Sunday, July 16, 2017

A common judgement

At Cottage Grove Church this morning in Des Moines, and a friend --- the pastor --- is speaking on Matthew 7 1-12.

It's a familiar passage from the Sermon on the Mount, and it starts with a oft-spoken phrase, "Jusge not lest you be judged."

I loved his metaphor --- imagine running cross country and a dad on the sideline drinking pop and eating cookies and telling you how to make it up the next hill. "You have never done this before, and you can't do it. Stop telling me how unless you do it yourself."

We use the wrong standard --- a sinful standard --- when we judge others. We aren't perfect, and we can't expect others to be. We are actually unable to judge, because we have such issues within ourselves. We look through foggy glasses, through a log, through sin, and that means we can't see that speck in someone else. We aren't objective.

"You're foolish. Your sin issues are larger than the person you're calling out."

Instead, approach others humbly and look at yourself as just as much of the problem in a conflict than the other person. When I do blame myself for something, I often feel like the culture is instead telling me, "No, you're the victim. It's not your fault." That's not how I should be looking at it. I should be humble and realize I have a sinful nature that is preventing me from being objective.

Verse 5 says to take the log out of your own eye and then you can help take the speck out of your brother's eye. So you are allowed to address sin, but to help, and after you have humbly looked at the situation. There's a right way to judge sin --- from God's viewpoint, and with the understanding that we are also sinful and want to help.

The verse about not casting pearls before swine, means don't throw valuables to filth. Trying to share correction with a scoffer, an evil person --- not only will be a waste but it will also harm you. Sometimes we must step back and let God do the heart change. However, it does not mean to give up on people. Maybe it's best to pray first and speak second. I forget the prayer part a lot.

Basically, the point is that God has given us grace, has taken our judgment. We need to treat others in a way that shows we understand this.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Satan just wants us to fail

Satan wants us to fail.

I think we overlook this fact far to often in our lives, thinking if we just try hard enough that we will accomplish what we want, forgetting that someone is actively working against us.

Think about if you're at work, and you have a new project. You are working hard and trying to get everything perfect, but you're working on your own and planning for your success.

Now, think about that situation if you have a co-worker who hates you and is actively trying to get you to fail at that project. Not only are you working hard and trying for success, you're also covering every other possible base that your co-worker might use to make you slip up. You're much more conscious about overcoming all the details that you normally wouldn't worry about.

I've been working on finishing the "Cherish" book on marriage that I started a few months ago. The other day I started out by reading some wonderful lessons on marriage and was determined to start putting those lessons into play. I was thinking how wonderful my marriage was, and these things were going to make marriage even better.

I normally don't think bad thoughts about my husband. I'm normally pretty easy going. But for some reason that day, a lot of what Nate did irked me. He said a passing comment about my hair being crazy that would usually make me laugh. Instead, it hurt my feelings, and I came back with, "When is the last time you scraped the house? I haven't done my hair because I've been working hard."

Then I went on to start thinking how he should be cherishing me and not making fun of me, and I took that hurt into my hurt for a little while.

There was something else later that I honestly don't remember that irritated me, and then I realized that the things that were bothering me that day were things that normally didn't bother me at all.

Why was that?

Satan and his stupid demons.

When Satan and whatever demon he has working against me saw that I wanted to make my marriage better, the plot began to fight against that. A godly marriage is obviously not what Satan wants, and so the temptation to be irked by my husband instead of cherish him came flying at me.

I failed miserably.

But that's because I wasn't prepared.

I forgot that there is someone out there that doesn't want me to follow what God wants, that wants our marriage to fail or that at least wants it to be stagnant.

It's not just about choosing to cherish my husband, but it's about being on the lookout for ways that Satan wants me to fail and asking the Holy Spirit to help me fight off those advances. It's about not only playing offense but taking a stand and playing defense as well.

So today, again, I choose to cherish my husband. I finished the book, but I have a feeling that I'll have to check it out again. These are lessons I'm going to have to read over and over again.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The first night on our land

It's been 10 years since I was last camping.

It was my sophomore year of college and Nate and I made a trip from the small town my college was in up to a local tourist area with lakes. We camped for a weekend along the larger of the lakes and had a wonderful time.

Flash forward 10 years and we're married and actually living in the area where we camped that weekend that seems like forever ago. But I haven't been camping since.

