Politics and Religion

“…the power to bring righteousness to this country does not now and will never reside in public office.” –John MacArthur, Why Government Can’t Save You (pg. vii)

I have always said that it is a good thing that God saved me, or I probably would have become some sort of feminist political activist. I actually love politics. I love a good debate. And, I love this country.

But, more than that, I love the Lord. My ultimate allegiance is not to an earthly kingdom (or republic, if we’re being technical). It is to Christ, and His kingdom.

And, my behavior, both during this election cycle, and beyond, in the wake of its results, has to reflect that.

I was a Cruz for President supporter before Ted Cruz was officially running for President. And, to be honest, I still am. I wish with everything in me that I could cast my vote for him tomorrow.

I have been asked a number of times, how I respond to Ted Cruz’s ultimate endorsement of Donald Trump. This is how I have answered:

I fully agree with Cruz’s exhortation, at the Republican Convention, to “vote your conscience.” And, especially as it concerns Christians, I still believe that is the best choice. (Even if “voting your conscience” means that the person you choose to cast your vote for is a write-in, or third party candidate.)

Because, I firmly believe that if more Christians had voted according to their consciences, and Christian convictions, we would not be in the mess that we currently find ourselves.

In all honesty, I do not like that Ted Cruz endorsed Donald Trump. But, I greatly respect him for doing so.

Wait. What?

Yes. I respect him for endorsing Donald Trump.

He gave his word that he would support the eventual Republican nominee. And, he did. That is integrity. That is a man who keeps his word. And that I respect.

However, just because I respect him, does not mean that I agree with him. Frankly, there are a number of people that I greatly respect, that I strongly disagree with right now.

“It is very surprising, and sad to hear so many Christ-followers talking like we have a “line item veto” in the voting booth. Does anyone really believe you can vote for something about the person, but not the person? Can we really believe we can vote for a candidate’s stand on one issue, but cross out that candidate’s character, behavior, past views, or immoral behavior? Nowhere does the ballot give that option. And frankly, nowhere does Scripture allow us to separate behavior and beliefs from the person. Biblically we are whole beings. Being partly right doesn’t equate to being right. When you vote for a person you are siding with all they are, like it or not. To think otherwise is to rationalize your support based on their hypocrisy.” –David Hegg

I have not kept my concerns about Donald Trump a secret. Like many, I have, what I believe, are very real, very serious concerns, about him, about his character, about his integrity, and about a future presidency with him at the helm.

As Christians, we can, and evidently do disagree about this. But, we should (according to Scripture) be able to do so lovingly, kindly, and respectfully. And, we absolutely must do so without giving the watching, unbelieving world an opportunity to speak ill of Christ.

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” –Ephesians 4:1-3 (ESV)

You will not hear me questioning your salvation for voting for Trump. Who I cast my vote for does not equate, or invalidate, my salvation.

You will not hear me gleefully saying “I told you so” after the election if he does not keep his word. (Or, should Hillary win, I will not say “I told you so” when she does exactly what she has said she will do.) In fact, if Trump should win, I desperately hope I am wrong about him. I hope that you will be able to say to me “I told you so.”

You will not hear me mocking your choice, or your convictions. Whether you vote for Trump, Johnson, McMullin, Castle, or Hoefling. Believe it or not, while I may disagree, I genuinely understand why you might think this is your only choice. I even understand if you feel the need to sit out the top ticket race. (But, please, please, be informed, and vote in every other race on your ballot!)

I will not “unfriend” anyone (online or in real life) for voting differently than I do. I dare say, the majority of my friends are voting differently than I am. For my part, I still consider them friends, and fellow believers.

But, I have to say, I have lost a great amount of respect for the way some Christians have handled each other in this.

principlesThis cartoon. Oh, this cartoon. The mocking, insulting tone of this one, little cartoon has quite possibly made me angrier than almost anything else I’ve seen this election season. Why? Because, it has been posted by a number of people, many of whom want others (especially other Christians) to respect their decisions on a host of issues, based solely on the fact that their choice was made on the basis of their “principles” and “convictions”: Homeschooling. Birth control. Family size. Entertainment. Vaccination.

No. That, my friends is hypocrisy. Plain and simple. Principle and conviction is either a valid reason for making a choice or it isn’t.

Please, do not mock and belittle a fellow believer for truly seeking to honor their biblically informed conscience in this matter.

