Monday, June 25, 2012

Conference Reflections: Truth be told...

This is how we roll at Crossway Community Church

I spent the past few days in  Florida with 3500+ other women at the first-ever Gospel Coalition Women's Conference.  It was a sweet (but intense) time of learning and fellowship, and I could fill an entire journal (and almost did!) with my reflections, here are just three...

1)  Satan would like nothing more than to keep us from hearing the truth.

On my flight to Florida, I spent some time reading the third Harry Potter book.  Side note: I realize some reading this may disagree with me on that choice of book, but that's another blog for another time, so I hope you'll allow me to pick the meat from the bones here.  I happened to start reading just as Professor Lupin was teaching his students how to defeat a boggart...a creature of dark magic which lurches in the dark places and shape shifts into one's biggest fear.   For one student, the boggart took the shape of a large spider.  For another, it took the shape of a dreaded teacher.  For me, it would have probably taken the shape of a loved one suffering while I'm away.

One of my biggest fears came true on Thursday morning, when a family emergency arose just as I was preparing to leave.   I felt helpless, desperate, anxious as I drove to the airport.  Even more guilty during take off.  Lie after lie after lie filled my head and heart...

You're sacrificing your family for this conference.

You are the only one who can handle this. You're indispensable. 

You won't be able to get anything out of it if you're worried the whole time.  Just don't go.

He is the father of all lies isn't he?  And he will take any measures necessary to prevent us from hearing the gospel.

In the book, the students are instructed to think of a way to alter their fear into something comical as they flip their wands and say "Riddikulus!"   A spider with no legs, a male teacher dressed in a granny's outfit...riddikulus!

I couldn't flip my wrist to make my boggart disappear.  This nasty creature isn't defeated with humor or spells, but with the truth, and the truth comes from God's word.  Interestingly enough, the theme of this conference was "God revealing himself through the scriptures."  Friends, the enemy wanted nothing more than to keep me (and others) from this conference.  For the truth is what sets us free.  It is the source of our life.  Thanks be to God that we had our fill of truth this weekend!  And Satan and his lies looked "riddikulus" in light of it.

"If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  - John 8:31-32 (ESV)

2) God speaks truth to us through his word.

As someone who grew up in the church, my head knows that God speaks to us through his word.   But this weekend, my heart and mind beautifully connected on this point.

How many times have I started out a conversation with, "I feel like the Lord is telling me" or "God is calling me to..."?  And on what basis do I make those kinds of statements?  Thanks to Nancy Guthrie and her exposition of Hebrews  4:12-13, I realized that these phrases are often my defense mechanisms.  Subconsciously (or maybe even consciously), I think, "If I tell them that God is calling me to do this,  they have to agree with it, right?"  It melts my eyes to tears to realize just how often I have passed off my own gut reaction as a calling from the myself and to others.  For this, I am truly repentant.

Oh, how I longed to hear from God this weekend!  I wanted peace and clarity in ministry decisions.  I wanted an impression...a sense of stillness from God.  I wanted a game plan for the next stage of life, but thankfully, I didn't come home with this in the way I expected.

I did hear from God this weekend, but there were no gut feelings, no butterflies.  Only the truth of God revealed in his word...and that  is more than sufficient.  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12-13 ESV).  "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (1 Tim. 3:16-17 ESV)

I do have peace.  Peace in knowing that I am no longer at odds with the God of the universe.  And I have more who God is and what he does.  Stillness, yes.  I have that too.  "Be still, and know that I AM God," he says.  Which is really my game plan now that I'm be still, and to know that he is he reveals himself to me through his word.

3) I am better equipped to minister to others when my soul is saturated in the truth of the gospel.

During the last session, D.A. Carson lovingly, pastorally, looked out into the sea of women and gently whispered, "In a room of 3800 women, I cannot imagine how many tears have been shed."  A humbling and sobering thought.

Over the course of the weekend, I witnessed many of those tears firsthand.  At one point, sitting between two dear mothers grieving over the loss of their children, I realized what an absolute privilege it is to be selected as instruments of God's compassion and care for the church.   It is a high calling...and a humbling honor.

As means of grace in the lives of others, we should be constantly pointing our sisters to the author of all grace...Christ.  We are best prepared to do so when we ourselves are saturated in the truth of who he is.

I'll be honest...I struggle to pray publicly.  But this weekend, I noticed a marked difference in my prayers for others.  As my heart and mind were filled with the truths of God and who he is as revealed in scripture, my prayers and speech overflowed with those truths.  My prayer is that I would continue to be immersed in the truth of the gospel, so that I might be sanctified and others might be encouraged. 

How grateful I am that our great high priest prayed this prayer for us...

