Posted on Friday, April 08, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

My neighbor, John, has a wonderful vegetable garden.  When we first built our home, I perceived his gi-normous patch of tilled dirt facing my backyard as a bit of an eyesore.  I seriously considered planting a row of trees to block my view.  However, I bore in mind that the trees wouldn’t only block my view, but his morning sun as well.  Was this a man who took care of his yard, or was I in for an out-of-control weed sanctuary?  April was too soon to tell, so I decided to let this situation play out over the summer. 

Turns out, John labored diligently in his garden just about every day.  In early spring he got busy cleaning up winter’s mess in this special plot of land.  He took extraordinary care of all that dirt.  I’d watch out my window as John and his son would till the soil, remove rocks from the soil, fertilize the soil (later I was told of the particular manure he used for best results), mark out rows, and add stakes, ties, and other strange fences for which I knew not why.   After a month of all that hard work, it still just looked like a bunch of dirt.  But it was organized dirt—John had a plan.  He revealed to me later how he actually mapped out his whole garden on paper (which grew larger every year) before each new season.  And it was nutritious dirt—that’s right, ripe with everything necessary for the fruit and vegetables he wanted to grow.   John wouldn’t use sprinklers to water his garden, like the rest of us neighbors did. He individually watered each plant so as not to encourage more weed growth.  Also, my neighbor is insistent on keeping everything organic.  He may have some questionable West Virginia methods for keeping pests out of his garden, but he certifies it all to be chemical-free!

Then came the knock on my door.  There stood John, happily offering me a grocery bag full of fresh sugar snap peas—the best snap peas I ever put in my mouth.  Next it was a generous amount of healthy asparagus.  And, you guessed it; I had bountiful amounts of the coveted garden-tomato for the last half of summer.  His Eden facing my backyard put my puny rock-enclosed-circle-garden to shame.  But that’s not all: there were melons, cauliflower, carrots, onions, strawberries, apples, and peanuts!  Everything he’s brought to my door has been fabulously delicious.

Fast-forward to my worship service this week.  Our Old Testament reading came from Isaiah 55.  Verses 8-11 particularly stood out to me:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways,

And My thoughts than your thoughts. 

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,

And do not return there,

But water the earth,

And make it bring forth and bud,

That it may give seed to the sower

And bread to the eater,

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;

It shall not return to me void,

But it shall accomplish what I please,

And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

 

As my pastor read this Scripture it brought John’s garden to my mind.  All of the garden-tending is such good metaphor for how our good Lord works.  He has a plan.  He uses all of His resources, even the manure when we need it, to cause growth in His people.  I’m full of rocks and weeds, but my Lord carefully tills the stony ground of my heart.  To many, the church (God’s garden) might just look like a bunch of dirt.  Sometimes I wonder myself how the Lord is going to produce fruit when things seem so dead and dismal.  But God’s best gardening tool is His word.  His word actually creates life, and surely accomplishes His intended will.  I think of how God’s word feeds us and how He calls people to water His garden through preaching and teaching.  Jesus Christ is the perfect garden-tender, who has paid everything for our entrance, and to guard it from the evil one.  The mighty Lord takes special care of those He loves, and He can do something my good neighbor John cannot.  No matter how much passion John puts into his garden, there are still foils to his plans.  Yet God’s plan and work are perfect.  Let there be no doubt that the good Lord is adding to His church, and will not lose any from His crop.

For further meditation: Ezekiel 36:26, John 6:39-40, Rom. 10: 14-15, Rev. 12:10-11

Posted on Wednesday, April 06, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Rescuing Ambition, by Dave Harvey (Crossway, 2010)

In this book, Harvey encourages godly Ambition, and contrasts it with selfish ambition.  You can view the website for his book at www.rescuingambition.com .  There were many great sections on which to reflect but this one speaks particularly to my heart:

In the shadow of failure we find humbling grace.  We learn that we’re limited….We find our definition not in our failures or successes but in Christ…Remember, we fail because we’re not God.  Whether it’s the result of selfish ambition or the design of God for our good, failure isn’t foreign.  Failure is ambition refused (one way or another) for a better plan.  (152 & 153)

Many times we are so afraid of failure, that we don’t take risks.  In this case, we may be missing out on an opportunity God has in store for us.  The Lord gives certain gifts and desires as part of his will for our lives.  Godly ambition is good in that we are using our gifts with passion, all the while depending on Christ for God’s glory.  Our identity is not in what we are doing, but what he has done and is doing now.  Yet it still hurts when we think the Lord is calling us in a certain direction, and we do not succeed.  Sometimes that is part of His plan as well, using these times as an avenue to teach us something or to open other doors.  In hindsight we learn.  How we react in such situations reveals to us what we really care about:  accomplishing that goal (selfish ambition), or trusting in Christ no matter what.  We learn not to identify ourselves with our successes or our failures, but in the One who is completing his design for us. (Phil. 1:6)

Posted on Tuesday, April 05, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I like fun words.  I love learning new words or rediscovering old ones to use in my vocabulary.  So every Wednesday I will be posting a new word of the week, along with its definition.  I challenge you to use it in conversation throughout the week so that it can sink into your normal rhetoric.  It might be cool to involve the kids as well!  Also, if you would like to submit a word you can email me at mail@housewifetheologian.com and if I decide to post it, I will give you the credit.  Why don’t you have a crack at using our word in a sentence in the comment section…could be interesting.

