Category Archives: motherhood

On Sending Sons

Everyone goes out of their way to prepare you for parenthood. At baby showers, new parents gratefully receive all the necessary supplies (and some precious, though unnecessary accoutrements). In countless conversations, new parents have to pick through loads of unsolicited advice to mine out the gems. But few people prepare you for the sending season.

If I had to whittle down the innumerable stages of parenting into three seasons, I would choose receiving, shaping, sending. The receiving season is poignant and powerful whether it happens suddenly and seemingly effortlessly or is a painful and involved process of waiting. The sending stage seems to come suddenly even though it’s out there lingering all along. We know that one day, these children we have received and have spent decades intentionally shaping (and being shaped by) will likely be independent in some form or fashion. But the shaping season is so involved, so time-consuming, so all-encompassing, that it rarely allows us to look up as the far-off sending point approaches with haste.

Lately, the Lord has been lifting my eyes often to the sending season. I have found myself as weepy and thin-souled as I did during those early days of receiving these sons. We will be doing something normal and necessary in the shaping season (chores, driving to sports practices, eating dinner) and my soul and sight will suddenly shoot out back to the receiving and then forward to the sending season.

I’ll be folding huge, mens-sized sweatpants. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when their entire wardrobes fit into one small basket. Then, I am imagining them avoiding laundry in college and wearing one pair of sweatpants ad nauseam. Then I am crying and treasuring up the days.

Or, I’ll be driving them to school, listening to their silly banter or helping them with vocabulary. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when they learned a new word. Then, I am thinking of how quiet (and clean) my car will be one day. Next, I am a puddle.

Yesterday, at church, my husband (who is also my pastor), mentioned John 20:21 in passing: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” It was a passing point, not even a tertiary point of his sermon; however, it is looming large on my heart and in my mind.

I know there are dangers of forcing human experience onto the godhead. I know that God speaks anthropomorphically as a concession and condescension to our limited natures. I know that God exists outside the constraints of time. But I keep thinking of that interchange. The Father sent the Son. The son leaves the Father.

Realities of Sending

  1. The sending informs the shaping. Before creation was spoken into existence, God knew Christ would take the path of the Cross. Jesus needed no shaping, as he was and is and will be as he is. We, however, as adopted children of God, require unthinkable amounts of shaping. God’s shaping of his people hinged upon the sending of his Son. My shaping of my sons is informed by the reality that they are to be sent out. I am shaping my spouse to stay and my children to be sent. Keeping the sending (and the Sent One, Christ) on the forefront allows me to enjoy the days I have with them and to invest intentionally and sacrificially in this shaping season.
  2. The sending involves sacrifice. The eternal status quo was shaken up when God sent the Son to become a man who stepped into time and space. I don’t know much about time/space continuum, but I know a little about the heart of a father. Fathers loves the presence of their children, and they are pained when their children are not near to them. When I send these boys out, there will be pain and discomfort on both sides. We will be shaken, things will shift, and we will experience sadness and sacrifice. But if it doesn’t bleed, it is not a sacrifice. And there are purposes to be fulfilled for both parents and sent sons.
  3. The sending is also a receiving. God sent his Son so that he would receive many sons. God allowed his Son to be slaughtered for our sin because he wanted to receive back to his lap his once-wayward, now-adopted sons and daughters. I love listening in to the conversation Jesus had with his Father in the high priestly prayer (John 17). You can feel not only the impending agony, but also the eager anticipation of being reunited with the Father having done the work he was sent to accomplish. When these sons are sent out, there will be new receiving to be done (by them and their parents). Seasons change, but the Savior who ushers them in stands unchanging (Heb. 13:8).

I am almost the mother sending out sons even though I feel like I just received them. I long for our shaping to be informed by the sending. The end bathes the means in fresh light. I long for our sending to accomplish deeper shaping in our lives. I long for our sending to be centered on and sustained by the Sent One. One day, we will be gathered back to him. Then, we will be the satisfied ones. Until then, there is much receiving and shaping and sending to be done.

