Raising the Future

Today, I heard someone comment that people shouldn’t be having children, because the world is so terrible.

Don’t get me wrong, I have struggled with anxieties about the future…the world is definitely a different place than when I was growing up. But the comment was so harsh, blatant, universal that it stayed with me all throughout the day, reverberating like the black spots that streak your vision after a camera flashes in your eyes. In the moment, I gave a brief rebuttal, but being a writer who is constantly editing my own work, I spent the rest of the day trying to sort out a solid argument in my head. What was it that was so offensive about this?

It’s because it’s more than a comment. It represents a worldview. A worldview that is defeatist, anti-family, and choked by fear.

First of all, let me point out that while our society is certainly depraved, increasingly violent, and sickeningly selfish, every parent in history has worried about what sort of world they are leaving for their kids. I’ve read countless stories of people rushing for cover during the bombings of WWII, sending their children overseas alone during the famines of Europe, or watching the skies anxiously, wondering if Russia was going to attack. And the further back you look in history, the worse things seem to get, especially for Christians. From the destruction of Jerusalem and the bloody days of the early Church martyrs to the struggles of believers throughout the Reformation — life has always been a battle because this world is fallen.

In John 17, Jesus says of His Followers, “I have given them Your Word and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

And yet, immediately afterwards, in verse 15, Jesus prays to His Father, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You protect them from the evil one.”

From the genesis of Christianity, we see that the ideals of Christ’s Kingdom are in direct contrast to the defeatist spirit that causes people to want to run and hide. Jesus Christ calls us into a battle–not with people, but against the darkness in the world (Eph. 6:12). It’s all over the Bible that life will be a struggle for those who believe. Still, we are called to engage. But not alone.

The hall of faith in the book of Hebrews lists many well-known figures from the Old Testament, people like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses…and makes it clear that they struggled through persecution and danger. Yet part of their legacy was that they “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice…were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight, received back the dead through resurrection” Hebrews 11:33-35. Quite a legacy! Mentioned in this list are Moses’ parents. Surrounded by slavery, poverty, and imminent death, Moses definitely wasn’t born into ideal circumstances. And yet, here is what Scripture says about his mother and father: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden by his parents, because they…were not afraid” (Hebrews 11:23). A famous deliverer of Israel, a man who talked with God Himself, was set on the path God had for him because of the faith of his parents. These people of faith please God, because their lifestyles make it clear that they put their hope in God and not their surroundings. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

In the midst of telling His disciples many troubling things, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have Peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world” John 16:33. Jesus makes clear throughout John 15-17 that He was not leaving His Children alone, but sending us His Spirit.

We were never meant to do anything in our own strength–parenting included. In John 15, Jesus assures us that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Fleshly humanity is broken. There will never be a perfect environment on Earth in which to raise kids. Only God can raise up a God-fearing generation. A wise Revivalist once said, “The only thing that pleases God is that which He does Himself.” In His High-Priestly prayer in John, Jesus tells His Father, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in Your Truth. Your Word is Truth.” This is the equipping we are given–God Himself gives us of His Own Spirit to enable us to win every battle. And this includes the battles we will wage as parents.

The Bible makes it clear that children are a gift, a heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Of course, the responsibility isn’t to be taken lightly, but we were never intended to take it on in our own strength. If we abide continually in God, He has promised that we will bear much fruit (John 15).

Mother’s Day is around the corner. If you are a believing parent, take heart and be encouraged! God has your back. And more than that, He’s in you! We must guard against voices of discouragement. This is not the time for Christians to bury their heads in the sand and give up. More than ever, the call is urgent for those who believe to stand and fight for their families.

 

 

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Toes

unnamed

It’s another one of those blustery Spring days. Outside, a powerful wind tosses the trees and turns the clouds a deep indigo that usually signals storms. This is my favorite kind of weather–when the clouds pile on top of one another and you can feel the extra charge in the air…something brewing. I’m inside, listening to the song “Toes” by Lights, a song I discovered two years ago today–the day my husband asked me to marry him.

April 20, 2015 I was in my parents’ house, listening to the same song, watching black and green clouds build outside my window and feeling anticipation in the air. I didn’t know yet that Tim was going to propose later that evening, but I knew that was the next step for us, and the words of the song seemed to fit perfectly with the season of unknowns and possibilities that defined the season ahead.

Oh you capture my attention

Carefully listening, don’t want to miss a thing, keeping my eyes on you. 

Oh, you capture my attention

I’m anticipating, I’m watching and waiting for you to make your move. 

