The Pew Next Door

(Welcome to the second installment of Short&Sweet Scripture! If you missed the Intro, check it out HERE!)

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“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be!”     – James 3:9-10 

 

I wrestled with the right way to start this week’s short and sweet Scripture moment. I love the chance to dip my toes into a little bit of Greek; it’s the reason I chose a degree in theology! I find the biblical languages fascinating; researching etymology, textual comparison with Israel’s contemporaries, learning the world these authors lived in so as to more fully understand the truth they preserved for us today-who knew Bible study could be so Sherlock Holmes!!

I also understand that not everyone shares my nerdy passion. So let me intrigue you with a quick peek at the contrast in this verse between blessing and cursing. Did you know blessing, or praising, is the Greek word eulogeō? Sound familiar? It’s the term from which we draw the English word eulogy. Perhaps this grabbed my attention because I spent yesterday morning in the somber quiet of a funeral home to honor the life of a woman who unexpectedly made her way home to heaven. She was wonderfully complex, difficult to take in at times, but genuinely passionate about sharing her faith. Her eulogy celebrated the imprint of God on her heart and His touch on others through her life. It highlighted her best qualities and quietly covered over the more complicated bits that made her the woman we all knew and loved regardless.

I hope one day others will see His imprint on my heart; I hope they will have been touched by His hand through my life and graciously forgive the messier moments of the memories I leave behind. Sometimes I think it would be fun to sit in on your own funeral, hear the eulogy chronicling the accomplishments of your life, and listen to friends and family share how wonderful you were! So vain, I know!! Pretend with me for a moment, though; imagine the warm, fuzzy feeling of hearing how God used your life for the good in spite of your failures and mistakes. Imagine the Pastor standing up front, encouraging the crowd to follow in your footsteps as a faithful servant and learn from the example of your life…

Imagine that same Pastor sitting down, leaning over to the person next to him, and whispering a little too loudly, “That woman was a saint, but have you met her kids? Rotten to the core. Just downright worthless! What a shame…”

I can see myself bargaining up in heaven with God for a few more moments on Earth just so I could jump out of the coffin and slap that man across the face. How callous! How careless! How dare he sing my praises then turn around and slander the ones I loved the most?!

I’m sure God asks Himself this question. Every Sunday He has a room packed with people to honor His legacy and sing His praises, yet somehow we can’t manage to get along with the ones He loves the most, the ones sitting in the pews beside us. Imagine His heartbreak when we bless Him with hands raised to heaven, then turn around and tear down His kids without missing a beat.

ImageAs a Pastor’s wife I have seen behind the iron curtain of church business; I know how vicious the family of God can be. I know how easy it is to write someone off as rotten to the core and downright worthless. I know how natural is can feel to curse, to kataraomai, the person two pews over.

                 “I hope they get what’s coming to them!”

                 “I hope they get exactly what they deserve.”

Ever said statements like these before? That, my friend, is kataraomai. It’s a natural feeling when you have been unfairly wronged. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it right! The short and sweet of this Scripture reminds us that seeing others through our Maker’s eyes and beholding His beauty despite their brokenness is a choice God calls us too whether we feel like it or not. Loving Him means loving the ones He loves. Even when they’re wrong. Even when we’re right.

This one-liner to live by is a hard one to swallow; it certainly stung this Pastor’s wife heart! Imagine if His people chose to live out anyways. Imagine if we, the church, truly valued the person in the pew next door simply because they are made in the image of the God we are there to worship! Imagine how beautiful our witness would be if we loved God’s family as much as we say we love Him. It starts one by one. Are you willing to let is start with you?

Short & Sweet Scripture

After a stuttered start in the blogosphere, I am eager to launch this series of one-liners to live and love by. I know we live in a crazy busy world, but our hearts need little time-outs like these to reconnect with the Source of our strength! I hope these power-packed truths infuse your day with a little Supernatural inspiration and encourage your heart. May God speak through His Word as we soak it up, short and sweet style!

(Special thanks to my lovely mother who suggested this several months ago; she is a woman whose active faith continually moves me!)

