My Default

“Stop!” I yell. “Just stop it!”

My eldest runs sobbing down the hallway to her room, fleeing the unholy wrath of her mommy.

I watch her go. My head slumps and my heart breaks. I did it again.

Hurled anger at one of those I love most rather than gently bearing love.

Why do I do this? Why do I consistently make wrong choices? Why is it so hard to choose the right way?

How can I read God’s words of love to me, His child, and then turn around and choose to offer anger to my own children?

And it is a choice. Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts, says:

Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love? That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way? Why else get angry? Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me up into the full life I really want?

I’m a curious learner and I want to know why.

Why does my nature seem stuck in a default of sin? Why am I so easily led into believing that Satan’s way is more fulfilling than Jesus’ way?

Why is it easier to believe Satan than God?

I ask our pastor and he points me to Romans 5:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…

So because of Adam, I really do start life with a disadvantage, with a default of disobedience? How is this fair?

Again, Pastor, in his letter, offers a way to understand:

God chose Adam as our representative, just as we choose our representatives in government. Just as we are bound by what our congressmen sign in our names, so we are bound by what Adam did for all of humanity.

I stop reading. I am still not liking this. Did God choose poorly? I didn’t get to vote on who represented me in this matter of sin and death!

Reluctantly, I keep reading and Pastor points me to the rest of Romans 5:

…if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! … how much more will those who receive…the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ … so also through the obedience of the one man, the many will be made righteous.

how much more

through Jesus Christ

Yes, God chose Adam as our representative. For all I would like to blame him, I know that no other human would have done any better.
And God chose Jesus as our representative! We are not simply restored to our own faulty, pitiful righteousness, we are raised up to Christ’s righteousness!

What a gift. What grace.

When we say “yes” to Jesus, our old nature is gone and we are a new creation (2 Cor 5).

Why do I still find it difficult to obey? Why do I still choose anger rather than love?

Because I forget. I do not steep myself in Jesus. I do not surround myself with His words. I do not ask Him to change my heart.

I will continue to ask. I will find more ways to hide His words in my heart and let Him change me.

When I forget, I will ask again for grace.

I walk to her room and hold her close. I wipe away her tears and ask her to forgive me.

She nestles in close to my heart and I breathe thanks for this grace, this gift of a child who is able to offer God’s grace to a weak Mommy.

A mommy who chooses, at this moment, to offer words of love.

Source/credit for paintings: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo; Christ of Santa Maria sopra Minerva by Michelangelo

The Goodness of Time

I sit with my sweet sister, my brother’s wife, this 26-year-old mommy of a 16-month old, watching her life ebb away. She has fought hard for her husband and son, fought hard against this cancer that is quickly overtaking her lungs, her bones, her eyes, her brain. 

We now want her to just rest.


Such a hideous piece of this broken world. This broken world that can yet be so beautiful.

Why does God allow things to go on the way that they are? If He knew ahead of time the brokenness, the fallenness, the sin of this world, why begin? If He knew He would have to send the flood, send His Son, why create at all?

I have been wondering for a long time.

I don’t have any answers, just a few “perhaps’”.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it was the only way.

If God created with a purpose, a future purpose as well as a present purpose, perhaps this brokenness is the only way to reach that future goal.

My mind protests.

If He is God, can’t He create a world that has already reached that goal? Can’t He do anything?

I think it through.

Yes, He can do anything. Anything, that is, which is not nonsense, not just silly.

Perhaps, just perhaps, creating a world that has instantly reached God’s future purpose is as silly, as nonsensical, as creating a round square, a four-sided triangle, a circle with corners.

Perhaps the journey is essential to the goal.

I wonder and ponder for several days as I go about my daily work.

Then I receive a gift from my family: a bit of time alone.

