Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Waiting for Easter...

Moving toward Christmas, we have the season of Advent. Weeks marked by various themes and scripture, we share conversations with our family as we light the candles. We hope toward the birth of the Savior. We wait to celebrate. We anticipate all that God is and will do.

Moving toward Easter, we have the season of Lent. We don't get a wreath with candles. Sure, we have the lectionary, but it hardly gives themes unified around preparing for a celebration of Easter. There are many different resources out there, for ways to use Easter with your family. Learning the virtues, the fruits of the Spirit, activities to do with your children.

One of the main things we've been doing with our kids, is to ask the question: Why do we need Easter? Asking my daughters to name things that are wrong/broken/unjust/etc. in the world, and looking forward to God actively "making all things new", which begins in large way at the resurrection of Jesus.

Last night, my wife and I finally sat down to watch "Waiting for Superman". Wow. Seriously. There aren't many things that move me to tears, admittedly, which probably isn't a very healthy thing. I realize the movie doesn't depict ALL education systems, and has a few flaws here and there.

But seen as a testimony to the brokenness, and unjust-ness of many places we live in...and recognizing that even the most broken areas of the American education system are vastly beyond what many places in the world have for their children.

We parents want so much for our children. One part of this is education. But that is only one pixel of the big picture. It will not happen by waiting for the "Superman", or anything that promises to be what we need. It will not happen by humanity "getting it right" on their own.

But in the celebration of Easter, we get a glimpse of what "it happening" will be like...

Monday, March 21, 2011

We Like to Sing...

Yup. Songs we know, songs we make up, and songs that don't even require English. See if you can guess what Sophie's favorite color was tonight...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Euchre and The Weakness of God

Sorry Caputo fans, no references/quotes here. 

This past Sunday we spend some time in Romans 5, where some important verses about sin/death entering the world through one man, and Grace entering "all the more" (v.20)  The illustration of card games containing "Trump" cards, like Euchre or Rook was made.  I'm unfamiliar with Rook (gasp, I know...a horrible Midwest Free Methodist), so I'll stick to what I know of God's favorite card game - Euchre.

(If you know how to play Euchre, you may skip this paragraph.)
In Euchre, each of 4 players has 5 cards in hand (numbers 9 through Ace).  Using one card each, they basically play 5 miniature rounds of "WAR" (each called a "trick"), wherein the best card wins all the others.  Card values are generally obvious, except an ace is the highest card of any given suit, as opposed to being a "1".  But with each set of 5 "tricks", one of the 4 suits is considered "trump".  The trump-suited cards are the highest value, and the highest "trump" card is for some reason the Jack of that suit, other values remaining obvious.  For complete rules, check out a site like this.

The illustration was made that God's grace in many ways "trumps" what has entered the world due to sin.  As seen in chapter 5, verse 20, "..where sin increased (from the Greek "pleonazo"), grace abounded all the more (from the Greek "hyperperisseuo").  Basically as if sin had played the highest card in the required suit, but Jesus comes in whopping down his Jack of Trump (right bower/bauer), sending satan back to his chair shaking his fist at the trump-rich Son of God.

As a Christian, and as a Euchre player, I enjoy this analogy.  But I wanted to take it even further.  It may be possible that only actual Euchre fans may enjoy following me down this rabbit hole...sorry.

You know the feeling well.  It's in the middle of the game, and you're pretty sure you can defeat your opponents.  A card is played, and you're 3rd in the order.  You look at your hands, and realize you're holding the Ace in the suit being played.  You hide your excitement well.  Proudly, when it's your turn, you lay your Ace down, possibly even keeping your hand near to collect all the cards once the 4th person has given theirs. 

But what is this?  The 4th player lays down a 9.  A pitiful, powerless, 9.  Not worth much of anything in normal card play, and certainly nothing in compared to an almighty Ace.  But in this particular round, the suit of their nine happens to be Trump.  As the card rests lightly on the 3 below it, your Ace is effectively crushed, and all power and authority you had previously given it become instantly sucked out, removed, and cast away.  Your Ace is nothing, and is collected to never be seen again.  By who?  By this pitiful, powerless, 9. 

