Monday, January 11, 2021

2020 Reading List


Well, that was silly. 

Ironically, I read less in a year of lockdown than I did in most other years. First, I consciously focused on gathering because it was 2020 that made me realize that gathering is a large part of what we are made for. Second, I found it really hard to focus. I read many paragraphs multiple times this year. I did manage to get through these, though...

Purloined Boy by CR Wiley. Looked good. Didn't really move me.

Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction by Amy Laura Hall. If you told me I was going to agree with an ordained female universalist Methodist minister, and on theological grounds, no less, I, who am a complementarity Calvinist, would have said you lost your mind. Boy was I wrong! In the opening years of the Twentieth Century, 'the baby' became a demographic in its own right; it was all downhill from there. Families were sold a bill of goods about the 'ideal' family, two children, three at most, all 'properly' nourished, 'properly' educated, and 'properly' under a doctor's care. 'Hygiene' was teh magic word. Family planning--and all the ugliness that entails--was the inevitable result, with a population of nervous mothers on the verge of breakdowns. Fascinating read!

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Austen at her satirical best. 

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. Third annual read. Gets me in the right frame of mind every January.

Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan. The first in the series about the escapades of Richard Hannay. I love a good spy novel, and Buchan is the best.

Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson. Not gonna lie, artistic communities weird me out. But Peterson cautiously wins me over enough that I recommended it to a few artistic friends.

Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien. Because Tolkien.

Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson. I cried. Fourth (maybe fifth?) time through. I know how it ends. And I cried. Again.

Stuff Matters by Mark Miodownik. A series of essays on man-made materials from concrete to porcelain to chocolate. Miodownik is a materials engineer and entertaining writer, to boot.

Man in the Dark by Douglas Wilson. Romantic mystery. 

Bomb by Steve Sheinklin. Page turner about the race to build the bomb and the ensuing spy activity.

Two Towers by JRR Tolkien.

Murder in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe.

Different Shade of Green by Gordon Wilson. Neither a virulent tree-hugger, nor a virulent capitalist, Wilson finally makes the intelligent case for conservation.

Return of the King by JRR Tolkien. This is the first time I actually read the appendices. After multiple, did-you-know's to Brett, he felt compelled to remind me this was fiction. Dork. 

Right Behind by ND Wilson. Laugh out loud funny.

Classical Me, Classical Thee by Rebekah Merkle.

Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. LOVE this book and the two others in the trilogy. Great again!

Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers. A Lord Peter Wimsey mystery! I love Lord Peter!

Coronavirus and Christ by John Piper. My first thought was, do we really need a whole book about this? But, actually, it was really good. 

Glass Houses by Louise Penny. Not particularly thrilled with the last two Gamache books. Read on. 

Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers. Lord Peter's first mystery. 

The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson. Oh, my heart.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny. So done with Penny. If it weren't a library book, it would be in the garbage where it belongs. 

Letter to My Son by Jasmine Holmes. Facts are more useful than feelings, but if you want to hear the heart of a black woman for her black son, this is a really good book. I gave it out many times. 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Third time. I can finally see why this is a classic. 

Beautifully Distinct by Trillia Newbell, et al. Love Newbell, but I was hoping for deeper, I guess. 

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Because it was time to introduce the 6 yr old to Bilbo.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. One of the best American novels. I have no idea how many times I've read it. And this year, Brett and I each, independently of each other, ordered another copy before it gets banned. 

Knowing Scripture by RC Sproul. How to, and not to, read scripture correctly. A gem. 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Because it was also time to introduce the 6 yr old to Narnia.

Prince Caspian by CS Lewis.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville.It's about a whale. Or is it?

Voyage of the Dawn Treader by CS Lewis.

Beowulf. Heroes and monsters. What's not to love?

The Silver Chair by CS Lewis.

Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. Eerily relevant in 2020.

How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman. BEST book on political worldview ever. My high schoolers have to read it for government. 

Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French. Too long. Land the plane already.

Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis. Not a big sci-fi fan, but this one is really great.

The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. Super fun adventure. 

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis.

