I didn’t write on Friday because I got to go to a Cub’s game.
My first one ever.
People ask me if I am a Cubs or Cards fan..well…we always gravitated to St Louis when the kids were little and then our daughter married a Cub fan and I grew up watching the Big Red Machine back in the days of Johnny Bench and Pete Rose so basically I am just a fan of baseball.
Mostly because it is a quiet game that moves at a pace and with a level of strategy that my mind can wrap around.
So whatever game I attend…the hometown of that team is my team for that day.
My motto is…buy the shirt…enjoy the people watching…eat some over-priced unhealthy food and embrace the moment.
And this beautiful stadium is incredible.
This one and Fenway have found a place in my heart <3
The Cubs lost, but we had a great time.
On Saturday we attended a birthday celebration for Caroline’s second…Graham’s eight…and Emmett’s sixth…
Since getting together has to be squeezed in between ball games, vacations and work they had a three-birds-with-one-stone party…no…that wasn’t the theme…
boys had dinosaurs and Caroline had her beloved Minnie Mouse <3
and it was all hands on deck and still a few who couldn’t be there.
This little dude was a trooper and just celebrated everybody else with a smug smile knowing he shares his birthday with No. One.
Tia made it so we got another pic of the ladies…
and if you are curious if Caroline has managed to wrap her dad around her little finger…
done and done…
This is genius.
This is stuck on my desk next to my computer.
I have no idea why.
I have looked at all our calendars and nothing is written down on that day.
If I made an appointment with you, I have forgotten it.
This is my “why” for getting on here as many of the five weekdays as I can.
It’s a way God has opened for me to make someone laugh or smile or think or feel like they are not alone.
It’s a way to remind us that life is hard, but God is always good…it is not a cliche or something to put on a bumper sticker or t-shirt and then forget.
Write it on your heart and engrave it in your mind … He is faithful.
We are flawed people and we live in a fallen world and in spite of it all, He loves us and provided a way for us to be in relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ.
Encourage someone … or at least yourself today…with the truth of that statement.
I was raised by southern women who used paring knives like they were an extension of our hands.
At the store, I use a box cutter to slip the price tags off of items so that I can spare my nails from any more splitting and sometimes people ask me if I ever cut myself.
Not on the box cutter…but constantly on paper and cardboard.
Just yesterday I gave myself a whopper of a paper cut opening a cardboard box that was delivered to our house.
As I applied pressure and Neosporin, I grabbed a bandaid out of the drawer and laughed when I saw it was an Incredibles style.
Thus ensued some family text messages, complete with puns and I went on my way trying to keep it dry.
But this morning it comes to me as I ponder how in the world I am going to navigate the next several weeks of commitments that I am not really very incredible.
I am not a superhero and if I was, something as ordinary and mundane as cardboard would prove to be my kryptonite.
When I am tired and hungry, I have meltdowns and sometimes I have them when I am rested and well fed.
As I continue reading the material and answers I penned in 2016 to the “No Other Gods” study, I realize God has given me some growth and freedom to step away from some idols, but the sad cycle of my human frailty is the reality that I will always default to idolatry…and I love how Kelly Minter helps me understand this by using the term “functional idols” in place of “false gods.”
Because I don’t bow down to a false god, but I do find myself bowing to the tyranny of living up to some image I have created for myself.
I seek comfort in the shelves of our pantry or by scrolling through pretty pictures on Instagram and I tell God what I can’t do and what I won’t do…and the image I have set up for how my life should look if it was going my way cracks the whip over me and says…more bricks and now you must cut your own straw to make them.
As I studied the passages from Exodus that described the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt, I made these notes of the characteristics of those who held control over them:
Dealt shrewdly with them so they would not multiply.
Afflicted them with burdens
They were made to serve with rigor
Their lives were made bitter with harsh bondage, under which they groaned because of the oppression.
When I think of who has this kind of control over me, it is not the enemy of my soul but my own desire to do things the way I want to do them.
It is my own hand that crafts the functional idols and then groans under the weight of them.
God offers me a mighty sword to yield and armor to fit me for the battle, and I choose to strap on an Incredible bandage and dodge cardboard boxes…hmmmm….a silly trade.
How about you?
What is lording it over you today? What is pressing down on you and making you work harder with less fruit to show for it?
That’s the calling card of a functional idol.
Ask God to reveal its name and nature to you and then kick it to the curb.
I promise…I may even set my timer so I stay short on words!
I have been reading a book that belonged to my aunt. Written by Charles Stanley and published in 2002, it is called “Walking Wisely.”
It is written clearly and simply and yet profoundly.
A couple of weeks ago I took it with me when I watched the kiddos and I shared a little bit about it. We actually had a good discussion and then yesterday we got to apply it.
Graham had to go somewhere with his mom and shortly after they left, I heard a scuffle going on between Emmet and Joel.
