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During this 40 day period leading up to Easter (or Resurrection Sunday as I like to call it), I’ve committed to several things that will help me focus on Jesus. Aren’t we supposed to focus on Jesus all the time? Well, yes. The truth of the matter is, I need all the help I can get when it comes to following through on my spiritual disciplines. I’m thankful that the tradition of lent can be redeemed to help me draw even nearer to Him.

Though I believe everyone can struggle with these things to some degree, it seems that women are more susceptible to: busyness masked as closeness w/ God, and the lies of the enemy. Typing this as I’m battling the nth cold/sickness of the season, I understand that I am fragile and weak. Satan loves to kick me when I’m down, shoveling in lies upon lies between my coughs and sniffles. In light of all of this, I decided to come up with some commitments to be spiritually/physically/mentally/emotionally healthy.

1) Spending time in solitude for 1 hour before going to sleep (at a set time), spending that time in reflection/journaling/prayer.
2) Memorizing at least one verse from that day’s BRP.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

   41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

To my fellow Marthas- let’s not lose ourselves in the worry and upset of many things. Let’s lose ourselves in the intimacy of our Savior! When Jesus beckons us to come and rest, it’s not a friendly suggestion. It is an imperative choice we need to make, especially in light of the crazy, chaotic, frantic world that we live in. Here we go!

A missionary couple came to share God’s Word and God’s heart with us in Ann Arbor last weekend. Out of the many testimonies and powerful things that God did during the revival, the most impressionable thing that I remember is the time that they spent with our leaders. As they were sharing from their humility and own brokenness as parents, the pastor’s wife said something that really sank deeply into many hearts- “On behalf of your parents, I wanted to say that I’m sorry- we’re sorry for our mistakes and shortcomings.” We had spent a mere .75 days with them, and yet their surrogate apology was medicine for a lot of aching hearts in that room. I could hardly contain my tears as I thought about my own struggles with my parents.

Coming out of those few days, we headed into our One Desire Fast. Oddly enough, God laid a lot of burdens about my family on my heart, which led to some very long, hard, yet rewarding conversations with my mom that week. I grew up having to get used to not having her around a lot. She was always working to provide for our family, coming home for a late dinner, often without sufficient energy to spend time with us due to her failing health.  It wasn’t until college that I started building a relationship with her over the phone (text messages will never replace a good old fashioned phone call!) Even over time and distance, I realized that she had always been my advocate, my friend, and someone who was able to show me grace in the midst of all of my rebellion and waywardness during my teenage years.

 

This past week was no different. I felt so ashamed as I painfully delivered yet another confession of my failure in an area of my life that God has been trying to correct. I didn’t want to tell her because I didn’t want to disappoint her, but I realized that it was not honoring to them to try and deal with this situation on my own. I feared the wrath that I thought was sure to come, but was instead met with a humbling response of rebuke, grace, and love. The main thing she wanted to know was why I hadn’t told her sooner. She didn’t hide her disappointment in the poor decisions that I had made, but she was also unwavering in her commitment to helping me in my situation. Her sacrifice to make up for my mistake was a tearful reminder of the gospel message. While they aren’t perfect, I’m thankful for my godly parents. I am finally understanding the truth and wisdom in this:

Ephesians 6:1-3 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.2 “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–3 “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Perhaps you don’t have godly parents or maybe grieve over a broken family. May I encourage you to remember that you are rich in Christ through the spiritual family of believers? Has God placed anyone within your church community that plays the role of a spiritual mother, father, sister, or brother to you? Indeed, I’m more thankful that my parents are my spiritual family more so than that they are my earthly ones!

Coming back full circle, I think the way that this missionary couple ministered to us specifically in a “parental” manner really made this passage come alive for me:

1 Timothy 5:1-21 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

I’m praying for more inter-generational relationships to be built within our church community. I believe that we can be a powerful demonstration and vehicle of redemption of what it truly means to be a family- the way that God meant for it to be.

It would be so nice to tell you everything that I’m thankful for given that we’re headed into Thanksgiving and all, but there’s something else that’s on my mind.

Can we talk about Black Friday for a minute? Here’s an excerpt to bring you up to speed:

A brief history (source: TIME http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1942935,00.html#ixzz1eXnwZerQ )

As early as the 19th century, shoppers have viewed Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, an occasion marked by celebrations and sales. Department stores in particular locked onto this marketing notion, hosting parades to launch the start of the first wave of Christmas advertisements, chief among them, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, running in New York City since 1924. The holiday spree became so important to retailers that during the Great Depression, they appealed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 to move Thanksgiving up in order to stretch out the holiday shopping season.

