How to Help Our Kids Stand Secure When Body Image Issues Surface

K-W-3033One recent evening I was sitting in the living room with my laptop doing some research for an upcoming talk. But with all the laughter coming from the backyard, I was having a hard time focusing. From my chair I could see my twelve-year-old son and his friends – another boy and a couple girls – in the pool and became transfixed.

As I watched, they moved from playing Sharks & Minnows to trying to tip each other out of the raft to Categories. When my son jumped out of the pool to take his turn calling out the category, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how cute he looked to me. Unlike his fourteen-year-old muscular brother, his body is still soft and round. And he had on goggles and the biggest, goofiest grin.

I realized then they all had their goggles on, despite face masks not being anyones’ best look.  But at this point my son was totally uninihbited by what he looked like or why his appearance would even matter to his friends.  He was just focused on having fun and from what I could tell the same could be said of the others, too.

But I know this won’t be the case for much longer for these rising middle schoolers. Over the course of this school year, sadly they will become much more body conscience and concerned about what other think about them.

Ironically, the topic of social media’s effect on body image, self-worth and eating disorders was just what I was researching that evening. Maybe having this topic on my mind is the reason I even noticed how refreshing it was to see these kids on the cusp of their teen years being silly and unworried about their appearances. But after having already seen with my older two how quickly things change, I am not naive about what’s coming.

In fact, the teen survey I conducted shed light on just how often alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, cutting, burning, sexual immorality and depression, among other issues, become the coping mechanisms for dealing with insecurities, stress and not measuring up. I don’t say this to scare parents about the teen years but to emphasize the importance of talking to our kids about their true identity and worth.

Telling our kids how great we think they are will only go so far. What they need to hear is how great Jesus is for them! To be told of the One who left his throne in heaven to experience all the suffering, sadness and sin of this world in order to identify with us. But he didn’t stop there. By living the perfect life we can not, he shed his identity and took on ours. He became sin in order to bestow us with His righteousness. Because of this great love we can stand eternally secure as Sons and Daughters of the King.

When this is not the identity our kids know, they will try to find their identity in a million other ways.  Through idols that say they need more “likes” and “followers” on social media. Or, that they must dress a certain way or acquire more material goods so they look better.  Idolatry that lead them to elevate themselves, tear others down or exclude even friends so they get the most attention and therefore feel better about themselves.

In the future when my son realizes he is not as muscular as the next guy or when someone makes fun of him for having acne or for something he says, the only thing that will keep him present – enjoying having fun with this friends and not consumed with how he looks or is perceived by others – will be if he knows his secure standing in the love of Christ. 

The story of Jesus is the gospel applied to all of life and what they must hear to get their story straight. It is the only place to discover the real solution to struggles with body image and worth. Anything else falls short of the true security they are looking for and need.

What Haunts the Birdman Often Haunts Us Too

imagesThe last in my short series on Oscar-nominate films. Based on the number of nominations, Birdman is likely to come away a winner on Sunday night.

It was for this reason (its popularity with the Academy) and the fact I like to see as many of the Best Picture nominees as possible, I went to see this film though I knew nothing about it.

I recruited a few friends, who knew even less than I did, to go see it with me. And let me just say at least two of them probably won’t let me be in charge of picking the movie next time.

With its fragmented plot lines, an overabundance of foul language and the main character’s strange alter ego and ability to levitate, we were often left confused. Not to mention dizzy from the always changing camera angle. But, the message behind the film doesn’t escape me and for that I think it raises an issue we all must wrestle with.

Unknown-1In the show Michael Keaton (nominated for Best Actor in Leading Role) plays Riggan Thomson, a Hollywood actor once famous for his role in the super hero series, Birdman. Since that time however Thomson has lost his fame, and now feels unworthy and on the verge of suicide because of it. He is constantly haunted by the inner voice of his former Birdman character who pesters him with thoughts of who he used to be and how he isn’t measuring up to all he should be.

In an effort to regain his importance and the limelight, Thomson is preparing for Opening Night of a new Broadway production in which he is both directing and starring. Through the backstage interaction between the characters, including Thomson’s daughter played by Emma Stone (nominated for Best Actress in Supporting Role), we see Thomson is not the only one struggling with wanting to be “Somebody.”

Don’t we all want to feel like we are making a difference? That we matter? That we are relevant?

This to me is the heart behind the show. But the sad commentary is both in the show and in real life, our own self-importance and pride often blinds us into falsely believing this is where our identity lies.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a difference, God created us with purpose, different callings, talents and passions to find enjoyment in.  But, when we tie our identity to our performances, positions, paycheck, successes, failures or anything else as a barameter of who we are, we are turning to created things and not the Creator for our worth.

