Durable Delights

The fate of most small, plastic toys in this house is the same: first the junk drawer then the trash can. The life cycle tends to run about a week, although McDonald’s toys last about 10 minutes and Nerf bullets last about two weeks. Legos are the exception, of course. Long live the Lego!

Melissa and Doug (whomever they may be) realized that we all long for more durable delights and made a fortune creating old school wooden toys and puzzles that don’t end up in the junk drawer.


As I have been reading Thomas Brooks’ Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, the contrast between junky plastic toys and solid wooden classics has been on the forefront of my brain. Strange connection between my two favorite worlds, the world of Puritan writings and momma-land, I know.

“Where one thousand are destroyed by the worlds frowns, ten thousand  are destroyed by the worlds smiles.”

One of the devices most employed by the Enemy which Brooks dwells upon in depth is the allurement of this world. Even though Brooks’ had no idea how consumerism and a culture of comfort would grow and develop, his words speak so aptly to our culture and to my own heart.

“You may as soon fill a bag with wisdom, a chest with virtue, or a circle with a triangle, as the heart of man with anything here below. A man may have enough of the world to sink him, but he can never have enough to satisfy him.”

When I see my children fixating on collecting precious toys that quickly lose their luster, these truths are so clear to me; however, I struggle to see the idiocy of my own attempts to collect comfort and treasures on this earth. A new home, a new rug, a better school, a getaway to an exciting place: these are the equivalent to plastic, junk drawer joys when compared to the solid, durable delights that I have in union with Christ.

“The treasures of the saint are the presence of God, the favor of God, union and communion with God, the pardon of sin, the joy of the spirit, the peace of conscience, which are jewels that none can give but Christ nor none can take away but Christ.”

I long to invest my time, energy and resources on earth storing up durable delights that will last even beyond the frames of this fragile life. Cultivating my own walk with God, encouraging and enabling my children’s relationships with the Lord and one another, praying for and befriending the sheep that are not yet of Jesus’ fold, but are meant to be (John 10), these are durable delights. Yet so often, these get pushed aside by the plastic distractions of this world, lost in the shuffle of temporary toys.

I spend so much time organizing, protecting and caring for the temporary toys, that I often neglect the durable delights that are less shiny and less loudly advertised. While the durable delights of union of with Christ are expensive, they have been fully purchased for us by the very same Christ. The wooden, lasting lovelies of Christ sit gathering dust in a bin while I frantically pander to the plastic.

“Oh, let your souls dwell upon the vanity of all things here below, til your hearts be so thoroughly convinced and persuaded of the vanity of them, as to trample upon them and make them a footstool for Christ to get up and ride in a holy triumph in your hearts.” 

I love the image that Brooks paints. I can see, in my mind’s eye, a pile of the plastic, temporary toys of this life, being climbed by Christ as He becomes rightful King on the throne of my heart and desires.

Christ is THE durable delight from which all pleasures flow. He is the center of our desires and all good gifts radiate out from Him (James 1:17). May He sit on the rightful throne, as we allow the lesser, temporary joys to be His footstool!




Advertising Adulthood

The way we talk about adulthood flows directly from how we think about adulthood, and both of these matter significantly, not only for ourselves but also for the generations that are following on our heels and being raised in our homes.

If newsfeeds and funny memes are any indication of the current cultural view of “adulting” (to borrow a popular phrase), we are being poor advertisers of adulthood.

Just today, while toting my littlest fella around with me on necessary errands that keep order in our lives, food in our pantries and stability in our home, I saw these journals speaking pejoratively about adulthood and its myriad responsibilities.


Despite the fact that it was written in gold letters, the message is rusted and rotten. While it may mask itself as humor, underneath the “authenticity” lies an insidious complaint that adulthood is mere drudgery.

In Philippians, one of the rare letters in which Paul’s purpose was to praise and encourage an obedient Church rather than correct an erring Church, Paul warns against complaining.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Philippians 2:14-16. 

