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Living in the Light

 

 

Filtering by Category: Church Life

Miscarriage: What Pastors Need to Know

Jessalyn Hutto

This article was published at Credo Magazine on October 14, 2015. You can find the entire article here.

"Until recently, the topic of miscarriage was a bit taboo. Those who experienced such painful losses tended to keep them quiet, entrusting their grief only to their closest family members and friends—if anyone at all. For this reason, miscarriage has historically been treated with kid gloves. It’s something that we know happens, but for most of us, exactly how often it occurs remains a mystery. Most importantly, the depth of grief that bereaved mothers and fathers experience when a miscarriage takes place has been terribly misunderstood.

Thankfully, this confusion has been partially alleviated in recent years as powerful articles have been published on prominent Christian websites like Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. As women and men have bravely broken their silence, the church has become more aware of the overwhelming devastation experienced by parents whose children die in the womb, and with this awareness has come a greater understanding of the church’s responsibility to care for these grieving parents.

However, many pastors are still unsure how they can practically help women who miscarry their babies. They don’t know what kind of care the fathers of such children need — if any at all. Those who’ve never been personally acquainted with this type of loss often fear saying or doing the wrong thing, and thus find themselves crippled in their ability to minister to their wounded sheep. This needn’t be the case. Pastors can be a pivotal means of grace in the lives of the mourning mothers and fathers in their congregations if armed with some practical, first-hand knowledge about miscarriage.

With this goal in mind, here are five simple things that you need to know about miscarriage in order to minister effectively to those who suffer from them:

1. Know that Miscarriage is Terribly Common

Miscarriages are typically very private experiences. As such, pastors can be deceived into thinking that they a rare occurrence within their congregations. Medical statistics, however, tell us otherwise. In reality, it is estimated that up to 25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.

This means that it is possible that one in every four pregnancies occurring in your church will end in the pain of death rather than new life.

Does this seem like a startlingly exaggerated statistic? Ask any woman in her child-bearing years if she knows of another woman who has recently miscarried and chances are she will be able to give you multiple names. This is especially true in churches that foster an atmosphere that values children and encourages large families. The sheer amount of pregnancies occurring within these congregations allows for these statistics to be more clearly realized."

Continue reading here.

Called Together

Jessalyn Hutto

...called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours...
— 1 Corinthians 1:2

Strangely, the idea of living in community with other believers can be both exciting and frightening for Christians. On the one hand, we long for people to understand us, to care for us, and to faithfully walk with us through the highs and lows of life. We enjoy true, good friendships and long for our churches to feel more like families than social clubs. 

On the other hand, we bristle at the thought of people getting involved in our messes.

We want them to be a part of our lives, but only up to a certain point. Certainly, we don't want them to know our weaknesses, see our faults, or - heaven forbid - be the ones to kindly point them out to us.

We want good friends, but in our minds "good friends" are those who think highly of us, who will further our cause, and who will meet our needs.

We don't typically go out of our way to find people who need us. We don't make a point of spending time with those people whose personalities grate against our own. We don't naturally seek to build bridges between strange (to us) cultures and our own.

Rather, we naturally search for a group of people who look like us, sound like us, and behave like us, and then enjoy our artificial "unity" as we worship, learn about, and serve the Lord in ways that we are all comfortable with.

We like this group of friends who are just like us, partly because we all have a similar understanding of what the boundaries are.

Yes, we've all politely decided that our friendships should go "deep," but not quite to the point where the digging hurts. When it begins to hurt and things get awkward, we will all kindly pull back a little until time has had a chance to fill in the wound.

Or we'll just find other friends who don't require so much work.

We long for something bigger - something that resembles the sweetness of genuine fellowship and unity between believers in the Bible - and yet, we find it difficult to abandon the "safe" boundaries we've set between us and the rest of our brethren.

We have lives to live, after all! We've got to work, take care of our families, and make time for ourselves... it seems all but impossible to add the needs and struggles of our church family into the mix. Going out of our way to know and understand and love people who are different than us as well? 

Well that's just above and beyond!

What is the cure for this?

How can I push my soul into a deeper and harder form of friendship - a fellowship between believers that relies upon the gospel of Jesus rather than a similar skin tone, a comparable income, or shared interests? How can I remove the self-serving motivations I have for friendships and replace them with a Christ-like love that dies for others.

I must reorient myself.

Every day.

