Faith · Parenting & Family

To Garrett, on Your 5th Birthday

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Sweet 5 year old boy:

I don’t want to turn your day into my day, forcing you to relive my memories, but it’s hard not to stare into today and see back in time to the waiting, the laboring, the fear.

You were a full nine days later than I thought you’d be, but you came screaming into the world, louder than your 16-month-old big brother ever was, and hungrier for what I could give you.

I didn’t know what to do with you those first weeks, when you wouldn’t let me put you down for even a second. You emptied me out with your desperate need for me and filled me back up the same way. Even from those very first days you were you. Five years later, you still scream loud, and still want my arms.

Last night you crawled into my bed; it had been a long time since you’d last done that. And though on any other night, I would have resisted the idea of even a moment’s lost sleep, last night, on the verge of your fifth birthday, I couldn’t help but be thankful for this fleeting chance to hold my four-year-old one last time. Against my body, I tucked yours, that body that’s small for four, let alone five, but still so impossibly big for the tiny baby that was still inside me five years ago this night, that tiny baby that I sometimes still see in you.

How can it be five years already?

I know they happened one day at a time. And even though nostalgia fogs my memory, I’m not going to sit here and say that they were all wonderful. There a lot of those days that I wouldn’t want to go back and revisit, and so many that I wish I could do again differently.

But I am thankful for all 1,825 days you’ve been here, because all of them are like raindrops, small but many, carving out the riverbed of the mom I’m meant to be.

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It’s hard, this carving. I don’t miss days on my knees outside your bedroom door when neither of you would nap and I begged the Lord for wisdom: mercy or discipline?

It’s a daily remaking; the choice to get up off the couch one more time for one more kiss, to bite my tongue at the accusations that are rising up in my throat, to wrestle my angry face back into a patient one before I look at you and respond. And to repent over and over again when I get it wrong and ignore and accuse and give my anger a foothold.

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We sit at the table for breakfast again, and again go over those words that I hope are beginning to be burned into your soul: “Your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord” (2 Kings 22:19).

I think about all the times I’ve kneeled myself low to lift you up, and how the day is coming soon when your legs will grow long like your brother’s, and I’ll pick you up and set you down for the very last time.

And if I could wish anything for your birthday today, it is that you would know this: that the path to greatness is not in the reaching high, but in the kneeling low. It is that kneeling, the submission of my needs to yours, that has been my greatest remaking.

It’s what makes motherhood both so hard and so wonderful, because it’s where we meet Jesus.

Jesus, who emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, ESV).

He has given so much more than we ever will, son. And someday when we see Christ in His glory, these verses go on to tell us, every knee will bow before Him. For now, we have the privilege of choosing.

It’s lesson I’ve been learning all these wonderful five years: we get to choose to kneel. It’s a hard choice, sometimes, but it’s always the right one.

Choose to kneel, Garrett, and you will be unstoppable.

Books & Reading

What I’ve Been Reading

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of a story.

Jesus often taught in parables, of course, but I’ve also been considering the words of the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan goes, sent by the Lord, to David to confront him about his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. But instead of simply telling David he sinned, Nathan tells a story. When David is outraged over the rich man who stole the poor man’s sheep, Nathan turns the tables on him and says, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7).

That is what a good story, true or fiction, can do for us – it can hold up a mirror to our lives and help us see ourselves as we really are. In fact, sometimes, a story can do this better than an outright sermon, because we don’t have our defenses up. When we think we are looking at someone else’s life, and their faults, we are freer to examine our own than when we are bracing for confrontation.

I shared a couple of weeks ago about a book that did exactly that for me, a wonderful story called Hind’s Feet on High Places. But I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of other fantastic stories recently, and I thought I’d share a few with you this morning.

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7 Women, Eric Metaxes

Eric Metaxes is known for, among other things, a couple of very long biographies. I checked out his book about Dietrich Bonhoeffer when it first came out, and had high ambitions to read it, but it was about a thousand pages (not an exaggeration) and after a chapter or two, I knew I just couldn’t do it.

