Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I see them all together, swapping high fives and man-hugs.  All tall and strong and handsome.

Not like they used to be.

They used to be short and clumsy and awkward.  They used to run "like a box of coat hangers" says the story-telling father.  Their voices used to crack (and some of them still do) and they would giggle like their little sisters.

When they were small, they needed my help.  They would ask and I would oblige with concealed pride and joy.  Pride to be needed.  Joy to be needed by them.

Not anymore.

They're not grown yet, but they're growing.  Most of them are taller than I am.  All of them are stronger.  They are coordinated.  Capable.  Almost-men.

Now, I need their help.  I ask, and they oblige with not-so-concealed pride and joy.  Pride to be needed.  Joy to be needed by one whom they used to need.

Who are these almost-men?

They are my best friends in all this world.

The young twin.  The one with the kind heart and the helpful hands.  His smile is shy and his manner sincere.  He will give up anything for another.  Gentle, encouraging, steady.  He a constant when others are shaken.  He is a quiet rock.

The small fireball.  The shortest of the bunch, his height never gets him down.  He is always ready with a joke, a smile, a laugh.  His confident, easy presence sets his companions at ease.  He is a bringer of smiles.

The older twin.  He was born to be a leader.  He knows what he knows and is never afraid to say it.  His daring confidence is matched only by his loving care.  A ready hug when you need it most, ready help when you need a hand.  He is a gentle leader.

The lanky ballplayer.  He has changed from the wild little one he used to be.  He has become a considerate, courteous young man.  Playing with the young ones, helping in the kitchen, working on the farm--he is always there.  He is a willing heart.

The new guy.  This is his first time with this group.  He doesn't know the ropes yet, but he is willing to learn.  He watches them--their kindness, their willingness, their encouragement, their gentleness.  He learns, and one who will learn is one who will become great.  He is a humble learner.

The deep-voiced one.  He doesn't talk much, but when he does people like to listen.  He doesn't smile much, but when he does it lights up the room.  He gives of himself and doesn't complain.  The others follow his lead, and I am glad.  He is a selfless servant.

I watch them now, standing together.  Three days of pure heaven are before them.  They will ride four-wheelers and drive trucks.  They will swim in too-cold water and throw rocks beyond count.  They will eat...and eat...and eat.  They will start campfires and whittle sticks with pocket knives freshly sharpened.  They will explore caves and tramp through woods.

They will do boy things.

But that's not all.

They will help with dishes without being asked.  They will mend bridges with angry siblings.  They will give up their chairs for their mothers, and they will be glad to do it.  They will teach their little sisters how to drive.  They will say, "Yes, sir" to their fathers when they would rather not.  They will give the last biscuit to someone else.  They will choose the end of the line instead of the front.  They will do more than their share of packing up so their parents can drink one more cup of coffee.  They will eat the bread and drink the cup, and the Jesus taken in will be the Jesus lived out.

They will do man things.

And I will stand by.  I will watch.  I will do it all with them.  I will see Christ in them, and I will say of them what was said of Him, that they "grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52)

The Quiet Rock and the Bringer of Smiles leap onto the four-wheeler and drive away.  The others shake their heads, claiming their turns in order.  The Gentle Leader jumps onto the seesaw opposite a little sister.  The Humble Learner gazes around, in awe of the creation spread before him.  The Willing Heart strikes up a conversation with a new young friend.  The Selfless Servant catches me watching them, smiles, and throws a rock over the barbed wire fence.

I smile.

And I love them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When the World is Heavy and We Weep Weary...

(I'm trying out a new writing style this time, inspired by the lovely Ann Voskamp.  Let me know what you think!)

Some days, I just weep weariness.

Because the world is fallen.

So it's heavy.

Some days, the atmosphere seems made of lead and my shoulders seem made of cotton balls and that's not a good combination.  My head bows and my shoulders slump and my back bends and the world is heavy.

