A friend recently posted this audio recording from one of Moody Bible Institute's chapel services. The speaker is Rosalie de Rosset and her message is timely and simultaneously convicting and refreshing. After listening to it, I immediately purchased her book of essays entitled, "Unseduced and Unshaken - The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman's Choices."
A couple of my favorite quotes from the book so far include:
"Dignity is a strong, chosen, deliberate way of life, the result of the totality of a person's choices and worldview."
"If your faith matters, your mind matters. If your mind matters, it is important what you do with it, theologically and intellectually. You cannot separate your spiritual life from the life of the mind. You can't be fully human without using wisely all the faculties God has given you. They are intertwined; one will not thrive without the other. In neglecting one or the other, you will live a small, shriveled existence."
I also appreciated her reflection on the character of Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, "Gandalf tells the reluctant and unlikely hero, 'There is more to you than you know,' more in this instance than doing what he has always done. The wise magician knows that Bilbo has become addicted to that cozy rabbit hole; he likes eating and drinking well, he likes being comfortable. But Gandalf knows that Bilbo has two sides to his nature, that 'within the hobbit's veins coursed the blood not only from the sedentary Baggins side of the family but also from the swashbuckling Took side.' Bilbo has gotten used to the sedentary side, and after all, he's not doing anything wrong; he's just a nice, even generous, placid hobbit who knows how to have a good time, who fits into his community. But, something transcendent is calling to Bilbo - telling him there is more to life than this, that there are adventures to be had on a heroic scale, that there is good and evil in this world, and he has to be part of fighting the wrongs."
I have met and been inspired by many young women who also feel that something transcendent is calling them, that there is more to life than having the most friends on Facebook, than knowing everything that happened on Glee last week, more than having a comfortable, popular life. They are right. They can be a part of fighting the wrongs in this world, and they can do so while maintaining dignity and spiritual fervor, growing in wisdom and faith along the way. And, thanks be to God, So can I. But none of us will get there without being ready to sacrifice along the way - giving up our "addiction to our cozy rabbit hole". I am thankful to writers and teachers like Rosalie de Rossert for cheering on this generation of young people and affirming their sense of calling to something deeper, richer, and more rewarding than the status quo.
Romans 12:11-12 NIV, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."
1 Timothy 4:12 NASB, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example to those who believe."
A couple of weeks ago, I told my son a story that helped renew his faith in God's existence. It got me thinking. How do I know God exists? I have no idea how long this post is going to turn out to be, but I'm going to pour out from my heart whatever comes to mind from my personal experience that reassures me that I know MY GOD exists. I am going to focus on ways that are personal to me, this isn't going to be an academic or intellectual endeavor this time around, although the evidence is staggering! (Check out the references at the end of this post for more information on the more universal evidence pointing to God's existence.) These reasons are all mine. You could refute them in a million ways, and explain them away, but it won't take away from my joy or my confidence. My hope doesn't rest on these experiences, (that hope comes from the Bible and the Bible alone) but my faith has been strengthened by them along the way.
1. I have been protected from COUNTLESS mishaps as a naive younger woman that cannot be explained. I should have been harmed. Period.
2. I once read my Bible one morning and then went to work and shared what I had learned with a co-worker who sobbed, telling me that she had randomly opened her Bible that very morning in desperation and read the exact same portion of scripture and got up bereaved because she didn't understand it. I had, unknowingly, interpreted it for her, and it spoke directly to a situation she was going through that I was unaware of.
3. I have woken up in the middle of the night with crystal clear ideas about ministry that I couldn't have come up with on my own.
4. I have been offered jobs and promotions that my own knowledge and skill set could not have commanded on their own.
5. My soul has been saved. Of that I have no doubts.
6. I have a strong desire to be in church with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Every. Sunday.
7. I have had just the right friends at just the right times in my life.
8. My heart rate accelerates alarmingly whenever I am in a Bible Study or Sunday School class and I feel like I am supposed to speak up about something. Whatever comes out of my mouth in those moments is passionate and very different emotionally than any other context where I might share things with a group.
9. There has been more than one occasion in my life when I needed a certain amount of money and God has provided it either to the penny, or above and beyond.
