On Babies, Dogs, and God’s Little Rabbit Trails

I have officially become her. My mother. The one who talked to strangers in the grocery store line about things that were way too intimate and transparent for the general public. She used to talk about herself and others would open up to her. Random strangers would share their woes.

gods rabbit 6“Who are you?” I would think. “Must you talk to every tomato bearing elder, or toddler slinging mum you meet?” I tapped my foot impatiently as if just by her conversing with another human, the grocery lines would come to to a stop like some endless slow moving film.  I rolled my eyes at the need to share her story, or the safe portions of her story, while we stood waiting to hear “May I help who’s next?”

gods little 7Now I stand in grocery lines and look at the person waiting in front of me. The art of sharing my story was birthed by a women who was trapped inside the painful memories of a childhood that formed stories built upon cynicism. Though I could share in the same cynicism from my own childhood (*yawn* who doesn’t have wounds –  my childhood was far better than hers), now I gaze at the person in front of me because I am genuinely interested in her story.  

My story can wait. There may be a divine narrative needing to be encouraged in the stress lines of the face peering back at me. Some much needed mama encouragement as we walk together, image bearers trying to find the place that fills empty, aching, arms.

gods rabbit.jpg 5The reflection I see in the mirror, though it is different from my mums, stems from the same place of origin. Not just familial, but humanity’s. She has passed on to eternity and I have replaced her. I am now her.  Yet, fully me. A snowflake with a similar line here or there. I look like her. Sometimes I act like her. I still occasionally roll my ‘R’s with a remnant of Irish brogue. I am surprised to hear her laughter and realize it’s me. I remember details about her when she was my age. Details that seemed so old to a teenager with a lifetime to be lived. Now I look in shock at myself. I am at her place in life. I am her age. This can’t be me. I didn’t even see it coming. 

God's little 3When did I fall in this hole? When did I become my mother, and my daughter become me? When were my eight toddling wee babes replaced by twelve toddling to teen grandchildren? A family was my lifelong dream. It was all I ever wanted. Farm life. Animals. Family. Homebirth. Babies at my breast. The smell of freshly baked cookies and bread rising. I lived it to the fullest all the while finding the sacred in the mundane.

I have lived my dreams. 

 Now, like Beth in Little Women I wonder why “everyone has to go away.”

gods little 10

 

But… “I can be brave like you.” 

We all age. We all gain wisdom (hopefully). We learn that other people have stories, and if we are careful, if we have developed empathy, if we have learned to let go of controlling conversations, outcomes, or our own agenda’s – we can hear the divine narrative written on the pages of other image bearers.

My story is completely unique from anyone else’s. Everyone else’s is completely unique from mine. We run into trouble when we try to jump in with the, “I understand what that is like, I…” comments. No, you don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what it’s like for you either. We are all snowflakes, and snowflakes can’t be imitated. One of a kind.

gods little 12We aren’t comfortable in the silences. We feel threatened by stories. If I tell my story and rip open the flesh, separate the ribs, and expose my heart, it makes you feel insecure in the divine narrative woven throughout your own story. You don’t like the blood and guts. You want tidy, non-offensive, unchanging, and fully clothed. Beautiful. Serene. 

gods little 8My whole life was centered around raising my babies. I home-schooled, they married and lived nearby so that even the grand-kids became part of my day. Friends lived with us, stragglers came on weekends. It was a full house. 

One day, all of that changed. I thought I would be the old lady who had tea with my daughters while I helped them to can the abundance from their gardens. They would borrow books from my extensive home-school library and pick from my home-school career brain. The library has been mostly given away to the parents now carrying on the home-school legacy. Only one has a garden.

The rabbit hole is full of twists and bends. I was blinded to what was ahead. 

They had a divine narrative being spoken into their lives too and we can’t always predict the story line. It is their story line. It’s God narrative for them. 

gods little 9

(c) Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Yet, I find a space to cuddle in white fur. I have always loved dogs, but they made space for nursing babies and became “Nana” to my wee ones. Now I find myself developing the kind of companionship I had with fur before I knew the love of a child at my breast.  I have become one of those people. I have more pictures of my dog on my phone than my grand-kids. I text them to Dave and we laugh over becoming “those people.”