Oh, my life is good.  I have a job that praises the Lord and loves the children and fits me like a glove.  I have friends who know all my faults and would still lay down their lives for me without a second thought.  I have a family that is the envy of the whole world, or at least it ought to be.  I have a Savior who died for me while I was yet a sinner and who sustains me every day.  My life is good, but still sometimes I weep weary.  Because even when the world is good, it's heavy.

Sin saturates what was once called "good," and sin makes everything broken.  Broken is jagged and jaded and broken is heavy.

The loving parents lose a little one.  We don't know why or how, but he drowned and a church mourns with those loving, grieving parents and the world is heavy.

The girl with the sweet spirit and the boy with the kind heart keep seeking the Lord and decide it wasn't meant to be.  Break up breaks hearts and the world is heavy.

The storm tears through a town and rips apart homes...families...lives.  Rain pours down like the tears of those broken and the world is heavy.

The child, three years old, cries at the sight of a middle school boy because she thinks all boys are mean and all boys hurt like that big hateful one she knows so well.  She hides her face and cries her fear and the world is heavy.

The couple who lasted so many decades and weathered so many trials doesn't know if they can keep going.  Life moves on, people change, hearts pull away, vows break, the world spins on and is heavy.

The teenager screams hate he doesn't mean.  His mother's tears burn like fire and taste like failure and the wedge drives deeper.  The world is heavy.

And I wear it on my shoulders.  Don't we all?  For as long as we live upon this fallen world, we wear its heaviness on our shoulders and sometimes it's too heavy and we weep weary.

But when we weep weary, we are in good company, I think.  You see, "Jesus wept."  (John 11:35)  I have often wondered at that verse and pondered the tears of the Lord, and now I think He was weeping weariness.

From where He sits at that moment of weeping, He is surrounded by the heaviness of the world He so loves.  If He looks backward, there are angry mobs and arrogant, critical priests and foolish people ever hearing but never understanding.  If He looks around, there are doubting disciples and a dead friend and wailing women.  If He looks forward, there is a whip and a cross and nails and a spear and a tomb.  If ever there was a moment for weeping weariness, this was it.

Perhaps Jesus wept weariness.

So how do we survive this walk in a world saturated with sin and broken by the fall and weighing heavy on our weary hearts?  If even the Lord wept weariness beneath the weight, how can we tiny jars of clay expect to stand?

Weary heads bowed, we cry with David the psalmist, "How long, O Lord?"  We feel his despair and we know his ache and we share his pain when he pleads, "Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?"  (Psalm 13)

When He answers, He doesn't say how long, but He does promise He won't forget.  He promises to wipe away all our weary tears and to throw off this old weight and make everything new (Revelation 21).

But still I wonder how we bear this heavy weariness in the waiting.

The author of Hebrews knew.  He said we fix our eyes on Jesus.  We look and see that He endured the cross, taking all our weariness and all our heaviness onto it with Him, and He triumphed and now sits sovereign at the right hand of the throne of His Father.

With eyes fixed on Him, we will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus said it Himself while He walked here, because He lived beneath the weight and He bore the weariness and He knew we would need to know, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden."  So we come, and then what?  "And I will give you rest."  Rest?  How can we rest while we carry this weight, this burden of our fallen world?  "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me...For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11)

The answer to the question of our weariness is the same as the answer to every other question we ask in this life on this fallen earth: Jesus.

When we weep weariness, we weep to Jesus and He understands.

When the world is heavy, we collapse at His feet and He lifts it off our shoulders and replaces it with His burden, because His burden is light.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection Celebration

We had nine services at Owasso this Easter weekend.  That's right.  Nine!!!  One Friday, two Saturday, and six Sunday!  It was a weekend full of the power of God, the working of the Spirit, and, of course, the celebration of the risen Christ!

At the beginning of each of our services at LC, the band plays what we call a "walk-in song".  They play it while everyone is, you guessed it, walking in.  It's usually a popular secular song, and the purpose is to provide a sense of familiarity for those who might not be quite comfortable in a normal church setting.

