Thursday, December 4, 2008

Running My First 5K!

Thank you to all of you who have stuck with me this semester even though I haven't posted. I just finished my semester (tonight) and promise I will be more regular at posting here. Here is a little update on what I have been up to!
I have long despised running. Primarily because I feel as though my chest is caving-in half way through my first quarter mile. I always admired people who ran long distances, or ran at all for that matter. A little over a year ago I ran my first mile—ever! After that I bought my first pair of running shoes. Then it seemed that I should sort of try running because I was already pretending like I was a runner. Last semester my running was fairly sporadic, but this summer I decided I wanted to master this fear of mine. So a runner I became. On a visit home this summer a friend of mine mentioned a website called From Couch to 5K. It's basically a wimpy person's guide to running, which is me. When I started dating Daniel, in October, he told me that he would help me train for this 5K I had committed to. Suddenly I had not only recruited him, but my dad and brother as well! So when I wanted to give up on my attempt to run this race, I knew that I couldn't because I would be letting down not only my boyfriend, but my dad and brother (and all the other friends who were cheering me on from home) as well.

The race was Thanksgiving Day and it was freezing. Minneapolis is not known for it's balmy November's, and this day was no different. But we were bundled up and ready to run with everyone from Pilgrims to walkers with their baby strollers. Unfortunately, due to my slow pace (which I was not aware of until I saw a video of myself), we ran with the walkers. But, hey, it was my first race ever! Daniel (who is a runner and way faster than me) ran next to me the whole time, and even stopped and walked when I got tired. Zach couldn't finish because he had to go home and get the forgotten turkey and take it to our brother's house. And my dad ran with us (except when he stopped at every mile marker to take my picture). Everyone was so encouraging and it made me excited to do another one. Daniel thinks I should run a marathon (he has ran 3), but I think that is WAY too ambitious for a little rookie like me. We'll see.

I learned a lot by running this race. I took Personal Spiritual Disciplines this semester and I found a lot of parallels as I trained to run this 5K. The biggest one for me was the need for perseverance when I want to give up. It's so easy to say that it's too painful, or too tiring, or too hard and just give up. Often that is how I feel in the Christian life too. What I didn't understand about this race that we are in, I understand dimly now. Endurance comes when we press through the difficulty knowing that the goal (Jesus Christ) far outways the present circumstance. And it's encouraging knowing that we are not alone. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, who, like us, have faced the same trials and persevered. So, I am looking forward to running again, but I am most excited about running the most important race of all—the one that leads me to Jesus.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dr. Hamilton on the Great Civil Rights Crisis of Our Day

My professor here at Southern wrote an excellent post this week calling abortion the "great civil rights crisis of our time." I appreciate the clarity and honesty that he exhibits in this post. For a long time I felt apathetic about the abortion issue. I foolishly thought that there was little I could do personally for the cause of the unborn, and therefore didn't really ever think about it. Everything changed with this election. Not because abortion became more important to me, but because I truly believe that God used years of teaching on abortion and pro-life issues to finally convict me of my apathy. It is so easy to be desensitized to issues that bear so much weight because it essentially feels like I have no voice. But I wonder if my Christian brothers and sisters felt the same way when African-American brothers and sisters (created in the image of God) were beaten and even killed right under their noses. Did they feel helpless in the cause too?

But we are not helpless. We serve a big God who knows the names and faces of every one of those little ones who are discarded as medical waste. And he knew the face of every slave who suffered and labored at the hands of sinful slave-owners. Satan wants us to feel apathetic. He hates the image of God and he will stop at nothing to destroy it, even if it means making sinful people like me apathetic to the cause of life. So I encourage you to read Dr. Hamilton's post. It made me think. It made me cry. It made me feel like I have a responsibility to do something. But most importantly, it made me pray to the only One who can help us save the precious lives that are lost in the name of "freedom." May God have mercy on us all.

You can access the post here.

Monday, November 3, 2008

All I Have is Christ

The words to this song have really ministered to my heart these last few weeks. I first heard it at the New Attitude conference last May, and we sang it at church a couple of weeks ago. I thought I would share the lyrics with you. I am so thankful for all of the people at Sovereign Grace Ministries who write such Christ-centered music that causes my heart to sing to the Savior. Here it is:

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

Music and Words by Jordan Kauflin.
© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI). Sovereign Grace Music, a division of Sovereign Grace Ministries.
From Na Band: Looked Upon. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
North American administration by Integrity Music. International administration by CopyCare International.

You can buy the CD that this song appears on here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review of Radical Womanhood

Below is a review post that I wrote for the CBMW blog. If you get a chance you should go buy the book! It will be worth your time and money!

We talk a lot here at CBMW about the effects of feminism in our lives and the lives of those around us. For many of us (myself included), life prior to the launch of Ms. Magazine is only a faint memory recounted by our mothers. For others the lasting legacy of Gloria Steinem is evident and saddening as you watch your daughters and granddaughters navigate through the muddy waters of our culture. Author and friend of CBMW, Carolyn McCulley, like all of us, was lost in those waters prior to conversion to Jesus Christ. Her recent book, Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World, is an answer to the questions she had when she was first introduced to biblical womanhood. As a product of the feminist influence in women's studies programs she wrestled through God's design for men and women. It is clear in this book that God has distinctly equipped and shaped her to evaluate our culture and point us to the Gospel.

It is in the preface where we first see Carolyn's heart and passion for writing this book. She describes an event where she was speaking to college-age Christian young women about the feminist movement. Though the names of women involved in the movement carried no weight with them, the legacy of their strivings did. After seeing the sea of raised hands when asked who was a child of divorced parents she says:

"At that point, I realized I was talking to a generation living with the fallout of seismic cultural change, but they didn't know what happened! (They also didn't know what was in the Bible-an alarming thought for a Christian event, though not entirely unexpected for so many new believers.) Seeing their need, I set aside my speaking notes and began to address them with passion. I explained to them what previous generations had done to change the definition of being a woman. I talked to them about all that they had inherited-both benefits and the detriments. I talked to them about what the Bible had to say on these matters. And then I challenged them to be different, to live as biblically savvy women in the modern world. When it was all over, many of them came forward to say this information was all brand-new to them. ‘Why hasn't anyone ever told us this before?' they asked."

And that is what this book seeks to do—to explain what has happened and to encourage us to know how to live with the fall-out. Each chapter takes the aspects of the feminist movement and shows how it applies to various spheres in our lives. She initially recounts the history of the feminist movement, introducing us to the names and faces of the various waves of feminism. This sets the stage for the rest of the book, which follows these women's ideology all the way to our homes and churches. It is impossible to escape their influence. And perhaps the most profound pieces of this book are the personal testimonies at the end of every chapter. We have heard for some time about the assault on motherhood—abortion and delayed pregnancies—at the hands of feminists, but the stories that follow "The Mommy Wars" chapter are a sobering reminder that the Prince of Darkness will stop at nothing to destroy God's design in creating us to be "mothers of the living" (Genesis 3:20).

There is no other way to talk about feminism without saying first and foremost that Jesus saves—from everything. Amidst all of the darkness and sorrow brought on by years of struggle and rebellion against God and his design, there is hope in every story. McCulley does not simply leave us to wallow in the cultural effects of feminism. Rather she points to the One who redeems us not only from feminism's lust for control, but all of our sins. I pray that many women will find this book to be an oasis of hope and answers in a confused culture, but more importantly find King Jesus who is revealed in every page. It is only by his reign in our lives that we are given the grace to renounce our sin and be radical women.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

True Woman Recap and Where I've Been

I know I have been out of commission for a long time, so if there are any readers still out there—I am so sorry that it has been forever since I have written. School got busy, as did work, and church, and pretty much all of life! I plan on working really hard in being more active here on this blog, and I have some ideas that will hopefully give me fuel to continue writing. But I wanted to share with you something that I had been anticipating for a long time.