Dog’s love is as reckless as God’s in a creation not creator form. Our new little doggie girl was abused before she came to us via a rescue group as a “foster.” Slated to be euthanized, Big Fluffy rescued her and she landed with us. She would cringe if we reached too quickly towards her. She blinked her eyes waiting to be hit anytime our hand came near. My heart melted as her tail continued to wag, despite the obvious past inhumane treatment.  We “fostered” her with no intent of adopting her, but the day someone was interested, Dave closed the deal and she became ours.

I imagine Jesus must feel like that as he reaches for us at times. We wince and back away from Him, told the lies about a God who is more interested in our mistakes than our redemption.

daisy

Anyone who has experienced abuse and neglect will tell you that they remember forever when they were delivered from it. Maybe it was a day, maybe it was a season – the timing is different for everyone. There is a then and now. In Christ – there is a then and now narrative that plays out in all of our lives. Our little Daisy (who we call Piggy) is living out a then and now narrative in her little life. We see it as our little while love ball blossoms into our protector, keeping us from all harm. She shows her gratitude for being saved in how she loves. 

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She has her own redemption story – from the brokenness of man’s irresponsible and unkind folly, into redemptive life. We are the caretakers of God’s creation. Dominion means care, not abuse.

My Masters of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, has a concentration in “children at risk.” One big rabbit trail in my living intentionally dreams. It’s one big rabbit trail that I travel completely alone. No kids, no husband, no partners. Just me on the road down the Divine Academia Lane. Piggy sits faithfully next to me as I write papers and read endless amounts of books. I am completely engrossed and completely alive.

My prayer is that the knowledge I gain will better the lives of little image bearers and their moms – that I can make a difference. But I really hope to expand my own depth so I will see more of Christ and less of my mother when I look in the mirror. Less of me. I witness a broken world and a church that often is more concerned with self-preservation than laying down their lives.

gods rabbitI have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. It’s more like Jesus. 

From babies, to strangers – maternal healthcare, children, infants, orphans, refugees, broken, bleeding… The world needs the love of God. They need to see the Jesus that lived. The Jesus that went about doing good and healing (and rescuing) all that were oppressed of the devil. Not the one that promises cars, money, mansions, and a perfect life if you have enough faith and “declare it.”  Not the one who turns a blind eye of fear to the plight of refugees, orphans, widows, the marginalized, or people from other religions. 

The Jesus who rescues them and who died that they may live. That’s the Jesus I wanna live like.

Jesus declares he is the way the truth and the life. He declares only Himself. He declares the Kingdom of God is at hand in Emmanuel.

Gods 14Jesus says, “Hey, follow me.” I have something really perfect written just for you. You are part and parcel of this divine narrative. You may not always like where I have to go. Sometimes it may even hurt a bit. There will be rabbit trails and sometime you may get lost. But don’t worry, I will never, ever lose sight of you, even if you fall down the rabbit hole. The only drink that will make you smaller is the one that makes me increase. It’s my magic potion of living water. Drink it with joy and it will reveal the divine narrative that I have written just for you.

God's Rabbit trails 2I have to the drink the potion. It’s time to grow up and leave home.

 

Confessions of a Recovering Complementarian (Sort of – part 1)

He had broad shoulders and piercing blue eyes. My heart skipped a beat when I looked into those eyes, gazing gently from the landing above. From his wavy hair to his fur lined boots, he radiated warmth as he smiled and nodded in my direction.

I did meet him again, and yet again – and then one Valentine’s Day we stood before a Justice of the Peace and said “I do.”

We were best friends, even more so because we had started our lives together with a dose of reality. I was in the process of a divorce, and had a two and a half year old wee one. The wee one wasn’t a problem for Dave, whose love was large enough for both of us, easily. There was a kindness about him – a gentleness.

levi and dave sleeping (2)

Our family quickly enlarged to three children, and we were blissfully happy in a relationship that was based upon gender equality. It never entered our minds it could be wrong, or should be different. Desiring a new start from our pre-marriage crowd, we moved to New England.

