Laudable Linkage

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It has been a little while since I have shared noteworthy reads with you. Here are a few:

Encouragement for Bible Reading From Puritan Women, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “Let these seventeenth-century women remind you that even if there are parts of the Bible you feel upset about or don’t understand, there is life to be found in it because God speaks to you through it.”

Always Wanting More. As Christian women, we encourage each other not to compare ourselves lest it damage our self-esteem. But the issue is much large than self-esteem.

The Cost of Surrounding Yourself With Negative People. I’ve had some of these same thoughts. Avoiding negative people is listed in a lot of self-help advice for increase your own happiness and productivity. But what if God wants you to be a light to those people? And didn’t Jesus reach out to those who were negative in every way?

Whatever Happened to Civil Debate, HT to Challies. “We’ve simply lost the ability to think deeply, engage opinions different from ours, and do so in a civilized manner.”

Thank You, God, for Failure, HT to Challies.. There is much we can learn from it.

Don’t Sing Noisy Songs, HT to Challies.. No, it’s not about contemporary vs. traditional or loud vs. soft.

What Not to Say to Someone in the Hospital.

A Simple Hinge. Neat connection to inward beauty.

I’m noting this one just because this phrase is so apt: “…the spirit of this age, which eschews thoughtful argument about difficult issues for moronic and often malicious soundbites.”

On Writing (More) by Hannah Anderson makes much sense to me though it goes against much of the other writing advice I have seen. Except the part about comments: I enjoy comments. 🙂

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Finalists, HT to Laura. These are always fun. One of my favorites:

Happy Saturday!

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The Ministry of the Mundane

One morning I chafed over having to go to the grocery store – again. I had just gone the day before, but that store didn’t have everything I needed, plus we were getting ready for company and needed a few extras. I groused inwardly about spending way too much of my life in stores and how I had other things I’d much rather be doing.

All of a sudden the thought came to mind, “She bringeth her food from afar.”

You might recognize that as part of the Proverbs 31 woman‘s description. In fact, a lot of what she did was everyday, seemingly mundane stuff: planting, cooking, sewing, weaving, buying, selling. In those days, with no Amazon, super Wal-Marts, or even grocery or clothing stores, most of what she made for herself, her family, and her home was done by hand, from scratch.

Thankfully I don’t have to weave my own cloth. I don’t even have to go too much “afar” to gather my food. We have four grocery stores within a ten-minute drive, and all but one of them lets customers order online and pick up their groceries curbside. So I really don’t have anything to complain about.

It helps me to realize, or remember, that gathering and preparing food is part of what I am supposed to do. Somebody has to do it. My husband doesn’t mind going to the store for me sometimes, but I don’t like to ask him since he already works more than 40 hours a week and then has yard work and house maintenance on top of that.

But realizing it’s part of my job helps me not to chafe: this is just as important as anything else that seems more valuable. It’s part of my ministry to my family.

I’ve wondered why so much of life is made of the mundane. A friend who was a missionary said that when she first went to the field, she had no idea she would be spending so much time in the kitchen. I remember Elisabeth Elliot writing about dealing with a recalcitrant stove or heater and wondering at how much time, especially in a third world country, is made up of such activities. I remember hearing a missionary lady once say that in her country, they still had milkmen pick up their empty milk bottles, and part of her testimony and reputation involved having clean milk bottles out on her porch at the appointed time.

As I have been pondering these things the last few days, I came up with a few possible reasons so many mundane tasks.

The rubber meets the road in those everyday duties. It’s easy to think about loving and serving our fellow man or woman while at home in a quiet, pleasant room with our Bibles. It’s another thing when our fleshly nature bumps up against each other in the real world.

A good work ethic is a testimony to others. Luther was purported to have said, “The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes.” This article disputes that. I understand the article’s view that it’s not something Luther would have said, but I don’t totally agree with their logic. Perhaps you’ve known someone who thought they served God better by witnessing to people than by doing their job. But we’re admonished to do our work “heartily, as unto the Lord.” We’ve all experienced the pangs of faulty workmanship, employees or even ministry partners who do a slipshod job, creating problems and frustration for fellow-workers, bosses, customers. Sure, we have Mary and Martha‘s example, and we know it’s possible to have wrong priorities, and we need to set aside the earthly for the heavenly sometimes. But when it’s time to work, it’s time to do it well and efficiently.

