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Surprised by Autism, Pt. 2

So in the first installment of Surprised By Autism, I talked about the struggle of living with Autism and choosing not to get any services. It has taught me so much, most of it about trusting God and allowing him to work through me and for me and my son. In fact, I think I can say that nothing else has taught me more about trusting God than parenting Joseph. It is an ongoing, daily struggle and I have no idea what to expect a year from now or even a month from now. Will he ever be able to ride a bus, take a college class, get a job? Will he ever even want to, or understand that these are things that people do and that maybe he should do them, too? Will he ever have a conception of what he wants to be when he grows up, let alone be that?

But those are worries that I can alleviate by faith in God. If my son never gets to the point where he can understand time and schedules and a calendar well enough to get a job or live on his own, that’s okay. If he never gets more functional than he is now, I would be alright with that. That’s not what scares me. I have been dealing with that for almost 11 years now. I have gotten used to letting Joseph be Joseph and doing the best we can with it.

What really strikes at my heart is that Joseph doesn’t seem to understand relationships. He forms bonds and he clearly has affection for some people (and not others). He obviously has relationships. But he doesn’t understand them and he can’t really talk about them. He doesn’t understand words like “love” and “like” and “friend.” He doesn’t know what it means when I tell him that I love him, and he has never once spontaneously said he loves anyone. Does he? I think so. But I don’t think he knows what it means.

So, how do I explain the idea that “God loves you” to a boy who doesn’t understand that his earthly father loves him? How do I talk about a God who is here but not here to the boy who doesn’t think about people he knows when they are not here? How can I know that he is saved when he simply doesn’t have the vocabulary that we would use to express those ideas?

The truth is, I can’t. But, the real truth is, I can’t know that about anyone. Can I know that about my daughters just because they can talk about Jesus’ sacrifice and their own sin? No. I can’t know what is in their hearts nor what they are “just saying.” Heck, when it comes down to it, I can’t even be sure about myself. Jesus says that there are those who will call to him and say they were his followers and he will say he never knew them. (Matthew 7:22-23).

But, at least, I can comfort myself with the appearance and what appears to be saving faith. How can I ever believe Joseph has a saving faith, if he never gains the ability to understand what that means?

John Piper believes that babies and people who don’t have the capacity to understand the gospel are still candidates for being saved, because of what it says in Romans 1:19-20. Because those people understand the nature of God through the nature of his creation, they are without excuse. Piper reasons that if they are without excuse, then some people must be with excuse…so to speak. Namely, people who can not understand the nature of God and the Gospel even though they hear it or witness his creation. This would be true of babies who die, including the stillborn and unborn, as well as those who are older and still do not have the required cognitive abilities.

I have to admit, I tend to agree. Not just because it makes sense and stands up scripturally (which I believe it does), but because it brings me comfort. It comforts me about aborted fetuses and young children who die and the mentally challenged. And Joseph.

Does John Piper hold this to be definitely true, as airtight as the resurrection or the triune nature of God? No, and neither do I. It’s one interpretation of one verse. The text never actually says that those who are incapable can be saved, like some sort of divine competency hearing. The fact that many great thinkers believe something to be true, doesn’t make it so, no matter how well-founded their arguments.

So I have to acknowledge that, though I may be comforted by the idea that the incompetent will not be damned, they still may be. And I have to acknowledge that that might include Joseph. I may teach him to the best of my ability and his and he may never get it. He may never understand what love means, and what it means that God so loved the world that he gave his only son. And, even in the face of his complete inability to understand, God may still condemn him for his lack of faith. God may do that, that is his prerogative. He may send my son to Hell. He may send a lot of people I love to Hell.

And yet. He is good. And that is where my faith must lie. Not in the fact that I can do hermeneutical acrobatics and interpret the scripture in a way that makes me comfortable and assures me that God would not do things that I find unconscionable. My faith must rest in the fact that God is good. He is always good. And if I can not see the goodness in his actions, that is my weakness. That is what I must fight to change. Not God’s nature, mine.

I hold onto hope that if Joseph can understand, God will give me the words to help him understand. God will provide what is needed for his salvation. I hold onto the hope that if Joseph’s brain and heart never get to the point where he can understand and be saved in this world, then there will be opportunity with his resurrected brain. I hope to leave as good a foundation as possible for that resurrected brain to build on. But, at the end, the hope I really hold on to is that God is good.

