Author Archives: gaimee

The Process of Becoming Paul

The passing away of pastoral heroes has led me to think about the glimpses the Scripture give us of the Apostle Paul’s process of becoming. Through glimpses into his heart through the epistles he penned and through the recorded words of his own testimony to others, we get a chance to see the story of Paul from beginning to end. Rather than leading us to hagiography, such a glimpse leads us to the One from whom all help comes. Studying the life of Paul does not lead us to worship Paul, but rather leads us further into worship of the One Paul worshipped.

The Transformation of Paul

Even though he did not have the privilege of knowing Christ incarnate as did the disciples, the glimpses that he received were enough to utterly transform Paul. The self-righteous, cloak-carrying Saul we meet at the stoning of Stephen had no idea that his life would end in a similar manner (Acts 7). The Saul who panted after positions of power and authority over others had no clue that he himself would be tossed to and fro in kangaroo courts of human authority, all the while trusting in the sovereignty of God (Acts 23 – 26). The one zealous to throw followers of the Way into prison would write letters encouraging followers of the Way from prison (2 Tim. 1:8-14).

The one who seized control and sought to impose his will on the lives of others would be continually seized by human hands as he trustingly submitted himself to the divine will (Acts 8: 1–3; Acts 14). The one who achieved to ascend to the top of his sect’s ladder learned the long, slow descent of those who follow Jesus (Acts 26: 4-11; Phil. 2: 5-11). The one who chased earthly crowns of honor would learn to live in light of the crown of righteousness to be bestowed by the One who bore the crown of thorns (2 Tim. 4:8). The one who took pride in sitting at Gamaliel’s feet would learn to sit at the feet of One who washed feet (Acts 5: 33–34; Acts 22: 3–5; John 13:1–5).

The one trained in rhetoric to manipulate words would become one who would rather be condemned than twist the words of God (Gal. 1: 6-9). The one wanting to impress others with cunning committed to preaching nothing but Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Corin.1: 18; 1 Corin. 2: 1–5). This sounds like the stuff of the best stories. But it is real.

The One Who Transformed Paul

When we look at the lives of spiritual giants, we need to look behind their lives to the One working in and through them. I relate to Paul in his intensity and desire for justice and rightness. Though I don’t like to admit it, I resemble the early Saul in my attempts to do things my own way by sheer force and willpower. As I studied the end of his life in the last few chapters of the book of Acts, I found myself crying over the beauty of Christ’s work in him.

Paul would not try to write a self-help book about ten ways to release control. Paul would not allow a hint of hagiography over his life. He was always quick to point to the Source of his life: his Savior. The same Paul who told the Colossians that their lives were “hid with Christ in God” lived it to the very end (Col. 3: 1-4).

Christ was the banner over Paul’s life. Christ was his balm in sufferings. Christ was his companion in prison. Christ was his company and gave him company when all who were in Asia deserted him (2 Tim. 1: 15-16). Christ was his commendation (2 Corin. 10: 18).

The One Transforming Us

The same Christ that did such an almost-unbelievable work in Paul works actively works in the lives of each of his children. Though the circumstances and personality may differ, the transformer reminds the same.

When I am overwhelmed by the rough edges that remain in my soul, I am reminded of the slow, steady work of God. I am thankful that our Christ was also carpenter. I am helped to know that he is not through with me yet (Phil. 1:6). I am heartened to know that Jesus does all things well, that he finishes all he begins, and leaves nothing undone in the lives of his children. One day, we will see him and, seeing him, be like him (1 John 3: 1-3). Until then, may we fix our eyes on the author and initiator of our faith who is also the completer of our faith (Heb. 12: 1-3).

What I Really Need for Mother’s Day

My sweet husband asked me yesterday (a full week before Mother’s Day, I might add), “What do you really want for Mother’s Day?”