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Short & Sweet Scripture #1:  “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will quiet you by His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Zephaniah 3:17

A friend from college introduced me to the hidden picture in this verse, the picture of a Daddy whose undignified expression of enchantment continually stirs this daughter’s heart. It not only reminds me who He is, but who I am to Him, a reality we ladies often forget! In fact, at a recent women’s devotional during a retreat, we had to earn our princess crown by stating one reason we were special. I have NEVER been in a room full of ladies so instantly silent! I could have named off twenty reasons why the women to my left and right were special, but me? Special? Most of our group genuinely struggled to answer what seemed such a simple question. I love the way this little verse portrays just how special we are!

#1. We are worth fighting for: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior…”

If today you are lacking His felt presence, know He is with you. Right here. Right now. He is your victorious warrior! If you feel too weakened and weary to fight the good fight, lean on His strength. If today the tears of wounds, past or present, burn your eyes or the sorrows of your own messy mistakes weigh you down, know that He is the Protector of your heart, the constant reminder that you are still His cherished and chosen one. If you feel misjudged, like the motives of your heart were twisted by someone else’s mistaken interpretation, know that He is your Defense. Lean into His presence, feel the peace of His protection, and draw strength from the truth that HE is your Victory!

#2.  We are worth rejoicing over: “He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy…”

His heart beats with delight simply because we belong to Him! If today you are feeling a little lonely or unloved, I promise the picture painted here in these two Hebrew terms will lift your spirits and light up that beautiful face with a smile!

The first term, rinnah, represents utter joy unleashed in lyrical melody; its partner, giyl, captures the action of leaping and circular motion. Taken together, the two portray a God who is literally twirling around in Heaven, singing and shouting for joy. Why?

The short and sweet of it is HE LOVES YOU.  He’s so crazy about you He can’t keep His feet from dancing! I rarely picture this happening up in heaven; after all, I know what goes on in my head and heart, and it’s not always something worth singing about. Yet here God is, so in love with His creation, His daughter clothed in purity, white as snow through the blood of the Lamb, that He can’t help Himself. His joy bubbles over into song and dance simply because He has counted us worthy of His delight. Scripture doesn’t get much sweeter than that!

So today, whether your world is a place of contentment or conflict, of peace or of pain, know the truth that God stands with you; He is the Mighty Warrior who loves you too much to keep quiet. He is singing over you; don’t be so busy you miss it! He is asking you to dance with Him, right here and right now; don’t push His hand aside. Remember whose Daughter you are, and know today you are delighted in by the King of Kings and loving Creator of your soul. You are special simply because you are His.

*Stay tuned for more Short & Sweet Scriptures over the next few weeks as a few of our blogging sisters guest post with their favorites as well! Interested in joining in the fun? Send me a note, and let’s chat about it!

UPDATE: Check out the second installment HERE!

Speak less; say more.

My standard approach to conflict resolution resembles a pillow fight. It’s less confrontational, more cushioned, and filled with plenty of fluff to lessen the blows. Verbal pillow fighting requires a special touch. In fact, it’s pretty amazing if you think about it. Not everyone has the ability to hold a conversation while simultaneously measuring potential misunderstandings and weaving in on-the-spot damage control. Not everyone can direct dialogue through a continuous gauging of conversational climate in order to smooth over the slightest ruffling of feathers before anyone’s goose gets cooked. It takes talent to circle talk and spider web your way around some pretty messy stuff and successfully get your message across.

It also takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, and a lot of mental space.

Sometimes I wish I could shut the filtering process off and simply speak my mind.

I admire that about my husband. He is a US Marine to the core and very in touch with his inner drill sergeant. I cried more in the first six months we were married than my entire life, but in the six years since, we’ve taught one another a great deal about communication and conflict resolution! I have proven to be a stubborn learner, but he’s slowly teaching me that being assertive is not the same as being aggressive, nor is being direct the same as dictating. He’s taught me that neither diminishes my womanhood and both can honor my God.

He also taught me that too much cushioning causes as much damage as too little cushioning. No-one wants to spend a second round in the ring because you wasted the first one dancing around the truth.

Saying the hard things with so much filler that my message is lost in the fluff is a deeply in-grained habit. The decision to speak less and say more will require plenty of practice, but I’m already experiencing the freedom it brings. It frees me from the pressure of finding the ever-elusive perfect words and perfect way in which to share and the impossible burden of preventing every potential misinterpretation. It frees me to trust God’s ability to speak through me and leave the results in His caring and capable hands. It frees me to trust others to hear what I say through the lens of who I am, and have a little faith in who they are too.

