Tonight, weather-permitting, a bunch of strangers will converge on our backyard for a cookout and a bonfire. We don’t know most of these people yet, but we hope to soon. They are fellow residents of Eastwood, a village in the city of Syracuse, New York.
A Positive Response from the Community After a Double Homicide
Thanks to a community Facebook page someone set up, we invited anyone and everyone in Eastwood to join us for a meal. When I posted the invitation on Facebook, the response was overwhelming. One woman messaged me, offering a $25 gift certificate to a grocery store, even though she wouldn’t be able to make it. She wrote,
You and your husband did something extraordinary in a cynical world. You loved your neighbors, all of them! Thank you for being a shining light this difficult week in Eastwood!
A Negative Response from a Church Member Concerned About Safety
While our neighborhood is thrilled by the opportunity to come together, a local church member had a different response:
I don’t think it’s wise. You have no idea who might be coming to your house. You just had a shooting in your neighborhood!
I didn’t say too much in response. I understand where this person is coming from, but here’s the deal:
Jesus didn’t call us to pursue safety; Jesus called us to the task of global evangelization.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).
Is Safety Your Ultimate Goal, Christian?
I’ve wasted decades playing it safe. Praying for safety. Locking proverbial doors, shutting proverbial blinds, and staking a proverbial “No trespassing sign” in the front yard of my life. For years I thought the goal of Christianity was to hunker down and protect myself from the world. (How could I have gotten it so wrong?!)
I now live in a city of 500,000 people. God has tasked me–along with every other believer in this city–to share with them the good news that they have a Creator who loves them, a God who sacrificed Himself to atone for their sin and restore their wrecked relationship with Him.
This good news is shared on ordinary days, in ordinary places, like backyard barbecues, by building relationships with our neighbors . . . even when we don’t know exactly who we’re inviting into our backyards.
I wonder, Christian, what is your ultimate goal? Is it safety . . . or is it relationship with and representation of your God?
“Safety is of the Lord,” my parents taught me as a little girl from Proverbs 21:31 (KJV). May we trust Him with the number of our days, and may we swing open our doors in the meantime!
(Here are just a few ways you can pray about our Cookout on Collingwood.)
Wise, life-giving, Christ-centered words related to this double homicide.
I intercepted my baby, Iren, as he crawled, mach speed, for the dog’s food and water. We were dog-sitting for my in-laws, and Iren was once again displaying his magnetic attraction to dog food.
Another Mess to Clean Up?!
Lifting both bowls from the floor to the table, I confidently walked into the bathroom. What harm could he do now if I took my eyes off him for a few seconds?
But when I walked out a few seconds later, there he was in a puddle of water, soaking wet. The dog’s food was strewn all over.
Anticipate Your Baby’s Next Move
I should’ve anticipated my baby’s next move. I’d seen Iren tug at our tablecloth the day before. Right then I should have folded up the tablecloth and tucked it neatly back into the buffet. But stupidity won out over common sense, and I left it. After all, the table looked prettier with a tablecloth . . .
As I stripped Iren of his wet clothes, mopped up the water with a bath towel, and refilled the dog’s food and water bowls, I was tempted to get frustrated, angry, and stressed over the extra work Iren had caused me. But a moment of clarity struck just then.
Who’s the adult here? Who has a higher IQ?
Own it, Paula. You don’t have a right to be frustrated or angry. You’re the adult here.
Who’s the Adult Here?
I know we moms can think that being frazzled and stressed out just comes with the territory. But does it really have to?
Rather than stewing in anger over extra messes, let’s work smarter, not necessarily harder. If our children can reach something, and we leave it within reach, then it’s fair game.
Anticipate your baby’s next move, mom. Prepare for it. And put away that tablecloth! I’m pretty sure your husband and kids will be grateful you chose a stress-free heart over a beautiful table.
I’ve enjoyed letting you peek over my hubby’s shoulder to see that I’m not the only writer in the family. You’ve read his Romans 5 hymn as well as his mock Chick-fil-A hymn. Today, I promised you one final installment of poems by my accountant hubby, just for fun.
