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Stopping the Spiral (Valentine’s Day Wisdom from Lisa Jacobson)

Love is more than a feeling. We know that. We know that there are plenty of times when it is more of a choice.

Trouble is, we don’t always know what that looks like, relationship-wise.

And so, when I saw my friend Lisa Jacobson talking about this exact topic on Instagram, I asked if she’d mind sharing some of her thoughts in this space. Because whether we’re navigating a relationship with our Valentine, our Galentine, or even our kids, it’s good to know what to do when we feel the “Great Spiral” coming on.

Here’s Lisa:

The Great Spiral (and how to avoid it!)

The morning began so well.

My alarm went off. I got right up and jumped in the shower. Popped breakfast in the oven.

On my way to a strong start in a new year. You see, I’m determined to be ready for church on time—which has not always been my strong suit.

But then just when everything was going so well, my husband walked in, observed my outfit, and with some surprise, said something like, “You’re wearing that?”

I was wearing a green, cable knit sweater and jeans. (Admittedly, not my typical attire as I tend to dress up a bit for church.)

So I shrugged my shoulders and told him it was supposed to snow. And with that, he smiled and left the room.

For him, this was merely an observation. A question of curiosity.

For me, it was criticism. Condemnation even.

And I felt the Great Spiral coming on.

Maybe it wasn’t a good morning.
Maybe I’d made a poor choice.
Maybe I can’t even dress myself right…

STOP

Time for a little talk with myself. “Lisa, you know he didn’t mean anything by it. Remember, HE LOVES YOU.”

And I DO know that but when I take something wrong…it’s so difficult to get back right again. All those old voices and past hurts flood my head until I can’t think straight.

So there I stood.

With only a few minutes to decide whether to let this moment defeat me

OR

To take my thoughts captive and choose love instead.

I had a choice to make.

And I wrestled awhile.

Then walked out of the room, slipped my hand into his, and we made it to church on time—casually, in my sweater and jeans.

Taking Your Thoughts Captive

I don’t know if you ever struggle with the Great Spiral like I do. But it’s amazing how someone can say or do something that will quite unexpectedly send my mind into a deep dive.

Not only hard on my heart, but rather hard on my relationships too.

And I used to feel helpless when that happened.

One wrong move and there she goes….

Until I came onto this verse:

“…bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

That’s when it dawned on me that I don’t have to be ruled by my runaway thoughts: I can take them “captive.” It’s on me to be in charge of my mind—rather than the other way around.

And same with you.

So the next time someone you love says something that threatens to send you into a spiral?

STOP.

Remember what is true.

And then don’t let the offense – whether real or imagined – take you for a ride.

Take those thoughts captive.

Choose love.

❤️

Want more practical relationship wisdom from Lisa Jacobson? You’ll find her over at Club31women.com, or follow her on Instagram @club31women. 

And P.S. — if you’re like I am, and you know that you can’t stop all those runaway thoughts on your own, why not turn Lisa’s “aha” verse into a prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me destroy every proud obstacle that keeps me from knowing you. Work in me to capture my rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5, NLT)

Amen

 

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Focus on the Family (and the antidote to worry and fear)

Last fall, I was honored–no, make that thrilled–to sit down with Jim Daly and John Fuller, co-hosts of the Focus on the Family radio program.

We talked about parenting, and how our prayers for our kids change as they grow. And we covered things like worry and fear, and the fact that (as much as we might not like it) God often shapes our faith in life’s valleys. And that He will shape our kids’ lives, and their faith, in those low places too.

Jim and John are the most gracious hosts. Plus, they’re great dads; I found myself wishing that I were the one asking the prayer-and-parenting questions, and not the other way ’round!

The program airs today, and if you’d like to check it out, click here.

But if all you’ve got time for is just one little thought, here’s an encouraging note from the show:

Prayer is the antidote to a parent’s worry and fear.

When we find out something that scares us–whether it’s the news that our first grader has been stealing crayons from the classroom supply closet, our teenager got pulled for drunk driving, or our adult child’s marriage is falling apart–our default response is often worry. Or anger. Sadness. Or fear.

(All legitimate emotions–and all places I’ve been.)

But what if that’s not the whole picture? What if God sees things differently? What if, instead of prompting us to panic, He is clueing us in to a problem–letting us see our child’s need–specifically so we can pray?

God has good plans for our kids. And prayer is His invitation to us to partner with Him in accomplishing His purposes–even when we don’t see how things could work out, or when it doesn’t look like the needle is moving. Prayer opens the door to provision, that God may be glorified in our lives.

If you’re facing something that’s making your heart ache today–something that fills you with worry or fear–remember God’s promise in Psalm 34:18. He is close to the brokenhearted. He saves us when we are crushed.

Lean into that closeness. Let God’s strong arms comfort you. He’s a parent; He gets it.

And then, as you draw courage and strength in God’s presence, don’t give panic a foothold. Instead, lift your head, along with your hands, and let your default position be one of prayer.

Heavenly Father,

You are the God of our family. You have loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with unfailing kindness.

