Cease and Know

Note: Yesterday I posted this same blog post on my other blog, but wanted to make sure I updated the readers of all my platforms. 

For the past few years, I have regularly considered giving up blogging. Every three or four months or so, I would wake up, think about all the things going on in my life, and I would be 100% ready to stop blogging.

 And every time, that very same day, I would get an email, or a note, or a text thanking me for having written something that encouraged or motivated them. 

And I would get back to my laptop and hack away at it.

Sometimes those encouragements would be from a close friend, and sometimes from someone I knew casually, and sometimes from a completely stranger. It never ceased to amaze me how God would use my ramblings to help someone else, and to give a voice to the voiceless and an image to the unseen.

But now I am sure that I need a break from blogging. Not just a week or a month, but for the rest of the year (or longer).

The Investment of Blogging

Writing has been good for me, personally. It forces me to think deeply, and to analyze and clarify my thoughts. And then when I get pushback or comments, it makes me think even more deeply and broadly. And it's been an outlet for my frustrations and confusion, whether or not anyone else reads what I write.

But it also has taken a lot of time. The thinking, the writing, the editing, the planning, the promoting . . . it all adds up.

For a long time, this process has been worth my time. During our time in Allendale, blogging was our primary way of keeping our friends and supports informed of what we were doing. For us, regular blogging was better than occasional newsletters.

Now that I'm back in Greenville, working for Mill Community Ministries, and (now) Furman, and (for a while) a school, I don't think my need for a "newsletter" is as great. It's easier to keep people posted of what's going on.

But even more than that, God has been pressing me to consider how I'm using my time. With the two or three jobs I've had, plus some upcoming additional responsibilities, I have to shave off some things that don't directly help me provide for my family.

And speaking of family, I need to spend more time engaging them, and cultivating my relationships with my wife (as we are in the midst of some challenging transitions), daughter (beginning high school in two weeks!), and sons (one of whom is not far from becoming a teenager).

God has also been revealing that I need to do better with how I am engaging my community and culture. I am convinced that I need to spend more time in intentional-discipleship relationships.
Adding time for jobs, family members, and ministry . . . means I have to shave time off somewhere else. And one place I'll try to gain time back is by ceasing from regular blogging.

Giving Up for Good?

Let me be clear. I'm not saying that I'm giving up blogging for good. I'm just taking a break until the end of the year, and I'll re-evaluate then.

I will also be doing some guest posting. But writing 2 or 3 posts a month is very different than 3 or 4 posts per week.

I have lots that I'd love to write about. I have stories to tell, silenced voices to amplify, and images to make known. So, I'll be depending on and looking for other ways to communicate.

Check out my Contact page to connect with me in other ways (social media, website, etc). I may even write an occasional post here if I feel like this would be the best way to communicate.

Heck, this may all be a mistake. I may be missing out on a great opportunity. But I'm trusting that God is leading me in this way. And if I'm wrong, I'll trust that He can make up the difference. (He can.)

Thank You, and Please Help Me

I'm thankful for the opportunity that blogging has given me to get thoughts out of my brain, and I'm thankful for you reading those words and connecting with me.

And now I can still use you. . . . If and as you feel led, please keep me accountable. Ask me if I'm redeeming the time I am gaining back. Instead of using my time to escape, I need to use this extra time to:
  • lead and disciple my family
  • disciple others on a personal level
  • find other ways to be a voice for those who need a voice
  • rest and recreate (see sessions 5 and 6 of A Man and His Work)
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
Psalm 46:10

Top Tweets for July

I started a new job this month, back at my alma mater.

Here's some other new things in the twitter world . . .

From Others:

@BrentNelsonA good reminder that Germany got 50% debt relief before postwar econ miracle.

@DearTeacherLT , join me in the revolution to remind the world: is !

@Snandez "Being a good father comes down to showing our kids how to live, love, think, and behave." -

@ScottSaulsThe devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name.

@MarkMerrillParenting is about unconditionally loving your child for who they are, not for what they do.

@itsandygill"Forgiveness is not an utterance, it's a process." — Cornel West

@GraceChurchSC:  Establish a new community, a colony, with singleminded purpose and full of love, sympathy, tenderness, and blessing for “one another.” 

@Gospel_Project Only the gospel changes the heart, and therefore, only the gospel can lead to lasting change in our lives.

From Me:

Followers of Jesus -- God calls and empowers you to live out your faith.

We welcomed some friends (and new teachers at ) to Greenville! #1…  

If I was doing all this blogging and social media stuff for God, I’d think there would be more fruit.

