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Gospel Neighboring

Christian, Are Your Doors Locked?

Christian, Are Your Doors Locked?

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!

That’s when I connected the dots. We had planned this cookout weeks before, but in God’s providence, I posted the invite two days after a double homicide in our neighborhood.

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.)

  • Good weather.
  • Wise, life-giving, Christ-centered words related to this double homicide.
  • Love for God and neighbor.
  • New friendships forged.
  • No hiding the fact that we belong to Christ.
  • Glory to God through this ordinary endeavor.

Thanks so much, friend!

Hospitality on a Budget

Hospitality on a Budget

When you pass by someone’s free stuff sitting out on the curb, do you stop and take a closer look, or ignore it altogether?

Recently, my husband and I took advantage of a rare moment of freedom (read: babysitting), and set out on our bikes. We cycled through upscale neighborhoods, pointing out our favorite homes and landscaping, until we spotted this strange-looking device by the side of the road.

I wasn’t surprised when my husband instantly recognized what it was: an inversion table. We pedaled home fast. He jumped off his bike and climbed into his ’99 station wagon (the same one he’s been driving since he got his license thirteen years ago). He loaded the contraption into the back, and returned to research what inversion tables go for these days.

A couple weeks later he danced around the house, waving the $50 we had made.

How Should We Spend Our Money?

“Is it wrong to want more money?” he had wondered aloud a few weeks before.

“How would we spend the money if we did have it?” I questioned.

After thinking about it, we both agreed: Hospitality.

We got an opportunity to practice hospitality with a couple who moved in across the street, and we now had fifty more dollars to spend.

Because our neighbors are from Iraq, they don’t have family or many friends here. So we rallied nearly twenty friends and helped move them in, mow their lawn, and more. The mother only speaks Arabic, but as her words spilled out, she blew a kiss toward heaven. I knew she was expressing thanks for our help.

We provided a meal after, and our neighbors surprised us by also calling in an order for Middle Eastern food. I heated the large rounds of pita bread in the oven. Then I roasted a s’more for the mother over our bonfire, and we sent people home with leftovers.

Hospitality = Love for Strangers

Hospitality can hurt. If this is often the case, why do it?

I recently learned that the Greek word for hospitality, “philoxenia,” means “love for stranger.” And that’s exactly who we were — strangers — before God threw open the doors of his home to us:

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. . . So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (Ephesians 2:12–1319)

As Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth writes in her newest book Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, “At the heart of the gospel, at the heart of the cross, is the Lord Jesus opening his arms wide and saying, ‘I want you to come home with me.’”

Hospitality: Worth the Expense

My husband and I are taking small, wobbly steps toward loving strangers, in hopes that we will better see and show the magnificent generosity of Jesus. And quite frankly, the joy far outweighs the pain.

“Is it strange that I feel sorry for him?” my husband asked me the other day of someone whose Instagram account is filled with one exotic vacation after another.

“No,” I replied. “I wouldn’t trade our life for his. While it’s ordinary, it’s so exciting.”

I can’t think of another life I’d rather live than opening my heart and home to others with this frugal but generous man by my side. Jesus is right: The upside-down life really does bring the most joy: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Hospitality isn’t always glamorous. It’s hard work. But hospitality — on a budget or otherwise — is worth it.

How did God reach out to you and invite you into His home when you were a stranger? Does this motivate you to invite strangers into your home? Why or why not?

  • Hospitality on a Budget” was originally published on DesiringGod.org. 
  • Full disclosure: I will make a few pennies if you purchase any Amazon products I linked to in this post.

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

Do you deal with social anxiety? This girl does. She asks:

How do you deal with social anxiety? I get so nervous around people sometimes and always feel awkward. I’ve been praying about it, but it’s still bad. I want to witness to others, but I practically have a panic attack when I do!

So for her—and anyone who can relate—here are ten helpful ways I’ve personally found to push past social anxiety.

First, though, a disclaimer: If you’re an introvert, you don’t need to become an extrovert! Think of the following list of suggestions as a few tools for you to take or leave. No one is asking you to get a whole new personality and become the most gregarious person at the party. What we are seeking is to love and welcome others as we have been loved and welcomed by God through Christ.

