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When the World Doesn’t Need Your Voice

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Social media is loud.

Google says, “Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

Let those numbers sink in for a second. It’s no wonder that on some days posting on social media feels like standing in the corner of a crowded party yelling at the top of my lungs for someone to pay attention to me.

Social media is the place to be. Churches and Christian organizations have realized that Facebook posts and YouTube videos are incredibly effective in sharing the gospel message. This post from almost four years ago describes the incredible benefit of smartphones and social media in the spreading of Scripture. The growing platforms of pastors and Bible teachers prove that the Holy Spirit is indeed using online ministry for God’s glory.

 

Could it be, however, that social media has encouraged laziness in our gospel witness? Have we forgotten the command to “go into all the world” and instead expect the world to come to our website or fan page? I have been convicted of this very thing recently.

Matthew 9 records the words of Jesus to his disciples,
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

We have each been given a harvest field in which to labor. Mine happens to look like a tiny town in the Pennsylvania mountains. It includes a 177 year old church in an even smaller community and a toddler who has yet to give her life to Christ. It might also occasionally include a waitress or gas station attendant as I travel to visit family and friends (also included in that harvest field). My crop looks different and may yield different God-ordained results than yours, but we are each given the stewardship of time and talents to work the ground of our harvest field.

My heart has been grieved for the lack of time I spend in prayer for my lost extended family. We live miles apart and there is the very real likelihood that I will never interact with them in person again, but I can beg God to send a laborer to their field. I can ask the Spirit to pursue their lost hearts in a way that I will never be able to through an Instagram post.

The problem is that I too often spend time sowing and attempting to reap in fields that are not mine. While some may be called to speak to gigantic audiences, most of us will influence much smaller groups. I can spend huge amounts of time crafting the perfect tweet or advertising my latest blog post for those who will scroll right past.

Instead of using social media as a tool for ministry, I have turned it into a buffer to keep me clean from the sweat and tears involved in true gospel labor. I post a status from a godly worldview or pick a timely Bible verse and check the “witnessed today” box in my mental t0-do list of spiritual virtues.

The entire world does not need my singular voice. It will most likely get drowned out by all the noise anyway. Those in my path, in my everyday interactions, those in my harvest field need it desperately though. How are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10:14).

Father, forgive my laziness and apathy toward those who are facing an eternity without You. Deliver me from the temptation to take the easy route when sharing my faith. Help me to offer my life, not just my tweets, for the furtherance of the good news as Jesus laid down His life for me. 

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
– Charles Spurgeon

Impossible Joy

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Sing it with me!

“I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where?”

“The joy of the Lord is my strength!!” Clap Clap

“This is the day! This is the day that the Lord has made! I will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Can you hear the bouncy tunes in your mind? Do they conjure up memories of Sunday School days gone by? Do they remind you of a simpler, easier, happier time of your life?

It’s hard to hum these songs when your heart is heavy with loss. Singing about joy seems impossible when misery is your closest companion. How do you rejoice in a day that is filled with monotony and stress?

Joy? Cheer? Delight? Surely these proclamations must only be for children or those adults with extremely easy (and wealthy) lives. Yet we can’t escape the extremely straightforward commands in Scripture to rejoice and to do it always! (Phil. 4:4)

Could it be that joy is more than a reaction to the circumstances surrounding us on a given day or season? Could it be that joy might be an act of faith?

A simple online search returns dozens of verses including the seemingly contradictory words: joy and suffering. At first glance, it makes no sense. If my son cuts his finger and runs to me, bleeding, I offer comfort and a bandaid. I don’t encourage him to rejoice in his pain – to realize that something good will come from the slice in his thumb.

We can’t overlook the fact, however, that in this silly illustration, my son ran to me. His faith in my mothering skills gave him the confidence to give me his problem and to let me care for him. His heart found joy in the capability of his mother.

The bridge between suffering and rejoicing has to be faith. Our joy remains constant, not because of what each day holds, but because of our trust in the One who holds our days.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. Faith in His sovereignty, His holiness, His power, His compassion – faith in His character not mine – will result in a joy that testifies to those around me that I trust in something bigger than my circumstances.

True joy without faith in the Giver of everything good is virtually impossible.

I am both convicted and comforted by the words of the Puritan minister, Samuel Ward in Sermons,

Live by faith. Rejoice through faith in the Lord. It is the neglect of this exercise that will allow discouragement to erupt, and Satan to interrupt your happiness and spiritual cheerfulness. It will cast you in to the dumps and into mourning……Keep your faith, and it will keep your joy…..Show me your faith by your joy. Use your faith, and have joy; increase your faith and increase your joy.