The Sacred Discipline of Awe

From Hannah Anderson, in Catchizing our Children in Wonder:
A quick Google search for “children’s discipleship” brings back resource after resource—everything from catechisms to Bible memory systems to pint-sized devotional books–all promising to produce faith in the next generation of believers. What I rarely hear discussed is the necessity of discipling our children through “natural revelation.” . . .

As you go about discipling your children, as you teach them their Bible verses and correct them when they disobey, do not neglect the sacred discipline of awe.

Take them to the mountains to walk forest trails in search of the millipedes and butterflies that are the works of his hands. 
Take them to the seashore to be knocked over by the power of a wave so that one day they’ll know how to be knocked over by power of God. 
Take them to the art museum to thrill at colors and shapes and textures whose beauty can only be explained by the One who is Beauty himself. 
Take them to the cities to crane their necks to the see the tops of sky scrapers and shiver at God’s miracle of physics that keeps them from tumbling down.

And then take them to church. 

Read the full article on Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Related Links:

Faith and Work

Every new quarter (much better than a semester format) at Furman University, I felt a pit in my stomach. I would look at all the work listed on my class syllabuses, and feel overwhelmed.

This was the life of a chemistry major (it was kinda' tough) at a liberal arts college (that part was really tough).

Especially my last couple of years, when I had my hardest classes, I realized that I couldn't do it. I knew that I could not make the grades I wanted, while also playing football, all by myself.

It was a time to pray and trust God. And that's what I did. As soon as I saw my syllabus, I would pray for God to help me through the term.

And then was a time to buckle down and get to work.

My New Job

I'm in a similar situation now. Yes, I'm back at Furman, but not as a student. I now work for the university, in a part-time job at the Shi Center for Sustainability. I am the Program Coordinator for the Community Conservation Corps.

The short description is that I help low-income families get free assistance with weatherization for their homes. The shorter description is that I'm a project manager, a set of responsibilities that's completely new to me.

And that's why I'm praying. I have had a lot to learn, in my two weeks of overlap with the previous coordinator (whose last day is today). So that leaves me, and a student worker (who will be done in a few weeks), and my boss (who is on maternity leave).

So that leaves me. And God. (And, of course, a great team of folks at Furman who will do everything they can to help me succeed in this role.)

I'm thankful to be in this role. And I see how my skills and experiences (especially community connections) will add value to this program.

But I almost turned this job down.

The Job Before Me

I applied for the job last month, and was invited for an interview. I was pretty surprised when I received a call a few days later offering me the position. During the interview, I didn't think they were impressed by what I could offer, for what the job needed.

But they made an offer, and I asked for the weekend to talk with my wife and think about it. And I very nearly said "no." I reasoned that . . .
  • Project management wasn't what I wanted to do. I thought God was drawing me to work with kids and youth. 
  • The 20-hour work week would limit my time with my job with Elevate Youth, and other youth-related opportunities that would come up. 
  • The job didn't pay as much as I thought it would.

But by Monday, I knew I needed to take it, and I'm glad I did. And that weekend's sermon from Grace Church was a key part in my decision (Coincidental timing? I think not.)

In hearing this sermon on the miracle of God providing manna, God showed me:
  • This was the job He put before me. He might use it to open new opportunities down the road (and of course, He may not). 
  • I need to trust God enough to work diligently
  • I need to be willing to work in a job that I don't necessarily enjoy.  
  • I need to look for ways to meet the needs of those around me. And this job is such an opportunity to do that. 
Above all that, God has created a world where faith is required (Hebrews 11:6). This job at Furman, like my years of schooling at Furman, is a way for God to drive me to trust in Him.

As with my teaching job at Lead Academy, God can do a great thing, and it will be all because of His grace.

My Other New Job

In September, I will be starting another new job. I will be teaching a 6th grade math class at Upstate Homeschool Co-Op, where our kids have attended. It's a new class for this co-op, and I'll teach two days per week, for an hour each day, for 24 weeks.

I've got some work to do, if I want to make this class engaging and helpful for 6th graders.

Again, I'll be depending on God for His grace and help.

More Great Teaching 

I've also been learning a lot about work through some other great teaching from Grace Church. A group of eight of us guys are meeting weekly to discuss the material called A Man and His Work. Like the above-mentioned sermon on manna, these teachings come at just the right time.

Here are some of my take-aways:
  • God is a worker, and in my work I reflect His image
  • I need to make money to provide for my family (as I wrote here).
  • Skillful and excellent work glorifies God.
  • I should provide something or some service that makes the world better
  • Work shapes character
  • I need to take Jesus to work, especially by praying through the day.