And then there is the mentality that says (in response to someone using a third-party vote to say “I told you so.” to Trump supporters),

“Of course if Hillary wins and our freedom to preach the Word is taken away, we can say ‘I told you so’ to the traditional Republican voter other who wrote in someone or voted 3rd party.”

Really? Really?!?!

This medium cannot accurately convey the incredulity that I feel at this statement. Should Hillary Clinton win, and effectively abolish our personal and religious freedoms your concern is going to be saying “I told you so.” to someone – a fellow brother or sister in Christ – who chose to vote differently than you did?

Again, I ask, really?

Christian, please, use the privilege and the voice that we have been given in this country. But, do so in love. Please, do not use your voice, or your vote to guilt, mock, or belittle others into your way of thinking. Use it to speak for those who cannot – for the vulnerable, the weak, the unborn. Vote for your children, or your grandchildren. Vote your (biblically informed) conscience.

But, do not believe for a minute that the ultimate hope and change for our nation hinges on your vote. It doesn’t.

 …for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” –Daniel 4:34b-35 (ESV)

 Regardless of who I vote for, who wins, and who loses tomorrow, God is still on His throne, still in control. It is not a cliché. It is not a platitude. It is the truth.

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”Job 42:2 (ESV)

Christian, now is the time use that faith you are so proud of.

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First Day of School!

I spent the majority of August planning and praying over our new school year. And, ready or not, we started on Tuesday! Since Jason is off on Monday’s we don’t “officially” do school. We occasionally use it as a make up day, but mostly, we try to keep it free for family time…and the occasional field trip.

img_5812wmI have some very eager learners this year! (Rachel is included in the picture because, while she may not have an official “grade” designation, but she is learning so much every day, right alongside her brother and sisters!)

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Hannah: 6th Grade

(I am told that is middle school here. But, that sounds a little too much like junior high, and this mama isn’t quite ready for that.) She is looking forward to Zoology (of course) because “we finally get to study land animals,” and learning to play the flute!

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Titus: Kindergarten

I think his excitement for the first day may have rivaled (or probably exceeded!) mine. He was so excited! He is only 4, so he is still a little bit young, but this boy is ready! I know I should say that our plan is to go slow and keep it low key…but, it’s not. He is not having any of that. He is looking forward to everything!

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Rebekah: Pre-School

In addition to doing “official” pre-school work, we will be including her in our Bible and Zoology lessons, and Tapestry of Grace art projects and read aloud times. She is looking forward to learning to read, but, mostly, she is just excited to be part of our school days!

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And, ready or not…here we go!

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A selfie was the only picture I got with all of my “students” on the first day!

 

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Momentary Light Affliction

This blog is (or, perhaps has been) my attempt to encourage and challenge primarily myself, but other women as well, to view every area and event of life through the lens of Scripture. And to be joyfully content as we recognize God’s undeserved grace, mercy, and sovereign care in the big, unexpected joys, as well as in the difficult trials, but especially in those little, often overlooked, everyday moments.

Because, most of life is lived in the simple and the ordinary.

But, in doing so, my desire is not to paint our life as one of sunshine and unicorns, untouched by reality and troubles.

Like everyone, my days are filled with joys and failures, blessings and trials, celebration and suffering. My children are sinners. Their mother is a sinner. (I know Scripture says that I married a sinner as well. But, I’m beginning to wonder about that one. He’s amazing.)

I detest the trend of airing one’s dirty laundry to the whole of the worldwide web, under the guise of “transparency.” I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to “vent.”

My desire is to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). To look for the grace and mercy that God has so richly, and undeservedly given, not in spite of the difficult times, but through, and maybe even because of them.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”

So, it is rare that I will write from a place of discouragement and weakness.

But, you want transparency? Here it is…

Life is hard.

I am not making that statement in relation to the suffering, trials, or circumstances of anyone but myself. The comparison game is futile. Comparing my situation to that of someone else is like comparing apples and oranges. No. It’s like comparing apples and turtles. You just can’t. There is always someone else going through something bigger, something worse, something harder. (And I know many who are.)

I am just stating the simple fact that, life can be hard.

And, recently, it has been.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV)

In addition to multiple minor illnesses hitting every member of our family, teething toddlers, night terrors, mastitis, our recent miscarriage, migraines, and a stint in the ER, I have been living with severe anemia (and the accompanying symptoms and side effects) for at least a year…likely a lot longer. I am now on a prescription iron supplement, which I am praying might remedy some, or maybe even all of that.

Oh. And, did I mention that, as a result, we are still trying to finish up our school year? And the laundry and dishes have continued to multiply at alarming rates.

