When the World is Hurting

We may have never seen it more clearly than this week.

How fear, hate, and division can gather momentum, eat away like a cancer.

I don’t pretend to understand. I don’t have any answers, except for Christ. But today I pray for comfort, for healing, for justice, for safety, for peace.

“To you we lift up our eyes,

O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

…our eyes look to the Lord our God,

till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, o Lord,

Have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.”

Psalm 123


The Day After Ash Wednesday

On the day after Ash Wednesday, I sit with a circle of women who are trying to balance All The Things.


Aging parents.

Work schedules.

Families in crisis.

Homework duty.

Not one of us at the table could say we had it figured out. And right there at the end, she turns to look at me and asks the question all of us are asking: “What does it look like to spend myself for the Gospel?”

Because the truth is, we’re often one “yes” away from being burned out and worn out and we wonder if we have enough time to give towards things like ending sex trafficking? Our hearts break for stories of abuse and betrayal–but how do we make sure we don’t commit at the expense of our own children and families?

If you can relate to wondering if there’s anything left in your life to give towards justice, head over here to join me for a moment to breathe deep and find hope today. 


A Prayer to Begin Lent

During (and after) the Advent season, I felt the need to focus on the theme of desire and longing. Now, here we are beginning the season of Lent, and what better word to sum up the experience than desire? Isn’t this much of what Lent is about–to give up that which we desire, in order to more clearly recognize the emptiness of all but Christ? The chance to see how desperately we long for a Savior, since our small earthly attempts at meaningful spiritual discipline are wobbly and incomplete at best?

But maybe Lent could be about more than just restraining a particular desire, as helpful as that may be. This weekend our pastor preached out of Isaiah 58-59, and I couldn’t help but hear the echoes of these words as I sit here today. I’m taping this prayer on my mirror for the 40 days and would invite you to join me, if you’d like.


We confess the many ways we have tried to please you, please others, and please ourselves through mere religious activity.

We confess the times we have thwarted or ignored justice out of ignorance, arrogance, or self interest.

We confess the times we’ve signed up or showed up with hearts without generosity or love.

We ask for you to give us new hearts and new desires.

Show us what it means to loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the yoke of oppression, and share our food with the hungry.

Let us be called the repairers of the ruins, the restorers of streets to dwell in. Help us see outside the narrow confines of our self-interest and seek the thriving of our city and community.

Instead of just trying harder, may we be forever ruined by your astounding love, eager to give the same love to others.

Teach us to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, knowing we will be fully satisfied in You.


Year in Review: Top 5 Books of 2015

My goal is life is to always be spending more time reading books than I do watching TV (or, in our case, Netflix!). My dear husband hauls plenty of books home each month on his bike commute for me from our local libraries, for which I am so thankful. 🙂 In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about all the great books we’ve read this year that have shaped our thinking and how really truly different my brain and heart are only a year later. So, here are my top five books from this year. If you’ve read one of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts! And please recommend some good ones for 2016 in the comments below! 

#1: Best Fiction

Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis


To me, this novel was fascinating for two reasons: 1. It was the retelling of an old “pagan” myth by a Christian and 2. It was full of the most intriguing plot twists, characters, and themes which made it SO hard to put down!

Even though the story was based on Greek Mythology, I actually found it extremely “Christian” in really beautiful and unexpected ways. Whether or not you identify as a follower of Christ, this book has some moving and profound comments on what it means to love.

#2: Best Non-Fiction

Newton On the Christian Life by Tony Reinke


The best compliment I can give this book is that it has made me love Christ more. Full of Newton’s own writings as a pastor, sermons, and pastoral letters to his congregation, the words in these pages are timeless, convicting, encouraging, and most of all packed to the brim with Jesus. Please read it. The End.

#3: Best Oregon Author

Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma


This year I’ve read a  LOT of books about justice, and this one really rose to the top (although Overrated by Eugene Cho was a close second). It’s informative, wise, and most of all a great blend of encouraging and realistic. I never once felt like the author was trying to guilt me into anything, or tell me that “ordinary” life was wrong. Instead, it inspired me to infuse my ordinary life with concrete, practical acts of justice that really made a difference. This is a book I’ll be re-reading in 2016 for sure.

