Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#CCGOESTOSEMINARY : SUMMER READS & FALL START

As of last night, I am officially a seminarian.

My orientation at PTS wrapped up with an opening convocation and classes started this morning. It's a little hard to write about this journey, to be honest. The words just don't seem to want to come.

How can I describe how it feels to sit at the feet of both the Cross and amazing human professors .... all at the same time?

What words can I use to accurately capture the deep and meaningful conversations I've already had with my peers .... before classes have even begun?

I call myself a writer. And yet, I have no words.

The irony isn't lost on me, but it does humble me.

Since I can't seem to find the phrases to describe the experience, I'll just touch briefly on how it feels.

It feels...
... incredible to know that I get to spend the next three years intentionally getting to know God on a deeper level.
... inspiring to realize I won't be alone in this process. I'll have 200+ new friends on this journey with me.
... intense to comprehend the sheer amount of work it's going to take to get to take the graduation walk in May 2018. (side note: massive party that day. You're invited. For realz.)

I'm going to do my best to journal-write about-share this experience with you, my dear friend. I know getting to go to seminary is a tremendous privilege and my heart aches for those of you whose hearts burn with the desire to go, but haven't yet received confirmation that God has this path for you. I was there in that place too, not so long ago and I know how it feels to sit and wait. So I will do what I can to pay this experience forward - by writing from time to time (even when the perfect words won't come), by posting my book lists and by sharing resources on Facebook and Instagram.

And the sharing starts. NOW :)

We started our studies this summer with just a bit of reading:


ESV Study Bible (the assignment was to read the Old Testament - but I went ahead and finished the whole Bible in a #Biblein90 challenge group - I was also supposed to read in the HCSB version, but I read that in my first #Biblein90 challenge last Fall, so decided to mix it up and read the ESV this summer)
A Knock At Midnight
The Pastor as Minor Poet
Pray Without Ceasing
Faith Seeking Understanding
Her Story 

It was a little tough to fit all the reading in - mostly because I majorly procrastinated and waited until the end of May to really get started! I finished though - the week before Orientation!

My goal going forward is to pick a "if you only have time to read one book, read this one" book each semester, but for summer reading, I have two picks because they compliment each other so nicely:


The Pastor as Minor Poet, written by PTS President Dr. M. Craig Barnes, "calls pastors to search for a deeper understanding of what they see - both in the text of Scripture and in the text of their parishioners' lives," according to the description on the back cover. But, I feel like this book is an amazing read for anyone currently in (or considering) active ministry ... and aren't we all? The book offers both deep spiritual insight into how we, as the body of Christ, can be more effective ministers to the people God puts in our lives, as well as practical advice on how to develop the minor poetry that allows us to present the "good news," the Gospel, in a way that others can easily understand as relevant to their lives. 

My three favorite quotes: 

"God has good self-esteem and can handle as much anger as we can dish out, as the psalmists apparently believed, but it's clear that nothing infuriates God more than being left out of the conversation." (p. 39, "Poetry for the Angry")

"God alone is whole and complete, lacking in nothing. So it only makes sense that those who have devoted their lives to talking about God would have at least a 'small matter' that is missing, imperfect, or habitually humbling. The purpose of this unwanted - but divine - gift is to nurture even more gravitas in the pastor's soul. Such gravity is strangely attractive to a society that has tried too long to lack nothing." (p. 52, "Gravitas")

"The contagious excitement of preachers, the thing that keeps them awake Saturday night with all of the anticipation of a child on the night before Christmas, is that they cannot wait for the gift of getting to proclaim what they have discovered. This is why the Gospel is called good news." (p. 115, "The Second Voice")


This book's subtitle is "Revitalizing Pastoral Care" and is also intended for pastors, current and future. And I'm sure it's a remarkable book for folks going into that line of work, but again, I found the insights touching and extremely relevant for anyone seeking a deeper prayer relationship with God. I just loved it and found myself reading and re-reading several chapters - something I rarely do. 

