Monday, February 20, 2012

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles never thrilled me much.
I remember the annoying little cages on South Florida beaches where the eggs were protected.
I remember rolling my eyes and being irritated that some tree-hugger somewhere was taking all the fun out of my day at the shore.

I have a new-found respect for sea turtles.
For theirs is a journey of sanctification.
Their road is hard.
It is long.
It is narrow.

The sea turtle's life is hard from the very beginning.
Three days to reach the surface of the sand from the egg.
Forty horrid meters from the place where they are hatched to the current of the Gulf Stream.
Sand crabs.
About seventy more kilometers once they find the water...
to their first rest--if they find a raft of floating seaweed providing refuge from underwater predators.

From day one of the believer's journey, the Predator is after our soul.
To kill. To destroy.
And those not called according to His purpose laugh at our journey,
mock our sovereign protection,
and accuse us of ruining their fun.
We must keep our eye on the horizon,
Put one foot in front of the other.
To go on is to face a new host of dangers.

But to stand still is to perish.

The sea turtle instinctively catches the Gulf Stream which takes it from the tropical waters off the coast of Florida...
to the frigid North Atlantic.
Along the way, it must dodge hungry blue sharks in the south
and lazy, open-mouthed basking sharks in the north.
Four thousand kilometers to its waiting place.
And there it eats and grows
And waits
and waits
and waits.
It takes the sea turtle five years to reach its waiting place,
And fifteen years for nature to give it permission to leave.

We, too, spend much of our life waiting.
But if we grow impatient and move out ahead of the Redeemer,
we do so at our peril.
We may feel like our lives our stagnating,
But all the while, God is preparing us for the road ahead.
The hard road.
The long road.
The narrow road.

At least half of all sea turtles fail to make the initial trek from sand to sea,
lost to their very first encounter with predators.
And only one in ten thousand of the surviving half make it to their twentieth year...
...when the fruit-bearing begins.

How many of us have known fellow sojourners whom we thought followed the Lord in earnest,
only to find that their true passion was not God's glory...
but their own.
Not on the narrow path now--because they never were.

And then...
the sea turtles turn twenty, and they instinctively move out from their waiting place
To find a mate,
To do what the Creator put them here to do:
To bear the fruit that propagates their species.
Only now are they mature enough to bear serious fruit.
After much danger,
Much travel,
Much waiting.

Only now are they ready to head back, with that fruit,
to the land of their origin.
And all the while, their instinct has guided them through the treacherous Gulf Stream...

...where their God-given immunity has protected them.
Some predators turn out to be no predators at all.
As other sea creatures succumb to the poison of the man-o-war jellyfish,
Not only do sea turtles swim through them, immune to their sting;
They feast on them.

A table...
in the presence of their enemies.

Isn't it just like God to lead us into the valley of the shadow of death,
only to find that we need fear no evil?
Sea turtles have their jellyfish,
And Christians have their lions.
But those lions--as Bunyan pointed out--are chained.

The sea turtle finds a mate and returns with her fruit to the beach whence she came.
There she beaches herself and deposits her fruit in the sand.

There will be a day when we stand before our Creator-Redeemer.
Returning to the land of our citizenship,
Just us and our fruit.
We will look back on this journey called life...
This hard, long, narrow journey,
A journey our Creator-Redeemer has intricately ordained for us from the beginning.

I wonder if we parents are setting the right expectation for our children.
Do they know they road is hard?
Do they know the road is long?
Do they know the road is narrow?
They need to know;
We need to tell them.

Tell them that 'sanctification' is spelled "l-o-n-g-h-a-r-d-n-a-r-r-o-w."
Tell them that "longhardnarrow" is what conforms us to His image.
Tell them that "longhardnarrow" produces fruit in keeping with repentance.

Tell them, as Spurgeon did, that everything is right on schedule.

