Just Go With It

My mom passed along this tidbit the other day, and I'm finding multiple practical applications for it. It's the phrase, "Just go with it."

I'm a little uncertain as to all the details, but I believe a caretaker was giving advice to someone on how to interact with elderly senile people. If Old Jonathan believes he sees his Great Aunt Bertha in the room, don't try to convince Old Jonathan that he is seeing things. Just go with it. 

I don't think this means to pretend to carry on a conversation and serve tea to Great Aunt Bertha, but simply don't try to convince Old Jonathan otherwise. His mental faculties are on their way out.

The application of this with children seems quite obvious to me. Of course, I don't argue with my four-year-old that he's not a cat, or with my eight-year-old that going to bed early is the best thing for her, or with my ten-year-old that his pain will really and truly be over quite soon. Their mental faculties are not developed yet.

But what about with adults? We all, to a degree, are out of touch with reality. We don't entirely understand one another's feelings or hopes or views. We don't entirely understand the news or the weather or the economic goings on. We are fudging it mostly. 

For example, I have told people of events happening in my life that I don't find particularly pleasant, to which my audience replies, "How wonderful that must be for you!" I'm flustered and surprised. Oh, they don't understand my views on this subject. Shall I correct them? How can I possibly explain my attitude? Will they even understand? Do they even care?

Usually at this point, the person gives a hint as to whether they really care to know my thoughts or are merely responding generically. It is the generic responder that I find the most tricky. I cannot knowingly agree with their reaction. It goes against my policies of honesty. But I don't feel an explanation is appropriate either. 

Engage Operation Just-Go-With-It.

I've just learned that if they were in my shoes, they would've enjoyed this supposedly unpleasant event. I'm all the wiser now. I might ask, "How do you figure?" or "How might you enjoy this event, if you were to go?" or even, "I hope to enjoy it more next time." 

Of course, I can only do this so long as I'm not expecting my listeners to understand me or validate me as if they were my bosom companion or God himself. I must accept others as merely human with a very limited knowledge.

Here's another example: I have been in conversation with a friend when they've voiced opinions to which I don't agree: views of God that don't seem right or assessments of themselves that don't match my observations or foreboding predictions about the future that seem far more hopeless than reality.

Again, I must discern whether they are asking me for my opinion or if they are merely voicing their own views or fears, and this is rather hard to do if my views feel threatened or I feel that I must confess that I totally disagree in order to adhere to my inner code of honesty—drat that inward code!

Engage Operation Just-Go-With-It

I have just learned some interesting opinions from my friend. I'm all the more acquainted with this person now. I might say, "There you go," or "How do you figure?" or "Tell me more about that."

Or course, I can only do this so long as I don't expect my friends to know all my views in order to like me. I also can't expect my friends to ask me for my own opinions even after they've offered their own. Not every conversation is an equal transaction, and so long as I'm banking with the Lord, I don't have to worry about no one listening to all my opinions—some of which are probably wrong too.

I guess God sometimes just goes with it too.

Psalm 64: Hide Me from the Dissatisfied

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of Abigail.

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my sanity from dread of my own children.
2 Hide me from the secret gripings of the dissatisfied,
from the crowd of cranky three,
3 who find fault with every summer class,
who ask for sweets and TV after every outing,
4 ambushing me with requests as I walk through the house,
"At least can't we . . ." and "But I never get to . . . " 
they say in high pitched tones.

5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, "This might work.”
6 They search out vacillations,
saying, “We shall find her weak spot.”
For the inward mind and heart of a child are relentless.

7 But God douses them with his laws;
they receive reality-checks suddenly.
8 Their schemes are brought to ruin, 
with their own tongues, they lose privileges;
all who see them wag their heads.
9 Then all the elderly chuckle;
they recall their own child-rearing days
and rejoice that it is over.

10 Let the satisfied parent rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in him 
not in their children's good behavior!
Let all the principled in heart rejoice
even when her children don't!

A Lesson about Revenge for Kids

We've been trying to explain revenge over here. Here's an illustration I came up with. To set the stage, give each child $10 and ten chocolate kisses.