In these verses, Paul has connected grumbling and disputing with blemishes. Yet, our culture (which seeps into the Church often imperceptibly) seems to be branding what God calls a blemish. Even though I am not gifted in the interior decor department, even I know that it would be a poor decision to decorate our homes with blemishes and eyesores. However, if we listen to the culture of complaint and get pulled into its currents and norms, we will be not only normalizing but also espousing a false view of adulthood.

I recognize that each generation swings the pendulum as far as possible from the errors of its preceding generation. As such, it should not surprise us that my generation touts authenticity as the highest good. After all, the generations before tended to smile and stuff, to present to the world a polished exterior and ignore or minimize the unsightly or uncomfortable realities of life. However, we ought to be careful, for we have so highly raised the flag of authenticity that complaining, under the guise of “keeping it real,” is being celebrated before and to our children.

As an adult, I do not want my children to be misinformed about adulthood and the necessary and right responsibilities which accompany it. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, vacations and trips to the salon. I do not want generations following us to have unrealistic expectations that adulthood is the height of all bliss and comfort; however, I fear that we are painting a bleak and unbiblical picture of adulthood for them.

Yes, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, hours to log and carpools to drive. Yes, these can be challenging and draining at times. However, we will foster generations of Peter Pans who fear growing up if we do not invite our children into the joys and wonder of adulthood, as well as its challenges.

Lest you think I am pointing the finger out there, I want to invite you in here, into my own mistakes and home. Yesterday, I caught myself sighing loudly while on hold with the insurance company (my least favorite part of adulting includes the phone and any kind of elevator music played while on a 20-minute hold). My son was in the room and, in concern, asked what was wrong.

I caught myself about to complain, but remembered that I have a chance to teach my child the value of obedience, even in the most boring stuff. Thus, rather than say what my flesh wanted to say, I said, “It stinks to talk to insurance companies, but I am so glad that we have dental care. When I make this call, I allow us to stay with the dentist that we love and trust and not have to switch again.”

A small victory, to be sure, but a start.

I long for my children to look at all of life from a biblical worldview. I long them for them to be lights shining brightly in a dark world, as Paul longed for his Philippians friends. In order to do that, I have some work to do in my heart regarding the culture of complaining in which we live and which lives latent in all of us.  I have some work to do in teasing out the wonder and beauty that is often buried under the bed of chores and musts and oughts of adulthood in my own life.


The Gift of Powerlessness

For my birthday, my husband got me a new house. Along with that new home, the Lord has given me the surprising gift of powerlessness. Neither of these were on my radar.

God had done so much in our hearts, lives and family in this tiny home.  At first, I tolerated our house. Small and strangely-shaped with a kitchen featuring more peach tile than should be allowed to exist on the entire planet, we did our best to adjust our expectations from the affordable Southeast to the exorbitant Southern California market.

But somewhere in between remodeling our kitchen together, building a deck with our newborn in a baby carrier and growing to love our neighbors, the odd house became our home.  As we packed up pillows and pushed couches, I could not help but think about the conversations had on them, the tears cried into them, the children who catapulted onto or off of them.  As such, I was already a mess for weeks leading up to moving day.


As exciting as it is to move into a home with more space, the moving process has left my soul as exposed as the bare walls on in our old house. With every piece of furniture moved, an artillery of AWOL Nerf bullets and a myriad of missing marbles were discovered, leaving me questioning my fitness as a housekeeper. On a deeper level, packing exposed hordes of hidden fears, as questions seemed to piling up with the boxes.

What if we made the wrong decision? What if the boys don’t make new friends in the neighborhood? Why are we leaving such a good place?  Could God really meet and grow us in our new place the way He has so graciously met and grown us and so many others here

In my head, I imagined moving day being chaotic but celebratory, a fitting cap stone of our years in this home. I was mistaken.

In San Diego, where it hardly ever rains, it poured. All day.  Soggy boxes and grumpy kids who were far more parts gloomy than glad did not pair well with my already-anxious, dependency-averse heart. The staging company neglected to remove the house full of furniture, leaving our chaotic new house a maze of muddy furniture.  We did not get nearly as far as I had imagined, so we went to bed tired and unsettled. We woke up all night, stumbling around boxes to care for one child terrible anxiety and another with a ruptured ear drum from a sudden earache.

