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Hope for the wayward heart

I would say I’m sorry for how sporadic posts have been these days. On the one hand, I know it’s a not a big deal. I¬†rest in the knowledge that no one is out there refreshing my site moment by moment, eagerly awaiting new content. ūüôā I’m not that important.

But, I also know that I’m called to write, and frankly, I haven’t wanted to. Sure, I’ll repost something old, that’s safe enough, but I haven’t wanted to freshly bare my soul out here in the wide-open internet spaces. Safer just to keep my laptop–and life–shut.

I’ve had dozens of people ask, “Are you ok??” Yes. I’m ok. It has just been a unique season like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It isn’t one thing. It has been a season of battle, a season of stripping away, a season of pruning, of weakness.

Sometimes we wonder, when walking through trials, “Is this spiritual attack? Or is this my sin? Or is this God sanctifying me?” Of course, the answer is always:

Yes.

Yes, at any given time we are facing an onslaught of the enemy, we are dealing with our flesh and the lingering effects of the fall, and we are being lovingly pruned, shaped, sanctified, by a good and gracious God. While we are wise to not be ignorant of the enemy’s schemes, we can rest in the truth that: If I am in Christ, the worst Satan can do is sanctify me.¬†There is nothing God cannot and will not use for our ultimate good.¬†

See, this isn’t a good-and-evil battle where the two sides are equally matched.¬†We might¬†feel outnumbered and overwhelmed, but like Elisha encouraged his faint-hearted servant,

“Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

We are on the offensive, friends.

But even so, this doesn’t mean we do nothing. The battle is real, and it has been raging, and I have wanted to shut down, close up, withdraw. I have felt weary and wondered what it looks like to fight when the issue at hand, the thing that’s up for grabs, the thing that’s being battled for … is my¬†heart.¬†

How do I win my own heart? 

Yesterday at church, God gently revealed the answer. I saw that I had been, as AW Tozer calls it, “tinkering with my soul.” That is, going in with a little change here, a little tweak there, like a retired man spending the day tinkering with an old car, without really accomplishing much at all.

The word yesterday was, “In order to return to our first love, our¬†affections must change.” Yes.

My¬†affections. It’s heart stuff, not behavior stuff. It’s heart stuff, not a tweak here and there. Like the men in Mark 7 who were all about adding external safeguards to make sure they didn’t sin, but Jesus reminds them that that will never work because sin comes¬†from the heart.

Sin is simply misplaced affection. 

So now what, then? I woke up this morning aching with the question, “How do I change my affections? How do I change what I love?”

We change our affection by changing our attention. 

Our hearts simply follow our soul’s gaze.¬†

“The man who has struggled to purify himself and has has nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul¬†and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.” (Pursuit of God, p. 91)

Ahhh. My heart sighs relief.

There lies the whole of my duty for this day: Fix the gaze of my soul on Christ. Stop tinkering, start looking. Put His truth and unchanging Word before my eyes and heart and trust Him to woo back my wayward heart.

That’s hope.

From one wayward soul to another… let’s fix our gaze and trust Him to do the rest. Happy Monday, and thanks for reading.}

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The rest is thrown in (What promise!)

Their little eyes widened as the words sunk in: One HUNDRED times as much!

We giggled to ourselves thinking of receiving back one hundred toys, or one hundred cookies, or one hundred houses or sisters or brothers. Of course the essence of this promise isn’t about calculating or counting, it’s written to convey an important promise:

What you give up for God, He’ll give back in a better way, beyond what you can imagine.¬†

We were studying the Rich Young Ruler, and how sad he was as he shuffled away from Jesus, as he gave up the greatest opportunity that had ever presented itself to him. I actually found myself tearing up as I told the story, thinking how tragic it is that so many (sometimes myself included!) give up the greatest invitation ever because we can’t let go of our stuff, our rights, our way.

But it’s so fun that immediately after this story, Jesus gives a promise. And it’s a big one! He marvels at how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom, but then makes this mind-blowing statement promising that all those who give up things for God’s sake will¬†receive¬†back one-hundred times as much. Wow!

I have seen this wildly lavish love from God so many times.¬†It’s nuts!¬†I’ve been amazed at this truth that when we seek our own pleasure, our own way, our own stuff, we end up poor, we walk away sad, nothing satisfies.

BUT. When we seek the kingdom, when we give up our stuff, our way, our life, we find ourselves spoiled rotten by a generous God, lavishly loved and blessed. Sure, there’s still tribulation, trials, challenges. But the abundance so outweighs the burden.

