finding hope on election day

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This has been a particularly painful election cycle. It seems like everyone is sick of politics and nobody is happy with the candidates we’re stuck with. This season has brought out the ugly in too many of us.

Because we’re scared. Scared of what happens when we’re stuck with four long years of a deeply flawed president — and make no mistake, both major candidates are very deeply flawed — and what they will choose to do with their power.

We have good reason to be scared. But we also have reason to hope.

First, the person sitting in the Oval Office has a pretty minimal impact on our day-to-day lives. Second, God’s will will be done either way.

As much as we as a society like to keep the spiritual and the secular separate, the Bible has a lot to say about government. Christians are called to submit to worldly authority not in spite of God but because of God:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Romans 13:1-2

Submission is a difficult concept to love in politics, just as in marriage. It requires a lot of humility, and it instinctively repulses me because I have such strong opinions about good and bad policy. It raises a tough question: If we are called to submit to authority, what happens when that authority enacts unjust laws?

Paul wrote this during Nero’s reign, which was not exactly the pinnacle of just and life-affirming government. And the Bible has more to say on this subject:

Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say, “What are you doing?” Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.

Ecclesiastes 8:4-6

Ecclesiastes gives us assurance that even when we are asked to follow a bad ruler, God’s will will be done. We are told to be still for the time being — because all things work together for good, even if we can’t understand how right now. And when we rely on his wisdom instead of the world’s, we can seize that “proper time and procedure” to stand up against what is wrong, and to stand up well. (I’m putting the emphasis here on procedure. There are good ways to effect change and there are bad ways.)

The Old Testament chronicles a litany of awful monarchs who oppressed their subjects, and yet God was able to fulfill his plan. Sometimes because he thwarted their evil schemes and sometimes because he needed their mistakes in order to make something greater happen. Our salvation would not have been possible if a flawed ruler had not put an innocent man named Jesus to death.

Election Day is tomorrow and I am so ready for it to be over. But I have a little glimmer of hope: That no matter who tops 50% and what they choose to do while in office, there’s one person who will win: Jesus.

Much as I would love to have the last word, I can’t say it better than Max Lucado. He writes:

I have a prediction. I know exactly what November 9 will bring. Another day of God’s perfect sovereignty. He will still be in charge. His throne will still be occupied. He will still manage the affairs of the world. Never before has His providence depended on a king, president, or ruler. And it won’t on November 9, 2016.

Happy election week, friends. Keep your chin up. And may God bless the United States of America.

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disciple of all nations // flawed and chosen

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This blog has only been around for two months, but there’s already a common thread running through it: That although we may feel like we’re not something enough for God to approve of — not faithful enough, not spiritual enough, not knowledgeable enough about the Bible, not prayerful enough, just not good enough — these feelings are absolutely not true.

So I want to close out my mini-series on the disciples with a final reminder: The disciples were fundamentally flawed people. And still Jesus chose them to walk with him.

It’s so easy to skim through the gospels focusing on Jesus (which is in itself a good thing) but forgetting about the people around him. Thinking, “Man, those guys were so cool. They healed people and drove out demons and got to hang out with Jesus all the time. I wish I was like that.”

But the disciples were not perfect people.

Peter’s faith wavered when Jesus asked him to walk on water. Judas fell victim to greed and betrayed Jesus for money. And all twelve wasted most of the last supper arguing about which one of them was better than the others. They questioned whether Jesus was really the Messiah all throughout their journey with him. 

Jesus got a little frustrated with them sometimes. And still he chose them.

They weren’t theological scholars. They were fishermen and tax collectors — blue collar folks with no formal training whatsoever. They didn’t have any special knowledge or expertise. Luke says they were “unschooled, ordinary men.”

And still Jesus chose them.

In the same way he chooses us, even though we fail him day by day, even though we’re not qualified.

So for those of you like me who have suffered from what I call Christian Impostor Syndrome, cut it out. He made us — and he called his creation “very good.” And that’s all the qualification we need.

We are flawed and chosen.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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year two

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Tomorrow my husband and I will have been married for two years. Phew.

We came into our marriage more prepared than many young couples. Because of our truly awesome couples’ Sunday school group we joined when we were engaged, we had a lot of important conversations before we got married that made the transition much easier.

Questions like: What expectations do you have for your spouse and why? What does a supportive spouse look like to you? How will we handle time with both families during the holidays? How will we budget? What’s your primary love language? How will we stay on the same page during busy times? How can we grow in faith together?

