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Do Women Look at Pornography?

But if I Preach Christ in Every Text:
Christ crucified is the central point, in which all the lines in evangelical truth meet and are united. There is not a doctrine in the Scriptures but what bears an important relation to it. Would we understand the glory of the divine character and government? It is seen in perfection in the face of Jesus Christ. Would we learn the evil of sin, and our perishing condition as sinners? Each is manifested in his sufferings. All the blessings of grace and glory are given us in him, and for his sake.

Seven Ways We Can Guard and Protect Relationships:
Let’s judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt. Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.” And 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.” In other words, love fills in the blanks with positive assumptions.

She’s Your Collaborator, Not Your Competition:
This biblical perspective obliterates all the bad advice that’s ever been given to single adults. An accomplished woman is a blessing. This passage, written by a wise king, nearly shouts at us, “If she is supposed to be your wife, then she’s your collaborator, not your competition! All those accomplishments could be your gift in marriage.”

Fear and Faith:
Women, gather for a panel discussion about Trillia Newbell’s new book, Fear and Faith, living in a fallen world and following the One who is sovereign over all. Join Trillia Newbell, Jani Ortlund, Kristie Anyabwile, Jen Wilkin, Catherine Parks, and Lindsay Swartz (moderator) for a candid conversation on the fears women often struggle with and the trust found in the character of God.

The truth is that the majority of the 20- and 30-something women in our churches feel this way, too. They may be attending regularly, but they are sitting quietly back out of respect and uncertainty. They wrestle with whether they fit in the church at all anymore.

The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family — that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking — preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life.

So expect to stumble, I tell my son. It’s a sign you’re making progress up the hill. What I don’t tell him, because I think he has to learn this on his own, is how warranted is this fear and trembling. Be careful what you pray for, child. Have a care. There is no grace worth having that comes cheap. These bones are a temple being swept clean and some of them will be scourged.

Every year I take some time away at the beginning of the year to reflect on the previous year and pray over the coming year. I’ve been doing this for the past five years and it has proven to be one of the most helpful disciplines for me—so much so that I think I probably need to do it quarterly instead of yearly. This year a friend and I rented a cabin a few hours from our home and it was perfect. I printed out several articles I read this month that I wanted to continue mulling over, as well as the list of questions I go through, before I went and I wanted to share them with you here.

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These questions are a compilation of several lists others have created and I curate it each year depending on where I know I need more intentional work.

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2014 was a year where I felt stuck. I felt caught in my own brain and thoughts and locked into a cage of my own making. Wendy’s article on the Sanctification Spiral was hugely helpful to me this week, just a reminder of God’s faithfulness to finish us in His time: When you feel “stuck,” when you feel like you are continually rehearsing the same struggles, remember this: sanctification is not an endless, repetitive circle. It is a growing spiral in which each round penetrates more deeply into our identity as fallen, but redeemed, image-bearers of God.

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2014 was a year where I forgot to look up often. I love nature, I love creation, but I felt stuck in a concrete box of suburban living. But the truth is the sky is always there and there’s more too, if I’ll look for it: Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

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For some reason I felt irked by the plethora of “Top Ten 2014″ posts I saw in December. I’m not proud of that (especially since I’ve indulged in my share of top tens before), but I did appreciate Tim Willard’s Top Ten. It encouraged me on multiple levels: In the very small “Christian media world” of books, organizations, conferences, and so on, it’s easy to see the folks who seem to be the most successful and culturally relevant and mimic them. But this is not wise, nor is it fulfilling.

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2014 was a year where I felt the question posed often, “Do you WANT this?” This article came at the perfect time for me this year. You may not agree with all or some of his conclusions, but I found comfort in the transparency of the confession here. My soul needs to be around ready confessors: The key question for Christians is the same one Jesus put to the lame man at the pool of Bethesda: “Do you want to be healed?” Similarly, for pastors, I would say that the key question is: “Do you want to heal?” Too often, either pastors or laypeople (and sometimes both) think they want healing or to heal, but actually would rather give or receive sugar pills.

Pools at Bethesda

Pools at Bethesda

Because what is better than Wendell Berry and Ron Swanson?
Inside every human life there will occur times of hardship and times of rejoicing, which in fact could describe any single trip of my own to the privy, or “thunder-closet”, but with the wife and family that I possess, and more importantly, that possess me, I can remain calm in the knowledge that any storm can be weathered.

