Spiritual Disciplines

 

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Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

Self-control, persistence, long-suffering, restraint all these words and others are words that sometimes feel foreign to me. I cherish my freedom in Christ. I appreciate the 1st amendment that allows me to express myself and not be silenced. I truly revere how Jesus compacted all the law and prophets into two commands. I love simplicity. I love fun. I hate discipline. And because of the erroneous fear of barriers and structure, this book was a necessary read. I was so mistaken on what freedom really is and Mr. Donald Whitney uses great illustrations to maximize what he is trying to say in order to help the Believer understand just what truly is freedom. He explains it best at the end of the book when he quotes John Guest:

           “Discipline” has become a dirty word in our culture . . . I know I am speaking heresy in many circles, but spontaneity is greatly overhauled. The “spontaneous” person who shrugs off the need for discipline is like the farmer who went out to gather the eggs. As he walked across the farmyard toward the hen house, he noticed the pump was leaking. So he stopped to fix it. It needed a new washer, so he set off to the barn to get one. But on the way he saw that the hayloft needed straightening, so he went to fetch the pitchfork . Hanging next to the pitchfork was a broken handle. “I must make a note to myself to buy a broom handle the next time I get to town,” he thought . . .
By now it is clear that the farmer is not going to get his eggs gathered, nor is he likely to accomplish anything else he sets out to do. He is utterly, gloriously spontaneous, but he is hardly free. He is, if anything, a prisoner to his unbridled spontaneity.
The fact of the matter is that discipline is the only way to freedom; it is necessary context for spontaneity.

Whitney then elaborates and says: “I have several friends who can improvise beautiful melodies on a keyboard or a guitar. But the only reason they can play so “spontaneously” is because they have spent years in the disciplines of playing musical scales and other fundamental exercises. . . . if you desire effective spontaneity in the Christian life, it must be the fruit of a spiritually disciplined faith.

This lit a light bulb for me that shone so brightly that it knocked me off my know-it-all horse! I knew about the importance of prayer and Bible reading, but didn’t see that the more I did it, the more freedom I experienced in those areas. Mr. Whitney covers 10 areas of discipline for the Believer:

Bible Intake
Prayer
Worship
Evangelism
Serving
Stewardship
Fasting
Silence and Solitude
Journaling
Learning

All of these chapters were so beneficial to me and I will be implementing – very slowly – some of Mr. Whitney’s Biblical suggestions because I want that kind of freedom. True freedom!

I recommend this book to all Believers. It is not the law or a to do list, it is a heightening of the pleasures of the Christian to a new level that comes with discipline. There is so much to gain by reading this book.

 

 

 

Instant Family – Movie Review

I did not want to see this movie. When the link was sent to me by another foster mom, I immediately told her I was not going to go. I don’t like going into situations knowing my heart strings are going to be pulled. I don’t do lifetime or hallmark Christmas movies. It’s just not my cup of tea. I realize that this is a foster care movie, I realize it would make me laugh, but it was just too close to comfort. I didn’t want to do this! And they couldn’t make me. So a group of foster moms and I went on opening day.  I hate/love my friends for making me do things I don’t want to do!

The movie was very real. It did make me cry, but they didn’t leave you there for as long as other movies in this genre like to do sometimes. I also appreciated that they didn’t sugar coat the life of foster parents or kids. It was obvious that the writers of this movie did their homework and interviewed many social workers, foster kids and parents. So many aspects of our fears, of our secret thoughts, and of our joys were covered by this movie and I was grateful for it.

Would I take my foster kids to see this movie? I cannot paint with a broad paint brush with this question.  I would recommend it only for the older foster kids who feel safe with their foster parents and only if your kid is capable to deal with strong themes like seeing a drug addicted mother repeatedly abandon her kids. For example, I think my 13 year old foster son would be okay watching this movie.  On the other hand, my 12 year old foster daughter who struggles with missing her mom and abandonment would not be okay watching this movie until she is much older. She still has a lot of healing to do before she sees her nightmare played out on the screen. But for my older one, this movie will provide so many awesome opportunities to have deep conversations with him. We can talk about what he related to the most or what he thought wasn’t right. He could also see (hopefully) just how difficult it is to be a foster parent and some of our fears and concerns. I do recommend you watch the movie first on your own and then assess if your foster kids would be okay with it.

I do recommend this movie to all who have thought for more than half a second about fostering or adopting out of foster care. I also recommend this movie to anyone who likes family drama genres.

