Category Archives: Spiritual

To Know Him & To Make Him Known

2017 Theme: To Know Him & To Make Him Known (i.e., Word-Filled and Overflowing!)

Theme Verse: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).

Theme Song: “Thrive” by Casting Crowns

Book Review: The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman

9781433543838(Furman, Gloria. The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 156 pages.)

The Pastor’s Wife is a quick read and is summed up in its own introduction on page 20: “In case you don’t have time to read the rest of this book I’ll just put my cards on the table–I think wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel. This idea isn’t new or scandalous, but with all things clamoring for our attention I think we (I!) could use an opportunity to recalibrate our perspective and set our gaze on eternal things. After all, why would we want to wade around in shallow puddles of man-made ideals when there is the incomprehensible ocean of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge for us to dive into (Eph. 3:18-19)?”

While this book is called The Pastor’s Wife, with a few tweaks, it could apply to any believing wife (or woman, for that matter). But as it stands, it should still be read by all women (and maybe men too) because it shows at the very least how to pray for and encourage your pastor’s wife in her God-given role.

The Pastor’s Wife is saturated with Scripture and Gospel realities–every section pointing our hearts to repent from our sin and run to Jesus! Over and over, our need for the grace of the Gospel is revealed–not just for salvation but in every moment of every day. In fact, every page exudes Gospel grace. We all need “encouragement and refreshment in the Lord” (20), and this book continually points us back to the reality of our Redeemer and exhorts us to renew our minds in His glorious Gospel.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“‘The Plan’ … was my functional idol, and I couldn’t fathom what life would be like if the plan failed” (44).

“We don’t take up the axe to chop down our idols so that our Father will love us. No, we reject our idols because we are our Father’s beloved daughters. … You know that a ministry opportunity is greater to you than Jesus if, when it is taken, hindered, or altered, you feel rattled, wrecked, preoccupied, anxious, insecure, insignificant, ignored, angry, sad, betrayed, or distraught. …when we design our lives around idols, we are setting up our own little kingdoms in which we insist that we are sovereign” (45).

“Sister, if the Lord is your shepherd, he will not leave you wanting. He provides abundantly for your needs and cares for you in seasons that are frightening. Of all the things we need on this earth, he provides it all, and he restores our soul. There is no shadow in any valley so dark that his Word does not illumine. Sister, you’re being followed. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Held in our Shepherd’s unflinching grip, we are safely his at all times and in every circumstance. Your constancy is Christ. And at the end of all things created, in the most beautiful paradox of the ages, the Lamb is shown to be the Shepherd, ‘and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’ (Rev. 7:17)” (54).

My favorite chapter was the final chapter about God being glorified in our weaknesses. Without spoiling the end too much, I found this chapter refreshing. So much emphasis is placed on finding and utilizing our strengths–for the Kingdom, for business, in marriage, etc. But God’s ways are not our ways and He chooses to use the foolishness of man to show forth His immense wisdom (Isaiah 55:8; I Cor. 1:27-31). Life and ministry is not about me or my strengths, but about the strength of Jesus to redeem us from our sin into His righteousness, and to use our weaknesses to show forth His surpassing glory (II Cor. 3:3-10). Amen and amen!

Book Review: Word-Filled Women’s Ministry

51wwy59ejal-_sx322_bo1204203200_(Furman, Gloria, and Kathleen B. Nielson, Eds. Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015. 272 pages.)

My number one resolution for this year is to be a Word-filled woman, so it was only natural to pick Word-Filled Women’s Ministry as my first book to read in 2017. And I was not disappointed. On page 205, the editors describe Word-filled women as “women who clearly understand and pass on the Scriptures through both life and teaching.”