10. When we moved across the country (at God's leading), we left before our house had sold. We got a solid offer 100 miles before our car crossed the border into the new State we would be living in.
11. When our foster daughters were brought to our home, I experienced the most unbelievable feeling of peace and a sustaining energy that I had never felt before. I sensed God's pleasure and His provision.
12. I have been able to forgive offenses that would have haunted others for decades.
13. When my son uttered his belief in Christ and asked for forgiveness of his sins at the tender age of 6, he said and did some very specific things that made my heart sing and tears roll down my face. I had been fearful that he would attempt to make that decision too early in life and that he wouldn't really understand it and that I would be plagued with doubts. I have never doubted the reality of that experience for him.
14. I felt compelled to spend some time in intensive research of a specific portion of the Bible. My husband agreed to me being away from the house for 3-4 hours a day for a month as I studied and wrote. When it was all said and done, we didn't know what I was supposed to do with the final product. We prayed about it. Four months later a friend called and asked me if I would speak at weekend women's retreat at her church. I had already prepared for it and I didn't even know she was going to ask.
15. My husband is not the man that I spent my college years looking for, and yet he is completely and utterly perfect for me in every way possible. He came into my life unexpectedly and in a desert place (literally).
16. Many times when I read the Bible I find myself getting very excited or weeping, or compelled to act on what I've read. This book was written by men who lived 2,000 years before I came on the scene, who lived in a very different cultural context. There is no other book I have this reaction to.
17. Two of our foster daughters' mother was in a coma and very near to death. I taught them to pray for the first times in their lives and we daily prayed for her recovery. She bounced back.
18. My son has an inner joy and an adaptability that we could never have instilled in him on our own. It is a gift from God that has sustained him through a lot of changes.
19. My parents moved to Southeast Asia as missionaries before my son learned to crawl. I prayed that he would somehow be able to bond with them and love them well even though the distance couldn't have been greater. They never spent a Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthday with us for the first 8 years of his life. As an 11 year old boy, he LIGHTS UP at the thought of spending time with them and loves them deeply as though they lived down the street.
20. I am rarely without a song in my heart.
These are a few of my faith-builders over the years. They are not yours. They aren't the bottom-line proof of my faith in God, but they are the icing on the cake.
Looking for more concrete answers to your questions about God:
1. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website - go here and click on "Questions."
2. Evidence That Demands A Verdict - a book by Josh McDowell
3. Give Me An Answer website - by Cliff Knechtle
Or - pick up a Bible - say a prayer telling God you want to find Him - seek out a Bible believing church to start attending - and see what happens:
"You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." - God. Jeremiah 29:13
This weekend, some friends took Tim and I to the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival. It wasn't my first time hearing bluegrass music, but it was my first time at a bluegrass FESTIVAL. As I sip my coffee this morning and think back on the experience, I can't help but think the church (global and local) could learn a lot from the bluegrass music culture.
CHURCH, Listen up!
I hope everyone reading this gets a chance to go to a bluegrass music festival at some point, but more than that I hope that you get yourselves involved in a local church and be people who make the church more joy-filled and effective in its work.
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Seriously, my friends and family have kicked it into high gear lately with their status updates and tweets. I am laughing daily at all the funny stories and clever quips. As always, I must share! Names and incriminating data have been scrubbed from these posts to protect those who may not have been TRYING to be funny. *wink
1. 5 Year Old: "This book is full of nothing but good news." (She was holding up a New Testament)
Her 6 Year Old Sister: "Umm... Jesus getting killed cause I was naughty is NOT good news."
2. "I love cats! I just can't eat a whole one by myself."
3. "Going running after work, if anyone would like to join me. Warning: I have not run for years, I will be going slow and whining the whole time."
4. Five Year Old Boy: "Girls are all scared of scary stuff. All they like is princesses and beautiful flowers. That's no way to be."
5. "Confession: When your kids show up trick-or-treating in broad daylight, hours before dusk, I secretly judge you as helicopter parents.
6. I once told a teacher I wouldn't participate in an embarrassing Folkloric dance in Spanish class because I was Baptist.