God is good when Joseph is autistic. God is good when it’s hard to be Joseph’s mom. And God is good, whether Joseph is saved or not. Whether any of us is.

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
-Luke 18:15-17

Complementarians make me sad

Egalitarians also make me sad. I consider myself to be a complementarian. But I have a very specific definition for it. It’s this definition:

A complementarian is a person who believes that God created male and female to reflect complementary truths about Jesus.

And that’s it. Just that: complementary truths about Jesus.

What that doesn’t mean

I don’t think it has anything to do with who does housework or who makes money or who likes football or scrapbooking or whatever. I think all that is window dressing and that God doesn’t care about any of it. It is not about the man always having all the say and ordering the woman around or the woman asking permission for every little thing. It isn’t about one person always serving the other, one person’s needs taking priority, one person getting nothing. It’s not about one person having all the power and the other person having none. This is Christianity: it’s never about that.

Complementarianism is about ultimate authority and ultimate responsibility. We function as a team of equals, but in both of our hearts, we know that he will be called to account first, as Adam was. And, though we hope it never comes to this (and it rarely has), if our wills clash or (more likely) we are just tired of talking about it and there is no sin issue and no clear resolution, he will make the decision and take responsibility for it. I will follow his lead. No matter how little either of us wants to do that.

The Lure of Egalitarianism
I have to admit, though, that egalitarianism is very attractive. The idea of “mutual submission” is very cool. It means that we can serve each other (as we already do) and in my heart, I never have to defer to anybody. I don’t have to say that my husband or my pastor or my president or anyone has authority over me. I just defer to them because, in this instance, they are more qualified. I am still the master of my own life, the captain of my own destiny.

And it makes sense. Why would my husband be in charge? He is no more capable than I am. He is no smarter than I, no more competent than I, no more knowledgeable of how the world or our family works than I am. With egalitarian, mutual submission, I never have to humble myself in the face of the idea that God would give someone authority over me for no reason that I can discern. And I don’t have to submit myself to the idea that God may have reasons that I can not discern and can not fathom and that it doesn’t matter if I can see the reason why.

Also, studies show that marriages are more likely to be happy when everyone gets an equal say and you don’t have to think about authority or submission. Just get ‘er done. It’s more efficient that way.

What that does mean
But the thing is, our marriage isn’t just about making our marriage work and each of us being happy. It is about the amazing gift that God has given us in this marriage and what he wants us to do with it. What does he see its purpose as? What did he intend for us to do with that gift? Because if it is all a gift from God, and he has all authority (and the Bible says both those things), then he has every right to decide what we should do with it. He made it.

Marriage, first described in Genesis 2:24, is the culmination of God making us in his own image. Adam could not image God on his own because God is a community of love and giving. But the Trinity is also a community of hierarchy and submission and order, among equals who are of the same substance. So, to more accurately reflect him, God made marriage. Marriage, in which the two become one flesh (Gen 2:24), with a man reflecting the Father’s role as the head of Jesus and a woman reflecting Jesus’ role in submitting to the Father. I believe it is one more way in which we bear the image of our Triune God. (Actually, I believe all our relationships, when understood rightly, show us some aspect of the Trinity: the Church and Christ, individuals and Christ, parents and children, masters and slaves, church leadership, all of it. But that’s another post…)

And that submission can’t go both ways. It doesn’t make sense. When does Jesus submit to the church? Never. He serves her. He puts her needs and redemption ahead of his own life. But that’s not submission, that’s deference. He never gives up his authority over everything in creation to the Church, he uses it to serve her. Everything is under his feet and he is never under the authority of anything or anyone except God the Father. (1 Cor. 15:27-28, Eph 1:22, Matthew 28:18) And the Father never gives his authority to the Son. He gives the Son authority over everything else, but not over “him who put all things in subjection under him.”(1 Cor. 15:27-28) Jesus says time and again that he is utterly dependent and submitted to the Father. I don’t see any support in Scripture for the idea of “mutual submission” in the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Spirit love, glorify and serve each other, but authority goes one way; consequently, so does submission to that authority.

