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Splinter Team Six

In our home, splinter is a swear word. I know, I know. It sounds dramatic, but nonetheless, ’tis true.

The first time our youngest got a splinter, I made the mistake of assuming he was precocious enough to understand sarcasm, saying, “I guess we will have to cut your hand off.”

While the toddler brain is not developed enough to understand such nuanced humor, the toddler brain is spongy enough to absorb such information as absolute reality. The result of such facts is that every time he gets a splinter, he honestly cries and screams in fear that the doctors might have to cut off his hand.

Despite my attempts to repair my mistake, the deep-seated emotions of fear and terror continue to mark any and every splinter occasion in our household.

Did I mention that my husband is an amazing woodworker? Do you see the perfect storm forming?

Splinters are a semi-regular occasion in our house. Splinters are a semi-traumatic occasion in our house.

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Over the past two weekends, we have had three splinter incidents, which means that we have been operating as splinter team six.

All joking and hyperbole aside, splinter removal is a team affair in our home. At least 3 out of five, if not all five members of our household, are usually involved in removing the tiniest slivers of wood.

I wish you could see us all huddled around the splintered one, coaxing and comforting. We take turns being the skin pincher, the tweezer wielder, the cheerleader or the distractor.  Splinter Team Six. Ready for removal.

In the midst of a small, though life-threateningly serious splinter (there is that sarcasm again) removal from our middle son’s foot yesterday morning, the Lord showed up in my own soul.

Splinters are so small and seemingly insignificant, yet they inflict a disproportionate amount of pain. They wedge themselves into us so smoothly, yet they are so difficult to remove.  It usually takes two people to remove a splinter, at least in our house. And both parties must be on the same team with the same goal: getting the darned thing out at all cost. The process is strange, as the teammates must contort themselves in strange ways to get to the splintered area. As such, there is a strange intimacy that comes about in splinter removal.

As we huddled around working on splinter removal yesterday, the Lord reminded me that sin removal is similar.

Even seemingly small sins have a way of causing disproportionate pain and discomfort. In Christ and with our trusted communities, we have a Splinter Team Six poised and ready for removal action; however, we must be ready for the process and the pain involved in even the removal of the smallest sin patterns. There will be discomfort and pinching and pealing back of tiny layers of soul, laden with sensitive nerves. Thus, we must invite the team to join us in our endeavor to be less sin-splintered souls.

When we refuse the pain of the process, we invite ourselves not only to a lingering nuisance, but also to the risk of infection and more systemic pain.

As I gently tweezed my little man’s foot, all the while consoling him and calling him to courage, I saw the Lord’s role similarly in regards to helping remove sin from my life. He doesn’t stand at a distance, shaming or chiding me for having a splinter. He doesn’t simply demand that the splinter be removed at all costs.

Rather, He bends down, pulls up his proverbial sleeves and gets to work, gentling working with me with a shared goal: to remove the small but serious invader.

He dries our tears and calls us to courage; He patiently reminds us that the pain is worth it as much as the risk of infection is not. He cheers and celebrates when the splinter has been removed. He bandages up the tender skin around the small surgery and sends us on our way back to the joys of our normal routines.

Do you have a Splinter Team Six? Are you a part of a Splinter Team Six?

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

 

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Pain as Preservative

What formaldehyde is to organs in a jar, pain can be to the human heart.

I spent entirely too many hours semi-willingly quarantined in labs in college. Even the faintest whiff of formaldehyde conjures memories of organs and invertebrate bodies floating in large jars.

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Although it is not used as much now due to its carcinogenic properties, formaldehyde was once used commonly to preserve the tissues of the specimens, allowing them to be further studied. By being soaked and stored in formaldehyde, the organs or organisms remained soft and supple when they otherwise would have become hardened.

Suffering as Preservative

Pain, while terribly uncomfortable, can also have such a preservative effect on the human heart.

Recently, my grandmother passed away, and for the days surrounding her passing on either side, my heart was as soft as it has been in months. While out running errands and doing school pick up or cooking dinner and talking to a friend, I found my eyes leaking frequently at both the beauty and brokenness around me.

The world and the monotony of life can have a slowly hardening effect on our souls. And, in some ways, it is more comfortable to be comfortably numb than to have quivering, sentient souls that feel acutely.

