Just Ask Anne

anne_of_green_gablesI was invited to share a devotional recently at an “Anne of Green Gables” themed baby shower. The guests of honor were a sweet friend and her newly-adopted and long-awaited baby girl. Anne was adopted too, so it was a fitting theme for a very special celebration.

Most of you are probably familiar with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s precocious and charming character, “Anne-with-an-‘e’.” My former roommate Kim was obsessed with her. Years later I, too, became enchanted as my two oldest daughters and I read the books which chronicled her adventures together. And while Anne had a penchant for creating mischief, she also possessed a wisdom beyond her years.

As I reflected on a few of her well-known quotes, they reminded me of some biblical principles for parenting…

1) Relating to God.

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into…that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

When you become a parent, your time is no longer your own. You can’t even go to the bathroom by yourself! As a new mom I especially missed my long, uninterrupted times with God. Often I’d be too tired to even focus my scattered thoughts into prayers. I used to beat myself up for this.

Here’s what I would tell that mama now:  God knows. Give yourself grace. He does.

I was inspired by Gigi Graham Tchividjian’s habit of leaving her Bible open on the ironing board, so she could read or meditate on a verse or two as she went about her busy day. There are many creative ways to relate to God. And He is always closer than a prayer.

Jesus said, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” (The Message)

2) Making mistakes.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

I remember cuddling my own perfect newborn baby girl and determining to be the perfect mom for her. And then there was that day I was visiting a friend at the hospital and literally FORGOT that I had a nursing baby at home! Upon my return, I was greeted at the door by a frazzled husband and a famished child! Oops. Major mom fail.

Mistakes will be made. Thankfully kids (and usually husbands) are very forgiving. So is God.

“…His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:23b,24a, ESV)

3) Being content.

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

I believe the secret to contentment as a parent is to enjoy what is good in each season. If you focus on what is difficult, you’ll miss what is delightful. If you lament the things you’ve lost or fret about the future, you’ll miss the gifts you’ve been given.

I absolutely dreaded the teen years. And while teens can be challenging, they are also a ton of FUN! I have experienced great joy in watching each of our daughters develop into beautiful young women. Look for the good. It’s there.

“… you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on…the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8, The Message)

4)  Finding friends.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Two decades ago we packed up our two-bedroom apartment and a five-month-old baby and moved “across the pond” to jolly old England. Where we didn’t know One. Single. Soul. Suddenly I didn’t feel so jolly.

Wherever we go, we need kindred spirits–those friends of the heart who just “get” us. Soon after settling into our quaint little English village, God graciously answered my prayers for such a friend through Caroline, herself a new British mum. Through the years there have been others who have come along just when I needed the encouragement of a fellow mom. I currently meet once a week with some dear kindred spirits to pray for our children.

Parenthood is best played as a team sport. Don’t go it alone. Your kindred spirits are out there too, just waiting to be found.

(Paul speaking of Timothy) “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, NAS)

 5)  Risking love.

“There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?”

“Enjoy this time. It goes so fast.”

I used to hate it when older moms or random strangers would say that to me when my kids were young. Because I wanted to hold onto my babies forever. And I knew I couldn’t.

Making the decision to have a child…is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” (Elizabeth Stone)

There is an inherent vulnerability that comes with having and loving a child. It can be hard on the heart. But nothing has taught me more about selfless, sacrificial love than being a mom. It has stretched me and called out the best in me. It has taught me to love like God loves.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13, NLT)

Parenting will take all you’ve got. And then some. But love is always worth the cost.

Whether you’re a new parent just embarking on your journey, or one who’s logged some parenting miles, take heart. There is help and wisdom to guide you along the way.

Sometimes it may come from a surprising source, like a former orphan girl named Anne.

But always, always, it is readily available from your ever-present and never-failing Heavenly Father.

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An Act of Christmas Kindness

Kindness star

I knew my favorite little post office closed at 1pm. I also knew I wouldn’t make it in time when I left the house a few minutes before 1pm on Tuesday.  But I piled the gifts I had wrapped and boxed up that morning in the back seat of the car and, hoping against hope, drove there anyway. The desire to avoid the long lines at the other two, more popular post office locations fed my denial.

Sure enough, when I climbed the wooden stairs of the historic building that houses the post office, juggled my packages and jiggled the door knob, it was locked. Of course it was locked. It was now ten after one.

