Holy Week, iv

Holy Week, iv ~ Holy Wednesday, “Spy Wednesday”; plotting against Jesus, anointing Jesus; teaching, resting, fellowshipping.

Discussion Points:
What was Judas doing on the Wednesday before the crucifixon? Who did he conspire with? What was Jesus doing? Where was He resting? Who was He teaching? Who anointed Him, and what is the significance of this offering?
(Here is an interesting blog about Spy Wednesday.)

Art Study:
Study the visual difference between faithful following and plotting following. What is the posture? Where is there light versus darkness?

File:Master of Perea - Saint Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of Christ - 1975.95.1 - Yale University Art Gallery.jpg
Saint Mary Magdalen Anointing the Feet of Christ
Artist: Master of Perea, Spanish, Valencia, active ca. 1490–1510
Dixon, Maynard_Shapes of Fear
Maynard Dixon (American, 1875–1946), Shapes of Fear, 1930–32

Scripture Reading:
Psalm 70
Matthew 26:6-16
Luke 20:19-26
Luke 22:1-6
John 12:36-50
Hebrews 12:1-3


Snack & Stories:
Today we will eat simple bread and fruit, such as Jesus and the disciples may have had while traveling and fellowshipping and teaching. And we will read The Jesus Story by Mary Batchelor.

Holy Sonnets by John Donne

Playing some spy games (ideas here and here to be a fun mom)
Printable activities:


Bach’s Chorales & Partita No. 2 in D Minor—Holy Week festival, Tenebrae (what is a Tenebrae?)

Aletheia, part four

(…continued from Aletheia, part three…)

The Bible doesn’t actually expand a whole lot on the idea or specific realities of our femaleness, but rather emphasizes the femininity which follows. I think at the very least, Scripture indicates that while males ought to be masculine, females ought to be feminine. In fact, we ought to be undeniably feminine: no question about it! Scripture speaks to women in our different roles: as wife, as mother, as servant, as disciple, as older women, as younger women. Women in the Bible are also described with a vast array of adjectives: beautiful, skillful, tender, refined, delicate, loved, worthy, discerning, wise, wealthy, gracious, receiving honor, precious, trustworthy, interested in doing good, pleasing her husband, prudent, strong, diligent, generous, kind, excellent, worthy of praise, faithful, fruitful, worshipful, sacrificial, worthy of remembrance, bearer of a faithful testimony, uncondemned, believer, worshiper, glory of man, quiet learner, submissive, weaker vessel.

As you peruse that list of descriptions, do you have a feminine picture in your mind? What words stick out to you? Are they good words?

There are also numerous negative ways the Bible describes certain women: drunken, perverse, rebellious, desolate, cursed, wicked, idolatrous, barren, forbidden, adulteress, evil, wily of heart, without discretion, quarrelsome, fretful, heart of snares and nets, deceived transgressor.

That really adds some weight to the conversation. May the Lord protect us from turning to the ways of those women. And wouldn’t you weep to have any of those words attached to one of your daughters? These are not lovely, godly, or remotely feminine words.

After just quickly running through those things relating to various women in the Bible, can we see what kind of women we ought to be? How would we pursue that kind of femininity in order to shine the light of gospel truth? Is there a way to proclaim the Gospel simply by living my life as a faithful Christian woman? By being undeniably feminine?

In general, we can see that a biblical woman should be discerning, gracious, generous, and kind. A biblical woman should be focused on serving the Lord and serving her neighbors—her closest neighbors being those with whom she shares her home. Godly women also pass on their faith through evangelism and discipleship. They sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from Him, to serve Him, to beg for His mercy, to praise His name.

Proverbs is one of the best places to learn about womanhood and femininity—and I’m not just talking about the beautiful portrait of queenly grace in Proverbs 31. Lady Wisdom is someone I long to emulate (read Proverbs chapters 1-9 to see why). We want to avoid being quarrelsome or worrisome. We do not seek to ensnare, capture, or deceive men. We ought not dress seductively or act thoughtlessly. We must work hard and work broadly. Our feminine touch ought to reach beyond our families and homes into our communities and industries.

We have touched on our gender and our feminine affect, but what about the cross-section of those two things, which would be the femininity of our physical bodies?

As female, we have the honor of bearing womanly bodies. What does this mean? And is it significant? Elisabeth Elliot asks, “Is there invisible meaning in its visible signs—the softness, the smoothness, the lighter bone and muscle structure, the breasts, the womb?” Let me ask you: have you read Song of Solomon lately? What does most of that poetry bring to mind? Most of it does not evoke images of a masculine body, for sure. Now, to be honest, I’m not quite certain I understand enough about Hebrew poetry and wisdom literature to really get a handle on things like gazelles and does—but at least clusters of grapes and a heap of wheat make some sense to me.

