Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." 
Ephesians 5:6-14
     The contrast between light and dark is an interesting thing. I am fascinated by the way light shows the true colors of everything it falls upon. I was thinking of this as we were driving just the other night. I was exhausted, in the middle of a partially-managed migraine, and feeling a distinct and familiar blackness plucking at my heart and seeping around the edges of my mind. There were many things to add to my list of unpleasantness: missing my extended family, children becoming young adults all too quickly, friends moving away, difficult decisions to make... the particulars do not matter, really. The fact is that a very dark mood was groping for a hold on my heart. We were driving around dusk,and  my husband commented on the unique quality of the light at that time of day. It was the time of day when the sun was waning, having already painted the sky in resplendence and bathed the earth in a radiant, golden-pinkish hue. This was the dimming hour, the fading time when all colors are blurring and fading into shades of gray, dwindling to blackness.
     As I wrestled with the darkness within and observed the encroaching darkness without, I could not help but think of John's words, ". . .  God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5b). I thought of how the light makes all things visible. I see shades of green, a splendid riot of color, contrast and color and charm. None of that exists in the dark. Instead, muted by the absence of light, even what is hideous and horrible can be mistaken for loveliness... and much that is lovely could be misrepresented or overlooked entirely. The light reveals both beauty and decay; it both exposes and reveals. Without the light, I would be stumbling blind, hoping to find my way through the landscape of life that seems now serene, now menacing, but never known.
     With great chagrin, I have to admit that, despite these ruminations the darkness--my nemesis since my youth--won out for a time. I was crippled and I did stagger about filled with sorrow, doubt, and a general instability of my own self-image. Rather than taking every thought captive to obey Christ, for a time every thought seemed captive to myself, crying out in the murk of an inner twilight. I was caught up in despair, feeling foolish and insecure. To make matters worse, this very element of despair became a tool with which I would proclaim, "See how ridiculous I am, how utterly incapable of even the simplest act of obedience?" and in the dark, my failure seemed about to consume me.
     Fortunately for me, God has given me a "lamp for my feet and a light to my path," and when the darkness became thickly smothering and oppressive, I opened that Book and reminded myself what was important. Not me--neither triumphs nor failures nor any other thing I do is too colossal for God. I may make a fool of myself from time to time, but He is greater than the greatest of my folly, and He has promised that He will always be there for me. Even in the valley of deep darkness, He is there though I may have allowed the darkness to obscure my vision for a time. He walks with me even there, ready to shine His light on my path if only I will ask for it.
     He illuminates more than my path. His light shines into my self-absorption and exposes it for what it is: sin, pure and simple. It is nothing more than pride gone awry, for self-loathing is self-focus as much as self-exaltation ever was. Once His light showed the true colors inside, I had the choice before me that we all make whenever we stumble: Repent and turn back to Him or plug my ears and blind my eyes willfully and run headlong into the darkness. I very intentionally chose repentance, for there is nothing but misery and horror in that darkness without Christ. I walked there many days of my youth, and even when it creeps in and tries to overtake me, I will never be a slave to that furtive and cowardly thief of joy again. My joy is in the Lord, and when the darkness looms, I will always ask, as David once did, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in despair within me? Hope in God, for I will again praise Him!"
     For you see, though darkness may come to call as my enemy of old, that liar called Depression, it cannot lay a firm hold on me. I belong to the Light, and when those frigid fingers begin to worm around my heart, I am reminded to cry out to Him for help and to praise Him for the redemption He has already effected. I am no longer in darkness. I am a child of the Light!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.   John 1:5

 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. 
Psalms 63:1-9

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Contemplation of Beauty

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus
Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. 
Titus 2:11-15

