How God is Glorified in the Failures of Motherhood

When I look back on my parenting I know I’ll have regrets, mainly, because I know I’m not perfect. After all, I’m always learning and changing. God is still forming Christ in me, so I’m still a work in progress. But how does knowing these things change my parenting now? I have a five-year-old, three-year-old, and an infant on the way. I haven’t traveled too far in this parenting business, but I’m already acquainted with my failures as a mom. I often thoughtfully ponder the question, “How can I fail for the glory of God and use it in my parenting?”

Read the three points at Servants of Grace >>

 

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The Deep Desire Beneath Lana Del Rey’s Shallow Lust for Life

On her latest album, Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey stays true to her musical style. She maintains her haunting vocals, which are deep and rich and can take off with soaring clarity. The light, slow beats that accompany her voice are in the background, while her vocals take up the focus. Her sound is pretty and gritty all at the same time. At The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber describes Del Rey’s new release as a return to her first one: “Lust for Life is really Born to Die’s sequel: a rather fabulous return to catchiness, camp, and faint hip-hop influences.”

The album screams nostalgia, from the opening song, “Love”—which resembles a 1950’s rock anthem—to “Beautiful People Beautiful Problems,” a duet with Stevie Nicks, to the retro-looking album cover. Her lyrics, meanwhile, carry timeless pop themes: summer love affairs, love lost, bad relationships, sex, and romance.

Though pop lyrics about relationships are “oh so cliche,” they also serve as a signpost for our cultural obsession with love.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

If You Want to Live Truly, Learn to Die Daily

All year round the thorn of the gorse bush has been hardening and sharpening. Even in spring, the thorn does not soften or fall off. But at last, about halfway up, two brown furry balls emerge. They are small at first, but then they fully break out of last year’s thorn to flower into a ray of sunshine. The hardness gives way to a delicate beauty. The death of the thorn splits open to produce a blossoming resurrection of life. Death and resurrection.

We find the same pattern in our own lives.

I noticed this death-and-resurrection pattern when I became a mother. I had a traumatic birth experience, my full-term baby had to be admitted to the NICU, and he wouldn’t nurse. I battled through the difficult nursing experience I had with him for two weeks, was just about to give up, and then it worked out. When we got home from the hospital he would cry all night, and not go back to sleep, even when he was just fed. I would usually cry with him.

When evening time would come, feelings of dread would make my stomach sick because I knew what night would bring. On top of this, my body was trying to adjust to this new transition. My hormones launched me into depression. I would cry a lot for no reason, and I felt a constant loneliness and then guilt on top of it all for feeling like this when I had a new baby.

This was supposed to be a joyful time. But I felt like I was dying.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

The Magic of Fairy Tales: How children’s stories changed whole generations by first changing magnificent writers

In J. M. Barrie’s classic fairy story, Peter Pan explains to Wendy that beautiful, delicate creatures are born from the joy of a child.

When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.

Fairy tales like this are simple, but complex at the same time. They communicate deep truths and morals and they can instill this joy, delight, and wonder while still cutting into the human soul. Maybe we need to return to those important parts of our childhood: joy, delight, and wonder in the simple things. Maybe fairy tales still matter.

Read the rest in the latest issue of Fathom Mag to find out why fairy tales still matter. 

How our Suffering Makes Way for New Life

Before getting married, I was afraid of adversity, afraid of getting hurt, and I sought to protect my heart from both of these things. But God exposed me to adversity and deep hurt five years into my marriage. I found out things about my husband I didn’t know, numerous struggles came to the forefront at this time, and we were going through counseling.

