Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Sometimes what seems effortless in the life of another can suddenly seem rather difficult when we try it out ourselves.

Think about the ballerina up on the stage: she moves with such ease and grace and seeming effortlessness that I've heard some people describe how they didn't develop an actual appreciation for the skill of the dancer until they took their first adult ballet class, and how, very quickly after that, they sat in the theatre awed by such raw strength and control.

There are a lot of things in life like that. When something is done with an understated grace or simplicity, it's possible to never consider how much preparation and and work may have been a part of the process.

 I shared how Justin and I long for more consistency when it comes to the pattern of our daily family time in God's word and prayer. In this area of the Christian life, we've known seasons of much grace, and we've also known seasons where we have lacked commitment and daily resolve.

I found myself reflecting on my own parents and the growing-up years.

Back then, family worship was just such a part of our family's routine, our normal everyday, that I never really considered whether or not it required my parents' devotion or diligence.

Either I was a wildly unreflective child, or maybe I was the norm and children generally tend to accept the pattern of their life with little regard, at the time at least, for the labour of their parents. As a kid, it was just what we did. Every night, the whole family would gather round, we'd listen as one of my parents would read God's word, we'd sing together, we'd pray together.

It's only now, as a parent myself, and often so busy with the various details of life and work and ministry, that I realize the kind of devoted commitment that such patterns actually require.

A childhood friend of mine recently wrote how the longer she is a parent, the more humble she becomes and how her own mother increasingly becomes a hero to her.

When I read this friend's status honoring her mother, it resonated because I feel the exact same way.

A few nights back, I was on the phone with my parents:
You know, guys, I never actually thought about it, growing up. Family worship was just what we did; it was just a part of our day. Every day. It's only now, as we're trying to implement this in our own family's life that I've taken pause. It didn't just happen, did it? You actually must have been devoted and committed and intentional. I never really thought before that there must have been days or seasons where it must have been hard. And yet, by His grace, you persisted. Have I ever thanked you for this?  
My childhood friend put it well: the longer I do this thing called parenthood, the less proud I become and the more I see how incredible my parents actually are.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Every once in a while, I'll be walking someplace outside and I'll hear the sound of wind chimes. Immediately, my heart returns to a place, to a home, to two people that I so dearly love... to a beautiful backyard that always had the sound of wind chimes.

Jim and Ginger.

If you know them, you've probably been loved by them.

Jim and Ginger have this beautiful home in Colorado Springs, right near the mountains. At some point in their journey of the Christian life, they decided their home was not their own, but a gift entrusted to their care, that they would use to bless others.

They worked hard for this beautiful home, and then they opened the doors and let God use them to bless so many people. I had the joy of living with them for many months, and I know a ton of other people who did as well.

As I reflect back now, it is quite remarkable that not a single time in the months that they shared their home with me did I feel as though I was intruding on their space; to the contrary, it felt like home.

Jim is one-of-a-kind. I mean that quite literally, and don't have any other friends or loved ones who are quite like him. For those of us who love him, we all know this: you hear Jim coming before you can see him because he's almost always whistling a joyful tune. The tune is almost always a joyful one because Jim's heart is overflowing with the joy he knows in Christ. He's always ready to talk about that joy, always ready to encourage and to speak words that will build and edify. 

And then there's Ginger. Sweet Ginger. She is a woman of such faith and character who knows how to love, who knows how to make sure the people she loves know that indeed they are loved. She is a woman whose  heart and home and kitchen are open to strangers; these strangers quickly become her beloved friends.

If you've ever lived with them, one of the things you'll soon expect is that if you're up before 6AM, you'll catch them sitting together in their living room, fresh coffee in hand, reading God's word and praying together. If you've lived with them but since moved away, there's a good chance that they're continuing to pray from you long after you've moved away.

Sometimes I wonder what blessings I've known, or what evils I've been spared, because of the prayers of these two saints.

Though I lived with them WAY back in 2001, me, Justin and Jake enjoyed the blessing of getting to visit them the summer that Jake was a baby. It didn't take much time for Justin to realize why I talk about them the way I do; why I love them the way I do.

