Update: The Blog’s Gone “Email Only”

It’s me, here on this blog again… I realize it’s been a while! My apologies.

You sweet little subscribers keep hitting that “subscribe” button, and I keep feeling guiltier and guiltier. One, because I know you expect some signs of life in your inbox when you subscribe to a blog-y thing. Two, because there are words in me to write and I’ve just been letting them tumble and sift in my head, then spill out into my journal occasionally. And y’all don’t even get one little sentence.

No, I am not going to start posting my journal by email. How embarrassing.

Still, there are days like today, when I get into conversations that make me realize this: I must write. The truths of the Gospel are too huge and glorious and sin-shattering, and God is too amazing and present and caring for me to be silent.

I don’t want to blog about me. I want to blog about HIM, because I know Him. A little, and I keep getting to know Him more.

In a million ways, too many to count, other people have helped me to see Him. To know Him. To understand His complex nature, explaining truth to me in profound and simple statements.

If they had all been silent, if no one had shared with me what they knew about Christ, I would know nothing more about God than what I could have observed from Creation. I’m not sure I would have gotten very far with that. I’m not a scientist.

I care about the people who have no more than the birds and sky to teach them. I care about the people who have been taught much, but not much about God. I care about the ones who are like I was, taught much about God but still lost in my sin and selfishness.

So, the blog is continuing. For women only, and by email, this time, at my dad’s request. He has been one of those truth speakers in my life, as well as a living, breathing picture of the Father Heart of God. I very much enjoy our relationship, and am so blessed to be his daughter.

If you wish to receive my blog by email, subscribe through the “Subscribe” button on my blog, or just shoot me an email at plaingirlspeak@gmail.com and tell me you’d like to be added to the list!  (People who subscribed to my blog through WordPress.com will not be added to the email list. I like you, no worries. I just can’t get your email addresses because they are locked up tight.)

Til later,

Rhoda

 

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What To Do If You’re a Couch Potato

Holiness is a harvest.*

Today I was thumbing through a book I was about to ship to a customer when those words jumped off the page at me. I reread them, and skimmed the context.

I needed to hear that.

I have those times when it feels like my spirituality is getting a little dry around the edges, curling in on itself. I still manage to smile at people, ask them interested questions, and not yell at them when I’m upset. Maybe that counts for something. At least I don’t have to apologize to people as often.

I still am moderately happy. I’m not about to leave the Lord, I just sort of forget about Him.

Lackadaisical.

During those times, it can feel like I’m just getting by. Temptation is more tempting, and sometimes gets me down and sits on me. The umph I can usually muster up to remind myself that I am the Lord’s and am no longer a slave to sin isn’t so umph-y. Sometimes the umph doesn’t even stand up and object, it sits there sleeping like an old couch potato.

The author further pointed out that holiness is not hereditary. People aren’t born holy. No, if a person is walking in obedience to God by the grace of God, it is because they have put effort into becoming holy. They have been intentionally putting off their sinful ways and putting on Christ. We have to admit it: spiritually, “couch potato” is our default mode, and you know what happens to couch potatoes.

They get fat and sick and unhealthy. They lose themselves in games or TV, and create a fantasy world where they are not fat and sick and unhealthy. They eat chips with a side of lies – maybe they’ll be Miss America next year.

Spiritually, that can happen to you. Couch-potato Christians get sick and fat and unhealthy. They deceive themselves. One time, I heard someone say that the greatest defense against deception is obedience.

So, when my holiness is slipping, and my sword is losing its edge, this verse reminds me to ask what I’ve been investing myself in:

“Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:8

Who have I been obeying? Who have I been prioritizing? My Self, or My Lord?

We could use a good couch-potato famine.

 

 

*Author: Josh Harris

 

Guest Post: The Most Unexpected Grace

The author of this post, Estalee Martin, has become a very dear friend of mine over the past year. From Starbucks trips, to uncontrollable giggling fits, to serious heart-to-heart conversations, I have been so blessed to know her. She has taught me about God, and myself. I love to hear her talk about grace, because she “gets it” in a way that most people don’t. I hope you feel as privileged to read this as I do to post it. Read, and be captivated again by the Most Gracious One. -Rhoda

Recently a well-known lady married for the first time at the age of 57.  Being the well-known individual that she is, her wedding was available for watching via live stream and likely thousands tuned in to witness the big event (some even told her ahead of time that they were getting all dressed up and getting together with friends to do so).  She also shared their love story leading up to the big event and it continues to be available online.  She titled their love story Unexpected Grace.

 

Now, for a bit of background about her, as I know of her: she was a well-satisfied single lady.  She said she had felt for a long time that God was calling her to a season of singleness for the purpose of serving Him, and serve Him she did; she wasn’t sitting around waiting for Mr. Right to come along!  But come along he did and BIG surprise!  Hence the title to their love story: Unexpected Grace.

 

And I get it.  It was grace because she really did consider the opportunity to marry this wonderful, godly man an undeserved gift from God.  (And all marriage is that, by the way: an undeserved gift from God.  If you’re married, it’s not because you managed to get your life all together beforehand well enough that God decided to bless you with marriage.  No.  It’s a gift that He decided to give you because He wants to continue His work of conforming you to His image and, for now, He chose marriage as a means to do it.  And, if you’re single, it’s not because you haven’t done enough to deserve marriage.  No.  It’s just that He wants to continue His work of conforming you to His image and, for now, He chose singleness as a means to do it.  Back to my main point…)  And it was unexpected because she wasn’t expecting to be blessed with marriage at the age of 57: she really was planning to serve God indefinitely—possibly for the rest of her life—as a single lady.  And, she was content doing it.  I admire her, I really do.

But, I want to suggest something.