Fasting for 40 days can be done Godwardly, but it would be hard to do secretly.
Isaiah describes real repentance as a seismic upheaval where, “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain” (Isa. 40:4). If your soul needs the upheaval of repentance then fasting is a great intensifier.

The Habits of Highly Productive Writers
Chipping away at something for years or decades can lead to a pile of dust or to a finely made and intricately tooled piece of art. It’s often hard to know which one you’re working toward. It can help to delude yourself into channeling Donatello or Brancusi even if what you’re looking at seems like a bunch of shavings.

Beware the Mirror
This is why focusing on our self-image is so dangerous. Many of us do need our sin-corrupted, Satan-encouraged self-loathing corrected. But this will never happen by focusing on our self-image because our salvation, peace, and happiness are not found in improving our image or having the fleeting pleasure of others’ admiration. We are not designed to be satisfied with our own glory.

So Your Life Didn’t Turn Out the Way You’d Hoped
But it’s OK to be a nobody by the world’s standards. In fact, despite our striving and straining, most of us will be. Your greatest challenge isn’t achieving greatness. It’s realizing the greatness in what God is accomplishing in you where you are (which may require you to redefine what greatness really means) and being consistently faithful right there.

Six Reasons to Not Read a Book
I will not read a book to stay relevant. I’ll never keep up. And because of the timeless and always relevant gospel I don’t need to.

I grew up with Barbies and as much as I’d like to say my earliest ideas of what made a woman a woman wasn’t born in those hours of playing with them, I can’t say that. Those shapely dolls shaped more of my concept of beauty—and desirability—than any other early perceptions I had. Even though I don’t know if a more “realistic” doll is the answer to the phenomenon, I think there is something to be said for the children’s preferences in this video. We are drawn to what we are most like.

The Way God Conducts Us: 
SAVED THROUGH CHILDBEARING? PERHAPS WE ALL ARE IN THE END.
When I arrived at home, I felt distracted, harried, mentally and emotionally shaky. The last several weeks’ travel had displaced my equilibrium. When one of my housemates suggested we have a leisurely dinner to catch up, I tried to forestall any expectations, replying by text message that I could only spare an hour before I had to get back to grading papers.

God is Merciful to Not Tell Us Everything
God is merciful not to tell us everything. He tells us enough to sustain us if we trust him, but often that does not feel like enough. We really think we would like to know more.

12 Ways to Make and Keep Friends
This begins to get to the core of the problem: our sinful desire for control. We want friendships on our timetable, our terms of agreement. We do not want friendships that would move us out of our comfort zone.

Serial: the best drama you won’t see on TV
The high school scene, the shifting statements to police, the prejudices, the sketchy alibis, the scant forensic evidence – all of it leads back to the most basic questions: How can you know a person’s character? How can you tell what they’re capable of? In Season One of Serial, she looks for answers.

My Favourite Faded Fantasy
This album drops on November 10th and I can’t wait. It is possibly the most flawless (musically, lyrically, and cohesiviely) album I’ve heard in years. And worth the eight year wait.

This series from my church has been profoundly convicting for me (both the men’s portion and the women’s). Grateful for a church that helps us recognize sin patterns in our hearts and helps us flourish in the hope of the gospel. This past week’s sermon was particularly convicting for me, one who struggles profoundly with perfectionism. I’ve shared it a few times, but here’s once more.

A Beautiful Design (Part 8) – Woman’s Hurdles from The Village Church on Vimeo.

Over-Confident Men and Underestimating Women: Some Thoughts on Shame and Leadership
“Then his eyes welled up with tears. He said, ‘We have shame. Deep shame. But when we reach out and share our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us.’ I struggled to maintain eye contact with him. His raw pain had touched me, but I was still trying to protect myself. Just as I was about to make a comment about how hard men are on each other, he said, ‘Before you say anything about those mean coaches, bosses, brothers, and fathers being the only ones…’ He pointed towards the back of the room where his wife was standing and said, ‘My wife and daughters—the ones you signed all of those books for—they’d rather see me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall off. You say you want us to be vulnerable and real, but c’mon. You can’t stand it. It makes you sick to see us like that.”

Is Everybody Single?
“Single Americans make up more than half of the adult population for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976.”

