Monday, June 30, 2014

More Than I Wanted To Know

I sit on the balcony of my Kananaskis hotel room sipping a warm mug of tea. The air is slightly cool so I wrap up in a blanket and sit, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. The crisp mountain air is slightly tainted with the smell of pot wafting over from another balcony. Thankfully it dissipates quickly. Buzzing and chirping accompany the Pavarotti album we have playing in the background. And I am surrounded by beauty and calm.

Why is it that God seems closer in nature? The beauty elevates my soul and causes me to praise God for his lush creation. It’s a bit like a teaser, something that nudges me in the direction of God, but leaves things tantalizingly blurry. It leaves my deepest questions unanswered. My greatest problems unsolved.

The Lure of the Obscure
And yet, there is a pull to obscure revelation.  God’s beauty reflected in creation is delightful. It points me to something mystical and supernatural. Something that transcends my understanding. How often we prefer to stop here. To have a taste of divine beauty, but go no further. Because further brings constraints to my autonomy. Much is left unsaid that I am left to interpret in a way that feels therapeutically satisfying.

The Lure of Significance
A mystic flavor seems to be rising in popular Christianity. Authors such as Kathleen Norris present an appealing sacramentalism where mundane and ordinary provide channels of special communion with God. But I think this mysticism appeals to us so much because a large percentage of our time is spent on insignificant tasks such as housework and we long to feel significance. If we meet God in the reflection in the salad bowl or the rainbow in the dishwater suds then we find purpose and meaning in the mundane. Perhaps some of this is helpful, but I find it tends to cause confusion. It often creates an insider and outsider mentality that is simply not there in God’s revealed word. In the Bible we do not find a secret mysterious key to communion with God that some uncover and others do not. Instead we find a free and open call for all to commune with God through his son, Jesus Christ. All who have found salvation in Christ have equal access to God. 

The Clarity of God’s Word
Nature lovers and mystics are correct in pointing us the revelation of God in nature. His “eternal power and divine nature” are clearly seen in creation. (Rom. 1:20). And God also reveals himself to us in the ordinary. Our lives are checkered with tokens of grace and God’s providence. But we are depriving ourselves of vital information if we neglect God’s revelation of himself though words.

These words bring clarity. They record how God has worked in his people throughout history. They reveal God’s will. They tell us of his Son who is the fullest revelation of God. After all Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” (Heb. 1:3)

In God’s word the reality of my sin contrasts the perfect holiness of this God of beauty. I discover my utter helplessness to save myself and Christ’s plan of salvation to reconcile me to himself. Sometimes I don’t like what I read. Often the truth wounds before it heals. And we like to avoid the wounding. We want wholeness and maturity without the pain that brings us there. We long to feel enlightened and purposeful without accountability. In short, reading the bible interprets reality for us when we would prefer to interpret it ourselves. We prefer to create realities that flatter ourselves.

So I look at the vibrant green leaves rustling in the wind. I hear the robins lovely song. I’m in awe of the majestic mountains and calmed cohesive beauty of God’s creation. But I don’t need to find a mystical way into God’s presence. I’ve entered by the narrow gate. Christ’s blood was shed for my sin and it no longer stands between us. I glance up at the clouds far above and remember that the clouds do not separate me from Him. He indwells me by his Spirit--even now--and I am free to commune with him.  Ignorance may be bliss, but the truth sets us free. (Jn. 8:32)

Monday, June 16, 2014

When God Washes Away False Security

I’m approaching an anniversary I would rather forget.

On June 20, 2013, floodwaters covered my town and my home. I wasn’t home when it happened. I was at the doctor’s office receiving a lupus diagnosis, and needless to say, my world was shaken. My health and my home were things that made me feel safe. They were familiar. They were part of me. To have them both taken so suddenly left me feeling insecure and adrift. I thought I had my identity in Christ. I had recently taught about it at a women’s retreat. But suddenly I was asking, “Who am I if I lose my health?” “What use am I?” “What’s my worth?” It’s hard to be weak and it’s hard to cost other people something with your neediness. It really stripped me bare. Did I have worth apart from my contributions?

Keep reading here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Two Men I'm Thankful for this Father's Day

In our culture, 'manliness' is a word that brings to mind images clear as mud. Good men stand out like lighthouses in the fog. As I think of the men in my life, I am thankful. I’m thankful that I’ve known men who are loving, kind and unafraid to go against the prevailing tide of confusion.

My Dad
My Dad is kind of a tough guy. Not a jerk. Just seemingly not afraid of...anything. He’s a cop who is regularly exposed to horrible and evil things. He’s a Christian leader who counsels people through messy situations. He fights for justice and what he sees as right. It’s pretty hard to shake this guy up. I don’t remember ever seeing him cry, although, my wedding pictures reveal unshed tears as he walked me down the aisle.

My Father loves me. The way he plunged himself into the herculean task of fatherhood leaves me with no doubt. I see now what I couldn’t understand as a child; he habitually set his own needs aside to care for his family.  From the time I was young, he took great care, not only to make sure I was fed and physically safe, but also in the care of my soul. He invested hefty amounts of time in helping me to understand God, myself and the world around me. 

