The Book and Testimony of Richard Wumberland

As part of our daily lessons, I teach my children church history. We often read about martyrs and theologians of the early church, but this past term, I decided a more modern perspective would be important as well.

So, as part of my daughter’s sixth grade study in church history, I have been reading the book: Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. It is the story of the persecution that took place in Romania during the communist regime. Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor during the 1950’s-1960’s when Romanian Christians were being persecuted by the Communist party. He writes not only bits of his years of being tortured in prison, but also of those believers he heard about or knew personally.

As the book reaches the second half, Pastor Wurmbrand discusses the lies of atheists and communists and points to various testimonies of those who have taken a public stand against those lies. Pastor Wurmbrand also speaks passionately about the need for Christian brothers and sisters in free countries to support their fellow believers who are being persecuted.

I have told several people, that even though I have read multitude of books throughout my lifetime, there are a few that change a person forever. The books, Tortured for Christ has done just that for me.

One of my favorite parts of the book is on pages 44-49 when Pastor Wurmbrand states that:

“It was strictly forbidden to preach to other prisoners, as it is in captive nations today. It was understood that whoever was caught doing received a severe beating. A number of us decided to pay the price for the privilege of preaching, so we accepted their terms. It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us–so everyone was happy” (Wurmbrand, 2013 p.44).

As I read on, Pastor Wurbrand tells that often a Christian man would be interrrupetd as he was telling the prisoners about Christ, He would be severely beaten and brought back. When the damaged preacher was returned to the cell, he would adjust himself and ask his listeners, “‘Now, brethern, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?’ He continued his gospel messgae!” (Wurmbrand, 2013, p.45).

I find that ongoing event most convicting as I ask myself… how am I being persecuted for my Savior? How am I being beaten and bruised for Him? What sacrifices must I make on His behalf? The answer is a line with an empty space above it.

Yet, as I look at my comfortable recliner, with my Bible and prayer journal beside it, I am reminded that the disciplines of every-day must be my sacrifice. To be diligent to pray…pray…pray, to be faithful to God’s Word, to raise my children to also love their Savior, to sacrificially love my husband, to live at every cost to myself, to silence my prideful tongue, to discern truth and lies, to walk in grace and tenderness to others…this is my sacrifice. And though I may not be tormented by other people for my faith, I can strive to hold fast to my faith in a world where everything is created to pull me from it.

My cross, is to live out faith in a world of comfort, which is no less a challenging place to live out my faith in Christ than rotting in the basement of dirty prison cell. I may venture to add, that perhaps, crucifying myself is a far more difficult task in a free, wealthy, comfortable world than it might be if I bore the literal stripes upon my back from another’s whip.

I will muse again at another lesson I have learned from the book about how petty believers in the free-world can be. Richard Wurmbrand explains that the persecuted church makes churches in the free world seem void and meaningless. In his discussion of that topic, Wurmbrand states that:

“The Bible verses are not well known in many countries, because Bibles are not permitted. Besides, the preacher had most likely been in prison for years without a Bible…They are like Job who said that he would believe in God even if He would slay him. They are like Jesus who called God “Father,’ even when He was seemingly forsaken on the cross” (Yurmbrand, 2013, p. 89).

As an American Christian, with stacks of Bible’s on my shelves, apps on my phone bursting with biblical podcasts, and stacks of books written by believers from today back to hundreds of years ago, one would think, I have been blessed with much more opportunity to follow Christ. Yet, I find myself feeling like a very small believer in the light of a man with no Bible, no church, no Christian books or podcasts, laying on the floor of his prison cell for His beloved Savior.

I have been given so much perspective about what is and isn’t important. Believers in persecuted countries do not have the luxury to disagree with fellow Christians about worship styles, Bible versions, or whether or not a woman should hold the office of a deacon. Every cause we consider important in our Christian churches today, is something that is more of a distraction to the cause of Christ than a help to the precious gospel. I see so many believers self-promoting.

Believers agree on Christ and His grace poured out on their souls to save them. They hunger for fellowship with other believers and will meet together faithfully at the cost of imprisonment or death. Believers in the persecuted church make every American Christian look like a fake.

And truth be told, if I did not rest completely in Christ’s atonement on my behalf, despite the world of ease and sin where I live, I would seriously question the status of my own soul’s security in Christ. It is not by my work…but His, or I would be tempted to run to a country where I could suffer the most on His behalf and honor Him by my suffering.

It is here that my heart is pointed to the center of the matter. It is all about Him. And with every sweet testimony I read from Pastor Wurmbrand’s book, I can see the worthiness of Christ. Yes, He is worthy of every sufferer’s pain and every martyr’s death. Jesus is so insurmountably precious, and dear to us who love Him, that we cannot help, but pick up our cross daily and follow Him. Whether that cross be a chain in prison, or the chain of comfort. Both seek to drive our hearts further from Him, but may they only serve as something we bear to honor Him better.

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.

See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.  -Isaac Watts

Subtle Signs of Pride

I re-wrote a text twenty times yesterday as I found myself constantly convicted about my message. It oozed of pride, no matter how I worded it. Finally, I just deleted the message, and let my friend know that I looked forward to a future conversation in person with her. But now, I will need to guard my words during that conversation when the day comes.

Ok, so what is my problem? Pride of course. It was showing up in my need to promote and prove myself to a new acquaintance. I was subtly trying to better her and try to build a respect in her for me, by letting her know things about myself, that simply were not necessary.

