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

Do You DIGLI?

“God loves inequality…

In terms of gifts, talents, abilities, opportunities, blessings, God is unequally lavishat least according to our standards, and that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” 

Joe Rigney, Desiring God Theology Refresh Podcast, 10/4/13

Why Differences Are Good

Differences mean inequality. And while some would have you think otherwise, the inequality inherent in our differences is actually a good thing.

In stature and smarts, in wealth and where we’re born, we’re all different. But that’s okay. It’s not a design flaw. God made us and his wide world to work this way and since He doeth all things well. Including the scattered way he hands out gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made (Psalm 145:17). Since God gave his gifts this unequal way, and He’s always loving and righteous, unequal must not be bad. The opposite must be true. In God’s economy unequal equals good.

Sure, we’re equal in the sense of being God’s image bearers, fearfully and wonderfully made. But since differences were arranged by Creator-He clearly dispenses his gifts in diverse and disproportionate ways, He must love inequality.

The body analogy helps us if we stall out here. The body shows us unequal does not mean unimportant.

And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1 Corinthians 12:16-18).

God scatters grace and mercy as he wishes on whom he wills. He is lavishly, unequally loving toward all he has made.What do you with this truth?

What do you do when you brush right up against God’s gifts and blessings to others?

Do you say, It’s so unfair and envy? Or, As you wish, Lord, and DIGLI?

The Great Leveler

Inequality doesn’t need a fix. We don’t need to level the playing field. Five is not equal to three and that doesn’t make either digit a more necessary number. The world would not be better off with just fours.

Dorothy Sayers said, Envy is the great leveler. And that it always levels down. Envy and the resentment would have us lower the blessing bar to the lowest common denominator. If I can’t make a six-figure income, you can’t either. If my kid can’t be a champ, yours can’t be either.

The world does not dig our DIGLI. They don’t get our happy dance and would ban the chance to dance it if they could. Wealth we redistribute to make it more even and our fair women push to be combat-ready rangers. We used to have a valedictorian. Then came two and a few, and a dozen. Now we scrap the whole thing. And forget the solitary youth league MVP. Let’s give all the kids a trophy.

Whatever happened to the love of the game and enjoyment of excellence and savor the beauty? What when he got game, and it’s others’ excellence, and her beauty. Can we love inequality then?

If we believe the world’s lie, that unequal needs a fix, we can’t. But if we have eyes to see unequal as God’s gift, we can and will DIGLI.

When I DIGLI

I love to get secondhand gifts. When God’s grace to others overflows to me, I’m not too proud to DIGLI.

I DIGLI when Stephanie’s piano and song sing me up like a saint and when gaze at how another friend Shari can paint.

Shari’s Sheep

I DIGLI when a service tech looks under the hood and can fix the clunk while I wait and when from Jen’s backyard pool I pause and look out on her Edenic estate.

I DIGLI when one son soaks up a poem and recites it so easily and when the other knows just who needs a hug and exactly how firm it should be.

I DIGLI when my fingers get red and my stomach grows full picking berries in my parents’ garden or lay lost in Middle-earth or Narnia, in Dumas or in Dickens.

I DIGLI when I belly laugh at Hawkins’ yoga pants and how to raise my hands and serious, too, when Platt and Piper preach it powerful and true.

So DIGLI I do. Do you? Do you Delight In God’s Lavish Inequality? You’ve got to have faith to love God’s scattered grace, to believe that the Word is true. Eyes of faith see his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he

When I Don’t DIGLI

Sometimes I don’t DIGLI. I don’t dance that happy dance when with view askew I compare God’s mercy to others with God’s (perceived) mercy to me. Sin is crouching at my door, and when I start playing judge and jury, resentment and envy will have me.

God’s lavish inequality is revealed not just in scattered gifts, but in how he administers mercy, too. The way God relents and forgives, how he just swoosh erases others’ duly deserved punishment, that inequality, is harder for the Pharisee me to DIGLI. Like these three:
  • No fair, Mom! Gabe bellowed. Why does Sam get dessert? You said if he didn’t finish his broccoli he wouldn’t get dessert and now you’re letting him have ice cream. That is not right!
  • I’m not so sure that’s how it should be, I reasoned. Why did the boss give her that promotion, when she was the one who lost that big account last year? That is so unfair.
  • Isn’t this what I said? That’s why I made haste to flee; I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful… relenting from disaster…Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.

