Coffee Talk 2015: Week 7 {Vanity}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Ourselves
Who Is the Fairest of Them All?
Vanity
By Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureI think all of our mothers have told us, “Honey, it’s what’s on the inside that’s important.” But when you’re the only skinny, flat chested, braces wearing 12 year old girl on the playground who got a rubber shoe scraped up the front of her never before shaved leg, right in front of Stephanie P (for perfect), you just can’t believe that the outside doesn’t  matter.  At 12 years old I felt the weight of vanity, and I feel it today. The truth is that without Christ being the lover of our souls, the inside doesn’t really matter at all, and sadly, it becomes about the outside.

Martha writes, “Something that is vain is futile, worthless, useless, amounts to nothing, and is a mere breath. Obviously, pursuing vanity (the love of beauty in this case) is a colossal waste of time!” She goes on to say, “Any woman over the age of 50 will tell you that it’s a losing battle.”  As I read that, I was taken back a few years ago when I began to understand what women meant when they’d say, “gravity takes over.” My body started to rebel, which prompted a dear friend to speak a revelation to me: “Christie”, she said with much wisdom, “when we’re 80, we’re all gonna be wrinkled.” That made me feel better after having 3 children, remembering that all those “Stephanies” had it coming. Haha! Seriously though, I know what my friend was getting at–it was the same thing that my mother meant when she referred to my “inside.” What she was really talking about was the hidden person of my heart. I thought, “When I’m 80 and wrinkly, what will be left?”

My husband read this verse to me minutes before he proposed and Martha also references it:

“Your adornment must not be merely external… but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”  -1 Peter 3:4

She also quotes Proverbs 31:30 that says,

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (fleeting), but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

Martha then sums up that section with a memory of her mother who was not known for her looks, rather her patience and kindness. I can only draw the same conclusion that both my mother and dear friend, both whom I desire to model after, though very beautiful outwardly, are not known for an extravagant outer appearance but rather their fear of God and faithfulness to Him even in the face of defeat. To me, that is beautiful and something to pant after desperately. To God, it is nothing short of precious.

It would be nice to look 20 again, but to actually be 20? I would not trade the maturity that has come from experience, for that “dreamy body” if I were the ugliest sight on the planet! I’m able to look back with gratefulness and see the wonderful things God has done. We seem to notice every dark circle, every wrinkle, every varicose vein, and especially a pound or two. However, often we give little thought to our spiritual eyesight improving as our eyes become better fixed on Jesus as we age with grace.

Like an ugly wart, the love of beauty continues to surface in Christian women every day. Everywhere we go the world is whispering lies to us; and if we aren’t careful, we’ll buy into them, sometimes without even realizing it. If we are not purposeful to train our minds to think properly about beauty, we might find ourselves pining away for the love of a beauty that is unattainable.  The biblical solution is that we must turn our lust for our beauty into a passion for God.  We must desire to make much of Him and let every wrinkle of time tell of His greatness over all of our years, whether it be 20 or 50 or 80! May we be like wine and grow sweeter as we age, unlike many who are old and like milk have grown sour.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 5 {Hurt Feelings} Part 2

(You can read Part 1 here.)

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
What Difference Does It Make What He Intended?
Hurt Feelings Part 2
Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureSometimes people hurt us unintentionally. Martha properly places blame on the one who got caught in the crossfire. With myself front and center, I will agree with Martha, we are far too sensitive and self absorbed. We need to be actively overlooking these hurts and lovingly assuming the best of others.

For the intentional hurts of others, it is their sin, yet we are responsible to overcome those hurts biblically. Here are the eight practical ways Martha offers as a biblical solution to overcome the intentional hurts of others.

  • Show love to God and the person sinning against you. We accomplish this by obeying God’s word. Ask yourself “How does God want me to respond?”
  • Thank God for the test. We need to look at everything from an eternal perspective and ask, “What does he want me to learn from this?”
  • Overcome evil with good. Resist the natural tendency to fight evil with evil.
  • Give a blessing instead.
  • Pray for those who mistreat you. (I thought, “Do hard things”, when I read those three!)
  • Speak the truth in love. Don’t feel the need to respond right away as we might be caught off guard and often in such times, we speak for sinful gain.
  • Lovingly confront the person who has sinned against you. Ask yourself, “how would you like to be confronted about it?”
  • Bring other witnesses into the situation if necessary.