A Shakespearean Sonnet
First, the Shakespearean sonnet he wrote over three years ago while flying west to propose to me. (If you knew the ins and outs of our dating relationship, you’d see that this is replete with symbolism and meaning!)
An unexpected blessing came to me,
A treasure from the realm of heaven sent.
‘Twas flown on wings across a digital sea,
The seed that grew into love’s bless’d event.
A bloom of life and love was found within
An unexpected place. A prairie flower
Grown in good soil she neither toils nor spins,
But drinks the rain, enjoys the Sun’s great pow’r.
I journeyed far to gain this precious rose,
By land and air, through darkness deep inside.
I’ll carry her through thorns and fears below
Held by his Hand in raging storms and tides.
The rising Day will banish soon the night.
Sojourn with me till then, and be my wife.
(How could a girl say no to that?!)
A Dog-Doo Shooing Strategy
So we wed and moved into the yellow house on the corner. No sooner had Trevor rid the house of fleas than we started finding dog poo in our yard. So naturally, Trevor wrote a poem. He placed it in a weather-proof sleeve, and attached it to our fence with some plastic baggies:
I thought to take a walk one day
All through the eastern wood of ’Cuse
But wait, my dog, he longs to play
I bring him too, I’ve no excuse
I walk down road and street and lane
And see my neighbors on the way
Oh no I have forgot again
My dog he has to poop today
I have no bag, nor sack, nor can
But wait, I think this lawn will do
He’s just a dog, and not a man
He leaves a number one and two
But wait, I see this baggie here
It’s free for all to clean the poo
Now I remember, oh so clear
My neighbor’s lawn is not his loo
DOG HAD TO GO? TAKE A BAG! 🙂
(I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether that solved or exacerbated the problem.)
I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse into my hubby’s writing. Unfortunately he doesn’t have an up-to-date blog, but you can follow my hubby’s tweets at @gottheology.
Once there was a young man who was such a rabid Chick-fil-A fan he reworked an old hymn about it:
Trevor’s Chick-fil-A Hymn
Guide me O thou cows of Cathy
Pilgrim through this chikin-less land
I am weak, and very hungry
Hold me with thy powerful hand
Buttered bread, so lightly toasted
Feed me till I want no more
Feed me till I want no more
Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the sweetest tea doth flow
Let the fiery chikin sandwich
Lead me all my journey through
Tastiest fast-food, kindest service
Be thou still my flavorsome fill
Be thou still my flavorsome fill
When I tread the lands without thee
Bid my hungry fears subside
Death of thirst, and hunger’s destruction
Land me safe in thy drive-thru’s line
Many thank you’s I will ever give to thee
“It’s my pleasure” I will ever hear from thee
Sparks Fly at Chick-fil-A
Alas, this young man lived in New York, far from “the Promised Land” (as he lovingly referred to his beloved Chick-fil-A).
But as luck would have it, he bumped into a girl over Twitter who lived near a Chick-fil-A. After they’d talked online for about four months, he asked what she’d think of him visiting her for a long weekend.
Knowing how much he loved Chick-fil-A, she arranged for them to meet for the first time in person in “the land flowing with sweet tea and lemonade.”
Their friendship was forged even deeper over that long weekend. So much so that at their parting breakfast—over his spicy chicken biscuit—the young man let this girl know that he was interested in more than a friendship. And right there in the Mishawaka Chick-fil-A, they became boyfriend and girlfriend.
The boy and this girl dated, got engaged, and then wed on October 3, 2015. Three weeks later they traveled all the way back to Michigan to celebrate with their friends over . . . yes, Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
Every chance they got they stopped at Chick-fil-A on their travels until one day . . . they learned that Chick-fil-A was coming to a town near them!
In Line for Free Chick-fil-A
The young man knew exactly what he would do. He would rise early and wait in line in hopes of being one of the first one-hundred customers. If he was successful in his mission—assuming he spent that day doing community service—he would win a free Chick-fil-A meal each week for a year!
