Author Archives: gaimee

Tiny Worlds of Wonder

Growing up, a vacant lot and a wooded area bookended our house.  My sisters and I would put on our hot pink fanny packs, fight to find the perfect walking stick, and set out to conquer the world.  We built shanties that we thought were mansions, created small mounds that we considered challenging BMX bike tracks and got ourselves into all sorts of muddy messes.  I distinctly remember feeling so adult when my mother let us venture to “Fletcher and Maple” an intersection that we felt like was miles away, but was in reality three streets over.

We took many great vacations, some lavish and exotic; we had more toys than we would possibly use. But when I look back on the treasured moments of our childhood, they all include the little worlds of tiny wonder we were free to create and explore, even if mom did check us religiously for ticks after each outing.

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I long for our children to have the freedom and space to be creative, to interact with nature, to learn how to explore and conquer a small corner of their world.  We aren’t an REI, camping, National Parks visiting family, and we probably never will be; however, I want to pass on to my children both a respect for and a joy from nature.

I am afraid of snakes, but I am more afraid of the effects of screen time. I don’t like the idea of parasites in creeks, but I like that risk more than the risk of raising children who don’t know how to wisely risk and explore.

Of late, I have been reading two books in tandem that have been re-opening my eyes to our need for and negligence of nature and the natural.  While Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv has been practically helping me to pass on a love of the natural world, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard has been inviting me into an adulthood awed by the little worlds around me, even here in semi-urban San Diego.

Annie beautifully writes the following:

“I am no scientiest. I explore the neighborhood. An infant who has just learned to hold his head up has a frank and forthright way of gazing about him in bewilderment. He hasn’t the faintest cllue where he is, and he aims to learn. …Some unwonted, taught pride diverts us from our original intent, which is to explore the neighborhood, view the landscape, to discover at least where it is that we have been so startling set down, if we can’t learn why.”

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Richard Louv writes along a similar vein.

“The dugout in the weeds or leaves beneath a backyard willow, the rivulet of a seasonal creek, even the ditch between a front yard and the road – all of these places are entire universes to a young child. Expeditions to the mountains or national parks often pale, in a child’s eyes, in comparison with the mysteries of the ravine at the end of the cul-de-sac. By letting our children lead us to their own special places we can rediscover the joy and wonder of nature….By expressing interest or even awe at the march of ants across these elfin forests, we send our children a message that will last for decades to come, perhaps even extend generation to generation. By returning to these simple, yet enchanted places, we see, with our child, how the seasons move and the world turns and how critter kingdoms rise and fall.”

We probably won’t go back-packing in the Tetons with our gaggle of boys, but I can first model and then teach and nurture an awe and interest in the tiny worlds of wonder right in our pavement-filled neighborhood.  During our two week spring break, we went to the movies and did other spring-breaky things. But the things that brought our children the most joy were catching shrimp and chasing crabs, tidepooling and taking care of a lame little birdie. As I have been practicing this lately, I have found my own soul soothed and sighing in relief.

The Gifts That Will Keep

Rather than teach kids wonder,
We’ve brought them to the store.
Rather than offering lasting things,
We suffocate them with more.

The free gifts are the most costly;
It’s easier to purchase the cheap.
But imagination, awe and wonder:
These are the gifts that will keep.

Free time and margins and presence,
These are the tools of the child;
But these cost us our own agendas,
So we settle for presents less wild.

 

Lasagna and Love

Twice this week I have found myself crying in the grocery store. Earlier in the week, my eyes were leaking while looking for cereal. Then yesterday, tears pooled in my eyes while perusing the pasta aisle. Supposedly when hard or strange things happen, people have a bias toward normalcy. In the midst of situations that are surprising or overwhelming, people tend to find relief in everyday tasks.Maybe that is why I found myself twice crying and processing while grocery shopping.

Dear friends and ministers of the gospel in our city are walking through the depths with Covid. Their son is my son’s age, and we adore him. The reality that a boy my son’s age should have to shoulder the weights he is bearing overwhelms me nearly to the point of paralyzation.