When someone intentionally hurts another or is selfish, it's like they take another's chocolate kiss. Let's say Jack pushes Jill so he can be first in line. But Jack's selfishness comes at a cost. He may have gained the front of the line (Jill's chocolate kiss), but by doing this Jack loses some of his godliness. (At this point I'd take a dollar from Jack.) By shoving and taking for himself, he has become less like God and thus less rich in Heavenly things.

If someone decides to get revenge the same is true. They may get revenge by pushing back or calling names, which in our illustration is stealing someone's chocolate chip, but they also lose a dollar. 

The point is we lose more than we gain when we act selfishly or get revenge.

The godliness we lose when we are selfish or get revenge is worth far more than the chocolate kiss. That godliness (i.e. money) may not seem valuable now but that is because we are like children in this world just learning the value of money. Chocolate kisses to a very small child seem tantalizing and delicious, but when a child is grown, he or she knows that dollars are more valuable. 

And here the analogy can go farther.

The fact of the matter is we lost all our money ages ago. We're already broke and in debt because we continue in our unkindnesses. But the good news is Jesus has already paid our debt and made it possible for us to have access to the Bank, aka God's holiness. Our riches are infinite! In fact, whenever we ask, God is willing to give us his dollars in order to do right and walk humbly.

But we can have none of his wealth unless we first confess how broke we are and then trust in God's money instead of our own.

Gardener's World Tips

The gardening bug has got me. I attribute it to watching the BBC's Gardener's World with the its easy-going and sometimes frumpy host, Monty Don. The show is slow-paced, rather unscripted, and full of normal people growing normal gardens. I appreciate the shows lack of glamor and perfection. The show even features homemade movies of people showing off their backyard gardens. These people have imperfect teeth, un-landscaped planters, and an occasional dead plant in the background.

I watched these clips and thought, hey I can do that! So off I went to kill some plants on my own. And I have!

Okay, okay, some have survived too. Actually, most of them have survived. They are little stories of people who love me or resurrected species I saved through no cleverness of my own or dug-up volunteers I elevated to welcome porch guests or experiments that succeeded despite my neglect or over-watering. I'm quickly learning which species can survive my style of care.

While watching Gardener's World, I've also collected a few tips that sounded so much like the opening to a sermon that I jotted them down to be published in this here blog. Behold! Spiritual analogies galore!

"When you move a rose, don't expect it to do anything dramatic for a year or two. It needs time to re-establish its roots."

"If you're planting for the first time, don't harvest any fruit the first year. Let the roots have a chance to establish and next year you can harvest and go on doing it for years."

"As they start to develop their first leaves, it's time to prune them and the harder you cut them, the more vigorous the new growth will be and it's the new growth that has the brightest bark."

"The plant will be all the better next year for a little bit of ruthlessness this year."

"Mix into your potting mix a shovel full of the soil where you'll eventually plant out the plant so that the little plant gets used to the fungi and micro-organisms that the plant is going to start a relationship with. This enables the roots to grow away from the plant much quicker when you transplant it. Otherwise the roots are timid and hesitate and that's when the slugs get it."

And last but not least: "Organic gardening is less tidy and takes more time."

Comstock Chronicles: A Long List of Answered Prayers

Family Camp 2022

I'm taking a sick day today and enjoying listening to the children playing outside in their shredded hammocks and baptizing each other in our backyard pool. Phil has taken over so that I can rest, and I think he's enjoyed reporting to me all he has accomplished. 

He took the kids to Home Depot and bought two beautiful plants: one for Rose's fairy garden and one for my enjoyment, which he's already planted. He bought a fly trap that lures flies down a funnel into a container with putrid goo where the flies flitter about until they fall to their death. 

Our family gathered at the backyard window watching the flies wander two by two into the thing as if it were Noah's Ark. Phil has also oiled our wooden weaponry, collected four eggs, and cleaned up after breakfast and lunch. He is now shooting flies in the backyard with his salt gun.

I don't think I've recorded anywhere the remarkable happenings over the last year, so it is time I did. About a year ago I felt my gals accountability group needed a break. We'd been meeting for over two years, relying on one another for our sanity. Each week we'd share what God had been teaching us and pray. But now we were each moving different directions and meeting together was going to be more and more difficult, so I called for a break.

