Marriage is Not About Me

All my girlfriends were in a desperate frenzy to find a husband, and I was the fish swimming against the current. I gave a resounding “yes” to Paul when he said, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1 Corinthians 7:7).

But my upstream swim was due to a dark cloud of fear blocking my vision. I was afraid of marriage. I was afraid of getting hurt.

Though I wanted to remain single (sometimes selfishly), God kept putting marriage on my heart. I sensed he wanted to give me a gift, but in my heart I kept resisting him. To me, marriage looked mostly bleak and dark. I didn’t want to be put in a vulnerable position, because I wanted a life without personal pain and heartache.

Then I met my future husband.

As I confronted my fears in our dating relationship, I kept walking ahead with faith in my Father. God gave me peace to trust him on that path, and the end result was marriage.

But a few years into marriage, I began to question again whether it was truly a gift. Aren’t gifts supposed to make you feel good?

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Jesus Wept for Sia Too

“Jesus wept.” This is the shortest verse in the Bible and also the title of a new single from Sia’s deluxe version of the album This is Acting. The verse is a unique portrayal of Christ’s humanity. Sia’s single gives a true depiction of humanity with a hint of hope. Together, the verse and the song show us how light can overcome the darkness…

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When Does Mommy Get to Rest?

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The words barely roll off my tongue as I bend down to hear my three-year-old son whisper in my ear, “Mama, I want a snack.”

My hands feel around diapers, wipes, and extra clothing items in my bag and then grab onto a small packet of crackers. I tear open the packet and hand it to my son as I resume singing.

Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

I glance down to see my son huddled over his blue sneakers, tugging at the yellow laces that have come untied. As I continue to sing one of my favorite hymns, I plop my son down on a chair to retie his shoes.

This is a typical Sunday morning service for young moms — worship as a mother. We sing praise with our mouths to God, while worshiping by tearing open cracker packets and tying loose laces. It’s Sunday, a Sabbath day for many, a day to rest, take it easy, be refreshed, and prepare for another week of schedules, appointments, and work. And yet my hands are busy at work all day. How can I enjoy rest when caring and nurturing is a round-the-clock job?

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Book Review of Humble Roots

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What if humility is the key to rest for our weary souls? Hannah Anderson proposes that it is in her new book Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your SoulI’ve already sang my praise for Hannah’s first book, so I was eager to be apart of the launch team for Humble Roots. I was able to help promote Hannah’s message through social media and receive an advance copy of the book, which already released October 4th from Moody Publishers.

I have to say I did not expect to be disappointed with this book, because I already love Hannah’s writing, thoughts, and ideas. And I’m glad to say that I was right. There is something unique about this book on humility. Instead of focusing on the sinfulness of pride alone, Hannah shows us how humility is expressed in acknowledging our human limitations; that we are dependent and created beings made from dust who will return to dust. And once we own this truth, and remember we are not God, we will find rest.

According to Hannah, we are all running around in our own strength trying to do it all and be it all (superwomen and supermen) and weighted down by the burden of stress. Although organization, minimalism, and staying up late to get everything done can help, Hannah offers another avenue that gets to the root of the cultural plague of stress and anxiety. The answer? Humble roots. Remembering who are and who God is. Her book is grounded in this one section of scripture from Matthew 11:28-29:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Hannah helps us make the connection Jesus is making here. When we come to him in our weariness and desire rest, Jesus tells us to learn from him – the one who is gentle and lowly of heart. Finding rest for our souls means going to Jesus and learning about his humility. We must get back to our roots, which is being made in the image of God from the dirt of the ground.

The book also addresses several micro-topics, prescribing humility as the remedy. Issues such as: body image, shame, the gender wars, emotions and feelings, the limits of human reason, wisdom, death, gratitude and privilege, stewardship, our dreams, desires, and plans, and brokenness and suffering. And Hannah takes all of this and ties everything together with the imagery of plants, flowers, and gardening, basically things that are earthy, to remind us of where we come from.  The rural agrarian feel of living off the land, man and nature, that which is simple and natural, is the beat of this book on humility. Replete with wonderfully told stories from her own life and a diverse and interesting use of quotes that support the larger message of the book, Hannah brings our knees to the ground as we dig our hands deep down into the soil of humility.

