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I was texting with a friend yesterday. We were talking about how this Easter would be a little tough. She just lost her mom. I miss her mom too. Just last week her absence was felt at my husband Jason's birthday celebration at work. For past birthdays, and on ordinary days you could count on her smile and sweet countenance to light up any room.

I love holidays, but Easter, and especially Christmas are difficult for those who've endured loss. I've always said that special occasions and remembrances heighten our emotions. The glad get gladder and the hurt can deepen for those who are missing someone they love.

I have several friends who have suffered terrible loss in the past six months. Some have lost a loved one to a death. The pain of that death stays with them. Another has lost her zest for life. She's so tired.  And still another has lost her confidence. She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders with the knowledge that she can't possibly carry it all. Though we still have our earthly bodies, some of us carry around death.

As you could imagine, I found myself reading about death and resurrection today. But it's probably not the one you're thinking of. I'm talking about the death and resurrection of Lazarus. John, chapter 11, tells us about Lazarus' death. Prior to his dying, his sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick.

Jesus intentionally stalls before going to them because he wants to show observers something they need to know. When He eventually goes to Mary and Martha, Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. The sisters are mourning.

Mary and Martha separately make the same statement to Jesus, a statement we've all likely felt if we haven't said it...

...if you had been here...

 (John 11:21, 32)

These sisters thought that if they'd had Jesus' presence they wouldn't be in need of a now kind of resurrection. If he'd been there he could have healed Lazarus. Now, they figured, he was dead and they'd have to wait.

Martha's faith had become future focused . "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." John 11:24  She believed, not in a present resurrection, but only in a resurrection that was coming; a distant resurrection.

Though Martha believed that Lazarus would someday be raised from the dead, she was making two statements.

  1. You weren't here.
  2. Lazarus will rise again, but for now we face death.

Jesus shared the good news. He told her, and he tells us,

I am the resurrection (...don't forget this part) and the life (!) (John 11:25)

He told Martha that the one who believes in Him will never die.

As believers, the only death we're intended to carry around is the death of Jesus; a death that resulted in resurrection... for all who would believe. Christ' resurrection affords us life (and his constant presence).  THAT'S what we can carry, even on life's most sorrowful days!

Our sin and alone-ness was put to death the day Christ died. Death died that day too.

While Lazarus still lay in the tomb and Martha's heart was still wrapped up in sorrow. He asked, Do you believe this? (v.26) We're asked the same question.

You probably remember the next part of the story (there is no ending...)

Martha tells Jesus that she indeed believes. She, Mary and others follow Jesus to the tomb where He gives a few more life instructions. He commands those surrounded by death to remove the stone sealing the tomb. He tells them to take off Lazarus' grave clothes. And then he tells them to let Lazarus go. Death no longer has a hold on him. Jesus is the resurrection. Those of us who believe, have life. And he is with us, always.

We have a future resurrection to look forward to. But we live in Christ's resurrection today.

Are you mindful of His presence? Are you sure of His defeat over death? What layers of death will you ask Him to remove so that you can live in the resurrection today?

 

 

 

 



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I remember it well. My oldest, Hayden, had just finished a middle school basketball game.  Let me rephrase that, my son had just finished sitting the bench for nearly a full four quarters. His coach called him out on the court with less than a minute on the clock. For the record, we weren’t terribly behind or way ahead, destroying the theory that just maybe he wanted to make sure my kid didn’t jeopardize the game’s outcome.

I was already a little hot, but what played out in the next thirty seconds burned the stub of the fuse I had left. A time-out buzz drew my attention toward our team’s bench. The coach was waving his hand to Hayden to get out on the court. As far as I could tell there were no words as to direct Hayden to who he would be subbing in for.

Hayden ran out, ready to position himself for some good defense when a fellow teammate (who was a starter) pointed to himself as if to say, Are you coming in for me? Hayden shrugged, unsure.

