Thank God for Cats (+ Every Other Small Mercy)

I have two cats, brothers.

They're soft and sweet, occasionally stand-offish but never mean. We call one Tubby and one Mr. Baby and constantly put voices in their mouths. They play and wrestle and then bathe each other and sleep like yin and yang. I call Tubby my best friend and Baby my best baby. Tubby loves to lick Dad's head, and Baby is obsessed with running bath water. They like my dad the best, but they lovingly tolerate the rest of us.

I love those cats.

God is so gracious to us, isn't He? The sweetness of gentle and playful pets is a precious gift. Just like crunchy, colorful leaves and delicious food and board games and sports games and beautiful books. God is merciful to us in the little things. That's what I frequently forget. He is unfailingly, unflaggingly merciful. You can see it in the taken-for-granted and the ordinary. You can see it in the sky and smells and food and relationships. You can see it in the breath you're breathing right now, the sights you're staring at, the daylight that washes over you. Thank God for life.

And thank God for small mercies. Thank God for cats. Thank God for yogurt-covered raisins. Thank God for hair cuts. Thank God for tea. Thank God for computers. Thank God for music.

Small mercies. Daily mercies. Mercies that threaten to go unnoticed and melt into oblivion unless we pay attention for one minute and just thank God. So pay attention to those mercies. The safe drive to the grocery store. The good day at work. The sunshine and the snow. See them, and be grateful.

A Preview of Next Tuesday

Next Tuesday I have a review coming of a profound, theologically-rich, heart-moving new book on health. I've mentioned it before; it's called Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Dr. Bob Cutillo.

Today I wanted to share with you an adapted excerpt from the foreword, which was written by Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today.

Perhaps this might even inspire you to read the book for yourself. My review comes on Tuesday.
"Perhaps once a year, if I’m lucky, I encounter a book that addresses a supremely important topic and does so in a supremely helpful way. Dr. Bob Cutillo’s Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age is such a book.

What are we to do with our bodies, fearfully and wonderfully made as they are, in times of illness, vulnerability, and death? That question has always been with us. But it’s becoming especially urgent for the citizens of the technological world—or, more baldly put, subjects of the technological empire—that holds out to us a vision of the good life buttressed by scientific knowledge but also demands from us ever more loyalty and obedience.

As a citizen of that empire, it feels almost subversive to observe that there’s something uniquely tragic about our age of modern medicine—tragic in the old sense of genuine greatness and good intentions turned awry by a fatal flaw.

In so many ways, medicine has delivered real cures and relief of suffering. It’s likely that I’m here to write this foreword, 48 years into my mortal life, only because of the direct and indirect contributions of medicine, starting with the vaccines that warded off many a childhood illness, the antibiotics that effortlessly cured many another, the anesthesia that has made minor but essential surgeries possible, and the more mundane benefits of dentistry and ophthalmology, just to name a few. And for the most part, the human beings who’ve prescribed and delivered these treatments have been people of intelligence, wisdom, patience, and kindness—bearers of the imago Dei at their best.

Yet in so many other ways, medicine falls ever short of our expectations that it’ll deliver us from the basic human condition, the morbidity and mortality that are our inheritance as fallen creatures."

How the "Medicalization" of Life Teaches Us About Change

I am reading a fascinating book right now. It's called Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age, and it's written by a doctor named Bob Cutillo.

In a recent chapter I read, he wrote about a cultural phenomenon known as "medicalization." Here's how he defines it: "The simplest definition of medicalization is when previously nonmedical problems become defined (and ultimately treated) as medical problems."

Sometimes this is good, he argues. Like for childbirth. He explains: "Childbirth, for example, has historically been a nonmedical experience and still is for many. Yet the use of the medical principles of hygiene and sterility has prevented numerous infections at this crucial moment of life, showing how a judicious application of medicalization to a common condition can produce broad benefit."

But there are other cases of medicalization that, arguably, aren't so good. Like depression. Or ADHD. Suddenly, things that historically have not been physical problems to be treated by doctors and medicine now are.

