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I just wanted to point out that from my limited sample-slice of the population, I have read absolutely nothing derogatory or bitter from Christians in response to SCOTUS. I haven’t seen or heard one hateful word.  Of course I know this doesn’t represent all of the people who speak on behalf of Christianity, but I think it’s worth pointing out.

I’ve read quite a few articles encouraging Christians to avoid being judgmental, and I’ve even read open letters to Christians, from Christians, about the vitriol they are spewing in response to the whole thing, but I personally have only heard courage, hope, repentance, love, and a resolve to worship the one true God, loving our neighbor as ourselves.

From my perch in the world, I must encourage the Church. I think we’re doing well as we pour our hearts out to the Lord, think deeply and well about all things, and respond with love. Keep on!

 

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This past week, we met an older couple at the top of Horseshoe Curve. Kind, friendly folks waiting for the next train to chug by. While we were chatting about politics and what-not, the older woman shook her head and said, “I’m just worried about the next generation. I can’t imagine how awful things are going to be for your children.”

This worry is quite common and young parents hear it from the older generation often.

Today, I want to affirm that we need not be afraid of the future. I am not worried for my children or my children’s children. And nothing will change my mind about that – not politics or agriculture or media or economics.

I am not worried for my children because the gospel will be just as true for them as it has been since the beginning of time.

I am not worried for my children because God will be their refuge, the Holy Spirit will be their counselor, and Jesus will be praying for them… and preparing a home for them.

Jesus said, “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age!” May we rejoice that every generation can expect these things to be true.

 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a]against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[b] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (From Romans 8)

 

 

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I Can Identify

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Who truly loves the person they are, through and through? Who is entirely content with themselves? My guess is no one.

Every day, every person, everywhere modifies her identity to a certain extent based on her imagination, resources, and determination to become someone other – better? – than who she truly is. 

At this particular moment in history, it seems fitting to acknowledge that discontentment with one’s identity is a universal sentiment. I think the reason we are discontent is revealed in the Bible; it comes down to sin. The more I study this topic, the more I can see that sin not only fuels our discontentment but is the very thing we hate about ourselves.

I don’t think it’s our gender, our hair, our size, or our skin color that we dislike.  I think it’s our soul that makes us wrestle and sigh and search for escape. No amount of effort or money will transform the sinful nature that torments us from the inside-out with discontentment and darkness. We may transform everything from head-to-toe, but should not be surprised when we are still in there, completely unaffected.

What a time to remember that Jesus alone can transform the desperate human being into something glorious. As I read recent headlines, it dawns on me that we are offered an identity transformation of the best and truest kind. God has provided the extravagant riches and expertise to make us lovelier than we could ever imagine. I can speak as a witness: my soul – my identity – is entirely new because of Christ. And that changes everything.

“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.b The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconcilingc the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ”

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21

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The Child in There

One thing is for sure as I follow responses to recent news articles: countless adults are still deeply hurt from things that happened – or didn’t happen – in their childhood. Their voices and pens resonate with heartache.

Childhood matters. It doesn’t just go away in time. We don’t age-out of ourselves. The ten year old is still there, for better or worse. The fifteen year old is still there, the eighteen year old. It’s all a part of who we are today. It’s all an inextricable part of our story.

Don’t be too busy or grown-up to face things that hurt from long ago. Now might be the time to cry. Maybe it’s finally the time to apologize or to forgive. Maybe the time has finally come for you to find a listening advocate. Or to be one.

I recommend one particular resource for people on any side of the specific topic of sexual abuse: Diane Langberg’s Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse. If this issue has affected your life in any way, you will discover helpful scientific as well as spiritual guidance.

The good thing is that the story is never over.

“… fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – The Lord God in Isaiah 41 

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I think about The Truman Show a lot.

I bet everyone does. I bet that although it’s not  The Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, The Truman Show is one of the most thought-about movies of our generation.

After all, it explores some of our most common internal dialogue: “What is the meaning of my life?” “Is there more to this life than I perceive?”  “Is someone orchestrating my life for me?”

If you’ve seen The Truman Show you probably remember Truman’s sad situation: unbeknownst to him, he is the star of a reality TV show. From one episode to the next, Truman essentially lives a mundane, repetitive existence for the entertainment of millions of viewers. We’re all sad for him because the essence of his true humanity has been stolen from him. As the outsiders-looking-in, we know that although his grass is green and his wife smiles at him, Truman’s life is meaningless.

And yet, those millions of people tune into the show to escape the monotony and meaninglessness of their own lives. We could join the ranks: when we quietly consider our own existence, don’t we all stumble upon the fear that maybe it’s all just a little bit futile?

I thought about The Truman Show this morning at church.

Pastor Dan was preaching through the first 11 verses of Ecclesiastes – the book of the Bible that faces the universal ache that “life is meaningless”.  Generations keep turning over and over, nature keeps repeating itself, and everything ends up being forgotten anyway.