Self-promotion is a sinful habit of mine of which I am more recently and acutely aware. Whether it is name-dropping, discussing my background or levels of education, talking about experiences, letting people know my gifts or talents, making sure people know that I already know something…pride creeps into my text messages and conversations, because it is clearly in my heart!

Pride is an acceptable sin. Since everyone is prideful, it is easy to overlook as one of those sins that we cannot overcome and that the blood of Christ has no power to make is victorious. Self-promotion is so widely accepted, that we expect it to be a large part of conversation.

I am still learning the ways that my heart revels in its pride. Whenever I tell someone about my children’s achievements or disabilities (preventing them from achieving). Even sharing the deepest, hardest events of my life can become a source of pride, if my motive in sharing that with someone else is self-serving. If I feel have suffered more than those around me, it can be a temptation to be prideful, and in a a way, one-up people. If I have experienced something others have not, such as travel or special experience that can be cause for pride for me. What we do for a living, our family values, the food we eat or don’t eat, the way we raise our children, the way we look, what we are good at doing and what we are terrible at doing, can all blossom into pride in our hearts.

Sometimes pride seeps out of our mouths as a prayer-request for something, we really want everyone to know we are doing. Sometimes pride comes out when we can’t resist saying how much we understand, just so we can tell our story. Pride oozes out of cracks of our hearts when we comment negatively speak of someone else (or negatively think of someone else)…all that is is thinking I am better than “so and so”.

In fact, anything in my heart or mind, that I do not see as a complete and utter gift of God, is pride. 

Paul spoke directly about this in Galatians 6:14 when we proclaimed “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”

All that I am, have, have done…even my faith in Christ and my sanctification in Him is a complete result of His grace.

So what do I do when I am tempted to say a word that will promote myself instead of Christ? Well…first…I am learning to deeply consider that since those experiences and those gifts do not define me, they often do not need to be said. So yes….delete….delete…delete….

I am learning to ask myself when I talk….does this increase the cause of Christ? or does this increase the cause of me?

What defines me is Christ. And His work in me is what must increase. John the Baptist is a beautiful example of a life so focused on Christ. In John 3:25-30 we read:

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

What more can I say to improve upon that testimony? Only may it be the story of my heart as well.

Perspective On Body Image From of a Queen

“….Now the young woman was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.” Esther 2:7b

How often we read in Scripture that a woman was very beautiful…Sari, Rebekah, Rachel, Bathsheba, and Job’s daughters, are a few such examples.

We also read in Scripture of a woman who was not physically beautiful: Leah, Jacob’s first wife. “Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance” Genesis 29:17.

I wonder how many times Leah or Esther looked at her reflection and wished she was different. Leah, perhaps longed to be pretty, so she would be loved. And Esther may have wished that she was not so beautiful and therefore not forced into marriage with a pagan king.

Yet, it is God who created both women to look exactly as they were meant to look “for such a time as this” Esther 4:13-14.

As I reflect on God’s complete sovereignty over every detail of His creation, I am assured that Esther was not beautiful by chance, but created by God to fulfill the exact purpose He had planned for her life. Had Esther not have been stunning in her appearance, she would not have entered the courts of the King. Not only did she enter the king’s courts, but it is evident that she also took his heart by storm. As a result of having the affections of the king, Esther was empowered to respectfully appeal to her husband king, resulting in the redemption of her people from slaughter. Esther’s beauty was crucial in the design God had ordained for her life.

And like Esther, God made Leah exactly how she needed to look in order to bring Him incredible glory as a mother of His chosen people. Leah was not beautiful and was not chosen by anyone for a wife. Though not chosen by a man, God gave Leah a husband. Though unloved, God gave Leah children. One of Leah’s son’s was Judah. The lineage of Israel’s kings were formed from Judah’s lineage. Leah was indeed a queen; a mother of kings. From David, to our Precious King, Redeemer Himself, God chose Leah to be the mother of the greatest, and most royal tribe in the entire earth! God could have used any woman to fulfill that role, but God chose the lowly, the unloved, and the broken-hearted Leah. What an incredible picture of the gospel that paints…impossible without Leah’s homely appearance.

Psalm 139:13-14 states that it was God who personally “formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

As that verse states, from Eve to Me.. little Rebecca, every detail of every person’s genetic code has not happened by chance, but by a purposeful design.

I glance at my full length mirror and my thoughts can rejoice. Because, like Leah, and like Esther, Scripture tells me, my physical appearance is absolutely perfect.

Vogue will tell me I am too fat. It will tell me my clothes are outdated. Vogue will tell me my nose is funny shaped and my complexion rough and too uneven. Vogue will pick me apart until I feel beauty is unattainable and I am probably less than average in appearance. Vogue will make me unhappy with my body. Following the world’s idea of beauty will bring ingratitude and turn my joy to self-criticism.

Scripture tells me, I am made by God’s own hand. Scripture tells me, I am personally designed by God. Not only does Scripture say I am designed by God, but I am an image bearer of the Sovereign Creator/Ruler of all mankind. In Scripture, I learn to love the body I have, because I learn to love my Creator so much that I completely embrace the beautiful body He created for me to serve Him with. Why? Because the One whom I love, made it!

My little girl loves to make me drawings. She pulls out paper and markers, leans over the paper for a bit, creating something special. Then she plops the picture down on the table in front of me. “This is for you Mommy.” I truly, and deeply love the picture she made me. I do not critique it in any way. It is perfect in my eyes because it was made by the little girl I dearly love.