So, those simple, everyday, real life moments are still very much there, very much demanding that we keep up.

And, somehow, in the craziness of caring for, and keeping up with us, my husband still has to do his job. He still has to prepare sermons and Sunday school lessons. Some weeks, I have wondered if he isn’t writing his sermons on the back of a napkin on his way to church! (Don’t worry. He’s not!) People are still coming to him for counsel. Each one a judgment call. Is this an urgent need? Can they wait? And, meetings that have been canceled, long-postponed, and rescheduled (multiple times), have to be attended.

There are just not enough hours in the day.

“Why does our heavenly Father seem at times to be steadily shoveling suffering into the lives of those he loves so deeply, when he could easily relieve it?” (Running on Empty, pgs. 15-16)

You may thinking, “Stop complaining. That’s nothing.”

And, you’d be right.

“Suffering, even in its mildest forms – inconvenience, delay, disappointment, discomfort, or anything that is not in harmony with our whims and preferences – we will not tolerate. We even reject and deny it.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 13)

We do not like to suffer. We avoid it when we can…except in the cases when, as a result of our own sinful stupidity, we run headlong into it.

But, I say that all that to say this…I am just weary. Physically, mentally…and yes. Spiritually.

I love what Gloria Furman says in her new book, Missional Motherhood (I am quoting from a much larger section, and, I hope, doing justice to the original context. But, I would encourage you to read the entire section, or even the whole book, for yourself.):

“Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an “earthly tent,” and our lack of knowledge – are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us. God has no need to repent of making us this way, because he reserves the right to create in whatever way his holy will desires. Moms don’t need to be redeemed out of their God-given design. But here is another place where we have to “use our words” very carefully. We must be very, very hesitant to name something sin. If it is sin, it requires atonement. But we often place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins….The eternal Son of God did not go to the cross and suffer crucifixion and the wrath of God to atone for a moms inability to accomplish everything she wants to do in a day…..Before we call upon the great doctrine of justification by faith alone to redeem us out of our so-called calamity, or before we herald the massive truth that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith in him, we ought to consider the nature of our need….If that neediness is owing to your sin, that vile rebellion against your Maker, then you repent….But if your neediness is simply because you are a human being (i.e., not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not God), then you have reason to rejoice.” (Missional Motherhood, pgs. 124-125, bold mine)

Rejoice?

In weakness? In weariness? In suffering?

Yes.

And, more than that, we can be thankful for it.

“Who can be grateful for pain? Only those who see beyond to the ineffable mercy, tender and severe, which is silently at work.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 56)

It is a gift.

It is a gift because it teaches us about the character of God. As discipline, it confirms God’s love for us, and our position as His child. It tests, strengthens, and refines our faith. It produces endurance, character, and hope. And, it is a condition of discipleship.

If we are to follow Christ, we must expect to suffer.

“He accepted suffering. He willingly laid down His life. He poured out His very soul unto death. Shall not we, His servants, tread the same pathway?” Pg. 39

But, perhaps, just maybe, our troubles, our inconveniences, our sufferings are not for us.

Lilias Trotter, in her book, Parables of the Cross, wrote “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us….” (as quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering, pg. 15)

It has been unintentional (on my part), but many of the books I have been reading recently have had a providentially similar theme. Suffering.

In her book, Running on Empty, Barbra Bancroft says,

“Ministry brings suffering into our lives. It is the hardest gift for us to accept from God. None of us enjoys suffering and it is one aspect of ministry we are always trying to avoid. God brings his gift of suffering and our response is to begin negotiating for a different one. We want to return this gift for one we think would better meet our needs. This is why Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3 is so startling. We are attracted and repelled by it. We want his passion for Christ. We identify with his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but to share in the fellowship of his suffering is frightening.” (pg. 15)

Now, I don’t think for a moment that our church, or my husband’s vocation has been the source of the difficulties, trials, and yes, genuine suffering that we have faced in recent days.

Quite the opposite. Our church family has been a source of help, encouragement, strength, and comfort in all of this.

But, it is true that ministry brings suffering. It has a cost. Our family, our marriage, our children, our parenting, our faults, our sins, our quirks, our sufferings…our lives are all put on constant display. And, we are willing to live in that proverbial fishbowl for the sake of others.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh,” his “messenger from Satan.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“God said no to Paul’s plea because He was to bring forth, for the sake of the rest of us, the beautiful flower of acceptance, a gift of grace, enough for his need. But that flower was to bloom, not in spite of, but because of the thorn…Could he know the millions who would be cheered and comforted by his example of quiet acceptance of a painful thing which he knew God could have removed? No, he couldn’t.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 45)

Maybe our troubles, our inconveniences, our trials, our sufferings are not for us at all. Maybe they are put in our life for the spiritual benefit of someone else.