Our children are your children. Save them, gather them, lead them along level paths where they will not stumble.

Turn our mourning into gladness; give us comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Satisfy us with abundance, and with your bounty.

(Excerpted from Jeremiah 31:1-14)

Amen

❤️

P.S. Robbie and I are so grateful for Focus on the Family, and for all the ways they have encouraged and strengthened our marriage, our parenting, and our faith. To access more info on everything from helping your kids overcome rejection to protecting your family against today’s opioid epidemic, click here.

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Let’s take prayer out of church

Happy New Year!

I am already in love with 2019, mostly because of the people I’ve been spending time with, and the places we’ve been. “Captain” Robbie and I started the year on a boat with our people…

…and since coming ashore, I’ve been hanging out in the classroom with Andrew Murray and Jesus:

I first read Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer back in college, when my brain worked a little better than it does now. Honestly though? Murray’s words are richer the second time around, even if I do have to process some paragraphs twice. (The book, originally published in 1885, says that it’s been “updated for the modern reader,” but I’m guessing that “modern” maybe means different things to different people…)

Anyhow.

Having been “in school” now for almost a month, I can’t wait to share what I’m learning with you!

For starters, Murray maintains that prayer is the most important and influential thing we can do. It is, he says, “the highest part of the work entrusted to us–the root and strength of all other work.”

Underscoring his point, Murray notes that Jesus didn’t teach anybody to preach; rather, He taught people to pray. And His very first pupil wasn’t one of the disciples. It was (and this was an eye-opener for me) the woman He met at the well.

You know the story. Jesus is tired. And thirsty. And probably hot, since it’s the middle of the day. He’s alone by a well and when a Samaritan woman comes along to draw water, He asks her for a drink.

And she says…no.

Not in so many words, of course. But instead of getting water for Jesus, the gal can’t figure out why He’s asking. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman,” she says. “How can you ask me for a drink?”

Again, you know the deal. Samaritans and Jews didn’t fraternize much; to the Jews, Samaritans were “unclean.” And this gal wasn’t just average unclean; she was extra unclean, having had five husbands and a sixth man now sharing her bed. Still, though, Jesus engaged her…

Which is where Andrew Murray comes in.

The woman wanted to know whether worship should happen in Jerusalem (like the Jews thought) or Samaria (like her people thought). Jesus told her that neither answer was the right one, since “a time is coming and has now come when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth.”

That’s John 4:23. And the way Murray sees it, Jesus was saying that prayer is not confined to a place. It wasn’t limited to Jerusalem or Samaria, any more than it is limited to our churches or even our individual prayer closets. Instead, true worship happens when the Spirit of the Son, dwelling within us, reveals the Spirit of the Father and teaches us how to pray.

All of which points to two truths:

Truth #1: It doesn’t matter who we are or where we’ve been; Jesus wants us to pray, and he is eager to teach us. Never think you are too broken or clumsy or ignorant about churchy stuff to sit in Christ’s classroom. If he took time for the Samaritan woman (whose questions were legit), he will delight in taking time to teach us.

Truth #2: True worship works a whole lot like breathing. Instead of confining our praises and prayers to a particular place or “quiet time,” the Spirit of Christ in our hearts can (and should) connect with God all day long.

And I know, I know. Right now, some of you are thinking: But who has all day? I can barely find five minutes to pray!

I hear you. I thought the same thing, back when we had four kids under age six, and I spent most of my days doing things like cutting grapes, finding socks, or trying to catch a worm so Hillary could take it to school for Pet Day. (Lame, I know, but not nearly as bad as my grandmother, who gave my mother a saucepan on a leash to play with. Truly. But “Fluffy the Pot” is a story for another day…)

Prayer, I figured, was reserved for people who had more time, less children, and a whole lot less laundry than me.

But the thing is, we do have the time. We really do have “all day” to pray.

When we get dressed in the morning (or fold the umpteenth pair of clean socks), we can ask God to clothe us (or our kids) with things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Colossians 3:12)

When we slice up an apple or bite into a berry, we can pray that God will fill our lives with the fruit of His Spirit: things like love, joy, self-control, and peace. (Galatians 5:22)

When we head into a meeting, especially if we aren’t sure how things will go down, we can do like King David and ask God to shape our words and our thoughts so that what comes out will be pleasing to Him. (Psalm 19:14)

And when we collapse into bed at the end of the day, we can thank Him for being the one who offers rest to all who are weary, whether we are burdened in body or soul. (Matthew 11:28-29)

You don’t have to know the verses; you get the idea. Prayer prompts can be found everywhere. And the more we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus, trusting Him as our Teacher, the more he will show them to us!

And speaking of prompts…

If you want a little help jump starting your prayer life in 2019, you can download a free monthly prayer calendar here. There are versions for children, teens, and adults, and you can use the prompts to pray daily or by topic, simply adding the names of the people you love.

And speaking of people you love…

I am more than a little bit grateful for you. Thank you, dear Friends, for sticking with me during the “blog break” last month. I have some fresh ideas to share in the new year–thoughts on family life, prayer helps, and more–and I look forward to seeing where the Lord leads. And as always, I am praying for you:

May God bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

 

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He will be our peace.