When this happens, Cutillo writes: "The number of people taking daily medication skyrockets, with greater risk of side effects from the treatment used to solve the medicalized problem. All of this explodes the need for professional care, whether to prescribe pills, offer therapy, or deal with the side effects of treatment."

But there's more. Our cultural medicalization hasn't just changed how we treat people in the health care system. It's changed how we view and understand people (and ourselves) as individuals.

Cutillo says this: "Much of human difference is no longer absorbed within a broader social context but stands apart as undesirable and stigmitizable characteristics of the individual. Individuals struggle to fit or belong based on the new categories of normal and abnormal. The label of 'abnormal' or 'diseased' changes self-perception, with new identities formed that are heavily defined by the medical diagnosis."

What Medicalization Teaches Us About Engaging with Cultural Change
We live in a rapidly changing world, where social, psychological, and technological advances are making serious impacts on our lives. That's what Cutillo reminded me of through his explanation of medicalization.

It is deeply vital for Christians to engage with emerging cultural shifts and movements in a Christ-focused way - whether we're talking medicine, the arts, technology, education, economics, or politics.

This means approaching them with a biblical framework and an analytical eye. It means not being too slow or too fast to embrace change. It means lining everything up against God's Word and recognizing it as the supreme standard. Then it means acting in a way consistent with truth - even if we're unpopular. Rather, especially if we're unpopular.

It does not mean hiding from the culture or burying our heads in the proverbial sand. It means standing for what we believe is right in the time and place God has us in. He has put us here for a reason. He is not surprised by the moves and shakes of culture. And He wants us to obey, follow, love, and trust Him in this day and age.

No matter what culture says.

My 3 Biggest Fears as a Teenager

I'm on The Gospel Coalition today writing about a vulnerable and interesting subject - fear.

"The teen years can be scary. Adolescents stand on the cusp of adulthood and face a flood of newness—new feelings, new experiences, new relationships, new responsibilities, new decisions, a whole new stage of life. It’s overwhelming, like we’re standing at the edge of a cliff, told to jump but unfamiliar with what’s below.

And we’re afraid.

As a teen just now crossing into the threshold of adulthood, I’m all too familiar with the fears of adolescence. All that instability, confusion, and decision-making can be stressful and even painful. I’ve laid awake at night because of a melting pot of fears bubbling in my mind, poisoning my peace. 

Above all, there were three fears that have screamed the loudest and lasted the longest: fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of both intimacy and loneliness."

Some Assorted Thoughts on Labor Day

It's Labor Day (or Labour Day, here in Canada). Most of us know it's a celebration of work (and rest), but where did it come from? Here are 7 things you didn't know about Labor Day.

I'm grateful for this day, for the joy and privilege of work and the grace of rest. Scotty Smith was too, so he penned a prayer for Labor Day

Since I like my work, this day is a happy reminder and affirmation of what I'm doing. But many are discouraged by their work, and they feel oppressed and like they're laboring in vain. John Piper wrote for the people who feel like they're laboring "for nought." 

On one hand, there are people who struggle with discontentment in their work. On the other hand, there are so many of us who struggle with idolizing work, liking it too much, placing it on a plane above the gospel. Erik Raymond writes how Labor Day reminds us of work's proper place in the Christian life.

What we really need is a biblical understanding of work, a clarity about vocation. Gene Edward Veith writes that for us.

In a lighter but similar vein, Trevin Wax answers the question, "Why do we work?"

If you can, rest today, and rejoice in work tomorrow. Both are good, both are gifts, and both are necessary for the Christian life.

Happy Labor (Labour) Day.

13 Things I'm Loving This Month

From silly to serious, here are 13 things I have been eating, drinking, reading, listening to, laughing at, and enjoying this month.

1. Fruit 2.0 Sparkling Water. Everybody's raving about LaCroix these days, but here in Nova Scotia I have yet to locate this trendy beverage. I have discovered Fruit 2.0, though, and I've fallen in love with it. There are so many delicious flavors - my favorites right now are cherry lime, strawberry, and white grapefruit. This is the drink that has defined my August.