 

What Do You Believe?

It was a proud parent moment.

Our oldest recently competed in a Bible quizzing competition and finished with a perfect score. Some may say that it seems fitting for the pastor’s kid to win, but I saw the time he spent studying and reviewing the references and definitions. His victory had more to do with his hard work than genetics.

The danger of such Bible clubs and competitions is the temptation to memorize Scripture simply for the reward.  The beautifully inspired verses become a string of words learned in a particular order. The child knows the Book but not the Author.

It’s so incredibly important that we as parents and teachers take the extra time to explain the meaning and context behind the passages alongside memorization. Show them Jesus before moving on to the next section to master. We may be surprised at the Spirit’s conviction and encouragement in our own souls as well.

The Christian walk does require discipline, however. Giving our kids the opportunity to hide God’s Word in their sponge-like minds and tender hearts can stock their spiritual arsenal for the battles that are sure to come.

During my teen years, I participated in an intricate system our youth pastor designed for accountability in spiritual disciplines. We would record our points each week for Scripture memorization, devotions, visitation and outreach, and the occasional “bonus” activity in exchange for a variety of rewards. I and my closest friends were top earners each week leading our respective teams to victory. In my mind, reading my Bible or chatting with senior citizens on a Sunday afternoon seemed like a perfect exchange for 500 points and a pizza party the next Wednesday.

Now that I’m twenty years down the road, I have a problem with this system. There are definitely rewards for spiritual habits, but they don’t come in the form of candy bars or amusement parks. Without meaning to my youth pastor was creating a shortsightedness in his teens. The return on my spiritual investment might not come until I am forced to rely on His Word in a deep valley or unexpected storm. And when the prize does come, it will be in the form of more firmly rooted faith, unexplainable joy, or a confirmed identity.

This kind of spiritual exercise is not just for those in Bible club and youth groups though. We live in an increasingly dark culture yet our default is often to blend in by being gray — not quite dark, but not completely light either. We flounder when trials come because we have not invested in our foundation during the calm seasons. We live as pseudo-spiritual people, having the right lingo and right lifestyle, but not truly knowing the God we supposedly serve.

My husband has recently started a new sermon series entitled, “We Believe.” His underlying theme is this – what we believe will always affect our everyday living. Our love for our Savior grows in direct proportion to the time spent getting to know Him through His Word. Our love for others grows in direct proportion to our love for Jesus. It’s a constant cycle of progress and growth until we reach our final home.

Ironically, as I write this morning, I am listening to conversations of those around me at our local coffee shop. Two mommies parent a little toddler girl and another couple is discussing our new President and his controversial decisions. Their views are affecting their living. If I were sitting at the table with them, would I be able to confidently share my beliefs? Would I be able to communicate the pursuing love of of heavenly Father? Would I be able to clearly share the Book that informs my conclusions? Would I be able to support it all with a life that reflects my convictions?

May we know and memorize the Bible, not for ribbons and medals, but for the prize of Jesus himself and may our knowledge translate into lives that proclaim the unfathomable love of our all-powerful God.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it  and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
II Timothy 3:14-15


I often think I’m doing well at living what I believe. This article from a Christian-turned-atheist challenges that conclusion:

Do Christians Actually Believe What They Say They Believe?

Luther, the bulldog

It was supposed to be a quiet evening away from the kids.

Every few months, some generous church servants volunteer to host a parents night out. For three and a half hours, we can remember what it was like to be kid-free. After devouring a few too many Red Lobster cheese biscuits we decided to walk around the mall. We have to make best use of our time in the “big city” when we get the chance.

We only made it as far as the 1st shop inside the entrance. His floppy white paws and pleading eyes caught our attention immediately. We were supposed to be focusing on us, but we couldn’t stop thinking about surprising our kids with a new best friend. They would be ecstatic.

Our hunch was right. They have fallen in love with him. So far, the fun seems to outweigh the responsibility of feeding and cleaning up after a new pet (at least for the three youngest family members).

The first several nights were traumatic for the little guy.

New smells. New places. New toys. New people. New cage.

He hated the cage.

His cries were enough to wake the neighborhood. If only he realized that we had his best interest in mind when we added the soft bed and stuffed frog to keep him warm. If only he realized that the bacon-flavored bone would be the perfect answer for his sore puppy teeth. If only he realized the bars that felt like prison were meant for his safety.