I am familiar with the historical context arguments and the hermeneutics that each side uses. I have read much of the scholarship and many of the blogs. I think that God’s specific will for gender roles in particular can be hard to discern, or at least confusing, especially in light of our own sinful desires. What I find less confusing are higher, overarching principles that are directly related to God’s character, something he said, or something he did. So I like to use those to lend clarity to things that are less clear. I think it is clear that God made us to bear his image. In addition, since it is the first thing he says about people, it must be pretty important. That was our first purpose: imaging God as closely as possible. That is why we walk with Jesus, because he was the perfect image of God. So, at the end of the day, that is how I decide how to live my life: what more closely images God? I can’t fool myself into thinking that the Trinity is an egalitarian construct where authority and submission get traded around depending on situation and mood, no matter how much easier it would be to live that out.

The Sad Part

When I think about complementarians who make it about biblical manhood or biblical womanhood or Eve being deceived in the garden or women being the weaker vessel…

When I think about egalitarians, who make it about rights and oppression and social justice and power struggle and who has the upper hand and who has the trump card/secret weapon and who gets to express their gifts…

I get sad because I see people making it about things that don’t matter and turning away from the opportunity to mirror God more faithfully.

Our greatest gift and privilege is that we are made in God’s image. Why would we ever give up any part of that?

To The Director Of Music

This is a thing I wrote in April 2009. It was my attempt at writing a psalm for a Redemption Group exercise. I had been saved for 9 months and getting divorced for just over 11, at that point. I was planning to publish something new today, but I’m just not sure I will get it done. I am not sure if I am getting sick or if my allergies are just kicking my butt right through the Claritin. Either way, I hope you enjoy this and I hope I feel better tomorrow, so I can write something new.

For stringed instruments.  A psalm of Me.

I cry out to you, Lord!  I pray for answers!
Hear my prayer, Lord; day and night I call out to you!
I am detained against my will by unfeeling men.
The bureaucrats smile and hold me immobile.
I try to escape but they say, “Just one more thing…”
Their words entangle me like a spider’s web.
My future is uncertain, I long to see its outcome.
My path is shadowed, I can not see it’s end.
How long must I wait, Lord?  How long until I’m free?  How I long for resolution!

I reach out to you, Lord, but you keep the future to yourself.
Instead, you show me the past when you reached out to me.
You were endlessly faithful but I was treacherous.
I ran away from you but you were always by my side.
I followed after demons to the edge of destruction.
Straight down into the pit, I chased after false gods.
You brought me back from the brink, but I mistook you.
When you, Lord, comforted me, I gave your praise to Pharaoh.
You offered perfect love but I chose fornication.
You offered your beauty but I chose filthiness.
You stretched out your hand and offered the way of truth.
Still clinging to my lies, I chose the path of pain and destruction.
When I was lost in the darkness, you shined your light on me and showed me the way out.

You provided for all my needs: map and compass, 
a trusted guide and a parted Sea.
You called to me and finally, I heard.
You showed me the path to your heart and I began to follow.
Even now your enemies surround me.  They try to lure me away.
They want to rip me from your hand, to make me betray you.
“You’re still the same!” “Your place is here with us!”
“How can God accept someone like you?” “You’ll never be good enough!”
When I turn toward Egypt, you block the way.
If I try to escape your embrace, you hold me even closer.
I’m scared and lonely and broken, and I was that way before.  Only – I didn’t have you then.

I am besieged as always – but now you protect me.
I am afraid as always – but now you encourage me.
I am weak as always – but now you strengthen me.
I am hopelessly flawed as always – but now you are perfecting me.
I was suffering then and I’m suffering now
But now I have your light and I won’t go back into the darkness.
If the rest of my days are misery, I will praise you constantly for nothing more than your Love.

Friday Book Review: Jesus, Justice and Gender Roles

I have been reading all the hoopla lately about gender roles in the home and church. What with the report about how 40% of American breadwinners are women and wedding season coming up, it’s all the thing lately. Everyone is talking about it. So why not me, too? =)

But I’m not going to go on and on about what I believe. I don’t have to. Kathy Keller already did in her book, Jesus, Justice and Gender Roles. It’s a small book, but it covers all the bases. She discusses the hermeneutics of it, she discusses the effect it has on people personally. She defines women’s ordained roles in the church without taking it beyond what is spelled out in the text, no nitpicky extras, no culturally based sterotypes. Can they teach? Yes. Can they serve? Are they gifted as well, as broadly and as deeply as men? Yes.