The movie does contain adult themes that are not strangers to foster parents like comfort masturbating, sexting, cuss words, manipulation, drugs, sexual abuse, running away etc. There is also several times that God’s name is used in vain. There is also a gay couple who fosters a little boy. Generally the mood is light about all these things and I really enjoyed the political incorrectness. This just added more to the general authentic feel of the movie and frankly its comedic value. There was no nudity or sex scenes.

Just be aware, this is not a “Christian” movie. There is a Christian couple that is made fun of, but everyone is made fun of – even the gay couple! The movie is all around very secular. There is a scene at the very end where the main actors answer the question “why they chose to foster” to their teenage foster daughter and although their answer is very sweet, it is also very humanist and came short for me. This is why as Christians, we have such an advantage in foster care to live out the Gospel with these children. Our answer to this question runs red deep in meaning and purpose! I wrote more about this in this blog.

When we enter into the world, the world in all its non-glory exposes itself to us. We cannot shudder away from this with tight lips and eyes closed. The world was us and there are still many not yet part of our fold who are in it. Let’s go get them.

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There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us.
– I John 4:18-19

12 Rules for Life – Book Review

I read another self help book – so help me! That is 2 for this year! I will not read another again! Most likely. This one is by Jordan Peterson. Like all self-help books, it has a lot of really good ideas and I will share with you some of the ones I can remember from the top of my head in just a moment. But first I want to say that all of these kinds of books are just things these authors have unintentionally and sometimes intentionally borrowed from Scripture. And that which isn’t borrowed from Scripture is self-exalting and places a huge burden on your own volition and will instead of drawing strength from an outside, eternal, non-crazy source, like GOD!

In regards to the book, Jordan Peterson does do a good job in pointing out obvious things adults should be doing. Like cleaning after themselves, taking their pills, owning their mistakes. He also has a good section on handling suffering and anxiety,  Although, Mr. Peterson does make a good case for believing in God or acting as if there is a god to those who don’t believe, he is not a good theologian. He draws upon the words of Scripture as one would draw from Aesop’s moral stories. He quotes many good practices from many religions and makes a case for getting our morality from a “higher” source. This is what most frustrated me from the book. Why is a Buddhist or a Muslim moral or even an atheist? It is because there is a benefit to that morality – less pain, better spiritual standing with your deity, better quality of life, etc. So when he includes Christianity as a good thing because of the benefits or less consequences or more peace etc, he destroys the Gospel and the true meaning of being a Christian. Yes, we strive for obedience, but not because it is beneficial (although, we will take those crumbs!) but because we have Him already! We have assurance and a hope that transcends this life, so we live like it! Its an overflow of our reality, not a behavioral checklist to get something or win approval.

These are somethings I remember from this book:
1. If you are going to be anxious (i.e. sin), set an allotted time to be anxious and to worry. Yes, you wont gain anything, but make a list during that time of what you can do. Worry for that allotted time and then stop worrying. This prevents you from worrying at night before going to bed and losing sleep because you have already worried during the day. (I’m not a big worrier, but this sounded reasonable)

2. Take your darn pills. Although, he uses the other word, I really liked this. I struggle taking my medicine. For no reason. I just don’t take them. I forget and doing that can cause havoc in my body. In his book, he just plainly states to take them. Americans are the worst in taking their medicine and there is absolutely no reason not to. So whenever I get the thought that I will just take my medicine later, I can hear Mr. Peterson’s words clear, “just take your da*n pills!”. So I do. Simple right?

3. Before you try and clean up the mess of others, clean your own room! In all senses! A good quote, very Biblical.

4. Men and women are different. Women love strong men and men like pretty women. In other words, men should not be afraid to toughen up, to explore and stop whining. And women, should not be afraid to be homemakers, take care of themselves and be sweet.

5. Have one foot in “order” and another in “chaos”. Do not be a complete organizational dictator and also leave room for spontaneity and adventure. The balance of these two is what makes life fun.

6. If you don’t like your children sometimes, others don’t either. Guide your kids to be likeable, it is not fair to them to allow them to act like monsters. Other people will hate them because of their behavior and it is your fault for letting them get away with it. Not acting like a monster will help them make friends and will win praise from adults. This will make them feel awesome about themselves

There were other things in there that were good, but these are just what I could remember at this moment. I think I am going to not recommend this book though because it is just another self-help book and as Christians, there are so many other sources to help in our walk.

