Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


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Speaking Life in the Small

Last week my husband and I received an email we didn’t expect. Our daughter is entering high school next year, and the college placement team reached out to say it is time to meet. I am not prepared for such preparations. What is expected, of course, is to say that just yesterday I was brushing her hair into a Pebbles-style ponytail right on top of her sweet little head. But it’s true.

What seems especially ironic or painful or some emotion I can’t articulate is that all this transition and looking forward for her comes on the cusp of a mid-life birthday for me. Here I am, looking backward and wondering where life veered from what I expected. It’s not necessarily cliché, nor is it crisis; it’s just real-life awareness that I am not really in control of anything.

I can’t stop my girl from growing up, and for all my own attempts to move upward, including a post-grad degree that took 11 years to complete, I’m in a place where I can choose to be disillusioned or to accept that life happens and circumstances sometimes collide with dreams and I feel as small as ever.

The complicating thing is that I have a really beautiful life. My blessings are abundant, and I know that the lines have fallen for me in very pleasant places (Psalm 16:6).

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Here, I am learning that my questions don’t mean that I am ungrateful; they mean that I am human.

Usually when I write, the editor in me gets in the way. Because I am actually employed as a writing editor. It is hard to write without evaluating every.single.word. (Is it grammatically correct to begin a sentence with because? Ugh.) But when I do, I am surprised at what revelation comes out. And so perhaps I need to pay attention to the above paragraph, where I off-the-cuff wrote that I have invested years and money in moving “upward.”

Is upward what I have wanted?

In itself, I see nothing wrong with this. I am for education and hard work and dreaming (and even college placement meetings *sigh*). I want this path for my daughter. My parents and my husband provided every opportunity for me to develop my potential and chase my desires, and how could I not look at this place in her life without dreamy (yet misty) eyes?

But as I grow deeper in relationship with Christ, I’m increasingly moving toward acceptance, even comfort, with a small life.

As an American, I live in a culture where small and upward are seemingly incongruent. But I am firstly a citizen of another Kingdom, where the highest goal is to go small. I think of John the Baptist who, when his followers left to pursue Jesus, said “He must become greater and I must become less” (John 3:30). And of him, Jesus said, “Among those born of women is none greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).

I also think of the widow who gave the smallest offering, a mere two coins, and Jesus esteemed her offering – all that she possessed – as the greatest (Luke 21:1 – 4).  Even the apostle Paul, who had once relished the utmost in accolades and accomplishment, surrendered everything – counted it as garbage even – in order to move forward with Christ (Philippians 3).

Some of my lifelong goals are yet unrealized. When I set my perspective on God’s grace, sovereignty, wisdom, and the call of discipleship, I’m really okay with this.

I am learning that I never needed those accomplishments to validate me, because who I am in Christ is enough. Perhaps small fits best. (Hey, I always wanted to be a size small).

I should clarify what I mean by “small.” Part of my life mission statement is that I will “speak life.” By this I mean that I want my words and actions to be a voice for the dignity of life, in every stage and status.  I am inspired when I see other people doing this in “big” ways, crusading on platforms for justice and equality. I have sat in forums and movies where I was deeply moved by Christ-followers who have, in large-scale ways, been champions for the outcast. I’ve wanted to do that too.

And as I went to special events and heard the stories of young women who were forced into sex slavery or child marriage, I was inspired by the heroes who rescued them. I’d say, however, that I always had one reaction more urgent than any other. As much as I appreciated the message, I couldn’t wait to bolt from those events and go home and wrap my daughter in my arms. It was an expression of my motherly-gut-level calling to speak life to her.

Most victims of human trafficking are deceived into believing that they aren’t worthy of anything else. But they are created by God to bear His image, and that makes them beautiful and worthy. Every person needs to know this about themselves. My daughter needs to know this about herself, and God has gifted her to me for a season. I am telling her that she is God’s hand-crafted, priceless possession.

My calling may be very small-scale. But I am realizing that it is no less significant.

Perhaps you are like me, living a seemingly small-scale life that feels more ordinary than extraordinary. But Christ-follower, it is significant. This day is one ordained by God to move you into His will and His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). You have a God-given design and purpose to influence your people and your community as no one else can.

You wipe noses and pick up toys all day …

You crunch numbers in a cubicle …

You sit with the lonely …

You spend out of your own salary to supply your classroom …

You write words that you think no one reads …

You stroke the hand of your frail loved one …

You serve in the church nursery …

You take in a child without a home …

You go to your prayer closet where no one sees …

You choose integrity in your job day in and day out …

You are speaking life. You are living your sacred responsibility to help others realize that they are God’s beloved.

So what do I say to my daughter? These years are pivotal, a time for her to dream big.  I want that for her. And I want her to be small too, in the way that Christ is greater and she is lesser, and every ordinary day is ordained by Him and for Him.

I want my child to speak life, whether from a platform or a pick-up game with kids from the other side of town. They may seem big; they may seem small; what matters is that there are God-sized plans awaiting her.

And you too.

Every small way is no small thing in the Kingdom.