Hopefully one or more of these suggestions will be helpful to that end.

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety

1. Don’t hide behind your phone. Put it away when you’re with other people. It will help others feel more cared for and will help you engage them more easily. I’m guessing you’re actually better than you know at engaging people when the phone isn’t vying for your attention. You’ve got this!

2. Know that your approval comes not from people but from God. If you are looking to people to tell you what you’re worth, you will fear them instead of love them. Remember that we are all equal, each made in God’s image. If you have surrendered your life to Christ, you now have God’s full approval. And you have been given a mission to love Him with all your heart and to love others as you love yourself. You have to push past social anxiety to love others well.

3. Don’t be afraid to be awkward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or done awkward things. But here’s the deal: It’s not a sin to be awkward. It is, however, a violation of God’s law not to love others. In order not to stay perpetually awkward, give yourself permission to be awkward for a while. And if you hurt someone in the process, be sure to seek forgiveness.

4. Ask questions. If you can’t think of questions to ask on the spot, it’s not cheating to have some prepared. For example, when I see someone new at church, I’ll often ask, “How long have you been attending?” followed by “How did you hear about us?” Then I can think of other spontaneous questions to ask them once the conversation is rolling.

5. Listen well. Now that you’ve asked a good question, your job is done, right? Wrong! Don’t let your mind wander. Listen well to how they answer your question. Don’t worry about thinking through your response or your next question—just listen well.

6. If you really want to go the extra mile, jot down notes after you talk to them while the conversation is still fresh in your mind. I often take notes on my phone when I meet someone new whom I think I might bump into again. My notes consist of their name plus an identifying characteristic and maybe something interesting I learned about them. That way, I can always go back and reference my notes later if (okay, when!) I forget their name.

7. Pray. Even though I usually feel like leaving the building right after service on Sundays, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking God, “Who do you want me to talk to today?” I then look for someone to introduce myself to or to say “hi” to. My husband and I are almost always the last to vacate the premises!

8. Practice. Stretch yourself. Try sticking around on Sunday until you’ve found someone to talk to. Practice striking up a conversation with the cashier at the mall. Try smiling at the strangers you pass on the street or in the halls at school. See and engage people wherever you go, just like Jesus did while He lived on earth.

9. Remember that others are insecure, too, and don’t take it personally if they don’t seem interested in talking back. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, but you should seek to consistently be friendly. Don’t only talk to the friends you’re comfortable with. Seek out new faces, and do your best to make them feel welcome.

10. Focus on becoming a “there you are” person. There are a few blog posts you read and never forget. This one by Jani Ortlund is one of them for me. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it was to me!

What did I forget? Any other tips you’ve found helpful for pushing past social anxiety? Why do you think it’s so important to work on it?

10 Practical Ways to Push Past Social Anxiety was originally published on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Why One Woman Left the True Woman Conference

Why One Woman Left the True Woman Conference

This post was originally shared on ReviveOurHearts.com, where I’ve worked for over a decade. After our last national women’s conference, our team received this email from an attendee named Patsy.

Patsy isn’t the only one who saw the homeless and stopped. We heard from others who stopped and listened, stopped and prayed, stopped and gave—ministering God’s grace to those on the streets of Indianapolis. To each of you, thank you.

May we not be like the fat and sassy women of Amos 4:1 who oppress the poor and crush the needy. Instead, may we reach beyond our comfort zones into places of need with the hope and love of Christ.

Why Patsy Didn’t Want to Come

I attended your True Women Cry Out! Conference in Indianapolis this past September. Though I must admit, I wasn’t looking forward to going, because I had lost my mother this past summer and had spent enough time crying. I had committed to going with a dear friend from the Dominican Republic, though, so I couldn’t back out.

From the first speaker, Russell Moore, God was tugging on my heartstrings. Two things Dr. Moore said struck a chord within me. The first was:

The problem with the church is we look like everyone else.

And the second was when he was telling the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man. Dr. Moore said:

If you are going to be a follower of Christ, then you must be willing to go where Jesus went.

Why Patsy Left the Conference

At that point, after a little discussion with another friend and a prayer, I left your conference. You see, on the way to the conference I was struck by the multitude of homeless people on those downtown streets.

