Category Archives: motherhood

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 Inflation We Tend to Encourage

I’m not usually one to keep up with economic trends like inflation, largely because I don’t fully understand it. However, even as someone who is accustomed to exorbitantly high West Coast gas prices, the cost of filling my car with gas is something I can no longer ignore.

I may not understand inflation, but I sure am discouraged by it. All this inflation talk has had me thinking about the kind of inflation we tend to encourage: the inflation of earthly knowledge.

We live in an age of competing knowledge where armchair experts claim to know better than everyone else. We love to clean on phrases like “Clinically-proven” and “Studies have shown.” In our day and age, people tend to wield knowledge like a weapon, using statistics, studies, and even sometimes sermons to try to decimate intellectual sparring partners.

Don’t get me wrong. I love knowledge and always have. I take great joy in learning and teaching all kinds of things. And I hope that I have passed such a passion for learning on to my children. But knowledge (not even knowledge of spiritual things) is not the end all be all; being known by God is. There are plenty of people with parades of accolades after their names who have knowledge but are not known by God and growing to know him more.

When writing to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul addresses a sinful inflation that comes from thinking we have superior knowledge to others.

“This knowledge puffs up but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).

Through James, the Scriptures offer us a similar plumb line or a standard against which to measure our knowledge. Writing to believers in the early church, he draws a clear distinction between wisdom from above and earthly wisdom.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealously and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).

I memorized this in college when I was first beginning to try to kill the monstrous idol of academic pride I had fed my entire life up until that point. I borrowed David’s prayer for truth in the inner parts and wisdom in the secret heart (Psalm 51: 6) . I sought to trade my prideful, noisy knowledge that wanted to make itself known to the watching world for the kind of knowledge that can rest quietly and peacefully in the heart of one has wisdom (Proverbs 14:33).

Earthly wisdom puffs up self, creating swollen, easily-inflated (and equally-easily-deflated) egos, whereas godly wisdom builds up others. Our culture and our flesh flaunt the former and shun the latter. In fact, the Greek word that Paul used while writing to the Corinthian church about earthly knowledge, phusioó, literally means to over-inflate by blowing or to cause to swell up. Scripture juxtaposes such breathing which swells up with the wisdom that comes from the pneuma or breath of the Holy Spirit. Such wisdom sustains and fills us, but not so that we think more highly of ourselves but, rather, so that we think more rightly about God, self, and others.

Earlier in the same letter to the puffed-up Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul clearly equated the person of Christ with the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 8:24). Drawing out this reality, the Apostle Paul further explained to these contentious believers that it made no sense to boast in men or the wisdom of men when you have all things already resting in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:21). I wish I did not find so much of the Corinthian church in and around me, but I struggle similarly to them still.

Tomorrow night, we are headed to an academic awards night for our eighth grader. ‘Tis the season. But I find myself praying desperately that he and our entire family (beginning with me) would be marked by true wisdom that can only come down from above. Like most things in God’s kingdom, such wisdom is not gained by granted as gift to those with space. The only need for such wisdom is to be deeply aware of our need for authentic wisdom and deeply suspicious of its cultural counterfeits.

I am fighting to be weary of all inflation, not only the economic kind but also the academic kind. Our wallets may deflate a bit each day due to inflation, but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can encouraged and appropriately filled with the kind of knowledge that does not inflate self but rather builds up others.

Baseball & Broken Plans

Real talk: our youngest who breathes baseball did not make the All-Star team. In the grand scheme of things, this really is a blip on the radar. However, God has been showing me so much about my own heart and His heart through something as insignificant as baseball.

This is not a post about the dangers and idols of youth sports, as there are plenty of those. Nor is it is a rebuttal explaining the way youth sports are an inroads into the last frontier of neighboring in our increasingly isolated culture (though one day I want to write that one, too).

It’s about the heart of an earthly parent and the better plans of a perfect Heavenly One. It’s about how my heart breaks to see my son’s little heart crack a bit over baseball. It’s about how his forced smile and attempts to shake it off cause tears to puddle in my eyes. It’s about bearing double disappointment as a parent. It’s about the mysterious mixture of largeness of love and lack of control that marks parenting. It’s about God’s gracious response to the feebleness of my faith when things don’t go my way or their way as a parent.