In response to all this, darkness invaded my heart and my mind. Sleep evaded me at night, I had bouts of depression, and thick anxiety clouded my thoughts. I quickly went from being “not much of a worrier” in general to extreme anxiety that felt completely out of my control. If anyone ever told me to “take my thoughts captive” it felt futile. How can someone take their thoughts captive when they can’t even discern one of them? They came at me like a myriad of daggers at once. At the same time I was in deep mourning for my marriage and the husband I thought I’d married. I suffered a grievous loss. It was like mourning a death.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

Parenting Perfection and What our Kids Need Most

Many mommy blogs and parenting articles are about what we can do (or should do) for our children. We read articles, blog posts, and books about making our kids more grateful, ways to show them more grace, ways to better train and discipline, and even ways we can better feed them. We want to be better mothers who do good works for our family. This is a good desire, and one we have evidence for from biblical principles and commands.

But many of these mommy blog posts miss our children’s greatest need. They need a greater good work than we can offer them; a good work of the heart that comes from the Holy Spirit.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

How God Makes Us Mighty

God’s character is multifaceted, and his attributes are not an either-or scenario. He’s every bit of who he is at all times. God is full of mercy and justice, fully loving toward his people and wrathful toward their enemies, simultaneously sovereign and meek. But sometimes Scripture gives us a glimpse into certain aspects of his character above the rest.

The story of Gideon, in the book of Judges, is about God, and how he operates in the lives of his children. God’s interactions with Gideon are gentle, loving, forbearing, and intimately personal….

God didn’t call Gideon a mighty man of valor because he saw that character trait in him from the beginning. Gideon was called a mighty man of valor because of who God is. God had plans to make Gideon a mighty man of valor because God is the mighty man of valor.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Project Runway and Clothing as Story

Clothes have always told stories. They indicate social class, signify accomplishment, and mark points in history. People can be defined by the clothes they wear: goth, hippie, punk, hipster. What we wear tells a little bit about who we are, whether we’re creative, edgy, girly, simple, or minimalist. Clothes have also been key in the narratives of Scripture—think of Joseph and his colorful coat.

Fashion designers are also trying to tell a story through their clothes—either a story of innovation, a breaking off of tradition, or of trying to communicate who they are through their designs. This is especially true on Lifetime’s Project Runway, which unveils its 16th season on Thursday. Hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion consultant Tim Gunn, the show brings in fashion designers to compete for a chance to show a collection at New York Fashion Week. But the designers must make it through a series of intense design challenges first.

Designers are often pulled outside of their comfort zone by making clothes from unconventional items, such as creating an avant-garde look that can withstand the rain or reworking fabric from a tacky men’s suit. They’ve had to draw inspiration from different motifs for these challenges: butterflies, bowties, and even an American Girl doll. On top of this, all of the challenges need to be completed under a time constraint. No matter the challenge, the model should walk down the runway still expressing the designer’s unique vision. The judges should be able to look at the clothes and know which designer they belong to.

This reminds me of the way Scripture uses clothes to tell stories…

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Theories of Life, Death, and Afterlife in The Discovery

Where do we go when we die?” has been a question haunting humanity since our earliest days. This unknown was explored in ancient myths, folklore, and drawings on walls. Life and death was even dictated by specific beliefs about the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians, for example, preserved their bodies and organs when they died. They buried themselves with material objects, pets, and loved ones, in faith it would all come along with them when they passed through death. Some religions believe in reincarnation: after death, people are reborn into another state (human or not), and the quality of their previous life determines the quality of their next one.

What most religions have in common is the belief that this life determines the next; the afterlife is the result of choices made in this life. But not so in the Netflix original film The Discovery. The idea of afterlife presented here is a second chance at this life. It’s a way to fix your deepest regrets and undo all the wrong and the tragedy you’ve endured. The Discovery begins with Thomas, a leading scientist who has proven the existence of an afterlife. He can’t say what it is exactly, but the proof gives a bent sort of hope to the world. It is fodder enough for millions of suicides by those who are looking for a way of escape from this life. No longer is death viewed as meaningless—now it’s life that has some explaining to do. Why bother to face the problems of this world when there is another one? As one videoman says to Thomas before he shoots himself in the head, “Thank you, Doctor, for my fresh start.”

