Category Archives: Sewell Stories

Overflow with Hope

Then signaling to the children to stand as close around it as they possibly could, so that their faces were actually tickled by its whiskers, it added in a low whisper —
“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.”
And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was anymore than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning — either a terrifying one or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Ch. VII

Last week I was on my way to deliver this message to my church  in Piermont, New Hampshire, when I hit a patch of slushy snow. I slid about 150 feet and into a ditch. Now, that probably sounds scary or exciting, but it wasn’t. If you’ve ever hit ice or super slush like this, then you probably know what I mean when I say it happens in slow motion. It’s not because it triggers a metaphysical, introspective anomaly in which time is perceived differently. It’s literally slow. You lose control, and you have plenty of time to process how lame it’s going to be once you end up in that ditch as you inch towards it. So anyway, instead of preaching I sat in a ditch at 45° and had an incredible time. As I waited for my friend, Mark, to show up with a big truck I talked to over twenty people who stopped to see if they could help me. Not one of them was able to help me in any tangible way, but they showed me Jesus and gave me hope.

Now Narnia had been cursed by the White Witch to always be winter and never Christmas. It was into this setting that Mr. Beaver spoke a chilling message of hope. “Aslan is on the move.” I was trying to figure out why God put this cool moment from Narnia into my head and realized that C.S. Lewis was once again borrowing from the Bible. Jesus coming “at the fullness of time” did not mean He came during a wonderful time. Jesus arrived into a world ruled by a pagan idol of a man named Caesar. Israel was not truly autonomous and were not in a time of closeness with the Father. Babies were being killed. Sin and empty religion reigned together. In short, Hope stepped down into hopelessness.

It was the same with the prophesies about Jesus. Micah 5:2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” was given at the same time as Mic 1:2-7 “Hear, O peoples, all of you; Listen, O earth and all it contains, And let the Lord GOD be a witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple. (3) For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. (4) The mountains will melt under Him And the valleys will be split, Like wax before the fire, Like water poured down a steep place. (5) All this is for the rebellion of Jacob And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem? (6) For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country, Planting places for a vineyard. I will pour her stones down into the valley And will lay bare her foundations. (7) All of her idols will be smashed, All of her earnings will be burned with fire And all of her images I will make desolate, For she collected them from a harlot’s earnings, And to the earnings of a harlot they will return.

Isaiah 7:14  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  and Isaiah 9:7 “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” were given to the same situation as Isaiah 1:2-4 “Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. (3) “An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (4) Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the LORD, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him.”

The Messiah is coming. Yahweh is on the move! The message of hope was given during one of the darkest times in history – during the fall of Israel and Judah.

The original prophecy and message of the Gospel was Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” There was no worse time than this. In Genesis 3, 100% of the people on earth had just sided with Satan and sinned.

In these contexts of despair, wickedness, rebellion, God proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. From the Garden to Abraham to Moses to David to the Prophets to The Fullness of Time things were awful, but people had something to hope in. Jesus would come. One day, it’ll all be made right.

When there WAS no hope, God said, “Hope!”
“Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13
Do we pursue faith and love but forget hope? Yeah.
We trust God. We choose to love because He loves us. But hope? What is our outlook on life? How do we view the future?

When there IS no hope. God says, “HOPE!”

“Didn’t I tell you,” answered Mr Beaver, “that she’d made it always winter and never Christmas? Didn’t I tell you? Well, just come and see!”
And then they were all at the top and did see.
It was a sledge, and it was reindeer with bells on their harness. But they were far bigger than the Witch’s reindeer, and they were not white but brown. And on the sledge sat a person whom everyone knew the moment they set eyes on him. He was a huge man. in a bright red robe (bright as hollyberries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard, that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.
Everyone knew him because, though you see people of his sort only in Narnia, you see pictures of them and hear them talked about even in our world – the world on this side of the wardrobe door. But when you really see them in Narnia it is rather different. Some of the pictures of Father Christmas in our world make him look only funny and jolly. But now that the children actually stood looking at him they didn’t find it quite like that. He was so big, and so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.
“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The Witch’s magic is weakening.”
And Lucy felt running through her that deep shiver of gladness which you only get if you are being solemn and still.
“And now,” said Father Christmas, “for your presents…