We pray that God would give our children not only exposure to the truths of Christianity, but real, nuanced experiences with Him personally. In a world that screams, “Be impressive” our prayer for our children has always been that they would be impressed by God, His Word, and His ways. And I mean it.

Most of the time. But sin creeps into even Spirit-sealed hearts. The insidious lie that we can have uncommon intimacy with Jesus by following the common way and with all the creaturely comforts and accoutrement has crept into my heart. Jesus was so gracious to use broken baseball dreams to expose it.

In his gentle way, Jesus led me to a pair of rhetorical questions he once asked a disappointed prophet:

“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?” (Jeremiah 12:5).

If I am this disappointed by God redirecting baseball plans, how will I respond when harder suffering lines the paths of my son’s lives? The resilient faith I pray for my children and myself requires meeting resistance early and often. But I am excellent at regularly resisting resistance.

I am so thankful that we rely on a perfectly Heavenly Father who disciplines according to perfect knowledge unlike earthly parents who do their best with their limited knowledge (Hebrews 12:7-11). I am thankful that our good God does not cave to our constant cries for comfort and ease. I am thankful that the scarred hand of Jesus holds the quill that writes the stories of my children. He gently chides me when I attempt to grab it to write a less-glorious, more controlled story.

I can trust the One who write their stories because He wrote himself into our tragedy. He bore unthinkable pain and lumbered under the punishment of our sin so that we could be brought into the story of His redemption. His stories are far better than mine. The largeness of His love swallows my love for my own children whole. He gives me ample practice entrusting to him these children who have been his all along and will be his for all eternity.

The Quill

You can pray, process, and point,
But you cannot steal the quill. 
You can help me hold the paper,
But you cannot change my will. 

Besides, you wouldn’t want to
If you saw what I have in store. 
Every loss and limp and lesson 
Is an attempt to give them more. 

More humility, more dependence,
More soul space for more of Me.
Momma, move out of my way,
For I have plans you cannot see. 

They won’t know uncommon love
By following the common way;
Let me lead them by the hand,
Let me order each and every day.  

I know it seems small and silly, but I am learning so much from baseball and broken plans. I am thankful that as I walk my children in one hand, I am held by God’s greater grip in the other. Parenting is not for the faint of heart, but thankfully, our Heavenly Father knows that in ways we never will.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)..

On Sloppy Soldiering

While nothing about my life or personality screams soldier, the Bible is replete with images of Christians as soldiers. As one who has lived her entire life in the privileged place of safety from wars and one who has not married into the military, the soldier mantle feels far from fitting.

I can most assuredly say I would never make it through boot camp, yet, if I take the Biblical imagery seriously, I have to consider myself as a soldier.

In addition to screaming of discipline, training and a life of service under careful command, the soldier imagery also forces me to remember that life is war.  Laced throughout the New Testament, one finds the language of spiritual warfare. In Ephesians, Christians both ancient and new are bidden to put on the whole armor of God, to wage war against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness.

When Christians are born again by the power of the Spirit, no matter the times and places in which they live, they are children born into the ravages of a war. As C.S. Lewis so powerfully wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”

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The final letter of a near-death Paul to Timothy, his replacement in the kingdom cause, exhibits a similar thread of soldiering.

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:3-4. 

As I was walking yesterday, the Spirit brought this Scripture to mind, gently convicting me that I have been living this week as a sloppy soldier. While I haven’t defected or deserted, while I am indeed actively enlisted in His service, I have found myself more and more entangled by civilian affairs.

The Greek word emplekó, translated entangled above,  can also be translated to weave or to entwine. It comes from a root meaning to braid, to plate, to twist, bringing connotations of threads being woven together tightly.

Christians are not called to neglect civilian affairs like their children’s education, their homes, their futures, their possessions and the likes. Yet, they are warned to not become entangled by those things. It seems that God knew that such things have a way of finagling themselves into the holes in our souls and getting entwined in our deepest senses of identity, security, contentment and worth.

