Free Printable: March

Flowers are blooming!  Spring is coming! However, for those struggling the sunshine may cause you to long for growth in your own situation. We have a beautiful printable designed by Sarah Dohman to remind you Jesus can bring that new life you desire.

Psalm1473Click Here to Get Your Free Printable

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Indescribable Glory

We all have defaults. The route we drive if we’re not thinking about it. The dinner we make on stressful days. The comforts we turn to when life hurts. They tend to pop up most in the hard times. When there isn’t enough time, the money is short, or emotions are frazzled.

But sometimes the default turns out to be faulty. I know for me, default mode just isn’t working for day to day life. I must pause and consider. Why?

Why is this my default mode or belief?

How did I choose it?

What did I know then?

What do I know now?

What will I do next time?

The trouble is, defaults run deep. We often don’t even realize we have slipped into one until it is in some way challenged. This is particularly true in what we believe about God. Our actions and attitudes swing on a spectrum in response not to what we have heard or have understood, but to what we deeply hold to be true, whether or not it is in fact true.

Holly Hawes Character of GodMany people believe in “a god” out there somewhere. Perhaps one who got everything started and flung the stars and planets into motion, but who is far off in their daily experience. Or they see God as someone looking to catch them in something, or they simply deny the existence of God entirely. I grew up in church, and the thoughts I had of God were colored through the lens of the interpretation of the people around me. Some resonated with or emphasized different characteristics while others were left out all together. It is vital to be aware of how I can default to seeing God through the interpretation of my own experiences, knowing my interpretations to be fickle and changing things.

We walk in dangerous territory when we try to manufacture our own ideas about God. The only trajectory that seems secure is to read what God says about himself. As Francis Chan simply stated,“ We don’t get to decide who God is.”

So how do we find out what God is like, and how can we know if we are making up a “god” of our own ideas rather than discovering who our creator is?

  • Story: God is described throughout the Bible primarily in narrative, the story of the actual events as God interacted with his creation through which we glean understanding. It can be confusing and filled with tensions we would rather not fight with, but what can be discovered is worth the wrestle. Try reading with a pen nearby and keep track of patterns or attributes you notice. Some are straightforward and stated in the text (God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love), others are described and must be inferred (God created all things, and must enjoy diversity and beauty).
  • Names of God: The Bible is clear that there is one triune God, but there are so many facets to his character that throughout the Bible God is described by using different parts of his character: The God who sees, the living God, God who provides (to name a few). Find a devotional, or free online tool that delves into the places where the original text of the Bible uses different Hebrew words to illuminate for us what God is like.
  • Are you uncomfortable?: If you never have to grapple with an aspect of what Scripture says about God, you may be cherry-picking verses to create a God you are comfortable with, rather than discovering all of who God says he is. This is important, because we are responding to the reality of who God is and who he has revealed himself to be, not creating who we think he should be.

 

For the rest of eternity, we will go deeper into our understanding and relationship with the inexhaustible God who cannot be defined or limited by our human categories.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

The Character of God Holly HawesThere are so many facets to who God is. The creator, redeemer, triune God of the Bible is constantly surprising me with aspects I have never considered. It is astounding that God has chosen to reveal himself to human beings at all, much less that he decided to love us, and be known by us.

“But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

 


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years, and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail, and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Let ‘s All Be Brave! A Book Review

I listened to Annie F. Downs before I ever read a word of her writing. She’s likable — and a super fun sounding Southern gal, always up for a good laugh. Her podcast, That Sounds Fun, hosts a variety of insightful, Jesus-loving people. Her heart for God, and others, drew me in, and I asked for her book, Let’s All Be Brave, for Christmas. Thankfully, one of my brothers bought it off my Amazon list.

As I opened her book, I knew from the first few pages that I would glean encouragement and wisdom. At the time of the book’s publication, Annie was 33. And single. Hello! She’s like me. Possessing a zest for life, and seeking adventure. Chockablock full of raw emotions, some easy breezy, some a little trickier to navigate through.

Hold on to hope. That's the thing we can't stand to lose. You can let go of jobs or people or hurts, but don't let go of hope.

