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20 Years

It’s been a tough year with a lot of changes in our household. Part of the changes had to do with my in-law’s moving and more than half of their stuff coming to live in our garage. Then my oldest moved out, and moved back in, then moved out again. Bit by bit, we’ve been going through things, getting rid of things, and finding new identities for children’s rooms. And then my husband got the idea of cleaning out the attic for the first time in our 25 year marriage and this was something that couldn’t be denied. One of those unspoken honey-do’s was coming true!

One of the boxes in the attic contained a bunch of old journals. I started reading through them to correct some memories I’d included in a writing project. But before long I got sucked back into my life of 20 years ago. It wasn’t pretty. There was a lot of emotion and a lot of hormones. Did I only write when I was emotional? I hope so because if not, I was a lot more unstable than I remember! Sitting on the floor of what was once my oldest son’s room, I read about myself and my husband and our struggles with a long bout of unemployment and young children and starting to homeschool. It was a lot and I think I underestimated the stress and strain it put on me and my family. But 20 years later I found myself feeling kind of discouraged instead of thankful for how God had brought us so far. Yes, this has been a tough year. But I am more stable, my marriage is much stronger, and I know God so much more deeply than 20 years ago.

If you’re in the midst of diapers, or homeschooling small kids, or at your wit’s end with teens, hold on and give yourself grace. Know that the Lord is with you in all of the less than ideal aspects of your life. He is pleased with you amidst all the frustration and loose ends. If you struggle to fully believe certain things about God, keep pressing in as Paul says, press on toward that goal for that prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14) What does that look like practically and specifically? It looks like gazing upward instead of inward. Spend more time meditating on his steadfast love and faithfulness than wallowing in your failures. I guarantee you that if you do that, 20 years from now, things will look a lot different.

After I put away those journals and gave myself time to process all that the Lord has done these last 20 years, I was able to get some perspective. I was tempted to be discouraged and wallow in what I looked like 20 years ago. But then I thought about the things I struggled to really believe about God back then. I struggled with thinking that God was indifferent. I so wanted the knowledge that I knew with my head – that God is truly for me and loves me no matter what – to burrow deeply into my heart. As I reflected, 20 years later, I saw that those things have burrowed their way into my heart, almost imperceptibly, and have become the rock solid ground under my feet that are sustaining me this very day. Slowly, very slowly, but surely, God was working over these last 20 years to build my faith stronger and stronger. Yes, 20 years ago, a lot of things weren’t pretty, but God was in it and he’s been faithful. And he is faithful right now and forevermore.

When in Trouble…

Psalm 77 gives us a perfect prescription for what to do when we’re in trouble. The first nine verses recount Asaph’s lament and teach us that even the most faithful of God’s people experience doubt and despair. He speaks of endless weary nights of trouble, putting forth honest questions about God’s character. “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased?” Psalm 77:7-8

But then there’s a big turn that happens in verse 10. “Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this…'” What Asaph does beginning here in verse 10 is deliberately turn his attention back to who God is and what he has done. You can almost imagine a pounding of the fist as he urges himself toward God in verse 11:

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.”

What deeds and wonders will Asaph bring to mind? He reminds himself of the greatest deliverance in Israel’s history: the Exodus. God is the wonder working God who brings redemption to his people. He speaks of the waters of the Red Sea being afraid of God and his lightnings lighting up the world. The whole earth responds at his command. After recounting and meditating on all God has done, Asaph is able to rest his weary hands that have been stretched out in prayer night after night and instead glory in God’s mighty and faithful hand that worked such a powerful deliverance.