Poor fella. He married an elaborate gift giver, while he himself is more of an acts of service kind of guy. This means he wants to clean my car, but I feel very comfortable in my semi-tidy vehicle which doubles as my office (and thus needs books, tissues, pens, and scissors in its door-side compartments).

I toyed with saying, “Anything in the accessory section at Target.” After all, that is easy. There is no chance a purse won’t fit and might send me into a body image spiral. But then I decided I don’t need another linen tote to fill with journals and books.

I moved on to books, but then I remembered the stacks of beloved books that already line my bedside. We literally have no more walls to build shelves upon which to keep the books. So no to the books.

I thought about flowers. But the pollen gets all over the table and doubles my work. And you know I feel terrible when I kill the potted plants in record time. Maybe a cactus? But we have many of those!

And, I may be unpopular for saying this, but I don’t want a card that tells me in over-the-top flowery language that I am the world’s best mom. I know my own heart, and I know our home. I’ve been around the block enough to know that I am the best mom for you all, but that I am not always at my best.

This year has been a year marked by significant internal (and thus largely unnoticed-as-yet-to-others) growth in our little family. Roles are changing as my boys need me less visibly. It has been a joy-that-hurts-like-a-wound to give them space to figure things out, hang out with friends, put themselves out there and risk failure. I have not felt this tender-souled in ages.

As such, here is my honest list of what I most need this Mother’s Day:

  1. Tell me where you’ve seen me grow. Although your feet grow at warp speed, most souls grow more at a snail’s pace. I never, ever want to be a stagnant, settled human. I always want to model growth to you. I want to show you, not just tell you, that risk is a beautiful thing, even if it leads to failure. I want to show you, not just tell you, that discomfort is a prerequisite for growth. So tell me where you see me growing into my identity in Christ, because it is very likely that I don’t notice it (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3: 7-10; Hosea 6: 1-3).
  2. Tell me you see eternal light through my abundance of cracks. You see me and I see you guys more than anyone else. This means you know my fissures and foibles and failings well, as I know yours. But in my weakness, I try to point you to the perfect One. Tell me where you have seen me grown quicker to repent and forgive, slower to anger and quicker to listen. Remind me that the light is the main event, not my cracks (2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Corinthians 12:19).
  3. Remind me when we laughed so hard we nearly cried this past year. Church planting and teenager-shepherding tend toward heaviness in your momma’s heart. There are burdens and tragedies in this broken world that scare the living daylights out of me. Please keep me laughing with your ridiculous antics and horrible impersonations, even if they are sometimes at my expense (Proverbs 17: 22).
  4. Keep sharing your dirty laundry with me. And I don’t mean the clothes primarily. Keep being honest with me about what is hard. Keep letting me into your fears and insecurities. Keep telling me when your days are hard and you are frustrated with me, dad, your teachers, and/or this broken world. Drag it to me. I’ll gladly help you sort through it; together, we will drag it all into the light of His presence. And we will wait on Him together (1 John 1: 5-10).
  5. Keep letting me pray for you and with you and over you. There are no moments that I love and cherish more than when I get to bring you (your body, mind, soul, and spirit) into God’s presence. There are many places where I feel weak as a mother, but I know I am strong when we pray (2 Corinthians 10:4).

I don’t need candles. I will just forget to trim their wicks. I don’t need chocolate. Dad will eat it all anyway. But you could try to hang up your own wet towels at least two times a week – that would be a major improvement.

Sincerely, Mom

To One Long Waiting

Everywhere I look around me, I see loved ones waiting: waiting on a diagnosis, waiting on a foster care placement, waiting to hear back from a job interview, waiting on a potential spouse, waiting for the conception or birth of a child. This should not surprise me, as waiting is a common denominator of human existence. But waiting is hard.

Waiting reveals our hearts faster than an x-ray reveals bones. Waiting exposes impatience and entitlement while exacerbating worry and anxiety. I need not elaborate on the negative side of waiting. We know it well not only from short stints waiting in the grocery line but also from the depths of our being. I do, however, want to remind us of the good work God seeks to do in us as we wait.

