March 8, 2017

a day with women who know true freedom


In Luke 13, Jesus is teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman is there, bent over, physically unable to straighten herself; she has been suffering for eighteen years. Jesus sees her and calls for her, and she steps forward, staring at the floor, feeling the eyes of the crowd on her body. Standing in front of Jesus, she strains to look up at Him. He says to her, “You are freed from your disability.” You are freed.

She begins to praise God, pausing as Jesus asks the ruler of the synagogue, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (v. 16). The woman will not forget these words. Jesus is defending her dignity in a place where women traditionally have been shunned; He is showing the leaders His power, showing her His care. He is declaring her to be a daughter of Abraham, an heir according to promise, part of the family of God. Precious woman, welcome to the sisterhood.

We are the women Christ sets free: women born into a broken world, into aching bodies with bitter hearts, with minds bent on our own way; women who come to Christ with desires so crooked, we could never straighten ourselves. We stand because of Him. We stand amazed by Him. We stand aligned with Him.


A Day Without a Woman

Today, March 8, many communities will be impacted by “A Day Without a Woman,” a protest organized by the same grassroots group behind January’s Global Women’s March. For twenty-four hours, women will disappear across the country and wait for the world to notice. They will refrain from work and abstain from buying items online or in stores. By removing themselves from the economy, women will demand the world acknowledge their significance.

Some people will be drawn to this event to protest the marginalization of disabled women, misogyny, domestic abuse, racism, and other incredibly important issues. However, as Christian women, we need to understand that if we stand with this strike, our actions will affirm the movement’s Unity Principles, especially the founders’ unbiblical views of gender, marriage, and reproduction. Since these views clearly contradict Scripture, we cannot stand for them.


Women Christ Set Free

The organizers of “A Day Without a Woman” proclaim, “We must free ourselves and our society. . . . ” But we are women who have found true freedom in Christ—women given life through His strength.

We are women who were dead in our sin, who have been resurrected by God’s power, who have become heirs of the crucified King. He who did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped gave up His rights so we could be righteous. He laid down His life in love.

We are women God created in His image, designed with dignity and value, who cling to the work of the gospel. Although the world does not always view the worth of women, we seek to reflect the respect and mercy we received at the cross, “esteeming others as better than ourselves, seeking to build them up,” embracing the beauty of grace.

We are women who uphold the Creator-God’s design of humanity, who see God’s concept of “male and female” as part of His magnificent, purposeful plan. We are women who maintain marriage to be “sacred and binding,” between one man and one woman, and we celebrate and support it as such. We are women who see the worth God has given human life, how precious it is in all stages and seasons, so we work to protect it “from the point of conception until rightful death.”

We are women who have been born again, women who bend our knees on the Solid Rock, who humble ourselves in solidarity, “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” Thank you, Lord, for the joy of this sisterhood.

In Luke 13, we meet a woman who, after eighteen years of suffering, has only minutes left before she is healed. When Jesus calls her, she walks toward Him, and the last painful steps she takes lead her straight to Christ. He is her finish line, her long-hoped for Healer, and we are women who walk this same way. Each step we take sends us gloriously closer to seeing our Savior face-to-face. Fully free, at last.

A Day with Women Who Know True Freedom was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com. 

January 27, 2017

facing heartache on earth; finding hope in the heavens

My first semester as a full-time teacher, my grandfather, the rocket scientist, came to the classroom and explained the concept of propulsion systems to a group of five- to eight-year-olds. It was a presentation he had polished by teaching generations: He had taught my grandmother’s fourth graders and my mom’s fifth graders, and on that Friday, he was going to meet a few of mine.


Looking Toward the Heavens

Neither the students nor Grandpa quite knew what to expect when he entered the women’s center, the safehouse that provided refuge for these kids, their brothers and sisters, and their mothers. The students sat in a semicircle on the rug awaiting his arrival, swinging their feet against chair legs, their muddy tennis shoes hanging over a map of the world. As Grandpa sat down and held up an old poster of a space shuttle on launch day, they leaned forward to look at the mountainous billows of smoke and steam and power left behind. These students, little ones who had seen far too much in their short lifetimes, had never been exposed to anything like this. They were captivated.

As Grandpa pulled out a brightly colored balloon and began to blow it up, the students watched, wide-eyed. As soon as it was completely filled with air, Grandpa winked at me and let it fly. After it fell behind the bookshelves, we began to hunt for higher ceilings. We took the kids outside, and I found my eighty-year-old grandfather kneeling on cold concrete, picking up a kindergartner’s feet and placing them on a launch pad. The students standing in line stared at the stomp rocket then looked to the clouds, focusing their eyes on the bluest of skies. They could suddenly see beyond the security cameras and concrete walls. Here was hope, soaring toward the heavens.

Several months ago, I came across some of the artwork the students had done in response to my grandparents’ visit—several rainbow-colored solar systems, smiling astronauts in space suits, a sun that glowed in the dark. In August, a few days after I stopped by his house to show him those pictures, I received the phone call that my grandfather had gone to be with Jesus.


Why Is It So Dark?

This world had never really been his home. My grandfather had worked at NASA during the first moon walk, but over the years, he had come to see what a small step for man that was compared to the giant leap taken by the Son of God, who gave up the majesty of heaven to stand on earthly soil. My grandfather’s Hero did not place a stake in the sand and leave the planet alone, but laying down His life, He restored what sin had made a “magnificent desolation.” My grandfather never stopped thanking God for this redemption.

