Are You a Big Z or an Ordinary N?

Imagine getting a Scrabble tray with the following letters:

JQZXKVW

Wow! All the highest-scoring letters! You’ll surely win this time!

Except there are a couple of problems.

First, there are no vowels. You’d only be able to play off vowels in your opponent’s words.

And most words are not made up of just the high-point letters. Usually you have to combine them with an ordinary D or T or N.

Too, I’ve often found that the words that use all the tiles and earn bonus points are most often made up of the more common letters.

Life is like that with people, too. The ones out front or with heavy responsibilities don’t operate alone. Stars have their publicists, make-up crew and stylists, agents, drivers. Executives have administrative assistants, mailroom workers, technicians. Presidents have cabinets, advisors, security details. Mills, factories, and manufacturers are mostly made up of everyday workers. Every company has those who keep the premises hygienic and pleasant by keeping it clean.

Have you noticed this principle in the Bible as well? Moses had Aaron and Hur. David had his mighty men. Elijah thought he was alone standing against the prophets of Baal, but God had 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to a false god. The obscure names among Jesus’ twelve closest followers were just as much disciples as Peter, James, and John.

Besides the Bible heroes we all know and love, lesser-known servants of God played key roles. A little servant girl told Naaman about the prophet in Israel who could heal him of leprosy. Unnamed prophets appear in only one scene, but deliver vital messages. “A certain man drew his bow at random” and killed King Ahab, one of Israel’s wickedest rulers. A woman only known as a Shunammite provided a respite for the prophet Elisha in his travels. A little boy gave his lunch of loaves and fishes to Jesus, who multiplied them to feed a multitude. “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for” Jesus and the disciples “out of their means” alongside Mary Magdalene. Paul’s nephew brought news of an ambush planned against Paul, prompting his guards to beef up security.

Everyone has an important part to play in God’s kingdom, whether it’s a large or small part. If we envy another’s role, we forget they have their own set of problems and temptations. If we’re discontent with our role, we forget God sees and values it.

Have you ever had one tiny cog mess up a machine’s functions? A few wrong keystrokes in computer code can throw a whole program off. A little virus can wreak havoc in computers and bodies and communities. One person not doing their job right in the process of bringing a product to market can cause the end product to fail or even be unsafe. One customer service representative can make the difference in solving or causing problems, in our relief or frustrations with a company. One kind greeting at church can make a visitor feel welcome. One word of encouragement can change someone’s outlook.

The Bible uses the metaphor of the body to describe the church in 1 Corinthians 12:14-31. The body has a number of parts, but all are important. This passage has us imagine how ridiculous it would be if the whole body were an eye–how would it eat or walk or speak? Equally ridiculous is the thought of doing without one member or another. One part can’t say it doesn’t need another. Each part working together with the others helps the body function rightly, which aids all the parts. Ephesians 4:1-16 uses the same imagery, closing with, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” I’ve spoken of not thinking less of ourselves if we don’t have a big role to play, but Romans 12, also speaking of the church as a body, warns “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (verse 3). There is no room for pride or discouragement with God’s giftings. But “having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” for His honor and glory and for the good of the rest of the body (Romans 12:6). We can be content in the place He has us.

My grandfather used to say, “God must love common folk, He made so many of us.” Sometimes God pushes us out of our comfort zones, like Moses, Jonah, Gideon, Esther, and others. But most of us won’t be the mega-best-selling author, the speaker followed by the masses, the hero about whom epics are written. Yet we can glorify God in our homes, churches, cars, businesses, neighborhoods. In fact, back to our Scrabble analogy, if we’re an N or T or an I, we can be used more often and in more places than a Q.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

“At least I’m still good for something.”

When we first moved my mother-in-law over 2,000 miles to live in an assisted living facility near us, we would have her over for dinner sometimes, take her to my youngest son’s basketball games, and take her to church and other outings.

At one dinner, a favorite family story came up. Some years ago, my mother-in-law inadvertently said something inappropriate, using a term with double meaning of which she was unaware. Everyone laughed because they knew she hadn’t meant it in the way people would take it today. The incongruity of such a thing coming from her made it all the more funny.

