Family

Doug, My Torch-bearer

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Doug and I’s story is one of us dancing back and forth in and out of each other’s lives until finally reconnecting and getting married. I’m thankful for God’s providence and His knowledge that our story could only start at a specific time and how He allowed various circumstances to help us fade into the background of the other’s story until it was time for us each to start being key players.

One thing, however, has been true the entire time I’ve known Doug: I find him extremely compelling. He’s always pointed me in the right direction and always brought clarity into my life.

When I was in high school, Doug got me my first job. We had gone to church together as young kids and when I waltzed into the bookstore where he worked, he marched back to his manager and said she should hire me. He had no real reason other than he thought I was pretty and hoped he’d get a date (so he says). I naively thought he was the most gallant man ever and did this with no ulterior motive (don’t judge I was in high school and that’s what all high school girls think!). Although we never dated at the time, we did start the beginning of a friendship. And I’m happy to say that I knew him then when he had a huge afro and also equally as happy that I’m married to him now and he doesn’t.

When we worked together, Doug introduced me to C.S. Lewis. He read him voraciously, quoted him endlessly and recommended him wholeheartedly. I, without his knowing, bought five of Lewis’ books that summer. Reading Lewis was like flipping on a light switch. It was easier to see, and make sense of Jesus and how we should live in light of the story of truth. It also showed me that Christian Literature can be beautiful and should be. Doug didn’t know it at the time, but he introduced me to a favorite author.

Years later, on our first date, Doug asked me what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I was conflicted, I wanted to do mission work, have and adopt a bunch of kids and study English and write and at the time date him. With the utmost ulterior motive, but the clearest presentation he explained God’s will to me. He flipped on the light switch. I had been fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out which path was best, terrified that I would choose the wrong one. Then he showed me the freedom that we have in God’s will. We are here to show Christ and make him known and we can do that in many ways. Now, I’m married to Doug, I teach English online, raise two kids with the hope of adopting one down the road and try to share Jesus with our neighbors and friends in Richmond. It’s a synthesis of all of the desires that God has given me and they aren’t at odds. Doug showed me the truth in that dark, transitional time and I am so thankful.

Before our second date I asked him a few questions about how to read the Bible. I always struggled with how to see the bigger narrative and really see how the New Testament and the Old Testament were connected. I expected a quick chat over coffee on our second date about the ideas. Doug brought worksheets and 3 hours of talking points! Ha. At one point I said at the end because my brain was so tired, “I need food now.” While he was definitely overzealous then and we laugh about it now, Doug sat with me and showed me how to find Jesus in the Bible. I’m not talking about a weird Bible code, but SHOWED me story by story how all things point to Him. How Jesus is the culmination of all of the failed Old Testament heroes and the our true and saving hope. Before I had been reading the Bible as a rule book with stories, but he showed me how it all points to Jesus. I can’t explain the light that has shone into the dark places of my heart because the truth of the Scripture has now been illuminated for me. The Holy Spirit, through Doug flipped that light switch for me.

And now daily when I feel bogged down and discouraged or just everyday life and emotionalism get the best of me, Doug encourages me, bears the torch for me to get back on the right path. We are thankful for our church and he pastors many. But I am proud to say that first and foremost, he is my pastor and he shepherds me well. The quality that I’ve always found the most attractive for him is the way he kindly and consistently brings clarity to confusion. Lest you misunderstand me, I’m not saying that Doug is my light or the light of our church, but instead I’m saying that he points me to the light and does so with others. I love him and I’m thankful for that. As a wife, I cannot ask for anything else.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

Ephesians 5:25-27

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Lost in Translation

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Photo Credit: Ciadefoto.wordpress.com

These days, it seems that everyone is fighting to prove that women and men are the same. We don’t know how to define womanhood anymore; we have even forsaken a biological definition. A person can claim to be a woman just by declaring so or donning a few clothing items. There must be something deeper to being a woman than a pair of heels or a verbal declaration. If we are honest we can see that biological, spiritual, and mental differences all point to an intentional, unique design that makes women inherently different from men. God could have created us all homogenous, but He used two sexes to declare his glory to the world. He also declared it good! And living in accordance with God’s design brings life and joy. It is my goal over the next few months to highlight some unique aspects of womanhood. I think we need to continue to talk about what it means to be a woman, because on the whole many women are deeply confused about what it means to embrace femininity. Much of these posts will be based largely on the book Eve in Exile, written by Rebekah Merkle. I would highly encourage this for further reading on womanhood, as much of the book served as a jumping off point for this post. She flips on the light switch in defining womanhood, while the rest of our culture is stumbling about in a dark room on this issue.

Merkle states that women are designed to subdue, fill, help and glorify. One of the ways that we subdue or work in our world is through the act of translation. Merkle says, “ Women are born translators. We take principles, abstract ideas, and then put flesh on them”(143, Eve in Exile). We as women are translators of God’s grace and goodness in the world and we make it real and tangible for those around us. We, like Jesus, physically demonstrate the goodness of God.  As women, we embody incarnational living, where grace spun in the kitchen turns into cinnamon rolls, fresh heirloom tomatoes, midnight baby feedings, willing passionate sex, among many other things. This brings new meaning to baking, gardening, carrying children, and using all of our other gifts to illustrate God’s goodness.