Door in the Wall by Marguerite D'Angeli.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Sweet story, sweet, sweet ending. Classic Berry.

New Testament Biblical Theology by GK Beale. This was my magnum opus this year. I love the preaching ministry at church and regard that as my corporate Bible study. But personal Bible study is just that for me: personal. It took me most of the year to work through this book, and it absolutely changed my perspective. I was blessed!

Even Better Than Eden by Nancy Guthrie. Traces nine biblical themes. Very, very good. 

Fidelity by Wendell Berry. Sweet short stories about the folks in Port William.

Treasure at Glaston by Eleanor French. Could have been a fun adventure. Way too mystical, I edited as I read it out loud.

Once and Future King by TH White. One of my all-time favorites. Whimsical and sad. 

Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis.

Flags Out Front by Douglas Wilson. What ensues when a prankster flies the Christian flag higher than the American flag outside a Christian school. Too funny. 

According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy. Bibical theology.

Death by Living by ND Wilson. If there was a philosophy we all needed in 2020, it was this. 

Repeat the Sounding Joy by Christopher Ash. A book about Advent that I read all year. Lovely.

Confessions of a Food Catholic by Douglas Wilson. By all means, make your own food rules for your family. But Managers of Their Homes should be able to at least articulate this perspective. Both informative and snort-a-french-fry-out-your-nose funny. 

The Ten Commandments by Kevin Deyoung. What would a year in reading be without a Deyoung? One of my favorite blogger/theologians.

The Last Battle by CS Lewis. Just kidding. I hate this book. I hate Tashlan. This is Lewis at his worst and why you always have to read him with buckets of salt. For the first time, I skipped it entirely.

Happy 2021. May there be better news and good books. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Laugh: Thoughts on Living with Uncertainty

I heard someone say this week, "If we are going to put our faith in things other than Christ, the smallest thing possible--a virus--will shake that to the core."

In the wee hours of yesterday morning, Easter morning, we went through the house waking the children and telling them to assemble downstairs. We were under a tornado warning. My six-year-old sat in my lap and put his head on my shoulder. "I'm scared," he whispered. I did not know how to console him; I could not make promises I had no power to keep. But I rubbed his back and prayed silently, "You are the Author of Calamity, and You are able to do whatever You will. I am asking for your mercy. I am asking if you would keep us safe." Twenty minutes later the storm had passed. We were unharmed.

But I have been chewing on the unusual timing. Here we are in the middle of a worldwide quarantine. And you can't seek storm shelter and social distance at the same time. Legitimately huge or unfortunately overblown, God has used this little virus to bring the whole planet to its knees. And then He sent the storm that sent us scurrying for cover where there was little to be found. From Texas to North Carolina.

Can you hear me now?

Funny. On the one hand, Italy and New York City have been hit extremely hard by this virus. On the other hand, we are a month into this, and zero people in my social circle have told me they tested positive. I am not here implying that I have omniscience over the health of every single person of my acquaintance. But, thus far, there is no stigma associated with the virus and, therefore no reason for me to think people are being furtive. And I am not the only one. Zero? A month in?  In different locales?

Funny. On the one hand, I am told that half the people who have it are asymptomatic. On the other hand, responsible science should prevent us from making claims we do not have the ability to verify. Maybe everyone who has the virus is symptomatic. We. do. not. know. And we can not know.

Funny. On the one hand, I stand six feet back during my necessary excursions into the grocery store as a way to respect the fearful and vulnerable. On the other hand, I stand six feet back because this might be legit.

Funny. On the one hand, our family obeys the civil magistrate because that is what believers do. On the other hand, this is a jurisdictional travesty of Kuyperian proportions. Civil government protect personal liberties and punish infringers of said liberties; self-government takes personal responsibility.

Not quite as funny. On the one hand, we keep reminding each other that the second greatest commandment must inform our behavior. Enough already; we get it. It's one thing to present the second commandment for our consideration as we live in this time; it is another thing entirely to position ourselves as the final arbiters of what it actually means to love our neighbor. On the other hand, I have not seen one person present the greatest commandment for our consideration at this time. Not. a. single. soul.

