I think Nicole might have secretly designed this week to send me a message about my need for some accelerated spiritual growth! Wasn’t yesterday’s personal reflection from Dr. Powlison excellent? We have more of the same for you today except packed full with more specifics. The following quotes set the stage for today’s discussion on anxiety. I found these thoughts particularly helpful because small doses are about all my little brain can handle. This principle, which we will learn more about over this coming week, has potential to be life-changing. Part 2 of the Personal Reflection on anxiety will be up later today. Enjoy…
“Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp. We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact remembering is the first change…” David Powlison, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
“Connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. In other words, always ask two questions of yourself and others: What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this?...Bring one bit of the Bible into one bit of life…You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never does…But a timely text brings truth down to a consumable size…change walks out in the details…This is how God made it to be. This is how He works.” David Powlison, “Think Globally, Act Locally,” Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 22, Number 1, (Fall 2003): 2-10.
This first portion of Dr. Powlison’s Personal Reflection is an introduction, and includes some general comments on biblical change in the areas of anxiety, anger, and escapism. As with all of Dr. Powlison’s writings, these words are infused with grace and the hope for change that comes from the gospel.
At the conclusion, Dr. Powlison encourages an unusual and yet extremely helpful reading (and singing along with!) several well-known hymns. You can click on the link to view the hymns and then follow Dr. Powlison’s suggestions. These hymns provide a wonderful picture, a model of a heart transformed by God’s truth. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll never read hymns or psalms the same way again!
by Dr. David Powlison
Anxiety, anger, and escapism are common life problems, in both senses of ‘common’: everyday, every person. They are sins endemic to the human condition and to our struggle. And they are doorways through which the grace and mercies of Jesus Christ daily invade lives.
This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness,
not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be but we are growing toward it.
The process is not yet finished but it is going on.
This is not the end but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.
In each case, we see three things:
1. It feels like we have good reasons to react with sinful anxiety, hostility, and escapism. The pressures, heat, difficulties, threats, frustrations, wrongs, beguilements of life come at us—and reveal what rules our hearts.
2. God gives better reasons, truer reasons, deeper reasons, imperishable reasons—Himself, reclaiming our hearts—that we learn to respond with faith working through love.
3. The inworking and outworking of faith and love produces the holy anxiety of caring concern (wrapped within deep trust). Faith works through love to produce just anger (wedded to generous mercies). Faith works out into a right longing to escape trouble and to help others in their troubles (alongside hearty enjoyment of innocent pleasures).
We’ve laid out a model, a picture, a map of the terrain of battle. A map is useful for orienting you, but it does not get you there. Our goal is to relate to our God honestly, intelligently, believingly, in ways that change us in real time, real place, real problem.
1. Take one of these three common sins to face and tackle this day. Your Father is the vinedresser, putting his pruning shears into your life:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there is any hurtful way in me; and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps. 139:23f).
2. Whichever of the common deviancies you’re choosing, first read and ponder these hymns (and, if you’re so moved, sing with heart and voice!). Notice how we’ve parsed the hymns,
—The pressures of life are described in italics, those things (‘good reasons’) that provoke us to anxiety, anger, escapism. These are the circumstances within which our battle plays out.
—The Lord’s promises and self-disclosures come in bold, these invitations (‘better reasons’) to live differently. These are ways the Redeemer enters human life. Notice how these things that God says compete with the voices and pressures that woo and provoke us towards anger/grumbling, fear/anxiety, escapism/addiction.
—Our responses of faith are underlined. This is the heart of change.
Read all the italics. Then read all the bolds. Then read all the underlinings. Then worship.
It is an exciting week here at the Girl Talk Blog; and I predict, life-changing for some. We have received permission to make available to you what we consider to be “blogging gold.” Every day this week, we will post a portion of a Personal Reflection from one of our favorite authors and biblical counselors: Dr. David Powlison.
If you ever wrestle with anxious thoughts, if you struggle to control outbursts of anger, if you consistently retreat in the face of conflict or trial (can anyone identify yet?) then you are about to receive your own personal counseling session from one of the most wise and gentle counselors of our day. And the good news is: it’s free!