Everyday Eschatology

My eschatology keeps showing up in seemingly strange places. Recently, I’ve caught myself thinking of eschatological matters in the Magnolia section of Target. Last week, it showed up on my living room couch. I’m thankful that my eschatology is showing up in my everyday life, as it belongs there more than merely in a theological paper or ivory-tower discussion.

Even those who may be wondering what eschatology means have a lived eschatology. Eschatology, coming from two Greek words meaning study and last things, is the theological term for the study of end things. Eschatology thinks deeply about the end of an individual’s life but also the ultimate end of all earthly things through death and final judgement. Far from being bookish, boring topics to be tackled by intellectual elites, eschatological matters affect the way we as everyday people live our lives every day.

Eschatological conversations often come up when people are discussing the book of Revelation; however, they should show up far more frequently in the lives of believers. When we think eschatologically, we think with God’s ultimate aims and the end in mind. We reverse engineer our days so that our today lines with up the tomorrow upon which we are hanging all our hope.

Though the Israelites who walked by faith did not have the term eschatology, they modeled eschatological living and thinking, as seen in the book of Hebrews. Abraham, who was to be the father of many nations and who trusted God to lead him to a city he knew not, spent all his money to buy a tiny plot of land on which to bury his wife (Genesis 23). He was able to do so without giving in to despair and defeat only because he “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 12:10).

Peter and Paul, along with the other Apostles, were constantly reminding me the early church to think with the end in mind. While they did not use the word eschatology, they swam in the concept. Peter wrote, “The end of all things is at hand: therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers (1 Pet. 4:7)” Similarly, Paul constantly urged his disciples to keep their eyes on the ultimate finish line so that they might run the race with integrity and purpose (1 Tim. 6: 12; Titus 2:11-14).

Lived vs. Spoken Eschatology

I think it is important to spend time not only studying and thinking deeply about eschatology but also learning to speak of it in a winsome way to others. But, of late, I have been more concerned lately with my lived eschatology than my spoken eschatology. I am seeing gaps in the way I spend my time and my money, places where my lived eschatology looks much more like an unbeliever than a follower of Christ.

When I am in Target and I’m deeply tempted to spend money we don’t need to spend to make my house look like a Pinterest board or a Magnolia Silo, my eschatology matters. I have to remind myself that this world is not my ultimate home. I have to think about standing in the presence of God and giving an account for my choices and the way I spent my time, my talent, my tears, and my treasures. Then, and only then, do the cute BoHo-styled housewares lose their hold on my heart.

When I am sitting on my couch and listening to a believing friend share about her suffering, my lived eschatology shows up beside us. I realize that I am quick to offer tissues and to remind her of the coming day when there will be no more tears, no more sin, no more suffering. And those things are right and good, but I am quicker to offer them than to remind her that the presence of Christ is the centerpiece of that day. In the age of therapy, it is easier to offer the kingdom of God and its benefits while minimizing the King.

As D.A. Carson wrote, “The supreme hope of the church has always been the return of Jesus Christ. But in contemplating that happy prospect, we must never lose sight of the fact that the goal is to be with Christ.”

Longing & Labor in Eschatology

I am forcing myself to ask two important questions about my lived eschatology: Is there room for longing in my eschatology? Am I laboring toward my eschatology?

In the already/not yet of the kingdom of God, it is hard to live balanced amid its accompanying tensions. There will be a day when tears will be no more, but that does not mean that we grow callous or flippant about the tears we experience here and now (Rev. 21:4). God will come and make all things new, and we will never experience perfection on this side of glory (Rev. 21: 5). Yes and amen. But there is also room in our eschatology to labor as we long. There is work to be done now that matters to help alleviate some of the tears.

On the other hand, it can be easy to get so busy working to help do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven that we forget that part of our work on earth is to look and long expectantly for the return of Christ (Matt. 6:10). We can do all the “right” things, but suffering will still show up and wreak havoc in the havens we are working so hard to create.

While we labor, we long. While we long, we labor. We fight to live out our spoken eschatology until it is our lived reality. Come, Lord, Jesus. Your church longs for your appearing!