But having the body of a woman is not just romantic metaphor. It is also sacrificial and painful, even downright gory. I think as a small child, I would envision the woman with the flow of blood who touched Jesus’ hem as someone who simply had a wound that wouldn’t scab over. Of course I later learned that Scripture is full of stories including menstruation and social uncleanness, lots of sexuality, even menopause and barrenness. And until I understood how breastfeeding and milk ducts work, I don’t think I grasped why Pharaoh’s daughter would have given Moses back to Jochebed his mother. I now understand wet nurses and menstruation and endometriosis and polyps and childbirth and miscarriage.

I know something about having a woman’s body. But how do I treat this body as uniquely feminine? And how ought my body be used to proclaim the truth of the Gospel?

I would like to read a rather lengthy little quote from Mark Chanski’s book Womanly Dominion (which is not my favorite book on the subject, but has some good snippets):

“The false stereotype of a Christian woman being a helpless and frail mouse, who passively shades herself under the parasol of her soft femininity, and adoringly waits for her husband to do all the heavy lifting, is shattered by the Scriptures. Yes, the godly Christian woman wears beautiful ornaments that are precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4), but her jewelry is not only the necklace of a gentle and quiet spirit, but also the bracelets of strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17, 25).”
“It’s absolutely and wonderfully true that women are rightly designated in the Bible as the weaker vessel (1 Peter 3:7) who are to display a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God (1 Peter 3:4). But such soft and tender qualities do not tell the whole story. There’s much more to the challenging mission assigned to the godly woman by her Maker, Redeemer, and Lord.”

Let us be reminded now that Eve, like Adam, was called to take dominion. To dominate over something. As women, we are called to imitate the God whose image we bear, by dominating the world over which God has placed us. (Genesis 1:28) We were given work to do with our physical bodies. If I may be so bold as to say it, I think God even assigned to us, women’s work. Let’s ponder the fact that in our womanhood we are given specific strength, specific limitations, and specific honor.

1 Peter 3:7 says that “husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel.” I know this isn’t necessarily speaking about the physical vessel of our bodies, but bear with me for a moment.

I remember the wife of my former pastor saying to be honored rather than flummoxed by being called the weaker vessel—after all, I would rather be a crystal goblet than a 5-gallon bucket. Both are worthy vessels, but they are made for different purposes. I would no sooner drink wine from a 5-gallon bucket than I would haul grain to the cows in a crystal goblet. Yet it makes sense for each vessel to hold water. Made differently for different purposes, but made of equal value for the Maker and His kingdom.

Perspective really makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Elisabeth Elliot writes, “The special gift and ability of each creature defines its special limitations. And as the bird easily comes to terms with the necessity of bearing wings when it finds that it is, in fact, the wings that bear the bird—up, away from the world, into the sky, into freedom—so the woman who accepts the limitations of womanhood finds in those very limitations her gifts, her special calling—wings, in fact, which bear her up into perfect freedom, into the will of God.”

We must be unequivocally fervent in our Christian womanhood. Fervent in being unabashedly female and undeniably feminine. What should Christlike fervency be for us, so that the Gospel shines through us as women?

I will confess to you that the physical, bodily aspect of womanhood has been surprisingly difficult for me. I have not always fervently embraced this. As someone who struggled deeply with body image for decades, and then as someone who struggled to bear children, I still struggle with emotional scars—at the same time, I also recognize others’ myriad struggles that come with size, weight, physical abilities or disabilities, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions from psoriasis to acne, surgical scars, menstrual complications, infertility, disease… it seems as though bearing the body of a woman can be an ever-changing and challenging task. But what I remind myself, and what I want to briefly say here, is that this is the body God knit in my mother’s womb; these are the hands and feet that serve Him; this is the voice I was given to raise for Him; this is the body He gave me to carry 14 babies and safely deliver and nurse 5 of them; this is the skin, the hair, the height He crafted just for me; this is the body He gave me to offer to my husband; this is the body He provides for my children to find cuddles and comfort; this is the body which will someday die, decay, and fertilize a bit of dirt; this is the body that will leap from the grave when my Savior returns to bring renewal to all of creation! This is the body that He will resurrect, restore, and remake.

One of the most potent things we can do to treat our bodies as Christian women is to offer them up in thankfulness to the Lord. To acknowledge His creation and creativity in each unique design. To remember that each part of my body is to be used for Him. To honor this body as a dwelling place of His Spirit. To joyfully give my body for my husband to enjoy and for my children to be nourished by.

Another surprisingly potent way we can treat our bodies as Christian women is to adorn them in a feminine way. Yes, of course, I know that we are to pursue and prize the adornments of a meek and quiet spirit—yes, amen, and absolutely. But if you revisit Proverbs 31, or think about Rebekah or Ruth or Esther—the Bible quite plainly and without apology talks about the beauties and adornments and cleanliness of lovely women. Dress yourself and your daughters in feminine beauty. There ought to be no question about it: yours is the body of a woman. Female and feminine and fervent.