And tell them that those who persevere on the "longhardnarrow" meet their Creator-Redeemer on the beach once again, this time with their fruit, to hear Him say,
"Well done, good and faithful servant."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Diapers and Driving: The Perils of Parenting

There are precisely two jobs as a parent I really, really loathe...
(I mean besides teaching fractions....)
and those would be
potty training and driving lessons.


I'm on my tenth round of potty training.
And I have never had a child initiate this.
Some children take to it more quickly than others, but it's the same overall story.

There is some silly book that has been going around for at least a generation telling you that you can potty train in a day.
All lies.
These are the same yahoos who tell you that breast-feeding helps you lose weight.
I beg to differ...
because breast-feeding is like carrying around two gallon jugs of milk,
all day,
every day.
Lose weight?
Uh huh.

Anyway, potty training.
Twenty-four hours, my eye.
It really means days of pointing out, again, where the porcelain throne is located.
It really means weeks of puddles and other surprises
and you just praying you find any desperadoes before guests arrive.
It really means mountains of laundry
and eau de toilet.

But the years pass, and, to date, I haven't had a kid who wasn't potty trained by thirteen.

Yes. I loathe it entirely.

Then they turn sixteen.
And they want to drive.

Where do they want to go?
We homeschool, for crying out loud.
That means we do everything in the house,
and we don't let them socialize until they have an engagement ring.
So. I repeat.
Where do they want to go?

Parents have a "stupid gene" that quickens with the first turn of the ignition at the hands of their offspring.
And as I sit there in the driveway, mentally ticking off the important things before we pull out, I wonder who is dumb enough to ride into open traffic with a new driver.
Apparently, I am.

Buckle your seatbelt. Check.
Position rearview mirrors. Check.
Watch for small children. Check.

Okay, honey, you can back out of the driveway now.
(Whoops. Silly me. I forgot to tell him the speed limit sign only applies to forward motion.)
The speed limit sign only applies to forward motion. Check.
Don't hit that child.
Try to take the next turn with all four wheels on the ground.
These are power breaks; you don't have to attack them.
Ditto on the steering.
Are you driving with two feet? No, sir. Only one.
No, that doesn't mean you can tuck your spare foot under you.
NO! You can't hang it out the window, either.
The yellow light does not mean gun the engine.

Finally, we pull back into the drive.
My heart is beginning to find its regular rate again.
He turns off the engine.
All's quiet on the homefront.
I open my door to disembark.
And then we begin to roll...
in my fifteen passenger van.

The world moves in slow motion,
and our voices are speaking in super slo-mo.
Moo oo oom, wwhhhyyyy aaa rr eee weeeee roo llingggg???

Hii iitt ttthhe brreaaakkk!!!

III aa aammmm...

Did I mention that I had opened my door?
Did I further mention that this was a fifteen passenger van,
a multi-ton vehicle?
a tank to the untrained eye?
And as I was--(remember that "stupid gene")--looking at the gearshift, trying to figure out what was happening,
my open door collided with a tree.
The tree won.

(Oh. Now I know what I forgot to tell him. When he turns the engine off, he loses all power--breaks included.)
When you turn off the engine, you lose all...
oh never mind...

My poor van.
My blue whale.
And now we pour in and out of her like ants coming out of an anthill.
Ten of us (only because two of us are away at school--but when those two come home next week for spring break, twelve of us) pile out of the driver's side.

I'm sitting here wondering what all the potty training fuss was about.

Elephant Rooms and Bones to Pick

I love it.
But I don't love it because I think it's fun to disagree.
I love it because I love Truth.

It was after a debate with my husband that I had a major paradigm shift in my theology.
And suddenly, the whole Bible made so much more sense
And it read with much more clarity.
I finally understood who God really is
And who I am in Him.
Yes, real debate yields real fruit
Because it uncovers real Truth.

Some believers are afraid of debate.
I don't think they'll say that. They'll couch their objections in Christian terms.
They'll say it's unsafe...
Or dangerous for personal relationships...
But I think that's sad.

I think it's sad that people of the Book are afraid to pursue Truth relentlessly.

