Thursday, June 27, 2013

Speak the Truth

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..." (4:15)

"Speaking the truth in love." That's Christian-ese for "saying something unpleasant that the other person doesn't want to hear, but needs to hear"--right?

"Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another" (Ephesians 4:25).

And that one pretty much just means "don't lie," doesn't it?

I think we can get a fuller, more meaningful picture of both concepts by noticing a little phrase in verse 21 that falls right in between these two exhortations: "...the truth is in Jesus..." 

HOW are we to speak the truth? In love.
With WHOM are we to speak the truth? Our neighbors.
WHERE is the truth? WHAT is the truth? WHO is truth? Jesus.

Paul speaks of "having put away falsehood." I think he's talking about something a lot bigger than "stop telling white lies." The bigger picture is the futile, darkened understanding of those who do not know the Lord and are alienated from Him, which Paul described just a few verses earlier. We must put away the falsehood of autonomous, self-sufficient existence, the lie that we can be wise apart from God--the lies of Eden. We have to put away the enemy's lies about who God is--that He isn't in control, that He doesn't really love us, that He isn't good, isn't wise.

We are to constantly be speaking the truth in love among our brothers and sisters; we are to speak the truth with our neighbors--and the truth is in Jesus! This is so much richer than "don't be afraid to say hard things to your friend"; it's so much more than merely, "don't tell your neighbor a lie." It's "love others enough to speak to them about who Christ is and what He has done and how that matters for their lives, their struggles." And I don't just mean "evangelize the person who lives next door"; rather, I mean, everyone is your neighbor, and the Christians in your life still need to hear the gospel!

People are naturally meaning-makers: we are constantly trying to make sense of life, trying to explain what is going on around us. We interpret reality--and then in the things we say to each other, we (intentionally or not) counsel each other to adopt our interpretation, to see and understand life the way we do. As Paul Tripp explains in Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands:
“When we say that God designed human beings to be interpreters, we are getting to the heart of why human beings do what they do. Our thinking conditions our emotions, our sense of identity, our view of others, our agenda of the solution of our problems, and our willingness to receive counsel from others. That is why we need a framework for generating valid interpretations that help us respond to life appropriately. Only the words of the Creator can give us that framework.”
This passage of Ephesians exhorts us not to put forth false, idolatrous interpretations of life. Instead, lovingly help your neighbor see her heart and her circumstances in view of God, from an eternal perspective. Bring the gospel to shed light on the topic--speak the truth of the person and work of Jesus!

And when you do, you minister also to yourself; you preach the gospel to yourself, reminding yourself of those truths which you so easily forget and need to hear.

May God make us quick to reject subtle patterns of false thinking and instead speak the truth of Christ with those around us today!

[edited repost from the archives]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 288

Thanking God this week for...

5160. fresh grace to fight sin and believe truth
5161. Elijah helping me make zucchini lasagna
5162. the reality that I'll have eternity to catch up and reconnect with dear friends whom I can't stay as close to now as I'd like
5163. opportunities to teach Elijah about gratitude and whining, simultaneously preaching truth to my own complaining heart
5164. a friend picking up groceries for me, staying for lunch and fellowship

5165. a day at Warner Park with friends
5166. kids splashing in the creek
5167. Elijah's bravery when he fell off his bike and skinned up his elbow
5168. renewed motivation to memorize His Word
5169. increased flexibility and strength

5170. boys enjoying Vacation Bible School
5171. Jude suddenly wanting to ride on my back in the Boba again
5172. Elijah's cheerful, thankful heart
5173. VBS volunteers gracious when I got mixed up and was 15-20 minutes late
5174. Elijah not freaking out when Mama was late

5175. a friend's challenging example of boldness, hunger for the Word, love for others
5176. early morning prayer with dear friends
5177. grace to turn to Jesus in the midst of temptation to fear man
5178. calling me His beloved daughter and being pleased with me in Christ, so I don't have to worry about or live for other people's approval
5179. lessons about assuming the best of others' motives and not being easily offended

5180. Steve always helping me see from a different perspective, challenging my thinking rather than coddling my emotions
5181. knowledge about how to keep my kids safe in the car
5182. clothes dried on the line
5183. dance music
5184. sleeping in

5185. smiles from a friend's baby girl
5186. these powerful song lyrics
5187. meaningful conversation with a friend over lunch
5188. time spent working together with Steve on the house (in a couple more weeks, I may actually have a few "after" pictures to show!! don't hold your breath...)
5189. His patience to tell me the same thing over and over and over

5190. Elijah and Jude hugging and kissing each other good night
5191. Elijah: "Night, Jude! I love you! Don't let the bug-bugs bite!"
5192. granting to His beloved sleep
5193. never slumbering or ceasing His watchful care

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Under Construction and Time with Cousins

Back in April (yes, I am that behind on blogging and more...what is my problem?!) I had an awesome opportunity. Steve has a cousin, Josh, who pastors a church in Wisconsin, and his cousin's wife, Ali, plans an annual women's retreat for the church and community. Shortly after she decided on this year's theme, "Under Construction," I happened to put up a blog post that was in line with what she had in mind. So Ali invited me to come and speak to the ladies about God's ongoing construction in our hearts and lives!


