Thursday, December 20, 2012


Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

Amazing feats of architecture built to God's glory.
"What do you do when you enter one of the great cathedrals?" asks Dr. John Patrick of Ottawa's Augustine College. "You do two things. You look up. And you lower your voice."

The cathedral is awe-inspiring because it infuses within us a reverence for all that is beautiful and strong and bigger than we.
What is a cathedral, after all, but a beautiful fortress which honors the majesty of our Creator/Redeemer?
The cathedral makes us look up and ponder what is above us. The cathedral humbles us and hushes us and reminds us of how small we are,
How our own words, our own accomplishments, are of little import.
The cathedrals were built in times when men feared the God they served,
When they saw Him as sovereign, as omnipotent, as omniscient,
When they understood that He is inscrutable.

In this day of the church building thrown together with the metal roof in the industrial park...
I have to wonder if our buildings are reflective of how small our view of God has become...

I have a hunch about good doctrine.
I suspect that right doctrine, all that is true about God, will do three things:
It will make God big.
It will make man small.
It will comfort the Saints.

And what we believe about God will ground us--or not--when times of testing come.
And they will come,
Because that is life.

Today, the nation is reeling from the Sandy Hook shootings.
I shrug at the philosophical ponderings of the world.
They are insights offered by blind men.
They are meaningless.
Worse, they do nothing to assuage the suffering, the unfathomable grief, of twenty-two families who will bury twenty-two tiny coffins this week.

But I am utterly appalled by what is being said by some 'believers.'
We are the stewards of the Truth.
And we had jolly well better tell the truth about our King.

This is God we are talking about.
His ways are inscrutable.
Beyond our understanding.
Impervious to our scrutiny.
God is not on trial here.
He can never be on trial.
He does things we don't understand.
And He owes us no explanation.

It's not that we are charging him with wrongdoing.
But we are trying to civilize Him.
And that is making Him small.
We say ignorant things about Him,
Things like, "He didn't know the future."
So much for God's omniscience.
Or, "He cannot intervene against mans' choices."
So much for God's sovereignty.
Or, "God cannot stop the power of evil in the world."
So much for God's omnipotence.

Know this.
God could have stopped Sandy Hook.
He didn't.
But it's not because He is anything less than omniscient.
Or sovereign over all choice.
Or omnipotent over all power.
Not for one moment did He blink.
Not for one moment of all eternity did He not know this day was coming.
Not for one moment has His perfect plan been derailed or even sidetracked.
Not for one moment has He ever been outsmarted or overpowered by evil.

And everything, absolutely everything, is right on schedule.
The Saints should take comfort in that.

Don't try to civilize God.
Don't even try to make Him understandable.
You'll only succeed at making Him small.

For shame, parents, if your explanation of Sandy Hook makes God small in the eyes of your children.
For shame, pastors, if your explanation of Sandy Hook makes God small in the eyes of your flock.
For shame, Church, if your doctrine renders God impotent,
And man significant,
And chips away at the sure foundation beneath the Saints.

He defies explanation.
That's what makes Him God
and you human.
Look up.
And lower your voice.

Your little mind, and mine, will never be able to fully comprehend the ways of God.
Don't ever be arrogant enough to think we will.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Journey of Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will  You hide Your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
Lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
I think I've had four friends discuss depression these last two weeks. And I battle it occasionally myself.
Anger over life's circumstances leads to depression.
Guilt over life's circumstances leads to depression.
Fear over life's circumstances leads to depression.
In short, sin leads to depression.
Oh sure, our hormones or our diet or our health can make us more susceptible to anger, guilt, and fear.
But that's just another way of saying that our hormones, our diet, or our health make us more susceptible to sin...
Because depression is nothing more than the failure to trust in the goodness and the sovereignty of God.

So we throw diet or exercise or medication at it.
But we are rarely honest enough to get to the source.
The sin.

I've been studying the Psalms with the kids this year.
There's something brutally honest,
and gut-wrenching,
and raw
about the psalms.
They are the heart-cry of sheep in trouble.
Sheep who have wandered into toxic weeds
or who hear the howl of wolves in the pasture.
Psalms are the plea of the sheep who recognizes his need for his Shepherd.
And I am amazed by how many psalms start with hopelessness--but end with hope.

It is diametrically opposed to this beast called depression.
It is the antithesis.
It is the solution.

And where, dear sheep, do we find this hope?
In our salvation.
Consider the journey of the sheep in Psalm 13 with me.
He is depressed
Because he thinks he is forgotten by God...
"Will You forget me forever?"
Or he thinks he must fix himself...
"How long must I take counsel in my soul?"
Or he thinks he is overtaken by an all-powerful enemy.
"How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"

But walk with this depressed sheep.
Where does he turn?
To the Shepherd.

"Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.
Light up my eyes..."

And the faithful Shepherd does just that.
Continue as the sheep discovers...

"My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation..."

Isn't it interesting that the Psalm says Your salvation?
Not my salvation.
When we are depressed, we need to remind ourselves that salvation belongs to the Lord.
Not to us.
When we treat depression like a cause, rather than an effect, we miss the fight entirely.
But the sheep discovers that depression is the symptom of sin, and the only answer for sin is Salvation.
We do battle with depression by preaching the Gospel to ourselves.
That is the journey of Psalm 13.

When we start in a place of hopelessness,
we must make sure to end at the Gospel.
We hunker down in the shadow of the Cross.
We declare to ourselves and to the Lord,
I am a great sinner; Christ is a great Savior.*
And then we rejoice in His finished work and the emptied tomb and our eternity secured by Him.
That's when our hearts are overtaken by the potent light of God's salvation that pierces our darkness.

As I write this, Mr. Obama has just been elected to a second term.
And the people of God are struggling with depression.
Dear sheep, our destiny is not determined by the next four years.
It is determined by the sovereign Lord.
The sovereign Lord who uses nations to write history is the same sovereign Lord who hold you and hides you in the shadow of His wings,
the same Sovereign Lord who made you right with Him.
Understand that, and your depression will be undone.

Then you can sing with the sheep of Psalm 13:
"He has dealt bountifully with me."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let Me Get This Straight...

I should have known my political views would take me off the broad path. And the signs were there as early as my very first trip into the voting booth. It was the Republican primary in Florida in 1988. I was 20 years old and had been waiting for this moment since Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.

Afterwards, a fellow Christian voter asked, "So, who did you vote for?"
Triumphantly, I replied, "Jack Kemp."
She looked at me. "You didn't vote for Pat Robertson?"
"Pat Robertson? Why would I vote for Pat Robertson?"

There had been an assumption among many Christians that year. Pat Robertson is a Christian. Therefore, Christians will vote for Pat Robertson. But I didn't think Pat Robertson was very presidential. I thought Jack Kemp was very presidential. (Turns out I was right about Pat. Turns out he's a fruit loop.)

Over the next few election cycles, though, I was the Republican whore, voting for whomever the GOP powers-that-be told me to vote a lemming over the cliff. sigh. I voted for ReadMyLips Bush. Twice. I voted for Dole because I really liked his VP choice.  I voted for Bush, Jr. Twice.

In 2004, I was simpering condescendingly over my friends who were 'throwing their vote away' in the Constitution Party. In 2008, I was ready to vote for a fellow named Romney in the Texas primary. But if I remember correctly, he had already dropped off the ballot by that time, so I voted for a Texan named Ron Paul. Then the general election arrived, and I rolled my eyes at my friends who split hairs over McCain's support for embryonic stem-cell research and the fact that Sarah Palin was a mother with five very needy children at home. Was I swayed? Nope.
I was not swayed by the fact that McCain was not pro-life.
I was not swayed by the fact that McCain had authored the unconstitutional McCain-Feingold bill.
I was not swayed by the fact that Sarah Palin had one special needs baby, one pregnant teen, and a horribly disordered home. Hey, she's a Christian. (Wait... This was sounding vaguely familiar.)
The important thing was that McCain was not Obama.
A girl's got standards.

Then Election Night '08 came. And as I watched John McCain give his concession speech, twisting himself into an ideological pretzel in his zeal to 'reach across the aisle,' I thought, "Yikes. I just voted for Mr. IStandForNothing."

My jaw was dropping. This man could have won...and I would have been responsible.
I need a hero.
I need a statesman.
I need someone who will look into the eyes of every compromising, deal-making, weak-willed, principled-in-rhetoric-only politician on Capitol Hill and say,
Bring it."

I found him.
A man of principle whose record matches his rhetoric. (What a concept.)
A man who understands individual liberty and the free market.
And if there is ever a lone dissenting vote or a lone voice of reason on Capitol Hill--well, it's usually his.
He's not afraid of gridlock.
He scratches no one's back.
He's a hero.

But there has been another kind of gridlock this time around, and it's nowhere near DC.
It's in the American church.
What a ghastly election cycle this has been. And I think it would be helpful, just for myself--and maybe for my readers--to try to at least understand the arguments of the different political factions in the church in 2012.

So, let me try to get this straight.

Faction One: "I'm not voting at all." These friends have explained to me that they think the Christian should be above politics. That ushering in God's kingdom is our priority. That government is an evil and a distraction. That our focus should be alleviating injustice around the world. Government is an institution inherently fraught with evil.

Faction Two: "I'm voting for Mitt Romney." These friends are politically involved and love their country. They tend to view America as a Christian nation. They want to get back to a truly free market and the rule of law. And, mostly, they really, really fear President Obama and the damage he can do in the next four years. Of paramount importance is getting him out of office.