As we told the story to our kids, who had either not heard it before or had forgotten it, we all laughed, even my mother-in-law.

After the laughter died down, though, she quietly said, “At least I’m still good for something.”

I don’t know if anyone else heard her say it or caught the significance. But her sentence went like an arrow to my heart. She wasn’t complaining or blaming anyone, but she didn’t feel useful any more.

When we first moved her into assisted living, my husband told her, “You’ll never have to cook to clean again.” That sounded pretty good after 70 or years of those activities.

Her only hobby was reading, and she delighted in being able to read all day to her heart’s content. She had always been a homebody, and just going to meals three times a day with a room full of other people taxed her. When aides would knock on her door to see if she wanted to go see the musicians, the magicians, the church choir, or whomever, she politely declined.

I don’t think she was discontent with her circumstances. But we all want to feel we’re of use in the world. There is a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure when we’ve accomplished something, but she didn’t have anything to accomplish any more.

In “The Grace to Be Diminished,” Win Couchman wrote of turning 80 and having to give up driving, changing from their usual place in the balcony at church to a place on the main floor where they didn’t have to fear falling, her husband’s hearing loss and short-term memory loss which caused him to be “silent and isolated at social functions.” But the “diminishment” that particularly touched my heart was when “one of the women who coordinates the potlucks called me and said with winsome authority, ‘Win, enough already. You have been involved with these evenings for about twenty years now, I think. You have done your bit. We want you and Bob to be at every one, but you are not to bring any more food, you hear?'”

Only then did I realize how the slowness with which I function now, and the accompanying late afternoon fatigue, was beginning to color my anticipation with some dread.

Gladly I responded, “Okay.” It’s awkward to walk into someone’s house on potluck Saturdays empty-handed just as another couple arrives loaded with goodies. In that moment, I silently look to God for the grace to be diminished.

Win and her husband, and I am sure my mother-in-law as well, graciously accepted the decline that comes with age, knowing that:

 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Yet I think we should be careful not to diminish them unnecessarily.

In Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Happens in the End, he writes of a woman who was responsible for her father’s care when he could no longer live alone. Yet her desire to keep him safe culminated in his living in a small room with nothing to do, “safe but empty of anything [he cared] about” (p. 109). 

What touched off this train of thought today was a section in Anthony Trollope’s The Last Chronicle of Barset, the sixth and last in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. Mr. Harding was the main character in the first book, The Warden. Now, in the last book, he has become very old and increasingly feeble. He used to love to play the violincello, but can’t manage it any more. “He had encountered some failure in the performance of the slight clerical task allotted to him, and the dean had tenderly advised him to desist.” He loved going to the cathedral every day, to listen to the organ, read a theology book, or just walk around. But his feebleness caused his fearful housekeeper to write to his daughter, who came to encourage him that perhaps his days of walking alone to the cathedral might need to come to an end. He replied, “I do not like not going;—for who can say how often I may be able to go again? There is so little left, Susan,—so very little left.”

That line was heartbreaking—that there was so little left. Eventually Mr. Harding made peace with the fact that God had given him a good life and he had a better one to look forward to. He found the “grace to be diminished” and decline.

Another line in Gawande’s book says, “Making life meaningful in old age…requires more imagination and invention than making them merely safe does” (p. 137).

Hindsight is always so much clearer, of course, but I wish I had made my mother-in-law’s life more meaningful. When she was still able, I wish I had thought of small tasks she could do to help with meals. Cooking had been her love language of sorts. Though we thought we were honoring her by doing for her, perhaps she would have felt more useful with a way to contribute. I could have made a project of putting her photos in albums with her. I did ask about her early life—high school, how she met her husband, etc.–and even learned some things I hadn’t known before. But I wish I had done that more. Although our visiting almost every day and then bringing her home for her last years showed how much we regarded her, I wish I had often told her that we loved her and were happy to have the opportunity to care for her. Though she had intrinsic value as a being created in God’s image, we should have let her know more often that she was valued and important.