I had to work this weekend, so I took Thursday off to even up my hours and we decided to spend the night at our land for the first time. After I got off work on Wednesday, Nate had everything packed up and I giggled at how much stuff we brought to camp about a mile away from where we currently live. But it made the event more comfortable, so I'm all for that amount of stuff.

We arrived and went to work for a little while. Our mower broke, so I was in charge of weed-eating the driveway while Nate worked on chainsawing some dead limbs off of a gorgeous walnut tree that we could use for the fire that evening.

Sweaty and covered in grass about an hour later, we put up the tent, popped in the air mattress we blew up with the help of the outlet in our SUV --- thank you technology --- and started a fire.

Nate found a couple of old metal fenceposts that were in the broken down building on the acreage and put them over the burning coals with a powder-coated grill grate for a make-shift grill for the brats that he bought for dinner.

The rest of the evening, we just relaxed and soaked in the calm around us. Birds chirped. Dragonflies perched in the mulberry tree overhead and darted out every now and then to grab a mosquito, and we cheered them on. Monarch butterflies fluttered around. Novie mosied around dejected that she had to be outside instead of on a soft couch or bed.

As dusk approached, lightning bugs started to twinkle their little behinds. More and more appeared the darker it got. Soon, the nearby corn field was inundated with twinkle lights.

We had watched a documentary on Netflix a few nights before that which had a segment about glowing beetle larvae, and we were amazed at the brightness these beetles had. How cool would that be to see? we thought.

But as I looked at these lightning bugs blanketing the world around us, I thought How cool is this?

It was another one of those calm times in life when I look at the man next to me, the dog beside me and the simple world around me and I say a quiet prayer, Thank you Lord. Help me to remember this. Help me to store this treasure up in my heart.

We fell asleep in our tent, knowing that we'll remember that first time that we spent on our land. We have dreams that someday we'll sit on our porch with our kids and say, "Remember when we first camped on our land? Look at where we are now. That seems like so long ago."

But we'll remember the coyotes howling and yipping at us at 3 a.m., the sun rising so early that when we woke up at 7:30 it seemed like 10 o'clock, the eggs and toast and leftover brat we had for breakfast, the joy at finding all those thorn bushes we were annoyed with were actually raspberry bushes.

We'll remember, because those moments are stored up in my heart.

Friday, June 16, 2017

He still surprises me

We have been working hard to stick to a tight budget, and we know we have a long haul of it. We're on a three-year plan to build a house on our acreage, and we have specific financial goals we're working to meet.

Yesterday I had the day off, because I have to work this weekend, so we were driving around and running errands. I so wanted to do something fun, stop at the local microbrewery or wine bar or grab a caramel apple at the amusement park, but I knew we just didn't have much flexibility left in the budget this month after car repairs and saving for our vacation.

I longingly said that to Nate, but we made our way home.

I picked up the heat gun on the porch and started scraping the floor, and Nate went in to change his clothes.

Five minutes passed, and I went in to grab a drink and see what he was doing. He was still upstairs, so I headed back out.

Another five or 10 minutes passed, so I went inside again and saw him with his Bronco in the driveway, putting a cooler in the back.

Did someone invite us to go boating? I wondered, thinking why he was packing up.

"What are you doing?" I asked him as I stuck my head out the mud room door.

"Packing a picnic for us at our land."

I smiled. Awww. That's sweet.

So I put on a pair of jeans and headed out to the car with him. It was stocked full of everything we would need.

When we arrived, he started unpacking while I gathered old field stone to build a small fire pit. We built up a fire, settled back in lawn chairs with a glass of wine, and I just smiled and thanked him.

"I guess surprising you still sometimes is good," he said.

We cooked bacon and eggs over the propane torch for dinner and just enjoyed relaxing for a few hours as the sun made its way west.

After we packed up and were headed back home for the night, he asked, "So did that fulfill your urge to do something?"

"It couldn't have been better."

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Good work

"Christians are so different from the world around us because we seek to honor our bosses."

Most of us think of work as a necessary evil, and we look forward to retirement years, even if that is decades away. However, humans worked even before sin. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and farm it. It was good to work. It wasn't until the Fall that work became frustrating as thorns and thistles grew up.

Work is still a huge part of our lives, and it will even be part of the new creation after Jesus comes back and restores the world.

1 Timothy 6 talks about how we are to work and address our bosses. Even if you have a non-Christian boss, like I do, you are called to honor the person in authority over you. It is not an internal feeling, but it is a directive of action. You don't mock your boss, undermine your boss or disrespect your boss. You respect the position even if you don't respect the person.

