On Saying “Everything’s Fine,” When It’s Not: Our Solidarity with the Shunammite Woman

I had been apprehensive about Titus’s eye appointment. Whenever I’d scan my calendar for what was coming up, that appointment would catch my eye–memories of difficult appointments we’d had before still fresh. Titus’s eye doctor is someone whom I thank God for–she is a brilliant surgeon and one of the keenest doctors I’ve ever dealt with (and I’ve dealt with a plenty). She performed Titus’s eye surgery to correct his severe crossing when he was just six months old–a surgery many doctors won’t do that early. She’s aggressive for her patients, she’s frank, competent, no-nonsense, and I trust her.

When she first saw Titus and he was just 3 months old, she told me Titus’s vision problems were not vision problems, but neurological problems that may be impossible to fix–but she said she’d do everything she could to at least get his eyes straight enough that his brain could try and understand what he was seeing.

I’ll always remember that moment and her directness. The truth she spoke, hard as it was, was a kindness. How much of his progress is a result of her assertiveness and competence–allowing eyes to start to learn to work together at a young developmental stage?

But, even with my love for our doctor, eye exams and dilation are hard for Titus. Knowing this, I did everything I could the morning of the appointment to keep us cheerful and well-functioning so that we could get into that appointment with all the resources we needed to survive it.

And everything fell apart–which wasn’t a huge surprise, it’s what I was expecting. It was traumatic enough that they will likely do general anesthesia next time. What was a surprise was that it felt as though God had forgotten us that afternoon. I’ve been through traumatic events with Titus before–much more traumatic than an eye appointment, but it was always God’s presence that carried us–the trust and reality that he wouldn’t leave. But that day in the little exam room, my prayers seemed to bounce down off the ceiling and slap me in the face. I could endure anything, if only Jesus was close at hand, if only he was there opening my eyes to his goodness despite the obvious difficulties, if only he was letting me know he cared about my son–yet my sense of him had vanished.

A week or so prior, I had been reading about the Shunammite woman in 2 Kings 4. She was a wealthy, married woman, who showed over-the-top hospitality to Elisha the prophet. She even had a room built for him to stay in whenever he came by. Elisha wanted to repay her for this kindness and so he miraculously pronounced to her that she would have a son, although she had no children and her husband was old. She couldn’t believe Elisha and said to him, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your servant.” But it was true. She had a son one year later.

The boy grew and one day came to his father complaining that his head hurt. The father sent the boy to his mother. She held him on her lap until he died. I know something of holding my son in my lap, all but lifeless and gray–so horrific, so peaceful, waiting, wondering, with death so close at hand. It is the sort of angst that only the Spirit can express.

So the Shunammite woman took her dead son and laid him on Elisha’s bed in the room she had built for him.  Then she went to her husband and told him she was going to see Elisha, but when he asked her if everything was ok and why she was going to see him she said, “Everything is all right.” Or, in the ESV, “All is well.” No mention that their son had died.

When she comes to where Elisha is, his servant approaches her and asks if everything is all right, inquiring about her husband and also her son, and again she says, “Everything is all right.” We might start to wonder if perhaps she was simply full of faith and hope; if she was saying all was well because she so trusted that all would be well. But we see a very different story unfold. Everything was NOT fine, to the point that it was too terrible for her even to speak it. She was using “Everything’s all right,” as a cover for her deep pain–so deep that it couldn’t be voiced.

The Shunammite woman would not rest until she had Elisha himself. She went to him and grabbed hold of his feet. Elisha begins to see the truth, though she has said nothing, and he says, “She is in severe anguish, and the Lord has hidden it from me. He hasn’t told me.” Severe anguish. That sort of anguish isn’t the kind you can let out in bits and pieces when asked. It is the kind that overtakes you.

Her recrimination of Elisha is crushing. She says to Elisha–to God really, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Didn’t I say, ‘Do not lie to me?'” It’s like she’s saying, “Why did you give him to me in the first place if you meant to take him like this?” She still can’t bring herself to say that the boy is dead. Her grief only exposes itself to the ONE person she has some tiny hope could help her–not her husband, not the servant–only to the Man of God.

