True Greatness (Understanding Adornment Biblically)

It’s always interesting to me how much of Jesus’ teaching is completely counter-intuitive! Who would have thought that in order to gain your life, you must give it up? Who would have thought that you are blessed if you are persecuted for righteousness sake? Who would have thought that the way to be supplied with everything you need is to give your money and possessions away to the poor? Yet, somehow, strange as it may sound, there’s something really intriguing and appealing to me about every one of Jesus’ counter-intuitive teachings. But I must say, the one about becoming great by becoming a servant is especially intriguing to me these days. See Matthew 20:25-28, and Mark 9:33-35 for a synopsis of Jesus’ teaching on this.

What better way to understand what it means to become great by serving than to take a good look at the example that Jesus set for us. Do you remember the last time he ate with his disciples before he was betrayed, how he dressed himself to serve them? Recall how he replaced his outer garment with a towel, poured water into basin and washed the disciples’ feet? He did this as an example, explaining, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

This is only one of many ways that Jesus served throughout his lifetime, culminating in the greatest act of service: giving his life as a ransom for many. But there was one thing that stood out to me in this particular story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, though. I was impressed with the intentionality that Jesus showed in dressing himself to serve them. I have found that to be a helpful, practical thing to imitate.

As women identified with Christ, what do we typically think about when it comes to how we dress? Modesty, right? I’ve got news for you: the goal shouldn’t just be modesty alone. The goal according to 1 Timothy 2:9-10 is to adorn ourselves with good works.

Do you ever consider, when you face the clothes in your closet at the beginning of a day, how you might best dress for service? I’m sure you have on occasion, like when you know that you are going to help a friend work on a house project or unload a moving truck. But what about on a normal day?

It’s been super helpful to me to think through this for several reasons. For one, it helps me start out the day with the right mindset. I’m already expecting those opportunities to serve to show up in my day, and I’m essentially deciding ahead of time to take those opportunities.

Secondly, there have been times in my life that I’ve wanted to jump in and serve in certain ways, but have been handicapped by my choice of clothing. If you’re a woman, you probably know what I’m talking about. There are certain things that we can wear that are perfectly modest and can easily remain modest for the whole day, so long as we plan only to socialize and relax. But those same clothing items can also easily become immodest the moment we need to bend over and use both of our hands. I think it’s so worthwhile to make choices ahead of time that will free us up to serve in various ways without worrying about this. It may take some time and energy to build a wardrobe that is conducive to this and also classy, but it is very possible. If Jesus really meant what he said about how to become great (and he always does mean what he says),  don’t you think this is worthwhile pursuit?

-Laura Anne

A Happy Daughter’s Memories

You know one thing that was really cool about my childhood? My dad traveled a lot for his Christian ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rejoicing in the fact that he was gone a lot. But I truly always saw it as a positive thing, and I think there’s good reason for that.

For one, I always knew he was out there doing exactly what God wanted him to do. My mom had a great attitude about it that made us all feel it was important and right for him to be where he was. I never once felt that he was neglecting us.

Secondly, instead of making us miss out on crucial “daddy” time, I think the whole situation made for better quality “daddy” time than most people get to experience. My brothers and I had the privilege of taking turns accompanying him on his trips! What a remarkable way to bond!

My dad always did have a way of making the most ordinary things seem extra special. These trips in many ways to him, and eventually to us, became quite ordinary: the airplane travel, the airport wait time, the first peek into the hotel room, the continental breakfast. But somehow dad would make each part seem extra special in a unique way each time. Whether it was sketching funny faces together on a scrap of paper in the airplane, or splurging on a Macdonalds ice cream cone in the airport while waiting on a flight, or simply appreciating my excitement at the cream cheese, or the “real milk” (as opposed to the powdered stuff we drank at home) I found at the hotel’s breakfast spread in the morning. It didn’t take much to please me. Just seeing the smile on my dad’s face that told me that he was enjoying his little daughter meant the world.

These trips also bring to mind a lot of valued experiences making new friends, seeing new sights, enjoying warm hospitality, eating delicious food, and of course, hearing the same sermons and the same jokes over and over (and somehow, surprisingly enjoying them afresh with each fresh audience). How much I would have missed if my dad had just had an ordinary job! I wouldn’t trade my childhood experiences for anyone else’s in the world!