Waiting Produces Weight

From time to time, I sub in elementary school classrooms (mostly to remember how amazing teachers are and to realize again that I did not miss my calling). Nearly every teacher has some form of a reward jar where marbles get moved for good classroom choices. The class gets to watch as the jar slowly fills up. A couple marbles a day works towards a wonderful reward.

The Scriptures say something similar about suffering (and waiting is a form of suffering).

“So we do not lose heart…For light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

I love Elisabeth Elliot’s simple definition of suffering, “Wanting what you don’t have or having what you don’t want.” While we wait and wrestle for what we want but do not have (be it peace, provision, or people), God is producing eternal weights for us. Marble by marble, waiting day by waiting day, God is doing weighty work in us and for us. We are learning to lean into and live into eternal time rather than our fleeting time on earth.

Waiting Invites Us to Wonder

Long waiting forces us to admit our limitations. We are limited in power, in wisdom, in strength, and in perspective. The longer we wait, the more we begin to see our smallness and inability. When we wait, God exposes our equation-thinking and seeks to replace it with the better story He is writing. We want equations (when I do A and B happens, God will give C), but God writes stories. And He writes the very best stories.

Bad stories are predictable. We can see where the train is headed before it even leaves the station. The best stories, on the other hand, involve complex conflicts with a thousand possible permutations. They keep us hooked to see which way the conflict will be resolved. We hate the tension, but the tension drives the story and keeps us wondering and engaged.

In a similar way, waiting forces us to wonder, “God, what on earth are you up to?” Waiting keeps us on the edge of our seat, eyes and heart wide-open, saying, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130: 5-6).

I love how G.K. Chesterton captures this reality in one of his essays from a collection called In Defense of Sanity:

“Life is always a novel… our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, ‘To be continued in our next’.”

Waiting forces our eyes up in wonder, reminding us that the One holding the pen and writing our stories does so with a love-scarred hand.

Waiting Teaches Us to Worship

While we live in the limbo of waiting, God has time to refine our desires, longings, and affections. As we wait, God is weaning us from an inordinate hunger for the gifts and increasing our hunger for the presence of the Giver. As we wait for many things, God reminds us of the one thing needful. As we ask for many things that he may or may not give, God strengthens our deepest desire to ask one thing of the Lord: “One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27: 4-5).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to say, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…But if not, be it known to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3: 16-18). As we wait, God is making us ready to say a similar, “My God could provide the thing upon which I am waiting; but even if He doesn’t, He is still worthy of all my worship.”

Friends, as you wait, God is doing some of his very best work! Do not lose heart (Galatians 6: 9). There will be a day when we will say with the prophet Isaiah, “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: 9).

Hobbit Hospitality & The Surprise of Adventure

When it comes to hospitality, I am more Bilbo Baggins than Better Homes & Gardens. This morning, as I was listening to Tolkien’s The Hobbit with my youngest son (a literary rite of passage of sorts in our home), I laughed aloud at my likeness to the little hobbit.

Though “he was fond of visitors,” he wanted visitors on his own terms. He liked to follow the schedule on his “Engagement Tablet” and wanted only the adventures of which he approved.

Gandalf, knowing what Bilbo needed and pushing him past what he thought he wanted, refused to take a polite no for an answer. Marking Bilbo’s round, green hobbit hole door with a secret sign, Gandalf made his home a host hollow for worlds Bilbo had hitherto not known.

When guests began flooding his hobbit hole the next day, Bilbo was startled but initially polite. He went from a stiff but kindly hospitality with the first unexpected guest to a flustered, even fearful, forced hospitality as dwarves kept showing up at his little hobbit hole.

“He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he – as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful – might have to go without.”

By the time more guests had arrived, “The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head in his hands, and wondered what had happened, and what was going to happen, and whether they would all stay to supper.”

