August 24, 2017

Don't Force It: Satanic Furniture and Resting in God

Believe it or not, a piece of furniture can be possessed by one, if not a legion of demons. Before you question my theology, let me explain:

    A few days ago, I was tasked with putting together a desk that I had bought from Kris had an identical one that he had put together back in June. He warned me, no, begged me not to buy the same one. He kept muttering something about “not enough glue” and “bad instructions.” I had watched him try to put his together for a few hours, but I figured after watching him, putting together my own would not be nearly as difficult. Twas not so.

    After receiving the demon-desk in the mail, I quickly opened the box and began my journey on this perilous road. The first instructions were simple, elementary even. Every piece of particle board fit exactly where it was supposed to, coming together well. Then, all hell broke loose.
To fit the pieces together, one has to twist this little black circle just so, or the screws wouldn’t fit into it. Seems easy? Guess again. If you were a millimeter off, instead of the satisfying “click” that was given at the beginning, all I heard was the misery of incorrect placement. Four agonizing hours I spent on the last two pages of instructions, while the first six pages had been accomplished in about twenty minutes. If one side worked, the other wouldn’t.

Fed up with the desk, I tried to force one of the pieces to fit. Not only did I fail in my attempt, but by pushing it I knocked four different pieces out of alignment. As I was struggling with murderous thoughts, a new, non-homicidal thought popped into my mind.

“If you have to force it, it’s wrong.”

Now, I knew I shouldn’t force it, but when one is impatient, anything goes. As I continued to try and finish assembling the atrocity that was my desk, I kept pondering this thought. How many times have I tried to force something that just wasn’t working? Whether a relationship, job, school, or other opportunity, sometimes I’ve forced something rather than trusting God to bring the right thing to pass. Don’t misquote me in saying that perseverance is wrong. Perseverance is not only right, but is a key attribute of trusting God. If we trust that God has good plans for us, and can bring us where we need to be, then we can trust that we won’t have to claw our way to get there.

I’ve seen so many girls and guys who are pining after someone, feeling so strongly that the relationship would be right, forcing their way into that person’s thoughts by sheer willpower. I’ve been that person before. There is a strong desire in each of us to be in control. We don’t want to be single, we don’t want to be hidden, we don’t want to be reliant on God.

    In Philippians Paul says,
“I am sure of this: that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6, ESV

     We can trust with absolute certainty that God will kindly lead us where we need to be, revealing His goodness to us, without us striving, grasping, and clawing for what we desire. Certainly, there will be times in our life where we have to fight for something: we must persevere in our marriages, endure in times of trial, combat the lies that God won’t come through.
      There is no safer place than in God’s will. If we can trust that God is faithful, kind, and good, if we can trust that He will never fail us, then we can have peace. How many times have I frustrated myself by trying to force something? How many heartaches could’ve been avoided by trusting that His plans are greater than mine?
    Dear friends, learn from my mistakes: Don’t force it. If something is forced, it won’t work right. If you are in a season of waiting, of being hidden, of watching others walk into a life you’ve wanted, trust in God’s plan and timing. Trust that He’ll finish what He started in you. He is not cruel, He will not taunt you. He cares about where you are, He sees you. You aren’t hidden. He will complete the work He started in you, draw near to Him daily, lay your griefs and fears at His feet. Fight to trust Him. Ask about His plans for you. Don’t force your way and your understanding, lean on His, and for goodness sakes, don’t buy a desk off of Amazon!
“Strength of my heart, I need not fail,
Not mind to fear but to obey,
With such a Leader, who could quail?
Thou art as Thou wert yesterday.
Strength of my heart, I rest in Thee,
Fulfill Thy purposes through me.”
Amy Carmichael

July 28, 2017

Book Review: Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer

    Recently, I was given the opportunity to read an advance copy of the book, Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer. Obviously, being chosen to review one of my favorite author's books was an honor I happily accepted. I wanted to read this book before i even knew what it was about, but once I did know the plot, I was even more eager to read it. This is Sawyer's first contemporary title that does not follow an Old Order Mennonite character. While I was optimistic that this book would be as good as Sawyer's previous novels, I was blown away by how much I loved this book.

     Focusing on three different generations, a grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter, this book was unlike any other I have read. This book was flashing between the characters points of view, focusing on both the past and present, all the while seamless in presentation, and never confusing. That alone is a feat!

