Tag Archives: faith

Be Inspired — Faith in and through Tragedy

be inspiredNext in this month’s be inspired series is another great conversation from the archives — a 2011 interview with Christina Schofield. She’s an illustrator and a writer; her book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes — An Unflinchingly Honest Journey of Faith, tells the story of how a tragic motorcycle accident radically changed the trajectory of her life and challenged her faith.

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Chris, I’m so glad to introduce you to my “friends.” Can you tell them a bit about yourself?

I was born the youngest of four to a gentle, humble Swedish preacher in a tiny Midwestern town. I doodled and passed notes all through my school days, so kind of stuck with it for a profession. The last fifteen years or so, I’ve illustrated and written stuff for mostly Christian publishing companies. I’m married to a campus minister (Allen) and we have a seven-year-old daughter, Lily. If my days were a pie chart, it would look like this: Taking care of the fam’ (including two cats that hate each other and a neglected beta fish): 30%, Driving people places—30%, Making sandwiches—30%, Work, house-cleaning, and pretty much everything else combined—10%.

I’m very excited about your book, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes, that is coming out this summer. For my readers who don’t know your story, can you tell us what your book is about?

Not quite four years ago, my husband and I were in a motorcycle accident. I was okay, but he broke his neck and was left paralyzed. The book is kind of a walk through that ugly-faith journey — picking up the pieces and saying that God is good even when my life is bad!

This month we’re looking at the discipline of life-change. I imagine that the extreme difficulties you and your husband have lived through recently have been a catalyst for some serious self-examination. What has God revealed to you about yourself through this challenging season?

Initially, came the question, “WHAT? How could you let this happen, God? I thought we were friends!” There was instant perspective — a lot of things I had desired goal-wise  I immediately realized didn’t really matter compared to the pursuit of God and getting my family well. The next challenge was coming to terms with the fact that God still loves me even when I have nothing to offer him in return. I’ve spent most of my life struggling to “perform” for him, do my best stuff to win his approval and/or impress people. There is a sort of peace that comes when you hit rock bottom and realize, “Wow. He loves me still.”

What else has God revealed to you about himself through this painful journey?

His love of broken things. We avoid brokenness at all cost, but God views it differently than we do. Psalm 52 says a broken spirit is what He actually desires. Psalm 34 says he is near to the broken-hearted, and I’ve found that to be totally true! He is much closer than I ever realized! If you let that get in you good, if you let God open your mind to what he thinks is a big deal I mean, it helps you see people through new eyes.

Scripture tells us that God’s grace is sufficient. Of course this doesn’t mean the difficulties in our lives go away if we trust God! How have you experienced this promise?

Allen was in hospitals for about two months. Shortly after we got back, I had a phone call on the answering machine from an old friend who had been struggling with addictions and family problems and spiritual problems. I had really kind of been overwhelmed with our friendship before Allen’s accident because I didn’t know how to help her. I put off returning her call and she died shortly after of a drug overdose! I felt terrible! I confessed to God, “How do I do this? How can I help others when I feel so burdened myself?” I felt like He was urging me to “do it broken.” To let His strength pour through my smallness, weariness, brokeness (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). He has done that in some really cool ways!

 How can we be praying for you and your family?

Please continue to pray for Allen’s healing, strength, rest, and peace! For wisdom in raising Lils, that she will grow up to love and worship God. Lately, I’ve been praying that God will get all the stuff out of us that keeps us from being completely his. I pray it with hesitation because I know that can be painful! (But necessary.) Thanks! We love getting prayed for!

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Check in each week this month for more stories from women whose faith, ideas, and love will inspire you! 

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Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

Be Mom Series

Mom! Mom! MOM!!!!!!!!!!!

This is a sound I often hear. Let me be honest: My gut-instinct response is often irritation  because whoever is yelling my name is probably in trouble (danger), creating trouble (messes, experiments, etc.) , or is about to get in trouble (for summoning me as if I were a maid or butler).

But the truth is, I’m deeply grateful to have this moniker. And, behind all the exhaustion and stress and work and irritation of motherhood, I need this reminder of my gratitude. This job, this privilege, this name is a blessing.

be mom seriesAnd so, this month, I’m excited to invite you to join me for a new series: be mom.

We’ll look together at how we can be more proactive as parents in taking on this great privilege of momhood.

