One word for 2019

Beginning in 2011, I ditched resolutions and started the practice of using just one word to give me direction and keep me on track the whole year. Today, I looked back over my words and then tied them together in a prayer:

I immerse myself in the Word and in the life of Jesus, with a resolve to keep on in this life of following him, to breathe in Christ and breathe out the love the Holy Spirit has breathed into me, as I gaze upon his sweet loveliness. I ask for help to decrease, even as Christ decreased for us when he came to earth as a baby and died on the cross, and may I have the same attitude of death to self, obedience and humility. May I keep steady and rely on the steadiness of God, and may I learn to value Jesus above all else, to recognize the value of knowing him – nothing else matters – and to understand how much I am valued, loved and accepted by him. May I be still before him and know he is God, remembering his majesty and holiness, and that he is the great I AM; may I also be still in my soul and in my tongue. Help me live in the simplicity of Christ and his love – the simplicity of single-minded, pure, undivided, genuine and innocent devotion to my Savior.

Happy New Year and may you be blessed with the simplicity that is in Christ.

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Discipline God’s Way

As my children grew up, we were blessed to have both sets of grandparents living next door. While I appreciated the built-in babysitters, it was the relationships they had with each other that made such a difference in their lives.

Once when my parents watched the kids while we were traveling, an occasion for a spanking occurred. As my son learned, a little spanking went a long way, especially when administered by my dad. One little swat was all he needed to adjust his attitude. It was a lesson my son remembered for a long time.

Many people object to spanking these days but at the same time believe the discipline of the Lord is similar. They imagine God has a huge, heavenly paddle—with holes in it to make swats sting more—and he wields it often and with great gusto.

I must admit I used to believe God’s discipline would come in the form of physical illnesses or pain or other big trials such as financial problems, losing a home or the death of loved ones. And if you needed a big spanking, you might even experience trials of Job-like proportions. But in the last few years, I’ve come to have a different perspective because of what I’ve learned about the love embodied in God’s triune nature. I’ve realized he is not holding a paddle in anticipation of punishing me. Rather, he is gently and slowly giving me glimpses into his loving mirror. He has shown me things about myself, traits I wasn’t aware of and wish I didn’t have. Of course, it hurts. It’s painful to have your image of yourself shattered and to find out you need more work.

Could this be what the discipline of the Lord looks like—being confronted by your sin? Fortunately, I haven’t had to go through anything like Job experienced. God is gentle with me, but his discipline is always eye-opening and sure makes me think. I’ve had to really dig deep and work through it in prayer and then I thank God for his gentle and loving yet incisive work in my heart.

The discipline of the Lord can indeed be painful but it’s nothing to fear. Everything we experience at the hand of God is done in love and with our growth and good in mind—and no paddle!