All posts by Lauren

“The Ambition: A Novel”

It feels good to get lost in a good book every now and then. To have the story sweep you up for so long that it’s hard to remember what day it is when you finally emerge from its pages.

Some might tell you that there is no place on a Christian’s nightstand for a work of fiction. Even Amy Carmichael, pioneer missionary and rescuer of children in India, adamantly said that her children had no need of stories that weren’t true.

There is something to be said for focusing on real-world writing that encourages us in our real-world living, but we can uphold the value of nonfiction books without discrediting fiction. After all, our own real-world stories are written by a magnificent Creator, and as we mirror His creativity, our own real-world life grows richer. Continue reading “The Ambition: A Novel”

Hope for a Year Unseen

I want to be like Lucy Pevensie when I grow up.

Always one of my favorite Chronicles of Narnia characters, Lucy lives with joy in the smallest of moments and hopeful appreciation of people—and any other kind of creatures—around her. Her relationship with Aslan often stands in contrast to her siblings’; as the first to find Narnia she seems to also consistently be the first to seek Aslan out and follow him. When the Pevensies return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, Lucy keeps looking for him—and is overjoyed to finally find him one night when the others are sleeping.

“‘Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘you’re bigger.’

‘That is because you are older, little one,’ answered he.

‘Not because you are?’

‘I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.’”

C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

An Uncharted Year

With less Lucy Pevensie and more of Wile E. Coyote’s frenetic running around, I turn the calendar to a year unknown and unconquered. Page after empty page holds exciting possibilities of things planned and done and accomplished and crossed off the list.

The future is ours, right? What do we want to do with it? The next twelve months hold incredible potential for reaching goals and learning new things and trying new directions and generally attempting self-improvement.

But where is Aslan?

Like Every Year Before It

About a year ago we were looking ahead to the year that is now behind us. Unbeknownst to us, there would be events and changes that we would have never seen coming: highs, lows, in-betweens, and plenty of surprises that popped up unexpected. These last twelve months have shown us more of God at work, whether we realized it at the time or not.

In all of this, have we sought Him out? Or just tried to get things done?

As we turn to face the coming year, even more question marks—more “unbeknownsts”—fill our empty calendars. We don’t know what we will face this year. If it’s anything like every year before it, there will be some big surprises. Maybe some good ones, maybe some life-changing ones, and probably some we would rather not face.

But like Lucy Pevensie, if Aslan is there—we’ll be okay.

With Us Always

On the heels of the recent Christmas season, we go into the rest of our lives with its message ringing in our ears. There is born for you—for you—this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

In ancient times, religious ideas mostly centered around elusive gods that existed somewhere far away from humanity. The gods of Greece and Rome, according to mythology, had their own problems and concerns and sometimes even wars with other gods. They were not very concerned with humans, but their attention could be bought with gifts and promises and sacrifices.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to believe in gods like that? To worry daily about which gods might be mad at you for your allegiance to one of their rival gods and what sacrifices you may need to offer to stay on everyone’s good side? To assume that bad things in your life came from an angry god or maybe just a disinterested one, intent on his own concerns somewhere else?

The Israelites’ God had always been different.

One God, not many. God All-Powerful, not one god warring with others for top-dog status. The God who writes all of history and brings His plans to pass and loves—truly loves—His people.

Even then, in the Old Testament, under the law, there was a sharp division between God and His people. When God came to speak with Moses, He warned the people to stay away from the mountain where they met. If they touched it, they would die. The temple itself illustrated this separation with heavy curtains dividing the people from God’s Most Holy Place.

But all that changed with Jesus.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John wrote (John 1:14). Emmanuel has come, and will never leave. God. Is. With. Us.

Hope in the Right Places

“Everything that is done in this world is done by hope,” Martin Luther wrote. As we turn the calendar to 2018, we hope for lots of things. Better health, better habits, a more productive life, stronger relationships. We set goals and make resolutions that may start with some strength but will ultimately fizzle out long before we expected. If we hope that these resolutions and goals will make us better people, our dreams for the new year will be dashed long before Easter candy goes on clearance.

