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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"I'm in love! I'm in love! And I don't care who knows it!"

I went on a walk with Jesus this evening.  Which turned into a run with Jesus, because I wanted to catch a perfect view of the sunset.  Which turned into a dance with Jesus, because there was this field that just begged dancing in, and because He invited me.

If you don't believe the title of this post, ask all the people who, if they looked out the back windows of their houses, saw me spinning in circles in said field until I staggered and fell over like a crazy drunk person.

Sorry.  I'm getting sidetracked and starting to ramble.  But I've learned from observation that those are usually side effects of being in love. :-)

Anyway.  While I was in the field, He told me to look at the flowers.  So I bent over and examined a simple yellow flower, which some would call a weed, that grew all over the field.  As I studied it, I began to see the intricate details that I wouldn't ordinarily notice.  I marveled at it and thought, He, the God of the universe, made every detail of this!

Then He told me to look up at the clouds.  The whole sky was filled with them.  Gray, white, pink; puffy, flat, hazy--every shape, size and color strewn across the sky like so many strokes of a giant paintbrush.  And I thought, He made all of those, too!

He pulled my attention back to the ground.  This time, I gazed at a stalk covered in blue flowers and noticed a group of the tiniest ants traversing the stem of the plant.  And He struck me with the contrast of His creation.  From the ground, I picked the smallest blade of grass I could find.  Then I closed one eye and held the blade of grass between my open eye and a massive collection of clouds.

They were the same size.

I twirled the grass between my fingers as I pondered that reality.  As I did, it broke in two.  I stared at the two pieces, and a strange thought struck me: He knows.  He knows that blade of grass just broke in my hand.  He made those majestic clouds, and yet He knows that the tiniest piece of grass has broken in two.

I took a picture of the grass and the clouds, because I wanted to remember what He was showing me.

See, I think God sees this world much the same way that I saw it when I held the grass in front of my face and looked at it and the clouds:  It's all the same size.  I don't think He looks at the clouds as big and important, while seeing the grass as small and insignificant.  I think He spent just as much time making the grass as He did making the clouds, and I think He takes equal joy in both.  I think He pays just as much attention to those ants as He does to the elephants.  I think He looks down at His creation and every piece bears equal weight in His eyes, because when He made it all at the beginning of time, He said the same thing about every bit of it: He called it good (Genesis 1).

So where does that put us, as people?

At the Little Light House, the wonderful place where I work, we've been teaching the kids about the Sermon on the Mount.  As Jesus speaks to the people, He begins to talk to them about the birds and the flowers and points out how God takes care of them.  Then He says, "Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:26)

He created the grass of the field and the clouds of the sky and called them both equally beautiful in their own ways.  And then He looked at us--broken, fallen, sinful--and said, "You are much more valuable than all the rest."

And to prove it, He came down here, died on a tree, and came back to life again so that He could spend forever with us.

Seriously: How can you not love a Man like that??? ;-)

Friday, September 14, 2012


I love rain.

I love rain when I'm curled up under a blanket by a fire in the fireplace with a good book and a cup of mint tea.

I love rain when I'm piled on the couch with my family watching an old favorite movie.

I love rain when I'm snuggled under my covers about to fall asleep.

I love to sit on the porch and watch the drizzle of a rain so soft you can't even hear it.  I love to lie on my pillow and listen to the pounding of a downpour.  I love the thunder and the lightening and the clouds and the wind and the puddles.

I love rain.

I also hate rain.

I hate rain when my alarm goes of at 5:30 and the sound of it on the window makes me want nothing more than to go back to sleep.

I hate rain when the clouds cover the sun so it's still dark when I walk out the door in the morning.

I hate rain when it's cold and the wind blowing the drops against my face feels like I'm being slapped with a thousand tiny needles.

I guess you could say I have a love/hate relationship with rain.

I think we do the same thing with rain in our lives--rain and storms that come in the form of trials.  We're okay with them as long as they're outside and we're inside.  We can look ahead at the possibility of facing trials and be fairly confident.  We quote verses about how God works even in the hard things:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." James 1:2-3

We know and believe these easily enough when we're safe inside our house, watching the rain at a distance.  When we're not in the middle of them, we believe God can work through trials and make good come out of them.  At times like that, we might even say we like the rain.

But what happens when we're out in it?  What do we believe when the rain is slapping us in the face and chilling us to the bone?  If we're honest, in times like that, most of us hate the rain.  It hurts.  It's miserable.  It makes us want nothing more than to crawl back in bed and shut out the world.

The disciples were the same way.  Once, they were in a boat with Jesus and it started to rain.  They didn't like being out in it.

Matthew 8:23-26,
"Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke Him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'  He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!'"

The disciples didn't like being out in the rain.  It wasn't comfortable.  It was scary.  And Jesus was sleeping.  So they woke Him.  They woke Him in faith that He could save them from the rain.  And when He did, they were amazed and marveled at His power.  That's faith, right?

Not according to Jesus.  Jesus said they had "little faith".  You see, their faith was based on the rain stopping.  But what about when the rain was still falling?  What about when Jesus was sleeping?  The disciples had not yet learned a very important truth:

Jesus was not any less God when He was sleeping than He was when He was calming the storm.

Do we believe that?  We believe in His power and His goodness and His love when He makes the rain stop.  But do we believe in that same power and goodness and love when He lets it continue?  When it seems like He's sleeping in the middle of our storms, do we still have faith?

This morning when I left for work, it was raining and cold and dark.  All I wanted was to go back to bed.  As I turned on my windshield wipers and grumbled to myself about the rain, the Lord whispered to my spirit a truth I hope I never forget:

"Learn to love this rain, too."

Monday, August 6, 2012

THAT Mom, THAT Child

Last week, I found myself in a position I never thought I would.  It wasn't something I swore I'd never be, just something I never imagined myself as.