I, as a single lady with no marriage prospects in sight (that I’m aware of), also experience unexpected grace.

Daily.

I don’t have a big, wonderful love story about my dear Prince Charming who just wildly met all of my expectations and more.  No.  I have a life story that is different, so very different, than anything I ever dreamt up.  And if it weren’t for the grace of God, I could not live this story.  But daily, I experience the grace of God.  And it’s unexpected grace because I didn’t expect this life story.

As a teen, I never expected to need grace to find out at the age of 24 that I had cancer.  But I found that out, and God’s grace was there.  And it is here, as I continue to deal with after effects of cancer.  Grace.  Unexpected grace.

I never expected to find out at the age of 25 that I would never have biological children.  But it’s the reality of my life, and God’s grace is here.  Daily.  Every time I hold someone else’s baby.  Every time I see an expectant mother.  Every time I wish I had my own littles to care for instead of counseling someone else’s teen.  Grace.  Unexpected grace.

Never, in all my teenage days, or early twenties days, did I truly expect to still be single at the age of 32.  But I am.  And I have a full life: a wonderful Savior/Father/Friend always with me so I’m never truly alone, family that is a blessing to me, friends to share with and laugh with, a job and ministry I love, a church I love … My life—though different from what I expected—is not “less than” marriage, or boring, or unfulfilling.  It’s fullFull of grace.  Unexpected grace.

If you are a believer, you too, experience grace daily.  You might not know it, but you do.  You might not hardly know what grace is.  By definition, grace is undeserved, or unmerited, favor.  The fact that you’re a believer means you’ve experienced grace in the form of salvation.  I don’t care how well you behaved before you were saved: you didn’t deserve to be saved.  But God has saved you.  That’s grace.  (And if you know just how wicked you were before you were saved, there’s no doubt in your mind that salvation is grace!)  And that’s just one evidence of grace.  If you had one good meal today, and slept in relative comfort (which is a luxury in today’s world), and woke up this morning, that’s three more evidences of grace in your life, JUST IN ONE DAY.  If you held your tongue when you wanted to retort with a nasty comment, that was grace.  If you managed to do something you thought was too difficult for you, that was grace.  You experience a lot of grace.

If you’re not a believer, you experience God’s common grace too.  Every morning you wake up is grace: you don’t deserve to.  Every breath you take is underserved.  And every luxury you have beyond that is grace.  Grace from God.  Don’t you want to know this Giver of Grace more personally?? If this is just His common grace to those Who don’t know Him, don’t you want to find out what grace He gives to those Who do know Him?!

And let me suggest that you believers also experience unexpected grace.

If you’re married, possibly you had that “Wow!” moment of “Yes!  This is grace!  The guy I liked asked me!”  That’s not the unexpected grace I’m talking about.  Maybe you have had babies as soon and as frequently and in as good of health as you had hoped.  That’s not the unexpected grace I’m talking about either.  You actually kind of expected those things.  They are grace, for sure!  (Like I mentioned before, you didn’t somehow earn them.)  But they’re not unexpected because you thought of them and dreamt of them and truly expected them, perhaps even more than you knew.  It was your dream, and for you, God graciously let your dreams come true.  Grace, but not unexpected.

The way I’m suggesting you experience unexpected grace is in the moments, days, weeks, or life events, that come your way that are disappointing at best and hard, discouraging, confusing and excruciatingly difficult at worst.  You didn’t expect it.  You didn’t dream it up.  It’s the kind of thing that always happened to someone else.  Until that one day you realized that it had happened to you.

Maybe it was cancer.  Or infertility.  Or prolonged singleness.  Or the dream romance ending.  Or the debilitating disease.  Or the unfaithfulness of your spouse.  Or the church split.  Or the argument with your life-long best friend that ended the friendship.  Or the pregnancy suddenly gone wrong.  Or the rumor that shredded your reputation and left you feeling shut out in the cold.  Or your child’s sickness.  Or that major misunderstanding.  Or one difficult relationship after another.  Or a life that’s nothing to complain about, but nothing to get excited about, either.  Or your husband ending up with a different life-work than either of you had dreamed of that sometimes feels less than either of you had dreamed of.  Somehow, some way, at least in some small detail, your life has probably not gone entirely as you expected it to.  And that, my friend, is exactly where you have the opportunity to experience God’s unexpected grace.

It doesn’t have to be a big “Wow!” moment that’s worth blogging about for thousands to read.  It can be that.  But it can also be those quiet, everyday moments, that no one but you and God know about, where you know you need to do something that is entirely beyond your own strength or ability or willingness to do, but you do it, by the grace of God and later, when you reflect on it you think to yourself, “Ten years ago I never expected that I would have to do that (or be here, etc.). But I did it, by the grace of God!”  That, my friend, is unexpected grace: grace to do the thing you never expected you would have to do.

Or, maybe it’s grace to do the thing that has become a drudgery to you that you never expected to be a drudgery because at first you felt like it was such a privilege.  But now you’re doing it for the thousandth time and you’re weary of it and didn’t want to do the 998th time, but you continue to do it, by the grace of God.  That too, is unexpected grace.

See what I mean?  As believers we all experience grace, expected and unexpected.  We experience it in so many ways that it’s become common place to us and we hardly notice it anymore.  But it’s there, and we should notice.  Because it’s as vital as the air we breathe.  We should give thanks for it: we couldn’t survive without it.  We should live confidently in it, because with that unexpected grace, we can do whatever God has called us, no matter how unexpected, or mundane or excruciatingly difficult it is.

Go with God.  Go with Grace.  And give thanks for unexpected grace (it’s another part of Him conforming you to His image, by the way!).