When this is the case we become enslaved by our own misguided “truths” and how we think others view us according to the expectations and standards we set. And if others don’t see us in the way we think they should, we fall into the trap of needing to try harder and do more in order to secure the self-exhaltation we seek. 

In the movie this describes Riggan Thomson. His too high opinion of himself led to depression because others didn’t view him in the way he desired and felt he deserved. He had an insatiable appetite to know he was okay.Unknown-1

How different life would have been for him and other charcters in the film and maybe for us, too, though if we knew and rested in who God declares us to be. That we are more than okay, but cherished and loved and significant. So significant, in fact, that God sent his Son to the cross so that all of His children could know Him eternally.

When we grasp that our identity is secure, not based on our performance, but on his perfect love and obedience for us, we won’t have to strive to be “Somebody.” Instead we can be free of ourselves and redirect our desire to make a difference on striving to impact others, for their good and the glory of God!

Did you miss the other posts in this years Oscar series? You can view them at: Shaping Influences in “Boyhood” and Into the Woods for Happily Ever After.

How to Fight Idolatry and Temptation

In a post last month I wrote of the power of words and briefly hit on how at times each of us worry about the way we think others view us. We replay conversations, project what another person must be thinking, fret over what we should have done or said differently and sometimes even change who we are around certain people.

These consuming thoughts… Idolatry.

As I’ve stated in previous posts:

An idol is anything and everything that takes the place of God on the throne of our heart. 

So even something like being ruled by what someone else thinks of me is an idol. 

The Bible identifies this as “fear of man.”  In otherwords, the fear of what another person thinks (or I think they think) ruling me. If I care too much about how you view me, I may elevate myself in conversation or do something to try to impress you. Or, I may hide something about myself out of fear of what you might think. We can all relate, right?

Aren’t there times we all do things – things like what lables we wear, where we shop, eat, send our kids to school or what activities we enroll them in, who we hang out with or what we post on social media – simply because we want to look good and be viewed a certain way?

Whether this is your big issue or not, idolatry pops up in many forms Every.Single.Day. and until eternity we will struggle with it!

Does it sound depressing and hopeless to keep fighting a battle we will never fully conquer until glory?

Believe it or not, it’s for our good! God could eradicate our sin and struggles, but instead chooses to leave us in this state of continual need for a Savior. So though sin is not good, it is good to see our sin more and more and know we need Him.

The more we see our hopeless condition, the more we find that but by His strength and grace we would never stand. Stand, we can though, by His giving us full gospel armor for daily battle.

Paul tells of this armory in Ephesians 6:10-20, but perhaps you’ve never thought about how a belt, breastplate, shield, helmet, sword and sandals actually protect us in our kind of battles. Unknown

All of these items are connected to the Gospel. Paul starts with the “belt” as the Truth of the gospel because of its essentialness in connecting everything else. Without the absolute Truth of the gospel we easily fall to the Satan’s schemes and this world’s idols. That is why we must be fed with consistent gospel preaching and know how to apply it.

You must know and have the security of the “breastplate,” which is Christ’s righteousness for you.  Remembering His perfect work perfectly covers you and there is nothing you can do to earn or lose his love is foundational. When you fail, it is not up to you to try harder, but to repent and rest confidently on His perfectness for you. Satan wants to knock you off of believing this, but here you must Stand!

This Gospel truth extends to your “shield,” which is faith. If you are not entrenched in the truth of who Christ is, trying to muster up faith on your own to believe He accepts you even in your sin and that He is good and cares for you even when things are hard or you’ve turned away from Him will constantly leave you doubting.

Jesus is the object of our faith – the “helmet of salvation” and His Word our “sword.” The Word we hear must be focused on Christ, not us!  Moral pep talks, feel-good fluffy sermons and being told what to do is all law and will not enable you to Stand ready for battle against idolatry. Because we know our heart condition we need to constantly be reoriented to fix our eyes on Him!

Finally with “sandals” on you are prepared for battle. Instead of thinking retreating from the world will offer the best protection, you can plant your feet solidly into the peace of the gospel and Stand firm. 

Put on this gospel armor daily as your only true defense and Stand against the devil’s deceptive darts disguised as life being found in something other than Christ. Satan will do everything to try to deter you from the Truth of His Word. Do not be moved. This is your gift of protection so guard yourself with the gospel and Stand firm on Christ.