I was that mom.

My cousin and I took our two-year-olds to a play zone with glorified McDonald's-type playground equipment.  My cousin, with her cute little baby belly expecting her second child next month, her two year old daughter, her mom, and the beautiful diamond ring on her left hand were an adorable scene.  People smiled and laughed as "NeNe" chased the spunky toddler through the play zone while her pregnant mommy looked on.

And then there was me.  That mom.

I was the mom without the ring.  I was the mom who couldn't be more than twenty with a son who was almost three.  I was the mom whose son clung to her with frightened uncertainty when we entered the play zone.  I was the mom whose son ran up to a stranger and crawled into her lap without hesitation.  I was the mom with a son whose development was obviously behind that of his young companions.  I was the mom whose son refused to go down the slide sitting up and instead slid feet first on his belly, clinging to the sides of the slide as if he was afraid to leave the top.  I was that mom.

Was I judged by those around me?  Yes.  Good or bad, I was judged one way or the other.
Was I judged harshly by those around me?  Maybe, by some.
Did I feel judged harshly by those around me?  Yes.
Did I care?  Absolutely not.

Because you see, they didn't know the story.  What they didn't know is this: I didn't give birth to my son.  I chose him.  He was actually my parents' foster son who came to live with us at ten days old.  He quickly became "mine", and I have thought of him that way ever since.  Without prompting, he has called me "Mommy" since he learned to say the word.  He lives with his dad and step-mom, but he comes to visit me often and I love our time together.  I don't get credit for his developmental delays.  I don't get credit for his fear of the play zone yet frightening lack of inhibition when it comes to strangers.  But I will gladly accept it.

Because I'm also that mom whose son never once argued or threw a fit at the play zone.  I am the mom whose son made friends with another one of those moms, who seemed sad and lonely until my son started playing and sharing with her in the ball pit.  I am the mom whose son happily called over and over, "Mommy!  Es go!  Peeeees! (Mommy!  Let's go!  Please!)"  I am the mom whose son loves to give me hugs.  I am that mom.  I will gladly accept whatever judgement others will pass on his perceived "issues" for the joy of taking part in the growth of his young character and heart.

And then it hit me: That's my God.

He chose me (James 1:18).  He didn't have to.  He chose to make me His child because He loved me.  But I'm not perfect.  I mess up, and I cast a poor reflection on Him.  When He leads me to new places, I cling to Him with frightened uncertainty.  Most of the time, my spiritual development lags behind where it ought to be.  When He places me at the top of a slide, promising the ride down will bring me joy if I just let go, I refuse and instead inch my way down with my eyes cast backward, clinging to the edge because I'm afraid to leave what I know.  And yes, I run to strangers and crawl into their laps without hesitation, heedless of the beckoning arms of the only One who truly loves me.  I am that child.

Do people judge Him by my behavior?  I hope not, but they probably do.
Do people judge Him wrongly because of my behavior?  Unfortunately, yes.  Sometimes.
Does He care?  Not enough to quit loving me and claiming me as His own.

Because you see, I don't fail every time.  Sometimes I'm kind to people who aren't kind to me.  Sometimes I make friends with people others look down on.  Sometimes I'm patient.  Sometimes I'm loving.  Sometimes I shine His light into the darkness.  Sometimes I can set aside my selfish nature for a moment and serve others.  Sometimes I obey Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Sometimes, I am that child.

And I think my loving and oh-so-patient Father looks down at me and says exactly the same thing I say about my son:  "I will gladly accept whatever judgement others will pass on her issues for the joy of taking part in the growth of her character and heart."  Because as Proverbs 23:24 says, "The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him."  Wisdom and righteousness take time to grow in the hearts of sinful and foolish children, but watching that growth and seeing the product of it is the joy and delight, and ultimately the glory, of the Father.

I am forever grateful that my Father chose me and loves me: that child.  And because of His love and choice, I choose and love my son and I proudly wear my badge: that mom.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

You Worry About You

Rejection hurts.  It especially hurts when you're trying to show the love of Christ and be His hands and feet.  When you're trying to be Him and it doesn't end well, you can't help but feel like you failed.  Because obviously, He didn't fail.  So you must've.  You must not have loved well enough.  You must not have had enough patience.  You must have been too intolerant.  You must have expected too much.  You must not have given enough.  You must not have worked hard enough.  You must not have surrendered enough to Him.  There must have been something you didn't do enough of.  It's a hard feeling to get past when you want so desperately to show Him to those He has placed in your life for you to care about.

In my family and our life with the children who come into our home, we inevitably wrestle with this feeling at times.  Sometimes we do our best to love them, to show Christ, to teach them about Him and what it means to have a relationship with Him, to be their family and share our lives with them, and they throw it back in our faces.  Sometimes they are so certain we're going to reject them, that they do everything in their power to make sure they reject us first.  And when they reject us, we feel like we failed.  Somehow, someway, somewhere, we messed it up.  Because if we'd done it right, things wouldn't have turned out that way.

Today, God showed me something different.

Matthew 25:34-36,40 says,
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'"

I always envisioned this verse in the ideal context: handing food and drink to a happy, grateful homeless person, giving clothes to adorable children who have none, inviting strangers into your home and becoming best friends with them--in my mind, this story always has a happy ending.

But today the Lord opened my eyes to an important fact:

This verse doesn't tell us the ending.

This verse doesn't say, "I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat and I accepted gracefully and politely."
It doesn't say, "I was a stranger and you invited Me in and everything went smoothly and we became great friends."
It doesn't say, "I was sick and you looked after Me and I fully realized and appreciated everything you did for Me."
It doesn't say, "I was in prison and you came to visit Me and the Lord changed my heart and I was miraculously converted."

This verse says nothing about the response of "the least of these" to the efforts of "the righteous".  Nothing.  All we know is what the righteous did that caused Him to call them blessed.

