Hopeful No Matter What Happens on Super Tuesday

As we in MN stare down Super Tuesday, poised to do our part and head to the caucus, I find myself hopeful and thankful.

With just a smidge of irony (because isn’t that how God works?), “Two” Corinthians just so happens to be the place where all this hope is welling up from.

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6 ESV)

Christian friends, let’s resolve with Paul to refuse to practice cunning, but with an open statement of truth, let’s commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience. We can openly and with a clear resolve, give our Gospel, God-fearing reasons for who we hope will be President of our country, all the while making it clear that our peace with God is not disturbed by whatever happens. We can give thanks for all that there is to give thanks for in this country. This is our chance to show who our hope really is in. Go to your caucus and preach Christ, friends, not a candidate. Yes, you’ll have to vote one way or another and I’m sincerely praying that no Christians vote for Trump, but even as we give our support to a candidate, we must make it our larger goal to point to the source of true hope. Is there a place more fraught with worry and anger and more in need of the Gospel than the political sphere? We have an opportunity to shine the light of Christ.

Perhaps the most countercultural way we can testify to the fact that Christ has come to save–that his kingdom is at hand–is to show that by the imperturbable state of our heart and utter reliance and confidence in God. Preach Christ by refusing to let your spirit be rattled or agitated by what’s to come. Which isn’t to say that we are indifferent. No, not indifferent, but set apart, invested in the life of our country, but with our citizenship fully in heaven.

I’m remembering that God uses the strangest, most unlikely things to draw people to himself. I’m remembering that, even though some may intend evil, that God means all things for good for his people and that, even while we work against the evil as we should, God is powerful to turn the evil upside down and refine his church, strengthen his bride and bring many sons to glory.

We live in the Kingdom of light, not darkness, and I don’t mean America. God has transferred us from the kingdom of darkness and now we walk with him in the light. God’s kingdom came to us when he shined the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ into our hearts. Rather than act fearful of all that could come, we stand on a sure foundation. We do not fear for ourselves or our children. We serve the Living God and he will make all grace abound to us, no matter the outcome of Super Tuesday or any day after.

So, go caucus friends; caucus as unashamed and immovable children of God and bring the light of Christ to the dark places.

 

 

Conscripted for Life, Not War: Why the Draft is Wrong for Women

 

I watched the latest Republican Presidential debate with usual dutifulness. I want to be informed, I want to understand the candidates, and I want to play the small part God’s given me in this process, but as this was not the first one, I didn’t expect anything revelatory.

Imagine my shock as I listened to not one, but three, so-called conservative candidates vigorously support selective service–including combat—for women, even referencing the importance of equality for their daughters in their responses. Selective service registration exists as a way to reinstitute the draft should the need arise.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who was having a hard time equating women’s progress with conscripting them to fight wars. Don’t get me wrong. I believe fathers should value their daughters. I think they should encourage them to do marvelous things. I just also happen to think they should value them as members of the female sex, not pretend that there are no biological, muscle mass differences between them and men.

It seems our government, indeed our culture, has engaged in a rendition of  The Emperor Has No Clothes, but instead it’s something more along the lines of, The Women Are No Different Than the Men. This idea that, because women can think as clearly as a man, that it would follow that she can (and should) also fight in combat against men with the same effectualness is, not to put too fine a point on it, absurd. I’m an average-sized female in relatively decent shape and even as I observe the smaller of the male sex, I know that it would be a poor bet to imagine that I could overpower or outrun such a man. There’s a reason women are anxious in dark parking lots at night and men aren’t. We aren’t stupid.

You may object. You may tell me about your friend who’s a fitness instructor or unbelievably strong or played on a boys’ lacrosse team. I grant all that. But is it the norm? And even given the fact that women can be physically strong, despite the reality that many are not, is that what God gave us strength for? To fight in combat against men?

God gave women marvelous strength. Strength that wasn’t meant to be compared or measured against a man. Last time I checked, I’d never met a man able to give birth. I’ve also never known a man able to handle months of sleep deprivation during which he fed a tiny human round the clock from his very own body. These are (some of) the unique strengths of a woman and we ought not to degrade men for being unable to perform these feats. Likewise, I should feel no sense of shame over the simple fact that I can’t take down a man in combat. Why would I want to? It’s not what I was made for.