My #oneword365 is hope, and I cannot help myself as I mull over a particular passage Annie shares about in the pages of her book:

Hold on to hope. That’s the thing we can’t stand to lose. You can let go of jobs or people or hurts, but don’t let go of hope.

This book isn’t about me being single, but if you think it’s been easy to hold on to hope as I’ve watched my friends pass me by in life phases over and over again, oh friend. Not so much. It’s one thing when they get engaged or married. It’s another when babies come. And another when the kids go to school — and I’m still alone at night.

Amy Stroup sings a song called “Hold Onto Hope Love” that has been my companion more nights that I can count as I’ve cried to God about the rough patches on my hands from holding on so tight to the cliff of hope when it feels like it would be easier to just let go and fall into hopelessness.

And the truth? It would be easier.

But it wouldn’t be brave.

It’s not the story God is writing with my life. It’s not the story God is writing with yours either.

So please. Hold on. (p. 122)

Envision my face after reading this passage. Oh the tears! What perfect, God-ordained timing that I would pick up a book without knowing why I must read it. My heart, as I kept reading, said, “Hey! Me too! I am feeling all those feels friend. I am not alone and crazy, but validated in my thoughts and emotions.” Annie’s bravery throughout the entire book, by sharing her God-given story, vastly encouraged my heart. And in turn, her story helps me want to take steps of bravery in my own life. Whether that means sharing vulnerable parts of my own life through writing, or taking steps toward a dream I may have pushed by the wayside for some time.

If you want to read a book that will embolden you, I cannot recommend this book enough. In what way is God asking you to hold on to hope? What dream has He placed in your heart? How can you begin to be brave today? Read on friends, read on, and I think you might be surprised by the end of the book what God reveals to you through Annie’s words.


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Instagram.

How Resting in Christ Freed Me from Bitterness

Growing up in the church, I was always told God was good and that He loves us, and I didn’t question it for a second. It wasn’t until I was an adult enduring infertility when I began wrestling with those concepts.

“God, are you good?”

“Do you see me?”

“Why does everyone get to move forward and I’m stuck here confused and hurting?”

I wanted answers. Answers from doctors and from God, and I wasn’t getting any from anyone. I found myself bitter, angry, and confused. All I wanted my entire life was to be a mother, and it didn’t look promising.

I searched scriptures. I prayed. I sobbed on my living room floor, grappling to understand what God could be doing. I couldn’t find peace and was resentful. In despair I watched friends and family share pregnancy and birth announcements. I found myself constantly frustrated wanting to control anything that I could, and avoided women’s gatherings not being able to bear any more talk about child rearing. It wasn’t until I did a study about abiding (resting) in Christ that I came to a place where I understood God’s heart regarding my suffering.

Keri Nikkel BitternessIn Andrew Murray’s book “Abide in Christ” he says: “Abide in Christ! This is indeed the Father’s object in sending the trial. In the storm the tree strikes deeper roots in the soil; in the hurricane the inhabitants of the house abide within, and rejoice in its shelter. So by suffering the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ.”

Oh. He wasn’t being spiteful or showing me that I had upset Him. He was asking me to come to Him, like a child running to their father for protection. I had been carrying my burdens and they were weighing me down. All the while thinking I was alone, He was actually walking with me, gently inviting me to bring Him my sorrows and rest in Him. I won’t pretend that my heart changed overnight, and that magically my bitterness and frustration disappeared. But with each day choosing to trust God with my deepest desires, He drew me deeper into peace with Him.

Bitterness Keri NikkelJesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

After placing my hope in Christ instead of an answer, my heart was filled with joy in what had been the most painful time of my life. Our God is a God who redeems, He did have a plan for me to be a mother although it was not the way I initially anticipated. Our whole journey was preparing us for adoption, and I am so thankful for it. Had I held onto my pain and bitterness I would not have been open to what has become my greatest blessing. Yes, at times I do still mourn not bearing a child. But, now knowing I can trust God with my deepest desires, I know that His plan is greater than my own I have found peace in His will.


7c7d0-24955437073_d41206ac70_oKeri is a wife and stay at home mom. God has, and is, using many situations to teach her to abide in Him. She believes we are all given a story that can help encourage others and hopes to offer hers as an encouragement to you.