This week, our walk in song was "I Just Want to Celebrate".  Fitting, right?  During the song, they played a video of LC pastors, staff, and church members lip-syncing while the band played.  It was a wonderful opportunity to laugh at ourselves and at each other. :-)

As the song played at the beginning of our Friday night service, I was struck by a sense of irony.  It was Good Friday.  I don't know about the rest of you, but on Good Friday I usually feel deeply grateful, slightly mournful, and just generally reverent.  I don't, however, usually think of singing "I Just Want to Celebrate".  Thus my feeling of irony.  We were celebrating, but on the anniversary of when Jesus was dead and being buried in the tomb.  Not normal.

And then it hit me:  Why not?

Why don't we celebrate then?  Why, for that matter, didn't the disciples celebrate then?  I mean, yes, Jesus was dead.  But hadn't He told them plainly that He would rise again?  "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly." (Mark 8:31-32)  Jesus didn't leave room for doubt.  He made it plain as day: Yes, there will be suffering and death, but the resurrection is coming!  Even so, as Friday and Saturday rolled by, the disciples mourned in their lack of understanding and could not lift their eyes to Sunday's celebration.

Aren't we the same way?  I know I am.  I've seen a few Fridays in my life.  Not as many as a lot of you, but I have seen some.  You know the days I'm talking about.  The days where there is darkness and pain and suffering and confusion, and what you thought was going to be the Source of life is dead.  Let's not pretend: Fridays are hard.

But don't we have a promise?  Hasn't He spoken plainly and assured us that there is resurrection after death?  He has promised that His plans are to prosper us and not harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).  He has promised to work all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).  He has promised that though sorrow may last for the night, joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).  And a thousand other promises besides.

See, Jesus makes a statement in John 11, eight chapters before His death, that should give us a clue.  He says in verse 25, "I am the Resurrection and the Life."  Did you see it?  That two-letter word that makes all the difference?  Read it again.  "I am the Resurrection and the Life."  Catch it.  Jesus didn't say, "I will be the Resurrection and the Life."  He said, as He has said since Exodus 3 when He said it to Moses, "I AM."

I think Jesus is trying to tell us something with that word.  I think He's trying to say that His resurrection power isn't a Sunday event.  He is the Resurrection.  That means His resurrection is as timeless as He Himself is, and He is eternal, the First and the Last (Revelation 22:13).  His resurrection is real on Sunday.  And it's real on Friday.  And it's real long before Friday ever comes.  And it's real long after Sunday is over.

What does that mean for us?  I think it's very simple.  I think it means we celebrate.  Even on our darkest, most hopeless Fridays, we celebrate.  Because His resurrection is just as real then as it will be when Sunday finally comes.  If the Resurrection is not bound by time, then neither should our celebration be.

So whether you're in the middle of a Friday, a Sunday, or any day between or before or after, let's celebrate, friends!  He is the Resurrection and the Life!  Come on, rock out with me, "IIIIIIII just want to celebrate...."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

What if...?

Our LifeGroup is awesome.  We do awesome stuff together.  The other night, the awesome thing we did was find a possum crawling along the top of the fence in our backyard.  The kids were all very excited: the boys excitedly running toward it...and the girls excitedly running away!

My 11-year-old brother took off toward the possum, saying, "It's so cute!  I wanna hold it!!"

I grabbed him by the shoulders and said in my most serious joking voice, "But what if it bites you? and what if it has rabies? and what if you get sick and DIE?!?"

He, in all his wisdom, then grabbed me by the shoulders and said in his most animated voice, "Or what if it doesn't bite me? and what if it doesn't have rabies? and what if I don't get sick and die?!?"

That hit me like a ton of bricks.  And it reminded me of something else I read recently.

"You tend to project yourself mentally into the next day, week, month, year, decade; and you visualize yourself coping badly in those times.  What you are seeing is a false image, because it doesn't include Me."  (Jesus Calling)

We play the What If Game ALL. THE. TIME.