Sometimes a situation demands something a little more straightforward than a pillow fight approach; sometimes a situation requires me to choose the assertive route instead of avoiding the potential fallout. After all, no matter how pretty our words or pleasant our tone, speaking the truth in love still hurts. It hurts the one who hears it. It hurts the one who says it. It’s why too many of us prefer to turn a blind eye than engage the elephant in the room.  

Whether it’s a coworker or boss, a sibling or spouse, a classmate, church member, or friend, I encourage you to value yourself and your relationship enough to confront and resolve the issues at hand. We need every person God places in our lives; let’s not lose them for fear of risking their reaction. Trust your God to lead you, and leave their response in His hands.

Speak less, say more, and leave your pillows at home.

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“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”  -Ephesians 4:15

‘Till Death – Chapter 4 Excerpt

“Kind.  There is a profound beauty tucked into this tiny, four-letter word.  The kindness Paul speaks of goes far beyond mere niceness and pleasantness.  In fact, I was completely awestruck as I discovered the powerful implications Paul incorporated into his use of the word; the deeper I dug in my study, the more obvious it became that he didn’t simply dust off his college thesaurus, look up a list of synonyms for love, and randomly toss the first few together to make a point.  Instead he intentionally picked and positioned the virtues in such a way as to weave each one to the next, taking this crazy little thing called love and dissecting it for us one layer at a time.

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Let’s start by looking at the more frequently used term for kindness in the Greek world Paul called home. Philanthropia, from which we get the English word “philanthropy”, has a broad sense of friendly relation.  Scripture uses the term in Acts 27:3 when the centurion who was escorting Paul as a prisoner to Rome allowed him to visit his friends at port in Sidon.  His friends were then able to take care of his needs and assist him on his way.  Later during his journey to Rome, Paul’s ship wrecked on the island of Malta; when the islanders built a fire for them, welcoming them in from the rain and cold, they met a very real need.  Acts 28:2 refers to this hospitality and assistance as philanthropia kindness.

We see this humanitarian spirit at work in the secular world all the time.  For example, our government supports the Peace Corps, a national group whose purpose is to meet the needs of others with their time, their energy, and their passion.  They build water systems for poverty-stricken tribes and organize educational efforts for remote villages.  They give of themselves on a daily basis for the sake of those less fortunate. We see this close to home on a smaller scale with canned food drives, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and so forth.

When Paul penned the First Corinthians passage on love, he didn’t settle for the best of mankind; he didn’t settle for philanthropia.  Instead he chose chresteuomai.  Though chresteuomai carries the same humanitarian connotations, it also happens to be the term he repeatedly used throughout the New Testament in direct connection with the kindness of God as specifically manifested in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ. Here we find the distinct difference we were searching for!

Christ understood chresteuomai; he understood our need and took it upon himself to meet that need.  At its bare bones, this is what kindness is: knowing anothers need and helping to fulfill that need.  Christ already met the deepest need of our heart; He called us His own, wrapped us tight in His arms, and whispered His love to us, a love that led Him to a sacrificial payment for our sins, our transgressions.  In Him we are safe, we are secure, and we are wanted and delighted in, not only in the present, but for all of eternity.  This is the breadth of kindness Paul wants us to understand!  It is no less than the kindness we experienced when a perfect man gave His perfect life on the chance that we would return His love.

When we sacrifice for the sake of meeting our husband’s need, whether we sacrifice our plan for the day or our plan for the future, we love him with chresteuomai.  Imagine our Heavenly Father’s joy at seeing us extend to another the beauty of kindness He first extended to us!  When we live chresteuomai, we are choosing, consciously and intentionally, to love our husbands regardless of how we feel or what we feel.  We are making the effort to make sure that the man we promised our eternal devotion to has no doubt as to the depth of our love.

Unfortunately identifying our husband’s needs can be quite the challenge!  I don’t know about yours, but my husband rarely actually announces his need.  Usually they come masqueraded as a question and I often miss them. I remember the first time I missed a disguised request…”

*Want to read more? Look for the full version release soon or check out the previous chapter’s excerpt here.