Do I not dearly love my Creator? Why then, would I ever stand in front of a mirror critiquing the form He gave me? Why would I not simply care for it, cherish it, enjoy it, and accept in overflowing gratitude?

Joy and happiness ought to fill my soul every time I stand in front of a mirror. I am looking at His handiwork!

There is so much peace in holding fast to God’s sovereignty in my created form.

Peace with my genetics: I can be at peace that God has designed every cell of my body to act and look exactly how it should in order for me to fulfill the plan He has purposed for my existence. Whether I am tall or short, whether my metabolism is slow or fast, whether I am pale with freckles or a rich chocolaty brown, my being was made on purpose, by God.

Joy in my God given image: I can freely embrace the image God has given me without regrets. From my frizzy head of curls, freckles, dusty blue eyes, and knobby bones…everything in my body was made to be as it is for a divine purpose. Yes, my head of frizzy hair serves an eternal purpose! That thought alone, brings me amusement, and yet, amazement to think that God has ordained absolutely every detail in this entire world to the point that the kind of hair He has given to me is not without its place in His design.

No need of envy: A woman who believes her body was made by God’s perfect design cannot step back and envy those she believes are more beautiful than herself. In essence all bodies are equal in value. Each person has been perfectly made to do the work God has set before him or her. I was created with the height, face, and features I a have by my Father/Creator. He knows what is best for me, more others, and for Himself (He is worthy), in His flawless design of my body.

My Deep love for God, allows me to enjoy my body without desire to change it: Just as my little girl has freely given me the drawing, she wants me to enjoy it, but would be deeply hurt if I took my sharpie and changed things about it that I didn’t like. No, her art cannot, and should not be changed just because it now belongs to me. Because I love her, I have no desire to alter my daughter’s gift without concern of insult and hurt to her little heart. In comparison, my body is still, and always will be God’s work of art, despite it belonging to me, it still is His. So yes, as I would a piece of beloved art, my body is mine to enjoy, but I do not own the copyright for it. And because I love God so dearly, I really have no desire to alter the image He has given me. It is perfect in my eyes.

Honoring the body honors the Creator: As I would honor my daughter by taking her picture and putting it in a frame, or sticking it to the fridge I can bring honor to my Creator by how I respect the body He has given me. Keeping my body clean, safe, well nourished, dressed respectfully, and well groomed are some of the ways I can show respect to my body. There is freedom to color and curl hair, apply make-up, and attempt to conceal the earthly wear and tear on the physical form God gave me. There is also freedom to embrace earthly scars and age. Both are honorable. More importantly than bodily care, is that I speak honorably about my body and other God’s created images. To degrade a human body with crude speech or complaints dishonors the One who made it.

Permission to feel beautiful: I truly am made in an amazing way by God’s divine hand.  There is nothing virtuous about complaining about our human form. God made this body, and it was made to worship and glorify Him!

Complaining is the complete opposite of worship. If I truly hold to the fact that God has created my body on purpose and with intentional design, I am wrong to critique HIS work. Now, granted, this body is altered from perfection by sin. It will show the signs of decay that will someday complete its course. In aging and entropy there is beauty, because it causes my eyes to look to the eternal future I am promised. May my gray hair and wrinkles, aching joints, and scars only serve to point me to the promise of eternal glory. And may every thought of imperfections brought on by this sinful, dying world, point me to ponder the perfect everlasting world beyond time.

We Don’t Drink Alcoholic Beverages. Why?

I was taught that all wine in biblical times was actually grape-juice. Knowing history of those times, it is funny to think that many Christians  believed and still believe that.

Many of the Christian cultures in the past have done their best to biblically address the use of alcohol, but it remains a struggle for many today as to what is or is not correct.

My husband and I have both talked extensively about the subject of alcohol drinking. It is not something we take lightly. We have wonderful, Christian friends and family who drink alcoholic beverages. We also have wonderful Christian friends and family who are adamantly apposed to drinking anything alcohol.

As a general rule, we have chosen not to drink alcoholic beverages. He have both tried these adult beverages, so we do not condemn drinking, but as an area of personal conviction for us, not for all Christians, we have chosen not to make drinking alcoholic beverages a part of our lives.

Here is why:

  1. It isn’t necessary. There are things in life that are essential for the body to thrive. A person can live in good health without drinking those drinks. Wine may have its health benefits, but it isn’t necessary. Socially, it is isn’t needed. People are very understanding toward those who chose not to drink. I even venture to say that there is more social grace toward people who don’t drink alcoholic beverages than those who do not eat gluten.
  2. It isn’t kind. My husband and I have family members whose lives have been destroyed by alcoholism. Whether loss by drunk driving, suicide, or family brokenness…when something has had such a destructive power in the lives of others that we love, it is in a way, making light of their trouble to partake of it casually. We also have close friends who come to our home regularly have been or still are going through AA. I feel it is not supportive of their journey for me to have alcohol in our home for their sake.
  3. It is dangerous. Alcoholic beverages can be addictive. Some people require them to make it through the day. Alcohol can be a coping mechanism, which is never right for to replace God with a drink. Alcoholism has been the root of so many deaths by causing illness, cancer, auto accidents, rage, and abuse.
  4. It could cause my loved ones to stumble. There are people in our lives who watch us. If those people, such as my children, and friends see that we drink, they may think that…”If they can, so can I.” That may not be true. I do not want my example to guide anyone into a place of temptation.

