Embracing slow


We all value fast.
Fast internet.

Fast service.

Fast travel.

Fast responses.

We have people to see and places to go, work to be done. Productivity and ingenuity travels at light speed.

I am beginning to see more awareness and appreciation for slow. I see more articles and news media about the health benefits of slowing down, taking a moment, and embracing rest for the benefit of our minds and bodies.

What I don’t see, yet, is media and awareness about slowing down in another way – slowing down our words.

Some of us, like myself, have a lot to say and it all just comes gushing out. This seems to be encouraged in our culture, particularly with the advent of the social media posting platform-

Say what you feel!

Get it off your chest!

You’ll feel so much better!

I have had the devil whispering these very things in my ear. He placates our consciences to shove thoughts about how to say it well, how to speak considerately down deep. These false promises are keeping us from looking for the best perspective, speaking in love, and with the listener in mind. Until the deed is done and the words are out and the guilt and shame begin. He pours that on thick too.

James gives us a simple and direct suggestion, that we would be wise to heed.

We can be bold, to stand up for what matters, but we also need to slow down.

Let’s start with James 1:19-20 and hear James’s simple command:

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…

Look at the order of the words in the text. We often start with a simple discussion. We are listening and sharing. Then the discussion gets going and the words come faster. We hear less, we speak more. Then our blood starts to boil.

Slow to is such a simple concept, we could miss it. God also shows us slow to by the very compilation of Scripture. The words of the Bible, were offered slowly, over the sands of time, not hastily through one individual. Our God does everything perfect, completely righteous. James’s words are part of that Holy Book, breathed out by the Trinity.

What other wisdom on this does James offer us then? Let’s look through a few more passages in James, keeping them in the context of slow to.

James 2:16

…and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

How is it helpful at times to not always rush to mercy in the moment, but to think for a minute about what we can and are willing to offer? Slow to

James 3:2-5,8-9

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things…but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

How is so much in our lives driven by our tongues? How can it affect big decisions and close relationships? How can it impact even the smallest decision and brief relationships?

James 4:11a

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.

When have you seen it words poison and when have you seen them bless? How has social media and our rapid communication abilities impacted and amplified the consequences of this?

James 5:12-13

 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation. 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

How can we slow our yes-s and no-s? What benefit might there be in that? How do prayers and praises affect our speech and our perspective?

Slow to…

may look a little different from the world around us, but isn’t God’s way always like that?

May your ways be slow and your words be filled with His praise today!

 

Discussion:

Which passage sticks out to you the most? Choose one segment, from what we just went through, and reflect on the questions.

Let’s pray for one another today and ask for guidance for our words and actions. Any prayer requests in particular?

No chameleons welcome

When I was young I dated a guy that I would classify as a chameleon. You never knew what you were going to get. I have spent many a night lamenting the choices of my youth, but we each learn and we grow. One thing that God showed me during repeated sessions of repentance and forgiveness, was this…

it takes a chameleon to know a chameleon.

By that I mean, part of the reason I attracted or was attracted to guys who changed colors and shape like they changed outfits, was that when I looked deep down, I did as well.

It’s easy to shift when you’re young, trying on personalities, ideas, and opinions. Part of growing is growing out of our chameleon skin. The chameleon in us is part of what Paul calls, spiritual infancy. See what he has to say about it in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 –

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

We are ready. We have been growing. And we desire to grow more. We are big and brave enough with Christ in and around us to let God flesh out the chameleon pieces still stuck inside. Let’s see what James has to say about being one whole person, rather than a chameleon with shifting and changing fruit.

Look through the following passages in James to get an overview. James addresses this chameleon issue in almost every chapter. Although the passages each address different topics, you’ll see the chameleon effect running through all of them.

James 1:5-8, James discusses how easy it is for us to be doubtful in prayer and what we ask from God. We believe He is capable, but live wondering if He’s capable:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 3:9-10, James addresses the tendency for our tongue to run one way and then another on any given day:

With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.

James 4:8-10, James addresses our failure to admit our sinfulness, while identifying the irony that facing our guilt and shame allows God to exalt us in forgiveness. We haphazardly try to present a version of ourselves to others that doesn’t “need” forgiveness:

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

James 5:12, James calls out the chameleon in each of us point blank. We like to say no when we mean yes, and yes when we mean no. Oh goodness, I don’t know about you, but I am over those games:

12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

Growing up means looking at the world honestly, but it also means looking at ourselves honestly. Where in our lives do we present ourselves differently than others? Where do we shine God’s light and where do we put Him in a box and forget about Him?