 

Missional Motherhood Online Bible Study

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The Lifway Women blog, in partnership with The Gospel Coalition, is hosting an online fall bible study featuring Gloria Furman’s Missional Motherhood. The study begins September 29th. If you sign up here you’ll get a free teaching video every week for six weeks and you can use the bible study workbook by yourself, in a group, or just comment right on the Lifeway Women bible study posts.

Once I begin the study I’ll be publishing a response post every week pertaining to the video and workbook questions. Comment below if you plan to join me.

missional-motherhood

If He Does Not Love Jesus, He Will Not Love You

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Growing up in church as a young single woman, I heard a phrase about men I might date, “Make sure he loves Jesus more than you.”

I thought, “Well, of course,” and glossed over the cliché without really thinking about it. Adam, walking in the garden with God, would have been perplexed by that advice. For him, there would have been no competition for his heart and mind, because God gave Eve to him in a perfect and sinless world…

Classic Summer Reading: An Intro to Science Fiction for Serious Christian Readers

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The summer is almost over. Maybe you already have a summer reading list or maybe you’ve had no time. Either way, if you are looking to start that list now or continue to add to it, I have some book suggestions for you. I started this Classic Summer Reading list a long time ago, and my friend and former guest writer, Ryan, is back to carry on the tradition with some of his favorite science fiction. 


Science Fiction. What comes to your mind when you hear those words?

Do you think about silly movies with aliens trying to end human civilization and harvest us for our organs? Or do you think of forty-year-old men that still live in their moms’ basements and who speak fluent Klingon?

The reality is that, at its best, Science Fiction is a serious genre of literature that delves into the ethical, philosophical, and even theological problems posed by the modern world. Ever since Mary Shelley first introduced the world to Frankenstein’s monster almost two hundred years ago, Sci Fi has provided a venue for wrestling with worldviews and answers to ultimate questions in light of the technological and societal changes that humanity is undergoing at a rapid pace. Great Science Fiction authors speculate about humanity’s future (or even about alternative histories), pontificate about human nature, and envision ideal societies.

For Christians especially, Science Fiction provides a unique challenge and opportunity.

Here’s why:

We live in a day and age where we will be forced to deal with ethical challenges and changes to society that our forebears simply never had to think through. Case in point: on August 4th, the National Institutes of Health announced a proposal to lift a ban on funding for experiments that use human stem cells to make animal embryos that are partially human. Now, we could easily just dismiss this sort of thing as “playing God,” and I think we’d be right in that assertion. But what a missed opportunity that would be to engage with the question on a deep level, and to offer a fully formed Christian ethics in response.

And who amongst us thinks this will be the last scenario we’ll face like this? Science Fiction offers us a “practice field” for such questions.  Many Science Fiction authors present worldviews that contradict the Christian faith, and which can challenge us to think through what our own responses would be. We can develop our thinking and our worldview in fictional worlds as we await the inevitability of technological advance in the real world. We can be proactive, rather than reactive, about how we will witness to our faith in the “brave new world” we (and our children) will face in the coming years.

Not only is Science Fiction enjoyable, high quality literature, it’s also a great way to sharpen your mind and your worldview.

So read some good Sci Fi! Not sure where to begin? Here are some lightning reviews of a handful of classic Science Fiction novels that would be a great place to start:

Dune by Frank Herbert

A lot of people consider Dune to be the greatest science fiction novel ever written (and I’m certainly sympathetic to that belief). It’s been said that Dune did for Science Fiction what The Lord of the Rings did for fantasy. A complex novel that is vast in its scope, the issues in play in Dune include ecology, economics, psychology, educational theory, and the role of religion in society and politics.

Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, the heir to a ducal throne in a distant future on a far away planet. He and his family are caught up in a political intrigue over control of the planet known as Dune, the only known source of a spice that enables inter-stellar travel. Paul is betrayed by a close member of his father’s entourage, only to discover that he may be at the center of multiple messianic prophecies. In order to avenge the betrayal, and safeguard his loved ones, he has to figure out quickly how to survive unbelievably harsh desert conditions, fit in to a completely foreign culture, and watch out for giant sand worms the size of buildings.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Phillip K. Dick

You may not have heard of Phillip K. Dick (or PKD, as he’s known to his fans), but you have definitely heard of movies or TV shows based on his works: Total Recall, Blade Runner, Minority Report, and The Man in the High Castle are all screen adaptions of PKD works. His worldview can fairly be described as Gnostic, though many of his ideas are also clearly influenced by mental health problems and drug abuse. His outsized influence on recent Science Fiction is a testament to both his brilliance and his originality as a writer.

 Androids is a post-apocalyptic novel that follows a bounty hunter’s attempts to earn enough money to buy an animal (a huge status symbol on a planet where most animal life is extinct). In order to do so, he picks up a job killing six androids that have gone rogue. It’s one of PKD’s more accessible works, and a great introduction to some of the philosophical themes he deals with. Among the issues dealt with in the novel are the question of what it means to be human, as well as epistemology and the nature of reality as a whole. It also tackles an issue that Christians are going to likely encounter very, very soon: should artificially-created beings that share human DNA be afforded the same rights as humans?

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

This one is often considered to be another contender for “greatest Sci Fi novel of all time.” Here we get to grapple with war, genocide, drone strikes, our ethical obligations to other species, the effect that video games have on the minds of children, and all sorts of other current issues. This novel has actually been on the recommended professional reading list for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Earth has narrowly managed to survive an attack from insect-like aliens, and must prepare for their inevitable return. A child prodigy named Ender is recruited to train for zero-gravity warfare by being put through a series of simulations along with other precocious children. Ender and his older siblings find themselves dealing with an adult world and a military mindset that, brilliant as they are, they aren’t quite mature enough to handle.

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

A much more recent novel than the others on this list (it was published in 2006), Eifelheim is also the only work in this list written from a Christian worldview. There are two simultaneous narratives presented in this story: first, we meet the inhabitants of Eifelheim, a 14th century German village in the Black Forest, who become the first people to make contact with aliens after a spaceship crashes nearby. The second narrative follows a modern historian and his theoretical physicist girlfriend as they investigate the mysterious disappearance of Eifelheim from the map after the year 1349.

Michael Flynn does a great job diving into the problem of evil and the role of philosophy in the Christian faith. The Medieval German Christians in the novel grapple with whether a non-human can become a follower of Christ, even as they question their own faith as the Black Death begins to devastate Europe. Although this novel is a bit more “hard Sci Fi” (meaning it dives into a lot of technical details, and actual science and math features more prominently) than some of the others on this list, the narrative is compelling and enjoyable, and the novel as a whole is extremely rewarding.


Ryan McLaughlin is a math teacher, husband, and father of three. He lives with his family in the Tampa, FL area, and is a member of St. Andrew-the-First-Called Orthodox Church. When not enjoying quality works of Science Fiction, Ryan likes to read Russian novels, Irish poetry, Greek theology, and English political theory, all preferably accompanied by Floridian craft beer.

Mother Adrift

Have you ever been swimming in the ocean, and once you looked ashore realized you were drifting?  I grew up in Florida, so I’ve experienced this many times on many trips to the beach. It’s easy to get lost in the waves and the current. The sandy shore is the only constant at that point; it’s a guide.

I don’t need to be at a Florida beach to have this experience though. I simply need to be a mom. For a mom the current that sets us adrift is the endless daily routine of our lives. It’s hard enough to find time for a shower, let alone reading our Bible. We can get lost in housework, to do lists, meal planning, even fellowship, and serving in Church. All great things! All things deemed excellent in the Bible for sure. But even good things can set us adrift.

My To Do List Before Christ

I recently realized how badly adrift I am. There are so many things throughout my day competing for my attention, and for many months now I’ve consistently chosen those other good things over my relationship with Christ. Yes, in my efforts to be a Proverbs 31 woman I lost the true meaning of the Proverbs 31 woman: a woman in love with her Savior. I was neglecting the foundation of being a virtuous woman in the home. How can I love my husband and my son well if I am not loving Christ?

