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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Blog Silence & A Link Roundup

So it’s been a little quiet around here lately. I’ve been prepping a couple of Bible study lectures to share with the women in my church, and I seem to only get inspiration for one thing at a time. Thus, the lack of posting here.

Next week I plan to start posting again. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite things around the web from the past couple of weeks:

Naming Children – my friend Kyle writes about the names parents choose for their kids, inviting us to decide if it’s gotten out of hand. Hilarious writing here, people.

I See You and I Judge – by Jan Quick, on women and judging and shame and the solution

That One Sin – by Lindsey Carlson, on how we easily become defeated in our struggle against sin, and that one sin that just keeps coming back.

The Secret Women’s Porn Problem – by Trillia Newbell. It’s not just a man’s issue, and we need to be talking about it more. The first-person accounts in this piece open a window to see how this addiction starts, but the stunning part comes in Trillia’s thoughts at the end–freedom in Christ.

Also, I’ve had a couple of posts up on other websites if you’re interested in checking those out:

Tissues, Lassos and Labcoats: Lessons in Repentance – at True Woman I tell a childhood story and how it taught me I don’t have to fear confession of sin

Birth Choices, Baby Care and the Wisdom of God – at CBMW Karis I share how something my friend Mandi said completely changed my perspective on raising my kids

Finally, here’s a book I’m in the middle of. I’ll be posting a full review soon, but in the meantime you can check it out:

found in him

Found in Him: The Joy of the Incarnation and Our Union with Christ by Elyse Fitzpatrick

Building a Neighborhood Community Using NextDoor

Monday I reviewed the book Suburbianity by Byron Yawn. It’s a call to see the gospel neediness of the suburbanite across the street, even the really “good people.”

But how do we get to know these people in our neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs? We live in a garage age. People pull up, pull in, lower the door, and you never see their faces. We’ve built relationships over the past 4 years, but it takes a lot of time to even just have that first chance to say hello.

Recently my husband and I were praying for our neighborhood and seeking God’s wisdom on how to get to know more people. The next day I saw a post on Tim Brister’s blog about a website called NextDoor. I was intrigued by his post and by the website, so I told Erik about it and we decided to give it a shot.

Basically, NextDoor is a social networking site for your neighborhood. You set the boundaries on a map online, then the website sends postcards (free of charge) to your neighbors, inviting them to join. There are sections similar to Craigslist, only without the crazies. You can give stuff away, sell things, ask for business recommendations, alert people to crimes or lost pets, plan block parties, etc.

So we launched our site and so far have 14 of 100 homes represented on the site. Some are people we already knew, but there are several families we didn’t previously know. So we’re building relationships online and hoping to have opportunities to take it offline and share meals together.

After the initial launch with postcards being sent, we’re starting to follow up by going door-to-door when we get a chance and hand out fliers. For one thing, it gives us another chance to meet people.

And we’re trying to keep things going on the site itself–starting the discussion, helping people get to know each other, and trying to engage people to deepen relationships.

It’s not a means to get to know all 100 households, but there is such beauty and joy in community. This is something so many people are missing. We look around and notice many of our neighbors never have people in their homes and just seem to keep to themselves. We want to share the joy of community, and in particular a missional community, with those around us. And NextDoor is just one means by which we’re trying to do this.

So I invite you to look into NextDoor and see about setting up your own neighborhood site. It’s extremely user-friendly, but if you have any questions I’d love to answer them!

*Full disclosure: If you want to set up a site, using the link on this page makes you eligible for a $50 Amazon gift card when your website is launched and you have 10 members. And it gives me one too! There are no fees associated with the site and you can control how much information you post. Again, don’t hesitate to let me know if you have questions.

**The links aren’t working for everyone–if you’re in that boat, shoot me an email and I’ll respond with an invitation: catherinestrodeparks(at)gmail(dot)com

Suburbianity – Should We Leave the ‘Burbs?


I’m a product of the suburbs. Having grown up in areas surrounding Memphis, TN, Fredericksburg, VA, and now living just outside of Nashville, I am well-acquainted with suburban values and ideals. I had a friend in high school who literally lived in a cute cottage with a white picket fence.

When David Platt preached the sermon series that later become his best-selling book, Radical, my husband’s sister and her husband were members of his church. They witnessed, and participated in, a movement of people awakening to a global mission. Living for the American Dream was not only not enough, but was the opposite of what they saw in Scripture. So eventually Jen & Pete left their cushy loft and moved to “the ‘hood,” where God has done amazing things in and through their family.