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17 ESV)

Lord, may the truth of the gospel be told, heard, loved, and shared.  And may we grow to know you and love you more as you continue to reveal yourself to us through your word.



Today I'm linking up with...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Under Construction

One of the major roads near our home is currently under construction. Driving through it with my sister this weekend, she looked out the window and sighed, "Construction is so ugly."

It is, isn't it?

Crumbled asphalt, broken concrete, a barrage of dirt and orange...ick.

Mulling over her words, I realized that my heart probably looks a lot like that construction zone right now... in desperate need of excavation.  Broken layers of pride, envy, malice and idolatry needing to be ripped out so that the Holy Spirit can recover me with layers of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).

The bible tells us that we must deconstruct before we can be reconstructed. God's word says to "put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph. 4:22-24)

Like any construction project, it's a long, tedious task with lots of dirt.  It can be inconvenient (for me and for those around me), annoying (again, for me and those around me!) and sometimes ugly.  

The apostle Paul describes it in this way...

"For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:15-24)

As we see from Paul's words, construction is ongoing.  Just as one project is completed, another one must start.  In the same way, our hearts are constantly under construction as Christians.   Thankfully, we do not have to wage the war against our flesh alone.  Through Christ, we are no longer dead to sin but alive to God, and he has left us with a great helper, the Holy Spirit, who continually sanctifies us with the word of God (Jn 17:17), so that we might one day be presented blameless and holy to our great king. 

And thanks be to God, on that day, all construction will cease. Our bodies will be redeemed, we will be glorified, and the hope we have in Christ will come to full fruition.  As Paul says, our present sufferings...those ugly construction sites...aren't even "worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us."  (Rom. 8:18)



1)  Reflect.  Which "roads" in your heart are in need of construction?  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your sin to you so that you might confess, repent and turn towards Jesus.

2)  Evaluate. The bible tells us that the Holy Spirit "reconstructs" or sanctifies us through the word of God.  In order for us to be sanctified through his word, we have to read it!  Take a moment to evaluate your time in the word.  Are you reading it? Meditating on it?  Allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify you through it?

3)  Pray.  Thank God for making us dead to sin and alive in Christ.  Ask the Holy Spirit to help you as you wage war against your flesh and sanctify you through the word.  Pray earnestly for the coming of the king and the day when construction will cease.  


Today I'm linking up with...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stories of Daughters Redeemed: May Whittle Moody

Each Friday here at Daughter Redeemed, we take a look at a story of a daughter redeemed. The redeemed daughter may be someone famous or she may be someone unknown. She may be living for Christ now or she may be gone on to glory. But all of these women will have one story in common...their story of redemption in Christ. So far, we've gleaned from Ruth and learned from my baby sister. This week, we'll take a look at May Whittle Moody.  

May Whittle Moody--Women's Ministry Pioneer

May Whittle Moody (daughter-in-law of Dwight L. Moody) started following Christ at age 11.  From that day forward, she maintained that she never again doubted Christ's love or his word.  She was a loving wife and mother, an extraordinary hostess, a compassionate soul, a gifted musician, a generous philanthropist, and a pioneer in women's ministry.  Her life story is quite encouraging, and if you have some extra time, I'd encourage you read it here.  But for today, I'd like to focus on just one year of her life--the year that she started the first bible conference for girls at age 23.  Here is her account taken from an address given at a meeting of the Directors of the Northfield League in 1929 ...

As far as one knows, in 1893 there had never been a conference for girls anywhere in the world, except a small group of secretaries who met at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 1891. The first conference of any kind held in Northfield was called by Mr. D. L. Moody in 1882. This was called a “General Conference” for ministers and Christian workers. In the summer of 1886, the men’s conference had begun. About 200 gathered at Mt. Hermon School and it was there that the Student Volunteer Movement sprang into being when one hundred college men volunteered for the foreign field. It was my great privilege to be there with my father who was one of the speakers. The experience never left me. One felt the power of God’s spirit calling them into service.

This conference grew very rapidly as the delegates scattered to their colleges and shared their experience. Among the many well known men of that generation were Dr. Watt and Dr. Speer. In 1895, there were about six hundred men, and this did not include southern or western colleges, as other conferences had started for them. The report of this conference closes with this paragraph: “The leaders of the Northfield Conferences have sought from the beginning to instill and foster a deeper love and clearer knowledge of the Scriptures in the hearts and minds of men and women; and to this the growing power of these conferences is due." 

Two years later the men told Mr. Moody that ten days was too short a time to get the Bible study they needed, and asked if could have them for a month, which he did in July, 1989. They studied under the leadership of the strongest conservative men of our country and abroad. The program annually included Bible Classes and addresses on the work of the Holy Spirit and personal work. 

