Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mary, a Woman Used by God

As I reflect on Christmas, I think it's interesting to go back and look at Mary, an ordinary woman who God used to do extraordinary things!

Chapter 4: A Portrait of a Woman Used By God in Biblical Womanhood in the Home discusses this well. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Body Image

Do any of you receive the Proverbs 31 Ministries' Encouragement for Today emails? Well, my mom does and she shared this one with me on Friday. I think it hits home for most of us, regardless of our age or how many kids (or not) we've had, and it's is a fantastic reminder that we are God's daughters. God created every inch of our bodies and He thinks we're beautiful.

There's obviously a certain level of care we need to take with our bodies because they're not our own, they're a temple for the Holy Spirit, but when we become obsessive and elevate body image over God and make it our idol, we're truly missing the mark.

Jesus extends grace upon grace to us and has already freed us from that bondage on the cross. So, we just need to accept that grace and pursue Jesus with our lives and allow Him to be our measure of beauty and not our own expectations or those that we perceive from the world.

Here's the Body Image email from Proverbs 31 Ministries, written by T. Suzanne Eller. Thought you ladies would enjoy it:
"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now." 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

I walked by the mirror in the department store. I stopped, backed up, and took a second look. Was that really me? I was nearly nine months pregnant with twins and looked like Mrs. Potato Head. My arms and legs stuck out of a huge protruding stomach. My belly button looked like a cork ready to pop!

A few days later Ryan and Melissa arrived. I loved my babies! But as the months passed, I didn't love my body with all its stretch marks and a baby bump that remained no matter how hard I tried to get rid of them.

Flash forward twenty-five years. Melissa loves to serve as Mom's fashionista, and tries to keep me up with the times. One day she and I were shopping for a pair of jeans and she'd picked out a couple of things she wanted me to try on. She knocked on the door of the dressing room. "Let me in, Mom."

I cracked open the door. "I'll be out in a minute, hon."

She frowned. Later she confronted me. "Mom, you were hiding your stomach, weren't you? I don't get it. You just need to get over it."

How many times have I met a truly beautiful woman and complemented her, only to hear her say, "Well, thank you, but I need to lose five pounds," or "I'm having a crazy hair day," or "Did you see that woman over there, now she's beautiful." What I saw was a smile that was warm and welcoming, or beautiful hazel eyes that were filled with compassion, or a woman who was frugal and fabulous. My complements were sincere, but fell flat as she f ocused on her flaws instead.
My conversation with Melissa that day reminded me that I was doing the same thing. Worse, I was modeling this behavior in front of my daughter.

The truth is that I'm healthy. I have given birth to three beautiful children. And more importantly, I'm God's girl. I'm beautifully made in His image. That's a fact etched on my heart and my mind.

Now if only someone would remind my mouth.

In Bible times ancient mirrors were polished metal, easily tarnished, and the reflection was hard to see. If a woman had a flaw, she had to rely on her friends or sisters to give her a head's up.
But today we can scope out our features in detail with three-way mirrors or a 5x-, 10x-, or even 15x magnified mirror where every pore and every flaw is magnified! Too often, those mirrors are reminders of the cultural message of what beauty is - or is not.

But what would happen if we focused on the mirror Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13:12 instead? The more we get to know God, the clearer things become. We stop checking out our own image and discover more about Him. That helps us see the bigger picture—5X-, 10X-, and maybe even 15X magnified!

And there's a bonus. The more we get to know Him, the more others see us through His reflection.

Now, that's real beauty.

Dear God, I am made in Your image. I matter to You. Make me wise. Let me be grateful for physical healthy. Will You join me as I pursue joy, wisdom, peace, and selflessness? I want to look like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Defined By God, Not Culture

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood posted a neat article on their blog yesterday as they looked back over the Time stories that came out last month on the state of women today. The blog post is an encouraging reminder that we need to define ourselves according to Jesus and not culture.

Have a read: http://www.cbmw.org/Blog/Posts/More-on-the-State-of-the-American-Woman.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Godly Women on Mission

A few weeks ago at the women's ministry meeting at church a woman brought up a fabulous question about pursuing godly womanhood in regards to missionality. She asked if it was appropriate that once we begin to understand what God's call is for us as women, that we begin to live it out in a way that affects women who don't know Jesus yet -- use what we know to help other women love their families well, respect their husbands, and bring up their children in the ways of the Lord. And yes, that couldn't be more appropriate! This does, however, seem like a daunting task because it seems like it would take so long just to communicate Jesus to the woman (at least that's how I feel at times), and it would take even longer to influence her in such a way that she wants to shape her life around Jesus and build her family on Jesus. But what am I thinking, Jesus is in control ... all we have to do is TRUST him. He's the one with the power to do all things, so why shouldn't we be pursuing other women in this way so that they not only come to know Jesus themselves, but introduce their family to him as well!

I began thinking about this again after studying Mark 6:30-44. (Yes, I know this passage is about feeding the five thousand, but hang with me.) The verse that really did it for me was verse 37:
But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
Here, we see that when Jesus presented a need to the disciples (feed five thousand people), they automatically thought that Jesus wanted them to take care of the situation in their own strength. Most of the time, this would be my reaction too. If we go back to my initial point about loving other women well who don't know Jesus, I would naturally think, "Ok Lord, I see that you want me to build a relationship with __________. But wow, that's going to take a lot of time and maybe money to invest in her. I don't know if I have that to give, but I'll see what I can do." Hmm, sounds similar to the disciples response, huh?

But as the passage continues, we see that Jesus instructs them, graciously and compassionately, on how to take care of the need. He doesn't require them to spend the eight-months wage (money they don't have) or even buy the food needed to feed the people. He doesn't even say, "Of course not, I'll take care of it." Rather, he simply instructs them on how to go about taking care of the need (Mark 6: 38-44).

This particularly struck me because our financial situation has changed dramatically in the past year since I chose to follow God's call for me and stay at home with my son full time, causing us to "lose" an income, and then even more so since my husband followed God's lead and changed jobs. (I'm not complaining, but I'm just being honest about where we are. In fact, I know with certainty that the Lord is using this time to challenge me and my false securities so that I begin to give everything to Him!) But after reading this passage, my response to live missionality or even generously with other women around me shouldn't be based on money at all. Jesus is very clear about that in this passage. He's basically saying, "It's not about what you can give at all. It's about trusting in ME to fulfill that need. My spirit lives within you and enables you to do the work that only I can do (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Just trust me and believe!" If that need requires money, God will provide. If it requires time, God will help us re-prioritize our day to give more time. Etc.

Of course the Bible is also very clear that everything belongs to Jesus anyway (Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50:12, Haggai 2:8) -- our time, our money, our possessions ... everything! So when we think about giving those things, they aren't really ours to give anyway. We're only stewards of those things -- be it a lot of money or a little -- and we should give it back to the Lord willingly in response to the grace he's shown us. I believe this is a different conversation, but one that requires us to place our trust in Jesus as well. If we trust Jesus with our whole lives, our only response should be, "It's all yours Jesus, do with it as you want. Thanks for using me in the process!"

And when it all boils down, regardless of our financial situation or schedule, we should be able to say that Jesus is enough ... period, and allow that truth alone to compel us to change our cities for Him, regardless of the cost!

If you want to explore stewardship a bit more, Deuteronomy 8:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 4:7 are good places to start.