Pain jolts us awake to the reality of life in the already/not yet of the kingdom of God. It protects our hearts from the hardening effects of life and keeps us supple and tender to the suffering of others.

Suffering as Silencer 

As a mother of three boys, I know that life can get noisy. As such, I have grown shockingly accustomed to an unnatural level of volume in my home. Sadly, I have also grown overly accustomed to an unnatural level of static in my soul. Static and background noise, a running list of to-do’s and ought-to-have-dones, a looping reel of lies and fears, the demands of the urgent. These are the sounds of my soul’s static.

Pain and suffering silence the static and sharpen the substantial. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer or a child struggles at school, when a friend betrays or a job is lost, the secondary static noise is quickly quieted, allowing us to hear the things that matter most.

Suddenly, the to-do list is eclipsed by a to-enjoy list and eternal conversations begin to trump surface subjects. Suffering teaches us to number our days rather than be numbed by them.

Suffering as Study 

As hard as it is to suffer ourselves or to watch those we love most suffer, suffering sets the gospel on display, inviting the watching world into a study of the gospel. When a friend who has lost her hair, but has not lost her hope in the Lord, the world wonders and takes a second glance at the gospel she adorns in her pain. When a mother loses her child, but continues to entrust her pain to a suffering Savior, those outside the fold are likely to do a double-take.  When an adoptive or foster family goes to great lengths to love a child who has no ability to love them back or to repay them long term, they see a glimpse at our suffering  savior who authored agape love.

It is not easy to live with a supple hard in a sharp world, but God calls His children to do just that. He bids us to be alive and alert to the pain all around us and to step towards it with the Good News of a lasting hope. There is a day coming when suffering will be no more, but, until that day, we are called to have supple hearts, preserved and softened by pain that we may point others to Him!

 

 

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An Airborne Antinomianism

I do not consider myself a germophobe until I step into the airport. After passing through security, the transformation from my typical non-chalant form into the hypochondriac, hyper-germ-aware version of myself is complete.  I swear I can see the cold and flu germs traveling in the recycled air from the vents into my body.

On a normal basis, I take very little to no thought of the air I breathe; I simply let my diaphragm do its thing. However, in airports and on planes, I suddenly become deeply inquisitive at all the unseen particles that are passing into my body.

I wish that all heresies had a clear odor alerting us to their dangers. While some clearly signal their entry into the theological air we breathe, others sneak in undetected and unnoticed.  While there are no new heresies, the old ones tend to shed their names and sneak incognito back into our Churches and cultures dressed in more fashionable and timely clothing.

I fear that there is an airborne antinomianism spreading through our churches and the greater Christian culture in America. Even more so, I fear that few even know or care what antinomianism even means. Because it has been sneaking in under the guise of grace and the gospel, we have become so accustomed to it, we don’t even sense the strangeness of the air around us and within us.

Antinomianism Described

The word antinomianism, beside being a great spelling bee candidate, gives us clues as to the content of the heresy.  It literally means “against the law,” and it describes a wrong view of the gospel in which the law does not matter since Jesus has come and fulfilled it. While the term itself came into use in the sixteenth century, the antinomian heresy long predated the term. This view takes the right principle of justification by grace alone through faith alone and uses it as a wedge between belief and the Law. The two are thus set against one another and torn apart in a way they were never intended to be.

The law is an extension of God’s character. It emanates out of His values and His views, His preferences and the things which are distasteful and discordant with His perfection. As such, it is not be thrown out as something of the Old Covenant.

In fact, Christ Himself addresses the topic directly with His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19. ESV.

Notice that the conversation regards those within the household of God, within the kingdom.

Christ is the only human who has ever or will ever fully and faithfully follow the entirety of the Law; therein lies the Christian’s hope. He has fully done what we can never do. He has secured a way to right relationship with the Father for those who could not and would not follow His law.

However, Christ’s fulfillment of the law, while being our hope, has not kicked the Law out of our scope. Rather, He champions the Law and gives us His Holy Spirit to help us even move beyond the Decalogue and into an internalized more intimate relationship with the stuff of the Law, as seen in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ loves the law and died that we might become the kind of people who long to keep the law, albeit failingly and in fits and starts.