-Estalee Martin

Tasting God

Passion. Fury. Radiance. Beauty. Blazing holiness. Mercy. Faithfulness. Justice.

He captivates me, this God who breathes out stars, who rises in anger against oppressors, who makes the mountains quake. Portraits of God in the Scriptures can be slightly disconcerting. We read of Him being surrounded by a devouring fire, raining hot coals on His enemies, smoking from His nostrils, flying on the wings of the wind, shaking the earth and heaven in His anger, and shooting out lightning. Sometimes God looks more like something from a fairy tale than a church.

Contrast these pictures with the infinite tenderness of God – the Shepherd who carries the one lost sheep home, the Mother caring for her child, the Hand that leads the blind and breaks the chains of captives, the Father who runs to meet the prodigal son. Our God creates rivers of waters for the thirsty and strengthens the weary. He is the God of all comfort.

He is fierce, and He is tender. His voice makes mountains tremble, yet many, many times I have come to Him shaken and confused, and found peace in His presence.

He loves His names. I don’t completely understand this. I think it has something to do with identity, with using language to express the mystery that is Himself.

Here are a few of His names to ponder. If you are His child, He is these things to you:

  • El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
  • El Elyon (The Most High God)
  • Adonai (Lord, Master)
  • Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
  • Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
  • Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
  • Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
  • Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
  • Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
  • Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
  • El Olam (The Everlasting God)
  • Elohim (God)
  • Qanna (Jealous)
  • Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
  • Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)

Besides all this, He is our Savior. Do I deserve to be rescued by the Most Holy God? Absolutely not. His name is Jealous, and I stand convicted of idolatry, of hard-headed sinfulness. Still, He is one who loves to give grace upon grace to those who ask for mercy. Because of Christ, His grace flows out freely in a joyful tide. Delightedly, He clothes repentant sinners in His righteousness and calls us holy.

God is an amazing, enjoyable Person who I am still getting to know.  Take some time to discover for yourself who the Lord is. He delights to show Himself to those who seek Him. He’s good like that, and I love Him for it.

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8 ESV

 

 

30-Second Conviction

I was scrolling mindlessly through my Instagram feed, which consists mostly of interior designers I follow. The décor was perfect, and each artistically created living space made me a little less satisfied with my humble abode. I scrolled past pictures of beautiful handmade Etsy art, “cheap” Target finds, flea market bargains, do-it-yourself projects… that kind of thing makes me drool almost as much as I drool over the sweater rack in Goodwill. It doesn’t seem as wicked to lust for inexpensive things. I was dreaming up a new backdrop for my sofa when I saw it, and immediately stopped scrolling.

A pair of solemn dark eyes stared at me from the screen. Pleading eyes – hunger and sadness were already sketched on his 5-year-old face. His gaze pierced my heart. A part of me that had been lying dormant came alive. “Oh, the poor little dear,” I murmured, and wanted to reach into the picture to hug him, to give him food and to charm a smile out of that serious face. I wanted to tell him there was hope, and that he had a Father who really loved him.

Swift as the surge of compassion came the prick of conviction. How can I long for more things, a more beautiful house, more money to buy those things, when I know there are people in the world like this little boy?  Five seconds ago I was coveting things, THINGS – dishes, furniture, curtains – that I absolutely do not need, while he is barely surviving.

I was feeling sinful and ashamed when my “logical” side spoke up.  “Well, you can’t help everyone. You know a lot of those poor people just haven’t made wise financial decisions. You can’t just give them money, that won’t fix it. Besides, creating beauty is important. You also have to live in the culture God placed you in. If you would choose to live more simply, everyone would think you were one of those radicals. You know, the ones that are a little weird and everyone knows they’ve taken religion a little too far. Besides, you’re in service already. You don’t have extra money to give away.”

As usual, I nodded my agreement to all these things. No, I can’t help everyone. Yes, they’ve made poor financial decisions. I can’t just give them money. I have to live within my culture. I don’t want to look ridiculous. I’m in service. I don’t have money to give away.

The 30 seconds of conviction slipped away and I scrolled on again, mindlessly…


Obviously, the Spirit hasn’t let me forget it. The “30-second snapshot” keeps replaying in my mind. It bothers me – this duplicity in my heart. I hate it. I hate that the picture above is a real true story from my real true life. I hate that I find it so easy to spend $2 or $20 on a sweater or piece of dress fabric when I know there are people who own only one article of clothing.

How can I spend so much time and money lining my life with comfort when those dark eyes still look at me pleadingly?

With every Starbucks coffee I buy, I could purchase two Bibles for Christians in China who have none.

Lord, how can I be so hard-hearted?

When I became a Christian, I promised to spend my life in the service of Christ. I knew full well what I was committing to. I was determined to be a Christian, not just in big decisions, but in small ones. There are many “Christians” whose personal lives are not affected by their religious beliefs. I was not going to be one of them.

Yet here I am, rich and dissatisfied. I own at least four different versions of the Bible and a host of profitable books but sometimes it seems like I hardly have time to read them. My closet is full, and I still lust after one more dress.

Sometimes I am angry with American Christianity, angry with myself.

Why must our cars be the best, our technology the latest? Why must our clothes be fashionable and expensive? Why must our houses be picture perfect “Better Homes & Gardens”? Why must we eat expensive organic foods when every second a child dies of starvation? Why are we ashamed if, in any of these areas, we don’t measure up to the American standard?

I have to stop. I’m just getting more upset as I write, and adding an agitated woman to the masses of humanity only causes more problems. Especially if that woman is me. My family can attest to this.

Maybe you’re having one of those “30-second convictions.” Maybe something in this blog post is stirring your heart just a little.

