Thursday, April 29, 2010


The latest volume of "Seeing the Every Day" arrived in my mailbox yesterday along with a note from my grandmother. She raised nine children and her advice to me was as simple as the themes woven into the pages of this magazine: "Your girls are growing fast. Enjoy them while they're little."

I was overcome with an urge to clear my schedule, squeeze some lemons into lemonade, and spend the afternoon sitting on a porch swing reading picture books to the girls. I couldn't resist photographing the cover - is there a more beautiful color than celadon blue? - along with my favorite oven timer, a reminder that my Grandmother, of course, is right. My time is limited - one day these babes will be grown and gone; and I want to be vigilant about making room in my life to be swept up by the small things... I know one day I'll look back and recognize how big they really were.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray

“What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? And what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” ~Mark 8.14-15

People are as different as flowers – we may all start out naked and screaming, but we have been created differently. In other words, you will never plant a rosebush and end up preening violets. But not only are we innately different, we are planted in different locations; brought up under differing conditions; we bloom at different times; emit different “aromas;” and exhibit an infinitely different array of colors.

For this reason, our values differ. What inspires awe and wonder in you may cause me to throw up my hands in bewilderment or disdain.

But where we are the same, where we are basically different manifestations of the same type, is in our intrinsic desire to worship… to glory in something, to prize one thing above another, to say, thisthis more than that is worth living for, fighting for, dying for. In short, we all bend our knee to something…

When a man's inclinations are directed toward God the Christian calls this just adoration; when they are directed toward other people or things - or even ideologies - we call it idolatry.

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is a book about what happens when a man - Dorian Gray - surrenders to idolatry.

Initially, Dorian's brand of idolatry presents itself in the form of vanity. His pristine appearance attracts the attention of a painter named Basil who declares Dorian his "ideal," and insists upon painting his portrait. Once complete, the painting is dubbed a masterpiece. But over Dorian it has a particular power: the moment he looks upon it his sense of his own beauty is aroused; and with it, the horrible realization that he will someday grow old and ugly.

And so in a moment’s madness, Dorian makes a mad wish: he offers to exchange his soul for the likeness of the portrait.

Ten, twenty years pass by. Outwardly Dorian remains as handsome and unspoiled as he was on that budding day in June when the portrait was first completed; but hidden in an upstairs room beneath a sheath of velvet, his portrait lives to record the image of his soul. With every act of betrayal, every stroke of malice, every assertion of self-will, the painting devolves until it becomes a grotesque image of corruption and decay.

In the meantime, Dorian's life has taken on the qualities of a work of art. Life is a play of which he is the author; and people are mere characters, “written out” or extinguished, if they fail to act out the part he has assigned to them. Human behavior is not evaluated in terms of "right" and "wrong;" but in terms of what is beautiful or ugly, dramatic or undramatic, interesting or tiresome. "That is all." In this sense, people are not “real” to Dorian but instead they are dolls in a dress-up parlor, valuable only to the degree that they succeed in satisfying his lusts or appealing to his sense of 'drama.'

This is precisely what happens when we give our souls in worship to that which is not God: we will ultimately sacrifice everything – not just our physical and spiritual well-being, but people, even those dearest to us – for that thing, whatever it may be.

The story reaches its climax when Dorian leads Basil upstairs and, in a moment of passionate exchange, flings off the curtain to reveal a look at the picture, now utterly unrecognizable to the painter who painted it.

“Christ!" Basil cries, "What a thing I must have worshiped! It has the eyes of a devil.”

And so we will all exclaim when once we are given an unmediated look at those areas in our lives where we have been guilty of idolatry.

“Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil,” Dorian says. And so his character proves.

Above all, The Picture of Dorian Gray magnificently illustrates the point that man is, principally, a spiritual being; that his actions have spiritual consequences; and that what he chooses to worship will ultimately enslave him, resulting in either his downfall or his redemption.