Now, my reasons are for my husband and I in our home. And one might notice, not one of those reasons is Bible verse based. I am not preaching or pointing out passages of Scripture to prove my decision. This is an area of conviction in our lives as we strive to best love others. We believe it is not a sin to drink wine or alcohol (Permitting one does not get drunk), but for us, it is not a way we feel best loves others. So we chose not to drink.

Loving the Lonely

an elderly woman sitting on a blue armchair
Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

His big sisters were playing with dolls and well into their fun when my little fellow woke up from his afternoon nap.

“Mommy, I have nothing to do.” I knew those words were code for feelings he did not know how to express. He was lonely and wanting a playmate.

Loneliness is familiar to everyone on this planet. We have all experienced becoming a growing epidemic in our culture. I know we would like to point our finger to blame social distancing or technology for the surge in loneliness, but the truth is loneliness has always been among us. It isn’t about whether one is married or single, on Facebook or not, healthy or sick, rich or poor, or any particular circumstance. Loneliness can accompany anyone, at any season in life.

A little child can be lonely as he or she navigates his place in his home.

A teen can feel lonely as he or she wrestles with changes within and in his or her life.

A young bride can feel incredibly lonely as she navigates her first years of marriage.

Young mother’s feel lonely as they wrestle through the challenges of their world being consumed by little cries and little voices.

A mother can feel lonely and lost after her last child moves from the home.

Divorce, singleness, death, and crisis’ in life make people feel very much alone.

Loneliness is not about companionship. A person can be in a group of other people and still feel lonely. A wife can be in a wonderful marriage and still feel lonely. If a person feels that he or she is not seen or heard will feel lonely.

I have noticed three different causes of loneliness.

1. A person becomes lonely when he or she feels like no one understands.

2. A person will feel lonely when she or he is not truly listened to. 

3. A person feels lonely when he or she feel unnoticed, unseen, and invisible.

Sometimes just one of those reasons can be present. For some folks, all of those reasons can be combined to cause loneliness.

Life can present each person moments of internal solitude for various reasons. And it is important to note that what might make one person feel lonely, may not be an issue at all to another person. We are all different and it is good to keep that in mind when we do not understand why someone is lonely.

If we take time to consider it, we all have struggles, do struggle, and will struggle with seasons of loneliness.

As believers, it is important we can look out for each other during these seasons. Some friends may have times that last a long while or become permanent fixtures of loneliness. For others, loneliness comes and goes throughout various seasons.

Loneliness has accompanied my soul through various seasons of life. Having experienced loneliness myself, I have learned to recognize some clues in the hearts of someone else who is lonely.

My mother was good at teaching me from a young age to love lonely people. Some mothers tend to only plan visits to people who have children their own age. Although I have many memories with friends, I also have a lot of memories visiting older couples as we grew. We often would visit with widows and widowers, older couples, and those with no family. We even had some single friends live with us as they went through difficult seasons.

I too, now include a variety of ages in my children’s life. I find those relationships to be so symbiotic. Lonely people often are cheered more by my children than by me. And relationships with lonely people are an amazing training ground for my children to learn to think of other people.

Just like my mom did, I will give a synopsis of our friend before we go so my children know that person’s story. It helps my children to know how to interact with that person, and also helps them to behave well.

I might say something like this: “Mrs. Doodle’s husband died one year ago, and yesterday she just found out that she has something bad growing in her body. So we are going to take her dinner a some flowers today.” I try to make sure my children understand the seriousness and value of our visit. Generally each one of them will express compassion in some form like writing a note or giving a hug.

Just as my mother included her children in the time she spent with the lonely, my mother also taught me to recognize the symptoms of loneliness in people. I will never forget going with my mother to visit my great aunt. She was a widow and in her eighties. We spent the weekend with her. She wasn’t the same person I remembered visiting as a child. She talked without ceasing and seemed a easily agitated. When going home, I complained to my mother about my aunt. My mother’s response was simple. “She is lonely.” Then my Aunt’s behavior made complete sense. And I felt sorry for my frustration with her. I still am able to recognize symptoms of loneliness in people as a result of that visit to my Great Aunt.

Symptoms of Loneliness:

  1. Lonely people talk…a lot. Lonely people seem unconscious of another person’s time. They seem unconscious how many times a conversation has been ended and restarted. Lonely people are simply happy to linger in conversations. I have had phone conversations that lingered on and on, even as the person on the other end of the line acknowledges that they need to let me go. We had a sweet neighbor a few years ago who lived alone in her eighties. She never let us just “stop in” every visit was a sit down visit, then a tour of the stuff around the house, then she prattled on and on, and often sent us home with little trinkets or some sweets. Our sweet neighbor was lonely and just happy to have someone to listen to her.
  2. Lonely people can be persnickety. I find the critical spirit behind a person who is lonely to be a great clue into that person’s heart.  I have found that generally sweet people can become cranky if they find themselves lonely. I think of the Johanna Spyre Classic story “Heidi” and how cranky and persnickety the grandfather was before Heidi showed up into his life. He was riddled with loneliness until her companionship entered his world. No one liked him. I have seen normally cranky people soften as they are listened to, noticed, or feel understood. 
  3. Lonely people find comfort in things. We had a dear Sunday School teacher, Miss K, who lived with her mother until her mother passed. After her mother’s death, Miss K, began collecting things. Things upon things lined her small house until she was forced to move out for her safety. She was lonely. She found momentary comfort in the presence of things and so she held onto things. Lonely people can be incredible sentimental, keepers of stuff, and shopaholics. What little old widow doesn’t have her house decked out with sentiment and stuff? She is lonely, and keeping stuff reminds her of those who give or gave her respite from loneliness. In a way, she holds onto people by holding onto their photographs and their stuff.

