Monday, April 22, 2013

Get Him! In Defense of Justice

Alex was all of five years old. Her sibling had done something to her, I don't remember what, and she was scandalized. She pointed up the stairs where the hardened little criminal had disappeared, and she looked at Brett, her eyes blazing fire. "Get him!"
He was 'got.'
And that was the end of that.

I keep waiting for a hero to emerge amid all the gore and the horror and the wickedness of the Kermit Gosnell story.
Maybe a mother who sat up and said, No.
Maybe a co-worker who stepped between him and the baby and said, No.
Maybe a repentant Gosnell who fell to his knees and said, No.

But no. Not one person came forward to defend the children. Every party in that room was a violent aggressor against the life of one defenseless human being.

Put aside for a moment that there were no heroes in that room. Put aside the fact that Gosnell, to be strictly fair, was merely the hired gun. Put aside for a moment this fuzzy sense of right and wrong which divides the aggressors into the Heinous and the Hurting. Put aside for a moment the fact that no one in that room at any time was compelled to be there--no one, that is, except the child.

Put all of this aside because this is as close as I dare get to this line. Put all of this aside because, while few of us know anyone who earns their keep as a hired gun, many of us have friends who have done the hiring. And we are not so naive that we don't understand that for every precious friend who has found repentance and reconciliation, there are ten more who have not.

Put all of this aside and just stick to the facts of the trial straight up:
Kermit Gosnell is the Philadelphia abortionist who is on trial for murdering abortion survivors by snipping the tops of their spinal cords. In other words, he beheaded them.  Babies. He beheaded infants.

Now I'm making the same demand Alex made. Get him!

I only regret that Gosnell has but one life to give.

And that is the travesty of justice here. If justice were swift and sure in this country, Gosnell would have been executed after his first murder. (And let's not quibble over the location of the murder; inside or outside the womb makes no difference to God. As one friend put it, that's merely a matter of geography.) But justice was not swift. And Mr. Gosnell went on to kill who knows how many people.

So let's say I was an optimist. Let's say the judge in the Gosnell trial did not pre-screen jurors to get rid of pro-lifers. (He did.) Let's say this trial is not full of anti-child irony. (It is.) Let's say the jury returns a verdict of guilty (they won't), and the judge gives Gosnell the death penalty. (He won't). He will still only die once. Justice will not be served. But it's what we'll have to settle for. The place, the only virtuous place, where we can rest in all of this is that God is just. He will not be mocked.

But hark! What is that sound? Oh my stars, it's the Mercy Brigade, sounding for all the world like a chorus of frogs. Yeah-but. Yeah-but. Yeah-but. They're the ones who positively twitch when I say, "God is just."
Yeah-but. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Yeah-but. God is merciful.
Yeah-but. While I was still at enmity with God, Christ died for me.
True, all.
And yet, God is just. Let it be. Stop twitching. Add nothing.


King David knew about justice. He and Alex shared much of the same understanding. Here's what the simple five year old and Man-After-God's-Own-Heart both get about justice.
1. There is wickedness in the world which requires a justice that gives no quarter.
2. We do NOT have authority to exact that justice ourselves. (Remember David's stricken conscience when he cut Saul's robe?)
3. Someone does have that authority: our Father.
4. We may appeal to our Father, who will respond because He is just.

Alex said it the way a five year old knows how. "Get him!"
David, the poet-psalmist, was a mite more articulate:
"Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God" (139:19)
"Pour out your indignation upon them, and let Your burning anger overtake them."(69:24)

To be sure, imprecatory prayers must be approached with caution and humility. I admit that I don't trust my indignation and my anger to be purely righteous. I admit I have cried furious tears over this. I admit I have to daily do a heart check. But I also admit that while some of my acquaintance may feel compelled to pray for Mr. Gosnell's heart is just not there yet. I realize I risk what you think of me when I say this. But this is the place where I am right now. When I think of those who are oppressed and in need of mercy in this case, I think of the babies.

And for the sake of the blood of the babies which cries out from the ground for justice, I am praying on their behalf. I will be their voice before the Throne.
"Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me!
Let them be like the chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
For without cause, they hid their net for me;
Without cause, they dug a pit for my life.
Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it to his destruction.
Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in His salvation.
All my bones shall say, O Lord, who is like You,
delivering the poor, from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?"
(Psalm 35:4-10)
This intercessor prays fervently for her family.
This intercessor prays compassionately for the sick and the hurting.
And sometimes this intercessor prays with a fire in her belly and a blaze in her eye over the wicked.
Kind of like David.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Good Life

We went to a party today. And when I say party, I don't mean the sanitized Christian kind where there are...Christians. I mean PARTYYYY party. One of Brett's old co-workers had turned 50, and she was throwing a big bash out at the lake house. She even invited Brett and me--and our whole family. She loves our family.

