Encouragement in the Fight Against Temptation

When we’ve been Christians for decades, it seems like we’d have less trouble with sin.

After all, we’ve had so many years to grow, so many times in the Word of God, prayer, church, Sunday School, good books. We know we won’t reach perfection in this life. But shouldn’t we be closer to it?

I have not found myself anywhere near sinless perfection. And I can get quite discouraged when a random thought of anger or envy flashes across my mind. I should know better. Why am I still thinking like that?

But the Bible tells us we will always have our sin nature. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17). In fact, fighting sin is a good sign because it means we have God’s Spirit in us Who opposes sin.

And in some ways, as we grow in the Lord, we’ll be more sensitive to sin issues. I used to get convicted about angry outbursts. Now I get convicted about angry thoughts.

I don’t spend too much time wondering whether particular temptations come from Satan or from my own sin nature. Sometimes one or the other is a bigger factor, sometimes they work together.

But several years ago, I went through a situation that helped my perspective. For some period of weeks, I felt assaulted by untrue thoughts about God. I felt these thoughts came from Satan because they felt like an attack, and I normally didn’t have a problem with that kind of thing. I was discouraged, upset, fearful of blaspheming or at least dishonoring God.

Finally I thought of a tactic. I don’t normally try to address Satan personally. I leave him for God to handle. But I said, to whoever might be listening, “You know what? When I am tempted with wrong thoughts of God, I’m going to immediately turn my thoughts to His praise. I’ll sing a hymn or read a psalm or think about God’s attributes. So any temptation to wrong thoughts about God is going to result in more praise to Him and of Him and more worship of Him.”

The “thought attacks” stopped soon thereafter.

Recently it occurred to me that I could do the same thing with other temptations. Instead of just getting discouraged or irritated that I still have to fight selfishness or pride or jealousy or whatever, I can see the temptation as a call to arms. I can put on His armor and use the sword of His Spirit, His Word. I can preach His truth to myself and shore up my defenses. I can store up His Word in my heart, that I might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). I can pray against temptation (Luke 22:40, Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41). I can endeavor more closely to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). I can rejoice that God’s throne is one where we can find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15-16). I have His encouragement that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). I can let God use this for good to strengthen me.

Though God offers grace, He doesn’t want us to take sin casually. Though God forgives us when we confess our sin to Him (1 John 1:9), He also tells us to “Look carefully then how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15), to put certain things away from us, to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). He warns us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

But “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Temptation to sin isn’t sin, of course. Even Jesus was tempted.

But when I do succumb to temptation, one verse that especially means a lot to me is Micah 7:8: “Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” I love what Christina Rossetti said: “A fall is a signal not to lie wallowing, but to rise.” Instead of wallowing in discouragement over temptation, we can rise against it. And God can use even this to strengthen us, to encourage others, and to glorify Himself. So, once again, what Satan means for evil, God can turn around and use for good.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads that ministered to me this week.

Submit Your Felt Reality to God, HT to Challies. “Reality is reality. It’s objective. It’s what’s actually happening. Felt reality is what’s happening from my vantage point. It’s reality framed by my own thoughts, assumptions, and emotions.” The author includes a look at David’s submitting his felt reality to God in the Psalms.

Talking to Our Souls. This goes along with the one above. “We don’t always have access to counselors and wise friends, of course. Sometimes, we have to counsel ourselves, using words we know to be true because they come from trusted sources. We can easily get into trouble, though, when we listen to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves.”

Loving Across the Ideological Fence, HT to Challies. “Society and the mainstream media tries so hard to pit everybody against one another. And they are successful for the most part. Christians must resist this. We must not cave into the cultural pressure of hating those who don’t see things the way we do. Again, we must love those on the other side.”

The Dead Seriousness of Careless Words. “Carelessness was on Jesus’ mind on a day when the religious authorities confronted him about his failure to keep their interpretation of the religious law. He remarked that their words were evil because their hearts were evil. ‘How can you speak good, when you are evil?’ he asked. ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ And in that context he offered the most solemn of warnings. ‘I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.'”

