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I think about The Truman Show a lot.

I bet everyone does. I bet that although it’s not  The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, The Truman Show is one of the most thought-about movies of our generation.

After all, it explores some of our most common internal dialogue: “What is the meaning of my life?” “Is there more to this life than I perceive?”  “Is someone orchestrating my life for me?”

If you’ve seen The Truman Show you probably remember Truman’s sad situation: unbeknownst to him, he is the star of a reality TV show. From one episode to the next, Truman essentially lives a mundane, repetitive existence for the entertainment of millions of viewers. We’re all sad for him because the essence of his true humanity has been stolen from him. As the outsiders-looking-in, we know that although his grass is green and his wife smiles at him, Truman’s life is meaningless.

And yet, those millions of people tune into the show to escape the monotony and meaninglessness of their own lives. We could join the ranks: when we quietly consider our own existence, don’t we all stumble upon the fear that maybe it’s all just a little bit futile?

I thought about The Truman Show this morning at church.

Pastor Dan was preaching through the first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes – the book of the Bible that faces the universal ache that “life is meaningless”.  Generations keep turning over and over, nature keeps repeating itself, and everything ends up being forgotten anyway.

We sat in those wooden pews and thought about life’s futility for a good 30 minutes as we dug into the text. We nodded, leaned forward, and jotted down a few notes. Occasionally, I’d wrap my right arm around Vivienne’s thin shoulders and give her a squeeze. I’d tuck my left hand into Ryan’s elbow and hold him tightly.  There wasn’t one person in that room who couldn’t feel the writer’s heavy frustration with reality: life is a soap bubble. Pop! And it vanishes.

But then, Pastor Dan said something that changed everything.

What he said helped me breathe again.

It made me feel a thrill that my daughter and husband were sitting by my side.

And it reminded me of that wonderful scene in The Truman Show when Truman sails his boat to the horizon and pushes through the fake sky into a broader reality – presumably into a life with promise, meaning, and truth. (Ah! The hope of escape from meaninglessness? Amazing!)

What Pastor Dan said that changed everything was this:

When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he broke through the meaningless, cyclical, forgotten days of life under the sun

Our story is no longer found in the book of Ecclesiastes, for we are people who “Look beyond the sun!” 

Christ has pushed open the exit.

 

(I bet you’ll love this soul-thrilling sermon. A recording will be at Oakwood Presbyterian Church’s sermon website.)

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I heard the concept “18 Summers” and near-about panicked.

If you haven’t heard “18 Summers” yet, the idea is for mothers to savor each June – August because we’ll have a measly 18 summers with each child at home. I quickly did the math and realized that I’m half-out of summers with our oldest. That sent me into a tizzy. Only 9 more summers for bubbles and picnics and water balloons? Only 9 more summers of family vacations and star-gazing and piles of flip-flops in the entryway? Then 8, 7, 6, 5, and… and soon, she’ll be texting every few days with updates about her missions trip or summer job or husband. It’s almost too much to consider.

But it’s true. Time is precious!

I understand why the “Bucket List” movement is still charging ahead full-steam. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of these fleeting summer days? Already, the Internet is full of “Summer 2015 Bucket Lists”. We are fervently creating the very best lists of the very best things for the very best summer. And we should!

We desperately want to make the most of our time. To make it meaningful.

James – Jesus’ brother – said it best when he called life a vapor. A mist. A breath.

James would have been all about “18 Summers” and he would have had the world’s best Bucket List going because he understood life’s brevity. Just looking at his 33-year-old brother on the cross, he might have thought, “Wait… he was here… and now he’s gone?”

But then, when Jesus rose from death and opened James’ eyes to see and believe the God of Eternity, James gained some valuable perspective.

He wrote,

 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Here’s the thing: though we are a mist, we are a mist in God’s hands.

The thing we feared would be so fleeting, so sand-between-our-fingers… finds its meaning and significance in one place alone: in God’s hands.

(In comparison to God, the power of a good Bucket List fades a bit, wouldn’t you say?)

So, when you and I feel the threat of the vapor, may we be happy, entrusting our souls – and the souls of our children – into the hands of the Eternal God.

As James says, “If the Lord wills, we will live!” And live abundantly.

 

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You may know the story from 2 Chronicles 1 when God came to Solomon in the night and said, “Ask what I shall give you” and Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge above everything else. This pleased God. He granted Solomon’s request and gave him riches, possessions, and honor, too. Solomon’s response to God (and God’s response to him) was huge and shaped his own life, influenced the entire ancient world, and has effected each and every one of us for all time.

