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Still at the Kids’ Table?

Still at the Kids’ Table?

Thanksgiving is upon us! For most young adults looking toward the holiday, we all know what is coming—the dreaded kids’ table at grandma’s house. If I lean way back from the knee-high kids’ table, squint my eyes and tilt my head, I can sometimes catch a glimpse of the illustrious adult table.

Ah, yes, the adult table. With its fine linen table cloth cascading down the edges of the waist high, hardwood table. The food is out family-style, sans fear of grubby little hands grasping at the delicacies. As I rest my chin on my tucked-in knees, I can just imagine all the leg room and elbow space permitted at the extravagant adult table.

The food is the same and absolutely delicious, though it seems to taste different on my little, palm-size plastic plate. It’s no heavy-duty, 10”, Chinet platter plate—like the ones the adults have.

If I carefully tune out my little cousins’ bickering on the topic of Disney’s Frozen characters, I can barely hear the deep conversations and adult-appropriate banter at the grown-ups’ table. I’m reminded I am only a spectator of their conversation when one of my little cousins pulls me from my trance by accidently spilling her milk on me. Good thing it was a sippy cup spill and not a grown-up cup spill—I may be exaggerating a hair.

I really don’t mind the kids’ table at Thanksgiving. It used to have its charm and glory. After all, long ago I was stuck in a high chair but grew and found myself at the kids’ table. My knees didn’t always jam into the side of the plastic table, and my comrades around me weren’t always two feet shorter than me.

There was a time when it was right for me to be there at the kids’ table. But there was also a time long past that I should have been too old for it. I’m finding that my walk with the Lord is not unlike this very scenario.

Hebrews 5 finds its author rebuking some longtime Christian adults tucking their knees to fit at the baby Christians’ table. In verses 11-12, the writer tells them, “You have become too lazy to understand. Although by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the basic principles of God’s revelation again. You need milk, not solid food.”

The author is not wagging his finger at a bunch of baby believers that must work harder or become something for which they are not yet ready. Rather, he is chastising a group of believers who, by now, should be much further in their walk with the Lord than they are currently. The writer continues on in verses 13-14, “Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.

Essentially, he is telling the Hebrew believers, “It’s time to grow up.” He all but drug them from the kiddie table, to plop them down at the adult table.

Why did the author feel that it was necessary to do so? After all, wouldn’t the immature prefer to be striving toward maturity? What is it that keeps the spiritually young from growing? Why would “baby believers” choose the milk of their new belief over the meat of a mature faith?

For the Christians in the text, and many professing believers in the world today, the author spells out the reason. He tells them, “You have become too lazy to understand.” Laziness. Scripture tells us many things about laziness and its destructive effects on our spiritual walks (Prov.10:4-5, Prov. 12:24, Prov. 13:4, Prov. 14:23, Eph. 5:15-17, 2 Thess. 3:6-10).

Laziness is perhaps one of the saddest avenues on which I could miss out on the work of the Lord. It’s sad, simply because it wasn’t that I wasn’t working hard enough or was too busy. I missed out on working alongside the Lord only because I was too lazy.

Spiritual laziness looks different for everyone, but consider these statements:

  • I was too lazy to pull Scripture apart for myself, so I just grabbed the same old devotional off the shelf.
  • I was too lazy to glean something from the sermon last Sunday, so I scrolled through Instagram during service.
  • I was too lazy to engage in deep conversation, so I left the theological discussions to others.
  • I was too lazy to find a mature mentor or advisor, so I just leaned on my own understanding.

How miserable to stand before the throne of God with nothing but a sippy cup of spiritual milk and a handful of self-righteousness, both spoiled from an inappropriate amount of time wasted.

At Thanksgiving, I guarantee if I were willing to muster up the confidence, I could grab that heavy-duty, 10”, Chinet platter plate and take a seat at the adult table. Likewise, I mustn’t let a simple step in obedience, in initiative, to keep me from a deeper walk with the Lord. I don’t want to live off of spiritual milk forever. I want a big, juicy slice of God’s Word to sink my teeth into and offer me fuel for further growth.