This book is different than many, as it’s a compilation of several authors, edited by Gloria Furman & Kathleen B. Nielson. Gloria and Kathleen add their own chapters too, of course, as they both have unique perspectives on and experience with women’s ministry in the local church. Here’s an overview of the parts, chapters and authors:

Part 1: The Heart of Women’s Ministry

  • 1: The Word at the Center: Hearing God Speak (Kathleen Nielson)
  • 2: The Word on Women: Enjoying Distinction (Claire Smith)
  • 3: The Word Passed On: Training New Leaders (Carrie Sandom)

Part 2: Contexts for Women’s Ministry

  • 4: The Local Church: Finding Where We Fit (Cindy Cochrum)
  • 5: The World around Us: Practicing Evangelism (Gloria Furman)
  • 6: The Ends of the Earth: Thinking Global (Keri Folmar)

Part 3: Issues in Women’s Ministry

  • 7: Older and Younger: Taking Titus Seriously (Susan Hunt and Kristie Anyabwile)
  • 8: Sexual Wholeness: Affirming Truth with Compassion (Ellen Mary Dykas)
  • 9: Gifts and Giftedness: Finding the Place to Serve (Kathleen Nielson and Gloria Furman)

Part 4: The End of Women’s Ministry

  • 10: Ultimate Goals: Heading for That Day (Nancy Guthrie)

I especially appreciated that the forward and several endorsements were written by men. It’s invaluable for men, especially pastors, to recognize the value and unique giftedness that women have among other women and as part of the Church at large. Women and men are equally gifted with being image bearers of God, and we all have the responsibility and privilege to study the Scriptures and share a personal relationship with Christ.

So many young women in the Church are desperate for older women to mentor them–single women, hurting women, young moms, women new to being empty nesters, and the list goes on. We all need to have two levels of accountability: looking to the more mature generations and speaking truth into the younger generation. But so many in the mature generations were never trained to mentor other women, so they feel inadequate or ill-equipped. And so many in the younger generation are tired of asking women to mentor them and feeling rejected when the answer comes back, “I just don’t think I have time right now,” or “You don’t want me to mentor you; why don’t you ask someone else.”

Word-Filled Women’s Ministry challenges each of us to not only pick up our Bibles and read them, but to apply the truths to our lives and then share those truths with those in our sphere of influence–and if we don’t think we have a sphere of influence, it challenges us to find a sphere of influence in our local church and community. It’s about time! And I give a hearty “Amen” to this!

If we are truly filled with the Word, it will naturally spill out of our lives as we move through our homes and classrooms and churches and grocery stores and…well, you get the idea. It’s not just about learning the Word, or even teaching the next generation, but there’s also an exhortation to teach the next generation HOW to teach their next generation! And we need to be willing to give them opportunities to practice this.

This book has lots of perspectives and voices and practical examples of how this can be done. Most importantly, it encourages us to cling to the grace and truth of the Gospel as fresh and vital to every moment of every day, and to use the gifts and abilities God has gifted us with for His glory and to point those around us to His great redemption story!

 

Book Review: Humble Roots – How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson

Anderson, Hannah. Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul. Chicago: Moody P, 2016. 513mja5ds-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_

I was privileged to be a part of the Humble Roots Launch Team this year, which means I got a free copy (and some other goodies to share) in exchange for writing a review. I finally got a chance to read this on a trip I took this fall…and I couldn’t put it down! I read nearly half on the flight to my destination, read every free second I had on the trip, and finished it on the flight home. It was the perfect length!

Maybe it’s the fact that God moved our family to the country this year, or that I had just planted my first garden at the new house, or that He’s been working on my own humility and being grounded in the Word this past year already, but this book was probably the best book I’ve read all year (and I’ve read quite a few).

Hannah uses horticulture analogies, Scripture, and relevant quotes from historic and current authors to weave together a beautiful manuscript of God’s grace in bringing her to a walk of humility as a wife of a pastor in rural Virginia and a young mom. I loved it! Every chapter is filled with beautifully descriptive analogies of food and wine, farming and horticulture–wonderful gifts of our good, good Father!

I found myself relating to Hannah, and feeling like she was sitting next to me, telling me her story (instead of me just reading it). And the message resonated with me–the message that it’s not about me, but it’s All about Him who called me to His marvelous light and is laying the groundwork, preparing the way, and tilling the soil of my soul.

I underlined quote after quote and copied the quotes out onto pages and pages in my journal, and it’s hard to narrow down my favorite parts, because there are so many! But I’ll try to share a few:

“Failure at small things…reminds us of how helpless we are in this great, wide world. When little things spiral out of control, they remind us that even they were never within our control in the first place. … Jesus understood this…when He called the people of Galilee to leave their anxiety–when He calls us to do the same–He does so in context of mundane, very ordinary concerns” (26).