If so, I’m going to say this – the Spirit doesn’t convict in a general way, He convicts specifically. There was a need I was concerned about a while ago but never really acted on. When I saw those dark eyes on my Instagram feed, I wasn’t convicted to go save the world, but to do something about that need.

So, I’m going to start there.

I challenge you: Don’t let those thirty seconds of conviction go to waste. Act on them.

Give Them Contrast – How to Keep Youth in the Church

It is an epidemic. Youth are leaving the church, and no one quite knows why. At Bethesda, yesterday, the speaker (who wasn’t from an Anabaptist background) suggested that what Anabaptist youth need is more contrast.  While this may not be the only reason youth leave the church, I believe he is right. Contrast is key.

In so many Anabaptist homes, innocent children grow up in a world full of brightness. There are the usual conflicts of humans relating, but these humans have been sanctified. So while no childhood is perfect, many of them are remarkably close. Dad leads the family. Mom stands beside him and supports his decisions. The Scriptures are read daily. The children are encouraged to pray for the things that concern them – to find their lost shoe, that Jesus would help them to not be scared of the dark, for Uncle Bob to become a Christian.

These children grow up, accustomed to the goodness that is life, and that is wonderful. It is what Kingdom families are called to be – echoes of heaven on earth.

What sometimes happens, when these children become adolescents, is this: They suddenly realize that life is not as perfect as it seems. There are problems- sins, even – in the adults around them. They notice that the bishop is flawed. They notice that their parents are flawed. Disillusioned, they doubt the whole of what they’ve been taught. “If this is what Christians are, I’m not sure I want to be one!” They may not go so far as to doubt God, but they certainly doubt the Anabaptists.

“You don’t have to live this way to be a Christian,” they proclaim. To a degree, they are right. Intoxicated with this new knowledge, they slip away to try what’s always been outside the fence. If they come back, it is only to attack the church with angry sarcasm.

What is missing? Why the eagerness to leave? Why the wanderlust? Nobody quite knows what went wrong, but they’re gone now, and the church redoubles its efforts to keep youth in the church. The fences are built higher, the windows boarded over. “If they don’t see it, aren’t influenced by it, maybe they won’t want to join it,” church leaders reason.

Perhaps, though, it won’t be walls but contrast that keeps youth in the church.


I knew I would never turn back from following Him, that night when I was 18 and God’s love filled the air around me. When my heart dared to hope that someone cared what happened to little old me, I knew joy like I had never known before. My darkness fled before His light, and I was His forever.

My love for Anabaptism took a little longer in coming. It grew on me slowly, as I wrestled with the confusing realities of saints who still sinned, standards that didn’t make sense, anger at traditions that seemed meaningless. There were men, good men, who stood behind the pulpit and explained the history of the Anabaptist movement. There were men who taught me in school and told me of heroes of the past. They took the time to explain how and why Anabaptism is Scriptural. They encouraged questions and honesty. There was the Spirit, who guided me, and good books that impacted my thinking. All these things pushed me further down this path. But what has really sold me on Anabaptism is contrast.

I know a hundred children, maybe more, that walk streets littered with little black bags. They run unsupervised, late at night, where a cop wouldn’t dare to go unarmed. I know children without fathers, children who look confused when asked who their parents are because there are five adults in the house but only one is a blood relative. I know glassy eyed drug addicts who are always looking for one more fix. I have spoken with confused teenagers who thirst for real answers to questions they were always too afraid to ask.

I love those people. I love to share Jesus with them. I see the devastation that is their normal, and remember my childhood normal. There is a contrast, a huge contrast. I have no desire to leave the goodness of my church. I know I will never be homeless. I know I will never be penniless. I know I will never be friendless. I know that if I began to move away from God, I would immediately have a large crowd of Schrock Mamas surrounding me, preaching the gospel.

But more than the huge blessing of church and fellowship, there is the blessing of God. I have seen the emptiness in eyes that know no peace. I have heard the desperation of hopelessness. I have watched angry people fight, enslaved by their own greed and selfishness. I know Him – His peace, hope, and love.  Contrast.

It is that contrast that persuades me. There is nothing there worth pursuing. I don’t want what they have. I need no walls to keep me in the church – I have observed life outside of God’s family and I am here for good.

I know I’m just a single girl, and an idealistic one at that – anyone who knows me will agree. But I suggest to parents and church leaders that what Anabaptist youth need more than rules are contrasts. They need to see firsthand the depravity of a soul without Christ. They need to observe, in all its horror, a family ruled by selfishness. They need to be taught to value what they have, to offer Christ unashamedly to the world because they are confident He is good. They need to be involved in missions among the lowest classes of people. The more they speak of Him, the more they realize the difference in a life without Him, the more they will treasure Christ.

Contrast teaches her students well.

You’re Toxic? Please Stay. I’m Already Dead.

Warning: This is a lecture. You may feel convicted. If you don’t like those feelings, stop reading immediately.

Facebook is a great way to keep up with the world. Friends, relatives and random people that my parents went to Bible School with all contribute to the juiciness that is my news feed. I like juicy bits of information. Sometimes I keep people on my feed that I hardly know, just because they post juicy things. I like those people.

Occasionally Facebook makes me upset. Not because Mr. Zuckerberg is annoying.  No, it is because I see my dear Anabaptist friends like and share things that they shouldn’t care about. Things they should disagree with, as a matter of fact. Henceforth I have valiantly taken up my pen in order to straighten them all out.

Because of my mature age (okay, okay, I’m being sarcastic) I know it is too much to fix all the problems at once. Instead of telling you “Stop-caring-about-politics-and-sports-and-your-favorite-movie-stars-and-the-color-of-your-personality-and-your-terrible-day-which-isn’t-so-bad-really-if-you-would-only-be-more-cheerful,” I will simply zoom in on one thing. I suppose this bothers me the most, really, because it is a progression away from Anabaptism.