What Asaph did in Psalm 77 is a pattern we all should learn and practice for those times when we get lost amidst the suffering we’ll inevitably endure in this life. I don’t know what Asaph was going through, but for me, right now, I’m at the beginning of a long journey of cancer treatment. I’m on the outskirts of a kind of suffering I’ve never experienced and I’m already seeing how it can easily make me forget what I already know about God. So I’m reminding myself of God’s character, specifically, his knowledge and power over all things, big and small. Here’s a sampling of what his Word tells me:

God knows the number and names of all the stars. Psalm 147:4 “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” 

God appoints plants and worms and winds. Jonah 4:6, 7, 8 “Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah…But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant…When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind…”

God takes notice of every sparrow and numbers the hairs on your head. Luke 12:6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”

From stars to worms to hairs and sparrows, he knows. And if he governs the large and the small, he also governs the microscopic. He governs my cancer. I don’t fully understand that but what is the alternative? The alternative is chance or chaos. And I’d rather be content not fully understanding God’s ways than panicked and without hope thinking that it’s all out of control.

So when you’re in trouble, learn from Asaph. Urge your soul forward towards the Lord. Remember who he is and remember his deeds. His understanding is unsearchable and he is still sovereign.

On Profanity

Profanity: (according to Wikipedia) socially offensive use of language, which may also be called cursing, swearing, or expletives.

Have you noticed profanity becoming more and more commonplace? People have always used offensive language, but it wasn’t always out in the open. People avoided using it in polite company, broadcasters banned it on most television shows, and kids only whispered it behind closed doors with their friends. But lately there seems to be less and less of a problem with it. Expletives grace the covers of books and new media outlets like podcasts have no restrictions. The profane speech that was once frowned upon now elicits shameless giggles and even cheers.

The Atlanta Braves just won the World Series. For an Atlanta sports fan, this has been a big deal and long time coming. We rewrote the narrative (see Superbowl LI and last year’s NLCS among other examples) and claimed a major sports title for the first time since 1995. One of the players we added halfway through the season made quite a contribution with his bat and his personality, profanely proclaiming his prowess as he hit another game-changing home run in the NLDS. The fans loved it.

One of the elite runners I admire won the New York City Marathon in 2017. As she ran the final stretch in Central Park toward the finish line, realizing the gravity of her accomplishment not only for herself but for U.S. distance running, she screamed a triumphant expletive. It went viral and everyone loved it. Overnight the phrase flooded social media posts and became a meme of sorts for strong women everywhere.

Closer to home, there’s a certain race I’ve run three times. It’s a 50K race that fits into a special category in which there are no prizes or t-shirts. It’s a casual, just-for-fun ultramarathon. Race organizers have chosen a colorful name for these kinds of races. At first I didn’t want to say the name because I don’t use that kind of language. But then I heard others use it, even Christian friends, so I told myself to lighten up. It’s not a big deal. The name really wasn’t that bad. So I started using it. But then I thought some more about it. I thought about how powerful language is and how easy it would be to allow other, more colorful words to creep into my vocabulary once I started using this milder one.

As Christians, we’re called to a certain standard in our behavior and with our mouths. Psalm 19:14 says, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Words are important because they reflect the heart. Jesus told his disciples that you can judge a person’s character by his words: “for out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

So how should Christians respond to a more casual attitude towards language, a coarsening of speech not only in the culture around them but maybe even in their own Christian circles? I admit that I have struggled with how to deal with this. No one wants to be seen as a prude or a legalist, but should a desire to be careful with our words be labeled as prudish? Isn’t it a desire to follow Peter’s admonition: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”? Holiness is never seen as ‘cool’ by the world, but shouldn’t it be encouraged by our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

Maybe we all need to go back and read James 3 again and take to heart what the apostle tells us about the tongue:

“For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body…the tongue is a small member yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

If these words seem over-the-top and shocking to us, perhaps we haven’t understood clearly the power of language. But just look at a social media platform like Twitter which is powered almost exclusively by negative speech! In that case, the keyboard acting as proxy for the tongue truly is a fire and a world of unrighteousness.

