Loretta Bushlack

loving life.

What we think

We hear phrases like this every day:

  • It’s so scary, the latest news about…
  • It just makes me so angry when I think about…
  • It’s unfortunate, but did you hear about…
  • I don’t know why but I’m so worried about…

We read them in text messages and on our news feed. Hear them in meetings. We discuss them at dinner. We saturate our minds with negativity online, at work, and at home.

Is it any wonder then that we describe our default emotional state in primarily gloomy terms? How long have you been in a season of fear, anger, discouragement, or anxiety? When was the last time you described yourself as “super joyful” or “overflowing with hope?” 

Is it possible there’s a link between the things we think about and the state of our souls?

The Bible seems to think so. And it has the audacity to tell us to stop it. Stop the constant absorption of bad. We aren’t supposed to be passive sponges, soaking up every festering thought and foul feeling we encounter.

By contrast, we’re supposed to control what we let into our minds. We’re told to take every thought captive (2 Co 10:5). To set our minds on the Spirit (Ro 8:5-6). To be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro 12:1). To let the mind of Christ be our mind (Ph 2:5). To be sober-minded (1 Ti 3:2, 4:5, Ti 2:2, 1 Pe 1:13, 4:7, 5:8).

I don’t think this passively happens to us. I think there’s serious exertion required to have renewed minds. It’s easy to get caught in the current of our cynical culture. Floating downstream is normal. But as Christians, we are called to be different. To swim upstream. And that is not easy.

I’m not advocating for fake positivity. Sometimes life is truly, excruciatingly difficult. The Bible teaches us how to lament. And sometimes we need specialized, professional help to manage inner anguish. But for many of us, we just need a firm kick in the tailfin.

So here’s the challenge. Pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to your words, your conversations, your thoughts, and your feelings. Honestly evaluate–is this the mind of Christ? Or am I just floating down a stream of fear-mongering, gossip, or outrage?

There’s a final tip from Scripture to sort out whether or not we should continue thinking the way we are. If you find yourself fretting, moping, or ranting, read Philippians 4:8 and ask yourself:

  • Is this true or noble?
  • Is this right or pure?
  • Is this lovely or admirable?
  • Is this excellent or praiseworthy?

If the answer is YES, then, by all means, keep reading, talking, thinking, sharing, musing, and texting. But if not, take your thoughts captive. Find something good and think about that. Fight the tide, and swim upstream.

Take some time today to post some counter-cultural positivity. There are blessings to count. There’s gratitude to express. There’s beauty to behold. There’s good news to share. 

“What you think about, you will care about. What you care about, you will chase.” –Ben Stuart, Rest & War.

Chase the good,

Purple Presence

You guys remember Venn diagrams right? Little-known fact: my husband  proposed to me with a Venn diagram! You can ask me about that later.

This week at overnight camp our camp speaker Marissa used the Venn diagram to teach the kids about God‘s presence.

In the beginning, in the beautiful perfect garden of Eden, God‘s space and human’s space were not separated at all. They were one. It’s as if God space were represented by the color red, and human space were represented by the color blue, in the garden it was all one glorious purple presence.

Then of course when sin entered the world, God’s space could no longer dwell with human space. God’s holiness would kill human’s unholiness. Can somebody say ouch? Our access to God was broken.

But does everybody know that God still loves his kids? And God is a great planner! So God made a plan and he said I still wanna move back into your neighborhood but it can’t be the same way it was in Eden.

There’ had to be an extensive system of substitutionary sacrifice at the temple and even then,  God would only show His presence to one guy, one day of the year, in one room of the temple.

It was no longer the full glorious purple presence of the Lord, just a teeny tiny little overlap of his holiness here on earth. Can you feel the sadness of that? There was access to God, but it was certainly not free or confident.

So when Jesus came to move into our neighborhood, he was truly and perfectly God’s perfect purple presence on earth. He was God’s temple. He got to have God’s very holiness walking around with him everywhere he went.