Much more importantly, however, it is thoroughly biblical counsel. Sadly, much of what is considered “Christian Counseling” today—while a sincere attempt to help others—more closely resembles modern psychology than Scripture rightly interpreted.
By contrast, Dr. Powlison will provide for us a Scriptural model for overcoming sin. He will then focus on these three areas of anxiety, anger, and escapism in particular. I would encourage you not to skim over these posts or read them on the fly; but carve out some time to really meditate and study these words. Use them in your quiet time if you’re so inclined.
None of us will overcome anger or anxiety simply by reading these words. No blog can change your life. However, if through the power of the Holy Spirit, we apply these truths from God’s Word, we will experience God’s grace to change.
So, may we encourage you to read carefully and apply diligently this week? God, in His kindness, has provided this wisdom. And He is eager to help us obey.
“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you.” Proverbs 22:17-19.
We’ll post the first installment later today.
Forget those low-carb diets and check this one out instead. It’s proven effective for two-year-olds everywhere!
The Toddler Diet
You folks with toddlers should relate to this one!
Over the years you may have noticed, as I have, that most two-year-olds are trim. It came to me one day over a glass of water and a carrot that perhaps their diet is the reason.
After consultation with pediatricians, X-ray technicians, and distraught Moms, I was able to formulate this new diet. It is inexpensive, offering great variety and sufficient quantity. Before embarking on this diet, however, be sure to check with your doctor—otherwise, you might have to see him afterward.
Breakfast: One scrambled egg, one piece of toast with grape jelly. Eat 2 bites of egg, using your fingers; dump the rest on the floor. Take 1 bite of toast, then smear the jelly over your face and clothes.
Lunch: Four crayons (any color), a handful of potato chips, and a glass of milk (3 sips only, then spill the rest).
Dinner: A dry stick, two pennies and a nickel, 4 sips of flat Pepsi.
Bedtime snack: Toast a piece of bread and toss it on the kitchen floor.
Breakfast: Pick up stale toast from kitchen floor and eat it. Drink half bottle of vanilla extract or one vial of vegetable dye.
Lunch: Half a tube of “Pulsating Pink” lipstick and a handful of Purina Dog Chow (any flavor). One ice cube, if desired.
Afternoon Snack: Lick an all-day sucker until sticky, take outside, drop in dirt. Retrieve and continue slurping until it is clean again. Then bring inside and drop on the rug.
Dinner: A rock or an uncooked bean, which should be thrust up your left nostril. Pour grape Kool-Aid over mashed potatoes; eat with a spoon.
Breakfast: Two pancakes with plenty of syrup, eat one with fingers, rub in hair. Glass of milk; drink half, stuff other pancake in glass. After breakfast, pick up yesterday’s sucker from rug, lick off fuzz, and put it on the cushion of your best chair.
Lunch: Three matches, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Spit several bites onto the floor. Pour glass of milk on table and slurp up.
Dinner: Dish of ice cream, handful of potato chips, some red punch.
Breakfast: A quarter-tube of toothpaste (any flavor), bit of soap, an olive. Pour a glass of milk over bowl of Cornflakes, add a half cup of sugar. Once cereal is soggy, drink milk and feed cereal to dog.
Lunch: Eat crumbs off kitchen floor and dining room carpet. Find that sucker and finish eating it.
Dinner: A glass of spaghetti and chocolate milk. Leave meatball on plate. Stick of mascara for dessert.
Have a tremendous weekend everyone,
Carolyn, Nicole, Kristin, and Janelle
Is it just me, or has this week been longer than seven days?
My boys didn’t set their clocks back last week for Daylight Saving Time, so they are now waking up at 6:00 a.m. each morning. Brian has been out of town. My house has been a wreck. The laundry is ten feet high. Just getting the boys shoes on to leave the house (while they are tackling each other) is a major ordeal. I’m not complaining. Just a little weary.