As I listened to Tolkien’s description of the hobbit’s heart as the omniscient narrator, I saw how easily the Lord (the ultimate omniscient narrator) might say the exact same of me through a smile. 

Convenience & Comfort

I like hospitality to a point. I like to host when I am on my A-game (or, at least, my B+ game). I like to host when our schedules are not crammed full and when my heart and soul feel together and ordered (things, which, in this season of our lives, are increasingly rare).

But the true heart of hospitality usually involves welcome at the cost of convenience and comfort. That’s what sets it apart from entertaining with its scheduled plans and well-manicured meals and table-scapes.

The last thing I want to do when I am in the middle of (or on the heals of) a disagreement with my husband or a wrestling over wisdom for my children is welcome people into my heart and home. But, if I am honest, it’s those moments when hospitality seems to most honor the heart of God. When there is risk involved and transparency, not just a meal, is served to our guests, I think God smiles a bit like Gandalf did knowingly at Bilbo Baggins.

A week ago, we made plans to host a couple who very recently began to attend our church. At the time, life felt ordered and my heart felt spacious. But when the day to host arrived, life had changed drastically. Worries crowded my distracted heart just as clutter crowded our messy counters. What I desperately wanted (and thought I needed) was to cancel so I could spend time alone processing the problems of the week and the subsequent waves of emotions they were causing.

I intended to share some cake and tea, but we ended up sharing our stories. And then, something amazing happened: the character and goodness of God were maximized and the looming problems were minimized.

Wrapped in the trappings of obedient hospitality, God gave me the gift I didn’t know how much I desperately needed: perspective. Just as Gandalf knew what Bilbo really needed, God invites us to a deeper adventure through the doorway of seemingly simple hospitality.

The Adventure of Obedience

In one of his essays, G.K. Chesterton talks about adventure in a way that deeply resonates with my experience of true hospitality and the relational adventures it begets. And I think Bilbo Baggins (after his adventures) would agree.

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

True biblical hospitality rarely fits neatly into our color-coded agendas. It costs us precious time and energy. It will oftentimes feel like an inconvenience to our comfort. It may make us wonder with Bilbo Baggins if there will be enough energy and peace and time to go around after the guests have been served and seen.

Hospitality leads to a life of relational adventures with our God, even if it doesn’t take us far from home like our reluctantly-hospitable hobbit friend. Through hospitality, new worlds are opened up to us. We are led to new territories emotionally and spiritually through hosting strangers who become friends. Our worlds broaden and stretch as we stretch our schedules and souls to fit new friends.

May God mark your doors, my friends, as Gandalf marked Bilbo’s. May obedience to God’s commands become the beginnings of grand adventures.

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1-2).

“The end of all things is at hand: therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:7-9). 

Bedtime Breakthroughs

Y’all. It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride in our family for the past few months. I have alluded to all the growth (and growing pains) God has been doing in our hearts individually and as a family unit. It looks like battles and soul skirmishes scattered throughout the week against lies and insecurities and performance anxiety. But it also looks bedtime breakthroughs.

It looks like a little boy who bravely tells me, “Momma, I am feeling anxious. But it’s not school or safety or baseball.”

It looks like me laying next to him and asking questions until he realizes the source of his stress: another brother heading to high school.

It looks like tears pooling in my eyes as I sit with him in his sadness that I cannot and should not fix. His brothers should and will grow and move on to other things. He will have to be in his school all alone without his brothers who are his heroes and best friends.

It looks like me scratching his back while he cries about change and processes all his fears.

It looks like me praying for him to trust that God will be constant companion and One who never changes.

Then it looks like me going to lay down in my own bed to do the same with my heavenly Father. It looks like me processing my worries and concerns and fears for these boys with my Father. It looks like him asking me searching questions to help assess my own confused heart. It looks like him sitting with me in the in-between, even though he knows exactly how this will all pan out. It looks my own bedtime breakthroughs after long day-time battles.