As the starter trotted to the bench, the coach started shaking his head no, a bit violently, whilst yelling at Hayden, “You’re stupid. Get off the court.”  So, a mere five seconds after being sent out, without playing a single play, Hayden was back on the bench with no idea what had just happened.

I was livid. I pursed my lips until my husband Jason, and the two girls and I got into the car. And then fury flew from my lips; sharp words shot out like flaming arrows. I’ve always secretly patted myself on the back for never cussing. I don’t think I did that day, but I honestly can’t remember what all I said.

All I remember is the impromptu, responsive chant that came from our four year old Rylie in the backseat,

“Ok guys, on the count of three”, she demanded, “everybody say it with me,

Let’s ruin coach’s life.

Let’s ruin coach’s life.”

And then came silence. Guilt and helplessness swept over me as I realized the impossibility of cleaning up hot spilled words; words that had drew equally ill speech out of my pre-k-er.

Our kids don’t always do what we say (“Clean your room.”). Nor do they what we do (Start the dishwasher when it’s full). But when it comes to our weakest character traits, say some sass, sarcasm, insecurity, or a bit of fury, our kids can emulate us with embarrassing accuracy.

I mean it doesn’t feel like they’re listening all that well when we tell them how to complete that math problem, or to go easy on the eye shadow, but somehow when it comes to

  1. How we respond to circumstances

  2. How we respond to others

They’re watching,

Just like I was noticing how my mom could always get my dad to stop for fried chicken on the way back home from my grandmas, even though she claimed not to be hungry every time we left. (I have her power of persuasion.) It’s funny, for all the effort my mom put towards trying to entice me to cross stitch like her and dust the shelves like she showed me, I was a lost cause.

Our unintentional example proves to be much more powerful than the instructions and modeling we deliberately show our children.

How do we react to a bill we shouldn’t have gotten?

To a rude cashier?

When our kid drops a glass full of milk and the glass shatters on the floor?

How do we respond to the elderly man whose car didn’t budge for the entirety of the green light?

How in control of our emotions are we when that teacher has berated or humiliated our kid,... again!

How do we express frustration toward our kid’s dad? Do we let him have it? Do we give him the cold shoulder?

What about our kid’s friend that hasn’t proven to be that loyal or rule following? Do our kids find that we see their friend (or even their enemy) as “The gossip, The jerk, The Drama Queen, The Queen Bee, The rebel or The liar”?  Are our communication and reactions both truthful AND gracious?

The message we don’t intend to send, the one that comes out in a weak moment or when we think nobody’s watching?  That becomes our billboard.

Our kids have the best view of our least favorite habits and impulses. The good news is that our canvas can be used to paint the need for grace and a filling of the Spirit.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  John 6:63



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I couldn’t have designed a better set up for the past few days. I filled up on signature hot dogs and crispy fried chicken (the finger licking kind.) I was fed by inspiring speakers. (In fact Jason was one of them.) We got to attend a phenomenal missions conference in Charlotte, North Carolina where my cheeks hurt and my heart felt so good.


Queen City has been good to us. The temperature has pretty much stayed in my sweet spot (72-76 degrees.) Last night I watched my favorite contestant on American Idol sing for three and a half minutes without getting interrupted. Jason and I even slept in this morning.

I told Jason on the way to the airport that I couldn't even think of what I’d do with one more day and million dollars, so satisfied was I…

And then I got on my phone to see if Amazon had a pair of fringe earrings in ecru. Nothing wrong with looking contented and cute.

I don’t stay full for long. I’ll forget that box of prize winning chicken I had for lunch as soon as I see a kiosk with a bag of peanut M&Ms. A bag of candy and a cold Dr. Pepper sound good right now.

Speaking of what sounds good, a pianist here at the airport is playing the some of my favorite songs nearby. Besides playing a song my mom used to play on the piano when I was growing up, he’s played the theme song from Beauty and the Beast, Journey’s “Open Arms” and then theme song from ET.

I wish the ET song had words so that I could’ve immersed myself in them. Instead, here I am thinking about the initials E.T.

