Archive for October, 2014

Daughter Up


He has me in a headlock.  Not an I’m-about-to-kill-you chokehold.  It’s more like an I-just-beat-you-at-freeze-tag-and-now-I’m-gonna-drag-you-by-the-head-before-giving-you-a-dutch-rub headlock.  Yes, it’s an I’m-about-to-tackle-you-and-tickle-you-unless-you-say-uncle-and-tell-everyone-who’s-boss.  It’s that moment right after a knock-down, drag-out play-boxing fight where I either tap out or I’m toast.  My white flag is waving and my release is downright dependant upon Daddy’s mercy.

Take note, family members.  If you are related, rest assured that your turn is coming, too.  Daddy plays rough inside this house.  It’s a rite of passage around here.

Sometimes I don’t want to play, though.  I’m just a little girl, after all.  Dutch rubs mess up my hair and too much tickling makes me tinkle.  Play boxing leaves real bruises and the white flag finds me flat on my face eating the humble pie.  Playing with Daddy is fun, but it is outrageously fierce.

Sometimes he has to drag me head first ’cause that’s the only way I’m goin’ with him.  Sometimes I’d rather just sit in the dark with my fisted hands over my as-tight-as-I-can-shut-them eyes wrapped in my homemade fig leaf jammies.

Daddy doesn’t leave, though.  He will not.

Perhaps the most profound miracle of all is that, after all I’ve done to shut out the light, quit the game, and pretend he isn’t there, I can still see him.  I can still see him.  He stands waiting like a father in front of the imaginary monster magnetized closet door waiting for his fear-filled, wet behind the ears whippersnapper to fall asleep.

With crossed arms and pouty lips she pretends to want him to leave when she most desperately needs him to stay.  He will not leave until she trusts him enough to rest.  Peace.  He waits for her.  Patience.  Father may be as fierce as he is wild, but he is also insanely patient.  When she finally lets go, he lets go.  He releases her from his humble-making headlock and he holds onto to her hand instead.  She is finally free.  Despite all her fear, he names her “Valiant.”

I hear her voice in my children.

“Let’s play ‘Joker’ Daddy!”

He turns out the lights and attacks.  Laughing…then crying.  “I hurt, Daddy.”

He scoops her up and wraps her in his arms apologetically.  He knows her wholly.  She trusts him fully.  At the end of the day, he stands in front of the scary door and he makes her secure.
She falls asleep again.

In my Father’s house, he often plays rough.  If you come in, do not close your eyes.  Uncross your arms.  Unhand your fear and expect to learn how to trust Him alone.  You will be attacked.  You will be bruised, branded, and abased.  But you can bet the bad guys that you will be better.  You will be broken.  These are the effects of being loved.

Daughter up.


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I’ve been reading Aesop’s fables with my little girls and I thought it might be fun to make some adaptations.  The Country Mouse and the City Mouse was one of my all-time favorite childhood stories.   Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a country mouse afraid to venture into the unknown.  Anyway, here’s my story…

Once there lived two mice.  One was a poor, cursed mouse and the other was a rich, blessed mouse.  The mice were brothers, but they hadn’t seen each other in some time.  Church Mouse was always inviting Country Mouse to come over and meet all of his great friends, but Country Mouse felt poor and dirty.  He was afraid Church Mouse and his friends would laugh at him and make him feel bad for being so poor.

Finally one day Church Mouse dropped in to see Country Mouse.  “You look so shiny,” Country Mouse told his brother.  “Do tell me how you became so rich!”

“Thank you,” said Church Mouse.  “Do come and see!”

Country mouse thought for a while and finally decided to go to Church Mouse’s home.  He still felt quite backward and afraid, but he really wanted to be rich and clean like Church Mouse.

When Country Mouse arrived at Church Mouse’s home, he was met by many other rich mice.  One after another they greeted him, all in the same, almost rehearsed manner.

