Christ Is My Reward

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt, stream-of-consciousness style, without heavy editing. It’s harder than you think! Let’s see what I come up with today on the prompt “reward.” 

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When our dog was younger, we taught him some basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, come, back off, leave it. Stuff like that. Nothing extraordinary. We added roll over, shake, speak, when he had gotten the others down pat. Each time he obeyed, he would get a reward. In dog training, rewards are key.

In my life with Christ, I’ve had to learn that His love is not a reward that I have to earn. If I learn to obey well, I will receive His favor.

I’m so grateful that’s not how salvation works. He loves me no matter what. My reward comes in eternity from those things in which I’ve invested on earth. I’m not exactly sure what those rewards will look like. Will they be jewels in a crown that I then cast at His feet, signifying that all I did was for His glory? Will I have a bigger mansion than some if I do more for the Lord here on earth?

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Hillsong has a popular worship song that says:

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy

If, when I get to heaven, I have no crown waiting for me, if I have no jewels that sparkle in the sun, but I have Jesus, that will be enough.

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Strong Willed Or Resolute?

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt that a friend has supplied and write for 10 minutes without any heavy editing and see what comes out of my head. Today’s word is “strong-willed.”

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When people hear the term “strong willed,” they probably jump to the idea of a strong-willed child. Oh, you know how hard they can be! They are stubborn, obstinate, tantrum throwers when they don’t get their way. There has to be special books written about how to parent them.

Nobody has ever seen a book called Parenting the Compliant Child. We think that would be easy.

But what if we started looking at being strong willed in its positive form? What if instead of being obstinate, these people were considered resolute?

I think about Jesus who resolutely set His face toward the cross. I would say His will was very strong.

Trouble is, I know with kids who are considered strong willed, their will is usually against whatever it is their parents want them to do. I didn’t have a strong-willed child, so I don’t have any parenting advice, but I wonder if a mindset change could make a difference.

Can a 3-year-old be reasoned with?

“You sure seem to have your mind made up about what you want to have for lunch. It’s too bad we’re not having that today. I wonder what we can do about that?”

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Makes me chuckle to imagine it.

I know the struggle is real, you parents of strong-willed children out there. So I would just like to offer hope. It won’t come immediately, in fact, it may take them into their 20s to figure it out, but your resolute child could be one who has great perseverance. Once they’ve made up their mind, they go after that thing with gusto.

Think about Jesus. When he was 12 he was left behind in Jerusalem because he was sitting in the temple teaching the men there. Teaching! At 12 years old. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

He knew what He needed to do, and He did it. Now, granted, He was the perfect Son of God, but what lessons can be learned from His life about being resolute?

Huge differences with our kids, I know that. But I think it’s not just a sin nature that is at play. Guiding a child to submitting their will to that of their parents is an arduous process. Parents have no easy task figuring out how to mold their child without crushing them.

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I don’t envy them the task.

But a compliant child also needs to be molded. They need to know that they have a mind of their own and that God has a plan for them. Every whim of someone else doesn’t need to be followed. It’s not a bad thing to question directives in the right manner and at the right time.

Does that make sense? We don’t want our compliant children to become doormats that others use to get what they want. And I think as parents we need to be careful to make sure our kids have a voice. Can compliance become apathy? Can these children become people pleasers?

I’m not a psychologist, so these are just rambling thoughts. But I do wonder.

I’d love to hear what you think.

There’s A Place For Us

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for five minutes on a one-word prompt, without heavy editing, and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “place.”

In the last month or so, we have been in the process of wondering where our second son is going to live next year for college. We are in the same city as his university, but he has lived on campus his first two years. The university has a housing lottery, however, and this time, his name was not chosen to have on-campus housing in the Fall.

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So, we waited until the second drawing and then when his name still wasn’t picked, we knew we would have to seek another place. He could always come home, but his financial aid covers housing, and the daily drive + parking madness would not be ideal for him. And lo and behold, even University affiliated off-campus housing would be cheaper than the dorm he’s in now.

So on Wednesday he and I set out to tour apartment complexes. Wow, are these places ever nicer than the one I lived in when I was in college.

We settled on one that is affiliated with the university and we signed the lease yesterday. It’s nice to know that he’ll have a place to live near campus in the Fall. Who he will live with is still up in the air.

All this got me thinking about how much comfort we find in having a place to call our own. We know at the end of a long day, or after a vacation, we can come home. Ideally, that place is safe, restful, comfortable, peaceful.

I’m not ignorant enough to believe that everyone’s home is this way. I know there is strife, noise, clutter. And I also know that there are so very many who have no place they can call home at all.

I’m so grateful that, eventually, I will be able to call heaven my home.

No more tears. No more sadness. No more sickness.

Indeed, as the children’s song goes, “Heaven is a wonderful place.”

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Open-Heart Surgery

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I use a one-word prompt provided by a friend and write for just 10 minutes without heavy editing and see what I come up with. Today’s prompt is “surgery.”

In the evenings, my family is reading out loud the classic At Home in Mitford by Jan Caron. Yesterday’s reading including a scene where Hoppy Harper, the town doctor, was telling Father Tim, the main character in the stories, how it was when his wife died several years before.

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“I’ve been away from church so long . . . so long away from . . . believing.” Hoppy leaned against the wall, avoiding the rector’s gaze. “I’ve been very angry with God.”

“I understand.”

“He operated without anesthetic.”

He looked at the man who had lost his wife of sixteen years, and saw the sure mark that bitterness and overwork had left. Yet, something tonight was easier in him.

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon, p. 148

 

 

Loss can feel that way, like surgery without anesthetic. Hoppy’s wife had died of cancer, and he wasn’t really ready for it. And it hurt.

A lot.