We passed a girl on one corner with a sign saying, “I just want a happy birthday.” We passed other men and women who had varying signs asking for food or money. As we were trying to figure out how to get to the conference, one homeless woman asked if we were trying to find the convention center, and when we said that we were, she gave us directions but asked nothing in return.

We were the church on the streets of Indianapolis, and we looked like everyone else. Many times we don’t help the homeless because we are afraid or we judge that what we are doing does not help them. I knew God was compelling me to GO.

A friend and I went back to find some of the women. We found the girl who gave us directions. Her name is Alisha. We talked with her, prayed with her, asked if she would come to the conference with us. We also asked her how we could help her. She asked us for a tent, as hers had been stolen from her. We told her we would get her a tent and would meet her at 8:30 a.m. at the same corner.

Why Patsy Returned

When we got back to the conference that night we asked if we could buy tickets for the conference but were told they were sold out. However, there was a board on which people posted phone numbers if they had unused tickets. A woman named Sarah gave us two tickets. We were still hoping to find the “birthday girl” on our way back to our hotel. (Sadly, we did not locate her.)

We got up early on Friday and bought two tents. We found Alisha exactly where she said she would be with another homeless lady, Rebecca, standing near. They both came to the conference that morning with us and heard Jennifer Smith speak. Talk about God’s timing. What a perfect message for these two young women to hear! We had lunch with them, prayed with them, and listened to their hearts. Alisha came back that night and spent hours in prayer with us.

Alisha is a caretaker for other homeless people. We saw her feed others food that was hers so they wouldn’t be hungry. Rebecca sleeps on the downtown streets under the lights and cameras because she is alone, and it is not safe for her to go to the tent city. We asked them why they don’t go to the shelters, and they said they did—only when they had to keep from freezing to death. They pick up bed bugs and lice there.

Patsy’s Challenge

I am sure their stories can be told by countless people on the sidewalks in this country. That is why I am writing you. You called us to cry out in prayer for our own sins, for the lost, for our families, for our country, for our world. What if:

  • We cried out for each city that you had a conference in?
  • We stopped for a second of feeding our own spirits and feed the spirits of those hurting that we walked past?
  • In each city—you had ambassadors who were willing to go out on the streets and pass out blankets to the homeless and give out tickets that would have gone unused? I bet there were 100 tickets listed on that board that were paid for but unused.
  • You had people donate in advance to provide brown bag lunches for the homeless, and you passed them out over lunch break?

I know there may be a lot of details to doing these types of things. However, 7,000 women walked by hundreds of homeless. Did you know that Indianapolis has anywhere from 4,500—8,000 homeless people on the streets on any given night?

By the way, the conference ended up being just what I needed. Though I am still grieving my mother’s passing, what a great reminder in my life that we are called to be different.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with attending a conference for a couple days, and the challenge isn’t for you to leave the next conference you attend to care for the homeless. But it is a good reminder for everyday life.

As you and I encounter people—homeless or not—do we see them as an inconvenience and obstacle? Or as individuals made in the image of God, in need of being reconciled to Him through Christ (Matt. 9:36)?

Is there anything you can take away from Patsy’s challenge?

10 Tips for Interacting with an Atheist

10 Tips for Interacting with an Atheist

For the past month I’ve had the unexpected privilege of interacting with an atheist. He first emailed me because he took issue with my post “I’m Falling in Love with an Atheist.” I responded, and we’ve been writing back and forth ever since.

When I was your age, I would’ve freaked at the idea of dialoguing with an atheist. I’m not an apologist (someone skilled in the defense or proof of Christianity), and I’ve never aspired to be one. A fair amount of the time I feel simple and not-so-smart.

God’s Word is clear that the Holy Spirit must open our blind eyes and unstop our deaf ears in order for any of us to believe in Him.

But God brought this man across my path. Plus, I have the Word of God and the Spirit of God to help me. I might as well learn a thing or two about how to use them, huh?

You probably don’t feel like an expert either. But I want to encourage you to respectfully and kindly engage with that atheist rather than running in fear the next time you cross paths. Here are ten tips to help you as you do:

1. Don’t wait ’til you have all the answers.

You’ll never have all the answers or be able to fully wrap your mind around God. He’s way too big for that! Besides, how do you think you’ll learn? (With uncomfortable situations like this that will drive you to God’s Word for answers, that’s how!) What a great opportunity for you to stretch your brain—and your faith—muscles.

