Sacrificial Friendship

“The sacrificial building up of one another — this is what makes Christian friendship, well, Christian. It’s Christian both in the adjective (sacrificial) and in the verb (building up).”
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Excerpt from Putting the “Christian” in Christian Friendship by Jonathan Parnell

The article (linked above) is really good! When I rededicated my life to Christ in 2014, I was literally left speechless when several of my Christian friends essentially broke up with me because they didn’t like the person I was becoming. God brought me comfort as I worked through those difficult times as He reshaped my perception of what a healthy friendship looks like and brought me new friends that challenge me and push me closer to Him for His glory and my good. While it still stings from time to time to know that some brothers and sisters in Christ resent me, I am very thankful for all of these experiences as it has given me new eyes and a new heart for others.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:10

Redeemed

“Redemption communicates, in a sense, an ongoing state or effect. In Christ, we not only have been, but are continually being brought back to our new status in Christ. He takes our ashes, and makes them beautiful. He takes the prostitute, and makes her a pure virgin. He takes the one who feels dirty, and continually declares them white as snow. He takes Rahab the harlot, and makes her the great-great grandmother of King David. He takes David, the repentant adulterer and murderer, and still has him write psalms that we sing today. He takes the widow of Zarephath, who was preparing to die from starvation, and not only provides for her and her son, but uses her to house the prophet Elijah. He took Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church, and made him a pillar of that same church. Any one of those (and many more) could have declared themselves ruined. But God had other plans.”

-Excerpt from Redemption for the Ruined By

I absolutely love this! I’m aware that sometimes I sound like a broken record when I talk about my life. Living with PTSD is an ongoing challenge and how I got to this point still has consequences that continue to need dealing with, but the truth of being washed clean through Jesus, being redeemed, and recreated into something new — that is a truth that seems too good to be true! I am overwhelmed with God’s goodness and I don’t want to lose that sense of wonder. So I remind myself and remind you, too — because this gift of redemption isn’t exclusively for me. This gift, the glory, this crazy/wonderful life is yours for the taking.

Sneaky Sneaky

“Our pride is killing us as much as all of those things we haughtily refrain from doing would.  But, somehow we consider it righteous to be proud of ourselves. I would never read that book, we say.  I would never spend that kind of money, we boast.  I would never think that way, we post on Facebook.   And, before we know it, we look back at our social media activity, and we see it.  We are so very proud of ourselves.

Believe me, I speak to you as the Pride Queen.  But, please hear me when I tell you that we have got to stop trying to steal glory from God by enjoying our own goodness.  We were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and we settle instead for trying to convince ourselves that we are pretty great, too.”

-Excerpt from Your Pride is Showing by Melissa at Your Mom Has a Blog

Insomniac

“[h]ere is the solution to the practical dilemma of exhaustion, the place where exhaustion becomes a steering wheel that drives us toward God in a different way than sleep does. Sleeplessness causes us to look away from ourselves — our capacity, our resources, our energy reserve, our mental acumen, our physical strength, and our careful planning and scheming — and it causes us to rely solely on him who “does not faint or grow weary” (Isaiah 40:28). It is there, in the middle of the night, with the baby — or computer, or hospital IV, or mental stressor — that we find ourselves coming to the end of ourselves. And the end of ourselves is a very good place to be.”

-excerpt from The Sovereign Hand of Sleeplessness, by Kristin Tabb

Wanted: True Friends (and 10 Steps to Finding Them)

Wanted: True Friends (and 10 Steps to Finding Them)

I had my first BFF when I was 5 or 6 years old. One day, I unintentionally sinned against her. She forgave me, but I felt the weight of my sin so acutely that I couldn’t be around her anymore without feeling shame. In retrospect, I realize it was probably my fault that our friendship failed. I didn’t understand friendship or forgiveness. All I felt was guilt and that ruined my ability to fellowship with her anymore.

