Happily Ever After

The story of Jesus guarantees how your story will end.

Paul David Tripp, Journey to the Cross, Day 33

I have to admit that the last post left me feeling very unsatisfied, but evidently Dr. Tripp felt the same and comes back to the topic today. We looked last time at how our biggest issue is that we are satisfied with that which we should be dissatisfied. Today Dr. Tripp talks about how we will never be satisfied by “temporal human happiness”. It’s unsettling to me that we are guaranteed to be in a place of constant dissatisfaction, yet I know it full well, because I work with students with learning disabilities. ALL my students struggle. EVERY one of them has some obstacle to overcome to survive in school. I’m tempted to feel sorry for them, me, us because it looks like others don’t have these obstacles to fight through to get an education, but then I read on page 191:

There will be chapters in the story that God has written for us that will be very hard. But we must remember two things. First, he has written himself into the story so that he will always be with us, giving us what we could never give to ourselves. Second, what your Lord has written for you is not less than the plot you have written for yourself, but infinitely more.

Paul David Tripp, Journey to the Cross, p 191

I think I want the struggles I face to go away. I wish these kids obstacles to education could be removed. But I forget that these struggles we face are part of our God-authored story. They are what will form us. They are temporary. These kids won’t be in school forever, they do go on to live healthy, productive, even wonderful lives, but more importantly, “God doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your temporary dream; what he guarantees you is forever” (p 190).

So if you find yourself uncomfortable with where you are, or as Dr. Tripp says, dissatisfied, you are right where you are supposed to be! We are supposed to be satisfied with eternity. We are supposed to be dissatisfied with this temporal place. What does a dissatisfied life look like? I think it looks like facing the struggles of today, knowing that there are hard lessons to learn, BUT we know the story has a happy ending and can face each day hopeful!

Pay attention

You can’t repent of what you haven’t confessed, you can’t confess what you haven’t grieved, and you can’t grieve what you haven’t seen.

Paul David Tripp, Journey to the Cross, Day 30

On Day 26 Dr. Tripp talks about how he believes that “satisfaction is a much bigger problem than dissatisfaction” (pg 150) in our lives. I struggle with putting that into perspective with Paul’s words when he says, “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be┬ácontent” (Philippians 4:11). How do we balance this satisfaction with contentment? I started with the dictionary. According to dictionary.com satisfaction comes from meeting expectations, while content means peaceful happiness. Therefore, Dr. Tripp is talking about sin in our lives with which we have become complacent about. We become too comfortable with sin we should be confessing and grieving. But we can’t grieve that which we don’t see. I can’t confess that I’ve hurt your feelings if I’m oblivious to it. I’ll make excuses rather than accept responsibility. But while Dr. Tripp is calling us to be dissatisfied with the sin we refuse to see in ourselves, Paul is calling us to be content with that which we cannot change. Dissatisfaction leads to change, we will not change that which we are satisfied with as that implies that we are done, but I can be content with where I am without being satisfied. I need to be content with my salvation, knowing I am loved by God yet pay attention and be dissatisfied with my sinfulness–see it, grieve, confess it and do better. I can’t sit her content with my sin, because I know it separates me from God. I can’t hate on myself because I am a sinner because I am made in the image of God. Therefore, balance is again the answer. Because I am made in the image of God, my sins are forgiven and I want to honor that image by doing better. I can’t walk away unchanged.

There are several areas in my life I need to be dissatisfied with! I need to see them with eyes anew, grieve them and confess them while being content that I am a child of God sins and all.

What do you think?

Spring Break Edition

I wanted to continue staff devotions over Spring Break, but… last week, no this month, well probably the last year has left me drained physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. A school year has never left me so drained. I’m always surrounded by students with struggles and challenges, but this year it’s so many kids in literal crisis, dealing with issues no child should face, issues robbing them of childhood itself. It’s overwhelming, it’s out of control, it’s exhausting and very worst of all I CAN’T FIX IT!!! It isn’t going to be resolved this period, this day, this week or even this year. The load is heavy, I’m beginning to feel crushed, overwhelmed and defeated. To add to this overwhelming blow, there are family crises, the devastating loss of my cousin to COVID, the toll of confinement on the immunologically fragile, issues at work that shake the very foundation of who you are and who you thought you’d be professionally. “Happy Spring Break” falls hard on a broken exhausted soul.

