Almost 24 years ago I was born to newlywed sweethearts in Raleigh. Now, I am a married to the most wonderful husband and we are making our home in the great city of Raleigh.
Our purpose is to know and to enjoy God and to make Him known.
It’s February and it’s the month of love and it’s the longest-shortest month of the year and I want to write about love but I realize maybe I don’t know anything about love and what can I learn in only a few long-short weeks?
Really, what is love? really… love is….
and I think 1 Corinthians 13.
But I don’t know what it’s talking about and I can’t recite the verses and I may just be the opposite of love and I can’t take it so I don’t look . I don’t read . I don’t memorize . I don’t recite . How in the world – the months – these weeks – for this special day can I live out these scriptures?
I must turn.
I must turn all the way.
I’ve gotta turn all the way away from my sin all the way to the Savior and re.pent.
Repent… repentance isn’t only turning away from sin but it’s turning to the Savior.
I’ve gotta remember…
I’ve got to remember He preached “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Remember He called “Follow me…”
Remember the disciples immediately left their nets, their boats, their work, their father, and followed him (These grown men left everything).
Remember He commands “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”
Remember He answers “The greatest command is this: love God with all of who you are and love your neighbors as yourself….”
Remember He gives Himself so that they and you and me could have everything.
This is the way . the truth . the life . of love.
Jesus loves you and me this I know.
He loves you and me so much in this way that He gives His life so that you and me sinners dead can have life abundant and eternal.
Maybe that’s when I can know love…. when I seek first the Kingdom of God and I follow Him, I turn all the way to Him, maybe then the Way the Truth and the Life leads me into His love?
Maybe this is when I love Him with my all and I am able to love others the way I love myself…
Maybe love is wiping off shelves and wiping away tears and putting everything back in its place. Maybe love is hot coffee and sweet chocolate and strong words and sweet compassion. Maybe love is looking into his eyes; hugging her neck; choosing to turn all the way so that you can hold that person’s hand and help them into the kingdom of Heaven with you, into abundant and eternal life together.
Love is this. Love is not pink and purple construction paper and red and white candies. I might like those things but they are not love.
Love is this. Love is not pretty and polite and polished and put together but ugly and painful and messy and unraveled and falling to pieces, and being made whole again by Love Himself.
Love is this. Love is not sitting on a throne beside Him but coming under the Cross with Him. Love is the death burial and resurrection of Christ for you and Love is taking up your Cross and following Him.
Love is not a set aside day for a dinner date but all personal preferences set aside so that my minutes, days, weeks, months, years and life prefer someone else besides me, so that my life turns you and her and every person I hug all the way around to Jesus.
Jesus loves you this I know
and Jesus is love this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
When we are little and sinful and silly and weak
He is lovely and Sovereign and Good and strong
and Jesus is Love.
And maybe this year I will lean in a little more and turn all the way around to Love and hug your neck in a way that turns you all the way around in love to Him… and maybe we will be transformed by Love that casts out fear and cares for all of our burdens and why not now?
It’s not only that I think reading is a good idea, though the practice can get sorta messed up, but it’s that I love reading. I do love a new book, with fresh pages just begging for me to underline or circle, to write comments in the margin and doggy-ear its pages, but it’s not a new books that gets me reading.
I love the conversation with the author; the ideas presented and the stories shared. I love to compare my ideas and life with theirs and see the intersections and see where I can go with the author.
I try to choose books that will point me to the Gospel – I need the Gospel everywhere I can get it, so oftentimes my book pile reflects that.
For February, I want to ENGAGE LOVE and I can’t think of a better way to help me along than through a good pile of books.
the Bible, with a read through the bible in a year plan – I feel like I have never read the bible ever before. (and I have!) I am seeing so much and I am learning so much about the Lord and it’s flooring and it’s exhilarating and it’s totally worth doing it. I mean girlfriend! How do you eat an elephant? ONE bite at a time. Get after it with me, and read the Word!