This attitude reflects well and honors God. It shows we are different. It is so we "adorn the doctrine of Jesus Christ."

If you do have a Christian boss, serve all the better, Paul said in 1 Timothy. Don't take advantage of your boss' good graces and forgiveness, instead work even harder for someone who is serving God. You are helping to benefit a Christian brother or sister, and then means helping forward the kingdom of God.

Take a look at what you do at work. Are you on social media wasting time? Are you reading the news when you should be working? Are you waiting around for the next project instead of finding something positive to do in the downtime? We should be making the most of every minute, even when people aren't looking, even when the boss isn't looking. Because Jesus is looking, and he will reward your hard work.

The way we work, the quality of our work, the attitude of our work --- our lives should reflect Jesus, especially at work. The goal of our work is to be a witness and an example of a good Christian.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Being exceptional at one thing means being not-so-exceptional at others

Nate and I watched the new "Bro Science" video on YouTube about dating a fit chick --- you know, one of those girls who Instagrams her trips to the gym and does a pull-up with her BCAAs sitting next to her.

It went through the pros and cons of dating such an exceptional athlete.

I takes a lot of commitment to be a fit chick. You can't miss a workout. Gym trips take longer when you're vlogging everything you're doing. You have to spend a lot of money on supplements. However, you're exceptional at looking good and having the perfect body.

Our lives narrow down quite quickly to one key thing --- we're exceptional at what we commit our time to. Being exceptional at one thing means you're not exceptional at many other things. There's just not enough time in the day.

I still remember the day that my mom told me to pick one extracurricular in high school. She told me to give myself 100 percent to one thing instead of piecing myself together for a variety of activities. I chose dance.

Then in college, I gave up dance to give my all toward my studies and working on the newspaper, because I knew that would forward my career more than my dance hobby.

I still give high schoolers the same advice that my mom gave me, to give yourself wholly to something that you truly have a passion about instead of wasting your time half-assing *sorry for the language* a whole bunch of things.

I don't get involved in a lot of stuff. It's hard for me to say "yes" to activities, because I don't want to overextend myself. I truly believe in giving yourself whole-heartedly to what you want to be, and I've tried to narrow that down in my life. I serve at the coffee bar at church, and that's about all that I care to have take my time from home.

You see, I've narrowed down my life to what I want to be exceptional at --- and that's being a wife. It's what I've always wanted to be. It's what I'm passionate about being the best at.

That doesn't mean I have no other hobbies, but I think my hobbies help me be a better wife. I want to be a better Christian, and I know that will also lead me to being a better and more loving and selfless spouse. I want to eat healthier and be more fit, because I know that will bring me confidence in life and will ultimately lead to a healthier relationship at home. I continue to work on my baking skills, because I know my husband loves cupcakes, cookies, homemade bread, and especially, biscuits. I work in the garden so we can save money on groceries and have more money for our future together.

What do you want to be exceptional at in your life? Because that might the most important decision that you ever make. It should guide everything you do and every moment that you spend.

Be exceptional. At the right thing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Catching bids

My husband gets a new gun.

He starts telling me about it, and some of what he says I don't really understand. It's numbers and letters that I don't always get.

He hands it to me to take a look through the scope.

It's heavy, but I take it and look through it.

"Cool. That has a great picture," I say.

He's not looking for me to understand every detail about that gun, but he is looking for someone who will share in his joy at that moment of getting a new weapon.

I had never heard the phrase before, but the author of "Cherish" calls this catching bids. He used the example of a man who loves birding pointing out a finch in the yard. How will his wife respond? Will she go to the window to see it? Will she look up from her book for a second and acknowledge his sighting? Will she tell him to stop bothering her?

The bid is the need for connection at the moment, sharing something he loves. Will his wife catching it and respond?

The books says that couples who divorce within the first six years of marriage catch only 33 percent of bids. Couples who are married longer catch up to 87 percent.

It's not about what you find interesting. It's about supporting your spouse in what he or she finds interesting.

I know that Nate doesn't care about what deals I got on groceries or what I baked that day. But I want him to express interest in what I do and say. I get excited when he is excited over what excites me. I want to get excited over what excites him as well.

Let's catch those bids today. Let's be intentional about supporting our spouses in what interests them.

I really need to renew "Cherish" so I can get through the whole thing. This book is just full of awesome tidbits that I know I won't remember unless I write them down and think through them on this blog!