“Hmmmm,” Country Mouse thought.  “I wonder why these rich mice are so strange.  No one ever talks much to me except other dirty mice.  They seem nice, but I wonder if they’re just being polite.  I’m sure they don’t really want someone like me here in their perfect, shiny home.  I’m so dirty and ragged.  They probably want me to leave so I don’t ruin anything they’ve cleaned up so nicely.”

Country Mouse stayed a few days while Church Mouse and his friends served him hand and foot.  Country Mouse could hardly believe it!  He was being treated like a king by a bunch of mice he didn’t even know!

It soon came to an end, though.  Country Mouse had lice.  When all the church mice came down with church lice, they stopped being nice to Country Mouse.  They became angry at him.  The church mice didn’t like suffering.  They loved comfort.  Country Mouse’s poverty was ok as long as it didn’t affect them.  But now their shiny church was dirty and bug-infested.  The church mice wanted Country Mouse to leave.

Church Mouse was the leader of all the church mice, though.  He couldn’t send Country Mouse away after he’d invited him so many times.  He loved his brother despite his filth.  He wanted to make his brother clean.

Besides, now all the mice needed cleaned.  They were all dirty.  Somehow their riches and comfort couldn’t save them from being the rodents they really were underneath.

Church Mouse did not call a meeting.  He did not ask advice.  He saw the pain and suffering of his friends and he decided to do what only a very brave and noble mouse could do.  Church Mouse sat down at the front of the church and told all the mice to form a line.  One by one he sat with each mouse and he washed their fur.  He picked the nits out and he spoke softly into their ears about forgiveness and grace until they were only angry at themselves for how they’d treated Country Mouse.

Then the mice were finally actually clean.  They were truly shiny now – inside and out.  Church Mouse blessed them all individually and told them to play nice with the poor mice they were sure to meet outside.  “Invite them all,” Church Mouse instructed.  “Don’t be afraid.  I will clean them like I cleaned you.  I don’t want anyone to miss the feast I’m preparing!”

The church mice listened because they knew their leader loved them.  The poor mice became rich and the dirty mice became clean.  And they lived happily forever after.

Church Mouse’s name was Jesus.

The End

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“We wanna go in the hard maze, Daddy!”

Led by little girls, we disappeared into the corn.  Each time we reach a dead-end, the “leader” was replaced by one of her sisters.

It went on this way for quite some time.  Each of our three daughters got to “lead” us all through the corn maze at least a half a dozen times.  Unfortunately, the signs all read, “You have chosen poorly.”   “Dead end.”  “Wrong way.”  Every sign was further confirmation of our lost-ness.  By the time Daddy took over as navigator, we were in deep with no bearings.

After we’d been lost for no less than 20-30 minutes, another little girl and her very lost and tired grandmother asked if they could follow us.  “You can follow us, but we have no idea which way to go.”

Another 15-20 minutes passed.  We thought we had taken every possible path.  Still, no exit.

Funny thing though – the girls never got tired of being the leader.  They never got discouraged with their incorrect choices.  It didn’t matter to them in the least that they and those following them were still hopelessly lost.  The fact that the farm was soon closing never even fazed them.  They didn’t care that they might just be going the wrong way altogether.  They didn’t care how long it took to find the right way to go.  All they cared about was being the leader; being in charge; controlling the path of people bigger than they.  There’s something really fun about being given a position of authority…especially when you have neither the experience nor the qualification for it.  It seems that being the leader, even when all the signs say you’re going the wrong way, is quite attractive and empowering when you are small and insignificant.  Take note, followers.

Finally, a girl who worked at the farm came and led us out.  The maze closed and we went home.

As I fumbled around in the shadows of several acres of 15 foot corn, I thought.  This is what it’s like without Christ leading our lives.  We want to be the leader, even when we don’t know where we are or where we’re going.  We often would rather walk in circles leading than walk straight following.  Every single one of us is a little child lost in a hard maze apart from His leading.  We will continually make the same mistakes,  reach dead ends and signs reading, “You have chosen poorly.”  There is no proper exit in this life without the guide finding us in our lost-ness and leading us out.