For those of you with allergic reactions to the word “Anabaptism,” insert “True Radical Christianity” whenever you see that word in this post. If that last sentence offends you, as well, I would be happy to discuss it. I am very pleased (I won’t say proud, but…) to be Anabaptist and like to talk about it.

That thing is Humanism. Defined, it is this:

An outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

On Facebook, it shows up in memes.

“Remove the people from your life who don’t encourage you toward your dreams. Their negativity will weigh you down. Those people are toxic.”

“You are allowed to terminate toxic relationships. You are allowed to walk away from people who hurt you. You are allowed to be angry and selfish and unforgiving. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for taking care of yourself.”

“Life becomes easier when you delete the negative people from it.”

“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.”

“You are perfect as you are: there is no need to change anything except the thoughts that you aren’t good enough.”

“A child’s bucket of self-esteem must be filled so high that the rest of the world can’t poke enough holes to drain it dry.”  What an obnoxious kiddo THAT would be.

“Love yourself enough to take the actions required for your happiness… to cut yourself loose from the ties of the drama-filled past… to move on.”

Have you ever wondered why these people who believe in humanism need to constantly remind themselves to think good thoughts about themselves? Why they need five positive thoughts when they wake up in the morning? Why they struggle to believe in themselves, and trot to the therapist every week so he can remind them they are amazing?

I can tell you why. Every single one of them knows, deep down, that it’s a lie. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t amazing. They aren’t even good enough.

Humanists deal with this by shifting blame. “It’s my toxic parents,” they weep into their little hankies. “I am like this because of my early childhood experiences. If I had had a perfect childhood, I would be perfect as well!” There is a smorgasboard of options for blame-shifting. You could cast the blame for your personal depravity on the Walmart greeter if you really tried.

I hope that the people who posted these memes didn’t actually believe them. I hope they just glibly liked and shared because they didn’t think too hard about it. Because if they meant it when they posted things like that, I am worried.

Humanism is death to Anabaptist community. A person who is focused on advancing himself will not be able to live in the give and take of brotherhood. That person will never be willing to submit to authority, or to give in to another’s preferences, as Scripture calls us to. Will that person receive correction graciously? Will that person show up at a sewing or a frolic? Will they give a day or a week  or a year to humanitarian aid? Will they show up when a fellow church member’s baby dies? Will they stick it out with the saint who’s almost drowning in depression?

I doubt it. Involving himself in those kinds of things would give that person negative feelings. He wouldn’t get paid for all that hard work. Ministry is inefficient and cost intensive. He certainly won’t love his enemies – he’ll scream “Toxic!!!” and start running, about the time he should be stepping up and blessing those poor little scoundrels.

Humanism is death to Anabaptism. True relationship with God requires that He hold the pen of our stories. We exist to bring Him glory. Call me whimsical, but I dream of the day when every talented artist, singer, carpenter, painter, quilter, etc., does his/her work for the glory of God alone. A time when they’ll stand in a field playing their instrument because God is there and it brings them joy to be in God’s Creation, adding to the beauty with a worship song… not because outdoor scenes are trendy and they’ll get more Youtube views with a cool background.

Anabaptism is death to Humanism. Christianity is death to ME.  “I beg you…to present your lives to God as a living sacrifice…” writes the Apostle Paul in Romans 12. There is no more room for me advancing myself.  That bucket of self-esteem doesn’t only need holes, it needs to be purposely poured out.

The beauty of Christianity is that when we come to the end and agree with God that we are rotten to the core, that we were born wicked, and that we desperately need a Savior, we begin to change. He fills us with Himself, and for once, there really is something good in us. It is Christ.

Now it is okay to admit the ugly truth about ourselves because grace is covering all our sins. In fact, this truth telling becomes a time of celebration! We can live with our brothers and sisters in a world of joy because we were lost, but we have been found!

We are continually being purified. We help each other in this process. As we submit to each other and to Christ, we grow and change. This is what we long for, and our desires are being fulfilled. The Spirit is at work in our hearts and in our church. We are filled with hope, because this is not the end. Those “toxic” people are only a temporary problem, and there is plenty of grace to help us love them. We don’t try to delete them from our lives, because we are trying to win them for Jesus. We interact purposefully with them. We look forward to one day living with Christ in a perfect world.

To be honest, I have been convicted while I was writing this. My head knows I don’t believe in humanism, but I find it pretty easy to put myself first. I say it’s just a little sin and that God loves to forgive, but if I put that in cold hard English, it’s self-worship. I suppose a Facebook meme is a more blatant form of humanism, but God knows our hearts.  My heart certainly shows its true colors when I am relating to difficult people. It’s easy to run away from “toxic” people, or to ignore them.

A true Christian invites relationship, looking past the hurts and offenses to the lost soul inside. He holds out his hand and smiles, offering the grace he has received. When all the humanists have turned tail and run in self-protection, true Christians stick it out. They are unoffended by these people because they have no self-esteem to protect. They have died to themselves and been made alive in Christ, and now they have to offer what humanists can never give – grace.


“Now,” she says, sternly, “NOW do you understand why you should not post such nonsense on Facebook??? You have not pledged your life to the worship of yourself, you have pledged your life to the worship of Jesus Christ. You cannot be a humanist and an Anabaptist. Please do refrain from all such thoughts, motives, and memes. And don’t run away from “toxic” people.”

End of lecture. Thank you for your attention. The class may be dismissed.

The Cathedral Story

Its gleaming arches stretched far above me, suspended between tall marble pillars. Stained glass glistened overhead, casting fairy shadows that danced in colors on the wall.