How God Cares for Those Who Don’t
“God has not met his match in apathy. God is purposeful. God is enduring. God is working. How does sanctification work in the heart of the apathetic? “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57:2). We cry out and ask God to do what he is already doing.”

Bringing Booty Back
“That’s the win, women: neither trying desperately to make ourselves acceptable or thinking less of ourselves, but simply thinking of ourselves less. In fact, whenever I ask women to identify another woman who “accepts her body,” they invariably name someone like Lewis describes. They tell me about a woman who is so unconcerned with herself—never needing to make excuses for a bad hair day or an unfortunate fashion faux pas—that she’s able to be entirely present to the person in front of her.”

Making Sense of Life After a Parent Leaves
“It wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to call God Father. This was something I dealt with for so long. I didn’t call Him father because it was a concept I was cloudy on. I didn’t know how to think about God in a way that I didn’t think about my dad.”

Some links you might appreciate from the past week.

We sung Passover Song during communion this week at my church and I chased down a friend to find out where the beautiful song came from. She told me about The Blood + The Breath by Caroline Cobb, and I haven’t stopped listening. Caroline wrote a song for every book in the bible and this is a compilation of 12 of those songs, telling the story of redemption through the word of God. It’s rich, deep, theologically robust, and musically enjoyable. Buy the album here.

I never get tired of Jared Wilson’s blog. I read very few blogs these days, but I always know at Jared’s I’ll find three things: gospel-rich writing, winsome writing, and Jesus exalting writing. That’s enough to keep me coming back. He’s posted some good ones recently, so I’m just going to link to his blog. Do yourself a favor and subscribe.

“What do you do with a broken heart? Not a romantically broken one, but the one all of us carry around, the one broken by the fall. The one that caused David to seduce the hottest girl on campus. The one that caused Peter to not eat dinner with “the losers” (Galatians 2:11–12). The one that causes us to choose almost anything but Jesus.” Sammy Rhodes is another writer I’m grateful for these days.

Rewriting scripture (or Valley of Vision prayers) in my own words has been one of the best spiritual disciplines for me. As someone whose heart is stirred most when her mind is engaged best, the rewriting of familiar words has helped me innumerable times to increase my faith. A mother and daughter undertook the rewriting of the Psalms in poetry. Justin Taylor has a bit on Harps Unhung here.

Bob and Julie Mendonza are from my church and have begun a home for children in Kenya. It is not an orphanage in the sense that these kids are available for adoption. No, instead the Mendonza’s have already adopted them into their home, Naomi’s Village. Their response to the crisis of poverty and systemic evil in Kenya has been to go in, raise up native Kenyans by native Kenyans for the health of Kenya. It is one of the most tangible expressions I’ve ever seen of Christ incarnate, inhabiting darkness, bringing light. Here’s one of the most recent Coming Home stories.

I’m moving today, so this might be the only post you get this week. We’ll see.

This lecture from Ryan Anderson is worth a listen. He counters same-sex arguments with a philosophical bent.

This mother is hiking the Appalachian trail with her four year old twins. Love it.

This self-identified “failed” pastor is ministering out of his weakness, and it’s a beautiful thing.

This is the best dating advice I’ve seen anywhere.

This makes my heart sing.

This short video is worth a watch, especially if you resonated with my recent article on singles in ministry.

Men of Mission from AIM On-Field Media on Vimeo.

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If ever I felt inclined to lament the lack of children, God never gave me time to do so. In response to every private, fervent pleading I’ve made before God, his answer has been a different door slammed open: a missions opportunity, a new writing assignment, a sudden book contract, an unexpected job, an unsought promotion, the chance to care for aging parents, a student needing extra help, another telling me I am her “true mother,” or another taking my motherly advice to heart at last.

In a life spent moving from place to place, the predictability of landscapes both new and familiar has been a comfort, a well-worn bead to click against another through every iteration of hunger and praise. One of the many pangs of such constant motion is to leave each place both loving and mourning all you have come to know, and to go forward with five kinds of homesickness equally shared, the scent of new terroir on your skin and your spirit forever dogged by the genius loci endemic to each site.

I’m learning quickly that my privileges are my blind spots. I am a married white woman with a graduate education. I do not understand the plight of a poor single black mother in Memphis who worries how rent will be paid and how her children will eat. The evils of poverty and racial discrimination, as two examples, will remain generic evils for me until I seek out stories different from my own. I, too, must learn to listen if ever I am to participate most fully in the body of Christ.

