Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Bible and the Pain of Infertility (a Resource)

I'm pretty sure I have read this article at least five times since I first learned about it a little over a year ago. I have a number of good friends who have read it too, so I know that for some readers this is probably not a new resource. But I have found it extremely helpful. If you are not struggling with infertility yourself, but are close to someone who is, this article provides a clear window into what the infertile person might be feeling and going through.

But what makes this article so good is that it goes even farther than just explaining how infertility makes you feel. It tells who where to go from there, from two people who have been there. It provides a biblical framework for thinking through your infertility, and also provides counsel to those who want to help someone struggling with infertility.

If you have not yet read it, I encourage you to do so. I pray you will be blessed by it just as I have been.

Read it here

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thoughts on the Parade of Nations

Like I said on Friday, I really like the Olympics. While I know there are mixed opinions about the opening ceremonies, it is honestly one of my favorite parts of the games. Yes, it drags on a bit. Yes, it can be difficult to interpret at times. But there is something about the parade of nations that gets me every time. I will most likely never visit the majority of the countries who are represented at the Olympics, but for just a brief moment I get to learn a little about them. And I love that. I love seeing the faces of the people from obscure or underrepresented countries. They are so proud. They are so excited. They appreciate the moment in ways we Americans will probably never realize.

Friday's opening ceremonies made me want to study my map more. It made me want to learn about each country beyond mere sporting events and Olympic grandeur. As I watched each country march into Olympic stadium, I marveled at the God who is so creative to fashion such a beautiful diversity of people all made in his image. He could have made us all look exactly the same. But he didn't. Instead he created races, body types, physical distinctions, and so much more in such a way that he gets greater glory because of it. I'm glad everyone doesn't look like me. It makes me stop and praise our great God in even greater measure because of these beautiful distinctions.

But there is something even more profound that stayed with me from the opening ceremonies. One day every nation will bow not to their country's flag, but to King Jesus. Right now, every country represented wants nothing more than to make their country proud. As they marched into Olympic stadium they were defined by their nationality. Every country represented at the games will proudly display their flag for the duration of the games. While the games do unify the world like no other event, they also separate us in a sense. We are all rooting for our own country over these next seventeen days.

But one day the only thing that will define us is our relation to this coming King. Even affiliation with the greatest country on earth will fade away in light of the amazing glory of Jesus Christ. Jesus is making for himself a people, a new nation, who will worship him forever. As much as we are proud of our country of origin, as Christians, our calling to Christ is much greater.

While every one will bow to the King one day, some will bow by compulsion not worship. The parade of nations is a sobering reminder that many do not yet know this King. It is a reminder that the nations need to hear of this Jesus. And it is a reminder that all pomp, glory, and esteem will one day fade away in the unrelenting splendor of our coming King.

“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
- Revelation 15:3-4

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday is for....the Olympics are coming!

For as long as I can remember, the Olympics have always been a staple of my summer. Every four years everything stops and I am glued to the television, ready to cheer on the great USA. When I was a kid, I had more time to watch because I was home during the summer. Now that I am a teacher, I am back to watching the coverage during the day as well. To say that we are excited would be a huge understatement. We cannot wait!

The Olympics have always signified a big feat in my life. There was a period of time where after every Olympics I would get the "athlete bug" (if that is even possible for someone like me) and decide I, too, wanted to be an Olympian. My parents, the kind souls that they are, would oblige my childhood fantasies and enroll me in whatever sport interested me that particular year. As you probably know by now, I never became an Olympian, not even close. But in the spirit of the games, and for a good laugh this Friday, here is a brief rundown of my attempts at Olympic greatness (if we can even call it that).

The 1992 games

I wanted to be Shannon Miller. What young girl didn't, right? But I was a dreamer and believed that deep down I could do it. So what did I do? I enrolled in gymnastics. That might have lasted longer if I was an obedient child, but alas, I was not. My parents gave me guidelines. Keep your room clean and you can stay in gymnastics. A messy room proved more important than my quest for gold. So I was out. I would never have lasted long anyway. My family is not known for carrying the flexibility gene, and you need to at least be able to touch your toes to be a gymnast. I still can't do that.

