Seasons, Changes, and Trust

seeds unsplash

Sometimes God speaks quietly. And sometimes he uses a bullhorn. This was the first line of my devotional today:

“Entrust your loved ones to Me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.”–Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Ironically, I mixed up my dates and read the wrong entry for today. But it was the one I needed. Today was the day I knew was coming when I edited “homeschool mom” out of my bio a few weeks ago. I dropped my oldest two kiddos off at school today.

I know that for lots of moms the first day of school is a great big party. And I get it–really. Going to the grocery store by yourself? Priceless. But even when you know a decision is right, there’s often a sense of loss when a door closes behind you. And today, yeah–it’s been all the feelings.

What if I didn’t teach them something? What if I’ve completely screwed them up forever and now they’re in school and everyone’s going to find out?!!!!

Ooohh. The house is quiet. Except for the jabbering four year old, but relatively quiet. This is nice.

I miss my babies! Is it 3:30 yet?

So munchkin is back in Mothers’ Day Out next week, and I could actually go the mall by myself. Maybe I should get a massage. Or a manicure. Or just book a whole week at the spa . . .

Pray for my husband, y’all.

Incidentally, these were the kids’ reviews:

“I made two new friends!”

“I loved it!”

“I got to sit next to my BFF!”

“I have a fun teacher, Mom.”

“We went to the library!”

“We went to P.E.!”

“We ate pizza!”

So yeah. They’re good. I know there’s going to be good days and bad days and just slog-through-it-because-you-have-to days, but they had a good first day. That’s what I’d prayed for. And the kid that I’d prayed would make one friend today made two. Our God who does abundantly beyond more than we could ask or think–that’s just kind of what he does.

The last few weeks as we’ve been gathering supplies and making plans, God’s been keeping up a quiet whisper in my ear. What was your word for the year again? Trust. Did you mean it? 

And yeah–yeah, I did. But we all know trusting God with other people is a lot harder than trusting him with ourselves. Trusting that yes, he’ll speak to them and they’ll hear. Trusting that on the beat-up, broken-hearted days he’ll bind up their souls as he’s bound up yours. Trusting that when he promised his presence would go with you, he also meant it for them. Trusting that you’re not raising them to be safe; you’re raising them to be strong. And knowing that his strength is enough for both the gathering in and the letting go.

Today has felt like one of those youth group trust exercises. The kind where you lean back and fall, knowing in your head they’re going to catch you but still the tiniest bit afraid that you’re going to be the one that goes splat. But God’s mercies are new ever morning, and his faithfulness never fails. He’s got me. He’s got them. And he’s not going to let us down.


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Confessions of a Control Freak, Part 3

control freak

I think I was in elementary school when I decided that I would write the paper for any group project I had to do. If I wrote it, I could control it. I wasn’t going to turn in sloppy work with my name on it. The system worked well until I got into graduate school and found myself in a staring contest with a guy who had adopted the same strategy. We finally worked out a compromise. He wrote; I edited.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to see things done well. We should be confident in our gifts and talents and proud of a job well done. Yet like fear, pride can also lead to a spirit of control. That’s where we need to be careful.

Pride leads to control when:

  • It numbs us to our need for God. Pride doesn’t leave room for God in our thoughts (Psalm 10:4). Pride convinces us that we can depend on our own talents and resources. The problem is that human strength is insufficient to accomplish a spiritual task. When Jesus said that we can accomplish nothing apart from him, he meant it. Our greatest strength comes from dependence, not self-sufficiency. Pride isolates us from the life-giving flow of the Spirit.
  • It blinds us to our own weaknesses. “Pride goes before a fall” is an overly quoted verse for a reason: It’s true. When pride convinces us we’ve got this down, we stop watching for mistakes and pitfalls. Thinking you can’t make a mistake is the best way to ensure one.
  • It silences other people’s voices. If you think you know it all, there’s no reason to listen to anyone else’s input. That’s a dangerous place to be. Often it’s not that things should be done my way or her way; it’s that we need to do things our way. We need to dream big, but we also need to watch the budget. Get the project done on time, but get it done well. We need holiness and grace; hymns and choruses; freedom and structure. Pride ignores other people’s perspectives. Humility honors them.

