Predators, Survivors, Heroes, and a Savior


Tonight I am thankful for a woman who said, “No more.”

Who told her story until she was believed.

Who empowered other women and girls to share their stories of abuse, to begin to find healing.

I am thankful that she spoke in court today, calling names, both giving an account and holding other accountable for their actions and inaction.

I am thankful that she asked a judge, “How much is a little girl worth?” And then asked her to sentence their abuser thusly.

I am thankful also for a judge who allowed her courtroom to become a classroom, teaching the world the right way to hear and affirm survivors of abuse.

I am thankful she allowed them all to speak, and to do so for as long as they needed to speak their peace.

And I am thankful that Judge Aquilina answered Rachael Denhollander’s question with the answer, “I just signed your death sentence.”

Because, a little girl is worth everything.

But mostly I am thankful that Rachael shared the Gospel, that in that moment, she declared the only One who can truly give everything did so for us all.

I am thankful that she extended human forgiveness to her abuser and shared with him that God extends forgiveness to even those who prey on children for their own pleasure. But she not only forgave, she also sought justice from the court, because the same God who grants forgiveness to the repentant also declares that millstones be hung about the necks of those who cause little ones to stumble. You see, justice and Love are not mutually exclusive. The two go hand in hand. God’s Love is His justice, and His justice is revealed in His Love.

Rachael Denhollander is a powerhouse, and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina is a hero. May Larry Nassar be forgotten, but may the voices heard this week in that courtroom never be.

Take the time to watch Rachael speak in court. You will be both devastated and empowered.

(Photo Credits: Heavy.com and Daily Mail)

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Singleness and Submission


Singleness has been the subject of a lot of my conversations lately. Currently I’m part of a book launch for my friend JoyBeth Smith. The book is called Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness. The book is fabulous, as is its author.

And while I’ve loved the book, I have loved the launch group’s Facebook group almost more. The people there have become some of my favorite with which I interact. Brilliant, sassy, wise, honest… and best of all? They’re inquisitive. And the questions? No. Holds. Barred.

It’s been the best of conversations about singleness, from the mundane to the concerns of utmost significance. And then today, a link to an article I wrote last year for Boundless was in my Timehop. Reading it for the first time in 52 weeks, having spent significant time considering singleness and marriage and how those two do and don’t relate to one another, I was surprised by how little I would change the article if I had it to write again.

So, what say you? How do singleness and submission go together?

On Waiting and Blessing


When Jacob wrestled, he waited, but he didn’t stop wrestling in the waiting. He wrestled until he received his blessing.

Waiting doesn’t always mean stopping. Sometimes waiting takes a “meanwhile…” stance as we multitask through life.

And sometimes, wait really just means wait. Like I’ve waited twenty years to read this one particular book. In the meantime, I’ve read hundreds of others, but the book always waited.

Twenty years ago, my parents gave a rightfully Brit lit obsessed teen a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh as a graduation gift. Having only recently rediscovered my love of reading, I was ecstatic to have it. And I flipped through it. And then I started two summer jobs followed by school and Rush, and suddenly I was much too cool and adult for Pooh.

But Pooh stayed with me, through a college transfer and back home again. To grad school and back home. Again. And through eight moves in the last decade. There was Pooh, always near my desk and heart, but with his binding never broken. Because that Pooh, the heavy one with the satin ribbon to mark your place and a small picture on each page, was meant to be shared with others. You read this Pooh aloud.

And while the first person who called me Aunt B will turn 17 this year, and my niece will be 8 next month, I never read that Pooh to any niece or nephew, whether they called me Aunt B by choice or by blood. Taking Pooh to another’s house just seemed strange.

So when the kids started staying with me for respite weekends, I thought about starting them with Pooh. But if you’ve ever tried holding a sprawling two-year-old and a 7 pound book, you know why that didn’t happen.

There was more than just a perpetual motion machine preventing the reading of Pooh by this time. To finally pull him off the shelf and read him would seem so final, and nothing has felt final these last two years.