Because every single day I wake up thinking that the world revolves around me when it revolves around the Son.

I must challenge my mind to see all of life through the one great story that has been unfolding throughout history - the story that causes all creation and all people from all nations to glorify and magnify the holy Christ.

I must see myself as one tiny, blessed player in God's perfect and marvelous plan - a player who has been carefully set in this time and in this place to serve him and glorify him in specific ways, and with specific people.

I must see myself as one who has been called out of the darkness and into the light. 

And in the light, I see a vast multitude of blood-drenched saints surrounding me. 

Yes, on every side there are people from all nations, all cities, all neighborhoods, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, and with all different kinds of personalities, talents, and shortcomings who have likewise been called out of their former ways and into Christ's holiness. People who don't deserve God's love anymore than I do, but who have been given the gift of grace.

All around me are my brothers and sisters - we are all adopted siblings who've been made a part of God's family.

I see that in choosing each of us for himself, he has chosen each of us for one another.

With this mindset, I cannot look at another believer and be ambivalent to them. I must be concerned for them, I must love them, I must care about their well-being because they are united to my Savior, and thus they are united to me.

We are a part of one body, and no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.

All of us, are called to live in this unifying reality together.

We were not merely saved into a personal relationship with Jesus. No we were saved into so much more!

We're not meant to enjoy and serve Christ in isolation. We're not meant to struggle and toil alone. We're not meant to fight this epic battle of faith as lone, terrified soldiers, but as a part of a mighty, Holy Spirit-empowered army!

We've been saved to experience the glories of true communion - Communion with God and communion with my fellow man. A communion that is free from the barriers of sin and guilt and shame.

Hallelujah! 

As we see other Christians in our cities, in our churches, or on the news, let us not see them merely as people who've made a similar mental assent to Jesus' gospel, but as family members whom we are eternally bound to through the precious blood of our Savior.


Father, will you grant me the humility and the courage and the diligence to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the glorious family you have adopted me into. Would you give me a genuine love for all the brethren - the same love that you have had for your Son since eternity past and the same love that he so graciously spilled out upon us at the cross. Help me to do the hard work of cultivating the seeds of friendship, so that I might enjoy the fruit of heavenly fellowships that are ripe with the Spirit's blessings.

In Christ's name, Amen

 

The One Who Holds the Needle

Jessalyn Hutto

nick-casale-47586.jpg
...being knit together in love...
— Colossians 2:2

During my husband's seminary days, I tried - with little success - to take up the hobby of crocheting. A few of my dear friends were great crocheters and made the most beautiful creations: colorful blankets, sweet baby hats, and cozy scarves. They made their work look easy as they twirled their crochet hook around the yarn, pulled it through a loop and then quickly repeated this process over and over again. They were so skilled at this art that the repetitive motion it required was, for them, somewhat of a leisurely activity. Their hook, yarn, and hands seemed to work together almost without conscious effort.

I, on the other hand, would have to sit there and laboriously wrap the thread around my hook (with it often coming unravelled and needing to be re-twirled). I'd then have to stop every few moments to ponder what the next step I needed to perform was, before attempting it. Finally I would ever so carefully pull my hook through the loop and, feeling like Napoleon after a successful conquest, move on to the next one. Often this process was performed with my tongue unconsciously sticking out of my mouth as I focused my full attention on the yarn that was determined to escape my hands. 

It truly felt as if the yarn simply didn't want to be attached to my creation. It didn't want to fall in line with the other loops. The tool I was using - that terribly big hook - seemed so unnatural in my hand and would often end up catapulting itself across the room in revolt to my fumbling efforts. Getting a full row of  loops attached to each other was a monumental accomplishment for me. So much so that I felt content to stop my adventures in the world of crocheting after about five successful (yet terribly crooked) rows. 

When I read Paul's words in Colossians I am reminded of this painful experience. He says that he desires for Christians' hearts to be "knit together in love." He longs for the church to be a unified being that is functionally and emotionally connected. Elsewhere he uses the metaphor of a body to describe the church - each of us playing the role of different parts, but being absolutely necessary for the entire body to function properly. Our talents and gifts, he says, are given to us for the good of the whole church. They are not to bring glory to ourselves, but rather, are meant to be used to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

But being knit together into one unified being, isn't an easy task for sinners. Our natural tendency is to care more about our own individual needs being met by the church than for the Church's needs to be alleviated by our humble service. Nor do we easily bond with people who are unlike us - people whose odd quirks annoy us or whose background cultures are completely foreign and strange to us. Indeed, it is hard work to live in unity and be knit together because we are all so very different and we are all so very selfish.