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 (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

2. Don’t freak out when your atheist friend seems to make God sound like a fool.

If their arguments appear convincing, if they sound like they know more about God’s Word than you do, that doesn’t mean God’s Word is broken. Go study the passages they mentioned in context (atheists and Christians can both be bad at taking verses out of context). Remember, God’s Word is perfect. Also, as Ray Comfort suggests, move from their intellect to their conscience by getting them to the Law, which will show their need of a Savior.

The word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him (Ps. 18:30).

3. Don’t feel like you have to offer an answer right away.

It’s okay to tell them, “I’m not sure. Let me get back to you,” and then spend time thinking, praying, and researching before responding. Some people are just “quicker on their feet,” and that’s okay.

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things (Prov. 15:28).

4. Expect a whole lot of objections.

These will range from “the Bible is full of contradictions” to “the Bible has so many translations from so many different languages” to “the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament” to a whole lot more. (None of these objections “hold,” by the way, if you do your homework.) If you stick with your atheist friend long enough, these aren’t usually the main reason they don’t believe in God. Listen for their main objection. It might take several conversations to get there.

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out (Prov. 20:5).

5. Be winsome in how you share truth.

When Jesus shared truth, it was “with grace.” (That is, except for the times He talked with the religious snobs who claimed to know God but trusted in their own “good” works.) Jessie Minassian writes about sharing truth in love. Here’s just a taste:

To paraphrase Paul’s famous love chapter (1 Cor. 13), if I can quote apologists, argue with atheists, and verbally spar with the biggest skeptics but don’t love them to pieces, then all my clever words amount to exactly nothing.

Your atheist friend is not your enemy. They’re held captive by your shared enemy: “The god of this world [notice the “little g” god—this is referring to Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

6. Continue to share truth from the Bible with your friend, even if they don’t believe in the Bible.

How can they believe if they do not hear the truth? If you ever offend your atheist friend, may it be with God’s words and not your own.

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

If your friend hears God’s Word but never believes it, the fault did not lie with God’s Word, but with the condition of his or her heart (see Matt. 13:1–23).

7. Know that answering their questions and providing “evidence” will never be enough to change their minds.

God’s Word is clear that the Holy Spirit must open our blind eyes and unstop our deaf ears in order for any of us to believe in Him. Pray, pray, pray that God will do just that.

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul (Acts 16:14, emphasis added).

My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is that they may be saved (Rom. 10:1).

8. Remember that it’s not about you.

Don’t let your hopes be dashed if your atheist friend doesn’t change his or her mind. Don’t think you’re the bomb-dot-com if he or she does. It has not been a waste if they don’t become a believer through your conversation(s). Who knows what God has done in their heart through their interaction with you. But even if their heart has only grown more hard, if you have studied God’s Word with a vengeance; if your faith has grown, it has been worth it.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6–7).

9. Keep sharing the gospel with them every chance you get.

Even as you’re seeking to answer their questions, don’t forget to point them to Jesus every chance you get.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16–17).

10. Ask a wise Jesus-follower for help.

We’re a “Body” for a reason. You don’t have all the answers (or gifts), and neither do I. Ask your church elders for help. Check out books like The Reason for God by Tim Keller, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, and 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh & Sean McDowell.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them (Rom. 12:4–6).

I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever lovingly challenged an atheist’s beliefs? How did it go? Do you have any other tips to add to this list?

Full disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through Amazon links in this post.

The Gospel for Muslims

The Gospel for Muslims

Yesterday I shared three takeaways from the book The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s a thin book (yay for books that don’t overwhelm!) with two sections. The first section covers the basics of the gospel and how Muslims’ beliefs compare, and the second is filled with practical tips for how to share the gospel with Muslims (chapter titles like “Be Filled with the Spirit,” “Trust the Bible,” “Be Hospitable,” and more).

I didn’t realize until I picked up the book that Thabiti converted to Christianity as a sophomore in college. Get a copy for yourself to learn why he became convinced that Islam couldn’t be true and how God finally drew him to Himself. It’s intriguing!