It is normal to feel lonely. And it is okay to feel lonely. In fact ones loneliness can be a springboard to various ministry to others. I have several dear friends struggling with loneliness, but they use their loneliness as an avenue of understanding others pain, of being their for others, of providing counsel, love, and prayer.

Ministering to lowly people is truly a life-long endeavor. But it is also the backbone of how our faith in God is displayed, as we provide, without grudging, our time and resources to include, bless, and encourage those who are alone.  James 1: 27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

Saying “no” to Weariness

We all need rest. Rest is a biblical concept. We are approaching our two week fall break for school, and I thought it would just be the children who needed a reprieve from school, but it turns out that I feel I have benefited the most from our little respite.

cute cat sleeping on cozy bed with book at home
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Rest is a powerful source of energy and renewal for our bodies and souls. As I have raised our four little souls, I have learned from experience the power of giving others time to rest and taking time to rest myself.

Most mothers easily recognize the signs of a tired child. Children rub their eyes, cry, seem easily agitated, and become altogether impossible to manage when they are tired. Little people have bodies that are constantly changing, growing and learning. With such busyness as a child possesses, much more essential is his or her need for rest.

Every mother easily recognized the signs of weariness in her children. A grumpy, exasperated, unmanageable, child can often be transformed through the power of a nap. Sometimes a child simply has too much stimulation like a long trips from home, being around lots of people, stepping out of his or her routine, or illness and simply needs a bit of quiet time, even if a nap doesn’t happen.

Just as ignoring the need for my own children’s rest has brought no peace to me or my child, so ignoring the symptoms of my own need for rest only allows my soul to build in its turmoil.

How often we can see the exhaustion in our children but fail to recognize the signs in our own lives. Or if we know we need a rest, we refuse to take that needed time to give ourselves space.

I would really like to explore the topic of rest. What it looks like when we don’t take time to rest, why we don’t allow ourselves to rest, what rest looks like, are important to discuss, but so is our need for applying what we know about our need for rest and building that space into our days.

Recognizing the need for rest:

I so often ignore the signs that my body needs a rest from something or from the daily grind of life.

  1. Being irritable or easily agitated are the first clues that I need rest. I haven’t changed much since my toddler days. If I am grumpy, a nap can do wonders for my attitude. If I am finding my emotions difficult to control, I need to recognize that I very well may need to stop and take a break from something or get a nap in my day.
  2. No Joy in the things that once brought joy. Some people may see lack of joy as depression. But lack of joy can be complete and utter exhaustion as well. So many care-givers, mothers, elderly folks, and those with ongoing illness need more rest in their particular season of life than they might have needed in the past. People who are in grief can also need extra rest. As can people who are in a life crisis. I have seen complete exhaustion swallow up many a merry heart.
  3. Physically tired and lack of energy. This is the obvious sign of tiredness that we all recognize. We simply feel tired. We know we are tired. Our head hurts, our body doesn’t want to move. We have trouble getting out out words.

Why we Don’t rest:

Ok, so we can recognize when we are tired. Many of us do not see a way to give ourselves a needed respite.

  1. Pride is often at the root of our ignoring of rest. We think we can power through and that we are strong enough to keep pressing on. We think if we take the time to rest, the world will come tumbling down around us. (Yes we are THAT important.) We think that we will fall behind if we take a break and what will other people say or think of us then?
  2. There is really no time to rest. This is an actual crisis. I am not going to try to find rest in days that have none. Or give hope to people who have no time to rest. Full-time care-givers and parents with babies, people pacing the floors with grief and turmoil in their souls, or those who have inescapable physical conditions that prevent sleep…like menopause. Sometimes rest simply cannot be had despite our best efforts to carve it into our lives. I cannot offer options where there are none, but I will say, Matthew 11:28 was written for those with greatly troubled hearts and in need of rest (all of us) as Jesus tells us: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Resting in Christ is our primary source of true rest whether we can take the time physically or not.

What rest looks like:

Restful activities bring the soul space to think. What gives me rest is different than what might bring my neighbor next door rest. I enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend, writing out my thoughts, a walk in the woods, a book by the fire, a canvas and paints, and sometimes quiet music and sleep. Rest is a wholesome activity that re-centers my heart and soul on its God given purpose. For another person rest means climbing a mountain and going camping, or running a marathon, cleaning windows, or spending a weekend alone.

Rest is worship. The activities I engage in during rest are not busy helps my heart focus on truth, God’s purpose for me, and worship. This is a very important thing to note. Anything that distracts me from spending my rest on reflection and focusing on Christ are not providing my soul with true rest. Spending time reading Scripture ought to be a large part of our restful moments. Sleep can also be a benefit, if I find I am tired and my weary body is preventing my soul from being able to rest.