We sat in those wooden pews and thought about life’s futility for a good 30 minutes as we dug into the text. We nodded, leaned forward, and jotted down a few notes. Occasionally, I’d wrap my right arm around Vivienne’s thin shoulders and give her a squeeze. I’d tuck my left hand into Ryan’s elbow and hold him tightly.  There wasn’t one person in that room who couldn’t feel the writer’s heavy frustration with reality: life is a soap bubble. Pop! And it vanishes.

But then, Pastor Dan said something that changed everything.

What he said helped me breathe again.

It made me feel a thrill that my daughter and husband were sitting by my side.

And it reminded me of that wonderful scene in The Truman Show when Truman sails his boat to the horizon and pushes through the fake sky into a broader reality – presumably into a life with promise, meaning, and truth. (Ah! The hope of escape from meaninglessness? Amazing!)

What Pastor Dan said that changed everything was this:

When Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he broke through the meaningless, cyclical, forgotten days of life under the sun

Our story is no longer found in the book of Ecclesiastes, for we are people who “Look beyond the sun!” 

Christ has pushed open the exit.

 

(I bet you’ll love this soul-thrilling sermon. A recording will be at Oakwood Presbyterian Church’s sermon website.)

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bubbles

I heard the concept “18 Summers” and near-about panicked.

If you haven’t heard “18 Summers” yet, the idea is for mothers to savor each June – August because we’ll have a measly 18 summers with each child at home. I quickly did the math and realized that I’m half-out of summers with our oldest. That sent me into a tizzy. Only 9 more summers for bubbles and picnics and water balloons? Only 9 more summers of family vacations and star-gazing and piles of flip-flops in the entryway? Then 8, 7, 6, 5, and… and soon, she’ll be texting every few days with updates about her missions trip or summer job or husband. It’s almost too much to consider.

But it’s true. Time is precious!

I understand why the “Bucket List” movement is still charging ahead full-steam. Who wouldn’t want to make the most of these fleeting summer days? Already, the Internet is full of “Summer 2015 Bucket Lists”. We are fervently creating the very best lists of the very best things for the very best summer. And we should!

We desperately want to make the most of our time. To make it meaningful.

James – Jesus’ brother – said it best when he called life a vapor. A mist. A breath.

James would have been all about “18 Summers” and he would have had the world’s best Bucket List going because he understood life’s brevity. Just looking at his 33-year-old brother on the cross, he might have thought, “Wait… he was here… and now he’s gone?”

But then, when Jesus rose from death and opened James’ eyes to see and believe the God of Eternity, James gained some valuable perspective.

He wrote,

 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Here’s the thing: though we are a mist, we are a mist in God’s hands.

The thing we feared would be so fleeting, so sand-between-our-fingers… finds its meaning and significance in one place alone: in God’s hands.

(In comparison to God, the power of a good Bucket List fades a bit, wouldn’t you say?)

So, when you and I feel the threat of the vapor, may we be happy, entrusting our souls – and the souls of our children – into the hands of the Eternal God.

As James says, “If the Lord wills, we will live!” And live abundantly.

 

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You may know the story from 2 Chronicles 1 when God came to Solomon in the night and said, “Ask what I shall give you” and Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge above everything else. This pleased God. He granted Solomon’s request and gave him riches, possessions, and honor, too. Solomon’s response to God (and God’s response to him) was huge and shaped his own life, influenced the entire ancient world, and has effected each and every one of us for all time.

Have you ever wondered how Solomon was wise enough to ask for wisdom in the first place?

I have. This morning, I had a lightbulb moment that was worth dusting off 10MillionMiles.com to share with you.

Solomon knew to ask for wisdom because his father told him to.

He wrote about it in Proverbs 4.

“When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

Wow, right? How encouraging this is to us as parents.

May we look our children in the eye today (and tomorrow and the next day) and teach them this: “Whenever you have the chance to get anything, get wisdom.

 

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5 Questions to Ask in 2015

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There is some benefit to waking up in the middle of the night with a baby. For example, I brainstorm life-coaching experiences like this one.

I don’t know about you, but I find it helpful to resolve who I want to be instead of what I want to do. After all, who I am determines what I do and how I do it.

Consider investing in a 1-hour personal retreat to think about these questions as you prepare for a meaningful year:

1. How do I want to feel this year? (Try to create a list of 5 accurate words. If you need help coming up with something, ask yourself, “How do I want to feel in my relationship with God? How do I want to feel at home? With my friends? At work?)

2. What do I need to do in order to feel that way? (Next to each feeling, list 1 – 3 things that need to be a part of your lifestyle in order to fuel the feeling you desire.)

3. How do I want other people to feel because of me?

4. What do I want other people to do because they’ve been with me?

5. How, then, shall I live this year?

Here’s to your beautiful year! What a wonderful gift from God.