Elisha tells his servant to go and put his staff on the boy to revive him, but it isn’t enough for the Shunammite. She will not leave Elisha, forcing him to go himself to the boy. After the servant’s effort to bring the boy to life fails, Elisha then acts. Two times he acts to bring the boy back to life, laying over him, bending over him, and making him alive.

I confess that the recriminations that bubbled up in my heart after Titus’s awful appointment were a shock to myself. I have not been one to question God when it comes to Titus. In the dark times I have cried, I have wavered with weak faith, but to question God? Whenever one would start to form, my mouth would be stopped in reverence. Now they poured out.

The shape my recriminations took were from the gut, “You said you’d be with me. You said wouldn’t leave me. Why did you make me walk through this fire alone? Do you love Titus? He can’t understand what’s happening–has he suffered enough?” as I sobbed my way home.  As the tears ran, so did my mind–to the Shunammite woman–given a gift she didn’t ask for and trial she couldn’t even speak aloud.

As my friends checked in on how the appointment went, I so much wanted to say, “Fine. Everything’s all right.” But it wasn’t. And as I contemplated who the Shunammite took her complaint to, I remembered she finally let her grief out to the man who could do something about it. And these sisters in Christ also could do something about my problems, my grief. They, like Elisha, are connected to God. They know him, he has written his words on their hearts and put them in their mouth, he has given them his Spirit. So I didn’t say, “Everything’s all right.” I owned that I felt abandoned–not because God put me in a hard circumstance, but because it felt like he put me there alone.

Even as I confessed this, I was beginning to know it wasn’t true. God was pummeling me with evidence of his care: the story of the Shunammite that God had put in my Bible reading the week before the appointment, in the friends who prayed, even in the breaking loose of the questions that drove me to no one but God himself forcing me to tell him that, “Everything is not all right.” And most important of all, the evidence of Jesus, on the cross and risen–the one place that silences all questions of love or nearness, permanently fixed in history, permanently true.

I don’t know if you’ve ever struggled like did, like I do, to trust his presence, to trust him, when he seems far away. To own the real feelings inside, to take them directly to him and to the people connected to him. I don’t know if the pain feels so big that all you say is, “Everything’s all right.” But if that’s you, remember the Shunammite woman with me. Sometimes our grief feels so deep that it’s unspeakable. The only Person who can bear it fully is God himself, so take it to him.

Like the Shunammite, do not walk away from God until he comes with you. Stay with him no matter what. Remind him of his promises to you: that he said he’ll never leave you or forsake, that he said he’d be with you in the flood and the fire, that he’ll make dead bodies alive, not in this life, but the one to come. He hasn’t forgotten those promises. He will not go back on them, because he is faithful to his Name and his Word. He really does love us.

I don’t know what became of the Shunammite’s son. I don’t know if when he was brought to life he was restored to perfect, pristine health or if he had lingering effects of the ordeal in the form of a disability. I don’t know if he trusted Yahweh in his gray hairs. I’m glad the Bible doesn’t tell us that. It simply says he was restored to life. But he did die eventually, as his mom did, as Elisha did, as we all will.

Sometimes everything isn’t fine down here. Sometimes it’s a big mess and cry-fest. But we have the seeds of heaven deep inside. We have a glimpse of the end–of dead bodies restored to life, of all things made new. We have the God of Elisha, the God of the Shunammite woman, with us now. We have Jesus Christ, the one who came to save all the people who are willing to say, “I’m not fine,” I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I need you, Jesus, to die for my sin. I need you to be raised from the dead and raise me with your resurrection power on the last day. I need you to put hope in my hopeless heart. And I need you to do right by my son–to be the God of the weak and lowly that you say you are.

May God be glorified in us, even when everything isn’t fine. Someday we will say in truth, “All is well.” Physically, spiritually, relationally–well. Hold fast to Christ until that day. He’s got you.


A Tear for the Clean Slippers That Aren’t

“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

That’s what Pastor John posted the other day. A friend sent it to me as it was a perfectly timed word for her life. It hit me with a tightness, almost a guiltiness.

I got myself a pair of slippers a couple months ago. It’s no big deal really, but for some reason it was a big deal to me. I looked and looked and price compared and waited and waited for a couple years and finally clicked the button to buy them. It’s not like they were expensive or a well-known brand, they just happened to be exactly what I wanted.