Of course, even having those important conversations ahead of time didn’t prevent all issues. Nobody is perfect and no marriage is conflict-free.

But during the days and weeks after our wedding, there were no big surprises. It was like, Well, OK. Here we are. Being married didn’t feel all that different — it just felt right.

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Over the last two years, I’ve learned a lot about what love really looks like, about God, and about myself.

In marriage, there are no princess dresses or castles. There will be very few sweeping romantic gestures in your life. Love, instead, is the little things in the everyday.

It’s going for walks and talking about silly stuff and serious stuff. It’s when your husband automatically mutes the TV during commercial breaks because he knows they drive you nuts.  It’s checking in to make sure you’re doing a good job. It’s giggling until your stomach hurts. It’s when you have grand plans to be productive and do all the grown-up things but decide to snuggle on the couch and watch Stargate for the 17th time instead. It’s trying your best to love each other in the present moment, even if you’re feeling a little grumpy.

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I’m certainly no expert, but with two years under my belt, here are a few habits and mindsets that keep us grounded in marriage:

  • Revisit those centering conversations often.
  • Praise each other often. Don’t just assume your spouse knows you think highly of them. They need to hear it.
  • Sacrifice your own desires often, at least when they’re not important.
  • Ask each other how you’re doing, and be honest with the answers.
  • Remember that you are on the same team.
  • Remember that anything can be fixed together.
  • Pray for each other often.
  • Take each other and your marriage seriously, but have fun!

Happy anniversary to us. Onward to the next year of love, laughter, and fun together.

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joy // worship playlist

I’m fortunate to have been happy for most of my life. I feel contentment often. Most of the time it’s when I’m curled up with a good book or enjoying a glass of iced tea in the sunshine. I felt something along the lines of elation on my wedding day — total giddy delight.

But those things are slightly different than true joy — the kind that radiates through your body and turns your focus away from everything else.

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We can experience true joy through God — and what’s even crazier to imagine is that he experiences joy in us. What?? The God of the universe is joyful about little old you? YES.

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:9-11

If that’s not enough to get you pumped about the day, I don’t know what is.

Worship comes in many forms, but there’s something special about music for me. (And not just church songs, but I’ll circle back to that in a later post.) There a couple of songs that spark that joy — that gets my heart pumping and my head excited about God. That, to borrow a lyric, “start a fire in me.”

This is my ultimate joyful worship playlist. Feel free to put this bad boy on shuffle, roll the windows down, and belt the lyrics out at the top of your lungs. Not that I’ve ever done such a thing. Nope, nothing to see here.

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ask away

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So, let’s say you’ve become a Christian. Jesus is your bestest best friend and you’re just overflowing with all the blessings in your life. Life is all puppies and rainbows from here on out, right?

Nope.

Even with God on our side, life is going to have rough patches. When we have fears and struggles and doubts, it’s so easy to feel like bad Christian. If you really loved God, you wouldn’t have these feelings! And if you did, you’d just ignore them and push on through without batting an eye, right?

Also nope.

I recently finished reading Judges, and Gideon’s story stuck with me. God appears to Gideon in Judges 6 and tells him he’s going to lead an army to defeat the bad guys, the Midianites.

But Gideon’s not sure about all this. He has some pretty tough questions for God, and he comes right out with them:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Judges 6:13-16

Gideon is pretty blunt here. He comes right out and accuses God of abandoning his people. An angry god would’ve condemned Gideon or struck him down for his boldness. But our God takes the time to both address his accusations and reassure him about his ability to lead the army to victory.

But Gideon still isn’t sure. What if this wasn’t really God? What if he had been out in the sun too long and was going a little bonkers? So he asks God for a sign that it was really him and that he would really lead his army to victory — not once, not twice, but three times! (See Judges 6:17-22, Judges 6:36-38, and Judges 6:39-40.)

And God did exactly as he asked. Three times. This blew me away.

I have a tendency to think I’m inconveniencing God with my prayers, especially when they’re about problems that seem trivial in the grand scheme of things. But God took the time to prove to Gideon three times that he was real and had set a plan in motion — a plan that needed Gideon to succeed. God’s patience in the face of Gideon’s criticism and fear is revolutionary for my own feelings of inadequacy.

It’s ok to have questions. We might feel like quitting, but God doesn’t quit on us. And if we ask him, he’ll sit patiently with us and help us work through whatever’s on our minds. He wants to be real with us, if we’ll commit to being real with him.

