The People Who Made Us: An All-Saints Meditation

Happy All Saints Day! Though my church tradition doesn’t specifically celebrate the day, I tend to pause on Nov 1st to think about the people who came before me. Looking back can help us move forward, especially when we celebrate the examples of those who rose above their circumstances and failures to press on in the faith. They are part of the “great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

Who is in your personal great cloud of witnesses? The chapter preceding this passage gives a Hall of Faith Fame that we can all share, with remembrances of everyone from Noah to Rahab to David. However,  I’m also indebted to my mom for making All Saints Day resonate with me as I celebrate the Hall of Famers from my own past. Several years ago, she did an All Saints writing project with her junior high students to explore their heritages. Her students thought and wrote about those who had influenced their lives, and they were able to move toward gratitude for those people.

Her point was that the people who came before us (whether they are from our family of origin or are simply people who have impacted us) contribute to who we are. They are the people who made us.

Whether those people looked like “saints” or not, we can find things to celebrate about our connection with the people of the past. Did they overcome adversity in some area? Then, we can, too.  Did they teach us something that has helped us? Then, we can do the same for others. Did they fill a void where someone in our natural family failed us? Then, we can thank God for providing friendship and love from an unexpected source.

I am starting this month of Thanksgiving, then, with a moment of thankfulness for my cloud of witnesses: godly parents and grandparents, neighbors and friends who were like parents and grandparents, English teachers who taught me to love writing, mentors who taught me to love the person I was becoming, Bible teachers who didn’t just preach me a list of do’s and don’ts but taught me to love God’s word, bosses who gave me career opportunities, and a multitude of friends who’ve brightened my life.

I am profoundly grateful. Won’t you join me in giving thanks for the people who made us?

How Wise Prayers Shape Our Lives

Shout out to every woman in seminary right now. It’s been a week for us and our sisters serving on the front lines, regardless of ministry role or theological conviction. I’m not going to rehash the “women in ministry” debates, especially the ones that seem like misogyny cloaked in religious posturing, but let me say two things:

First, I am thankful for classmates like these as well as professors, pastors, families, and friends who cheer us on to become better equipped so that we can better equip God’s people.

Second, I believe there is room for thoughtfully considered theological differences as long as we are willing to wrestle with ALL the relevant passages of Scripture and humbly seek the Lord for wisdom. Wrestling each other in arrogant, disrespectful ways is not God-honoring.

That brings me to this week’s passage from Proverbs 3. Last post we studied a wise, loving explanation for why God’s wisdom is of prime importance. This week, we home in on 3:5-8 with how to apply wisdom, including how we apply it as we walk in our callings. Read More

Wisdom Packaged in Love

I miss my Nana. Yesterday, I wanted to phone her so badly. I loved the way she would call me “Dahlin” in her Deep South drawl and end our conversations reminding me, “I prayed for you and all my grandchildren today!” Makes sense I would think of her as I study Proverbs, where wisdom is often personified as a regal lady a lot like my Nana.

And oh, how I miss her wisdom—the practical kind like how to fry chicken fingers and the spiritual kind like how to pray bold prayers for my family. I’m thankful for the loving friendship between us that made me seek her out for advice and made her eager to share it. She wasn’t just passing along dry, how-to lessons. She was sharing her heart to bless me.

In the same way, Proverbs reads much more like that kind of family blessing than I think we realize. One-third of the book is an entreaty from parent to child to learn what will produce a vibrant, godly life. Chapters one through nine are addressed from a wise dad and Chapter 31 from a wise mom, both wanting their children to live in ways that bring blessing not only to themselves but to whole communities.

This is not knowledge from a guru on mountaintop. This is wisdom packaged in love, delivered from one heart to another. Read More

When Wisdom Speaks, Be Ready to Listen

There’s a whole lot of talking, but not a lot being said.

Pretty much sums up our culture, doesn’t it? Everybody has a take or a taunt. You know it’s only going to get louder as we head into 2020. This introvert gal has had about enough and would sign up to be a hermit if it weren’t for how much I love my family and friends.