Suffice it to say, you can now spot that young man and his wife through the Chick-fil-A window as they save money many Friday nights by taking advantage of this free meal on their weekly date night.
Chick-fil-A: You’ve been good to us.
Karen Wilson, we don’t know if you’re still serving as the Marketing Director at the Chick-fil-A in Mishawaka, IN, but thank you so much for donating part of our reception meal back in 2015!
And Dan Cathy, my hubby loved meeting you when you flew in for the Chick-fil-A opening in Syracuse. You have created a beautiful business, and it has blessed us personally in significant ways.
To my readers: Thanks for your patience. A couple months ago I shared some of my hubby’s writing with you and promised this Chick-fil-A hymn plus two more poems. Watch for the final installment of his writing next Monday.
Do you feel inadequate to help teens in your life? Maybe you think you need a crash course in emojis as well as an active Snapchat presence before you can influence them for good.
You Aren’t Adequate to Help Teens
Maybe you’ve never gotten too close to teens because you’ve been afraid you wouldn’t know how to answer their questions or deal with their needs. Or maybe you’ve barraged them with Bible verses, but woken the next morning wondering, Did I really help them? Were my comments even relevant, or did I just heave a heavy burden on their back?
In one sense it’s not a bad place to be, realizing you have nothing to offer unless God works in their lives. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” You and I will always be insufficient this side of heaven.
But today, I hope to point you in the direction you need to head in order to be able to help teens with anything and everything. I’m not saying there’s no room for a varied education—I love to learn!—but if I could advise you, I’d tell you to learn one subject inside and out. I’d encourage you to learn to apply it from every angle to any person’s life situation.
The Gospel Is Adequate to Help Teens
Are you ready? It’s the gospel that your teen needs—yes, for salvation (Rom. 1:16), but also for life. He or she needs you to help them see how Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has everything to do with their Friday nights and Monday mornings . . . and everything in-between.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Did you catch that? These people received the gospel by faith (in the past), they’re standing firmly in it (in the present), and they’re being saved by it (in the present and in the future).
What is this gospel which is saving them? Paul continues:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: 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 (vv. 3–4).
Why It’s So Tough to Apply the Gospel
“But Paula,” you protest, “if everything my teen needs (and everything I need) is found in the gospel, then why is it so tough to make that connection and to apply it to everyday situations?”
I think it’s because we don’t fully grasp the gospel’s significance and outcomes for our own lives. Also, it’s easier to deal on the moral, what-I-can-see-with-my-eyes level. Connecting the dots to how teens need the gospel means we must want more than just outward conformity.
I wonder . . . do we? Do we really want their hearts to be captured by God, or are we just after outward conformity to rules that make us feel comfortable when they’re abided by?
If you want the former (and oh, how I hope you do!), you have to get to the heart behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. The bad news is this will take longer. It’s not as easy as just saying, “Stop it!” or “Fix it!” You have to dig deeper to root motives.
But the good news is when you apply the gospel to heart issues, it has the potential to bring about real, lasting change from the inside out. So how can you begin?
4 Practical Ways to Get Started
Here are four tips for you as you seek to apply the gospel to teens’ lives (or anyone, for that matter).
Meditate on gospel truths. Familiarize and re-familiarize yourself with the gospel. Think about it. Pray prayers based on it, read books about it, and memorize verses about it. Talk about it with Christians and non-Christians. Pray that God would restore your wonder in what He has done for you through Christ. Breathe it, live it, talk it, and sleep on it. Don’t get over it.
Interact with teens. Approach them in church and show interest in their lives. Go see the play they’re acting in. Invite them to go shopping with you. Or come over to color with you (yes, coloring is fun for big people, too!). Love the teens around you; don’t just try to change them. Get to know them, listen well to them, and enjoy them. (Click here for ten practical ways to push past social anxiety.)
Pray. Rather than focusing on the fact that you don’t feel relevant, pray for the teens around you. Ask that:
God would help you see them as He sees them.
He would fill you with love for them.