When Bitter Turns Sweet

Have you ever followed the Lord into risky, frightening territory, and as you did so seen Him do some massive, only-God-could-do-that, miracles? Maybe it was a change of career, or a move to a new place, or to do something entirely outside your comfort zone (like public speaking!). He opened opportunities for you as if they were paper-wrapped presents waiting for his eager hands rather than the mountain-moving challenge that they really were. Then as your trembling faith traipsed after this mighty One and you witnessed these marvels, your hope ballooned into an exuberant song for all to hear.

Kimberley Mulder bitternessWell, the Israelites had that experience when they were dramatically ushered away from their slave owner, Pharoah. Emaciated, oppressed, with all the scars of being slaves for generations, they marched out in darkness under the blackest, most haunting of wails – parents discovering their dead children. The wail alone would have haunted me for the rest of my life, but more immediate to them was the very accurate fear of pursuit. And pursuit came in thunderous rage.

They had followed the Lord with what hopeful faith they could under blood-stained lintels, through blackest wailing alleys, into a frigid and scorching desert on flimsy sandals with an earthly devil in pursuit. They were definitely outside their comfort zone, with their hope uneasy like a lump in the throat before the wave of tears. Then they saw the Red Sea. An obstacle as solid as a rock. The lumps in their throats cracked and their hope tore away from them.

How bitter they were! They wailed and railed against the Lord, “How could you do this to us? We followed you only to die here!” Bitterness flowed in torrents, flooded by their fear.

The Lord’s response is so calmly abrupt, it almost makes me laugh. “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” (Ex. 15:15) He gives Moses the details, but really they just had to stop panicking, listen, and go. God was not making a mockery of them, rather, he was making good on his call: to be an example of his saving glory! (Ex. 15:4)

When He calls you out into risky territory, it is always to show His power and love.

They celebrated and worshiped and then God led them whooping into the wilderness of Shur – a funny little coincidence for us English speakers – for we often (and rightly) move ahead after these incredible experiences of God’s salvation with sure hearts.

But for three days they wandered without water. At this point humans often die. As their bodies shut down, their sure hope was evaporating with every breath. Their brains were befuddled by lack of water and by God’s strange leading. Having been slaves, they probably brought their feelings of worthlessness with them. And after seeing God’s might, they might have thought, “Who are we to be worthy of saving?”

Then, water! God has provided again! However, their joy evaporates instantly. What was provision is poison. A bitter trickle. A mockery. Here is your lifesaving water, but, ha, you can’t drink it. This time the grumble is not a torrent of terror, but a whisper of weakness: “What are we to drink?” Their last hope drains away. Finality settles in: Here I will die. I followed as far as I could, but it is finished.

bitterness Kimberley MulderThere was another time that someone said “It is finished.” When He said it, the world went black.

But what was finished? The mocking voice was finished. Its bitter power annulled by the sweet love of the cross. Because he who said “It is finished”, ended the rule of mockery and bitterness. Jesus endured the mockery, the shame, the scorn, the pain, the darkness right to the bitter end. And as he did so, the rule of mockery and bitterness ended.

Bitterness does not have the last word. Because infinite love bent into this bitter world and blessed it, there is sweet in the rescuing and the rising.

The Israelites discovered this in their sure wilderness. Moses cried out for mercy and God steeped a stick of hope in the stream of bitterness. His powerful love drives out all bitterness, and with it all fear. “Perfect love drives out all fear.” (1 John. 4:18)

Let his life steep in yours and you will find any streams of bitterness in your life being turned to sweet.

 


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

5 Verses to Combat Bitterness

Author: Karly Grant

When I think about the role of bitterness in my life I quickly become prideful. I am either too proud to admit that I am one of “those” people who are bitter, angry, and miserable, or I go the other route and think that I deserve to be bitter because nobody understands how I’ve been wronged or hurt.

Bitterness Karly Grant (1)Admittedly, the last few years I haven’t been a shining example when it comes to bitterness. There have been some extremely difficult times in my family and in other relationships. There have been periods when I was too proud to admit to being bitter or unforgiving. There were periods when I thought it was my right to just sit in bitterness. Then I think of Jesus and the rights to be bitter he could hold over me.

