In an effort to get the most out of each Lord’s Day, I’ve been sharing highlights on my social media accounts the past couple of weeks (here on Instagram, and here on Facebook.) Today I’m bringing my Lord’s Day to the blog. Here are a few highlights from this past Sunday, May 5, 2019.
An Apology from Our Worship Leader
Our worship leader, Nate Maxfield, apologized to us for not including more songs of lament in our services. “The lament is our song this side of heaven,” he said.
The Fig Tree: When Jesus curses the fig tree, He’s acting out a parable rather than telling one. This particular parable is against Israel, as Israel is often described in Scripture as a fig tree or a vine. (See Jeremiah 8:13 as an example.) In this moment, Jesus is setting up what’s about to take place in the temple.
The Money Changers & Pigeon Sellers:Who are these men whose tables and chairs Jesus flips over? “Money changers” were the guys who exchanged travelers’ money for Jewish currency. These money changers were charging exorbitant exchange rates in order to pocket some hefty change.
We also know from the Old Testament that pigeons were the offering the poorest of the poor offered to God. These pigeon sellers were taking advantage of the poor, hiking prices for pigeons way up.
In his sermon, Adam pointed out that this whole scene was a battleground for glory. The religious leaders of the day were incensed at Jesus. They were fighting Him–the true Temple, the true High Priest, and the true and final Sacrifice–for power and glory. Why? Because they–and we–don’t easily give up what gives us significance. They were using what God had intended to be a place where people from all nations were welcomed to meet with Him, as a means to personal gain.
Again, I was challenged: Am I using Jesus to attain my dreams and gain significance, or am I on board with His mission, bearing good fruit as I seek to share the good news of the gospel with my neighbors all the way to the ends of the earth?
Christian, are you using Jesus as a means to an end, or does your heart beat for His agenda and glory?
Korean Egg Bread
I love it when Trevor cooks. He made Korean egg bread for breakfast. It had us oohing between each bite. If you’d like to make it, watch this video and find the recipe in the description. Then, if you’re interested, check out for more pictures from our day on Instagram, and Facebook.
I’ve never shared this publicly, but . . . I’ve never been one to “ooh” and “aah” over babies. As a twelve-year-old eager to start earning money, I chose to detassle corn and work on a turkey farm (think hard, dirty, physical labor) rather than babysit. When I did babysit as a favor for my neighbors in my late twenties, I put the baby’s diaper on backwards. And while I longed for marriage for years, I never once dreamed of becoming a mom. First female president of the U.S., sure; mom, no.
And yet here I am, less than two weeks away from giving birth to our second baby. So what would motivate me to have not just one but two babies?
A practical factor that forced me and Trevor to address this issue early in our marriage was my age. We married when I was already in my thirties, and we knew our time was limited if we were going to have babies.
So several months into marriage, my husband asked one of our church elders, “Why should we have kids?” I will never forget his response:
“Why shouldn’t you have kids?”
From that moment on, I knew our course was set. I would not have babies because they made my heart melt; I would have babies out of obedience to Christ.
What Motivated Me to Write This Post On Babies
Forgive me if I sound like a martyr; just being honest here. I write this post for different people for different reasons:
If you feel like something is wrong with you because you’re not yet excited about the arrival of your baby, I want you to know you’re not alone. Sidenote: We took this selfie just after learning we were pregnant with our firstborn. Notice my red nose. (I turn into Rudolph when I cry.) I may have chosen to say “yes” to having a baby, but that didn’t mean I was excited about it!
Non-pregnant women, rather than asking a newly pregnant women, “Are you excited?!” consider asking, “How do you feel about being pregnant?” Give women room and permission to mourn the loss of their independence and dreams, and allow them to be honest about their struggles. (Yes, myself and women like me know that many women long to have babies and can’t; trust me, we already feel guilty enough about our lack of excitement.)
With less than two weeks ’til D-Day, I write this post for myself. I could use a reminder of why I said “yes” to another baby, as this season will not be easy.
And for the Christian woman who refuses to even open herself to the idea of having babies, my hope is that something here will challenge your thinking just a bit.
What Motivated Me to Have Babies
That said, why would I—a woman who values deep, adult conversation—choose to forfeit that, and more, in lieu of a baby’s cries?
In Genesis 1:27-28, God commanded us, as His image bearers, to be fruitful and multiply, so the whole earth would be filled with images of Himself. While I believe this can be applied to producing spiritual children (see 1 Tim. 1:2), I don’t think it negates God’s call to married people to physically have babies if they’re able to.
