Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review of The Undistracted Widow

I don't have a missions focus for today primarily because I do these for my church's Wednesday evening prayer service and they were a week behind, so I had this week off. So I'm sorry there is no "Missions Wednesday" this week. But it will be back next week.

If you are interested, here is a link to a book review I wrote for The Gospel Coalition's book review site. Carol Cornish wrote an excellent book on widowhood called The Undistracted Widow. As I say in the review, this is a book that no one wants to have to buy for a friend or family member. But when a loss occurs, in time, it might be a good book to provide a dear sister who has lost her husband. Of course, it would be even better if you read it first! Even though her book is geared towards widows, she has some insightful appendices for how the local church can help widows. And her Christ-exalting language throughout the book is good for anyone going through grief.

But don't take my word for it, read the review and decide for yourself!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Hope for Them

Yesterday, I talked about how helpful prayer is in the weeks and months following a miscarriage. One of the things that has been such a blessing to me since we lost the baby is how much hope other people have had for us. We’ve received emails and cards with hope-filled words. Women who are dear and close to me have hoped in God’s goodness for me when I couldn’t bring myself to hope—or when I couldn’t see far enough ahead to hope. That’s what the body of Christ is supposed to do—hold us up when we are falling and bring words of hope when we are hopeless. For me, at times, it feels like I will never be pregnant again. For my sweet friends, they have confident hope in God’s goodness for me. They know that good will come in my life. They continue to pray for me when I am too faithless to get down on my knees.

Like I have said before, this will look different for every woman. Knowing her pain, disposition, and circumstances is key to bringing hope-filled words. In the immediate aftermath of the miscarriage words do not bring hope as much as tears and sheer presence. As a side note, I can’t even begin to describe how much it blessed me when people just cried with me. To me, their tears meant that they felt my loss and they cared. But in recent days tears have been less and hopeful words have been more. It might mean a card with Scripture, or an email to check-in, or even sending her something to remember her baby. A dear friend of mine would pray Scripture for me and when she sent me cards or emails she would include the particular Scripture she had been praying. All of these things have brought so much light into my life in recent days.

Hoping for your friend does not mean simply quoting Scripture to her in hopes she will move on from her pain. Rather it is an empathetic, heartfelt, Christ-like response to one who is grieving and often times cannot see the hope right in front of her face. It is simply bringing into focus the things she can’t really see through the dark clouds of grief. It’s sort of like holding her arms up when she is too weary and weak to keep going (Exodus 17: 8-16). Hoping for your friend means trusting that God is not finished with her yet, and it means leaning into him for grace to minister and grace to carry on.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Help After Miscarriage: Pray For Their Marriage

God has been kind to provide countless people who have ministered to Daniel and me in the weeks and months following our miscarriage. There were days where I was overwhelmed by the encouragement our dear friends and family graciously gave to us. I have heard people say that pregnancy loss is a “silent sorrow.” And in many ways it is. There is a deep ache in my soul that is hard to put into words at times. But many of our dear friends have shared in this sorrow with us given a voice to the silence.

As I have time I am going to be posting some ways that we have been helped through our miscarriage in hopes that it helps others grasping for ways to minister to friends and family. It won’t be exhaustive and it will only be from my own experience. Everyone responds to loss differently, so it won’t be, and could never be, cookie cutter. Nothing replaces knowing your friend in her loss. So if these ways don’t work for her, that’s okay. Just know that everyone is different. Thank you all who have read and prayed for us from afar. I guess this is what it feels like to be a proud mom, because it means the world to me that you care about our little baby.

Daniel and I have leaned into each other and the Savior in ways we never dreamed of on the day we said “I do.” Sometimes I look at our wedding pictures and tear up thinking to myself, “you didn’t know what was coming.” And we still don’t, really. This is the first of many sufferings we will face as God gives us lives together. It’s not easy. But I wouldn’t want to go through it with anyone else given the choice. This experience has bonded us. I love him more today than I did this time last year.

Perhaps the way to help the couple most in the days following a miscarriage is to pray for their marriage. If your friends are like us they will probably grieve differently, so as time moves on one spouse might feel left behind. This can cause tension, or at least it did for us for a period of time. The enemy hates two things especially—life and marriage; life because it represents the image of God, and marriage because it points to the hope of Christ and his blood-bought relationship with the Church. If he can’t destroy you by taking away your child, he will work overtime to rip apart your marriage. At least that is what it felt like to me. God used the prayers of our friends and family to uphold us.