Notice that in both of these Narnia passages how the characters respond. The setting is bleak, but when the truth of hope is simply spoken things change. A message of hope shakes off our blinders. It brings chills and laughs and tears. It’s sobering and relaxing and energizing, and I hope you feel it right now. We’ve spent the last two and a half years in New Hampshire, a cold place. Where it is literally always winter and never spring for six months. Where it is figuratively always winter and never Christmas spiritually. Except this is not true. Satan wants people to be weak and hopeless, to always struggle, to always sow and never reap, but this is changing. His grip is failing. Revival is beginning in our valley. It’s just glimpses right now. It’s just light breaking through the clouds. It’s ice melting and cracking in the river. It’s the smiles returning. It’s the friendships rekindling. People are waking up, and I’m encouraged. We have so much hope. Christmas is here. Let this Christmas be just like the return of Father Christmas in Narnia. A fullness of time. A return of hope.

God is on the move! Of the increase of His government or of peace there will be no end!

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Merry Christmas from Micah, Beth, Bekah, Lil and our new little guy coming May 2017! We love you and pray you meet with the Living God today.

Why Are You Doing This To Me?

shasta“I do think,” said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world.”

If you haven’t read The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis yet, you probably should. Consider this a sign to go visit your bookcase, dust off your copy and take a breather from all these know-it-all internet articles. God often uses children’s stories and songs to speak to me. Truth is simple. Simple enough for a child to understand. Simple enough for me to understand. If God doesn’t reveal the truths of the Bible to you through simple children’s stories, well, maybe you should let Him. If it’s simple enough you’ll remember it, and hopefully it will sink in and change you. Back to our story.

Poor Shasta. Adopted by a hard-nosed fisherman in his infancy, brought up in the barren and vicious society of a place called Calormen, made to work from sun up till sundown all through his childhood, and finally compelled to flee the only home he has ever known to escape his adoptive father’s plan to sell him into slavery to a cruel Calormene nobleman. After a series of thrilling (and not so thrilling) adventures, Shasta and his three companions, Aravis and the Talking Horses Bree and Hwin, successfully flee their homeland, cross the desert and arrive in the land of Archenland. But their dream of a life of freedom may be snuffed out if they fail to warn the king of Archenland of a plot they discovered against his kingdom and the neighboring kingdom of Narnia. Parched tongues, shaking muscles and dizzy with fatigue, the children and the horses fly through unknown woodlands striving to reach a king whose person and whereabouts are as unknown to them as their surroundings. Oh, I should mention that at this point in the story a Calormene army of two hundred horsemen is hot on their heels, smoke billowing behind the children and the enemy’s horn in hearing range.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.   And let endurance have its perfect result, that you many be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Micah and I recently drove back to Tyler, TX to visit family and friends and attend our annual staff conference with YWAM. All 1,758 glorious miles. Bekah usually gets car sick on long drives and so why would this one be the exception? I lost count after the sixth episode. It wasn’t all that bad, really. Bekah is a trooper. She has a “travel bucket” and remarkable aim. What I really didn’t like was how our car kept getting progressively louder.

I know everybody has a something that will send them into a tizzy if it goes wrong. Taxes. Plumbing. The dentist. Christmas tree assembly. For me, it’s car trouble. My heart will go into a frenzied thump-a-thump if my nose smells a suspicious amount of exhaust. I really just hate being in a car when it’s failing. We had had some issues before we left but our mechanic worked his magic and it was all dandy until we finally reached Tyler. I mean, a car doesn’t fake being loud. It doesn’t fake having zero get up and go. It happened en route to dinner at a friend’s house. Suddenly we could feel, even in those flat Texan roads, every incline because our car was not having it. I didn’t realize Tyler had so many hills until we could barely get over them. Of course the speed limit was 50+ and we looked like idiots going 20 with our flashers on. We rode the momentum of the last hill and turned into our YWAM campus’s parking lot (the same campus we’ve been involved with for the last 9 years). I still don’t know how we managed to make it there. Somehow this car needed to get back in working order to get us to Dallas that very weekend, back to New Hampshire a week after, and even more pressingly, to dinner that night. Not to mention that our money trees needed tending. But where is Shasta?

Shasta and his friends reach safety in a hermit’s house but only Shasta is fit to continue traveling. The hermit wisely advises Shasta,

“And now my son, waste no time on questions, but obey. This damsel is wounded. Your horses are spent. Rabadash is at this moment finding a ford over the Winding Arrow. If you run now, without a moment’s rest, you will still be in time to warn King Lune.”
Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand.