Peeking Behind the Scenes of Our Good Deeds

Last week, twice, I was brought to tears upon discovering what a couple different people in our church are doing to help others, behind the scenes. In ways requiring personal sacrifice. Other than those they are helping no one knows so there is no glory or recognition. They are simply being the hands and feet of Christ. Loving others the way we are called.

I have to believe this happens in big and small ways all over the place, all the time, but because it is done privately I don’t know about it.  Even so, these acts of service and love, along with a conversation with my husband, have lead me to think about motives. Motives behind what, how and why we do and don’t do what we do.

If you are honest…

  • Do you kind of like people to know the “good” you do?
  • Don’t you kind of want people to know why you are so tired or why you are unavailable to help with something else? 
  • Even if it’s not abundant public praise you are after, don’t you want others to view you highly because of what all you do?

As genuine as we may be in wanting to serve others, because we are sinners our well-intended motives get mixed up with our own self-serving desires. The bottom line is: There really is no righteous heart, pure motive or good deed.

That sounds strong.  This is how entrenched in sin we really are!

This is why we need a Savior. It’s not just the immoral overtly bad behavior that is sin; it is deep in our hearts, thoughts, motives and desires. The things nobody sees so we appear to be “good” Christians. The things even we don’t admit to ourselves.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

If this is true, what do we do about it?

  • Do we cease to serve others if it is also self-serving?
  • Do we think we are “cured” if we just don’t publicize our “good” actions?
  • Do we think better about ourselves for our private behind the scenes help when we see others volunteer and give financially publicly?

No. No. No.

Our only hope is in Jesus. He was the only One who served with a pure heart. The only One who gave unconditionally with out gain. The only One who transforms us more and more to His likeness.

He does this not by making us less and less sinful and therefore more holy.  He dos this by showing us more and more of our sin so that we see how holy He is for us! 

Now when I recognize my desire to be thanked or noticed for my good deeds, I see my need for His perfection and turn to Him in honest confession. Now when I realize I am serving out of duty and not love, I turn to Him asking for His love to penetrate my heart so that I am able to give to others.

Whether it is behind the scenes of serving others or behind the scenes of my heart that no one sees, Lord, please help me to see myself rightly and know that only by your goodness is there anything good within me!

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Who Am I.

You may have read my recent post Who Are You WIthout Your Phone? Well, our latest dinner table discussion probes a little further with an even more foundational, yet very basic question. Simply: Who Am I?

From that one question there is one truth for all of us. Yet, from that one question it manifests itself differently in each of us. At our table it went something like this…

  • Who Am I if I strike out?
  • Who Am I if I lose the Student Council election?
  • Who Am I if I don’t get an “A” on the test?
  • Who Am I if I look bad in front of someone else?
  • Who Am I if no one reads my blog?
  • Who Am I if the scale goes up a pound?
  • Who Am I if my house is not picked up?
  • Who Am I if I forgot to make my son a testing poster?
  • Who Am I if I don’t give a good sermon?
  • Who Am I if I don’t get my 10,000 steps in?
  • Who Am I if I can’t be all things to all people?

You may identify with some of these, but you will have your own list that hits you personally. Your own expectations that if not met make you feel like a failure. Or, convince you that others see you as a failure.

But the truth behind every one of these things are the issues of identity and idolatry.  If Who I Am is based on measuring up, fulfilling or succeeding in these things than that is how I will determine my worth. So when I fail I will have to work harder so that I am viewed better. And the more I look to these things for my identity the bigger the idol of having to have it becomes.

But what if instead our children could rest and be OK if they strike out, lose an election, fail a test, look like a fool in front of someone?

What if instead we could rest and be OK if we are not always the perfect parent, the super volunteer, the best hostess, the most successful or even when we disappoint someone else’s expectations?

The only way we can do this – to rest and be OK – is if our identity is rooted in Christ. If we see that His love was set upon us before the foundation of the earth.  If we understand it is His righteous robes we wear.  If we believe He had to suffer and die to give us life.  If we trust that His grace is so sufficient that even when we fail Him or others, He won’t let go of us. If we know His opinion is the only one that matters and His opinion declares us Sons and Daughters of the King!  

Only then it won’t matter what others think. We won’t have to turn to all those idols for our identity because we will rest knowing we have His delight.  If only we could get this, it would save us a lot of worry and striving. By His grace I hope we do!

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The 100 Mark!