With that as the backdrop, the national events of the week felt like too much. My brain has processed the events that unfolded at the Capitol building, but my heart has not caught up. I saw the fear in my older boy’s eyes as we processed these events as a family.

Overcome by evil and brokenness. Helpless and powerless. Vulnerable.

Those big emotions were roiling in my soul while my cart was rolling through the grocery store. And my eyes were the release valve for the pressure that was building.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

I know this verse well. It comes out of my mouth like muscle memory when my boys are in a squabble, returning tit for tat. But this morning, my soul needs to sit inside this short sentence and nestle down into these truths.

I cannot visit the hospital. Neither can my friends, even though their father and husband has been there for weeks.

Outside of my right to vote and my responsibility to be informed, I feel helpless in the current political situation.

To be honest, I want to numb myself and run away from the uncomfortable. But God has been so clear that he wants me to sit in these feelings, to wade into these puddles of fear and dependency. To wade, but also to wait on Him.

For we serve a God who is well-acquainted with brokenness (Isaiah 53: 3–4). We worship a Savior who willingly let the weight of evil crush him on the cross (Isaiah 53:5). But He rose from the dead, overwhelming the overwhelming evil with a goodness that could only come from Him.

Even if He doesn’t immediately fix them, He meets us in the places that paralyze us. And as we wade and wait, He invites us to do the next right thing.

Which brings me back to the grocery store. I don’t love cooking, and I am not particularly good at it. But I can make a decent veggie lasagna. I can pray while I boil noodles. As I layer pasta and mozzarella, I can consider the layered love that Christ has shown for a mangled humanity.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

This feels small, but the One who hung the stars told us this is how we move forward until His return. So lasagna by lasagna, letter by letter, small act by small act, we walk in His great love.

He will return. And all the suffering and confusion and helplessness will overwhelmed and swallowed up by life.

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation (Isaiah 25:8-9).

Until then, we make lasagna and we trust in His steadfast love.

21 Things I Know About 2021

There is nothing I absolutely know about the coming year. But, based on reasonable evidence, I can safely predict a few things. I will burn all the cookies (even slice and bake and even when I set a timer). I will vow to try new recipes but will likely revert to the faithful few that have sustained us thus far. I will drink far too much coffee and not nearly enough water. 

Rather than waste my time (and yours) speculating, I have chosen to spend my morning guiding my mind to what is absolutely true rather than guessing about what may or may not come to be. 

  1. We will suffer, but God cares enough about human suffering to share in it and to ultimately undo it (Isaiah 53:3-5).
  2. I will hurt and disappoint those I love the most, but hope in God will not be disappointed (Romans 5:3-5).
  3. We will be shocked and surprised by events outside our control, but said events have passed through the scarred hands of a loving savior before they came to be. 
  4. My boys will continue to grow (spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally) and experience all the growing pains that come with it. But Jesus himself did the same and faithfully walked through their stages of life. As such, they have a pioneer partner in him. 
  5. Some days I will feel close to god but other days i will feel numb to his nearness. Either way, it is in Him that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:). He is closer than close in the third person of the trinity. 
  6. Though I intend to do good, I will be bent back toward self (in curvatus en se and Romans 7). Yet my savior straightens me day by day, realigning me to His image. 
  7. During waves of shame from sins and wrongs done by me and to me), I will try to isolate myself. But the lord will draw me with cords of love and through my own desperation to the care of the body of Christ. When we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with him. 
  8. The brokenness within and without will buffet and blunt me, but Gods word will shape and sharpen me (psalm 19). 
  9. The path to life will sometimes feel like death but I will trust the facts of the creator rather than my own feelings. there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death. 
  10. Habits will shape me far more than the seemingly huge decisions I will face this year 
  11. Though the church visible will falter, the church invisible will not fail. 
  12. I will slip into seeing the world through lenses of scarcity and skepticism but those lenses do not change the super abundance of his steadfast love. 
  13. Though the church visible will falter, the church invisible will not fail (Matthew 16:18).
  14. As much as I try to maintain the illusion of control, I am not in control. But I serve the God who is the blessed Controller of all things (1Timothy 6:13-16)
  15. I will do ridiculous amounts of laundry, but even those small chores can be done as worship unto the King of Kings (1 Corinthians 10:31).  
  16. In the midst of mundane days, there will be luminous moments when kairos breaks into chronos. I will never know when to expect these moments, but I will treasure them as gifts when they do. 
  17. I will run after lesser lovers. But, like Hosea pursued Gomer, God will pursue me, even using pain to point me back to Him, my true lover (Hosea 2:6–7).
  18. I will jealously look upon your posts and feeds, but God will wrestle me back to my green pastures and hold me at my still waters (Psalm 23: 1–2).
  19. I will exhaustedly collapse into my Sabbath time with Jesus weekly. Yet, somehow, He will revive and refresh me, sending me back out into good works He has prepared for me (Exodus 20: 8–11 and Acts 3:19–21).
  20. People who know and love me will lovingly call me out on my sin. I will initially be defensive, but God will remind me that true love mixes grace with truth (John 1:17 and Galatians 6:1–5).   
  21. Amid all the changes and curves which are heading our way this next trip around the sun, Jesus Christ will be the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). 

