31 Days · Bible Study · Faith · Marriage · Motherhood · Real Christianity

Personal (Bible) Training: What’s the Deal With Head Coverings?

Jeremiah 1_5As part of this training series, I’m going to hit on some of the hard points of Scripture. I like to explore the ideas behind something that in our society seems irrelevant or arcane. I’m taking a look at the heart of this passage. I believe God’s truths are timeless and relevant every day. So, I’m asking my dear readers to look at this through that lens. The topic I’m covering today is one that’s been widely debated. Debate is good; attack is not. We don’t know everything about the background of this passage, but we do know that Paul was seeking to educate in grace and love to God’s people. I ask that you do the same if you comment on this blog. 

What’s Under the Head Covering?

I’m in a Bible study this year that covers the letters of Paul to the Corinthians, the Philippians and the Ephesians – all churches that Paul helped get started. He is praising them, correcting them and giving them instructions on how to do this Christian life the right way.

The Corinthians were a church that needed a good lecture. They were crossing lines and taking “liberties” with their freedom in Christ. I love how Paul gets the tough love part out of the way and then starts answering the “questions” or “objections” the  Corinthian “children” have. Isn’t that so the way our kids treat us? They want to know where the loopholes are. Or maybe we all just need the guardrails to keep us on the narrow path.

I also love that he’s willing to deal with the hard topics. A woman’s place is something I argued with my own dear husband about this weekend. In anger, I pulled out that lovely line, “You just want me to be a submissive wife.”

I wanted my hubby to hear why I was upset. I wanted him to let me vent my frustration and not put up one of those guardrails of “Maybe, you’re not seeing this the right way.” (I really don’t like his use of rational thinking.)

God’s Place for You

I think that’s what Paul is doing in the 11th chapter of I Corinthians. He’s showing us that God has a place for everyone in His order. He’s the head of the entire Kingdom and Paul is using a contentious issue to show everyone how God views each “role” in His house. He writes, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head (authority over) of every man, and man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:3 AMP)

Paul is using an accepted social standard of the day – women covering their heads in prayer and public – as an example of accepting and respecting your place in God’s order. I may receive some criticism for my analysis, but I’m not very concerned with what people think of me. I’m concerned with that throne I’m going to stand before one fine day (Romans 14:12). I’m concerned about what I’m going to say about the gifts I was trusted to nurture and foster to the One who gave them to me (I Peter 4:10).

My take on the head covering topic is this – it’s about respecting the life and role you were given. We can fight for what we think we should be or accept what He made us to be.

“All Things Are From God”

Isn’t that what this is really about? All things are from God. He created us. He wants us to know He created us for glory. And we ladies are for the glory of our husbands (I Corinthians 11:7). I want to be that woman.

When I respect my place as a daughter of the King and I respect my place as a woman who asked my husband to lead our family, I have freedom to be who I was designed to be.

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. (I Corinthians 11:11-12 ESV)

When I embrace my place as the heart of my family, I’m free and whole.

When I know that I’m showing my children how to embrace their purpose (head or heart of a home) with dignity and joy, I’m leaning into the head of my heart. He comes near to me when I come near to Him. (James 4:8).

Today’s Training Exercise: Do you know what your gifts are? (Here’s a quiz I like). Think about the time you felt most alive. What was your state of mind? Were you living His plan for your life? Write this down as a reminder to yourself when you get lost.

For Discussion: How do you apply Scripture with hard-to-comprehend concepts to your life?

 

 

Faith · Gifts · Marriage · Real Christianity · Woman of Promise

Becoming a Woman of Promise

woman of promise

Someone said something of a promise to me a few days ago – “If you keep bumping into a situation or hearing a phrase, it might be God talking to you.”

Amen.

Here are a couple of examples of how that works.

I walked into Sunday School (late!) a couple of weeks ago to a guest teacher speaking on Psalm 78. That’s a pretty tough piece of Scripture, but as with all tough Scripture, there’s hope. His message was “remember the promises.”

A guest preacher also gave us a night of encouragement a couple of weeks ago. He spoke about how we don’t understand the power of prayer. He was frank and honest about his inability to fully understand prayer. But that didn’t stop him from doing it. It didn’t stop him from tapping into its power.

There’s a reason we equate power with prayer. We don’t understand power, but we want it, especially the kind that’s provided by the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the chill-bump part; he spoke about praying the promises of God. He gave many examples of how people in the Bible – including Jesus – prayed the promises back to God.