They gave.
They invited.
They looked after.
They came.

They gave...whether or not it was received.
They invited...whether or not the invitation was accepted.
They looked after...whether or not they were appreciated.
They came...whether or not they were welcomed.

The response of the least is not the source of the blessing for the righteous.

Let me say that again in case you missed it.

The response of the least is not the source of the blessing for the righteous.

The blessing comes from knowing we're being obedient to what He places in front of us at the moment.  When He places someone hungry in front of us?  We give them food, and we're blessed by Him.  When He places a stranger in front of us?  We invite them in, and we're blessed by Him.  When they reject our giving and decline our invitation and we feel like we've failed?  We trust that we did what He asked of us in the moment, we leave the results in His hands, and we're blessed by Him.  If we live our lives gauging our effectiveness in the Kingdom by what we see in the responses of others, we will always end up feeling like we've failed.  We must gauge our effectiveness by our obedience and His ability to work in ways that we can't see.

When you were little, did you ever try"help out" your mom by pointing out something that one of your siblings was or was not doing?  If you did, you probably got a response that was something to the effect of, "You worry about you and let me worry about them."  I think that's what the Lord expects of us.  "You worry about you"--give, invite, look after--"and let Me worry about them."  It's a hard thing to do, but it is incredibly freeing to let go of our perceived responsibility for the responses of those to whom we minister.  When we let go of our need to be blessed by their responses, we free ourselves up to be blessed by Him simply because of our obedience.

We must obey, and let Him worry about them.   Because He will.  He's not going to abandon them.  He's not going to give up on them.  He's not going to let them down or turn them away or forget about them or let them go.  He will never leave them or forsake them.  He will watch over them.  How precious are His thoughts concerning them!  When we finally break down and accept that the end of their story is out of our hands, we find ourselves releasing it into far better Hands, where it belongs.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Content ≠ Satisfied


There are twelve people to whom that word brings an instant feeling of peace, joy, and absolute contentment.  It's like when you take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh that says, "All is right with the world."  That's what that word sounds like to us.  And it looks like this:

You see, for the past four years, my family and some of our dearest, let's just call them an extension of our family...have spent every Memorial and Labor Day weekend camping in a paradise on my grandparents' land in the Ozarks.  You might say we live for camping.  We spend countless hours planning our camping trips.  We talk about how early we can get there, decide on our favorite camping meals, discuss which campsite we'd like to inhabit, check the weather to see if we'll freeze while swimming (for swim we will, regardless of temperature!), reminisce about past trips, and count down the days (sometimes from triple digits) until the next camping trip.  To give you an idea of the extremity of our love for camping, for most of us our favorite holiday is now a toss up between Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Christmas.

Camping.  According to one of our favorite camping quotes, it's "a bunch of bad ideas strung together over three or four days."  But really, it's three or four days of swimming, hiking, shooting, whittling, eating, four-wheeling, Coke drinking, footballing, whiffle-balling, story telling, laughing, picture taking, Jesus loving, campfireing, and best-friend-quality-time-ing.  It's almost perfect.

I don't know how many times we've thought or said something to the effect of, "I could live here forever!!!"  And sometimes, we mean it.  Even with the bugs and the sunburns and the cow patties and the sweat and the lousy sleep and the occasional squabbles of tired little girls and the allergies and the birds that wake you up at 4 a.m. and the tents that let the rain in and soak your stuff and the campfire smoke that always seems to blow directly toward your chair and the rocks that find their way to your feet no matter which shoes you wear in the creek...even with all the imperfections, we're content there.

But every time we go, my friend Mackie reminds me that being content is not the same as being satisfied.  No matter how much fun we're having, Mackie keeps her perspective.  Heaven is always in her conversation.  It's always in her line of sight.  Every single camping trip, she reminds me in some way or another that, "Camping is great, but heaven is better."  She doesn't forget that this isn't all there is.  She's like Abraham in Hebrews 11:10, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God."  Mackie loves now, but she never stops looking forward.

Mackie is ten years younger than I am.  I think that's why she gets it.  See, I think the longer you're around in this sin-infested world, the less perfection is required to attract and satisfy you.  The more heartbreak and heartache and imperfection you experience, the lower your standards become for something you consider perfect.

I mean, really?  Who in their right mind would consider sleeping on the ground with ticks in a field that smells like cow patties to be eternally attractive??  Sure, it's great for a weekend.  And sure, maybe we'd even enjoy living out the remainder of our earthly life right there ('cause yeah, we're weird).  But we have to keep our perspective.

We have to keep the perspective of the children.  Mark 10:15, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."  If we want to get in, we have to see it like they see it.  We have to see it as the only thing that satisfies.  They know it's silly to be satisfied by tick-infested, cow-pattie ground.

Paul, the same Paul who says he learned how to be content in all circumstances, was not satisfied with this earth.  He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1-2, "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling."  We long for heaven, for eternity in perfect communion with God, because nothing here can truly satisfy.


Camping doesn't satisfy.  A beach vacation doesn't satisfy.  A mountain ski resort doesn't satisfy.  The ideal career doesn't satisfy.  Achieving your goals and dreams doesn't satisfy.  Finding your God-chosen spouse and having a loving, happy family doesn't satisfy.  And, listen, not even serving God to your fullest potential will satisfy.  That is evident in Paul's longing.  We know of few who served the Lord with as much fervor and faithfulness and reckless abandon as Paul did, but he wasn't satisfied.  He was longing for his heavenly dwelling.

So we find ourselves walking a very thin tightrope.  We must be content.  But we must not be satisfied.  Because camping is great, but heaven is better.

"I know there'll be a moment
I know there'll be a place
Where we will see our Savior
And fall in His embrace
So let us not grow weary
Or too content to stay
'Cause we are not home yet
Keep on lookin' ahead
Let your heart not forget
We are not home yet!"

