I Want More Beauty

These past few years have been hard on our family. I see the Lord at work, and while this is an anchor of hope, I’d be lying if I said this head knowledge always translates to my heart. I struggle to believe He’s near while everything in me feels abandoned. We are a family of deep intense feelers, and we all process our feelings in different ways. My husband and I feel remarkably underqualified in communicating our own feelings in healthy ways, while at the same time trying to figure out how to teach our children to do the same. In moments of desperation, I ask God why so much has to exhaust us relationally, and why He allows marriage and parenting—even with all of the joys—to be so painful. Sometimes I even wonder if it’s worth it to keep my heart in the fight. A Necessary Cutting A few years ago, my father-in-law, a retired forester, cut our azalea bushes down almost to the main stem. It saddened me to agree to it because they were so green and full. Or at least I thought they were. Cutting them seemed counterintuitive, but I learned soon enough that outside appearances don’t always reveal what’s truly below the surface. Even though I was afraid cutting them back would do irreparable damage, I agreed, trusting his expertise. When he was finished, I saw the true state of the health of our bushes. What was left was nothing but dry, brittle sticks. I wondered, “What if we’ve cut away all the beauty and all we’ll ever have now is dead twigs? At least there were flowers on the outside!”He then showed me the evidence of life inside the branches and explained that since all the foliage on the outside had been cut away, the bush can now get the light it needs to grow.

I Want More Beauty2022-05-07T23:14:31+00:00

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of Covenant College

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 Derek Halvorson, president of Covenant College. Christina: Can you share a bit of the history of Covenant College? How did it come to be the PCA’s college? Derek: Covenant College was founded in 1955 in Pasadena, California. (There is a longer story about its founding that I won’t tell now.) In 1956, the college moved to St. Louis and took up residence on the same campus as the newly established Covenant Theological Seminary (so the college is the “older sister” institution). In 1964, the college moved to Lookout Mountain. (Again, there is a longer story about the move.)  The college came into the PCA as a part of the 1982 Joining and Receiving between the PCA and the RPCES. It’s because of that older tie to the RPCES that the college has always drawn students from places—like Seattle/Tacoma, Colorado, Philadelphia, Delaware, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C.—that are outside of the PCA’s historic areas of concentration in the South. Christina: What is the college experience like at Covenant? What makes it unique for students who attend?...

Prayer and Partnerships: A Profile of Covenant College2022-05-07T23:15:16+00:00

The Sins We Love to Hate

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the recently released movie Rocketman, which chronicles the life of openly gay and quite flamboyant British rock star, Elton John. The article exposed that the Russian government had removed all of the homosexual love scenes from the movie since Russian law interprets these as “lewd acts” and considers them lawbreaking. Although I’m not sure that outlawing sin is the best way for believers to suppress our own sinful desires, let alone mandate that non-believers do the same, I was kind of thankful for this declaration since I believe that the Bible defines homosexual sex as sin. To be clear, however, the Holy Spirit is the one who confronts our sin and moves us to repent of it. He also moves us to believe in the power of the atonement received by the Lord Jesus on behalf of our sin and fights in and through us against sin that remains both in us and around us. But, nonetheless, my response got me wondering and made me think: why am I so on-board with the Russians here? I guess a better question is: why am I not up in arms about other sins that are so prevalent in our culture?...

The Sins We Love to Hate2022-05-07T23:17:44+00:00

A Letter to My Daughter’s Birth Mother

In a world of seven and a half billion people, it seems impossible that my words will ever find you. Still, they've been on my heart for years now and today I feel compelled to send them out wherever they may go. Maybe they will find someone else who needs to hear them, or maybe, the same sovereign hand that brought a precious baby to me will bring these words back to the one who bore her. So I send them out and trust that God will do with them whatever He sees fit. You have sent out and trusted in far more unimaginable and enormous ways than I can ever comprehend.This is why I write. She is playing on the floor beside me, the one who has your eyes and your smile, and your laugh. I don't know your name, and you don't know mine, but those small pieces of you I do know—I know them so very well. They are memorized like a piece of my own heart now.You must be so beautiful, because she is. My husband sometimes says that there is an empty seat at our table, meaning maybe there is still another child out there for our family. He does this to be funny, in truth. But I admit to sometimes noticing that empty chair. Except it's not a child who is missing, in my mind. No matter how much she smiles, your empty chair in her world will always be there.Loss is like a haunting. It's a vital cord being cut, the ends left loose, never to be retied again this side of eternity. That cord searches for its other end nevertheless, with a gaping openness where there should be closure. Sometimes it looks like seeing a face in a crowd that isn't there. I remember searching for my own mother's face when she left this earth too early, and I have to wonder: are you on the other side of the world today haunted by the absence of a little girl? Do you see an empty chair too and wonder?...

