Category Archives: motherhood

Come and See

“Come and see,” Mary and Martha pushed out the words through sobs, leading their shaken up Rabbi to the cave into which their dear brother had been laid.  Martha, practical in nature, hestitated at Christ’s commands to take away the stone sealing the dead from the living. “It’s been four days, Teacher. You don’t want to see him. It’s not the Laz you remember. The staggering smell of sickness and death will overwhelm you as it has us these past painful days.”

Studying John 11 this week knowing we have dear friends who have lost loved ones and received heavy diagnoses, the bravery and vulnerability of the simple phrase, “Come and see,” jumped out at me.

What faith it must have taken these sisters to invite the same Jesus who came too late, in their honest opinion, into their messy grief. What trust it displayed that they invited Jesus into their pulsing, palpable pain, this same One whom both sisters had said could have saved their brother had he been there.

Come and see how our hearts are aching and nearly bursting with waves of grief at the separation. He is right there, not twenty feet away, yet we cannot access him, we cannot laugh with him and cry with him. Come and see the impossibility of our situation; join us, we trust and love you, even though things did not turn out the way we so deeply desired. We want your presence even though we are confounded by confusion.

We all love the Psalms of Triumph that pulse with praise, and well we should.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!” So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you, they sing praises to your name. Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. Psalm 66:1-5. 

But we do not get to the joyful Come and see without the risking, vulnerable Come and see that invites Jesus into the desperately broken places in our lives and hearts. And the life that happens between the two phrases is often a long, arduous, undulating battle.

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Jesus must be so honored by our trembling Come and See, inviting Him to tour our pain and brokenness. When we open unto Him the door to our terribly broken marriage or our dark past or our ongoing struggle with addiction in its minor and major forms, Jesus must smile a sober smile. For He who is outside of time knows the coming Come and See and can see us shouting in victory, even in that moment of vulnerability.

There will certainly be battles and scars and hope-deferred heart sickness between the two signposts, yet that initial Come and See begins the great work. The One we invite into our tombs and empty wombs is no mere man, He is the God-man, the Great Healer, the Captain of Salvation, the Mender of Mangled people, places and things.

Come and See

“Come and see,”such a brave little phrase,
Inviting God into grief on our darkest days.

To stay vulnerable when pain does wrench,
Bringing Him to tombs filled with stench.

The Maker of Life can handle grim facts.
Dark invitations precede healing acts.

Touring the truth in all its hideousness
Begins His healing with all fastidiousness.

A brighter invitation will come in due time,
The “Come and See” shouts of joy sublime.

Stewarding Silence

“I have a need of silence and of stars.
Too much is said too loudly. I am dazed.
The silken sound of whirled infinity 
Is lost in voices shouting to be heard.”

William Alexander Percy’s words have been running through my mind on and off throughout the summer. In a home of three healthy, vibrant testosterone-laden little boys, silence during the summer is a rarity. In the midst of the trampoline soccer sessions and the Lego trading floor, I found myself longing for the proximate silence that having only the little fella home once school began would provide.

However, now that my boys have been back in school for a few weeks, I have been reminded that stewarding silence and stillness is a struggle. As much as I have craved it and cried out for it, I had forgotten that silence can be terribly uncomfortable.

Daily it is a wrestle for me to get myself to my favorite spot on the couch by the window for long enough to have my heart stilled. There is always another load of laundry I could fold, another email I could send, another sermon I could listen to, or another book I could read. My flesh resists quietness before God, which is all the more reason to fight for it. It seems our enemy and our shadow selves know the rich benefits that only silence before God can offer.

Bonhoeffer, in his thin treasure of a book called Life Together, defines silence as “the simple stillness of the individual under the Word of God.” He continues, “Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing.”

Andrew Murray writes something similar in With Christ in the School of Prayer. He explains that all true prayer can only begin when we are stilled enough before God to truly say and mean the simple phrase, “My Father sees, my father hears, my father knows.” That sounds simple, right? It’s only three three-word phrases; however, it is no simple thing for a human heart to be able to say and believe them.

Much of my time on the couch is spent attempting to empty my heart of noise, fears, worries and self-sufficiency by the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. It is far easier to stifle silence by quickly filling it with noise or words or to selfishly squander silence than to steward it.

