Friday, September 28, 2012

Gladness in weakness

My friend, a new mom of a precious baby boy, was worrying. She'd heard that cell phones transmitted dangerous radioactivity and here she'd been checking her messages and Facebook timeline on her smartphone every time she sat down to nurse the baby, sometimes five or six times a day! What had she done to him? What sort of damage had she incurred, however innocently?

We attempted to soothe her stress with the truth that if not via radioactivity there will yet be some other way she would fail her son. "We are all doomed to ruin our kids," I told her and I meant it as an encouragement. In fact, I placed my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye and told her what I wished I'd known as a young mom: "You are not enough and you never will be."

It's something I'd always secretly suspected in those years of juggling a baby on my hips and toddlers at my feet. I mean, I knew in my heart of hearts that no matter what standard chosen to evaluate my effectiveness as a mom I'd failed it to some degree or another. On any given day I'd forget to brush their teeth, or I didn't feel like reading Good Night Moon (for the hundredth-plus time in a given day). I yelled, I spanked, I lost my temper, I used T.V. as a babysitter, I skipped baths some nights and don't even talk to me about crafts. Pick your definition of a good mom and I couldn't live up to it, not with any degree of consistency or excellence.

Well meaning friends and parenting books would tell me that this was the most important job I could do and not only that but I was the best mom for the job, why else would God give me to these children? Neither assertion brought much hope. Knowing this was the most important job I could do and seeing my persistent and overwhelming failure carried an extra weight of guilt and despair. I can't even do the one most important job I've been given to do!

And if I'm the best woman for the job? Well then God either has a twisted sense of humor or rather low standards for what my kids need and what I can give.

So I spent many years caught in the same frenzy of fear and worry as my friend. I tried so hard and failed so miserably. Many a night I cried myself to sleep as I confessed my frustration and my failure. "I can't do this. I can't!," I would sob, "Please, oh, please, God, if You hear me, can You not make this easier so I can do it and do it well?!!"

It was during one of these late night sob sessions that I sensed the Spirit saying to me (not audibly, mind you, but as a sort of remembering): "Lisa, Lisa, do not despise those areas of your life that make you desperate for Me. Do not reject what keeps you at the foot of the cross pleading for mercy."

It was an echo of 2 Corinthians 12:9 in which the apostle Paul declares that he will boast--and boast gladly--about his weaknesses because it is then that the power of Christ rests on him with His sufficient grace. Glad? About weakness? In fact, not only that but Paul goes on to say that he is content in weakness and in hardship and in persecution because when he is weak he is strong. How? Because the Lord's grace is sufficient in weakness.

As I contrasted Paul's gladness with my late night grief I was slowly-oh-so-slowly beginning to understand grace. Grace tells me that in my weakness I am strong because I will know the strength of my Savior in ways I could not when caught in the cycle of self effort and determined moralism. Grace says that good mom or bad mom I cannot earn or lose the favor granted me through Christ. Grace sets me free from my try-harder, do-more, be-good exertions. Grace is unmerited approval based on the righteousness of Christ not mine! Grace shows me I am not enough, I never will be, and that's okay because the Lord is sufficient. Glory to God, grace shouts that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! None!

See, I knew I needed grace to save me as a young girl wanting desperately to love and belong to Jesus. But grace now? As an adult? A mom? I'd paid lipservice to grace but I lived as if it were all up to me--directly opposite to what grace really is. Grace says I can't; Jesus is and can and will and does.

Maybe, like me, you worry and wail over your insufficiencies and inadequacies and outright wrongs. The grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient! Confess, repent, and rest in the Lord's promise to be faithful and just to forgive. And here's the deal: there's grace for yesterday's failures and sins for those who repent and believe, yes and amen, but there's also grace for today's failures and sins. Like Paul, be glad for the weakness that drives you to desperation before the throne of grace. Our God is gracious and merciful!

Hear me: you are not the mom of your kids because you have what it takes or because you are the best one for the job. Go ahead and lay down that burden of expectation and condemnation. Rather, you're the mom of your kids because the Lord has something to teach you about Himself and about His sufficiency and about true sanctification. Your mothering is not about you nor even really ultimately about your kids. I do not mean to imply that what we do as moms carries no significance. Yes, of course, absolutely we are the primary influences in our children's lives, particularly in those important early years. But influential does not mean determinative. Finally, ultimately, motherhood, as well as the whole of the believer's life, is about the Lord, His sufficiency, His grace, His salvation, His glory.