I’ve been challenged lately, though, not to retreat (much) but to listen for a different voice calling out to be heard above the noise. Read More

How Can Self-Control Become Your Game-Changer? Summer Devotional 10

All ten weeks of our summer study, I’ve been humming that silly kid’s song, “The Fruit of the Spirit’s Not a Coconut,” but lately, I’ve been thinking that IF one such spiritual attribute WAS a coconut, it would have to be self-control.

All the others from love right through to gentleness evoked sweetness that sent me bounding into clip-art-apalooza for all things berries and blossoms. But then, there’s self-control, a.k.a. self-discipline.

That’s one hairy beast of a spiritual fruit, a tough nut to crack.

I’m convinced, though, that Paul concluded the Galatians 5 list with it because self-control is what gives us the structure and determination to carry out Christ’s command to love. Read More

Is Gentleness #GOALS at Your House? Summer Devotional 9

Bible teacher Kristin Bonin can straight-up preach a word on unity and integrity in the body of Christ! Last fall this author and founder of Dwell Project spoke to several hundred women at my church, and since then, I’ve gotten to linger over coffee with her to talk all things scripture, raising kids, and reaching our communities for Jesus. I’ve asked her to share her heart on the topic of gentleness for our summer Fruit of the Spirit devotionals, and I know you’ll find it a sweet treat for your soul.

Ask my girls what scripture I quote on the regular at our house and they’ll tell you: “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

I wish I could say it’s because I’m a loving mother who walks around reminding my children of the wonderful news of the Gospel, but that’s not the reason I’m always going back to God’s wisdom on gentleness.

It’s because we’re not very good at being gentle.

In fact, I’ll never forget the day we were all discussing where we wanted to go eat. None of us had the same thing in mind, yet we held some pretty passionate opinions on hamburgers vs fajitas. I’m not sure how us Bonin girls managed to turn the blessing of dinner into a brawl, but apparently, we have that gift.

My husband very matter-of-factly asked, “Are you listening to the way you’re speaking to each other? You all sound barky.”

Woah. Dude! Barky? Read More

How Will You Stay Faithful When Your Faith Is Rocked? Summer Devotional 8

Reverse puberty. Fun phrase, and no, I’m not wishing kids would morph into their younger selves. Where would the adventure be in that?

No, “reverse puberty” is how doctors explain the “profound amount of [biological] stress that causes physical, mental, and emotional strain” during a woman’s perimenopausal years.

Well, thank you, doctor. I’ll just have a side of denial with that.

Hormonal shift or not, though, I’ve found life in the forties marked by new stressors, and as I’ve talked to others, we’ve noticed a tendency toward restlessness and soul-searching, too.

It’s not just women, either. Hello to the guys out there facing their own midlife crises re-evaluations. Maybe it’s an ebb in guy hormones for you? Or it’s family/career stress or disappointment with how life’s panned out. Regardless, we need to start talking about this because you are not quite ok, either. In fact, within the last few days two 40-something male church leaders publicly disclosed they were walking away from their faith, and the internet is losing its mind as if this is something new.

Fellow-Gen-Xers, midlife is here whether we like it or not, and we need something strong to carry us through a vulnerable, storm-tossed season.

Here’s why: never has that term “Gen-X” been so applicable than as we stand at a crossroads of influence. Our successes and failures ripple to affect those younger than us as well as our Boomer parents. We need the Holy Spirit growing our faithfulness so we can fulfill our callings and point to God’s power and faithfulness.  Read More

When evil looms, will you pray this prayer? Summer Devotional 7

Darkness. Brokenness. Evil.

I’m not going to recount the news cycles of the last few weeks, but if you’ve scrolled the headlines, you’ve seen enough to make your heart break or anger spark, more so if events hit close to home.

Or maybe you’re becoming numb to tales of violence, bigotry, and hatred, and that scares you because you’re one of those who truly cares about others. Now, you wonder, What do I do? How do I even pray in a world that seems bent on destruction?

I’m right there with you, fighting the urge to despair. Where is goodness in such a world? Frankly, finding that spiritual fruit seems like looking for blackberries but coming up with brambles.

Don’t give up, though. Not for one single moment. If we have the Holy Spirit gardening within our souls, the goodness you and I are searching for in the world is sprouting inside of us, and it’s waiting to break through with one simple prayer. Read More

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