Living Well at 40 to Live Well at 80

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I love being surprised by books.  And I’m not 40 (yet), but my husband is past this mark.  And thanks to Crossway for this title.  I was intending on reading it right after the new year, but that never happened, but it has been perfect timing for me to pick up this book.

John Dunlop has written a great book, mostly for senior citizens, on how to live well and finish strong for the glory of God.  In Wellness for the Glory of God, Dr. Dunlop explores how people above the age of 40 can live well so that they finish well – not only in health, but in many other areas as well.

He does cover physical wellness.  He doesn’t talk about a particular diet, but he does talk about how our aging bodies need certain things to make them work to their highest capacity.  He doesn’t talk over his readers’ heads, but instead offers illustrations and practical steps to stir them up to good deeds in this area.

He covers mental wellness.  I actually think this chapter would be best read by children of aging parents.  This talks a lot of how to keep the mind sharp.  Again, a very practical chapter.

One thing he covers is social wellness.  He offers some advice to the aging adult – focus on others.  He gives tips on how to focus on others, ministering to them, pouring into them, getting out of your comfort zone, passing on knowledge, playing with kids and grandkids.  This is not only social wellness, but is greatly connected to the physical and mental wellness too.

In financial wellness – he covers tips on wills, leaving good financial legacies for your families, and not piles of debt to be a burden to those after you.  HE talks about giving and how that can be a blessing not only to you but also to the ones you give.

Spiritual Wellness is important.  Some aging adults find it difficult to physically be involved in church activities, but he encourages them to not their love of the Word grow dim.  Bible studies, prayer groups in your home, prayer ministries, mentoring.  Don’t spend all of your retirement years thinking you already know everything about the Word, but spend this time deepening your walk with the Lord.

Emotional Wellness concludes the book’s sections.  I know so many elderly who may struggle with two of the things Dunlop mentions: anger and boredom.  Forgiveness is such a crucial thing to emotional wellbeing.  Boredom should never be the case because this world is so big and we have so much at our fingertips.

What I figured from this book is that I need to start pursuing all these areas now – not wait until I’m 60 and my kids are in college.  Start taking these tips to heart and act upon them.  Be healthy.  Be giving.  Be smart with my finances.  And also that God intends us to be whole beings.  If we are healthy on the outside, but never help anyone or pray to our Creator, then our physical wellness doesn’t get us very far.

Whatever stage of life you are in, seek out how to best live ALL of it for God’s glory.

Do You Have Blind Spots?

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Blind Spots

If you are in the church…then you might have figured out that the church isn’t perfect – and everyone in the church isn’t just like you.  The church is made up of sinners who have been redeemed by a gracious God.  Everyone is different, has different opinions, and has different gifts.  So, what are you to do when you have differing opinions (not right or wrong)?

Collin Hansen, guru over at The Gospel Coalition, has written a book to answer such questions.  I found this book difficult to read – not because of how it is written, but that it is so introspective and points to the sin that is in all of our hearts (when wanting our own way).  Thankfully, Collin doesn’t leave his readers there.  He offers the hope of the Gospel and also some ways to apply this grace even in the church.

“And when these differences cohere around the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they work together to challenge, comfort, and compel a needy world with the only that will never fail or fade.” (pg 23)

The hardest thing about differences in the church is everyone always thinks they are right.  This writing by Hansen helps us to see that there are gospel-centered ways to handle our differences, how to engage together with those who are not like-minded, and how not to point fingers.  Pointing fingers doesn’t get you anywhere.

This would be a good read for:

1.  Me…because if I see differences in the church I am quick to point out how I would do things differently or why I don’t think this such and such is working.

2.  Church leaders who seem to have a thriving church – but know that there are differences within their congregations.

3.  Churches on either end of the spectrum.  Maybe you are a church leader who has a congregation that loves missions and serving the poor and has dynamite electric worship with a rocking praise team – but you are really low on theology.  Or maybe you sing out of hymn books, would never use the drums, and barely see any conversions all year – but your people know the Bible.  We are all sinners and desperately need the hope of the Gospel for us to love Jesus and look more like Jesus on Sundays – and every day of the week!