As Dorian himself admits, "The soul is a terrible reality. It can be bought, and sold, and bartered away. It can be poisoned, or made perfect. There is a soul in each of us. I know it.”

Everyone should read this book.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Through the Looking-Glass

I don't know about you but evenings are often the hardest times for me to stay spiritually focused. I am usually tired; and it’s easy to let mad thoughts run wild.

Last night’s battle was particularly thick … and so I did what I always do in moments of acute psychological crisis: I reached for a box of chocolates and a book. The one lying on my bedtable just now is Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass and it is wonderful.

I opened to where I’d left off: Alice is standing on the edge of the forest in Looking-Glass world, talking with the White Queen. The sky is growing light and Alice, who mistook a large crow for the sunset, is relieved:

“‘The crow must have flown away, I think,’ said Alice. ‘I’m so glad it’s gone. I thought it was the night coming on.”

‘I wish I could manage to be glad!’ the Queen said. ‘Only I never can remember the rule. You must be very happy, living in this wood, and being glad whenever you like!’

‘Only it is so very lonely here!’ Alice said in a melancholy voice; and, at the thought of her loneliness, two large tears came rolling down her cheeks.

‘Oh, don’t go on like that!’ cried the poor Queen, wringing her hands in despair.

‘Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you’ve come today. Consider what o’clock it is. Consider anything, only don’t cry!’

Alice could not help laughing at this, even in the midst of her tears. ‘Can you keep from crying by considering things?’ she asked.

‘That’s the way it’s done,’ the Queen said with great decision: ‘nobody can do two things at once, you know.’”

I dog-eared the page and leaned back in wonder. Why but for the Christian that IS precisely how it’s done! I thought. At least, in a way.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to remain angry when you are considering the charge to "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice;" and to "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Eph. 4.31-32)?

How difficult it is to ruminate on an unjust word when you consider Christ, who, “...while being reviled, did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously!”

It is so very hard to be ungrateful when I remember Paul's bold declaration to the Philippians: “[M]y God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4.19).

But responding in this way to the trials of life necessitates a kind of mental discipline; it requires the willful act of choosing one thing over another, of electing ‘this’ instead of ‘that’ - often in defiance of one's deepest feelings and inclinations.

Perhaps my biggest challenge is willing myself to move these words from the pages of my Bible to the deepest recesses of my heart; and to discipline my mind to meditate on the words of God when it is often much easier to compose elaborate arguments against Him.

In such moments, my greatest motivator to overcoming my own obstinate nature is the fact that when I open my Bible I am being given the opportunity to encounter a Person.

For the Bible is not just a compilation of words, written to delight or distract me from my current emotional crisis. Neither is it a self-help guide to positive thinking. No, it is a means of accessing the living, breathing Savior of the Universe. As a living testament, it reveals not only God’s character, but God Himself: and where the Spirit of Christ is, there is power - power to sanctify and cleanse, but most importantly to transform the parts of my mind which would otherwise conform to the thoughts and opinions of this world.

For all of these reasons, I consider meditating on Scripture to be the best form of psychotherapy there is … not only because it is a means of gaining intimacy with Christ - though that should be reason enough all on its own - but because it works.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." ~Romans 12.2

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

In Case I'm Feeling Blue

...all I have to do is take a look at you.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Clear Joy is Coming

Today marks the end of a long, hard week. Moments of agonizing frustration, of world-weariness, and a sense of loss have taken their place, irreconcilably, alongside moments of unexpected and unbridled joy: A brother at war sends home a troubling note. Audrey tip-taps down the hallway reciting, "Toe-heel! Toe-heel!" An article in the paper tells of a 70-year-old Polish-American who died in the plane crash along with the Polish President. He was killed on his way to achieving his life's dream: to commemorate the Katyn Massacre, which claimed his father's life. I look up from the paper: a vision of red-and-white stripes scampers past me through the kitchen; then sounds of shrieking laughter, of Dutch shouting in his most carnivorous bear voice, "I'm gonna snuggle you into the ground!" A phone call: Dutch, are you free to say a few words at the funeral? Evangeline takes her first steps - one, two, three, four in a row! Oh, how we applaud!