Now, I must go burn some cookies and forget to thaw the meat for dinner. Happy New Year to you and yours!

My Minest Mine

“Our will alone is our ownest own, the only dear thing we can and ought really to sacrifice.” P. T. Forsyth

I’d like to think that I have matured past the treasured toddler phrase, “Mine!”  Yet God loves me enough to continually uncover new areas that aren’t fully, wholly surrendered unto Him.

After a doozie of a year, God has exposed hidden “mines” throughout my life.  Nearly a year of Zoom schooling, socially-distancing, and cancelling plans have shown me how much “mine” remains in my life. My alone time. My exercise routine. My pastimes. My idea of college ministry. My imagined vision of my boys’ middle school experience.

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Far beyond my relatively small disappointment, friends are fighting their own far deeper disappointments. Friends have lost loved ones to Covid and cancer. Other friends are facing depleting savings and prolonged unemployment or the mental strain of being single in an isolating world in a terribly isolating time.

Elisabeth Elliot defines suffering in a helpful and broad way as “wanting something you  don’t have or having something you don’t want.” Suffering, big or small, cuts against our will. The deeper the love, the harder it is entrust it to the Father, and the closer we are approaching what P.T. Forsyth calls “our ownest own.”

While we always welcome a new year, I am convinced there has not been such collective longing for a fresh turn of the calendar year in decades. The days leading up to and directly following New Year’s Day are full of good intentions and vows. Normally I, like many of you, like to ask the Lord to give me a word or theme for the upcoming year; however, this past year has me gun-shy regarding plans or intentions of any kind. I know now, more than ever, that my plans are no match for His purposes.

As such, I am making it my goal to keep offering God my mines as often as he exposes them in the upcoming year. When I trust Him with my most tightly-held mines, I honor Him and am conformed to His likeness in new and deeper ways.

My Minest Mine

My minest mine is yours now;
It is bleeding in your hands. 
I was holding onto it, but now
I’ve submitted it to your plans. 

The quivering stuff of my will,
That which feels essential to me,
I was brave enough to open up,
And now ’tis given back to thee.

Another frontier of my heart
Claimed, under your control.
I trust you even when I feel
More naked and less whole. 

By definition a sacrifice costs,
Must cut, must tear, must bleed.
Thus the pain assures my soul
You’ve grabbed a deeper seed. 

For I’ve no right to “Mines,”
Not even the deepest variety;
For you bled to call me Yours,
A title of sacred sobriety.

My ownest own is Yours now,
‘Tis safely in Your possession.
Have all of me over and over
In most glorious succession. 

Christ had the right to call all creation, “Mine.” Yet, he made Himself weak and vulnerable, taking on the form of a fragile human. He made and lost real friends; He laid down real gifts and rights; He risked His tender heart and received blows when He should have received been receiving bows.

He called our Cross His so that He could say of us, “Mine.” Now, we have the honor of sacrificing even our deepest wills to Him. This is the strange, sacred way of the Cross.

Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

Winter’s Gift

“All that summer conceals, winter reveals.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I live in Southern California. To call our winters mild is a wild understatement. But souls have winters, too. And whether you live close to the equator or not, the world has been experiencing a winter of a year. While such winters chill us, they also give offer us the strange gifts of dormancy and exposure.

