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10 Things I DON’T Do (& 1 Thing I DO)

I write on the side. For love

Three days a week, I am gainfully employed outside of the home. Another day and more is joyfully invested in ministry and treasured scheduled times with my girlfriends. And feeding and clothing and making this house in the woods a home for Jim and the two sons we’re training up to be men takes time too.  

Because I wear so many hats, now and then friends will ask, How can you do everything you do?

But what these friends might not know are all the things I DON’T do.

So if you ever feel rotten because you can’t do all the things that a friend of yours can do, this post is for you. On the gateway of the year, pause and remember: there’s a lot of things that person you’re comparing yourself to DOES NOT do.

Like these 10 things, for example, that I DON’T do🙂:

  1. Care for pets. But Dinah and Zippy were delightful parts of past seasons.
  2. Clip coupons, buy Groupon and find all the best deals. (I sometimes use Kohl’s cash, though.)
  3. Sew, knit, quilt and crochet. But I am super blessed by a mother-in-law, nephew, nieces and friends who do.
  4. Decorate my home.  Our walls are (mostly) monastery white, our sofa is 21 years old and that’s all right.
  5. Workout at the gym. In the time it would take me drive there and back, I can squeeze a jog or bike ride in.
  6. Watch TV and rarely a movie. I have never, not ever, rented from Netflix or Redbox or Vudu. Really. Truly.
  7. Make lasagna or salsa or pizza from scratch. Although, as in #3, I’m blessed by family and friends* who do.
  8. Scroll my way through Facebook. I post and run a lot, and Instagram and Pinterest are off limits for me.
  9. Pamper at the salon. A combination of Great Clips, Clairol and my friend Holly manage me swimmingly.
  10. Garden. And by extension: can, freeze and make herbal soap with lavender and thyme.  Caveat #7 applies.

That’s my list of 10 things I DON’T do.

They’re not good or bad, right or wrong. The point is not that I can’t or shouldn’t do these 10 things. It’s that, at least for now, I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. It does mean we’ll all find it easier to rest content with what we don’t do when we acknowledge God made us- intentionally-  fearfully and wonderfully different. We have different and unequal sets of skills, goals, interests, abilities, and resources.

Which means our lists could stretch to 10,000 things we DON’T DO. And that’s okay. Because our limits are built-in by God. They’re good.

Here’s how Andrea Dekkar closed her “10 Things I DON’T DO”  post that prompted this post:

I think the important thing is for each of us to realize what our skills and goals and interests are, and then focus on putting our time, energy, resources towards activities that align with our skills, goals, and interests.

If we can do that on a regular basis, our lives will feel simpler, more organized, less chaotic, and less stressed!

I like that and agree. Building on strengths and using gifts- rather than wishing we could do what we don’t- tends toward growth and joy.

But I can’t leave it there. Because, while my list of 10 will no doubt change with each season of life I’m in, there’s this 1 thing I do that I pray never ends.

Seek Him.

One of the first Psalms I set (back) into song 20 years ago was Psalm 105: 1-4. We four still sing it now, ending with verse 4:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Look to the Lord and his strength and seek His face. Those might sound like three, but it boils down to  one.

  1.  Seek Him.

Bing, bang, boom- some things are that simple. God’s children seek his face. They press on, they exert effort to get to God himself.

John Piper describes this sort of seeking as,

[T]o constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation…

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee spiritually dulling activities. We must run from them and get around them. They are blocking our way.

These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.

That’s my 1 thing. I want move away and go around- some of my DON’Ts- to seek His face because I want to know Him more.

He still speaks.

Because how can you possibly love someone you don’t know? And how can you possibly know someone if you never listen? If you don’t seek?

To know God, we must listen to his voice. His sheep listen to his voice and follow Him (John 10:27).

We must hear God speak.

The spectacular truth is we don’t have to climb a mountain or sail the sea or even rise at 5 am in the quiet, dark to hear Him speak. Because He has spoken. His words are within arm’s reach right now. “The Bible,” AW Tozer wrote, “is not only a book which was once spoken, but a book which is now speaking.”

God wants to speak to us today through his Word. So let’s don’t say God is silent.

He wants us to seek Him and press on to know HIm.

Don’t say God is silent if your Bible is closed.