That is when I read this:

Music challenges the belief that the longer something takes, the worse it will be…Music, in a very concentrated way, tells us that something can take time AND be good. Music takes time to be what it is, and as such can be glorious. It can remind us that it is not a failing of the created world that it reaches its fulfillment only through time. This is part of the way God made things. The created world takes time to be what it is. ~ Begbie, Resounding Truth


Why DO we persist in thinking that God’s delay in coming and making all things perfect is a bad thing, that somehow He is impatiently waiting for something to happen so that He can be allowed to return?
IF (this is, don’t forget, just an “if”) all of this brokenness, all of this fallen-ness is essential to bringing about the new earth in which:

the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God…It (Jerusalem) shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. ~ Revelation 21.3,11

Let us:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ~ Philippians 4.4-6

I don’t mean that we shouldn’t long for Christ’s return, wait anxiously for all to be set right again. The Bible is clear that we should yearn for the day when we shall see God.

And God’s delay, these thousands of years between the beginning and the end, is a gift, not a curse.

I don’t pretend to understand how. So much of this world seems so bad to me. We probably won’t understand until the end.

We must, however, give thanks and know that time is a gift and is part of the way God made things. This middle of the story is what moves us from the beginning to the beautiful, glorious end.

The created world takes time to be what it is.

Thank You, Lord God, for doing whatever it takes to carry all of creation into its glorious end…which is, after all, only the beginning.

credit/source/copyright for the last two pictures: New Jerusalem and New Earth

An Old Question, Part Two

May we continue our conversation from last week?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”
~ Genesis 1.26
The first part of that amazing declaration is “Let us make”
We are created by God. We are part of God’s creation.
Along with the trees, mountains, birds and sun, we ARE God’s creation.
We humans, however, have a unique role that was given to us. A role that only we can fulfill.
We are (as far as we know!) the only creatures who can love God in return.
We are the only part of creation who can give voice to the wordless praise of all creation.
As Jeremy Begbie says in Resounding Truth,
In the human being, creation finds a conscious answering voice, a mortal from the dust of the earth who can know and respond to God’s love as a creature, love God in return, and as a part of this response, voice creation’s praise.
This is a beautiful picture and a beautiful role.
What grace that God entrusted this to us!
What tragedy that our role as worshiper in creation has twisted into worshiper of creation.
Including worshiper of self.
Just as I have twisted my role as God’s representative, I have twisted my role of offering worship on behalf of all creation.
…disproportioned sin
Jarred against nature’s chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion swayed
In perfect diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
~ John Milton “At a Solomn Music”

What a beautiful word, “however”.
God gave us grace through Christ.
Jesus. Man. God.
A man who gave complete and un-distracted praise to God.
A man who acted out God’s wise rule in the world.
He is our worship to God ~ perfect praise from us to God, creation’s perfect voice.
He is the image of God to us ~ perfect representation of God, being a wise steward of the earth, He brought healing, restoration, hope and peace from God to earth.
Jesus helped and healed many people, like this. He made blind people see. He made deaf people hear. He made lame people walk. Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God’s broken world. ~ Jesus Storybook Bible
The most exciting part of this gift, this grace? We are invited to join Him!
As Begbie says,
Our privilege is to find our true place in the world, to be conformed by the Spirit to Christ (II Corinthians 3.18) so we can start to be true image bearers ourselves, reflecting the covenant love of God to the world…In Christ through the Spirit we can recover our calling as God’s image bearers, as the people of God exercising wise stewardship. This is part of authentic “spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1).
What joy! What grace! What gift!
By reflecting God’s image to the world around us, to the tiny piece of creation (human and non-human) in which God has placed us, we are voicing the praise of creation back to God.
What a beautiful circle.
*paintings are Christ and Samaritan by Henryk Siemiradzki and Christ Healing the Blind Man by Eustache Le Sueur