For two years I was partially afraid that to begin reading would be to jinx it, and we would never get to finish. So we’ve read small Pooh storybooks and big Disney Pooh storybooks and Jesus books and truck books and princess books and pirate books and the complete stories of Paddington Bear, but not of the Silly Old Bear.

Until tonight. Because tonight, five weeks after the judge’s decree and five days after receiving new birth certificates, and about five hours after a hair cut to correct the one she started on herself on Saturday, two chubby little feet scurried back to her room from the errand of “Go find one book to read,” with two dimpled hands holding a blue bound storybook. “Here. I picked this one book. Read it to us, please.”

And there sat Pooh.

As I opened the book, I laughed, partly because Miss Smartypants brought me the biggest “one book” she could carry, but also because, after 20 years of wanting and worrying and whining and wasting and waiting, Pooh came to me. And we read of honey and the wrong sort of bees.

When Death is a Good Thing


Death often makes room to see the past– and the future– more clearly.

I noticed the frozen creek from the kitchen window, and after a week trapped inside by single digit temps, I grabbed my camera, bundled up, and wandered into the backyard for a moment.

In the summer, my backyard is nothing but thick woods, but now it’s obvious that the vines once ran along a fence and there’s a clearing beyond the creek. Today it’s grown up, dangerous, useless.

But sometime in this house’s 90+ years of life, it was a sprawling, well manicured yard.

These fence posts reminded me of what happens when we don’t keep up with the little things in our lives. Boundaries are only effective when they are clearly maintained. When the yard was left to its own devices, a fence became a trellis and vines became thick and impassable.

But then came a deathly deep freeze. The vines that were so tangled in autumn that I couldn’t clear them now crumbled in my hands. With a little bit of work, we’ll have a backyard again and the kids will have a place to play this summer.

I never would’ve known there were both past and future stories here if everything hadn’t died. And I wondered, what things in my life need to die so I can see clearly the direction of my life? What needs to die so I’ll have better perspective on an event in my past? Sometimes, death— of a relationship, of a lie believed, of a habit or addiction— really can be the best thing that could happen.

So what do you do when the death clarifies things? There are really two choices: let things grow back up, or do the work to reestablish the boundaries and make the space useful again.

CT Women’s Most Read Articles and Some Thoughts on Women’s Ministry at the Close of 2017


Yesterday I was thrilled and honored to learn that an article I wrote was among the most read on CT Women in 2017.

After looking at the top ten most read articles, more than WHO wrote them, I hope and pray Christian leaders take note of WHAT women most read about this year: marital crisis, natural disaster, sexuality, spiritual authority and accountability, community, and many others. These are weighty, often faith destroying issues that women both inside and outside of the church grapple with daily.

For two generations, conservative Christian women have been taught their place is in the home and their discipleship flows out of a proper understanding of Proverbs 31 and Titus 2. And for many of us, women’s ministry provided fellowship, but did not provide a holistic and robust understanding of God or the Bible or our identities as children of God, leaving us woefully unprepared to face the issues listed above with our faith remaining intact.

My prayer for 2018 is that ministry to women will continue to grow, both in breadth and depth, to meet women where they are, show them their worth as image bearers of God, and help them develop confidence to study the Word in such a way that they know God in all of His goodness, justice, mercy, and love.

If your church emphasizes women’s ministry as the primary source of fellowship and discipleship for women, take care to ensure the teaching is robust and sound so that the women in your church are confident of their faith in the God who is more than able to do more than we can ask or imagine, in and through each situation addressed in the articles listed above.

Women today, as always, need more than a tribe to laugh and cry and journey with. We need a deep and abiding knowledge of, faith in, and love for the God who does not change, even in the face of our ever changing existence.

Finding my “True Self”


I like the title CT eventually used for a piece of mine they published over the summer.

Mostly because it got people from both sides of the LGBTQ debate in Christian circles clicking to read it. But more so because it highlights the redefining of the words “true self” in today’s culture.