Faction Three: "I'm voting for Virgil Goode." They call themselves theonomists. They want a Christian leader, a Biblical legal system, and a Biblically moral nation. The idea of putting a Mormon in office to place this nation back in the favor of God is not just laughable; it is anathema. A Christian governor for a Christian nation is not the best hope; it is the only hope.

Faction Four: "I'm voting for Ron Paul." The priority of limited government for the State restricts the power of the State to protecting citizens from each other--not from themselves. The priority of self-government for the Individual puts no restrictions on personal liberty--no matter how ugly that looks. He will not let the State do the job of the Church or of the Family. And as long as the president understands that, he can be a Muslim or a Mormon or anything else.

Meanwhile, one faction tells me God will judge me for not voting for Candidate X. Another faction tells me God will judge me for voting for Candidate X. Godly preachers tell me to be pragmatic. Godly preachers tell me to be principled. One faction claims there's Biblical support for voting. Another faction claims there's no Biblical support for voting. I got one message telling me to stop trying to interfere with the election and that my arguments won't sway anyone. I've gotten so many messages thanking me for talking and telling me that they're thinking critically for the first time that I've lost count.

Gridlock, indeed.

Fortunately, I don't have to keep it all straight.
There is a King coming back.
He'll correct my heresy...
and yours, too.
He'll straighten it all out for us...
every crooked path.

No matter who is president, Jesus is King.
Worship the King.

Every valley shall be filled,
And every mountain and hill shall be made low.
And the crooked shall be made straight,
And the rough places shall become level ways. Luke 3:5 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sunday's Coming

"I think we created a monster," my mom whispered to me one Sunday after church. She had asked Brett and me to Sunday dinner that night. And when it comes to cooking, my mom's no slouch, let me tell you.
Still, Brett hesitated.
I gave him the evil eye.

But to no avail.
Nothin' doin'.
Today was Sunday.
He was going home to take a nap, watch some football, maybe...putz.
But, no, he was not going out.

And to think we had done all of this to him...

When Brett and I were dating/engaged, we would go to church and then head to my parents' house for some R&R.
Steaks on the grill.
Maybe some reading.

At first, all the sitting still nearly drove him mad. Sunday, to him, was a day for running errands, fixing stuff, hitting the grocery store.
What do they know?

So when he started hanging out with my family, he thought all this 'resting' was wasting time. But then... started to grow on him. And by the time we said, "I do," he was a Sabbath convert. Big time. Which is why he politely but firmly declined my mom's invitation to Sunday dinner.


And for the past 24 years,  Sunday as Sabbath has taken a firm root in the Adams' home.
He likes it like that.
And so do I.

We love our church, and we love our church family.
But after we've gotten in some fellowship time, he and I are both sneaking glances at the clock and edging towards the door.
"Fenuccis!" he yells, and all the shorter Adams' (and the taller ones, too) start heading for the Blue Whale.
And the Blue Whale starts heading for home.

That's where Sabbath, properly observed, is spent. At least in our family.
If we're spending Sunday with you, and you are not related to us, it's because we like you. We really, really like you.

We pile into the kitchen, and it's a flurry of kicked-off shoes, dropped purses, ditched Bibles, and "I'm hungry!" We eat enough to get the little guy happily off to nap time and
Book pages fluttering.
Disney movie going upstairs.
Afghans and football and...quiet.

Then, my favorite part of Sunday: dinner.
No matter what we've been doing the rest of the week, how many meetings or practices or activities or ...or...or...Sunday arrives. And so does Sunday dinner. It's the one night we're guaranteed to have everyone at his place. Candles. Stemware. Yea, even sometimes cloth napkins (that is, when I have failed to replenish the paper variety).  This is serious business, people.

And there, around the table, family happens.
Sermon talk.
Foodie observations.
And while we tend to guard family mealtime during the week, there's just something about Sunday dinner that makes us all linger a little longer around the table.

When we were married, the pastor exhorted us to be faithful to establish traditions.
We listened.
Sunday is one of our most foundational traditions.

This past Sunday, dinner lasted a little longer.
A cold front had blown in, so we piled the dinner dishes in the sink and moved to the backyard.
We lit a fire in the fire-pit; we pulled out lawn chairs; we roasted marshmallows and drank hot cocoa.

The troubles of the day and the worries of the week faded in the moonlight.
We told stories.
We did screaming yellow zippers,
and Cincinnati fire kites.
We laughed and chattered under the full moon.

Sunday is the day we join in the fellowship of the saints and corporate worship and the preaching of the Word.
But Sunday is also the day that reminds us that we can rest.

Rest is a privilege.
Rest is for those whose trust is in the Lord.
Rest is a good gift from a Great Redeemer.

No matter how crazy or chaotic or fragmented or worrisome the other six days of the week can be...
our family celebrates the grace of rest on Sunday...
...because we need the reminder not just of weekly rest
but of the eternal rest that was secured for us at the Cross.

And Sunday has a way of doing that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To a Thousand Generations

I have seen God's faithfulness.

We're in that season now...
That season where, as parents, we have removed the bumpers...
Where we are sending our children out into the big, bad world.
They are not moving towards self-government; they are fully living in it. So, really, they are our 'adults.'

This past weekend, we went to visit our newest adult, who is seven weeks into his freshman year of college...
And I am blown away by how many times in one weekend, I saw God's faithfulness in my family.

I saw God's faithfulness when we dropped off the car for Alex. We worshiped with her in chapel and were exhorted together by a godly preacher. I was reminded that she is in a good place--with good people.

I saw God's faithfulness later that day when we flew to Michigan. The two of us enjoyed a leisurely evening with Brett's parents. We talked about politics. We talked about the state of the Church. We talked about God. Always about God.

I saw God's faithfulness the next morning at breakfast as Brett's dad led us in a devotional, and we four prayed together over our adults. I saw God's faithfulness as his mom and dad discipled us right there at the kitchen table.

I saw God's faithfulness when we met Luke at Hillsdale for Parents' Weekend. He shared his heart and what it's like for him to live out self-government a thousand miles from home. He shared his growth and his challenges.

I saw God's faithfulness the next day when the rain chased us inside for coffee. For three hours we sat and talked. And there, a homework assignment of Alex's  (that just happened to have been assigned right before our trip) that involved a family assessment brought to light things we had done that had been hurtful. There, right there over coffee, I repented to Luke. And right there over coffee, the healing began.

I saw God's faithfulness as we got to meet three of the Fab Four--my name for Luke's circle of godly young men who keep each other accountable, who urge each other on to love and good deeds. A thousand miles from home, God has given Luke strong friendships, good friendships, that will encourage him as he lives out this season called 'college.'

I saw God's faithfulness at lunch when we sat with Luke's roommate's family. We connected. We were, in the other mom's words, 'speaking the same language.' Turns out, she had been praying for a godly roommate for her own son. Turns out, Luke and Nick are answers to the prayers of a couple of moms.

I saw God's faithfulness on Sunday morning in Luke's church. I was basking in it as we stood next to him and worshiped God with Luke's local body of believers. And we heard the Word preached. God has led Luke to a safe place.

I saw God's faithfulness as we shared lunch...
and laughed over Labrador burgers...
and Wiley meat...
and hugged and said goodbye and entrusted Luke, once again, to God's hands.

I saw God's faithfulness back at Brett's parents' home. We lingered over dinner and a  glass of wine and pondered this thing called family. Brett and I thanked them for faithfully discipling us through this season. The next morning, we shared breakfast on the back patio. We talked of elections and nations and peoples. We got out the Constitution. We talked of God's plan for government. We talked about God. Always about God.

In short, we fellowshipped. Really fellowshipped.
With Alex.
With my in-laws.
With Luke.
With Luke's roommate's family.

Life has so many seasons to it. We find God as individuals. We find a mate. We raise children to adulthood. And as adults ourselves, we learn to relate to both the generations ahead of us and behind us as each new season begins. I see God's faithfulness as He leads us through this season of transition--this season where we are learning to be parents of adults and our children are learning to relate to us as adult children.

I see God's faithfulness across generations of saints.
Right here in one family.

I am humbled.
I am blessed.
I am grateful.

Know, therefore, that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Followers and Converts

When it comes to church background, I'm a mutt.

I was baptized into the Catholic church as an infant.
But when I was three, my parents decided to become Protestant.

Next up?
Here's where it gets interesting.
'Holy' laughter.

Proclaiming. Rebuking. Opening and closing doors. As in:
"I proclaim a spirit of good grades this year," or
"I rebuke that spirit of sneezing in Jesus' name," or
"You know, if you put your knee behind your neck like that, you're gonna open a door to a demon."

But wait. There's more.
By the time I was in college, I was in a charismatic denomination that preached signs and wonders and 'power' evangelism.
And in order to achieve signs and wonders, we (Yes. We. Not He.) would go to classes on the gifts of the Spirit. Get a load of this true story from my past:
I attended a seminar on words of knowledge. And to wrap it up, we had to practice them.
Practice a gift of the Spirit. And I did it. (Oh goodness, I am still so embarrassed to admit it now. I look back on this and shudder and wonder, "What the HECK was I thinking?")
Brett and I met and married in that church.

We left that church for more tambourines and flags. Don't ask. Just don't.

Somewhere around Year Twelve of our marriage, we decided to try home church.
Nifty little idea, that.
No elders.
No oversight.
No discipleship.
No communion.
But we did get to make all the decisions unilaterally.
No protection.
No wisdom.
No good.