God is GOOD. His way is good. His plans are good. Oh that we’d give up our own way to seek His and discover the goodness! When we seek our own we lose, but when we seek Him, we find the rest tossed in as well. It reminds me of the CS Lewis quote:

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. -CS Lewis

Or this quote captures this beautifully. So true! Not seeking our own, in a selfish sense, is the directest course you can take to secure your highest happiness. Amen!

“If you are selfish, and make yourself and your own private interests your idol, God will leave you to yourself, and let you promote your own interests as well as you can.

But if you do not selfishly seek your own, but do seek the things that are Jesus Christ’s, and the things of your fellow human beings, then God will make your interest and happiness his own charge, and he is infinitely more able to provide for and promote it than you are. The resources of the universe move at his bidding, and he can easily command them all to subserve your welfare.

So not to seek your own, in the selfish sense, is the best way of seeking your own in a better sense. It is the directest course you can take to secure your highest happiness.” ‚ÄĒJonathan Edwards (Charity & Its Fruits)

May we take this route. When we seek¬†His kingdom, the rest is tossed in as well. Let’s go this way! Happy Monday.¬†Thanks for reading.¬†

*Originally shared last year, still true as ever. Looking for email delivery of posts? Sign-up here: https://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=KariPatterson  (Thanks!)

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Just Show Up

Early this morning I had a conversation with some friends, and one of them just kept saying, “Really, all you have to do is just show up.”¬†Just show up was the phrase we kept coming back to. Then this is popped up from exactly a year ago …¬†perhaps it’s timely for us all.

~

I’ll admit, it began as an irritation.

Why are we the ones ALWAYS here?¬†Of course, the pastor’s family¬†has to show up at church, right? Of course the Bible study leader¬†has to show up. Of course the retreat speaker¬†has¬†to show up.

After 17 years leading Bible studies and small groups, I get what it’s like to be the one who¬†has to show up. And I’ve always counted that a blessing. The reality is, whenever we just show up we are blessed. We only benefit. I’m grateful for all these years where leadership has forced me to be consistent, because I know my tendency to be hit-and-miss.

But this year, something began aching in my heart. I always knew it was there. After years leading small groups, you know the attrition rate by heart:

Usually by the end of the study half the participants … aren’t participating.

But it becomes heightened, more clearly seen, in something small like a church plant. Although this thing certainly isn’t “ours,” there is a very real sense that our very hearts and souls are poured out into this little ragtag band of believers called Renew. Paul clearly had this same burdened heart for all those he invested in for the sake of the Kingdom.

And so the inconsistency, the attrition, the hit-and-miss … is keenly¬†felt.¬†

And yet, my optimism constantly reminds me:¬†God uses exactly who’s there for just the right purpose. He can move mightily no matter who comes and who doesn’t.¬†

And this is true. Of course God is so powerfully and gloriously sovereign, He can work gloriously with two people or two-thousand people.

And yet.

(Now my heart’s doing this crazy-thumping thing because I’m pretty sure I’m going to offend a bunch of people right now.)

I poured out my heart to God about this recently, sharing honestly with Him how hard and lonely it is to be the one always showing up. Do you know what I heard crystal clear in my heart?

“How do you think I feel?”

Tears flowed as I realized how we have hurt the heart of God. 

I believe the heart of God is deeply¬†grieved that we have made him last priority in our lives.¬†That we have made spiritual matters of least importance. That we put more thought into the state of our financial portfolio than the state of our souls. That we put soccer schedules ahead of Sunday morning worship. That we have financial needs¬†and yet blatantly ignore¬†God’s clear commands on giving to Him first. That we¬†neglect morning prayers and time in the sacred Scriptures because we really “need some sleep.”

I’m not talking about legalism, I’m talking about LOVE.

I believe the heart of God is broken because He waits and waits and waits and waits, for us to just show up. Like a husband who plans a date with His wife every Friday night, who reserves a table for 2 and sits alone in the candlelight, waiting, waiting, waiting for His beloved bride to show up.Like a husband who plans a date with his wife, reserves a candlelit table for two, and waits ...… Click To Tweet

But she never does. She needed sleep. Something came up. A friend stopped by.

He sits there, alone, waiting for us to just show up. 

I read a story recently of a family in the 60s, in Communist Russia. They loved Jesus. Every weekend, they would walk 30 miles to get to the nearest church, then walk 30 miles home, traveling all night long Sunday night, to be ready for work Monday morning.

This undoes me. Oh God, forgive us. We know nothing of carrying our cross, we know nothing of commitment.

We know nothing of true love. 

Again, this isn’t a message of condemnation, it is a PLEA that the people of God would know the heart of God, that He does not come last. Matthew says that as the end nears,

“The love of many will grow cold.” (24:12)

Please: Do not let your love grow cold. He waits for you.

Just show up.