And somewhere during a debate, someone starts to lament the lack of Unity.
Okay, I admit it.
I can be too quick to fight for Truth
and botch Unity.
And when Unity and Truth seem to be at odds...
I admit that I tend to err on the side of Truth.
Not that what I have to say is the Truth.
But I'm typically not afraid of disagreement.
I'm more afraid of error.

Just this past week, if you were paying attention, you would have observed the festooch over Elephant Room Two (ER2), which is the second gathering of diverse Christian brothers to discuss their differences in a healthy and public sort of way....

...until someone wanted to discuss differences in a healthy and public sort of way.

When Dr. Voddie Bauchum wanted a showdown on the Trinity, he found himself on a plane back home before the event even began. I always appreciate men who cannot be swayed by 'civility.' In contrast, I am deeply disappointed by others who have self-righteously declared that they are for unity--even if it means agreeing to disagree on the Trinity.

The Trinity.

Uh, believers don't agree to disagree on the Trinity.

There are important doctrines.
And, yes, much to our chagrin, there are times to stand for Truth and eschew Unity.

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile observed about ER2:
We were given a view of our own slippery and sometimes lazy grasp of the Trinity and other doctrinal issues of importance. Let's admit there's truth beyond our knowledge here. But let's also admit that too many of us have not sought to grasp what may be known.
Sounds like Truth trumping Unity to me...
"Too many of us have not sought to grasp what may be known."
Right on, Brother.

Kevin DeYoung weighed in like this:
We need a more thoughtful theology of criticism... Let's avoid facile condemnations of all criticism, realizing that the statement itself is a criticism and the Bible is full of heroes who had lots of bones to pick.
The Church in general--and I specifically--need to grapple with when to stand for Truth and when to bow to Unity.
My experience tells me that it depends on the doctrine.

There are the first-tier doctrines (like original sin and penal substitution) that are so integral to the definition of our faith and the Truth of the Gospel that they are non-negotiable.
I would never choose Unity over Truth at this level.

There are third-tier doctrines (like baptism or dispensationalism or charismatic gifts). Widely diverse positions are held by believers on both sides of these doctrines and lots of others. But they don't change the Truth of the Gospel. I think these are the doctrines that require a Romans 14 behavior of us. They require us to live with each other in an understanding way.
So I have to remind myself at this level to choose Unity.

But somewhere in the gray between "always choose Truth" and "always choose Unity" I find a second tier of doctrines where the choice is not so easy. These doctrines I would call 'worldview-ish' because they are so foundational that they influence how I read the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. They are the pre-suppositional glasses I put on every time I pick up the Word.

I think those worldview-ish doctrines include:
Calvinism vs. Arminianism
Egalitarianism vs. Complementarianism
Sufficiency of Scripture vs. Scripture-plus-tradition vs. Scripture-plus-prophecy

This is the level where I have to proceed with great caution regarding Truth vs. Unity.
They're not deal-breakers when it comes to friendship, certainly not.
But they are serious issues.
And while I won't go twelve rounds with you on a third-tier doctrine,
I just might over a second-tier one.

Truth is knowable!
It is only our post-modern age that tells us it isn't.
All men have general revelation through creation and conscience.
And all believers have the special revelation of Christ and His Word.
Yes, indeed, Truth is knowable.
And believers should pursue it relentlessly.

To be sure, not every hill is worth fighting over, but...
There are some we should be willing to defend.
There are some we should be willing to to take.

And there are some we should be willing to die on.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

You Can't Fight City Hall?

I sat there staring at the meeting notice. Once more City Hall wanted to meet to discuss the curfew ordinance. Once more, if I really gave a flying fig, I was going to have to postpone date night to go keep an eye on the men who rule our city. Once more, I was going to have to do my homework so as to come prepared.

I admit that I was torn inside.
This patriotic citizen thing?
This takes time.
I had left the December meeting with my jaw on the floor at the stunningly bad thinking I had seen by the chief of police, the city attorney, and some of the councilmen.
I had left determined to respond cogently to that flawed thinking the next time this came up.