Jen is one of my very closest friends, and we’ve spent hours talking through the implications of Jesus’ teachings. Like many others, I’ve wondered if we should also leave our suburban home and move to an inner city neighborhood. We’ve talked about how there’s nothing particularly special about Jen & Pete–it’s all about what God is doing. She’s told me she firmly believes everyone could do what they are doing. But the question remained–does that mean everyone should?

Then my pastor, Byron Yawn, wrote a book called Suburbianity. He wrote it partly with a suburban soccer mom in mind. I’m not a soccer mom (at least I hope not…we’re hoping for basketball and volleyball…nice indoor sports where more points are scored), but I can identify with his target audience. I’m the girl who grew up in the church, heard all the Bible stories about heroes of the faith, and tried to live a good life. But God used various passages, books and friends to awaken me to a much bigger picture of my purpose in life.

So now what? I still find myself in the suburbs, in the buckle of the Bible Belt. In many suburban neighborhoods here, everyone goes to church, everyone says he’s a Christian, and people are just generally nice to one another. But the gospel is missing. Our “good news” is this: Go to church, live right, move up on the corporate ladder, raise kind children, retire and enjoy the good life you’ve earned. The problem is that our “good news” is damning most of the families on our street. And the true gospel is almost impossible to find in the midst of the pseudo-spiritual karma language of many churches.

Byron has seen this firsthand, over and over, in our church and even in his own life. The impetus for this book, and the focus of his ministry, was a confrontation he had with a visitor to our church who expressed his utter disappointment that he had brought his parents to church to hear the gospel, only to hear the pastor preach on a passage in Matthew for almost an hour with no mention of the true good news–the gospel of grace. It was a watershed moment for Byron, and led to many watershed moments for those in our congregation.

So the book is a call to see the true gospel, to see how the entirety of Scripture points not to our own ability to be or do good, but to Christ. And it’s a call to see the neediness of our suburban neighbors. We’ve seen it time and again in the waters of baptism. The former stripper’s testimony is followed by the minister’s daughter, repenting of her trust in her own goodness. As he says, “When good suburban folks repent, it’s a miracle.”

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote along the same lines regarding the issue of self-sufficiency: “The dangers of apparent self-sufficiency explain why Our Lord regards the vices of the feckless and dissipated so much more leniently than the vices that lead to worldly success. Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.”

We’re still in the suburbs, and we’re very much in danger of seeing ourselves as self-sufficient. We exchange our souls for ease of living. Byron states,

Living in light of eternal things is difficult when material things are so abundant. We should not underestimate the war raging for our devotion and souls in the suburbs. […] But the final solution to the pervasive materialism in America is not asceticism or downsizing. Those are responses, not solutions. They are helpful, but they can’t touch the heart issue behind materialism. The solution includes a redemptive vision that so transforms our perspective that we are able to live as if we owned nothing even while possessing everything we need. […] The cross of Christ can compel you to live as if you were on the frontier of some unreached people group even as you live in the heart of capitalism.

So who’s right? The Christians overseas? The Christians selling everything and moving to the ‘hood? Or those in large homes in the upper middle class neighborhoods in the suburbs of the Bible Belt?

Obviously it’s a false dichotomy. I can’t tell you or anyone else where to go. That’s the role of the Holy Spirit. But the mission is the same. We preach Christ to all men and women and children. We support and encourage those who are being led by the Spirit to go overseas, and they encourage us as we are led to our next-door neighbor’s house. We assume the homeschooling, church-attending mom across the street is just as lost as the homeless drug addict.

Byron compares our reactions to two hypothetical visitors in our churches–one in rags, reeking of alcohol, and one in a suit with a nice Bible–and calls the church out (himself included) for our conditional love:

If your heart doesn’t sink with the man drowning in his affluence the way it did for the man drowning in alcohol, you don’t get it. You’re assuming he knows the gospel. You should be thinking the exact same thing you did about the bum. “How desperately that guy in the suit needs Jesus. Look at him! He believes his morality and church attendance save him. Most likely, right now he’s comparing himself to that homeless guy and assuming the best about his own condition. Oh, how blind he is! I’ve got to put the cross of Christ in his path. He needs to see himself as a leper and not a Republican.” This nearly imperceptible presupposition about human beings coats our souls in the suburbs, and it has robbed the church of its purpose and power.

