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Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

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April 23, 2013

God is With Us in the Trenches

Why it's important to trust and experience God's presence in the midst of life's trials and tribulations


I still remember my First Big Disappointment. While I'm sure there had been others—smaller things—before this disappointment, nothing stands out quite like not making the school play when I was in seventh grade.

I suppose it was because it was the first thing I'd wanted—rather badly—that I'd worked hard at, practiced for, tried out for, but been cut from. It was the first time I'd been told, essentially, "You are not good enough."

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April 22, 2013

Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Tips on how to live in sustainable simplicity


Many Christians feel overwhelmed, confused, and even depressed about the issue of the environment. How green should we be? Should Christians try to preserve and care for the earth? Let’s strip away all the complications of politics and stereotypes for a moment and explore this issue together. Regardless of your right-ness or left-ness or your red-ness or blue-ness, we can all agree upon this central truth: God created a marvelously rich and beautiful world that is indeed “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We honor him by gratefully caring for it.

What’s one step you can focus on now to care for the planet and live in greater simplicity? Consider these 10 ideas:

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April 18, 2013

A Home Run for Celebrate Recovery

A new feature film highlights the power of the popular 12-step Christian recovery program used at Saddleback and other churches nationwide.


The Christian movie market has released another feature film: Home Run, the story of a professional baseball player’s struggle with alcohol addiction and journey through a 12-step Celebrate Recovery program. Secular movie critics are calling the movie “sentimental,” “gentle,” and “explosive,” and executive producer Carol Mathews is excited about starting conversations about the importance of confession and accountability in both Christian and secular circles alike.

TCW talked with Mathews about why Christian women should care about this film, which releases today in theaters nationwide:

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April 17, 2013

Beyond the Boston Bombings

Finding a hope that conquers evil, darkness, and brokenness


My heart sank when I opened my Google news feed to find videos and news stories of two explosions that went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon Monday. “I dropped everything and started praying in the middle of my kitchen,” my friend Maggie said. She wasn't alone in her plea: thousands of Tweets instantly began populating my feed with #PrayforBoston, #thoughtsandprayers, and #BostonMarathon Tweets. They inspired me, but I knew no amount of prayer could bring back eight-year-old Martin Richard (pictured above in a photograph from Feb. 2012), or the two other individuals who lost their lives, nor the limbs of runners and spectators that were harmed in the tragedy.

As Nicole Unice wrote on her blog, “We cannot watch videos of little girls being sold for sex in every corner of our world and men dragging women through the streets in Egypt and bombs going off at marathons and people walking into colleges and shooting and deny darkness.”

Though darkness pervaded the streets of Boston Monday, there were acts of “common good Christianity” that shined through. As Pastor Adam Mabry of Alethia Church in Boston stated in a blog post:

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April 16, 2013

Lessons from a Chatterbox

Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.


Motormouth. Chatterbox. Windbag. Call me what you will, but for most of my life, I was an incessant talker. Once, my uncle, who'd apparently listened to 10-year-old Becky babble long enough, snapped, "Don't you ever shut up?" To which I replied, "But I have a lot to say."

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April 15, 2013

What Martha and I Have in Common

Like Mary, I have a desire for deep relationships, but like Martha, I often let work get in the way


Sometimes I think my middle name should be Martha. I get stuff done. I like checking stuff off a list. My friends know if they need help with a project they can call me. If my church needs volunteers for an event, I’m there. These are all good things. I enjoy using the task-oriented problem-solving personality God gave me. But sometimes my do list gets in the way of my relationships.

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April 9, 2013

TCW Verse of the Week: Revelation 21:5

The key to happiness is to hope for heaven


My friend and I chatted in a coffee shop enjoying (I thought) our lattes. Mid-conversation, my friend pinched an indent into her foam cup, leaned toward me, and intently asked, "Are you happy? Most Christian women I know … we're not happy."

Her question prompted me to think about happiness—how it comes and goes. In the coffee shop, I felt reasonably happy. I was sipping a yummy mocha latte. I'd met my week's paper-grading quota. However, in my line of work as a teacher, grading reprieves are temporary. Papers pile up as fast as laundry. And I can't enjoy a calorie-rich coffee drink every day, or the creeping scale readout will make me cringe.

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April 4, 2013

Missional Living Right Where You Are

God doesn’t call everyone to drop everything and move to Africa, but “comfort” and “ease” won’t bring us to the freedom and abundant life Christ calls us to.


Fear. It’s part of human nature, but it’s not something we got from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” When I imagine God creating each one of us and planting a purpose deep in our hearts, I never imagine that purpose being mediocrity. While the Bible doesn’t tell every person on earth specifically what his or her life’s calling will be, it does include a lot of general direction:

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March 20, 2013

Is Balance Even Possible?

I think we’ve all been duped.


I’ve been going to a hot yoga class for the last month. Before I started, it sounded like an activity reserved for yuppies, hippies, and celebrities, but I had a Groupon. And now I like it.

I’m good at the flexibility poses. In general, I’m a lot like Gumby, so it’s nice for this otherwise fitness-challenged individual to feel successful for at least a portion of such a tough class. But when it comes to the balance poses, I’m a wreck. I spend half of my “tree pose” jumping around my sweaty yoga mat, attempting to keep my balance while those surrounding me turn to stone.

