Why do you seek to know?

She has control over so little in her life. Her Daddy and I tell her when to get up and when to lie down, when to eat and when to play, what to wear and where to go. She grasps at anything that will give her more power over those things with which she comes into contact.

She loves to know what name to call things, especially when that thing frightens her a little. When she was smaller, her constant response to a loud noise was “that was?”. Now that she is a little older, she asks “what was that? that noise?”. Knowing the name of something gives her power over it, makes it seem a little less scary.

She seeks to know.

Perhaps she is not very different from many adults.

Scientists, medical researchers, geneticists, stay-at-home moms who like to learn…people want to know what name to call things, want to know about things, because that gives them power over those things, those ideas. If we know how something was put together or how something works or even just what to call it, we feel as though we have power over our world.

We seek to know.

A long time ago, in a land far away, around the beginning of the Christian Church (perhaps even earlier), there lived a group of people we call Gnostics who believed (among other things) that matter, the material universe, was bad and that deliverance from our material form could only come through special knowledge.

Not so long ago, in a land not so far away, there lived a group of people who believed that their minds were all-powerful, that through knowledge they could overcome all physical limitations. They could eat poorly and take vitamin supplements. They could ignore their children and send them to therapists. They believed that saving our natural resources wasn’t important because their minds, human ingenuity in the form of science and technology, could surely take care of that problem as well.

There is nothing new…

In C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man (1943!), he said that mankind’s power to do exactly what it wants seems to be growing all the time through humanity’s so-called “con­quest of Nature” – the progress of applied science. However, “each new power won by man is a power over man as well.” We can throw bombs from airplanes but can also be bombed ourselves; a race of birth-controllers is a race whose own birth has been controlled.

We seek to know. We seek to control.

Why do we feel that Nature is bad, that the material world needs to be conquered? Even as Christ-followers we seek knowledge because we fear. We want to know and to name so that we can control that which is uncontrollable.

Is the pursuit of knowledge wrong? If so, than my thoughts a few weeks ago were completely amiss.

As I read through Philippians again, I see this:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1.9-11

Paul seeks to know.

I also read this:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~Philippians 4.12-13

Paul is definitely not in control, nor does he seek to be.

Is this a Faustian-like power, this power of knowledge? A power that gives away everything good that God created in order to gain power and control over His creation?

It can be.

As Christ-followers, do we seek knowledge because we are fearful of the future and wish to wrest control of His creation from the One Who set it all in motion?

Sometimes I do.

Perhaps instead we can seek knowledge in order to praise God with our minds. Perhaps we can seek knowledge in gratitude for our imagination and intelligence, in gratitude for the complexity of His creation.

I suppose that, as with most that God has created, the goodness or evil of the pursuit of knowledge depends upon the heart of His creation.

May our hearts and minds seek to know out of thanksgiving rather than out of fear.

*etching is “Faust” by Rembrandt

A Strange Sort of Gift

I had no plans to write this week. I was going to give my mind a rest. My heart, however, had other plans.

This heart of mine is full of thoughts and questions and it needs some release.

The idea of suffering fills me up these days.

My heart is full and heavy for my sweet sister, my brother’s wife, this 26-year-old mommy of a 15-month old who is crazy with pain, fighting for her life from this aggressive cancer that threatens to overtake all of us.

I think about our broken, fallen world.

I think about a God who loved us when we offered Him nothing but hate.

I think about a God who did not spare even His own Son in His plan to rescue us.

I think about what we demand from God and what we can truly expect from Him.

I think about my divided heart that can trust God and know His character, that He is always in control, always good and always love, yet can still be overwhelmed with pain and hate for what is happening to those around me.

I sit in a few stolen moments of quiet and read through Philippians. I am reading this book through, in one sitting, several times a week.

And then I notice.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. ~Philippians 1.29-30

“Granted to you on behalf of Christ…to suffer for Him.” Granted to suffer? As if it was a gift?

I keep reading. And I notice again.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. ~ Philippians 3.10-11

“I want…participation in His sufferings.” A desire for suffering?