     Yesterday was one of those days. I do not mean this in a negative way, but rather it was one of those days where the absolute immensity of what Jesus has done for me filled me with a joy that had me feeling as if I must burst. At the same moment, I was also full of a great grief, vast and inconsolable, at the many souls who do not know this comfort. So many who are not "waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior." It was a feeling that made me want to dance and to weep even while whirling like a little girl with a swirly dress. I cannot describe it better. It was awe, pain, savage joy, and a keen humbling all rolled up and jumbled together with other, less describable emotions and sensations. It was beautiful. It was terrible.
     It all started with thoughts from my earlier post; with the rather staggering and yet exciting thoughts of being a portion of the pillar and buttress of the Truth. It was mingled, of course, with the knowledge that many who know about the truth--that is to say, who know about the Lord--do not know Him, just as I may know about you, my readers. I know you exist, I have an idea that you read my ramblings, and yet I do not know your favorite color, your height or build, what you do for a buck, nor even your gender. I know about you, but I do not know you. I struggle here with both sorrow and frustration. Sorrow that these are missing the incredible beauty of communing with the Almighty; frustration that any could read the facts of Christ's amazing sacrifice and not be simply overwhelmed by gratitude and love in such a way that their lives become radically different than they were before.
     These thoughts stuck with me through my day as I participated in a free car wash that my church provides  as a service to our community many weeks through the summer. Free meaning no donations accepted, not ever in the past, not now, nor in the future. Car wash meaning a thorough scrubdown of the outside of the vehicle with care taken not to mix cloths used on tires with cloths used on paint and complete with squeegeed windows. I love these events and despite the fact that standing in the heat usually triggers a migraine, I choose to attend as many as I can. I love to talk to the people, to answer the question, "Why is it free?" I love to watch the reactions when I describe that God's grace is a gift that we cannot earn, that Christ died on the cross and we can never repay that debt. It is freely given. This is only a small picture of that gift. It is a privilege to share those words when I am able. Some do not care to hear, but so many have their curiosity piqued, particularly when they say something like, "But if I were to hand you some cash, you would take it, right?" and I say with a smile, "No, I wouldn't," often following with an anecdote of past donation attempts.
     Those conversations in the sun turned my thoughts again to what an incredible privilege it is to know God, to know this Truth that sets me free. It urged me to pray more urgently for those who do not know Him. It also made me crazy-dizzy with wonder that the ancient and marvelous Creator, this intelligence so vast and pure and perfect, would deign to even acknowledge a speck like me. I had one of those moments of fresh amazement that He not only acknowledges me, He actually sent His Son to rescue me from imprisonment to sin. He opened my eyes to the truth, and I am forever changed.
     Another moment and I was saddened by the wandering of my foolish heart, the fact that I, knowing this and experiencing this, would ever experience a moment of doubt or allow my thoughts to be captive to anything less that the glorious captivity to Christ! Here I am, offered completely free and unlimited access to the very throne of grace, and I do not spend my every waking moment there, at His feet. What a splendid fool I can be! There is no need to simply sit there, either, for He has sent His Spirit to dwell within me, to guide and comfort me. Why I listen to any other voice is quite beyond me, but I do.
     The day wore on, the migraine came, my Community Group met at my home, and all my previous thoughts were thrust into sharp focus yet again. The evening found me on the couch hoping my second line of migraine rescue meds would work and yet filled with a strange and uncontrolled joy. I serve a good God. Even in pain, I know He is good and He will never leave me though I sometimes ignore Him. He is utterly faithful in a way I could only ever long to be. I was full of gratitude for my three children, seated around me and praying, the youngest of which had gone to get me an ice pack from the freezer--a trick I had never tried for sheer inability to think or move at that stage of migraine but found extremely soothing. My middle daughter wept for the though of her friend who had lost her father to cancer, though we know he is not truly lost but has merely gone on home before her. My son was wiped out from trying to tough out a headache and exhaustion of his own earlier in the day because he simply did not want to sit down and quit during the car wash. My husband was taking care of things I could not handle at the moment. It was a glorious pain, and I was again overcome.
     I am still amazed at the fact that the great God calls me child. I do long for the day that I slough off this sinful husk and dwell with Him in bliss eternal, yet I am honored beyond belief that He would give me this relationship with Himself here and now, that He would entrust even the tiniest portion of the job of proclaiming His truth, reality, and glory to even a single other soul. I deeply desire to be like my Father, more than ever I wanted to be like my human parents, and I am astonished each day that He would continue to teach me when I prove so obstinate and inept a student. I wish I could make the world see what I began to see when first I sought His face. I wish I could transfer the passion, gratitude, wonder, and awe that I feel directly into their hearts and minds. I wish that I was as faithful to Him as He is to me, as patient to others as He is with me, as firm and as loving a parent as He.
     There is so much I wish! If I could start by triggering the desire of one single person to seek Him relentlessly... Oh, what a joy that would be! How can I even put into words what I feel? I hope and pray that you, whoever you are, can see what I mean. I hope that you love Him already as much or more than I, but if you do not, I pray with all my might that you will desire it. For if you desire more of Him, it is a stone-cold guarantee that He will give you more of Himself than you can ever imagine. The truth be told, He already has! Now it remains for us to submit to our training, to renounce worldly passions, and to experience something far greater than we could even find words to ask for or imagine. It remains for us to be shaken out of our reverie, to plumb the depths of His word and revel in the privilege of His presence, and for love of His holy name to reject what He rejects and adore what He adores. As the adage says, "There is no time like the present." May we become entirely preoccupied with the things of God in all areas of our lives from this moment forward. May we be so loud in our praise and so zealous in our pursuit of living self-controlled, upright, and Godly lives that no one indeed can disregard us. Come, let us magnify the Lord together!