If you are needing help in any area of your life, I do want to recommend Rick Thomas’ website.  He has a limitless collection of great articles to help you in any area in your life. All of which are Christ-centered and Gospel-soaked!

 

The Man Who Stole Christmas

 

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We all know them, the ones who post “15 weeks until Christmas!!” It was 90 degrees today! Fall weather hasn’t even kicked in and I’m already being triggered by beautiful friends who just love Christmas! Don’t get me wrong, I do love Christmas, but I just don’t feel the feels yet as I figure out if dealing with dabbing rivulets of foundation make-up off my face is worth it today. Life is sweaty sometimes, especially in the South.

Christmas is exciting. The presents, the decorations, the big family dinners, the baking, the food, the traditions, did I mention the baking, and even the shopping and thinking of others brings a joy to me that seems to only happen around this time. So I see why it can bring an anxious excitement to a lot of people. So when I read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens it was full of nostalgia. Scrooge got it at the end. Here and there the Ghost of Christmas Present sprinkled people with Christmas feelings of warmth, mirth, and joy. Scrooge stepped out of his comfort zone and saw how even those with nothing, still were able to enjoy life because they had family and friends, despite their impoverished circumstances. He saw in the end that material things mean nothing because we cannot enjoy them when we are dead. Friendship, fellowship, and philanthropy that is what mattered most in life.  Oh, Mr. Dickens, you are close, but you got it so wrong.

I first noticed it when the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” came out last year. (I still have not seen it and I really want to.) The title shocked me. Not in a Victorian-I’m-going-to-faint-now-catch-me-please kind of way, but that it was so blatantly wrong. So adamantly misleading. Christmas has been around for over 2000 years, and man didn’t invent it. It was given. But reading “A Christmas Carol” I got what was trying to be convened by Mr. Dickens. He wanted Christmas without Christ. He wanted the sentiment without the Savior. He wanted the philanthropy without the Forgiver. And frankly, he got it. And Americans – because this is what we do – gobbled up this kind of Christmas in mouthfuls. Yes, I sprinkle Jesus and Bible reading among the towers of presents. I contemplate the birth of my Savior between Christmas parties. Yes, I give a little more around this time frankly because I feel bad because I spent so much on my kids. UGh! Christmas should not be this complicated. This stressful. This domineering. So what do I do with this?

We do not know when Jesus was born. I have heard most accounts of a time line of when He could have been born and all of them make good arguments, but simply, none of us are for sure. I think it is important to see that plainly the date wasn’t that big of a deal. If it was, with all the writings we have on everything else, we would know! I think this lack of information screams: Let’s not save our celebrating Jesus or Christianity for one day out of the year!

Be a gift-giver, host big meals, decorate your home, make traditions (especially ones revolving around Jesus), make time for family and friends, love on the needy, read the Bible aloud with your family, seek God, make amends, ask for forgiveness, easily forgive, call forgotten ones, encourage one another, do these things and more not when the “Christmas spirit” hits you, but because the Holy Spirits dwells in you.

I am still working out the thoughts and convictions I have been feeling about Christmas. Rest assured that I will be sharing my thoughts as I work them out. I will still celebrate Jesus birth and salvation. I will still decorate and make my home warm, I will still give gifts and attend and host parties, I will still bake and donate; but I just hope to continue to do these things throughout the year.

Dickens did steal Christmas. He was one of the firsts to write a Christmas story that excluded the mention of Jesus. But he, I believe inadvertently, also limited our Christianity. He captured the feelings we have during Christmas and bound it to a season. Maybe that is why we go nuts around Christmas time with all we do, because we are making up for what we have not done throughout the year? Even I become overly religious around this time, making sure we read Luke 2 before we DARE open any presents! God forgive me! It shouldn’t be a novelty to read Scripture to my gathered children. 😦 Am I making up for what I should be doing daily? I think I am.

My challenge to myself and to you my dear Christian is to not save our Christianity to a Christmas season. Even to those who haven’t fallen into the American-Christmas trap and do center their celebration to revolve around Jesus specifically, let us not just make Him center for a season. Let us not celebrate His birth and salvation for a slot of two weeks in the winter.

GOD became incarnate and died for the sins of His church! He came to earth! – a feeble little rock in the great expanse of space and taught us how to love Him and others. He has saved His people! And because He so magnificently gave and forgave, we do also. This beautiful truth should be celebrated all year long!