“They want to see your house.”

That’s what a friend told me, after delivering the news that “everyone” in the Garden Club was apt to show up at the Christmas Coffee I’d said I would host–even the folks who don’t always come to the meetings.

I had a small panic attack. I mean, all of those stylish and talented ladies. In my house. With the Christmas tree still in the driveway, since it’s too big to fit in the family room.

(I know. New year, old problem.)

And then I thought about Mary. Did she have the same hostessing qualms that I did, all those Christmases ago? Like, when the Wise Men showed up, in their fancy robes with their pricey presents, did she fluff her pillows? Hide the unopened mail in the dryer? Dash out to the back yard to cut a few greens to make her fake Advent wreath look a little more real?

I don’t think so.

Maybe it’s because her visitors were men (and therefore could not be counted on to notice, much less rave about, her “Double Marilyn” amaryllis), but I don’t think that Mary did anything. And the way Matthew 2 tells it, I doubt the Magi gave a rip about their surroundings. They just followed the star, and when it stopped….

…they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him.

These guys just walked in, took one look at Jesus, and…worshiped.

Which is exactly what I want to do.

Seriously. I love Christmas–even the mayhem part–but I don’t want to get so caught up in the wrapping and tagging and baking and bagging that I wind up missing the Messiah. Like the Wise Men, I want to see Jesus. I want to worship!

For me, though, worship doesn’t always come easy. I can light the Advent candles and read my devotional and put on a Christmas playlist, but then I look up and see The Tree (which finally made it through the front door yesterday, after Robbie sawed nearly half of it off), and think, “Shoot. That thing has got to get decorated, one of these days.”

And there goes my worship.

So here’s what I’ve finally decided. I’ve decided that I cannot worship–really worship–on my own. I get too distracted, too hindered and entangled by all the wrong stuff. I am like the father, in Mark 9, who looked at Jesus and said, “I do believe” and then, in the very next breath, said, “Help me overcome my unbelief!”

I do worship; help me worship!

If that’s where you find yourself too (and particularly as we approach The Big Day), feel free to join me in prayer. Let’s ask God to help us do what we were created to do. Let’s ask Him to lead us into worship. Let’s ask him not just to grant us peace, but to actually be our peace.

Even if it is December 21 and there’s a giant tree, standing there utterly naked, in the family room…

Heavenly Father,

Help us throw off everything that hinders [things like shopping and wrapping and decking the halls] and fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Be our shepherd, O Lord. Be our peace. (Micah 5:4-5)

Amen.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

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Immanuel, Epanalepsis, and God With Us in 2019

Note to Readers: This is the last post of 2018, and actually the last one you’ll get from me for awhile. I’m praying through a few new projects and taking a little break from the blog. Might be a few weeks; might be a month. And as I say to my children sometimes, when they pull out of the driveway and I know I won’t see them for awhile:  The Lord be with you!

Which is actually a great segue into this week’s offering…

I’ve told you about Mark Forsyth before.

He’s the bestselling author of, among other books, The Elements of EloquenceWhich is where I discovered the word I was looking for, after re-reading the Christmas story last week.

Epanalepsis.

Epanalepsis, if you need to jog the old bean, is a term that describes circular writing–ending up in the place where you began. Think the Beatles and Yesterday, or Robert Burns’ “Man’s inhumanity to man.” Epanalepsis implies continuation, the idea that something is on-going.

And nobody, if you ask me, uses epanalepsis better than Matthew.

You know how he begins his account. He gives us the back-story on Jesus, summing up the genealogy like this:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

That’s Matthew 1:23, and it’s the only time in the entire New Testament where Jesus is called “Immanuel.” But it’s not the only time we hear that God is with us. That stuff is all over the Bible. And if you flip to Matthew 28–the very last verse in the very last chapter of Matthew’s story–you’ll see where Jesus says this:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Isn’t that a neat bit of story-telling? I mean, the very first thing we learn about Jesus (that He is Immanuel) is also is also the very last thing Matthew tells us he says (that He is with us). Put another way–and had Matthew read Forsyth, he might even have put it like this–Jesus is One Big Epanalepsis, stretching out across history, with us forever and always.

So what does all of this on-going with-ness actually mean? What can we look forward to, as we move from one year to the next?

It means freedom from fear. God is with us, giving us the strength and the help that we need. (Isaiah 41:10)

It means peace and joy. God is with us, rejoicing over us, singing over us and quieting our hearts with His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)

It means unconditional love. God is with us–and nothing in our past, nothing in our present, nothing we could ever think or do or say in the future, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from His love. (Romans 8:38-39)

I could go on, but you get the idea. We might not know what 2019 has in store but wherever we are, whatever we face, whatever we may need in the way of strength or comfort or wisdom or peace, God has us covered. He is with us. And He loves us–today, tomorrow, and to the very end of the age.

Epanalepsis, personified. 😊

So Happy New Year! And may the Lord be with you–forever and always!

 

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