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July 22, 2022 6:00 am
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My well this week my attention with me and here's the thing about spiritual practices. They are not about pleasing God are finally being good enough about returning again and again to the reminders that God loves us this river and Courtney Ellis describing how spiritual discipline like prayer, worship and service can transform your family and your faith in powerful ways. Courtney is back with us today on Focus on the Family and her hostess focus Pres. and Dr. Jim Daly, I'm John. John we had a great conversationalist, but with Courtney about a common challenge we all face as followers of Christ how to better incorporate our faith and intimacy with the Lord into our daily routine, especially in parent and we all know the struggle were too busy in life happens and before you know it you miss devotions again and say Lord, I'm sorry. I'll do it tomorrow and you miss him again because it's just the pace right. But here's the thing. God understands our predicament.
He knows our season of life. He knows that dizziness and that's why Jesus says this in Matthew 1128 and 30 come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light that sound good.
It does is very appealing right well and just like everything else.
If we bring those failings and burdens to the Lord.
He will help us get through. And that's the message that Courtney wants to share with us today. If you miss the conversation last time, get the download to get the up for your smart phone so you can listen when you want to or you can now watch on YouTube. It was a really good conversation and we do have Courtney Ellis back with us today. She's an author, speaker and associate pastor. She and her husband Darrell have three young kids and Courtney has written a book that spells out her own struggles to consistently live as a disciple of Jesus. The title is almost holy mama life-giving spiritual practices for weary parents Courtney, welcome back. Thanks for having me working to kick it off with a really important topic. Now laundry listed in the spiritual blessing of laundry you know one thing again. I said this often last time, but Jean did a wonderful job at the time our boys were 10 they were doing their own laundry and I always thought that was probably the highest achievement. Get ready for bed.
Not so big on the marks but but getting the laundry done, just something that she handed to them quickly and they took to and we did have a few pink items that came out from time to time. I think you had your your pink item episode.
What was that I did. It was early in our marriage before children and when we were both in seminary and didn't have two nickels to rub together and I was doing the laundry and turn all of my husband's undershirts pink students. We do not have the budget to replace those for quite a while. So for those pink shirt key. I think he just stopped wearing undershirts. He said you know what I do the washing crying in the folding the putting away, except I wouldn't do the folding in the putting away. I would just have laundry mountain staring at me from the corner and then we got children and every tiny baby increases the laundry is not married, and it was a chore that I really didn't like and I have all of these deep theological reasons for why the tasks of the home are so important but I couldn't convince myself I just I didn't want to do and so I thought if I have to do this I need to do this. The family needs to not let out of laundry baskets forever. Darrell is doing his part so fully then is there a spiritual practice that I can connect to acts that will make me feel like that time is his holy God's presence me in it and so I started practicing listening prayer while I folded laundry just so I listening prayer is simply putting yourself in the presence of God and being quiet and so I would say a few things I would have a Scripture I would meditate on and off and I would let whose laundry I was folding guide my practice so dear Lord please bless my my son Lincoln. Please bless my son Wilson.
Please bless my husband and then I would just be quiet and see what the Lord brought to my mind, and it was difficult.
I'm a person of many words and so silence is tricky, but Scripture talks a lot about being still before the Lord, and I think it means being still. Not just in our bodies, but also with our voices and also with our minds to be present to God and that way that's good I love you. Praying for the person's clothing. Your folding will try to do that.
I do try to do my own laundry. John Jim is still working on seriously and I cannot take credit for the idea was actually my dad taught me that he was the laundry folder in my house growing up and he would tell us that he would pray for each of us are detergent and there's pretty easy to hang all the shirts up but anyway you have an experience with your washer break and I think you said it was a very vulnerable moment when friend said all do your laundry. What happened, why was that so vulnerable. It was this perfect storm we had a new baby. We had two or three legal baby. Our washing machine broke and my husband Darrell had just had knee surgery and said he was immobilized and we had so much laundry and nowhere to do it. So, a friend called and sent him to come over and take your laundry to my house. I'll do it all for you and I said that would be great and then I got off the phone and realized all my goodness are laundry.
Is there things are laundry. I don't want her to see all of my unmentionables and wheat windows washed to clean out yours. I'm only pulling out my laundry ready for her and she came to pick up all these laundry baskets and intimate to do someone's laundry right there like that the food stains and everything else and she was taking the last basket to the car and then she looked down the hallway into her bedroom and she said I see one more basket of laundry and she picked that one up and she carried out of the car and now she had an entire basket full of all I would die and it was this lesson to me of God's presence to live in the really bodily intimate things that this dear Christian friend who did not have time to do laundry. In addition to her own laundry was giving of her time, her talent, her hauling of laundry and that God loves us even in those most embarrassing places in this friend into you said in the book you really terms of receiving something in those times of listening prayer there was anything earth shattering in that regard, but you did since God's presence in that holy silence describe it again but it was a victory wasn't wasted time.