Here’s a bit from the piece, and if you haven’t already, head over to Christianity Today’s site and check it out.

In the end, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me seeking more contentment and completeness than either could offer. One group had fallen short of acknowledging the genuine nature of my feelings and the other had overlooked the very real conviction I held about human sexuality by explaining it away as “residual guilt from my legalistic childhood.”

Forty Names of Jesus: A Lenten Devotional for Families


Having been raised Southern Baptist in the 1980’s, I’m not sure that I heard the word Lent before I was a Religion major in college. Since learning of the liturgical calendar, I have been fascinated with this way of faith that gives a structure to the year and an intention to my worship.

Forty NamesThis is part of the reason that I jumped at the chance to preview Jennifer Spencer’s work Forty Names of Jesus: A Lenten Devotional for Families. The other reason is that, in the years that I have known Jennifer, I have learned that she is a learner, a teacher, a mother, and a friend who is naturally curious and desires to do life with excellence. A curious teacher writing a Lenten devotional was something I simply could not pass up.

In the preface, Jennifer shares her inspiration for researching and writing this book; she had a need for something to teach her children about Jesus and couldn’t find material to meet that need in the particular manner she desired. That desire to help her children move from knowing stories about Jesus to actually getting to know Him intimately resonated with me as a new mom. As I read, I more and more appreciated her work as a teacher as well. While there are many strengths to this devotional, the following aspects make Forty Names particularly useful to me as a mother and an educator.

First, the devotional is adaptable. Jennifer does a fantastic job helping the reader understand the different tools she intentionally provided. While the actual reading for each day is relatively short, she provides multiple ways to adjust the breadth and depth of the study so that it is age appropriate for each member of a family. With a key verse and concept for each name as well as additional passages of study, I can use this to introduce my toddlers to the names of God but can also use it with my small group of high school freshmen without having to do much prep work on my own.

Second, the devotional is educational. The word devotional tends to have the connotation of fluffy or feel good, and there is a time and place for warm fuzzy devotional books. What is so appealing in this particular devotion is that Jennifer finds a way to warm the heart through engaging the mind. Moving seamlessly from Hebrew to Greek and Old Testament to New, Forty Names digs just a little deeper by providing historical and literary information that helps the reader understand and appreciate each name just a little more than you did before you started.

Third, the devotional is theological. A vital part of teaching children about our faith is helping them see the common themes throughout Scripture that point the reader to Christ. This particular work falls in line with recent works for children such as The Jesus Storybook Bible, which declares the precious truth that “Every story whispers His name.” In terms that even young children can understand, Jennifer teaches about concepts such as redemption, sacrifice, and propitiation, and uses familiar Bible stories to illustrate the meanings.

Fourth, the devotional is readable. It is possible to teach deep theological truths in layman’s terms. With simple definitions and a multitude of cross references that will help the reader increase familiarity with the full counsel of Scripture, there is an attractiveness to this work that draws the reader in and invites you to stick with the book, to come back for the next reading. A good teacher leaves a hook for her students so that they begin to internalize their motivation to keep learning, and the daily entries in this devotional are specifically written to guide the reader to the conclusion that she should just keep reading.

With all that has been written in recent years about the exodus of youth from the church and the biblical illiteracy of professing believers, devotional works like this one show us that learning about Jesus does not have to be either loud and flashy or dry and boring; learning about Jesus can be simple and satisfying. Learning can be fun, and it can be genuine, and it can be done alone or in groups. We can even learn as families. An ideal plan for families with kids spread across developmental stages is to simply start small (one verse and the concept) and then just allow the conversation to continue by using the additional passages and questions as your guide. You may be surprised just how long even the youngest in your family may stick around to talk and learn.

This is a devotional that can be added to your family’s permanent library because Jennifer wrote it in a manner that will allow you to also use it year after year and build upon what you’ve studied in previous readings. I am thankful that it is a resource that I have for years to come. If you are looking for a guide for your family for this upcoming season of Lent, I highly recommend Forty Names of Jesus.