It always makes me happy to write to you at the end of each month! Hope you look forward to receiving these “just between us” letters.
This month’s letter includes a story about what God is teaching me, a few photos from July, a fun announcement to share, and a question for you to respond to.
The last four or more years of our lives have been extra challenging. Dennis and I have experienced several difficult relationships in our extended family … we’ve worked through a to-be-expected loss of identity as we retired from FamilyLife leadership … I’ve continued to experience health and sleep difficulties … my mom died … and we are still in a new season of struggle that began last spring. All of these trials, as James the brother of Jesus calls them, have collectively created stress in our marriage too. And that has surprised us, though it shouldn’t have.
Through all of this, what has become clear to me is the unmistakable divisiveness of the enemy of my soul.
I’m reading again, after 20 years, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. One scene midway into the book takes place in a throne room, grand and once glorious but now shrouded in darkness and the dust of time. King Theoden, slumped and bent on his throne, speaks little and bitterly as one ravaged by time. Seated below and in front of him on the dais is his advisor and spokesman. Wormtongue is his name.
As I read this name my attention was instantly heightened. C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Screwtape Letters, about an apprentice demon named Wormwood. Could there be a connection?
Wormtongue spoke with all proper respect, even with words that rang true, but there was something sly and suspect lying beneath his replies and advice to the king. Two pages later I underlined Tolkien’s words: “After that Wormtongue played dangerously, always seeking to delay you, to prevent your full strength being gathered. He was crafty, dulling men’s wariness or working on their fears as served the occasion.” Over time his advice had turned King Theoden into a feeble and helpless man.
I recognized Wormtongue’s tactics. I knew my enemy was dulling my wariness and working on my fears, too, in our season of aging and difficulty. Tolkien’s words also sounded much like the advice given in The Screwtape Letters to Wormwood by his teacher when he said:
“When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.”
We expected our trials of the last few years and we weren’t totally surprised.
What has been surprising is the seemingly unending duration and the snippiness that has slipped into our marriage very unexpectedly.
Wormtongue was a man who had surrendered to a powerful evil one who was wreaking havoc in his quest to rule all. Wormwood was a young demon learning to entice humans to surrender to the evil one, Satan. Both represent the two realms of spiritual battle—one in the heavenly places between angels and demons and the other on earth between Satan and God as each works to recruit followers.
It has never been clearer to me that there are only two choices in life. In every decision, in every relationship, in every difficulty, in every season of life, the question is always: Who will I follow? Who will I listen to and obey? Will we choose the evil way or the good and righteous way?
In the spirit of these books by such creative imaginative writers, I’ve decided that in the name of Jesus and for His glory I will resist the attacks of the enemy and refuse to focus on the little things that so easily distract from following Christ alone! If I were a character in the book I’d create a banner to wave or a flag to display that declared my allegiance to Jesus alone. Instead, I’ve had our neighbor build me a cross out of two old 4x4s which we plan to stand in the middle of a flower bed, defiantly declaring where our loyalty lies. Here is my cross ready for a weekend to plant it in its new home.
I believe today we need reminders of who our enemy is and what his favorite tactics are. Another book I’ve read this summer is on this topic by a brilliant theologian, Dwight Pentecost, and the title is, Your Adversary the Devil. Three words associated with this being tell us a lot about his character: deceiver, destroyer, and divider. Jesus called him the father of lies and that he was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
I highly recommend this book to you. And it’s a very easy read too.
Changing subjects, I’m particularly pleased to announce I’ve enrolled in Dallas Theological Seminary and am registered for six hours of classes this fall! During the height of some difficult days in late May and early June I decided one way I could push back against the enemy of my soul was to fill out my application. Waiting for more time in my life, waiting for a less stressful time, waiting for any reason other than a pause given by God was giving the enemy an advantage. In defiance of the strife he was stirring I got busy taking steps toward this goal.
I’m hoping to write snippets of what I’m learning to share with you this fall. I think it will be fun and, I hope, challenging to you to keep learning and growing. And I hope what I learn will encourage your faith as I know it will mine.
Now my question for you is this: What topics would you like me to write on in the blog?
What questions would like answered?
Do you have questions about your faith, about marriage or parenting?
Do you wonder about your teens, relating to adult kids, or do you have questions about in-laws; both the kids your children marry and their parents?
Because we don’t have products to focus on anymore I want to be more consistent in posting and answering Dear Barbara questions. And because we don’t have products for sale we are more than ever dependent on generous donors to keep Ever Thine Home going. It’s truly a new beginning for me and Ever Thine Home in many ways.
The easiest way to reply with your question would be to use the comment button below. I hope to hear how I can help meet your needs in the near future.
My desire is and always has been to encourage, help, and mentor the next generation, and even some of you in my generation, to surrender over and over to Jesus. To follow Him no matter what, and to be as faithful as Habakkuk who wrote, “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
Welcome August and the next step toward fall.
With love for all of you,