Later in Hebrews, the author continues to address his dearly loved brothers and sisters. He voices his longing for them as he writes, “Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance” (Heb. 6:11-12).

Diligence. Faith. Perseverance.

What powerful tools against the Enemy’s scheme to keep us lazy and useless before the spiritual harvest of plenty. Get up from that kids’ table, my brothers and sisters! Strive for wisdom (Psalm 51:6). Increase in maturity (2 Pet. 1:5-8). Grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18). Be diligent (Gal. 6:9). Have faith (Luke 17:5). Press on in perseverance (Col. 1:11-12).

What can you do with a missionary, when they stop being a missionary?

What can you do with a missionary, when they stop being a missionary?

What can you do with a general,
When he stops being a general?
Oh, what can you do with a general who retires?
Nobody thinks of assigning him
When they stop wining and dining him…

Irving Berlin’s song What Can You Do with a General, When They Stop Being a General was made famous in the movie White Christmas. The main characters of the film were representative of a nation trying to find their new normal in a post-World War II era.

Soldiers came home and had to adjust back to their everyday routine, mentally needing to switch from soldier to citizen. The women, having to become, in essence, single mothers and breadwinners, had to adjust back to the homemaker life.

Everyone made their way back to the normal they had before the war, only to find the world vastly different post-war.

For men and women of authority in the armed forces during that time, the transition from military honor, power and respect would have been a shocking reality check as they faded into a sea of mediocrity and the ordinary. Their hearts were weighted with unseen medals and hard-earned victories. But their chests were bare. These medals don’t match a regular starched button up.

What can you do with a general, when they stop being a general?

This song always rings true in my ear, for I have seen a similar transition for soldiers of sorts who must return to their old normal, having found it, too, has changed.

From Moon to Mueller, from Livingstone to Elliott, missionaries have long been praised for their willing hearts and lives of sacrifice. Much like World War II soldiers, when they buy their ticket and board, everyone’s there to cheer them on and wave goodbye. When they are in the field, everyone’s writing letters and sending love and prayers.

When they come back on furlough, everyone’s bringing them meals and treating them to fine experiences. When they head back to their mission field after furlough, everyone’s there to cheer them on and wave goodbye again.

But what happens when that missionary is called back to the U.S.A.? What can you do with a missionary, when they stop being a missionary?

They fill his chest with medals while he’s across the foam,

And they spread the crimson carpet when he comes marching home,

The next day someone hollers when he comes into view,

“Here comes the (missionary)” and they all say “(Missionary) who?”

They’re delighted that he came,

But they can’t recall his name

The transition is hard. There’s so much change.

As a missionary kid, I saw this change affect my family as we moved back to the States after serving in Central Asia for five and a half years. My parents, though struggling themselves, managed to help us five kids adjust. All seven of us could tell you a different story of how hard the move was.

Everyone would hug our necks and say, “Welcome home!” This always confused me. Having spent the majority of my life in Asia, that had become my home. This country of my birth was not my home, and held much culture shock for me. Thousands of “Why” questions danced and drudged in my 10-year-old mind.

Why are there electric hand dryers in the bathrooms here?

Why does everyone have a cell phone? Should I have one?

Why do the girls dress and talk so different from me? How can I silence their stares?

Why don’t we take our shoes off at the church doorway anymore?

Why is everyone in such a hurry?

I’ve found that we were blessed to be a part of a church that loved us and provided for us fully during our move from Asia to McAlester, Oklahoma. Though I had many questions, they were often allowed to be asked and were answered gracefully. Though I had some fear, my church and home were safe places to be.

Not all churches know what to do with missionaries when they come “home” for good. I would like to offer two things congregations should not do and two things congregations can do when attempting to care for the missionaries who have been called back to the States.

Congregations should not

…pretend things are “back to normal.” It would have been inappropriate to expect a World War II soldier to return from battle and act like they weren’t changed, or that they could simply “return to normal.”

