April 18, 2018

By Faith Episode #11: Jamee Brick on Alcohol Dependence

Each week this season on By Faith I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

Today my guest on the show is Jamee Brick. Jamee is a wife, mom of three, and a teacher of kids with autism. I first got to know Jamee when my family and I still lived in Texas. She and I attended the same church and soon after we moved to Virginia, Jamee told me that she had a problem with alcohol. I had no idea, and there were several reasons for that, which you’ll hear us talk about in our conversation. So not only will you hear about her dependence upon alcohol, and how God has acted in her life since she confessed that problem, but you’ll hear us talk about friendship and what keeps us isolated from one another.

A few notes before listening: 
To close Season 1 of the podcast, I’m going to do an “Ask Me Anything” episode. One of my closest friends is going to join me and we’ll discuss anything you send in. You can submit your question here.

I’m truly enjoying producing this podcast and have big plans for it. Recently I asked one question to pastor’s wives on my author Facebook page and got so many responses that I decided to do a mini season this summer just for pastor’s wives. I’m also already interviewing folks for Season 2. If you’re enjoying these podcasts, would you consider supporting this work? You can find out more about what that might look like here.

Listen to my conversation with Jamee on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below:

April 11, 2018

By Faith Episode #10: Taylor Harris on Charlottesville, Race, and Faith

Each week this season on By Faith, I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?”

Today my guest on the show is Taylor Harris. In my conversation with Taylor, we talked about the city in which we both live: Charlottesville, Virginia. We talked about the events that unfolded last August, which you may remember seeing on the national news as alt-right groups gathered in our downtown area for a “Unite the Right” rally, which quickly became violent. August 12th was a defining moment for our city and one that joined a long line of defining moments for our nation in terms of race.
My guest, Taylor Harris, is married to Paul, who is a professor at the University of Virginia. She is a compelling writer and a mom to three kids and soon Taylor and Paul will be planting a church in our city. My husband and I are grateful to be co-laborers with them for the gospel in Charlottesville.

In our conversation, Taylor shares about how she experienced the events of August 12th, the grief she felt at having to tell her daughter about what happened, and the opportunities that difficult moments like Charlottesville offer us all as a people of faith.

Friends, I have truly enjoyed all of the conversations I’ve had so far on By Faith. I originally planned to produce this podcast only for a short time, around the launch of my book, Searching for Spring. But once I got started I realized I don’t want to stop! I’m having too much fun, and I believe there are many more important conversations to have that, I pray, might benefit the Church.

If you’re enjoying these podcasts and would like to help me keep them ad-free, would you consider supporting my work? You can head to my Patreon page to read more about what costs I need help covering but also how your support will give you access to exclusive rewards. I’m so grateful that you listen, and I would appreciate however you can help me in support of this work.

Listen to my conversation with Taylor on iTunes or, from my blog, on the embedded player below.

Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Connect with Taylor
Twitter // Website

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter 

April 9, 2018

What I'm Doing Next and How You Can Help

In the past year, I've released two books, started a podcast, traveled occasionally in order to teach the Bible to women, and continued to write here for you, my readers. It sounds like a lot, I know, and at times it's felt like a lot, but the primary emotion welling in my heart has been gratitude. I'm thankful the Lord has given me opportunities suiting my passions. I've walked forward into them with a spring in my step and a prayer on my lips that my small contribution to the Church would be helpful in some way and would complement the ways I serve in my local church among people I love.
I want to continue serving as the Lord allows, but I'm also sensing an urgent nudge from him to narrow my focus, a reminder to be embodied and present, not always "out there" in my attention and drive. There is a reason this nudge is coming more and more: I have growing children who need an engaged mom even more than ever, and we serve in a growing church that is a joy to my soul as I both give and receive within our community.

I've been praying about what a narrowing of focus looks like, how God would have me serve him in this season of life, and the answer that's come is nothing new. I am a writer at heart. God's created me to worship him through words and stories, and so that's what I'll do. I'm committed to writing words and telling stories that help myself and others know the beauty of the Lord and follow him.

I'm telling you this because you've been with me through it all, some of you for many years and some as enthusiastic newbies. I can't tell you how grateful I am for each of you.

