God’s Omniscient Wisdom in Our Wilderness Wanderings

Recently a friend, who became acquainted with some of my life’s story, asked— rather bluntly— “Lori, do you sometimes wonder if God is really good and if He really loves you since He’s allowed so much hard stuff to happen?” It was a bold question— one that momentarily stopped me in my tracks.  But it was an honest question— one that’s bounced about in my brain a time or two because my life has indeed seemed to make a habit out of things that are hard. I was conceived in adultery, nearly aborted, and later adopted— but into a home filled with the strife, struggle, and strain of mental illness. I spent a season as an angry atheist before coming to Christ; endured nearly a decade of being abandoned by my adoptive parents; and have a lived my entire life as a person with autism. I’ve grieved at the graveside of my mom, my dad, my father-in-law, and my precious sister-in-law; and right now, my husband is battling cancer while laboring to plant a new church on the Mississippi coast. So, my friend’s bold question about the character and compassion of God comes out of that context. My life’s been hard — some of your lives have been harder! The truth is, there are times when we struggle with the course God has carved for us and with the intentions and affections He has for us in light of that...

God’s Omniscient Wisdom in Our Wilderness Wanderings2022-05-07T23:24:13+00:00

Never Enough: Confronting Lies About Appearance and Achievement with Gospel Hope

It was my sophomore year of high school, and I was sitting around with my cross-country team listening to the older girls compare fat grams in bagel brands. If you have ever looked at bagel labels, you know that there is not any difference worth noting—unless you are obsessed with your weight. The Lies of Appearance and Achievement Little did I know how influential that conversation, and many more like it, would become in my life. Add to that the billboards, magazines, and other media that boasted model-thin women all around me, and I bought into the lie “I have to look like ‘her’ in order to be beautiful.” At the same time I was running cross-country, I was also playing basketball. Unlike the girls on my cross-country team, my teammates could down a fast-food burger in no time at all and not think twice about it. And my coach certainly thought I could use a few burgers myself in order to put on some weight for my position as forward or center. Add to that the fact he could fire off a cuss word, stomp his feet, clap his hands, and throw water, attempting to motivate us to play better and harder and I began to believe another lie: “My worth is based on my outward performance.” Failure to perform well led me to inflict punishment on myself—if I didn’t live up to my coach’s expectations, then I didn’t deserve to eat.These twin themes of body image and performance are still at the heart of young women’s search for beauty and worth today. But it is not just young women. Women of all ages struggle with defining their significance by their appearance and achievements.

Never Enough: Confronting Lies About Appearance and Achievement with Gospel Hope2022-05-07T23:24:58+00:00

Come to Me: Hope for the Weary and Burdened

When I was child, our house was broken into. I’ll never forget the circumstances that surrounded that event, and the details have left an imprint: the broken glass, the back door opened, the silver moved, the speakers turned over, and the cops roaming the house. Though there was disturbance, it didn’t take us long to notice that nothing was actually taken. The intruder claimed to see a “hoard of men” walking toward the house, so he left everything and ran out the back door. With fresh snow on the ground, and no footprints to see, we have always believed that the “hoard” were angels protecting our home from what could have been a great loss. As an adult, I can see God’s provisions all over this event, but as a child, the break-in caused tremendous fear. I went to bed that night with tears streaming down my face, trying to sort through the array of emotions I felt. I remember my dad coming in and checking on me. He must have noticed my tears and sensed my fear because he sat on the bed and took me into his arms. I put my head against his chest while he said several times, “I’m here.” In what felt like turmoil, my father’s loving grip and his reassuring words were all I needed to finally fall asleep. Come to Me and Rest This is the memory that comes to mind when I read Jesus’ words from Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