That impacted me. I don’t understand it, but I know when we recognize the promises and have faith in them, we gain access to their power.

Becoming Means Owning An Identity

So, I thought long and hard about this message that’s been following me around – a woman of promise. I want to be one. I want to become a woman of promise. The path is simple – all I have to do is own that identity.

In the book of promise, we have the promise of love, the promise of protection, the promise of eternal life (that starts the moment you believe by the way) and the ultimate promise – hope.

When I can trust in these promises, I am a woman of promise. I am a woman who takes a look at this world and straightens the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4) given to her by the King of Kings.

To own this identity, I have to trust the promises. It’s that simple. But no one said simple was easy. Simple takes intention. Simple takes slowing down and resting in the promises. Praying them. Savoring them. Believing them. Remembering them.

Remember the Promises

One of my tactics for getting my faith life back on track when it takes a back road to darkness is to trace the path of the promises God’s delivered to me as a result of prayer.

“Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40

It’s breathtaking to see the threads of grace and promise move through my life, especially when life gets messy, circumstantial, hard or overwhelming.

It's breathtaking to see that thread of grace and promise move through my life, especially when life gets messy, circumstantial, hard and overwhelming

One of the key areas of promise for me is my people. I prayed big, bold prayers for every single one of them:

  • My hubby – He is the answer to a prayer for the man I needed, not the man I wanted.
  • My big girl – She is the promise of prayer for a purpose that was bigger than myself. She is also the helper I need to ground me.
  • My son – He is a promise of a prayer for deliverance from the devastation of losing a child to miscarriage. The light of his little heartbeat brought me back from some of my darkest days. He is also the gift of patience and perseverance. (I already have another post about him ready.)
  • My little one – She was a promise of a prayer for direction. I think it’s a bit funny that the direction came in the form of a baby just 16 months younger than her brother. She is also a gift of grace and delight.

These bold prayers were answered in the form of relationships I needed to steady me, to stretch me (yes, I’m speaking of Man Cub here) and to grow me.

Stand on the Promises

My favorite promise has been through a really rough patch lately. He’s been stressed, sullen and defeated. I can take a lot, but this puts me at my end.

We’ve both had a tough year. Death, business struggles, figuring out a hard patch with a child and long stretches of being apart have put us in the shadows much of this year. But these are the days of which promises stand true. And days for which remembering the promises brings us strength.

Praying the prayers of promise back to the Promised One brings us new hope, a new perspective, and a new provision for the valleys and shadows we must all walk through.

The Promise I Made Myself: To Live in the Light

Six years ago, I walked into a hospital to have a health-saving procedure. Two actually. I had to end a pregnancy. And I had to have my gallbladder removed.

The gallbladder was a given. But when I got my usual late summer cold, I knew something else was wrong. I couldn’t shake a bad cough. I felt incredibly nauseous. I knew I was pregnant.

But what I didn’t know was that I was about to walk a very lonely, very soul bearing road. I was about to be cracked into hundreds of tiny shards.

I had recently asked God to make one of his big promises to me come true. I asked him to take my husband and make him into His man. I asked Him to refine him and give him His purpose. We were so close to the end of everything financially and I was really broken. My strength was gone. My hope was fading. I wanted to give up.

Not on life, but the hard stuff. I was no stranger to hard stuff. Hard stuff is kind of my hallmark. When I open my mouth to share a story from my life, hard stuff just spills out. Very matter-of-factly. Hard stuff is what refines us.

But I was over it. I didn’t think I could take one more thing. And then this happens.

I had a molar pregnancy and the simple explanation is there’s a problem with fertilization. The baby doesn’t form right but instead of a miscarriage, all that should have been my baby turns into a tumor of sorts. It grows very rapidly and starts to invade your body. If it’s not removed, there’s a good chance of cancer.

There we were at the end of it all (or so it felt) and separated by a heavy shadow of grief, financial insecurity and depression. That’s when I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit my marriage, but instead I decided to quit being a woman who lived in darkness.

woman of promise light.png

I was tired of living in pain and projecting it on to my promise.

I also had a 3-year-old gift from the Lord who has the chance to grow up without darkness. I knew my influence would affect the woman she would become.

So, I began a journey. A long, hard journey that’s still in progress. A journey to find light to fill in my darkness.

