Monthly Archives: January 2013

This Morning I Was Woken . . .

This morning I was woken by alarm clock at 6:30. On Thursday mornings Jonathan attends a men’s bible study at church and then goes directly to class, so I load all of the children into the van for the round trip mackerdoodle drop off. It means Jonathan isn’t home to push my lazy bones out of bed, so I set my alarm; however most mornings someone hears Jonathan when he showers at 5:30 and by the time he’s heading out the door 6, the children are awake and asking for breakfast.

But this morning I was woken by my alarm.

None of my kids have been great sleepers. The mackerdoodle didn’t sleep through the night until after the cheesedoodle was born, and I was well into uncomfortable pregnancy with the snicker doodle by the time the cheesedoodle was sleeping through. The snicker doodle has followed in the family traditions, plus, with three kids, someone has a cold, or the flu, or falls out of bed or something at least twice a week. I feel like I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since sometime in early 2007.

But this morning I fell asleep at 10:30 and was woken by my alarm.

It is a reminder that this stage of small children is such a short one. When I choose to say “no” to a really great opportunity, or when I can’t jump in and volunteer as much as I used to, or when I can’t have a complete conversation without having to referee some sort of dispute, I will remember that this morning I was woken by my alarm.

The season is so short. It’s definitely worth the sleeplessness and the intense investment.

Of course that’s easy for me to say this morning, because this morning I was woken by my alarm.


It Too Hard

This week my son buried his face in his hands and said, “no. It too hard,” twice. Once was about some of the speech development exercises we’ve been working on, and once was about the potty. I’ve blogged in the past about my personal lifelong aversion to “too hard.” Far too often in my life I have said, “it’s too hard” as a justification to not do something. Violin lessons, any sport you could mention, math, have all fallen to the god of ease. I would have never been a star athlete, no matter the work invested, but I suspect that with some discipline I could have performed far better in math throughout my school years.

The part of me that hates that part of me wants to try to force that sort of self-discipline on my three and a half year old son right now. I want to tell him that hard means try more. I do tell him that hard means worth working at. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that these things are far harder for him than they are for other children his age. Most children literally absorb language from their surroundings subconsciously, they don’t have to spend hours each week teaching their mouth the difference between a “d” sound and a “w” sound. The Lord, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make my son’s first few years abnormally difficult, possibly to teach him the self-discipline I am too impatient (oh the irony!) to let him learn.

I am having to come face to face with the fact that my frustration when he says, “It too hard!”, my begging God just to give the boy words and and teach him to potty already, is really me throwing up my hands and saying, “no! It too hard. Stop the process of teaching him, already, because parenting him through this is just too hard!”

I suspect I’ve got as much to learn in all of this as my cheesedoodle does. Maybe more.

Book Review: Puritan Portraits by J. I. Packer

Twenty years ago, or more, J. I. Packer referred to modern western Christianity as “a mile wide and an inch deep.” It is as true today as it was then, and his solution today is the same as his solution then; Packer calls us once again to study the Puritans. Then it was Among God’s Giants, today it is Puritan Portraits.

The Puritans are a misunderstood and often completely vilified group of men, so it takes someone like Packer, with both skill and grace, to write a book about them that manages to set the record straight, without feeling defensive or apologetic. As we have come to expect from him, Packer manages to do so much more here than just set the record straight. In the first section of the book he describes, in general terms with specific examples, the role of a Puritan pastor. It is an excellent essay in itself, pointing out that much of what we consider essential to Protestant ministry was brought to us from Puritan influence. I would recommend any man preparing for a vocation in ministry read at least the first section of this book.

The real strength of the work, however, lies in the remaining pages. Packer introduces us not just to a group of men, but to a specific publication of each one. Thorough biographies exist of each of these men, and this book does not try to duplicate that work. Instead it is a series of introductory essays written to whet a modern appetite for some of the literary and devotional gems produced by Puritan pastors. this is not a publication that can be read alone. Instead, at the end of each chapter, you will want to read the book or pamphlet or sermon Packer introduces. Fortunately for me, the Puritans lived a long time ago, and their work is available in the public domain, because my reading list just got a lot longer.

If you’re tired of living in a Christianity that is only an inch thick, J. I. Packer’s admonition is for you. Read the Puritans, and if you don’t know where to start, start here, with Puritan Portraits. It is deep, not in the sort of depth that drowns, but in the beauty of the depths that makes you want to dive in and swim deeper and deeper, because it is the depths of the Gospel.

Book Review: Loving the Church by John Crotts

There was a time in my life that I was frequently heard to say something like, “I love Jesus. It’s the church I can’t stand.” After my husband finally rebuked me for the sentiment, The Lord took me and Jonathan through an intense period of studying what the Church is and what a church should look like. He used it to radically change my view of the Church from one of barely disguised contempt, to a deep love and appreciation for the beauty of the Bride of Christ.

Because of that, I was excited at the opportunity to review Loving the Church by John Crotts. The doctrine of the church has been the subject of a great deal of works through Church history, but has fallen out of favor lately in our individualistic western Christendom. I was encouraged to see a contemporary book calling the people of God to love the very thing for which Christ gave His life. I eagerly “opened” the digital document and dived into the pages to see what John Crotts could say to a contemporary audience to encourage us in loving the Church.