Mother Theresa taught the Sisters of Charity about the need for silence. “Listen in silence, because if your heart is full of other things you cannot hear the voice of God. But when you have listened to the voice of God in the stillness of your heart, then your heart is filled with God.” She goes on to say, “I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

You know I love me some ethereal pondering, but here are some practical ideas to steward silence:

Leave your phone charging in another room while you sleep and during your stolen moments of silence. God gets the first and last word of the day.

Take a walk or hike in a local park or nature center. I do this even with my three yahoos in tow. Even though it is far from silent, God usually gives me a few moments of intimacy with Him somewhere in there. Additionally, this sets a precedent and pattern for our children that being quiet and out in God’s creation is valuable and fun.

Drive a few times a day without the radio. It’s amazing how much time we spend in the car. Little stolen moments add up.

Much depends on our sitting in silence and stillness before God. Much peace is lost, a peace with God that Christ died to secure for us. Many seeds of good works that might have been planted in silence are not sown.

The struggle is real and ongoing, but it is worth the fight to steward our silence.

Strengthened to Stay

Sometimes a slow, incremental exertion is harder to achieve and maintain than a sudden burst of strength.

My mother-in-law being daily empowered to care for her ailing husband is not as exciting in the world’s eyes as someone receiving a burst of dramatic strength to climb the warped wall in American Ninja Warrior; however, her staying strength honors the Lord far more than a sudden burst of short-lived faithfulness.

While marriages that last 25, 50 and 75 years don’t often make headlines here on earth, the sustained staying power deeply pleases and adorns God and His gospel.

Stay-at-home mommas washing the laundry, packing the lunches, and sifting through sibling spats don’t seem like they require slivers of the kratos (dominion power) of God; however, a decade into this calling of motherhood, I can vouch for the fact that the dailyness of motherhood most certainly requires His moment-by-moment empowerment.

Of late, I have been camped out in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It has been a few weeks, but I haven’t been able to move on from his profound and power-packed prayers for the saints in Colossae.

Reading the depth and sincerity of his prayers is convicting to the core. He goes far beyond “God bless the Colossians” or “Please be with my friends,” placing very specific requests before the throne of God on their behalf.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
Colossians 1:9-12. 

Notice that none of what Paul asks on their behalf is circumstantial. Paul is not asking for a secure housing situation or safety or provision of a physical need; rather, Paul daily begs God with his ministry partner and son in the faith, Timothy, that their knowledge and understanding of God would continually grow.

Auxano. To increase. To grow. To become greater in size and maturity. Paul uses variations of this word three times in a handful of verses. In the opening of his letter, as he was introducing himself to a church he had never met but only heard about through yet another ministry partner, Epaphras, Paul shares his joy in the way that the gospel had been spreading (Auxano) internally in their hearts and externally in the world. Then, he uses it a third time in his prayer that this same expansion and growth would continue always.

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Paul longs that their hearts and minds would grow in wisdom (sophia) and understanding (sunesis). He then prays that such wisdom would inform their living, their manner of life, causing them to bear fruit and consistently please the Lord in all things, the big and the little, the seen and the unseen.

Next, Paul starts dropping power words like a piñata drops candy. He prays that they would be strengthened (dunamoumenoi) with all power (dunamei), according to God’s glorious might (kratos).

Why all the focus on power? At this point, it feels like we are in a roller coaster that is slowly climbing the first huge hill, building up power and momentum. But to what end?

For all endurance and patience with joy (verse 11). 

Really? Doesn’t that seem a little underwhelming. Shouldn’t Paul have given us something big and wowing, like a fireworks show?

At first, I felt let down after all the power-filled words led up to enduring and long-suffering, rather than a sudden, phenomenal act or display of strength.

Then I realized that staying the course, remaining in the places and roles God has apportioned for us, however exciting or bland they may be, takes a far greater exertion of sustained strength than a sudden and dramatic act of prowess or strength.

He strengthens and empowers us, placing his dunamis (from which we get the word dynamite) in us that we might stay the course, living lives worthy of the callings we have received.

This morning, I find myself deeply grateful for the strength to stay. To stay the course, to not despise the day of small things, to do small things with great love as unto Him.

