That Summer I Ate the New Testament – Part Two

In my last post, I shared a broad view of my experience reading the New Testament this summer.

Today, I want to share some specific nuggets I discovered along the way.

And if you want to know how determined I am to get this testimony out there before the next Bible Reading Challenge begins, I am typing up this post as our family of seven (+ my mom) drives home from a week at Branson wherein all of my sensories have been engaged to maximum capacity.

And now it’s drizzling outside, the kids are all quietly occupied in their seats in the car…this is prime nap opportunity, people.

I’m not asking you to thank me so much as I’m asking you to forgive me if the following sentencing is gobbledeegookish, and to be okay with quick, bulleted points instead of a flowing masterpiece of wordsmithery.

Okay, and maybe I’m asking you to thank me.

But just a little.

Let us begin with the nuggets:

  1. The Word of God is meant to be read.

My husband has been telling me this for years, but the knowledge is now mine to understand and share. The Word of God is meant to be read. Like a book. Because it is…a book. For most of us, our personal at-home experience with the Bible is a fortune cookie line here, a graphic design there, or the italicized heading at the top of the page from the latest devotional book we’re reading. In fact, it was shocking to me the first time my husband informed me that the best way a person could read the Bible is to actually sit down and read an entire book in one sitting. I’m sorry, WHAT? High standards, much? What am I, a PhD or somethin’??…

But as it turns out, the reason that seemed so outlandish to me is simply because I was not accustomed to using my Bible-reading muscles. Biblical language is different, and to be frank, a lot of us are just weenies about it. (I’d like to point out that, yes, yes I did just use the words “frank” and “weenie” in the same sentence. And here we thought my post would be gobbledygookish. If a lady can still make hot dog puns, her sensories must not be TOO overloaded…) Once, however, I submitted my heart to coming to this table of God’s Word, my love for it grew, my reading picked up speed, the phrases began to make more sense, and the language became so dear that, by the end of the summer, I was able to read Psalm 119 and actually identify with every word the psalmist spoke about the great riches found in God’s law.

And listen, by the last day of the Summer Reading Challenge, getting through four chapters of the Bible a day was easier than I ever dreamed it could be; it literally takes up such a tiny amount of my time that it is laughable how intimidated I was by it before.

I mean, get this! My husband was given a poster for his office for Christmas that has the word “Romans” emblazoned across it, and if you stand right next to it, you will see that the poster’s background is filled up with little words, and if you read those little words from start to finish, guess what you’ll have read? The entire book of Romans. It all fits on a POSTER. Surely we can read a poster, right? Unless we are what? Weenies.

  1. The Word of God is meant to be read…by you!

With the above in mind, I found that reading the Bible this way – in large sections at a time – is a unique experience with the Word than any I’ve had before. I mentioned in my last post that, if you had asked me before June if I loved the Bible, I would have said YES! Because I did! I loved to hear it read, I loved to hear it exposited, I loved reading it to my kids, and I believed it to be absolutely true and profitable and amazing and wonderful. But I was missing out on a truly beautiful experience by not reading it cover to cover at home. It’s different. You glean things, even from the most rudimentary reading, that you have never noticed before, and God just USES it. I have anecdotes coming out of my ears from this summer’s readings and how they were fleshed out in my daily life.

  1. The Word of God doesn’t need you to be worried about it.

You know those tiny little sections of the Bible that you are sometimes tempted to hide from others, as if they are that room in your house where you throw all the things when company is coming? Turns out, when you actually read the Bible, those things clear themselves up. Those last tiny issues I have secretly harbored toward the Bible were resolved when I read it with a humble heart. And what I understand now that I didn’t understand in May is that what might have embarrassed me before had less to do with the Word of God not being absolutely perfect and more to do with my own worldiness. I came across these words from John Piper this summer and they continue to pound in my heart:

“Getting ready to feast on all God’s word is not first an intellectual challenge; it is first a moral challenge. If you want to eat the solid food of the word, you must exercise your spiritual senses so as to develop a mind that discerns between good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). This is a moral challenge, not just intellectual.

The startling truth is that, if you stumble over understanding Melchizedek in Genesis and Hebrews, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs. If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices. If you stumble over the God-centered work of Christ on the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little.

The pathway to maturity and to solid biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person. What you do with alcohol and sex and money and leisure and food and computers, and the way you treat other people, has more to do with your capacity for solid food than where you go to school or what books you read.

This is so important because in our highly technological society we are prone to think that education — especially intellectual development — is the key to maturity. There are many Ph.D.’s who choke in their spiritual immaturity on the things of God. And there are many less-educated saints who are deeply mature and can feed with pleasure and profit on the deepest things of God’s word.”

So are there things in the Bible that don’t sit well with you? Are there sections of it that cause you to squirm because they seem a little archaic or outlandish? Don’t shy away from them. Dig in and read and read and read and the words won’t change, but you will. And your affections will grow Godward, and the “things of earth will grow strangely dim”, and the problems will resolve themselves in a blink.

  1. The Word of God is healing.

It is not God’s will for us to be anxious. It is not God’s will for us to harbor unbelief. It is not His will for us to be bitter. This summer, I found that my battles against these horrific foes became a thousand times more effective when I was eating the Word every day.

Not to be crude, but I was like a person who discovered for the first time how much better it is to flush the toilet several times a day instead of a couple of times a week.

Because that’s exactly what reading the Word does. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it flushes out the bad and replaces it with good, in the most Philippians 4:8 way possible.

Being a Bible-devouring person on Sunday is a great place to start, submitting to the leadership of your pastors and eating up every word they deliver to you and meditating on it all week long…but being a Bible-devouring person every day of the week will just shoot your spiritual life into a whole new category. Eat your own meals straight from the source and just see what God will do. I am a different person than I was at the beginning of the summer and I could tell you all the specific stories, but instead I’ll just tell you this: twice this summer, after very stressful moments, my husband commended me for handling the situation with maturity and good humor and wisdom. This is a big deal, my friends. The matriarch of the Gore family is growing less faint, and all God’s people said AMEN.

  1. The Word of God is a weapon.

Okay, I’ll tell you one story. Mr. Gore was recently in Africa for two weeks, and there was one moment when one of the children and I found ourselves going head-to-head over an issue. Emotions began to mount, and both of us were being selfish, and I missed my husband SO much, and in my past, I would probably have excused myself, had a good cry, prayed for wisdom, tried to think of a good verse to meditate on for my situation, and sat in a quiet room until I felt controlled enough to return and handle the situation. On this day, however…I did the same thing. Except I also took my Bible with me. Oh, and I didn’t cry. I just sat on the toilet lid, quickly read two chapters of the day’s reading, prayed, and walked calmly back into the living room. The child and I immediately reconciled and moved on with our day, no dramatics required. And what I realized in that moment was this: all of those times in my life when I had felt “overwhelmed”…”frazzled”…”frustrated”…”doubtful”…I had been using the wrong words. Turns out, maybe I was just “hungry”. And I needed to eat and fill up my mind with something more substantial than my own emotions.

When I feel faint in my physical life, the first thing I think is “I need a hamburger”. That simplicity has reached my spiritual life now, as well. “I’m hungry. I need to read.” It’s amazing how easy it is to rise up and do what you need to do when you have the Word to fuel you.

It really is a weapon, and I have found that “picking it up” can be more literal than I ever allowed it to be. Next time you’re on your way to your “panic room”, grab your Bible, pick up from where you left off, and read. Then go fight your battles.

  1. The Word of God is not picky.

We touched on this a little bit in the last post, but one of the most fruitful things I gleaned from the Bible Reading Challenge was a familiarity with God’s Word, one that enabled me to approach the Bible less like the leather-bound first edition that everyone in the family is afraid to touch and more like the paperback version of my favorite book that I have read over and over again.

What that means is that I learned to read it this summer, anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes I read all four chapters in one sitting in my favorite chair with coffee nearby. Sometimes I read one chapter sitting, one chapter standing, one chapter bathing, and one chapter drying my hair. Sometimes I listened to the chapters on audio while I cleaned the kitchen. Sometimes I read them out loud to the kids while they colored and made potholders. Sometimes I read them in the car while my husband was driving us to music class. And one night, I laid my Bible in the playpen next to my crying baby and read the last chapter while I patted his back until he fell asleep.

This book became MY book, my favorite book, and I am no longer under the misconception that the Bible demands a quiet room and a concrete forty minutes of solitude before it will allow me learn something. The Bible is not picky and it is not fussy, and found no trouble fitting in to our loud, messy, spirited household where the only thing on schedule is the baby’s hunger.

  1. The Word of God will be awesome enough for both of you.

I could go on and on for days, but the last thing I’d like to share before I sign off is to encourage you to do whatever it takes to make reading your Bible a habit. When I started off in June, I kept a very loose grip on this challenge and the only thing I brought to the table was a prayerful determination to read. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to get something amazing out of it, I didn’t choose a verse to meditate on, I didn’t choose any verses to memorize. In fact, I told one of my friends that I approached this entire challenge like one would approach a deer in the forest. I tiptoed. I didn’t make eye contact with myself. I didn’t make any noise at church or on Facebook about how important Bible reading was. I just read my chapters and allowed myself to learn to love it. And it was a beautiful and memorable summer. I brought very little to the table, and God and His amazing book worked wonders in my heart.