Jesus is the good guide.  He is the only way.  He is the leader and the only one worthy of following.  Beware of children who would rather take his place than follow his lead.  Surely they will leave you more lost than you were at the start.

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I wrote on Ephesians 5 almost a year ago. I’m reposting for my series in Ephesians. Note, the “therefore” in Ephesians 5:1 indicates that the believers ought to abstain from the sin Paul is about to name *because* they are to be different than the pagan idolators surrounding them…*because* they are saved, changed, and the darkness they came out of is exceedingly dangerous as he has just explained in the second portion of Ephesians 4.

Everyday Encounters With the Creator


Idolatry.  Responsible for the first fallen angel, the last condemned sinner, and almost every evil in between.  Idolatry springs from pride, selfishness, entitlement, unbelief, and godlessness.  Without idolatry there would be no envy; no strife; no wars; no sin.  Little wonder why the first and second commandments deal with whom we must worship and how we must worship him, respectively.  Little doubt these are given firstly because our God of perfect order knew they must take absolute precedence over all else regarding our relationship with him.

Idolatry:  the worship of a picture or object as a god; the worship of a physical object as a god; immoderate attachment or devotion to something.

Satan’s sin was idolatry.  Eve’s sin was idolatry.  Need I mention Joseph’s brothers?  David?  Jezebel?  Judas?  Idolatry devastated them all.

The biggest issue the earliest Christians had in the church was…idolatry.  Christian Jews who had previously been forbidden could…

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In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul speaks of unity in the church.  He goes on to describe the differences between converted and unconverted Gentiles.  Christian Gentiles are to be different, he says.  They should no longer be following greedy desires, worshipping idols, coveting worldly possessions, or practicing impurity.  The problem is that all those around them are doing just that, and, it’s just what they had been doing before.  Doubtless these people were their long time friends, family, and close neighbors.  Living among those who do the very things they are tempted to do, converted Gentiles were instructed here for good reason.  They were not to live like these others or their former selves.  Paul tells them why it was so dangerous to do so.

-They were “darkened in their understanding.”  These men had no light.  Everything they thought, said, and did was wicked and deceitful.  They had no knowledge or desire for God.

-They were “alienated from the life of God.”  Not only did they not practice godliness, they estranged themselves from anything or anyone who did.  They stayed as far from God as they could.  This condition was a result of their willful ignorance about the things of God.

-Their ignorance, in turn, was a result of their hardness of heart.  These were those who had rejected all the truth and light God had given them.  As they continued to do so, they continued to give themselves over to sin, greed, and every kind of filthiness without shame.

But that is not the way you learned Christ! ~Ephesians 4:20

Paul is saying, “But not you!”  You do not live this way anymore.  This should not be true of you.  You Gentiles – you converted Gentiles – “learned Christ.”  Christ is your teacher.  You are no longer without knowledge or understanding.  You are no longer ignorant or hardened.  You are no longer deceived.  You are saved.  Act like it.  Heres’s how…

Paul tells them to “put off” their old self and “put on” the new one.  He describes this “new self” as being like God, truly righteous, and truly holy.  He gives six specific examples of changes that ought to be taking place in these (and all) believers.

-Stop lying.  Tell the truth to others always and  in all circumstances.

-Control your anger.  Let it not turn to wrath, bitterness, or revenge.

-Stop stealing and work honestly.

-Let your speech be always edifying and clean.  Put away gossip, slander, boasting, corruption, and filthy language.  Build up with your talk and do not tear down.

-Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.  If He convicts you of your sin, repent.  Do not continue in sin and dismiss your conscience like the heathens do.

-Get rid of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.  Instead, be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving.  This is how God has treated you.

Paul’s exhortations are clear.  We ought to be changed if we are his.  We ought to look 180 degrees different from those around us who are not his.  We ought to look completely opposite of how we did before we met Jesus.  We ought to look like Christ.  We are saved!  May God help us act like it.