As soldiers who must be ready at any time to follow the orders of their direct report, we are called to live lightly, to sit loosely in civilian affairs. We are supposed to be ready to leave our current stations and situations should our Commanding Officer redirect us or have need of us for the sake of the greater cosmic war. We are commanded to leave room in our hearts and lives to become entangled in the fight for the kingdom of God to come to earth.

My heart has become entangled with civilian concerns which, in and of themselves are legitimate; yet, their hold on my heart this week has been illegitimate and inordinate. I have been anxious and worried over house offers and counter-offers, over school zoning lines and other decisions which are gifts and privileges, not weights.

Yesterday, I took my overly entwined heart on a walk in an attempt to take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ. On one block, I would have my unruly fears and concerns and hypothetical situations in an obedient headlock. Then, on the next block, they would pull a full-nelson on me and have me back in a chokehold.  My internal WWE match was interrupted by a thumping party scene (we live in the throes of the college area, so parties are a regular scene).

I saw crowds of young ladies dressed in what I would consider less than lingerie, walking tipsily into a rowdy house party. I saw guys consuming alcohol in a desperate attempt to alter reality and find life.

The Spirit graciously cut some of the suffocating civilian cords from my heart. Life is war, Aimee. You are a soldier of Christ, positioned, postured and trained to battle for the souls of these students. You so easily forget the context into which you have been reborn and what is expected of you as a good soldier of Christ.

While we know victory has been secured by Christ, we live our daily lives on the fields of the last skirmishes of this eternal battle. I am so thankful that God promises to equip and train often sloppy soldiers like myself.

May God graciously remind of these truths when the civilian concerns threaten to obscure this reality. May we sit loosely and live lightly in our necessary civilian affairs.

 

Inscape in an Escapist World

Our newsfeeds, both the ones in our minds and the real ones that capture our attention, constantly bid us to escape from our realities. They invite us to wish we were on a secluded, tropical island or exploring the French Riviera. They tell us that if we could only get a new set of mid-century modern furniture and some macrame hanging plants, our lives would be richer, simpler, and more beautiful.

Our escapist culture allures us, whether explicitly or implicitly, to run away to external things for renewal and refreshment. On the backdrop of such an escapist world, inscape, a concept termed by the Jesuit poet Gerard Manly Hopkins, resonates deeply.

The Dearest Freshness Deep Down Things

Hopkins used inscape to describe the unified and complex characteristics that give each thing its uniqueness, and he captures this concept poetically in his famous poem God’s Grandeur where he wrote, “There lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”

While the world bids us look out, Hopkins invites us to look deeper into the things, places, and people all around us. When I find myself imagining that a trip to Hawaii would satisfy me, Hopkins would invite me to fight to see the beauty of the Hibiscus flower growing in a pot in my own backyard. When I find myself buying the lie that what I need is a new set of circumstances, Hopkins gently invites me to ask God for new eyes to see the same things more deeply and differently. With the help of the Holy Spirit and an attuned focus, the mundane drives to soccer and baseball practices with my sons become opportunities to see who God has made them with fresh eyes.

When the world lures me to run away, Hopkins bids me grab a spiritual shovel to begin digging for a dearer freshness deep down the things and people in my present life. Hopkins can say this because he knew that those who dig deep enough would eventually find God, the Creator, at the bottom. For freshness can only come from the abundance of the life-giver and source of all refreshment: the Triune God.

The Dearest Freshness Deep Within Us

Scripturally, we see a similar invitation in the Word of God. Although Christianity is the farthest thing from navel-gazing and looking for life in things and people themselves, Christ gives his children new eyes to see God in all things. The Scriptures are replete with terms like “inner man,” “within,” and “the secret place” which reminds us that God sees us all the way through. While the world looks upon the outward appearance, God looks upon the heart or in the inscape, to borrow Hopkins’ term (1 Samuel 16:7).

Our God desires truth plastered not only on our newsfeeds and walls but more significantly within our deepest parts: “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psalm 51:6). The psalmists found hope and stability knowing that even if the earth gave way and the mountains slipped into the sea, God is in the midst of his people therefore, they would not be moved (Psalm 46:2-5). Similarly. the Apostle Paul prayed that the church in Ephesus would be “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17).