Our sinful desires encourage us to act like rebellious yarn in an unskilled knitter's hands: unwilling to connect, unwilling to be a part of a whole. Rather than practicing the humility and service necessary to live in unity, we'd rather go our own way and do as we like. It's much easier to do so.

But God calls us to something higher and harder. He calls us to lay down our rights and likes and desires and preferences for the good of his church. He calls us to do so in love.

Be "knit together in love," Paul says in Colossians. We see this exhortation in 1 Corinthians as well. After speaking about the members of the body serving one another and using their gifts for the good of the whole, he explains that the only way to submit to the Spirit's dispersal of various gifts is to walk in love. Nothing - not the gift of prophecy, not the gift of tongues, not the gift of knowledge or faith - means anything of it is not practiced through love.

The practice - not the feeling - of love is what allows us to serve one another in humility and to bear with one another when we begin to feel as though we simple cannot stand a particular member of the body. It causes us to rejoice when the other parts of our body rejoice, and it causes us to mourn when the other members of our church mourn. Spirit-wrought love is the  invisible glue that knits broken, rebellious sinners to one another.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we don't always love our church body, much less the individual members within it. We find it easy to love ourselves, but altogether unnatural to love those who are unlike us. Thankfully, there is something altogether unnatural occurring with in us.

We are indwelled by the Spirit of Love, himself.

God's love - that remarkable, holy, and altogether giving attribute - "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)." Incredible! This is what allows us to fight for unity. It is what gives us the ability to deny our self-serving tendencies. It is what knits us together as one body.

Our daily battle as members of Christ's church is to step aside and allow the Spirit of God to work through us. Our prayer must continually be for his love to eclipse and transform our natural selfishness. And we needn't fear that he will deny us. For he cares for his sheep and their well-being. He who died for us will not forget about us.

In the end, we rebellious loops of yarn are no match for his skillful hand. He will sanctify his church.

And so, just as our creator God knit each of us together in our mother's wombs, so too is he knitting us together as a church. Joyfully, we concede that he is the one holding the needles and we wait with great anticipation for the revealing of his masterpiece.

For he is the master of his craft.

Let the Children Come! -Credo Magazine's Latest Issue

Jessalyn Hutto

The latest issue of Credo Magazine is all about sharing the Word of God with our Children. It is packed full of helpful articles covering subjects like: the importance of teaching children church history, what family worship looks like in the home, and teaching children important doctrinal truths. It also includes two great interviews that I know you will enjoy: the first is with Nancy Guthrie and the second is with Sally Michael (the co-founder and publishing consultant of Children Desiring God).

In this issue, I had the privilege of writing an article which gives an overview of the four most popular and helpful children's Bibles on the market. I look at their benefits as well as the best times to use them in a child's life. I hope that you will find it helpful.

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How Can You Help A Friend Who Miscarries?

Jessalyn Hutto

Since the release of Inheritance of Tears, my life has been quite a whirlwind. Very little of the craziness, however, has been a result of the book! In truth, there have been many days over the past two months that I've completely forgotten that something as wonderfully exciting as publishing a book, has taken place. Regular life--the joys and insanity of caring for a household of 6--has been more than enough to occupy my time, thoughts and energy.

And so, as reviews for the book have started to filter in, I've been in a constant state of wonder at God's willingness to use me to serve the church in this way. I'm so happy to see Inheritance of Tears being well-received and pray that it will bear much fruit as it falls into the hands of women who need it. 

I'd like to send out a huge "Thank You!" to every single person who has shared about this book. I'm hopeful that your kind efforts will lead to many women being encouraged in their darkest hours.

Recently, I've had the wonderful opportunity to answer some very practical questions regarding miscarriage and how to lovingly serve those who are mourning the loss of their children.

At this time, there are two separate interviews (more to come!) that I would like to share with you. I  hope you find them helpful as you seek to minister to those who are suffering...

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Q&A with Trillia Newbell

Jessalyn Hutto

Q: Why do you feel that diversity is so crucial to the body of Christ?

A: I think diversity is important because Scripture screams of a gospel that is for all nations. I don’t think that a church that is not diverse is necessarily doing something wrong. I want to make that clear. What I do think is that this is a matter of the heart and relationships. The pursuit of diversity is really about loving your neighbor as yourself...