On Saturday night I got back from the True Woman Conference. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Coming back from True Woman and processing through the weekend has left me with a lot to be thankful for. God was there. And it’s not that God is not in other places, but there is something profound about 6,200 women gathering to say that God’s glorious design for men and women is beautiful and good—and something to live for. I truly believe that God met many women at this conference, including myself. It was so encouraging to hear women like Mary Kassian and Susan Hunt, who have labored for the truth for years, say that God is raising up an army of women to speak to the next generation about biblical complementarity. For some women it was an affirming moment, years of praying for God to bring other women into the truth now finally realized. For some women it was the lifeline of hope that they needed in order to go back to their churches, families, and friends and labor for our Christ. For others it was an awakening to the beauty of who God created them to be as women. All of these experiences are good and God-ordained. For myself there is much to reflect on. Here are the highlights of my trip:

I am most grateful that my mom was able to be there with me. I cannot imagine going to this conference without her. She is a woman who never wanted to be anything but my mom, and without her example in my life I would not be here today. Motherhood is a high calling in Mom’s eyes—and I am so very thankful that she passed that on to me, even when I didn’t want to hear it. My mom loves Jesus and always wanted me to as well. It was a privilege to worship our Christ with her knowing that the moment was only a small foretaste of when we will both see Jesus face to face. To see her edified and strengthened to love Jesus more encouraged me, and made me love her more deeply.

Being reminded that I need to slow down. There were countless occasions where the women speaking challenged us to slow down and not get crowded with life. I am the queen of getting crowded with life. I am constantly being given more information on good and right things, but so often I do not stop to process and reflect on all that I am learning. Jesus easily gets pushed to the side in my quest to gain more knowledge about Jesus. I realized that if I cannot get a handle on this when I am single then it will only get worse if I get married someday.

Being reminded, once again, that biblical womanhood is all about Christ. We are only able to live biblically because of Christ’s obedience on our behalf. If I do not cling to that daily then all of my attempts at righteousness are in vain. Biblical womanhood exists to make much of Christ, and to point others to him. If that is not my chief goal then I have missed the mark. I need to realize this more.

Spending time with Susan Hunt at the CBMW booth. I have read her books and admired her for a while now, but meeting her made me love her work even more. She is every bit as godly, kind, humble, and encouraging as her books sound. I thank God for her.

At the end of the conference they had a group of women read the True Woman Manifesto. This, too, was an amazing experience. The True Woman website has all of the audio, the manifesto, and other resources from the conference. I would encourage you to go and check out their website.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Learning the Soft Answer

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”—Proverbs 15:1

Reading through the Proverbs has reminded me that God cares a great deal about our speech. This is not a new concept to many, I am sure. But it has convicted me greatly as I have been reading. Every harsh word in response to a family member or friend is reminding me how imperfect I am, and how perfect Christ is. He knew when to speak and when to be silent. And his words stirred up anger because they were saturated with truth, not filled with revenge, as my words so often are.

Not only do harsh words reveal our sin, but they also reveal our sinful beliefs about the person to whom we are speaking. When we snap at a roommate, or make a snide comment towards a husband, we are fundamentally saying that we are superior to that person. Our speech reveals, in that moment, that we deem ourselves (and our feelings) better than theirs. If we really believed in our hearts that we were dying sinners speaking to other dying sinners then the playing field would be leveled. It would make it easier to respond gently because we would know that maybe, just maybe, there is truth in what is being told to us. God uses correction and conflict to conform us more into the image of his Son, even if we are partially right in the conflict. And the same would be true for the other person. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the great leveler. Not only are we created equal in the image of God, but we are all equally sinners in need of much grace every second of the day.

So when I feel compelled to speak a harsh word (which, to my shame, is far too often) I need to remember that the person on the other end of the conversation is created in the image of the God I claim to love. Our tongues and our speech matter a great deal to God. And the Proverbs are a reminder of that. With our words we have the power to tear down, or build up. I pray that, by God’s abundant grace, I do more building than tearing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Further Confessions of a Recovering Feminist, Part 3

Yesterday we talked about how our experience alone cannot shape our understanding of God. But often this begs the question, "What do I do with my pain?" I don't want to pretend that there is not legitimate pain out there experienced at the hands of ungodly people. Even Job did not shy away from this reality. His suffering was excruciating, and to dismiss it without an answer would merely trivialize what he went through. Maybe the same is true with you. You are left wondering what to do now in the wake of a hurtful experience. There is hope for you.

I realize that I cannot know exactly what you are going through. I have never experienced suffering in a seemingly unbearable capacity, but I am a sinner living in a sin-cursed world, and I do have a Bible that tells me about this world and my own sin. All of the pain that we experience, whether great or miniscule, is a result of the curse. And though your situation is real, you are never alone in your pain (Hebrews 13:5b).

I wasn't there, but Christ was when your boyfriend broke up with you. He was there when your father let you down for the tenth time. He was there when your pastor disappointed you with his resignation. The sovereign hand of the Father is on every event that happens in your life. God is so powerful that nothing moves, even Satan, without his approval. We even see in Job's story that Satan had to seek permission before he was able to afflict Job. God is there in the midst of all pain and all suffering. He is the perfect and powerful Father.

But, let me tell you about real suffering—the suffering of the Savior. And he suffered an excruciating death and tasted abandonment by his own father, not only for your sin, but for the sins done against you. He knows our pain because the pain that he experienced, on our behalf, was far greater than we could ever know or handle. We serve a Savior who understands us.
So what do you do with your pain?

God has given us his Word for our good, and that is certainly true as we wrestle through pain. In the Psalms we see honest accounts of people in pain, crying out to God. There is much encouragement to be felt in reading the Psalms. And there is a wealth of rich theological truth about our great God in the midst of trying times. God's people were made to gather together. We were never made to walk through suffering alone, and within your local church you will find people who can hold you accountable and point you to the Savior. Sometimes there is no greater encouragement than to know that someone else knows what you are experiencing. Ask God to help you find someone suffering more than you and minister to them as you walk through these trials together.

When our theology of God is placed into experiential categories we create a God who is fluid and changeable. This is not the God of the Bible, and viewing God this way really brings no hope in the end. And though sometimes it seems like immediate comfort, it will not give us a Christ who saves us and deals with sin—even sin done against us.

Pain is a result of the curse, so we must look to the only One who can free us from this curse—Jesus Christ. And as you look to him know that the wrong done against you will not escape ultimate justice. Not only is there hope for you to be comforted in your pain, but you also have the freedom to forgive your oppressors as you have been forgiven. In all of these things know that the pain and the suffering must be brought to the foot of King Jesus, who knows us and loves us. We can experience the peace that Job expressed (42:5) when he said to God, "before my ear had heard about you, but now my eye sees you."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Further Confessions of a Recovering Feminist, Part 2

Everyone has experienced painful relationships in some capacity. Whether you are a college student in the wake of a bad breakup, a single woman facing conflict with another sister in Christ, or a wife in a painful marriage, there is no getting around the fact that life is hard. We live in a sin-cursed world where the ravaging effects of sin scar people on a daily basis. It is an inescapable reality that our experiences shape us either for good or for evil. It is common for women to allow hurtful or frustrating circumstances to drive our worldview.

Here is how it happened for me. Two years ago I went through a situation that was both painful and consuming. As I processed through all of the emotions surrounding this time, I would repeatedly make blanket statements about relationships, and people in general. Thankfully, my parents shepherded me through this with the truth that my experience was not a universal truth about the people in my life.

We are susceptible to this in the wake of every painful relationship—whether guy or girl. When we are confronted with these types of relationships the temptation is to stamp every man like "that guy." The same was true for me. We can probably all agree that we have wrongly judged men on occasion, but do we ever stop to realize that these judgments can be a feminist heart still speaking? Here are two examples of this lived out.

I have been a part of conversations with girl friends that led to "male-bashing" when a beloved guy did not return the affections offered to him. It is so easy to label all men as jerks when our feelings aren't reciprocated, but to do so is to unfairly categorize all the other brothers in Christ and a man created in the image of God.

An egalitarian conference speaker recently spoke to the issue of pain in women's lives. By using Job as an example, she correlated the tragedy that Job suffered with the sufferings of women who are not allowed to preach in pulpits. She says,

I want you to understand that Job's situation is connected to the sense of pain, loss, and confusion that many women in the church today suffer as a result of the effects of patriarchy.

While you may think that you have not gone "that far" in your thinking, the feminist is in all of us. Adopting an interpretation based on what happens to you can lead all of us to improper assumptions of Scripture. If pain, rather than Scripture, leads us to judge the men around us, what will stop us from taking this to its logical conclusion? To fall into that temptation means rewriting God himself.

Perhaps you are not on a trajectory to new interpretations of key Christian doctrines, but you may have scoffed at male leadership in your church because of the sorrow that men have caused you in your own life. You may deem every man as a moral failure because your father left your mother for another woman. You might even think that there are no Christian men worth talking to because you have been let down so many times. The circumstances that have occurred are sinful, and your pain is real.

