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...."