Yeah, it was an opportunity to just let myself be alive and you know the trick with listening prayer is if we hear something we need to test it against Scripture and and wise people in the faith. It's not what God told me, so I'm doing this this thing that's totally off the rails.
Don't do that, but I think I expected to hear something really earth shattering from God. In times of listening prayer earlier in my life I've heard. You know I've sense. Okay, it's time for a career shift or it's time for a movie or you need to have this hard conversation with this friend. But during this season I think God knew I was so exhausted that what I needed more than anything was the encouragement of just knowing God was so I will little tiny shirts and I pray for my son Wilson and it's a God you please bless Wilson be with him and I hear from God. I love and I love you and I'm here and what a powerful reminder and since there is not a mother out there who doesn't need to hear that and to be reminded that at the end of the day.
The work is the Lord's at the end of the day.
Even the laundry is the Lords and that God sees you and all that you do. You mention the book. Another great story. Were you find out you're pregnant with her third child. That was a more difficult pregnancy.
What was the circumstance I can only imagine the additional weight that that added both describe what happened. Yeah when we talked about expanding our family to one more child we thought we kind of knew what we were in for.
I had done this twice before and it went pretty well annually. These two beautiful boys and you know we prayed about them like okay were were open to this and then we got pregnant with our girl and it was completely different. Physical experience for me. I was now throwing up multiple multiple multiple times a day and and borderline nonfunctional. I was going to do my job and I would know I would lead the opening prayer and then I ran to the bathroom, throw up, and preach a sermon in the bathroom and threw up in the accident.
I couldn't do anything with that which was gone all such a no no in public speaking. It was just relentless and so that's where the book took an extended turn because I couldn't write for a while. There were days I struggled to set up. There were days I struggled to eat anything at all, and that it turned into a chapter on the spiritual practice of suffering in the in the context you described how difficult it was. I think in some ways just feel so helpless. Let's drill and about a little bit because I'm sure many many women feel better times, especially if there having their third child for trouble. Whatever might be you just feel disconnected and helpless describe it.
I'm such a doer and I think that's true. Many parents because we have to be to get through the day and to have a season where I couldn't do much was really difficult and my husband reminded me of the time he had his knee surgery and in the recovery from that when he could do very little and he said you know we are all needy sometimes. And so, throw yourself on the mercy of God and the love of your community. Yet, my husband and I pastor together at our church and were used to being the people who bring the meals right. People who give the love the people who drop off the things and to have our church family say let us help you. Let us bring emails at dinner. It was humbling but it was so important because our posture before God is not of givers it's of receivers and we learn so much by receiving did you have to talk about that trio. I mean I think you described is feeling a bit of shame that you're able to do something you guys are definitely doers feeling shame if you don't do. Yes, and I think when it's especially when it's 1/3 child or second child and it wasn't just that I was leaving my husband fend for himself. He is very capable. You know you can cooking and cleaning it on things, but it was him and two children were often you get home from a really long day and I was like here like I'm going to bed at 7 PM, I'm done. I'm toasted and realizing that that the love within our marriage and the love of God and the love of our community.
When we let them in on it and said you know we really do need some help. They were there for us. That's interesting you you talk about some 23, which in there says God makes us to live down.
Never I never thought about it like a swift kick takes her feet out from under you and make you lie down.
If you're like overextended but describe how that Scripture related to the tongue.
It's still fascinating with Scripture because we can read a passage a dozen times or 100 times and then you you come to at a certain day in your life for season in your life and it speaks so differently and so loudly, and that was some 23 didn't make it past. First you makes me lie down in green pastures and it was as reminder from God that this this is your job right now lay down. I never thought of the fact he doesn't say helps you make should write. I will help you right beside quiet waters kinda sound like a gentle thing, but thanks me lie down because I think so many of us, especially those of us who work in ministry have this helper doer goer and and accomplish all of these things because the kingdom is important and ultimately God was telling me. I idled the kingdom you work for me.
Courtney right in the book about pilgrimage in trouble. I think Modern Family's we do more trouble today than we used to would be at home with Jean Jean's mom and dad so good never really left Southern California, but today we do and how did you incorporate that I do of pilgrimage family travel and how the go. It went up and down like location, time, or what were you doing so pilgrimage is just expecting to meet God along the journey and when we encounter difficulties in attorney thinking of those as opportunities to meet with God in any way to learn something to be challenged by God to grow so it can be a long trip and we took one, one long trip back to visit my family in the Midwest in this book, but also it was traveling to Los Angeles to visit Darrell's family which is 65 miles an California traffic that's between one and four hours anywhere you go with young kids. You have to prep like you're going to climb Everest journey even if you're just going to the playground because God help you if you forgot the snacks and many families have found wonderful adventures in Odyssey for trouble, or from people that abuse the super travel time is a great radio program 30 years old so we've got over 800 episodes for people you say God calls all of us to be those pilgrims, but for the audience really drill into that.
