Thursday, May 21, 2015

Operation Simplicity: Why Would I Give Up the Good Things?

Not long ago, I posted this comment to Facebook:
I'm learning that some things seem like they will be more work, but in truth keep me grounded and relaxed, and therefore simplify my life. Examples: gardening, chickens, homeschooling, and drying our laundry on a clothesline. These acts help me appreciate how God has blessed our family.

A friend commented saying this:
YES. If I mention I'm stressed people are always saying I should just give up homeschooling, or don't have any more children, get rid of the chickens. They don't get it. Why would I feel better if I got rid of the good things in my life??

Yes! Exactly! Amen!

I spend 20 minutes hanging the clothes on the line. That's 20 minutes I spend thanking Jesus for the clothes on our backs. For the ways He's provided that day.  For the birds and the sunshine and the breeze. Then I get that time again when I remove the clothes from the line.  I wouldn't spend that time in prayer and communion with God if I was throwing the wash into the dryer.

I spend hours each week in my garden. Every single spring I am reminded of how creative God is that He came up with the entire process of growing things...from seed to fruit-bearing plant.  Late summer and fall are the times when I praise Jesus because He provides in plenty! Then, we get the opportunity to share our abundance with others!

Each day I spend time with God. I immerse myself in His Word and His truth so that I can fill my heart with it.

These things take time, energy, & effort. They require me to be intentional. They encourage me to be patient and appreciate delayed gratification. They calm me down, and draw me closer to Jesus.

Better yet, my kids are learning to enjoy these simpler things. They enjoy handing me clothes pins. They show pride in the plants they planted.  They are more adventurous eaters because they had a hand in growing their food. They pull weeds. They ask to help. We spend time, get this -as a family! because many of these "chores" are made lighter with more hands to help.

Now, I recognize that the things that interest me may not appeal to others. Chickens aren't for everyone. Clotheslines aren't practical everywhere, and pollen can be an issue in places. Not everyone has a green thumb for gardening. Homeschooling isn't the best option for every family. Cloth diapers gross some people out (that was me not long ago!). I get that. I do.

What I would like to encourage is that you find what does make you happy.
What calms your soul?
What gives you energy?
What promotes peace in your home?
What encourages a deeper communion with Christ?
What makes your life more simple?





It could be art.
Cooking.
Baking.
Writing.
Reading.
Coffee with a friend.
Drawing.
Some sort of serving others.
Learning something new.
Singing.
Dancing.
Exercise.

O, the possibilities are endless...because we are all different!

Thanks Casey!
I have a friend who is empowered by her job as a Fitness Coach. She is an inspiration to me. She found something she loves and does it every day. Her joy is contagious! She posted this to Instagram a few days ago, and I have been pondering it ever since...

O my word! What if we all did this?! I'm not suggesting you disregard your responsibilities, but for crying out loud...do something you enjoy every single day!

When we immerse ourselves in the things that bring us joy, we are more likely to live lives of gratitude. We are so much more likely to appreciate all we have been given when we take time to see what God has given us.

God wants us to live in His joy. He has given us desires to do, be, & create things that make us happy because he wants us to be happy. The joy of the Lord is indeed our strength to get through the tough stuff in life so we can enjoy the good. We are meant to live life to the fullest.  My fullest and yours look differently, but that difference is so beautiful!

So, go, friends! Paint a picture. Read a book. Drink a coffee. Dance. Sing. Be joyful! And, then thank God...the Giver of all good things!




Friday, May 15, 2015

The Armor of God





Remember that song?  It was a Sunday school fave growing up. We got to stomp around the room and act like little soldiers. Little did I know that God would remind me of that song over 20 years later...

Turns out, my heart is the battleground.  A legit, battle is going on for my heart daily.  There are very sneaky attacks -by an Enemy that isn't above low-blows!- that happen daily in a concentrated effort to thwart my growing & deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.  When I counterattack by reading my Bible and praying, it makes me a bigger threat to the Enemy.  He strikes harder...and even farther below the belt.

The battle is waging, friends.

It's time to put on my game face and fight hard.

But, what about when I'm too broken to fight? I cannot admit defeat. I will not.

"Jesus, fight for me." ...this is my plea!