Coffee With Courtney Reissig aka The Accidental Feminist

posted in: Books, Coffee with..., Women | 2

Courtney Reissig Interview

One of the women who have shaped my theological thinking and has been a friend to me the last 8 years is Courtney Reissig.  I first met Courtney in Louisville when we both worked for deans of the SBTS and had some ministry with CBMW.  She then got married and I moved away to Raleigh.

Then I got married, and she moved to Little Rock.  Then we moved to Little Rock.  Even though we were at separate churches, I was glad to meet up with her every now and then to talk life, marriage, parenting, and ministry.

If I still lived in Little Rock, I would probably pick up some coffee and head on over to their house (about a mile from where we used to live), let our boys play, and share this conversation with her in person.  She’s due any day now with another little boy.  Since I’m not in Little Rock, I used modern technology and asked her these questions about her new book, The Accidental Feminist, and about coffee.  You’ll get a chance to hear how writing this book shaped her heart and family and her relationship with her heavenly Father…and about her coffee direction.

Thanks Courtney.

1.  Writing a book is a time-heavy endeavor.  How did you manage 2 toddlers, a husband, and serving in your church – while writing a book?

That’s a question I get often. In all honesty it was by the complete grace of God. The prevailing theme in my life as I wrote the book was unexpected weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9 was very dear to my heart throughout the entire process. It says:
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I got pregnant halfway through writing the book, sadly it was followed by a pretty complicated miscarriage that seemed to drag on. In God’s kindness, I got pregnant again right as the editing process was starting and was fairly sick through most of the editing. There were many days where I thought I would not be able to get it done, but God was faithful to give me words when I needed to write them, and provide the necessary energy to write and think. Practically speaking, this book has been in my head for a long time, so in a lot of ways it flowed out of me primarily because I had done so much thinking and writing about it before I ever had a book contract. Also, my husband was a tremendous blessing in providing me space and time to write. When I wasn’t pregnant, I would get up early in the morning to write and he would get our boys started with the day. I also did a couple of overnight writing retreats and that really helped with getting large chunks of writing done. For the most part, though, the book was written during nap time and in the early morning hours. I just process better earlier in the day, rather than later.
2.  You’ve obviously thought about this topic of feminism much.  What is one new thing you learned in your research for this particular book?
I read a book on the history of first wave feminism towards the end of the process and I was struck by how white the early feminist movement was. One of the dividing lines of the early feminist movement was whether or not they would include African-American women’s issues on their platform. Many of them, largely influenced by the spirit of the age, did not see a need to include African-American women in their fight. I had always known that some early feminists, like Margaret Sanger, wanted to eliminate those she saw as unfit for society (like minorities, disabled people, and the poor), but I didn’t know that within the larger movement there was such a lack of minority representation. That was really interesting to me–and of course, really troubling. It showed me that it’s easy to only think in terms of our own culture and context when we apply truths to our lives without looking at people who are different than us and really trying to understand where they are coming from and how our ideas might be interpreted by them or applied differently to their lives.
3.   The local church is important in this shaping us to look more like Christ.  What is one way that women can be purposeful in their relationships with other women in the church to help each other grow in our womanhood?
I think the primary way woman can be purposeful in their relationships with other women is to take initiative themselves. It’s easy to assume that no one has time for you, or that others aren’t interested in your life, when in reality everyone is waiting for someone to approach them first. I know I do that more often than I should. If we want to see women flourish in their understanding of God and his word and we want to see relationships develop among women, then we have to be willing to make the first move. In my own life, I know my reticence to taking initiative is often owing to fear (which is really pride). I’m afraid of rejection or afraid that the person will think I’m too needy. But I am needy. We all are. We need the body of Christ to encourage each other, fight sin together, and remain steadfast in the faith. One of the encouraging things that I see in the local church today is the desire women have to study God’s word. That is one practical way relationships can be forged, through intentional study of the Bible together. There are many more, of course, but that is the best place to start.
4.  How did writing this book shape your relationship with your husband and your children?  
That’s a good question. First, with my husband, it really showed me how much he truly supports me. Writing a book is not an isolated effort. Of course, there is a lot of time spent alone as you crank out chapters (which is a challenge for an extrovert like me!), but it’s also about the community that shapes your thoughts. My husband has probably talked more about feminism than he ever thought he would! He is my greatest support, but also my toughest critic. In the early stages of writing, I struggled with his criticism because I took it so personally when he said something didn’t make sense or didn’t sound true. But as we’ve walked through this process together, I’ve learned that because he is my greatest supporter, I can trust his criticism. His critiques are faithful and in my best interest. He’s not out for my evil, but for my good. And he’s a really good editor. If only it didn’t take me so long to appreciate it! With my children, it’s a little different. They are two (and as of right now, my third son is still in utero), so they can’t read yet. But as I researched for the book and learned more about feminism’s influence on men and how our culture perceives them, I became more convinced of the need for understanding the far reaching impact feminism has had on all of us. I want to raise my sons to be men who love God, love and respect women, and love God’s word. That is counter-cultural in a world that expects very little from our men, and it frankly scares me to raise them in a world where they are expected to be either ignorant boys who never grow up or aggressive sexual predators who use women for their own pleasure.
5.  What kind of coffee do you drink?  Or tea?  Maybe more so when you aren’t pregnant.
I do drink coffee. I didn’t drink it during the first 16-17 weeks because I couldn’t stomach anything, especially coffee. But I love coffee in the morning, so I eventually gave in around 20 weeks and started drinking it again. With the twins I didn’t, but since I actually have other kids now I feel like it’s a necessity to function in the morning 🙂 I love Caribou coffee, but we don’t have that here, so I drink the Kroger Columbia blend (to save money). I like it with some milk in it. Since I have gestational diabetes, for a treat, I’ll get a decaf skinny vanilla latte at Starbucks if I’m out for coffee. Normally I get the normal kind. 🙂