Extra Terrestrial

Terrestrial= earthly

So it must mean, earthly, ...but extra

Extra Earthly.

That’s me. Maybe it’s you too.

Life offers me one twenty-four hour period of blessing and opportunity followed by another. But satisfaction comes in wink-like waves. It moves on as fast as it comes. I just read the third chapter of Philippians yesterday and believe it just might have been the perfect timed verse for me as it mentioned those whose god is their stomach.

Reminds me of the time we got Hayden a Bible for his fourth birthday. It was one of the first gifts he opened. As diplomatic as could be, he held it in his hands, smiled and then gently laid it to the side and whispered, Let’s see what’s next.

I gently lay the truth aside everyday. Let's see what's next, I say, and I pretend to say it to God, but so many times I'm just using my eyes to look.

Sitting here at the airport, I’m thinking about the fact that I missed one of the kids band concert and two singing performances. I wasn't there to give her a pep talk this morning before STAAR.

I could currently check off a hundred items on a list right now of things that are right, but mom guilt demands it be put on the list.

And there there’s me not being there for a frightening situation with another kid. I heard our third kid mentioning that they made pancakes while we were gone. I’m wondering what the house is going to look like, thus adding to the list, Be prepared to clean up a disaster and face a whole slew of things that need to be done.

My default thinking is either intentionally focused on the current good or bad or creatively-sideways stretched (what good or bad things are ahead, or maybe even on the thing that just happened.) Better said, my circumstances and guesses about my future hold all the weight.

It’s an under the sun sort of thinking; an extra earthly kind, a kind that’s subject to gravity.

While it’s understandable to take inventory of blessings and perceived future difficulties or responsibilities, our souls are made to seek more than temporary satisfaction or perpetual mind preparation.

There is more to life than cloudy skies. There is more than that golden ball of warmth overhead that can harm us, given too much exposure.

More than basking in the here in now, or surreptitiously plotting out tomorrow, may we look up. May our heart’s content rest in that which is beyond the sun. He holds the expanse of this moment, the tarried month ahead and a thousand years from now, firmly in His hands.

What if we left what's next in the right hands?

They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:20



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Growing up in the country, it wasn’t much of a surprise when we’d have to hit the brakes for a mama deer and her fawns hightailing it across the road to escape harm’s way. The order never changed.  As you’d expect, the mama always led the way, followed by her babies.

Interestingly, the phrase “hightail it” is thought to have originated in the pioneer days and refers to whitetail deer. At the prospect of danger they raise their tail high. The white patch underneath can easily be seen against their brown backside. A deer signals with her tail to others the need to run to safety.

Having a keen sense of urgency, moms hightail it, a lot. Besides the fact that we’re constantly in a hurry to accomplish all the stuff on our list, we have an inner alarm that goes off constantly. Our tails are rarely ever at rest.

We’re often worried about our kids being friendless if we’re not concerned about their choice in friends. We’re concerned about how they’ve been acting different lately, or else about that bad habit they can’t seem to shake.

We fret over their difficult disappointments, hard diagnoses, or the secrets we believe they keep. When our kids hurt (and often when we have a heightened perception of their hurt), we will do near anything to fix it.

The problem with our tendency to freak out with our kids (or over our kids) is that it usually only gives them greater cause for worry. Just like those fawns follow their frantic mom’s lead, our children often see us panic or in distress and they follow, increasing their emotional instability. What do small children do after they fall? Before they evaluate their bloody knee they search their mother’s face to see whether or not they’re ok.

God gave us that inner alarm for a reason. There will be opportunities for us to fix what is bruised or broken, but contrary to our “fix it” impulses, God has a better use for our sensitivity. When our tail is instinctively raised at impending danger or present disaster, we’re called to flee toward Him rather than simply fix or flee our circumstances.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1

Consider the deer mentioned in this first verse of Psalm 42. Here is a creature in retreat whose desperation is rooted in the supply before her, not what she’s been fleeing. She pants, not from fear, but because she’s figuratively dying of thirst. The stream meets her longings.

