Droplets of Awe

Awe travels slowly like the last drips of honey from the Honey bear. Heavy with rich sweetness, neither awe nor honey are highly viscous. They both tend to move painfully slow from the source to the senses. However, if we are unhurried, little drops of awe will reach us, leading leading us into adoration of the One who Himself is awesome.

When we are too hurried, when our calendars are too full and our minds too preoccupied, awe doesn’t have time to reach us. We fly through our agendas and our errands missing droplets of awe all around us that might have pointed us back to the One who both delivers deserves our awe.

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Each week during my Sabbath time, I take a few moments to look back not the week prior and practice being more like the leper who returned to give thanks than the other nine I so often resemble in the moment.

While studying Psalm 33, I was convicted to the core by a few simple verses.

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous. Praise befits the upright…Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe before him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm. Psalm 33:1 & 8-9. 

This past week was full of awesome feats and bits of beauty. A friend whose life was spared through prayer, another friend engaged to the love of her life, college students sharing parts of their stories with me, children fighting through insecurity in sports and showing up bravely to play.

There was no lack of droplets of awe; but there was a glaring lack of awe in my heart.

Despite the fact that there were truly awesome things all around me last week, I did not even have the time in the midst of the chaos to let the droplets of awe fully reach me. I was too busy, rushing from thing to thing, from tax return to tax return, from field trip to field trip.

No time to let the sweet drops slowly crawl down the side of the bottle to reach my senses or my soul.

My shouts for joy in the Lord shorten and slowly disappear when I have not had enough time to receive and process the droplets of awe all around me. This does not make God less awesome. All He is He is eternally. He is essentially awesome and worthy of fear and adoration. It does, however, cheat me of the freeing opportunity to worship and adore Him, which is as much of a gift to my self-obsessed soul as it is to the Lord whom we worship.

However, when I sit still long enough, the sweet droplets reach my awe-starved soul and are returned to the Lord in the form of praise and adoration.

I don’t have to go to the Grand Canyon or the White Cliffs of Dover to experience awe, though I certainly hope that one day I shall do both.

Residue of our awesome creator is all over everything He has made, just like my children’s sticky fingers mark every square inch they touch after they have eaten honey or syrup.

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The little tiny flowers that litter the path I walk more than twice a day at the boy’s elementary school often escape my notice. I usually just tromp right by them if I am not crushing them with my carelessness. Yet, one day when my heart was stilled and I was not in such a frantic hurry, I noticed that their center creates a perfect pentagon. Scores of perfect, nearly imperceptible pentagons from the Brilliant Mathematician who is our God.

The slight breeze on my cheeks, the raindrops that have been falling on our formerly drought-ridden terrain, even the little gopher who keeps digging labyrinth-like burrows in our backyard. These are little droplets of awe meant to stir my senses to render praise back to the Awesome One.

We would do well to practice gathering droplets of awe and letting them lead us into humble adoration of the Triune God now. For the believer, the future is full of outright adoration of the Lord; even those who refuse Him will bow their knees in fear before Him.

 

 

Stillness is Not Stasis

In a nation historically known for its restlessness and in an age where productivity and action are highly valued, stillness seems like an antique. In such a culture and with hearts that tend towards restlessness until they find their rest in Christ, it is easy to confuse motion with meaning and stillness with stasis.

Recently, a friend sent a short devotional sound bite from John Piper where he talked about the wind blowing dead leaves. While they are often whipped into motion, they are not alive. Their movement is not intentional, but incidental. I hated to admit how much of my life was marked by mostly meaningless motion.

The ability to move and to act are gifts from God given to us as those created in His image. However, sometimes motion and activity can be a distraction from deeper living. According to French philosopher Blaise Pascal, “All of humanity’s problem stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” While shaded with some hyperbole, this statement addresses our tendency to use busyness and motion as shields from facing the deeper problems of our human existence.

