See You Soon, Kara

I wish I could say that Kara and I were the closest and best of bosom friends. In truth, we had a brief friendship – but any acquaintance with Kara felt close, intimate, genuine, and real. I am so thankful for the months God placed her in my life, and every memory I have of Kara is beautiful, joyful, sweet. I’d love to share a handful.

One of the earliest impressions I had of Kara is also one of my favorite memories of her. It was long before her cancer diagnosis, only days – maybe weeks at most – after we initially met. We often sat near the Tippets in church, and this particular Sunday my husband and I sat right behind Kara and her son. During the Lord’s Supper, her son looked up at her and whispered a question – he asked her what was happening, why we were eating a small piece of bread and taking a sip of wine. Kara didn’t shush him. She didn’t say, “I’ll tell you after the service.” She didn’t even take him by the hand and lead him out into the hall where they could “talk freely.” Instead, she wrapped her arm around her son, leaned in, and whispered into his ear. I sat there holding my little piece of bread and my little cup of wine as I listened to her whisper the gospel to her son right then and there, tell of her confidence in the grace of God through Jesus, explain that we were taking this meal to participate in the covenant made in his blood and that by doing this we proclaimed Jesus’ death until his return. That moment had an enormous impact on me – I saw the deep and confident hope in the Savior she loved meet the profound and enormous love she had for her own son in that moment. I long to be that kind of a parent to my own daughter.

Several months later, the west side of Colorado Springs trembled as the Waldo Canyon Fire spilled over the hills and destroyed homes. Many of us found ourselves displaced and traumatized by what looked like an apocalypse scene out of a doomsday movie. After the fire abated and our neighborhoods opened back up, Kara opened up her home to a few of us west side women as a safe place to “debrief” what we had been through. In a home they had barely moved into – where they had not even yet had the chance to hang pictures on the wall – she provided a meal and encouragement, love and comfort. We joyfully watched her kids play as we reminded each other of the goodness and faithfulness of God even in the storm.

Only a few months after Kara’s diagnosis, God called my family to move out of state, and our friendship muted in the way relationships do over long distances. However, we had a wonderful opportunity a few months ago to drive back down to Colorado to go to a wedding. Kara was there with her bright blond hair, big sparkling eyes, and beautiful smile. She held our 7-month-old daughter on her lap through much of the wedding, cuddling her and tenderly loving on her. At the reception she danced with all she had with her husband and kids. Even after all she had been though I remember thinking, “She is so incredibly alive. She is so full of joy for today.” Little did we know she only had months left. Kara will forever be a picture to me of how to live in the abundance of God’s grace for today – to embrace the beautiful, joyful, wonderful, alive, loving moments we have.

Finally, the day Kara shared with me that she had cancer, she said something I will never forget for the rest of all of eternity. It is the one memory of her that has impacted me the deepest. After explaining to us that the lump they found was malignant, with a straight face and steady voice she said, “I get to have cancer for Jesus.” Get to. Not “have to.” Not, “I’m stuck with.” Not, “Well, I guess God has called me to this so I have to do the best I can with this.” No. Even in that moment of fear and uncertainty, with the darkness of anticipation looming out in front of us, she clung to the goodness of God’s calling and his promise for her good and His glory. She was always the first to quickly admit her fear, her sadness, her questioning and even anger. But every word, every action, every day was lived to God’s glory. She did not doubt him, but thanked him – even when she couldn’t understand what he was doing or why.

It is so easy to ask God “why?” How could this possibly be good? Why would he providentially take her through such suffering, take her from her husband and beautiful kids? I don’t know all the reasons, and I definitely don’t want to diminish the awful sadness of suffering and death. But I do know this: Kara’s cancer became an incredible stage for thousands of people to see and hear and know the goodness and glory of God through the gospel of His Son. Because of Kara’s life and death, thousands upon thousands of us grew in our confidence and faith in God.

It is so easy to say, “God took her too soon,” or “her life was cut short.” But please, beloved, let’s not cheapen this. It feels to us like we lost her too early and everything in our mortality wants and craves her presence longer. But this story, the day and moment of Kara’s death, was not a surprise to God. He didn’t lose control in her life and for a moment give victory to the devil in her cancer. No. Every day of Kara’s life – including the last one – were written in God’s book before even a single one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). And we know that the death of the saints is precious in the sight of the LORD (Psalm 116:15). Don’t get me wrong. Death is not a good thing. It is a horrific effect of the fall – our rebellion against God. But through the incredible sacrifice of Jesus – when he took the wrath of God on himself and died in our place, and then rose from the dead and conquered death for us – the sting and victory of death is gone (I Corinthians 15:55).

Eternity feels so far away to us mortals. The veil between heaven and earth seems so thick and impenetrable. But, while I hope by the grace of God to still live a long life, to be here for years and years and years, I know that in the scope of eternity I can say with confidence, “Dear Kara, see you soon.”

Thought of As Foolish

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ -1 Corinthians 1:26-31, emphasis mine

Being well-read is not a godly virtue. Intellect is not a fruit of the spirit. High IQ is not a mark of sanctification.

Please don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that Christians should aim for stupidity. I am not saying we should be ignorant about the wisdom and knowledge of the world. I am not saying we should shrug our shoulders, throw up our hands, and give up on trying to make any reasonable sense. I am not saying we should forsake good education and retreat into an isolated church bubble.

I am saying that these should not be our confidence, our hope, or our boast.

I’m saying this, because I desperately need to hear it.

This conviction has bombarded me like a sledge-hammer lately, and it strikes squarely in the middle of my pride. Many who know me would describe me as an intellectual, an intelligent woman, smart. For so much of my life I placed so much confidence and security, worth and personal value in my ability to reason out an argument, find chinks in an opposing point of view, write and speak with persuasive eloquence. I collect information like some people collect postage stamps – filing it away for a time I can show it off or auction to the highest bid for praise or admiration. All through school I sat front and middle, poised to raise my hand, smugly asserting that I was in possession of the elusive and all-powerful right answer.

The thought of being perceived as foolish terrified me. I strove to make sure that the world thought me wise, and I craved acknowledgement for my intelligence.