The same is true for a missionary. Most missionaries have experienced great loss, vast change and life-altering perspective shifts. Don’t expect them to return to the States the same person as when they left.

…be disappointed in them. They may not have stayed as long overseas as they had hoped. They may have been offered an early retirement. They may have had a sick family member for whom they had to return. Don’t be disappointed in them or feel they have disobeyed God by coming back from the mission field.

Congregations can

…provide for their physical needs… and wants. From housing to employment, from food to a (more than likely needed) vacation. Don’t wait for them to ask for help. Simply ask yourself, “What would I want or need if I were in their shoes?”

…introduce. Help them get introduced to their new home! Take them to see the sights, try the tastiest restaurants and visit the popular hang-outs. Help them fall in love with where God has placed them. If they lived in your city before moving overseas initially, then re-introduce them to the old places and introduce the new places.

Above all, love them fiercely, utilize them in your church and empower them to press on. Missionaries who have returned to the States long-term are assets to the American church. What can you do with a missionary when they stop being a missionary? The ends of the earth are the limit.

The Influence of a Man

The Influence of a Man

My dad has played a significant role in my life. From teaching me to pray as a child to exposing me to deep, sound theology in college, my dad has challenged me and invested in me. One thing he and I have been doing periodically is sharing the various books we are reading. This simple exchange of words in conversation or text messages containing an author and book title has subtly been a continuing factor of my dad’s influence in my life.

In this recent practice, I have begun to realize the power of men’s influence in women’s lives. Whether it’s a pastor to a female church member, a father to his daughter, a male friend to his female friend, a brother to his sister, there is a degree of authority and influence. In light of this, I have also begun to realize how men are wielding this power.

There are the good men, like my dad and brothers, and many others, who bear this influence with weighted intentionality and with humility. There are lazy men who fail to realize this influence at all. There are abusive men who are aware of this influence and use it for their own gain. But it is for the aforementioned good men that I write this blog.

There are 10 books that these good men might be wise in sharing with the women in their lives and might reap knowledge from for themselves. These are 10 books I hope to offer to the good men of the church who are looking to learn from, as well as protect, women’s tender hearts and brilliant minds. I have included a brief description with each, as well as highlighted a valuable insight these good men might receive about or from women in these female authored books.

1. A Chance to Die | by Elisabeth Elliot
This book is one amazing missionary writing about another amazing missionary. Elisabeth Elliot was a prolific writer that, not unlike myself, was astonished by the life of Amy Carmichael. Elliot wrote about Carmichael in a powerful and moving way, telling the story of her life.
Return: An honest perspective on a single woman’s commitment to ministry

2. Each New Day | by Corrie Ten Boom
Having survived World War II and the Nazi’s worst female concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom has an astounding appreciation for the everyday faith. Ten Boom offers simple, understandable daily devotionals in her book and offers hope to the broken.
Return: A realization of the resilience and tenderness of a godly woman

3. In His Image | by Jen Wilkin
In this book, Jen Wilkin, highlights 10 qualities of God that Christian men and women are called to reflect. Don’t be deceived by the flowery, feminine cover, Wilkin drops some serious, Grudem-style theology.
Return: A deeper understanding of God’s calling for the Church

4. The God Who Cares and Knows You: John | by Kay Arthur
After getting a taste of her writing, you might want to make some room in your library for Kay Arthur’s Bible commentary series. Arthur is known for her deep knowledge of God’s Word, and for making it understandable to all ages. Her gracious voice in writing all but conceals her vast understanding of theology.
Return: A dependable, female voice for sermon and teaching prep

The Influence of a Man - WordSlingers 5

5. Gladys Aylward | by Janet and Geoff Benge
This husband and wife duo paint a beautiful picture of the young missionary to China, Gladys Aylward. Amidst civil unrest and personal loss, Aylward serves courageously. The Benges have written an entire library of narrative biographies on the heroes of the faith worthy of reading.
Return: A realization of what women endure on the mission field