I am not enough to be sure, but, glory to God, His grace is sufficient.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Forever 52

Appearance is a big issue for young women. From preschool onward, there's an unspoken rule that the prettiest, best dressed, and coolest girl moves to the top of the pecking order. This rule “tells girls that how you look is more important than how you feel. More that that, it tells them that how you look is how you feel as well as who you are.” 1

But if you think this is something women outgrow when they reach middle age, think again. There are nearly 500 Forever 21 stores, but you've probably never heard of Forever 52. Why not? Because it doesn't exist in a culture where “... girls are now simultaneously getting older younger and staying younger older. It also explains why the identical midriff-baring crop top is sold to eight-year-olds, eighteen-year-olds, and forty-eight-year-olds. The phases of our lives have become strangely blurred as girls try to look like adult women and adult women primp and preen and work out like crazy in order to look like girls.”2 In the world's eyes, beauty and youth are a woman's “currency and power”3, which is why women pay big bucks to go under the knife to turn back the clock.

Can you relate?

I certainly can. I feel it on those days when I can't cover the gray hairs by changing my part or squeeze into that old pair of jeans I'm not willing to give away just yet. I felt more than just a pang when I was traded in for a younger version. And if I'm honest, the root desire for "admiration and worship and men's good opinion"4 lurks in my heart. The world gladly offers thousands of ways to fulfill this longing, but it's a false bill of goods. You may have tried some of them as have I, but our love for lesser things, ourselves included, will leave us high and dry. We were meant for something better, and this is where the gospel comes in.

Our identity is in Christ. We don't have to fear growing older or the changes that will inevitably come our way. We've been freed from bartering for our worth with the world's bankrupt currency. We don't need to live for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised for our sake. (2. Cor. 5:14-17).  The face and form God has given each of us are to display His grace, no longer objects of self-worship or self-loathing. When we look in the mirror, we may not see the women who looked back at us 10, 20, or 30 years ago, but may we find the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that is precious in God's sight. (1. Pet. 3:4). 

This is good news, sisters. Let's believe it. Let's teach it to our daughters, granddaughters, and the young women in our lives.

1. Cinderella Ate My Daughter, Peggy Orenstein, HarperCollins, 2011, pg. 183.
2. Ibid. pg. 139.
3. Ibid. pg. 138.
4. Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell, IndyPublish.com, pg. 538.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fighting for Your Girl's Heart

Note: This is part of the Fight Like a Girl Series. Other posts are found under the series tag.

I was in 9th grade the first time I ever used the word love to describe my feelings for a boy. By the time I got married 11 years later, I'd used it in at least that many relationships. I didn't protect my heart.  What I gave to my husband on our wedding day was a battered and bruised heart with several pieces irretrievably lost.

My girl is in 9th grade this year. Thankfully, mercifully, she has shown no interest in boys. Her daddy is still the man of her life. Her mama prays it will remain so for a long while yet. I want to protect her heart as long as I possibly can, yet I am as powerless to guard her heart as I was to guard my own.


The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?
~Jeremiah 17:9

Matters of the heart go far beyond romance. For the believer, our hearts are an indication of our trust in the Lord and our obedience to Him. As parents, we must constantly point out this truth to our children, helping them to understand that outward behavior is an indicator of our heart's condition.

...we must not simply parent behavior. We're not just controlling decisions and seeking to make sure that the child goes where we want him to go to do what we want him to do. God has called us to a higher agenda. We want to know the heart of our teenager, to help him see his heart as it really is, and to be used of God to help produce a heart ruled by nothing else but God and his truth.

How do we help our girl see the true nature of her heart? First, gently remind her that she is a sinner (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23). In Uncompromising: A Heart Claimed By a Radical Love, Hannah Farver sets forth this truth in language every teenage girl can understand: "If it were not for the fact that I have lied, hated others, smart-mouthed my parents, and disobeyed my God, there would have been no reason for the Cross." (p. 47).