So that thing that’s been sitting on your heart, weighing you down? Ask away.

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disciples of all nations // dividing and conquering

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Christians are called to love and serve others and to make this world a better place until we enter the next.

I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by all that responsibility. Between disease and poverty and lack of clean water and suicide and violence and oppression of women and child abuse and homelessness and drug addiction, there is a lot to fix. And there’s no way you can fix it all.

It’s hard to think about, so it’s easier to just check out. To send a donation here and there for tax purposes but not get emotionally invested. To be honest, that’s been me for a while. I usually enjoy service projects while I’m doing them, but I often get depressed later on about the grand scheme of things.

But the thing is, we’re not called to fix everything. We’re called to fix something.

Acts of the Apostles records the very earliest days of Christianity. This passage gave me a swift kick in the pants and reinvigorated my interest in serving:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Acts 6:1-5

Even the disciples — the people Jesus personally chose to walk with him and carry on his legacy — couldn’t take care of all the challenges their community faced. What a relief!

Only God has the power to fix the entire world. We play just one small part of that. But it’s an important part.

So get out there and find your something.


This post is part three of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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leviticus doesn’t have to suck

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The Bible is in the wrong order.

Genesis is pretty interesting. It folds nicely into Exodus, where the story of God’s creation and chosen people continues, leading up to the lineage of Jesus. Then comes Leviticus — and you’re first bored to tears and then, wham, smacked in the face with a list of punishments and ceremonial cleansing rituals that, to modern eyes, seem arbitrary and unnecessarily harsh.

A lot of the cherry-picked verses that are exploited as “proof” that Christianity is backward, misogynist, hateful, etc., come from Leviticus. Putting people to death for saying something mean about their parents doesn’t quite seem to jive with our goal of spreading the unconditional love of Christ. Even as a believer, it’s pretty hard to get through Leviticus without some serious questions — unless you have the proper historical and spiritual context.

I’m approaching my Bible study without any accompanying historical data or commentary, at least this first time around. It feels a little reckless and contrary to what pretty much every how-to blog post will tell you, but I know myself. I don’t want to get bogged down in dates and maps and miss the message.

But for Leviticus, context is absolutely necessary. My advice? Regardless of how you choose to read the Bible, read Galatians first, then Leviticus.

Galatians is one of Paul’s most powerful epistles and explains clearly and succinctly why Jewish law is no longer followed. Galatians 3 gets a little metaphysical, but the gist is that the law was created by God to govern his followers until such a time as Christ could come and release us from the burden of sin. A brief excerpt:

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Galatians 3:23-26

Thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now be saved by our faith, rather than our allegiance to a strict set of rules and regulations.

Once that was settled, my next question was: Why would the compilers of the Bible bother including a book of laws that no one is required to follow any more? For perspective.

If you have a Bible handy, flip to Leviticus and glance through the sections about ceremonial cleansing for people with leprosy (in my translation, “contagious skin diseases”) and bleeding or discharges.

Now think about how truly radical it was for Jesus to surround himself with lepers or heal the hemorrhaging woman who touched his cloak. By touching these people, Jesus under the law would have also become unclean and held to a strict schedule and series of baths. Nobody wanted to be near them for fear of becoming unclean themselves.

But Jesus kicked the law over and said, “Nope.” Love is all that matters.

By associating with lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners, Jesus broke preconceived notions about what God is and isn’t like wide open. And that’s what he calls us to do every day — to break down the obstacles holding us back and to share God’s love and our love freely.

It’s our job as believers not to skim over the parts of the Bible that challenge us or cause us to question God, but to tackle those questions head-on. So, yes, Leviticus is kind of a drag. But it’s there for a reason. And dense as it may be, even Leviticus has something important to teach us.

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7 verses to pray over your husband

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If you’re married, your spouse is the most important person in your life, and praying for them is as critical as praying for your own needs. I love this from The Power of a Praying Wife: “Prayer is the ultimate love language. It communicates in ways we can’t.”

When I pray for my husband, we’re just automatically more in sync. I can’t overstate how comfortable and rewarding our marriage is when I specifically take time to pray for him. It’s always good, but with prayer, it’s so much more fulfilling. Because we’re wired to be in relationship with God, especially in marriage.

Even though prayer is hard — I sometimes struggle to find the right words to say or the right things to pray about — scripture provides so many verses to guide us. And it’s absolutely the least we can do for the creature God created and filled with glory for us.