But they are not the end of the story. There is a heavenly Father who will never fail you and he will not falter even when every earthly man around you does. Pain and experience cannot dictate our theology. Rather our theology must lead us through the pain and experience. And tomorrow, we will discuss what we should do with our circumstances. I promise you that this answer has hope.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Further Confessions of a Recovering Feminist, Part 1

A while back I confessed that I am a recovering feminist. I'm still recovering. Hopefully, by God's grace the recovery is farther along than when I first wrote the article—but I remain in recovery nonetheless. For a while I was a blatant feminist, viewing everything through the lens of oppression and freedom from oppression. After conversion I became "tamer." But I still held on to the fact that I could be a Christian and still be an independent woman, free from authority. I didn't need a husband because I was going to do great things for Jesus. Marriage seemed to be a hindrance to these great things.

Thankfully the Lord intervened and opened my eyes to my sin. Apart from his work I would still be wallowing in darkness. In this process of sanctification I have realized that all of us are feminists at heart. And while I am still recovering, I am thankful to be able to say that the recovery has taught me many lessons.

The Lord has woven into my heart a deeper appreciation for marriage, and a greater respect for the married women in my own life. I used to scoff at friends who put their husbands first, but now I see the beauty of a wife who values and treasures the man that God has given her. As a result of seeing this respect lived out, I have grown in more grace in my interactions with men—whether in a dating relationship, friendship, or employer relationship. The Lord has helped me to see that these men are not only created in his image, but also someone else's future (or current) husbands and I must treat them as such.

As a single woman I have learned that the qualities of a godly woman matter for me right now. Marriage does not make someone feminine. Rather, divine design has made me feminine and I must cultivate that femininity now, and flee from feminism. In all of these things, I have learned that it is ultimately not about me and my rights. There is something far greater going on than my meager life. Recovering from feminism has given me greater opportunities to cry out to the Father for more of Christ and less of me, because apart from him I would be lost.
Perhaps you wonder why this sort of response to feminism is warranted. It is very easy to adopt a way of looking at the Bible—a hermeneutic—built around pain and experience (even if you are not a feminist). And because we are so prone to rewrite God into our own image, and thus rewrite who he has created us to be, it is helpful to stop and think through what exactly we are doing when we allow our experience to drive us. As we think through what God has called us to be as men and women, we must ask ourselves if our theology is born out of preconceived ideas or the text itself.

So whether you are reading this as a mature Christian, seasoned through suffering, a new believer wrestling through what it means to be a woman, or a recovering feminist like me (or soon to be) processing how painful experience has shaped your present view of the world, these posts are for you. And as one recovering feminist to, Lord-willing, future (and current) recovering feminists, I pray that you would see the God of the Bible. We all bring our own ideas to the Cross—and the Cross is where our sinful ideologies are shattered by the powerful blood of Christ. In these next two posts I hope to shed light on what we do with our experiences as women—and bring them to the foot of King Jesus at the Cross, where love and mercy meet.

This post originally appeared here

Friday, August 15, 2008

Top to Toe For Women: In Pursuit of True Beauty

Below is a post I wrote for the CBMW blog yesterday. I hope you enjoy it!

Recently, Randy Stinson addressed the problem of self-preoccupation among modern men, but, the principles he set forth apply to women as well. He explained that biblical manhood should not be characterized by an excessive delight in self-pampering, but rather a Christ-like, self-sacrifice that places others wants and needs before our own—all so others might see Christ. In the same vein, Christian womanhood should include more self-sacrifice than self-preoccupation. This is not to say that women should give up on proper hygiene, shopping, or even getting their nails done. The Bible only says that women should not be hoping in those things for their value and worth—rather they should be hoping in God (1 Peter 3:3-5). It is important to note that the Bible is not silent about beauty. God has much to say about such things.

Mrs. Mary Mohler, wife of seminary President and Council Member, R. Albert Mohler Jr., addresses beauty at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church women's retreat. Mrs. Mohler's teaching and humble spirit is a tremendous gift to all in the church, especially women. She encourages us to see that beauty is important to God. While dispelling the notion that femininity equals frumpiness, she also dispels the idea that femininity equals "dressing to the nines" all of the time. God, being the Creator of the Universe, has created beauty and the beauty that displays his creation is what we should pursue. But, beauty is not simply defined by external appearance. There are examples of biblical characters, like Absalom, who destroyed themselves, and others, because they did not give praise to God for their beauty—their beauty was merely external. Beauty is both an internal and external desire in the life of the believing woman.
But we must separate biblically defined beauty from worldly beauty. Worldly beauty is empty. After giving us a framework for seeing beauty, Mrs. Mohler exhorts us to see that the world's understanding of beauty is empty. She discusses the danger of vanity and cautions us to not make an idol out of worldly beauty because it will eventually fade. What doesn't fade is the beauty of a woman who has spent her life in front of the mirror of God's Word, rather than the mirror in her bathroom.

God cares about beauty. But the point of beauty is not our own glorification. God designed beauty for our enjoyment and for his glory—so we should take an interest in how we look, but not for man's empty praise. We should care about how we look because we want the Creator of our features to be praised for his handiwork. If we spend our time adorning ourselves only, we will miss the point. We cannot hope in the empty promises of a $90 straightener and Great Lash mascara. Rather we should be adorned by the Word of God. This looks differently in other women, but the goal of our femininity is so people will see Christ in greater measure, not our fancy clothes and manicured nails. So let us not be ashamed to recognize true beauty as we see it, but let us also put our hope in Jesus blood and righteousness, lest we think on that final day that it's our trendy outfit and size-2-body that will save us.

Mrs. Mohler's messages are excellent, and I would highly encourage you to follow the links to listen to them. May God bless you greatly as you listen. You can access her talks here and here

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Remembering Our Chains

At church last night the pastor profiled the Apostle Paul. As he taught through the conversion of Paul, seen in Acts 9, my own conversion came to mind. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about when I got saved in a while. Tears came to my eyes, though, as I thought back to that December morning nearly 5 years ago. Though there was no voice from the Lord calling me to repent, like the Apostle. There was, however, an unexpected, overwhelming sense of a guilt that I could not shake. Much like Paul, and many of you, I hadn’t done anything any different the night before. I was just living a godless life, knowing the Gospel, but thinking that I could wait until after college—when the “fun” was over and real life began. But God had other plans. The only explanation for why I am here today, writing this, is because God looked at me in my sinfulness in December 2003 and said, “Courtney, today is the day you will leave your darkness and follow me.” I didn’t know that’s what was happening then, but I know that now.

Often we are excited to hear about what God is doing in people’s lives right now, rather than asking them how they got saved 5, 10, or 15 years ago. It’s not that we are not excited about God saving people. It’s just that it only seems relevant to ask that question when they become a member of our church or get baptized. But it is incredibly relevant. The very fact that the God of the Universe chose to save any people is amazing enough. That he mercifully looked on us, in our sinfulness, and called us out of darkness and into the light of Christ is cause for continual celebration. We should remember our chains, not because want to wallow in our past, but because we are realizing that we are chained to Someone far greater than our past—Jesus Christ.

One of the things I appreciate about my church is that they have members give their testimonies one Wednesday a month. This is a great opportunity for us to remember our chains, and give praise to God for his work in our lives, and the lives of the people in our community. It reminds us that God is always working to bring people to himself, and conform them into the image of his Son. It is good to be reminded of that.

Last night’s message was good for me to hear. I don’t ever want to forget how God saved me. My favorite hymn is “And Can It Be” and the third verse gets me every time I sing it:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon, flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
Amazing love! How can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thoughts on the Olympics

With school starting next week (and the Olympics airing this week), I have had little time to do much of blogging. But two things from the Opening Ceremonies last Friday struck me. The parade of nations at the end of the Ceremonies is always my favorite part. It was only this year (probably because I am older now) that I stopped to think about the fact that one day we too will be involved in the parade of nations on a much grander scale. And the nations that will be gathering will not be for an elusive gold medal, but they will be gathering around the throne of the Lamb who was slain. People talk about the Olympics being the great unifier—the only place where nations stop fighting for a moment in order to compete. Unfortunately this year this isn’t the case. And it never really has been because sports (as fun as they are to watch) will never make for peace. Nations will never lay down their swords until Christ grips their hearts and they take up a different sword, for a different cause. As I watched people from different tribes and tongues march into the “Birds Nest” in Beijing, I was reminded that, though imperfect, this was a preview of what heaven would be like—except only more glorious.