The Peacemaker by Kevin Sande, which I plan to finish this month, and so far, has been a lot more straightforward than I expected, which makes it easier to read than I assumed it would be. At the same time, the book is deep and rich and a really good read. It’s helpful that the wording and ideas are presented clearly because the application might end up being really hard and even complicated. It takes a real-life wisdom to write a book on conflict resolution in such a clear thinking way.
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson – my sisters and I are reading through this and discussing it as we go along, and they voted to read through it slowly. This could be in the pile for the whole year
I have started into two of the three books in my February list. I love Maria’s book; she comes across as a really kind momma who loves everyone she meets, who mothers anyone who will let her, in the best of ways. I am so glad she gently shares her stories with the godly insights the Lord has shared with her. Reading her not only is a sweet conversation for me, but it also helps me consider the the way I write.
I am borrowing the book Love Does, which I think is only appropriate. The act of borrowing seems to put into practice the idea presented in Bob’s book.
Four Loves – and C. S. Lewis. Oh my. It may take you a minute, it may take a minute for your eyes to adjust and your head to comprehend his words, but it’s worth it. I read this book in college and vowed to read it again one day to my children. For now, I am reading it to myself and I plan to read a bunch of it to Tyler. (I’m looking at you, long car ride trips!) I am MOST excited to go to heaven to be with Jesus and to see our children and to BE THERE …. and I am very excited too to meet good ole Clives Staples Lewis. I think I will be standing in a long line, but that’s ok. Hopefully in heaven I will be patient 😉 I’m not far enough in to share with you my “favorite” part yet, but suffice it to say, it will probably be the entire thing. Get it girlfriend, and read it!
** check out my Pinterest board Read Worthy for more books, fantastic articles, and a few pretty pictures, too
Well, we are officially into this new year – into 2018. Our Christmas trees are down and long forgotten (Can you believe it was only a month ago that we were celebrating Christmas!?); we are making reservations for Valentines dates and Spring Break vacations. Woohoo! We have enjoyed snow and now we are over snow and we are ready for skirts and sandals and sun sun sun.
If you’ve been following along, we’ve written our obituary and we’ve written our resolutions. This month hopefully you and me were able to establish a few rhythms into our daily life to accomplish our big resolutions and to live like we only have this one life. The thing is, throughout the last thirty days, we have either subjected ourselves to the “pain of discipline or the pain of disappointment”*… depending on if we chose to stick to what we wrote down in the first place.
With thoughts of repentance and the desire to live into the the life Christ has given me in new ways this year, I was reading Matthew 4 and this is what the Word says :
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – verse 17*
This is Jesus’ message, the first thing He says as He begins His early ministry – He commands all who can hear Him to repent. Turn from yourself and your sin and make the full turn to Jesus. Why? He says “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (or, here).” The Kingdom of Heaven! is the reason and motivation that Jesus gives. The Kingdom of Heaven is to stir our heart’s affections, to cause our eyes to glance His way, to seek His Kingdom, to fix our eyes on Jesus. To live this way – to live seeking and seeing the Kingdom – we have got to repent.
The Kingdom of heaven is life and love and inclusion and satisfaction and being with our Creator and Savior forever. It’s all of our heart’s desires met in one place, in The One, and it’s for all who believe in Him. Heaven is for all who repent.
When we begin to practice repentance we get to enjoy foretastes of His Kingdom – of love and peace and rest and delight and life, abundant life.
So, how? How do we turn?
Well. for me –
When I realize I don’t remember His words, I repent.
When I notice I am forging through, shouldering my way to success with my own methods and ideas and what-should-works; When I notice I am not relying on Him, I repent.
When I drop the ball, drop responsibility, I repent.
When I damage relationship, I repent.
When I destroy an hour with waste and wanton, I repent and beg that He redeem the time.
When I get set in my own ways, I ask for a re-set.
When I feel like I’ve returned to my old ways, I repent. He renews.
When I am un-reason-able, I ask He make me able to reason.