I trudged back down the stairs, accepting the sad reality that I would spend the next hour or two of my life in a slow-moving queue with all of the other holiday procrastinators. When out from the post office there arose such a clatter, I swiveled my head to see what was the matter. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic.) But there in the window was the postman, rapping on the glass, motioning me to return. Had I just awakened from a long winter’s nap? Or was I dreaming?

My New Favorite Postal Worker unlocked the door and invited me in. He then proceeded to weigh my parcels, efficiently calculating the cheapest way to get them to their intended destinations on time. I kept apologizing for my tardiness and thanking him for his kindness. Less than ten minutes later, I was sailing out the door, mission accomplished.

“Thank you for making my life easier today,” were my parting words to him as I headed down the stairs for the second time that afternoon. Only this time my hands were free. My step, lighter. My heart, warmed.

It was an unexpected act of Christmas kindness.

In the process of mailing my gifts, I was given gifts:  He gave me back an hour (or two or three) of my time. He helped alleviate my stress. He lifted my burdens, literally and figuratively.

He didn’t have to do it. The post office was closed. But he did it anyway.

He reminded me of Someone Else who orchestrated the Ultimate Act of Christmas Kindness many years ago. This act of kindness was anything but random. It had been planned for centuries. And the time to unveil it had finally arrived.

…when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared… (Titus 3:4a, NAS)

I picture God a bit like the postman in the window, rapping to get our attention. Seeking us out and beckoning us to come in. Unlocking heaven’s door. Humbly and graciously serving us, though we had done nothing to deserve such kindness.

He did it anyway.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. (Ephesians 1:7, NLT)

Yes, Jesus came to bear the weight of our sin, to shoulder the burden of our salvation. When we come to Him, we too receive unexpected gifts:  Redemption. Peace. Joy. Freedom. Forgiveness. Grace.  And that’s just the start.

We leave His presence warmed. Light in spirit, full in heart.

This Christmas, if you hear Him knocking, might I urge you to turn around? Accept His invitation. Let Jesus escort you home and help you with that heavy load you’ve been carrying. He is more than capable.

And ever so kind.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7, The Message)

Come, let us adore Him.

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The Star in Our Faults

Star painting

I am weak;
Sinner, still.
Faults exposed,
Heartsick, ill.
 
Head bowed low,
Hand raised high.
Who will free me?
This, my cry.
 
Mercy dawns,
Purest light.
Heaven to earth,
Shattering night.
 
Perfect Life,
Violent death.
Faultless Lamb,
Final breath.
 
Veil now torn,
Victory won.
It is finished!
Love’s work, done!
 
Grace sufficient,
Covers scar.
Faults, forgiven!
Hero!  Star!

 

Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25, NIV)

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Free for the Taking

Last night I chaperoned my first (and, Lord willing, last) junior high promotion dance.  Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of junior high dances, and seeing as how misery loves company, I roped my good friend Julie into joining me in the Concessions Booth for the three-hour duration of the dance.  (Julie is not only a good friend–she’s a good sport.  She’s even still talking to me today.)

It turned out to be quite the entertaining evening!  While minding the cookies and cotton candy, we were treated to a bonus fashion show  featuring a variety of hemlines (Hello, high-low!) and hues (Mint green and coral were both well represented).  Our booth was strategically located near the girls’ bathroom, so we also witnessed our fair share of wardrobe malfunctions and tears.  Every now and then we’d sneak into the gym to spy.  It was just how I remembered it from my own junior high days–awkward slow dances, wallflowers, and all.

I was reminded of all the reasons one’s promotion to high school is indeed cause for celebration.

The most memorable moments for me, however, came whenever a group of kids would approach the Concessions Booth to inquire about the cost of a particular food item.

“It’s FREE,” we’d reply.

Their reactions were priceless.  All seemed surprised.  Some doubted.  A few hesitated.

“Help yourselves,” we’d encourage.

Most would then eagerly grab a bottle of water and a candy bar (or two or ten) and return with their entourage to the gym, scattered sequins sparkling in their wake.

I enjoyed being the bearer of the good news that, thanks to some generous donors, it was all free for the taking.  It was fun seeing the looks on their faces as they absorbed the fact that they really could help themselves to whatever they wanted, without charge.