{Thank you for reading.}

*People have mentioned it’s hard to sign up for automatic email-delivery of blog posts. Here’s the quick link:¬†https://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=KariPatterson ¬†Just type in your email and you’ll be set!

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When you feel tricked by God…

‚ÄúWhy?‚ÄĚ I yelled, out into the sky. ‚ÄúWhy did you trick me, God?

It was January¬†2002, and I remember so clearly the feeling. Standing out in the rain, soaked to the skin, confused because God was breaking my heart. I wrote our whole story out here, how¬†God brought Jeff and me together in a roundabout way that included a lot of heartache. It was most certainly not the way I thought my love story would go. Now, more than 15 years later, I wouldn’t have it any other way. But at the time I felt tricked by God.

See, I worked so hard to guard my heart. No disrespect to him, but I didn’t¬†like Jeff. Not as anything more than a friend. But it was so bizarre, it was like God actually changed my heart and¬†made me love him. I know that sounds weird, especially now because I’m madly in love with him now! But 16 years ago I wasn’t. And in a most interesting way, God kept putting Jeff before me, to the extent that I actually God clearly tell me that Jeff was to be my husband.

God set me up.

And then, once I’d fallen in love. Once I’d said yes in my heart and gone head over heels, once I’d fallen in love … then He broke my heart. Then I opened Job and felt¬†the same morning I found out Jeff was dating someone else. The same day Jeff said, “We’re never going to be together.”

It seemed God had purposefully led my heart into a place where it would be crushed. 

I felt tricked. 

Thankfully, my heart and mind were steeped in the Word of God. Job’s words were my own: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Despite how I felt, I¬†knew that God’s goodness was greater than my limited perspective. I cried, yes. I questioned, ranted, railed. The sting of rejection didn’t go away overnight. But, truly. It was worth it.

~

Over the years, I’ve seen this situation several times. It’s just Abraham all over again. God is the one who speaks the promise to him. God is the one who births the dream, gives the vision‚ÄĒHe¬†makes Abraham & Sarah’s hearts long for their baby boy.¬†And then, they are disappointed by infertility for¬†25 years. Abraham could have easily said, “You tricked me, God! You are the one who started this whole child-of-promise thing! You made me want this.”

Then once the child comes, God does the unthinkable ‚ÄĒ He requires Abraham offer up the precious child as a sacrifice to God. Again, Abraham could have easily said, “You tricked me, God! You gave me this child. You let me love him. You turned my heart toward this boy with undying affection. And now, this? You tricked me into this sorrow.”

Thankfully, Abraham does’t. He, like Job, worships despite the pain, and trusts God’s goodness above what He can see. And He is rewarded.

~

Our own journey led us this way again. I’ve never been a “kid person,” I was happy with my two, born quite a long while ago I might add (!!), but then last fall God made it very clear we were to have more. Say¬†WHAT?!¬†I’ll share more later, but¬†this was not my plan.¬†But lo and behold, as the months went on,¬†He changed my heart. He made me¬†want this. He completely turned my heart around, just as he did with Jeff those many years before. Next thing I knew, I was hoping and planning and dreaming and then … we miscarried.

Now, in all honesty, I didn’t feel angry or confused. I’ve seen God’s goodness so many times.¬†But I felt that familiar feeling, of being led specifically into a place where my heart gets set on something … then it’s gone.

Why? 

I promise I won’t be the person that’s always pointing to material in my book ;), but chapter 7 of¬†Sacred Mundane addresses this question at length. Does God strategically disappoint us? Why? How do we not lose hope? How do we not get jaded? Bitter? Cynical?

As my friend Pam Hunter recently wrote,

“The great challenge of faith is holding on to hope after you’ve lost your na√Įvet√©.”

So often, what I have called “faith” is probably just naive optimism. I told my friend Christine yesterday, “I thought I had the gift of faith but maybe I’ve just had an easy life.” Ha! Right? Sometimes our “faith” comes from a lack of experience, a lack of seeing suffering, a youthful zeal or naivet√©.

But faith comes from seeing suffering, feeling disappointment, experiencing sorrow, or witnessing evil … and still believing.

Still holding onto Hope. Faith comes when you feel tricked by God but you refuse to let your feelings eclipse the truth. Faith comes when you trust His goodness more than what you see, more than what you feel.

In the grand scheme, I’ve still had an incredibly easy life. Just yesterday we heard story after story, at church, of incredible men and women in Uganda who are choosing faith despite horrific circumstances. They are the heroes of faith, and I feel so small in the presence of their stories.