We’ll consider how parenting both challenges and enriches our spiritual lives.

We’ll think about how we have the power to foster an environment within our homes that can profoundly shape our kids and strengthen our relationships.

AND we’ll have fun sharing great, creative ideas.

Join me . . . be mom.

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An important caveat. I hesitated in choosing this topic because I know some of you, dear readers, are not mothers. You may, in fact, long to be a mom — and this may be a painful topic for you. So please know that you, too, are welcome in this conversation. You, too, are a mother to the younger people you know and love — nieces, nephews, students, neighbor kids. I hope that this series still feels welcoming and inviting to you — a place where you can engage with ideas and find encouragement. 

While the theme this month is on motherhood, the broader focus of this blog is spiritual encouragement for all readers. We are each more than the roles and labels that attempt to define us. My hope is that we all can find nourishment here as we each, on our own journey, draw closer to being — being ourselves, being with God, being true and whole and loved.

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Extras! Be Green Wrap Up

So how can we live in gratitude to God for his amazing creation? How can we discover more about God through his world? How can we embrace Scripture’s call to stewardship? How can we care for people through our creation care efforts?

Check out these 12 organizations, resources, and links to find out more:

be green photoA Rocha — A global, Christ-centered conservation organization. Find out about hands-on opportunities to get involved! (Click here to read my interview with A Rocha USA’s Tom Rowley over at Relevant.)

Blessed Earth — Great biblical resources for how the church can mobilize to care for the environment. (You can also read a TCW article I wrote with insights from Nancy by clicking here.)

receive with gratitudecharity: water — Works to save lives and prevent disease by engineering clean water wells and sanitation.

Compassion International — Along with their child sponsorship work, Compassion seeks to address environmental degradation affecting the poor.

Earth-Wise — My favorite Bible study resource on creation care. I highly recommend this study guide by Calvin B. DeWitt!

experience god creationEvangelical Environmental Network — This organization inspires and equips evangelical Christians to care for creation. You’ll find podcasts, Creation Care magazine, and more.

John Ray Initiative — This British web site provides TONS of resources exploring the science behind critical environmental stewardship issues, all from a faith-based perspective. (P.S. If you’re skeptical about climate change, this is a great place to get more info you can consider.)

Local Harvest — Interested in finding farmer’s markets or CSAs to “green” your eating a bit? This web site will point you toward sustainable family farms in your community.

embrace scripture's callNational Wildlife Federation — Support conservation efforts by getting NWF’s fantastic kids’ magazines like Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard.

Plant With Purpose — Help the poor through reversing deforestation! Plant With Purpose addresses poverty in the name of Christ by planting trees and other environmental efforts.

love least theseWorld Vision — World Vision addresses many environmental issues in their work among the poor, including engineering clean water and advancing sustainable farming techniques.

3 Amazing Women: Read my interviews with Leah Kostamo, Tracey Bianchi, and Nancy Sleeth —  Christian women who are each incorporating environmental concern into their faith, their sense of mission, and their daily life.

 

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Reflect and Respond, Be Green Wrap Up

In our “be green” exploration, as we focus on how creation care has direct implications for the lives of others–especially the global poor–consider this Scripture to guide a time of meditation and pick an action step to try.

Reflect: Matthew 22:37-39

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”–Jesus

love least theseRespond with Action:

• Meaningful Meal: As a family or on your own, fast by eating a very simple meal such as rice and a bowl of broth or some beans. Use the experience to think more deeply about the daily experiences of the global poor. Conclude your meal by reading or praying through a passage (such as Isaiah 58) that illustrates God’s heart for the poor and vulnerable and God’s desire that his people stand up with justice and compassion.

•  Pray: We can’t always see the effects of our lifestyle upon others. For example, we may not see how our energy consumption contributes to emissions that pollute rivers and fish with mercury that then threatens the life and health of the unborn. This is just one of many examples! So we can ask that God open up our eyes. Pray a daily prayer: Today show me one way to love the poor and vulnerable through my care of creation. And as God shows you one way to be a better steward, consecrate your act by praying: Lord, I care for creation out of love and obedience to you. And I make this small choice as a way of loving others in your name.

 Research: Read more about the effects of environmental degradation upon the poor. I highly recommend the document you’ll find here from the National Association of Evangelicals. (Take time to click on and read the whole pdf.)