This week’s word is:

abstemious--moderation or temperance, usually having to do with food or drink.

http://thefreedictionary.com/abstemious will provide further enlightenment, as well as our funny pronunciation guy!

What else is cool about this word?  Since you asked, it has all five vowels in proper order.  I told you it was cool.  Use it as an adverb and you've covered the "sometimes y."

Posted on Monday, April 04, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Share, send, publish, post—these are familiar buttons that our fingers push to communicate now days.  Being rather inexperienced in the world of submissions for publication, I have a particular anxiety with the send and publish buttons.  In fact, I have only made three submissions so far.  The jury’s still out on two, and one resulted in a published magazine article. All three times I was feeling confident enough about my material to at least take the risk in putting it out there…until it was time to hit the send button.  As my finger moves toward the button, it plays out like a slow motion clip where my inner voice is saying, “Nooo, Aimee, don’t do it.”  And then I do it.  Immediately the anxiety creeps in with the knowledge that my work is out there, and I can’t take it back.  Just like when I’m drawing a picture, I never actually think it is done.  Much humility accompanies a submission for publication.  I am fully aware that even though I have combed over my piece countless times--amending, cleaning, rearranging—there is much more editing that needs to be done.  I can’t speak for all writers, but I’m sure many have a hard time feeling like their work is ever fully ready to present. 

Now that I am a blogger, I have to contend with the publish button.  Sure, this material is lighter and provides more of a creative license; but as soon as I hit publish, all my crazy observations are immediately available to whoever cares to read them.   This is both good and bad.  Now I have the pleasant surprise of feedback with all your wonderful comments.   What an encouragement it is to have people passionate about some of the same subject matter as myself!  Also, blogs give me the opportunity to go back and edit or erase a post, even after it’s already been published.  That kind of control is reassuring.  However, I still pause before I hit that publish button, considering things like the tone of the piece, the purpose of the work, and whether it’s good enough to share.   I believe that this caution serves a good purpose—to always be considering the power of words and the weight of what I am communicating.

You Facebookers, Tweeters, and texters out there have similar considerations.  Although this is an even more casual venue, there needs to be due consideration to the consequences of sharing your thoughts in black and white (or whatever snazzy colors of your liking).

But what about our speech?  I know that I am guilty for not mulling over my words in conversation before they fall out of my mouth in the same way that I do over my written words.  I stand ignominiously convicted when I read in James:

Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness…With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessings and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (3:4-6, 9, 10)

We may ask for forgiveness, but we can’t take back what we say.  In considering the above modes of communication, I have thought of some practical steps for our speech:

Prayer- What we say reveals what is in our heart.  Ask the Lord to be working His sanctification on the inside, or else our outside efforts will be phony.

Proof Sounding- I do a lot of proof reading before sending and publishing.  While this doesn’t guarantee what I send is good, I am reexamining my words.  We could benefit from pondering over our remarks before we let them just roll over our tongue.

Editing- Maybe we have already published our words in the air and in reflection, we know they are not so good.  It may have already gone out there but we still have an opportunity to go back and make amends.  Just like in art, we are not a finished work.

Remember the gospel- I can write this article not because I am perfect, but because Christ is.  As we try to be better witnesses for Him, we lean on His word and the power of His Spirit for strength.  Even in failure—as I so constantly do—Christ uses my ugly moment to reveal my heart.  He humbles me, forgives me, and grows me stronger even in the face of my shame.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Posted on Saturday, April 02, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Gospel-Driven Life, by Michael Horton (Baker Books, 2009)

Our fear of God must become greater than our fear of boredom.  Making disciples, like making crafts, great works of art, fine wine, a memorable dinner, and raising children, takes a long time.  It is like watching corn grow and that’s exactly what we are: a harvest whose firstfruits have already been raised and exalted.

