprehend the Love that God has for us, and the grace He shows for our flaws, it is easier to forgive others and overlook things that might keep us from loving them well. If there is something that is keeping you from receiving His love, pray over it. If His love still feels far away, consider talking to a mentor or counselor about it.
Loving yourself is important. Women are nurturers by design. Many women have a tendency to care for their family members or work obligations at the expense of their own needs, which ultimately affects their health. Just as the flight attendants tell you to “put your own oxygen mask on before assisting someone else,” we do need to make sure that we are caring for our health (rest, prayer time, hydration, etc.) even as we seek to protect and serve the dear people in our lives.
Take a moment to think of two or three ways you could be caring for yourself better. There is no guilt in being a good steward of the body, mind, and soul that the Lord gave you. Jesus himself took time away to pray. He ate and drank and slept. He knows what is it like to be in our condition and to endure our temptations, since He walked in the flesh. He also denied Himself and fasted--so, don’t just follow the “pamper yourself” advice of magazines and talk shows; seek what the Spirit is calling you to do in order to have balance in your life. Perhaps you need a “detox” from something that is dragging you down (Social media? Comparing your life to others’? Gossip?). Perhaps you will be called to stretch yourself in a new direction of ministry. Let the Lord lead you as you think about the gifts He has given you and set goals.
Sacrificial Love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13) After Jesus said this, He went on do just that: He laid down His life to redeem His people. Sacrificial love is the most powerful form of love. If the Lord presents you with an opportunity to practice it, do not be afraid!
This February, let us live honestly before the Lord, bask in His love, and love well.