“Left to itself, a field will quickly become overgrown with weeds, the soil will settle and harden, and changes in weather will make it rocky. Hardly a hospitable environment for tender roots and sprouts” (33). “Jesus isn’t calling us to shoulder an extra burden; He is calling us to exchange a heavy burden for a lighter one” (35).

“When we believe that with enough effort, enough organization, or enough commitment, we can fix things that are broken, we set ourselves in God’s place. And when we do, we reap stress, restlessness, and anxiety. Instead of submitting to His yoke, we break it and run wild, trampling the very ground we are meant to cultivate” (42).

“When we are consumed with God’s glory, we forget to worry about our own. When our eyes are fixed on Him as the source of all goodness and truth and beauty, we accept that we are not. When we are enamoured by His worth and majesty, we can stop being so enamoured with ourselves. And fascinatingly, when we seek God’s glory, we’ll be able to appreciate it in the people around us. Instead of seeing them as threats to our own glory, we will see them as beautiful reflections of His” (76).

“Ultimately, by silencing the cacophony of emotion,  humility frees you to hear God’s call and leads you to a place of both rest and flourishing” (110).

“Because ‘God is greater than your heart’ [qtd. I John 3.20], you can trust Him to care for you when your heart breaks through disappointment or suffering. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to rejoice with you in times of joy and success. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ you can trust Him to correct and lead you through doubt and fear. Because ‘God is greater than your heart,’ He can handle  the depth of your emotions. He is not afraid of them, and as you bring them back to Him, you shouldn’t be afraid of them either. In this sense, humility does not shut down your inner life; humility redeems it” (114).

“But the world is a complicated, nuanced, unpredictable place, and easy answers aren’t sustainable. In fact, the world is so mixed-up and broken, so complicated, that the only one who can lead us through it is God Himself. Instead of seeking certainty, we must teach them [our children] to follow Jesus in the mist of uncertainty” (131).

“It is precisely the fact that our resources do not belong to us–that they have been given to us by our good, kind Master–that frees us to take risks. When everything is gift and when we learn to trust the Giver of those gifts, we learn a kind of humility that makes us fearless and productive” (148).

“Pride, on the other hand, demands to know God’s will before it will act. It balks and haults and refuses to move until success is guaranteed” (159).

“God only reveals the course of our lives one step at a time. God only makes our paths straight before us with each step of faith. God does not offer us a map so much as a promise to guide us on the journey” (160).

I hope you will pick up a copy of Humble Roots and not just read it, but savor every morsel and be refreshed by the truths it contains, as you continue on your own journey of humility and grace, knowing that you are not alone on this journey.

Galatians Bible Study: 3 Week Plan

I have so enjoyed our “Women Digging In” class with Katie Gerdt at Heritage Bible Church these past two months. We’ve dug into II Corinthians, and it’s been awesome–both refreshing and rebuking!

We have 3 weeks off before the next Life Application Electives begin, so I’m planning on using her 4 questions to go thru the book of Galatians between now and then…2 chapters per week. Who’s with me?

Here are the 4 questions:
1. Where is my heart?
Take time to set your cares and concerns before your loving Father,
and then put them aside and prepare your heart to listen to Him.
2. What’s going on?
Read through the passage (either whole chapter, or few verses at a time) and try to summarize the facts of what is happening.
3. What do I see about God?
What is the Holy Spirit telling you about God or revealing about Christ? How can you obey what you are reading? Who can you tell this week about what you have learned?
4. Do I have any further questions about the passage?

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Meditation Passage: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 ESV).

Schedule:
August 1-7: Galatians 1-2
August 8-14: Galatians 3-4
August 15-21: Galatians 5-6

Book Review: Bread & Wine, A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes

511z58htsll-_sx340_bo1204203200_Niequist, Shauna. Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table, with Recipes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

Bread & Wine is, by far, one of the best books I’ve read in the last several years! Shauna shares raw, real life stories mixed with a collection of her favorite recipes. I have literally laughed out loud and bawled my eyes out reading this! I feel like the author is sitting across from me, sharing a cup of coffee and opening up the window to her true self, and it feels like we’ve been friends for a lifetime even though I just met her in these pages. It’s as if you’re reading an intimate journal of an everywoman’s soul, and she says, “Come. Sit. Eat.”