Illustrated Faith: Getting Started & Supplies

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Illustrated Faith Getting Started

There is a whole new movement called Illustrated Faith.  Just a group of people wanting to meditate on the Word of God by making their Bibles more colorful.  Really, my Bible has never been more colorful – but here are some real reasons I do it.

I can get easily bored with just reading the Word.  I’ve not found it helpful in retention to read on my iphone.  I read it there – but if I’m really wanting to study and read for retention it needs to be in a quiet place with a writing utensil in hand.

I love creativity.  Being a mom has really sparked new creativity in me.  I’ve always been a creative person, but the last 3 years has brought more of that out in new ways.  I still write and cook – but also doing art for people to get the Word in the homes is something I’m really enjoying.

Meditation on the Word is commanded and a joy.  Right now I’m writing out Deuteronomy in a Journibible (more on that soon) and then meditating on a portion or a truth found in those verses by drawing or cross-referencing (looking for other verses that speaks of the same thing).  Today’s reading sparked an obedience and boundary issue with me – and I wanted to search out the Scriptures to see why God set up the boundaries he did for us and why he demands obedience from his children.

How do you get started in Illustrated Faith.

1.  Get a Bible.  Any Bible will do – but I use a Journaling Bible from Crossway which has wide margins, perfect for journaling (whether writing or drawing).

2. Get a notebook or paper if you don’t want to colorize your Bible.  I understand that may not be your thing.

3.  That’s really all you need, but here are some fun extras: watercolor, markers, colored pencils, stickers, etc.  Its like high school art class all over again!  I didn’t love it much then but I love it now.

Read – think – pray – journal.

That’s all there is to it.  I always carry a pencil with me now.  As I take notes in church or Bible studies I think of ways to be creative.  It gets the Word in me – and isn’t that what the base of Psalm 119 is!  You can find a lot of my doodles on instagram but I might start putting some on the blog as well.

Go – learn the Word and be creative!  The point of doing this isn’t to see how creative you can be but how to bless your soul (and others you share what you learn with) by being in the Word!

Journaling for November

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Journaling in November

November, already?  Wow – there is less than two months left in 2014.  And we always look forward to January – fresh, clean, new year.  I love January for many reasons, but November is a good month too.