So, yeah, I know little for certain. But I am certain of this:
On the one hand, Jesus is Lord over quarantines and diseases, tornadoes and tyrants. The nations rage, and the Lord laughs. On the other hand, Jesus is Lord of His Creation and of His nation, the Church, and we laugh with Him.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Deut. 29:29

So laugh at the days to come.
And if you're not laughing? You might just need to repent.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

But If Not

We interrupt my next planned post to bring you an important message.

One of my adult kids texted me. Romans was really good!
I smile. Indeed it is.
Another one sat at the kitchen table last month and looked up from a meditative silence. You know what's a really good book?
I'm thinking Enger. Or Lee. Or Dostoyevsky.
My 10-year-old is saying with increasing frequency, Wow! I read something like that in the Bible this morning!
My 17 yr old just finished the whole Bible for the first time. That was really good, she exclaimed.
Two enthusiastic thumbs up? I tease. Maybe God will ask you to blurb His next edition.
My heart is warm all over. My children are becoming People of the Book. And I am humbled by God's work in this quiet suburban home.
Because ideas have consequences. And little minds and hearts informed by scripture grow up to make choices and take positions based on the True Ideas of scripture.

Don't think that's important? Read on, Lizzie.

Did you see the news coming out of Bethel "Church" over Christmas break? Let me fill you in.

On December 14, two-year-old Olive Heiligenthal passed away suddenly. Her parents, who are on staff at Bethel, kept her body in the morgue for five days while they prayed for her resurrection. Now I have never buried a child. I cannot, can not, imagine that kind of soul-searing suffering. But I do have a healthy regard for scripture and for the need to read it with great care. It is a sword, after all, and one does not simply go swinging swords about. Jesus did NOT raise people from the dead to be our model. He raised the dead to demonstrate His Lordship. Over every square inch. Over every last enemy.

In short, I have nothing but contempt for the theology of Bill Johnson because Bill Johnson has nothing but contempt for the theology of God. I wonder what will happen on Judgment Day to people who make a shipwreck of other people's faith. *coughrecklesslovecough* I want to be a fly on THAT wall.
Oh, where have you gone, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you gone, charming Billy?

Tomorrow you will have pink eye.
I could never believe in a God who makes eyes itch. And the tear duct goop is an added insult. 
The Apostle Paul: God made your eyes. Can He not make them pink? (ND Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl, 32)

Dare I say it?
Yes, I dare.
Boom, baby.

Why am I so passionate about this idiocy now? Don't worry; I nearly bolted out of my chair the day sweet Olive's story hit the headlines. Trust me, I was passionate about it on December 15. But now, it's personal. Last week, we received the double-whammy of bad health news from both sides of our family. Part of me is bummed. Bummed that the sadness of  2019 was fading, and life has to get dicey again. Bummed at pain and sickness. Bummed that living in this fallen world can suck sometimes. Billy Boy would beg to differ. Billy Boy thinks we can be healed if we have enough faith. As in, if I don't get healed--and keep healed--it's MY fault. As in, God needs my faith to make His power work. Ah well, small minds have room only for small gods.

When my son Jake hears people waxing stupid about the sovereignty of God, he gets a glint in his eye. He smirks. He quips, "Oh I see. God's sovereignty ends where my sovereignty begins."
God's sovereignty. So simple, a college freshman can understand it.
But not a charlatan preacher.
Billy Boy will not rob me of resting in God's sovereignty.

And Brett reminded me that there is also golf and pork belly and Montana. There are date nights and family and Wingfeathers. Right there in the middle of bad reports. Common graces that God sends just in time to carry us through. But Billy Boy can't see goodness in calamities.
Billy Boy will not rob me of resting in God's goodness.

And I've a good mind to tell Billy Boy where he can put his bad theology and his angel feathers and his gold dust. But this is a family blog.