Come to Me: Hope for the Weary and Burdened2022-05-07T23:25:48+00:00

Running Life’s Marathon with Our Soul Sisters

I trained for my first marathon in a month and was surprised to finish. Each year, as soon as the spring breeze has a hint of warmth, I find myself looking through my closet and hoping my clothes will fasten over my once-hibernating body. This was how I returned to my running routine; I wanted to feel healthy and make sure my shorts fit.I joined a local running group. Each morning, a crew of women gather at the break of dawn, tie shoelaces, strap on water bottles, and light up safety gear to hit the trails. I joined them on the unfamiliar course in my old Target attire and tread-less shoes. As we sweated through each step, I quickly learned that every single woman was training for an upcoming race. Running with “Sole Sisters”After a few weeks of running with and learning from this band of “sole sisters,” I increased my mileage. I began thinking about signing up for a race too. As I researched various races, on a whim, I also entered my name into a Facebook contest I came across for an upcoming marathon. I entered it because I thought I could win an entry for a friend who had told me she wanted to sign up but couldn’t do so for financial reasons. When I won, my friend told me she had already registered, so the opportunity was all mine. The next morning, I woke up at 4 am, joined some friends who had been training all summer, and with trepidation, ran 18 miles to see if a marathon was even realistic. We were up so early that within the first five minutes, we startled a sleeping deer! For the next five hours, my friends to me about the essentials of marathon running: pacing, fueling, and gear.I returned home with a wobble and exhilarated I completed the run. I was also salty, sore, hungry, and fearful I would need to buy so many new things to manage the long race. I shared with my husband the list. Since our budget was tight, we prayed.Later that day, the running company who had said I won an entry in the marathon contacted me to tell me that they were mistaken; they did not have a free registration to giveaway. The race would actually cost $175. To be honest, I was a bit relieved, even as my aching muscles seemed to groan aloud. As the news settled in, I messaged my friends who spent the morning traipsing all around the county with me. They were dismayed. They had been so instrumental in getting me through each step of those 18 miles. Within a few hours, I was notified that they paid my entry fee. I was so touched by their kindness and enthusiasm!

Running Life’s Marathon with Our Soul Sisters2022-05-07T23:26:28+00:00

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of MTW

Editor’s Note: From its inception, the women in the PCA have loved on and supported the denomination in practical ways. One way has been through the annual women’s ministry love gift. This year, the women’s ministry of the PCA is praying for and partnering with the different agencies and committees of the denomination regionally. Throughout the year, we will highlight the committees and agencies to learn more about what they do and how we can pray for them.I recently interviewed Lloyd Kim, coordinator of Mission to the World (MTW), about their work. Christina: Can you tell us a bit of the history of MTW and its relationship with the PCA? Lloyd: Sure—and I will give you the brief version. After the PCA formed in 1973, Mission to the World was immediately organized as the missions sending agency of the PCA, tasked with carrying out the Great Commission. We started out with 11 missionaries in four countries and then began to grow rapidly. In 1982, World Presbyterian Missions (from the Reformed Presbyterian Church—Evangelical Synod) joined with MTW, adding even more missionaries. God has continued to bless MTW and we now have 630 long-term missionaries, 88 two-year missionaries, and over 700 national partners serving in 95 countries. This growth has occurred under the direction of some very capable and godly leaders: John Kyle, Paul McKaughan, and Paul Kooistra. When we look back on our history, we are deeply grateful to God for the solid foundation and heritage He has given us. Christina: What is your role for MTW? Lloyd: As coordinator of MTW, one of my main tasks is to promote MTW’s mission, vision, and values within our denomination as well as in the larger missions community. What does that mean? It means that I serve as a key public face for MTW, representing our mission and its values to our constituents and potential partners. So—lots of travel, speaking, developing relationships; and there’s a commitment to fundraising for MTW as part of all that. Overseeing MTW’s financial stability and growth is part of my job—making sure that we’re good stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us and that we remain financially healthy. But we also want MTW to be spiritually healthy, so another aspect of my job involves tending to the spiritual vitality of the organization. We want to build a grace-based culture that encourages integrity, transparency, and mutual support. We also want a workforce that better reflects the diversity of the kingdom. These values have resulted in projects like our diversity initiative and efforts to expand opportunities for women in our organization. Finally, I provide leadership for our senior staff as we work together to focus our ministry efforts on our vision: fulfilling the Great Commission by establishing, growing, and maturing churches around the world. One of the challenges we face is that missions looks a lot different than it did even 10 years ago. The landscape is changing and we’re constantly looking for new channels and new methods for recruiting and sending missionaries. We’ve also just come through some pretty major infrastructure changes to support the growth that we’re praying about and planning for in our future missions force.