Needless to say, I teared up in bed, overwhelmed by my powerlessness. This is not what I thought it would be.

As we walked into Church the next morning, I felt the way my hair looked, as I couldn’t find my blow dryer: crumpled and out of control.

And then God did what God always does in our powerlessness. He showed up.

As I spoke with a dear friend who has befriended a precious Syrian family, I was reminded of the crisis surrounding Damascus. We have a home. We have food. Thank you, Jesus.

Rather than fleeing at the end of service to frantically unpack boxes, we ended up inviting dear friends to come and bring us lunch and eat with us in the midst of the chaos. The kids played while the adults used their precious Sunday afternoon moving furniture and breaking down boxes with us. The home that last night was filled with crying was filled with laughter and friendship. Thank you, Jesus.

College friends came by to help move things. Dear friends took me out to dinner to share laughter and life on my birthday. We have been richly blessed beyond measure with a community of faith. My cup runneth over. Thank you, Jesus.

In a matter of hours, God had shown His power and beauty through my utter powerlessness. He forced me to forget my rugged individualism and to rely on community when I was less together than my altogether un-together home.

He knew exactly what I needed and never wanted for my birthday, powerlessness. What a good God we serve.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9. 

Yes & No

When Jesus offers us the twin gift set of His likeness and more of Him in the strange dressing of suffering, it is tempting to resist by saying “No.” No, this cannot be. No, this will not be. No, this was not the plan. No, not now. No, to this person. No, not in our family. 

When suffering comes, we are invited to two paradoxical responses: a defiant “No” to the world, the flesh and the devil, and a submissive, trusting “Yes” to God. Even in the midst of sudden diagnoses, shocking deaths and steady disappointments, we are called and coaxed to say yes, even reluctantly, to our Triune God. Our God is Father who sovereignly works all things together for our good as Father, Son who was born to suffer as Savior, and Holy Spirit who soothes us in our sufferings.

Jill Phillips has a beautifully defiant song called Even Still that always comes to mind when Satan’s fingerprints can be found mucking up my life or the lives of those I most dearly love.

“Well you came just like they said you would
Like you always have from what I’ve seen and heard
And you took our dreams and future plans
Crushed them all like grains of sand

Even still, even still
You have no power, you never will
And even still, even still
You have no power and you never will.”

I love this song, specifically the chorus, because it reminds me that we are invited to call our Enemy who he is: a defeated fear monger whose days of wreaking havoc are numbered.

I don’t have a hard time descrying evil and suffering; that part of the equation comes as naturally to me as liking coffee and chocolate. I do, however, have a hard time receiving suffering, accepting unexpected hardships and what seem to me to be sad surprises from the Lord.

My flesh resists the thought of crosses in my life. My heart recoils at the mere thought, let alone the real presence of crosses in the lives of my children. Yet, God has been reminding of me late that it is His to plan and my to receive the unique stories He is writing for each of us.

It is so very easy and natural for me to receive good gifts from the Lord. Yes please to the generous gift. Why, certainly to the unexpected friendship.  But the same hands that greedily grab at what I deem the “good gifts” of the Father suddenly become tight fists when He offers me or my loved ones the gifts of suffering.

For all the promises of God find their yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory. 2 Corinthians 1:20. 

Jesus, who said a reluctant but resplendent yes to His father in the Garden of Gethsemane, became the very Yes to all the promises of God on the Cross.


When I think about His Yes which became the Yes to every promise of God, I find my heart more able to say very reluctant yeses to the smaller sufferings that He has hand-picked for me and my loved ones.

It certainly helps that we see the Cross through the empty tomb, that we have the written accounts of those who walked and ate meals with the Risen Lord. We see that the Enemy’s haughty YES at his supposed victory on Friday as Jesus died on a Cross was became God’s defiant NO to sin, evil and brokenness on Sunday with the Resurrection of Christ.