Tozer also wrote,

Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him.

Spurious means false. It’s false to think that once we’ve come to faith and received Christ as Lord we’re done. As if once you’ve found a great friend you can stop seeking to know him.

No! John Piper says it like this, Go hard after the holy God. Isaiah, like this, Seek the Lord while He may be found. He may be found now in His Word.

But we silence the sound of God’s voice in our lives when we leave our Bible on the shelf (or ignore our Bible apps). As has aptly been said, Complaining about God being silent when your Bible is closed is like complaining about not getting texts when your phone is turned off.

Tim Challies puts a bow on it:

Apart from this, speaking by his Son, through his Spirit, in the Bible, God does not promise that He will speak in any other way

In other words, we can all believe that God will speak to us through the Bible. And all this JoyPrO stuff, I hope, is about how God does speak. About how we find Him when we seek.  

What’s on your lists? Do you have 10 things plus 1?

My list of 10 things I DON’T do will change. There might even come a time when I make soap with thyme and crochet.

But seeking Him by grace will – I pray- be my 1 thing. To begin and end this year and all others.

How about you?  What are 10 things you don’t do?

And 1 thing, so help you God, you do?

But one thing I do: 
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13b-14
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For Poor Ornery People

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

John Jacob Niles.

Do you know that old Christmas folk song, I Wonder As I WanderDo you like it?

I never did.

But it’s growing on me.

Just Plain Ornery

Because far too often, I’m just plain ornery.  I turn grumpy and stubborn when my will is not done and impatient and harsh when my rules are crossed.  Other times I crave man’s praise and sulk when thanks doesn’t come. Sometimes my skin’s too thin and my heart’s too hard. That’s when I crumble into an ugly selfish heap.

I do.

In every case, poor and on’ry pretty well fits the bill. And there’s nothing like the Christmas rush to provoke ornery, at least in me. Which explains why I’m humming this tune a lot these days.

It fits me- I. I am prone to wander from the joyful obedience of faith and I feel it.

I simply am not naturally nice.

Driving in a Hard School?

Which is why I’m filled more and more with wonder anymore- in awe that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Poor on’ry ones, maybe like you, for sure like me.

I’ve shared this quote before. But I stumbled on it again this week and let’s just say it was a Godsend  for this poor, on’ry mom to whom nice does not alway come easily.

If you are a nice  person- if Virtue comes easily to you- beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel…

But if you are a poor creature- poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels- saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion- nagged day in and day out be an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends – do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all- not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 10)

Is yours a wretched machine? Are you beset and tempted to sin, within and without? Poor and ornery? Keep on. God knows.

Known by God

Keep looking to Jesus. He knows. He’s familiar. Honestly, it’s why Jesus came. Christmas happened to show us that God not only knows us, He loves us. With great love.

He knows all about it. He knows our frame, David wrote. Which means, we are known. Paul slid that blessed truth in to build his don’t-be-led-astray case to the Galatians, but the clause is rich it could stand alone,

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God…

Known by God. The Father’s children are known by Him. And loved by him to boot. What could be better?

Maybe only  this one other thing: He came to buy back us poor ornery one with his blood. Someplace else  it says that Jesus, had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

To make propitiation. That’s New Testament fancy for atone for our sins. ForJesus the Savior did come for to die. 

Jesus the Savior did Come for to Die

Can you say good news of great joy?

God came to earth as one of us, like his brothers in every respect. He suffered when tempted and we will too. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10).

He’ll fling that old, wretched machine on the scrap heap and then we’ll forever be free from sorrow, free from sin. Restored, confirmed, strengthened and established. No more poor, ornery. The God of all grace will bring it to pass. 

So fight the good fight of faith. Resist the devil, firm in your faith. Do what you can. Repent of your sin. And keep on. Get back up. Don’t buy the lie that no one knows your struggle or pain. Or that no one cares.

You are known by God and He does care. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Jesus our Savior did come for to die. 

To save sinners. Including poor on’ry ones like you and like I.

 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

1 Timothy 1:15

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Are you an A-Thrower?

Oh no, I moaned. Honey, please come. You need to see. It’s bad. 

He came. I scrolled. And late Saturday night, we strode into our 12 year-old’s otherworld where Jim saw what I had seen:

Scotchlover16 

RealDirtyDon.