It’s harder for me when God’s lavish inequality comes in the form of lavish and unequal mercy. Then in a hard-nosed, self-righteous huff, I sometimes choke on the inequality.

Gabe couldn’t lick his ice cream because Mom let Sam have his. I couldn’t see them giving her the job when I had served my time. Jonah couldn’t abide God’s mercy to Nineveh when he knew how wicked they’d been.

Yes, God, we do do well to be angry. This is not as we wish. We will not DIGLI. 

How to Dance the DIGLI

Then again we’re pricked, the brute beast in us knows: we’d be so much better off back on our happy feet. These three have helped me to delight in God’s lavish inequality.

  1. Own the body analogy. When I see someone with gifts and abilities and blessings, which might be God’s gracious pardon, do I see God’s hand in it? Do I give thanks to the Giver of all gifts, who arranges all the parts of the body as he sees fit? Do I delight in secondhand gifts?
  2. See yourself in the Bible stories. Are you Cain or Abel? Saul or Jonathan? Are you Jonah fuming under the shriveled vine. Do you cry, “Your mercy is too great. No fair. Why?” If you do, and I have, repent. Ask God to help you say with John, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
  3. Give thanks. Anger and envy can’t dwell in grateful hearts. So anchor yourself in God’s grace with gratitude, says Rigney. Be grateful for gifts God gave them, including his mercy. No wrong has been done because God blessed them. There’s plenty of grace to go around. God won’t run out.

As You Wish

You all remember the beginning of Princess Bride, right?

Nothing gave Buttercup as much pleasure as ordering Wesley around, Grandpa read.

Farm Boy, polish my horses’ saddle. Farm Boy, fill these with water. Please fetch that jar.

“As you wish,” was all Wesley ever said.  

Then one day Buttercup was amazed to discover that when he was saying,

 “As you wish,” he was really saying, “I love you.” 
 
It is that simple. Wesley’s words of true love and devotion should be ours, too. When we trust God, we DIGLI and say, As you wish, Lord. And then, we’re really saying, I love you.

So Lord, please help us to be glad in the ways you dispense your grace and mercy. Help us to say, and mean. ‘As you wish, Lord.’ Help us delight in your lavish inequality. 
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weened child with his mother;
like a weened child is my soul within me.
Psalm 131:2

Prayers of a Lesser Thanks?

Are comparison prayers-could be worse, at least it’s not- a lesser kind of thanks?


On their backs, our thanks resound?
No! (We won’t boss Mack around.) 
Well, maybe for a chance, 
To boost our prayer stance,
Just enough to get thanks off the ground!

Beware of comparison thanks, I told the ladies. Our life group topic was, yes, gratitude. My shower that morning was lukewarm, spit it out, tepid. So I prayed a Yertle prayer. I thanked God that at least it wasn’t ice-cold. 

Even as I shared it, my example it didn’t sit well. In my lap. These prayers never do.

Like, Thank you God, that:

  • My kids aren’t as ___ (wild, rude, fragile) as hers. 
  • My husband doesn’t play video games like hers.
  • At least my wife doesn’t go shopping as much as his.
  • Even though the quiver’s not full, at least I’ve got one, while some have none. 
  • Even though the car was totaled, the injuries weren’t worse. 

Yertle prayers don’t often sit well. Maybe it’s because they remind me of the old adage, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

But haven’t you wondered about the man with no feet? Was he thankful? Is he still crying?

Do you wonder the gratitude invoked by could be worse comparisons is of the same quality as, say, Job’s, The Lord give, and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Or David’s,  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples, offered as he hid from Saul in a cave.

Still, who among us hasn’t prayed one of these? Thank you Lord, that least I have a warm house, a loving family, good health, freedom to worship in public. That my woes are so very first world. 

But they leave a funny aftertaste. What if my shower was ice cold? If work was dull, with no benefits? If the quiver is empty? If I was one of 60,000 starving in the Yida, South Sudan refugee camp? If malaria and malnutrition, without home and family are your lot? What then?  

There’s the rub. Yertle prayers leave an aftertaste because, maybe, they aren’t totally pure. They’re relative, contingent. Maybe a lesser thanks?

