Tara’s Blog

Only Christ Satisfies

My wonderful pastor recently reminded me of something I shared with him months ago …

I was having a stressed-out, exhausting day and to try to “soothe my harried soul”, I began picking up and organizing. (Some of you might find that strange, but for those of you–like me–who find a trip to OfficeMax or the Container Store to be fun fun fun, you know what I mean.)

Anyway, as I was straightening and organizing and working on my “lists of lists”, it hit me that maybe, perhaps, just maybe, I should pray. You know, actually turn to the Lord instead of to organizing to try to regain some calm and peace within. Being a Christian and all, it seemed like perhaps that might be a good idea.

My pastor reminded me of this story because he was realizing that the pressures of life were feeling bit overwhelming to him and he was tempted to work on his Microsoft Outlook tasklist instead of to pray–but then he pictured me scurrying around my home before I came to the conviction to pray. So he chuckled. And then prayed.

You know — we can try lots of things to soothe our savaged and ravaged souls … escaping through television, prescription narcotics, Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls (yum!), shopping, alcohol, sex … but nothing (nothing!) will ultimately satisfy. Except Christ.

Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.

“For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us.” 2 Corinthians 7:5-6

When Someone Mistreats You

Earlier this week, I was hurt by a friend. My hope and expectation was that she would demonstrate her care for me by asking about my life, giving me a quick call, or just dropping me a note to say hello. Instead, it seemed as though every interaction I had with her was “task related.” That is, she would ask me about something, for something, or just reply to kind of a work-related request of my own.

Of course, it’s nice to have people treat us well by taking an interest in our lives. But when that “good good” becomes an idolatrous demand (“You’d better treat me well or else …”), then we have a problem. When I didn’t get what I wanted — what I felt I “deserved” — I was tempted to become grouchy and stingy towards her in my heart — to withhold my love and care.

Fred encouraged me to focus on God’s lavish grace toward me and as an overflow of God’s love, seek to love this woman well. He also reminded me of how busy and stressful this woman’s life is. And then he asked me, “Tara, what are you supposed to do for someone who mistreats you?” “Pray,” I replied. “Then let’s pray for her and for your relationship with her.” And we did.

It may sound trite, but pretty much immediately, I had the urge to be the one person in this woman’s life who doesn’t demand anything from her. To just love her, encourage her, and not look for her to bless or serve me. (She gives so much to so many!) And then I took the time to drop her a note and give her a call–just to say hello, that I love you, and I am praying for you. What a difference it made in my own heart.

‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.’ Romans 12:10

Don’t delay!

Last night I had a disturbing dream about a certain person with whom I have a relatively strained relationship. I would like to have a better relationship with her, but honestly, I don’t.

In the dream, I was yelling at her and speaking rudely to her in a harsh, critical, and judgmental manner. And then she died. Right then. Right after I was treating her so unlovingly.

I remember in the dream trying to defend myself to the people around me: “She came around and forgave me right before she died!” I self-protectively explained.

(Yeah, right. I just didn’t want people to think less of me–even in my dreams, my pride is an offensive stench.)

I woke up from the dream genuinely grieved. Not over my dream (I don’t want to overstate the importance of dreams or imply in any way that they are something they’re not) — but over my sin. You see, I knew immediately that in real life I had not been honoring the Lord or this person by my words, attitudes, and actions. I did have a harsh and critical spirit towards her. And even if I may not yell at her in real life, I knew that I was not seeking to bless and encourage her as I ought.

God moves in mysterious ways! And I was grateful to immediately begin this morning by calling her and reaching out to her in love. How I pray that I will persevere in doing good to her–for none of us know what tomorrow will bring. We may not have another day or week or month to seek to repair broken relationships, confess sins, ask forgiveness, and be reconciled.

So don’t delay!

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Though He slay me …

I woke up yesterday with a heavy heart because my dear friend was scheduled for a radical mastectomy that morning. I thought of her all day long and prayed for her. And finally, in the evening, I got to speak with her. Do you know what she said to me?

A single woman, godly, beautiful—found out ten days ago she has breast cancer, now in the midst of surgery and scheduling chemo and radiation—what did she say to me?