Christianity is a call to die to self. Didn’t Jesus promise: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). I know by now how life works. If I live for self, I end up the loser.
God’s ultimate purpose for me is re-forming me into Christ’s image (Romans 8:28-29). How can having babies not help accomplish this goal?
God says children are a blessing and a reward (Psalm 127:3). Will I take Him at His Word—this God who never lies—or will I choose instead to listen to myself and the culture? Who will I ultimately believe?
These reasons aren’t as big, but they’re timely: I just watched my husband’s grandma die. It was heartbreaking. I want someone there with me when my time comes (1 Tim. 5:16)–someone who will care enough to bury me.
I just read 1 Timothy 5:9-16, which includes “bringing up children” as a good work. Verses 13-15 even seems to indicate that having babies is a protection for me against becoming a lazy gossip who strays after Satan. Again, I’ll take God’s Word for it. If babies can help keep me from selfishness and sin, I’m interested.
How God is Changing My Heart Re. Having Babies
God has already moved and changed my heart. When I was pregnant with Iren, I was full of dread, anxious that I wouldn’t love him. But God took care of all of that, and Iren has brought such unexpected joy to our lives!
While I’m still not excited about baby number two, I’m also not filled with dread or anxiety. This is progress! Having babies has been a big faith journey for me–and I’m sure it will continue to be if we choose to have more in the future. It has been a death to self in many ways. But as can only happen in God’s economy, much life, laughter, and joy has come from that death.
How about you? Do you think it’s a prerequisite to being a good mom to feel excited about having babies before you hold them in your arms? Why or why not?
If you’ve had babies, what was your reasoning for doing so? If you’re currently opposed to having babies, how you would answer our elder’s question: “Why not have babies?” Do you think your reasons are selfish or wise?
“I feel like I’m in a pinball machine,” Trevor told me. I felt like I was in a pressure cooker.
A few weeks before, Trevor’s sister had told him about an amazing opportunity with her company. Trevor has lived in Syracuse his whole life; I remember him telling me when we were dating that he had no plans of ever moving.
Still, I encouraged him to interview for the position. A former elder from Missio is co-leading a church in that city, so we would have a place to plug into. Plus, the job would provide a substantial pay increase and growth opportunity for Trevor’s career. “What do you have to lose?” I asked. And so he dusted off his suit and traveled to the interview.
Weeks passed, and we thought that was that . . . until he received the job offer. We had just one week to decide.
Should We Stay or Should We Go?
We were torn down the middle; we both believed we could say yes or no in good conscience. We could glorify God and be devoted to good works in either place. Neither decision was sinful. “It’s not even that one decision would be wiser than another,” one of our elders remarked.
We prayed, we searched Zillow.com, we talked, and we both completed an exercise of best and worst-case scenarios if we did or didn’t go. We also sought counsel. A couple helpful pieces of advice/questions we received:
The burden of proof lies with the new place. It’s up to them to convince you that it’s worth all you’d be giving up. If you are divided right down the middle, it doesn’t sound like there’s enough there for you to say yes.
Who do you want to do life and ministry with?
“I want you to weigh in,” Trevor told me more than once. It was a good opportunity for me to learn not just to dutifully say, “I will go wherever you go,” but to really engage my mind and heart in deciding along with him what would be best for our family.
As Trevor processed the potential move, he said more than once, “I feel like I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t take it, but leaving family and friends . . . I just don’t know that I can put a number to that.”
The night before he had to give his answer, we sat across the table from each other. “On the count of three,” he said, “show by thumbs up or thumbs down if you want to move. One, two, three.” And both our thumbs pointed down.
Syracuse, We Choose You . . . Again
We felt relief, but also a mixture of sadness the next day. It would have been an adventure, for sure. But there’s something about suddenly being given an opportunity to start over somewhere that shows you just how much you have right where you are.
God has blessed us big time, and unknowingly, we had begun to take this place and these people for granted. But thanks to this difficult decision process, we are recommitting to this place. Syracuse—among the top ten most poverty-stricken cities in the U.S.—is where we want to be a part of giving every man, woman, and child repeated opportunities to see, hear, and respond to the gospel. And the people at Missio church are the ones we want to do this alongside of.
In a world full of pressure to climb up, up, up, I am so grateful for a man who is committed to this cold, needy place. Syracuse, we happily choose you. Again.
How about you? Are you fully engaged where you live, or have you grown lax? Are you taking your influence on the people around you for granted?