-Laura Anne

Gracelessness

Symptoms: unusual clumsiness, amusement at oneself, often followed by increased clumsiness, greater hilarity, and occasional need for assistance in accomplishing ordinary tasks. Symptoms occur almost daily, but are usually worse every few days. Symptoms do not include embarrassment or low self-esteem and are not general thought unpleasant, only inconvenient.

Treatment: Relax. This is not a life-threatening disease, and always goes away on its own within a couple of months. For 98% of people it only lasts a few days or weeks. It may reoccur from time to time throughout your life, however. There is no treatment generally agreed upon to lessen the impact of the disease. Some local doctors suggest various natural remedies, which you can find on other sites if you wish. My suggestion is to simply enjoy the entertainment while it lasts. It’s not every day that clumsy the clown goes to town with such skill, so play it up and have fun!

– Laura Anne (a frequent relisher of the disease)

God’s Incredible Love

I had plans to write about something different today, but this morning I have been feeling particularly thankful for God’s love for mankind, so I decided I’d rather express those thoughts instead. The story of God’s love is more beautiful to me than any other story I’ve ever heard or read. It’s not fictional. It’s not just a nice Hallmark based on the true events of people that I’ve never met. It’s a personal story about God’s incredible goodness towards me and includes the stories of many other people who also (like me) don’t deserve what they’ve been privileged to experience. I want to tell you the part of the story that relates to me.

Most of what I truly used to be was hidden from the public eye. You might have known me in my earlier years and never noticed the signs of who I was on the inside. I was selfish, not in the way that made me unpleasant to be around, but that selfishness was at the core of everything I did. My selfishness drove me to be dishonest. I became a liar, and I frequently cheated on my schoolwork. I was a girl who never desired to do anything for anyone unless I felt I would be recognized or appreciated for doing it. I had very little consideration for God and his word. I lived the morals of the Bible so far as I felt they benefited me (if they made me look good, or feel good), but where they seemed to counter what I thought was more comfortable or enjoyable, I always chose to ignore them and live my own way. Beneath my sweet exterior was a lot of ugliness and rebellion that was not hidden from the eyes of the all-knowing God. Why would God have any consideration for such a self-centered, foolish, disobedient girl as I was? Yet he did!

1.) He pulled me out of slavery to my sin, and gave me a new desire to love and serve him.

2.) He forgave me of all my sin, and freed me from the coming judgement. I no longer need to fear his wrath.

3.) He continues to give me a greater and greater desire and ability to obey him, and I find I trust him more and more the longer I know his ways.

4.) He promises that no one can snatch me out of his hand and nothing can separate me from his love.

5.) He has prepared great things for all those who love him. I look forward to spending eternity with him in the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells!

As Paul Washer of Heartcry ministry once put it:

“What Grace! He declares the wicked righteous by the blood of his dear Son. He prepares good deeds for them by his sovereign will. He empowers them by his Spirit, and then he rewards them for what they have done as if they had done it. What grace! What marvelous grace!”

-Laura Anne

The Use of the Tongue

Lately I’ve been spending some time in the Proverbs. Anyone who has ever read the proverbs has probably notice that there is a quite a bit said about the tongue. What we say is a big deal. So big, in fact, that Jesus once said, “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). This is because our words reveal what is in our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

Since this topic of the tongue keeps popping up in proverbs, it’s been on my mind. And I’ve noticed myself saying some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. I may have thought I didn’t really struggle much in this area, but after looking again into the mirror of the word, I’m seeing that I need to be a little more cautious here. It’s just like the Lord to humble me and guide my feet in the right direction.

I’ve noticed that the Bible speaks of two sides of the issue: How we shouldn’t use our tongue, and how we should use our tongue. I think we all can pretty easily pull up a list of ways we shouldn’t use our tongues. For some reason that side seems to be talked about more. But I just wanted to quickly share a couple of verses about how we should use the tongues:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that is may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

So we see that we should use our tongues to build up others, and to give grace.

The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.

I liked this verse, because of the picture of feeding others with what we say. It seems to imply an intentionality. I think of a mother bird, finding and digesting worms to feed to her little ones though her beak. In the same way, we would do well to prepare ourselves to feed others with our words.

– Laura Anne

A Reason to Smile

Back in early June, I was talking with my friend Amy at a picnic. Here’s one thing that I told her: “It’s funny, I must be smiling a lot more lately, because I keep noticing that my jaw is tired and then it dawns on me that I’ve had my mouth in a smile for a long stretch. I’m not quite sure why I’m smiling more, but I know I am.” We laughed, and that was that conversation.

