The New Testament Challenge: Intro

Remember when that New Yorker named Julie decided to cook through Julia Child’s cookbook in a year, and blog her way through it? Well, I decided to read through the New Testament this summer, and blog my way through that. Here’s why.

The first time I tried coffee, I hated it. It was bitter and it upset my stomach and I couldn’t understand the people who couldn’t make it through the day without such a terrible drink. Now, ironically enough, I am one of those people, but worse. I need a second cup by 2 o clock every afternoon. Without coffee, I can’t focus, can’t stay awake, and get killer headaches. The two a half year old twins I used to nanny knew not to touch my coffee. The didn’t know not to run out in the middle of the road, but they did know not to touch my coffee.

Obviously that change didn’t happen over night. I started small, with Frapachinos and Lattes every time I was out shopping… drinks that consisted of mostly sugar and creamer with just a little bit of coffee added at the end for good measure. That became coffee on early mornings or days I had AP exams. I took an old 4 cup coffee maker with me to college… I had to buy a new 12 cup maker, a French Press, and a tea kettle by sophomore year… poor thing got worn out. Now I usually drink two cups a day, and for the past week, I haven’t even added creamer or sugar. (This is a major personal accomplishment.)

But there was a progression. Continuous exposure led to what can only be described as an addiction. It made me cringe at first, but now I can’t live without it.

I think that is how most people are. At first, coffee is bitter. But the more time you sit with a cup of coffee in your hand, the more you realize you don’t want to sit any other way.

Over the past year, I have gone through some pretty drastic changes in my life. And I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen out of love with scripture. I gave myself permission to skip one day of my quiet time, and that seemed to pave the way for months without it. And my soul grew numb, and I fell into a routine of pretending to be the first Christian in history who didn’t need her Bible.

I don’t want to be that person anymore.

I need time with people. I need communication with people. Without it I wither. I wilt in isolation. I know this about myself, but for some reason I still decided to isolate myself from the King who loves me.

I can’t keep doing that anymore. So I decided to do something about it. By intentionally carving out time to spend with Jesus, and then setting aside even more time to process through what wanted to teach me, I am going to make time for my neglected soul, and let Jesus heal my hurt.

The more time I sit with a cup of coffee in my hand, the more I realize I don’t want to sit any other way. And the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I realize that there is no better way I could spend it.

Magic Beans Still Exist

To be completely honest, this started as a joke. I was working with a middle school student, attempting to instill the art of essay writing. I wrote a basic, generic outline for him to follow in the future, and a sample essay for him as well. Needless to say, I clearly am the only one who enjoyed myself. I think he is still trying to come up with his thesis statement. 

Have you ever wondered what happened to the magic beans from Jack and the Beanstalk? Well, I know what happened. The Giant hid them in plain sight, and I can prove it. Magic beans still exist because they turn sleep deprived zombies into fully functioning, productive adults every single morning. They exist all over the world, and are distinct in every region. Like only magic and magnets can, they bring people together to congregate around them. Life giving properties, a world-wide presence, and a magnetic draw prove that magic beans still exist.

Magic beans are brewed into a magical potion that can make even the most sleep deprived alive and well again. College kids can pull all-nighters. Truck drivers can drive cross country and deliver everything from fresh shrimp to new flat screen TV’s. Soccer moms can clean the house, prepare a snack and help with homework, get the kids to practice, and then dinner, bath, and bed without blinking. Business men can get the red eye back to New York so they can seal the deal. A normal bean without magical properties could not be able to do this.

These beans have a worldwide presence and define the regions in which they grow, proving their resilient, powerful, magical nature. Hawaii is known for its specialty blend called Kona. Colombian blends are also quite popular. Italian espresso, dark French Roasts, and the Turkish variety are not only vastly different, but a crucial part of their individual cultures. These magic beans have permeated the culture, taking over the breakfast hour and became the remedy for the 3 o’clock crash. There are entire shops in every country dedicated to this magical bean. Nothing normal has the ability to be this global.

