Taking Heart

Gaius

IMG_9670“Unfortunately, no other information about Gaius has survived,” I read. I pause and store this fact (of lack of facts) to come back to.

The unknown surrounding the life of the recipient of an epistle (3 John, specifically) is strangely comforting to me. Although, I shouldn’t say ”strangely” since I’m predictably drawn to such stories of hidden, Godward lives. I wouldn’t dare to say I identify with these saints as if I’d number myself among them. But their stories refresh my heart and recalibrate my desires. And they give me relief from the soul-shaping pressures of what is showcased and applauded in the world and much of Christian ministry today.

We minister, work, raise children, and live life in an age where we’re presented with constant, often instant, measures of success. The Bottom Line. Likes. Reach. Church Attendance. Conversions. We admire those who manage to bring in more of the above. We study how they made it. We listen to their talks and hope to one day share the same stage.

It is exhausting, discouraging, confusing, and our hearts know something is off here.

Which is why I am grateful for Gaius, whose hospitality was commended by John: “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers.” And I wonder how appealing such praise would be to most of us today, to be told we are doing a faithful thing.

I wonder if we’d opt for other adjectives: It is an effective and productive thing you do. It is an unprecedented and amazing thing you do. It is a groundbreaking and world-shaking thing you do. In the office, at home, in ministry, on social media, how many of us would consider being called “faithful” high praise?

But God rejects our terms and pays no heed to our metrics. Because, yes, you can be famous, highly effective, and praised while walking with God— but you could also gain the world and lose your soul. Because, if God saw success like we did, how would Jesus have measured up, finishing his ministry with 12 disciples—one a traitor— a mere 120 in the upper room after his ascension?

Scripture shows us it is his job to makes things grow, ours to be good and faithful servants. Thus, I am asking for grace to reject the world’s descriptors of a thing well-done and choose to do the faithful thing. As one who is beloved by God (as Gaius was described by John), to do the faithful thing in midnight baby feedings, in everyday marriage, in speaking to my children, at church, in writing. And in of it to leave the measuring to him.

I am asking for eyes to see past the screen, the praise of people, my own legacy.

And I am asking for a heart that daily works toward his praise in both senses– for the glory of his name and for his precious words of encouragement when I see him face to face.

Beloved, we may be forgotten by the world, but we will never be forgotten by him. And on the day of Christ, we will see that nothing was worth pursuing more than his welcome and well done.

Motherhood & Family

Wisdom To Number Our Days

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(from Instagram)

My heart has been feeling achy these days. Having a newborn has made me realize how our years with her siblings have flown by. It also reminds me how little time they all have left here with us.

Like a dream. Like grass that grows and withers. This is how the psalmist describes our years on earth (Ps.90). So in light of our fleetingness, he asks God to teach us to number our days. This, he writes, is how we gain wisdom.

I have seen lately how my parenting is often downright foolish. I am irritable instead of grateful for the moments God grants me with my children. I respond to them with harshness instead of commending Christ. I waive opportunities to build our relationship in the name of busyness. And when I do these things, I am forgetting that my years, and our years together, are numbered.

Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom- Ps. 90:12.— I need this divine, day-numbering wisdom so badly.

I need this wisdom to look through my children’s behavior and aim to win their hearts. To discipline with their 13, 18, and 30 year-old future selves in mind.

I need this wisdom to build them up with words of grace and not just give orders. To remember the significance of the years between us is growing smaller by the day. One they will one be my peers and hopefully friends.

I need this wisdom to seize every opportunity to make much of Christ. To put down what I’m doing when possible and help my children see the goodness of God while I still can.

I need this wisdom to enjoy my time with them. To stop and thank God for the fleeting, sweet craziness of life with 3 young children and an infant.

Parents, truly, our days may be long, but our years are short. Let’s look to number them rightly — these exhausting, sweet, bitter, good, frustrating days— that God may grant us hearts of wisdom.

Taking Heart

On Whale Sharks and Wonder

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(from Instagram)

The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.
– GK Chesterton

Wooow, my boy says to himself. He’s a bit scared that the fish are so close. But still, wooow, he repeats. Our hearts expand— mine with joy, his with wonder.

Did you know there are fish that can look up through their own transparent skulls? Or that after decades of research and even trackers on female whale sharks, we still don’t know where they give birth? They go into the deeps and scientists’ screens go black.

At the aquarium, I think of whale sharks and the nature shows our family loves. I think in wonder of all of creation exclaiming his praise.

I need more wonder most days.