Blessed be Your Name when the sun's shining down on me,
When the world's all as it should be, blessed be Your Name.
Blessed be Your Name on the road marked with suffering.
Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your Name.*

I'm learning the power of lament. And I want my kids to learn it, too. I want to protect them from the Bethel Koolaid. When I lay me down to sleep, and when I lay my six-year-old down to sleep, we pray.  'Lord, we ask that you would heal them,' we pray, the six-year-old and I. 'But if not, we still love You. And we know that You still love us, and that You still love them.'

But If Not.
The theology of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.
The theology of Job.
The theology of Amos.
The theology of the Potter and His pots.
But If Not is the theology of the saints of ages past and ages to come.
But If Not is the theology of People of the Book.
But If Not is the theology of God.

Dear Refuge of my weary soul, on Thee when sorrows rise,
On Thee when waves of trouble roll, My fainting hope relies.
To Thee I tell each rising grief, for Thee alone can heal. 
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief for every pain I feel.**

When those who profess to be God's people reject His word, they can expect God's wrath. (Tabletalk)
Rock on with your bad self, Billy Boy. (Me)

Meanwhile, all God's people say:
But if not, God is still sovereign and still good. The Author of Calamity is still working everything together for my good and His glory.

And all God's people said,

The next post will begin shortly. Please stand by.
*Blessed Be Your Name, Beth Redman, Matt Redman, 2002.
**Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul, Anne Steele, 1760.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Books! 2019 Reading List

Happy New Year. 59 books. Let's jump right in.

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by ND Wilson. Second annual reading. One of my favorites. Ever. Ever ever.
Before the Door by ND Wilson. Fun prequel to 100 Cupboards. And if you are a regular Wilson reader, you might be surprised by some of the dots he connects here!
Man in the High Castle by Philip Dick. Blech.
Unceasing by Susan Macias. An encouraging reminder to keep praying, no matter how old they get!
Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
Exulting Jesus in Luke by Thabiti Anyabwile. Jesus is not our model; He is our substitute. YASSS!
Eve in Exile by Rebekah Merkle. I cannot stand books on womanhood. Until now. Merkle takes aim at flawed perspectives of womanhood (both conservative and liberal) and argues for a gloriously Biblical perspective instead. Refreshing and encouraging. This is the only book on womanhood I would buy by the case and hand out.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. Scout returns home, and...Whoa...I didn't see that coming!
Blaggard's Moon by George Bryan Polivka. Genuinely fun read, reminiscent of  the Wingfeathers. I. loved. this. book.
Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka. First book in a fun trilogy following Blaggard's Moon.

Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum. A read-aloud for my children, the poignant ending made me cry. As in, I had to collect myself before I could continue.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes. Wonderfully readable bio of an amazing man. "On the positive side of things, Heydrich was dead. At the end of May, the albino stoat had been ambushed by Czech resistance fighters while he was riding in his open-topped Mercedes. Eight days later, the architect of the Final Solution fell into the hands of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (404). Most delicious set of sentences I think I have ever read. 
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. Meh.
God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. Good again!
Identity Theft edited by Melissa Kruger, et al. Series of essays on a woman's identity. Pretty good.
Take Courage by Matt Chandler.
Seventeenth Swap by Eloise McGraw.
The Hand that Bears the Sword by George Bryan Polivka. Book two in the trilogy.
Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. Fourth time through. Best of Lewis's non-fiction.
The Art of Turning by Kevin Deyoung.

Twelve Marks of Great Literature by Jeff Baldwin. Not as helpful as I had hoped.
Storm-Tossed Family by Russell Moore. I loved this book, which essentially covers the gamut of family issues from cradle to grave. Moore is a great writer, often punctuating with humor. Lots of 'listen to this!' moments with my husband.
No Quick Fix by Andrew Naselli. Dispels the myth that Christians have a separate stage of sanctification, following salvation, in which we really mean it this time. Um, that is salvation. Very good. But a lot of charts that were more clutter than help.
Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges. This was around the time my dad died. I think I may have missed a lot.
Battle for Vast Dominion by George Bryan Polivka. Book Three in the trilogy. Enjoyed!
You Who by Rachel Jankovic. GREAT book on identity and all the self-care garbage we have bought into over the years. Our job is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, not find our best us. Boom.
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop. How to find peace in Biblical lament. I found Part Two especially helpful.
Book of Sorrows by Walter Wangerin. Sequel to the Book of the Dun Cow. Very unusual story but very deep and worth another read. I liked it!
Grace Defined and Defended by Kevin Deyoung. Explains the Canons of Dort and why they matter. Maybe only for the theology nerd. But as accessible as everything else Deyoung writes.
Fierce Knights and Faithful Loves (Edmund Spencer's Faerie Queen Book 1) edited by Roy Maynard. The footnotes alone make this worth the read. Great story of a knight, a lady, and a villain.