Have you thought about the fact that every time you try to save face you are tripping over Grace? Did you know when we turn back from our sin and we turn to Him, He’s already right there? We run right into Him, right into His arms, right into His love, and He rights us. He’s come for us with His Cross and His resurrection and at the very moment you turn, He’s there time and time and time again. For you, and for me, and for all who believe. He gives us Grace and He saves our face, our very lives.*
When we forget, God remembers. He comes and re-members us.*
When we remove ourselves from Him, He comes and removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.*
When we’ve freaking lost it, He radically comes and finds us.*
This is the. good. news. A new year and a new set of resolutions is Not. But, the message that Jesus came and Jesus preached “Repent!” because the Kingdom of God is here Is. The reality that the Kingdom of God can be experienced just a little bit on this side of the sun is the good news for our souls. The fact that one day when this whole thing is over, and we are on the other side of the sun, those who believe are gonna live in His Home with Him forever; this is the good news for you and me. And girl — get this. To get it, to come in, to live in this real-new, all you have to do is repent.
This is good news. This is your new life.
*Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life / Matthew 4:17, ESV / There is a children’s book entitled Because I Love You by Max Lucado that tells a story about a Maker who builds a wall to protect his children, but includes a hole to provide His children the choice to love him. When one of his children climbs through the hole, past His presence, He immediately begins the rescue. This is God our Maker and Jesus our Savior and we are that child who has climbed out of His protection, and He comes to save us. / Psalm 103:12 / Matthew 18:12-14
Reading is one of the three R’s of new year’s resolutions and I have noticed there are quite a few people who are committed to reading a few books this year – everyone is sharing their lists! I notice because I love to see a good book list, and because I am a reader myself.
Ever since I was a little girl, if I wasn’t outside playing, I was inside, on my bed, with a good book in hand. Nancy Drew and Babysitter’s Club gave way to Max Lucado and then Elisabeth Elliot.
College was full of books that still fill our book shelves and my list on amazon “to read” is quite. long.
I tell people that I read like some people run. I have conditioned myself to read a lot of books over a short period of time. I like to read capital G “good” books and that often means non-fiction Christian. I do love good literature but right now in this learning+growing season of life I just cut to the chase with the books that present flat out propositional truths. Capital T “truth.”
I don’t typically start the year with a year-long list, that seems crazy to me… but as friends recommend books, as I come across one book in another, I add the title to the “to read” list, and ask the Lord what I should read next. and with whom. Often times I am reading “this book with her” and “that book with these girls” and these couple on my own.
Before I share my January book list with you and how I go about reading through the pile, I want to list a few considerations concerning reading.
I said I’ve noticed people sharing their book lists. and I am gonna join in on the fun and share mine, too. But here’s the thing – reading is not the thing. books are not IT. With that made clear here are some consideration…
If you’re gonna read any book, read The Book of books. Read the Bible. If you read a bunch of others but neglect this one, the others don’t matter. THIS is the book that matters. These Words are truth and life. This is the book you can build your life on; you can completely recommend to anyone and everyone. This is THE book. Read it.
Funny enough even something as wholesome as reading can be messed up by sin. One way is you reading for all the wrong reasons. The other way is by a bad book. Don’t read bad books. Now, if you read point one and you think – well the Bible is full of awful stories with terrible characters, what of that!? Remember this – the protagonist in scripture is Jesus and right and wrong are correctly understood; the antagonist is actually bad, and the story is True and points you to Truth. Plus, scripture is well written. It’s high literature. Think through this sort of lens when you are determining if a book is good or bad. And then with a repentant, righted heart, read good books.