So yes, I’m biased. He’s my pastor and if I didn’t agree with him I wouldn’t be sitting under his teaching. But I commend Suburbianity to anyone–those who have been awakened to the truth of the gospel and are passionate about sharing the truth, those who are still trusting in their own goodness, and those who have never heard any of this. It’s a call to see Christ–to see that it’s ALL about Him–and then to proclaim Him. Across the street and around the world.

In-Law Week: Wrapping it Up

We’ve reached the end of the series on in-law relationships. Thank you so much to all who contributed to this series. Today I’m just going to post links to the various posts and resources, and then leave us with a few quotes and thoughts from friends.

First, what’s the purpose of this relationship?

What’s the Goal?

Here are three guest posts and one extra link on showing grace and the love of Christ to our in-laws (relevant for every relationship):

Guest Post by Kim Shay, whose mother-in-law was instrumental in her conversion

Guest Post by Rachel Lonas, who didn’t fit her mother-in-law’s expectations, but was shown love and grace anyway

Guest Post by Kyle Castro, whose in-laws gave him a second chance at family

The Generosity of Centered Love, by Beth Impson

Then, some thoughts on what causes these relationships to get off to a rough start:

How Do We Go Wrong?

But what about those relationships that just aren’t working? Is there hope?

Guest Post by Marci Preheim – for when your marriage isn’t big enough for the three of you

Finally, here are some thoughts from a few friends about their relationships with their in-laws:

On the Initial Meeting:

My first encounter with my MIL was me taking the first step in writing my future in laws a short thank you note telling them how grateful I was to them for raising my husband in a godly home and with character that I admired and had come to love. I told them that I had been praying for a man like him and was really looking forward to meeting them (Was invited up to MI for Thanksgiving) Not sure what prompted me to do that other than I really did feel grateful and wanted to express it to them. Anyway, when I got there she welcomed me with a huge hug and seemed genuinely happy to see me. When she showed me the room she had set up for me, there was a gift bag with a blanket, a light sweater and some University of Michigan slippers. (She thought since I was coming from FL, that I might be cold since I wasn’t used to the weather.) – Theresa

On TV Viewing and In-Law Relationships:

Daughter-in-Law: You need to IGNORE hat the world says about MIL’s, block “Everybody Loves Raymond” on TV, it will only poison you towards your MIL. You may be landing a great MIL, sometimes that relationship just takes time to blossom! 

Mother-in-Law:  Be patient. Watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” and vow to NEVER EVER be like Marie. Wait for your DIL to ask for your advice, or start up conversations and see if it leads to her asking you for help/advice. – Melissa

On Bringing Together Families:

I always keep the story of Ruth in my mind & on my heart—-especially on the bad days. I included verses from Ruth in my wedding vows that I wrote: “your people shall be my people”. I meant that when I said that to my husband almost 33 years ago. – Wanda

I hope this series has been an encouragement to others, as I know it has to me. I’m still irrational about giving up my son one day. But at the end of the day, he was never mine to begin with. I’m so thankful for the love of Christ that draws us into His family and brings strangers together. Our physical families may never be close and our in-law relationships may be fraught with pain. But His bride–the church–is our eternal family. And He is our brother, our friend, our bride-groom and our savior. What joy there is in knowing Him!


This Marriage Ain’t Big Enough For the Three of Us: Guest Post by Marci Preheim

Up until now, the guests posts featured during In-Law Week have all been positive accounts, detailing how each writer’s in-laws showed grace and the love of Christ to their new family members. This was undoubtedly not always easy, especially considering how each person did not exactly fit the mold of their new family’s expectations. 

But maybe you’ve been reading and you’re thinking, “That is not my experience at all. I’m trying and trying to love, but it’s a one-way street and I’m exhausted.” Today’s post is for you. My guest today (and precious friend), Marci Preheim, shares some loving, grace-filled wisdom for how to handle those intense in-law relationships (or ANY difficult relationship). 

Romans 12:18 says this: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The first two clauses in this verse speak volumes. They reveal this truth: 1) it is not always possible to live at peace with everyone, and 2) you cannot control other people’s behavior. You can only control your own.

This little verse has brought comfort to many young newlyweds who have found themselves in a surprisingly difficult in-law relationship. My best-friend (I’ll call her Jane) and I used to joke that, until we got married, we had never met anyone that we could not MAKE like us. We used to flip our hair back, look in the mirror together and laugh: “What’s not to like about me?” Even though we were being facetious (and obnoxious), there was some truth to our jesting. You cannot MAKE someone love you.