When the hard times and challenges come (oh and they will) what matters most is our response. Three years ago I would have said something like this: “Go-o-d!” (Hear the whine?) “WHY are You doing this to me? WHY did You make my car break down at THIS particularly inconvenient moment? You’re testing me, I get it, I need to trust You. I’ve got the lesson, I’ve learned it, really truly I get it, now PLEASE STOP IT.” But instead I said, “Thank You.”

“Consider it all joy…”

My response to difficult circumstances shouldn’t be pointing my finger at God and accusing Him of making life harder for me. Sometimes He lets us walk through trials. Those trials should produce endurance, not a whiny attitude problem until that trial passes. I’ve been through enough hard times however to realize that oftentimes the “trials” that we face are really God’s provision and protection. How rude of me to yell at Him for that.

When we got our car back the next day from the mechanic we found out something interesting. Beside the rear catalytic converter that needed replacing he noticed that our transmission fluid was jet black. Now, experts tell me it’s supposed to be a translucent red. He said if we hadn’t caught it our transmission would have gone out somewhere on the way home to New Hampshire. Good gravy! A break down somewhere between Texas and New Hampshire, maybe in some small town or perhaps on a long stretch of nothingness (also known as I-20 through Mississippi), friends not available to help us and on a weekend, no less! God didn’t let that happen. I knew He was up to something as we were inching our way to the YWAM campus. I knew it wasn’t a random thing but that He was actively involved.

Shasta does warn the king of Archenland in time. Unfortunately, as he is following the king’s company he finds himself lost in a deep fog. He walks blindly in the fog with only a vague hope that he is headed in the right direction.

“I do think,” said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world.”

He begins to notice that an invisible Something has been walking silently beside him, perhaps for some time, and in the darkness he can see nothing and only knows it is there because he can feel its breath on him.

“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not–not something dead, are you? Oh please–please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world.”

Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”

Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the Tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.

“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.

“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.

“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and–“

“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”

“How do you know?”

“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

Before I knew what was wrong with the car or how it was all going to pan out I said, “Thank You.” Why? Was I happy about it? Did the prospect of another unaffordable repair send a thrill through us both? As I mentioned before, car trouble is the worst of the worst as far as minor tragedies go. But I’ve trained my mind and my tongue to automatically respond with praise and thanksgiving when the bumps (or mountains) appear on the road. I’ve trained myself to mean it, too. It only took 8+ years dealing with hardship after hardship (and I’m not talking about silly little car parts giving out) but I did it. “Thank You, God, for what You are going to accomplish in me through this. I choose to be in agreement with whatever it is You are doing, I will not fight against what You want to do in this.” When you practice thanking God for hard times you’ll notice an accompanying excitement and expectation begin to well up deep inside of you– what can You do with this doozy of a situation, God? What have You already done that I haven’t seen yet? I can’t wait to find out!

Now, a story about car trouble seems pretty silly next to a saga like Shasta’s, and even sillier when put next to the story of Joseph, which really happened. What really matters is the response. It just so happens that this is one of the few stories in recent times where I finally got it right. It’s similar to my He Sees Me Through post but I figured I’d keep it light in this article.

It’s time to stop feeling like the most unfortunate boy/girl in the world. Let’s retrain our minds to look for and then to recognize God’s involvement in every challenge that comes our way. When we face those various trials, let’s start by considering it all joy. Let’s begin first and foremost by thanking Him for what He is going to do, in us and through us, and what He has already done.

 

All quotes are from “The Horse and His Boy” by C.S. Lewis

What does God get for Christmas?

buddy
I’m in a store, and I’m singing!

Christmas is my favorite time of year (pretty sure that Buddy the Elf was modeled after me), so it’s easy for me to come up with what Christmas means to me. It’s fun. It’s full of better food and time off. I get to see my family more. I get presents! I get to sing more. I was singing along to Christmas carols while walking at Wal-Mart this evening. People smile more. The bell ringers make me chuckle. We get to make a new sign and take our Christmas picture. And that’s all just surface stuff. It’s also the big thing. Jesus came and saved His people from their sins! I was saved from my sins. I get to be friends with God.

But what about God? What does He get for Christmas? What does Christmas mean to God?

I believe God would say, “I get to be with them.”

That’s what Christmas meant and means to Him. His Christmas gift is a people that would be His. “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Titus 2:14 (NLT) When I was a kid I would have a hard time going to bed on Christmas Eve. I didn’t think Santa would be there. I just wanted to go open up the presents and get the surprises over with. As soon as my eyes opened Christmas morning I’d run to the living room only to find that I had to wait as Nate woke up and for Dad to shower slowly. And then I grew up. Who am I kidding? I still do this, and the more I study scripture the more I realize that God does too.