I was inspired by a popular secular DIY/Lifestyle blog to think about ways to journal in November.  This month is easy to make a list of ways we are grateful, etc – but I think the art and practice of journaling may help make the list-making more of a heart-turning-to-gratitude making.

1.  Remember.  What has the Lord done for you this year.  Even if you can think about over the course of the last 10 months and journal about what God has done for you and your family.  This year has been extremely hard for our family and I’ve seen the Lord bring much healing.  He is good.  The book of Deuteronomy specializes in the word Remember – so maybe journal through that book and connect the dots.  The God of the Old Testament is the God of your heart, too.

Coffee and Journaling

2.  Thanks and Giving.  Search these two words in the Bible.  See how often we are to give out of gratitude. Give out of blessing.  Give even out of need.  One of the disciplines I’m trying to teach my older right now is to share.  And I heard a friend teaching her son yesterday that we share because God has been kind to us and we are to share with others.  Really, sharing and showing kindness and giving to another is a way we display the image of God in which we are created.  Just jot a note in a journal or in your ESV Journaling Bible where these words show up.  Pray the Spirit would help you cultivate a heart full of gratitude and selfless living with time and possessions.

Hospitality and Journaling

3.  Hospitality.  She Reads Truth is a great daily devotional plan that is online.  I’ve loved it and it is especially helpful for me who lives by my iphone, can read anything through my ESV App – listen to it if I’m on the road, and is perfect for getting me in the Word during a busy season of life.  And how many of us plan to host people in our homes or attend a function in another’s home this holiday season?  This is a timely study – that you can get and read and journal through to cultivate a heart of joyful welcoming.

How do you journal?  Do you use your Bible or do you use a notebook?


Thoughts and Quotes on Grace Transforming (Ryken/Crossway)

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Grace TransformingOver the years, I’ve learned that I absolutely love books that have been compiled of sermons.  My love for them started with Piper’s Swan series, and has continued – especially since I can’t make every conference but I can always buy a book that has the talks transcribed to fit between the covers.  It is a helpful ministry to put these talks together for those who can’t attend, but would like to reap the benefits of the talks.

Wheaton College is an amazing romantic place to me.  I’ve only been twice, but the moment I stepped foot on the campus outside of Chicago, IL – I was filled with a since of awe as I knew the likes of the Elliots and Pipers had attended there.  The snow was piled high on my first trip, and the quietness peaked an interest in my heart of that campus – which I still adore.  Now, with so many friends working in Wheaton or for the college, it still holds a dear place.  One of my current favorite preachers is now the president.  And while I can’t attend weekly chapel services, I can pick up the book of sermons on Grace that the President, Phil Ryken, preached to his students.

I’ve already reviewed the book, but now want to return to it and point you to some of my underlinings and notes:

Let me just tell you – it may be written for college students, but people in every avenue of life can glean from his sermons.  I mean, for me – what Mom and wife doesn’t need to revel in the grace of Christ on her behalf – especially in disciplining two toddlers and submitting to her husband (who is wonderful by the way)?

“One of the ways that grace teaches us to say no to ungodliness is by giving us a place to go with our sin and then offering us another chance to grow.” (58)  Man…I need this reminder daily.  How often we beat ourselves up if we yell at our children, pick a fight with our husband, or overeat, or have a messy house.  These things shouldn’t define us, but we need to step away from them and enter God’s gracious presence to receive healing and hope.

“Wanting people to think the est of us, we try to present ourselves to the world in the best possible light.  Yet most of us struggle with a deep sense of insecurity. Rather than feeling confident in our abilities, we live with the constant fear that we don’t measure up.” – Probably the most impactful quote in the entire book for me.  In a world of social media and my role as a SAHM – this cut to my weak and sinful heart.

“Is this any way for a person to talk who has received an absolute sufficiency of God’s abundant grace,” (81)  Especially, as I’m around my two toddlers who are learning to talk and see how I respond to life (especially Atlanta drivers and disappointments throughout our day – I want my speech to showcase God – not make my boys question my relationship with Him.