Got me on my toes. 

As with lots of songs that really mean something to me, I find myself singing it to God, as a prayer, an anthem, one of those journal entries of my heart that He can see.

The more I think about it, my whole life could be summed up this way–on my toes–literally. Living every moment to its fullest, not wanting to miss anything that God was doing. When I was a child, my parents taught me that each day was a gift from God. I remember once telling my mom how blessed I was just to know that God had made me. The excitement of life’s possibilities were often overwhelming to me, sometimes keeping me up at night, often causing me to break into wild, silly dances where I would twirl or prance around the living room on my tiptoes for no reason. Life was just that exciting, and I just had to express my joy. I was charged. And God did that.

Now as an adult, I still feel like I’m on my toes, waiting on God with my questions in hand, but often with a very different attitude. There have been times where I’ve allowed the imminent struggles and speed bumps of life to slow me down, dampen my enthusiasm, and even cloud my view of God. Often, I find myself approaching God with an attitude that’s more cynical than hopeful.

I need to regain that childlike wonder. Because after all, God hasn’t changed. And when He reaches in and plucks those chords in my heart, I feel everything coming alive again and I remember, yes–this is what I was made for!

Why not live in that place always? Not ignoring the stresses of life, but responding to them in a way that demonstrates my expectant worship of God and my certainty that He is writing a wonderful story, painting a gorgeous picture, scripting a beautiful song.

John 7:38 says that when we know God and keep His Word, out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water–the Holy Spirit. We have everything we need to live in this place of hopeful anticipation.

God, ignite me. Let even the unknowns and unexpecteds of life turn to joy as I anticipate what you’re doing.

Oh, You capture my attention

I’m anticipating, I’m watching and waiting for You to make Your Move

Got me on my toes. 

 

–Song credit: “Toes” by artist Lights, album Siberia.–

 

Spoiler Alert…

It happened again. I sat in the movie theater, barely seeing the preview of the Olympics flash by me because I was so captivated by the song blasting through the speakers. I’m shocked at how the very words and warnings we need to hear as a culture are consistently flooding our iPods, theaters, and TVs, and we still don’t seem to get it.

Fellow Christians, have you heard the words of Katy Perry’s single “Rise”?

Listen…really, and consider what we’re up against.

“I won’t just survive/Oh you will see me thrive

Can’t write my story/I’m beyond the archetype.

I won’t just conform/no matter how you shake my core,

‘Cause my roots/they run deep.

Oh ye of so little faith./Don’t doubt it. Don’t doubt it.

Victory is in my veins./I know it. I know it.

And I will not negotiate./I’ll fight it. I’ll fight it.

I will transform.”

I’m stunned yet again at how God can shout His Truth, using the voice and talent of someone who doesn’t acknowledge Him (that I’m aware of).

This was back in the summer, obviously, since this song was used as a TV spot for the Olympics. But I don’t need to reiterate that we are embroiled in a battle that goes far deeper than the crunch of extreme sports. Whether we’d like to acknowledge it or not, we are faced with the eerie potential of a leader taking office who will likely detonate what has been simmering beneath the surface. We’ve seen it coming…or maybe we haven’t…a mounting opposition to the Gospel and those who choose to live it out loud.

But this isn’t a political rant as much as a cry for the sleeping children of freedom to awaken. And I don’t just mean Americans. I mean those of us who have been brought from death to life, who know the Freedom that comes from being filled with the Spirit of God–the Founder of Life and True Liberty. The words of Perry’s song give voice to what’s in my heart and what I’m hearing resound from believers across the nation.

This is not a political battle. It’s a spiritual one. We’ve known this all along: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against…the powers of darkness in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12. But it’s more apparent now than I’ve ever seen it–all across the world. Darkness is becoming more and more manifest in broad daylight, stripping off its masks and pretensions, no longer hiding its design. But what happens when the sky darkens? The stars shine brighter.

“The path of the righteous is like the dawn, shining brighter and brighter until full day,” Proverbs 4:18.

Listen to the words of this chorus:

“When the fire’s at my feet again

And the vultures all start circling/they’re whispering,

‘You’re out of time’

But still I rise.

This is no mistake/no accident

When you think the final nail is in/think again

Don’t be surprised/I will still rise.”