In pointing out what her actions and attitudes reveal about her heart, we must also reassure her of God's grace. Remind her of Romans 5:6-8. Offer these words as a prayer for her and encourage her to pray them for herself:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
*

The truth is, our heart struggles won't be over in this lifetime. Yet God's Word says that for those who pray and make supplication with thanksgiving, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)

Keep Fighting:

~Ask your girl to tell you 3 things she's passionate about and why. Have her think about how much time she devotes to these passions. Is she pursuing them to the glory of God? Read 1 Corinthians 10:31 and discuss how she might pursue these passions differently. Consider discussing your own passions as well.

~Read Hosea 1 - 3 together. God commanded Hosea to do an incredibly hard thing in loving Gomer, yet Hosea did it because he loved God enough to obey.  "Real love is not fueled by emotions but by a constant desire for the good of the beloved." (Uncompromising, p. 36)  How was Hosea's love for Gomer for her good? Ask your girl to consider the male/female relationships around her. Do they exhibit this desire for good? Finally, bring it back to the Gospel by reminding your girl that no matter how low we sink, God loved us enough to buy us back and redeem us.


*"Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing", lyrics by Robert Robinson

Friday, September 21, 2012

Our A Se God

Aseity is an old word and an uncommon one, even in lists of God's attributes, where you’ll more often find self-existenceself-sufficiencyself-containmentindependence, or solitariness used to describe this characteristic of God. But these words don't all mean exactly the same thing, at least as I understand them. I prefer to to use aseity, because it describes this particular perfection of God more precisely than any one of the other words, and includes within it everything they mean and more.

Aseity comes from the Latin a se, meaning “from or by oneself.” To say that God is a se tells us that he exists wholly "from himself." There is nothing else that causes God to exist; rather, he exists uncaused, "by the necessity of His own Being," to quote Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. In other words, he is eternally self-sustained and he can't not exist. Our God, scripture tells us, "has life in himself”(John 5:26).

The first scriptural evidence of God's aseity is found at the very beginning of the Bible: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Creation, we’re told, has a beginning: "In the beginning" when God created. But not so with God. He was there before the beginning, when there was nothing but him, existing eternally in all his perfection from himself and by himself.

Since God's attributes exist as a unified whole (the doctrine of divine simplicity), his aseity extends to them all. Everything that God is comes from himself. 

God's love, for instance, is a se love. It is independent, and not compelled or drawn from him by anything within the object of his love (See Deuteronomy 7:7-8.). What’s more, because God exists from eternity as the Trinity, he did not need to create to give expression to his love. His love is eternally expressed fully and perfectly between the three persons of his being. God’s love comes from himself and is complete within himself.

God's knowledge is also from himself and complete within himself. He never acquires knowledge from another source. Even what he knows about creation, he knows from himself. He does not depend on creation, even creation foreseen, for his knowledge of it; but rather, he knows everything about creation because he knows what he is able to do, what he has done, and what he plans to do.

God's aseity applies to his will, too, both in its planning and in its accomplishment. In the context of God's plan for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, Paul asks the rhetorical question, "Who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34). The answer is no one! God formed his plan independently. In Ephesians 1, we read that it is God himself who "works all things according to the counsel of his will." The execution of his will does not depend on anything outside himself, including the libertarian choices of his creatures.

That God is a se means he needs nothing from us. He does not need our worship; he does not need our love; he does not need our help. He is not, Paul says, "served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). A God who "has life in himself" doesn't depend on us for anything; rather, out of his self-sustained life he gives us life—and everything else we need.

How different from us our a se God is! He needs nothing from us; we need everything from him. He derives nothing from anyone or anything, but our very life, and everything we have, we derive from him. It's in him "we live and move and have our being" (Act 17:28), but he lives "from himself." In this, and everything else, God is in a class by himself.

The doctrine of divine aseity, says J. I. Packer, "stands as a bulwark against" the thought that God is like us. 
[E]ndless mistakes result from supposing that the conditions, bounds, and limits of our own finite existence apply to God. ... In our life of faith, we easily impoverish ourselves by embracing an idea of God that is too limited and small.... It is vital for spiritual health to believe that God is great, and grasping the truth of his aseity is the first step on the road to doing this.
And grasping the truth of God's aseity demands that we respond to it. Here's my incomplete list of ways to do this.