And I have come to the realization that in matters of eternal significance it does me absolutely no good.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. -1 Corinthians 1:18-25, emphasis mine

A few years ago I had utterly stagnated in my faith. I had reached a point where I thought I just knew what I knew and that was good enough. It was time to coast on that and pursue knowing other things – anything. I had read through the Bible several times, studied on my own, taken theology courses at Bible college, and even done a little teaching and writing.

And I was dry. So incredibly dry.

The problem is that I had amassed all the worldly wisdom – even concerning the Bible – that I could. I had studied, studied, studied and knew the information. I could rattle off Greek verb conjugations and discuss the current scholarly debates regarding the authorship of Isaiah. I was confident in my wisdom and knowledge.

What I couldn’t do was explain the gospel.

How could I possibly preach Christ crucified to others if I couldn’t even preach it to myself?

God had to humble me, draw me back into His Word, force me to work through the basics again. Despite all my knowledge, I didn’t understand justification. Despite my ability to decline the Greek word charis, I didn’t get what the Bible meant by the word “grace.” I found this period of my life devastating and humiliating.

If you had asked me back then why I thought I was going to heaven, I would have begun my answer with, “Because I….” Because I understand the Bible. Because I professed faith in Jesus. Because I repented and accepted. These things are important, and the Bible is clear that someone who is redeemed and being sanctified will have evidence of these things in their life. But these things, in and of themselves, do not save.

Now I understand what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Because of him….” Because Jesus lived a perfect life. Because Jesus died the death I earned. Because Jesus gave me his righteousness. Because Jesus is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

Does this sound foolish to you? Do you think that when Christ returns (hopefully quickly!) you will go to heaven because you? Or has God made foolish your wisdom, taking away your right to boast in his presence, and chosen you because of Him?

Are you willing to be thought foolish? Is your confidence in Christ? Or are you terrified of the reproach of the world, clinging to confidence in yourself?

If you do not know what I mean by the term “the gospel,” I encourage you to read a quick post about it here. As always, I love to hear your thoughts and responses!

A Letter to Jehovah’s Witnesses

As I am sure many of you have, we had Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on our door recently. We had several discussions with them over a few weeks, developing a friendship but reaching an impasse in our conversation. I felt a burden to write them a letter, and also to share it here. I’ve removed any specific or personal information to protect their privacy.

If you are Christian, please pray for these people. If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read and carefully consider this, I beg you. All others, I also ask you to read and consider.

The letter:

Dear [Neighbors],

We want you to know that we greatly appreciate that you took the time to know us, to spend time with us, and care enough to share with us what you feel is of highest importance in this life. I hope you know that we love Yahweh and we love His Word. We have deep and profound respect for the Word of God and are bound by what God has told us in the Bible. We seek to study and know the Bible – not just to say we can quote it or throw pieces of it out during an argument, but because it is the very mind and heart of the God we serve revealed to us. We search and learn the scriptures so that we can know Him more intimately and worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Having said that, we take very seriously challenges to our beliefs. When we are confronted with teaching from the Scriptures that differ from what we hold to be true, we are careful not to simply dismiss it out of hand, but to carefully and prayerfully measure it up against God’s Word, to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are loyal first and foremost to God and His truth. We believe what we believe because we believe it is biblical, but we are not loyal to our beliefs simply because it is what our parents have taught us, or our church, or our denominational creeds. We are loyal to these things only insofar as they are true to the Scriptures. Moreover, we are bound so closely to the Word of God that if we can be shown from the Bible error in our personal belief, we will change our belief and submit to the true teaching of the Scriptures. We have both experienced this humbling correction in our lives before. God’s Word truly is useful for “correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

As we examine the Scriptures and measure teachings and doctrines against it, we are also careful to consider the whole counsel of God, and not to pick and choose verses and phrases out of context simply to make a point. How and where and when and why and by whom something is said is just as important as what is said. The classic out-of-context example of reading Scripture is “Judas… hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5), “Go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). We absolutely do not want to be guilty of this kind of mishandling of the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

So when you came to our door, though we had heard rumors of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses before, we sought to give a fair investigation to the claims of your church. We hope you felt respected by us as you shared your hearts. The questions we asked and the challenges we raised were truly to seek better understanding, to ensure that we heard what you were actually saying rather than jumping to a conclusion or making an assumption. Rightly so, we approach any new teaching presented to us with a wise amount of biblically concerned caution, but it was a caution that aimed to give grace and the benefit of the doubt.

We have read through the tracts you left for us, as well as investigated your church’s website. We sought to consider what you said from your point of view, not just from the point of view of disgruntled ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses online. We reasoned that if the claims your church makes are true, then they will be able to stand up to all criticism. All truth is God’s truth, and the truth sets us free (John 8:32).

As we studied and researched, we grew uneasy. And that unease grew into full-blown concern and fear for you. It became increasingly evident to us that your church’s organization is characterized by half-truths and deliberate deceptions, manipulations of the Word of truth that lead to false hopes and empty promises.

We have utmost respect for you as sincere people and do not want to belabor the point. But with such a bold claim, we feel we must offer at least a couple of examples. Please, we beg of you, investigate these things for yourself. Please, we implore you, return the favor and do not dismiss us out of hand but give this a fair investigation. Your very eternal lives are at stake.

We did read and consider the tract you left, “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” This tract – more than anything else we have studied, read, or heard – made us incredibly fearful for you. We learned something incredibly important about the Watch Tower Society while reading this pamphlet: that the Watch Tower is accustomed to blatant misrepresentation of sources and intentionally deceptive misquotations. If we had read nothing else, knew nothing else, and had heard nothing else about Jehovah’s Witnesses, this tract alone would engender in us a deep and profound distrust toward your church.

We could write pages and pages in response to this single tract, but instead we will offer just one example and strongly encourage you to follow up by looking up the various resources and “scholars” quoted within the tract. “Should You Believe in the Trinity?” uses as one of its main evidences a book by Arthur Weigall entitled The Paganism in Our Christianity to support the Watch Tower claim that the concept of the trinity is fundamentally a pagan concept that has corrupted true biblical teaching on the nature and essence of Yahweh.

Please do a google search of Mr. Weigall. If you can, get your hands on a copy of his book and peruse his argument for yourself.