As I look ahead to growing older, a couple of passages especially comfort me. One is Isaiah 46:4: “even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

Another is Psalm 92:12-15:

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

During my mother-in-law’s last years, when she slept most of the time, I wondered what kind of fruit she was bearing in that state. A few came to mind. Her godly life—not perfect, but steadily walking with God and seeking to serve Him the best she could in her circumstances. Her uncomplaining patience. Her taking things with humor. Her willingness to “go with the flow.” Her testimony of peace and joy before her caregivers.

I wish these things had come to mind when she wondered what she was “good for.” I trust her Lord’s, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” assured her that He was able to use her in many ways. And I hope that these thoughts will remind me to let others know the ways God used them in my life.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Treasures of Encouragement

Although Treasures of Encouragement: Women Helping Women is not primarily about author Sharon W. Betters, the book grew out of her situation. Her teenage son and his friend were killed in a car accident within minutes of leaving the Betters’ home in 1993.

The book’s theme verse comes from Isaiah 45:3, where Sharon found hope in her deep grief: “I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.” Though God sometimes leads through dark valleys, treasures are there that can’t be found anywhere else.

Sharon writes:

The healing balm of encouragement eventually stopped the spread of despair’s infection and began replacing it with hope’s healthy glow. God’s Word was the healing balm, and God’s people applied it lavishly to sooth the searing pain in my soul. Biblical encouragement is soul work. God unleashes its mysterious power every time a child of God follows the Holy Spirit’s direction and steps into the suffering of another person (pp. 9-10).

Each chapter starts with one or two women’s testimonies about being either on the receiving or giving end of encouragement.

Throughout the book. two points are repeatedly emphasized. First, encouraging someone else spiritually is the outgrowth of our own walk with the Lord and time spent in His Word. Second, because we have those resources–God’s Word to inform and guide us and His Spirit within us—we have what we need to encourage others.

Part 1 of the book explores thinking Biblically: defining and exploring what encouragement involves and what our responsibilities are as believers to each other.

To ease the guilt of noninvolvement, we charge the church with the job of meeting needs. We forget that we are the church! (p. 18)

Biblical encouragers know that their role is part of a process; it is seldom, if ever, the solution. They understand God is doing soul work through the interaction of members of His body. They recognize that He uses circumstances to strip people of obstacles that keep them from knowing Him, and so they ask themselves, How can I help this person through the peeling process of sanctification without hindering what the Holy Spirit is doing?

Often we want to rush into a difficult situation and make everything better. But that is not God’s method. He uses the rough spots of life to sand away the rough spots in character so that the reflection of “Christ in us” becomes increasingly clear (p. 73).

Because of who our Father is, and because of the riches of our inheritance, we always have something to offer to others (p. 37).

Part 2 covers living Biblically: the necessity of prayer, listening well, helpful vs. non-helpful words, spiritual mothering, pursuing restoration rather than judgment, Biblical exhortation, letting God use your spiritual gifts in large or small ways, offering practical help.

The church, like a home, is not a place where perfect people enjoy each other’s company. It’s a place where spiritual nurture, training, and discipline help imperfect people take on the image of their perfect heavenly Father. The church is not a place for hibernation; it’s a place where we learn, grow, take risks, make mistakes, and get up and try again (p. 99).

Will it be easy? No. Initially, obedience is hard, but in the long run, disobedience is harder (p. 131).

When we have a clear picture of our own sinfulness and inadequacies, we may conclude that we are unfit to carry the great gospel message. But our wrong conclusions will not thwart God’s purposes. For reasons we do not understand, God has chosen us to spread His message of hope and redemption (p. 198).

Spiritual mothering often happens more around a kitchen table that in a structured study (p. 213).

Though the book can be read by individuals, it’s designed for a twelve-week group study. Each chapter ends with six day’s work of questions or exercises. On one hand, I didn’t want to take twelve weeks to read the book. But on the other, I didn’t want to skip over the “homework” between chapters. I felt the time exploring further or meditating on each chapter’s truths would help the ideas take firmer root. I did sometimes combine some of the individual days’ exercises, though.

One appendix shares 50 very practical ideas for extending encouragement to others. All 50 won’t appeal to or be possible for everyone, but they give a rich variety to choose from.