Antinomianism Disguised

While I have yet to hear someone introduce themselves as an avowed antinomian, I hear notes and hints of it all over in conversations with Christians.

In his classic, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls antinomianism by a different name: cheap grace. Throughout the book, Bonhoeffer contends for costly grace over and against cheap grace, a version of grace without transformation, a form of easy-believism that had become widespread in Germany. In cheap grace, the Christian begins to presume upon the grace of God, using it as a cart blanche to do whatever pleases him or her, knowing it will be forgiven because of an intellectual assent to the gospel.

A few decades later and a continent over, A.W. Tozer spoke up against the dangers of this insidious heresy (among others)  in his book The Pursuit of Man. Using his own language, Tozer talks about divorcing gift from shift. In antinomianism, whatever its clothing or era, the entire focus becomes the gift of free of grace in the gospel.  Of this truncated gospel, Tozer writes the following.

“Faith is thus conceived as a kind of religious magic, bringing to the Lord a great delight and possessing mysterious power to open the kingdom of heaven.”

While proponents of the true gospel would entirely agree to the free gift of God, they would also say that the gospel of God received in power will inevitably lead to a shift of life through the ongoing process of sanctification.  Christ saves us, but He also cares deeply that we become conformed to His likeness, and the Law does indeed show off parts of His character. The Law is not our means of salvation, but it is a roadmap for our sanctification.

Widespread throughout the current Christian milieu is a heavy-focus on the grace of God; however, largely missing from conversation is the ongoing process of being comforted to His will, of deeply internalizing the Law because it shows us more of the One whom we are to love supremely.

Antinomianism Diffused

I am growing to love Origami, Legos and football. While I have never been naturally inclined to any of these, I am deeply inclined to my husband and children who love them.  To love my husband means that I seek to spend time doing things that he likes to do. As such, I am slowly warming up to football (or, at least the second half). To raise my children means that I am enter their worlds and meet them where their hearts like to hang out. In their current phases of life, that means that I know where to buy the best Origami paper for ninja stars and strange animals and that I can identify all the best Lego mini figures by feeling around the sealed mystery pack bags.

We diffuse this airborne antinomianism by spending time with Christ and in His Word. The more time we spend with Him, studying His manner life by reading the Scriptures inspired by God, the more we will begin to sniff out the odorless antinomian spirit that seems to be pervading the times.

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On Reading Labels

I live in Southern California, which is to say that I live in a land flowing with avocado toast, local pollen-laced acaia bowls and label-reading consumers. I am a slow adapter, but the label-reading, health-savvy spirit is slowly trickling into my life. I can proudly say that I have not purchased a can of cream of anything soup since leaving the Southeast and nary a casserole has come out of my oven.

I have even learned to distrust labels and broad-sweeping statements like organic and all-natural. If California has taught me anything in the health department, it is too look more carefully and critically at what I consume.

I find myself longing the the same attention to consumption would percolate into what we read and how we read it.

Unfortunately, books don’t come labeled with clear categories. It is not that one can look at the back of a book and quickly determine if it is laced with pluralism, antinomianism, humanism, secularism or any of the other -isms.

Just as we cannot blindly trust that the organic line of food at the local grocery store is actually healthy, we cannot trust that a book that declares itself it be broadly Christian actually falls in line with an orthodox view of the Scriptures.

The word orthodox has fallen on hard times and brings with it a broad spectrum of connotations. To some, it brings a smile of security and comfort. To others, it brings shudders of frustration. Taken at face value, the word literally comes from the Greek words ortho which means straight and doxa which means opinion or thinking.

Even the word orthodox implies and presumes a standard by which to measure our opinion and thinking. For the Christian, to be orthodox means to keep to the long-held though often poorly-received idea that the Scriptures are the rule of life, the inerrant, infallible Word of God.

Everything we read, whether within the camp of Christendom or without, must be passed through the sieve of the Scriptures.

With the sieve of Scriptures in place, we are able to clearly identify that which is not to be imbibed or received, as there are many tasty morsels that go down well but don’t actually square up with Scripture.  We are freed to enjoy the good, but identify the dangerous, whether it is overt or covert.

