Friday, April 25, 2014

The New New Year’s Day!

I’ve found myself wondering why I attempt New Year’s resolutions in January. Why does the date matter? Why do I deceive myself into believing that a “new year” will make a difference in my habits? Why do I think that in the new year I will have power to change a habit that I didn’t have the day before? What power does the date have anyway? 

What if Easter Sunday became my new New Year’s Day? On this day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. On this day we remember the One who has the power over death and every deadly habit. On this day we rejoice that the very Breath of Life has set our once-dead souls to dance and spin in newness of life.
This power, living and breathing in us, is stronger than every bad habit. This power transforms our works from filthy rags to wedding dress white! 

Why would I not choose to re-commit to living according to the pattern of teaching set out for me by my King on this day? This day has embedded the reminder of the very source of my strength. It would be crazy to remember a commitment made on Resurrection Sunday and not to also consider the very source of any hope I have of faithful living.  

Resurrection Sunday is the day of new beginnings!

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of  the Spirit. Romans 7:4-6 ESV

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Post Processing

Last month Brad and I spent 10 days in Haiti with a team of teachers from our church. We kept a blog about the trip and you can read the details here.

I'm still processing in my head and my heart all that happened on that trip so I'm just going to think out loud in this space for a little while.

I wrote about living under Babel's curse and the gift of a mediator. But this week I read this poem. It so beautifully (and with much more brevity!) expresses how the need for a translator has changed my understanding of prayer. It is a lesson I never want to forget -- or take for granted. 

A Footnote to All Prayers
by C.S. Lewis
He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow.
When I attempt the ineffable name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Phaedian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing Thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme,
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream.
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coiniage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou, in magnetic mercy, to thyself divert
Our arrows, aimed unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
to a deaf idol, if Thou take them at their word.
Take not, O Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in Thy great
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

Marie-Lucie blessed me so. She was able to not just translate the words that I said -- but she translated their meaning in such a way that Haitian women could understand. She changed my metaphors to ones that they would grasp. Like puzzles. They don't do puzzles in Haiti. But she fixed that for me and I didn't even know it until later.

But the thing was -- Marie-Lucie loves Jesus. She loves His Word. And she loves the women of Haiti. And she loves me. God used her in a mighty way to serve us all last week. A living metaphor to the way the Holy Spirit translates our groaning before the King of Kings.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Renewed Vision

Dr. Bryan Chapell preaching at Berean Baptist Church, Livonia, MI - 5/4/2013
Every once in a while God gives me a special dose of encouragement that lifts my eyes from the immediate to the eternal, from the short term pressure to the long term goal. 

Last weekend God gave me this kind of encouragement through the preaching of Dr. Bryan Chapell (I was privileged to be a photographer for our church's men's conference). Dr. Chapell is a student of classical rhetoric and spent many years teaching seminary students to apply these principles to the art of preaching. In the process, he has become a master herald of an eternally life-changing message. 

The writing curriculum that we use in Compass, our small cottage school, is the foundation for the art of classical rhetoric. As I listened to Dr. Chapell I couldn't keep the tears from flooding over as he exalted Jesus Christ using the very tools my students are learning in our class.  

My dreams for our students have never been that they achieve the highest scholastic scores or graduate from top colleges or make lots of money (though they might do all these things). I have dreamed and prayed - and still dream and pray -- that God will use our program to prepare them to be well-equipped elders and reverent women of the next generation. I pray that they will love the Logos, the living Word. I pray that they will discern between good and evil. And, I pray that they will faithfully present the good news of God's glorious salvation in Jesus Christ because they have been transformed by His words of love. 
As I listened to Dr. Chapell preach, my heart overflowed with gratitude for the skills our kids are learning. Maybe, just maybe, God is using these writing classes to prepare heralds of Hope!
You can listen to Dr. Chapell's messages here:
and see the writing program we are so grateful for here:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Will History Say About You?

Each week, in our little cottage school, teachers present our students a picture of Jesus Christ's redemptive work through the stories of people and events in what we call history. There is no doubt that, as is the case in every subject, the teacher benefits the most from the preparation. Last week it was turn to teach, and my privilege to be transformed through the process.

My assignment was the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson and his plans for a Great Society. These plans of LBJ's directly impacted the community in which my grandparents served the Lord for sixty years. It was my joy to compare and contrast the lives of LBJ and my grandfather, Rev. Marshall Andrew Williams for my own children, a few of my nieces and my nephews, and my students. The children participated in the presentation by sharing the memories of their own grandfathers or older men who have had an impact on their lives.

Several of our faithful moms were working in the nursery and with the preschoolers during the history class. They asked me to compile the notes for them to read. I have added the students comments and some of my own notes to the slide show, converted it into a video and posted it below. You will have to use your pause button to slow down the slides if you want to read all the text. Hopefully, by watching this, you will also be challenged to consider the story history books will tell of your own life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Princess Dilemma

 With my literature class on Monday we discussed George MacDonald’s book “The Princess and the Goblin” first published in 1872. This is a fantasy story he wrote to introduce children to the idea of faith and the difference between good and evil. Within the story he contrasted the prevailing cultural definition of rich equals good and poor equals bad with a more biblical view that a person’s character defines them, not their breeding.