                                ~Steven Curtis Chapman                  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Psalm 46 - FCV (Foster Care Version)

I was reading this Psalm in the NIV the other day while listening to our six-year-old throw a tantrum in the background.  As I read, the Lord transformed the words in my mind and made them very real for that moment.  I chuckled to myself as His word again became living and active, but in a way I'd never experienced before.  If you're a foster parent (or any other parent, for that matter!), I hope this gives you a laugh and speaks to you the way it did to me!

"God is our refuge and strength,
     an ever-present help in the insanity.
Therefore we will not fear, though our
           patience give way
  and we want to toss everyone into the heart
          of the sea,
though children roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their

There is a river whose streams make glad
          the home surrendered to God,
     making it a holy place where the Most High
God is within it, it will not fall;
    God will help it in the crazy mornings.
Children are in an uproar, plans fall;
    He lifts His voice, the insanity calms.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
     God draws us into His fortress,
   and reminds us that we're all on the same side.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the humility He has brought to the
He makes arguing cease
    at the end of the hallway.
He breaks the defiance and shatters the disobedience;
    He burns the pride with fire.
He says, "Be still, and know that I am
     I will be exalted among the children,
     I will be exalted in this home."

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    God draws us into His fortress,
   and reminds us that we're all on the same side."

Sunday, May 13, 2012


On Thursday, I unpacked a navy blue duffle bag.  It didn't have much in it.  They seldom do.  It's not the first one I've unpacked.  In fact, I've helped unpack more than two dozen of them.  You see, navy blue duffle bags are what the children's shelter packs all the kids' stuff in to send them to their foster families.

This one belonged to a seven-year-old boy, the precious newest member of our family.  I helped him unload his meager belongings, a small pile of clothes and a few McDonald's toys, and took his duffle bag downstairs.  As I tossed it to the back of the closet onto the pile of navy blue duffle bags that has accumulated there, this thought flashed through my mind:

"These kids come with so much baggage."

It wasn't figurative at the beginning of the thought, but it was by the end.  Because it's true.  They all come with baggage.  Some come with more than others, but if they're coming to our home from the shelter, they all have at least a little.

Buried inside that baggage is all the good stuff they bring.  Physically, their baggage is wrapped around their clothes and toys and sometimes one small thing from home.  Figuratively, their baggage is wrapped around sweet smiles, big hearts, intelligent minds, bright personalities, and passion for the Lord.

As a foster family, we have a job.  And it's not to get rid of the baggage.  You see, you can't get rid of their baggage.  You can't erase their memories.  You can't undo their experiences.  Our job isn't to get rid of the baggage.

Our job is to dig into the baggage and unpack all the good.  Unpack all the good, and add to it.

Physically, we add to their sparse wardrobe and provide for their needs.  We get them favorite new toys, the likes of which they've probably never had. 

Figuratively, we return their smiles, pour love into their hearts, feed their minds, appreciate their personalities, and teach them about the Lord.

But what do we do with their baggage?  Honestly, sometimes we don't know.  And neither do they.  So we toss it to the back of the closet.

Sometimes it looms and it seems to fill the whole closet and spill out into the hallway to be tripped over by everyone who passes.

Sometimes it shrinks to the back and is almost forgotten.  Almost.

Sometimes it comes back out in a very matter-of-fact way.  Like the other day when I rearranged the closet and pulled out the stack of duffle bags.  Our six-year-old remembered what they were, and we had a good talk about where they came from and reminisced about the day she came to live with us.

They all come with baggage.  When they arrive, their whole life fits inside it, is swallowed up by it.  Our job is to make sure that when they leave, their life is so overflowing that you can't even see the navy blue duffle bag underneath.


This post was originally going to be about foster kids and end with the sentence above.  But then I put it off until today, and today is Mother's Day.  Not only does my mom have foster kids with baggage, she also has biological kids...with baggage.

Because let's face it--we all come into this world with baggage, don't we?

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."  (Psalm 51:5)  Baggage from the very beginning.

Before we're even born, we come with the baggage of morning sickness and weird cravings.

As infants, we come with the baggage of sleepless nights and dirty diapers.

As toddlers, we come with the baggage of messes and tantrums.

As kids, we come with the baggage of fights with siblings and an innate drive to test boundaries.

As teenagers, we come with defiance and stupid choices and know-it-all attitudes.

As adults, we come with bigger baggage, which is now compounded by our own kids' baggage.

...and that's the short list, isn't it?  Yes, whether we come from the shelter or the womb, we come with baggage.

But He knew we would.  So He created a wonderful group of people and taught them how to deal with it.  He taught them how to dig into our baggage, unpack the good, and add to it.  He taught them how to make our lives overflow with Him and His blessings so that our navy blue duffle bags are but a distant memory, buried beneath an abundance of grace.  He made them, He gave them to us, and we call them Mommy.

Here's to the best Mommy in the world!  Thank you for constantly burying our baggage in blessings.  I love you!

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'" (Proverbs 31:28-29)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What is it worth?

I cleaned off my desk this weekend.

If you know me, you know just how remarkable that statement is.  I don't clean off my desk.  Ever.  So much so that it's been close to a year since the last time I did it.  Needless to say, there was a lot of junk piled up and it took get it all stacked away/put away/thrown away where it belongs.

In that pile of things, I found a folder.  In that folder, I found a high school diploma, a high school transcript covered in 4.0s, an ACT score that's nothing to sneeze at, three semesters' worth of honor roll certificates, even a driver's ed certificate.  You might could have written "Achievements" across the front of that folder, if it hadn't been covered with Disney Pixar characters.

And as I looked at that folder, I started thinking about heaven.  I thought about getting to heaven and looking back on that folder.  As I thought, one question plastered itself on the walls of my mind:

What is it worth?