During mothering weeks like these, I must reach out for the life preserver of God’s Word to keep me afloat. A verse someone shared with me when Andrew (our oldest) was little has continued to sustain me through this intense season with three small boys. It’s that well-known truth from Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
I’m doing a lot of sowing right now. It’s not harvest season. The harvest won’t come today. And it won’t come tomorrow. Not even next year. But I must simply be faithful to sow today. Faithful to train. Faithful to teach. Faithful to love. Or, as it says in this passage, faithful to “do good.” And I must trust God that He will fulfill His promises. That I will reap a harvest in due season if I do not give up.
It’s verses like these that give me perspective in the midst of “shoe wars” with my boys. My expectations are not for today, or even tomorrow, but my hope is in God who has promised that someday, my labors will bear fruit for Him. And so, even though my body is weary, my soul gains new strength from this promise. I pray it strengthens you as well.
A friend of my husband, Dr. Sam Storms, attended the recent Desiring God National Conference hosted by John Piper, that carried the theme: “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.” Dr. Storms wrote an article about Joni Eareckson Tada who was the Saturday night guest speaker for the conference. As many of you already know, Joni is a quadriplegic who was paralyzed 38 years ago in a diving accident. She has authored more than twenty books and speaks at conferences around the world.
Dr. Storms entitled his article, “I Saw Joni Dance” and I want to post several excerpts for you:
“[Joni] delivered a stunningly great message. That in itself isn’t news, for Joni has been speaking on this theme for many years and the clarity of her convictions remains strong and articulate….
But this past Saturday night I saw something that was as impressive if not more so, than anything I heard. The worship that night began with the rousing song, ‘We are Marching in the Light of God’…. But nothing could compare with what was happening on the right hand side of the stage.
Joni handles her wheelchair as deftly as any Nascar driver on a racetrack. No sooner had the music begun than Joni began to ‘dance.’ As much as a quadriplegic can dance, she danced. Joni has just enough movement and strength in her hands and shoulders to grip the controls on her chair and maneuver herself without the aid of others. Suddenly the chair began to move with the music. She thrust forward, then backwards, then forwards again, then backwards. Smoothly, and yet with obvious passion, she turned to the right, then the left, then the right again.
I can’t prove it, but my guess is that 2,500 pairs of eyes in that auditorium were fixed on the dancing quadriplegic! Suddenly, the forward and backward and side to side movements gave way to spinning. Well, as much as a paralyzed person can spin. Joni began to turn her chair in circles, first clockwise, then back again. If she ceased her movements, it was only so that she could lift her contorted hands as high as her paralysis would allow. It wasn’t very high, but who’s measuring!
How Joni moved and ‘danced’ is secondary. What’s amazing is THAT she did. What struck me, as I trust it struck others, was that a woman who has suffered so horribly and painfully and persistently for 38 years so loves her God and finds him so utterly worthy of her trust and hope that she WANTED to dance.
Joni shared in her message how she struggled spiritually in the early days and months after her accident. She wrestled with bitterness and self-pity and anger at God and longed to die rather than live in that condition. But here she was, 38 years later, celebrating God, enjoying God, honoring and glorifying God. Not simply in her mind or her spirit but with her body as best that body could worship.”
May God give us all a heart like Joni who “loves her God and finds him so utterly worthy of her trust and hope that she WANTED to dance.”
To learn more about Joni’s love for God and what she’s learned through suffering, I want to highly recommend her book, When God Weeps. You can also listen to her message from this conference online.
I opened Morning and Evening this morning, groggily trying to remember what date it was today. I overshot November 3rd and was thumbing back when I noticed that I’d underlined quite a bit from the November 11th meditation. As I read, I understood why. Then I dogeared the page (yes, I do that sort of thing!), read it to my husband who wrote it in his journal, and thought: “I have to post this!”
“Believer…you should be satisfied with your earthly portion; for you may rest assured that it is the fittest for you. Unerring wisdom ordained your lot, and selected for you the safest and best condition…Remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. You are placed by God in the most suitable circumstances…Be content with such things as you have, since the Lord has ordered all things for your good. Take up your own daily cross; it is the burden best suited for your shoulder, and will prove most effective to make you perfect in every good word and work to the glory of God.
Trials must and will befall—
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all;
This is happiness to me.”