When she asked me, Ali acknowledged that this might be way out of my comfort zone, but the truth is, something like this is easier and more comfortable for me than the day-to-day work of motherhood! That's not to say I don't get butterflies, of course. It had been years since I'd spoken in front of a big group like this for any length of time! But generally, speaking to a group of women is something I count as an exciting privilege, not a terrifying obligation.


The bonus for this opportunity was the invitation to spend time with Josh and Ali. Steve and I have often said we'd love to spend more time with them and wish they lived closer. So this speaking gig was a perfect way for us to connect with them: Steve and the boys got to hang out with Josh and their kids while Ali and I were at the retreat, and then we stayed a couple of extra days after it was over.


As we anticipated, it turned out to be a wonderful trip. I loved sharing my heart with the women, as well as hearing a couple of them speak and interacting with them offstage. And these retreat planners go all out! The hotel ballroom was decorated with all kinds of traffic cones and construction signs and dump trucks--the ladies at the registration table were even wearing hard hats and orange vests :) So many little touches that made the weekend special and fun.

After the retreat, we had some sweet times of fellowship with Josh and Ali. And our boys *loved* their second cousins. 


We are wishing more than ever that they lived closer to us! 


Anyway, I bring all this up again now because the audio from my talk has recently been posted online. This message is so close to my heart--it weaves together themes God has been writing in my life over the last decade. Here's a summary:
God IS at work remodeling our hearts and making us look like Jesus, but the slow process can easily frustrate us if we’re focused on ourselves and our results. Amy encourages us to embrace the mess, celebrate grace, and trust God’s promises to finish what He started.
To be honest, I'm struggling to believe my own words lately--have often been feeling defeated and discouraged. I should probably listen to this, but I hate hearing my own voice! So if you find yourself in a similar place, frustrated with the chasm between where you are and where you want to be, wondering what God is up to in the messiness of your life, I hope you'll find a little encouragement and fresh grace to persevere in these words. Click here to download the mp3 file or listen online

Monday, June 17, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 287

"The discipline of celebration is...a tap dance on the fresh graves of apathy and cynicism, the creeping belief that this is all there is, and that God is no match for the wreckage of the world we live in. What God does in the tiny corners of our day-to-day lives is stunning and gorgeous and headline-making, but we have a bad habit of saving the headlines for the grotesque and scary."
--Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines

Celebrating the ordinary and thanking God for...

5127. a free round of mosquito spray for our yard
5128. a well-stocked freezer and pantry
5129. preventative chiropractic care
5130. Yukon Gold potatoes
5131. husband praying for me

5132. recent issues of Southern Living from a thoughtful friend, surprising me
5133. a friend texting me, praying and thinking of me
5134. Oriental chicken salad
5135. Command+Z, to "undo" accidental deletions (if only LIFE had an "undo" button...)
5136. the ability to instantly download new music

5137. upstairs bathroom finally painted
5138. leek fritters
5139. our insanely cheap and wonderful Mom's Day Out program
5140. cookbooks and journals with lay-flat spines
5141. sweet sleeping boys, both still taking great naps every day

5142. finding out about a local Touch-a-Truck event in time to go
5143. the boys' excitement about it
5144. kind men bringing their trucks and patiently letting kids explore
5145. a perfectly gorgeous day for it
5146. sunscreen

5147. a chat with my mom while the boys played on a playground
5148. fellowship with church families
5149. early-morning snuggles, unsolicited
5150. Jude's excited "Daddy's having cheese for a snack, surely he will share with me" dance
5151. Steve's hard work all day Saturday prepping the bathroom for tile

5152. this encouraging blog post
5153. free books by the Puritans, like this one
5154. crispy thin-crust pizza for $6
5155. this time-lapse photography of a storm cell, evidence of God's power and glory
5156. boys wishing Daddy a Happy Father's Day, unprompted

5157. my amazing husband, wonderful daddy to our two boys
5158. my amazing dad, who got so many things right and has loved me so well
5159. the privilege of calling Him Abba, Father

Monday, June 10, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 286

Thanking God this week for...