No. Not good, Jim said,.

We winced at the too-gleeful, Joker-y profile picture of a 30-something male. One of Sam’s gaming “friends.” Our eyes raced down the message thread until they landed on this,

“You there, Sam?” Scotchlover16 wrote, when- thank God- Sam was already in bed.

“‘Sup Sam?” is all RealDirtyDon hadsaid.

Anxiety Hits

Last month, our school offered “Online Safety: What Parents Should Know.” I didn’t go, But I know about phishing and trolling. I know that perverts and creeps sneak into kids’ sites seeking prey not play.  Enter Scotchlover16 and RealDirtyDon.

So we two gaming novices- actually, gaming nots– scoured the site in vain for more red flags. But just because we couldn’t see them didn’t mean there weren’t there. These types are savvy. They don’t leave tracks beyond these creepy names and few lines of chat.

But whenever Sam was on, Scotchlover16 or RealDirtyDon were too. Just waiting for our son. Stalking. Prowling.

Anxiety hit. I feared.

Are you an A-Thrower?

But the Word of God is living and active, and at just the right time, at10:55 pm, Saturday, December 8th, a verse came to mind,

[C]asting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Ant that reminded me of a sermon I heard last week on the same verse.  The pastor mentioned a new term for garbage men. It’s G-Throwers.  As in garbage-throwers. Then he asked, Are you an A-Thrower? 

I remembered that too and right then, Jim and I did some A-throwing. We threw our anxiety on God.  By grace, we obeyed.

Then we made our game plan: no drastic measures yet. Talk to Sam in the morning- gravely and calmly- and go from there.

Then we A-throwers fell into bed and slept.

Cast Them Like Coats (On A Donkey). And Pray.

But what, you might be asking, does A-throwing look like?  How do we cast our cares?

It helps to know the same form of the Greek word translated cast or throw in 1 Peter 5:7 is found in Luke 19. The disciples had just fetched a donkey. Then verse 35 says, “They brought it to Jesus, and throwing [casting] their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.”

When they cast their cloaks the disciples put them on the donkey. They didn’t wear or carry them. When we throw our cares on God,  he carries them.

And how we throw them on him, Paul explained, is to pray: Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer…present your requests to God.

The next day, I had to throw them again.

No more let sins and sorrows grow. 

Our race to church left no time for anxiety. Not until I’d slid into the back row, did the next wave of worry hit. But since I am training to be an A-thrower. and since on the job training is best, I did some A-throwing. I prayed.

Lord, please protect Sam. Please give us wisdom. I know you care. Amen.

Then, in the middle of Joy to the World, right at No more let sins and sorrows grow, I leaned over to Sam.

Sam, we need to talk about your gaming friends. You know, Scotchlover and RealDirtyDon? Dad and I don’t think you should be their friends.

His eyes got wide.

Son, did you know Scotch is a hard liquor- a dangerous beverage? And RealDirtyDon…well, you know, that does not sound good. 

The Wonders Of His Love

Um, Mom? Sam whispered back. Scotch is Nick’s dog’s name. Remember Nick, my friend from school?  

But that profile picture? That isn’t Nick. 

No, Mom. He just picked that picture because he thought it was funny.

What about RealDirtyDon? 

Oh, Mom, Sam giggled. Don is Donovan. He’s sitting right there-here Sam pointed up a few rows and to the left- with his mom and dad. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy- your friends.

Boy, did we laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh. By the time it simmered low enough to sing, the choir was on verse four.

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.

You are His personal concern.

We know there’s more that is frightening ahead. There are always more worries to toss. A-throwers, like G-throwers, have job security. There are creeps and predators and evil men.

But there is a God who rules this world he so loves with truth and grace. There is a God who cares.

Exhibit A? That mom in the back row last Sunday. The one whose relieved laughter spilled joyful tears in wonder of God’s love. In wonder of a Father who actually calls his anxious kids to throw the weight of all their cares on Him. In wonder of a God who takes them on as his own personal concern.

One version of 1 Peter 5:7 says it this way, Throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.

So- yes. You bet I’ll sing the wonders of His love. 

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.

Psalm 55:22

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The Coming Has Come: Why We Need Advent

Why Advent? Why celebrate a coming that’s already done?