My favorite quotes: 

"Just as Scripture is the means by which God speaks to the church, so prayer is the means by which we respond. Through Scripture God draws near to us. Through prayer, we draw near to God." (p. 28, "Listening to God")

"Intercession focuses on God. Intercession does not worry about saying the right thing or about being eloquent or wise. It merely brings a request to God. It is not a conversation with the other about God but a conversation with God in the other's hearing. Intercession knows that 'prayer is not prayer if addressed to anyone but God.' It does not try to affect it's human listeners. The prayer itself is not an attempt to help, edify or instruct the other. Still less is it an opportunity for camouflaged preaching. It is a request for grace, not a tool of manipulation." (p. 122, "Prayers of Intercession")

"While God alone can save us from sin and death, we are called to be companions to one another in this life. Though our suffering cannot redeem others, as Christ's suffering does, we can accompany one another in love, offering the comfort that we ourselves have received. As members of Christ's body, we walk alongside one another, gladly bearing other's burdens and sharing our own. As mutual caregivers, we offer each other the word of forgiveness, witness one another's lament, intercede in prayer for each other, and offer our thanksgivings together for the blessings of this life." (p. 191, "Conclusion) 

By the way, narrowing down my "favorites" list for this one was hard. Seriously hard. I don't think I've marked, highlighted and overall destroyed a book like I did this one. Obviously, I highly recommend it. 

That was Summer, now onto Fall.

Here's the lineup: 


A More Profound Alleluia (not pictured, could only access the Kindle edition!) 
Plus a whole bunch more "e-reserve" articles that are literally too numerous to list - so you all will have to settle for the books for now! 

I won't post another big recap with my Fall reviews until after Christmas - when Finals are over and the holidays are behind us, but I will post my usual highlights and underlines, along with hashtags for each book over on Instagram. I'd love to connect with you over there too! 

I hope my book lists and reviews inspire you to take on some reading of your own - my prayer is that God will use these pics, quotes and imperfect reviews to light a spark of interest in your soul. A desire to get to know your Creator more intimately - through study of His eternal Word and the thoughts of the mere mortals who take it upon themselves to devote their lives to pursuing Him.




Thursday, August 27, 2015

#NotFineFriday Blog Tour: August 2015



Welcome to the August leg of the #NotFineFriday Blog Tour! Our third month of this project, where we bring glory to God by sharing our weaknesses. My writer friends and I know that it's only by sharing our struggles, alongside the message of how God redeems these circumstances, that we can fully walk in the power of Christ in us (2 Corinthians 12:9).





Click through the links, be encouraged and type out a comment or prayer for these sweet writers who are sharing deep feelings and struggles - in Jesus' name and for His glory!

If these links aren't enough, check out all the wonderful posts in June and July.

Praying you're blessed by the words God's given us to share with you!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

#NotFineFriday July : Insecurity

I am so incredibly thankful to be back this month, with another #NotFineFriday blog tour. Last month was amazing and it's been incredible to watch God continue to move as women take off their "church perfect" masks and share their stories of how God is redeeming them in the midst of their struggles. None of us are "fine" and that's more than ok.

You see, we've got God working in us and through us. He sees our hurts, He sees our struggles. And He uses them all for His glory. But, the thing is, we've got to be willing to share them, to walk in openness and authenticity, in order for Him to work through them and touch our lives and the lives of those we influence.


God set my #NotFineFriday story in North Carolina this past week. I traveled down for this year's SheSpeaks conference - designed by it's organizers to equip and encourage Christian writing and speaking women to fully embrace the calls God has on their lives. The 800 conference attendees worshipped together, sat at the feet of some amazing Bible teachers (here's looking at you, Whitney Capps, Lysa TerKeurst and Liz Curtis Higgs....), picked up incredible tips from industry experts and had chances to present book ideas to leading Christian publishers.



I went down primarily to pursue a formal book deal. My ministry partner Marie and I have been really seeing God move through the wellness ministry we're building with his help. Our Facebook challenge groups are rockin' it, doctors are getting excited about what we're doing, and church groups are starting health ministries. We've felt the need to spread the message more widely, and I have a journalism degree, so it seemed like the right time to take the next step toward publishing a book.

Getting down to NC was chaotic. I've never been so spiritually attacked as I was in the weeks leading up to SheSpeaks - lingering health concerns began to rear their heads, family relationships soured, I was disorganized, distracted and downhearted. I thought about throwing in the towel and just staying home.

When I got there, I expected to feel relieved, but honestly, I felt so out of place. Everyone seemed to be so put together. With huge platforms - or well-established connections to all the speakers - or have years of experience - or be completely different from me in personality. Many of the attendees I met at first were so ... quiet. Reserved. Serene. Put together. Maybe a little introverted in all the best ways - you know, with the "I know what I'm doing, so I'll just sit here and observe with quiet dignity" looks on their faces.

