Friday, July 25, 2014

Our Speech Held Back

I've talked about why I need this exercise in thinking through how I speak. I've also talked about who we are addressing when we use our words for good or for evil. But I've also been convicted lately about the need to restrain my speech. I'm a talker. I like to use my words. When I'm happy, that's a good thing. When I'm angry, not so much. In the heat of an argument or when my feelings are hurt, words fly like fiery daggers. I even would go so far as to say that I feel as if it's my duty to throw words in a moment of rage. If I don't, who will? If I'm offended, who will speak in my defense? If my feelings were hurt or I was wronged in some way, how will that person (namely, my husband) ever know how badly he needs to change if I don't say something right then? So I load the ammunition of words into my mouth and fire away.

My sense of justice is my guide.

But I think scripture provides another, more helpful, way.

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

Now, I am not talking about offenses that are physically harmful, recurring, or out of the ordinary. I'm talking about the day to day offenses that arise because we are sinners trying to live together in a fallen world. The mundane offenses that threaten to undo us. Your husband forgot something important (like planning a date), again. Your wife neglected you after a busy day at work, again. Your roommate went behind your back, again. Your friend talked only about herself, while failing to ask how your difficult situation was going again. All of these offenses are hurtful, sinful, and can damage a relationship. Which is what the writer of Proverbs is getting at.

Suppose your spouse or friend confesses this sin to you. They understand what they did was wrong, yet you still feel the sting of rejection and hurt. What do you do? Do you make them pay with your words? It's an easy out for me. I understand the temptation. But the writer of Proverbs gives us a better way. He tells us that repeating the sin will be the death of the relationship. And who hasn't seen that happen, right? But covering the offense is actually the loving thing to do.

So how do you "cover an offense"? Does simply saying "I forgive you" make it go away? Anyone who has ever tried reconciling knows that doesn't always cut it. Throughout scripture we are given a picture of God covering the offenses of his people. And we feel the tension of the Old Testament when God covered the offenses of the Israelites, yet they continued to go back to their sin. There needed to be a better, more complete covering, to deal with the magnitude of sin. When we are sinned against we feel it, too. I imagine that is why we feel the need to use our own words to wound. In our hurt we want the sinner to pay for what they have done to us, and in our pride we think our words will suffice.

But like the Israelites before us, there is nothing in us that will ever truly cover the offenses done against us and within us. This is why Christ had to come. Unlike the Israelites, we do have a way forward in covering the offenses of others. We live on the other side of the cross. As Paul tells us in Romans 3:25, Christ was our propitiation (our covering) for the sins we have committed (and will commit). It is only through his blood that we can truly be cleansed from our unrighteousness and covered with his righteousness.

So what does the propitiation of Christ have to do with our speech?

Everything.

We can cover the offenses done against us because of the cross. The cross assures us that the sin done against us was paid for by Christ, if the offender is a believer. And if not, the cross assures us that one day Christ will come back and judge that sin on the last day. The bases regarding all sin committed against us are covered. There is nothing left for us to add to it.

This should free us in our conversations with others. When we are hurt, we can forgive because of Christ's blood and coming judgment. When we are offended, we can cover the offense because Christ has either paid for that offense or will judge it one day.

Jesus' blood is powerful enough to cleanse even the greatest offense we endure. He frees us to love, not hate when we are sinned against. He frees us to restrain our words in times of emotional crisis, and use our words for good, not evil. His blood shed for us is the means by which our speech is held back, even when our hearts tell us that our only defense is the dagger of our words. We can choose another way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How The Church Became Our Family

Most of us can recall a time where God gives us something we think will be the end of us, only to find out later that it was the exact thing God used to strengthen our faith—or give us a better portion than we could have hoped for. Maybe it’s the break-up with the person you were certain you would marry. Yet years later you meet another person, one more suited for you and better than you could have hoped for. Maybe it’s the dream job that fell through. Yet after another unlikely interview somewhere else you get the job you never even thought to dream of. God works like that, doesn’t he? Because he is sovereign, and we are not, his hand is in the details we cannot even see, let alone attempt to control.