In his book Fool’s Talk, Os Guinness mentions two poles towards which the hearts and minds of unbelievers can be pulled: the dilemma pole and the diversion pole. Because God’s word is truth, the unbelief of a human does not change reality. Thus, those living in unbelief have two options. The first option is towards despair, because if they are consistent with their belief that there is not god and therefore no meaning, life becomes a dilemma. Humans are reduced to chance accumulation of cells and proteins with no greater purpose. The other (much more common) option is towards distraction and diversion. On this pole, people realize that God’s reality is likely true but don’t want to have to bow their knees to Him. As such, they keep themselves busy, distracted, and entertained to avoid the deeper realities they want to avoid.

While Guinness is speaking specifically about those who do not believe in God, I find his words convicting for my own heart. It is far easier to stay busy with activity than to sit and meet with the Lord, bow my will before Him, and walk in humble obedience to Him.

In his poem “Reflections in a Forest,” W.H. Auden addresses a similar meaningless motion that marks humanity.

Turn all tree-signals into speech
And what comes out is a command:
“Keep running if you want to reach
The point of knowing where you stand…”

Our race would not have gotten far,
Had we not learned to bluff if out
And look more certain than we are
Of what our motion is about;

So many of us are bluffing. I know I often am. And I do know what our lives are supposed to be about: living for the Lord’s glory, knowing Him, and making Him known. Sometimes it is just easier to move than to be still.

But stillness with and for the Savior is not stasis. Like water building up behind a dam, collecting potential energy for the time when it is to be released to do intentional work, stillness for the purpose of intimacy with the Lord is power.

When Moses found himself in a situation as a leader that seemed to require immediate and intense action and activity, his utter dependence upon the Lord led him to command the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent (Ex. 14:13–14).

Stillness that is birthed out of trust and belief in the Savior is never stasis. Rather, it leads to intentional activity. Before we can step into meaningful activity and intentional work, we are invited to remember that God is the ground from which all of our work comes and the One to whom all our work is directed.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress (Psalm 46:10–11).

May we not confuse motion with meaning or stillness with stasis. May we sit before our God long enough to remember the purpose and power behind all our activity.

Harboring the Mob: A Lenten Devotional

“Evil is unspectacular and always human,
And shares our bed and eats our own table…”

-W. H. Auden from “Herman Melville”

This Lent, I am fighting my innate tendency to identify myself with the “good guys” of Holy Week while vilifying the obvious “bad guys.” It is all-too-easy to read the gospels through a moralistic lens; however, if I understand the gospel correctly, every believer has a bit of the “bad guys” in them in some seed-like form. I want and need to do the hard work of searching my own heart for latent kernels of hidden and habitual sin. To have a truly biblical view of self is to admit that, given the right soils and circumstances, such kernels could grow into full-grown sin if not seen and laid before the light.

The gospel tells me that my heart harbors both hatred and hope. My hope, therefore, is not what is true about me, but what is true about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. As such, I am free to admit the ugly and to run to the Beautiful One.

Crowds. Some people love them. Other people hate them. But all of us are affected by them. We are influenced and shaped by the opinions of those around us. Whether adapting or pushing back upon the opinions of the crowds around us, we react to the opinions of others.

I did not realize how contagious crowd-think could be until the pandemic hit. While I am typically a fairly steady person, I felt like a chameleon when the coronavirus hit. My opinions shifted daily, sometimes hourly, depending on what articles I had recently read and who I was around. I found myself wanting to fit in and be accepted into whatever circles of strong opinions surrounded me at the moment.

Crowds play a significant part in the events of Holy Week. The week begins with Palm Sunday, where we remember the crowds who enthusiastically cheered Jesus’s approach to Jerusalem. These crowds gladly laid their cloaks down in homage to Jesus, the Messiah, the Sent One, who came into town riding on a donkey (the well-known symbol of a peaceful king). They chanted and cheered “Hosanna!” (which means God save us!) and rode high on the hopes that Jesus would fulfill their expectations (Matt. 21:6–11).

Thankfully, Christ was familiar with crowds. From very early on his public ministry, crowds gathered as news of his healing and miracles spread. Rather than inflate with the approval of gathering crowds, Jesus showed a healthy disinterest in them. His identity and confidence did not fluctuate with the fickle waxing and waning of crowd approval.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23–25).

He knew what was in the heart of man. He knew man’s fair-weather friendship and faithfulness. He did not live for the approval or in fear of the censure of crowds, for he lived under gaze of his Good Father.