I will end with a passage from Luke 2! 😉

 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.

Regarding the book because this was supposed to be a book review. It is a very well written book. Dickens is a master at capturing and developing deep, meaningful characters. I also love the last names he gives his characters. I recommend this book to anyone wanting a quick and motivational read. The book is about 100 pages, so it isn’t very long. It will forever be a classic.

 

 

 

 

Blank Birth Certificates

About a week ago, my 3 foster children lost their biological parents. No, they didn’t die, they just chose not to show up for most of their lives.  After years of being in the foster care system, the powers that be decided that my kids parents were unfit to be parents and their rights were rightfully terminated. Technically, on paper, my foster children are orphans. They have us, but legally their birth certificates now have blank spaces where their parents’ names should be.

Unfortunately, their case is not unique. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are over 8,000 children in the foster care system. Many of these children age out not ever “belonging” to anyone. Their birth certificate being blank for the rest of their lives. We live in a very broken world.

But I tell you all this so this little, minuscule light of mine shines even brighter.

This morning, I fed my kids chorizo con huevo (Mexican sausage with egg). They saw me take out the plump, greasy, fat links, then squeeze the red clumps out of their casing, my fingers covered in red-orange ooze. “What is that?” the smallest one asked. “It’s chorizo, and I’m going to mix it with your eggs this morning.” He being the most sensitive to my feelings just slowly said “okay” and walked away. I accompanied their eggs with some quesadillas filled with Oaxaca cheese, and grilled them in butter and needless to say, my Kentucky native foster children ate every bit of what I made and loved it. And, may I add, they pronounce “chorizo” beautifully.

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This morning’s breakfast

My foster children, who we plan to adopt, are themselves adopting me and my culture. The oldest one, whose name is John, has adamantly stated he would like to change his given name at his adoption hearing to, get this, JUAN! My littlest one is always requesting for me to make fideo, a type of Mexican spaghetti that I grew up with. My foster daughter is looking forward to her quinceanera (a huge party celebrating her 15th birthday) where we all celebrate her becoming a woman.  All of them can sing Lalo Mora’s song “Un puno de tierra”!

Yes, this is all a good thing, but there is a larger part of my culture that they are also adopting which is the most important and that is my Christian culture. I pray so they pray, I attend church and they do also, I confess my many, many, many failings and I help them confess theirs, we forgive, we worship our God, we fight being hypocrites and fail some more, we practice hospitality – something they really enjoy. My whole worldview is through the lens of my faith. My identity and the identity of my home is mostly found in Christ. My home of Mexicans, a Guatemalan, Kentuckians,Texans and a Yankee comes beautifully together seamlessly under Christ. This is why I beg Christians to consider foster care and/or adoption. What better way to further the kingdom of God than by having them in your home where habits, culture, and character – specifically Christian ones – are naturally absorbed!? Will you mess up, of course. My first summer with my very pale foster children was drenched in aloe because I didn’t know anything about sunscreen AND that you have to re-apply that stuff! AND that SPF 40 does squat! AND just get SPF 70, trust me! AND what does SPF even mean!?! – My poor white babies were burnt red all summer, sizzling as they slowly walked!  Their brown mama had no clue! You also will mess up in other ways. You may not want them anymore – it will pass, sometimes I didn’t want the kids I birthed. You will regret doing foster care, don’t worry, it will pass – sometimes. You will question yourself, you will lose your temper with them. You may even consider an exorcist for them and even yourself. BUT! This is where my faith, my Christian culture, comes to the rescue. Because it is in my faith where I remember my own adoption. My Heavenly Father adopted me. I was an abandoned baby and he raised me and clothed me (Ezekiel 16:5-6). I was his enemy (Romans 5:10) and he made me His friend (John 15:15). I was dead and he brought me to life (I John 3:14). My birth certificate had blanks (John 14:18) and he filled them and signed them with the blood of His Son (Ephesians 1:5)!

My foster children have blanks right now on their birth certificates, but soon they will have Nathan and Anna Tobey written in on these empty slots. They will be given a new last name – and some a new first name too! They will belong to someone. It is my constant prayer that they will not just be a part of our temporary family, but also our eternal one. I hope that they don’t just become my children, but also my eternal brothers and sisters – sharing with me in my inheritance who is Christ Himself!

Ephesians 1:4-5 says: For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One.…

 

 

Girl Wash Your Face – Book Review

I realize that this is a very popular book especially among women my age, so I did hesitate for a moment about writing this review – but only for a moment.