I look forward to growing in my new jobs (and my "old" one), and for seeing how God works through them, and in me.

WHY and HOW the Church Should Equip Parents

My wife and I are deeply connected and committed to family ministries at Grace Church.

For years, Joanna and I volunteered in Children's Ministry. Then, in 2007, I came on staff as the Pastor of Children and Families. It was during that time that we came up with our family mission (or "adventure"):

Through exhortation and serving, to equip the next generation
including in our family, our church, our community, and our world.

After living out this adventure in Allendale, we moved back to Greenville to launch Elevate Youth. That ministry focuses on children in our community, but we are still involved in family ministries at church. I serve in Fusion (for 5th and 6th graders), while my wife and daughter serve in Preschool Big Group.

So, from our perspectives as parents and church members, we are always thinking about how we can help other parents. We wonder: What do parents need? Do they want more events, or are they overbooked as it is? What are parents' biggest struggles and concerns? 

Timothy Paul Jones shared some great thoughts about how a church can engage families. First, he gives three truths:
  1. Most parents in the church know their responsibility. 
  2. Most parents are not intentionally discipling their children.  
  3. Most parents are not being trained, but are willing to be.
Do you agree? If so, what do we need to do to help parents?

I'd love to hear your ideas: What does your church do to help engage and equip parents? Or, what do you wish your church would do to equip you as a parent?

Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook.

Related Links:

Marriage Is Not about Fairness

Tomorrow is a special day for my wife and I. Only July 18, 1999 I asked Joanna to marry me (I was serious), and she said "Yes," of course.

I could give lots of reasons for why I asked her to marry me (here's 11), and many more for why I'm glad she did.

We have learned a lot over the past 16 years -- about each other, about our gracious God, and about ourselves. We've learned how selfish we can be, and we've learned that God can transform our minds and hearts. Even more, He transforms our hearts to want to be changed.

If there is one thing we have learned, and are still learning, it's that marriage is not about "fairness." Marriage is about sacrificially putting your spouse first. Marriage is about truly knowing that you are "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

Marriage is not 50/50. It's 100/100. It flourishes when both spouses give 100% of who they are, regardless of how they feel and irrespective of return expectations.

Here's what others have to say on this topic:

Jen Pollock Michel (Is This What Love Looks Like?):  "Fairness cannot be demanded in marriage. Unfortunately, many refuse this advice, entering marriage today like collective bargaining. . . . The only biblical model for marriage we have isn't equity; it's self-sacrifice." 

Philip Holmes (She Is Me):  "Refusing to nourish my wife by providing for her is more foolish than not feeding myself. . . . God empowers me to see that she is me, and to love selflessly and sacrificially as I have been loved."

Matt Chandler (The Importance of Marriage):  A 12-minute video, worthy of your time. My main take-away: If you want your marriage to stand out in this culture, make sure it's covenantal, not contractual. Here's the video:

Brett and Kate McKay (The Surprising Benefits of Marrying Young): A little off-topic, but applicable since I was 23 when I got married, and Joanna had just turned 25. "My goal with this article is to simply provide some reassurance to the young gents out there who are in their early to mid-twenties, have already met the right person, and feel like they’re ready to get hitched, but are scared to pull the trigger because they’ve heard the constant drumbeat of “Marry young and you’ll regret it!”"

Of course, we should always listen to Paul's words, in his letter to the Ephesian church
 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body.  

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Finally, I highly recommend What Did You Expect??, the best marriage book I've ever read.

Happy engagement anniversary, Joanna!

The Wisdom of Atticus Finch

". . . but remember, it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

My daughter read To Kill a Mockingbird last month, and immediately told me, "Dad, you have to read this." Since her last recommended book was The Giver, I knew I had to listen to her.

It was my first time ever reading this American classic. I'm glad. I don't think I could have appreciated it as much as I did had I read it 10 years ago. And much, much more than if I read it 20 years ago.

Atticus Finch taught me a lot of things:
On justice: "This case, Tom Robinson's case, is something that goes to the essence of a man's conscience -- Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man." 

On persecution: "It's never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn't hurt you."

On sin:  "This is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, . . . ."

On protecting others:  "If spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that's something I'll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I'd rather it be me than that houseful of children out there."

Of course, other characters had just as much wisdom. Miss Maudie explains Atticus's protective love for mockingbirds.
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. . . . They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

Have you read this book recently? If not, maybe you should pick it back up again soon.

Warning: Your local library probably has a waiting list. You can buy the e-book here.

Double Warning:  Don't even try to get on the waiting list to borrow Harper Lee's follow up novel, Go Set a Watchman, which arrives in stores next week.

