Tuesday, January 24, 2012

God did not come to judge us

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

We all know this verse. It is perhaps one of the most commonly quoted scriptures--the trite verse that believers reach for in some debate or another. But how has the most well-known scripture become just empty words? How is it that we quote this verse and then pronounce judgment for our fellow man? Why do we find joy in beating "sinners" over the head with this verse and then turn our backs to them in hatred and disgust?

These are the burdens that have been weighing on my heart these past few days. And it all started in the wake of JoePa's death. Social media forums exploded with an international outpouring of grief, remembrance, respect and honor for a man who had become a legend and who had left behind a substantial legacy. But some who call themselves children of God, chose judgment. "Now he gets to meet his maker..." And with this, my heart cried out in sadness. What an awful god to serve...one who doles out punishment and retribution. One who makes sure that we get what's coming to us. And get it good. Why would anyone want to serve such a terrible god, knowing that we all sin? That we all fall short of the glory of God? Why would He be any more gentle or loving with you when it's your turn? Is not your sin just as great as any other?

And in the midst of my turmoil, my Father revealed to me John 3:16. But His emphasis was on the word world. "For God so loved the world..." The world. Meaning all of us. Everyone. Everything. All of His creation. Not just those who were perfect (because there would be no one to love). Not just those who would choose to love Him in return (because that's what we often do). Not just Christians. No, He loved the whole world!

And once I settled this in my heart, then He changed the emphasis a bit and said "For God so loved the world..." And this is Truth. The gospel, the good news, is just one big love story. In His unadulterated love for us, He sent His Son to die for us. To save us. And He said so Himself--it's just that people don't often quote John 3:17.

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

Yes, it's true. God did not come to judge us. Just to love us and to save us. And that is the gospel. It's simple. It's real. And it's freedom. And He offers salvation to the world. Not just the elect. Not just the ones who strive really hard to get it right. But to everyone. His love, His grace, His mercy--they're available to everyone. In any situation. At any time. Always and forever. Some will choose to accept His love and live in absolute freedom. Others will choose to reject His love. But that doesn't mean His love for them has dried up, withered or grown cold. It just means that in His perfect love there is freedom to choose.

So yes, JoePa did get to meet his Maker. But wouldn't you know--that is the one person who loves him more than anyone else ever could. And I bet JoePa had a high old time there in his Daddy's loving embrace.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Snow Day

It finally happened. January became January. The unseasonable 60-degree days finally gave way to the blustery cold sub-freezing temperatures we're used to. And when we woke up yesterday morning, we were greeted by a beautiful white wonderland so still and peaceful. I love snowy lazy weekends where the roads are quiet and we trudge to Market in the stolen stillness of the City's usually chaotic center. Burke is not quite old enough to take interest in the snow, but I'm sure next year I'll have an enthusiastic little snow bunny--a sweaty, tussled boy's boy with frozen fingertips and ruddy cheeks. But, for now, here are some pictures of my sweet snow angel in yesterday's winter snowscape.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To My Darling Burke: Seven Months

I have known you now for more than half of one year. You are now closer to one than zero. And I wonder where the time has gone. It seems like just yesterday that I held you in my arms for the first time, wondering what we should name you. And yet, it'll be just the blink of an eye and we'll be singing "Happy Birthday" to our favorite little man as he smashes his cake and digs in with gusto. But I won't get ahead of myself--at least not at the moment. So here we are just two weeks past 7 months and you are still the funniest, most full-of-life little boy I know.

You have started to say "Dada" and when you get started, you don't stop. You babble constantly...I wonder if we'll ever have quiet once you really start to talk! I love to hear you talk as you play contentedly with your toys or traverse every corner and inch of your crib. You might just be an acrobat when you grow up. Or the guy that can fit into tiny spaces. You'll definitely be loving and kind and compassionate. Want to know how I know? God told me. And, you love to snuggle and "hug" Mama & Daddy. You are a little lover, that's for sure!