The 1996 games

Hormones had now kicked in and my interest in being an Olympian was mostly related to my crush on Gary Hall Jr. Amanda Beard was a year older than me, so I thought if she could do it, so could I. So I joined a swim team. Halfway through the year I wanted to quit, but my parents made me stick with it, mostly due to the fact that I never really stayed with anything. The only person I ever beat in a race was my brother and that's only because I had endurance, not speed. And I definitely didn't win any actual races. Once during practice I hit my head attempting a flip turn and I never got the courage to do one again. That flip turn really does mean seconds in the pool. The closest I got to to an Olympian as a swimmer was staging my own medal ceremony in our family room complete with the national anthem, fake tears, and my brothers' soccer medals. This attempt only lasted a year.

The 2008 games

I graduated high school and went to college in the years following the 1996 games. I gave up on my Olympic dream and found other interests that better suited me. But the 2008 games resurrected that desire for swimming. Maybe it was the fact that the seminary I was attending had an indoor pool that tempted me. Maybe it was the fact that swimming was all the rage last Olympics. Or maybe it was the fact that my Olympic dream didn't really die when I quit that swim team. Trust me, it should have. My roommate (also a former swimmer) and I decided to test our swimming ability during the last Olympic games. So one night we went to the seminary pool, swim caps and all, and tried to see if we still had it in us. Judging from the fact that we nearly drowned, we did not have anything left in us and decided we will leave the Olympic games to the big boys and girls who have worked so hard for this moment.

I never became an Olympian. But like many Americans, I am a big fan. I don't think the games will incite any Olympic dreams for me this time around. I'm almost 30, just started running, and kind of like being the one on the couch cheering them on rather than the one trying to chase some childhood dream. Either way, I say along with the rest of America, "let's go USA!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I Teach and Write

The school that I teach at assigned every teacher a book to read over the summer. One huge benefit of teaching at a Christian school is that they can assign us Christian books to read. We had the option of choosing between two books, so I chose John Piper's Think. When I went to Bethlehem, one of the advantages of being a member was that we received his newest book as a token of appreciation for freeing him to write. I must say, I miss those days. I'm fairly behind on my Pastor John library! So I was really excited to have the opportunity to read Think.

This book made me pray. Hard. As he unpacked the purpose for our thinking and studying I was overwhelmed by the task of teaching young people God's word, and to even write about it on a blog. It's sobering to to think that all of it could be in vain if it does not serve one very distinct purpose--to glorify God. Here is the quote that stood out to me the most, and one that I will go back to over and over again this semester. We are all thinkers and teachers in some capacity. And what we think about and teach to others matters tremendously.

"All branches of learning exist ultimately for the purposes of knowing God, loving God, and loving man through Jesus. And since loving man means ultimately helping him see and savor God in Christ forever, it is profoundly right to say all thinking, all learning, all education, and all research is for the sake of knowing God, loving God, and showing God."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I Want it All

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not women can have it all, and by all people usually mean work full time as a mother. But all this talk about what a woman can or cannot do in her various seasons of life can be applied to any age, any marital status, and any amount of children in the home. A recent Forbes article states that young women today don’t feel as inclined towards leadership because of fear of failure. They have been told their entire lives that they can have it all, and unfortunately they have heard that they must be it all. The author says:
“The recent debate over ‘having it all’ underscores the pressure women put themselves under to perfectly excel in all conceivable areas of our lives.”

I’m sure we can all relate at some level.

We see a woman work a forty-hour work week, serve her church with gusto, and still get a decent meal on the table nearly every night, and then feel like a failure when we burst into tears just trying to boil water at the end of a full day of work. “If she can do it all, why can’t I?” we wonder silently. So we work harder. Try to do more.

Or maybe you have kids, and you see a mom whose kids are always clean, always happy, and always eating the healthiest food. Yet you consider getting a shower before 3pm a tremendous accomplishment in the midst of your busy days with toddlers. Are you doing enough?

To make it more personal (at least for me), you see a writer who can crank out multiple life-changing articles a week, while you are still struggling to finish the one that’s due tomorrow. Why can’t you do more for the kingdom?

The real issue is not so much about doing it all, as it is about being faithful with what is in front of you. A lot could be said about the wisdom of trying to be all things to all people, but that is another post for another day. More than anything, this pressure to have it all and still have a smile on your face at the end of the day is often self-made pressure rooted in unhelpful comparison.

One thing that has taken me a long time to figure out is that all of us have limitations and thresholds. They vary from person to person, and even from season to season, but they are there. There are things that I cannot do if I have too much on my plate. To some people, I might look like I am doing it all. To others I might look like a complete failure. The point is that we are all called to faithfulness with what we have been given. God has created some people with remarkable energy levels. They can accomplish a lot in a day. You probably know some of them. But he has also created some with lesser energy levels. Both types of people are useful in God’s economy. He has created some people with an incredible capacity for efficiency in a short period of time. Yet others take longer to complete a task. Both are fruitful people in their season and capacity level.

