Women of Wisdom

It started with six women. Six of us sitting around a table, right after the lockdowns had ended. We were all starved for connection, and the needs around us were great. So many churches were still not meeting. Small groups had dissolved over night, and many women had no community of faith around them. It was a divisive, isolating, and unsettling time. It was clear to us that now more than even we needed to offer a good Bible study, in person, with committed leaders.

And I remember as we talked, we had a lot of questions. What’s the biggest need? What would we study? Where would we meet? Would anyone even show up during a time like this? We sat around a table, asking God to guide us and keep our hearts aligned with His. 

In the end, women showed up. They piled into a home with their Bibles and got to know each other. Some of them were lonely. Others were going through the process of losing husbands, losing children. Some were scared, tired, broken, and needed a community around them. And others were happy, excited, and ready to give. It was a perfectly orchestrated group. God brought just the right people.

Over several months and a few bumps along the way, our group grew, then shrank, and then grew again. In less than two years, two of our leaders were hospitalized at some point. We said goodbye to one leader as she moved across the country and welcomed a new leader who recently moved to our area. We had our share of naysayers and roadblocks, but we kept at it, quietly nurturing what God gave us to work with. 

Today, we had 27 women show up to study the Bible. More importantly, we had 27 women leave knowing God a little better, understanding a little better how they fit into His story. 27 women in fellowship with each other. In some small way, 27 women were equipped to go and do the work of being a Jesus follower. And friends, I’m here to tell you that’s life changing.

It’s hard to see the progress when you’re in it. You don’t notice the slow, week-by-week journey of two steps forward, one step back. The wrestling we do with God and man. But after months and years (and eventually what I hope becomes decades and generations) you get some traction. It’s the lifetime of discipleship we’re interested in. 

I’m so grateful for the testimony this group has become. We have women from all different backgrounds, ages, and church traditions (at least 4 local churches are represented) coming together in unity around the Word. They bring their own unique perspectives, questions, and gifts, and it makes us all better. And they are devoted to prayer, to the Scriptures, to each other, and to carrying His love out of the church building and blessing the people in their lives. If that isn’t Church, I don’t know what is. 

I don’t know why God burdened me with a heart for this kind of thing, but He did. God put in me a heart that is wrecked for my brothers and sisters who desperately want to know Him, but have not been equipped or trained in how to know Him. For those who long for more than the surfacey, feel good, fleeting interactions with their Bible but always come up short, with nothing to lead them to lasting change. He’s given me a heart for teaching my brothers and sisters who are broken, disenfranchised, bored, and confused in their walks with God. I’ve shed a lot of tears and spent hours upon hours in prayer during many a sleepless night carrying this burden to Yahweh and asking Him to give me the wisdom to lead others. Because who am I do to this? What do I know?

I often wish it was a different burden. Something easier, something simpler. Because it gets heavy when you’re a young female burdened with heart and mind for teaching others. You don’t look the part and you don’t fit the mold, so people tend not to take you seriously. But God gave me this, and He knows me, and I can’t not care about the men and women who show up in my life wishing they knew God better. 

So yes, this thing is small. It’s just a little group in a small town that isn’t doing anything spectacular or extraordinary. But today my heart is full because Psalm 1 is happening here in ordinary people, in faithful women who show up and desire Yahweh. 

This is their testimony. You don’t have to be a pastor to understand God’s word. You don’t have to be a “churchy person” to be made new. You don’t have to memorize every verse in the Bible to lead a Bible study. You don’t have to be a man to teach. You don’t have to be someone you’re not to be the person God longs for you to be. 

These women have humbled me with their strength, their knowledge, and their wisdom. They are women of valor, full of grace, and brimming with love. They bring their brains to their Bibles so that their minds can be transformed and their hearts can be made new. I am so proud to be an ordinary woman coming alongside a group of ordinary women, seeking wisdom together. Because friends, I’ll say this, if there’s one thing the enemy knows it’s this: the most dangerous thing in this world is a human full of God’s wisdom. 

Pure as the Driven Snow

A Blessing for Asher

You started out a bundle of bronze flesh,

pearly bone set in a babe,

birthed into a world full of pain– tears and heartache my fate.

Worry and bitterness crept into kill me,

took all my pride, my reason for living.

Why did this happen to me? And now why a baby?

So when I saw you coming, I fell down running

from all that threatened to come for me, gunning.

But just one look at you, and I was remade new–

You’re pure as the driven snow.

Smiles and sunshine, happy and bright. You’re all that is good in a world that’s not right.

Some got the brains and some got the brawn. Some got the beauty, charisma till dawn.

