"That's Nice, I'm a Buddhist..."
That’s nice. I’m a Buddhist.”
That was her response when I shared the gospel with her in my sister’s Tennessee backyard last summer.
Four months later, she tapped out a text to her AA sponsor. “The readings and meditations aren’t working anymore. I feel so lost. Who is God?”
Except the text didn’t get sent to her sponsor. It got “accidentally” rerouted to me in California. Thus began an almost daily conversation about the gospel, the Bible, faith, and all matters of life.
As our friendship grew, she shared 46 years worth of unimaginable abuse and loss. Sexual abuse, suicide, alcohol & drugs, homosexuality, and violence were the themes of her life. If not for the AA program and the community she found there, she would not have lived to send that text.
She told me she was ready to try church. Hours of reading through church websites led me to direct her to the church family that would fully embrace this vulnerable seeker of truth. The director of the women’s ministry gave a hug and her cell phone number on the first visit.
“I can’t deny that all of this is real. God is chasing me, and I want to stop running from Him. Tell me again what I have to do to become a Christian,” was what she started our phone call with after three months of taking about Christianity.
She prayed that night- not a manufactured, “repeat after me” prayer, but a raw confession of her sin, genuine repentance, and a full surrendering of her life to Jesus. It was one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard.
I flew to Tennessee to see her be baptized by the women’s ministry director who has discipled her for the last six months. After a video of her sharing her testimony, she stepped into the baptismal, and the whole congregation gave a standing ovation - not for her, but for our overwhelmingly kind God who is mighty to save.
Friends, take every opportunity you have to share the gospel and don’t be discouraged when you’re met with, “That’s nice.” Jesus is still actively seeking and saving the lost, and participating in His redemptive work in people’s lives is a marvelous delight
Daily communication with God is the key to your success as a Christian, as a wife, mother, employee, friend, and as a representative of the gospel to the world.
Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Do you believe you can do nothing of eternal worth apart for Him?
I love this quote from Wendy Speake: (@wendy_speake)
“Hurried, harried, and horrible: they go together. But hurried and holy rarely coexist. Holy and hallowed and hushed, now those are true companions. They meet together in the morning hours before the sun steals past the beauty of dawn. We need to join them there. We need to fellowship with the Holy One—slowing down, sitting down and coming down off our cram-packed agendas to seek Him on the floor.
On the floor.
Because that’s where every person is going to end up, eventually. Either on purpose, prostrating oneself in worship, intentionally in the morning hours; or at night in a tearful puddle; or, and this is a frightening thought, they’re going to find themselves on the ground like the discarded branch that’s not bearing fruit—cut off and cast down”
Friends, we are going to end up on our faces one way or another, aren’t we? We can either intentionally spend time at the feet of Jesus, or our out-of-control lives will shove us there after we are spent and sin-sick.
We get to choose which way we will arrive at His feet. Let’s choose the better part!
There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is always required by God. Reconciliation is not.
Is it possible to forgive someone and remain unreconciled? Yes. Reconciliation means repenting and restoring a broken relationship. Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation.
Jesus didn’t require people to be sorry before He forgave them. On the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive those who put Him there, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). These people crucified their Savior, and He extended forgiveness to them without being sorry.
However, Jesus didn’t say those He had extended forgiveness to were in a right relationship with Him. They could only have restoration in their relationship with Him if they repented from their sin.
Reconciliation requires repentance.
If someone is unwilling to repent, we are still required to forgive them, but the relationship can’t be restored unless there is reconciliation. While there may be forgiveness, the relationship remains broken until there is acknowledgement of the offense and repentance from the sin.
It should always be our desire to be reconciled to people. That’s the heart Jesus has for every single person. However, we are only responsible for our own part in a conflict. The scripture instructs us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18).
Notice two things about this verse:
1. Paul wrote, “If possible,” which means sometimes it won’t be possible.
2. He said, “As far as it depends on you,” which means there is another side. There is an “as much as it depends on them.”
Before the Lord we are only responsible for doing what we can on our end to have peaceable relationships with people. Sometimes, because of what depends on them, living at peace is not possible.
It is okay to grieve what sin has destroyed, but don’t remain in the grief.Process the reality of what has happened, with your heart set on eventual restoration. Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed and sinned against by those He loves most. Go to Him with your burden, seek out wise counsel, and pursue restoration, as much as it depends on you.
May God help us to be women who do all we can to seek peace with all men, and when that is not possible, to rest confidently in Him who sees all things and does not stop working miracles.
Show Me Your Scars
If you play “connect the dots” with the scars across my belly and hip, you can draw a turtle.
A collection of silvery lines are the only remains of five surgeries. These now-painless marks are tangible evidence of past healing.
I have invisible scars too - remnants of emotional wounds that were far more painful than joints being repaired or organs and babies being cut from my body.