The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus. (2)

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Such a good word from Jennifer Dukes Lee:

Could we, artists and writers and mothers and fathers and preachers and teachers and ordinary, everyday pilgrims — could we willingly lay down our lives for a life separated with Christ — a life hid in Christ with God?

And there, we would find the only approval that matters. 

And we would know it with certainty:

that it’s the approval we always had.

Writers are speaking life with Jennifer Dukes Lee and #TellHisStory.

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Connecting with other speakers of life @ Missional Women and Faith Filled Friday.

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Read this insightful post about a Christ-follower’s perspective on ambition at Purposeful Faith with Kelly Balarie.

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I’m having Coffee for Your Heart with my friend Holley Gerth

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Linking today with Thought Provoking Thursday @3dlessonsforlife

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What Does It Mean to Speak Life?

“I didn’t feel like I was worth anything …”
“I didn’t feel that I had any worth or value …”
“I thought I was unworthy, unlovable, not beautiful …”

As I listened to stories bravely shared by victims of human trafficking, I noticed that these statements were a common thread. But Christ-followers reached out to these women and shared with them that they are worthy, lovable, and beautiful. Their lives have been forever changed because someone saw them as Jesus does and spoke words of life and truth.

You have worth because Jesus created you with purpose.”

He paid the ultimate price so that you can be free.”

You are loved with an everlasting love.”

These inspiring stories of redemption and freedom compelled me to speak words of life in my city and around the world. And something else tugged at my heart:

I couldn’t wait to start at home and wrap my daughter in my arms. And tell her that she is beautiful, loved, and fearfully and wonderfully made.

It’s time to “speak life.” The phrase is increasingly used in Christian circles, and its essence is biblical. What does it mean?

I believe that “speaking life” is essentially the outcome, in word and deed, of a pro-life worldview consistent with the God-given dignity of every individual, regardless of developmental stage or ethnic/economic status.

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A “pro-life” position is usually, and unfortunately, staked in political and divisive stances. My personal conviction has always been to align myself with an anti-abortion stance. But one day I realized that it wasn’t enough.

After completing an internship at the local crisis pregnancy center, I was (unhappily) assigned to a nursing home for my following rotation. But there God granted me the opportunity to appreciate the sacredness of life at both ends of the spectrumIn the pre-born child and in the aged I saw the imago Dei – the image of God. I finally understood what it means for me to be “pro-life.”

Whether the skin is bathed in amniotic fluid or covered with wrinkles of many years, the person is one whom God loves. 

 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” (2 Corinthians 5:14 – 16)

Christ died for my life. Your life. Your neighbor’s life. The sex slave’s life. The refugee’s life. The unborn baby’s life.

As a Christian, that truth has to radically transform how I see and treat life – whether young or old; rich or poor; able-bodied or impaired; slave or free; weak or strong.

According to Proverbs 18:21, the tongue has the power of life and death. We “speak life” when our words and actions honor the inherent value in every person created by God.

The world sees human dignity in conjunction with power. Those who are capable of contributing to society enjoy an elevated degree of dignity or worth, according to the world’s standards, while the weaker members are marginalized.

But from the incarnation to the Cross, Jesus identified with the vulnerable. The outcasts are the very people that Jesus, Himself a refugee child, sought out when He walked on earth and ushered in an upside-down Kingdom:

Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5).

Like Jesus, we must resist the cultural way of preferring the powerful and pushing aside the powerless. Only the Gospel of Christ rightly defines human dignity. Our natural attraction to power is reframed at the Cross where Christ subjected Himself to weakness and death so that we may be reconciled to Him and also reconciled to our brothers and sisters.

The Christian’s power is in his or her peace with God through Jesus Christ and in the Spirit-filled capacity to love without limits (Romans 5).

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The Gospel calls us to this:

to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke …
 to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood (from Isaiah 58).

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

Resigning “pro-life” to a political platform is a cop-out. Rather, being pro-life is an everyday choosing of God’s perspective. Speaking life means seeking the outcast and serving the orphan and the widow. It means that we become an undeniable voice for the 27 million men, women, and children trapped in slavery today.

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Speaking life doesn’t have to involve words at all. Pro-life happens when we choose humility and kindness. When we direct our eyes from our gadgets to another human. Or when we give our time as a free gift. And as we listen more than we speak.

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May we grasp our sacred responsibility to help our neighbors realize that they are more. More than their performance or their regrets, they are God’s beloved.

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And let us expand our understanding of our “neighbor,” meaning that we extend ourselves to people outside our zip codes.

May we remember that our tongues possess power, like a ship’s tiny rudder. The simplest words or actions can steer a fellow traveler in the path of hope.

When we are tempted to ignore injustice, may the Holy Spirit quicken us to speak truth in love.

And finally, let us remember that speaking life is not a solo effort. The Gospel of Jesus reconciles sinners to God and also person to person, community to community. Imagine our symphony of voices, each uniquely gifted, rising in reverence for Imago Dei in every person.

You are the image-bearers, the speakers of life. God created you with something to offer, and you – with your encouraging word, smile, prayer, open door, or gesture of forgiveness – add to a chorus that can change a world one life at a time. Thank you.

I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. (2)