I pray the same for you, and that as our love and dependence on the Word grows, we will add more and more to the feast. Memorization, cross-referencing, the WORKS!

So what do you say? Join me tomorrow morning for this new challenge? Whatever-time-you-can sharp!!

~

Find the Bible Reading Challenge here.

Join the Facebook group here.

And read a GREAT new article by Rachel Jankovic at Desiring God here.

That Summer I Ate the New Testament

As I sit down to write this blog post, I feel a bit like a woman who has gone around the world in 80 days and now has 1000 words or less with which to describe the wonders she has seen. Is it possible?

Nay, friend.

But, like our brothers in the fourth chapter of Acts, I cannot help speaking about the things I have seen and heard.

I’ll do my best to keep it short. Medium-short. How about medium? Oh, who cares? This is going to be long.

So on June 4th, I opened up a book.

And through the encouragement of a thriving group of godly women in Idaho, I read a portion of that book every day this summer.

The book was the Bible, and the invitation from the Christ Church Ladies Fellowship was simple: we are reading through the New Testament this summer and we are following this daily plan. Join us. Oh! And by the way, don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be. And if you get behind, don’t stress out about catching up. Just jump in on the next day’s reading. “You aren’t behind if you are reading your Bible today…”

And, just like that, a woman who has struggled her entire Christian life to have “a daily quiet time” discovered that there really is gold in them thar pages.

There are a couple of reasons this “Summer Bible Reading Challenge” worked so well for me.

First, I think the Lord sovereignly bestowed this grace upon me at this specific time. I remember several years back, when my firstborn was probably a Kindergartener, I let out a sigh that caught his attention.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I’m just frustrated,” I told him. “I’ve always wanted to read my Bible every day and I just wish I could do better.”

“Maybe God’s not ready for you to do that yet,” he said.

His statement struck me, not because it was perfectly right…God wants us to love and read His Word TODAY…but it wasn’t exactly wrong, either; there are certainly times in the Christian life when the growth we long for doesn’t come right away.

And so of course that does not take away any of my culpability for not being a woman who loved the Word so much that she picked it up every day.

But it DOES make it so that, when the desire finally did come to fruition this June, there was no one to credit but God and His goodness. Years of failure and shame to humble me, there is no doubt in my mind that, this summer, He “was ready” for me to make this stride, and He enabled me to do it. I am so grateful.

Secondly, and on the shoulders of this sovereignly-timed and Spirit-given bit of awakening, was the verbage surrounding the Bible Reading Challenge that was used by the Lord to break through those barriers that had tripped me up for decades.

The ringleader of the Bible Reading Challenge, Rachel Jankovic, worded it this way and, as she states in the first sentence, this was, indeed, the ‘real meat and potatoes of change’ for me:

“This is a super practical aspect to this challenge, and for many women where the real meat and potatoes of change happened. You are going to miss days, you might get substantially behind, and you will read your New Testament this summer like a real person with a real life and not an imaginary person in an imaginary life. We want to be learning to come faithfully to the Word in our normal lives! So take a minute to think about what might be an obstacle to you. You may need to try all kinds of different methods in your life to make this happen.

You might need to forget about mythical quiet times and learn to read in the middle of the kids playing. You might learn to listen whenever you clean the kitchen or drive in the car. You might need to take a minute to think about what it might really look like in your real life, and how you will prepare yourself and not be discouraged when you find yourself facing very real obstacles to your reading.

You probably won’t feel like it some days. You will probably think it is doing nothing for you some days. You will probably have headaches and be tired and be oh so normal. And this is the life that you need the Word of God in – not your imaginary perfect life, but this one, here, now.

The reality is that there are really only three things standing between you and consistent Bible reading. The world, the flesh, and the devil. The world will distract you, the flesh will be weak, and the devil will accuse. Be ready for all of those things! And remember that God is for us. He wants you in His Word! Rely on Him to resist all of the temptations we will all face – for it is certainly true that if God is for us, who then can be against us?

“Mythical quiet times”, yes, yes, and AMEN. When I was a young teen, the “daily quiet time” was presented to me, and I have had trouble keeping up since; but with the debunking of that myth in the above instruction, I received a freedom to approach the Word in a way that worked for me, and I quickly learned that Rachel was exactly right, and that many of us have made Bible-reading a thousand times more complicated than it needs to be.

We just need to eat.

The Word is a feast laid out for our nourishment and enjoyment, and so many of us are starving as we wait for the perfect opportunity to materialize by which we can calmly sit down, put a napkin in our lap, and slowly chew each morsel in a thoughtful and uninterrupted manner.

All of which is great and good…who wouldn’t love to have that moment?…but sometimes we need to get over the quiet time dream and mimic the actual lunch that we often have to consume as we are clearing the table, stuffing the peanut butter and jelly crusts into our mouth and eating the funky looking grapes that the kids left at the bottom of the colander.

Because that’s what hungry people do.

They eat.

Every day.

Sometimes on the go.

Sometimes snacking every hour.

Sometimes having that calm and uninterrupted sit-down.

But eating, day in and day out, as if this food is a life-source.

And here is what I found as I “ate”: once you submit yourself to actually reading the Bible as it was written and to stop thinking about what you are providing to the equation by way of quiet and highlighters and coffee and an uncluttered heart, soul, mind, and living room, you fall so stinking in love with the text that, all of a sudden, YOU NEED A HIGHLIGHTER.

In other words, I’ve realized that the cart was always in front of the horse for me, as I bore this heavy idea that I should sit down with brimming devotion to have an emotionally-charged and meaningful time with God every morning, even though, with so many little children in the house, there WAS no morning. And I could never get there, in a practical way, and I also could never get there in a spiritual way, because I never got around to picking up the Book with my own hands and reading it cover to cover.

Therefore, as it turns out, the really crucial step I needed to take all these years in coming to the Word of God was…well, coming to the Word of God.

And that’s when a whole new world opened up before me.

I recently came across these words in John Piper’s “21 Servants of Sovereign Joy”, and I thought they highlighted the point I’m trying to make perfectly. Referencing Augustine, Piper says, “Even his ability — and his hearers’ ability — to see the truth of Scripture was governed partially by the delight he took in what he found there. He would always tell his readers that they must ‘look into the Scriptures [with] the eyes of their heart on its heart.’ This means that one must look with love on what one only partially sees: ‘It is impossible to love what is entirely unknown, but when what is known, if even so little, is loved, this very capacity for love makes it better and more fully known.’ In other words, loving, or delighting in, what we know of God in Scripture will be the key that opens Scripture further.”

And that’s why I wanted to write this blog post today. I want to encourage you, fellow traveler.

Maybe you are just like me, a congregant who eats up every word of the sermon, who reads great articles by great theologians like they are candy, who “loves the Word”, who loves theology, who loves good, biblical doctrine…

but your relationship with the Bible, though reverent, though passionate, has always been from someone else’s feast. As the ladies in the Bible Challenge would describe it, you’ve been living on the “crumbs” from what another believer has been enjoying at the table of God’s Word.

Let that love that you already have, “if even so little”, entice you to pick up your Bible and, no matter what is going on in your crazy house full of little people or your schedule full of to-do’s, to read it.

Read it sitting. Read it standing. Read it aloud to your kids. Read a chapter while the coffee brews and one after lunch and one on the porch and one before bed. Read it with a fox. Read it in a box.

I promise you, just like John Piper said, this love of what you already know “of God in Scripture will be the key that opens Scripture further.”

And what wonders you will find once that key is turned!

Jeepers. I have so much more I want to say, and perhaps I will do so in a follow-up blog post, but I want to end this here so I can get to the really good news.

With the Summer Bible Challenge now concluded — that’s right! Mrs. Gore read THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT THIS SUMMER LIKE A REAL CHRISTIAN LADY, WOOHOO!!! — the ladies of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, are about to kick-off a brand new Challenge, starting September 11th. And we are all invited!

September 2018. What a great month to become a person of the Word. And, trust me, that can happen overnight.

You can find everything you need to know (including beautiful printables!) here. 

You can join a super-encouraging FB group here.

And, if you want to hear the talk that really broke through my thick skull and set me on this path in the first place, listen to this interview that Rachel Jankovic did with Sheologians. It’s powerful and eye-opening and inspiring.

I promise I’ll try to get that follow-up post written, because I have so much to share from this summer. But, until then, if you’d like to hear dailyish stories and snippets about family and the Christian life, join me on Facebook! And let me know in the comments if you did the Summer Bible Reading Challenge and how it enriched your life – I’d love to hear from you!

With this Nail Polish, I Thee Love

I feel like I have walked through every emotion known to woman – or at least most of them – since becoming a mom, but my very lowest points, when closely examined, all seem to be centered around one common theme:

to be a mom is to be a servant.