As women, God has uniquely gifted each of us to use our particular gifts to translate his grace and goodness to those around us: our family, friends and neighbors. Each woman has different gifts and skills that she can use to benefit those around her that display God’s glory uniquely, and while we are all doing the same thing (translating God’s goodness to those around us) the way that we do it will certainly look very different.

I have the pleasure of knowing many women—who are constantly using their gifts to illuminate the grace of God. One woman I know bakes the tastiest pan au chocolate (and other treats) for her family and neighbors. Her time in the kitchen yields full bellies, happy hearts, and great conversations over delicious food. Another woman I know is very creative in her compassion; she uses that creativity and has helped her daughter to make little crafts to sell to buy food for the homeless in our area. I know a woman who is one of the most hospitable women; I have eaten and partied at their house along with everyone else I know. Hundreds of people have benefited from her hospitality. I know another woman who takes photos and uses the money to rest well with her family, going on vacations and having intentional family days. She also takes photos for people in the church to capture special moments. Another woman I know loves literature, every book she has recommended to my children they LOVE. She makes knowledge incredible and reading come alive. Another woman I know is currently carrying her third baby while she takes care of two other little girls, her physical sacrifice and service to her family is grace to them. Another woman I know uses her gifts to educate her children, teaching them at home to understand and observe the glory of world that God has made. Another woman I know uses her patience and kindness to bless others—she is the quiet one at a party, but an intentional conversationalist, because she loves everyone and everyone is comfortable with her. Another woman I know puts her kids PJs in the dryer every night to make them warm and cozy before bed. This small act struck me—because her whole life is this way. She takes small things like this and makes her kids and others feel welcome in her life and in her home. She’s defining what “home” means for her kids later in life. Another woman I know is single, and instead of feeling alone and sad at Christmas fixed a large Christmas meal for others who had no one else to celebrate with. Another woman I know has a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night yet and every night she feeds him to the glory of God, sustaining another person through her sacrifice. Another woman I know paints beautifully and uses her art to point to the beauty of God and to make other people’s homes beautiful. Another woman does not yet have children and has watched almost all children in the church faithfully. Another woman I know gardens, and the fruit of that garden has fed many people including her own family and children. Another woman I know is an excellent seamstress and has helped teach others to sew and clothes her family and others that she knows. And these are just the women I know, not to mention the countless others that I don’t. I use this list not as an end-all-be-all or as a new “to do list” but to show how beautiful the design of God is. God’s definition of womanhood is not limiting. No, it is actually larger and more freeing than we have imagined!

So these examples beg the question: what are these women “translating” by their actions? First off they are showing that self-sacrifice is the truest form of love. They are pointing to Jesus’ sacrifice of laying his life down for us by laying down their life and talents for others. They are preaching the very heart of the gospel message: my life for yours. They are showing that their time is meant to be given. Our time is meant to be stewarded to God’s glory and by being creative in our talents, we show God’s glory to our families and friends. Therefore, because God has given us these gifts to steward, let us spur on one another with love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), working open handedly together to translate God’s goodness to the world. We do not hoard our gifts. We do not demand respect for them as the world might have us do with their marches and loud speakers. No, we open-handedly, every day translate God’s grace to the world in seemingly insignificant and small ways by giving of ourselves for others.

My question to you is how has God gifted you? How can you use those gifts to serve others? What translation are you sending to the world? Is it a gospel of grace or another false gospel?

Let me leave you with this quote from Eve in Exile: “Women are built to enflesh. To translate. Sometimes we do it without thinking, and sometimes we just can’t help it. We can take the love of a man and a woman and turn it into a fat little baby—a separate and distinct living picture of the oneness of his parents. We show our innate desire to beautify when we fix our hair, put on make up care about our clothes or our homes. We translate and enflesh when we take an abstract command like “hospitality” and turn it into a party with great music and good food. We embody, we enflesh, we multiply, and we transform cultures. Eve is fruitfulness” (122). Let us bear good fruit.

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A Hymn of Hope

Jess Ponder

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The circumstances of this life

Lead to unending wounds and strife

The depth of our depravity

Continues on with certainty

We scorn the One who gives us grace

Exalt ourselves to His high place

Our pride the root of our heart’s err’r

Will never yield things good and pure

The struggle of the days of man

The toil of his laboring hand

Will never mend his brokenness

And never grant his soul true rest

But there’s a hope to our bleak plight

A Promised Light to break the night

A Glorious Maker, good and true

Come to restore his world anew

In human flesh our Maker came,

To manifest His Father’s fame,

Through Him creation is made right

And all His fullness our new life

Sing praise and Glory to the One

The mystery of His will is known

Revealed to us through Jesus Christ

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Christmas Dailies

Love Gives (Thursday) 

 

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As I mentioned in the last post, the Gospel is the ultimate picture of love. While we were still his enemies of God, Jesus died for us. His sacrifice of laying aside heaven and becoming man and dying on the cross is the greatest display of love. We receive his gift of grace freely. Of course, the gift itself was very costly to God. It wasn’t free to him; it cost him his life. That brings us to a main characteristic of love: True love sacrifices and lays down its life for others.