By God’s grace, this tension only lasted for a few short days. But in the days following this moment of distance I realized how easy it is for couples to drift apart after a loss, and many do. Pray for your friend’s marriage. It might seem like a small way to help, but it can work wonders in their life. God delights in answering the prayers of his people, and he delights in godly marriages showcasing his glory in the midst of sorrow. Pray that this is the case for your friend. She may never know that you did this for her, but God will know. And the fruit born out of praying friends will have a lasting impact in the life of your friend, her marriage, and in the lives of her future children.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday is for Food: Bruschetta Chicken Bake

I made this a couple of weeks ago and Daniel really enjoyed it, which is always a plus! It's super easy and pretty cost-efficient too. I get periodic Kraft Food recipe emails and I have liked every recipe I have made from them so far. Here it is:

Bruschetta Chicken Bake

What you need:

1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. (6 oz.) STOVE TOP Stuffing Mix for Chicken (I use generic stuffing from the store)
1/2 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces (I cooked mine first)
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 cup KRAFT 2% Milk Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (again, I use generic cheese)


Heat oven to 400 degrees

MIX tomatoes, stuffing mix, water and garlic just until stuffing mix is moistened.

LAYER chicken, basil and cheese in 3-qt. casserole or 13x9-inch baking dish.

TOP with stuffing. Bake 30 min. or until chicken is done.

See! Super simple and super yummy! Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Missions Wednesday: North Korea

North Korea is almost always in the news, but as of late this country has been making headlines because of the impending passing of the leadership baton from Kim Jong Il to his son. We often hear of North Korea as a harsh and oppressive country, and this is true. Yesterday, the Desiring God blog posted a story from the Lausanne Conference of a North Korean woman who came to Christ. It's worth reading. Korea was divided into North and South after World War II. Communism rules this small nation. The border is considered to be very difficult to break, and those who do often are never seen again.

North Korea is one of the most oppressive nations in the world. All religions are illegal and persecuted. To be a Christian is a sentence of hard labor, or even death. In 1953 there were 300,000 Christians. Today the number of Christians is estimated at only a few thousand, though this number is very hard to truly know due to the secrecy of the country. The reality is that thousands of Christians have been killed simply for bearing the name of Christ. Many more have fled North Korea. Over 100,000 Christians are in labor camps. While little is known about the underground church, we do know that they have survived amidst great suffering. In North Korea it is a serious commitment to claim the name of Christ. Christians in North Korea mean it when they say "Christ is all."

Ways to pray.
  1. Pray for North Korean Christians. Some have escaped North Korea and fled to China, only to feel the pull back into their homeland. If they are caught, death is almost certain. Pray for courage amidst great suffering and fear. Pray that Jesus would be sweet to them and that they would not back down when trials come.
  2. Pray that God would open borders and provide a way in. There are many who are ready to go as soon as borders are open. This does not seem likely.
  3. Pray that God would make a way to bring the Gospel to North Korea. Years of oppression have made some receptive to the message of Jesus.
  4. Pray for the people of North Korea. The majority of them have never even heard the name of Jesus. Not even his name.

Reading about North Korea was sobering. I don't live in a world like that. But my brothers and sister in Christ do, as well as many more who don't even know his name. Though the task of bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to North Korea might seem impossible to us, it is not impossible for God. Let us pray to that end.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God is All I Need

In his book Future Grace, John Piper says that “suffering helps us see that God is all we need.” Before we lost the baby I knew that conceptually, but didn’t fully grasp it. I see things differently now. When the life you want so desperately is taken from you, all you are left with is Christ. Before we got pregnant I thought I “needed” this baby. I wouldn’t have admitted it to you. But all of my actions and talk would reveal a heart that was banking all of my joy on whether or not I could get pregnant quickly. I don’t feel that way anymore. I do desperately want to have another baby. But I don’t “need” a baby like I thought I did. Sadly, it took losing our baby for me to realize the idol having a child had become.

The removal of the “need” for a child doesn’t lessen the pain. It’s been a little over 2 months and I still feel like if I let myself I could cry at any moment. There are still moments where the sadness just will not lift. But each day is better and I am a lot farther along today than I have been every previous day. That is progress.

Like Pastor John says, suffering has a way of purging unnecessary needs from our hearts. It’s true that I don’t need a baby to be complete or whole in Christ. Do I long to know my baby and feel him kick? Of course I do. But I don’t feel the need to control every aspect of my life in order to ensure I have another.

I fully recognize that God did not have to feel near to me during this trial. I know many people who have gone through deep suffering and also felt God’s absence. So it is a mercy of the Lord that we felt him nearer to us than we have ever known before. The resounding theme of our lives right now is that he has not left us. We are grateful for that.