#4: Best Writing Book

Pray Write Grow by Ed Cyzewski


This book almost reads like a “how-to,” with the author’s own experiences of prayer and writing interwoven with practical ideas to merge the two together. For me, it’s been a good reminder to pay attention to things that keep me up at night, or fill my mind during the day. These are the topics I need to embrace instead of running from. I need to pray about them, and perhaps I also need to write about them.

Overall: short, sweet, and just what I needed to convince myself to keep writing this year.

#5: Best Book I Haven’t Actually Finished Yet

Teach Us To Want by Jen Pollock Michel


This book is just beautiful. One review I just read summed it up well: “Teach Us to Want redeems the topic of desire in a Christian’s life.” I think it is normal for everyone to struggle with desire. How do I know if my longings are selfish, or God-given? When is it OK to pursue what brings me joy? What does it mean to take up my cross and follow? I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m pretty sure this is another book I’ll be coming back to again.

So there you have it! My top 5 of the year. Which books have been your favorite in 2015?

Here are a few on my list for 2016. My goal is to begin reading an even more diverse range of authors. There aren’t any on this list yet, but my goal is also to read at least one book I’m going to really disagree with. I’d love to know what you think I should add!


Our Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Funkhousers!


In our last Christmas letter, Ben and I included this quote from Ann Voskamp:

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement, vowed to Awe Himself, covenanted to Christ –and I took the whole of everything He gave in this gloried world into my open arms with thanks.”

I think I could sum up by saying that if 2014 was our year of learning gratitude, 2015 was our year to KEEP learning it.

For those of you who like bullet  points, here is the recap of our year:

  • We spent three incredible months in Amsterdam, which I won’t write about because that’s what half this blog is full of anyways.
  • We moved to SE Portland and are trying hard to invest in this community long-term…
  • Although we still dream about moving back to Europe 😉
  • Ben is now past his 3 year mark at CIS and still enjoys biking to work when possible (thankful for rain gear) and learning more about active and environmentally friendly transportation.
  • Jenna quit her job as an in-home caregiver and works (close to) full time for Abolition Now as Communications Director. She is learning a LOT!
  • We started caring a whole lot more about justice, inequality, and redemptive love.

This past year has been such a season of growth for us as a couple. We’ve seen so many areas where we want to change. Where we want to see the world change. Where we want to see our communities and cultures change. And yet, through it all, God invites us to give thanks. To rejoice in the day he has made. To embrace His goodness, wisdom, and permanence, even while facing some of the darkest evil the world can offer.


If we were to add one word that specifically summed up the beginning of our journey in 2015, however, I would take one step past gratitude. I would add generosity and love. 

We’ve seen what a deeper level of generosity could look like in our lives, and we’re taking wobbly steps, one by one, figuring out how to get there. However, we have to be honest and say that we have sometimes felt alone in this effort. We’ve struggled against despair and cynicism and selfishness and apathy. We have made dumb decisions or reacted to things in a way that was full of frustration rather than love. If you ever think of it, we would really appreciate your prayers as we walk this road together.

We truly believe that our actions towards justice are important. They create change, support , and reveal the heart of God. But as Paul said so convictingly in 1 Corinthians 13, “If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

So here’s to a new year and new mercies every morning! May this be year of drawing closer to the heart of God in beautiful and surprising ways. May we learn more and more what it looks like to do everything rooted in the Gospel and in Perfect Love.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.


Too Little or Too Much?

“To get to my truest desires I have to be courageous enough to dive into the darkness, through the pain, and find myself on the other side in the bright sun, in the place where my false desires are exposed for what they are: fear, selfishness, comfort at the cost of others.

Rich, miraculous love exists on the other side of pain.

And to get there, I must first walk boldly into the wilderness, where God met Moses in a burning bush, where the people of God wandered for forty years, where Jesus fasted and was tempted. The wilderness is the space between the promises and the promised land. The wilderness is the pain between our shallow desires and our deeper, more real desires. We move from loving our own comfort to loving the things God loves.” -Micah Boyette

It seems I’m always starting my writing with another author’s words. But really, who can say it much better than that?? When it comes to stuff this good, the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle” seems just as applicable.