I am going to take a moment to explain this a little more. Our minds are so full of input. It comes from things we watch and hear. Input is often by our own choice, but sometimes it is unasked. In any case, adding to that input with anything but what turns our hearts to Christ, is not providing our souls with true rest. If I binge watch Netflix during my time of rest, I have not rested. I have added to by already busy and overwhelmed mind more things to consider. Rest comes from Christ as we read in Matthew 11:28. Quiet is very helpful for us to help our souls find stillness in Christ. But, an edifying conversation with a friend can be of use. So can just being alone with the Lord and our thoughts while we are busy with our hands can be a good use of our rest. Journaling and writing can also help organize our thoughts. I have a friend who would randomly take a day off work to “do laundry.” What she meant by that, was that she would take a day off to sort her thoughts and bring them into the light of truth. Such thinking is essential. Rest is really giving ourselves time to self-counsel. Bringing our false thoughts to light and and reminding ourselves of truth won’t happen unless we take time to do it.

How to rest:

Plan the Time: One thing I have also learned, is that rest will not happen naturally…on its own. If I am given free time, it is used for fellowship, housework, phone calls, doctor appointments, and anything else that needs doing while I have the time. I do not believe that is unusual.

So, rest must be scheduled into our lives, just like everything else. And that time of rest must be guarded like a doctor appointment or visit to Grandpa’s for Christmas.

Daily Rest: When my children were small, I gave them a quiet time. When they turned five, they could graduate from that time, but until then, sleep or not, each child spent and hour and a half alone each afternoon. Children really need their own space, just like we adults do. Little one do not see their need for it, but I noticed my children were so much more calm, at peace, and easy to be with if they were given a regular space to play quietly alone each day. I had some children that always fell asleep and others who needed less sleep, but they all needed that personal space each day. I also found that time alone was essential for me too. Sometimes that quiet time it meant a nap for me. There were other times, I invited another lady (without young children) over for tea and we could visit in peace (something that never happens for most young moms), I also found time to read Scripture and pray or journal during those much needed moments of silence. I no longer have rest time each day, but I rise early. That is the space I have to create during this season of life to rest.

Seasonal Rest: We are just finishing our two weeks of fall break from school and I am finding that the break was much needed. I am remembering what it is like to just be “mom” to take non-school adventures with my children and to arrange play-dates with friends. I am remembering why we are home-schooling and the preciousness of my children. I am having time to write, read, and study Scripture. I feel refocused for our next term of school and am ready to jump back in with renewed focus and vigor. Sometimes taking a rest means an arranged break from an ongoing situation, like a job, a routine, or a ministry. These breaks are not “quitting.” They are patterned with every intention of re-focusing and getting back into it. These breaks are also not breaks from what God requires of us. We don’t take breaks from faithfully gathering with other believers and church, we don’t take breaks from loving others, we don’t take breaks from Bible reading and prayer (sadly, this is often the case during what we Americans call “vacation.”) we don’t take breaks from our marriage, we don’t take breaks from being wife, mom, or daughter. We only take breaks from the extra-obligations we are called to do.

Healing Rest: This is a very special kind of rest that follows life-changes, loss, trauma, or even a rest recommended by someone like a husband who sees the need of it in his wife. We tend to power through so often that we do not allow ourselves to Biblically process what has happened in our lives. We need to give ourselves time to grieve, time to adjust, time to think about changes in our lives in a Biblical way. If we do not, it is far too easy for lies from our heart or the world around us to take a foothold in our pain and cause us to loose faith. We need to give ourselves time to read the Bible, talk with a friend, see a counselor, journal, create music, walk and let our hearts naturally unwind and settle into Biblical truth.

May we all peruse the true rest as our Savior gently bids us: “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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-30.

A Lesson from Christmas Carol Kauffman

I was about twelve when I read Mrs. Kauffman’s semi-biographical novel, Hidden Rainbow for the first time. My heart was moved by the story of young Anna and her sweet husband John, as they became believers and as they grew from the works based religion into a life filled with grace by faith.  I watched John and Anna endure painful persecution when they left the  Catholic church. Once John and Anna trusted Christ for their salvation.

The Kauffman’s Anabaptist history comes through beautifully in the Hidden Rainbow. Her understanding of grace by faith alone, pours out onto each page as she outlines the struggles of Anna and John Olesh in their attempt to separate from the Catholic faith in former Yugoslavia.

It is not strange that one book can have a deep impact on the soul of a person, but that is what Hidden Rainbow became to me. I have read Hidden Rainbow multiple times since then, but have found that it is a story that has enveloped my life in so many ways.

From the book Hidden Rainbow, my heart learned to beat fast, yearning for the salvation of those in countries closed to the light of Christ. Even today, I beg the Lord to set free captive hearts in such countries where the preaching of the gospel is not allowed.

Seeing the vigilance of a mother under persecution for her faith, I also pray for the strength of believers living in countries where they are not free to read Scripture and worship God. And for the hearts of the precious children of persecuted believers, seeing the forceful pull of government and worshipers of false gods, who sometimes even separate children from Christian parents.

Hidden Rainbow also gave me a perspective of how straight and narrow the path of grace alone is. The path of grace is unmeldable with any other course. No one can purchase a soul with money. No freedom from sin is found in baptism. No prayer, no birthright, no act of another can secure our souls in Christ.

In our American culture, the melding of grace and works is exceedingly prominent among many people who hold dearly to a prayer they said as a child or a life full of religious habits-including Bible reading, prayer, and church. Faithfulness to God does not save our souls.

People are constantly attempting to attach grace to works. It is a futile attempt as grace and works cannot be forced together in any method. The early church of Galatia attempted to blend works and faith and received a pointed letter from Paul.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—” Gal 1:6

The only true gospel is dependence on God alone for the redemption of one’s soul and the journey of its sanctification. The false gospel is nothing more than a dependence on one’s self. Trust in grace alone cannot be combined and remain grace alone.