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of MTW2022-05-07T23:27:15+00:00

The Rug Rigmarole and the Treasures of Our Heart

With the combined weight of two generations and a collective deep breath, we shimmied the 10 X 14 rug into my minivan. It wedged snugly against the front dash, providing an awkwardly high armrest. Its position left me, the driver, with the ability to use only the tip of my pinkey at a precise angle to adjust the air flow and radio. I was ready to drive home from my visit to see friends and relatives with our family’s prized heirloom in tow: an oriental rug from my grandparent’s den. For several years, the rug was stored in my aunt’s garage before she and my grandmother graciously offered it to me…all I had to do was take it to the cleaners and Whoa! Old, new to me, ancestral foot trodden rug. When I arrived at the rug shop, I relayed to the owner how much I loved this rug—mainly because it belonged to my grandmother who I love dearly and with whom I share a very special relationship. The memories of time spent in my grandparents’ house made my heart swell with fondness. I also reiterated that the rug had been in a non-climate-controlled garage for a few years, and that I was hoping they could restore it to its past glory. As we rolled it out in the parking lot, let’s just say I saw something that gave the verse “where moth and rust destroy” a whole new meaning. Before our very eyes, live moths scooched their way around the edge of the rug, eating away at the colorful wool, their cocoons decorating the outer rim of the perimeter. I made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a shriek. “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I have to say, I’ve never seen this!” exclaimed the shop owner. I gasped in horror as I thought of being “that customer” whose story could comfort future customers in embarrassing rug situations: “Oh don’t worry sweetie, it’s not near as bad as the live moth lady!”  (Gulp).

The Rug Rigmarole and the Treasures of Our Heart2022-05-07T23:27:56+00:00

Parenting in a Culture of Relative Truth

"Absolute Truth. Absolute Truth.  Everything in the Bible is the Absolute Truth." I can still hear my daughter singing this chant she learned in her two-year-old Sunday school class. My husband and I had her sing it over and over again because of how adorably expressive she was—her clapping hand motions were as loud as she sang. By God’s grace, almost twenty years later, the words of this song are settled deep into her heart. She knows the absolute truth of His Word, trusts in His righteousness for her, and now with a voice that moves me to tears, sings of His truths each week at her campus’ RUF gathering. But in holding firm to the Truth about Jesus, she increasingly finds herself at the crossroads of our rapidly changing culture and the Word of God. As do we all. Our culture today is very different than it was when I began parenting, and certainly from the world in which I grew up.Truth today is not absolute, and the Bible is not seen as authoritative. Instead, pop culture tells us to do "whatever makes you happy" and "you do you." Even Christians have bought into this mindset, sometimes without even realizing it. But the less we hear the true gospel and spend time in God’s Word, the more susceptible we become to subtle twists to the truth.

Parenting in a Culture of Relative Truth2022-05-07T23:28:42+00:00

Bon Appetit! On Salt and the Christian Life

One of my bucket list items, for when we became empty nesters, was to learn Chinese cooking. The exotic smells and flavors have always had a special appeal, and I am easily mesmerized in a Chinese market by the assortment of spices and sauces, most with labels I cannot even read. It turned out that to enroll in a culinary school with Chinese cooking classes would require pre-requisite cooking classes. So began my journey back to college after over 40 years! I did eventually get that Chinese cooking class and then expanded to other Asian cuisines, Mexican and finally classical and bistro French cooking.  I have been taught by wonderful chefs who corrected my knife skills, taught me to taste as I go, showed me how to layer flavors to optimize dishes, and when to stop the cooking so the food will be at its peak flavors. The classes usually require a properly plated presentation to the chef, where a critique is provided to me regarding the balance of flavors. For the first two years, the most common comments from my chefs were “needs more salt.” Even when I decided I had better add extra salt during the cooking process, the same comment sometimes appeared on my evaluation. Salt is a funny ingredient. Of course, it provides saltiness, but it is also an enhancer. It brings out the best of the other spices in the food, heightening the contribution of each without overpowering with its own saltiness. Salt is an essential ingredient regardless of the type of cuisine. It can also be added in a variety of ways -absorbed through boiling water, creating a crust on meats, drying out vegetables, or simply added to a pot of sauce. Salt is referenced in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, when He instructs His disciples to be salt in the world. Matthew 5:13 says “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Bon Appetit! On Salt and the Christian Life2022-05-07T23:29:26+00:00
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