So, we went. It's always the kind of outing I have to mentally gear up for. I mean, I love her; I really do. But the crowd is not made up of our people. It's 'them.' 'They' are mostly aging yuppies, every family comprised of two immense professional salaries and precisely zero children. Zero. They drive two fabulous cars, live in 4,000 square foot homes in the most coveted parts of Austin, and jet-set around the world when they're not working hard at their very top-tier positions at major corporations.

And then, there's us. We drive the fifteen passenger Blue Whale. When we open the door, children spill out like ants out of an anthill.  We look like Ma and Pa Grape driving up in our jalopy and arriving in that queer little scene from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...the one where they ask, "Where are all the children?"

The live band is playing cover tunes from Clapton, the Doobies, and Skynyrd...and I know all the words. I start 'dancing. and singing. and movin' to the groovin' and Brett laughs. The kids are watching all the adults dance with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Non-plussed, they make a bee-line for the pool, where I let them get in as far as their shorts' hems will let them. The almost four-year old gets soaked anyway. While most of the grown-ups stick close to the band and the booze, our family actually takes advantage of the activities. Brett plays boccie with the littler ones while Eliza and I do the bean bag toss. And I don't mind telling you this is not a bean bag toss for the faint of heart. We fail miserably and collapse on the back deck, where I serenade Eliza with Margaritaville. (Hey, I didn't start it; I'm just singing along with the band.)

It's fairly noticeable to me--and I think to all the guests, but maybe I'm being overly sensitive--that our family is lurking together on the outskirts of this party. We can't even get the kids close enough to the birthday cake because it has some, uh, 'visuals' we don't want the kids to see. So we stay back far enough to not offend innocent eyes but close enough to join in the birthday well-wishes. (Isn't that the line we always try to toe with the world? Stand back far enough to protect whom we're called to protect...but get close enough to bless whom we're called to bless...)

So, who are these people? Well, we go way, way back with a few of them from Brett's days at IBM. One of them even came to our wedding almost 25 years ago. Brett's known some of them longer than he's known me. We've seen them through multiple last name changes. Our host babysat for us back when we had a modest family of four, and she was between husbands. She is one of the few who has children, two of them, and Brett knows the both of the fathers. Simply put, there is nothing, just nothing, we have in common with these people.

And yet, they are very kind to us. We get warm hugs from the ones we know. They compliment us on our 'beautiful children' and ask earnest questions. They know we're a little odd. They know we homeschool, and I don't work, and we don't agree with President Obama. They know we're Christians, and we go to church. Still, they invite us to birthday parties and summer parties and New Years' Parties. They ask us to come sailing with them, and then they spend time teaching our kids the ropes. They make sure they have ice cream sandwiches on hand for the littler ones. I mean, they are really, really kind to us.

But there's something a little sad about it all. At one point, while Brett was mingling, Eliza and I took the kids to the play scape. I filled her in on who was married to whom, who used to be married to whom, who came to our wedding, who Brett worked for and with at various times. And she said, "It's kind of sad. They have lots of stuff but no kids. They think they're living the good life. But we're really the ones with the good life."

Out of the mouths of babes...

We left a little early. The almost four-year-old was a bit tweaked because the band was still playing and, therefore, the party wasn't over--and I have no doubt there was a lot more partying to come. Alas, we had to get kids home and bathed and ready for church in the morning. I waved across the party to get my host's attention while she was dancing. I blew her a kiss, and she blew me one back.  And that was the end of that.

The good life. God has given us such a good life. And I'll take my Blue Whale over their imports; I'll take my ten kids who make my life full over their jet-setting; I'll take our frugal spending over their two incomes. Most of all, I'll take the gift of rest that comes with knowing what Jesus has done for us over being consumed by the cares of this world. We are living the good life. I can't think of a better one.

We prayed for them tonight. As I tucked each child in bed and prayed, I was overwhelmed with this thing called the good life. And I was overwhelmed by how much I want these friends to have it, too. I want them to find rest in salvation. I want them to come to the Cross and find the Good Life.

Maybe that's why we keep going to these things. It reminds me to pray for them.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance of death to death, to the other, a fragrance from life to life...2 Cor. 2:15-16

Thursday, April 4, 2013


At first glance, I lead a rather boring life. Wife. Stay-at-home mother. Then I add a few more details. Wife--to pastor. Stay-at-home, homeschooling mother--to ten. Now, I'm no longer boring; I'm weird.  But I've always considered my life somewhat of a blessed adventure. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Even so, I wonder if there will be a time when I settle down and try on 'normal' for a maybe doing a stint as White House Press Secretary...or as a professional golfer. And just as I begin to see 'normal' on the horizon, I hit this bend in the road. 'Normal,' it turns out, if for other people's stories.