The spiritual parallel was not lost on me.

Because Salvation is not For Sale.

It cannot be purchased with good works.  It cannot be obtained through church affiliation.  It cannot be earned by living a good life.

It’s FREE.  A gift.

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23, NLT) 

Thanks to God’s generous heart and Jesus’ perfect life, eternal life is ours for the taking.  It’s not just about Heaven.  It’s about a simple, honest, real relationship with Jesus.  Right here, right now.

Surprised?  Hesitating?  Wondering what the catch might be?

Yes, it IS free.  But it may also “cost” you…your pride, your popularity, your plans.  You must humble yourself.  Surrender yourself.

HE’s worth it.

I think life without Jesus is a bit like a junior high dance–big on glitz and drama, small on meaning and substance.  Isn’t it time we graduated to something better?

If you haven’t yet received the free gift He is offering you, might I encourage you to do so?  I’m delighted to be the bearer of this Good News:

“It’s Free!  Help yourselves!”

Just reach out and take it.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12, NIV)

Laurel and Friends dancing in the park before the Dance.

Laurel and friends dancing in the park before the dance.

(Photo Credit:  Rugged Grace Photography)

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The Leap

Diet

For Lent, I’m giving up…DIETING.

Actually, I’m giving it up for good.

Let me explain.

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog post titled “Imperfect Progress,” where I shared about my crazy weight loss teeter totter ride.  I felt quite vulnerable in doing so.  (Much like I feel now.)  In case you missed it, I’ll summarize.  It went something like this:

Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.

Gain.

That’s right.  The teeter totter went back up, as teeter totters are prone to do.  And feelings of self-worth and acceptance went down.  Way down.

Imperfect Progress?  More like Perfect Regress.

At a friend’s recommendation I recently picked up a book called Intuitive Eating.  To my surprise, authors and nutritionists Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch were familiar with life on a teeter totter.  Only they called it “The Seesaw Syndrome.”  On one end sits Deprivation (the essence of dieting) and on the other end, Guilt (the result of overeating).  Chronic dieters know this maddening and merciless cycle all too well.

The solution, according to the authors?

JUMP OFF.

Stop Dieting.

For Real.

“…just as when one kid decides to get off the seesaw, the other is forced to stop playing.  When you give yourself permission to not be deprived, you simultaneously let go of the guilt!  By giving yourself permission to eat, you stop playing the futile seesaw game.”

The initial leap off of the teeter totter is both terrifying and exhilarating.  But rather than continue to perpetuate this self-defeating cycle, I am now turning my energies towards developing a long-term, healthy relationship with food.  I am learning to be patient with myself in this process, resisting the temptation to go for the temporary “quick fix.”  God has given me “new eyes” through which to view myself and food.

It feels a lot like…Grace.

The following caught my eye on Facebook yesterday, because it captures, in a nutshell, what the Lord has been so patiently teaching me:

I need to be skinnier love myself.

I am thrilled to be off the teeter totter and onto a new path.  There is much still to be discovered.  I hope to share more as I continue on this journey with Him.

Anyone care to join me?

The godly eat to their hearts’ content, but the belly of the wicked goes hungry. (Proverbs 13:25, NLT)

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The Gospel According to Beau

We kept hoping he’d figure it out.  Sleep on this side of the Pack ‘n Play.  Poop on the other side.  It was so simple even a puppy could understand it.  But after seven long weeks of hoping (along with almost daily baths!) we finally had to admit that it just wasn’t working.  It was time to try something new.

So we put away the Pack ‘n Play and invited this untrained puppy into…our bedroom.

It felt foolish.  Risky.  Counterintuitive.  He certainly hadn’t earned the privilege or proven himself trustworthy.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  So we did it anyway.

We scattered a few puppy pads around the room, praying that he would choose them over the carpet.  We made him a little bed next to ours and held our breath as he curled up, without whining, in a contented ball.  He slept peacefully, happy just to be near us.

I slept, fitfully, fearfully.  The next morning I cautiously peered over the side of the bed, dreading what I might find.  But lo and behold, he was clean and dry!  And so was the carpet!  We jokingly called it our Christmas Miracle.  In fact, he’s now gone an entire week with nary an accident or a bath!

It’s AMAZING.

Yet isn’t this how Grace works?

