• Posted on June 29, 2012

The Art of Being Threshed

 

I know nothing about farming or planting or plowing or tilling (that’s a thing, right?). I know I love irises and roses are okay. I know I use cumin in Amber’s guacamole recipe and I think there’s some wheat in the bread on my sandwich, but that’s about all I’ve got with plants and crops and such.

Probably this is why I never paid much attention to Isaiah 28:24-29 until this past week when God guided my focus to it:

“Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting? Does he not finally plant his seeds–black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat–each in its proper way, and each in its proper place? …A heavy sledge is never used to thresh black cumin; rather, it is beaten with a light stick. A threshing wheel is never rolled on cumin; instead, it is beaten lightly with a flail. Grain for bread is easily crushed, so he doesn’t keep on pounding it. He threshes it under the wheels of a cart, but he doesn’t pulverize it. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom.”

This time God stopped me and pointed out several key ideas in the passage:

1. God knows how we need to be threshed. A farmer would know, courtesy of God, how to handle each seed. He would know where to plant it, in just the right time and place, for maximum growth. He would know how to cultivate it for the greatest possible return. Like a good farmer, God knows how to plant us. He knows where to plant us and in what time to plant us. We can rest in knowing if we’re here in 2012 it’s because God wanted us to be alive here in 2012. He also knows how to cultivate us and thresh us for the greatest possible return. He knows when we will be tried and tested and broken, and he knows how that cultivation will grow us for him.

2. Threshing doesn’t always feel very good. Several times since walking with Christ, I’ve hit major roadblocks. I’m talking about specific moments amidst life-changing events when I had to consciously decide whether I was going to let God take over or keep trying on my own. Times like those, the threshing hurts. It feels like he’s pulverizing me or pounding me and crushing me under the weight of the world. But all along, he knows exactly how much weight and what method of cultivation I need at just that moment to strengthen my faith in him.

3. God knows how others need to be threshed. God may use a heavy sledge on me when he’s using a light stick on you. He may roll the threshing wheel on you while taking it easy on me. He may show mercy to me while he’s chastising you, and he may stop me while he allows you to move freely forward. In moments like the roadblocks mentioned above it’s hard not to look at others’ lives and be envious or angry or even smug. But who is the wheat to ask the farmer why he’s not threshing it the way he threshes the cumin?

4. Threshing is necessary. The process of threshing is to remove the necessary and useful part of the seed from the no longer useful covering and other parts of the seed. As long as we’re on this earth, we’re going to have some unnecessary parts and distractions that need to be pulled away from us so we can focus on God. This isn’t the only time God’s people are compared to crops in the Bible. Remember the slightly more famous analogy in Matthew 3:12? “He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork.” God is constantly threshing us, constantly separating us from the chaff and pulling away sins and distractions in our lives so we can grow stronger in him.

How has God threshed you recently? How has God’s threshing caused you pain? How has God’s threshing brought you joy?

  • Posted on June 26, 2012

Work, Struggle, Rinse, Repeat

 

When things start falling apart or wilting in my life, I get a little obsessive Rain Man-10-minutes-to-Wapner-like in my head with one verse in particular. You can find it in 1 Timothy 4:10: “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”

Unfortunately the part of the verse that loops endlessly in my mind is the first part, and I end up coaching myself with, “work hard and continue to struggle, work hard and continue to struggle.” It’s a mantra to drive myself to take the next step and the next step. That’s great, right?

Not really. All of the verse is powerful, but if I’m going to focus on a small part, I’m focusing on the wrong small part. The part I should recite to myself is, “OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD, OUR HOPE IS IN THE LIVING GOD.” (All caps, because I literally want to yell it, I get so excited.)

If I batten down the hatches and white knuckle the issue while reciting “work hard and continue to struggle,” my hope is not in the Living God. My hope is in me. My hope is that I can grit my teeth and make it through the situation with enough determination and recitation. My hope is that hard work will pull me through. My hope is that I’m strong enough, or determined enough, or can-outlast-the-enemy enough to survive.

Living a Christian life isn’t easy. It does require hard work and struggles, and we can’t downplay that. The Greek for “work hard” in this case means to toil to the point of exhaustion. And “continue to struggle” refers to warfare or intense athletic contest with a strong adversary.

But this adversary isn’t a situation or a person or a minor inconvenience or a bad habit. The adversary is Satan. And he waits until we’ve toiled until the point of exhaustion and he attacks. He engages us in very real, very serious warfare.

It’s foolish to think a girl like me who whines for her husband to kill the cockroach in the bathtub could fare well against an adversary like the devil, even with gritted teeth and set jaw and a memory verse stuck in her head.

Praise Jesus that at the end of the day, my ability to work hard and struggle through each obstacle will not be my Savior. Praise God that he, the Living God, is the Savior for me and for all people.

Where is your hope? How has God taught you to put your hope in him?

  • Posted on June 22, 2012

Why I Created A Facebook Page (and Woke Up the Blog)

 

To preemptively expel any backlash, I feel compelled to state this up front:

I created a Facebook page for Rebecca, etc. because I read a book. It’s called Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. It’s by a gentleman named Michael Hyatt, who is an expert on what it takes to become a successful writer or, well, successful anything. The book is an invaluable resource for someone like me who has a vision to be heard.