I have been given eyes to see that he is all I need more through this loss than I ever have seen before. There were moments immediately following the miscarriage that I didn’t even know what was going on, but God carried me. Somehow I got up, went to work, and still loved Jesus and my husband at the end of the day. I remember thinking to myself, “this is what it feels like to be carried bythe prayers of the saints.” I truly believe we were.

Jesus is sweeter to me now than he was 2 months ago. Are there days where I wish I could have the sweetness of this fellowship and my baby? Absolutely. But I do know that this is my baby’s legacy in my life. I will be a better wife and mother for it. Our baby’s siblings will hear of the greatness of God from parents who have seen him magnify his glory in their lives. Those things cannot be taken from us. We see Jesus as more valuable and great today because of the brief time we had with our baby.

We love Jesus and each other now more than we did before. We still ache. We still grieve. But by God’s grace, and his grace alone, we can say that all we have is Christ—and he is enough.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reflections on True Woman '10

I just got back from the True Woman ’10 conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. It’s the last of the True Woman conferences for this year and it did not disappoint. I had the privilege of attending the 2008 conference and was blessed just as much this time as I was the last time around. A lot has changed in my life since 2008. I had just started dating Daniel at the last conference. I was still a seminary student. And I was still working for CBMW—which is why I was at the conference. This time I am now married to Daniel, and have been for almost 17 months. I have lost a baby through miscarriage. And I am now a youth pastor’s wife. I don’t know what I would have said to the Courtney 2 years ago, but I do know that who I was at this conference was much different than the last. I cried a lot more. Life is deeper than it was back then. The conference was a blessing to me in so many ways, but for the sake of time and clarity I will just share a few ways I was ministered to at True Woman ’10.

  1. Our need for Jesus. We cannot do this on our own. We need Jesus—desperately. We need him every second of every day to fulfill all that he has called us to as women. He is our rock. Several women said at the conference that we need to be “tethered to Christ.” That is my prayer for myself.
  2. My need to love my Bible more. I can’t follow Jesus if I don’t know what he said and who he is. The Bible is where I meet Jesus and am confronted with my sin. I need to be rooted in God’s word. I need to saturate my mind with his word so I bleed Bible. Susan Hunt said that “wimpy theology makes wimpy women.” Women who know their Bibles won’t have wimpy theology. I want to be a woman who knows my Bible.
  3. I love my husband. I have such a renewed desire to love him, serve him, honor him, and follow him wherever God leads us. I don’t do this well. In fact, I have already failed since I returned. But that’s why I need to be tethered to Christ. But I do love Daniel more today than I did yesterday. He is a joy to come home to.
  4. God has not left us. That thought kept ringing in my ears and heart. I have needed that reminder as we have walked through this loss. He loves me and is for me. Sometimes I say it through weeping. But I have to say it or I will forget. The fact that I could praise him and yearn for more of him during this conference is all grace.
  5. Seeing women growing spiritually. I attended with my mom, her best friend, my sister-in-law and several women from their church. It was so exciting to talk about all that God was teaching us. It was different for everyone and that made it more exciting. God was working in us exactly where we needed him to.
  6. The need for spiritual mothering. I gained a greater passion for nurturing and shepherding the girls in our church. Mary Kassian said that girls today have not been mothered. They need a mother and I want to answer that call—even though I have no idea what I am doing most of the time.
  7. The need for a biblical apologetic for womanhood. This is a term from Susan Hunt. In the pre-conference she talked about how if we do not teach what the Bible says about womanhood we will lose the vision in a generation like so many have done before us. It’s not simply a list of rules to be followed, rather it is to be rooted in God’s word and comes from a heart changed by Christ. We have to be intentional about teaching what God says and not think (wrongly) that our daughters will learn by default. They won’t.
  8. Womanhood is not cookie cutter. It’s so easy to give someone a list and say “follow this.” But that is not what God’s word says. Women need freedom to be who they are in Christ, while still following what God says about their role.
  9. I’m more sinful than I ever realized. Yet, Jesus is greater than my sins. God revealed a lot of sin in my heart during this conference. It’s never fun for that to happen, but I am grateful.
  10. I’m so thankful for my family. Spending time with my mom, sister-in-law, and mom’s best friend was a tremendous encouragement. I am truly a blessed woman. My mom coordinated this entire trip for us and she did a wonderful job!

