Fall Into Tradition

I looked across the straw-filled wagon at my husband, our daughter, and two sons, and in that moment I knew: we had fallen into a new tradition. With my daughter to the right of me and the boys to the left, it was clear that this humid second day of fall was proving to be the first of an annual tradition to the Harvest Hollar Corn Maze. Funny how a simple click on a Groupon for a corn maze can turn into a magical family experience.

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We arrived much later than we intended and soaked up every bit of child-hood nostalgia possible in the fleeting light of sunset. I thought Laura, Mary, and baby Carrie would come strolling out to feed the cows and horses with us any minute. I thought we would surely see Almanzo eating homemade pumpkin pie and cobbler with the appetite of a grown farmer in the general store. Indeed, I think I caught a glimpse of Caddie Woodlawn running through the field chasing after her Pa, hair wild and eyes sparkling as we listened to music of days past. In reality, it was the perfect family setting to match the wonderful childhood literature that my children are surrounded with. It was the fruit of much toil and a dream of a farmer and his wife.

When one reaps, a harvest of righteousness will come if he does not give up. In this case, as in so many others, we enjoy the harvest of a sowing we took no part in. Little by little the crowds have grown to thousands that come to this farm each year with their family to make memories that will outlast the brief hours of their visits. Glory be to God for His unfailing wisdom and grace upon grace that we can all share a table when the work is done. That in each part of the Body accomplishing the work God gives them to do, bearing their load with the Lord, and seeking to assist one another, we can meet at the table and feast on the fruit.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Dear reader, your work may be invisible to most, but important to many. To impact the millions after Him, Christ discipled the twelve before Him. What is set before you this day? Faithfully sow and then perhaps we will all reap as you do not give up.

We have fallen into tradition this season. A new way to mark the years and seasons as a family. Tell me about the traditions in your home. Do share–you never know, maybe we will fall for your tradition too.

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We Fall Once More

Fall Once More

Yesterday marked the first day of fall. We had a humble, but much anticipated, celebration in our home all day which we lovingly termed our Fallibration. Nothing fancy, just simple fun. A fall sign made from repurposed brown packaging paper from an Amazon order, dollar store cups, plates, and a table cloth, and plenty of baking and books for all.

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Each year the turn of seasons is a good place to pause, praise, and perceive what the Savior is teaching us in our current season. Also, to identify what type of season we are in. It is easy for us, particularly women I believe, to assess our entire season of life on the last week alone. I know I do. My husband can ask me how I, we, our family is doing, and I will base my answer on the afternoon and not the week or season in its entirety.

We are back in the throws of toddlerhood and homeschooling as September is turning a brilliant red and bursting into October. I have failed in grace and fallen so many times in need of grace. Can you relate? In fact, this week, while apologizing to my oldest son, my daughter quipped with a knowing grin, We have to forgive you everyday mommy. It’s true, we fall once more and need to be forgiven daily. Maybe not by our children–as my daughter was partially teasing, or maybe we so– but certainly by our Heavenly Father. The maker and sustainer of our physical seasons and our life’s seasons knows our weaknesses and limitations. He remembers out of the dust we were formed. We fall once more and then turn and fall into the forgiving grace-filled arms of the Savior.

We repent and seek change in ourselves, our reactions, and reconciliation with God and man daily. God knows we will fall under self-sustained burdens. That is why we need to be in fellowship and friendship, with Him, with a local Body of Believers, and with the Church Universal. He assures us in His word:

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.… (Matthew 11:28-29)

As we fall once more, may we keep these and similar verses in mind so that we may fall forward in grace and sanctification; sustaining ourselves with God’s Word, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the fellowship of believers.

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Being the Ten Percent- Gracious Gratitude

Thanksgiving Post 2015 Living the 10 Percent

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all your possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

(Mark 10:17-22, NASB)

Gratitude is not greedy for power, possessions, or prestige. Gratitude graciously bows out when it is time.

Perfect peace is found not in trying to achieve power, but in using the power and platform God has given you for such a time as this. 

Only a few men in history have set themselves apart for the power they graciously relinquished. They knew when to walk away in order that the greater good would be served in their absence. Consider:

Moses, relinquished the rights of an adopted grandson of the Pharaoh in order to remember the plight of his people. In so doing, he hastened his humble service to rescue God’s people from slavery and captivity.

(Moses) considering the reproach of  Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

(Hebrews 11:26-27, NASB)

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, “a man who neither sought power nor held on to it when his duties had been fulfilled.” (The Cincinnatus Association) Cincinnatus, for whom the city in Ohio is named, was a Roman citizen who was offered endless power and, instead, returned to his farm after saving his country in battle.