Believers shouldn’t be embarrassed into going along with the coarsening of culture, especially in our speech. We should seek to live differently, to speak differently, to live as Paul instructed us, as “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” Philippians 2:15

The spirit of the age is all about the individual, expressing yourself in any way without a thought for what others may think. The world tells us that whatever comes out of our mouths is an expression of our true selves. But as believers, we’re told who our true selves are, it’s the new self who has been “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) We’re told that the Christian life is a continual practice of putting off the old self and putting on this new self. The new self is to do all things in love, thinking of others as more significant than ourselves. The new self takes the place of the old self, the earthly self, which we are called to continually put away and put to death with all its anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk. (Colossians 3:5-10) Holiness and love should characterize all our speech so that we follow Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Instead of blending in with the culture, let’s aim to speak in ways that are pure, edifying, appropriate and gracious. Such speech isn’t embarrassing. It’s beautiful and glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ.

Come Down

I’ve been reading The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, which is a good introduction to the Puritans if you’ve never read them.

Here is a quote and my reflections on it.

Christ came down from heaven and emptied himself of majesty in tender love to souls. Shall we not come down from our high conceits to do any poor soul good? Shall man be proud after God has been humble?

What is he getting at here? It’s about imitating Christ. Think on our Lord Jesus Christ who is the highest of the high emptying himself for lowly sinners like ourselves. Does he lord over us his majesty and power? Does he look down on us who are weak? No. He comes to us with compassion and tenderness. A bruised reed he will not break. (Isaiah 42:3) He comforts us and weeps with us. (John 11:35) And so we also should weep with others, coming down to their level.

Advancing in theological knowledge is fun and some of us love to learn the heavy doctrines and talk about them with those who are like-minded. All that is fine, but if that knowledge separates us from others’ struggles, causing us to look down on those who haven’t advanced as far as we have, what good is that knowledge? If you can explain the five solas but refuse to serve at the soup kitchen, what good is that?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 8 that knowledge puffs up but love builds up. It’s not that knowledge isn’t important. For Paul’s audience, he affirms the truth that idols are nothing and so the issue of eating or not eating meat sacrificed to them won’t commend us to God. But not all possess this knowledge. So don’t let the freedom you have received from this knowledge cause you to make your brother stumble. That is the most important thing in Paul’s mind. He concludes this way, “Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 1 Corinthians 8:12-13

And this is Sibbes’ point as well. If Christ, who is highly exalted above all, stoops to the level of lowly sinners, shouldn’t we also come down to serve those who are the least among us?

Peace

It was the day before I would receive my cancer diagnosis. I needed to be alone so I went down to the river and sat on the side of a small dock. The gently flowing Chattahoochee instantly brought calm. With my feet immersed in the cool current I took out a book of poetry that I’d neglected for some time: Toward Jerusalem by Amy Carmichael. As I slowly pondered her words I wondered why I’d left this book alone for so long. Some pages were dog eared and on others I had written a date – 5/8/02. Why that date? What was going on then that these poems had such an impact? It was a year after the youngest of my three children had been born and my husband was still struggling to find work. One rejection after another had left him deeply discouraged and I was barely keeping my head above water with three small children.

That was a very difficult period of our lives, of my life, and I remembered how I’d found solace in Amy Carmichael’s words:

But the Lord is always kind,

Be not blind,

Be not blind

To the shining of His face,

To the comforts of His grace.

Hath He ever failed thee yet?

Never, never: wherefore fret?

O fret not thyself, nor let

Thy heart be troubled,

Neither let it be afraid.

This time, for a very different reason, I again found solace as I mulled over her words and allowed them to lift my gaze up to the Lord who already knew all the results of every test and how this cancer would change my life. He got us through what would turn out to be fifteen months of unemployment back in 2001 and 2002. Could I trust him with this? As I kept turning pages and reading these lines of verse, I knew that I could. My spirit swelled with peace as I penciled in a new date – 8/16/21.

