Life and Death in Marriage

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From a very young age my mother has told me that I should aspire to become a litigator. I am not well versed in legal definitions, and perhaps trial lawyer is what she means to say. But terminology aside, her point is this: I have long had the ability to wear others out with my words.

I am analytical, logical, and competitive by nature, and so debate is an understandable love. I recently confessed, however, that this strength has not served me well in marriage.

Continue reading at Blogging Theologically.

 

Found Wanting

Jen Pollock Michel is curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” Here is what she says of the project:

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’”

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

Today I write my story of desire over at Jen’s place.


 

Don’t Waste Your Loneliness

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One of the wonderful things about the Church is the community we share. In Christ, God has knit us together, and instead of admonishing us to become a community, he tells us that he has already made us into one. In John, we read that our unique love for one another is what will set us apart and show that we are disciples of Christ.

I recently attended a women’s breakfast and listened to a talk on friendship, specifically the masks that we have a tendency to hide behind. It seems that despite our bond, many in the Church are feeling lonely and disconnected. Over the last year I’ve spent much time evaluating and praying through my own experience with loneliness, and have sought to dialogue with both men and women, hearing their thoughts and desires for our brothers and sisters. From this, two principles have come to define how I seek out and approach friendships.

Continue reading over at Borrowed Light.

 

Discipline for the Sake of Desire

Today marks the fifteenth day of Lent, and it also marks the fifteenth evening I will go to sleep with a sullied record. In other years I would have not bothered with Lent at all, or by this time have raised my white flag in swift defeat. This year, however, I feel free to embrace discipline, and the consequent uphill climb that comes with it.

Continue reading over at Borrowed Light.

Behind and Before

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Is it February yet?

I realize this isn’t the typical attitude for someone who is a mere few weeks into the start of a new year. January is supposed to be about anticipation, and you would do well to have your emotions follow suit. However, there are years when you are feeling stubborn. You might wake to greet 2014 and find that the ball dropped and so did your positivity. The hype of setting goals might leave you feeling jaded, and if you’re the sort who finds jadedness to be easy company, you might be in trouble.

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks, but writing has been hard and I have more than enough excuses to convince myself the problem is busyness. It’s true, when you add together homeschooling, child rearing, marriage building, laundry and the like, my free time residual isn’t much. Yet I know that time isn’t the barrier. I can’t shake the urge to write, the need to even, but the dread of writing is the problem. Perfectionism makes many tasks in life tedious, not the least of which is blogging. I assume my thoughts are unnecessary at best, detrimental at worst, and God forbid, heretical.

A few weeks ago I wrote in my journal that I was done with fear. I had been there and done that, and was over it. That rush of confidence was fleeting because that doesn’t feel true today. I fear everything, but when it comes down to it all rivers flow into pride. I fear losing the praise of man, and that tends to win over my desire to seek the glory of God. And seek, interestingly enough, was my word for 2013.

If you’re not familiar with the One Word idea, it’s simple. Choose a word for the coming of each year, one that will define the theme of the next twelve months. I’ll admit, I didn’t think much about my choice throughout this past year, but in hindsight seek was exactly what I did, though it didn’t play out how I was expecting. I did seek God, more than ever before, but God had me do it through restraint. Restraint of my tongue, my opinions, my judgments, my actions. To those on the outside, this may have seemed like apathy or regression. On the inside, however, it was a rich year of learning. I prayed more. I journaled through Scripture. I spent time with dear friends who are good for my soul and make me laugh out loud. I made new friends out of neighbours. I listened.

My word for 2014 is Go. I’ve thought through many other words because truthfully, I wasn’t excited about this one. Couldn’t I just stay in my comfortable, introspective state for another year, with books as company? I sense not. Because despite my resistance, this is the one that has stuck for weeks and I have to admit that it is has come to feel good. 2014 will be the year of going, both literally and figuratively. Nowhere specific, but for me it has the feel of faithfulness. Day by day, going to prayer, going to the Word, going to people, going to the zone of discomfort. Going to the Father.

When it comes to fear, I have been there and I have done that. And though still familiar, it no longer feels comfortable. This is surely something to be thankful for.

