Answering Skeptics by Douglas Jacoby: Review and Giveaway!


First, before we get to the good stuff (a giveaway of a SIGNED BOOK from one of my favorite writers!)…a quick life update. It’s been quiet around here. Like, graveyard quiet. But I promise I haven’t died—and neither has Lizzy Life! I just had to put myself on total writing and family lockdown from June till October in order to finish my new book (!), When God Says “Go”: Rising to Challenge and Change Without Losing Your Confidence, Your Courage, or Your Cool. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this book’s message. It releases July 31, 2018, so you’ll hear more about it in the coming months. But bottom line, I had to choose between blogging and family life, and I chose family life. I couldn’t write a book, blog, and be the wife and mother my family needs all at the same time (Wonder Woman only exists in the movies, right?! And I never see her doing laundry…), so there you have it. But I missed all of you, and to celebrate being back, I’m giving away a signed book! Woohoo!

Right after I turned in When God Says “Go” to my publisher, I had the great joy of speaking at a Women’s Day in West Palm Beach. We laughed, we cried, we ate…is there any more to life?! It was a bonding, joyful time of connection and growth, and I loved being with that vibrant group of ladies. (I even introduced myself in Spanish, which nearly gave me a heart attack from terror—but they forgave my grammar mistakes, and it was fun! I’m trying to push my fearful self to be a little more brave every day…) Here’s a slideshow of the day (that adorable blond lady in the first picture is my mom, Geri!):

And PS, speaking of speaking…I am booked up for travel this winter and spring (except for events in my home state of NC), but I still have some speaking dates available for fall 2018. If your church is looking to host a women’s event, I’d love to come spend time with your church! Find more information about topics here. You can also email me at elizabeth at lizzylife dot com.

Okay, on to the book and the giveaway!

Answering Skeptics by Dr. Douglas Jacoby

Have you ever spoken with someone who was skeptical about God, the Bible, and Christianity? You wanted to share with them, but when you searched your brain for brilliant and convincing reasons for faith, you came up short? Your friend mentioned some questions, you opened your mouth, and all you could come up with was, “Uhhhhh, yeah, I don’t know about that, but I like Jesus”? So then you ended up slinking away, frustrated with yourself that although you love God and your faith makes sense to you, you don’t know how to share that faith.

Last year, I had the honor of editing Answering Skeptics by Dr. Douglas Jacoby, and now I am thrilled to introduce you to this amazing resource—and to give you an opportunity to win a free copy signed by the author! Woot!

Not only will this book prepare you to answer faith-related questions of all kinds, it will also bolster and refresh your own faith. It will even provide answers to some of the faith questions that may have lingered in the back of your mind, questions like:

Does science contradict the Bible?

Can a Christian believe in evolution?

Has the Bible been changed?

If God is good, why does he allow evil and suffering?

What is the difference between agnosticism and atheism? How do I reach out to agnostics and atheists?

How can I connect with people of other faiths—Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and more?

Douglas Jacoby is a master apologist and teacher. He uses his decades of experience teaching and ministering to people all over the world to educate and equip us as we share Christ in our own neighborhoods. Answering Skeptics is a quick, engaging read. Concise chapters offer understandable explanations and practical tips for communicating clearly with our friends. This book is an accessible resource for Christians who want to strengthen their own faith and better equip themselves to share with critics, doubters, and seekers. I can’t recommend it enough! You can buy your copy here.

And I’ve got a signed copy to give away!

You can enter the raffle here. It ends November 3. Good luck!

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When You Want to Have Faith, But You Have Questions


when Christians doubt the Bible

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Confession: Faith has never come easy for me.

I have lived most of my Christian life with a constant voice in the back of my head saying, “But what if it’s not true?” These days, the voice is mostly just a whisper (some days I don’t hear it at all); at other times, it’s been a full-on shout.

The voice started in high school, in Mr. Gus’s class, where we explored the great thinkers of the Enlightenment. Mr. Gus dared us to answer hard questions, to prove why we believed what we believed. His questions made me stop and think, “Why do I believe these things? Is this really my faith, or have I blindly adopted my parents’ faith?”

I came home asking questions—lots of them. I am forever thankful for my parents’ wisdom. They didn’t freak out: “How dare you doubt God and the Bible?!” They didn’t panic: “Oh, no! Our daughter is falling away from God!” They didn’t blow me off: “Huh. Those are hard questions. Good luck figuring things out.” They didn’t write me off: “You’re just going through a weird teenage phase—it will go away in a week or two.”