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My husband is thinking about making, well, we’ll just call it an investment.  While I will wholeheartedly support whatever decision he makes without reservation, I have just one request.  I want to be included in his decision-making process.  Not included as in tell him what he ought to do and pout if he doesn’t listen.  No.  Included as in he tells me what he is thinking of doing, when, how, and why.  Included as in we discuss the matter together, pray about it together, and wait on the Lord to either stop us from making a mistake or confirm that he is with us in it.

I got to thinking…I bet that’s just what God wants from me, too.  There are a lot of things I think I can do on my own without talking to God first.  But what if Adonai – the very personal, altogether sovereign God of the universe wants to be intimately included in my life?  Not to run it in a manipulative, coercive manner, but in a mutually respected love?  I do call him “Lord” after all, don’t I?  Maybe He isn’t really out to veto every fun and fantastic idea I come up with.  Maybe He just wants to be the first one to hear about them.  He wants to be that important to me.  Perhaps he really does want to be closer than a brother.

And if He’s not that to me, then what is He, really?  A mere asset to my already made plans?  A safety net in the very unlikely event that I make a mistake?  A distant, unimportant acquaintance?  A kill-joy?  A road block to the bigger and better?  Or, is He not really much of anything to me?  These are the questions I have to ask myself when I find myself failing to include the Lord Jesus in my everyday life.

My little girls and I have been reading through the gospel of Mark.  Each day I begin by asking, “What do you think Jesus is up to today?”  We’ve read about Jesus’ baptism, miracles, and many parables he used to teach.  My goal in daily Bible lessons with them is to help them understand the importance and priority of God in their daily lives, equip them with wisdom for the world they will face, and build a solid foundation for genuine faith.  I want them to wake up asking, “What is Jesus up to today?  How does that affect my life?  My decisions?  My attitude?”

The truth is that most of we adults do not ask these very simple, yet profound, questions at the start of each day.  I reckon if we did, life might just make a little more sense.  We might just have a little more internal peace.

My friend quoted C.S. Lewis the other day saying, “Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings.  Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.”

In my life, time and again, I find that fear, doubt, selfishness, uncertainty, and even guilt often are the driving forces of my behavior and decisions.  These are foes, not friends.  I must climb over these “feelings” in order to get to the truth of the matter and act accordingly.  I must ask, “What is Jesus up to today?  If I love him, what must I do?”

Practically, what it means is that my spiritual health – which happens to be the health of all else in me including emotional, physical, sexual, etc. – is very much dependant upon how well I know the Lord Jesus; how much time I spend alone with the all-knowing God of the universe.  Why?  Because Jesus explains the details of his will and his ways in private.  He encourages and inspires us in private.  He teaches us in private.  Jesus wants a real, time-invested, one-on-one relationship…just like we do when we authentically love and value someone.

“He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” ~Mark 4:34

Therefore, the wisdom we glean knowing He is in the still, small voice rather than the noise of the one’s speaking loudest is that patience is paramount.  God does not usually converse with us at a high rate of speed.  We simply cannot handle what he is trying to teach us that quickly.  So, he often begins with a broad brush.  He shows us an illustration.  He waits as we consider the implications of the story he is telling; while we count the cost of believing it.   He watches whether we follow him…further.  He waits for us to ask questions.  He answers in the quiet of prayer.

No child ever grows up into maturity quickly.  It takes days, weeks, months, years, and decades for children to become adults.  Likewise, it takes God’s children a considerable amount of time spent with him to get wisdom and exhibit significant growth.  We grow one day at a time, one decision at a time, one prayer at a time.  If you are facing a decision and seeking God’s wisdom, here are some helpful things to remember:

-Haste makes waste.  Never be in a hurry when you’re waiting on God.  As uncomfortable as it is to wait, experience shouts that the results of hasty decisions are obscenely more uncomfortable.  Ask me how I know.