But it is not necessarily the size of their faith but the¬†object of it, and the object of theirs is the same as the object of mine, so our hope is in Jesus, forever, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He wrote it, He’ll conclude it. This story may get gnarly at times, but He’ll wrap it up with a glorious conclusion at His return and no doubt we’ll look back and see His goodness in it all.

Hold onto hope, dear friends. Even if you feel tricked. He is good, and you are loved.

Thanks for reading. 

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Go for a walk & change a child’s life forever {6k for Water}

Instead of cooking dinner right now, I get to curl up in my favorite chair, put my feet up, and share this post with you. See, a dear friend is generously bringing dinner to us tonight. She knew we had a hard few weeks, so she insisted on bringing us a delicious, homemade meal. Because I don’t have to cook dinner, I now have 47 free minutes ūüėČ to sit and share this with you.

Cooking dinner is such a small thing, and I’m grateful to do it. But imagine if you had to spend not just 47 minutes cooking dinner but¬†HOURS each day, walking to fetch water that’s unsafe to drink. Now, busy moms have dinner to make and babies to attend to, so guess who ends up walking an average of 6 kilometers¬†every single day carrying a 5-gallon bucket of dirty, contaminated water to bring back to his or her family?

Children. 

Six kilometers is the average distance that women and children walk, every single day, in order to fetch water that is unsafe to drink. I don’t even walk that far on a daily basis, for exercise, and these small children do it, usually barefoot, often through dangerous areas, carrying more than 40 pounds on the return trip.

But this week (3/22) is World Water Day & we have a fun and EASY way to provide clean water FOR LIFE for 500 children (or more) through the 6k for Water. I hope you will consider joining us, or contributing to this amazing opportunity.

Now hear me out, dear friends: I know there are so many great causes out there. I’m sure you are contributing to many of them. Here are some reason why this is one our family has chosen to focus our efforts on:

1. Water is life

I am all for¬†any cause that alleviates suffering and extends Christ’s compassion to those in need. And specifically, Titus 3:14 tells us to devote ourselves to doing what is good, so as to help cases of¬†urgent need.

Water is an¬†urgent need. Without water, we die. And to make matters worse, when children drink contaminated water, they die. Waterborne illnesses are the world’s leading killer. More than 3.4 million people die every year of water-related diseases, making it the leading cause of death and disease in the world. Every single day, 1,000 children die of preventable water-related illnesses.¬†Providing access to clean water is one of the most urgent physical needs there is.

2. Ripple effect.

Because someone sacrificed her time to make me dinner, I now am able to sit down and write this, contributing to the greater good. In a much greater way, the gift of clean water gives a child much more than a cool drink–it gives her freedom from the slavery of water-fetching day in and day out. When a community has water, its children go to school. They can learn to read, write. They can learn skills to break the cycles of poverty.

And, the children are safe. One of the greatest tragedies of little girls gathering water, is that they are often walking through dangerous areas and often assaulted. One man said, the very best part of their community having water, was that there was no more rape. 

I can hardly type those words. I cannot fathom my own little 8-year-old angel having to walk some 4 miles every single day, through dangerous areas, vulnerable, lugging water back home, water that most likely will make her sick, that could possibly even be carrying a deadly disease. When I look at my little girl, I think of those millions of little girls, and would LOVE to help in whatever little way I can. Providing water is a way to prevent rape, abuse, and keep those little girls safe.

3. Living Water

We believe¬†that humanity’s greatest need is¬†Christ. These physical bodies will someday die, but every soul needs the love of God and the promise and hope of eternal life. So it is our conviction that we give through agencies that will explicitly share the truth of the gospel and the love of Christ with those they serve. Jesus said to the woman at the well,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 6:13-14)

What I love about World Vision is their commitment to excellence and to the truth of the gospel. So, would you join us?

2017 6K for Water

May 6th, 2017: 9am

@ Clackamette Park, Oregon City

This family-friendly run/walk event is a fabulous opportunity to go for a walk and change a child’s life. For just $50 you can provide clean water¬†FOR LIFE for a child (every dollar goes straight to water projects), and identify with them in a significant way by walking the length they walk each day. When you sign up, you get a unique bib with the picture of your child on it, and information about that child and his or her community.

We did this event last year, and I cannot say enough about how great it is. It is such a sweet opportunity to connect your heart and your family to another child, and make a real different in his or her life.

This year, they’ve expanded the regions where water projects are done, to include not only Africa but also India and Haiti.¬†And, we are THRILLED that a local business has made us an amazing offer:

If we reach $12,500 fundraising as a team,¬†they will MATCH us dollar for dollar. That means we have to reach that amount, but they will match it, and the sky’s the limit!¬†We have an incredible opportunity provide clean water for 500 or more children, just through this fun and simple event.