Bible holding hands

Photo credit: Sara Engel

They took me seriously, and let me dive deep. They didn’t offer quick, shallow answers. My dad, who has wrestled with a number of faith questions himself, said, “I understand why you have those questions—I’ve had them too! So let’s study them out together.” He gave me books to read, and gave me freedom to ask all my questions. We worked through them one by one, step by step. There was no pressure, no guilt, and no rush. I went back and forth on some of these questions for months—some for years—and Mom and Dad were always there to listen, to discuss, to reason, and to point me to helpful resources. And it’s not like I grew up and stopped asking questions—I still ask a ton of questions, but now I know enough about the Bible and apologetics that I know where to turn when questions crop up.

Here are a few conclusions I’ve come to over the years—maybe they will encourage you if you find faith difficult:

1.It’s okay to have questions about faith—in fact, questions are good. Doubt means you are thinking. Doubt means you don’t just blindly accept everything you hear from the pulpit or from popular Christian culture. God encourages us to love him “with all [our] minds” (Mark 12:30)—he doesn’t want us to check our brains at the door when we become Christians! Thinking and study are an integral part of our faith. Doubt only becomes a problem if we don’t take the time to address it—if we are lazy and unwilling to put the time in to read and study and seek answers.

bible (1 of 1)

Photo credit: Sara Engel

2.I’m not the first person to have this question. Whatever question I am asking, some other Christian has asked it before me. Which means: 1) I’m not weird or sinful for having this question, and 2) I can find helpful writings (and podcasts and videos) on this topic. Chances are, great Christian thinkers and apologists have already produced a wealth of material on this exact question, and somewhere in their words, I can find the help I need. (My go-to person for faith questions is my longtime friend Dr. Douglas Jacoby, whose website is a vast resource for Christians with questions.)

3.Faith is a long journey—embrace the twists and turns. There will be times in our lives when faith is harder: maybe a painful experience is bringing up doubts; maybe a disappointment or loss has rocked us; maybe God seems distant or silent. Times like these don’t need to destroy our faith—in fact, they can strengthen it if we tackle our questions and doubts honestly, and with Scripture. (Random shout-out: If God feels far away, read Philip Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does It Make a Difference? MIND-BLOWING. LIFE-CHANGING.)


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4. We don’t have to accept the easy answer. Some questions about God and the Bible do not have quick, easy answers. Warfare in the Bible? Senseless suffering? Predestination? These are hard, complex topics. Simple blanket statements like “Just have faith” or “Just trust God” won’t do it for questions like these.

I need more than pat answers to keep my faith healthy: I need Scriptures. Logic. Honest analysis of the contradictions and difficulties. And you know what? God designed me this way! He made me to think. To question. To explore. He doesn’t expect me to settle for easy answers to hard questions. If you’re like me, and you’re a thinker, a questioner, a wonder-er, that’s not a bad thing. Let’s embrace who we are, and take joy in the journey of working out our faith.

5.It’s okay to live with some questions and uncertainty. I have come to realize that some of our faith-related questions may never be completely resolved. The big questions are resolved: Do I believe in God? YES. Was Jesus really the Son of God, and did he die for sins and resurrect from the dead? YES. Can I trust God with my life? YES. (But even in those questions, doubt can occasionally resurface, and we have to go back and remind ourselves: This is what I believe, and why.)

But some other questions—about tough topics like suffering, or predestination, or how God’s will works in daily life—are up for debate. God hasn’t explained every nuance of who he is and how he works—if he tried, the Bible would be a gazillion pages long (plus, our brains might explode). We can keep thinking, keep reading, keep debating and discussing, but we might have to settle for “This is the best answer I can come up with for now. And I reserve the right to change my thinking on it over time.”

6.Faith is an adventure. I used to feel guilty when a new doubt or question cropped up; now I see those moments as opportunities to study and grow. Questions are a chance to dig in to Scripture and some new books, and to have some deep conversations with trusted thinker-friends. Doubts are an opportunity to be honest with God about what we’re working through, and to ask him to point us in the right direction.

Let’s take comfort and joy from Jesus’ words to Thomas, our fellow doubter, because they are written about you and me (how cool is that?!): “Because you [Thomas] have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28).

Okay, your turn: What faith questions do you have? Do you view doubt as a weakness, or an opportunity for growth and exploration? If your kids have questions about God, how do you plan to handle them?


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Everything You Need for Lice and Godliness


handling life changes with grace and humor

Nope, that’s not a typo in the title. It’s the ETV (Elizabeth Thompson Version) of 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has given you everything you need for life lice and godliness.” (Hey—I think my translation still suits the spirit of the scripture.)