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Leah Kostamo: Care and Keep

In honor of Earth Day today, I’m excited to welcome author and conservationist Leah Kostamo. Leah’s book Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community tells the story of her and her husband’s pioneering Christian environmental stewardship work in Canada. She’s a transplanted Arizona girl, a mom, and–as I discovered as we laughed and talked–a kindred spirit. Join our conversation . . . 

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leahheadshotLeah, let’s start by hearing a bit about what you do in your work.

About 10 years ago we started the first Christian environmental center in Canada with A Rocha, an international Christian organization that works in 20 countries around the world. For people who haven’t been to our center before, I describe it like a youth hostel meets the Sierra club and then wrap that all up with Christian hospitality on an organic farm.

We focus on doing three things: First is environmental education. Then we do conservation work—basically just studying the habitat where we are and working to preserve it. (We’re on a stream that has four species of salmon so we do a lot of work on the stream). And then the third thing we do is we have a big organic garden and we have an organic box program where about 100 families get food from our farm, along with food banks and other means of help for those in poverty.

On my blog this month, we’ve explored environmental stewardship from several angles. I realize not everyone is as enthusiastic about this issue as you and I are, Leah! So if you were talking with someone who had concerns or was skeptical about the idea of environmental stewardship, what would you most want to say to that person?

 I would start with Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” That’s our starting point. I think it is also important to primarily use the word creation instead of environment because “creation” assumes a “Creator.” If there’s a Creator, then we turn to the biblical narrative in Genesis and see that it assumes stewardship. The two words used in Genesis 2 are care and keep. These are the same words used in Aaron’s blessing: “The Lord bless you and keep you.” It’s critical that we understand this is God’s charge to humanity: to care and keep creation. Continue reading

Love the Least of These

Being green and caring for the planet is about a lot more than caring for fish or trees or birds or rivers or dirt or air. As Christians, we care for creation as a means of loving our neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40). We believe that human life is of inestimable worth—far beyond the value of diamonds or gold or rubies or dollar bills. Because of our belief in the sanctity of life, we take seriously Scripture’s call to protect the vulnerable (Isaiah 58), care for the “least of these” (Matthew 25:31-46), and do unto others as we’d want others to do unto us (Luke 6:31).

love least these

It’s a basic biological fact: Human life is inextricably tied to the health of the created world. The harsh reality is that environmental degradation directly and negatively impacts human lives! All over the globe, people are getting sick, remaining mired in cycles of poverty, and even dying as a result of environmental degradation. Air pollution, water pollution, deforestationclimate change, and many other factors are directly hurting humans whom God created, whom God loves, and whom God has called us to love like he does.

So as Christians we care that unborn babies are born with toxic levels of mercury in their blood as a result of the pollution caused by certain forms of energy production. And we care that other babies are born with birth defects linked directly to air pollution. Continue reading

Reflect and Respond, Be Green Week 3

We’ve covered a lot so far in our “be green” journey! 1. The idea of receiving the good gifts of God’s created world with gratitude. 2. Experiencing God’s presence & character in his created world. And now, 3. Embracing Scripture’s call.

So this week, as we focus on answering the Bible’s call to steward God’s created world, consider this Scripture to guide a time of reflection and pick an action step to try.embrace scripture's call

Reflect: Genesis 1:26-28 from The Message

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them
reflecting our nature
So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
the birds in the air, the cattle,
And, yes, Earth itself,
and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
God created human beings;
he created them godlike,
Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female.
God blessed them:
“Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!
Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,
for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.”

Respond with Action:

• Enjoy your own piece of caretaking and stewardship by starting a backyard garden, potting a tomato plant on your porch, or tending a houseplant. Have fun with both the joy and the work of this process. Consider what God might be teaching you through it.

• Think through practical steps you can take as a steward by using this free worksheet from Blessed Earth. Pray about the ideas God may be leading you to implement.

• Commit to reduce the amount of trash your family sends to the landfill. You can do this by: buying less, utilizing more reusable containers, composting biodegradable waste, and recycling. What’s one gradual step you can implement to curb your trash production?

• Read and consider several more ideas in the article I wrote a few years ago highlighting “7 non-weird and non-political things you can do to care for creation.”

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