I appreciated the address to older and younger women in the church with encouragement to settle the differences that can sometimes arise between the two groups (pp. 137-138).

This book was originally published twenty-five years ago. It was updated and reprinted in 2021.

Just occasionally, I found the tone in the book got a little more authoritarian than encouraging. One example from the exercise questions after the first chapter: “Who will you encourage today? Write a brief statement about how Christ, through you, can encourage that person. Now do it!” (p. 26).

But overall, I found much good food for thought on both the necessity to be an encourager and the ways God can work in and through us. This is a book I am sure I will return to in the future.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

15 Favorite Posts from 15 Years of Blogging

I mentioned in my end-of-July post that I forgot my blogging anniversary until WordPress sent me a reminder. It’s been fifteen years!

Often in the past I’ve done something special to observe my blogiversary. Since it caught me off guard this year, I didn’t have anything prepared.

I had been pondering ways to bring some of old posts back to the forefront, since they were published before I knew some of you. Then, voila! The idea came to list fifteen of my favorite blog posts to commemorate my fifteenth year of blogging. There won’t be one from each year—that would have taken too much time to search out. But these were either fun to write or were special to me in some way.

So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Coping when a husband is away. This is my top-viewed post of all time. I had no idea it would touch such a chord. My husband had to travel heavily for at least half, maybe as much as two-thirds of our 41-year marriage. Though I didn’t like it, I am thankful God used what He taught me to help others.

2. How Not to Become an Old Biddie. After seeing examples of different kinds of older ladies, I realized I needed to start working on what kind of older lady I want to be now. (Related: Why Older Women Don’t Serve and Ways Older Women Can Serve.)

3. With All Our Feebleness. Reflections on serving God with physical and other limitations.

4. My Ebenezers. In 1 Samuel 7:12: “Samuel took a stone . . . and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” “Ebenezer” means “stone of help.” In this post, I listed some of my verbal “Ebenzers,” commemorations of the Lord’s special help in my life.

5. Having Devotions When You’re not Feeling Very Devoted. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. (Related: When There Is No Hunger for God’s Word.)

6. Strong Women. What feminine strength means and doesn’t mean, with literary and Biblical examples.

7. Encouragement for Mothers of Small Children in the area of trying to find quiet time with the Lord.

8. The Back Burner. The stuff on the back burner is all the more flavorful for its time sitting and simmering. So with the things in our lives we have to set on the back burner: they’ll be all the better for the wait.

9. Why Read? Why Read Fiction? Why Read Christian Fiction? Every reason I could think of for reading all of them.

10. Can Frugality Go Too Far? Even good traits can be carried too far.

11. It’s Not For Nothing. Caregiving can seem monotonous and futile when the patient sleeps most of the time, can’t speak, and isn’t interested in food, as was the case for my mother-in-law her last two years in our home. These were truths that encouraged me. (Related: Remembering the Loved One Who Has Forgotten You.)

12. Manufactured Spirituality. Routines and programs can help us spirituality, but sometimes we focus on them to the detriment of real spirituality.

13. The Quiet Person in the Small Group. How not to torture your introverts.

14 Going to a Church with Problems. They all have them, even the ones in the Bible. (Related: What You Miss When You Turn Your Back on Church.)

15. Myths and Maxims of Ministry gleaned over many years. Myth #1: “Since this is being done for the Lord, everything should go smoothly.” Nope!

These are the posts that floated to mind. If I had actually searched every year’s posts, I might have had a different list. But there’s probably a reason these are the ones that came to mind.

As you’ve noticed, I cheated stretched my numbers a bit. Sometimes I couldn’t decide between a couple of posts on a similar topic, so I included one as “related.”

I’ve noticed that I should probably go back and edit some of the older posts. One of the tendencies my first critiquer at a writer’s conference pointed out was “long, convoluted sentences” that should be broken into two sentences (or three or four). Hopefully some day I can correct those in my older posts.