I’ll take another liberty, this time with Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem:

‘Twas three days before Christmas, and all through my house, not a creature was stirring, except for a louse…

Yep. This Christmas, we got visited by more than just elves and Santa Claus.

It was December 22, 6:00 am. The night before, I had nearly killed myself to finish an intense editing job—I’d worked long hours for weeks on end, scrambling to finish with a few days to spare so I could shut down and spend time with my family for Christmas.

So there I was, the morning of December 22, finally free, and happy, happy, happy. For thirty-eight minutes, everything was perfect. I woke up before the rest of the family, smiling to myself in a dark and sleepy house. I brewed coffee, switched on peaceful music and the Christmas tree lights, and settled down on the couch with a mug and my Bible. Christmas had finally begun, and I was going to start it off right: alone with God.

A few minutes later, my daughter stumbled out, bleary-eyed and tousle-haired, and snuggled up beside me with her head in my lap. Happy, happy, happy, I sat there and prayed over her and stroked her hair.

And that’s when I saw it: a louse, scurrying across her head.

I should pause the story here to note that I am bug-ophobic in the extreme. And lice? My terror knows no bounds. (Don’t believe me? Read here: On Pinkeye, Lice, and Love.)

So you will be impressed—perhaps even amazed—to hear that I did not scream. I did not even gasp. But I felt my happy, happy, happy feeling skittering away, carried off by little louse feet.


Want more of Elizabeth’s work? Click here to preorder her next book, When God Says “Wait,” coming March 1 from Barbour Publishing! 


Within an hour, the whole house was awake and Kevin and I had kicked into Save-This-Christmas Mode. We called and made an appointment with the “Lice Lady” who had saved our vacation the last time the lice fairy paid our family a visit, when we were on vacation. Who cared if her office was a ninety-minute drive away? Christmas had to be saved. (I hereby pause this essay for a random proclamation: If your kid gets lice, hire a Lice Lady. Hock a family heirloom to pay for it if you have to. It will be the best money you have ever spent, except maybe for your epidural. Lice Ladies know what they are doing, and will help you get rid of evil bugs waaaaaaay faster than you could on your own. They will also help you retain your sanity, your spouse, and your salvation. Okay. Back to our story.)

So we stuck a shower cap on the Infected One, cancelled our big Star Wars plans with friends, loaded up the four Crazies in the minivan, packed enough snacks to survive a four-month covered wagon journey across the Oregon Trail, blasted Frank Sinatra Christmas carols, and trundled down the road to the Lice Lady. When we got there, our poor almost-three-year-old squealed with glee: “We going ice skating!” We had to break her heart and re-enunciate: “We are going to the LICE LADY, not ice skating. Instead of ice skating, you get to sit in a chair and let someone comb your hair looking for bugs! Woohoo!”

And so began the Great Christmas De-Lousing.

The first appointment was just the beginning. The afternoon at the Lice Lady’s office was followed by several days of laundry and hours of follow-up nit-picking, even as family members gradually filled our house for the holiday. (Paranoid family members, I might add, who were terrified—rightfully so, I’m not judging—of hugging us.)

But you know what’s great?

I didn’t lose it. I didn’t cry one self-pitying tear. Not even when my dryer decided not to help me dry the 4,000 loads of laundry I needed to do when we got home. I didn’t lose my temper, or snap at my husband or kids. I didn’t flip out, not even behind closed doors. I just rolled with it. I even laughed about it. I’m kind of gawking at the computer screen even as I type these words, because this is not normal for me.

Through the Christmas Lice Fairy Visit, I realized that by the grace of God I have grown this year. God has pounded a profound life lesson into my thick head (a louse-free head, in case you were wondering), and apparently, I have listened and started to learn:

I am beginning to accept that life is messy. Things do not go according to plan, pretty much ever. If we wait for our whole life to be perfect to be happy, we will be waiting forever. We will grit our teeth through a series of disappointments, and only find peace and joy when we make it to heaven. That’s not how God wants us to live.

The secret to a joyful life is appreciating what we have, when we have it, for as long as it lasts. Not placing rules or restrictions on our happiness—rules like: “I can’t be happy until…” or “I won’t be happy unless…”

Nope. That’s not how joy works. That’s just a recipe for disappointment, frustration, and unhappiness.


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We find joy in spite of the mess.

In the midst of the mess.

Sometimes even because of the mess.

As 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 puts it, “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve come to accept that there will always be something wrong with our life. Something we wish was better, or different, or…whatever.