In my case I already have one book almost ready for publication and several others in the works. These days, as Michael Hyatt points out, simply writing well isn’t enough. To be successful, writers are required to have a platform of people who are interested in what they’re saying before they’ll get published. (Same for musicians, artists, inventors, and just about every other creative vocation imaginable.)

Thus, I’ve woken up my hibernating blog with a fresh new design. I’ve tweaked my Twitter theme to match. I’ve rewritten my About page, added Credits, posted a Comments policy, and basically refreshed, renewed, and recreated just about everything. And I still have a long way to go.

Personally I think my writing and my identity go hand-in-hand, but I know many people don’t view me that way. Not everyone on my Facebook friends list will want to see a couple new R, etc. blogs show up in their feed each week. Ideally it would be great if all 800+ people were interested in my writing and salivating with anticipation over upcoming books, but I know that’s not realistic.

I am also aware that not everyone who likes, enjoys, or is encouraged by my writing will want to be my Facebook friend. They’d rather Like the page and go on about their days.

The new Facebook page (at facebook.com/rebeccaetcpage) will provide readers with new blog info, updates on current book-length writings in progress, info on current Bible studies and devotional groups, and any other information I find insightful and/or related to my main blogging focus.

Lest someone say it first, creating an official Facebook page for my writing isn’t about pride or an ego boost (and will likely end up deflating my ego in the long run). I don’t think I’m better, wiser, or whatever-other-superlative-er than others. But I do agree with Colossians 3:16, which encourages us to “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” I’m not so good on that singing psalms and hymns part, but I know God wants me to share the lessons he’s teaching me and the wisdom he grants me through the many mistakes I make on a daily basis.

All that said, I’d love it if you wanted to Like my new Facebook page and keep up with what I’m working on. I’m excited to share not only my blogs but also some of the more in-depth projects with which I’m currently involved. If you do Like it, please leave a note saying Hi or sharing some insight God’s shown you lately. And of course, feel free to invite your friends and family who might be interested in sharing as well.

  • Posted on June 19, 2012

The Semantics of Money

 

Tithing was a hard lesson to learn. But now at least 10% of everything we earn goes back to the church. We regularly support charities above and beyond that tithe. Yet for many years, in my mind all the money I earned was money I owned. That 10% or more was a generous helping for God–a tip, as if to say, “Great job on being God, keep up the good work.”

Maybe I was even a cheerful giver once or twice, but on a daily basis money issues clouded my head. Shamefully, I have often been obsessed with finances to the point of making myself physically ill with worry.

A couple months ago Ronnie and I made a prayerful commitment to actively become good stewards with our money. Within days our church announced an upcoming money class. I’ve heard countless sermons on money and even have a box full of Dave Ramsey goodies in my closet. But we’d asked God to guide us and he was clearly pointing this direction.

We went, and literally about three minutes into the talk, God pulled me aside in my mind and explained finances to me in a way that made sense. After all these years, I finally got it:

I am not an owner of money. I am a manager of money.

This isn’t merely semantics. The owner of a store and the manager of a store are often not the same person. The owner entrusts the manager to make wise decisions for the business. The manager has a lot of freedom in running the store, but also a lot of responsibility.

God reminded me about Stone, my twelve-year-old who chronically loses things, including expensive toys. He has a Nintendo DS that will disappear for months at a time. Or he’ll have the DS but lose the charger for three months so he can’t play it. And we lecture him about it, but it’s his. If he loses it and can’t play it, it’s his loss. Not ours.

There are three analogies with this idea:

1. He uses his money to buy a new toy. Something happens to it and he may be upset about it, but ultimately it was his, so he can do whatever he wants with it. In my experience, this is how most people view money. It’s ours to do as we wish.

2. He receives his new toy as a gift and subsequently loses it. He might (or perhaps should) feel guilty for the loss, but it was given to him. He owned it. So while his loss may disappoint the initial giver, it was ultimately his to handle as he wished so he’s only hurting himself. This is how many believers view their money in terms of keeping the 90%. God allows us to keep the 90%, again to do with it as we wish.

3. The toy belongs to someone else. Maybe it’s something special to me, from my childhood, and he comes and asks if he can play with it. I loan it to him and say, “This is mine, but I’m entrusting you with it for a time. Please take good care of it. It’s important to me.” Ideally he’ll take better care of it than he would something of his own. This is how God would view money, as something he’s entrusted us with but has been his all along.

It’s like loaning someone our cell phone to make a quick call. Or a friend feeding our pets while we’re out of town. We entrust people with things and expect they’d care for it better than their own.

And wasn’t this our initial task as humans? To care for the world God had entrusted to us? Now our world is defined almost exclusively by money, and we’d do good to manage it wisely, knowing it’s not ours in the first place.

I’ve felt a heavy weight lift since realizing I only have to manage the store that God already owns. I still try to take over and start running the place from time to time, but God is quick to remind who is the owner and who is merely the manager.

How do you view your role as a money manager?