Rhythms of Repentance

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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.

I hope that you resolved this year to practice repentance, and then included it into the rhythm of your day. I hope this because repentance is the sort of thing that matters a lot and the sort of action that we really need to begin with.

I shared with you that one of my resolutions this year is to read well, and that I am reading through the Bible in a year.

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

a resolution to read

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.

However, I did start this year with a pile in mind, one I thought connected the themes of life that were filling my thoughts – on growing, living brave, and getting to the good work the Lord has prepared for me. 

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…

  1. 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.
  2. If you’re gonna read some other books – before you begin, answer these “why’s” and repent when you realize that “yep, I’m reading for all of the wrong reasons
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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 😉
  6. 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 : BibleCapital 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!

a new year + a new beginning

Happy 2018! We made it!

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On New Years Eve, we have a funny family tradition to take a family selfie lying down on the hotel bed (since 2011 we have been traveling with Tyler + MPB the last week of December) -this is from 2015!

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.

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Happy New Year, 2016!

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.

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And from this year, Happy NYE 2017 and Happiest 2018!