Control, Care, and Christ: Teenage Edition

When my oldest two children were beginning to eat solid food, I was that momma who ground her own brown rice and millet to make rice cereal. I pureed fruits and vegetables that I honestly would not want to eat myself. I was never going to raise picky eaters.

My facade of food control was quickly shattered. For a good solid three or four years, my kids survived on Dino Nuggets, quesadillas, and various pastas with butter.

I would like to say that this was the watershed moment of me releasing the idol of control in regards to my children. Alas, I cannot. At nearly every new season or stage of parenting, my attempts to grab on even to the illusion of control come back with a vengeance.

Care & Control

The more we care about someone, the more we tend to want to control outcomes for them. And there are few people I love on earth more than the children God entrusted to me.

When our children were younger, it was easier to feel like we were in control. I picked out their clothes, arranged their playdates, and curated their learning experiences. As they have grown older and more mature, there are no more illusions of control. They have their own tastes of clothes (which changes quicker than the weather in South Carolina). They are making their own choices of friends. They make and remake plans with said friends every other minute.

Their feet, their hair, and their worlds are becoming larger. There are great joys that come with this enlarging world, but there are also accompanying risks. I have had multiple mentors tell me, “Small children, small problem. Big children, bigger problems.” At first I did not like this advice, but I am beginning to understand the bits of wisdom it contains.

Care and control have become buzzwords on my daily walks with my husband as we continue to walk through the teenage years alongside our older boys. My deep, motherly care for my boys has only grown while my ability to pretend control over their lives has shrunk. This tension between care and control presses us back to the only One who holds perfect care and total control simultaneously.

The Care-full Controller of All Things

While on the earth, Christ continually taught his disciples about the constant, attentive, intimate care of God. Into a culture that, out of respect for God, would not even write his name, he brought the image of God as “our father” (Matthew 6:9). He pointed out flora and fauna, explaining God’s delighted, detailed care for even them (Matthew 6:26-30). He assured them they were more precious than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). He was aware of and attuned to even the slightest touch of his garment (Mark 5: 24-34). Christ was always full of care.

Yet, he simultaneously revealed God as the One in control of all things. He knew the thoughts and words of his disciples and even strangers like the woman at the well (John 1:43-51; John 4). He went toe to toe with the rulers of the time and was absolutely clear that he was in the one making the choices (John 18:28-38). Most significantly, he showed us that God controlled even death itself in his resurrection (John 20).

I find myself walking multiple times a day in this season (and not to reach my steps). As I walk, I wrestle my worried, helpless heart into the presence of the God of all care and control. Things I have claimed and believed for myself I am learning to claim and believe again over their lives.

I daily set my overwhelming, sometimes paralyzing love for my boys on the scale of his love for them to remind myself that his love far outweighs mine forever. And then, I remind myself that this God who cares for them is ordering all things for their good (Romans 8:28-32). He has an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure (2 Samuel 23:5). He is the blessed and only sovereign who is both immortal and unapproachably full of light (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

In view of the care-full controller of all things, I am freed to care for these boys. When they get cut from the team or don’t get invited to the gathering, when they are laughed out for living for Christ, when their hearts ache with loneliness or disappointment, I can place them in the hands of the One who is faithful in all his word and kind in all his works (Psalm 145:13; 17). By day, he commands his steadfast love on their behalf, and at night, he sings his song of deliverance over them (Psalm 42:8).

These are not new truths, but they are meeting me in new ways in this new season as a mother of teenagers.

One Dollar More

Supposedly, John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon often considered one of the wealthiest Americans of all time, when asked what would make him happy, answered, “One dollar more.”

My husband and I live on the generosity of the supporters of the Campus Ministry that employs us. I love thrift stores and we try (try being the operative word) to keep to a tight grocery budget. At first glance, we are a far cry from the Rockefeller lifestyle; however, my heart is infected with the same sickness that seems to have plagued him.