Thank you Revive Our Hearts for putting on a great conference!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thoughts on Secretariat: What it Means to Be a Woman

Daniel and I went to see the new movie Secretariat yesterday. After seeing the previews for weeks, we were really anticipating this weekend’s release of the movie. And it did not disappoint. Even though we knew the outcome of the story, we still were on the edge of our seats with each horse race. The character development was compelling and the acting was pretty good too. Overall it was a clean movie and worth our time. We would see it again.

However, like all movies, there were some themes to deconstruct as we drove home from the theater. The most obvious for us were the choices of the main character Penny Chenery Tweedy. Granted, I do not know her personally, nor do I know all of the details of this story. So I tread lightly and only with the limited information provided to me by Hollywood. The movie begins with Mrs. Tweedy and her family. She is a wife, mother of four children, and she works in the home—or as they call her in the movie, she is a housewife. That’s not an uncommon profession for late 1960’s America.

In the aftermath of her mother’s death, and in an effort to preserve her father’s legacy, she decides to take over the family horse farm, and specifically help train a horse for racing. This poses a problem. Her family lives in Denver, Colorado. Her parents live in Virginia. Her husband, who is portrayed as a downer to her efforts to save her parent’s legacy, wants her home. He tells her that her family needs her, but she tells him that this is something she needs to do. As the movie progresses we learn that she gave up a career to raise children. This, in her mind, seems to be her chance to make something of herself. To branch out on her own and live her dream. Because of this tension in her own life (family versus dreams) there is conflict between her and her husband throughout the entire movie.

Horse racing was a man's world during this time. But she worked hard to make a name for herself as a woman who knew what she was doing. At the end of the movie, after her horse has made it farther than anyone but her thought, her husband comes to her and essentially said, “you have taught our daughters what it means to be a woman.”

It’s a striking statement. But notice the time period of the movie. Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. The Vietnam War was underway. And the women’s rights movement was going mainstream. Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique was published ten years prior in 1963, asserting that women who were housewives were unfulfilled and trapped. In 1972, Gloria Steinem started Ms. Magazine. Nowhere does the movie imply that Mrs. Tweedy adheres to feminist thinking, but it is interesting that her transformation comes in a time where women across America were attempting to burst out of the supposed drudgery of caring for a family and home.

Her story is not unlike so many stories of women in that time period, and even now. The prevailing thinking being that ultimate fulfillment is in doing what is best for me individually—living my dream. I have heard people say that times are changing again. Instead of wives and mothers wanting to seek fulfillment outside of the home, young moms of my generation are now rebelling against what their mothers did. All this liberation and freedom rhetoric didn’t deliver and they want out. But is it enough to simply rebel against what generations previous did, even if it means more women are staying home?

There has to be something more. Simply rebelling against the radical feminism of past generations will not be enough to sustain us when the culture shifts in fifty years. We shouldn’t want to go back to the days of June Cleaver. We need to go back even farther, to a Garden in the Middle East, when God made Eve and called her a suitable helper for her husband. Without that framework for our marriages and families we will not be able to stand against the culture.

None of this makes sense without the Gospel. Jesus Christ’s work in the life of a woman changes her desires. Without Christ we want to seek our own way. We want to find fulfillment in things that will make much of ourselves. This doesn’t mean we don’t have interests or dreams. Those are good and right things. But once we are in Christ those dreams align with his mission and his purpose for us, and his glory in the world, not ours. Christ’s work in our lives frees us to live with reckless abandon for our husbands, children, friends, and family.

It is certainly true that Mrs. Tweedy by her actions taught her daughters something about being a woman. But if we want God’s good design for women to be proclaimed in our world we need to do more than just teach by our actions. We need to embrace the command in Titus 2:3-5 and teach and train specific things of God, not for our own glory, but for the fame of God’s great name.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Missions Wednesday: Ecuador

Our church has had the opportunity to be involved in sending a family on multiple short-term trips to Ecuador in the past year. Through their faithful effort, we have learned more about the work of Gospel and about the continued need for the Gospel. Ecuador has been in the news in recent days following what seems to have been an attempted coup last week. Instability in the government has been ongoing, with the average government only lasting two years. There is freedom of religion, but the population is heavily Catholic, like much of South America. The strong influence of Catholicism makes advancement of the Gospel difficult, especially in rural areas.

The Gospel has made the most impact among the Quichua people. They are a large Indian tribe who dwell in the jungle. While in 1960 Ecuador had the lowest number of evangelicals in Latin America, this number has grown from .04% to 6.1% in 2000. This is largely due to the advance of the Gospel among the Quichua people. Because of the work of missionaries in the 1950’s, and beyond, nearly all of the small jungle tribes have churches and Bible’s in their language. This was once thought impossible.