Though we have fake grass, we do have an enormous tree in our front yard. In the summer and spring, it’s fullness can be seen from around the block. It so abounds in leaves you can barely see its branches. In our San Diego winter which feels more like a pseudo-fall, its leaves drop en masse, exposing its gangly, knotted branches. Our tree looks languid and exposed; however, in the winter, I am able to appreciate its actual frame.

The past nine months have been a weird winter for the world. Things that would normally be covered up by busyness, activity, prosperity, and freedom are being exposed in our societies and our souls. As my husband has said about this season, “We are being told on.” Our idols are being exposed. Without freedom to go about as we please, our frustrations tell reveal fractured souls looking for contentment in circumstances. In isolation, we have to face the emptiness that we find within us.

My initial response to such a winter’s shaking is to grieve all that is falling to the ground. At first, I saw only the scraggy skeleton that once carried such health. It took a few weeks for me to begin to appreciate the chance to better examine what health covers up. I don’t like being exposed in this season. My heart feels as naked as our bare tree. The places I normally run for immediate comfort, significance, and security are blocked off. I don’t like what I see in myself when my plans are thwarted and lesser hopes are deferred.

Our God loves us enough to give us winters, both physical and spiritual. His love is strong enough to expose us in our sin-sickness. Though it is not a typical book to be studied during Advent, Hosea has been instructing and informing my heart this double winter. Using the real story of an adulterous wife and her sacrificially-committed husband, God draws the picture of his pursuing -even-to-the-point of pain love for his whoring people.

“Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers, but not overtake them, and she shall seek them, but shall not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now” (Hosea 2:6-7).

Being hedged by thorny paths is not comfortable. Being called out for our adulterous affections for lesser lovers is embarrassing and humbling. But repentance and returning (again and again) to the One who loved us enough to die for us is the path to life.

As such, I am fighting to receive the gifts of this strange winter-like year. The spring will come again, and trees, once barren will abound with buds. But I want the winter to do its necessary work. I need the forced exposure and dormancy that winter brings to lead me to the One who ushers in all seasons for our good and His glory.

A Tribute to My Godmother

Growing up Catholic, everyone received a godmother. I had the distinct privilege of having one who actively played that role. In nearly every significant moment of my life, from the hilariously silly to the profoundly serious, she was in the passenger seat next to my mother, her best friend! The lines between friends, family, and godmother all blurred in love, as she became and remained my Aunt Patty Cakes.

Most memories I have with her include deep laughter between her and my mother who were two peas in a pod. They met when they were still teenagers working at the Shop-Rite and became inseparable best friends after that. Her daughter, Tara, was like a sister to my sisters and I. Our crazy family provided endless entertainment for Tara who was an only child. After she spent time with us, I am pretty certain she was glad to be an only child. We vacationed together as families, whether freezing in Vermont or fishing in Venice, Florida. It takes great courage and personality to be grafted into our crew, but she became Auntie to even my extended family, joining our raucous crew every summer at a family camp in Upstate New York where we made some of the best memories of our lives.

She always cried. When she laughed, it ended with tears. She cried every time she heard the hymn, “On Eagle’s Wings” which was her favorite. She ugly cried when I terribly sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” as a solo at my kindergarten graduation. She cried at my First Communion and First Confession.She cried at my wedding. She cried when I called her. She cried when I sent her gifts and cards.

She never cooked. I mean never. She did not want it to mess up her kitchen. She was the only person I know who has ever surpassed my mother in OCD about neatness, which is saying a lot.

She had a fascination with angels, but she often cussed like a sailor. That was Aunt Patty. She signed all of her cards “Love, Me.” And love her I did.

She loved all kinds of people. She helped raise her husband’s siblings. She taught CCD classes (which is Catholic-speak for Sunday School) faithfully for decades. She and I shared a love for the Lord which knit us together deeply.

After battling cancers of all kinds for the past decade, she passed through death and into life this morning. She is with Jesus, and she is whole. But everyone she left behind is broken to pieces.

