In the I.M.A.G.E. of God

STEPHANIE HUBACH | CONTRIBUTOR Elementary school seems to be the time period when we learn all about different forms of communication. Letter writing. Short stories. Poetry. My younger son Tim, who has Down syndrome, once graced me with a school Valentine poem/project that read something like this: Roses are blue, violets are red. Be careful this crocodile, doesn’t bite off your head. That’s the kind of poetry that only an 8-year-old boy can create. (Thank goodness Hallmark doesn’t hire 8-year-old boys to write their Valentine cards!) One poetic form that I remember learning, and that the Bible actually employs in the Psalms, is the acrostic. Miriam Webster defines an acrostic this way: “a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters (such as the initial or final letters of the lines) taken in order form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet.” Over the years, I’ve written many pieces on the image of God. For a change of pace this time, let’s try an acrostic. Acrostics can make it easy to remember things—so maybe this format will help all of us to remember, throughout the year, what it means to be created in the image of God. I.M.A.G.E.

In the I.M.A.G.E. of God2022-05-04T00:39:52+00:00

Freedom from the Crush of Comparison

ELIZABETH GARN|GUEST I stood in the corner, watching the women around me laugh like old friends, and hoping that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. Not all women’s ministry gatherings were this hard, but I was a new seminary student and these women were student wives. Soon-to-be pastor’s wives. They seemed godly, poised, and were preparing for important ministry roles. I was awkward, nervous, and still figuring things out. The women that day were welcoming, but no matter how friendly they were, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t belong. It was an awful feeling, but it wasn’t a matter of kindness, it was a matter of comparison. You see, when I walked into that room, I compared myself to all the other women and determined that I was lacking. I wasn’t outgoing, pretty, or holy enough to be a part of that group. I decided they couldn’t possibly like me, and it hurt. Comparison does that. It’s messy and painful and leaves a wake of destruction in its path. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely common.  The Crush of Comparison When we compare ourselves to the people around us, we’re evaluating and ranking them to decide where we, and they, stand in relation to everyone else. We compare our marriages, parenting, or our careers. Anything we do becomes fair game when we compare ourselves and, in the process, someone always gets hurt. Sometimes we hurt others because comparison causes us to judge them harshly. Other times, however, we get hurt because we decide we’re not enough. Every time, community is destroyed. There are lots of different reasons we compare ourselves, but for many of us, the cause is rooted in our purpose. When we don’t understand who God created us to be, we fall back on ideas that we have created ourselves. We watch other people around us, take in messages from books and talks, even observe the women in the Bible, and create our own picture of what a godly woman looks like. We start to focus on what we think we’re supposed to do, ways we’re supposed to contribute, rather than focusing on who God is. We invent standards and then hold ourselves and others up to that; we compare, and the result is wounded hearts, broken relationships, and destroyed community...

Freedom from the Crush of Comparison2022-05-04T23:27:52+00:00

Taking a Long, Hard Look at the Bookshelf

HOLLY MACKLE|CONTRIBUTOR Oh how I love to read all the things. When a friend asks me what my favorite book is I feel a tightening in my chest, sweaty palms, and the unmistakable tremor of panic. Did she just ask me which child I prefer?? I typically freeze. Sometimes it’s awkward. Sometimes, if I’m feeling kicky, I toss out a line to see if the asker will bite. “Solely memoirs of SNL cast members.” “Dark political satire.” “Cookbooks before bed.” Sometimes I’m a jerk and I utter the (let’s face it, totally arrogant) response, “I read pretty widely,” before shifting the question back to them, “What kind of book do you like?” (Obviously it’s far preferable to riff off something a friend is interested in and ask if they’ve read a similar title rather than be put before that specific firing squad.) So since you (did not, and thank you for not) ask, for this specific enCourage audience, I’ll say I love books that trace the perseverance of God’s faithful. I’ll weep alongside the real life Sheldon Vanauken, or feel my heart beating out of my chest every time Francine Rivers’ fictional Hadassah narrowly escapes. I’ll eye roll at just how much contemporary Christian thought is borrowing from Augustine’s Confessions, and yell at the prison guards in Darlene Diebler Rose’s Evidence Not Seen. Give me the thread of redemption any old day, and please oh please allow me to see God’s faithful holding the line, from one to the next, shoulder to shoulder, generation after generation. As I glance at my bookshelves, one sad reality comes to light: while God’s faithful are all throughout history, real or fictionalized, my “wide” reading of their stories lacks the full spectrum of his faithfulness at best, and is stunted and narrow at worst. There are gaping holes on my bookshelves that are not so in God’s authorship of redemptive history. One of those holes hovers right over a wicked period in our country’s past, in the history of African American slavery. As I looked into titles that fit the bookshelf gap, the work of author, biographer, and former slave herself, Octavia Albert, practically jumped off the page. Mrs. Albert was a believer, a teacher who viewed her profession as worship, and a curator of the voices and God-stories of others—that’s three checkmarks in the “someone I’d like to know” column...