2. The Simple Show. I know, I know, I'm always raving about podcasts, and this is yet another. But I only just stumbled upon it and have been listening quite a bit this month. Hosted by Tsh Oxenreider, she interviews guests about simple living - simple eating, simple entertaining, simple reading, simple decorating.

3. The Olympics. Because everybody loves the Olympics. Best moment: Andre De Grasse and Usain Bolt exchanging grins as they crossed the finish line second and first in their heat at the men's 200M semi-finals.

4. Abigail Murrish's blog. Her tagline is "Robust theology. Thoughtful science. A sagacious life." She writes about food, the gospel, hospitality, agriculture, books, and a lot of other beautiful, important things.

5. Holiness by J.C. Ryle. This book. If you have not read it, you need to. I mean it.

6. The Blue Jays. A.k.a. the first place team in the American League East Division - in case you were wondering.

7. Veggie/legume chips. My family thinks I'm weird, but I have really been into bean chips lately. And plantain chips. And kale chips. And snap pea chips. Maybe I am weird ...

8. Summer fruit. Colorful and delicious blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, pineapple - so yummy and fresh.

9. The Bible Project. I promise that I do not get paid to promote The Bible Project! I just love it a lot.

10. Keith and Kristyn Getty. After TGCW16, I've been listening to so much Getty music. My two favorite songs right now are "Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed" and "Lift High the Name of Jesus."

11. After-sun cream. For sun burns. So many sun burns.

12. Dancing with REFIT REVOLUTION. When it's too hot to run or I just don't feel like it, I stay inside and dance to REFIT. You can find this fitness dance studio on YouTube with tons of choreography videos, including several Christian songs.

13. The Chronicles of Narnia. I'm re-reading this series in publication order and loving it even more this time than when I read it a few years ago.

What are your favorite things this month?

It's Raining Right Now (And That's About It)

I am lying on my stomach in my bedroom as it pours rain outside. And I mean pours rain - thick, fast sheets of water fall like they're sliding off a tilting pan.

As I lie here, I am pondering what to write about today. Books? I wonder. Food? Maybe. Perhaps a list of some sort? No, there have been a lot of lists on the blog lately. The book of Daniel (where I'm at in my devotions)? I don't know.

Nothing is really coming, and then the sound of the pounding rain begins to drown out my thoughts. It sounds like a pulsing river, periodically picking up in speed and intensity, then softening to a quiet stream.

And now I stop and think, "Why not write about the rain?" But what about the rain? Is there a theological metaphor in there? Some witty anecdote it might lead to? Is it going to turn into one of my classic "I'm-so-grateful-for-something-seemingly-insignificant" posts?

No, I think. Jaquelle, why not just write about the rain? No dramatic spiritual application. Just the fact that it's raining. We've had a dry summer here, swinging between blistering heat and muggy humidity. The last few weeks have sparked serious forest fires across the province. We needed this rain, this fast and rushing rain.

There is something deeply cleansing about heavy rain. It's washing the cars in the driveway and the dirty pavement on the street. It's nourishing our grass and garden. It's reviving and sustaining life. Rain feels so clean, like it's rubbing away grime and filth and dirt and shame and ugly and smoothing it over with freshness and newness and shine.

It's bright outside. The grey sky is so pale it's almost white, and the clouds are thick and light. I almost don't need the light in my room on now. It's a summer rain.

There's leftover squash soup and homemade bread for lunch. I'm glad. Rain and soup just seem to go together, hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly.

I am grateful for this rain. I am happy to see this rain. I have spent almost half an hour reflecting on this rain.

And that's pretty much the point of this post: it's raining right now.

It's the Little Things in Life

My  parents have instilled in me a deep love for the little things in life. You know, those ordinary, seemingly unspectacular moments that hold meaning.

Our neighbor completing the siding on his garage, after leaving a square uncovered for weeks.

The garbage man taking all of our garbage, even though we put out extra.

Using leftover food.

Killer deals in supermarket flyers.