But it still wasn’t like Eden where all the space was God space and human space completely overlapped. It was still only God‘s presence in one person at one place at a time.

Remember when Jesus said it’s better that he goes away so the Holy Spirit can come?

That is because it means every believer in Jesus gets God’s space inside their human space. Every believer in Jesus is now a walking, talking temple. Every believer in Jesus is now the walking purple presence of God: in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, and in our homes.

God‘s perfect purple presence is in you and it’s in me and it’s in the kids who are now new believers in Jesus as a result of responding to this good news at camp.

I hope you’ll never forget the Venn diagram of the gospel that says that through Jesus, God‘s perfect presence is now all over the earth and it’s with you forever! And that is fabulous news.

“In Him and through faith in Him, we can approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12.

Comfy Cozy

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend about some discouraging trends we notice in parenting and the potential long-term implications of those trends on the child, the family and the Church.

Those trends included things like:

  • Avoiding telling a child no
  • Not expecting obedience or demanding respect
  • Excusing rebellion
  • Avoiding the inconvenience of discipline
  • Protecting a child from all pain or frustration

He said, “Parents need to raise their kids–-not for comfort, but for war!”

Comfort vs. War. The contrast stuck with me.

Now I’m sure the above list made some of you uncomfortable. That’s okay. That’s the theme of the day. It is a calculated risk for me to make you feel uncomfortable for a bit.  

We all crave comfort. I assert it’s the primary idol in our lives. More than money or sex or power or prestige or health or beauty or food or drink or relationships.  I believe it is from the worship of comfort that other idolatry grows.

And this desire to keep ourselves and our kids comfortable also leads to a hundred poor parenting strategies.

It’s way easier to tie your child’s shoes than to teach them how. It’s much easier to roll your eyes and chuckle when you call for your child to stop yet they keep running on ahead. It’s easier to lie to your child and say they can have ice cream later (hoping they’ll forget) than to simply say, “No.”  It’s much easier to pretend you didn’t see your child get down from the table without asking permission than it is to make them obey the rule.  

Easy is comfortable. We say things like, “I’m picking my battles” but if we’re brutally honest, maybe we’re waving a white flag of surrender.

I don’t know your story, your struggles, or your reasons. Nor do I have a customized parenting plan for you. Your approach and your family are unique. But I do have a warning. If you are preferring constant comfort for yourself or your child, neither of you will be equipped for real life. You won’t be ready for war.

There’s a war between the world and the things of God. Entertainment, news, politics, education or business–-wherever you look you will find an attack on the values and the Word and the people of God. We are, as C.S. Lewis said, “in Enemy-occupied territory.” Open war is upon us, whether we like it or not.

It’s an all-out battle to courageously stand up for Christ. Not to mention the never-ending internal war we all fight against sin. And I haven’t even mentioned the devil yet!  

So, if you’re chasing comfort, perhaps you’re running the wrong way. And if you are always basically comfortable, I’m afraid you’re not at war.  

If however you feel like you’re in a firefight every day, that’s a good sign.  It means you are intentionally training, “not for comfort, but for war.”   

It takes intention to fight the lure of comfort in your life and parenting. To avoid the trap of easy trends. To do what is important, difficult, and time-consuming. To do what is helpful, necessary, and challenging. To raise your kids, not for comfort, but for war.

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, 
who trains my hands for war, 
and my fingers for battle;” 

Psalm 144:1

Keep fighting the good fight,

P.S. I read an excellent book this week. It’s called Rest and War by Ben Stuart.  It’s so good I’m re-reading it already. It’s like a field guide for the battle– super practical and helpful. I highly recommend it.

Once and For All

A sink full of dirty dishes

You know that satisfying feeling you get when you do the dishes? I don’t just mean loading the dishwasher and pressing start. I mean the kind of cleaning that involves scrubbing the pans, wiping off the counters and drying the wine glasses by hand. It’s a very personally rewarding feeling. 