Sacrifice of Praise by Herman Bavinck.
Fiddler's Green by AS Peterson. Continuation of Fiddler's Gun. I liked the first one a little more.
God and Galileo by David Block and Kevin Freeman. So so so disappointing to read scientists who claim Christ and deny Creation. Do not recommend. But  you're welcome to borrow my copy if you can handle my snarky comments in the margin.
Pray Big by Alistair Begg. Do you ever feel like your personal prayer requests or your church's prayer requests are all about traveling mercies and physical ailments? Does that really match up to the prayers that weighed on the Biblical saints? This is a great reminder to not sweat the small stuff and spend more time on the big stuff. Loved this little book!!!
Longitude by Dava Sobel. How longitude came to be.
So Brave, So Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger. Another amazing yarn spun by the author of Peace Like a River. Two thumbs up!
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. Hard story but second time through because this one really tugs at my heart.
Iliad by Homer. Mrs. Bennet, but I think we may safely boast here sit three of the silliest men in the whole country. What a bunch of egos. Good anyway. ;)
Children's Homer by Padraic Column. I read this aloud periodically and did again this year to my  younger students. I assigned the 'Odyssey' portion  to my high schoolers rather than have them explore Odysseus's adulterous idiocy in the adult version. Extremely well-written.
Sermon on the Mount by Sinclair Ferguson. Anything by Ferguson is encouraging and pastoral, and this was no exception. Highly recommend.

Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton. Zany fun.
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. I do not exaggerate when I say that Wingfeather Saga plus Ferguson's Whole Christ were paradigm shifting for me. Read them, and understand life. I think this is my fourth or fifth time through. I've lost count.
Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers. Fun!
Beyond the Diploma by Beverly Parrish.  Homeschooling has become a pretentious affair in the last 15 years, and all we've got to show for it is a demographic of self-important smart-asses. (Oh stop. I just can't think of a more appropriate word.) Bev is a great personal friend and my original homeschooling mentor. She reminds us here to keep our feet on the ground, remember our original vision for our children, and she provides the nuts and bolts to get it done. I'd hand this one out, too.
Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick. The history of the watch. Interesting!
Valley of Vision by Arthur G. Bennett. Good, good prayers that model right praying priorities for us.
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. Is it too crass to use the word stupid in a book review? How about insipid? Inane? I was embarrassed for the author. Basically, take care of yourself--because you're worth it. Reminiscent of Cybill Shepherd's L'Oreal commercials that made me gag as a teenager. But worse since Hollis claims Christ. Riiiiiiight.
Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. God's Kingdom is God's people living in God's place under God's reign. I <3 Goldsworthy! Second time through and I love him even more.
A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. What if you had a clock counting down days to your demise? What would that do to a society? Not my cup of tea, but definitely an interesting premise! Well-told. If you like dystopian, you might really enjoy this. First in a series.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare. My very favorite Shakespeare! Divided up parts and read as a family. Too much fun!