The demands of “having it all” that we place on ourselves as women are not simply relegated to the feminist conversations or the corporate boardrooms. They are warring in our own soul every day when we see the tasks set before us.

The only hope for us in the vicious quest to have it all is to recognize that we cannot have it all, not even in the slightest. There will always be more things to do, more meals to make, more square feet to clean, more articles to write, more business deals to make, and the list could go on. The only one who ever gets his to-do list done is God. And the only one who ever perfectly completed every task every set before him on this earth is his son, Jesus. And you know what? He is sitting down now. Which means we can, too. Jesus ensures that our endless pursuit of the next thing does not have to be our destiny. Jesus ensures that our striving to have it all does not have to rule us. And he ensures that our sinful comparison of our life to the woman standing next to us will have no dominion over us.

When we face another day of not being able to have all we wish for, we must look to Jesus. He did it all for us, so we don’t have to be a slave to our work, whatever that work might be. We can live each day in freedom, knowing that God is well pleased with us because he is well pleased with his son, Jesus. We can do our work with joy, and not anxiety, because we know that our ultimate fulfillment is found not in the praise of men but the praise of God.

Women can’t really have it all, any more than men can. It’s all an illusion. Only one person has ever had it all, and he gives it freely to us if we simply rest in him.

Monday, July 23, 2012

God is On His Own Timetable

True confession: I am an impatient person living in an impatient age. This does not work well when I stop to realize that God’s timetable is often much different than mine. Immediate for him is not immediate for me. For God a day is like a thousand years. That’s a long time for a person who wants things to happen in minutes, not millennia. And I don’t think I am alone in my desire for the immediate. In this digital age, our impatience is even more pronounced. We get news, status updates, pictures, videos, and e-mails all with the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. When the drive-thru line is too long, we just go to the McDonalds across the street. We are not accustomed to waiting long in this world we live in.

Our friends in the Old Testament had a hard time waiting as well. Granted, the pace of life was much slower, but this lack of patience, this need for immediate results (especially from God) is in our bones. While we all know that his promises are true and right, we often don’t understand why he doesn’t fulfill them right away or at least shortly after the promises are made. Eve hoped that the birth of her first child meant God’s promise was coming true right before her eyes (Genesis 4:1). Sarah used her servant Hagar to provide an offspring for Abraham because she eventually grew restless waiting on God to fulfill his promise of a child for them (Genesis 16:1-3). The Israelites made a golden calf to worship because they grew weary of waiting on God to speak to them (Exodus 32). The nation of Israel demanded a king when God had promised them that he would be their king (1 Samuel 16).

God’s timetable for fulfilling his promises looks very different than ours. And it is always good. In the waiting God is preparing us for a greater glory and joy than we would never have had without the wait.

We all know the example of the spoiled kid who gets everything he wants when he wants it. Where is his joy in the gifts his parents give him? Where is his appreciation? Where is his love for his parents and delight in them as good gift givers? It’s not there. The immediacy of his every desire being met produces a thankless, spoiled child.

God will have no spoiled children. He knows that in our waiting, in our longing, and in our cries for help that he is preparing for us a greater joy that could never have been attained without the longing. But more importantly, he knows that his timetable is always good and always glorifies his name in the end. He is the one who holds all histories together, including ours. He is the author of every story. We only know our personal experience. He knows the greater picture. This is why we can trust him. His knowledge is infinite. Ours is finite.

My husband read me this post from Desiring God this weekend. Jon Bloom consistently writes stuff that encourages my soul. I have often read his posts through tears, thanking God that he gave me exactly what I needed in those words. This post was no different. Whatever your wait is this morning, I hope it encourages you:

“God is not deaf to your groaning prayers, the ones that come from the core of your being (Romans 8:26). He knows your deep longings, your desires for his kingdom to come, your yearnings to be “set free from [creation’s] bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). He is coming to fulfill every righteous desire beyond your wildest imaginings.

But “the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40). This is his way and his timing is often mysterious to us. But he knows what he’s doing and by employing the element of surprise in glorious purposes he humbles human pride, catches Satan off-guard (Luke 12:39), and, wonderfully, heightens our joy when the answers come.

So keep praying and cultivate patient, long-suffering faith. There will be a day when you find him unexpectedly at the well of your deepest thirst.”