"What if something bad happens?"  "What if it doesn't work out?"  "What if I lose my job?"  "What if I lose this person?"  "What if my plans fail?"  "What if they don't approve of me?"  "What if it hurts?"  "What if I can't?"  "What if I'm wrong?"  "What if...?  What if...?  What if...?"

When we ask those questions, we are projecting ourselves into the future and forgetting the most important element: our God.  We see a false future when we leave Him out.  We see a future dependent on us.  That's not our future.  Our future not only includes our God, our God is our future.

In Isaiah 41, as He is promising over and over to be with His people, He says in verse 4, "I’m first on the scene.  I’m also the last to leave."  We never beat Him to the future.  He is always there first!  And He never bails out before it's over.  He sticks it out and is the last One standing.  Our future is completely wrapped in Him from beginning to end!

So what do we do with our What If Game?

"When a future-oriented worry assails you, capture it and disarm it by suffusing the Light of My Presence into that mental image."  (Jesus Calling)

Or as Paul says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

What would His Presence do to our what ifs?

"What if something bad happens and He works it for good because I love Him and am called according to His purpose?"
"What if it doesn't work out the way I imagined and He does far MORE than I could ask or imagine?"
"What if I lose my job and get to see His miraculous provision firsthand?"
"What if I lose this person and realize that Jesus is all I need?"
"What if my plans fail and I get to experience the plans that He has to give me hope and a future?"
"What if they don't approve of me and I learn that His approval is all that matters?"
"What if it hurts and I get to know His comfort?"
"What if I can't and He becomes my strength?"
"What if I'm wrong and His grace is still sufficient?"
"What if Jesus...?  What if Jesus...?  What if Jesus...?"

His Presence is a game-changer, isn't it?  He makes me look forward to my what ifs, because whatever they are, I know they are wrapped in Him.  I have confidence because of Him.  I have hope because of Him.  I have courage because of Him.  My what ifs become spectacular when they are bursting with the Light of His Presence!

I know you've played the What If Game.  We all have.  It's a classic.  But there's this new version out!  You just have to play it!  It's called What If Jesus...?

Monday, November 5, 2012

I Won't be Voting Jesus for President

I hate politics.  I don't use that word about very many things, but I mean it about politics.  I hate the bad-mouthing and back-stabbing and lie-telling and reputation-smearing and opponent-bashing that has become synonymous with the word "election".  It makes me utterly determined to vote for absolutely NO ONE.

And I don't think I'm the only one.  I think lots of people get fed up with the whole thing.  And when we well-meaning Christians are the ones who are fed up, we start saying to our friends and posting on our facebook and declaring on our bumper stickers, "Jesus for President!"

It may sound shockingly un-Christian of me, but I wouldn't vote Jesus for president.  Why?  Well, for one thing, because He wouldn't be running.

Why wouldn't He be running?  I mean, wouldn't it be great to have Christ Himself as the leader of this so-called Christian nation?  Couldn't He turn things around?  Who better to bring our nation back to God than His very own Son?  Surely Jesus would run for president if He was still walking this earth as a man!

No.  No, He wouldn't.  And not just for the same reasons that He wouldn't let them make Him king by force in John 6.  Not just because His Kingdom is not of this world like He said in John 18.  But because what is the president, really?  The President of the United States is, ultimately, someone who is completely controlled by the will of the people.  Either he makes decisions we support and creates laws we like and bows to our wishes and caters to our demands, or four years later we dump him and get a new one we think we'll like better.  Right?  That's what it boils down to.  (Reason #8391 why I have no desire to be president.)

And THAT, my friends, is often the problem with our Christianity.  We want Jesus for president.  We want Him and all His wondrous power to be completely controlled by our will.  We want Him to make decisions we support and create laws we like and bow to our wishes and cater to our demands, or we dump Him and find something new.  And most of the time, that "something new" is an idol that looks like an exact replica of ourselves.