Fortunately, that didn't last too long. And we dragged our emaciated little souls back to a corporate body, where we were nourished for a time.
Of course, that was about the time our children were getting old enough for the beast called Youth idea to which we both said, "OVER OUR DEAD BODIES."
At that point, we began to look a bit freakish.
I mean, it's one thing to look like a freak to the world.
We're supposed to, to a certain extent.
But when your family of (then) eight takes up a whole row and all the kids get out their little notebooks to listen to the pastor while all the other kids are dismissed to children's church, bunny stickers, and Pin-the-hair-on-the-Samson...
well, not every member takes kindly to the idea...especially not the children's church director.

Children's church. That's in the same part of the Bible with baby dedications and building committees.
Just sayin'.

We briefly visited a Presbyterian church. But I didn't know any hymns. And these were old hymns. Very old.

Today, after lots of flopping around, I think we've finally landed.
We're Calvinist. We're family-integrated. We're non-cessationist.
We're home.
Still, I'm sure we've had believers who have tried us for a time and said, "Hmm. Weird. I don't think so."

But the lesson I'm learning is that, despite my differences with my other church experiences, and my preferences for my own church, no one has a corner on the Truth. And every Christian, every single one, has something valuable to contribute to the big picture called the universal Church. And I've got great, godly friends in all of these places.

Charismatics: we disagree on gold dust and angel feathers. But they have an exuberant worship that other churches don't yet get. And I think they're correct to affirm spiritual gifts.
Baptists: we disagree on baptism, dancing, alcohol, and lots of rules. But Baptists care about holiness in a way we should all want to imitate.
Presbyterians: they have a more formal, staid approach to Sunday mornings. But their high church liturgy has an emphasis on the majesty and beauty of God that I haven't found anywhere else.

In short, every church has weaknesses...
and every church has strengths.
Every church has wheat...
and every church has tares.

I just finished Jonathan Leeman's Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus...Fantastic book on the importance of church membership. It's kind of the abbreviated version of his much thicker and meatier The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love. But they both address the same concern: church membership.

The Church is bursting at the seams with followers. But being a 'follower' is not the same as being a 'convert,'  writes David Wells in Turning to God. Good point. Followers are interested in this person called Jesus and in this book called the Bible. But converts are submitted to the authority of the King and His Word.

Followers think of Jesus having a Twitter account. Intriguing persona. Makes some good points.
Converts think of Jesus as Lord. King. Master. Creator. Redeemer.
Followers subscribe.
Converts submit.

The Church has failed to distinguish between the two. And her membership rolls are filled with people who are interested, curious, and perhaps even Biblically articulate. Yet they lack the one thing that marks them as belonging to God: repentance. In other words, the visible Church today is filled with...non-Christians...people who are not saved, not going to Heaven.

And why is that so important?
Because membership is the stamp of approval that says to the watching world, "This person is a citizen of the Christian nation and a subject of the King."
When a local church confers membership on a follower--instead of on a convert--the world is left with the idea that people who are merely intrigued by Jesus are the same people who serve Him.
And that paints a false picture of what it means to be redeemed...
which belittles and demeans the work of the Cross.

While Charismatic, Baptist, and Presbyterian converts can disagree on youth group, liturgy, and baptism, they can never disagree on the Gospel.
Followers of every stripe think Jesus is cool.

Converts of every stripe know Jesus is King.

There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, "This is mine! This belongs to me!" (Abraham Kuyper)

Monday, September 10, 2012


The phone rang and simultaneously announced "Anonymous,"
Although it sounds like "AnoNEEmous" because it's a cheesy computer voice.

Oh goody.
I'd been trying to catch this one for the past week, but our message recorder is set to go on after ring two because...well, because I hate talking on the phone.
And this way, 'they' can leave a message, and I can get back to 'them' when I feel like it.
But that also means that I miss the calls I do want to pick up--like anoNEEmous.
So when anoNEEmous called this morning, I tore around the corner, leap-frogged my three year-old, and broke a kitchen tackle by my 14 year old.

 I knew who this was.
This is election season, after all.
And I wanted to take this one.

"Would you like to participate in a survey?" she asked.
"Love to," I salivated.
"Great! Thanks. How likely are you to vote in the upcoming election?"
"What would you say is the single greatest issue today?"
Mmm. Tough one. Let me think--for a nanosecond.
"Individual liberty."
Silence. There probably wasn't a little bubble thingy to fill in for that one. She was probably expecting me to say something a little more republican-ish:,blah,blah...
But she found a way to catch that fastball...
Recovering, she continued on, "And how has this issue affected you personally?"

(Lady! Were you dropped on your head at birth?
Would you like to talk about the time my son had a little pocket knife, a coming of age 10th birthday gift, confiscated by a TSA stooge? Or would you like to talk about the fact that I have to give my driver's licence to purchase allergy medication? Or...curfew? That tyrannical little ordinance where some Americans limit the free movement of other Americans in and about their own city?)

But I digress...
Back to the phone survey.
Probably didn't have a little bubble thingy for that one, either.

"Next, I'll list candidates' names and you tell me how favorable you are towards them.
Barack Obama?"
"Very unfavorable."
"Mitt Romney?"
"Very unfavorable."
I could practically hear her thinking, 'Wait. Can you feel the same about both of them?'...
"Governor Perry?"
'Loathe entirely' wasn't one of my options...but he is a staunch defender of parental rights--when he's not a staunch opponent of parental rights. I want to be fair here.
"Somewhat unfavorably."
"So and so (one of the councilmen at our curfew battle, whose identity I shall here protect)?"
Rapid thinking on my part. This was one of two council members willing to hear our curfew grievances. On the other hand, this was the only guy out of six councilmen who glared at me the whole time I testified before the City Council. My initial meeting with him had apparently used the term 'constitution' too many times for his comfort. It was abundantly clear that he didn't like me. But I don't like brown-noses--so the feeling was mutual.

Again, I answered fairly..."Somewhat unfavorably."

"In the general election, will you be voting for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or Someone Else?"
"Someone Else."

"And for senator, who will..."(at this point, she stopped, clearly getting some kind of high sign from a supervisor). "Oh. I'm sorry. That brings our survey to an end. Thank you for your time." Click.

Just like that, Little Miss Sunshine was gone.
Clearly, they had heard enough. And the voice of this citizen stopped being important.
There's no doubt in my mind that before I put the phone back on the cradle, my survey had already been sent to the big Shredder in the Sky.
Their version of being fair and balanced, no doubt.


Is there no end to their tyranny?
You and I both know the answer to that.
One thing's for sure.
I'll probably stop getting harassed by anoNEEmous,
'Cause everyone knows that people like me and answers like mine make me as valuable to my Big Tent Party...

as a Maine delegate.

Kind of makes me feel anonymous myself.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Grander Scheme

This small stretch of sky is my horizon,
The extent of all my hopeful dreams.
Yet I yearn to go beyond perceptions 
And see inside some other lives unfolding...*

It's been a tough couple of weeks at our house.

For eighteen years, we added to our family,
Bringing baby Adamses in,
Embracing all that God was giving to us.
Ten days before Z graduated from high school, baby J was born. 
It was a change in more ways than one.
For just as the last little guy made his entrance,
the first little guy was getting ready to make his exit.

Thus began the next chapter in our home.
Launching adult Adamses out,
Releasing them to find their callings and begin to fulfill the dominion mandate out in that big, bad world.

In The Explicit Gospel, Matt Chandler describes the gospel on the ground and the gospel from the air. 
Same story. Two views.

I find that life in general is much like Chandler's gospel description.

Life from the ground. Launching from the ground.
I see my little adults taxiing out to the runway, taking off to who really knows where. 
From where I'm standing, it looks like goodbye.
Those planes, they head out toward the horizon.
And I stand there and watch.
And they get smaller.
And they are gone. 
That's the mom's-eye-view.

It's a bittersweet place to be. 
We love those kiddos.
We've had the pleasure of seeing all the work that God's done.
All that grace God has poured..
No...all that grace God has positively drenched us in...
Changes boys to men.
Girls to women.
Disciples to friends.

And standing here on the ground, watching as these friends, these most precious friends of all, take gut-wrenching.
I keep telling myself that we raised them to do precisely this.
I keep telling myself that we are releasing them to God's hands.
God. Who loves them even more than we do.
But this is still life on the ground.
And my vision is still limited by the horizon.

So I stretch my mind and try to understand
How you could hold each soul inside Your plan.
O Father, grant me faith to see my part in history
Touching others with Your love unfolding.

Life from the air. Launching from the air.
He who created them,
He to whom we are releasing them,
Sees past my horizon
And sets their course.
He knows the plan.

I know this in my head.
But it does not stop the ache in my heart.
I've known from the time they were little that they would grow and leave.
That growing,
and leaving,
they were the goal.
The good goal.
But now that we are in the middle of that season,
My heart must fight to trust life from the air,
Up there where God sees it all.

Open up a way for me to see,
The grandeur of the grander scheme unfolding.

Down here on the ground,
it can be hard to remember that there is something grander than just the horizon.

I'm missing Zach flopping on my bed after midnight--just to talk. I'm missing the mischievous gleam in his eye when he's teasing his nine-year-old sister. I'm missing him dragging the seven-year old outside to play soccer. I'm missing his zeal for his Lord. I'm missing this kid who told me this summer, "My family IS my ministry."

