true obedience

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and today encountered 1 Samuel 15. My Bible’s heading refers to this story as, “Saul’s Disobedience,” but I think if I had been the editor, I might have chosen, “The Saddest Story in the Bible.”

My pace slows, knowing what is coming as I read. My heart grows heavy, observing the heart of man turn from God. I cringe at every shallow excuse, every nuance of self-deception. I see the steep slope of rebellion leading to destruction right before Saul — and he charges headlong toward it. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Do you know this story? How King Saul has been charged to utterly destroy the Amalekites — to carry out not simply warfare but judgement upon this powerful people who had preyed upon the weak and vulnerable? The extent of utter destruction is spelled out in no uncertain terms. And yet, when Saul attacks the city, he doesn’t utterly destroy. He keeps the best.

He carries out 90% of what he was asked, and yet here is how God sees it: “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.”

Saul obeyed as long as the obeying suited him and his goals. And God doesn’t see that as obeying at all.

And then Saul goes even further: he defends his actions as obedience with an ingenious twist. The prize livestock he spared? Oh, that was for a sacrifice to the Lord! Isn’t that clever?

And it makes me cringe.

It makes me pause and look in the mirror.

Is there Saul in me?

Saul — a man who once was shy, embarrassed by attention, small in his own eyes. Now grown conceited in his success and power. He knows now how this system works and he’s figured out how to benefit himself. He has the appearance of humility and obedience, while inside there is self-will and agenda.

I am not the king of anything, and I don’t plan on leading 200,000 foot soldiers into battle today or any day. But the things God has called me to — am I continuing in obedience, even as the years and “successes” pile up? As a wife, as a mom, as a woman, a disciple: have I found the areas of obedience that suit me and slowly begun to use them toward my own end? Has self-will and my own desire found a place to hide in partial obedience — such a safe place to hide, such a “holy” place to hide!

‚ÄúPartial obedience is complete disobedience. Saul and his men obeyed as far as suited them; that is to say, they did not obey God at all, but their own inclinations, both in sparing the good and destroying the worthless.”

The thing about walking in obedience is that it’s not simply following a pattern. I don’t get to see what all the other kings have done and repeat that. God asks for certain obediences from me that He, as my Father who knows the depths of my heart and has good in mind for me, knows will bring refining and strengthening to me. He could have, you know, sent fire and brimstone upon the Amalekites, but He used this moment to bring to the surface things lurking beneath a holy veneer in Saul’s life. (What if Saul had responded to Samuel in brokenness, like David did to Nathan?) God asks for obedience from me, and I can trust that not only is He looking for a servant to do a certain task, but that He’s chosen me for this obedience because it is best for me. He is always, always at work in me, performing that amazing transformation and sanctification He began. Will I stay soft and humble in the process? Or will the years bring shades of arrogance that lead to hardness where the fear of the Lord is concerned?

Today, God is looking for our obedience. He’s not interested in our “sacrifices” when they’re offered on an altar of pretense and show, while our pride and stubbornness lie untouched and very much alive. He sees right through that. We’ll do the godly mom thing, or honoring wife thing, or virtuous woman thing as long as its in line with our personality and philosophy, and call it obedience — but He knows. He sees the locked door of our heart, where we refuse to truly yield to Him in all things. And oh, what destruction that leads to!

But today can be a day of life. A day of giving our hearts and will fully to Him. Following Him in whatever He asks, knowing He is a good shepherd.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting. — Psalm 139

…and I in you.

Abide in Me, and I in you.

How many times have I read that the last few months, poring over John 15, mining for gold. And each time, it glimmers in a unique way, catching my eye, my breath. “Come, let us reason together,” I hear a whisper say. “Follow Me.”

Something tells me that those few words are like the door at the back of a wardrobe. Dare I step through? How could I not?

I read it again.

And I in you.

My mind scrambles to comprehend, even as the world goes spinning a bit off kilter. Him? Live in me?

“Lose your life in Mine,” the whisper says. “Lay down your nets. Count it all loss. Take up your cross.”

And then?