The river near my home is unpredictable. Sometimes it floods not because of rain but because the Army Corps of Engineers decides to release more water from the dam upstream. Hours later it will overflow its banks alongside our favorite running trail, making it impassable. Ever since that day when I found out I had cancer, the peace I’ve experienced has continued to overflow the banks of my soul. I’ve been a living and breathing example of Philippians 4:6-7; the peace of God has truly guarded my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. The gracious work of God in me along with the many prayers being prayed on my behalf have combined to do something remarkable. One of the tests I underwent after my diagnosis checked for a genetic component to my cancer. If it was positive, the course of treatment would drastically change. On the day I went to hear those results, I sat in the parking deck next to the doctor’s office, hastily committing to memory another poem of Amy’s which was marked with that same date almost twenty years ago – 5/8/02 – and the words ‘life prayer’ written in pencil. I was nervous but as I read these words His waves of peace continued to roll over me.

Long is the way, and very steep the slope,

Strengthen me once again, O God of hope.

Far, very far, the summit doth appear;

But thou art near my God, but Thou art near.

And Thou wilt give me with my daily food,

Powers of endurance, courage, fortitude.

Thy way is perfect; only let that way

Be clear before my feet from day to day.

Thou art my Portion, saith my soul to Thee,

O what a Portion is my God to me.

Two months later and my prognosis is good and there’s a plan in place for treatment. Genetics came back negative. I have had no pain and there are times I even forget I have cancer. I know that isn’t the story for everyone who has cancer so I am extremely grateful. But I am even more grateful for this peace I continue to experience. It’s not of this world. It’s from the Lord, the Prince of Peace.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

Reflections on Psalm 89

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”

This is how Psalm 89 begins. With a declaration of intent. Ethan the Ezrahite will sing. And what will he sing of? The steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord. These twin attributes are repeated over and over in Psalm 89. In verse 2, “steadfast love is built up forever…in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” Our attention is continually drawn to the everlasting permanence of God’s covenantal love for his people.

Verse 3 further underlines these attributes by making mention of God’s covenantal promise to David and then verse 5 begins a crescendo of praise that doesn’t end until verse 18.

“Let the heavens praise your wonders…” v. 5

“Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord…awesome above all who are around him? Who is mighty as your are, O Lord?” v. 6, 8

“The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours…” v. 11

“You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand.” v. 13

And then again, the notes of steadfast love and faithfulness punctuate the praise: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” v. 14

“You are the glory of their strength…for our shield belongs to the Lord…” v. 17, 18

In verses 19-37, the psalmist returns to the Davidic theme, further emphasizing God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to his chosen King. Do you see the continuing theme? Over and over the psalmist is reminding himself and his audience of God’s character and the blessed state of God’s people. In verses 19-37 I count at least nine times when God uses the words I will. God’s intent is for his people.

So if the psalm ended there we’d have a nice and tidy situation. All praise and all promise. But it doesn’t end there. Notice how verse 38 begins. But now… The tone changes dramatically and if you can imagine the psalm set to music, I’m sure it would modulate into a minor key. But the pattern here seems to go against the typical lament. If you’re familiar with the laments in the book of Psalms, they usually start with the lament and then end with assurance, minor key modulating into the triumphant major. But here we seem to have the reverse. For 37 verses Ethan extols the faithfulness and steadfast love of the Lord. But he ends with lament.

We don’t know his exact situation but a thoughtful reading of the end of this psalm and of Israel’s history can give us a clue. He must be experiencing one of the many low points in the history of God’s people. The psalm says that God’s people are scorned. They are defeated by their foes in battle. They have become ashamed. And Ethan must be confused. What is God doing? In verse 49 he asks where this steadfast love and faithfulness have gone. He may be able to recount it with the eyes of faith but he doesn’t see it in front of his face. There is no resolution by the end of the psalm, only unanswered questions.

