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Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind”

Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind”

I saw Disney’s new Cinderella movie this past weekend. (Did you?) I loved it! Not only was it a much-needed break from my never-ending work; it also gave me a picture of the unparalleled beauty of courage and kindness in the face of humiliation, suffering, and shame.

If God is your Father, and you are His adopted daughter, then you are a princess.

It was a surprising picture, and a jarring one, as the previews before the movie—and everything our world seems to celebrate—is not letting anyone so much as step on our toes.

But Ella (the main character in Cinderella) shows us a shockingly different way of life. A beautiful way of life.

For some reason, Ella’s mom waited until her deathbed to share with Ella “a great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer.” Ella promised. She would:

“Have courage and be kind.”

The movie doesn’t explain how Ella is able to perform this feat in the face of such mistreatment, but she does. After her dear mother dies, Ella is courageous and kind when her stepmother and stepsisters:

  • Relegate her to the attic to sleep
  • Banish her from the table at mealtimes
  • Change her name from Ella to Cinderella because she’s dirty from the cinder in the fireplace
  • Treat her like a servant instead of the sister and daughter that she is
  • Tear her dress and forbid her from attending the ball

But thanks to the fairy godmother, Cinderella is able to attend the ball after all, and the Prince makes a beeline for her.

Sure, Cinderella looks stunning. But it’s not her ball gown or glass slippers that first catch the Prince’s eye. Weeks before, she turns his head when he happens upon her on a hunting trip in the forest—when her hair is knotted and her clothes plain. It’s her inner beauty that captures his attention—her courage and her kindness.

Girls, this beauty isn’t just the stuff of fairy tales. It’s what you and I are to pursue as daughters of the King:

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses [or shimmering, blue ball gowns!] but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

According to God’s standards for beauty . . .

Kindness isn’t weakness; it’s strength.

Submission isn’t pitiful; it’s beautiful and courageous.

First Peter has a lot to say on the subject. Here’s just a taste:

“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. . . .

“Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence . . .

“It is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:8–18).

But how can we have courage when others mistreat us?

Why should we be kind to those who are cruel?

Cinderella acted this way because she was a princess—not a princess by blood, but a true princess in heart.

And if God is your Father, and you are His adopted daughter, then you are a princess too. Not the kind with a ball gown and a tiara, but a true princess. A princess because God brought you into His family at the exorbitant cost of His Son’s life-blood. This honored position is not an excuse to act selfish but to be courageous and kind.

So when you encounter those bullies at school or at home or at work, remember this: You may not have a fairy godmother to rescue you, but you have the living God on your side. This God is pleased—not when you suffer for doing wrong—but for doing right. This same God suffered for you so you might become royalty:

“You have been called for this purpose [to patiently endure suffering for doing what is right], since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

“who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:21–24).

Are you acting like the princess you are? If you’re not sure you’ve ever surrendered your life to the King of kings, you can read more about that here.

Bow to the King, sweet girl.

Have courage, and be kind.

Cinderella: “Have Courage, and Be Kind” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Does Erotica Help . . . Or Hurt?

Does Erotica Help . . . Or Hurt?

Dear Single,

So you don’t have the love (and sex!) you want. Does that mean that erotica is a good outlet for your sexual frustration?

 

Before I answer that, let me tell you how I define erotica. Erotica is art, literature, or movies intended to arouse sexual desire. It doesn’t have to be a harlequin romance novel or an X-rated movie to count. I can hear you protesting, But when I read a book or watch a movie, I’m not actually having sex myself. So isn’t that the lesser of two evils?

This Valentine’s Day, the world offers you a solution: You don’t have to have sex yourself; you can watch someone else have sex, or you can read all the steamy details through erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey. While that might initially sound better than having sex yourself, don’t believe for a minute that erotica has any place in a genuinely born-again believer’s life.

 

Is Jesus a Killjoy?

Jesus clearly taught us that any kind of lust is sin:

“Everyone who looks at a woman [or man] with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her [or him] in his heart” (Matt. 5:28).