Their backyard - with the wind chimes and the twinkle lights -  holds such a special place in my heart and in my memory. 
There is much about Colorado that is breathtakingly beautiful. 

But with no contest, the most beautiful part of all are the people. 

Dear Jim and Ginger,
I love you two so dearly. I think of you often. And I thank God for your lives and for allowing me to have the blessing and joy of knowing the two of you. In so many different ways, even though far away, your lives  continue to be an example of the beautiful, grace-filled Christian life. 
I miss you both tremendously.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


God has been so good to build rhythm and patterns into life. We don’t have to look very long or hard to see those moments in time where ‘new beginnings’ are possible. Night after night each day comes to an end. Morning by morning we are able to wake up and seek His mercy afresh. On a bigger scale, we’re given “summer and winter, springtime and harvest; sun, moon and stars, in their courses above.” The natural rhythms and patterns of life display an element of God’s intricate and perfect design.   

With three little ones under foot, the summer months are full of fun things: splash pads and playgrounds, bubbles and chalk-covered sidewalks, bike-riding and picnics. So many good things we’ve enjoyed, but a season that is now coming to an end. For many, and for us, September signals a return to the regular patterns and routines that shape our everyday.

These past couple weeks, while away on vacation and removed from daily routine, Justin and I spent some time reflecting upon the bigger picture that these everyday life-rhythms have produced in our home. There are areas where I see incredible grace and even perceptible growth; this is so encouraging and point to His faithfulness. There are other patterns where we continue to struggle for consistency and true change; areas where there may have been spurts of enthusiastic growth, but that generally are characterized by stagnancy or struggle. Interestingly, areas of struggle also speak to God’s grace and  faithfulness; there can be a degree of sorrow to look back and see my shortcomings and see my sin, but I’m so thankful and encouraged that my heart has not grown cold or apathetic but instead remained oriented towards Christ, desirous to begin afresh, wanting to continue this battle. It is His grace alone that is keeping me in that place of longing to be more like Christ rather than slipping into indifference.

There were several things that Justin and I reflected upon including things like how much time we’re spending one on one with each child, whether we're 'unplugging' enough, or how much time we're spending reading blog articles or on facebook. (Confession: the blog / facebook struggle is singularly mine, not shared by Justin at all.) For the second year in a row, the primary part of our family’s life where Justin and I long to see God give us more discipline and consistency is connected to the time we spend, as a family, reading God’s word and praying.

Daily family worship is something where we’ve known some sweet seasons of established pattern, and so we’ve tasted the grace and joy that it can bring to our family. But it is still something that can be so hard to live out with the kind of discipline and consistency that we desire. Noel Piper puts it this way:

“For me, not planning means my children receive a burst of God-talk for a day or two. Then when that particular gush of affection dies down, we’re back to just taking God for granted, rather than talking about him and recognizing him in all the parts of our day.”

(During the last couple days of our vacation, I read Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in our Traditions. There was so much in the pages of this short book that were encouraging, inspiring, free of legalism, gentle, but still powerfully convicting. In the next few days, while her ideas and words are still fresh, I hope to write a bit more about her book and the ideas that have flowed from it.)

It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of August. I’m thankful for a wonderful summer coming to an end and full of anticipation for a new season where we can begin afresh. But though I’m thankful for this, a ‘new beginning’ is not where the Christian places their hope. My faith, my hope is in a God of immense power and infinite grace. 

It only takes a few ‘new beginnings’ that quickly end in failure to realize that my hope is not in a fresh start. My hope is in Christ alone and the promise He has given to complete in me the work that He began. So as I anticipate the coming of a new season, and as I rightly translate my anticipation into concrete plans, I’m reminded that I’m entrusting my life and my family and all my plans into His hands. 

My hope does not come from looking forward to a ‘new beginning.’ No, my hope comes from looking backward to that moment when I was already given the only new beginning that ultimately matters: a new beginning in Christ.