Freshness without our sin-flawed hearts only happens by grace through faith in Christ. For Christ alone had truth in his inmost part and wisdom in his inmost place. He alone constantly drew strength and life from the source of life. He always saw as God sees, looking past appearances to the reality. Yet, he took within him the foulness of our sin, drinking to the very dregs the wrath of God we deserved. After rising and ascending to the Father, he sent us the Spirit who would dwell within us, making his home in us and inviting us to make our home within the Triune God.

The Holy Spirit within us gives us the dearest freshness deep down at the soul level. Even if outwardly we are wasting away and the world around us is fading, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are invited to begin to see as God sees and to think with the very mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 2:16). As such, we don’t need to escape our circumstances, but we need to run and hide in the arms of the One who lovingly ordered our circumstances (Psalm 16:5-6). We get to ask him to show us more of himself deep down in the places and people of our everyday lives.

The Resurrection Means Rest

If I am honest, as we are approaching the high point of the liturgical year, I am feeling quite low. Even after a week away with my family surrounded by God’s beauty, my heart feels depleted and cumbersome. A year of church planting, long, slow writing projects with little feedback, and keeping up with three teenaged boys has me running on fumes, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Even as we are buying the eggs for the church egg hunt and preparing the liturgy for Good Friday, I feel like a fraud. My heart isn’t skipping, even though I know the resurrection is coming. My soul isn’t soaring even though I know (at least cerebrally) how loved I am by the One who shed his blood for me. Even though we are planning a service to help our people look at and behold their king, I am struggling to look up.

But, as I journaled and wrestled with tears in my eyes this morning, the Lord reminded me that this is why he went to the cross. He went to the Cross so I would know that He looks at me with gentle love even when I struggle to look up to Him. He emptied himself on the Cross so I can rest from the need to perform or fill myself when my soul is spent and empty.

When I can’t make my spirit rise, His Resurrection is still a reality. I don’t have to dig deeper to get it right because nails were dug into his very human hands for me. I don’t have to pluck up and keep carrying my load alone because my yoke-fellow already carried the full weight to Calvary.

None of the callousness of my heart shocks him. In fact, such realities shoved him toward the Cross. The endless chasm of needs, which are still news to me, is not new to him. He suffered so he could greet me with gentleness and understanding right in the middle of my needs.

Today, I am learning that it is okay if celebrating the Resurrection might not look like leaping and rejoicing this year. He is gently showing me that celebrating the Resurrection can also look limping and resting. Christ’s Resurrection assures me that one day, we will leap rather than limp.

For those who have been limping through Lent, may you find rest in the reality of Christ’s resurrection. May you feel the freedom to let Christ nestle you down for a nap in the place where his body once lay.

In returning and rest you will be saved; in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)

Resting in Resurrection

It’s okay if I collapse;
My Savior – He arose. 
It’s okay if no one sees;
My Savior fully knows. 

I don’t need to prove myself;
His Cross pleads proven love. 
When all within condemns me,
He gently bids me look above. 

When I’m spent with naught to offer,
His spent blood offers peace. 
When I’m trapped by circumstance,
His Resurrection is my release. 

He nestles me down for a nap
Where His body once was laid. 
My Risen Savior pleads for me,
All my debts are fully paid. 

So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his (Hebrews 4:9-10).

Bemoaning Boredom

Communication is not what is spoken but what is heard. Throughout the day, there are about a billion things I say to my children. I am not sure what, if anything, gets through. There’s only one sure fire way to know what is actually being communicated to their little hearts and minds. Eavesdropping.

Every once in a while, while I am cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry or hiding in the bathroom, I’ll listen in on the boys conversations (we will talk about invasion of privacy when they can define the word invasion). They have some amazing pillow talk, those two older boys. Their conversations run the gamete: dragons, monsters, plans for inventions, talking about the field trips they will take in 8th grade the way that I talk about retirement.

The other day Eli was complaining of being bored, to which Tyus responded, “Mom wants us to be bored. Because when we are bored, we create new things and come up with new fun.”

In my shock, I may or may not have dropped the laundry I was folding. They are actually listening to me.

Today, while I was resting and reading and praying, the Lord told me that maybe I should listen to me, too.