And today, unwelcome aches in my heart are still crying out for healing – deep unseen wounds that wish they were already scars. Maybe you have some of those too?
Hope is ours because Jesus has scars too.
Though we might expect a perfected body to no longer bear the marks of suffering in this world, in His resurrected body, Jesus has scars. Scars were the key to confirming His identity to His disciples. Only when they saw His scars did they recognize Him.
His tangible marks of suffering now exist not as defects, but as a witness to the glory of God – an eternal proclamation of the pain He bore for your sin and mine. In holy perfection, Jesus’ pain is remembered by His scars.
Perhaps the marks of our own agonizing wounds in this life will remain in heaven as permanent scarred testimonies of the glory of God?
While things still ache, this assurance of unwasted pain brings real hope.
Because of the scars Jesus will bear forever, you and I can be sure that whatever hurts today will one day be a beautiful scar that identifies us as those who have suffered with Jesus.
Prayer Requires Faith
Prayer is our most effective tool in helping our husbands and bringing about real changes in our families, yet it is often our last resort. After we have nagged, cried, and talked to our friends, we decide, “all I can do now is pray.”
Oh, how foolish! Prayer is a supernatural defensive weapon we can continually use to help mold and shape our families.
Sadly, prayer is often explained like a quaint little two-way chat with God. That’s so trite and ridiculous. Prayer is war. Prayer is labor intensive effort. Prayer takes concentration and perseverance. It is a battle to get into prayer, a battle to stay in prayer, and a battle to believe prayer is even accomplishing anything.
That’s why there is so little of it in our lives! If it was easy, we would do it all the time. And yet, we MUST pray if we want to see things change in our homes.
Prayer requires faith. It demands we believe what the scriptures say is true, that we participate in spiritual things we can’t see, and that we believe something we can’t see is happening as a result.
I once heard prayer described as a Christian’s “long-range artillery.” Prayer is a way for us to do battle from great distances. It is limitless. There is no place too far for prayer to reach. Whether your husband is out of the country, out of town, or out of his mind—discharge prayer to wherever he is, and you are helping him there.
Pruning Isn't Punishment
Standing in the middle of a vineyard in winter, I feel a kindred connection to these gnarled and twisted and fruitless vines.
In the summertime, these acres were covered in vibrant green leaves and heavy with sweet and tart future wine. Following the harvest, the vinedresser came along and pruned all the fruit-bearing branches, leaving the plants to wait out the winter in naked isolation.
Losing the once-fruitful parts can look like some kind of judgement. My own gnarled vacancies have stung like unjust punishments.
But a winter vineyard isn’t a defeated field. Row after row of expectant hope lives in these twisted stumps.
Pruning isn’t punishment.
Pruning is a promise of future fruit.
Winemakers know the cutting back of the fruitful branches is absolutely necessary. Without pruning, there will be no more wine. An unpruned vine essentially becomes useless.
My Vinedresser knows this too. He said, “...every branch in me that does bear fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
Not a single cut is made without deliberate foresight and careful precision of the Vinedresser. This removal of formerly fruitful things is all performed with assurance of future fruit.
Those of us in the same field, recently pruned and mourning past abundance, are wise to surrender it all as an offering of joyful worship to the only wise and kind Vinedresser.
Spring is surely coming.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of a wife’s role as helper is the fact that God bears the title Himself.
In Jesus’ last conversation with His disciples before His crucifixion, He comforts them by promising to send them the Helper, the Holy Spirit:
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)
In no way is the Holy Spirit inferior to God—He is God, our Helper. This third person of the Trinity bears the same job title as a wife! This should encourage us to embrace the title with absolute delight.
Where have we gotten this idea that being in charge is somehow superior to being behind the scenes? It is an idea older than earth itself. Before the earth was created, Satan was actually an incredibly beautiful and gifted angel. Guided by pride, he wanted the credit, praise, and glory due to God. Other angels even agreed to follow him instead of God, and this is what led to Satan being cast out of heaven along with the other demonic angels. (Isa 14:12-15 and Ezek. 28:11-19)
Satan whispers to women that God is unfair in calling them to be helpers and suggests we should be the ones in charge. Wanting to be the best, to be noticed, praised, and glorified is a trait of Satan. When we seek these things, we are actually behaving like him.
Be reminded today that to be a helper is a high and holy calling and when you occupy that role, you are imitating God.
The book of Psalms begins by telling us what the happy, or blessed, man does not do.
“Blessed is the man who walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1).
The happy believer does not walk, stand, or sit with those who do not want to obey God. The blessed woman is blessed because she chooses to reject the counsel of the ungodly, to stay off the same path as sinners who are rejecting God, and to not hang around scornful people.
Of course, there is a challenge when the scornful person is your husband!