The morning my grandparents visited the classroom, after we passed around snapshots of the solar system, a third grader paused to study a picture of earth, its perimeter fringed with the rich black of the galaxy. His hand shot into the air, and he asked, “If the sun is in space, why is it so dark there?” Years later, I feel the weight of that question. The impact of Jesus’ entrance on the atmosphere was immeasurable on every scale, and yet, the radiant eternal hope He provided has not removed the present heartache of death.

When my health hit one of its lowest points, I lived in my grandparents’ guest room. Night after night after night, as I experienced excruciating physical pain, Grandpa knelt beside my bed, gray head bowed, humbling himself before the God of the universe. I did not know then that he was teaching me what I would need to do to endure the present darkness: to press my knees into the ground and put all of my hope in the Son.

He Rules Over It All

Before Genesis 3, before death and disappointment and domestic violence and division, before man’s disobedience caused the consequences of evil, God created the heavens and the earth. The world was good because He was good, and He did not change by the end of the third chapter. Those thin pages carry the framework of the ages.

When the Apollo 8 crew orbited the moon, their message was broadcast against the backdrop of what has been considered one of America’s most turbulent years. As the three astronauts approached the lunar sunrise, they took turns reading familiar words, and the profundity of the passage broke through the static: “In the beginning, God.”

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him . . . and his righteousness to children’s children to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all (Ps. 103:11, 17–19).
Facing Heartache on Earth; Finding Hope in the Heavens was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com. 

July 12, 2016

desert season












The summer after I turned seventeen, I spent my days sprawled out on a wooden bench, wilting behind the glass of my treatment center's medical sauna. As I stared out at patients preparing for their own sessions, I watched the clock and wiped away the damage that 150 degrees can do. It was an ironic setting for a desert season.

While in the sauna, I was allowed a glass of water, some white towels in a stack, and a pair of clean socks. Any other possessions were to be left in a locker. Twice a day, I would give the nurses my glasses, hair ties, and sandals, but I would keep a small piece of paper and slip it into my pocket. It was a prescription folded over twice, wrapped in cellophane, and signed by the center's medical director.

The clinic had forbidden the use of any electronic devices: cell phones, walkie-talkies, smartwatches. After I had been there for several weeks, my doctor made an exception. I was the lone teenager loose in the building, his only pediatric patient, a kid in tremendous pain. Perhaps he knew I would need more than physical healing when he pulled out his prescription pad and put his approval in writing. I carried his note with me into the sauna and brought along an iPod so classic it didn't contain the warning light that shines when the device can no longer withstand the heat.

I wasn't sure I could withstand the heat. It was suffocating to sit alone in that space. I was regularly put on oxygen, but it was the circumstances that often made me feel like I could not breathe. My illness became a lonely place to live.

Once I had the prescription, I would lean back in the sauna and press play on my iPod, allowing the opening sequence of Revive Our Hearts to fill the silence. I sipped on water filled with tri-salts and received truth soaked with grace. I listened as Nancy taught from Scripture, telling the redemptive story of a big God, a sovereign God, a God who saw my situation. This God did not spare His own Son from the suffering of the world but sent Him into the middle of it.

Immanuel. That's what His Son was called: "God with us."

GOD with us. God WITH us. God with US.

He did not leave me alone.

A Different Kind of Detox

The first few weeks that I was there, as I would step out of the sauna and walk toward the shower, the nurses would tell me that they could smell the toxins on my skin. I scrubbed harder to get the scent off my body though I knew the source was beyond the surface. As I returned for sessions and continued listening to ROH, I started to smell the bitterness, the discontentment, the self-sufficiency that was seeping out of my pores. I wanted to detox the fear I was wearing on my skin, the despair that left me wondering if there was any purpose to what I was suffering. At some point, somehow, there was joy, as Nancy taught about the blood of Christ that washes away our filth, about the way that Christ fills up our emptiness with hope, about the mercy of God that completely cures our sin-sickness.

I had been struggling with physical illness for a long time. For ten years I faced worsening symptoms, and my family took me to doctor after doctor, some of the best in the nation, specialists who would take hours to study my case only to refer me on to someone else in their field or provide a treatment solution that did not last.

We moved away from the home where my brothers and I had grown up, and when my symptoms became too severe, I was forced to withdraw from my high school. My identity, built on accomplishments at school, fell to pieces; my friends seemed far; my future lacked the certainty of a world I once thought I could control.

Desperation changed my relationship with Christ. It was when it seemed like I had nothing that Jesus became everything.


Anything That Makes Me Need God . . .

I was not diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease until a decade had passed, and in the process, I saw the truth of Nancy's words, even when they came wrapped in the messy reality of everyday life. "Anything that makes me need God is a blessing." I believed that. Then I began treatment for Lyme and started to slip back into some old habits, placing my trust in the doctor's hands and grasping at the hope of physical healing.

God has been merciful to this slow-learning patient.

Over and over again, I have listened to the lies that say a life without pain, a life without loneliness, a life without Lyme disease will bring the most fulfillment. I have banked my faith on blood tests and pill bottles, and when relief does not come, when I wake up with fever or with too much pain to function, the disappointment has been too much to withstand.

In those moments, the Holy Spirit's whispered grace points back to the God who is with us.

He will not leave me alone, and having Christ? It's better than having anything else this world could offer.

Today, I am about five years into my Lyme treatment. I continue to pray for God to restore my health, but even if He doesn't, even if this treatment fails, it doesn't change who God is. He is still good; He is still all-powerful; He is still worthy of all of my worship.

I will always long for health, but if it is sickness that brings me closer to Jesus, then it is a gift, and I am so thankful for it. This God is the one who found me in the desert season; though the heat may press on, there is peace in the soul-satisfying refreshment of His presence. He draws near, and He is enough.

God is with You in Your Desert Season was originally published on ReviveOurHearts.com.