Later, though, I reflected on this smiling business, and found it pretty easy to pinpoint at least one reason why I’d been feeling happier. Makes a whole lot of sense, actually.

Back up a week or two earlier, and I had been in a fairly prayer-less phase of life. I was going about my life with little thought to ask God and thank God for things. Once in a while I would set aside time to pray, but have trouble feeling very connected or thinking of much to pray for, and would end up a bit discouraged. I started to remember the best seasons of prayerful communion with God that I’d had in the past, and to want to have that again.

So I determined, as a step toward that, I would set aside 5-10 minutes every day to simply “sit in God’s presence.” Let me try to explain what I mean by that, since I’m sure it’s not easily understood. First off, I realize that the entirety of our lives are spent in God’s presence, so I had no intention of separating time into two categories (that spent in His presence and that spent away from it). Instead, my intention was simply to set aside specific time each day to remind myself of His continuing presence. I didn’t necessarily intend for this to be a time of “prayer” so much as a time of reflection. Though I found it often naturally turned into prayer.

For me, it was a time to acknowledge God. To meditate on His existence and nearness. To remember my relationship to Him and His relationship to me. Similar to a little girl who hangs around her mother’s skirt or who wants to be held in her mother’s arms, even when there is no communication between them, it was a time for me to simply “be” with God, putting myself in a frame of mind that desired to communicate with Him.

It wasn’t long before such a small thing began to make a significant difference! I found myself naturally asking Him for things and thanking Him for things, not only during the time I had set aside, but all throughout the day, because I was tuned into His presence in a way I hadn’t been for some time. It was only natural and it still remains the natural thing for me.

And so, I believe I started to smile more often as well. It’s a beautiful thing to be bought with a price by the blood of His Son, adopted into His family to be cared for as His own sons and daughters! Experiencing that close relationship in daily communication is such a wonderful reason to smile! Wouldn’t you agree?

– Laura Anne

More Verbatim Scripture Songs

I have a confession to make. Of the verbatim Bible songs we own that are not free, my very favorites were made for children. I don’t have a problem with that.

Okay, I’ll admit to turning the volume down in the before I pull up someplace where people might hear what I’m listening to, just in case somebody might notice. But really, I’m not sure exactly why I feel the need to do that, because these CDs I’m going to mention actually contain nice music. I think a lot of adults would concur. The songs are quality enough that my whole family enjoys them, and I’m the youngest of the clan. I actually think I could fool you (with many of the songs) into thinking that they were meant for adults. So if you’re not too dignified to try them out, you should definitely invest. Of course, if you have kids at home, you have no reason to be embarrassed anyway.

Here are the ones you need: Seeds Family Worship (8 cds, I think) and Jim Spencer’s Scripture Memory Songs (1 and 2).

That will keep you busy for a while, but when you start wanting fresh material, here are some more ideas to try. These are actually written for adults:

Mark Atrogge (or Alligator as we call him, since we’ve never been quite sure how to pronounce his last name) has 10 Scripture song cds here.

Jim Orrick has 2 cds of Bible music. Jim Orrick is an old family friend of ours. My friend Lydia wrote a post about his music and included an order form on her blog for His albums. Check that out here.

You can also check out the Fighter Verse songs. There are enough good ones to make a nice “best of” cd, but you have to do some weeding. Benjamin’s already done the work of finding the ones that he thinks are worth buying, so you can get that information from us if you want.

Sherri Youngward has Scripture Songs 1 and 2, but be aware that she does some translation mixing on a few of the songs to make them work. Around here we call that cheating, but it’s not as bad straight up paraphrasing. We’re kind of hard core about wanting our songs to be word-for-word, so we were a little disappointed when we discovered that she did that. But, she has a really nice sound. I like her choice of instrumentation. Certainly worth the money.

Slugs and Bugs by Randal Goodgame is also nice (this one is for Children). Some of the songs are paraphrased Scripture, though, so be aware of that.

Michael E. Owens has some in psalter style, for those who like that.

I forgot to mention 2 other free albums last time. There is a set of songs from Philippians, and a set from Galatians, done by Covenant Life Church. Visit this site and scroll down until you see the ones by Covenant Life Church.

Hope you have fun exploring these!

– Laura Anne