There was a day—two years and nine months’ worth of days, actually—when I couldn’t get pregnant, and I would have gladly given my right arm to have a house filled with lice-infested children. I never want to forget those lonely days.

If we can learn to roll with the unexpected, to adapt on the fly, to appreciate what we have even though there are things we lack, to “laugh at the days to come” instead of fearing them (Proverbs 31:25)—better yet, to laugh at the days that are, even when they go so completely wrong…then we can do more than just survive life. We can enjoy it. We can thank God for it. We can be a person we’re proud of being, in all kinds of circumstances.

So if I have a new year’s resolution this year, it’s this: To keep on rolling with the punches. To stop waiting for perfection. To stop expecting smooth sailing. To accept, embrace, and even laugh at the mayhem of the unexpected.  To be happy now—no asterisks, addendums, or alterations.

And to braid my daughters’ hair, and spray it with mint spray, every day from now until eternity.

Happy new year, y’all. Here’s to the madness.

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5 Simple Ways to Bring God into Your New Year


family devotion ideas for the new year

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big new year’s resolution girl. I find the idea of making a list of commitments for an entire year daunting. Perfectionist that I am, new year’s resolutions feel like an invitation to fail and feel guilty, all year long. (I know, I’m kind of dramatic. I’m working on it.)

But new starts and fresh attitudes for the new year? That I like. Drawing closer to God in the new year, and having a more spiritual focus? That I get excited about.

So now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I view January as a time for re-charging my personal life and my walk with God, and for jump-starting our family’s spiritual life. January provides a fantastic opportunity to redirect our family’s focus outward and upward after the self-focus of the holidays.

Here are 5 simple ideas for helping your family jump-start your new year spiritually. Whether you’re married with no kids, or up to your ears in sippy cups, or spending your whole life chauffeuring teenagers around town, these ideas can help you kick off your new year with fresh focus and with God as the center.

Look back on the old year together.

We’re quick to look to the future, but what about the great things that have already happened? Spend an evening remembering the blessings and answered prayers from last year. Write them down and spend time praising God for what he has already given. If you made a prayer list last January, bring it out and look at it again. Can you cross some prayers off your list? God loves it when we remember his gifts and come back to praise him.

Start a new year prayer tradition. 

Every January, we take our kids out to the beach for a new year prayer. Once we convince the kids that making sand angels is NOT the same thing as making snow angels, and will involve hours of hair-washing to get the sand out, we spend a few minutes shivering in the sand, talking about our hopes for the year. Each of us describes one thing we plan to ask God for in the coming year. And then we all pray together and take home a sea shell to commemorate the prayer. At home, we write our prayers on the shells. Simple, fun, and frigid!

godly family traditions

Come up with an “impossible prayer” list. 

“Impossible prayers” are things that seem impossible from a human perspective, but that our amazing God can do if we are bold enough to ask. Sit down as a family and come up with a list of things you all hope God will do this year—the crazier the better! Write them down where you’ll all see them, and commit to pray your impossible prayers all year as a family. Then sit back and watch what God does for you. (Want to read our family’s so-amazing-it-sounds-like-we-made-it-up “impossible prayer” miracle story? Click here.)


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Pick a theme scripture for the year. 

Choose a scripture that represents what you want your year to look and feel like spiritually, and revisit that scripture often as a family. Memorize it. Write it on the fridge and on the calendar. Remind each other of it frequently. Bring it up in family prayers and devotional times all year long. You can either pick one scripture for your whole family, or each person can choose their own.

Pick a theme word for the year. 

What one word describes the focus you want to have in the coming year? Faith? Discipline? Kindness? Patience? Renewal? Selflessness? Vision? Generosity? Pick one, and make it your theme word! Find a scripture or scriptures that relate to the concept, and study them on your own and as a family. You can choose one word for the whole family, or let each family member pick their own word.

 

I wish you and your family a fantastic beginning to the new year, a year full of faith and joy and spiritual growth. A year rich in love and lasting memories. A year embracing the messiness of life, remaining faithful through the unexpected twists, and having the wisdom to find joy in imperfection and small blessings.

Want to share this post? Thank you! Share buttons are at the bottom of the post.


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By This Time Next Year… A Christmas Miracle


A Christmas miracle about faith and the power of prayer through infertility, via @lizzylit

The Christmas chaos had finally died down.

My family members were lying around my parents’ living room on Christmas night, 2004—tinkering with new gadgets, trying on new clothes, laughing at the same old jokes that somehow never got old. Everyone was full of eggnog, fudge, and joy… well, everyone was happy except me.