I suspect there is very little written about the difficulties of in-law relationships in Christian circles because no one wants to dishonor their parents or their spouse’s parents. After all, most writers write about what they know—what they have learned from experience. Many articles I have read about in-law relationships sum it all up with an exhortation for mutual love, and boundary setting. They give examples of Christ-centered respectful relationships that we should all pattern our lives after. For those who have exhausted every effort to live at peace with their in-laws to no avail, these exhortations are like a dull knife to an already sensitive wound.

Jane’s mother-in-law is one of those ladies in the church who cooks and serves and has people over for dinner and spoils children with sweets and gifts. Everyone loves her. There was a little evidence during the wedding planning that mom-in-law had a controlling side. She gave her opinion much too readily and could snap your head off without warning. Jane wrote it off as wedding stress. Things settled down after the wedding. It was smooth sailing. . .until babies came along.

All of a sudden a tolerable relationship turned unbearable. Jane and her husband had moved six-hours away from his parents (which was a crime in itself), but when babies came along so did the expectations. Mom-in-law decided she was going to visit every six weeks and stay for a week each time so she and her grandbaby would be close. This was hard on Jane, but she wanted to honor her mother-in-law. Gradually with more visits, came more expectations. Jane began to feel like she and her husband were just two more children for his mom to parent.

Men don’t often see the complexities of female relationships. Jane’s husband thought his wife could use the help and he enjoyed having his mom’s cooking and affection. His mom behaved well when he was around, but when he wasn’t, she was cold and critical to Jane. She made Jane feel like she was an unworthy mom, wife, and person for that matter. She unapologetically slandered Jane to other family members. Jane felt guilty for not wanting her around. When she broached the subject with her husband, he suggested that she might be over-reacting. He urged her to be selfless, grateful for the help, and asked her to keep the peace. After all it was only one week out of every six.

I can almost hear the female voices of those reading this article. Trust me, every word of advice that is about to drop out of your mouth, Jane has tried. What do you do when you have done everything possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with your in-laws? The more Jane sacrificed, humbled herself, kept quiet, the more intrusive mom-in-law became.

When we talk, in Christian circles, about loving one another and sacrificing for one another, what does that mean? Should Jane honor her mother-in-law by letting her take leadership over her home once every six weeks? Are we commanded, as Christians, to let other people take control of our lives for the sake of peace? There is not time to sacrifice to this extent for everyone in our family, in the church, in the world. How much sacrifice is enough?

In my own (much less severe) relationships with extended family, I have had to take refuge in the Lord. I have had to cling to Him as my rock and my salvation (Psalm 62:6). There are times when I have felt such immense pressure to do something, and yet when I ran to the Lord, His word said: Wait. . .wait. . .wait! “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.”

Dealing with in-laws (or any difficult relationship for that matter) cannot be remedied with a simple command to love and sacrifice for others. Most of the time, these relationships reveal our utter inability to do so. Our confusion should drive us to the cross—to the only One who ever truly loved sacrificially. James gives us this invitation in his epistle: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). The hard part is waiting for the answer and believing it will come.

I don’t have to give communication tips or a flow chart of who’s responsible to talk to who about what. In difficult circumstances people naturally pull out every tool in their arsenal of wisdom—human or spiritual. Sometimes Christians act in the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they explode with their own impatience. We do anything to escape suffering. At the end of all this striving and effort a sweet surrender to the Lord can be found. It is the moment you cry uncle and hand it over. It may be a moment by moment surrender, but it is the kind of surrender that trusts that someone else sees the situation. Someone else has the power to fix it but has chosen, for some good reason, not to. Someone else will care for me until it is fixed. I don’t have to do anything.

I give the same counsel that the Psalmist gave to himself: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. . .My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. . .Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 43:5, Psalm 62:1, 8).

Marci 19Marci Preheim was born in Lincoln, Nebraska but moved to Hollywood, California as a teenager. It was there, at the age of 21, that she came to know the Savior through the ministry of a local church. Within a couple of years of her conversion she became involved in a women’s prison ministry and discovered her passion for sharing the gospel publicly. Marci has been married to Arnie Preheim since August of 1993. Shortly after their marriage, Arnie and Marci moved to Nashville, Tennessee. They have 2 children, Brock (born in 1995) and Paige (born in 1998). Marci regularly teaches the women’s Bible study at Community Bible Church. For ten years, she has also led a monthly chapel service for women at the Nashville Rescue Mission (Hope Center for female recovering addicts). You can find more of her writing at and in her book, Super(free)Woman: From Fundamentalist to Failure to Faith.