We are also confused sometimes about what God is up to. Things seem very backward and wrong seems to continually win out. How do we deal with this confusion? We need to take a lesson from Ethan. It’s not like the bad stuff started happening as he was writing. He was already in it! But he starts in the right way. He spends the first 37 verses of this psalm worshiping God and building himself up in the truths that he knows with his head, despite what he sees with his eyes. I think he’s doing exactly what Jude tells his audience to do at the end of his epistle. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” Jude 20-21. Ethan built up his faith by immersing himself in the truth of who God is and what he’s promised. That then gave him an anchor as he plunged into lament. Let’s not leave out that first step. By starting with praise, we can buffet ourselves in the midst of any storm we’re going through. Our problems won’t be solved immediately but by God’s grace we’ll be able to hang on and even grow deeper in faith as we honestly approach the Lord with our questions. Remember that faith isn’t opposed to asking the hard questions.

So when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, in a confusing situation where God seems absent, let’s begin where the psalmist did, confidently approaching the Lord in prayer with our own declaration of intent:

“I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1

Reorientation

In the book of Habakkuk we get a peek inside the prophet’s prayer life. And what we see can help us as we face the inevitable questions of life that have to do with wondering and waiting for God to act. In the first four verses we get thrown immediately into lament. O Lord, how long? Why do you make me see injustice among your own people? Why are you idle? Habakkuk has been praying a long time and is disoriented by what’s going on around him. His only focus is on the present moment and how God seems to be silent.

But in verse 5 we get a reply. God doesn’t rebuke the prophet but commands him to do four things: Look, See, Wonder, Be astounded. The rest of the book is a description of this further reorienting of Habakkuk’s perspective and his heart. No wonder the first verse calls it a vision. For that is what God is aiming at in his exchanges with the prophet. He wants to give Habakkuk a bigger and broader vision of who He is and what His ways are. Habakkuk was stuck with his eyes down, frustrated that God wasn’t paying attention to what he was seeing. But all along, God wanted Habakkuk to turn his eyes upward.

By the end of the book Habakkuk’s eyes are wide open to see the glorious vision of God as a conquering victorious Savior. His perspective changed and his problems became somehow smaller. Even though the land will soon be utterly devastated by the coming Babylonians, he will rejoice. He won’t be controlled by what his earthly eyes see. He will take joy in the God of his salvation.

When we are left frustrated in prayer, wondering if God sees what’s going on, maybe we need to step back and ask God to change our perspective. What are we missing? Where are our expectations misplaced? How have we missed seeing God? And if our problems look huge and God seems absent, maybe we need to focus more on enlarging our vision of God so our problems can be put in their proper perspective.

Get Wisdom

For the past few months I’ve been hiding Proverbs 1-4 in my heart. It’s been a slow go, but that’s ok. However long it takes, it’s always beneficial to hide the Word in our hearts. And if it takes longer than expected, that just gives me more time to chew and meditate on the truths contained in it. Memorizing Proverbs is a different kind of challenge compared to the Psalms or the epistles of Paul but I’m enjoying it.

One thing that strikes me in these first four chapters is the unrelenting call to pursue wisdom. It’s everywhere and it seems to be overkill. But I’m learning that anything that’s repeated in the Scripture is there because we are hard headed and stubborn people who are always prone to forgetting and need a constant reminder like a wayward toddler who constantly drifts toward the busy street.

Right now I’m working on the fourth chapter and I want to highlight both the positive and the negative commands as it regards the pursuit of wisdom.

Positive Commands

Hear, be attentive, let your heart hold fast, keep, get, get, love, get, get, prize, embrace, hear, accept, keep hold, guard, be attentive, incline, keep, keep, look forward, let your gaze be straight, ponder.

If I’m not mistaken, that’s 22 positive commands urging us to go after wisdom, to make it a priority to seek the Lord’s instruction. I’ve always chuckled at verse 7 and its ‘Captain Obvious’ tone: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom…” but I think this calls for some reflection on our part. What are we going hard after in this life? Think of the Nike motto, “Just Do It”. There’s no lack of energy being sunk into lots of other endeavors in this world, but who are those that go after wisdom with the kind of holy tenacity that Solomon commends?

Negative Commands

Do not forsake, do not forget, do not turn away, do not forsake, do not let go, do not enter, do not walk, avoid, do not go, turn away, pass on, let them not escape, put away, put far from you, do not swerve, turn your foot away.