Read the rest at Christ and Pop Culture >>

Lorde’s Melodrama and Living Life as a Supercut

No longer the outsider peering down on the glitz and glamor of pop music—as she was on her hit single “Royals”—Lorde now critiques from the inside with her latest, Melodrama. The music itself reflects this change. Gone are the days of her raw, hip hop-inspired beats and simple melodies. She’s now finely tuned and produced, while her lyrics have taken on typical pop-music themes of love lost and partying. Overall the album feels complex, robust, and eclectic.

Though she’s converted to a stronger pop vibe, Lorde has retained some of her edge. “Hard Feelings/Loveless” opens with her soft, throaty voice leading to harder electronic screeches. Then there is an almost silent interlude before the song breaks down into a dance beat, as her voice turns brighter and lighter. The new album features people looking for lasting pleasure or happiness in romantic love, one-night stands, partying, and substance abuse. The transitory nature of life is referenced in certain phrases: “summer afternoon,” “overnight rush,” and “the games of the weekend.” Melodrama shows us we tend to look for lasting things in transitory moments. On “Sober,” Lorde tries to see this pop world for what it really is: “It’s time we danced with the truth … we’re sleeping through all the days … I know you’re feeling it too, can we keep up with the ruse? … What will we do when we’re sober?”

King Solomon, the likely author of Ecclesiastes, would have appreciated the restlessness of Melodrama. Like Lorde, he was on the inside of a luxurious life that offered much pleasure, yet he found it “meaningless.” Or, to borrow Lorde’s term, “melodrama.”

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

“What Do You Do?” The Greater Purpose of Our Work

I love getting things done. I feel accomplished checking off boxes on my to-do list. I’m satisfied with finishing even small tasks, like washing a few dishes in the sink. There’s something gratifying about laying my head on my pillow, knowing it was a productive day.

Our ideas of a productive day might be different, but it’s undeniable that we, as a culture, love seeing results for our work. We like the politician who promises us they’ll get things done for us; projects and goals are only deemed successful if we achieve the end result; and we go to college so we can get a good paying job that will help us climb the corporate ladder. Nothing is wrong with these scenarios, but they’re all forms of our culture’s tendency to place a greater importance on “doing.”

“So, what do you do?”

When you meet someone for the first time, you might ask them, “So, what do you do?” We tend to identify someone by the things they do. We classify and place value on different occupations, salaries and outward talents and skills. Even our college education system has become more concerned with career goals than about the idea of what an educated person is.

Much of this mentality has to do with the American-grown philosophy of pragmatism. There is a large breadth to this philosophy, but I’m using it in the sense of practicality. To be pragmatic means that the practicality of ideas, policies and proposals is the only criteria of merit and is what makes a principle usable. I’m a practical person, and I know there’s nothing wrong with that, but pragmatism can’t be the only measurement of worth and value that we use.

Read the rest at ERLC >>

God Parents Us Through Trials

God is a good parent. He’s a perfect parent actually. When I go through times of suffering, I remind myself of this truth. When I’ve asked, “Why God? Why did this have to be your will for me?” I think about how he uses trials to parent me, and how he uses even evil things to make me bear good fruit (Genesis 50:20).

Sometimes God seems like a bad parent to us, because he says no to things that feel natural to us and appear to be harmless. I once had a young man ask me, “Why would a God of love not allow a homosexual couple, in love, to be together?” Well, because God is a perfect parent.

Learning to Live as Children

We have all been parented in some regard by an earthly parent (whether for good or evil) and, at one time or another, questioned their love for us, or questioned if they really knew what was best for us. Once we become parents ourselves, we begin to see things differently. We see how love can take on different forms.

Love says “Yes” as much as possible, but sometimes love must say “No” for the greater good of the child. Good earthly parents also have a higher and more mature perspective than their children (though not completely comprehensive). Because of this, we see things our children don’t see yet or might never see until they become parents themselves.