Have you ever wondered how Solomon was wise enough to ask for wisdom in the first place?

I have. This morning, I had a lightbulb moment that was worth dusting off 10MillionMiles.com to share with you.

Solomon knew to ask for wisdom because his father told him to.

He wrote about it in Proverbs 4.

“When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Wow, right? How encouraging this is to us as parents.

May we look our children in the eye today (and tomorrow and the next day) and teach them this: “Whenever you have the chance to get anything, get wisdom.

 

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5 Questions to Ask in 2015

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There is some benefit to waking up in the middle of the night with a baby. For example, I brainstorm life-coaching experiences like this one.

I don’t know about you, but I find it helpful to resolve who I want to be instead of what I want to do. After all, who I am determines what I do and how I do it.

Consider investing in a 1-hour personal retreat to think about these questions as you prepare for a meaningful year:

1. How do I want to feel this year? (Try to create a list of 5 accurate words. If you need help coming up with something, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in my relationship with God? How do I want to feel at home? With my friends? At work?)

2. What do I need to do in order to feel that way? (Next to each feeling, list 1 – 3 things that need to be a part of your lifestyle in order to fuel the feeling you desire.)

3. How do I want other people to feel because of me?

4. What do I want other people to do because they’ve been with me?

5. How, then, shall I live this year?

Here’s to your beautiful year! What a wonderful gift from God.

 

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(So glad he asked me out.)

A friend of mine has just entered the dating world.

I must say, that’s one world I am glad to be out of. I had a few shining moments, but not many.

In fact, whenever I sing that line in “Be Thou My Vision” that goes, “You are my dignity, you’re my delight” I think about my dating years, wince about my regrets, and thank God for my salvation and sanctification.  I’ve learned a great deal along the way and am grateful to God, my family, and my friends for their patience and wisdom. I’m mostly grateful to Ryan for sweeping me off of my feet, out of the dating world, and into the security and joy of marriage. Whew.

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At any rate, my friend who has just entered the dating world happens to feel elated by it. I must say, she’s doing a wonderful job there and bringing more grace to the dating world than there was before she set foot on its temperamental terrain.

Part of her success comes from asking for advice about how to date well.

Here are a few things I texted her (one per day):

1. Put your relationship with God first – in time, thought, emotion, affection, and confidence. He is our precious first love.

2. Be kind to everyone – girls and guys included. It’s easy and natural to be self-consumed and exclusive; it’s priceless and supernatural to be selfless and kind. Especially, prepare yourself to be kind if/ when things turn south in your relationships. You will never regret walking away having offered forgiveness and grace.

3. Create reasonable and good boundaries from the beginning of every relationship. (I mean actually write them down and give them to trusted mentors and friends, anticipating their accountability over the long haul.) Everyone benefits from healthy boundaries to guard time, disclosure of hearts, and physical affection. Without clear boundaries, we flounder from one person’s control to another. Without clear boundaries, we’re easily controlled by our own fickle passions. You are worth protecting. And so is your boyfriend.

4. Prioritize your own growth intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Seasons of “falling in love” can be so all-consuming, so it’s especially important to pace ourselves and work for a balance of personal health and growth. I’m convinced that this is possible and that it makes the “love” part richer and sweeter.

5. Look out for the best interest of the other person. Encourage him to love God above all, to work diligently, to invest in his friendships with other men, and to pursue worthwhile ministry, hobbies, and activities.

I pray for her often… asking God to bless her with wisdom, patience, contentment, and joy.

What advice would you text to your friend in the dating world?

 

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 (Baby Bubbles)

Yesterday, a dear friend met our newest baby for the first time. It was a sweet moment because Carole has been a mentor to me over the years. She has loved and raised four children and is enjoying her grandchildren. She has recently gone back to school for a second degree so that she can help to improve the childcare culture. Over the years, she has given me wise advice about womanhood, marriage, Bible study, prayer, food, children, and everything else that comes up in our 20’s and 30’s.

Yesterday, she looked me in the eye and said, “You know there’s only one word: savor.” 

I laughed.

I told her that I had just spotted that advice on a list of “The Top Ten Things NOT To Say To A Mother of Young Children”.

For the past few years, the blogosphere and facebook have been buzzing with mothers-of-young-children complaining about that very advice. Clever Huffington Post articles have derided the common message to “Carpe diem” motherhood. Countless facebookers have vented about the little old ladies in Target who stop shopping carts full of energetic children and say, “Enjoy every minute of it!”

