A Personal Word on Audio Sermons

My husband and I were talking about this a couple of days ago, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share here as well. I’ve made no secret of the fact that most days, I walk around my house with one ear bud plugged in listening to books or sermons (and sometimes music if I’m feeling confident in Christ). I think it is important to be clear about why I do this and why I so heartily recommend others do the same as they are able:

I do not fancy myself some theological housewife; I have an eighth grade education and I pull up dictionary.com more often then I vacuum my livingroom — and I vacuum at least twice a day. I don’t listen because I am bored; I have an overgrown puppy and a two-year old boy and they both are full time jobs. I don’t continue my education because I find information fascinating; sometimes it is, but mostly it hurts my head when I attempt to comprehend it.

For more than half of my life, I have struggled with mental difficulties. First with dark depression and now with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Depression is something through which Christ brought me, but it isn’t something I have forever defeated. To live in the freedom of Gospel truth requires constant reminders of what that truth is. Before I found effective treatment (2012 through Spring of 2014) for PTSD, I was having full-blown, gasping-for-breath-with-tears-running-down-my-face, panic attacks multiple times a day. Triggers were as commonplace as my phone ringing or the mail man knocking at my door, to someone or something touching my skin when I wasn’t prepared for it.  I couldn’t sleep, I found no rest and there was no peace in my soul. After much counselling and prayer, we found a medication which effectively slows down the onset of attacks and turns down the volume of their strength. It does not cover up the problem, it is a crutch, for which I thank God every day. I am not perfect and it is a great mercy and a wonderful truth that God does not require me to be. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, not having it all together.  Currently, most of my panic attacks can be derailed by reminding myself of the truth, leaning into Christ, staying focused on the good work He has called me to and practicing the Bradley breathing I learned as a new mama. I still have them every now and then (one every couple months), but they are not an affliction to my faith in God, instead, they are a wonderful reminder of my need for Him and my freedom to rest in Him always – thanks be to God.

A couple of weeks ago, my eight year old daughter asked me why I always listen on my head phones. Before realizing how ridiculous I sounded, I answered, “Because then there is only one voice talking in my head.” Interestingly enough, she seemed to fully understand what I meant. Children are amazing — nothing sounds odd when they whole world is new and weird.

I wasn’t lying to her, the truth is that I listen to sermons, I pray, I read my Bible because that is the most effective way I have found not to get lost in my head, in my day, or in my heart. This is where I find peace. Truth comes through loud and clear when I saturate myself, to the best of my ability, into it. Life is hard. It is. If anyone says it isn’t, they are lying.  Life is hard, but it is also very good. Being a Christian has never meant that life would become easy, that we would be bastions of strength who have all the answers. Being a Christian means believing that we are so weak, we cannot manage to live apart from Christ. I don’t have all the answers, but I know where to find them. As a Christian, I have the freedom to rely on Christ for all my strength, for all my peace and all the answers. This is the glorious truth.

So allow me to encourage you, if you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, confused, unworthy or unloved, you aren’t alone. We have Scripture, we have men and women of God explaining Scripture to us and now with the internet, we have unlimited access to their wisdom. We have a direct hotline to God himself through prayer — dig in! This is your inheritance as a Christian, rest, live, breath in the light of this glory.

I listened to this sermon today among others (the holidays mean I gotta work overtime to stay focused on Christ, anyone else? So much pressure, and extra, good work in celebrating, so much desire to bless and serve others — it is wonderful, but it sure isn’t easy!). A Gospel Tuning is a short, simple sermon, but it is food for the weary soul. Please take the time to listen, pray for God to soften your heart, to hear what this preacher is saying and ask Him to help you believe the truth offered in it.  It will change your day.