Nothing else has the magnetic draw that these magic beans do. People congregate over them, go on first dates over its aromatic brew, and bring it with them  into important board meetings. Friends gather to catch up with a potion brewed from these magical beans. Buildings dedicated to serving these magic beans and its powerful potion serve as a modern day watering hole or town square- a place where people gather to discuss everything from politics to ponies.  Tensions fade and stressors melt away as people gather around steaming hot mugs of magical goodness.

The energizing and life giving properties of these beans, their global presence and prominence, and their ability to bring people together is proof positive that they are indeed magical. Nothing else can make the sleep deprived awake and excited. Nothing else is this noteworthy worldwide, or helps define the region in which it is found. Nothing else encourages congregation and conversation. Jack’s magic beans still exist and are hidden in plain sight. And I know, because I have a stash in my pantry.

When Grace and Goodness Hurt Us

During this “in between” season of my life, I take care of a nine month old little girl. She loves music, avocados, venison, and the swing in the back yard. She gets mad when there are people in the room who aren’t looking at her, and feels betrayed if you try to feed her normal baby food.

I call her Peaches. I really can’t remember where that came from, but I’ve called her that since the beginning and I suppose it’s better than Tater Tot or Munchkin or Gum Drop. (I blame my southern roots for all the food related nick names.)

Usually the mornings are filled with giggles and couch cuddles and jingle bell toys and one last snack before her nap.

But not today.

This morning, she absolutely broke my heart. I can’t remember ever seeing someone in so much pain. Nap time came and went. She was exhausted, but couldn’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep. I watched her face contort in uncomfortable sobs as her cheeks seemed to become permanently tear stained. You could see the little vein in her forehead bulge as she cried.

And I felt helpless.

Her dad- a dad who would move mountains and pass through hell or high water for her- came home and gave her the medicine she so desperately needed.

He knew the medicine would make her even more upset. It would sting and burn and increase her discomfort, but 20 minutes later it would kick in and all her pain would be alleviated. She would be able to sleep peacefully and play comfortably.

But how do you explain that to a nine month old? How do you tell a baby that her strong and kind and loving and much wiser father, motivated by his fierce love for her, gave her this thing that hurts worse than before?

You can’t. So he held her close as she screamed angry, agonized screams and rocked her as her tears flowed fast and freely. He knew what she is far too young to understand- what he just did is the most loving thing he possibly could have done for his little girl. He knew the medicine would work in 20 short minutes, even though the Little Peach could never have understood that.

So I sat back and watched. I watched as a father cared for his daughter in a way she didn’t want and didn’t understand but oh so desperately needed.

I think that is how God loves us. A God who created parakeets and pollen and phytoplankton, geysers and gorillas and gemstones-clearly is going to understand our soul’s deepest needs better than we ever could. Sometimes, like Peaches, we don’t recognize why we are hurting. We only notice the painful symptoms that make us cry and lay awake uncomfortably. But how could we know the real reason? He is Creator, Conquering King, Savior. And we are his dearly loved Children.

It reminds me of pruning- cutting and clipping off the old to make room for new growth and new life. The pruning process is never without pain, but He does it because it is what is best for us. He is a good, good father, and he gives us what we need, even when it hurts us in the moment.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  

John 15:2-5

He sees the root cause of our heartache, the thing that is keeping us from producing fruit and abiding in our Risen Savior. Motivated by His fierce love for us, He prunes.

I suppose that process looks different every time. Sometimes he gives us something we need but don’t want in the moment because it hurts and we think our finite minds know best. Sometimes he takes something away that we have fought to keep firmly in our grasp.

Looking back on the past few years of my life, I can see how closed doors, missed opportunities, and broken hearts lead to beauty and abundance. What was the end of MY plans and felt like the end of the world turned out to be an incredibly gracious beginning, and opened the door to the thing I had always yearned for. What he does he does because he loves us. He wants us to abide in him, and produce fruit indicative of the abundant life He wants us to lead in Him.

The Little Peach is sleeping peacefully now- going on three hours, which makes sense because she missed her morning nap, poor thing. I’m watching her on the monitor as I write this. Her father-a broken, fallen, human father, knew what was best for her this morning. How much better must our Heavenly Father know what is best for us?

Thank God for grace.

When Not Everyone Can Come Home For Christmas

I absolutely love this time of year.