Strength is a garment women ought to wear. The kind of strength that stretches out its arms to support the poor, to feed hungry souls, to grow and harvest all that God has given you. It is a strength that nurtures life, not war. Whether a woman can give birth or not, her strength is fundamentally different than a man’s. We can keep pretending this isn’t so, or we can embrace the body and the biology God has assigned to us.

In college, I was one of those girls who managed to get my MRS. degree along with my actual diploma. I remember the jokes and the smugness toward the girls who were open about wanting to be married and start a family. The peer pressure on college girls to forsake that sort of “wasting of your education” was sizable.

But let’s not succumb to that sort of juvenile peer pressure, as if an education’s value is found anywhere but saddled to a man and children. We won’t all get married in college (or at all) and we must all walk the path God has for us. But the desire to be married, the desire to have a family is a good one. Let’s not mistake it for something else. Similarly, the desire to live our lives now as women, clothed in the sort of strength that makes us uniquely women, not men battling in combat, is also a good one. Elisabeth Elliot said it best, “Let me be a woman.”

Because Christmas Keeps Coming

I’m reliving the past as I sit at home Sunday morning with a vomiting kiddo, on the cusp of Christmas once again and the thoughts stir in my head about the Incarnation, the mess, the chaos, the Word, and what’s this all about anyway?!

Then I start to sense that perhaps I’ve thought these thoughts before, perhaps these feelings are all too familiar. Maybe, could it be, I’ve actually written these thoughts down before. One advantage to having an overstuffed memory is that everything seems new all the time! I’ve been known to sit down to a movie I’ve seen before with almost no recollection of it whatsoever. Maybe that’s why writing the same themes over and over again never gets old.

And maybe that’s why Christmas comes every year. Because our finitude makes us needy for reminders. Chesterton says, “But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon.”

And also, perhaps knowing this world is for finite people, he’d know that that’s how often we’d need reminded that he is good. He is God. He did it, again–the sun gave warmth and light. Maybe he knows that I’d forget, even in just a day, that he does that sort of incomprehensible thing.

So, to remind myself of the lessons of yesteryear, I’m linking up to my previous Christmas posts. If they all sound strangely similar, let’s just say God doesn’t tire of teaching me the same lesson. I’m so thankful that Christmas keeps coming.

A Christmas Misadventure (With Stitches)

What Vomit Under the Christmas Tree Teaches Me About the Glorious Incarnation

Christmas in Pictures

What’s With All This Stuff?! It’s Christmas Of Course!

A Mom’s Made-Up Holiness at Christmas

 

 

 

Reflections on Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is right around the corner which has got me thinking about the sometimes strange interplay between our thankfulness, our suffering and our identity in Christ.

Every now and then you’ll meet someone or perhaps you’ll be someone (I know I’ve wrestled with this) who can’t tolerate the coexistence of suffering and thankfulness. Some of us are simply convinced that a thankful heart will cancel out the legitimacy of our suffering. That if we give way to true full throated thankfulness, people will start forgetting our pain and trials.

Actually this is the farthest thing from the truth. When we’re thankful to God for all the gifts he’s given and especially the sending of his Son to die and live for us, people are not less interested in walking alongside our suffering, but rather we become less invested in it. Our hardships are not the definitive part of our life that we must make sure everyone knows about us, rather Christ in us, is the thing that cannot be contained and must be made known to everyone we meet. Our sufferings do not disappear because we’ve sprinkled magical thankful dust on them, but now they serve the cause of magnifying him as part of the story he’s given us.

Thanksgiving is powerful, to be sure, in as much as it focuses on the pinnacle of all things to be thankful for: the word of truth, the Gospel of Jesus, the grace of God to save and sanctify us and the Triune God himself. The world has tapped into the remedial power of thanksgiving–godless people recognize that focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad makes you a happier person. But this is the teeniest, tiniest taste of what thanksgiving affords. Even thanksgiving that is misguided in its direction (thankful to stuff rather than to the Giver), can have a strong impact on someone’s life.

Yet, we who have Christ must ponder how true thankfulness for the most thank-worthy event and Person in history transforms the human heart. It is part and parcel of our new birth and identity in Christ. When our minds are made alert to the Gospel and the Spirit is blowing life into us, the warmth in His breath is thankfulness. Thankful people are genuinely warm. I’ve never met a cold person with a thankful bent.