Sometimes my life seems too small. My living and working feel obscure. And I need the reminder that God’s infinite creativity reaches the depths. That there are amazing creatures whose existence are hidden from human eyes. They have proclaimed his glory for thousands of years.

Just because our lives are unseen by most doesn’t mean they aren’t beautiful. What happens before God alone can still be glorious.

Sometimes my life feels too big. My here and now consume me. It feels as if all I see in my little sphere is all there is, and God’s arm is too short to reach in. I need wonder then too.

I need to remember how much there is still undiscovered on our own planet, created for his pleasure alone, giving glory to him in the depths, heights, and beyond! How his powerful hands have wrought wonders beyond comprehension, “and these are but the outer fringe of his works” (Job 26:14)!

God is more than big enough for my world.

Perhaps your life feels too big or too small for God today. Might I commend to you the discipline of wonder?

Consider the heavens, the moon and the stars (Ps. 8:3). Look up at the skies, pouring forth speech, attesting to his glory (Ps. 19:1). Maybe go to the aquarium or turn on a nature documentary. All you see is but the outer fringes of your Creator’s work.

Perhaps wonder might expand your heart to give you the perspective you need. May you wooow today to his glory and for your good.

Motherhood & Family

Greater Is He

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(from Instagram)

I felt the fall last night, the pain of childbearing. In the beating my body has taken in birthing and caring for a newborn. In the toil of raising sinful children. In my own hard-heartedness.

***

I’m sick of dealing with sin.

I think that to myself after refereeing another bedtime squabble. Nothing new, but it’s the mundanity of the self-centeredness that gets to me, that pervasive inward curvature of sin. I think about what it would be like to raise children in a pre-Genesis 3 world. I’m tired and mad and tired.

I retreat from their room when the Spirit speaks: Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). A cheery voice calls from across the hall, “Mom, can we pray together?” It is a divine invitation.

I‘m still angry, but what am I going to do? Say, “No!“? So I reenter. First, anything you’re thankful for? Then, more accusatory than I‘m proud of, anything you need to say sorry for?

Their confessions catch me unguarded and convict me. They share specific moments from the day I hadn’t noticed. They give humble insights on their weaknesses. They apologize and forgive. My heart softens. We talk about friendship and family and seeing each other’s sin. I’m asked for verses that will help with a particular struggle with the flesh. We talk about Christ’s forgiveness and the Spirit’s help.

Then we pray.

I pray the gospel over us, over me. It is sheer grace I am able to do so. God himself turned the tide; he spoke, he invited, he softened.

All in spite of me, my sin, and the fall.

***

“Sometimes when I’m in a bad mood, it’s hard to do the right thing,” she says.

Me too, baby. But, praise be to God— greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world.

Taking Heart

My Baby Girl Smiled

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(Reposted from Instagram)

Men are afraid to have good thoughts of God. They think it is a boldness to eye God as good, gracious, tender, kind, loving. I speak of saints. They can judge Him hard, austere, severe, almost implacable, and fierce (the very worst affections of the very worst of men, and most hated by God). Is not this soul-deceit from Satan? Was it not His design from the beginning to inject such thoughts of God? Assure yourself, then, there is nothing more acceptable to the Father than for us to keep up our hearts unto Him as the eternal fountain of all that rich grace which flows out to sinners in the blood of Jesus.
– John Owen

My baby girl smiled.

Oh, the way her bright eyes turned crescent and her little mouth opened to almost laughing! I laughed with her, and was so moved by her that I teared up. I know it’s a newborn reflex, but that’s fine. She’s mine, and she smiled, and I love her so.

That was yesterday, and I am thinking today: If I, with my finite love, can take such delight in my daughter, how much more does our infinite Father delight in us, his children?

Some see God as a cosmic, soft, permissive, Santa. Their wrong thoughts of him don’t allow them to see his holiness, justice, and wrath. But I am constantly tempted to see God as harsh, disapproving, and impossible to please. My wrong thoughts of God cloud my vision of his steadfast love and Fatherly delight. How far from the truth this is and how it must grieve him.

Perhaps you are like me, jealous to uphold God’s holiness but timid about his love. To God’s children who are like me–

…What if we dared to believe that God delights in his creation?

…That he regards us with joy and love— fruits of the Spirit?

…That as he makes us more like Christ, he rejoices in the image of himself he sees in us?

…That as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him? (Psalm 103:13)

…That he sent his Son to save, because that’s how much he loves?

How we would know him more truly and love him more deeply!

Beloved, believe. May you smile to think of his love for you today. And would you know his delight for you when you do.