When it's all been said and done, when I'm in heaven living out my eternal happily-ever-after with the Prince of Peace, when I'm living in the mansion prepared for me, when I'm spending every moment doing nothing but worshiping the Almighty God...what is it worth?


Honestly.  If I'm thinking eternally, it doesn't matter if my transcript says 4.0.  It doesn't matter into what percentile my ACT score fell.  It doesn't matter how many semesters I made the honor roll.  It doesn't matter.  At all.  Eternally speaking, it's worth nothing.

And how else should we speak, other than with eternity in mind?  After all, our eternal life has already begun.  John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent."  If we know Him, we're already living eternity.  We should be like Abraham, "looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10) 

So if we're already living eternally and thinking in terms of eternity, shouldn't our energy be directed toward things that will be worth something then? 

As I continued clearing my desk, I found something else.  Pictures.  Pictures of children who needed a home and found one here.  As I looked at those pictures, the same question echoed through my mind: 

What is it worth?

I thought about getting to heaven and looking back at those kids and asking myself that question.  And when I do, I'm going to look down the street of gold at those mansions lined up side by side by side with mine, I'm going to look at those smiling faces that are spending every moment doing nothing but worshiping the Almighty God with me, and I'm going to say,

"It's priceless."

Because it is.  Whether they came into our lives for a moment, for a year, or forever, God placed them here for a reason.  Whether He had us plant the seeds, water the seeds, or prune the plants, He made them grow while they were here.  And because of Him, we'll see them there.

That's valuable.  That's something to invest in now, because it's going to be worth something then.

Lord, teach us to invest in eternity.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Run Into It

When I was little, we used to sing this song at church.  It comes from Proverbs 18:10:

"The name of the Lord is...
  a strong tower...
  the righteous run into it...
  and they are saved"

When I sing a song, I tend to create mental images of the words I'm singing to help me process through the meaning.  Well, when I sang this song, I didn't picture a righteous person running through a gate and into the safety of a strong tower.  No.  I couldn't be that profound.  When I sang this song, I always pictured a righteous person running into a tower.  Not running INto it.  Running INTO it.  Picture a stick figure running...running...running...aaaaannnddd....SMACK!!  The righteous stick figure runs into the wall of the strong tower and falls flat on his back.  That is the image of this song in my mind.

As I got older, I decided I should probably adjust that mental projection so I didn't have to repress laughter every time I sang it.  After all, God couldn't possibly have meant that the righteous literally run into the strong tower of His name, could He?

...or could He?

Psalm 1:6 says, "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous."

The Hebrew word for "way" in that verse can also be translated to mean "direction".  So the Lord knows the direction of the righteous.  He knows which way they're headed.  They're headed His way.  (Hosea 14:9, "The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them.")

Now, if you're running, it's probably for one of three reasons:
  1. You're running to something.
  2. You're running from something.
  3. You're one of those crazy, disciplined people who runs just for the sake of running.
Take that in the context of Proverbs 18:10.  Why are the righteous in this verse running?  Obviously, not #3.  At first glance, it seems like #1.  The righteous are running to the strong tower, right?  Maybe.  But why would you need a strong tower to keep you safe?  Because something is attacking you.  You're being pursued.  I think in Proverbs 18:10, the righteous are running from something.

I don't know if you've ever literally run for your life.  Like, something is pursuing you with intent to kill and you're fleeing.  I haven't.  But I imagine if I was in that situation, my brain would be so consumed with my flight that I wouldn't be thinking about where I was running.  My only thought would be to run away as hard and fast as I could.

What if the righteous are under attack in spirit?  What if we (those who have been made righteous through faith in Christ, Romans 3:22) are being relentlessly pursued and are fleeing for our lives?  What if we're so disoriented by pain or disaster or torment that we can't even think about what we're running to, because all we can think about is what we're trying to get away from?

We're back to Psalm 1:6.  "The Lord watches over the way of the righteous."  When we're running in blind terror, He's watching over us.  He knows which direction we're going.

And I think He drops the strong tower right in the middle of our path.

See, in Proverbs 18:10 when it says, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower," the translation of "Lord" is "Jehovah", which means "the existing One".  I think the Lord looks down, sees His righteous ones pursued, knows the direction they're running, and chooses to exist right in front of them.  So unexpected is His sudden appearance in the midst of their panic-stricken flight that they literally run into Him.  And when they do, they're safe.

So my friend, if you're running blindly, pursued by a pain or a fear or a struggle that is bigger and stronger and faster than you are...heads up.  You're about to run into Something.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


The other day, I was making lunch when our 6-year-old asked the question someone always asks around noontime, "What are we having for lunch?"

"Egg salad sandwiches," I told her.  (Because the day after Easter, what else are you gonna do with all those hard-boiled eggs?)

"Yummy!  What are we having with it?"

For some reason, this response vexed me.  Isn't it enough that we're having one of your favorite meals??  Why do you need more??

"We don't need to have anything with it," I answered, "We can have the sandwiches all by themselves."

Laughing, "Nuh-uh!  We have to have vegetables or something!"

"No, we don't!!  We're just having sandwiches.  You don't have to have anything with it."

I was frustrated by her lack of gratefulness, her demand for more.  But then it hit me: why am I blaming her?  She's been trained to think this way.  We live in a "with it" culture.  We can't simply have, we must have "with it".

We can't just have the salary...we have to have the bonus and benefits to go with it.

We can't just have the blessed marriage...we have to have the fancy house and full bank account to go with it.

We can't just have kids with character and Christ-centered hearts...we have to have sports stars and valedictorians to go with it.

We can't just have the car...we have to have all the extra features to go with it.

We can't just have the inherent beauty God created us with...we have to have makeup and expensive clothes and colored hair and steroid-built muscles to go with it.

And heaven forbid we have just the hamburger...we have to have fries to go with it.