When we see our own offense in it’s true light, only then can we see the gospel in it’s true light. The true light of the gospel is so illuminating that we can’t help but forgive, because we have been forgiven of much! When we remember that and then seek to love God and love others, we are responding righteously and we can be properly restored to a brother/sister.

Earlier in the chapter she says it nicely, “Our Lord endured much suffering due to the intentional hurts of others.” We also participate to a tiny degree in the “fellowship of His sufferings” when by His grace we respond righteously. Jesus not only suffered far worse than us, but did it for us. He did it perfectly. He was rejected, betrayed, defiled and humiliated by his bride. Since He was human and knows our sufferings, He is patient as He empathizes with us. He is also God, therefore, empowering us like no therapist in this world can, to overcome hurt, even the deepest of hurts. Praise be to God.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you have an “unforgivable”? Do you believe you have a “right” to that?
  2. Thinking of your deepest hurt, have you responded righteously, or do you believe it’s the exception?
  3. What does it mean to “fellowship in His suffering”? Make it personal.

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 5 {Hurt Feelings} Part 1

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
What Difference Does It Make What He Intended?
Hurt Feelings
Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureWe can all agree that there are some offenses that are trivial, but we’ve all had that one hurt that resurfaces like vomit. All it takes is a weak moment in our thought lives to be utterly defeated by it. Martha wisely states:

“Feelings are emotions, and emotions occur after we think something.”

So essentially, we “choose” hurt feelings. Like a magnet, our minds will grip a hurt for as long as we allow it. Especially if we believed our hurt is “justified.” Offenses like betrayal, rejection, deceit, and violation are thought to be unforgivable. The world says we have a “right” to those hurt feelings. Can I gently say, we are not of this world! It is Jesus Christ who is sin bearer, so Sisters, what right do we have to unforgiveness? The grip our mind has on our hurts is great because we have forgotten or loosely remember the gospel.

Everyone has hurts that are not so easily overlooked or forgiven. Listen to the response Jesus gave Simon in Luke 7:47:

“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

The “justified hurts” are now dissolved as we see we don’t have a leg to stand on.  When God is faithful to bring us out of an infant stage faith and into maturity, we will begin to see ourselves as the women “whose sins were many.”  As believers, to the degree we understand the gospel, we must conclude that we have no option of reserving any offense to be “unforgiven” and even in limiting our length of love to the offender, we only paint a shallow picture of God’s deep love to His people.

Here’s how I see it when I look through the eyes of the gospel… I remember the moment I stood in front of this church, many of you were there. I took an oath before God. In tears, I vowed to be faithful and true to Him. Then the symbol of that covenant was witnessed as I was immersed into the water. Seemingly, as soon as I dried off, the marriage walk began, and I started to forget how satisfying Jesus was. At times I found myself estranged from my true love as I’d begin seeking comfort in the arms of another. Before long, and without premeditation, I’d find myself in bed with the world. After the first offense, I felt a bit of shame, but like a dog to his vomit, I returned. I cheated on Jesus.

Martha points outs Israel had a lustful eye for anything but God who made them, favored them, and faithfully and lovingly provided for them. They rejected Him. We, like Israel, have committed spiritual adultery. Though we all are victims of hurt, with more confidence, we should boldly proclaim that we are the unfaithful ones. Jesus bought us with his blood. This purchase is nothing short of inflation! The price paid for our ransom continues to hold greater value as our worth continues to fall short and we,  the product, only cheapened with time. We’ve turned a blind eye to Jesus’ sacrifice and tripped over his broken body beneath us, all to embrace our cheap lovers time after time. We are the woman whose sins are many, yet Jesus turns to us, stands in the direct line of fire, and declares, “your sins are forgiven.”

We should never cease to kiss His feet.

Ladies, the point Martha makes is that the offense is ours!  Any hurt we’ve ever experienced is at best, second, next to the rejection of God by his people. Truly, pain is good for God’s children as it helps us understand the pain that we have heaped on Jesus and the grace and forgiveness he has lavished, in return, on us.

(Read part 2 on Thursday to discover the biblical solution to hurt feelings.)