As Elisabeth Elliot said, “You are, by the grace of God, a woman. This means you have responsibilities. You are fully a woman, and this means you have privileges. You are only a woman, which means you have limitations. Thank God for this, and… live it to the hilt!”

So I encourage you to remember who God made you to be. We find this right from the very first chapter of Genesis when God said He made man in His image—male and female. He made you female in every cell of your body. He made you feminine and womanly. You are called to fervently, boldly embrace your female reality and joyfully pursue femininity.

This is the truth we rest in as Christian women: we are to take dominion and bear fruit, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made, skillfully wrought by God who has a great sum of precious thoughts toward us—we rest in Him, for we belong to Him.

Father God, I ask for Your blessing upon each woman who reads this. Please bless each of us as we seek to honor You with our very selves. Help us to meditate on Your truth, and to rest in who You are as well as in who You created each one of us to be. Enable us to be creative in the pursuit of femininity so that we stand as light in an increasingly dark world. Make us more like Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.

(…continued in Aletheia, part five…)

Holy Week, ii

Holy Week, ii ~ Holy Monday: Cleansing and Cursing, Children’s Hosanna

Figs! I love dried figs, and they are adequate for our day, but if there were any way I could get my hands on fresh figs and lamb, I would be excitedly cooking these skewers for dinner.

Today we are just printing paper activities to keep little hands busy while I read to the children.

Art Study:
We will be pondering many of the details in this Jacob Jordeans painting. Facial expressions, imbalance, animals, bare feet, carrying a basket atop the head, gilded columns, coins. This one is rich.

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and  selling in the temple, and overturned the table… | Jacob jordaens, Painting,  Jesus painting
Jesus Cleansing the Temple by Jacob Jordeans (1593-1678)

Scripture Readings:
John 2:13-22
Matthew 21:12-22
Joel 1
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Psalm 1

Articles worth reading on the temple cleansing and cursing of the fig tree: Gospel Coalition and Sabbath.org and OliveTree as well as Wolfmueller below.





Aletheia, part three

(…continued from Aletheia, part two…)

We have thus far considered truths in Scripture about our identity as Christians, and now we will ponder the reality of living as physical representations of God’s image.

So what does it mean to be a woman, a female?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our womanhood, our femaleness?

In answer, I have three succinct categories. We are to be unabashedly female, undeniably feminine, and unequivocally fervent.
Female, feminine, and fervent.

The fact that I am a woman does not mean that I need to be a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does mean that I need to be a different kind of woman. A woman who is actually rather countercultural in our day. A woman who recognizes that God made me specifically who I am, right down to how He coded every miniscule detail of my DNA—the red hair, the blue eyes, the XX pattern on every single cell in my body.

Nancy Wilson writes, “Christian women, of all women on earth, ought to think and dress and act in a manner that is completely contrary to the world.” This is currently a hot-button topic in our culture, yet in reality it is biblically very straightlaced and plain.

In our so-called politically correct society, it is essential that we think biblically, speak the truth in love, and honestly laugh out loud at the modern absurdities regarding gender roles and the fluidity of sexual identity.

I find it incredibly ironic that gender reveal parties seem to be all the rage, in this era when our Mister Potato Heads are being stripped of their titles, and in a web search I could find as many as 22 genders listed. Yet the most basic gender science of all is on wild display every time a baby is born—the baby is either a boy or a girl. I have to laugh at National Geographic type discoveries of ancient remains where they isolate DNA, declaring the body male or female; or a recent Nova article where cremated remains were deemed identifiable as female. The inconsistency of progressive modernists is absurd.

I remember a tiny niece of mine watching me change my baby boy’s diaper, and she marveled at his physical difference from her. She looked up at me in awe: she both saw (pointing from my baby to herself) and spoke the difference: “boy, girl.” As Psalm 8 says, “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, You have established strength because of Your foes.”

From the very moment of conception, we are created and then subsequently born either male or female. Now, I am a doctor’s daughter and I have had enough exposure to pregnancy and infancy complications that I do know there are genetic mutations and complications which are not simply XX or XY. But I don’t think we need to go into those rarities for this conversation—God’s typical way of creating healthy image-bearers for Himself is by creating them male or female. Beyond the scientific, genetic, built-into-our-very-DNA and observable with our own eyeballs… Scripture (which inerrancy and efficacy we established earlier) tells us that this is so. In Genesis 1:27 we read “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” And then after He gives them work to do and purposes to fulfill, we read in verse 31, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

God certainly was pleased with Himself over what He made, for it was only after He created the first humans in His image that He proclaimed His creation very good. Nancy Wilson says we ought to be “delighting in the way God has made us male and female and not blurring the distinctions.” God wants us to be unabashedly female.