Today, may you, likewise, be strengthened to stay where God has placed you in quiet faithfulness.

Growing Backwards: Thoughts on General Revelation

I hate to admit it, but for a long time, I lived like I had outgrown general revelation. In college, I remember taking a course called Faith and Reason that taught me the words and corresponding concepts of general revelation and special revelation.

General revelation refers to the knowledge about God that can be gained through observation of the world He created all around us. Special revelation refers to the fuller knowledge of God that can only be revealed by God’s Word through the power and insight of the Holy Spirit.

At the time when I learned these concepts, the names said it all. General revelation sounded, well,  mundane and general, compared to special revelation, whose name carried an esoteric and elite tone.

Right before college, I was brought into the world of special revelation, though the words and concepts didn’t click for a few more years. Before my conversion, the Word of God was merely a confusing reading from the lectionary on Christmas and Easter; however, with the indwelling of the Spirit, the Bible was no longer idle words for me, but my very life (Deuteronomy 32:47). Somewhere shortly thereafter, I inadvertently set general and special revelation at odds with one another.

In my mind, general revelation was like an old step stool, necessary only until special revelation was received and allowed me to stand fully in awe of God. General revelation was for spiritual babies who had not yet seen the bigger show of the gospel. In light of these unspoken, almost subconscious thoughts, I pushed general revelation into the attic where it gathered dust.

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A dozen or so years after my conversion, I have found myself growing backwards, pulling general revelation back out.

Don’t get me wrong, my view toward special revelation has not changed an iota. God’s fullest revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus is truly the masterpiece, the crux, the keystone, the cornerstone of my life.  I continue to proclaim the words the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter at the inception of Christendom. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12. 

However, over time and with continual hearing (in bodies still ravaged by the dying flesh) we can grow accustomed to the grace of the gospel. We can begin living in a world marked by of courses.  “Of course God came to the earth and redeemed humanity. Of course He set His love on us.” Unfortunately, special revelation can begin to sound matter-of-fact or ho-hum to us, as familiarity tends to breed contempt.

When I find myself in these places, more often than not, God uses general revelation to snap me out the world of of course and back into the world of wonder at special revelation.

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The more I observe the bugs and butterflies,  the landscapes and sunsets that fall into the realm of general revelation, the more special special revelation seems. The God who created an insanely elaborate circulatory system in the giraffe to allow blood to flow against gravity to its head is the God who shed His own blood for me?  The God who mapped out the incredible migratory abilities of monarchs migrated to earth to speak to me?

General revelation reminds me of the immensity and ingenuity of a limitless Creator God. When God becomes more vast and more imaginative, more complex and more mysterious, the reality of special revelation becomes more amazing.

Today, on Earth Day, I pray that we would be Christians who lean fully into the world general revelation that makes us live more in awe of special revelation.

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The Seeing Ministry of Jesus

We hear often about the preaching ministry of Jesus or the healing ministry of Jesus or the discipling ministry of Jesus. And well we should. However, each of these has its beginning in the seeing ministry of Jesus. 

How Jesus Saw

The Greek word “horao,” which is most often translated as “see,” carries deeper meaning than mere physical sight. It implies perception, discernment, and experience. This one word is used a dizzying 138 times in the gospel of Matthew alone. Obviously, Matthew sought to capture something about Jesus and his ministry of sight.

In Matthew 4, directly after his season of temptation in the wilderness, the first thing Jesus did in his public ministry was to simply see.

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen (Matthew 4:18).

While that may seem like an unnecessary detail, the Holy Spirit, through Matthew, intended these words for purpose. Fishermen were a dime a dozen by the Sea of Galilee. That would be like saying to a person from Great Britain, “Walking into the stadium, I saw a soccer fan.” Of course, he saw fishermen. But Jesus saw these particular fishermen. He perceived them, saw their hearts, and acknowledged their existence in a way that no one else had. He saw them for who they were on the surface, but he saw far beyond that to the level of their souls. He knew who He intended to make them into and His seeing changed their sight.

Later, when Jesus was on his itinerant preaching and healing circuit with these same disciples whom He had seen, Matthew tells us the following.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Matthew 9:36–38).