**Food4Thought Sample Question:  “How does your husband communicate his needs to you? Are there ways you can learn to better ‘decode’ his needs?”

Just one of those days (again)

My screen door is open so I can make sure the laughter outside doesn’t turn into arguing, crying or–worst case scenario–silence. I’m sure I’ll join my kids shortly but for the moment my unprocessed perspectives are beginning to pile up and I’m in desperate need of a post!

Its just been one of those days. Again. I’m handling it better than I was this morning, and I credit that to last night’s small group bible study. We are walking verse-by-verse through James, and my heart was so blessed with the reminder that God is always working with a purpose, even on days like these. On days like these when we face one man-made discouragement after another, one complicated crisis after another, He is at work. On days like these when we fail to handle said discouragements and drama in any kind of appropriate way, He is still at work.

These are the days we see the worst in others and react with the worst of ourselves. These are the days we wish for a time machine, a minor case of amnesia, or some magical ability to abra-cadabra the day and have it simply…disappear.

These are also the days I have a reason to choose joy. After all, these are the days that really count.These are the days that growth happens. These are the days the sweet presence of our Father means the most. These are the days that separate the earthly things from the eternal things. These are the days I can count it all joy, not because I handle every aspect of being a foster mom and pastor’s wife in such a super-spiritual, super-smooth way.  Not because I’ve just checked out and no longer care. Not at all!

I can count it all joy because I know this is exactly the kind of no good, horribly bad, downright crappy kind of day necessary to produce the endurance that completes the work so I may be “mature and complete lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

And trust me, these are definitely the days that remind us how helpful a little more maturity could be!!

Some day I won’t have days like these. Some day I’ll sit down to jot a quick post with the breeze carrying the sound of my kiddos laughter, just laughter, through every open window. Some day I won’t have to restart the post after the interruption of imaginary play gone wrong because my foster first-graders have finally learned a version of house that doesn’t end with one of them kicking the other out to live with someone, anyone, else. Some day listening to them “play” won’t break my heart.

Some day I will get to see the Bride of Christ in all her beauty without the imperfections of our humanness. Some day my Pastor husband will not have to handle crisis after crisis after crisis. Some day gossip will give it a rest and miscommunications won’t unhinge the potential awesomeness amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. Some day we will see exactly what God’s plan for HIS body looks like on the other side of our well-intentioned but messy merger! Some day we will look in awe at what HE is going to do through THIS church in THIS community! It will be glorious!

Some day I won’t have to suffer the trials of broken children or broken churches because I will be consumed with the celebration of the work that came to completion through days just like this one. That’s the reality of grace, and its our reason for joy. God can use every moment of days like these for GOOD. It’s kind of His specialty! It doesn’t make days like today less painful or wearying. It just puts them in perspective.

Some days a little perspective can make all the difference.

 

James 1:2-4 “Count is all joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

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Legacy Leavers (The Movement)

Legacy. It has got to be one of the most coveted and concerning words in the dictionary. We want desperately to leave a lasting legacy, but we often worry from time to time if we are doing or being enough. I worried myself through four different paragraphs of explanation just now before erasing them and coming back to the simple point of this post! Legacies are not born in major life moments; they are built by daily decisions to love our God.

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It is easy to get caught up in trying to make it big in this world, to inspire others with ingenious and original ideas, to blow up the blogosphere with our witty style and perfect pick of words, to impact people around the world as an award-winning author or raise perfect children who grow up to be Presidents and one day achieve world peace. I hope I’m not the only one who wrestles with the God-honoring ambitions stirring in my heart and the reality that my time is already monopolized by pudgy little faces constantly needing fed and cleaned and entertained. Perhaps I will feel differently in a different season, but for now I find great comfort in knowing that what God desires most from me is to love Him with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind and teach His ways to my children in the simple moments of daily life.  

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“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”  Deut. 6:5-7

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This verse launched the Legacy Movement which is only in its beginning but already bearing fruit. It is a passion of my husband’s heart that I am so happy to support. For those of you familiar with this blog, you know the limbo land we have been living in for the past few months, but wherever God leads us, the Legacy Movement moves with us. It is not limited to our current community and church, though I pray it is increasingly embraced by our current community and church! It is a movement that challenges whether or not we are living a legacy worth leaving. It challenges the ways in which we might measure our answer to that question and reminds us that it is never too late to turn a new leaf.