We ought to revel in a humble awe over the divine creation of sex and gender. We are not just to acknowledge or accept our gender, and we are not to somehow seek to overcome our sexuality. We ought to go so far as to affirm it and rejoice in it. Elisabeth Elliot says, “We seek to be faithful to it as we seek to use it as a gift of God. Unfaithfulness to one’s sex is unfaithfulness to everybody… The husband who is not faithful to his masculinity defrauds his wife, and the reverse is equally true.” Elliot also says, “If you can understand your womanhood, you will know fullness of life. Hear the call of God to be a woman. Obey that call. Turn your energies to service. Whether your service is to a husband and through him and the family and home God gives you to serve the world, or whether you should remain, in the providence of God, single in order to serve the world without the solace of husband, home, and family, you will know the fullness of life, fullness of liberty, and fullness of joy.”

You are female. Rejoice in that. Unabashedly.

(…continued in Aletheia, part four…)

Holy Week, I

Holy Week, 1 ~ Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entry

Special Foods:

Pax Cakes with fig butter

Special Activity:

Palm frond crosses

Art Study:

Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, by Sir Anthony Van Dyck


Scripture readings:

Zechariah 9:9

Psalm 116

John 12:12-13


All Glory, Laud, and Honor


The Donkey, by G.K. Chesterton

Ride On by Henry Hart Milman


Hosanna lettering & coloring tutorial



Cantata for Palm Sunday by J.S. Bach, “Himmelskönig, sei willkommen” BWV 182: I-IV

Aletheia, part two

(…continued from Aletheia, part one…)

As a Christian, then—as someone who belongs to Christ—what is it that I profess and proclaim?

If I say to my children, “children, what do we believe?” they will all answer with a loud, confident recitation of the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles Creed

Like my children, I was raised on Bible verses, Bible stories, sermons, and songs. As I have grown, I have learned catechisms alongside my children—which are essentially miniature creeds, broken down into question and answer format, to teach myself and anyone else who listens to me, what I do profess and proclaim. The New City Catechism is the third catechism I have memorized in tandem with my children, and I continue to learn and grow and deepen in my knowledge of Christ and Christlikeness and Christianity through this pious practice of catechesis.

But going back to Scripture, we see in 1 Corinthians 15:3, that the Apostle Paul begins writing what Alisa Childers (of Another Gospel?) called one of the earliest creeds. He says that the most important things are our beliefs that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve—and then on to more and more witnesses. So the most basic tenets of the faith are right there: Christ truly died and Christ was truly resurrected.

If you do not have creeds or catechisms as part of your Christian practice, please allow me to highly commend them to you. The Apostles’ Creed and the New City Catechism are both approachable and Scriptural and truthful (but there are lots of other similar resources that could equally bless your family). The Apostles’ Creed is from the early church fathers themselves, and the New City Catechism is a modern tailoring of historic catechesis. I would be more than happy to share more with you about these things any time. Creeds and catechisms are a beautiful way to develop the heart of a disciple. And as someone who belongs to Christ, I am His disciple. And children—particularly the littlest ones—are hardwired for memorization and recitation. They thrive on it, they love the process, and it is good for their souls. The martyr William Tyndale in the early 16th century encouraged all Christians to memorize the entire book of Romans. Wow! But that is where the beauty of concise things like catechisms and creeds really shines. Work your way slowly into larger portions of Scripture. I was pretty pleased when my children and I memorized Psalm 103 together a couple of years ago… but the entire book of Romans would definitely require practice and perseverance.

(Check out Crossway and ChristianityToday for more information on the practice of catechesis.)

I know that I belong to Christ, and I know what I profess and proclaim… so how do I then live as a Christian, letting the light of the Gospel shine here?

Two of the things that should flow from our lives as Christians are evangelism and worship. We need to be evangelists—and there are many ways to share the Gospel with others, whether you deliver tracts to doorsteps, spend time on mission trips introducing indigenous tribes to Jesus, show hospitality to your neighbors through acts of mercy and generosity, or invite unbelieving family members to join you in services or events at church. Regardless of how this plays out in your individual life situation: you are called to share the love of Jesus, and tell others about Him, share Scripture with them, and give a defense for the faith and hope within you.

Paul writes wonderfully about these things in his first letter to the church in Corinth:

If anyone loves God, he is known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3). Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24). Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Do not be contentious (1 Corinthians 11:16). Suffer together and rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26). Pursue love (1 Corinthians 13), and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). Be infants in evil, but think in maturity (1 Corinthians 14:20). Let all things be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26).

In 1 John chapter 4, we read more about Christian life being one called to love. This is where we really see the truth of who God is, who we are as His children, and how the Gospel light shines here:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in Him, and He in God. We love because He first loved us.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

And how do we know what the commandments of God are? Luke 10:27 teaches us that the law or commandments is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And Micah 6:8 says, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If these things inspire me to do anything, it is to worship Him. To reflect upon His massive mercy, and return praise to Him. As someone who belongs to Christ, I am called to be a worshiper. You are called to be a worshiper. Worship corporately, worship privately, worship alongside your children, worship in quiet, worship aloud. Worship by declaring the holiness of God and rendering due praise unto Him.