But this little book profiles seven different women in under 300 pages – much more doable. Each chapter is its own little biography, and each stands alone, so if there’s someone you’re not particularly interested in, you can totally skip to the next one.

However, do not skip the introduction. He talks about why he chose the women he wrote about, and why women like Joan of Arc and Rosa Parks were able to accomplish what they did. “There are things men can and should do that women cannot, and there are things women can and should do that men cannot… So when men cease to be such or women deny their uniqueness, they make that complementarity impossible, and the whole, as it were, suffers.”

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First Impressions, by Charlie Lovett

If you love Jane Austen, or mysteries involving old books and used bookshops, this book is definitely for you. It was a fun, easy-to-read story, perfect for a long weekend or rainy day.

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A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

This book – I had no idea how much I would love it. I think I read it once before, in junior high, but this time I read through the entire quintet of books. Each book is very different, but they are all good. I just finished the final book, An Acceptable Time, last night, and have enjoyed the whole series immensely.

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Bread and Wine, Shauna Niequist

This was also a reread for me, but a very timely one. In the book, among other things, Shauna talks about her husband’s health struggles, and her struggles to help him as he had to change his diet for his health. Reading about his journey was especially timely for me, and the recipes included throughout were exactly what I needed – wholesome and full of real-food ingredients, but delicious and soul-filling at the same time. Several are gluten-free and dairy-free, too.

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Happiness for Beginners, Katherine Center

I think this is Katherine Center’s best book yet. (I’ve read two others of hers, Everyone is Beautiful and The Lost Husband). I love her writing style and characters in general, but the main setting of this book is a weeks-long hike through the mountains. Jason and I hope to one day take the boys on backpacking trips like the one described in this book, so I loved all the details she included about hiking and camping. And this may have positively influenced my opinion of this book, but I took it with us on our first camp out of the year, and read it by the fire while Jason and the boys were fishing. It was so easy to imagine myself in the book.

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Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Some friends of mine from work just started a book club, and this was what we read for our second meeting. I discovered about halfway through, to my disappointment, that my much-beloved antique copy of this book is abridged, so I have this copy on my Christmas list. Despite having the abridged copy, though, I thoroughly enjoyed rereading this book.

The last time I read it, I was in college, and related most to Jo and Amy, setting off on their adventures. This time, I saw so much more of myself in Meg and Marmee. I love books like this that only get richer with each reading. And I can’t wait to read an unabridged copy and find out what I’ve been missing! (Also, after you read it, watch this movie version, one of my all-time favorite films.)

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After You, Jojo Moyes

(WARNING: major spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read Me Before You, turn back now!)

I was hesitant to read this book, (a sequel) because I disliked the first book, Me Before You, so much. I was in a rough place emotionally when I read it, and we had just put our dog to sleep a couple days earlier. The whole time I was reading, I was just sure the ending would turn out on the side of hope and life, so when Will decides to go ahead with his assisted suicide, I was heartbroken, discouraged, and sorry that I had wasted all my vacation reading time and so much emotional energy on a story that left me so disappointed. But the sequel – it was exactly everything I wished Me Before You had been. And if, unlike me, you liked the first book, you’ll like this one, too, I think.


Those are the books I’ve been loving lately. If you want more book recommendations, I’ve been trying to share more of books I’m excited about on Instagram, and you can always see everything I’m reading on Goodreads.

Happy reading!

Homeschooling

Why We are Homeschooling This Year (and How That’s Helping Me Live by Faith)

What does it really mean to have faith?

I’ve been wrestling with this question lately, as Jason and I have been thrust into a season that requires a lot more of it than we have ever needed before. In my head, I know that God is more than able to take care of us. But my heart is afraid of doing the brave work of stepping out before I can see the entire picture of our future.

So when God began to speak to me last spring about homeschooling Caleb, our oldest son, I mostly kept it quiet. I knew it was the voice of the Lord, and yet, I was hoping that He would also give us answers to all the other questions we were asking, like “where will we work? Where will we live? Where will we go to church?”