And then someone in your household walks over with yesterday’s coffee cup, or tonight’s ice cream bowl, and thoughtlessly drops it in the once-sparkling sink. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone.

That’s the thing about cleaning: You have to do it over and over and over again.

This week at Day Camp, kids as young as four years old are learning that very lesson. They are learning how it relates to sin and forgiveness. They are learning all about the tabernacle, the high priest, the curtain, and Jesus.

Imagine walking to Jerusalem each year with your own pet lamb. Imagine confessing a year’s worth of your sins and the sins of your family to the priest at the tabernacle. You give your lamb to be sacrificed. Its blood is sprinkled on the altar for your forgiveness. 

As you turn toward home, you see your neighbor driving up in a tricked-out chariot, and you think, “What I wouldn’t give for a ride like that.”  And just like that, you are guilty of the sin of coveting. And just like that, the spotless feeling is gone. That’s the thing with sacrifices: You have to do it over and over again.

Thanks be to God, In Christ we no longer have to live that way. We don’t have to sacrifice a perfect lamb over and over again! Let’s join with our little children and learn to never take for granted the beautiful truth that the blood of Jesus, our high priest and perfect Lamb of God, has cleansed us once and for all. 

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:26-27.

You’re important.

planting seeds is important

Do you know how important you are?

Okay, I know we need to be careful to not stroke our already-inflated egos. This is not that.

But you are important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Let me tell you two stories from this week to illustrate what I mean.

Firstly, my husband and I had a stay-at-home date night this week. And if you know my husband, you know he is the king of starting big conversations with a big question. This one was, “Who has God put in our path and how can we intentionally invest in those relationships?”

In the process of answering that question we began listing out the people we feel God calling us to pursue for His sake. We thought of a dear couple who I knew would be driving through Iowa this week. I obeyed the Holy Spirit, texted them, and we were able to meet them for dinner. I thought they were maybe just beginning to pursue God. But actually they have developed a serious faith in Christ with a passion to see the gospel spread through their lives. 

Guys, this is literally an answer to decades of prayer. Prayers I honestly thought were hopeless because I’ve been praying them for so long and seeing no effect. Turns out God has been working for years and I just hadn’t been aware.

Prayer is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

Secondly, I received a text this week from a young mom. Her 7-year-old son saw a homeless man and in his compassion he declared, “I want to give him my Bible so that he knows that Jesus loves him. I can buy myself another Bible with my own money. I want him to have my Bible.” So their family prayed over the Bible and gave it to the man, letting him know that Jesus loves him.

There is literally nothing better on the planet than seeing your children loving and looking like Jesus. 

In one brief encounter, we see so much of Christ’s beauty on display: compassion, generosity, courage, faith, trust, love.

That small child has come to know Jesus through the discipleship and example of his parents. It can sometimes seem like years of following Christ or teaching your kids has little effect. Turns out they’ve been watching you all along, even if you weren’t aware.

Example is important. Significant. Powerful, even.

So wherever you are today, be encouraged, even excited. God is alive and well and actively accomplishing His work through you! Prayer and a faithful example are simple seeds that, when faithfully sown, do eventually bear fruit! Don’t lose heart and definitely don’t give up. You’re so important!

“…let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Ephesians 6:9.

Happy Summertime,

You’re Invited!

My son Jake’s 2015 graduation party

Well, it’s graduation season, and in Iowa, that means Grad Parties.

There’s something very poignant about walking past photo display boards where parents try to sum up an entire childhood. There’s no snapshot or slideshow that can adequately convey a person’s story. But if you were lucky enough to walk through life with this young adult for the past 18 years, the experience is different. You remember that Christmas they had the chicken pox. You heard them at their third grade piano recital. You signed their cast after that fateful soccer game.

You don’t need a picture book. You shared life with them. You really know them. That is a relationship that is real and rich and rare.