Another thing that struck me as the Ceremonies concluded was the little boy who marched in with the Chinese team. The earthquake killed 20 of his 30 classmates when it hit in May. After he escaped he went back into the building to rescue 2 more classmates. When asked why he did this the 9 year old said that it was his duty because he was a class leader. Counter this story with the story of the middle school teacher who abandoned his class when the earthquake hit, claiming that he would do it again if he were in that position. The fact that a 9 year old boy feels compelled to rescue his classmates, at possible cost to his own life, is a reminder of common grace. God graciously allowed him to see the need to protect his friends in that moment—and for that we can be thankful. Maybe this little boy doesn’t know who this God is, but I pray that someday he will. And maybe even during this Olympic Games a Bible will get to him where he can read about the One, who at great cost to his own life, went to the Cross and died so we might live. That’s a great rescue.

So as I watch the Olympics, it is a reminder to pray. To pray that the nations would be glad in God, and God alone. And to pray that those who do not yet know his name will soon know the One who knows their name. Oh that God would be pleased to save many this Olympics.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Competition and Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

The Olympics start tonight and you can be assured where I will be for the next few weeks— on the couch taking in the games (with the exception of school starting, of course). But does Olympic viewing call for discretion? That is a question that CBMW's Gender Blog (where I am a contributor and employee) seeks to answer. Before you venture into the Games this weekend check out this series. We pray that it is an encouragement to you and your family.

Part 1: Olympian Leadership Opportunity for Dad's— Randy Stinson
Part 2: The Gospel and the Desire for Victory— Randy Stinson
Part 3: Girls and Sports?: A Matter of Principles— Jeff Robinson
Part 4: Does Modesty Matter for the Athletes (and Viewers)?— Courtney Tarter

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Redemption and Jane Eyre

Last night I finished Jane Eyre. I had been excited to finish it since I heard from some friends that the speech at the end by Rochester is excellent. Though I do not know the state of Charlotte Bronte's faith in Christ, she does end a seemingly tragic story with the hope of redemption in Christ. It is a beautiful story, really.

I leave you with my two favorite quotes by Mr. Rochester:

"Jane! You think me, I daresay, an irreligious dog: but my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficient God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower--breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. I, in my stiff-necked rebellion, almost cursed the dispensation: instead of bending to the decree, I defied it. Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which, has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane--only--only of late--I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance, the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere."

"I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, He has remembered mercy. I humbly entreat the Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto."

We, too, can give thanks to our Creator that in our own lives He graciously remembers undeserved mercy in the midst of a much deserved judgment.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer Reading Update: Part 4

Well, my summer reading has taken a slightly different turn. I had five books on my list and I made it through four before I got sidetracked by Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre—not to mention other unexpected summer happenings (excellent books by the way). So I will save Losing Our Virtue for another semester break when I have more time. But, I did finish Evangelicalism Divided, which was a really insightful (and convicting) book. What stood out to me most was the fact that my staying the course is only by the grace of God. My own ability will not keep me from sliding into doctrinal error—God will. This is a humbling and challenging thought. This heightened the importance of the spiritual disciplines for me. If I am not seeking His face I am more prone to backsliding. So even though this book was probably not meant for a “devotional,” it ended up speaking much needed truth to my soul regarding my own walk with the Lord.

I was reminded that there is much to learn from history. The phrase “history repeats itself” is true indeed, and not because of chance, but because human nature never changes. It simply manifests itself in different cultures and contexts. Our propensity to error and sin is always before us. History reminds us of that. We can very easily think that we have arrived at some “new” idea or phenomenon if we are not aware of all that happened before we were even a blip on the radar screen. So, I am grateful to the men and women in the faith who have gone before us. It is encouraging to be reminded that perfection is not required of us because Someone else was already perfect for us. But it is also a sober reminder that the things that make us in such desperate need of that Someone, called Christ, will come back to haunt us if we are not mindful.

So my summer reading list is now complete (with the exception of 80 pages left of Jane Eyre). Now I must tackle a head start on Hebrew vocabulary—and get ready to bury myself in theology until December. Thanks for keeping up with my summer reading! I won’t bore you with the Hebrew vocabulary, but if you have any helpful tips—I would be very appreciative.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today my parents celebrate 28 years of marriage. At this point they have spent more of their lives together than they have apart. In a day when divorce is rampant, I am thankful for my parents commitment to the covenant they made 28 years ago today. I am thankful that they never pretended that it was easy. I am thankful that they are honest about their faults through the years. And I am thankful that they love each other more today than they did on their wedding day.

Our God is good indeed! Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Made for Fellowship

Our hearts our lonely till they rest in Him who made us for Himself.”—Elisabeth Elliot

Loneliness can be a debilitating feeling. It can make us feel unloved, even despairing. It can make us feel that we are the only people in the world experiencing it at that moment. But we are not. Though painful, loneliness can be a tremendous blessing for the believer. Loneliness makes us acutely aware that we were made for something more. We were made for community. And not just a fellowship with each other, but most importantly, fellowship with the Father. Every twinge of loneliness reminds us of our need. So often we fill our need with other things that leave us wanting, and more lonely than before, when in reality our hearts are crying out for our greatest need—God, Himself. All of the other “fillers” are sad substitutes for our rest in the Savior. We are never alone because we have fellowship with the Father through Christ. When all around us is isolating, God has not forgotten. He is there.

Not only is loneliness a cause for dependence on the Father, it also affords us more fellowship with the sufferings of our Christ. No one faced the loneliness that he faced on the Cross. He, unlike any of us, was for a time abandoned by the Father so that we would never be abandoned by Him. What hope! Even in our despondency we can know that we are not alone. And it is in these times that we need to be reminded that our feelings are not always reality. Jesus knows what it means to be alone. Let Him be your rest.

We were made for fellowship with the Father. Rest in the Son, dear Christian, who purchased that fellowship with His own blood. “What a friend we have in Jesus” is a true statement indeed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Momma!

For the last 25 years (my whole life) Deb Tarter has been my mom. Being a mom is all she ever aspired to be. So, I think that it is only fitting that today, on her birthday, I tell her (and everyone else who reads) the 25 reasons why I am thankful that she is my mom.

  1. She loves Jesus.
  2. She wants people to love Jesus.
  3. She cares about the Church.
  4. She married my dad.
  5. She loves being a wife and mother.
  6. She encouraged me to desire to be a wife and mother (even when I bucked against it).
  7. She taught me the Gospel.
  8. She still teaches me the Gospel (though in different ways now).
  9. She is always there when I need her.
  10. She speaks truth into my life.
  11. She allows her children to grow up and encourages them towards that end.
  12. She let me go when “growing up” meant going away in rebellion for a season.
  13. She trusted the Lord to bring me back, and welcomed me back when He did.
  14. She recognizes that I still need a mom.
  15. She encourages me in my pursuits and takes an interest in what I do.
  16. She taught me to love theology and love studying the Bible.
  17. She likes learning.
  18. She cares about people and feels their pain, and knows what it means to “weep with those who weep.”
  19. She delights in giving gifts to people.
  20. She is the most compassionate person I know.
  21. She listens and understands me.
  22. She loves to laugh.
  23. She is a great cook.
  24. She loves serving people by cooking for them and having them in her home.
  25. She is my friend.

Those are just a few of the many reason why I am thankful for you, Momma. I am so thankful to call you a mom, but also a friend. The Lord has blessed me tremendously by giving me a mom like you. Happy Birthday! I pray that God gives you many more!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Friends

My friend Molly has a really good post up this week on her best friend, Danielle. It made me think about my recent trip to Minneapolis and how grateful I am for the dear friendships that I still have there. She ends the post by saying “I hope you have a Danielle in your life. I also hope you are being a Danielle to someone.”