Joel was wearing one of those wrist bands basketball players wear and Emmett told me it was Graham’s and he doesn’t like them to wear them.
Joel was pretty convincing and confident that it was fine for him to do it.
I didn’t know who to believe so I just reminded Joel about making wise decisions and suggested he think ahead to when Graham got home and how it would go for him if he was still wearing the wrist band.
I went to pull Caroline out of whatever life threatening situation she was about to get herself into when I heard Emmett announce that Joel had taken it off.
It actually worked.
I was so inspired I applied it to my own decisions as the day progressed.
Apparently this godly wisdom thing is a real deal.
I signed in and watched the first video for “No Other Gods” this morning. It is a short one and I do want to mention if you are doing the study this summer a couple of points:
<3 You do have to register yourself with LIFEWAY to access the videos. I had an old account I have used to order books and that login worked for me to be able to get on the small group study site.
They are doing it differently than they have in the past, but different is ok. Don’t be afraid.
<3 If you are a male doing the study, she does talk to us like it’s all women but that’s because the study is through LIFEWAY which is kind of geared toward us females…don’t panic…your masculinity is not being threatened. And you just might glean some valuable insight into your wives and daughters minds as you listen in.
It will be different. Don’t be afraid.
<3 I am using my old study guide and adding new notes. The original did not have video teaching so I am just winging it with my note taking. Also, I can already tell the new workbook is set up and titled with updated wording – however the content is most likely unchanged and the first week that they are calling Session 2, HAS to be Session 1 in the old book – pages 8-27.
I hope she included her recipes in the new book – so fun. Do try them…and if she didn’t, let me know and I will share on here!
Our books may be different, but it’s ok. Don’t be afraid.
And now for my preliminary thoughts as we launch into this study.
This past week I received a pair of pants in the mail that Russ had ordered for me.
I would call them “exercise” pants although I mostly wear them for regular life and the occasional walk we try to squeeze in at the end of the day because…exercise? yeah…it’s been off my radar for far too long.
They are wonderfully comfortable and have a pocket in the side leg for my phone and I love them.
He decided we needed to order a pair for each of the girls, so commissioned me to do that yesterday.
As I looked up the company and began to locate the pants, I noticed that most of the clothing in the line is named after various Yoga terms.
I don’t want to open a can of worms here on our first visit about this study, but I am simply stating fact that things like “chakras” and “salutations” have a spiritual meaning beyond the health benefits of stretching that accompany Yoga.
I am realistically stating that while many people use yoga as an exercise method, it is in fact and indeed a spiritual practice and true followers of it would agree with me.
Thus, I am not being controversial, I am just saying that as a follower of Christ Jesus – I am wary of personally dabbling in other religions because it goes against what I believe He taught about Himself and what it means to be His disciple.
I am sharing that I struggle with the implications, even though several of the stretches are ones I need to do to relieve my chronic back pain and ward off the every day threat of a flare of plantar fasciitis.
I do not try and turn them into a Christian worship experience and I don’t avoid them. I do the stretches to help loosen muscles that cause me pain and I move on. I ordered the pants because they are pants, not because of the name.
Yet in the process, I can have huge arguments within my head about what is off limits and what is ok for me to do.
As a P.S. – I have no interest in debating this with anyone nor engaging in argument or justification. This is a personal matter between me and God and I am not trying to convince anyone one way or the other. Each of us must examine our conscience before God on these kinds of issues.
And about right now, you may be wondering what in the world this has to do with No Other Gods…so here is my point…
I can get so caught up in things like the above swirling of thoughts and conflicts and imagined debates about ordering a pair of pants on the off chance that God might be offended by the name a clever marketing person labeled them with in order to get more people to buy them and completely miss the real idols I have set up in my heart.
When I did this study in 2016, I was stricken with the “good things” that I had allowed to become the “main things” in my life and heart.
One of my main takeaways on the first go-round and again this morning from the introduction of the study is:
Make room for WHO you love
Make room in my heart for the God who loves me and who I love with my whole heart.
Do you feel like something is missing in this journey with God?
Perhaps it is because we have replaced Him with things that make lousy gods.
I am looking forward to more layers of my old nature being peeled off in the weeks ahead.
How about you?
Here is my prayer:
Heavenly Father, in this world of 2019, there are so many things that are obviously ungodly that I often get side-tracked with what is going on around me and fail to look deep within me. I know there are places I have set up idols and they have become so familiar to me that I may be fooling myself. As I revisit this study in the weeks ahead, I open myself fully to Your lens and I ask you to reveal to me anything that I have set up in my heart in the place that only You deserve. Thank you for your faithfulness and love for me to not allow anyone or anything to come before You in my heart.
As I sit here on a gray and overcast Monday morning, I have several thoughts on my mind so I am just sharing those to kick off the week.