In a matter of just a few minutes you will discover two things:

First, Arthur Weigall was not a biblical scholar, a theologian, learned in Biblical languages, or even Christian in his own personal philosophy. He was an Egyptologist by training and trade. He did not believe in any of the Bible as the Word of God and did not claim any sort of Christian faith for himself.

Second, his book claims that many other doctrines were also of pagan origin. He outright rejects the writings of Paul as canonical Scripture and claims foundational biblical teachings like the existence of angelic beings, the concept of the devil/Satan, the virgin birth, and many aspects of the life of Jesus are pagan in origin.

In the matter of the first point, Weigall cannot be quoted as an “authority” on the subject either academically or theologically. He cannot be quoted as accurate “representative” of either the Christian perspective or the Watch Tower perspective. His opinions on the subject are just that, subjective opinions that hold no credibility in the discussion of the origins of the concept of the trinity.

In the matter of the second point, it is irresponsible and inconsistent to use Weigall’s work to defend one single pet point and reject the rest of his work. If the Watch Tower agrees with Weigall’s assessment that the trinity is pagan, that is great. However, to be consistent and credible, they also must agree with his assessment that other beliefs of theirs are pagan as well. From what I know of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they do not. We cannot take seriously an argument made which loyally quotes part of a source and disagrees wholesale with the rest of it.

This is either irresponsible and misguided scholarship at best or direct and deliberate deception at worst. In the first case, we can give the benefit of the doubt to the Watch Tower Society as an organization that means well but we still refuse to trust it because it misses the mark. In the second case, we absolutely cannot trust the Watch Tower Society and must speak out actively against its lies. If the Watch Tower handles extra-biblical sources this way, can we remotely trust how it handles the Scriptures?

Unfortunately, as we’ve read more about the teaching and claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have seen this tendency and pattern. Over and over we have seen deliberate or irresponsible misquotations and out-of-context references that have been manipulated to give support for what the original author never meant to support. While investigating the scholarly “support” for the New World Translation given on jw.org, it became clear that every single scholar given was grossly misquoted and misrepresented. We would strongly encourage you to begin researching the sources your Watch Tower uses and evaluate whether they are trustworthy. Please do not just take the quotations at face value. To do so insults not only the men and women who are misquoted, but insults Yahweh himself by refusing to evaluate the claims made about Him.

“By their fruit you will know them” (Matthew 7:16), as you emphasized repeatedly to us. You are correct. “Fruit” is not simply door-to-door evangelism. If that were the case, your church is not the only one bearing this fruit. The Mormons are well-known for their door-to-door mission work. We, as protestant Christians, have also been involved with door-to-door evangelism. The fruit we have seen of the Watch Tower Society and Jehovah’s Witnesses has been the fruit of deliberate deception and disregard for accurate and responsible handling of the Word of truth. This is especially alarming considering the context of the passage above, “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus says, explaining these false prophets will on the final day “say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:15-23).

What fruit should we look for then? The fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:13). We wish we could say we have seen Jehovah’s Witnesses bearing this fruit. We have not.

This is of utmost importance for you. Scripture has some very strong warnings for false teachers and those who bring a false gospel. “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

What is the gospel we received?

Yahweh created by His Word a beautiful, perfect, good world (Genesis 1:10, 18, 25, 31; John 1:1-2). In this world, He placed His image-bearers, Adam and Eve, and breathed His very own Spirit into them to give them life (Genesis 1:27; 2:7).

They rebelled. They directly disobeyed God’s instruction and offended Him deeply, bringing upon themselves the curse of death (Genesis 3:16-19) and subjecting all of creation to the curse brought by their sin (Romans 8:20-21). In the sin of Adam, we all sinned (Romans 2:12; 3:23; especially 5:12-14), and because of Adam’s sin, we all – as sinners – are objects of God’s holy and good and righteous and just wrath (John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 5:9; 9:22; Ephesians 2:3; Revelation 14:19). Yes, wrath. The Scriptures speak not only of the “grave” (Sheol and Hades), but also of “hell” (Gehenna/The Valley of Hinnom and the “lake of fire” – cf. Revelation 20:14-15; Jeremiah 19:2-6; Luke 12:5). Those who refuse to repent not only die but also experience the “second death” (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8) in which God rightly and justly punishes them for the depth and profundity of their crimes against Him. This is not cruel or unjust of God and in no way compromises His grace and love and mercy. This displays His holiness and righteousness and justice (Romans 3:5; 9:22-24) as well as demonstrating the seriousness of our sin against Him (Genesis 3:3; Numbers 18:22; 32:23; Ezekiel 3:19). We all deserve this (Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:12, 23; 6:23; Revelation 21:8), and God would be completely justified if He saved none of us from this.

This is the bad news of the gospel. God has displayed this truth through His creation, leaving all men “without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).

The good news is that this is not the end of the gospel. God in His grace and love chose to deal with our sin. He could not just turn a blind eye and pardon it without compromising His holiness and purity and righteousness. In His love and grace, He decided to dole out the full measure of His wrath for our sin on Jesus, the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). So who is this Jesus? He is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3); He is the Word of God, through whom all was created (John 1:1); He is the Son of God, exalted by the Father and given the Name that is above all Names (Matthew 14:33; 27:54; John 1:34; 10:36; 19:7); He is worthy to receive our worship (Matthew 14:33; 28:9-10; Luke 24:50-53; John 9:38; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:13-14); He is Yahweh God (John 1:1; 5:18; 8:58; 20:28; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:17-18; cf. Isaiah 44:6). Being fully and equally God, He emptied Himself of His claim to heavenly rights and became fully human like us (Philippians 2:5-11), our perfect representative and the second Adam (Romans 5:15). He never once sinned but lived a life in perfect submission to the entire law of God – an accomplishment that we sinful humans could never hope to attain (Hebrews 4:14-15). And despite His blemish-free perfection, He submitted to death and the pouring out of God’s wrath against our sin, satisfying the demands of divine justice on our behalf and bearing the curse of the Fall (Deuteronomy 21:23; John 19:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).