The vacancy left behind prompted me to begin praying, "Lord, if I don't meet with these dear ladies and share with them what I'm learning about you, who can I share with? Please give me someone to share with."

I asked my church's Women's Bible Study (WOW) leaders if I might lecture for them, but they said all the slots were filled. They suggested I ask my aunt, Luanne Shackelford, if I might take some of her lectures. Aunt Luanne was only too willing to hand over two of her lectures. She was in the Philippines closing out her and Ed's missionary work there, and she wasn't even sure they would be back in time for her to deliver those lectures. 

I continued to pray for more chances to share. WOW began, and I shared my request with my Bible Study ladies one Wednesday. They prayed with power, and that evening as I was picking up my kids from Wednesday night small group, Devin, the Middle School Pastor, caught my eye and zeroed in on me. "I'm not sure why I thought of you, Abby," he said, "But I just saw you across the courtyard and though I'd ask. Do you by any chance care to be a Middle School small group leader?"

I was speechless. Really, Lord? Middle School? I taught Jr. High Math over ten years ago, but I thought I was done with that. Am I to go back now? 

No matter my hesitancy, I couldn't deny the facts. My WOW ladies had prayed for me that morning; God had delivered that evening. I couldn't say no. After a month of awkward interactions with tweens, I began to warm up to this quirky and fun-loving group of people. I had a small group of mostly non-Granada girls who grew on me over time. Devon gave me the chance to speak a few times in big group and I loved preparing for those talks. Some of my girls challenged me with questions that revealed their elementary understanding of Christianity, and I have had the privilege of filling in some gaps.

One small group, I was telling them how God answers prayer. I asked them to each pick something to pray for that would prove to them that God cared about them and was listening. They all chose to get an A on an upcoming test. I tried not to show my trepidation at their requests, and I was secretly hoping they all studied their hearts out as fervently as I prayed my heart out. "Lord, please show these girls you care. Please, may they all get A's."

Test day came, and I texted them to find out how they did. They all got A's! Phew. In the next small group I asked them if they thought they would've gotten A's if we hadn't prayed. One of them said absolutely not. The others weren't so sure. And from there we talked about how God often gives us good gifts even when we don't ask.

Time went by and I continued my prayer. I learned Luanne Shackelford was stuck in the Philippines and wouldn't be back to deliver any of her scheduled lectures. Would I like to take all five of them? I agreed to take on one more, but that was all. Even with just three, I wasn't sure how three weeks of lectures would affect my health. In the past I've gotten stomach aches when public speaking, and the anxious aches can last a few days. 

I brought the matter to my WOW Bible Study group and again they prayed powerful prayers over me. One lady prayed that the fear of men would be gone from me. I think she was praying the words from Jeremiah 1:8. In the middle of the prayer, the fear inside me vanished. I suddenly saw that I didn't have to believe in my own courage and abilities, but just believe that God could do this through me. 

So I agreed to lecture five weeks in a row just so long as the WOW Bible Study council would pray that I and my family wouldn't get sick for those five weeks. If I had a sick child, I couldn't attend WOW. I then sat down to write these lectures. Aside from the one lesson on wives submitting to their husbands, the lessons practically wrote themselves. I would sit at my computer during my youngest's nap time, pray that the Lord would give me ideas, and the words would just pour out. I felt more like a secretary than a lecture writer. 

And my family remained healthy for those five weeks. I don't know if you know how remarkable this is. I have three kids and this was their first year back after COVID. Since school started in August, some child had been out sick every other week, mostly my youngest, Benny, who hadn't built up his immunities. But for those five weeks in January, no one was sick. 

I continued praying the prayer, "Lord, who can I talk to about you?" Some days people would call me to chat and the good news of what God has done for me would naturally bleed into the conversation. Some days a neighbor would turn up at my door and ask for advice. One Sunday our Pastor mentioned he didn't want to speak much on Mother's Day, and I asked the Lord if this was my cue. Should I offer to speak for Mother's Day? 

