Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Your greatest ministry flows from brokenness


Dear sister....
  • Have you been pushed beyond what you feel you can handle?
  • Are you experiencing life-altering illness or physical pain?
  • Has your wait for a godly husband or precious child felt too long? Far, far too long?
  • Do you feel insignificant and unskilled when you see the people in ministry around you?
  • Is your heart weary and numb? Are you in a spiritually dry land?
  • Have you failed miserably?
  • Are you hurting deeply, unspeakably?
Join me over at the True Woman blog today as I share how I'm learning to turn my brokenness, my sins and weaknesses, into ministry for the kingdom of God....

Friday, April 4, 2014

Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl {book review and giveaway}



This is the book I’ve wanted to write for the past decade, but Paula Hendricks beat me to it. And I’m so glad she did. I could not have penned a more beautiful celebration of God’s love.

In Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, Paula writes candidly of how her former obsession with boys drove her to find her heart’s desires in Christ alone. Although her target audience is probably teenage girls, every woman I know would be deeply encouraged by reading this book. Paula shares biblical principles that apply to every season of a woman’s life, speaking to issues such as contentment, forgiveness, beauty, value, and love.

With that said, Paula digs down deep into issues specific to unmarried girls. She’s unreservedly honest and pleasantly conversational as she tackles intimate topics, forcing the reader to ask herself questions like: 

How’s my relationship with my dad? 
Am I addicted to romance novels? 
Do I have a problem with lust? 
Do I feel angry, jealous, and insecure when a guy I like ends up liking my friend instead? 
Do I want a boyfriend more than I want God?

If you’re in your teens or early twenties, you’ll feel like a big sister has just plopped down on your bed and chatted with you for hours about life, love, and other mysteries.

Paula describes her book as “a love story—the story of a sweet, patient, pursuing Love,” and that is exactly what it is. While I read with bated breath to find out what happened in her relationships with Edward, Neil, and Jim, every page was ultimately pointing to her True Love, to the God who wooed her to Himself and began freeing her from her bondage to boys. She writes,

“Here’s the thing it took me years to learn: boy craziness is really just girl neediness. Boys will never do the trick; only God can fill those empty, needy places.”

Paula describes her many attempts to break free from her boy craziness, as well as her miserable failures to live up to God’s standards of purity and contentment. Exhausted from years of pain and disappointment, Paula finally came to understand that God hadn’t called her to an unattainable standard, but rather to Himself:

“Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be jealous of that pretty girl. I didn’t have to covet every guy I saw. I didn’t have to hate that guy for not liking me. I wasn’t powerless anymore. In fact, in Christ I was no longer that helpless, hopeless, boy-crazy girl. I had a new identity now: I was dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus.”

Paula constantly turns the reader’s attention to Scripture, to the character of God. Rich theology (such as the doctrine of the sovereignty of God) is fleshed out in practical ways that every girl can apply to her life. In the margin of one page I wrote, “Excellent discipleship material!” I wish I’d had this book in my hands when I was mentoring high school- and college-age girls in years past. If you work with young women or you have a teenage daughter, you’ll want this book.

The book is an easy read—I finished it in three short sittings. Paula does a fabulous job of constantly engaging her readers with excerpts from her journals, stories of her failed attempts at love, as well as quizzes and questions like, “How can an invisible God satisfy when all I want is a pair of strong arms to hold me close?” 

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Paula’s book that beautifully sums up her purpose for writing:

“Are you, like I was, deathly afraid of being rejected? Of being hurt? We live in a world affected by sin, with people who have all been born with a sin nature. This means we will be hurt and disappointed by every single human being we meet. It’s only a matter of time.

“But there is one who knows what it is to be wounded, who was scarred in our place. I pray that if you don’t already, you come to know and believe the great love He has for you. Then you will be able to live unafraid.

“God’s into the business of miracles, and He sure worked one when He changed me from the inside out. And He can do it in you too, you know!”


Book giveaway
Due to Paula's generosity, I have two author-signed copies of Confessions to give away! Please email me at becomingchao@gmail.com with your full name and mailing address. The first two people to email will receive this super-encouraging book!


Paula Hendricks. Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On her journey from neediness to freedom. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013. 147 pp. $10.99.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Unseen



I’ll admit, there were a few things this past week I really wanted you to know about. I wanted to take a selfie that day (that one single day) when I looked really cute and had a super hip outfit on. And then there was Jeremy’s amazing skill I wanted to boast in, and it wouldn’t have hurt to have you see the list of daily tasks I accomplished either.

This limelight-lovin’ girl would have appreciated your applause and affirmation. “Like” my picture, comment on my post… make my day. I don’t think I’m alone in this, am I? In a culture that exposes all and leaves no secret unturned, we flaunt our bodies, our babies, and our busyness—on a daily basis.

I’m so hot.
My child’s so smart.
My life is so busy and exciting.