You always hear these funny sentiments – probably penned by women whose children are grown and can help with the laundry – about the mom being the “queen of the house” and, while I WILL admit that my children do gaze at me with worshipful eyes some of the time, especially when they are under the age of 6, when I look around our house, I don’t see a throne.

I see a mop and a broom and a line-up of hungry kids who want me to make food out of the ragtag ingredients in our pantry.

Now, I don’t love making the following known, but it’s just a fact: being a servant isn’t something that I came into this world naturally equipped to handle in a gracious and joyful manner.

In fact, I daresay that being a servant goes directly against every fiber of my sin-natured being.

You would quickly figure that out if you could see me on my worst days, in my favorite cry spot on the floor of the master bathroom toilet closet, sobbing my eyes out because…

well, because I spent this entire day doing what I did ALL day yesterday, cleaning up messes I didn’t make, wiping bottoms, changing diapers, making meals and cleaning up the kitchen so we could do it all over again, answering questions, finding lost toys-shoes-socks-pencils-books-notebooks-YOU NAME IT, and what I’ve realized that it all comes down to is not so much the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding, but the deep-down, crushing weight that a lady can feel when she simply doesn’t want to be a servant today.

My ability to handle it all with ease and optimism comes to a screeching halt when I start resenting my calling and pining for that throne.

But that’s one of the most beneficial things about being a wife and a mother…

it pushes you to be something that might have taken you much longer to become.

You see, when you go from being the star of your own story, a person who can go to Starbucks if she wants and stop by the shoe store to try on some new sandals and then come home and watch girly shows on Netflix, to having your life bound up in another’s…and then another’s…and then another’s…until your life is tied directly to, say, five other people, people who need you, people you are called to love and serve, people you are inextricably yoked to, well, it will CHANGE you from the inside out and back again.

Whether you thought you needed changing or not!

And here is one of the most important things I’ve learned about serving, and it continues to surprise me to this day…

the want-to of serving and the JOY of serving come not before you serve, but AS you serve.

This point came up recently, and it was eye-opening for me.

My little girls had been begging me for days to do their nails.

But here’s the thing. I don’t LIKE doing nails. Especially when they are the size of a tiny button. Painting little girls’ miniature toenails is like being the detail artist for the fine china company!

And…I’m busy!! Did you not just read about the cleaning and the wiping and the changing and the making and the answering and the finding?!

Therefore, my first internal instinct when they ask me to paint their nails is usually something akin to “I don’t WANNA!”

But late Saturday evening, after they came in from the little swimming pool in the front yard (and after I stain-treated their swimming clothes and towels and put them in the washer and then bathed the kids and then clipped their nails and brushed their hair, but who is keeping track?) I got them sat down with their supper at the kitchen island and…

I just did it.

I sat myself down on the floor, I gathered a foot at a time in my hands, and I applied the nail polish to their tiny, little nails.

Did I really want to do this? Not necessarily. Did I have time to do this? It never feels like it. But how God manages to bring reverence and awe in such a moment is proof of how amazing He is and, as I sat there, bringing such simple happiness to the little hearts that love me so, a sort of resounding joy began to well up inside me.

You see, I didn’t necessarily go into the act of service with joy, but AS I served, joy most certainly followed.

It’s another of those incredible paradoxical principles in the Kingdom of God.

We have these opportunities to push ourselves every day of our lives, chances to serve and to not only meet the basic needs of our family, but to nurture them. To show them sacred dignity. To prefer them over ourselves.

It might be painting toenails.

It might be changing that diaper right away rather than putting it off until it’s about to explode.

It might be brushing the tangles out of a little girl’s bed hair and gathering it into braids at first light.

It might be ironing the wrinkles out of a pretty dress for church.

It might be whipping out a favorite recipe for the boy who is hungrier by the day, a recipe that only he likes.

These are the kind of above-and-beyond things my own mom has built an entire life upon.

The kids and I stayed at her house while Mr. Gore was in Africa last month, and I noticed when I went to tuck the kids in every night that she had turned down each of their covers and put a special book and stuffed animal on their pillow.

Do you know who else noticed this simple little gesture?

My 3-year old.

“A BOOK!!!” he would exclaim, every single night, looking in wonder at his neat little bed with the unexpected treasure at its head.

It sank in deep as I watched this display that our acts of kindness and servitude are not at all lost on the littlest among us and that, yes, the time and the effort are absolutely worth it.

And when you are like my mom and have daily practiced this sort of loving service, it just starts to come naturally.

Her ministry oozes out of her rather than being forced, and oh my goodness, it gives me so much hope. Because it’s exactly who and what I want to be for the Kingdom of God.

And so my prayer today is that I’ll just keep choosing to serve, whether the joy is there at the forefront or whether it comes in the act.

Maybe someday, if I keep practicing…if I keep painting those toenails…I’ll find myself at the beds of my grandchildren with a special book and a stuffed animal to leave on their pillow…

~

Thank you for reading today! If you want to hear more stories about childhood, marriage, pastor’s wifery, family, homemaking, homeschooling and other important things like shopping and British television dramas, find us on Facebook! Or Instagram

Stepping Heavenward with Hormones (and taking your family with you)

I’ve been putting this off and putting this off and I will put it off no more: let’s talk about hormones.

People warn you that marriage will be hard. They warn you that being in the workforce will be hard. They warn you that parenthood will be hard.

Few people warn you about hormones, really.

I mean, I always heard older women joking about them, but it was always this very, very far-away reality that I thought only happened to…well, those women.

Newsflash, Mrs. Gore: you are now one of those women.

I had this crazy urge the other day to gather my kids around me and march us all around the kitchen table whilst chanting (because we like to make big statements whilst marching around the kitchen table):

We’re marching toward the Kingdom, we’re marching toward the Kingdom, even though Mommy is CRAZY!!!!

Because I really want my family to know something…I’m DESPERATE, in fact, for them to know something…that we are still on our pilgrimage, we are still “stepping heavenward”…

even though there is no hiding the fact from these precious children of mine that, at times, their mother is a hot, holy mess.

“Holy” because, even in the midst of the hormonal messes, I am being sanctified, I am growing, I am learning self-control and God is preparing for me a weight of glory (see this message from John Piper). I believe that, and I’m clinging to it. These times are not wasted, these emotions are not wasted, this season is not wasted.

“Hot” because I am having HOT FLASHES.

Like, I’m standing there next to you on a Sunday morning and the day is perfectly normal and, out of nowhere, sweat beads begin to ooze first out of my mustache pores and then the rest of my pores follow suit until I am this clammy, panicking heatbag. I’m suddenly fanning myself with whatever papers I can find, usually a stack of church bulletins, and I’m grasping at my hair to lift if off my neck and I’m feeling a too-strong-for-church urge to shuck my cardigan and then whatever other layers it takes to relieve me from the Hades that has descended upon me.

I realize now that “I’m having a hot flash” doesn’t just mean we need to turn the air down. It means I need to be alone and in a muumuu and under a ceiling fan RIGHT. NOW!!!

And, lastly, “mess” because, at times…often, actually…I’m this huge, confused, dazed, angry MESS.

I’m not kidding. In the three years since my last baby was born, I will just be inexplicably fat all of a sudden. Like, I won’t be one day, and then the very next day, I’m a puffy marshmallow woman.

And don’t say I’m not because, though I might hide it well on most days, and though I might NOT be fat on some days (also inexplicably) I’m the one who buttons my jeans and…yeah. Some days they button. Some days they don’t. 

My brain feels so hopelessly broken, as well. In the thick of hormone-time, I just can’t think. I can’t spell. I can’t process. People will ask me what I have planned for the week and if such-and-such day would be a good day to do such-and-such, and I just stare at them and blink and say bright things like “uhhhhh…I’m not sure…” And they’re like, “you’re not sure what you’re doing tomorrow?” And I’m like “yeah…I think there will be breakfast?…and I will probably read a book to my kids, maybe?…ummm…is it hot in here?!…”

In fact, my brain is SO broken sometimes that I have committed to love my husband and kids and church body and to homeschool and, well, the rest is kind of up in the air. I have just come to grips with the fact that there is no room on my plate not just for more things to do, but even for more things to think about doing. The thinking is broken.

But worse than the hot flashes and the weight fluctuations and the brain slumps are, without a doubt, the mood swings.

I was having a high hormonal day a couple of weeks ago and, I kid you not, I cried for an HOUR and a HALF. Not at one time, mind you, but forty minutes and then a short break followed by forty more minutes (which is so much better).

“I can’t do this!!!” I wailed to my husband from the bathroom floor, trying to hide away from the kids. “I. can’t. do. this.”

“Do what?” he asked me concerned.

“THIS,” I said, gesturing to the air around me. “Clean. Cook. Homeschool. Nurture. I’m the WORST. I can’t do it. I’m not good at this!!!! I’m not good…”

“You are…” he said.

“I’m NOT!” I snotted. “I want to. But I can’t.

“You’ve been doing great, babe. What is it that you feel like you can’t do all of a sudden?…” he asked.