I’m just as guilty as anyone. The good news is that fruit comes from our Savior and His Spirit and not our own whims. We are given the gift of His fruit when we fail. We confess and are forgiven, our hands are cleaned, and then we grow up. We shed that chameleon coat and when it pops back on, we turn to God and ask Him to do the hard work of molting it off some more.

Thank you, Lord for growing us up in You. Guide our hearts and our lives to live in Your salvation. Give us clarity where we need it and hope when we need it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Discussion –

When you were young, did you do anything silly that you wish you would have never done?

Look through James Chapter 2, what in this chapter can you apply to the chameleon effect and God’s good work in us of growth?

What area of your life would you like God to help you grow up more in?

Halfsies – Mixed schooling at its best

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At the end of every summer, I get education anxiety.

When I first had a baby, people told me my sleep would forever be changed, my heart would walk around outside my body, and all kinds of information about breast is best, child led weaning, and cloth v. disposable. #weuseboth

No one ever told me that education was going to be my biggest concern. No one told me that I would lose countless night of sleep, not to hungry babies, but to endless mind rants of the educational choices available to my child. #firstworldproblem

When we carefully selected a private Lutheran preschool for my oldest child, I thought,

“Oh good. Educational choice made. Check that box!”

I mean, that was hard enough. We toured schools, we googled what to look for to find the best education, we prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

Three years later, we discovered it wasn’t working for us. It wasn’t working for her, it wasn’t working for our family.

We solidified our homeschool philosophy, figured out a system, and did something new, something alternative. It was good for three of us. Three of us were miserable. #backtothedrawingboard

I internalized every single article I read and every voice of the external debate…

Homeschool, public school, private school, some of each – the choices abound. #againfirstworldproblem

I wanted every member of our family on the same page. I wanted one system that would just work for everyone, for the love of Pete! Is that too much to ask?!

“Just give me a system, God! Give me a system!”

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think so many of us, whether in schooling, parenting, our marriages, goodness, even life itself, want a system.

This is what God has taught me…

“Do you believe in individuality, Heidi? Do you believe that I, your Lord and Savior, value each and every one of your children, as individuals, knit together carefully, lovingly, tenderly?”

Why, yes I do, God. Yes, I do.

So, this year, we are going rouge. One in homeschool, with maybe some public school classes, three in private Lutheran education.

This may work forever. We may need to change it up next year, or the year after that, or not at all. As much as I value stability, I’m beginning to learn that there is no life system. There is only Jesus.

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.   Psalm 18:1-2

He is our rock. He is our stable ground;Christ Jesus for us, and for our kids. When we walk willingly into the unknown and imperfect, resting in Him, we stand as witnesses to His strength and not our own.

So, here’s to no system!

I still have some education anxiety, but at least I know where to turn. Casting it on Him, who cares infinitely.

Praying over every momma, every child, and every teacher. May His faithfulness pour out to each of you as you go along your way.

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Cast Away, a lesson on change

Photo overlay made with the vrsly app 🙂



Day 4 – Cast Away, a lesson on change


I love throwing stuff away. It’s an actual problem. One time I threw away a small pile of bills that Dave had set on the counter to pay. He was not very happy with me and several years down the road, my family still reminds me to “check first, throw away later.” Thank you, family. Thank you.

The idea of simplifying, as you can probably tell, then speaks to the inner me. What can we get rid of? What around me is piling up and creating internal anxiety seeping in from my external world? The question I am not so great at addressing is not what needs to go then, but what is God calling me to keep? We need to be aware of both of these questions before we begin casting away.

The two stories that comes to mind when I think of the word “casting” are as different as night and day, at first glance. I think they can help us begin to delve into these questions in our own life, what is God calling me to keep? What is God calling me to cast away? So keep those two questions in mind as you read below.

First, read Luke 4:31-37 –
And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching themon the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.
Jesus calls us to cast the things out of our lives that are in opposition to Him. Jesus, himself, casted demons out of people, because he cared for them. As the body of believers, we have the difficult responsibility of helping one another identify and cast out the “demons” in our own lives. Addiction, selfishness, greed, lust, hatred, bitterness, slander, gossip, envy, hurtful words, discontent. This list is not exhaustive. The problem is very complex, this casing off with our neighbor, because we constantly also need to be doing this in our own life for any of our good intentions with one another to be heard. Verse 36, above, is not to be missed, “They were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is this word?’” What is this Word? Who is this Jesus that we have to share with one another that casts out the hurt and the wounding words, the resentfulness from our lives? When we testify about His Word to one another, this work of casting out is done together, in Him.

Second, let’s read John 21:1-12 –

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.  Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?”They answered him, “No.”  He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.  That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”  So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord.


Highlight or underline the word “cast” within this passage in your Bible.
Read those particular verses again.

This is an invitation to change something up.