It was an ancient cathedral, majestic in design, and it was mine.  I loved to sit on the huge golden throne at the front and admire its beauty. Especially, I admired the rules.

The rules weren’t there when the cathedral was crafted. No, I had hung the rules. See, when I moved in, there were holes in the wall. Big holes, where cold winter air seeped through and rain gushed in and splattered on the marble floor.  I had to do something, so I wrote rules.

The rules worked excellently to cover the holes. People came into my cathedral. They oohed and aahed over the high vaulted ceilings, the marble, the glass – but when they noticed the rules, they were especially impressed. They admired me for those rules. I knew they wouldn’t be enthralled with the holes, so I made sure nobody would ever see them. They were covered securely with rules.

I wrote rules about everything. There were rules for other people. If they broke my rules, I frowned. I ground them under my feet and stood on top, higher than before. There were rules for me. There were even rules for God. He soon broke my rules for Him, God did, and I judged Him harshly.

Then, I began to break my rules for myself. I, the judge who had written the rules, I who had crowned myself Queen of the Cathedral – I, who in my world ranked the highest – I had broken the rules.

I was devastated. From my throne, I saw the rules all staring at me, silently. Condemningly. I shrank from their glaring eyes. I hid behind the throne. My cathedral had become my prison. There was no escape, for I had judged even mercy cruel.

That was when he walked in.

“Hello?” He called. His clear voice echoed through the cathedral.

I quickly put on a huge smile and stood up. “Hi!” I said brightly. “Forgive me, I was just polishing my beautiful marble floor – wasn’t planning for visitors today! But since you’re here, welcome to my cathedral! Notice the high vaulted ceilings, the stained glass, the fairy dancing bits of light that sparkle on the walls. Many people are especially interested in reading my rules. Go ahead, there are a lot of them. I am a truly moral person. Rules are so important.” I spoke very fast, hoping that he would soon leave like the rest.

He stepped over to a rule, but he didn’t read it. With an easy motion, he brushed it off the wall and it clattered on the marble. He looked at the hole and sighed. “Yes, those rules are important, aren’t they?”

I stared at him dumbly. No one had ever looked behind my rules. No one had ever brushed them aside. The hole was huge and bleak, and it grew larger before my eyes as gusts of wind whisked away bits of the crumbling wall.

“Who are you?” I whispered.

He turned back to me. The sunlight streamed through the hole behind him, silhouetting him in light. He answered quickly, “Truth. My name is Truth.” Then he asked if he could tell me a story. At my nod, he began.

“I knew a King who loved cathedrals. He built them with the most beautiful designs – vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, marble floors. Then there was a revolt, and all the cathedrals began to crumble. What was good had become marked with evil. It was a tragedy. But the King loved to fix holes, to make mended cathedrals even more beautiful than when they were first designed. One day, he left his home to rebuild them.

He soon found that there were men in the cathedrals who made rules. Ruthlessly they ground people under their feet, killing them with rules. They spent their lives covering holes with rules. What they didn’t know was that rules can’t cover holes. Holes can only be fixed by one man – the King. He came to them, and tried to tell them the truth. But they killed him.”

“They killed him!” I gasped. My heart sank.  As he spoke, I had been longing for this King to visit my cathedral.

“Yes.” His face had grown sad, and he stared at the ceiling as if lost in thought. “That was a sad day. A very difficult day. They needed him, yet they killed him.”

“I need him, too,” I murmured, my eyes on the hem of my gown. “Why did that happen? I don’t understand it.” Everything seemed lost forever. My cathedral was crumbling, and the sad stories of this stranger only made it all worse.

“Did you say you needed him?”

I jumped. He had walked over and now stood beside me. I lifted my solemn eyes to meet his. I was surprised to see they sparkled merrily.

“Here I am. I am Truth, and I am the King.  I love this cathedral, and I want to mend these holes. I fought Evil to the death, and when I came back to life, I rose with power to restore what Evil had destroyed. Yes, and I will make it even more beautiful than before. I have an amazing plan to remodel these walls. But, there is something.” He paused.

“What?”

“The throne. When I built this, I placed that throne there for me. I’ll help you fix the cathedral, but that has to be my seat. I must be in charge. What’s more, all the reconstruction has to be done just as I direct, at the pace I set.  And you will need to help.”

I understood what he was asking. His first few words had told me I really wasn’t the queen I had supposed myself to be. He was authority, and power, and brilliance – a force to be reckoned with. The laws I had written only applied to my kingdom. I had imagined that kingdom to be mine, but I now realized with horror that it was an evil, subversive kingdom I had joined.

“Yes, my King. I have been very wrong. The throne is yours. The cathedral is yours. I will help you fix the walls.”

He smiled at me then, and said, “Come. I want to show you just how beautiful this cathedral can be.”

So, we work together, my King and I. I’m finding that holes are perfect places for new windows, huge sparkling ones in a kaleidoscope of colors. People still come to see me, and sometimes they frown at the unfinished holes, the ones that are only half covered in glass.

“Oh, but just look at what my King is doing!”  I tell them.

“Your king?” They ask, confused.

“Yes, my King. Can I tell you a story?” And I tell them His.

 

And so I live in grace, this dance of fallen rising to the light

In deep dependence I am bound to Him who bled for me

His glory sparkles from a thousand stained glass windows,

And high vaulted ceilings echo praise as we sing together

Over His work and mine.

Forever on his throne is He who holds the key to each cathedral

True worship found its home at last where it was made to be.

The Singleness Post

There is an unwritten rule:

Every unmarried young woman who blogs is supposed to write at least one blog post on singleness.

Does she love to be single? Does she hate it? What kind of guy is really attractive? What kind is not?