Guess what? It’s a fallen world. We grow weak and we see dimly. Motives are mixed. But, hallelujah! We have a gracious God. And sometimes comparing is the boost triggers a truly thankful heart. I think He can sympathize with prayers that aren’t 100% pure. We don’t, after all, have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Since my “Beware of comparison prayer,” alert I’m rethinking. I’d love to read your comments, too. I think I wouldn’t be so wary. Here’s why. 
  1. Thanking God is good.  It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name O Most High (Psalm 92:2). Just plain good. 
    • Because we magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30), and
    • Because it’s God’s will, and that’s always good (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 
    • Because He commands thanksgiving (Colossians 3:15, Psalm 50:14), and 
    • Because thanksgiving guards our hearts and minds and brings peace (Philippians 4:5-7). 
    • And if that’s not enough, because thanking God is the very business of heaven (Revelation 11:16-17). 

2.  Thanking God is good, even if it means comparing. (As long as it’s not self-exalting, self-righteous, smuggery.)

As far as I can find, there’s only one biblical example of bad thanksgiving. You remember it. Jesus told the parable to some who trusted in themselves, and treated others with contempt. (Luke 18:9-14)

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.


3. Thanking God is good. (As long as it’s not contingent on a physical set standard; as long as we adjust along the way.)

What I mean is this: Will thanking God that my boys’ are having school success in elementary school, be able to translate to thanks if they forgo college ten years from now?  And if my lukewarm shower is a cold shower after my next run?

Will thanking God in my 30’s that I can say, run for an hour without pain, translate to thanking him in the next decade (or day) that I can, walk to the mailbox with pain? And one day, if I’m unable to leave my bed, what then?

Where will I stand then to launch my thanks to the God?

Through [Jesus] whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

Romans 5:2 
The same place as I am now.  This grace.
How about there? 



Bid Envy Cease

“Envy” panel, from Hieronymus Bosch’s,
The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things, c. 1500 
Both the service and the reward are all of grace. The service itself is given us of God, and God rewards the service which he himself has given. We might almost speak of this an an eccentricity of grace…
So it’s all of grace from first to last, and must never be viewed with a legal eye. 
-C. H. Spurgeon, from The First Last, and the Last First

The music on the first Sunday of Advent was rapturous.

Simply soulful. O Come, O Come Immanuel sung to four part harmony. That’s not all. Now Thank We All Our God, sung with parts from a hymnal! Beyond bliss.

Your voices blended so beautifully. It sounded just wonderful, I gushed as I ran into the soprano and bass parts after service.

Praise God, both humbly replied.

Which is, I suppose, as it should be. To the praise of his glorious grace GOD arranges the parts. Especially since I can’t hold a harmony to save my soul. 

My genes include Irish tenor mixed with tone-deaf (or blissfully unaware) hippopotamus. Truly–my mom’s second grade music teacher said she sang like a hippo. 

Or so the legend goes.

Deadly, Green-eyed Envy

Envy is a feeling of unhappiness at the blessing of others. Aristotle (350 BC) said it was the pain that comes with others’ good fortune. It’s strong and powerful: Wrath is cruel, anger overwhelming, but who can stand before envy?  And we know it rots the bones. 

The vineyard owner’s words, Do you begrudge my generosity (Matthew 20:15) are literally, Is your eye bad because I am good? To envy is to resent God’s goodness; to have an evil eye. An evil green eye.

The eyes surely have it. Matthew Henry describes envy’s deep roots:

The eye is both the inlet and the outlet of this sin. Saul saw that David prospered, and he eyed him (1 Samuel 18:9). It is an evil eye, which is displeased at the good of others…Envy is unlikeness to God, who is good, and does good, and delights in doing good; no, it is an opposition and contradiction to God; it is a dislike of his proceedings, and a displeasure at what he does, and is pleased with.

Envy tempts me to compare with others. Worse, envy tempts me to doubt God; to think his grace will run out. Or that God is all wrong in his allocation of gifts. Envy is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19). We’re told to put it away (1 Peter 2:1). It violates the two great commands at once. Love for God and our neighbor are both lacking when we begrudge God’s generosity to him.

Envy’s grip is strongest close to home.