It was a good analogy for the town doctor to describe the pain he felt.

People in the medical profession know that deep infections have to be cut out in order for healing to happen. If there is an abscess, work will need to be done. A gangrened limb has to be cut off. It’s really better to get these things taken care of before such dire measures are needed.

Likewise, God will perform surgery on our hearts whenever there’s something that needs to be cut out: idolatry, envy, covetousness. But He can also pry open our closed hearts if we aren’t letting ourselves be known by others.

We were created to live in community, and if we’re not experiencing authentic community, God may need to get our attention to let us know that we’re holding ourselves back.

Just having friends isn’t enough. We need to be willing to open up ourselves, to be real, to be known, to be authentic. If we don’t do this ourselves, we might find ourselves experiencing depression or extreme loneliness. It’s not healthy for our hearts to hide themselves.

There’s also a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Dawn Treader where the boy Eustace, who has been turned into a dragon because of his greed and generally obnoxious personality, has an encounter with the lion, Aslan. In order to be turned back into a real boy, Eustace has to undergo a type of surgery.

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After several attempts to free himself from the terrible dragon scales, Eustace hears Aslan say,

“You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.

“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I had turned into a boy again.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, pp 90-91.

Our scaly hearts need God’s attention. And He won’t always use anesthetic. But we can be assured that the outcome will be worth it.

Ezekiel 33:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (New International Version).

 

More Of Jesus

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt without heavy editing and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “more.”

We’ve been teaching my almost-14-month-old grandson baby sign. He can say “please,” “thank you,” “help,” “all done,” “milk” and “more.” Sometimes he gets them a little confused, and the sign he uses most often when he can’t quite get it right is “more.”

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Zayne and his uncle Nathan

If he wants to go out in the yard to walk around he says “more.”

If he wants help stepping down onto the porch from the kitchen’s French doors he says “more.”

When we tell him and show him what the sign should be, he gets it right, but interesting that “more” is his default.

Sounds a lot like me. There’s always something more that I want. More time, more sunshine, more health, more vacations, more followers on my social media platforms more money to spend on more stuff!

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I’m a Young Life baby. I began my personal walk with Jesus at a Young Life camp when I was 13. There’s a song we used to sing at our meetings.

I want more of Jesus, more and more and more.

I want more of Jesus than I ever had before.

I want more of His great love so rich and full and free

I want more of Jesus, so I’ll give Him more of me!

That’ll preach, won’t it?

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Circumstances: The Harsh Dictator of Our Emotions

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I take a one-word prompt and write, unedited, for 10 minutes and see what happens. Today’s prompt is the word “unhappy.”

A quick Google search of “God wants me to be happy” yielded several articles—more than I wanted to take the time to read—about how God really does want us to be happy. But one interesting thing I came away with in my perusal is that holiness and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, the closer to God you become, the happier you will be.

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Now, the problem with many is that how they are defining “happy” seems to put it on a very temporary or shallow level. The Bible doesn’t seem to differentiate. Gladness, laughter, singing, they all seem to be wrapped up together. We rejoice in the Lord always.

So what’s going on when we feel unhappy? Are we disappointed in God, or are we disappointed in our circumstances? I can be unhappy that the store I traveled to was out of the item I wanted. (Should have called first. Always. Should have called.) I can be unhappy that someone ate the last piece of chocolate cake, even if I had called it, albeit not within the hearing of everyone in the room.

Those are circumstances that I can easily get over. But what happens when I find myself in a place I really don’t want to be? What if a job change causes me to have to live far away from everyone I know and love? What if the only job I could get is one of drudgery and stress?

If I suffer from clinical depression, does that put me out of God’s will since He commands us to “rejoice in the Lord always”? (Philippians 4:4).

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Being unhappy with our circumstances is a normal experience. Denying that we feel unhappy is simply sweeping our emotions under the rug. The key is not living in that state of unhappiness. I acknowledge that a particular situation is not what I wanted or expected, but I trust that God was not taken by surprise. He will use my circumstances for my good and His glory. But I need to let Him work.

I’m grateful that I have not suffered from clinical depression, but I know that those who do are helped by medication, and that they can find that the joy of the Lord is their strength. He holds them up, He never leaves them, He understands.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, which in this season leading up to Easter will be examined by many a preacher, was not “happy,” but His relationship with the Father meant that He was loved and not abandoned. He was about to face a cruel and agonizing death. But He also knew that Resurrection would follow.

 

I See You

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up where we write for 5 minutes on a one-word without heavy editing and see what happens. Read all of today’s post here.

Like any typical American parents, we were armed with our video camera (this was in the days before cell phones with cameras) and waiting expectantly for our sweet tow-headed 4-year-old boy to appear on the stage for his end-of-year performance for Mom’s Day Out.

When he came out with his classmates, dressed in his green collared shirt and cute khaki pants, I looked through the viewfinder of the camera to make sure I could get him in focus before things began.

 

What I noticed as I watched him through that lens was that he was looking all around the crowded church sanctuary, searching for us. I could read his little lips saying, “Where ARE they?” as his gaze grew concerned. David and I waved our arms and halfway stood trying to get his attention, but the lights were too bright on the stage, and there were too many bodies in the auditorium.

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He couldn’t see us.

Once the music started, he was happy singing along and doing the hand motions as he’d been taught, and I recorded him and clapped when it was done. But my heart was a little sad. I so wanted him to know that we were watching him. That we were there. That we cared.

Now, 18 years later, that little 4-year-old is 22 and searching for who he is. During a crisis time just a few months ago, I wrote him a letter reminding him of that night all those years ago and asking him, “Do you see us now? Do you know that we see you, that we’re here for you, that we love you?”

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Hagar gave God the name El Roi in Genesis 16:13, “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”

 

 

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