5083. Elijah's first Vacation Bible School experience
5084. fond memories of my own summers of VBS
5085. husband pursuing my heart
5086. a game of dominoes with Steve and Elijah
5087. Jude singing "Twinkle, twinkle, little Scar..." --a lullaby for the villain of his current favorite movie?

5088. orange lilies
5089. water flavored with lime
5090. this testimony from a woman whose husband cheated on her and how He restored their marriage
5091. opening my eyes to the ethical concerns surrounding adoption, sooner rather than later
5092. a meeting with our pastor and a couple of beautiful women to discuss women's ministry

5093. our pastor's vision, passion, humility
5094. His perfect timing, so different (so much slower) than mine
5095. reminders of the need for humble, prayerful dependence
5096. the boys' forgiveness after I scream at them
5097. getting paid to participate in a study at Vanderbilt

5098. how far Elijah has come since our participation in the first phase
5099. how much more verbal Jude is than Elijah was at his age
5100. the dragon sculpture at Fannie Mae Dees Park

5101. a picnic and some playtime there

5102. ice cream cones with sprinkles from Bobbie's Dairy Dip

5103. fresh thyme from a friend's garden
5104. a man in our church praising God for his wife
5105. a friend picking up a few things from Costco for me
5106. early morning prayer on the phone with a dear friend
5107. Elijah in a neon-pink shirt

5108. chicken, corn and tomato pitas for the first time this summer
5109. last three quarts of strawberries
5110. one last round of strawberry shortcake
5111. friends here for dinner
5112. our kids playing really well together

5113. Jude sharing his beloved Clifford
5114. my parents marriage--33 years last week
5115. painting accomplished in the upstairs bathroom
5116. sweet, shy girl in the church nursery trying on my shoes
5117. a day at Radnor Lake with my guys

5118. bug spray
5119. trail maps
5120. the boys' exuberance about hiking

5121. healthy bodies, strong legs
5122. striped centipede, white-tailed deer, speedy caterpillar

5123. the boys' impressive ability to hike almost three miles--half of it rated "strenuous"
5124. mercies new after I've yelled and shamed
5125. Ann's words piercing my heart again this afternoon
5126. His patience with me, in spite of how I am so impatient and harsh

Friday, June 07, 2013

Saved by the Good Samaritan

How many times have we all heard the story of the Good Samaritan? It's so familiar that the phrase has entered our general cultural vocabulary, even for non-Christians. But I'll bet you haven't heard the story like my husband told it last Sunday.

It was Steve's turn to give the New Testament reading at church, and he was assigned a section of Luke that included this familiar parable. After initially figuring he'd focus on one of the other parts, he started to see the story in a new light, so on Sunday, he offered the following meditation. It blew me away. Best Good Samaritan sermon I've ever heard, and he accomplished it in less than five minutes. The rest of this post (after the Scripture) is all Steve's words.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
In this section, the lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to be saved. However, Jesus doesn’t answer that question directly--it seems He rarely does. Instead, Jesus answers by describing the actions of one who is part of the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus describes the fruit of the man, not the law that he is following.

Yet in a roundabout way, Jesus does answer the question of how one must be saved. In this parable, the Righteous Outcast must come and collect those who are wounded beyond hope. He must clean and wrap the wounds of the broken, at great cost to Himself. He must pay the full price for making men whole, from the beginning of the process to the end.

We are the Jew in the ditch, and Jesus is our Good Samaritan.

And notice, when the Samaritan leaves, the Jew has not yet fully recovered. Yet there is a promise of a return, when the healing will be complete.

Let us rejoice today, for our wounds have been cleansed and wrapped by Jesus, and though we are still broken, we have the promise of full, unimaginable healing when He returns.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

All-Natural Berry Vinaigrette Dressing [Whole30 Friendly] ...Plus Two Bonus Dressing Recipes

I love raspberry vinaigrette dressing. But have you ever stopped to read the labels on the brands at the store? OY. All kinds of nasty stuff: HFCS, soybean oil...if actual raspberry juice even appears on the list at all, it usually falls at the end under "contains 2% or less of the following." No thanks!

Steve and I recently wrapped up the Whole30 challenge. It's kind of a long story why we did it--I haven't felt like getting into all of it on the blog yet--but it was definitely a challenge. No grains, no dairy, no legumes...and no sweetener of any kind. Not just no sugar, but no maple syrup, no honey, not even stevia. Any one of those things would be a challenge to give up, but all four groups?! I had to completely revamp the way I cook.

