Loretta Bushlack

loving life.

To Don’t

Well fams, it’s Thanksgiving week. Let’s take a quick inventory: How are we doing?

People say, “the holidays are upon us” as if they are a burden as heavy as Santa’s over-stuffed sack.

They don’t have to be.

Let me encourage you, before the holidays even officially begin: Be uber-intentional about your expectations and activities this year. Don’t get swept up, sucked in, or overwhelmed by the tide of the world’s way of celebrating. Be different.

Say yes to the things that will bring you and your family lasting joy. And say no to the things that won’t.

Saying no is hard! 

It’s even hard to say no to things you don’t really like. And even harder to say no to the things you do like! It can be hard sometimes to say no to the awkward, stressful or toxic expectations that are bad for you. And even harder to say no to the things that are fun, popular, or traditional. Things that seem good but add so much stress or financial burden or calories that they simply aren’t wise for you for this season of life.

Jim Collins famously said, “Good is the enemy of great.” A Christmas season that’s too full of good things is still a Christmas that’s too full.

No matter what, make sure your family prioritizes Jesus daily this advent season. Beyond that, only you can decide all of what goes on your family’s Christmas to-do list. 

But may I be so bold as to suggest a Christmas to-don’t list? 🙂 

2022 Christmas To-Don’t:

  • Don’t be influenced by your friend’s Instagram decor, or your neighbor’s elaborate yard display, or even your in-law’s demands.
  • Don’t feel pressured into going to the mall for Santa pictures, to Great Aunt Beverly’s fruitcake exchange, or to regrettable, drunken office cocktail parties.
  • Don’t make impossible, mile-long holiday lists: shopping, decorating, attending, making, doing.
  • Don’t miss Christlike opportunities. Serving and giving to those who can’t give back is always worth the cost.

The holidays don’t have to be an unbearable weight you’re under. Take control early and often and create for your own family a sustainable season of joy and love and happy memories.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11-12).

Hard rest

Resting is hard work!

I don’t mean vegging out in front of the TV. That is not hard work. It’s the easiest thing in the world. But it’s also not actual rest––the kind of rest that refreshes you: body, mind and soul. 

I mean, have you ever gotten up after watching an episode of your favorite show (or, let’s be honest, five episodes of your favorite show) and thought, “Okay! Now I feel ready to tackle that project!” Probably not. Unless your favorite show is Sparking Joy by Marie Kondo.

Vegging out doesn’t rejuvenate. It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t refresh. It requires nothing of us and it gives nothing to us. Maybe it feels good, in a lethargic, slug-like way, but it isn’t the kind of rest that sparks joy. It’s not the kind of rest we need.

I’ve been devouring a variety of resources (like this one here) about rest, and practicing sabbath, and I’ve found I’m starving for it.

The kind of rest that involves no task list, no email, no Google, no phones at all. No advertising, no social media, no screens at all. The kind of rest that involves face to face conversation with your favorite people. Time in fresh air and God’s amazing creation. Extended time talking to and talking about God. Not working for Him. Not producing for anyone. The kind of rest that involves simply resting in your identity as God’s child. 

Celebrating. Delighting. Worshiping.

Making room for that kind of rest is hard work!

But don’t you want it? Or at least want to want it?

I want it for you. And I want it for me.

That’s why I’m so passionate about an event coming up in February called AbideCR.

It’s one weekend in your year to practice the kind of rest I’m talking about. 

Rest that refreshes you: body, mind and soul. Would you be willing to invest in that? Invest the time? Invest the money? Invest in a babysitter? 

Early bird tickets are on sale now. And in case you were wondering, yes, they make great Christmas gifts.

There’s so much more I want to say to convince you. But please, just join me. You won’t regret it.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…”. Hebrews 4:11.

Great commission

Jesus equipped his disciples and commissioned them before he went to Heaven. It’s the commission every single disciple of Jesus has inherited ever since: Go and make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them to obey.

Well parents, you have little mini disciples under your roof. And one of your jobs is teaching them to obey. 

And that’s not a popular idea these days. 

The world would tell you that your babies are born good and innocent and full of divine potential. That if they can just be allowed to follow their hearts and actualize their true identities, they will be bright lights of love and goodness to society. That your job as a parent is to simply keep them alive, get out of their way, and let them self-direct their destinies.

That is not the message of the Bible. And anyone who has watched two toddlers fighting over a toy knows they are not born sinless. And anyone who has had a child try to wear flip flops in sub-zero January knows they aren’t born wise.