Seriously, though, these last few weeks have felt like the beginning of a little wilderness for me. I have found myself “on the other side of the bright sun,” keenly aware of my selfishness, short-sightedness, and inability to produce anything of lasting worth on my own.

A news article floats by about child labor in South America. I don’t read it. I pick up a pair of shoes at an outlet store, knowing that “Made in the DRC” probably means the working conditions for whoever made them are atrocious. I buy them anyways, because they’re cheap. Here at home, I have the opportunity to serve someone in my family or church congregation, and I let it pass me by.

When I get exhausted or overwhelmed by justice, it’s usually not that I’ve overcommitted. When I scroll past a church member’s need without seriously considering it, it’s usually not that I have literally nothing to give. It’s laziness. It’s apathy. I’m simply not willing to inconvenience myself to benefit someone I don’t know, or sometimes even those I do. 

“Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what is right.” –Paul David Tripp

I think for me, I find it hard to live a lifestyle of that honors the justice and love of God for two main reasons:

  1. I don’t care enough.
  2. I’m afraid of caring too much.

Now, to be clear, what I’m not trying to say is that each of us should be actively involved in every single kind of justice work that exists in the world. I think part of what I’ve had to grapple with in the past year is simply recognizing my limitations, and entrusting those to God. But when confronted with an issue of injustice, I have the responsibility to truly care. To examine whether this is something I can make a difference in. To ask myself if any of my words or actions are contributing to it, in any way. Honestly, I don’t even think it should wait until I am unavoidably confronted by it. As a student of Jesus, I have the responsibility to be proactive in love and righteousness.

There’s another reason I let those articles pass me by, and neglect researching labor practices in the DRC. Sometimes, I don’t initiate towards justice because I’m afraid of caring too much.

Have you ever felt this way before? A news story features the raping and killing of hundreds of women somewhere in Asia, or the plight of refugees fleeing Syria and you tell yourself, “I just can’t take one more story like this.” So you change the channel, or close your browser, or just plain walk away.

Even just last week, I really struggled with this. If I let myself deeply care about everything, whether or not I feel that I am part of the solution, the weight of it can feel crushing. It’s so much easier just to adopt one “cause” and focus entirely on that–whether it be abortion, trafficking, foster care, poverty, racism, you name it. Then, when I hear about other injustice happening in the world, or even right down my street, I don’t have to care deeply–because it’s not “my cause” and therefore not my problem.

Maybe I’m the only one, but that was the story of my life until this past year. What I’m slowly learning is this: I do have the responsibility to care about all injustice, but if I truly understand the Gospel, caring should not lead me to despair.

The answer to injustice and pain is not me–it is Christ.

The answer to racism and poverty is not my efforts–it is the Gospel.

God is for justice, and the most important thing I can do is bring each area of injustice to Him in prayer. From there, He will guide me into whether or not this is something I can be involved in. Maybe I can’t say yes to every opportunity to serve my church, but I can treat each person I talk to today with dignity and love, and send a note of encouragement to someone in need. Maybe I can’t donate my money to both the refugee crisis center and my local homeless shelter, but I can look honestly at the way I’m spending my money as a steward and give as much as I truly can. Maybe I really can’t do anything about the exploitation of women and children halfway across the globe–but I can faithfully remember them in prayer.

Ultimately, the answer to injustice isn’t just doing more or giving more. The answer is Christ. When we take the burden off of ourselves and spend more time worshipping the God who holds all things in his hands, we participate in the work of redemption and remember what we were truly created for. Becoming more like Jesus Christ–this, above all, is righteousness.

If justice is going to happen in this world–if it’s going to happen in you–it will start in the little things. (Luke 16:10) Start small. Value others. Focus more on your responsibilities, and less on your rights.

When justice becomes a duty, it will weigh you down. When justice is the place where you are closest to God, giving your life away becomes your greatest delight.

…God does not call us to create our own goodness out of thin air, as if justice were something we could accomplish with a checklist and a bit of hard work.

Instead, God calls us to listen. The source of all goodness will surely have something to say about injustice. Then he calls us to obey. This is what it means to give our lives away…on behalf of others and for the glory of God.”

–Ken Wytsma

Starting Simply.

“As we behold the glory of Jesus, we increasingly participate in his image, transformed into his resemblance and character.” -Tony Reinke

I just want to know how to live my one life well.