I’m a little late, but here’s to 2014. May we thank God that though everything changes, he remains the same.

Good Reads from 2013

This year was a whirlwind for me. It may not have been evident on the outside, but my mind and spirit could tell you a different story. I painstakingly combed through my Facebook posts and compiled my favourite articles for you. Good words – online or on paper – are always good company, and these in particular meant much to me. I love this list, and I hope you will too.

Time to Stop Looking In and Start Looking Up – Tullian Tchividjian
To be sure, the Bible has plenty to say about our becoming like Jesus. But our transformation is a secondary theme. The primary theme of the Bible is Christ’s substitution–the fact that Jesus became like us. The modern church has sadly reversed the order. The focus of the Christian faith has become the life of the Christian.

When Everyone’s a Writer, No One is - Garrison Keillor
Children, I am an author who used to type a book manuscript on a manual typewriter. Yes, I did. And mailed it to a New York publisher in a big manila envelope with actual postage stamps on it. And kept a carbon copy for myself. I waited for a month or so and then got an acceptance letter in the mail. It was typed on paper. They offered to pay me a large sum of money. I read it over and over and ran up and down the rows of corn whooping. It was beautiful, the Old Era. I’m sorry you missed it.

Why Studying Doctrine is the Best Medicine – Tim Keller
In short, the world tells you to get peace by not thinking too hard; Christianity tells you that you get peace by thinking very hard—learning, grasping, rejoicing, and resting in the truths of the Word of God.

The Poverty of Theological Vocabulary – John Piper
To put it simply, without a full and rich language of the sense, we will lose the enduring quality of our sensuous joys, and, what’s worse, with the atrophy of our descriptive capacities the power of all our enjoyment languishes. When you cease to use the word “tree” in your vocabulary, you have probably ceased to look at trees.

Why Ministers Need the Wilderness – Mike Leake
I was concerned that day as I thought about this young man pastoring a church. I was worried for him and for his congregation. Mostly because broken men don’t say things like that. Even if it were theologically true, broken men just don’t speak like that.

The Prayer Series // Our Shining North – Timothy Willard
The Word, the logos, shines as our north star in this life. But it’s difficult to follow something we don’t love.

Benediction from a Bad Man – Tony Woodlief
A falsity I embraced is that only righteous men can say good and true things. This misconception was one vein of a deep-rooted arrogance within me. I believed I was righteous and enlightened and God-ordained to speak truth. I believed I was more worthy than others to speak of noble things.

You Are as Valuable as the Orphan – Amber Haines
I wonder as I buckle my two into carseats how I show them that for even me, He came. He came and brought joy and hope and peace – even for the little ones in my own minivan. I’m at the end of myself again.

The Next Billy Graham Might Be Drunk Right Now - Russell Moore
But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so.

Alone with My Thoughts – R. C. Sproul Jr.
What I and we all need to remember is that whether we are alone in the car or alone with our thoughts, there is no thought in the woods that no one hears. The Word Himself hears every word, and every word of ours that is not an Amen to every word of His will burn up as wood, hay, and stubble.

 

 

 

What I Learned in November

Here we go again. In no particular order, I give you 5 things I learned in November.

1. Starbucks (at least my local store) is no longer putting out coffee cream. They only offer skim milk, whole milk, and half and half. I learned this, but I don’t understand it.

2. I am not a leader, I am a manager. I’ve wondered about this for some time, but a recent morning session on leadership sealed the deal. Leaders care about long-term vision and the big picture, and they’re skilled at mobilizing others to bring about this vision. Managers are the ones being mobilized. And those microscopic details that you leaders need, but didn’t know existed? We managers love them. We will care for them and nurture them and bleed for them until your vision becomes a reality. So, I’m a manager. But preferably lead manager.

3. I don’t like using the word learned and would rather say learnt, which is the common usage in Britain. But since Canada is a Commonwealth country, this makes sense, right?

4. Perfectionism is tiring.

5. I’m enrolled in a 9-month program for women on ministry training, and the women are my favourite part. This surprises me, and I love them for it.

Let me know in the comments below what you learned learnt in November.

