Small Acts of Faithfulness

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST I remember marveling at how small it was, that tiny little coffin. It still wasn’t real. 4 months old. Was he really gone? Was my friend actually mourning her first child? I have never felt so helpless, so unable to do anything to help. As I stood at the cemetery, I heard a familiar voice begin to speak. I couldn’t see him, but I’d recognize that kind voice with a slight lisp anywhere. He spoke of God’s love and hope amidst maybe the worst tragedy a young mother could suffer. As I looked around at my co-workers, most of them unbelievers, my heart breathed a sigh of relief. That familiar voice belonged to a youth pastor I encountered in my teen years. This soft-spoken, kind, humble man was a pastor at a friend’s church when I was in high school. We were never particularly close, but his presence was God’s gift to me (and many others) that day. God was there in this seemingly hopeless situation using this man to bring my friend (and myself) the comfort we both needed. I saw him a few months later, and thanked him for his message on that sad day, but he will never know just how much his presence meant to me in that season of my life. You see, that year was full of tragedy for my family. My father-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and passed within a few months; my mother-in-law’s health was failing; and my son’s nine-year-old classmate had suddenly passed away from complications with the flu. My children were young- five and eight-and while we were trying to help them navigate all of this loss, I was unknowingly mourning these young deaths as if they were my own children. Recently, I reflected on this pastor’s seemingly small role in my life...

Small Acts of Faithfulness2022-05-04T23:25:55+00:00

God’s Work in Our Weakness

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST Recently, my English students responded to the prompt, “What type of weather represents your personality?” Now, I really try to journal with my students, but I often struggle to get out from under my grading to take part. But this prompt was different. I really wanted to write about this one, or did I? Literally seconds into my journaling, I realized that I was not a sunny day, or even a soft blanket of snow. My life-long loathing of certain parts of my temperament came flooding back, and my best answer was a storm, yes with lightning, maybe a bit of hail? Ouch. As a few of my students and I discovered— or were reminded—personalities can be complex. Sometimes, we might even wish we had a different one altogether.  When I consider my own temperament, I often question why God chooses to use seemingly difficult dispositions to accomplish his plan. Well, we may never have the answer to that question this side of heaven, but there is good news! The fathers and mothers of the faith were human too—personality flaws and all. The Bible shows us that God uses all his children for his Kingdom purposes— whether we view the glass as half-empty or half-full, whether we are outgoing or shy, whether we go with the flow or like things to stay the same. And, as we’ll soon see, even when we stumble and fall into sin, God works through us then too. Relating to Those Who’ve Walked Before I have certain traits, tendencies, weaknesses, and sins I would like to change in myself. I long to be more content. I wish I didn’t have a tendency toward despair. I desire to be rid of my fear of failure or rejection. I’ve confessed my selfishness with David who mourned: “For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me…As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!” (Psalm 40: 12,17)....

God’s Work in Our Weakness2022-05-04T23:02:07+00:00

Where do Your Burdens Carry You?

Our burdens carry us somewhere. Where do your burdens carry you?  2 Corinthians 12 records a burden Paul carried, a thorn in his flesh. Three times Paul pleaded with God to remove it. But to keep Paul humble, God would not remove it. Paul’s response was to see his suffering as a reason for rejoicing because it revealed Christ’s power at work. “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) A Present-Day Example When I think of people today who have carried burdens for long periods of times, I think of Joni Eareckson Tada. If you have read any of her books you know that Joni attempted a dive into shallow water in the Chesapeake Bay. The moment her head crunched against the sand bottom, she knew she was in trouble. She recalls feeling like her life was over when she learned she was permanently paralyzed. Joni was a Christian at the time and spent those early months praying for healing, getting anointed with oil, confessing every sin that she could recall and attending one healing service after another, until finally she whimpered, “I cannot live this way. I’m so lost. God, show me how to live.” Her burdens drove her to Christ where for over 50 years she has lived in a wheelchair, and describes her life as dying daily to self and rising with Jesus. Joni wrote this about her life: “A ‘no’ answer to my request for a miraculous physical healing has meant purged sin, a love for the lost, increased compassion, stretched hope, an appetite for grace, an increase of faith, a happy longing for heaven, a desire to serve, a delight in prayer, and a hunger for His Word. Oh, bless the stern schoolmaster that is my wheelchair!” The thorn in Joni’s side has never been removed. Her burden carried her straight to Christ’s arms...