A Letter to My Daughter’s Birth Mother2022-05-07T23:18:43+00:00

A Prayer for Back to School

It’s that time of year again.  Yellow buses practice their circuitous routes, stores brim with school supplies, and teachers adorn their rooms with inviting bulletin boards and welcoming smiles.  Back to school is officially upon us. I ended the summer reading through the Psalms and Proverbs.  As I drank in the wisdom of these two books, certain passages in particular have encouraged and directed my hopes for my children as they head back to school.  These verses have shaped my prayers and given words to the longings of my heart. As my children spend less time in my presence, I am thankful that I can bring all my concerns and cares before the Lord in prayer. Lord, I pray that my children would understand their need for Jesus and rejoice in the good news of the Gospel. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to GOD, the Lord, belong deliverances from death (Psalms 68:19-20). Lord, I pray that my children will love learning; that their hearts would seek to understand the world you have created.  The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly (Proverbs 15:14).

A Prayer for Back to School2022-05-07T23:19:34+00:00

A Christian’s Quest

One theme common to many great stories is the idea of the quest. Any time the author takes the character on a journey, you can be sure there will be some sort of growth and self-discovery to follow. Whether it is Huck Finn rafting down the Mississippi or Bilbo Baggins making his way through Middle Earth, quests make for exciting reading.Most quests and adventures include the same elements: the character making the journey, the place they are going, the stated reason to go there, challenges and trials along the way, and finally, the discovery. What was the real reason they needed to make this trip? As Christ-followers, participants in God’s greater, grander story, we have quests of our own. This journey called “sanctification” can be a wild and wooly one. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn from someone else, who also went on a quest of her own? Sisters, meet Sarah. Sarah’s Journey We are introduced to this woman, originally called Sarai, whose name means “princess,” along with her husband Abram. She doesn’t seem like a candidate for a heroine; she’s just an ordinary woman, whose husband springs some news on her one day: Pack up. We’re moving.Whoa! I’m sure her first questions were the same as ours would be. Where? And why? And that brings us to parts 2 and 3 of our necessary requirements. Sarah is leaving the only home she has ever known and is going to the promised land. The reason was given to her husband. “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.” Was Sarah excited? Was she nervous? She was about to begin the adventure of a lifetime! Was this journey of hope and expectation going to be life-changing? What was at the other end? Would Canaan welcome these travelers?

A Christian’s Quest2022-05-07T23:20:19+00:00

Corporate Prayer Doesn’t Have to be Hard

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great English pastor of the 18th century, is commonly honored as the “Prince of Preachers”. But, Mr. Spurgeon was among the first to give credit where credit is due: he considered the faithful, praying members of his church to be “the powerhouse of this church.” The “engine room” of the London Metropolitan Tabernacle, as he called it, was the basement where people gathered on their knees asking the Lord for His blessing. According to Spurgeon, the prayer meeting was the spiritual thermometer of the church as “souls stormed the celestial city with the might of their intercession.” Priority of Corporate Prayer If we were able to take a measurement, what do you think would be the average spiritual temperature of churches today—a healthy body temperature of 98.6 or a feverishly high reading exceeding 100 degrees? If prayer meetings are the accurate spiritual gauge, Spurgeon might say that many churches (certainly not all!) are languishing on life support in ICU. It’s time for the church, and for Christians everywhere, to take stock of its priority for prayer and honestly ask ourselves some hard questions. Could it be we live powerless lives, and attend powerless churches, because we’ve given up the vibrant prayer gathering in favor of a church-wide supper, committee meeting, or an extra Bible lecture? There’s nothing wrong with those good activities, but the trade is a rip-off. What could be gained if we once again stoked the fires of the prayer engine room in churches and homes across America? In one word: change.The change that’s so desperately needed in our world simply will not happen by casting a vote, rearranging our financial portfolios, or shouting on social media. Only God’s divine power can bring deep-rooted change. Change happens as God performs His work through the powerhouse of corporate prayer...

Corporate Prayer Doesn’t Have to be Hard2022-05-07T23:21:08+00:00

How to Choose a Bible Study

Many of us who love God and his word will soon be planning for fall Bible studies. Along with organizing volunteers and coffee pots, we will be making an important decision: what bible study resource do we use? Other than a familiar author’s name or referral by a friend, how do we choose well? What should we be thinking about when choosing a bible study? Asking four questions can point us in the right direction. First, what is the author’s view of scripture? Second, what does the author do to lead you into the text? Third, what does the author do to lead the text into you? And fourth, who is the hero of the story? Author’s View of Scripture First what is the author’s view of scripture? One of the easiest ways to know if the author thinks the text itself is most important is whether or not you are directed to actually read it. This must always be our first step with the word. Even if it is a familiar passage, we must first get back into the context and hear the words afresh before we begin our study.Next, care must be taken to accurately exegete, or interpret each passage. Verses should be studied and explained within their original context, not pulled out to make an unrelated point. Authors who view the scriptures as authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit will point you to read the text first and will handle it with care...

How to Choose a Bible Study2022-05-07T23:21:54+00:00
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