The first time (yep, this has happened more than once) a friend broke up with me was when I was 13.  We had been besties for several years. We’d enjoyed slumber parties, secret handshakes and shared dreams together. I adored her. Then one day, she told her mom that I said something unkind about my mom and then her mom told my mom (so complicated!). The truth was that I had not said anything unkind about my mom. I was/am simultaneously in love with and frightened by my mother (she is amazing) — there was no way I’d dis her behind her back! But my mom believed my friend and I got grounded for a month. Ironically, my friend had gone behind my back without giving me a chance to explain (maybe she had misunderstood something I did say?) or defend myself. I was hurt deeply, wondering what I had done wrong. Her and my relationship fizzled out quickly after that. I thought I must have failed my friend in some great way to make her say what she said.

It was a couple of years after that when  I met Stephanie. She and I were kindred spirits. We experienced true friendship right off the bat, the kind that challenged and forgave. We loved one another very much. Our friendship was a beautiful gift from God, perfectly timed to help carry me through some really tough years. We enjoyed a sister-like closeness through college and marriage, but then God saw fit to take her into Glory. I felt lost for many years after that, but Stephanie had taught me something — I wasn’t a perfect friend, but I was definitely friend-able.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to understand that the reason many people don’t have close friends is because true friendship is a lot of work. Whether people don’t have the time or the desire to sacrifice for friendship varies from person to person, but most everyone wants a real friendship. I think we need to recover the lost art of friendship. We need to stop being afraid of the work it will involve. Too often we run from the challenge or blame it on someone else. We think that the answer to conflict is to unfriend, but that is an atheistic way of thinking. God made Adam and Eve to fellowship with one another and with Him (we are designed for fellowship). Then He sent them out to work The Garden. Is it really such a leap to think that friendship is supposed to be work; designed for our sanctification and God’s glory?

I have been blessed by a really good friend over the last year. We check in with one another most days and pray, cry, laugh and encourage each other.  We are both comfortable being honest with one another. We have been able to confront gently, love greatly, apologize humbly and forgive freely. We don’t need to be perfect to make this friendship golden. It is a gift and I’m so thankful to have her in my life right now. It is a testament to God’s kindness.

Are you looking for a real friendship? Do you long for a true sister in Christ?

 🌱 10 Steps to Finding True Friendship 🌱

1. Realize that friendship isn’t going to be easy all the time.

2. Check out this short article explaining why Christian Friendship is going to cost you.

3. Expect friendship to be a challenge and then pray for God to bring you the right person. He loves to grant us the desires of our heart, no matter how trivial or silly they may seem.

4. Keep your eyes open for possible friends. Don’t be discouraged when you find someone you want to get to know better but they already have close friends — in Christ, love multiplies.

5. Pursue the relationship. Don’t wait around for them to notice you, just go ahead ask them over for a playdate, join a book club they are in, or see if they want to grab a cup of coffee with you.

6. Look for at least one common interest to serve as a foundational kickstarter for your friendship. A mutual love of Christ is a great one, but remember that He works in mysterious ways!

7. Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t pan out. Don’t grasp at that which God has said no to. Remember His promises and go back to Step 3.

8. Repeat as necessary, keeping your heart tender, without malice or bitterness. Cultivating forgiveness, joy and perseverance will prepare you better for friendship later.

9. Thank God when He answers your prayers. Don’t be afraid to open up, humbly, to your friend and tell them that you have been praying for this kind of relationship. Remember to keep their best interests in mind and encourage them towards Christ continually.

10. Enjoy the wonderful friendship God has given you.

Guest Post: Pandora’s Box

Please welcome my friend, Alli, today as she shares some reflections on  the good work God is actively accomplishing in her life.

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It took five years to get to this place. “This place” is where I can come to God, open, vulnerable, all of my prideful walls torn down, standing before Him and being able to implore Him through the only way I know how to reach Him. By calling out, by praying to my Heavenly, perfect Father.

My idols all let me down.The old habits have died, and are being replaced. A new “me” is being created. I’ve died, I am still dying, to my old self. I am putting on love, humility, tenderness, kindness, and growing into the woman God desires me to be.