Then today, I read Day 25 of Journey to the Cross and realized it is no accident that our Spring Break falls smack dab in the middle of Lent. It occurred to me as I read Dr. Tripp’s words, “The season of Lent is about offering yourself to God in new and deeper ways. It’s about submission and deeper devotion.” I realize in my life I can’t fix my students, I can’t make life easier for my biological children, I can’t extinguish the hurt of my friends and family. I CAN’T DO IT–therefore I must surrender to one who can, who knows, who sees. So I broke down the paragraph on page 144 about Lent and replaced it with Spring Break. So what if it looked like this:

  • Spring break is offering yourself to God in new or deeper ways.
  • Spring break is about submission and deeper devotion.
  • Spring break is about mourning the ways your heart has wondered.
  • Spring break is about confessing the hold the world still has on you or the places you’ve succumbed to temptation’s draw.
  • Spring break is about identifying places in the heart where you need to give yourself more fully to God.
  • Spring break is important because we need to examine our hearts, our lives, our relationships, and our daily decisions to see where God is calling you to give something up or take something up in devotion to him.
  • Spring break is about recommitting to self-sacrifice as we pursue the one who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
  • Spring break isn’t a formal season or temporary escape from reality, but rather an opportunity to address things in your life that need to be addressed but that get lost in the busyness and distraction of everything else you’re doing.
  • Spring break is not about you, what you are doing or committing to God, but about what he has done and is doing for you.

My prayer for you is that regardless of where Spring Break takes you this year, whether it is the exhilaration of the trip of a lifetime or the drudgery of what continues to burden and pull us down, may you know afresh: “It is God’s generosity that is primary and transformative, not ours. We love because he first loved us. We give because he first gave to us. We lay down our lives because he first laid down his. We are willing to suffer for his sake because he first suffered for us. We obey because in his obedience we are given hope. We fight temptation because he fought it and defeated it on our behalf. We are willing to humble ourselves and serve because he left the splendor of eternity, humbled himself, and served up to and through the point of death…He is the ultimate giver. No matter how great our sacrifices or how much we give, we will never give to him the magnitude of what he has given us” (p 145).

Spring Break 2021 — may you be a breathe of fresh air to the tired and weary world.

Have mercy on me…

You and I have three problems that only the Redeemer has the power and willingness to solve.

Paul Tripp Journey to the Cross, Day 19

I should be writing about Day 20, today, but I don’t like that day. It’s message is “Gratitude silences complaint.” Ugh–I do not want to hear that. So instead I’m going back to Day 19 to look at the three problems we have with sin. My memory verse for this month is:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquity; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah 53:5

I’m doing the Dwell Differently Memory Verses with a student. You get a verse every month that is cleverly designed with a graphic that includes the first letter of every word of the verse. Looking at it helps you memorize the verse and it is crazy how easy it makes scripture memory! In talking about this verse I had to look up the word ‘iniquity’ to explain it to my student. Then BAM! there is that same word in Journey to the Cross. We talk so much about sin that we become callous toward it. We know we all sin. We know we can’t avoid its pitfalls. And confession becomes our mumbling, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” all the while knowing I’ve totally failed at forgiving!!

But Pastor Tripp helped me more sincerely confess my sin by looking at the multi-dimensionality of my sin, which is “something deep inside us that makes us susceptible to temptation’s draw and that weakens us in our battle with sin” (p 113) Lord help–my spirit of rebellion is strong!! But there is something even deeper that causes my rebellion, despite my best intentions–I’m inwardly impure. Then, on top of all that I have those specific moments of weakness and failure. It all leaves me feeling pretty depressed and defeated, but that’s the point. I can’t dig out of this hole on my own. I am utterly dependent on the grace of God. Day 17 asked us to set a timer and confess for 15 minutes–that’s a long time when I’m just glossing over the word and think I need to list all my sins–nobody wants to make that list! But today, as I contemplate this multidimensional aspect of my sin, suddenly 15 minutes flies by, I’m overwhelmed by how sinful I am and instantaneously comforted by the grace that saves me!

Shine or Whine

The story of our redemption is historical proof of the unstoppable sovereignty of God.

Paul Tripp Journey to the Cross Day 18.

Some of us might have control issues! Pastor Tripp in day 18 encourages us to stop during the Lenten season and acknowledge that we aren’t in control and that’s okay. Many things surprise us and remind us we aren’t in control. What does the way you handle life’s surprises say about our faith? Surprise parties are fun to plan, keeping secrets can be fun, but when tragedy surprises us it’s a whole other issue. But what shouldn’t be surprising is that nothing surprises God. He knows we live in a sinful fallen world. He knows that we all fall short of His glory. He knows we need grace and forgiveness.

Christ’s march to the cross reinforces for us that our rest and hope are not in our knowing, but in his ruling. The God who knows no surprises will surprise us again. But it is okay, because what we don’t know, he knows; what we can’t control, he controls, and because he does, we live with mystery and surprise and not be afraid (p 107).

Paul Tripp Journey to the Cross.