As she says it: “Women are encouraged to be active, verbal participants in the life of the church – teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and contributing in every way except in the office of elder (or wherever juridical authority rests in a particular church), where teaching and doctrine are judged according to the canonical deposit of truth, the Scriptures.” (Kindle, loc 370/684)

The cool thing about this book isn’t just what she says or that I agree with her (though those are both pretty cool). The cool thing about this book is the way she explains her position, from a place of compassion for the hurting and conviction for the prideful. I love her integrity and her loyalty to the Scriptures and her call to obedience.

Basically, I think this is the best summary of gender roles in the church that I have read and I love Kathy Keller and I want her to be my new TItus 2 BFF.

So I guess I liked it. Two Bibles up. And I will leave you with one more quote from the book:

“Justice, in the end, is whatever God decrees. So whether or not you are able to see justice in divinely created gender roles depends largely on how much trust you have in God’s character. Shall not the judge of all the earth do right? Can we define justice as something other than God’s design? Using what as our guide? What do we know that he doesn’t know?” (Kindle, loc 487/684)

B. E. A. Utiful.

Rerun:I’m not big on waiting….

So before I had this blog, I had another one over on Blogger, called From the Rubble. I plan to post some things, now and then, that I wrote over there. Mostly because, I still like some of my writing over there and I deleted that other blog. Plus, it’s kind of cool to see the difference between how I write now and how I wrote then. Anyway, here’s a little gem that’s one part movie review, one part personal reflection, one part theological discussion, originally posted 1/23/09. Enjoy!

So one of the quirky things about me is that I usually have a movie that sort of sets me right when I’m all messed up.  A movie that kind of encapsulates the major issues in my life at that point.  When I was married, it was The Story of Us, because I just needed to hear “All marriages have bad stuff, just deal with it because you’ll just have to get used to someone else’s bad stuff if you leave, anyway.”  That was the message I needed, to reconcile myself with the crap that I was in at that point.  I watched it on a daily basis at times.

Now I don’t watch that anymore.  I don’t even like that anymore.  Now my new “coping movie” is The Lake House.  

****SPOILER WARNING!!! IF YOU WISH TO SEE THIS MOVIE WITHOUT ALREADY HAVING SOME OF THE MAJOR MAJOR PLOT POINTS REVEALED; TURN BACK NOW!!!  COME BACK TO THIS ONE ONCE YOU’VE SEEN IT!!!  SERIOUSLY, I’M GIVING AWAY THE ENDING AND THE MAJOR PLOT TWIST ALL IN ONE POST!!!****

This movie just speaks to me right now because it seems like my whole life is waiting.  Waiting to get divorced, waiting to move, waiting to get on with my life, waiting, waiting, waiting.  And there is nothing I can do to speed up the process of any of these things.  I have no control over the timing of most of these things and I do not understand why I have to wait.  It sucks.  And that is what the characters in the movie are dealing with.  When he tries to hurry it up and meet her before she is ready to meet him, he gets hit by a bus!  I mean, how much more obvious do you get than that?  Sure there are people who try to bend their minds with the whole time travel thing and the paradox but I don’t even think about that anymore.  That is only a concern if you are talking about man making a machine or whatever to travel through time.  Nothing of the sort is going on here.  This is not time travel.  This is interacting with time in a way that humans normally can’t.

My personal idea of what has happened in this movie is God has sort of partially removed them from human limitations of time, so that, just for a bit, they get to operate in time the way he does in a very, very limited fashion.  I think CS Lewis explains it pretty well when he says that man travels through time like a line, from A to B.  He can’t see anything but where he is on the line (he can remember where he’s been but he can’t really SEE it) and he has no choice but to go from A to B.  No double backs, no stops, no u turns.  God, on the other hand, not only doesn’t travel on the line, he can see the whole line and he exists on the whole line and the page it is written on and everything around the page, etc., etc. – all at once.  He can see the time line and every possible outcome for every possible choice that every person could, did or ever will make.  He doesn’t just see the future, he sees every possible future and everything else as well.  And he has the power to put his hand on it; when-, where- and however he chooses.  And he knows exactly how any of his actions will affect everything and all the possibilities of that.  (Or something along those lines.  I’m working from memory here so this maybe ol’ CS mixed with a little of my own understanding and some other stuff I read.  I’m just too lazy to get out my copy of Mere Christianity.)