Her friends and random strangers find these blog posts highly entertaining and read them voraciously.

The fact is, almost everyone is super interested in romantic relationships, and concerned about a lack thereof. To get lots of reads, likes, and comments, post “10 Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life.” I assure you, it will be an instant hit.

After that smashing success, the next step is to write a book on singleness. Give it an alliterative title and adorn the cover with a perfect picture of yourself. Use Photoshop to add the cute guy who lurks in the background of most novel covers, and Voila! You have a bestseller. You may now relax and plan to spend several years in Starbucks across the country, sipping macchiatos pressed into your hands by adoring fans, and signing the books they shove in your face. Don’t forget to schedule a little time between Starbucks to speak at seminars on singleness. Also, you’ll need to block out time for prayer-begging God to never let you meet the cute guy who is responsible for 68% of your book sales.

In case you were hoping I’d answer those obnoxious questions in the first paragraph, I’m not going to. Take me to Starbucks and buy me a macchiato, and I might – if you deserve to know. Those of you who were reading this post for that purpose: Please use this moment to depart to more juicy blogs.

The rest of you, hang around, especially if you’re single. I would like to share three easy steps to a happy single life, for as long as you are called to that position.

(There really aren’t three easy steps to anything but the litter box. Still, because people love to read easy steps almost as much as they love to read about relationships and the lack thereof… I will now present to you these Three Easy Steps.)

I ran across them while I was reading a blog post by David Mathis on greed, here. Who knew that the antidote to greed could have anything to do with joyful singleness? But it does. There’s the same spirit of covetousness lurking in the heart of an antsy young lady as there is in an old man hunched over his glittering coins.

These are not three things to do, rather, they are three truths to believe. Three things to tell your squirming soul when it is about to go dancing up to God, impatiently demanding that He kindly hand you your crush, Now-At-This-Minute. These truths don’t just apply to wanting a man, either – they apply to coveting anything at all.

  1. I can wait. It isn’t that you want something bad by desiring marriage. It is a good thing to want, and it’s fine that you do. As a child of God, eventually you will experience true delight and intimacy in a relationship – if not on earth, then certainly in heaven. But that can wait. Those good desires must come under the Lordship of Christ to be fulfilled by Him in His time.  Lust says, “I must have it NOW. I am the most important.” Because of this, antsy young women can easily fall into the trap of fantasy. It’s a quick fix to imagine another world where you are lovely and desired. Besides the obvious moral impurity, fantasy is sinful because you are coveting things that are not yours. Fantasy is covetousness. Also, in a fantasy world, you are the beautiful one, the adored, the center. It’s all about you. Fantasy is a form of self-worship, and self-worship is sin.
  2. Giving is better. There is a greater joy than getting – there is giving. This truth turns your focus away from yourself onto the hurting, sinning world that is practically screaming for someone to stop chasing selfishness and start reaching out in love. Single women – this is where you can shine! You are free to love someone else’s neglected children, to care for someone else’s unloved mother, to serve as capable helpmeets in all kinds of mission programs. You were made with a desire to nurture and give life. As a Christian woman, you have been CALLED to nurture and give life.  If you are not actively serving and nurturing, you will feel unfulfilled.  Even Paris won’t satisfy. I promise. While you are giving to people, remember to give to God! Praise God for the 101 things you enjoy because you are a single woman. Freedom to travel. Free evenings to spend with friends. Personal time. An interesting job. The list goes on and on. If you have to be single, you might as well be a little smug about it. And speaking of fantasy – gratitude is poison to that old hairy monster!  There’s no need to dream of more when you are quite delighted with what you have.
  3. I have the Great Possession.

                “Here, finally, is the deepest campaign against greed. The fight against greed is a fight to be  satisfied, not only in what is coming, but most importantly in what we already have — Whom we already have.

He is the treasure hidden in the field, worth selling everything to have (Matthew 13:44). He is the one of surpassing value, worth suffering the loss of all things to gain (Philippians 3:7–8). He is the better and abiding Possession of Hebrews 10:34 who is more excellent and more enduring than every other possession we have or ever could have. He is both better in depth and better in durability.” – David Mathis

Here is where covetousness loses its power, where Jesus shines brightly and the rest grows dim. This is the vantage point from which marriage becomes less idealistic and more realistic. Jesus, not your future sweetheart, must become the Sun around which your world revolves.

I hope those three easy steps are as helpful to you as they are to me. Learning to be grateful and content is a process seeped in grace. Daily I need His forgiving grace, and daily need His transforming grace as I learn to live with my heart centered on Jesus.


In spite of this, I am just a lowly human girl and I still think about why I am single, and why my friends are single.  I try to figure it out.

The truth is, singles (and the people around them) often try to make sense of the reason they haven’t gotten married. That is a dangerous thing to do. In an effort to be helpful with this, some married people give singles advice and spout platitudes at them. They may mean well, but relax.  These reasons are probably NOT why you are still single:

  1. You aren’t truly surrendered to God’s will. “You just need to surrender,” people have told me. “When you have really surrendered your desires to be married, then God will bring the right man along.” Can you manipulate God by surrendering to Him? Perhaps, perhaps not. Certainly don’t assume all married women are Super Surrendered Sisters (SSS). They aren’t. If they are, I’m pretty sure marriage wasn’t handed to them as a prize for their spirituality. I know many godly single ladies and many ungodly married ones. Marriage may be a gift, but it’s not a prize given to the SSS.

Hidden in this thought is this:  “You want a man too much.  God doesn’t give us what we want, He gives us what we don’t want so we learn to surrender.”  Not so. God doesn’t give stones when you ask for bread. It is casting doubts on His character to assume He is just contrary and takes pleasure in giving you what you don’t want. Like He says, He is steadily giving you good gifts.   