These were the days when groups of college men would go into the hills about Northfield and pray to be filled with God’s spirit and power for service. It is the rule and not the exception to have an outstanding minister or layman of that generation say, “I attended the Northfield Men’s Conference when I was an undergraduate."

All this history of the men’s conference is necessary in order to get the setting and atmosphere out of which our own conference came into being. From the first, a changing group of fifteen or twenty girls attended the men’s conference. They were not invited to any sessions except the platform meetings and some Classes. They met together for discussion and prayer. In 1892 such a group attended the men’s conference and lived at the Merriam Cottage on Main Street. Mrs. Bailey, who was Mrs. Speer’s mother, chaperoned us. At one of the sessions in Stone Hall, one of the girls [Editor’s Note: Actually May Whittle herself] sat beside C. K. Ober and said impulsively to him, “Why can’t we have a girls’ conference and fill this place with girls instead of men?” “You can,” he responded sympathetically. “Go ahead and start it.” That was enough, and that day a petition to Mr. D. L. Moody was written and many sheets pasted together for signatures of both men and women. Confidentially, the leaders of the men’s conference were delighted at the prospect of eliminating a distracting element. 

In the fall of that year, this girl took the petition to Dublin, Ireland, where Mr. D. L. Moody was conducting a mission. She met again with an enthusiastic response and the condition that if she could persuade the Y.W.C.A. to work up the conference in the colleges, he would invite them to Northfield. Accordingly, the petition was taken to Chicago, where the President of the Y.W.C.A., Mrs. John V. Fawell, lived. She showed sincere interest and promised to bring it to her executive committee. This she did, with the result that they agreed to visit the colleges and invite delegations “to attend Mr. Moody’s conference at Northfield." 

The first girls’ conference met at Northfield, June 22-30, 1893. About two hundred girls attended, among them seven from Great Britain. The program for this first conference was as follows: two Bible classes each day for the entire conference. From 9 to 10 the “workers” Bible Training Class with Mr. James McConaughy. The theme was the Christian’s life among men, and dwelt on the method of the Saviour with men and women, making adaptation to those present. It gave practical help to all and created in many a desire for soul winning in college and home life. The second class from 10 to 11 was led by Robert Speer in The Gospel of Work. Besides these two Bible classes, there were three conferences each morning: one for college girls, one for city girls, and a third for the general conference on “work for young women by young women"...

...The conferences at Northfield have been to college men and to college girls a source of real inspiration and strength. Many young men and women have testified and proved that their lives have been made richer and more useful because of the time spent at Northfield and the consideration of those things which are most worthwhile. We all need to take time, in the busy lives we lead, to quietly listen to the voice of God, that the soul life, as well as the mind and body, may grow in beauty and power...”

...The conferences grew from three hundred to nine hundred, and about 1919, we held two conferences, each attended by about six hundred girls. Who can estimate the countless contacts made with God through this channel of His word?"

Giving thanks for May

I am personally thankful for May's story because she inspires me to serve college women with greater passion. May was 23 when she started the girls' conference, and she served young women faithfully until the age of 93.  Oh, how I long to follow in her footsteps!  My prayer is that one day I, too, will be able to ask "Who can estimate the countless contacts made with God through this channel of His word?"

As women who now have the opportunity to attend great national women's conference like the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference (where I'll be in two weeks!) and the True Woman conferences, we should also collectively thank God for our sister May and her vision to "instill and foster a deeper love and clearer knowledge of the Scriptures in the hearts and minds" of women.  Less than 150 years ago, Christian women didn't have the vast resources and conferences that we have available let's not take those for granted!

Today, would you join me in praying for the women who will be attending the Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in two weeks?  Like May, let's pray that the conference would instill and foster a deeper love and clearer knowledge of the Scriptures in the hearts and minds of the women attending.

Today I'm linking up with...

Beholding Glory

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Rummaging through some old files today, I found my Northwestern acceptance letter... 

Dear Chelsea:

Congratulations! The Admission Committee is delighted to inform you that you have been admitted to the five-year double-degree program in the School of Music and the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University.

Serious consideration precedes our decision to admit a candidate. We admitted you because of your excellent record and your promise for future success. You are well qualified for admission to Northwestern, and we are confident you will make a significant contribution to the life of the University.

We are very proud of the Northwestern community and pleased that we can now invite you to become a part of it. This community nurtures scholarship, leadership and mutual respect. Our students thrive during their time here and go on to become leaders in their careers and communities. We are looking forward to your joining us in September and becoming a part of this important mission.