Ephesians 6:10-18 says this:
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God,so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvationand the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV, complements of Biblegateway.com)

I was reminded of these verses this morning when another woman confided that she felt like she was doing battle with the enemy.  She confessed that she was tired and felt vulnerable.  Recently, I too have felt beaten down and vulnerable...attacked by an enemy who seeks to destroy me.
"Fight for me, Jesus." My soul cried out to the Lord that He would take up the battle for me.  That He would stand in front of me and protect me.  That He would shield me from the attacks of the Enemy and do battle for me. O, how faithful is my God!  And thank goodness too...I wasn't going to last much longer!

Now that I am feeling refreshed and ready to prepare for the fight, I want to go into battle more prepared. Ephesians 6:10-18 seems like a good place to launch from, huh?

So, I did a little research.  I found a great article about the Armor of God.  I love how the author broke down each piece of armor and helped me to understand their purpose.  Paul (the author of the verses in Ephesians) had an up close and personal view of the Roman's armor for quite some time while he was imprisoned. I, however, am not armor savvy.

Let me start with the Belt of Truth.  I didn't know that a soldier's belt helped to hold up all of his armor...makes sense now that I'm typing it, but in my Sunday school brain, it was a flashy belt that looked cool.  The belt wraps all the way around the soldier.  As such, we should be wrapping ourselves in Christ.  After all, He is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6, I added the emphasis). In the absence of truth, lies cultivate. We must surround ourselves with truth and The Truth to be sure that we are acting with wisdom and discernment.

Then there's the Breastplate of Righteousness.  On a soldier, the breastplate protects the heart. I figured that. What I failed to consider is that the breastplate does not protect a soldier's back. This is because it was assumed that a soldier would not retreat in battle. Woah.  A soldier does not retreat. Neither should I.  I think it's ok to allow God to shield me; to hide in the shadow of His wings. But, phew...I'm still chewing on this one.  How often have I retreated in the past...yikes!

Let's move on to the Shield of Faith.  A shield is the soldier's first obvious defense against the enemy's attacks. This one was pretty self-explanatory to me. I mean, come on, if you're getting fired at, protect yourself with a shield...duh!  I was reminded though, that a soldier doesn't hold his shield loosely. The shield is held tightly and close to the body.  As such, my faith needs to be rock solid!


The Helmet of Salvation was a little tricky for me.  I think by the time I get to this part in the verse, I'm all armored out.  The helmet, however, is vital.  It keeps the crap out!  The Helmet of Salvation helps us guard our minds against the Devil's lies and our cultures...well...crap!  "From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," right? (Check the Gospels, it's there!) Well, my mouth is on my head (protected by the helmet). My eyes and ears -the most likely ways things get into my head- are also on my head...you get the point?  The Helmet of Salvation protects our minds and our hearts from garbage. Therefore, it indirectly protects us from spewing garbage also.

You've got to have good footing in a fight. Truer words, my friends. What better way to ensure good footing, than with good shoes. I'll put my faith in Gospel Shoes any day! These are active shoes. They bring the Good News to everyone. The Bible also says that the feet inside these shoes are beautiful (Isaiah 52:7).

Up until now, all the pieces of armor have been defensive. They protect against the blows of the Enemy.  They keep his advances at bay.  The final piece of armor is offensive. The Sword of the Spirit is the primary offensive weapon in the armor. The Spirit of God fights for us, and with us.  Swords back in Paul's day were not stainless steal.  They needed maintenance and use to be in good working order.  To keep it from rusting, the sword had to be used...and often. We can sharpen our swords on the Rock of Ages.  We can also sharpen our swords on other swords...Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (NIV) Our words and actions have the power to sharpen our fellow soldiers in Christ. The Sword of the Spirit gives me confidence to fight the good fight.

I love that verse 18 reminds us to be aware of attack. As I said before, Satan doesn't fight fair.  We must be prayerful, watchful, & mindful of the Devil's schemes against us.  We can also fight with hope. Know, dear friends, that the victory belongs to the Lord! Isaiah 42:13 says,
"The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies."
Victory belongs to Jesus. Victory in the battle for your heart. Be encouraged that God thought you were worthy to be created, and He thinks you are worthy of fighting for. He has done battle for us.  For you. For me. And He continues to.

The battle certainly belongs to the Lord! Put on your armor, and fight!