You also started "giving kisses" this month. What that means for you is to approach all things with an open mouth and then slober all over the recipient. That includes our mouths and even the dog. We think it's kind of gross to let you open mouth kiss the dog, so we try to stop you when possible. But you love your doggie and he lets you do whatever you want to him.

You got a few more teeth this month as well. You're not getting a break on teeth--but you do look so cute and silly with all of those little white teeth scattered throughout your mouth! When you smile and your teeth show--ah! My heart melts. And you love to smile and laugh. At nothing, at something, at everything. You're pretty easy to please!

You're so close to crawling, you can all but taste it. We see the frustration in your face, but we delight in watching your wheels spin as you figure out how to make your body work for you. Discovering the world is so cool! I feel so lucky to get to watch you do it. You have also started to pull yourself up on things, so we must now keep an even closer eye on you, my dear. (You nearly toppled headfirst into our wooden floor when you pulled yourself up on the laundry basket).

Thank you for the joy that you bring into our lives! I thank God for you countless times every day. There is just no little boy as sweet and as cute as you, Burke.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Running, running, running

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. I don't hate them. They're just not my style. If I need to wait until the New Year to officially start something, then I probably should have already started it. And if I know there is an official start date and I'm particularly dreading the discipline that lies ahead, then I'm probably also self-destructing to the fullest possible extent until that deadline comes. You know how it goes. You say you're starting your diet on Monday and then proceed to shovel everything and anything, especially bad things, into your mouth until 11:59 Sunday night. The first day of the diet is no problem. Your body eats up all the french fries that are left in your system and the excitement of having a bikini bod keeps you from noticing the growing growl in your gut. Day 2 is okay, but by Day 3, the hunger is overwhelming. The miniscule portions of protein and tsunami-like intake of water just isn't cutting it anymore. Sure, you still have plenty of donuts stored in the recesses, but your brain doesn't remember. All it remembers is how delicious they tasted going down. So then you start to bargain with yourself and you know, deep in your heart, that it's over. Because once you start bargaining, it's over. You lost. And you didn't even diet enough to lose all of the pre-diet binge weight, so when you quit the blasted thing (you've found a better diet that you'll try next month), you're actually a few pounds heavier than you were before you even started. It's obviously a cruelly psychological and highly emotional nightmare for me and I fail. Every time. So, I've learned that I am better off setting my mind on a goal in the heat of the moment. I'm not sure whether I trick myself or my self tricks me in this clever game, but it really doesn't matter. I feel like I'm in charge of my decision to make a goal, I'm ready to start on it so I'm fired up and when I'm finally at the point where I want to see the goal completed, then I have no problem maintaining the discipline to follow through. 

And that's precisely where I find myself right now. Ready to run again. (It just happens to be timed up with New Year's resolutions). I miss long runs on the trail in the crisp winter air. An hour or two of running, spending time with my Lord--mostly praising him but sometimes pleading that I'll make it back home. This reminds me of a time when someone asked me whether running was a spiritual exercise for me and I replied "If you count the times I plead with the Lord to get me back home when I've gone out too far, then yes...it's quite spiritual." So, I've decided to sign up to run the St. Luke's Half Marathon in late April.

The last time I ran 13.1 miles, I was wishing that I had only run 13.1 miles. It will have been 5 years to the date of the St. Luke's Half and it was the day that I ran my first (and only, so far) marathon. I remember coming up to Mile 11, which was the split-off for those running the half marathon. As I trotted past that mile marker, I wondered whether I had made a very grave mistake. So many times, I considered jumping the course--it would have been so easy to just cross the flat, pathetic little median strip separating me at Mile 12 from those at Mile 18. No one would notice. But even if no one noticed, I could never cheat. I could never live with myself. So, I trudged onward. Slowly. Painfully. But steadily. And the pride and joy that overcame me when I crossed that finish line after running 26.2 miles was so worth the pain of every step and the nightmarish recovery that I would know intimately for the next week. So what if I had to pick up my legs in order to roll over in bed. I ran a marathon!

And so, I am once again ready for the feeling of accomplishment. For the exhilaration of running. For the added benefit of being fit and able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. And for the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of creation that Jesus made just for me!