As such, we would do well to learn to receive the gift of suffering and watch our loved ones wrestle with their versions of those gifts. For God seems to use suffering as the greatest gift, the invitation and pathway into more of the life for which we most deeply long.

 Father, give us simultaneously strong and submissive hearts. Strong enough to shout a defiant NO to the enemy and the flesh, but submissive enough to whisper a trembling but trusting YES to you. Amen. 

Photo credit to Setara who works beauty out of dead petals!


To The Uttermost

I feel like the Lent train left the station weeks ago, and I am beyond late to arrive at the station. Rather than my usual self-loathing, I’ve decided to let the Spirit just drop me onto the moving train mid-way. Even though I landed with a thud, I am glad to be on the speeding train taking us to the Savior. As such, I am rather abruptly jumping into 13th chapter of John’s gospel. But the meal laid out there, even in one simple verse, was enough to feed this hungry and harried soul.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1.

It should go without saying that Jesus was a Jew, but sometimes we forget. He was raised in a devout Jewish household, as we know from the family’s two recorded trips to Jerusalem, one for Jesus’ dedication and the one where Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus who was again in the Temple as a twelve year old boy.  He knew the Torah, as seen so clearly in His word-thwarted desert temptation.  He likely had many fond memories of celebrating the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew year.

As such, the simple introductory phrase, “Now before the Feast of the Passover,” is a loaded statement.  Just as we tend to start anticipating Christmas when the Christmas tree stands begin to pop up and the days shorten as the cold strengthens, Jesus likely felt all the feels that the big Jewish celebration was coming. There was probably an extra pep in the step of his travel-weary band of itinerant preachers-in-the-making as they began to plan and prepare for their Passover celebration. Festivities were about to get underway: there were Upper Rooms to rent via supernatural direction to a donkey, there was food to buy and much to do.

Yet, while His disciples hearts were counting down the days, Jesus was winding up for His big day.

One of the unique elements of John’s gospel is a holding back of Jesus for the first half of the book. In John 2:4 and John 7:6, we hear Jesus saying, “My hour is not yet come.” The image that comes to mind is that of a dam holding back water that is gathering in strength behind it, increasing pressure behind the wall.

Then, in John 12:23, we hear Jesus announcing in response to a question regarding Greeks wanting to worship at the feast as well, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus has moved from passive to active, the levy is about to break, and soon the Son of God will no longer be holding back. So what is His hour, what are Jesus and John seeking to communicate to us, the reader?

Jesus’ hour, the thing for which He came, was to open up a way for both Greek and Jew to be made right with God, to receive back the eternal life from which they have been severed by sin. He knew that the Passion He would set us His face like flint to resolutely receive was the express purpose for which He came to earth.

Thus, while the disciples were gearing up to remember the Passover Lamb slain that God’s people might be spared, Jesus was gearing up to be the ultimate Passover lamb.


The Greek word translated depart in the aforementioned verse, metabainó, can be translated to pass over, to depart, to move. I don’t think it is coincidence that John chose this specific Greek word to describe Jesus’ musing over the Hebrew celebration and its imminent fulfillment in His death on the Cross.

Jesus knew He must die so that death could pass over His people. He knew that this is what it meant to love His own, those entrusted to Him by God the Father, to the uttermost. The Greek word used to describe Jesus’ loving his own to the end, telos, can also be translated to mean capacity rather than length of time. Thus, rather then thinking, He loved them up to the last days, which He indeed did, we can also think of another meaning, “He loved them to the uttermost, the furthermost point in His heart’s capacity.”

He loved us all the way to the Cross. He loved His own to the uttermost by becoming the Passover Lamb. He walked resolutely to death and was laid in a dark and cold tomb that we could pass over death.

May we model this love to the uttermost in the lives of those whom the Lord has entrusted to us, be they our children, our neighbors, our students or our friends.

On Comfortable Crosses

We want to make Christianity and the Cross as palatable as possible, like those who put dehydrated fruits and veggies in easy-to-swallow, convenient capsules.