Friends are a gift from the Lord. To have even one deep friendship in our lifetime is a mercy that we do not deserve, but a mercy that God lovingly gives to us. My two “Danielle’s” live in Minneapolis. Andrea, Steph, and I were friends from the beginning. Though we only lived together for six months it felt like we had been friends our whole lives. They became more than roommates to me. They are like sisters. No one can make me laugh like they do (except for maybe my brothers). We can look at each other and know what the other is thinking—usually this results in laughter, too. I never have to explain myself when I am talking, they just know. They understand me. They bear with my constant opinions. They are willing to listen, even when I talk way too much. But most importantly they make me love Jesus more. Their love for the Savior is evident in all that they do, and they are a constant conviction to seek him daily. One of my favorite things was listening to Andrea and Steph recite the church Fighter Verses to each other on Sunday morning. Walking with Jesus is real to them. Every time I am around them I am reminded of the Gospel because it is so real and personal to them. I can always count on them to be honest with me. They care about my holiness far more than my happiness. Last summer, when I was going through some really difficult circumstances, they cried with me. Bearing one another’s pain is a mark of true friendship.

God has designed us to be relational people. He has designed us to desire friendship and community with people, I believe because this is a part of being created in his image. The fellowship within the Trinity, and also the fellowship we have with the Father through the Son, reveals something important about our interactions on earth.

I am so thankful to the Lord that he has given me many dear friends. I do not deserve them. And I am so thankful for Steph and Andrea. Without their friendship I would be a completely different person. I pray that I can be as much of a blessing to them as they have been to me. My life is profoundly different now that they are many miles away from me. Even though we talk on the phone it’s not the same as living with them. But by God’s grace we have hope. This temporary separation reminds me that one day we will all be together. United with the One who calls us friend—and what a great friend he is.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are Christian College's the Last Bastion of Traditional Values?

We are now seeing, among my generation in particular, the many effects of a culture that increasingly normalizes sin. Lisa Miller recently published an article about the rise of homosexual clubs on Christian college campuses. The birth of these clubs is largely due to the influence of Soul Force, a self-proclaimed Christian group that travels to Christian colleges and universities in order to free homosexual and transgendered students from oppression—namely religious oppression.

What was most troubling about the article is not that students are starting homosexual clubs in a community that claims the name of Christ. The problem arose long before these groups ever formed, or even before Soul Force arrived on their property. For many of the schools these students are acting contrary to the doctrinal and lifestyle statements of the institution. And the arrival of Soul Force may only have encouraged these behaviors, not created them. Even though some of the schools mentioned in the article are not sanctioning the clubs, they are not stopping them. An unofficial club is merely a matter of semantics. These schools abdicated their roles as leaders and guides of the next generation long before the students “came out.” And the issue is more a matter of discipleship than of discrimination.

While it could be said that a Christian college or university is not the “church” there is still a sense of shepherding on the part of leadership simply because they profess the name of Christ. They have rules and responsibilities of those who are members of the community, one being (on some campuses) that a student must be a believer. Miller gives several examples of students who are living contrary to these standards set by the institution, including a young woman biding her time until graduation day, who will then depart for her tour with the Soul Force bus openly declaring her lesbianism. How does she slip through the cracks? And what does it say about the institution?

Miller calls Christian colleges “the last bastion of traditional values—places where parents can continue, in absentia, to protect their children from the corrupting influences of the world.” But she goes on to say that this is no longer a valid idea due to the cultural acceptance of homosexual behavior. In the wake of same-sex marriage acceptability, Christian colleges are losing their ability to condemn this behavior, especially when, as she says, “they are wedged between their genuine desire to support the students and their obligations to donors and alumni.” This is when it becomes problematic for them. If we allow students to gather around homosexuality, what is to stop a “Gluttony Club” or “Pornography Club” from forming? Our hope is not in Christian colleges, and parents and students (and even the Church) should not treat it as such. And while our hope does not rest there, they still must function as members of the universal Church, one that never condones homosexuality, or any sexual behavior that deviates from what God has designed.

We have an obligation, as the Church, in a world increasingly confused about gender to speak boldly about what God says. Just because our culture views a particular behavior as acceptable does not mean that we turn a blind eye to it. Where will we be in 10 years if our Christian colleges, and our churches for that matter, do not teach and disciple people through their desires? It should also make us weep for these students. They are living out the darkness of Romans 1—and this is where we would be without the sovereign hand of God on us. And while the “last bastion of traditional values” may be on its way to being given over to the world, we know that the Church never will. Our obligation is to seek and save what is lost and teach them about how God’s glory is displayed in his creation of gender, perhaps even those lost on the Soul Force bus.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Let No Sin Escape"

Every day I get Spurgeon in my inbox. Unfortunately I do not always read and ponder these emails like I should. But today I took the time to read. Truth for Life has an email list that you can sign up for that sends you a piece of Spurgeon's Morning and Evening every day. I pray that it convicts you like it did me. May God be pleased to keep Calvary in our constant view as we do battle against our sins.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

1 Kings 18:40

When the prophet Elijah had received the answer to his prayer, and the fire from heaven had consumed the sacrifice in the presence of all the people, he called upon the assembled Israelites to take the priests of Baal and sternly cried, "Let not one of them escape." He took them all down to the brook Kishon and slew them there. So must it be with our sins-they are all doomed; not one must be preserved. Our darling sin must die. Do not spare it because it cries. Strike though it be as dear as a beloved son. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon His own Son. With stern unflinching purpose you must condemn to death that sin that was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin, given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin and recovery from its power and guilt as the immediate presence of God. Job never knew how to get rid of sin half as well as he did when his eye of faith rested upon God, and then he abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes. The fine gold of the Christian is often becoming dim. We need the sacred fire to consume the dross. Let us fly to our God. He is a consuming fire; He will not consume our spirit, but our sins. Let the goodness of God excite us to a sacred jealousy and to a holy revenge against those iniquities that are hateful in His sight. Go forth to battle in His strength and utterly destroy the accursed crew: "Let not one of them escape."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Reading Book 3: Seeing with New Eyes

I finished David Powlison’s Seeing with New Eyes last Friday on my flight up to Minneapolis. This book transformed my thinking in many ways, and probably more than I even realize right now. It was intensely practical, yet saturated with biblical truth that maximizes the Gospel and in no way minimizes sin. I have only recently been exposed to biblical counseling, largely because of my time at Southern. The book is a compilation of things he has written on Scripture and biblical counseling.

Here are some things I learned as I read (though it doesn't even come close to doing the book justice!):

  1. Sin is our fundamental problem.
  2. Christ is our greatest need and only solution to that problem.
  3. The Word is where we learn about this solution, and it is sufficient to meet every need that we face.
  4. The Word contains all that we need to counsel ourselves and others. I must learn to study it and apply it.
  5. We must learn to ask “probing questions” of ourselves and others in order to get to the root cause of our sin.

While this may seem like “common knowledge” to the believer, so often we don’t live like it is common. Sin and the world entangle us and muddy our gaze towards God. There are so many competing ideologies that promise to supplement the Bible in the sanctification process. Powlison teaches his reader to learn to “see as God sees.” And this can only be done through first knowing his Son through His Word. We need the Bible every day so we can know and see our Savior. We do not need any supplement. Oh how I long to see that perfect Son in greater measure and in all of His glory!

“When our gaze awakens to the gaze of God, we have started to see. Seeing clearly we can love well.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Getting Rid of Distractions

Fear, worry, and anxiety are my besetting sins. This has become an increasingly real fact of my life as I have gotten older. I don’t know if growing up necessarily affords for more occasions to fear, but in my case I have been hit with it more and more. I have been reading through David Powlison’s book, Seeing with New Eyes, and his insights have been extremely helpful as I battle my own tendency towards anxiety.

Powlison teaches the biblical counselor to ask probing questions of the person who is struggling with sin. Probing questions can reveal behavioral patterns that simply mask the sin instead of face the sin. In my case I realized that instead of facing my anxiety I distract myself. One of the ways I do this is by turning on the television. Whenever I am staying alone I turn the TV immediately. I try to find some mindless sitcom or movie that will get my mind off the fact that I am afraid and allow me to enter another world. The problem is when I go to bed the “other world” of the movie is inside the TV, and I am faced with the reality that I am scared. So I replay that movie in my head until I lull myself to sleep. But this does nothing for the fear itself. It simply covers it with something else. When I distract myself I am merely pretending that it is gone until the next time when it resurfaces, usually in a stronger capacity.

Distraction is a much easier way to deal with sin. We see this all of the time with parents and unruly toddlers. Instead of teaching a child to sit still at the dinner table, the mother or father simply gives them many toys to play with while dinner is being served, so that the child will cause minimal problems at the table. It’s not dealing with the issue; it’s masking it with a distraction.