Grow in Grace by Sinclair Ferguson. Anything by Ferguson, just anything. :)
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. MEGALOVE. Is that a word?
Enchantress From the Stars by Sylvia Engdahl. Even though I don't prefer sci-fi, this one is quite good. Second time through, and I caught even more than I did the first time (though Engdahl is about as weird as they come...)
Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Dante was a Renaissance man, not a believer.  His view of Hell is emphatically not Biblical. But it IS clever. Dante mixes real life pagans, literary pagans, and even some Bible folks into one hellish stew. No one should read Purgatorio (I did. Sigh.), since the very notion of "Purgatory" blasphemes the sufficiency of the Cross. Don't waste your time.
Women's Ministry in the Local Church by Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt. I have more questions than answers on this topic. I thought maybe Duncan, for whom I have a warm regard and deep respect, might lend clarity. Nope. Do first-century saints gaze down at twenty-first century saints and wonder, How on earth did they get from 'Paul' 'Programs'?
Charlotte's Web by EB White. Is there anything more fun that doing all the voices and reading this to your 6 yr old and 10 yr old? And seeing my 10 yr old--who is all boy and all football all the time--genuinely moved by Charlotte was poignant.
Nothing to Hide by Mark Bertrand. Great, gritty, clean crime story, third in a series. I think guys will like this one.
Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Johnson. So much giggling from the kids. We read this almost every year at Christmas time.
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. An eye-rolling nod to post-modernity aside, this is an absolutely delightful tale of a British island under German occupation during the war. Hints of Mitford or Miss Read. Gush, gush, gush.

Stay tuned next year for some brand new reads. But remember to put the books down and spend time with your family, too. Happy reading!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Magnificence of Ordinary--For My Dad

This is my first Father's Day since Dad died.

Dad died. It has been four weeks, and as I type that and see it in print, it is still surreal to me.
Anyway, I've never been much of a fan of Hallmark holidays. But I loved my Dad, and I am acutely aware that I am heading into this day missing the Key Ingredient.

Dad was the most compassionate person I have ever met. Bar none. He had a capacity to weep with those who weep unlike any I have seen.  I have memories of him weeping upon receiving bad news about people he never even met. He stewarded that gift well, as he carried other people's burdens, feeling what they felt, coming alongside them, or lifting them up in prayer.

He was also the most opinionated person I have ever met, generally sorting the world into the Right and the Stupid. If you knew him, you're laughing because you know it's true. And if you know me, you're laughing because you're realizing, "Oh, that's where she gets it." As Brett says in his worst redneck accent, "The apple don't fall far from the tree."

And since I am that unfortunate combination of all of his passion plus none of his compassion,
And since we often strongly disagreed on what was Right and what was Stupid...
Suffice it to say, we had a feisty relationship.

Dad is the reason I care about politics and theology. Oh, we usually had the same Ends in mind. It was the Means where it got...exciting. Eventually, we just stopped talking about politics. It wasn't worth it. As for theology, well, we both love the Lord, so to stop talking about that was like asking us both to stop breathing.

We both cared passionately about the Lord.
We both cared passionately that our children walk with Him.
We both cared passionately that the Church behave like the Church.
But our different understandings of Grace and God's sovereignty led us to conflicting conclusions about what a mature Christian or a healthy church look like.
What he considered of primary importance, I considered secondary. What I considered primary, he considered secondary.
Yep. It got exciting sometimes.

Yet I owe my Dad a great debt. He led me to the Cross. He preached the gospel to me. He prayed with me to receive Jesus. He took me to church. He put his foot down against youth group and public school. When Brett came along, Dad inspected him for me. And across thirty-plus-years-and-counting of my marriage and eleven children, he interceded for us. He was always asking how he could pray for us. And it recalls to mind growing up, how I would see him pacing in the family room early in the morning praying--more like conversing--with the Lord. He was enthusiastic about our parenting choices and probably more informed on threats to home education, both foreign and domestic, than I was.

In the days after Dad's death, the recurring theme was:
Your Dad was like a father to me.
It is not hyperbole to say that I have lost count of how many times that was said.

To me, he was just Dad. The guy who was just there. There every night after work. There at the dinner table. There, loving his wife and raising his kids like he genuinely enjoyed it. The guy who told really awful jokes, like The Pig with the Wooden Leg. The guy who would hug you goodbye--and then leave you his papal blessing. And the guy who loved us and told us so.

That was ordinary to me. I thought it was the ordinary experience. I am starting to see that, to lots of other people, it was not ordinary. It was magnificent. And so now I must concur.