What does that mean to be a pilgrim to be a telegram is to be on a journey with Jesus and so I linked it to travel because pilgrimage is our lives with God, our daily lives.
It got her a pilgrimage but linking it to the actual practice of going somewhere was kind of a fun angle and a good reminder that a trip is not just a trip is an opportunity to meet God in a new place in a new way and know that God is already working out there at the airport or in the Uber or at the playground or wherever we go along our journey.
The alert some of us might have trouble planning control issues like we know something is going to break down the long way, but was prevented as much as we can. We want as much the firstborn would be the Lord invariably brings things along. How do I today get ready with that mindset.
Unwelcome interruption even though it wrecks the rest of the trip in my mind I'm wired very much way on the firstborn and we have a plan right. My husband will start doing laundry 10 minutes before really like what your husband makes me crazy and that's what we learned in marriages.
I just listened is mine and we get along great.
But viewing those interruptions as divine interruptions rather than some foreign thing that's coming in is is really an important piece that God is ordaining who your sitting next to on the airplane and God is ordaining the flat tire and God is ordaining right like there are there are opportunities and lessons and graces that we don't expect when things don't go as planned and that's a metaphor for the rest of our life as well. Rated. It's a trip but it's also everything else in our lives that sometimes gets derailed. Courtney, I used to believe that as a young Christian I was far more Lord, thank you for the flat tire. Let me get out repair that not only mine but the person broke down next to me all do their territory that over time wife, wears on you is a poor person on the road. It's not the right way to mature in Christ is, I think spiritual practices work on us and make us more tender. They make a show after they shut, and then there their questions to ask about how we are connecting with God or if were connecting with God because if our faith is making us more arrogant, then something is off. Something is wrong and Jesus was gentle and humble in heart, and we should start to see that in our lives which does not mean we encounter every difficulty with the spirit of hooray we pass right wonderful thing this terrible thing that is happened.
Thank you Jesus for cancer.
We don't do that but we know that in all circumstances God can bring good things so it's beginning to look for those things to look for God at work does the tow truck driver want to talk about his faith has he been through something recently. We wouldn't have met him without the flat tire, predictive models were there and I don't mean this is kind of teasing both use firstborn's but there are generally attributes that come in that position. You tend to be more responsible and that birth order with Dr. Kevin Lehman on the last born Jew not to come of the social people and all those kinds of things as the person that's wired in terms of that responsibility, the birth orders you can be a last born be highly responsible in that how did you and your own personal discipline begin to realize how do I become a little more flexible. How do I embrace a little slower pace or whatever helped you in that intensity of responsibility. I love that question and and I think so much of what I was taught a group in a wonderful evangelical church was that devotions were done a certain way you read your Bible for a set amount of time he pray for a set amount of time and then I would kind of leave it there and go about the rest of my day.
I did the God part and now this is on me and that didn't do good things for my control issues for my flexibility but living into the spiritual practices which by the way they are ancient. The church is been doing these for hundreds and thousands of years, like I kind of grew up thinking there is no in between Paul and Billy Graham wonderful folks in the things we can learn from St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Ann Julian of Norwich talk about the spiritual practices and what happens is when we can integrate them into the rest of our day. It becomes this constant awareness that God is at work and that we are on this journey with Jesus and it's less, I did my thing and now I'm going to follow Jesus. The best way I know how and it's more I'm constantly in touch with God and constantly talking to Jesus. And what's next and how is God can meet me in this new situation the whole day long and it takes the pressure off as if I would miss those morning devotions. I felt like that's it nothing to do but try again tomorrow.
God's really disappointed in me, and now it's this reminder. I talk in the book about writing Scripture on my shower walls with a white marker by Mr. devotions.
The Bible is there for me, however, that it's not all or nothing, but it can be constant when when Paul tells us to pray continually, it doesn't mean were always on our knees with her hands folded.
It means our entire lives can be a prayer alright so the spiritual practice is the last born.
My favorite so far as what is that about celebrate.
It feels like it's a little of an antithesis to how we should behave with God you serious right be very serious and kind of grumpy all the time. This not so Jesus was a master of celebration we find him, always with his friends reclining at the table and making the wine at the wedding and going to the feast in the festivals, even when he had to go in secret because people were were after him. He he goes to these fees in these festivals so Scripture is filled with celebrations.