Was Jesus just being a killjoy? Quite the opposite! Did you know that great sex was God’s idea?! (Gen. 1:18–25). If that blows your mind, that’s because,

“Sex has been dragged through the mud so thoroughly that most people can’t even comprehend that it is intended to be something holy.” —Dr. Juli Slattery

By the way, “holy” does not equal “boring!” God designed loving, passionate sex to be enjoyed in the safe context of a covenant commitment between one man and one woman. (I can’t wait!)

But if you—like me—aren’t yet married, than you do know what it’s like to wait! And wait. And wait. And wait.

 

Why Erotica Is Not the Solution

Here’s why Dannah Gresh shares that erotica is not the solution for your sexual desires:

While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy. Whether you are married or single, you are longing for more than sex. Your body, your mind, and your spirit were created to crave intimacy. The Old Testament [word] for sex [is] yada—to know, to be known, to be deeply respected. Transcending the physical act, God’s language speaks of the deep emotional knowing you ultimately long to experience. The physical aspect of sex is just one part of the equation, but our culture tends to hyperfocus on it with no attention to the ultimately more fulfilling aspect of yada—emotional intimacy. Sexual activity by itself is an empty substitute for true intimacy, and will never be enough. Erotica places undue emphasis on the physical and disables your ability to connect emotionally.

The Tragic Ending Erotica Doesn’t Tell

If you’re still skeptical, take it from a girl who’s been there. Dannah and Juli share this girl’s story in Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart,

I am single and erotica has ruined my life. I have been addicted for ten years, and I am only twenty-five. No one knows that I have lived an isolated life because I have found more solace in fantasies aroused in my mind by erotica than in real relationships. Erotica seems harmless because it’s just words on a page but it brands your mind, creates false expectations for future relationships. I can’t even maintain real relationships because I feel like a shallow pretender hiding one of the biggest parts of my life. Erotica perpetuated my “need” for meeting people online because I didn’t know how to develop or maintain relationships with people outside of the screen. Eventually, I decided to take my online relationships into reality. Many of the stories I read portrayed rape or power-struggle situations as exciting. A no didn’t always mean no because, in the end, the girl always seemed to end up just fine. So when I met one of my first guys offline, I was thrust ever too quickly into a scenario I had read about but, unlike the stories, I didn’t end up fine. My no didn’t mean no, and I was sexually abused by a man who did the same things to me that I had read about in those erotic stories. But in my story, there wasn’t a happy ending. Ever since then, I have carried the weight of shame and guilt from putting myself into that situation six years ago. Erotica makes it seem normal for us to be used and abused, but it’s not normal.

Dear single, erotica is not the answer to your longings for intimacy. Christ is. He’s also provided community so you can experience emotional intimacy right now. And if and when He provides you with a godly spouse, the physical intimacy of sex will just be the icing on the cake of the friendship and emotional intimacy you already share together. (And if you’re married, erotica isn’t for you either, for all the reasons mentioned above. It will erode your intimacy with your husband, rather than enhancing it.)

I’d love to hear from you. Here are some ways you can join the conversation:

  • Do you agree that erotica doesn’t belong in a born-again believer’s life? Why or why not?
  • How do you see the difference between sex and intimacy?
  • Got any great ideas for how single girls can cope with unmet sexual desire? Please share them!

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One

I’ve been dating an amazing man for several months now (surprise!), and until recently, I’ve not enjoyed it.

Let me fill you in on some background info before I tell you more:

  • Before my boyfriend came into my life, I’d pretty much learned (by God’s grace!) how to live the single life with contentment.
  • My boyfriend built a solid friendship with me for over four months before we began dating.
  • As soon as we started dating, though, I didn’t value our friendship. I expected non-stop romance . . . and NOW!

Romance Me Now, Please!

For most of my life I’d observed dating relationships in romance novels and watched them unfold on the screen. As a result, I expected to be fawned over and hotly pursued from my boyfriend’s first admission of liking me. Here’s a peek into one of my journal entries,

I thought dating would be all excitement and fireworks and distraction and butterflies in my stomach 24/7. (Thankfully it’s not, because then I’d really get nothing done!)

Sometimes it is exciting, but most of the time it’s simply comfortable and nice. It feels like real, everyday life instead of the stuff fairy tales are made of.

Suddenly I had a real, flesh-and-blood relationship . . . and I found myself mourning the loss of my long-anticipated fairy tale fantasy.