There are 16 negative commands here. Notably, in Proverbs 4:15, there are 4 admonitions when considering the path of the wicked: “Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, verse 15 should act as a club over the head. Many of us think we can “handle” looking at certain things or watching certain kinds of entertainment. Proverbs 4:15 is like a bullhorn perched right next to our foolish ears: NO!

The Promise of Wisdom

We could stop here and allow ourselves to despair thinking that these calls to get wisdom are just too extreme. It’s too hard. But go back to chapter 2 and listen to the promise God gives to those who go after wisdom.

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Proverbs 2:1-8

Do you see these stunning promises? God is graciously waiting for us to seek his wisdom and his instruction and he will give it. And James agrees! “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

The Worth of Wisdom

These promises are great but if wisdom wasn’t worth seeking, we wouldn’t be motivated to get after it and be confident that the Lord would give it. So in chapter 3, Solomon offers these words:

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.” Proverbs 3:13-18

Do you see the repetition of the word blessed at the beginning and at the end of this passage? Wisdom is worth the work because happy is the one who finds it! There is guaranteed reward for those who pursue it.

In hiding these words in my heart, I’m seeing a subtle shift in my affections. It’s not so much a ‘do this, don’t do that’ mentality. It’s a shifting of my heart towards what is wise and good and a turning further away from what is evil and foolish. It’s like I can sense the grooves in my heart that run toward God and his ways getting deeper and the grooves sin has cut into my flesh becoming less worn. I desire to follow more on the path of the wise and as I observe the folly of this world and the folly in my own sinful heart, the value of the way of wisdom becomes clearer before my eyes.

So let’s get after wisdom. Let’s ask the Lord constantly for it. Let’s pursue it with that holy tenacity. It is worth it.

God Hears Us Moms!

My oldest son gave me a gift for Christmas one year that stunned me with its thoughtfulness. It was a scarf that had printed on it literary quotes about mothers. One of my favorites comes from the fifth book in the Anne of Green Gables series, Anne’s House of Dreams.

“Gilbert put his arm about them. ‘Oh, you mothers!’ he said. ‘You mothers! God knew what He was about when He made you.'”

Another quote comes from Little Women:

“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.”

As a mother, my prayers have only grown in fervency as my children have gotten older. Now that they’re in their 20s, I don’t have access to them as I once did, but I always have access to throne of grace where I continuously bring them before the Father.

I have recently started taking one day a week and dedicating a certain amount of time on that day to praying not only for my own children but their cousins, the next Beatty generation. I was inspired to do this by my sister-in-law. Today I spent time lifting them up to the Lord and praying that he would give them purpose and confidence. That they wouldn’t have a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) That they would not be deceived by sin and have their hearts become hard. (Heb. 3:12-13) That they would focus on the things of eternity and not be drawn away by the fleeting pleasures of this world.

But it can be tempting to get discouraged as I realize that the results of my prayers may not come for a long time. I will have to wait. So how can I prevent becoming discouraged? This is when it’s so helpful to remind myself of the whole testimony of Scripture, particularly as it pertains to mothers. How does God treat mothers and their children? Today I began to make a mental list.

  • In Genesis 16 and 21, God seeks out and provides for and blesses the despised Hagar and her son Ishmael. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing…'” Genesis 16:13
  • In Exodus 2, God honors Moses’ mother’s courage and saves Moses from death by the hand of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ sister then skillfully negotiates to have her mother hired to nurse him!
  • In Ruth, God graciously provides for the now son-less and bitter Naomi by giving her a daughter-in-law and a kinsman redeemer named Boaz.
  • In 1 Samuel, Hannah’s fervent prayers are honored with the birth of Samuel. She then lends him to the Lord and he becomes a significant man of faith in the story of Israel.
  • In 2 Kings 4 we read the story of the childless Shunammite woman who generously provides for Elisha. Elisha prophecies that a son will be born to her. This son then dies of sudden illness and the prophet brings him back to life.
  • In Isaiah 40 mothers can take comfort from this passage: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

And what about in the New Testament? We see God responding to mothers and their fervent desires for their children in the same gracious way.