There are all of these fees and festivals in the Old Testament, and then there are many new ones in the New Testament. The early church, the early church had over 200 E. days every year, not weekly celebration of Sabbath where we remember that ultimately the work is the Lord's and were invited to rest from our labors. Eugene Peterson talks about the Sabbath is a day for praying and playing and I used a major in the praying and forget the plane. Why was it hard for you personally celebrate part why did the same to be outside the orbit for you. Firstborn wasn't sure responsibility for I had not really sat with Jesus as a full person and I would read more deeply into the this is what you should do and I wouldn't read as much about who Jesus wise in the fact that he he enjoyed these things so much the message translation says that you called me a lush right they see him enjoying the wind right where there like this guy versus the laughing and having too much the kingdom of God is serious and and I don't think it is. I think the kingdom of God is deep and playful and winsome and holy and it's all God calls us to celebration because in celebration we form greater connections with God, and greater connections with one another. There is a holiness to play as a holiness to to joy our churches you know walking out of this pandemic. Like every other church in the country and we had to invest in live stream technologies and new cameras and lighting all of these things are best purchased couple of ping-pong tables for the people and they laugh and they play in there like I get, I'll catch you next Sunday on playing you next Sunday. And folks, we would see once a month were seeing every week because of celebration being present. You share a sweet story about the expected celebration your experience with your son. Lincoln during a weekend retreat what happened. I love that celebration between parent and child. As God was teaching me about not compartmentalizing my faith.
I was about to lead retreat for college and young adults group and the pastor was going to collegiate wet said you bring your son a centerpiece for he is going to throw rocks and eat dirt. And you know I don't think that's a good idea music you should bring in and so I brought him and the final morning of the retreat. This pastor led a service of communion and talked about Jesus and the Last Supper and what it means to give your life to the Lord and I looked over at my little boy and as far as I could tell he wasn't paying any attention.
He was digging in the dirt and he was begging the older kids for candy and snacks and then I brought them home later that day and he said you pastor Steve talked about being a disciple of Jesus cannot be a disciple of Jesus to he was listening and he wanted to pray this prayer of salvation and I'm married to a PhD in theology. I was thought that would be Darrell's moment and Darrell was at the store. It is like alright I guess it's me, and so we knelt there on the carpet in his bedroom and prayed and that would've happened if Steve hadn't said bring him. It's going to be fun for that person that does take their faith seriously. That's admirable, but you do have to have life and that I think of the Lord, you know if you've lived your entire life. Your 80 years old maybe older and you just been this very Sirs person about your faith and maybe again with your temperament, you know what word do you have for the person to say enjoy what God has given you experiences not just your scholar about it and I think it does speak to the spirit of the heart you know that's why the Lord wants us to celebrate because it breaks us out of our kind of high and mighty self celebration takes some humility, but your document act in a sophisticated way. You may be ridiculed, like they did the Jesus I think that's one of the reasons that Jesus invites us to come to him like little children. Children know how to celebrate and suffer the person he says my faith has been so serious for so long. I would just say God gives you permission God invites you, there is no reason we have so many types of food.
There's no reason we have so many types of birds there's no reason we have so many sunsets they don't serve a purpose. Therefore, our joy and therefore are flourishing and when we walk more deeply into that country of joy which is our native land. God is glorified. It enlivens our faith. It deepens our connections with one another. That's my next book actually court is wonderful. Thank you so much for being with us or focus for the first time over the last couple days it's been really good in your wonderful book almost holy mama life-giving spiritual practices for weary parents met a parent, especially with young kids that is weary.
So this is a resource that you need and you can do it right here from Focus on the Family. Make a gift of any amount become a monthly sustainer or one-time gift or will send it as our way of saying thank you been part of the ministry and as we said last time John there's a great parenting assessment. The particular website. It's free. We just want to help you notify those things you're doing well and then identify some of the things you might do better and it's only 5 to 6 minutes and it's a great resource for you to get on a better track in your parenting journey, you find the link to that free parenting assessment and details about Courtney's book and an opportunity to donate to the ministry. It's all right through the website. The link is in the episode notes or give us a call. Our numbers 800 K in the word family Courtney thanks for being with this really a good time thinking thank you for having me and we hope you have a great weekend with your family and your church as well join us on Monday will hear from here. The founder of American Heritage girls about why she started this alternative youth program.
You cannot yourself up called the Scriptures to inform you that you're going to fall day to all that out there because the majority out there is against which are about half of Jim Daly of the entire team. Thanks for listening to Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back once more help you and your family thrive in Christ you ever wonder what it was like to meet Jesus face-to-face teaching the long-awaited side flash all new novel by Focus on the Family call I have called you by name.
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