A man who’d traveled to Israel once wrote about wanting to capture a good picture of a hart, the breed of deer mentioned in Psalm 42. Every time he would spot a herd, they were running, alarmed at the sight of the tourist jeep or bus that had approached them. It was only at a stream that he found a deer close enough to capture. That deer was at rest, unfrightened by danger.

Who we run to holds more significance than what we’re running from.

Our children are following our lead.



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I used to ask my friends to punch my dad's forearm. They'd look at me strange, and so did my dad. But I insisted.

His forearm has always been as hard as a rock, probably from almost fifty years of folding chipboard and carrying heavy grill (as well as carrying many other heavy, valuable and tedious things).

I could've argued with confidence those days that my dad was the strongest person alive. I'd still argue it today, but my reasons for believing so have slightly changed. I haven't punched him lately. No matter. His character is a perfect display of what it truly means to have strength.

A friend posed this question a few days ago.

How would you define strength?

I couldn't answer her immediately, but the question has swirled around in my head because it's an important thing to ponder. It got me to thinking about my dad and my Heavenly Father and how the latter has used the first to teach me about being strong.

So here goes.

Strength is having the tenacity to stick with something important when you likely feel it's not working out. It might be praying for a lost loved one or reminding your children one thousand times to put their folded clothes up. Like the men who carried their paralyzed friend through a crowd and then climbed (with him and his mat in tow) onto a roof to get him to Jesus, strength means staying faithful. It doesn't give up.

Contrarily, Strength is surrender. It's stepping back to allow your grown son make his own decisions, knowing that his well-being depends more on his needing you less and needing God more. Strength apologizes when necessary and doesn't hold a grudge.

Strength must be ready. It has a spontaneous quality to it. (There's not always time for a warm up.) Strength doesn't pop off or express road rage. When someone is discouraged, strength is prepared. It has a ready reason for the hope it has when talking with a friend who's worried about her friendless son or her rebellious daughter.

Likewise, strength is loud when another is in need of defense. Strength invites the pariah to dinner. It speaks up when a conversation is turning unkind. Strength is quiet when it knows words aren't necessary or edifying. It doesn't babble or gossip. Strength is both bridled and unbridled; unselfish and kind.

Someone who's strong isn't easily swayed by trends, manipulation or impulses. Their yeses are yes and their no's are no. They refrain from doing what they shouldn't and are faithful to do what they should. Strength isn't afraid to graciously disagree with the number one bestseller self-help book, she doesn't change her mind on what her daughter is allowed to wear just because her daughter said all her friends' moms don't care, and she doesn't go to Target just because she's feeling bored or down in the dumps. (Or she really could need have needed to go discover that cute mini cactus in the dollar aisle.)

Strength is leading, but it's more serving and following. It's not so much, making the rules, as it is becoming familiar with (and longing for) God's plan above your own.

Strength isn't meant to be stored up but rather

  • Renewed
  • Loaned
  • or borrowed
  • And then renewed again

Strength is most beautifully displayed when it's lent to those suffering severe circumstances (when we cry with one who's broken, help someone recover a loss, or find their way.) Strength is knowing where our re-filling comes from when we're on empty. Strength knows its source and how to be a resource.

Consistent, "Can I give a witness" (kind of strength) is unattainable in and of ourselves. Thank goodness for that ever-present help we find in God, our strength.



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You'd never see me eating them now, but in early 2001, you'd likely find alfalfa sprouts in my fridge. I'd stuff them in a pita pocket for lunch while thinking about nachos during my pregnancy with our second child (our first girl.)

I didn't crave them. Yuck. I'd just decided to tolerate them because I was determined to mother like a rockstar, after having winged it with our firstborn. I winged it so bad as a first time mother that I drank lots of Big Red because I thought it had less caffeine than Dr Pepper.

Nope. This time I was going to do it all right. I'd have structured bedtime and rocking time and (just like I had with Hayden,) I'd read her so many books.