I know I’m new to the class, but every time a challenging pose comes up I stand there, dripping in my own sweat, thinking, I’ll never do it. I’ll never find my balance.

Fortunately, in the last few classes I’ve attended, I’ve noticed a few of my classmates—the women with perfect abs and personalized yoga mats—take a tumble or two as well.

Perfect balance is impossible. Even the most seasoned experts fall over sometimes.

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Changing the World One Well at a Time

March 22 is the United Nations' World Water Day, and is an important reminder to seek opportunities to help provide clean water for the 780 million people in the world without it.


Today is World Water Day. Around the world, 780 million people are without water today, and approximately 1 million of those people reside in Honduras. Even though the country is the #1 most dangerous country in the world, missions groups continue to travel there. Last week, I served as faculty advisor for a group of 21 Wheaton College students who chose to spend their spring break in Honduras helping to install a gravity-fed clean water system in Los Cedros, a rural village outside Tegucigalpa.

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March 6, 2013

‘Thank You,’ Gift Giving, and Gratitude

Breaking down walls of independence, self-sufficiency, and pride isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.


I’m quite certain that the two words contained in the phrase thank you are two of the most vulnerable words one can say. Their mere presence denotes dependence on something or someone outside of one’s self. They are words that recognize the fact that, without another, a particular outcome would not have been reached. Thank you is a phrase that speaks to relationship, connectedness, and interdependence.

I am drawn to the picture of the body of Christ painted in Romans 12. Paul invites his readers to look at themselves with sober judgment, not thinking of themselves more highly than they ought, followed by a metaphor of the body. The metaphor is a powerful picture of interdependence. Each person has her own gift set. She brings something unique to the world, and when she uses her gifts, she paints a brush stroke of brilliance on the canvas of the body.

We were created to be dependent. We were created with purpose to keep us from independence, self-sufficiency, and pride. Unfortunately, many of us live in a culture where these three things are celebrated, and have been adopted as signs of responsible living. As a result, the phrase thank you has lost its meaning.

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March 4, 2013

Fueling a Movement to End Gendercide

When the United Nations convenes on women this week, where will the church be?


Governmental leaders from around the world will meet in New York this week for the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). This is the world’s most important gathering for policy-making on gender equality and women’s rights.

When the U.N. commission meets, they’ll focus primarily on eliminating violence against women and girls. Their two-week agenda is impressive. There will be roundtable discussions, panel presentations, and resolutions. There will be a host of side events for delegates to choose from. One, which I hope every U.N. representative attends, will be the screening of the film It’s a Girl. This sobering documentary shines a light on an epidemic of violence against women called “gendercide.”

Gendercide is the deliberate extermination of human beings specifically because of their gender. The United Nations estimates that as many as 200 million girls in the world are missing today for one reason: because they are girls.

If you have trouble envisioning what 200 million missing girls looks like, imagine every female gone in the United States. Every grandma, every mother, every aunt, every sister, every daughter, every girlfriend, plus you—gone. That’s the scope of the problem.

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February 20, 2013

Nothing is Impossible With God

Even at age 88, missionary Rose Marie Miller still looks to prayer and powerful women in the Bible to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.


Rose Marie Miller doesn’t believe in retirement. At 88 and widowed, after serving communities around the world for decades alongside her pastor-husband, she now ministers to Asian women living in London eight months out of the year with World Harvest Mission. Though she makes ministry look easy, Miller admits that she’s been challenged, both as a wife and a missionary, by insecurity, doubt, and fear over the years. But God has spoken truth to her in the midst of it all.

In her new book, Nothing is Impossible With God, Miller writes about trusting God when challenges seem insurmountable. Here’s a glimpse into Miller’s missional heart.

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February 18, 2013

Why We Should Pray for the President

With great power comes great responsibility—and an immense need for prayer.


Christian faith has painted broad strokes across the American political landscape throughout history. From the five references to God penned in the Declaration of Independence to President Nixon’s historic “God Bless America” sign-off on cable television in 1973, references to Christian faith have existed inside and outside the walls of the White House since the establishment of our nation.

In a nation founded on Christian principles, what is the role of the President of the United States? He is the Commander in Chief, but what about “Pastor-in-Chief?” This term has become a buzzword in recent months, as last fall’s presidential election shined a brighter light than usual on the role of faith in the Oval Office. As voters across the nation attempted to choose between Mormon and Protestant nominees, citizens gobbled up details about how Romney’s Mormonism compared to Obama’s Christian faith and upbringing.

At first I wasn’t sure how to feel about all of the hoopla surrounding the President’s personal faith leading up to the election. After all, didn’t Jesus believe in the separation of church and state? I was surprised to see an article titled “Is the President America's Pastor in Chief?” pop up on Christianity Today’s website last fall. After reading it, I was thankful I did, as it made me start thinking about how much the President’s faith should inform my decision to cast a vote:

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February 6, 2013

Changing the World, One Meal at a Time

Bess & Tim Lewis’s lives were changed forever when they read TCW’s cover story featuring Kim de Blecourt’s work with Food for Orphans.