We do not know. And, frankly, it isn’t for us to know.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

“We may take heart from the suffering of Job. Suffering was the necessary proof of the reality of his faith – to us, as to his contemporaries and his enemy Satan (his and ours). The suffering of our Savior proved the reality of His love for His Father. The world still needs to be shown that there are those who, no matter what the circumstances, will, for love of Him, do exactly what God commands. The end He has in view is a glorious one. We can fully count on that…” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 53)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

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Parenting Conference

The last two months have been rather difficult in our home.  So, I am just now getting my bloggy act together, and posting a few of the more enjoyable happenings.

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On April 1st and 2nd (wow! that seems like a long time ago!), our church hosted a Parenting Conference, with Dr. John Street, and his dear wife Janie, as the speakers. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that the Streets are very special to our family. Dr. Street was one of our professors at The Master’s College, and was instrumental in our understanding and embracing the truth of biblical counseling, both in our personal lives and ministry.  He was the pastor of our Sunday School class at our church in California. And, Dr. Street also did our pre-marital counseling, and performed our wedding. We also have the privilege of knowing their 4 (grown) children, and seeing the legacy of their parents’ love for the Lord continued in their lives.

So, it is a joy for us to share the Streets’ wisdom with whomever we can, whenever we get the chance!

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I had a one year old who is not a fan of the nursery, and a 2 year old who still desperately needed a nap. So, I did not get to hear as much of it as I would have liked, because I was a little too busy, well…parenting! But, I have since caught up on our church’s website. (And I would strongly recommend that you to listen to Dr. Street’s messages here too!!)

2016_04_021While the adults were busy, the kids enjoyed their own Children’s Conference. They learned about the Armor of God, sang songs, did crafts, played games, and sang more songs when a few of the adult’s sessions went a little long.

(Big, huge thank you to Fred and Kathy, Steven and Nary, Rosie, Joanna, and Erica for all their work, and for serving our parents and little ones!!!)

The children loved their time together, and the parents were challenged and blessed by the teaching.

12963542_10153404226351286_2727087751349474441_nUnfortunately, the conference ended on a bit of a low note, with, at final count, some 21 people coming down with a nasty stomach bug. Our family was among the first hit, so we never did get a picture with both Dr. and Mrs. Street.

But, we are so thankful for the time they invested in our church. And, I am excited to see how the Lord will use this conference to continue to shape the families of our church in the future!

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Sad News

Just a few weeks ago, we announced that we were expecting another little one.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to my OB’s office for what was supposed to be a “pregnancy confirmation” appointment. Of course, in my mind, I received that confirmation over a month ago, courtesy of a home pregnancy test. I was almost 10 weeks along.

But, this was not to be the happy appointment the name would indicate.

I have had spotting during the first trimester of my last two pregnancies (three, including this one). It is, apparently, “my normal.” And, twice, it has been nothing to worry about.

So, when it started this time, I didn’t really worry. Or, rather, I tried not to worry.

But, this time, it was different.

After about a month of on-and-off spotting, it turned into true bleeding on Tuesday evening. So, I was not expecting good news going into my appointment.

As my doctor started the ultrasound, I glanced at the screen. Hoping, and praying that, despite the symptoms to the contrary, we would see the flutter of a tiny, beating heart. My doctor was uncharacteristically quiet. And, one look at her face confirmed my suspicion. “Are you sure you have your dates right?” Yes, I’m sure. “Because, baby is only measuring at 6 weeks. And…I’m not seeing a heartbeat.”

Miscarriage.

It’s the word no mother-to-be wants to hear. But, there it was.

I miscarried on Thursday, at home.

“…I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:23 (ESV)

When I announced our pregnancy, we were looking forward to meeting our son or daughter around Thanksgiving. So, I said that we had much to be thankful for this year.

We still do.

Yes, of course, we are sad and grieving.

We already loved this child. We wanted this child.

But, even though we will not have the joy of knowing this child, this side of Heaven, I am still so grateful for each moment I was given with this little one. I am thankful for the time, no matter how short, that I was blessed to be his or her mommy.

“…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 1:21 (ESV)

Thank you for being excited with us over this little one. And thank you for being willing to grieve with us. We appreciate your prayers.

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