Remembering a Princess, and Encouragement to Engage the World

Remembering a Princess, and a little encouragement to engage the world | Faith and Composition

Seventeen years ago yesterday, the world lost a princess. I was a senior in high school, and her death deeply saddened me. Because despite what may have been going on in her private life, she exuded beauty, grace and compassion to the public. Following her death, I wrote an opinion piece about the tragic circumstances surrounding the accident. It was published by our local paper, and it officially marked the first time I saw my name in print apart from school publications. Three months later I traveled to London. Outside Buckingham Palace, flowers, wreaths and pictures still littered the front gate.

I adored Princess Diana … not so much for her position (although her title captured my imagination as well), but for the role she played in the world’s need. She used her privilege to bring images of some of the globe’s most impoverished to the front pages. And she didn’t merely pose for a photo op, Princess Di touched these people, held them, loved them. My favorite images of her included her trips to Africa with the Red Cross. She didn’t shrink away from those who had been dismembered by land mines, and she wasn’t afraid of those who had fallen victim to AIDS. For a girl from a small town in the Midwest, she opened up a window into the world’s need.

With the advent of social media and 24/7 news, we as a society are more aware than ever of worldwide needs and charitable causes. Yet social media also affords us the opportunity to feign involvement or concern by simply liking a story or sharing a post. So today I want to encourage you to examine more than the headlines. I want to encourage you to examine your heart. Is there a need to which you’re drawn? And do you have the capacity to meet that need in some way?

There are countless reputable charitable organizations, but if you’re not sure where to start, consider beginning with your local church. Local churches are often keenly aware of both area and global needs. They can direct you to organizations or ministries that desperately need your time, your talent or both. We also firmly believe in the ministry of Compassion International. We sponsor a Ugandan boy, and it’s a fantastic way to meet tangible needs, share the good news of the Gospel, and build a relationship with a sponsor child. Additionally, my husband travels to Belize each year to serve with iServants. Both Compassion and iServants are on the ground in impoverished areas providing relief, meeting real needs, and sharing the good news of the Gospel.

Now what about you? Will you examine your heart today? Will you pray about giving or going?

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” – Matthew 25:40.

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Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a review | Faith and Composition

Today I’m excited to introduce Katie Atkins to you. Katie is a friend and avid reader; she’s frequently engrossed in several books at once, and she’s passed some remarkable recommendations my way. Thus, when I toyed with the thought of bringing a regular guest contributor to the blog to compose periodical book reviews, Katie was my natural go-to girl. I hope you are encouraged to pick up some of the titles she suggests. I think they will be like a soothing balm to your mama heart. Now take it away, Katie!

Are you loosing sight of Christ in the mundane everyday activities of life, maybe in piles of to-do lists or simply in the chaos of your home? As a mom to two young kiddos, I feel like I am in a constant battle of showing my kids unconditional love and discipline while still being a shining beacon of Christ in every situation. In this encouraging book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full, Gloria Furman reminds me that “When I view motherhood not as a gift from God to make me holy but rather as a role with tasks that get in my way, I am missing out on one of God’s ordained means of spiritual growth in my life. Not only that but I am missing out on enjoying God.”

This book has renewed my mind and soul so that I can better serve my family as God has uniquely created me to do. 

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a review | Faith and Composition

Divided into two sections, Gloria discusses how the Gospel is essential to our daily lives as women (and as mothers). In the first section, God Made Motherhood for Himself, she reminds us of the fall of Adam and Eve and the blessing that was bestowed upon God’s children.

Have you ever thought about the words from the mouth of God to Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) God cursed the Serpent but in his own words he promised LIFE! That means that the man and the woman will have offspring. Adam and Eve did not deserve a blessing, yet God in his matchless mercy bestowed upon them that there would be life.

I know that there are many days when I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising the blessings God has bestowed on us. I become focused on simply surviving the day and loose the eternal perspective in the everyday tasks. There are many times when I think to myself, if I only had more time…

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a review | Faith and Composition

In this book I was gently reminded that, “When we have lost sight of an eternal perspective in our daily lives, the atonement becomes neither vital nor precious to us. A greater gift than time is the gift of forgiveness for our sins through Christ Jesus so that we can behold our holy God.”

Living with eternity in mind is a work of God’s redeeming love in our lives. This is a reminder I need daily.

In the final section, Motherhood as Worship, Gloria reminds us to worship in all circumstances. “If Jesus has assured me that he is with me to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20), then surely he is with me in all of my baby carrying, housecleaning, car driving, nighttime parenting, and husband helping.” Do you respond with a heart of worship throughout your days and nights? Are you teaching your little ones how to worship our creator through your actions and words?