It's not about grace being "more powerful" than sin.  It's about the grace of God being completely and wholly "other" than the substance and products of sin.  There is no battle between the powers of sin and the authority of God's grace.  Sin and it's impact may increase in it's amount, but the Grace of God literally "has no bounds", is "overflowing measure".  Death may have "exercised dominion" (v. 14) at one point, but no longer.  Verse 17 reminds us that "those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through one man, Jesus Christ."

May we live as people who are freed, not to slam down our giant powerful trump card, depending on the size, strength, or sincerity of our faith.  But may we live as people who are freed to depend on the complete "other-ness" of God, and the promise that His grace does more than save us from Hell, but offers us a completely new way of existing.  We are made alive like never before, and walk away from chains that could never hold us if they tried...toward Christ and His Kingdom today, and into tomorrow.

Monday, March 07, 2011

More than okay...

I often find myself in the position parents all throughout time have been in, explaining a large word or concept to my 4 year old in ways she can grasp.  The word we were discussing was the word "patience".  A word her daddy needs to work on every bit as much as she does.  The phrase I came up with to help her understand was simply, "patience means it's okay to wait".

But we were reminded by God's word yesterday, there's much more to it than that.  In Exodus 24, God calls Moses to the mountain to meet with him.  Moses goes, and ends up having to wait 6 days before God reveals himself.  As they're meeting together on the mountain, the people of God find themselves waiting 40 days and 40 nights, and they grow impatient.  It seems not only here, but throughout scripture, God's people should be those who not only "know how" to wait well, but look forward to those times of waiting. 

This seems to be appropriately against the normal pace of an instant gratification world.  The culture of hurry, and filled schedules.  It also seems like a very important/beneficial time to embrace the concept of "waiting", as we begin the season of Lent this week.  We wait, and deny ourselves certain things until the celebrations of Easter week.  We know there will be much to celebrate, and what we will celebrate together gives us strength and reason to remain faithful today.

The people of God in Exodus 24 lost sight of that.  In chapter 32, we read a disappointing scene where God's people have lost patience in waiting for Moses.  In their impatience, they've created an idol to give them spiritual gratification immediately.  I don't think it's much of a stretch to say, many times we Jesus-loving church goers find ourselves with the same desire for instant spiritual gratification.

But what about the faithfulness of God that comes after a period of waiting?  All of creation waited for Christ to come, and oh how things have changed!  The people of God wandered in the wilderness, waiting to enter the promised land.  Jesus spent his time in the wilderness, being tempted by Satan and spending time apart with God - preparing him for his earthly ministry.  Noah and his family waited through the storms, and waited even beyond that for the water to recede, in order to experience the covenant living of God.  Abraham and Sarah waited quite longer than they expected, to experience the beginning of God's faithfulness to His word.

In each of these, the wait was much more than "okay".

May we be people who are not only experienced in, but filled with anticipation by...waiting on the Lord.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Celebrate Good Times...(video)

We did it. Thanks in large part to all of the family and friends who helped out throughout the past 16 days - we survived. Things have not been the same, for sure, and we can't wait for mommy to come home! But there's definitely a sense of accomplishment at being able to say to your wife "Sure hun, go ahead on that 16 day mission trip on the other side of the world...we got this."

We knew it was important. Not simply for Sarah's sake, but for that of our family. This experience is only the beginning of wrapping our family around a larger purpose, a larger story. God will continue to use this.

One of the things Sarah did, the creative mom that she is, to help our girls with the time she's away; involved a paper ring chain. Each link had something written on it, communicating love to her family, and suggesting some fun endeavor for that day. They loved each one, and got excited as the chain got smaller and smaller, knowing mommy was coming home on the last one!!

One of the links said "Make a dance video". Now, we dance around the house on a regular basis. These girls love to dress up, start the music, and spin around. So here's what we captured...(spliced in some footage of Sophie's birthday at Chuck E. Cheese also, where her response to the big mouse is PRICELESS!)