Evening Outrage with my Friends, the NRA.

Today the NRA called me and used the basest, most inane, illogical, and inflammatory argument I’ve ever encountered in an effort to use my agreement as ammunition (pun intended) in its forthcoming open letter to congress. This is what I just submitted to the feedback form on the NRA’s web site:

Mr. LaPierre and other NRA decision-makers:

I FULLY support our 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms. I FULLY support the NRA, if indeed the organization is truly committed to “the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights and the promotion of firearm ownership rights, marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection of hunting and self-defense in the United States.” (cited from NRA entry on wikipedia.com) Continue reading “Evening Outrage with my Friends, the NRA.”

The Gift

There are a few days in life that unquestionably rank higher than the rest. The day I met Kristen, for instance … Our wedding … The birth of each of our children … Etc.  Tonight’s time for family devos was unquestionably one of those. Emmy is pretty sharp … I’m not bragging as her father here (though I probably should, to be a proper swaggering dad) … I’m saying this so you’ll understand the next statement. Last year Emmy articulated her faith in Jesus, but Kristen and I were unsure of how to discern the depth of her understanding.

You likely know what I’m talking about.
First you have someone who knows all of the right responses as a result of a keen awareness of social pressures: enough so to respond in a socially positive way to any particular dialogue and appear genuine in their grasp of the topic at hand.
Then you have those who are simply clueless and who never get what is going on, regardless of the topic matter.
Finally, you find the genuine article … someone who by their countenance, questions, and caution demonstrates a sincere grasp of and at least an appreciation for the topic.

Anyhow, back to the amazing day, the gift, and the rejoicing. We are in the middle of our second annual trip to Tyler, Texas, for an awesome week at The Woods Family Camp (week #10!) … which is better known as Pine Cove. Tonight during Family Devos, a special time each day where each family is joined by their assigned college-age counselor of their own, the lesson focused in on the heart of the Father, rejoicing over us, celebrating our found-ness. FYI, found-ness is my non-scholarly, midnight tired way of labeling it, so you smartypants theologians out there should just chuckle and bite your tongues, okay?

In the context of a larger theme entitled, “Chasing What Matters,” yesterday we had talked about a shepherd who lost a sheep and thought it so valuable that he dropped everything to go and rescue the errant sheep. As Christians, we believe that, to rescue the stupid sheep (us), it cost the shepherd (God) his own life (the sacrifice of Jesus, who innocently died willingly a criminal’s punishment as the propitiation for our sins. I apologize for getting theological here, but i think it is important to clarify this point. We believe the living God is perfect, or rather, holy, beyond all that we can imagine, and as his creation our only right response is to obey him perfectly. But, if you’ve met me, or looked in the mirror, or watched an infant choke itself to possess its mother’s milk, you know we don’t do this, even right from the start. As such, our disobedience rightly deserves the worst kind of consequence, eternal and complete separation from this God and his perfect holiness. So if any “so called Christian” tells you that God is a god of love, they’ve only told you half of the truth. He is love, but also, is rightfully a god of wrath. His wrath is what we deserve, but mercifully, he made a way to spare us from his wrath (eternal separation) by taking it upon his own self in our place (propitiation) and legitimately being uniquely qualified to offer us the gracious gift of an eternal relationship with him. Mercy=not getting what we deserve. Grace=getting that which we don’t deserve. I find this all to be overwhelming beautiful, awesome, mind-boggling, and difficult to receive… all at the same time.

Tonight we read how God is so awesome that nothing he does fails to make him more worthy of our worship, and specifically that one of his efforts is to invite (or even more accurately, to woo) our prideful hearts to release our own claim on being the gods of our lives, and to receive the mercy and grace he has provided and offers freely. We learn that he delights in us, rejoices over is, and even sings as we are “found.”

In this way we see God “chasing after what matters to him” that we would not be separated from his beautiful glory any longer, nor for eternity future.

Before you go alll critical on me, no, I did not go into all of this detail tonight, but introduced the pleasure of God over one of his chosen childen who stops striving with him, and instead receives the ironic and beautiful freedom found in submitting fully to the only one who is actually deserving of that kind of authority and power.