It’s upon us.  Advent is here. And Advent means coming. So we could say, the coming has come.

Has it ever struck you as a wee bit strange that we prepare for the coming of something that’s already come?

But that Something was what Dr, Luke called in his Gospel, “the Holy Thing which shall be born” of Mary and called the Son of God. And so beyond, or better, in  the stockings and candles and chocolates and Legos (thank you, friends) behind each little numbered door, behind the Shepherd on the Search  and nightly excursions on Jotham’s Journey, is the Holy One who came into our world from outside.

Oswald Chambers. wrote that His coming was “the Highest and Holiest entering at the Lowliest door.” Jesus Christ, the Holy One- Son of God and Son of man- was born.

So this is Christmas.

But what’s the big deal about Advent?

We get Christmas. We celebrate all manner of birthdays, so of course we pick a day to celebrate our Savior’s birth.  But why stretch it across four Sundays?  Why four weeks leading up?

Because this birthday is way to big for one day to contain. We need more time to stir ourselves up for this one. We need these extra weeks to remember why Christmas is such a big deal. It’s when we, Church, ask ourselves all over again, What do we think of Christ? 

In “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” Dorothy Sayers says our answer to that is categorical. and uncompromising: 

Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”- he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is- limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death- he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself.

C.S. Lewis simply said,  The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. No, It’s not commonplace at all. 

How would you like to become a slug?

But Lewis wasn’t done,

The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab. (Mere Christianity, Book IV, Chapter 5)

Before him, 19th century Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar explained,

God’s desire is to bless us, not to curse; to save, not to destroy. He seeks reconciliation with us; nay, He has brought about the reconciliation. He has not merely made proposals of peace and sent the to us by the hand of an ambassador; but He has Himself come to us, bearing His own message and presenting Himself to us in our nature, as His own ambassador…God Himself is both the speaker and the maker of peace. 

We need more than a day to let this truth sink in.  Hence all this Advent todo. It is much ado- but maybe not nearly enough ado- about the greatest event ever.

How can this be?

Because, The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ, wrote another 19th century pastor William Plumer, It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator to become a creature. 

Can such a impossible thing be true? How can God, who is spirit, take on flesh and blood? Can very God become very Man via a virgin’s womb?

The virgin wondered too.

When Mary asks how she could conceive God’s Son, the angel Gabriel gave an answer that “must be one of the most important statements that has ever been made in any book in all of history.” Gabriel answered Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God,”  ( Luke 1:35 ).

God  broke into the universe by doing the impossible.

Enough time to wrap your head around impossible?

Probably not. But at least for me, wreaths and hymns and candles and readings and 24-door calendars force the impossible issue.

“For nothing will be impossible with God,” (Luke 1:37). That’s what Gabriel says to Mary as the bottom line answer for how Christmas would happen.

In a sermon on Luke 1:26-38, John Piper explains,

[W]hen all our objections have spent themselves, this truth remains: “Nothing will be impossible with God.” God had been preparing the world for this impossibility for thousands of years. Listen to the testimonies: Genesis 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.” And the time has come for the most impossible thing to be done: God enters his creation as part of it, and without ceasing to be the uncreated God.

He came and did the impossible. That first coming is done.

Or, time to worship the God for whom nothing is impossible?

So, that’s why guys. That’s why this family celebrates the Coming that’s come.

Because it takes a while to wrap our minds around the impossible thing that was done- around a Coming that came. Around a Coming that’s already done.  That’s what those 24 funny little doors on our Advent Calendars- yes, even the chocolate and Legos behind them- and our Sunday night adventures in dripping candle wax and our singing seven verses (or at least four) of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel are all about.

All for love. We bring up the bins and set up all this stuff because God took the initiative in his great love to restore us to Him. Because God so loved the world He sent his only begotten Son.  We remember in these three Advent weeks that people living in darkness have seen a great light. That God has visited his people.  And, yes, that He will come again.

We  remember that God did the impossible and the Holy One has come. And Advent isn’t nearly enough time to wrap our minds around it.

But we can worship Him while we try.

Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is all everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though He there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet He will wear,
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in His mind, who is thy Son and Brother;
Whom thou conceivst, conceived; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark, and shuts in little room,
Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.

-John Donne,  “Annunciation”