And then Jesus was physically raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5-10; Mark 16:6; especially Luke 24:39-43; John 20:27-29; 21:13-14; Acts 1:3). His death was bodily (Matthew 27:50, 59; Mark 15:37, 45; Luke 23:46; John 19:32-37). If He did not rise in body, then He did not rise. If Christ was not raised, our faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17) and we are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). In His physical resurrection, Jesus conquered death for us, removing its power and sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) and promised our own bodily resurrection when He returns (1 Corinthians 15:49; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

He removed our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12; Colossians 2:14), so there is no more wrath or judgment left for those who are in Christ (Romans 5:6-9; 8:1). But even more than this. We are not simply declared “sin free,” we are declared “justified” and “righteous.” The perfect righteousness of Christ was given to us (Romans 3:26; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31; Philippians 3:9). Christ’s blood covers us (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:11-14). This means God sees that our sin has been paid for in His blood and that we wear the perfect righteousness of Jesus (Hebrews 10:14). This is so much more than mere “unmerited kindness.” This is grace. We have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9) – the completely and profoundly undeserved gift of love and favor from the God we deeply offended who chose to pour out His just punishment on His own perfectly innocent Son instead of on us. We cannot add anything at all to this, and if we try to add our own merit to the finished work of Christ (John 19:30), we nullify His sacrifice and bring ourselves back under the curse of the broken law (Galatians 2:20-21; 3:10; 5:2-4).

It is God who calls us to repentance (Revelation 2:5, 16). It is God who justifies us in Christ (Romans 3:26, 30; Galatians 3:8). It is the righteousness of Jesus that we place our hope in (Titus 3:4-7; 1 Peter 1:13). It is God who makes us alive (Ezekiel 36:26; Ephesians 2:5). Our good works add nothing to this, they are merely evidence of this (John 14:15; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 2:26).

This is the reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15). We look forward with confident hope for the return of Christ, at which every knee will bow and tongue proclaim Him as Lord to the glory of the Father (Isaiah 45:23; Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10). We look forward to the day when all the saints in the New Heavens and the New Earth will worship the Lamb and proclaim His glory (Revelation 5:12-14; 7:10).

Dear friends, we long for the day you bow before Jesus with us. We pray for the salvation of your souls. With Jesus and John we urge you to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), a Kingdom that does not consist in talk but in power (1 Corinthians 4:20)!

If you accept this, it is life to you. If you refuse this, it is death to you (2 Corinthians 2:16-17). By the grace of God, we implore you, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Love,
The Brummers

As always, I welcome comments, responses, considerations, challenges, and questions. One again, however, I remind you that I reserve the right to delete and moderate distasteful remarks. Please season your responses with grace, truth, and love. If you believe I am in error, I welcome biblical correction with open arms.

Encouragement for C-Section Mamas

Surprise of all surprises, C-section birth has become a topic I am passionate about. It has been almost three months since Joey was born (has it really been that long?) and even now new feelings and emotions and memories come up.

I also know of several expecting mothers who are facing the possibility of a surgical birth for one reason or another. This is an incredibly personal experience and, like all incredibly personal experiences, everyone and their brother has a deeply-held opinion about it. I most definitely do not want to presume upon someone else’s experience, but I do want to offer my own experience, a little advice (which may be taken or left), and an empathetic ear. I hope you find this encouraging and helpful.

The biggest thing for me was not knowing quite what to expect. Hopefully sharing some of my experience will help.

For me, anticipating a surgical birth was by far the hardest part of the whole thing. Phrases like “major abdominal surgery” and “higher risk of ____” whispered in the back of my head. I also dealt with the emotions of feeling like a victim of Murphy’s law and feeling like a “failure” if I couldn’t manage to have a vaginal birth.

I had an emergency C-section, but I had a week to prepare for the idea. I know other people will have different time-frames: everything from a planned caesarean with weeks or months to deal with the anticipation to a completely unexpected emergency surgery with only minutes or, at most, hours of time to contemplate what will happen.

Remember, though, that you are not a failure if you do have to have a C-section!!! I know for some women the idea of a surgical birth is traumatic. It does not have to be. I know one of the hardest thoughts for me was, “Now I’m just another statistic,” because I had heard so many times how awful it is that 1/3 of all births in the U.S. these days are surgical. Yes, if you have a C-section you are in that category. But you and your baby are not just some statistic. You are a brave mother doing what you need to for the health and safety of your baby, and that makes you strong, loving, unique, special, and beautiful.

Also know, and repeat this to yourself over and over, that having a C-section does not mean you are somehow less of a woman or less of a mother. Your body is not broken and your baby is not less of a baby. You still grew a baby inside your body for nine months (unless you had her 2 months early like I did… heh) and you will still love that baby like the true mother you are. You will still be getting up in the middle of the night to feed your baby. You will still worry when he has a fever. You’ll still read to and play with him, teach him, hug and kiss him. You will still be celebrated on Mother’s Day. Having a C-section still “counts” as giving birth.

I say these things because some ignorant people will tell you differently. Do not pay any attention to them. They have no idea what they are talking about. I also mention these things because even three months after Joey’s birth I wrestle with them. I have talked to some mothers who were perfectly satisfied with their caesarean experiences and never felt loss or negative emotions. I am so happy that they were able to celebrate the birth of their children that way. I know that for myself and many other C-section mamas, the joy is mingled with disappointment. If that is your experience, it is completely normal and healthy. Acknowledge the disappointment along with the joy, and find someone with whom you can talk it through.

Remember too that the circumstances of this birth are not a surprise to God. He knew in advance every detail of the birth of your child. In His love and wisdom and goodness, He orchestrated the specifics of your baby’s entrance into the world. You may wonder why God called you to this, but know that this is a beautiful expression of His love and grace and goodness to you and to your baby – the baby He knit together in your womb and whose every day is already written in His book. Let this experience be a grace-filled experience.

I also didn’t know what to expect in the surgery itself and immediately afterward in recovery.

First, there will be a lot of people involved. I was surrounded by dozens of nurses, the anesthesiologist, NICU personnel, and, of course, the doctor. The surgery happened very quickly. The spinal block I had only took a few minutes to work, and then I was on my back on a slab under theater lighting with a huge blue curtain blocking my view. I was wheeled into the OR at 11:40 pm and thought there was no way Joey would be born that day. I was saying to myself that her birthday would be January 4. She was born at 11:58… on the 3rd. This is not going to be some long, drawn-out experience. It will feel fast and exciting! Let that be fun!

