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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

5032958154_3b534eab1a_z Palm “A. Dombrowskit” CC licensed

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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Love Frees (Wednesday)

copyright Archana Jarjapu CC licensed

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.

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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. 

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Truce for the Mommy Wars

Have you ever found yourself in the crossfire of the Mommy Wars? Whether it is the battle of the stay-at-home moms versus working moms, formula moms versus breastfeeding moms, disposable diapering moms versus cloth-diapering moms (or any other dispute you can think of), chances are you’ve read something about this ongoing battle.

Most of what I’ve read has tried to call a truce between these opposing camps. Such blogs address the issues that the opposing camps fight about, but few seem to get to the heart of the matter. While I do think there are biblical principles that have implications for how a woman lives, works, and parents, I also think there is a lot of freedom in Jesus concerning these choices. But this is not another blog post about that. This post addresses the heart behind the mommy wars, not the specifics of them.

The problem with mommy wars is that each woman is trying to define herself by what she does.

Take the stay-at-home mom vs. the working mom, for example. The stay-at-home mom says, “Look at me staying at home, value me, I’m significant.” The mom working outside of the home says, “See what I can do, value me, I’m significant.” Each person is turned inward, asking people to cherish them, notice them, and esteem them for things that they do.

Here’s what God says about that approach, and humanity has proven him right again and again: the more and more that we try to prove our own significance and self-worth, the more self-centered and depressed we become. That’s because we were not created to be the center of our life. We were made to run on the glory of God, just as cars were made to run on gasoline.

God also made us in His image, creating us to carry his likeness and extend the worship of His glory throughout the world. God is who gives us the only value and significance we’ll ever have. Our value has nothing to do with improved “self-worth” or being valuable on our own; it all comes down to WHOSE image we bear. God made us, and Jesus died for us. That’s it. That is the only reason you are valuable.

So when we begin to loudly tout our “I’m amazing because I do ____” mantra, thus pointing to our own works instead of God, we will always feel defeated and depressed. Cars can’t run on water, and we can’t run on self-praise. That means the answer is not telling ourselves that we are significant because of what we do. Instead, the answer is only found in clinging to the promise and hope of the gospel: that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. Jesus, the God of the universe, stepped into our mess and sacrificed His life for us. In doing so, all of the things that were broken by our sin were made whole.

In light of that truth, pointing to our own works is desperately misguided. “Pay attention to me! Value me! Look at what I can do! Affirm my lifestyle choices!” It’s all wrong, and it’ll never work. God made to reflect His glory—that’s the only thing our lives can ‘run’ on. Therefore, the way that we live our lives and go about our work (whatever that is) should say, “Value Christ; He has done everything. He is worth your life! He is beautiful! He is worth cherishing!” It is in reflecting His glory that true happiness and joy are found.

No matter what side we take in the mommy wars, we all need to stop building our identities on what we do. That’s the simple answer to the true cause of conflict in the mommy wars: stop pointing to yourself and look to Jesus. That may sound like a ‘Jesus Juke’ or trite Christian quip, but it’s not. Jesus is the only path to peace for sinful mommies everywhere

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Vote For Me!

Hello readers. Normally I do not make it a practice to ask for votes. It feels very high school prom queen. However, for the three years that I have had this blog I have been very encouraged by each of you and I thought I would ask a favor.

I have entered a contest based on Kate Conner’s new book Enough: Ten Things We Should be Telling Teenage Girls. (GO BUY IT AND READ IT)

Readers were challenged to come up with the 11th thing. Ten finalists were chosen and my entry was one of the finalists. I based that entry on this blogpost (Death By Comparison), which has been my most popular blogpost to date. All women, but especially teenage girls, need to hear the message that comparison is a prison.

If you agree and were encouraged by that blogpost, please go vote for me at this link by liking my entry. The entry with the most likes wins the contest and wins an iPad mini (which is timely because my computer is on its last life).

Go vote for me here by liking my entry: http://on.fb.me/1sVTFpL

Feel free to share the link above and encourage others to vote as well.

Thanks so much!