Thursday, February 28, 2013

Too Little, Too Late

The copy arrived a few months ago, having been discovered among forgotten keepsakes. The letter’s author passed away years ago, yet her voice spoke clearly through words penned a decade before that. Sad words. Words of regret. Words of wisdom realized too late. Reading them, my heart broke, for her and for many whose marriages have ended after one spouse finally realized they needed to change, but for the other, it was too little, too late. I share her words with permission. I believe every woman who is married, may get married, or longs to get married should see them. Heed them. Learn from them.

The woman behind the correspondence was getting divorced. People close to the couple pointed fingers at what seemed the most obvious reasons, but the letter holds the confession of a wife whose drive and passions drew her attention to accomplishments and commitments and away from home.

“I was leaving him a lot, mentally and physically,” she confessed.

When her husband stopped saying anything about her unavailability, she misunderstood the quiet for peace. Engaged in her own career, she heard with her ears but failed to listen with her heart to “the complaints, the unhappiness, what he really wanted for us.” As her marriage crumbled, she wrote:

God had to use this situation to awaken me to my misplaced priorities. I began to see the specifics of many, many things which troubled him that I had neglected to rectify. Even though a lot of my activities and efforts were not wrong in themselves, i.e. work, speaking, professional meetings, commitment to exercise, studying, long hours at the office, separate recreation, Bible study, etc., they were all gratifying. They were placed ahead of the relationship God had joined together. I was the one who was tearing the relationship asunder.

I have been convicted on simple, everyday things, i.e. spending time in uninterrupted conversation, listening carefully, without being judgmental or critical of anyone or situation being discussed, going to sports events enthusiastically – not wishing I was “getting something else done,” helping with the yard, appreciating the many things he did for me, not edifying him, making him feel stroked, treating him like a friend – someone really special in our house, going to bed and getting up with him, looking after him, caring, asking, being willing to go with him on his choice of vacations…

The result?

“Pretty soon, he gave up – no response, no fight, no argument – just a broken heart,” she reflected.

Whether it was Bible study, fitness, calorie counting, or work commitments, she saw herself as “pleasing that master.” She made a decision about it, closed the door, and threw away the key. “Perhaps he felt like he was on the other side of the door.”

Then she concluded: “When I was ready to turn my sights on our marriage – pour everything into it, no conditions attached – the trouble was he was no longer receptive. I worry I have pushed him beyond the point of return. The scary thing is to think there may not be enough of a dying ember, that the draining of emotion has been too great to ever replace – even though finally after all these years he has gotten my attention.”

Many of us women are wired much like her. The “be all you can be/you can have it all” message has been pounded in our heads until we’re torn in so many different directions we aren’t effective in anything at all. The most important people in our lives – our husbands – often pay the highest price, all in the name of pursuing what makes us feel good about ourselves.

As I read her letter, God immediately brought to mind a missed opportunity in my own marriage and a new perspective on a “culturally controversial” scripture directed at wives.

Will you join me Thursday for the rest of the story?

Until then, may the Lord soften our hearts toward our husbands, giving us His exorbitant love for them as we become more wholly His today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christianity Cocktail or Jesus on the Rocks?

My sweet friend,

It was good to see you the other day. I enjoy our chats, as occasional as they may be. It’s always fun to swap stories and ideas about parenting, life, and God. There was more I wanted to say and didn’t. Sometimes I don’t articulate my beliefs very well on the spot. If I’m completely honest, I’m a little chicken. If I don’t feel like I can express myself clearly with answers to every possible challenge, I won’t say anything at all. I don’t want to offend or look foolish. I don’t want to be rejected, and I don’t want to take a stand I can’t support with scripture. The words come later, and I seem to be so much better with writing articulately than verbally expressing myself spontaneously.

So I’m writing you this letter. I keep thinking about the frustration you experience when you read scripture but don’t understand what it means. To pray for understanding before you start only to remain baffled can be a disappointing experience. I hear your determination when life continues to deliver disappointing blows, and the bad year becomes years. I’m so encouraged you aren’t giving up! I see your genuine desire to have a life-changing relationship with the Lord! I truly love that about you. I think the clog in the drain is the Christianity Cocktail you’ve mixed with different philosophies and practices that promise to make you the best person, wife, and mom you can be on your own might and independent of Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

I found a scripture that may explain what’s happening. In Mark chapter seven, the Pharisees and scribes are challenging Jesus on various traditions they hold sacred as sanctifying while ignoring the condition of their hearts. Calling them hypocrites, Jesus says to them in verses six and seven, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” He goes on to say in verse nine, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” The result then, in verse thirteen, is that the word of God is of no effect due to the traditions they practice.