Precisely because the Good News has been taken for granted, many churches today do not seem to realize that they have the best drama going.  Demanding something extraordinary, novel, and exciting, we look away from what God is doing through ordinary preaching, water, wine, and bread and focus on what we are doing to capture the headlines.  Like a good parent, God knows that if we had all the cotton candy we wanted, we would not only be sick but would miss out on the dinner he has prepared. (232)

We are a culture that values the new and the entertaining.  Sometimes we feel the pressure to bring that into the church.  Our culture prefers image bites over the spoken or written word, fast food over waiting for preparation, going out rather than inviting over, interactive study over being preached to, and blanket equality over authority and submission.  How is the design of the Christian worship service to survive in our times?  For six days a week we imbibe all the new and the entertaining.  Isn’t it awesome to have a holy time and place, where all the smoke and mirrors are removed, and the truly life-changing drama is revealed?  God works through the ordinary means that he has ordained to minister to us and have us minister to others.  In this, we see that it is through Him, and not all our own shucking and jiving, that we are truly blessed.

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Have you ever heard the traveling advice that if there is an airplane emergency, the mother needs to make sure that she puts her oxygen mask on first, or she will be of no good use for saving her children?  We are constantly used to putting our children’s needs before our own, so I can see why this is a lesson that needs to be taught beforehand.  Sometimes (okay, almost all the time) I secretly wish I could apply this principle to my morning cup of coffee.  For some reason, no matter how early I get up, my kids can sense my presence in the kitchen.  One of them (usually my son, but his sisters are glad to take his place if he cannot fulfill his duty) always manages to hobble to the bar and begin placing their breakfast orders before I can brew up my first cup of mudd.  And then, the other two magically file in with their tabs as I begin juggling short orders and packing lunches.  All the while, I am dreaming about my hot, steamy fuel injection that will instantly lift my mood to serve them better.  How come they don’t know that mommy is nicer with coffee?

What ends up happening is that I barista myself in between slapping mustard on sandwiches and cream cheese on bagels, and take my post  as the traveling drinker, approving outfits, forcing showers, barking out orders.  Longing for that quiet moment to enjoy my magical brew, the day just begins to happen.  After what usually seems like an Olympic event to get everyone off to work and school (homework done, folders signed, nails trimmed, teeth brushed, lunches packed, arguments adjudicated…), I feel like I deserve a major award for valor in multitasking.

As I was contemplating my “coffee problem” once again this morning, it occurred to me that something was even more important than starting my day with a double shot of espresso.  The best part of waking up, well, is waking up!  Where is my gratitude to serve before I’ve been served (or serve myself, I should say)?  And can a quietly enjoyed cup of coffee really fill me with all I need to handle my responsibilities with joy?

I’m sure you know where I am headed with all this.  Where do I fit prayer in?  And why would I just fit it in, instead of prioritize it for the beginning of my day?  Well, my usual routine is to get everyone out of the house, return home, write a list of what I want to pray about, and then talk to the Lord before I continue with my day.  You can see the benefit of actually having a quiet time for prayer.  But sometimes the phone rings, or I get sidetracked with a task, or pop-in visitor.  Just like that traveling cup of heaven, I begin short-handing prayer on the go.  It might be 2 o’clock before I recognize that I’ve let my whole day just happen, all the while reacting, missing good opportunities that the Lord has provided.  All this time I have mistaken my morning coffee as the oxygen mask over my morning prayer.

Today I want to make the same resolution as David:

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord;

In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.  (Psalm 5:3)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon enlightens us further on “directing” our prayer in Volume One of The Treasury of David:

It is the word that is used for the laying in order of the wood and the pieces of the victim upon the alter, and it is used also for the putting of the shewbread upon the table.  It means just this: “I will arrange my prayer before thee;” I will lay it out upon the alter in the morning, just as the priest lays out the morning sacrifice. (p. 46)

Afterwards, I will look up, expecting my God to answer my prayers.  I will look for the opportunities (even making sandwiches) provided me by Him throughout my day.  I will continually be reminded that I am in His presence.  And when I am frustrated, I will be reassured “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11b).

So, as the song goes, In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus!

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

I like fun words.  I love learning new words or rediscovering old ones to use in my vocabulary.  So every Wednesday I will be posting a new word of the week, along with its definition.  I challenge you to use it in conversation throughout the week so that it can sink into your normal rhetoric.  It might be cool to involve the kids as well!  Also, if you would like to submit a word you can email me at mail@housewifetheologian.com and if I decide to post it, I will give you the credit.  Why don’t you have a crack at using our word in a sentence in the comment section…could be interesting (just make sure it doesn’t personally attack anyone).

This week’s word is:

Flummery-  meaningless or deceptive language; humbug.  (It’s also some kind of weird, scary-sounding pudding…)

**I pulled this definition off of www.thefreedictionary.com/flummery .  Look it up and click the megaphone if you want to crack up laughing at the guy who gives the pronunciation.