‘It was such a good day, Tara.’ And then she proceeded to retell all of God’s blessings throughout the day.

I woke up this morning with greater faith in the Lord—for He had graciously shown me His mercy and glory yet again.

‘Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him …’ Job 13:15

Fight Number 37

My husband Fred and I don’t have many fights. We just have the same fights over and over and over again. “Oh, yeah, here comes fight number 37, whipping around the bend … we know this script by heart …”

– He tries to say something important but doesn’t quite get the words right.
– I’m ‘the verbal one’ and words are important to me. His words, meant to bless, hurt me.
– He tries to clarify and “fix things.”
– This comes across as backpedaling and feels insincere to me. (I.e., “You must have really meant what you said the first time because otherwise why would you have said it?!”)

Sadly, this little pattern can go on for days and really put a damper on our friendship and intimate love. Of course it takes two to tango — but what I see most is my “thin-skinned-ness” that ought to be quick to overlook, slow to take an offense, and extremely charitable to my beloved husband. But in my sin and immaturity I often make things much worse.

By God’s grace, may I grow in true, abiding love!

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (emphasis added)

What about my stupidity?

Recently, I have been struggling with shame. Again. Going throughout my day, making Fred’s lunch, getting ready for events, caring for Sophia — but all the while burdened by this horrible, vague sense that no matter how hard I try, it is never be good enough.

One day I said to Fred, “I am such a failure! Why even try any more?” And he replied, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

“Yes,” I said, “I know that I am forgiven my sins, but what about my stupidity?”

What about our stupidity? Failures? Weaknesses? Immaturities? Foolishness? Fallenness?

Yes, yes. We are forgiven our sins and our fallnness is covered by God’s grace too. What comfort we have in knowing that our standing with God is not based on us–our “good” parts (filthy rags) or our “bad.”

We fail, but He never fails. We are faithless, He is faithful.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

The Blessing of a Specific Confrontation

I learned recently that I had hurt a friend of mine years ago. I was surprised and immediately contacted her to try to work through the conflict. We had a difficult, but good, conversation and thought we had left reconciled. After a few weeks, I touched base with her again (she lives out of state so I don’t see her regularly) — just to see how we were doing and find out if there was anything further I could do to pursue peace between us.

In our second conversation, she graciously shared with me that as she reflected on the offense and our recent conversation, she realized that she did not feel completely reconciled to me. It turns out that she wishes I had, in our first conversation, specifically confessed some details to her. Sadly, I couldn’t remember the offense well enough to do so! (And generic, “blanket” confessions rarely bring about complete reconciliation.) By God’s grace, we persevered.

I asked her if she would be willing to share the specific hurt so that I could specifically confess to her. It was hard to hear, of course, and to realize the depth of the pain I had caused her. But oh what joy and true reconciliation occurred as I confessed the details, owned the pain I had caused, and asked her please to forgive me. She did!

And yet again, the gospel of Jesus Christ was remembered in this troubled life!

For every time we confess our sins and offenses, receive lavish forgiveness, and relationships are not only restored but strengthened … we remember again how good it is to be reconciled to God.

I can honestly say that every time I think of this friend now, my heart is blessed. I am eager to see her, talk with her, pray with her. Why? Because not only has she forgiven my past offenses, but her grace and mercy gives me confidence that when (wish I could say “if,” but I’m sure “when” is more accurate) I hurt her in the future, instead of running away from me or hating me, I can trust that she will come to me and give me the opportunity to specifically confess so that we can be reconciled.

Our friendship is restored because she lives out Colossians 3:13: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” How grateful I am!

Please Change My Heart

shadow-of-two-women-arguingI’ve been thinking a lot today about just how much I hate conflict. I do! I will never stand in front of anyone and say how “fun” peacemaking is because it isn’t. This past summer, just as we think we might be able to claw ourselves up off of the mat and face one day without abject pain and ongoing strife—BAM!!—-we are knocked to our knees again.

This weekend? Rather than meditating on God’s Word re: blessing, praying for, doing good, etc. etc.? All I wanted to do was pull the blankets up over my head and hide away. Forever.