Often times in prayer, I would fight God about sharing. No, I don't want to. Too scary. And God would repeat the same promises from before. "Am I not strong enough? Can I not do this thing through you?" To which I could only reply, "Yes, I believe you can."

So I shared the words that the Lord gave to me on Mother's Day for our church and people are still coming up to me and thanking me for those words, which by the way I feel I didn't write. The Lord dictated and I just typed. (Mother's Day Talk)

One Sunday morning in the midst of total disrespect from my children, the words to a poem just fell into my lap. I grabbed my journal and jotted them down to publish a blog (Old Wounds Smarting). Feeling nudged to not keep it to myself, I sent it to our pastor who had me read it that very morning. 

There are more stories.

While preparing lectures for WOW, a neighbor suggested I write a newsletter for our block, and while I couldn't imagine doing that while I was busy lecturing, the idea came up again when I was free. This was yet another way I could tell others about what God was doing in my life. I wrote up a newsletter and was about to print it, when I felt convicted about how I'd kept God out of it. This was not right. 

So I rewrote the thing and was immediately filled with fear. Was I really going to tell all my neighbors that I was a Christ follower? That I saw all blessings as gifts from God? Fearing their judgements, I brought the matter to God and after writing down all my fears, they immediately lifted. Yes, this was the right thing to do. I drove to Staples and printed the newsletter in color on high quality paper. I was rather shocked to find that 30 copies cost me $40. I prayed with Philip before passing them out to my neighbors.

A day or so later, I went to visit my in-laws. They didn't know I was doing this newsletter, which is probably why I was gobsmacked when they offered me a color printer that they didn't want anymore. My eyes just about popped out of my head. GOD! You keep doing this to me! It's incredible!

In April a friend asked me to write a poem for someone whose father passed away. I prayed for the words and inspiration, and the Lord delivered a lovely piece (Grieving the Loss of a Father), which I was able to share with others, including at Forest Home Family Camp share time. A number of campers had shared how they'd had a father pass away, and so I tried pulling up my blog but to no avail. This particular spot at camp doesn't get service. Phil tried on his phone, but he got no service either. I figured that was that, but more people shared about having a father pass away, so I prayed, "Lord, I didn't want to share this piece before. But I do now. If you will get my blog up, I will read it. In the name of Jesus Christ, let it go up." And it did.

I could continue listing the ways God has shown up this past year. I've taken walks all tangled up inside with questions, and by the end of the walk, the Lord will have given me the answers that I needed. There were some weeks where I decided I wasn't going to pray to share God with because I was frankly too afraid of who God might send my way. He has been so faithful at answering this prayer, and most of the time I wasn't sharing the gospel. I was simply sharing how God had been answering my prayers, like I'm sharing with you now. I suppose that is the gospel.

Hope for the Poisoned

These are not truths.
And what was said
Came from an unordered heart,
A poisoned heart,
One that is dead,
Starved of truth and goodness.

But beauty remains—
Like spirit-wind over dark waters.
And if beauty hovers,
Then it can be made good
Through truth
Like a shock from a defibrillator
Reviving the dead heart,
Sucking poison from arteries,
Unblocking the stifled passions
And filling the lungs with wind
Once again.

There is hope
For the resentful
The embittered
The dissatisfied
The self-righteous
The poisoned
And me.

The Cure for Consumption

To consume 
Without satisfaction
Is to take for the sake of wanting,
To look for the sake of searching,
To eat for the sake of craving,
To scroll in the hope of waking
From that stupor of consumption:
That wasting disease that wants
More, the more it gets.

It is a disease that tries
Making bricks without straw.
It turns lakes into mirages
And robs a parched man
Of the ability to drink while
He stands in the rain,
Face Heavenward, lips sealed.

He'll soon turn to stone standing there 
Taking but never having,
Looking but never finding,
Eating but never full.
His appetite whet
By the things pointing
To their maker, the one
Who fashioned man's strength
And vision and appetites.
One peek behind that veil
Would level him,
Would overflow his capacity
And wake all his senses to goodness.
But the God he wants 
He fears will ask everything.
So he does not look.
He does not kneel,
And thus, consumption
Consumes him.