As an avid book lover and an advocate of reading broadly, I am not implying that we are to only read books from those who square up with our particular camp (or sub-camp or sub-sub-camp); however, I do have a deep concern that even within Christian circles, the sieve of Scripture has been replaced with the sieve of personal preference, experience or popularity.

When we begin to trust our experience or our feelings or how something makes us feel or lines up with popular culture, we are entering a dangerous space.

We would never allow our children to live on Twinkies and Starbursts, tasty though they are.  As parents and even as a society, we are more alert than ever before about healthy eating. We want to know what is in our food, where it comes from and its long and short-term effects.

We must begin to do the hard work of reading between the lines. We must dig underneath blanket statements to find the worldview from which they flow.  As the Church, we must do a better job equipping our people with knowledge of how to exegete both the Word of God and the culture in which we find ourselves living, playing and working.

Oh, may God give us eyes to examine what we eat both physically and spiritually!

 

 

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Bottomless Bliss

I typically have an aversion to advertisements offering bottomless anything. Bottomless Slurpies have endless stomach-aches and brain freezes waiting in the wings. Bottomless breadsticks will most certainly end in growing love handles. And there is really no worse idea than that of a bottomless beer.

That being said, of late, I have found myself thinking on the idea of bottomless bliss, and I have J. Oswald Sanders to thank for it.

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In his book The Joy of Following Jesus, Sanders translates each of the beatitudes with the exclamatory introduction, “O the bliss!” Lest you think he took advantage of too much artistic license, it is signifiant to note that the Greek word makarios, often translated as blessed, can also be translated blissful.

According to Sander’s translation, the refreshed and rephrased Beatitudes read like this:

O the bliss of the those who feel inadequate!
O the bliss of the penitent!
O the bliss of the humble!
O the bliss of the unsatisfied!
O the bliss of the merciful!
O the bliss of the sincere!
O the bliss of those who create harmony!
O the bliss of the sufferer for Christ!

Perhaps because I was raised in Catholic schools and memorized the Beatitudes by rote, Sander’s fresh translation has been shaking my soul.

When first heard, the principles expressed by Jesus in what has become known as the Sermon on the Mount literally turned all the prevailing beliefs of religion and morality on their head. However, we have grown so accustomed to hearing them that they don’t shock us as they did the original hearers.

Sander’s change-up shocked and shook me. What an upside down system of values (or right side up, as Dallas Willard calls it in The Divine Conspiracy)  we who follow Christ espouse.

While the world seeks to promise us bottomless bliss in the form of consumerism, self-reliance, physical comforts and satisfying experiences, Jesus offers us bottomless bliss in the strangest ways.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel inadequate the majority of the time. If I am on my A-game as a mother, I am usually flunking as a wife. When I am winning as a wife, I tend to be losing in the professional department. Inadequacy is my near-constant resting state.

According to the gospel, when I experience a seemingly bottomless inadequacy I am invited to a bottomless bliss: the bliss of the inferior.

My inadequacy and daily, desperate needs for patience, wisdom, gentleness, energy and just about everything else are gifts meant to press me into His adequacy.

Unable to rely on self, I am driven to rely on the One who is infinitely worthy of my reliance. There, on my knees in His presence (or on the go in the midst of errands or carpools), as I cry out to Him, I experience the bliss of the inferior in the presence of the Superior.

Initially, my inadequacy makes me feel either bashful or boisterous (or both). Confounded by my near constant inability to do that which I have been called to do, I tend to either want to hide or to try to over-compensate with pretend strength. The gospel invites me to a whole different path: the path of blissful obedience in dependence upon God.

O the bliss of the ones who know that apart from Him they can do nothing!

I must be on my blissfully inadequate way!

 

 

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Forgiven and Free

Familiarity can breed forgetfulness.

When I live with my children, which I most assuredly do, it is easy for me to forget the wonder and beauty contained with each one of them.

A similar thing can happen to us when we approach the Scriptures. After hearing the same stories over and over, it is easy to not only forget the beauty and wonder contained therein, but also to forget that these are real stories of real people encountering the real Christ.

This week, my heart has been hovering over the story of the women caught in adultery recorded in John’s gospel.  It is no wonder that this particular incident stood out indelibly in the memory of the tender-hearted John.  It is also no wonder that John saw fit to include this account in his gospel whose self-stated thesis was, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

A woman caught in the midst of a lawless act who deserved a rightful consequence of death. A crowd of angry, condemning voices ready to give her what she knew she deserved.  The teacher who simultaneously condemned the sin but protected the sinner.