In the author’s note on page 10, she writes the following:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it, and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.

“And more than anything, I pray that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

Shauna begins with an explanation of what being a “bread-and-wine person” means: “By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater–mystery and tradition and symbol. … The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and the earth, the divine and the daily” (p. 11).

I am very much a “food” person. I love to cook, to share meals, to host friends and family and strangers, to talk about food and hospitality and life and God. So this book was perfect. The recipes are simple and offer a wide variety of personalization. I could not put this book down! Not only was it beautifully crafted, it was inspirational to get back to sharing food and faith with friends and family.

She talks about her cooking club, a group of friends that met together frequently, cooked together, did life together, laughed together, cried together, prayed together. Even when life and jobs scattered them across the country, they found ways to come back together, and it always involved food and faith and friendship in some combination.

I love that they would meet for dinner regularly, kids included. After supper, they’d put all the kids down for bed in pack n plays and sleeping bags, or whatever; and then the adults would come back downstairs to share what God was teaching them and pray with one another. Then when they needed to leave, they carried their sleeping children to their cars and took them home, but they stayed long enough for their souls to be fed and not just their bellies. And when there was a death or a new baby, a sick parent or another loss, they would bring food to one another, almost instinctively. This is the way I want to live my life; the way we try to live our lives.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

“Food is a language of care, the thing we do when traditional language fails us, when we don’t know what to say, when there are no words to say. And food is what we offer in celebration–at weddings, at anniversaries, at happy events of every kind. It’s the thing that connects us, that bears our traditions, our sense of home and family, our deepest memories, and on a practical level, our ability to live and breath each day. Food matters.

“At the very beginning, and all through the Bible, all through the stories about God and his people, there are stories about food, about all of life changing with the bite of an apple, about trading an inheritance for a bowl of stew, about waking up to find the land littered with bread, God’s way of caring for his people; about a wedding where water turned to wine, Jesus’ first miracle; about the very first Last Supper, the humble bread and wine becoming, for all time, indelibly linked to the very body of Christ, the center point for thousands of years of tradition and belief. It matters. It mattered then, and it matters now, possibly even more so, because it’s reclaiming some of the things we may have lost along the way” (p. 14).

“When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere–on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach” (p. 17).

“I believe every person should be able to make the simple foods that nourish them, that feel familiar and comforting, that tell the story of who they are. Each one of us should be able to nourish ourselves in the most basic way and to create meals and traditions around the table that tell the story of who we are to the people we care about. And the only way to get there is to start where you are.

“If you don’t cook, begin by inviting people over. Order pizza and serve it with a green salad and a bottled salad dressing. Get comfortable with people in your home, with the meds and the chaos. Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul…and little by little, build a sense of muscle of memory, a body of knowledge, a set of patters for how your home and your heart open and expand when the people you love are gathered around your table” (p. 40).

“Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather” (p. 51).

“One of the best part of my childhood was traveling with my dad” (p. 93). “…he taught me that where we are, we eat what they eat, and we eat what they give us, all the time. We taste the place when we eat what our hosts eat. As we traveled, food became a language of understanding, even more so than museums or history lessons” (p. 94). “…I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak…. I want them to know that ‘our way’ isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood–they love to play, to discover, to learn. … I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bit of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious” (p. 98).

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. …So that’s what we do. We throw open the front door and invite people into our home, despite its size, despite its imperfections. We practice hospitality, creating a soft and safe place for people to connect and rest” (p. 106-7).

“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment. Part of that, then, is honoring the way God made our bodies, and feeding them in the ways they need to be fed.

“I do draw a line between food restrictions for health reasons and plain old picky eating. I bend over backward for the first–I make sure to have a meal that includes a filling and beautiful option for people who can’t eat one or another part of the whole meal….

“What I don’t do, though, is knock myself out for picky eaters. Part of eating at someone’s table is learning about the tastes and textures and flavors of their home, and part of eating at someone’s table is understanding that homes are not restaurants and your host is not a short-order cook….

“So this is the dance, it seems to me: to be the kind of host who honors the needs of the people who gather around his or her table, and to be the kind of guest who comes to the table to learn, not to demand” (p. 114-5).