We can
  • consider God's greatness as seen in his aseity and let our hearts sing.
  • think about God's aseity and worship him, telling him how great he is because he is the source of everything and needs nothing.
  • thank God for giving us our dependent lives from his independent life. And while we're at it, we can thank him for giving us, from himself, everything else we have.
  • thank God for loving us with his a se love, for loving us, not by compulsion, but freely, "from himself."
  • stifle any thought that we are helping God out or giving him something he needs when we serve or give or worship.
  • be confident that God will keep his promises to us, since he does not depend on anything outside himself to carry out his will.
  • remember that our spiritual lives are sustained by life from Jesus who has "life in himself." He gives us eternal life, and we will never perish. We can let his aseity give us assurance.
  • teach our children and grandchildren about God’s aseity. It’s not necessary to use the word and we don’t have to explain it all, but we can start by asking, “Where does God come from?”
What would you add to this list? What are other appropriate responses to this doctrine?

Bonus questions for die-hard theology buffs: In the open-theist's system, is God a se? In the Molinistic system? Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pick Up the Basin and the Towel

I have always liked the song "The Basin and the Towel," by Michael Card.  It is based on the account found in John13 after Christ institutes the Lord's Supper, and is preparing to go to the cross.  After the meal, he gathers his disciples and he does the unthinkable:  he washes their feet.  He removes his outer garments, dons the garb of a slave, and he washes their feet.  This is shocking to the disciples.

D.A. Carson comments:
Doubtless the disciples would have been happy to wash his feet; they could not conceive of washing one another's feet, since this was a task normally reserved for the lowliest of menial servants.  Peers did not wash one another's feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.  Some Jews insisted that Jewish slaves should not be required to wash the feet of others; this job would be reserved for Gentile slaves, or for women and children and pupils.  In one well-known story, when  Rabbi Ishmael returned home from synagogue one day and his mother wanted to wash his feet, he refused on the ground that the task was too demeaning. She took the matter to the rabbinic court on the ground that she viewed the task, in his case, as an honour.  The reluctance of Jesus' disciples to volunteer for such a task is, to say the least, culturally understandable; their shock at his volunteering is not merely the result of being shamefaced, it is their response to finding their sense of the fitness of things shattered.  But here Jesus reverses normal roles.
In John 13:12-14, Jesus tells them why he is doing this.  He tells them that he is giving them an example to follow.  Of course, he does not mean that all they will do now is wash people's feet.  He is painting a picture; a picture of what service looks like.  He tells them, "If your Lord washes your feet, then you ought to wash each other's feet."  The distinctions are gone; service isn't about rank or privilege, it's about humility. The one who was about to hang on the cross, suffer, and die, was serving them, despite He being the one who is worthy to be served.  As Christ's disciples, this is our example, too.

Service and sacrifice are related.  We read in Romans 12:1 that we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice, which is what Paul calls our "spiritual worship."  Service is an outflow of our worship.  We want to serve the one we worship.  The recipients of our service to God are the ones around us, whether in the Body of Christ, or outside the Body of Christ, but the motivation behind what we do is to worship our God.  The passage in John demonstrates that service is to be motivated by humility.

It may be subtle, but often, our service can be less about the object of our worship and more about ourselves.  It is a temptation at times for me to serve for myself instead of of the Lord.  It becomes evident when I begin to do things like grumble because I am not being recognized for my service,  continually compare my service to others', or get insulted when I don't get words of praise.  When service is done for the accolades or the pat on the back, it has stopped being an act of worship.  Sometimes, we are motivated more by a desire to make a name for ourselves than exalt the name of God.  That is not the picture Jesus gives us here.  The picture is lowering ourselves.  He must increase and I must decrease.  Of course, sincere servants of God may attract attention simply because their service is a blessing to many; that is not wrong.  The problems begin when our motive for serving is the recognition, or worse, we stop serving because we're not getting it.