Perhaps the word “suffering” doesn’t truly have the meaning I give it. Perhaps the original Greek has a different connotation.

I pull out my Strong’s.

Nope. The word translated as “suffering” is slightly different in both of those passages but are both related forms of the same word “pathos”. The words are “pascho” (verb) and “pathema” (noun) respectively: something undergone (hardship or pain), an emotion or influence; to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful).

So Paul really does consider suffering a gift from God and he desires to experience it.

Now, I understand that to be made like Jesus will fulfill us in a way that simply being comfortable never can. I get that being like Christ will bring us the most joy and contentment. I also understand that suffering is one of the main ways that we become like Jesus.

I hesitate in my wonderings. Desiring a gift of suffering seems to take this idea one step further.

I don’t understand how to do this.

I wish that this were a blog that only gave answers, that only spoke of distant, philosophical concerns.

I am grateful for a God Who welcomes my questions and my doubts, Who is big enough to teach me the hard things.

I search the commentaries and find this regarding verse 10: that participation in Christ’s sufferings means

actually bearing the cross whatever is laid on us, after His example, and so “filling up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24); and in the will to bear aught for His sake (Mat 10:38 16:24 2Ti 2:11). As He bore all our sufferings (Isa 53:4), so we participate in His.

I search to find where else this word “suffering” occurs. Here is just a glimpse of what I find.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ~Romans 8.18

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. ~I Peter 5.10

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. ~Hebrews 2.9-10

I discover many clues in just these few verses. I also discover more questions.

I can see God in suffering. I can eagerly expect Him to transform and redeem the ugly things into something beautiful. I can long for the day when He will make all of the sad things come untrue.

I cannot, yet, desire suffering as a gift. Not for myself and not for those I love. I do not understand this way.

If this is the true way, I pray that God will teach me. I will continue to seek.

*painting is Christ Crucified by Velázquez

Poor Expectations

“Ten more minutes and then it’s time to go home.”


“When I say ‘it’s time’, what will you say?”

(shouted in a happy voice) “Yes ma’am!”

“Good girl.”

I’ve learned the hard way that if my eldest girl is expecting to stay at the park and I suddenly pronounce now to be the time to go home, meltdowns and tantrums ensue.

If, however, I give her warning and help her to rehearse what is coming, peace and joy are retained. Mostly.


Just as they color the relationship between my eldest and me, they determine the state of my relationship with God.

As I wrestle with this cancer that is threatening to overtake my sister, my brother’s wife, this 26-year-old mommy of a 15-month old, I am forced to look hard at what I expect from God.

I expect to grow old with my love. I expect to watch my children grow up. I expect to meet my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren. I expect that my parents will dance at their grandchildren’s weddings. I expect good health and more than enough to live.

This is what I dare to say I think I deserve.

When I, or those I love, don’t get what I expect, I am left with anger and resentment.

I am reading One Thousand Gifts: “Expectations kill relationships – especially with God…Is it only when our lives are emptied that we’re surprised by how truly full our lives were? Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled. This breath! This oak tree! This daisy! This work! This sky! These people! This place! This day! Surprise!…Are there times that a sense of entitlement – expectations – is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy? And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives. “

The idea leaves me whirling. Can I truly live like that? Can I be grateful for every moment that I have with my family, knowing that each moment is a gift, something that I don’t deserve? Can I live grateful for every small gift that God gives?

Can I live without expecting God to give the gifts I think He should give?

I ponder this thought throughout my next days.

Then I see it. I see it in a passage that I have read so many times that I now tend to skim.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. ~Rom. 5.3-6

Yes, I know. Suffering produces hope.


A niggling in the back of my brain stirs up the idea of a meaning behind hope. I go to my Strong’s.

The word translated “hope” is from elpis (elpizo or elpo): to expect, to anticipate (usually with pleasure), expectation or confidence.

Suffering produces confidence, expectation, because of God pouring out His love, because of Christ dying for a sinner. For me.

My heart longs for more and so I search.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. ~I John 3.1-3

This hope. The same word. Elpis. Expectation.