In the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”
PS: Through this process, we prayed that God would keep or move us to the place He knew would be most strategic for His kingdom advancement. That appears to be Syracuse. When you think of us, please pray for increased boldness and gospel-success in our neighborhood and city. Thanks so much!
Dear blog reader, Today I want to share four gifts from my desk to you. I haven’t posted here for a couple months now—not ‘cause I’ve had my feet up—but ‘cause I’ve had my bum in my chair and my fingers on my keys focusing on several projects for Revive Our Hearts. I want to share them with you now, in the hopes that something here will bless you today.
Gift 1: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life
From July 31 to September 11, I had the privilege of leading a seven-week Facebook Live study for our newly released Bible study, “Abigail: Living with the Difficult People In Your Life.” I taught two nights—once on God’s providence and the other night on the sticky Imprecatory Psalms. The other evenings I interviewed guests. I found Vaneetha Risner’s story on forgiveness especially powerful. Enjoy! (And thanks to my hubby for taking care of Iren while I recorded these live segments!)
Gift 2: Ten Truths to Set Leaders Free
I then contributed a chapter to this new ebook, which you can download for free. My chapter addresses the lie, “My ministry is insignificant compared to leaders with larger platforms.” Plus, read other lies and truths for leaders from nine other writers.
Gift 3: I Choose Truth
Three coworkers and I wrote this 30-day “I Choose Truth” email devotional. Here are the six weighty truths I covered:
“There is no one I cannot love.”
“There is no one I cannot forgive.”
“It’s not about me; It’s all about Him.”
“I can keep God’s commands.”
“The cross of Christ is sufficient to conquer my sinful flesh.”
Finally, today I’m over at TrueWoman.com writing about My Favorite True Woman Conference Yet. Trevor and I just got back late Monday. Usually, I’m holed up transcribing messages or writing blog posts, but this year, I co-hosted the livestream. Because I knew I’d need stories to share on the stream, I was “forced” to interact with women and not simply type on my computer. What a gift!
I wrote this post to share some of these women’s stories with you. Thank you for praying for them as many of them have just returned to difficult life situations.
I hope these four gifts from my desk to you encourage your heart today. I’m grateful for you!
Relational conflict has dogged me recently, in spite of the fact that I’d naturally rather offer up a limb than experience—or inadvertently cause—conflict.
When someone accused me of sin, I prayed, “Lord, don’t let me flatter myself in my own eyes that my iniquity cannot be found out and hated” (Ps. 36:2). I know I’m stained with sin, but I couldn’t see my specific sin in this particular situation.
But then, through Romans 5:3–4, God called me to get off my knees, climb out of the weeds, and look at the bigger picture:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope.
Perseverance: One Gift of Relational Conflict
Hadn’t I just bemoaned to a friend that I had no perseverance? I realized this after a difficult week with my husband. He was depressed, and I took it all personally and acted desperately. My friend’s response was enlightening: “Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve only been married two-and-a-half years. You haven’t had enough hardships to grow that perseverance in you.”
Oh, right. Perseverance is produced through suffering.
Do you want the peace and fortitude you see that woman exhibiting in the midst of chemo? Do you long to withstand raging winds like that flexible palm tree? The only way to grow this kind of perseverance is through accepting the suffering God sends your way. How thankful I am for John Calvin pointing me back to God’s providence:
The Lord has willed it; therefore it must be borne, not only because one may not contend against it, but also because he wills nothing but what is just and expedient. To sum this up: when we are unjustly wounded by men, let us overlook their wickedness (which would but worsen our pain and sharpen our minds to revenge), remember to mount up to God, and learn to believe for certain that whatever our enemy has wickedly committed against us was permitted and sent by God’s just dispensation.
Today I’m writing over at TrueWoman.com. To read more about how relational conflict also produces character and hope, click here. More than that, though, I discovered that God uses these conflicts to draw us back to Himself, our great and only Good. This is the best gift of all. More on that too over at TrueWoman.com.
An Invitation If Relational Conflict Is Part of Your Life
I want to invite you to join me tonight (Tuesday, July 31) for a special event. Through my work with Revive Our Hearts, I’ll be leading a six-week online study on Abigail: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life. If relational conflict is part of your life right now, I’d love to have you join in at 7 p.m. ET. You can catch all the details here, and this is where you’ll go to watch the Live broadcast at 7 p.m. ET. Hope to see you there!
One of my greatest highlights from the last couple of years was successfully matchmaking two couples—at one dinner party, nonetheless! The dinner party setup and subsequent party one week later allowed Jordan and Ethan to get to know Amanda and Gabby—at least enough to know the pursuit was on! They took it from there, and this summer, Trevor and I attended both of their weddings, just two weeks apart. Only God!