Since I got them they’ve been vomited on more times than I can count. The first time it was just splatters, drips, and it didn’t bother me. Since then, it’s been fuller versions and I still haven’t been upset. I even took a picture the other day, after I’d cleaned them off, and laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.


But somewhere in all that, something has been shoved down. And today it pushed its way out. I sat down to feed Titus, which is always through his g-tube, because he can’t eat by mouth. And his extension tube hadn’t been clipped. So when I attached it the button in his tummy, his stomach contents started to leak out the extension tube, right on–you guessed it–my slipper. It was completely minor. NO BIG DEAL. It’s happened before, it will happen again and I caught it pretty quickly precisely because it was dripping on my foot.

Yet in that moment, there was grief. Grief at the absurdity of what was happening and that my slipper had stomach junk on it again and that somehow it’s supposed to be normal. In that moment, I was transported to my pre-disability days and it all struck me as so bizarre and sad–not simply the small moment I was in, but all that it represented.

Titus throws up about 5-10 times a week–more on a bad week–and this is part of his life. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. The main thing I fret about is the calorie intake. But, we’ve managed that pretty well and he’s growing beautifully.

Self-pity and the isolation of thinking of our trials as unique is a dangerous dangerous thing and my strategy has been to stay as far away from it as possible and to try to plant thankfulness and sow gratitude. Granted, it’s not that hard, God has given me a life that has far exceeded any expectations that I had. I have a wonderful husband, five children and a church family that is very close to my heart. I am the richest of women, owing to nothing in myself.

But what do I do in those moments when a forgotten clip on a tube and a soiled slipper reveal that there are emotions and grief that haven’t been dealt with and are shoved down and threatening to overwhelm? I’ll tell you what I did do. I took a picture. So weird, but I just felt the need to document how bizarre it all was and I knew God was teaching me something that I wanted to remember.


I think what I learned from it is something like, “Don’t cry over spilled milk. But every great once in a while, you can shed a tear for leaked stomach contents.”

Which brings me back to what Pastor John said, “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

I don’t weep deeply over the life I hoped would be–I used to do that occasionally, especially when I was scared that Titus would die. But I don’t anymore, because my life is a story of undeserved grace. But every now and then I shed a tear for my boy, for his struggles, and for my slipper, and for all the throw up. Then I get a towel, wash up, and brace myself for the next time.

Why I’m Not The Better Mom

This post has been waiting its turn and today’s the day.

Perhaps you’re familiar with a very popular blog called, “The Better Mom.” I have read a dozen or so articles from the blog. Suffice it to say that I’ve read things I agree with and things I disagree with. The turmoil of reading the things I disagree with is enough for me not to read it regularly and I am not wanting to comment specifically on it.

But I do want to comment on this idea (which seems ever popular among Christian moms) that there is a formula to “better” and if we follow the three steps to finding a good attitude and take control of all the externals of our life, everything will sail along the way it’s supposed to.

I want to comment on it because it’s a flat out lie.

I can’t be The Better Mom, because I’m not better. I’m two things: I’m sinful and I’m redeemed. I’m broken and I’m healed. I’m dead and I’m alive. That’s it. Not better– as if I’m climbing my ladder toward good. All the needful things have been done for me. And what’s been done isn’t “better,” it’s The Best.

We so much want to be able to control things. If I eat this way, I’ll feel good all the time. If I read my Bible in the morning, I’ll never be grouchy with my kids. If I start training my kids at 1 month old how to sleep correctly, they’ll be great sleepers.  If I have natural labor, my child will be healthy. If I’m always available to my husband, he’ll never look at porn. If I do do do, I will be be be.

That’s just backwards and untrue.

Here’s how it really is: Because of what He has done. He has done. He has done. I am His. I am His. I am His.

All of the sudden the three tips to a new attitude sound pretty small. Jesus bled and died to take away my sin. He was buried and three days later God made him alive again and not only have I died with him, I now live in him.

There’s my new attitude.

Life is filled with practicalities. We must DO things after all. We must eat something and therefore we must decide what it is we will eat. But if we think for one second that by putting the Gluten-Free Organic Whole Food Tofu in our mouth, or gutting out drug-free childbirth, or waking at 5am for devotions and free trade coffee puts stars on our holiness chart and somehow makes us a better mom, we’ve messed up the Gospel, big time.