We, too, couldn’t help ourselves.  Try as we might we just couldn’t stay clean.  Then, one day, the Father lifted us out of the confines of the Law, which we had been unable to keep, and set it aside.  It was time for something new.  Jesus came, took our filth in exchange for His righteousness, and escorted us right into the very throne room of God.

We did not deserve such kindness.  We had not earned this trust.  Yet it was given to us anyway.

Grace.  AMAZING.

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.  Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.”  (Romans 6:14, NLT)

When we gave Beau the run of our room, we weren’t sure how he would handle his newfound freedom.  We knew he could abuse it.  That’s the risk grace takes.  But being in our presence calmed and settled him.  It changed him.

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NLT)

Grace changes us, too.  When we experience the thrill of being in God’s gracious, holy presence, sin loses its pull.  His law is now written on our hearts.  (See Hebrews 8:10.)  We want  to please Him.

We don’t do it perfectly.  Accidents still happen.  But our hearts are inclined in a new direction:  to stay near this One who has showered us with such extravagant grace.

As I lifted Beau onto my pillow for a snuggle the morning of The Miracle, a tear slipped down my cheek.  If I could love a helpless, ignorant puppy through this messy process, how much more must God love me?  If being brought near to us could change him, how might nestling even closer to God’s heart change me?

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16, NLT)

Chris' pillow--his favorite spot!

Chris’ pillow–his favorite spot!

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Talking to Myself

Belittling.  Criticizing.  Name calling.

Things I would never allow my kids to say to each other.

Why is it okay for me to talk to myself like that?

When it comes to self-talk, unfortunately I don’t always practice what I preach.  I come down on myself, focusing on my failures and scolding myself for my shortcomings.  None of this makes me want to rise up and be a better person.  In fact, it has quite the opposite effect.

Lately I’ve been challenged to pay more attention to the messages I send to myself.  I’m trying to listen more carefully to the way the LORD speaks to me.

What if I patterned my internal speech after His?

Perhaps I’d talk to myself more like this…

1)  Kindly

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.”  (Hosea 2:14, NAS)

When God speaks, He is always and unbelievably kind.  We should be as kind to ourselves as He is, and as we usually desire to be to others.  For “I myself am in need of the alms of my own kindness.”  (Carl Jung)

“If you can’t think of something nice to say…think of something!”

Our former pastor, Rick Mann, coined this phrase to encourage his three boys to practice a discipline of kindness.  If I applied this to my self-talk, I could start by refraining from berating myself.  Then I might take it a step further.  For example, instead of dwelling on the fact that I’ve gained a few pounds, perhaps I could applaud my sedentary self for actually starting and keeping up with an exercise program the past few months!  (Yay me!)

2)  Gently

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  (Matthew 11:29, NIV)

Of all the attributes Jesus could have used to describe Himself, He chose gentleness and humility.  He is so gentle with us in our weakness and woundedness.  He is never harsh.

“We learn to be gentle with ourselves by experiencing the intimate, heartfelt compassion of Jesus.” (Brennan Manning)

Rather than beating myself up when I fail, why don’t I try instead to be careful, tactful, and gentle with my heart?  It really is a much more Christ-like response.

3)  Truthfully

“I tell you the truth…”  Over and over again in the Gospels, Jesus uses this expression.  We can always count on Him to tell us the truth about ourselves.  As Adrian Rogers once said,

“The truest thing about me is what God says about me.”

But He doesn’t just tell us the truth.  I find it intriguing that whenever ‘truth’ is mentioned in the Bible, it is often paired with something else, like kindness (Proverbs 3:3), grace (John 1:14) or love (Ephesians 4:15).  The Lord is both truth-telling and grace-giving.

Following His example means I can be honest with myself.  I can own my sin and acknowledge my mistakes.  But I can do it in an atmosphere of acceptance, in a safe place called grace.

4)  Lovingly

“God told them, ‘I’ve never quit loving you and never will.  Expect love, love, and more love!’ “  (Jeremiah 31:3, The Message)

Just the other day I was assuring my twelve-year-old daughter that she can trust us and our decisions as her parents.  Because, the bottom line is–and always will be–that we LOVE her.  I too am a daughter who needs to be reminded that she is unconditionally and deeply loved by her heavenly Father.