This is the truth we rest in as Christians: we belong to Him because He chose us in Him to be His people. We love Him because He first loved us, and now we are called to walk forward in love and good works for His glory and in His image. We are to be disciples learning from Him, evangelists sharing about Him, and worshipers giving honor and praise to Him. We can fully rest in the knowledge that we belong to Him, and that it is because of what He has done for us—not because of what we do for Him.

(…continued in Aletheia, part three…)

Aletheia, part one

I was really delighted to be asked to speak at a local retreat! When I was asked if I would speak on “truth that shines,” I simply began to pray that God would lead me to the topic that the women would need to hear. I had no idea who would be attending this event, the background or baggage, preconceived notions or presuppositions that would be coming along for the ride.

In the end, I decided to focus on a very high-flying, broad view of how to discern truth from Scripture about who we are as Christians, women, wives, and mothers—and how we ought to live in light of those realities of Truth. The Greek word for truth is a beautiful term: αλήθεια (aletheia). In ancient Greece, this was used in a lot of philosophy, to designate full disclosure and the reality of being unconcealed: truth.

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
  • as mothers

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

In case you are new around here, I will briefly introduce myself. I’m Melissa Joy, and I have been married to my husband Steven for almost fourteen years. Ten years ago we built our house on a plot of land beside my parents’ property in the Pacific Northwest—there, my husband runs his Bible software company Olive Tree—there, I plan annual Paideia Northwest conferences to encourage moms in the Christian education & upbringing of their children—and, most importantly, there we seek to raise our five children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

I am a second generation homeschooling mama, and I love spending my days delving into stories, songs, histories, sciences, and messes of all kinds with my always-too-precocious children.

I am also a who-knows-how-many generations back Christian mama. I was raised with five generations of Christians alive at once, attending the same church (we regularly filled two long pews in the balcony) & having Sunday evening dinners together every week at Grandma’s house. The faithfulness of God to my great-great grandparents and beyond is astounding. Having such a long standing line of faithful Christians to stand on is a humbling thing, but a glorious heritage to follow. We take up our cross to follow Him, but His burden is easy.

As we look together now at the subject of discerning truths, those are just little pieces of truth about me as an individual. Telling the truth about me allows you to know me. The truths that we now turn to are what allow us to know God. He is truth, and so my hope is that by time we are done here, we will all know our Lord a little more intimately. These truths are not new—they are as old as creation. And they are graciously, generously both broad and simple.

We turn to Scripture in order to seek truth. I believe in (and love) 66 fully inspired and Spirit-breathed books in the canon of Scripture. When it comes to certain topics especially, I just don’t even see the need to try saying anything eloquently because the Word of God is right here at my fingertips! My desire is to thumb through the Scriptures now in search of Truth, beginning with this Psalm 139:

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!”

Something that really strikes me in this particular Psalm is the way David writes about both our spiritual selves and our physical selves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and the glory of God is expounded when we contemplate His hand in both our spiritual and physical life. Those are the two things we will begin contemplating—who are we spiritually and physically?

The majority of people who would read my blog, probably including you, are Christian women. That is both a spiritual and a physical designation. Fearfully and wonderfully Christian. Fearfully and wonderfully female.

So what does it mean to be a Christian?
Where do we find the truth about this in Scripture?
And how are we called to shine the light of Jesus in our Christianity, corporate and personal?

I would like to suggest that three ways we ought to shine truthful light as Christians are by being disciples, evangelists, and worshipers. We are disciples when we seek the face of the Lord to learn at His feet, like Mary the sister of Martha, in Luke 10. You know the story, right? Martha was bustling about the house, and fretted because Mary was sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said. Jesus told Martha that she was worried about many things, but Mary was singleminded. In fact, Scripture says in Luke 10:42, “One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” She was taking the part of a disciple, and Jesus says that this is good. So we must begin with being disciples, eager to learn truth at the feet of Jesus, saturated in His Word.

Throughout the history of the church, true ideas and false ideas have grown together, and it’s up to faithful Christians to be watchful and diligent to compare every idea with the Word of God—we must prayerfully consider His Word as we discern everything else life and culture throws our way. Especially in this world of having a “31 flavors of ice cream” kind of Christianity smorgasbord, we must be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

On an average Sunday, my family drives almost an hour to reach our church. I have not tried to count all of the churches we pass directly on our way, but it is undoubtedly dozens—including my parents’ church, my brother’s church, and multiple churches where good friends of ours worship. And the point is this: there are countless houses of worship even right in our county. Many of them are definitely preaching Scripture, gospel truth, and pursuit of faithful living. (Amen! Praise the Lord!) But many of them likely are not. How are we to discern the truth of the Gospel? How do I even know what it means to be a Christian?