During these times, Jesus reminded me over and over that I was not alone in this. I have a God who cares about me, and to him I long to bring glory. My bitterness and pride does not give my God the sacrifice of praise I desire to lay at his feet. I have often heard a paraphrase of the Josh Shipp quote, “You either get bitter or you get better…” combined with some version of “the difference is just one letter, and that letter is I.” I am here to tell you that I have seen a lot more healing and growth when it’s not all about the “I” of pride, but when it’s about the J-E-S-U-S who paid the ultimate price to give me freedom.

His wisdom is better than my own. His words are true and have helped me through difficult times. I have held to the following verses to help me in this fight against bitterness:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)

“Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back.” Isaiah 38:17

“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.” Hebrews 12:14-15

Bitterness Karly Grant“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:19-21

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” Psalm 4:4-5

These are just a few of the amazing words that God uses to speak into our lives and hearts. Many other verses could be used as well, but I think the biggest message is that God is for us and Bitterness is against us. It breeds angst and pride. As I have gone through, and will continue to go through difficult times, I am so thankful to have a God in my life who accepts my repentance my bitterness and leads me to glorifying Him for all the blessings I have in life.


image1 (1)Karly is a single 30-something who is striving to follow Jesus and trust Him in every situation. She can be found with a cup of tea or a good beer in hand while cozied up with a good book or enjoying a laugh with family or friends. God has her on a wild journey. In the last year she has quit her job of 15+ years and gone back to school full-time to pursue a career/ministry in the realm  of adoption. God has laid this heavily on her heart and she is willing to trust Him. This homebody is taking the biggest leap of faith yet this spring and moving 1,700 miles away from the life and people she has known as long as she can remember. She is  both terrified and so stinking excited to see how God moves and what opportunities He provides in this adventure.

Risking It All

Two years ago, the founder of this blog, Chara, challenged a bunch of us gals to think and pray over a word for our year. She read about #oneword365 and wanted to set the tone for an entire year by settling upon just that, one word.

The first year I participated, my word was “Yes.” In uncanny ways, “Yes” popped up in my life persistently. God shaped 2016 for me with that word. When I began to pray over 2017‘s word, I didn’t entirely like the word that I kept visualizing in my head. In fact, I almost avoided selecting a word for the year, purely because the one word that I couldn’t shake from my thoughts was “Risk”. Seriously? What in the world? Sometimes God calls us to BIG things, or changes—that is exactly why the word “Risk” terrified me so.

One Word Hope Sarah DohmanHowever, God surprised me with my 2017’s word “Risk”. I wasn’t asked to move somewhere new, or start a different job. I spent a large portion of the year on the edge of my toes, waiting for something drastic to take place. But God, in His infinitely better ways, used this word risk to teach me about trusting Him and loving His people.

Jennie Allen, in Nothing to Prove, writes about obedient risk. “Obedient risk will simply be us leaning into His abundance, leaning into His love, simply believing that He will work, believing that He could take any situation and any boring day and cause life change to happen in it.” Leaning into His abundance requires trust, just like in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.When I trust God with my life, I can lay it down in submission, knowing that His plans far outweigh my own. Every day is an opportunity to trust Him more and find refuge in Him, and in His refuge, I can and will find rest. Resting in God’s love, knowing He’s working in every intricate detail of my life, facilitating every moment, takes away any hesitation for me to obediently risk.

Sarah Dohman One WordAs I learn to trust in Him more, I am ready and willing to love and serve His people more. Loving others is a risk- there is no guarantee that it will be reciprocated. Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, shares, “Relationships are the realest reality- and the realest risk … and the worthiest risk. Because in sacrificing ourselves, we are guaranteed to discover the depths of our best and realest selves. Because when you self-sacrifice, you are guaranteed to find your better self.” 2017 taught me that investing my time, my energy, in God’s people, is never a waste. It is divinely appointed. God asks us to risk vulnerability in order to love and serve His people with an open heart.

As 2018 begins, I am anticipating the newness of the year, and my One Word 365, Hope. Friends, what is your one word for 2018?


sarah-dohman-squareSarah Dohman is a nurse, kayak enthusiast, coffee addict, microbrew lover, globe trotter, adorer of friends and family. She has a weakness for donuts, runs in 5k races, and cannot get enough tea and books. She loves writing more than talking (and she talks a lot), can be seen at Target frequently, and is loving life in her thirties. She believes God has called her to this space to bring joy and encouragement through words to friends and family, near and far. You can find more from Sarah at her blog or on Instagram.