Each day with our new buddy seems to be slightly better than the last. Learning our family routines and expectations, gives him a comfort and confidence to settle into our home. He is realizing that his crate offers him a quiet, undisturbed place to escape from toddler hugs.

This new chapter for our family has brought with it a thousand changes and many lessons (practical and spiritual). New puppy brain-fog keeps me from elaborating, so a picture will have to be worth a thousand words for now.

 

The Weight of Waiting

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Six days felt like sixty.

He left on a Sunday afternoon for a Greek exegesis class as a part of his D.Min prep and returned on Saturday after lunch. Compared to what military wives and single moms endure it was really nothing. That didn’t stop me from complaining though. I don’t sleep well when he’s gone which made even the nighttime hours crawl. The entire week held plenty of meltdowns and early bedtimes (mine included).

It wasn’t all bad. I attempted some fun activities to pass the time with the kids. We created salt dough safari animals and devoured chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. My kitchen duties were easier with one less adult in the house. On Wednesday, my friend must have noticed the extra bags under my eyes and offered to play with the kids for a couple hours while I worked on a writing project.

Such is the nature of waiting. We bemoan the slow moving hands of time while begging for the delay of the sweet seconds in between.

I started a personal study of Philippians while my husband was away. Paul penned this book as he suffered imprisonment in Rome. Near the beginning of his letter we find a verse so familiar that I almost immediately begin humming along.

….being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus….

(Did the tune pop into your head too?)

We love the idea of God’s working in our waiting. We want to know the purpose in our pain. We can’t wait to see the masterpiece He creates from the rubble of our life. It’s as if our lives are ugly fixer-uppers in need of a fantastic flip. We anticipate the final reveal of the before and after pictures.

It’s true, of course, that He is working in thousands of unseen ways. He is weaving interactions and choices into a breath-taking tapestry of grace. But this time the words, “until the day of Christ Jesus” jumped off the page and settled into my heart.

I am not guaranteed a glimpse of the completed product that is my life until Jesus returns. Unfortunately, I want quick results and easy fixes. I want to be done with waiting.

The chapter continues…

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

This is the good work that He is accomplishing in me – a holiness that comes from abiding in the Vine and a purity that comes from resting in His work not mine.

There’s no denying that waiting is hard, but if we inspect the endless moments more closely, we may find growth and maturity sprouting in unexpected places. We discover a harvest of righteous fruit and abounding love that could not have survived in the soil of haste.

So we wait knowing that He is faithful and will not break His promises to us.

We wait while looking for His good work in the monotony and mundane of life.

And we wait confident that He will return in power very soon.

The delay will seem as only a “momentary affliction” compared to the eternal glory that awaits us in His presence.

I can’t wait!

When the New Year Doesn’t Seem “New”

I didn’t stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve.

I was still exhausted from the stomach bug that had hit our family early on our vacation and knew I needed some rest before church the next morning.
I easily fell into a deep sleep and didn’t even hear the celebratory fireworks across the street.

When I woke up on January 1, I was struck with a feeling of familiarity. My two year old still needed me to rescue her from the pack ‘n play. I still needed to iron wrinkled Sunday clothes. My sons still needed a referee for their early morning conflicts. My circumstances hadn’t changed with the calendar.

We often equate the new year with a fresh start, but in reality it’s rarely a clean slate. Instead  we experience a continuation of lessons, struggles, and triumphs experienced in the old year. Your body still feels the same pain. Your heart still feels the heavy weight of loss. Your mind is still plagued with doubt and worry.

The road will advance through the next 12 months most likely including several unplanned detours. Thankfully, God’s character does not reset with a new year and He will not be surprised at what each day holds. Each bend in the path will force us to depend on His faithfulness in a deeper way.

After all, the route unknown to us begins and ends with Him!

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.

Some great new year reading:

Feeling stuck? Read this post from Lore Ferguson.

Help with a Bible reading plan for this year.

Started a 2017 diet? 3 Truths about Body Image. 

One Dollar Bill {a Christmas reflection}

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My request wasn’t new. As he’s gotten older, I often instruct my son to hold the door for strangers as we are out and about. He dutifully props the door open until the last person has passed.

This time was different. One of the shoppers was an elderly woman accompanied by her adult daughter. As they got closer to the door, I heard her exclaim, “Look at this nice young man holding the door for us!”

She fumbled through the items in her hand, rustling through receipts and coins until she located a $1 bill which she handed to my son with words of gratitude.

I was surprised at this woman’s act of kindness, but understood her desire to reward my son for his “good behavior.” It never occurred to me that my son wouldn’t understand her gift.

