Your Saturday Smile: All Things Chewbacca Lady Edition

By now, pretty much everyone has seen the video of the Chewbacca mask lady. If not, what are you waiting for? You can watch it below.

Since that video, a few more happy videos involving the Chewbacca lady have popped onto the scene. Check out three I've especially enjoyed (after the original).

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How Weeds, Ditches, and Dogs Declare God's Glory

Last June I was dog-sitting my grandparents' dog, Kit, while they were on vacation. This sparked a post with four lessons the experience was teaching me.

Well, I'm dog-sitting again, and Kit is still teaching me. She's once again strongly reinforcing the third lesson I learned last summer: curiosity is a virtue.

Curiosity At Weeds and Ditches
I took her on a walk yesterday afternoon. It was down a plain, old boring cul-de-sac, one I had been down a hundred times before, one she had too. Yet she still always hung behind me, stopped at a cluster of weeds that she had to sniff for an uncomfortably long amount of time, or peering intently into a watery ditch. "What is it?" I asked (or thought) again and again. "What is so fascinating to you?" 

The answer was always the same -- nothing. There was nothing magical or even mildly interesting about the weeds or the ditch. They were just there. Yet Kit's reaction was unparalleled fascination. These boring, dirty things held unique smells and sights, and Kit wanted to drink them all in, because in this moment she was here and they were here and she wanted to explore. She was fantastically curious.

Everyday Wonder
There is wonder in God's world to be found everyday if we look for it. That's what Kit reminded me of. Flowers and feathers and mushrooms and mosquitoes are all shouting a single theme -- God. God is beautiful, God is creative, God is infinitely wise, God is creator, God is good, God is glorious. It's all written plain as day in the weeds and water and dogs if we look for it. Creation sings it.

Wonder is good for the soul. It awakens in us both joy and humility, thrusting into our heart a compelling, refreshed awe of God. It gives us a sense of happiness to be alive and yet a littleness at our place in God's big story.

So then, will you wonder at the mundane today? Will you wonder at the weeds, at muddy ditches, at animals, at color-shifting skies, at food, at it all? I hope so. And I hope it will incite in you marvelous and unchecked joy in the glory of God.


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There's Always More to Learn

Always. There is always more to learn.

One of the most poisonous, anti-biblical, anti-intellectual ideas in the world (and especially evangelicalism) is that you don't need to be taught. The Bible presents human knowledge as incomplete. No Christian has everything figured out. There is always more to learn and room to grow. 

How We Learn
Right now I'm taking a course on the background, nature, and purpose of the Gospels. While I was at first a little ambivalent about taking it, Dad encouraged me to sign up. "You need to keep learning," he told me. Currently I'm in the fourth week and unit of the course and am delighting in soaking up fresh, new truths. I'm delighting in learning.

That's also why I decided to take Tim Challies' reading challenge this year; they help me learn. Books are profound teachers, sometimes shockingly eye-opening and other times subtly gentle. They're catalysts for my growth.

Why We Learn
In his marvelous book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney lists learning as a spiritual discipline. In an article about this subject, he writes:

The Christian life not only begins with learning, it proceeds through a process of lifelong learning. This includes deeper discoveries of intimacy with God, an ever-growing grasp of the Bible and its doctrines, a greater awareness of our sin, an increased knowledge of the person and work of Christ, further implications of what it means to follow Him, and more. 

Learning is an utter necessity for the Christian. But, as Dr. Whitney also says, "To emphasize learning as essential to following Jesus is not advocacy for egghead Christianity. Like Jesus, we want both a heart for God and a head for God." 

Absolutely. We want to both learn and love God. 

But these aren't divorced ideas, as if one really does happen in the organ of our heart and the other happens up in the goo of our brain. Learning and loving are interconnected. Learning should be an expression and a fuel for love. Love is the motivation and the fire. Learning is a precious tool, and love is its fruit. 

The End of Our Learning
Some Christians think that when they die, there will be no more learning. All at once ... boom. They'll know it all. No more studying, reading, or listening. But this idea can be found nowhere in Scripture. In fact, it seems to present the opposite. Only God is omniscient, and that's not an attribute He will share with us. It's like His omnipotence. We won't be all-powerful after our death. Why would we be all-knowing then? 

Sure, we'll know more things and we'll know things more fully, but even after death, I believe we'll keep learning.

So there really is always more to learn. It's an idea for today and for eternity. It's not a burden but a blessing, a gift. Take joy in learning, and let that motivate your love for the source of all truth and knowledgeGod Himself. 

The Root of All Saving Christianity

J.C. Ryle was an Anglican bishop and the author of the stunning work, Holiness

I'm only a few chapters deep into Holiness but am finding myself constantly struck and convicted and moved and blown away by what I'm reading. These paragraphs are from his chapter on sin, conveniently titled, "Sin."

The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner.