These tasks teach patience, endurance, perseverance, fortitude, service, thoughtfulness of others.

I can’t do even these things in the right way and spirit without God’s help and grace. I just stumbled across this quote in my files from Oswald Chambers (source unknown): “The things Jesus did were the most menial of tasks, and this is an indication that it takes all of God’s power in me to accomplish even the most common tasks in His way. Can I use a towel as He did?” God filled the workmen of the tabernacle with “the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship.” He goes on to say, “I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you” (Exodus 31:1-6, ESV).

Ministry to others can be shown through the mundane. Someone said of Francis and Edith Shaeffer, “As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons!” Practical help is just as needful as spiritual help.

When Amy Carmichael’s ministry began to change from evangelism to caring for children, she questioned whether God had really called her to be a “nursemaid” when there were so many other needs and ways she could be used. “It was then that she read the words from John 13, how the Lord of glory ‘took a towel and girded Himself.’…never again did she question whether her gifts were being wasted. She knew that the Master never wastes the servant’s time.” (Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank Houghton)

Mr. Houghton also writes that, “Occasionally someone suggested that character-training of boys and girls…or, still more, the erection of buildings to house them, was not evangelistic work, and therefore not worthy of support.” Amy wrote, “Well, one cannot save and then pitchfork souls into heaven…and as for buildings, souls (in India, at least) are more or less securely fastened into bodies. Bodies cannot be left to lie about in the open, and as you cannot get the souls out and deal with them separately, you have to take them both together.”

We don’t always necessarily have to be doing anything “spiritual” to show forth the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One of my favorite blogger friends writes about what’s going on in her home and family, but even in her homemaking tasks she reflects the spirit of a woman who walks closely with God. She’s not trying to show that: it just shines through her. In everything she shows “a sense of Him.”

Perhaps, too, the weight of physical, everyday tasks is a reminder that we live in a physical world with limitations and constant needs. That reminder increases our anticipation and longing for the day we’ll be released from these bodies and this world.

At any rate, my perspective changed that day. I had no thought of Labor Day when I first started compiling these thoughts, but perhaps it’s appropriate on this particular day to remind ourselves that “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23, NASB).

I still need to remind myself frequently that my physical tasks are as needful and important as any type of ministry task. I can do them as unto the Lord. Sure, there are ways I can improve: e.g, planning better can help reduce the number of trips to the store. And I still have plenty of time for things like reading and writing – much more time than the Proverbs 31 woman had. But I can serve, as she did, with strength, dignity, industriousness, kindness, and reverence. Even at the grocery store.

(Sharing with Inspire Me MondayLiterary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

Welcome to my latest round-up of noteworthy reads around the web:

The Error of Counterfeit Holiness. “Making holiness primarily consist of externals confuses what holiness is versus what holiness does. Defining holiness by what it does leads to works-dependence. Defining holiness by what it is leads to God-dependence.

How Self-esteem Ruins Bible Reading.

Share Ministry, Even If It’s No Big Deal, Because It Actually Is, HT to Challies.

Why I Abandoned Seeker Church, HT to Challies. Lots of good thoughts here.

Difficult Relationship? Write an Action Statement.

Our Bodies and Birth Trauma This Side of Eden, HT to True Woman.

God Calls Me to Motherhood and Art. How Do I Do Both? HT to Story Warren.

The Spiritual Discipline of Driving With the Radio Off, HT to Linda. I do like the radio or an audiobook on in the car, but I need and treasure silent moments in other parts of the day.

And finally, a couple of thoughts from Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest round-up of noteworthy reads on the Web:

How to Shipwreck Your Theology. ““What is the most brilliant theology good for if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house?”

Maybe Women are Some of the Worst Offenders.

9 Things to Know About a Widow’s Grief.

Love Letter to a Lesbian, HT to True Woman, from a former lesbian.

“Let Me Know How I Can Help!” (This Will, Because They Won’t), HT to Linda. Practical ways to ask for or offer help in a time of need.

How Breastfeeding Changed My View of God, HT to True Woman. “God’s love for us is no Hallmark sentiment. This image is not primarily a celebration of our newborn cuteness…Rather, this verse reveals God’s hard-won, self-giving, dogged commitment to our good, a refusal to let us go—however frustrating we become, an insistence on seeing his image in us—and a painful provision for our most desperate need.”