I want to invite you to try something this summer. And although I can already hear you thinking, “I’m too busy” or, “I don’t wanna” before I’ve even asked you…I’m gonna ask you anyway:

This summer, I’d like to invite you and your kids to invest in real and rich and rare relationships. And I don’t mean with Jesus, because that should be a given. I mean with other people who need Jesus. And I don’t mean someone you could merely invite to camp or to church (although, yes, please do!).  

I have prayed that the Holy Spirit has already given you a name or a face.  

Have them over. To your house. Get to really know them. Don’t just take your kids to the pool to meet friends. Have those kids over to your house afterward for popsicles. Don’t just let your kids go to the neighbors to play, ask the neighbor family to come over to your house for s’mores. Don’t just go out to the movies with friends. Have friends come to your house for dinner and a movie. Instead of constantly sliding into the privacy and comfort zone of your own home and your own family, be courageous and intentional and a little bit self-less and invest in people by inviting them over.

What if every one of God’s people made new friends with one non-believer this summer? Actual, “come on over to our house” friends. Real life, “can I borrow your extension ladder” friends. Or maybe even, “my daughter is defiant and I don’t know what to do” friends. How might the Holy Spirit work through that? A movement like that would definitely be real and rich and rare.

Consider yourselves invited. And challenged.

I hope you have a great holiday weekend. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for the courageous blood that was shed for your freedom. And if you go to any grad parties, I pray it will remind you to use this summer to invest in others by simply inviting them over.

Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

Love,

Countercultural

Years ago, at age 14, my daughter Emily designed, printed and paid for her own business cards. Some of you may still have one on your refrigerator. It says, “Emily Bushlack, Babysitter.”  She built a pretty good book of business by handing those out to parents as they picked their kids up from Sunday school. She has learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed caring for lots and lots of your kids.

But I’ll never forget the time she came home from one job. It was her first time babysitting for this family. And she said, “Mom, you won’t believe it. The parents told the boys that they had to listen and obey…They actually used the word OBEY!”

What a concept. It stood out to her because it was rare and exceptional and helpful.

Obey.

That’s not a very popular word today. No one likes to be told what to do. And that is a very, very dangerous way to live–for our kids and also for us.

Certainly there have been abuses of authority all throughout the pages of human history and maybe even in some of our own stories. But we should be careful not to use that as an excuse for our own disobedience. There is such a thing as God-ordained authority. Parents have authority. Pastors have authority. And God has absolute authority.

As followers of Christ, I hope we all understand and accept that. And it would be excellent if we were training our children to understand it as well.

There’s an account in the Bible that illustrates God’s righteous response to rebellion. It’s from the book of 1 Samuel and it’s about the two sons of a priest named Eli. Here’s how they are introduced: 

Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Sam 2:12)

Scoundrels! Seriously, if you read more you will agree they were really bad dudes. And because God has absolute authority, He has the right to inflict absolute consequences. They disobeyed and died. Their consequences weren’t like our kids’ consequences. They didn’t disobey and get a count to three. They didn’t disobey and get a time out. They didn’t disobey and get sent to their rooms. They had no regard for the Lord. As a result, when they disobeyed Him, they died.

Turns out there is a Holy God in Heaven who gets to be serious about being obeyed. 

Somewhere I fear we’ve forgotten that. I know I have. I often think of God as a good-natured grandfatherly god who has mellowed over the centuries. I can sometimes imagine he excuses, understands or ignores my bad behavior and the bad behavior of those I love. In fact, I also expect Him to bail us all out and remove hard consequences when we mess up. But a good Father doesn’t do that. 

A good Father knows what is best for his children. He has boundaries around their behaviors to keep them safe and healthy. He has rules to teach them to become responsible and kind. He has standards for their character and integrity. Because all these things strengthen the loving bond between them, he is serious about being obeyed.

Just to be clear: I’m not a fan of authoritarian parenting. In terms of Diana Baumrind’s four parenting styles, I’m squarely in the authoritative camp. I’m also not a legalist. I don’t believe obedience earns you salvation. I don’t believe obedience makes you a child of God. That gets the cart in front of the horse. 