As I journey with Anna and John in their tear filled journey of persecution by the Catholic church, I see their dependency on God strengthened. I see the divide deepened as Anna and John are refused work and John must flee to America to help support his family.

As I see in this book the devotion and commitment of marriage spans oceans. There were no cell-phones or messenger apps to aid John and Anna in their connection. They did not even have a photograph to send with each other. They were committed to each other in a doubtless, unquestioning, and supportive way that few modern marriages understand.

Left with the children in Yogoalavia, Anna stands before a judge for refusing to baptize her infants. Anna is persecuted by her village as they refuse to let her purchase food out of fear of being associated with her. Anna and John’s family beg them to repent and turn back to Catholicism, grieving that  John and Anna no longer submit to the Catholic church and will be doomed to hell.

The gospel is not a uniting truth, but a dividing truth. As Anna struggles to keep her family together, the rift between her, and her extended family becomes deeper, until she is separated from her home by an ocean.

Hidden rainbow is certsinly a book that has stuck to my ribs throughout the years as I my life has encountered some of the challenges John and Anna faced. It gives the heart courage to face what has already been faced and persevered by others.

A Redeemed Introvert

happy ethnic woman in apron standing at entrance of own cafe

I get everything about the need for personal space, the desire to re-charge, re-group, the distaste for large frivolous gatherings, and the hunger for more than small talk. I desire and understand those things.

Introversion has really become a popular phrase lately. I have had so many people tell me over the past few years how their introversion prevents them from enjoying social experiences.

There is so much information concerning introverts. Introversion is no new thing, but somehow, it seems that it must be something that everyone understands.

Most people I know claim to be introverts. I always thought I was an introvert. I like my personal space. I do not like parties and large groups of people. I feel out-of-place in the world, but comfortable at home.

As the knowledge of introversion has exploded this past decade, it seems that more and more, I find people are finding their identity in their introversion rather than in their redeemed person.

Why do introverts feel the need to tell anyone they are introverts? For one thing, it helps alleviate any feelings of social awkwardness if everyone knows where one is coming from. But it is also a matter of identity.

What does the Bible say about introverts? Nothing actually. Many people we read about in Scripture were probably introverts. Moses comes to mind, as does King David, but the point is that it is simply irrelevant. In Scripture, people are all described by Whom they find their identity in…whether they seek to do God’s will or not is crucial to where they have put their trust.

I want to beg believers to please set their introversion aside and simply seek to obey God.

God commands us to fellowship with other believers. Hebrews 10:24-25 pleads with believers, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This neglect to fellowship seems as though it is more acceptable if one is an introvert and not an extrovert. Scripture does not command only extroverts to fellowship, but all believers to gather and unite together faithfully. This “meeting together” is not just once a week but the result of a burning desire to walk with God. Acts 2:42 describes believers as devoting themselves to fellowship. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” May I be devoted so to Christ that I must surround myself constantly with those who also share that desire!

God commands believers to embrace hospitality. Hospitality is not just a gift, it is a command. It is recognized in Scripture that this may be difficult for some more than others, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” I Peter 4:8-9. The home is meant to be our tool to show love to others, not to be a safe-haven from others. I go into much deeper detail on the value of hospitality in articles like: “Ministering Through the Senses in the Home.” But it is truly vital that we evaluate the use of our home and love others more than our own self-comfort. Some are more gifted at hospitality than others, that is ok. All that is asked is that we show love to others by offering up our homes to be used by God with joy.

God commands us to Share the Gospel. As my walk with the Lord draws closer, I will say with joy, that He becomes pre-eminent in my heart in a way that cannot be contained. I want others to know Him and believe in Him. I truly believe that gospel sharing is simply an outpouring of our passionate love for Christ. It should be as natural as breathing air to speak of Him. I think people struggle sharing the gospel, not because of introversion, but from a simple lack of joy in their God. If our identity is in other things, like or roles in life, or character traits like introversion, then that is what we will share with others instead of Christ. Philemon 1:6 “and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.”

God commands us to pray. When Jesus found himself alone, even then He was not alone… How often introverts use the reason that Jesus went away from the crowd and they need time away from people to do the same. When Jesus went off alone, it wasn’t because He was going to sit on the sofa and binge watch “Bridal Wars,” or spend a weekend hiking and reading books by a fire. In fact, Jesus never went off to be alone. He went off to be WITH…with His father. Being alone and resting is not ungodly, but it is not a reason to separate oneself from God and the things of God. Yes, rest is biblical as well, but rest is found in Christ, not in ourselves or in nature, or in time away from home. Rest for our souls is found in Christ. Our dear Savior welcomes us so gently into His presence, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Mt. 11:28-30.

Joy and worship are biblical. This is where art, nature, music, family and time alone come into play. Our joy in our God can pour out of our taking time to be in awe of what He has done and giving Him praise for creation and the beautiful things we see around us. This is not the place for self-indulgence… or is it? I must smile at the thought that if my indulgence is Christ, then yes, there is much room for worship in what I see and do. I can set up my easel for an afternoon and paint flowers with a heart of joyful worship to my Creator. As I discussed in an Tidings of a Leaping Heart, joy and worship in my Savior can, and should be a part of all I do and there is much room for what that entails. I Chronicles 16: 8-36 is too long to include, but most certainly worth reading and worshipping through as David repeats praises to our God. “Sing to the Lord, all the earth! Tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods” 23-25.