When Motherhood is Not Enough

The question always makes me cringe, but even I was surprised by the deprecation in my voice. As the insurance agent makes her way to the dining room table, sometime after commenting on her long day and our home decor, she asks me what it is that I do. It shouldn’t, but the question catches me off guard. I stammer, give a little laugh, wave my hand in the air nonchalantly, and blurt out ‘nothing.’ After a few awkward seconds I add that I stay home with the kids, and wonder why I thought these two answers were the same.

Continue reading at Borrowed Light.

What I Learned in October

I’ve come across a few sites that write a monthly “What I Learned…” post. I like the idea and am giving it a go. Flannery O’Conner is quoted as saying, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I relate to this and think this sort of post will be good for spreading out my thoughts in front of me and putting them in the right order. It gives me the chance to share some of what is swirling around in my head without writing a full post on each. Not every thought warrants 600 words.

So without further ado, I give you eight things I learned in October.

1. I am terrified of being wrong. Over the last six months I have come to realize how much accuracy means to me, and it is one of my biggest stumbling blocks. It hinders me from saying anything with certainty and from saying what is really on my mind. While journaling, you’ll often find me neck deep in commentaries and other large books. Even in thoughts shared only with God, I can’t write something down unless I’m convinced it is right. Not good.

2. Our children are not the rambunctious hooligans we have thought them to be. After spending a few mornings alone with each, I see that in the absence of their sisters they are quiet, helpful, and entertain themselves beautifully. They’re still busy little bees, but I’ve realized that each child’s rowdy behaviour is magnified when they are all together. The moral of the story: children are not the sum of their collective shortcomings.

3. Checking things off a to-do list is a love language for me.

4. Rushing to get out the door is not.

5. I haven’t looked at my Facebook news feed in over two weeks. Twitter has been sparse at best, and I don’t miss a thing. Not. A. Thing. I feel as though a fog has lifted and I can think for myself again (and for more than 10 minutes without checking something). Most importantly, I can hear. And the more time goes on, the more I can distinguish between God’s voice, my own voice, and the voice of the masses.

6. God is messing up my materialistic endeavours. And as hard as it can be to pry my hands off of stuff and be content with what I have, materialism = bondage and God graced me with freedom.

7. I am comma happy. Don’t ask how many were deleted from this post.

8. God loves me. Maybe I’m still in the process of learning this one, but I’ve never been able to write that before. A shoot of belief has sprouted.

Not Ashamed

They say that your youngest is forever the baby, and so far that saying rings true in our home. She is the youngest of three girls, and I still walk her to sleep in my arms even though she’s nearing two. Tonight she smelled of autumn air, windblown and crisp, with hints of red maple.

Staying with her until she is asleep gives me time alone in the darkness, and I confess that I have not used this time well. My thoughts jump between things I need to do, things I want to do, things I want to buy, the sleep I want to have. Often I’ll debrief about the day, and this ultimately turns into a list of sins past. I attach nouns to the faults and brand myself: Liar, thief, gossip, slanderer, and a few others I won’t mention here.

Lately, however, the dark bedroom has dimmed ever further and my mind wanders to the worst of the worst. The unmentionable offenses that are known to only a few in my life. These are the ones I have trouble reconciling. These are the ones where I let guilt enter in and as my mind scrambles for truth, my hope begins to dwindle. In these moments I am unsure of how to move on in confidence, and it feels fraudulent to allow myself even a glimmer of joy.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A friend is teaching me the art of listening, an art I have sadly forgotten. It only takes a box of spilled Cheerios for me to forget that our God is a personal God, and to hear from him I need to ask and hear. So when the shame came this week in the darkness, I listened. And God spoke to me of the Cross, and the criminal hanging beside it. I thought of the words that Christ spoke to him, of how today the criminal would be with him in heaven, and hope began to flicker.

God is, and has eternally been, a loving Father. Before there was a garden or temple or the need for redemption, God existed in relationship and loved. This is who grants me grace for my sins. This is the power that gives me new life. Paul writes in Romans 5:5 that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If the criminal on the cross can find life through Christ, then surely I can as well. Not because my sins pale in comparison to his, but because we are both sinners. We are both people who believe in the finished work of Christ. We are both eternally loved by the same great God.