Believer, you’re chosen, you’re holy, you are loved. These are the realities of our identity in Christ…

Guilt-free Eating

I need regular reminders that peace does not come from my grocery list, a quota of calories, or the food pyramid. The peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding is an enduring gift of grace. If his peace came through our adherence to rules, systems, or our works (Romans 11:6; Ephesians 2:8), his grace would no longer be grace, and the news would no longer be good. As Paul cautioned, we must be careful that we are not “led away” by judgments over foods. What we eat cannot satisfy our soul. Hebrews 13:9 reminds us it is good for our hearts to feast on and be strengthened by grace.

As we plan for meals and shop for groceries, it’s wise to consider what’s good for us. God has called us to be good stewards of the gifts he’s given us, including our body and our budget. God’s word also tells us that the earth is the Lord’s (1 Corinthians 10:26) and everything in it. It is he who has given us life, and breath, and everything (Acts 17:25), including the wide variety of options in your favorite aisle.

Excerpt from God Is in the Grocery Aisle.

Woman’s Worth

Women must think biblically and have high expectations for how men approach them and honor them as sisters. Because of the imago Dei, ladies, because of your intrinsic value to God, you must not treat yourself cheaply. You must have high expectations for how men approach you, high expectations for how they honor you. You must understand your value before God in such a way that you will quickly and easily reject little boys who can shave who seek sexual company but will not honor your soul.

Now here’s what happens. For whatever reason, so many… Maybe it’s Daddy issues. I chalk it up to sin. Women must have higher expectations of how men approach them and treat them because they have been made in the image of God. You have not been given to man for simple comfort and pleasure. You are made in the image of God. Whether you’re married or you’re single, you’re intrinsically valuable. God has imparted to you a worth that you should gladly walk in and should let no man abuse.

-Excerpt from the sermon, In His Image

Mamas, how we think about ourselves, how we talk about our bodies, our minds, our responsibilities as a wife and mom — as a woman — will shape the way our sons and daughters see themselves and other women. When our daughters struggle with body image, when they don’t feel they are worthy of the love of a man who will honor and respect her, we need to get down on our knees and ask God to reveal to us our worth as women so that we may impart that glorious knowledge to our daughters. Similarly, when our sons do not honor and respect women, when their first inclination is to lust when they see a woman (regardless of how much clothes she is wearing or what she is doing/saying — i don’t care if her bra strap is showing and her lip is pouty on her instagram pic), we are failing to teach them the worth of women and we must pray for God to help us teach them to be men of God, not boys, governed by their own desires and passions.

I know this is easy for me to say since my boys are only 2 and 4 years old and my girls are only 6 and 8, but I was raised in a home where women were not valued as being made in the image of God. I was taught by most of the prominent authority figures in my life that my beauty and sexuality was a problem for men, that I would be  stumbling block to them. I was not taught  that my beauty is a tool to be used to bless others, and I certainly wasn’t encouraged to cherish and nurture my sexuality for my husband.  I’ll do everything I possibly can, by God’s strength, not to allow my sons and daughters to believe that kind of blasphemy, to believe that kind of attack on God and on ourselves. I’m not better than my parents, no doubt, I am a far worse sinner, and my parents did several things very well in how they raised me, I am thankful for them and for the skills they gave me continue to bless my family and friends on a daily basis, I love my parents, however, God in his kindness and mercy  has revealed this truth to me: how I see myself (and how my husband sees me, incidentally) will have a weighty influence on how my children see women. I know I make mistakes every day, especially with my children, I’m not trying to be arrogant here, but by God’s grace and His strength alone, maybe this won’t be one of them.

Chandler goes on to ask, in the same sermon,

I wonder what would happen in a world where we understood the imago Dei to where pornography made us sick and didn’t arouse us. I wonder what would happen on that day if men and women could treat one another as brothers and sisters and not objects to be consumed.