Who Says Fairy Tales Are Better?

One night, my boyfriend and I were having a playful conversation that opened to my eyes to the fact that fairy tale fantasies aren’t necessarily better than real life. It went something like this:

Me: And then, after getting married on the beach, I’ll ride my dolphin off into the sunset and live happily ever.

My boyfriend: That would put you in shark-infested waters in the middle of the night. (He’s so smart like that!)

Hmmm, I thought, maybe—just maybe—fairy tales aren’t so wonderful, after all!

Meet Prince Charming

A couple months ago, my boyfriend and I sought counsel from a wise elder in his church. After hearing the ins and outs of our relationship, this man spoke words I will never forget,

What I see when I look at you two is two young people who love Christ, understand each other’s shortcomings, have been honest about them, and are still willing to love the other.

That’s more to build on than, “When I look in his eyes, I see stars, and there’s this feeling in my tummy.” That may happen too. But long term, you want a more realistic picture of what you really need. Prince Charming is the grace of God ministering to your area of brokenness.

Oh, how grateful I am for my Prince Charming! How relieved I am that I chose to stick with this real-life relationship rather than rejecting it for some unrealistic, fairy-tale fantasy in my head.

And who knew . . . the romance/desire has developed naturally over time, rather than hitting like a ton of bricks from day one like I expected.

How about you? Have you thought about what expectations you might have for a future dating relationship? Where are these expectations coming from: God’s Word or the culture?

Check back in two weeks to see an exercise I worked through that helped me sort through my expectations for my boyfriend. You won’t want to miss it!

When a Fantasy Romance Seems So Much Better Than a Real One” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Two Letters to My Landlord

Two Letters to My Landlord

I moved into a little apartment this past year, and ever since I’ve been praying that my landlord would come to know Jesus.

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

I’ve committed to leaving the place better than when I came and to being a thoughtful tenant. After all, everything I do reflects on Christ, as my landlord knows I’m a Christian.

Still, living well is not ultimately enough to share Christ with someone. People have to hear the gospel before they can understand it (Rom. 10:13–14).

My First Letter

So, one month when I sat down to write my landlord a note to accompany my rent check, I tried slipping God into my talk of cable cords, nail holes, and trashcans. (By way of background, my landlord had slipped a short note in my mailbox apologizing for not getting some work done for me, as her dad was sick.)

My note went like this:

No worries at all. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future. And it’s beautiful to God, who commands us to honor our parents and promises to bless us when we do (Exodus 20:12).

Praying for you both. Let me know if I can do anything to help on my end (sorry, you beat me to the trash last night!).

Loving my apartment!

Gratefully,

Paula

Thankfully, my mom always taught me to sit on a message before sending it. As I thought about the note I’d written, I started to question . . .

  • Is anything that’s done apart from faith in Christ really beautiful to God? (Heb. 11:6).
  • Would this note give my landlord false confidence that she had an “in” with God apart from Christ?
  • Would this note ultimately be helpful to her if it didn’t point her to Christ?

Take Two

So I took another stab at it:

Thanks so much for patching those holes and removing the cable cords for me. And no worries about not getting to it until now. Your care for your dad is infinitely more important than cable cords and nail holes!

In fact, it’s an example to me of how I desire to live in the future, and it reminds me of Jesus. John 19 records that He made sure His friend would take care of His mom after He left earth—and He saw to this while hanging on a cross as the substitute for the sins of all who would put their trust in Him. How amazing to be thinking of others while in such agony!

All that to say, I’m grateful for you, and I’m loving my apartment.

I still need to get you the checklist—hopefully by early next week. Sorry for the delay (and for not beating you to the trash this week!)

Gratefully,

Paula

Why do I share this with you? Not because it was the perfect note. I realize it was . . . zealous. Possibly too much so. But:

  • Did it point her to the beauty of Christ?
  • And is time short?
  • And could I love her in any better way than sharing Christ with her?

I’ve been camping out in Colossians lately, which is quite possibly the most Christ-centered letter in the Bible. Paul wrote this letter not to his unbelieving landlord, but to the believing church at Colosse. He wrote it to urge them not to add to Christ. Christ is enough; Christ is everything:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Let’s make sure we’re not inadvertently doing the same thing by failing to point others to Christ. Let’s not forget the main point. Rather, the main Person. All of Scripture points to Jesus! (Luke 24:27).