“We get discouraged by the burdens of our work and disheartened by the brokenness of our relationships.” (84)  This was indeed true this past weekend – when my pastor preached on parenting and I also learned that day of another marriage in trouble because of sin.  I wept for the hurt of those friends.  I was convicted by the way I don’t treasure the Word in my parenting like I should.  God’s grace is more.



Read This: Women of the Word (Jen Wilkin/Crossway)

posted in: Books, Women | 0

Women of the Word

Our days are so full!

As a Mom of two toddlers – and very active boys at that – I know what full days are.  They are fun, encouraging, eventful, demanding, and days filled with laughter.  We are always on the go, exploring new parts of our city or heading out to hang out with some friends or go see Daddy at work, or walk along the river or see animals at the zoo.  I love cherishing times with my sweet boys.

But, something else I highly look forward to is either the days when they sleep in late and I get up to get some time in the Word in early – or their nap times – so I can again get encouraged by being in the Word.

The new(ish) book by Jen Wilkin, who serves at The Village Church in Texas, helps women with their understanding of how to better study – and fall in love with – the Bible (and more importantly, it’s Author).

I’m thankful for Jen’s organization, gospel-driven remarks, personal history with the Word, and imploring her readers to invest their time in the study of the Word – not just the glancing at it as you go along.

One of the hardest chapters for me to impliment on a daily basis if praying and the word.  I love the pray – and have written journals for wives to pray for their husbands, working on a prayer journal for moms to pray for themselves as moms, but really to engage in the word – before, during, and after – by praying.  Usually, I approach the Word quickly and haughtily and just start reading.  I’m thankful that Jen included this in her book.

“Ask him to make his word come alive for you in such a way that you

know him better and see your own needs of him more clearly.

 – Jen Wlkin

If you are looking for a way to learn how to study the book, or need encouragement in how to love the Word – turn to Jen’s book.  It is for women, new believers and the believers who’ve known Jesus a while.


Read This: Jim Hamilton’s What is Biblical Theology?

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If you check any seminary bookstore – you will find a plethora of theology books.  I suppose that is a good thing because we need to study theology and most of us, like me, love to have help in that department.

I remember being in seminary at Southeastern, I was asked to read Erickson’s for my theology class, and Thomas Oden.  But, when I got out of seminary and started teaching a college girl’s bible study, I wanted to read Grudem’s Bible Doctrines.

I like a theology book to be solid and based on the gospel – of course.  But, I also want it to readable for the every-day person – meaning a person who doesn’t have seminary background necessarily and they can still understand it.  And I also want to know something of the author and know that he is applying this study of theology to his own life.  I remember working at SBTS where Dr. Hamilton is a professor, seeing him walk down the hall, interact with students and colleagues, and witness a humility that can only come from studying the Scripture and knowing the God of the Bible.

Hamilton’s What is Biblical Theology isn’t going to be a starter theology book – I would highly recommend Grudem’s that I mentioned above.  However, it will take you to a deeper love and trust and knowledge of your Bible if you dare go there.  Especially as a writer, Dr. Hamilton points out the Bibles literary pieces and bigger themes.  God was the writer that we should all strive to be!  You can trust this book.  You can learn from it.  And Psalm 119 tells us that knowing the Word of God is a blessed way to live a life that pleases God!


Read This: Matt Chandler’s Explicit Gospel

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Riches of God

“Vaster still are the riches of God.” (Chandler)

Are you looking at a way to encourage your understanding of old, famous truths of the God of the universe? Are you interested in learning more about the God you serve? Are you wondering what this Christian thing is that people around you are talking about?  Are you wondering how the gospel looks when it is plugged into the local church and in the society at large?

Matt Chandler, lead pastor of the Village Church out of Texas, wrote a book called the Explicit Gospel. When I started reading it, I thought it would be ______. It wasn’t. It was somthing totally different.