A new podcast coming out.

Getting a stain out of shorts.

Gas going down two cents the day we planned to fill up.

A perfect breeze on a summer day.

Our cats being really cute.

Watching The Price is Right as a family.

Finishing a book.

Everybody says, "It's the little things in life." And it really, really is. Those are the things that create your everyday delights. Sure, the big things hold their magic too -- a major vacation, getting married, having a child, landing a dream job. But if you neglect the wonder in the little things, you miss out on 99% of God's grace in your life.

Take a moment today and appreciate something little, whatever it is. A green light. A great cup of coffee. A stunning sunset. On-sale ice cream. A fan positioned just right. Your favorite t-shirt.

Just appreciate it as a little manifestation of God's glorious, happy grace. Amazing.

5 (More) Podcasts I Listen To

Back in April I posted 6 podcasts I'd been listening to. But time brings new podcasts, new interests, and different perspectives. While I still listen to some of those podcasts, here are 5 more I've been listening to since that post.

Apologia Radio -- Honestly, I had no idea why I wasn't listening to this podcast. The cast is funny and entertaining but they have such solid and fascinating conversations about culture and theology. I wasn't all that familiar with Jeff Durbin and Apologia Studios before listening to AR, but I've been impressed and encouraged with everything that I've seen. (Side note: Apologia Studios recently released a video of a conversation Jeff had with a Planned Parenthood supporter outside of a PP clinic in Tempe, Arizona. It was a fascinating watch.)

Home Row: A Podcast for Writers -- Okay, if you're not a writer you may not find this the most interesting podcast ever. But I love it. J.A. Medders has interviewed Christian writers like Tony Reinke, Douglas Wilson, Tim Challies, and Barnabas Piper about their writing processes, the world of publishing, what to read, how to come up with ideas, and a lot of other things. If you're interested in writing, this is a podcast to check out.

Stop, No, Weight -- I am eagerly awaiting the third episode of this brand-new podcast hosted by Paul Maxwell and Joy Beth Smith. Stop, No, Weight is about Christians and body image and food and attraction and romance, and it is both incredibly vulnerable and insightful. It's an important conversation to have, and I think Paul and Joy Beth are really nailing it. I look forward to continuing to listen.

The Happy Rant -- Ted Kluck, Barnabas Piper, and Ronnie Martin are the cast members of The Happy Rant, an amusedly cantankerous podcast where these Christian guys just rant about a few different topics. It sounds ridiculous, I know, and probably rather negative, but you can't take much seriously on this podcast. It's funny and a teensy bit edgy (at least in my conservative/Reformed context), but it is also thought-provoking and self-aware.

Limetown -- Totally different from any other podcasts I've listened to, Limetown is a fictional program. I listened to the entire show in one day and was spell-bound. Similar to radio theater, Limetown is presented as a series of investigative reports by reporter Lia Haddock as she uncovers the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of 300 people at a research facility in Limetown.

What are you listening to?

Four Ways Teenagers Live for More

I'm on desiringGod today with a new article for teens. Perhaps you'd like to check it out!

As teenagers, life feels so big, doesn’t it? Like a canvas that stretches into outer space, it bubbles over with potential. We have so much to do and so many places to see. I’m 18, and I often wonder how God will use me in his vast story.

As Jesus-followers, the last thing we want to do is waste this life. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always resonated so deeply with the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), a man committed to pursuing holiness for his whole life, a conviction that began as a teenager.

Of the seventy resolutions that Edwards wrote between the ages of 19 and 20, my favorite is number six: “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.” Short. Simple. Profoundly urgent. This was his teenage version of carpe diem for the glory of God, a call to his young soul to seize life with purpose and passion. I love that.

But some days I wonder how to do that. What exactly does it look like to live with all my might as a teenager for the glory of God? As I’ve studied Scripture and learned from Jonathan Edwards, I’ve found four answers that have been especially helpful.

Why You Need God's Word on Your Worst Days

My bad day started from the moment I woke up yesterday.