We met Jesus there – at least the version of Jesus that was provided to us. That was when the problems began.

It didn’t take long before our happy marriage, our mutual respect, and our friendship was put to the test. We were both young – still early twenties. I was really easy going, and head-over-heals in love. Dave was incredibly caring, fun, and full of confidence, when we met and married. (Throw in a touch of male, twenty-something arrogance and ego for the full picture, a healthy dose of insecurity for me.)

We believed there was nothing that we couldn’t face together, nothing we couldn’t agree upon. But, within weeks of being introduced to Jesus, and claiming Him as our own, we were told we were in an unscriptural marriage. Marriage was for life and I had divorced and broken that covenant. Done deal. No turning back.  Not only that, but I was the “guilty party” according to the naysayers.

We made it through that sticky mess; my level headed husband, combined with a lot of God’s grace, prevented my frantic suggestions of divorce to spare us all from hell, from becoming a reality.  We found a new church home – still in the same group – but this one accepted divorce, if it happened before conversion.

Phew, I was safe.

We needed a new car and Dave and I had been shopping around. That was when the first mini-vans had just been introduced and we enjoyed test driving them together. We discussed car options for our growing family as we laughed, plotted, and ultimately just grabbed a burger knowing that the burger, not the car was in our price range.  It was something we had done when we were dating – looked at cars, homes, furniture, and other Sunday afternoon fantasies.

So, we shared with others a bit of our love story at church one night – we talked about looking at cars together. It was a fun memory, a test drive of a brand new car, when the car broke down just a few blocks from the dealer!  But the memory didn’t matter to law-makers, only the law did. The joy of the moment was robbed when we were quickly told that our relationship was out of order. I shouldn’t be part of making decisions about cars, it was Dave’s responsibility to make decisions. 

It wasn’t long before the strong Patriarchal views were chipping away at our love and mutual respect.

My strong husband no longer appeared quite so strong in my eyes. He wasn’t a biblical leader – a spiritual head.  I was no longer easy going or “submissive” as I tried to push him into a role that he didn’t want, or agree with. His happiness waned as he witnessed me tormented because who I was, wasn’t biblically right. The more I tried to be someone I wasn’t, the more I failed, the more miserable I became, and the more I blamed him for not being the spiritual head. If he would take over, I could step down. If he would only lead in prayer… if he would only lead in devotions… if he would only lead in child discipline…if he would only lead in discipleship…if he would only lead in budgeting, if he would only lead

Our once happy marriage was a cycle of blame and regret. Isn’t that what happened in the garden? Didn’t Jesus redeem us from that?

The joy of leading bible studies for my children became a burden as I became convinced it was his job to train them up, not mine. Discipline became law, because it was his responsibility as the leader. When we lost a child and when constant difficulties prevailed, it was because our home was “out of order.” We were cursed.

 I was too much, and he wasn’t enough. Who we were, who we were created to be, was simply wrong. 

We tried to lose ourselves, our personalities, our God given gifts and talents – who we are, into a theological jumble of hierarchy.  He got angrier, I got more frustrated. He retreated, I pursued.

I wish I could say this was just the story of our marriage, but it wasn’t. We know it to be true in so many marriages from our past, and into our present. Struggling, pain filled, and confused couples, hurting to be restored. Often, they don’t even know where to begin. 

Then grace happened; the music of our marriage slowly began to be heard. I am the high notes and Dave is the low notes. Low notes are usually not played as often, but when they are, they are rich, and full, and command a presence.

Lenten Longins Sam cello

What was once a burden to lead or be led has become the symphony of our lives, as we again harmonize decisions, ideas, passions, viewpoints – all with the same respect that Jesus revealed to us when He walked this earth –  loving on women, slaves, men, tax collectors – everyone equally.

 The gospels reveal the intrinsic worth of all people, and you can’t really believe that all people have value if you deem one gender more valuable in thoughts, knowledge, gifts, or leadership abilities, than you do the other. You can’t have balance if one gender is considered too emotional, weak, or good only for the services that are below the capabilities of the other.