Such knowledge and practice served him well, as the same crowds that cheered him, in the span of a few short days, would jeer him. They would soon gather before the Roman governor demanding the release of Barabbas, a dangerous criminal, rather than the Messiah they’d championed days earlier. Stirred up by their leaders and caught up in fear, disappointment, and the mob mentality, they would chant, “Let him be crucified!” (Matt. 27:15–23).

It is easy to shake our heads and point our fingers in judgement at such a fickle crowd. It is much harder to see ourselves in that same mocking mob. Yet, when I dig into the subsoil of my heart, I find a similar desire to fit in with the crowd and uncover fickle faithfulness with an uncanny resemblance to theirs.

In a time where public pressure and the mob mentality rule the roost, whose voices are we listening to and whose approval are we seeking? Do we hear our own voices shifting from praises to punishment when God does not do what we expected on the timeline we anticipated? Are we willing to lay our cloaks before him one minute but watch his cloak be stripped from him the next?

We can fight against crowd-think with a better version of it. For, as we seek to listen to God through His Word and to speak forth the truth even when it is wildly unpopular (or even, for some, illegal), we are cheered on by the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and finished their race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb.12:1–2).

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.

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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.

Reigning in Responsibility

When both nature and nurture agree on something, what is a soul to do? Both personality tests and the test of time agree that one of my greatest strengths is responsibility. While this sounds respectable and often comes in handy, hyper-responsibility can easily get out-of-hand, especially in ministry settings.

While the world medals the necks and trophies the shelves of responsible people, sometimes habitual sin can be strengthened underneath the shining surface. I see this in my self. I watch it in my son who is so similar to me that it scares me.

Responsibility, in its right place, can lead to lives marked by order, effort, and excellence; however, over-grown hyper-responsibility can lead to lives marked by anxiety and paralyzation or crippled by the need for control .

I am not championing an abdication of personal responsibility. I am reminding those who tend to hyper-responsibility to abdicate the stolen seat that belongs to the Lord Himself.

In his poem” The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats begins with the following powerful lines:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer:
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

Those who struggle with hyper-responsibility have two options: to limit their world to small spheres they erroneously feel they can control or to find a better center for their lives.

Responsible people are usually only able to rest in the presence of one more responsible and capable than themselves. Sometimes, those can be hard to come by in human form; however, there is One who is rightfully responsible for all of life (Acts 17: 24-27). He upholds the ever-expanding universe with His word (Hebrews 1:3). He categorizes and corrals the stars (Isaiah 40:26). He is the sustaining center of all things and in Him all life holds together (Colossians 1:16-19).

If He does these things, He can handle my schedule and my syllabus. He can handle their report cards and their college application processes. He who manages myriad microorganisms and macro-economies can manage my heart and my home.

I’m not a tattoo girl, but if I were, I would get these truths inked on my arms. I need to be reminded of them daily, as my soul slinks back toward the center without my even realizing it. Weekly, I have to sit down and re-size my circles of concern and responsibility. Insidiously, things that are concerns sneak into my circle of responsibility, leaving me weighted down, at best, and paralyzed, at worst. They slowly sap the joy and peace Christ purchased for me at the cross. They steal my focus from what the Lord has actually called me to do by demanding that I am responsible for things that are not mine to carry.

Sitting long in the presence of the Lord, I am able to own what is mine and release what is not. In fact, over the years, I have learned to add another layer to my processing: ours. As one who tends to have two speeds (all or nothing), and two categories (yours or mine), the Lord is adding ours. For even in the few things that are my responsibility, I am working together with Him (Colossians 1:28-29). He is my yoke-fellow, the One who longs to be invited into the tasks at hand, the One who directs and energizes the tasks at hand (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Nexus

“The Nazarene is the nexus;
In Christ the center holds,”
When self seeks to steer,
The Holy Spirit gently scolds.

The ever-expanding universe
He upholds with a word,
Yet you steal the center?
How asinine and absurd!

Let Him be the Lord He is.
He alone does all things well.
“He is center; I am spoke,”
May both life and lip tell.