They will “get” gospel truths and implications.
He will do what only He can do and give them full, abundant life in Christ.
Apply the gospel to their life situation. If your teen still has a glazed-over look, it’s possible you didn’t explain it clearly, or it’s possible their heart is hardened and their eyes are blinded to the good news. But know that the fault never lies with the gospel itself. It is, and continues to be, as Romans 1:16 says, “the power of God for salvation.”
Click over to TrueWoman.com, and practice applying the gospel to a specific teen’s struggle.
No one had to teach me how to lie; I was spinning the truth almost as soon as I learned to talk. It came naturally, as you can see from this funny example my mom journaled about when I was just three years old:
Paula came to me today with diaper rash cream all over her hands and said, “The top came off.” She had spread it on the bottoms of two cloth clowns and put blankets over their bottoms (diapers, you know).
It’s a humorous story, but bending the truth—no matter how young we are—is never cute or innocent. We all have plenty of experience with lying, though. It’s human nature to cover up and cast ourselves in the best light whenever we think we might get into trouble. We’ve been doing that ever since Adam and Eve played the first blame-shifting game in the Garden.
So if lying comes almost as naturally as breathing to us since our first parents’ (Adam and Eve’s) fall into sin, how can we ever tell the truth? Or how about . . . what should motivate us to always tell the truth?
Several years ago right here on this blog, I asked, “What motivates you not to lie?” Many of you responded like this girl:
You know, the whole “don’t lie” thing. God doesn’t want me to lie. Why would I flat out disobey Him in something like that?
Did you know that God’s commands reflect His character?
When God tells you and me not to lie, it’s because God never lies. In fact, He cannot lie. Here are just a couple verses that point this out:
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num. 23:19).
. . . God, who never lies . . . (Titus 1:2).
Why can’t God lie? Because God is true. That’s just who He is. In fact, Jesus said that He Himself is truth:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis added).
You may have had people break your trust right and left. You might wonder if you can ever trust anyone again. But you never have to wonder when reading God’s words if He is exaggerating a bit, if He is stretching the truth, if He is being insincere, or if He will go back on His word. God never lies; He always keeps His promises.
But what does this truth about God have to do with us not lying? Well, because . . .
We are created to represent God.
God cannot lie, and we are made in God’s image. Our purpose is to show the world the truth about who God is and what He is like:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:26–27).
When we lie, we misrepresent Him and act more like Satan:
“He [Satan] . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, emphasis added).
God has created us in His image. We are made to represent and image Him rightly to the world around us.
The singles in your church are hurting. Many (dare I say most?) of them have a strained relationship with the church.
There’s Pain in Your Pews
Since writing a book on singleness, I hear from singles often. Here’s what one thirty-nine-year-old woman has to say:
I’m convinced there is something very wrong with me! I feel like a complete outcast in each and every church. The weird thing is I don’t feel that way at work, which is a completely secular environment. Lately I’ve been crying all weekend and so grateful to be able to go to work on Monday morning because I know I’m valued and wanted there and I know I am contributing something as well.
This woman isn’t the only single who feels like an oddity in church. You might be tempted to think, Oh, toughen up! You think marriage is easy? But here’s why their hurt is our problem, too.
It’s a Family Responsibility
If you’ve placed all your trust in Christ as your righteousness, you’re now a tiny but vital member of His family and of His Body. There are millions upon millions of other members, and what impacts each of these people impacts you because we’re one now. Paul tells us:
But God has so composed the body . . . that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor. 12:24–26, emphasis added).
We have a responsibility to care for singles as we would our own families, because we’re not independent individuals anymore. We’re a part of something so much larger. Besides, in heaven there will be no individual marriage or families other than the family of God (Matt. 22:30).
So how can we care for singles as we ought? It starts with how we think about singleness.
Singleness Isn’t a Disease to Be Healed
Many people view singleness as a disease to be healed. I’ve been guilty of this myself. God’s Word, however, has quite a different perspective.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul addresses the whole church about the advantages and benefits of singleness. Singles, he says, are spared anxieties and troubles. (If you told a single that, they’d probably think, Ha! Paul obviously didn’t have a clue. I have plenty of troubles, and plenty to be anxious about!)