Unlike God, they are still in time, but like God, they get to sort of work around time as well.  For instance, what really baked my noodle at first was how they could have met if she stopped him from walking in front of the bus (which is what drove her to the lake house and his letters to begin with, right?).  If it’s “magic” or “the power of love” or whatever, then that is a problem.  If it’s God, then he just does whatever he does and says, “alright, that’s what I wanted to begin with.  way to go.”  and he goes on about his day.  Or, rather, his eternity.  He could have fixed and unfixed things a thousand times for all we know.  But for this little time in their lives, these people get to see God fixing things.  And they get to see their part in it.  And he finds her because he waits.  It must be terrible for him to have to wait for that point when he can go to the Lake House and find her.  He knows where she lives, but if he shows up then she won’t know yet.  He has to wait because that’s the timing.  She sees it, and for that moment she knows and she tells him and then he just has to have faith.  And he does, because it surely must be true because it brought him to her straight through time.  How can you doubt that kind of power once you really feel it?

And her?  She doesn’t stop herself from going to the mailbox because she is worried that if he doesn’t walk in front of the bus, she will never get his first letter.  She doesn’t worry that maybe she will wipe everything out if she stops him.  She is just moved that it’s the right thing to do and she doesn’t know why but she has faith in whatever sent her letter to him in the first place.  And that’s what I would point to to say that it was all in the plan the whole time.  By the time she went to the mailbox her letter had already got back to him, that’s how his letter was waiting for her and that’s why he walked in front of the bus.  The fact that she stops him from walking in front of the bus is immaterial because this isn’t just some freak wrinkle in the space time continuum, or something that she wished for so hard it actually happened or whatever.  This is an act of God and it’s what he saw happening all the time.  Alex just didn’t have enough faith the first time around and he rushed it.  He wanted to go over there and make her see him but he had to wait.  It’s not about his time or her time.  He got run over by a bus because he didn’t wait for God’s time.  

But God knew he would do that; he knew Alex would be impetuous and impatient and he used that for his own good purposes.  And it all worked because God sees the whole story, beginning to end in all it’s possibilities and glory and fullness.  And we never can until we’re with him.  Heck, we can barely wrap our minds around one weird story that doesn’t even begin to encompass the possibilities of God.  

Is it a weird story?  An unbelievable story?  Sure, but so is a guy getting swallowed by a whale and living to tell about it.  So is the sun stopping in the sky or the Nile turning to blood.  Isn’t it full of lucky shots and doesn’t everything seem to happen “at just the right time”?  Well, sure, but wasn’t it awfully lucky that Joseph ended up in Potiphah’s house?  Isn’t it awfully lucky that Moses ended up in Pharaoh’s palace?  I mean, really, isn’t it the coincidences and “lucky strikes” that really point to God?

Do I think that’s what the author intended when he wrote the story?  I don’t know.  I don’t care. That’s what I got out of it.  That’s why it’s my new “coping movie.”  When “I could use some patience”. I get out The Lake House and it reminds me that God works how he will and we don’t always know how it works but sometimes just having faith and trusting in God’s time will see us through.  

And if you try to rush ahead of God’s time, you just might find yourself under a bus.  ;)

Surprised by Autism, Part 1

autism.puzzleMy son, Joseph, is an undiagnosed Autist. That is, I am 100% sure he falls somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, I am just not sure where, because I have never taken him to a doctor. From my extensive reading, I believe he has some form of High Functioning Autism. According to what I read in the DSM-IV, he had nine out of the 12 possible symptoms where you only had to have four or six(it’s been awhile). And he had significant speech delays, which indicates HFA and not Asperger’s Syndrome. At least, those were the terms that were going around three years ago, when I was doing my research.