I’ve been telling Christ that my to do list is more important than him, making sure the house is in order and clean is more important than him, healthy eating and cooking every dog-gone thing from scratch is more important than him.  Maybe you are choosing different things than me, but we always are choosing something over Christ.

The American Dream

It’s easy to choose other things over time with the Lord when I don’t see my need for him. Here’s my secret: I’m very independent and self-sufficient. Two things praised and sought after in our society. Isn’t that what the American Dream is all about? Just work really hard and you can get (and be) whatever you want. The American Dream is not the same as Christ’s dream for us. He wants us to know we are actually weak and not as strong as we think. That we can’t do it all. We can’t be it all. But He can be it all and do it all for us. The American Dream falls flat on its face at the cross, because that is where Christ proves he did it all and not us.

Our need for Christ doesn’t end at the cross though. We need Him everyday. He is sustaining us everyday anyway, why not acknowledge it by giving him the time of day?  I’ve finally seen the shore, and I know I need Him more than I need to get things done.

Shooting Arrows

The other day my husband was looking far into our son’s future. Not like a psychic mind you, but dreading the day when he would leave home. Our son is 8 months old, so this is a long way off. But as they say, time flies, and this day will be here sooner than we think. Then I started. “Oh man, I hope he doesn’t want to go away to college. I might worry about him too much.”

Then I actually started to think biblically. Sending him off is our job as parents. God gave us our son to give him back to the Lord. Think of Hannah and Samuel in the Old Testament. Hannah could not conceive and prayed, weeping, in the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the Lord answered her prayer, and after she had weened her son Samuel, she brought him back to the temple at Shiloh and offered her son to Eli the high priest. Here is what she said to Eli,

“Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.”

Samuel was a gift who was offered back to the Lord. We can learn so much from Hannah. She was a humble woman; even though she waited so long for a son she was not greedy and controlling once she received her gift. Her hands were not tightly clenched over her son in fear and anxiety, but her hands were wide open to offer Samuel to the Lord. Hannah understood her place as a mother before God.

Mother’s are Stewards

As mothers we are merely tools God uses for a season in our children’s lives. Our children ultimately belong to God and we are stewards of this gift. We are entrusted with nurturing, sheltering (for a time), and training our children. For what end? To send them into the world. They are intended to leave home and it is our purpose to prepare them for that end. We give them the tools, teach them how to wield them, and then trust God with the rest.

Psalm 127: 3-5 speaks to this:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

It is a reward to have a quiver full of children, but arrows are not intended to lie idle in the quiver; they must be shot out of the bow. Our children are weapons of warfare, and we must prepare them for the battle.

A Mother’s Love

Rachel Jankovic has some great insight into this portion of scripture. It’s a bit lengthy, but good enough to share the whole thing:

“God does not share our sentimental view of motherhood. While he delights in children, he does not speak of them in some cutesy photo shoot kind of a way. He compares them, not to tiny fairies, or dewey flowers, but to arrows. To weapons in the hand of a mighty man.

God does not tell us to desire the blessing of children because their cheerful voices will make our houses feel cozy. He tells us to desire children who will contend with the enemy in the gate.

It is natural and good that we delight in the little things with our children. God didn’t command mothers to rejoice over elbow dimples and the smell of a new baby’s head. He didn’t tell us to smile over them while they sleep, or to love the way they look in footie pajamas. He didn’t tell us these things, because He didn’t have to. That is the natural love of a mother for her children.

But the love that we need, the reminders we need, is to love them, not for our own sake, but for what God is doing through them. We need a supernatural love. We need to believe in the victory, to mother in faithful confidence.”

Not off to Neverland

Like I said, my son is only 8 months, and I have a hard road ahead of slowly learning the lesson of Hannah. Of course there is a time and a place for sheltering him while he is young, but as he grows I must grow in preparing him for the world, practically and spiritually. As much as I would love to send him off to Neverland and he could be frozen in time as Peter Pan, this is not God’s will for him. He must grow into a man and then fight Captain Hook.

I pray my son responds to Christ’s call of salvation and grows in his love and knowledge of His Word; I pray he will be a light in a dark world. Amen.