Thank you so much to all of you who read and comment. Without you, this would just be an online journal. Nothing makes me day like hearing that something here has blessed and helped someone.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are the latest thought-provoking reads I’ve seen:

Would It Be Okay for Me to Be Angry With God? “And who am I to be angry at what God has done? Who am I to disapprove of what he has permitted? Who am I to conclude God has done something he should not have, or to even suggest the notion?”

Start Here: How to Begin Reading the Bible this Year. “If you’ve been feeling like reading Scripture will be too hard for you, as though there’s no way you’ll be able to do it on your own—stop now and thank God. Knowing that we need Jesus is a gift. We can’t do this without Him, and He’s ready and able to help.

The Prayer Group, HT to Joanne. “These women have prayed so hard their knees have gone bad. They’ve prayed for rowdy husbands who are bad to drink. For children who are ill. For couples who fall upon the rocks. They have even prayed Carol through her cancer. Twice.”

Ministry With, Not Merely To those with developmental disabilities, HT to Challies. “My friend and mentor, Rich, heads up the Friendship Bible Study, and he constantly reminds us that we will minister with and not merely to those who come. It’s my observation that such a mentality fuels ministry that has the capacity to endure. Consequently, this demographic that is among the most unreached in these United States is a demographic which has most reached the congregation I serve.”

The Wide Gate, HT to Challies. “Since Time magazine announced God was dead in 1966, people have done their best to manage without Him, notably in relationships. God’s narrow way of one man and one woman monogamously raising offspring has been paved over with multilane beltways, bypasses, and loops that must look sort of messy from angel altitude.”

Visiting the Sick, HT to Challies. “The topic . . . comes at a tragically unique time in history: when visiting the sick and our ability to go to hospital to care for the infirmed, weak, or dying is greatly diminished. And yet, care for those in the church who are ill or afflicted among us, is some of the most foundational stuff of our true religion.”

No Strings Attached, HT to Challies. “There is simple kindness, among few, in the art of gift giving. An offering presented with joy and weightlessness; a smile of anticipation in the knowing of the goodness to be shared.”

A friend with a young baby posted this on FaceBook. A young mom wants to know how to keep strangers from touching and kissing her baby in public. The answer is hilarious.

Laudable Linkage

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I’m waaaay behind on my blog reading. But I wanted to go ahead and share the ones concerning Christmas before it was all over.

We Need a Little Christmas! I love both meanings of this post by Lesley.

This Is Not How I Thought My Story Would Go, HT to Diane Heeney. Good applications drawn from Mary’s life.

We Wait in Darkness: Some Thoughts for Advent. “In Advent, we wait in the darkness. But we do not, I am convinced, wait hopelessly. For while we wait, we can tend the flame. The stories each of our homes are telling can be ones that lend flesh to truth, goodness, and beauty, so that the waiting we do can tend the flame of the Gospel flickering inside our hearts.”

Goodnight Till Then. Those of you who know Tim Challies know that his college-age son died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Also from Tim: When All Seems to Be Gain, Plan for Loss.

Do You Ever Wonder? Lessons Learned from Rebecca. Both Rebekah and Sarah manipulated events instead of trusting God’s promises. We all leave a string of failures in our wake, but thank God He redeems them.

Looking for Joy? Abide. “In addressing His disciples hours before His arrest, Jesus tells them over and over to abide, to remain, to dwell in Him. He knows that they’re worried about what life will look like without Him, so He gives them these instructions for a specific reason: “that [their] joy may be full” (John 15:11).”

On Benedictions, Part 1: He Who Is Able. “This passage doesn’t promise that we’ll never stumble into sin. But it does promise that God’s grace can enable us to persevere to the end—to stand before his throne still blameless, still washed by the blood of Christ, still cleansed from the sin in which we all too readily engaged.”

Assurance in an Age of Cancel Culture, HT to Challies. These days of being so easily “cancelled” when the culture at large doesn’t like what we say can make us fearful of speaking out. “This article is an outpouring of my inner war with ‘cancel culture’ and fear of man. These Biblical truths are weapons of warfare for me in the middle of my fight with ‘cancel culture.’”

Meatloaf Ministry. If you’ve ever been part of a church food ministry or any behind-the-scenes ministry, this will bless you.