Read the rest of the post here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Book Review

As a marriage and family teacher, I am always looking for helpful resources on a biblical understanding of marriage, purity, and sex. That's why I was really excited when I learned about this new book by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas, Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach.

I found myself saying "Yes!" out loud on a number of occasions as I read this book. And I could hardly put it down. Young people today are immersed in a faulty understanding of sex and relationships. The authors understand this and seek to counter that with more than what has been offered in the past. They say:

"Many Christian singles today lack a clear, biblical vision for sexual purity and relationships that extends beyond a truncated 'don't have sex' concept of purity" (11).

The entire book goes much farther than this age old mantra by first giving a biblical framework for our understanding of sex and purity, namely that God's plan for creating sex was to image the spiritual oneness between Christ and the Church (27). Everything God does relates to his image. He wants to be shown forth rightly in this world. And our responsibility as image bearers is to obey his commands. When we engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, we are actually telling a lie about our Creator we were made to image. And he owns the image, meaning he gets to tell us how he wants us to image him. This foundation profoundly shapes the way we talk about sex and purity with today's young people.

From there they talk about why the "how far?" question is insufficient, and then lay some principles for thinking through male/female relationships. Perhaps the most helpful thing they do is define biblically what those relationships are to be. The Bible only gives three categories for male/female relationships: family, neighbor, marriage. Only one of those relationships is permitted (and even commanded) to engage in sexual activity--the marriage relationship. This means that if you wouldn't do it with your neighbor or your brother or sister, you should not do it with your girlfriend or boyfriend. The question "how far is too far?" suddenly becomes irrelevant, or at least more serious. They provide some really helpful comments on the actual lack of commitment that comes with dating relationships, calling it a "mirage". While marriage is a covenant that should guarantee commitment, dating is not, and the other party is allowed to leave at any time with no real consequences, essentially exposing the real dangers inherent in a dating relationship. I found these distinctions extremely helpful in thinking through how I teach these things to my students.

Their chapters on a new definition of dating are sure to be the most controversial with people, but I think they are on to something. They propose a new category of relationships for singles called "dating friendships". These relationships are designed to be intentional in the same way others have talked about biblical dating, but the only difference is that the relationships also includes a level of romantic purity designed to protect both parties from becoming too emotionally attached too soon. Essentially, in a dating friendship both parties would grow as friends with their eye on marriage, but they would not view the other as uniquely there own until engagement. They take their cues from the relationship between Christ and the Church. He only has one Bride, one relationship, and one love, and that is his Church. Focusing on getting to know one another serves one purpose: is this person someone I could (and want to) marry? If so, the man proposes and the couple gets married. Our modern dating culture assumes that romance and dating (and sometimes sexual activity) is necessary for finding a spouse. But the authors present a very clear, albeit counter-cultural, approach that could save a lot of young people from unnecessary heartache. And I would imagine it would expedite a lot of weddings, too.

My only critique of the book was regarding their brief discussion regarding masturbation and other areas of the purity debate. They provide a helpful framework for thinking through such things, especially linking our actions to our motives and our heart. But at one point, in an attempt to encourage those who have stumbled into sexual sin, they say that we should not wallow in guilt over our failure in the area of lust and masturbation (123). While it is true that in Christ we are no longer guilty, and that guilt can be an unhealthy obstacle to joy in Christ and his finished work. Sometimes guilt is a good thing if it causes us to see hidden sin in our lives and drives us to repentance and faith. Especially in the arena of sexual purity there are some instances where the guilt is healthy and necessary for a person to begin the process of change. This section would have been served by such a clarification.

Overall, I loved this book. In fact, I'm thinking of using in my class this semester and at some point integrating it into my curriculum as required reading. It is counter-cultural, but if we are going to make any headway in this problem if sexual impurity in our churches we are going to need to do something radical, like go back to the Bible and see what God says. This is what the authors set out to do, and I think they do it very well. If you work with singles of all ages, this book is worth your time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trusting What a List Can't Tell You

In college I had a list. You probably know the one I’m talking about. It was the list. The list that promised me I could (and would) find the man of my dreams. The list that held every quality I desired in a husband. The list that I tucked away for that special day—the day I met him and we lived happily ever after.

I remember exactly where I was when I made that list. Over dinner with girlfriends we carefully crafted our lists. We talked through a variety of qualities, goals, and personality traits from the necessity of humor to ministry aspirations. The list was long and broad even down to the color of his hair. I liked brown hair.