We feel uncomfortable with smallness and stillness, don’t we? What goes unnoticed feels wasted. So our lives have become loud and large, till everyone can hear the din of our days.

But God’s kingdom turns ours upside-down. God is not wowed by numbers, appearances, and skills. But that small act of self-denial and service I was tempted to grouse about a few hours ago? That may have been the most significant moment of my day. My public displays for attention (PDA of a different kind) may win me some quick praise, but it is the hidden ways I serve God that are laced with greatness and lasting reward. Matthew 6:1-6 gives us just one of the many examples of this in Scripture:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward in full.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

When we finally step into eternity, all hidden things will be brought to light. Your quiet, faithful, selfless acts will not go unnoticed forever, dear one. They will count, and when they do, you will joyfully lay your rewards at the feet of the One who is our Very Great Reward (see Revelation 4:10-11 and Genesis 15:1).

What if, instead of sharing our sassy selfie with the world, we looked in the mirror on a “cute day” and said, “God, my beauty is for Your glory alone, not mine.” What if we saw our child’s accomplishment and prayed, “O Lord, I’m in awe of what You’re doing in my son! Use this skill for Your glory!” What if we got more excited about what happened in secret, before God, than what was put on display for all to see?

This week, when I’m tempted to give my attention to the “impressive stuff” that earns me praise, instead of finding joy in sweet, unseen sacrifices—may I remember that Jesus Himself came to serve, not to be served. He was afflicted, acquainted with grief, despised, and rejected. Yet He was the greatest figure in the history of the world and accomplished the greatest feat of all time. 


Scriptures referenced: Mark 12:41-44; Isaiah 53; John 3:30-31; Colossians 3; Revelation 4:10-11; Genesis 15:1; Matthew 6.

Photo credit: originally appeared on huffingtonpost.com.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Jealousy and the leper



Tucked into the Old Testament book of Numbers, is a gripping story of family, jealousy, humility, and holiness. May it capture your heart as it did mine...

Miriam was Moses’ older sister, and from the few verses written about her in the Bible, we know she had some typical “big sister” qualities: she took responsibility for her brother’s welfare, she was conscientious, and she was a natural leader. (And, if she was anything like me, she was at times bossy, overly involved, and controlling. Precious.)

Miriam’s life could not have been an easy one: her people groaned under their slavery to the Egyptians, but her own brother (whom she’d helped save) enjoyed the privileged life of an Egyptian prince. Then there was that little kafuffle over Moses murdering a man, which caused him to flee to Midian, a three-day journey from Egypt, where he spent the next 40 years of his life. He married, had kids, and then returned to Egypt with a calling from God to set his people free.

What must that family reunion have been like?

Miriam’s brother was Basket Boy turned Prince turned Nomad turned Savior—and suddenly she’s back at his side, this time as prophetess and part of a sibling trio (she, along with Moses and Aaron) to lead the Israelites out of captivity.*

So maybe that gives a little context for what happens in Numbers 12.

The second year into their exodus from Egypt, Aaron and Miriam grew jealous of Moses, so they did what any decent person of envy does—they nitpicked at a banal issue in Moses’ life: his marriage to an Egyptian woman. (Did they so quickly forget where he came from?!) Jealousy always feeds on embellishment, turning miniscule matters into monsters, so Aaron and Miriam “spoke against Moses” and his marriage as if it were a really big deal. But they betrayed their real issue when they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?”

Hey, everyone! Look at us! God’s revealed to us some sin in our brother, which proves that we’re just as holy and important as Moses!

“And the Lord heard it.”

The Lord heard their jealous, bickering, self-promoting words, and He called them out on it. In fact, not only did He defend Moses, but He was also so angry that He turned Miriam into a leper, “leprous like snow.”

Just as jealousy begets strife, humility begets restoration. Right when you think Moses is going to gloat a bit and enjoy the sweetness of his vindication from God, he shocks us by crying out,

“O God, please heal her—please.”

I don’t know about you, but I have a loooong way to go to experience that kind of humility. If someone has publicly embarrassed me or even privately rubbed my sin in my face, I’m not so quick to intercede for God’s blessing in their life. I’m usually crying out for justice, not mercy. (Which is why I need to stay in the Word and study passages like this one.)

In response to Moses’ plea for Miriam, God doesn’t let the leprosy kill her. (Remember, she was “white as snow” with leprosy, which indicates advanced incurable stages of the disease.) Instead, God exiles Miriam the Leper for seven days. She has to spend one very long week by herself outside the Israelite camp. In fact, the entire nation waited for her to return to camp before setting out on the next leg of their journey.

Hello, mortification.

What did that week do to Miriam? Did she return to camp a humble, gracious woman? Did she struggle with the fact that Aaron got by unscathed? Did she rush to apologize to Moses when she got back? Did she feel the mercy of God even in her punishment?