Internally, I am better than my children at bemoaning boredom. Sure, I rarely walk up to the Lord and tug at His proverbial pant leg to whine, “I’m so bored. There is nothing to do.” But internally, I complain about the monotony of manning the same post day in and day out. I look around at everyone else’s toys and activities and determine that others received the better end of the deal. In my boredom, I mindlessly scroll through the Facebook feed or shop around at thrift stores or fantasize about getaways and vacations that involve quiet and sleep and take place anywhere but here.

Nearly two hundred years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville, a European visitor to America,  made some observations about Americans that still ring true, at least in my own heart and home.

“Born often under another sky, placed in the middle of an always moving scene, himself driven by the irresistible torrent which draws all about him, the American has no time to tie himself to anything, he grows accustomed only to change, and ends by regarding it as the natural state of man. He feels the need of it, more, he loves it; for the instability, instead of meaning disaster to him, seems to give birth only to miracles all about him.”

Guilty as charged.

Teaching Our Children to Embrace Boredom

The greatest temptation of the parent is to give our children what they want rather than what they need. My children, in their flesh want to be constantly busy with fun things, but they need to be busy with boring things like chores or just plain bored.

Boredom exposes their hearts and their idols. it shows gaps. As a momma, my reflexive response is to want to fill all gaps for them. But the gaps are the places where grace and the gospel leak into their lives. When they are not so full of what they want, they may begin to realize what they really need.

It is so challenging for me to let them sit in perceived lack, but such lack points us to our need for the constantly full One. Boredom forces them to look over all that they do have and use it more creatively. It reminds them that this earth is not our home and that we were made for more than personal fulfillment. These lessons are hard to swallow, but the sooner these truths sink in, the better they will be for the future.

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Embracing Boredom as Adults

I see it in my boys who claim boredom in the midst of bins of toys and in between exciting adventures and countless opportunities. I see it in my longing to start something new, do something different, visit someplace exotic. Boredom lies under the temptation to quit my post and find a greener pasture when life gets flat and days get long.

I often tell my boys, “Boredom is a gift. It teaches you to create and to play.”

Today God reminded me that, as His child, He thinks the same for me. He longs for more than my entertainment. He longs for me to be satisfied deeply in Him, not in changing circumstances.

In the monotony I deeply dread,  He gives me opportunity to dig deeper into His well for joy. The pleasures of HIs presence are far more substantial and lasting than the ephemeral pleasures I typically jump to as from rock to rock.

If I am honest, I look forward to bed time, I look forward to a haircut, I look forward to Starbucks coffee splurges. I look forward to the weekend, I look forward to vacation and adventures. I don’t look far enough.

The Lord reminded me ever-so-gently today that I need a longer hope, a longer vision. Psalm 130 is a good place for my soul to sit awhile.

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. Indeed, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord; For with the Lord there is lovingkindness and with Him is abundant redemption. 

In a culture that is drowning in entertainment, we are a terribly bored and discontented people. Or at least I can speak for myself.

This week, instead of dreading the monotony, I long for the Lord to transform it, to invite me deeper into His ever-available abundance right where I am. I don’t want to quit my post. The Lord put me here, and He plans to show up. I just tend to be too busy chasing cheap satisfaction to notice His coming.

The Dispersed Lady

Have you ever been reading fiction and felt like a line was reading you? That happened to me last night as I fell asleep reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. In this particular scene, a couple was discussing one of their dear friends as they lay in bed one evening.

At least they’ve got money.”

“That does help,” I said, “It even helps her hire a nanny to look after the children she’s already got, so she can be out promoting culture and singing in the chorus and cleaning up Wisconsin politics and being kind to the wives and the children of starving instructors. That’s a pretty dispersed lady.”

The last sentence of five words slew me. That’s a pretty dispersed lady.

While they were speaking of Charity, one of the main characters in this particular story, they could have well been speaking of me.

Dispersed

Dispersed. Spread out. Shed abroad. Scattered. A tendency to be all over the place and in everything.