And then life happened, as it is wont to do.
Holidays, children back to college, church responsibilities, business concerns...
blah, blah, blah.

Oh, I was still hopping mad at what I had seen and heard.
Yet time is the best antidote for passion, and the apathy was starting to creep in.
Besides, this was City Hall.
And you can't fight it!

Nevertheless...something niggled in the back of my brain.
Doing the right thing is not determined by feelings; it is determined by principles...

The thing I had been most aggravated about back in December was that a councilman (and one on our side, too) had told my tireless-patriot friend, Nita, that we couldn't be 'angry.' Now I realize you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But, doggone-it, I am angry. This is tyranny.

Oh, and there should be no tossing around terms like tyranny.
And it probably won't help to bring up the Constitution.
Or say anything negative about the police.
In fact, Pippin, it would be best if you just said nothing at all.

But I went. And I spoke. And I was nice. You can even ask Nita.

At the last meeting, the chief of police and the city attorney had praised the curfew ordinance as "pre-emptive criminal intervention."
So I mentioned that that was troubling, in light of the--dare I say it--C..C..Constitution.
At the last meeting, several councilmen had mentioned that they didn't want to deprive the police of tools to fight crime.
So I mentioned that they already have tools: laws against truancy and vandalism. And we have a tool for the law-abiding citizens. Oh gosh, I said it again: the Constitution. (I really wasn't trying to be belligerent; I just couldn't think of a synonym for Constitution.)
At the last meeting, the city attorney had said that, under the curfew ordinance, "if the person could provide information" as to why he was not truant, the officer would have to let him go.
So I mentioned my timid 13-year old who would go blank at the mere approach of an officer and probably not remember her name, let alone her address.

I had more to say...
I wanted to respond to the police chief's bizarre comfort in the curfew ordinance granting him power to approach "those with mental health issues."
I wanted to tell remind the Council that disdain and suspicion for the mentally ill is reserved for other political traditions than ours.

A speaker may only talk for three minutes.
So the mayor politely asked me to wrap it up, which is really annoying--especially when the councilmen themselves, in Brett's words, "are allowed to bloviate endlessly" in response to the speakers.

Good things happened that night, just the same.
The man who spoke before I did wasn't a homeschooler.
I don't even know if he is a parent.
In fact, I have no idea where he came from.
He opened with something like, "I support the police in their effort to fight crime." (Oh no.)
"But I support the right of these parents a little more." (Oh yes!)
He reminded the Council of the mess that is the TSA. And he challenged them, "If the government isn't going to fight tyranny at the federal level, then we better start here." (Yes! Yes! Yes!)

So... those dreaded words did come up in the meeting, after all.
And I was glad.
Suddenly, this debate about the curfew ordinance catapulted into the arena of the intelligent!
I sat agog as two council members admitted to being political science majors back in college and voiced some concern about drifting from the C...C...Constitution.
I was amazed when a councilman--NOT me--brought up 'civil liberties.'
I stared wide-eyed as another one said, "I'm really for fewer laws, not more laws."
And I nearly jumped for joy when one council member, after revealing that he had lived in Soviet Russia for a time, said, "Our Constitution is only as good as the collective support behind it."


Could this really be happening in MY city council? Could I really be witnessing MY city council starting to squirm under the realization that they might have passed an ordinance that was patently un-American? Could it be that MY city council was getting the picture that we weren't there so much as homeschoolers--but as Americans?

Miraculously, we witnessed a pragmatic debate over a seemingly insignificant curfew ordinance turn into a discussion regarding the ideals of our nation, our liberty, and our Constitution. We had stopped talking like politicians and homeschoolers, us and them, and we started talking like Americans.

The vote is still two weeks away.
But we might just win this one, not because curfews are inconvenient laws
but because they are bad laws--and because the Constitution is good law.

Maybe you can fight City Hall.