It did not feel like what I imagined a “major abdominal surgery” to feel like. I was so excited about the idea that I would be seeing my daughter in a matter of minutes that my focus was not really on the surgery at all but on the anticipation of the moment of birth. If you’ve had other surgeries in your life, know that this is nothing like those. Yes, it is surgery. But even more importantly, this is giving birth. It will be a unique experience unlike anything else you ever experience.

I was very surprised by the size of the incision. I don’t know why, but I always pictured it being… smaller. Know that the incision is not small. Mine is about 6 inches long, from one hip to the other. However, if you have a low transverse incision, it will be easy to hide below the panty or bikini line. It also will be fairly thin and the color will fade with time. I also struggled with feeling like I was no longer sexy. Don’t think of this scar as an “ugly” scar. This is not some accident that left you marred. This scar is a beautiful battle wound, a permanent mark on your body that you can point to for the rest of your life and say with joy, “See, I’m a mother!”

Having said that, recovery was not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. Yes, you will be sore for a while. Take what you need to manage the pain. Get up and move as much as you can as soon as you can. It will be difficult at first, but it is so important for your recovery. Heed your doctor’s instructions. Have someone come over for 3-4 hours per day for a couple of weeks to hold your baby so that you can get a solid block of uninterrupted sleep every day. Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. You will need lots of it, and that’s ok! You just gave birth!

Finally, there is a lot of information out there about surgical birth and VBAC. Read plenty of it. However, keep in mind that much of it is aimed at preventing the need for a C-section. This is good information for a lot of women. If, however, you find yourself in a situation where a C-section is medically necessary and inevitable, this information can be quite unhelpful and downright discouraging. It is okay to disregard what doesn’t help!

Here are some questions to think through before your C-section that I found helpful:

  • How many support people can I have with me in the Operating Room? Many hospitals only allow the husband. If possible, it is nice to have a second support person (like a doula or your mother or a close friend) in the OR with you, or at least waiting in the recovery room. If your baby needs to be taken to the nursery or NICU (even for a little bit) your husband can go with your baby and your second support person can stay with you while you are stitched up and in recovery.
  • What kind of anesthesia will be used? I loved my spinal block – it was quick, temporary, and just the right amount of numb. It was also only minutes before the birth, so Joey was not groggy when she was born but was wide awake, alert, and taking everything in. Epidurals and full general anesthesia are also available. Think through what you are most comfortable with and also what your doctor recommends for your specific situation. With the spinal block, I was numb to any and all pain but I could feel the “pressure” of the birth – meaning that I experienced Joey’s birth, which was very special to me.
  • When will your caesarean happen? Granted mine was an emergency and happened while I was in transition. Consider what you and your doctor are comfortable with – especially if yours will be planned. Also remember that labor is good for both the baby and the mother. You both need those contractions and the release of hormones. If you are comfortable with it, ask if you could be allowed to begin labor spontaneously and go through some labor before your surgery.
  • Ask about options during the surgery. For example: Is there a mirror available so I can see the birth? Can you lower the curtain just enough so that I can see the birth without seeing the incision? Will pictures or video be allowed? Can I have skin-to-skin contact with my baby as soon as possible (if both the baby and mother are stable)? How soon after birth can we begin breastfeeding? Is delayed cord-clamping or gentle caesarean an option? What kind of incision will be used on my uterus (which may have an effect on your ability to VBAC)?
  • If there is a possibility your baby may need to spend some time in NICU (because of premature birth or other health-related issues) make sure to take time to interview one of the NICU nurses! Ask about procedures in the NICU: What kinds of equipment will be used? Are babies given bottles and/or pacifiers? What shots are required in the hospital? Can we opt out of any of them? Will I be able to start breastfeeding right away? If my baby is stable can I hold him or her? Do you allow or encourage Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin)? How often and how long can we visit? Can we bring other visitors? How can I provide breast milk for her feedings when I am not able to be present? What kind of emotional support is there? Do you have private rooms? (I may write a similar post later about coping with having a baby in NICU.)
  • It’s not too soon to start thinking about your next birth experience. There are tons of good resources for mothers who wish to attempt a VBAC (vaginal birth after a caesarean). Read read read. And then read some more. Talk to your doctor. If you don’t like what she says, find another one. Acknowledge any feelings you may have about it. (For example, I am working through a fear that if I have a successful VBAC next time it won’t be fair to Joey. This is simply not true. I love Joey with all my heart and she will never be “less of a real child” than any other children I may give birth to vaginally.)

Finally, you may need to just talk out your experience. Surgical birth is the kind of thing you only truly understand if you have been through it yourself. Find another C-section mama who will be able empathize with you. Find someone who is willing to just listen without giving their 2 cents about everything. You can always call or message me if you would like. And never underestimate your husband. He went through this with you too. He was there from conception to birth and now the process of raising this child with you. Let this be an experience that strengthens your relationship!

Dear brave mothers facing C-section, I hope you have a wonderful birth experience in spite of the circumstances! I would love to hear your thoughts as well in the comments below. If there is anything I did not address that you would like to pick my brain on, I am an open book. There is no question too personal! (For the sake of saving the general readership from TMI, I did not address topics like post-operation physiology or sex after a C-section, for example. I would, however, be more than willing to share thoughts about these things in a private message if you would find them helpful.)

In the meantime, I pray God blesses you with a beautiful birth experience and a perfect, healthy baby!

Age of Innocence

This article is potentially going to be quite controversial, but this is something I have wrestled through and would like to share. Let me begin by coming straight out with it: I do not believe in the doctrine of the Age of Innocence or Age of Accountability.

Whoa. Did you read that right? Go ahead and look back up a line or two and read it again to make sure. Yep, you read it right. I do not believe the Bible teaches the innocence of young children. Allow me to explain why.

All Have Sinned

I have a 10-week old daughter. She is absolutely beautiful; ten fingers, ten toes, big blue eyes, and the most adorable baby smile. She is observant, expressive, calm, and cuddly. She sleeps well and eats well (most of the time), loves bright colors, lights, and toys that make noise. She occasionally fusses, but she is not colicky, and she knows that her mommy and daddy love her and provide for her.