It is for freedom that we have been set free. Must we submit again to our own yoke of slavery and law? Food and exercise and peculiar routines and habits do not commend us to God. Jesus commends us to God.

Better is never enough. Better is not good enough for God. But Jesus is Best. He is good enough for God. He is mine and I am His.

And with my life hidden with Christ in God, by His Spirit, a marvelous work happens that makes who I am forever: His daughter clothed in righteousness, match who I am right now: His daughter struggling against the remnants of sin (also clothed in righteousness). The Holy Spirit is aligning the two realities. It’s called sanctification.

Notice that I’m struggling against sin, not preferences. And what is sin? Sin is rebellion against God. Sin is not: eating donuts or surfing the web or fertilizing the lawn or having a bedtime at 9:00 o’clock. All of those things could be done by a sinful heart, which would make their action sinful, but they aren’t sin.

I could fertilize my grass because I want to look “better” than my  neighbor. That’d be sin. Or I could fertilize my lawn because I love my neighbor and I don’t want to negatively impact his property values with my unsightly yard. Hearts are sinful, not fertilizer.

I guess that’s the long way of saying I’m not The Better Mom. But I am a redeemed mom. I am a needy, desperate, satisfied and loved mom. I am a sinner-saved-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone-because-of-Christ-alone mom. And that’s way better than all my efforts to be a better mom.

the teacher I never knew I was

I never wanted to be a teacher.

Not ever.

When I was a kid and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never said “teacher.”  I looked at my many friends pursuing teaching degrees in college with a mixture of pity and wonderment.  Pity because of all the busy work in those horrid education classes*.  And wonderment because, to me, it was the height of self-sacrifice.

When I was 10 or so and my best friend would set up “school” for us to play, it took all the enthusiasm I could muster to go along.  She’d happily stand at the front with ruler in hand pointing at the board, going over lesson after lesson, while I’d sit on the floor, the dutiful student waiting for school to get out.

Now that I’m a homeschooling mom, teaching is my life.  Let’s face it, if you’re a mom, period, teaching is a big part of your life, even if you’re not homeschooling.  Everything about having kids involves teaching.

But, shockingly, I love to teach.  There, I said it.  I love to teach my kids.  And no one could be more surprised about it than I am.  Yes, it’s hard work and yadda yadda yadda, but what I didn’t know was that it is also incredibly rewarding and exciting.

I’ve always loved to learn.  I could have stayed in school for a very long time and been quite happy, I think.  Teaching my kids gives me an opportunity to continue learning and it also has pushed my relationship with my kids to levels that I wouldn’t have anticipated.

Looking at curriculum, getting to decide what fits my kids and our family best, reading and reading and reading some more, it’s awakened the teacher in me that I never knew I was.

Having my daughter read a book to me and knowing that I had a hand, the hand, in teaching her to do that, is a reward better than any degree I could earn.  And, at least I got to avoid the busy work!

*Not all teaching degrees require horrid busy work.  That’s just my perception. 🙂

note to self: be a drop-out.

I sporadically participate in a competitive world of comparisons.

Note to self: drop out.

This is a plague for moms of every stripe.  Especially young moms with young kids (I think anyway, but who knows maybe it infects the moms with older kids too).

It’s as simple as seeing another child do well at something and, instead of rejoicing for them and moving on, we check to see how our child measures up and are either happy or disappointed at the result.

Or perhaps we see the deftness with which another mom disciplines her kids and we immediately begin to think of what we would have done and find that we fall very short.

So, I say it’s time to drop out of the competitive comparison rat race.  I’ve only dropped out a ga-zillion times before.  But somehow, without realizing it I find myself re-enlisted.

I need to love my kids more by not basing their success on the observation of other individuals who are very different from them in every respect.  Instead  I should focus on who God has made my children to be and expect growth, not perfection.

The same goes for myself.  Concentrate on growth in who God has made me to be.  Cling to Jesus’ sufficiency.

And the dirty little secret is that when we base our children’s success or worth on a standard outside the Bible, such as the measure of other children, we are not loving our kids, we are using them to fulfill our own need and desire for happiness in them through their good behavior or achievement.  We are observing what we think will bring us happiness in the behavior or achievement of other people’s children and applying it to our own kids.

