Tamed

On this very different Thanksgiving without our usual football game and giant feast of everyone who hasn’t a place to go or a people to see, God has given me the gift of silence and space. In this silence and space, he has spoken to me in a new way through one of my favorite children’s book, The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupery.

While wandering in the Sahara Desert, the little prince from another planet happens upon a fox. Their encounter leaves them both changed. And rereading their encounter left me changed this morning. It washed a tired heart in truth.

“Who are you?” the little prince asked. “You’re very pretty…”

“I’m a fox,” the fox said.

“Come and play with me,” the little prince proposed. “I am feeling so sad.”

“I can’t play with you,” the fox said. “I’m not tamed.”

“Ah! Excuse me,” said the little prince. But upon reflection, he added, “What does tamed mean?”….

“It’s something that’s been too often neglected. It means ‘to create ties’…For me you’re only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either….But if you tame me, we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me. I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…”

“People have forgotten this truth, ” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed….”

How Family Tames Us

Family tames us. It creates ties. It takes ordinary people set apart for us. On a spinning sphere with billions of people, family creates ties between certain people. Those ties tame us and change us. It would be far easier to live detached and unattached as the fox had lived until he let the strange little prince tame him. But once tamed, the fox was known and seen. Deep down, life was markedly different even when, on the surface, it was the same.

The fox wisely recognizes that it is time spent with others that tames us. Time creates ties. These ties shape and change us, but they also make us responsible to one another. Once we are tamed, we cannot live as we used to live. Our hearts are tied to others, for better or for worse.

My family has tamed me and I have tamed my family. Sights, smells, and sounds remind me of them and fill my life with meaning. We are tied together, even when we are thousands of miles apart.

The Beautiful Taming of the Body of Christ

But it is possible to be twice-tamed. Tamed by physical family and also by the body of Christ. In the family of Christ, ordinary people become set apart to each other because they are set apart to the Lord. Ties are made with time and experience. Lives are connected. And it’s messy. But it’s also beautiful, this taming of the Church. Single people are seen and tied to families. Widows become friends. Families are freed from idolatrous self-centeredness by connection to others.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous people. You were once not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

The body of Christ looks different right now. For a season, we are cautiously keeping space between us, at least physically. I cannot wait to be together freely again. In the meanwhile, while are distanced, we must remember that we are responsible to the Lord in healthy ways for those to whom we have been tied.

On this strange Thanksgiving, I find myself grateful to the Lord who has twice-tamed me. The beauty of being tamed shimmers today in the midst of a heavy and dark year. May you be tamed this holiday season, my friend.

Tin Soldiers & Tenacious Love

Did you ever think, when you were a child what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well, suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve tuning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

The older I get, the more and more I find myself like Lewis’s tin soldier. While I hate to admit it, I tend to expend more energy trying to protect myself from God’s good, sanctifying aims for me then working alongside him or at least just letting him do his job.

My flesh fights back. My fears rise up and stand sentinel around my habits and hobbies. I’d rather stay “tinny” than have the real life he tenaciously offers me. I prefer a known way to an unknown way, even if that unknown way leads to lasting life.  

I keep myself busy. I play with other tin soldiers. I polish my tin. But all the while, God has such deeper offers for me. I’d rather control my tiny scene than be led by the Blessed One who controls all things (1 Timothy 6:15). God tenaciously pursues my heart with his offer of life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19). I make his job difficult, but he has not stopped yet. 

Like the tin soldier, Job thought that God was trying to kill him and was pursuing him for ill. In the raw honesty that could only come from trust, Job cries out to God, asking him to stop pursuing him, to let him alone. 

“You renew  your witnesses against me and increase your vexation toward me; you bring fresh troops against me. Why did you bring me out of the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me and were as though I had not been,  carried from the womb to the grave. Are not my days few? Then cease, and leave me alone that I may find a little cheer” (Job 10:17-20).

While few of us have experienced a tenth of what Job did, many of us can relate to his desire for God to leave him alone. The scouring rush of discipline that leads to life hurts and rubs us sore. We would rather God quit his relentless pursuit of our hearts. In our flesh, we would prefer a few years of cheer. 