To accept your offer of admission, please review the enclosed companion letter, which details the steps you need to take in order to enroll. Please keep in mind that your admission is contigent upon the successful completion of your senior year academic program.

Once again, congratulations on your admission to Northwestern University. If we may be of any help to you during the next few months, please feel free to contact our office.

Sincerely Yours,

Director of Undergraduate Admission

As I was reading it, I couldn't help but think..."If God sent us an acceptance letter, how would it differ?"

Here's what I think it might look like...

Dear Daughter,

Welcome! I am delighted to inform you that you have been accepted into the eternal life program in the Kingdom of God.

I chose you before the foundation of the world. I admit you, not based on anything you have done. In fact, I admit you despite of your sinful self. It is by grace that you are saved. Not of your own doing, but a free gift of acceptance.

I am happy to adopt you into my family, my church. This community of believers has been called to grow into Christ and to build itself up in love, with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Its mission is to make my name known to every tribe, tongue, and nation. I do not guarantee you worldly success. If you desire to follow me, you must deny yourself and take up your cross. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

To accept your offer of admission, you need only take two steps: repent and believe the good news. Please keep in mind that your admission is contingent upon the successful completion of my son's saving work on the cross.

Once again, welcome to the family. I have given you a Helper who will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. You can also feel free to contact me directly.

Forever your King,


Today I'm linking up with...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Stories of Daughters Redeemed: My baby sister

Last week, I started what I hope will be a weekly series called "Stories of Daughters Redeemed." The redeemed daughter may be someone famous or she may be someone unknown. She may be living for Christ now or she may be gone on to glory. But all of these women will have one story in common...their story of redemption in Christ.

Last Friday, we traveled back in time to glean from the story of Ruth. This week, we'll stay a little (actually a lot!) closer to home as I tell you about another one of my favorite redemption stories...the story of my baby sister and her impact on my life!

My littlest sister graduates from high school tonight at the top of her class.  As you can imagine, I am a proud big sis!

She has given me such joy over the past 17 years, and God has used her to teach me so much along the way.  Her work ethic is admirable, her compassion--beautiful, her steadfastness--encouraging.  God allowed me the great privilege of leading her to Christ in the backseat of our car ten years ago. And since then, he has graciously allowed me to walk alongside her on her journey to become a godly young woman.

Through my baby sister, God has shown me the beauty of the verse in Psalm 145 that reads, "One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts."

And through her, he taught me that the highest calling he has given me is to faithfully share his story of redemption...proclaiming the gospel of Christ to every tribe, tongue, nation...and sister.

Today I'm linking up with...

Beholding Glory

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reclaiming submission

Caution...this post may not be appropriate for little eyes.


Hijacked by 50 Shades of Grey

Over the past few days, the female Christian social network has been abuzz over the controversial summer read, "50 Shades of Grey," and hundreds of Christian women have joined True Woman in its "I'm not reading 50 Shades of Grey" movement. Dannah Gresh has done a great job laying out reasons why women shouldn't read a book with a plot line glorifying BDSM (that's bondage, dominance, sadism, masochism), so there's no need for me to create my own reasons for not reading the book.  However, as I've been reading the reviews in publications like Newsweek and NYT, I have found myself wrestling with one word that keeps popping up like a bad weed.  A beautiful word that has been hijacked, tampered with, and changed into something so ugly that it makes us queasy just to look at it.  What word, you ask?


"Ugly" submission vs. "Beautiful" Submission

In almost every review or article I've read, some form of this word has surfaced.  And it's never pretty.   It's almost always in reference to the sexually submissive woman who allows herself to be beaten, bruised, and abused.  

This is what I call "ugly" submission.  And let me make this very clear from the is not healthy or good.  No woman should allow a man to inflict pain on her for his own pleasure.  This is antithetical to the love and submission that the bible speaks of. When the Bible speaks of submission, it is a word of beauty, grace and freedom.  

To submit literally means to "put yourself under the authority of another."  The question is...whose authority are you putting yourself under?  

The Bible says that we are called to submit ourselves to God. (James 4:7).  Not a domineering, abusive God.  A loving, compassionate God, all-wise and all-powerful.  Often when we hear the word "submit" we hear a word that devalues.  As if being under someone's authority automatically makes you "less."  But that's not the kind of submission God calls us to.  We are instead called to submit ourselves to God so that "he might exalt" us.  

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. -James 4:7-10

Submission is for our good and his glory.

Under his tutelage

Not many of my readers know this, but up until a few years ago, I dreamed of becoming an opera singer.  For years, I practiced and trained with three different vocal coaches, in hopes of one day singing at the Met.  