(Not very peacemaking-y of me, eh?)

But God.

God helps me to see my own heart in the situation. God comforts me by reminding me that I have an inheritance kept in Heaven that can never spoil or perish. But in this life, I am going to have trouble. Guaranteed.

And so I pray: Please God, change my heart. Let me not make an idol out of not being attacked and not being unjustly accused. But let me find my identity through my union with Christ. That way, no matter what my situation; no matter who gossips about me; falsely accuses me; judges and hates me without even knowing me … I will continue to entrust myself to my faithful Creator. And do good.

Of course, I may still need to go to the other person. But now it will not be from the standpoint of, “Let me tell you all of the ways you are wrong, unloving, rude, terrible, etc.” But from the standpoint of, “How can I please the Lord? Trust Him? Repent of my sins? Help to restore the other person? Strive to be at peace with him?”

This is the heartbeat of repentance — godly sorrow that leads to salvation and leaves no regret (2 Cor. 7:10) — and faith — For in Christ Jesus … the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6).

I know that left to my own devices, I am without hope. I will attack when attacked; reject when rejected; hurt when hurt. I will run away from my conflicts in “super-spiritual” ways (“God is calling me to a new job / Bible study / ministry”).

But in Christ? There is hope — even in the worst conflicts. The ones that seem to have no end and no hope. Our “Summer of Suffering” as we are referring to good ol’ 2015. Or maybe, one day, when we can laugh about it (will that day ever come?)  we will call it, “The Summer that Shall Not be Named.” Hmmmmmm.

Let’s close by meditating on God’s very Word:

‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.’ 1 John 4:7-12

When Trust is Gone

This past weekend, the Lord granted me a sweet insight into my troubled heart. After spending time with a remarkable family where I felt completely safe, wanted, and actually even loved, I realized a shocking truth: I had stopped trusting people.

I could hardly believe it, but as soon as the Lord revealed it to me, I knew it was true … deep down, the my heart of hearts, I did not believe that anyone (anyone!) was really trustworthy. I had stopped trusting people.

I came to this insight when I was in an airport, talking to my husband on the cell phone. Fred wisely responded, “Of course, Tara, the answer isn’t to start trusting people again. You know as well as I do that ultimately people will let us down. The answer is to trust in the Lord and love people.”

Of course he was right. 1 Corinthians 13 convicted my heart: love always trusts. And if I was not trusting people then I was failing at the second greatest commandment to love my neighbor as myself. God have mercy on my soul!

I am grateful that God has led me in repentance and is growing my faith in Him.

People hurt us. Christian betray us. We risk with some people because we think that they are mature Christians who will not let us down — and we are horribly mistaken.

Being hurt by Christians is a legitimate reason to persevere in peacemaking and even to grieve. But it is not a legitimate reason to stop trusting. Why? Because we trust in God, not Man.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7

The Pinnacle of Christian Obedience

Today I was humbled yet again by my friend, Samara. Not many people know her because she is a quiet woman who never draws attention to herself and rarely speaks up in a crowd. But oh! If you take the time to just be quiet in her presence and listen to her, you stumble onto a radiant treasure. I love being around her. I love spending time with her adorable daughter. She is a creative, godly, happy woman.

But today? Today I saw again the depth of her godliness. Attacked this week, yet again, by a selfish and immature–arguably mentally ill–person, Samara responded day after day with genuine humility and abiding patience. I wanted to confront this person and tell her to stop hurting my friend! But Samara said no, that wouldn’t be the loving thing to do. So instead, she sought help from our pastor, scheduled a meeting with this person, and set in place a detailed plan with our pastor and deacons to serve this person.

Samara reminded me that love for enemies is the pinnacle of Christian obedience to God. It is easy to love people who love us. But it demands a powerful work of God’s Spirit to love those who are committed to harming us, or those who are simply unlovely. This is the measure and mirror of a Christian (Christ-like) life.

Do you want to know that you are being conformed to Christ? Obeying him? Reflecting him? Consider this: How do you treat your enemies? Those who hurt you?

In Matthew 5:43-48, Christ taught us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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