But the Cross doesn’t and shouldn’t fit into a capsule. It is not meant to change form. Just as the splintered beam that Simon the Cyrene stepped in to help the exhausted  Christ carry was bulky and blistering, blunderingly heavy and uncomfortable, the crosses Christ bids us to carry are not meant to be comfortable.james-l-w-400855-unsplash.jpgThe women at our Church are finishing up many months of being camped out in the book of Galatians, a rip-roaring letter from Paul to a young Church to lovingly rebuke them for stepping away from faith in Christ alone for right-standing before God. The Cross and justification by grace alone through faith alone are central themes in his letter.

Paul ends his letter to the Galatians with one last juxtaposition between the false teachings of the Judaizers and the truth of Christianity. The false teachers who had stirred up their newly-rooted faith in Christ had it as their aim “to make a good showing the flesh” (Galatians 6:12). Paul boldly places their desire to make a good showing in the flesh alongside his less-palatable platform to boast in the Cross.

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6: 14.

To Twenty-first century, Western ears, the phrase has certain ring to it. We can be tempted to want to drop “Boast in the cross” into a growing list of Christian catchphrases, just as my son adds little rocks and pebbles to the growing collections he keeps in his pant pockets.

Before we slap these phrases onto shirts and paint them on cute signs to hang on our walls, we would do well to consider what they actually meant to the original audience. To First-century ears, crosses were not religious symbols or icons but were all-too-real shameful instruments of execution.

Death to self that we might live in the pattern of Christ was Paul’s clarion call to Jew and Gentile alike. The cross of Christ and the call of the Christian to follow Christ by boasting in His Cross and taking up our own crosses remained his swan song to the end.

He did not preach this cerebrally, but lived it experientially, with the physical, emotional and spiritual scars to prove it. He called this beloved fledgling Church to do exactly what he had been doing since His conversion to Christ, and he pointed them to real examples of his own real suffering for the sake of gospel of Christ.

Brennan Manning challenges us along a a similar thread in his book, The Signature of Jesus. 

“There is no genuine Christianity where the sign of the Cross is absent. Cheap grace is grace without the Cross, an intellectual assent to a dusty pawnshop of doctrinal beliefs while drifting aimlessly with the cultural values of the secular city. Discipleship without sacrifice breeds comfortable Christianity barely distinguishable in its mediocrity from the rest of the world. The cross is both the test and the destiny of a follower of Christ.”

When I look at my neighbors who have been fostering two older boys for many years now, folding them into their own little flock sacrificially, I see the uncomfortable Cross of Christ. When I listen to our staff girls crying and praying over college girls who are running to the world  rather than running to Christ, I see the uncomfortable Cross of Christ. When I run my hand over my own life, where do I see and feel the uncomfortable Cross of Christ?

Are we making the Cross of Christ our boast? Are our lives becoming cruciform? Are we taking real risks and stepping toward messes, compelled by the love of Christ? Can we point others to the fact that, while crosses are terribly uncomfortable, we carry them by the power of the Spirit, the ever-present, indwelling Comforter?

In the words C.S. Lewis, “But the cross comes before the crown, and tomorrow is a Monday morning.”


Behind the Basin

Last memories matter.

It should come as no surprise to us that Jesus, who was the most intentional human to ever walk this globe, was very intentional about His lasts with His disciples. Of course Jesus wanted to leave a few specific scenes burned on the brains and seared onto the souls of His disciples and best friends.

What does shock and surprise me, and should scare the flesh in all of us, are the specific last scenes that Jesus intentionally played out for his friends.  The two symbols that Jesus left with His followers that night were a table and a basin, two ordinary objects that conveyed sacrifice and service in community.

He could have given them a scepter as a last group impression, a symbol of power and sovereignty.  Yet, for His last lesson with the band of brothers who had literally followed him in the world’s classroom of highways and byways, He chose to wash nasty feet.