Psalm 16:5 (NIV) says, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” As Elisabeth Elliot comments, “I know of no greater simplifier for all of life.” Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Pub., 1995), 18.
So whether your portion be big or small, difficult or pleasant, whether your daily cross be light (a fussy toddler like I have) or heavy (widowhood like the woman who wrote to us recently), remember that Divine Love has put you there, and so there is the best place to be.
Happy Wednesday everyone! For Q & A this week, we want to comment on a question from a woman who begins by describing her experience:
“It just starts with some thoughts that you are unattractive and fat, then it took me to a place where I started to eat less and less, sometimes not eating for days at a time. When that wasn’t enough or the scale didn’t change, then I would use pills or make myself vomit. Now, sometimes I can go months without struggling this way but once I’m there again it seems hopeless, and I already feel defeated…I can never find any resources or books that are Christian on this type of thing so I was going to see if you knew of any or had suggestions.”
I respect the honesty communicated in this question. I have talked with different girls over the years who face serious temptation in the area of eating. Their desire for food or lack thereof has been an ongoing, difficult, and often discouraging battle. Many women struggle with sins of this kind, which reminds us once again of the truth in Scripture, that: “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.”
This verse goes on to renew our hope because: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond you ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” 1 Cor. 10:13.
While this temptation is indeed common, more help and truth is needed than I could possibly provide in a brief post. However, help is available, and I do want to recommend an excellent resource on this topic: Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick.
In this book, Mrs. Fitzpatrick provides biblical hope to those who feel “stuck” in ungodly patterns of eating by diagnosing the problem: remaining sin in our hearts. Eating “disorders” are not a disease from which we need to be healed, but rather sin from which we must repent and turn away.
But the good news is that Jesus died to free us from the power of sin and ungodly eating habits are no exception. His sacrifice makes it possible for us to fight our sin and experience the grace of forgiveness and change. As we humble ourselves before the truth found in Scripture, we will find joy and freedom.
“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:22-23
Since we started this blog a little over four months ago now we have been astonished by the overwhelming response we have received. We have heard from so many of you around the country and the world who have sent meaningful notes of encouragement, asked insightful questions, told us funny stories, and in many cases shared very personal and significant challenges in your lives.
We have read each and every email, and have laughed and cried and been so affected by each one of them. For these last few months we have carried so many of you on our hearts and prayed for you. Yet, given our responsibilities as wives and mothers, we have been unable to reply personally, as would be our great desire.
So, in an effort to serve you, we’ve called in our very dear friend, Nora, to oversee the Girl Talk Mail Bag. Nora Earles has served as my parent’s secretary—personal assistant, really—for over ten years now. Few people know our family like she does and that is why she will be able to serve you so effectively. We wouldn’t give this job to just anyone.
Don’t worry, we will still continue to read every email that you send to us. Nora will just be helping to facilitate a more timely response by reading and sorting the mail and answering questions as she is able.
Now, we know that many of you email us on matters of great sensitivity and importance. We want to assure you that Nora will not share the content of these emails with anyone. She has our complete trust. Actually, given our own experience of Nora’s care and discernment, we predict some of you may actually begin using our email address to communicate with her directly!
So, please welcome Nora to the Girl Talk Blog team. Although she won’t be posting, she will play an intregal part in serving you. That’s why (in spite of her objections) we wanted to post her picture here. We love Nora, and we know you will too!
Yesterday Mom shared the example of my Aunt Sharon’s serving joyfully in the midst of suffering. There’s someone else we’d like you to meet today. Her name is Joanna Linn and she is thirteen years old. I want to encourage you to read her story. Joanna too is experiencing suffering, although of a very different nature than that of Aunt Sharon’s. Yet, she remarkably displays the same joyful confidence in God. Joanna and Aunt Sharon are like those James referred to as “an example of suffering and patience” and living proof that “the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:10-11). Their lives provoke me to constantly strive for joy in the midst of my own comparatively small temptations and challenges. I pray this testimony—shared at a Titus 2 Women’s Meeting at our church in April—will encourage you in whatever trials you may face today.