In her book  The Afternoon of Life, Elyse Fitzpatrick, in the context of service opportunities, discusses the relationship between service and a title.  I like how she puts this:
 Any woman who wants to pick up the basin and the towel may do so whether she's got a title or not.
We love titles:  manager, co-ordinator, deacon, chairperson, vice-president; whatever.  Sometimes, titles are necessary, but they don't make the service more legitimate.  What makes it legitimate is the object of our worship, and the willingness to pick up the basin and the towel, no matter what the task.   We need not bemoan the lack of service opportunities.  They are everywhere.  Perhaps what is needful is a reminder of what true service looks like.  We need look no further than Christ Himself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

One Trick Pony

Whenever I’m walking a friend through a trial -- or walking through a trial myself -- I tend to say the same things over and over.

God knew this was coming.

This is part of his plan.

He’s sovereign over this trial and has a purpose for it.

This trial is in your life for your good and God’s glory.


I worry that I sound like a broken record, but whether it’s a marriage that’s exploding or just the hot water heater, I have nothing else to offer. God’s sovereignty is it. In my advice and writing, I’m very much a one trick pony.

It’s tempting to think I need to come up with something else. Surely there’s advice that’s more clever, something more sophisticated that will give women three concrete steps they can take to fix the problem. But even though it’s nothing very fancy, it’s the best I or anyone else can offer.

When we go through trials, both big and small, it’s easy to get bogged down in a cycle of self-recrimination and regret. “If only I had seen this coming. If I had just realized ahead of time,” we say over and over (and over) again. This is especially hard if we realize that our own sin led to our difficulties.

Realizing the consequences our sin has wrought is important; it’s one of the most effective means to drive us towards repentance. We have to be on guard, though, that we’re not letting repentance turn into self-chastisement.

What’s the difference? Repentance allows us to look to Christ and his forgiveness. Self-chastisement causes us to look to ourselves, as if we can somehow pay for our sin with our own regret. “I’ll just go over here in the corner and beat myself up,” we say, “because I’m not sure Christ’s death on the cross was quite enough to satisfy this particular sin.”

Focusing on God’s sovereignty also keeps our eyes on the only true solution. Remembering that God saw this coming (even the part of it that we fouled up) and knows exactly how it’s going to end allows us to rest in the present. However dire things look in the moment, we can trust God himself, who “knows the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10) and will lead us through.

Most importantly, this is the pattern of the Bible. God wants us to put our trust in him, not in explanations. Job was never given a reason for his trials, he was just given more of God himself. Habakkuk was given a reason, but was told that the reason would not fit our human notions of justice. In the end, both men realized they had to trust God for the results.

And that's what we should do as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

It is out of the ordinary that we write

A few years back my personal blog was treated to a new header design thanks to the generosity and talent of internet acquaintance of mine. In the course of our email exchange regarding design elements and such the designer suggested I develop a tagline to more fully identify my blog's focus. Up until that point I was writing under the plain ol' heading "Lisa writes..." which I thought pretty much encapsulated what I was doing with the blog (though admittedly "Lisa writes, but only sometimes" may be a better descriptor).

In an effort to jumpstart my tagline quest my designer friend suggested I consider my niche, what makes my blog and my voice unique. After a few days' thought I sent her what I thought to be some rather pithy tagline possibilities. In the nicest way possible she gave me her honest assessment: my tagline suggestions were rather tired and overused and, frankly, unoriginal.

Which, as I think on it, seems rather apropos for my so-called niche.

However, I remained tagline-less for quite some time after that.

I did, finally, add a tagline a few years later, one that may or may not reflect a certain unique corner of the blog market but one that I hope reflects who I am and how I write, an ordinary woman seeking to live out her ordinary life in the love and service of her Lord.

In fact, that's our focus here. We've called our blog "Out of the Ordinary" because that's how we write: out of the utter ordinariness of our lives. If you click over and read our bios you'll see we're just regular women: moms and grandmothers, employees and empty nesters, Bible teachers and avid readers, lovers of photography and of chocolate. Nothing special, just ordinary women living ordinary lives and blogging about it.

And, yet, it is also out of this ordinariness of life that we seek to know and serve the Lord. We aren't seminarians nor are we in vocational ministry. Instead, we are reading books by Christian theologians at our breakfast table. We are serving our local churches. We are seeking to reconcile our real life struggles with the truths of Scripture. We are working out our theology as we drop kids off at football practice and as we cook supper for our families and as we rock our grandbabies to sleep.

It is out of the ordinary that we write and out of the ordinary that we study and serve.