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.   Psalms 16:1-11

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.      1 Timothy 3:14-15
     This passage seemed almost to leap off the page during my reading this morning. Not so much the part about Paul hoping to come soon... I included that for a bit of context, for Paul is writing to a young minister by the name of Timothy in this epistle. No, the bit that jumped out at me was what the church is supposed to be: a pillar and buttress of the truth. Not a fun place to be, nor a social club, nor even a Sunday morning feel-good gathering. We, the collective church of the living God, are to be a pillar and a buttress of the truth. That means that we are literally to be firm supports and stabilizing structures to uphold the truth. What is the truth? Well, it is laid out from page to page in the Word of God, all pointing to the fallibility of man and the fact that the intentions of mankind's' hearts are "only evil all the time," and pointing ultimately to the desperate state of man in need of saving. The epitome of truth, the Savior and the One who answers the question of , "How will man, already dead in his sin, be saved to life?" is Jesus Christ--the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 
     I was humbled by the enormity of the task of being a pillar and buttress of the truth, or even being a part of it. This is no small job any structure, for without support and stability, no structure can stand. This structure--the Church--is build on the most solid foundation imaginable--Jesus Christ; on the Truth. With that in mind, the Church as an entity is built to provide support and stability for that Truth, making the whole structure stand firm when blasted by the attacks of the enemy. For make no mistake, Christian--we are always at war! There is nothing funny about it, really, though it has been our recent habit to make light of our sins or to be "real" to the point of belaboring our sins rather than exalting our Savior.
     Just as we would not build our houses with weak or shoddy and termite-ridden supports, we must not build our church with them. If we are trying to wiggle around the uncomfortable parts of the truth, the reality is we are wiggling ourselves right out of being what we are called to be. We are not supporting the structure--we are moving out from it entirely.
    All these thoughts have been mingled lately with the awareness of the enemy who sows weeds in with the wheat and of Paul's many exhortations in his epistles not to compromise the Word or to be enticed away from sound doctrine by any smoothly-taught words or trends. It brings to mind young David, who fought Goliath... and why? Not because he was so very patriotic, but because he simply could not stand to hear someone hurl insults and blasphemy at his God! It was for his passion for the good name of the Lord that David faced down something larger and more powerful than himself, and it is for that same passion that we, as the church, MUST face down anything that stands in the way of the truth! It is not our job to win battles, it is merely our job to stand firm, to engage the enemy, and to trust that God will bring victory no matter how heavily stacked the odds are against us. After all, we are His church--why would He not show up to save us if only we are willing to take those steps of obedience in faith?
     Finally, I am compelled to remember who it is that we are called to serve. Today's church is caught up so much in being relevant and making folks happy that we seem to have quite forgotten that it is ultimately God we need to be worried about pleasing. Jesus Himself reminded His disciples not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear the One who has the power to destroy both body and soul. He is not saying here, "Tremble in uncontrollable terror," but rather recognize that the disapproval of other men is a mere nothing when faced by the vast and unknowable power of the Creator God. We do not dare to earn His condemnation, for under it, who can stand?
      We, as a church, should not be catering to men, but to God. We should be upholding His truth as He has given it to us in His word. We are not commanded to like it, nor even to enjoy it when it conflicts with our culture, but to uphold it, firmly and without wavering even in the face of adversity. That is why so many times in the New Testament we are called upon to persevere, because it is not without difficulty that we will manage to remain on the narrow road.