Coffee Talk 2015: Week 3 {Manipulation}

Biblical Solutions for Problems with Others
I’m Supposed to Respond How?
Manipulation

By Christie Ballewske

coffee talk online edition pictureSkimming it over, my first reaction to this chapter was, “I can totally write about this, because I used to be the Queen of manipulation! I saw this as a “past habit,” not a regular offense. The more accurate account started to dawn on my horizon when I read Martha’s words,

“You know you are guilty of sinful manipulation when you don’t graciously take ‘no’ for an answer…”

I was paging through the chapters while having a mutual conversation with my husband one night before bed. I heard my own voice echo as I exclaimed in much laughter, “Pfft, I don’t resort to manipulation anymore! Right?” Suddenly, what began as a mutual conversation, was now just my lonely, foolish voice. First, an awkward moment of silence. Then my husband, gently spoke, “do you know how hard it is to say ‘no’ to you?” Oh! Its high noon and the truth has never been more clear.

I just thought that meant I was cute! I think I honestly believed that when the transfer of headship took place that I had left the “art” of manipulation at home with all of my teddy bears. The truth is that rarely does my husband ever tell me “no.” I’d like to think that it’s because I don’t ask for much and I am a reasonable gal. We all know that is a whopper!

One clarifying truth is that my husband is kindhearted! Like the Lord, he enjoys giving me good things and truly seeks to say “yes” as often as he is able, and because of this,  I have a hard time marking more than a few times he has ever told me “no”. However sweet this is, I must face an awful truth.

When I read the list of “manipulating ploys,” I was shocked that she’d consider some of them “manipulation” while others, well, let’s just say Dan could hang his hat on my cold shoulders! The ones I found puzzling were “sweet talk” and “tears.” I never considered that tears were anything but natural and acceptable, and, frankly, if I were sweet talking, he was still free to say no!

As much as I’d like to stake claim to a quality of cuteness and sensitivity uncommon to women, I must recognize that my tears are at times evidence of a lack of self-control. My tears, sincere as they be, are nonetheless a spell that is often cast when I am unable to accept “no” for an answer. THIS is why my husband finds it difficult to say “no,” NOT my rare cuteness! Rather, I put a spell on him.  So after reading this chapter, I have walked away with several conclusions but more importantly, a biblical solution.

My first conclusion for me personally, is that manipulation is at times unintentional but nonetheless, still manipulative. I’ve also considered that in many cases for me, manipulation can be determined by the effect it has on the my husband. Since he is so sensitive to my feelings and responds so generously to my emotions, I need to be careful when and how I choose to reveal them to him.

Lastly, the Lord desires that women have gentle and quiet spirits. A woman of gentle and quiet spirit is willing to enter the storm of her husband’s “no” and actively seeks to let the spirit alone sway his opinions. She does everything in her power to keep her husband sober of her spells, and reserves her “appeals” for the important stuff, and even then, her countenance shows a trust in God that HE never fails, nor disappoints. We must acknowledge that often, especially if from a husband, the word “no” is a word from God. So let’s, like Martha counseled, honor God graciously by accepting His will for your life in that moment when you hear the word “no” for an answer.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In what ways has God used another person to reveal His momentary will for you?
  2. Tell me of a time when you did not graciously accept “no” for an answer?
  3. What type of manipulation did you resort to? Did you regret that later? Why? Why not?

Women Helping Women Conference: a Personal Reflection from Christie

 “Women Helping Women” 2013

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” –Luke 1:38

The Lord has me weak in the knees once again, and I can only pray I remain in this position. A few weekends ago I was reminded of His tender affection and loving-kindness toward me. While I know that we as a church are his bride in a very corporate sense, I am also reminded of that three year old little girl who hijacked the stage at a Shirley McClain concert and proclaimed boldly in song “Jesus loves me”. Yes, ME! Individually, simply, me. That weekend I remembered that His affections are very real and intimately connected directly to me. I think of the hymn writer’s words that said “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His word…” and I cannot help but sob at the profound reality of His personal presence with my soul that day, that moment when Jesus met me in my pit of despair and drew me out into the arms of forgiveness, grace and hope.  There have been a lifetime of moments that were tailored perfectly for me that I, Christie, would yet again only begin to grasp His infinite grace that bends low daily to… me.

…There was me, a toenail.

The women’s retreat was similarly specific for me. God specifically spoke to me. Among each member of His corporate body there was me, a toenail. Let me tell you, He spoke an exclusive message to that toenail all the while He was knitting each of us together as one body with one purpose to go home with. He tailored each message at this conference for each woman, each fabric of our individual convictions and callings that we might all together fit to better display His gospel and warm the hearts of this cold world we reside in. I marvel at his concern for me… and I am honored to be even a tiny speck in his heroic plan to save his people.

I AM SINNER, HEAR ME ROAR!