Once you’ve gotten yourself into the practice of reading the Bible, once you’ve repented and now you’re on the way to reading 📖 well and good books, – which by the way, I’m writing this in list form, but of course the experience of it all sort of may swirl around – repenting and reading and righting all mingling together – I would love to share with you the books on my January list
I would also love to know A. what you’re reading and B. If you’ve read any/all of the books on my list, what you think about them. I mean maybe you have another suggestion or perhaps a helpful critique of one of them (my list isn’t “ultimate” you know 😉
Here’s my January Book List
bible with a year long bible reading plan
Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines
Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
Falling Free by Shannan Martin
Unseen by Sara Hagerty
The Peace Maker by Kevin Sande
Have you read any of these? Thoughts? Which one do you want to add to your book list? And, what books do you currently have on your list? I want to hear from you 💙💙💙💙
Like I said, I read like some other people run. I read a lot. I read at a steady pace and lap through each book. I am going to leave the running analogy now because – I don’t run. I chose these books because most of them were sitting on my shelf already, not-yet-read, and that in and of itself is enough motivation for me.
To get through the books this month, with the exception of the bible which will take the entire year, I simply read one page at a time. Often. I started with Capital Gaines because I thought it would be a quick, easy, non-life.changing but still encouraging read, and I was wrong for the most part (it was a quick read.)
*Full disclosure – I read Capital Gaines before the month of January began, but didn’t plan to, and had it on my January list, which is where it stayed. So, feel some relief, if you need to.
Then I moved on to the book Unseen because even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, I was gifted it, my sister said she loved it, then another good friend pulled it out of her bag and asked me if I had read this book… and I felt like maybe I just should! So I did. It was so good. I know it took her so much more time to write this book than for me to read it, … which is like any book,… and part of me wants to go back through it slowly so that Sara can know how much I truly appreciate the work she put in and the heart she poured out. I am still sifting through the message of the book and hope to share a cup of coffee with the friend who gave me the book in the first place.
Now I am in the middle – literally – of Falling Free, a book I purchased as my sister was still lauding it, but it took me a few months to start. I am so glad I did now and I am sad I didn’t sooner. It is a hilarious, hard to hear, hurts real good book. You should read it. I told another friend it’s sort of like a girl’s Radical by David Platt. See what you think 😉
My sisters and I are reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Let me tell you, when I first saw the title of this book. I was IMMEDIATELY completely PUT OFF by the title. I still feel a lingering tinge of “ew” towards it. But one I realized Sally was in her sixties and hopefully not too affected by our culture’s god-of-this-air named Productivity I felt a little bit better. Then, so many friends recommended it, I thought… ok. I can at least skim it. Plus, with my sisters whatever is always better. I wanted to FLY through this book, but my sisters want to sit in it, so I have paused around chapter four.
I have yet to start The Peacemaker, but plan to by the beginning of next week.
If I don’t finish the January list, the books roll on over to February, where my list is shorter. March doesn’t have a list yet, and would like one, so your suggestions are welcome!
(links for the books : Bible / Capital Gaines / Unseen / Falling Free / The Peacemaker / Own Your Life) PS when I was inserting the links to purchase these books from amazon, I noticed that each one of them are considerably less money than I remember them being a couple of weeks ago. So, seize the day! and buy the book!
Whenever I read or write the word repent one particular bible verse comes to mind. It’s one I memorized as a little school girl and it’s one I memorialized in my mind as a grown college girl, driving to school each morning. John, in all of the love of Christ that has overcome his own heart, writes
If we confess our sins He is faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.*
John writes that if we confess our sins (You have sinned girlfriend. Remember, we all have sinned and fall short of Glory….*) – that HE IS faithful and Just and HE DOES forgive and cleanse,… of all! We are not only alive today and not only have we made it through the new year, but we are ALIVE in Him!, and He is re-making us New in His mercies that are new every morning, every minute, in every minutia of our new lives.*
So, repent. Righteousness is promised. That is a BIG promise.
What is righteousness?
Well, ultimately, Christ is Righteousness. When we turn from our sin, God gives us Christ, who is the believer’s very Life. So, this is good news. And this is just the sort of new that we need this year, today, this very moment.