But you see, Jesus doesn't run for president.  He doesn't ask to be elected by popular vote.  The Bible gives countless names by which He may be called...and "President" isn't one of them.

Jesus doesn't want to be our president.  He wants to be our King.  The difference is astronomical.

See, a king isn't controlled by the will of the people; a king does whatever he wants.  A king makes decisions whether or not his people support them; he creates laws whether or not they like them; he bows to no one's wishes; and he caters to no one's demands.  You can't dump him and get a new one if you don't like the way he does things.  A king rules absolutely.  Forever.

That sounds harsh to our Burger-King society where food and life and rulers are all governed by our "Have it your way" mentality.  It sounds harsh, but it's truth.  And when we dumb down that truth and try to make Jesus the president instead of the King, we end up with wimpy Christianity.  We become Christians who do what we want, not what He says...and is that really Christianity at all?

Deuteronomy 13:4 says, "It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him."

Notice the language of that verse.  You mustKeep His commands and obey.  Note: there is no "please" or "if you'd like to".  There is only the unconditional command.  Why?  Because He's the King.  Because He deserves it.  Because when we choose to accept Him as Lord of our lives, we give up our right to self-rule and surrender it to His absolute sovereignty.

Sometimes He'll make decisions we don't want to support and create laws we don't like and He won't bow to our wishes and He won't cater to our demands.  But we can't dump Him and get a new one.  And we shouldn't want to.  Because in His sovereignty, with His thoughts and ways that are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), He chooses to love us with a love that never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8) and to work all things together for good for us (Romans 8:28) and to give us everlasting life through His death and resurrection (John 3:16).

So, no.  I won't vote for Jesus for president.  But I will spend the rest of eternity bowing to Him as King.  Can I get that on a bumper sticker?!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Every week at the Little Light House, we have a different Bible story.  This week, it's Joseph.  I like the story of Joseph.  It's kinda like a lot of other stories in the Bible: it's sad, it's happy, it's confusing, it's scary, it's funny, it's out there, it's something we can relate to, it's full of bad choices, it's full of good choices, it's about redemption, and it eventually all comes down to Jesus.

To teach the story of Joseph to preschoolers with special needs, we must simplify the narration.  Obviously.  So we leave out certain things (like Potipher's wife) and we over-emphasize other things (like the coat of many colors), but they get the point: God was with Joseph, and God is with us!

One day last week, our wonderful physical therapist came up with an activity relating to the cupbearer in the Joseph story.  As she was introducing the activity, she explained to the kids that Pharaoh had a cupbearer who brought him his drink, just like their teachers were their cupbearers and brought them their drinks at lunchtime.

Now, I'm not proud of this, but I have to be honest: my initial (internal) response was, "Umm...NUH-UH!!  If we're their cupbearers, that makes us the slaves and them the masters.  That would mean they're in charge, and they do NOT need any encouragement in THAT mentality!!"

As I grumbled to myself, the Lord gave me a little smack upside the head.  He quite clearly spoke to my spirit, "Umm, yes.  You ARE their cupbearers.  You are here to serve them.  (That doesn't mean they're in charge.)  But you are here to serve.  And by serving them, you are serving Me."

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40

I am a cupbearer.  And not just that, I am a cupbearer to the King!!!  Every time I place those sippy cups and cups-with-straws and open-cups-with-one-tiny-mouthful-of-water-so-they-don't-spill-it in front of those kiddos, I am serving the God of Heaven.  What a thought!!

As I marveled at that reality, the Lord brought to my mind a lesson I had been taught years ago about the cupbearer's job.  See, the cupbearer didn't just grab Pharaoh's glass, carry it to the table, and set it down in front of him.  No.  It was the cupbearer's job to taste whatever was in Pharaoh's cup to make sure it wasn't poisoned.  That way, if Pharaoh's drink was poisoned, the cupbearer died instead of Pharaoh.