I'm not any of that really. I come from a corporate marketing background. I have a massively extroverted personality. I'm incredibly insecure. Our many moves in the last years cause me to freeze when meeting new people - because I've started over so many times, I've been rejected a lot. Which is totally natural - it's impossible for everyone I meet to become my new best friend and I know that. It's just that all my rejection moments, that are typically spread out for most people, are bunched close together for me, because I've lived them in so many different places in a short span of time.

If not for this blog tour series, I'd never be admitting any of this to you. For real. It's so hard to write. 

I spent the first few hours of my time in North Carolina, surrounded by dear dear sisters in Christ, in a total emotional funk. Even though sweet friends immediately wrapped me up into the arms of their beautiful ministry group, allowing me to sit at their tables and with them on the front row of any speaker session they were also attending, I just couldn't shake the emotions bumping around in my head.

And then we headed into our first worship session. As the leaders began to sing and the band started strumming away on their instruments, conference organizers added the boxes in the picture below one-by-one to the stage.


As each box piled up, I read the words and felt the weight of my insecurity deep in my soul. So many of these boxes applied to me, right in that place, right in that moment.

And then, as we neared the crescendo of the song, the wall came down and Jesus shone through. 


The rest of the conference was full of breakdowns. SheSpeaks pretty much wrecked my life, actually, in all the best ways possible. That's a story for another post and I'm sure I'll tell it soon. In a nut shell, I'm not pursuing a publishing contract for my book, even though that opportunity presented itself. God gave me a bigger dream for both myself and my ministry.

Piece by piece and box by box, God brought down some walls that I'd spent years building around my heart and soul. Walls of sin, walls of bondage, walls of pride .... all mostly built on insecurity.

As I move forward now with life after SheSpeaks, I know I'm not the same. I feel stronger, bolder and more confident that God's going to use the wreckage of the wall He's brought down to build something stronger, more beautiful, more reflective of His glory.

If you're struggling with insecurity, just know that I'm praying this just for you right now:

Father God, I come before you humbled and in awe of who You are and how You work in our lives. You are so faithful and generous to bestow so many wonderful gifts upon us God. Please help us each to understand and appreciate our unique gifts and make it crystal clear to each one of us how you'd like us to best honor You with the way we use our time, talents and treasures. May we proclaim with boldness that You are the giver of all good things. In Your precious and Holy name I pray, Amen. 


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#NotFineFriday - June Wrap-Up



Last Friday, I started a monthly blog tour I called "Not Fine Friday" and encouraged other writers to come share stories of their struggles and how God has used each situation to shine. I don't have a huge online "platform" or following (yet?), so I pretty much threw up a note on my personal and professional Facebook pages and gave the whole effort to God.

I was not prepared to see Him show up in such a big way.


I was vacationing in California and not really following my phone, blog or Facebook pages when the post went up. After just a few hours, I checked all my digital "stuff" and was amazed at what I saw.

The tour writers got real. They took off their masks of perfection and exposed broken places, shattered hearts, significant pain and devastating losses. Then, they shared how God put them back together again - He healed hearts, minds and bodies, He worked everything out for His good purpose (Romans 8:28).

Chains of bondage broke all over the place on Friday:
- Writers shared with me that their pages were registering some of their highest views ever - based on the few I heard from, our tour generated views in the thousands across our pages.
- Posts gave writers the opportunity to participate in the call of the Great Commission - their conversations with friends and readers allowed them to point their readers to Christ.
- Friendships were strengthened as friends realized their shared imperfections and similar struggles.

As I kept reading the incoming messages, these songs lyrics began to play in my head and they just wouldn't let go!



I'm not exactly sure why I was so surprised. 


There is SO much power in the name of Jesus and in the things we do for Him, in His name and for His glory. I guess I felt like maybe I was alone in my desire to see women open up about their hurts. I've been in a season of what feels like isolation as I've struggled with my autoimmune disease and my family continues to move frequently. I've been lonely and have felt small, insignificant, like I somehow missed my opportunity to make a significant contribution to the world. I thought a couple people (maybe) would read my post and I'd be lucky to have a few friends link up. Ha! Little did I know that God had different plans and all He required of me was a relatively small step forward in obedience.