It was early, and I didn't want to get out of bed. But it was also hot, and I decided that if I wanted to go for a run and not, at best, pass out or, at worst, die (I may have been feeling a wee bit dramatic), I had to go right now. So I crawled out of bed and was sweating before I even got dressed. 

One important thing must be noted -- I did not want to go for a run. Normally I love running. But not yesterday. I was feeling like I should go for a run, though, and that is not the same thing. I was motivated by some weird, cranky, insecure self-obligation. 

So I grunted hello to my mother, laced up my sneakers, and walked outside. Right into a spider web. 

Then I started walking down my driveway, and my heels began to burn.

Second important thing that must be noted -- three days ago I wore a very cute pair of red ballet flats to a coffee date with a friend. They are lovely to look at but dreadful to walk in. Yet I ended up having to walk four-ish blocks that day. Does not sound difficult. I'm here to tell you that it was. Like bandage-worthy blister difficult. By the time I got back to my car I wanted to cry and my heels were raw and split. 

Now fast forward to yesterday morning, three minutes after walking outside, and I am hobbling back up the driveway because I literally cannot run with those flat-induced blisters. I am humiliated, hot, tired, and annoyed. Very annoyed. My heels hurt. And I'd climbed out of my very comfortable bed when I could have been still sleeping and I was a failure and I would never be fit and I just wanted to read happy books and eat chocolate forever and then also sleep forever. (Don't ask me to make sense of how I felt. I'm just reporting the facts.)

I came inside, sat down in a huff, and immediately turned on my phone. If you're keeping track, this is like the fifty-second bad decision I've made so far this morning. Then I opened Facebook. Bad decision number fifty-three. It wasn't that I saw anything terrible or especially annoying. It's just that in my sour mood, I was looking for all the wrong reasons. Instead of edification, I was looking to social media for validation and distraction.

And I'm grateful that the Lord suddenly pushed me to shut it all down and pick up my Bible. At this lovely moment in time, I did not want to read my Bible. But I knew I should, I must, not because of self-obligation, but because it was the only thing my soul really truly needed. If I wanted to choose joy, embrace the day, live intentionally, maximize my time, do good deeds, or be kind to others, I needed God's Word. 

There, in my sin, God met me. He forgave me in my repentance and nourished me through His Word. And by 9:00 a.m., my bad day (morning, really) was over. My eyes were off myself and on God's kingship. I read Psalm 97: "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice." Rejoice because God, not me, is great. Have joy, peoples! Seriously. In your worst day, God is still in control. Right in my bad mood, God's Word was what I needed most. 

Reminders like that are what I need in the midst of bad days. Reminders that can only come from God's Word. The Spirit works in incredible ways to convict and encourage, and He works through His Word. 

For that, I am grateful.

The Conference I'm Going To in December

Yesterday registration opened for a conference I have been looking forward to for months. It's CROSS.

In 2013, this student missions conference hosted their first conference in Louisville, Kentucky (which I live-streamed from my basement in Halifax). Then, a year and a half ago they held a one-night simulcast, and, after watching it, I wrote about it here. But this December they're hosting a full four-day conference in Indianapolis, and I couldn't be more excited to attend in person this time.

From December 27-30, dozens of godly men (like John Piper, David Platt, and Kevin DeYoung) and a few godly women will speak to thousands of college-aged kids about the global cause of Christ. Musicians Trip Lee and Matt Boswell will lead worship, and Dad and I will soak it all in.

This is what the website says about CROSS:

"CROSS aims to mobilize students for the most dangerous and loving cause in the universe: rescuing people from eternal suffering and bringing them into the everlasting joy of knowing and worshipping Jesus.

CROSS is not a church. It is not a new campus ministry. It is not an offshoot of any existing ministry, as thankful as we are for so many likeminded movements and organizations. The aim of CROSS is simpler and more focused: We are a conference that, we pray, may be used of God to mobilize students in the cause of frontier missions for the glory of Jesus Christ. That’s our passion, our purpose."

