My brother in law, prayer, love, and grace

We spent some time this weekend in Tennessee with my wife’s family. As you may remember, last Monday my brother-in-law fell eighteen feet from a rooftop and landed on his back, breaking three vertebra, two ribs, and his sternum. As of today, the doctors have no hope that he will ever walk again. In spite of all this, everyone was in pretty good spirits. My brother-in-law and his wife both seem to realize that the reality of what has transpired hasn’t had time to sink in yet. For the past week they have been kept fairly busy with a helicopter flight, surgeries, and with doctor’s consultations, with friends and family, with phone calls to and from their insurance company, and with all the interruptions associated with a stay in a hospital. Through it all, they’ve hardly had a chance to sit and think about what has happened or to discuss what their life will be like when it returns to “normal”.

All of that will change very soon though. Today, they are taking him from the Johnson City hospital he was life-flighted to, and they are moving him to Winston-Salem for physical therapy. He’ll have two fairly intense weeks there, with visitation limited to three hours in the evening (that includes his wife) and then it will be time to go home. And I imagine that is when he will need our prayers the most.

So if you have time in the next few weeks, say a quick word of prayer for Mike and Ginger Martin. Pray that Mike will continue to grow in the Lord and that he will lead his family spiritually. Pray that Ginger will love and submit to her husbands leadership and that she will cast all her cares upon God. Pray for them as you would pray for any other couple that you know, because the truth is, the challenges that they will face haven’t changed in their nature, just in their appearances.

Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things

In my last article on grace, I wrote about Prescriptive Grace and the way that grace is always applied specifically according to God’s desires. In this post, I want to talk about grace in a slightly different way, but first I want to clarify some things. Because this post is about why God chooses to bless certain things I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that we can control or even manipulate God, however, because God has told us that He is a God of order and because He has revealed a great deal about Himself through His Word and through the world, there are things that we can know about His behavior and that we can, through faith, respond to. Of course, God can do anything He chooses at any time and is not bound by anything other than His own nature. As C. S. Lewis writes of Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe: He’s not a tame lion.
Continue reading “Analogous Grace: Why God chooses to bless certain things”

Prescriptive Grace: The How’s and Why’s of Grace

If you’ve grown up in Christian circles or read many books on Christian topics, you probably run across a lot of different definitions for grace. Things like, “Grace is the unmerited favor of God” or “Grace is the power and desire to do God’s will” or my personal favorite, G.R.A.C.E. is

God’s
Riches
At
Christ’s
Expense

(This one is the best because it both defines and spells Grace at the same time!!!)

And while I don’t really want to knock those definitions (except maybe the acrostic), I wonder if you’ve ever felt like me that such simplistic definitions do not do grace justice?

I should point out that I’m not saying that we can completely understand grace. In fact, as we discuss grace a little bit, I’d like to try to show that to understand grace completely, we would have to understand God completely.

The seed thought that I have for thinking about grace is this:

Grace is associated with the specific work that God is performing in any situation. What we identify as grace is the interaction of God with us as His creation to accomplish His purposes. Grace is tied up in the specific actions of God and in our perception of those actions (think revelation).

In this post, I want to focus on the specificity of grace in any given situation.
Continue reading “Prescriptive Grace: The How’s and Why’s of Grace”

Respecting our Depravity

Perhaps you’ve experienced the following:

You are watching television, a crime-drama or a thriller, something like CriminalMindsBonesNumbers or CSI:MiamiNewYorkIdaho. You know exactly the sort of show I’m speaking of. On the screen there is a woman. She is at home and she is alone. There is a very good chance that she is attractive or even beautiful. If so, there is an even better chance that she is dressing for bed. Slowly, the music assumes a suspenseful tone and the camera pans back letting you in on the secret that she is not as alone as she might think. If you have watched these types of shows more than once, then at this point you know that something horrible is going to happen to this woman. The question is, what will it be? You lean forward in your seat. The camera moves closer and perhaps you are allowed to see the attacker or perhaps the woman hears a sound from another room and goes to investigate. Either way, the suspense builds further and further until it is at a breaking point. It is at this moment that someone calls you from the other room. Your wife, your husband, your mother, your child, it does not matter who. “Can you come here for a minute?” they ask. “Just a second you reply”, and to yourself you think, I want to see what they do to her.