6. Whispers of Hope | by Beth Moore
In this simple devotional, Beth Moore walks you through a life-changing approach to prayer. Look beyond the female-targeted design, and reap the benefits of an increased appreciation for prayer.
Return: A more intimate, tender view of the Lord

7. On Reading Well | by Karen Swallow Prior
I am currently reading this book because of my dad. He is in the middle of reading it for the second time. He raves of its theological richness and of Prior’s ability to communicate doctrine in its relation to reading.
Return: A creative view on theological topics

8. The Triumph of John and Betty Stam | by Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
Another missionary book by another dynamic, authoring duo! Read the heart-wrenching tale of two martyrs and their love story.
Return: A desire for God’s Kingdom through the faithfulness of men and women

9. The Gospel Comes with a Housekey | by Rosaria Butterfield
In this book, Rosaria Butterfield opens the door to a whole new concept of hospitality. Read about her life story, and the power of showing kindness in a radical way.
Return: A resolve for encouraging women in ministry to use their gifts

10. Gay Girl, Good God | by Jackie Hill Perry
Jackie Hill Perry goes through the story of her early years as a homosexual and of God’s redeeming hand that resurrected her to new life and out of the former lifestyle.
Return: An awareness of the brokenness and needs of women

My prayer, for the good men of the Church, is for them to continue to realize the influence they have in women’s lives around them. What these good men read, what they watch, what they listen to… many women are hearing and seeing, and learning. May these men continue to empower women in their pursuit of knowledge and protect the women’s hearts around them.

My Turtle-Mounted, Map-Deprived Prince Charming

My Turtle-Mounted, Map-Deprived Prince Charming

“Someday,” said the little girl to her aunt, “My Prince Charming is going to come bounding up on his white horse. He’s going to pick me up, and we’ll ride off together… and live happily ever after.” Gazing off into the imaginary distance of her bright, romantic future, the little girl’s eyes fell then to her aunts “ringless” left hand. “Um,” she said to her young, single aunt, “Where’s your Prince Charming?”

“Well, sweetie,” the aunt said, “My Prince Charming’s out there, but he’s mounted a turtle instead of a steed, and he’s more than likely taken a wrong turn… and he’s probably too stubborn to ask for directions.”

I heard this silly, short story a long time ago and related to the aunt on many levels. I’m still young and hopeful of marriage, but it seems that every year I get further from 18, still single, I feel less hopeful for that dream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. There’s so much to be grateful for as a single adult—like unhindered family time, commitment to my job, freedom to minister with everything I have, fewer travel constraints and so much more.

Singleness is awesome. Except when it’s not.

Singleness, much like married life, is a balance of scales. On one end of the scale, there is the Hannah that desires more than anything to be married. She dreams of having a home and children to tend to and raise up. She knows, deep down, that she craves marriage and a family, knowing they are gifts from the Lord.

On the other end of the scale is the Hannah that desires autonomy and exploration. She can’t be bothered with anything that might nail her down. She believes God is truly all that she needs. She’s courageous and bold, fast-paced and effective.

Both sides of the scale are acceptable versions of myself when in balance with each other.

When one weighs heavier than the other, there are unhealthy obsessions or vast amounts of pride that can seep in. To keep this balance maintained, there is only one solution that has worked for me: prayer. Specifically, prayer for my future husband.

I don’t bank on the day that my tardy Prince Charming, atop his noble tortoise, will arrive, but I do look forward to it. He won’t complete me, but he will love me. Because of this, I can pray for him, whether he’s out there or not. Here are three things I pray for my wandering groom…

1. Increase in wisdom. I pray the whole of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes over my future beloved. I ask the Father to teach him wisdom, to give him discernment, and to impart holy knowledge to him. Education and wit are attractive in a man, but wisdom is far more handsome.

2. Decrease in pride. I pray that my man is humble, not self-depreciating, but humble. I pray that the Lord would bless him and grant him eyes to see the way that his Heavenly Father sees, producing in him a humility beyond his years and a hate for sin.