Overall the book is another self-help book sprinkled with Scripture and some Christianese. Mrs. Hollis is an excellent writer and listening to her read her own book, I can tell she is a great motivator and speaker. There are some things I did get from the book that were helpful, but her slaughter of Scripture left me wanting to throw the book across the room. I didn’t, only because I got the book on audible and would have probably shattered my phone.

In her book, she does provide little small things you can do to start changing bad habits or traits. She has done very well for herself and has a huge following and it is good to take advice from people who have been so successful. She lets the reader know her thought process and provides tidbits of advice and counsel that are helpful. She is also very vivacious and humorous. The book was funny at times, and that made it easier to listen to. She is also very open about her struggles, but I believe this can also lead to a false sense of entitlement or authority. Just because someone is open about their suffering, doesn’t mean they have the authority to tell others how to feel about pain. It can definitely make them more empathetic, but not wiser. So my advice – Girl, you’re a fool and so am I!

Also, Mrs. Hollis unfortunately is not a good theologian. She is your typical American Christian – my way and Jesus on the side. I wouldn’t say this is a religious book, but she does mention her faith and how it helps her in her life often. If I remember correctly, every verse she uses, she uses out of context. She even wrote Philippians 4:13 on her arm as encouragement when she ran her marathon. Ugh! So my advice – Girl, read your Bible!

She also oozes with white guilt. I can’t stand that! There is nothing wrong with being white! Say it with me my white friends “There is nothing wrong with being white!” She mentions in her book how she left her all white church to go to a multi-ethnic church so her children could be exposed to differences. Would she have encouraged me to leave my all Hispanic church in Texas? Or what about a black mom, would she encourage her to leaver her all-black church? I don’t know, but I think she wouldn’t have. Here is where she gets it so wrong. She paints a picture of having friends off all colors and cultures and religions – and that is a good thing! – but she erroneously says that is how Heaven will be. Sorry, but not sorry, there wont be any Muslims in Heaven or Buddhist or unbelievers. Yes, there will be people of all tongues and tribes, but all of them will be believers and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. She does address a problem in the church – we self-segregate. But this isn’t a white problem. It is a human problem. Growing up in El Paso, Texas my church’s name was Primera Iglesia Bautista Mexicana. In case you didn’t catch that, it translates to: First MEXICAN Baptist Church. We even excluded Hispanics belonging to other countries! So my advice – Girl, grow where you’re planted and you don’t need a tan!

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She also drinks way too much. She admits she drank alcohol to relieve stress and that that wasn’t a good thing, but several times she mentions where she met her best friend at happy hour, where she drinks some wine here or drinks with her friends. It’s just not me. I drink, very occasionally, but for someone who admits they had a problem, I was just a bit concerned at the way she nonchalantly mentions these moments. My advice – Girl, find a happy hour with Jesus.

The book ends up being very human-centered just like all self-help books, especially towards the end. She talks about stepping out and meeting new people not like you, which basically is the Great Commission of every Christian, but she dangerously says you do not need a hero because you are the hero. You do need a hero, I do. we do. She does talk about God giving you strength, but that in the end, it is up to  you to really change. I beg to differ, I only change because of what God does in me. I fail me. My strength fails me. My motives are tainted. My soul is depraved. My ambitions are marred. All throughout Scripture, there is a constant reminder that I am not the hero, but the one who needs rescuing. My advice – Girl, get rescued!

I do not recommend this book, but if  you are a woman who may need a quick pick-me up or just some temporary motivation – this book will provide that. She did motivate me to set goals, to dream and to stop lying to myself. I do that all the time on my own -thanks to Christian friends and THE BIBLE AND JESUS! -, but it was nice for someone else to tell me, and like I said before, she does give some good advice. SOME. I do not recommend this book to white women because she will make you feel bad about your whiteness, and that’s something you can’t do anything about. Most of my friends are white and I don’t want that kind of negativity in their lives. I’m watching out for you my sister! 🙂

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Basically she is the next Joyce Meyer. If you like her, you will like Rachel Hollis.

 

Remember – Poem

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I wrote this poem a couple of days ago. It has been a long time since I have taken the time to express myself this way.  These are sins I struggle with it, and may it be understood that these are not the only ones, but the biggest ones at the moment. There are many of our past brothers and sisters who have insisted that the Christian ought to be preaching the Gospel to themselves. And this is what this poem is about. The salvation of a believer is a mysterious and beautiful thing that we should never tire of. It should shake our very core that God chose to save us and lead us into a gladness unheard of. I hope this poem encourages you and reminds you that when in any doubt regarding your faith, always go back to Gospel and the miracle of  our salvation. Blessings.