I am confident that she was ready to be home and whole. Towards the end of her life, she really did embody the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:18-21).”

Last time we talked on the phone, she kept saying, “I am ready, but I want to stay for them.” Them being everyone in her life, most notably her doting husband, Dean, her daughter, Tara, and her three precious grandchildren. It was fitting that her lingering here longer would have been for those she loved most. That was her style.

She will forever be my godmother. But now she is in the presence of our God. And that is a good place for a beloved godmother to reside.

A Declaration of Dependence

I am incredibly grateful for and deeply benefit from the Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson; however, my soul needs to be stamped with deeper declaration daily: a declaration of dependence.

My flesh recoils against such a declaration, but my soul was sewn with its principles. I go against the grain of universe when I try to defy it, yet I wonder why I am left splintered and sore.

  • I am a dignified derivative, I was never meant to exist alone (Genesis 1:27-28). As a sentient being made in the image of a Trinitarian God, my soul craves relationship, most notably with the relational God out of whose fullness I was born. 
  • I cannot love myself or accept myself without reference to God. To do so is to love a lesser self and accept that which is unacceptable. When I love sin, I hate and hurt myself (Proverbs 8:36; Psalm 16:4; James 1:14-15). Even though sin overpromises fulfillment, it delivers only death and addiction (John 10:10). Therefore, the only way to truly love myself is to hate my sin. But I cannot do that, try as I may. I am desperately needy and sick, and I cannot earn my way out of this state (Romans 7:21-24). 
  • As prone as I am to performance, I do not trick the one who sees all things. My soul and thoughts are laid bare before him, the one to whom I must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13). Soul audits only confirm and deepen my diagnosis (Isaiah 1:2-6). 
  • I am more entrepeneurial and creative in devising ways to glorify myself and expand my own kingdom than I am in seeking to worship and glorify the only One who is worthy (Hosea 8:11-12). I am more resolute at running after lifeless idols than I am at following the One living God (Hosea 2:5; Hosea 11:2; Hosea 11:7).   
  • Yet, all these hard-to-admit realities are meant to lead me to Life. Only when I see them in all their hideousness can I find the life that is truly life (Galatians 3:24). In coming to the end of myself and my own resources, I stand at the shores of grace and find oceans of undeserved favor. 

For, the only uncreated One became dependent on my behalf (John 1). Though I hated him, he loved me  (Romans 5:6-8). Though I loved the sin that hurt me, he let himself be harmed and hung on a tree to love me (2 Corinthians 5:21;1 Peter 2:24). 

  • Now, I am able to work from my deepest identity rather than work toward it (Philippians 2:12-13). 
  • What I used to think a solid foundation for life (success, significance, comfort, approval, etc…) are exposed for the shifting sands that they are (Matthew 7:24-27). I don’t have to chase after them anymore through everyone around me and the remnant of flesh within me urge me to do so. In a world that says chase your dreams, I am invited to chase after righteousness (Matthew 6:33). 
  • I don’t have to expend myself climbing the ladder of success, because the most successful One climbed down from heaven to bring me up to him (Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:5-11). I don’t have to force my way, because I know that He will have his way in me (Job 42:2).
  • My own needs, though real and significant, no longer have to dictate my every action. I can entrust them to Him who delights to give me all good things (Luke 12:32; Romans 8:32). There is now space in my heart to join Christ in his sufferings and apply his sacrifices to the lives of those around me (Colossians 1:24; Philippians 1:29). 
  • In a world obsessed with power and beauty, I am free to be vulnerable and weak (2 Corinthians 12:9). In a world obsessed with prestige and honor, I can sit securely in the low seat because I know my high place in his sight (Luke 14:7-11). In a world obsessed with the big and quick, I can do little things with great love and sow to the Spirit patiently knowing that, in due season, a harvest of righteousness will be reaped (Luke 16:10; Galatians 6: 7-10).
  • I will forget this entire declaration on every day that ends in -Y. But he will not forget me (Isaiah 49:15-16; Hosea 11:8-9). He is patient with me and promises to complete what he has begun (Philippians 1:6). 