I believe you, too, can experience the joy of being used by God to help a Christian man and woman find and get to know each other. In fact, I believe you are needed.
Finding a suitable spouse to marry today seems . . . impossible. Where can you meet him or her if not in a bar or on an online app? Where and how can you possibly get to know them in a safe, casual, comfortable environment? That’s where you come in. But first, one very important disclaimer.
Beware of Unwelcome Matchmaking
Please, only offer your matchmaking services to those you know want to be married and who would love some help getting there. If you’re not sure if they want your help, ask them. One single guy told me,
“I went through a period of time in my early 20s where I had resolved myself not to date as I was too busy and working on sins and struggles in my life. But every other week people from church would pull me aside and suggest I date someone they knew. There were lots of uncomfortable conversations.”
Similarly, a mom of a single young woman told me,
“My daughter’s biggest frustration is the need to fix her up with the one other single in her congregation.”
Let me be clear. Singleness isn’t a disease; it’s a gift.
At the same time, marriage is a gift as well. If it’s a gift your single friend longs for, here’s how you can help.
Tips for Matchmaking Well
Care for Christian singles. Don’t try your hand at matchmaking ’cause you could use a little romance in your own life, or ’cause you hope to have a good story some day. Matchmake because you care deeply about your single friends. Extend yourself out of love for them. At the same time, matchmake not for their ultimate happiness (marriage isn’t about that!), but for God’s glory. Matchmake so that one more couple can show those around them the beauty of the gospel (Eph. 5:22-33).
Listen well. You are not looking for someone you like; you are looking for someone your friend will like. Do you know what your friend wants in a spouse? Don’t blindly set them up with someone just ’cause they’re the only other Christian you know in twenty miles. Get to know your single friend. Ask lots of questions. What does he or she desire in a spouse? What does he or she need to complement them?
Pray for wisdom. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Ask God for wisdom. Pray that He will establish your steps. Ask Him for success.
Brainstorm together. Talk through the people you both know—even married people—to identify the sorts of characteristics they are looking for. Make sure you’re on the same page. Then begin to brainstorm singles you know who are similar. Let your single friend give input on whether they’re interested in getting to know this person better or not.
Open your home. Invite the person your friend is interested in getting to know better over to your house. Don’t be awkward about it. In our case, we invited Amanda and Gaby over a Facebook message, simply telling them we were “having a couple other friends over.”
Open your home again. Continue to open your home so your single friends have other opportunities to hang out and get to know each other. We followed the dinner party up with another party one week later. And that wasn’t the end for us. Currently, my husband and I are seeking to create opportunities for one single male friend to slowly get to know a specific Christian woman in the context of an informal, group setting.
Those are just a few ways I believe you can matchmake well. Do you have anything to add? Have you tried your hand at matchmaking? What do you think contributed to your success or failure in that area?
PPS: This photo was taken a few months ago, when a group of us got together to celebrate Ethan and Gabby’s engagement. You can see the two new couples here. From left to right: me, Trevor, Amanda and Jordan, Ethan and Gabby.
Tonight, weather-permitting, a bunch of strangers will converge on our backyard for a cookout and a bonfire. We don’t know most of these people yet, but we hope to soon. They are fellow residents of Eastwood, a village in the city of Syracuse, New York.
A Positive Response from the Community After a Double Homicide
Thanks to a community Facebook page someone set up, we invited anyone and everyone in Eastwood to join us for a meal. When I posted the invitation on Facebook, the response was overwhelming. One woman messaged me, offering a $25 gift certificate to a grocery store, even though she wouldn’t be able to make it. She wrote,
You and your husband did something extraordinary in a cynical world. You loved your neighbors, all of them! Thank you for being a shining light this difficult week in Eastwood!
A Negative Response from a Church Member Concerned About Safety
While our neighborhood is thrilled by the opportunity to come together, a local church member had a different response:
I don’t think it’s wise. You have no idea who might be coming to your house. You just had a shooting in your neighborhood!
I didn’t say too much in response. I understand where this person is coming from, but here’s the deal:
Jesus didn’t call us to pursue safety; Jesus called us to the task of global evangelization.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
Is Safety Your Ultimate Goal, Christian?
I’ve wasted decades playing it safe. Praying for safety. Locking proverbial doors, shutting proverbial blinds, and staking a proverbial “No trespassing sign” in the front yard of my life. For years I thought the goal of Christianity was to hunker down and protect myself from the world. (How could I have gotten it so wrong?!)