When we forget our need for God, stop seeing our own weaknesses, and ignore other people’s wisdom, we start living out of pride-driven control. Suggestions become demands, we refuse to consider other people’s perspectives, and start tossing people off the bus. If we insist on doing it all our own way, eventually people start letting us. Pride may go before a fall, but it also walks alone.

So how do we tame our prideful tendencies?

  • Cultivate dependence on Christ. We need to live like we’re the branch, not the vine. The discipline of daily devotion and prayer is essential, but it can’t stop there. What if instead of assuming we know what God wants in a given situation, we stopped to ask? If we began every planning meeting with prayer–not just routine, but inviting people to seek God together and listen for his voice? If we came to Scripture expecting and actively seeking to meet with God as we study his word? Honoring Jesus as Lord checks pride and places us under his control.
  • Assess ourselves honestly. “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3). We need to be honest about our own weaknesses. That doesn’t mean seeing ourselves as wretched worms, but soberly recognizing that we still have room to grow. Maybe you’ve got great ideas, but tend to be fuzzy with details. Or you get so involved in information gathering that you never get around to making a decision. Recognizing our own areas of weakness can help us lean on other people’s strength.
  • Live with an attitude of honor. The only competition in the body of Christ should be to outdo one another in showing honor. Pride silences others; honor elevates them. We honor others by seeking their perspective and listening to their points of view. Honor encourages other people to use their gifts.  It reminds us that there is beauty in diversity and strength in unity. Honor delights in seeing God’s glory displayed in those around us. Pride elevates self; honor elevates others.

Pride puts a ceiling on what we can accomplish. Living out of control means that anything I touch will only be as big as what I can do. If I want God-sized results, I have to be willing to hand over the reigns. Want to see God move? Let go. Stand back. Watch to see what God does–because God does amazing really well.

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Confessions of a Control Freak, Part 2

control freak

I am convinced fear is one of the greatest factors that drive our need for control. I recognize it in others because I also see it in myself.

Fear can be a healthy response to certain situations. Fear helps us make good decisions, like not playing Frisbee on the roof. It also gives us the adrenaline fueled flight-or-fight response that can help you yank your toddler out of the way of the falling bookshelf or lift a car off an accident victim. But fear that moves us away from trust can produce a variety of unhealthy responses, including control.

Fear that leads to control is a problem because:

It drives me to put myself in God’s place. Fear can cause us to adopt the false belief that it’s my job to keep bad things from happening. When I believe it’s up to me to keep the world running smoothly, it pushes me to ensure everyone around me is doing things right. So I micromanage the project, demand people in leadership do things my way, and restrict my children’s choices to the one I want them to make.When I buy the lie that I can control outcomes and events, I have to make sure every decision and every process is done my way.  Sometimes it works. If I’m angry, manipulative, or charismatic enough, I can get everyone around me dancing to my tune. But when the house of cards I’ve built comes crashing down–as it always does–I either have to face facts or find someone to blame.

It causes me to restrict other people’s power and freedom. God intended church to be a body, not a one woman show. That mean’s everyone’s voices and gifts matter, not just mine. But fear gets in the way. If I can’t trust God to do his job, how can I trust anyone else? My need for control can come out in different ways. Suggestions that feel more like demands. Punishing people for decisions I don’t like. A constant string of criticisms that wear people down. All these behaviors on my part can drive others to their own set of negative behaviors like rebelling, quitting, or shutting down. My need for control can rob others of their God-given freedom and prevent them from using their spiritual gifts. Healthy people can desire to see things done well but still honor other people’s freedom and power to make real decisions.