It may not be as beautiful as Jefferson’s parchment, but its truths are far more potent. While Jefferson’s declaration initiated a nation, the declarations of dependence found in God’s Word establish an unshakeable kingdom.

The Lion in the Hay

We spend four weeks preparing for the coming of the infant Jesus, as well we should. His coming changed everything for all eternity. Even those outside the Christian faith celebrate His imminence and His come-nearness, as well they should. For in Christ, God came near as Immanuel, God with us.

We love to set the little lambs and donkeys in the stable where the Lamb of God slept as a newborn child. But sleeping with Him as lamb was Him as Lion. While we talk about God in attributes and analogies, (which is the only way for a human mind to attempt to reach the heights of the godhead), He cannot be pulled into parts. All of God does all that God does. In His tenacity, there is tenderness. In His tenderness, there is tenacity.

His transcendence (His far-off-ness) remains in His imminence (His nearness), and His imminence remains in His transcendence. As a child, He is a king. As a king, He remains a child. As lamb, He is still lion. As lion, He is still lamb.

While our minds cannot comprehend our God, our knees bow in humble worship. May our hearts approach his manger with the same fear with which one approaches a powerful king.

The Lion in the Hay

When, as little lamb, He lay,
All swaddled in the hay,
The fearful, ferocious lion
Slept with Him that day.

At twelve with a lion’s strength
He tenaciously taught men,
But then obeyed as a son,
Retreating home to His den.

As lamb He invited children
In His loving lap to laugh.
As lion, He threshed the temple,
Separating wheat and chaff.

As lion He long resisted
The liar and his kin.
As lamb He silently bore
The awful weight of sin
.

Simple in His complexity,
Complex in His simplicity,
He is both lion and lamb
Without a trace of duplicity.

In all He does, He brings
All His fullness to bear.
What He has joined,
We mustn’t split or tear.

In the perfect kingdom,
Lion and lamb will play,
For both dwelt in Him
As He slept in the hay.

The Longest Two Days

I love Advent, but the Lord has been checking and refining even my love for this season. It seems my heart can even taint the seasons of the liturgical calendar.

I find my heart wanting even the four weeks of Advent to be a quick fix. Simple. Clean. Light the candles. Do the devotions. Brokenness fixed. Longings met.

But longing and waiting are anything but simple. Some of my friends cannot approach this Advent simply. Neither nostalgic songs and red Starbucks cups nor lighting pink and purple candles go deep enough to meet the deep longings of their heart. No gift or holiday zoom call can fill the gaps in their lives and present experiences. No daily chocolates can reverse the diagnosis.

My widowed friends and single friends don’t have the pleasure to enter into a four-week season of waiting. Some of them have been in acute seasons of waiting for years. My friends with diagnosed with chronic or mental illnesses and my friends struggling to raise children with special needs know the anguish of long-waiting and dependence daily. Thinking of these friends refines Advent for me and reminds me that Advent is more a prolonged posture of the heart than a holiday happening.

Reading through the book of the prophet Hosea convicts me and stirs my heart back toward the deeper purpose of the Advent season.

Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days, he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers; as the spring rain that waters the earth (Hosea 6:1-3).

One particular phrase struck me anew as I reread these verses this afternoon: “After two days.” It sounds so simple, mathematical, clean, and concise. Yet, here the prophet is using poetic language to capture the sureness of God’s arrival. Just as surely as the sun rises, He is coming. Just as surely as it will eventually rain, He will step in to save and deliver his waiting and weary people.

Two days can be much longer than two days. The Lord works on his perfect timetable, not on ours. On the timeline of eternity, the present trials that tie us and the weights that weary us will feel like a blip on a radar (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 1 Peter 1:6-7). However, from where we stand on this time-stamped earth, the days of waiting feel like decades. Sometimes our seasons of waiting truly are decades.

Advent is the season for those who are living in those longest two days, waiting and hoping. Advent is also the season for those who have grown numb in the waiting and wanting, those who have grown to doubt that the third day of revival is coming.

A sincere Advent does not mean a simple Advent. There is room in faithful waiting for tears, doubt, and numbness. There is ample room for messy grief. When speaking about the psalmist’s longing for more of God in Psalms 42 and 43, Sinclair Ferguson writes the following.