TCW’s November/December cover story featuring adoptive mother and author Kim de Blecourt (read Kim’s article, “A Home for All Children,” here) recently inspired a couple in southern Illinois to take a leap of faith. After reading the magazine that arrived in their mailbox in November, they decided to leave their jobs in agriculture and teaching to pursue full-time ministry with outreach organization Food for Orphans. They hosted their first food-packing event in Carbondale last weekend, and Kim de Blecourt was able to attend the event and meet them.

"It was such a blessing to have Today's Christian Woman magazine feature our family's adoption story in their November/December 2012 issue,” Kim de Blecourt says. “Now, the blessing of that feature has been extended to others, including Bess and Tim Lewis. Thank you, Today's Christian Woman. Your magazine definitely influences others to love God and to live fearless!"

We were intrigued, so we asked Bess to share some of their story about how God led them to minister differently.

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February 4, 2013

Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl

The power may have temporarily gone out during the big game in New Orleans, but there is darkness outside of the Superdome all day, every day.


“The Super Bowl is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

Texas attorney general Greg Abbott uttered those words with backing from various human trafficking organizations and law enforcement agencies before the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas. This year in New Orleans, precautions were taken to ensure justice would be served on the ground.

Louisiana’s Human Trafficking Joint Task Force, established in 2006, met regularly in advance of Super Bowl XLVII with city, state, and federal law enforcement authorities, faith-based groups, and nongovernmental organizations to develop a collaborative approach to combat the problem. Thanks to both undercover work and tips from citizens and observers who saw signs of trafficking and called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-373-7888), authorities were able to make several arrests in sex trafficking rings over the weekend.

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February 1, 2013

How to Enjoy the Super Bowl as Much as Your Husband

The big game is a “great reason to have a party.” What will you be doing this Sunday?


Some women love football. Others see it as a meaningless, violent clash of testosterone-fueled neanderthals. Some women choose to host or attend parties in their communities to celebrate the biggest sporting event of the year, while others’ eyes remain glued to their television screens as they share the remote with their husbands, hanging on every pass, punt, and long snap as if it will determine the fate of the world.

“My husband and I watch the games together—I’m just as much a fan as he is,” Amy Simpson says, editor of Gifted for Leadership. “In fact, I love it! I normally don’t like to go to Super Bowl parties because most of the women assume I’m not interested in the game, and they want to chat until the commercials come on. I want to watch the game!”

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January 28, 2013

Why I Raise My Kids with God

A Christian response to TXBlue08’s popular CNN blog post on rearing children without a belief in God.


TXBlue08, a Texas mom of two, recently set the internet buzzing with her article, “Why I Raise My Children Without God.” Read by more than 750,000 people so far, thousands are enthusiastically recommending her article, while others find her assertions so offensive they’re asking CNN to take the article down.

TXBlue08 outlines several reasons why she decided to stop perpetuating the “illogical legend of God” with her kids; instead she’s chosen a path of intentional honesty, teaching her kids what she has come to believe about life and religion.

Unlike many of TXBlue08’s internet detractors, I don’t find her article offensive. In fact, several of the “bones” she has to pick with religion are issues that bother me as well. Her questions are good ones, and many of her criticisms are valid. But as a mom of three, I choose to raise my kids with God—to purposefully grow them up within the church and Christian tradition. It’s not because I’ve been fooled by a myth or because I simply need a crutch like God or a fictional heaven in order to feel good about life.

So why do I raise my kids to believe in God?

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January 25, 2013

Failing Gracefully

Is it healthy to set goals for ourselves?


With the start of a new year, it’s easy to set unrealistic goals for ourselves. In today’s “go-getter” society, it seems everyone is striving to achieve more, be more, and consume more. I don’t know about you, but the rat race pace gets to me more often than it should. At the conclusion of the first month of 2013, most of us have recognized our failure to meet the expectations we’ve set for ourselves. Dr. Cliff Arnall, a psychology instructor and “pseudoscientist” from the UK, suggests there is an equation for this failure epidemic:

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January 23, 2013

Downton Abbey, My Marriage, and Me

What the popular television series is teaching me about the values of marriage and community.


I’ll admit it. I’m one of the millions of Downton Abbey fans. The characters are interesting, their clothes are beautiful, and the setting is enchanting. So when I can learn a little more about the way the show is created or about the history of Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, I do.

To prepare myself for the third season, I read a book about Lady Almina Carnarvon, who was the countess of Highclere at the turn of the century and through World War I. Reading about her life was informative and charming—the best kind of reading!

I found this quote regarding Lady Carnarvon’s marriage especially fascinating: “When they were at Highclere or at their house in London, the Carnarvons were always entertaining. It was a curiously public existence compared to domestic life for most married couples today. They were hardly ever alone, and their house was always full of staff and guests.”

This “public existence” is displayed in Downton Abbey by the marriage of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley. The newly married couple lives with her family in a house full of staff. Most dinners include at least two guests: Matthew’s mother and Lady Grantham (the inimitable Maggie Smith, who steals the show with her one-liners and facial expressions).