The term Black Friday itself was originally used to describe something else entirely — the Sept. 24, 1864, stock-market panic set off by plunging gold prices. Newspapers in Philadelphia reappropriated the phrase in the late 1960s, using it to describe the rush of crowds at stores. The justification came later, tied to accounting balance sheets where black ink would represent a profit. Many see Black Friday as the day retailers go into the black or show a profit for the first time in a given year. The term stuck and spread, and by the 1990s Black Friday became an unofficial retail holiday nationwide. Since 2002, Black Friday has been the season’s biggest shopping day each year except 2004, according to market-research firm ShopperTrak.

As much as we roll our eyes at how men seem to remember every stat about every player and every team in every sport for every year, I’ve seen women know how much 25% off a $39.95 sweater comes out to without blinking an eye. Shopping has become a sport, of sorts. We show off our best bargains and retell stories of how we spent hours scouring through the pile in the back of the dressing room to find the “perfect blouse” that had a minor defect that marked it down to like 80% off 5 minutes before they closed the store. It’s like draining that three pointer as the buzzer goes off after faking out three guys from the other end of the court. Yup, it’s a full on sport.

There’s a certain thrill when I come out of a store valiantly having conquered every full-priced item that dared come against me. The best feeling in the world is when I have gift cards and coupons to use on already marked down items to get a $250 clothing item for mere dollar bills. The higher the face value, the bigger the margin, the higher my satisfaction seems to be. Are we on the same page so far, ladies? You know what I’m talking about. We know a good deal when we see one.

But do we really?

When’s the last time you felt THAT GOOD about the gospel? The best deal that we could have ever gotten or will ever get, is the free gift of salvation that we’ve received from God. The best “black Friday” was “Good Friday”; the day that Jesus paid for our sins on the cross, purchasing salvation for us. Hallelujah! Now THERE’S something to be thankful for 🙂

There’s nothing wrong with shopping, but let’s never replace our spiritual wealth with the temporary goods we have here on earth. If you still can’t resist the urge to clip some coupons, I made some for you (click to enlarge):

Bronx Park East, a new single-room occupancy residence, in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx. Jonathan Kirschenfeld Architect P.C. (click for article)

An article in the New York Times  recently highlighted the significance of new housing models that reflect a changing New York. Here’s an excerpt:

“Isn’t the idea here to improve mental health?” Mr. Kirschenfeld said. “Isn’t good architecture part of that?”

It is, and Bronx Park East, like other S.R.O.’s Mr. Kirschenfeld has designed in the city, lends dignity to what at least used to be a byword for urban pariah and a building type that often resembled a prison.

Households have evolved. But New York’s housing stock hasn’t. In essence, New Yorkers have increasingly had to adapt to the housing we’ve got, instead of designing and building the housing that suits who we have become.

What does this have to do with girl matters?

In this world, women are under a lot of pressure. Society spits out manufactured molds of what the model woman ought to be- put together, pretty, prim, proper, and (almost) perfect. We’re told that we should be able to do it all- cook, clean, concentrate on our careers, care for our loved ones, conceal our blemishes, and console others with the same counsel that we often can’t take for ourselves. Stressed out yet?

Kimmelman’s critique of the current housing situation in NYC is parallel to this struggle that we face. We are forced into the tiny limitations of our human weakness, yet expect to amount to greatness. Instead of believing by faith that God’s grace is sufficient to live for His glory, we often wear ourselves out trying to build our own city. Frustrated yet?

I have to remember that God is the one who stretched out the heavens and created everything under it. He has given us freedom in His dominion to live out our newly redeemed lives to the fullest. We are a new creation in Christ! To use the architecture illustration, we’ve got to design and build the housing that suits who we have become. Our building codes are spiritual disciplines- there are some rules for our own protection; but that doesn’t mean we have to settle with boring, bland, dull stuff. Let’s use some bright colors and fun patterns; let’s design with the creativity that we’ve been gifted with. Clearing out these spaces in our lives so that God’s grand purpose can take over? Now that sounds refreshing.

I’ve been itching to do a “space inventory” of my life recently:

  • Do I have room in my schedule to spend quality time with my Father?
  • Does my mind have the capacity to take in His Word and promises for me each day?
  • Is my heart an open territory for the Holy Spirit to do His work?
  • Is my home a welcoming environment to be a hospitable place for my spiritual family?
  • Are my hands and feet available to obey and serve others?

What kind of space will I need to fully live as a woman of God?