The Bible tells us our children are valuable because God made them.  They are gifts to us.

Plus, the standard of “other people’s children” or the way “other parent’s parent” will never be a high enough standard.  We will be selling ourselves short of the biblical mandates that are the BEST for us and come with the power of Christ working in us to help us in our weaknesses!

I will make a disclaimer here, however, that not all comparisons are bad.  Only the bad ones are bad.  The ones that make you upset with who God has made you and your children to be.  The ones that stir up discontentment and produce smugness or condemnation or apathy.

There is a type of comparison that stirs us up to love and good deeds, that inspires, strengthens and convicts.  I know this kind of comparison because it happens when we are surrounded by people who want the best for us and our kids and who we experience unconditional love with and for.

This good “comparing,” or observing, models for us Biblical commandment-keeping in action.

It happens when I see the families in our small group lovingly parent their kids towards Christ and obedience and I’m inspired and grow in my love for God and for my kids.  Or when I see another mom, humble and lowly, not using her kids to show-off (Lord forgive me for the times I’ve done this), simply nurturing them in the instruction of the Lord.

Comparisons are complicated.  If we’re engaged in them in order to make ourselves feel good about ourselves, the opposite will eventually happen; we’ll feel deficient and we’ll see our children as deficient (and if we don’t smugness and ugliness will overtake us).  But if we look at what godly brothers and sisters do with an attitude of humility, love and learning, we will learn and grow and love.

So, yep, I’m a drop-out.  But just of that bad, competitive kind of comparing.  The other kind I’ll keep: it’s valuable stuff!

an organic confession

There’s something you should know about me.  

I’m not an organic person.  I mean, I am organic, in the true sense of the word (read: I am derived from living things).  But, I’m not an organic mom (read: one who buys “organic” food, uses cloth diapers, green cleaning supplies, and won’t let anything labeled trans-fat touch her lips).

I may have just lost a chunk of my readers, but I’ll plunge ahead, assuming you are all still hanging with me and give the reasons:

1) Health isn’t my top priority. *gasp*.  I know it sounds weird to write down.  Maybe it’s wrong to feel this way? I’d rather spend the extra time it takes preparing uber-healthy organic food, doing something that is uber-healthy for my soul.  

2) The evidence about food is always changing anyway.  Low-fat used to be the sure-fire way to avoid heart disease, now it’s low-carb.  What if, in a couple years, they discover that all the chemicals organic farmers aren’t putting on the food, really were needed to keep diseased food off the shelves?

3) For me, food isn’t moral, it’s fuel.  I eat food so that I can walk around during the day.  I don’t eat food so that I can achieve perfect health.  (Similarly, I don’t think the earth is “moral.“)

4) It’s expensive.  I think it should be named “big organic,” the same way people say, “big oil.”

5) I don’t believe that eating organic is really going to keep me healthier.  I don’t think I have that kind of control over my health.  If God decides I’m getting cancer, he may use aspartame to do it, or he may use faulty genes, or he may just zap me.  But, either way, when he decides it, it’s happening.  

I have a friend who didn’t breast-feed her kids… on purpose. *double gasp*.  

It’s not because she’s unable.  It’s just a personal choice.  Her three older children are believers who passionately love God and others (her youngest is only 5, so I’m not sure about him:).  One time she told me, with a smile, “No, I didn’t breast-feed them, but they seem to have turned out ok.”  Now, that’s somebody with her priorities straight!

So, now you know.  I’m organically reluctant.  Can we still be friends?

Note: I feel a strong inclination to say that, yes, we do eat a (usually) balanced diet with veggies, etc. My kids don’t drink soda-pop and eat potato chips for supper.

 And for Mr. TommyD’s (my husband) sake, I should also note that he does not share my aversion to all-things organic.

sunday misadventures

Every parent knows the strange things that can happen on a Sunday morning that prevent you from getting out your door and into the doors of church.  

It’s a universal phenomenon.  

The baby spitting up moments after getting her sunday clothes on.  The preschooler who’s missing a shoe.  The school-age child who is buckled in the car, only to remember they forgot the baby bottle they’ve been collecting change in that is due back this very Sunday.

This Sunday surpassed our usual Sunday slow-downs.