The material creation in Genesis began with "light," and so also does the spiritual creation. God "shines into our hearts" by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor. 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies.

I believe that one of the chief wants of the contemporary church has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin.

Your Saturday Smile: Obvious Edition

An oldie, but a goodie.

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The Thing That Gives Me Courage


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How To Fight Self-Glory

I don't think I'm the only one.

The only one to cling to praise like it defines me. The only one to get a mental high from affirmation. The only one to feel like criticism is a physical blow. The only one to make encouragement an idol.

I don't think I'm the only one because the Bible tells me I'm not. Praise-addiction is a universal sin condition. Humans love to be exalted and hate to be humbled. Constructive criticism is poisonous to an inflated ego. No, the ego does not want your "suggestions." It wants to be fed to stuffing with its own self-importance.

This sounds harsh because it is. Self-idolatry, self-glory, is serious sin. It communicates destructive thinking and an attitude God hates (Prov. 6:16-17).

So then, affirmation is not the problem. Self-glory is.

Moving away from the addictive allure of this idolatry starts with repentance and contrition. Then it slides into practical living. I can think of no better antidote for self-glory than criticism.

These days I get a lot of criticism (as does anyone who's writing a book) and am sure to get a great deal more in the weeks and months and years to come. Criticism comes to us in all colors and flavors and shapes. Some is unfairly cruel and some is deeply valuable. All can be learned from.

Learning to accept criticism well is a powerful antidote to self-glory, because it forces us to accept that we are imperfect. We make mistakes. We fail. We are unworthy of glory. It reinforces experientially our profound littleness. We are not God. We do not deserve affirmation, praise, and worship. But God, He does. Everything good or successful that we do is because of His glory and not ours.

The next time you get affirmation, the next time you feel the high of praise, the rush of success, give God the glory. Deflate your growing ego and praise God for His work in your life.

It's not all about us. It's really not. It's about Him.


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One Mom's Journey Into Foster Care

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Month?

We have a foster mom in our church who never fails to amaze me by her sacrificial service to the kids she takes in. Reading about foster parenting is always so heartrending, I can't imagine what it's like for the moms and dads who do it. 

Today at Randy Alcorn's blog, there's a wonderful piece by an active foster mom. Why don't you check it out?

I have not given one back yet. At least not one that I have had for more than a few days, one that I have fallen in love with. Friends tell me you cry the day you find out they are leaving, and you cry the day they leave. Then you start all over again, fall in love again, say goodbye again. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to do it, give them back, but of course I will, whether or not I think I can. This is what I signed up for. This is foster care.

I cannot remember what exactly brought foster care to the forefront of my mind, but in a mind like mine, when something comes to the front, it gets stuck there. So I read about it, talked about it, prayed about it, and I became compelled to do something.

I was compelled by the stories of children, just like mine, living right across town from me who were hurt, starved, raped, ignored. I was compelled by the statistics that predict these kids’ futures: jail, pregnancy, homelessness, further abuse. I was compelled by admitting what is true: God created them, loves them, values them, and died for them, just like He did for me and my own children. Ultimately, I was compelled by the most compelling thing: the fact that I, too, was rescued. These kids were just like me: helpless, hopeless, fatherless.

So, that was it. I had to do something. But my husband and I are a team; we do “somethings” together. And so began the months of talking, praying, and struggling through what this something was. We know God loves orphans, we know God wants us to love orphans, but does that mean we have to upend our happy “one-boy one-girl, all we ever wanted” family to love them?


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Your Saturday Smile: Historic Yellowstone Edition

I find this fascinating (and humorously old-fashioned). This is a vintage ad for Yellowstone National Park.

(HT: 22 Words)

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The Best Books I've Read This Year (So Far)

Perhaps you know that I'm attempting a reading challenge. This one, to be exact

I am attempting to read at least 104 books this year, covering each of the categories the challenge specifies. I'm almost halfway through the year, but have already read more books than I did last year. In that case, I thought I would give you an update on a few of my favorites so far.

As of today, I have read 62 books in 2016. If you want to see all of them, you can check out my challenge bookshelf on Goodreads here. (Note: Some books were great, and some were bad. Don't think that because they're on that shelf I recommend them. Please.)

I have read some marvelous books this year, and these are 11 of them (including the category they fit in for the challenge).

The Valley of Vision edited by Arthur Bennett - a book published by the Banner of Truth

Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman - a book about language

The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper (my review here) - a book with a great cover

The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson - a book with an ugly cover

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges - a book whose title comes from a Bible verse

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (my review here) - a book about the Second World War

Faerie Gold edited by Kathryn Lindskoog and Renelda Mack Hunsicker - a book for children

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller (my thoughts here) - a book written by a Presbyterian

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg - a book by a first-time author

Adoption by Russell Moore - a book about adoption

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon (my review here) - a book about art

What are the best books you've read so far this year?


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