It Rots the Bones, HT to Challies. “Many months ago, I received an email from a dear, faithful reader, asking for help. Her life was quickly unraveling, and in the midst of persistent heartache, she had fallen headlong into envy. Jealousy towards a woman in her church, whose life seemed quite perfect. This jealousy was destroying her, from the inside out. Envy is the thief of contentment, isn’t it? It reveals an idol tucked in the heart.”

Praying the Word: When You Feel Angry, HT to the Story Warren. “On the surface, prayer seems simple. It’s talking to God. But in practice, we may have a lot of questions. Am I doing this right? Is there a “right” way to do it? What am I supposed to say? Are there things I shouldn’t pray about? Or maybe we feel pretty comfortable with praying, but we struggle with getting bored or losing focus. Whatever our struggles with prayer, Scripture can be helpful.”

Is It Okay to Pray for a Husband? “For a long, long time, one thing that kept me back from praying specific prayers was wondering if I was asking for the wrong things. I wondered if what I was praying was really according to God’s will. I would pray generic prayers: ‘God, I have this decision coming up, and, uhhh . . . Your will be done.’ It was an uninvolved, nonpersonal prayer. In the pages of Scripture, when we look at Jesus’ prayers and the Psalms, we see that God invites us to come to Him with exactly what’s happening in our daily lives. He invites us to pray about the small things—to pray about the specifics.” I like her acronym for prayer.

When It Comes to Friendships, It’s OK to Be the Planner, HT to Linda. “When you like people, you extend invitations for specific times. If other people don’t do that, is it because they don’t like you as much? You might hold back, worried that you are misjudging things. But before you stop trying, understand this: It’s OK to be the planner. Your gift is logistics and coordination. Other people have different gifts. Appreciating that makes it possible to enjoy friendships more.”

VOX Outdoes Itself in Ignorance and Misogyny, HT to Challies. “Tragically, heretofore, society understood that babies coming into the world was so important that when women were going to have them, they really had to do that as the main thing for many years and couldn’t do anything else. Prevailing opinion thinks this was misogyny, that ‘staying home’ with babies and young children was a terrible thing to do, and not gracious and life giving, and also the glue that kept a lot of society together.”

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

I’m running late this morning, for a number of reasons. So I’ll jump right in sharing five highlights of the week with Susanne and friends at Living to Tell the Story.

1. A colonoscopy is not a favorite thing, but I am glad to have mine OVER with and clear. The gastroenterologist said my colon was “beautiful”—he’s probably the only person who would think so. 🙂

2. Meals. My sweet daughter-in-law came over and made dinner Saturday night, and then dropped dinner off the night after my procedure.

3. My husband takes wonderful care of me.

4. My roses are exploding.

5. Normalcy after a disrupted schedule.

Happy Friday!

Assorted Stray Thoughts

This week has been a blur for many reasons. My mindset can’t think very deeply at the moment, so I decided to share various passing thoughts, some tongue-in-cheek, most not terribly important.

I received an email advertising the ESV Panorama New Testament. My mind kept reading Panorama as Paranormal.

We don’t get HGTV, but the last couple of times I was in the hospital, we had that station on. I was amazed that any time on any show they staged a house for viewing, someone karate-chopped the sofa pillows. Who decided dented pillows were a thing?

Speaking of decorating, I just recently became aware of a new/old style called grandmillennial, explained here. It’s “halfway between minimalism and maximalism” and “nostalgic and comfortable without looking kitschy.” Sounds like my tastes! Except they advocate earthy colors, and I am partial to my pastels.

Why do people pay $20-50 for a one-hour online course but balk at paying $10-12 for a ten-hour book?

I occasionally see or hear people say something like, “If you’re going to drink decaf, why bother?” Well, some of us can’t have caffeine. In my case, I am not supposed to have it due to heart rhythm problems. But I like the flavor and warmth. I’d be more concerned about not being able to make it through the day without caffeine.

Does it bug anyone else when speakers say “I see you” to people they can’t actually see?

Why do people use Latin phrases and then put in parentheses what the phrase means? Why not just use the English words in the first place?

Are people really motivated by being yelled at? The climax movie of the movie Facing the Giants had a coach on hands and knees alongside a player, yelling, “Don’t quit, Never quit.” But if I were in that position, I would want to yell back, “Stop yelling!” Even Pelaton commercials turn me off. (I’m not an athlete. Can you tell?) I respond better to coming-alongside encouragement than having someone in my face.