Something tells me you'll be hearing more from me about this conference as it draws closer and especially once I've attended. After going to TGCWC last month with 7,000 other women, I'm pretty psyched to attend a conference full of passionate Christian guys and girls my age. I'm eager to hear truth preached and see the glory of Christ lifted up in light of the call of gospel work. 

And I am now counting down the days: 153 sleeps until CROSS.

An Update on My Book

Since people have frequently been asking about my book's progress (and seeing as today is a rather exciting day in that process), I thought I would give you an update on where things are at.

The deadline to turn in the manuscript (the whole book) of This Changes Everything is August 1, but I've actually prepared to turn it in today! While I could tinker and tweak forever, I'm at the point where I'm ready for my editor to tackle it and make it so much better. I need a break from the project for a little while. So now the book goes to the editor, she edits, and then she sends it back to me for my final edits. That will be the last time I work on it.

The publication date for TCE has been scheduled for April 30, 2017, with a tentative plan to launch it at The Gospel Coalition National Conference on April 3.

I've been in steady communication with the graphic designers at Crossway, and they've almost completed the cover of the book. I can't wait to share it with you. It's different in design, but I think it's quite compelling and definitely bright!

In these months that I wait for the manuscript back, and then ultimately for the book to come out, I get to pour my time into promo/marketing/other fun stuff. There's some writing for other publications, there will be some interviews, I'll be guest teaching in Brett Harris's new online course for young adults, Do Hard Things University, and we're in the process of teaming up to launch a video series for where I'll be interviewing some well-known faces in the Christian world. 

Who knows what else may come up? 

I continue to covet your prayers. Pray for wisdom and direction in this next year -- and beyond. I went from being the 12-year-old who had her entire life planned out to being an almost 19-year-old who has no clue what her life will look like in six months. Pray that God would be glorified throughout this whole process, the writing, the waiting, the editing, the marketing, the interviews, everything. Pray that I would have humility and grace. And please pray that This Changes Everything would be used to impact individuals for Christ. 

So today I turn in my book. Then I'm making pancakes and watching movies. Because it's the little things in life. 

Why I've Fallen In Love with Throwing Things Out

It started with a YouTube video, as so many great things do. This video, to be exact. One guy talking about a concept called minimalism.

And then I read a book. It was called The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, and it was by Francine Jay. 

Minimalism, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is a lifestyle where you pare down your stuff to just the essentials, just the things that make you happiest, and just the things you use the most. 

And suddenly this started clicking for me. This was my thought process: I have a lot of stuff. I have a few things I use all the time and a few things I love, but a lot of stuff that sits on a shelf or hangs in my closet that never gets touched. I don't like that I'm so cluttered. So why do I still have this stuff?

Hence, the throwing things out. First, my clothes. Then, my books. Then, my desk. Then, my closet. I went through every item, removed it from its home, and asked: "Do I love this? Do I use this? Will I miss this?" Two giant bags of clothes are gone. Three giant bags of garbage are gone. One giant bag of stuff has been given away. My room has never been so clean, so organized, and so loved. It's refreshing being in here, with everything in its place.

Having less stuff is kind of lovely. I wear all of my clothes and jewelry and scarves and sunglasses. I love all my books. It's easy to keep the place clean. 

I've also been forced to reckon with how owning a lot of things I neither use nor like glorifies God. Paring down my possessions has genuinely made me less reliant on them. And it's made me less eager to go out and buy a bunch of new things I will soon have to store -- and eventually get rid of. I believe owning less stuff is a little step I've taken that's personally benefited me spiritually. 

As I get older, I'm realizing that life is about so much more than stuff. And I've seen that stuff can take hold of your heart and actually rob it of happiness. In a culture that's told possessions are the key to joy and fulfillment, the Christian knows that's just not true. For me, owning less things is a little way to remind myself that contentedness, comfort, and satisfaction are not rooted in stuff; they're rooted in Christ.

No matter how much you own, the point of life is still the same -- glorify God with what you've been given. Be a good gospel steward. If you don't need to get rid of anything to do that, great. If you do, great. 

But don't be a thoughtless and unengaged steward. 