 

Remember

There are days when I am too busy to open up and read Your word.

When I don’t want to hear from you because it all seems absurd.

I become haughty, full of myself and full of pride;

Forgetting of my Savior of who for me He died.

When I lose my way like this, Oh Lord, let there be no hesitation;

May I remember, always remember Your meritless salvation.

 

There are moments when my familiar sin has lead me into darkness.

The temporary pleasure I seemed to have wanted keeps me in a harness.

I then hate myself for my weakness and for my lack of volition.

I want to hide and let no one see my disgraceful condition.

When I am hidden because of the shame of my instant gratification;

May I remember, always remember, the grace of Your salvation.

 

Some days I am tired and the sadness overtakes my mind.

I think of better days, of how things used to be, of what I’ve left behind.

I seem to have forgotten how to laugh and the tears never stop to flow.

I feel so all alone, and it seems that no one cares or even knows.

When everywhere is better except for where I am in my habitation;

May I remember, always remember the joy of Your salvation.

 

There are times when I feel so lost and it feels I have lost my way.

Am I even saved, how could You want me, have I been lead astray?

The desire to pray, the desire to serve, and even the desire to worship is distant.

I worry about Your anger, am full of despair and the fear of Your fury is constant.

When I am afraid of Your wrath and all I seem to see is my own contamination,

May I remember, always remember the peace of Your salvation.

 

For You ask me to remember, always remember the things that You have done;

For only those things are worthy and were fulfilled in Your Son.

May I never forget that You saved a wretch like me.

That I did nothing for my salvation and was for a long time Your enemy.

I do not know why You redeemed me, I may never comprehend

That You sought me and have promised to preserve me until the very end.

May I remember, always remember the miracle of Your salvation

Even when the enemy bombards me with his manipulation.

For he is the father of lies and You are the Truth and the Light;

Give me strength to remember those things and continue the fight.

 

I will be crushed and bruised, but I will never be broken.

This is all true, for Your word of this has spoken.

That You will sustain me and nothing can snatch me from the palm of Your hand,

And not one will You lose to hell, this I have to understand.

“I am saved, I am saved, I am saved” may this be my anthem and song!

May I remember this when I have done so much wrong.

So, when I am prone to wander, or in any other ugly situation

May remember, always remember the beauty of Your salvation.

 

 

 

Written by Anna Tobey

The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Book Review

Rosaria Butterfield has become one of my most favorite authors.  Her writing style, her vulnerability and her sincerity in her books creates a paradox in me of wanting to greedily gobble up her books and slowly relish them at the same time. Her latest book is no exception. She challenges the Christian to reach out to the hurting and lonely and be a beacon of refuge and hope to a dying world.

The book is mainly about the lost practice of Christian hospitality and how vital it is in this post-Christian society, because it is in homes where believers and unbelievers can let down guards and shatter assumptions and be together. She reminds the reader that “God’s people were strangers once” and that we should not be “told on the Lord’s Day that we are part of the family of God, but then limp along throughout the rest of the long week like an orphan begging bread”.

She challenged me to ask the very serious question: When was the last time a stranger was in my home? Thankfully, due to her previous books, I can admit it was last week, but it really has to be an effort on my part. I can not expect strangers to come visit me, or to initiate conversations with me, I have to seek them out; just as Christ sought me. How quickly I forget that I once was lost, that I once was a stranger, that I once was an enemy and outside the fold. Rosaria’s book is a gentle but firm reminder of our mandate to practice “radically ordinary hospitality” and see “strangers become neighbors and neighbors become family of God.”

In her book she shares her life with us. Her ordinary life. She shares the beautiful stories of doing life together with Christians, and also the very ugly details of the pain that sin causes. Just like any family, there is dirty laundry to be handled, BUT we, as Christians, have something strictly biological families lack, and that is the ultimate purifier and cleaner, Christ Himself and the sweet smelling aroma of grace.

Rosaria practices what she teaches and like always she brings new perspective and vitality to my faith. She is also a foster parent that truthfully exposes the insecurities and blessings of foster care. And as a foster parent myself, her compassionate words of wisdom were a balm to my aching soul. Foster care and radical hospitality are difficult, but Rosaria is able to beautifully orchestrate the Gospel around these practices making these hardships worthwhile and brave.