When God withholds something from us, his purposes are always to give us something better. Of course, we may not perceive it as better at the time, or even in the immediate future. But he is good and we are not. He is wise and we are not. He can see infinitely into the future and we strain to see what is standing right in front of us. This is why we can trust him. I know for myself, some of the darkest moments of feeling as if God has completely abandoned me have turned out to be the moments where I ultimately saw him working in ways I could never have imagined. In the desert he is working to bring water to his thirsty children. In the storm he is our strong refuge who gives us a rainbow on the other side. He does not forget us, even if we feel forgotten sometimes.

For most of my adult life I have lived away from my family. I never thought much about it except on the occasional birthday or holiday when other members of my family were gathered together to celebrate and I was left to experience the party by telephone many miles away. I missed them, but I never thought I would live near them. My life didn’t lend itself to living in their proximity and I was okay with that. When Daniel and I got married, we appreciated the forging of a new family that came with living in a city away from both sets of parents and all of our siblings. It was good for us. When we moved to Arkansas we had a church, friends, and a whole lot of time with each other that made transitioning all the easier. Again, I didn’t think much about my life away from my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. I cherished the moments I got with them on holidays, but was content with where God had us.

Then we had twins.

There is something about becoming a momma that makes you long for your own momma, you know? Maybe it was the fact that I was pouring every ounce of energy, sleep, and whatever leftover adrenaline remained on two very tiny, dependent baby boys. I just needed my mom to come rub my head and let me take a nap on her. In God’s kindness, my mom came a lot to help in those early months of the twins’ life. But in the interim periods between her visits to help us I noticed a recurring pattern in my own life.

When it got hard I would threaten to pack up with the twins and move to Florida. If we had a dollar for every time I said I was going to do that in that first year I’m pretty sure we would be rich by now. Some of that particular threat was rooted in my own tendency towards escapism, but some of it was rooted in the fact that for the first time in my adult life I really, really missed being around family. Of course I missed them before this time, but this was different. As I watched my little boys grow up right before my eyes my heart broke knowing that our parents and others would only be able to experience this wonder through pictures and the occasional Skype call.

But there was something more serious in my cries of despair. I was missing the treasure of hope that God was literally laying at my feet nearly every week.

During the entire time the boys were in the NICU (five weeks) our church family brought us meals and gave me rides to the hospital. Because I had a C-section, I couldn’t drive up there every day and Daniel had to keep working, so without the rides I would only be able to see the boys once a day for a couple of hours. Many women in our church sacrificed their time to pick me up, drop me off, and pick me up again two hours later. They gave me rides to the store to pick up essentials we were missing. They brought us meals so I could rest when I wasn’t at the hospital. They were our family in the absence of blood relatives.

As the time has progressed and I am in a different season, my missing of my family has only intensified. But again, we have not been left alone. When Daniel travels, friends come to help me with the boys and keep me company. When we miscarried a few months ago, many women brought us meals as we grieved and recovered.

Yes, we miss our family. Yes, we wish our boys could grow up around our parents and their aunts, uncles, and cousins. But in their stead the church has become our family. They have cried with us, rejoiced with us, and served us like we were their own. If we had received the desires of our heart, namely the seeming ease of being around our own parents, we would have missed this beautiful picture of God’s family being joined together through Christ in our own lives.

God knew what I needed in those days of despair over missing my family. He could see what I couldn’t, that the church was my family. These people who he sent his son for were (and still are) my own through Christ’s blood. And I love them like my own family.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"I Want to Read My Bible More" - Thoughts on TGCW14

It's been almost two weeks since I boarded a plane by myself to spend the weekend in Orlando listening to the Bible taught by godly men and women. In a lot of ways the daily realities of my life now make the time spent there seem like a distant memory. But the impact of the weekend has not left me, and I pray it doesn't for a long time.

This was the first TGC women's conference that I have ever been able to attend. Since it's only the second conference, I'm glad I'm not too far behind on the curve! But I did listen to all of the previous conference's plenary sessions, so going in to this conference I was eager to listen to some teachers I have never had the privilege of hearing much from before. Paige Benton Brown was one of them. I had a hard time making it to things on time while at the conference (maybe it's because I was childless for the weekend or maybe it's because I loved talking to people, or both), but I made sure to get a seat on time for her. Not only does listening to her speak make me passionate to know the Bible like she does, but she also opens up the scriptures for me in ways I never would have seen otherwise. She makes the Bible come alive and she makes her audience want to drink deeply from the fountain of God's word with her. I also went to her breakout session with my sister-in-law and we both left the session wanting to go spend some serious quality time examining the Bible for ourselves. She has a gift of making God's word appear as the treasure we often forget it is. I needed that desperately.