It’s the only time of year when ugly sweaters are fashionable and grown women can get away with wearing a onesie to a party. There are lights everywhere, the air always smells fresh, of evergreen and snow, and people are generally so much happier than usual. This is the month of Christmas, of Sugar Cookie Coffee and mistletoe and ginger snaps.

I love Christmas carols, Christmas decorations, Christmas movies (the Beauty and the Beast Christmas special, Elf, and Christmas Vacation are some of my favorites) and pretty much the whole dang season.

But this year it’s different. There will be some people who are missing from around the tree. And no amount of laughter, family anecdotes, or carols could cover up the silence that their absence brings. And it doesn’t matter how many people we jam into the room or around the dinner table, because it will still feel empty. And it doesn’t matter how many traditions we partake in this year, because they will still feel lopsided and just… wrong. No matter how many “normal” things we do to celebrate the birth of our Savior, it’ll be different. And not in a good way.

As wonderful as the Christmas season can be, it’s starting to remind me that an empty chair is filled with pain. It doesn’t matter why the chair is empty- deployment, divorce, discord, death- at the end of the day, regardless of the reason, someone you love very dearly isn’t sitting there. And the holiday season just doesn’t feel as cheery because of it.

Have you ever felt that way?

I find myself wondering what Christmas will look like this year. Will it be sad? Will we cry? Will the absence be awkwardly ignored, too painful to talk about? Or will it be all we can talk about?

I don’t know what to think. Or what to expect, and I know I’m not the only one. So instead of focusing on the things that I don’t know, I have decided instead to lean on something that I know with absolute certainty: There is a God, and He is here.

There are lots of names of God, and each one reveals something different about his character, and is a way for us to better know and understand the Almighty.

In Genesis 17, when Abraham was 99 years old and childless, God promised him a son. But right before He did that, He introduced himself as “El Shaddai”, which means God our supplier.

Years later, after that promise had been fulfilled through the birth of Isaac, Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son. After the altar had been built and the fire prepared, God stopped him by introducing himself as “Jehovah-Jireh”, meaning God who provides. God provided a lamb to save Isaac then, and Jesus, years later, to save us.

And it is that saving that this season celebrates. Jesus was born to die, to save the world of our sins. And while that may sound grave, and death isn’t something most people speak of when celebrating birth, that is exactly what happened in scripture. In every Nativity scene, you see Mary and Joseph,  the Baby Jesus, some animals, angles, and wisemen.

Jesus was offered three gifts from the wise men. Gold represented that he was King. Frankincense, an incense used in burnt offerings, represented that He was God. And myrrh, an embalming oil, represented his death.

Death has been a topic of discussion at Christmas ever since it began. But so has something else.

There is a name of God that was first used when Jesus’ birth was prophesied in Isaiah, and used again in Matthew when Joseph was told that his young bride was pregnant. “Emmanuel”. God is with us. It’s in songs, on decorations that my mother has hanging around our home, and more importantly, it’s in the Bible passages that talk about the Birth of Jesus, mingled sweetly with foreshadowings of his death.

Christmas will feel empty this year. Emptier than it ever has before, and there is no way around that. And even though there are loved ones who won’t be here, we are celebrating the birth of our King, of God with us. The one who promised never to leave, forsake, or abandon us, even in the midst of dealing with the pain of separation that death brings.

I understand that now, more clearly than I ever have before. All my loved ones aren’t with us, but our God is. And that’s what we’re celebrating. He is with us.

Merry Christmas.

No Longer Waiting: For the sake of the 232

I’ve spent the better part of the past year learning about the global orphan crisis, and I’ve never felt more antsy in all my life. The thing about knowledge is more often than not, it spurs action. But shouldn’t certain kinds of knowledge spur certain kinds of action? One would think.

Just like one would think that knowledge of a command would spur obedience. But far too often, it doesn’t. And I know that, because in my life, it didn’t.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

Y’all… that’s a command. And for almost 21 years I lived like it was just a really good suggestion. Some people adopted, and that was cool. But what could a young, unmarried coed actually do in way of taking care of orphans? (Because I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs waiting to get hitched and let me tell you… that got old real quick.)

Well, it turns out a lot. For years I thought adoption was the only answer, and it isn’t. In fact, a large portion of the world’s orphaned and vulnerable children aren’t even elidgable for adoption. So what then?