If you have young school-age kids, they may have celebrated the 100th day of school by dressing up as a 100 year-old or bringing 100 items of something. So recently when I noticed that I was on my 97th blog entry, I decided I should celebrate my 100th. 

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Technically this is #101 since I decided to write my Lent thoughts :), but nevertheless I want to take a look back over what I have written over these past 15 months since starting this blog.  Some posts, like one based off Les Miserables, continue to be clicked on and viewed frequently. While there are others that were more or less missed.  Therefore to commemorate hitting 100, I have decided to simply re-share ten posts that I personally want to bring back to life.

Each of the ten transcend time in the sense that they are always relevant even if they were tied to a specific event that led to me writing it. I hope as you have time you will click on some of these links and find food for thought.

Parenting…

Christian Living/Life/Idols/Suffering/Trials…

If you are not already, I would love for you to follow me into my next 100 posts. Enter your email on the upper right-hand column after “Follow blog via email”.

A New Perspective Post-Cancer and Prosthetic Leg

To varying degrees most of us now days have been affected by cancer.  You may have your own cancer story or maybe that of a family member or friend. Over the last couple years it has hit us hard as we’ve been on the sidelines for too many close friends. In the process we’ve become well-educated on the significance of blood-counts, process of chemo and the physical side-effects.  But the spiritual side-effects is what I was eager to probe as one of my dearest friends and her cancer-surviving son sat at my kitchen table yesterday morning.

We live in different cities so this weekend was the first time, post-cancer, we had been able to spend together like we’ve done so many times before on holiday weekends.  Our families have been close since we met over 14 years ago when our oldest children were babies.

Our first-borns and best buddies.

Our first-borns and best buddies.

However, when our daughter was not quite three we had to move away and have since moved again. We both had two more children the same ages and it is our middle sons who have considered each other best friends for 12 years even though they’ve never lived in the same city!  We’ve stayed committed to visiting one another as often as possible and our families’ friendship has continued to grow deeper despite the distance.

So when I got the call a year and a half ago that my friend’s first-born had cancer it was gut-wrenching not to be with them physically. Thankfully she kept a fabulous Caring Bridge page so even still, we knew exactly what was going on and how we could pray. And though it didn’t feel like much, praying was the something we could do as we watched from afar the local body of Christ wrap their arms around them so tangibly.

Now the thick of it is behind them and life is getting back to normal. But, normal is not the same because they are no longer the same.

In order to eradicate the cancer from his body and keep him alive, his leg has been amputated. Obviously having a prosthetic leg would be an adjustment and change. But to me, even more noticeable than his new leg are the spiritual side effects that have given my friend a new perspective and freedom in life.

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For most of us when our biggest dreams are threatened and greatest fears aroused, our first instinct is to hold on tightly, fighting to keep those things in tack. The fact that we do this points to something deeper going on in our hearts… the “idols” that are ruling as our functional gods. We may say we “trust God” and have faith in Him, but if we are really honest our happiness, contentment and security is more likely bound up in life going the way we planned.

But God has a way of stripping us of those things. And sometimes He uses cancer to show us that true life, true joy and real safety is only in Him. Even when life, joy and safety don’t look like what we thought it should.

This true dependence on Him took place in my friend without her even realizing all the ways He was caring for them in the midst of it. Now she can look back and see the daily sustaining them. The energy He gave her to care for her son with cancer while managing the other two kids’ schedules, her husband and job. The peace that she wouldn’t have had in the past with things so out of control. The change in perspective even amidst the often bleak circumstances. The no longer worrying about all the little things that used to consume her.

And He did this in and through her despite any action or amazing faith on her part. He poured out His grace even when she couldn’t articulate a “good” prayer or crack open her Bible. It was He who was buoying them the whole time. It was He pressing in to her. Not the other way around.

They were weak, but He made them strong in Him. And until we realize that we too are weak and in need of a Savior, we won’t understand her perspective that cancer saved them… and that is what she said!

Cancer literally changed the way they see God and the things of this life. They now know they are not in control, but have found more rest in the safety of knowing He is in control.  They see how it was not them who were somehow heroic for beating cancer. Instead they see a God who did it all.

They see a God who became weak for us… taking with him to the cross all our pride, self-reliance, idols and sin. A God who frees us from ourselves enabling us to stand strong on His promises. Even when standing is on a prosthetic leg!

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“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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I am so thankful for this family and the time we had these past two days. And I am so thankful for our God who loves us so much that He doesn’t leave us alone, but molds and shapes us in His image for our good and His glory!