Rather, when we are a child of God, the Holy Spirit gives us a heart that wants to obey. “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16) and “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). 

We no longer want to be scoundrels. We want to be like our good Father. Enjoying a loving relationship and avoiding the consequence of rebellion.

So even though it’s totally countercultural, let’s get serious about obedience. 

“”Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

Thankful for your sacred work as parents,

Don’t Miss His Best

Your faith community is one place where you are meant to experience God's best.

I will never forget last Sunday. It was one of the most powerful times of worship I can remember. We were led in praise by some amazing and strong moms. And we got to join with parents in commitment to a lifetime of pointing their kids to Jesus. And we got to hear a powerful, personal, and painful testimony of conviction from my courageous and dear friend Laurie. And we got to behold and bow before a Holy God, stare our own sin in the face, and respond to the conviction of the Spirit by confessing our sins openly and honestly. Many of you came forward for prayer and confession. Such an incredible morning.

But many of you did not come forward for prayer and confession.

So I wonder why. And I want to encourage you to wonder why as well. Hopefully, it’s because you responded at lunch with a dear friend or that night with your spouse, or already this morning during your quiet time. If so, thank you for doing the hard work of confession.

But if not, please, please, do not let the word of the Lord and the voice of the Spirit go unheeded. I pray that whatever may have hindered you on Sunday or in the days since will not keep you from action today.

I’m outside of my comfort zone even typing this. I don’t want to be the bad guy bringing the hammer down. But I believe God is right now calling all of us at New Covenant to a higher level of holiness and I need to obey Him by continuing to exhort His people to obedience.

So, if you haven’t taken the time to respond to conviction yet, I want to encourage you to not wait another moment. Sit in silence and ask the Spirit to reveal to you an oblivious sin or give you the courage to confess to a trusted friend the blatant sin you know you carry. Right where you are as you read this you can confess, be washed clean, and have a burden of sin lifted from you.

He may be convicting you of:

  • Enslaving sins: Addictions, lusts, gluttony
  • Prideful sins: Vanity, gossip, arrogance, unforgiveness
  • Selfish sins: Greed, hypocrisy, not serving, not giving
  • Unbelieving sins: Fear, faithlessness, worry, despair

Whatever it is, I urge you to remember: conviction is not condemnation. Conviction is a gift. It shows God’s favor. It shows He is actively leading your spirit. He is caring for you as a loving Father who wants the best for His child. And His best is confession, healing, obedience, and power.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’m praying to see personal repentance become true revival.

Good Questions!

We recently took a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation to Hawaii. Sadly the adopted boys had to work, but the original six Bushlacks enjoyed over a week together on The Garden Isle of Kauai. I’m not gonna lie, it was paradise.

Our time included plenty of adventures. Snorkeling, rainforest hikes to see waterfalls, cliff jumping, boogie boarding, and even a helicopter tour of the island. But the very best time of all was spent at our VRBO, sitting in a hot tub under the palm trees and the stars.

One night after dinner, Jeremy began a game of “Good Questions.” (I literally just named it that this second). When I say we played a game, I mean Jeremy did what he does: He set some rules and the entire family agreed to play along. Here’s how you play: One person starts by asking a question to any other person in the circle. That person answers and then in turn can ask a question of anyone else in the circle. When I describe it like that, it basically sounds like a grown-up version of Truth or Dare, except without the dare.

Anyway, it was during this conversation that I heard some of the most astonishingly thoughtful questions ever:

  • To Marissa (a high school charter school teacher in Brooklyn, NY): Who is your favorite student and why?
  • To Noah (Emily’s boyfriend): How do people misunderstand you?
    • (At this point Jake announced, “This one needs to be an all-play.” We learned so much about each other!
  • To me and Jeremy: What is it like to go from empty nest to a reunion like this?
  • To Emily: Go around the circle and answer: What’s your favorite thing about each person?
    • This question became another “all-play” with everyone having the opportunity to “pile on” more good things about each person in turn.