100 Happy Days

Can't you tell how happy we are?
Do you remember earlier this year, when I did a 13-week Ben Franklin journalling challenge? Following Franklin's example, I focused on a specific virtue each week, and noting when I failed in that virtue.

Do you remember how it made me feel? It was a depressing burden to carry (although it did help me to better appreciate the Good News that I don't have to make myself a virtuous person).

If you follow me on Instagram (@JoeyEspinosa), you've seen some recent posts tagged #100HappyDays. I don't know why other people have attempted this challenge, but I've done it to make myself recognize and appreciate small but enjoyable moments in my everyday life.

If you are like me, most of your days are in monotonous and tedious routines. Hey, life is difficult, and work is frustrating, and parenting is very hard and frustrating. I need to be reminded to enjoy the everyday happy moments.

Does this mean that every single day is overwhelmingly joyful? Not at all! But it does make me recognize that I have a choice of whether or not to look for joy, and it makes me realize that God constantly gives me "every good and perfect gift" (James 1:17).

Gifts like . . .

My students making superb grades


A sweet note from the boy I mentor

Teaching chess to kids at summer camp

My sons enjoying Star Wars and each other's company

Realizing I have a twin  (see above)

Free pizza

If you need a reminder of God's goodness in your life, maybe you should take the 100 Happy Days challenge. Every day, you can experience His good grace. Whether you do this challenge or not, look for it.

Related Links:

Becoming a Better Parent, from the Inside Out

Can a movie help you become a better parent? Even more, can a kids movie help you?
Movies have helped me other times, such as with Toy Story 3 and Willy Wonka. And it happened again recently, when I took my sons to see Inside Out, the latest Pixar movie.
(Disclaimer and shout-out: We rarely go to movies, but this movie was provided for free for us, and for all the patients of Palmetto Family Orthodontics.) 
How did this movie help me, and help me lead my family? We've started a new "tradition" -- sharing our feelings from the day, each evening at the dinner table.
(2nd disclaimer and shout out: This idea is also influenced by one of my favorite books I read this year, The Giver.)
Want to learn more about how God is helping me be a better parent, and what we are doing based on this movie? Check out my latest guest post on the Family Matters blog, How "Inside Out" Made Me a Better Parent.

Related Links:

Forgiveness, Patriotism, Heritage, and the Gospel

I love our family meal times. Not every meal time involves a serious discussion, but almost every Saturday morning I have been trying to focus my family on the Bible.

One of the themes that we've focused in on this past year is "Love God, Love Others." Some recent current events presented a great opportunity to explain Biblical forgiveness.

A few weeks ago, as I'm sure you know, Dylan Roof shot and killed nine people at a prayer meeting in Charleston, SC. Unfortunately, senseless murder is not too uncommon nowadays.

However the response by the remaining family members was striking. They offered forgiveness and prayed for God's mercy on him.

As a family, we discussed how we would feel if someone killed one of us. Sad. Angry. Upset. And those feelings are all valid.

Then I read Ephesians 4:32:
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." 

Paul makes it clear that our actions should not be dependent on our feelings. Our actions should flow out of our relationship with Christ. That is, our love for God is directly connected with our love for others. And love for others should know no bounds, even if those bounds involve hate-filled murder.

More Thoughts on the Charleston Shooting

Brandon Smith writes in Reflect Christ, Deflect Satan:
"The gospel frees us from our own interests. Christians have an obligation to love God and love others well precisely because of the cross."
And my friend Jim Taylor, before he preached a sermon that I really needed to hear, shared thoughts on the Charleston shooting:


On a Related Topic . . . 

If you've been following the story of this shooting (and probably even if you haven't), you know that our country is awash in a Confederate Flag controversy. Again. (Yes, I know that the flag is technically the Confederate Battle Flag.)

A few days after it began, I tweeted this late one night:

And then I followed up a few days later with a 1500-word expansion on that thought.

Now, as we are about to celebrate our nation's independence, I want to expand on that thought even more. It's not just "Southern Heritage" that Christians need to be careful of. We can put any other identity issue in that tweet as well.

Here are a few other variations you can try on for size:
Any Christian who puts his Patriotism over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Any Christian who puts his family ancestry over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Any Christian who puts his work or ministry over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Any Christian who puts his ethnic group over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Any Christian who puts his hobby over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Any Christian who puts his (________) over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Examine your heart. What could you fill in this blank with?

Remember, Christian, any freedom you have in your heritage is trivial compared to the freedom Christ brought for you.