Do you understand the significance of that thought? Someone has imagined an evil, and you would like to see it executed. Someone has sat and contemplated the horror that they could inflict upon someone else, and while it is not real, in fact, because it is not real, it will delight you to see what they have devised. You may shudder at what you see, but it will not compel you to turn the television off or to not return to it again.

Don’t think that I’m just making this scenario up, or that I’m just guessing at human behavior, because I’ve done this very thing. I’ve thought those very thoughts. I’ve done it so many times that it makes me sick.

Perhaps there is some part of you that resonates with the above examples. Perhaps you too know what it means to see evil and to be intrigued by it. Perhaps is too soft a word.

You have come face to face with evil. And if you are honest with yourself, you know that it’s occurred every time that you’ve beheld your own face in a mirror.

The shocking thing though, is not that we are so depraved, but that we pretend to be surprised when someone acts on that depravity. We listen to the nightly news and we hear about the murders and the beatings, we hear about the woman who abandoned her children in a locked car in a parking lot, and we can scarce believe it happened. “How could they do such a thing?” we ask, and in our black and filthy hearts a sharp-toothed little monster shakes its head in mock surprise and grins, “How indeed?”

 

I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the LORD.
(Psalms 101:1-8)

 

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

Programming for fun

If you know me very well at all, you know that I like geeky, technical things. I like computers and technology. I like gadgets and electronics. I like Linux. I like Windows. I like Macs.

I also like to program. Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, Haskell, Lisp, Caml, C, C++, Java, C#, you name it, I like it and have probably messed around with it. I also like to get other people messing around with programming. My brother-in-law knows all too well the look that I get in my eye when I am going to try to get him interesting in secure shelling in to my Linux box to play around with some new language. What can I say? I’m addicted and am also prone to sharing my addiction.

The problem is, it’s hard for people who don’t know much about programming to get started with it. Even if they do manage to jump over all the technical hurdles in their way, it’s harder still for them to get to the point with a programming language where they can do something that they find rewarding. Most programming language tutorials go something like this:

  1. Learn to write a program that prints “Hello, world!” to the screen
  2. Learn to write a program that plays a number guessing game
  3. Learn to write a program that functions as a simple (and I do mean simple) address book
  4. Finally, in an attempt to really impress you, the book does something so mind-bogglingly complex that they lose you completely, such as (trying to) show you how to write a simulator for genetic selection or planetary weather or a cryptographic method for generating rainbow tables…

Well, HacketyHack is changing all that. What is HacketyHack you ask? Well, I’ll be brief. It’s programming made fun again. It’s learning a new programming language made simple again. And best of all, it’s both of those things, made inexpensive again. (How inexpensive you ask? Try free. Seriously.)

As with all truly great things, you should just try it out if you want to understand it. You can click here to just grab the download (bear in mind that HacketyHack is a work in progress. It hasn’t officially been released, so some things may not quite work yet. But even with all those caveats, it’s still a lot of fun.)

The rebuke of a friend is sweet

Yesterday, a friend of mine took me to task for something, and while it wasn’t pleasant, it was comforting to know that he cares about me. He wasn’t mean or rude or unfair to me in any way, he was honest, he was direct, he was gracious. It was quite humbling.

We all need a friend or two like that. The sort of person who will look at us and say the thing that needs to be said and not necessarily the thing that would be most pleasant. The sort of person who knows how to cut you, but kindly, the sort that Proverbs 27:6 speaks of when it says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.

I think there’s a great deal more to be said about friendship, but I wanted to get this down while it was fresh in my mind. And to Bruce, who I’m not entirely sure will read this, I wanted to say thank you. You are and have always been a friend, and I appreciate that, more than you may know.

Don’t shake hands with Sheryl Crow

I know that this has been blogged to death, but I couldn’t let it pass by without comment.

From the Washington Post’s Biodiesel bug blog:

“Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. One of my favorites is in the area of conserving trees, which we heavily rely on for oxygen,” the signed statement on her website said.

“I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting,” she said.

“I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.”

One? Two or three? Pesky occasions? Like once a week or once a month? What can I say? I’m bewildered, for very very very… uhm… personal reasons. Let’s just say that my wife is calling me The Calendar (think squares on a page). You do the math.