God gets excited and not impatient but definitely eager and in a hurry. From the Old to New Testaments God has been in a hurry to open His Christmas presents. He wants to be with us. He wants us to speak to Him, to listen to Him, to just sit with Him. He wants our attention. While Israel was in the desert God asked Moses to build a tent of meeting. The moment he finished building it “The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” On the day of Pentecost the disciples were all together and “suddenly” the Holy Spirit filled them. And this is the Nativity, the First Noel. In the fullness of time God came to be with us. That is, He came as soon as He could, as soon as everything was ready.

So Merry Christmas, God! I’m so glad you get to open your presents. It makes me happy to imagine your smiles as we all sing about you and talk to you. Thanks for being in a hurry. Thanks for getting up as early as possible and coming to rescue us.

He Sees Me Through

God doesn’t cause my troubles. He sees me through them.

Prayer-Devotional-On-not-being-afraid-e1361948934222Well, that’s the punch line.

Last September our baby was born in heaven. God named her Clara. Five  weeks ago our son was taken up in the arms of Jesus. I saw him. I saw Jesus holding him like he was the only baby in the whole world, the expression of wonder and untamed happiness on His face as He looked down at Isaiah and then back at me as if to say, “Can you believe how wonderful he is?” and throw His head back and laugh, completely unable to contain His joy.

So let’s talk about pain . Real pain. Call it sorrow, call it grief, call it trials or suffering — that kind of pain. The kind that is simply a part of living. Show me a person who has lived without real pain and I’ll eat the one hat I own. Pain is one of the enemy’s plans to cripple and destroy us. True story.  I also believe that pain is absolutely essential to life as food and water. Hear me out.

Could it be God’s plan to walk the road of suffering? Yes; in a way.  I’ll just say I don’t think every bad thing that happens is orchestrated by God to give us a nice little life lesson — usually it’s our own choices mixed with other people’s choices with a dash of chance.  Bad things happen and that’s just the way it is. Is it always His plan to see a hardship worked out for good? Yes. Double yes.

We are experiencing the heart-wrenching, emotional agony of losing two children through miscarriage. Many of you are familiar with this pain having walked through it yourselves either for an unborn, an infant or a grown child.  Many don’t know what to do with this alien grief. We didn’t know what to make of it, had no clue, until it touched our lives. I couldn’t even try to imagine what it must be like, could not relate, because my mind couldn’t seem to go there even in the hypothetical. Then all at once we were welcomed with open arms by a sort of secret club of fathers and mothers who are intimately acquainted with the wound of a broken heart over a lost child.  Most of our friends, we are finding, have children in heaven.  Most of them have walked that road of suffering before, bleeding heart and all.

Thank goodness for the safety of a friendship with Jesus. With Him, it’s  not a grief  without purpose or hope. It’s not blind misery. It’s crying on the shoulder of a friend who knows the heartache you’re experiencing without having to speak. It’s pouring out your broken heart minus all the well-meaning but ill-expressed wishes or suggestions for your comfort. It’s relating to your pain without undermining it. It’s the freedom to cry over your own suffering without a weird guilt trip over feeling it too much or too little. Jesus cares deeply about our pain. He is the safest person to talk to and the safest place to release our raw emotions . If I cried like I do with Jesus to you, you wouldn’t know what to do with me. You’d be so uncomfortable you’d be anxious for me to stop or for you to get away. But Jesus is in no hurry to speed up the process of healing. If it needs to take years, He wants it to take years. If it’s better for us to heal quickly,  that’s cool, too.  He will gently help us get to where we need to be and not get upset (like we do) if it doesn’t happen.

When we lost Clara, I felt a deep and lasting sorrow of losing a person I truly cared about. It felt as if Rebekah or Lilian had died. I was still processing it all when we suddenly miscarried again. When we lost Isaiah I became unraveled but I didn’t feel the same degree of sadness. People deal with pain and grief in different ways at different times. I understand that now.

Jesus is the one place where we don’t have to pretend or be strong.  We can be desperately honest about our fears, our confusion, and it’s ok. He covers us in our brokenness. He assures us with His steadiness, His wholeness, His perfect competence to even take an unbearable  circumstance and see its completion worked out for good. He is patient. He is kind. He’s comfortable with you when you are undone. He’s never at a loss with what to do with you. You can be confident in His character. He doesn’t shrug off some things and care about others. He cares about the details.