Maybe you are not as prone to dispersion as I am, but even the most gathered and collected of us live in a dispersed and scattered culture. Even before the internet and its eery invitation to peer into the lives of others all around the world and to disperse our opinions and energies towards every possible cause, we were a dispersed culture. Sometime in the American experiment, better came to mean more and best came to mean most. Wider now seems synonymous with more accomplished. Our culture constantly leaks this truth into our lives, “The wider your sphere of influence, the wider the reach of your followers, the wider you have traveled, the more significant you must be.”

If people were speaking of me, as Sally and her husband were of their mutual friend, I pray that they would say of me, “That’s a pretty dependent and deep lady.”

Apart from the grace of God, this will be never be true of me. I tend to be more of a whirling dervish of energy and excitement and interest. Due to the fact that I am a mother of three busy boys, my schedule has me dispersed in twelve places at once. Add on top of that the reality that are planting a church and you have the recipe for a dispersed lady.

Dependent, Deep, and Focused

Yet, the gospel invites me to be both dependent, deep, and focused. In a culture permeated by self-will and self-talk, God asks his children to be God-reliant and God-directed. He invites us to draw from a well of strength that the world cannot see and guides us by priorities that world doesn’t always share.

In a culture spread thin running in every direction, our God invites us to be people of depth, a people deeply rooted. Rooted in his word, rooted in his promises, rooted in the messy community called the church, rooted to the people and purposes he has allotted for us (Ephesians 3:14-19; Hebrews 10:22-25; Psalm 16:5-8).

When offering us images of what it looks like to walk with God, the Spirit inspired the psalmist to give us the picture of a tree firmly planted by the water (Psalm 1). When Jesus sought to paint a picture of the kingdom of God for his disciples, he used similar imagery of a small seed which grew into an expansive tree offering shade and nesting branches to all in its surroundings (Matthew 13:31-32). Both of these word pictures share not only depth and rootedness but also dependence.

In a scattered, distracted culture, we are pulled in a thousand directions towards a thousand causes. It doesn’t help that our sin predisposes us to chase after everything but God. Yet, God commands his people to live with a clear focal point: Himself.

With our eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith and our gaze directed to Christ who is our life, we can do diverse things with a united heart (Hebrews 12:1-3; Colossians 3:1-4; Psalm 86:11).

The only reason we are able to become this kind of people is that Christ was the seed that died so that many might live (John 12:24). He was dispersed so we could be focused on him and rooted in him in deep dependence. Oh, that we would be deep, dependent, and focused people. When we are such, we will be free to disperse the seeds of the gospel to a world that desperately needs truth.

New Month, New Mercies (Quieting the Calendar)

Most of us love opening new things. A fresh box of Crayola crayons still brings me joy. Something as simple as starting a fresh journal makes my heart stir with fresh hope and possibilities. And there is little to compare with opening a fresh box of athletic shoes or the new car smell. However, turning a new page on the calendar tends to bring a fresh opportunity for anxiety.

As a family we are committed to living intentionally with God and for others. This often looks like having couples or students over for meals in the evening, getting coffee with hurting friends, mentoring younger believers and being mentored ourselves. So many places to be, meals to host, children to nurture and develop. Syncing sports schedules and planning church events awaits me at the threshold of each new month.

Each new month (and, if I am completely honest, each new week), the Lord and I have a little process we do together called quieting the calendar.

It’s as if Jesus has to grab me by the hand and walk with me over the cacophonous calendar through each day of the upcoming month. One by one, He quiets each screaming demand or fear, rational or irrational, telling them to lay back down quietly. We continue in this vein until we walk through the whole month. Only after this process am I am able to look with hope at a new month marked by new mercies.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man well-acquainted with the demands and needs of a large community, wrote the following.

“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him.”

Bonhoeffer’s sweet image of the Lord standing at the doorway of each new day, each new month, each new and daunting life season comes to me often when the calendar and commitments, most of them right and good, start stealing my peace and focus.

I live in a hurried society and a heart that hurries to busyness lives within me. I am such a Martha, buzzing with frenetic energy like a neon light, I am quick to run to everything but the One thing needful. Yet, there is only one thing needful, and it is not a thing. It is not an urgent demand, but a patient person. The One thing I need is to come to Him. I need him to teach my heart to keep pace with His, rather than straining to keep up with the pace of the world all around or the lies deep within me.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.