According to Scripture, the term “Christian” was first used in Antioch—Acts 11:26 is the first place where the Greek word Χριστιανός was used. It is a noun which literally means “one who is like Christ.” It is not a casual participle saying that those folks over there are kind of Christ-ish. It is its own designation. Christian. One who belongs to Christ. One who is part of His body. There are multiple ways this can be nuanced, probably according to which church tradition you study: and, often, it can be associated with the time of baptism or some kind of conversion experience.

So, the truth is, I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was baptized in 1996—I can tell you the jumper I was wearing (it had sunflowers on it) and some of the people who were in the room—because that is the time when I visibly joined the Church.
Or I might say to you that I became a Christian when I was a toddler—I don’t remember it, but my parents have told me that at bedtime one night while my daddy was playing guitar and singing to me, I said I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart—so that is probably the time where I prayed some semblance of “a sinner’s prayer.”
Or I could tell you that I was a Christian by the time I was born—I had faithful Christian parents, (some) faithful Christian grandparents & great grandparents—and I was raised in the church from the womb, not ever knowing a single day where I was not taught to sing and pray and read my Bible and repent and forgive and trust in Jesus.
But then again, the truth is, it was two millennia ago when Christ died at Calvary, thus atoning for my sins and sealing His promise of everlasting life to me… and it was long before even that when God chose me to be one of His children—in fact, Ephesians 1:4-5 says that He chose His people before the foundation of the world, predestining us for adoption as His children.

But what does this mean or why does it matter? How does this tell me anything about the truth of who I am as a Christian?

At its most basic level, to be a Christian is to belong to Christ.

I think a lot of times, we think that being a Christian means doing certain things, living a certain way, checking off certain boxes—like reading your Bible, believing in the dual nature of Jesus as both God and man, attending public worship on Sundays. Or maybe even legalistic things like dressing a certain way, avoiding certain substances, praying certain prayers.

But here is the thing: too often we focus on what we are doing as Christians. We need to focus on what Christ has done for us.

We don’t belong to Christ because of the things we do, the theology we believe, or the way we live our life.

Rather, we do the things we do, believe the things we believe, and live the way we do because we belong to Christ. Who we are is Christ’s! What we do flows out of that reality.

When we belong to Him, we walk in His ways, we seek to become more like Him, and His Spirit produces fruit in us. These things, like salvation itself, are by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Salvation is not procured by our good works, it is a gift of God. He gives us this salvation and eternal life as a gift to receive with humility, thanksgiving, and joy. We can not boast about it, except for boasting in Him (Galatians 6:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:31).

(…continued in Aletheia, part two…)

A Series is on the way

Back in January, I received a message from someone who knew me through my conference work at Paideia Northwest, asking if I would speak at a weekend retreat in March. I remember actually busting up into giggles: no, really – I did that! When my husband, who was sipping coffee nearby, asked what was so funny, I said, “I think somebody must have me confused with someone else. Because I just got a message asking if I would speak at an upcoming retreat.” My husband didn’t see the level of humor I did, and admitted, “I think you would do a great job at that. What makes you think it wasn’t intended for you?”

I am pretty sure I gave him a blank stare. Giggles stifled, I sent a quick response basically just clarifying who I am, and checking to see if the request was actually for me. I admitted that it has been almost ten years since I have spoken officially at anything… you know, outside of being the emcee of a medium-sized conference every November in recent years. I figured the sender would appreciate being given an “out” once they realized their mistake in reaching out to me.

I was surprised to shortly receive a response which clarified that they knew exactly who I was, and I was exactly the person they wanted speaking at their upcoming event. And she knew that I was not a seasoned speaker… and apparently that didn’t matter to her, and wasn’t necessarily what she was looking for.

She told me the topic and theme for the retreat weekend, and I began to pray and read some books and decided to step across the threshold of the door God was opening.

Tomorrow evening, I will be giving my first of two sessions. I will give the second one on Saturday morning. I don’t have stagefright about being in front of people: honestly, I think that whole idea of being an emcee in front of three hundred people every November has sucked those nerves right outta me. But I have a deep desire to simply be a conduit of God’s grace to this group of women… and I am confident that while I have nothing to offer, the Lord can use me. Even me. Even my words.

So I am praying for the women that will be sitting near, maybe even note-taking, while I deliver a little treatise on a large topic.

I ended up having so much to say about the subject that I wrote it all down, and decided to share all of it in a blog series here. I will use some of the things for my talks, of course, but with only a total of ninety minutes of presenting, I won’t be able to cover as much ground there as I can in a blog series. There are no time limits when it comes to blogging!