Y’all, we talked for over 4 hours that night. I will never, ever forget the joy of hearing my grown children sharing joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, doubts and victories with each other. And hearing each person thoughtfully build one another up with sincere words of affirmation.

I guess the point of the game is this: there’s always more we can learn and appreciate about one another. And a great way to accomplish that is simply by asking a thoughtful question.

This Sunday, at New Covenant Bible Church, we begin a series that may likely stir up some questions of your own. The series is on the Holy Spirit. I don’t care how long you’ve been walking with God, I bet you have some good questions about His Spirit. Me too.

I hope you will take time these next few weeks to ponder those questions and ask those questions. Ask your small group. Ask a pastor. And of course, ask the Spirit Himself to help you understand. He wants to reveal Himself to you. Do you believe that?

There’s always more we can learn and appreciate about our awesome God. And a great way to accomplish that is simply by asking a thoughtful question.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

A gift for you.

Have you ever had someone refuse your gift?

It’s a strange feeling. It’s so inexplicable and baffling one doesn’t know what to do. 

On two different occasions, my husband and I gave extravagant gifts, only to have them unappreciated and rejected.  Our emotions bounced between anger, hurt, and confusion. Why would anyone turn down something of great value? It doesn’t make sense.

A generous gift means more than the thing in the box or the envelope. A gift is personal. A gift means you present part of yourself to someone else. It’s valuable..

Imagine, someone has just given you an envelope with $50,000 cash in it. Do you go home, open your messiest closet, and stash it somewhere randomly in the piles of stuff, hoping to not have to think about it ever again? Or even worse, on your drive home, do you roll down the window, open the envelope, and just let the bills flutter away?

Would you ever do that?

What if I told you I’m afraid we’ve all done just that.

The unappreciated gift?

The Holy Spirit.

We should understand as Christians that once we have trusted Jesus as our Lord that we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  But what do we do with that gift?  What do we do with Him?  I am afraid more often than not we tuck Him away somewhere forgettable and go on with our lives.

Because what do we really need Him for?  After all, we can have a nice house, a great career, a lovely wedding, and two cars in our three-car-garage without the Holy Spirit. We can even squeak by with a decent marriage and good kids without the Holy Spirit. And we can serve in pretty much any capacity at church without the Holy Spirit.

So what do we need Him for? 

Well we find out how bad we need Him when our lives crack or crumble. Once our own strength fails to hold together our tidy little lives. We find out, often too late, that we needed His strength in our marriages, our parenting, our careers, our private lives.  We needed Him in order to be able to forgive our spouse–again. We needed Him to give us patience instead of angry outbursts with our kids–again. We needed Him to give us integrity instead of cooking the books at work–again. We needed Him to make us turn our phone off instead of watching filth–again. 

All those “again” moments. All those spiritual failures. All that powerlessness that ultimately defines our lives. Ruins our lives.

We need Him in order to stop the things we’re too weak to stop. 
We need Him in order to do the things we’re too weak to do.

And that’s just the beginning. 

He is also a gift of incredible power. Is your life characterized by supernatural comfort, counsel, guidance, deliverance, insight, revelation, and wisdom?

The Holy Spirit also is a source of unbelievable spiritual gifts meant to advance the gospel. 

He also gives you spiritual fruit in your life. Is your life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control?  If not, maybe you’ve tucked Him away somewhere forgettable.

If you are in Christ, you have been given the greatest gift in the universe. The third person of the Trinity, fully God, at home in you.  Don’t you wonder what He’s capable of doing in, through and for you?

I hope you will choose to take another look at this incredible gift. If you want to know more, please take the following steps:

  1. Pray every day to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  2. Search your scriptures to get to know the Spirit better. John 14-16, Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 12 are a good place to start.
  3. Find a good book to help you get to know the person of the Holy Spirit.  I would recommend Forgotten God by Francis Chan.

““Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

« Older posts

© 2022 Loretta Bushlack

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