She cannot speak English yet (obviously), so she has never told me a lie. She has a very limited social circle at this point, so she has never betrayed or gossiped or bullied or murdered or cheated or stolen. She is still a long way off from beginning puberty (thank goodness), so she has never lusted.

And she is a sinner.

People get very touchy and defensive when I say something like that. (Or even merely imply it.) How could I say this beautiful, innocent girl is a sinner?

Because she is not innocent.

Our culture has come to define the word “innocent” as simply lacking guilt for an offense. For example, if John Doe is on trial for killing Jane Doe and it is demonstrated that he did not pull the trigger, he is declared innocent simply for lacking the guilt of committing the crime. This is a very useful sense of the word “innocent” – without it, our entire justice system collapses. We are born and raised believing the maxim, “Innocent until proven guilty,” and that has worked very well for our society.

However, we make a mistake when we assume that the biblical sense of innocence is exactly the same as our societal use of the word.

In the Bible, innocence – or righteousness – is so much more than simply not breaking the law. Righteousness also requires perfectly keeping the whole of the law. “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). And the law is not only negative commands (Do not murder. Do not steal, etc.), but the law is also positive commands (Keep holy the Sabbath day. Honor your parents. Love God with all your being). And while my daughter has never lied, she also has never kept the Sabbath day holy. While she has never stolen, she also has not loved God with the whole of her heart, soul, mind, and strength. She has not kept all of the law, so she has failed all of it.

Jesus touched on this early on in his Sermon on the Mount. “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” he said, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). This is an upsetting teaching. The scribes and Pharisees, at least to outward appearance, seemed quite righteous in fact. So much so, that Paul describes his days as a Pharisee this way: “as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil 3:5, 6). However, just a few phrases later he explains he counts all of that as “rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (v. 8, 9).

Paul makes it inescapably clear in Romans 3: “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 22-26, emphasis mine). And as we all learned on the “Romans Road,” the wages of our sin is death (6:23).

At the risk of sounding like I am splitting hairs, it is important to note that he says all have sinned, not that all above a certain age or cognitive ability have sinned.

This is possibly a very hard pill to swallow. However, it brings us, once again, to a place in our hearts where we are confronted with whether or not we really trust the Bible and submit to its authority in our lives. If we only submit when our “modern sensibilities” agree, then we are not truly submitting to the Word of God, and we risk twisting and distorting it to make it sound nice and palatable to us.

Original Sin

Okay. All have sinned. What is sin? It seems like a very simple question, but it also seems like many people have a difficult time finding the biblical answer to this question. I’ve often heard sin defined as “missing the mark.” While in a sense this is accurate, it is also very limited and somewhat misleading. Simply missing the mark does not have life or death implications; it makes sin sound like it is just little mistakes – you try really hard to be good but sometimes you just miss the mark by accident. It reduces sin to mere human error or youthful indiscretion and removes from it the depth of the offense it is to the God who created us. It also implies that sin is merely an action or, maybe at its deepest level, a wayward thought process or desire.

If this is all that sin is, then the concept of Original Sin is unjust. God himself said that the son will not suffer for the sin of his father and that the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself (Ez. 18:20). It would be inaccurate, then, to say that I or my daughter or you are guilty of the specific defiant act of eating the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden.

So then why do some Christians believe in Original Sin?

Sin is so much more than simply our sinful actions. The Bible speaks of the “sin nature,” “the flesh,” “the old self,” “spiritual death,” and “the world” (see Gal 5:17; Eph 2:1; Col 3:9; and 1 John 2:15).  This is sin. Sinful actions are merely a symptom of a much deeper, systemic problem called the sinful nature or spiritual death.

Another way to think of this is in terms of a cold. You do not have a cold because you cough. You cough because you have a cold; it is merely a symptom of a deeper, systemic problem. Rather, you have a cold because you have a virus.

We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Spiritually, we inherited a genetic disorder. But to take it further, sin is not merely a disease; the Bible describes it as death. That is, we are sinners because we are spiritually dead.

When Adam and Eve defied God in the Garden, a curse fell on creation. Now when a human being is born, they are not born perfect in a perfect world. They are born into a fallen world under the curse of the sin nature (Rom. 8:18-25). In other words, they are born spiritually dead. From the very beginning of their lives, human beings are now predisposed to defy and rebel against God. This is the sin we inherited from our parents in the Garden.

Take my 10-week-old daughter, for example. She knows how to communicate very effectively when she is hungry. Every few hours throughout the day, she will start rooting around, trying latch on to anything within reach to see if milk will come out of it. She may get a little fussy. When she does this, I know that she is experiencing hunger and letting me know that she is ready for me to come nurse her, and being a loving mother who would not let her beloved child starve, I do. Every time.

But sometimes (about once a day), she goes from content to starving in 0 seconds flat. Instead of calmly rooting and fussing to let me know she is hungry, she throws an all-out tantrum. “I am hungry NOW and YOU are not feeding me fast enough!!!” is what she communicates with her screams and cries. She is frantic and does not trust that I will provide her needs. It takes her several minutes to calm down enough to latch on effectively and start eating.

At an even deeper level, she does not trust that God is able to provide for her needs through me. She is afraid she will be hungry forever, and she is unhappy about it. No, that is a generous way to put it. More accurately, she is angry about it and lashes out. Scripture has something to say about fits of rage. It is not pretty. (See Galatians 5:20.)

Where did she learn this? If she was born innocent, she had to pick it up somewhere, right? She has not been around anyone in a fit of rage in the ten weeks of her life.

“But she doesn’t know any better!” you might object. Perhaps. But sin does not require comprehension of guilt. Why else would God command the Levitical priesthood to offer daily and monthly and yearly sacrifices for the sins of the people – both known and unknown? (See Leviticus 4, for example, and note the phrase “realizes his guilt.” The guilt is already there when the act is committed; the sinner does not become guilty only upon awareness.) Think about it this way: has anyone ever hurt you or sinned against you and been completely unaware of any wrongdoing on their part until you brought it to their attention (if you ever did)? Is it not possible we do this to God more than we think we do?

But what about the “let the little children come to me” passages (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)? Does not the kingdom of God belong to such as these? Yes, it does. But why? Children do not merit the kingdom of heaven because of their innocence. Rather, they are completely dependent and must rely on their caregivers for everything in life. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who realize they have nothing to offer and must depend fully on their Father for their every need.