In my own life I realize that it is much harder to face the sin of fear and anxiety because often the fear does not go away immediately. I might have to face a few sleepless nights praying Scripture through my worry in order to find true freedom, but it is the only way to true freedom. My creation of distractions is really the creation of an idol. Something other than God is my hope in the midst of fear, and that is blasphemous against my Creator who has only called me to fear one thing—Himself. Fundamentally my fear and anxiety is unbelief in God. When I turn the lights out at night, when I go to the store alone, when I fly in an airplane, I do not trust that the One who holds the universe is in his hand will uphold me. All of my actions are manifestations of a heart condition that reveals distrust in my Savior. Overcoming fear is not a matter of exerting will power. It is pinpointing the root cause of my unbelief in God.

Thankfully we serve a God who does not allow us to continue in our sins. He is merciful to us, even when we seek everything else but him. I pray that the next time I am faced with fear I will have the grace to crucify the distractions and fear only the One worth all of my fear and worship.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Celebrating Dependence

I always look forward to the 4th of July. But as I prepared for the festivities today it caused me to think about what independence means for me as a Christian. Though I am very thankful today, and every day, for the freedoms that I have as an American citizen, I am not really a free and autonomous person. Nobody is. We are under the rule of the One who rules the universe. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” As a Christian, my celebration of independence should be one of gratitude for the men who died so I can have basic liberties, but I also should recognize that I cannot get caught up in the rhetoric of rights. I belong to the Lord first, America second.

Following Christ also means that I have far more in common with the believer in Uganda who doesn’t know any stanzas of “My Country ‘tis of Thee,” than the person who lives next door. America is where I live. And I am so grateful to be here. Every time I leave the country I am proud to say that I am from America, and very grateful to come back home. It’s where I live. It’s where I was born. It’s where my family is. But it’s not where I will live forever. I feel so privileged to be here and live in a place where I can read my Bible in the park and not get arrested. But that is a mercy from God, not a basic right that will change my faith if taken away.

As I celebrate Independence Day I will gladly eat hot dogs and watermelon with the rest of my friends. We might even sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” And I will sing proudly because I am a thankful American. But as a Christian I must always remember that I am more defined by dependence than independence.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”—including the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Reading Update: A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot

As I mentioned previously, Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite writers. Reading her writing has encouraged me in so many ways as I have grown in my walk with the Lord. Last week I finished book number 2 on my summer reading list. A Path Through Suffering is a book that I have wanted to read for a while, and it was worth my time. The chapters are really short. So if you don't have a lot of time on your hands, this would be a great book to read little snippets of each day. She uses the theme of the seasons and the process of nature to apply to our suffering. And as always, she challenges and encourages her readers to walk faithfully with God and delight only in him.

I leave you with a few quotes that I liked, though most of the book is quotable!

"Vines must be pruned. This looks like a cruel business. Perfectly good branches have to be lopped off in order for better branches to develop. It is necessary business, for only the well-pruned vine bears the best fruit. The life of the vine is strengthened in one part by another part's being cut away. The rank growth has to go and then the sun reaches places it could not reach before. Pruning increases yield."

"We are not often called to great sacrifice, but daily we are presented with the chance to make small ones--a chance to make someone cheerful, a chance to do some small thing to make someone comfortable or contented, a chance to lay down our petty preferences or cherished plans. This probably requires us to relinquish something--our own convenience or comfort, our own free evening, our warm fireside, or even our habitual shyness or reserve or pride. My liberty must be curtailed, bound down, ignored (oh, how the world hates this sort of thing! how our own sinful desires hate it!)--for the sake of the liberation of others."

She recognizes for many, and even in for herself, that there is suffering that is on a much more painful and grand scale then daily being kind to a hateful person. She speaks to those circumstances, too. One of the most helpful things I gleaned from the book was in the chapter on suffering as a parent. Though I am not a parent, her comments were very applicable and caused me to really think through her words.

She says:
"The deepest lessons come out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires. One of God's greatest gifts, parenthood, always includes the gift of suffering, that we may be humbled and our faith refined as gold in the fire. Again, we are not given explanations but, to hearts open to recieve it, a more precious revelation of the heart of our loving Lord...Occasions of desperation prepare the way for the recognition of Christ himself."

She then goes on to reference biblical passages where people were in great despair and suffering prior to a greater revelation of Christ.

Our culture tells us to flee from suffering. We do everything we can to skirt pain and discomfort. Yet, Elliot shows us that this is not the way of our Christ. He endured the shame of the Cross, the greatest suffering imaginable in order to do the will of the Father and "bring many sons to glory." This book is a reminder of that. It is not a call to stoicism, nor is it a call to self-pity. Neither of these reactions are the way of the Savior. But it is a call to embrace suffering, as Christ did. We should embrace it openly, grieve over it, and know that the story did not end with the Cross. He rose again, and so will we. And then, because of his work on our behalf, our suffering will be over.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Motherhood Triumphs in the Face of Feminism

Ideologies, for better or for worse, are lived out on the pages of a life story. Testimonies often give us helpful glimpses into people’s lives and allow us to see them in their own words. In a recent article in United Kingdom’s Daily Mail, Rebecca Walker, daughter of The Color Purple author Alice Walker, speaks out against her mother’s feminism. Whether her mother approves or not, Rebecca’s experience as a daughter of feminism sheds considerable light on the trajectory of this movement that now has spanned many decades.

While her tone in speaking about her upbringing is harsh and can’t be condoned, the outcome of her life is telling. After all, she was raised by a mother who believed that “motherhood was the worst thing that could happen to a woman” and “children are millstones around your neck.” The younger Walker does not share this view. Rather she says that “having a child has been the most rewarding experience of my life. Far from ‘enslaving’ me, three-and-a-half-year-old Tenzin has opened my world. My only regret is that I discovered the joys of motherhood so late—I have been trying for a second child for two years, but so far with no luck.”

In fact, the lie of feminism was apparent to her even early on. As the child of divorced parents she was sent to her father’s house sometimes for two years at a time. It was in these time periods that she was exposed to a step-mother who doted on her own children—which caused Walker to long for a mother that was non-existent in her own life. She knew in her heart that something was missing.

Who told Ms. Walker that she should feel the desire to be a mother? Her inclination towards motherhood is not a result of social conditioning. If it was, then she would have followed the path of her own strong mother. Instead she rejected what she was taught, following an unknown path that led to great joy. From the very beginning God created women to be givers of life. Eve was named the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:15). The fact that Rebecca Walker rejected the only path that she has ever known reveals that God has bestowed common grace on her to still desire to be, even in some small measure, a woman.

Rebecca Walker is not the only one moving away from her upbringing. Sarah Odell, a junior at Wellesley, recently wrote an article in the Washington Post responding to the lack of interest in Hillary Clinton’s campaign among her fellow peers. She likens it to the fact that her generation is far more conservative than their parents generation. Young women, who have been raised by feminist mothers, have come of age wanting something more than what they were dealt as children. Many of them are finding that fulfillment in bearing children—the very antitheses of what their mothers were trying to accomplish. The stories of these young women tell us something that is far more profound than simply conditioning, peer pressure, and perceived low expectations.

When women completely deny their God-given right and ability to bear children we are seeing a complete giving over to the desires of the flesh (Romans 1). To see children as a burden to be thrown off is a reversal of the created order and a sinful repression of the desire that probably once burned bright. It should make us weep for them.

Rebecca Walker’s story, though very sad, reveals something that no movement can ever squelch—God has created women to be givers of life. While we continue to discuss the hurdles that we face in the gender debate, we can see hope in the fact that God will not allow his design for womanhood to be completely effaced by sin. We can read with hope, but also read with sadness knowing that there are hundreds of young women out there who are just as confused about what it means to be a woman. And we should continue to give them the answer.

*This post orginally appeared here

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Devotional: Memory

I often forget how helpful memory is. Simply spending a day with an Alzheimer’s patient will probably cause me to immediately thank God for the provision of memory. This has been on my mind a lot lately as I look back over the last year. Though there are new surroundings, I have seen God take me through very similar circumstances of trusting and waiting on his timing. Memory affords us many blessings. But I can think of three particular blessings that have helped me this year.