Sometimes I can’t help but compare Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley’s situation with my own. You see, I too recently got married. Though if I’m honest, that’s basically where the similarities end.

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January 18, 2013

A Nod to Our TCW Advisors and Contributors

Singleness, goal-setting, and mental illness are a few topics TCW is passionate about.


This year, TCW would like to give all of our advisors and contributors the respect and admiration they deserve. Today, we present a round-up of three current blogs from women we admire, on topics and platforms they’re passionate about and, as a result, we’re passionate about too.

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January 10, 2013

Friendships Are the Heart and Soul of God's Church

A circle of friends—with Christ at the center—is one of God's desires for his church.


I love carrot cake and hate small talk. Cheri craves ice cream and works out religiously. Friends for more than 20 years, we're two Starbucks-drinking, Levi-wearing, munchkin-rearing friends.

But when Cheri and I mention we're on a "spiritual journey" together, people often give us blank stares. We suspect they're imagining us at Bible studies and weekend retreats. Some of those images ring true, but faith-filled friendship is more about sharing the rough-and-tumble of ordinary life than practicing spiritual piety.

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January 9, 2013

What the Bible Says About Womanhood

Rachel Held Evans’ 12-month journey in “biblical womanhood” contains intriguing statements about traditional family values.


“When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word . . . we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t fit our tastes . . . More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.”

This is one of Rachel Held Evans’ conclusions at the end of her yearlong adventure in “biblical womanhood.” The popular blogger and author spent 12 months living according to biblical instructions for women, as literally as possible.

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January 8, 2013

TCW Verse of the Week: Isaiah 33:2

This week's inspirational verse is from the book of Isaiah.


"LORD, be merciful to us, for we have waited for you. Be our strong arm each day and our salvation in times of trouble."

Isaiah 33:2

November 28, 2012

Going Deeper Than “Hi!”

Why taking the time to invest in relationships is important.


Many of us spent hours last week sitting in airports or in cars getting to and from places to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. It takes me 18 hours to get from Africa to the U. S., much longer than most Thanksgiving trips.

This gave me time to think about the blessing of travel. At home in Uganda, I love travelling with my family, especially when we do not have to deal with “Mummy, are we nearly there?”

We eat cookies, play music, and sing together. We play “I Spy” and we talk about places and imagine the lives of people we drive past. Never mind that we often argue over the music that’s playing, or complain that Daddy sometimes drives too fast.

I recently realized there is something about being crammed in a car together for a long period of time or sharing space on an aircraft that is a lot like life. It can be a joyful time or a dreadfully unpleasant one depending on whom we travel with. Miles fly past when we are busy, especially when we are enjoying a good conversation.

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November 21, 2012

TCW Staff Is Thankful For . . .

We’ve been blessed by God’s sovereignty, Sudoku, and more. Can you relate to what keeps us sane this holiday season?


The holidays are upon us, and it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of black Friday shopping, travel, and in-laws. Even when life gets crazy, it’s important to remember to give thanks for the blessings God has given us. Here are a few things TCW staff is thankful for this holiday season.

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November 12, 2012

What Shalom Taught Me about Reaching the Lost

When we approach evangelism with the sole purpose of restoring people spiritually, we’re missing our calling.


Have you ever been treated as only a portion of yourself?

I was once asked to be part of a group simply because I was a young woman. The other members expected me to represent all young women and help them pave a path that made them more appealing to a younger demographic.

I was offended when I found out. I am, in fact, a young woman, but I’m also much more. I have unique roles, passions, interests, goals, and talents. Instead of being recognized for my whole self, I was simply filling a quota.

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November 1, 2012

5 Practical Helps for Those on the Cancer Journey

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month draws to a close, here are some ways to make a positive difference in the lives of those diagnosed.


Battling cancer can sometimes seem like an insurmountable challenge. Fortunately, when illness strikes, neighbors, friends, and church groups are often willing to lend a helping hand.

According to cancer survivor and author Lynn Eib, some ways of reaching out are better than others. Here are five compassionate suggestions from her most recent book, 50 Days of Hope: Daily inspiration for your journey through cancer.

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October 15, 2012

Fashion Conscious: How to Be a Responsible Steward

The $20 sweater was a great buy—but was it ultimately the best for everyone involved in my purchase?


“I love your dress!”

“Thanks! I got it for $30—on sale!”

How many times have you had some variation on this conversation? I’ve been on both ends hundreds of times, and it almost always involves some proud disclosure of big savings.

When it comes to our consumption of clothing, we value thrift. We pride ourselves on using our resources wisely and getting the best deal possible. We want to share our triumph with our friends, our family, anyone who displays even a passing interest in what we are wearing.

As someone on a limited budget who also happens to enjoy fashion, I have spent a considerable amount of time honing my deal-finding abilities. But in all the hours spent browsing the clearance racks, signing up for any and every sample sale site, and promising myself that this time I really was only going to buy the two things on my shopping list at Target and not even look at the clothes—only to walk out with several new tanks tops I didn’t know I needed— I never questioned the idea that, when it came to shopping, thrift was the ultimate good (after style, of course).

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September 24, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough: How Training for Marathons Is a lot like Life

Why it’s important to push through when all you want to do is quit.