Feet. Jesus dreamed up the tarsals and metatarsals. He spoke and the bones were formed in the foot of the first man.  He did the unthinkable and became a baby who played with His feet. He stubbed His toes and likely got callouses as He logged some serious mileage on those two puppies.

One of the last scenes of his short life involved Him dressing himself like a common household servant and washing the nasty feet of his friends. He slowly went around a room of twelve dear friends, one of whom He knew would betray him in a few short hours, caressing and cleaning their feet.


He has called us to be people of the basin. Basins imply a lifetime of unsexy, selfless service. Basin living looks different for each of us and changes in different seasons. Basin living may mean changing diapers in the nursery or soiled bed sheets as you care for an aging parent. It may mean investing in the lives of students who have little support outside of the classroom or it may mean folding laundry.

While the spaces and places where we use our basins look widely different, the people behind the basins share one thing in common: behind the basin must be stand someone who is convinced that he or she is the beloved of God.

In his prelude to his series of Last Supper stories which covers the majority of his gospel, John lets us into a few clues of what enabled and empowered the Savior’s service leading up to the ultimate Sacrifice on the Cross.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray his, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments and, taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13: 1-5 (emphasis mine), 

Jesus lived all of his life in an atmosphere of assurance of the love of His Father. He knew that the Father had given and would give Him all He needed to do His will. He knew that the embrace of the Father whom He had willingly left to become a man was waiting for Him upon His return from His quick dash to the earth.

The love of the Father freed Jesus to pick up the basin and put down His own rights, yet again. Assurance of His place as the Beloved of the Father freed Him to take the place of a servant, even a servant who would wash the feet that would flee to betray him moments later.

Through faith in Christ’s life, death and resurrection we are named the beloved of God. We are invited, through faith, into the same atmosphere of beloved-ness that compelled Christ to the basin.

Dirty feet, dashed heart and desperate neighbors abound. May we bask in the undeserved, unearned and unconditional love of God, and thus become people of the basin and towel.



Piercing Perfectionism

In the midst of one of the crazier seasons of our lives, we are moving.  For years we have been praying that at the right time and in the right way, God would provide a way for us to rent our current home to some of our beloved San Diego State students and settle into one with a little more space. In His timing, He has provided.

I waiver between elation at God’s provision of a new home for us with a tree that is not of the palm variety and extreme anxiety regarding an impending move. I love structure, stability, everything with a place and everything in its place. I am raising similar little souls in my three boys. We are all kinds of discombobulated.

In an effort to to set realistic expectations about the next few weeks before we move mid-March, I said to my husband, “You just need to prepare for me to not be my best Aimee,” to which I received back a chuckle.

Curious as to the cause of the smirk on his face, I asked what he found so funny. His reply: “You are assuming in that statement that you are often your best Aimee.”

I am pretty certain he meant it in jest, but the statement jarred and jostled me this week. With one playful statement, my husband had me (or rather, God had me pegged through my husband).

The scary reality is that most days my goal is to present my best self forward. I am a recovering perfectionist though neither my house nor the state of my abs (that state being missing altogether, lost, AWOL, etc…) seem to say so.

God has been doing a long work on loosening an overly-tight and tense soul. Marriage has helped this work along, but, truth be told, the main catalyst has been parenting three boys. With each child, God has been expertly and effectively chipping away at my perfectionism and need for control.

Yet, with every major life change or transition, God graciously reminds me that rugged remnants of my perfectionism remain, lying latent in my soul. Plastic bins packed with pictures, toiletries, but mostly books, balk at my perfectionistic tendencies.

As we pull away beds and dressers, exposing hidden haunts of dust colonies, God is simultaneously pulling away my soul’s cover of a patchwork perfectionism. Because I cannot compete with true perfection, I have created my own standards of mothering, wifing, discipling and human-ing to which I daily strive to adhere.

With a room full of moving boxes and a few bare walls, God has laid bare my soul once again.  With the move, I have had to ask for more apologies, more grace and more help than feels comfortable for my perfectionism-plagued soul.