I don’t think Paul intends to minimize everything a single has to juggle in life. His point is that they’re not distracted by needing to please the Lord and their spouse. They have the freedom to be singularly devoted to the Lord.
Let’s be careful that we don’t adopt a “woe is you because you’re single” mindset when God celebrates singleness.
Let’s also be careful about how we “encourage” singles.
Have you lost your parents’ trust? It’s a crummy place to be, I know. I lost my parents’ trust my eighth grade year, and it felt like it took eons to regain it.
That summer, my family moved to a different state, and soon I started attending a new school. I felt like I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to choosing wise friends (there were only fourteen students in my whole grade!). It wasn’t long before my new friends were encouraging me to date a guy I liked behind my parents’ backs. I was all too happy to listen to them. Life was going well until . . .
One horrible, rotten day, a letter was delivered to our home (yep, that was before Facebook!). A friend from my old school had written me. But instead of addressing the envelope to “Paula Hendricks,” she wrote my nickname on the front. When my parents saw the letter, they didn’t know who it was for. So they opened it. And this is what they saw: “I can’t believe you’re dating Neil behind your parents’ backs!” (Busted!)
That was probably the first seed of distrust that was (rightfully) planted in my parents’ hearts. And then guess what they went and did? They prayed that God would help them find out whenever I was covering up my sin. He seemed to answer their prayer time and time again. It wasn’t long before they knew I couldn’t be trusted.
As much as I hated my parents at the time for reading my mail and being so strict, looking back I have to say they were right to not trust me. I was a deceiver. I lied. A lot.
Have You Lost Your Parents’ Trust, Too?
I wonder if you can relate. Have you given your parents (or others) any valid reason not to trust you? Are you one person around them and a different person entirely when you think they’re not looking?
Are you always wondering if you’ll be found out? And then when you are, do you know the feeling of having the people closest to you not know if anything you say is true? We both know that’s not a fun way to live. So what can you do?
How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back
If you’re one of those girls who has been walking on eggshells around a couple of suspicious parents, here’s how you can regain their trust.
Four months ago our little family moved into my in-laws’ house, and our home renovation began.
As home renovations go, this one has taken longer and cost more than we expected. Our contractor told us he has seen couples divorce over home renovations. I get it. The stress is high. The decisions are unending.
It’s not just the home renovation. We feel like we’ve been in a pressure cooker for months now.
When Life Doesn’t Give You a Break
Sometimes life just doesn’t give you a break. It’s the need to finally bite the bullet and buy a new car, even as you’re dishing out money right and left for your home renovation.
It’s the trip to the emergency room in the wee hours of the morning . . . and a subsequent hospital admission. (Iren was wheezing and struggling to breathe.)
It’s urging people in our lives to turn from sin and pursue Christ. It’s that ridiculous relational squabble. And on and on and on.
My husband and I are weary. I’ve had a meltdown or two. It usually goes like this, [Sob . . . sniffle . . . “I have no friends!”] Trevor assures me I do, but I have yet to figure out how to find time to hang out with any of them in the midst of all the other demands and responsibilities.
But in the midst of all the pressure, I continue to catch glimpses of just how much God caresfor me. For example, here’s how I saw it yesterday.
I was taking Iren on a walk when I looked up and saw an acquaintance. I fell into step with her and told her I need to prepare three messages for a mother-daughter retreat next week. One message is for moms, and I’ve never been a mom of a daughter. So I asked this pastors’ wife of four children what she would say to these women.
Her thoughts sparked several ideas, so I pulled out my phone and took notes as we walked. It was a reminder that God sees my overflowing to-do list, that blank Google document, the impending deadline . . . and He cares.
Would You Pray for Us?
I share all this with you to ask you to pray for us. Pray:
God would send us help as we move back home. Our house is far from move-in ready, but we are ready to be home, even if it means dust and disorganization for a season.