Growth in grace is at times painstakingly slow, sometimes nearly imperceptible. Yet I cling to a God who promises to equip me for doing His will and to produce in me those good things that are pleasing to Him. My hope for growth—for real, lasting growth—is  because of what Jesus has already done.

Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
~Hebrews 13:20-21

Thursday, August 9, 2012


A good vacation wouldn't quite seem complete if it didn’t include at least one good book. Based on my Mom’s recommendation, I brought along the classic George Eliot novel Adam Bede. My Mom forewarned that I’ll struggle to get through the first few pages, but that once engaged, I’ll love it. Her warning is proving true, and as I lay down to sleep last night, eyes already heavy, the thought of continuing with Adam Bede seemed daunting. Instead, I reverted to what is quickly becoming a book-stealing habit of mine, and I reached across to Justin’s night stand and grabbed a thin little book from his stack: The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer.

Though tired, my mind and heart awoke almost immediately. The words and ideas in the first chapter seemed to speak directly and clearly to the condition of my heart.

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about my desire to strive more in the Christian life: to work more, to want more, to pursue more. The first chapter of The Pursuit of God is entitled Following Hard after God. At one point in this chapter, Tozer is describing the contemporary climate of the church (written in the 1940’s), but I read his words and felt that, in some very real ways, they described by own life.

“Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart.”
I’ve blogged in the past about how I find it surprisingly easy for my life in Christ to get wrapped up – lost, even - in the details: various elements of ministry life, church planning details, ways that I can help and serve alongside of Justin. On the one hand, these things are good things, valuable things. The busyness of ministry life is, in so many ways, a blessed busyness. But far too often I see my heart pursue the details, rather than these details being a means to the end of pursuing God.

Tozer’s description of religious complexity where there is an attention to the programs and methods that can so easily become little more than “nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart” resonated with my own longing heart.

He concludes this chapter about following hard after God with this deeply encouraging prayer:

O God, I have tasted Your goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filed with longing; I thirst to be made more thirst still. Show me Thy glory, I pray, that I may know You indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow You up from this misty lowland, where I have wandered so long.

Monday, August 6, 2012


It's always fun to eavesdrop on Jake and Joshua. Their conversations, whether funny, sweet, or straight up ridiculous, provide an interesting insight into these two little men of mine.

Joshua has been a funny kid to potty-train because his emotions towards the process go from hot to cold in mere moments. One moment he’ll be bragging to Baby Ella that he’s a big boy who wears real undies, and the next he’ll be pining for the ‘good old days’ when he could still wear diapers. A few days back, he was storming around the house muttering under his breath that he “hates potty training” and that he “wants to wear diapers again – even SOGGY ones.” (This made me secretly laugh. I couldn’t help it. What kind of two-year-old actually articulates, with clarity, the kind of diaper they’re willing to wear in order to avoid being potty trained?)

Jake, too, must have been listening to Josh’s lament; he encouraged his little brother with these words: “Josh, when I was your age, I had to learn how to be potty-trained too. We are so proud of you.”

My sweet Jake. Even though I know kids are typically just repeating things they’ve heard others say, I’m always heartened to hear them speak this way to each other.


A couple nights ago, after story time, I again heard Jake step into an older-brother role where he was encouraging and trying to clarify things for Josh.

Josh: I HATE Halloween!

Jake: Do you, Josh? Why?

Josh: Because I don’t like it. I hate it.

Jake: I think you actually like it, Josh. Don’t you like getting candy?

Josh: Yeah.

Jake: Don’t you like dressing up?

Josh: Yeah.

Jake: Then why are you saying you hate it?

Josh: Because I hate Halloween!

Jake: But you just said you like it, Josh!

And I think it was right about at that moment that the conversation turned argumentative.


Occasionally Jake will offer up a nugget of wisdom or some little life-secret he’s learned along the way.

Once, after watching a particularly tumultuous couple of minutes that involved disobedience, crying, discipline, and more crying, Jake gently offered these words of wisdom to his teary-eyed younger brother: “Josh, if you just learn to obey, your life will be perfect.”