     Paul even writes to Timothy, "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." He follows that with an exhortation to continue in what he has learned. It is why Paul reminds the church at Ephesus to put on the full armor of God... and after they have done everything, to stand firm.
     It is also why the Corinthian church is called upon to "purge the evil person from among you."  There is a lot that can be overlooked in love, for love covers a multitude of sins. This, however, refers to personal insults or slights, I imagine especially since our self-absorbed human nature tends to read a slight out of a simple, misunderstood phrase. Love does not cover blatant disregard for disobedience to the commands of the Lord within the church. Everyone makes mistakes, and grace can be given in these cases. But there are mistakes and then there are small acts of defiance that seem minor to us, especially if we look at them through the lens of our culture. Any act of defiance, however small, is not acceptable when viewed through the lens of what Christ sacrificed. His sacrifice was too great to take lightly anything that does not produce a genuinely recalcitrant and humble heart, too heart-rendingly magnificent to inspire anything but heartfelt gratitude and an eager desire to please and honor Him. Anything less, I fear, is not truly faith at all but mere lip service, chaff that will be burned up by the fires to come.
     And so, Church, what must we do? We cannot continue to sit on our laurels, content in our comforts and pleasures and simply let the Church crumble from worm-eaten pillars. I admit, I would like to enjoy comfort and pleasure as much as the next guy. But it is not my job, and frankly a soldier does not get to choose a cushy spot on the front lines of a battle. We are on the front lines. In the days to come, it will only become more and more apparent. It is vital that we look to the Source of truth, the Fountain of Living Water. It is critical that we cultivate a love and desire for Him and for His glory. And it is urgent that we remember that James, half-brother to our Lord, encourages us to keep ourselves unstained by the world. We absolutely must remember his further admonition:
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.   James 4:4-8
Father God, we are Your children, Your church, and Your body. We admit we have grown fat and lazy, complacent in our comforts and allowed false doctrines to creep in here and there. We have been so long sheltered and so richly blessed materially that we have forgotten what it is we are fighting for, or even that we are fighting at all. Our love for You has grown cold, and for that we are truly sorry. We repent, Father, and we ask that You will purify Your church. Teach us to obey, teach us to love You, teach us to really believe. Guide us in navigating the rough passage ahead, for in the increasing darkness of the world, our need for Your light is greater and greater. Awaken a passion for Your Word within our hearts and light a fire within us that cannot be quenched by any darkness. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit and build your Church again as a pillar and buttress for Your eternal Truth. This we ask in Jesus' name and for His sake, amen.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17
     During this season of my life, I find time to be a commodity that is in incredibly short supply. As a homeschool mom, there is nearly constant temptation to get caught up in the whirlwind of homeschooling possibilities, to worry overmuch about the "socialization" of my children and end up over-socializing, to put grades ahead of mastery, or just to rush through the school work so that the laundry can be done.  This is only one aspect of life, of course, but it does nicely illustrate the ongoing struggle to make the best use of time. I am ashamed to say that, rather than using each moment to its fullest potential, I am often trying to cram several days' worth of activity into one 24-hour span.  I have found that this is neither ideal nor particularly efficient. It leaves me feeling frazzled and frantic and usually leaves behind several half-complete tasks rather than one or two thoroughly and neatly finished projects.