Without memory we wouldn’t be able to see how far we have come. We wouldn’t be able to see the work that God has promised to faithfully complete in us (Phil. 1:6). It enables us to see progress in a poor attitude towards a co-worker. Memory is what gives us grace to continue serving in a hard ministry position because of the small difference we see in the life of the person we are ministering to. God does not have to give us these insights into our spiritual state. But He graciously opens our eyes to see the softened heart towards an enemy, or the increased trust in His all-encompassing provision for each and every circumstance.

Without memory we would easily forget our great sinfulness and our need for the great Savior. The Israelites forgot God on a regular basis, and we are no better. David says in Psalm 51, “my sin is ever before me.” Memory forces our transgressions to be ever present in our minds. But memory also forces us to look to the One who was pierced for our transgressions. It is when we feel the most sinful that we must cry out to God for the righteousness of Christ on our behalf. If we didn’t have memory we would be so prone to think of ourselves as good. We do so even without amnesia. But it is in the mercy of God that He allows me to see my sin, but then immediately see my great Savior.

Without memory we would lose hope when all seems lost. Often what gets me through the winter is the memory of summer. It is the trust that warmth and sun will soon come to melt away the cold. Even in spiritual darkness it is helpful for me to look back and remember, even faintly, a time when I loved Him unashamedly, when I delighted in His Word. Sometimes the darkness lasts for months, sometimes hours and sometimes just for my morning devotions. But it is because I remember the past that I am able to pray for the present. I know His promises, and I have seen them manifested in my life, therefore I am able to rest in the memory and hope for the future. In the winter, I can trust that the summer sun will come because I remember what it looked like, what the warmth felt like on my skin, and how it lighted my paths and made me see more clearly. Darkness only lasts for a night, though some seasons have more night than others. Just like the summer sun sustains us through the winter, so the memory of the Son’s presence and hope in His promises sustain us in the dark, long winter of despair.

Memory is a mercy from our Father. He does not desire for us to be left to ourselves and so he gives us glimmers of hope. Memory can serve as one of those glimmers. Even when He feels far away we can trust that He will never leave us. So next time I am overcome with my sinfulness, or discouraged over my feelings towards spiritual things, or when intense trials come and I feel that there is no hope. I pray that I can look back on the memories of a fonder time and know that each season is appointed its time and must come to an end.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Keeping your Heart Pure

My youngest brother has written a really good post reflecting on the keeping power of God while he was in high school. He also speaks to the importance of purity and how when we fail in that regard we stain the Gospel. He is light years ahead of where I was at 18, and I am proud to be his sister. He is an example of how not to waste your life even when the world expects you to do otherwise. Read his post. It's worth it. I praise God for his preservation of Micah these last 18 years, and I am excited to see where God takes him.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

25 Reason's Why I am Thankful for My Dad

Here are few of the many reasons why I am thankful for my dad, today and every day. I was going to do this on his birthday, but I don’t want to wait until November. Since he has been my dad for 25 years, here are 25 reasons why I am thankful for him.

  1. He married my mom and still loves her dearly.

  2. He worked hard all of my life so my mom could stay home with the boys and me.

  3. He still works hard.

  4. He played with us growing up.

  5. He treated me like a girl so I learned to be not just one of “the Tarter boys.”

  6. He likes to laugh and make us laugh.

  7. He laughs at himself, and encourages us to do the same.

  8. He loves the Gospel.

  9. He loves preaching the Gospel and wants people to come to Christ.

  10. He takes sin seriously.

  11. He faithfully proclaimed the Gospel to me even when I didn’t want to hear it.

  12. He (and my mom) knew when to let me go in my rebellion and prayed for me to return.

  13. He does not count our sin against us, even though we deserve it.

  14. He is brave even in the midst of adversity.

  15. He cares about truth.

  16. He is willing to admit his faults and work to change them.

  17. He is always there when I call him in trouble.

  18. He still values his role as the leader and protector of my life, even though I am many miles away.

  19. He encourages my friendship with my mom.

  20. He prays for me.

  21. He made my budget for me.

  22. He lets me borrow money when my budget is a little short at the end of the month.

  23. He always is there when I call even when he doesn’t have time (and I say it will only take a minute but really takes thirty).

  24. He encourages me in my pursuits.

  25. He always has advice ready when I ask.

I do not thank my parents enough for how they have impacted my life. Often I take their involvement and friendship fore granted, so, thank you, Daddy, for being a father to me even when I was a less than ideal child. God’s continued work in your life has helped me to better understand the Fatherhood of God. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I wish I could be there.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer Reading Update: Living Faith by Helen Roseveare

Last night I finished Living Faith by Dr. Helen Roseveare. I had been really excited to read this book, as I mentioned previously, and was ready for a slight change of pace from the normal reading I do for my theology classes. This was a nice transition into summer reading. One of the blessings of reading about people’s lives is that you get to see the power of God in the experiences of real people. It gives encouragement to the discouraged to see that the same God who works for them in their situations will work in your life in a similar situation. Helen Roseveare’s life was not without suffering or trials. But, it was also one of joy. This book recounts the events in her life that God used to draw her closer to him and to make her faith in his promises deeper. Here are some quotes that I found encouraging:

“It was hard to learn the lesson. To walk by faith and not by sight had to become a living fact of relationship where the reality of the unseen was more real than the appearance of visible results. Seeking results is often a not-very-subtle means used to prove the reality of one’s faith, when in actual fact it only shows the existence of doubts in one’s mind. Results per se are no proof of the existence of faith, any more than the lack of visible results are the proof of the absence of faith.”

“If I will allow God all rights to my life, to stir me until He sees I am ready to be applied, I can trust God then, in His perfect timing, to know where He wants to apply me. God does not need to tell us ahead of time. Until we are stirred, we are not ready for application.”

“Without faith in God, we shall not seek to obey His command to “pray without ceasing.” We must believe that God is, that He cares and that He can answer.”

“Faith enables us to believe that God has prepared a path for each of us, and that He desires to lead us into and along that pathway.”

I hope that these quotes encourage you like they did me. One of the biggest blessings of this book was the realization that I am not the only one who fears and struggles with trusting God. And it was convicting as well to know that too often my struggles with fear are simply as a result of the rodents overtaking my house or the turbulence of an airplane. Helen Roseveare regularly faced life threatening situations at the hands of the rebel army that sought to take over the Congo. Books like these are good for us. It makes us remember those who have gone before us, but also makes us mindful of the great sacrifice that many of the missionaries of old, and even now, face as they lay down their lives so that the nations might know Him. Thank you, Dr. Roseveare, for your obedience to the Gospel no matter the cost.

Friday, June 6, 2008

New Generation of Complementarians at New Attitude 2008

Below is a "recap" post I did from New Attitude for the CBMW Gender Blog. It was a great conference on many levels, so I hope you enjoy a little peek at some of the people I met while there.

In addition to contributing to Gender Blog, I also enjoy opportunities to represent CBMW as a conference exhibitor. One of the best parts of attending conferences for CBMW is getting to meet and fellowship with so many brothers and sisters in the Lord. It doesn't hurt that I am an extrovert-so these experiences are extremely life giving.

New Attitude 2008 was no different. One of the blessings of the fellowship is hearing about people's stories with regards to biblical manhood and womanhood. A complementarian commitment to biblical manhood and womanhood is becoming increasingly uncommon among youth. This is why I want to tell you a few encounters from the recent conference, that encouraged me that there is generation rising up who desires to live how God has created us as men and women. Please pray for us to continue to stand firm among a confused age. Though I have withheld names from the stories, these all represent real believers standing firm on gender issues.

RBMW in high school: A recent high school graduate found a copy of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in her house and started reading it. The topic intrigued her and now she is growing in her understanding of how God has created her to be. What a tremendous blessing that she is already learning these truths even before she leaves for The Master's College next year. May God increase her tribe!

Biblical manhood on the college campus: A man who serves with Campus Outreach came up for some materials for his ministry among college men. He told us that he is already discipling a group of six men through a study on biblical manhood. May God use him to bear much fruit for the kingdom in the lives of these men.

College, career, missions, and motherhood: A young woman came up to our table to talk with us about CBMW. In the course of the conversation she told us that she was studying Strategic Intelligence at college. As she has pursued this career path, she has felt the pull towards motherhood. She has been wrestling through God's call on her life to be a mother, but also her desire to study and possibly go on the mission field. In this wrestling, God has opened up a door for her to study in Germany. What a blessing that in college she is responding to God's call to bring his Gospel to the nations, but also to her future family through motherhood.