It keeps me from experiencing God’s freedom and blessing. I wrote a few months ago about our dog Summer, and how she was afraid to come into the house. Before she came home with us, Summer lived at a vet-run shelter and spent most of her time in the yard. They took good care of her, but she didn’t have any experience with things like carpet, noisy washing machines, or Christmas trees. She’s been with us about six months now. While she’s still fearful of new situations, she’s made lot’s of progress. Among other things, she’s discovered we have a couch. Instead of being afraid, she now prefers coming inside.

Fear-driven-control forces me to live in the safe space I can control. Like Summer, I want to live in the safety-zone of what is known, comfortable, and predictable. But in doing so I miss out on the blessings of love, intimacy, and adventure found in relationship with God. Faith involves risk, and without faith we can’t enjoy freedom.

So how do I silence the voice of fear?

  • Celebrate God’s sovereignty. There is tremendous freedom in handing control over to God. Knowing and celebrating God’s sovereignty frees me from the burden of having to control every situation and prepare for every eventuality. Instead, I can fully enjoy each moment because God knows my future. Bad things will happen. Whether God delivers me from it or strengthens me to walk through it, I know God will provide for my every need when I need it. God’s in charge. I don’t have to be.
  • Trust God’s heart. 1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” When we love God and know God’s love for us, there’s no room left for fear.
  • Invest in relationship with God. Summer overcame her fear as she learned to know and trust us. It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. If we want to trust God more, we need to know him better. That means we need to practice the basic disciplines of faith. Reading the Bible expecting to hear God’s voice. Prayer that takes time for listening instead of just running down our wish list. Celebrating God’s character in worship. Participating in genuine community. Relationships are built with time and experience, and our relationship with God is no different.

Q: How does fear drive your need for control? How can we learn to live by faith instead of fear?

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Because You are Greatly Treasured

greatly treasured

Things that got done before we went on vacation: laundry, packing, cleaning the bathrooms, wrapping up the Bible study unit I had due the end of July.

Things that didn’t get done: writing and scheduling blog posts. (Looks sheepish).

We’re going to get back to the Confessions of a Control Freak series next week, but I wanted to share with you the verse I’ve had running through my head the last two weeks:

When you began making your requests, a word went out, and I’ve come to tell it to you because you are greatly treasured. (Daniel 9:23)

When you began making your requests. . .

One of these days I’m going to write about what we can learn about prayer from Daniel. Daniel was committed to prayer even when it was costly (lion’s den, anyone?) He was disciplined in prayer. He heard from God in prayer, and in chapter 9 we see that Daniel let Scripture guide his prayers. In the first year of King Darius’ reign, Daniel began pondering the scrolls–copies of the books of the law and the prophets. Jeremiah had prophesied that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11). Daniel recognized that the 70 years appointed for the exile were now completed. It drove Daniel to prayer. Daniel confessed the sins of his people and asked God to act on behalf of his people once more.

While Daniel was still speaking, the angel Gabriel came with a message for Daniel. Daniel says it three times: “while I was still speaking . . . while I was still praying my prayer for help . . . while I was still speaking this prayer, the man Gabriel approached me” (Daniel 9:20-21).

Never fear that your prayers are unheard. God moved to respond to Daniel’s prayer as soon as Daniel began speaking. Does it always happen that swiftly? No. Later, Daniel labors in prayer for three weeks before receiving an answer because there was a spiritual battle being fought he didn’t know was going on. Sometimes we wait in prayer because God wants to to do something in us so we are ready to receive his answer. And sometimes we have to accept that no is our answer. But our prayers are always heard.

. . . a word went out . . .

Prayer is powerful. In prayer we invite our Father God to bring heaven’s power to bear in our circumstance. And God is not stingy about his blessings. Daniel prayed. God answered–and he answered powerfully. Let us never forget that the prayer of a righteous man–or woman–is powerful and effective. Prayer is not our last line of defense; it is the first and best weapon of our warfare.

. . . because you are greatly treasured.

God’s response to prayer is motivated by his love for us. You are greatly treasured by our great God. You don’t have to twist God’s arm or guilt him into giving you what you need. It delights God to respond to your prayers because you are greatly treasured. “He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32).