Parents Who Try to See

Being attuned to our boys and their emotional needs as they navigate all kinds of new challenges and opportunities feels like it has been my full-time job of late: noticing their body cues, asking them questions, providing a nurturing place to process and a net upon which to fall. These are the privileges of being a parent. I feel wildly unqualified for this job.

According to Peter Fongay, as quoted by Curt Thompson in his book The Anatomy of the Soul, even the most observant parents will only track with their children 45 to 50 percent of the time. So, batting 400 is winning, even if it feels like you are losing.

We try to see. We do our best as broken vessels with limited access to the secret places of the heart. As Curt Thompson says, “God does not expect parents to be perfect. He does, however, long for us to be perceptive.”

The God Who Sees

As parents, we get to point to the perfect parent in both our failures and our successes. If and when we get it wrong or miss the moment, we have the chance to point to the One who sees all and never fails. If and when we get it right, we image the Perfect Parent to them.

In the words of Curt Thompson, “God hits the mark every time. In the language of attachment, our heavenly father mentalizes at peak capacity – he lovingly senses and interprets feelings, desires, and intentions at all times.”

In Psalm 18, David expresses his experience of God’s being attuned to him.

“In my distress, I called upon the Lord, to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears…He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters” (Psalm 18:3 & 16).

The same David expects the same God to attune to him throughout his life. He writes, “Hear my cry, O God, listen my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:1-2).

As we seek to see them, He sees both us and them (Hebrews 4: 13). As we grow in this process of parenting, he is perfectly parenting both parents and children (Hebrews 12: 9-11). As we pray for them as best we can, the Spirit is praying for them constantly, effectively, and according to the will of God (Romans 8: 26-27).

This is all our hope as we keep walking through these major emotional and relational growth spurts.

As we experience battles and bedtime breakthroughs, he is offering us our own battles and breakthroughs.

All shall be well. And all shall be well. Our Jesus does all things well.

Rotten & Redeemed

Somehow, despite century upon century of irrefutable evidence, we keep waiting for the world to be good. We keep being surprised by news of another shooting. We keep thinking that another coat of paint or a new philosophy of education is going to turn this globe around.

It feels like half of the world refuses to believe that the world is rotting at the core. The other half knows that it is but seems to forget the reality of renewal offered in and through Christ alone.


In his short poem entitled “Tired,” Langston Hughes paints a powerful image of a world rotting at the core.

“I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two –
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.”

It seems the world took Hughes’s invitation and has cut the world into a thousand small pieces. Different groups have isolated various worms and committed to rid the world of them. But these groups fight among themselves and leave us fractured and still rotting.

Rotten Yet Redeemed

Another poet, Christina Rossetti, paints a similar picture but from the honest perspective of a believer in Christ. She invites her readers to see not only the rottenness but also the invitation to redemption from a wounded Christ.

“Friends, I commend to you the narrow way:
Not because I, please God, will walk therein,
But rather for the Love Feast of that day,
The exceeding prize which whoso will may win.
Earth is half-spent and rotting at the core,
Here hollow death’s heads mock us with a grin,
Here heartiest laughter leaves us tired and sore.
Men heap up pleasures and enlarge desire,
Outlive desire, and famished evermore
Consume themselves within the undying fire.
Yet not for this God made us: not for this.
Christ sought us far and near to draw us nigher,
Sought and found and paid our penalties.
If one could answer ‘Nay’ to God’s command,
Who shall say ‘Nay’ when Christ pleads all He is
For us, and holds us with a wounded Hand?”

Not for this God made us, not for this. He made us for more. He went so far as to die to secure our ability to have access to the more for which we were made. But sometimes we stop short as believers. Convinced of our security in Christ, we leave the rotting world to itself. Christ has done the work, we say. And, indeed, He has. And He now empowers us to join him in his ongoing work.

The base problem is sin, we say. And, indeed, it is. However, having addressed the base and knowing its solution in Christ alone, we are invited to roll up our sleeves and go to work in the places of rottenness to promote health.

