Sunday, August 29, 2010


You know those babies who want nothing more than to cuddle with their mama when they are upset or tired? The ones who can be comforted when they are upset simply by laying their head against their mommy, maybe sucking on a pacifier or a thumb, and basically just being a little cuddle-bug?

Yeah, I don’t have one of those.

Don’t get me wrong. Claire loves to be held…just not so much cuddled. She likes to be held upright where she can look at everything. And true, there are some moments when she will lay her head against me as I sit in the rocking chair and sing over her. I treasure those moments.

But if my daughter is upset – you know, the kind of upset where baby doesn’t know why she’s crying but mommy knows it’s the kind of cry that comes from being too tired – then she is the furthest thing from a cuddle-bug. Instead of leaning into me, Claire arches her back, pushes away from me, throws her head back and cries even harder. It’s so frustrating.

“Love, if you’ll just rest against me. I know why you are upset. I know what you need. You need rest; you need to lay your head down and relax in my arms and just let me hold you. You need to cease striving. You need to be still.”

But she refuses to be comforted. Sometimes I just have to put her in her crib and let her cry for a good five or ten minutes before she will allow herself to be consoled. I just walked out of her bedroom, where I found her covered with tears, yes, and snot, and finally ready to be comforted. If only she had laid her head down the first time I offered my love.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

I know there are a lot of ways in which we need to “be still.” We need to turn off the noise, slow down the schedule, be in the moment. But right now, I’m thinking about my daughter. I am thinking about how instead of being still when she is overcome with fatigue and emotions, she responds to my presence with confusion and resistance and striving. She doesn’t want me to put her down, but she refuses to accept the rest that I offer.

And I’m thinking about how many times my Father has wanted to comfort me and I have refused to be still. I wonder how many times He has had to leave me alone to have my pity-party or my temper-tantrum and to cry out enough tears to finally be exhausted enough to receive His love. How many times do I respond to my out-of-control emotions, or my overwhelming circumstances, or my flat-out fatigue, by throwing my head back, arching my back and crying, when my Father is closer than I acknowledge, desiring to hold me and comfort me and remind me of His power and love and authority in my life?

“Child, if you’ll just rest against Me. I know why you are upset. I know what you need. You need rest; you need to lay your head down and relax in My arms and just let Me hold you. You need to cease striving. You need to be still.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Adam and Who?

A profound thought hit me tonight.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Deuteronomy 6 principle – how as parents, we are to teach God’s truth to our children as we walk, sit, lie down, and rise. All day we are to informally impart God’s holy Word to them. Relating His truth to our children should be as natural as breathing.

As a teacher, I love this because I know that children learn best as they do life, not as they sit and listen to a lesson (though there is certainly a time and a place for that as well). And so I have been praying…for myself, to have the wisdom to teach all day every day…for Claire, to love the Word of God from an early age and to have ears to hear and to cultivate a receptive heart.

Tonight I sat down and thought about the story of redemption. If I am to teach my daughter the treasure of God’s Word, I need to have that truth written on my heart so that it flows off my tongue almost without effort (for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks). So starting in Genesis, I set out to jot down a very rough outline of the stories and characters that fill the chronicle of redemption. I got as far as Creation…Adam and Eve…and then I stopped.
Once again, I was struck in the face with something terribly obvious:
Claire doesn’t know who Adam and Eve are.

Yes, I am a college graduate, and in fact, I even have a master’s degree. But sometimes you just don’t stop and think about the most obvious, simple truths. And I have never stopped to consider that Claire has zero concept of God, sin, salvation. And she has never heard of Adam and Eve.

It’s not that I haven’t thought about the fact that I need to teach her these things, but I think I have always taken for granted the background knowledge that we all have on which to build. When I taught second grade, I showed kids how to add and subtract. But I didn’t have to teach them what numbers were. They already knew that.

It blows my mind that Claire is basically a “blank slate” – not when it comes to morality, because yes, even my little sunshine is a depraved sinner – but in regard to knowledge of the truth. And this also brings me to my knees. It makes me thankful for my parents, because I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know who Jesus was or what He did for me. But somewhere along the line, they must have told me that for the first time. I am floored when I think of the weight of responsibility that I have to know the Scripture accurately and to relate it to my child on her level.

I am begging God to remind me of the truth I already know, and to teach me more. I want to have all His treasures stored up in my heart so that I can teach my children His ways. But I also realize that my motivation for learning cannot be just to benefit my children, because what will happen when they eventually grow up and leave home? No, my desire to learn must be driven by a hunger for God to reveal Himself to me, to make His presence known, to teach me and to change my heart.

So it makes perfect sense that in Deuteronomy 6, immediately preceding the counsel to parents to teach God’s commandments diligently to their children, rests this command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Get ready, Claire. We are about to set off on a grand adventure. And it begins with the story of creation, and with two people named Adam and Eve…

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Labor of Love

I just hung up the phone from talking with my brother. He is at the hospital with his very pregnant wife, who is having contractions every two to three minutes.

Poor Bonnie.

And as I sit and wait anxiously for news of my very first niece (I warned my mom that I will be calling every five minutes), I can’t help but remember.