We had house rules, but the truth is, my dad was as soft as pudding when it came to his kids. Even as I grew up, he was the kind of Dad that would leave work and drive his university-going daughter from campus to her downtown ballet class...just so he could spend some time with her. He cared about what was going on in my life and talked me through many issues. Not once did he shrug off anything that was important to me as “silly girl stuff.” If it was important to me, he would help me figure it out.

My Kids’ Dad

My own husband is a remarkable father to our three boys. He’s hard on them in the sense of encouraging them to do things outside of their comfort zone, but surprisingly tenderhearted when they are wounded or hurting. It’s not unusual for a boy having a nightmare or having a bad day at school to want his father over his mother. My boys know that if they’re having trouble, their dad will not brush off their ideas or belittle them.

He teaches them about cowboy culture, playground bullies and how to draw trees like Leonardo da Vinci. It’s not uncommon for topics to range from ancient battles to the Greek alphabet to Johnny Cash. 

What the bible teaches about spirituality is a daily topic of conversation. He is not afraid to point them to a better father, namely, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” And my boys know that this is the topic that holds the most weight with their dad.

They learn by his example what humble leadership looks like. Between church and family, opportunities abound to see their Dad in action, and here is what they see: 

  • a man who leads with compassion, courage and wisdom 
  • a man who does not blame-shift or shirk responsibility, but makes hard decisions and accepts responsibility for the consequences. 
  • a man that nourishes and cherishes those in his care
  • a man who cares little what people think of him, but cares greatly for their souls
  • a man who values all kinds of people because his "God shows no partiality." (Rom. 2:11)  

The men in my life didn't learn about manhood on the pages of Maxim or GQ magazine. They model their lives after the one Man, Jesus Christ, who has the power to turn back the tide. They have tasted the unconditional adoptive love of God the Father, and the transforming work of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their own hearts, and extend this grace--this family love--to those around them.

It's hard to overestimate the blessings of a good dad. As poet, George Herbert, once said: "One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters."

Monday, June 9, 2014


Dearest Winston,

I can't believe my baby is turning three. I'm sorry this last year was so chaotic. I feel like I have missed so many nuances of growth and change in you. You are such a special boy and your Daddy and I love you to pieces. Some of the details aren't clear, but here are some of things we love about you;

  • You love to make messes. The problem is you are so cute when you do it so mommy doesn't always stop you like I should. It's true what they say, the youngest gets away with murder. I like to think of you as an artist with an advanced sense of tactile sensation.

  • You love drawing. You will sit for VERY long periods of time and just draw perfect little circles and zig zags. No one taught you how to hold a pencil…you just knew. Your favourite toy right now is the plain notebook and pencil that your Grandma Debbie gave you for Easter. You are forever asking where your "handy-dandy-notebook" is.

  • You like to scrunch your face up and growl at people at the most inappropriate times…usually with strangers.

  • You LOVE hyphenated words. I've never met a child who liked hyphenated words so much! You say things like, "Momma-Grandma-Debbie." and "I'm a horsey-puppy-bear!" With matter-of-fact authority you tell me,  "It's called guaco-guaco-molia" and your crystal clear request at the drive thru window is always a "hom-hom-cheeseburger!"

  • You love to put your big brothers in "bum-locks." You tackle them to the ground, whip your little legs around their neck and squeeze tight--your diaper in their face. You squeal in delight at their discomfort. Your big brothers sure do love you to let you get away with it!

  • You are compulsive liar about your age. You told everyone you were "four" until Knox turned five…then suddenly you were "five" too.

  • No matter where we go, you always offer to pray, and without fail, you pray the same thing, "Dear God, please, don't be scared…" This can be a little awkward, but we know you mean 'please help me not to be scared…as in, at bedtime…'

  • You like to give Knox permission to do anything he wants. If Knox asks for ice cream, your raspy little voice calls out, "Sure, Knox, sure…go ahead!" 

  • You always tell me, "I love you too, Mom!" when I never said it first. I'm so glad you know I love you, Honey!

  • Your favourite songs are "Lion Man," "Baby I'm Howling for You" and "What Does the Fox Say?" Without fail, when you hear one of your favourite tunes, you run to me yelling, "Mom, Mom, dance with me!" And of course, I oblige you. I love your sweet little arms around me and your soft cheek on my mine.

  • You love all things cowboy. You're usually the Lone Ranger or Tonto, roping random legs and door knobs.

Even at your young age, I'm encouraged by things God is doing in your heart. After hearing the song "Bad Things" from Connie Dever's Praise Factory catechism, you asked me,

"Did bad things kill God?"

"Well, Jesus died for our sins." I tried to clarify, but you already knew the answer.

"But he is alive now." You said with certainty. Then your eyes teared up and you asked, "Will I die because of bad things?"

"No, Honey, not if you ask Jesus to save you. He died for you." You seemed to think about this for a while and accept it.

This is our prayer for you, little guy. We long for you to know God's love and care in your life and his mighty power to save. We pray that your life would give God glory and that you would find your happiness and rest in Him.