So, will you join us? Here is the link for registration, don’t wait! You’ll get your bib in the mail soon and be ready to go. And invite your friends! It’s always more fun to do together.

And if you cannot attend personally, would you please consider contributing to our team? Every $50 gift provides clean water for one more child. 

ALL THE INFO IS HERE ¬Ľ werunOC.com

Quick link to sign-up or donate:¬†http://lk.godrenews.us/OC6KforWater (click “Join our team” to join, or “Support” to give.)

Thank you so much for joining us in this great cause. I pray you are BLESSED for your generosity. 

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When you’re just so weak…

 

Last month, when we went through those 17 stressors all at once, I thought, ‚ÄúOh good. There‚Äôs my break-down-and-cry session for the year. Let‚Äôs get back into our groove and start thriving again!‚ÄĚ

But then. We were heading into a super full month ahead, so I braced myself for the busyness. The same day that I wrote that post, I found out I was pregnant. I’ll share more on that story later, why we were amazed and beyond thrilled, but suffice it to say the stressors all faded away in light of this new miracle. Yes, I was tired and nauseous, but it was worth it because it meant a little LIFE was growing inside my body.

But then, a week later, Heidi came down super sick with a high fever. I hoped it’d break quickly and she’d be better in the morning. She wasn’t. The next day she was sick. And the next. I had to leave for a retreat, and by then Jeff and Dutch were also coming down with it, so I reluctantly left them home and headed off to speak.

That night, I came down with it too. The whole retreat I felt so weak. I was also doing a fast with a family member to pray over a specific situation, so I had given up all caffeine for 40 days. Between no caffeine, being pregnant, being sick, and being away from home and not sleeping well, trying to have enough strength to speak to these dear women, I was at end of myself. I just kept reassuring myself that I’d be home soon, could rest and recover, and it’d all be better.

When I got home from the retreat, we were all four still sick. And then, that night, I miscarried.

In the middle of it, I felt so much peace. I knew God’s goodness, I was able to praise Him, trust Him, sing to Him. He spoke specific words of hope and encouragement to my soul, so although I cried most of the night, I was really ok.

But it isn’t usually the sudden blow of sadness that gets us, it’s the slow wearying effect of daily discouragement. That’s how I felt. The next day we were still sick. I kept up at my optimism, always believing the next day we’d be better. And then next day we were still sick. Heidi had hardly eaten anything in 10 days. Finally on Wednesday, I was feeling strong enough to get to Bible study, so I went.

Then, in the middle of study, I got a text that Heidi had a horrible allergic reaction to bubble bath, she was swelling up and breaking out in a rash over her whole body.

Seriously?!!

I went home, to find her face swollen, her lips sticking out, bulging, her tongue swollen, and a red puffy rash all over her body. While Jeff went for Benadryl, I sat up beside her bed, praying over her, hopeful the next day it’d be gone.

It wasn’t. It looked like chemical burns all over. It itched terribly, and no matter what we tried, we couldn’t seem to get it under control. The next day, it was slightly better but still there. And the next day, still there. This was day 12 of sickness, on top of the exhaustion, no caffeine, and miscarriage, and Jeff or I had commitments 7 nights in a row, and I was just. At. The. End.

By the time all the sickness and reactions ended, it was the day before I was supposed to speak at a conference, in a session for Pastor’s Wives. I so desperately wanted to give them a powerful, hope-filled message. I wanted to make the session worth their time. I wanted to encourage them.

But I had nothing. I had no special insights from the Scriptures. I had no clever 3-point sermon, no alliteration or outline or fill-in-the-blanks, I had NOTHING. And I still needed to pack for our week of travel and clean the house and do laundry and homeschool these kids and make a dozen arrangements, and all I could do was cry. I spent my last hour of ‚Äúprep time‚ÄĚ lying on my face before God, sobbing. No matter how hard I tried to pull myself together, I couldn‚Äôt stop crying.

And there, with my face on the floor and the tears and snot soaking the carpet, the words of Jesus came to me,

‚ÄúMy grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.‚ÄĚ

There it was. Not only the message for my session and the message for my soul. I grabbed my Bible and began scouring 2 Corinthians, amazed to see how often Paul himself pours out his own list of laments, how often he was weak, hungry, weary, sleepless. How often he was at the end of himself. And yet over and over we see the reason for it:

That the power of God can be displayed.

I’m always praying for God’s power to be in display. But how often I tend to think that God’s power will be displayed through my power. I want God’s power to be displayed through my powerful preaching, or writing, or wisdom. I want God’s power to be displayed through health and strength, through exhilarating times of worship, through energizing church services, through successful endeavors.