As we devote ourselves to the study of God's Word we have found that sound theology is far from a dry academic pursuit. With great joy and according to the Lord's great mercy we have each of us discovered that the gospel is real and that it carries profound effects in our real and ordinary lives. We love theology because by it we learn more of the God we serve and the Savior we love and this knowledge transforms our ordinary lives into a holy sacrifice pleasing unto the Lord, proving the goodness and perfection of His will and His ways.

In other words, theology matters. It is not just for your pastor but for you and me too, no matter our stage of life nor its ordinariness or extraordinariness.

So, as my fellow authors have done, I too invite you, here, via the blog, to join us as we pursue sound doctrine and solid theology out of and in the midst of our ordinary lives. The lifelong pursuit of the knowledge of the Lord will refine our faith and transform us into solid women, humble women, secure women, women who know the grace of the Lord and the power of the Spirit, glory to His name. Solid theology building solid women, this is our aim. We are ordinary, no doubt about it. But we've tasted and we've seen and we want the same for you! 1 Corinthians 4:7 reminds us we are humble jars of clay but it is out of that ordinary vessel the surpassing beauty and power of the treasure within shines forth. May it be so here as in all of our lives, yes and amen!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Chains Fell Off

One of my less-than-fond memories of childhood is let's-scare-you-into-the-kingdom evangelism. I remember those colorful comic book tracts depicting the end times in lurid detail, all the better to scare you with. I was too young, but my big sister had the pleasure of viewing that high water mark of Christian cinema, A Thief in the Night. Her description was enough to give me nightmares which did not help an already anxious young girl. Afterwards when my parents would run errands that took much longer than anticipated, I would run to the window and check to see if the moon or sun had turned to blood for fear that they had been raptured without me. I hadn't grown out of this as an adult although I internalized my fear. You can imagine how I reacted to Y2K, 9/11, or any turmoil in the Middle East. I avoided the TV news and wouldn't even glance at the front page of a newspaper. I kid you not. That's how bad it was.

But the root of the problem wasn't fearing the end times. I was afraid of God.

As a child, I was told Jesus died for my sins and to ask Him into my heart. I honestly believe God saved me at that time, but there were unanswered questions. Jesus' death got me in the door, but what happened after that? I knew God was holy. I knew He rightfully demanded perfection, so this must mean the rest was up to me. I never verbalized this fear, but I believed it. To make matters worse, my ability to be "ready” for Christ's return or by the time I died depended upon my degree of surrender. This was up to me and not up to me at the same time because I was supposed to allow Christ to do it through me but it couldn't be me doing any of the doing or the not doing. Got that? Due to my lack of understanding, “in Christ” was akin to balancing a level so the bubble would line up in the right place, but it constantly shifted back and forth based on my success at “letting go and letting God.” In the final analysis, my standing before God rested in my hands which was a terrifying prospect.

Forty years after professing Christ, I heard the complete gospel message for the first time. Charles Wesley's line “my chains fell off, my heart was free” couldn't have described it any better. Oh the relief of knowing that I was accepted by God once and for all, not because of a perfectly surrendered performance but because of a perfect Savior! Anxiety was replaced with rest in knowing that Jesus did it once and for all. He took my sins and bore the wrath I deserved.  He also lived the life I could never live and yet His perfect record has been accounted to me. “The Gospel changes everything” isn't a cliché. It's the truth because it's the difference between life and death, freedom and bondage.

I know God is sovereign over every second of my life including the years of gospel ignorance. Perhaps, those lean times were necessary for me to appreciate how good the good news really is. Consequently, many of my posts will likely be about some aspect of the gospel because it's so dear to my heart. I hope you don't mind. Whether this truth has been your daily bread all your life or you've only recently tasted its sweetness, let's never get past the gospel.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fight Like a Girl

Note: This is part of the Fight Like a Girl Series. Other posts are found under the series tag.

The realization of my girl's 13th birthday hit hard, cold water poured onto my unsuspecting face. Only five years left. I thought about how fleeting those first five years were, from the time the doctor placed her on my chest until I watched her march merrily into kindergarten. Five years left to mentor, teach, love and lead. It seemed so insufficient. I determined to be more proactive, to redefine the course of my motherhood.