“[Y]ou can decide that every time you open your door, it’s an act of love, not performance or competition or striving. You can decide that every time people gather around your table, your goal is nourishment, not neurotic proving. You can decide” (p. 195).

“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns” (p. 208).

“When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ” (p.250).

“Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. ‘Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,’ Jesus says, ‘remember me.’ Communion is connection, remembrance. …the genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and that every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us” (p. 251).

“And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day–no matter where we are, who we are, what we’ve done” (p. 252).

“Most of the time, I eat like someone’s about to steal my plate, like I can’t be bothered to chew or taste or feel, but I’m coming to see that the table is about food, and it’s also about time. It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and a fork. The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

“…if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of the one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.

“I want you to gobble life up in huge bites, tasting everything, trying every new flavor, remembering every smell and texture like it’s the best thing you’ve ever had. I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it” (p. 257-8).

See why I couldn’t put it down?! And it comes with recipes at the end of almost every chapter, a 4-week book club discussion guide (along with suggested menu for each book club night), and all kinds of entertaining tips. It’s beautiful and relatable, sharable and practical. Pick up a copy, read it, re-read it, share it, try the recipes, but most importantly, open your home and your table to the people God brings across your path, and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

The Enemy of Discontentment

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Source: quitewomen.tumblr.com

Do you ever battle discouragement or discontentment? It’s a completely normal battle in our fallen human nature, and it’s not fun, but it’s a battle that must be fought. And it’s a battle we can’t fight alone. Thankfully, we have a great God who is the only true source of courage and contentment. The past couple of weeks I’ve been battling this more than I might like to admit. Thankfully, God has been driving me back to His Word for the courage to fight the discontent (and provided sunshine and chances to chat with friends that have brightened recent days as well).

One day last week, I was reading in the Psalms and was reminded of Psalm 61.

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint [overwhelmed]. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61:1-3).

I let that be my prayer throughout the afternoon and evening. And the next morning, a friend prayed Psalm 19:14.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

It was as if God was answering my heart’s cry and showing me that He is my Rock. I said, “Lead me to the rock.” And He responded, “I am your Rock.”

Then, a still, small voice gently rebuked me and asked, “Is discontentment a meditation that is ‘acceptable’ to Jesus?” The answer was a resounding, achy, “No.” In fact, it smacks in the face of my great God and His continual provision and good, gift-giving nature. And the ultimate reality of discontentment with any aspect of our lives–whether it be looks, weight, stage of life, family, work, friends (or a lack of friends), ministry opportunities, home repairs, you name it–is discontent with what God says is “good” for us at this very moment. As the Author and personification of “good,” why is it that we think He can be anything but good? It’s because “good” is subjective instead of objective–it is subject to our point of view instead of objectively in the Person and Work of Christ.

It doesn’t matter how “good” things look from the outside. The ugly face of discontentment can raise its head up even when things appear “put together.”  You can have the nicest house and the most beautiful family, great jobs, plenty of resources, and yet still feel empty. The devil is a sneaky lion, prowling and preying on our hearts if we don’t actively fight to resist him.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

And so, we must fight. Much of this fighting is internal–it’s choosing to trust Christ, to claim His joy, to walk in His Spirit, to humble ourselves, to forgive and ask for forgiveness, to love those around us, and to praise our Savior, even when we don’t understand. We don’t have to have all the answers. We may think we want a crystal ball to see the future, but when God showed one of His prophets, Jeremiah, the future, he went into deep mourning for his people–there was a reason they called him “the weeping prophet.” God knows we don’t need to see it all up front–quite frankly, it would probably scare us if we knew all His plans. But we can rest that He does have a plan and that He’s preparing us for that plan–and sometimes that means testing us with discouraging situations, knowing that we will need to run back to His everlasting arms of hope .

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

My prayer is that Psalm 30:11-12 will be my reality–and yours, if and when you find yourself battling discontentment as well.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! (Psalm 30:11-12).

(Obviously, there are physical/hormonal, emotional/psychological, and environmental reasons for discouragement as well that may be completely outside of your control. If you find yourself often discouraged and believe the source to be one of those reasons, seek appropriate help from doctors and professional counselors, as well as the spiritual encouragement and emotional support from your friends, family, and church.)