George Washington, known as the American Cincinnatus, was not only America’s first president, the model for all who would hold the title after him to emulate, but a man who walked away from power twice so that the great American experiment would not falter under the unbearable weight of a king.

Who can imagine that the liberty of millions might depend on the character of one man? What was it that gave him the strength to do the right thing when the temptation to do something less noble must have been overwhelming?

More than two hundred years after Washington’s death, his willingness to relinquish power–twice–is the most remarkable thing that we remember about him. These refusals to seize power for himself were the greatest acts of one of history’s greatest men.

(7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas)

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left the honor and majesty of heaven to come to the squalor and filth of earth. He left His throne in heaven to be laid in a cradle, and later hung on a cross before conquering the enemy of death and sin once and for all. (See Philippians 2) It is to Jesus that we owe all gratitude and praise. If it were not for His modeled call to lay down our lives, His example as He resisted the urging of even His closest friends and disciples to siege power over people before the appointed time, then we would not one day receive the power to be joint errs and rulers with Jesus in Heaven.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

(1 Timothy 6:17, NASB)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

(Philippians 2:3, NASB)

We, like the rich young ruler in the first passage above, may have choices in our future to posture ourselves in gracious gratitude and service to Christ, or to walk away with our possessions, power, or prestige in hand; heavy in heart and guilt. Being the gracious ten percent includes knowing when to walk away from the things of this earth in order to walk toward the person and mission of Christ. May we choose to follow Christ’s example.

 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (James 4:6, NLT)

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Being the 10 Percent-Humble Gratitude

Living the 10 Percent Thanksgiving 2015

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14, NIV

Last week, we determined that we want to be found giving thanks like the ten percent. Only one leper out of ten returned to thank Jesus for His miraculous healing. However, this week’s account in Luke informs us that mere words of thanks are not enough; it is the heart behind the words that matters most. In this parable about the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus is teaching that humility of heart is better than good deeds accompanied by a haughty spirit.

In fact, this parable teaches that there is a wrong way to give thanks.

If we are giving thanks because we are not like other sinners; that is, not bent towards certain less favorable sins. Or, if in order to elevate our filthy rags of righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6), we thankfully condemn more noticeable targets or outright sin, then we are missing grace all together. This isn’t but for the grace of God go I mentality, this is at least I’m not doing… What a dangerous predicament to enter into.

A vacuum of humility in our lives leads to the fertile soil of hypocrisy. Consider,

Hypocrites keep up the external performances of religion only to save or gain credit. There are many whom we see every day at the temple, whom, it is to be feared, we shall not see in the great day at Christ’s right hand. 

His giving God thanks for this, though in itself a good thing, yet seems to be a mere formality. He does not say, By the grace of God I am what I am, as Paul did, but turns it off with a slight, God, I thank thee, which is intended but for a plausible introduction to a proud vainglorious ostentation of himself.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

God’s glory is to resist the proud but give grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. It was the brother who had done the work diligently and faithfully that had to flee the temptation to be angered at the wayward brother’s reward. The faithful must put off the garment of pride and assumption that God only gives mercy and grace to those who look the part or have played it the longest. It is God’s grace through Jesus Christ that brings our favor. That alone secures our salvation and no works we do on earth can equate the grace that Jesus provides. Works accompany faith, and restoration follows humble confession and repentance–be it in the early years of our life, or in the later years just before arriving Home.

Another lesson from this parable: We who have been in church and within God’s grace for anytime must resist the temptation and tendency to make God’s Kingdom on earth look like anything other than God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom will consist of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Further, it will consist of the last being the first. The crippled, handicapped, poor, and cast aside populace of the present will be the rulers of the future Kingdom to come. We must not welcome the well dressed and successful among our places of worship to the detriment of the poor, the weak, and the plagued with sin who may stumble into our congregations by the saving grace of God. (See James 2:1-13)

Not everyone in church should look just like you…or me!

If thanksgiving towards God has become a mere formality for us as it was for the pharisee in Jesus’s parable, then it is time to repent in humility and recognize the saving grace of God in our own needy lives. There is always gratitude to be given for God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

If we have neglected to welcome those within our community of believers who don’t look like us, then we must repent and consider what God’s Kingdom will look like in eternity. We should make our churches welcoming congregations for every tribe, tongue, nation, and social status.

Be the ten percent. Give thanks with a humble heart.

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If you want to further explore the thoughts from this post, might I recommend two books that I have read in the past that most likely helped shape some of the thoughts written above?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (see here)

Onward by Russell Moore (see here)

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When Plans Don’t Work Out

Last year Ron and I traveled to the Grand Canyon with 5 other people through a ministry called Going the Distance Adventure Ministries. You must know, the trip was an unspoken bucket list item checked off. We hiked the 12 mile round trip Bright Angel Trail out to the Plateau Point. It was a beautiful, slightly challenging hike that thrilled my adventure seeking heart.