Let that truth sink down in your heart: you are greatly treasured. Maybe the people in your life who should have treasured you didn’t. Maybe you’re carrying around a long list of labels and accusations that have been thrown at you over the years. Maybe life’s heartaches make it feel like the world is against you and God is too. Know this: you are precious to the Most High. When you pray, God hears you because you matter to him.

Q: How does knowing that you are greatly treasured impact your prayers?

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Book Review: Jaded by Varina Denman

I’ve had this book sitting on my desk daring me to review it. Yes, I’ve been procrastinating. Not because I didn’t like it–I did–but because I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to get started. Jaded isn’t the kind of book you plow through in an evening and gush about to your friends as “the best book ever!” It’s a book that demands for the reader to take it slowly, think about the message, and savor each bite.

Basics first: Jaded is Ruthie’s story. When Ruthie was seven years old, her daddy left, the church threw her momma out, and her best friend joined the rest of the church in looking the other way. Thirteen years later, Ruthie is okay with God but doesn’t want much to do with his people. They’ve certainly never given her a reason to try. Then Dodd moves to town–a handsome young preacher who doesn’t know her history, doesn’t understand the way the town looks at her, and is determined that the gospel is big enough for everyone. But power brokers in the church oppose Dodd and Ruthie’s relationship as fiercely as her own mother does, and both of them have to make a choice. What do you do when you love God but aren’t sure the church is worth the trouble?

Jaded is a well-written book, but it’s not an easy read. Honestly, I find that refreshing. I love Christian fiction, but a lot of what’s on the market is brain candy. Fun, light, sweet romance mixed with a little spiritual truth all wrapped up in a  happy ending. There’s a place for that, but sometimes you want something savory to go with the sweet. Jaded is that something different. It’s powerfully written. You can taste the west Texas grit in the air and wouldn’t be surprised to discover Ruthie is your checker next time you got to the grocery store. But part of the power of the story is that Jaded demands for you to engage with it and think–not just about the book, but about the uncomfortable truths it demands we face.

The biggest struggle Ruthie has on her journey toward God is her relationship with the church. It’s an ugly thing thing when the church becomes the stumbling stone, but it happens more than we’d like to think. Ruthie’s story makes that personal. One of the things Jaded forces is to confront is that sometimes that judgmental holier-than-thou voice is what the church shows to the world. And yet, sometimes what we judge is what we become. Over the course of the novel, Ruthie has to face up to her own judgments about the church and about others and has to let go of her protective hardness to open herself up to love. Sin, judgment, and forgiveness are powerful themes woven through the book. You may find yourself agreeing with Ruthie that God’s people are a faulty, ugly, sticky mess–but we fit right in.

So who should read Jaded? If you enjoy women’s fiction and like stories with depth and complexity, Jaded is a great choice. It would also be a good book club choice. It’s an award-winning novel, there’s plenty to talk about, and a discussion guide is included. The sequel to Jaded, Justified, came out in June. It’s on my to-read list. I’d recommend putting Jaded on yours.

To learn more about the book and the author, check out Varina Denman’s blog and read her posts on Jaded and Justified.

I received a free copy of this book to review through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.

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Confessions of a Control Freak, pt. 1

control freak

I hate cruise control.

Really. I hate it. I absolutely loathe it. I appreciate the theory–cruise down the highway at a nice steady speed without having to fear flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror. It makes perfect sense, but if I’m behind the wheel I want my foot on the gas pedal right where it’s supposed to be. When the cruise is on, I can’t shake the feeling that the car is driving itself. It makes me feel like I’m not in control–and I hate that feeling.

Confession:  I’m a bit of a control freak. I come by it naturally. On the DISC performance inventory, I’m almost equal on C and D personality traits. That would be “conscientious” and “dominance.”  It’s what one DISC specialist cheerfully called “the heart attack profile.” I’m the person with a million ideas who knows how to get them all done perfectly. If you’ve got a project that needs creative solutions with quality results, I’m your girl.