“What is it like to have a desire to know God? The Psalms indicate that it can be an exceedingly painful and disturbing thing….Perhaps in his earlier days he had known the presence of God in powerful ways. But now his spirit felt barren and dry. It was parched, and he was crying out for the dew of God’s presence to come to revive and restore him.” (Grow in Grace, Sinclair Ferguson).

For those living in the longest two days, Advent is more than candles and warm fuzzies. It is an active, even agonizing choice to continue to gaze on the goodness and promises of God even in drought and pain. It is banking on the promises Hosea gives us that on the third day, there will be healing where there is wounding and rain where there is parched ground.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.

What God Wants for Christmas

There has been much activity in the junk drawer at our house of late. Small, nimble hands have been busy working on crafting an entirely homemade Christmas (part childhood tenderness and part necessity, as the duct tape wallet market has died down, leaving my children broke).

These homemade, heart-spun gifts mean far more to me than a minivan with a bow or a new vacuum ever could. Any parent can tell you that even more more than the creative gifts, the tender hearts behind them are the greatest gift.

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My children also gave me gifts when they don’t even realize or intend to. One son leaning hard on my shoulder, snuggled close so that I could read Prince Caspian aloud to him. A treasured gift of attention. Another son calling for more crackers and hot tea while laid out on the couch sick. The gift of dependence. A third son inviting me to his favorite stuffed animal’s third birthday party of the week. The gift of initiation.

Directly after spying on my children’s attempt to create yet another homemade gift today, I found myself in Psalm 50 reading and studying about what God most wants from us, His children.

Asaph, the psalmist, begins with the powerful  image of God as King summoning all creation as witnesses. The king then proceeds to call His people to be brought forth to be judged and addressed.

God is summoning the people who are His, those who claim Him to be their God. God’s people could not write the coming words off as something applying to those pagan people. Likewise, my stomach sinks a bit when I realize that I am included in the audience of His address.

One can imagine the shaking, the shuddering, the knocking knees of the subjects being called into the throne room of the High King.

Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Psalm 50:7-12. 

If it is hard to find a present for someone who has everything, imagine how hard it is to find a present for the One who created everything. But let us not be confused, God is not a hard master. He is not impossible to please. Rather, He is merely attempting to show the ridiculousness of God’s people thinking that outward behavior, sacrifice or conformity to standards is enough to make His heart leap.

God’s beef with His people, some of whom may have been earnest and faithful in their adherence to the sacrificial system laid out in Leviticus, does not lie in their outward conformity to His law.

We no longer live under the sacrificial system because Christ was the ultimate and perfect sacrifice offered once for all. Yet, we still act much more like the ancient Israelites than we would like to admit.  God is not nearly as interested in our stealy resolve to get our act together or our checking the boxes of quiet times and tithing as He is in something else. Though these things are not insignificant, they are not central.

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you shall glorify me. Psalm 50: 14-15. 

God is not a hard master, leaving us guessing what He desires. He declares boldly that He wants our hearts.

He longs for our dependence upon Him so that He might be our Deliverer.  Both God’s ultimate deliverance of us from the penalty of sin through Christ’s death and resurrection and His ongoing deliverance of us from the power of sin ought to result in our deference to Him and our practice of disciplined lives through His Spirit.

God wants us to lean into him, like my son leaned into me on the plane. He wants us to cry out to Him, to rely upon Him, to abide in Him. We must continually repent of our self-sins (self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-confidence, et al) and leave the sufficiency and righteousness and confidence to the only One to whom they truly belong.

Just as we love chances to be ourselves, God loves every opportunity that affords Him the chance to manifest to us His essential glories. Dancers love to dance, writers love to write, mothers love to mother, and the Deliverer loves to deliver.

This Christmas, we don’t have to guess what is on God’s wish list. He has told us out right. God desires our hearts to depend on Him, to cry out to Him, to trust in His deliverance through Christ and to thank Him profusely in deference and disciplined lives led by the Spirit.

It seems human parents have received their love of heart-spun, homemade gifts given by their children from the Heavenly Father.

May we be adult children of the Father who have the child-like desire to present to Him our hearts.