Are you sharing Jesus Christ with others, or are you settling for something less?

Two Letters to My Landlord was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

When Another’s Words Sting

When Another’s Words Sting

Ouch, that stung.

Over the years, people’s words have wounded my soul more times than I care to count. That’s largely my fault, as I tend to be overly-sensitive (and overly-proud!).

As I wiped my tears away after one such painful exchange, I picked up Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ four-week devotional, The Power of Words, and found my perspective changing as I read this:


Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips (Ps. 141:3).

Nancy pointed out,


Notice where the guard is posted. Not at the ear—to protect us from being hurt by words we might hear, or at the heart—to shield us from the wounds that are sometimes caused by what others do.

Rather, the Psalmist asked God to post a sentinel at his own mouth knowing that the greatest danger he faced was not what others might do to him, but rather, what he might say that would harm others. (p. 32)

Really? Suddenly I began to wonder, “How’s my own speech?

  1. Do I:
    • Subtly put people down when talking about them to others, or
    • Build them up when talking about them to others?
  2. Am I:
    • Quick to hurry people along so I can get back to my schedule and tasks?
    • Fully engaged with people when they stop by to talk?
  3. Do I:
    • Assume the best about people’s motives?
    • Assume the worst about people’s motives?
  4. Do I regularly:
    • Speak words that encourage those I live and work with?
    • Speak words that discourage those I live and work with?

If you feel like a giant failure in this area, know this: Love, kindness, and self-control are all natural fruit of the Spirit. You and I don’t have to labor to produce kindness on our own—it’s a natural outflow of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we crucify the flesh and allow Christ to live through us.

By His power, we can actively put Philippians 4:8 into practice by thinking thoughts that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.” The result will be words that give grace, strength, and encouragement to others (see Eph. 4:29 and 1 Peter 3:8–10).

Nancy recommends trying these phrases out on the people closest to us:

  • I love you.
  • I’m praying for you.
  • I’m so proud of you.
  • I’m sorry I treated you that way.
  • Would you please forgive me?
  • I appreciate you.
  • You’re such a blessing!

Who can you encourage with a kind word today?

For extra encouragement in this area, listen to “Conversation Peace” with Mary Kassian on Revive Our Hearts. Along with the program, there’s a new 30-Day Power of Words email challenge you can take!

When Another’s Words Sting” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

Will You Get a Divorce Someday?

Will You Get a Divorce Someday?

You probably know someone who’s divorced. Maybe an aunt or uncle, one of the leaders in your church, or your own parents. If so, I’m so very, very sorry for the pain it’s caused—and maybe still is causing—you.

With divorce so common, I wonder, What’s to keep you from heading down that same road someday?

My desire in writing this post is to save your marriage before you even meet your future husband.

Before we go any further, do me a favor, and don’t rub what you’re about to read in any divorced person’s face. That’s not the point! My desire in writing this post is to save your marriage before you even meet your future husband by introducing you to God’s thoughts on marriage and divorce.

Oh, I know you’re not married yet. But someday, you probably will be. And there may be days—possibly even long months that turn into even longer years—when you shake your head and mutter to yourself, This is no marriage. I didn’t sign up for this.

So I wonder, If the going gets tough for you, will you choose to divorce?

I’m afraid you will—unless you get ahold of the mind-blowing truths found in Mark 10:2–12. This passage finds the Pharisees (think “the squeaky-clean, religious, we’re-something-special leaders of Jesus’ day”) trying to trick Jesus with a question:

“Jesus, is it allowed—is it kosher—for a man to divorce his wife?”

“You tell me,” Jesus answered. “What did Moses command you?” (These guys knew the law of Moses like junior highers know their A-B-Cs!) Immediately they rattled off, “Yup, Moses allowed a man to divorce his wife and send her away.”

Doesn’t sound much different than today, huh? A lot of people in the Church will encourage you to get a divorce when the going gets tough.

But not Jesus.

He responds,

“Moses (not God!) wrote this commandment because your hearts were hard.” In other words, you wanted a divorce so bad, he let you have it.