"With it."  Our culture lives on it.  Thrives on it.  Dies by it.  We live every day seeking to squeeze every ounce of "with it" out of life.  And it kills us.  Because there's always something more to have "with it".  But the worst part is...

......we do the same thing to Jesus.

We won't just have Jesus.

We have to have works to go with it.
We have to have evidence to go with it.
We have to have a ministry to go with it.
We have to have "our" church to go with it.
We have to have rules to go with it.
We have to have happiness to go with it.
We have to have _________ to go with it.

The disciples did the same thing.

"Phillip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.'"  (John 14:8)

I think what Phillip is saying is, "Jesus, it's great that we can see You and all, but we need something more.  Could You show us the Father to go with it?"

"Jesus answered: 'Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.'"  (v. 9)

I think Jesus is saying, "You don't need anything to go with it!!  I. Am. Enough."

He had just finished telling them, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."  (v. 6)

Not through works.
Not through evidence.
Not through ministry.
Not through the church.
Not through the rules.
Not through happiness.

Nothing with it.  Just Jesus.  He's the only way to the Father.  He sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3).  In Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).  His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Just Jesus.

We must let go of our need to have "with it".  Because our need for "with it" is ultimately a lack of faith in His sufficiency.

Paul says we must not only quit seeking to have "with it", we must also let go of the things we already have in order to fully know Him. 

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him."  (Philippians 3:7-9)

We have to have "with it"?  Rubbish!  All we need is to gain Christ and be found in Him.  He is enough.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"Because I said so."

If you're a parent, you've probably said those words.

If you have a parent, you've probably had those words said to you.

I know I've said it (though I'm not a parent, just an overzealous oldest sibling) and have had it said to me, and I'm better because of it.

However, in some of my college classes on child development, I learned about a parenting approach that doesn't allow room for that phrase.  This approach places an enormous emphasis on reasoning.  Parents don't tell their children to do things.  Instead, they ask them and then proceed to explain all of the reasons that the child ought to do what they've been asked.  So, for example, the child isn't told, "Go clean your room."  The child is asked, "Would you please go clean your room?  You'll be able to find things so much better, and it will smell nicer, and your clothes won't be wrinkled if they're not on the floor, and you'll be happier in a clean room."  It is then the child's choice whether or not to clean their room.

In this "reasoning" theory about parenting, children are always provided with the answers to the question, "Why?".  The answer is never, "Because I said so."  Instead, it is spelled out clearly in a way they can understand.

On the surface, this sounds good.  However, I must respectfully disagree with this approach.

It is my belief that children first begin to understand their relationship with God through their relationships with their parents.  In the parent-child relationship, children learn trust, dependence, love, obedience, consequences, communication, and a host of other qualities that they then learn to translate into their relationship with God.  Children who grow up trusting their parents and finding them worthy of that trust will most likely be willing to trust God and believe that He his trustworthy.  Children who grow up in a loving relationship with their parents will probably accept the loving nature of God, while children who grow up with distant parents who rarely show love to them are more likely to view God as harsh and distant.  (Obviously, there are many exceptions to this.  This is just a general theme I've seen play out in people's lives.)

Thus, if children grow up with parents who obligingly answer the question "why?" after every set of instructions and spell it out with commonsense reasoning, will they not expect the same from God?  When God tells them to do something, they will probably want to know, "Why?"  But let me ask you this...

How many times in the Bible do you remember God answering the question, "Why?"

I may very well be wrong, but there aren't many instances coming to my mind.  Instead, I keep thinking about all of the people who were called by God to something very difficult and were given no answer to that question.

Abraham -- First he was called to leave behind everything that was dear to him and go to a strange place he'd never seen.  Then he was called to sacrifice his son on the altar.  Neither time did God offer an explanation for why He was asking those things of Abraham.

Job -- God allowed everything he held dear to be taken from him by Satan.  When Job mourned the day of his birth and wondered why such calamity came upon him, God offered no explanation.  He responded by basically saying, "I'm God.  You're not."  That's the only "why?" Job got.

David -- His Psalms are filled with questions of "Why, God?"  He never receives an answer.  But he always comes back around and says, "Oh yeah!  I remember who You are."

Peter -- Oh, dear Peter!  I think he always wanted to know why.  Why throw my net on the other side?  Why did I sink?  Why can't I follow you now?  But the answers are markedly absent.

All of them were required to follow the instructions the Lord gave them, and they received only one answer to their "why"s:

"Because I said so."

I think the same is true for us.  God often calls us to places that are uncomfortable and uncertain, and perhaps we don't see the reasoning behind His instructions.  We want to know why.  But we're probably out of luck.  You see, we must learn what Job learned.  He's God.  We're not.  And He doesn't have to tell us any more "why" than,

"Because I said so."

Now don't get me wrong about this whole parenting thing: I think there are times when kids need to know the reasons behind the things they're told.  Why you don't play in the street, why you don't talk to strangers, why you don't share your toothbrush with the dog, etc.  Some things you just need to know.  But they also have to learn that obedience isn't dependent upon the "why".  When Mom or Dad says something, you obey, even if it's only "because I said so."

The same goes for us as children of God.  He might tell us the why sometimes.  Why to steer clear of immorality, why to be careful who you surround yourself with, why to keep our focus on Christ, etc.  Some things He wants us to know.  But we also have to learn that our obedience isn't dependent upon whether or not we know the "why".  When He tells us what to do, we obey.  Because He said so.

Monday, April 23, 2012

That's What It's All About

If you've never done the Hokey Pokey, you've been deprived.

I mean, really!  It's classic!  Other than singing "Father Abraham" in Bible Hour (or youth group...), what other song can make perfectly sane people shake their arms, legs, heads, and entire selves while turning in circles?  It's great!

And it simplifies life.  Because it ends with a declaration of certainty: "That's what it's all about!"