Always Room For One More…

One of the challenges of being a new mom is friendships. The challenge is multi-faceted. First, you’re so tired from countless feedings in the early days (and nights) that you literally have a hard time concentrating on more than three words at a time. Second, your doctor told you it was flu season and to stay away from people for six weeks or so…so you’re missing the fellowship of church and work and other social gatherings, and you feel like you’re always about a dozen steps behind on the latest goings-on in your friends’ lives. You’ve missed countless announcements and updates (even if you’ve been on social media more than you realized possible to try to fill that void). Then there’s the dichotomy of not always wanting to talk about kids but not knowing what else to talk about because they’re pretty much all-consuming in those first few months.

When you finally do make it back to church, the timing of services and feedings isn’t always complimentary, and you’re faced with the very real temptation to not even show up. But you keep going because the moms before you have said that the mother’s room was a fantastic spot for fellowship. Some days it is, and that’s great. Other days, there’s 8 moms in there at the same time, and it can be a little overwhelming–and you feel like you’re over-talking in an effort to relate to another human being. Then there are those days when you really want the fellowship, even if it’s overstimulating, and you find yourself in the mother’s room all alone.

One of the last posts I wrote was about having friends in all ages and stages of life, and I think this is more important now than ever! Sometimes hanging out with the fellow-new-mommies is exactly what you need, but then you realize that you’re all just figuring this out and there are countless others who have gone before and have some great advice. And it’s not worth getting offended over whether they offer said advice with or without solicitation. 😉 Then there are others who may not be exactly in the same stage as you right now, but they still want to be your friend and are desperately trying to relate to you too.

I just finished reading two blog posts (a series called “Keep Your Circle Broken” by Sara Horn), and I hope you’ll read them both and glean from them truths about always making room for one more friend and not letting yourself get offended when they haven’t read the latest blog post on “15 Things Not to Say to So-and-So.” Just accept them for who they are and know that they’re probably just trying to make friends too. We all stumble over our words and say the wrong things sometimes. But grace is about forgiving and choosing to move forward in strength and peace. Here are the posts:

“Part One: When It’s Hard Making Friends”

“Part Two: Ways to Say Hello”

And as you step in to church this Sunday, keep your eyes open for the new mom, the single lady, the grieving widow, the empty-nester, the nursery worker, the…you get the point…and go up and say “Hello” to that sister in Christ. You never know what friendship might blossom by making room for one more conversation–for one more new friend.

The Empty Tomb: The Foundation of our Identity and Mission

Pastor Danny Brooks of Heritage Bible Church spoke last night from I Corinthians 15 about The Empty Tomb. He opened with sharing of a visit he had made to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend a few years ago. He shared history and details of the changing of the guards, and the significance of the tomb. Then he said that that tomb is central to the identity and mission of the sentinels who guard it, no matter how they feel, or what the weather may be.

What a privilege it would be qualify and serve as one of those soldiers! And especially on a weekend when we honor those who have fallen, this tomb has a sobering weightiness to it of respect and gratitude for selfless sacrifice.

We as believers are also a people whose identity and mission centers on a tomb–but the tomb we focus on is an empty one! We are called to guard and declare a Gospel of a Risen Savior!

  1. The Empty Tomb is Foundational to Salvation
    • Acts 2:23-24
    • John 10:17-18 Christ showed the authority to lay down his life AND to take it up again (He rose!)
    • I Peter 1:3, 7 Our hope is tied to His resurrection–to His empty tomb! We are not promised an easy, pleasant, convenient life, but what we suffer now serves God’s eternal purposes
  2. The Empty Tomb is Foundational to Sanctification
    • He is alive and intent on making our salvation real, victorious, and successful!
    • Romans 6:11-14 Stop yielding to sin! Keep pressing forward until you believe the truths of Romans 6. Live like a resurrected child of God!
  3. The Empty Tomb is Foundational to Future Glorification
    • Romans 6:5 He WILL glorify us–promised, as if already complete!
    • Col. 2:20-23 Stop living a life of legalism, moralism, asceticism…You cannot save yourself.
    • Col. 3 Hear the Gospel. Respond in faith and repentance.  Set your minds on things above BECAUSE of the empty tomb and the Risen Lord!
    • I Peter 1:3 Living hope through the resurrection of Jesus!