The Logical Problem 

So the Bible teaches the culpability of all of humanity – including young children and the proverbial tribe on an island somewhere that has never heard the gospel. Many people choose to ignore this and choose rather to believe that their ignorance merits God’s mercy.

The problem with this is the logical conclusion that there is more than one way we can be saved, which is in direct contradiction with Scripture (see John 14:6 and Acts 4:12). The doctrine of the Age of Accountability or the Age of Innocence teaches that we are saved either by grace through faith in Jesus Christ or by dying young enough or ignorant enough (until we are old enough to be accountable at which point we lose our salvation until we get saved again). Forgive me for this, but the logical conclusion of that teaching is that abortion and infanticide are the most effective means of evangelism available to us. If I can guarantee that all of my children will be saved, would it not be worth it to risk hell for myself by breaking the command not to kill? Would that not be the most loving thing I could do for them?

Yes, that thought process is sick and demented. Anyone who actually believes we should murder our children in cold blood like this should be locked in a very small padded room somewhere. Anyone who actually acted on it should… well, let’s just say I am politically conservative on the issue of capital punishment.

My point is that this idea is not biblical. Neither, then, can be the doctrine that logically leads to it.

Implications

So is all hope lost? What if I miscarry? What if there is a horrible accident, a devastating disease, an evil man who takes my child while she is still young before she is able to profess faith?

This is a difficult question and one on which the Bible is silent. It would be unwise to be uncompassionate. It would be unwise to assume that all children lost at a young age are condemned. So what can we glean from Scripture on this matter? How do we approach this question with compassion and grace while remaining true to what the Bible has to say about our guilt before the holy, pure, righteous, and just Judge of all creation?

Let us consider how it is that we are saved. This may seem like a silly question, but are we saved by our innocence? Scripture is clear that we are not, as there is no one who is good besides God alone (see Luke 18:19 and Romans 3:9-20). So how is it, then, that God is able to declare us righteous without making himself a liar by calling us something we are not?

This is the crux of the gospel. Our sin against God deserves justice. In fact, God would not be holy or just or righteous if our sin was not punished. So he sent his Son. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless, holy, pure, righteous, innocent life. The Son of God not only did not sin, but he kept and fulfilled all of the law perfectly (see Matt 5:17; Heb 4:15; and 1 Peter 1:19). When Jesus died on the cross, he took all of our sin and placed it on himself – remember how the priests in the Old Testament laid their hands on the head of the sacrificial lamb and placed the sins of the people upon the animal? Our sin was transferred onto Jesus, and God poured out all of holy and just punishment on Jesus for that sin so that we do not have to receive the punishment (2 Cor. 5:21).

But the gospel does not end there. We are not saved just because our sin was removed from us. That is only half of it. When Jesus uttered “it is finished” and gave up his spirit, his righteousness – all of his perfection and innocence and purity and holiness – was transferred to us. This is atonement. When we say we are washed in the blood of the lamb, what we are saying is that the righteous blood of the Lamb without blemish covers us. Think about the Passover. The blood of the lamb covered the doorposts, and the angel of death that came in judgment passed over the household. The lamb received death, so the firstborn in the house did not have to. When God comes in judgment, he sees the blood of Christ covering us, and he passes over – seeing only the blemish-free righteousness of Jesus. We receive the righteousness that is Christ’s, and we receive the benefits of that righteousness.

We did not and cannot earn this. It is purely a gift of grace. God in his love chooses to lavish the grace on us and gives us the faith to trust in Him for it (Eph. 2:8, 9).

Is he not able to do this for infant children? For the mentally handicapped? Of course he is. Does he do this for every single one? I do not know. Here Scripture remains silent. But in faith I believe he does and he can for, at the very least, some – especially for the children of believing parents. If God in his wisdom and goodness and providence chooses to place a child in the home of a believing family that proclaims the gospel daily and lives it out in front of them, could he not also give the gift of faith to that infant child or mentally handicapped child out of his grace in a way we do not fully understand?

I admit there may be instances where God does not choose to show grace. This is true also for adults. Scripture is clear that we are without excuse before God (see Rom. 1:20). Our sin deserves death, and it is not unfair or unjust of God to allow a sinner to die in their sins. In this case, I trust that God is good and that he will be glorified. Who am I to question him (Rom. 9:20)? Yet, I emphasize again, that in faith I trust that in his goodness and mercy, God can and does give saving faith at least to some infants – even if we cannot understand how or see the fruit of it until they are old enough to profess faith with their mouths.

Scripture must inform our experience, not the other way around, but perhaps my own personal experience can briefly illustrate how this is a possibility. By the grace of God I was raised in a godly home by Christian parents who proclaimed the gospel to me and to my sister and lived out their faith every day. I honestly do not remember a day of my life when I did not believe in Jesus and trust him as my Savior and Lord.

My earliest memory is from when I was in a preschool at 3 years old. We were in a large circle around a support beam in the middle of the room playing some kind of game. Even in that memory, I already had faith in Jesus, even though it would be a few more years before I publicly professed faith in front of a congregation. God brought me to faith before I even began to form long-term memories.

So now, in faith, I trust that God is able to save my daughter. We proclaim the gospel to her every day. We live out our faith in our home day after day after day. And I am confident that God, by his grace, in his perfect timing, will bring her to saving faith. I look forward to that day in confident hope, joyfully knowing it may even already have happened.

To God alone be the glory.

I know this is a very personal topic. I would love to hear how you have wrestled with it and what you have learned from Scripture. I welcome gracious challenges in areas where you think I may be unbiblical. I am bound by Scripture and will submit to it no matter what. However, as a disclaimer, I do reserve the right not to publish any comments that are ungracious. I respect disagreement, but let our disagreement be seasoned with salt and spoken in love and grace toward each other with the goal of building one another up in love, not of winning an argument or furthering an agenda.

What is the gospel?

Do you know? I find it helpful to remind myself often – daily if possible. Believe me, I need to hear this often. I need to remind myself that this applies very personally to me, not just to everyone else out there.

God created everything we know – spoke it into existence with the power of only His voice. Galaxies, oceans, flowers, birds, clouds, stars, giraffes. And in the midst of this beautiful, God-glorifying, mind-boggling creation, He stooped into the dust, shaped man and woman, and breathed life into them with His own breath.