In-Law Week: Guest Post by Kyle Castro

Yes, we’re in Week 2 of “In-Law Week,” but there have just been so many great guest posts I wanted to share. Today I’m featuring a post by my friend Kyle Castro. I love his perspective and story of finding grace and love in his in-laws, and how this reflects the bigger picture of the community we can have in the body of Christ.

Hollywood lore shapes and defines more facets of our daily lives than we are likely comfortable admitting. From sex appeal to our choice of gum-Hollywood is putting its lens over your eyes. When I’m engaged in conversation and the word “in-laws” is mumbled, instantaneous discomfort stretches over me. Funny enough, as you will later read, I have a lovely and rare relationship with my in-laws. So why is it that even I, a man with such extraordinary familial circumstances, shiver at the subject matter? I often think of the classic comedy Meet The Parents (I think you do too). I think of the unfathomable cruelty that Robert De Niro’s character puts his potential son-in-law through. The slapstick comedy Son In Law also comes to mind, capturing the awe stricken fear of your beloved daughter bringing home the strangest, most unlovable human being you can imagine as their supposed significant other.

Although these films are some of the most hyperbolic examples, they portray real life struggles. These struggles often stem from overcritical first impressions which can regrettably become the flawed foundation of a relationship with your in-laws.  Sadly, some families consider it a resolution to “come to terms” with the fact that there will always be differences and settle on saving face with one another. It’s certainly true that the term in-law doesn’t need Hollywood’s help when it comes to negative connotations.

I want to take us away from Hollywood now and to the body of Christ. My relationship with my in-laws has shown me that although there aren’t entire epistles in the Bible about how to interact with your in-laws, it’s a perfect opportunity to love and act as a redeemed body for the cause of Christ.

My relationship with my own family is non-existent. I was raised in an environment contaminated by alcoholism and abuse. The status of my family has only digressed since my getting married. We don’t travel to see one another on holidays. We don’t call. I’ve spent most of my married life creating a layer of defense between my wife and me and my family. Although this is difficult, God has also given me a second chance at family. I feared this concept before our wedding. I saw the bond of my wife and her family played out in so many ways and all I wanted to do was hide mine. Of course there were initial concerns about this “Kyle Guy.” In fact, my name was Caleb for the first month or so of our dating relationship. That was actually my best friend’s name and my mother-in-law confused the two consistently. Those times would eventually pass. As the wedding approached, I began to see the early fruits of a meaningful relationship with my in-laws.

It’s comedic when you compare the two families. My in-laws fear the Lord. My father in-law is an elder at the church. The more I got to know them, the farther from home I felt. There were small patches of time where I didn’t know if I could fit. I looked at my past compared to my wife’s. How is my past going to interfere with this seemingly “perfect” family?

Those fears are long gone and there are no perfect families. Families are comprised of sinners. The difference is Christ. My in-laws aren’t perfect, not even close. But you know what? They know Christ is perfect and that his righteousness is the standard. That realization defines our relationship. The love my in-laws have for Christ has driven their love for me. After the initial shock period when I began dating their daughter, I saw them welcoming me into their family. I have never questioned their love for me. I look forward to spending time with them and seeing them at church on Sundays.

It’s important to establish this is not replacement. I’m not the kind of guy that will call my father-in-law “dad”. It’s not a fashion statement as much as it is taxonomy. It’s important to distinguish who’s who in your family. My father-in-law’s duty is not to replace my father. That being said, he’s shown Christ’s love nonstop. He and my mother-in-law are servants who love the church.

The point of this is that when you act as the body of Christ is called to, your relationships with your in-laws can defy the stereotypes. This doesn’t mean to let your guard down when your daughter brings home that guy with the tattoos who has a funny accent and wears too much cologne. As leaders, men should be protecting their daughters. My family is such a great example of how you can extend the servant attitude and the relentless love of a Christ-centered body of believers into your relationship with your in-laws. My family history has left long, ridged scars. Somehow, through God’s grace, I get a second chance to witness how a broken, regenerate family operates and loves one another. You may want to think about that the next time your daughter brings home that Aqua Di Gio ensconced, tattoo-covered guy with the backwards hat (after some healthy ridicule of course).

Kyle Castro is a Nashville musician and active member of the local business community. He and his beautiful wife Renee are members of Community Bible Church Nashville. Kyle enjoys writing in the realms of fiction and business.  @kylecastrooo