This experience humbled me. And reminded me of the importance of continuing to place one foot in front of the other in a series of steps forward into obedience.

If you visited one or more of the blogs on our tour, and/or wrote a post, thank you so much for joining me in this journey and for taking your own steps forward in faith. I deeply appreciate you and am so thankful for you.

Check back on Friday, July 31 for our next #NotFineFriday.

Until then, be encouraged in God's good Word and rest in the grace of Jesus.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#NotFineFriday Blog Tour

In the Christian community, we seem to be living an epidemic of "fine." We show up to church with smiles plastered on our faces that mask lives full of pain. We ask each other how we're doing, and somehow we're all "doing great!," "busy but loving it!," and (my personal go-to) "just fine, thanks!" The realities behind all our platitudes are marital struggles. career problems, health issues, detructive choices and the list could go on.

Behind all our "fine's" are real stories. Of pain for sure, of struggle, yes, but also, more importantly, of the grace and redemption we find through Jesus Christ. If we're lucky, we'll hear a few from time to time in small group settings or when a teacher/speaker/pastor gets brave and shares the outcome of a struggle. But, in my opinion, we don't hear these outcomes enough - and we feel alone, isolated. The enemy whispers in our ear ... 
"you are the only one here who knows the pain of depression..." 
"you are the only woman whose husband is having an affair," 
"you are the only person in bondage to an addiction" 
... and we buy into these lies, because we don't hear the many truths that could nip these destructive lies in the bud.

Because here's the reality. I'm not fine. You're not fine. And neither were a bunch of our Biblical heroes.

David - the King of Israel and the man "after God's own heart" - slept with another dude's wife and had the poor guy killed. Not fine.

Moses - raised a spoiled rich kid in a pharaoh's house, murdered a guy and spent decades tending sheep in the desert hiding. Not fine.

Paul - who wrote most of the New Testament - was a legit terrorist. So not fine! 


The thing about all these not fine guys (and many more guys and gals throughout history) - God redeemed their shame and their pain and used all of them to play major roles in His redemption of humanity.


If they could not be fine and live lives full of meaning and significance, so can we. But, we must start, fellow Christians, by taking off our masks and sharing our "not fine" stories within our communities and with the world.

Introducing.... the #NotFineFriday Blog Tour.




Hebrews 10:24 tells us that we should "spur one another on to love and good deeds." I hope these blog tours inspire all of us to share our stories with love, to encourage openness and honesty among the communities of believers we belong to (online and off) and to use what we learn through our struggles as examples of how God works everything together for His good purpose (Romans 8:28).

To read along, click the links in the widget below. Leave a comment to let the blogger know how you found his/her post and share any links you like on social media with #NotFineFriday.

If you have your own blog, I'd love it if you'd add your own voice to our conversation! Follow these simple steps:
1. Write your own post on whatever blog or website you like.
2. Come back and click on the "add your link" blue button next to the #NotFineFriday image below. Add the direct link to your blog post. (note: please try to avoid adding the general link to your blog - it can be confusing for folks trying to find a specific post. Example, my general link is www.christacordova.com, but the specific link to this post is http://www.christacordova.com/2015/06/notfinefriday-blog-tour.html)
3. Visit 2-3 of the blog links posted in the tour and leave comments - let's encourage each other in our situations!


An InLinkz Link-up

If this message of authenticity, hope and encouragement resonates with you, please also post the link code on your blog - let's spread this love far and wide!

Click to get  the InLinkz code to host the blog tour links on your own blog as well. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

I failed this morning

This morning, I pre-released my new Bible study "Stripped: Discovering the Essential Nature of Jesus Through His Own Words." I've absolutely loved getting to work on this study - all the commentary, all the time spent thinking about (and discussing) Jesus' words, examining where my relationship is with Jesus in light of what He speaks about - the whole nine yards. I've been completely enthralled with the entire writing process.

As I finished the initial draft, I felt the Lord leading me to crowdsource this study a bit. I came up with the idea of leading a group through it before trying to publish and sell it, and I decided to do that via Facebook. I tend to write to spark conversations and I wanted to see the interaction around each day's study before ultimately finalizing it.

And … with the release today …. let's just say it's been a bit of a rough morning!

Right from the start, the folks in my pre-release group noticed typos, grammatical errors, misplaced Scripture references.

Can anyone say "face palm?"