We are socialized to think women talk more. Listener bias results in most people thinking that women are hogging the floor when men are actually dominating. Linguists have concluded that much of what is popularly understood about women and men being from different planets, verbally, confuses “women’s language” with “powerless language.”

“We have to pay attention to detail and care for the contractors we work for,” Yates says. “As a tradesperson, I don’t know any other way to do that than by doing a really good job. We believe that God exists; therefore, the things we do and make now matter. The whole apprenticeship process is also a discipleship process.”

 

I’m on vacation for the week, so no blogging to speak of, but here’s a short list of links I’ve found interesting this week:

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“But it’s the wrong way of going about it. The best way to prepare them for the world that they face is to present what the possibilities are and to let them be scared of what might happen.” She adds: “I think that’s really what literature does in every realm. You rehearse your life by reading about what happens to other people.”

A trigger warning won’t help.

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What do you do in those moments, when your world comes crashing down and all hope seems lost? Maybe you will tragically and inexplicably lose a loved one; maybe you don’t know anything about what the future holds; maybe your dreams will be shattered and lost forever.

One day, you’ll face a Psalm 88 moment. If you don’t, God will place you next to someone who is. I’ve found there are 3 ways to think about life through the lens of the Gospel during these times.

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Not content to offer a rake when a shovel is needed, Michel is intricate in her examination of the human heart and its many facets―our fears to want, our disordered desires, our kingdom longings, our opportunities to surrender, our practical needs, and the boundaries that rein in our desires.

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Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment. Be assured that your daughter is paying attention. And don’t be shocked if she meets your expectation. You might want to worry less about terrorizing or retro-fitting prospective suitors and worry more about preparing your daughter to choose wisely. And that means building a wall.

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What I’m interested in when it comes to blogging is not so much “success,” but sustainability. How do I keep doing this work? How do I continue to come up with new things to say? How can I stick with this thing even when it seems like I’m in a slump and no one is reading at all?

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This quote I can’t stop thinking about, by Marilynne Robinson from her book Gilead:

“It all means more than I can tell you. So you must not judge what I know by what I find words for.”

Speaking of which, if you’re looking for good summer reading, here are some of my favorite reads. Click on the image to read more.

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Here are some things I’m loving this week:

First Aid Kit’s new album which you listen to here on NPR’s First Listen.

This documentary which has prompted a week-long art history-fest in our home.

All my smartest friends have all recommend West Wing to me for years. I must be the dumb one because I never gave it a chance until the past month. My roommate and I are watching it slowly and surely and loving every single episode.

I’ve been rereading one of my favorite Annie Dillard books the past week or so: Living by Fiction

I love iced coffee but I do NOT like how watered down it gets with ice. Making a batch of cold brew fixes everything. All the time.

The internet. Sometimes I hate the internet. But sometimes, like when I’m looking for an apartment on the other side of these United States, or looking for moving options, or trying to sell a bunch of furniture and books (all the books. Want to buy all the books?), I’m just really grateful for the internets.

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Also, just a quick note. I’m a full-time design freelancer now and I have some openings for new work coming up. If you’re getting married and need invitations, or starting a business and need a website, or rebranding your business, or need a book or ebook laid out: I’d love to chat with you! Click on those links to see some work I finished up this month. Thanks for letting me do that little business plug.

Arguing Against the ‘Argument Culture by Derek Rishmawy
For the conversation to make progress, you need to acknowledge the other person’s emotions. It doesn’t mean you agree with what they’re saying, but you need to acknowledge that he or she is upset or passionate. If you don’t, there will be a roadblock in the conversation.

Six Types of Grace by Paul Tripp
God’s grace is the grace of completion. There will be a day when you and I will be fully restored to who we were meant to be. There will be no more sin; there will be no more struggle. Everything will be restored, and we will worship in the presence of this amazing God of grace.