And we rebelled. We used God’s own breath to curse Him. And I mean we. I am not sharing this from a place of self-righteousness. I’m just as guilty.

Sin entered the world and the curse tainted everything: the world groans under its wait and humanity spiraled out of control. Sin affects all of us. But what is sin? Is it merely breaking the rules?

Sin is so much deeper – it is a condition that affects the depths of the human heart. We are not sinful people because we sin – that is like saying you have a cold because you cough. Sins are just a symptom of a deeper problem. We sin because we are sinful – we cough because we have a cold.

To be blunt – sin is death. It is not merely a “problem” for which we need self help. It is death that blinds us to God and his goodness, that bitters our taste for the sweeter things of heaven and teaches us to desire the muck of darkness. The Apostle Paul calls this the flesh or the sin nature. It is who we are in our rebellion – ungrateful, God-hating, self-indulging. We ought to give God His breath back.

Some people grasp this very well. I’ve heard people say before they were “too sinful” for God ever to forgive.

However, most people, I find, when asked why God would hypothetically let them into heaven, answer that they’ve been pretty good.

What does it mean to be good? Just what does God require?

In short, God requires complete, total, flawless perfection. Not a single sin once ever. Not a single inclination to indulge temptation. Not a single seemingly good action done for selfish reasons. He requires spotless, holy purity. Not goodness compared to other people around us. Goodness compared to Him.

No one, not a single person, can measure up to this.

So now what? Many people shirk at the idea of a wrathful and just God, preferring to focus instead on His love and good intentions toward us. The reality, though, is that His love and goodness demand His justice. He would not be a good or loving God if He turned a blind eye to the murderer who took a life, the rapist who destroyed a young woman, the anger and insensitivity and selfishness of someone (everyone) who has wronged another. We even desire His justice – mostly when we ourselves have been wronged in some way.

And God’s grace and mercy and love and goodness and beauty would be in no way ever compromised if He condemned every single person who ever sinned against Him – that is, every single person who ever lived – to an eternity in hell, the just punishment for our rebellion.

But.

Instead, to display His glorious grace and immense mercy, He Himself came to earth as Jesus Christ. Jesus lived, fully God and fully human. He experienced every temptation common to man and never once sinned. He did live life as a perfect, spotless, holy, pure, sinless human.

And then, God poured out all of His wrath for us on Jesus Christ as He hung on the cross.

Let me say that again, because it is so important and so incomprehensible. God, being a just God who, in His goodness, had to fully and completely punish every sin and rebellion ever committed against Him, chose to pour the full measure of his wrath and anger and punishment out on Jesus, who deserved absolutely none of it.

And then He chose to give the full blessing and favor that Jesus deserved for His perfect life to those who trust in Him.

Why did Jesus come and die? He came to live the perfect life that you and I never could hope to live. He came to take the full measure of God’s punishment for the sin-infected lives you and I do live so that there would be no punishment left. And He came to give the full measure of God’s blessing and favor which He deserved to those for whom He died.

As John MacArthur once said, “God treated Jesus on the cross as if He had lived your life, so that He could treat you as if you had lived Jesus’ life.”

Too sinful for God to forgive? Christ knows the full measure of the depths of your sin – He took the full punishment.

Good enough to make it on your own? You mock the life and death of Christ and fail to grasp His grace.

Repent of the rebellion and place your trust and hope in the work of Christ and the grace of the Father.

Questions or thoughts? Please comment or send me a message. If you’ve never put your faith in Christ and want to know how, I encourage you to find a community of believers. Find a good church (one that is passionate about the Word of God – a good basic measure of that is how much Scripture is used in the services) and speak to the pastor or elders. It is important to find solid Scriptural teaching and loving community as you learn and grow.

Finally, I will leave you with a video my husband and I love. We have been trying to incorporate reminding ourselves of the gospel into our daily lives, and many times simply re-watching this video has been helpful.

The road goes ever on…

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
~JRR Tolkein

It is hard to believe that after all this time we are finally on the threshold of our next journey. The house is (mostly) packed up and ready. Tonight is the last night we spend here in our own bed. We pick up the trailer tomorrow afternoon, and then Tuesday we wave goodbye as we depart our first home together and set our sights on our next.

Such a significant transition is pregnant with mixed emotions. (No, that’s not a hint. I’m not pregnant. Everyone calm down.) I am thrilled and excited and hopeful and determined and optimistic and content about where we are going. I know this is what God is calling us to, where we are meant to be. I am sad and grieving and remembering and regretting leaving such a wonderful home here and such incredible blessings of friendships and family.

I was unexpectedly confronted today with just how much our lives here have meant. I honestly did not realize what kind of impact we’ve had here until people started telling us this morning. It is humbling. I wish I had been more aware of it all during my time here. I trust God is working in spite of my near-sightedness.

I am VERY aware of the impact the people here have had on us. I am just so incredibly humbled every time I think about who God has placed in our lives – both the friends we have had over the past few years here and also those whom God has so graciously allowed us to know for even just the past few months here. (Oh how I wish we had more time!) It is so so hard saying goodbye to such a loving, giving, sharing, fun, God-honoring community of people. They will be so incredibly missed.

This has always been my home. Even the years the military took my family away from here while I was growing up, we were always “from Colorado.” For the first time in my life, that will be changing. I realized a few days ago that there will come a time (at age 52 precisely) where I will have been “from” South Dakota longer than I have been “from” Colorado – provided God allows me to live that long. It is a strange thought to me, a new way of thinking about myself.

I will miss my family here – being close to my parents, seeing my sister on her school breaks. (I’m telling you guys. You need to move to South Dakota. Job shmob.)

And speaking of jobs – leaving a job that I have truly enjoyed and a team of coworkers I have grown fond of seeing day in and day out.

Yet I step over the threshold and move on to far-ahead things, looking forward to the Road that goes ever on.

A new mission in life – encompassing a career, a passion, an opportunity of its own.
A new community of God-lovers, truth-seekers, fellowship-makers.
A new calling requiring believing, trusting, going, doing.

But the same, steady, constant, faithful God who is in all, above all, and through all.

Grief mingled with joy. Heading forward even as we look back.