It started with Elianna.  My 17-month-old’s nose started to drip blood out one side like a leaky faucet, just a I’m getting coats on the older two.   By the time I reached her, she had smeared it everywhere and looked like she came straight from Nightmare on Elm Street.

We made it to church on time, but were slowed by a lack of parking and long lines at the kids’ check-in.  When I sat down for the service, the announcements had just begun.  I’m thinking, not too bad.

After church, I herd the kids to the car by myself, because Tom had been to first service, having played on the worship team.  He left after he was done playing for second service to head home and shovel/salt the driveway for small group at our house later that night.  So it’s just the kids and me.

The kids are buckled and I hear Eliza push the lever to close the automatic sliding door on our minivan–not unusual, however, the sounds I heard upon the door latching were quite out of the ordinary.  Her screams still echo in my head as I write this.  

Her hand was shut in the door.  The 3-5 seconds it took me to find the button to re-open the door and free her hand were some of the longest in my life.  

I generally think of myself as cool under pressure.  But it took everything I had to contain the utter chaos I felt inside.  I wanted to scream for help and tear my clothes.  And I hadn’t even had my hand shut in the door!

So, I quickly find a friend who’s cell phone I can borrow to call Tom and tell him I’m heading for the ER, just certain that her hand is broken.  Her crying is still pretty intense and the hand looks ugly.  He agrees to meet me there.  But, after returning the cell phone and having my friend look at it, things didn’t seem quite so bad.

The crying slowed to an intermittent whimper and the hand was now bending and recognizable.  

After making an ice-pack with a plastic target bag and some handfuls of snow, we decide to go home.  At home, Tom is waiting anxiously for us in the garage.  He examines the hand and by now, it is swollen some, but moving well.  And Eliza is cheerful.

But wait, there’s more.

I begin cleaning and vacuuming for small group.  Pretty soon, Eliza comes upstairs saying, “There’s a big flood down there.”  I think, hmmm, maybe Tom overflowed the toilet.  Nope.  Eliza says, “It’s in the laundry room.  Daddy’s cleaning it up.”  

Turns out, Tom had turned the faucet on in our utility sink in the laundry room.  He was going to clean out our Bissel wet vac, which had been used the prior Sunday to clean up vomit (we were all sick), when he got the call about Eliza’s hand.  He had quickly forgotten the water in the sink during the mayhem of the moment.  Thankfully, he cleaned up the flooded laundry room, with no damage to the house.  

And here’s my confession.

When he told me that he’d forgotten about the water turned on in the sink, my first reply was, “Oh, you went to watch the game and forgot about it?”  Ouch.  Nothing like assuming the worst and being 100% wrong.  Well, I’m hoping for a very uneventful next Sunday.  And if I can’t get that, I’ll settle for a Sunday sans blood, mangled hands or floods.  

Do you have any Sunday stories?

wit, humor and sarcasm: a resolution for my generation (and me)

The saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” is not my generation’s motto.  I think ours is more along the lines of, “If it’s not witty, funny or bitingly sarcastic, keep it to yourself.”

I’m not sure why we’re like this.  Perhaps it is because millennials (I think that’s my generation… I’m 27, so if anyone knows for sure, please inform me) have basically had coddled life-experiences.  I’m speaking generally here, not wanting to minimize anyone’s significant painful experiences.  But, on the whole, we are unfamiliar with the serious traumas that other generations have faced.

Whatever the reason, here is what I find to be true about my generation (and myself).  We want to be clever.  And if we can’t be clever, we’ll settle for some sarcasm and a laugh.  We avoid saying simple truths outright, because they don’t sound clever or original enough.

This is trouble where the Gospel is concerned.  For one, the Gospel is a simple truth: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  We don’t sound smart when we say this; we sound converted.  Two, we may be more concerned about getting a laugh from someone (the ultimate sign of respect for us, albeit perverted), than we are with sharing the Gospel with them.  And if they are a fellow Christian, this is all the more true.  Why bother talking about Christ?  We are all Christians anyway, let’s just have a laugh.

But here’s some good news for the humor-hungry generation. Life is full of unmanufactured humor. We cannot avoid it. Kids overflow with it. No matter what our station in life, humor will be there. We need not promote its cause to an idolotrous place.  There is a time for everything under the sun: a time to laugh and a time to cry.  We don’t need to be funny all the time. Humor comes even when we aren’t creating it.

