Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here's the girls loving the newly (and welcome) warm weather!

A Husband’s Heart

During this long season of sickness, I have loved learning how to serve my wife. Not there has been too much that I could actually do to take away the sickness, but I have been able at times to do various things that at least made her somewhat comfortable or relaxed. For a while, it was all about having a hot cup of ginger peach tea waiting by the bed before she even woke up. These days it’s Tang. I know it’s a little thing, but I quickly found that my favorite activity of the day was making that tea just the way she likes it (not too strong) and sneaking into the bedroom to leave it waiting.

Learning to be a servant is one of the hardest and most will-breaking things a person can do because we’re so naturally selfish; but honestly, serving my wife has been easy, because from the first moment I saw her face over ten years ago I’ve been in love like some kind of mad man. It may be hard to learn servanthood because we love ourselves so much, but give us something we love more than ourselves and it’s a piece of cake.

I can remember being a senior in high school (when I first met and started listening to my pastor) and hearing how important the concept of slavery is in the New Testament. I had grown up in church and had never heard this before... This idea that as people purchased by the blood of Christ, we are now his slaves. Of course, I remember people mentioning the notion of slavery to Christ, but as soon as they said it they would jump back ten feet and qualify this word by talking about the whole bond-slave thing… you know, where a slave set free decided to go back to his master because he loved him so much, so it wasn’t really like slavery at all… I was sort of shocked to discover that the language of the New Testament was clear… 44 times it talks about us being slaves to God and word they’re using is just the word slave. They just say, “slave of Christ” or “now that you have been set free from sin and enslaved to God” like in Romans 6:22.

As I was starting to get used to this idea of being Christ’s flat-out slave, I was shocked again when I heard Tom talk about the fact that Jesus is going to slave after us one day… Luke 12:37 says, “It will be good for those servants (slaves) whose master finds them watching when He comes. I tell you the truth, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.” Now, those words for serving and waiting on are all about slavery! He is going to slave after us when we all get to heaven! Can you even handle this?

I remember the first time I heard about this verse, and I thought it was scandalous! I mean, I understand us being His slaves, but come on, Him slaving after us? It seemed to me a condescension too great… an unbelievable and outrageous oversight. Surely God will not be man’s slave?! But then I remembered something… this banquet Jesus was talking about will be His wedding reception, and we are His bride. This isn’t an outrage. It’s a husband’s love. I can still remember my wedding reception… just asking Christy over and over again if she was okay and if I could get her anything at all. And now after years of being married my greatest joy of the day is making that tea in the morning. It’s easy to have the slave mindset when you’re a husband in love.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Girls went over to Aunt Jodie's this week and she took these awesome pics...


I feel like everywhere I go lately I am answering one question: “How’s Christy doing today?” The one asking always has that sympathetic look in their eyes as they prepare themselves for the answer it seems I always give: “She’s not doing well… it’s been a rough day.” Sickness is tough… I mean, having a cold is like an annoyance and being really, really sick is a battle, but this unrelenting week after week of debilitating sickness feels something like Vietnam: a knock-down, drag-out fight you can’t see a way out of and you don’t remember not being in…

In watching Christy and trying to serve her through this time, I’ve often thought about Job suffering in ashes and piles of broken pots for who knows how long. I’ve thought about that woman in Matthew 9 who was incurably bleeding for 12 years or the man born blind in John 9 or that guy in John 5 who had been paralyzed for 38 years… Suffering is hard, but learning how to live with ongoing suffering is something else entirely. And look, I know it’s only been a couple of months, but that’s a long time when you’re sitting in the middle of it with no end in sight.

I think one of the hardest things about all of this for Christy (I mean, aside from feeling terrible all of the time) has just been the fear that maybe it won’t ever change… that this is life now. I’ve told her so many times, “Don’t worry babe, it’s gonna be over one day… you’ll feel normal again.” And unable to really talk, she just looks back with tears piled high in her tired eyes hoping that’s true, and afraid to have hope just in case it isn’t. I’ve often thought things were as bad as they could ever be only to see her turn a corner and plunge further and further into misery… there have been points at which I’ve honestly wondered, “How far down can we really go and still make it back out? How deep is this thing going to take us, and if we get there, will we find Him? Is He going to be there?”

It turns out that no matter how far down we go, He’s there, waiting. He continues to show us His love and minister to our hearts, minds and bodies. Last night Christy’s Sunday School class brought us dinner as so many others have… Family after family has been taking our kids and running them into the ground and feeding them so that I can get a little work done and He even gave us a few laughs last night over Everybody Loves Raymond and some hilarious commercial that had the legendary Meatloaf in it…

This morning I read a verse in Deuteronomy 33 that said, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” No matter how far down we go, we can find Him if we’re looking. He’s a refuge, ready for us to run into His embrace like a hurting, confused and worn out baby, because even in the absolute subterranean depths of anguish and misery, He’s there. His everlasting arms are always underneath.

P.S. Charlie and his rockin' daughter came over yesterday, and I grabbed the camera for these pics of Dylan with Christy...