I’m about done with articles that won’t let you read further without subscribing or unblocking ads. I know they need to make money, but that doesn’t seem the best way to get subscribers. I like some sites that let you read so many free articles per month.

Sometimes I see foot massages referred to as a romantic gesture, but I can’t stand the thought of someone messing with my feet.

When I am actually in a grocery store, I’ll see people filling online orders with their big carts. They’ll scan an item and put it right in the shopping bag. I’ve thought that would be nice to be able to do as an average shopper–scan and bag your items as you get them instead of moving everything to cart, to conveyor belt at the checkout, and back to the cart again. But that will probably never happen because of the expense of the handheld scanners and because of dishonest shoppers who wouldn’t scan all their items.

Do you have favorite things you do with certain leftovers? I love making a sandwich with leftover meatloaf, sometimes grilled-cheese style. I can remember my mom making little strips of leftover pie crust dough, putting a little butter and sugar and cinnamon on it, and putting it in the oven just a few minutes to cook through. So good. (Odd, though, I don’t remember her making pies from scratch–but she must have if she had pie crust dough.) If we have tacos, I like to make a quesadilla with the leftover taco meat and cheddar cheese for lunch the next day. And if I am making rice, if I have enough, I like to make a little bowl of rice with butter and sugar. That must be the base of rice pudding, though I have never had it.

Sometimes my thoughts do pinball between topics like this. Occasionally I’ll retain one long enough to write it down. 🙂

Do any of these resonate with you? Do you have stray unrelated thoughts floating around?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Our Responsibility to Discern False Teaching

A prophet of God sat under an oak, taking a rest from his long journey. He had come from Judah to Bethel to deliver to King Jeroboam a harsh but needed message.

God had told this prophet not to eat bread or drink water while on this mission, and to return by a different way than he had come. Perhaps the man of God thought these directives were to protect him from the possible diversion by the king, who offered him refreshment and a reward. Or they were to keep him from appearing to show any sign of compromise, as a meal together would indicate friendship and fellowship. Or he might have felt they were a form of fasting, symbolic of his dedication in doing God’s work.

Maybe he should have interpreted them as, “Don’t linger. Do your business and get back as soon as possible.”

As he rested, an older man rode up to him on a donkey, identifying himself as a prophet of God as well. Prophet 2 (let’s call him Henry to avoid confusing pronouns) invited Prophet 1 (George, let’s say) home for a meal. George repeated what he had told the king: he had been told not to eat bread or drink water in that place.

But Henry assured George it was all right. “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

George didn’t think he had a reason to distrust Henry: he was a fellow prophet after all. And George was probably tired, hungry, and thirsty. So he accompanied Henry back to his house.

But Henry had been lying.

“As they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

There’s no record of George’s response. But on his way home, a lion killed him. George’s body was thrown from his donkey, but the lion didn’t eat either George or the donkey. The animals just waited with the body until townspeople passed by and brought word back to the city about what had happened. Henry heard the news and rode back to pick up George, then brought him home to bury in his own tomb.

This is one of the oddest stories in the Bible (1 Kings 13). One of the first questions that comes to mind is, “Why did the second prophet lie to the first?” What earthly reason could he have had? The Bible doesn’t tell us. He didn’t hate the first prophet: he mourned him, called him brother, and confirmed his prophecy to Jeroboam. He even asked to be buried next to him when he died.

We have to remember this is not an isolated story just thrown into the narrative of Israel’s kings. This incident took place within the bigger context of Jeroboam’s awful sins of making golden calves for Israel to worship and setting up a whole different system than what God had given Israel. Perhaps this story is an OT illustration of the NT verse in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” If God would discipline his own prophet who had disobeyed a simple directive, what would He do to the likes of Jeroboam? Perhaps this story was confirmation that God would deal with Jeroboam as the prophet had said.

There are several truths and applications that could be gleaned from this passage. But the one I want to hone in on is this: Know God’s Word. Obey it. Don’t let the surrounding culture turn you away from it. Don’t let even other professing believers distract you from it.

That’s not to say we never ask counsel or receive advice. The Bible tells us to do both. The fellowship of other believers, Bible study books, commentaries, and other aids can open our understanding and point out things we missed.