Where is there rot in your local community? Do you know its smell and its taste and its disease well enough to plead the wounded hand of Christ?

Dandelion Days

The closest thing we get to even the appearance of snow balls during San Diego winters are dandelion globes. I always smile when I see them growing, because they bring back childhood memories of playfully scattering their seeds. However, of late, I have a new reason to smile when I see them on my morning walks.

Recently, I slowly savored Elisabeth Elliot’s A Pathway Through Suffering. Each chapter began with a botanical example from Lilias Trotter. While I found them all to be challenging and beautiful, one in particular has stayed with me upon completion of the book.

“The seed vessel hopes for nothing again. It seeks only the opportunity of shedding itself; its purpose is fulfilled when the wind shakes forth the last seed, and the flower stalk is beaten low by autumn storms. It not only spends, but is ‘spent out’ at last.”

Trotter, a gifted writer and observer of nature, has painted seed dispersal in beautiful terms; yet, death to self is less poetic and more painful in actual practice.


Lately, it has helped me to imagine my life as a field and each day its own individual dandelion globe (technically called blowballs or clocks).  The entire purpose of such a globe is to release its scores of individual seed fruits (technically called achenes). Thus, for the dandelion, losing its last threads of its self is technically winning. In dying to itself, it is fulfilling the very mission for which it so intricately exists: to scatter and shed abroad its seeds of life. Its death means the new life of countless more dandelion plants who, in time, will return the favor!

I tend to want to hold on to my time, my energy, my plan for the day, and my wishes and wants. After all, everything in my flesh agrees with everything the world and the Enemy of my soul feed me in every radio wave, internet connection and whispered lie. Hold on to your life. Protect your own. Treat your self. After all, who else will?

Yet, each day,  I am offered various experiences intended to help me die to myself that others might live.

To throw the baseball when all I want to do is text a friend. To absorb an angry email, offer the frustration up to Jesus, and to respond in gentleness and humility. To stop what I am focused on to listen to my husband process his day. To cook a meal even though I would rather read a book or take a walk.

Tiny deaths, but chances to practice dying to myself that others might receive life just the same.

For some reason, imagining another little seed parachuting off to plant life somewhere has helped me to see these tiny deaths to self as tiny victories rather than terrible inconveniences.

Death to self as one great, heroic act feels overwhelming and impossible to my self-centered soul. However, faithful daily dying to self that leads to a lifetime of self laid down for the sake of and by the power of a Savior’s love feels far more do-able to me.

Faithful daily dying leads to faithful final breath. May we let the light breezes or gale force winds of our days help us to let go of our lives, seed by seed. May we be able to confidently say with Paul, we are…

…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4: 10-12. 

Contentment Without Contingencies

What I make necessary for my contentment, I make a little lord in my life. Anything and everything to which I attach my joy, my peace, my security, I make a contingency to my contentment.

Very few of us would ever walk around proudly declaring, “My contentment rests on complex contingencies;” however, most believers in Christ still live like this is true. Our lives tell on us. Our fears expose our excessive attachments and our compulsions uncover our complex contingencies.

The older my children get and the more complex their needs and their worlds, the more I am realizing how much my contentment is contingent upon them: their health, their joy, their mental and spiritual well-being. These are not bad for which to pray on their behalf, but I cannot let my contentment be contingent upon them. To do so is both unwise and unbiblical.

One of the gloriously unique realities of Christianity is contentment in Christ. Such a contentment has zero contingencies, yet we must contend for this contentment.

Paul was able to tell the Philippians that he had learned the secret of Christian contentment. He gradually learned that, whether he abounded or was abased, he could be fully and completely content in Christ and with Christ (Phil. 4: 11-13). The following principles have been helping me contend for simple contentment in Christ.

  • Receive with gratitude, but don’t grasp.