The Hebrew word for cast away in Ecclesiastes 3:6b can also be translated to throw or to fling. It immediately brought to mind the men casting out those nets, throwing them into the water and continuously coming up with nothing. Hearts confused after Jesus’s death and resurrection, searching for answers, and deciding to go back to the same ol’, same ol’.

Many people have this experience in their walk of faith, in the searching. We know that we have a God who finds, who seeks us, but that doesn’t stop us from casting our nets out into the world, searching, hoping, waiting, seeking. While that sounds negative, I don’t believe that it necessarily has to be. God has placed that internal desire to seek and search in us, because we exist in this recepricol relationship with Him. We live as found people, able to move to the other side of the boat, to throw our nets of fear, and struggle, and doubt into other waters because He is the same God on both sides, and the same Jesus is waiting on the beach to rejoice with us over breakfast at the miraculous catch of His work in our lives.

Praise Jesus! Praise Him! Can you see the nets, stretched taunt with the fish of His faithfulness, His goodness. Be warned, that abundant catch may look a lot more like struggle from the world’s perspective. Our catch that we await isn’t necessarily a bigger house, or a brand new BFF that adds sunshine and joy to our daily lives. It might be, but in God’s economy, it might also be a challenging new ministry opportunity, a new insight that causes us to change something that prunes us, or time spent on a relationship that takes time and energy.

How do we decide when something needs to be cast away or our nets cast into different waters?

We pray. We read His Word.

There is this therapeutic idea called “giving it space.” This is when something in life is pressing in, a decision, a relationship, a discussion. Sometimes we don’t have an answer, a solution, and God calls us to wait. We can give it space, give it breathing room. We can pray and seek His word. We needn’t press down on the issue and squeeze the life out of it, as I am so often guilty of. We can let it sit. God has is in His hands, and He will alert us when the time comes to cast away. And when that time comes, let’s do it! Let’s be faithful and strong in heart in the Lord.

In it together, sisters, whether in the waiting or in the casting away. In it together.  

Discussion questions:
Are you a keeper or do you easily throw things away?
What was something you have gotten rid of that you wish you would have kept?
When have you had to change something up in life, and it wasn’t easy?

*All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV translation. 

Love, assumption, and discernment

photo made with the #vrsly app, photo subject…a very much loved Zeke-y. 🙂
                            
Day 5 – Discernment is Excellent
So much is excellent in our lives. We know that every good and perfect gift is from above. All the gifts we have come from the Lord. Look around you, take a moment, and praise Him by lifting up some things, some people, and some moments in life you are thankful for. He is truly an Awesome God.
Today we are going to reflect on one more form of “excellent.”
Philippians 1:9-11 tells us that we can approve what is excellent, we can discern that which is excellent:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Again Romans 2:17-23 reflects the same phrasing:
“But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” 
I added the emphasis in the ESV translations above, but can you see the similar phrases stick out this way?
The Greek word in these passages for excellent is diapheronta, which means to carry through, to show what is different, to surpass or excel. Let’s use Scripture to interpret Scripture.
I love the way the passage in Philippians says, “that your love may abound more and more…so that you may approve what is excellent…”
It is in love that we are able to see what is excellent. When we look at everything around us. We look with the rose colored glasses of God’s love for His people.
Occasionally, our zeal for the law, our legalism for things that are, in fact, excellent and righteous even, blind us to being able to see what is Christ. Certainly the Gospel cannot be understood apart from the Law, but we can be so wrapped up in how we think the law or the gospel should look, that we miss it standing in front of us. Let’s let our discernment be Christ’s discernment in us, not our ideas about what is right and wrong, but firmly planted in God’s Justice and God’s Grace, revealed in His Word.
Romans 2:21 above, asks, “you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” It is only in being the constant learner that we can discern. 
We identify our assumptions and call them out for what they are. We approve what is excellent by sitting as Mary sat at Jesus’s feet, by letting Grace sweep over us; letting dishes stay unwashed and work left undone. We daily are invited to pick up the Word, and use a moment to bask in His purity, His goodness, and His Words of Excellence.
Excellence in the passages today is discerned in the daily life with Christ. It’s not found in the Sunday morning box we check, but in the authenticity of the journey because we firmly believe in an authentic God, and He gives us His authentic Word to learn and grow and love.
What, therefore, is excellent to you? What do you see around you that surpasses because it is of Him? That may be your church (It is excellent! He created it!). It may also be your garden, it may be the laughter in your home or the tears of a friend shed over a shared life. It changes our idea of what is excellent, because to be excellent, it simply needs to be touched by Him, redeemed by His Grace.
Go and discern, ladies. We have something a little different to share. Something that will carry us through. This life, this walk…excellent.