Everything we seek from the world or the traditions of man that only God can give through Christ makes the word of God of no effect. These ways – yoga, secular counseling, spiritualism, meditation, self-actualization, self-help/self-improvement books and seminars, marriage boot camps, New Age methods, eastern religions, and the like – all set you up as the answer to your own destiny and salvation. Even if you only take bits and pieces of each one, they can create tremendous spiritual confusion because they omit or directly oppose the word of God – His truth, which is the only truth that sets us free. For good.

We can’t have both the world’s way and all God has for us. He asks us to do hard things, and instead, we experiment with other things that promise results in our power with more immediate benefit. Who wouldn’t be tempted by that? But if Jesus is the only answer to our broken condition (which is what we’re searching to fix in the first place, right?), then nothing else the devil dangles as a distraction will work.

Anyone or anything that promises what only Jesus can deliver without leading you straight to Jesus Himself is a counterfeit. The devil is the pro when it comes to mimicking the things of God because that’s the easiest way to get us off track. But when it comes to delivering the goods, only Jesus can.

Second Corinthians 6:16-18 explains, “What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord almighty.’”

Ask God to show you what is convoluting your Christianity. Jesus on the rocks – Jesus with nothing else mixed in – is the only cocktail you need. We can’t blend our own concoction and expect Christianity “to work.” We can’t just hear what Jesus teaches; we must do what He says and NOT DO what He says not to do.

“Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:46-48).

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take Jesus on the rocks.

Until our next chat,

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Forever Valentine

Much to my children’s disappointment, I’m not the mom who rises early every morning to cook a three course hot breakfast from scratch, complete with freshly squeezed orange juice. I admire her. Sometimes I wish I could be her. But no, I’m the mom who taught her youngest child to make her own waffles in the microwave when she was four-and-a-half years old so I could sleep past 6 a.m. Sad but true.

Special occasions are special, however, and those days greet my family with a morning spread worthy of a hungry jack. Birthdays, holidays, and sometimes on a random Saturday, I’ll pull out all the stops to delight my peeps with a morning treat.

Today is one of those days. Valentine’s Day. My plan is to serve heart-shaped fried eggs with bacon baked in the shape of a heart alongside waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. What hits the plate may look more like scrambled eggs with bacon bits, but I’m going to give it my best. Whatever happens, the chocolate treats my girls selected for each family member should carry the day. Even our oldest is coming home to join us for our early feast. That’s what makes it really special. Being together. Making a memory.

And love. True love. Not the kind that’s celebrated with gifts and romantic dinners. Not the kind that requires having a valentine with whom to exchange googly eyes and mushy words. I’m talking about the greatest love of all. The greatest gift of all:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

In light of God’s love for us, what can we give back to Him, our Forever Valentine? How can we love Him back?

2 John 1:5-6 answers: “And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.”

We can love God today and every day by loving one another. I read the most beautiful adaptation of I Corinthians 13:4-8 by Jerry Bridges in his book, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Happiness (p. 39). I share it here today as my valentine to you, both in the understanding I hope it provides in order to extend this kind of love in your life, and as a challenge to myself to give this kind of love to you and those around me.

I am patient with you because I love you and want to forgive you.

I am kind to you because I love you and want to help you.

I do not envy your possessions or your gifts because I love you and want you to have the best.

I do not boast about my attainments because I love you and want to hear about yours.

I am not proud because I love you and want to esteem you before myself.

I am not rude because I love you and care about your feelings.

I am not self-seeking because I love you and want to meet your needs.

I am not easily angered by you because I love you and want to overlook your offenses.

I do not keep a record of your wrongs because I love you, and “love covers a multitude of sins.”

This kind of love – God’s kind of love – never fails. It’s a valentine with eternal value.