C. S. Lewis’s Wonderful Letters to Children. I love his manner with them.

A Pathway to a Full Life.

This is cool and somewhat mesmerizing to watch: magnetism in slow motion, HT to The Story Warren:

Happy Saturday!

Caregiver Resentment

Even though my mother-in-law is sweet and easy to get along with, I sometimes battle resentment over the circumstances of caregiving: feeling tied down, having strangers coming in my home at irregular times, etc. I’m guest posting today at The Perennial Gen about ways God is helping me deal with caregiver resentment.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday)

Working as unto the Lord

Some friends were talking about frustrations on the job. In both cases, worker error led to continual faulty workmanship or late deliveries which caused problems from mild annoyance to a factory crisis. Though upper and middle management has its flaws and problems, in these particular cases, it was the rank and file employees’ mistakes or carelessness that caused ripple effects. It doesn’t matter what slick ads or CEOs promise if the person on the nuts and bolts end of a product fails.

Employment issues are far beyond my purview, since I have been a stay-at-home mom for 30+ years. But I couldn’t keep my “fix-it” mentality from exploring different causes and helps that I might have proposed if I worked for either of their companies. Perhaps the employees lost sight of the big picture of how important their contributions were and they were just “punching the clock.” Maybe they needed inspiration to remind them that every little piece, every little step in the process is a vital one, that customer satisfaction and the success of their company rests on their shoulders. Maybe picturing the customer holding their product in his or her hands and delighting over it would motivate working with that end result in mind. Perhaps the employees were distracted by coworkers or problems at home. Perhaps recognition for good work would help transform and elevate mediocre efforts. Perhaps a pay raise might help them feel more encouraged about their jobs. People are only human and user error happens, but we should learn from our mistakes rather than excusing them. We do need to understand that customer dissatisfaction leads to a loss of customers which leads to a loss of business which leads to a loss of income which leads to a layoff or even a company closing.

Such problems come up in areas besides one’s job. I’ve worked on ministry projects at churches where we couldn’t use everything we made because some weren’t put together well. We have to extend grace: none of us performs at 100% all the time and our standing with God and our fellow Christian is not based on performance. There are times to overlook flaws. On the other hand, we shouldn’t have the attitude that our work doesn’t matter because we’re saved and sustained by grace. At one church where we ministered, I privately expressed dismay that several “wordless books” made of felt by the ladies to send to one of our missionaries had the pages out of order. The lady I was talking to said, “Well, they’ll get the idea.” This lady wasn’t commending careless workmanship: she was a missionary daughter whose family, I am sure, had to “make do” with materials of various quality sent by well-meaning supporters. But we should do our best to create and send excellent tools rather than ones that the recipient will have to “make do” with or adapt in some way.

For Christians, we have a higher motivation to do good work and a bigger picture to keep in mind. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Proverbs commends the diligent man: “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men” (22:29); “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty” (28:19). Luke 16:10 says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

Exodus 31:1-6 tells us of two men appointed to be workmen for the tabernacle furnishings:

The Lord said to Moses,  “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you.

Even though these men were doing physical labor rather than preaching or teaching, they needed to be filled with the Spirit of God for their work. And so do we, whatever our place or function in our company, organization, or church. Our abilities and talents come from the Lord: let’s use them for the pleasure and glory of our Father and King.

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(Sharing with Inspire me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee for your Heart, Porch Stories)

Rethinking Spiritual Gifts

Lately I’ve been rethinking what I thought I knew about spiritual gifts.

Spiritual gifts are those particular abilities that the Holy Spirit gives people when they are saved by which He wants to work through them to edify the body of Christ. You can find lists of them in Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-11.

Some years ago “spiritual gift tests” were all the rage: questions and multiple choice answers recorded on “fill in the bubble” sheets which were then tabulated to reveal what your spiritual gifts were.

The idea was to help people identify their spiritual gifts so they’d know how they best fit into the ministry of the church and not waste their time frustrated and ineffective in an area where they’re not gifted. And that can be helpful. In my more trial-and error path, I’ve participated in ministries that left me frustrated, and I thought the problem was my attitude. Then when I was asked to take a different position, I felt I had found my niche, and it was a completely different experience.