But you’re the

s

w

e

e

t

heart,

making the stars

b

u

r

s

t

with light.

In wonder and magic you breathe out your days. Sweep us up into your warm, sugary ways.

Your honeyed laughter kisses our home. Little feet running, there’s joy in your bones.

It’s why I love you–

you’re pure as the driven snow.

Burden and blessing, this world goes round. Toil and labor and lies abound.

You never see the mistakes.

Drift over the holes that we make.

Your

v

a

l

l

e

y

s

and hills,

swirling into the sky.

Love, joy, peace, happiness, you never try

to be what you’re not, to be who they want. It’s why we need you–

you’re pure as the driven snow.

Some will have wit, and some a great style. You’re gifted with the most beautiful smile.

One that they’ll try to take,

an advantage to exploit and remake

into a weapon of strife,

into dollars and favors, false life.

You must remember . . .

that God brought you mid-winter

to take a heart that was splintered

and

d

o

w

n.

To pick it up off the cold, frozen ground,

and help it beat again

with love pure as the driven snow.

Someday this world will mock you and beat you,

slap you round silly, threaten to eat you

alive.

And the only way you will survive

is to run to

the One who makes you

pure as the driven snow.

You’re pure as the driven snow.

The Family Prophecies

I wake and the words are there, hanging in the dark, filling the liminal space between rest and rise. I etch them out, fragments and syllables, hovering above the pages they will soon be apart of. But here in the bleak morning light, they sit, unfinished and raw, in the corners of my mind, or slips of paper, or typed into a note on my phone. 

Sometimes they come in a flood, sometimes a trickle. Scraps, really. Never linear. More like a web of puzzle pieces to sort and fit together, as though I’m an old woman humming a melody I’ve long forgotten and am trying to recall the words. But in the end, these things seem to write themselves. It is as if my hands and my mind are simply the vessels through which the truths are birthed into the world. They really don’t come from me, but they are somehow apart of me. Part of my experiences, part of what I take in each day. But it’s the Spirit who does the work. He transforms the mundane into crystalized thought, and floats it back to me as a blessing, little particles of words that transcend the physical, the visual, or the material. When they are put together, the words become a mosaic of past and present, and they illumine the future in a way I never predict, a perspective only time itself can offer.

When I began this blog, it was a space in which to therapeutically process the journey of my life as a young mother. But as I have grown and years have passed, I re-read my former work and realize that these pieces are not just a collection of memories, not a museum of days gone by. They are an anthology of prophecies that speak the same truth now as they did the day they were formed and pressed out. 

Because a prophecy is not a prediction; not a tawdy, fortune-telling crystal that sees mystically into the future. Prophecies are always a gift, a different way of encountering reality, of looking at the world, and offering wisdom about the trajectory that lies ahead.

The Family Prophecies are a collection of pieces inspired by and written for each member of my family. It’s a way of speaking truth over them, calling out the best things God has created within them, and prayerfully releasing hopes over their futures. I don’t pretend to know what will happen next. I simply trust in the loyal love and promises of the God of my family, the God I serve myself. He has orchestrated and designed a tapestry of faithfulness that I pray will live on to the generations that follow me. 

And so The Family Prophecies: an anthology of poems and prayers, ballads and blessings to tell our stories then, and now, and not yet.

I never planned to write these. The words just came.

The Gaping Holes in the American Church: Part 2-Discipling Biblical Literacy

*This post is part 2 in an ongoing series. To read the first post, click here.

I will never forget the time I sat in a Bible study and the leader asked us to open up to the Song of Songs. A woman in the group who was highly regarded within the church proceeded to ask the leader whether Song of Songs was located in the Old or New Testament. I’m ashamed to admit my jaw almost hit the floor. I tried to hide my shock, but I was dumbfounded. How could someone who was seen as a mature follower of Jesus not know the general location of one of the biblical books?

As I participated in and led more groups, I realized this was very normal. A surprising number of Christians have no idea how to navigate the pages of Scripture, let alone discern their meaning. I’ve found it is not unusual to have people show up to a Bible study and never actually open their Bibles. And often, even if a biblical passage is read and discussed, people are very quick to whip out a commentary, a study footnote, or a quote from a devotional they recently read. 

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with using extra-biblical resources to better understand Scripture. I lean on a growing library of books and tools, and am so grateful for them because they’ve proven immensely helpful! We need resources from learned scholars who have dedicated their careers to the excavating the Bible and the cultures that shaped it. And of course, there will always be some who are more inclined to dig into this research than others. That’s the beauty of being in a diverse body. But when the resources replace the real thing we are on dangerous ground, running the risk of letting someone else do the work of meditating on God’s story for us.