An Old Question

May we have another conversation?
How about an old question today?
A question as old as humanity.
What is my purpose?
Why am I on earth and what am I supposed to do while I am here?
The ancients spent time on this:
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.
~ Genesis 4.2
Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. ~ Genesis 4.20
His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.
~ Genesis 4.21
Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. ~ Genesis 4.22
They figured out what to do while here on earth. 
What about us? What about all of mankind as a whole?
This is what has been in my mind lately:
Perhaps we have a dual role, we humans. A dual purpose, given to us by God Himself.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… ~ Genesis 1.26
Let us make. We are created, a part of God’s creation.
In our image. We are God’s unique counterpart, His representatives here on earth.
Perhaps we could try to work through the idea of being God’s representative first?
Being made in God’s image brings with it certain responsibilities.
The second part of Genesis 1.26 says that God decided that we were to rule, have dominion over, all living creatures.
David echoes this in Psalm 8:
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet.
This has, unfortunately, been used too often as an excuse to plunder the earth and destroy it.
Instead, as Jeremy Begbie says in Resounding Truth:
as God’s image bearers, humans are to exercise God’s wise and loving rule within the world; to use more modern language, we are to be wise stewards of the earth, caring for it and protecting it in a way that reflects and embodies God’s rule over his creation.
We are also to spread God and His love to the rest of the world. We are to work to speed up God’s future goal for creation, to bring healing, restoration, hope and peace.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. ~ II Corinthians 5.18-20
Israel was supposed to be a picture of this. Israel was called to be God’s people, accomplishing God’s purposes for humanity in and for the world. They had experienced God’s rescuing power and love and were to be His way of giving that love to the rest of the world.
I wonder what would have happened if Israel had obeyed. What would our world look like if they had acted as God’s representatives?
This is a painful question.
Israel’s purposes were but a shadow of our own.
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
~ II Corinthians 3.6-9
What would our world look like if I were acting as God’s representative?
What would my neighborhood, my community look like if I were caring for and protecting our world, if I were sharing God’s rescuing love with the people around me?
I will confess. Different.
Things have gone wrong and many live in alienation from one another and in purposeless and destructive living. I want to be different. I want to live in the image of God.
We can only do small things. Being mindful of the way we treat our natural resources, sharing our garden and our baked goods with our neighbors, helping another child get the food, education and spiritual learning she needs…
I will continue to think through this, trying to imagine what it looks like to act in the image of God. Will you help me? What if we all made a small change or two? Perhaps our world would look different.
Come back next week? Bring your coffee and stay awhile. I enjoy talking over hard things with you. Even if we come to no conclusions, I think it is helpful and good. We can continue with the other side of this: being a part of God’s creation.

Dirty and Clean

Today I looked in the mirror and saw someone who perfectly loves God and people. At least, I do a lot better than most of the people I know.
Today I need to hear this:

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. ~ Isaiah 64.6

Yesterday I looked in the mirror and saw someone whose heart is dirty and ugly. Someone who consistently fails to love God or people with her whole heart.
Yesterday I needed to hear this:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5.8

And this:

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3.17

This is a hard paradox for me to accept. I am loved and delighted in by God AND I am why Jesus had to come and die.
I am walking through my day, trying to understand, when I hear a thud followed by the cry of my littlest one. I run around the corner and see her lying on the floor with my eldest standing over her, disputed toy in hand.
As I ask for wisdom to know how to teach my eldest how to love, I wonder how I can teach my children this thing I don’t understand. How can I teach them that God created something wonderful when He made them while at the same time helping them to understand that their hearts are ugly with sin and they desperately need Jesus and His grace?
One without the other brings disaster.
If I teach only that they are beautiful and wonderful and children of the King, they become arrogant and self-centered, entitled to the best.
If I teach only that they are sinful and ugly in their hearts, they become depressed and mired in self-pity, losing all confidence in themselves.
How do I teach both humility and confidence?
I must learn it first.
I turn again to Philippians and find this:

…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. ~ Philippians 3.9

and this:

…filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. ~ Philippians 1.11

Aha. Yes.
I am loved by God and He does delight in me…because He made me.

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~ Psalm 139.14

I am pure and clean before God and He does see me as righteous…because of Jesus’ blood.

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. ~ Romans 3.22

All is gift.
Seeing the One behind my righteousness creates humility.
Seeing the cross in front of my sin creates confidence.
All is grace.
I turn and see my eldest giving my littlest one a toy and then a kiss. I smile, knowing that God is teaching their hearts and mine what it means to live a life of both confidence and humility in and through Him.