I’ve nodded my head in agreement with those posts: motherhood is tough and “savor” is the last word that comes to mind when I’m cleaning up poop.

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“There’s only one word: savor.”

We young moms don’t seem to want to hear it. Yet, it’s the #1 Word of Advice (often, the only word of advice) that we hear from every. single. older woman who crosses our paths.

Isn’t it?

Maybe we need to stop complaining and start listening to what they’re saying.

Maybe we need to honor the collective voice of the women who’ve lived through motherhood and all agree on this one thing.

Maybe they know something that we don’t know yet.

Maybe they know we need to hear it everywhere we go – family reunions, the YMCA, church, Target – because hearing it over and over again is the only way to overcome the smell of poopy diapers, the noise of whininess, and the drone of mundane chores. Of course they remember the trials. And yet, they won’t quit the chant: “Savor it. Savor it. Savor it.”

Maybe this persistent, seemingly-impossible message is God’s gift to us.

Maybe it’s wisdom.

Do we really want to tell these generous, passionate older women to stop?

I don’t. 

That’s why the next time the little old lady stops me in Target – when I’m rushing my toddler to the bathroom from the opposite side of the store, and we’re all starving, and the baby is wailing, and the six year old has a blister on her heel and can’t keep up with her speedy mother, and the nine year old is wiggling her tooth with such fervor that she is lost in another world – I will try to pause and listen as she says, “Enjoy every minute of it.” I’ll try to be humble and say, “Thank you for that wise advice. I’ll do my very best.”

And that’s why I’ll ask God every day to change my heart so that I may savor this miraculous gift of motherhood. Thank you, God, for my young children. And thank you for older women who all sing the same song.

I’m going for it: Savor.

You, too?

 

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On a recent scan of Scripture, I spotted a pattern that reveals God’s affection for women. It connected women like Mary of Bethany to the Proverbs 31 woman to Titus 2 women with this resounding theme: God dearly wants women to grow

God wants women to grow in love with Jesus - to believe His Word and to do what He says. Jesus loved that Mary committed to growing this way, and he encouraged her sister to do the same thing. He loves when we grow closer and closer to Him. That’s why He made us.

God wants women to grow in practical skills that will enrich ourselves, our families, and our communities. In Proverbs 31, God celebrates the vibrant woman who is always learning new skills, enjoying hard work, and sharing her wealth with everyone around her. The Proverbs 31 woman grows in every direction – faith, physical strength, beauty, knowledge of God’s will, family, craft, business, ministry… All of her growth springs from her love for God and her desire to glorify Him.

God wants women to grow in relationships that will encourage them to love their families and live righteously. Titus 2 encourages women – old and young alike – to build relationships for the purpose of growing, living according to God’s Word, and being radiant examples of God’s goodness and grace.

I recommend reading Hebrews 12, which is a powerful call to grow in the Lord.

Pray about it? Last night, I got together with a handful of women to pray about how each of us may grow in the Lord this year. We based our prayers on Jesus’ example of growth: “Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52. I thought perhaps you’d like the outline of our prayer time to guide your own.

Wisdom: How is wisdom calling aloud for me? What light have you already shed on my path that I must walk in? How would you like me to grow in wisdom this year? (Consider James 1:5, 3:17, Proverbs 8:11, and Proverbs 9)

Stature: How have I grown physically this past year? How do you want me to grow physically this year? (Consider Luke 10:27, Proverbs 31:17 and 25

Favor with God:  When you think of me, what delights your heart? How do you want our relationship to grow this year? Consider the truths in this song:

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Favor with people: What do you think about my relationships this past year? Is there anyone I must reconcile with this year? How can I love people better this year? (Consider Mark 12:28-31)

May you and I make this a definitive year in which we throw off every sin that entangles us and holds us back, so that we can grow to be more like Jesus, showing people everywhere how good God is.

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A Book to Begin 2014

I’m reading a fantastic book by Kathleen Nielson about the why and how of Bible Study. (Our church’s women’s Bible Study has enjoyed Nielson’s studies over the years.) The hardest thing about the book is that it evokes such a hunger to read the Bible that it’s hard to get through a chapter without closing the book and opening up Scripture! (Not a bad problem, I’d say.)

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If I sit down to teach you the Bible, how do you know I know what I’m talking about??

Not to mention, How do I know I know what I’m talking about??

One of my greatest concerns about teaching the Bible is that I’d teach something wrong. I’m afraid I’ll use a verse out of context, manipulate Scripture to support my agenda, or forget to display Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. It’s downright scary.