-There’s  no shame in seeking wise counsel from spiritual parents.  Those who are elders in the faith have likely faced similar situations.  Ask them their opinion and think about what they have to say.  It often goes well for children who obey because they trust Daddy even when they do not understand why he says “no” than for those who whine about why and do their own thing anyway.

-Consider what you’re saying “no” to.  Recognize that there is no “yes” that does not come with a “no.”  Saying “yes” to one thing always means saying “no” to another.  Are you willing to sacrifice all the no’s in order to say “yes.”

-Peace is paramount.  If you have internal conflict void of peace surrounding a decision, it is often an indication that it is either the wrong decision or the wrong time.  God offers peace when He is on board.  If peace is absent, God, may, too, be absent.

When we have been faithful to spend time alone with God, to consider His leading, wait upon His answers, and trust Him above ourselves, we will know what we ought to do.  We will know why we want to do it.  And we will have the peace that passes understanding when we do it.

At the end of the day, I want God to be all I really need…because He is whether I realize it or not.  I want Him to be the all in all that’s so easy to sing about on Sunday morning.  I cannot know that He is unless I seek Him in all things.  I’m betting the farm He is always up to something.

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In Ephesians 4, prisoner Paul urges his Christian brothers and sisters to “walk worthy” of their call.  His rationale is found just preceding in chapter 3.  He reasons that because Christ is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine, and because he will do so by his power and for his glory through us, we, therefore (Ephesians 4:1), must walk worthy.  How?

Humility.  Gentleness.  Patience.  Longsuffering.  Love.  Peace.

These are the ways in which we “walk worthy” of the gospel.  The goal is unity.  Paul makes himself very clear.  He reminds his readers that there is but one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.  Paul is looking for these Christians to transform from sinners who were all going their own ways to saints all going the same way.  The chief end is unity, oneness, peace, and mutual edification.  Christ wants us to do the same.

Little wonder why he uses the “body” as an illustration.  As he goes on to differentiate between different giftings, he continues his insistence on unity.  One body; different gifts.  In other words, don’t fight over them.  They are different, not better or worse.  And they all belong together; working together.  Just as we don’t cut off our hands or ears when they fail to function the same as our feet or our eyes, we ought never to disregard or dispose of other believers when we discover our differences.  Neither should those differences debilitate us in any way.  On the contrary!  Our differences ought to complement us!  As we come together and cooperate, we grow up into a mature, living, whole body.

Unity is how we will grow.

Unity is how we will stand firm.

Unity is how we will avoid being deceived.

Unity is how we will be strengthened in love.

But unity will take work.  It will require humility when pride is welling up like a storm.  It will require gentleness when being harsh seems more than fitting.  It will require patience when we’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity.  It will require longsuffering when we have already suffered longer than we could have ever imagined.  It will require love when others have proved unlovely at best.  It will require peace when our flesh begs for war.  Is it worth the trouble, church?  Paul insists.

These are the thoughts I collect as my wandering heart wonders how God will ever right the odious discord that still exists in my own life.  How do I speak the very necessary truth in love when I have been hated?  How do I exercise earnest humility in the face of raging pride?  Or worse, what of humility when the pride is mine?  How will gentleness avoid giving way to arrogance when patronizing insincerity and condescension begins?  Worse yet, what if I am patronizing and insincere?  What of when I condescend?  Lord, let it not be!

Perhaps it is not time.  Perhaps God will try my patience…more.  Perhaps he will ask me to suffer long…er.  Perhaps this learning to hold my ever untamed tongue is, in itself, peacemaking.  I don’t know for sure, but I know He will lead the way.  He will choose the time.  He will mend the brokenness and heal the pain.  I have precious little doubt that two hard-to-swallow words answer every last one of my questions: “Trust Him.” 

God help me walk straight.  Help me to walk worthy as I wait.  I know you can do much more than I have asked in ways I can’t even begin to  imagine.  For your own glory, bring harmony to your body.

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