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full, a review | Faith and Composition

I don’t know about you, but whether I’m aware of it or not I constantly find myself striving to win that ‘Fictitious Mother of the Year Award’. It’s within our sinful nature to compare and contrast. Gloria does a compelling job of reminding us that “the grace given to us through the cross liberates us from the heavy burden of pretense before other people and (most importantly) before God”.

Throughout this book I was prompted to evaluate my days through the eyes of the gospel. I was reminded that “God will not and does not change his mind. He knew the worst things about me and he knew my self-righteous tendencies when he declared me righteous for Jesus’s sake.” No matter how I screw up on a daily basis, he is always there. He offers His power to mothers who will live in their mundane by faith as Daughters of the King.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full.

Katie Atkins is a Christ-follower, work-in-progress. She is a wife to an incredible husband and the mom of two amazing children. While not a professional writer, she enjoys putting pen to paper and sharing her story with others. Katie loves to read (anything and everything), she seeks out ways to be adventurous with her kids, and after 12 years of marriage, she is learning to cook. She works each day to live out the words of Philippians 3:12-14 with all that she is. She blogs at Treasuring Christ Daily.

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Have you taken the 31 Days of Prayer for our Children Pledge? It’s a month of prayer for our schools, students and staff. I’d love to have you join us! Get the details here, then simply join us in prayer for one month!

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31 Days of Prayer for our Children – A Back-to-School Pledge

31 Days of Prayer for our Children | Faith and Composition

I turn on my computer or flip on my phone, and I’m flooded with images of the back-to-school season. Tiny tots with too-large backpacks hold “First day of Kinder” signs, older students pose for the obligatory photo, and college-bound freshman cling to their parents with a mixture of joy and trepidation written across their face. It’s a time of tensions: fear and excitement, grounding and giving wings, the mourning of an old phase while anticipating the next.

I’m sending my own off today … off into the wide world of elementary school. The date that has been looming on the calendar all summer is here, and I’m a raw mix of emotions. Because as it turns out, those well-intentioned grandmothers (the ones who tell you to enjoy it because they grow so fast) … well, those grandmothers were right. There were days I thought the hard, humbling preschool moments would never end, but then I blinked, and suddenly he’s entering first grade. I want to press the shutter on the camera and never release it; just freeze time.

Yet the hands on the clock march onward, and here we are. His backpack is packed, clothes are laid out, his lunchbox is stuffed. We’ll walk to his class—he with a spring in his step, while I fight to swallow the tears—and I’ll mark another milestone in this parenting journey.

I wonder if you’re here too? Standing at the threshold of a new class, a new season, a new year, swelling with excitement, sadness and a little bit of anxiety? Perhaps your baby is entering kindergarten, your little one is moving onto junior high, the oldest is driving to high school, or you’re leaving your very heart on the grounds of a university that your child now calls home.

No matter the age, whatever the stage of education, whether you’re a parent, a grandparent or just someone who cares about our students, I have a request.

Will you join me in praying for our children and our schools across your town, your state, our country for the next month? Let’s start today, August 18, and let’s pray daily until September 18. Because the this world is a bit of a scary place, and sometimes sending our children out into the world feels a bit like sending sheep into a lion’s den. I know, because I have to fight this fear and anxiety on a daily basis. I feel a sense of urgency for our children and our nation like never before. It is time that we went to battle. So let’s don the full armor of God, taking up as our weapons the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit.

31 Days of Prayer for our Children | Faith and Composition

Let’s go before the Lord, heads bowed, hearts humbled, and let’s pray in solidarity for our children, the schools, the staff, and their fellow classmates. Let’s pray that whether our kids are walking onto elementary schools, secondary learning institutions, or colleges and universities, they have an opportunity to spread light and grace to a world desperately in need of the Gospel. And let’s pray that they’re safe and protected while they do so. 

Are you with me? I hope so! Because I long to see a movement across this country that brings hope and good news back into our schools. I long to see children coming to Christ, parents transformed, teachers redeemed.

If you’re ready to join me, it’s simple to commit. Pray. Just pray. Pray as you feel led, but if you need some direction, consider praying for the following:

Pray for the supernatural protection of our students.
Pray that evil would be held at bay and would be banished from our schools.
Pray that students would be allowed to continue to express their religious freedoms.
Pray that the Holy Spirit would flood our campuses with a presence so thick it cannot be denied.
Pray that students, teachers, staff and administrators who do not know the Lord would come to know the saving grace of Christ.
Pray for healing and wholeness in student’s home lives.
Pray for spiritual hunger and revival.
Pray that our children may have the opportunity to be a city on a hill, a light amongst the dark.

Start today, then pray with us for the next month until September 18. And don’t worry if you happen to jump in late or forget a few days; there’s nothing magical about the timeframe, but there is power when voices are raised in unison.