“Well…” I sobbed, “I can’t keep food in the pantry. I mean, I buy it but then it’s gone. And…well…I can’t pick out meat. Like, I have all these recipes I want to make but…there are so many meats and…I don’t know how to buy them!!!…”

“Yeah?…” he said, wearing my favorite bemused expression that tells me he’s trying to listen and trying to understand and REALLY trying not to laugh.

Now, lest you worry about me and begin offering remedies for what ails me, let me assure you that I have been proactive about these demon hormones and, after several visits to professionals, my doctors assure me that I am simply experiencing the fallout of four consecutive pregnancies over the course of 8 years. My body is simply out of whack and we’re doing what we can to whack it back into place through diet and exercise and, hallelujah, I actually feel like I’ve made a HUGE turn for the better in the last few months.

But the really bad thing about these days — and what I am determined to improve — is that I usually forget to plan for them, even though I could easily calculate when they’re coming and lock myself into a vault with Netflix and chips and queso, thereby saving myself — and my family — from these crash-and-burn episodes of frailty.

No, though, I let them sneak up on me and bring the whole lot of us down in sackcloth and agony.

Then, afterward, when I realize why I was in the deepest depths of despair, I go “ohhhhhh…so I’m NOT the worst…and I CAN do this…cool!…”

It’s a good feeling, when you realize that you actually can pick out meat.

But you know what?

Do you know why I am introducing the internet to my hormones? Do you know why I’m even writing this today? Because. Because I am done being bewildered and I am done being the victim, and I am figuring my new and unimproved body out and, most importantly, I’m finally coming to grips with this season of suffering – because, YES, it is suffering – and do you know what? 

I am learning that, simple enough, I can praise God in this.

And if you are suffering alongside me, guess what?

You can, too.

You can fight this. You can endure this. You can love and minister to your family through this. You can pursue holiness in this. You can go to church like this. Why? Because, if you have been called out, God WILL keep you through this. Hormones are not too big for Him. They never have been, and they never will be.

Mrs. Gore is marching to Zion, and I’m taking my hormones and my kids and my husband with me, and I hope you’ll go with us.

I’ll bring the box fan if you’ll bring the tissues.

A New Kind of Love for an Old Kind of Friend

Mr. Gore and I made a departure from our usual this week…

we WENT somewhere.

Just the two of us.

It was actually one of those situations that sounded like a great idea when we accepted the invitation six months earlier, but as the day loomed closer, the pits in our stomachs grew heavier.

You know this already, but we sort of like it here, in this house of ours on the hill. We like our living room and our comfy chairs. We like our life. More specifically, we like our KIDS.

But we had committed ourselves to this “Pastors Encouragers Conference” hosted by Dr. Ted Kersh’s Equipped by His Word, and we felt it important to honor that commitment.

Thus, early Monday morning, we loaded up the kids, dropped them off at my parent’s house, and began the long trek to Branson, Missouri.

As we neared Tulsa, the temptation to turn around grew pretty strong, but we powered through and, before long, we were pulling into the parking lot of the Thousand Hills Golf Resort in Branson.

It was a beautiful location, but I have to admit that it did little to chase away my unease. Condos and rolling hills are great and all, but have you seen my 2-year old Shepherd? He’s the berries.

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Why are we here? I thought. How did we get ourselves into this??

But then I shook hands with Dr. Ted Kersh in the lobby of the conference center, and the anxiety that had chilled my heart for days began to thaw on the spot.

As I told Dr. Kersh and his lovely wife, Jerri, on the last day of our meeting, the two of them and their team could have invited us to a concrete slab in the middle of nowhere and it would still have been the “Pastors Encouragers Conference”. In other words, THEY are the Pastors Encouragers Conference, with skin on, and I don’t know how I could have traveled so many miles on this earth without having met them before.

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All that to say, what felt so foreign as we were pulling in to Branson immediately morphed into a homecoming, and that feeling of warmth and reunion only deepened as the conference went on.

Over the course of the next two days, the Lord did incredible things in my heart, things I never, ever saw coming.

And at the top of the list is that my husband and I met so many amazing people, forging deep connections with brothers and sisters from all over our home state.

Thus, as we drove back home on Wednesday, I just could not stop talking about the new friends we had gained, recounting the funny conversations we’d had, the sweet prayers we prayed together, the experiences we’d shared, and the specific struggles that we’d found we have in common.

There is no doubt that something special happens when you come into contact with folks who are like you and who share a line of work that is nearly identical to your own; in that room full of men and women who well know the joys and difficulties of life in the ministry, we could walk up to near about anyone and strike up a deep conversation about all the feelings about all the stuff.

Obviously, I was on cloud nine about ALL of it.

But it’s funny how the Lord works, isn’t it?

He is in no way a one-dimensional God, and can somehow encourage AND convict us at the exact same time.

And just on the other side of my bubbling-over joy, there was something at work within me, a conviction, a line of questioning, and it wasn’t until we were about halfway home that I was finally able to identify what was bugging me…

why am I not this excited about the people in my own life?

Because this is a true story: you could take just about any person or couple from my church, set them across the table from me at a conference like this, and I would fall head-over-heels in love with them like I did with all the new friends we made this week.

I would be drawn to them, like a magnet. I’d want to know all their stories and their struggles. I’d want to see pictures of their kids or grandkids. I’d have the best manners and listen intently to every word they said. I’d even spontaneously want to buy them stuff and invite them to our house!

And I’d most certainly talk about how much I love them ALLLLLLL the way home.

In other words, I’d be EXCITED to have met such an amazing brother and sister, and I would count the experience as sovereign and divine.

This shames me, a little.

And I wanted to write about this shame today because I know that I’m not alone. We all do it all the time, don’t we? Aloof, at times — or, at the very least, comfortably lazy — with one group of people, we come alive in other settings with people who are really not that different than the folks we’ve cooled towards.

And I don’t necessarily mean “cooled” in a purposeful and malicious way but simply that, well…we just haven’t taken the time to SEE them awhile. We’ve gotten into the habit of skimming right over them.

So what’s the deal? What’s keeping us from having an excited conference-sort-of-love for the people in our day-to-day life?

I think I have the answer to that question.

It’s easy to love people for three days at a conference. At a retreat. On vacation. On Facebook. In another state.

But when you’re trying to do 1 Corinthians 13 LIFE with people, day in, day out…

well, that’s another story, completely.

And it’s important to note that we’re not necessarily being fakes when we’re around a new group of people. Sure, we are probably presenting to them the very best versions of ourselves, but there’s nothing wrong with that, really. No one slumps and burps and reveals all their grisly secrets to strangers – we’re not wired that way.

No, where we go wrong is in never taking the time to offer this same sort of energy, care, and gratitude with the people we see all the time.

Let’s employ our imaginations for a bit…

If you went to another church and your pastor and his wife were serving there but you didn’t know them, would you just adore them? Would you wish you could have a pastor like that? Would you wish you could know his family better and count them as friends?

How about your godly parents? Pretend like you’ve never seen them before and you met them at a retreat. Would you sit and drink in every word they had to say? Would you go home singing their praises and wishing you could spend more time with them and glean wisdom from their life experiences?

What about the ladies in your peer group? If you were in a small group with them in a place other than your hometown and heard them talk for the first time, would you be excited to have met them? Would you think they were funny? Would you laugh your head off at their jokes? Would you sympathize with what they’re dealing with at home? Would you genuinely wish the very best for them, for the glory of God and for the good of the Kingdom?

Then…

what’s holding you back with the people whose pictures are on your refrigerator? The folks who daily fill up your Facebook newsfeed?

It could be any number of things, really.

Perhaps there is a long-held resentment bubbling below the surface of a friendship. Maybe we’ve grown tired of hearing this person talk about their blessings and/or struggles and have, without really meaning to, started to impatiently listen to what they have to say. Or to half-listen with both our ears and our hearts.

Maybe there is baggage between us and another person, keeping us from wanting to fully invest in a relationship with them. Sure, if we met them for the first time at a conference we would want to be BFFs, but there’s that weird thing between us that feels to hard to overcome.

Or maybe there are no hard feelings in our heart, whatsoever. Maybe we’ve just grown used to each other, like the proverbial “old married couple”, a familiarity that isn’t BAD, per se – that’s part of the joy of being in a family, to find someone you can be YOU and relax with! – but maybe we’ve gone too long without studying and appreciating the gift.

Or, who knows? Maybe we’re just so busy that we haven’t stopped in ages to really SEE the people we do life with. That can so easily happen, can’t it?

Regardless of the cause, I just want encourage you today. Yes, thank God that you have a family of people that you’re comfortable with – that’s a loveliness that shiny new friendships can never compete with! – but when you go to church this Sunday, or even when you walk into your kitchen today, take a moment to see your people with fresh eyes.

Whether it is your peers at church, the retired missionaries that teach Sunday School, or even your own family members…imagine them, as strangers, sitting across the table from you at a conference.

Would you not think you had just met the best person ever???

I can truly say this would be the case with about 100% of the people in our little neck of the woods.