In every town and village He entered, Jesus saw the crowds. Yes, he saw them physically, but He also saw them spiritually. He saw their troubled souls and their leaderless-ness. He saw their spiritual hunger and their broken condition, and His sight stirred his soul to pray.

In fact, just before this summary statement regarding Jesus’s sight, Matthew shares with us the story of Jesus seeing a woman who was hidden in shame and fear from her chronic bleeding condition. She had a plan to sneak up behind Jesus and merely touch his garment to be healed and then sneak away. But, Jesus, in His compassion, saw her.

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well” (Matthew 9:22).

Perhaps more powerful than the miraculous stopping of her decades-long bleeding was the reality that Jesus saw her and acknowledged her. In fact, He named her daughter, using it in the same cherished, doting way the ruler spoke of his own physical daughter just moments before. 

How We See

While subbing in my son’s second grade classroom last week, I experienced a profound moment with the Lord. As it was a Friday, I tasked with administering a slew of tests. By the third test, some of the children were hitting a scholastic stride, but some were struggling. One of these little girls came up to me in tears later and asked to have lunch with me. She said she was not having a very good day, and my selfish heart which was craving solitude melted. We sat and chatted about her water bottle, her vacation, her hair clip, and about twenty other seemingly insignificant things. About fifteen minutes later, she skipped happily off to recess, leaving me with my thoughts.

She simply needed to be seen. Really seen. And known. And in those quiet moments, the Lord reminded me that I was no different.

My heart has simply found more sophisticated ways to try to fill that same need to be seen. Body image, significant work, approval and rewards. All of these are my ways to be seen. I had to wipe away tears from eyes as the students came charging back in from recess. I was just like them. We all wanted to be seen.

Thankfully, we have a seeing savior. As those seen and known by the living God, we are invited into His ministry of sight.

While writing to the Corinthian Church, the Apostle Paul reminded them that their method of seeing had changed through the gospel.

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer (2 Corinthians 5:16).

The hospice worker who slows down on her rounds to see my mother-in-law’s caregiving fatigue and asks about her flower arrangements, knowing it brings her relief from the harsh realities of debilitating disease. 

The counselor who sees his or her client’s scars and creates a safe place to process their pain.

The after-school care worker who sees the last student to be picked up, waiting on his or her parents to come off of a long shift at work as a single parent.

We don’t need a seminary degree or a doctorate in biblical counseling to join our Jesus in the ministry of sight (though those are great things to have). Each one of us is called to be conformed to the image of Jesus, the One who sees.

Jesus, remind us each today that you see us as no one else does. As those who are seen and loved in Christ, give us eyes to see as you see. Amen.

A Chronicle of Grief

Being a mother has completely transformed the way I experience Easter. It has very little to do with hiding the eggs and everything to do with imagining Holy Week through Mary’s mind and heart. When my kids stub their toes, I cringe. The relatively few times we have had to take trips to the ER (especially considering I am raising three rowdy fellas), I was completely undone watching my children in pain.

This series of poems chronicles the three days from the perspective of Mary, the grief-stricken mother of Christ.

A Chronicle of Grief

Friday
The aroma of anointing oils,
Scents of frankincense and myrrh,
Linen wrapping and a dark cave;
Buried memories begin to stir.

I remember holding him tightly,
Two sets of tear-filled eyes locked.
All was well with the world,
As I my newborn child rocked.

Here and there arrows of fear
Pierced the placid scene,
A Jealous ruler, exile to Egypt,
Prophecies. What does it mean?

Thoughts long stored in my heart,
Reemerge as tears my eyes fill.
Deep down, I knew pain was coming;
But death on a criminal’s hill?

Crazed by love and drunk with pain,
I nearly climbed that shameful tree.
His tear-filled eyes locked with mine,
Saying silently, “Momma, you must let it be.”

As I hold his body, swaddled again,
I rock him with the sways of grief.
My baby, My Son, My treasured One,
Without you, there can be no relief.

Saturday
For a moment, a split-second
In between waking and sleep,
I thought it just a nightmare;
Then realty fell in a heap.

Eyes swollen shut from crying,
Mind splitting in throbs of grief,
Muscles aching, heart breaking;
Even sleep offers me no relief.