I don't see eating this way as sustainable long-term (even the paleo folks use maple syrup and honey, and a little dairy), but it was a good nutritional reset button of sorts, and some good things have come out of it. I definitely saw how dependent we are on grains and how a meal can be delicious and satisfying without any bread or pasta or rice. And I hit on some new recipes I plan to keep in the rotation. We aren't about to go paleo full-time, but I'd like to move a little more in that direction.

Anyway, salad dressing was one of the first obstacles to conquer. When your major foods are meats and vegetables, you expect to eat a lot of salad--but salad dressing with no sweetener? I had recently fallen in love with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette sweetened with maple syrup, but that was out. What in the world was I going to put on my salad?

My first move was to try out a recipe that had been posted online as a knockoff of the dressing for Panera's Fuji Apple Chicken Salad. After doing some reading, I was pretty sure this dressing wasn't going to taste anything like the one on my favorite salad--and it definitely doesn't--but I hoped it would be an acceptable go-to dressing during Whole30. And it was! It's sweetened with apple juice concentrate, and everything else is just basic ingredients I always have on hand. Excellent.

After a few weeks, though, I was starting to get a little tired of it. Then I had a brainstorm. What if I replaced the juice concentrate with one of those 100% fruit kinds of jam--you know, the ones that are sweetened with fruit syrup/juice instead of sugar or HFCS? Wouldn't that get me a raspberry vinaigrette?

Our grocery didn't have raspberry all-fruit jam, but I bought some blackberry and gave it a whirl. The result? My new favorite salad dressing. I'll definitely keep using this long after Whole30 is over. I love jazzing up my salad with a tasty sauce made from real food! And I love that there are only four ingredients, not six or eight like most of my dressing recipes. That makes whipping up a batch at mealtime totally doable. Next time I make it to Trader Joe's, I can't wait to pick up some raspberry jam to try that.


Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. blackberry or raspberry jam (the 100% fruit kind)
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 t. salt

Combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.

If you're interested, here are the other two recipes I mentioned:

Apple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (which doesn't actually taste apple-y to me, just sweet)

2 T apple juice concentrate
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. Dijon mustard
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt

Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 T balsamic vinegar
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T maple syrup
1/4 t. sea salt

Happy salad eating!

Monday, June 03, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 285

Thanking God over the last couple of weeks for...

5038. a visit from my parents
5039. dance lessons with Steve
5040. grace to confess my failures
5041. the color of kiwi
5042. Elijah's exuberant dance moves and facial expressions during his preschool program

5043. the growth we've seen in him this year
5044. shortcakes made from scratch
5045. giant bowls of strawberry shortcake
5046. a big stack of old Southern Living issues from my aunt
5047. a dreaded email finally sent, no longer hanging over my head

5048. its being received graciously
5049. being holy, holy, holy--yet inviting me to Come...come...come...come!
5050. a visit with one of my favorite families ever
5051. one-on-one time with my dear mentor
5052. freedom to be completely real with each other

5053. talking until 2AM
5054. sleeping late the next morning, Steve getting up with the boys
5055. games, games and more games
5056. my boys having a big brother and big sisters for the weekend
5057. a dear friend's encouraging words and gentle challenge

5058. Uncle David helping the boys play his cello, like the Piano Guys (their fave)
5059. Frisbees flying across the backyard
5060. sunset sky streaked with clouds
5061. Steve's prompting to make summer lists and plans for engaging with the boys
5062. our old neighborhood with its huge trees

5063. quarts and quarts of strawberries
5064. grace to make a phone call even when I didn't want to
5065. how encouraging it turned out to be
5066. evidence of His grace at work even in the midst of our ugliness
5067. family dinner at Mafiaoza's

5068. Elijah holding doors for me on our date
5069. sweet one-on-one time with him
5070. his excitement to go on a date with Mama
5071. sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon cream syrup at the Pancake Pantry
5072. bedroom decluttered

5073. someone finally cutting back the willow tree on the corner that obstructs views of oncoming traffic every summer
5074. our pastor's fantastic sermons
5075. shopping by myself
5076. Steve playing dominoes with Elijaih
5077. Elijah's love for his Sunday school teacher

5078. snuggles from a friend's sweet daughter, who doesn't normally warm up to others
5079. Steve's Scripture so, so good. coming up on the blog tomorrow.
5080. our church's practice of corrective discipline
5081. our pastors' courage, humility, love
5082. the sobering reminder of the dangers of sin and my own vulnerability to satan's lies