This is the pile of books that I started with, and I will share links to each one. They are not all created equal, and just because I revisited them or even quote from them doesn’t mean that I would encourage you to go out and buy them or gift them or apply them unapologetically. Sometimes mediocre books have wonderful things to chew on, but there are also things to be spit out. Have wisdom. And I would love to engage further about these books or the series that will begin to go live tomorrow… so if anybody wants to discuss these things, just contact me and I will get back to you: I won’t even laugh out loud, thinking you contacted me by mistake.

To whet your appetite, here is what’s coming:

The Truth of Who We Are

  • as Christians
  • as women
  • as wives
  • as mothers

and how the light of the Gospel shines here

Taking Steps

A year ago, I bought myself a FitBit watch, and grew accustomed to wearing it within a couple weeks, just like my friend Abby said I would. It had been years since I had kept the habit of wearing a watch! Mostly because I always had my cell phone with me, and it’s not like I really needed to keep track of time minute by minute. I have clocks throughout the house anyway, and the digital one on the car’s clock radio works just fine for me, thank you very much. But I have grown to actually really enjoy having a watch, especially because it means I don’t have to be pulling my phone out of my pocket every time I want to glance at the time… which is also particularly helpful, as I don’t necessarily always have it on me, since I like to practice the “foyer phone” mentality (so described in a recent Simply Convivial email by my friend Mystie) by treating my cell phone as a house phone rather than an additional appendage. Its home is in a pocket of my purse, which has its home on a hook by my desk in the kitchen. The kids all know how to access it and how to use it, and only once has one of the kids accidentally called 9-1-1.

But I digress.

My wrist is now a happy home for the watch. Which happens to count my steps, in addition to keeping me informed on the current time and reminding me to move if I grow too sedentary and showing me when a text message arrives. And while I do not have any firm or lofty goals like “lose ten pounds this year” or “go down one dress size by 2022,” I would like to continue striving toward reaching my daily (6 days a week) step goal. In fact, I would love to do 150% of my goal three times a week. I’m not sure I can do it, but having a little friendly competition does help. I am not the early bird at getting my steps, but I do like to get a quick walk in a couple times a day, and I love walking stairways after putting kids to bed or walking circles in my family room as I read aloud to the kids in the afternoon… or listening to an audiobook while I sweat on the elliptical in the basement every now and then.

I do like to take steps.
I enjoy the feeling of stretching, growing, progressing, hitting goals.

And another way I am trying to take steps this year is in my continued reading habits in pursuit of personal education & study. I have shared before about my Scholé Sisters reading challenge, and my decision to dive in over my head by adding a Literary Life reading challenge as well. A friend of mine at Redeemed Reader gleefully told me that I may as well try to fit all of those things into a 100-book reading challenge. We will see if I can squish and squash my books into that. Could be fun! I used to have my kids participate in the Read Aloud Revival read aloud challenge every January… but this year we finally outgrew it, as it felt completely obsolete: my kids all read aloud constantly! To each other, to themselves, to me, even to their great grandma. They ARE still doing the Ticket to Read reading challenge that earns them free admission to a nearby amusement park (it only requires ten hours of recreational reading, which my kids accomplish lickity-split on the regular anyway), and they will certainly want to sign up for reading challenges at Barnes & Noble and Pizza Hut again… as always… because they are avid readers, so they may as well enjoy some perks along the way.

As a busy mama of five super active (including some officially hyperactive, and gifted, or 2E) kids to educate and shape and discipline and disciple… not to mention supporting my husband with his company (and in four weeks he will officially be working from home fulltime), running our home, showing hospitality, and my part time ministry doing Paideia Northwest conferences every year… I actually need to practice good planning and lots of self-discipline if I want to keep up with my own education through the pursuit of reading and study.

How in the world do I accomplish this?! By taking the appropriate steps. By walking the journey alongside friends. Sharing reading lists and thoughts on the newest books we have finished. By writing down what I want to read, keeping a TBR (to be read) stack on my bedside table as well as a virtual list of audiobooks in a queue. And by giving myself other little reasons for taking each step (each book), one by one.

One of my most recently accomplished incentives was knowing that three friends of mine would be reading Salt Fat Acid Heat together. And since I have been wanting to read that for a while, it was a great reason to simply take the step of reading it. What a wonderful book! I really loved it. And now if I hear these three friends talk about it in the future, I will have a great idea of their conversational context, and just might be able to insert an occasional intelligent comment of my own. (No promises though.)

And my newest incentive was being asked to speak at a women’s retreat this spring. A knee-jerk reaction of mine was that I could toss together the two sessions without studying or planning or prepping much… but that is not what I want to do. I want to be stretched and grown and studied. I want to revisit books I have read before, and read a couple others that seem pertinent. And not only do I want to read these things as steps toward being well-prepared for public speaking in two months, but I also would love to blog my way through some of the thought processes.

So these are some steps I am taking in 2021. Physical steps to care for this physical body God has given me. Educational steps to grow the mind and spirit God has given me. Please walk with me as I take these steps, one by one, regularly and consistently. And please share with me what steps God is putting into your path! I love to see how He is at work.