Hope.

Not in our own self-bettering strategies. Not in a world of progress.

Hope.

Well-placed hope—hope that God will walk through this next year with us as He did this past year and the year before that and every year into the past. Like Lucy Pevensie, waiting to see Aslan move, and trusting him to work out the details of the surprises that come our way.

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,

At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,

When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death

And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

You Can Count On It

They were hoping to bring her home by Christmas. Now they’re just hoping for a travel date before February, when the Chinese government shuts down for a month. She will be two years old soon, and her parents and sister and two brothers would be counting down the minutes until she comes home—if they knew when that would be.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Few things capture the difficulty and earnestness of waiting like Israel’s waiting for the promised Messiah. Like the forerunner slaves waiting for God to get them out of Egypt, so first-century Jews yearned for a Messiah to rescue them.

The words to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” combine with a tune that almost sounds mournful, stirring up ideas of longing and reminding us of the centuries the Jews waited for the Messiah.

“O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.”

For us, the last pages of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament announcement of a newborn King are only a page apart, so it’s easy for us to forget that for the people of Israel in Jesus’ time, it had been a 400-year wait. Continue reading You Can Count On It

My 7 Favorite Books of 2017

There will always be another book to read—a whole list of them, more likely. As 2017 wraps up (no Christmas pun intended), here are a few books I am grateful found their way into my list this year. Their reminders and encouragement and eye-opening chapters have shaped me in new ways, and I hope you find some of them as unforgettable as I did.

From Good to Grace

Christine Hoover

As a church planter’s wife, Christine Hoover is no stranger to feeling like “not enough.” No matter how hard she tried or how much she worked, there was always another need or another problem or another failure on her own part. Why couldn’t she do this Christian life thing? Why was it so hard to just…be perfect? Eventually, she came to realize what she shares with us: grace. As Christians, we stake our eternities on grace, receiving Christ’s sacrificial death in our place to remove the bondage of sin and death in our hearts. But once we go from unbelieving to saved and believing, we often—unintentionally—leave grace behind. We try to do the rest of it on our own, scheduling our devotional times and listing our plans of good works and hoping to do better tomorrow. But no matter what, we will never be enough in ourselves, and that’s okay! We have been given grace—Jesus is enough, and He has given His “enough” to us.

Read my review here.

A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations, and a Little Girl Named Penny

Amy Julia Becker

To be honest, I can’t remember how I came across this book, but I’m so glad I did. Devout Christians and theological students, Amy Becker and her husband had dreams and plans for the family they were ready to start. But they quickly realized life wasn’t going to go the way they had planned when their first daughter, Penny, was born with Down syndrome. What about the perfect life they had envisioned? What about their faith? What about all the good things they had done? What about the future? Amy shares about those first few weeks and months with beautiful honesty, writing about her internal struggles in reconciling what she knew to be true with her new reality. In a world where babies with Down syndrome are aborted at a heart-wrenching rate, where a country without them celebrates its “success,” Becker’s story is a hopeful look into the questions and doubts that a parent can have in those early moments. Through it all, she brings her Christian faith heavily into her own wrestling, providing deeper insights and encouragement to share with others in similar places.

Continue reading My 7 Favorite Books of 2017

“Hidden Christmas”

There are some things that just go without saying. Or at least, we think they do.

The world is round. Gravity makes things fall (unless you’re on a moonwalk). Never shake a soft drink container.

But we haven’t always known these things. At some point in our lives, someone told us these truths for the first time—and sometimes we didn’t believe it the first time we heard it. Like the investors of Colombus’ day, doubting the likelihood of a round earth, we question something that sounds…shocking.

However, once we have decided it is true, these facts eventually lose their wonder. It no longer shocks our socks off to think of our planet turning on its axis as it spins around a giant burning star. We take it for granted.

Just like that, we lose our amazement to things that truly are amazing. Unfortunately, this is what we do every December. Continue reading “Hidden Christmas”