She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You  not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things: but only One thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

When I have sat with the Best, the good won’t have to be coaxed or conjured up; it will flow out of my union with Him. And union with Him is incredibly portable. He goes with me into PTA meetings and retreats. He goes with us to soccer practice. He is the main attraction of our hospitality, not my mediocre meals.

At the threshold of a new month, these truths help me quiet the calendar:

  1. All my plans are mere proposals to be shaped by God’s better plans.
    “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
  2. My minutes are not mine but yours, and they are meant to be invested, not squandered.
    “But I trust in you, O Lord. I say, ‘My times are in your hand'” (Psalm 31:14) and “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-16).
  3. There is a provision of energy and joy in obedience that the world can neither conjure nor comprehend.
    “I delight to do y our will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).
  4. If he commands it, he will give all he commands.
    “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for you have indeed done for us all our works” (Isaiah 26:12).

May we walk into a new month with new mercies. May His truth quiet our calendars, for His glory and our great joy!

The Breath of the Lion

Being out with Covid has allowed my youngest son and I ample time to keep reading through The Chronicles of Narnia again. I cannot resist a child’s begging for one more page, but when it comes to Narnia stories, I cannot resist a child’s begging for one more chapter, especially when Aslan is on the scene.

As soon as Aslan is near, my son and I both sigh in relief, knowing everything will turn out alright. The thing is that Aslan’s interaction with his creatures are usually short, simple, and significantly profound.

This time around, I nearly lost my breath reading the scene in which Aslan breathes courage over the fearful Susan. As much as I want to be like Lucy (who doesn’t want to be like little Lucy?), I am far more like Susan who began listening to fears.

“Then, after an awful pause, the deep voice said, ‘Susan.’ Susan made no answer but the others thought she was crying. ‘You have listened to fears, child,’ said Aslan. ‘Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?’

‘A little, Aslan,’ said Susan.”

Aslan doesn’t lecture Susan on the useless of entertaining fears. He doesn’t chastise her for being more controlled by fear than faith. He merely points out the obvious, saying, “You have listened to fears, child.” And his antidote to her fears is neither a Ted talk on the power of positive thinking nor a penance to work her way back into his good graces. He merely breathes on her.

Photo by Matthew Kerslake on Unsplash

With a mere breath from God, the universe came into existence (John 1:1-5) . The Holy Spirit is the breath or wind of God who blows where he pleases (John 3:8). The enemy yells and connives and convinces in his native language which is “lie” (John 8:44). Not so our powerful Creator. He need only gently breathe new life into his children.

In light of the past three years of a pandemic spread through airborne respiratory particles, breath has gained a rather negative connotation. To sneeze in public these days is far more than a faux-pas. As we all know all too well, to be breathed on requires proximity. The longer you remain in someone’s presence in close proximity, the more likely you are to be breathed on by them and thus conferred the gift of their respiratory particles.

But this morning, even as we are still feeling sick from Covid, I find myself longing for the breath of God. I find myself fighting to fleshly urge to flee from him into busyness or productivity, intentionally training myself to linger in his presence.

I want his breath. I want his nearness. I want his words and his truth which drop like morning dew. I need him to breath courage over me, to strengthen my faith and diminish my fears. Even Satan’s most elaborate lies don’t stand a chance against the weakest sigh of the Lion of Judah. Even his most sinister schemes look like airy cobwebs when compared to the solid, unshakably good plans of the Lord of all history.

A little breath from him goes a long way. And this is why the Enemy trembles when we pray, posturing ourselves in dependence.

Pray with me that this modern hymn written by the Stewart Townend would be true of us this morning.

“Holy Spirit, living breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Let the presence of the risen Lord,
Come renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see,
Give me passion for Your purity;
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.

Holy Spirit, come abide within,
May Your joy be seen in all I do.
Love enough to cover every sin,
In each thought and deed and attitude.
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my strivings into works of grace;
Breath of God show Christ in all I do.

Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth,
Cause Your church to hunger for your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise;
Lead us on the road of sacrifice,
That in unity the face of Christ
May be clear for all the world to see.

May we listen to the Lion, not the liar. May his words be on our lips and in our lives.