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But that is only part of the story.

Three men from our team hiked the 25 mile Rim to Rim hike…in one day. I really wanted to attempt this hike, but was slightly discouraged by the sincere questions of people as to whether I was up for the challenge. I decided that I should start with the “easier’ hike first.

The taste  of the Rim to Rim hike has been ever on my mind for 11 months now. I began working-out harder almost immediately after our return last October and even started CrossFit Workouts of the Day between 4-6 months ago. Additionally, the StairMaster plus a 15 lb. kettle bell and I have become friends. I use the term friend loosely here.

Imagine my dismay and utter disappointment when the Government Shutdown earlier this week included the shut down of all the national parks. That meant my Rim to Rim hike with GTD would have to be routed to hikes outside of the Grand Canyon.

Don’t get me wrong, the revenue loss alone is a reason to be upset about the closing of all national parks. However, consider the individual stories that are being rewritten as a result of this standoff. Wedding cancellations, war veterans meeting up with their comrades for the first time in decades are left with dashed plans, and costly family vacation plans impacted.

Sometimes our plans don’t work out.

What do we do next? Well, in my case, I consider what my plans have cost me to date. I am in better physical condition than I was this time last year, Ron and I still get a few days away, great flood geology teaching, and Sedona red rocks will be equally exquisite as last year. However, there remains a goal unmet, a dream unrealized.

You would think I would quit training, right?

Wrong! I am continuing to train.I am confident my preparation will be met with opportunity.

It is much like this blog. When I first started my readership was significantly less than the present. The audience size didn’t affect my output in writing quality and desire to do my best job every time.In fact, days before my editor over at iBelieve contacted me about partnering with them, I told Ron, “I post and write the best I can as frequently as I can so that one day if opportunity arises for growth, I will be ready.”

In the spiritual, as in the physical, we can put off training for heaven as our eternal home because we are duped into thinking this life is longer than the breath we have. However, we are to live with an eternal mindset, everyday, so that when the opportunity to step into the heavenly realm signals with the end of our mortal lives we have done the work and finished our race in top shape…with fewer regrets.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Wherever it is that I hike in the next two weeks, I am confidant that the Lord ordered the steps that I will take, the path I will follow, and the people that I will walk it with. I am so thankful that the Lord gives us the desires of our hearts and then throws in some twists and turns in our stories as well.

What have you learned from plans that didn’t work out?

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Step Into Fall

Step Into Fall

Last week we looked at the changing of seasons. As you sip your favorite fall drink, or grab another pumpkin treat, here are some fall-time posts from the archives. Let’s step into fall together shall we?

Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? (Amos 3:3, NLT)

  1. Harvesting Hearts of Principle (here)
  2. Apple Picking in the South (here)
  3. To Carve Out a Light (here)
  4. Thanksgiving: To Lay Down a Life (here)
  5. Stepping Back in Time (here)

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The Changing of Seasons

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The fall, a time of tailgating, football, pumpkin treats, and the fading smell of freshly sharpened pencils. This fall finds our family at more soccer games than football because our Emily is playing Upward Soccer with her good Coach Dad.

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This fall also finds us saying goodbye to Little E for four days a week as he goes off to visit his biological parents respectively. I am fighting this one however as any sane person will admit that a two and a half year old boy needs a steady home…not a rotation of three. The joys and struggles of foster care are abundant this harvest season. However, this little boy is abundantly worth both the joys and struggles we sow in hopes of an eternal harvest of joy.

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From the acorn caps scattered under our feet to the delicious caramel apples gathered in the grocery store, signs of fall are everywhere.

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Finally, as the fall season approaches on the 22nd of September, the fall of man also is on full display… everywhere. Diagnosis after diagnosis, declaration of judges in federal and local courts, and a call to weapons of war resound in our ears constantly reminding us that this earth is in a state of decay.

As we face the decay of life, season after fleeting season, we must remember the hope to which we are called. Ponder the hope of a new heaven and a new earth. We are to seek the changing of the eternal seasons from finite time to the infinite realization of relationship between God and man. We long for the return of God’s created order to earth. We long to see the miraculous a midst the fall.

We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’s miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming. (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 99, emphasis mine)

This season as we tromp crunch, crunch, crunch through the dead and decaying leaves, let’s also look up and admire the blazing colors of the glorious changing of seasons and pray for the changing of the eternal season to come.

As we hear the acorns falling plunk, plunk, plunk on the rooftops and the hoods of cars, let’s pray in turn for the miraculous falling of the Holy Spirit over the multitude of hurting people in our spheres.

May this change in season tune our souls to seek the eternal season to come.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. ~Ecclesiastes 3

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