That’s fine, but there’s no denying that more often than not, in the Scriptures, God’s power is displayed through our weakness. In fact, God’s power is made PERFECT (its very best display) through my weakness.

Of course I’m willing to be strong for the sake of Christ, but am I willing to be weak? Am I willing to be humbled? Am I willing to look small and unimpressive? Am I willing to pursue a path that purposefully puts my weakness on display?

The next day, in a packed room of pastor‚Äôs wives, I laid out my story of weakness. It wasn‚Äôt polished or pretty. Some might say it was pathetic, but then we opened up the Scriptures and let them preach. Oh and did they preach!!! They preached hope to us all‚ÄĒthey told us that in our sorrow we are comforted so that we can comfort others (that‚Äôs ministry!). We saw that the treasure of the gospel is contained in weak and unimpressive jars of clay (that‚Äôs us!) to show that the power if His not ours. We saw that Paul was shipwrecked and beaten and hungry and exhausted, and that he was content with all that because it meant the power of God was put on display. And we saw that a messenger of Satan was even allowed to harass Paul, because when he was weak, then he was strong.

God met us in a powerful way, not because of my strength but because of His.

No one likes feeling weak, of course. But the gospel gives us something greater to live for than just our own feelings and fancies. We get to live for Christ. And the Scriptures promise us a reward that is far beyond anything we can possibly imagine, for those who choose the way of weakness for His sake.

Are you weak today, dear friend? Don’t lose hope. You are in the prime position to see God’s power perfected in your life. Your weakness is not a sign of God’s absence, it is an opportunity for His glory to be in display this very day.

Take courage, cling to Christ, for when you are weak, then you are strong.

{Thanks for reading.}

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Homeschool Nature Days {And the story of the Ark}

‚ÄúNow I don‚Äôt have to die to go to heaven,‚ÄĚ my son grinned. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs right here.‚ÄĚ

We were walking along the trails zig-zagging through the wild countryside of the property we would soon call home. Towering trees, low-hanging limbs laden with moss, a pond and trickling creek, old-growth stumps¬†‚ÄĒ¬†it was all so lush and green and vast¬†‚ÄĒ as far as the eye could see.

But even as spectacular as the scenery was, I couldn‚Äôt take my eyes off¬†him. Seeing his wonder‚Äďrapture really‚Äďas he explored and discovered, head tilted back, gazing straight up, pointing here and there, ‚ÄúMom, red-tailed hawks!‚ÄĚ

I couldn‚Äôt believe¬†this was where, Lord willing, our kids would grow up. … {Read the rest over at here Simple Homeschool! And if you’d like to read the story of this piece of property … it’s here:

The Ark pt. 1

The Ark pt. 2

The Ark pt. 3

The Ark pt. 4

Thanks for reading!

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::Save the Date:: July 25th

At a retreat last weekend, we were asked, “What’s one thing you’re looking forward to this year?” The girl I was sitting beside quietly confided that she was excited to welcome a precious¬†baby into the world on July 26th. I gasped, thrilled for her, and then quietly confided that I too was excited to welcome a precious little something into the world just one day earlier…

a book baby.IMG_7938

Of course, a book is nothing compared to a¬†life, but writing a book does feel like¬†giving birth — the mental¬†and emotional investment involved are most certainly akin to carrying and birthing a child. Some of you know it has been a long, sometime tearful, journey. So, I’m happy to announce our “due date” —¬†July 25th.¬†

Between now and then I’d love to gather a group of¬†you, faithful blog readers who have journeyed along with me here in this place, who would like to participate¬†in reading and sharing the life-giving, hope-filled, Jesus-saturated truth of¬†Sacred Mundane. I’d be honored to share a copy with you, and just ask that if it blesses you, you share the love with others. 100% of my proceeds will go directly to benefit women and children in need through World Vision; I want women all over the world to be blessed by both the¬†message and the¬†money from this project. I’d love if you would consider joining me.

If so, drop me a quick contact here, and I’ll be in touch. Thanks so much, faithful blog readers. You are a gift to me daily–your kindness and camaraderie blesses my soul.

Thanks for reading. 

total truth

My life and worldview rocked to the core…

This last week, I felt like chains fell from my wrists, ankles, mind.¬†I opened this book and began¬†scarfing down¬†what I’ve been starving for for so long and didn’t know it. I cannot remember the last time I felt so¬†FED by a book, by truth. About what, you ask?