Harboring Hatred and Hope: A Lenten Journey

We are officially in the Lenten season, a forty-day period in the liturgical calendar that is intended for reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter. Some people seek to give things up for Lent as a way to wean themselves from sins of commission (the wrong things we do or the lesser things we make ultimate). In past years, I have given up lesser comforts (like sugar or Starbucks runs) to make space for Christ who is our eternal comfort. Some people take things up like various forms of service or sacrifice to lean into the sins of omission (the good things we leave undone). Having done both, and finding Lent here before I really had time to prepare for the season of preparation, the Lord laid something different on my heart this year.

Lent will lead our hearts to the familiar events of Holy Week. Palm Sunday: when God’s people welcomed their peaceful king who rode on the back of a colt with shouts of “Hosanna.” The Last Supper: when Jesus ate one last deeply significant and deeply symbolic meal with his disciples before his impending death. The Passion: when the Light of the World allowed himself to be extinguished as the sun hid its lesser light in grief. The burial in a borrowed tomb: when the One who owned all things was buried in a borrowed tomb; when the Rock of Ages had a large rock covering his death place. The Resurrection: when death was silenced by a life that could not be held.

As we read the familiar events and stories, it is easy to read the stories with a moralistic lens, dividing the characters into good guys and bad guys, our team and their team. We quickly, almost innately vilify Pilate, the High Priests, Peter, the crowds, and Judas. Their erring judgement and ugliness of heart seem so obvious to us as we look back.

This year, rather than vilifying those who played such sinister parts in the events of the Passion week, I am asking them to guide me more deeply into my own sin. Surely their actions and attitudes were wrong, but I want to ask the hard questions about the seeds of similar sin habits in my own heart. While their sins and failures are obvious when full grown, their deeds were nurtured by the soils of their souls.

When I look more deeply at them, they compel me to ask uncomfortable questions. What nascent tendencies are lying hidden and latent in my own heart? Am I harboring seed-sized versions of their obvious sins in my own heart? If so, what am I doing about them? Am I in denial of the potential of sin’s destructiveness in my own heart and life? Am I hiding them from the light, thinking I can manage and control them? Am I willing to take the militant actions of repentance and mortification that continually uproot their insidious spread in my heart?

In the coming weeks, I want to explore what I am harboring in my own heart. I want to invite you to join me. To be a believer is to harbor both hatred and hope in one’s heart, to be simultaneously sinner and saint. We will only treasure our Savior to the degree that we understand the sin-sickness from which He saved us and continues to sanctify us.

We each harbor a fickle, fair-weather mob within us. We each harbor a people-pleasing Pilate within us. We each harbor a headstrong, self-assured Peter within us. We each harbor a power-protecting, image-controlling high priest within us. We each harbor a disappointed and despairing Judas within us.

Only to the degree that admit the hatred we harbor in our hearts will we begin to value the hope that we have in Christ. Thanks to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, those who trust in Him also harbor hope, righteousness, and holiness.

I pray this journey into the hated and hope we harbor will lead to a deeper worship of our Christ!


Fiction in a Fractured World

When life feels out of control and the news too heavy, I find myself drawn to one of two places: the library or the woods (or the San Diego version of the woods which is chaparral). All that to say, you better believe that your girl has been devouring books of late. In a world that is fractured, in a church that is increasingly fragmented, and in a culture that is fragile, fiction has proven a sweet place of solace for my soul.

When I say solace, I do not mean escape. Good fiction might pull us away from our lives for a few hours into a literary world, but it is intended to plant us back in our places changed with new perspective. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times when I have sought to escape from heaviness or problematic realities into a good book, but the best books don’t let me run away from reality. They patch me back up, pack my proverbial bag with perspectives, and send me back into my real world either slightly or significantly different.

Story can be salve. Story can provide a common table at which people who would otherwise have no shared experience can sit down and chat. Story allows us to travel to other times and cultures even when a travel ban keeps our feet grounded and quarantine orders keep us homebound. Story reminds us that we are not the only ones to experience chaos, confusion, and confounding times. Story provides an objective, yet subjective fodder for discussion in a polemical, divisive times where shouting matches and online punching matches have stolen the stage.