 

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(So glad he asked me out.)

A friend of mine has just entered the dating world.

I must say, that’s one world I am glad to be out of. I had a few shining moments, but not many.

In fact, whenever I sing that line in “Be Thou My Vision” that goes, “You are my dignity, you’re my delight” I think about my dating years, wince about my regrets, and thank God for my salvation and sanctification.  I’ve learned a great deal along the way and am grateful to God, my family, and my friends for their patience and wisdom. I’m mostly grateful to Ryan for sweeping me off of my feet, out of the dating world, and into the security and joy of marriage. Whew.

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At any rate, my friend who has just entered the dating world happens to feel elated by it. I must say, she’s doing a wonderful job there and bringing more grace to the dating world than there was before she set foot on its temperamental terrain.

Part of her success comes from asking for advice about how to date well.

Here are a few things I texted her (one per day):

1. Put your relationship with God first – in time, thought, emotion, affection, and confidence. He is our precious first love.

2. Be kind to everyone – girls and guys included. It’s easy and natural to be self-consumed and exclusive; it’s priceless and supernatural to be selfless and kind. Especially, prepare yourself to be kind if/ when things turn south in your relationships. You will never regret walking away having offered forgiveness and grace.

3. Create reasonable and good boundaries from the beginning of every relationship. (I mean actually write them down and give them to trusted mentors and friends, anticipating their accountability over the long haul.) Everyone benefits from healthy boundaries to guard time, disclosure of hearts, and physical affection. Without clear boundaries, we flounder from one person’s control to another. Without clear boundaries, we’re easily controlled by our own fickle passions. You are worth protecting. And so is your boyfriend.

4. Prioritize your own growth intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Seasons of “falling in love” can be so all-consuming, so it’s especially important to pace ourselves and work for a balance of personal health and growth. I’m convinced that this is possible and that it makes the “love” part richer and sweeter.

5. Look out for the best interest of the other person. Encourage him to love God above all, to work diligently, to invest in his friendships with other men, and to pursue worthwhile ministry, hobbies, and activities.

I pray for her often… asking God to bless her with wisdom, patience, contentment, and joy.

What advice would you text to your friend in the dating world?

 

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 (Baby Bubbles)

Yesterday, a dear friend met our newest baby for the first time. It was a sweet moment because Carole has been a mentor to me over the years. She has loved and raised four children and is enjoying her grandchildren. She has recently gone back to school for a second degree so that she can help to improve the childcare culture. Over the years, she has given me wise advice about womanhood, marriage, Bible study, prayer, food, children, and everything else that comes up in our 20’s and 30’s.

Yesterday, she looked me in the eye and said, “You know there’s only one word: savor.” 

I laughed.

I told her that I had just spotted that advice on a list of “The Top Ten Things NOT To Say To A Mother of Young Children”.

For the past few years, the blogosphere and facebook have been buzzing with mothers-of-young-children complaining about that very advice. Clever Huffington Post articles have derided the common message to “Carpe diem” motherhood. Countless facebookers have vented about the little old ladies in Target who stop shopping carts full of energetic children and say, “Enjoy every minute of it!”

I’ve nodded my head in agreement with those posts: motherhood is tough and “savor” is the last word that comes to mind when I’m cleaning up poop.

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“There’s only one word: savor.”

We young moms don’t seem to want to hear it. Yet, it’s the #1 Word of Advice (often, the only word of advice) that we hear from every. single. older woman who crosses our paths.

Isn’t it?

Maybe we need to stop complaining and start listening to what they’re saying.

Maybe we need to honor the collective voice of the women who’ve lived through motherhood and all agree on this one thing.

Maybe they know something that we don’t know yet.

Maybe they know we need to hear it everywhere we go – family reunions, the YMCA, church, Target – because hearing it over and over again is the only way to overcome the smell of poopy diapers, the noise of whininess, and the drone of mundane chores. Of course they remember the trials. And yet, they won’t quit the chant: “Savor it. Savor it. Savor it.”

Maybe this persistent, seemingly-impossible message is God’s gift to us.

Maybe it’s wisdom.

Do we really want to tell these generous, passionate older women to stop?

I don’t. 

That’s why the next time the little old lady stops me in Target – when I’m rushing my toddler to the bathroom from the opposite side of the store, and we’re all starving, and the baby is wailing, and the six year old has a blister on her heel and can’t keep up with her speedy mother, and the nine year old is wiggling her tooth with such fervor that she is lost in another world – I will try to pause and listen as she says, “Enjoy every minute of it.” I’ll try to be humble and say, “Thank you for that wise advice. I’ll do my very best.”

And that’s why I’ll ask God every day to change my heart so that I may savor this miraculous gift of motherhood. Thank you, God, for my young children. And thank you for older women who all sing the same song.

I’m going for it: Savor.

You, too?

 

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