  • In Luke 1, God intervenes in a childless couple’s life and gives Elizabeth and Zechariah a long prayed for son. In Luke 2, we see God bringing Mary to Elizabeth for mutual encouragement.
  • In Luke 2, God brings encouragement to Mary’s heart concerning her special Son three separate times. The shepherds tell her of the angels’ proclamation, the devout Simeon tells of her son’s marvelous purpose, and Anna the prophetess gives a testimony of thanksgiving and praise to all as she witnessed this little baby who would be the redemption of Israel.
  • In Luke 7, Jesus encounters the widow of Nain whose only son has just died. He had compassion on her and gave her back her son alive.
  • In John 19, when Jesus is about to breathe his last, he takes care for his mother and instructs John to bring her into his home.

Looking at the whole testimony of Scripture, we see that God sees mothers. He knows their needs and hears their cries not only for themselves but for their children. Let us not despair or be discouraged as we continually pray for our children. He see us and hears us! And this should not be a surprise to us because the testimony of Scripture also uses mothering imagery to describe God. He is the one who gave birth to his people (Deut. 32:18), who taught them to walk (Hos. 11:3), who will never forget them (Is. 49:15-16), and who seeks to comfort them as a mother comforts her children (Is. 66:13).

So Gilbert was right. God knew what he was doing when he created mothers. For his heart beats with the same rhythm. And as we pray for our children like Marmee in Little Women, know that the tenderness and compassion of our hearts is just a pale reflection of God’s own heart for us.

Things Revealed

Deuteronomy 29:29 says:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

This verse is set in the context of a review of the covenant blessings and curses. God is reminding the people of the Law and the consequences of their obedience and disobedience. This verse may seem out of place at first, but perhaps it’s put there for a specific reason.

God had given to the people of Israel, and has given to us, specific revelation in the form of words, laws, precepts and statutes. He has made all of it clear so we may understand how to obey him and enjoy fellowship with him. God desires what is best for his people and so he didn’t leave us without the direction we needed for ourselves and for our children.

So why this mention of ‘the secret things’? What are those secret things? That’s the trouble. We want to know the secret things. We’ve always wanted to know the secret things, ever since the Deceiver told Eve that God was holding out on her and His command wasn’t enough. Still now, with us, it’s like there’s two books – one called “The Things Revealed”, which is the Word of God, and another called “The Secret Things”, which is all the stuff we wish God would tell us. What do we wish God would tell us? Some want to know exactly how the universe was created down to subatomic detail. Some want to have access to future knowledge about themselves or other people. Others want their theological questions answered. Still others want to know the reasons behind their suffering. They won’t believe until they have these mysteries solved.

I don’t know what the book called “The Secret Things” looked like in the time of Israel. But what we see is that over time they stopped reading the revelation God had given them. They stopped paying attention to the warnings he had given them. They stopped passing it on to their children. And we all know the rest of the story.

A lot of us spend our time trying to read that book called “The Secret Things” while all the time the book called “The Things Revealed” is sitting right in front of us. God has given it to us and it belongs to us and to our children so we won’t just read it but also obey it.

It’s human nature to be discontent, to not be satisfied with what God has given us. It’s been that way since the first temptation in the garden to distrust God and want more. And now we’re still yearning for that secret knowledge. But God has given us all we need in His Word. He has given us a testimony written in both ink and blood for all to read. And we must base our faith and assurance on that. Not looking for the hidden secrets of the universe or for the resolution of all our theological conundrums. He has given us what we need and that should be enough.

The most important thing for us now is to lay hold of it, read it, believe it, and obey it. Then pass it on to our children so they may do the same. It’s nothing fancy and there’s nothing mysterious about it. But it is enough.