     So what is the best use of my time? That is the question I need to ask as I look over schedules, plan lessons, and so on. There are many good opportunities out there, both for me and for my children. Many of them are even great, and a great number are even occasions to serve the Lord--or to serve someone in His name. With so many needs to be met and such an abundance of rich social and educational prospects, it is vital that I pay attention to the key word in this passage: I should be making the best use of the time allotted to me. The very best thing I can pass on to my children is a spiritual heritage from the Lord, a faith and trust in Jesus that goes beyond words, an unquenchable thirst for the Living Water Himself. As a wife and mother, raising Godly offspring is the most important task I can do, bar none.

     This includes telling others about Jesus, naturally. There is room in the best use of time for service, too--lots of it. However, in the midst of it all--the myriad things to do, the innumerable needs that need to be met--the best use of the time is not that which distracts me from the purpose of training my children in the way they should go nor any other act of obedience to God's specific calling on my life. Naturally, I will endeavor to obey His general calling--that I love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul and mind, love my neighbor as myself, and that I we "go and make disciples of all nations."  That is what He wants all of us to do, and so that goes without saying.

     However, that is the beginning of the narrow path. As I follow Jesus down it, I find that there are specific tasks He has appointed just for me. As Paul, the Jewish teacher of the Law, was sent (rather unexpectedly considering his credentials, I may add) to the Gentiles, Peter was crucified, and John was sent merely to exile, God has a more particular plan for each of us. I --or any of us--only find it out though time spent in honest, heartfelt worship of the King, getting to know Him and to recognize and respond to His voice.

    The most difficult element for me in time management is simply that I like to be liked, and I like to please people. However, as the last couple of exceedingly busy years have (finally!) taught me, all the social and educationally enriching activities are not always the best use of the time. My job is not to raise "well-rounded" children. My primary job and calling is in teaching my children of my love for my God, of His wonders and His ways, His goodness as well as His unyielding nature, to truly present my body "as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. To do my "work heartily as to the Lord and not to men." The very best use of time is for me to do precisely what the Lord directs me to do. All the rest--even if it is ministry related-- is fluff and shadows, insubstantial.

      In the end, it is not what I want to do or what pleases other people that will matter. It will be what I have done out of pure excess of love for my Savior in obedience to His calling and in gratitude for His mercy. Of late, He has been speaking to me about my busy-ness, showing me that it is not the best use of the time. He reminds me that my life is a mere vapor, and if I waste it pursing my own hobbies or pleasing myself, or even if I waste it serving Him in one way while ignoring what He is telling me to do, then I have wasted it entirely. The vapor is gone, leaving nothing behind but an empty void that was once filled with activity. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, "As if you could kill time without injuring Eternity!" Indeed.

     I must learn to slow down and listen. I must learn to diligently seek the truth in the Word of God, taking the time to drink deep until the Fountain of Living Water bubbles up irrepressibly. I must rest in Him when I am tired, seek Him when I am confused, trust Him when the way seems dark and let His word be a lamp to my feet. There is truly no better use of time.

     Oh, I will be tempted, I am sure, to look at what others are doing for Him and feel that my calling is small and even silly. I have done it already, just minutes ago as I perused a list of folks going on a mission trip that I am not going on. Many of the folks I would love to spend time with and others I would love to get to know better. However, when I asked the Lord, He had a different, plainer-seeming task for me to do. I was tempted to think, "But look what they are doing! And what a time they will have to bond together! Is that not what you want for me, Lord?"