Then some comedian with too much time on their hands posts on facebook, "What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about?"

It's not, of course.  But it begs the question..."What IS it all about?"

Jesus Christ.

I know that.  You probably do, too.  If you don't, I hope you come to know it.

But what does that look like manifested in the everyday life of a human being?  How do we live in a way that shows it's all about Him?

I've come to a conclusion to which He's been leading me for a long time.  I've known it, even lived it, though most of the time not very well.  But this weekend, He emblazoned it on my mind.


You don't have to look very hard to see that children were clearly at the top of His priority list.

Matthew 25:40,45
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.'"

Matthew 18:1-6,
"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'
He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And He said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
'And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.  But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.'"

Matthew 19:13-15,
"Then little children were brought to Jesus for Him to place His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'  When He had placed His hands on them, He went on from there." 

Mark 10:13-16,
"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'  And He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them."

James 1:27,
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

As I've looked these up to post on here, I've noticed some things either for the first time or in a new light.
  • Not only is what we do for them unto Him, what we don't do for them is unto Him, as well.
  • When Jesus "went on from there", it wasn't until after "He had placed His hands on them".
  • Jesus wasn't just mildly unhappy that the disciples were keeping the children from Him; He was indignant.  That's some seriously strong feeling.
  • The word "religion" basically means our external expression of worship.  We worship by taking care of the children.
So what's it all about?  Is it about showing up every Sunday and Wednesday?  No.  Is it about showing up for every other activity, VBS, community outreach event, Bible study, and service opportunity?  No.  Is it about volunteering in any and every area you can find?  No.  Is it about going on every mission trip and attending every camp?  No.

What's it all about?  The children.

Maybe you think this is an extreme view.  Maybe you think I'm taking this whole caring-for-the-children thing too far.  Maybe you think I'm making light of whatever ministry you're currently involved in.

I'm not.

It's not an extreme view and I'm not taking it too far, because it's what He said.  You just read it in the italicized words up there.  Verse after verse of Him declaring, "The children are important to Me!!!"

And I'm not attacking your ministries, because I'm sure you're involved in some incredible ones.  That's not the point.  The point isn't the ministries that we are doing.  The point is the one we've left undone for far too long.  The children need Him.  And what are we?  We are His body on this earth.  They need Him.  In us.

He knocked me upside the head with that this weekend.  I was sitting on the floor of the shed that's being built in our backyard, but so far it's just a platform.  But I wasn't there alone.

My parents were there.
Three of my four siblings were there.
My three foster siblings were there.
My two exchange-student siblings were there.
Two of my former foster siblings, back for a visit, were there.
And our three weekend guests from the children's shelter were there.

As I sat with all fifteen of them, eating pizza and drinking grape koolaid, I felt the Lord saying it to me.  It was a whisper in my soul, and yet a shout through my entire being:

"This is what it's all about."

I don't do it well.  Most of the time I'm selfish, wanting to keep my time and space and stuff to myself.  But He keeps pushing me.  He keeps giving me moments of clarity like that when I realize it's not about me.  That's a really hard thing to live.  Because as my grandmother once said, "A sacrifice is not a sacrifice unless it's a sacrifice."  It requires the giving up of something treasured.

That's the thing about the Hokey Pokey.

You have to put your whole self in.

That's what it's all about.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


I ate three Reese's Pieces for breakfast this morning.
Not three of those big Reese's cups.
No, three of those little Reese's-flavored M&M looking things.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to have lunch until 2:00. So if I got my metabolism going by eating breakfast at 7:00, I would've been starving by the time I got to eat lunch. Instead, I didn't eat breakfast, which didn't jump-start my metabolism, so I could survive until my late lunch without my stomach howling at me. It worked.

See, the thing about humans is, once we start eating, we're bound to want more before long. Have you ever noticed that the more often you eat, the sooner you get hungry again? It's true. And not just physically.

I've started my days with just three Reese's Pieces worth of Jesus before.
Not even enough to be three of those big Reese's cups.
And what happens?
Spiritual metabolism.
When I don't start out consuming Him, I forget to hunger for Him as my day goes on. I don't jump-start my spiritual metabolism, so I think I can survive longer without Him.

But if I start out consuming Him as the Bread of Life and the Living Water, I'm bound to want more before long. I've noticed that the more often I take Him in, the sooner I'm hungry for Him again.

Wait--how does that work? In John 6:35, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty." So why do I find myself hungry for Him over and over? I think there are some key words in that verse that answer that question. "He who comes to Me." When we come, we're no longer hungry. But we must come. When we don't, we're hungry, which drives us back to Him for more.

...unless we go so long without consuming Him that our metabolism shuts down and we forget that He is vital to our existence. Then we don't want to come. So we're not filled. And we waste away. We cannot subsist on a Reese's Pieces diet of Jesus.

We must keep coming. When we come, we're filled, which makes us hunger for Him even more. So we come again, and we're filled again, which makes us hunger for Him still more. The more we hunger, the more we come, and the more we're filled.

Stay hungry, my friends. And somehow in the world of our God that is so upside down from our own, by staying hungry, we stay filled.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Know

"I know, I know
that my Redeemer lives
I know, I know
eternal life He gives
I know...I know...
that my Redeemer lives"

We sang this song at church on Sunday. I knew we would. It was Easter, after all. You have to sing that song. That or "Up From the Grave He Arose." It's just one of those things you do.

Many of the songs we sing, especially the hymns, are musical renditions of Scripture passages. I often don't realize it until I come across a verse and think, "Hey! I know that song!" Most of the time it's a psalm. Not so with this song. This song, this lively, enthusiastic, resurrection from the book of Job.

Yes. That Job. The Job who was righteous in God's sight. The Job that God gave Satan permission to test and torment. The Job whose children were killed, whose livelihood was stolen, whose very body was torn with sores. The Job whose friends, shall we say, lacked the spiritual gift of encouragement. That Job.