Ways to pray:
  1. Pray for the continued work among the jungle tribes. Missionaries face opposition from anthropologists and others who want to hinder their work.
  2. Pray for increased pastoral training. We know of a team that is there now working with Ecuadorian pastors, training them to go back to minister to their congregations.
  3. Pray for the least evangelized. The upper and middle classes have been pretty unresponsive to missionary efforts. The University and school students are the next generation and need continued evangelizing and discipleship. Few Christian workers have invested their lives in the slum-dwellers of Quito and Guayaquil. Pray that they would be awakened to the call to care for the least of these.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Girl and Her Gun

With the advertising of new shows all around us, September and October are pretty good months for checking the temperature of the culture. Networks provide us with a glimpse into the lives of America—or at least their interpretation of American lives.

Last year brought us Modern Family, a show about three families, with the most seemingly stable family being the homosexual couple and their adopted daughter. In years past we have seen a heterosexual woman and homosexual man living together, and the list could go on. One thing is sure, the advent of the fall season will most certainly include gratuitous sex and the pushing of the envelope.

This year, it’s the girl and her gun. At least the Wall Street Journal sees it that way. They posted an article a month ago titled “On TV, a Girl’s Best Friend is Her Gun.” The subtitle of the article is “What Do Women Want on TV? Producers say: Blood and Action.” The point of the article is that women seem to want to see the violence and fighting that tend to be stereotypical of male viewers. But even more than that, they want to see their own sex engage in the violence as well.

The female heroine is nothing new. From Charlie’s Angels to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we have grown accustomed to having women fight evil forces. But maybe the plethora of shows featuring the tough, female protagonist is saying something about what women expect now. The WSJ article sheds some insight, commenting on how women surveyed view the role of men in these new shows:

“They also (the women studied) thought men had gotten wimpier and associated the opposite sex with the bumbling losers played by Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen in recent romantic comedies.”

Women don’t just want Jack Bauer, they want to be Jack Bauer. Gone are the days where the man saved the day, at least in the minds of the women who were studied. It’s a woman’s world now—and she can protect herself and the rest of us.

While none of the women studied blatantly claim feminism—most would probably say they are one. In their minds, it seems only natural that women take up the mantel to fight the evil of this world. If men can, they can too.

It’s not fundamentally wrong for a woman to shoot a gun (I have). Nor is it fundamentally wrong for a woman to own a gun (I have friends who do). But what these shows are saying is that women are now just as much defender and protector as men are, if not more so.

The issue isn’t who should be the most violent. Neither should desire violence. The upcoming fall season is saying something about who women think they are and how they define themselves. They don’t need a man to protect them against the evil forces of this world. They can and will protect themselves—and look pretty while doing it.

The world would have us believe that these things don’t matter, that the fact that women are now portrayed to be just as tough as men is an advancement. But is it?

This is never what God designed. Godly women know when to defend and protect. They understand that there are circumstances that call them to defend those that cannot defend themselves (the unborn, children, and the disabled) and also defend women who are in crisis situations (abuse). But they also know when to lean on the leadership and protection of men. Male protection and provision is not a cultural construct. It was instituted by God. When we deviate from this, problems will inevitable result, as we saw in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve both abdicated their responsibilities.

A girl with a gun might get ratings. And according to the Wall Street Journal, that is a likely possibility. In the end it won’t really keep her safe from the greatest enemy of all—the one waging war against her own soul.

(This blog post is part of a contest to win 2 free conference passes to True Woman in Ft. Worth, Texas. If you would like to enter this contest, go here.)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

True Woman Conference Giveaway!

In a little over a week I will be on my way to the True Woman conference in Fort Worth, Texas. If you aren’t familiar with this conference, it is worth your time to check out. The entire premise of the weekend will be on encouraging the thousands of women in attendance to pursue godly womanhood—biblically defined, true womanhood. In order to promote the conference, True Woman has provided some bloggers with 2 conference passes to giveaway to our blog readers. You, dear reader, have the opportunity to be one such recipient!

What is a “true woman”? What does God say about womanhood? What does true womanhood look like in your life?

I am asking all of you who are reading to send me your responses either as comments on this post or through email, and on Thursday I will announce the winner. The conference will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, so you will have to find a way to get there, and lodging is not provided. But you will get 2 free passes! If you have friends who you think would really want to go, pass this along to them. This contest is for everyone!

I will post some thoughts tomorrow and Tuesday on what I see the culture saying about womanhood, and what God says. Hopefully that will stimulate some thinking!