These posts may help you think through why our Christian identity should matter so much:

Final Thoughts and Related Links

I encourage you to spend some time reading one or more of these links:

**image courtesy of melodi2 via rgbstock

Favorite Tweets for June

Happy Summer!!

It's hot around here, which means it's a good time to do a little reading. I've read a few fiction books this month, which is abnormal for me. One of those books was To Kill a Mockingham, my first time reading this classic.

Hopefully, you get time to relax with a good book. And maybe some good tweets, like these:

From Others

@TGC20 years of marriage have taught me much about my own heart and the way in which God works to make us like his Son.

@StudentsFirst:  What the best schools have in common is that they set high expectations for students from day one:

@Gospel_Project It is important that we tell ourselves again today that we need the grace of Jesus right now as much as we needed it when we first...

@BRobson90 Any other desire of our heart will look like rubbish when compared to the immense riches and treasure of having Christ as our chief desire!

@GraceChurchCE:  "God is God. I dethrone Him in my heart if I demand that He act in ways that satisfy my idea of justice." -Elizabeth Elliot 

@ChrchCurmudgeon:  Due to our inability to find VBS clean-up volunteers, tomorrow's wedding will be jungle-themed. 

@JonathanOwens21Guys, we are not just "offended" by the Confederate Flag. It's pain. Real, real pain. I wish people would understand that.

From Myself

Thanks to generous church members, I just dropped off a check to provide partial scholarships for 5 kids to attend Long Branch's summer camp. 

I can't believe that & just had senior night, and we forgot to submit this for a memory.

"When teachers believe a student can perform at a high level, the student is much more likely to do so."

Big thanks to for giving its employees time off to volunteer in our community…

We have a dentist that gives out cookies, & an orthodontist that gives out popcorn (& rents out movie theaters for all his clients).

Any Christian who puts his "Southern Heritage" over our identity and unity in Christ, tramples on the gospel.

Had a great time at Landon Powell Hit House! Grateful for their investment in youth, and t…

5 Ways to Teach Financial Literacy to Children

Today's guest post is from Jessica Kane. I think you'll find this information to be helpful as you teach your children about money and finances.

There comes a point in every child's life when they realize that book bags and candy bars don't magically appear out of thin air. When this moment arrives, it's important to open a dialogue about money. The way you teach them when they're young will have ripple effects on how they manage their bank accounts in the future, so here are just five tips for starting a conversation about financial responsibility.

1. Play Games

Sit your child down for a lecture about personal accounting and they may or may not remember what you said three days later. Sit them down and play a game of Monopoly, however, and they'll learn all about saving, investing and spending within your means, no lecture required. Games that stimulate financial thinking are a great way to introduce your child to the concept that money is finite.

Here are a few others you can play for the same results:

- Life

2. Bring Money Into Everyday Activities

Many parents don't think of the amusement park as a learning opportunity, but with the right planning, it can turn into a real teachable moment. For example, give your child a certain amount of money and explain that it's all they have to spend for the entire day. Do they use it for games, rides or souvenirs? Do they exchange sodas for water to make their lunch budget stretch? Would an all-day pass be a better investment than paying for each roller coaster individually?

3. Give Them An Allowance

Most kids won't understand the value of money until they actually have it in their hands to spend or save as they see fit. You'll want to give them an age-appropriate amount, of course, but otherwise the sky is the limit in regards to how they earn it and how often they receive it. You can drive the lesson even further home by having a weekly discussion about the following topics:

- How much they have left
- What they'd like to save up for
- How long it will take them to reach their financial goal
- How much they'd still have if they hadn't spent their last allowance frivolously

4. Involve Them in the Family Finances

This is an excellent way to teach them everyday financial skills that will come in handy as they grow older. Young children can practice their arithmetic as you add up the monthly bills together; preteens and adolescents can learn about checks, taxes and credit cards. Once they've demonstrated a certain degree of financial wisdom, you can allow them to open their own savings account or take out a student charge card. The goal is to prepare them for handling their finances independently by the time they're eighteen and headed for college without your supervision.

5. Get Connected

It's the 21st century, and many children learn how to operate a smartphone before they can do long division. You'll need to be hip to the trends if you want to impress financial responsibility on them in a way they can understand.

Here are a few good websites where kids can learn about money:

Here are a few noteworthy apps:

There are many more, of course, but these should at least start a conversation about money.

At the end of the day, your children will look to you when it comes to financial literacy. Your example is the one they'll emulate; your lessons will be the ones they remember through adolescence and adulthood. If you're serious about teaching your little ones the value of a dollar, follow these tips for the best results.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who focuses on personal finance and other money matters. She currently writes for Checkworks.com , a leading supplier of personal and business checks.

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