Can you relate?

As it turns out, we’re not alone. I’ve been asking around and every solid Bible teacher says the same thing: “It’s a healthy fear that you should never outgrow.”

Every Christian has the responsibility of reverencing Scripture, working hard to teach it accurately, remembering that our hearts will easily deceive us and our human understanding will limit us. But, we must persist in teaching Scripture nonetheless.

So, I’ve been on a quest to discover helpful ways to live in the tension between teaching-the-Bible and shaking-in-our boots. Here are 3:

1. Submit to godly authority.

Last month, I read an article written by Jen Wilkin that rocked my world: “Pastors Need Women Teachers (And Vice Versa)“.  It reminded me that I don’t need to be a lone ranger; that I can – even should – expect to find a safe space within my local church to grow as a Bible teacher.  As it turns out, I (definitely) need the nurture and oversight of my church, and – I’m believing in faith – they need me.

This is a big reason why I’ll be meeting with our pastor and director of women’s ministry this week: to talk about how I can teach the Bible within the protection of our church leadership, doctrine, and membership. Maybe I can submit my teaching notes and study guides to a few  knowledgeable church leaders and learn from their feedback.

2. Stick close to doctrinely sound commentaries.

Bible scholars have invested years and years in studying Scripture, history, and languages. Their commentaries have been read and thoroughly critiqued by other bible scholars who have studied for years and years…  The commentaries that have made it onto the bookshelves of sound preachers and teachers are worth a close look and can inform my lessons.  Recently,  Jen Wilkin pointed me to an incredible list of “Top Commentaries on Every Book of the Bible” published by Ligonier Ministries, which is a goldmine of helpful insights and applications. I’ll be digging in…

3. Teach through the Bible, from the Bible.

They call it “expository teaching”. Basically, it’s the technique of teaching through a book of the Bible, verse by verse, allowing Scripture to inform the agenda, instead of asking Scripture to adhere to a human-made agenda.

For example, an expository teacher would rather teach through the book of Matthew and address fear when it comes up in chapter 14, than plan a lesson called “Overcoming Fear” based on 25 detached verses about fear.

I like the expository approach because it respects Scripture for what it is – a complete story – set in history but living through eternity –  about God Himself, glorifying Jesus Christ as the Light of the World and King over all.  

Of course, I’ve admired many topical teachers who maintain all of those high ideals, but they usually can teach topically because they’ve studied the Bible in an expository way.

Expository teaching makes me sigh with relief because it protects me, minimizing my chances of using a verse out of context, manipulating Scripture to support my agenda, or forgetting to display Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

It also points my audience to the true Teacher, encouraging them to dig into Scripture and read it well for themselves. (Now that’s relief!) Then, when they need to find immediate guidance for fear, forgiveness, or suffering, they will know how to rely on the full counsel of God, select a few verses that really do apply to their situation and think about them rightly.

Though I’ll seize opportunities to speak about topics like  “motherhood” or “marriage” where I’ll need to pull Scripture verses from here or there, and I’ll continue to link to individual verses within my posts,  I think that when it comes to weekly Bible teaching, I’m going to camp out with expository teaching, working through verse by verse, in light of the whole Book.

What are your thoughts?

 

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Lia_1

As you wake up and get rolling today, I invite you to do something that will change everything about your day:

Preach the gospel to yourself.

Preach that in a world of darkness, Jesus ascended as the only light of the world.

Remind yourself that if you have received Him as your light, you have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

Preach that you are a child of God

…who doesn’t have to scramble for acceptance, perfection, or worth, for all those things are yours in Jesus.

Speak aloud that your home is Heaven, where you will be united with Jesus, worship Him as He is, enjoy the fellowship of all the saints throughout all of time, and forever savor the rightness for which we all long. The circumstances of the day and the “to-do” lists of each hour are no longer your reason for existence. You are no longer just looking forward to lunch, you are looking forward to Home, where your heart is set.

In light of these truths, there will be no more wallowing in selfish desires, manipulating, striving, and working so hard towards our own ends. For Jesus Christ is the center of all Scripture, all time, and all space. It is He who holds everything together. Every knee will bow to the Prince of Peace. All nature sings His praise. And all things are created for His pleasure and glory.

Finally, remember this sweet relief: that Jesus has created you and called you to live this day for Him, in light of what He has done for you.

May you and I never tire of preaching or hearing this beautiful sermon, for it will turn our hearts toward Jesus and make our joy complete.

Enjoy the day!

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