Thanks to one of Thabiti’s practical suggestions, I’m going to be baking all week. I invited the woman in the hijab from across the street over for tea, and she said yes! Thabiti shares that only women have the opportunity to reach Muslim women for Christ (they can’t interact with men), and he suggests spoiling them like crazy when they come for tea. So I’m planning to do just that.

Log on to the giveaway widget for a chance to win a copy of The Gospel for Muslims.

 

Sharing the Gospel with Muslims is Easier Than You Think

Sharing the Gospel with Muslims is Easier Than You Think

Sharing the gospel with Muslims really wasn’t on my radar until I moved to New York to marry Trevor. Suddenly I had not just one Muslim neighbor, but two. (This is a big deal for a girl who grew up surrounded by cornfields!)

I instantly began praying for an opportunity to connect with the woman in the hijab across the street. I asked God to penetrate her darkness with His light. I also picked up The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence by Thabiti Anyabwile. 

“The Gospel for Muslims” is a thin book (yay for books that don’t overwhelm!) with two sections. The first section covers the basics of the gospel and how Muslims’ beliefs compare. The second section is filled with practical tips for how to share the gospel with Muslims (chapter titles like “Be Filled with the Spirit,” “Trust the Bible,” “Be Hospitable,” and more). 

You may not be surrounded by Muslim neighbors, but maybe you go to school with a Muslim or work with one—or will one day. So I want to share three takeaways I’ve gotten from this book so far that I think will help you, too. 

  1. It’s okay to feel afraid to share the gospel with Muslims.

You’re not alone. Even Thabiti, who converted from Islam to Christianity in college, shares of a time he was scared heading into a public debate with a Muslim. Here’s the thing: We don’t have to conjure boldness up from deep within us. Boldness comes from being filled with the Spirit of God. “In the book of Acts,” Thabiti shares, “the activity most frequently associated with the Spirit’s filling is speaking with boldness.” Here are just a couple examples:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).

Don’t keep silent when you are afraid. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill you and give you the boldness you don’t have in order to be a witness for Him.

  1. You have everything you need to share the gospel with Muslims.

You are equipped, even if you don’t feel like you are. The same message that saved you—the gospel—is the message that can profoundly transform your Muslim neighbors and friends. Seriously. Thabiti got me with this zinger on page thirteen: “In my experience, Christians know the gospel. They simply lack confidence in its power.” Ouch.

Share the gospel with Muslims. You don’t have to share it perfectly, without stumbling. You’re not responsible for whether they believe it; it’s simply your job to share with them the good news of Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection on their behalf.

  1. Don’t try to minimize truths about God that you know your Muslim neighbor or friend won’t like.

For example, Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. The chief confession of Islam is, “There is only one God, and Muhammad is his messenger,” so they have a problem with one God in three persons. But rather than seeking to downplay this truth, Thabiti encourages us to “go there.” Why?

For one reason, we don’t get to create a God we understand. God says His “name” (singular) is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Also, Thabiti explains, “We must cling to the Trinity because apart from the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, there is no possibility of eternal salvation. . . . The Father chose us (Eph. 1:4–6), the Son offered the only sacrifice without blemish that is able to purify us and satisfy the Father (Eph. 1:7), and the Spirit seals us and produces in us new birth” (Eph. 1:14).

Share who God is without feeling the need to apologize or “cover” for Him. God is not an idea; He is a Person—be true to who He is and what He shares to be true.

I’d love to hear. Do you know any Muslims?

Thanks to one of Thabiti’s practical suggestions in The Gospel for Muslims, I’m going to be baking all week. I invited the woman in the hijab from across the street over for tea, and she said yes! Thabiti shares that only women have the opportunity to reach Muslim women for Christ (they can’t interact with men), and he suggests spoiling them like crazy when they come for tea. So I’m planning to do just that.

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled

Have you seen the meme “rustle my jimmies”? It came into use in 2010 and expresses strong emotional angst toward someone else’s post on the Internet.

As a blog manager for the past seven years, I’ve observed my share of “jimmy rustling” in the comments section—on this blog and on other blogs. Yes, it appears even Christians get their jimmies rustled from time to time.