That was a shockingly beautiful revelation to me.

You see, we sing this song on Easter. Easter. The season of life. Everything is alive. It's spring. The trees are alive. The flowers are alive. The baby bunnies and chicks are alive. And, of course, Jesus is alive. We stand in a church amidst treasured friends, singing our hearts out in celebration of the resurrection, and we feel alive, too. In moments like that, it's easy to sing.

"I know, I know
that my Redeemer lives
I know, I know
eternal life He gives
I know...I know...
that my Redeemer lives"

But when these words were spoken for the first time, life was not the dominant theme. In fact, there was no life to be found. Everything dear to Job was dead. His wife told him to curse God and die. He himself lamented the day of his birth. His friends were spending hours telling him about the demise of the wicked and how God was punishing him and he had only misery and death to look forward to. Job is surrounded by death, yet he speaks confidently about the certainty of life. I want to be like that.

See, the Lord told us that there would be seasons in life. Seasons of birth...and death. Seasons of planting...and uprooting. Seasons of healing...and killing. Seasons of building...and tearing down. Seasons of laughing...and weeping. Seasons of dancing...and mourning. Seasons of gathering...and scattering. Seasons of embracing...and refraining. Seasons of searching...and giving up. Seasons of keeping...and throwing away. Seasons of mending...and tearing. Seasons of speaking...and silence. Seasons of love...and hate. Seasons of peace...and war.

It's easy to speak of life during half of those seasons. The birth, the planting, the healing, the building, the laughing, etc. We sing it, we live it, we shout it from the mountain tops.

"I know that my Redeemer lives!!!"

But what about the other half? The death, the uprooting, the killing, the tearing down, the weeping, etc. That's the true test. Do we believe it even then? Maybe we can't sing it. Maybe it's hard to live it. Maybe we don't have the strength (or the desire) to shout it from a mountain top. Maybe all we can do is whisper it, curled up in a ball of tears in the dark of night.

"I know that my Redeemer lives."

The point isn't how loud or confident the words sound. The point is the One in whom those words declare faith. Those words say, "I see my circumstances. I bear the weight of my surroundings. I'm aware of the hopelessness. I breathe the despair. I feel the desperation. I live in the pain. But that doesn't change what I know.

I. Know. That. My. Redeemer. Lives."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Going 50 in a 65 World

The speed limit on my most-traveled highway is 65 mph.

Except in this one spot.

See, there's a bridge that crosses over the highway and they're doing some construction work on it. So naturally, there are cones and trucks and workers on the highway underneath the bridge. Thus, per construction zone code, the speed limit has been significantly decreased. (Because somebody thought it would be a good idea to not run over workers. Genius.)

So the speed limit drops to 55 mph...

...and then to 50.

Now if you've ever been in a construction zone on a highway, you know how hard it is to slow down to the new speed limit. When you lose 15 mph, all of a sudden it feels like you're crawling, regardless of the fact that you're still a good 10-15 mph faster than the average city street.

I was driving through that construction zone the other day when I realized that since they started the construction work, I hadn't ever actually slowed down to the new speed limit. I felt slightly torn as to what to do. I knew I ought to slow down. It's the law. It's what's right. But no one else was. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE else was still going 65.

Do you know how hard it is to go 50 when everyone else is going 65?!?!

Not only do you feel like you're traveling at a snail's pace, but people swerve around you and glare at you as they pass and make it abundantly clear that they're quite annoyed with your rule-following.

Some people stay behind you at first. They sit back, and who knows what they're thinking. Maybe they're hoping you'll speed up. Maybe they're feeling guilty for not following the speed limit themselves. Whatever the reason, they hang back behind you for a ways. But eventually they get impatient and they too jerk into the next lane and put the pedal to the metal.

Our culture has a "speed limit" at which people are used to traveling. It's a way of life to which we've all become accustomed.

But the Lord's "speed limit" is different. Way more than a 15 mph difference.

Isaiah 55:8-9,
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

The world says, "Have what you want, and have it now!"

The Lord says, "'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3:24-26)

The world says, "My life is about me!"

The Lord says, "It's not all about you. It's about Christ." (Rough paraphrase of Philippians 2:1-11)

The world says, "Spend your life and your money accumulating stuff to make yourself happy!"

The Lord says, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven." (Matthew 6:19-20)

The world says, "Make yourself comfortable!"

The Lord says, "Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me." (Paraphrase, Luke 9:23)

That all sounds great when you're sitting in church on Sunday singing and smiling and shaking hands with people who agree with you. But what happens when the rubber meets the road? What happens when following Christ means doing something different from the world? Worse, what happens when following Christ means doing something different from the church?

Do you know how hard it is to go 50 when everyone else is going 65?!?!

It's hard. Really hard. Especially when you love the people who are going 65.

And it gets harder. Because people fly past you, making sure you know how annoyed they are that you're going 50. Some of them really do think it's dumb. Others are trying to bury their guilt because deep down, they know they ought to be going 50, too.

It's hard to stick to the speed limit under all that pressure. It's hard to follow Christ when it means going against the flow. And the more cars that fly by, the more tempting it becomes to speed up. Don't.

Galatians 6:8-9,
"The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."

I think the Message version of that probably says something like, "If you speed, you're gonna crash. If you go the speed limit, you'll get there safely. Keep going the speed limit, even when everyone else is speeding. It'll be worth it when you get there."

So, if you're going 50...awesome job! I admire you! Be uplifted and don't give up!

If you're going 65...slow down! The Lord's speed is so much better! Be convicted and hit the brakes!

If your speedometer bounces between 50 and 65...welcome to the club! The Lord isn't finished with us! Be encouraged and keep slowing down!

Lord, teach me to go 50 in a 65 world...