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Miley’s Performance: Perhaps Divine Mercy for Your Child

thBy now the whole world has heard and probably seen Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs. I didn’t watch it Sunday night and it hadn’t even crossed my mind to comment on the already over-talked about act. But last night when I saw several Facebook postings about the word “twerk” being new to them and many unsure of the definition (though Miley showed us pretty clearly) I realized I had something to say…
We all seem to be shaking our heads at Miley for introducing “twerking” to the world.  The sad reality is though, twerking is common place not just among many performers, but with high school and middle schoolers everywhere!
Have you ever heard of a line grind? Twerk team? I bet even if you haven’t been to a teenage dance party lately you’ve seen social media photos of girls posed with their rears sticking out. Our teenagers know this word and a majority see nothing wrong with it. This for me makes the problem a whole lot more personal than what Miley does.
Why are we appalled at her behavior, but either don’t know what is going on with our own kids or turn a blind eye to it? Or, worse, don’t see it as that big of a deal.
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Wake up, parents!

Your child may not be performing on national television, but if she is dancing in this way she is seeking the same attention. She is looking to find her worth in her sex appeal, in being desired, in being talked about.  None will ever be enough to satisfy because the God-shaped hole in all of our hearts can only be filled by God. Apart from Him, the insatiable appetite to fill the void will only lead to more drastic measures and a greater degree of seeking.
Help your daughter see these as “idols” ruling her heart. Help her understand that succumbing to this behavior will not give “life” or cause her to be cherished by a guy. Instead she is bringing harm by objectifying herself and leading guys to undress her in their minds.
Yes, I just said that.
And quite frankly that is exactly what happens when guys see a girl dance in this way or when they see a girl dressed immodestly. And our daughters need to know this!
As a mother of a daughter and sons, my husband has helped me see it this way so that I better understand the mind of boys. And I want to take it back to creation because boys get a bad rap.
God created males to be driven my sight. Essentionally what Adam said when he SAW Eve was,

“WHOA! OH MY! Finally, This IS now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…”

And if you’ve ever read Song of Solomon it may have surprised you that it is included in the Bible. But this is God’s design… in the context of marriage God declares it very good for a man to be captivated by his wife.
So now my boy-mom perspective… If boys are made this way by God, we should not make them feel dirty for the way they are wired. However, Satan seeks to take their God-given appeal by sight to lead them in to sinful lust.  Which is not a hard job with what is so easily accessible on the internet and television. Then add real live girls they know constantly putting themselves before the boys in the way they dance or in what they wear and there is no escape for our sons!
In light of this, what our boys and our girls need is not just to be told to behave better… stop lusting, don’t dance provocatively, dress in less revealing clothes.  This is just “law” that will not change their hearts’ inclination.  Instead we need to help them see what is driving their desire in how they dance or dress or the temptation to look at porn.  We need to help them believe that through Christ they have been accepted by God and only His delight in them will satisfy and give life.
When we know we are abundantly loved by Him, that our sin is covered by His righteous robes and He never stops pouring out his grace on us, the hole will be filled.  We will stop looking to fill it in all the wrong places.  We won’t need other people’s approval.  Our girls won’t have to have a boy’s attention to feel good about herself. Our boys will see the deception of pornography masquerading as only what God designed to be good in marriage.
As I hit on in my earlier post this week our job is to protect our kids in every sense of that word. So take Miley’s performance as divine mercy if these are issues you need to think through and address with your kids.
Two additional well-written worth-reading related blog posts: When Girls Go Wild and Dear daughter, let Miley Cyrus be a lesson to you

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Land Run Wagon Envy

The pioneering spirit of Oklahoma is displayed in third graders each year when they culminate their studying of the state’s history with their own Land Run reenactment. The kids are divided up into “families” to transform a kid’s wagon in to a Chuck Wagon that will tote all the necessities to setting up a society on the land they will stake claim to.

Today was Land Run Day for my youngest. At our school, like most I assume, the kids dress up in period clothes and head outside with their family groups where they wait lined up for the signal before dashing with their wagon and all its belongings to the land they pick out for settlement.

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The whole thing is great fun for the kids and a history lesson memory that sticks with them. In fact, I have realized since moving to Oklahoma that most of my adult friends who grew up here still recall their own Land Run Day experiences. What I have also found from both my sons’ Land Runs is something more than just a history lesson though, but a lesson we all need to see and remember, whether we are a 3rd grader or grown. So track with me…

Here is a picture of some of the wagons with their “land improvements”.

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Pretty cool, huh?