But what my 21-year-old self failed to realize at that moment, and in the passing years, was that over time my list slowly began to look like a male version of me. In my feeble mind, the perfect man was everything I was, only he carried a Y chromosome. He needed to be serious, but not too serious. He needed to be a deep thinker, but not too deep. He needed to be a stronger personality than me (and I defined what strong looked like). He needed to be this and that…and the list went on. Every guy I met in those early days was subject to the list. If he didn’t meet the requirements, he didn’t get very far with me. In my mind, my list was infallible, a sort of “word from the Lord.” I heard stories of women who met their husbands, and then after checking him against the list realized that he met every bullet point. I wanted that to be my story, too. And that was my problem.

You see, a list might tell you what you want. But it might not always tell you what you need. This is where God comes in.

Tim Keller, in his excellent book The Meaning of Marriage, says that marriage is ultimately about our holiness, not our happiness. Yes, marriage makes us happy. But it also is one of the God-ordained means that we grow in godliness.

If the purpose of marriage is to make us perfectly happy, then maybe the list could work. But that's not what marriage is for, as Keller says. My husband is exactly who I didn't know I needed. And my life is better because of him. When he proposed to me, I hardly knew him. We had only been dating for a few short months. I knew some important things about him, like the fact that he was a Christian, a leader, and a godly man. But besides that, there were some things about him that I thought weren’t exactly on my list. Yet, there was something about him that drew me to him and made me desire to follow him and be with him. In the bliss and hype of planning a wedding I put my expectations aside and accepted all of him. Unfortunately, after we got married those dormant expectations came out with a vengeance. While there were some “list” qualities that didn’t emerge until after we were married (like his humor), there were some irrelevant ones that were simply absent. And I did not always respond well to their absence.

I did not fully understand that my husband was given to me by God as a gift. When God created both of us, he knew what the other would need. When I learned to get over my preconceived expectations and started embracing him for the God-given husband that he is, I noticed something about myself. Not only was I growing in godliness, but I was happier as well.

Keller also says that we need to spend more time focusing on being the right person, instead of finding the right person. Basically, we need to spend more time focusing on ourselves than on the endless quest for Mr. or Miss Right. Instead of honing in on a list of expectations that no person can ever adequately meet, stick to the essentials and grow as a believer first. So I guess what I’m saying is throw out the list (or at least pare it down), and get to work. Grow in godliness. Grow as a Christian. Grow as a committed church member. Those things will serve you far more in your quest for finding that special someone than perfecting your list.

I wish I had spent more time on the above than dreaming about a list before I got married. I needed to trust what I list could never tell me, essentially that God perfectly created my husband for my good and my sanctification. God is in the business of making marriages and sustaining them. And while my husband does possess some qualities of that list I made all those years ago (at least the ones I can remember), he has a lot of other really good ones I never thought about. And yes, he does have brown hair.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lessons from Unanswered Prayers

I have said it before on this blog, and the Lord keeps bringing me back to it. The psalms are filled with tremendous encouragement and hope for the weary Christian. In them we find honest human emotion: joy, pain, sorrow, happiness, and the like. There is something for everyone in the psalms. In the last few years I have repeatedly gone back to this precious book. I have found encouragement, hope, comfort, and peace from God through these inspired writers.

Psalm 13 is such a psalm. Essentially, it is the cry of one who faces unanswered prayers. This psalm is so short, yet so powerful. It begins with an honest question:

“How long, O Lord?”

It's almost like he couldn't even complete the request. All he could get out was this pleading phrase, "How long?" David is begging God for relief from suffering, from isolation, and from his enemies. This is a very real circumstance. It’s not hypothetical. David feels forgotten, abandoned, and alone. So he cries out to God for deliverance.

David faces two forms of attack: mental and physical. In the mental attack he is barraged with feelings of abandonment from God. In the physical attack his enemies threaten to rejoice over his perceived defeat. David faces suffering on all fronts and so he cries out to God for relief.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever, in the quiet corners of your house, screamed this very question “How long, O Lord?” You can almost hear David’s pain in the words. And yet, his words imply something deep and profound about God. God is the one who has given him this trial. God is the one who has caused his sorrow. God is the one who has hidden his face, even if only for a moment. And by his very plea, David is showing that he believes that this God has the power to change it all.

Sometimes that is where it is hardest to trust. We believe that God is sovereign. We believe that God can change our circumstance. But by his silence he is showing us that relief is not his plan for us. We can learn a lot from David here. After recounting his trials the psalm takes a dramatic turn towards hope.