Let’s love them with renewed zeal. Listen to them. Notice what they have to offer – their sympathetic ear, their humor, their passion for the lost, their artistic ability – and be EXCITED about that. Be the lady that you are at the conference in a room full of fresh faces. Be the cheerleader that will point out how great they are, how happy you are to have met them, how blessed you feel that God would allow you, by His great grace, to cross paths with them.

Fall in love, all over again, with the life you’ve been entrusted with and the people who fill it up.

You know what? I’m thanking God that this conviction He has laid on my heart in no way dampens the relationships I made at the Pastors Encouragers Conference. I can boldly say that I made new friends there that I love with a passion, friends that I plan to pursue and cherish forever.

But there is extra grace in these newfound friendships, as they have also revealed to me a sleepiness that I might have never identified on my own.

Who we are at the conference doesn’t say much – anyone can give their best for three short days – it’s who we are in the day-to-day trenches of life with the people we see all the time that reveals who we really are, and I KNOW that I can do better.

Can you?

~

Thanks for reading today and listening to my heart! If you’d like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook by clicking here.

And to discover more about Equipped by His Word, click here.

Hope for the Introvert

Hope for the Introvert (Because God is bigger than psychology)

Hi. I’m Mrs. Gore, and I am an introvert.

If I didn’t already know that from a fun little personality quiz my FFA instructor administered to our class when I was in high school, I would certainly know it today from the daily article or quiz I see on Facebook about introverts and what defines an introvert and how introverts deal with the world and 10 things you don’t know about introverts and introvert introvert introvert.

These articles and quizzes always pique my interest because, like everyone else, I like to know more stuff about myself and what makes me tick and what makes me “me”.

It’s the American way, isn’t it, to analyze and re-analyze ourselves? We sort of thrive on psychology, especially when it comes to our own personalities.

But the thing I have noticed about so many of these extroverted introvert articles (get it? Because they’re everywhere?) is that, once the information is presented about all-things-introvert, the article ends, leaving you with basically just another explanation from another person of “this is who I am” and “accept me for who I am” and “this is what you can expect from me” and “this is why I poop out at parties”.

End of story, right? I’ve done my part by explaining who I am and what I like and now it’s up to everyone else to be okay with that.

And what can happen to introverts like me who read a hundred articles about why I am the way I am and why I feel the way I feel in social settings is an acceptance that could, if left unchecked, lead to a laziness and entitlement that could greatly damage the health of my church and stilt my Kingdom potential.

Self-acceptance is a good thing when it allows us to rest contentedly in the way God crafted our personalities and talents, but it also is a state of mind that can easily turn toxic, is it not? John Bloom at Desiring God (and one of my favorite writers in the land!) describes this tricky line much better than I ever could. Read his article here.

And, personally, if I’m being quite honest, when I read articles about introverts, I typically feel this heady solidarity rising in my chest…

yes! I am not alone!…

So THAT’S why I always feel so TIRED after going to a party! Aha!…

NOW I understand why I feel a need to retreat to my room after a day with the littles!

I’m not the only one who is petrified of the telephone?! Thank you, Lord! I feel so normal now!…

and, if I’m not very, very careful, I can take this psychological research and this introverted testimonial and I can withdraw to my comfy place, and instead of feeling any pause over this course of action like I normally would, I now feel justified and empowered.

This sort of attitude could surely be dangerous in any person’s life, but believe me when I say that it can be downright debilitating for a believer.

Now, because this is the internet and every argument is met with counterarguments, let me be quick to assure you that I AM NOT saying it is a bad thing to know who you are and to think about how God made you and to know your limitations and to draw some boundaries about what you are capable of. I am sure that many an introvert like myself has unwisely overextended themselves and crashed into a miserable pile of burn-out because they didn’t take time to nurture their heart.

BUT.

But.

As Christians, we can never be content to slap a psychological label on our personality when we have the transformative Holy Spirit working in us to deliver us from the most dangerous creature on the planet…

ourselves.

And who knows? Maybe the typical components of being an introvert are not as precious as we’ve made them out to be.

One of the favorite things I have drawn from my husband’s expository preaching through 1 and 2 Corinthians is the message that we have each been gifted by God to accomplish certain tasks in our local body. He has equipped us, introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, and herbivores, to do exactly what He wants done in the communities He has placed us in, and we can take joy and be confident in that.

But here’s the part that really blew me away: we can ALSO, while working with our gifts for the betterment of the church, look to the gifts of others in our body and pursue those gifts, as well.

And that’s yet another reason why it is so important for us to physically meet together and spur each other on to love and good works because – for instance! – while I am not naturally wired to serve, I can see those gifts in my sisters and brothers, and when I do, I am motivated to follow them and do as they do.

They TEACH me how to serve, so that, in the end, what you get is a girl who, though not normally inclined to be a servant, is serving.

I love this!!!!!!!

And that same principle can be applied to any number of good things that God desires for His children to display.

And you know what? At the end of the day, this biblical call to growth and transformation is so much more exciting to me than the latest human research about who I am and how I am always going to be.

I’m just more and more convinced that…

I want to look like Christ, period.

I want to chase after every fruit that the Bible says I should have as one who has been cleansed by the healing blood of Jesus, and if that pursuit sometimes challenges my introverted heart to die to its natural tendencies and forces me to be in large crowds or to talk on the telephone or to have people constantly in my home or to engage in “small talk” with a loving heart or to pray out loud in front of people I don’t know, then so be it.

And piece by piece, someday, my prayer is that I will be known less as a typical introvert and more like another redeemed person who has lost their natural identity in Christ.

That maybe, just MAYBE, I will take an online personality quiz and break the internet because “Jesus” isn’t one of the quiz results.

(Seriously, how awesome would that be?!)

By God’s grace, I am beginning to understand that, if I will simply be faithful to the Word first and foremost — even if it feels draining or scary — by meeting with my brothers and sisters, by being hospitable, and by showing love always, that I can trust my timorous, introverted heart to God and know that He will take care of me and that His Spirit will lead me every step of the way.

God is not cruel or uncaring, and if I truly need quiet time to recharge, He will ensure that I get it, sometimes, even by inspiring me to ASK for it.

And, friends, believe me when I express to you how this call to holiness has helped me so much more than another article on introverts.

The articles patted me on the head and told me I was doing okay.

The Word and the Spirit help me to grow and to CONQUER the things that, if left to my own devices, might become poisonous and idolatrous.

For that reason, even though I am what the psychological realm calls an introvert, I am learning to pursue some amazing things…

to put aside my solitary work and meet together with my brothers and sisters every chance I get…

to enjoy the loud sounds of my extremely spirited husband and children and to thank God for them, trusting that I will have time later to enjoy some quiet…

to go to loud concerts and crowded events with my extroverted mom because she enjoys it and I enjoy watching her have fun…

to leave my safe house and go to the scary “big city” with my church sisters because I know it will be a great time for all of us…

to answer the phone and be brave and kind even when I feel like I’m dying in the process…

in other words, to not put my perceived needs first, but to live for others, and watch, amazed, when there is still miraculously just enough time for me and my introverted tendencies to heal and rest.

And the conclusion is this…

The Christian life is so much more adventurous than any of the psychological boxes our culture loves to put us in.

I’m super happy to have the leanings of an introvert and I truly relish the blessings that come with such a personality. I’ve never been bored in my life, my brain is one of my favorite companions, and I can’t think of anything that sounds more fun than being quarantined (I could read and write and internet for DAYZ)…

but shame on me if I ever allow a man-made title to weaken my potential for God.

~

I PRAY this was a help to any of my fellow God-fearing introverts. 🙂 And if you’re new here and would like to keep up with Mrs. Gore and family, you can find us on Facebook.

God Mend America, God Mend Me

God Mend America, God Mend Me

This past Independence Day was somewhat somber for me, and I know I’m not alone in that.

Huge changes have been taking place in our country, and for the first time in my life, I can really identify with older generations who pine for “the good ol’ days” and who, though lifelong citizens, feel a bit like strangers in their homeland.

It’s disconcerting, to say the least.

Most of you know that I am the wife of a Southern Baptist pastor, one who fundamentally holds to every letter of the Word of God, and so you probably don’t have to think too long and hard to figure out where I stand on many of the controversies that are boiling up in our nation today.

My beliefs are firm, they are rooted in an ancient text, and they’re not, by the grace of the God who caused me to love His precepts in the first place, going to be changing.

I’m still “crazy” enough to believe in absolute truth, and I believe with all of my heart that God has absolutely spoken truth about these issues, long before we ever began to face them.

There is pleasure in this realization, that, even if the entire world changes their mind on a subject, God will hold me fast and keep my feet and my beliefs from slipping, but, if I’m being honest, there is also a goodly amount of fear.

Christianity has always been so comfortable in the America I grew up in, and it didn’t ask too very much of me aside from going to church on Sunday and being nice to the folks who waited on me at the restaurant afterward.

And so, no, I don’t really WANT to be the odd man out.

I don’t want for people to dislike me, or think I am heartless or cruel.