3. Fall in love. I pray that my future husband’s eyes are so lovingly glued on the Lord, that it takes the Father’s hands to usher me into his gaze. I pray that he is deeply driven by and devoted to God’s Kingdom, building it and increasing it. And I pray that, when I come along, he’ll offer me his hand in joining with him in his pursuit of the Father. My prayer is that he would fall in love with God long before he ever falls in love with me.

Balance is hard, and I’m not a graceful person. I trip a lot and have stumbled more times than not.

But God is so faithful (Lam. 3:22-23). He’s more than enough to sustain me (2 Cor. 12:9). He’s gracious and kind (Joel 2:13), and He tips this single’s scales as He wills (Prov. 19:21).

If this man whom I pray for does not exist, I can pray knowing that in it all, I am drawing near to the Lord regardless of what He has planned for my marital status.

And if this turtle-mounted, map-deprived Prince Charming whom I pray for does exist, then I can pray knowing the Lord is doing a work in him that will increase the joy of our marriage and ministry.

What if God takes it all?

What if God takes it all?

Several weeks ago, I was walking on a beach in Galveston, Texas. With each shifting step, my family’s rented beach house got further and further behind me. I had to get away from the house just for a bit and be alone. After all, there were about 20 people in the house at the time. But it wasn’t really for solitude that I went on this walk. It was for memories.

As the waves tumbled up to my feet and slumped back into its watery home, I talked to my Lord. I spoke with Him about this family vacation. I noted the hours of Mario Kart my siblings and I played on the Wii as the rain interrupted our beach days.

I told Him about the laughter that bubbled out of my three-year-old nephew as we played on my grandparents’ bed. I shared in detail the hilarity of going crab hunting with all the menfolk after dark. I’m sure He smiled as I recalled with Him the family worship service we had our first night at the beach.

From swinging in hammocks with my sister, to shopping on The Strand, to meeting up with old missionary friends, I had a lot to talk about with my Creator. Gratitude swept over me, not unlike the foamy waves at my feet.

My walk along the shore and along my memories was halted when a single thought arose, “What if God takes it all?”

My home. My parents. My siblings and their spouses. My precious nephew and soon-to-be-born niece. My amazing job. My freelance company. My church. My dear, dear friends. Even my silly dog. What if God takes it all?

Admittedly, even at the mere thought of it, I nearly doubled over right there on the wet sand. My feet sunk, much like my heart, as the tide and my thoughts came in. I pressed on in my walk, this time heavier and tearfully. My thoughts raced, as my fists seemed to grip all those things I hold dear. I turned around, concluding I had walked far enough. I felt as though the more I considered losing it all, I just wanted to be near my family.

I started the walk back, and as I did, I saw something in the distance walking toward me. As I squinted, I could eventually see my sister-in-law and nephew searching for seashells on the beach just outside of our beach house. I stood still, watching them interact and laugh, taking mental picture after mental picture.

I felt my Lord speak to me, “Trust Me.”

Having been called to and making strides toward working as an international missionary, I often feel the Father telling me this. In pursuit of education, “Trust Me.” In pursuit of a career, “Trust Me.” In this season of waiting, “Trust Me.”

But it was different this time on the beach. I realized right there that, someday, when I enter the mission field alone, leaving my family, friends, and even my little dog, I cannot function without trust in Him.

Scripture is clear in communicating that trust in God leads to a dependence on God (Prov.3:5) and that trust in God means an outpouring of praise to Him (Psalm 28:7). Indeed, knowing God, truly knowing God, should lead us to trust in Him (Psalm 9:10). What’s better, once I begin to know God, He will not change on me (Heb.13:8). Unlike the shifting sand I stood on that day on the beach, God will not change with time (James 1:17). He is worthy of my trust (Psalm 18:30).

Because of these truths, I do not hoard my belongings or loved ones, believing they’ll slip away at any moment. But, rather, I cherish the blessing of them. I create memories and spaces in which to appreciate God in a deeper way because of them.

What if God takes it all?

Then He is still good (Dan. 3:18). Trust Him.