Millennials' Biggest Problem: Comparison

I appreciated this piece on RELEVANT today by Paul Angone. It was convicting in a striking way, but it was a healthy reminder.

Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the smallpox of our generation. Nine out of 10 doctors agree Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the leading cause of devouring a whole box of Thin Mints while watching reality TV.

So what exactly is Obsessive Comparison Disorder, what are the side effects, and more importantly, is there a cure?

Obsessive Comparison Disorder

Obsessive Comparison Disorder is our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to depression, consumption, anxiety and all-around joyous discontent.

Now, obviously the lure and danger of comparison didn't just start. Comparison started when sin did.

The first murder recorded in the Bible was a byproduct of comparison. Two brothers brought God an offering. God approved Abel's and disapproved of Cain's. So in Genesis 4 Cain invites his brother out to the field, and he attacks and kills him.

During Jesus' last supper with his disciples, he tells them shocking news that will forever change history—one of them is going to betray him. How do the disciples respond? Do they do whatever it takes to find and stop the culprit? No, in Luke 22 they start an argument about which one of them is the greatest disciple.

Comparison has always been around. But now with the internet and social media it's taken our comparison problem to global heights.

Just a few decades ago, you used to have to wait until your ten-year reunion to look each other up and down to see how much worse or better off you were than them. And all you had to do was fake it for one night.

Rent a BMW. Borrow a spouse and a few kids. Go on some insane weight-loss program you bought on an infomercial, along with that machine that shakes the fat out of you. Do whatever it takes. Just pull off some fabricated version of your life for one night to show everyone that your made-up life was obviously better than theirs.

Comparison has always been around. But now with the internet and social media it's taken our comparison problem to global heights.

Then you could leave your reunion and take that rented BMW straight to Little Caesar's. Two Hot-N-Ready pizzas later, life could start going back to normal.

Now with the joyous invention of online social media, who needs a ten-year reunion? We now have the opportunity to compare ourselves to everyone. Every. Single. Day. What a blessing.

Every day we are trying to pull off a branded, dazzling, filtered, edited, impossibly epic and other worldly life that no one could possibly be living.

"My job doesn't even feel like work!" "My kids couldn't be cuter, they never misbehave and they are the only ones on their team to ever score a goal!" "My spouse and I constantly walk around cheek-snuggling like we're doing in this photo!"

Yet, what effect is Obsessive Comparison Disorder having on us?

An 18-Year-Old First Time Attendee Recaps TGCW16

This time two weeks ago I was sitting near the back of a very full room. Two moms and a baby sat on one side of me. A girl with glasses in her twenties sat on the other side of me. Sandra McCracken stood on the stage with her guitar and led 7200 women in worship. It was day 2 of The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. 

Two weeks ago I attended my very first big conference, and it was marvelous. The only thing lacking was the circumstances. At the beginning of the conference, D.A. Carson commented how delightful it was for him to see so many moms and daughters attending this conference together. That stung a little, because my mom was supposed to be at the conference but was instead at home, sick. So I attended the conference by myself. While Dad drove me down to Indy, walked me to each session, and was basically Superdad, I actually went to the conference by myself.

And in the midst of unfortunate circumstances, I was overwhelmed with great joy.

The Joy of Hearing Women Teach
I frequently read books by Christian women but infrequently have the opportunity to hear them teach in person. To soak in the faithful exposition of 1 Peter by so many godly and articulate women was an immeasurable blessing. Kathleen Nielson, Jen Wilkin, Carrie Sandom, they were all rich with insight and grace. (I unfortunately missed Mary Willson, but I heard she was one of the best.) 

Coming to God's Word hungry to be fed with over seven thousand other women was a delight. 

The Joy of Hearing Women Sing
There's not much like singing praise together in a room of thousands of women. Keith and Kristyn Getty led worship like I've never seen done before. What gifted and humble and lovely people they are. There were moments I was led to tears by the utter joy of the gospel on display in the songs we sang. It was magnificent.