The life of Jesus reflected things differently.

Some say it’s a gray area, and yet others have scriptural proofs for both egalitarian and complementarian views. I have been passionate about both sides – seeing both sides as black and white – at that time.

One came from a place of have to, and one springs new from a place of want to. 

Now I see Jesus in all His passions, and with that sight comes the freedom to focus on how He treated women, how he radically tossed aside the cultural musts and must nots of His time to teach women, heal women, hang out with women, and above all, love women.

He set the example of submitting one to another as he washed his betrayer’s feet. 

He set the example of lifting up the lowliest when he chatted to the Samaritan woman, alone, at the well, drawing her into a place of safety and comfort.

He set the example when he told Martha that Mary was doing the best thing when she sat at his feet – a place reserved previously only for students – only for men.

He set the example when he wrote in the sand the words that set an adulterous woman free, and threw male hypocrisy back at her accusers. 

Dave always set that example too. 

Now I am free to love and be loved. I am free to use my gifts. I am free to lead, and free to relinquish leadership to our mutual decisions and benefits as we play to the music of our lives.  Dave is pretty happy over the changes that brought us back to who we were created to be. He knows he’s enough. I know I’m not too much.

The women he fell in love with – he’s the man with the piercing blue eyes. Back to love; back to two individuals seeking our God as one.

Boy-Girl-Cute-Couple-Holding-Hands-Wallpapers

The new and improved, image bearing, spirit filled, Jesus living, version of our symphony, is being played beautifully again – richer, deeper, and fuller than ever before. 

I hope your symphony will find it’s voice again too.

Jamie

The War Room – Wounds, Reality, and Weapons

war room 1We saw The War Room the other night. Admittedly I went with a negative opinion of the movie before it even began. I had planned on waiting until it was $1 and change in Redbox, but some of the reviews, comments on Facebook, and the overall reaction of many had me intrigued. I was hoping I was wrong.

I believe that as good as we may think these movies are, and as great an underlying message they may have, they also promote an unhealthy view of discipleship. I am not a huge fan of any movie which paints an unrealistic and biased view of the “saved” versus the “unsaved.” The “saved” are the great husbands, fathers, mothers, prayer warriors, volunteers, helpers, ethical, hardworking, wonderful people, while the atheist, Muslim, and all unbeliever’s, are the angry, abusive, unhelpful, chauvinists (i.e. God’s Not Dead).

First, I’d like to say what I liked about the movie.

It promoted prayer and trust in God.

It promoted mentoring new disciples of Christ – something that is lacking in church relationships everywhere.

It showed that God does in deed answer prayer and changes hearts in doing so.

It promoted a single woman’s strength in prayer.

It starred people of color. Kudos to the movie makers who are trying to break down racial tensions in Christian movies.  (And in my experience, the truly bruised kneed women I know as prayer warriors storming the gates of hell, are my friends’ of color. They taught me how to put the “P” in prayer.)

What I don’t like.

First, do we as Christians, with over 2,000 years of testimony still need a fictional movie to teach us to pray?  And then to come away in awe over what prayer can do based upon a fictional account? (I am in awe over that.)

Are we still absent from the “relationship not religion” we profess to embrace? Most healthy relationships are healthy because they communicate. How can we profess the relationship and yet say we don’t talk to God? Does it take a movie to be reminded that the weapons of our wars are best used on our knees? (Or in our cars, or our living rooms, or bathrooms, or the grocery store…)

Third, the prayer closet was a bit over the top. Most middle class or below (the majority of the church) do not own houses with giant walk in closets. Actually, if we move away from American consumerism to most European countries, or developing third world countries, a prayer closet is non-existent. Prayer should be practical to all people, at all times, in all places.  It was missing a practical side.

I also felt it missed prayer as a relationship of talking to God throughout our day – walking in constant communion with the Holy Spirit. Yes, there is a time for quiet prayer, contemplation, concentrated prayer, praise, and meditation, (preferably daily), but it is like date night or alone time in a human relationship, versus casual conversation. It sets up busy, sleep deprived moms to feel like they can’t seek God without hours away from the demands of family. It robs people of the power of God in meeting us in the mundane – soapy hands in a sink, muddy knees in a garden, waist high in piles of laundry, blowing bubbles with our littles.