I’ve been training all summer for my third Chicago marathon. For the most part, my runs have gone well. Until recently when I hit a wall—the one runners always talk about.

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September 18, 2012

Is Missional Living Really All about Coffee?

There's a difference between consumerism and faith-based contributions.


My husband nudged me, and I gave him an amused glance. We were sitting through another Sunday-morning presentation by a worthy ministry looking for donations. The guest speaker had just spoken the words we had been waiting for:

“All we ask is for you to give up one cup of coffee each week.”

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August 14, 2012

From Generation to Generation

The legacy of a joyful life

Last week, I went to my parents’ house and loaded the back of my car with the dining room table and chairs that had belonged to my grandmother. There’s still a sideboard and hutch to come, but we thought it was a miracle to get a full-size table and six chairs packed all around me for the five-hour drive home. An afternoon in the car, driving over the mountain with your grandmother’s furniture creaking and shifting, gives a woman time to think about her heritage.

I asked for my grandmother’s table because I vividly remember all the years of our family around it. The meals we ate and the games we played. The mess she always made in the kitchen. Her alto singing that plays in the background of every memory I have of her. But mostly, I remembered the great joy of being at my grandmother’s house. While I was driving home, I decided that I wanted to pass the joy of being around her table to the next generation.

Maybe some would argue with this thought, but I believe the most powerful gift I can give to the next generation is a true and vibrant joy in the Lord.

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July 3, 2012

God and Goonies

Jesus called us to love the world—and he meant it.

My friend and coworker Cory has spent the last four years mentoring three boys. These boys are “at-risk” students, whose single mom works hard for her and her boys just to get by. Like many other young men across the United States, they were born into many of the challenges they face daily.

Around the office we hear Cory talk a lot about “his boys”: how much he cares and worries about them, the struggles they face, the activities they do. We pray for them in weekly team meetings and hear funny stories about them in the hallways. Mentoring has always been a matter-of-fact detail about Cory.

Last Monday, Cory asked a few people from work if we wanted to meet the boys and go with them to see a movie. I’d been hearing about these kids for years, so I jumped at the chance, expecting a fun evening of small talk with a couple teens I’d normally never get to spend time with.

But after shaking the boys’ hands and studying their faces, something changed. Their interactions with Cory, our friends, and me, made me pause—I was impressed. Slowly, I watched their personalities emerge.

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June 11, 2012

“Aren’t You a Little Short for a Stormtrooper?”

A lesson in lightsaber battles and loving my enemies

“You be Darth Maul,” my five-year-old charge instructed me, handing me his older brother’s red lightsaber. “I’m Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

It was a Tuesday afternoon, and following a to-specifications lunch (during which a pair of shockingly blue eyes monitored every spread of peanut butter and counted every potato chip) and half an hour of storybook time, this babysitting job was about to become hazardous.

Even with some prearranged choreography on my side (“Now, you knock my saber out of my hand, but I roll out of your way”), I was ill-prepared for my opponent’s swiftness and skill. The fact that Giulio barely came up to my ribcage might have suggested a need to go easy on him, but I was the one struggling (in vain) to defend myself. As a large glowing tube of plastic flew dangerously close to my nose, I realized I was in over my head.

For the next few minutes, I had a lot of practice dying, even with plentiful second chances from my young Jedi. Finally, Giulio heaved a sigh and collapsed his weapon.

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May 29, 2012

How My Small Group Has Been Challenging Me

I’m getting more than I bargained for—but I’m learning even that seems to be okay.

Recently God has been using my small group to stretch me. I assumed this group experience would be a lot like my past ones—with good discussion and deepening relationships—but I’m getting a lot more than I bargained for.

My husband and I joined an established group, and in five months we’ve helped birth a new group (the apprentice leader left the group to start a new group of his own), thrown a housewarming party for a previously homeless woman, and attended a baby shower for a refugee family. On top of that, several of us served together at a homeless shelter during our church-wide community service day. We got to know one another at a deeper level as we served burgers and talked with the residents.

The people in our group live missional lives. They look for opportunities to bless and serve people around them. They’re extremely generous with their possessions, time, and money. They are incredibly hospitable—not just opening their homes, but also opening their hearts. Even the leader shares authentically, sharing vulnerably about his life and struggles. My husband and I have been welcomed with open arms, and it feels good to have a place to belong. Even more, though, it feels good to have a place to make a difference.

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April 30, 2012

Ministering to Tough People

I need perspective and balance in this difficult outreach.

I’ve always been drawn to hurting people. When I first began to reach out to those who are wounded, however, I was naïve. I believed that if I could introduce them to the truths of Christ, their problems would be solved. In some cases, that’s exactly what happened, although it was an extremely slow process that took years of daily input and discipleship.

Gloria (not her real name) was such a person. She’d come from an extremely dysfunctional background and as a result suffered from severe depression and almost daily anxiety attacks. After becoming a mom, these symptoms increased. When I met her, she’d become a Christian but was floundering in how to raise this new baby who was entrusted to her. She could barely manage her life, let alone guide someone else’s.