This incident is loaded with double meaning. It happened as a fact and a reality, but it also pointed to the coming sacrifice of Christ. The One who was sinless stood condemned before an angry mob, taking a punishment that every human deserved that we might walk away forgiven and free to live lives pleasing to Him.

Forgiven and Free

Exposed in an act of iniquity,
Adding public shame to guilt,
Her hidden, personal life
On the square was spilt. 

Stoked by self-righteousness,
The maddened mob’s fire grew,
Hungry to condemn the caught
And finally trap the Teacher, too.

Stooping down in compassion,
The Teacher wrote in the sand,
Inviting the one without sin

To be first to try his hand.

A pile of would-be punishment grew,
As slowly the stones were dropped,
Leaving her alone with Jesus.
Her frightened heart nearly stopped.

She hung her head in shame
Before the only sinless One.
He alone could condemn her.
In a moment, it would be done. 

Cringing and cowering, she awaited
The sentence she fully deserved.
Instead, He utterly spared her life,
As His love flowed unreserved. 

She, though guilty as charged,
Walked away forgiven and free.
He, though perfection personified,
Would soon be hung on the tree. 

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Job’s Jealousy

I have good reason to think that Job would be terribly jealous of all of us who stand on the other side of the Cross.

Having lost all of his earthly comforts, including his family, his health and his possessions, his friends have added insult to injury in their poor, yet understandable attempts to comfort him. By chapter 23, we have a man who is not only suffering unimaginably but who is also suffering alone, as even his closest friends are far from understanding his heart.  In his heart felt plea below, we hear a man is desperate for the presence of the God whom he knows would understand.

Then Job answered and said, “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments, I would know what he would answer me and understand what he would say to me…Behold, I go forward, but he isn’t there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; and on the left hand when is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.”  Job 23: 1-5 & 8-9.

What Job Didn’t Know

In this monologue of understandable moaning, we hear a man expressing his frustration at what he does not know. In an earnest anguish, he lets us and his friends in one all he does not know.

He does not know where to go to plead his case. He cannot find the courtroom where He instinctively knew He would be received and judged fairly and acquitted. In fact, an even deeper concern is that he cannot even catch a slight glimpse of this Judge He knows and trusts despite his circumstances. He essentially says, “I have searched the globe and my soul in every cardinal direction, North, South, East and West, but I cannot grab a hold of him; I cannot even see Him vaguely.”

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Underneath this desperate and deliberate searching, there lies in the troubled and isolated Job a remaining though deeply shaken faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

What Job Knew Vaguely

 “Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?  No, he would pay attention to me. There an upright man could argue with him, and I would be acquitted forever by my judge…But he knows the way I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:6-7 & 10.  

Job’s deep though vague knowledge of the character of God should shock us. After all, he lived early on in the redemptive process. He lived in a time where capricious pagan deities ruled the prevailing doctrine of the day,  dancing and doing as they pleased. Even among God’s people, the revealing of God’s character was early in its development.

Yet, somehow, Job vaguely but deeply knew that God was the kind of Judge who would use His great power to protect him and plead his case. Even more than that, despite all he did not know (which was much), Job knew that God knew exactly what was happening and had a great purpose in all of it, even if it was not discernible or palatable to his limited human mind. In all he did not know about God or His ways, Job took immense comfort in the fact that God knew and saw him and his ways completely and compassionately.

What We Know Clearly

Earlier, I said that I think Job would be jealous of us today. When I imagine the earliest spokesperson of Christian suffering looking down from his peaceful place, watching God’s children today suffering, I imagine both compassion and tinge of holy jealousy. I imagine him wanting to both hold us in our experiences of suffering, but also shake us awake to the gifts that we have that he had not.

What Job saw dimly on the distant horizon of hope, we see crystal clear in the gospel accounts.

Job was looking and longing for a place to plead his case. In the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we see that the place is a person, and not just any person, but the God Man who took our punishment that He might plead our case.

Job was looking for a way to access the God He believed in. Though Christ, we have all access passes to the presence of God in the indwelling Spirit who also pleads our case before the Father when we don’t even have words.