We come into the world neither innocent nor motivated to be kind. We are born selfish and determined to get our own way. We are born tiny little bundles of desire. Cravers. Takers. And screamers if we don’t get our desires met quickly enough.

We are born adorable little rebels. And that’s why God gave us parents.

Parenthood is power. Loving power. Benevolent ultimate power. There are things you force your baby to do that they might not want (sleeping in a crib, being buckled in a car seat) but those things are insisted upon by a good and trustworthy person. Someone who consistently loves them and affectionately provides not just their basic needs but constant joy and comfort and pleasure too.

The successful parent doesn’t abdicate that power in the face of opposition but insists upon it as a duty and a calling. You know what is best for your child. And you know that it usually isn’t what your child would willingly pick. Carrots over candy. Baths over bacteria. Naps over Nickelodeon. 

Real love is wanting your child’s best more than you want your own convenience and comfort. Real love is leveraging your power for your child’s ultimate good.

Confidently remaining in that position of loving power and unapologetically training your child to obey you is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenge. It is very time-consuming. It requires unflinching commitment and courage. Because those little ones can put up quite a fight! And us parents are prone to our own rebellious ways: anger, impatience, and a desire to have a little me-time right when our kids need our engagement the most.

Be strong and very courageous, Moms and Dads. It’s okay for you to be in charge. You’re supposed to be.

The goal is to eventually help them mature past self-centered childhood toward others-centered Christlikeness. We want to see them live with patience, gratitude, kindness and generosity. The very first baby step is for them to learn there’s someone else in charge of them. At first it’s you. Eventually it’s their Father in Heaven. 

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise)…Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4).

May you learn the delicate art of being the boss of them.

Sent

Pastor Jay has been teaching New Covenant week after week in his TD12 series that Jesus always equips us to send us.

I don’t know about you, but there was a time in my life I didn’t want to think about that. Mostly because I didn’t want to move to Africa. That was my only context. Being sent = The Great Commission = Becoming a missionary = Moving to Africa.

But it’s not that easy. It’s not that cut-and-dried. At least not for everyone.

You have places to go, don’t get me wrong. But it might be somewhere scarier than Africa. It might be Collins Aerospace. Or St. Luke’s Hospital. Or Starbucks. Or home.

You have been placed in a neighborhood and a network. You have a sphere of influence. You have a world around you that does not know the hope of Christ. 

Go there. Be a disciple. Be a disciple-maker.

Of course the very first way to be a more effective disciple-maker is for each of us to become a more effective disciple.

Do you live and look like Jesus?

Some things Jesus did:

  • Filled his mind with God’s word (committing much of it to memory). 
  • Prayed. Sometimes early in the morning while it was still dark, but not always. Sometimes all night long but not always. Sometimes in tears, sometimes in thanksgiving, sometimes with just a quick pop-up prayer in a moment of needing to reconnect with the Father.
  • Fasted. And I don’t mean going without Instagram. I mean going without food.  
  • Rested. Taking time to recharge: mind, body, relationships.
  • Solitude, Simplicity, Generosity, Hospitality, Community…and more

As growing disciples we all ought to be practicing these ways of Jesus. They will bring abundant, spirit-filled life. Pick one that needs practice–and practice it. This resource might help: Practicing The Way with John Mark Comer.

Since we are always equipped to be sent, what does that look like as parents? When my kids were small I had a wise mentor who reminded me that my kids were my primary mission field. Pointing them to Christ was my biggest responsibility.

Some things you do:

  • Storytime: Telling about God through stories of His goodness in your life or teaching from a God’s Word for children (Like The Jesus Storybook Bible).
  • Praying. Modeling for kids what it means to boldly talk to God as one of His kids.
  • Honoring. Respect and honor for authority and others is important to God. Teaching kids to obey and behave appropriately in your home is a good thing!
  • Repenting. Your children learn at church about sin. Sin is all the bad stuff we do. We all want to live “Me first. My way.” From birth. ‘Til death. Repenting is admitting we do wrong things, feeling sorry, and turning back to God.
  • Comforting. Jesus was full of grace and compassion. When you rock a crying baby, care for a sick child, listen about your child’s bad day at school, or help your child learn to trust God when they feel scared you are passing on the steadfast love of Christ. 
  • Equipping. Your kids can be equipped to be sent as well! They have networks and neighborhoods where they can and should share the goodness of God. Help them catch a vision of what that looks like at their age. Teach them to lead and to serve in Jesus’ name. 