So let’s let the simple admonition of the Bible be our resolution concerning our speech.  It’s not clever… but it is original.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

James 3:9 With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.  My brothers, this should not be so.

Col 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

1 Tim 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

The list could go on and on.  I need much work in this area.  I’m praying for a year of gracious speech in 2009.  Speech that isn’t afraid to be serious-minded and Gospel-centered.  And I’m sure I’ll have a few laughs along the way.

bah humbug! 5 reasons I'm not a santa fan.

I admit it.  I’m not a santa-endorser.  He started as a nice thing and I like his history, but (I think) he’s morphed into an unhelpful distraction that has the potential to pervert the meaning of Christmas.  So, here’s 5 reasons not to “do” santa:

1) Presents from santa do not promote thankfulness (at least thankfulness to the correct person).  How do presents from santa fit into the understanding that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above” James 1:17, or the commandment to “Honor your father and mother,.”  who are, after all, the gift-givers.

2) Telling our kids to “believe in” santa may sound, in their ears, similarly to telling them to “believe in” God or His Son.  The similarity of language makes for some confusing distinctions.

3) Santa promotes getting, not giving, for children.  Children only ever receive from Santa, rather than from a family member, from whom they receive and give back to  in return.  

4) Kids seem to glom onto santa and presents at Christmas time, which makes it really hard to make the deep, perhaps more difficult to see, truths of the season come alive.  Santa gives them sweet treats that don’t satisfy, but dull their senses to the beauty of Christ.  

5) As my pastor says, santa is bad news for a sinner in need of a gracious savior.


As usual, here’s a disclaimer.  There are plenty of godly families who “do” santa and I respect them; they have grateful, sweet kids.  And there are those, who in self-righteousness (I’m praying I don’t fall into this category), believe that santa is just satan spelled wrong.  To those, I say, I’m all filled up on crazy here, you’ll have to go elsewhere 🙂

critical thinking in love

I am sometimes bothered when lay Christians defer to Christian leaders on controversial matters that they might be afraid to speak up about on their own or simply don’t form an opinion but defer totally to the belief of another.

Another closely related issue is when lay Christians legitimize their viewpoint based on the fact that an esteemed Christian leader agrees with them (or they with the leader).  

I do this all the time.  I bother myself.  

Not to say it’s wrong to do this.  There is such a thing as a trusted Christian leader who has proven themselves faithful to the Bible and we are not wrong to trust them.  However, no matter how trusted the Christian leader, they will never be a replacement for good, old-fashioned-Biblical-critical thinking.  God has given us His God-breathed Word and a brain and a soul.  We should make good use of them.

We can never fully trust any human being to be perfectly faithful to the Word.  Sin is real.  It is ugly and real in my own life and I know that it is also ugly and real in the lives of the Christian men to whom I submit myself.   I think we (I) are on shaky ground when we read a book by someone our Christian community respects and as we read we let our Biblical guard down.  We take their words as Gospel-truth.  

This is especially dangerous when the White Lab Coat Syndrome kicks in.  Perhaps they stray from their area of expertise, but we trust them anyway, because they are our pastors, our teachers, our respected leaders.  Is there any area outside the realm of their expertise?

The reason I titled my post, “critical thinking in love,” is because I’m really good at the critical thinking part, it’s the ‘in love’ part that I have often neglected.  When I come across something that many seem to buy into, that a Christian leader has endorsed, that I believe to be in opposition to the Counsel of God’s Word, my gut reaction is adversarial, not loving.  It is a bad sin and deadly in the body of Christ where the world will know we are Christians by our love.  With God’s help, I am working on this.  

Instead, I should examine my own heart and motives and, if necessary, gently and lovingly point out the areas that do not hold up in light of Scripture.  The more I really see people as God’s, instead of seeing people as the sum of their opinions, the easier this will be.  

So, take this as an admonition to think critically about everything and when you find a flaw (and you certainly will find many, probably even in this post!), to approach people, when needed, with love.

Disclaimer: For all of you from BBC, I did not write this with Pastor John in mind, however, it applies as easily to him as any.