Even though you may not be able to avoid the company of a sinful, scornful person, you can choose to not participate in their practices, thoughts and behaviors, and therefore, the path of blessing stays open.
Psalm 1 goes on to tell us what the happy believer can do:
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2).
The holy, happy woman chooses what she thinks about day and night— the Word of God. So much of our unhappiness stems from what we choose to think about.
The biblical recipe for happiness is:
Holy Living + Holy Thinking = Blessedness (Happiness).
If you want to be happy, then seek to be holy. Be as set apart from this sin-sick world as possible. Draw nearer and nearer to Jesus through His Word, and act like He does toward the people around you.
This may be difficult when you seem to be the only one walking in holiness, but the eventual by-product pf obedience is contentment.
The holier you are, the happier you will be.
Holiness is primarily a personal pursuit— one that every believer chooses when they follow Christ as Savior— whether they are married or single. Each of us is ultimately responsible for our own holiness, and therefore, our own happiness.
I recently spoke with a woman who said that weekly date nights with her husband “aren’t working.” She went on to explain that she has been told by every book, blog, and Bible teacher that a weekly date with her husband will infuse romance, emotional intimacy, and deep conversation with her husband, but their dates are usually forced, disappointing, and often end in an argument.
That’s because a couple struggling with selfishness, pride, anger, and unmet expectations who goes out to dinner and a movie will return home from their date a well-fed and entertained couple struggling with selfishness, pride, anger, and unmet expectations.
Nowhere in the Bible is a date night a prescription for marital success. Yet, according to most marriage “experts,” having weekly date nights is the first prescription for a struggling marriage and usually cited as “absolutely essential” for couples. The conclusion is, then, that not dating your spouse is the fast track to divorce.
“Dating,” as we understand it in western culture, is a relatively new concept, and has only been popular for the last century. For thousands of years, right after the wedding, married couples shouldered endless labor on homesteads, carried on in systems of arranged marriages or slavery, and struggled to survive through plagues and droughts and famines and wars all while raising children. They did all this expecting to remain committed to one another for a lifetime. Suggesting our modern-day weekly date night to our marital ancestors seems almost laughable.
Likewise, I have missionary friends who currently live in the African bush and have nowhere to go on a date even if they could arrange an evening alone. Deployment, chronic illness, children with special needs, moving to a new area with no childcare options, caring for elderly parents… there are so many situations that make outings alone nearly impossible. If a weekly date night is given to these couples as the litmus test of a healthy union, they are all in trouble.
Our Christian subculture is rightly trying to preserve marriages, but our emphasis is misplaced on date nights being the solution for what is a much deeper need.
God’s design for marriage transcends every era, culture, and season of life.
Rather than insisting on a weekly date, what if we individually insisted on outdoing one another in service, esteemed one another as more important than ourselves, spurred one another on to love and good works, pursued godliness with contentment, died to ourselves, and looked out for one another’s best interests? That would probably be better for our marriages than getting a sitter for Taco Tuesday.
Dating your spouse is a lovely treat and can be a great addition to your marriage, but it’s not vital to marital success. Don’t hang your hope on a cultural practice. Rather, hinge the success of your marriage on eternal truth.
God still expects the marriage union to display His glory to the watching world as believing spouses love and serve one another - whether they have date nights or not. It is entirely possible to have a godly, intimate, rightly prioritized marriage and never have another date night for the rest of your marriage.
Going out with your spouse is a wonderful treat to enjoy, but not an essential practice to hold your marriage together. It is only one tool in an entire box of options to enjoy one another, foster intimacy, and maintain communication.
Don't Try to get Away from the Dark
Twinkling lights on every neighbor’s house have distracted me from noticing how early it’s getting dark.
The lights are more visible in the darkness.
Halfway through Philippians 2, there is a little directive that really matters right now because obeying that directive is the key to being a light in this dark world.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”
In ever-increasing darkness, Jesus followers aren’t called to reform the darkness or to demand it be less dark, but rather, we are called to shine – right there in the middle of the crooked and twisted - WITHOUT GRUMBLING AND DISPUTING.
Combating darkness is done not by complaining, but by shining the Light of the World.
This doesn’t mean I can’t speak up and respectfully voice my objections to those who can do something about real injustices – but there’s a big difference between respectfully and legally objecting, and whining through my mask to anyone who will listen about the foolishness of class Christmas parties on Zoom.
Grumbling only adds to the darkness. Disputing is a dimmer switch to the desperately needed illumination this world needs.
Personally knowing the Light of the World should result in every action, every word, and every expression reflecting that light.
Light ensures safety.
Light draws others close.
In the middle of all the crooked and twisted, broken and dark, perverse and painful, the Light of the World is still shining.
Don’t try to get away from the dark. Stop grumbling and let the darkness make the Light of the World more visible.