And then the most important words appear. Such simple words leads to such an important claim.

“But I have trusted in your steadfast love.”

What is David’s hope in his despair and longing? It is remembering and trusting in the God who loves him and is always for his good. Notice that David’s circumstances have not necessarily changed. God may or may not given him the exact answer he was looking for. Regardless, David responds proactively to his pain and despair. This is the same hope for us.

What do you do when the answer does not come like you hope or relief is a distant dream? Here are two implications from verses 5-6.

  1. Trust in God and his character. Sometimes we cannot see that he is good and does good for us. Life is hard and painful. It does not always feel good. This is where trust comes in. This is where remembering that God is a good, compassionate, loving, and merciful God is a bedrock of hope for us. We must cling to this when we cannot see the good with our eyes.
  2. Worship him for all he has done. Even when the answer does not come, or is less than what you hoped for, there are a thousand good blessings he has already bestowed on you in this season. Some you can see. Some you cannot. But they are there and he is worthy of our worship for them.
There are a million reasons why I am thankful for the Bible. One of them is that through it I can see that my experience is not an isolated one. There are saints who have gone before me. God has shown himself faithful time and time again. And he is worthy of my trust. While I may cry out "how long, O Lord?" I can trust that regardless of the outcome I have an answer to this burning question. His steadfast love never ceases and he is always for my good.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday is for Food: Ranch Cheeseburgers

My husband could eat cheeseburgers at least once a week. He LOVES them! I love a good burger, so I don't mind meeting this food need of his either. Lately, I have been experimenting with them. I have tried a couple of different options based on burgers we have had at restaurants or ideas from friends. This one, so far, has been my favorite.

What you need:
  • 1 1b. ground beef
  • 1 packet of Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
  • 4 slices of Monterrey Jack cheese (or whatever cheese sounds good to you)
  • French friend onions
  • Hamburger buns
  • Mix ranch mix in with the ground beef, form into four hamburger patties
  • Fold the cheese slices into the patties, reform the meat into hamburger patties (you want the cheese stuffed inside)
  • Grill until they are done
  • While they are grilling, butter the inside of your hamburger buns and lightly brown them in a pan
  • Once the burgers are done, top with french fried onions and your desired condiments. We put barbeque sauce on ours to give them some added flavor.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Does it Mean to Be "Pro-Woman"?

There is a lot swirling around in the media these days about whether political candidates are “pro-woman.” So much so that some of even labeled this political season as being about the “war on women.” And honestly, it’s hard to decipher what is true and what is for show. Who really cares about women? What about their personal lives? Does it matter if they have been unfaithful? These are questions go back much farther than just this political race.

Unfortunately, in our culture the litmus test for being pro-woman is a stellar voting record for things like healthcare (i.e. abortion rights), equal pay, and the like. It doesn’t matter that they cheat on their wives or use women for sex. Or does it?

In God’s economy being pro-woman means a lot more than checking “yes” on a voting ballot or raising your hand in affirmation on the Senate floor. Anyone can do that. Being pro-woman means first embracing women as equals, namely treating them as such. And it’s hard to treat a woman as an equal when you only talk to her when you want your sexual needs met. Then she’s not an equal, she’s a commodity.

To value women means seeing them as important in every stage of life, from conception to death. To value women means loving one woman faithfully in the covenant of marriage for a lifetime. To value women means refusing to capitulate to a culture that sees plastic as beautiful.

We can talk about women’s rights all day without really ever getting to the heart of the matter. I’m thankful that I can vote. I’m thankful that I can own property if I want to. I’m thankful that I get paid the same as my male counterparts at school. I’m thankful for the education I have received. But in all honesty, I feel the most valued within the four walls of my house. Within God’s good design he created men, women, and marriage with a plan and a purpose. And there is no place that I am more loved and appreciated than when my husband treats me as his equal, his friend, and his partner for a lifetime.

Political ideologies don’t make anyone pro-woman. The real test of whether a man values a woman is seen in the trenches of everyday life, not in stump speeches and ad campaigns. The pro-woman rhetoric we hear daily on the news is just that—empty words.

If you want to know if a man is pro-woman look no further than his own household. Paul knew this clearly when he told Timothy that a man who fails to provide for his family was worse than an unbeliever, and while it is impossible for a man to truly live this out if he is not a believer, God’s standard is still his standard. He is the creator of both men and women, and he gets to decide how we live. This is the litmus test for his beliefs on women. This is how we know if he values the fairer sex. It is only in the daily sacrifice and servant leadership displayed in quiet corners of his sphere of influence that we can truly know if he is pro-woman.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Surprising Encouragement (at least for me!)