    While I love nothing more than a good mystery, often I have to sacrifice suspense in exchange for a hope-filled story. Such is not the case for "Bringing Maggie Home." Not only was I captivated by the mystery and the search for answers, I was delighted by the relatable characters, the hope-filled pages, and Christ-centered story. I have rarely found a book I love enough to read more than a couple times, but this book is sure to be read many times over.
     In the book, there is tension between Hazel and Diane, the grandmother and her daughter. I was brought face to face with the reality that I had unforgiveness towards my great-grandma for many of the same reasons Diane was frustrated with Hazel. In this way, the book was healing to me, helping me to see hurts and frustrations in my own heart that I hadn't realized were there. After reading this book, I have a new gratitude for my great-grandma, and I am so grateful to have seen through fiction what actually could change my heart. What an incredible book that it can bring healing I didn't even know I needed!
     Overall, I am blown away by Bringing Maggie Home. As much as I have loved Kim's past books, this one is by far her best yet. I would recommend this a thousand times over. The perfect mix of suspense and resolve, and full of poignant realities such as the toll of hidden fear and harbored bitterness, and how Christ is the only one who can fix us. If you like mysteries, love a great story, and can read, buy this book!

Thanks to Kim and the publisher for giving me a copy to read and review!

May 31, 2017

Five Reasons to Marry a Calvinist

Nearly five months ago, I married a Calvinist. GASP. I am most definitely the least confrontational person you’ll meet, and I had pledged my life to someone whose theology was debated openly. I mean, there are entire Facebook pages dedicated to just debating Calvinism. Yet, after five months of attending a Calvinist church, five months of asking a myriad of questions to my dear husband, and after reading Romans 9 more times than necessary, I have come to believe that everyone should marry a Calvinist. Though the reasons are many, here are my top five:

  1. Theology
Calvinists, by nature, are theologians with references. Feel free to question what they believe because they will most likely have a bible-based answer. My husband Kris loves theology more than almost anyone I know. That may be due to the fact that he is a calvinist, or it could just be that he is incredible. Or both.
Now, there is much debate about the correct interpretation of theology, but rest assured that no one loves theology as much as a Calvinist, while I am sure that there are Calvinists who love theology more than they love God, in my limited experience, they genuinely are studying the Bible to see the beauty of Jesus.

  1. Unpretentiousness
My husband is one of the most humble people ever. No really. The knowledge of total depravity, and complete reliance on God should mark every Calvinist with humility. Last summer, as Kris and I were discussing our views on theology I didn’t even know existed (Like did God cause the fall? I have no idea. I never even thought of that question) I was amazed at how gently he answered, and how often he quoted scripture. Like, I know scripture, but he KNOWS scripture. He was never harsh, never acted like a know-it-all, and was always super attractive.
Keep in mind, if you marry someone who loves the Bible, then you better not quote anything out of context. Unless you’re a really funny wife who quotes things out of context when your husband is studying to distract him… What a benefit, to marry someone who really does treasure the Word. Oh, the joy of having someone who is not afraid to question wrong interpretations of scripture, all in the pursuit of living out Psalms 27:4.

  1. Library-enthusiasts
Need a free date night? No one will appreciate a well-stocked library more than a Calvinist. Be forewarned however, if your library doesn’t stock enough books on the desert fathers, or is lacking in selection of books authored by Charles Spurgeon, you will have a very very very short date.

  1. Incredible Focus
Obviously, anyone who reads books by ancient authors is bound to be a very focused person. Calvinists are constantly digging into new learning material, articles, blogs, books, youtube sermons, you name it. Sometimes I’ll read Kris’s theology books over his shoulder, and I recognize maybe half the words. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but still, when we go to the library, I go to the fiction section, and Kris goes to the “Obscure authors from the 1200s” section.
Calvinists are really good at concentrating, and as a result, are usually incredibly articulate, especially when explaining to you why the movie “Luther” is not only a valid date-night option, but also a far superior  choice, as opposed to popular rom-com “While You Were Sleeping.” Sigh.
  1. Piper is a Calvinist
John Piper is a like, 15 or 16 point Calvinist I think (Kris said he is actually just a 7 point Calvinist, but I don’t remember it that way). That’s more than enough reason to marry a Calvinist. Don’t believe me? Listen to this sermon jam

Now, I must be fair. I have met many people of God who love the Bible, and are full of humility, and were as far away from John Calvin as Paul was (I’m just making a joke all you who are about to start throwing epistles at me) and they would be great matches too. Really, the utmost desire in our hearts should be to see the beauty of Christ. If we are able to marry someone who also desires to see His glory on the earth, then BOOM. Match made in heaven (or not, if you don’t believe in “the one”) So go my dear friends and marry a sweet Calvinist, although I already got the best one.