The living room was crowded with the people I loved most, and yet in my mind, someone was missing— someone I had never met. My baby, the child I could not conceive, was not there, and that baby’s absence spoke louder than all the words of Christmas cheer.

Christmas miracle from @lizzylit

Christmas is about children, but there were no children in our family anymore. My three siblings and I had grown up, and now that I had been married to my college sweetheart for five years, a baby was long overdue.

thompson-155

But we couldn’t get pregnant, and no one knew why. As the lonely months stretched into years—two childless Christmases came and went, and our refrigerator was covered with photos of our friends’ babies wearing Santa hats—I sank into a deep sadness. I began to question everything, even my lifelong faith in God. Did he hear our prayers at all? How could he stand by silently while Kevin and I suffered?

As we faced that Christmas, I had vowed not to let my aching emptiness ruin our family festivities, and yet the loss cast a shadow over the whole day. As night fell, my father, who had been a preacher for more than forty years, gathered the family together, and we began to recount the blessings we’d been given over the past year. The talk turned to the future. What did we hope to see next year? What were our dreams?

Every family member wished for the same thing: a baby by the following Christmas. We shed tears, and as the hour grew late, Dad ended our Christmas by asking us all to pray for the coming year. Around the circle we went, each of us asking God the same thing: “Please give us a baby by this time next year.” We had prayed for a baby before—pleaded, cajoled, bargained—but never like this, never as a family, united in the same plea: “By this time next year…”

The next month, I began to see a new doctor, who had some fresh ideas for my treatment. And that spring, we received the news: I was pregnant! I embraced the months of exhaustion and nausea with ecstatic gratitude—every time I hung my head over the trashcan, I was singing inside.

The baby was due December 18. All through my pregnancy, people teased me: “A Christmas baby, how terrible!” But I, in my first-pregnancy naiveté, was convinced that the baby would come early, so that I could recover from the delivery in plenty of time for Christmas. We had waited so long to get pregnant, surely we wouldn’t have to wait past our due date to meet our child!

Christmas baby overdue

But December 18 came and went, and the baby only seemed to settle deeper into my womb. December 19, December 20, December 21… nothing. Not a single useful contraction. As Christmas day loomed, I began to despair.

I was never going to have this baby.

I had prayed for so long to get pregnant, now I’d be the only pregnant woman who stayed that way forever.


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When Kevin and I first awoke on the morning of Christmas Eve, we called to check in with our doctor. Minutes later, we were throwing suitcases into our car, rushing to the hospital to have labor induced. On the way to the hospital, we laughed and cried, terrified and giddy in equal measure, sure that our baby would arrive by that night. A Christmas Eve baby! Wouldn’t that be delightful?

But labor dragged on into the early hours of Christmas morning. Our families drifted in and out of the hospital’s waiting room all Christmas day, rushing through the morning gift-opening without us, eating Christmas dinner with cell phones by their plates, waiting for news.

Labor and Delivery 019

But the baby wouldn’t come, wouldn’t even move into the birth canal. Finally that night, it was clear that our baby was not coming without help. I would need a C-section.

That first wail—the cry I thought I’d never hear—was a foreign but familiar sound, the song my heart had been singing all those years. And what lungs she had! The baby cried angrily—after all, it hadn’t been her idea to come out—but the moment my husband spoke to her, saying, “Daddy’s here,” she quieted, calmed by the voice she had come to know from inside my womb.

And when the doctor held up a tiny head with chocolate eyes and a scrunchy nose, my brain tried to reconcile sight with faith. That squirming bundle was our baby! Cassidy Joy Thompson entered the world—seven pounds, five ounces of answered prayer—on Christmas night, 2005, at 9:46 p.m.

But we didn’t get it right away.

It was several weeks before my mother suddenly turned to me, tears filling her eyes, and breathed, “Do you remember our prayer last Christmas night?” And we realized that Cassidy Joy had been born, to the minute, one year after my family had begged God, “By this time next year, please give us a child…. ”

Now, whenever I am tempted to wonder if God remembers us, if he hears our prayers, I look at my daughter—our family’s Christmas miracle—and I know that he does.

miracle Christmas baby

Labor and Delivery 031

 

Christmas Card (2)

And here she is on her first birthday, Christmas 2006:

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And today, almost age ten:

Cassidy hugging apple tree

By God’s astounding grace, this is our family today:

Christian infertility

kids01

This story first appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: It’s Christmas!

Want to share this essay? Thank you! Share buttons are at the bottom of the post. 


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