When life surprises us, we have to remember that it wasn’t a surprise to God. He’s not scratching his head wondering why that happened. I learned in GriefShare that no one comes to the end of their days and God is surprised. He’s not surprised by my stupid mistakes and decisions. I heard on the radio on my way home a principal that had encouraged his staff,

When life is hard, we can either

Rise and Shine or

Rise and Whine.

When life surprises you, and it will, you have a choice to make. It may in fact knock your feet out from under you, but the decision is yours alone to rise and yours alone to shine or whine. Understanding the sovereignty of God is the first step in letting go and learning to shine with His light from within, no matter the circumstances.

It’s good to be poor!

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3

Paul Tripp calls us to file for bankruptcy in day 7 of Journey to the Cross. I love this analogy, it was a realization that really spoke to me. I had a conversation this very morning where a co-worker and I were talking about someone who was just the sweetest person, seriously we could find no fault in them. Reading this Lenten Devotion I realized that I am so brutally aware of my own shortcomings and some particularly annoying individuals I have to deal that I’ve completely missed the point that not even one of us is righteous. One of my favorite CTCS teachers, Mrs. Kuhl used to do this illustration on her chalkboard where she had the kids rank sins in order of severity. Some could even be bigger than others. She marked the sins in order on the bottom left hand corner. Everyone could agree that some sins seemed bigger than others when you focused on the sins, but when you step back and look at the entire board which represents how great God is, does it really matter the order of those sins? No, they differences seem miniscule in comparison to the enormity of the board. Suddenly the sins are just a chalky blob in the corner. Since none of us can say that we are sinless, we have to acknowledge that we’re all the same. Down here in the corner, you may look like you are ahead of me, better or worse, but from an eternal perspective, we’re all down here in the chalkiness.

In reading about Malcolm X’s life and his draw to the Nation of Islam, he talked about how slaves equated Christianity with the concept that some people waited until death for glory yet they could see others had it pretty ‘heavenly’ on earth. It was the belief that blacks were to serve their master while on earth and wait for their reward in heaven, while the white master seemed to be well rewarded here on earth. The world is still filled with haves and have nots. I don’t have to look very far at all to find someone who has it better than me or someone who has it worse. BUT REALLY WE ARE ALL BANKRUPT! If you were facing financial bankruptcy, you’d be panicked — desperate for resolution. We need to quit seeing ourselves as rich, more importantly I think, we have to quit seeing others as rich and live with anticipation knowing that, blessed are, which, in fact means, blessed am I who is functioning in a broken, fallen world. But my brokenness causes me to, like the child who doesn’t know the way, reach up and take their daddy’s hand. Blessed are those who keep grasping for the hand of a loving Savior. (The beatitudes in the PSV)

Lent

I stole this image from my favorite Austin cookie maker, Hayley Cakes and Cookies. I love her cookies and creativity, but this one really struck a chord with me. Yesterday was hard. My students are stressed out! A kid in my room yesterday said, “My mom is mad at me, I can’t do anything right.” and three other kids chimed in and said, “Me, too!”. This is not a criticism of parenting but rather an indicator of the stress our families are under. Kids are struggling picking up where they left off eleven days ago. Their parents are stressed about missed work, empty shelves at the grocery store, the water supply, so much time together without the things we’ve come to rely on to release stress (music, video games, solitude) not even considering those who sustained property damage. Usually snow days in Texas are fun, make an ugly grassy “snowman”, enjoy a day off but this was not that, our faith in this creation we serve was shattered and is only compounded by what we have been through because of stinking COVID. I left fried yesterday and it was only Monday, and I didn’t go home to kids with homework, and I didn’t go home to storm damage (I did go home to a little dog damage, but that’s not unusual) and most importantly I’m not a kid!

But Lent!

Lent is an important tool in the inescapable battle that rages in all our hearts between worship and service of the Creator and worship and service of the creation. Lent calls us to remember once again that sin reduces us all to idolaters somehow, someway. It gives us a season to take time and reflect on things that have taken too strong a hold on us, things that we have come to crave too strongly and love too dearly. It reminds us that often things that we are holding tightly have actually taken an even tighter hold us (p 30).

Paul Tripp, Journey to the Cross

Lent begs us to pause and man oh man do we need a pause about now! Day six of Journey to the Cross challenges us to focus on death and all the ways that Christ calls us to die to ourselves.. “We are called to die to that life where we did what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it, and how we wanted to do it. We are called to die to setting our own rule and living however we please” (p 42). This dying to ourselves doesn’t just happen, everything in us screams for control, comfort, relief. Death is ugly but it brings mourning and mourning brings healing. Lent calls us to consider, even while we live in a time that our consideration seems to have been stripped away from us, that sin tightly grips us and we need a Savior. And in that Savior, we find healing and hope. While we’ve lost much of our illusion of control without time to psyche ourselves up to deal with it or prepare, we have a small window of 40 days to stop and consider and prepare to celebrate again our resurrected Savior! To look beyond the current state of creation, your own life and consider: What areas need to die to make room for greater, more abundant life in Christ?