It was.
It was magnificent.
It was magnificent to have a dad who was there; who was engaged and enthusiastic; who prayed for me and rooted for me; who loved me and told me so.

And today, I am missing that magnificence more than I can express.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Barnyard Funk

Brett took me to a wine tasting class a few years ago for date night.  We learned about Old World wines and New World wines and how to swirl and sniff and sip. Admittedly unschooled in the ways of wine, the oddest thing I learned was all the flavors you are supposed to be able to pick up in a glass of wine. You might get a hint of pepper. Or flowers. Or berries.

Or barnyard funk.

Come again? What, pray tell, is barnyard funk? Well, barnyard funk, as it turns out, has essence of exactly what you might expect to find in a barnyard. Oh.

I would never make it as a sommelier.

Not long ago, my Bible reading brought me here:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. 

I was not surprised by the content. This is emphatically biblical. I was surprised at the context. This is Leviticus 19:18. Leviticus. A book about laws and regulations and mildew and hair and parapets and birds. (Please, please don't get me wrong. I love Leviticus, and if you don't roll your eyes or yawn your way through it, you will discover it is truly magnificent. Give it some respect.)

If I were to sum up Leviticus in one sentence it would be this:
An inherently unclean and unholy people--which we forget to our peril--are drawn into covenantal relationship with an inherently clean and holy God--which we also forget to our peril.

Bearing grudges is our uncleanness and unholiness showing.
To put a New Testament spin on this, bearing grudges is withholding grace.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is God's cleanness and holiness showing.
Loving your neighbor as yourself is bestowing grace.

Let's face it, fam. Sometimes we don't do reconciliation well. Sometimes we settle for truces. I agree never to discuss 'it' again if you agree never to discuss 'it' again. We extend a precise and peevish forgiveness and settle for an unstable peace. And suddenly our relationship looks like an exercise in geopolitics.

So basically we serve up barnyard funk. Yeah, technically it's wine. But it tastes like dirt and manure. No thanks, I'll just have a glass of vinegar. At least the vinegar has health benefits.

I was talking to a friend who is smarting from a relational hurt, and she mentioned needing to get past it. But I thought maybe she was settling for a truce when the aim is reconciliation. What she has now is a cease-fire. What she wants is fellowship.

I have taken a long journey in my growth in grace. I have withheld grace. I have been suspicious of grace. And I have extended grace. I have learned the power of grace, given. But I have also learned the power of the void where grace should be but is not.
It is septic. Putrefactive. Toxic.

Take forgiveness. You can extend all the technical forgiveness you want. But if there is not an accompanying grace, things in your presence will begin to die. Starting with yourself. Spreading to your marriage. Your family. Your friends. Your community. Because the people around you may not be sommeliers who can swirl and sip and identify barnyard funk. But they can sure smell the manure.

The good news is that while the absence of grace kills, the presence of grace makes things flourish! Starting with yourself. Spreading to your marriage. Your family. Your friends. Your community.

Technical, graceless forgiveness can, I suppose, get you to the Lord's Table. But don't for a moment think that barnyard funk is what we taste at the Lord's Table. We get the good stuff. Because He only serves the good stuff.

My friend texted me after our conversation. She said it was the push she needed to seek reconciliation. And she's moving forward. Stay tuned for fellowship and flourishing!

How about you?
Are you settling for barnyard funk?
Or are you ready for the good stuff?

Monday, March 25, 2019

It Was Always the Plan

We interrupt this Lenten season to bring you an important message about the Incarnation...

She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

The Incarnation is a mammoth topic. Wayne Grudem says this about it:
"It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible--far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe." (Grudem, 563)(emphasis mine)

So when I was asked to speak on it last December, I had a hard time keeping it manageable. My research overwhelmed me. It was a little like saying, "Boil the ocean. You have thirty minutes. Go!" But then I found that book-ending the Incarnation with Genesis and Revelation kept it simple and taught me some powerful things.