The relationship between a musician and her teacher is one like none other.  In every other area of my life, my submission was somewhat forced.  I had to submit to my parents...they fed me.  I had to submit to teachers...they graded me.  But with my voice teachers, I was making a conscious choice to submit to their authority.  I was trusting them to teach me and guide me to my dream.  I surrendered to their authority because I knew that it would be for my good.  They knew what was best for me.  They knew when I needed to be pushed and when I needed to rest.  They knew what lessons I needed to learn.  They knew what vocal exercises would help me sing better.  They saw the big picture and broke that down into bite-sized, manageable little pieces.

They were masters of their craft, but their desire was never to put me down so that they might be puffed up.  They wanted me to be successful.  They selflessly loved me, cared for me, groomed me so that I might be "exalted," but I first had to submit to them. I had to make myself low (sometimes practicing the same vocal exercise hundreds and hundreds of times!) before they could make me high.

I realize that it's not a perfect analogy. No human authority can ever be as perfect as God because we are a fallen people (in fact, one of my voice teachers is now in prison because of his abuse of authority with one of his students). But my hope is that it helps you see what beautiful submission really looks like. It's kind. It's caring. It's loving. It's sacrificial. 

A perfect example of submission  

What I love about God is that he never call us to do anything he hasn't already done. In Jesus, we have a perfect example of submission to God... 

Even though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 5:6-11

Jesus, the God of the universe, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross in submission to God the Father.  And now, he is highly exalted.

A perfect example of submission.  

The question of submission

Early on, I asked the question, "Whose authority are you putting yourself under?"

So...who is your authority?

Are you allowing yourself to be beaten and bruised for someone else's gratification? Or maybe you're living for yourself ? Either way, the results aren't promising. Romans 8:13 says "if you live according to the flesh you will die."

If you are under another authority, I urge you to submit yourselves to God. He alone can rescue you from death because he endured death on your behalf in the greatest act of submission and sacrifice in history.

And not only does he rescue you from death, but he promises eternal life and glory in Christ, who "will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."  (1 Peter 5:10)

Submission doesn't have to be ugly, friends.  Being under the authority of a generous, merciful God is the most freeing, beautiful, safe place I have ever been.  

Today, I'm linking up with...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Moments of remembrance

Twelve years ago, a group of school children touring the nation's capitol were asked the question, "What is Memorial Day?"

"That's the day the pool opens!" one child replied.  

It was that child's response that encouraged Congress to establish a national moment of remembrance.  One moment on Memorial Day when we are called as a nation to pause and remember those who sacrificed their own lives so that we might enjoy our freedom.  

Today, the nation will pause at 3:00 p.m. to honor these fallen soldiers.  Families will join hands in prayer, stadiums will fall silent...Americans everywhere will take a moment to remember.

Photo credit

We are a forgetful people in need of constant reminders.  As Christians, we might take a tip from Congress and establish moments of remembrance in our own lives.  Moments where we take the time to remember he who sacrificed his own life so that we might enjoy the truest freedom...

...Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:12-13                                                                                                                      
Pause and remember.

Today, I'm linking up with...

miscellany monday at lowercase letters

Friday, May 25, 2012

Stories of Daughters Redeemed: Gleaning from Ruth

Stories of Daughters Redeemed

I don't know about you, but I LOVE hearing other people's stories. Where they come from, who they are, what makes them's fascinating to me! So, I've decided to make Fridays story time here at Daughter Redeemed. Each Friday (lord-willing), I will be sharing Stories of Daughters Redeemed. The redeemed daughter may be someone famous or she may be someone unknown. She may be living for Christ now or she may be gone on to glory. But all of these women will have one story in common...their story of redemption in Christ.

A Diamond in the Rough

Today, I thought it fitting to start out the series with this blog's namesake...Ruth.

Ruth is one of my favorite characters in the bible. To me, her story is one of the most beautiful stories of redemption ever told.

A while back, our church went through a series on the book of Judges. If you've never read Judges, it's a pretty heavy book. Lots of darkness. Lots of sin. And it ends with one of the most tragic lines of the bible, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes."

But I remember our pastor referring to the book of Ruth as "the diamond in the rough." All this darkness, all this sin...but there's a glimmer of hope in the book of Ruth.

Where the book of Judges ends, the book of Ruth picks up, with the first line reading, "In the days when the judges ruled..."

 At first, we don't see the diamond. It looks like all rough. The judges were ruling. There was a famine in the land. Ruth's husband had died, along with all the other men in her family. She, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law Naomi, were left to fend for themselves.