Truthfully, what I wanted was to avoid having to stand on faith, and admit out loud these wild, reckless ways in which God was leading us. I wanted to be able to say, “Well, Jason got this job in Timbuktu, so sorry Ozark Schools, but we won’t be back next year, and since we don’t speak Timbuktu-ese, obviously we will be homeschooling.”

Instead of simply admitting what God was doing in my heart, and seeking him for more guidance, I did what I do best when I don’t feel like I have enough control: I threw myself into researching different homeschooling methods to the point of obsession.

I did privately ask a few trusted friends for advice, and one of them invited me to come with her to a local homeschooling conference. I hoped the conference would clarify some things for me. As in, maybe there would be someone there who would just tell me exactly what to do for the next nine months.

Of course, that did not happen.

What the speakers and workshop leaders did tell me, over and over again, was to seek the wisdom that only God gives for my own children and our unique situation as a family, and then be obedient to whatever He told me to do.

Part of me was a little frustrated by this advice. Just tell me what math curriculum will make my child brilliant! But the rest of me knew these wise advisers were speaking the truth. God formed my children. He knows them better than I ever will. And only He knows our future. Who better to go to for help?

It also solidified my convictions that this was the path we were supposed to take. There are a multitude of reasons homeschooling appealed to me and made sense for our family for where we are right now, but the major reason I was drawn to it was because it was what I knew in my heart God was leading me to do.

I could not deny that still, small voice saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21)

If for nothing else, this process of choosing to homeschool has taught me so much about listening for the Lord’s voice, and stepping out in faith based on only what He said. I want the evidence it’s going to work out before I take those first few steps, but that wouldn’t be faith. I cannot have it both ways.

He has been so gracious to me along the way. Every time I speak out about another piece of our future’s puzzle that God has revealed to us, my friends and family have been nothing but supportive. But God also keeps gently pushing me out into that territory where I must be sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see (Hebrews 11:1). So I’m continuing to try and do the brave work of walking by faith and not by sight. This begins by simply saying out loud, “We are homeschooling this year.” Not “we might be” or “we are considering it” like I said for so many months, even though in my heart I knew the truth.

Speaking the truth is saying, simply, “we are doing it.”

So, we are doing it.

We start today.

I am tremendously excited about it, and so are the kids. I’m sure their enthusiasm will wear off eventually, maybe even later today, but I’m grateful for it as we begin. I am also excited about what I’ve discovered in all my research. There are so many amazing resources out there for parenting, teaching your kids about the Bible, and building a strong family culture that you probably wouldn’t come across unless you were homeschooling. I cannot wait to begin sharing them with you.

But for now, I thought I’d just quickly share what resources we are planning to use this year, in case you’re curious.

Math
Singapore Math. We are beginning at the beginning, with book 1A. This will review some of what he learned in Kindergarten, but I want him to have a strong grasp of these concepts,  and get into a rhythm of doing the daily work before we cover new material.

Reading
For Caleb: Houghton-Mifflin.  I’ve tried some more interactive and phonics-based things with him at home before, and he’s never been as excited about any of them as he is about this textbook. So we’ll use it for the next several weeks, and then reevaluate his needs moving forward.
For Garrett: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Social Studies
Story of the World, Volume 1.

Science
The biology plan outlined for first grade in The Well-Trained Mind

Bible
What’s in the Bible? With Buck Denver

On top of this, we intend to frequent the library, and read a lot of great books.

Garrett is also in preschool three mornings a week. There he will work on penmanship and his letters and numbers. Moreover, his being out of the house will give me more time for one-on-one teaching with Caleb. When Garrett is here, he’ll get reading instruction, and beyond that, simply listen along to what we are doing, and participate if and when he wants to.

I think it’s going to be a great year!

Faith

How God is Using My Health to Teach Me About Weakness, Part 2

(You can read Part 1 here.)