I began with praying the promise of Philippians 2:1-5 over my marriage.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-5

I’ve had to come back to that promise so many times. I think I get to a place of full trust and full promise and then circumstances and frustration seek to rob me of joy and progress.

But I know the redemptive promise of a changed attitude and perspective have been working on me. I know the process of walking out of the darkness and into wholeness is working. I know the more I trust the promises and the more I reflect on them and ask the Promise to fill me, the more my soul changes. The more I live in this identity of a woman of promise, the less I get knocked down.

I saw the fruit yesterday in a hard conversation I had with my favorite promise. I wanted so badly to go to my dark place, but we busted through the frustration and told each other what we needed to get through a hard week. We met each other in a mutual place of our portion of hardship. We strategized how we could circumvent the hardships and the conversation left me with a list of ways I could encourage hm and an affirmation I very much needed.

A woman of promise doesn’t back down when things get hard. She remembers the promises etched in her life. She stands on the hope that is in her.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.  – Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Faith · Marriage · Real Christianity

When Love Flickers

lovealwaysToday is Valentine’s Day and it’s a day you’re supposed to celebrate your love with a lavish dinner, flowers and a sappy card. But what if you don’t?

I used to feel so left out on Valentine’s Day at school because I never got a carnation. Not once. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic so this was big stuff to my little teen heart. I wanted just once for someone to surprise me with flowers.

And then I started dating a boy who left flowers on my car once a week. I was over him in about a minute. It wasn’t the flowers. He was actually more insecure than I was and that was a deal breaker.

Insecurity stinks. It’s a fungus that grows and takes over your life if you let it. And I hate to use the analogy on the most romantic day of the year, but fungus is hard to kill. It keeps coming back and requires a new tactic to get rid of it.

Ok. Enough about fungus. What does this have to do with love?

Insecurity causes love to flicker.

A little more than a week ago, the entire north, west and south side of the town we live in was in the dark. Hubby was out of town, so I got to deal with cold, scared kids all alone. We started with some firewood, an iPhone flashlight and several scented candles. We really had all we needed to stay warm and see our way to the necessities.

My youngest slept through the outage and my older two weathered it on the couch. My oldest was lamenting the lack of internet because she couldn’t play games on the iPad.

The Man Cub was truly scared and leaned on what he knew – naming the bad guys. Insecurity in this situation was eating him up. He still talks about the night the lights went out.

So I did the only thing I knew to do. I reassured him and held him in my arms. I promised him that no matter what happened to the lights, he was safe.

Once he fell asleep, the Big Girl argued with me about reading a book. I wanted to read and she wanted to sit in the dark. Then the lights came back on.

I welcomed this interruption in our regular life. It gave me a few minutes to just sit and be with my kids instead of the mad rush to get everything done to get to bed and ready for the next day.

This pause in our regularly scheduled programming brought something to light. Love flickers if we’re not watching for it.

I’ve found myself buzzing lately with negative thoughts, critical remarks toward the man I love the most and an overall sense of doubt. I couldn’t place my finger on it until after that flicker of the lights.

When insecurity comes in, it steals love like the surprise dark of a power outage. The love flickers to a small glimmer and if you’re not careful, that glimmer can go out.

So, when I recognized that my love was flickering, I did what I knew how to do. I loved instead of doubted.

I reminisced about our early days and all the fun we’ve had. I realized that I’ve been boxing myself off. I reached out for his hand when I wanted to be angry.

I looked at the life we’ve built together and asked myself, “Do I still want this?”

I reexamined my motives for loving the man God chose for me. He didn’t ask me to love him because he was perfect. He asked me to love him because he was the right man for me to make a life with, to forgive and stick by for better or for worse. He asked me to love him because he loved me so much he sacrificed it all so that forgiveness can happen between us. He just asked me to love him.

He asked me to follow his definition of love: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:7)

So, that’s what you do when love flickers. You love until the light comes back on. You don’t have the power to turn it back on. Like I told my little boy, it just comes back on. The power comes from outside of us. All we have to do is wait and love.

Blessings, my friends and Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope your love is bright and strong today.

 

31 Days · Faith · Marriage · Real Christianity

Clearing Heart Clutter Part 2 – A Peek at My Prayer Journal and A Piece of My Heart

clearingheartclutterpart2Ok. That may be the longest title ever. But it’s necessary. On this journey of heart work, I’ve learned that vulnerability and transparency are incredibly healing. So, today I’m going to share a look at how I process all the heart clutter and my biggest heart matter of all.