The problem is that my inner drive to see things done right can devolve into micromanaging and nitpicking other people’s work. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. Being controlling? Not so much. Having high standards and desiring to see things done well are great qualities, but when we let those desires push us to controlling other people, they tend to push back.

If I’m going to be totally honest, that inner need for control doesn’t always come from a desire to see things done well. Sometimes it stems from darker places. Pride. Fear. A lack of trust in God’s sovereignty. And one huge problem is that if I’m trying to control others, I’m restricting their freedom and power to hear God’s voice and act on it for themselves. If you want people to succeed, you’ve also got to give them the freedom to fail. That can get scary.

So what do you do when your inner control freak rears its head? The thing that helps me most is remembering who’s really in charge. God is sovereign. I’m not.

Though the mountains be shaken
    and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

No matter what happens in my life, God’s love for me will not be shaken. God laid the foundations of the earth and stretched out the heavens with a word. My efforts to control my life are like throwing my arms around a dust pile and trying to keep the wind from blowing it away. I can’t do it. Trying to take control of my world and the people around me to keep bad things from happening is only setting me up for stress and failure. Striving for excellence is great, but it’s no magic talisman against the problems of the world. Accidents happen. Equipment breaks. People forget things, have other priorities or make mistakes. Sometimes I make mistakes. (More often than I’d like to admit). All my efforts can’t stop the world from shaking. But when the ground trembles, God’s love for me still stands firm.

Silencing your inner control freak starts by increasing your confidence in God’s love. God is good. He loves us, and he is in control. We can trust him enough to let go.

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Ananias and Saul: The Story Starts With a Disciple

new thing disciple

There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. How could such a short line be so powerful a pivot point? God was writing a new chapter in the story of salvation, and God does what he always does.

He started with a disciple.

We don’t know much about Ananias. Paul tells us later that Ananais was a pious man, well respected by the Jews (Acts 22:12). But at this first moment when he enters the story at stage left, Acts only gives us the most important part of information about Ananias.

Ananias was a disciple.

Disciple. The word carried weight in the New Testament world–more than the hashtag kind of force we sometimes give it today, like it belongs in a Twitter bio. Ananias: Faithful Jew, Christ-follower, #disciple. Go Damascus! Being a disciple meant something. A disciple was first and foremost a learner, but it was more than that. Disciples weren’t just students who dutifully attended lectures three times a week and scribbled test answers in blue books. Disciples walked in relationship with their master. They learned from him because they were with him. Jesus’ disciples were those who submitted themselves to his Lordship, conformed to Christ’s example, and participated in his kingdom mission.

Ananias was that kind of a disciple.

 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:11-15).

Ananias had a relationship with God that enabled him to not only hear from God but also dialogue about what he heard. Ananias knew God’s request carried risk. Go to Saul–Saul who breathed out threats against the church; Saul who had held coats for those who stoned Stephen to death; Saul who was willing to arrest both men and women who followed the Way–go to that Saul? God doesn’t expect unquestioning obedience; he expects faith that springs from our relationship with him. Ananias had a relationship with God that allowed him to question. He also had a relationship with God that allowed him to trust. And so Ananias did what God had asked him to do.

Ananias was a disciple.

We know the rest of the story. Ananias went to Saul. Ananias prayed for the same man who would gladly have thrown him and his family into prison if God hadn’t intervened. Scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and a man who had fallen to his knees as a persecutor of the church got up as a proclaimer of the gospel. God had turned the page on the a new chapter in salvation history: Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul’s story started with a disciple.

It’s what God always does.  When God gets ready to do a new thing, he looks for one who is willing. One who is listening; someone who is willing to talk, willing to trust, willing to act in faith. God looks for an Abraham, a David, an Esther, a Ruth. God looks for me. He looks for you. He looks for a disciple.