Bless your heart if you stick around and read them…
First off, our church is doing a six week sermon series based on the book of Hebrews and one of our pastors has developed a study guide for us to use to enhance our learning.
I worked on mine this morning and I can’t emphasize enough the value of writing out Scripture.
It can seem pointless in this digital age, but there is a deep transaction that takes place when we take the time and make the effort to copy the words down in our own handwriting and then look over what we have written.
When we are asked to then put it in our own words, this too is a work that requires effort and a deeper level of thinking than just spitting back out what we read.
It works a spiritual and mental muscle group that can grow weak and lazy in this age of information overload.
Instead of letting someone else tell you what it means, it forces you to …gasp….THINK and APPLY what you have read.
An example from my journaling time this morning is this:
We were asked to think about what it means to us that Jesus became one of us and also what it will be like to share in His glory one day.
Here is my response:
“As I contemplate these questions, I think in this moment of this morning that I was given an understanding as a child that He loved and cared for me and understood my struggles. While there have been seasons when I did cry out “Unfair!” and question if He knew what it felt like to be me in a setting, if He really understood how much something was hurting me, I have always received a quick check in my spirit reminding me that YES! He DOES know and understand ….that He took on all of my humanity AND all of ALL humanity’s struggles and sins in a real and personal way.
To think of sharing His glory? This is a complex thought process for me. I have such a small and narrow view of Glory and the Glory of God. I downsize it to what I can comprehend of earthly glory. I minimize what God is promising to us and the gracious and great gift it is to us. I trade what is outside my understanding for what I can see, touch, feel…and it breaks me to know how little I regard the magnitude of His love for me.”
Was that easy? No
Did I grow up a little bit more today in my faith? Yes
I hope you will take some time each day or as often as your schedule allows you to pick up pen and paper and do the work of study.
Which leads me to my two other points to share today…
The Kelly Minter No Other Gods online study starts tomorrow!!!!
Here is a copy and paste with information about how to do the study that I got from the website:
Here is the main difference with onlinestudy.smallgroup.com: you’ll need to log in.* We know passwords are not fun, but we have good reasons! Because you’ll be logging in, you’ll have the ability to track your personal progress as you study and see which sessions you’ve watched! And, you’ll be the first one to know about future online Bible studies. *If you’ve ever purchased something on LifeWay.com, you should have created a LifeWay Account. That is the email and password you’ll want to use to log in. If you no longer use the email you originally set up as your LifeWay Account, feel free to click “Register” to create a new account. This email is where you’ll also receive email notifications to remind you that the newest session is now available to watch, so be sure you select one where you’d like to be receiving emails!The rest of the details you’ll need to participate in this study: No Other Gods is 8 weeks long, starting June 18 and ending August 6. You’ll get to watch the full video teaching for free for a limited time!** You’ll need to grab a copy of theNo Other Gods study book. If you have the older copy of this study, we recommend purchasing the revised and updated version to best follow along! (Friends outside the U.S., check out this list of online retailers around the world.) We’ll post a new video session on onlinestudy.smallgroup.com on Tuesdays at 5 a.m. CT (barring any technical difficulties). Once you log in, you will see the available sessions. For the first week, you’ll watch the video on June 18 first and then complete the Session 2 material in the study book before we meet again! Go to your email and add “firstname.lastname@example.org” to your contacts. This way, our emails are less likely to go to your spam folder. The first video session is about 10 minutes long, but you can plan for the rest of the videos to be 25-35 minutes long.
And FAQ’s…no I have not received any email accept the very first one.
No, we are not doing a formal discussion group anywhere – just do your study and watch the videos and I will share probably once a week from my own study and would love to hear any thoughts you have – MARK YOUR COMMENT AS OK TO SHARE OR JUST FOR ME so I don’t post something I shouldn’t.
my last thought for the day.
This summer is ridiculous.
The weather is insane – rainy and cold followed by hot and humid, all in the same 12 hour span.
Our calendar is so jam-packed there is no white space.
I have several different writing projects going on in my head, laundry piling up faster than the dust around it and stress that is laughing in the face of the whole “lazy days of summer” tune I had planned to hum.
So I am sharing my coping strategy in case you are in the same float boat of overcommitment.
I am taking a big piece of paper and drawing out June and July.
I am filling in all the things that are already scheduled and then I am going to make a big outline around any white space so that I can see visually that it does exist.
Then I am going to attempt to live intentionally in the white spaces and not waste them.
I have to do this because I am such an odd mix of rebel and rule follower that if my unscheduled times do not fall in the normal range of the 8-5 work hours, I basically fritter away time I could have used to do things I was complaining about not having time for earlier in the day.
Wish me luck…pray for me…encourage me when you see me…I am a work in progress.
Now to get busy and be productive and I will see you tomorrow <3