Paul longed for the early churches to know this kind of contentment without contingencies. He longed for them to be freed from joy-suffocating and peace-diminishing excessive attachments to this world and the things of it. It was not that he wanted them to reject good things or deflect temporal blessings. He knew that all things created by God were good (1 Tim. 4: 4-5); however, he also knew the tendency of the human heart towards worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1: 25).

We need not be ascetics to contend for contentment in Christ. We need only receive his blessings without grasping. As the psalmist wrote, “When riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” (Psalm 62: 11).

  • Be sated with favor, not favorable circumstances.

When I feel impoverished by circumstances or trapped in contentment full of contingencies, I lead my heart to remember our sure, unfading inheritance in Christ. Before Moses died, he spent time blessing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These blessings are mere hints of the fullness we have received in Christ.

Lately, Moses’s blessing over Naphtali has been both confronting and comforting my heart.

“And of Naphtali he said, ‘O Naphtali, sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake and the South’.” (Deut. 33: 23).

While the tribe of Naphtali probably enjoyed having the lake land as their portion, we have something far more astounding: the living waters springing up from within us in Christ (John 4: 10-14). Oases of creature comfort, while gifts from the Lord, are susceptible to drought. The living water of Christ will never run dry. Thus, to base our contentment on anything other Christ is to live with complex contingencies.

When circumstances are favorable, when your children are close-by and healthy, when work is going well, when marriage feels like a walk in the park, thank God. But don’t build your contentment on the shakeable base of favorable circumstances. Do the hard, God-honoring, soul-keeping work of finding contentment in the favor Christ has secured for you.

  • In the midst of presents, be content with his presence.

Contentment is less about tallying his presents towards us and more about remembering his presence with us. Our culture is all about gratitude and counting our blessings. While gratitude is a good thing, Christ invites us into something much deeper than lists of blessings: he gives us access to the Blessed One ( 1 Timothy 6: 15).

The writer of Hebrews make a powerful connection between contentment and the presence of Christ. Towards the end of his letter to the Hebrew believers, he writes, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me’?” (Hebrews 13:8).

As life grows more intricate and complex, our contentment does not have to grow in contingencies. Having Christ, we have all we need to ride out the ebbs and flows of circumstances until we are with him forever.

The Perks & Paralysis of a Performative Identity

With three sports-loving boys in the middle of multiple sports seasons, God is doing a deep and refining work on my own heart. As one who founded her identity for decades on besting (in all the things), I find myself exposed through my own children. Old habits die hard. Generational sin patterns don’t just roll over. A performative identity that I thought was a long-dead stump has been sprouting shoots of sin.

Our culture loves bigger, faster, stronger, and better, and I spent many years cultivating a similar milieu in my own heart. Thankfully, the gospel’s incredibly good news of a received and completed identity in Christ set me on a different track. But, as my children walk into worlds that pander to performative identity, the wrestle is real.

Perks that cause paralysis

Performative identities (whether in athletics or academic acumen) loudly promise power and prestige but quietly deliver paralysis. The downside to accolades is anxiety over maintaining them. Our culture peddles performative identities of every kind, and we pay in record-high levels of anxiety and depression.

In order to be in this world but not of it, I have to continually wallpaper my mind and our home with the identities we receive in Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of man who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 8-10).

In Christ, we have access to an unshakeable, eternal identity that need not rise and fall based on performance or circumstance. He had made an everlasting covenant with us, ordered in all things and sure (2 Sam. 23:5).

I know the right answers. Yet, my heart still quivers when a son is on the mound or heading into try-outs or working towards scholarships for further education. God loves me enough to expose sinewy idols in my soul. He reminds me repeatedly that one need not have an inordinate desire to be extraordinary when one is extraordinarily loved.

Mangle the Maniacal Root

Mangle, Lord, mangle.
Mangle the maniacal root.
Smother, Lord, smother
Performance and its false fruit.

Dead, Lord, dead.
I thought that idol gone. 
See, Lord, see
In my children it lives on.