But . . .

“But from the very beginning of time,” Jesus dug in, “God made humans in two varieties: male and female. Man and woman. And He designed them to leave their parents and hold fast to each other, so that the two would become one.”

Then, just in case they missed this mind-blowing math, Jesus repeated Himself,

“Married people are no longer two people but one person.”

Whoa!

“So,” Jesus concludes, “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”

You would never think of cutting yourself in half. God has joined you together. Don’t let others—or yourself—separate what God has fused together.

Did you catch that?! Marriage has always been God’s marvelous plan for one man plus one woman. And when they marry, it’s ultimately God who’s turned two into one.

So, sweet girl, when your marvelous, God-designed marriage starts to seem mighty un-marvelous due to your sin or your hubby’s sin, remember these marriage-preserving truths. You are no longer two but one.

You would never think of cutting yourself in half. God has joined you together. Don’t let others—or yourself—separate what God has fused together.

Okay, your turn to talk back to me. Does divorce seem acceptable to you? Would you consider it if your own marriage got tough? How does Jesus’ teaching crack the way you naturally think about divorce?

Will You Get a Divorce Someday?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

10 Questions to Ask Your Relatives on Thanksgiving Day

10 Questions to Ask Your Relatives on Thanksgiving Day

Your paper plate is about to fold from the weight of glazed carrots, stuffing, turkey and gravy, and cranberry sauce, so you quickly sit down across from those relatives you only see about once every 365 days. You make eye contact . . . and your brain goes to mush—just like those mashed potatoes piled high in front of you.

You know you should talk about something deeper than who just got the boot on Survivor, or who sang what on The Voice, but you’re about as empty as that basket of your aunt’s award-winning croissant rolls.

That’s when you either:

  1. Stare at your plate while shoveling pumpkin pie into your mouth to the tune of strained silence, or
  2. Whip out your iPhone and ask a few meaningful (but not too awkward!) questions I cooked up for ya.

Your pick. (Just prepare to answer these questions yourself! It’s not terribly fair to ask others a question you’re not willing to answer as well.)

  1. What’s one of the most meaningful ways someone has thanked you? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.)
  2. What’s one of the most creative ways you’ve thanked someone else?
  3. What difficulty from this past year are you most thankful for, and how did the lessons you learned through it change something about your life?
  4. Who’s one of the most consistently thankful people you know? Tell me about them.
  5. What’s one of the most meaningful gifts you’ve received? (Ever, or this past year—you pick.) How did you respond?
  6. What’s one thing you’ve found yourself saying thanks for over and over and over and over? Like, you just can’t hold your thankfulness in—it insists on oozing out!
  7. What’s something you struggle to thank God for?
  8. Tell me about a time you pretended to be thankful but really weren’t.
  9. What’s one thing that you think keeps you from expressing gratitude more often?
  10. Is there anyone you’ve been meaning to thank, but haven’t gotten around to it yet? Who? (Can you do it today?)

Let me know how it goes! Did you learn anything new about your relatives? Have any meaningful conversations? I hope so!

10 Question to Ask Your Relatives on Thanksgiving Day” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Some Mail I Can’t Keep to Myself

Some Mail I Can’t Keep to Myself

Hey, single girl,

I got some mail this week that I can’t keep to myself. Read on to hear what one young mom has to say as she looks back on her own singleness from the other side of marriage and motherhood. Then, would you post a comment below thanking God for one tangible gift of singleness today?

Can’t wait to read what you share,

Paula

PS: As a little extra credit, is there a young, sleep-deprived mom you could offer to help today?

Hey, Paula!

I am writing this to you while it is still dark out because it is my only time of the day when the house is quiet and I have time to myself.

A few minutes ago I was reading in Exodus about how Moses found himself serving in Midian as a shepherd after having lived in Egypt in Pharaoh’s household. The devotional I was reading pointed out that these years of serving as a shepherd in the desert were also years of God preparing Moses to shepherd his people Israel through the desert for forty years.

I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.

I found myself wondering if though Moses may have despised being a shepherd at the time, in retrospect as he struggled to lead the Israelites if he often looked back on those shepherding years as “golden” and “restful” compared to the struggles he faced with the Israelites.