At first, I was upset, then I was mad at myself. I've read through these pages probably 20 times and didn't see these errors that seem to be jumping off pages. I started questioning my judgement, I questioned the editor who's working on this for me (who said it was "good enough for pre-release" even though she's still editing for final publish), I started feeling like a big old traditional "failure." When the feelings started, so came the labels. Because you're human, you'll probably recognize them too. In my mind, I saw myself not as an emerging or beginning author, but a "failed author," a "doomed writer," a "not good enough to even call myself a writer" writer.

As the labels (and more) began to cover my psyche like some crazy bad wallpaper, I just got sad. I started thinking of the people in the group who might be doing their very first Bible study - and whether or not this "bad experience" might turn them off of Bible study, like forever. Or the other people in the group who do tons of Bible studies - maybe my mistakes will distract them from another better study. I literally started thinking that my typos and errors would cause these folks to miss lessons God has for them.  Or maybe, because they do a lot of Bible studies, they'd judge me. They'd confirm my insecurity labels.

So by this point, in my mind, I was not only labeled with massive insecurity, I was now solely responsible for the downfall and spiritual destruction of 37 people in my Facebook group.

Hmmm … a little dramatic maybe? More likely … a lot dramatic! And there's another label.

And then, the Lord turned my head and brought me back to what I actually wrote for study day 1, the middle part of Isaiah 9:6-7…

"And He (Jesus) will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end." (emphasis mine)

The reality of the situation is that my labels - self-imposed or stamped on by someone in the group - don't really matter.

I don't know why God had me start writing this study so many months ago. I don't know why, as I prayed for the words I was writing to reflect what He would have my readers learn each day, He allowed the circumstances that set me up to release a study with these types of mistakes. What I do know is that I felt His peace throughout the entire process of writing this study, including the decision to release it early in a way that probably doesn't make "sense" in the world of book publishing.

As I clean up the mess that is today, I'm making a choice not to allow my self-imposed labels define me or this process of learning something new in the form of writing Bible studies.

Instead, I'm going to check in with the labels that actually make sense - the labels of the Son of God, the…

Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God 

Everlasting Father

Prince of Peace 

God with Us (Isaiah 7:14)

His labels are ultimately the only ones that matter, and thankfully, no matter how much I mess up, His labels are eternal. Nothing I can do will ever detract from them, nothing I can ever write or do will cause them to be anything other than what they are - everlasting promises and unbreakable truths.

If you have your own labels covering your psyche today, I encourage you to think for a moment about the realities about who Jesus is and take comfort in those truths. Let's all do that together and remember that, in the words of author Gregory Boyle "anything worth doing is worth failing at."

Enjoy the rest of your Monday!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The world's worst blogger title goes to ….

…. Me!!! I'm absolutely sure :)

I don't know why I have such a huge problem getting over here to write, but I totally do. To those of you who are new today, visiting from Sarah Travis's wonderful blog, I apologize for the lack of fresh content. I hope you'll enjoy some of my older posts.

To those of you who have been encouraging me to write more - I have a list (almost) as long as my arm. With all sorts of lovely ideas. I promise to start soon.

I'm so thankful for the promise of this verse from Lamentations 3:23:

Great is His faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

It's really easy for me to start feeling like this blog is a bit of a failure! I don't post nearly as often as I'd like, it's a bit scattered in terms of focus and I feel like I just never measure up compared to the bigger, more professional blogs. So I tend to neglect it. I'm very thankful for the many encouraging words and prompt the Lord sends that inspire me to just start back up and keep going.

Here's a bit of a recap of what's been going on in the last couple months:
- I wrote and published my first Bible study! My friend Marie Bubilo and I have been leading a wonderful group through the study on Facebook and it's been amazing. Click here to check it out.
- I'm in pre-release mode for a 2nd study - "Stripped: Exploring the Essential Nature of Jesus Through His Own Words." The new study will be available in April.
- I have two more studies in the works, both designed for kids and their parents to complete together. Working titles for both are "Super Heroes of the Bible" and "Super Girls of the Bible." Both will be available in May, just in time for Mother's Day!
- I facilitated an IF:Local gathering at our church here in New Jersey. It was amazing in so many ways that I'm still unpacking. In the coming weeks, I'm going to start a new blog series called "unpacking IF" where I share the many lessons I've learned with you all.

Also, in December, I was accepted into the M.Div. program at Princeton Theological Seminary … and … I traveled to California!