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Kids' rocking cousins came over yesterday, so Norah and Josiah were having fun with chalk on the porch.

O For Grace

Last Sunday night I went to see a Jill Phillips and Andy Gullahorn concert that (as expected) was completely awesome. To me there’s just something really mystical about live music… especially when you’re watching people with love for God in their heart weave that love together in rhythm, melody, harmony and rhyme. In a way, it feels like a work-out… but without all the cut-off t-shirts, classic rock, trainers, iPods, and sweat. When I say ‘work-out’ what I mean is that when I left the show, I felt good. I felt like something had happened. I felt stronger. We all have struggles, questions, victories and defeats, and it’s encouraging to watch someone turn all of those things into something beautiful and then present it to you for your encouragement. It was like my faith was lifting weights.

Well, to end the show, Jill suggested we all sing a hymn together and just started leading us in “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” Whoa. I haven’t sung that song in probably eleven or twelve years just because I have spent so much time in the past decade sort of detoxing from some of the stuff about my old church. It turned out that I only remembered the first verse and chorus, but I sang it, and as I did, something happened… I trusted Jesus. I don’t mean I got saved… that happened a long time ago. What I mean is that right then and there, in all the problems and perplexities of that day, and having lived through the week I had just lived through, I sang that song and in so doing, I actually trusted Jesus. I trusted Him to take care of Christy in this time of seemingly unending and debilitating sickness. I trusted Jesus to sell my house and find us a new one. I trusted Him to make my ministry flourish and to make my relationships with kids grow deep. I trusted Him to make me the kind of Dad that can not only handle, but flourish with three kids. I just trusted Jesus.

I guess that is the thing I love about worship… that when a person knows Christ, they’re different from other folks because God’s Spirit actually resides inside them in this mystical union so that singing songs isn’t just making music, but actually has the potential to become something more than just music. For the Christian, singing a song of praise has the potential to become worship… and when it does that, it actually changes you.

I went home that night and Christy and I were talking about all the difficult things coming up in our life and when she asked me how I was doing with all of it, I answered, “Honestly, I’m great. Jill Phillips made me sing, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and when I sang it, I really just started trusting Him.” Christy got this incredulous look in her eyes and said, “No way! The other day I was so sick and my throat was so torn up so that I could barely talk, but that song was just on my heart, so I tried to sing it as best as I could… that same song.”

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, and to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise, and to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!

Friday, April 04, 2008

His Esteem

I don’t have tons and tons of really vivid memories from being a little kid, but the few that I can remember all have to do with what people thought of me. I can remember hating this one dude who used to call me a wimp when I was in third grade. I can remember how great it made me feel when my teachers, relatives or my parent’s friends said I was good at drawing or that I was funny. I don’t guess I’ll ever forget the way I felt when my neighbor said I was “way behind in school” because I couldn’t answer some math problem she whipped at me out of nowhere one day. I can’t even remember my teacher’s names until about seventh grade, but I can still remember the way it felt this one time when someone told me I was “annoying.”

Let’s face it: we care what people think about us… a lot. It’s why we go bananas cleaning up our houses when people come over. It’s why we don’t put our runny-nosed kids in the nursery even though we know it’s only allergies and not a cold. It’s why we wait with baited breath for feedback from anyone and everyone on who we are and how we did. I think I have pretty much always been insecure. I wish that I was like one of those rock-solid people who knows exactly who they are and could care less what anyone else thinks… You know, Anna’s that way, and I don’t think it’s just her age, because I remember being very small and wanting affirmation like oxygen. One time Anna was telling us about her friend Samantha and she said, “You know what me and Samantha both have in common?” “What?” we said, and she answered, “We both love me!”

You know, I can honestly say that in my life, the dumbest and most hurtful things I’ve ever done have been because I was trying to get somebody’s approval or esteem. I was on the prowl for applause from people around me and if I didn’t get it, I tried harder. The things in my life that I wish I could take back… the hurt that I’ve caused others and myself has happened because there was someone I was trying to impress or something I was trying to prove. Maybe you know what I’m talking about… Maybe you know what it feels like to have tons of voices in your life all the time giving you deadlines, giving you stress and giving you standards you have to live up to; defining you and evaluating you…

Way back in the day, when Israel was on the march from Egypt to the Promised Land, a messed up king who didn’t want ‘Moses and co.’ trespassing through his territory hired this messed up psychic/fortune teller dude named Balaam to do a little Voo Doo, say a little Abra-kadabra and curse them back into the desert. There was a ton of money in it for Balaam, so he tried three times to curse them, but God wouldn’t let him do it. When Balaam looked out over these millions of wandering Israelites, the words of God Himself flew out of his mouth and he said, “How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places , O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters.”

What if we just listened to what the Lord has to say about us instead of what anyone else says? What if we were looking for His esteem instead of some contrived and borrowed self-esteem? No matter what anyone says, He calls us clean, free, acceptable, loved and beautiful! Now that’s what I’m talking about. You know, if the only opinion about you that you really cared about was His, you’d always be encouraged!

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