Tim Keller said it this way:

“When people ask me, ‘How do you want to be introduced?’ I usually propose they say ‘This is Tim Keller, minister of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.’ Of course, I am many things, but that is the main thing I spend my time doing in public life. Realize then, how significant it is that the Biblical writers introduce God as a ‘father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ (Psalms 68:4-5). This is one of the main things he does in the world. He identifies with the powerless, he takes up their cause.”

If we are called to emulate the person, work, and character of Christ, and indeed we are, then shouldn’t we emulate this as well? Shouldn’t that be one of the main things we do in this world- identify with the powerless, and take up their cause? Because y’all it is ALL over scripture.

The third annual Liberty Shoebox Blitz started this morning and I stand humbled and amazed at the work of our Global God, and how He once again chose to use our feeble efforts to reach the fatherless and powerless of this world.

Before lunch on the first day of the week-long event, there were 232 packed shoebox gifts on the truck. (For context, we didn’t hit the hundred mark until Wednesday last year).

232 Gospel Opportunities. 232 opportunities for an orphan to meet their perfect and adoring and loving Father- a father who is involved in their everyday lives and wants a thriving relationship with them.

232 children who will get more than a tooth brush and a notebook and a soccer ball this Christmas season. 232 children who will receive a Bible in their language, and the chance to be enrolled in a 12 week discipleship program.

Refugees will be introduced to their Prince of Peace, the sick will be hear of their Great Physician, and the lost will hear a God who not only left heaven, but died to find them, and to keep them in perfect communion with Him forever in paradise.

Because the God we serve is the Father to the Fatherless, and for some reason that I will never understand but forever be grateful for, he chose to use us to reach them.

232. And y’all… the week has just barely started.


I’m done with twiddling my thumbs. And I have 232 reasons why I’ll never do it again.

My Summer in Honduras

When I planned to intern at an orphanage in Honduras this summer I knew my life would change forever. I just didn’t know how much. I knew I would be stretched, my faith tested, my comfort zone shattered, and the trajectory of my life dramatically altered. And even though I expected all of these things to happen, y’all… I didn’t see this coming.

So often we brag about the power of our God and how He brought us through great and mighty trials. We joyfully boast in His faithfulness, in stories of redemption, restoration, healing, and the end to particularly gruesome seasons. We proudly show off our scars because they point to our perfect healer.

But when the waters are still raging, the wounds still bleeding, and the heart break still so real it hurts to breath, we remain oddly silent, as if somehow the goodness of our God is contingent on the goodness of our circumstances.

We talk about battles won, but never acknowledge those still being fought.

For the past year and a half, I have begged God for very clear direction in my life. I know He has called me overseas and into ministry, but the who/where/what/when/why/how part was still foggy. And over and over again, He gave me a very clear answer for this summer: Honduras.

I knew I was called to spend the summer of 2016 in Honduras, long before I even applied for a position. I didn’t particularly want to apply, because it pushed me farther out of my comfort zone than I was willing to go and it left me more vulnerable than I ever care to be. I wanted to go, and knew I was called to go, but it scared me silly and when my other options were so much easier, avoiding the hard thing, even though it was the right thing, seemed so much more appealing.

So, I pulled a Gideon. I told God I would only go if X and Y didn’t happen (even though they already had), and if He would promise me that Z one day would. Within days, X and Y were taken away. The internship at La Providencia was the answer to easily the boldest, most dramatic, and most impossible prayer I have ever prayed.

God had confirmed it, time and time and time again. Through His word, through my time with Him, through other people. God had called me to Honduras, at least for this season.

As I was preparing to spend the summer serving one of the most Gospel minded ministries I have ever heard of, the Lord taught me two very important things: one about trials, and one about joy.