Righteousness in and through Christ means turning to Him. His righteousness rights us. Righteousness is the reality that because of Christ, you and me are free from the penalty and guilt of sin. You are free! As if that wasn’t enough, righteousness means you are in a position of being morally right and justified before God. You are justified!*
This is radical renewal all done for you.
This is the kind of NEW you were made for, saved for, and still alive for.
This is the sort of salvation you so desire but cannot write a list long enough or good enough or pretty enough to accomplish.
This year, today, Jesus invites you to let the reality of that you are justified by faith* refresh your soul. He calls you to rest into His righteousness. He gifts you with grace and space to relax in His renewal. SO, let’s accept the invitation. Turn away from your sin, come on into Christ, and live new this new year.
So there’s this thing people do around this time of year that unless you’ve been stuck under a rock, you have heard about it – and probably been a person who has done it, too.
Everyone hits December 27th… I’ll give y’all a day or two.. and starts in on making resolutions. Whether you journal it out or joke about it, everyone is working on their New Year resolutions.
When I asked google about the history of New Years resolutions, I skimmed over some information that showed how it was the Babylonians some 4,000 years ago who initiated both celebrating the New Year and making new year resolutions.
So apparently we’ve all been doing this for quite some time. Even though, by … what?, February 10th, to be generous, we have either forgotten, abandoned, or messed it all up … our list is in the trash. Sometimes we do take it out, uncrumple it, and even make it to the end of the year, but in an unwittingly common manner, we make them, and we end up breaking them.
Still, I always find it so fascinating to hear others’ New Year’s resolutions, even though I realize they tend to be about the same thing every year. I like to listen to friends as they share from their past, from what they’re learning, and to the practical ways they hope to change and grow as a person. And even though everyone’s resolutions are so personal, it seems to me that we could sum up resolutions something like this…
reading – books. magazines. journals. articles. the Bible.
running – or whatever form of exercise one has decided upon
arithmetic – all of the numbers… your weight, your budget, and what time you wake up in the morning
These are the three R’s of New Year’s resolutions.
And though I want to talk a bit more about these three R’s, and while sincerely I cannot wait to share with you my resolutions for this year, let’s start with this question:
What is the WHY of resolutions?
Well, to begin considering this question, and I am just thinking aloud here, not even asking google, and I have yet to talk this over with Tyler, I think we love a good start-again. We love love love a fresh page, a blank slate, a new beginning. And we imagine that we surely will do better with this lovely new. Surely we will be kinder, be thinner, be healthier, smarter with our money, and definitely check off all of our business – home – friendship – plans.
I mean, I love a fresh beginning.
This love for new is intrinsic in us – it might manifest itself in different ways, in different personalities, generations, and values, – but the thrill of a white page ready for purpose and pen is all around loved by all.
So, you, me, we all love a fresh beginning and it’s intrinsic in us. Think about it with me – we are made in the image of God and it is God who loves a fresh beginning more than any of us… We are displaying Him in this love.
Here’s the thing though – if we love it, and if it’s the image of God in us, then why do we have to uncrumple our paper so many times >> Why did we crumple it up in the first place?
Well,… We are made by Him in His image. And… we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory.
So, here we are in love with new and fresh but we have sinned and cannot cannot cannot climb back up on our own. Glory cannot be ascertained through New Year’s Resolutions no matter how much we want it – love it – write it down – desire it – try to make it happen.
So Glory came to us.
And this is what we packed up into boxes, shoved back into our attic, back into December… remember? We celebrated that Glory came to us. “And His name shall be called Immanuel, which means, God with us.”…. “And His name shall be called Jesus, for He will save us from our sins.”
Jesus’ birthday – the Incarnation – God wrapped in the soft skin of a brand new baby – brings new life, brings glory to us.
So often, though, we miss out on Glory because Glory is so small. and we want to be so BIG.
We tend to run right past this grand reality every Christmastime, since, for heaven’s sakes, the advertisements and articles are already ramming resolutions down our throats, and into our longing hearts. As if this is the savior… as if we could save ourselves…. with a list.