Chandler looks at the basic tenants of the gospel. If you think you don’t need this book because you read scholars and dead authors, think again. If you think you don’t need this book because you already know everything Chandler is going to say, think again. Just pick it up. Reading what you already know is sometimes a good thing.  Chandler hits on main topics that have been in the news or on the mainstream conservative blogs the past few years.  He does make you think.  This is what his sermons do for you too.  As in all things – take everything ANYONE says and put it against the TRUTHS of Scripture.  What I do like about the Explicit Gospel is that there is so much Scripture in it!

Chandler ends the book by talking about the dangers of knowing the gospel. You know – knowing the gospel but not really experiencing the God of the Gospel. We, as Christians, can not just know the Gospel and be able to spout it off – we have to dwell in it, take a bath in it, marinate in it – whatever word you want to use to SATURATE yourself in this good news.


God Loves Colors, Too!

posted in: Arkansas, Bible, Books, Worship | 0

God loves color!

I’m still reading through the OT and making lists of the God the people of the OT encountered, served, feared, and loved. I am loving seeing how God interacts with his people. I know that He is the same God today as he was 8000 years ago.
Currently, I’m in Leviticus, and its not very exciting reading – but still I see that God talks to his people and tells us how we can please him. I see him showing mercy. Here are seven things that I learned this past week.
1. God has a purpose for color. I saw this as I attended the Bloggers in Bloom event last week and as I await the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show. The reports in Exodus about color is that God intended certain aspects of the temple and of the worshiper’s attire to be a certain color. He is an exact and detailed God. But, how he uses color now for our benefits are different. He uses color to express warmth and invitation. He uses color to express that winter is over and spring is finally here. He uses color to brighten moods and take away frowns. All of these are great reasons to use color in your home, kitchen (in what you cook), and in your wardrobe.

Georgetown Cupcakes
2. God is a free-ing God. The If:Gathering was this weekend, and although I wasn’t able to attend in Texas, I was grateful for one of my friends, Sharon Miller, who posted some of her favorite quotes. I particularly loved this one by Christine Caine: “You came out of Egypt, but Egypt is still in you. But God wants to get Egypt out of you so we can walk into the Promised Land free.” This basically means that we desire so often to return to what God has freed us from. But, how much better life would be if we never turned back and desired the old ball-and-chain!
3. The Lord shows mercy to stiff-necked people. I’m not talking about chiropractic care (though I love mine in Raleigh), but I’m talking about the mercy that he shows us when we refuse to give up our sinful ways, when we balk at his correction, when we settle for every day ho hum when he has called us to live the extraordinary!
4. God gives gifts to people to use for his glory! Let’s take a look at the oil maker in Exodus 37. God gave him the talents and abilities to make oil so that a particular type of oil might be used in the worship of God! That is so cool to me. That God might give me a particular gift that I can use to bring God glory in our home, in the local church, and in the church around the country and world. That gets me excited!

Bella Blu NYC
5.  The Lord requires sacrifice for sin.  I often thought in reading all of the lists for sacrifices that I’m glad that Jesus paid my sacrifice once for all so that I don’t have to sacrifice daily or weekly or yearly or anything to recompense for my sin.  The perfect Christ already did that! Oh what a blessing.  And this is how we can use the Old Testament, even in Leviticus, to teach others about the beauty of the Gospel and that the whole Bible points us to Jesus!

6.  The Lord tells us what is pleasing to Him.  He has given us His Word.  That Word, the Bible, is sufficient in us knowing what it means to please Him.  In one way, we stand before God because the Son has pleased the Father in his death and resurrection.  But, we still try to please God in our actions.  Not for acceptance.  No, but for his pleasure.

God's Word

7.  God shows his glory to his people.  He did this many times for Moses, and He dwelt in the Tabernacle with his people.  How we might long for that.  Do you long for Heaven?  Do you long to be worshiping and singing where God and Jesus and the Spirit are front and center?  I was reading a Donald Miller article about why he doesn’t feel the need for church and the first paragraph – singing really isn’t my thing – I just don’t like it.  It made me sad for him because Heaven will have singing in it.  We will get to sing to the Lamb!  Moses’ song will be sung there!

How are your devotions going?  Do you find them dead and lifeless?  Or do you long to meet with God every day?  I’m not quite to the last one – but I am finding the more time I am in the Word the more I want to be in the Word.