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United by Trillia Newbell

Jessalyn Hutto

“This is my story–a journey of finding faith in a world in which I am different and discovering relationships that reveal the beauty and importance of diversity in the body of Christ” (Trillia Newbell, United)

Have you ever read a book, and been surprised by how much you needed to read it? I was looking forward to reading Trillia Newbell’s book, United: Captured By God’s Vision for Diversity, because I love Newbell’s gracious, friendly, and gospel-driven writing style. I’ve always enjoyed reading her articles at DesiringGod.org, CBMW, and now the ERLC. For this reason, I new I would enjoy being able to walk through a larger work by her, and indeed, I did...

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Discipling Others as God Disciples You

Jessalyn Hutto

I was saved the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Up until then my understanding of God was incredibly limited. I knew there was a holy God and that he had a son named Jesus who was very important. I also knew from the weight of guilt I carried that I was a desperate sinner, enslaved to sin and in need of divine help. Tragically, I had no idea how to reconcile my brokenness to God’s holiness. That is, until the truth of the gospel invaded my heart one night at a summer camp. Suddenly, through the knowledge of God’s forgiving grace in the cross of Jesus Christ, my soul began to truly live. Freed from the chains of sin, I began down the road of sanctification at the age of 15.

It was about this time when the church I began attending hired [intlink id="9903" type="post"]a new youth pastor. His wife, Chelle Stire[/intlink], would become one of the greatest spiritual influences on my life. Week after week this young mother poured into me, teaching me how to apply the truths of scripture to my life, challenging me to be faithful in reading the word of God and in prayer, and living as an example of godly womanhood for me to follow. She was my real-life Titus 2 mentor throughout the turbulent years of high school. Much has changed since then. I am now as old as she was when we first met and have three little ones of my own to care for. Her daughters are growing into beautiful women who are as old as I was when my relationship with her first began. Our relationship has evolved from one of a mentor and disciple to friends who are able encourage one another in the faith. Even now however, though she and her family are serving on the mission field half a world away in Albania, her faith and joy in the Lord continue to impact me.

Recently, I asked Chelle to share some of the wisdom she has gained over the years as she’s sought to faithfully minister to younger women in the faith and now to her own teen and preteen daughters. I was curious if—when looking back over her ministry—she would have done anything differently. As she has grown in her own personal relationship to the Lord, how has her ministry grown? How does all this carry over to her relationship to her own daughters?

Today I share a sampling of this interview over at CBMW (click through this link to read it) and plan to share more in the coming days here at Desiring Virtue…

How to Help A Woman Who Miscarries

Jessalyn Hutto

A common suffering that afflicts women in their childbearing years is the loss of a baby in the womb. Shocking statistical realities are not needed in order to witness the incredible rate of women who go through miscarriages all around us. This is especially true in the church where children are treasured and pregnancies abound! Chances are, if you are in your 20′s and 30′s and regularly fellowship with other young married couples, you have been witness to the sorrows a woman faces when her pregnancy is abruptly ended and the dream of a future bundle of joy is stripped from her–that is, if you haven’t experienced this tragedy yourself.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to minister to a sister-in-Christ who is going through a trial you have never experienced. Often the fear of saying the wrong thing or hurting her feelings with a thoughtless action can keep you from reaching out to her when she needs it the most. As the body of Christ, however, it is our responsibility to take up one another’s burdens and to diligently seek to encourage those around us who are suffering...

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Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman

Jessalyn Hutto

“Joy is the last word many parents would choose to describe what it’s like to sit in the pew with their children. Resentment and frustration are not uncommon feelings for people who “before we had kids” experienced an hour of peace and calm in the pew. Parenting in the pew can be a hassle. Or it can be holy. It depends on who we are and how we see ourselves. Do we sit with our children “in church” or “in worship”?

Too many adults who learned how to be quiet in church are still doing just that. And many of them are passing this along to their children. A family can learn to sit still very well, but be unmoved by the holy presence of God.”

If I had to sum up the purpose of Robbie Castleman’s book Parenting in the Pew everything I said would flow from these couple sentences found in chapter two. Mrs. Castleman urges parents to make sure that they are purposeful in how they interact with their children at church–to view the time they have in the pew as a continuation of their parental responsibility to lead their children to the throne of Christ, not a respite of that responsibility...

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