I'm missing Alex giving bear hugs. And her "Mom, I think you're amazing." And coffee with her. And her love of people. And her passion for the Word. And hogging the whole comforter to herself on the family-room couch.

I'm missing Luke's political passion. I'm missing his good-natured laughter. And seeing him sit up front in church so he can pay attention without the little ones crawling all over him. His sitting on his ugly green chair with his headphones on. And his late night snacks. And his still waters that run deep.

Those things linger on this side of my horizon.
And somewhere beyond what I can see,
God is at work...
in a much grander scheme.
And these kids of mine are a part of that work.

I'm struck with the fact that Brett and I are just a part of the plan.
Their lives don't end at my horizon.
More likely than not, they're really just beginning.
God is beginning to show me that.
I might not ever see the Grand Scheme down here on the ground.
But it's there,
As surely as He is God, and He is sovereign and good.

These past few days, I've begun to feel less grief over what is past and to feel more blessed for what is ahead.
Blessed by where He's going to take them,
out there past my horizon.
Blessed that His eye is on them,
and the shadow of His wing is over them.
Blessed that I could play a small part in His grand scheme.
Blessed that I get to stand here and watch some of it unfold.

(*Unfolding by Christine Dente 1994)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Finding My Way Home

I remember the first day of Zach's kindergarten year. I dropped him off (with the most wonderful teacher in the world) and drove away. But the look on his face, I will never forget. Wide, anxious eyes.  A chewed lip. And as I drove away, I thought, "What in the world are we doing? This can't be right."


We then discovered the joys of homeschooling...
And we have never looked back.
That was fifteen years ago.

Somewhere across all these years, though, I lost my way. I started out being cozy and hands on. Between transcripts and that silly 'classical' craze, I lost both. I got very focused on grades and rigor and the proper way to do science. I started raising intellectuals instead of disciples.

Make sure they make three cycles through history.
Make sure they have four lab sciences.
Make sure they take the practice SAT eighty-five times.
Drill that vocabulary.
Memorize the Westminster Confession.
In Latin.
By the time they're six.
Blah, blah, blah.


And all this time, the ghost of Charlotte Mason has been whispering my name.
What happened to curling up on the couch with a good book?
What happened to hands on?
And making memories?
And feeding, rather than killing, their appetite for learning?

I've spent considerable time researching this summer.
I have many little ones left who need cozy. And I am determined to give it to them.
These are the precious years of discipleship. And I am determined not to fritter them away on textbooks.
I'm finding my way back home.

Helen, my kindergartner, threw me for a loop when she learned to read about a year ago. Kindergarten in our house has always only been about learning to read. But Miss Smarty-Pants has forced me to change things up. Turns out that was a godsend. I discovered Ann Voskamp's A Child's Geography.
That Ann Voskamp.
I can smell the coffee as we curl up to study God's earth and become missions-minded in the process.
Mmmm. Cozy, cozy, cozy.

We'll also be doing science as a group this year, and everyone will be studying sea creatures. While my high school junior studies marine biology, Grace (8th) and Jake (6th) will go along for that ride. The younger children (4th, 2nd, and K) will read Swimming Creatures. It's going to be a journey of wonder through God's oceans. I can't wait.

Latin gets a rest this year. Grace and Jake finished their second year, simultaneously learning the Greek alphabet/phonics. So (and this will be the only place I will forfeit cozy for rigor), they will be doing  Greek, just for some good exposure. Shoot, they and Claire (4th) can now read Greek phonetically now. Might as well throw and grow. Throw in some grammar. Grow some vocabulary. We'll take our sweet time going through Classical Academic Press's Greek for Children.

But history is my big find this year. I did a lot of research this year and finally landed on Diana Waring's History Alive. With its four week cycle in every unit focusing on books and hands on, this one had my name written all over it. And, using the reading lists from Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason, and Higher Up and Further In, I've got books everywhere.

On my desk.
In the kitchen.
On top of the piano.
Double deep on the shelves.
This is a bibliophile's messy paradise.

Grace, my budding artist and eighth-grader, gets Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain all to herself. This is one I bought specifically with her in mind. I enjoy seeing the kids blossom in their individual talents. (And heaven knows I can't help her here at all.)

In my home, homeschooling in high school is the pay-off. It's that time when my child is bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood...
when their thinking starts to become mature and fascinating, and they start to have opinions and views that are slightly different from my own...
when they begin to cross over from being my child to being my friend.

High school is the best homeschooling season of all.

Worldview is still the name of the game. Eliza will be tackling her second year of World Views of the Western World. She had a good experience with the first year, and we had great conversations. She's going to be reading gobs of good books, in terms of literature, philosophy, and politics.

Add in an economics course (Austrian, of course), marine biology, a sweet French curriculum I found, and Professor E. McSquared's Intergalactic Guide to the Galaxy (that's pre-cal to you and me), and she'll have her hands full.

As for extra-curriculars, these are the things that can war against cozy. So we'll keep those to a minimum, especially the things that require my own attendance.
There will be football (in the fall) and boy scouts.
Teen Court and speech/debate.
I will continue to coach extemp in our speech club.
But that's it.
If you're thinking of asking me to contribute to or lead something...
get behind me, Satan.
The answer is no.

A sweet-smelling fragrance.
An atmosphere of wonders in all of us at the magnificence of God's world.
That is my goal this year.

Raising intellectuals is good.
But raising disciples is better.
I have found my way home.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Of Bodyguards, Bullies, and the Glory of God

I think when people say the term "Christian nation," we should at least define our terms...
at which point I find that I have serious differences of opinion with big names of the Religious Right
(a group, by the way, that I have strongly identified with in the past--but am finding it harder to do, the more Biblically I think and the more I try to reform my life around the Scriptures. Odd? Yes.)

Christian: Literally meaning little Christ. One who accepts Jesus as Savior and obeys Him as Lord. One whose worldview is defined as loving what God loves and hating what God hates.
Nation: a collection of people united under one ruler.
Christian Nation (therefore): a collection of those who accept Jesus as Savior, obey Him as Lord, and unite in covenant with Him under his government as King.

Now...I ask you...why, oh why, do we keep calling the United States a Christian nation??? Does this--or has this ever--accurately described this country we live in?
When was this country ever a body of believers? Hmm?
Thomas Jefferson (who denied the divinity of Jesus).
Ben Franklin (who was sexually immoral).
George Washington (who was a freemason).
Political geniuses? Yes.
Brilliant thinkers, speakers, writers? A thousand times, yes.
Christians? Uh, no.

Examine our founding documents and tell me where we, as this nation called the United States,  entered into covenant with the Almighty.
You can't.
Because we didn't.
Know covenant. Know Peace.

No covenant. No Peace.

It's not that I don't think we're a Christian nation because my definition is so permissive.
It's that I don't think we're a Christian nation because my definition is so precise.

Did the Judeo-Christian view of government and law have an impact on the founders and the Constitution they gave us? Of course it did.
Does that make us a Christian nation?
Our republic and our justice system is lifted from the ancient Romans.
Does that make us a Roman nation?

The Church.
The gospel's glory isn't that the Prince marries the beautiful but endangered princess, but that He marries, and beautifies, the evil hag. (RC Sproul, Jr.)
Sproul is right. The Church is the former evil hag.
And she is still, at times, fickle and fearful.
She is also the Missus. So it would make sense that she relies solely on her Mister.
I wish.
Nope. When the American Church gets threatened, She relies on the State.

The State was never intended to do the Church's bidding.
The State was charged with punishing the evil-doer and rewarding good.
The State bears a sword. It's supposed to. That's how it metes out justice.
But is the State supposed to be the morality police?
I'll appeal to the logic of the Ten Commandments for my position.
Every breach of the Ten Commandments came with a prescribed punishment...
except commandment ten: coveting.  I'll bet it was because policing coveting was an impossibility. It was a matter of the heart. It also had no victim.
Was coveting punished? Yes. By God. Not by the State.

Was there some Israelite out there roaming among the tents with his boxers in a bunch because someone somewhere was coveting? and he couldn't do a blessed thing about it?
Well, if the heart of man is the same...
and if I take my cue from today's Church...
I'm going to assume there were as many bunched boxers then as there are now.
And there are Christians out there roaming among their fellow Americans, in a positive tizzy over the fact that someone somewhere is smoking pot or fornicating or acting homosexually or...

Do let's be honest. The indignation is not because we care about these fornicating, homosexual druggies. Make me laugh. I've seen it in your eyes. It's because it annoys you.

So we march our angry little wadded-up panties over to the State and demand that It do something--the sooner the better--about all those dirty little sinners out there. And, by golly, use guns and jails if you need to, Darlin'.
The Church has turned the State into Her personal bodyguard.
That bodyguard is big.
That bodyguard is strong.
That bodyguard is well-funded and well-oiled.
And we should admit we like having the Bodyguard State at our backs.
We like zoning laws that keep out the riff-raff.
We like having marriage licenses and pastors with 'State-vested' power.
We like tax laws that incentivize the married relationship.

Yet in the blink of an eye, that bodyguard turns into a bully.
That bully is still big.
That bully is still strong.
That bully is still well-funded and well-oiled.
And suddenly those zoning laws (which are evil, as they infringe on Constitutionally guaranteed property rights--pursuit of happiness and whatnot) are keeping Christians from having church in their homes.
We would love to prevent a mosque at Ground Zero.
But don't tell me where I can and can't put a church!!!
Ahem. Uh, what did you expect would happen?
And suddenly those tax incentives for being married (which are evil as they are the result of the State regulating covenants. Covenants!)...well, other people would like those civil rights, too. People of a homosexual persuasion.
Ahem. What did you expect would happen?
We made the very bad, very unwise move of letting the State--rather than the Church--regulate the covenant of marriage...and now everyone wants a piece of that action.