But we’re to know God’s Word for ourselves so we can discern when someone is telling us something different.

False prophets don’t always look or sound like false prophets at first. They are “deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Paul said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Much of the OT warns against false prophets. In one place, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD'” (Jeremiah 23:16).

The NT warns of false prophets and teachers as well. In her book Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, Alisa Childers writes: “Much of the New Testament, including the entire book of Jude, is dedicated to helping Christians watch out for, recognize, and avoid these sheep-clothed wolves. In researching some of these passages, I discovered that the topic of false teachers and false teaching is addressed directly in twenty-two of twenty-seven New Testament books. Encouragement to keep the true faith and to practice discernment is mentioned in every single one.”

The Bible warns that false teachers will not only come in from the outside, but they’ll arise from within the congregation. In Paul’s farewell message to the elders at Ephesus, he warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,” (Acts 20:29-31a). Peter warned about false teachers arising “among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1-3). This was what happened to Alisa Childers, whose book I mentioned. Her own trusted pastor began undermining longstanding doctrines of the faith.

The Bible gives us the responsibility to watch out for false doctrine. I’ve already mentioned Paul’s admonition to “be alert” in Acts 20:31. Jesus began warnings about false teachers with the word “Beware.” Paul says elsewhere, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

I don’t think this means we need to become unduly suspicious of one another. But we study the Word of God and check whatever we’re taught against it. The Bereans in Acts were called noble because they did this with Paul’s teaching. Alisa followed their example and searched for the truth, nailing down why she believed what she did.

After Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders, he said, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). When he wrote to the Ephesians later, he said God had given the church gifts in “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

So while we don’t need to get paranoid, we do need to be alert. And we remember that we don’t come to the Bible just for affirmation or comfort or warm fuzzies. We come to it to find truth about and from God. We study God’s Word for ourselves and with others, and as we grow in spiritual maturity, we won’t be deceived and tossed about.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s the latest thought-provoking reads seen around the Web lately.

In Christ, We Have Direct Access to God, HT to Challies. “Is it inconsistent for the Bible to teach us that God ‘dwells in unapproachable light’ (1 Tim. 6:16), while at the same time exhort us to draw near to him? If God dwells in the white-hot light of his holiness, how can sinners like you and me ever hope to take even one baby step toward him? If God is so pure, so completely undefiled, so sharply separate from sin, how can we approach him? Indeed, it seems, he is unapproachable. Yet the author of Hebrews strongly encourages believers to not only approach God, but to do so with ‘full assurance.'”

Still, HT to Challies. This is beautifully written. “Is it true that the quiet valleys of this world harbour stillness like some treasure to be dug up? Quite possibly. But I’m not convinced that is what the ancient song-writer is calling us to. Rather, it strikes me that there is a tone of command here, a tone better heard if we had sat with the desperate disciples on a wind whipped lake, the night dread gripped their hearts.”

Keys to Knowing God’s Will for Your Life. “Of all the issues related to Christian living, few receive greater attention than knowing God’s will for our lives. Many believers, and especially younger ones, agonize over knowing what God means for them to do and how he means for them to live out their days. Many end up leaning toward a low-grade form of mysticism, longing to receive some kind of a sign from the skies or some kind of a word in their hearts.”

What Makes a “Strong Woman” Strong? HT to Challies. “‘Strong woman’ is a phrase heard often these days, and because I admire both words and women, I’ve been paying attention. It’s used in politics, on campuses, in the media, and even by little girls who know at a very early age to describe themselves as ‘strong.’ It’s made me think about what strong actually means—what is the implication when people say ‘strong woman’?”

We Don’t Need to Rescue Biblical Characters from Themselves, HT to Challies. “If we understand that the Bible is not a book of heroes to emulate, but sinners in the need of Jesus, our outlook changes a bit. We don’t need to rescue the biblical characters from themselves so we can emulate them, we can take comfort in the fact that even our very greatest heroes in the Bible were not perfectly faithful. They, as much as us, needed Jesus. The Biblical characters are not there principally as examples to us to emulate, but as examples to us of God’s grace.”