Story cannot and should not ever replace the Scriptures for centrality in the life of a believer. For the Scriptures offer the Story from which all our other stories derive their power. We crave story because we were made in the image of the Grand Storyteller. At their best, stories on earth are distant echoes of the story written into our souls and into which our souls are written. Good fiction is not to be feared.

Fiction as Fodder

I hesitate to join into the conversation around Critical Race Theory in the church, as I am sure many of you do. I am not an expert at sociology. While I dabble in theology, I am no C.S. Lewis or G.K Chesterton or Malcolm Muggeridge. The debate is overwhelming and loud from where I sit. However, I can pick up a good book and enter into a story about race and racial divisions. Through story, I can experience empathy and outrage, even if I have not experienced the same thing as another. Through story, I can feel the weight of complex problems even if I do not know what the exact solution may be.

Two particular stories have been shaping and helping me in regards to race in the past few weeks: Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black and Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country.

Both allowed me to experience through story tiny slivers of slavery in the Caribbean and pre-apartheid life in South Africa. Neither book coached me in how to approach CRT or how to move forward in healing amidst the fresh racial fractures in the American church, as neither directed addressed it. However, each author invited me on a journey into experiences I have never had and taught me to see the world a little differently. They indirectly helped me learn to ask better questions about race and experience.

I don’t know if their authors are believers in Christ. But Christ used them to remind me of the brokenness and beauty of His church. He used them to remind of me the nuanced complexity and the depth of the results of the Fall of mankind. They may not lead me all the way to Christ, but they grow my love for Him as the incarnate solution to the problem of sin in all its grotesque and embodied forms.

What are you reading these days? How does the Word of God help you sift through the stories you read?

End nerdy “Fiction has a place in the life of faith” plug.

Power in the Parenthetical (Counting Cups of Cold Water)

In a world obsessed with the flashy and seen, God’s kingdom often advances through a parenthetical power. For every front-page cover story, there are thousands of unknown, unseen (by human eyes, at least) acts of obedience and faithfulness. But, if David, a human king, considered mighty a few faithful fellas who risked their lives to fetch him a cup of water, how much more does our Eternal King gladly record otherwise unseen and unknown acts of trusting obedience and sacrificial service (2 Samuel 23:15-17)?

While studying the life of Elijah, I stumbled across such parenthetical power. In the midst of chronicling the story of the prophet who played a major role in the kingdom’s advancement, the writer of 1 Kings parenthetically included an astounding feat of risking obedience, largely unknown and unseen.

In the midst of the court of the mismatched Ahab and Jezebel, whose enmity against the Lord and his people spread like an infection, stood Obadiah. As the manager of the king’s household who feared the Lord, Obadiah lived in a precarious place. Yet, when Jezebel demanded that the true prophets of the Lord be cut off, Obadiah risked greatly because of his great fear of the Lord. The writer of Kings mentions his act of personally preserving 100 prophets of the Lord in a cave for years as a mere parenthetical notation.

And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water). 1 Kings 18:3-4.

The faithfulness and risking obedience contained with those parentheses arrested me. Here was a man who faithfully served the Lord literally under the nose of a crazed Queen who could have easily killed him. God, who had given him a royal position for his own such a time as this, used his daring acts to preserve his truth for future generations. Yet, we almost did not hear about him. His life’s work took up a mere verse of Scripture and was included as a side-note to a primary story.

It made me stop in my study and linger. It made me wonder how much thousands upon thousands of other such stories were not included, were not recorded, were not even seen my the eyes of men. It made me marvel at the reality that our God sees each and every faithful life, each and every act of obedience, whether monumental or minute. For with our God, even the parenthetical is powerful and significant.

We live Coram Dei, before the face of God, under the gaze of God. Our lives are seen by the eyes of the eternal One. The caregiver who is driving to the umpteenth appointment or filling the fiftieth prescription is seen and celebrated in the kingdom of God. The teacher who spends her lunch hour tutoring a struggling student plays as significant a part in the kingdom of God as a seminary professor. The mother who faithfully shares her faith on a playdate is as significant as an evangelist at a revival.