Worldview.total truth

I know, this seems so dry, boring, unexciting. Please, track with me:

Even though my entire life is about the¬†Sacred Mundane, even though my passion is destroying the sacred/secular duality and seeing all of life as a means of seeing and glorifying God, even though I just¬†wrote a stinkin’ BOOK on this topic, I now see that I myself DID in fact allow my faith to be pushed to the margins of my life and relegated to a privatized corner of religious activity, safe and virtually ineffective, rendered useless for effecting change in the public spheres of life.¬†

See, I only spoke on safe topics. Only at religious events where Bible teaching was acceptable. I NEVER talked politics, current events, or spoke out on cultural issues. Truthfully, I was content to be the Bible-reading girl who shared little devotional snippets here and there about how to be more joyful in your mundane.

But here’s the thing that’s blowing my mind: God is the CREATOR of this world. Think about that for a moment. He’s the CREATOR. Not just of America. Of the whole world. So, He KNOWS exactly how things should be, all wisdom and insight and genius and creativity¬†all come from Him.

He is the SOURCE of all things. All wisdom. 

So, we should then be able to see¬†all of life through the lens of the Scriptures. I’m laughing as I type this because my book has an ENTIRE CHAPTER on this topic. BUT, I have never been taught¬†how to develop a biblical worldview. That is, I’ve never learned how to intelligently engage with current events, culture, media, politics, arts, through the uniquely¬†biblical lens of the Scriptures.

And here’s why:

In our culture,¬†Christianity has been allowed to survive because it has been relegated to an obscure corner labeled “personal religious beliefs” which renders it completely useless for having any real impact on the¬†actual¬†goings on in our world. That is, we’re fine if people want to pray the sinners prayer, but DO NOT bring that Bible stuff into the workplace, government, education, healthcare, etc. No no.

Religious belief is allowable in your private life, but here in the public realm, we make decisions based on purely objective Reason.

Here’s the problem:¬†There is no such thing as objective Reason.¬†

But, I’ve believed it. I’ve swallowed the pill that says, “Yeah, I can’t give¬†biblical reasons for any of the things I believe which have widespread¬†implications, so I guess I just can’t be part of this discussion. I guess we have to have public arguments based solely on secular principles.”

But secular principles are not neutral.

Nothing’s neutral. Nothing’s objective.¬†Every philosophical system assumes some beginning “first principle.” That is, ALL knowledge depends upon religious truth. So even the secular “objective” reasoning depends upon some assumed self-existent truth. As Pearcey writes in¬†Total Truth:¬†

“It’s a mistake to even to think of reason as neutral, in the sense of being independent of any philosophical or religious commitments. All systems of thought begin with some basic premise — some ultimate principle that is regarded as self-existing or divine. Reason is merely the human capacity to reason from those starting premises. In short, reason is always exercised in service to some ultimate religious vision. People interpret the facts in the light of either biblical revelation or some competing thought.”

Yes! See, ever so subtly, over the years, even during my college days and throughout the past 18 years, I have slowly and subtly believed the lie that “religious” knowledge must be confined to private spheres, while “objective reasoning” (which, doesn’t exist) is the only tool to use in the public spheres of government, education, science, etc. And since the only real knowledge I have is biblical knowledge, I figured that I better stay away from these public spheres because I clearly didn’t have anything to add.

So what happened was, God ruthlessly kicked me out of the private realm! During my nice quiet 40-day fast (a private religious activity where I minded my own business), He went and did something crazy — He told me who to vote for! And THEN, He clearly told me to share publicly who I voted for. GAH! I cried my eyes out, sweat, lay awake at night, and panicked. Even though I certainly wasn’t telling anyone else what to do or implying I had the corner on the truth, I was terrified to EVEN SET FOOT in that realm.

I was terrified to apply spiritual insight to a public sphere. 

And, because I didn’t have the tools to think critically and¬†articulate biblically-informed views, when people asked me, “Why did you do that?” I shook my head, blushed, and said, “Um, I felt like God told me to.”

Not exactly a compelling answer.

See, I do believe that just by virtue of reading through the entire Bible 18 times, every single day for the last 18 years, that I have developed some sense of biblical worldview.

The Bible is the loudest voice in my life, hands down. I’ve “heard” more from the Scriptures than any person, even my parents, spouse, anyone. Nothing has spoken louder in my life than the Bible, applied supernaturally to my life by His Spirit.

So, that’s enough to at least make some sense of things, but I’ve never learned how to then intentionally develop a biblical worldview on public issues, and¬†certainly never dared to say one out loud, for fear of being seen¬†as idiotic, simplistic, uneducated, and narrow-minded.

And while¬†I’m probably all those things, so is everyone else in light of Who God is, and His truth is TOTAL TRUTH. He has the genius insight on all things, and when we abandon His Word as THE SOURCE of all truth, then we inadvertently take up the “religion” of secularism, unknowingly falling prey to its false systems which are, at the core, contrary to God.