It's hard to capture the value of a weekend filled with teaching and fellowship with other likeminded women. Whether you spend your days with toddlers (like me) or spend your days staring at computer screen or some other daily grind, we all need rest and retreat. While there wasn't much sleeping (at least on my end), the fuel tank of my soul was filled to the brim. My husband says that everyone needs something like this every once in a while, especially if you struggle with discouragement or losing your joy in the midst of the mundane. And I was right there going into this conference. I didn't even know how much I needed the break and refreshment until I was there drinking it deeply.

More than anything I walked away from the conference with a renewed passion for God's word. Ever since the twins have been born, like many moms, I have struggled with finding joy in reading the Bible. My mind races about all that needs to get done instead of focusing on the words in front of me, or the moment I sit down to read I hear a baby cry. When I am in the midst of calm or silence, I find myself wanting to do other things (like watch TV or even read a book) rather than read God's word. Over the last 17 months I have wondered if I would ever delight in God's word again. I have had pockets of joy interspersed among the mainly dry valley of caring for twin boys.

But God met me in Orlando.

It wasn't with much fanfare or even in a burst of wisdom from the pages of scripture. I simply left with an excitement to read and study God's word. I left with a greater passion to write within the season God has given me and for his glory, not my own. I left with a love for God's people and a desire to see them love his word with all of their heart and mind.

It was good to be at TGCW14. It was good to see old friends and make new ones. It was good to see family. It was good to hear from God's word and see how God is moving in the lives of others. But more than anything, it was good to taste again the sweetness of God's word.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Headed to TGCW14

I had high hopes for this week. I was going to check things off my to-do list, get my house in order, and head out of town feeling like super mom (and wife). I also was praying for humility, having noticed pride lurking in my own heart. It tends to do that after I come off a period of manning the fort while Daniel is traveling. So in true prideful fashion, I was due for a good humbling. And it came in the form of a cold. At least at first. In rapid succession we all succumbed to it's viral power, the twins, then me, then Daniel. It destroyed any hopes of accomplishing anything besides blowing my nose and wiping two others this week. And I needed it.

In a moment of weakness, and sinful anger, I had a meltdown yesterday afternoon. This was not how I was supposed to leave for TGCW14. I was supposed to leave with blissful memories of a task list conquered and a house in order. Instead my husband is still sick and my heart still stings over my outburst yesterday.

I texted my sister-in-law in the midst of my difficult day, knowing she too was trying to get out of town for this weekend. When I told her how humbling the whole debacle had been she comforted me with these words:

"Isn't that a great place to be going into the conference?"

Exactly

God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. The broken and contrite heart he doesn't despise. The meek inherit the earth. The weak are made strong by his strength.

Our pride is deadly. It keeps us from seeing God. It keeps us from hearing him speak clearly in his word. And that is what I need more than anything as I prepare for this weekend--to hear his word.

I don't know what your circumstances are coming into this conference. Or even if you aren't attending, you surely understand the war between our pride and fight for humility. Maybe you left a desk with piles of unfinished work and an inbox that never empties. Maybe you left piles of laundry and a fussy toddler. Maybe you left conflict unresolved with your husband and you don't know how to fix it. Maybe your family is broken and it weighs on you. Maybe your life resembles all of the above

I have good news.

That's a good place to be as you go to a conference to hear from God's word. God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. May we all drink deeply from that grace this weekend.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crossway Hosts Women of the Word Month in July

The summer is a time to slow down and enjoy the longer days. Some of you may even have a summer reading list that you are trying to work through (I have a loose list myself!). Maybe you are hoping to study the Bible more or are looking for a way to do so. If that's you, I have an exciting opportunity to tell you about.

During the month of July, Crossway.org will be hosting Women of the Word Month—a 31-day online campaign designed to encourage women to get in the Word and stay in the Word during the busy days of summer.