While I don’t find myself clinging to the next dollar, I do find myself clinging to and hanging my hope upon the next article I write, the next exciting adventure or the next way to be more organized.  For my kids, it can look like one more Lego set, one more goal, or one more Starburst.

neonbrand-258972

Just one more.
For some it may be one more pound lost or one more sports car. For others, it may be one more child or one more promotion. For others, it might be one more compliment or five more minutes of fame. While it manifests in the widest spectrum of symptoms, the disease distempers each of us who inhabit this spinning rock.  At some point after achieving that achievement or possessing that possession or reaching that milestone, we find ourselves creating a new one more to add to the ceaseless series.

If only I could be more.
As we approach New Year’s resolution season, my case of the Just One Mores tends to become exacerbated and is joined by an acute case of the “If only I could be more…” If only I could be more disciplined, I could lose those extra inches. If only I could be more laid back, our household would be more light-hearted. If I only I could be more consistent, my walk with God would more closely mirror Mother Theresa’s.  If only I could be better at keeping in touch, I could be a better daughter and friend.

In theory, I love the fresh slate of an approaching new year; however, in practice, I find the turn of the calendar paralyzing on account of the Just One Mores and the If Only I Could Be Mores.

Antidotes.
As I come into the home stretch of 2017 and stare into 365 days of an unknown and unknowable 2018, I want to hang my hope and happiness, my security and success on the all-knowing God is who eminently knowable.  In His revealed Word and the fullest revelation of Himself in the person of Christ, I find the antidote to my sin-sickness.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  1 Timothy 6:6-8. 

Physical food and actual clothing, yes. But we have an eternal food and clothing completely provided for us by the person of Christ.

When Christ was on the earth, He gave us hints into the secret of His contentment with his early career of carpentry and his second career as an itinerant preacher.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:32. 

Through Christ, we are given the righteous robes that cover our ragged attempts at self-righteousness and self-improvement.  In Christ, we are given the opportunity to make God’s will and ways our bread.

In Christ, we have food and clothing and the antidote to our cases of One Mores and If Only I Could Be Mores.

As we look to a new year, we trust not in our own efforts or strength, but in the completed work of the Risen and Resurrected Christ.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21. 

One More can become One More Chance to lean on the God who can do far more than I could ever dream or plan.

The King Tide & The King of Tides

In the midst of the holiday season, there is an event that has become its own quiet holiday in my heart: the king tide.

Once a year, the sun and moon align perfectly, thus combining their gravitational pull on the tides. The king tide is the pairing of the highest and lowest tides of the entire year. For the past five or six years, I have looked forward to this tide like a child looks forward to Christmas.

In the quiet, salty air, you get to poke around to see what happens all the time in the tide pools beyond our gaze. There are whole worlds down there in small crevices that the Lord constantly sees and enjoys but we get to see a few times a year.

Simply by reading the tide charts, you can pinpoint the absolute lowest and highest points of the year down to the minute and the meter. Doing so made me wish the weather and tides of souls were so precisely predicted.

Madeline L’Engle’s poem “To a Long Loved Love 3” talks about the peculiarities of the weather of the soul.

“I know why a star gives light
Shining quietly in the night;
Arithmetic helps me unravel
The hours and years this light must travel
To penetrate our atmosphere.
I count the craters on the moon
With telescopes to make them clear.
With delicate instruments I measure
Secrets of barometric pressure.

Therefore I find it inexpressibly queer
That with my own soul I am out of tune,
That I have not stumbled on the art
Of forecasting the weather of the heart.”

L’Engle’s wishing for instruments that can solve and predict the mysterious weather of her own soul resonates with me, especially during the holiday season, especially when I think of the king tides.

If only we could read a chart to discern our souls’ yearly king tides, we might find the strong pull back and the powerful push forward exhilarating rather than exhausting and scary. We could brace for them; we could count and celebrate each demarcation line.

But God has not seen fit to give us such a chart. He prefers we live by faith and in dependence day by day. We don’t know when the a storm will settle in our souls; we don’t know the peaks until we reach them; we don’t know how long we must sit in low tide before recession reverses to procession.

If I don’t know this about my own soul, I most assuredly cannot predict or understand the mysterious weather of the souls who share my household. Yet, so often, I try. I feel such pressure during the holidays and on breaks to have all our high tides align in glorious evenings together. I want to know their low tide times so I can prepare to love and serve them well.