Emmy, captured by the thought that God delights in her knowing him, asked quite plainly as to how she might be rescued from her own dirty and selfish heart. My heart absolutely stopped. I began to formilate some kind of questions to explore further, when she continued … “I just think, or feel, like I should accept him as my own savior, too!”

Then, like the good listener and sponge that she is, she communicated the gospel back in her own words, with a confidence and ease that demonstrated her ability to become anabsolutely phenomenal student.

At this point, my heart has at least partially resumed it’s rhythm, pausing only now and then as she walked us through the good news story that I’ve just told you, and that is often labeled, “the Gospel.”

If you know me, even a little, you know that I’m not a sucker for head knowledge, having never found it to be fully efficacious in really transforming
my life, or even any little part of it. That only seems to happen with the presence of true belief (or faith or trust … whichever word suits you best).

Gently I quizzed her about what she meant by this, or what that word means, etc. While she talked, Caed and Hallie quietly negotiated posession of my water bottle, and I began to make “eyebrows-raised” eye contact with Kristen and with our counselor, Hug-a-nub (I’ll post something about counselors’ camp names later, but for those who must hear it now, no, that is not her real name).

Too cautious to hope, I wondered where all of this was leading. Honestly, I don’t think any age of person really understands the depth, cost, and meaning of accepting God’s mercy and grace when we deserve his wrath. It’s really all too much to take in mentally and emotionally, even years later as a somewhat more mature, experienced, and educated Christian … I’m still in shock and awe over it all, most days.

I don’t want to psychologically reinforce her articulation of theologically correct Sunday School answers, and in so doing, to innoculate her against engaging her own statements and experiencing the awe and reverence and acceptance and sacrifice and love and beauty of it all. I couldn’t bear the thought of allowing my parental instincts (to protect and provide for my children) nor my personal pride at the possibility of having played a valuable part in something much to great and important to have really ever even required my particiation.

I’ve seen it befoe, you see. All the time people run from the threat of hell (forever separated from God, or enduring his wrath) go through the motions of accepting Christ, almost like the gift of his sacrifice was provided as some kind of fire insurance.

At this point I’m quietly calculating how to end our time at devos, give her some space, and to see if her inclination to accept Christ was anything more than trying to please, or worse, to mimic Mommy and Daddy.

And then, like magic, she said someting that made my entire body tingle. “Daddy, I know these things, and I understand, but I’m finding it a little hard to believe… I mean, I think I believe, but I’m not sure I can.”. And moreover, her eyes said, “Daddy, help me!”

I can not express how important I believe it is that she wrestled homestly and vulnerably about having questions and fears and even doubts. This reality check, reasoning, thinking, and feeling all wrapped up together … this recipe is rarely seen by me professionally, even when working with 18 year old college freshmen. She wasn’t repeating to get an A on the final, she was evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing the available information … all of these are rated by education scholars as being of the highest levels of real learning … and when bejeweled by the look of intense earnest sincerity and even urgency, my throat choked up as a parent, my stomach knotted up in recognition of the sacred ground in which I now found myself, and my eyes rimmed with joy to watch in wonder as this young one was transferred from spiritual death and separation into Life.

Watch? Absolutely. I introduced her to Romans 10:9-10, and afterwe had examined the pieces of this little text, including the context of the surrounding verses, she asked if she could pray to God about this. What followed next was a sinner’s prayer that Billy Graham would be hard pressed to improve on. It was breathtaking … there was no repeat after me, no awkward wordsmithing, just a newly born babe cooing to receive the embrace of her newly introduced and altogether better Father. She even prayed that God would show her how to tell of his love to everyone who hadn’t yet received it. I was floored … God’s spirit spoke through my daughter of the need to be fifes and empowered, and for instruction and courage on how to live missionally … oh God, does she even know she means … and still i hear her asking for that which we all desperately need, and really, that we require!!

It was more than I could take.

Later, after Snack (“sugahsugahsugah”) we talked more, her eyes bright, her mind racing, asking all sorts of wonderful and refreshingly honest questions, many of which I’m quite certain I didn’t really begin considering until I was in grad school. Have I said it already? “Breathtaking!”

Now to the one who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine be all glory for ever and ever.