The Opportunity of Discipline

Author: Kimberley Mulder

I hate having to discipline my children. I hold awkwardly and begrudgingly the parental authority that has been given to me. There is nothing that causes my heart to sink faster than my children’s disobedience and disputes. I can be in a fantabulous mood all day but when that door bursts open and in tumbles a wailing child followed quickly by a yelling one it feels like a massive vacuum suddenly sucked away my mood and energy. Honestly, if I am not careful this scenario can wrench my attitude into despair and discord for the rest of the day. It is in these times that I am seeing the situation as a burden rather than the opportunity it is offering.

What is the goal of discipline? Certainly good citizenship is a goal, as is building good habits. However, these are lesser goals. The great goal of discipline is to teach us to trust God. This is true whether discipline is enforced from outside (think parenting), or internally adhered to (think self-discipline). To keep our relationship with God healthy and strong he instituted an intertwined dance of trust and discipline. Every sin is, in some way, a distrust of God; discipline was meant to guide us away from the lies we believe and back to the heart of the One who loves us.

Kimberley Mulder DisciplineDivine discipline strikes me as art. God gets His message across to us, His disobedient children, in so many ways. Reading the Bible as a standard is a two-dimensional reading of a three-dimensional text. The dimensions of God’s discipline are so deep and high and loving, so personal that the receptive child will feel the gentle pressing of His words in the scriptures, and have it bring out conviction like a hologram that has turned to reveal the picture. At other times, in love that we cannot understand, He abruptly blocks a path like a shutter capturing a black and white image.

Imagine the Father painting His discipline throughout history. The base layer is the creation of the Israelites and the ten commandments, then throughout the Old Testament He adds the foundational characteristics through particular sudden strokes (like Saul’s downfall in 1 Samuel or Jeroboam’s legacy of war because of his idol worship in 1 Kings.) The prophets add depth to the horizon as they envision God’s desires and cry out to the Israelites to return to God. But when Jesus walks onto the canvas the picture becomes alive and complete. The details are added as the broad strokes of the old covenant are built on and covered by the fine, personal, lines of forgiveness.

Jesus touches and teaches individuals that it’s the heart the Father is trying to reach through discipline. He doesn’t want outward conformists and inward sinners. In John 8 the Pharisees ask him how to discipline the woman caught in adultery. But Jesus tells these conformists: “Let any one of you who is without sin throw a stone at her.” This masterful stroke drives right into their hearts. Then he deftly highlights the beauty He is painting with the finishing stroke of forgiving the woman.

So, as a parent, I want to emulate God’s purposes in my discipline. The trajectory of all my efforts is not to make good kids who will obey all the rules. Rather, it is to develop their trust in God above all.

Discipline Kimberley MulderI want them to trust me too, which means I must be trustworthy. Are they seeing and feeling that I have their best interests in mind? If I am reacting, then I don’t have their interests at the forefront. Do I listen to them carefully, giving them space to be heard? Do they see me making every effort to be fair? I hope they will reflect on their growing up and see that the consequences I placed on them were part of what shows my trustworthiness and God’s. This is a lot to embed into the hot scenarios that we encounter daily with our kiddos! That is why it is so important to spend time intentionally thinking and praying about our discipline strategies.

For some of us we need to see the discipline in our childhood as our Old Testament and let Jesus lead us into living his new covenant as we discipline our kids. Do you react harshly wanting to simply squelch a behavior? I confess, I do at times because of my upbringing and lack of intentionality. However, Jesus doesn’t squelch, ever. He probes into the pain and sin, illuminates, addresses and then extracts it with his truth and forgiveness. He does it in a way that draws us near, not pushes us away.

If you struggle, as I do, to allow Christ to renovate your discipline, I encourage you to intentionally address it. Certainly pray and read the gospels to gain insight into Jesus’s way. Seek out classes on discipline that are grounded in His way. Talk to parents who you have witnessed disciplining with grace and wisdom. Employ forgiveness. Learn to evaluate your response before you execute it. My oldest sometimes gets frustrated with me because I take too long (in her view) to answer or discipline. I remind her that I need to take the time to carefully process the situation with Jesus so that I don’t react in a sinful way. And when I do riff off a reactionary consequence to her (always to damaging effect!), I have gone back to her and apologized. Then we evaluate what an appropriate consequence would be for the situation.