Trapped by Sabbath laws,
A grief with nowhere to run.
So livid I could shatter stone,
To simply see my little one.

I want to be near you, my baby,
To lay beside you in that cave.
I cannot face life without you;
How did you beat me to the grave?

Sunday
“Let me be,” I mumbled from bed,
“No visitors today,” I said in sigh.
Yet, John still bounded in,
A glimmer of hope in his eye.

Out of breath from running,
In heaves of adrenaline he spoke,
“Mary -at cave. Stone -rolled away; 
Not there; Somehow he awoke.”

Fragments of news reached my soul,
As I processed what he’d said.
“Could it be, could it be true?
My son, awake from the dead?”

An angel had announced his birth,
He was conceived in a miraculous way.
Yes, Yes, It does make sense.
My son! Alive! What a glorious day!

Leaping with life, I ran to the door
With joyful John at my heels.
Though far too frail to be running,
Joy like strong drink in me reels.

We must, we must find him.
I must hold the son of my womb!
Drunk with joy and crazed with love
I rush to His empty tomb.

I am so thankful that God enabled a very human Mary to endure the unendurable so that we would never have to. Yet far beyond that, I am eternally grateful to the Christ who through His life, death and resurrection has secured a lasting hope for the wayward children of God.  May the Lamb receive the honor due His name this Easter week!

The Brave Work of Soul-Searching

We have reached Spring Break, a much-anticipated break from zoom school and being largely housebound. As one with wanderlust raising three boys who crave open spaces to explore and tame, I want to cram these days with outdoor wonder. We are all craving vastness that remind us that we are infinitesimal while our God is infinite. Our plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona will likely deliver deliciously.

Yet, this morning, I woke up thinking about the depths of wonder and unexplored territory that are contained within our chest. While many have explored and mapped trails in the Grand Canyon, few can boast the same about the hidden depths of their own hearts. Scientists chomp at the bit to explore the Mariana Trench, the deepest parts of the ocean still largely unplumbed; however, the human soul contains depths even more profound.

Though they are fist-sized, four-chambered organs, God has set eternity within the human heart and soul. Even Solomon with his precocious wondering mind recognized the wonder within one single human soul.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

While our whole family is looking forward to travel, I don’t want to neglect the traveling within that leads us, by both desperation and awe, to look upward. I look forward to standing in my smallness before a giant crack in the earth’s crust. However, I also want to take the time to teach my children to explore the cracks and crevices in their own souls. To do that, I must first admit the longings and disappointments that befuddle my own heart.

It takes bravery to dive into the strange spaces of a soul. Thankfully, those who trust in Christ have an inner guide in the person of the Holy Spirit who searches all things, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Spirit never leaves us in self, but presses on onward and upward to Him from whence shall come our help (Psalm 121:1).

As the world opens back up and travel resumes, let us not neglect to travel and explore our own souls, hand-sewn by the scarred hands of our Savior. Such soul wanderlust will lead us to wonder at the One who created and reclaimed our cavernous hearts.

Hidden Depths

The human heart has hidden depths,
Putting the Mariana Trench to shame;
Four-chambered and fist-sized,
It holds vastness difficult to name.

Yet, somehow God has set eternity
Into so confined a single space.
He laces its chambers with longings
Nothing on this earth can erase.

In wanderlust, we travel wide
To tread the wild in wonder
All the while carrying canyons
No explorer could ever plunder.

An honest inner deep dive
Must press us out of self.
Our cravings must be sated
By our Savior’s wealth.

Laboring for New Life

An entire tribe of my friends are having their first children, which means that I am a pseudo-grandmother. Nearly every month, a new little soul has been joining our growing tribe. As such, I find myself lingering in the baby section at Target and my soul remembering the pangs of labor. As my friends’ bodies repair and as they share their stories of labor and delivery, I am brought back into the agony of the delivery room. The screaming, the writhing, the soreness, the tearing. These all feel fresh and real to me again through their stories.

I am struck this morning by the reality that Jesus saw fit to use the analogy of birth pains when talking about the new creation (Matthew 24:8; . Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used a similar analogy when speaking of the futility of the old creation as it awaits new birth (Romans 8:20-23) and also when he spoke of the process of spiritual formation and discipleship (Galatians 4:19).