A pastor recently told me he thinks Bible study groups are a waste of time. He claimed they are ineffective because he never sees much change or growth through them. But I had to wonder: is the problem the Bible study or how we are studying the Bible? Psalm 1 promises blessing to those who read and re-read God’s word, but as my pastor friend pointed out, he is not seeing transformation.

Think about it. How well are we in the Church doing at equipping people to consistently study the Scriptures on their own, outside of church and small groups? How many of our ministries leave people feeling more confident, more excited, and more curious about the Bible? How many churches dedicate significant portions of their staff, ministry schedule, and budgets to discipling believers into making sense of the story we claim to stake our lives on? Intentional reflection on Scripture, learning how to read it, understanding its design, patterns, and purpose—these are essential skills for spiritual formation that are sorely underemphasized in the American Church. Instead cultivating communities of Psalm 1 readers of the Bible, we rely on the pastor, the commentator, or the best selling author to tell us what glean from its pages. We have become good with keeping our Bibles on the shelf, reducing a love of the Scriptures to the Instagram Bible quotes that pop up, deceiving ourselves into thinking this kind of behavior is somehow faithfulness to our God. 

Of course, we have our reasons.

For many of us, especially long-time believers, the Bible has become dry and predictable. Been there, read that, heard that sermon a dozen times. We know the rules, the morals, the theological concepts. It’s so over-familiar it’s become hard to find anything new and inspiring, and frankly, we’re bored by a book full of “good reminders.” How many of us have sat there, bleary eyed in the morning, opened up our Bibles, and read something just to check the box? I’ve been there so many times myself, cherry-picking a few verses to get me through that day, but I’ve completely missed the bigger story at work because I lacked the tools to see it. My framework for reading the Bible left me unenthused, only getting me so far.

On the flip side, reading the Bible can also be a foreign and alienating experience. Many modern readers have no idea what to do with three-quarters of the book that lays in our laps on Sunday mornings. We search for a nugget to apply, but really we’re completely lost when it comes to something like Judges, or Leviticus, or Revelation. And so we stick to the parts we know: the Psalms and Proverbs, a handful of Sunday school stories, the Gospels, and the parts of the New Testament where the run on sentences don’t get too out of control. Sadly, I find it’s often women who stay away from the Bible for this reason. Intimidated by so many male Bible teachers, they feel inadequate on their own, so they just sort of give up.

For one reason or another, we’ve truncated the Bible into 365 neat little pages or virtually ignored it altogether. Unable to handle the Bible in its entirety, we remake it in our own image to solve the problems we import into its pages.  

For a great many believers, the story of the Bible is almost totally absent from our lives. And it’s so incredibly sad. Too many of my brothers and sisters come to me in their hurt and suffering, totally unaware that the Bible is basically a story about human anguish and suffering. So many church leaders who have been wrecked over strife and division seem to be lost as to how to move past it when half of Bible addresses this very thing. I hear things like, “My life is so broken. God feels far away.” Or “Church is messy. It’s not always simple.” Even seasoned believers seem to think the Bible is not big enough for their problems, that the wisdom it offers is wishful thinking. Better that we stick to the how-to’s and the self-helps and the popular instruction manuals for running our lives and communities. Is it really that the biblical story is deficient in offering us wisdom for the narrow road we have committed to walking as Jesus followers? Or is it, perhaps, that we’re missing it because we were never taught how to see it in the first place? 

Meditation on the Bible and the wealth of life it holds should be woven into the fabric of our faith. It should be a core part of the outworking of our lives as we follow Jesus, a skill we help each other cultivate throughout our lives. Instead it’s another gaping hole. By relying on paid professionals to do the work for us we have refused the blessing of Psalm 1. And it shows, friends. 

As I watch my children grow, I see more and more clearly how the culture around them waits hungrily, ready to swallow my four precious stones whole. My children will need more than some Sunday school stories and a commentary to navigate their way in this world. They need to know the Story. What’s more, they need to learn how to teach it to themselves. They need it evening and morning, shaping their hearts, probing their minds, forming their lives.

And so I remain committed to learn the Story myself, and help others do the same. I pray the next generation of Jesus followers are hungry to pick up their Bibles and spend a lifetime learning them, to immerse themselves in the story that points to Him, and let that shape their lives, relationships, and communities. And I pray that my own generation rises up to show them the way. It is a high call and heavy task that requires courage and humility. But I believe if we can recognize our own shortcomings and learn better ways to cope with them—if we can begin to stitch up some of these holes—we will be restored by the transforming wisdom within His word and bless generations to come.