But neither I nor they are so predictable. This reality forces me to move from attempts at control to a posture of care for all the distinct soul atmospheres in my family.

God did not task me as their mother with being the regulator of their moods and tides, as if sentient souls could be directed with an air traffic controller. Thank goodness! If he had there would be wreckage everywhere. I am not qualified for such a role. Only God can go to those sacred spaces (1 Corinthians 2:10-11; Romans 8: 26-27).

God invites me to step toward the weather of their souls (and my own) with what Eugene Peterson calls, “a stance of wonderment.”

The physical practice of enjoying the king tide this year reminded me that God alone is the King of tides, both physically and spiritually.

He is not scared by the storms that come upon me or them. He speaks into such chaos, calming soul storms just as spoke over the squalls on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:35-41).

It is his to control and mine to yield, wonder, and trust.

Lighting the Star

Familiarity breeds contempt, which is why a sanctified imagination is an important ingredient in the Christian life. When we get over-used to the stories, the miracles, and the wonders, we miss opportunities to go deeper into the knowledge of God (Col. 1: 10).

Every year for about a decade, I have prayerfully written an Advent poem to help refresh the wonder and glory of the incarnation of Christ. C.S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, calls the incarnation of Christ the central or grand miracle of the Christian life. “We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because by it we can see everything else.” While we will never fully understand the miracle of the incarnation, by the Incarnate Christ, we are invited to more fully understand the very nature of our God (Heb. 1:1-3). The reality that God, the creator of time and space, would insert himself humbly into his creation for our salvation deserves a lifetime of wonder and intentional inspection.

As I have been reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, my heart has been pulled toward Abraham and Sarah. I love how God, like any incredible writer (or rather, every incredible writer gets his cues from the ultimate story writer who is our God), ties in the details in a masterful way.

The promise Abram received in Ur was to become the father of many nations (Gen. 12:1–3). Abraham and Sarah’s story, set on the backdrop of a desert and including the profound imagery of numbering stars and sand, focused on the receiving of a promised child (Gen. 13:14–17; Gen. 15: 1–6). The story of Abraham finds its climax when God asks Abraham to sacrifice his beloved, only, miraculous son, Issac. Without a moment to spare, God steps in and stays the trembling father’s hand, providing a ram (Genesis 22).

Lighting the star

I love how God allows a uniquely bright and perfectly-timed star to show off the birth of the better Isaac, the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant promise to Abraham. I love how Jesus’s story involved lots of desert and dust. I cannot imagine what those realities must have meant to Abraham as he watched from the presence of God as God’s promise came to full fruition through Christ.

Lighting the Star

Did Abraham watch in wonder as you lit the star?
Did Sarah’s laughter of joy serve as kindling?
Desert sands, promised sons, stars afar!
The chasm between promise and fulfillment dwindling!

The pulsing promise of a miraculous son;
Progeny more numerous than lights in the sky;
In Isaac, immediate fulfillment had begun,
But the ultimate fulfillment now drew nigh.

A strangely bright star, so recently spun,
Indicating the arrival of the Lamb,
The eternally-begotten beloved Son —
This time there would be no ram.

The father of nations sees the Son of Man,
As Sarah erupts again in holy laughter! 
This Son was the zenith of God’s plan!
He is the Savior long sought-after!

Shine brightly, star! Show off his birth!
Weary world, receive Him of infinite worth!

May Christ kindle a fresh curiosity and wonder in our heart as we approach the Advent season. May we hear his voice over the clarion calls of consumerism. As we decorate our homes, may we be reminded that our deepest, truest home is being hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).

When Questions are Your Company

It’s funny. In the toddler years, I expected the near-constant series of “Why?” from my curious children. Yet, I am learning that the teenage years and the adult years are equally marked by lingering, loitering questions. While the questions may be less constant, they make up for the infrequency with the increasing sobriety attached to them.

Teenagers and adults, on the whole, are less interested in the mechanics that make the sky blue or the reason for the chameleon’s colors. They want to know why God made them this way, why a good God allowed evil, why life isn’t fair, and a litany of other significant questions. As a curious learner who loves certainty, I like the former questions far more than the latter.