Application: Is my identity and mission centered on Christ’s resurrection–on the empty tomb and the Risen Savior? Am I guarding and declaring the True Gospel of Jesus by my life, my words, my actions? Am I testifying to the world that I live in the hope of the reality of the resurrection? If not, then go back to I Cor. 15 and Colossians 3: hear the Gospel; respond in faith and repentance; and live in the glorious hope of salvation, sanctification and future glorification.

Happy Memorial Day! My heart is filled with gratitude for those who have sacrificed for our freedoms–and for those who are currently sacrificing to keep those freedoms. Thank God for our soldiers and their families!

Book Review: “Glimpses of Grace” by Gloria Furman

I love to read. Always have. Over the years, I’ve had a handful of books that have risen to the top of my list to “Must Read” status. Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman is definitely one of those books! It is probably one of the best books I’ve read in the last 10 years!

Gloria has a personal style that lets you know she’s been there–in the trenches with kids and cross-cultural ministry, serving her husband who pastors while struggling with a debilitating condition, keeping a home and keeping up with writing books and blogging.

Glimpses is full of encouragement from real-life illustrations and Gospel-centered, soul-refreshing, rich, theological concepts. Glimpses is full of Scripture and quotes that reflect Truth and Hope. Gloria doesn’t see herself as a super-mom, but rather a woman with a powerful Savior! She talks about glorifying God in the mundane–where, if we’re honest, the majority of our lives fall. God uses these simple, everyday things to communicate Truth to our hearts. From doing dishes to sweeping up sand again and again, God showed her to see her own dirt and sin that needs repeated repentance and to rejoice in His faithful forgiveness and unrelenting grace.

Here’s a glimpse into Glimpses from the author herself:

And some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Because God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory, our faith and hope are in God (1 Pet. 1:21), not in our ever-changing circumstances or in the comforts of our homes and meticulously planned routines” (21).

“Even in my darkest doubts, when I do the same thing again the next day, my hope is still built on the righteousness of Christ. The gospel keeps me relating to God on the basis of Jesus’s perfections, not on the illusions of my religious achievements. God strengthens me and protects me according to his faithfulness, not mine (2 Thess. 3:3). So I can scrub dried blueberry bits as unto the Lord as my heart is satisfied in God because his kindness to me in Christ leads me to repentance again and again” (33).

“Christianity is not a how-to manual for having a nice life. … Jesus’s work on the cross means more for you than an example for good living. The Bible is God’s story of how he redeems a people he has chosen to worship him for all eternity. …In the end, the good-life formula will not bring you to God and save you from your sins. Only Jesus does this through the gospel. In its worst work, the good-life formula can help create a delusion that because you are living in a Christian-like manner, you must be pleasing to God. In reality, your righteousness may be like that of the Pharisees, whom Jesus described as whitewashed tombs with dead men’s bones inside. In this way, the good-life formula is an offspring of self-justification” (45).

“The source of our faith, hope, love, joy, and gospel-grounded optimism is God himself and not our stuff or our circumstances” (59).

“…the point in forgiving one another is not just about the act of forgiving–it is the aim or goal that forgiveness seeks, which is reconciliation with God. … The forgiveness of our sins is a gift of grace, but it’s not ‘the’ gift. ‘The’ gift God offers us through Jesus’s work on the cross is everlasting fellowship with a holy God” (60).

“Whatever the ‘this’ that you desperately feel you can’t do anymore, it’s ultimately not about your circumstances. It’s about peace with God. And God has provided a way for you to have that peace that dominates any and all circumstances, regardless of how difficult they are” (78).

“Self-righteousness comes from within us and leads us to worship ourselves. Grace comes from God and leads us to worship him” (80).

“The gospel is the one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” -Milton Vincent (qtd., 84).

“When we minimize the offensiveness of our sin, we are attempting to diminish the holiness of God” (101).

“Our hearts cannot be the end-all authorities on truth. Only God can claim that right. Sometimes we really need to wrestle our hearts into submission to God’s truth” (124).

“We see glimpses of God’s grace in our homes when we cherish God through the gospel of Jesus Christ. The solution to our problems in the home and the impetus for our enjoyment of life in the home is fellowship with God through Christ Jesus’s atoning sacrifice on the cross” (180).