According to this logic, when you finally arrive and don’t want a man, Mr. Right will call you immediately.  I know for a fact this is a lie. I have careened into the ditches on both sides of the “wanting a man” issue, and God didn’t dangle a man in front of me like a fat orange carrot when I was floundering in “I Never Ever Want To Be Married.”

  1. If you aren’t happy, single, you won’t be happy, married. It’s the super spirituality thing again. This statement is true in itself, but coming from an SSS, it sounds more like, “I can see that you are too discontent. Maybe when you are satisfied with your singleness, you can get married. See, I did it. I was happy, single, and now I am married.” I suspect that both  married Christians and single Christians have moments of deep gratitude as well as moments where they just honestly doubt that God has truly handed them the best. I never met a married person who was always happy. Humans struggle with questioning God’s goodness, and that’s been going on since the Fall. Don’t kid yourself – even the SSS weren’t always happy, single, either.
  2. You must be the apple at the top of the tree, because no one has climbed high enough to pick you yet. This is slightly more complementary, but the woman who believes this is simply arrogant. You have faults, just like your Mister will. You better get used to that idea and start working on improving those faults. Free Tip: A nose in the air won’t help your chances with the guys, either. Just saying.
  3. God is still preparing you for marriage. Yep, you haven’t gotten it all in order yet. Some ladies (the SSS) have it figured out by the time they are seventeen, and that’s why they get married then. Some of you *ahem* still haven’t become righteous enough. The Lord has been working on you for 35 years and He’s still not finished polishing you up for that man that has to deal with you.

I’m really unconvinced on this one. I mean, really it’s far more likely that the MAN isn’t polished yet, right? Okay, I’m joking. More seriously, I suppose we are all learning and growing and being prepared for what is to come next. However, it seems “Job’s Friend-ish” for someone to assume that you are single because you are still unprepared for marriage. Who’s to know what God is up to?

That’s eventually where I end up when I ponder these things. I don’t know what God is doing.  But I look at my single friends and realize the huge impact they have on their communities. They are running kid’s clubs, teaching in prisons, doing singing ministry, teaching children, counseling struggling Christians, doing missionary work, helping in their churches, and caring for the sick. If they had families, some of those other things wouldn’t get done. (Mothering is a high and holy calling – I am not downplaying that one bit. It’s extremely important in the Kingdom.) But maybe single people are extremely important in the kingdom, as well. Maybe God can use them in amazing ways since they are free to be focused only on Him.

So, what I’m saying is this: Singleness is not easy, but singleness can be done well by the grace of God for the glory of God. We should not criticize each other for our marital statuses, but rather applaud the sisters around us as we all pour our hearts into loving Jesus. Singles have an important place in the Kingdom, just like the SSS.


Wow. I think I just wrote a book. See you in Starbucks.*

*Caramel macchiatos, please. Thank you.

 

When a Glory Junkie Meets the Cross

It’s back again, that old feeling of worthlessness.

“What do you think you’re doing, trying to write? There are too many blogs already, there are too many words. What you were going to write about is so stupid. Don’t write about fear, they’ll think you are crazy. No one really has fears like you do. Don’t write about singleness – everyone loves being single. If they don’t, they’re dealing with it. People already know about community – hello, they’re Anabaptists. Stop lecturing people. Write something funny – people like to be amused. Not everything has to have a moral. Really, just don’t write. What we need are more people who live well. Real servant living. ”

I set my writing aside in order to live and serve. I quickly notice that there are people all around me, serving, too. My old critic begins again: “Why do you think you are so good at serving? Do you think that you are an encouragement? Do you really think that anyone listens to anything you say? You might try to help them, but it doesn’t make a difference anyway. They just forget it. You have never made a difference to anyone.”

If I try to teach, immediately the landscape is filled with people who teach well. Their amazing, modern teaching styles leave mine looking like Great Aunt Letty.

I like to sing, but there are many singers who are better than me.

I like to write, but who can improve on the great authors of the past? You would all be better off reading Shakespeare than this blog.

I can do almost nothing without this ugly comparing spirit rising up and criticizing me. (Please don’t feel sorry for me. A psychiatrist might tell me I have a poor self-image, but he would be wrong.  No, my self-image is big and bad and flourishing.)

The truth is, I am a glory thief. I love the approval of people and hearing their affirmation. I love being the best and having the limelight on me. I bask in receiving glory, and fear humiliation and shame.  It’s a miserable world, this manipulating and maneuvering to squeeze the most glory out of every situation. Happiness always eludes the ‘glory junkies’ who chase it.

What happens when a glory thief meets the Cross?

Standing beneath the Cross, I see Almighty God stooped low and bleeding, bending under the sin and pain of the nations. He knows each of my selfish ambitions and traitorous desires. He feels the humiliation of fallen-ness, smells on His skin the stench of sin – He who is purely holy.  Yet somewhere in that weighted heart there is an alive hope. He is anticipating joy. A people redeemed back to himself. A Bride, clothed in His glory. Jesus loves me.

It is a breathtaking scene.

I look down and realize I am still clutching something. It’s that glory I ‘earned’… but next to THIS it looks small and out of place.  I know I must repent.

Here, beneath the Cross, where the Lord I love suffers silently – here my heart must stay while it learns to find joy in reflecting all glory to Him. Nothing is too small a service for Him, no words for Him are wasted, no song offered to Him is less than beautiful to His ears. Here, my critic falls silent and the Spirit of God encourages me to simply share Jesus, to glorify Him.

This is my place. Beneath the Cross.

 “I take, O Cross, thy shadow for my abiding place –

I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of thy face

Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss

My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.”

-E.C. Clephane