I think I always knew I’d need to change. But I was afraid, who wouldn’t be? I created this identity, this world, this box. I entrapped myself in it. I’d become the monster living in Pandora’s box. What if it someone opened it? What if I exploded? What if someone drove me the wrong way? What if I got ticked off? I had made this illusion that I needed to be this unpredictable bomb. I thought it was mysterious, and in a savage way, somewhat attractive. It attracted the wrong people, friends that wouldn’t stick closer than a brother, traitors, men that’d trample over me, because hey, they were just as empty and unpredictable. We had a lot in common. I’d become the queen manipulator. Cutting myself gave me my escape. It released pressure, stress, hurt, pain, embarrassment, deep shame. The time I knew I could stop was when it clicked- I realized that when God put Christ on the cross, He too experienced the pressure, the hurt, the pain, physical and emotional, he was betrayed, he was stripped naked, NAKED on the cross, beaten, whipped, he was shamed, and rejected countless times.Pandora's Box | Mere Breath

My identity was never in the boys I chased. My identity was not in the drinks, or sex-related things, my mistakes, my sins, or my past. Anyone who says different is bs-ing you. That’s the identity I’d let myself have. But not anymore. The choice to have a new identity was all on me. I had the responsibility to change me, not those around me. My only identity, my security blanket, my comfort, my love, my peace, my hope all now are in God, because of His wonderfully perfect, selfless Son. His son gave Himself, and I deserve it not one bit, but by His grace, through His love, I can walk with Him.

Ephesians 3: 11-14 says, “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, I rejoice so much that I can come to God without paying for my sin. He has forgiven me. He has washed my scarlet sins as white as snow. He has removed my sins as far as the east isAbout the Author: A from the west. These promises destroyed my Pandora’s box.

 

 

 

 

Reading Encouragement for Mommies

I’ve been reading a lot. I’m in the middle of  A Praying Life and it is ministering to me greatly. Yesterday I finished Sacred Marriage, which reminds me of a lite version of Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage. Sacred Marriage has less academic appeal and works with material that is more easily absorbed by those of us who don’t have extraordinary educations. Today I began reading The Rage Against God and it is proving to be equally interesting as Peter Hitchins’ is an engaging writer in addition to giving me a valuable glimpse into my atheist friends and family’s perspectives. If you are wondering how a mommy to 4 young children is able to read this much, here are some thoughts with the hope of encouraging other mamas to do similarly since I have found it to be a good use of my time.

Why

Reading is important. It is mentally stimulating and as a stay at home mom to littles, staying mentally challenged is somewhat a challenge in of itself. Thinking is a type of muscle, if we allow it to relax for too long, we will be come weak-minded. Given that raising children into adults is both difficult and essential work, staying sharp is less of a luxury and more of a tactical approach to child-rearing. An added bonus is that reading keeps me from lapsing into “The Mom Bubble” wherein all I can think and talk about is diapers and toys. It is good to realize that the world is much bigger then my home. Staying connected to subjects outside my immediate focus helps me raise my children with a mindset of sending them out into the world, as opposed to protecting them from the world.

Reading is encouraging and/or fun. Generally, in addition to my daily Scripture Readings, I am often reading 3 books at once. One of them is fiction. This one is used purely for entertainment purposes. It is the one I read before drifting to sleep at night or when I am sick. The second one is a type of practical self-help book, commonly on the subject of mental health, relationships or motherhood. The third is spiritual food, something that aids my understanding of God and brings me closer to Him. The latter, particularly, is the one I find myself reading the most on days when I feel worn out or sad. It lifts my eyes to Christ, which of course means, I can’t focus on things of this earth quite so much — something we are specifically challenged to do in Colossians 3:2.

Reading keeps me out of trouble. Where mommies don’t often have idle hands, we can easily slip into idle mindsets. It is in those times that I find myself most prone shop online, watch too much television or sin against others. If I am feeding my brain, I’m less likely to get worried over BPA scares or pick fights over vaccinations. It also keeps me off Facebook, which sometimes, is a great blessing to my friends. Similarly, reading creates a buffer between me and my mental health challenges. Anxiety is less likely to get ahold of me if I am distracted by an engaging book.