Here are a few that have stuck out as I make my way through the Bible that are perfect starting points to pray for husbands.

For his love for you to stay strong and faithful:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Ephesians 5:25

For your continued partnership and walking through life together, not just next to each other:

Therefore what God has joined together let no one separate.

Mark 10:9

For his walk with God:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

For relief from stress (this is a big one in my house):

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

For perseverance in the face of temptation (of all kinds, not necessarily just sexual):

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

For his general happiness and success:

May he give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.

Psalm 20:4-5

Finally (or, better yet, first!) for yourself to be focused on supporting and loving your husband and discerning God’s plan for him — never fixing him — and for your prayers to please your husband and the Lord.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

Pray away, ladies. 💕

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disciples of all nations // flipping quarters

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I suffer from analysis paralysis on a regular basis.

The incredible technology we have at our fingertips with Google and smartphones and pages upon pages of customer reviews is often a blessing, but when we use it as a crutch, even the most unimportant decisions seem mountainous.

I spent at least five minutes in the tea section at HomeGoods last weekend.

Should I buy the blueberry elderflower white tea that I’ve never had before for $2.99? Or should I buy the plain old black tea I know I’ll like for $3.99? Is certainty in enjoying the tea worth an extra dollar? Or should I live a little and try something new? Surely I can give the rest of the box to someone else if I don’t like it? What is an elderflower anyway? But do I even need more tea at all? If I pick up this box of tea, will I then be more likely to buy other superfluous things I also don’t need?

I probably looked like a crazy woman standing there waffling over boxes of tea.

There’s a psychological phenomenon known as “ego depletion,” which states that we only have a finite amount of willpower. The more decisions have to we make, the poorer the outcomes will be as we run out of energy. It’s the scientific backing for laying out clothes and packing lunches the night before you need them.

Despite being responsible for much more life-changing decisions than I deal with on a regular basis, Jesus’ disciples didn’t suffer from analysis paralysis. When the disciples needed to select a candidate to replace Judas, they prayed about it…and then they cast lots.

So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:23-26

They didn’t sit around deliberating for hours on end. They didn’t consult their friends or family or Google or experts who had a certain number of years of experience. They just relied on God to show them the right candidate. That’s it.

Can you imagine having that much trust in God that you would flip a freaking quarter next time you need to make a life-changing decision? Not praying as a backup to all your research and contingency planning — guilty here — trusting completely that God will make that 50/50 split fall in just the right way.

It’s scary, but also incredibly liberating, to relinquish the burden of overthinking and let God guide your decisions. I wouldn’t bet on 50/50 odds, but with God, we know that everything will turn out according to his plan.

If the disciples could trust God so fully when picking the one who would join them to carry on Jesus’ commands, then so can I. That trust is growing in me, a little at a time.


This post is part two of a series on the disciples. Read part one here and part three here.

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pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Every time the pumpkin spice latte makes its debut and my Pinterest fills up with pictures of plaid shirts and blanket scarves, the high in central Texas is inevitably over 100 degrees. Now that it’s finally fallen below 70 a few days in a row, I guess we can say it’s fall, ish. So I feel comfortable introducing my favorite dessert recipe: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies!

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These cookies are super moist with a rich, lightly sweet flavor that’s distinctly fall-ish. They are easy and fast to make and a major crowd-pleaser. (Unlike blanket scarves, which just look absurdly huge on me. Womp womp.)

I’ll let you in on a secret: The reason these cookies are so good is that I made the recipe wrongThe original recipe, which I got from a classmate in college, calls for 1 cup of pumpkin. I use a whole can of pumpkin, which is about two cups. I didn’t even notice the mistake until the sixth or seventh time I made the recipe. I kept it up because the extra pumpkin is what keeps the cookies so soft and moist, even after a few days.

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These cookies would be great with chopped pecans mixed in if you wanted some extra crunch. If you’d like a more powerful spice flavor, you could also add a little nutmeg or allspice or whatever strikes your fall fancy. Whether you stick to the recipe or kick it up a notch, these cookies are a great sweet treat to have on hand as the weather gets cooler.

Without further ado… bake away!

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pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Serves 24 cookies
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 22 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat

Ingredients

  • 1 can pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2
In a large bowl, mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, and egg.
Step 3
In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
Step 4
Add dry ingredients to the large bowl and stir well. Add vanilla extract and chocolate chips.
Step 5
Scoop onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until the cookies are no longer wet on top.
Step 6
Let them cool (yes, really). Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee or tea!
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