He reminded me of all the trials I have ever walked through, and I realized, I wouldn’t change a single one. I’m not a tragic person, but I have been to Hell and back on more than one occasion. Oh but how easy it is to boast in victories won by our Conquering King. I never knew Jesus as the Prince of Peace until my life was in chaos. I never knew Him to be Healer until I felt ugly, battered, and broken beyond repair. Through the trials He had revealed His character to me, and had glorified himself through the victory He had won in my life. Yes, I have walked through some painful, painful things- things I would never wish upon anyone- but I have seen how He used those hard parts to bring others to Him. I would never, ever want to trade that for an easy, cushy, comfy life. My RA this year had a painting hanging outside her door with a Charles Spurgeon quote that read “Easy roads make sleepy travelers.” And as I was preparing for what I knew would be a challenging summer, I rejoiced. Somehow, miraculously, he brought me to a place where I could honestly say “I wouldn’t change it” because I knew He was good, I knew He had been glorified, and He had brought me, and others, closer to Himself through it all.

He also taught me of the importance of joy. 10 days before I was to leave for Honduras, I wrote this:

“Joy in the waiting. Joy in the unknown. Joy in the unanswered questions. ‘Joy is not optional, and the final weight of it falls not on our weak backs, but on the almighty shoulders of God.’”

So I was ready to go. I was so willing. And the ways the Lord had confirmed that He was indeed calling me to spend the summer in Honduras were undeniable.

And then 36 hours before I was to board the plane, He shut the door. And my life changed forever. My faith tested, my comfort zone shattered, and the trajectory of my life dramatically altered.

I knew those things would happen this summer. I just thought they would happen in the country that holds the most dangerous city in the world, the one with the highest homicide rate outside of a war zone… not from the comfort of my parents’ suburban home. I thought it would happen as He used me, not as He didn’t use me. I didn’t think every plan I had ever made would be ruined. And I didn’t think it would hurt so damn much.

I’m so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here

The clear direction I had been praying for for so long had been given, confirmed, fought against, and then confirmed again so clearly it might as well had been posted on a billboard was suddenly taken away.

I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done

And I was wrecked. Every plan I have ever had for my life, my major, my university, my summer, were all suddenly, painfully changed.

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about

When the waters are still raging, the wounds still bleeding, and the heart break still so real it hurts to breath, we remain oddly silent, as if somehow the goodness of our God is contingent on the goodness of our circumstances.

And I know why. Being in this place is hard, and talking about it even harder. Admitting we are broken and confused and a little bit lost takes a vulnerability we avoid like the plague.

It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not

Thy will be done

But I will say, now, in the midst of picking up the pieces of everything I had ever planned for my life, I have never felt such peace. Nothing is the way I thought it would be. And it hurts. Oh it hurts. No one would ever call my circumstances today “good”. But I know He is good. He does good.  And He has a plan.

I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store

And even though I can’t see it, I’m okay. Because His goodness isn’t contingent upon my circumstances. He is still God and He is still good and His plan is still perfect and so is His timing. His peace is still freely given and so is his joy. If easy roads make sleepy travelers, I don’t want them. I want to be wide awake, able to dance in His presence, filled with a peace so unexplainable and a joy so divine that shattered dreams and ruined plans and closed doors can’t damper.

So, as it turns out, my summer in Honduras never actually happened. But it taught me more than I ever expected. It taught me how to live in joy despite my circumstances, how to experience peace when nothing makes sense, and how to surrender my plans when controlling them in my first instinct.

It still hurts. It’s still raw, and answering questions about it still isn’t easy, because, well, I don’t have the answers. I don’t know that anyone could ask me something that I haven’t asked myself a million times already.

I don’t know what He is doing, or where He is taking me, or why any of this happened. If He was going to take it away I don’t know why it was given in the first place.

But He is good. He does good. Joy in the waiting. Joy in the unknown. Joy in the unanswered questions.

And most importantly,

Thy will be done.

Hillary Scott – Thy Will Lyrics 

How to Find Peace in the Midst of Political Unrest

There are lots of things about the current political climate that scare me. We live in a land that is governed by laws that are unbiblical and by leaders who alienate allies while befriending dangerous enemies. It reminds me of a game I used to play as a kid called “Opposite Day”.

“Ellen unload the dishwasher”

“Sorry mom, I can’t. It’s Opposite Day!”