The creator of the human body, the One who enabled humanity to take part in physical birth, came to the world by way of a birth canal. He who was present with the Father when He pronounced the curse of increased pain in childbirth became present on the earth through the labor pains of a young girl. It is no wonder, then, that He would delicately draw an analogy between the labor that enables physical birth and the similar labor that enables spiritual birth. He wasn’t merely recognizing the wearying, yet wonderful birthing work of women. Soon, he would be joining them in the greatest labor pains in the history of the world.

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21).

Jesus spoke with such authority on these things because He experienced them to the uttermost. On the Cross, He labored to bring the birth of the New Creation. In a sense, He died in childbirth, bearing the unbearable weight of our sin that He might usher in a new creation. Our spiritual birth was not painless, it was purchased.

As we approach Easter, the image of Jesus undergoing the agonizing labor that would produce the new creation in His blood has me in awe.

The Labor of Love

In labor for the new creation
He was broken on the beams.
The pressure of coming promise
Ripped the Promiser at the seams.

The inexhaustible one, exhausted,
Cried out under waves of pain.
The heart of the God-Man heaved
Under wearying waves of strain.

The Son gave up His Spirit,
To usher in many more.
His broken body birthed us,
His death became our door.

The Son, risen and repaired,
Sovereignly swaddles His own.
He smiles on the new creation
For which He once did groan.

Power in the Parenthetical (Counting Cups of Cold Water)

In a world obsessed with the flashy and seen, God’s kingdom often advances through a parenthetical power. For every front-page cover story, there are thousands of unknown, unseen (by human eyes, at least) acts of obedience and faithfulness. But, if David, a human king, considered mighty a few faithful fellas who risked their lives to fetch him a cup of water, how much more does our Eternal King gladly record otherwise unseen and unknown acts of trusting obedience and sacrificial service (2 Samuel 23:15-17)?

While studying the life of Elijah, I stumbled across such parenthetical power. In the midst of chronicling the story of the prophet who played a major role in the kingdom’s advancement, the writer of 1 Kings parenthetically included an astounding feat of risking obedience, largely unknown and unseen.

In the midst of the court of the mismatched Ahab and Jezebel, whose enmity against the Lord and his people spread like an infection, stood Obadiah. As the manager of the king’s household who feared the Lord, Obadiah lived in a precarious place. Yet, when Jezebel demanded that the true prophets of the Lord be cut off, Obadiah risked greatly because of his great fear of the Lord. The writer of Kings mentions his act of personally preserving 100 prophets of the Lord in a cave for years as a mere parenthetical notation.

And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water). 1 Kings 18:3-4.

The faithfulness and risking obedience contained with those parentheses arrested me. Here was a man who faithfully served the Lord literally under the nose of a crazed Queen who could have easily killed him. God, who had given him a royal position for his own such a time as this, used his daring acts to preserve his truth for future generations. Yet, we almost did not hear about him. His life’s work took up a mere verse of Scripture and was included as a side-note to a primary story.

It made me stop in my study and linger. It made me wonder how much thousands upon thousands of other such stories were not included, were not recorded, were not even seen my the eyes of men. It made me marvel at the reality that our God sees each and every faithful life, each and every act of obedience, whether monumental or minute. For with our God, even the parenthetical is powerful and significant.

We live Coram Dei, before the face of God, under the gaze of God. Our lives are seen by the eyes of the eternal One. The caregiver who is driving to the umpteenth appointment or filling the fiftieth prescription is seen and celebrated in the kingdom of God. The teacher who spends her lunch hour tutoring a struggling student plays as significant a part in the kingdom of God as a seminary professor. The mother who faithfully shares her faith on a playdate is as significant as an evangelist at a revival.

Even though our God counts the stars, He always counts cups of cold water given in His name (see Matthew 10:42). Take courage, you saints who feel unseen, for your Father sees you and He works great power even through what seems parenthetical!

Tiny Worlds of Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

Annie beautifully writes the following:

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

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Richard Louv writes along a similar vein.

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

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

The Gifts That Will Keep

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

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

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