I wouldn’t trade my seasons of sorrow for anything. I’ve come to understand the value of brokenness and suffering. I can honestly praise God in trials.  I can say, “Thank You, for this hard time. I thank You because now I can see Your goodness in a light that I couldn’t see before. Now I stand in unshakable confidence in Your ability and desire to take care of me. The depth of Your love for me is so evident in this situation. I thought I knew Your love for me, but until now I didn’t know it like this.  Grace was just a fluffy word that didn’t mean much before. You have met me in my darkest moment,  my deepest pain.  I feel secure in the midst of chaos. When nothing makes sense You are steady. You are true. You’ve somehow made this terrible experience into something beautiful.”

I used to point my finger at God and ask, “Why?” every time something bad happened. I just can’t do that anymore. I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. He doesn’t cause my troubles. He sees me through them.

Was This a Mistake?

How do I decide if something is really a mistake?

Life is really hard right now, and that’s okay. Really hard is a good place to be sometimes. I won’t tell you to learn to be happy about yours, because that never helps. I will tell you a bit of what God is showing Beth and me.

Tonight I felt like I should go outside and pray, so I did. That’s normal. Then it got not normal.

Side note: I hear God’s voice, and understanding that God still speaks is crucial to this story and ultimately to how we are to live. If that’s confusing, angering or interesting email me or give me a call. I’d love to talk about it. If it’s completely boring to you, you should stop reading this and take a nap or maybe take up sculpting.

Now let’s get back to the story.  As I stepped onto the front porch God told me to walk around my yard. You might be imagining a big Texas sized yard where you can walk for an hour or two and not see the same tree twice. If that were the case, taking a walk around your yard would make a lot of sense. I hope to have that wonderful possibility some day. Not yet. My yard including the earth under my house totals 75 feet by 120 feet and is sandwiched between a whole bunch of other 75 by 120 lots with houses. So my front yard is maybe 1500 square feet in total. For non math wizards that just means really small.

But God told me to walk the perimeter of my tiny front yard. At 10PM it felt really weird, but I did it anyway. Just as I  was thinking I had just done something stupid I realized I was looking at the hose laying out in the grass but in the wrong location. It needed to be walked over to the sprinkler so that I could easily water the grass after Beth showered. I thanked God for being so smart, and then He showed me something amazing.

In the words of Smee from Hook, “I’ve just had an apostrophe… Lightning just struck my brain.” I looked at my car in which I’ve been disappointed at times. God told me that buying this car was not a mistake. I felt like I paid too much for it. It’s too small for adding more people to our family. It will not help in moving to New Hampshire. I’m not sure if it could pull a trailer–maybe not even a bike rack. The thing I have to remember is that God told me to buy it. He told me to go to Crown Kia on Troup Highway and showed me this car specifically. He told me to pay the amount that I did for it. As far as car purchases go it wasn’t a great deal, but that’s not what ultimately matters. Is it?

Then I looked up at my carport which is attached to my house. I’ve had the same feelings about it so many times. It costs a lot to have a house. This one was built in the 1950s and may or may not have some problems. It also happens to be situated around REALLY REALLY REALLY loud neighbors. Our paintings and windows are often vibrating to the sounds of cleverly spaced profanity. We initially wanted to move to have a quiet restful home. Tonight God told me that this house was not a mistake. When we were house hunting I put my hand on the door handle, and God clearly spoke to me that this was the house He had for us. He told me the exact dollar amount to pay for it, and the guy who never goes lower on his fair house prices went down to the exact amount God had told me.  It wasn’t the best deal in Tyler. It wasn’t the most attractive house in Tyler. It is by no means in the most peaceful quiet neighborhood. But those things are not what ultimately matter.  Are they?

What makes something a mistake? When can I say that a decision was a bad one? I’m sure there are tons of snappy answers to that question, but I’m not talking about choosing the wrong color tooth brush. I’m talking about those decisions that really matter.

The answer is this. A mistake would have been disobeying God. James 4:17 puts it like this, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James is talking about a person planning his own life, not murdering or thieving or even lying. A mistake would have been to buy a car that was a better deal after I had sought the Lord. A mistake would have been finding a better house in a quieter neighborhood for half the price which is very doable in Tyler, Texas. Tonight a stupid mistake would have been to find a more reasonable setting for a quiet prayer time with God than strolling through my tiny yard like a weirdo.