Also, the signs are all there. He has gone from one focused interest to another, since he was born. For the first three years of his life he only had one kind of toy (balls) and two words: “ball” and “bat.” Right now, he has one toy, an iPad 2. He carries it around with him at home, even to the bathroom, and he sleeps with it. His thinking is so concrete that he can’t really understand a calendar (as far as I can tell), but he can memorize seemingly endless lists of facts. He has whole Magic card decks memorized, but he has no idea how long it is till his birthday; nor does he care. He has watched the Nicholas Cage movie, Ghost Rider, two to four times a night for the last six weeks while he sleeps intermittently at one to eight hour stretches. He can not tell us why he needs it on to sleep, nor that he does, but he can not seem to sleep at night without it. When he sleeps during the day, he doesn’t need it. When he gets nervous, he spits in a rag as he can not bear to swallow his own saliva. If he can not manage to get a rag, he spits wherever he can find. He doesn’t know what missing people is, and he has never once expressed the desire to have a friend.

There are so many things that are surprising and cool and terrible about this journey of parenting a special-needs child. (It’s so weird to say that. I almost never say “special needs child.” Not that I am ashamed that he is, or that I feel like it’s too horrible to say, it’s just not something that we have said in that way, historically, in our family.) But what really amazes me is not how hard it is. I would have expected that, if I had thought about it before I found myself doing it, rather than vice versa. The amazing things are not the surprising ways that he is easier than his neurotypical (though still very weird) sisters. That is startling, but the first thing that amazes me is how this journey of parenting Joseph and dealing with his special brand of perception has changed me as a person, my view on the world and my faith in God.

**Special Note: This post is going to deal with how we have dealt with Joseph’s issues, the next one will deal with actually parenting him. The two can be separated, to some extent, at least for discussion’s sake. I would like to say, before I proceed, that my description of what we have done is just that: description, not prescription. I would never attempt, or think to attempt, to tell someone else how to parent their child or what choices they should make in treatment of any disorder. I have no objection to treatment or therapy, morally or ethically. We have done what we believe to be right for our son, but we do not judge anyone else’s decisions in similar matters. No judgment here, just self-disclosure and honest exploration.**

The first thing is our choice to not pursue services and intervention on his behalf. It wasn’t actually a conscious decision. We were of the parenting ilk that didn’t take kids to the doctors unless they were actually sick and he never was.

When he was a baby, I didn’t realize he was “delayed.” He talked late, but I knew a lot of kids who did, and he seemed to get his point across. He seemed to be happy and well-fed and growing. Also, what he lacked in verbal skills, he made up for in physical milestones: walking at a year, throwing a ball the same month and catching it a mere six months later. He could kick a rolling soccer ball at 16 months.(Later, I would come to find out that that is a classic Autism sign.*shrug*) And who would think anything was amiss with a boy who likes balls? Some people said the “A word,” but he didn’t tantrum- quite the opposite, actually- or flap, so I didn’t think that was it. Additionally, I had two older kids and my marriage was falling apart, so I may not have been as observant as I would be later, when things stabilized a bit.

Fast forward a few years. I leave my husband and after a mildly messy divorce, we are all out the other side and Joseph has to go to school for the first time. He is almost 7, that’s first grade. He hated school with more emotion than he had ever shown about anything. It was an unmitigated disaster. He never wanted to go in the morning and when asked how it was: “it was terrible.” Some days were better, but he was more stressed out and more agitated, overall, that year than I have ever seen him. He regressed when it came to being able to handle his emotions, especially frustration and anger.

When the end of the year came, they wanted to retain him in first grade. But how could that be? He could read game guides written at Junior High level and add two digit numbers in his head. How can they think he doesn’t know what a cup is or what goes in it?

Turns out what he didn’t know was how to converse in the standard fashion, or how to answer and ask questions. When they asked him questions, he just said, “I don’t know.” I don’t think he knew what that meant either. So he came back to homeschooling and we are still working on the questions. He knows more, but he still doesn’t hold a standard conversation. It’s the classic informative lecture mode, for the most part. He learns lots of things from YouTube and we have discussions, in ways that he can understand: statements. Next year: educational apps.

Every day, I second guess all those choices, conscious and otherwise. I wonder if I should take him to the doctor. I wonder if I should wish I had taken him to the doctor ten years ago. Would he be better off if we had gotten early intervention? We are doing pretty well, so how can I think that? But if we are doing so well, now, could he have been even better? And yes, sometimes I wonder: could he appear “normal”? Could he go to Sunday School and answer questions and order off a menu – not the exact same thing he always orders? Could we not have to go to the same places all the time, so that he can order the same thing he always gets? Could he name what he wants for lunch without hearing it first? Would I even want any of that? Would I wish him to be other than he is, if I could? I don’t know.