Thankfully, God loves us for the long haul and has eternal purposes in mind. He would give us hearts of flesh and then shape those malleable hearts into his image and likeness. He would make us meet for eternal days with him. He would stretch our souls to fit such an immense capacity and calling. 


In Psalm 94:12-15, the psalmist captures the same concept that the writer of Hebrews sought to convey to his discipline-wearied people in Hebrews 12:3-17. 

“Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out  of your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; for justice will return to the righteous  and all the upright in heart will follow it” (Psalm 94:1215)

God’s tenacity in taking us from tin-hearted to true-hearted often hurts. But blessed (happy, whole, complete) are the ones who are trained by him and his word. When we would rather stay tin, still he trains us. Such tenacious attention is a token of his love not proof of a lack of love. His love is lavish and long-term, even if it may leave us sore in the present. 

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields  the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Eventually God relented on Job, but only because he would not relent on his perfect son. His days did not end in cheer but on a cross. God relentlessly pursued his people even to the point of placing his beloved son an instrument of shame. He did so that we might become truly alive in Him, no more tin soldiers, but true sons.

If the process of becoming fully alive leaves you wishing to remain a tin soldier, trust the tenacity of his love today. He will complete what he has started (Philippians 1:6). No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is upright (Psalm 84:11).

The Baptism of the Ordinary

His life seemed laced with a golden thread. A commander of the army of the King of Syria. A great man, held in high favor, he had experienced much victory due to his valor. Yet one dark thread threatened his peace and prosperity: he had leprosy.

Naaman likely saw this as the growing black mark on his otherwise glowing life; however, God graciously used what he thought was a harbinger of death as a doorway to life. What he thought was an obtrusive inconvenience was ultimately God’s gracious invitation.

God used his leprosy to heal of him the more dangerous pride that was deadening his soul as leprosy was deadening his nerves.

A servant girl, captured from Israel, a small and unimportant nation, another notch on the belt of the Syrian army, initiated the process that lead to his healing. That he, a captain and a wealthy man of Syria would heed advice from a female servant from Israel would have been a blow to his pride and a lowering of his position. But desperate times call for drastic measures.

With pomp and circumstance, he loads up his impressive caravan and heads to Samaria with a letter of recommendation from the King of Syria himself. How little he understood the God from whom he sought healing! Caravans and crowns, prestige and position: these meant little to him. He required humility and faith, two things that money cannot buy.

He went first to the King of Israel, with money to impress and bribe, only to be redirected to the simple, side-road house of the prophet Elisha. Much to Naaman’s chagrin, the prophet did not even greet him directly, but rather sent a message to him through a servant, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored” (2 Kings 5:10).

His pride injured and insulted, Naaman fumed, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:12).

Yet again, servants spoke sense to him. They bid him humbly honor the prophet’s request. Naaman laid down his wealth, his pride, and his national sentiments. He washed himself seven times in the muddy waters of the Jordan, and he came up healed, body and soul.

Ordinary Means, Extraordinary Means

While I don’t have leprosy, my soul is sick with pride. A true product of a culture that holds power, privilege, and wealth as the highest ends, I want to be special. I want to stand above as someone set apart.

Yet, the same Lord that bid Naaman wash in a common river, bids me to be washed in the muddy waters of common life. He bids me lay down my pride and position daily as a wife and a mother. He invites me to entrust my worth and identity to him as I follow the ordinary routines of grocery shopping, laundry washing, and carpool driving. Like Naaman, the acts of service the Lord bids me to obey often offend my sensibilities. There is little shininess or flash to such common acts of household and neighborhood service. The only caravan involved here is a caravan to sporting events.

However, these small, seemingly insignificant acts of obedience are killing the pride that is killing me. They are invitations to trust that God does beautiful things through common means. They are opportunities to actively believe that, through the means of small, ordinary, common acts of faithfulness, God is doing an eternal, lasting work. He is sanctifying and shaping me into one who deeply resembles him, even in the innermost parts.