One of the main reasons I enjoy running in the morning is the fact that I can usually make my way through a sermon over the course of my run. It's primarily owing to how slow I run, which is more of a jog than a run. But it serves my soul. I like morning, but I also find that it is in the morning where the greatest battle for my joy happens. I can go to bed feeling pretty good about the next day, and wake up completely discouraged. And all I did was sleep! It is in these dark moments that I have experienced God's kindness through the preaching of his word. I have had my entire perspective change because God showed up in those short 45 minutes and ministered to my weary soul. I have learned to like running (and that is a feat for someone like me), but more than anything I have learned more about my Savior. And for that I am thankful.

Yesterday, I started listening to a biography of Charles Spurgeon given by John Piper at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. I almost didn't listen to it. I was in a strange mood and didn't think a message about being a pastor would pertain to me. God knew exactly what I needed yesterday (and today), and I'm so glad I listened.

The entire message is worth listening to, but a few things struck me about this great man's life.
  1. His love for God's people and God's word. I want that to be my legacy.
  2. His trust in God in the midst of lifelong suffering, and his embrace of this suffering as a blessing from God meant to make him more like Christ.
  3. His exhortations to fight the temptation to compare our lives to those around us.
These are all big things I'm working through in my own life right now, so I was greatly encouraged by this saint who has walked before me. Another piece of information that I was not aware of before I listened to this message was about his family. His wife, Susannah, gave birth to their twin sons early in their marriage and then never had another child. Her infertility was unexplained, and after trying a new procedure to try to alleviate her barrenness she was rendered an invalid for the remainder of her life. She continued to serve him for the rest of his ministry even though she faced tremendous suffering. I am looking forward to reading more about her.

If you are looking for some encouragement in your walk with the Lord today, listen to this message. It will encourage you and give you hope that our God is faithful to sustain you and keep you to the end.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Help a Younger Sister Out

Before I got married, and shortly after, I was regularly told by older couples to enjoy the happy moments of wedded bless because it won’t last. One couple even told us that after we had been married as long as they had (three years) all the excitement would wane and we would be just another married couple like them, hardly touching, bickering constantly, and doing our own separate things.
I don’t think we were alone. I know a number of other young couples, parents-to-be, and wives who have heard similar pieces of advice from other well-meaning older people. While there is a balance to giving a realistic understanding of marriage for young couples, there is a point where realism turns into fatalism and then we are left wondering why all the young people don’t want to get married anymore.

Marriage is tainted by sin, there is no denying that. But marriage is not bad, boring, and a chore. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. As a younger woman, speaking on behalf of younger women everywhere, I have a simple request to older women who are reading. Can you help us?

We want to believe that marriage is better than the alternative. We want to believe that the day we say “I do” is not the final stamp on the good life. We want to believe that children won’t ruin our bodies, aspirations, marriages, and sex lives. Yes, we want reality. But we want to know that there is at least some hope of going up from here, not down. We want to know that when we read in the Bible that he has a plan for marriage and family and that it means good things in our life now, and that we will enjoy fulfillment in living out our design as women.

The culture tells us that fun relationships, good sex, and dreams only happen for those who are single with no kids. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the church tell us the same thing for those who are young married couples with no kids. A lot of us have heard “enjoy your marriage now before you have kids,” or “someday you won’t like him as much as you do now.”

But I imagine this is hardly what Paul had in mind when he told Titus to have the older women teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children, among other things. Older women have a unique and God-ordained opportunity to teach good things to the next generation, and one of them pertains to their marriage and family. There is a reason Paul tells Titus specifically to have the older women teach these things. Unfortunately, loving my husband and (future) children does not come naturally. I am a sinner. Older women have a unique ability to help younger women in this calling because they have lived it. They have lived through the hardship, sleepless nights, fights, financial struggles, misunderstandings, and lack of feelings. They know what it feels like to have the feelings fade for their husband. They know what it feels like when God works in their marriage and restores it tenfold. They have perspective. And that is what we are desperate to see in the older women around us.

And there is a point to all of this—that the word of God would not be reviled. When older women fail to teach younger women the ways of God the world looks more attractive, and God’s plan for marriages looks like pure boredom. But when older women teach what is good to the younger women in their lives, God is glorified and we are strengthened.