A serious overstatement, but I understand what he was trying to communicate. (And just to be clear, this statement was original to Jake… we don’t make a habit of promising our children utopia if they simply learn to obey.)


The most recent conversation that struck me as particularly ridiculous was while we were in the car running errands. I’m driving, the three kids are strapped in the back, and I tune-in as the conversation unfolds:

Joshua: Where are we going?

Jake: To Walmart. I loooove Walmart. (He does. He’s classy like his Mom.)

Joshua: I don’t like Walmart. Walmart’s weird.

Jake: No it’s not. Don’t say that, Josh.

Joshua: Yes it is. I hate Walmart. Walmart is really, REALLY weird.

Jake: (getting angry) Josh. Stop lying. Walmart is NOT weird. You’re weird.

Joshua: (sensing the need for backup) Mom! Jake just said I’m weird!

Me: You know what, Joshy? You are weird. You are weird and wonderful. And Jake is weird and wonderful. And so is Ella and Daddy and Mommy. Weird is a good thing, buddy.

Joshua: (muttering, obviously incensed at my response) I am not weird. Ella is not weird. WALMART is weird!

Jake: (after a reflective pause) So, Mom? You’re saying that when God created us, he created us to be weird?
Hmmm… Not exactly what I was trying to communicate, but…

Friday, August 3, 2012


I slowly push Baby Ella in the swing while watching Josh play on the other side of the playground. I'm transfixed as I watch my little two-year-old show more determination and brute resolve than possibly ever before in his short life.

This particular playground has a rather unique feature on one side: a hill where the grass is completely worn away to the hard dirt underneath, and at the bottom, a whole bunch of old, beat up, slightly falling apart ‘vehicles’. These vehicles were likely donated by some neighborhood parents, are all in kid’s sizes with varieties ranging from big plastic four wheelers, to plastic cars, to one little three-wheeler bike designed to look like a motorcycle.

It was this motorcycle that captivated my son.

I watch as Josh, again and again, slowly drags this motorcycle up to the top of the hill, climbs atop, then zooms down. The dragging to the top part is cumbersome, awkward and time-consuming. But the momentary ride down – his face says it all - is nothing short of thrilling.

As difficult as it was to get this motorcycle up, the prize awaiting him made it worth the effort. It struck me afresh how we people, toddlers and adults alike, really are wired to pursue those things which bring us pleasure. If we treasure something, we’re willing to labour and sacrifice to obtain it.

Joshua prized that three-and-a-half second motorcycle ride to a great enough degree that he was willing to repeatedly complete the grueling task of hauling up the bike.

I’m blessed and truly thankful to have come from, and belong to, a Christian tradition that speaks biblically and continually about the truth that salvation comes through faith alone, and nothing of our own work or doing. This is so right and how it should be; Jesus alone is the One who saves and then gives grace  for us to live as we ought. This is a truth that can never be proclaimed too loudly or too often.

And yet, while it is so crucial to never detract from the clarity of His work on our behalf, in my own walk with Christ, I desperately want to me more like my two-year-old dragging that motorcycle. I want to be willing to strive more, to work more, to struggle to put sin to death, to painstakingly pursue my God. I want to be willing to stand and fight, not to sit down and reconcile myself to a faith that is real, but so often lacking in passion or heart.

There are so many times when I kneel down to pray and find myself unwilling to struggle through two minutes of awkward, distracted prayer to get to that place where my God meets me in power. And yes, I’m thankful for the truth that God is with me, hearing me, loving me always, even in those times of distraction and failure. His grace is amazing, and it is rightly central. But it is also true that, throughout the pages of Scripture, the life of a Christian is described as one that is difficult, that takes real, actual work.

But I know this too: there is a reason that the work involved is worth it, for the prize awaiting us is not the momentary thrill of any thing that we can see. The prize awaiting us, in this life and the next, is Christ Himself.

And so our climb, however cumbersome or painstaking, it really is wholly worth it.
In your glorious presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.