Be not that man forever hungry,
Forever blundering and afraid
Of the God who wants you
As much as you need him.

Rather, be the man of courage
Who gives all now for that
Glimpse behind the veil here,
And, in eternity, entry
Into the very presence of God:
The one we are looking for.

Creating Energy: the Law of Conservation

There is a law in physical science called the Law of the Conservation of Energy, which says that energy cannot be made or destroyed; it can only be converted from one form of energy to another. 

This means we don't make energy. We eat food and our bodies burn it into energy to move and work. We don't create electricity; we merely take energy from the sunlight or a flowing stream or nuclear processes, and redirect them for our own purposes.

I think we can also apply this law to making our own righteousness in the world. We don't create or destroy good in the world. We only convert good things into good actions. This means we are not producers of good on our own. We take God's energy within ourselves, convert it into actions and pass it along by contributing in a positive way to society. But it wasn't our energy. It wasn't our own righteousness. It was the goodness that God put into this world from the beginning of time.

If we want to bring in new energy, if we want to mimic our God in doing good works in this world, that is, if we want to do good that can be credited to our own righteousness, our own invention, our own creative energy, we have to become creators. 

I think God made us to be creators, but it is not done through our own efforts—that is creating our own energy. It is done through faith, an invisible power chord connecting us to the source of righteousness outside this world. 

It's the faith that supercharges our creation of something new here on earth. This faith believes that we are not the creators of goodness, but that it's God's creative energy coursing through us and making something new, something that wasn't there before.

Through faith, our everyday work isn't merely produced from the food we put into our bodies or our willpower to make a mark on this earth, but it is produced by a righteousness from God through Christ. This sort of unearthly power is able to do much more than earn a paycheck. It's able to touch others in unique ways. It's able to bring about blessings from pain and hurt. It's able to produce new fruit unheard of in this world. 

This is how we create new energy.

Using Our Imaginations

When I was younger and more limber, I used to do tricks off the diving board. Before trying a back flip with a twist, I would imagine myself doing it. I would do the movements in miniature version while closing my eyes and seeing myself do the trick.

This is something many athletes do: imagine what they need to do before doing it. I remember my swim coach used to have us lay on the concrete to imagine ourselves at an upcoming swim meet. He'd have us imagine ourselves stepping up onto the stand, preparing for the buzzer, leaping off the block, hitting the water and doing a particular stroke across the pool.

I'm pretty sure this is a healthy way to use the imagination. I'm also pretty sure we can imagine ourselves doing what is right and good and beautiful to better participate in Christ's Kingdom. 

For example, if I have to make an apology to my kids, I can imagine myself doing it beforehand, and it makes the doing of it easier. I can imagine myself getting cash out of my wallet to give to the homeless person, and this might make me less suspicious and unwilling when it's the appropriate time to give someone cash. I can imagine myself planning fun activities for my kids this summer, which by the way is something I don't enjoy doing, and it makes the planning a little less difficult for me.

This concept could apply to any number of things we know we need to do or ought to do or wish we could do but don't do. We could imagine ourselves doing them. I could imagine myself reading a fun book and not feeling guilty about it. I could imagine myself doing medical paperwork and completing it. I could imagine myself in a calm state while my children are making a fuss. I could imagine myself unfazed by someone's pedantic speech.

I don't mean to say that escaping into our imaginations is the key to obeying Christ. Certainly the point of imagining is to then do it. I also don't think that imagining good actions will take up too much time, at least not for me. I already use my imagination quite frequently but in less healthy ways.

I have a feeling others do the same.

I use my imagination thinking about the terrible things that might happen or wishing for things that can't happen or gloating about putting someone in their place through my brilliant arguments. These sorts of musings do us no good. They are not a rehearsal for acting like Christ, nor are they actually preparing us for anything real.

There's no point beating ourselves up for this though. Jesus died to give us plenty of space and grace for messing up. God isn't ashamed of us. 

But the point IS to start practicing healthy imaginings. 