It seems God is far more comfortable with our questions than we are most of of the time. After all, God saw fit that the earliest recorded book of the Bible was the book of Job: a raw, reeling account of questions, first from a deeply confusing man and then from a compassionate yet transcendent God. Likewise, God graciously provided us with the questions posed by so many psalmists and prophets: Why do the nations rage? How long, O Lord? Why does the wicked renounce God? Will you forget me forever? How long, O Lord, will you look on? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook? (Pss. 2:1; 6:3; 13:1; 10:13; 13:1; 35: 17; Jer. 15:18).

Their Spirit-inspired and sovereignly-recorded questions serve as pavers to lead us through the weeds of confusion and heartache back towards the presence of the God who can handle our questions.

Far from being signs of lack of faith, these questions are often a right response to living in a world where what we know to be true about God doesn’t seem to square up with a crooked reality (from our limited, finite perspective). It would be more alarming if we were not asking these questions when we see, feel, and experience dissonance during our exile on earth.

Three Literary Helps When Questions Are Your Company

Lately, three very different writers have helped me feel less crazy in my sea of questions. They, along with the aforementioned prophets and psalmists, have been my company among in the land of questions marks.

In her book Suffering Is Never For Nothing, Christian writer Elisabeth Elliott reminds her readers that our reflexive question of “Why?” when suffering wreaks havoc in our hearts and homes is a gentle reminder that we aren’t the product of chance. If we are merely evolving organisms, why does not make sense, especially is there is no supernatural Creator ready to receive our questions and attempts to make sense of brokenness and pain.

In his book The Town Beyond the Wall, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel offers us an invitation to listen as Michael, the protagonist (who is also a Holocaust survivor) seeks to make sense of insensible evil. After surviving the concentration camps, he finds himself imprisoned in a Soviet town on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. In his cell with him is a devout Jew, Menachem, whose friendship and encouragement keeps him from losing his faith in God altogether. Though Menachem does not have answers, he continues to bring his deep, knotted questions into the presence of God. When Michael accuses him of blaspheming by asking such hard, honest, direct questions of God himself, he responds, saying, “I prefer to blaspheme in God than far from Him.”

Later, after Menachem has been released, Michael begins to understand the lesson his friend taught him as he seeks to help a younger prisoner. He writes that man must “as the great questions and ask them again, to look up at another, a friend, and to look up again: if two questions stand face to face, that’s at least something. It’s at least a victory.”

As believers in Christ, there is ample room for two people full of questions to look at one another and sit with each other in their questions. Sharing our questions and inviting others in to the mysteries which have us wrestling is a victory that honors our God. When my sons comes to me with a hard, “Why is this happening?” question, at best I can meet him with my own question and usher us into the presence of the God who will one day replace every question mark with an exclamation mark.

Lastly, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Tinkers, Paul Harding’s thoughts about uncertainty have given me great solace as I wrestle with my own feelings of dis-ease and uncertainty.

“Your cold mornings are filled with heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn’t it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God’s will and His grace towards you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty.”

I love thinking about God using our uncertainties and even our deepest wrestlings to believe to draw us into deeper grace. The more we wrestle with him, the more intimate we become with him. Questions do not have to break our fellowship with God; refusing to bring them to him creates the distance, not the presence of the questions themselves.

If questions are your company right now, remember that you are in good company. Find a friend who will sit with you in the question and gently prod you into the presence of the One who invites our wrestling (if you are not sure, just ask Jacob who literally wrestled with the angel of the Lord).

Bringing questions to God shows faith, not a lack thereof. Press on, weary friend. He will come to us as sure as the sweet spring rains. What he has torn, he will heal. What he has stirred (or allowed to be stirred), he will settle.

“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 sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains water the earth” (Hosea 6:1-3).

God answers our questions with a loving question of his own:

“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?…My compassion grows warm and tender…for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8-9).