“Find life. My life. My powerful, pulsing, abundant life pouring into you. Abiding in you.”

Fruit, much fruit. Fruit that remains. Leaves, always green. Never withering, even in drought. A mystery?

Yes, a mystery. An invitation to step through the door, leaving my world behind, finding life that I never could imagine until I experience it. In me.

But leave it all behind? Lose my life?

Suddenly I see “my life,” this treasure I’m so apt to cling to desperately, as a branch laying on the ground. What, exactly, is a branch unless connected to its life-source? A stick. A stick! And I would count that as gain to me?

Be my own branch — my own dead stick — or lose my life in Him, only to have His life pulse through me, working miraculously, producing fruit, becoming a part of Him?

Yes, yes, yes. “Come, let us reason together…” and I nudge that door open, take that first step through into a world I can’t believe I’m invited into.

fruitful vines


Impressive grape vine, thick as trees, deep in our woods.

“Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house…”

This is a word picture that has gotten so stuck in my head over the years. An image that draws me, inspires me, stirs desire in me. There are short phrases peppered throughout scripture that reveal so much of what God has for us, and some mulling over and meditation can result in the discovery of untold depths.

Here I see the desire and design of God for a woman to be deeply planted, roots reaching sources of life unseen from the surface, allowing the life to bring fruit to her branches, and not just life and fruit, but the calling to be a constant source of life and fruit deep in the heart of the place she is called. From the inside out, the sphere of her calling is transformed and nourished and fed by her presence. She brings Jesus to the world.

(I am freshly meditating on this, as the call to abide was laid on my heart for this coming year. John 15 has been my passage of study, and the word “abide” traced throughout Scripture. What does it mean? How do I do it? So many thoughts…)

The best thing about this calling is that it’s not circumstantial. It has nothing to do with where you are or who you’re with or how life’s working out. In fact, if your sense of fruitfulness is dependent on any of those things, there is a deeper source of life you’re invited to tap into. And what does “fruitful” mean to you? I’m Type A. I’m hardwired to assume fruitfulness means my to-do list was impressive and all crossed off. But fruitful in the Kingdom means “I have accomplished the work which You have given me to do.” (John 17:4) The fruit that no circumstance can prohibit you from bearing, the life that you can bring to the very heart of your situation, most often looks like love joy peace long-suffering kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control.

Oh, there are so many trails of Scripture this opens up, but today I just encourage you, as I strengthen myself in the Lord: Let the Holy Spirit make you a fruitful vine in the heart of your home. Let your roots find Jesus, and then bring Him to the world.

let them see Jesus

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.” –Psalm 91

This chapter has been our Circle Time reading this week. We are pausing from the year’s routine of Scripture memory to meditate on the entire chapter, and I love hearing the kids make observations and find favorite parts. William pointed out yesterday, from the end of the chapter, that when it says we will trample on young lions and serpents, it means that whether the enemy attacks us with strength or with cunning deceit, we can overcome. How amazing is that thought? God is speaking to my kids.

My observation yesterday was from the first few verses: God, a secret place, a shadow, a refuge, a fortress, a protective wing — pictures of places to hide and find safety, but places also in which I must choose to stay. A secret place and a refuge are no good if I’m running around full of panic and anxiety. Do I trust Him? Will my soul rest in Him, no matter the terror, arrows, disease, and destruction all around?

We also are memorizing “A Mighty Fortress”, words packed with power that just thrill my soul. The fun part is realizing that those words thrill their souls, too. They read lines that jump out at them, and their voices are full of conviction and strength. “And tho this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us!” Jameson couldn’t help but smile the smile of a winner when he read, “One little word shall fell him.”

This is an opportunity, mamas. You are not their shield, and this is not the time to hide them away, pretending we’re on a big holiday, hoping it all ends before they find out. You are not their shield, but He can be. Hebrews says, “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” We are no longer afraid of death! We are living in a hope that goes beyond the grave and, in its eternal power, speaks to our todays. This is the time to say that loud, to point to Jesus as hope and joy and peace and life. It’s an opportunity to equip them with the truth that in this world we will have tribulation but! But! We don’t have to be afraid because He has overcome the world! We need not hide them, hoping fear won’t find its way in. No, we must equip them because they will face fear, and they must learnt to be overcomers. This is a chance to pour out love to the world around us, to set aside previous agendas and make room for cards and phone calls and prayer. We have hope, and we can’t keep it to ourselves.