I now live in a city of 500,000 people. God has tasked me–along with every other believer in this city–to share with them the good news that they have a Creator who loves them, a God who sacrificed Himself to atone for their sin and restore their wrecked relationship with Him.
This good news is shared on ordinary days, in ordinary places, like backyard barbecues, by building relationships with our neighbors . . . even when we don’t know exactly who we’re inviting into our backyards.
I wonder, Christian, what is your ultimate goal? Is it safety . . . or is it relationship with and representation of your God?
“Safety is of the Lord,” my parents taught me as a little girl from Proverbs 21:31 (KJV). May we trust Him with the number of our days, and may we swing open our doors in the meantime!
(Here are just a few ways you can pray about our Cookout on Collingwood.)
Wise, life-giving, Christ-centered words related to this double homicide.
I intercepted my baby, Iren, as he crawled, mach speed, for the dog’s food and water. We were dog-sitting for my in-laws, and Iren was once again displaying his magnetic attraction to dog food.
Another Mess to Clean Up?!
Lifting both bowls from the floor to the table, I confidently walked into the bathroom. What harm could he do now if I took my eyes off him for a few seconds?
But when I walked out a few seconds later, there he was in a puddle of water, soaking wet. The dog’s food was strewn all over.
Anticipate Your Baby’s Next Move
I should’ve anticipated my baby’s next move. I’d seen Iren tug at our tablecloth the day before. Right then I should have folded up the tablecloth and tucked it neatly back into the buffet. But stupidity won out over common sense, and I left it. After all, the table looked prettier with a tablecloth . . .
As I stripped Iren of his wet clothes, mopped up the water with a bath towel, and refilled the dog’s food and water bowls, I was tempted to get frustrated, angry, and stressed over the extra work Iren had caused me. But a moment of clarity struck just then.
Who’s the adult here? Who has a higher IQ?
Own it, Paula. You don’t have a right to be frustrated or angry. You’re the adult here.
Who’s the Adult Here?
I know we moms can think that being frazzled and stressed out just comes with the territory. But does it really have to?
Rather than stewing in anger over extra messes, let’s work smarter, not necessarily harder. If our children can reach something, and we leave it within reach, then it’s fair game.
Anticipate your baby’s next move, mom. Prepare for it. And put away that tablecloth! I’m pretty sure your husband and kids will be grateful you chose a stress-free heart over a beautiful table.
I’ve enjoyed letting you peek over my hubby’s shoulder to see that I’m not the only writer in the family. You’ve read his Romans 5 hymn as well as his mock Chick-fil-A hymn. Today, I promised you one final installment of poems by my accountant hubby, just for fun.
A Shakespearean Sonnet
First, the Shakespearean sonnet he wrote over three years ago while flying west to propose to me. (If you knew the ins and outs of our dating relationship, you’d see that this is replete with symbolism and meaning!)
An unexpected blessing came to me,
A treasure from the realm of heaven sent.
‘Twas flown on wings across a digital sea,
The seed that grew into love’s bless’d event.
A bloom of life and love was found within
An unexpected place. A prairie flower
Grown in good soil she neither toils nor spins,
But drinks the rain, enjoys the Sun’s great pow’r.
I journeyed far to gain this precious rose,
By land and air, through darkness deep inside.
I’ll carry her through thorns and fears below
Held by his Hand in raging storms and tides.
The rising Day will banish soon the night.
Sojourn with me till then, and be my wife.
(How could a girl say no to that?!)
A Dog-Doo Shooing Strategy
So we wed and moved into the yellow house on the corner. No sooner had Trevor rid the house of fleas than we started finding dog poo in our yard. So naturally, Trevor wrote a poem. He placed it in a weather-proof sleeve, and attached it to our fence with some plastic baggies:
I thought to take a walk one day
All through the eastern wood of ’Cuse
But wait, my dog, he longs to play
I bring him too, I’ve no excuse
I walk down road and street and lane
And see my neighbors on the way
Oh no I have forgot again
My dog he has to poop today
I have no bag, nor sack, nor can
But wait, I think this lawn will do
He’s just a dog, and not a man
He leaves a number one and two
But wait, I see this baggie here
It’s free for all to clean the poo
Now I remember, oh so clear
My neighbor’s lawn is not his loo
DOG HAD TO GO? TAKE A BAG! 🙂
(I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether that solved or exacerbated the problem.)
I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse into my hubby’s writing. Unfortunately he doesn’t have an up-to-date blog, but you can follow my hubby’s tweets at @gottheology.