Parenting Teens: Growing Together

My middle fella turns fourteen in a few days. My oldest fella recently experienced a big disappointment over which I had zero control. We have come a long way from organized play dates and tightly-swaddled lives. When I was pregnant, I was warned about swollen feet, but no one told me that my heart would swell like this. Maybe they tried; I probably was not ready to hear. After all, I had read all the books and I thought myself to be a capable human. Love hadn’t wrecked me yet.

Everyone did say that your parenting was the age of your oldest with whom you experience everything first. As such, we are experiencing high school together. And, I swear, I think its harder the second time!

God is teaching me so much about his heart for me as I feel all the feels with our teenage sons. My heart feels so deeply entangled with theirs, yet my involvement and vested interest in their lives is a drop in a bucket compared to God’s covenant-involvement in the lives of his children (parents included).

If I being rock-hearted am shattered with sorrow for my children, how much more does God’s heart ache when his children hurt. If He takes no delight in the punishment of the wicked, he certainly does not stand back stoically watching his adopted sons and daughters suffer (Ezek. 18:32; Lam. 3:31-33).

If I, limited in wisdom and power as I am, stand ready in the wings to step towards my children in relief and response, how much more does God Almighty stand ready to rescue his hurting children.

There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33. 26–27).

Lately, my mind has been musing on the mysteries of quantum entanglement, but my heart has been experiencing the entanglement of love which is even more profound. God so orders the unseen particles that make up all matter so that two electrons that interact briefly are forever entangled even when they are light years apart. If Einstein didn’t get it, I surely won’t. However, I know what it feels like to have one’s heart willingly entangled by love in the lives of others. If we, being human, feel this reality, how much more does God himself who has graciously tied himself up with his children?

Entangled

If unseen electrons remain entangled
Even as they travel light years apart,
If tiny particles stay tied and coupled,
Then what hope has a mother’s heart? 

When life punches you, I bruise.
When your dreams break, I shatter.
Our seconds and souls are bound
As mother-son entangled matter.

One look of pain from you slays me;
I read the stories behind your eyes.
When life knocks you down, I fall, too;
But we’ll crawl to the Greater prize. 

The fire that singes you scorches me,
Removing from us doubled dross.
I grieve and grow right alongside you,
As we prayerfully process each loss.

One day, He’ll answer every question,
He’ll wipe every tear from your face.
Then we will be fully, forever, freely,
Entirely entangled with His grace.

May you know that the Maker of quarks and atoms has set his love on his children and involves himself in their cares and causes. May such an unbelievable reality stretch and pull you towards your Savior!

What Scares Me Most this Halloween

San Diego takes Halloween deathly seriously. One of our neighbors starts decorating his home over two months before Halloween, slowly transforming his yard with massive, homemade themed decorations. Grim reapers abound, as do every size and texture of spider. But they are not what scare me most this year.

This year, my heart is most scared about the ho hum attitude we have towards mass shootings and physical violence done to political adversaries, as if these were par for the course.

This year, my heart is most scared about what we will do to other image-bearers in a week’s time when elections stir up all our inner crazy. I fear that, even as believers in Christ, we will forget to heed the Apostle Paul’s warning, “But if you bit and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:11).

This year, my heart is most scared for the twenty-something generation so desperately screaming, “More life!” that they flock towards crowded streets for experiences that lead only to more death. Emptied and disillusioned as many of them are by the vacuum of truth in which they were raised, their extreme need to chase life and experience to keep up with Insta-images scares me and brings tears to my eyes. I want to shout to them the timeless truths of the Scriptures: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply” (Ps. 16:4) and “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love: (Jonah 2:8).

This year, my heart fears our collective ability to see and magnify (in order to cancel) the mistakes and failures of others while being comfortably complacent with our own. We have become experts as assessing splinters and ignoring logs (Matt. 7:3).

This year, my heart is most scared by my own sin. I see my own fear over situations I cannot control (especially as my children become teenagers) and it fills me with more fear. I see my own hunger for man’s approval and it deeply frightens me. I see the amount of selfishness even in my obedience to God, and it causes me to shudder.

What Strengthens Me This Halloween

If I were to leave myself in this massive pool of fears I would be no different than our present news outlets. But, thanks be to God, fears press the believer more deeply into an anchored hope. When fears loom large, our hope can loom larger.