Let’s start with the easy part. Some pictures of my system for clearing heart clutter.

So, what’s in these pictures?

  1. My beautiful cover. We’re all about simple here. I thought about printing something really beautiful, but this blog is about me being real and not a perfectionist. So, you’re seeing my new cover. It’s been blank for about two years.
  2. Tabs. These are how I organize my journal entries. I don’t always move between every tab, but I do try to switch topics when there’s a lot on my heart. It helps me to go back and review.
  3. More tabs. The tabs are Praise & Promises, Confessions, Family, Children, Church, Writing, Friends, Cursillo, The World, Goals and Marriage.
  4. Notecards and t0-be-filed entries. I keep a little pile of notecards and a bit of a to-be-filed section in the front of my binder. The cards are for people I’m praying for.  I like to send a card to them. And I try to write hubby a card of encouragement each week. This is a game changer in marriage. Being intentional and really honest is hard face-t0-face, but there’s something about putting it down on a note that makes it a little easier. And he carries them around in his glove box (Swoon.)

Ok. So now for the hard part…

I’m sharing part of two of my journal entries because I cleared up some heart clutter this morning. Some big heart clutter.

I’m not afraid to share my faith with people. But one thing that sets me off on a mini panic attack is the question of “When did you get saved?”

I’ve struggled with this question for a long time. And it made me stay up nights about a year ago. So, I started praying about it periodically. I sought some counsel on it. And I finally have an answer. That’s what I’m going to share with you today. It took the removal of self-doubt (a favorite weapon of our enemy) and some real gut honesty to come to this answer.

Here’s what I wrote a year ago when I really began struggling with this question: 

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for leading my heart back to you. Thank you for your spirit of conviction. Thank you for calling my name and that leads me back to my thought. Why do I doubt my salvation so much in the church? I don’t want to be wrong about this. I know you are the guiding force in my life. I know you are near always. I know you provide everything for us. I know your son died on that cross for me. I KNOW these things, but I often feel uncertain in the presence of preachers and others who are sure of a date.

I gave it all up to you right after we got married and I joined your church. I believe it was a gradual process and my low moment was when I asked you to deliver me from my destructive decisions. You gave me my beautiful daughter. I know that was one of the greatest blessings on my life. But then I think back to the time I prayed for a man in my life who would not hurt me and protection from that destructive road of giving my heart away. Maybe it’s not important that I know a date. I know that you’ve been at my side through so much.

I remember a conversation in high school with a guy about a party spot. He said, “This isn’t a Bible thumper’s place.” I wanted so badly to be accepted, but you set me apart. I made a lot of wrong choices. I said a lot of wrong things and I felt wretched.

I didn’t know how to pray. I didn’t know what to do so often. I was so persecuted at school, but you led me through it without my knowledge. You led me through with no lasting wounds. You led me through a fire and brought me out refined.

You brought me through some tough times in college. It always seemed that when I stepped off the path, your conviction led me right back to your ways.

You gave me a lot of grace and protection and showed me mercy when I didn’t deserve it. You put a lot of people in my life to build bridges and renewal.

So, if I look at it, it’s not that important to know THE DATE. I know you are here and Lord of my life.

This struggle with the heart clutter shows me that I was doubting the beginning point. But that’s all that it was – a beginning point. The journey is the real story.

Here’s another passage from my journal that appeared about three months agoThis entry describes one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through. It happened just six weeks after I rededicated my life to Christ on July 29, 2011. 

Father, when I went looking for an escape from watching my husband fall short of his own pride, really both of us, your Spirit led me to Philippians 2. I wanted to figure out how to be humble. I wanted to know who Jesus is and what model to follow if I were going to follow Him. I guess the writer in me wanted a character sketch of Him. I wanted to know how to love someone how Jesus loves them.

And it’s radical to think you let me continue to fall before I found that love. After we lost the baby, I hated Warren. He didn’t feel loss and at the end of himself the way I thought he should. He was quick to say, “Ok, let’s move along and work the plan.”

Father, I didn’t want to work the plan. I wanted to fall apart. I wanted to be raw and in the valley. I wanted to drag a broken ankle along behind me and I wanted him to shoulder the burden of my injury. I wanted his heart to be cracked like mine. I wanted him to swoop in and heal it. I wanted him to fill in all those tiny fractures, but he just kept on moving. I realized from reading Philippians that he and I were not on the same page. You had humbling and cracking to do for both of us.