Naomi, realizing that she had no way to care for the girls, encouraged them to return to their homeland. One daughter-in-law left, but Ruth was determined to stay. She was fiercely loyal to her mother-in-law. A trait that I have always admired in her.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth decided to follow the one true God, and she and Naomi traveled back to Bethlehem together...just in time for barley harvest. And Ruth, out of care for her mother-in-law, set out to the fields to "glean" after the harvesters. While in the fields, she happened to come to the part of the field which belonged to a man named Boaz who took particular interest in her...

“Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women. Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them. Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.”

Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?”

But Boaz answered her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before. The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”

Then she said,“I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, for you have comforted me and spoken kindly to your servant, though I am not one of your servants.”

When she returned home, Naomi--in typical mother-in law fashion--asked whose field she had worked in that day. When Ruth told her about Boaz, Naomi praised God, for she knew that Boaz was a relative and a redeemer.  You see, at this time, if a woman was widowed, an unmarried man in the family could take her as his own bride so that she and her family would be taken care of.  This man was called a kinsman redeemer.  Naomi recognized that Boaz was a potential "kinsman redeemer" and praised God for bringing him into their life.

Boaz eventually redeems Ruth (and Naomi, by association).  Before the elders and all the people of the land, he takes Ruth as wife, and the people and the elders pronounce a blessing on the couple on their offspring.  The bible says that they then conceived and bore a son.  

And then one of the most beautiful lines in the book reads...

The women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel!"  

You see, God had not just delivered Naomi and Ruth from hunger and poverty.  This was just a small part of an even bigger redemption story.  For through the baby boy who was born to Boaz and Ruth, would come another baby boy who would one day redeem not just a family, but an entire people to himself by dying on a cross.  Jesus, our true kinsman redeemer.  A diamond in the rough.

"Gleaning" from Ruth

In Ruth's story, we see a tremendous example of simple, yet profound trust.  She deserted all that she knew, all that she follow the one true God.  When she was poor and hungry, the bible says that she took refuge under the wings of her redeemer.  At one point, she even laid herself down at the feet of her redeemer, surrendering herself to his care.

Today, I encourage you to have that same level of trust in your own kinsman redeemer.  Lay yourself down at his feet.  Surrender to his care.  Blessed are you, daughter, for he has not left you this day without a redeemer!

Do you have a recommendation for Stories of Daughters Redeemed?  If so, please leave a comment below!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moment by Moment

Just this past year, I discovered the words to an old hymn called "Moment by Moment".  I have been in love with this song ever since...

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a battle with wrong for the right,
Never a contest that He doth not fight;
Lifting above us His banner so white;
Moment by moment I'm kept in His sight.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear;
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I'm under His care.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a heartache, and never a groan,
Never a teardrop, and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on the throne
Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus, my Savior, abides with me still.

Moment by moment I'm kept in His love,
Moment by moment I've life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

-Lyrics by Daniel Whittle, Music by May Whittle Moody (Daughter-in-law of Dwight Moody)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Rightly rejoicing

Mother's Day is this Sunday, and I'm not a mother yet.

Last year, I remember turning to my husband at church on Mothers Day, beaming as I whispered, "Just think! Next year, I might actually BE a mother!"

I thought I would at least have a bun in the oven by now. But that wasn't God's plan. Not for this Mother's Day at least.

And so, this Sunday, I will go to church, surrounded by cooing babies and doting mothers. And while I'll be tempted to sulk in my circumstances and wallow in my heartache, I hope to "rejoice with those who rejoice." (Rom. 12:15) A lesson that God has been teaching me for some time now.

The truth flesh doesn't want to rejoice with those who rejoice. It doesn't want to attend another baby shower or look at thousands of baby photos on Facebook or listen to the great "baby wise" debate.

"Because," says my flesh, "if I don't have one, then you shouldn't either."

But thanks be to God who has saved me from my own flesh! I am now able and equipped to rejoice with those who rejoice because "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Because of Christ, I don't have to wish away anyone else's happiness. I am free to rejoice with those who rejoice.

But what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?

Before I talk about what it looks like, I think it might be helpful to talk about what it doesn't look like.

Over the past few months, I've learned that rejoicing with others doesn't mean masking or stifling your own suffering.

It's okay to hurt. It's okay to long for a baby or a husband or a job. It's okay to weep. Romans 12:15 tells us to "rejoice with those who rejoice," but it also tells us to "weep with those who weep." It's okay (and actually good) for others to see us weep so that they can be obedient to weep with us. The bible tells us to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2). By hiding our suffering, we aren't allowing the body of Christ to function as it's intended to.

Rejoicing also doesn't mean just getting by with the cultural etiquette. For awhile, I thought that going to baby showers, cooing over babies and discussing cloth diapers was me showing my friends that I was rejoicing with them. And those actions, in and of themselves, aren't bad. But when those social conventions aren't paired with a rejoicing heart, they aren't good either.