Two Letters and a Cute Dog Photo, HT to Challies. “My mind turns to the commute home and the evening ahead. Oh, that’s right: tonight is Bible study night. I was already feeling physically and mentally tired, and now I realise I’ve got to get home, do a quick turn around on dinner, then up and out in the cold to head to my home group. Or … I could stay home, get those nagging chores done, quickly watch the next episode of that Netflix series I’ve been enjoying, and get to bed at a time more in keeping with the level of fatigue I’m feeling. I’m sure my group and the leaders will understand. They always do. Here are five quick reasons to intentionally derail that train of thought and go to growth group.”

Not What I Expected, HT to Challies. “One of the most shocking television moments I ever witnessed was on L.A. Law in the 1980s. A character everyone loved to hate, Rosalind, stepped through her law office’s elevator doors mid-sentence and unexpectedly plummeted to her death. That’s kind of how I felt when I became a mom…like I was falling. I stepped forward and the floor wasn’t there. The drastic life change was so much harder than I expected, in ways I didn’t anticipate.”

Teach Us to Number Our Drives, That We May Gain the Hearts of Our Children, HT to Challies. “Even though I know this comes with the territory, I struggle to enjoy it. This season of spending lots of time together in the car is fleeting, and I need to take advantage of having a captive audience. But while I love my kids with all my heart, and I’d jump in front of an oncoming train for them, some days I don’t want to lay my life down to drive them across town.”

And a thought for the day:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

Wow, this week sure went by fast. I’m thankful Susanne at Living to Tell the Story started this habit of pausing on Fridays to reflect on the blessings of the week. Here are a few of mine:

1. Mother’s Day. My family does a good job making me feel special on Mother’s Day. We had a mostly “man-made” meal, though Mittu said she and Timothy helped with the dessert. Jim grilled his trademark teriyaki chicken, Jesse made homemade baked macaroni and cheese, and Jason made Chocolate Pretzel Pie. Jim and Jesse worked together on corn on the cob. It was all so good! I didn’t get a picture of the whole dinner, but here’s the dessert:

2. Hanging baskets. Jim traditionally gets the baskets of flowers that hang outside the front door, the kitchen windows, and “office” windows for Mother’s Day if I have not gotten them beforehand. I love seeing flowers outside most of the windows.

3. Front door decoration. I finally traded out my spring tulips for a different look. I had this container up before, but the flowers had gotten mildewed. I had more but just got around to replacing them. This hangs beside, rather than on, our door because the door has an oval glass insert.

4. An unscheduled week. It was nice to have nothing on the schedule this week after Sunday and nothing that had to be done besides the regular everyday stuff.

5. A special answer to prayer. I can’t discuss the details, but it was wonderful to see God intervene, in answer to my husband’s prayer, in a situation that, humanly, looked very much like it would go a different direction.

I hope you’re week has been good.

The Girl in the Painting

In The Girl in the Painting by Australian author Tea Cooper, Michael and Elizabeth Quinn are orphaned siblings who immigrated from England to Australia in 1862. Their parents had gone on ahead to take advantage of free passage for married couples and left them with an aunt. But the aunt died before the children left and they had to go to a workhouse until time for departure. Then they found, upon arrival, that their mother had died, and the father passed away, too, before long.

The father had established himself in an area of gold seekers. But he didn’t mine gold for himself: he started a business servicing the miners, especially hauling their things around. Michael, a teenager by this time, took over the business and built it up, leaving Elizabeth in the care of a woman they’d met on the ship until he could establish a home for them..

By 1906, the Quinns were wealthy business people and philanthropists in Maitland Town. One of their outreaches was to the local orphanage, in memory of their own time as orphans. One of the orphans, Jane, has an exceptional aptitude for math. The Quinns offer to take Jane in and pay for her education in exchange for her working for their company. She eventually becomes their bookkeeper as well as taking over many of Michael’s duties.

One day Jane and Elizabeth visit a one of their buildings where they’ve invited an artist to hold an exhibition. Suddenly the ultra self-controlled Elizabeth is on the floor, shaking in terror, hat off, mumbling unintelligible words.

After a while, Elizabeth seems back to normal and insists everything is fine. But she’s not back to normal, and everything’s not fine. Odd snatches of memory and terror keep coming back to her mind.

Jane makes it her mission to find out what caused Elizabeth’s episode and discovers some unexpected long-held secrets.