But at this crucial time, God brought her into my life. We moved into her neighborhood and I, too, was a new mom. As we connected over our children, we began to get to know each other, and I discovered that I had just what Gloria needed—daily guidance from a mature believer and immersion in the Scriptures.

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April 18, 2012

What’s Your Hope for the Church?

Making it, so simply, a reality.

With a U.S. presidential election coming up later this year, I’ve watched and listened to people—good Christians—take heated sides, claiming one or the other has the right way to lead the country. I’ve watched and listened as so many align politics with religion, living out the attitude, If you’re of a certain political belief, how much of a Christian are you, really? It’s seeped into our churches, dividing, causing suspicion, anger, and frustration. It’s slipped into our relationships with our brothers and sisters.

Over this past Easter holiday, I spent time reading from the Book of John. Jesus’ prayer in John 17, in which he prayed for us, the church, really convicted me: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me” (vs. 20–23).

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February 20, 2012

The Spiritual Discipline of Not Staying Put

Instead of planting roots, what if God wants us to have wings?

According to the 2011 Census, the average American will move approximately 11 times in their life, more if they’re in the military. One year, my family and I moved more than 100 times. We’d sold everything and moved onto a boat, which would become our floating abode for the next year. Boys (and men) love adventure—that’s what John Eldredge says in Wild at Heart. So surely my four sons and husband would thrive at sea, traveling from port to port, never knowing what new challenges we’d face each day.

It turns out boys (and maybe this is true for men too) do love adventure. But they like it best when there’s a safe harbor to return to. Like the kind a home provides. And by that I mean a home built on a foundation, not the floating kind.

I discovered this truth in the course of house hunting after our live-aboard year had ended. When we asked our sons which house they liked best of the ones we were considering, Jackson, then 12, sighed and said, “I just want a place that stays a place.”

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February 13, 2012

Reclaiming the Idea of Vocation

I’m learning what my primary calling is—and isn’t.

“How does God speak to you most frequently?”

I stared at the question in my devotional journal, a grin creeping across my face. Some days I have trouble answering the stretching questions posed in this devotional, but this one drew an immediate answer: patterns and repetition. I’m not sure if I need to hear the same message over and over in different ways and places because I’m stubborn or because I need to think about things for a while, but this is the way God speaks to me. Over and over again he’s made his will clear to me through patterns and repetition.

There was the time I was being called to career ministry. I had many people from all walks of life suddenly suggest this career to me, even though I hold an education degree. Then a spiritual gifts inventory pointed me that way. Then a pastor. And then a position in my hometown opened. I took it without hesitating. The experience taught me so much.

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December 5, 2011

When We Help Others

Maybe we wouldn’t pass up as many opportunities to care for others if we had eternal repercussions in mind.

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to come across an article in the New York Times about my hometown—Sycamore, Illinois. An hour west of Chicago, few people from Illinois know the small town, but it caught the attention of one reporter because of a touching story about a farmer and his wife.

Glenn Bolander had fallen behind his harvesting schedule because his wife, Carol, is battling cancer. That’s when nearly 100 volunteers from the farming community came to their aid, and a great number of combines harvested the Bolanders’ fields in a little more than five hours. It would have taken Glenn four weeks. When the farmers finished, they shared a potluck dinner together and even set up a meal plan for the Bolanders during this difficult time.

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November 29, 2011

When a Loved One Leaves the Faith

What do we do when those closest to us walk away from Jesus?

Though her husband’s not a believer, a mother finds joy in passing on her Christian faith to her son who asks to be baptized and is enthusiastic about his faith.

But somewhere along the journey from boy to man, he loses his faith. His mother watches and prays as her son gives in to a life of lust, preferring sexual exploits over the “rules” of Christianity.

As time passes, his mother continues to pray desperately as she watches her son become attracted to an alternative spirituality and then join a cult-like religious group.

Eventually, her son rejects this belief-system and becomes a skeptic, eschewing religion for philosophy. She continues to wait and pray.

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November 21, 2011

In a Mumbai Red-Light District

The gospel lesson I learned from a Muslim-Hindu Woman

The red-light district of a south Asian city would seem an unlikely place to relearn a bedrock gospel truth. This is a place where dirty children wander outside, seemingly on their own, where men sleep off hangovers outside their doors, and women prepare the day’s meals over charcoal fires.

It’s where we met a woman who told us she had TB and now feared she was pregnant, but she cried and told us she didn’t want to keep her “work baby.” It’s a place that appears dark and perhaps even hopeless.

And yet God moves in hearts there. And he taught me a lesson there.

When you think of going to an impoverished area like the slums of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the first thought may be, What physical need can I meet there? Will I feed hungry people? Will I give school books to children? Will I bring clean water? All of these efforts are worthy, and among Mumbai’s 20 million people, they are welcome. But this wasn’t our mission.

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November 15, 2011

Living in Jesustown

Choosing comfort over mission is all too easy.

Two nights ago my roommate, Anna, came into my bathroom while I was brushing my teeth and announced that she was taking a long break from Connect, our Thursday night young adults group. Standing there in my pajamas, I felt panicky and sad—we met at Connect, and it’s always been a good time for us and our other close friends to be together. Plus, more church is always a good thing . . . and less church is always a bad thing. Right?