Our salvation was secured by Christ. In baptism, we have been united to him in both his death and life. However, our sanctification involves regular baptism into ordinary, common acts of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit both invites us to lay aside pride and prestige, and enables us to dunk in the dirty waters of everyday obedience. In so doing, we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

A Labyrinth of Lies

Being stuck in one’s house and being stuck in one’s head are not one-in-the-same; however, they do seem to travel together. Lately, while continuing to do all the tasks of life on the surface, I have simultaneously been lost in a labyrinth of lies. I realize it’s not just me. I am watching my husband and boys wrestle through their own unique labyrinths even as I do.

I am adding the role of amateur cartographer to my resume. But before I can point them to the freedom of the truth, I have to be rescued from my own labyrinth daily. It is hard to point my children to freedom when I myself am shackled by chains of self-sufficiency. It is nearly impossible to lead my children to the adequacy of Christ when lies of inadequacy paralyze me.

Jesus knew the sinister lies of his long-time enemy. He was unafraid to publicly label him the father of lies.

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).

After all, Jesus had seen the angel-turned enemy slink into the garden to spread his half-truths (which are full lies). He saw those lies gather power like sinister snowballs, wreaking havoc in human history.

But just as the Enemy speaks and acts out of his own nature, so, too, does our Christ. He not only spoke the truth, He was the truth. The enfleshed word of God came down to lead us out of our labyrinths.

When the liar attempted a desert-version of the temptation in Eden, Christ stood in the truth. Fully human, he was tempted in every way as we are, but the lies did not entangle him (Hebrews 4:15-16). Even until the night before His death, He watched the twelve struggle to understand and believe the truths he declared to them constantly. He knew that apart from divine empowerment, they would not stand in the truth. As such, he promised them a divine helper and live-in truth-teller in the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-16).

Our Jesus stood in the truth even when his feet were lifted off the ground and nailed unto the Cross. He alone can lead us from the custom-made labyrinths of lies that have us cornered and cowering. He speaks the truth to us through His Word enlivened by His Spirit. He levels labyrinth lies with His love.

Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Psalm 43:3).

We are not enough; He is. We are not strong; He is. We are not wise; He is. We are not adequate; He is. We are not able; He is.

Your labyrinth is not mine. Nor is mine my husband’s or children’s. Even our own labyrinths shift with the cunning of their custom-builder. But the same loving leader rescues us all. He finds us, paralyzed and powerless. He lifts our eyes to him and leads us into the wide places of His freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).

I don’t know what crafty lies of the coward have you and yours cowering today. Most of the time, I have a hard time identifying and naming the walls of my own entrapment. But I do know the One that does. He still levels lies with His love. He still speaks the truth that leads His people into the fullness of freedom.

When the Lighting Changes: An Advent Devotion

Lighting makes a difference, as anyone who has braved trying on clothes under fluorescent fitting room lights can tell you. An interrogation light shining upon one’s face sets an incredibly different stage than does the gentle flicker of candle light. Wise producers and authors match mood and lighting.

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This morning, my heart was captured by what I imagine must have been a drastic light and scene change in the life of Mary.

One moment she was in the presence of the archangel, Gabriel. Shimmering, shining, emmanating light. Floodlights to match a sudden breakthrough annoucement of an impossible and unexpected birth. Bells and whistles, commanding angelic proclamation and promises. Mary was confused, to be sure, but she could not help but see that God was up to something. She must have been caught up in the moment, talking there face to face with angel of light. With the sure words of an archangel to shore up her wavering courage, Mary bravely submitted to this divine interruption and invitation.

Luke’s account of this momentous occasion ends with the following verses.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing is impossible with God. 

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 

And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:35 & 37-38). 

End stage lights. Depart emmanating presence of angelic messenger. Cue the silence.

Talk about a light change. While I have never been in the presence of an angel, I have been on a soccer field when the blinding, field-illuminating floodlights are suddenly turned off. An angel leaving a room, I imagine, leaves a much more drastic impression than that.

I wonder what it was like when the angel departed, leaving Mary alone with her thoughts. Was she like little children who tend to be brave in the clarity and comfort of strong lighting but fall apart when the lights go dim and the darkness creeps in?