There are so many things stirring in my heart as we are all home together in an even more “focused” way (isn’t that nicer than “isolated”?), but if I miss this — this amazing opportunity to lead these little ones through the reality of life in Jesus — who cares about the read alouds and new recipes? God works all things together for good to those who love Him — and I know that I know that the first item on His “good” agenda is calling children to know Him in a deeper, more real way.

a month to remember


How the month began

Suffice to say this has been a strange month.

Ryan talks to the kids all the time about not putting our hope in this world. About holding things loosely, knowing that what we have today might be gone tomorrow, and only Jesus is a sure thing. We read stories of days gone by, and so our children know that indeed what Dad says is true — one day you’re living a carefree childhood, and the next day, Nazis march into your town. One day your family is warm and snug in a house in the East, and a month later your parents are dead on the Oregon Trail. You are the prince of your tribe, your world no larger than the village borders, and suddenly slave traders descend and drag you halfway around a world you didn’t even know existed. We live in an incredibly safe and insulated world, but so have others, and their worlds were disrupted. And we all know that.

But how strange to actually watch our world get upended in a way that we just hadn’t imagined. Quarantines, hand washing, rules about who gets the mail, food supplies, letter writing — the things my kids see. Questions about our personal responsibility, economic forecasts, caring for a business and all those it represents, praying for grandparents, checking in with parents — the things on our hearts. Will this end in 4 weeks? Four months? Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much? Will the curve flatten? Will the numbers stagger? Will the numbers have names that we know? Will we all emerge from our houses and return to normal, or will the infrastructures we’ve known be decimated by months of economic stagnancy? What is going on?

And with all of those questions, the foundations of our souls are asking none, really. We have long known the answer that settles and gives peace: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And of His Kingdom there shall be no end. Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. All things work together for good to those who love Him.

I don’t know, but He does.

When I was a little girl, my dad would occasionally invite me to come with him for a daddy-daughter date. These weren’t elaborate events, but usually just an errand he needed to make which could easily accommodate the company of a daughter. Maybe he’d add an extra stop for a donut or some such thing, but regardless, you better believe we all jumped at those opportunities to go with Daddy.

He didn’t tell me where we were going. I didn’t grill him for details of our destination, the roads he would take, how fast he would drive, or whether or not there would be stops along the way. I just got into the car, happy to ride with him to the ends of the earth — or Munro Muffler.

And so it is for those whose trust is in the Lord. We are with Him, and He is bringing us somewhere special. The details of how, when, and what path need not shake us. We shall be like Mount Zion — not moved, not shaken. We can look at tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, and know that neither those things, nor death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a way to live! Today, whatever new legislation may come down, whatever numbers from Italy, whatever the current case count in our state — let us be found persevering in tribulation and rejoicing in hope..

Our God reigns.


Fiona helping Cecily with her devotional reading

perfect peace

“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in the Lord forever,
For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” –Isaiah 26

The word translated “mind” is YETSER. Here it means, “purpose, imagination, device (intellectual framework).” I love that! This is more than a “guard your thoughts” exercise. It is a question of where my purpose, my imagination, indeed, my entire intellectual framework stems from. Do I absolutely, down to my core, at the inception of my thoughts trust in the Lord?

Because I can trust Him. He is unchanging — and that unchanging nature is goodness. That’s truly amazing. He is a shield to all who trust in Him. He invites us into a gated city, surrounded by walls and ramparts: salvation and an eternal reward that nothing on earth can destroy.

Let your trust in Him sink deep and change your imagination, your entire framework. Let all you think, feel, process flow from a place of incredible peace. (Not peace that the world gives. His peace.)

A mighty fortress is our God. Let our minds find a home in Him.