“Define yourself radically as one beloved by God.  God’s love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth.  Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life.”  (John Eagan)

He chose me, loves me, and values me!  This changes everything, including how I treat and talk to myself.

I am a daughter of the King!  Remembering who I am should affect my self-talk.  (I can just hear Him saying, “Don’t talk to my daughter that way!”)  He is kind, gentle, truthful and loving towards me.  Shouldn’t I respond to myself in the same way?

I am “one beloved by God.”  And so are you!

Let’s address ourselves accordingly.

 

 

Take a few moments if you can and let the words of the Kari Jobe song, “My Beloved,” speak to your heart!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeP_hMttXDs

 

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Out on a Limb

I can feel my heart pounding inside my chest.  My hands are clammy as I type.  I’m not a risk taker.  I don’t like conflict.  I’m afraid of being judged.

Yet here I go, out on this limb.  (Deep breath.)

It’s a limb called “Tithe.”

When I began blogging I determined not to use this space as a soapbox, a platform to vent or push my own agenda.  Ephesians 4:29 is written out on a sticky note beside my computer screen, a filter for my words.  Are they Wholesome?  Edifying?  Timely?  Grace-giving?  I pray this post also passes that test.

I love God’s church, the beautiful bride of Christ.  I would never want to do anything to hurt or divide it.  I pray my words build up, not tear down.

But respectful dialogue and a different perspective on a subject can be healthy for the church.  Sometimes we are called to address a potentially controversial topic, to leave the comfort zone, the safe place.  Being out on a limb is scary.  But if God beckons us out there, He will hold us up.

Enough disclaimers.

Our pastor just issued a “90-Day Challenge.”  The challenge is to tithe (give 10% of your income) to the church for 90 days.  If at the end of that time you don’t feel God has blessed you, the church will gladly refund your money.  The biblical basis for this challenge can be found in the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Malachi.  Here God encourages His people to “bring the whole tithe into the storehouse” and to “test” Him to see if He will not pour out a blessing upon them.

I take God’s Word seriously.  And I certainly don’t want to miss out on a blessing.  But I will not be participating in the 90-Day Challenge, or taking the “Tithing Test,” as it is sometimes called.  Here’s why.

I don’t have a problem with encouraging people to give.  Greed is not a fruit of the Spirit.  We are called to be generous.  “For from him and through him and for him are all things.”  (Romans 11:36a, NIV)

I do have a problem, however, with the way tithing is taught and emphasized in many–if not most–Christian churches.  Tithing has become so widely accepted (and expected) as THE way to trust God with your finances.  It’s just what ‘good Christians’ do.  But I believe it is more of a cultural Christian practice than a biblical mandate.

The “tithe” as we know it today is a far cry from the tithe of the Bible.  Tithing was a part of the Levitical law.  Devout Jews were required to bring a “tenth” of their produce and livestock at various times throughout the year, to help feed the temple priests, its officiants, and the poor.  The tithe was never money (even though currency was in use at that time).  It wasn’t even an actual 10%, but averaged more like 23% annually.  (For more on the historical tithe, check out the link below.)

The fact is, none of that matters or applies anymore.  Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from the demands of the law.  The New Covenant, one characterized by grace and freedom in Christ, is now in effect.  We are no longer obligated to keep the Old Covenant, which includes the tithe.

Christians are most definitely exhorted to give:  generously, cheerfully, voluntarily.*  But do a search of the word “tithe” in the New Testament.  Most notable is its complete absence in Paul’s instructions to the Church.  Believers will be hard pressed to find a command in the New Testament to tithe their income to the local church.  It’s just not there.**

I’m not saying it’s wrong if you prayerfully decide to give 10% to your local church.  Many of my godly friends tithe and I love and respect them.  For some, tithing can be a helpful financial discipline.  But I also don’t think God will punish you or withhold a blessing from you if you don’t.

If you are struggling financially, perhaps you need to hear that it’s okay to just humbly receive right now.  Maybe the church should be giving to you.  I love the fact that our church recently started a Facebook page to help meet practical needs within the church family.  It feels very much like a modern version of the early church.

But as for me and my house, we have chosen not to tithe.  This doesn’t mean we don’t support our local church and other Christian organizations.  We have at times given a percentage of a certain source of income (like our tax refund or the sale of a house) to God’s work.  Sometimes it has been 10%.  Sometimes it has been 100%.  I guess you could say we try to practice “Spirit-led giving.”