As I imagined the lighting and scene change from such a moment of divine clarity to entering back into real life with a completely altered life plan, I found myself writing this poem.

Upon the Angel’s Departure

All was well and good
With Gabriel at hand;
His presence silenced
All she didn’t understand. 

His emmanating glow
Lit a spark of confidence;
His powerful promises
Covered the dissonance. 

The angel departed,
Leaving her alone.
The room grew dark,
The air colder than stone. 

Doubts began to scream,
“You’re a fool to enlist.
Who are you to fulfill
An errand such as this?”

Then a still, soft voice
Whispered into the fear,
“Oh, sweet favored one,
I’ll be so very near.”

“Each task entrusted to you,
My power will fulfill.
I will come upon you,
Willing in you my will.”

The doubts didn’t disappear;
They stayed her life through.
But in her heart she heard,
“God will strengthen you.”

When confidence departs,
As swift as Gabriel left,
Hear the whisper of God,
“Hide here in my cleft.”

Favored does not mean
The absence of all fear.
Favored simply means
By grace, our God is near. 

When the lighting changes drastically in our lives, may we know the deeply planted truth that God remains with us. In flickering candle light, in floodlights and even in moments of deep darkness and doubt, the promise of Christmas remains: Emmanuel, God with us.

Action-value in an Information Age

If the amount of input and information received over the centuries was compared to waves, the progression would look like the following: ripple, ripple, ripple, wave, tidal wave, tsunami. Even those who fight hard to limit technological and informational input are bombarded with a sea of often inert information and images.

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Although I am not on Instagram and only watch the PBS News Hour once or twice a week, I receive enough information from emails, texts and Facebook feeds alone to overwhelm me. I know what your child is wearing, who graduated from kindergarten, and that Fidgit spinners can be lodged in throats. I also have seen images of starving children in Africa and scrolled through two years worth of political rhetoric.

Information is a powerful thing; however, when we are inundated with so much information that we begin to feel powerless and overwhelmed by the global village in which we live, it may be time to stop and think.

Neil Postman wrote an insightful book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, in the mid 1980’s to discuss the way the television was shaping culture. If what he wrote was true of the television age, it is infinitely more true of the computer age. Postman writes about the ratio of input and output regarding information, which he calls the information-action ratio.

“In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one is informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information)….Prior to the age of telegraphy, the information-action ratio was sufficiently close so that most people had a sense of being able to control some of the contingencies in their lives. What people knew had action-value.”

He traces the beginning of the imbalance of the information/ action ratio to the invention of the telegraph.

“But the situation created by telegraphy, and then exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote. For the first time in human history, people were faced with the problem of information glut…In the information world created by telegraphy, this sense of potency was lost, precisely because the whole world became the context of our news. Everything became everyone’s business.”

If the information-action scale was set off balance by the telegraph, the internet has taken the imbalance to whole new levels.  We no longer have to walk to the local telegraph to send and receive information; we now have the equivalent of a lightning-speed telegraph in our pockets connecting us to the pockets of most of the known world.

I have been thinking deeply this week on the concept of action-value. I have tried to be cognizant of every piece of information I have willingly received to see what action-value might be assigned to it. What am I meant or able to do with this information? Does it have any direct bearing on my life? What tangible actions can I take regarding this information input?

Most of the information I have received has left me feeling, at best, amused or shocked, and at worst, overwhelmed, helpless, worried, heavy or guilty. The realization that most of the information I process is both emotional and inert makes me want to reconsider the information-action ratio in my little world.

While I do want to be and to raise global citizens concerned with the world, I find myself drawn more deeply to the local as a way to seek to restore balance to the information-action ratio.

Prayer has a real and tangible action-value. But even so, my heart can only hold so many burdens and pray diligently for so many people and causes. I have had to force myself to evaluate if there was room in my heart in that hour or moment for more information.

I have decided that I can only follow the goings-on of one situation or cause in such a way as to actually act on the information, whether by prayer or donation or investigation.

Before checking Facebook, I have stopped to ask myself the following questions: Are you in a place to do anything about you might see? If not, why are you looking?

I have also stopped to ask myself “What is the action-value of this information?” before posting something or dishing out information.