The Joy of Tasting Heaven
Since I went to each session alone, I tended to make friends with people I sat by. There was the young mom from Georgia, the single lawyer from Manhattan, the sweet Texan named Kelly, the foster mom from Iowa, and so many others. It was one of them who said to me, "Don't you just love this? All these Christian women together? It's like a taste of Heaven." And it was. The place was ripe with encouragement, with unity, with worship, with teaching, with growing, and with fellowship. 

But even more, I knew that image of Heaven was incomplete -- because a part of me longed for the diversity of both men and women worshiping together. Dad and I are making plans to attend CROSS conference in Indy in December, a missions conference for college students, and I'm eager to join with a great group of diverse young people of both genders. I'm eager to learn and worship together

I dearly hope I get to attend the next TGCWC, especially with my mom. TGCW16 was a treasure and a gift. I was fed full and came home fit to bursting. It was a privilege to be edified by women and with women and enjoy sweet fellowship. It was indeed a throbbing blot of joy in the midst of this life. I am grateful.

Should Christians Be Listening to "Clean" Music?

I remember one of the most provocative and eye-catching titles for me was from a Christian website for millennials. 

It was something like this: Don't Confuse The Phrase "Biblical" With "Family-Friendly."

And I could only say, "Yes," because I realized that many Christians do confuse these two labels, myself included. We think if a song doesn't have any curse words or a movie any sex scenes, it's good and soul-nourishing for us.

But that is not the way Christians should engage with media. The merit of art is not its "cleanness." It's its presentation of truth. A month or so ago I realized this afresh. I was listening to a "clean" song by a mainstream female artist. As I sang the lyrics, the deeper, underlying messages of what I was singing dawned on me. Its lyrics were actually communicating a drastically unhealthy and unbiblical view of romantic relationships. I immediately stopped listening to it.

Engaging in entertainment to the glory of God is not necessarily nitpicking "d-words" or counting kiss scenes. It's about evaluating a piece's whole worth -- yes, its moral presentation, but also its worldview, its values, its philosophy. That's not to say I won't listen to a catchy and "clean" dance song, but it means I don't use "family-friendly" as my primary filter. I use "God-given truth" instead.

As one writer puts it:

Let’s not confuse “family-friendly” with “Christian.” Let me just tell you as a person who has been struggling, trying to live the Christian life for almost 30 years, there’s nothing safe about Jesus nor His Truth. In fact, be prepared to confront some pretty unattractive things about yourself as He shines a big light on the darkness in you, and then strap on your seat belt and see what happens when you try to live out His commands of loving and forgiving people.
So I can only encourage you, whether you're a creator or consumer, don't be entertained on auto-pilot. Think. Really think about what you're singing, what you're watching, what you're laughing at, what you're reading, what you're following, and why that is. 

Be entertained by truth. Think truth. And create truth. 

I'm At The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference Today

As I write this, I'm actually not at The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. I'm in my grandparents' kitchen, in sweat pants, watching the Nova Scotia rain and trying to get ahead of articles before I leave for Indianapolis. 

But as you're reading this, on June 17, I'm at the conference. 

This is my first big conference. I get to see John Piper and D.A. Carson and Jen Wilkin and Kathleen Nielson in the big and shiny Indianapolis Convention Center. My dad drove me down, and we're staying just across the street from the convention center. 

This will be a wonderful conference. I know it. I get to meet up with some friends and some fantastic people from Crossway and listen to male and female writers and theologians that I've read and respected for years. What an epic three days this will be.

The theme of TGCWC is "Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering" on the book of 1 Peter. It's perfect timing. Dad just finished his extensive sermon series through 1 Peter, and I'm eager to hear these speakers' teaching on it.

If you're a lady and you have time and interest in this conference, all plenary talks with be live-streamed. You can access them here. You will most definitely be edified and blessed. 

I'm sure you'll hear (read) my thoughts on the conference after I get home in a week. Until then, keep learning, friends. Keep reading and watching and listening and engaging and being edified. Keep paying attention to life and all its lessons.

Photo courtesy of The Gospel Coalition.