She'd be like one of those little doe-eyed porcelain Precious Moments figurines I collected in high school. I was going to raise a hug-loving little Mother Teresa in pink.

Nobody told me that alfalfa sprouts were a culprit for carrying food borne illnesses like e. coli and that pregnant women shouldn't eat them. Nobody warned me that daughters will hardly ever ask us to read aloud the daughter manual we wrote. Nobody taught me that a small, dainty-looking package such as Hallie would hold an uncontainable spirit. But on March 1, Hallie was born and I began a journey of learning.

From the get-go Hallie wouldn't want to be cuddled or coddled. As a tiny baby she hardly tolerated being rocked. As a toddler and preschooler she'd shoo me away from her self-initiated timeout and, later, her bedside when she was sick with pneumonia. "I love you, now can you get out of here?", she'd ask one night when I tried to crawl in her bed while she had pneumonia.

She was never a conformist. Along with a clothes rack of princess dresses, Hallie had a basket of high heels and accessories. She'd put on a Snow White costume, don the heels and then she'd put a crown on. Invariably, she'd wear it upside down. Once when I protested, she told me she was the mean queen. She wasn't mean though. It's just that not all princesses are frilly or aim to please. Some princesses are warriors; on a path unmarked by Disney or fondly told fairytales.

I'd teach her to be like me. I was thrifty. (A clearance shopper.) ...Someone who'd give the shirt off my back to someone who had no need or desire for my shirt. More than money, I'd spend myself, offering my currency unwisely. Instead, she'd belt out the lyrics to "I wanna be a rich girl" after hearing the song for the first time in her aunt's car.

It wasn't that she was stingy. It was more about her being in charge of what was hers. It was more about her giftedness in handing over all things wholeheartedly when she did give, not out of compulsion or manipulation. I would be unsuccessful in teaching her to be a little me. In her unwavering nature she'd make me into a better me.

She would be about as interested in letting me fight her battles as she was letting me give friendship advice or fix her hair. She took the big box of advice, styling tools and political opinions, and after making a few mental notes, ever so politely gave the full box right back to me.

I prepared for sugar and got a lot more spice.

She's now turning eighteen. She stands tall at 5'4; an invisible upside-down warrior crown on her beautiful blonde head that was born light brown. She mostly knows what she wants and doesn't fear the parts she doesn't know yet. She's fierce and fiercely loved. And it's a love that will never stop growing.

Our children. Yet not ours,

Whom no one can possess

For all the future holds

Good or Ill

They are their own

Unless dear Lord, unless

By miracles of grace and mercy infinite

They are possessed by Thee

And so become more their own

By being Thine

Minton Johnson



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It seems to be the month of tryouts and contests. I don’t remember February being so stressful before.

Of course when our son, the oldest, was in school he tried out for all the sports teams. There wasn’t one big make it or break it moment, rather a series of “break its”. He survived, and just as science tells us that broken bones grow back stronger, so did he. I was just thinking the other day how grateful I am that his reaction to disappointment has matured.

Call me strange, but I was relieved when our middle, Hallie decided that she didn’t want to try out for anything; not twirling, not basketball, not student council or UIL.

Her indifference to belonging to a team (or maybe even her decision to abstain from risk-taking) kept me from the worry that she’d be disappointed when the results seemingly weren’t in her favor. Of course we both learned that you can’t avoid rejection. You often won’t be picked in life, even if you don’t tryout.

Rylie, our youngest, has a difficult nature in that she has her father's boldness and sense of adventure and my tenderness. This means that she tries everything (non-rhythm related) and then gets temporarily broken up when her attempts don't result in social victory.

UIL contests and track tryouts are happening this week. Some kids will take home an excellent ribbon or news that that they earned a spot on one of the relay teams. Other kids are getting in the car after school with a brave face to initially hide the fact that their efforts weren't enough.