These small measures feel like cardboard shields against a tidal wave of information, yet they have helped me to add a few ounces to the action side of the information-action ratio.

 

On the Eve of the Election

On this eve of such a significant election, an unlikely name has been on my mind. It’s neither Trump, nor Biden, but rather Herod. Lest we think that we are the first group of people caught in the crosshairs of a highly contended governmental shift, a quick recap of history will serve us well.

Herod’s Rise

After Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March (Et tu, brute?), a fight for the seat of power ensued. Seats of power were up for grabs, and there were vastly different opinions on who should fill them. The Parthians came into Jerusalem attempting to prop up their desired Senate representative for the region of Jerusalem; however, Octavius and Antony, Caesar’s nephew and adopted heir, succeeded in appointing Herod, their pick for the role of “King of the Jews.”

The selection was deeply contested by the opposing side and resulted in physical fighting and bloody battles in Jerusalem. At the end of a three-month siege, Caesar’s side had their way. Herod remained in his tenuous position of power on the Judean throne for 33 years (see Thomas Cahill’s The Desire of the Everlasting Hills).

Understanding the bloody path to his seat of power sheds light on Herod’s bloody attempts to retain his power. Positions that are gained by blood and human conniving are often protected and held in like manner.

Herod’s Demise

In the beginnings of Matthew’s gospel, the stage is being set for the entrance of the one true King in the most unexpected manner.

Even those not familiar with the Scriptures likely recognize the following verses from the Christmas story.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2).

Wise men traveling with gifts from far away lands. This is the kind of stuff politicians salivate over; however, these visitors were not coming to see him. They proclaimed the birth of a new king. The potential threat to his power left both him and the people in his jurisdiction worried about more bloody battles for power (Matthew 2:3).

You likely know what happens next from Christmas plays.

Herod has the mysterious seekers vow to tell him when they find their newborn king. He says he wants to worship him, but he really wants to wipe out the threat to his position, power, and prestige. Thankfully, angels intervene to protect the vulnerable baby and his family. They warn the wisemen to head home without visiting the murderous Herod. Angels also warn Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt as family of three.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wisemen, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Our Hope

The people of Judea had been right to be troubled. They knew too well the civil unrest that resulted from power grabs. They were weary of such things. They longed for a ruler who would rule justly and with equity, who would use his position to advantage his people rather than himself. Little did they know that he had been born. Hiding in Egypt as a political refugee was the One who was the true King of the Jews.

Herod’s murderous rage, while horrific, did not thwart God’s good plans for the better kingdom. In fact, the true King that the angels had protected would stand watching while he was cruelly murdered. Though Christ might have called down legions of angels to protect him, he willingly endured death on a cross (Matthew 26:52-54). He did so to usher in the perfect kingdom.

While it has been initiated, it is not yet consummated. We live in this already/not yet kingdom of God. Just as the people of Jerusalem were troubled with dangerous political unrest, we remain troubled when positions of power are up for grabs. However, as those who stand on the other side of the cross, we know the living one in whom all our hope lies. We know that the one who worked the ultimate evil of the cross for our good can work all things to his glorious ends (Romans 8:28).

Our Hope

That Herod was threatened
By a newborn laid in hay
The vulnerability of power 
And position does betray. 

The most coveted seats 
On this spinning sphere
Are subject to shuffling
And protected by fear. 

Oligarchies may appoint,
Crowds elevate a name. 
A fickle fiefdom offers
A highly unstable fame. 

If on reputation or rank 
One’s security does rest,
Then surely moth and rust 
One’s hope will soon infest.

Murderous ends stem
From misshapen means.
Yet our God works good
Even from earthly schemes. 

Our hope is wrapped in
The Son of His appointing.
Our stability stems from
The king of His anointing.  

On this election eve, I pray that we would have our identities and our hopes hidden in Christ, the Everlasting King.

Longing for a Perfect Home

If I had a dollar for every trip I have taken to Home Depot during the pandemic, I’d be rich. While many businesses are filing for bankruptcy, home improvement stores seem to be understandably thriving. After all, being stuck at home, having extra time on our hands, and the world feeling utterly out of control are a perfect formula for household projects.