Which explains why my envy isn’t aroused so much by hearing angel voices-my half-hippo heritage never aspired vocally-as by reading brilliant blogs. The more focused we are on a hope or goal, the more intense the green-eyed gaze when the someone else reaches it. So it’s not all bloggers that tempt me to envy. Not Kevin DeYoung or Jon Bloom. Gifted as they are, they’re outside my circle.

It’s the blogs written by wise, youngish, Christian women bloggers. Jen Wilkin and Jean Williams are two such; grounded deep in the Word. I bid envy cease, and thank God for the spurring, gracious words he’s gifted them to write. Find Jen and Jean at http://jenwilkin.blogspot.com/  & http://jeaninallhonesty.blogspot.com/.

How do you kill this Deadly?

Hint: The same way you fight against anger, pride, lust or greed. Kill it with the sword. Wield the sword of the spirit, the Word of God

Joe Rigney suggests we try to see ourselves in the biblical narratives. Envy is certainly no stranger to Scripture’s pages.  
As you read, ask yourself, An I more like:
  • Abel or Cain, whose face grew downcast when God favored his brother?
  • Joseph or his brothers, who hated him because Jacob loved him most?
  • Jonathan or Saul, who grew angry and displeased hearing how David killed his tens of thousands? 
  • Nicodemus or the chief priests, who out of envy delivered Jesus to be killed?

If you see yourself in Cain and Saul, claim these envy-slaying truths:

1. Give thanks to God for his gifts to you.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. God’s will, His highly sought, prayed for will is this: give thanks. For life and love, for food and friends; For everything thy goodness sends, Almighty God we thank thee. Ministry, work, health, family, forgiveness…keep on thanking.In this short podcast, author Joe Rigney explains why it’s “Hard for envy to hide in a grateful heart.” I know it’s true. Many an envious grudge has been driven out of my sinful heart as I jog along or sit and jot my thanks to God.
2. Quit comparing and follow Jesus.

He’d just assured Jesus of his love and been given a sacred task, and his martyr death foretold. Then, Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them. Was it just curiosity or envy creeping up? Maybe it sounded like, But Lord, that’s not fair if John isn’t killed the same way I’ll be.

So Peter asks, Lord, what about this man? Then, the One-perfect in all his ways and loving in all he does-answers,  If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you. You follow me! That’s the way to kill the green-eyed monster. Follow Jesus. Press on to know Him. 

In our house, we have a saying. It’s mostly heard when one piece of pizza has more pepperonis, or one cookie has more chips. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.Baby steps.

3. Give thanks to God for his gifts to others. 
This is the clincher. Love inequality. It is counter-cultural in our egalitarian age. But, as Joe Rigney observes, God is unequally lavish. It’s not a bug. It’s a feature. Paul opens his first letter to the Corinthians thanking God for them, because of the grace of God that was given to them, in every way [they] were enriched in him in all speech and knowledge.

Do you DIGLI? Do you delight in God’s lavish inequality? I want to own this truth. I want to DIGLI. Sunday it was easy. But I must do it more.

To bid envy cease embrace God’s sovereignty.

Can we affirm with Abraham, against the green eyes of envy, that surely the Judge of all the earth will do what is just? And say with Job, in the midst of great loss, though he slay me, yet will I trust in him? So help us, God.

The owner of the vineyard gave the same payment for an hour’s work as for a full day’s work. It hardly seems fair. But he hadn’t promised fair-equal pay for equal work, when he hired. Only, whatever is right I’ll pay you. A denarius sounded good when the laborers hired on, whether at 7 am or 9 am, 12 noon or 3 pm, or, even at the 11th hour.

Can you allow God, even thank God, for being on the throne? We allow God to be in his workshop fashioning worlds and stars; C.H. Spurgeon said, and in his storehouses bestowing bounty. 

But to give thanks to him as Sovereign, giver of all good gifts—and unequally has he scattered his gifts—now, that’s a supernatural work.

It is the work that bids strife, quarrels and envy cease.

Friend, I am doing you no wrong…
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? 
Or do you begrudge my generosity?
-Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 20:13, 15

Even so does the God of heaven and earth ask this question of you this morning. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”  Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of his own hands—the throne of God, and his right to sit upon that throne. 

C. H. Spurgeon, Divine Sovereignty