Romans says 5: 6-11 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Here, Paul is pointing out that it is hard for men to be courageous enough to die for a good person. Paul is hinting at the currency of the world. He is saying that even the bravest of men could die for good men, and many have. But Christ laid down his life for us despite our merit. We were his enemies and He laid his life down out of the greatest love to reconcile us back to God.
In a similar way, we honor God by laying our life down for others. We don’t do this to earn God’s favor or prove our good works. No, we lay our life down to display the ridiculous glory of God’s unmerited grace. When we lay our life down for others, we are showing them love through sacrifice. Now, in our modern Western world, laying our life down for others may not mean physically giving our lives in death (although it could), but the laying down of our life is no less important.

A friend lays down their life when they offer kind words or forgiveness to someone who has wronged them. A pregnant mother lays down her life as she physically offers up her body to carry another, enduring the suffering that comes with child birth. A father lays down his life for his family by working hard (sometimes) late hours and nights to provide for them. A neighbor lays down his life for his neighbor by providing food or comfort during hard times or by offering grace when they’re having a party later than you’d like.
Laying down your life for another might mean honoring a difficult boss by working steadfastly at a job that God has given you instead of just dialing it in. Laying down your life for another might mean staying up late with a sick child instead of sleeping yourself. Laying down your life for another might mean bearing with another church member and forgiving their sin against you. Laying down your life for another might mean paying for their dinner as an act of unmerited grace. Laying down your life for another might mean laboring and spending time (despite your exhaustion) choosing gifts, making special food and creating an exciting atmosphere for your loved ones on Christmas.

No matter what the sacrifice is, Christ invites each of us to lay our life down for those near us this Christmas. The cost may vary, but the love is beautiful. When we give others the gift of our loving service freely without grumbling or complaining, we are honoring and celebrating the love God. We are saying to the world, “God is greater that myself and I want to share that love with others.”

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Love Frees (Wednesday)

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One of my greatest fears is being guilty, well of being found guilty of something. On dark days this fear drives me to be the best worker, the best mom, the best wife, and the best friend. I never want the fault to be mine. Yet, I always fall short.

Of course, I never think these things out loud. Most of these things are subconscious desires that drive my behavior, but whenever I think about why I do the things that I do, they point back there. I don’t want to be found guilty. I always want to forgive, but I never want to be forgiven.

It is enslaving. A few years ago, I realized that no matter what something would always be my fault and I couldn’t earn my way out of it. It terrified me. I realized that I wanted to be better for my own sake. Deep down, I wanted to prove that I didn’t need to be forgiven, but that somehow, I could make up for my mistakes.

These verses prove me wrong; I’m an enemy and I could never atone for my own sin:

“None is righteous, no, not one;no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.”“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”“Their feet are swift to shed blood;in their paths are ruin and misery,and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” –Romans 3: 10-18

These verses give me hope; this hope reaches beyond my poor attempt at good behavior:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”–Romans 5: 6-11

My guilt has been taken care of. I was an enemy, but I’ve been forgiven. This miraculous love of God frees me from trying to make myself right. I can rejoice in his sacrifice and grace and extend grace to others and myself. True love frees us from guilt and fear. John says, in first John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 

God has freed us from the fear of ultimate punishment. His love is real and it is sweet. The battle for our hearts has been won. God calls us to stand in his victory, to rest in His identity for us and others, and enjoy the free love of Christ.

 Hallelujah, what a Savior.

This is a beautiful song about the faithfulness of God’s love by Sandra McCracken.

Christianity, Christmas Dailies, Uncategorized

Love Manifest (Tuesday)

 

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerrard van Honthorst
 
(As an aside: you can find Sunday’s reading here. And the link to last week’s readings here. Monday was a catch up day and this is Tuesday’s reading. I will be publishing this week daily) 

This year we have been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible for advent. It is a beautiful children’s bible that does an excellent job of showing the overarching gospel narrative that connects all of the biblical books. It starts off this way “No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this story is—it’s true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story and at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle—the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.”

As it mentions the entire Bible is full of failed romantic comedies, failed heroes, and failed leaders. Our ancient forefathers prove time and time again (along with human history too if we are honest about that) how we couldn’t love each other, love God, or love others well. We could not fulfill our purpose to love God and make His glory known. Instead, we needed God to come to show us love and he does so by becoming love for us. Christmas celebrates the entrance of the leading man in this story: Jesus. 

One of the most beautiful things about Christmas is the incarnation, which is the theological word for God becoming man. Jesus’s name (Emmanuel) literally means God with us. Jesus is love incarnate, love manifest. He is the image of God perfectly displayed in man. We know the love of God because we know Jesus. He is our real, physical, tangible love. As Piper said in his definition of love that I shared in the last post, Jesus becoming man shows how he “labored and suffered to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God.”

John the apostle explains these ideas here: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this love Hod was made manifest among is, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”  I John 4: 7-9

There is much to rejoice in. The long awaited love of our hearts is here and he’s real.