Except this time it isn’t me trying to get out of chores. Now, it’s a very dangerous reality. It seems everything I think to be wrong and sinful and unwise is suddenly the law of the land that I love. When I hear of mass shootings in schools or movie theaters, racial protests or prolife advocates being prosecuted… I’m not surprised anymore. And mercy do I wish I was. Was there ever a time when terrorism wasn’t prevalent in culture? I can’t remember anymore. For those of us growing up post 9/11, there really hasn’t been.

But as upsetting and unsettling and unnerving as all of this is, it’s not unprecedented. And in that I rest.

Nero was the leader of the known world, the most powerful man of his time. Oh but he was evil. He burned people on sticks to light his private gardens, just because they loved my Jesus.

Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Attila the Hun, and countless other evil, evil people have ruled, all throughout human history. And even though I’m by no means comparing the current administration or leading presidential candidates to those mentioned, they do all share two things in common: I wouldn’t have voted them. But more importantly, and more to my point, they can’t thwart God’s plan to bring the world back to himself.

If the grave couldn’t hold Him, He certainly can’t be bound by bureaucracy. Even though I don’t like the way things look right now, I know the One who holds all things. And even though it looks like everything is falling apart, I know He holds all things together.

In Matthew Jesus promises “I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail.” 

No election season can change that. He is good. And He is God. No ballot will change that, and no government will diminish that. If the gates of Hell can not prevail against the will of God, then why oh why do I worry that the leader of the free world possibly could?

“Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Yes, so much of today’s legislation scares the fire out of me. Those leading in writing the legislation are oh so misguided. How anyone could feel comfortable writing sin into law is something I pray I never understand. But right there, where morality and policy meet, isn’t that where we should identify their need for the Gospel?

If you are unwilling to also pray for the politician you’re speaking against, then your efforts are in vein. If we want to air our political misgivings out on social media, we must be first driven to our knees. There is no means of action that is more effective, and no driving force more influential. What if the names of politicians were not mentioned just in mocking memes, but in our true, honest, and fervent prayers as well? We need to be on our knees for our country and her leaders. Because y’all, they have it coming.

Woe to those who make unjust laws,
to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights
and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,
making widows their prey
and robbing the fatherless.

Isaiah 1o:1-2

Yes, we are called to advocate, and advocate unashamedly and unapologetically for the things of God. But sprinkle with salt and season with grace.  Be a voice for the voiceless. Millions upon millions of fellow Image Bearers have been murdered in the name of convenience, and we will be held accountable if we chose to stand by and say nothing. Attack the policy with everything you are. But leave the policy maker alone. Because y’all they need Jesus. Maybe more now than ever before. I tremble for my country when I reflect  that God is just. And His justice will not sleep forever.

An Open Letter to the Youth at MVCC: Coffee, Company, and Character

Maybe I’m biased, but my favorite coffee is the stuff I’ve brought back from Honduras. But then again, I usually prefer Latin American coffee anyways. Everyone has a different opinion though. Colombian coffee, Blue Mountain Coffee from the Blue Mountain region of Jamaica, Kona Coffee from Hawaii, coffee from Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and parts of Africa. Before it became slang, Java referred to coffee from the Java region of Indonesia. Any coffee connoisseur would be able to tell you that there is a very big difference between each of these. Some are sweeter, some are bolder, some taste nutty and some have floral or even chocolate undertones.

Here’s the thing though, and it’s something I’ve never thought about before. The soil makes a difference. Without it, the coffee can’t grow. But more than that, the different soils in the different regions give incredibly different flavors.

Even Michael and Dwight, employees from Dunder Mifflin Scranton understand how important soil it. Dwight is a farmer, and uses soil as a metaphor to explain success in business.

Michael: What is that thing that Dwight always says? Paper is the soil in which the seeds of business grow?
Dwight: It’s not the soil! It’s the manure! Paper is the manure! On-time delivery is the soil! Aah!

Back to coffee. The soil that it grows in gives a very distinct flavor. The coffee that I drink from Honduras sure tastes a lot different than the Kona Coffee my dad gets as a Christmas present every year.

In the same way, the way a believer is raised, and the community that they chose to immerse themselves in, will come to define a person’s character. 

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

Matthew 13:3-8

Y’all I’ve grown up hearing this parable. But never before have I heard it applied in this way. Jesus continues and explains it to his disciples.