So, I don’t know where any of this will take me, other than¬†to my knees. That’s where it’s taken me so far. I find myself feeling ALIVE like I have never felt before. I find myself feeling JOY like I’ve never felt before. I feel CONFIDENCE like I have never felt before. Not in myself, but in GOD!¬†Sure, I don’t have the wisdom in and of myself, but HE has the answers, HE has the hope, HE has the truth, He has the words of eternal life, not just the ones that apply to private spiritual matters, but ALL THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO LIFE, are found in the knowledge of CHRIST.

In Christ is ALL knowledge. 

Christian, rejoice! There is a place for your voice in this world, for your Christlike care and compassion, for your wit and wisdom, for your humble critique and keen insight. Take heart, Christian!

Do not let your faith in Christ be relegated to a meaningless margin of your life. Jesus redeems ALL of life, for His glory. I’m excited to continue journeying this way with you.¬†Thanks for your grace and patience with me along the way. Thanks for reading.¬†

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When you just aren’t strong enough to bear the load…

It happened Friday night — the unraveling, crumbling, ugly-cry, loudly-sobbing, can’t-talk sort of breaking point that seems to come along once or twice a year. I could kind of see it coming, but couldn’t quite put my finger on it. ¬†I didn’t know anything was wrong, but the littlest thing can send you over the edge when you’ve been teetering on the brink and didn’t know it.

The thing is, I don’t usually sit down and consider how little things affect me, until it all piles up and I’m officially crushed. Besides, there isn’t time. When I was a teenager, busy with sports and school and work, my mom would remark how I was aways healthy until a vacation, then I’d come down with a cold. It was like my body knew to “hang on” through the busy season and then when there was enough space I could go ahead and “let out” all the stress, in the form of a cold.

I find that I’m like that now, emotionally. I will automatically hold it all together, until everything quiets down and there’s enough space, then I’ll go ahead and “get sick” emotionally. This is not a conscious decision, it just happens.

Anyway, it happened. And for awhile I couldn’t talk, I just silently cried, and Jeff waited to patiently, wiping my tears and holding me, and eventually I choked out the words that came from down so deep it felt painful to speak them:

“I’m not … tough enough to be a leader.”

That was it.

I felt like a butterfly trying to carry a brick up into the sky, and no matter how well-intentioned, those wings weren’t meant to carry that weight.¬†

Then, as I began reflecting back on the small things that had compounded, I realized that SEVENTEEN difficult/challenging situations to navigate or lead through had surfaced in my life in the last two weeks.

Seventeen.

And none of them are bad or catastrophic, but each one¬†weighed on my heart. They caused me to ache, in some way. They took prayer. Several left me at a loss for how to proceed, at least for a time. Some hurt. Some left me confused. Some just took time and energy to determine the best course. Some took weighing how others would react or respond. Some required taking into account many different factors at play. Some required forgiveness. And most of them were things that wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss with anyone else.

So while no one of them was a “big deal” so to speak, they all piled up, and as I crawled under a blanket, in the dark, I cried out all I could think to say,

“God, help me. Please encourage me. Please help me be humble. Please … I feel so alone.”

Alone? It sounds silly to say, right? Certainly if I’m facing¬†seventeen different people-situations, my life is not lonely! ūüôā

But loneliness¬†comes from bearing a weight that can’t be shouldered by anyone else.

But then I heard it so clearly, there in the quiet:

“These are My sheep.”

Oh. Yes. There IS someone who can shoulder this burden. In fact, He must. Because HE is the Good Shepherd and He loves people more than I ever could and He is GOOD and and He is for me, and for them, and when I am tired and weary and fragile and weak, He has already promised me this:

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.…

Wow. When the words of Scripture spring to life and speak to your soul, you are changed.

Suddenly, the hopelessness slipped away. The warped perspective cleared. The fears fled. The anxiety dissolved. Peace flooded in. Rest settled. Hope rose. He held. 

Interestingly enough, one of the things weighing on my heart was writing the material for an upcoming Pastor’s Wives conference. I so desperately want to bring words of hope and life to them. I want to help them thrive. Guess what the verse is for our time together?

“Come to Me, all you who are weary…”

Yes. He’s so good. And so I prayed for God to translate every challenge into¬†wisdom, into more revelation of His love and guidance, to turn every situation into an opportunity to teach the goodness and wonder and wisdom of God, to encourage these precious pastor’s wives, and any others who might just happen to feel weary along the way sometimes too. My seventeen situations weren’t all church-related, they were¬†life¬†related.

I know I’m not unique in this,¬†we all sometimes feel like we’re not strong enough to bear the load.¬†And Jesus invitation reaches to¬†you too.

“Come to Me…”

Thanks for reading.