 

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The Little Engine That Couldn’t

While I love our tattered and torn copy of the classic The Little Engine that Could as much as the next sappy momma, I find my life cry being its antithesis. The little engine continually chanted “I think I can, I think I can” as it climbed its impossible hill; however,  the more I walk with Christ, the more I realize that I cannot.

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In each season, I tend to have a centering prayer to which my heart returns multiple times throughout the day. I don’t pick them; they seem to pick me. This season, triplet phrases have been my homing call: “I can’t. You must. I shall.”

Rather than leaving me in paralyzed in a pit of despair or shame, I have actually found these twin phrases to produce more and better work than its worldly, self-esteem counterpart.

God has called me to love my husband as I love myself. Apart from Him, I cannot. 

God has called me to raise my three boys in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Apart from Him, I cannot.

God has called me to lead the women of our Church both by teaching them and also by training them to study His Word. Apart from Him, I cannot.

God has called me to see my neighbors as He sees them. Apart from Him, I cannot.

I coud go on all day, but you get the picture. I cannot. 

It used to bother me immensely that God would call me and others to things that He full well knew we could not do; but that was before He began to teach me the profound depths of our union with Christ.

By calling me to do things that I could never do, even on my best day, He is calling me deeper to Himself and His unlimited resources. He sets the bar high so that the only way to move forward is wrapped up like a child in His arms.

St. Augustine’s prayer, “Command whatever you will, only give all that you command” is my constant petition.

While many think the increasing realization that we cannot would lead us to a depressing valley, I find that the impossible hills that I cannot climb lead me to a peak of experiencing God’s always available all-sufficiency. Once I have come (again and again and again) to the realization “I can’t” (after myriad attempts to do whatever the calling on my strength and with my own ingenuity), I can earnestly cry out to God, “You Must.”

From “You Must,” I find myself propelled back into action from His provision and person with a confident, “I shall.

For whatever God asks of us will, indeed, require effort and work. But that work will be anchored in His Word, His strength, His promises, not my own.

I must bring my “I can’t” to His presence and empty my hands of my own attempts. When I do so, I can earnestly cry “You must.” After surrendering my self-sufficiency, I am able to pick up His provisions of strength and wisdom, leaving His presence with a humble “I shall.” 

Simple, but far from easy.

Daily, I wake up living like the Little Engine that Could. Sometimes I live thinking I can for days until I again hit a wall and realize that I simply cannot. God, in His pursuing grace, does not allow me to chug along in my own strength for long. In His tender mercies, He allows me to face my inadequacy and my limitedness.

Even though I do not often receive these realizations well initially, they eventually lead me in desperation to His lap. On His lap, He fills my lap with His power and sends me back out with an “I shall” rooted in the one who does all things well.

Little Engines that Can’t but are attached to the One who Can can climb far greater and more lasting hills than plucky little blue engines who think they can.

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Lessons from a Metal Detector

Late one afternoon when the heat of our home had nearly turned us all into scary monsters, I loaded up my sweaty crew for some sanity by the shore. The salt water breeze and a mostly empty beach were just what we needed. While we were playing and building, an older woman approached on the horizon with her metal detector. My boys watched her serious approach to her searching task and one even stifled giggles, doing externally what I was doing internally.

With the seriousness of a judge, she combed every square foot around us. She had a sifter in one hand, ready to scoop up any rare finds. In the short time that we watched her treasure hunt, she had found two beat up Hot Wheels, long left behind by tired toddlers.

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I know that Christ is the treasure, the one worth selling all (Matthew 13:44). He is multi-faceted and infinitely more valuable than any diamond; the human heart was wired to treasure and to treasure God first and foremost.

However, while I know this cerebrally, I often live like one who holds the Cross in one hand and a metal detector in another, combing the surfaces of this globe and the mountainous terrain of relationships looking for a few more treasures. After all, even those who are truly His children struggle with trivializing and trading our treasure.

Trading Our Treasure

Through Jeremiah as His prophetic mouthpiece, the Lord spoke a harsh indictment of His people, Israel, who were notorious treasure traders.

Has a nation changed its gods even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked and very desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2: 11-13.