My husband is not perfect, but he is perfect proof that God’s transforming power is still at work today. God alone turned that man from persecutor of the church to pastor of the church from misguided to mission-minded. God is helping His people turn over new leaves all around our country! He is turning a mom from critical tendencies to compassionate tenderness, a woman from worrisome fears to wondrous freedom, and several children from twisted beginnings to total beauty. It’s happening as we commit ourselves to turn our focus from looking towards the next big thing to living legacies on a daily basis, right here, right now.

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This pinterest-inspired picture showcasing the hand prints of our children hangs in my husband’s office as a constant reminder that this is where his legacy lives. He serves in big ways and wears many hats in our church and community, but this is where his heart is and I love him for that.

I believe God stirs ambitions in many different ways, but for this season in the Fairchild family He is renewing our simplistic focus of being legacy leavers in the Deuteronomy way. As we sit at home with our children and as we walk along the road, in these most ordinary moments of daily life we are building a legacy for the kids God has graciously blessed us with, and that excitement is proving contagious! Can I challenge you to consider joining the movement? Check it out here and make today the day you choose to set aside this world’s version of legacy and embrace the Deuteronomy truth: Love God fully, teach His ways in the simple moments of daily life, and leave the rest in His hands.

 

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http://www.legacyleaver.org

Much Ado about Missions: Holidays and a Higher Purpose

I’m so excited you are joining our “Much Ado about Missions” series! If you missed our introductory post check it out here and browse through the previous few posts via links at the bottom. This week we turn our focus from missions within the home to missions in our community and beyond! I am so excited to share a few favorites that have grown into highly anticipated holiday traditions!

ImageWhy Holidays? There are so many wonderful options and resources for experiencing missions in your community every day of the year. Oftentimes our busy schedules overrule our good intentions, however, so making it a point to mix a little missions into your holiday traditions helps add accountability. It’s a habit I’m still in the process of practicing so please share your holiday ideas!!

1. City Mission Christmas:  This is a special one for our family for sure. After all, my husband and I were in the midst of helping with a Christmas party at a local soup kitchen when our phone rang and changed our world with an adoption match! One year later we volunteered to organize a Christmas morning breakfast at the city mission and bundled up our chubby little six month old adoption miracle boy to do his part in serving up smiles! This tradition is three years strong now and we are happily engaging our growing family in the fun!

Image2. Valentines Day Officer Outreach: Another favorite of our family is to bake up a storm to serve our officers and inmates at the local jail. We want our officers to know they are appreciated and prayed for and we want inmates to know they are remembered by a God whose grace is deep with forgiveness and unfailing love. (We do this a few other times a year as well. Possibilities are endless with red, white, and blue cupcakes or sugar cookies for Independence Day, green for St. Patrick’s, ect!)

Image3. Fireworks & Franks: The fourth of July is a great family day! Why not add a little family outreach time by setting up a tailgate party for others at the local fireworks hangout?! Hot dogs are crazy cheap and with a little coupon magic you can find them for almost free. Involve a few families or church friends to help or just pitch in some buns or little bags of chips. (Can’t you just picture your kids with a tray of food calling out, “Chips and dogs! Get your free chips and dogs! Jesus loves you! Have a hot dog!”) Many churches host outreach events to draw in the community, but this is one time your community is already gathered! Make the most of it and spread a little Jesus love…in a bun!

You can create your own holiday traditions to mix in a mission experience by making the most of your unique community connections. My husband is a chaplain so officer and inmate outreach made sense. Maybe you host an Easter egg hunt for your little girl’s ballet class or your son’s boy scout troop and share the Easter story. Maybe you work with your church to host a community Thanksgiving feast and your kids provide music or theatrical entertainment if that’s their passion. You don’t have to look far to bring a higher purpose to holiday and add a little ‘missional’ flavor to the fun!

ImageCatch our previous posts in the “Much Ado about Missions” series by checking in with Jen at Being Confident of This and Angie over at My Four Monkeys or just follow the links below!

1. 8 Resources for Teaching Missions – thanks to Jen!

2. Missional M&Ms – right here at Love Notes!

3. Teaching Missions with Crafts – thanks to Angie!

4. The Experience – thanks to Jen again!