The Gospel for Middle Schoolers

Let's say for your birthday your dad gives you his credit card and says, "Here, go buy yourself one thing from the Apple Store at the Brea Mall for your birthday. Just one thing. You can buy a laptop. You can buy a phone. But it's gotta be from that store."

So you go to the Brea Mall and you buy a phone from the Apple Store. But then on the way out, you spot a clothing store and they have these shoes you really want, so you get the shoes too. Then you see this gaming store and you buy an xbox too and some games. And you also get some food at the food court and some candy. But as you're leaving, you start feeling pretty guilty about what you just did. Then you start to search your pockets for the credit card and you realize, you lost it. You left it somewhere. You are in big trouble.

Let's say, you're not a coward, and you decide you're going to fess up to your dad. What would you need to do to make things right with him?

ONE: Confess what you did. This means to apologize and mean it. Like you're not planning on doing the same thing ever again. 

TWO: You need to take the consequence for what you did. So in this case it might mean, you don't get to keep that one item from the Apple store for your birthday. It might mean, you're not allowed to go out by yourself for a month. Whatever your parents decide is the consequence, you'd need to serve that sentence.

THREE: Lastly, you need to make restitution, which means returning the items you shouldn't have bought, and paying your dad back for the food, which you can't return.  

Even after doing all these things. What's something you can't make right? You can't replace the lost card. That's something only he can do. You're not old enough and the credit card is in his name, not yours.

Do you realize that this is what all of us have done to God? We have used what he's given us in the wrong ways and we have lost all chance of giving it back to him.

We have been spending our lives as if it were ours for keeps and like we can do whatever we want with it instead of spending our lives like God asks us to do. And we have lost all chance of having a do-over in life. We don't get a second try. There is no reincarnation.

We've messed up big. Yeah, maybe your parents have kept you from doing anything too terrible, but there's stuff you do that your parents don't know about. Isn't there? There's stuff that goes through your mind that no one knows about. No one but you and God.

Well, let's say you're not a coward and you wanna make things right with God. There's three things you gotta do.

One: Apologize and mean it. To mean it, means we're not going to do it anymore.

Two: We've got to take the punishment for our crime. Do you know what the punishment is for someone who spends their life like its their own and not God's? The punishment is to get exactly what you asked for: a life without God forever. 

The Bible calls this damnation or going to hell. And it describes it with flames and screams and pain, not because God has made some sort of place with horrible torture devices to punish people, but because life without God is terrible. It's way worse than life on earth. God is still present here on earth and give people many good things here. Life without God is without anything good, beautiful or true: no relief of pain, no comfort, no fun, no joy, no excitement, nothing new. That's our punishment for our crime.

Three: we have to make restitution to God. That means we have to pay God back for the life we should've been living. This means we've got to redo our lives but perfectly now. 

Do you see some problems with this plan on how to make things right with God? You should.

First, who can apologize to God and mean that he's never going to mess up again? We're still going to mess up. We can apologize every day of our lives, but it doesn't change the fact that we make mistakes. 

Second: who wants to take the punishment for what they've done? Who wants to go to hell? I don't want to do that. 

Third: no one can give back to God a perfect, holy life because nobody can live perfectly even if we were given a billion chances. 

No one can do it, except....? God himself. Send to earth in the form of Jesus.

Jesus is the solution to our problem here.

First: Jesus made the perfect apology to God on our behalf. When we confess to God that we've been living our lives the wrong way, Jesus who right now is standing beside God, turns to God and says, "Hey, so-and-so is sorry. They want to apologize, but they can't. Take my apology instead. It's perfect."

And at that moment God looks down into our hearts to see if our rebellious days are over and instead of seeing a self-absorbed little insurgent, he sees Christ there forever apologizing, forever presenting a changed heart, forever teaching us the way to live like children of God. And God accepts that apology.

Second: Jesus took the punishment for our crimes. Jesus went to hell for us. When he was dying on the cross he said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." At that moment, Jesus was totally separated from God in death. We don't have to go to hell anymore. Jesus did that already. And Hell could not keep Jesus there.

Third: Jesus made restitution for our failures by living the perfect life and by being the perfect human. That life reimbursed God for the life we owe him.

Our relationship with God has been made right.