Nine months ago I was having contractions. I don’t miss that part.

I remember the anticipation leading up to that day…the fear mixed with wonder and excitement. I remember wishing with all my heart that I could skip the whole labor and delivery part. I mean, the nine months of pregnancy were great. And I couldn’t wait to hold my little girl in my arms. I just wanted to skip the in-between part. Is that too much to ask?

But God has a purpose in all things.

The pain was worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. It was intense – so intense, in fact, that I forgot to ask for an epidural because I was so focused on getting through each contraction. But it was nothing compared to the joy and awe I felt when I gave that final push and all of a sudden, my slimy child was placed in my arms. Now, up to that point, I secretly wished they wouldn’t hand her to me right away. I thought my first memory of seeing my baby would be better if she were already cleaned up and suctioned and all that good stuff. But believe me, when the moment came, I thought I had never seen anything more beautiful. It didn’t bother me one bit that she wasn’t clean. I was just relieved that she looked like a person at all! (The only images I could picture in my mind were the ultrasounds, and they made my child look a little more extraterrestrial than human.) I remember saying over and over, “She’s so beautiful!”

The most beautiful things are born through the most painful labor.

I realize that there are so many places you could go with that concept, but the one in mind right now is the one Christ was pointing to when He said…

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” John 16:21
Such a true statement. And no one knew this better than Jesus. Oh, we women think we know. We walk (or waddle) around for nine months and anticipate the day of pain leading to the life of joy that is coming.

Jesus knew the labor that He would experience from the moment Adam fell in the garden. Well, let’s be honest, even that didn’t catch Him by surprise. So really, the “anticipation” has been since eternity past. Much longer than nine months. And His labor would be far worse. We suffer the pain of contractions. He suffered the wrath of the Father – the righteous indignation against every sin ever committed – the hell of separation from the Father with whom He had identified as one with Himself. He became sin.

What joy could possibly result from such agony? What could be worth the anguish of the cross?
For Jesus, it was us. Impossibly, we are the children that are born through His suffering. Incredibly, He sees us with as much (even greater) joy than I had when I saw my daughter. Amazingly, He looks at us, covered with the sinful slime of our pre-deliverance, and He thinks we are beautiful. He doesn’t want anyone (including ourselves) to take us and attempt to clean us up before He gathers us into His arms. He wants us just as we are. He will clean us up. He has earned that right.

What a miracle there is in beauty born of suffering.

Hold on, Bonnie. Your joy is coming.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Perfect Love of my Abba

My dad is a wealth of wisdom. He may dance like Bill Cosby and “fix” things like Tim the Toolman Taylor, but if you ever have need for biblical counsel, he’s your go-to man. Last time I was home, I asked him a question that I’ve been battling off and on for as long as I can remember.

“How do you stop being afraid?”

And without skipping a beat, my dad answered, “Perfect love.”

So simple. So profound. Of course, I knew the verse to which he was referring…”There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18). I’ve read that verse, memorized it, meditated on it. But honestly, the truth is that I just have never understood it. Perfect love casts out fear. Great. But what does that mean? How do I get this perfect love? How does it drive out fear, practically? But my dad’s confidence in that answer made me start thinking about it again, and asking God for the wisdom to comprehend it.

I started my quest by taking in the context of this elusive truth, and the verse immediately following this one struck me. Verse 19 – “We love because He first loved us.” Not only does this define perfect love – the love of the Father, the love that was demonstrated on the cross, the love that God initiated for us – but it also sets the context. Perfect love is found within a relationship – specifically, a relationship with a loving Abba.

Next the Holy Spirit took me to Romans 8. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

Why does it take so long for simple truths to “click”?

All of a sudden, it hit me. How could I have missed this? Perfect love is the love of the Father, the spirit of adoption, the relationship between Abba and his child.

I wrestle, not with the concept that God is powerful and sovereign, nor that He is loving, nor that He is wise; I accept and believe all of these things. But in my flesh I cannot reconcile the awful things that He allows to happen. And this uncertainty over all the possibilities of all the bad things in the world that could happen is where my fear is planted, watered, and cultivated.

But suddenly I see how perfect love can cast out this fear.

God has blessed me beyond measure with a daddy who showed me my first picture of God as Father, and demonstrated it as accurately as a fallen human can. He is my hero. I am perfectly at rest in my dad’s love. I have no doubt that he loves me unconditionally and that he would only seek my best interest. When I was little, I was terrified of dogs. I mean, if I even thought I heard the echo of a dog’s bark, I would climb my daddy like a tree. But there’s the thing. My dad’s love did not mean that fear never assaulted me; but when it did rear its ugly head, I knew where to turn. It was instinct – Run to daddy. He loves me. He’ll take care of me. He’ll never do anything unless he believes it is best for me.

Now I understand. Fear has never been a part of my relationship with my dad – only love, as perfect as love can be on a human level. How much more, then, can the perfect love of my heavenly Father provide for me a place of peace, a refuge from fear. It's not that bad things will never happen, because they will. But if I feed my soul on the knowledge of the character of my Father, I don’t have to be afraid; and when I am afraid, I know where to turn.
I can rest in the perfect love of my Abba.