I don’t want to be labeled a backwoods bigot for simply believing the same things that I have always believed, beliefs that most people were okay with until, like, yesterday.

I don’t want to be misrepresented by the world’s more-negative-by-the-minute idea of what Christianity is.

I like people, you see, and even better, I like it when people like me.

Still yet, even though I’m afraid, I sincerely don’t believe that Christians should stay separated from the state of affairs in the country of which they are citizens. In this beautiful democracy, we have a voice and we have a vote, and I want to always use both to stand up for what is true, not just for the good of my own family, but for my fellow man.

Because — and this is important — it’s not as if I’m just regurgitating what some talking religious head told me to say.

I really believe in the guidelines of the Bible, I believe they are the VERY WORDS of the God who made me, I believe they are true and right and helpful and that, if obeyed, will result in the only sort of joyful and fulfilling life that there is to live.

I believe this on faith, yes, but I also believe it because I have experienced it, firsthand. I have tested this life and, I kid you not, it is LEGIT, through and through.

Therefore, as one bearing testimony concerning the validity of God’s Word, it would be the epitome of “unloving” for me to leave my fellow citizens to fall down what I believe is a path of utter destruction.

How could I just shut my eyes and my ears to my culture when I have something so beautiful to offer them?

It would be a sick and cruel thing to do, and I would be the worst and most lowdown sort of human if I claimed the benefits of my religion without spreading the good news of it to others.

Thus, I pray that God will give me the extra courage to speak up and to speak the right words at the right time, and I’m praying the same for all who call him Master and King.

Which is exactly what led me to this blog post today.

We Christians have been doing a lot of talking, for a long time.

Some of this talking has been truly good and great. I am beyond grateful for the intelligent and wise and Spirit-led men and women of God who are representing us all on the frontlines of the culture wars. I’m praying for them and saying “Bravo!” every single step of the way.

But then some of our talking, sometimes, has great big holes in it, and it troubles me deeply.

The Church, more than ever before, is publicly calling on America to “REPENT”, quoting Scripture verses or the words of prominent Christians, and warning our country of God’s looming judgment.

It’s not as if I disagree with these statements, nor would I even be surprised to find that these recent cultural events ARE God’s judgment, allowing those in our nation to go the way they are stubbornly wanting to go. The first chapter of the book of Romans explicitly describes this sort of rebellion, to the letter, which I personally find kind of amazing.

But something’s missing, I think, in our bugle call, and it is simply this: I have been in church my entire life, and I think we have got to be kidding ourselves if we ever assume that all of the problems in America can be attributed to someone else.

Many of us are asking “America” to repent, and OH how I hope she does, but…

er, what about the Church in America?

Can we really say with 100% certainty God has been okay with the way we’ve been doing things?

Do we think He is proud of us?

Have we been representing Him well?

Has He been okay with the fact that we have gone soft on divorce for decades, sweeping it under the rug and allowing it into our midst?

Is He proud of the way we’ve allowed church members to treat one another, with envy and murmuring and speculation and strife?

Is He proud of the fact that many of us who claim to adore Him can only bear to sit in a church that has music that we like and a sermon that is twenty or less minutes long?

Is He proud that we manage to ingest hours and hours and hours of cultural entertainment but can hardly bear to crack open a Bible and read it?

Is He proud of the way we MAYBE give 10% of our income back to Him – and that’s from the most devout among us! – and spend the rest on our closets and our houses and our cars and our kids and our fun and our games and our future comfort and security while the majority of the world lives in indescribable suffering? Is He proud that we are basically pumping 90+% of our income into the culture that we say has turned its back on God?

Is He proud that we take our kids to church on Sunday but raise them as American-dreaming ladder-climbers the rest of the week?

Is He proud of the way we have bullied His pastors, blackmailing them with their paychecks and treating them more like butlers than shepherds?

Is He proud of our church splits and fights and factions, in maybe every single town in the nation?

Is He proud that we play the part of a devout believer but house secret sins in our private life that we never confess to anyone or get help with?

Is He proud that the only time we can really be counted on to pray is when we’re sitting down to a meal?

Is He proud that we are so ashamed of who He really is that we have dressed Him up and softened His words to make Him more palatable to our culture, and really, to ourselves?

Is He proud of the entertainment that we have allowed in our homes and the filth we have endorsed with our viewership?

In other words, do we REALLY and TRULY think that America would be a godly nation if we could only manage to get rid of so-called same-sex marriage and put prayer back in school?!

I don’t have all the answers – oh, my, not even close! – but sometime I just wonder if perhaps WE are the ones who need to repent, first, before we call on America to do so.

Perhaps we, the Church, should be humbling ourselves and seeking God’s face and turning from OUR wicked ways.

Perhaps, before we point out the specks in the eyes of unbelievers across America, we need to remove the logs from our own eyes.

Perhaps, before we post one more public call to America to “turn back to God” on Facebook, we need to write a public status update that apologizes for the thousands of ways we have failed our God, our families, our churches, our communities, our states, our country, our world.

Perhaps, if the people of God would get radically SERIOUS about being the people of God, He would bring a revival to our land like we’ve never seen!

I’m not a prophet or a woman preacher or even a Sunday School teacher, and I’m not trying to talk down to anyone or sound puffed-up or pretentious — and if I sound frustrated, believe me when I say that my frustration largely centers around my own apathy!!! — but I’m pretty sure that America is not going to be impacted by our spiritualized pins on social media.

It will be impacted when we start living like we want everybody else to live – in direct submission to God in all things – and we are never going to do that if we do not humble ourselves, repent of our sins, find out exactly how He wants to live in His Holy Word, and then…

DO IT.

Our real care for America won’t be seen by our Facebook version of a bumper sticker, but will be seen in the way we live at home when we’re stressed, in our churches when we’re sick of people, in our jobs when we have a chance to step on someone to make more money, in our neighborhood when we just want to ignore the people who live next to us, in our marriages when our spouse is just not doing it for us any more, in our parenting when our kids are challenging us on every front, and in the nitty gritty of our everyday, normal, sinful-but-redeemed lives.

Again, I am in no way saying that it is wrong for us to speak up and to share our convictions on social media.

As my husband reminded our church body this week, now is actually a GOOD time to do that. Our nation is being spoon-fed a distorted picture of reality, and we have a good chance to temper that by gently educating our friends and family in the ways of God.

But perhaps our movement needs to start from the ground up.

Let’s purify the bride of Christ, first, starting with ourselves.

Then?

Let’s direct our attention outward and shine our FACES off.

~

Dear friends, I will be spending this week asking God to reveal to me where I have failed Him, my family, my church, my former pastors, my past friends, my unbelieving friends, and my community, and I’m going to seek forgiveness first from Him, and then from those I have wronged.

I PRAY that you’ll join me in a movement of humility and repentance, for the glory of our great God and for the good of our beloved America.

~

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.

By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

1 John 1:5 – 2:6

~

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Greatness.

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He stopped by after work today to take Gideon to the pond to work on “the clubhouse”.

They were gone for who knows how long, but it wasn’t long enough.

It never is, and when Gid came back home from a couple of hours with his granddaddy in the great outdoors, he declared, “this is the best day I ever had. I wish it would never end…”

Like his mother, Gideon tends to speak in superlatives to express the triumphs or misery of his heart.

“Worst day ever”.

“BEST day ever…”

And so I know what he was trying to say: “I just had so much fun, and my heart is so happy that he came by…”

And what I find astounding about all of it is not so much that Gideon had “the best day ever”, but that this man, this granddaddy of my children, this daddy of mine, who labors long hours at a grueling job, will stop by on his way home from work to give his grandson the best day he EVER had.

Astounding, but not abnormal.

I’ve lost track of the number of days he has stopped by of an afternoon, taking his heavy and dirt-crusted work boots off on the front porch, or stomping them thoroughly down, at the very least.

Sometimes he brings a snack from the local gas station.

Sometimes he is bearing gifts, a cool rock he found for Gid, an animal skull to add to our random collection, a piece of antique metal he dug up on the job.

And on the many afternoons we find ourselves at his house when the workday ends, the routine is always the same: he takes off his boots, he greets us congenially, he gets a Ginger Ale out of the fridge, he fetches a box of Cheez-its out of the pantry, he rustles up a container of peanuts, and he takes his seat at the head of the table – the same seat he has occupied since the table was purchased four decades ago – where he and the kids start divvying up the snacks, munching and drinking to their heart’s content.

It is so moving for me to see my children digging through the snap-closured pockets of his tan work shirts, the same work shirts he has worn every day for as long as I’ve been alive, and finding the same treasures that I used to play with as a little girl. The tip cleaners. The soapstone chalk.

And the reason I’m watching it all so closely and taking it all in is because it has been ruminating in my heart these past few years, this thirst for real, life-changing truth, this settling down of my ambitions.

I just so wanted to BE something.

To have my name recognized.

To gather up some fanfare.

To make a lasting impact.

I realize now that this is an inherent craving of the human heart and is nothing more than a misplaced hope that masquerades as something praiseworthy. “Leaving behind a legacy” and so on and so forth.