     His answer? It was very similar to the one He gave Peter: "What is it to you what they do? Make the best use of My time: You follow Me!" 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 
Ephesians 1:3-6
     Adoption has been on my mind of late. It is not surprising since I recently house-sat along with my teenage nieces and my nephew while my sister and brother-in-law were in Ethiopia finalizing their adoption. Last Friday, I met my new nephew, a shy 7-year-old who knows only a few words of English. It is a very exciting time for us all.

     The week before we met him, most of us were dreaming of this boy and his integration in the family. Some dreams were telling and provoke prayer, like the one I had weeks ago of him being terrified. Others are just silly and reflect our excitement, like one a niece had where he showed up speaking fluent English. Whatever the dreams, one thing is certain: This young man will be welcomed into this home and into this family with great joy. He will be loved. He will no longer be an orphan and an outcast. He will belong.

     It is no small thing to belong, to become a part of a family. I am sure that is why Paul mentions it multiple times as a picture of the Gentiles being brought in to the family of God. When we are in Christ, we are more than just forgiven. We are adopted, no longer spiritual orphans and outcasts but now members of the household of God. We are sons and daughters; His children whom He treasures. We are no longer alone in this world and without hope. We now have a Father, a Brother, a Guide.

     Adoption, however, also has its adjustments. My nephew has a bright smile, but he was at times reserved and a little awkward. I saw it most when the rest of us were talking and he just sat there, not knowing what we were saying and clearly a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. He does not know these people who now call him "son" and  "nephew." He does not even know the words they say. He certainly does not know what will be expected of him in this new arrangement nor if he will be left behind once again. He has a whole culture and language to learn. He is home, but it may take some time before he feels at home.

      Adoption into the family of God takes adjustment, too. I know that when I began my walk with Christ, I was not really sure what I should look like or how I should act. I knew that I wanted to be with Him, knew that I loved Him, but I was awkward, unsure of my role, insecure. I was ignorant, too, of His will and it took some time for Him to teach me how to behave as His child. He is teaching me still.
     My experience with meeting my nephew, though needfully brief, has given me much food for thought.  When it became obvious that he was growing more uncomfortable and uncertain, his brother invited him outside where they all began to kick around a soccer ball. Play, it seems, is the universal language of children and in this realm, he could communicate. He laughed, he visibly relaxed, and I can hope he caught a glimmer of the fact that he is actually accepted, that he belongs. It has reminded me of the tremendous amount I have learned since my initial acceptance into the family of God. I do not look like I did back then when there was much that I did not yet know.Watching M___ play with his new siblings and my own kiddos reminded me of the importance of welcoming new brothers and sisters in Christ just where they are.

     Often, I think, we expect new Christians to simply switch gears suddenly and walk and talk exactly like us--often without a thought as to whether or not our own walk is worth emulation. Most of them, however, have not yet learned what is expected of them from their Father. Many need to learn a whole new language and culture. I am not speaking of "churchese" here, nor of our American churchy culture, but the language of love that is the heart of God and how He speaks to His children; the culture of genuine humility, repentance, and forgiveness that is critical to the dying to oneself that every Christian is called to. It takes some time before the wall of pride is penetrated and true humility shines through. Forgiveness is learned by learning more of what God in Christ has already forgiven us. Love is learned by being loved, by the overflow of Christ's love in us that cannot stay contained but bursts forth and spills out on all.

     Watching my kids, nieces, and nephews play reminded me that the most important thing I can do for a new believer is to love them. Difficult conversations may be necessary at times, just as I am sure that disciplinary actions will have to be taken with M___. After all, love does not mean ignoring sin or wrong action, but rather correcting it appropriately. But overall, the greatest thing I can extend to a new believer is welcome, reaching out in love and finding some way to connect with them, to show them that they are accepted. I can reach past any and all cultural boundaries that may exist and embrace them as a brother or sister, a new addition to the family of God. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22