I'm not sure, though, that the stakes are anywhere so high this week (and last) as for those who are trying out for the school's dance team or cheerleading squad. I've learned in nearly eight years of living here in Nederland that dance particularly (and I suppose cheer too) come in size 4T. The hope to dance or cheer someday, before your entire community, starts young and grows wild.

I doubt many young girls dream of breaking the school's long jump record or earning a place on the school's science team, but many do dream of donning those famed white boots the Westernaires wear. Many a first grader practices a cheer jump in hopes of someday finding her place on the sidelines at football games. I get it.

I know so many faithful moms who give generously to support their daughters' dreams; taking them to dance class fifty days a year (many, double or triple that). They encourage their girls with a happy recognition of their giftedness. They do everything in their power to prepare them to be successful (as do moms of boys and non-dance girls).

Last week there were a lot of anxious and disappointed moms. This week's the same, because moms know that hopes and dreams don't always become reality. What we see as preparedness and giftedness isn't always reflected on the score card. Your kids name may not end up on the team list.

I don't have a daughter trying out, but I do know the sting of that rejection from my own middle school tryouts for drill team. I also suffered the weight of delivering disappointment to hopeful-faced middle school girls one year when I hesitantly agreed to serve as junior high cheer sponsor.

My heart goes out to those of you whose daughter has tried out, or is trying out. I can imagine that you're a ball of angst, or if your daughter received hard news last week, that you're still staggering from the blow. Your pain is equal to her fear or sorrow (or both) times two. A Mom heart, like the womb, gets stretched, and carries more.

Just know that I'm praying for you this week. I'm thinking, in my own relatively comfortable state, that these difficult hours will be in your rear view mirror in time. Your opportunity to respond to your daughter's disappointment or victory won't be nearly as long as the time you had to prepare them for tryouts. I'm praying that you'll use those important hours to re-instill in her the value she has, that stands with or without a spot on the team.

I'm hoping that you'll tow the line in showing her she's treasured without promoting a sense of self-importance, instead inspiring a gracious spirit inside your already gifted girl.

This might be your hardest, yet most important work yet.

Cheering for you and your daughter (awkwardly on the sidelines),

A fellow mom with two daughters full of hopes and dreams

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 1 Corinthians 4:7




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Jason, my husband of nearly twenty-four years, has always kept marriage fun. I'm pretty nice, but also kind of mouthy. When he brings up a subject and sees my jaw drop open with a prepared message of objection he cuts me off,

"Submit, woman!"

He's also reminded me several dozen times that Sarah called her husband Abraham, lord.

Before I paint Jason with a wide brushstroke let me mention (for those who don't know him), that his lifestyle is one of constant sacrifice. He puts his families' needs before his own. He just seasons his speech with a bit of humor.

He's honestly so good to me that all I can logically do when he demands my submission is give him an exaggerated eye roll, and then I push up my sleeves so that we can figure out how he and I can work with each other, and for each other.

Submit has become quite the ugly word. Culture promotes the idea of "you do you". Climb the ladder. Concentrate on what makes you happy/successful. You do what you (alone) think is right. Just keep running your own hamster wheel, surely you'll get to your desired destination all...by...yourself.

We're taught to fiercely protect our own best interests as if God hadn't designed life to be lived in relationship. I know what's good for me. I'll choose my own path.

Scripture says otherwise.

God's word tells us,

There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 14:12

The Bible is full of instructions on how to live. We're to live according to what the Bible says is good. We're also subject to showing others what God says is good, and doing for others what scripture says we're to do.

We know wives are supposed to live in submission. Husbands? Yes, them too.

Are we to live in submission to others outside our household? Yes. Yes. Yes. Scripture tells us we're to submit to our elders, to leaders (including governing authorities) and to every human institution.

Sounds a little confining...if we don't truly know what it means to submit.

The Greek lexicon tells us that the word submission has both a military and and non military definition. Non-military submission is defined as a voluntary attitude of

  1. cooperation
  2. assuming responsibility
  3. carrying a burden
  • Can we say we practice these three? Maybe. If we agree with (and like) the person we're submitting to.
  • A commentary on Ephesians chapter 5 described submission as living in humility; giving others what Christ says we owe them.