I found myself thinking of my own life as well and wondering what I would classify as my “golden years,” my years of “rest and preparation.” I think I can honestly say they would be my single years.

Please don’t misunderstand. I absolutely LOVE being married to my husband and raising my precious children. I would not trade this time in my life for anything. And yet, I see so clearly now how sweet and precious those years of singleness were.

Today I don’t know that I will use my Keurig to brew a single cup of coffee. Today I will probably pull out the old coffee pot and brew a full pot. I have been up most of the night with a toddler who has a croupy cough and was struggling to breathe in the middle of the night.

By the time I finally got him to sleep my baby woke up and refused to go back down. Ten minutes before my alarm was to go off at five in the morning, I rolled into bed beside my husband and asked him to do whatever it took to get our baby to sleep so I could just sleep for ten more minutes before I had to get up for the day.

These are days that are hard, and I find myself looking back on those single years realizing I did not savor those moments as much as I should have: uninterrupted sleep, awakening truly refreshed and eager to serve the Lord, enjoying an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee while reading God’s Word without distraction. There was nothing wrong with longing for a husband and family of my own, and my God so generously blessed me with them. However, I was foolish not to fully embrace my singleness at that time and treasure it for the sweet gift from God that it was.

Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.

Sometimes in the middle of the night when the moon is out and I am rocking my baby while everyone else sleeps, I can see a shadow of myself on the nursery wall holding and rocking my sweet Ellie. In those moments it is as if I hear God speaking deep in my heart and saying to me, “Savor this. You will not always be rocking babies in the middle of the night, and one day you WILL miss this.” Oh, how I wish I would have heard His voice saying those similar words to me as a single person. “Savor this. You will not always be alone in a quiet house. One day you WILL miss this.”

Like I said, please do not misunderstand how much I love my husband and children and our little life together. It is so sweet and so precious! But like singleness, it has its moments where it can be rough. However, that does not mean that it should not be cherished as God’s perfect gift for me in this moment, just as I should have cherished more God’s gift of singleness to me as His perfect will for my life at that time.

This was heavy on my heart to share with you this morning, Paula, and I pray you can use it to encourage the hearts of other single people who may need to be reminded of how perfect and precious God’s will is for our lives.

We don’t want to miss out on enjoying His perfect gift for each of us today, because today will not last. Tomorrow is coming, filled with new gifts of its own for us to enjoy. But we can never get back today.

Some Mail I Can’t Keep to Myself” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Two Letters; Two Hearts

Two Letters; Two Hearts

Before social media, my junior high friends and I used to write each other old-fashioned notes using lined paper and pencils—the kind they make from real trees! I still have some of those notes, so I’m going to share two of them with you today: the first from 6th or 7th grade and the second from college.

As you read these notes, look for the fruit (did their words build someone up or tear someone down) as well as the root behind the fruit of their words (what’s obviously in these girls’ hearts).

Exhibit #1

Paula,

Will you go with me to talk to Megan? I want to tell her why we won’t tell her why we’re mad (because she’ll tell her mom and then we’ll get in trouble).

Other reasons:

  • Her clothes are ugly.
  • She lies.
  • She flirts (and denies it).
  • She thinks she is awesome.
  • She brags about her grades.
  • She brags about her brothers.
  • She brags about the ugly cars they have.
  • She said she has only gotten spanked once.
  • She thinks she is cool because she has a silver trumpet.
  • She tells her mom everything.
  • She copies us.
  • She thinks she is talented at running, drawing, and school work.
  • She thinks she is pretty.
  • She thinks she is cool because her dad is the preacher.
  • She thinks she is a good babysitter.
  • She thinks everyone likes her.
  • She thinks she is a tomboy (pink, teddy bears, mama’s girl, likes dresses).
  • She thinks she has a perfect life.

Oh yeah, when her mom asked what was wrong she said, “Are you jealous of Megan because of something she has or can do or does?” I stood there thinking, Yeah right!!

I’m kinda scared too because she’ll tell her mom, and then her mom will tell my mom, and I’ll get in trouble!

Kelly

PS: Write back.