My middle son and I went on a dreaming date to the ulterior universe called Ikea last week to get ideas for his new room. As we were walking through the showrooms of sensory overload, a poster caught our attention (and not because of its strange name… RIBBA).


We had a precious conversation about both of our tendencies to want to get everything right, to do all things well, to avoid mistakes like the plague. We talked about how the gospel pierces our carefully-built armors of perfectionism, about how Jesus welcomes our limitations and failures as opportunities to press our deepest identities more deeply into us, about how Jesus is THE PERFECT one to whom our mistakes are meant to point us.

Later, my sweet little buddy made me his own far-better version of the poster. I plan to treasure it for the rest of my life. More than that, I pray that God would continue to pursue me and order my life in such a way that what remains of my perfectionism would be pierced through with gospel freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1. 

In Christ, we are free to risk, free to fail, free to rejoice in our limitations because we serve the unlimited One who was limited to the Cross on our behalf. In Christ, I do not need the armor of perfectionism to protect my image, for I am hidden in the visible image of the Invisible God.

With these timeless truths shoring up my struggling soul, it is back to the boxes for me and mine. See you on the other side.

The Ascendancy of Astrology

The Target dollar zone destroys budgets, but it also gives a window of insight into our culture. As a mother with the love language of gifts whose children are all-too-ready to receive gifts, I am drawn to the Target dollar zone like a moth to a flame. Recently, while the magnet was doing its work pulling me in, I saw something that caught my eye and saddened my soul: an entire kids’ section devoted to Zodiac symbols.

Recently, at our local Starbucks, a poster proudly displaying a fusion of Astrology and Eastern tradition animal signs caught my eye. Syncretism, or the blending and combining together of various beliefs or practices, at its finest.

What I found most alarming was the subtle bleeding of such beliefs into the common spaces and places. Well-intended people could easily purchase a cute item and even wear it proudly without having any idea the glacial belief systems under the surface.

As such, I found my heart thinking on Astrology and how I, as a believer and follower of Christ and His way,  should respond to the slow infiltration of astrology into our culture.

Astrology Historically
Astrology, the study of the movements of celestial objects for the means of divining and understanding human affairs, has been present in the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia, in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, as well as in the earliest Eastern traditions. As a large umbrella term, astrology includes a wide variety of varying practices including tarot cards, the zodiac signs and horoscopes.

This stuff sounds like ancient history to me; however, living on the West Coast for over six years now, I am shocked by the seemingly ubiquitous nature of palm readers, tarot cards, and zodiac interest.

For the first time in my life, I have an unbelieving acquaintance who earnestly believes in astrological signs. During a conversation about parenting, she brought up her child’s sign and how she saw that sign played out in her life daily.

At the time, I was shocked and unsure how to proceed in our conversation. However, now that I have thought about it, I wish I would been quick to enter the conversation more deeply rather than avoid it.

Astrology Unearthed
It should not surprise us that astrology seems to be nearly as old as humanity. In the Fall of man, when Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, they opened Pandora’s box, quite literally. In the severing of mankind from the intimate, informing and transforming vital relationship to God, the Creator, this act began the human search for meaning apart from God.

Astrology gets human eyes and minds (and arguably souls) to look up beyond the right here and right now. It lifts hungry and searching eyes to the skies, but it stops short by not begging them to look beyond the canvas of creation back to the knowable Creator of such a masterpiece.

I would have loved to have pointed out how, as a Christian, I too, tend to look for a greater power to explain my life and give it order and shape and boundaries. I would have asked her how she felt about an impersonal power having such a deep effect upon the daily life of her precious daughter. I would also have shared that I believe astrology fails not because it goes too far, but because it does not go far enough.

I believe that the younger generations have been raised in such a vacuum of truth and in an endless sea of isolated truths. They have not been connected to history or the greater context of the world. As such, they are hungry for truth that has its roots back in human history. As such, it is no wonder that interest in astrology as a legitimate source of truth and inspiration is making a comeback.