    Submission is commanded for those at the top and bottom of the food chain and totem pole/household/faculty etc. What we're giving up in submission is our own way and the notion that we're self sufficient.

    • In submission one speaks truth to another because Christ says we owe others the truth.
    • In submission, one listens.
    • Being subject to another, one learns and then gives biblically based direction. The other accepts that guidance.
    • In submission one selflessly offers a helping hand. And it's in submission that one takes it.

    We have to stop despising leadership and those in governing authority. True submission is a seesaw. We are subject to one another. In Christ's way, no one stays hovered over the other. We owe one another not what they demand, but what Christ shows us we owe them.

    No one's off the hook...thankfully. Because it's through submission that we each honor Christ and appropriately participate in changing our own life for the better. Submission improves the condition of our families' and makes an eternal impact on the world around us.



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    (Photo credit: Daily Wire)

    Updated note to readers:

    I've received a couple of messages this morning. I'm afraid I might not have clearly communicated that I watched the video concerning the boys from Covington High in its almost two hour entirety. I'm very much in support of them; so much so that I've written emails and contacted the school voicing my support.  This post was intended to speak to our response, as believers, to controversial events. I believe that there are times we're called to get involved, and that our responses ought to always be seasoned with grace (unlike those who impulsively attacked these boys with name calling and threats.) We're all often guilty of either responding emotionally or turning our head the other way to these kinds of situations., to those things we strongly believe. 

    Last night my family went to the movies; something we never do on a Monday, but we'd been waiting for the "Glass" sequel and took the first opportunity we had to see it. I'd barely got comfy in my luxury lounger when I noticed that my son and his girlfriend were shining the light on their phone underneath their seat.

    He had dropped his phone under the chair and was having a hard time reaching it. Undaunted, I stuck my hand under the chair and patted around the dark, sticky floor, touching pieces of popcorn, straw wrappers and lost Mike and Ikes. I finally grabbed the sucker and waved it victoriously in the air at Hayden who'd gone to the row behind to try and reach it from a different angle.

    It was when I sat back down in my lounger that I realized my neck hadn't liked the way I'd contorted it to get to the phone. As the previews started, I was in pain. I grabbed the side of my head and pulled gently to the side; a stretch I'd learned in physical therapy years before. Those neck stretches saved me.

    I wondered if I should have stepped in to get the phone. I'm pretty sure at some point they would have figured out how to reach it themselves. Maybe my getting the phone was just the right thing for me because this morning it's serving as a reminder of what we have to do sometimes in a sticky situation.

    Have you read the news lately? Watched it? If you have you'll know that the world is in a number of fighting matches regarding "toxic masculinity" and racism (to mention a few things.) I've come to a point where I don't expect most media outlets to be honest. Some have become the guy at a fighting match who offers a fold up chair to the fighters in the ring so that they can smash it over their opponent's head. It disgusts me, but it doesn't surprise me anymore.

    What does surprise me are the responses I hear from believers (both people who mention their identity in Christ, and those who I know are Christ followers.) In the past few days I've heard people who I love boldly claim that someone who supports Trump can't be a Christian. I've read comments that, maybe unintentionally, lump all men together as being sex-crazed cavemen. Likewise, I've heard sad comments from conservative mouths that seem to put all immigrants into a group that more resembles wild animals than people searching for a better life. We can argue for them pursuing citizenship legally and still acknowledge their dignity.

    As ridiculous as I am, I got on Facebook again this morning and listened to an interview with four boys from Covington Catholic High (I hope that any of you who are aware of the incident at the Lincoln Memorial this past weekend have watched the full video. I know we still might come to different opinions.

    Regarding the Covington boys, there are people that are wishing that these boys would be raped by their priests, placed in a wood chipper, locked inside their school and burned, amongst other disgusting things. Hopefully there's not a single believer who would wish them (or the other parties involved) harm. The world needs more people who can be passionate without aggression or violence.