This was an enjoyable book, especially in trying to figure out the mystery behind Elizabeth’s reaction to a painting. It was nice to read something set in a different time and place than a lot of historical fiction (so much of which centers around WWII). We get a picture of what immigrants were up against in those times, not only the English, but also the Chinese who were treated mainly as servants and the lowest workmen.

I loved the cover.

My only minor complaint is that the change between happy and adjusted Michael and Elizabeth and unraveling Elizabeth and brooding Michael seemed rather sudden. I guess that’s an indication that the past was a well-kept secret. But it just seems that, in a literary sense, there would have been more hints throughout the book that everything was not as we thought. I only caught one, and that was only after finishing the book and going back to reread the siblings entry onto the ship taking them to Australia. But, again, it’s a minor complaint and can be explained by the reaction to the painting that set off that aspect of the story.

I had thought this was a Christian fiction book because I bought it from a Christian site. But it wasn’t in any real sense of the word. That’s fine—I don’t restrict myself to Christian fiction. It just meant the book wasn’t what I expected at first. The orphanage Jane comes from is Catholic. Some of the Chinese religious practices are explained when Elizabeth befriends the Chinese man who works for them. But there’s not much other religious content. I would disagree with one statement that it doesn’t matter what gods people prayed to and one person’s thought that a dead relative was looking out for them from heaven.

The book is remarkably clean for modern secular fiction. Michael took the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times and a couple people said “what the hell.”

But, overall, I enjoyed the story.

Ten Time Management Choices

My husband has no idea how much he owes Sandra Felton.

I did not come to marriage very organized in either my time or my stuff. In college, I wasn’t lazy, but I was always running behind. Many of my grades suffered from late deductions. And I can’t tell you how many times I got frustrated over not being able to find an item or paper I needed.

Sometime during early marriage, I came across Sandra Felton’s book, The Messies Manual. Then I subscribed to her newsletter for years until I knew by heart what each one was going to say.

I put a lot of Sandra’s principles into practice. I can’t say I became a paragon of organizational virtue, but I definitely improved from where I was.

But I learned something else about organization on my own. We can’t make up a workable schedule and put everything in its rightful place and then be done organizing. We have to maintain our systems and adapt them to new demands on our time and new items in our home.

So I have decided organization is not a destination. It’s a journey. And, therefore, I continue to occasionally reads books or articles about organization.

When I saw that Sandra had coauthored a fairly new book with Marsha Sims, and it was on sale for the Kindle app, I got it. That book is titled Ten Time Management Choices that Can Change Your Life.

The authors state that “One of the goals of this book is to help you accomplish easily and quickly those necessary but uninspiring activities that comprise much of our daily lives so you can turn your attention to the significant things you want to do” (p. 9).

They point out how the advent of modern technology eased life in some ways but created a lot more things to do, some necessary and some distracting.

They say some authors “downplay organizing systems and indicate that if you have enough focus and self-control, you’ll be okay. Not so. You need good skills as well” (p 21.) So they point out overarching principles but also offer practical tips.

They remind us often that “time management is not the art of getting everything done. It is the art of getting the most important things done. To put it another way, it is priority management.” (p. 63).

The authors offer a variety of ways to determine priorities, make schedules, etc. I love that. Some time management books promote a very rigid system. I don’t usually like everything about other people’s systems, so I appreciate the variety of methods to experiment with to find one that works best.

They also tackle multitasking, interruptions, procrastinating, delegation, time wasters, schedules, developing good habits.

They apply principles to home and business.

Each chapter has several vignettes of people with organizing problems and the solutions they found.

The end of each chapter and the end of the book contain questions and activities to help implement the principles. The sessions at the end of the book could be done alone or with a group.

Here are a few more quotes that stood out to me:

Creative people have more ideas and interests than any one person can do in a lifetime, and we accumulate the paraphernalia to prove it. (p. 54.)

A word of explanation is necessary to those who fear setting up a schedule because it feels rigid and stifling. Scheduling is not an inflexible list that is written in stone. It is a statement of what regular tasks are important to accomplish each day and when you plan to do them during the day. As you become experienced in using and tweaking your schedule, you will find it meets your needs more and more successfully and will become your friend. (pp. 163-164).