Well, duh.

This is not the Old Testament. The United States is not a covenantal Christian nation; it never was. We are a pluralistic nation; we always were. And the law of this land must provide for the liberty of all of its citizens, not just its Christian citizens. American Christians should be (they're not, but they should be) fighting for a limited government whose job is restricted to protecting the Constitution, guarding our rights to life, liberty, and property, punishing the evil-doer, and rewarding good.

The Church is the only Christian nation there ever was.
She is a nation which spans geopolitical boundaries and has members of every nation, tribe, and tongue.
The Church should jealously protect Her mandate to preach the Gospel of salvation and to make disciples of all nations.
And the Church should stop demanding that the State preach a false gospel of moralism by punishing sin without preaching a Savior.

A false gospel.
That's one result of the Church using the State for its own ends.
Citizens begin to believe they are 'good' if they will just refrain from smoking pot or having homosexual sex...because that's what the State--at the Church's behest--tells us.
But surely we all understand that no one is going to be able to stand at the Judgment Seat and declare, "But, Lord, you have to let me into Heaven. I was a law-abiding citizen."

Could it be that God's law is for God's covenant people? that it was never intended for people without the mind of the Spirit?

See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' (Deuteronomy 4:5-6)

Could it possibly be that God's law was given...for God's glory? that the peoples of the earth would look at God's people, marvel at their wisdom and understanding...and glorify God in Heaven? Could it possibly be that holding non-covenantal people accountable to God's law distracts from God's glory?


We've turned the State into a para-church organization.
And we've muddied the glory of God in the sight of the peoples.
Shame on us.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Born That Way

I've given birth ten times. And every time, people begin to ask the same question. Who does s/he look like? My nose? His lips?

The observations continue over an entire lifetime because, as the children grow, we begin to see that they inherit so much more than curly hair or fair skin or light eyes. Their personalities begin to come through, their giftings and their tendencies. Who taught my fourteen year old to draw? She certainly doesn't get it from me! I watch her draw, and I am mesmerized. What is coming out of her fingertips is pure magic. And it comes directly from her father's side of the family. Who taught my sixteen year old to debate? or speak? or be fearless in front of an audience? That does not come from my mild-mannered, unassuming husband. No. She is me, made over.

Hair and eyes and skin.
Personalities and talents.
They are all inherited traits, pre-programmed, as it were, into the DNA code in each of them.
There are just some things that are out of their control, due to the wonder that is genetics.
They are born that way.

But there is bad news about this thing called inheritance.
And it's called original sin.
For from the moment Eve sunk her teeth into the fruit, the DNA of this good creature called 'man' was permanently re-written. Sin became part of the code.
It is the other part of our inheritance that is beyond our control.
We can't help it.
We are born that way.

One dark night in Jerusalem, Jesus addressed precisely this issue when Nicodemus came, stealthily, quietly, to find the Truth. "You must be born again" might as well have been Jesus' way of saying, "Your DNA, your inheritance, your genetic code...It is fatally flawed. It is terminal. It will kill you. If you want to live, you must be born again."

It's like being tested for, and finding out, you have the 'cancer' gene.
So people who get that bad news, they take more precaution than the rest of us because their DNA shows a predisposition to something fatal.

That's kind of what Jesus was saying.
Nicodemus, you have the cancer gene.
And it's going to kill you.

So Jesus nails the problem.
But He also has the cure.
Be born again.
What would that do?
Well, being born of the Spirit changes your parentage.
And a different Father passes on a different genetic code.

Social scientists today insist that they will one day find a gay gene. And then, they smugly assert, then all you homophobes will see. It's genetic. Like your race or your freckles.
Yeah. You'll see.

And you know what? I think they're right.
I think they will find a gay gene.
But it won't prove the tolerance movement right.
It won't let any of us off the hook with God.
It will prove the Bible right.
It will prove that sin is genetic, imprinted on the very building blocks that make us who we are.
Born that way?
Corrupt? Depraved? Perverted?
You bet. Born that way.
But they miss the point entirely.

Being born that way does not justify us in the eyes of God.
No. Being born that way simply proves we need a Savior who will bring us new birth.
Being born that way should make us take precaution because our genetic predisposition is terminal.
But, instead of doing something about our terminal condition...we celebrate it.
We create 'tolerance' movements
and 'coexist' movements.

It is as ridiculous as throwing ourselves a cancer party.

Mr. Cathy over Chick-Fil-A did the right thing.
He simply confirmed what God already said:
Sin is depravity, not diversity.

And we're all born that way.

But, Church, get this right.
No one is going to hell because they are gay.
They are going to hell because they are lost.
Being gay is just one possible symptom of being lost.
So is pride.
Or selfishness.
Or hatred.
We don't go to Heaven or hell because of what we do;
We go to Heaven or hell because of who we are.

I stand with Chick-Fil-A.
I stand against the double standards of the 'tolerance' and 'coexist' movements.
But I have to wonder if the Church has contributed to this with double standards of Her own...

More to come...

Monday, July 30, 2012

Art Appreciation

It was time to get some culture into these lambs of mine.

It's not like they subsist on a diet of root beer and pork rinds, and we eat our dinners on TV trays in front of HeeHaw.  They know who Bach and Handel are (though one prefers Tchaikovsky). They have to read--and discuss--Shakespeare, Hugo, and Dickens before they graduate. They chew with their mouths closed (mostly) and one hand on their lap.

But art. They know nothing of art.
And that is all my fault.

Yes, in general, they can spot "Girl With a Watering Can" or Monet's "Japanese Garden." Other than that, though, they have inherited what my friend, Scarlett, calls my 'bad attitude' regarding art.

So, last week, I decided to make some headway in this obvious gap in their education. I packed lunch and kids into the Blue Whale, and we headed off to UT to see Austin's Blanton Museum of Art.

Our little adventure commences as we enter the first floor gallery. And I immediately remember why I feel justified by my bad attitude.
the unidentifiable sculpture made of styrofoam packing pieces...
the ball point pen enshrined in a glass box...
the white paper, blank, except for a centimeter of green crayon...

My kids look at me. I look at them.
We look at the art. The art looks at us.

And I am clueless as to how to rescue the dignity of these 'artists' in the eyes of my children.
But that anxiety lasts about a nanosecond.
Then the Adams snark sets in.
I see the wicked little gleam of mockery lighting eight sets of eyes--which I am sure merely reflects the wicked little gleam they see in mine.

"Look, kids," I say, standing in front of the framed pieces of notebook paper with watercolor paint spilled on them. (I wish I were kidding.) "Mommy's been throwing art away for years."
"Yeah," someone snorts. "Bad mommy."

Alex stands in front of a rather minimalist piece and begins to play docent. She's analyzing the picture--out loud--for the benefit of her siblings. They snicker. I walk briskly past, pretending this pack of Cretans and I do not share the same gene pool.

Determined to rescue this day, I encourage them. "Okay, before we leave this floor, you have to tell me what your favorite piece is."
I'm trying, people. I really am.

My eleven-year-old pipes up. "That one is really speaking to me," he says innocently.
Oh? Which one?
He points. The lit-up, red "exit" sign.
Should I slap the child here or wait until we get back to the van?

The first floor is a complete bust, but we proceed to the second floor. We've been on museum grounds for approximately 38 minutes...and I'm already tired of art.

I'm very thankful for the second floor.  We walk into a Hudson River School of Art exhibit. Oh, thank you, whoever you are who put this here. This is real art. My heart is warming. Okay. We can do this. There's a "Go West" exhibit in which I see recognizable things like homo sapiens, cows, horses.
Flora and fauna.
I get this.

Other rooms on this floor display Renaissance paintings. And there is the occasional piece that makes me stop and...well, appreciate.  But...what is the sixteenth century artist's fascination with fat, naked women? Half of these pictures contain at least one bared breast. And the kids are starting to notice.
Besides, Brett says, "If you have seen one, you have seen...two."

Proceeding to the sculpture room, we are waylaid by an empty room with one bench facing one painting. It's a long, lean black and white of a long, lean woman who has the smokey mystery of Gloria Swanson...
So I stop and look,
And my kids stop and look.
I don't know what's more important here...the fact that there is a good piece of art...or the fact that nine Adams are all standing and staring in respectful silence--in an art gallery!

Give me a minute to bask in the glow of this culture moment.

Then, the woman blinks! We gasp. We continue staring. Mesmerized, the kids are actually difficult to steer to the next room. Be still my heart! A positive art experience!

Moving on to the sculptures...
We are surrounded by beautiful sculptures of 8 foot tall marble men.
Naked, marble men.
These men are eight feet tall. Several of my children are of the four-foot variety. Their eyes are about three and a half feet off the ground...
You do the math.

So, I hustle them to the next room before one of my four footers with a mouth to match exclaims something that will embarrass me....
and we appear to have come full circle on the Cycle of Stupidity, for we are back in a modern art exhibit.
And I can smell Jackson Pollock.
My spidey-senses are tingling.

But I never get a chance to find out if I'm correct. Alas, they want to make dioramas across the street.

Later that evening, I drive Jake to football practice.
Football. Feel the love.
My nine-year-old, along for the ride, is staring intently at something on the windshield. Finally, she bursts out, "Mom! I see pictures in the bird poop!"