Even though our God counts the stars, He always counts cups of cold water given in His name (see Matthew 10:42). Take courage, you saints who feel unseen, for your Father sees you and He works great power even through what seems parenthetical!

Summing Up a Life

For many of us, the past year has moved death from a distant idea to a dreary reality. Our American culture and our own denial do their darnedest to keep us from the fact of death. Ironically, an invisible virus has made death far more visible to many.

A few weekends ago, we attended a graveside service. As we walked up a hill holding the remains of hundreds, we sought to walk carefully around gravestones marking lives. I was struck by the reality that a thin dash represents is meant to represent someone’s life. Two dates glued together by a meager mark are somehow supposed to capture the entirety of a human life.

I feel the same way when the Scriptures sum up the life of a saint in a sentence like, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). Some people get a paragraph or two, others get a few chapters to contain a life. Obituaries conure a similar dissatisfaction in me. An entire life summed up in a short clipping? It doesn’t sit well with my soul.

And yet, for the believer in Christ, all that is lacking in those dashes and laconic lines is known, seen, and treasured by God Himself. For we know every day is designated, every hair numbered, and every tear collected. Not only are we known, we have eternal days of life ahead of us.

For the Divine came and made a dash that our dashes might be only prelude to the life that is truly life. In the midst of the heavy reality of death, may our souls be buoyed to hope.

A Dash

To sum up a life with a dash
Seems minimalistic and rash.

As doorways, life and death
Bookend the days of breath.

All that unfolds in-betwixt
A thin little line depicts?

The laughter and the tears,
The compounding of years? 

The profound and alluring,
The mundane and boring?

You linger over every line
With full knowledge divine;

All lives are seen in your light;
Nothing is hid from your sight.

Yet You came to our earth
By way of a human birth.

Dying, they gave you a dash,
Rising, death you did slash.

Our dashes are merely prelude
For a life of eternal magnitude.

Impolite

My momma raised us right. We were trained to chew with our mouth closed, say please and thank you, and offer firm handshakes. Our politeness was furthered polished in Southern Cotillion classes. If you aren’t from the Southeast, imagine ballroom dancing meets manners class with Southern draw and white gloved girls. Now that I have children of my own, I find myself on the teaching end of similar lessons (sans the Southern finishing schools).

Politeness has its place in the home and in hallowed places; however, polished politeness does not belong in the prayer closet. Reverence, of course. Respect, absolutely. But not politeness that says and does what ought be said and done without a heart posture to match it.

Lately, I have found my heart impolite at the most inopportune times. Car time spent running to and fro during errands has become confessional time. I wish I could say that it was all niceties and praises that welled up from my heart during those surprise sessions with the Lord. But, if I am honest with you, such times with the Lord have been marked more by rawness than rightness. Twice in the past two weeks, the Lord and I went a few rounds. I asked some zinger rhetorical questions, not the least of which was, “Lord, is this how you treat your children?”

Prolonged zoom school and constant change have been steadily chipping away at my politeness. The deaths of people I love and the strain of ministry in a pandemic have finished the job, leaving me raw and needy before the Lord in ways I have not been in years.

Going against my semi-Southern sensibilities, I am learning to realize that impoliteness can be a source of intimacy rather than a source of shame. In bringing where I actually am before the Lord, rather than where I ought to be, I am acting in trust. Rather than hiding and settling for fig-leaf fixes, I am bringing him the real stuff of my soul, asking Him to shape it with His supernatural love.

Thankfully, the Scriptures provide ample examples of such impolite intimacy with the Lord. From the wrestling psalms of David, to the gut-level honest cries of Job and Jeremiah, to the tearful prayer sessions of Hannah and Hosea, we find encouragement to pour out the real contents of our hearts before the Lord.

An Impolite Intimacy

Pain pushes us past politeness;
Suffering scrapes our veneers. 
But intimacy is born of honesty,
Faith watered with truthful tears.
 

The disarming love of the Father 
Makes room for raw and real
Even though His living Word
Changes not with how we feel.

He always receives His children, 
Impolite though they may be. 
Our righteousness was secured 
By Him who hung on the tree. 

If you find yourself impolite and a bit unhinged in this trying season, you are not alone.

Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8.