This - this comingling of joy and pain, beauty and horror, laughter and grief - is life, after all, but all I could do, this evening, was shake my head and stand back in bafflement, a fearsome (and even fearful) sense of awe.

It was then I read the resurrected Christ's first words to His disciples when He appeared in their midst: "Peace be with you!" he says (John 21.20). "My peace I leave with you." It would seem empty consolation indeed if not for the fact that Christ's death accomplished just that: Peace. Peace between God and man. Peace where there should be separation. Peace where there should be only wrath.

Now, because of the propitious death of Jesus Christ, we who were once far off have been brought near. A way stands open for us, a door that no one can close, to approach the living God of the Universe and plead for mercy and help in times of need.

And so Christ says to Mary Magdalene as she sits weeping outside His empty tomb, "Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20.17). His words prove that we who were once only sinners, worthy of destruction, are now Sons, destined for glory; our Savior is our brother and He lives this moment at the right hand of the throne of God, praying for us. We may have trouble - now and always; but we have nothing to fear for our Sanctifier is our Friend; and before He ascended into Heaven He promised us, "Lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28.20).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dear, sweet Audrey and Evangeline,

My darling girls. You are so alike. You laugh alike, and cry alike, you both have the same delicate point of a chin; the same finely sculpted nose. Yet you are so different.

As of late you love to play ‘ship’ – to throw all the couch pillows onto the floor and make your ‘deck’ in the empty cradle of the couch. Evangeline, you are so proud of your athleticism! You pull yourself up to a standing position and slap your hands and bounce and squeal and throw your eyes at me as if to say, Look what I can do!

Audrey, you are busy collecting and arranging your toys: princesses and ponies and second-hand purses from my college days. You took all the golden tassels off the doorknobs, and scraps of ribbon out of the hatbox, and fastened them round the necks of your horses like garlands in a Spring parade.

Last night Daddy was in California and we went out for dinner, just the three of us. Evangeline, you contented yourself by sucking on a lemon wedge while Audrey slurped water through her straw like a teenager drinking a dime-store milkshake.

“Oh, how's your day at the Bible study?” you (Audrey) asked, between sips. “How’s your day with – Daddy?”

“We had a lovely time,” I said, feeling suddenly like a child playing grown-up. “We went out to dinner...and we talked... and we prayed that God would make us better parents.”

“Oh,” said you, “You – you tell me a story please, Mudder – about Audrey?”

“Alright," I said, propping my elbows on the table, "Once upon a time there were two sisters: Audrey and Evangeline. And they were the best of friends. One morning in springtime they planted a vegetable garden in their backyard – they raked the dirt and dug holes with their spades. Then they separated the seeds into piles and dropped them one by one into the ground. They covered the holes over with soil and patted and watered them. Because they lived in the desert the seeds enjoyed plenty of sun."

Soon the seeds sprouted; and as the spring days wore on they grew and grew. By the time July came the watermelon plant had grown especially tall – its leafy green stalk stretched as high as the sky and disappeared through a roof of clouds.

One afternoon, Audrey had an idea. ‘Let’s have a picnic!’ she said to Evangeline, ‘Let’s have a picnic way up in the clouds!’"

So the two girls packed a basketful of goodies: crackers and cheese, blueberries and chocolate and lemonade, and they climbed up the watermelon stalk until they had disappeared straight into the clouds."

Evangeline spied the perfect cloud – fluffy and soft as a cotton ball – where they laid out their blanket and spread out their feast. Only there was one problem: the cloud was thin as mist and they kept sinking just like Dumbo all swaddled in the stork’s handkerchief!