Monday Morning Time, 1.11.21

Habakkuk 3:17-19
Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls– yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.
To the Chief Musician with my stringed instruments.


Scripture Readings:
Psalm 128
A Song of Ascents.
Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be life a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you out of Zion, and may you see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

Proverbs 18:1-24
(the following verses are some that my children specifically wanted to comment and meditate on)
(1) A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.
(2) A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.
(7) A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.
(9) He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.
(10) The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
(14) The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?
(15) The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
(19) A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.
(24) A man who has friends but himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
2 Samuel 6:1-23
The kids thought it was interesting to revisit the Ark of the Covenant, and to observe the behavior of King David. We discussed behaviors of political rulers, and the overlapping of political & religious realms. We talked about the use of music and feasting in both political & religious events.

Hymn of the Month (January)
All The Way My Savior Leads Me

Psalm of the Month (January)
Psalm 2

Psalm 148 (Book of Psalms for Singing)
Psalm 100 (Old Hundredth)
Psalm 8 (Erb)
Fruits of the Spirit (Erb)
Books of the Bible (Soles)
Kings of Israel (Soles)


All the kids:
The Odyssey, lines 1-20, by Homer
Speak, Memory–
Of the cunning hero,
The wanderer, blown off course time and again
After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights.
Speak of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,
The suffering deep in his heart at sea
As he struggled to survive and bring his men home
But could not save them, hard as he tried–
The fools– destroyed by their own recklessness
When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun,
And that god snuffed out their day of return.
Of these things,
Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.
By now, all the others who had fought at Troy–
At least those who had survived the war and the sea–
Were safely back home. Only Odysseus
Still longed to return to his home and his wife.
The nymph Calypso, a powerful goddess–
And beautiful– was clinging to him
In her caverns and yearned to possess him.

All the kids:
Eternity, by William Blake
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunshine

Winter Morning by Ogden Nash
Winter is the king of showmen,
Turning tree stumps into snow men
And houses into birthday cakes
And spreading sugar over lakes.
Smooth and clean and frosty white,
The world looks good enough to bite.
That’s the season to be young,
Catching snowflakes on your tongue.
Snow is snowy when it’s snowing,
I’m sorry it’s slushy when it’s going.

Spellbound by Emily Brontë
The night is darkening round me,
The wild winds coldly blow;
But a tyrant spell has bound me
And I cannot, cannot go.
The giant trees are bending
Their bare boughs weighed with snow,
And the storm is fast descending
And yet I cannot go.
Clouds beyond clouds above me,
Wastes beyond wastes below;
But nothing drear can move me;
I will not, cannot go.

Winter Time by Robert Louis Stevenson
Late lies the wintry sun a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head;
Blinks but an hour or two; and then,
A blood-red orange, sets again.
Before the stars have left the skies,
At morning in the dark I rise;
And shivering in my nakedness,
By the cold candle, bathe and dress.
Close by the jolly fire I sit
To warm my frozen bones a bit;
Or with a reindeer-sled, explore
The colder countries round the door.
When to go out, my nurse doth wrap
Me in my comforter and cap,
The cold wind burns my face, and blows
Its frosty pepper up my nose.
Black are my steps on silver sod;
Thick blows my frosty breath abroad;
And tree and house and hill and lake
Are frosted like a wedding-cake.

White Fields by James Stephens
In winter-time we go
Walking in the fields of snow;
Where there is no grass at all;
Where the top of every wall,
Every fence, and every tree
Is as white as white can be.
Pointing out the way we came–
Every one of them the same–
All across the fields there be
Prints in silver filigree;
And our mothers always know,
By the footprints in the snow,
Where it is the children go.


Three kids working on New City Catechism:
Question 11. What does God require in the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments?
Sixth, that we do not hurt, or hate, or be hostile to our neighbor, but be patient and peaceful, pursuing even our enemies with love. Seventh, that we abstain from sexual immorality and live purely and faithfully, whether in marriage or in single life, avoiding all impure actions, looks, words, thoughts, or desires, and whatever might lead to them. Eighth, that we do not take without permission that which belongs to someone else, nor withhold any good from someone we might benefit.
Question 48. What is the church?
God chooses and preserves for Himself a community elected for eternal life and united by faith, who love, follow, learn from, and worship God together. God sends out this community to proclaim the gospel and prefigure Christ’s kingdom by the quality of their life together and their love for one another.
One child in the Westminster Shorter Catechism for Children:
Question 66. How is Christ a prophet?
A. Because He teaches us the will of God.
One child in the Small Children’s Catechism:
Question 1. Who made you?
A. God.


Read-Aloud Selections:
The Door at the End of the World by Caroline Carlson
Pages of History, Volume 1 by Etter and Detweiler
Radiant by Richard Hannula