You see, rejoice doesn't actually mean to "show joy." It means to be joyful. If we are trying to show joy without being joyful, we've missed the point.

So back to the initial question...what exactly does rejoicing with others look like?

In Psalm 92, we see what it looks like to rejoice:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

The psalmist shows us that real rejoicing is about rejoicing in God--in who he is and in what he has done.

We rightly rejoice, then, when we join with our fellow believers in giving thanks to the LORD and singing praises to his name.

We rightly rejoice when we see and declare his steadfast love, faithfulness, and other divine attributes.

We rightly rejoice when we are made glad by what he has accomplished.

Take a moment to think about what this might practically look like in your life. How can you rejoice with those who rejoice?

For me, it might look a little something like this...

Thank you, God, for your good gift of children. As your word says, children are a blessing from you. You are the author of life, and I praise you for so intimately knowing and creating these little ones and for so intimately knowing and creating me. I pray that they will grow up to experience the true, everlasting life that is found in you. I rejoice in experiencing your great redeeming love in my own life and pray that these little ones will one day know your faithfulness and will see your steadfast love as displayed on the cross. I thank you for graciously making your great name known to yet another generation.

You see, rejoicing isn't about being glad in those around us. It's about being glad in God with those around us. When we focus our gladness on who God is and what he's done, the "me vs. them" mentality disappears and an "us" mentality takes its place. Because the gospel isn't just about God redeeming me, it's about God redeeming a people, an "us", for himself.

Let us rejoice together in our great God...

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Eph. 2:4-9

Thanks be to God.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Honoring the dishonorable

When I was little, I had a bit of a sassy mouth.  I thought I was always right and always had to get the last word in.  I didn't get a lot of spankings, but I was well acquainted with the infamous bar of soap.  

I remember one morning when I was being particularly sassy.  I stubbornly continued to run my mouth after my mother had asked me to stop several times.  Overwhelmed with my disobedience and the needs of three little ones at home, she lost her usual cool and slapped me across my cheek.  

I'll never forget the look on her face afterwards.  Sheer terror and disbelief.  Tears flowing down her own cheek, she ran out of the room.  She was probably more shocked than I was at what had just taken place.

Not long after, she returned, bending down to my level.  "I'm sorry for losing my temper," she said.  

And that was the first time I realized...

My parents are sinners.

As we grow older, our parents shed their superhero capes.  We become more aware of their flaws and are forced to come to terms with their sinfulness.  The ones who taught us, trained us, raised us to do what is right don't always do right themselves.  It's a tough pill to swallow.

The bible tells us (multiple times!) to honor our fathers and mothers.  But as adult children who now know the fuller extent of our parents' sinfulness, how are we to accomplish this?  How do we obey God while they disobey?  How are we to honor the dishonorable?

To put it Jesus did.

During his time on earth, Jesus was all about honoring the dishonorable.

He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.  He healed the demoniacs, lepers, and lame.  He associated with the "untouchables" of society.

In the same way, we should spend time with our parents.  This may seem quite obvious to some, but if you're like me, time with mom and dad can easily get lost in the shuffle.  When the business of life takes over, parents can often take a back seat.  We honor our parents by making time for them.  Taking time out of our busy schedules for a meal, phone call or note is one way to honor our parents.

He didn't condone their sinfulness, but he didn't run away from them either.  He sat with them, cared for them, spoke with them, listened to them, healed them, saw them, loved them.

It's important to remember that we are children of God first, children of our earthly parents second.  God and his ways should always be our first priority.  We are not called to enable sinful behavior or to engage in sinful activities.  We are instead called to be blameless and holy.  Honoring our parents does not mean turning a blind eye to sin or allowing our parents to sin against us or others.  That does not honor God.

But we do honor God and by respecting and caring for our parents.  This may take many forms in different relationships at different ages.  For the college student, it may mean listening to your parents and giving special weight to their advice and opinions as you make important life decisions.  For the young, married professional, it may come back to taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to mom and dad.  For those with children of their own, it may mean teaching your children to respect and love their grandparents, accepting counsel from your parents with grace and humility, and allowing them to be a part of your parents' lives.  For children of elderly parents, it may mean caring for the physical needs of parents who are no longer able to care for themselves.  For the children of deceased parents, it may mean thanking God for  your parents and being grateful for their years of service.

He preached the gospel faithfully.  Calling each one to repent and follow (Mark 1:15).  Praying that they would come to know him (Jn 15:1-26).

Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, and his greatest desire is that we repent and follow him.  We then honor our heavenly father when we proclaim the gospel to those around us.  He is delighted when we point each other to Christ.  Our conversations with our parents (both believing and unbelieving parents) should be seasoned with talk of Christ's saving work on the cross.