But this reality – the Incarnation – Glory to us – Good News – a Real. New. Beginning – will completely and utterly transform our resolutions.
Going back to the question at hand – what is the why of resolutions? – we must realize: because of sin, our why… the reason we make resolutions… get’s awfully thwarted.
Our why comes out of selfishness, out of sin, and perhaps even from Satan himself.
Remembering the three R’s I mentioned, we read books for all of the wrong reasons; we run and exercise to bring whatever glory anybody – and I do mean any.body. – will give us; we count our pounds, and our dollars, and our minutes because we feel like we have just.got.to.save.ourselves.
and we are out of breath.
NO wonder we are so prone to crumbled papers and despair. NO wonder we are so apt to end up feeling like we are amazing when we actually end the year and we have actually completed our resolution… or at least by swimsuit season we have lost enough weight, we have saved enough money, and we are making!it!happen! by going to the beach in our bikini!
and we are holding our breath, hoping it all stays put.
Bless our glory-stealing hearts. Bless our I-think-I-can-save-myself souls. Oh…. our sinful, selfish, satanic resolutions needs not be kept up but repented of.
Honey, it’s not that losing weight or budgeting your money or reading a book is a sin. The thing is though you are using that goal as an end to gain glory for yourself and when you go after glory for you you are stealing it from the only One to whom glory is due.
(Remember, we have all sinned… you. and me. me me me me me. And it takes one to know one, and I know about glory-theives because I am one.)
So what do we do with this image of God love of new and this sin-thwarted heart?
What do we do with our shiny resolutions and sin-sick soul?
Well, we dig back out December once again and we unwrap the Gift of Christmas once again and we confess Jesus is Lord and Savior – not me, not you, not anyone else, or anything else, and not any list either.
We repent. You don’t have to cry, but you can. You don’t have to kneel, but feel free. When you and I repent, the only thing we must do is turn away from ourselves, our sin, and Satan, and turn towards Jesus.
So let’s start together – Let’s repent of our sin. Let’s breathe out prayer and breathe in freedom.
Here we go. :
Jesus, I turn myself in. I have been a glory-thief and I’m even been really good at it. I have been self-indulgent, I have been self-righteous, I have been full of myself. I made up this long list of resolutions… But I am over it. I am over myself. I confess my sin and I trust You, Faithful and Just, to forgive me and to cleanse me from all of my unrighteousness. In Your precious, saving name, Amen.
So many people buy planners and so many other people tell you how to plan your life, all before Christmas even comes.
And once you actually reach the day after Christmas, all you – all I! – can think about it filling in my *new* planner!
I do love the blank fresh pages. I do love all the hope a new year holds.
But before we rush – maybe you’re already there! – or maybe you’re hiding from all of the crazies who are planning their next quarter of a year,…- before we rush into the next year, I want to share with you a place to pause.
This article by John Piper comes to mind at the end of every year since I read it. The blog post was published in 2012, and I think I read it that year. Y’all – here’s the link and I cannot recommend it enough.
Rehearsing our own death is a task we need to do and a reality we must face before we rush into the new year. Life IS fleeting and the Lord is the final say. So let’s rehearse our deaths in order that we might LIVE.
I had already been thinking about finding this article and reading it again today or tomorrow as I finished Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines. I borrowed it from the library thinking it would be a quick read, and I do really like his older-brother, funny+wise way about him, but truth be told, the book was so much better that I expected, and all I just-so-hoped it would be! I want to buy it 💙
So first thing – I’m writing this little post for you, and then next thing, I’m writing out my own obituary. I want the reality that life is fleeting to sink into my feet and weight me to run this race of life with perseverance, to run all the way to the Finish, to the Finisher of our Faith.
Let me know what you think of the article,.. or if you’ve read his book. And even more importantly let me know how your death rehearsal goes 💙 I pray thinking through death will motivate you to LIVE through life. 💥