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I strongly recommend this book to all Christians. This book will change your life if you haven’t read any of Rosaria’s books already.  It will challenge us to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. It will encourage us to see the equal dignity and humanity bestowed on fellow Image bearers. It will saturate you with the Gospel and the eternal hope we have as a family in Christ. I also recommend it if you are a foster parent, or know of any foster parents that may need encouragement, this book would be a good gift.

You can order the book here.

Here is a short video of her.       https://youtu.be/8XXHXWrh-Rg

Words in quotations come directly from “The Gospel Come with a House Key”

 

 

Speaking Truth in Love – Book Review

The title of the book perfectly sums up what this book is about. In a day-in-age where truth is relative, there is a strong need for such a direct book. This book was required reading for a course I am taking, but it can also be beneficial to all Christians, since we are constantly around our fellow brothers and sisters and should be involved in their lives.

The book gives a lot of examples on how to ask questions, and it also gives a lot of practical advice on what to say. I found it surprising just how much it emphasizes on first and foremost being honest with myself, before I expect anyone else to be honest with me.

There are corroborating verses with everything he says and I was grateful for the challenges Mr. David Powlison presented to the reader. He really lays it on thick on not being a hypocritical counselor. All the advice I give to those I talk to, should also be advise I give to myself. We all have the same sinful nature and fleshly tendencies.

I recommend this book if you plan on discipling other Christians or if you are a pastor or plan to become one.

You can buy this book here.

I took back my children’s medals . . . *cringe*

This year, 3 of my 6 kids started the running club and two of them (the two girls) whined and complained so much that they quit with 2 meets left. I will confess it was just easier for me to just let them quit. I hate it that I allowed them to quit and that I should have forced them to just finish, but alas, I gave in to their squeals of despair and side cramps.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email that our school would be recognizing the kids of running club at the annual rally. I told our family that we would all go and support our little runner. We all (including the girls) agreed to cheer him on. When it came to honor our little runner, the two girls come running towards me saying that they too will be honored and given a medal just like their brother. They beamed as they accepted their medal along with their brother. The award had lost its luster to him.

Don’t worry – I realize I should have never let them get the medal in the first place, but I had no clue they were going to call out their names in front of a gym-full of people, and I wasn’t going to make them sit this out. My heart was not to embarrass them publicly, but to teach them privately.

After the rally, we had to have a very serious talk with the girls. My husband and I waited until we could tell them privately that they did not deserve those medals and that we would have to give them back to the coach. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We told them that while their brother was running and sweating during practice, they were at home playing. While their brother’s heart was pounding at the meets, they were at home sleeping. Their brother had finished the race, they had not. They had quit, and quitters do not get medals.

All three of them take karate and all three have received their orange belt. They had to take a test and show up to practice for over 6 months to have earned that belt. I told them, “How would you feel if your oldest brother –  who doesn’t do karate – how would you feel if I bought him an orange belt and he wore it around the house and told others he was an orange belt? Would you like that?” Both the girls gasped and said “no”.

As we asked for their medals, one cried because she really wanted the medal, but after this story settled a bit, she said she understood. The other – the more competitive one – understood immediately.

Medals mean nothing if the quitters get one too. Trophies mean nothing if all who participate get one. I saw this with my two older boys who are great athletes. The trophies that were given to all – even the ones who showed up to one practice and two games, are in the trash. The ones that were earned are on display for all to see and even polished.

As parents, these are hard lessons to teach our children. We need to teach them to lose gracefully and learn from that loss. We need to teach them to get up and going even when they feel down. We need to encourage good sportsmanship especially when they’re defeated. And we also need to understand that our children are uniquely made with different talents – not everyone gets a trophy and that’s okay. My two girls learned that you don’t get a medal when you abandoned the team, and their brother appreciated his medal and hard work even more.

In the Bible these qualities are exalted in believers. We are to run to finish the race set before us (Heb. 12:1-2). We are to persevere. (2 Thess. 1:4-5; Romans 5:3-4) We are to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12). We know that he who endures trials to the end will be blessed (James 1:2-4, 12).

To those who are appalled at my words and think I am going to ruin my children’s self esteem, here is a video that plainly describes what I think about self-esteem.

I leave you with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 24:13:

But the one who endures to the end will be saved.