Social Justice in Our Divided Age. Not everyone means the same thing by that term, which causes confusion and even hard feelings at times. I thought this was a good explanation.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some of the good reads that caught my eye this week:

The Quiet Power of Ordinary Devotions, HT to Challies. “If we are reading our Bibles rightly, in fact, we should expect many mornings of ordinary devotions: devotions that do not sparkle with insight or direct-to-life application, but that nevertheless do us good. Just as most meals are ordinary, but still nourish, and just as most conversations with friends are ordinary, but still deepen affection, so most devotions are ordinary, but still grow us in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

A Dangerous Trend. “Whether you’re a new believer or seasoned saint, don’t fall prey to the danger of replacing the Scriptures with other books. Let your love for God’s Word be rekindled as you come to the Word afresh to see, meditate, and delight in God’s glory. Don’t read the Bible merely to acquire knowledge or be challenged. Come to meet with God. ”

That Time I Went After an Older, Godlier Man. I’m thankful for this confession and the questions that arose from it.

People Need the Lord. How a pastor renews his compassion for people. Good not just for pastors.

Love What’s Near. “I now look askance at anyone who seems to speak primarily in the abstract: ‘fixing the economy,’ or ‘changing the culture,’ or ‘loving humankind.’ Why? Because it’s easy to succumb to self-righteousness when you pursue utopian visions in regard to great and massive things. It’s when you are faced with the smaller things and the people nearest you where you begin to spot your own flaws and diagnose your lovelessness.”

How to Explain to Your Kids Why Social Justice Warriors Hate Christians So Much. “Events like these that suddenly and explicitly pit Christianity against the cause of many Social Justice Warriors (“SJWs”) are the tip of an ideological iceberg that many Christians are (to a large degree) unaware of.”

Alone Against the Mob: Crowds, Cancel Culture, and Courage. “There really is nothing new under the sun. Today’s issues, as desperate as they can be, were first yesterday’s issues. This means one convenient and profound truth for the Christian: the solutions have not changed.”

How to Be Consistent in Memorizing Scripture. Great tips!

Are You Having Doubts? The doubts in question are whether/when/how this COVID thing is going to end. But I love the example of turning away from fears and frustrations and turning toward tangible ways to help others.

Finally, this almost made me cry: a baby sees her mother clearly for the first time:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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I don’t want to “laud” my own writing, but I wanted to let you know The Perennial Gen published a piece I wrote titled “Limitations Don’t Limit Your Ministry.”

Here are some great reads discovered this week:

How to Study Your Bible in 2020.

How a “You do You” Culture Has Made Us Vulnerable to the Coronavirus, HT to Challies. “We can only stop the virus by doing what is best for others not just for ourselves.”

A Life That Points Others to Christ. “My most earnest prayer is that when someone hears my testimony, they would be compelled to go find Jesus and His Word for themselves.”

God Is Always Good. “We evaluate God’s character based on our circumstances, when we should evaluate our circumstances based on God’s unchanging character.”

Safe, HT to Challies. A poem by Paul Tripp.

‘Progressive’ Christianity: Even Shallower Than the Evangelical Faith I Left, HT to Challies. “I’ve walked in both shoes: the shoes of those who deserted and the shoes of Peter who couldn’t leave, no matter how hard it seemed to stay. I was an #exvangelical who left the faith of my youth for ‘progressive Christianity.’ Then I returned. Here’s my #revangelical story.”

Was Jesus Married to Mary Magdalene? Revisiting a Stubborn Conspiracy Theory, HT to Challies. In a word, no. This post debunks some of the false claims.

Surrendering Control When Facing Coronavirus, or any other situation where we don’t have control. “I’ve found it helpful, when facing out-of-control situations that cause me anxiety, to sort my concerns into two categories: 1. What I Can Control; 2. What I Cannot Control.”

3 Ways of Confronting the Problem of Diminishing Attention Spans Through the Great Books, HT to Challies. Good reasons to read the classics.

Guides for Kids and Middle-Schoolers to Take Notes During the Sermon, HT to Challies.

The Story Warren has a round-up of “awesome good-priced, free, discounted, livestreamed, giveaway, etc., stuff” being offered online during our “sheltering at home.”