7. Watching my daughter try and open a child-proofed bottle. "I am a grown-up" she shouts at it. Then looks up at me guiltily. "I lied to it. I just wanted it to open."
8. "Crawlspace" is such a poorly named part of my house. It's the last space I want to crawl. It should be called "Spidertown Jamboree."
9. ENOUGH WITH THE HOME REPAIRS. All I can guess is that our house was built in 1973, and almost 40 years later, it is tired. Come to think of it, I know exactly how the house feels. I can relate to it on many, many levels. (this wasn't from FB or Twitter, but rather from boomama.net, but I couldn't help but include it.)
10. Dad: "Not sure what I'll be for Halloween this year. I've never been anything scary." Son: "You were Justin Bieber two years ago.....THAT was pretty scary."
My day started off with a problem yesterday. Don't you just love it when that happens? Yeah, me neither.
Our family car has been on its last legs for awhile and its latest malfunction finally forced me to call a mechanic yesterday morning. The key has been getting stuck in the ignition for quite some time (this is the original problem), but we've always been able to eventually get it out, but lately getting it out hasn't been quite so easy. In fact, Monday night I couldn't get it to come out at all, so "Old Yeller" sat outside with the key in the ignition all night. The next morning when I went out to start-er-up, the battery was dead as a door nail. That was the first problem of the day. My son needed to get to school and the bus had already come by our house. That was problem number two. I called a dear friend and neighbor and she came over at once to take Tim to school for me (problem two solved). Then she came back with jumper cables and a can-do attitude. Only issue was - we couldn't get the hood latch to release on my car. You got it, problem numero three. She called her husband and he walked us through the process and before we knew it problem three was history and the hood was open! We got the car started in no time flat - and when I say WE, I mean SHE - (problem one alleviated) and she left to begin her day.
Problem four reared its ugly head when I realized that I had less than an eighth of a tank of gas and I couldn't leave the car idling for very long to get the battery fully charged. I attached a battery charger to it and hoped for the best. The best was not in the cards and the car refused to start when I needed to take it to a mechanic (Problem #5 - which is basically a do-over of problem #1). I called another good friend who came over with jumper cables and a "can you really do this?" attitude. I assured her I was capable (I had after all just watched friend #1 jump-start the car and had quickly watched a youtube video on how to go about it right before she showed up. I was practically a pro!). Thankfully I got the car started without anything blowing up (problem five solved) and my friend followed me to the mechanic's shop, because she's cool like that.
To continue making a long story longer - here is what happened after that:
So, what is the moral of this story? Take your pick:
1. It is good to have friends. It is VERY good to have friends.
2. Problems aren't always solved in the same order in which they arise. Tackle one thing at a time, but don't get hung up on the way it all comes together.
3. Sometimes your problems might make other people laugh - go with it, we could all use a good laugh. Getting bent out of shape only robs you of your own shot at joy in the middle of junk. (Shout-out to the windshield-wiper-horn-blowing friend, I do hope everything worked out!)
4. Don't assume the worst when a problem arises - you aren't God and you have no idea where your "stuck key" will lead you today, perhaps at the end of the day you'll still have a key that sticks, but you could also have a way to deal with it, a comforting knowledge of how far your friends are willing to go to help you, and a small glimpse at how much God truly loves you.
It's Sunday. What does that mean to you? Another day to sleep in and relax before the next work week begins? A day to get up and put on the mask of the "good girl/boy" and go to church to fulfill your weekly duty? The busiest day of the week with family and church obligations out the wazoo? A blessed day of rest and reflection on the God who created the universe in 6 days?