I asked why she was making that decision—except I still had my toothbrush in my mouth, so it was more like, “Eye are ooh baking dat debidon ?”

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October 18, 2011

Kicking Hospitality Out of the Kitchen

Is it really about the “home arts” or something deeper?

I once attended a women’s Bible study about hospitality. We discussed how to create nice centerpieces for our dining room tables; we got ideas for finding color-coordinated napkins at good sale prices; we learned the importance of planning and preparing a nice meal; we got tips about keeping a clean house.

I left that night feeling like I must be from another planet.

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October 11, 2011

Well Run, My Good and Faithful Servant

What a personal best looks like

Meet Anne. She’s my running buddy. Anne and I have trained and run two Chicago Marathons together with Team World Vision. Both of us were inspired to leverage our good health to help raise money for clean water initiatives in parts of Africa that are experiencing one of history’s worst droughts and famines.

Last year during the marathon, Anne’s knee flared up to the point where she didn’t think she could continue running. I couldn’t bear to see my friend drop out of the race after having trained so hard for six months. For about the last six miles of the course, I kept telling her, “We’re going to finish this race, and we’ll do it one step at a time as slow or as fast as your body can manage. But we will finish, and we’re going to do it together. I’m not crossing the finish line without you.”

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June 22, 2010

26.2 Miles for Water

Why I run

Recently, I made the mistake of going to church. A World Vision marathon recruiter shared stories of African villages that don’t have water. Women and children walk miles every day just to find water. And whatever water they find typically is bacteria-ridden.

As I sat listening to her pitch about how we could run the Chicago Marathon and raise funds to help bring water to the driest places in the world, something inside me rose up and said, “Yes, I can help. I may not be able to pay for a well or a water filtration system, but I bet I could raise enough money for water.”

Once the vision was planted in my brain, there was no turning back. So one month ago I registered to run the Chicago Marathon for the first time. I’ve never run a marathon before. The farthest I’ve ever run is three miles! But I knew God was challenging me to step out in faith to make a difference in the lives of women and children who desperately need the basic necessities of life—something I too often take for granted.

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June 8, 2010

Martha Stewart Is Not Hospitable

Real hospitality is different than we think.

If you ask a group (I’ve tried this, so I know), “What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word hospitality?” most people will say, “Martha Stewart.” And that’s just a shame, because Martha Stewart is not hospitable.

How can I say that, you ask?

I watched a Today show segment where Martha was illustrating how to decorate a gingerbread house. Meredith Vieira tried to follow Martha’s directions as they decorated it together. When they’d finished Martha turned the house to display the side she had done, rather than Meredith’s. Meredith asked her why she didn’t show her side, and Martha said, “We want it to look pretty.” Meredith looked offended and said, “Martha!” in a tone of surprise and hurt.

Hospitality is not providing the perfect meal in the perfect home by the perfect hostess. We’ve been led to believe that’s what it is by the Martha Stewart perfection that many of us secretly aspire to. I’d love to be able to turn out food and events that look like Martha’s, but I gave up on that long ago because of time and lack of ability (my gingerbread houses look like Meredith’s, not Martha’s).

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May 4, 2010

You Are What You Eat

Does God care about what we put into our mouths?

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new adventure: veganism. Maybe “adventure” isn’t the right word as much as “challenge” is.

A vegan diet is basically a step further than vegetarianism: no animal products, particularly meat, eggs, and dairy. Many vegans even go to the great length of avoiding fur, leather, wool, down, and any other item made of animal products.

A restricted diet—or any diet for that matter—is not very like me. I love food. I love sugar. I love carbs. I love chicken. And I will gladly ingest some methylcyclopropene if it means chocolate is involved. However, I’ve always had an interest in nutrition and health, and as I began learning about where our food comes from, I realized I needed to make some changes.

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March 23, 2010

Practical Biblical Justice

A review of last week’s webinar

Last week Kyria held its first webinar with Kara Powell on what it means to live justly everyday. Kara is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute and has written several books on justice including Deep Justice Journeys and Deep Justice in a Broken World. Here are some notes from our conversation, which we hope will continue the rich discussion we started last week and encourage those who couldn’t make the webinar to join in.

What is biblical justice?
It is important to use Scripture to define justice. A simple definition for justice is righting wrongs. Justice is linked to restoring shalom or holistic flourishing. It is near God’s heart for all of his followers.

What is the difference between justice and compassion?
Compassion or service is a step on the way to justice. It is giving a glass of cold water to someone who is thirsty.

Justice is asking: Why is that person thirsty? What can we do so that they can get water on their own? What can we do to turn that person around so that they are able to give out glasses of water to others?

There is so much injustice in the world. How do you determine what the best course is for you to take?
The first thing is to pray and see how the Lord leads you. God speaks differently to us at different times about different issues. Then once you know the Lord’s leading, obey. To be most effective go deep in a few issues rather than go broad in many.

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January 20, 2010

Using Your Gifts

Discovering them is one thing; being willing to use them is quite another.

