Finding Freedom at the End of Yourself

God has used marriage and motherhood to bring me to the end of myself. In my single years, I took pride in my emotional stability, my innate strength, my independence, and even my lack of felt need for a man. I didn’t even think I was too bad in the godliness department.

Yet it wasn’t long after embarking on the ship to motherhood-land that I realized how impatient and angry I could be. And five years into my marriage, I was struck by a blow I was always afraid to face. Both of these instances drove me to my knees in desperation.

The last seven years of marriage and motherhood have bitten chunks out of my usual stable emotions, showed me how weak I actually am, killed my independence, and helped me feel needy for one particular man: the sinless Savior who died for me.

Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts >>

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Learning to Laugh with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Like the Proverbs 31 woman,
Midge Maisel has the boldness to laugh at the days to come.


Midge Maisel waits for her husband to doze off, rushes to the bathroom, and hastily cleans off her makeup. She slinks into bed only to wake up in the early morning hours, return to the bathroom, reapply her makeup, and sneak back into bed. When he wakes up, her husband sees her perfectly applied face, which mirrors her perfectly applied life. Midge Maisel is a young housewife living in New York’s Upper West side. She married her husband, Joel, right out of college, had two children, and is the typical privileged homemaker of the 1950s. The unraveling of her perfect little world is the basis of Amazon’s Golden Globe-winning series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Read the rest at Think Christian >>

Christmas and Communion: Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.”


Bethlehem was an unlikely place for a King to be born. But Micah prophesied of this little town ushering in a newborn King:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
   one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
   from ancient days.” – Micah 5:2

God himself would come to this little town, inhabit flesh and blood, and then offer it up as a holy sacrifice for us. He was born into “the house of bread” (Bethlehem), so he could become the bread of life for us (John 6:35). Bread conjures up ideas of provision, nourishment, and life. A house of bread seems to connote something plentiful and abundant. Jesus told us that his body would be like bread, broken for us on the cross (Luke 22:19). And now, we use bread as a reminder of his broken offering. The bread of life offered in Jesus’ broken body is plentiful and abundant; it’s a storehouse full. His broken body is our provision, nourishment, and life.

Not only did God come in a body, but he came in blood. He came to earth in flesh and blood to offer up his flesh and blood. It’s no coincidence that Jesus introduced the disciples to their first communion at a Passover meal. The disciples would have been familiar with the story of Moses and their ancestors in Egypt: when God sent the final plague that would take the lives of every firstborn Egyptian male, but the people of Israel would be passed over through the blood of a lamb. They were spared by the death of another. So, when Jesus compares wine to his blood at a Passover meal, he’s initiating a new covenant (Luke 22:20); a covenant bonded by the blood of a better sacrifice – the Lamb of God. No one could fathom the ancient mystery that God would be the one to give “his own self for heavenly food.”

That truth that God himself “came in human vesture” to offer up his body and blood for our eternal provision and life calls for our holy silence.

Habakkuk 2:20 says,
“But the Lord is in his holy temple;
let all the earth keep silence before him.”

We fear and tremble before our God, not only because he is holy and great, but because he is good. We marvel at his grace offered to us through the body and blood of Jesus. He is in his holy temple, high and lifted up as the one true God, and at this we marvel. But because of this we also wonder at his lowliness in Bethlehem. Remembering that silent night should make us silent in awe before a holy God on high descending to us “with blessing in his hand.” We remember this blessing when we partake in communion; when we remember the body and the blood. So, let all mortal flesh keep silence.

This is one of the short devotional meditations found in the free e-book Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season

 

 

 

 

Sorrow and Joy at Christmas Time

Many Christmas songs are solely exalting, rejoicing, and celebrating – full of holly and jolly, fa la la la la’s, and jingle bells. But this Latin hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, doesn’t give us a one-sided view of life; it holds a beautiful tension between sorrowing and rejoicing. The song reminds us that we are in the already, but not yet of God’s redemptive plan. Our Savior has come, but he is coming again, so we wait and long. He has paid the penalty for our sin, but the effects of sin are still active in our hearts and in our world.

The hymn itself is mournful and dark sounding, because of its lower, richer tones. The beat is slow and methodical. The lyrics open with the people of Israel waiting in “lonely exile”. Scripture is clear about their exile in Egypt and then in Babylon, but their physical exile was, and still is, a picture of their spiritual exile. God allowed them to be taken captive, because he was punishing them. The Israelites needed to repent, but they never seemed to learn their lesson. They were like sheep without a Shepherd; wandering and lost. Their physical exile was meant to point them to a deeper need in their hearts; a need to be ransomed from their dark inner captivity.

Today, we are not like the Israelites, in the sense that our Emmanuel (meaning “God with us”) has already come. We already have the hope that the Israelites longed to see. The Son of God has appeared to us. He was with us in bodily form on this earth and crushed his body on a tree to redeem our whole being. Though he cried out, “It is finished!” it’s clearly evident that things still aren’t perfect. So we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Our Emmanuel has come and fully secured our eternal salvation. But we still wait for our final deliverance: for everything to be made right, for our sin and tears to be gone, for the banishment of suffering and pain, for our bodies to be resurrected, for the earth to be made new.