I'm also telling you because I've reached the point where I need your help. In order for me to focus on writing and podcasting, which are my two primary loves, and in order to produce both with thoughtful and relevant content, I need help covering the costs I'm incurring. For several years, I've paid out-of-pocket for tools I use to get content to you that are increasing in cost and are starting to add up, things like Mailchimp (sending out blog posts), Link in Profile (for your ease of use on Instagram), domain registration, and website redesigns. With podcasting, I've added costs for Zoom (recording podcast interviews) and Buzzsprout (podcast storage). I've considered ads, but the bottom line is that ads just aren't me. Instead of ads, I'd rather focus on continuing to provide biblical content to serve you, and I'd rather recommend books and opportunities that I really believe in.

And also? This work is hard and sometimes isolating. I'd love the support and encouragement of a team of cheerleaders behind me, urging me on, and acting as a sounding board when needed.

Here's what I'm committed to create for you: written content here on my website and a podcast episode once per week (with a month break this summer). I hope also to continue writing books as the Lord gives me opportunity.

If you read anything I've written and found it helpful, or if you're enjoying the By Faith podcast and want more episodes like what you've heard, would you consider partnering with me in order to make my continued work possible? I'd be incredibly grateful. I do not take lightly the opportunities God has given me, nor the audience he's directed my way, and I promise, with your help, to continue to be faithful to the work God has called me: speaking and writing gospel truths in a compelling way.

I've created a Patreon page, where in exchange for your financial backing, I'm offering rewards and opportunities for you as you partner with me in my work. Head over to find out more about how it works, what's available for my supporters, and what I plan to start when we reach our goals together.

Become a patron today. Thank you!

April 4, 2018

By Faith Episode #9: BJ Garrett on Sexual Abuse, Sexual Sin, Abortion, and Forgiveness

Each week this season on "By Faith," I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?” 

All of the podcasts in this season of "By Faith" have been conversations with people who are living out what I’ve written in my recently released book, Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. If you’ve resonated with the men and women I’ve talked with who say life has been hard in certain ways but that they've also learned to see the beauty and goodness of God through those very things, Searching for Spring is a book for you. My hope and prayer is that it will encourage you in your own walking forward by faith. Grab your copy here.

Today my guest on "By Faith" is BJ Garrett. Before I introduce BJ, you need to know that today’s episode covers adult topics and, although not crass or crude, the subject matter is not suitable for children. BJ is a wife, mom, and grandmother. In my conversation with her, she shares about her experience with sexual abuse, sexual sin, and abortion. She also shares about how she came to understand who God is, how she finally embraced His forgiveness, and what she’d want women to know who have chosen abortion for themselves.

Listen to our conversation on iTunes or in the embedded player below.
Links from the show

Order Your Copy of Searching For Spring 

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter 

March 30, 2018

A Guide to Finding the Goodness of God

When difficult circumstances arise or life becomes mundane, we find ourselves either overwhelmed or numb or a combination of the two. I find in my own life these are the very seasons when I most struggle to see and acknowledge God's presence and goodness. Instead of worshiping, I grumble. Instead of seeking him, I grow passive and apathetic. Sometimes even the busyness created by good things makes me prone to seek solace in the created rather than the Creator. Where is God? And what is he doing? A fog rolls in, clouding my view of him, and I start to believe the fog is what's most true.

But God is there, available, having made himself reachable to us. How, then, can we find God's goodness when we've started believing it's not actually there to find? Where do we find him when the fog has rolled in?

Come Awake to Creation
Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech. And night to night reveals knowledge." In other words, we must notice the created: the stars, the rain, the blade of grass, the barren tree in winter. All speak of a God who has designed and who continues to nourish and who brings forth life out of silence. He has set rhythms in nature that he's sustained since time began, and noticing these things speaks so much to us of his goodness to care for all he's created, including us. Though he is silent--the winter speaks this most of all--he is never still. He is ever working.

When was the last time you truly noticed God's creation? Are you too distracted by the manmade and perhaps allowing your own heart's cloudiness? Go outside and look. If all you can see today is manmade, look up at the sky. How does what you see speak of the One who created it? 

Search Scripture for Security
Creation is called God's general revelation while the Bible is called his specific revelation, meaning we can look more specifically at who he is through the Scripture and what the walking, talking Christ reveals about his character. I grew up believing the Bible was one giant to-do (or don't do) list, but that only placed a focus on self and an attempt to earn God's goodness. When I began instead to look for God's character and his actions on behalf of his people, I discovered a God who is infinitely good, and I found my place within his people as a recipient of his goodness through Christ.