You wanted to fill in those cracks, not him.

You wanted me to depend on you. You wanted my heart to be filled with your love and to empty it of all its worldly notions of what marriage should look like.

Father, I learned so much about trusting you in that hard place five years ago. I learned what you wanted for my life. I learned that you had a small place of service for me to head – four souls. You gave me eternal work to do. You knew that I possessed an addictive mentality with work. You knew work and home is an obstacle for me. Thank you for showing me the humility and joy in pain.

Father, in many ways, I’m in the valley again. But healing happens in the valleys. You help us add strength when we feel like we can’t move forward one step. But you do move us forward or give us a good place to camp until we regain our strength. You are the one who walks for us when the ankle is broken. You are the cabin with fresh water and food – the kindness of a stranger.

Thank you for showing me that a tiny care package for someone else is good enough for eternity. You don’t want us (your children) to be the eternal resting place for others. You don’t want us to be the ones to climb out of the valleys with the travelers on our backs. You want us to give them a splint and supplies so they can continue on their journey. ~

So after all that clearing of heart clutter, here’s what I know.

Faith is a journey. We can make a declaration that we are sinners and invite Jesus into our hearts, which I did when I joined the church. But it’s bigger than that. That’s just the play button.

Faith builds upon faith. And it’s staying faithful in that journey that’s our testimony.

It’s believing every day with our whole hearts that Jesus died to remove sin from us forever so that we can enter into the presence of the holy God. A moment in time is just a dot, but our eternity under God’s wing is much bigger. 

Thank you for joining me on my heart work journey today. I hope this story blesses you.

Today’s Heart Work Question: Is heart clutter hiding your testimony?

Today’s Heart Work Truth: Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 NIV)

31 Days · Faith · Family · Marriage

31 Days of Heart Work

31daysheartwork Heart work is serious business. I’ve been on a mission to do this for a few months. And I’m seeing light in my life that I’ve never seen before.

What is heart work?

Heart work is digging up those old hurts, regrets, wrong thought patterns, unbelief – the ugly stuff that keeps your heart hidden by walls of hurt.

The problem with the walls is that they keep us from moving forward. I think we have to let go of that notion that avoiding the renovation of your heart is going to hurt more than staying in the dilapidated house of pain.

So, I’m sharing my journey and some prompts for you to join in if you so wish as part of the Write 31 Days Challenge. The challenge is to write on one topic every day for the 31 days of October.

Each post will appear as a link at the end of this post labeled with the date. I’ll also share them on my Instagram and Facebook page.

 

psalm127So, what’s in this series?

  • Clearing out the clutter – My husband is in construction, so we see this a lot. A house that needs a lot of repair is filled with clutter. It’s like the occupants just gave up on dealing with the stuff and let it pile up. The first stage of heart work is clearing out the clutter that’s hiding the walls of defeat, hurt and fear.
  • Tearing down the walls – Next, you have to demo the walls so you can see what’s behind them. There’s a lot of waste, but there’s also often a lot of repairs. In heart work, that’s taking down the carefully constructed notions of not being good enough, fear of failure and fear of heartbreak. The repairs are usually tied to relationships and forgiveness.
  • Taking the waste away – When you tear down walls, you have to take the demoed walls and waste somewhere. In heart work, that place is the cross.
  • Beginning the renovation plan – Healing a heart begins with a plan of action – a basic structure that will require choices along the way. Sometimes these choices will be hard. And some days you won’t feel like showing up for work. The only way to finish the renovation is to show up and get to work.
  • No turning back – Once you start the tear down and rebuilding process, there’s really only one way to go – forward. Or there’s no place to live.
  • Leaving a legacy – My reason for this journey is so my children don’t have to start their lives on a shaky foundation. Fixing my heart gives them a legacy to lean on when their hearts are shattered by the hurt of this world.

So, please join me for the next 31 days of heart work here at A Work of God. Each post will pose a question of the heart to work on, so you can join in.

Please share your thoughts as we embark on 31 days of heart work. You can comment on any post or email me at amandacbrandon at gmail dot com.

Thanks for reading and I’m praying this series will be a blessing to you and yours.

Day 2 – Clearing Heart Clutter Part 1 

Day 3 – Clearing Heart Clutter Part 2

Day 4 – Demolishing the Walls of Hurt