And now she stands taller than I and so much more beautiful - my heart walking around outside of my body. She started high school this year.  Only four years left. I want to clasp onto these years as tightly as she held my hand when she took her first uncertain steps.

I see other families altered by the teenage years.  I remember it being so in my own home, when I shut myself off from my parents and delved deeper into my own world, completely absorbed in self. I vow not to let that happen with my girl.
This is not a time to accept a culturally dictated "generation gap". This is a time to jump into the battle and move toward your teenager. It is a time for engagement, interaction, discussion, and committed relationship. This is not a time to let a teenager hide his doubts, fears, and failures, but a time to pursue, love, encourage, teach, forgive, confess, and accept. It is a wonderful time.

The Lord has taught me much in the past year. I still have much to learn. Yet I will not let fear of my inadequacies relegate me to the sidelines of my daughter's life. I have "jumped into the battle" armed with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Sometimes it is a daily fight - killing my own desires, pride and sin along with hers - but I am seeing the rewards. God's strengthening of our relationship has exceeded my expectations.

As I fight for my daughter, I find myself also fighting for the young ladies in my church. I take seriously the Church's responsibility to its teenagers. It is a passion that only the Holy Spirit could have sparked. By His grace, I will keep it lit.

If you, like me, are an ordinary woman seeking to raise up women who are extraordinary in the Lord, I invite you to join me as we wrestle this thing out together. Let's sharpen each other as we navigate the perilous waters of adolescence. Let's stop fighting with our girls, and fight for them instead.

We have a winner!

We would like to thank everyone who expressed an interest in our book giveaway.  Of course, there can only be one winner and that lucky woman is Leslie Wiggins!

Congratulations, Leslie!  We'll be in touch with regard to your contact information so we can get your book to you.

Today, Melissa is going to be sharing something really excellent; look for her post sometime this morning.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Theology Makes My Heart Sing

I stole the title of this post from an old blog post, a short justification of my love of theology, that I wrote more than eight years ago. When we were in the planning stage of Out of the Ordinary, one of the things we discussed was what kind of posts we wanted to write. It wasn't a difficult question for me to answer; I wanted to write "theology for girls" posts. Eight years on, I still love theology and I want to share that love with you.

As Kim wrote in her previous post, "right living begins with right theology." Fundamentally, this is because so-called "right living" is not right living at all if it is not done for right reasons. It's here in the why of our obedience that theology operates. Theology tells us who God is that we should worship him, and what he's done that we should love him. Learned well, theology grows our love for God, and love spurs our obedience to him. As Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."

If you were to ask me what practical use there is for theology, this is the answer I'd give. Right living begins with right theology; solid theology builds solid women. 

But theology is much more than motivation for right living. It soars above the practical to the doxological; it is down-to-earth—and up-to-heaven, too. The overflow of the love for God that grows from theology learned well is praise. Theology writes the hymnal of the Christian heart. 

I pray that as I study and write my posts, my love for God will grow. I pray that as you read, your love will grow, too. And I pray that our growing love for God will foster growing obedience to him. But most of all, I'm praying that solid theology produces women whose hearts sing!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A New Blog Demands a Book Giveaway - Updated

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UPDATE:

We really want to thank everyone for the interest in the giveaway.  There are 45 entries so far.  If you want to enter, we are thrilled, but we need some kind of identifying mark for the purposes of the draw.  Currently, in the comments there are two who have identified themselves as "unknown."  There were no email addresses left, so if one of those two names is drawn, we have no way of knowing who she is.    Please, please, do submit an entry, but if you don't want to leave an e-mail address, do indicate some sort of name just for the purposes of the draw.  I will announce this early on Monday morning before the Monday post goes up, and I will be asking for an e-mail address so I can get an address.

Thanks so much for your interest.  It has been so humbling and exciting for us here to be welcomed so warmly.

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While our "official" first post will be on Wednesday, today, we are announcing a book giveaway this week in honor of the start of Out of the Ordinary.

A lucky reader will get a copy of Keri Folmar's book Joy! which is a study on the book of Philippians.  It is one of Cruciform's latest releases.

The reviews are excellent, and I can say as one who has this book, the fact that it is spiral bound is one of the first things I liked about it.  The book is a ten week inductive study and can be written in as a journal.  Each week has five days of study.  The beginning also has some very useful introductory notes about inductive bible study in general.