Yes, God has made us each different, and with different natures, desires, skills, and spiritual gifts. Introversion can be such an easy, and understandable excuse for staying in our comfort zone and not doing what is right. Instead of identifying ourselves as introverts, it is much better to simply find our identity in Christ as a sinner saved by grace. As we learn to love Christ more, we will find obeying His commands becomes a joy, not a duty, because our hearts are full of love for Him and love for all those who love Him as dearly as we do!

Sharing the Glory of Easter with the Neighborhood Children

I have a dear friend who has held a neighborhood Easter egg hunt in her yard for years. She was the first person I called when the idea struck my mind that we should do that this year.

My friend is entering the zone of elderly now, but her life is still truly a testimony of God’s grace. She spent a good hour with me on the phone, telling me how she went about hosting the egg hunt every year. She has shared the gospel with hundreds of children as they have passed through her yard searching for plastic filled eggs. Some years over a hundred-showed up!

My first Easter egg hunt is very much a trial version. I hope to build up to the extravagant event my friend prepared, but we are not there yet. I am curious how it will go this year. And what things I will need to alter to make it better next year.

My friend impressed upon me the value of praying in advance. She spent time praying for the people who would come, conversations, relationships, and things like the weather.

Then she would trust the Lord that the right people would be there…parents and children. She did not wonder if she would have enough eggs or stress about who might come or not be able to come. She simply rested in God’s sovereignty in the whole matter.

Her preparations began for the coming year, the day after Easter. She snatched up eggs, toys, decorations and games on sale.

She ordered bulk egg toys and shopped dollar stores for egg fillers.

But Easter eggs weren’t her only activity. She planned a craft table with things for children to do.

She prepared a short time to tell the story of Easter and share the gospel. She used the wordless book, Resurrection eggs, had young people from church come tell the story, or read a book.

As I listened, I realized, filling and hiding eggs was a very small part of my dear friend’s Easter egg hunt preparations. The bulk of her time was in prayer over the event and the people.

I was truly impacted by my dear friend’s testimony and humble heart as she described to me what she did. Her voice is quiet and gentle. I have met few people who are as much of an introvert as she is. Yet, her love for people and their broken souls moves her to reach beyond her comfort and into the lives of others!

Oh, that my heart may be so loving of others that I am daily moved out of love for them to share Christ!

Experiencing Birthing Pains with Joy

black textile

I know I labored for hours, writhing in the pain of each contraction leading up the he birth of my first child. But despite the deathly pain, I only remember one thing most about that day. The moment I saw my sweet little girl’s round head and the immense joy that filled my soul as I gathered her in my arms for the first time. Every ounce of discomfort was completely worth it.

I rarely read the news anymore, but for the sake of a quick knowledge, I took a quick glance today. As one could imagine, I left my reading of current events with a heavy heart. The pain in this earth is incredible. Wars, famines, unrest, oppressions, death, disease, destruction, hatred, violence, storms, earthquakes are a few of them endless and increasing troubles I see in the news.

Then I reflected on conversations with friends this past week. Every one I know has major pains in their lives. People are hurting, struggling, and in distress everywhere I look.

Is this how things have always been? Or is it getting worse? I think everyone on earth would agree that they have never seen the world in the incredible turmoil we have now. My heart is weary of all the disturbing news. I feel as though the earth is crumbling apart beneath my feet.

Then Romans 8, like a plumb bob, slides down right before my quaking heart, bringing my faltering heart back in sink with truth.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:18-25

I do remember contractions. Ouch! A wave of pain surges through the body, then I breathe a moment, as I prepare for the next pains. The pains surge closer and closer together, almost overlapping in intensity as the birth of my precious little one closes in.

Several thousand years ago, a birth was taking place in a small Bethlehem stable. Mary, in the throws of pain of labor, held the promise of the child in her mind. Struggling for that moment when the King would be born!

Just as a woman giving birth, the whole earth is in labor. Waves of pain are pulsing closer and closer together, hardly giving mankind a moment to catch his breath as the time of the King’s return approaches. Creation groans. Humans, who are without hope, lapse into fear and despair.

A smile spreads across my soul. That means ONE thing! My King is coming! My heart bursts with joy as I consider the joy set before me. The earth is preparing for the birth of a Kingdom! Yes, I know much more pain is ahead, but I also see the other end of this mess we call earth. I see glory, fulfillment, and a King sitting upon His throne, ruling the world in perfect harmony.

I suddenly see that I am living in one giant advent season…my heart ought to be in a constant state of rejoicing and hope of my coming King. The despair flees my soul as the brightness of hope soars in.

As I share my joyful ponderings with my husband, he gently reminds me of our Savior who walked through pain, His face set on the joy of our redemption.

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Romans 12:2

Pain must come before the joy of holding a new life. I can set that joy set before my heart and, see this troubled world through the eyes of expectant hope.

“Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16: 20-22

As I wait, watching the world writhe with pain, my heart is free to ache for those without hope, but it is not free to be troubled. My heart is free to long for an end to this troube, but not free to despair. My heart, is free to persevere in its calling, but not free to seek safety and flee earthly troubles. I am secure in the hope set before me and I can endure, with God’s ongoing grace, all that will take place in my time, with hope, joy, and wonder. My King is coming!

JOY TO THE WORLD

Joy to the world! The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room;
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing.
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ.
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy

No more let sin and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness.
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

-Watts