Written in a hybrid of fiction and exposition, Crotts attempts to personify the many views of church through fictional characters meeting together in a coffee shop. The characters express their views and ask some questions in a conversational manner, and the balance of the chapter discussion is a study answering the questions raised by these “everychristians.” It is not a new approach to this sort of study, and while it is not my favorite style, I understood why Crotts may have chosen to employ a more personalized flavor to the subject. After chapter three, the coffee shop discussions faded into the background for me, and I scanned them before reading the “real chapter” in depth.

Crotts covers his subject in 12 chapters broken down into two sections: what is God’s family, and how you fit into God’s family. His intention, according to the acknowledgements, is to offer a sort of survey of the key ideas, encouraging folks to explore further on their own. It is certainly a very broad strokes study, broader in some areas than in others, of a complex and detailed subject.

While titled, “Loving the Church,” I really think “Some Thoughts on the Church” may have been a better title. After reading this, someone wanting to withdraw entirely from the church may be willing to re consider their stance; but there is little in the book itself to draw someone to a deep and abiding love of the church. The content of the book was devoted far more to the expressions of the visible church than to the mysteries of the invisible one. In a study of the Church, there are two lenses through which we can truly perceive her wonder and beauty. The first is the doctrine of our union with Christ, and the second is the expression of that throughout history. This book alluded to the first very casually in a few sentences and ignored the second all together.

I was disappointed in “Loving the Church.” I felt that the subject matter, as deep and rich as it is, and as truly integral to our Christian life, deserved more.

Regular Living

Popular consensus in seminary circles is that the four year track contains only one year of “regular life.” Year one is the “what have we done?” year. Year two is the “what are we doing?” year. Year three should be a year of regular life, followed by year four: “what will we be doing?” Right now I’m feeling like I only got one semester of the regular life, and we’re already full on into the “what will we be doing?”

Jonathan has a resume put together, has his ministry data form well under way, and is working feverishly on his ordination internship requirements. Oh, and he’s also taking classes, only now, when he plans his classes, he can’t plan to take what’s convenient for my work and the mackerdoodle’s school schedule, and just general life. Now he’s taking classes based on necessity and what will be offered within the three semesters he has left.

We’re also not that far from beginning our series of “last things,” and last things lead us, inevitably, into the question,”what’s next?” As I look ahead to the last summer in seminary, it makes my mind jump into the inevitable first summer not in seminary. What will that look like, what will it mean, “what will we be doing?”

If you pray for our seminary journey, please also begin praying for the local church to which Jonathan will be called to serve. Please pray that The Lord will begin preparing our hearts and their hearts for this next step. But also, please pray that in the midst of this, we will continue to live our regular life, and glorify The Lord in the now, instead of losing ourselves in the questions of the future.

“Comprehensive Chaos”

Please do not skip this post because I am going to write about a book! The only disappointment I have in my blog is that my book review posts are some of the least read posts. Please read this one!

Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert begins with the sentence “when I was 28 years old, I boldly declared myself a lesbian,” and does not let go of your brain for the rest of the 148 pages. A startling story, told in a compelling way, it would be a temptation to tell you to read this book because you will enjoy it, but my hope is far from that. I hope that everyone who purchases and reads this book will be made uncomfortable. No matter your approach to Christianity, Rosaria Butterfield will lovingly assault it in some way. Every Christian of every stripe will find themselves challenged in a God honoring way from the pages of this thin volume.

Rosaria’s story is unlike everything you have ever read, and for me to attempt to re-tell it would be a disservice both to you and to her. She describes her conversion experience as a comprehensive chaos, and says this in the opening paragraphs, “I come to the limits of language when I try to describe my life in Jesus Christ.” I have to say, I find the same challenge in trying to describe Rosaria’s book. No matter what portion of the book I may choose to quote, someone will pigeon hole the entire work, and they would be entirely wrong.

In the end, this story is powerful because it is rooted not in our pet theories or cultural soap boxes, but is, instead, one woman’s story of the power of God to save whom He will save.

Please read this book if you claim Christ. We should all have a little more gospel centered messiness in our lives.

A Bat, a Car and a Lesson in Godly Humility

Back in 2009 when we were waiting to come to seminary and Saint Louis was this big fuzzy “unknown” in our future, I had a bat in my house. My Georgia pastor, Mitch, came over and with the help of two more friends from our church, managed to completely “de-batify” my home. As he was in the process of doing so, he quipped, “I bet your mega-church pastor in Saint Louis won’t come to your house to save you from a bat.”

He was technically correct, although having never had another close encounter of a bat kind, I haven’t really had the opportunity to give anyone a chance. I can tell you, however, that my car isn’t starting and right now my daughter is coloring and I’m blogging while my big church Saint Louis pastor is driving to his home, in the rain, to get jumper cables to help me start my car.

One of these men preaches to tens of people every Sunday, and one preaches to hundreds, but they are both faithful servants of God.

So, Mitch, and Mark, thank you. Thank you for serving faithfully from the pulpit, rightly dividing the word of truth, and thank you for serving faithfully in the nitty gritty of my life. I am proud to be able to embarrass you both in this way.