If we want to be used by God, we have to be people God can use. We have to be disciples. We have to cultivate the kind of relationship with God that allows us to hear his voice, question, and trust even when faith gets risky. We do that by building our own histories with God as we pursue him daily, encountering God in his word and seeking to live life in his presence. We become disciples by being with our master. Then, one day, when God picks up the pen and turns the page for a new part of the story, he speaks our names. And we’re ready.

Because when God does a new thing, he starts with a disciple.

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Gay Marriage is Legal. How Should the Church Respond?


Brothers and sisters in Christ—and I use those words intentionally, because I want to be clear on who this post is for. I know many of you are troubled over the Supreme Court’s establishment of gay marriage. Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are simply grieved. But this is not a new problem for us. In the church we have long struggled with the tension between deeply loving people and the refusal to endorse sin. We’ve dealt with it as divorce rates have skyrocketed. We’ve grappled with it as we’ve watched our youth sign their True-Love-Waits pledges, graduate from high school, and move in with their boyfriends and girlfriends. We’ll continue to wrestle with it now that gay marriage is the law of the land. How should we respond? I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

1. Be at peace. Our God still reigns. We know the end of the story: the Kingdom triumphs. Jesus is Lord—no law, regime, or swing of popular opinion can change that. God’s sovereignty was sure when Daniel walked the streets of Babylon. God reigned when Paul sewed tents and preached the gospel under Rome’s long shadow. God reigned for Corrie ten Boom and William Wilberforce and Jim Elliott and Adoniram Judson and all those who have gone before us in the Lord. Do not worry; neither be afraid. God reigns, and our trust is in him.

2. Speak with compassion. Colossians tells us to let our conversation be seasoned with grace (4:6). Sadly, we as church have too often failed to speak with grace to and about the LGBTQ community. In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield shares this story about her encounter with a lesbian friend shortly after Rosaria’s own conversion:

I told her that my heart breaks for her isolation and shame and asked her why she didn’t share her struggle with anyone in her church. She said: “Rosaria, if people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do” (Kindle loc 565).

Ouch. Does our conversation about the gay community reflect our belief in Christ’s sanctifying and transforming power? If the gay community thinks the church hates them, can we be honest enough to admit that at times we have spoken like we do? As we move forward in the coming weeks and months, may we season our speech with grace and reflect God’s heart for all those he loves—including the gay community.

3. Be the body. We are the body of Christ. We are meant to be hospitals for the broken, ministering Christ’s healing to a sin-sick world. We can’t shirk that responsibility when it comes to the gay community. If a man in your church struggles with pornography, he can confess it to his men’s group and find accountability and support. Where does he go if he is attracted to men but wants to be faithful to his wife? Is there a safe space for the teenager who finds himself more turned on by his teammates in the locker room than the nude centerfold they’re passing around? What about the couple who sits in worship holding back tears because their daughter came home from college and told them she thinks she may be a lesbian? Can we be the body of Christ to them?

Let’s also not pretend that celibacy is an easy road. In the past few months I’ve read the stories of several gay and lesbian believers—some with whom I agree with where they’ve landed theologically and some with whom I don’t. There is a common thread of deep loneliness that runs through many of their stories. If we are going to teach—rightly—that the only God-ordained channels for sexual intimacy are celibacy or male/female monogamous marriage, we need to be family for those who have to create their own.

4. Live at peace. Paul was no stranger to a hostile culture. He had seen Jesus crucified. He himself had been beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked. He had seen both riots and revivals. Yet he still wrote to believers living in the heart of Rome’s power and exhorted them to respect their government and live at peace with all (Romans 12:18; 13:1). If Paul challenged citizens of imperial Rome in this way, should we do any less? As far as it is in our power, let us be at peace. Don’t pick fights; drop ridiculous rhetoric about secession and impeaching the Supreme Court; don’t give way to fearmongering and alarmism. Serve. Love. Be at peace. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

5. Be true to your convictions. It is possible to faithfully love people and faithfully follow God’s word. That doesn’t mean decisions are always easy. What will you do when a lesbian couple wants to attend your church’s marriage retreat? How will you respond when a gay couple wants to bring their adopted child for baby dedication? When a member of the gay community accepts Christ and comes for baptism? Is it different from how we respond if it’s a college student living with his girlfriend, or a senior adult couple who consider themselves married but haven’t made it official to protect their Social Security benefits? As church, we will need to wrestle with these questions in the days to come. Our actions convey our true beliefs about God and people. We believe that God is holy. We believe that God is love. One side of the path falls off to legalism and judgment; the other to universalism and compromise. We need wisdom to keep our words and deeds true to the gospel, especially as we minister to those struggling with sexual sin.