This is not the time to negotiate. This is not a time for compromise. And this is certainly not a time for panic and defeat. This is the time to keep our windows open, like Daniel, and pray to the God of heaven, Who is not planning on abdicating His Throne simply because a “progressive” culture does not favor Him. I believe God has so much more for this country and we, His People, should not be ashamed. We should not be full of anger, fear, and strife. We have the opportunity to stand firm in our faith and resist the enemy, knowing that these same kinds of trials are happening to our brothers and sisters all over the world (1 Peter 5:9). This is a time for unity. This is a time to stand.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what the future holds for this country, for the world, for me, even. But I do know one thing–two, actually. God is still God and He will never quit or be deposed or voted out. He still has a Plan and He’s calling His People to wake up and shake off our slumber to be part of it. Otherwise, we will be scattered by circumstances and live in confusion and despair and disillusionment. That is not how we were meant to live.

I want to encourage everyone who believes–it’s not over. No matter the outcome of the elections. God is not going anywhere, and nor should we. Remember it’s not so much about who you are as it is about Whose you are! I don’t know who our next president will be, but I do know the One Who is Victorious: Jesus the Great I AM. My God. My King. And that is a Victory celebration I know I will get to take part in.

The Word of God is clear. “Today, when you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15).

“In the final days, flattery will corrupt those who abandon the promise, but those who know their God will be strong and take action (Daniel 11:32).

We serve a Mighty God and He is among us. He will never leave us or forsake us. That’s why I titled this post “Spoiler Alert.” Because we know the ending of all this. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will always win.

“As for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast Love, answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13).

***VOTE THIS WEEK! AND PRAY! PRAY WITHOUT CEASING!!!***

Like a Lioness

Lucy and Aslan

I’m sure a lot of people can say this, but I’m going to also…Narnia changed my life.

First the books and all their charming mystery in C. S. Lewis’ enigmatic style, and then the breathtaking cinematic version that came out around my 15th birthday. Now I’m twenty-five and I am still spellbound by Narnia. My heart still freezes when Lucy approaches the wardrobe, races when she and Susan leap onto Aslan’s back, and jumps into my throat when Aslan lets out a roar that shatters the witch’s evil. The joy that rushes through my veins when the great lion steps out of the tent to greet the children is more than just pleasure from a cinematic experience. Aslan is meant to represent Someone Else. The Divine Lion of Judah, who has won His Victory and shares it with His Children. The King who has called us out of the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous Light. The One who captivated C. S. Lewis’ heart, and later, mine.

Of the four Pevensie children, Lucy was always my favorite. Unhampered by Peter and Susan’s pride or Edmund’s selfishness, the youngest sister is all innocence and wonder, leading the way through the wardrobe and taking Narnia for what it is.

When Aslan crowns her Queen Lucy the Valiant at the end of the first film, I always felt a rush of pleasure mixed with longing. How I wanted my Lord to describe me as His valiant one. What would I have to do in order to be known that way?

As a young teenager immersed in the excitement of the saga, it was easy to think that there was a lot of action involved in being valiant. But looking back now, I see a much different picture. Of all the siblings, Lucy does the least amount of fighting, planning, and directing. She’s the smallest, the youngest, and is given a flask of healing oil and a tiny dagger as gifts, while her sister and brothers are given bigger weapons. She is the diplomat, interacting the most with the creatures of Narnia, quicker to make friends than enemies.

Most importantly, she always reminds the others of Aslan.

From the moment she first saw Him, Lucy was captivated by the Great Lion King and she carries in her heart an equal mixture of reverence and adoration for Him that makes their relationship a beautiful thing to behold. That’s always been my favorite thing about Lucy. But it’s also what makes her valiant.

She runs to Aslan.

My favorite scene in the movie Prince Caspian is in the heat of the final battle. Hope is waning fast for Narnia’s weary troops. Everyone races to the river, where they encounter Lucy calmly walking out onto the bridge, into the hordes of advancing soldiers. The armies crash to a stop in confused wonder as the small girl stands there, smiles at the lion beside her, and simply pulls out her tiny dagger. When the enemy soldiers launch themselves at her, Lucy steps back to make way for Aslan’s earth-shattering roar. It’s what the armies of Narnia have been waiting for…not all that patiently.

Lucy is able to stand strong and calm in the midst of danger because she recognizes that the One standing beside her has all the resources she lacks. While the others worry and argue and scheme, she calls to their minds who really defeated their enemies in the past. While the others sleep, she gets up to follow Aslan into the woods. She isn’t focused on displaying her own physical prowess or battle skills. She just knows who can win the battle, so that’s who she runs to. Her battle plan is to step back and let Aslan do what He does best.