As we headed into the new year, Jason and I began to sense that the Holy Spirit was preparing us for a year of change. We knew that without divine intervention, it was a matter of time before our church would no longer be sustainable. We had been fasting and praying and seeking God’s direction for our family. My struggles with asthma seemed to be pretty well-managed, although Jason and I were still hopeful for my healing, and asked for prayer among our friends at church on a regular basis.

One morning in February, I woke up while it was still pretty dark and padded down the hallway to make my coffee, like I do every morning. I noticed a nagging pain in one of my toes, and wondered if I’d stubbed it in the middle of the night. I can be pretty clumsy sometimes, and have, on more than one occasion, missed the doorway trying to find the bathroom in the dark. I didn’t give it much thought until a few days later, another toe started to hurt. The next week, the pain had spread to the balls of my feet.

By March, I was waking up with stiff and sore fingers every morning. After that, the pain started showing up in bigger joints. One day my wrist hurt so badly I wondered if I’d somehow broken it. Then my knees ached. Then I had to go to bed with an ice pack on my shoulder just to be able to fall asleep.

While it was becoming clearer, and then certain, that our church plant would close when our lease ended on June 30, my health was a bigger question mark than ever. Within the space of a couple of months, I went from being perfectly fine to being very literally handicapped by my pain. All of a sudden, there were dozens of daily tasks that I simply could not do, and I was forced to ask for more help than ever before.

I particularly remember standing beside our bed one morning when I had to leave the house very early. “Sorry to have to wake you Jason,” I said. That’s when my voice broke. “Can you… can you help me get dressed?” I leaned on him while he helped me step into my pants, buttoned them for me, and then kneeled to put shoes on my feet.

At this point it was June, and we were in the throes of saying goodbye to our church, and my heart was aching over it. However, it was this early morning moment when I could not dress myself that I finally cracked.

I had never felt so helpless in my life.

It did however, drive me to my knees.

There is nothing that can push us closer to God quite the way desperate need can. And I was desperate. So desperate. I didn’t even know where to start when I prayed.

I prayed for God to carry us through the last few Sundays as pastors of Life360 Ozark. I prayed that He would go ahead of us and lead us into whatever was next. When I remembered to, I prayed He would do the same for everyone else in the church, and confessed my pride and self-centeredness for all the times I forgot about them. I repented of my ungratefulness, my faith in myself, and my love of comfort. I rejoiced in small mercies, and before I went to bed every night, I begged, simply, “Lord, would you please heal me?”

During this time, I was reading a wonderful little book called Hinds Feet on High Places. It is an allegorical story of how the Shepherd leads a young woman named Much-Afraid on a journey to the High Places. Much Afraid’s journey looked nothing like she thought it would. The path often seemed to lead away from her destination rather than towards it. And when the path finally did seem to go straight towards the mountain-top, it was so treacherous, and so steep, that at first Much Afraid shrank back from it. Could this really be the way the Shepherd wanted her to go? But on she followed, through the twists and turns, through the darkness, and into the deep valleys. At last, in the deepest valley of all, the Shepherd asked her to lay on the altar her most cherished desires. And it was there, at her lowest point, at her moment of greatest sacrifice, that Much Afraid is transformed into Grace and Glory.

The book spoke deeply to me. People had been telling us, as we began to publicize the closing of the church, that they believed God had great things in store for us. I wanted to believe that, too, but as my pain continued to get worse, all I could see ahead was more suffering. As I prayed about everything going on in our lives, I sensed God saying to me, “If I lead you, not from mountaintop to mountaintop, but from valley to deeper, darker valley, will you follow me even there?”

Even to the next valley. And the next.

Even there.

Will we follow Him, wherever He leads?

I don’t understand everything about God’s ways or why and how healing takes place when it does. I believe there is a dimension of God’s manifest presence, and accompanying signs and wonders, that the American Church almost never sees. I believe there is more that God offers us of Himself than we have yet taken hold of, and I do not want to be guilty of having not because I ask not.

However, I also don’t want my faith or trust in God to waver because I think He promised me something He never did. I long for God to completely heal me. But so far, for whatever reason, He has not.