Every single day, you have a choice to believe either, "I'm going to make things right with God, today. I'm going to do better today. I can do it!" Some of you, especially the girls, who've gone to church all your lives are easy prey for this trap. You still think you can 


You're going to believe: "It's hopeless. I can't ever make things right with God. I'm too terrible." Those of you who have been abused or mistreated so you think you're worthless and no one would want to save you. are easy prey for believing truth.

OR you're going to believe, "Jesus is making things right with God for me."

You have a choice on whose side you're going to be on.

What if Jesus Had Dysfunctional Parents?

If Jesus grew up with dysfunctional parents, would he still have been perfect? If his parents had shamed him about how he wasn't meeting their expectations, would he have developed certain complexes? If he had had to take care of himself from a young age or had parents who didn't convey unconditional love very well, would the world have lost its Savior?

What do we know about Jesus parents? We know that Jesus grew up in a Jewish home with imperfect parents. We know that his parents weren't clear about how he would save Israel. We know that Jesus had to learn things from his parents, such as how to dress himself and wash dishes and build a chair, but we also know the Holy Spirit taught him how to do the will of his Heavenly Father.

We know that since he had imperfect parents, there must've been some misunderstandings between them and probably some misplaced discipline. We know his family had to flee Bethlehem to Egypt for part of his early life, and that probably caused the family quite a lot of stress. We know his family was poor and probably wrestled with scarcity. We also know that he lost his father sometime before he was thirty and thus had to fill in that role. All these things hint that Jesus probably DID grow up in a dysfunctional family. 

By the way, by dysfunctional I don't mean parents who locked him in a closet for the first three years of his life or who regularly beat him to get out their anger. I just mean parents who, by today's standards, didn't do things very well.

So if Jesus did grow up with dysfunctional parents, how did he end up so perfect? 

Is it because he was God, and his deity somehow buffered him from picking up his parents bad habits? Is Jesus rather like a white sheep dropped into a blemished flock and couldn't change his fleece even if he'd wanted to? Or did Jesus actually come from the blemished flock? Was the blood coursing through Jesus' veins the same that coursed through Adam and Noah, Abraham and Judah and Tamar?

The Bible seems to say yes. In fact, the Bible seems to spend quite a lot of time tracing his family tree. The Bible is also quite clear about the generational sins that were passed down: Noah's drunkenness, Abraham's lying, David's lust, etc. I'm pretty sure impatience and greed and self-glorification were imbedded into Jesus' blood too. In fact, it seems like Jesus' family tree was poisoned up from the roots. All our families have been poisoned up from the roots actually.

And yet Jesus didn't sin. Did he have no passions of the flesh? Did his Divinity give him no taste for sin? Seems to me—and I'm no theologian—that if Jesus never had a desire to sin, then sin wasn't a temptation for him at all just like bungee jumping is no temptation for someone who hates heights.

I think Jesus' flesh desired sin, that sin was tempting to him, that he was tempted just like us. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin." (Hebrews 4:15 NIV) 

And Hebrews 2:17-18 ESV tells us, "Therefore he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."

Did you catch that? Jesus suffered when he was tempted. How could temptation be painful without a desire for that temptation. I don't think it was any easier for Jesus to resist temptation than it is for us to resist temptation. In fact, because Jesus resisted his entire life, it was actually harder for him. When we give in to temptation, the immediate pain goes away, but Jesus endured that pain his entire life, the pain of saying no to quick relief, saying no to hiding when afraid, saying no to his own way, saying no to backbiting and snubbing and taking what he wanted.

Jesus chose to suffer rather than give in to temptation his entire life. He chose to go hungry rather than sell his birthright as God's only son for a bowl of lentil soup. 

What kind of child chooses to suffer rather than give in? One that wants God's will more than he wants to satisfy his flesh, one who believes God's ways are better. One that really trusts God will provide, protect, and love. One in constant relationship with God the Father. And here is where we differ from Christ.

Jesus never broke that connection with God. He was born into relationship with his Father, and he never turned his back on God even when God turned his back on him at the cross. We, on the other hand, were born out of a relationship with the Father. Our inability to resist evil doesn't come from our parents' dysfunction but our broken relationship with God. 