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:19-23

Did you ever think that maybe “the evil one” comes disguised as your closest friends? People who scoff at your so called Savior, who convince you to forget him before you ever truly understand him?

Imagine going on a retreat, and coming back changed, or wanting to change. But then what if “the trouble and persecution” of this world comes from your friends? Your boyfriend, who is frustrated you decided to stop sleeping with him and getting drunk with him, and who threatens to leave you unless you resume? What if “the trouble and persecution” of this world comes when you realize there is no possible way for you to pass the class unless you cheat on next week’s exam? What if you finally made varsity, but you know the captain won’t give you any playing time unless you go to the team party, the one with lots of alcohol, girls, and weed? And what if you decide that all this “Jesus stuff” just isn’t worth it?

1 Corinthians says this:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

So wouldn’t the opposite then be true? If bad company corrupts good character, then wouldn’t good company cause good character? Or at the very least, encourage it?

What if good soil referred to good friends, good company, good community? You know, I think it does, at least in part.

We aren’t created to be alone. We need community, to be surrounded by likeminded people. That need for community is part of the Image of God imparted onto us, we can’t get away from it. But when it comes to picking that community, we must be vigilant. Because if we aren’t, if we surround ourselves with poor soil, y’all the results could be disastrous.

Jesus talks about the seeds that fell on poor soil being being eaten up by birds, being scorched by the sun, and killed by weeds. How painful that could be in our lives.

But the seed that fell on good soil “where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Y’all, that’s what I want my life to look like. A disciple making disciple.

Good coffee. Good soil.

And it’s what I want your life to look like too.

(If you want to join me in drinking the greatest coffee ever, here is the link 🙂 An orphanage in Honduras grows and sells it, and all proceeds go to Christ-centered orphan care.)

About My Grandfather

My grandfather is one of the wisest men I know. He was a preacher for over 50 years. Now, even though he is retired, he goes back to churches… broken, fallen and failing, sick churches, and shepherds them as they find a new pastor and get back on their feet. He is over 80 years old. Last Thanksgiving we went on a 6 mile hike.

He is a hiker. A carpenter. A pastor. My first born child will bear his name. He visited Liberty last year and he said “I remember preaching with Dr. Falwell. He was a good man.”

He fashioned the wooden bowl that sits on my desk and holds my earrings. He made the chair rail that was in my little brother’s childhood room. He made our shelves. When we moved from that house, and had to leave the shelves behind, I cried. I’m rather sentimental.

He has cooked some of my favorite meals. We used to have fish fry’s in the summers. He smokes Texas brisket. His southern breakfasts are something I look forward to every year. You just have to grab your food quickly though, because he puts hot sauce on everything and I am apparently missing the gene that enables me to enjoy spicy food. (I like to think that I will get over that before I move to Latin America, but I’m not hopeful). He always used to have a jar of jelly beans on his desk. I bought him Tabasco flavored ones once, and I don’t think I have ever been more proud of a gift.

Together with my grandmother, he took me on some of my favorite trips that became my very favorite memories. Because of them, I know how the Tabasco factory harvests its peppers. I’ve climbed more lighthouses than I can count, have run the length of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first three flights in Kitty Hawk, seen Air Force One, learned about the three different kinds of fences, and camped in some of the prettiest mountains this side of the Mississippi. I’ve waded in the Gulf of Mexico, eaten the world’s best ice cream straight from the carton, eaten astronaut ice-cream, and I know that alligator tastes delicious. I’ve visited Indian villages, seen the Natural Bridge, and toured Gettysburg and Amish country and seen shows at The Sight and Sound Theater and at The Dixie Stampede. We called them “Special Trips’ because parents weren’t allowed to go, only the grand kids. Looking back, I wonder if they knew that the memories would be something I would grow to cherish. Those Special Trips certainly lived up to their name.

His hands. One of his fingers is crooked from when he almost cut it off with a saw a few years back. After years of using walking sticks while hiking, carpentry, and study, his hands are callused and work worn. But so are his books. A whole library: commentaries, Bibles, books on the Gospel’s and the apocalypse and spiritual gifts and Creation and grace.

So much grace.

And this room, his study, is where I stay when we visit.

Granddady was THE preacher. Everyone knew him. Loved him. Revered him. They still do.