Providentially, on my way out the door to class, I happened to glace a section of the newspaper on its way to the recycle bin. The section's cover page included, a full page, full color, photo of a dressed-up princess entitled “Princess Dilemma: Are we sending a wrong message to little girls?”

The report provided great fodder for a discussion with the kids. Not only did we enjoy the humor in the newspaper writer’s thinking that the “princess phase” in a little girl’s life is a new phenomenon but we talked about why the desire to be a princess even exists in the hearts of little girls and big girls. And, why boys want to be the rescuer of the princess. That’s the plot of MacDonald’s story. And the Cinderella stories of every culture. It provided a delightful opportunity to discuss how the entire Bible is the story of Prince rescuing a dirty waif, dressing her up and taking her as His bride. Truly the perfect “happily ever after.”
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-28

Friday, January 13, 2012

Westward Ho!

Lured by the promise of paradise on earth, thousands of families loaded small wagons and headed into the great unknown. They counted the farewells to family, friends and most of their worldly goods a small price to pay for the promise of the good life painted by the tales of politicians, wagon train masters and printed advertisements. Living life as sojourners for a short time would surely reward them with health, riches and happiness.
 Our studies of the Oregon Trail and Westward Migration this week brought me face to face with a reality that repeats itself over and over in tales historical and fictitious: Humans long for home. And home is beautiful, plentiful and satisfying. The extremes we will endure for this promise astound me. While at the same time they clarify the knowledge that deep within our nature, all humans know that we were created for something else. It’s that remnant of the Imago Dei. We know were meant to live in a garden without thorns in our fields or our relationships.

As believers the challenge is for us to focus on the example of Abraham, to sojourn as an alien and foreigner in this world while looking forward with joy to a city that has foundations whose designer and builder is God. To fix our eyes on the One who is the way, the truth and the life; the One who is preparing a place for us.

These studies humbled me this week.  The sacrifices of emigrant families for the promise of a good life now make my sacrifices for the sake of eternity look paltry. At least one in every ten emigrants died on the journey, never reaching their reward. Yet, I know that nothing will separate me from the love of Christ Jesus my Lord.  I know that my reward is sure. I know that He who began this good work in me will carry it to completion. I know that when I am home there will no sickness, no dying, no poverty, no tears.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is  set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising  the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To Desire God's Kingdom

A quick trip about the blog-o-sphere sent me meandering through the 2011 book reviews of my cyber-friends. Not an unpleasant journey, quite the opposite. I am a booklist junkie. My favorite store is I wish they were not-for-profit because my contributions to their cause each year would make a great addition to our tax deductions. I’m not writing my own book list. However, one book does stand out in my own personal year-end review: James K.A. Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation.

As our family has journeyed together through these last ten years of education, my conviction that the end of education is nothing short of disciple making continues to grow. Followers of Jesus Christ are honored to participate in Christ’s mission by going into all the world and making disciples. Growing disciples means that Christ-followers know more than the elemental truths of the gospel, but that they are able to handle the strong meat of the Word: the Word that claims Christ preeminent in all things. All things including history, math, language studies, grammar, writing, science and even laundry.

Smith agrees. Of course that’s why I loved the book. But, he helped me flesh out my thinking in this area through his discussion about the nature of being human. Smith argued that intellectual reason is not the motivator of a human’s actions. Rather, humans are motivated by the desires of their hearts. We do what we love regardless of what we say we believe.

A major premise of the book claims that our desires are shaped by our actions. If we physically immerse ourselves in a kingdom whose practices and images define the “good life” by any means other than finding satisfaction in Christ, we are in danger of pledging our souls to a counterfeit king. Some of his examples include the typical western world’s shopping malls, the stadiums of our sporting events, and the halls of our academies. This time, these activities and the images connected with them shape the desires of our hearts.

Augustine claimed that the goal of education was to teach students to love that which is lovely.

The remedy Smith offers to the counterfeit-kingdom loyalty is to intentionally re-connect our hearts and our intellects through the pattern of worship defined by the Scripture and practiced by the local church. The physical acts of gathering together, listening to the Word together, praying together, singing together and breaking bread together shape the desires of our hearts. As our intellectual understanding of these practices grows through the transforming power of the Word, so our hearts are set to find their satisfaction in the person who is Truth.

Christian education is the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ. God has ordained that this single mission be mediated through his church. There is no doubt that pragmatically, it would seem much easier to make disciples outside of the context of the church thus the plethora of para-church organizations. But I am convicted that the only hope I have that my children will learn to love the Kingdom of God is to cultivate that desire for Jesus Christ through the means that he ordained.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Heb 10:19-25 ESV