Let’s internalize God’s loving discipline and intentionally learn the art of building trust through the opportunities that the disobedience of children and others bring to us.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

When We Hear of Another Mass Shooting…

Vegas. In the middle of the dry and the desolate, man has crafted a place where lights and golden-gilding cover luxurious arch ways ushering people into glossy portrayals of Dante’s nine circles.

In timeless, windowless, oxygen-infused casinos where multisensory stimulation waits around every corner, it is easy to forget both sun and moon, and just keep going, eyes wide, watching the continuous show. Until the sins everybody thought would stay there creep too close. On the night of October 1st, 2017 evil preformed its deadly dance and shot across the sky stealing the breath of over 50 people.

500+ injured.

Thousands traumatized.

Another mass shooting.

I want to ask “When will it stop?”But I find that to be an unanswerable question. For I have learned this truth—I live in a fallen world.

image2I was a senior in high school the year the Columbine Tragedy shocked the nation and infected people with a new brand of fear. It was like nothing I had seen before. I remember sitting by the television, still, shaken, and unsure. What? How? Why? I went to school the next day, finding myself cowering from the group that wore trench coats, and looking at my classmates with suspicion. It hadn’t required courage to walk into class the day before; this day it did. Still numb, I listened to my favorite teacher as she lamented the tragedy with tears and placed her hands protectively over her pregnant belly. She had to be asking herself, would she be willing to die for us?

Ten years later, I stepped up in front of my first class as a student-teacher, and I had to ask myself the same question. By this time, running students through lockdown drills was common practice, so I instructed them on how to hide in case of a gunman. I remember assessing how many students my body could shield. I am not naturally morbid, but as a teacher I needed to know how I would protect the students entrusted to me? Whether this is asked of our teachers or not, many consider this part of their job.

Before Columbine, it seemed that gang members were the gun carriers to be afraid of, terrorists seemed far away in other countries, and schools, churches, and movie theaters felt safe. And now, we risk developing a callous on society’s collective heart as we accept the mass shootings as an unavoidable reality. We clutch our chests, breathe out a helpless, “Again?!” Then we move on, because we just can’t handle the depth of the carnage of innocents gunned down.

The secluded white male young adult has become the face to fear, and he is everywhere. But again, in this label, I think we have it wrong. The problem isn’t a group, racism, or a religion. Nor is it gun control, mental health, or bad parents. There is chaos created by these things, but they are just symptoms of the deeper problem: evil. A problem too big for humans to address. This is why we feel so helpless to make it stop.

I hope for legislation that might actually be productive, but I won’t be writing laws anytime soon. I will vote, but I will also do my best to make the most of my time. I am determined stand against evil in whatever way it presents before me.

If Christians are to be lights in a dark world, we must stop fighting against each other, and every little piece of culture that threatens our comfort. We need to be who we are through Christ—righteous, more than conquerors, and carriers of the good news that offers a choice of who we will serve.

A good God or an evil world? On which side will we stand?

image1 (1)There is a war going on: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.-Ephesians 6:12

When we forget that this unseen battle is being waged for souls, the works of those submitted to wickedness stuns us. When we are forced to remember that evil is real, let it remind us to fight harder, love deeper, and pray continually. I have no answer for “When will it stop?” I trust that victory will come, but I do not know when. In the mean time, I pray for those mourning, I refuse to harden my heart, and from the depth of my being I cry out “Have mercy Lord Jesus.”


chara-donahue-head-shotChara Donahue can often be found with her nose in a book and coffee in hand. She enjoys freelance writing, biblical counseling, and speaking to women when her four kids are out playing with dad. She holds a MSEd from Corban University and is passionate about seeing people set free through God’s truths. She is a regular contributor at iBelieve and her words have appeared at Christianity Today’s Women Leaders,(in)courage, Patheos, and The Huffington Post. She longs to be a voice that says, “Hey we are in this together, and there is room for us all.” You can find more from Chara at One Anchored Voice, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

This post was adapted from and earlier version first published at Venn Magazine