Exhibit #2

10 Things I Love About Paula

10. She delights in simple pleasures.
9. She gives great advice.
8. Her iron will when it comes to resisting sugar. 😉
7. She loves people.
6. She makes me laugh.
5. Her curiosity about people and life.
4. She’s my sister Resident Assistant.
3. Her beautiful smile.
2. She gives great back rubs.
1. Her boast and confidence is in Christ.

How about it? Did exhibit 1 and 2 build up or tear someone down? What can you tell about the writers’ hearts based only on their words?

And, more importantly . . . are your words more like exhibit 1 or exhibit 2? Maybe you say, I would never write a letter like Kelly wrote. But before you let yourself off the hook too quickly, take this twenty-question quiz from Mary Kassian.

Then, write someone a note (yes, on real paper from actual trees!) with the goal of building them up. Let me know you did so below by Friday, October 3 for a chance to win one of two copies of Mary’s Bible study Conversation Peace in our Freebie Friday giveaway.
Two Letters; Two Hearts” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?

I’m crazy about fruit: plump blueberries, juicy peaches, Honeycrisp apples . . . it’s one of the main perks of living in Michigan—they grow some mean fruit here!

In Matthew 12 we catch Jesus, probably as He’s walking by some fruit trees, using fruit to teach the cream-of-the-crop religious folks an important lesson about their words. Let’s join them now:

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (v. 33).

(This isn’t rocket science. What’s the best way to recognize an apple tree? Right . . . by its apples!) Jesus continues,

“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34).

(Paul David Tripp says it like this: “The heart is the control system. Change doesn’t need to take place first in your words; change needs to take place first in your heart.”) Jesus goes on to explain,

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (v. 35).

Let’s break that down from the top.

Jesus is using an analogy of a fruit tree. For our purposes, we’ll call it an apple tree. Jesus is explaining that our words are connected to our hearts the way apples are connected to their tree.

Hockey Puck Apples

Pretend with me that there’s an apple tree growing in your back yard (and thank you, Paul Tripp, for the following illustration!). Every year the tree grows hard, brown, nasty, shriveled up apples you would never dream of eating. This happens year after year after year: the apples turn out as hard as hockey pucks. Finally you’ve had it; you decide to do something about it.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

So you head for the garage and collect a ladder, branch cutters, and a nail gun. Then you drive to the local farmer’s market and buy three bushels of Honeycrisp apples. Now you’re ready. You climb the ladder and carefully cut off all those hockey puck apples. Then you nail three bushels of Honeycrisp apples onto the tree.

Ta-da!

From a distance, people will think your apple tree looks lovely, right? But not up close! And time will soon reveal the truth. They’ll rot cause they’re not hooked to the life-giving source of the tree, and next year that tree will continue to produce hockey puck apples.

Paul Tripp comments, “Most of what we do in the name of Christianity is just apple nailing.” We try to maintain nice(ish) words on the surface but never think we have a big enough problem that would require us to dig down to the root issue.

We Need a Heart Transplant

But Jesus tells us clearly in v. 34 that we have a deeper, underlying problem than simply our words,

“How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Here’s the deal: Our words reflect a deeper problem: a heart problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

(By the way, when Jeremiah talks about our hearts, he’s not referring to our blood-pumping organ but to the very core of who we are. Our insides—the part of us no one but God can see: the home of our desires, decisions, thoughts, and feelings.)

We’re told that our hearts are 100% polluted from the day we’re born. All of us need a heart transplant. Because only when we have new hearts will we have new words.

Jesus throws in a second analogy in v. 35:

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Jesus says our hearts are either like spiritual treasure troves . . . or garbage dumps. Each of us can only “bring forth”—fling out—whatever treasures or junk is piled up in our hearts.

If what continually comes out of your mouth is junk, you desperately need a new heart.

And if you’ve already been given a new heart but still have junk coming out of your mouth, you need to store up good in your heart, like stocking up your pantry before a big snowstorm. How? By memorizing Scripture, by thinking about things that are “pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8).

So I need to ask . . . what are your words telling you about your heart?

Check back next week for a fun, practical exercise to see if you can spot what kind of heart someone has based only on their words. And stay tuned the following week to hear how to get a heart transplant!
Treasure Trove or Garbage Dump?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.