When a parent is being "dishonorable," it is good and right to lovingly point him or her to Christ.  And taking our cue from Jesus, we ought to pray for our parents as well...that they "might know the only true God" (John 17:3), that God would "keep them from the evil one" (17:15), and that they might be sanctified and glorified in Christ (17:17,22).

He viewed them as sinners in need of forgiveness and he died for them so that they might enjoy a restored relationship with God.  He became dishonorable so that we might become honorable (2 Corinthians 5:21).  

The bible tells us to forgive as we have been forgiven.  We, too, are dishonorable sinners in need of forgiveness.  God has forgiven us much, therefore we must forgive much.  We must be quick to forgive and eager to reconcile with our parents, for that is God's own heart towards us.

We are the benefactors of such great love and mercy.  Our proper and God-honoring response is to extend this same great love and mercy to others.

When I find it difficult to love my own parents, I find myself meditating on this verse...

"We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Because Jesus loved us, we are now free to love others. On the cross, he made it possible for us to love the unlovable.

And on the cross, he also made it possible for us to honor those undeserving of honor.

How do we honor the dishonorable?

Quite Jesus did.



Today, let's purpose to honor our parents in two specific ways:

1) Pray for them.  If you're not sure how to pray, I would encourage you to use John 17:1-26 as a guide.  This passage shows how Jesus intercedes for us!

2)  Show love to them.  Make a phone call, send a note, or grab a cup of coffee and try to season your conversation with talk of Jesus and his saving work on the cross.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The valley is the place of vision.

Not too long ago, I began to incorporate "The Valley of Vision," a beautiful, gospel-centered, theologically-rich collection of puritan prayers, into my quiet time with God. I am so thankful that these prayers were recorded and preserved for future generations.

The first prayer in the collection (for which the book is named) speaks of the valley of vision. A dark, lowly place where the light of Christ is best seen and exalted. Here are the words of that prayer...

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory. Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

My heart aches when I read this prayer.

Partly because I can relate to the brokenhearted puritan who has been brought low by God. The one who is living in the depths, hemmed in by mountains of sin and unbelief. I am deep in the well, clawing to find my way out.

But mostly my heart aches because of the painfully beautiful paradox he describes.

The way up is the way down.

To be low is to be high.

The broken heart is the healed heart.

The contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit.

The repenting soul is the victorious soul.

To have nothing is to possess all.

To bear the cross is wear the crown.

To give is to receive.

The valley is the place of vision.

As I camp out in the depths of the valley, I am finding that the stars shine brightest in the pit of despair. Never before have I known such intimacy with God. In the valley, I have come to know the unspeakable grace, comfort, and peace of my LORD. As I am made nothing, he is made much.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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 12:9-10 ESV)

Lord, let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Appointment

Tomorrow at 11:00, my husband and I have an appointment...a fertility appointment.

It's hard to admit that. I know in my mind that asking for "help" doesn't make me any less of a woman, but there are moments where I feel like damaged goods. It's a process. A daily process of reminding myself that I am HIS child. My worth is found in HIM and not my ability to conceive.

Remember, recite, repeat, rely.

As I prepare emotionally, spiritually for tomorrow's appointment, I find myself thinking about how God has used this "trial" to grow me. How he is working this together for my good and his glory.

Trying for a baby month after month...feeling the cramps starting to set in...seeing that one line...realizing that you have to wait yet another month to *maybe* see two...well, it's draining.

One months turns to two. Two to three. Four, five, six... You start losing hope.

When the grief (yes, I do think it's a type of grief) sets in, you just want to crawl into a ball. Your body feels like your heart...broken, hurt, raw. But you can't just lay in bed every month. You have to keep going.

Thankfully, I'm not called to "go it" alone. Thankfully, I don't have to rely on my own strength.

Psalm 46:1 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

He doesn't just give me strength. He IS my strength. His grace sustains me, carries me, fuels me to keep going.

Because of Christ, I have hope. Not the hope of a baby. No. As the old hymn goes, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness."

A few weeks ago, I read this verse with new eyes:

"Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." - Psalm 63:3

Yes, today as I await my appointment, I can praise God because his steadfast love is better than life.

Better than life itself.

Better because his steadfast love is the source of my life. In HIM, I live and move and breathe (Acts 17:28 ESV).

He has given me new life in Jesus.

And so I praise him.

I do pray that one day God will bless me with children so that they, too, can experience his life-giving love.

But until that day, I will trust him.

I will trust in his steadfast love.

Because his steadfast love is better than life, I will praise his glorious name.