Wow! Isn’t it incredible when you stop and consider what you’re capable of doing as a disciple-maker? Don’t grow weary. You are obeying the Great Commission when you intentionally follow Jesus and teach your kids to follow too.

Way to go, Parents! You’re doing it!

Boo!

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual Halloween consumer survey, total Halloween spending this year will reach a record 10.6 billion dollars. Eeek!

I am not throwing stones. I love holidays, shopping, celebrating and generally having a fun time. I mean, Queen Elizabeth II’s appearance at Fall Fest didn’t happen on a dime.

But 10.6 billion dollars? That’s a lot of fixation on fright night. That’s a lot of profit on our fears. That’s a lot of money spent rubbing our noses in our own mortality. 

Every year when I drive by front yards decorated with tombstones I think to myself, “They must not have a dear loved one who is literally buried under a literal headstone.” Because how could you decorate with a symbol of such profound grief?

And when I see blood and gore used as a costume prop, I think, “They probably never experienced the trauma of real violence, or felt the helplessness of a family member’s life slipping away.” Because it’s no longer all that funny if you’ve lived it for real.

And maybe it’s just me. I am sure I’m getting some eye rolls right now. I have plenty of friends for whom Halloween is their favorite holiday. I’m not judging. I’m just communicating my feelings. And I’m wanting to point our collective gaze up higher–to the face of Christ.

You see, I have witnessed in my lifetime a dramatic shift in culture. An internal, soul-level shift. People are tormented at unprecedented levels with depression, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. With each generation of young people the torment grows.

Simply Google “increasing anxiety by generation” and you will see. Millennials and Gen Z are facing mental health struggles and pervasive fear at an alarming level and it’s not getting better. 

I don’t have all the answers to all that. But I have an answer. Jesus.

Because you see, as followers of Jesus we don’t need to be afraid.

And I’m guessing you know that we don’t need to be afraid of silly things like ghosts and goblins, or zombies or The Grabber or Ghostface. It also means we don’t need to be afraid of more plausible troubles: apocalyptic climate change, the great reset, or paralyzing inflation. And it even means we don’t need to be afraid of more legitimate concerns: estranged relationships, financial collapse, ruined reputation.

It doesn’t mean we aren’t afraid. But we don’t need to be afraid. Not even of our deepest most profound fear. 

Fear of Death.

There I said it. We don’t need to be afraid of dying. We don’t need to be afraid of our spouse dying. We don’t need to be afraid of our kids dying. We don’t need to be slaves to this fear of death.

Death is simply not the end. Remember? Remember Jesus and the resurrection and eternal life and the hope of heaven and all that? When these bodies give out and this life is over, that is literally just when it starts getting good for believers. This is a perfect time of year to remember that.

This particular season profits on our deepest, most profound fear. But Jesus’s victory is deeper and more profound still. May we live like that’s true. Because it is.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Fear not! 🙂

Be the GOAT.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be considered the very best at something? The Greatest of All Time?

Some names are synonymous with greatness. Serena Williams. Michael Phelps. Whitney Houston. Frank Lloyd Wright. Michelangelo. Shakespeare.  

There was a little book published 33 years ago that is considered the greatest business book, maybe not of all time, but of the twentieth century. It sold over 25 million copies and launched a multimillion dollar leadership-development, personal-productivity industry.

The book? The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Even after 30 years, it still stands as a great outline for human thriving.

This is a reminder to take a long serious look at his

Rule #2: “Begin with the end in mind.”

Stephen covey, The 7 Habits of highly effective people

What end? THE END. The end of your life. 

And lest you roll your eyes and dismiss the idea as morbid or depressing, we can also consider the words of scripture from Ecclesiastes 7:2.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.”

Our end is coming sometime. And instead of having it sneak up on us without a thought, wouldn’t it be better to thoughtfully consider it? To face it head on instead of head in the sand? 

Who do you hope to be when you leave Planet Earth?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And frankly it’s easier for me to name who or what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be joyless. Demanding. Lonely. Bitter. Angry. Critical. Stingy. In other words, I don’t want to end up crotchety.

I don’t think the people who end up crotchety just woke up that way on their 75th birthday. I think they slowly drifted there. And I think most of them, maybe all of them, have darn good excuses for why they drifted. They probably started drifting when they realized their need for reading glasses was never going away, their hair was never going to grow back, their kids were never going to move home and television was never going to be good again. 