Are you a student of the Scriptures? If not, what are you looking to for security? Confess this to the Lord, because nothing else is truly secure and he is jealous for you. Start your search of the Scripture by reading Ephesians 1:3-14 and making two lists: 1) What has God done on your behalf? and 2) What does that say about who you are? 

Label Life Correctly
John 3:27 says, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." Even one thing. In other words, all the gifts in your life, including the hope and perseverance you've learned through trials, have come from God's good hands. The place where you live, the gifts and skills you use in your daily life, the relationships you enjoy, and those circumstances you count as blessings--all are God's grace to you.

In my life I've found it especially helpful to consider my successes and recognize those as not from my own hard work and unique skill but as opportunities and blessings from God. This perspective breeds thanksgiving and humility and helps me rest, knowing it's not up to me to "keep" success or develop future success on my own. Knowing all of life is a gift means we don't have to fear the future.

What gifts in your life do you enjoy? Write them out and thank God for each one. If you don't know where to start, you can begin with the breath in your lungs and the bread on your dinner table. Each are a simple gift of grace.

Connect the Dots Between Failures and God's Good Discipline
Hebrews 12:7-8 says, "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons."

Sometimes God disciplines us. He points out our idolatry and calls us back to himself. He allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin. Even in our confession and repentance, we feel the weight of choosing something other than him, and this can often feel like a bit of fogginess and heaviness rather than God's goodness. How good it is, however, that God has pointed out what we couldn't see and has made a way for our return to him. How good it is that God patiently and lovingly disciplines, showing us the path of life.

How is God convicting and disciplining you? Are you confessing, repenting, and waiting on him to do what work needs to be done in your heart? Name out loud to him and to others that this is his goodness to you that he has not left you in destructive sin patterns.

Seek Refuge in the Psalms
When we are questioning God's goodness to us, we are often also at our most emotional. We're grieving, feeling abandoned or rejected, questioning and uncertain. Emotions, however, are not the enemy. In fact, they often act as arrows, pointing us to what lies deep in the heart and offering us an invitation to connect intimately with the one who knows our hearts more than we know them ourselves. In other words, we take our feelings to God, and we find that he cares, and when we find that he cares, we know that he can carry the full weight of our emotions. We seek refuge as we cast our cares upon him.

One way we find God's goodness in the midst of deep emotion is to seek God in the Psalms. The Psalms show the range of human emotion and how humans wrestle their way back to trusting God. They give voice to our own thoughts. They teach us that God isn't impatient with our emotion and is close to the brokenhearted.

What emotions characterize the fog you're in? Have you laid your feelings out before God and applied the truth of the Psalms to them? Read Psalm 40 today and find God's character in answer to your deepest cry.

Listen and Learn from Others
First Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body, with Christ as its head. We are united with others, there for one another's edification and sanctification. In other words, we need the ministry of others, and they need our ministry to them. When we cannot see the goodness of God, when a fog has rolled in and the truth of who God is remains clouded, we often need others to help us see. We must listen to their stories of God's faithfulness and learn truth spoken from human lips. Fellow believers are a gift of God's goodness to us.

Are you in community with others at the relational level where you are sharing and hearing stories of God's faithfulness? Are you listening to the proclamation of God's Word? Are you placing yourself under the authority of Scripture and learning from the "great cloud of witnesses" who've gone before us? 

Know What God Has Promised
In my own life when I've questioned the goodness of God, it's often because he's allowed a circumstance in my life I believed I didn't deserve. The truth is that, although Jesus promised we'd have trouble in this world, we often want to believe the very opposite, that Jesus will save us from trouble and fix our every trouble if we simply have enough faith. I heard someone say recently that God's promise is his presence, and I think this is the heart and foundation of all his promises. If we're a Christian, we have God's indwelling presence with us always. We can't be separated from him, and thus we can't be separated from his love. Because He is always with us, we have security when the fog of circumstances rolls in or our emotions are disconcerting. This is his goodness, indeed.

What are the promises of God? What are you believing that isn't actually a promise of God but rather how you wish he'd act? How is his indwelling presence a good promise to you today?

Friends, my goal in writing Searching for Spring is to help readers discover the beauty and goodness of God, in both expected and unexpected places. Listen and learn from others as you read Searching for Spring together this spring or summer! Gather your friends, purchase your copy, and download your Discussion Guide for some hope-filled discussion.