Despite countless pandemic projects, our house remains far from the dream home we have in our heads. We’ve painted walls, decluttered closets, rearranged furniture, but still something always seem to be begging for more attention. It doesn’t help that we love watching HGTV where dreams become reality in a tidy thirty-minute timetable.

As much as our family loves a good household project (and by family, I mean my husband and I, as our children often have little to no say in the matter), the finished projects never fully satisfy. There is always another detail we would change, another piece of furniture, another potential layout to try!

Our house projects betray our hearts’ deep desires for a perfect home where order, beauty, and rest exist in perfect balance. We hunger for such a home because we once had one. Adam and Eve were placed in such a home in the lush Garden of Eden by their gracious Creator. Ever since the full-orbed peace that existed there was shattered, we have been trying to find our way back.

Sweat equity does not work for our eternal home. We cannot build or design our way back, no matter how talented or tenacious we are. While this reality is hard to hear, it is the truth that frees us.

Christ has done all. The home with Him for which we long is purchased and paid in full. We are journeying toward the day when the New Heavens and the New Earth will be our permanent address. In the meanwhile, we make homes on this earth to shelter and protect those entrusted to us along the way. These homes may leave much to be desired, but they are only meant to be temporary dwellings.

As I was walking this week, a misshapen bird nest in a tree caught my eye. Initially, my heart mocked the sad attempt at a nest; however, the more I thought about it, the more I grew to appreciate that little nest. While small and uneven, the nest still provided a soft place to rest. While it was not fancy, its woven walls still created sheltering form.

The little nest reminded me to be thankful for my own novice nest. As unfinished as it is, this house is our home until the day when we are nestled into the arms of the Father.

The Novice Nest

Even the novice’s nest,
Offers a place of rest.

With much to be desired,
Still it shelters the tired. 

Unkempt tho’ it appear,
It keeps its children near. 

Your novice nest is His best
Until you rest on His chest.

A Different Lever & A Better Place to Stand

Archimedes of Syracuse, a Third Century mathematician, philosopher and scientist, supposedly said during a demonstration of the lever, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world.”

Levers, while incredibly simple, are powerful tools. While I have known that for quite some time, recently while building a garage with my husband, I saw the power of a lever first hand. We had ridiculously heavy Hardee Backer walls we had constructed on the ground; however, we had to figure out ways for the two of us to get them off the ground and into place. Using simple leverage techniques and after much experimentation (and a few choice words), we were able to lift the walls into place.

As my boys are science nerds in the making, we spend hours working with Kevu blocks and simple machines; yet, I have not grown tired of watching levers at work.

Archimedes was right to be proud of the lever, such a simple thing that can move great objects. He was also right to know that in order for a lever to work, one needs a proper place to stand.  Lately I have been thinking of the a different lever and a better place to stand.

In Acts, the story of the early Church following Jesus’ Ascension back to the Father, we read the following account.

But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. And when they could not find them (Paul and his crew), they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.”
Acts 17:5-7. 

This small group of disciples led by a ragtag leadership team of  under-schooled, overlooked fishermen and other misfits, were upsetting the status quo, shaking up the established order of religion and political life. What were they using to change the world?

Their lever: the cross, an instrument of shame and execution.

Their place to stand: not an official position or a country or a theocracy, but a place where, through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, they could confidently stand before the Throne of God.

From the beginning of the Church, the same strange lever and the same shocking place to stand have been slowly moving the world.

Those who have come under the kingship of Jesus, boldly proclaim the cross of shame on which He took our place and invite others to an eternal place to stand confidently before the throne of God.

good friday

This news met with mixed reviews then and will continue to do so until our King finally establishes His forever reign in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Some saw and heard and experienced their own hard hearts melting, others scoffed and tried to stifle the strange news.

Sometimes, we forget the tools by which the Church is intended to move the world. Sometimes, instead of using our God-given lever and place to stand, we try to imitate the world’s tactics. We try to impress or intimidate or create our own little separate worlds. Other times, we forget that the gospel was intended to do work. We make it a trinket or a club membership card and sit in our comfortable rooms, unconcerned with the unmoved world and unclaimed hearts.