Genesis 3. Let me set you up. The snake has just slithered into Eden and succeeded at turning Eve's heart against the Creator. Satan knows it; Eve knows it; God knows it. Enter God, stage right:
So the Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly, and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.' Genesis 3:14-15
This is what the Big Picture Story Bible calls A Very Sad Day. (When I read this to my kids, I always mimic the mice from the movie Babe saying, "A very sad day...") My family would call this Trash Talk. This is what we do when we are making our NFL picks, and we're saying, When my team gets done with your team, your team isn't gonna know what hit them. And it's all done in jest and good humor.

But God doesn't talk trash. And what He said on this very sad day is not in good humor and most certainly not in jest. Picture this. God, who has just been defied by Eve--she knows it, and He knows it--has just walked into the garden, stepped in front of her, and faced off with the snake. She is ashamed but looking over God's shoulder. God is putting His finger in the snake's chest.

It's the heroic heart of a Father:
You messed with my girl.
It's the romantic heart of a Husband:
You messed with my Baby.
His Father/Husband heart comes roaring in to reveal the Plan:
You're going down, snake. And I'm going to use her to do it.

Thus begins the history of the only two lines of humanity there have ever been: those in Adams vs. those in Christ. God covenants. And the people, in gratefulness for this covenant, return the favor by making lousy covenanters, lousy judges, lousy priests, lousy kings.

God sends prophets. God sends enemies. Then God sends nothing. Silence. For four hundred years. The United States isn't even four hundred years old. That's a long silence.

And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I love how the Big Picture Story Bible puts it:
So Caesar, the Roman ruler, the king of the whole Roman world, began counting all his people to show everyone how great he was. What Caesar did not know was that...[sic] God, the world's true ruler, the king of the universe, was getting ready to show everyone how great He was...
And do you know how God was going to do this? Not like Caesar...[sic] not proudly, by counting all his people, but humbly, by becoming one of his people. (Helm, 237-40)

While Caesar was showing how great he was by counting his people, God was showing how great He was by becoming one of His people. 
God promised to crush the snake in Genesis.
Jesus fulfilled that promise as God Man at the cross.

And now let's fast forward to the future to see what Revelation tells us about the Incarnation.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Rev.13:5-8
Here we are in the future, and the beast--I mean, the snake--I mean, the devil--is still running his mouth. He's still inciting people against God, and he's still succeeding. Adam's line, the serpentine line, is alive and well among every nation, tribe, and tongue.
Those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

And there you have it. God waits until the last book of the Scripture to reveal His hand. The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world.  The Incarnation was not God's plan B. The Incarnation was not God wringing His hands at The Fall and going back to the drawing board.
The Incarnation was always the Plan, because Atonement and Redemption were always the Plan.

So let's go back to Matthew 1:21. If you're like me, you probably read it with this emphasis:
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will SAVE His people from their SINS.

Might I suggest that when we read it that way, we miss the point entirely?
Might I suggest that the point is more properly rendered with this emphasis?
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He WILL save HIS people from their sins.

The Cross has a 100% success rate. ALL the people Jesus died for will be saved. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way: "He did not die to make you merely saveable; He died to make you saved."

If your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, you have been loved, definitely, particularly loved, from the creation of the world. And Jesus was incarnated to come and get you
That was always The Plan. 

One more thing.
It would be a shame if we confined the Incarnation to a manger. And December. And Luke 2.

Because our hearts need this:
Come, Desire of Nations, Come, Offspring of the virgin's womb.
Rise the woman's conquering seed; bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface; stamp Thine image in its place.
Final Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love. *
in every month and every scripture.

With much gratitude to RC Sproul, Ligon Duncan, and Kevin DeYoung, whose sermons/blogs I leaned on heavily in my Incarnation study. If there was anything amazing in this post, it was most likely because of their work.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Intervarsity Press, 1994. p. 563.

Helm, David. Big Picture Story Bible. Crossway, 2004.
Ladies, if you don't own a Big Picture Story Bible, you need to get one. No serious sheologian would be caught without it. And then you need to read it in one sitting. And then you need to read it to your kids. Rinse and repeat. 

*Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Mendelssohn, Felix, 1739.