If you would like to receive a copy of this little gem, you have three ways of entering so.  First, leave a comment in this post; second send an e-mail by clicking on the "Site Admin" link on the sidebar; our email address is there.   Third, indicate your interest at our Facebook page by posting on our wall.   The draw will be open until Sunday, September 9, 2012, and the winner announced on the following Monday.

Please only Canadian and U.S. addresses.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Challenge of the Afternoon

And so, our blogging journey here at Out of the Ordinary begins!

On our "Who We Are" page, we have indicated that we are all women in the "afternoon" of life, i.e. we are all forty and older.  There are unique challenges to every season of life, this one included. Often, when I was a younger woman with small children, I figured this time of life was probably really great because I could go to the bathroom with the door closed and not have to worry about what chaos would ensue.  The grass is always greener, isn't it?

As we move into our forties, things are changing, more so for some than others.  Every woman is unique in when these changes occur, but one thing remains true:  women begin to experience significant physical changes.  At times, they can be difficult.  We find that we suddenly have a bulge at our waistline or on our backsides, and whereas when we were younger we could get rid of a few pounds when we wanted, now it is difficult.  We find our sleep patterns interrupted, our moods too changeable, our minds fuzzy, and our bodies may feel like they're being incinerated from the inside out.

There are also lifestyle changes, such as parenting teenagers, living with adult children, or watching them all move out on their own, rendering our once busy homes silent.  We may juggle becoming grandparents with aging or dying parents.   At the same time we may feel like our bodies have betrayed us, along come these stressful lifestyle changes.  It can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

I have been reading a book called When Your Hormones Go Haywire.  It was highly recommended to me, and I have found it instructive to note how the hormone fluctuations can play havoc with other things like the serotonin and dopamine.  Fluctuations in estrogen can exacerbate stress, which interferes with those "happy" hormones, which then aggravates other symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, mental fuzziness, and anxiety.  This nasty little cycle is frustrating, because in our heads we want to be rational and self-controlled, but sometimes, our emotions don't want to co-operate.

We as Christian women do not want to blame our conduct on our emotions, but neither do want to ignore the reality that physical symptoms affect how we think and react.  What we want to do is recognize when our emotions may be taking over, discern what is fact, and then think right, biblical,  thoughts about our situation.  I've had occasions when one of my children has said something that has caused me to become teary eyed, and I have had to stop and ask myself if, on another day, the remark would have passed by, unnoticed.  It is frustrating to feel like we cannot control our emotions when previously, it wasn't such a challenge.

We can take heart that the way we are designed as women is under God's sovereign control.  Just as God was in control of those beautiful times when we bore children, He is in control of our bodies as they wind down that season.  We need to have a proper understanding who God is before we can understand who we are, and that extends to all seasons of life.  Psalm 102:25-27 tells us this:
Of old you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the works of your hands.
They will perish, but you will remain;
they will wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away;
but you are the same, and your years have no end.
In complete contrast to God, who is immutable, we are changeable.  As Elyse Fitzpatrick says in her book The Afternoon of Life, nothing in creation is static.  We are created in His image, but we are not unchanging nor are we self-existent.  He can be trusted in all circumstances because He has ordained them for our good, even these changes in mid-life. This is where solid theology becomes crucial. What will I rely upon as I venture into this time of life? Will I become obsessed with trying to avoid these changes?  Will I fight and flail against the inevitable in an effort to feel like I'm in control?  Or will I shelter myself beneath the wings of a God who is unchanging and who is in perfect control of everything going on in my life?  If I don't know these things about God, they will not help me.  I need to know Him.

This blog is not just for women in mid-life. Younger and older women alike daily face challenges specific to where they currently live.  Just as I, at 47 years of age, need to have solid theology to be a strong woman of God, so does the woman who is 17, 27, 37, 57, and so on.  We hope that women of many ages will be encouraged by what we share here. We have all been young mothers, and while we may not know how to install a car seat properly any longer, we remember the unique challenges young women face, and we desire to encourage in any way we can.  What all women share, though, is a need for solid theology because right living begins with right theology.

We are excited to share where we have been, what we're learning now, and how we long to grow more and more into the likeness of Christ.