Those are realities that could make the staunchest soul begin to drift toward crotchety.

But what if they refused to drift? What if they had decided 40, 50, 60 years earlier to fight against the drift? To aim at something better and intentionally build their lives toward that end?

Because the whole of our life is being built now. Day by day. Choice by choice. Priority by priority. 

Instead of The End being a depressing thought, it could actually be empowering. What we do today truly, actually matters. Actually sets a trajectory. Actually moves us toward the life and family and future we want. Or not. 

Maybe you’ll never be the greatest athlete, author, or accountant of all time. But if you begin with the end in mind, maybe you will be the greatest you possible. The way you live today will influence how you end.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).

Choose carefully.

P.S. Extra Credit:  Begin With the End in Mind, Parenting Version. Who do you want your kids to be…when they leave home? Their lives are also being built day by day. Choice by choice. Priority by priority. You get to influence that too!
P.P.S. Book Recommendation: If this topic touches a nerve, there’s an amazing little book I can not recommend highly enough. Remember Death by Matthew McCullough. It’s not depressing. It’s surprisingly hopeful!

The burden

Do you ever look at your sweet, impressionable child and then take a long, hard look at yourself and think, “Dear Lord–what were you thinking?

It’s scary. It’s scary being responsible for them. There are so many questions to answer. Do I shield them and their innocence? Or do I equip them for reality? And the most frightening of all: How badly am I gonna screw them up?

I just have a few bits of biblical perspective to hopefully help you when the burden of parenting seems unbearable.

  • Don’t be afraid.
  • He works all things out for good.
  • You can trust him with all your cares, 1. Because he cares for you, your child, and everyone (I Peter 5:7) and 2. He’s actually the one strong enough to manage it all, make a difference or change it all (Psalm 55:22).
  • He loves and knows your child better than you. She is safe with Him.
  • He gave YOU to your child as his parent. (He’s a wise father who gives good gifts to his children–and that means you are a good gift to your child).
  • There are no “good old days.” Every generation –since Adam, since Noah, since John the Baptist, since George Washington, since Abraham Lincoln and since Joe Biden –has been plagued with its own sin. There isn’t a time you could travel back to that is free from some grievous generational sin. 
  • You and your child were born “for such a time as this.” Into this precise generation, neighborhood, demographic, and school. With this particular culture and technology and brokenness. Purposefully placed here and now. “And that is an encouraging thought.”—Gandalf
  • And I say it again: Don’t be afraid.

It’s normal and healthy to feel the gravity of caring for your child’s soul. It means you understand parenting is hard work that requires intentionality and God’s amazing grace. But that burden doesn’t have to weigh you down with paralyzing fear. Let it weigh you down just enough to hit your knees.

 I know it’s scary. But God’s got you–and your kid.

What’s His Face

“Stop it right now Jake! I mean Marissa! I mean Emily! I mean Lizzy!” Admit it parents, you’ve called your kids the wrong name before. Especially when you’re stressed. Or maybe if you’re like me, you’ve even thrown in the pets’ names as well.

I can’t imagine how often it would happen to me if my kids’ had remotely similar names. You parents who named all your kids with the same starting initial…what were you thinking? LOL.

Well, this week in NCBC Kids, we are learning about a new person from the Bible whose name is practically the same as the guy we met last week. Last week was Elijah. This week is Elisha. They both were prophets of God. They both performed miracles with water and cloaks and oil and flour. But they were also very different.  I invite you to compare and contrast Elisha and Elijah with your kids!

Aren’t you glad we have a Father in Heaven who doesn’t get us mixed up?  He knows us perfectly and uniquely. He knows what we like, what we need, what we’ve been through, and where we’re going. He sees you. He loves you. And he cares about what you’re going through this instant.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. …Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you” (Isaiah 43: 1-5).

Angry Jesus

What makes Jesus angry?  

Maybe an angry Jesus is not something you’re comfortable with or that you’ve even considered. I know a lot of people think that there’s one God in the Old Testament who is full of wrath and judgment and thankfully a kinder, gentler God of the New Testament in the person of Jesus. That Jesus is meek, mild, and never angry.

Or maybe not. Maybe you are like me and you’ve got a couple of biblical instances that come quickly to mind. I know Jesus was angry at the greed and injustice of the moneychangers in the temple. He fastened whips himself and chased them out of there, for crying out loud!  And I know Jesus was angry with the hypocritical and merciless Pharisees. I mean “brood of vipers” and “sons of the devil”… that’s some pretty strong language.