I’m living through a tough time right now, but you know what? I’m finally okay with it, because I’m right smack in the middle of the will of God for me. I’ve learned that sometimes the will of God hurts, but it’s good. It’s never a mistake.

 


Beth’s comment needed to be tacked on here so more people read it.

I absolutely love that poem, Robin. Thanks for sharing it. I’m going to print that out or write it down in my journal– it’s just so beautiful. And thanks everyone for your encouraging comments! Every Christian plows through this sort of thing at one time or another, some more often and some less, but it’s such a relatable and, I think, key aspect in our walk with Jesus. We can fight, kicking and screaming, the whole way and miss completely the whole point of whatever it is God wants to do through the situation and come out the other side a whiny mess and even more recoiled to every discomfort. But I think what impresses God and what He’s really after is when we embrace that hard whatever-it-is He’s orchestrating and really flow with it and just let go and allow Him to do a work in us that produces a good and real change. How do you want me to respond, God? What should my attitude look like? What fears are you trying to break in me? When we recognize what a cool and kind thing God is doing when He lets us undergo extreme pressure and strain, how it allows all that nasty, murky water rise to the surface so it’s easy to scoop out and clean, it’s EASY to thank God in the midst of hard times. I’d rather go through life uncomfortably, constantly retraining my mind and emotions, building endurance and producing an unbreakable and unshakable confidence in the character of Jesus Christ, who sees me through all things, than walk through life comfortably and ease into eternity having been impotent and unremarkable on earth. A good man once said something like this, “We have all of eternity to be happy. For now let’s be useful.”

these are a few of my favorite things

I guess this could also be called “Things I’m Grateful For”. Look up at your url address bar. :o)

1. My brother is doing School of the Bible this year.

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Me, Katia & Nathan

He’s been wanting to do this school for at least six years, and I’ve been wanting to see him more often. It’s been a fun year so far.


2. Lily is somehow becoming cuter.

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Lily & Piggawig

She has about twenty words and enunciates them like a university professor.


3. Playing outside with Bekah.

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Bekah looking like Beth

I’m not sure how long East Texas will cooperate, but Spring has been amazing. We’ve had a whole lot of digging and bug adventures. She also helps me garden.

My First Real New Year’s Resolution

LilyThis morning as I was laying Lily down for her nap I blew her a kiss and said, “I love you.” She smiled up at me and put her hand on her mouth. It was the first time she’d blown (tried to) a kiss to me, and it floored me. That little one year old girl is so small, but she moves my heart with a force that surprises me.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
– Zephaniah 3:17

Aside from jokes and one failed attempt, I’ve never really done the New Year’s Resolution thing. Maybe it’s a commitment problem. After all, I’ve often said, “I’m afraid of spelling ‘commitment’.” Maybe it’s a dumb game humans play to make life harder. :o) I’m sure you could find a blog out there somewhere that would agree with your opinion. Whatever the case is I avoid them, but yesterday I was talking to Beth. Beth is the smartest person I know. She suggested a theme and set off my thinking train. Let’s make this year a call to real Christianity. I like that.

I’m going to make this official. My resolution is to live out real Christianity. I want to impress God. I want to move His heart like little Lily move’s mine.

So what does that look like? What impresses God?

I think the answer just like Christianity itself is very simple. Humans make it confusing at times, but it isn’t. I’ll tell you what impresses God–how you can move Him. You can live out relational obedience. Obey Him because you know Him and love Him not because you have to do it.

What does God expect and want? 1. Obedience more than sacrifice and 2. relationship more than a bunch of effort. It all comes down to heart motive. Real Christianity is not a list of things to do nor a call to constant misery, but it is also not a fluffy waste of time. Our God is real. He is in fact the one true God, and He has real interactions with us. He speaks to us! He loves us with a real tangible love. Along with this, He has a right on our lives. When He speaks He deserves absolute obedience from the heart–the way Bekah says, “Ok, Daddy!” She obeys because she loves me not because she’s afraid.

So that’s it. I’m making it my goal to obey God even if it hurts because He deserves it, but at the same time to have the right perspective of just being His friend rather than seeing how much I can do do do.

Simple. Let’s do it!

Happy New Year 2013 from your missionaries, the Sewells! We love you all.


 

By the way —

My favorite New Year’s joke: “My New Year’s Resolution this year is 1600 by 900 which is way better than my old resolution of 1024 by 768.”
My only attempt at a New Year’s Resolution: In 2002 my brother, Nathan, and I vowed to not drink soda for a year. I made it to the following day’s lunch.