Medical Method Wars

There was a time when it used to surprise folks when they heard my husband and I ate meat and vaccinated our children. While it is true that my medicine cabinet is well stocked with various tinctures, essential oils, and plants (I actually just cleared up a bad case of hives with dandelion root this week! Praise God!), I also keep an epi pen in my First Aid Kit. Why? Well, turns out there isn’t much that grows out of the ground that can help me if I get stung on the neck by a bee. Our philosophy on medicine is that God gave us the tools we need to live well. We don’t much care whether they come from  a lab or our own backyard so long as they do the job well and we can genuinely thank God for them. Medical Method Wars and Christianity

I was raised in a fairly “natural” home. I never had any vaccinations as a child, ate whole grains, virtually no processed foods and my mother had 3 midwives and 6 successful home births (I still remember checking all the labels on the meat packages in our freezer knowing a couple of them were her placentas). My husband had a slightly different upbringing, raised with a (at the time) more commonplace influence from modern medicine. You can imagine the kind of discussions that were sparked when we started discussing normal parental decisions like healthcare, birthing place/methods and whether or not to circumcise our sons. He was (and continues to be) patient with me, and I had/have ample opportunity to practice the type of God ordained submission talked about in our Bibles.

In the last couple years, my husband has been pursuing his master’s degree to become a Physician (PA). We decided together to go in this direction, factoring in our mutual fascination of the world God made combined with ever-increasing personal experience and interest in illness (God has seen fit to give me a host of weird body and mental challenges ranging in severity from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, PTSD and Depression to Reynaud’s Phenomena– that’s right, I have a phenomena — and poor circulation). Sadly, in under 4 years, we’ve literally gone from being invited to “pox parties” to receiving snarky comments about his career choice in the hallways at church. On the flip side, we also encounter skepticism (and occasionally alienation) from those who operate primarily in the realm of modern medicine.

Now, I’m not here to complain. We do have a genuine interest in both old and new health lotions, potions, pills and procedures.  We enjoy learning new things, discovering the magic God had placed in our hands for cultivation to the end of knowing Him and blessings others. We don’t believe everyone needs to agree with us or that we are infallible, however, we would love to see the rifts in fellowship, the unkindness, the sharp words, the desperation and lack of joy (symptoms which indicate potential idolatry) regarding health care decrease. The world is broken, no one and nothing apart from Christ is perfect. Please forgive my lack of finesse when I say, we all need to stop whining and work together! We certainly need to stop allowing our own elementary understanding of God’s world distract us from our explicit, God-given responsibility to encourage those around us (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I’m not throwing around accusations and if you think I’m talking to you, you are probably mistaken. On the other hand, maybe you, like I, need to ask yourself these fundamental questions from time to time:

  • Do you believe God is for you? Then who and what can be against you?
  • Do you believe God is good? Then why are you so afraid?
  • Do you believe He is ultimately in control of everything? Then why are you worried?

The tragedy is not that my husband and I end up spending a lot of time discussing different types of medical methods and even defending people we don’t necessarily agree with. The tragedy isn’t that we don’t fit into a nice, cozy click to keep us feeling safe in our ideas.  The tragedy certainly isn’t that there are different opinions (that is actually a blessing designed to equip, sharpen and encourage one another). What is horrible is that the weak are rarely helped through zingy memes and Facebook debates, the ill are not healed by arguing over them and worst of all, God Himself often gets forgotten amid in the finger-pointing. The problem isn’t modern medicine or alternative medicine, the problem isn’t who has more letters after their name, who has a better education, or whose older; the problem is sin — this subject merely becomes the vessel for it.

The exhortation is this: remember that you don’t have to agree about methods, you MUST love your neighbor more than yourself (Galatians 5:14). You MUST think more highly of the other guy then you do of yourself (Philippians 2:3). You should sacrifice yourself, your time and your ego to speak charitably with all humility and love. And no, I don’t think I’ve mastered this art myself, but I am certainly getting in a lot of practice, for which I am praising God.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:29-32 (MSG)

On Nose Piercings

According to the Bible an earring or a nose piercing means the loveliness of Christian submission. It is to be an outward adornment consistent with the the beautiful lifestyle of a gentle and quiet spirit which is most precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4). A Christian woman whose ears are pierced or has her nose pierced should do it for the blessing and honor of her parents or spouse. And it should be a true statement about her actual spiritual state. But as I replied to one friend, when you have immature or foolish college kids going out and getting nose piercings because it’s cool and edgy and all the pagan kids are doing it, what you end up with is basically a moral equivalent of Proverbs 11:22: “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” It doesn’t fit.