I live in a home populated largely by little folk. And my home shows the signs of this wee population. My walls, normally a cheerful yellow, have taken on a hazy dinge from about four feet down. My crisp white woodwork is neither crisp nor white. The worn carpet on my stairs has done battle with a legion of sippy cups. My fingerprint-plastered windows are an FBI dream.

That's okay, I keep telling myself. Life is getting normal now. Our youngest child, on the verge of his fourth birthday is getting taller, smarter,...cleaner. Soon we can replace carpet and paint.

Our possessions are simplifying, too.  After twenty-one years, we finally said goodbye to diapers. (You've probably noticed a dip in your Pampers stock. And I was on the verge of urging you to move your money to Matchbox.) I'm down to one napper, no diapers, and exactly one plastic Winnie-the-Pooh plate.  That kitchen petrie dish, commonly known as the high chair, has long taken up residence in the attic--you know, for the grandkids. I have no burp cloths or boppy pillow. And somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage,  I think, there lurk one playpen and the dilapidated remains of a stroller. I think.

Then there is my typical day. My homeschool time is spent less on ABC's and more on discipleship. I spend my free time reading, blogging, volunteering at speech club, being a friend to my adult children, studying theology, and worrying about politics. In our last family photo, every member of the family is standing on his own two feet.

My peers are in the 40-55 year range. Most of them have graying hair, kids in college, and hot flashes. None of them have little plastic Winnie-the-Pooh plates.

And then there's me.
I have graying hair, too.
I have kids in college, too.
But my uterus apparently had a neon sign flashing, "Vacancy!" And suddenly the world is moving in super slo-mo, and I'm staring at that telltale horizontal line on the stick (you know the one) with my mouth hanging open.


I'm 45, and I'm going to have a baby. Wow!
Early signs of pregnancy are already setting in. My steel-trap brain has turned into a colander, and I'm dropping all kinds of balls.
My hair has taken on the delightful texture of a wired-hair dachshund.
At some point, I'll need to buy new maternity clothes because the ones I have left are circa 1800. And the hottest thing out right now are maternity skinny jeans.
So my choice will be to either look like Laura (yawn) Ingalls or Beyonce.
Pregnancy in a Pringles can. Yippee skippee.

I'm tempted, of course, to look at my story and start comparing it to my friends' stories. But then I start listening to their stories.
One had a complete hysterectomy at 33. No more children. Ever.
One had fertility problems.
One had a seven year window in which she could conceive. That window is now closed. Forever.
I have two friends who always have to have C-sections.
Three more have lamented to me that they wish they could conceive now, too.

And I am humbled into 'Who am I?' Who am I that I've never had a C-section or a miscarriage? or a less than perfectly healthy baby? or a problem breastfeeding? Who am I that I have a hardy womb at my age when my peers have long been done?

Most important, who am I to compare my story to their if my story has anything to do with their story? as if God who created the Universe was suddenly obligated to work from one blueprint? No. My story has nothing to do with their story.
My story is His story.

I cannot make predictions about the future. I cannot tell you how this pregnancy will progress, or who this child will be. But this bend in the road is history.
And it is His story,
His story for me.

So we'll log some more time with spots on the carpet.
And little black fingerprints.
And diapers and potty training and plastic Winnie-the-Pooh plates.
And baby smiles. And tiny fingers and toes.
And first words. And first steps.
And leading another little one to God.

Still, I falter when I wonder if I have it in me to parent vigorously for another eighteen years. I waiver when I think that I cannot be weary in well-doing, that this new little one needs, even deserves, every bit as much energy as my first did. I stand at this bend in the road and wonder what God was thinking, making me a mother again at the same age my mother became a grandmother.

I'm going to be a 50-year-old with a five year old.
I'm going to be 63 when I finish homeschooling.
I'm going to be 90 when this child hits my age; my own parents haven't even broken 70 yet.
Yes, I've spent a fair amount of time doing the math.

For whatever reason, He is saving me from my plans and to His plans. The math tells me that this is going to require daily dependence on Him for wisdom and strength--but then, that's no different from anything else He's called me to.

I saw a picture today. I had caught myself doubting one more time about normal and asking God, "Are you sure..." questions. And then I saw the picture. Another friend was holding her little surprise caboose, whom she had just birthed yesterday. It all came back to me...the smells, the warmth, the feelings, the amazing miracle, the new relationship.

Forget normal. I'm not called to 'normal'; I'm called to 'radical.'
My story is not about normal. It's about Jesus.
And He's got this.

The adventure continues...