Posted on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis

There could be several entries of reflection made from this essay (and there very well may be), but for today:

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong but too weak. (p.26)

How often do we get caught up in the pursuit of happiness, only to realize that we are just chasing a circumstantial emotion, a temporary fill?  Chasing happy, always in front of us, we miss out on the joy that is before us.  I know I’m always thinking that if I just had this one thing, I could serve God better.  If my desire never comes to fruition, I wonder if I was thinking too big, asking for too much.  But many of my plans are just distractions from the real prize—Christ himself.  My joy is fulfilled in my complete vulnerable dependence on the One who knows me, and whom I have the pleasure of knowing.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4).

Posted on Sunday, March 27, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

My middle child, Zaidee, had her ninth birthday recently.  Of course you want your child to feel special and loved on their birthday.  She started her morning opening presents and then it was off to school to be the celebrity of the day.  I blessed her with my presence at lunch, where she discovered the awesome chocolate cupcake with sprinkles in her bag.  Surely the daily note I wrote on her napkin was going to have an extra-special message for her.  After we were reprimanded by the school librarian for talking during “quiet time,” I kissed her good-bye, waved to all her friends, and was off to perform miracles.

Our original plans to go out to dinner had been circumvented by softball season.  Zaidee’s first practice was scheduled for 5-7  and her older sister, Solanna’s, from 7-9!  Plan B: take out.  Even though I had a million things to do that day, I was determined to make it work.  In breaking up my tasks, I decided to run errands while Zaidee was at practice with her dad and return with dinner.  While poor Solanna froze alone in her practice, we would be singing the Happy Birthday song, eating cake.  Not ideal, but I was still going to pull it off…until 10 minutes before Zaidee’s practice when I realized one of my errands was to buy her new cleats.  Rats--my bricks were beginning to crumble!  Once again, I kissed everybody (apparently my other two kids would rather freeze playing on the ball field than run errands with me), and left with even more determination.  I might have forgotten class picture day, and my daughter might be practicing in cleats a size too small, but I was about to fix all that!

No I wasn’t.  Once again, no Mother-of-the-Year award for me.

Who was I kidding?  Only myself.  We all joke around about the Mother-of-the-Year award because we know it doesn’t exist.  What we are really trying to do is make sure that when our kids grow up they have more of the “my mom is awesome” memories than the “my mom is a basket case” ones.  Am I right?  And for my kids, I’m sure the jury is still out.

Why am I sharing all this?  Well, I think that many times we moms measure our worth in terribly reductionistic ways.  What I am accomplishing is not near as important as how Christ is transforming me.  Let’s break down the two:

Accomplishing looks at what I can produce.  I would have loved to have produced a nice hairstyle and smashing outfit for Zaidee (yes, she was again the victim for that one) on picture day instead of dressing her for Phys. Ed.  Accomplishing leads to my praise.  Who gets the credit for the adorable 3rd grader in her picture?  I do, baby.  And then it’s done.  I have received my reward, a notch in my belt for Mom-of-the-Year.  Yet in these and even our much bigger accomplishments, we are left still longing, unfulfilled.  The vicious cycle continues.

Transforming looks a lot different.  As a matter of fact, instead of building myself up (as much as I may try) I am becoming poor in spirit, even broken.  Jesus called the poor in spirit blessed, because it is then that we completely depend on Christ.  We look to what He has accomplished on our behalf.  Instead of seeking our own praise, in humility our purpose is to Glorify God—finding our joy in Him no matter what the circumstance.  In both our failures and successes, He is transforming us into the image of His Son.  We trust in Him who is able, as He builds in us character and holiness.  We serve in light of the gospel, from gratitude of His love and through the power of His Spirit.  As we persevere, He is our reward, the Everlasting—never to leave us unfilled.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that accomplishment is bad in itself.  In fact, I have a lot to do today.  And I have many ambitions for my future.  However, I cannot look to my accomplishments for my meaning and value. I rest in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is sufficient for all my needs.

**Related Scripture for further meditation:  Matthew 5:3, 6:1-4; Phil. 4:4; Eph. 3:13-21

Posted on Friday, March 25, 2011 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman:

So I finally get around to reading Postman’s great book and on p. 68 I’m challenged with the question: 

How often does it occur that information provided you on a morning radio or television, or in the morning newspaper, caused you to alter your plans for the day, or take to some action you would not otherwise have taken, or provides insight into some problem you are required to solve?

Published in 1986, Postman’s first audience could only imagine where his prophetic lament was headed!  Sure, there is nothing inherently wrong with using media for pure entertainment, but how much of your day is consumed as entertainment under the guise of news?  Most of the so-called news that flashes on my computer screen every morning is not helpful at all.  Of what value are our blog posts and Facebook updates?  How engaging are our conversations?  Postman’s challenge has led me to some considerations for what I read, write, watch and say.  I want my content to be profitable.  One resolution I have made is to have at the forefront of my mind the eternal weight of our interactions.  We may think that something we are watching or participating in only has a temporary, situational value, but that isn’t necessarily the case.  Impressions are being made in our daily doses of data.  Let Paul’s imperative be our ambition: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:2).