This summer Ben and I returned from what many would have called a “mission trip.” But it was our arrival back through the US Customs Border that we were really on a mission.

We had arrived in Amsterdam like thirsty sponges, ready to learn and soak up what we could of another culture, another viewpoint, another world. We had just begun asking ourselves those big questions–what is our life really about? What are our priorities? Now, after three months, we had found a few answers–and even more questions.

We wanted to learn what it meant to be ethical consumers. How we could leverage our time and resources for justice, right where we lived. What it meant to be generous and self-sacrificing, yet live simply.

I talked in my last post about how I’m learning that sometimes, this means starting small. It means humility and discipline. It means having the same grace for myself as I give out to others.

You want to know what else I’m (humbly) learning?

It means being a worshipper.

It’s finally starting to sink in for me. In every area of my life, in everything I want to be or do, all the questions I have, it all comes down to to the gospel. It all comes down to Jesus.

“The more you know [Christ], the better you will trust him; the more you trust him, the better you will love him; the more you love him, the better you will serve him.” –Newton

Or, as Jason Fileta (founder of one of my favorite Portland non-profits, Micah Challenge,), puts it: “The response is not to live as a Justice Pharisee, but we need to respond as an act of worship. We need to rediscover worship as what we do with our daily lives.” –Jason Fileta

Ultimately, living my life well means learning from the one who lived life perfectly. Instead of trying to do more, be more, give more– I just need more of Jesus. I just need to be captivated more by His beauty.

What does this mean for me, practically? It means more prayer. More thanksgiving. More meditating on the heart of Christ. More going back, every single day, to the message of the Gospel.

And hopefully, more of that will mean less time wasted with my own Justice Agenda, trying to fix the world on my own.


Starting Small

I came back from Amsterdam wanting to do BIG things. Start prayer groups. Raise money for organizations. Write amazing articles for my organization’s website. Grow my blog readership. Basically, become the NW’s version of Ann Voskamp overnight, mixed in with Scott Sauls and Micah Boyett. And if you don’t know who these amazingly gifted writers are yet, your homework for today starts here.

Yet in all my great hopes and dreams, I”m finding it hard to remain content, to remain humble, to remain ultimately centered on and fulfilled by Christ. I’m getting so caught up in my own ideas, plans, and the opinions of others. It’s time to go back to the roots.

Over and over again, the Lord has been reminding me this past month that although I have big dreams, I need to trust him first with the small things right in front of me. “You have been faithful with little, I will put you over many things,” as the parable of the talents states. And who knows what He considers “little” and “big” anyways?

Could it be that these “small” things are really the biggest of all? Being a wife, a friend, a church member–could these actually be my biggest work, wherever else life takes me?

It’s not that I believe big dreams are bad. I just think, sometimes, they can distract us from being present and faithful in what we already have. From always feeling the pressure to do more, be more, impress others with the radical amazing things we’re doing with our lives.

“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love.”

This year, I want to become a genuinely involved member of my community. I want to foster healthy and generous relationships. I want to keep reading books and articles that expand my vision, and write about what God is slowly unfolding in my heart.

I want to gather with women in my church and pray for “big” and “small” things–all the things that matter in our lives. I want to risk saying crazy things and getting humbly corrected later down the road as I continue to learn and grow. But most of all, I want to take advantage of the small. Small purchases, small moments, small interactions with others, small ways I can give sacrificially. And in it all, I want to take some deep breaths and allow myself to be OK with that.

“…But I also sense an invitation, one that brings a desire to commune with Jesus and with others in a way that the big I think I want may not allow. Daily I’m given the opportunity to recognize the gift of obscurity, trusting Christ is doing invisible kingdom work in the stairwells of my everyday life.

“Let’s stretch out in the fullness of small and move downward in gladness rather than upward in fear.
“Let’s let go of the constructed life and embrace a connected life, even if it leads to less.”
–Emily Freeman (read the full article, Hope For Your Soul When You Feel Small)

“God has not called you to be awesome. He has called you to be humble, faithful, and free. Leave the awesome to him.” Scott Sauls

I remind myself to breathe deep of the morning air, the scent of possibilities.

There is surely grace enough here.