Tag Archives: God

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

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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

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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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

Extras! Be Green Week 3

I’m very excited to share an amazing resource with you to enrich your exploration of what it means to embrace Scripture’s call regarding the created world.

Check out this video called “Our Father’s World” — it’s a powerful 27-minute Christian documentary all about environmental stewardship. It features some really important evangelical Christian leaders today, including Bill Hybels of Willow Creek and others.

This is worth your time, friends. It really is. And once you watch it, share it with others . . . and pop back in to let me know what you think!

embrace scripture's call

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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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Reflect and Respond, Be Green Week 2

During our “be green” journey, as we focus on experiencing God through his creation, consider this Scripture to guide a time of meditation and pick an action step to try.

Reflect: Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; 

the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Respond with Action:

• Stargaze one evening or get up early to watch a sunrise. Focus your heart on how God is demonstrating his existence and his wonder through what you see.

• Pray, praise, sing, worship! Thank God that he speaks and affirms biblical truth to you through his “second book.”

• Pause to see God in nature by viewing the stunning images captured by my friend Dorothy Greco, a writer and photographer. Where do you see God in these snapshots? What is revealed about God’s character? (And if you feel inspired, grab your camera and shoot some of your own snapshots. Nature provides an abundance of divine beauties to ponder!)

experience god creation.

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Be Green

What do you think of when you hear the word green?

Is it a political platform, like Ralph Nader and the Green Party?

Is it a word snidely and mockingly uttered by a right-wing radio personality?

 Is it a spiritually dangerous word, obviously masking some anti-Christian worldview underlying the beliefs and actions of radical environmentalists?

Is it the sinusy singing voice of Kermit the Frog? (“It’s not easy being green. . .”)

be green photo

Let me tell you what I think of.

I think of the intricate architecture of a vibrant fern, carpeting the ground beneath a towering forest.

I think of moss, of pine, of Kentucky blue grass. Example after example of beauty, big and small, in this world overflowing with green and growing everyday miracles.

I think of photosynthesis, and its power not just to feed plants but the amazingly designed system covering this globe of ours that creates and recreates oxygen for us to breathe. And the food production, from strawberries to broccoli to rice paddies and soybean fields, that sustains and nourishes the lives of earth’s creatures.

I think of growth, of roots, of life.

For me, it’s a word shot through with spiritual meaning. For me, as a committed follower of Christ and a lover of Scripture, it’s a word that I’m happy—I’m proud—to use this month as we explore what it can look like to “be green.” To be biblically, soul-fully green. This April, we’ll consider together themes like gratitude, worship, beauty, intimacy with God, scriptural truth, and love.

If the word green raises your hackles, turns you off, or makes your wary and suspicious, I’d ask you to reconsider. Because this isn’t a word owned by left-wing extremists or right-wing shock jocks, by pantheists or by atheists.

It is a word for all of us.

And for me? This is a word that’s all about faith.

(I’ll admit that sometimes as a Christian deeply concerned about environmental issues—engaging in an arena dominated by unkind stereotypes, arrogant name-callers, and knee-jerk reactions—I do want to echo Kermit and dolefully sing out, “It’s not easy being green . . .”  But I digress.)

So will you join me, this month? Will you dare to be green?

(And if you’re skeptical? If you’re cautious? You’re welcome here too. I invite you to read along this month. To consider the case I make. To quiet the noise of our culture on this issue and intentionally let Scripture and the Spirit of God be the leading voice for you.)

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Essay: On Mystery

My friend Charity Singleton Craig invited me to participate in her “In Your Own Words” series. Here’s my essay . . .

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woman praying:cryingmys·terynoun \ˈmis-t(ə-)rē\

: A word first used in English in the early 14th century to mean “religious truth via divine revelation, hidden spiritual significance, mystical truth.”

: It came from the Old French mistere, conveying “secret, mystery, hidden meaning” and from the Latin mysterium, meaning “secret worship.”

: It was used—in the Greek—in the ancient Septuagint compilation of Scripture (in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC) to mean the “secret counsel of God.” (Information quoted and adapted from The Online Etymology Dictionary.)

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Lord Peter Wimsey. Harriet Vane. Mma Ramotswe. Inspector Maigret. Kurt Wallander. Erast Fandorin. Sister Pelagia. Carl Mørk. Flavia de Luce. Father Brown. Sherlock Holmes.