My truest conviction leaving Schaumburg that weekend was that if Paul could say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief”, then the gospel message demands I not only proclaim Christ as the remedy for the destruction due to sin in this world, but I should also be willing to become more transparent in my admission of sin in my life. So hear me when I say… I am sinner, hear me roar!

“Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb…”

Yeah, right. Common! Do we LOVE to proclaim it? I mean really…  Elyse Fitzpatrick said something like this…. “We confess just enough that we sound a little bit more holy”.  Correct me if I am wrong, but when we confess sin, we should seem a bit more… sinful, right?  Instead, we have this amazing ability to actually sound more spiritual after confessing sin to a room full of people. I know it’s true, because I can do it too.

Christians, do we want to proclaim “Redemption!?” Then we need to admit sin. Admit sin and do it like we mean it! Because where sin abounds, Grace much more abounds! Don’t we believe that?? When I confess, if I don’t cringe at the thought of my reputation being damaged, then I am a phony. I am not advocating that we share all of our “dirty laundry” in any small group setting, or elsewhere… but for crying out loud, let’s admit we got some!

Christ is being dulled down in my fight for my own reputation.

I have been far too busy attempting to maintain my reputation as super mom, or “Batwife”, etc… you name her, I have tried to be “her”. Until the conference, I hadn’t even realized that my true hero, Christ, is being dulled down in my fight for my own reputation. I should be concerned for His glory not my own.

…Because the goal wasn’t perfection, it was Jesus.

Pastor Matt spoke of adequacy recently. I desire to simply be adequate and resist the temptation to be “the hero”. As one result of the conference, I am on a mission to grow in the “expression of my confession” and learn to admit my brokenness, so that He might look as big as He is standing in the pile of my rubble, because really, He is all that is good in me.  For my children, I pray that they DON’T see “super mom” when they look at me. Rather, I pray they see a mother literally falling every step of the way: wounded, broken and sometimes crushed… Yet, she gets up each time, more slowly near the end, only by the gracious hand of the living God, and she limps and aches, and man, does she cry!  Because.  It.  Hurts.  Alas! She makes it! Bruised and bloody, missing limbs and without a medal of honor, or excellence.  She has no victory dance.  But when she crosses over, she looks to her children and says, “Victory in Jesus, my savior forever! He sought me and bought me with His redeeming love”. Oh, she will cling to her prize, which is Jesus! May they see that the goal wasn’t perfection, it was Him!

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” –Luke 1:38

 

Missions to the Elderly

 

 

My first experience at a nursing home was as a teenager with a church youth group. There’s no easy way to say this… but I was pinched in the butt by an 80 year old man in a wheel chair shouting, “hey, honey buns!,” at me. Needless to say, I never did go back.

As an adult, now with small children and a father with Parkinson’s, I saw a need to expose myself and my children to the elderly and the sick. At first, I started for reasons of fear. I was truly fearful of what future God had in mind for my children and their relationships with their grandparents and I sought to prepare us all. I thought, “I had better train them to interact with the elderly and mentally / physically ill people”. I knew if I

didn’t, they would be like me and not know what to say to “them”. They would grow up and be incapable of holding a conversation with anyone who was OLD, let alone drooling. Although, if asked, I would have said I was doing it to be “missional”, because that was the “right” answer. Simply put, God had not done that work in my heart yet.

As of today, I have been robbed for about three weeks now. “Of what,” you ask.  To tell you the truth…an absolute pure joy in my life! It’s something I depend on each week!  My children have all been sick and because of that, I have been unable to see some of the dearest people to me.

Mary…I know the very first question she will ask me is, “how old is the baby?,” even though I tell her each time I see her and about a dozen times within that visit.

And, Carmela has the hottest temper.  She can give a sailor a run for his money, but she melts when she sees my children.

Rose with her baby doll….as if she is snuggling a real infant. She is never without it. Oh, and girls!, don’t even try to take it from her!

And, sweet Mr. Jim…even though one of the last times we visited he got a little fresh with me and gnawed on my shoulder in the most inappropriate way (no joke), I really long to see him each week.  More so, he longs to see us each week. He does this weird whistle thing whenever he sees us come in. I love that guy with all my heart.

I went there to satisfy an obvious need, in my mind, for my family. Now, I realize that I am filling a void for these people. I learned to love the people I thought I could not. Now when I look at them in pain, lonely, and broken…my heart can’t help but say, “They need Jesus!”  Do you hear it?  There’s the mission!  They…Need…Jesus.

That work in my heart has begun. And GOD did it.