I am not in nearly as much pain as I was a few months ago, thanks to a visit to a doctor, and some medicine. But this disease, which they determined to be Rheumatoid Arthritis, is not gone.

I wanted so much to wait to share this story until there was a happy ending. It’s scarier, by far, to say: “Here is where I am, and I don’t know where God will lead me from here, and if or how He will change my circumstances, but I trust Him.”

But it is the truth.

At least most days it is. I won’t pretend for a second that I never struggle with doubt or fear, because I do. When my symptoms flare up, I worry about losing my independence. Or about permanent joint damage. When I make appointments or refill prescriptions, I do so with one eye on our dwindling bank balance. “You know how much money we have, right, Lord?” I whisper. “And that Jason still doesn’t have a job? You’re going to take care of us, aren’t You?”

But most of the time, I am confident in God’s power and promises.

That confidence was one of the biggest gifts that the closing of our church gave me. It was one of the worst things I could imagine happening, and yet, we walked through it and we survived. That may seem silly, but it continually surprises me that having to get up and face that disappointment publicly did not literally kill me

We had been teaching for four years that the best promise of the Bible is God With Us, and now we got to live that out firsthand. Even when our world crashed down around us, God was still there.

I do believe that God has great things in store for my family. But I  know that no matter what the future holds, He will be with us in the midst of it.

Faith

How God is Using My Health to Teach Me About Weakness – Part 1

I’ve been sharing lately, a little at a time, the journey on which God is leading our family since we announced the closing of our church.

But for those of you who admire my transparency, you should know: I shared those things mostly because I had to. There was nothing in me that wanted to look into the faces of our leaders, and later our entire congregation, and say, “We’ve been praying about it, and we are going to close the church.” In the days leading up to each of those hard meetings, I was plagued with so much fear.

The multitude of reasons a church closes, and how little of that constitutes failure on the part of the pastor is conversation for another day, but I will admit that in those moments, closing our church felt very much like failing. And failure, especially big, public failure, is quite literally the stuff of my worst nightmares. I actually joked with Jason about quietly sneaking away from Ozark in the middle of the night, and just never showing up again. In all honestly, that probably would have been my preference.

But if I had done that, if I had refused to face up to the fear of disappointing people and the painful end of dearly held dream, I would have missed out on so much good that God had for me.

I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

The love and encouragement and tangible sense of God’s presence in our living room as we met with our leaders was like nothing I had expected. It was like I was expecting to be pelted with stones and instead found myself wrapped in a warm hug. The unexpected gift of that one moment bolstered me to face the others that would come: telling our parents, telling our church, cleaning out our building, having our last service, saying goodbye, and walking into the unknown.

So in retrospect, I’m glad I had to walk through that broken suffering publicly. I’m glad I was forced to let other people in, to let them know what was going on with me.

But despite how surprisingly good all of that vulnerability ended up being for me, I’ve kept so many other things close to my heart, afraid to bring them out into the light and really be honest about how I’m struggling, and what God is teaching me.

I’ve alluded to it a handful of times, both here and on Facebook, but I haven’t been very public in sharing the fact that I faced some significant health problems over the last year. I told myself I was quiet about my health because it seemed like with everything else going on in our lives, it seemed like too much negativity to heap on people.

But mostly, it was because I didn’t want to admit any more weakness. Next to failing, my next biggest fear is needing help.

That looks ridiculous now that I’ve typed it, but it is true. I like being able to do things for myself, by myself. I do not want to have to rely on others. If I can always be the one giving, helping, serving, then I don’t have to admit my own neediness.

I couldn’t have articulated any of this a year ago, but through the things I’ve faced over the last year, the Lord is revealing to me more and more areas where I need to grow in trusting him and let go of my self-reliance.

And lately, I’ve felt like the Lord saying it is time to be transparent about more of the brokenness the Lord has invited me into.

About a year ago, I had this nagging cough that wouldn’t go away. I coughed and coughed all day long. It was “just a little tickle” I kept assuring people, even when I couldn’t catch a breath, or when tears were streaming down my face. The thing was, I didn’t feel sick. I didn’t have any other cold or allergy symptoms. Just this ridiculous cough that was starting to draw curious looks from strangers.