Gender truth among the nations: In El Salvador God has used Dr. Russell Moore's Gender Matter's DVD to help bring a leadership change to a church. One pastor from the church bought the DVD last year at the Children Desiring God conference, and a woman from the church told us that she has watched it over and over again.

These are just a few of the stories of the many people that we met at New Attitude. These encounters are reminders that these issues matter in our lives. They are intensely practical in how we live and relate to one another, but most importantly in how we relate to God. This is where the theological rubber meets the road, and we praise God for the work that he has done in all of their lives. I hope to meet you and hear your personal story at the CBMW booth at an upcoming conference.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Trusting in Turbulence

“We are experiencing unexpected turbulence.”

This is not one of my favorite statements. Every time I fly I get a little bit nervous the night before. That nervousness is only heightened by the sudden jerk of the plane at 20,000 feet. As I have been traveling more I have realized how much energy I exert being apprehensive about a shaky airplane. And the root cause of this anxiety? I like to be in control. No matter how many times I am told the statistics about people who die in car accidents versus plane crashes I will still prefer driving every time because at least I feel like I am in control. But that’s really all that it is—a feeling. My perception of control is really no control at all. Despite the fact that I am behind the wheel of the car, there are still many factors out of my little controlled universe.

The root cause of my fear is unbelief in God’s providential hand over my situation. And this is not simply isolated to air travel. My unbelief, though slightly comical in the air, is not so comical when I do not trust that he will fulfill his promises. Whenever I seek assurances of my safety outside of God’s Word I am simply grasping at a false hope that will never save me, even if it is an experienced airline pilot in the seat next to me or the illusion of “safe ground” when I land.

This has practical applications for how I live my every day life. Each time I fly it is a test of my faith in God’s promise to sustain me as long as he desires to keep me. And if I do not make it through a plane flight, or even through a night’s sleep, it is not because God has abandoned me. It is because he has willed it to be so. These are not easy things to live out. There are so many circumstances that cause me to waver in my belief that he is with me and protecting me. But even in those circumstances I must not look to the false hopes that promise temporary safety, I must look to the eternal hope found in the Word of God. I find myself daily fighting my proneness to fear by telling myself “when I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Psalm 56:3-4). And even though I do not feel immediate relief all of the time, it is a reminder that these external events that are causing my fear have no control over me. They may harm me, or even kill me, but my hope is sure in the promises of God to keep my soul until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6, Rom. 8:38-39).

My life is full of “unexpected turbulence” and this will never end. But what is unexpected to me, is never unexpected to God. What I seek to blindly and foolishly control, he upholds by his righteous right hand. This is good news when I am hit with the “unexpected turbulence” of life—and air.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Life has been a whirlwind the past week and a half. First, I exhibited at the New Attitude conference. Immediately after the conference ended on Tuesday I hopped on a plane headed south to Florida for my youngest brother's high school graduation. This is where I have been since last Tuesday. It has been a week full of events from graduation to visiting family to a graduation party for the last Tarter child. There was much relaxing by the pool, too. It was a blessing to be able to spend my vacation with my parents and brothers and sister-in-law. Times like these make me sit in awe at the provision of God in my life. I am so very blessed to have the family that I have and I look forward to spending time with them again. I head home tomorrow and will be back to work, life, and blogging. I have been able to think through blog ideas as well. So, until then....Thank you for reading!

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Attitude this weekend

Starting tomorrow night I will be at the New Attitude conference. This is an annual conference for singles and young marrieds put on by Sovereign Grace Ministries. I will be exhibiting for The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, so if you are there, come by and visit. I would love to meet you!

Two of my good friends from Minneapolis are here for the conference as well. They are exhibiting for Desiring God, so you should go say "hi" to Andrea and Katie, too. They have a lot of good stuff with them. I should know because it's on my living room floor right now. And speaking of living room floor...startling information on the homefront. We just saw a mouse. In my house. And this is not a lie at all. It was trying to escape from the floor boards but our screams scared him back to his hiding place.

Either way, have a good weekend if I don't see you at NA! I will try to post updates on my favorite thing about the sessions.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What are you reading?

When I was in elementary school I lived for the summer reading challenge, mainly because I liked getting the big flashy button and the Pizza Hut coupon--which meant that my mom and I could go on a date. Now that I am in seminary, I have once again picked up this challenge. But there is no prize this time, just the sheer pleasure of knowing that I finished the task I set before myself. One of my professors encouraged us to make a reading list for the summer. He said that often we set really high goals for ourselves and then feel discouraged when we don't meet the desired goal. So he advised us to make a reasonable list.

Seeing with New Eyes by David Powlison: In the last couple of years I have been introduced to biblical counseling, and I have heard Dr. Powlison speak but never read his books. I bought this book at T4G and am looking forward to reading it!

A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot: I am trying to read every book that she has ever written. This is my newest edition. My friend Gretchen said it is her favorite book by her.

Living Faith by Helen Roseveare: The bookstore on campus had all of her books on sale and I was only able to snag four of them. I am really looking forward to reading about her life.

Losing Our Virtue by David Wells: I read No Place for Truth last summer and am just continuing with this series (I actually don't know if I am even reading them in order).

Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray: Another book that was on sale after the T4G conference. I like reading about history.


A Room of One's Own by Viriginia Woolf: I have always wanted to read this book and I figured now was a perfect time. When I took a literary theory class in college everyone said that this book was the staple feminist novel. I figured since I am a recovering feminist it might be an interesting read. :)

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes: I started reading this a while back and haven't finished it. Again, now is the perfect time.

There is my list. I haven't started it yet because I am just now finishing up Biblical Womanhood in the Home and Til We Have Faces. So by the looks of things I have sort of cheated. What can I say, I love books! I will let you know how it goes.

What is on your reading list for the summer?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Me, a Mentor? How We Disciple

We have now talked about the reasons why we mentor and who we mentor, and now I will conclude this brief series with how we mentor. In reality, there is no “special formula” for us to follow. There are, however, areas that older woman are to instruct the younger women. And while we are exhorted to teach in these areas, we are not told step by step how we are to go about doing so.

Older woman are to teach younger woman how to live as godly lives. Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31 are our God-ordained guidelines for biblical womanhood. Teaching a younger woman how to “love her husband” will look very different if you are a mother teaching her daughter that her response to her father now reflects how she will respond to her husband later. Or, if you are an older married woman teaching a newly married woman how to respond biblically to her husband when she feels her tendency towards Eve rising up in her.

First, teaching and mentorship is an intentional activity. Discipleship does not happen by passively living life. Rather it happens when older women move out of their comfort zones and discerningly teach and lead younger woman towards Christ. As single women we too have a responsibility to teach biblical womanhood because we are born women, we do not become women. If we are not intentionally cultivating womanhood in our own life, and then pouring it into the lives of others, we will by default become like the world around us.

Secondly, discipleship is about community. Only within a redeemed community can we see life-on-life relationships that seek to sanctify and sharpen one another. As Christians we are called out of a community of darkness and into a community of light—and that light is Christ. Discipleship happens when we realize that it is not simply a new program or system put in place to make “friends.” Rather we are redeemed sinners living for the King, who will return to make all things new. This is the basis for our relationship. If our discipleship is not serving and building up the local church, then we have missed the mark in some way.

It is important to ask ourselves if our relationships are moving us towards biblical womanhood or away from it. If they are moving us away from it, then we are not mentoring in the way that God has designed. In your efforts to disciple do not feel discouraged if your activities seem less than ideal. What is most important is that you are obeying God's command and desiring to see women grow in Christ. As we grow as the disciplers and the discipled many practical issues will fall into place. Know, dear Christian, that your efforts are not in vain.

As I conclude this short series here are some practical starters for discipleship:

  • Start a small group bible study in your home (if you do not feel that God has gifted you to teach, volunteer to host the study in your home and build relationships with women that way)
  • If you are single, invite a younger woman, or girl, to serve in the local church with you in whatever ministry you happen to be involved in. I invited a girl I mentored to serve with me in the nursery on a couple of occasions.
  • Offer to help a young mother out with her toddler and new infant.
  • Invite a young wife over and offer to cook together—you can even do this with a single woman

Helpful books:

Let Me Be a Woman
Biblical Womanhood in the Home
The Legacy of Biblical Womanhood
Girl Talk

Feminine Appeal