The knowledge that we should live forever, the Romans 1 realization that God is real and that we are without excuse, tries to cover its sight and find relief in a quest for eternity in something other than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We grasp for recognition or validation in anything other than this call to lose ourselves, thinking that if we can just be somewhere important…on the cover of a magazine, on the dustcover of a book, on the screen of a television…then we’ll count.

We’ll be REAL.

Our name will maybe, somehow, be attached to something that will live on, once we’re gone.

But this is all a mirage, isn’t it?

We should have known it was the minute we first felt ashes in our mouth after a perceived achievement lost its luster and gathered dust in the memories of all who were there to witness it.

Wasn’t I “Most Popular” once in a long forgotten yearbook?

Or…was I?

All of the silly, youthful triumphs are long gone, and in their place a new hunt arises as quickly as the old victory is shelved.

What can fill me up now?

A new accolade? A new title? Another subscriber?

But I’m really and truly starting to see it.

Beyond the spotlights, far removed from the viral, a figure emerges.

He looks like a nobody.

Same jeans, shirt and boots, every single day.

Same lunch in the same lunchbox.

The circle of his influence is miniscule. A couple of work hands he oversees five days a week. The wife he has been married to for forty-four years. Four kids, scattered across Oklahoma. A couple of handfuls of grandkids. A Sunday School class. A small church.

But his life is starting to outshine the elite.

He sins everyday, but his sin grieves him. He shares about his struggles weekly with his Sunday classroom of young adults.

He works tirelessly, in sickness, in snow, in sweltering heat, in overtime.

He daily rises earlier than he has to, to spend time in the Word of God and to study his Sunday School lesson.

He gives his hard-earned money freely, wherever the Spirit leads.

And every single day, he chinks away at the natural man until he looks more and more like the Christ who saved him so many years ago.

His hair is graying.

The wrinkles on his face are deepening.

The frame of his body has grown leaner.

But his godliness increases and his love for self decreases and his ambitions diminish more with every step he takes.

And on his way home from work, he stops by the house of a 7-year old boy to spend time with him, just because he loves him and just because he remembers what an impact his own granddaddy had on him so many years ago.

Do you know what, fame?

I want to be like that man.

Nameless, in the sea of recognizable faces.

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Weathered, among the shiny, the faux and gilded.

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Ordinary, but pointing daily to a greatness that holds up the world.

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I’m continuing to let go of the pursuit and I’m just thinking that, if I can turn out to be the sort of “great” that my daddy is, the sort of great that points directly to the One who made me and who loved me first and who saved me from sin, death, hell and myself, the sort of great that is the ONLY great that actually lasts forever…

that would be so great.

~

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

~

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Peace for the Precious

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Jen Hatmaker posted an article this week about the dangers of “precious” parenting, encouraging moms everywhere to take a page out of the 1970’s parenting manual and let go of the fabricated magic that we are all trying so desperately to create. You can read it by clicking here.

Oh, man. I completely get what she is saying.

Although I have worked through most of the madness by now, there have been birthday parties in years past where I was stressed to the max and antsy for the child I was supposedly celebrating to just get out of the way, already, so I COULD DECORATE AND PUT THE LITTLE CHALKBOARD SIGNS BY EACH PLATE OF FOOD TELLING EVERYONE WHAT THAT FOOD WAS!!!!

Because, honestly, how would my 4-year old guests KNOW that those were cupcakes on the cakestand unless there was a sign next to them that said “cupcakes”???!!!!

Obviously, there were days on the motherhood front when I was a freak whose priorities were totally out of whack. I needed an article like Jen’s to grab me by the shoulders and say “TONE IT DOWN A NOTCH, SISTER!”

Thus, I feel like her latest blog was very timely and needed, for scores of mothers who feel stressed and guilty by today’s parenting trends.

What I ALSO feel, however, is that there could be a lot of mamas out there who need a boost of another kind, and that’s what I am hoping to provide today.

You see, it didn’t take me too long, once I joined the blogosphere, to recognize that my family would most likely be categorized as what Jen calls “precious”.

We are, for better or worse, a family of “snowflakes” and if you HAD to categorize my parenting style as an automobile, it would probably, darn it, be a helicopter.

For instance, the birthday parties.

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The Halloween costumes.

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The earnestness of it all.

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And if I, as a precious mother, am not exceedingly careful in my study of these sorts of personal testimonies and opinions like Jen’s (and VERY exceedingly careful in the comments section!), what can easily happen is that I can take a simple blog post that was meant to encourage or enlighten or entertain and turn it into my own shame.

And that, my precious, is why I want to speak to you today.

Before I move on, I want to make it clear that I am in no way refuting Jen’s article. In fact, I LOVE her take on parenting.

Through her consistent warnings against helicoptering, I have learned to let my kids play in the front yard with me only hovering by the living room windows where they can’t see me instead of the front porch right next to them. I have been reminded to let them make mistakes and to teach them to clean up their own messes. I have been inspired to step back and let them do big things for God when the time comes.

These have been big lessons for me, and I am beyond grateful for the guidance and am ever hungry for more. We need to listen to other moms, moms who are different than us, moms who are the same as us, but most importantly, moms who have actually walked through motherhood. If motherhood is anything, it is a learning process, is it not?

But I am also very sympathetic to those who, with the best intentions, have found themselves feeling lonesome in their zeal.

As a precious mom, there have clearly been days when I needed a voice like Jen’s to help me “snap out of it” and to show me a different path, but then there have been other days when I simply needed someone to lift up my chin and tell me that I’m doing okay.

With the latter days in mind, I want to offer some relief to my fellow snowflakes, and I feel sure that Jen, who is a passionate advocate of sisterhood and who annually takes time out of her crazy life to talk with me about “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Facebook, would approve.

Let us begin.

Are you a Pinterest mom? Are you precious? Are you a snowflake?

Hi. I “get” you.

And while I “get” you, I can also see how the Pinterest circuit can be overwhelming to moms who aren’t wired in those ways and results in mom-guilt galore.

Not a mom on the planet is free from the temptation to compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others, and the strengths of the “precious” are displayed ALL OVER THE INTERNET.

If a non-Pinteresty mom is feeling down about herself and logs onto Facebook to see something like this….

party table

it would understandably come across as very showy and nauseating.

And who knows? A lot of this stuff might actually BE showy. I don’t know. Every mom is different, and even more complicated, every day is different. I’m sure there have been days where I was being showy, and the next day I wasn’t. I’m a sinner who just happens to have a good camera and a knack for color-coordinating. There are going to be issues.

So, even though it can wound the precious person’s enthusiasm, I understand the distaste.

Bunting? Scrapbooks? Shadow boxes and time capsules? To many, this stuff is TOO MUCH. It’s insanity.

But not necessarily to us, right?

Being “precious” is our wheelhouse. It’s not, on the pure days, something we pursue out of stress or one-upmanship, nor is it something we force ourselves to be. It’s just what we do, yo. It’s natural. It’s how we show love. It’s how we express creativity.

And while I am unfortunately not organized enough for a time capsule or crafty enough to sew or patient enough to make shapes out of food, there are traditions and practices and beliefs in my home that make other moms feel like total losers. I know this is true, because I have heard it o’er and o’er again, most usually after a birthday party.

Likewise, I have often allowed myself to feel like a loser compared to the incredible moms I know. Some can sew. Some make amazing meals for their family. Some are so beautifully health-conscious. Some are the epitome of FUN. Some can decorate cakes. Some are budget queens.

I might live big on birthday party days and catalog the fun for Pinterest, but what about all the days in between when I’m shuffling through the mess and buying chicken bits at the gas station for our supper?!

And I just can’t help but think that what all of us mamas have GOT to start recognizing in the midst of all this learning and growing and blogging and discussing, and what we HAVE to rest in at the end of the day, is this…

God has wired us all so very differently.

It may sound ridiculous, but for some of us weirdos the joy is actually found IN the magical details and the stress comes in feeling like we are alienating others with our decoupage. (I don’t actually know how to decoupage, but still. You know what I mean).

As a thoroughly precious person, I sincerely love making some extra magic for the world. I love whimsy. I LOVE CHILDHOOD. I am a Victorian, at heart, and even though I can learn from their chill vibe and use their strengths to help me be a better parent, I will never, ever be a 1970’s style mama whose kids roam around the neighborhood. I admire those types of moms. I love them. I kind of think they’re hilarious! But they are not me.

Do you know what?

We get excited about birds at our house. Like, we cluster around the living room windows and we count robins, for crying out loud.

We “fly” through the house listening to the score from the 2003 live-action “Peter Pan” movie.

We have special clothes just for the pumpkin patch.

We sing the soundtrack to “Les Miserables” AS A FAMILY, 3-year old included.

We discuss our family Halloween costumes all. year. long.

We even love photo shoot day! Well, most of us, anyway.

We are precious.

But here’s the thing that I have learned to hold onto after going through a very awkward and reclusive phase concerning my mothering skills, and I hope it will encourage you today, whether you are precious or not.