Although Moses interceded for Miriam, it was God who had made Moses into a humble intercessor. (This wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last time he interceded on behalf of undeserving people!) In Moses we see a foreshadowing of Christ Jesus himself, the Perfect Intercessor who humbled himself to death on a cross—to take upon Himself God's wrath for our sin, to set us free from soul-suffocating conditions like jealousy.

And although Christ has set me free from jealousy’s power, sadly I often live as if I’m a leper in exile, harboring envy that results in ugly consequences. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy rots the bones.” I could give you a couple dozen examples of how jealousy has been rot to my bones over the years. It eats away at you, doesn’t it? It robs you of joy and energy and beauty.

Miriam’s story reminds me to diligently root out my smallest thoughts of jealousy, to make war on envy, so that I can experience a heart at peace. And how do I do this? By turning to the One who lives to make intercession for me—the One who took my leprous death sentence upon Himself so I could live.


*(see Exodus 15:20-21 and Micah 6:4)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shade

Photo credit: Beverly Dyer. May 26, 2013. Shade Tree.


I was embarrassed. I’d just exposed a tender, messy part of my life to a group of women who didn’t know me well, and I felt insecure, defensive, and sorry that I’d answered their questions so honestly.

I’d wanted them to love me. Instead, I walked away feeling naked and judged. 

Just days before, my husband and I had had a dear one harshly criticize our parenting. I’d felt exposed and shaken by the heat of her anger.

As I was pouring out my heart to the Lord, telling Him how I felt about these two situations, He took me to Psalm 121. Although I’d read verse 5 hundreds of times, my heart was captivated afresh:

The Lord is my Keeper;
The Lord is the Shade at my right hand.

God is my Shade
The Hebrew word for shade is tsel. (The English dictionary defines the verb shade as to hide from view; to protect something from heat; to cover.) Throughout Scripture, God’s shade is illustrated as great rocks, trees, and clouds.

Isaiah 25:4-5 paints a poignant picture of this:

You have been a refuge for the poor, 
a refuge for the needy in their distress, 
a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. 
For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall 
and like the heat of the desert. 
….as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud, 
so the song of the ruthless is stilled.

Notice that God doesn’t make the poor man rich or save the needy man from his distress—instead, He becomes his Refuge. He doesn’t prevent the storm and the heat from striking; rather, He becomes both Shelter and Shade.

Living in the semi-desert of SoCal gives me an appreciation for shade of any kind. Especially during the summer months when temperatures are showing off at 115 degrees, you can’t put a price on shady parking places, Easy-ups, or a nice big HAT. Here we spend an exorbitant amount of energy and money avoiding the heat.

Heat saps our strength. It exposes us to physical harm (like the time I suffered heat stroke on the soccer field). It tempts us to tempers.

But shade brings relief, it protects and rejuvenates us. Shade makes us say with joy, “Ahhh…! I love you, you big wonderful leafy tree!!”

Similarly, life’s heat creates a need for God’s shade. And His sufficiency to meet our need brings Him great glory. The temperatures in our circumstances might be soaring, but He is cooling and refreshing, and we are ultimately protected from heat’s harm.

So what’s with the right hand?
Why is it significant that God is the Shade at my right hand?

The Jewish Virtual Library explains that, “The right side of a man is the side on which God ‘marches’ when assisting him in battle (Isa. 63:12; Ps. 109:31; 110:1, 5) and it is the right hand which God grasps as a symbol of election (Isa. 41:13; 45:1; Ps. 73:23).” And when a Jewish man walked with others, “The greater of his companions walked on his right.”*

Throughout Scripture the right hand also represents blessing.

So to have God shade me at my right hand symbolizes His ability to fight for me, His election of me, His blessing on my life, and His superior greatness.

How do we shade ourselves in Christ when the heat gets turned up? 
How do we practically flesh this idea out? When I feel exposed, rejected, or anxious, how do I find cover in God?

Again, let’s look to Scripture for our cues. How did folks in the Bible draw near to God? A few examples:

Daniel prayed three times a day
David wrote songs
Hannah wept bitterly before God
Jacob wrestled with Him
Paul prayed and gave thanks without ceasing

My soul is naturally sluggish, and I tend to try to find shade in all the wrong places. But God is faithful, and He continues to teach me how to run into His cover. Over the years I’ve learned to draw near to God in a variety of ways: I’ve done deep inductive Bible studies, listened to worship music, written poems, prayed and prayed some more, journaled, found quiet places of retreat in the mountains or at the beach, enjoyed special “dates” with God, posted verses on the walls of my home, and made up tunes to memorize Scripture. And like Hannah and Jacob, I’ve also wept bitterly before Him and wrestled with Him.

Dear one, where do you “feel the heat” in your life right now? That is exactly where Christ wants to meet you, that He may become your protector and so that you might say with joy,

“He has stilled the sound of the ruthless.
He has sheltered me from my storm.
He has shaded me from my heat!”