If you’d like to spread the word (please do!), share this post and download the image below to broadcast the pledge. (Click here to download. The image is 250×250 pixels to fit blog sidebar buttons.) Then use the image as your FB profile pic, upload it to Instagram, post it to your blog or note the pledge on Twitter. Let’s get as many parents as we can to commit to going before the Lord daily for one month to lift up our students and our schools! Because our students are in a battle, but we have the Warrior God on our side. 

31 Days of Prayer for our Children | Faith and Composition
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:10-18

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How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World

How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World | Faith and Compsition

I turn on the news and the headlines hit me with a weight that is too heavy to bear: mass genocide, ethnic cleansing, gruesome murders, starvation, ghastly disease. There is Ebola in Africa, war in Israel, and heinous death, torture and persecution in Iraq. I read a headline, see a picture, glance at an image, and I am undone. A deep, tears- flowing, stomach-churning despair threatens to consume me.

The pain is so great and the burden so heavy … I want to turn away, close my eyes, cover my ears. There is a part of me that wants to simply pretend it’s not happening, because the burden of the truth is crushing.

Wanting to turn away from such unspeakable suffering is understandable; the pain is just too agonizing. But turning away isn’t an option for Christ followers. Jesus came to save the hurting, to redeem the oppressed, to free the captives. You and I are His hands and feet, and thus we are compelled to act in the face of suffering. 

The question then becomes “how?”. How do we—members of free nations, moms, dads, sons, daughters, those of us living in relative safety and contentment with ample provisions and far-reaching freedoms—how do we act in the face of such suffering?

I’ve been thinking about this question for several days now. I’ve read articles and researched relief organizations. I’ve lifted my eyes and cried out to God, asking why, asking how. And although the why answer has not necessarily come easily, the Lord’s response to how has been a quiet, simple answer: YOU through the power of ME.

As followers of Jesus Christ, you and I are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we have an obligation to intercede for others in the name of Christ. We can’t simply defer to justice organizations, ministries or professional Bible teachers. We can’t leave those who are serving on the front lines with the lion’s share of work. You and I are members of the body of Christ, and we play an integral role. We can effect change, provide hope, extend grace when we become a conduit of God’s mercy and allow HIM to work through us.

So what does that look like from a practical standpoint? How do we engage a hurting world without becoming so despaired that the pain causes us to shut out current atrocities? Here are four ways I believe we can engage and assist suffering people without becoming disillusioned and destroyed by the weight of such pain.

 

How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World | Faith and Compsition

Sometimes prayer can feel passive; when we see such desperation, we long to do something that will meet tangible needs. But the power of prayer must not be underestimated or over expressed. By the blood of Christ, you and I can approach the throne of God boldly.

Do you understand what that means, really? Do you grasp the weight and the power of it? You and I can come before the throne of He who created this world. We can lay our requests before Him, and He promises to listen and to act! That is a privilege not to be ignored! Prayer opens the floodgates of heaven and causes God to reach down and intercede. There is NOTHING that you and I can do that is more powerful than that. It is not trite to say that we must pray; rather it is the  one thing we must not be found lacking. For when God intercedes to answer a believer’s prayer, lives are changed, families saved, nations spared. 

So pray!

Pray fervently with your knees bent and your face to the floor. Pray for evil to be held at bay, pray for the gospel to be proclaimed, pray for hearts to be softened and eyes to be opened. Pray for lives to be spared, for rescue, for freedom. Pray for revival in your heart, your family, your neighborhood, your country. Pray that a sleeping church would awaken!

And pray for our enemies. Pray that scales would fall from eyes, that hearts would change, that the truth would be revealed. Pray that they would be overwhelmed by their sin and would realize their need for the one true Savior.

Prayer is the one thing we can all do, so let us pray in solidarity. Because although I may simply be a stay-at-home mom, I’m a stay-at-home mom who has access to the throne of grace. You do too. Let us not take that privilege lightly.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World | Faith and Compsition

Second to prayer, let us give. There are people working on the front lines, fighting in the trenches, and they need tangible support to continue their work, so let us give of our resources. You may not be able to go to the battle zones, but you can certainly help meet the needs of the people who are serving there by providing for their everyday necessities. If you truly want to engage, if you want to do something to make a measurable difference, don’t just change your Facebook profile picture … take action. Pray and give!

Do your own research and give to a reputable organization that you trust. There are myriad organizations serving in desperate situations, and they need your support. If you need a suggestion, consider giving to Voice of the Martyrs. They’re a highly respected ministry dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. Click here to specifically support Voice of the Martyr’s work in Iraq. Your donation will go directly to helping displaced Iraqi Christians.