My very best times of prayer during the season of life my littles were toddling at my feet, was when I had fifteen minutes for a shower! The Holy Spirit would fall in a way that I could touch the face of God!

Mostly, I simply can’t embrace a movie where the wife of a cheating, verbally abusive, selfish, crook, was merely told to pray for him – not even to consider counseling, a mediator, or a loving confrontation of “Hey, I love you but what you are doing is simply wrong!”  This may work in the movies, but it does a disservice to women in real life. It is the very type of abusive complementarianism that gives Christianity a bad name, keeps women in bondage, and promotes unhealthy, uncommunicative, and unbalanced, relationships. (I’ve seen way too much of it in my work.)

Dave and I watched this together, and he being the wonderful, soft-hearted, man I love, he was moved to tears by the story of reconciliation, as we should all be. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but notice that there were only three other women in the theater with us – all of them sitting alone. I heard some sniffles and I was moved to wonder what their stories are. Are they in a real life struggling relationship? Are they divorced? Have they prayed for years to no avail? What will this kind of “God always answers our prayers in miraculous ways” do their faith? If they have any faith in God at all.

My heart broke for them as I witnessed them wiping their tears. 

I have some friends who have been in their prayer closets praying for husbands for ten, twenty, even forty years who are still waiting for their prayers to be answered; others who stayed for years only to be deserted. It must be nice to have a man go from adultery to such deep conviction within what? Weeks?

Yes, it can and does sometimes happen. Usually it is messy, painful, and wrought with long and difficult times. (Former pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian, and his wife can attest to that.) Thank-God grace abounds –  and abounds even more fully in our darkest moments.

Not every marriage has a happy ending.

I also was completely disheartened to see there wasn’t any reaping what the husband had sown. Even though he deserved to go to jail, Santa God continued to provide the means for a three car garage, huge house, exorbitant lifestyle, despite the “Community Center” job he ended up with. (Last I checked, they usually don’t pay huge house salaries.) I would have felt much better if included in their conversion came the knowledge that wealth and prosperity belongs to God and maybe we need to downsize and change our lifestyle. Maybe a community job in reality won’t pay the bills on big executive homes.

Admittedly, it hits a sore spot for me. Just a few years back when my hard working husband was laid off (no fault of his own but IBM’s big downfall) and after a couple of years of living off our retirement, now gone, he accepted a job for less pay.  It came with a high price. We were facing our eighteenth move and with it the loss of our “gonna finally die here” dream farm in way upstate NY. We didn’t want to move, we didn’t like starting over again, we didn’t like not having a dime left in our 401K after caring for our large (single income) family, and a gazillion farm animals, that we were forced to liquidate. We didn’t really like anything about our circumstances.  

But we did like God.  In fact, we trusted Him with our lives despite the odds.

We had prayed.

And prayed.

And prayed some more.

One Sunday a “prosperity preacher” came to our church. The preacher opened his mouth and it went something like this, “I see Christians in this economy losing their jobs and accepting new jobs for less pay. People that is a lack of faith. You need to claim higher pay, with bigger blessings, not settle for less…” Wa-wa-wa-wa… (A little Charlie Brown goes on in my head when I hear this stuff.)

Of course he left with a substantial offering. 

As for us, we were incredibly blessed that Dave had employment in his field, and despite our having to move, we trusted in God’s goodness towards us, His plans, and His future. We still do.

We are Americans after all. We don’t know what faith for provision really means. (Syrians do right now.)

War Room had the potential to be a solid movie that encouraged prayer, while also revealing the heart of Christ in relationships and healing. It could have enlarged the eyes of viewers with a greater Kingdom vision seek justice and love mercy (Micah 6:8).  Instead, it was an unrealistic, feel good movie, that I am confident will cause wounds to people who are in struggling marriages, set others up for prayer failure when the expected outcomes don’t happen, and possibly even further abuse in oppressive, dominant, patriarchal families.

But that’s just my opinion.