 Time

Many of the books I read, I actually listen to. This allows me to read while I attend to my housekeeping responsibilities. I used LibriVox (free audiobooks) for about a year and read many great classics there. I also learned that most Public Libraries have audiobooks available on site and online for card holders to enjoy. After hunting around a bit, I found a company that allows me to listen to (or read) as many books they offer for one, low, monthly rate (unlike more popular audiobook subscription companies who only allow 1 book per month). Scribed has a large collection of audio books by Francis Chan, NT Wright, and Gary Thomas.  I was delighted to discover that I can read at least 3 books a month using their service which is saving money and space on my bookshelves.

I was amazed at how much reading time opened up when I started listening to books. I can sit outside and watch my kids play. I listen while I’m getting dressed in the morning, fold laundry, making dinner or knitting. Switching to audio books made it possible for me to read for several hours a day. The times I do read a hard copy or on my kindle app, I do so either in the morning (before the kids get up), at nap time or at night (after the kids have gone to bed). However, this is due, in part, the fact that I’m not a very good reader so it takes a lot of time and effort for me to learn this way. I’m sure a more capable reader could find a way to read paperbacks when her children were awake.

Regardless of which method of reading you employ, you will find that the truth is that you won’t find time to read. You have to make the time. Wherever your treasure is, there will your hearts be found (Matthew 6:21). This truth is especially convicting when it comes to reading our Bibles daily. If reading your Bible is important to you, then you will read it daily (as best you are able). Where there is a will, there is a way. Jesus Himself, rose early to get quiet time in with God (Mark 1:35). When Jesus was preaching, people came early in the morning to hear Him (Luke 21:37-38). While there is nothing sinful about reading your Bible in the afternoon or evening, there are countless benefits to getting up earlier to do so:

  • You can be literally still and know God.
  • You can get your priorities straight before the day starts.
  • You can pray quietly.

Last year, rising early meant getting up at 4:45 most mornings, this year it is 7:30. What the time is will vary from person to person, but I’d encourage you to stop making excuses and settle into the discipline.There will be seasons when you really can’t accommodate early rising (like if you have a newborn, or a husband who works the night shift), but for most of us, when we refuse to set our alarm 15-20 minutes before we have to get up, we are simply being selfish. God’s mercies for us are new every morning, yet we can’t lose a little sleep to touch base with Him? This is not ok. I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. If you are looking for accountability, we do have a facebook group that may be able to help. I’m 31 and only in the last year and a half have I begun to consistently read my Bible on a daily basis. It is work to get into the habit, but my only regret is not disciplining myself to do this earlier in my life.

When it comes to reading non-scripture, a similar principle can be applied. If you really want to read more, you will find the time. Remember that saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else.  Pick the best option and commit to it.

What

Now the question left is what should you read? Your Bible, of course. Definitely start there. After that, ask your friends for recommendations (Goodreads is great for this). Check out blogs to find modern writers who capture your interest and then read one of their books. Ask your pastor what book he would suggest for you. Look for subjects that you want to learn about (I need to read about training a puppy asap). The possibilities are endless and overwhelming if you don’t start with baby steps. Pick one book and commit to reading (or listening) for 10 minutes a day. Eventually, you will begin to fall in love with reading like I have. It is simultaneously restful and productive which suits it perfectly to this busy time in our life.

Mere Breath | Reading Encouragement for Mommies

 

 

Same

After we’ve been in the church for a while, I think it is easy to forget how ugly our sins are and to see other’s sins as bigger then our own. But the truth is, if our hearts are really sitting at the foot of the cross — the opposite would be happening.

You see, when we think the other guy needs Jesus more in this moment then we do, we are missing the point completely – we aren’t seeing ourselves truthfully. Think about it: the drug addict, the fornicator, the rapist, the woman getting an abortion, that mom who is yelling at her kids in Walmart, the homeless man who stinks to high heaven of filth — do you see how you and I are exactly the same as all these?