We can still cry out with the Israelites in our own earthly exile, because we still wait for the day when we’ll see him face to face and be with him forever. We wait for “death’s dark shadow to be put to flight” completely and finally. We yearn for the day when “our sad divisions cease” and the King of Peace will complete his full plan of redemption. We have reason to lift up our eyes and rejoice, because he will come. He did it once, and he’ll do it again.

This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption. – John Piper

This is one of the short devotional meditations found in the free e-book Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season

Body Image and Baby Jesus

Before getting pregnant with my third child I worried about my body image. Will I be able to lose the baby weight a third time? Will there be more sagging? More stretching and scars? My postpartum body just doesn’t measure up to images on social media or the magazine aisle at checkout.

The cultural and social pressure out there is tough on our bodies, especially for women. Fat is stigmatized, muscle should be toned, and beach body ready by summertime. If the view of our bodies is reduced to only a scale number and a certain “fit look” then we are missing out on God’s design for our bodies.

They are a temple of the Holy Spirit, which he bought at a great cost (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Since our bodies are good and not our own, we are called to cherish and care for them and use them in service and sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Although tempted to believe otherwise when I look in the mirror, my pregnant body is good and my postpartum body is good. Scars and sagging skin are the marks I bear on my body in service of others, like when Jesus showed the disciples the nail scars in his hands. It was good for him to sacrifice his body for me, and it’s good for me to sacrifice my body for another.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

Emmanuel: Readings for the Advent Season

For the last month and a half or so I’ve been working on creating content for this e-book with the help of Katie Tumino. (Ellie Eugenia worked on the design and layout.) Inside are short devotional meditations inspired by Christmas hymns. I wrote two myself, as well as Katie and Ellie, but we also had a few other contributors writing their own pieces.

We’re offering it for free! 

Get it here.

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Momma, Jesus Invites you to Come and Rest

Resting around my house can be quite difficult. My two boys don’t take naps anymore, and the only time I feel like I can “get away” is through handheld devices and copious amounts of snacks. But of course I can’t do that for too long or I feel guilty. So, the work doesn’t end, and it feels like there is no true Sabbath for me. Resting on the seventh day just doesn’t seem possible. How can a busy mom find rest for herself? It’s ultimately through cultivating a place of rest that can never be taken away and isn’t restricted to one day of the week. It’s a place of rest in the heart, rooted in a particular person.

Read more at Risen Motherhood >>

Mourning the Death that Change Brings

I couldn’t wait to marry my husband. Most of our relationship had been long distance, and I wanted to be with him all the time. But after the wedding, I had to move from Orlando to Philadelphia. I left all my friends, family, a church I loved, and a well-established life of fourteen years.

Though I was happy to be with my husband, I was also very unhappy with my new life. I cried a lot. I cried when city life and marriage struggles got overwhelming. I cried thinking about the father-daughter dance at my wedding and how I had left those whom I was closest to. I cried because I had no friends, except my husband. And I had never suffered a shortage of friends in Florida.

I became a different person in Philadelphia. I was always so outgoing, and I suddenly grew more reserved and quiet around my husband’s friends and acquaintances. At the time, I didn’t stop and process or even admit something was wrong with me. I just tried to get through the unacknowledged struggle. It wasn’t until five years into my marriage that I could look back and see what had taken place. And I realize now that it was a death and resurrection.

Read the rest at Revive Our Hearts >>

The Halloween We Can’t Escape: biblical truth found in a dark holiday

Halloween is spooky. It’s ghouls and goblins, ghosts and skeletons, witches and black cats. Many view it as just a fun time to dress up and get candy, and many view it as an offensive holiday. But whatever our personal convictions are about Halloween, or how we chose to present it to our children, Halloween can be a reminder of certain biblical truths.

Halloween reminds us that life is dark, evil exists, and death is real. Most of us prefer the joy of the Christmas season, the gratefulness of Thanksgiving, or the victory of Easter. We quickly bypass, ignore, or deny the realities that Halloween presents to us. Good Friday comes before Easter though, and Good Friday proves that the spiritual realities of Halloween exist. Why else did we need a savior to face the dark evil for us?

Read the rest at Morning by Morning >>

Every Good Mom Dies

I’m expecting child number three soon. It feels like starting from the beginning. After two boys, we’ll be having a girl. It’s fun to put together a brand new wardrobe and nursery decorations. We enjoy hearing my sons talk about their coming baby sister. It’s exciting for me to wonder what it will be like to have a daughter.

But there is one big difference from expecting my first to expecting my third. I’ve already died. Though motherhood involves many daily deaths, having my firstborn was the decisive blow.

Read the rest at Desiring God >>

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 >>

 

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.