I want to be true to my faith. I also want to love people. I don’t believe those two goals are incompatible. The cross breaks the power of canceled sin–all sin. Christ redeems. Let’s live and speak like we believe it.

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Review and Giveaway: The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents

Sometimes you just need a reset button.

When your phone or device freezes, you know what to do: reset. Turn it off, wait 30 seconds, and turn it back on. Presto. The app resets, and you have a fresh start.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that in parenting, too?

Seasons of parenting can make us feel stuck. Maybe you’ve got an active three-year old who seems to have made his goal in life pitting his will against yours. Maybe you’ve got a daughter who rolls her eyes at every word you say. Maybe your kids are struggling with something and your momma heart aches at not being able to fix it for them. Maybe you just want to inject some vigor back into prayers for your family that have started to feel a little stale and routine.

Praise can be our reset button.

God inhabits the praises of his people. I’ve found that praise can be one of the surest ways to change the atmosphere of our home. There are those days when nothing seems like it’s going right–including my attitude. But if I pause to turn on my praise and worship playlist it doesn’t take long before the atmosphere seems to lift. I sing a little, the kids start singing along, and suddenly we remember that we really all do like each other. Praise gets our eyes off our situation and puts them on God. Sometimes that perspective shift is all we need.

That atmosphere-changing quality of praise is what Becky Harling helps us explore in The 30-Day Praise Challenge for Parents
The 30 Day Praise Challenge is just that: a guided challenge to spend twenty minutes a day for thirty days praising God for the work he is doing in your child’s life. The first fifteen days focus on us as parents, and the second fifteen days focus on our children. Each day’s praise guide includes an invitation to praise, scriptures to meditate on, a list of a few songs to listen to, a guided prayer, and a journaling prompt. An index provides a list of songs to download, or you can access them through the author’s Spotify or YouTube playlists.

In addition to the 30 Day Praise Guide, the last section of the book has suggestions for taking it further. There are some great lists of ways to praise God using his qualities and names. There are also some solid sections on special concerns such as praising God in the midst of grief, praising God when you and your spouse disagree over parenting issues, and lifting up a mantle of praise over children whose parents are in ministry, adopted children, and children of divorce. I’ve really enjoyed this book and I’d recommend it to any parent who wants to find a fresh way of praying for their children.

And guess what? I’ve got a giveaway copy for ya:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free copy of this book through The Blog Spot. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I was not guaranteed to give a positive review.

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Reminders of Another World

I am at a Spiritual Formations retreat this week. Today, as we paused to reflect on the Word and contemplated the different ways we hear God’s voice I was reminded of how easy it is to rush through our lives and forget we are citizens of a greater kingdom. I wrote about this a little a while back. Today, I’d like to invite you to remember with me that we belong to another world.


There’s something about a mountain that gets your attention.

I lived in Seattle for about three years after graduating from college.  It was a different world for this Texas girl.  There was rain, for one thing.  And trees.  And tulips in the spring.  I could drive down to a beach near my apartment, sit on the beach, and see mountains across Puget Sound.

One of the things I never got used to was seeing Mount Rainer looming over the freeway.  On clear days it felt like you could reach out and touch it.  I’d forget sometimes it was there.  I’d be sitting there, stuck in traffic, drumming on the steering wheel and look up—boom.  It was right there in front of me:  a majestic mountain, reminding me that there was a world outside the boundaries of concrete and steel.

Kingdom living is like that. Click here to read the rest of the post.

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