This odd band of detectives—peopled from various nations, languages, and eras—have been my dear literary friends through the years. Some of them smoke, drink, brood, and languish. Others write, pray, study martial arts, or collect antique books. But they all question. They all seek. They all discover.

Alongside the mainstay genres that populate my bookshelves (fiction: classical, literary, international; spiritual writings: theology, spiritual formation, classic texts), you’ll always find a mystery novel on my nightstand. Detective stories and murder mysteries: What place do they have in my life? In my life as a Christian? Why am I drawn to these lords and priests, gumshoes and opium addicts, arm-chair philosophers and chemistry prodigies? Why does this genre hold such sway over me?

While certainly there’s nothing overtly (or even covertly) theological in most of the mystery series I love to read (save the inventive murder mysteries penned by theologians Dorothy L. Sayers and Gilbert K. Chesterton), there is a link between mystery itself and the questions that resonate in my soul.

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 The first audience reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories lived in the fin de siècle—a time when the Western world was changing rapidly. When new, shocking ideas from Darwin, Nietzsche, and others bolstered a popular questioning of—even rejection of—the common notions of meaning, of origins, of humanity, of divinity. A time when (shock! horror!) some “new women” dared to ride bicycles, wear pants, and even cut their hair. A time when—and I can only imagine how strange this shift must have been—streets that used to be dark at night began to be lit by strange bulbs, aglow with wires harnessing electricity.

And so Holmes’ stories became wildly popular for many reasons, including entertainment value, but at an essential, deeper level, in situations that didn’t make any sense, the lanky and arrogant Holmes somehow made sense of it all. In a world ringing with unanswerable questions, Holmes represented for his devoted fans the idea that answers, if sought, could somehow be found.

And this is one of the appeals of the mystery genre for me, too: the idea that hidden behind all the details, the red herrings, the apparently disconnected and seemingly random events of this life and this world, there is meaning. There are clues that point us toward a lasting truth. There are answers to the eternal, human questions. What appears to be chaos actually masks a grand, narrative arc.

But it isn’t just the end of the mystery that appeals—when all whos, whats, wheres, and whys have been uncovered and explained. It is the mystery itself—the in-the-middle, before-the-conclusion, grasping and searching and discerning that draws me.

Because my life often feels a lot like that.

Our life—our common, shared human experience—is a lot like that.

For even in and among the answers and truths we find in God, in faith, in the created world, in the Word of truth . . . are the questions. The haunting questions. The persisting questions. The questions that drive us to hunt, to search, to discover. The questions that may drive us to tears. The questions that may drive us to our knees.

And the questions that, ever unanswered, draw us into wonder.

Faith without questions is dull, formulaic, unappealing—suggesting, somehow that we have all the answers. Presenting God neatly defined in a tidily wrapped box.

But faith with questions still intact—faith interwoven with mystery—draws me. Sustains me. Invigorates me. It’s the faith of the questioners, the skeptics, the wonderers, the criers-out who populate the ancient book. This is the kind of faith that holds sacred the capital-A Answers while tenderly holding the questions, the paradoxes, and the mysteries in balance. It’s a faith not afraid of tension or contradiction or complexity that cannot be easily delineated or summed up in a five-bullet-point sermon. It’s a faith that both intimately knows, and doesn’t even begin to know, our awesome and mysterious God.

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I’ve been reading a lot of mysteries lately. And I’ve also been dwelling in a place full of faith-related questions lately.

 Some are deeply painful: Why does our young, vibrant friend have cancer? Why are so many suffering in this world? Why are the evil and corrupt given power to control and destroy?

 Others are soul-searching: Where is God showing up in my life right now? When does God seem distant to me? How might I connect with God in ways that are alive and invigorating, rather than stale or rote?

And, of course, there are always the big questions, the grand mysteries. The ones that are both awe-full and awful, tremendous and terrifying. The mysteries of galaxies and black holes and quarks and beating hearts. The mysteries of biology, astronomy, philosophy, and even of theology. The parts of life and thought and love that are shot through with “secret, mystery, hidden meaning.” And the God who, as the hymn writer aptly understood, is “hid from our eyes.”

And so I love mystery. I love to read it, and I love living it. We are all living it. It can be beautiful, engaging, and satisfying. It can be confusing, discouraging, and frightening. But it draws me—it draws us—into something sacred. Into something True. Into the Story we’re crafted to live.

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