But I always felt those tests were more about personality and natural aptitude. I think God does give us our personality and tendencies, but are they different from spiritual gifts?

Sometimes God drops us into a situation that we don’t feel gifted for at all: in fact, we feel totally inadequate. When Moses said, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue,” God did not contradict him. God didn’t reassure Moses that that of course Moses could speak and only needed was a little confidence. No, God said, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” God’s call for Moses had nothing to do with the natural ability which which He created Moses and everything to do with God’s enabling Moses for a task for which Moses felt totally unsuited.

Gideon, Jeremiah, Jonah, and others didn’t greet God’s call on their lives with “Sounds great! That’s just the kind of opportunity I was looking for!”

That’s where I am with caregiving. Someone I knew said of their daughter, who was training to be a nurse, that she was a “natural caregiver.” Another friend who is a nurse spoke of loving to use the talents God had given her to minister to people in that way – another natural caregiver. That’s not me. I want people to be cared for, particularly my mother-in-law. But I have never been good with or felt inclined to the hands-on type of caregiving she is in need of now, except with my own children.

Yet here we are. Do I tell God, “There must be some mistake. Not only am I not gifted for this, but it’s keeping me from what I feel I am gifted for.” Probably not a good idea. Spiritual gift tests can sometimes foster a “That’s not my job” syndrome when we’re asked to do something outside of our comfort zone.

Though we need to rely on God’s help, grace, and strength even for those areas where we feel He has gifted us, there’s nothing like being totally out of our element to make us lean on Him and plea for His enabling like never before. And though the main point of caregiving isn’t about me, but rather about showing love and ministering to my mother-in-law, perhaps one reason He has allowed this opportunity is to teach me lessons about my own selfishness as well as serving and loving others in the way they most need it, not in the way I am “comfortable” showing it.

There have been other opportunities through the years for which I did not feel suited, yet did not feel the freedom of conscience to say no. I’m not talking about being a doormat and saying yes to everything I was asked to do because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m talking about seriously considering and praying over an opportunity, dreading it, locking myself in the bathroom to cry over it, yet still feeling like it was something God wanted me to do. And I have seen God turn the dread into excitement, provide ideas, enable me to my own amazement. Afterwards I have looked back and thought, “I can’t believe I did that! Only with God’s help!”

So which ones are the truly spiritual gifts? The God-given aptitudes with which we minister every day? Or the out-of-our-element opportunities that cast us on the Lord in desperate need? Maybe both in their own ways. In either case, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV).

(Revised from the archives)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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I don’t usually post these two weeks in a row, but I came across several good reads this week, and some pertain to Easter.

Ten Things You Should Know About the Cross, HT to Challies.

What If Jesus Really DID Rise From the Dead?

Despite Loving Christian Parents, I Left the Faith, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Good tips for parents at the end.

When a Member of Your Church Is Dying, HT to Linda.

Should I Bring My Kids to a Funeral? HT to Story Warren.

The Blessing of a Good Example, HT to Challies.

9 Things That Quiet, Awkward Introvert Wishes You Knew, HT to Linda.

Are home renovations necessary?  HT to Linda. Nothing wrong with home renovations, but all the flip and fix shows popular now can make us discontent.

“Let patience have her perfect work”

Sometimes when people are going through a hardship or loss or suffering in some way, we want to “fix” it. And that can be good: sometimes the very reason God allows something to come to our attention is so that we can help in whatever way He has prompted us and gifted us to help.

But sometimes in our attempts to fix or set things “right,” we can seem to minimize someone else’s concerns or brush off their situation as not really that hard. Many of us are familiar with Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Too often we want to make those who are weeping rejoice instead. That’s not wrong in itself: there’s certainly time for encouragement, for gently helping someone restore their focus, for cheering someone up. But there are also times to just sympathize.

We run a few risks when we don’t take that time to sympathize. The person might not feel heard and validated, and in that case, nothing we say is going to register. Or, we might make them feel somehow “less than” an ideal spiritual Christian for having such a struggle. We not only fail to help them, but also they’re sure not going to open up to us next time.