For the last several weeks, Sunday has become (at least temporarily) for me, a day to cry. To weep. To sometimes sob. I didn't choose for that to be the case. I do not wake up each Sunday morning and say to myself, "Well, get ready for a good cry. Today's the day!" In fact, most Sunday mornings I wake up refreshed and excited about spending the day at church and with my family. Nevertheless, I have found myself in tears each Sunday for the past 5 weeks or so. Part of it is the weekly reminder, as we step into the church we are attending, that things are not as we planned them to be. Each time I enter, as I sit in the pew, as I listen to the orchestra and the choir, as I hear the announcements and reflect on the message from the Pastor, I am faced with the reality that it was never in my plan to sit in that congregation as anything other than the Associate Pastor's wife, but that didn't happen. I haven't quite figured out how to sit there without that memory invading yet. Another layer of my tears has come from the keen awareness in that environment of the goodness of my God. Yes, there is pain reflecting on how things were "supposed to be," but there is also tremendous peace and joy coming from the God who has revealed Himself to me during this season in ways so tender and precious and awe-inspiring that I can't help but cry each week as I sing about His goodness and acknowledge His perfection.
As I have processed my unexpected and yet consistent Sunday tears, I can't help but think that it is all okay. That I am not pathetic, rather I am broken and blessed. That, in reality, this is how it should be. Each and every week, we should all have moments to be reminded that "This is not how it should be." This world is not our home. We are strangers and aliens in this place. Yet, we should also have moments of pure awe at the goodness and GREATNESS of our God. It is these moments that keep us grounded in the spiritual reality in which we live. It is these moments from which worship arises. It is these moments wherein we declare our dependence on God and the insufficiency in ourselves.
I'm so glad it's Sunday.
"Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?'"
This statement is part of a conversation I almost didn't have with my 11 year old son, Timothy, yesterday in the car on the way home from Wal-Mart. Once I had time to process that entire conversation and the events of that day, I knew that I would need to share it here. Some things are just too important NOT to share.
Earlier this week, Hurricane Sandy brought rain, snow, flooding, power outages, and havoc all throughout the northeastern United States. My husband, who has been gifted with a heart that longs to serve others in tangible ways, immediately sensed that he was meant to help those who were affected in some way by the flooding and devastation that the storm caused. He knew he had to go. We have been out on a limb (where God has called us to be) in so many ways, over so many years, that I didn't even bat an eye at this. Could we afford for him to go? No. Did we know how it would happen or where he would stay? No. Did that matter? No.
Jason pulled $500 out of our emergency fund, packed his duffel bag, pillow and sleeping bag, borrowed a church van (loaded with bottled water donated by church members), and I prayed over him and kissed him goodbye at 8:30am on Wednesday morning. Sometime before lunchtime that very same day, I got a phone call from someone we dearly love. He had been planning to make a donation to a disaster relief organization to help with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts and heard that Jason was going. He asked how we were paying for the trip and I told him that God would provide. He said he was standing at his bank counter and wanted to wire money into our account to help out, and could I please give him our routing number and account number! Guess how much he gave, without me ever telling him what we needed. $500 exactly. That money, combined with the $120 that various people from Grace Baptist of Cedarville had pushed into our hands/pockets as they dropped off bottled water, will no doubt meet whatever needs come up in the days ahead as Jason offers a cup of cold water, a hot meal, the gospel of Christ, and his physical labor to those who need it most.
Wednesday afternoon, as Timothy and I were driving back from Wal-Mart, I hesitated to tell him that story. I didn't know if he was old enough to really understand the process of trusting God in that way. I didn't want to give him a false impression that you could just run out and do whatever you wanted for God and that he would throw money at you to cover the cost. Still, something in my spirit told me it was worth the risk that he might learn the "wrong lesson" in order to share what God had done and give Him glory. When I relayed the story, Timmy had the biggest smile. He said, "Mom, sometimes I have thoughts like, 'Is God really real?' Then I hear stories like that and I KNOW. I KNOW HE IS REAL and I think how stupid it is to think He isn't."
I am so glad I shared that story with my son. Just in case someone who is reading this is wondering, "Is God really real?" I thought I should share it with you as well. Two questions for you today:
1. What spiritual conversation have you not had with a young person in your life because you aren't sure he/she is ready for it? May I venture to suggest you give it a try? Children and young adults are far more spiritually attuned than we give them credit for!
2. What has God done in your life lately that you need to share with someone else? I know how much that story encouraged my son, and I am hoping it encourages you as well. What stories of His goodness have you not shared with others? We need to hear them!
Hebrews 10:25 NLT "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near."
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!