“Mom, why did that lady give me a dollar?” he asked as he caught up to the rest of the family. He was bewildered that she would pay him for such a simple task. I explained that she was thankful for his help and wanted to show her appreciation before she left the store.

The interaction was soon forgotten and the money was spent on a box of Nerds to share with his brother and sister on the way home.

That was last week and I have yet to stop thinking about it.

The argument could be made that my son was deserving of the woman’s gift. He did something nice for her, so she did something nice in return. Many of our daily interactions follow a similar pattern. In fact, we keep a mental tally of the good and bad in order to balance it out with our responses.

Since she made a meal for me when I was sick, I need to make one for her when her baby arrives.

I can’t ask her to watch my kids because I might not be able to babysit hers in return.

She was totally stuck-up when I saw her at church yesterday, so I just won’t try to talk to her anymore.

We live our lives by the “tit for tat” rule.

Kindness for kindness.

Rudeness for rudeness.

Good for good.

Bad for bad.

When we as followers of Jesus act this way we are forgetting that this cycle is in complete contrast to the gift we were offered 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem and later at the cross of Calvary.

Romans 5:8 stops me in my tracks every time I read it –

….but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I was not “holding the door politely” when Christ sacrificed his innocent life for me. I was His enemy. I hated good and desired evil.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Kindness for hatred.

Sacrifice for selfishness.

Good for bad.

I write through tears this afternoon as I sit overwhelmed at His merciful gift to me, an unworthy sinner. Although, I am often tempted to try, any repayment for this salvation is impossible. My good works are simply a small token of gratitude to the God of the universe who stooped down to rescue me.

He “held the door” for me AND gave me the reward He earned. This, my friends, is incredibly good news and as we finish out the Advent season, I pray that our hearts would understand once again the richness of the gospel of Jesus. His coming offers a peace, hope, and wonder that will last well beyond Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Note to the reader:

My “wish” and prayer for you this season is that you will be overcome with the beauty of the eternal One who became man for you. May the realization of His eternal love and His eternal power over the circumstances of this broken world, bring you a peace that passes human understanding.

I will be taking the next few weeks to reflect on my Savior and rest with my sweet little family! I’ll “see” you in 2017!

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

On Fevers and Advent

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I gently separated her damp curls from her sweaty neck. Her cries had forced me out of bed just as I was falling asleep. It was obvious that the fever had tightened its grip on her little body and was planning to hold on throughout the night.

It had appeared suddenly after her nap earlier in the afternoon. She didn’t complain, but lay lethargically on her daddy’s chest until an early bedtime. Her toddler sparkle had been replaced by an indifference to the world around her.

There is not much a mother can do during these small battles with germs. I wish the maternal guidebook included a magic potion to relieve all the possible illnesses our children may contract during their years under our roof. I wish I could experience their symptoms for them leaving them healthy and carefree.

Instead, their small bodies must fight the germs on their own. They must build an immunity to disease. Their white blood cells must strengthen to fight off future viruses.
As a mother, I can only offer comfort, cool drinks, and tepid baths. I cannot take away their symptoms, but I offer my care as they battle the bug inside of them.

on-fevers-advent-1This stands in stark contrast to the deep spiritual illness we all contracted in the Garden. Each individual throughout history experiences the symptoms of a sin-sick soul. Our hearts hide hate, bitterness, and fear. We spread our infection through harsh words and self-serving choices. Human beings are unendingly capable to express evil in the most disgusting of ways.

We do not possess spiritual white blood cells that work to fight the disease of sin. We cannot defeat the depravity of our hearts. The diagnosis is grim.

Read these words from Scripture:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24b-25a

 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:24

You have been healed. 

What was once dead is now alive. What was once broken is now whole. What was once damaged has been restored.

My prayer this advent season (which kicks off today, by the way) is for a renewed awe at the incarnation of God himself.  May my eyes see clearly the severity of my sickness and may my heart rejoice at the cure provided by Jesus. May my soul once again realize that its very life depends on the One who gave His so freely. May this Christmas season be filled with joy flowing from more than dazzling lights, Frank Sinatra, and plaid and velvet toddler dresses. May it celebrate the ultimate healing found in Immanuel, God with us.

She Reads Truth {a review}

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Even though the view was terrifying, the tremors weren’t horrible. They were just enough to jiggle us around and produce uncontrollable laughter between my sister and I.