Finally this video shows How Soap Kills the Coronavirus, HT to Challies.

Have a good Saturday, and stay safe.

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest collection of thought-provoking reads:

Eleven Practices for Growing Love.

Could a Lack of Purpose Be Stealing Your Joy?

Anxious for Nothing: Addressing the Worry I Can’t Explain, HT to Challies. This is what I wish more people understood about certain types of anxiety and panic attacks: that they’re not a deliberate violation of Phil. 4:6-7 or worry about anything in particular. Some good thoughts about dealing with anxiety.

Intersectionality and the Church, HT to Challies. This post explains the term and demonstrates why it doesn’t work for the church.

Jesus, the Prostitutes, and Transgender Outreach, HT to Challies. “We must never assume that Jesus’ loving welcome of prostitutes indicates the slightest endorsement or toleration of their sin. Notice how Jesus explained his behavior: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’ (Mt. 9:12). Jesus said that he came to cure people of their sinful disorder – that is, to remove it and render them free from it – but not to promote or explore its experience. When he added, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13), the mercy he offered was deliverance from sin to his righteousness.”

When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time, particularly in regard to  modern technology.

I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review and I Hope They Will Make You Laugh, HT to Challies. One-star reviews are often ridiculous, but never more so than these. Loved how this artist turned them around.

Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour tonight (bah, humbug).

And to end with a smile:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Are you enjoying the last few days of visiting with family, as we are? Or chasing end-of-year sales or gearing up to go back to work on Monday? If you have some leisure, these recent online finds have much good to share. Maybe one or two will pique your interest.

A few related to Christmas:

Handel’s—and Jennens’s—“Messiah“, HT to Challies. I didn’t know that Handel only wrote the music, not the words to his famous oratorio, “The Messiah.” Here’s a look at the man who wrote the libretto and why he did.

An Idaho boy married the girl he sent an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox to, HT to Laura. Sweet story!

Competing with Christmas? I like this idea of leveraging the “fun” aspects of the season rather than seeing them as a competition for the spiritual side.

Wise Men: Gentiles Who Sought the Savior. I enjoyed this look at the Magi, the reminder that salvation has always been available to Gentiles, and the contrast between the reaction of Jews and Gentiles at Christ’s birth. I was particularly intrigued by the “bookends” Chris pointed out in the gospels. For instance, myrrh was a gift brought to Jesus at His birth and ointment was poured on Him not long before His death; He was called the King of the Jews by the wise men but not called that again until the crucifixion. I had known those as separate facts but never thought of them as bookends.

When Love Is Hard to Give, and Harder to Receive.

A Weary Mom Rejoices. When the world seems too much, it’s good to rest in the only One who can do anything about it.

That Might Preach, But…it might be not accurate, or the main message of the text. HT to Challies. “In our desire to make Scripture ‘preachable’ we import uncertain meanings into the text, while ignoring glorious truths that are actually there.”

A Fragrant Offering, HT to Challies. “It is through our willingness to bear the sufferings of others that people will see Christ. As we do, we become a pleasing aroma to God and the ones we love. The prevailing aroma of Christ pours forth in and through us.”

Still Looking for That Better Country, HT to Challies. Really interesting perspective from a missionary living in a country she’s not a citizen of, comparing that to our living in the world yet being a citizen of heaven, warning herself against the settling-down that can take place as she comes to her own country.

To Serve God in Heaven Will Be a Great Reward, HT to Challies. I’ve often wondered about that phrase concerning serving God in heaven. “Service is a reward, not a punishment. This idea is foreign to people who dislike their work and only put up with it until retirement. We think that faithful work should be rewarded by a vacation for the rest of our lives. But God offers us something very different…”

‘Advertising breaks your spirit’: the French cities trying to ban public adverts, HT once again to Challies. Yes! I can’t condone public vandalism in the name of stopping advertisements, but I agree with pushing back against being assaulted by advertising in every nook and cranny.

And finally, interesting footage of a seagull who stole someone’s GoPro. I’m amazed the owner got it back!

Happy Saturday!