We don’t have it all down.  We still miss opportunities to bless.  But the Lord is patiently teaching and gently molding us into givers after His own heart.

A wrought iron sign hangs in a prominent place in our home.  It reads:

“Blessed by the Grace of God”

I love it because it’s a reminder to me that we have most certainly been blessed.  Abundantly.  So much more than we deserve.  And not because WE have done anything.  Simply because of God’s grace, given freely to us in Christ.

So the real test for me is not in tithing, but in trusting that God loves me and desires to bless me, independent of my performance.  Because God’s grace is another limb I am often nervous to inch out on.  It feels risky.  Is it really strong enough?  If I rely on it completely, and not on my own efforts, will it hold me up?

His grace is exhilarating, and it is enough.  I’m learning to rest in it as I rest my full weight on it.  His grace motivates and challenges me to give.  Freely, generously, as I have been given.

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.  For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-17, NAS)

 “…see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7b, NIV)

 

* (See 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.)

** (Matthew 23:23/Luke 11:42 is about the closest you’ll get.  Keep in mind that Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and referring to the temple tithe.)

~For inspiration on giving generously, go to:  http://www.generousgiving.org/

~For an in-depth study on the topic of tithing, try:  http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/ (Scroll down a little to get to the essay.)

 

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Imperfect Progress

I am a recovering perfectionist.

This may surprise those of you who have visited my home and observed my less-than-perfect housekeeping habits firsthand.  The problem with perfectionists is that we get trapped in this “all or nothing” mentality.  So if we can’t do something perfectly, we don’t want to do it at all.

I’m going to swallow my pride and share a current illustration of this in my life.  A little over three years ago I embarked on a weight loss journey.  It should not surprise you that I followed the program to a ‘t.’  As a result I lost over 30 pounds!  (34, to be exact.  We perfectionists like to be exact.)  This was huge for me (no sarcasm intended)!

Well, the weight stayed ‘lost’ for a while, but then the pounds started finding me again.  I finally recommitted to lose the extra weight again almost a year later and managed to shed ten of those unwanted pounds.  Unfortunately within the following year they paid me a return visit, only this time they each brought a friend!  So, once again, I re-enrolled in my weight loss program, bid twenty pounds farewell and (once again) arrived at my goal weight after several months of faithfully sticking to the plan.

Now, is it just me or did you notice a pattern here?  In case you missed it, let me highlight it for you:  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  Gain.  Lose.  I’m quite experienced in the weight gain department.  I had grown in my ability to lose weight.  But I was tired of this teeter totter.  Pounds up.  Pounds down.  I needed to develop a new skill: maintaining a healthy weight.

About the time I was longing to jump off this playground ride, a verse jumped out at me during a Sunday morning sermon.  It was Philippians 3:16, from the New Living Translation:  “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”   I had made progress in my weight loss journey.  The challenge now was holding on to it!

When the pounds start creeping back on, my perfectionist tendencies kick in.  I feel like a failure and quit trying.  The scales then tip (no pun intended) drastically in the other direction.  I relinquish nearly all the progress I have made.

But I’ve recently adopted a new mantra, one that is helping to change my unbalanced,  “all or nothing” approach to life.  Lysa TerKeurst shared it in her new book, Unglued.  Fellow perfectionists, recite with me:

“Imperfect progress is the goal.”

It has taken me awhile to really believe this.  Little by little, however, I’m becoming more comfortable accepting my imperfections.  I have good days and bad days.  But I’m learning to pick myself up and forgive myself when I fail.  I don’t have to let one bad day turn into a month of bad days.  God’s mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:23)

I’m still learning how to maintain a healthy weight.  I have my ups and downs.  (Pun intended.)  But God sees my heart, and knows that I’m sincerely trusting Him to help me change–even when the number on the scale is moving in the wrong direction.  His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect(!) in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)  I’m so thankful for that.

It’s a battle sometimes (okay, all the time!).  But I’m still in it and I’m not giving up.  For me, that in itself is progress.

So here I am, no longer swinging from one extreme to the other, learning to live somewhere in the messy middle.

Imperfect, but making progress.

His work in progress.

And you know what?

I think I just might be perfectly okay with that.

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