We were at the Alaska Experience in Anchorage. We had hoped to truly experience the historic earthquake of ’64 but the technology in 1999 only produced a mild back and forth shaking of our stadium seats while we watched the crumbling city on the screen in front of us. It was far from terrifying. It was down right funny.

The farther I’ve walked through life, I’ve learned that our days are filled with tremors and earthquakes too. The difference is that few of them are humorous. Most produce real anxiety, agony, and anger in response. Even if the ground of our life is currently stable, our lives seem to be built along a fault line that can produce upheaval at anytime.

What do we cling to in a world that is shifting and trembling underneath our feet? Is there a safe place when the ground seems to be crumbling?

she-reads-truth

Yes, there is safety, peace, and comfort found in the truth of God’s Word, but Raechel Myers & Amanda Bible Williams explain it much more beautifully than I could in their new book, She Reads Truth.

These women founded the online ministry also called She Reads Truth in the hopes of encouraging women to be reading Scripture every day. It has blossomed into community of women from all parts of the globe who dig into the Truth together each day.

While this book definitely touches on that online ministry, it focuses more specifically on the personal stories of Raechel and Amanda and how the Truth of the Bible met them in the most difficult of times.

Early in the book, in a chapter written by Amanda, I was struck by this quote:

“Trusting in God’s Truth does not mean ignoring everything else. We do not have to explain our fears away in order to earnestly believe God’s promises to us. It is not an either/or situation. It is both/and.”

My copy of the book is full of stars and underlines drawn through tears. Even though my personal “earthquakes” are very different from the authors’ life stories, I was reminded over and over of the sufficiency of God’s word in every area of my life.

img_5646

I will be returning to this book in the days and years to come. It offers hope and gentle rebuke to those who desire to be “Holding Tight to Permanent in a World that’s Passing Away.”

Disclaimer: I received one copy of She Reads Truth  for free in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own.

Snickers the horse and exciting news….

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My first big writing project started in my mid-elementary years. Like most girls my age, I was extremely intrigued by anything horse-related. I devoured books on horse breeds, horse training, and horse racing. My birthday gifts for a few years included trail rides, horse calendars, and more horse books.

It was only natural that I would attempt to write a equestrian novel of my own featuring a sweet mare named Snickers. Unfortunately, I was limited by the busyness of fourth grade so I never made it past the Chapter 1 rough draft. I would have been a best-seller, of course, had I ever finished the rest of the story.

Fast forward twenty years and I find myself in a similar position. My passion has changed from horses to theology, but I still possess a love for reading and writing. Occasionally, I entertain the idea of writing a book, but the thought of composing anything longer than a blog post is intimidating to me. How does an author find enough words to fill a twelve chapter book? How could I find time to write in the middle of homeschooling, demanding church ministry, and life in general? Who would read anything I write anyway?

Last year, I wrote a post about my tendency to appear stronger that I actually am, and I quickly realized that I wanted to dig a little deeper into this topic of discovering Jesus’ perfection in my brokenness. I was able to write in the small crevices of time that this current season of life offers me and am excited to announce the completion of my very first booklet entitled, I’m Fine: discovering His completeness in my shortcomings.

im-fine-cover

What is it about? 

As indicated throughout Scripture, humans are extremely adept at convincing ourselves that by simply trying hard enough we can meet the standards held for us by God, others, and even ourselves. Nothing could be farther from the truth because, in fact, we are in our nature “not fine.” This book intends to take us on a short journey to explore the areas of our life that suffer under an “I’m fine” mentality and remind us that those very shortcomings can bring glory to the One who completed perfection on our behalf.

Who is this booklet for? 

Do you struggle with feelings of failure when your idealistic expectations are shattered again?

Do you fight pride when those around you seem to be faltering in areas you have already mastered?

Do you fall into bed each night hoping that you did enough that day to at least appear successful to others?

Do you feel like the pace of your life is currently unsustainable?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions (like I can) then I pray the words of this book will be an encouragement to you. Because I am a mom, many of my illustrations will resonate with women, but the encouragment from Scripture is intended for all believers who hope to depend on themselves less and their Savior more.

Where can I find it? 

Purchase I’m Fine on Amazon in the format that works best for you!

Print version

E-book for Kindle

Would you share? 

Many of you have friends, family, and blog readers that would really benefit from the truths in this booklet. If I could meet them all, I would ask them to meet me for coffee and discuss it with them in person. Because that’s impossible, I hope you’ll share it with them for me!

Thank you for your support and prayers here at Dishes & Doctrine. My prayer is that this new resource is a blessing to your heart as you find your completeness in our Savior!