Parenting is complicated. The decisions we make for our children that might seem harsh to them (in their immaturity) are meant to be protective acts of love. We are always seeking to save our children from themselves, no matter what age. Isn’t this how God views his children? No matter what stage in our spiritual development, he seeks to save us from ourselves and make us into something better.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

The Art of Social Commentary

Why Charles Dickens should be our social commentary muse.

“Where Dickens wielded a pen, today we wield a smartphone.”


“Please, sir, I want some more.” These are the famous words of the hungry orphan, Oliver Twist. The novel, so named after the main character, is one of Dickens most popular, and if you don’t know anything about the novel, you have probably still heard those words.

But beyond simply writing and creating a great story around Oliver Twist, Dickens created him for a purpose beyond the page of a book. Twist became a form of social commentary.

Read the rest at Fathom Mag >>

 

If Love is God, Love Will Fail

I was never any good at romantic love. I feared falling in love — being vulnerable with my emotions. I knew whoever I married would need to be a worthy man according to Scripture, but also someone I could fall in love with, and that second part scared me. As I dated my husband, two big questions hovered over our relationship:

Was he godly? Yes.
Do I love him? Yes, I do.

But it did not end there, like I had thought it would. Because I had overcome my fear of falling in love and “took the plunge,” I thought I had arrived. I thought we had arrived. Instead, I realized that, though I had fallen in love, I did not know a thing about true love. In fact, God walked me and all my fears about love through the door of romantic love on my wedding day in order to teach me about his true and lasting love in new and deeper ways.

Two Loves

There is a clear distinction between biblical love and romantic love. Biblical love is unnatural to us, so it is always worked in us by the Holy Spirit. No one loves like God without God’s help. Romantic love comes more naturally to us, and therefore happens easily.

Romantic love is a good gift of God’s common grace meant for our enjoyment, and it is good for this type of love to develop into marriage. Biblical love is a different category altogether. At its core, biblical love is selfless, committed to truth, and driven by a divine work inside of us. It never happens unless we draw near to God in Christ. Biblical love can also be expressed and experienced in any relationship, while romantic love is exclusive — designed to be expressed and experienced (at least ultimately) with one person in marriage.

Romantic feelings only scratch the surface of God’s design for us. They give us a glimmer of the ecstatic feelings God has for us, the kind of feelings that lead him to sing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). Biblical love takes us even deeper into that wondrous love. Our love for one another models his covenant love for us — a love so zealous to uphold his covenant with us that he will die for us, even when he had every reason to leave us.

Death is at the center of God’s love for us, and death is at the heart of all biblical love. The covenant vows we make on our wedding day are a death sentence of love. We vow to die to self, in every season of marriage, for the other — to keep the covenant at all costs, doing whatever it takes to serve our spouse’s joy in Jesus.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Measuring Disunity and Modesty by the Standard of the Gospel

This is part of a series in 1 Timothy. My piece is taken from 1 Timothy 2:8-10


I grew up in a church that handed out a modesty checklist to young girls. Some of the rules were:

  • You can’t wear shirts with spaghetti straps unless you wear something under it or over it.
  • You cannot wear any prints or fabrics that drew attention to your chest.
  • Your tank top straps should measure four fingers wide or else pitch it.
  • You must always wear board shorts over the bottoms of any bathing suit (even a traditional one piece).

We tried to follow and enforce these rules. And it all bred severe criticism, judgment, legalism, and self-righteousness. We began to assess ourselves and other girls through the narrow lens of externals, believing it to be the standard of a godly woman. From this list, it seemed as if this was the norm of a godly woman. The list above was not a biblical standard, but a man-made one. If only godly womanhood and gospel living were as easy as checking off a list that some church ladies made up. But it’s not. Godly womanhood and gospel living stem from the heart, and only God can change hearts. We can only change our outfits.

Putting on certain outfits or behaviors does not make someone godly. Only when the gospel changes our hearts can there be practical, visible change. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1, when God awakens our hearts to the power of the gospel, our outward behavior changes.

You can read the rest at Servants of Grace >>