My mind has been meditating upon the Heidelberg Catechism, Question One.

“What is your only comfort in life and in death?”

“That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.

When the news leaves me dizzy, this comfort holds true. When circumstances seem to spin out of control, this comfort holds true. When political enmity boils over and spills into our streets, this comfort holds true.

I can think of nothing better to offer my soul, the souls of my children, and the souls of the younger generations than the good news of the gospel.

The Love that Fights Against Me

We love the biblical idea of God fighting for us. We love quoting Moses standing with his back to the Red Sea and his face towards the approaching Egyptian army: “The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent” (Ex. 14:14). We rightly love to reference another set of words by Moses to the people of God:

“And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory’.” (Deut. 20:2–4).

Yet, we struggle to receive and cling to the reality that the same love that fights for us is also deeply committed to fighting against us.

Love that Stands Against My Sin

I’ll never forget something my husband said to me during our first year of marriage. We had come to an impasse (which is a euphemistic way of saying that we were in a bit of a disagreement). I think I said something alongside the lines of “I need to know that you are for me” to which he wisely replied, “I am for the Spirit in you, but I am against your sin and your flesh.” In the moment, I don’t think I liked his response very much; however, the reality of a love that would stand against me and my sin has deeply shaped me and helped me understand God’s fiercely faithful and faithfully fierce love for his children.

Now that I have children, I can better understand the ferocious side of love. While I am not generally a yeller, I have yelled loudly at my children to protect them danger. I remember crying as we disciplined our very young children for touching the stove. And now, as my children are becoming adolescents, my husband and I have had to keep them from things they have deeply desired to protect them from harm. I will never forget the story of a father friend of ours. His daughter was in the depths of depression which was leading her to seek escape in rebellion and substances. In love, he would sleep in front of the front door to offer himself as a physical barrier to that which would cause her lasting harm.

An Unsettling Promise

I was stopped dead in my tracks yesterday when I was reading the book of Jeremiah. At this particular part in the book of the weeping prophet, Jeremiah has recently been imprisoned and tortured by the priest in the house of the Lord for speaking truthful (but very hard-to-swallow) words from the Lord. God’s people simply wanted nothing to do with the truth that would check, challenge, and convict them in their sin. Their spirit is summarized in one verse:

Then they said, “Come, let us makes plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, not counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue and let us not pay attention to any of his words” (Jeremiah 18:18).

Later, when Babylon began to attack them, they conveniently decided they would like to hear the word of the Lord again (as if God and his prophets were lucky rabbit’s feet to be rubbed when desired). God sent Jeremiah back to the same priest who had tortured him with these startling words, “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath” (Jer. 21:5).

God refused to relent and yield to his people’s desire for prosperity and security apart from him. He loved them too much.

A Deeply Settled Love

For those who are in Christ, God’s wrath has been poured out upon Jesus. He drank the cup of wrath down to its dregs. Thus, God does not punish his children. The Holy Spirit, does, however, stand against them in their sin, waging war against the remnant of flesh that lives within us in the already/not yet of the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 16–26). Just as Jesus loved Peter and therefore rebuked him when he had his mind set on the things of the earth rather than the things of God, God will lovingly rebuke us through his discipline (Matt. 16:23; Heb.12: 3–11).

If God allows us to be wounded or corrected, it always comes from his scarred hands and issues from his deeply settled (and publicly-shown) love for us.

Martin Luther wrote the following about the loving correction of God:

“When God sends us tribulation, it is not as reason and Satan argue: ‘See there God flings you into prison, endangers your life. Surely He hates you. He is angry with you; for if He did not hate you, He would not allow this thing to happen.’ In this way Satan turns the rod of a Father into the rope of a hangman and the most salutary remedy into the deadliest poison. He is an incredible master at devising thoughts of this nature. Therefore, it is very difficult to differentiate in tribulations between him who kills and Him who chastises in a friendly way.”

If we are buffeted and checked by the Spirit of God who wars against our indwelling sin, this is ongoing proof of our place as true daughters and sons. Receive his fierce love as marks of ownership from the Father.