But I just read another time this week when Jesus was indignant. 

For context, “indignant” is also the word that describes:

  • A pharisee, mad that Jesus healed on the Sabbath.
  • The disciples, mad that a sinful woman “wasted’ expensive perfume on Jesus.
  • The disciples, mad at James and John for asking to sit next to Jesus in the kingdom.
  • The chief priests, mad at Jesus for letting the children sing Hosanna to him.

Indignant is more than a little miffed. More than perturbed or annoyed. Indignant is angry because something is either very wrong, or perceived to be wrong.

Here’s what made Jesus indignant:

“And they were bringing children to Him that He might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:13-14).

Hindering kids from encountering Jesus. That ticks Him off.

It is essential that any follower of Jesus who has any influence in the life of a child takes these words to heart: Do not hinder children from encountering Jesus. Do not get in the way of God and His kids.

As flawed humans you and I could be a hindrance. Our own unconfessed sin could create a child’s perspective that says, “I’ve known Christians. My teacher/aunt/dad was Christian. They are a bunch of  ___________.” We should be very careful in our own life and character to not defame the name of Christ.  

Instead, can we be helpers who encourage kids to encounter Jesus? To really see Him? Because He’s awesome.

He’s powerful (Did you hear that thunder?). He’s artistic (Come here and look at this flower closely). He’s thorough (Did you know scientists used to think the appendix was useless–boy were they wrong!). He’s smart (look at all these cars on the interstate. He knows the names of every single driver, and where they are going, and…). He’s funny (have you seen a platypus, or baby kittens playing?).  He’s wise (He knows all about friendships and work and love and money). He’s merciful (When I was at my lowest, He came to me and saved me). Everything that’s good, He is.

Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life, famously said, “It is a crime to bore anyone with the gospel.”  I agree. In addition to the amazing creation all around us, there are so many incredible resources for families to use to help little ones come and see our great God. He is simply the best.

How can you help your kids encounter Jesus this week? Comment to let me know your ideas!

Personal Epiphany

I had an encouraging and deeply personal epiphany this summer. And I’d like to share it with you.

Epiphany. Noun. “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”
(Epiphany is also the holiday where we celebrate the Magi’s visit to Jesus, but that’s not what I’m talking about today).

Merriam webster

My illuminating discovery happened in three phases.

Phase One:  
One of my kids did or said something that annoyed me. Imagine that! Kids can still do that to a parent even once they grow up. All I know is, I was justifiably annoyed. It was something really dumb, insensitive, foolish or demanding. I don’t exactly remember which. Never mind that. I just know I felt totally justified in the moment. 

Then I suddenly realized (translation, the Lord convicted me in my spirit): Me getting annoyed and critical of my kids (or anybody) is more about my sin than theirs.

Let me repeat. Getting annoyed or overly critical or easily angered is MY SIN. My fault. Not theirs. Itt says more about me being a bad parent and a bad friend than anything it says about the other person.

I admit, Phase One was a little bit harsh and painful, but it led me to the next part.

Phase Two:
Another day I was praying for and wanting greater devotion and affection for Jesus. I love him and I’m devoted to Him, but I was hungering for more. I had recently had a large party at my house and I flat out told Jesus, “I want to know for sure you’d be the first person I’d invite to a party, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure right now you would. And that’s a problem with ME, not you Jesus, so show me what that’s all about.”

He showed me exactly why I said that. I confessed that I was afraid that if Jesus was at my party, he would be constantly giving me, “the look.” Following me around with a disappointed look of disapproval for something I did or said. Repeatedly giving me a condescending shake of the head for my wrong, sinful, or selfish motives. Like some killjoy chaperone–not an ideal party guest.

I like people who like me. People who find me funny, smart or wise. Those are naturally my favorite people to hang with!  My friends know I’m not perfect. They like me and love me anyway.  I guess deep down I was sort of wondering if Jesus actually likes me or just loves me–-because he has to.

Phase Three:
I re-realized something.

I re-realized that being critical, easily angered, impatient or annoyed isn’t godly. God isn’t a bad parent. And Jesus isn’t a bad friend.

Oh that I would trust the heart of my good friend Jesus. To love me and like me. To trust that He isn’t surprised by or disappointed with me or even with my spiritual progress. 

Because after all I think that He is comfortable trusting my sanctification to the timeline of the perfect Holy Spirit.

But that’s a thought for another time.

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