Where do Your Burdens Carry You?2022-05-04T23:36:23+00:00

Small but Mighty: God’s Work in the Life of Gideon and In Us

Have you ever considered yourself small, weak, and insufficient? In our human eyes, we often view our smallness as negative and limiting, but if we look closely, we see that our God-given limits can be the means for us to grow in our faith and dependence upon God.In the book of Judges, Gideon referred to himself as the “least” in his family. Gideon might have felt small, but God referred to him as a "mighty warrior” and he is listed alongside other men and women of faith in Hebrews 11. God’s Work Through Gideon In Judges 6-8, consider the following scene: Fearing the Midianites, Gideon is afraid to winnow his wheat out in the open air, where the breeze catches the grain and separates it from the chaff. He is afraid of doing that and becoming too visible to enemy eyes. As a result, we find Gideon crouching down, trying to thresh his wheat in the pit of a winepress. Suddenly an angel speaks to him. I imagine this encounter probably made him jump out of his skin! Gideon referred to himself as “the least” likely, which meant that Gideon was economically and/or socially one of the poorest members in his tribe. Judges paints a picture of Gideon as shy and reserved. He also seems quite unassertive in the way he asks God to show him some unusual signals and signs. In his book Judges for You, Tim Keller expands our thinking with a different perspective. He believes Gideon’s response came from an earnest, humble heart seeking God’s direction. Keller sees Gideon teaching us how we need to press in and ask God to give us a big picture of who He is.[1]

Small but Mighty: God’s Work in the Life of Gideon and In Us2022-05-07T23:05:12+00:00

I’m a Mess-terpiece

That was my conclusion the other day when I mentally reviewed footage of my most moronic moments. Once I was hosting a meal after a funeral, and in trying to light candles, I set the tablecloth on fire. Another time I was having a wonderful conversation in our living room with an honored guest, until the pet chinchilla got out, and the dog got in. One of us did not survive the chaos. I was going to bring punch to your anniversary party, but I took the wrong highway exit and got there 45 minutes late. Here’s that book I borrowed—it was as thrilling as you had said! But I did have a tiny incident with the grape jelly while I was reading it. Youth group is arriving to meet at our house, and so are the plumber and the electrician…. Time does not permit to tell of my doomed drive to the next county to deliver an important document (it never got there), or of why I nearly threw up on a nun in an airplane. No, nor of how I closed a conversation with someone I wanted to impress by saying, “Thank you please!”  And there was the time—I’m sorry, times— when I fell down in front of a hundred people.The only suave thing about me is that I don’t blush, though my self-esteem is curdling like the carton of milk I left in the trunk of the car. Why don’t I just hide under the covers to avoid doing some real damage? Sometimes that has seemed a good option. I’ve always found it hard to feel forgiveness for doing something stupid that is not a sin. Oh, wretched woman that I am, who will rescue me from this body of sin and death and fender benders and lost house keys? How can I repent of stupidity? I can take my sins to the foot of the cross, but I can only shudder when I remember how things ended after letting my nephew try to walk in his new leg cast. Is there grace for innocent blunders? If so, why do they cause me to sit up in bed at 2 AM and clap my hand to my forehead, whereas my memories of being angry or feeling lust allow me to sleep like a baby?

I’m a Mess-terpiece2022-05-07T23:08:18+00:00

Good News for the Underqualified Mom

My first job out of college was at a domestic violence shelter.I was twenty-one years old, newly married, and the ink on my college diploma had barely dried when I took the job as a counselor for women who were caught in violent relationships. Though I had the heart and desire to help these women, I was sorely prepared. Though I had learned a lot about the helping field in college, I had little experience.I was underqualified. I knew it and the women I helped knew it.Fast forward a number of years later when I was expecting my first child. I had read dozens of parenting books. I had taught parenting classes as part of my counseling work. I had talked to every mom-friend I knew to get their advice on various aspects of motherhood. But when I held my newborn son in my arms, I knew it. I think he knew it too.I was underqualified. Incapable. Insufficient.Underqualified MomI’ve always been an independent sort. When I have a goal, I work hard and pursue it. I may seek advice or assistance along the way, but ultimately, I know if I want to get to where I’m headed, I have to do the work that’s required. I faced motherhood the same way. I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person; I like to be prepared. So I bought all the books, studied all the methods, and read all the research.I applied myself to motherhood the same way I did a project or paper in college. I put everything into it the way I did my work. But unlike other things in life, motherhood did not fit so neatly into a box. My children did not always conform to what the books said. The methods often failed. The research often turned out meaningless.As a result, I was humbled. Like the stretch marks forever etched in my skin, motherhood stretched me beyond what I was capable of within myself. I learned that I was weak and insufficient and couldn’t rely on my own resources or strength. I had to face the truth that I couldn’t depend on my own wisdom. I couldn’t find help and hope in methods. I couldn’t make life work for me.If there’s one thing motherhood has taught me, it’s that I can’t do it on my own. I need help from outside myself. I need Jesus.

Good News for the Underqualified Mom2022-05-07T23:36:08+00:00
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