-Excerpt from Wisdom & Folly, Piercings & Lemmings

Listen to These

I’m in the process of re-listening through this sermons series. They are longer sermons (45-50 minutes long), but they are packed full of useful information, encouragement and exhortation. I would encourage you to listen the sermons by clinking the links or looking up The Village Church on iTunes.

A Beautiful Design (Part 1) – In the Beginning

A Beautiful Design (Part 2) – In His Image

A Beautiful Design (Part 3) – Man’s Purpose

A Beautiful Design (Part 4) – Man’s Hurdles

A Beautiful Design (Part 5) – Man’s Redemption

A Beautiful Design (Part 6) – Incomplete

A Beautiful Design (Part 7) – Woman’s Purpose

A Beautiful Design (Part 8) – Woman’s Hurdles

A Beautiful Design (Part 9) – Woman’s Redemption

A Beautiful Design (Part 10) – Together For The Gospel

Alternative Reality

Allowing fantasy to overcome reality is an assault on God and the world He made. The type fantasy we are speaking of* applies not only to our thought lives, to sex, to daydreaming about the perfect guy, perfect children or the perfect Facebook feed, but also to how we approach what we put on our tables, what we put into our mouths, where we spend our money and who we turn to when we are in need.

There is truth and lies, there is right and wrong, there is sin and there is salvation. We must strive to see everything and everyone through God’s eyes using Scripture and His Holy Spirit as a guide if we don’t want to live in falsehood.

Do not despair, but repent, make things right with those you sinned against and ask God to help you change. Truth that liberates and encourages, truth that enables you to rejoice freely and frequently are here. This is the Christian life — Jump on in! The water feels fine!

*not fiction for sake of art or entertainment

Squirming in My Pew

I was raised primarily in a dispensational church.  In college, I joined a reformed evangelical church, pastored by Douglas Wilson (who was, incidentally, the officiate at my wedding. He is a jolly, older man with a special knack for ticking people off — never a dull moment). When that church grew, we transferred to the plant, Trinity Reformed Church (at the time, under Peter Leithart, brain extraordinaire, if your brain feels like it is going to explode when you read his books, know I’m right there with you). We absolutely love TRC and are planning to maintain our membership there during our years we are away (my hard working husband is getting his master’s degree). The reason I share all this is to give you a little foundational history for why this sermon by Matt Chandler makes me so uncomfortable. Our most recent church (TRC) is, by far, the most “touchy/feely” church I’ve ever attended, seriously. So, the message in this sermon, Eccentric and Faithful, came through loud and clear,

Surely you had to know the Word of God was going to meet you some place that made you uncomfortable. If it didn’t, then it’s not the Bible, and he’s not God. He’s the god of your imagination, the one that makes everything like you feel comfortable. It’s just not the God of the Bible. Is this messy and dangerous? Like life itself.

To which I have to say, after picking myself up off the floor, “Well played, Chandler. You got me!”.

In the end, he also talks about how we should approach our own churches, which was particularly illuminating for us, as we are looking for an interium church to attend until we move back to our beloved Trinity Reformed Church. In the sermon, he says,

[c]hurch, if you come in and, “Oh, this could be better. What about this?” Shouldn’t your mind be turning to, “How can I help?” if you’re really generous and have been set free rather than, “These are all the things that are wrong”? See, a generous heart looks for ways to help where a stingy heart simply critiques the problems.

So, I guess what I am saying is, this sermon made me wildly uncomfortable in all the right ways, it convicted and challenged me. I’d highly recommend it you (especially if the idea of speaking in tongues makes you squirm). Take the time and read or listen through Eccentric and Faithful. You can find it here and on itunes.