When you create a schedule for routine tasks, you open a tap through which good time management can flow. A schedule is absolutely necessary because 1. It keeps you from forgetting what needs to be done. 2. It protects you from the unsuccessful “What do I feel like doing today?” approach (p. 164).

Although I would not classify this as a Christian book overall, the authors do employ some biblical principles.

There was only one place I strongly disagreed with the authors.

Organized people work dispassionately. That frees them from a lot of stress. Disorganized people wear themselves out by investing emotion in the things they have to do. They work while saying, “I hate making the bed every day” or “Unloading the dishwasher is such a drag.” The way to take the emotion out of doing what you need to do regularly is to make the activity into a habit (p. 196).

I can’t say that making activities into habits takes the emotion out of them. I still chafe at a lot of things that have to be done. However, making them a habit gets them over with rather than pushing them to the background. And I look forward to the satisfaction of getting them done.

I don’t think I learned much that was totally new to me from the book. But many of the principles I had formerly learned were applied in new ways, and all of the book was a much-needed reminder.

If you need to organize your time better or need to brush up on organizing principles, this book would benefit you.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Ministry in the Mundane

Ministry in the Mundane

“If only I didn’t have to [cook, do dishes, sweep, dust, do laundry, go to the grocery store, etc., etc. etc.], I could get something meaningful done.”

Have you ever thought something like that? Or said it out loud?

Life is full of necessary but mundane tasks.

And whatever we do today likely has to be done again in a few days, if not tomorrow.

I was struck recently by how often I have to refill things: the salt shaker, the tea pitcher, the napkin holder, the toothpick holder, the paper towel and toilet paper holders, the pantry, the refrigerator, the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer, the toiletry closet.

When we want to write or participate in some kind of ministry, it’s hard to make time without leaving something else undone.

Yet when I look at the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31, most of her day revolved around what would have been everyday tasks of her time: sewing for herself, her family, and her home (no department stores or online ordering in those days), cooking, seeking food “from afar,” buying a field, planting, working “willingly with her hands” late at night and early in the morning, making items to sell to supplement her family’s income. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” She fears the Lord. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.” She does all of this with strength, kindness, faith, wisdom and dignity.

A couple of blog friends remind me of this lady. Sadly, they are no longer blogging. But they used to write about their everyday activities in their homes: house projects, gardening and canning, sewing, cooking, etc. They didn’t write devotionals or Bible lessons, but they shared observations in passing about God’s dealings with their lives. Their spirit shone through even in the “homey” activities. They brought a “sense of Him” in everything they did, not just the “spiritual” activities.

The one lady I count as my main mentor was the same way. We never studied through a book together. She never sat me across the table for a lesson. There is nothing wrong with those things. But she taught me plenty by how she managed her home (which she graciously invited me to) and conducted her life. She may have said a few things on purpose as a means of guidance or instruction, but if she did, they were so mild and gentle that I didn’t know I was being “taught.”

When my kids were younger, I regretted that I didn’t have more time for just playing with them. Oh, we played. We’d make Lego creations, read tons of books, go to the park, throw a blanket over the kitchen table and picnic underneath. But I felt guilty because it seemed like I never spent “enough” one-on-one time with them.

Then I thought about this Proverbs 31 lady, or Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of times that her mother played with her children, and I am sure the Proverbs 31 lady played with hers as well. But they didn’t spend all day at it. They didn’t just play together: they worked together. And Mother passed on to children characteristics they would need not only by direct teaching, but by example.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do”—ordinary, everyday activities—“do it all to the glory of God.”

Of course, we have to be careful not to be like Martha, so busy that we neglect what Jesus called the one needful thing of spending time with Him.

And It’s fine to seek ways to do our work as efficiently as possible so we do have time for other activities. If God opens the door for writing, speaking, organizing gatherings, or whatever, great!

But we can glorify God and minister to others in those everyday activities as well.

For those of you reading this on Mother’s Day, I hope you have a happy day honoring your Mom. If, like me, your mom is no longer living, I hope you have sweet memories.

For those who are moms, I hope your family gives you some relief from those everyday duties and pampers you today.

I realize that though this day is joyous for some, it’s painful for others—those who did not have a good relationship with their moms, who have lost children, who don’t have children but long to. My heart goes out to you, and I pray God will specially minister to your heart today.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)