Expectation of lavish love, of being made children of God. Expectation of knowing, seeing and being made like God. Expectation.

This. This is what I should expect from God.

I weep, ashamed that I demand such small things from God, ashamed that I expect such fleeting gifts when He is promising such riches, such beauty.

Living without expectations.

I will try. I will try to be surprised by every gift that God decides to give, knowing that He has already given me the most beautiful and exciting gift of all.

Road to Emmaus.
Luke 24.


May we continue the conversation?

If our daily lives are to be centered around Christ, if we are to build physical reminders of Jesus into our daily routines, if all that we are and all that we do is to be made sacred, then how does that idea expand to include the world around us? Is the world around us, the culture in which we live, also to be made sacred?

I read “Resounding Truth” and ponder this:

This book is concerned with…gaining theological discernment about music…It is concerned with how God’s truth might “sound” and “re-sound” in the world of music.

My mind begins to whirl. Should I attempt to view music through a godly perspective? Even purely instrumental music? If in this, than in what other realms should we have a godly worldview?

Literature? Politics? Art? Philosophy? Science? Technology?
Should everything be interpreted through a God-window?

I suppose that there is nothing outside of the lordship of Jesus.

I think through this a little more.

Are we asked to view everything in our world through a godly framework? Are we called by God to actively think through issues in our world, to read and listen, pray and ponder the things in our culture that are relevant in the world?

It would certainly be easier to stay focused only on my home, my daily routine.

Easier, however, is not generally what God calls us to pursue.

Paul says in Colossions 3.17:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks for God the Father through Him.

Whatever you do. This certainly reinforces my thoughts about consciously bringing God into my daily life. This doesn’t, however, necessarily translate to God asking us to actively pursue an understanding of and engagement with our culture.

I continue to wonder and seek God in this as I move through my day.

I sit at the computer and see that I have received my Mars Hill Audio Journal in my in-box.

Mars Hill’s stated purpose is to help Christians thoughtfully engage their culture.

They make the argument (rightfully, I believe) that a layer of “Love your neighbor as yourself” is to

pay careful attention to the neighborhood: that is, every sphere of human life where God is either glorified or despised, where neighbors are either edified or undermined. Therefore, living as disciples of Christ pertains not just to prayer, evangelism, and Bible study, but also our enjoyment of literature and music, our use of tools and machines, our eating and drinking, our views on government and economics, and so on.

Considering a godly perspective on technology and economics is a newer idea for me.

Paul certainly engaged the culture when he spent time in the marketplace in Athens, listening to and speaking with the philosophers of the day. (Acts 17)

As artists, my friend Kati and I have discussed this issue from the perspective of making quality art and engaging the artistic community where they are in order that art may be pervaded by Christ.

Should there be any realm of human endeavor that is not pervaded by Christ?

The host of Mars Hill says it this way:

But it is nonetheless imperative for us to be active in the culture, not because we are saved, but because we are created. Pursuing an understanding of and engagement with our culture is necessary for Christians because we must first bow to God as Creator, to thank him for the goodness that remains in his fallen creation, to live creatively, that is, in keeping with the patterns and norms he has established for creation, even as we eagerly await the advent of a new creation.

Meanwhile, life in this created sphere has meaning and value. God bestows blessings even on the unrighteous. He gives wonderful talents and abilities to those who hate the mention of his name. These blessings are what we mean by common grace: the gratuitous gifts to the just and the unjust that sustain and enrich the life shared by the wheat and the tares.

C.S. Lewis also argues that God asks us to bring Him into all branches of human thought:

If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now–not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground–would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered. The cool intellect must work not only against cool intellect on the other side, but against the muddy heathen mysticisms which deny intellect altogether.

I must conclude that God does, indeed, ask us to actively pursue an understanding of and engagement with our culture. As I pursue this idea of holistic living, of considering everything to be made sacred, I must go beyond the walls of my home, beyond the walls of my church.

I will keep reading and listening, praying and pondering.

Will you continue the conversation?

If you want a bit of Further Reading on this, here are two essays:
Christianity, Culture and Modern Grace
Christianity and Culture