Someone pass me the pork rinds.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Real Truth: The Foundation for Real Justice

If Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the captives and good news to the poor, then Passover uniquely belongs to the bottom dwellers.So we cancelled (Easter) service and took church downtown to the corner of 7th and Neches, where our homeless community is concentrated. We grilled thirteen hundred burgers and ate together. Our band led worship; then in a powerful moment of solidarity, we shared Communion. It was a beautiful mess of dancing, tears, singing, and sharing. It wasn't an 'us' and 'them' moment. It was just the Church, remembering the Passover Lamb and celebrating our liberation together. 


I rummaged through the box of books like a kid on Christmas morning. My books from T4G had finally come in. It wasn't the same as actually being there in bodily form, but it was a nice consolation prize. Whoop! I pulled every book out and began labeling the insides. Then a name caught my eye.

Rick Warren.
Rick Warren?!
Hold on a cotton-pickin' minute.
Why do I have a book in my house blurbeb by Rick Warren?
I skimmed the back suspiciously.
Looking about as deep as I might expect from RW.
Okay, it's Christmas. I'll be charitable. I"ll give Mr. Purpose Driven Life one pass.
But, I swear, if I find one book, just one in this pile of wholesome goodness, blurbed by Bill Johnson or Rob Bell...
I swear it's getting burned on the Altar of Insanity.

Some of the books were looking uncharacteristically...shall we say...crunchy.
What the heck?!
Al. Dude. What are you thinking?
I double check with my fellow WOE (wife of elder), Susan, who placed the book order.
"What is up with the books this year? They're looking rather, um, lite. ???"
She nods, knowingly. "Oh, those would be the ones I threw on top. The Band Of Blogger recommendations."
"Phew." I wipe my brow. "I was wondering which of the T4G guys was caving."

But my summer of reading began.
I saw his name out of the corner of my eye. And I was like a moth to flame.
My guy. My theologian. Yes, there are precisely two theologians (of the ones still living) I might just lie, cheat, and steal to meet. (Hyperbole, people.)
Al Mohler. (Ahem, we went to the same university. Just sayin'.)
And D.A. Carson. Drool.

So there it was.
Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson. (And I find out later from Susan that was an independent buy of my husband's. My husband rocks.)
I dig right in. It's an amazing book which, once again. reinforces to me how carefully the Word of God must be handled. God's Word is an awesome thing. And we humans have a way of making an interpretive mess out of it. There are hermeneutical rivers that deserve the Golden Gate Bridge....yet we simply throw a rope across...and put lots of folks in lots of danger.

Yes. The Bible deserves our respect.

No. I'm no preacher. I don't believe in women preachers. But I am a mother. And it hits home how we exegete every day for our kids. We answer questions and interpret and...well, yeah...we kind of our kids. Every day. And we need to be very, very careful how we do that. When our children are young, we may be the only representative of Heaven they ever know. What we say, and what we say Gods says, counts.

I loved it. I loved learning about word fallacies and grammatical fallacies and logical fallacies and historical fallacies.
It fed me. It made me revere God more.
Poof! Finished. Nourished. Growth.
I love growth.

I come back into the study. Circling like a shark around a bleeding seal, I start lapping the room.
"You're looking for your next read," Brett says.
Ah. There it is. Seven, by Jen Hatmaker.
It looks intriguing and silly all at once.
So I pick it next.

Hatmaker is a gifted writer. I hail from Planet Snark (as one person told me), but this chick put It on the map.

Seven is Hatmaker's account of her attempt to shed American consumerism in search of a legitimate Gospel walk. So, she picks seven areas in which she will simplify. Her accounts are laugh.out.loud funny. And she has poignant observations sprinkled throughout. Hatmaker has spunky, passionate zeal. I'll bet she's a riot to live around.

She drew some rather bizarre lines in the sand, like buying locally or at 'living-wage' companies. (Economics, anyone?) But she had some really interesting points, too, like taking seven prayer breaks a day, which really intrigued me.

Unfortunately, though, she makes a couple of really fatal errors. She gives the nod (kinda) to careful study of the Truth. But her gospel, like all social gospels, is about half a bubble off plumb:
Sometimes, the best way to bring good news to the poor is to actually bring good news to the poor...Usually the best news when you're desperate is food, water, shelter.
See what just giving a casual nod to Truth does? It alters the Truth. It moves the bullseye just a fraction of an inch off center, and we barely notice because it seems close enough. What kind of hard-hearted moron wouldn't recognize that desperate people need food, water, and shelter? But what kind of false gospel would adjust trajectory just enough to think that food, water, and shelter is the best news? No. The Cross is the best news for a desperate person. Salvation from our desperately wicked hearts and our subsequent eternal death sentence is the best news.

This is dangerous stuff, Beloved.

Hatmaker again demonstrates where shrugging at scriptural approach can lead you seriously astray. See her quote at the top of this post on communion. But back the bread and wine truck up a moment, would ya? Communion is serious business. It is a sacrament reserved for the Body of Christ. And every careful church will fence the table because Communion done incorrectly causes serious harm. A good-natured, good-time approach to the Lord's Table is not kind; it is cruel.

In the end, there was a lack of testimony. Disappointing. But not shocking, given the kind of gospel she advocates. Lots of stories about people getting hot meals, new friends, and a warm bed. Not one story of anyone coming to the Cross, broken and repentant, and getting a new heart.

Sheep and goats come to mind here.
Notice that when Jesus commends the sheep for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and extending hospitality, the sheep respond with, "Uh, we did? When did we do that?"
But when he condemns the goats for not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, or extending hospitality, the goats say, "Whoa there. Oh, yes, we did. Weren't you watching?!"

Sounds like there were lots of prison ministries and food pantries and shelters and clothes closets run by goats. Sounds like the goats were into some serious social justice. Probably lots of soup kitchens and non-profits in the goats' gospel. I'll bet they had fundraisers and boards of directors and marches and publicity campaigns and websites. The "LookAtMyCause/IDoStuff/SomeoneDonate" gospel. Otherwise known as the Filthy Rags Gospel. These people make me roll my eyes.

Then they run to the Lord and say, "Dude. Good to see you, man!" (Insert dorky-cool attempt at fist bump here.) And Jesus looks at them and might say something like this. "And you are...?"

Meanwhile..the sheep just do what comes naturally. Hoopla-free.They probably put up a random unwed mom they met at the community college so she wouldn't have an abortion, gave her a room of her own, and shared the Gospel. They probably rescued a trafficking victim, brought her into their family, taught her how to be a better mom, and shared the Gospel. They probably took in kids whose adoptions didn't work--troubled kids--and gave them a home,love, and security, and shared the Gospel, even though it meant virtual loss of all social life. They probably shared a meal (and the Gospel) with a neighbor who is from an 'enemy'  country and grew up in an 'enemy' religion. I know these people. These people make me look at my white bread life and lament my own utter lack of kingdom usefulness.

They bow before the Lord with a woe-was-me-in-the-presence-of-a-holy-God attitude. And Jesus looks at them and might say something like this. "Welcome home, brothers and sisters!"

Might it be that Hatmaker, despite all her delicious zeal, has gotten it wrong? Might it be that goats do causes...
and sheep do Christ?

Poof. Done with Seven. More concerned than inspired.

I was on the prowl in the study again tonight. His name caught my eye. Chandler. Matt Chandler. And his book? The Explicit Gospel. He resides with Hatmaker and me on Planet Snark. But he is oh good. Solid ground again after a weird, wild ride. And it's blurbed by Warren. Dude! What's happening to Rick Warren?! I think he got saved.  ;)

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Real Hunger Games

Books are amazing things...
really because stories are amazing things.

Think about it.
Stories well-told keep the little ones in rapt attention on the laps of their parents. They can be made-up stories like the ones in our home (Yacov...or Chocolate EClaire...or Moldysocks). Or they can be true stories that chronicle family history like the ones I remember my grandmother telling. Or they can be stories of memorable heroes who overcame something--be it the enemy within or the enemy without--and were better for it.

The fact that there are good stories necessarily means that...
there are bad stories.
Oh, that doesn't mean that a bad story is a poorly told story, though that may be the case, too. In my book anyway (no pun intended), it means that the protagonist remained unchanged by his conflict. That is always sad because the only hero who never needed to learn anything was Jesus. The rest of us have a long way to go...which brings me to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.

I admit it. It was a page-turner. I wanted to see what would happen next. I cared about Katniss and Peeta. Rue tugged at my heart. Cato couldn't die fast enough or hard enough. I wanted to see Katniss take those games and shove them in the Capitol's collective face. I wanted to see It go down in humiliating flames. Oh yeah. I would have stood up and cheered for that one.

But she didn't.
And I didn't.

Written on a fourth-grade level, complained one of my friends. And no doubt about that one. None. I don't think there were any words over three syllables long. Interesting story line? Sure. I wanted to stick it out for the next canon fire. I wanted to peer into the night sky with Katniss. 'Good' literature. (cough) Make me laugh.

There was precisely one memorable line in the whole 273 pages. One. Katniss observes, quite astutely, "Destroying things is easier than building things." Amen to that, sister. Our fallen state makes it much easier for us to be image-bearers of the Destroyer than to be image-bearers of the Creator. And that problem goes back as far as Eden. As my friend Susan lamented the other day, (in another context),"Stupid Eve."

To be sure, the entire tale is a treatise on senseless destruction.