Get ready because, if you are a believer, this is the best news you’ll ever read (post gospel, of course)!…

God gave my kids to the exact type of mama they would need to grow up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

You see, there is a reason that Gideon, Rebekah, Betsie and Shepherd Gore have been placed under the wings of a precious mother. My influence, my heart, and my wiring is apparently a sovereign part of their story, and there is a great peace that comes with that knowledge.

If you poke me too hard, I will bleed. If you say mean things to me, I will cry. I’m not hard. I am a soft person and my heart aches just from opening my eyes in the morning.

And if you squeeze me, do you know what will happen? A birthday party is going to shoot out of my ears like confetti. It’s just who I am!

And because He is good, I fully believe that God will use all of these things to craft the adults that He intends my children to become.

I don’t want to lazily rest in my preciousness. There is a LOT of room for growth here, and through voices like Jen’s (and, okay, my husband’s), I have learned to not rush in and scoop up a crying child every single time they fall. (Even though I am dying to!). I have learned the difference between celebrating God for creating the child rather than making an idol out of the child. I have learned to very carefully toe the line between raising entitled, narcissistic kids and grateful, God-worshiping kids.

And so I will be the first to admit that, if a snowflake indulges completely in her snowflakiness, she can totally handicap her kids! THIS is the point Jen was making, and I have tucked it away to guide me. Listening to the un-precious ones has kept me from becoming a slave to my natural tendencies.

But there is a balance that keeps me from despair.

There is a place for my sort of oozy tenderness. There is a use for the sentimental creativity. There is maybe even an outlet for time capsules! We need more softness in this scary world, don’t you think?

And that’s where the precious ones can shine.

That was a lot of talking, but I share all of that to say this: if you, as a mama, are being true to the daily leading of the Spirit and are finding your parenting manual in the living and active Word of God, are your kids going to be okay?

Even if you have themed birthday parties?

Even if you still slather your 8-year old in baby lotion after his bath? (What? Did I just say that out loud?)

Even if you do photo shoots and start planning for holiday wardrobes months in advance?

You betcha.

It takes all sorts of mamas to make the world go round, and even if we never line up on the tertiary subjects, we can relax in our common anchor, the most important thing in the motherhood equation, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If we as precious moms have that, if our earnestness is based on a heart that adores children and this magical season of life, if our over-the-topness springs forth from a heart that finds the sanctify of human life something that starts at home, if we are humble enough to listen and grow and change, then we’ve got nothing to worry about.

Let’s listen closely to the wizened voices of the ones who have blazed the path for us and draw from their unique strengths and add their wisdom to our arsenals…

but let’s also never be ashamed to be the sort of precious that God created us to be.

Pinterest is counting on us.

~

Three cheers today for all moms, and I hope this brings relief to any readers who needed it. These motherhood topics can be so very sensitive, so please use extra discretion in your comments! I see all comments, but only those that lead to edification will be published. Thank you for visiting, and if you’d like to receive almost-daily updates and stories from Mrs. Gore and family, find us on Facebook!

If you’ve never commented here and your comments are not going through, I am away from my computer. I’ll try to have everything moderated by tonight! Many thanks!

The Late-night Song of a Mother Sparrow

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“Everyone else is asleep,” Rebekah said, her long, golden ponytail draped over her right shoulder. “Can you come cover me up?”

It had been a special movie night upstairs and, after a long and tiresome day, Gideon and Betsie had fallen asleep early.

Rebekah’s cornflower blue eyes burned a hole in me, and I felt that familiar tug in my heart that I had better move, this time out of my cozy and warm chair, and take an opportunity to minister to one of my children.

How often is it that I have the luxury to love on one child without the others there to ask for reciprocation?

“Do that to me!” and “It’s my turn!” are, after all, some of the most-used phrases in our home.

And besides all that, it had been a rough day. My patience was down to the very last thread by the time my husband came home from work, and I was not proud of the fluctuations that had taken place in my actions throughout a day of testing on the homefront.

And so, ignoring the ache in my feet and the lazy in my bones, I resolutely set aside my computer, I took her by the hand and we walked upstairs together.

A “fresh start”, even though it was nearing ten o’ clock.

I had just remarked to her an hour before how tall she is becoming. She’ll be six in June, but it has been a trademark characteristic of this beloved second child to always seem much older than she is, both in build and manner. She looks seven, all of a sudden! And so it made me very happy, as we made our way upstairs, to note how small her hand still feels in mine.

We padded quietly on bare feet to her bed, being careful not to disrupt her snoozing siblings.

She laid noiselessly down on her pink, floral sheets, and I was picking up her old, threadbare quilt to cover her up when I felt that tug again.

She must have felt it, too, because the words were coming out of her mouth as my heart was already saying “yes”.

“Lay with me?” she asked. “I love it when you lay down with me.”

I smiled and nodded and, lifting the quilt higher, I slid in beside her before letting the blanket fall down over us both.

She immediately claimed my left arm and laid it across her chest.

“Why do I love this arm so much?” she laughed, holding it close like she always does.

I laughed with her, feeling more useful and important than I had the entire day over.

“Will you tell me some stories about when I was little?” she asked, blinking at me pleadingly.

It has become a favorite pasttime for all of our children, backing up the advice I have read in so many parenting and educating books. Children love to hear stories about their families and themselves, the books say, and I am forever racking my brain to come up with one that they haven’t yet heard.

I hesitated, trying to think of a really good one.

“Just talk,” she instructed me. “Tell me…anything! About when I was a baby!”

And so I started at the very beginning. How I felt when I found out she was a girl. How I picked her name one morning in Sunday School class. How she was weeks past her due date. How, from the very beginning, she has brought comfort and help to our family. How she spent her first six months of life, staring at me, waiting for my eyes to see her so she could convey her love through smiles and giggles. How she began to take command at a very young age, keeping everyone, including the grocery store, in order.

“Was I everything you wanted?” she asked, eyes gleaming.

“No,” I told her, honestly. “You were everything I didn’t even know I wanted. You were everything I needed.”

Her expression lit with satisfaction, and I knew she understood the sentiment I was trying to convey. But then…Rebekah has always understood. Before she could speak…before she was “old enough”…I knew that she knew and I knew what she was trying to tell me.

It is a gift of hers, I think, to understand, and one that reaches me in deep places. I think it might even keep me going sometimes.

I told her all the stories I could think of, some that made her smile contentedly, some that made her throw her head back and scrunch up her eyes with my favorite belly laugh.

And then our conversation eventually turned to Him.

“I just hope,” I whispered, “that you will always, always follow God through His Word, Rebekah. This world is so confusing and people have so many ideas about who God is and what is right and wrong, but even when life seems scary and you don’t know what to do or what to believe, you can trust Him.”

“And God always has a plan,” she murmured, gazing right through me with her powerful eyes.

And then the privacy and comfort of the nursery invited us into a sacred conversation.

Secret fears were shared, fears that I didn’t even know she had. I will keep them just for her, safe in my heart and in my prayers, but what had begun as a routine tucking-in was turning into something so beautifully holy and reverent, casting ridicule on my earlier reluctance to rise from my silly chair in front of a screen.

These are the moments worth living for, the ones where you are living for someone else.

Will I ever remember that up-front, without coercion? 

“God will take care of me, won’t He?” she finished, voice quavering.

The Spirit was kind to my speechless brain, and led me quickly to the simple food she needed…

“Do you see the lilies of the field?” I asked. “Does God take care of them?”

She nodded, lips pursed.

“The birds of the air?” I continued. “Does God care for them?”

She nodded again, a tiny smile playing at one corner of her mouth.

“Then how much more will He take care of you?” I smiled, feeling that same truth bringing comfort to my faithless heart. “You can believe that, Rebekah. God doesn’t promise that life will be easy. Sad things might happen, scary things might happen, but you must ALWAYS keep these two things close to your heart: God is in control and God is good.”

She nodded a final time, visibly comforted by the mantra her Papa taught me many years ago. I say it all the time: God is in control and God is good. It answers every question and assuages every fear.

Our arms were intertwined by now as we laid side by side, and I took her left hand in mine.

“I know a song that might help you remember what we talked about tonight,” I said. “Would you like to hear it?”

She nodded, and I began to sing the hymn, long forgotten, but divinely remembered on this special night with my young daughter, and as I sang, I praised my Father who fathers and mothers the ones I love better than I ever could.

With His voice in my ear and by His guidance and grace, I am confident that they will know Him and love Him…

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart feel lonely, and long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me

I sing because I’m happy

I sing because I’m free

For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*

And just like that, before I could even make it to the second verse, her hand grew slack in mine and her heavy breathing told me she had fallen asleep, ushered into slumber by a voice that, forty-five minutes before, felt too tired to make a peep and too comfortable to go upstairs.

Ah, I am a broken mess of a woman.

So needy. So weak.

So straying. So self-interested.

But His eye is on the mother sparrow, too, and by His grace – and His grace ALONE – I sing.

Happy in Jesus.

Free from myself.

~

*His Eye is on the Sparrow by Civilla Martin

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