May we get busy with the same strange work that has been happening since Christ equipped us with His Spirit upon His leaving.

Admitting Inability: Raising Teenagers Edition

My boys are entering these already tenuous and tender years during a global pandemic, a fact which has their already-anxious mother desperate to get some handholds on expectations. My natural tendency is to deal with anxiety through research and preparation. As such, I began reading a book about the brain of a teenager last night. 

I woke up even more anxious, my own brain pounding with pressure. The author of the book was quick to recommend an environment of healthy attachments in which children are seen, soothed, safe, and secure.  He recommended teaching parents to help their children sift through the storms of emotions they would experience during the critical early adolescent years (SIFT being an acronym for doing self-scans on their senses, images, feelings, and thoughts). 

While I found the information helpful and plan to continue reading the book, the Lord was quick to remind me this morning that although wisdom is not less than information and research, it is far more than these. You see, this book, as with so many books published today, puts so much pressure on the reader as the point of origin. While the suggestions may be on point, they don’t start far enough back. 

I cannot even keep our fiddle leaf plant alive, yet I am expected to create a safe, soothing, secure environment from which our children can safely springboard into adulthood. To be honest, I don’t even feel like a full-fledged adult yet. I cannot keep my ducklings in a row because, most of the time, my ducklings are jumping on a couch or wrestling each other.

In fact, the more familiar I am with myself, the more confident I am in my own inability. Our culture would likely label this statement as neurotic, negative self talk that will only lead to defeat; however, this is verifiable truth, and far from leading to defeat, it leads me on the path of true flourishing. 

Rather than starting with all the positive self-talk or affirmation statements which our culture recommends, I took an honest assessment of myself and my parenting of these boys this morning. 

  • I cannot choose my children’s passions. I cannot even choose their friends. 
  • I cannot make the pandemic stop so they can be around the peer relationships they so hunger for right now. 
  • I cannot do or teach 8th grade math, especially not with all the changes of common core. 
  • I cannot create and maintain excitement in my children’s lives ( Read: I cannot make them have fun carving pumpkins, even if I have all the right carving tools). 
  • I cannot create spiritual interest. 
  • I cannot meet all my children’s emotional needs. 

My ownership of my own abounding inabilities press me into further dependence upon and trust in abounding abilities of God. 

  • He can help me see and shape the unique passions and gifts he has carefully placed within each one of these boys He has entrusted to me (Psalm 139). 
  • He not only sees into the deep recesses of their hearts, He cares deeply about what He finds therein. And unlike me, He is not powerless to change and transform at the heart level (Ezekiel 36:24-27). 
  • He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). As the Creator of all things, He stands at the center holding all things together with His powerful word (Colossians 1:17). He is not shocked by this season, though He sees with compassion the Zoom fatigue that is real in my boys’ bodies and eyes. 
  • His purposes will stand even when an abundance of human plans are continually thwarted (Proverbs 19:21). When their plans are disappointed and everything is on pivot, their God is unchanging and still has good gifts to give them (Hebrews 13:8 and James 2:17). 
  • He created math and smart people who make YouTube Tutorials to help my children (Romans 11:34 and 1 Corinthians 2:16). Seriously though, praise God for diverse passions spread out among His people, because probability is not one of mine!
  • He can stir up my children’s hearts and melt them with his kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). He can go where even my most thought-provoking, searching questions cannot. He already has maps of the complex topographies of their teenage hearts. And He  will guide me as I go, through His Spirit who will give me wisdom in all things (John 16:13 and 2 Timothy 2:7)
  • He alone can be their lasting and surpassing joy (Psalm 16:11). I can plan exciting outings  and socially-distant creative fun for them, but their lasting joy must come from Him. Eternity has been set deep in their hearts and they won’t be satisfied with anything less (Ecclesiastes 3:11 and Psalm 73:25-26). 

Having honestly admitted my own inabilities, I can whole-heartedly embrace God’s abilities. From the sure foundation of His Word, I can now employ common-grace-tools and tactics suggested by a plethora of parenting books without putting crushing pressure on myself or my children.