By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Decreasing October 29, 2007

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 10:10 pm
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It has been a long time since I’ve posted, in part because there are lots of different ideas wrestling around in my head and I’ve had trouble organizing them into coherence. I’ve also been dealing with sick children for what seems like ages, and so I’ve spent quite a bit of time feeling restless, exhausted, frustrated and full of self-pity–none of which are all that conducive to spiritual growth for me. I’m so thankful to be doing BSF, which requires me to spend time in the Word even when I want to forget it.

Last week when Christopher was feeling especially crummy, he asked me, “What is God doing to me?” I don’t know the answer for Christopher, but I know what God is doing to me–He is teaching me that I need to be decreasing so that He may increase. This idea came to me in my BSF notes a couple of weeks ago, and it needs some context, so let me back up a little.

Apparently, I am quite forgettable, and it drives me nuts. Countless people meet me, sometimes more than once, and then don’t remember me at all the next time they see me. There was one woman I knew who met me about 5 times (including one time she was in my home!) before she remembered that she knew me. But this idea of myself decreasing so that God may increase means that when people meet me and interact with me, they see Christ. It is not my reputation that increases, but God’s glory.

This is a really difficult one for me. When I meet people, I’d much rather they think how friendly or witty I am, how well-behaved my children are, or maybe even how nice I look. I want them to think I’m somebody worth knowing and to want to spend more time with me (or at least remember my name next week). If I’m going to point people to Christ, then I’d have to stop thinking about how memorable I am, how well-liked I am, how trendy my clothes are (or aren’t). And if my words and actions are those that would always bring glory to God, I could be seen as weird.

I think an idea that is closely tied to this is something our BSF teaching leader talked about last week: our citizenship in the kingdom of Heaven trumping our citizenship as Americans. (See Ephesians 2:19 and Philippians 3:20 if you’re not sure what I mean by citizenship in the kingdom of Heaven.) She said that kingdom citizens have no use for earthly gain, but only fight for eternal gain (that is, wanting others to see Jesus Christ). She also encouraged us to ask ourselves: Do my attitudes better reflect my heavenly citizenship or my American citizenship? Have I renounced the things of this world? Is Jesus more valuable to me than any earthly thing?

Honestly, I’d like to think I can hold on to earthly gain as long as Jesus is in the mix somewhere. That I don’t have to actually renounce the attitudes and priorities of our culture as long as I’m not as worldly as the person next door. That it is okay to store up earthly treasures for myself as long as I tithe.

But I suspect that if Jesus truly was more valuable to me than any earthly thing, those earthly things would be utterly without value to me. And I would boldly proclaim Christ to others without any thought of how they would remember me but with only the hope that they would remember Jesus. I would give myself daily in sacrificial service to my husband and kids because it isn’t me that is important. And I would see that God truly meets all my needs in the glorious riches of Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I’ve got a long way to go, and I’m not 100% certain I want to take the journey. But I’m going to keep praying that God will change my heart to desire Him more than any other thing, that He would cause me to decrease so that He may increase, and that He would give me eyes to see how truly worthless are the things I’m tempted to chase after.


Worship October 12, 2007

Filed under: parenting,spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 1:27 pm
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Last week at BSF, our teaching leader talked about how God created every human to worship. Every day, all of us are worshiping something–either the God of the Bible or someone/something else (which is idolatry). She asked us a couple of questions: Who or what do you worship? And what would others who observe you say that you worship?

The first question is one that I’ve thought about before, but the second one really got me thinking about my kids. I spend about 10 hours every day being observed by my two little munchkins. Although they are too young to articulate it, I wonder what they would say about my worship if they could. Would they say Mommy worships the things of this world, or the one true God? Do they see me chasing after the approval of others and materialistic things? Or do they see me in constant communion with my Savior? Am I worshiping myself, my desires, my comfort? Or I am making daily sacrifices to live a life that brings glory to God? I’m afraid the answers are very convicting. And seeing it through the eyes of my kids, I know that the object of my worship is not only impacting my spiritual life, but my kids’ understanding of a God-honoring life as well.

A few more things about my Grandpa’s passing (see post below) . . . spending time sharing stories and celebrating his life last week left me feeling so thankful for his legacy of faith in our family. I found out that the Scripture passage he was reading when he died was Psalm 145. The psalmist is praising God for His wonderful works and telling others of God’s greatness and majesty. I especially like verses 4-5:

4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.

God has given us all the responsibility to tell the next generation about Him. My Grandpa certainly did his part. I hope that someday my kids and grandkids will say the same about me. And verse 5 gives me the key: I must be constantly meditating on God’s wondrous works, the foremost of which would be the work of Christ on the cross. If I am, my praise and thanks will overflow with a contagious joy that will point my kids to God. It is a lofty goal, for sure, but Grandpa showed me it can be done.


I can only imagine October 2, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:06 pm

I can only imagine what it would be like to be sitting, reading your Bible, seeing dimly as in a mirror (I Corinthians 13) and then you blink . . . and you are not just spending time with God, but you are actually with God, surrounded by His glory, seeing face to face, knowing fully just as you are fully known (again, I Corinthians 13). This is what happened to my Grandpa B. last Sunday morning. And while we grieve his death with broken hearts, we rejoice that he is free of his weakening body and his confused mind and that he is home with his Savior. I wonder what he was reading when he died (so far, I only know he was reading his Bible), and what that must have been like to be reading along, perhaps wondering at the full meaning of something he was reading, and then all of a sudden experiencing the fulfillment of God’s gospel promises to us.

My Grandpa is one of my heroes. He grew up as a milkman’s son in Iowa, going with his father on morning deliveries, and seeing his father’s generosity during the Depression, when he made sure the families with children got their milk even if their bill was unpaid. (When I heard about that a few years ago, it explained so much to me about my Grandpa’s character.) He served in the Navy during WWII and loved to tell stories about his time on the USS Boise. He was a Presbyterian minister who preached until retirement age, tried to retire, but just couldn’t stay away. As he told me once, he couldn’t just sit around when he could be telling someone about God’s love for them. There is no way to count the number of people who were touched by his ministry.

And most importantly, he was the best grandpa a kid could ask for. When he saw us, he’d raise his fists and say, “Yippee!” and we would know we were the most important people in the world.  He played silly games with us, like pretending he couldn’t see us and saying, “Where’s Marissa? Has anyone seen Marissa?” while we jumped up and down in front of his face, laughing hysterically. Even when his mind had been taken by Alzheimer’s and he didn’t know who I was, I loved watching him play the same “falling asleep” game with my kids that he used to play with me. And I don’t know if they have food and drink in Heaven, but I can’t help wondering if it was my cousin, or maybe one of Grandpa’s parents, who took his hand on Sunday and said, “Come on, Grandpa, the coffee’s this way.” Because anyone who knew Grandpa knows of his love for three things: God, family and McDonald’s coffee. He never went anywhere with out his old, faded, plastic McDonald’s coffee cup. Did you forget your coffee cup? Don’t worry, Grandpa always had an extra, just for you.


When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 15:54-57