Timed with the publication of two important new resources from Crossway—Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin and the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible—the campaign will feature a daily email devotional, as well as practical blog posts and weekly video interviews with gifted Bible teachers. Contributors include Jen Wilkin, Kathy Keller, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, Paul David Tripp, Kristyn Getty, and more.
 
The best news? It's entirely FREE! That's right. It's free of charge, my friends. What more reason do you need to sign up?
 
So I hope you will join me for Women of the Word Month. I'm excited to dig in and see what God will do.

For more information or to sign up, go to Crossway.org/women.

 


 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God Created Male and Female, and It Was Good

The first time I ever heard the word complementarian was while sitting in a pew at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I can't remember the exact moment, but I knew it was a new concept for me. My early years as a believer were spent sitting under the ministry of John Piper and the elders of Bethlehem. When I walked through those doors my first Sunday I didn't know what "sovereign" meant, let alone how important it was that I was made female and not male. But in my three formative years there I drank abundantly from the spiritual water of God's word. When I walked out of those doors for the last time as a member, I was a changed woman. 

My belief in God's good design for men and women was merely an unwatered seed, planted by my Christian mom and dad, in my early Christian days. The weekly proclamation of God's word that came out of that pulpit watered that little seed. And God made it grow.

That's why I am so thankful to have contributed to this new E-book on God's good design in creating us male and female. In the pages of this book you will find a dozen young complementarians who are committed to proclaiming God's glory in how he created us. They want you to see your purpose as an image bearer of our Creator. And they want you to find joy in your differences. 

You want to hear something even better? It's entirely FREE. That's right, free

If you want a fresh understanding of what it looks like to live as male or female and find joy in God's good plan, I encourage you to download this book

(My chapter is on my recovery from feminism)

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Run to Remember



On Saturday our family had the opportunity to run in our first 5k as a family of four. Daniel and I ran one together before we were married, but it hardly counted as a run since I could barely walk the whole thing. This time it meant something to us. We ran in the Race to Remember, which benefits an organization called Mamie's Poppy Plates. This organization provides hand painted plates of footprints and birth stats to families who have lost a child in early infancy or in pregnancy. While we have never experienced infant loss or stillbirth, we have lost two babies to miscarriage and felt like this race was a worthy cause to give our time to.

Leading up to the race I was really anxious and I couldn't put my finger on it. As I drove to pick up our race packets on Friday it hit me. I was aware that running in a race in memory of the two babies we have lost put our grief right out into the open. Of course, it's a race to remember, so it's only fitting that I would remember the babies we don't have with us. It felt so raw and in my face to take part in something that put my loss out in the open. The Internet is one thing. Looking people in the eye who have experienced similar (and far more horrific) losses to my own was freeing and excruciating.

As we stepped inside the park to join the pre-race festivities I felt my self-conscious fear melt away. Everywhere I looked there were families in shirts bearing the names of the babies they have lost. I made a point to read and process every precious name on every shirt. Names of lives desperately wanted. Names of babies who were gone far too soon. Names of boys, girls, full term, premature, and sick babies who never made it through their first few moments of life outside the womb, if they even got that far.

And that was the point.

Every person who chose to run that race on Saturday knew they were running for something more than themselves. Grandfathers ran in honor of their grandchildren. Brothers ran in honor of their sisters. Cousins ran in honor of their cousins. Aunts and uncles ran for their nieces and nephews. And mothers ran for their babies. I read those names because like their family members, I want to remember that their lives mattered, even if they were brief.

The beauty of memory is that we are given the chance to remember what is most precious to us. Even if it is laced with pain, we still have the hope that our memories remind us of happier days. God did not need to bless us with this gift, but he did. Throughout the Bible he tells us to remember, most importantly to remember his kindness to us. On Saturday, like many other mothers who have babies no longer with them, I remembered not just the lives lost, but the goodness of God in the midst of the pain. God gives and God takes away and his name is always worthy of my praise.



(Before the race there was a balloon release in memory of the babies who have died. If you had an early pregnancy loss before you knew the gender you received a white balloon. If you look closely, the above picture is of our two white balloons floating away.)