I would share with my friend that I feel her deep hunger to be anchored into the deep layers of human history, but I would also challenge her that she is not going deep enough into history. I would tell her that not only is Christianity deeply anchored in history, but that it is a faith system anchored in the time-before-time when the God who made the stars also made humans.

In a postmodern and largely post-christian West Coast culture, I am learning to interact with thought and belief systems that I have previously thought to be things of the past, outdated old superstitions covered in cob webs.

As hungry humans search through the attics of human history for something to give their lives meaning, we would do well to learn how to winsomely interact with ancient belief systems making a comeback.

As Paul spoke to the men in Athens, who like my friend were looking for answers in stars and such, we too can interact with those who are blindly grasping at truth by pointing them to the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since He himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way to Him and find HIm. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. Acts 17: 22-27.

Thankfully, the gospel does not expire and offers us the deepest answers to every human legitimate longing of the human heart.

Faith Beyond Formulas

I still remember the quadratic equation, due in part to a dynamic teacher who made up catchy jingles and in part to a love of order and rules. In both high school and college Chemistry classes, I loved stoichiometry because all the equations balanced out. It may have taken many minutes and a headache or two, but eventually everything found its right place. Neat, clean, predictable.


How often I have tried to force the Christian life into a formula. If I pray and tithe and seek you first, then fill-in-the-blank. In different seasons, the blank line has been filled in with statements like, “you will give me a spouse,” “you will redeem my entire family,” and “you will not let my children suffer.

Even more insidious are the side formulas I have created: If I suffer, you must show me tangible ways that you are working it for good on my timetable or These are the ways I am willing to suffer for you, Lord (x, y and z) but if these things happen (a, b and c) you must not be good or real or present. 

As I have been processing the unexpected and early suffering of close friends and reading Michael Card’s excellent and timely book, A Sacred Sorrow, I have been convicted of my inordinate love of formula faith.

Card makes the fascinating observation that the book of Job and the other books known collectively as Wisdom Writings were written during a time of confusion and upheaval in the life of Israel. The earlier books had led Israel to focus on Torah obedience. As they had tried (largely unsuccessfully) to keep Torah Obedience, they came to a period of disillusionment and questioning, “Is this really all it is cracked up to be? It doesn’t seem to be working.”

If you know anything of the book of Job, you know that his friends tried to press his situation of immense and complete suffering into their existing formulas of Torah obedience.

“Their one-dimensional conclusions are inescapable. Job is in the process of perishing for something he has done. There is no mystery, only the cold, hard reality of retribution.”

In his book, Intimacy, Henri Nouwen also talks about such formulaic faith that keeps God in the equations of control.

“God is the factotum which comes in handy in times of illness, shock, final exams, in every situation in which we feel insecure. And if it does not work, the only reaction may be to cry louder. Far from becoming the Other, whose existence does not depend on mine, he might remain the easy frame which fits best around the edges of my security.” 

According to Nouwen, “healthy development means a gradual movement out of the magical world.” If are not able to move beyond formulaic faith, “God remains the magical pacifier whose existence depends on ours. Prayers remain tools to manipulate him in our direction and religion is nothing more than a big, soft bed on which we doze away and deny the hardships of life.”

Thankfully, in the book of Job, we see God attempting to shatter His people’s rudimentary view of formulaic faith. We see the foreshadowing of a God who would break the incomplete equation of Torah obedience as He willingly broke His son on the Cross.

“The heart of the complete equation, which only Job’s suffering could have given him the arithmetic for, involves a God no one could have possibly imagined before, a God who pays the price for sin with Himself….The God of the completed equation is a God who is beyond all equations. He is wild and impossible and totally Other.”

Although we live on the other side of the Cross, we tend to live like Job’s friends, trying to force our live, our experiences and even our God to fit into a formula of our own making. When we do so, we negate the power of the Cross and cut ourselves off from the life-sap that flows from the mysterious yet marred Savior.

When you pray, what are the hidden formulas underneath your words and requests? Where are you approaching God with a formulaic faith? Where in your life do you see God showing Himself as the Mysterious yet approachable suffering savior who does not promise us a formula but Himself?