Maybe he would be worse off. Maybe he would appear better, but not understand any more than he does now. Maybe forcing him to go to therapy would have squashed all the personality he does have. Maybe he would have completely shut down (that’s what he tends to do when he gets overwhelmed: shut down, even to the point of sleeping). I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know. I spent the first 34 ½ years of my life running the other direction from God. The one thing that has helped me reconcile the effects of my former life with the joy of my present life in Christ, is the absolute faith that God was there even when I didn’t want him to be. When I didn’t know God, he knew me, he helped me, he directed me right to where I am today. He allowed what sin needed to be allowed and he kept me from what harm I needed to be kept from. I believe that without reservation.

I also believe that if he did that for me, he must have been and still continues to do that for Joseph. Is it possible that Joseph might be better off with therapy? Yes. It’s also possible he might be much worse off. I think I will know one day, when we all know fully, as we are fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12). But, for now, I just have to have faith that we are all where we should be. If I have messed it up, I know God can fix it. If he means to have my son, I know he will and my weaknesses will not stand in his way. It is enough, it has to be.

What God has really taught me on this path that has lead to my son receiving no services for his condition, is that I have to let Joseph be Joseph and trust God to be God. If I expect Joseph to be like other people, or other kids- even kids much younger than him- I will be disappointed. Or frustrated. Or angry. If I focus on us living up to meaningless ideas of what children should know and act like and what parents should do, then I will be worried and fretful. If I let Joseph be Joseph, and I trust God to lead us all where we need to go, then I can rest and be at peace. Will Joseph be as successful as he could be on this path? I don’t know. Will he act and talk like everyone else? Most certainly not. But here, he gets relationship on his own terms. I do know that relationships are our best window to God’s heart. God lives in relationship and all of our relationships are meant to give us a better understanding of Him. We bear the image best when we are in relationships. That has nothing to do with how you carry on a conversation, or if you can ask where the bathroom is.

But, in light of eternity, I think it may be the only thing that matters.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
-Proverbs 3:5-7

What is there to rejoice about?

There’s a lot of talking going around about the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries. It’s a tragedy, and my heart breaks for anyone who has been abused in this way, especially children. But I don’t really have anything to say about that, except this: anyone who commits a heinous crime like this needs to meet their savior, Jesus, and be broken and made new; and I pray every day that the victims can find comfort and joy in knowing that their identity is not in what’s been done to them, but in what’s been done FOR them – in the death and resurrection of Jesus. And that kind of goes without saying.

What really struck my heart is the response of the “public” (i.e. the blogosphere and the internet community) to other pastor’s responses to this situation. When John Piper speaks at the church his friend – who happens to be CJ Mahaney, President of SGM at the time – pastors, it is said to be outrageous and heartbreaking. He should be disciplining his friend. When The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel make statements supporting their friend, CJ -though, not SGM- there are heated discussions of what they are doing wrong and how they should be handling it.

I don’t know if their responses mean what people are saying they mean. I don’t know if they are more concerned with PR than they are about victims and the wrongs that have been done. I don’t know, because I only know what I see in the public forum. I don’t know what discussions are being held in private among these men, some of whom have known each other for decades. Let’s just say, though, for argument’s sake, that I agree and their responses are wildly inappropriate. Let’s *say* I thought that. (For the record, I don’t, but that’s a subject for a whole other post.)

The question, for me, then becomes: what do we, as Christians, do with that? I have a lot of respect for John Piper and DA Carson, as well as others like Tim Keller and Matt Chandler who are members of these groups but have chosen to keep silent (a reaction, I’m told, that is just as bad as, if not worse than, the statements that were made). These men have pastored me remotely, influencing my thinking and my burgeoning personal theology in ways they may never know, this side of heaven. So what do I do with men whose teaching has so affected me, who hold such a deep and abiding place in the canon of my personal faith – and who have so profoundly disappointed me? More importantly, what do I do with their teaching, the fruits of their studies, the bodies of their work – the ones in my heart and the ones I have yet to discover – when they fall from grace, so to speak?