The Parable of the Winter Tomato
What is the quality of your fruit? And what is the quality of your soil? A great post by Sharon Hodde Miller

Should Christians Use the Term ‘Gay Christian’ by Owen Strachen,
We must not make the common mistake, in addition, of thinking that Christians who experience some level of same-sex attraction are somehow consumed by their sexual desires. They must fight sin of many other kinds: pride, laziness, foolishness, anger, and so on, just as every follower of Christ must. Not every person with SSA is on the brink of a Sodom-like situation. Sometimes we’re heard in those tones, and that’s not helpful. Note: I’m sharing this not because I agree with every word of it, but because I think there’s food for thought here in an increasingly hostile environment toward the terms we use (or don’t use) to talk about sin. 

Approach My Soul, The Mercy Seat
This song has been on repeat for me the past few days. The original hymn was written by John Newton and recorded by Jamie Barnes for Sojourn Music. Fashion my heart in your alchemy // With the brass to front the devil’s perjury // And surefire grace my Jesus speaks // I must. I will. I do believe. O Lord.

Out of My Comfort Zone by Rachel Jankovic: Here is the good news for sinners and the bad news for lynch mobs: Jesus Christ died with the sins of repentant pedophiles. He became not only our sins, but the sins of the people that we are looking on in hatred.

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The Real Problem with Female Masturbation I’m linking to this because I’m so grateful these subjects are being talked about more and more. I spoke at an event a few weeks ago and was astonished to find that most of the followup conversations I had with the women there were on sexual issues that they had never been taught about. It shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did. Friends, leaders, women—we MUST create space for these conversations. We must shush the prude in us that doesn’t want to say those words aloud and bend down in the dirt with our sisters to give them the living water.

Nathan Bingham and Mathew Sims both had great articles up this week on whether it’s a sin to retweet or share a compliment on social media.

There has never been a time in my memory when I have not wrestled with depression and condemnation. I am less prone to worry, anxiety, and panic than I ever was, but Simon and Garfunkel’s Hello, darkness, my old friend, is a common refrain in my life. Zach Lee is one of the pastors at my church and for as long as he’s been there, he’s been honest about his struggles in this area. I’m grateful for his words here and hope they encourage you if you share the weakness.

If you were on Twitter at all this week #ERLCsummit was trending. I was a bit surprised as it was the hashtag from a small conservative conference meant to train Southern Baptist pastors and leaders in ministry. I watched many of the talks on the live-stream because they were on sex, homosexuality, pornography, and marriage—and I think we’re in times when it’s more important than ever to be thinking biblically about these issues instead of culturally. The reason the hashtag was trending so high, though, was because of the backlash it was receiving from the self-described progressive Christians. While I do think there was some unfortunate phrasing and less than apt metaphors made by some of the speakers, I was grieved by the reactions of some progressives. That said, I appreciated Wesley Hill’s response as well as Chelsea Vicari’s Women, Sexuality and the Southern Baptist’s ERLC Summit. Every time a Twitter-storm happens on these issues, I’m reminded of what a great—and limited—tool Twitter is. And I’m freshly aware of our need to be in season and out, to live life face to face with real struggles and strugglers. 140 characters is not enough to disciple someone in truth.

Some time ago someone asked me, “Do you even want to be married?” My response surprised me: “No. I mean, I want to love Jesus. If living single with those girls in that house makes me love Jesus more than being married, no, I don’t want to be married.” I’ve thought about it so many times since then because the truth is, I DO want to be married and I DO think marriage would be good and hard in the right ways. But the deeper truth is that today I DO love my singleness because it is a gift from the Lord and I honestly see it as such. I appreciate Ben Stuart’s thoughts here.

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Five Essential Benedictine Values for Writers: You have to kill these things that seem so wonderful when you first thought of them or wrote them, but that don’t belong. I have a phrase that I first thought of in 1970, and I am still looking for a place to put it.

Phelps, Driscoll, & Gothard: I’m not trying to silence anyone. I’m not trying to shame anyone. I am trying to consider how our discourse, particularly online, might be helped if we took to heart Solomon’s warning on grabbing passing dogs by the ears and Jesus’ warning about specks and planks. I am hoping it will begin with me.

Nickel Creek’s new album A Dotted Line is available for a limited time streaming on NPR’s First Listen. Give it a listen.

How to Fill Your Life With Joy: I think everybody wants the silver-bullet, the thing that makes sanctification move like a superhighway rather than the dirt path that it is.

All of Christ for All of Life: In Christ, there is grace to get through the stinkin’ day. And whether we do so by the skin of our teeth or bounding and leaping with joy upon joy, our souls are united to him day by day and age to age