Lord, as You love us, help us to love one another with Your kind of love as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Guest Blog: The Laundry Moms

Please join me Sunday, February 10, at The Laundry Moms where I’ll be a guest blogger on marriage and you’ll receive a free gift! This amazing blog features wisdom, ideas, and heartwarming stories from moms who have 38+ kids and 100 years of marriage between them. As they say, "We figured we had some experiences we could share from this journey of life that would be an encouragement, and make your road a bit easier or at least help you to laugh out loud at the mistakes we have made along the way! We will share our ups and downs and give away lots of free gifts to brighten your day and hopefully help you realize that we can do this motherhood thing together!" Click on over and check it out!

May the Lord bless you and make His face to shine upon you as you become more wholly His in all things today.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When the Truth Hurts

A cold hug. Unresolved anger over a commitment I kept while my mom was in town led to a disappointing goodbye. It’s the last time I saw her, nine years ago. Three months later, I sat beside her bed reading the journal entry she penned after this December visit:

“Lord, with Shauna, it used to be what can Jesus do for you. Now, it’s what can Mary Kay do for you.”

The slap stung. Pursuing achievement and recognition in Mary Kay consumed me and affected those around me. The truth hurt. Not because her words were hurtful, but because they confronted me with truth I didn’t want to see.

Wracked with sobs, God gently whispered to my spirit: “Take the truth; leave the guilt and shame.” The heaviness lifted. The burden of sin vanished. Conviction remained, with forgiveness. A life lesson. A God lesson. I think it’s what Romans 8:1 means:

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

When God reveals sin in our lives, we take the conviction; we leave the condemnation.

How is that, especially when we continue to sin?

Through the body of Christ, we are delivered from the law – judgment, punishment, condemnation, and death – so that we can be productive for God, serving Him “in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). Yet, Paul explains in Romans 7:15-25, we all face the life-long dilemma of having the intellectual capacity to understand and yield in obedience to what is morally acceptable to God and to recognize and hate what is not, but our skin and bones – the earthly nature that resists God – is drawn off the path of righteousness to violate the very things He desires. We know and want to do what is good, but don’t, while doing the very evil we hope to avoid!

“Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul exclaims in verse twenty-four. Answering his own question, he says, “I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh that law of sin” (verse twenty-five).

Then he immediately assures us of no condemnation. Looking back on our trail of blood from Leviticus to the Cross, let’s put it all together:

We are born with a sin condition; we are unable to not sin.

Our sin separates us from God, exacting a penalty.

Blood must be shed.

Animal sacrifices offered by a high priest once satisfied the wrath of God, then Jesus, the final sacrifice, became the propitiation or satisfaction for our sin, becoming our eternal High Priest.

He died for our condition, the rebellious heart it creates, and the sins that result from that rebellion.

When He saves us, we are able to recognize what is righteous and good and hate what is evil, but because of our human flesh, we are still drawn away from righteousness to sin.

Because Jesus died for the condition into which we are born by no fault of our own, in Christ Jesus, when we sin, there is THEREFORE now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

We cannot, however, walk according to the flesh any longer, but must walk by the Spirit. A change in behavior is necessary.

Conviction should lead to alteration.

When I returned home from the funeral, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I changed. Mary Kay was no longer the priority in my life. God was. And family. I still worked my business, but it was no longer an idol.

When viewing inappropriate content on television, at the theater, or on the internet leaves us sullied with guilt and shame, take the conviction – the truth that what we’ve seen is wrong in the eyes of God – but leave the condemnation – the damnation we expect and want to put on ourselves.

When someone we love dies unsaved and we are crushed by the weight of feeling we should have done or said more, take the conviction – the truth that we must be bold in sharing the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us – but leave the condemnation.

When we mess up for the umpteenth time and can’t see how it’s ever going to get better, take the conviction – the truth that what we’re doing is wrong and we must yield in obedience to what God desires for that area of our lives – but leave the condemnation.

Leave the hopelessness. The shame. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, yield in obedience to what God desires.

No condemnation. No penance. Just freedom.

Is there something the Lord is convicting you to change? See your guilt and shame nailed to the cross as you bow down and worship Him there. Take responsibility for making the changes He undoubtedly is urging you to make. By the power of the Holy Spirit, move forward, in obedience, lighter and freer for His work on the cross.

Thank you, Father, that in Christ Jesus we receive conviction and correction but still enjoy the easy yoke and light burden available to us in Him. Forgive our sins and help us yield ourselves in obedience to You as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His