We are all dirty. We are all fools. We are all self obsessed, pictures of unbridled unkindness. Outside of Christ we are all hopeless. You and I, we are the whore at Jesus feet, every.single.of.us, and when we realize that, only then can we bask in His abundance of forgiveness — only then are we able to share His goodness. Only then are we truly free.

“Of all the acts of worship in which she could engage, none was greater than coming to Jesus with faith, knowing and believing that he loved her, accepted her, forgave her, and sent her on her way in peace. ”
-Excerpt from Everything I Know About Worship I Learned from a Whore. 

A Prayer for Those Going to See 50 Shades

Almighty God, who was and is and is to come. Holy Father, your truth is invariable and the treasures of your goodness inexhaustible. You are our rock and all your ways are perfect. There is no unrighteousness in you.

Lord, we know that nothing is outside of your perfect plan. We know that you work all things together for the good of those who love you. We ask today that you would use 50 Shades of Grey to convict the viewers of their need for you. We ask that you reveal to them how precious they are and what an abomination abusive relationships are. Give them strength to leave behind the unhealthy unions in their life, and give them a new heart, one that longs for you alone.

We ask that you humble those of us who are tempted to look on the lost with contempt and pride. Remind us of our place and give us spirits of compassion. Help us to speak the truth in love and worship you through cherishing one another. Please incline our hearts toward you and open our ears to the wisdom in your word and from the Holy Spirit. Make us a people known for the kindness, honestly and good works that reflects Jesus himself.

You assured us that whatever we ask in your name will be given. I ask all these things in your name, which is more powerful than any other. See my supplications, take my life as a humble offering, and draw near, for we are your servants.

Amen.

Sex, Guilt and Shame

As with all the creation, sex is meant to point to something more glorious in the gospel. Let me explain. We’re all big people in here, so think about the physical act of sex. In the physical act of sex, a man rises. He enters into his bride. He fills her to bring forth new life. This is a picture of the gospel, that Jesus is raised from death to life, that he enters into his bride, that he fills her with the Holy Spirit, and the seed within the woman then is born and brings forth life.

Our physical birth is a picture of spiritual rebirth. The gospel and spiritual rebirth is not an afterthought; it’s part of God’s glorious plan of redemption even before the fall. It’s not that God was caught by surprise when mankind fell into sin. So he has provided a way back. Here are a couple of observations I would like to make about sex.

There is greater joy and pleasure in the spiritual than in the physical, and you will never enjoy sex the way God has intended it as long as you are looking to it for ultimate satisfaction. As we look to sex for ultimate satisfaction, it becomes a lust, which, by nature, you cannot satisfy. One other thing here, as we see this glorious picture sex is to represent: God does not enter into those he is not in covenant with, nor should we.

In the Greek language, the word porneia means any form of sexual immorality, including engaging in homosexuality, asexuality, bisexuality, fornication (that’s operating sexually outside of the covenant of marriage), bestiality, pedophilia, incest, rape, adultery, or anything else we could try to conjure up with our depraved minds that does not reflect God’s intended design.

Obviously, as we look around at the culture and look back maybe on the tragedy of our own lives, we see the fall is very evident. Again, Satan’s seduction into sexual immorality… It’s something that he would dress up that God would say is so bad, so detrimental to us, and make it look so good. Romans 1:25 says the worship of creation in the fall becomes the agenda. Instead of sex being the overflow of worship before God in loving your spouse, the worship of other things becomes paramount: pleasure, security, safety, people, acceptance, etcetera.

Romans 11:36-12:1 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” All of creation is meant to glorify God, to be worshipful to God. “I appeal to you therefore [based on that statement], brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

 

This is an excerpt on a talk produced by The Village Church, given by a former sex addict called, Sex, Guilt and Shame. The whole talk is excellent, a really helpful resource for folks who struggle with sexual sin and particularly for folks who don’t have any experience, but are interested in understanding all this. If you have been weighing in on the 50 Shades discussion, especially, without having any real experience in that kind arena of sin, please take the time (about 50 minutes to listen which is kinda funny), to stop and hear or read this lecture before continuing to share your thoughts publicly. Remember, Proverbs 15:1.