Water, Lord, water,
Water the imperishable seed.
Deepen, Lord, deepen
Our rooted sense of need.

Grow us, Lord, grow us
To the full stature of sons.
Sustain us, Lord, sustain us
As your sap within us runs.

Harvest, Lord, harvest 
The fruit that you have grown.
Glory, Lord, glory!
May your glory be made known. 

One of these days, by God’s grace, performative environments won’t push and pull me. Until then, I will be hiding in his finished work, repeatedly remembering the received identity we have been gifted at so great a cost.

Good News for the Sifted & Condemned

I am a perfectionist. This means that I am constantly battling accusations and condemning thoughts from the worst place: myself. My own internal voice does a number on me. And Satan loves it when I get in such a stuck cycle. I do all the work for him.

I wrote this poem yesterday to express how it feels in those cycles of condemnation and accusation.

Just a little longer 

I’m stuck in a swamp of self-censure,
Mucking in a morass of deep doubt;
Attempts at escape further press me in
Even as they promise to pull me out.

Father, I need your full-on rescue.
Don’t send a messenger; I need you.
I need your arms and your face.
I need presence; platitudes won’t do. 

These long-lingering lies paralyze;
They’ve held me so long I think them true.
I need a Father’s persistent whispers.
I need powerful proximity to you.

My mind knows you are not far off,
But my heart keeps missing its cue.
My throat is hoarse from crying out.
Father, please come be my rescue. 

Until it’s time to pick you up, dear,
I’ll stay right here by your side. 
This swamp — it’s just a puddle 
Next to my love so deep and wide. 

I dove into the depths of its darkness,
And I rose, raising you on my back;
So even in the swamps of despair, 
There is nothing that you lack.

Just a little longer, my brave little girl,
You’ll see Me fully, and seeing resemble.
I’ll hold you bodily in my strong arms.
My love will still your every tremble.  

I know and have memorized Romans 8:1-2:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

My heart doesn’t always quickly get the memos my mind sends. This is the good fight of faith, the slow work of sanctification, the transformation from one degree of glory to another (2 Corin. 3: 18).

How Christ Treats those Accused

I was helped this morning by a scene from the book of Zechariah, the last book before the long silence between the Old and New Testaments.

God gave his prophet Zechariah a vision of Joshua as high priest standing in the presence of the angel of the Lord (which is Old-Testament-speak for Christ). Satan, ever the twisted impersonator of Christ, was “standing at his right to accuse him” (Zech. 3:1).

The angel of the Lord’s response to Joshua amidst an attack of accusations stirred my heart to hope and courage this morning. The Lord rebukes the accuser (Zech. 3:2). The Lord clothes the accused (Zech. 3:4-5). The Lord speaks truth over the lies (Zech. 3:4). The Lord remains close by to the accused (Zech. 3:5).

Christ, our advocate, stands right there in the midst of the attack. Even if the accusers words are true (Joshua was clothed in filthy garments), he speaks a deeper truth (he is still mine and I’ve a righteous robe for him). He speaks as One with all authority. And he stays close at hand.

We get a similar glimpse of Jesus advocating for the accused before his death. Satan, ever-the-accuser and the father of lies and half-truths, has demanded to have Peter so he might sift him like wheat; however, Christ assures Peter that he has prayed for him that his faith may not fail (John 8: 42-47; Luke 22:31-32).

Christ could speak such truths to Peter and the angel of the Lord could clothe Joshua only because of his coming death on the cross. The advocate would become the accused. He would be sifted to the point of suffocation on an instrument of shame. The undefiled one would be defiled by our sin.

Our advocate knows accusation. He knows the strength of the liar. But he also knows the power of his resurrection. He knows that his life and his love could not be held by death (Acts 2: 24).

If you feel sifted to the point of soreness, if you are sinking in the swamps of accusation, you have an advocate who is full of agape love and resurrection power. Soon and very soon, those who trust in him will be in his presence.