The cupbearer died to himself that the King might live instead.

That's my job.  Whether I'm setting cups before preschoolers or sitting in a meeting or hanging out with my family or building houses in third-world countries or sitting at my computer late at night writing a blog, I am supposed to die to myself that the King might live instead.  That is the essence of cupbearing, and it's the calling of everyone who chooses to be a follower of Christ.

I don't think it's a coincidence that when Christ was in the garden before He was crucified, He asked His Father to take the cup from Him.  He knew the contents of the cup He was about to drink were poisoned.  But He drank it anyway.  He died to Himself that the King might live instead.  What an example He set for us!!

"Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.'" Matthew 16:24

He set the example, and we are called to follow it.  It's the greatest job in the world, because it's not about us living right; it's about us dying!  It's not about us becoming more; it's about us becoming less!!

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

So would you come cup-bear with me?  It's the hardest easy job in the world.  All you have to do is die to yourself that the King might live instead.

...and that's what I learned at preschool this week.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I hate change.

And since I'm fairly certain you didn't grasp the fullness of the intensity behind that emotion, let me give you some illustrations to help you understand.

a.)  For you Lord of the Rings fans, I hate it like we hate the moment when Frodo tells Sam to go home.

b.)  For you Narnia fans, I hate it like we hate hearing Aslan tell the Pevensie children that they don't get to come back to Narnia.

c.)  For you Harry Potter fans, I hate it like we hate that evil lady in pink with the horrible giggle.

d.)  For you Star Wars fans, I hate it like we hate the fact that we can't combine the actors from the original three movies with the lightsaber duels from the new ones.

(If you're not a fan of any of those movies, come back and finish reading this after you get counseling. ;-)

In short, change makes me want to a.) yell, "NOOOOOOOOOO!", b.) curl up on the floor and cry hysterically, c.) punch something really, really hard, and d.) pout because I can't just combine my favorite elements of both the new and the old and ditch the rest.

...........needless to say, change doesn't bring out the best in me.............

So today when I saw a picture of my adorable little brother, at about six years old, using a curved piece of okra to pretend to be Captain Hook, I thought, "Why, God?  Why change?  When something is so good just like it is, why change it?"

His answer was simple and, in my opinion, insufficient: "I never change."

I argued with Him.  "I know that, God.  I know You never change.  I'm asking why You choose to change other things--things that are so good and bring so much joy."

"Because if anything else in your world was changeless, you would trust in it instead of Me."


I couldn't argue with Him that time.  I knew He was right.  There have been times when parts of my world seemed changeless, and I did begin to trust in them instead.

See, I think as humans we crave stability.  We long for continuity.  We ache for sameness.  We pine after the constant.  We want the unchanging.  He created us that way.  And He created the whole of our world to be utterly incapable of fulfilling those desires.  He made it that way on purpose and for a purpose:

He made it so that He is the only One who can satisfy our need for the changeless.

Everything else will let us down eventually.  Everyone else will go away someday.  Everything but Him will change.  If we put our hope and our trust in those things and those people, we will be shaken to the core when change happens.  They weren't made to be changeless, nor were they made to bear the trust that belongs to something that is.

But.  If we put our hope in the One who cannot and will not ever change, we are not shaken when change happens. Instead, when change rocks our world, we stand firm and "we say with confidence,

'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'" (Hebrews 13:6)

I don't think it's a coincidence that this verse comes only two verses before the one that so perfectly describes His changeless nature:

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (v. 8)

In the context of verse 8, I think you could almost reword verse 6 to say, "The Changeless is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can change do to me?"

So when we ache from the change, when want to yell and cry and punch and pout, may it push us ever closer to the Unchanging One and teach us to trust in Him more with every passing change.

...and may we remember that Sam saved Frodo anyway, the Pevensies really did go back to Narnia in the end, the evil pink lady got what was coming to her, and all six Star Wars movies have the same great theme song.