Here is an example: a single person says she sometimes struggles with loneliness and discontentment. Most Christians rush to point out that we need to find our contentment in Christ and not a human being, that no human being can totally meet our needs, that Paul says being single provides many more opportunities to serve the Lord. And those are all true. But we’re bypassing the cry of her heart: loneliness is hard. And it’s not unspiritual to feel lonely. God is the One who said it wasn’t good for man to be alone and who inspired Solomon to write “two are better than one.” He knows the hardship, yet He allows it for other purposes.

Or someone’s husband dies. We rush to assure that her loved one is in a better place. True, if they’ve believed on Christ. And we’ll see them again. True. But it hurts like everything until that time comes. It hurts when a loved one is away for a week, even with smartphones and Skype and texts and all the ways we have to keep in touch: how much more when they’re away for years with no contact? The Bible calls death an enemy. So while death has lost its sting and we don’t sorrow like those who have no hope, we do still sorrow.

Sometimes we find grace by acknowledging the pain and working through it rather than by downplaying it. I so appreciated the pastor speaking at a funeral of a young mom of five children: he said publicly to her husband, “I don’t know how you’re going to do it. You’re going to need God’s grace.” The husband was probably thinking the same thing, that he had no idea how he was going to carry on parenting five children without his wife while also missing her companionship. How refreshing to have someone acknowledge that rather that quote Romans 8:28, pat him on the back, and go on his merry way. The pastor pointed to the available and needful grace of God without minimizing the hardship.

James 1:3-4 says, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. The ESV says, instead of patience, steadfastness: the NASB says endurance. If God allows trials to help us grow and strengthen our faith, among other reasons, we need to let it do its work, to work through grief and pain rather than bypassing it. We need to offer comfort and assistance, yes, but without short-circuiting or brushing away the depth or effect of it. Acknowledge it. Empathize with it. Someone once said Job’s friends did more for him when they sat in silence with him for a week than by saying all that they said to him.

True, sometimes we whine or wallow and need to adjust our perspective. Sometimes our thinking is wrong and needs adjustment. James even says to count it joy when we experience trials, not that the trial is joyful, but that God is using it to do a work of some kind in us. Sometimes as a friend or counselor, it’s not easy to know just what to say or how to help. That’s why I am so glad the next verses in James assure us that we can ask God for wisdom. He also reminds us a few verses later to be swift to hear and slow to speak. We need to hear people out and seek God’s wisdom rather than presuming or assuming or rushing in to “set them straight.” Sometimes God does guide and give us something to say in the moment. Sometimes all we can say is, “I don’t know why God is allowing this, but I know He has a reason. It’s hard. I don’t know how to help. But I can listen and pray with you.

When we go through a trial of some sort, usually we just want relief, preferably from a change in circumstances, or at least by finding some way of making the situation easier. And that’s fine, both to pray for and seek for relief. And when people sometimes say the wrong thing, we can avoid bitterness and appreciate that at least they were trying to help. When people don’t understand, we can encourage ourselves in the Lord. Sometimes that lack of understanding is part of the trial. But in the midst of all of that, we need to remind ourselves that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). We can let them do their work; we can trust in and work with God’s processes and purposes; we can ask Him what He wants us to learn through it all. And knowing that God is working something in us, even when we don’t understand, we can “rejoice in our sufferings” (verse 3).

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Writer Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are a few thought-provoking posts discovered recently.

Heart Check: 4 Questions to Gauge the Stage of Your Heart.

My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness. Interview with Rachel Denhollander.

Most of Life Is Waiting. “I feared my circumstances more than I feared God. I had lost sight of the reality that both trials and triumphs are part of the good story God is writing through me.”

On Threats From a Hostile Culture.

Don’t Hold Loved Ones Back From God.

The Simple Beauty of Wisdom. The ladies at Do Not Depart have been studying through Proverbs in January and end with the last two chapters. I thought the comments about the “virtuous woman” in particular were very practical and encouraging.

What Do We Do With the King James Version?

Enneagram: The Road Back to You, Or to Somewhere Else?, HT to Challies.

How the Mom Internet Became a Spotless, Sponsored Void, HT to Challies. I don’t think it’s totally dead, and I think there is a place for both the “raw” and the “pretty” types of mom blogs, but this makes some insightful observations.

Physician to Parents: You’re Doing It Wrong. The title is a little off-putting, but he has some practical advice here.

Why You Can’t Measure the Value of Homemaking, HT to Challies.

Don’t Stop Coming.

Happy Saturday!