    I believe we can disagree on whether not these boys' behavior (to whom these comments were made online) was inappropriate. I would hope a place that all believers could come to an agreement is that threats are wrong, as is commenting that people who don't act as we think they should aren't Christian.

    If we think there won't be people in heaven who've supported Trump, or for that matter, Hillary supporters, then I'm not sure we're very aware of the magnitude of our depravity or of the saving grace of Jesus. I think we'd all be surprised if we really knew how many things each of us have wrong. We all have a long way to go in terms of repentance.

    Of course these conversations aren't best held from behind screens. They're better had around a table. We aren't called to join every debate or social media war. But, sometimes a light shines on a sticky situation and we know that it's our responsibility to get involved...to stand.

    When we do , are we standing up with a closed fist or are we reaching out in humility, maybe even on our knees, in love...even when it's an uncomfortable stretch?

    We will work with each other
    we will work side by side
    And we will guard each other's dignity
    And save each other's pride -
    "By our Love"

    ...and they'll know we are Christians by our love

    By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35



    Tamales or hotdogs? I wondered to myself as I got in the car after church today. I wasn't sure if I had enough hotdogs to feed everybody who would be at our house so I called our middle kid, Hallie, who'd already had time to get home with our thirteen year old, Rylie.

    I asked,

    Would you look and see how many hotdogs are in the package in the fridge?

    I can't, she explained. We're at a raid.

    I smiled and told her to carry on and text me when she got home.

    Had you told me before this year that my kids would be out loitering, admittedly at a raid, I'd likely be upset, or at least confused. These days when they're running the streets together I know they're playing Pokémon Go, and I'm perfectly happy with it.

    In case you're not hip to Pokémon Go, here's how lifehacker.com describes it.

    In Pokémon, monsters roam the lands, and your job is to find, capture, and train them. Then you put them in battle against other players...The game works by using your phone’s GPS for your real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen, overlaid on top of what you see in front of you.

    ...me, that time I caught a bulbasaur...

    I haven't always been grateful for Pokémon. Thirteen years ago our oldest, Hayden found a Pokémon trading card (the original card game that started the Pokémon craze) at my grandmas house. There were several cards lying on the ground where an older cousin had left them. An older teenager, this cousin was moving on to bigger and better things and told Hayden to take those cards (and several others he had tucked away somewhere.)

    It's more than a decade later. Pokémon has made the move with us to three different houses. It's provided all three kids with hours of entertainment and plenty of questions to bug me with. Mama, who do you think is more powerful, a charmander or eevee?

    I still have no idea how to play, but I'll throw some terms to show you, and my kids, that I'm at least superficially aware of what they've been playing: •trainer •points •trade •water/fire/plant •energy •attacks •Pikachu, Jigglypuff (Jigglypuff just so happened to be a Pokémon name I heard no less than a thousand times on a worn out Pokémon episode.)

    There were cartoons, stuffed animals and DS games and an entire aisle in Target where you could buy trading cards in a foil pack or in bulk with a specially priced anniversary tin. I was glad when Hayden and Hallie were both in the phase at the same time and could occupy each other. The downside would be that upon graduating from the Pokémon obsession, he'd passed the love for all things Pokémon on to Hallie.

    Rather than delighting in unicorns or barbies, birthday requests during those preteen years included the Pokémon Ruby version for her Nintendo DS.

    Now we have Pokémon Go. And my girls go on raids where they temporarily ditch life's worries and demands, and in childlike innocence escape to a world where life plays by simple rules.

    They cruise to fast food parking lots and the Masonic Lodge. They go to the park and take walks while on the lookout for monsters they can battle...together.

    I don't know how much longer this phase will last. I don't know if I'll ever understand Pokémon and it's rules of training, and playing and winning. They don't choose to include me in it anymore. I'm just glad that it's been a part of my children's growing (most importantly alongside one another). It's a game that exceeds my understanding, but has earned my delight.