The Blood Cries Out

There is a well-known story in Numbers 13 and 14. The Israelites finally get to survey the land God had promised to their ancestors, but as they scout it out, they find it filled with scary, giant people. They’re afraid, and so even though God promised to deliver them into the land safely, they refuse to go in. Because of their disobedience and fear, God exiled them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

It’s a familiar Sunday school story, but few pay attention to the peculiar verses that follow it. After learning about the consequence of their choice, the Israelites change their minds and try to take the land anyway. The result is utter defeat and a battle with epic losses.

It is in this story a large number of Christian Americans find themselves right now. It’s easy to read this story and laugh at the Israelites. Fools! How could they disobey God so blatantly, and then rush into the very thing He warned them He would not protect them from?

But God makes it clear how He wants His people to live and rule in His world. And when humans distort God’s goodness and design in favor of living on their terms, the result is always removal of the safety and security of home. An exile into a dangerous place we no longer recognize, a place where we are vulnerable, exposed, and scared. It is a road that leads to certain death.

In the days that have followed the breach on the US Capitol, prayers and hymns flood my social media feeds. There are posts of outrage and disgust, pictures of continued protests, calls for the tyranny to end, for justice to be upheld, for hatred to stop, for blessing to be poured out, and peace restored. But America does not deserve these things. America does not deserve God’s blessing.

On Wednesday, I did not join the Christian leaders who called believers to pray for the safety of our congress, our police, our leaders, or protestors. And I’m not ashamed of that.

I will not pray for the safety of those who chose to violate the law and ransack our nation’s Capitol. I will not pray for the safety of congressmen and women who have spent the better part of a year arguing and fighting about their own agendas while hurting people suffer another day. I will not pray for the safety of police officers who have, as a whole, turned a blind eye towards the brutality and unwarranted force they have been accused of perpetuating.

I cannot ask God to bless America. I cannot pray that He will protect us from the evil we have welcomed into our backyard.

I will not ask God for healing during a pandemic while we sit around fueling our disease with junk food and chemicals, willingly destroying our immune systems. I will not pray for wisdom for our leaders while we passively allow them to continue in their lying and conniving behavior, all as we herald the praises of whatever corrupt regime is on the way out or in. I will not pray for peace when violence is the method we employ to gain it. I will not ask God for justice in our elections when our black and brown brothers and sisters receive none in our streets. We cannot continue to bash in the skulls of unborn infants or deport the exhausted and starving immigrant at our border, sacrificing human lives to the god of our own convenience, and expect that God will strike down the evil in our temples of democracy. I cannot join fellow Christians in praying for others to see the truth when our own eyes are glued to our news feeds instead of His word. I cannot ask God to heal our land when our land is drunk on the blood of the innocent.

Whether we admit it or not, in the past year Americans have experienced oppression on their own soil like never before. We have cut off people’s livelihoods and locked down their backyards. We have abandoned people to die, needlessly and alone. Terror has erupted across our cities, our minority neighbors left even more victimized and villanized in its wake. We’ve cultivated new (and perpetuated old) social norms that defy common sense. In deep sadness, we cry out “this is not the America we know,” but it is the America we made. The reality is that we have long nurtured a way of live that robs people of dignity, and now we face the consequences of our dehumanizing actions.

To my praying and patriotic friends, we must recognize that the blood that flows down the Capitol steps is the same blood that flows down Main St. And it is all over our hands. But now we want God to come through for us. Now we want His justice. Now we want His blessings and His promises.

And so we find ourselves in Numbers 14, exiled in a wilderness of our own making. Life in a hostile environment, the bodies piling up around us, souls we doomed ourselves.

The hope, for me and many others, is Jesus. Actively, Jesus invites us to participate in renewal, unity, and goodness on His terms. We may have inherited the consequences of our grandparents failures. And we will undoubtedly pass on the outcome of our present horrors to our children. But every generation is given a chance. An opportunity to partner with God, to do things the way of His son. He won’t bail us out of our misery, and He won’t bless our evil. But He will offer us a chance to change. To seek real peace, to transform our minds, to live in goodness by the power of His Spirit in a world that is killing itself. It is to Him we owe our allegiance.

I cannot join in the petition to ask God for His protection, His blessing, or His justice for this nation. No. The blood of the innocent cries out louder than I, and I am drenched in it.

I can only beg God for His mercy, His forgiveness. I can only mourn this Babylon we’ve built with our own hands. I can only sit with a smile on my face, reading a choo-choo book to my toddler, praying for the strength and wisdom to raise children who can image Jesus in this ever-distorted world. I can only ask “How long, oh Lord?” How long until the City of God comes to transform the cities of men?