So finally, after talking it over with Jason (and making several paranoid late-night internet searches), I called my doctor.

“Is this normal?” I asked. He assured me it wasn’t.

And then that question I couldn’t avoid any longer: “Can you help me?”

He could, but it took a lot longer than they thought it would. I breathed into machines and sat under others while they took pictures of my lungs. They tried first one prescription, and then another. But instead of getting better, I was getting worse.

Now I did feel sick.

I couldn’t walk or talk for more than a few minutes without getting winded, and I perpetually felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I moved more slowly throughout my day and sat down more often when we went for walks. I often couldn’t muster the strength to make dinner at the end of the day. I found myself saying, “No more books, buddy. Mommy’s voice is too tired.” Sometimes, even sewing in front of the TV in the evening felt like too much work.

It was a level of weakness I was unaccustomed to. And I was surprised by how unsettling it was for me. On top of dealing with obvious fears like “what is wrong with me?” I found myself terrified of my weakness. All of a sudden, I needed A LOT of help. Around the house. With my kids. I was relying on others to do the things I was sure I should be doing myself, and I didn’t like it one bit.  

Thankfully, by October, the doctors had determined I had asthma. I had a whole host of new tubes and bottles and inhalers in my medicine cabinet, but I was getting better. By December, after a couple more adjustments to my medications, I was basically back to normal. I was thankful and relieved to feel like myself again.

But it wouldn’t last for long.

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Once I finally worked up the courage to begin writing this story, the words came so fast and fierce, I knew almost immediately that this was going to be too long for just one blog post. So stay tuned next week for part two of this story. 

Church

A Final Letter to Our Church

To the saints of God in Ozark, chosen and dearly loved:

Our hearts are full today, our last Sunday with you. Before, we thought we have might have a lifetime to share our hearts with you. But now, as we prepare for one last chance to speak to you, it doesn’t seem like enough. We have so much left to tell you.

It is no secret that we think of you as our third child. We have spoken at great length about the labor it took to bring you into existence and the way you required more from us than we even knew was in our power to give. But we have also made known the rewards we found in serving you, our deep love for you, and the pride that swelled in our hearts in moments when we glimpsed just how far you had come.

How do we say goodbye to you now?

Our building on 20th Street has never been, in and of itself, our church. So even though we may shed some tears when we close the doors for the final time today, it’s not the building that we grieve. It is your precious souls, the group of us together, and knowing that we may never all be gathered together in the same way this side of heaven that makes us weep.

Come this afternoon, the Lord may begin to scatter us all in different directions, to new fellowships, new ministries, or new callings. But for now, while we remain together, may we remind you of a few things that are dear to our hearts?

Remember that true worship of God always takes our eyes off of ourselves and our own circumstances, and focuses instead on His greatness and majesty. Don’t underestimate the power of this simple act. When God came to Job in the whirlwind, He never answered Job’s questions, He just reminded Job of how big He was (Job 38-41). We would do well to remind ourselves often of those same things.

Remember that the best and truest way to discern God’s voice is to immerse yourself in His word. Any other great endeavor requires extensive dedication, training, and discipline. How much more so the immense task of following Jesus? It is not legalism to work hard at learning the stories of the Bible, their context, and even memorizing their very words. The Holy Spirit can only remind us of the things we have already learned, and we are privileged to hold the very words of God in our hands, so endeavor always to learn them as well as you can.

Remember that aside from the Holy Spirit, the best help you have in following Jesus is those who are walking with Him alongside you. Growing together will not happen on accident, and there is power in praying with and for each other.

Remember that following Jesus is not something you only do on Sunday mornings. This world is not our home, but rather we travel through it as ambassadors of Christ everywhere we go.

Remember that Jesus told us we would be hated for following Him. Persecution was a catalyst for the spread of the gospel in the book of Acts, and still spurs on true followers of Christ around the world today.

Remember that nothing is impossible with God. We don’t always understand His ways, but He is never powerless to help us.