Perhaps our particular brand of sin is derived from our parents' habits and methods, and certainly some kinds of sin are more colorful or seemingly de-habilitating than others. But regardless, we were going to be sinful one way or another.

White Privilege

Let's pretend a particular man was born in a particular place and time. Let's also say that because of his upbringing, he was educated about various things that the majority of people simply don't have access to. He was privileged in this. 

If he grew up in a patriarchal society, we might say he was privileged in being male. And if his society believed one race was better than another, and he just so happened to be of the preferred race, we might say he was privileged in race as well. 

Does this mean that he is better suited for success? That his success in life is largely due not to his own doing but to his privileged position? Could we conversely not expect as much from a racially-discriminated uneducated woman who was treated less than dirt? 

I believe the answer depends on two things. One, how we measure success. And two, what is expected from humans. The answer to these two questions is the same.

If a man fulfills what is expected of him, then his life is a success. I don't mean what other people expect of him or even what he expects of himself, but what is expected of him by his maker, by God. To be what God wants us to be is to have a successful life. And what does God want us to be? 

He wants us to be his children. Both in name and deed.

Is a white man living in the United States better suited to become a child of God in name and deed than any other gender or race? Well, since becoming a child of God has nothing to do with wealth, education, social statues, or how others treat you, then no.

In fact, it's the exact opposite.  

Jesus said it was very difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to enter God's kingdom. Jesus said that those were were blessed were actually the poor in spirit, those who mourned and were meek and who were persecuted for Christ's sake.

Jesus seems to say that those who are really privileged are those the world thinks are under-privileged. Turns out, those who are treated like dirt make a better soil for receiving the word of God than those who think they are pure gold.

Yes, having wealth and power are good things. But they don't guarantee us real success in life. They don't make us good humans. In fact, it's more likely that they'll hinder us from becoming a good human. 

Likewise, seeking social justice and equality are good things. But the obtaining of these things won't guarantee a society of people fit for Heaven. In fact, the exact opposite may be true for it seems to me that people of real character are born out of adversity not equality.

Finding Rebekah (Part II)

Rebekah et EliƩzer by Alexandre Cabanel

What can I say about her, the one whom      
Abraham's servant sought? Shall I tell of    
Her strength and beauty or her opportune         
Passing just then to draw water thereof?                          
Shall I expound her solicitous heart      
To not only give drink to a stranger        
But relinquish her moment to depart 
To draw for all his ten camels water?     

You know the story already, and how        
The servant then gave her bracelet and ring,        
And asked if her household would allow
Him provision, rest, and lodging.

How blessed that servant must've been           
When he heard that her family of origin      
Was Nahor, the brother of Abraham
And they'd gladly provide for all the men.

Upon hearing this, the old servant fell down    
Upon his knees to worship the Lord         
For making plain how to fulfill the vow
To Abraham just as he had implored.

"Such attentive kindness and love has he,"             
Said the servant as he worshipped there,          
"For not forsaking my master's family
And leading me here through his gentle care."

Then Rebekah's family, her brother
Laban, invited the servant within
His home, unharnessed the camels, gave fodder
To them too and washed the feet of the men.

But when food was set before him to eat,        
He refused to start 'til he'd said his piece,
Then tells them all without being brief,            
This tale again. At end, you've read it twice.

Did we need to hear it again from the        
Servant's mouth as told to Laban?                 
Was there something there that we didn't see
That needs repeating so we won't mistaken? 

The task was given. The journey was long.       
The test was put forth. The sign was fulfilled. 
It was God who worked. Now don't get that wrong.
It was he who directed, who guided, who willed.

And in the retelling, Laban can't mistake,
Neither we who reread, the miracle
Of God's interacting with us for our sake  
Proving Heaven's link to earth empirical.

Like the ladder in Jacob's yet-born dream    
This attestation of connection from Hea'en       
Must be repeated here and on every ream
Of printed Word from Gutenburg spread
'Til no man deny it was God who led           
Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob                       
And a nameless servant who to Heaven said,
"I stand by the spring, give me drink from thy cup."