The Beauty of Hidden Ministry

I count the signs in my folder: two, four, six, eight. Good. That’s all of them. Eight signs with little arrows pointing left, right, left.

I whip out the Scotch tape and stick them on the white-walled hallways of the warehouse-sized church. If I don’t put these up, people will get lost trying to find the room at the far end of the building where the support group meets.

The ministry I lead for women facing infertility and infant loss is hidden in more ways than one. While my church has been kind and supportive, many people in the community don’t know what we do, let alone that our group exists.

Like the room where we gather to talk, cry, and pray, our small assembly is tucked away in the back corner of Church. While I trust the Lord is working in the lives of the women who attend, sharing space with dust bunnies can make it hard to believe our ministry matters.

Read full article at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Hope of the New Year

As I grew up ringing in the New Year with my family, I wondered, but never asked, why January 1st is considered a holiday. When your parents let you stay up and watch TV way past bedtime, you keep your mouth shut and let the good times roll.

Now that I’m an adult and have children of my own pleading their case for late-night privileges, the tradition of celebrating the flip of the calendar has piqued my curiosity once again. Seeing commercials for New Year’s programs and store end caps already stocked with fireworks and noisemakers reminds me of my long-held questions: What’s so special about the start of another year? Why do people around the world hail its arrival with feasts and proposals, kissing and crooning a Scots poem? Besides providing an excuse to party, why do we celebrate the New Year?

A quick search at history.com reveals its origins, dating back four millennia to the ancient Babylonians who observed the first new moon after the vernal equinox (a day in late March when the amount of sunlight and darkness is equal) as the beginning of a new year. The date kicked off an epic eleven-day religious celebration called Akitu, which involved feasts and rituals celebrating the Babylonian sky god Marduk’s victory over the evil sea goddess, Tiamat. Later, Emperor Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar, similar to the modern Gregorian calendar used by most countries around the world today. Caesar at that time declared January 1 as the first day of the year in honor of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, who had two faces allowing him to look back on the past and forward to the future.

One common thread runs throughout the history of New Year celebrations, from the time of the Babylonians and Romans celebrating and making sacrifices to their gods to our modern rituals of making resolutions and watching a giant bright ball drop at midnight. These New Year traditions we observe and pass on to future generations glorify hope. Though we can’t know what circumstances the next year holds, we rejoice in the possibility of good things to come. The potential for blessings flutters a blank sheet before us, tempting us with irresistible freshness. We grasp for it, convinced that this unknown unraveling of time will be better than what’s already transpired, and what’s ahead will finally make us happy.

Read full article at Morning by Morning.

When We Steal the Spotlight from God

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When I was entering junior high, my mom bought me a book I found irrelevant and a little rude. Although I don’t remember the title, it would be hard to forget such a cheesy cover illustration—a smug-looking teen girl with a cartoon planet Earth orbiting her head. The point of the book—and the message my mom wished to convey—came across clearly: Don’t think and act like the world revolves around you.

Although younger generations often are accused of self-centeredness, we’re all guilty at any age. An adult who talks incessantly about his or her achievements or problems is just as absorbed in their own affairs as a tyrannical toddler who calls everything “mine.”

As with my mother, the sins I see in my children—wanting to get their way all the time, and expecting others to cater to their demands—are a proximate illustration of my own egotism. In matters such as parenting, or even minor inconveniences like hitting all red lights when I’m in a hurry, I expect my will to be done and throw a grown-up temper tantrum when it’s not.

When I think and act according to my pleasure instead of God’s glory, I elevate myself above my creator. It’s both sinful and absurd, like a clay pot trying to commandeer the potter’s ceramic studio.

Read full article at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

[Photo courtesy Alexander Dummer on Unsplash]

Resurrecting Buried Treasure

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Hidden torments sometimes yield tragedy. The world witnessed this earlier this summer when, within a week’s span, we lost two luminaries to suicide, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. I hate it whenever I hear that someone chose to end his or her life; it breaks me up thinking about their pain and remembering my own darkness of anxiety, currently held at bay.

The media coverage of these losses was grossly sensationalized, and I tried to avoid most of it except for a USA Today article by CNN analyst Kirsten Powers.

Powers admits to having considered suicide at one point, and explains the results of research she conducted examining the epidemic of depression in America. Citing an interview with Jim Carrey, she suggests one reason why more people are battling despair:

If only we get that big raise, or a new house or have children we will finally be happy. But we won’t. In fact, as Carrey points out, in many ways achieving all your goals provides the opposite of fulfillment: It lays bare the truth that there is nothing you can purchase, possess or achieve that will make you feel fulfilled over the long term.

Read full article at Fathom Magazine.

[Photo courtesy Lilian Dibbern on Unsplash.]

Enjoy the Freedom of Your Redemption

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You’ll never defeat this.

My mind recites this line like a broken record when ugly, deceptive sin threatens to trap me in its patterns. Because God has rescued me from my former way of living, I know I need to stop engaging in behavior that defies his will, and live in the way that pleases him.

But persistent sins like worry and pride are so entrenched in my heart that they seem impossible to overcome. I feel as though the weight of shame and guilt will always hound me since my sins are too heavy to shake off by my own efforts.

As I carry these burdens, unable to unload them, I forget the deeper truth revealed in human weakness: What I can’t accomplish, Christ already did.

Read full article at Unlocking the Bible.

[Photo courtesy Paula May on Unsplash]

Just As I Am: Accepting Our Limitations

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“I’m just a mom.”

“I’m just an employee.”

“I’m just an introvert.”

These statements downplay who we are or what we do.

Maybe it’s intended to show humility. Maybe it’s masking feelings of inadequacy.

Maybe it’s just an excuse.

Though we use it as an understatement, no one truly wants to be “just” anything; it implies limitation and lack. We often struggle feeling like we’re enough and crave something more to inflate our self-sufficiency.

While this hunger can sometimes motivate positive change, it can also breed discontentment. A heart that is always unhappy with what is, and is constantly grasping at what could be, leads to nothing but tireless striving.

This striving spins us in vicious cycles searching for fulfillment through making money, raising children, increasing our “influence,” seeking sexual gratification, finding “our tribe,” and pursuing various external means to manufacture happiness.

Read full article at Morning by Morning.

[Photo courtesy Myles Tan on Unsplash]