I first heard of spiritual gifts at the church my husband and I joined when our kids were young. We attended an all-day event in which a guest speaker walked us through an assessment to discover what gifts God had built into us for his good purposes.

I was dismayed to learn that my primary spiritual gift was teaching. How could I have the gift of teaching? I was too shy to speak in front of a group. How would I ever be able to teach people if I was always tongue-tied? There must be a mistake, I thought, as I feverishly re-took the assessment. Once again, I scored much higher on teaching than on any other spiritual gift. Okay, God, I bargained, I’ll use this gift, but you’re going to have to grow me. I can’t speak, so I have no idea how you intend for me to use this gift.

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November 10, 2009

Not Minding Our Manners

Real love is more than being nice.

“Genuine love minds its manners.”

So said a church sign that I drove past recently. When I saw it, I cringed.

Sure, the mantra seems nice enough. Living this way is easy, safe, and doesn’t offend others. But is it true? Are Christians simply called to follow the rules, avoid confrontation, and love others by keeping our mouths shut?

Paul told the church in Corinth that love is kind; is not rude or boastful (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). The love we show the world is a mirror of Christ’s love working in and through us. We narrate the redeeming story of Jesus for others, sometimes even without words. Our behaviors, our attitudes, our very lives bear witness to the reality of the gospel. In this way, our outward kindness becomes a powerful tool communicating the love of Jesus.

This profound Christ-like love, though, is richer than our cheap, cultural definitions of “niceness.” It is deeper than minding our manners. It is far better than a superficial smile that doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful or lasting.

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August 27, 2009

Jesus-Style Service

When serving isn’t the feel good, extra meaningful kind

“I am not your servant!”

These are the words I half-grunted, half-spoke to one of my kids yesterday as I got on my hands and knees to pick up the crumpled pieces of dry pasta he’d decided to deposit on the floor rather than the garbage can.

Then a thought struck me: I sure hope Jesus didn’t hear me say that!

Unfortunately, this attitude toward servanthood extends well beyond my feelings about cleaning the floor. Most of the time, serving others just rubs me the wrong way. Sure, if it’s some sort of extra meaningful service project (where you can practically hear the soundtrack of inspirational feel-good music in your mind as you work and you experience a rush of good feelings about how great you are for doing this), then it’s not too difficult.

But what about real service? The kind Jesus talked about? The kind that involves getting no credit? The kind that may not be accompanied by any feelings other than a waging battle against your own selfish impulses? The kind that may even involve serious germs or really bad smells?

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August 26, 2009

Welcome to KyriaBlog.com!

Welcome to the Kyria blog!

This blog is designed specifically for thoughtful, influential women who want more from their faith and who want to make a difference in the lives of others. We strongly feel God's claim on our lives and God's call to exercise influence in ministry to the body of Christ, primarily through the local church.

Kyria gets its name from a word in the original language of the Bible. In Greek it means "honored woman." The epistle of 2 John, for instance, is addressed to one such "kyria," translated there as "chosen lady." You may recognize the similarity of this word to "kyrie," which is the masculine form of the same word, usually translated "lord."

We chose this name because, just like the biblical Kyria, we feel it conveys something about the place of women in the life and ministry of the body of Christ, his church. We are chosen, called, and gifted for ministry.

Kyria blog will be filled with content on topics from spiritual formation to missional life to women's ministry to church leadership to hot topics. We'll cover current events, politics, culture, and media—anything that will help you reach out and disciple and serve others better.

Along with this blog, we're producing a free weekly enewsletter (you can sign up here), a weekly updated website, and if you become a member of Kyria ( for more info or to sign up click here), a monthly digital magazine, in which each issue will cover a specific spiritual discipline or spiritual issue. These resources not only will be useful for you in your faith and ministry, but will also offer you a community of women with the same callings, gifts, and passions so you can grow together and challenge, and support one another.

Ultimately, Kyria is a place to be encouraged, challenged, and motivated. We believe in the power of God to change lives and build the church, a powerful instrument of hope and redemption for the world. As women created in God's image, we've been chosen in Christ, called to influence.

If you believe as we do and are committed to making the most of the gifts God has given you, please join our conversations. As Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11: "Let's encourage one another and build each other up."

July 1, 2009

A Christian Sense of Humor

Did you hear about the so-called Christian group that's protesting the upcoming video game "Dante's Inferno"? Claiming they were from a church in Ventura County, California, about 20 members of S.A.V.E.D. (an acronym for "Salvationists Against Virtual and Eternal Damnation") handed out pamphlets outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center during the Electronic Entertainment Expo last month and held picket signs that read, "Hell is not a game" and "Trade in your PlayStation for a PrayStation." The group also posted a website and YouTube videos.

I should tell you right now: The whole thing is a publicity stunt for the video game company Electronic Arts. Yet two reputable newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury-News, initially reported this "protest" as actual, factual news. Online posts and blogs on the topic indicate a number of folks are taking it seriously. Regardless of whether they're in on the joke or not, many are offering the same comment: "Can't Christians take a joke?"

Once again, Christianity's been portrayed as laughable. Most Christians will get an earful of jokes, pokes, and even some outright insults in our lives. When this happens, should we laugh it off, express our hurt, or get angry?

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