But when I read the book jacket comment, "Unsettling parallels to our times," I rolled my eyes. Nice try at making this story 'relevant.'

Give me dynamic characters. Give me a character with arrogance or ignorance or bitterness or give me the most wretched bottom-feeder humanity has to offer. Couple him with a conflict that makes him face down his rottenness, see his fallenness, his need, the fruit of his life. Walk him through a change that couldn't have come any other way, and we've got a story worth telling and re-telling. Give me Austen's Darcy or Dickens' Scrooge or The Wingfeather Saga's Igiby children. But write about a character who starts with no hope and ends with no hope...and I'm not sure why we wasted good paper and ink, let alone my time.

The Hunger Games offers no hope.
The characters find no hope.
The games will go on; the tributes will acquiesce; the Capitol will win.

If stories can't offer hope, they shouldn't be written--and they shouldn't be read.
Where's the growth? the lesson? the salvation?
And for the readers, where's the 'wow' moment?

Pointless at best; nihilistic at worst.
But hardly the poignant tale our culture would lead us to believe.
Unsettling? Nah. Far too incredible for that.

But as a parent, I'll tell you what I find unsettling.
The real hunger games.
The appetite that this generation has for this kind of story.

And as a parent, I ask myself, "What are these children feeding on that makes them read a story like The Hunger Games and say, 'Oh, that was so good!'?"
I don't think the answer is difficult. This is the generation, after all, raised on a sponge in underwear. This is the generation who thinks Lady Gaga has talent. This is the generation who texts at the dinner table. And this is the generation who is in serious danger of being called The Dumbest Generation, as is evidenced by a book of the same name.

It falls to parents to cultivate in our children good appetites for good things. We need to start when they are young. It is possible. It is possible for a four year old to hear the finale to Les Miserables and break into spontaneous applause. I know. My first four year old did just that. We need to feed them good things which are worthy of their time and their intelligence. That's hard work. But we don't have a choice.

If  The Hunger Games is the epitome of good literature for this generation, we are in for a world of hurt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Do Hard Things

I stare at my five-year-old for the eight-millionth time as she offers the eight-millionth excuse for why she is disobeying in some fashion. (And there are many fashions: sassing, bickering, teasing--your typical laundry list of five-year-old depravity) And I ask her The Question.

"What is your job?"

She gets it right on the first try. (I must have pounded it into her head.) Without hesitation:
"Do hard things."
"Righto," I respond. "So...why are you bickering? Again???"
"Because (insert current justification for current indignation)."
"You can't bicker just because he (did whatever he did)," I say with eyebrow raised for appropriate emphasis.
"But he--"
"Yep," I cut her off. "He did. He was wrong. You still have to treat him right."
She splutters, "But that's hard."

I just stare at her.
Ah, yes. There is is. She has just connected the dots.
"Helen, the right thing is often the hard thing. That's just how God's world works."
She nods. She's not happy, but she gets it. We've had this conversation too many times. Yes, she gets it.
Sadly, sometimes she gets it better than I do.

Destroying things is easier than building things. (Katniss)

Such a stunning observation.
Simple, bordering on simplistic.
Yet so epically true of the human condition.

Here we are, created in God's image, made to be image-bearers of the Creator.
Made to build.
Yet, even in my redeemed state, I am more often an image-bearer of the Destroyer,
because, frankly, that's easier.
I don't even have to think about it.
I can destroy in my sleep.
I can destroy with one hand tied behind my back.

Building, though.That's a whole other story.
Building requires grit because it must oppose the forces of time, gravity, entropy.
Building makes us sweat because it is always laborious, often tedious.
Building is hard.
And being image-bearers of the Creator is hard.

And I am like my five-year-old. I can see where I have chosen the easy road of destruction over the hard road of construction, even just in the last week or so.

For what more important things are Christians called to build than relationships?
What harder things are there to build than relationships?
They require so much work.
And they require sweat equity which few of us are willing to invest,
just because it's painful.
And when relationships hit a snag, we must choose.

Will I destroy?
Will I close my spirit like so many Maxwell Smart gates, up, down, across, CLANG!
Will I let a veil drop behind my eyes?
Will I hear--but stop listening?
Will  I see--but stop looking?
It is much easier to lock down my heart and shut down my spirit and walk away.
That will destroy the relationship.
But it's, sigh, so easy.

Or will I build?
When I am the offended, will I have the guts to confront and the meekness to do it gently?
Will I cool off and take the time to make a humble appeal rather than a stormy condemnation?
Am I willing to make the investment and trust the strength of the friendship and say, "You hurt me"?
When I am the offender, will I be humble enough to quickly acknowledge my fault?
Will I be contrite enough to offer a no-excuses apology and mean it with my whole heart?
(Let me pause here to discuss apologies. When you are offended, there is nothing worse than getting a simpering, "I'm sorry if I might have offended you." Sorry is for sympathy, as in:
I'm sorry you lost your loved one.
I'm sorry you lost your job.
I'm sorry you lost your leg.
I was wrong is how to acknowledge fault, as in:
I was wrong for offending you. Please forgive me.
I'm sorry is a big no-no in our house; even my five-year-old gets that.)
Will I take full, broken-hearted ownership of the offense I caused?
This is what relationship-building looks like
if it is built with excellence,
if it is built to last.

Destroying things is easier than building things.
But destroying things brings death and ashes, whereas building things brings life and joy.

Lord, help me to build.
Help me to do hard things.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Redneck and the Blueblood

When my little sister got married a couple years ago, the wedding was held outside--on my parents' hobby farm. The reception was in the barn. Drinks were served in plastic baby swimming pools. When the thunderstorm began, the boxes of wine ... (Boxes. Of wine.)...began to my dad duct-taped them together. The mud created from aforementioned thunderstorm meant that all the big trucks got stuck in the pasture. So the wedding party and various and sundry wedding guests had to push, pull, and haul cars out of the mud. One particularly macho truck--belonging to one particularly oafish redneck--required the help of a towtruck...which also got stuck in the mud. After two towtrucks failed to remedy the situation, a bogger was sent out. A 'bogger' is a lightweight vehicle with big wheels and amazing towing capacity driven by men who work for beer. No kidding. And by the hoots coming from the pasture that night, as I gazed on in dignified horror from the front porch, they were having a great time. 

It was a marriage made in redneck heaven.
And that is my family.

Then there is Brett's family. They are all college educated. They wear oxfords and penny-loafers. They listen to Handel's Messiah at Christmastime. (We listened to Elvis.) They've been to placed like Broadway and the Eiffel Tower. They use cloth napkins.  They sing in harmony and play the grand piano. 

So when we got married, it was like the redneck meets the blueblood. 
A fairytale, really.

Last week, both of our families gathered here in our home for Luke's high school graduation. The house was abuzz with activity and family and games and laughter. 
And the Holy Spirit.

My dad led us in communion in church on Sunday with a beautiful,choked-up prayer of thankfulness.
My mom sat with Zach at the kitchen table one day, their Bibles each opened side by side as they had an animated conversation about what they were learning in the book of Daniel.
My father-in-law shared what he was learning about godly beliefs.
My mother-in-law prayed for my mom when she was down with a headache.
My sister and my mother-in-law went for a long walk together.
And there were giant family meals
and charades
and walks around the neighborhood.
There was even one dinner that went long into the evening as the adults lingered around the table, talking about worship and other kingdom matters.  
And there was love...
the love that comes from the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
the love that transcends tractors and cellos
and unites us under our King.

Over the years, we've had people compliment our family. But what they don't understand, and what I began to get a better picture of over this past week, was that our family, the part that people see...
our marriage,
our kids...
this is just fruit.

But the roots began a long time ago.
They began when our parents were young.
Our parents took their role as parents seriously.
They took their job of raising up a godly generation seriously
so that we could raise another godly generation.
And each generation can stand on the shoulders of the generation before it.
As grandparents, they are still very much involved.
They pray for us and for our children.
They pursue relationship with every one of us.

I look at my house, and I can see a sink that needs to be replaced.
A dishwasher that doesn't work.
A doorjamb that is rotting and leaky.
A van in the driveway with a dented door.
A child who needs braces.
And I could start to think of myself as needy.

But I look at my home, and I see my husband who loves me and lays his life down for me,
I see my children who love the Lord and love each other.
I see my parents and my grandparents.
I see Brett's parents.
I see God's grace pouring forth from generation to generation.
And I know the truth.

There is the kind of  heritage that gives us our blue eyes or freckles.
There is the kind of  legacy that pays off our mortgage.
And then there is the inheritance that steeps me in God's grace and undergirds me with generations of godly men and women.

As the psalmist wrote, "You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name." Psalm 61:5b

I am a wealthy woman.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Social(ly Acceptable) Gospel

Two weeks ago, I was standing in the kitchen with my five year old daughter, Helen, and my two-year old, Josiah. He was squawking over something he couldn't have, and Helen stepped in with her wealth of five-year-old wisdom to save the day.

Helen: Josiah, you'll go to Heaven if you stop doing bad things.
Me: Whaaaa??? No, that's not right.
Helen (anxious to get it right): Josiah, you'll go to Heaven if you love everyone.
Me (facepalm): Noooo, that 's not right either. How do we get to Heaven?
Helen (aware she was standing on theologically shaky ground now): Josiah, you'll get to Heaven if you believe in Jesus as your savior and obey Him.