Many of the things I am reading carry a tone of complete dismissal. There is an attitude of “if these men can not figure out how to respond to a situation where the right response is SO obvious, how can anyone respect anything they say, ever?” I have also heard the same attitude from others when situations like this have come up in the past, or a pastor just says something they strongly disagree with. And I have to admit, that is my inclination, too. (I am even willing to admit the possibility that that is not the attitude I am reading, but the one I am projecting on to what I am reading, though I can’t say for sure.) But is that the right response? Is that Biblical?

(Just to be clear, I am not talking about church discipline, response to your paster or your friend. If you know these men personally, that is a totally different matter. I am talking about the response to people you do not know and probably never will. A response that mostly affects yourself and will probably never affect the person responded to.)

I am drawn to Philippians 1:15-18. It seems the people to whom Paul refers were preaching the Gospel accurately, faithfully. The problem with them was they were preaching with wrong motives and making some bad choices. They were preaching Christ for their own glory and choosing to work against Paul. And after Paul’s already in prison. I mean, really, what more do they want? His ministry, apparently.

It seems if anybody had a reason to dismiss and denounce people out of hand, and say their teaching is discredited because they have disappointed him, it would be Paul with regard to these guys. But he doesn’t. He says: “what does it matter?” What does it matter if they are terrible? What does it matter if they hate me or work against me or want me in prison? Who cares what their motives are, so long as the Gospel is being preached and people are being brought to Christ (I think that it can be safely argued that Paul would not stamp his approval on any teaching that did not bear the fruit of people being brought to Jesus).

So: Paul endorses these men’s teachings – because they are true to the gospel – even though their motives for preaching are sinful and undermine their position as preachers. He does that because it’s more important that Christ be preached. Than anything. (Yeah, I said that: anything. God’s glory and fame are more important than anything else.)

In addition, I believe that John Piper and his colleagues preach the Word faithfully, at least the ones whose writings and sermons I have studied. I believe they help people see and come to Christ. God is saving many through their work and the churches they pastor. In light of that, if they have misstepped in this situation, I believe Paul would say, again: “What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” Therefore, I probably should, too.

And because of this I rejoice.

Yes, let us READ

Let Us Read, As In Read

“Behind every text of Scripture is no mere idea, but the person who reigns over everything. Jesus, crucified, dead, buried, and risen, seated on a real throne, reigns here and now by his Spirit, both in his people and throughout the world, through what he says. The biblical canon is where he speaks. How we read it is emphatically a lordship issue.”

This is awesome. This is how I feel about the Bible and about how some people treat the Bible. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Unless God decides to make me a better writer. ; )

Enjoy!

First Things First

I have been kind of going around and around in my head about what to put in this first post. It’s a little awkward, right? I guess a good thing to talk about in a first post is what I’m doing here.

Lately, God has been really telling me that I am a missionary (we all are, really). That what people really need is the Gospel and I need to tell as many people as possible. The problem is, the life that I really feel called to, doesn’t allow for that much evangelism. No, seriously. I spend my days with my family and my church and the people at the mission. I do my best to show the people in my world Jesus, but it’s not really bringing the Gospel to the nations. And that still small voice keeps telling me that I have a window to millions, staring me in the face every day.

So it seems that this is my mission field: a virtual platform in a sea of blogs where, I hope, God will bless my words by allowing them to forward his kingdom.

When I was saved in the Summer of 2008, what opened my heart was the certain knowledge that the Bible is Absolutely True, and every single letter came straight from the heart of God. In light of that assurance, I have studied the Bible as diligently as I could and in the ensuing years come to love it more dearly than anything else in the world, except Him who inspired it.

I believe that the Bible is God’s love letter to us – his favorite part of his creation. I believe that every word of it is inspired by God and is given to us to help us understand him. I believe that every word of it is Truth, not as we understand truth, but as God does. And I believe that we can not dismiss or throw out any part of it, no matter how uncomfortable, or angry, or sad – or whatever – it makes us. And we must use God’s standards and God’s perspective to understand it, so far as we are able.

So that is my hope and my prayer for this odd little endeavor. To speak His words, not mine. To show His heart, not mine. To do His will, not mine.

“Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”
-Proverbs 30:5-6