During their talk in the forest, Lucy comments to Aslan that she wishes she were braver. Aslan simply smiles wide and declares that if she were any braver, she would be a lioness.

Valiance, courage, bravery–it all comes from spending time with the King. When we know Who He is and who we are in Him, we are able to step out into whatever battles we’re facing and boast in our tiny daggers and weak stature because we know our God has a chance to display His Might in us.

His Presence is what makes me what I can’t make myself…valiant.

Aslan and Lucy

 

Not Gonna Wreck It!

wreck it ralph

January 22nd was the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the court decision that legalized abortion in America. I had wanted to write something on the subject before the month was out, but in order to do that, I’m going to talk about a movie first. Today, I came across some notes I jotted down from when I first saw the movie Wreck it Ralph, Disney 2012, and was shocked to see the clear pro-life theme running through the plot and living through the characters.

It’s another one of those times when a little section of popular culture feeds American society what we have long dismissed as old-fashioned or atypical—and we embrace it with touched hearts, little realizing that we are embracing the very script that we have denied. While many have enjoyed Disney’s Wreck it Ralph on the surface, appreciating its playful characters, comical allusions, and creative plot-line, the movie has a lot more to say, carrying deeper meaning below the surface, which is incidentally where the most important parts of the story evolve from.

The mythical world of computer games and characters is ordered and arranged by cyber-scripting, deep in the heart of the arcade’s memory. This is also where we find the great deception that has stolen something very precious from the most loveable character in the movie.

The little girl, Vanellope, is considered a “glitch,” even though “King Candy” is actually responsible for her deficiencies, having gone into the DNA of the game “Sugar Rush” and stolen her identity as the princess of the game. Not only did the villain steal her destiny as a famous racer and assume the kingship in her place, but he also changed the game’s basic memory and rules of citizenship—its constitution, if you will, in order to erase any memory about the deception from everyone’s mind. He will stop at nothing to keep her from racing and regaining even a measure of normalcy; and while she is forced to live as an outcast, he reigns as king and encourages the ostracization that others put her through.  Even her friend, Ralph, is initially convinced by King Candy’s argument, which—like most subversive arguments—does not come across as wrong or maliciously hurtful, but masquerades as “the right thing.” King Candy assures Ralph that he is keeping her from her destiny “for her own good,” because she will certainly be rejected by the game players, cause the shutdown of the whole game, and ultimately perish herself when the game is unplugged.

Any of this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, consider the pro-abortion arguments and see how shockingly they compare with King Candy’s.  Arguably the largest proponent of abortion, Planned Parenthood plays the part of “societal helper,” making people believe that doing away with children who were not wanted in the first place would be better for everyone involved, except of course, the child. However, in spite of their candy-coated lies, the same is at stake for both the preborn child and Vanellope – a destiny and a life. This destiny may not be visible yet, but it remains nevertheless innately given, something that he or she can “just feel in their code,” as Vanellope explains it to Ralph. Isn’t that what we are made up of on the most basic physical level? DNA code? What if someone were bursting into our “codes” and seeking to derail our destinies? What if someone were seeking to take all of our potential away, under the guise of “the greater good?”

The truth is…it’s already happening, and a movie like this cannot exist without the corresponding reality close at its heels. Society has a conscience and no matter how much it is buried under the day-to-day barrage of desensitization, it still lives. The proof of its existence lies in the immediate popularity of a movie like Wreck-It Ralph. How can society live in such disregard for human life and yet immediately embrace a film that shows the innate worth of an unwanted “glitch,” and elevates as “heroic” the one caring enough to fight for her? I argue with hope that society’s basic conscience is not yet dead. How many destinies have we taken away from children? How many people have we lost? Presidents, doctors, lawyers, senators…even race-car drivers. The point is…if movie audiences find the tampering of computer DNA abhorrent, how much more angry should we be at the idea that this perverse stealing happens all the time?

However, as in the film, only the brightest light of Truth will destroy the destroyer. I realize this is stretching the analogy a little, but bear with me. Like Ralph, we can pound our fists against injustice all we want, but if the power of God and the Truth doesn’t shine through us the way the beam of light in the film shone to destroy the cyber bugs, our efforts will be futile.  How does Ralph know that it is wrong to take from the little annoying girl what is rightfully hers? How do we know? Perhaps it is written in our “code.” Perhaps we know the basic rules of “citizenship,” not just on earth but in heaven—the way things were meant to be.

Deep down, we know, like Ralph, that our “code” carries whispers of the Divine and as Ralph and King Candy find out, you just don’t mess with the DNA of destiny.