Oh my prayer for this heart of mine is warm, glad-hearted thankfulness– first and foremost to God for his sending Christ into the world on a saving mission and Christ imparting the Spirit, then along with those, that I give thanks to God in all things and every circumstance.

Even in lament, our identity as God’s children give us reason for thanks. Psalm 73 is a psalm of lament, and God’s people end it like this:

“But we your people, the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.”(Psalm 79:13 ESV)

 

Our Garden Tour with Lots of Pictures and a Little Philosophizing

Last year I wrote a little bit about our gardens. Mainly I wanted to write about the resurrection and the garden was my opportunity.

This year I want to take you on a garden tour. Mostly because I’m excited about our garden and whenever I’m revved up about something I want to share it. So if you love gardening, I hope you’ll enjoy this tour from a novice with a lot of starter pep.

Also, gardens are metaphors for just about everything. So if I resort to a little philosophizing, you’ll have to forgive me.

wpid-startingout.jpg

Eliza is my garden partner in crime. We can’t be trusted at the garden store together. She’s a natural gardener with a great memory for plants and instincts for nurturing. I depend on her. Here she is, about to trek down to the garden.

down the hill
down the hill

This year we have one big garden. Last year we had two small gardens and also planted some sweet corn in a small section of the big garden. This year we went for broke and decided to break all the rules by tilling up a garden much too big for us (rule one: start small), that’s far away from our house (rule two: make your garden right next to your house).

wpid-creekcrossing.jpg

I like to think of it as our destination garden. We visit everyday for a little (or a lot of) work and enjoyment. The walk down to the garden is usually enjoyable and romantic: walking under the big oaks, crossing the creek, peering into the woods and spotting an occasional deer.

wpid-creekbridge.jpg

It’s the walk back up to the house that is devoid of romance. Huffing and puffing, pushing a wheelbarrow full of tools, burning calves, lungs gasping, with Titus on my back. It’s a weird kind of painful fun.

wpid-almostthere.jpg

The history of this garden is one of love and neglect. Apparently a couple owners back, this garden was put in by a lady who loved gardening, with a great fence to keep deer out. The owner who had the place before us didn’t use it at all, so it had seen at least three or more years of neglect when we got it.

wpid-gardenlove2.jpg

Now we’re bringing it back to life and trying to make it a pleasant place to be. Last year, with just the corn planted and most of it still untilled, it was highly unpleasant. It was oppressively buggy and weedy. The weeds were insurmountable, even in the section we tilled. It was a losing battle of stinging nettle, thistles and tall grasses.

wpid-gardenwreath.jpg

This year, we are taming it, civilizing it, naming it. It’s Our Garden. Eliza made a wreath out of buckthorn and sign with birch bark–we’ve claimed it as our own.

wpid-raisedbed.jpg

To the right, as you enter, are the raised beds. I used these last year with great success and wanted to use them again. I’ve got zucchini, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, purple basil, lavender and carrots in here. We’ll see how they do.

wpid-stonepath.jpg

Around the raised bed are stepping stones that were left in the garden by a previous owner. We uncovered them all over the place, cleaned them off and are glad to have them. Between the stones and the fence I’ve planted gladiola bulbs in the hopes of adding beauty and having flowers to cut and bring inside.

wpid-ourgardenbench.jpg

Straight ahead from the entrance is a bench that I concocted out of tree stumps and an old railroad tie I found in the woods. With the garden being far from the house, I realized that a place to sit is a must have. I want to be able to enjoy the garden without having to run inside to rest.

wpid-strawberrypatch.jpg

Just beyond the bench is the strawberry patch, fenced in by old dead logs I scavenged in the woods.

wpid-raspberrybush.jpg

Between the strawberry patch and the fence are two small raspberry bushes that our neighbors gave us. They are fantastic gardeners and very generous. I can’t wait to see these happy fellas get going.

wpid-rustictrellises.jpg

Across from the strawberry patch are the tomato and pepper plants. I tried my hand at making some rustic trellises, again, scavenging from the woods. Most fun I’ve had in a long time.