Now here is ours…

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Not bad, but far from being the biggest or the best. Which shouldn’t matter, especially to us parents. But just like with anything else we want the biggest and the best!

Why is this? Probe your own heart.  

Ask yourself why it is you might feel that same way, maybe not about a wagon, but what about the vacation your friend is going on this summer? Or, the new pool and cabana your neighbor just put in?  Or, the fancy cars, designer shoes and great restaurants it seems like everyone around you has or goes to?

Now it’s not so hard to see. Envy and pride are always at work, eating a way at our hearts.

If we are the one with the smaller wagon or less whatever it is, then we want more. We are discontent. The reason being is because we think we deserve better because we are better.

If we have the bigger, better wagon, or the nice vacation, pool, house, clothes, car, etc, we tend to think we are better because we have those things!

We are just as full of pride in what we don’t have, as we are in what we do have.  When we feel insecure in having less, we will belittle and tear others down in order to elevate ourselves. And if we have more, we will snub our noses at those without in order to assert our self-worth and dominance.

Both are wrong. Both is sin. Both I want to pluck out in my own heart and help my children see in theirs. Neither is possible without seeing our need for a Savior and finding our identity securely bound in Him.

To me this is a greater lesson to point out to my kids then what the Land Run is even about. In the end all the wagons, big and small, found a great piece of land to call “home”. Everyone picnicked on their “property” and was having lots of fun… unless of course envy or pride was too all-consuming to enjoy the day.

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“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11b-13

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Life in the King’s Court

Having just returned from England and France I am intrigued by the long-history and stories of the monarchies. In the past I have enjoyed several historical fiction books about the various kings and queens of England, but after seeing again places like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London it becomes much easier to envision.

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Similarly being in Paris and learning more about what led to the French Revolution puts Jean Valjean (of Les Mis) stealing a loaf of bread in a new context for me. Wanting to learn more I am now engrossed in the book Before Versailles from the time of King Louis XIV.

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And the fact that I have a horrible cough keeping me down and it’s raining makes staying in to read when I would normally being working, working out and running errands kind of nice 🙂

But, I had to put the book down to write as this sentence struck me…

…”there was no life that was real life without the king’s presence…”

The author, Karleen Koen, was referring to life for the nobility and those in the king’s court when the king was away.  Their whole world revolved around him and what he was doing.  Their jobs, livelihood and moods determined by him and his whereabouts.

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All school year I have been studying the book of John, which is all about seeing that Life is found only in Jesus. So this word “life” jumped out at me.  How true and aptly applied this could be to King Jesus.

Apart from Jesus there is no life that is real life!

Yet we turn to all these other things looking for meaning, significance and life. Just think about how we prioritize our day; our time.

Are we investing in people or things?

Seeking to build our own kingdoms or God’s?

Do we honor him with our lips but our hearts are far from him?

The whole book of John is ordered around the key verse John 20:31:

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

His teaching, the miracles he performed and ultimately his death and resurrection point to the fact that He is indeed King. Yet we are like those who witnessed these things first-hand, we keep searching for something more not really believing that He is enough, that He is all that He says He is and that He alone could possibly satisfy.

Instead we turn to a multitude of idols and lies in the pursuit of happiness only to find nothing ever completely measures up. Or perhaps it satisfies for a time but then we always want more; something bigger or better.

Or maybe in an effort to be close to God you focus your energy on doing good things and behaving well in hopes that you will be worthy and that God will bless you for doing these certain things and then you will feel better.  But when that too fails you are either left burned out and empty from trying or remain on the perpetual treadmill that never stops to give you rest.

True life in Jesus is different. It is freedom. It is peace. It is rest.

It means we can stop striving because he did it all.

It means we are free to fail because Christ’s righteousness covers us.

It means we can confess and deal honestly with our sin because God’s grace is always greater.

So, how do we get this kind of real life? In a nutshell, by staying connected to the Word of God and having it dwell in you richly.

The gospel is not just for the unbeliever, it is for the believer!  It is THE good news we must hear constantly from the pulpit and repeating through our own minds.  We can never move off it because transformation comes only by hearing the word about Christ- Who He is and what He did for you. Not law, but grace!

The more we hear that teaching and it seeps deep in to our heart, the more we will find rest and know that He is Life.   To be like the courtiers of the monarchies, where His presence in our life controls us.

Then as we seek to order our lives, our priorities, our relationships and investment of time, energy and money all to His glory, something interesting happens… we feel satisfied. Because we are living out how He created us to be.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus 
Look full in His wonderful face 
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim 
In the light of His glory and grace 

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