When I read a disgruntled commenter expressing sharp criticism toward the author of a post, it makes me think of this admonition from James:

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be

  • quick to hear
  • slow to speak
  • slow to anger;

for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (1:19–20).

I can’t help but wonder how this verse might read if James were addressing modern-day blog readers. Something like this, maybe?

Know this, my beloved Internet users: let every scanner be

  • quick to read carefully and slowly all the way to the end of a post
  • quick to seek to understand where the author is coming from
  • slow to comment
  • slow to get their jimmies rustled

for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19–20).

One of the best pieces of communication advice I have ever received is to seek to understand before seeking to be understood (again, just another way of summarizing James 1:19–20). It’s no different from how we are supposed to read the Bible—seeking to understand the author’s original intent rather than jumping to conclusions.

That said, would you mind if I passed on five pieces of advice that will aid you in not getting your jimmies rustled—and not sinning in your responses?

1. Don’t judge a post by its title.

In order to catch readers’ attention in a culture glutted with information, bloggers have to write intriguing titles in order for readers to even click on their posts. So give the author a break and read their post before blasting them for their title. Even then, don’t blast them for their title. Comment on their whole presentation, not on six words stripped of their context.

2. Don’t post a comment before reading to the end of the post.

Often the writer is making the same argument you are . . . you just didn’t stick around long enough to realize it.

3. Do ask clarifying questions.

Rather than reading between the lines and connecting dots that aren’t really there to connect, ask the author what they meant by such-and-such. Give them a chance to clarify rather than putting words in their mouth.

4. Do pray, re-read, and wait a bit before you instantly post a comment.

Growing up, my mom taught me not to send an important email immediately after writing it, but to leave some space before sending it. She probably got that idea from the Word of God: “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Prov. 19:2).

Words can never be taken back. I trust bloggers are doing the same thing as they write a post: praying, re-reading, and waiting before instantly posting their thoughts on the worldwide web.

5. Do share truth in love.

If correction is indeed needed, share this correction in love. The apostle Paul says it better than me:

I . . . urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4:1–6).

I’m not saying you have to agree with everything that’s posted on the Internet, or even on this blog. Hardly! But I am asking you to help me change the commenting culture to one that honors God, gently corrects where needed, and encourages where possible.

I’d love to hear what you think. Have you noticed this same trend? How have you either contributed to or bucked the my-jimmies-are-rustled-and-you’re-gonna-hear-about-it system?

5 Ways to Read a Blog Post Without Getting Your Jimmies Rustled was originally posted on TrueWoman.com. 

How to Encourage Others Without Even Trying

How to Encourage Others Without Even Trying

I really appreciated Elizabeth’s insight on last week’s post, Three Epic Reasons to Encourage Others. I asked,

“Who do you know who could use a good dose of encouragement right about now?”

And she responded,

“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t need to be encouraged!”

True that! And here’s the thing: it doesn’t take much to become a continual encourager.

I like how J.R. Miller says it,

“[Jesus’] inquiry concerning every person was, ‘Can I do anything for you? Can I share your burden? Can I relieve you of your sufferings?'”

Now we have the privilege of being Jesus’ ambassadors in our neighborhoods, of housing the Spirit of Christ within us and allowing Him to love through us. That said, here are four simple (but meaningful!) ways to encourage others:

1. When you think a kind thought about someone in your head, put words to it.

Say it out loud. To them! (And others, too, if you want.)

My Story: Last night as an older woman was leaving our small group, I told her, “You look vibrant. I didn’t know you when you were younger, but I think you must be one of those women who gets more beautiful with age.”

“You just gave me such a gift,” she said as she kissed my cheek. “Today was really hard.”

Your Challenge: Go ahead. You can do it! Say something nice to someone else. Who knows—they may have had a hard day too.

2. When you hear someone say something nice about someone who’s not in the room, pass the encouragement on.

My Story: Last week a girl told me that one of her relatives hates her. But after spending time with this relative, I specifically heard her say she loved this girl.

I was then able to tell the girl that even though her relative might not express their love well, that relative does love her.

Your Challenge: Listen. Do you hear anyone saying something nice about someone else? Instead of feeling envious, why not share this “good gossip” with that person?