I love my grandfather. I call him with every Bible question and theology concept I don’t understand. And he always answers. And if he doesn’t have the answer, he researches and studies until he finds it. I have a manila folder in my dorm room with some of his sermons printed out inside. He will email them to me sometimes. They are my favorite things to ever show up in my inbox.

Sometimes, life is just hard. Studying scripture is the best therapy. And his exposition makes it that much easier.

I don’t know why God saw fit to bless me with someone like this, but he did. Had my Grandfather not raised my mother at the foot of the Cross, I highly doubt I would have been raised there myself. Had he not exhibited Godly headship in the family and in the home, I doubt my mother would have sought after that for her own family. Because my Grandfather was a Godly, loving, involved spiritual leader in her family, my mom married a man who is all of that and more for me and my brothers. I have resolved not to settle for anything less in my life, and it would be settling.

Every time Grandaddy introduces us to his friends or to a church from the pulpit, he beams. He brags on each of us, each of our different accomplishments. Al and Ethan’s latest sports stats, Katherine’s grades and internship and involvement at The University of Tennessee, my volunteer work with Operation Christmas Child. But there is a part of these introductions that he never sees. His friends, people in church he pastors- they all come up to us and say the same thing.

“We just love your grandfather”

And oh, so do we. Whatever pride he feels for us- I doubt will ever compare to the love, pride, and admiration we have for him. There is something beautiful about all the ways The Lord has blessed people through my grandfather.

And I am oh so thankful to know him.

To My Best Friend on her Engagement Day

Well, here it is. Today is the day you’ve dreamed of since you met him. And you have no idea. In a few hours, you’ll have a diamond on your left hand. It’s beautiful. I saw it last night, you’re going to love it. He did a good job. A great job actually.

We are throwing you a party tonight after the proposal. You don’t know yet. Your family will be there. You don’t know about that part either. And it was all his idea.

We bought sparkling cider for a toast tonight. Which means I have to write a toast. And for one of the first times in my life, I’m speechless. Because what is happening tonight far surpasses a diamond ring and a dozen roses.

I don’t know how he does it, but it’s beautiful. He passionately, purposefully pursues you. But at the exact same time, he leads you to the Cross of Christ. The man does not have an easy job. He is called to live out this God-glorifying, dying-to-self-daily paradox. Pursue. Lead. Sacrificially. All at once. And he can’t lead you somewhere he doesn’t go himself. So that says something beautiful about him.

I know that we- broken, fallen, failing humans- should not be the example. But your relationship is beautiful, and it reminds me what I myself am waiting for. But more than that, it reflects Christ and his love for us and I’m overwhelmed.

I know he seems perfect, and watching him love you seems perfect. But the truth of the matter is that it was his sins that held Jesus to a tree. So if his love for you is broken, imperfect, but so ready to promise forever, how much more must The Father love us? And he already promised us forever.

By the time you read this tonight, I will have already hidden behind a rock. Waiting. You’ll have had your picnic, given him your birthday gift, enjoyed a date that you think you planned. Because what you don’t know is that at sunset, on a mountain peak overlooking fall’s fiery valley, he will get down on one knee, and ask you for forever. And you’ll have said yes. Promising not only forever, but a lifelong display of the Gospel.

“Marriage is meant by God to put that gospel reality on display in the world. That is why we are married. That is why all married people are married, even when they don’t know and embrace this gospel.” —John and Noël Piper

How deep The Father’s love for us. How vast beyond all measure. That he would give His only son. To make a wretch his treasure. 

“The most foundational thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is God’s doing. And the ultimate thing to see from the Bible about marriage is that it is for God’s glory. Those are the two points I have to make. Most foundationally, marriage is the doing of God. And ultimately, marriage is the display of God.” —John and Noël Piper

“Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. “Till death do us part” or “As long as we both shall live” is a sacred covenant promise – the same kind Jesus made with His bride when He died for her.” – John Piper

“In Ephesians 5 husbands are compared to Christ; wives are compared to the church. Husbands are compared to the head; wives are compared to the body. Husbands are commanded to love as Christ loves; wives are commanded to submit as the church is to submit to Christ.” -John Piper

 Let the wedding planning begin!