Before Christ, God’s people turned away from His promises, His premises and His presence, ignorantly convinced that they would find life outside of Him. On the other side of the Cross, we struggle with the same treacherous tendencies.

While we don’t outright trade our salvation (for those who are in Christ are in Him forever), we trade our practical experience of that salvation and all its accoutrements for dirty puddles. Like my children that night at the beach, we dig holes, run with our buckets to fill them and then repeat the process ad nauseam when the water dissipates out.  We reject life as broad and vast and wild as the ocean and prefer our own little hewn out holes and wonder why we are tired from our filling relay.

Trivializing Our Treasure

When I am not attempting terrible trades, I find myself falling into the trap of trivializing Christ, my greatest treasure. Rather than letting Christ and His Cross have both center stage and full directing powers, I relegate them to the ensemble and allow them to share the stage with two-bit treasures that don’t and cannot last. Instead of treasuring Christ alone and tracing back to Him and from Him all the other treasures and gifts that emanate from Him (my husband, my children, my home, my job, my hobbies), I tend to magnify the lesser treasures and minimize the giver of all good gifts (James 1:17).

When I do this, I must look as ridiculous as the metal detector lady looked to me that day. Walking on a beach made of million upon million pieces of sand with majestic waves lapping on her toes, with her head down looking for a treasure, while a far better treasure was all around her, underneath her.

Thankfully, Christ, our Treasure,  is as infinitely patient with His children as He is infinitely jealous to be rightly treasured. When life wears us down, when our trinkets don’t satisfy and the shiny falls off our lesser treasures, when our eyes grow weary from searching through sand, our truest treasure awaits us.

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Ancient yet New

Stale. Bland. Perfunctory. If I am honest, my time with the Lord for the past week has felt like the oatmeal that made you roll your eyes every morning when it greeted you for breakfast.

To be clear, the fault lies not in the gospel, but in my tastebuds and my small-mindedness, my acedia, as the church has historically referred to it.

The grace of God is variegated, multi-colored, multi-faceted, infinitely able to capture us and keep us exploring within its beautiful boundaries. We, however, are dumbed by sin, numbed by busyness, bored by our own limiting choices.

As I sat down to meet with the Lord, I found myself frustrated with the stale bread I was choking down. Jesus, being infinitely gracious, took me by the pointing finger and showed me what He saw.

A little girl camped out in a tiny corner of an infinitely acred field, hidden behind a makeshift fence. Inside the little corner, the land had been plotted and used well. Every square inch accounted for and accumulating trinkets and treasures.

The little girl’s eyes were pooling with tears, as she thought she had exhausted the beauty, the knowledge, the treasure of the field. Arms crossed, she looked upon her treasures. They were beautiful but they were not fresh.

Through a handful of verses in 1 John and an accompanying commentary. The Holy Spirit reminded me, that little girl, of the paradox that the Gospel is ancient yet ever new.

Inviting me out of my corner, the Lord showed me the flowing fields of which my tiny plot was only a portion of a portion of a percentage.

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Yes, it is the same gospel, the gospel that gripped me as a desperate high school girl; yet it is infinitely deeper and larger and richer than I can even fathom. No need for staleness with an infinite God and His living Word.

I don’t need a new novel or a new journal or a new coffee mug, I need new eyes to see the Ancient yet Ever New One. And He delights to give me those whenever I ask and fully intend to use them.

Jesus himself described the gospel as a treasure hidden in a field. Matthew records him saying, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44.

Sometimes, in my short-mindedness, I think that I have exhausted the treasure, figured it out, counted it all. The treasure and the field containing it seems to lose their luster. But God, being rich in His mercy, doesn’t let me believe that lie too long.

Concerning the paradox of the Ancient, yet ever new Christ, MacClaren wrote the following.

“And life’s new circumstances, it’s emerging duties, are like the strokes of the spade which clear away the soil and disclose to us the treasure in all its extend which we purchased when we bought that field. We buy the treasure at once, but it takes a long time to count it. The old Christ is the perpetually new Christ.”

Holding His Hand, being led by His Indwelling Spirit, I have much more to explore and find within this field. The infinite Christ who became finite that I might know the infinite love of the Trinity is here.

I’m off to explore new sights of the Ancient yet perpetually new One.