If you are an older woman passing on these truths to the next generation, I praise God for you. We need you, we celebrate you, and we want to be like you someday. We younger women need help to get to the finish line of this journey before us. And we can’t do it without bold, older women teaching us that all this messy stuff is good and worth it, and one day it will come out as gold.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday is for Food: Grilled Chicken with Tomatoes

This is a variation of a meal I had at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Daniel likes to describe it as an "explosion of flavors in his mouth." That's what he says when he really like something! It is simple, fast, and you don't have to use your oven. These are all wins for me considering that it has been over 100 degrees nearly every day for the last two weeks. So here it is. Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken with Tomatoes

What you need:

-2 chicken breasts
- 1 can of diced tomatoes (or diced fresh tomatoes if you want)
- Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian marinade/dressing
- 2 slices of Monterrey Jack Cheese
- 1 avocado, sliced


- Marinade chicken in the dressing for a few hours or overnight
- Heat grill to medium high heat and grill the chicken until done
- Towards the end of the grilling, add the cheese so it melts
- Remove chicken from grill, top with tomatoes and avocado

And there it is. So simple, yet so delicious! We had ours with bread and a vegetable, but you could do anything for a side, really.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I Can Do All Things

Like most teenagers I made frequent trips to the orthodontist over the course of a couple of years. My teeth were definitely a piece of work, so I saw my orthodontist regularly. He was a Christian, so it was not uncommon to hear the local Christian radio station playing in the background, or see Bible verses and posters plastered on the walls. And while I would wait in the chair for him to do his work, unable to do much of anything because my mouth was screwed open, I would stare at the posters. At the time I was not a Christian, so even though I was the child of Christians, the verses meant very little to me. But one in particular stands out clearly in my mind.

Philippians 4:13.

We all know it. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” It’s the go-to verse for everyone wanting to do something big. Flip through a high school yearbook and you will probably find this verse listed as the Christian student’s favorite quote. While watching the Olympic Track and Field trials I even heard some athletes allude to this truth as their recipe for success.

But is that what Paul is talking about? Is he simply giving us the promise that anytime we face a challenge we can just look to Christ and he will help us get through it? I think not. Jesus is not simply a deified good luck charm. And to imply otherwise is missing Paul’s point completely.

To understand what Paul is getting at we have to look at the entire context of Philippians 4. He has just finished encouraging the Philippians to not be anxious and turn to God in moments of fear and anxiety (vs. 5-7). He reminds them of what it looks like to live as a Christian (vs. 8-9). In verses 10-13 he uses all of this as background to let them in on a secret—even in the midst of suffering and trial we can be content in Christ alone.

Paul is saying that we can face any circumstance, trial, or pain knowing that our strength comes from Christ. How comforting is that?!? Some circumstances take every ounce of strength out of you.  Here we have the promise that Christ will supply every need we have, including the strength to endure to the end.

This is why we can present our requests to God. This is why we can focus on true, honorable, excellent, and praiseworthy things. This is why we can praise Christ even when the storm is raging around us. Our strength comes from the God of all who has promised to preserve and complete the work he started in us (Philippians 1:6).

So whatever your lot is today, you can know this, my sister. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. You can face another round of painful medication. You can spend all your energy on a rebellious toddler and sleepless baby. You can face an uncertain pregnancy or infertility. You can love your husband even when he is unlovable. You can serve your church even though you are exhausted and depleted. But not because you possess some supernatural ability to do it all and still look pretty, too. The Lord knows you can’t. And that is why he has promised to supply every need, every necessary grace, and every ounce of strength to do the things he has called you to today. He is faithful. He will surely do it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

My First Live Radio Interview

Last Friday, I was interviewed by a Christian radio station in California about my most recent post on Her.meneutics, "Why Jesus is Not Your Boyfriend." I had never been on live radio before and was honored to be asked. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect. But Joe Pursch (the man who interviewed me) was kind, and the callers were gracious and encouraging.

What I wanted to convey in the article, and in the interview, was that a humanized understanding of Christ is actually quite dangerous for men and women. As Christians, we all should be passionate about the Lord, but we must never allow that passion to be confused with romantic passion. And we must never, either intentionally or unintentionally, create a Christ in our own image, namely the image of a special friend who meets our deep desires for a significant other. Pursch asked me how single women can protect themselves from having a faulty Christology, and the answer I gave is true for so many issues we face as believers. We must immerse ourselves in God's word through personal study and the preaching in our local congregations.

I said a lot more (the interview was almost an hour long!), so if you are interested you can follow this link. It is the June 29th podcast and my interview starts at the second hour of the program.