Ah. There we go. Finally.
But it got me thinking.
Isn't it just like the heart of man to avoid the issue itself, this pathway to Heaven, and create trajectories (as Al Mohler calls them) off the true Gospel?
In two seconds, my little daughter revealed that she is Everyman in her effort to preach a civil Gospel.
And in two seconds, she totally missed the Truth by landing on either side of it.

For the Gospel is not civil.
It is not complimentary to us.
It makes much of our sin.
It makes much of God's holiness.
It makes little of man's filthy efforts to rectify the situation.

Anything that calls itself a gospel which does not climax at Calvary is an inferior gospel.

Helen's first effort at trying to preach the Gospel, that we must stop doing bad things, results in a works-based Gospel. It is, in fact, the idea preached in all other religions: that to be right with God, we must behave a certain way. Judaism, Islam, and Catholicism all preach this kind of end, that we obey a law or add our own righteousness to God's to achieve right standing with God.

Helen's second effort in trying to preach the Gospel, that we must love everyone, results in a social gospel. It gives the idea that we can love people into the kingdom in place of telling them the truth about who they are, who God is, and what He plans to do about it. It's the 'if necessary, use words' approach. This one is more subtle because it seems so civil, so dignified, so kind.

But it is sooooooo wrong.
Words are always necessary to communicate the Truth.

The social gospel is really the socially acceptable gospel.
It recoils from icky things like wrath, blood, sin, and death.
And that is precisely what makes it an inferior gospel.
It diverts the purpose of Jesus' coming away from salvation and toward holy volunteerism.
But not once did Jesus feed the poor
or build a hospital
or advocate for the disenfranchised.
Not once.
Not once did He enter a town with the purpose of healing.
Oh yes, He did heal. But that was to testify to who He was.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. Luke 4:18-19

He came to feed the poor?
He came to preach the gospel to the poor.
He came to heal the blind?
He came to proclaim sight to the blind.
As in, say something,
As in, do more than simply restore ocular function.

Building a hospital
or working a soup kitchen
or rescuing trafficking victims will alleviate temporal suffering.
Doing a skit for a nursing home will entertain the forgotten elderly.
Working in government will preserve common grace and civil society.
But none of these things will save souls.

Not ever.

Who we are doesn't matter a fig to God's plan of salvation.
It never has.
Consider the angel of death sent by God in Exodus.
Consider the Israelites.
Brutalized and impoverished by their captors.
Attempted genocide by the Egyptians.
Strikingly similar to many third-world nations today.
Did their position as the tormented and disenfranchised keep them from the angel of death?
It did not.
The only thing that spared anyone was the blood of the lamb.
The fact that their lives 'sucked' did not earn them special protection.

(Let me pause here. I hate that word: 'sucks'. But I can't find another one that communicates quite the same essence.)

In reality, their plight looked like this:
Your lives 'suck' AND the angel of death is going to kill you...
unless you are covered by the blood of the lamb.
And to know God's requirements about the lamb, Moses had to tell them.

Only preaching the Gospel will save souls.
And to preach, we must open our mouths.
We must tell men they are not, will never be, good enough to go to Heaven.
We must tell them they, like us, are sinners in need of a Savior.

(And we must build hospitals
and work soup kitchens
and rescue trafficking victims.
That was not Jesus' mission.
And that is not our mission.
It is downstream of our mission...
but it is not the mission.)

The social gospel is not a gospel at all because it does not save.
Here we must take our cue from the Lord Himself.
The Holy Spirit anointed Jesus for His earthly ministry.
And his earthly ministry was to preach and to proclaim...
not to heal or feed or advocate.

Jesus came to share the bad news:
You are poor AND you are going to Hell.
You are abused AND you are going to Hell.
You are blind AND you are going to Hell.
You are all lawbreakers no matter how much you've been someone's victim AND you are going to Hell.

And He came to share the good news:
You may still not have enough food, but I will be your Bread of Life.
You may still never see this world, but you will see God.
You are still a lawbreaker, but I will be your Lamb of God...
Because I will die for you, and I will secure for you forgiveness,
and I will bring to completion the good work I have begun in you.
And I will go to prepare a place for you in Heaven with my Father.
And I will return one day to take you there....
IF you are covered by the blood of the Lamb.

Then He did what He came to do.
He died.
He rose.
He imputed.
He justified.

It is finished.

This is the superior Gospel because this is the Gospel that saves souls.
And no social gospel will ever achieve that because no social gospel can.

(Many thanks for What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.)

Monday, April 30, 2012

Free to Be...

I see a woman in a head covering, and, suddenly....
I'm hyperventilating.
She has a head covering. He must be a command man.
If he is a command man, he must be a hyper-patriarch.
If he is a hyper-patriarch, he is a mysogynist.
If he is a mysogynist, she must be in a lot of pain.
Yes, in one nanosecond, my eyes see headcovering, and my brain thinks 'tyranny.'

I find myself praying silently with Tevye of Fiddler on the Roof:
"God bless the family-with-head-coverings and keep them FAAAAAAAAR away from us!"

Then I remember my own time off in the weeds, and I do my best to back the condemnation truck up.

But I admit I'm still inching my way to the opposite corner of the room.

At the other end of the standards spectrum, I recall sitting in the back of a class of 'homeschoolers' where I got waaaay too much of an eyeful from a young woman's choice of jeans. This wasn't a church gathering in the sense that God's Word would be preached, and there would be worship and prayer. was a church gathering in the sense that most of the folks congregated there would make some claim to Jesus as Lord. And, frankly, that young lady's style was unbecoming for a Christian.

We need standards. The case of the young lady above makes that obvious.
We need standards in the home because our children are too young to know prudence.
We need standards so that when we remove the scaffolding from these children we are building, they will understand what prudence looks like and how to set standards of their own.

Standards are tricky business.
Some believers have a tendency towards rules.
Some believers have a tendency towards no rules.
Standards are family business, too.
We can't hold other people to our standards. House rules, after all, are just that, and not God's Law.
But that does not mean we are free to have no standards.

"I will set no unclean thing before my eyes."
The implication is that there are unclean things, that I can choose to look at them, and that the godly man will choose not to. The application, though, is for the Holy Spirit to make.
So maybe I can watch Pirates of the Caribbean. And you can't.
Maybe you can read Harry Potter. And I can't.
But we should both agree that anything that strikes us as unclean should not be entertaining to us.

"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence or anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."
The implication is that the man of God must make a conscious decision to take out the garbage.
The application is that we must define within our own households that what qualifies as true/honorable/right/pure/lovely and what qualifies as false/dishonorable/unrighteous/impure/ugly.

Having no standard is a standard. Don't fall for the idea that no standard is freedom. It is not. With every book, every movie, every song, every thought, we have to weigh its worth.
And we have to remind ourselves that the standard is not:
"Whatever is a classic, whatever is new, whatever is popular, whatever is a box-office smash, whatever has a cool soundtrack, whatever is cinematic genius..."
We're not called to be relevant; we're called to be holy.

We are a free people. Christ died to set us free. And Christian liberty is a wonderful thing.
My family is a free family. It isn't often that people toss the label 'legalist' at us. I am in no way advocating that we start searching for lines to draw.
No way. I am of the firm belief that we should start by assuming all things are permissible and have a reason--a very good reason--for determining something is not permissible.
But perhaps it would be more helpful to ask ourselves, "Where would I draw the line?"
"What would a movie look like that I would not watch?"
"At what point would I decide a book is not worthy of my time?"

A few years back, we had a hair crisis in our household.
The men all liked women's hair to be long, the longer the better.
The women liked our hair to be short and chic.
And suddenly, we had a need for a standard.
Brett wanted a standard that would be glorifying to God without writing a new law. After days of weighing our appeals and his tastes with God's Word, he came up with this: Be feminine. If you look like a female and like you appreciate being a female, wear it. If you look masculine or like you wish you were masculine, it's off-limits.

And with that one standard, the winds of freedom were blowing once again.
I think that's what good standards do.
They set a boundary that makes us at once achieve love and liberty.

Sometimes, standards can be too dogmatic.

There are scriptural principles that tell us that...
iron sharpens iron...
and don't let anyone despise your youth...
and spur one another on to love and good deeds.
our concerns regarding the youth group movement (and they are valid concerns) can cause us to reject these scripture and set an extra-scriptural, overly-dogmatic standard.
So we let our kids discuss everything...but Truth.
That's just weird.
Not only that, but for this mama who prays that her children will have a hunger for spiritual things and that their friends will have a hunger for spiritual things...
it's puzzling.
We end up forfeiting koinonia in favor of dogmatism.

When we elevate our standard so that it is equal to a biblical principle,
we harm the parties involved and breed disillusionment.
Surely, we sola scriptura types are aiming for a more excellent way than that!

Or sometimes, in our quest to have Godly standards, we let others set the standards for us. Then one day we wake up and realize we've been too rigid, too wooden. I was visiting a few weeks ago with some friends in another town. I was sharing what we were learning about having adult daughters, contrary to the more popular family-integrated standards in this area. Our friend smiled lightly and remarked, "Yeah, we can get a little dogmatic about that, can't we? We've been talking about that, too." It was nice to know we weren't the only ones re-evaluating.

So, setting standards is delicate.
The road to setting them has ditches of legalism on one side and lawlessness on the other.
The road is pock-marked with needless wounding and pointed fingers.

But, as with everything else in the Christian life, we aren't off the hook just because it's difficult.
We are a chosen nation, a holy people, a royal priesthood.
We must aim to have standards that reflect the Lord we serve and our identity with Him.