Taking a Long, Hard Look at the Bookshelf2022-05-04T23:07:14+00:00

Are You an Image Builder or an Image Bearer?

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29 I confess to you that I am an Image Builder. I want you to notice me…so I build my image. I want you to accept me…so I build my image. I want you to love me…so I build my image. Build. Build. Build. I think there’s a little part of all of us (and sometimes a big part) that longs to be noticed, appreciated, or even admired. So, we work hard to show only our best side, to reveal what we think looks impressive, and to create an image that appears to be perfect. We sometimes put pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder, stay up later, get up earlier, read more, learn more, exercise more, post more on social media. The list goes on and on. All the while, the image making continues. It’s a drive that is never satisfied. It continually whispers, “You need to do better; you need to be better.” Image building is exhausting and burdensome. Build. Build. Build...

Are You an Image Builder or an Image Bearer?2022-05-07T23:09:08+00:00

Created to Create

The other day I spent a few hours painting. If I had said that years ago you could be sure I was referring to something productive like painting a room in the house. I would have been redoing ill-conceived decorating choices or cleaning up scuff marks from our family of small children. It would have been purposeful. Needed. Practical. There is simply no way I would have been able to sit, surrounded by craft-store acrylics and a mason jar of brushes, to simply to create something. Not when there were so many other, more important things that needed my attention. But that is exactly what I did, and I loved every moment. Made to Create Spending any appreciable amount of time just creating says a lot about how I’ve changed over the years, to be sure, but it says more about how my theology has changed. You see for a long time, I’ve viewed the Christian life as a sort of to-do list. A relationship with the Lord, absolutely, but defined by acts. I viewed my status as a Christian woman, a wife, a mom, a sister, a friend, all as being determined by what I did and by what I brought to the table. There is an aspect of obedience to the Christian life, what we do does matter, but for a long time that was all there was for me. Do more. Try harder. Hope it’s enough and probably do a little more just to be sure. It took me years to finally understand that we were created for more than just doing—we were created to create.

Created to Create2022-05-08T00:00:44+00:00

How. Much. More. Abortion and the Line of False Choice

Sometimes the most unusual phrases capture my attention. Reading through the Old Testament the other day, I ran across the command, “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”  I was immediately struck by those words. I have been unable to shake them from my mind. In particular, I’ve been contemplating how this phrase relates to the recent passage of a law in the State of New York legalizing—and indeed, actually celebrating—third trimester abortion. Wondering if I understood the passage rightly, I went to multiple sources and, of course, received multiple interpretations as to the meaning. Learning that this phrase appears not one, but three times, in the Old Testament, I also found that it appears in different contexts. While some consider it to be a mistake in the translation of the text, others suggest that it is written in reaction to a pagan ritual, while still others see it as comparable in usage to “how much more” statements which are made in both the Old and New Testaments. (I will be working off of the premise of the “how much more” perspective.) “How Much More” Applied One example of Jesus’ “how much more” statements occurs in Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus tells his hearers to consider the lilies of the field—and how God cares for them. “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith?” In other words, “If God cares for his creation as a whole, how much more does he care for every one of his image bearers?”

How. Much. More. Abortion and the Line of False Choice2022-05-08T00:01:35+00:00
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