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World | Faith and Compsition

Thirdly, watch. Don’t let the despairing nature of the news cause you to disengage altogether. I know it can be tempting to turn a blind eye to current events because the weight of it all is too heavy, but I don’t believe we have that luxury. Yes, there needs to be some moderation; constantly consuming the news is neither healthy nor beneficial. But as Christ followers, we are compelled to be ambassadors of His mercy and grace. And if we are to reach a hurting world, we must be aware of that hurt. So watch the headlines; be informed so you know how to pray and engage.

But also watch for GOD’S GLORY! As the people pray, as Christians stand in solidarity, as believers refuse to refute their faith even in the face of horrendous atrocities, God will act. Watch for his hand of redemption and rescue; watch for unexplainable miracles; watch for the advance of his church despite efforts to snuff it out!

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.'” (Isaiah 56:1)

How to Respond to Heartbreaking Headlines and a Hurting World | Faith and Compsition

And lastly, let us hope, because our God is the great I AM. Our pastor recently gave a compelling sermon on Exodus 3 where God reveals his name to Moses. Although our English versions translate God’s name as I AM, there is not a true English equivalent for the original Hebrew. The Hebrew name is an ongoing action that indicates I WAS, I AM, and I WILL BE. God is eternal, unchanging.

This truth provides unspeakable hope and security to all believers everywhere. The God who parted the Red Sea, who rained manna down from heaven, who tumbled the walls of Jericho, who turned the hearts of ancient Ninevah (modern-day Mosul) to Him  … that God is the same God we serve. He was, He is, and He will be … never-changing, all-powerful God.

Isaiah 30:18 declares, “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”

God is still a God of justice, and he will ultimately be the victor. Let your hope rest on that truth; cling to it! And when the headlines are haunting, your heart is breaking, and the world seems to be spinning out of control, remember that I AM is still on his throne.

Special thanks to my husband and pastor for reviewing this post; your input helped to strengthen the piece. 

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Your Story Matters

Your Story Matters ... Why you should be authentic and tell of your journey | Faith and Composition

I lie awake sometimes and wonder … Why do I do this? Why do I sit down at the keyboard when the house is sleeping and give life to words? Why do I bare honest struggles and remove my mask for readers to see, for the world to witness? Sure I paint pretty pictures at times, but I also divulge the dark and the messy. I reveal when real struggles abound, and I’m honest about those moments when mothering is hard.

And sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it. Is the transparency worth the risk? Because honestly, it’s often easier to paint a smile on my face and feign perfect contentment. I could do that in my personal relationships, and I could do that here. There wouldn’t be much harm in it really, but there’s not a whole lot of benefit either.

So I tell the stories. I share the gritty and the glorious. I take the risk, and I tap out the words because I think we all thirst for authenticity. And you know what? I think you should too; I think you should take the risk and tell YOUR story. 

Your Story Matters ... Why you should be authentic and tell of your journey | Faith and Composition

Tell your faith story, your motherhood story, your longing-for-motherhood story, your marriage-is-hard-work-but-it’s-worth-it story. Tell where you’ve been and where you’re going. Tell how God has brought you through, or how you’re waiting for Him to carry you through now. Show authenticity. Take off the mask. Break down the walls.

People are hungry for truth and honesty, and they long to connect with authenticity. They want to know they’re not alone in their struggles and the pressures of their daily challenges. People need to hear your perspective, they need to see your journey. They need to grieve in your sadness and celebrate in your triumphs. Because when the forest is too thick or the light too dim, it may just be your truth-telling that pulls them through.

If it’s too hard to tell the whole story, tell part of it … just part of it. Tell it on a blog, in a Bible study, through a song, to a friend over coffee … however best suits your mode of expression. And if you don’t get the response you’d hoped for, keep trying. Swallow your fear, embrace bravery and tell your story again.

Because it matters.
Your story matters.

Your struggles assure others that they’re not alone in their battles, your victories buoy hearts, and your faith walk testifies to the truth that so depserately needs to be heard.

Yes it’s risky. Removing the mask and being authentic always carries some risk. But the risk … ? The risk is worth it. Because your storytelling might just be the impetus someone else needs to remove their own mask and embrace authenticity. 

So tell your story. 

Tell of the peaks and the valleys, the gritty and the glorious, the mundane and the majestic. Be a truth-teller: testify to grace, hope and redemption. And then after you’ve spoken … after you’ve said yes to bravery and tasted of transparency … listen. And it’s then that you just may hear others finding the courage to do the same.

Your Story Matters ... Why you should be authentic and tell of your journey | Faith and Composition

 

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All content on F&C is ©Faith&Composition by Shalene Roberts, unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.