Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Do Hard Things

I am a fan of The Rebelution website and its founders Alex & Brett Harris, two 19 year-olds purposing to make a difference and challenge teenagers to rebel against low expectations and serve the Lord in big ways. So I was so excited to see their new book, "Do Hard Things," in Wal-Mart last Friday--yes, Walmart! I snatched it up and plowed through it in a couple of days. I believe that this is a must-read for every teen, tween, parents of teens & tweens, future parents of teens & tweens, or just anybody that works with youth. For that matter, I think that anyone would be challenged by the passion and boldness of this book!

As parents of a 9 year-old son and 6 year-old daughter, my husband desperately seek to fill our children with the Truth and challenge them to know and serve Him intimately and passionately. I never want to fall into having low expectations on how God might use their lives, the gifts and abilities He has given them. In working with college students for over 12 years, I see also in them such a desire to do something meaningful. If that isn't cultivated, stagnation sets in. At 34, I feel that in my own life. We want our lives to be meaningful and purposeful in light of eternity!

This book challenges teens, in particular, to "do hard things"--not to be satisfied with the low expectations that our culture places on them. It gives inspiring examples of past and present-day teens who are choosing hard things--and accomplishing extraordinary things!

They describe 5 kinds of hard things:

  1. Things that take you outside your comfort zone--taking risks to grow

  2. Things that go beyond what's expected or required--pursuing excellence

  3. Things that are too big to accomplish alone--dreaming and daring big

  4. Things that don't earn an immediate payoff--being faithful and choosing integrity

  5. Things that go against the cultural norm--taking a stand for what it right

Then they challenge teens to look critically at their own lives and how they can do these hard things in their own lives.

Receiving praise from people like C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler, Randy Alcorn, and Mark Dever, "Do Hard Things" is really a fantastic book that I would recommend to all teens and those who love and work with them. As Christians, may we have higher expectations for teens and challenge them to "do hard things." Ultimately, may we model doing hard things for them! We serve an amazing and sovereign God who limitless in how He can work through willing servants to further His kingdom!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Your Legacy

I am enjoying Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper. It is a collection of short biographies of Christian women. The section on Sarah Edwards, wife of pastor Jonathan Edwards, was powerful and challenging. She was a wife/mother/home educator who glorified God through her home.

She left behind a legacy through her 11 children when she died in 1758 that is quite incredible. In 1900, A. E. Winship researched and wrote of the outstanding contributions made by the descendants of Jonathan & Sarah Edwards. Listed below is some of what he found. Note that this study was done in 1900--I am sure there have been further contributions since that time!

  • 13 college presidents
  • 65 professors
  • 100 lawyers and dean of a law school
  • 30 judges
  • 66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
  • 80 holders of public office ( including 3 US Senators, 3 state governors, and a vice president of the US)
  • entered ministry "in platoons"
  • sent 100 missionaries overseas

Amazing right? It truly is amazing what God can do through "ordinary" women when they choose to faithfully submit to their husbands and bring their children up "in the admonition of the Lord." I was so challenged in reading her story. All mothers have such an opportunity and responsibility to pour the love and knowledge of Christ into their children and prepare them to serve God in mighty ways.

What will my legacy be as a mother? What will yours be? Will our legacy be one that brings honor and glory to our Savior? Our legacy is made in those small, everyday moments as we reflect Christ to those around us!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Keeping It Real

You know her. You know the perfect gal who has it all together--she is the model wife and mother, intelligent & wise, witty & fun. She can whip up a wonderful home-cooked meal in her pristinely kept home and host guests at the drop of a hat. She does all of this while maintaining her toned figure and manicured nails. You know her--a crazy figment of our very overactive and distorted imaginations!

The perfect woman. What does this mean? Unfortunately, I believe that we have taken the Proverbs 31 woman and morphed her into something that is far from the goal to be striving for. The focus has become much more on being "perfect," than bringing glory to God and honoring Him.

In her new book co-written with Stacey MacDonald (Passionate Housewives Desperate for God), Jennie Chancey writes about he bondage of perfectionism.

Perfectionism is the false idea that a righteous man never falls- or when he does, he certainly doesn't admit it, lest he discourage everyone who is watching him run!

Where do we get this crazy idea? We are sinners, saved only by the grace of God. We are going to fall. We are not going to be perfect. While this realization is not an excuse to "embrace our inner slob," as Chancey states, we must not try to put on the perfect persona. We must be real and authentic is our pursuit of holiness, submitting humbly to the process of sanctification--which is sometimes a bumpy and painful process as He refines us.

Jennie also writes:

At its heart, perfectionism is sinful pride. We want others to think well of us, to admire us, and to desire to follow our example.

Too many times, we can rationalize all the efforts we put forth, saying we are seeking to honor Him. I know I must aways make sure my motives are focused on Him and not on what I may get out of it. I think it can be so tempting to present ourselves as "having it all together." This can be particularly easy on our blogs!

As we seek to encourage one another in our spiritual walks, may we remember that "His strength is made perfect in weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). He uses us to minister to others when our motives are pure and we are real with others. No one likes a "fake" person.

Jennie writes:

You know how we can encourage each other best? It's not by playing the role of Have-It All Hannah or Do-It All Doris. It's by loving others enough to meet them where they are while being what we are: fellow sinners in need.

Instead of worrying what others think about us, we need to care about what God thinks of us, measuring ourselves by the unchanging standard of God's word rather than comparing ourselves to others. Instead of looking to modern-day "experts" for answers, we need to return to the "old paths" of Scripture, where there is "rest for our souls" (Jeremiah 6:16). Instead of seeking to make a name for ourselves or be "important," we need to thankfully embrace the fact that God works through humble people, small steps, and what the world considers insignificant and often thankless work.

So as you go through your day, be real. While passionately pursuing Christ and holiness, don't fall into Satan's trap of pursuing perfectionism. Allow God to redeem our failures and weaknesses for His Glory. Submit your will and pride to Him--He can use you to minister and encourage others.

So many of you out there have ministered to me with your struggles and "realness." Let's keep it real!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Do the Next Thing

I don't know about you guys, but I like to be in control and know what is coming next. I love my planner and the comfort of knowing what is ahead. I have had to grow in the areas of submission and trust. The Lord has stretched me through unexpected trials and challenges.

I have always said that I wish I had a huge spotlight showing me what is down the road in my journey, but have learned to accept that most of the time God gives me a small flashlight--only shining light on the next step on my path. I must submit my desire to know what is ahead and trust and obey for that one step forward.

A wonderful poem quoted often by Elisabeth Elliot captures this:

Do the Next Thing

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven that,
as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, "do the next thing."

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all results, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons, do the next thing.
So, dear friend, as you face each day, trust that He is Sovereign and in control. He is Creator of all and knows each step of the path intimately--He fashioned it! Concentrate on Him. Seek passionate to follow closely after Him. Don't worry at what the journey will bring, just do the next thing. Do not be overwhelmed at the tasks ahead, do the one directly in front of you.