Feature Request: A car that will make me a better husband

Here’s my dream scenario:

It’s 5:30 P.M. and I’m pulling into my apartment complex. As I near my parking space, the radio fades to silence and a pre-recorded message begins playing: You are arriving at home. Do not be deceived by the cozy nature of that word or its comfortable connotations. Do not think for a moment that because you have left work, that you have put your work behind you. You must not be such a fool. This is where your most important work is done. Because of this, you can not afford to drag yourself across the threshold and collapse into your favorite chair. Instead, steel your nerves and screw your courage to the sticking place. Throw open the door of your house and face what lies inside as a man. There is no higher calling than this. You have no greater duty.

I don’t know that I need to hear the whole speech everyday, but I certainly need to be reminded of it. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s far too easy for me to walk through the door of my apartment and act as if my day is done. I’ve done my eight, nine, ten hours of work, I think, I’ve done my share. Meanwhile, my wife has just as many hours of work with our two children behind her and probably wishes that she could punch out too.

Clearly, I have a problem. What I need is a reminder, a punch in the arm, and occasionally, in the face. I need to remember that within the walls of my home, I’m responsible for the spiritual well-being of everyone there. I’m the high priest of my household, the pastor of my little flock, the king of a tiny domain. And don’t get me wrong, I like the titles just fine, it the stupid responsibility that comes with them that gets in the way. So I need this feature: Ford, Chevy, GMC, Saturn, Volkswagen, Honda, are you listening?

So here’s my question. If someone put a car with this feature up for sale, what would you want it to say to you when you arrived at your destination? Post your custom “welcome home” message below or on your blog. If you let me know about it, I’ll link to it here.

mourning

I have never been anything other than a man
and so I cannot know how women mourn
and whether it is the same, or different

I have seen the mother, the wife, the girl,
sitting at her bedside, her dead child in her hands
weeping on his upturned face.
There is nothing selfish there.
She is broken, and weary.
She is full of pain, and strangely, guilt.
It is something that I can barely know.

I am most familiar with the man in the room
the one who stands behind her,
who believes that because she is broken, he must be whole,
who cries, but silently
who looks down through tear filled eyes,
and loves them both.

Worshipping Youth, part II

This weekend I saw a commercial for Disneyworld vacations. It was brilliant. It began with a father and a son sitting side by side atop a giant waterslide. They look at each other, they grin competitively, and then they slide toward the pool below. But when they reach it, a transformation has taken place, and the father has become a boy as well! The son gives his father/new playmate an appraising glance, then an approving smile and they race off together. The rest of the commercial is a series of images showing the two enjoying their time playing, exploring, riding rides, and so on. When it ended, I was left with a feeling of wistfulness for my own childhood.

And that was when I realized that I was being played.

I said that the commercial was brilliant, and I meant it. It was brilliant in the same way that the first commercial ever made was brilliant. Maybe you’ve read about it:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
(Genesis 3:1-6)

Talk about knowing your target demographic! And Disney knows theirs as well. They know that most Americans believe that childhood is magical, and that being a child preferable to being an adult. And if you’re like me, your brain is yelling, “But it is magical.” Let’s be clear: it isn’t, at least, it isn’t any more magical than the rest of life. Don’t get me wrong, childhood is great, it’s fine, it’s part of the process that God designed us to go through. In short, it’s good. But don’t go any farther. When we magnify childhood, when we make into the be all and end all of greatness, we cheapen every other part of life that God has made. We begin selling the idea that God made the first part great and everything after it is punishment.

If you don’t believe me, just try imagining the commercial if it were the other way around. The father and son sit at the top of the slide, they slide down, the boy is transformed into a man, and then what? They work 9 to 5 jobs together? They pay bills… in tandem? Watch TV together? That might work for a beer commercial, but even then, it just sounds too depressing.

The problem is that we think being an adult is drudgery. And whether we realize it or not, we communicate that thought to our children. Of course, if all you think of yourself as is just a consumer of goods and services, then perhaps you are not mistaken. Of course, if that is the case, you might also want to ask yourself why it is that you believe you are a Child of God and called according to His purpose.

Am I making sense here? As Christians, we have a sworn duty to become men and women of God. And part of that is raising our children to become men and women of God as well. We cannot fully do that if we ourselves believe that our children are better off staying children. We cannot do it if we believe the age old lie that we are raising children. We must remember that we are raising adults.

What do you say?