Well that didn’t go as expected!!

I had a long post ready to go for Tuesday, February 16, which was Fat Tuesday, the day before we Christian’s kick off Lent. But then we had the Polar Vortex accost Texas and we were left frozen in time, literally. If you’ve spoken to me since September of 2016, you have undoubtedly heard me say that the brains of this organization have died. Some have argued, but again, February 2021, this rings true again. I did go to the store and make sure we had food and water. But alas, we have a gas grill and two empty propane tanks, who needs propane until summer? I have a fireplace, but it is filled with lovely decorative items, has never been used and of course, I have no fire wood! I don’t like candles, I hate that smoky smell when you blow them out, I think it ruins any good they may have created. While I do for some reason have one candle, the lighter is across the frozen patio on the grill and still it will have to be blown out at some point, not to even mention how would I get a shoe on my foot with three pairs of socks! I personally was without power for 107 long grueling hours only to come out of it with the stomach bug, which could have been just the good old bug, the fact that we were under a boil order or we relied on the front porch for refrigeration. It has been a shitty experience!

I like meme’s way more than news ^ that was my favorite!

I do realize it could have been much much worse. But I learned a few things about myself that are particularly poignant as we begin Lent 2021. I had read the introduction to Paul Tripp’s Journey to the Cross before Snovid/Snowpocalpyse/Snowmageddon 2021 and I thought oh yeah! I got this, I can mourn, but I learned through the 107 powerless hours, I dOn’T gOt ThIs! I’m good when things are good, I’m good when things are temporarily not good, but 107 hours come on!! Thursday morning we were done, the dogs had been confined WAY too much, we were cold, we were hungry, and long out of words. We begrudgingly got up and continued our Monopoly game despite the fact we really could have not cared less. We played until we were so cold we needed to cover up and warm up again. I lay there with my eyes closed, because why stare at the ceiling any longer. I was jealous that people around me had power. I asked why can’t we have power? I’ve submitted to your will? I’ve been patient and upbeat! Long after having been so thankful we had water through it all, that I had Paxton here, I had books to read and games to play, but that truly only sustained me for about 48ish hours, I could no longer,

my optimism gave way to full on self pity and the stupid dogs still had to eat and go out and really resented not getting to be outside longer. And then I recalled Paul Tripp’s words:

Silence your inner lawyer and all the self-defending arguments for your righteousness. Quit relieving your guilt by pointing the finger of blame at someone else. And stop telling yourself in the middle of the sermon that you know someone who really needs to hear it. (p. 14)

It does rain (or pelt) on the just and the unjust. Electricity is provided to all and evidently ERCOT gives and ERCOT takes away. I REALLY need to “stop, consider, mourn, confess, pray, and give [my] heart to thanksgiving.” I had been forced to step away and consider and when I did, it revealed, Oh! how I have sin to mourn and how desperately I need a Savior!

I’m laying there with my eyes closed feeling like I had so flunked this minor test … and then I heard a click … my eyes popped open .. my head popped up … and Paxton and I stared wide eyed at each other across the room as we realized, power had been restored!!! As soon as we processed the miracle of electricity, I jumped up and started the tea kettle. We were soon sitting wrapped in our blankets, sipping hot tea as the though our every burden had been removed. Internet was hours behind, but we didn’t care, we could drink hot beverages and eat hot food.

So now I really feel like my heart is prepared to spend these forty days sitting under the shadow of the cross of Jesus Christ:

  • where sin doesn’t surprise us anymore
  • where sin doesn’t depress us anymore, and doesn’t move us to deny or defend
  • where we can remember who we are and what we are dealing with
  • where we are required to admit that the greatest enemy we face is not difficulty or maltreatment from without, but the enemy of sin within
  • where we quit pointing fingers and begin crying for help
  • where we are reminded that we are not in this battle alone; in face, there we admit we have no power whatsoever to battle on our own
  • where we get our sanity back, admitting who we are and what it is that we so desperately need
  • to a place of peace and protection that can be found nowhere else (p 18)

Sarah Sewell and I bought Journey to the Cross books for staff members, I have a few extras if anyone is interested in one. If you left your book at school or your life fell apart last week, it’s not too late to jump in. Lent gives us Sunday’s off. Monday, February 22, 2021 you should be on Day 5, you can start there, start on Day 1 and we’ll all finish at the same spot or it really is not the worst thing to not be finished by Easter. The process is powerful regardless of the calendar!

I look forward to a little normal on Monday!