Audrey, who was heavier than Evangeline, began to sink first. And when Evangeline saw her she grabbed her arm and pulled and pulled and pulled with all her might until Audrey was safe atop the cloud. But the force of her pulling had caused Evangeline to begin sinking and Audrey hadn’t time to catch her breath before she had to grab her sister's arm and pull and pull and pull until Evangeline, too, was safe.”

“And that my dear girls,” I said with a nod, “is how I hope it will be between the two of you someday.”

“You mean if – if – if she’s sinking then I’m gonna save her?” you (Audrey) asked.

“Yes," I said, "And if you’re sinking then she's gonna save you.”

It's a lovely picture; and I hope it will come true.


Your Mudder

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Desert Blooms


NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

~Gerard Manley Hopkins

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

the remains of the day

A Picture of Progress

When Evangeline crawled into the bathroom to find me sitting on a stool reading "Frederick" by Leo Lionni, Audrey threw me a look of exasperation. "Oh, get her out mom! Get her out, please!"

"Why?" I asked, pulling Evangeline onto my lap.

"Because," Audrey moaned, "I need some "preever-seat."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dear Dutch,

Romans 11.29 says, “God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.” The word irrevocable in Greek means “without repentance” or “not to be repented of,” implying that when God chooses to bestow His favor and calling on someone, He never regrets it.

He’s never sorry. And I can’t help but think that this is because salvation and sanctification depend entirely upon Him. He doesn’t doubt Himself. He knows He can finish the work He began in us because the work is His to do – and He has done it!

He knows our end from our beginning. He sees the verdant silhouette of the sprawling tree inside the acorn long before it has begun to sprout. Its telos – or completion – is inevitable because the process of teleological evolution, once begun, cannot be rescinded.

I wholeheartedly believe that God has placed an irrevocable call on your life. My heart is with you just as Deborah’s heart was with Israel’s princes who rode into battle, “with the willing volunteers among the people” (Judges 5.9).

I am so proud to be your wife and I cannot wait to see what He accomplishes in and through you.

Happy, happy, happy birthday,

Love, Your Dutch-ess

Resurrection Life

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." ~John 10.10

On this evening of Good Friday my spirit is greatly burdened: the death of a child, a diagnosis of cancer, the brutal murder of a friend all fill me with sorrow. Perhaps for this reason I cannot help but consider the tremendous lengths that Christ went to in order to grant us life in Him.

Everywhere I look in Scripture I see Christ – His presence in the garden breathing life into man; His spirit in Melchizedek, priest of Salem, or, priest of peace, blessing Abraham for believing what was revealed to him; His pre-incarnate Spirit appearing to Joshua as he prepared to go into battle. Christ, born to woman, “becomes an infant small, He becomes a man of woe” and “doth feel [our] sorrow too.” He dies the death of an outcast and criminal in order to re-infuse man with His breath of Life – to make us holy sons and daughters, inheritors of His riches, and citizens in His kingdom.

In Him we are not only resurrected spiritually – Christ bringing to life that which in us was dead because of sin --- but we have the hope of physical resurrection. Death has lost both its power and sting.

The resurrected Christ returns to Heaven and sits even now at the right hand of the Father, praying for us, but not before giving us His Spirit - “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you,” says Paul, “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

How easily the difficulties of life cause me to forget how great is the power of Christ in me! How much I long to let all visions of earthly sorrow and death throw the depth and meaning and glorious fact of His resurrection into high relief!

We are promised trouble in this life; indeed, we look around us and everywhere there is trouble. But the death and resurrection of Christ means that I can endure the trials of life in His strength, drawing life from His life and breath from His breath just as the unborn child receives nutrients from the life of its mother.

Not only so but the more I experience of sorrow and decay, suffering and death, the larger His life looms inside me. Though outwardly I am undergoing a process of decay; inwardly, I am undergoing a process of renewal.

"Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus,
I've lost sight of all beside,
So enchained my spirit's vision,
Gazing on the Crucified."

~Oswald Chambers