Remember you are the shepherd of your children’s hearts. While your pastor and church should come alongside you as you commit raising your babies in the fear of the Lord, those little ones’ first and most influential spiritual leader is you.

Remember that the gospel is a message of reconciliation. This means we should seek to be reconciled to God, but also to one another. Never leave a church in anger or with unresolved conflict. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

And above all else, remember the greatest promise of the Bible is this: God with us. Nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39). No matter where we go, His presence goes, too.

It has truly been a joy and honor to know and serve each of you.

With all our love in Christ,

Pastor Jason and Amy

Faith

On Elephants, Donkeys and Other Things God Made: 2016 Edition

 

Hey friends.

You’ve been posting a lot of stuff on Facebook lately about what’s going on politically in America. And if you’re sharing articles or lengthy posts, I want you to know I’m reading them.

I read what you share about guns and the gorilla. About immigrants and refugees. I read about Target bathrooms. About Obama and Trump and Hilary and Bernie. I read about who your pastor or Bible study author or favorite talk show host is supporting for president and why.

I read about what Spurgeon said and what Bonhoeffer said.

I read your careful exegeses and your Bible verses plucked out of their context and applied haphazardly to an entirely different situation.

And I’ve been thinking a LOT about all these things you’ve shared.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you know that I don’t really take a firm stance on much. I don’t care whether or not you breastfeed your kids, or teach them about Santa, or let them read Harry Potter. I didn’t come out publicly in support of a candidate for the 2012 elections, and I probably won’t do it for the 2016 elections either.

Lately, I’ve been questioning why I do that. Mostly, I like to believe that it’s wisdom and self control that keep me from entangling myself in those arguments.

There’s also a good chance that fear stands in my way. I don’t want to alienate or upset anyone. Truth be told, I want you to like me and what I have to say.

But as to why I don’t share my opinions on these divisive issues, the most likely reason of all may be this: I don’t have the answers.

I don’t know what the next president will face between 2017 and 2020, or how each candidate will respond. I don’t know when the Supreme Court will have empty seats that need to be filled. I don’t how the American church would respond under persecution, whether we would shrivel and wilt, or come out of the fire tested and pure and strong. I don’t know what will speak more deeply to the hearts of my friends who need Jesus: my compassion or my righteousness, though I pray I have both.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Neither do you.

But I know the One who does.

Why aren’t we going to Him for the answers?

I know it’s hard. My tendency is rely on my wisdom and abilities, and closing our church has shaken me up and shown me all over again how small my trust and faith in my God is. I want to know right now what job He is going to provide for us. Where we will be living in 3 months. Where we will be going to church. Whether or not we will be able to afford for me to stay at home for another year.

And some days it feels like not knowing those things is going to kill me.

It won’t, of course. But it is breaking me. Remaking me into someone new. Someone who trusts God more deeply. Someone who is willing to be led by faith and not by sight.

And that is what the church must be in these trying times.

We must absolutely know our Bibles and how to study them for answers.  Almost 2000 years ago, in a culture ruled by the Romans, and very much like ours, Paul wrote to the church at Colosse:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than Christ” (Colossians 2:8)

But we must also be people of prayer. 

To the church at Corinth, Paul said,

“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

Like I said, I’m reading the things you share on Facebook, but every day, I grow a little more convinced that a well-written post on why to boycott Target or not is not what the church or the world needs from us.

I’ve seen tons of carefully crated arguments on the internet (and maybe this is just one more to add to that pile; if it is, forgive me), but what I haven’t seen is people saying that they sought the face of God, and the wisdom He promises to give to those who ask for it. I haven’t seen people saying, “I prayed about it for a long time, and I feel the Lord is leading me to __________.”

I don’t know your situation. I don’t know what decisions you will have to make today, this week, this year. 

But I know that God will give you wisdom if you ask Him to. 

Please ask him, friends.

Please, let’s get on our knees about our own specific situations, and ask God, beg him, to show us what He would have us do.

Let’s be people who are “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

Let’s be people of prayer.