wpid-peasnbeans.jpg

Past the tomatoes are the peas, beans and cukes. Plus a couple rows of carrots here and there and an artichoke plant. After that, you’ll run into two plots occupied by friends. Since the garden was so big, I offered plots to those who expressed interest. Gardens are better with friends. No doubt about it. To have fruit and friendship grow is quite a gift.

wpid-hopefulpotatoes.jpg

Beyond their plots we planted a couple rows of potatoes, marked by sticks, so we don’t forget where they are.

wpid-Elizasspot.jpg

Back on the other side of the garden is an asparagus trench that we planted 50 crowns in. It looks like dirt currently. Hopefully this is a case of The Best Is Yet to Come. Next to that is Eliza’s Spot. It’s a stump and stump table that she put together.

wpid-breaktime.jpg

She makes sure we stay hydrated and brings yummy lemonade and a basket of snacks for us.

wpid-lemonade.jpg

I’m so often struck these days how gardening and parenting are the same. Especially gardening out in a big wild garden like the one we’ve taken over. It takes so much more faith and hope and work than container gardening–just like parenting. There’s nothing contained about parenting. It’s a wild mess of hope and time and effort and failure and screaming undeserved successes.

wpid-pumpkinpatch.jpg

Like this pumpkin patch above. Last year my pumpkin plants seemed to do wonderfully. Big blooms everywhere, large healthy plants. But lo and behold, two measly pumpkins. Compare that to the rather anemic looking cucumber plant that just kept  giving the cukes all summer long. As in life, things are not always as they seem. On the very far end of the garden, we will plant sweet corn. I’m waiting just a tidge longer before I plant. I need to till up the area again and then I’ll go for it.

wpid-tinypepper.jpg

One thing I’ve learned is that in order to protect tiny pepper plants like this, you must have paths.

wpid-bootsonpath.jpg

These little boots have to learn to stay on the path and only on the path.wpid-gardenpath.jpg

If they come off the path, things get hurt. Isn’t that what I’m teaching them all day, in every situation? Stay on the path. Follow the signs. Love the commands. Love the One who gives them.

wpid-gardenhappy.jpg

Gardening makes me happy. It gives me rich food for thought and good work for my hands and treasured relationships to grow with my family and friends. It’s no wonder the Lord used the metaphor over and over. Teach me your ways, O Lord!

wpid-gnarlybeauty.jpg

The aspect of The Things That Aren’t As They Seem just hits me over and over. It’s that beauty can be gnarly reclaimed dead stuff. It’s that alive things can be full of death, like thistles. It’s that where we see no growth, incredible roots are growing and preparing to bear fruit. It’s that sin can look shockingly like a strawberry patch and that fruit can be hidden for a time, like the potatoes growing underground.

But every plant and person is known by their fruit. You can only pretend for a time, until someone gets close enough to know the truth. When I reach out to inspect the “strawberry patch” and instead get a hand full of nettles, the truth is evident and my hand burns. When I think a plant is anemic and the stem looks broken and possibly dead, all it takes is close inspection to realize that it may be weak, but there are tiny buds on the ends. We will always bear the fruit of who we really are. Stinging nettles or nourishing food. Words of death or words of life. Hate or love. We produce what we are. And we’ve been bought, redeemed, named, called, made new, so let us bear fruit in keeping with our blood bought repentance.

wpid-gardenlove.jpg

I don’t know what will come up out of this ground. But I know we’ve claimed it and made it ours. We’ve planted in hope. We’ve labored in love. We can’t be put off by failure. This year’s errors will be next year’s victories. There’s endless more work to do, yet here we are, the very people to do it. Thanks for taking the tour of Our Garden and enduring a little pontificating on the side.

My Too-Late Art Contest Entry: “I Act The Miracle.” -JP

Desiring God is having an art contest to make this quote by Pastor John into a graphic.

“When it comes to killing my sin, I don’t wait for the miracle, I act the miracle.” -John Piper

I wanted to enter, but hey, I’m a mom whose spare time doesn’t come on a schedule. So, I missed the entry deadline. And I’m not sure I followed the rules, since I used a photo, but I couldn’t resist putting the text to a picture I took in Montana that illustrates the miracle of God-produced life from death so perfectly. Christians die and grow when told. We can’t help it–that IS the miracle.

Image