3. Show genuine interest in others.

Yes, even people you don’t know. Who says you have to stare at your phone and pretend they’re not standing right next to you?

My Story: The other day as I was walking out of a retirement home, I stopped to talk to an older woman who was out pruning bushes. She proceeded to show me her different bushes, and we guessed at their names. “A porcupine bush, maybe? That’s what it looks like to me!”

I don’t know if my conversation with her brightened her day or not. It doesn’t really matter that I know. She has great worth as an image bearer of God, and I had the privilege of “seeing” and interacting with her briefly.

Your Challenge: The next time you’re passing a stranger, look them in the eye, and say “hi”! Ask them a question about what they’re doing. Show a little interest. C’mon, you can do it.

4. Say thanks.

Make it a habit to thank the lady filling the paper towels in the bathroom. Thank your server, manager, and/or cook as you’re leaving a restaurant. Don’t take everything for granted. If it’s nice, it’s because someone made it nice it for you.

My Story: A couple weeks ago, without even thinking about it, I glanced up from my table in the grocery store deli and said, “Thank you for cleaning, Jim.” (He was walking by my table pushing one of those big, yellow cleaning carts.)

The next thing I knew, he was standing over me, grinning his toothless smile, and telling me that in his fifteen years cleaning at this store, no one had ever thanked him before.

Wow.

Your Challenge: Say thank you to someone for something you’ve never even thought to be thankful for.

What did I miss? Surely those aren’t the only ways to encourage others. Let me hear your stories and ideas. Then check back next week for how to write an encouraging letter.

How to Encourage Others Without Even Trying was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. 

Two Letters to My Landlord

Two Letters to My Landlord

I moved into a little apartment this past year, and ever since I’ve been praying that my landlord would come to know Jesus.

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

I’ve committed to leaving the place better than when I came and to being a thoughtful tenant. After all, everything I do reflects on Christ, as my landlord knows I’m a Christian.

Still, living well is not ultimately enough to share Christ with someone. People have to hear the gospel before they can understand it (Rom. 10:13–14).

My First Letter

So, one month when I sat down to write my landlord a note to accompany my rent check, I tried slipping God into my talk of cable cords, nail holes, and trashcans. (By way of background, my landlord had slipped a short note in my mailbox apologizing for not getting some work done for me, as her dad was sick.)

My note went like this:

No worries at all. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future. And it’s beautiful to God, who commands us to honor our parents and promises to bless us when we do (Exodus 20:12).

Praying for you both. Let me know if I can do anything to help on my end (sorry, you beat me to the trash last night!).

Loving my apartment!

Gratefully,

Paula

Thankfully, my mom always taught me to sit on a message before sending it. As I thought about the note I’d written, I started to question . . .

  • Is anything that’s done apart from faith in Christ really beautiful to God? (Heb. 11:6).
  • Would this note give my landlord false confidence that she had an “in” with God apart from Christ?
  • Would this note ultimately be helpful to her if it didn’t point her to Christ?

Take Two

So I took another stab at it:

Thanks so much for patching those holes and removing the cable cords for me. And no worries about not getting to it until now. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future, and it reminds me of Jesus. John 19 records that He made sure His friend would take care of His mom after He left earth—and He saw to this while hanging on a cross as the substitute for the sins of all who would put their trust in Him. How amazing to be thinking of others while in such agony!

All that to say, I’m grateful for you, and I’m loving my apartment.

I still need to get you the checklist—hopefully by early next week. Sorry for the delay (and for not beating you to the trash this week!)

Gratefully,

Paula

Why do I share this with you? Not because it was the perfect note. I realize it was . . . zealous. Possibly too much so. But:

  • Did it point her to the beauty of Christ?
  • And is time short?
  • And could I love her in any better way than sharing Christ with her?

I’ve been camping out in Colossians lately, which is quite possibly the most Christ-centered letter in the Bible. Paul wrote this letter not to his unbelieving landlord, but to the believing church at Colosse. He wrote it to urge them not to add to Christ. Christ is enough; Christ is everything:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Let’s make sure we’re not inadvertently doing the same thing by failing to point others to Christ. Let’s not forget the main point. Rather, the main Person. All of Scripture points to Jesus! (Luke 24:27).

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

Two Letters to My Landlord was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.